Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My New Toy

I got a new toy last night. I bought it from the neighbor for the awesome price of carpooling his son to the high school. The best part about this is, I don't even drive to the high school. Kid A does. Ka-ching!

What did I buy? My very own bike. Squee. I feel like a little kid again. Remember how that felt? All that joy bottled up in your body just waiting to spill out in play?

Now, you should probably know that until about a week ago I hadn't ridden a bike in twenty years. Okay maybe more than that, but who's counting? Not me. Shudder. So, how did I go from bikeless and rideless for decades to owning a bike in seven short days? You know the friend who got me into longboarding? Yup. Need I say more? She's contagious in a very good way. Except she wants me to try bridge jumping next. Ummmmm. Yeah, not so sure on that one.

But! Biking is so fun...and so much harder than I remember it. Of course, I do live on the side of a mountain so there is a lot of uphill involved. As a kid I mostly rode on flat ground. Smart kid.

But! (And yes, I can keep starting paragraphs with but because I am not in English class.) Everything that goes up must come down, and boy is down fun!

What does this have to do with writing? Scads! Often as writers we plod along forever, writing the same thing, then rewriting it. And then rewriting it. And then...yes, rewriting it. While this is good and necessary to perfect your book, sometimes we need a change. A new toy to play with. We need something that reminds us of the joy we can experience as writers. We need to play, yes with words. Fun ones. Words that make us go squee as we barrel downhill. Yes, writing takes work, lots of it, but it's supposed to be awesome. Remember awesome?

My challenge today is to play with your writing. Write something different and maybe even frivolous. Start a new project, forge ahead into new territory. Get a new toy. And make sure it makes you squee with joy. Really. Put aside the thirteenth draft of your novel and just play with words today. You might just remember what made you want to be a writer in the first place.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Avoiding Mannequinism, or Writing Realistic Dialog

Today we're talking dialog. Why? Because every book needs it, but writing it can be hard. When I first started writing all my characters sounded like mannequins. How does someone sound like a mannequin? Ha, it's difficult, but I have mad skills. You just write every line of dialog so stiff and formal that the reader knows the characters are plastic and dead-eyed. Viola, mannequin. So not a good thing. Do not try this at home, your computer may self destruct. And it's painful. For everyone. Just saying.

I'd share some early examples of my dialog, but it might destroy the internet with its awfulness, and then the feds would find me and turn me over to all the internet junkies to be drawn and quartered. And I burned it, so it would be hard for you to read the ashes. Some things just need to die, and my early dialog was one of them. Really.

What I'll do instead is share my friend Angela Citte's awesome dialog exercise from a writing class she's taking. The instructions were to spend a day just listening to people talk and get the feel of the cadence of their words, the flavor of their voices. Then she needed to write up a scene with nothing but dialog. That means no narration, no dialog tags--nothing but the actual speech. And the characters needed to be distinct and have voice. (That means they needed to sound like living people not mannequins. Or politicians. Shudder.)

Angela chose to listen to her kids and recreated a breakfast conversation/song. I say song because the first speaker sings everything. I can't read it without hearing a four-year-old's sing-song voice. How about you?


“I like my little doggie. Her name is Alligayla. I like my little doggie. Her name is Alligayla.”

“Lily, stop singing. You’re going to make me puke.”

“Yeah, your songs are weird.”

“And sheeeee likes to dance, and sheeeeee likes to eat some food.”

“Lily, stop singing. Eat your cereal.”

“Dogs don’t dance.”

“And sheeeee likes to sing, and sheeee likes to play with her dolls.”

“Mom, do you have some ‘duck’ tape?”

“Or some of that stuff you can stick over her mouth. Mmmm, mmmm. I can’t sing my weird song anymore.”

“That’s ‘duck’ tape, Zach.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“And sheeeee likes to comb her hair, and sheeee likes to put pretties in her hair.”


“And sheeee likes to put her make-up on, and sheee likes to wear a princess dress.”

“That doesn’t even make any sense.”

“Lily, dogs don’t do ANY of that.”

“I like my little doggieeeeee. Her name is Alligayla.”

“That’s not even a real name.”

“IIIIIII like my little doggie. Her name is Alligayla.”

“I know, Lily, let’s play the quiet game and see who can keep their mouth shut the longest.”

“I think you gave me a headache . . . right here.”

“And sheeeee likes to swim in a water, and sheeee likes to go on the swirly slide.”

“You’re making me sick.”

“Yeah, and then he’ll puke all over you. Bleaaaaaa.”

“And you’rrrrre not the boss of me, and you’rrrrre not the boss of me.”


“IIIIIIIIII like my little doggie.”

[In unison] “LILY!”

So? Wasn't that delightful? Did you hear their different voices? Did they come off the page as real kids? They sure did for me. Not a mannequin in sight. I love this exercise and can't wait to apply it to my own stories. I'm going to go through a couple of scenes and remove everything except the dialog just to see if the characters sound distinct or if there is some plastic left. And then I'll delete the plastic and insert life. Ahhh, sweet dialog.

How about you, what's your favorite bit of dialog from a book or movie? Or if you write, what's your best bit of living dialog, and how did you get into your characters' heads to write it? Come on, you know you want to share.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I've Been Liebstered

Yes, I have indeed been Liebstered.

Ummmm, what is that, you say? Do you need a doctor? Or bed rest? A tissue? A straight jacket? Is it catching?

First off, it is catching, but that's a good thing. Second off, I needed a straight jacket before this, so that question doesn't even count. Thbbbt!

And now back to being liebstered. My writing friend, Jenilyn Tolley, gave me this:

From the minute amount of German I remember from high school and college I think it means she loves me. Or at least she loves my blog. (And it has a heart on it so if my German failed me, I have a pic to back me up.) Bonus! Because I heart/liebster her right back. She's a fun, fun gal with a crazy love of boots. Go check out her blog.

Seriously. Go forth and do. Really. Oh alright, you can wait until you finish reading mine. I know I'm just that addicting.

Anywho, in compliance with the almighty Liebster rules I must now:

1.) Milk a goat.
2.) Do the hula.
3.) Learn to beat box.
4.) Secretly deposit seven zucchini on the neighbor's porch without getting caught.
5.) Drive five carpools simultaneously.
6.) Hug a fat cat.

I'm strangely excited to do number three.

Okay, the real rules, which are so not as fun as mine, are:

Bestow the Liebster Award to awesome bloggers who, at the moment, have less than 200 followers. Then:

1.) Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them. (Check.)
2.) Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog. (I'm getting there. Don't get all anxious. Sheesh.)
3.) Post the award on your blog. (Check.)
4.) Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the Internet – other writers. (Oooh oooh. I like this one. Grin)
5.) And best of all – have fun and spread the karma! (Me likey this one too. Double grin.)

So, without further ado, here are my five be-awesome picks. Cue the drum roll.

Sandy at A Writers Heart
CL Beck
Elizabeth Mueller, who has a book coming out this fall. Squee!
Mary at The Gray Willow
And Candice at Suffering From Writer's Blog

Taaa Daaaa!

Don't forget to check out Jenilyn's blog now that you are done reading mine, because she rocks! And so do all my fab picks. :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back To School Curse Words And Teenage Torture Devices

I've never been a morning person. No, not even once. I'm more of a stay up late kind of gal. That's why as summer winds to a close and school hovers in the near distance, I start mourning my mornings--even while I anticipate the sweet tones of the bus engine. Yes, I'm conflicted.

All summer I sleep in. It's blissful and oh so delicious. I'm not talking about wasting the whole day or anything, more like reveling in slumber until seven or eight in the morning. Ahhhhh.

That's all going to end in six days.



And yes, I hear you out there sniggering and saying, "Just go to bed earlier." HA! Never works. I have teenagers. They're like walking torture devices designed for parental sleep deprivation. If you have one, you know my pain.

So, I have a plan. It's not a very good one, but it's all I got. I'm going to soak up as much sleep as I can in the next six days, because you know that bus I talked about? Yeah, it comes at 6:30. That means I have to get up at five something.


It's so foul it should be a curse word, the nasty kind that my parents would have pulled out soap and ordered me into the bathroom for. Shudder. And even if I start going to bed at ten, it won't wash the taste of five out of my mouth because me and five don't get along. Somehow I don't think that is going to change in six days.

Do you have a start of school curse word as foul as FIVE? I'll go get the soap.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thing Number Three

You know how I blogged about my cat and my basement flooding and worried about bad thing number three striking? Well, the hillside above our house started on fire, and I thought, Crap.

But the firemen were awesome and put it out before any houses went up in flames. Then I thought, Dodged a bullet there. Sweet. Thing three averted.

Wrong. The Universe doesn't work that way. It likes threes. It also doesn't like me dodging bullets. Yup you guessed it, our three happened last night, and no, it wasn't as bad as the house burning down, or even as bad as it flooding, and definitely not as bad as my cat getting hit by a car, but it was messy. (And that was a really long sentence.)

What was our thing three? In an effort to be a good hostess to a book club meeting at my house, I decided to make fresh scones. You have to use oil to deep fry scones. We had lots of scones planned, so we had lots of oil. Do you know what happens to carpet if you accidentally dump a gallon of oil on it? I do. And did it just fall on the ground and goober up one spot? Of course not, such a silly question. It had to hit the floor and splash over fifteen feet of carpet. Curse you cooking oil!

I guess it wouldn't be so bad if we hadn't just learned that the carpet we so painstakingly cleaned and pulled up from the basement flood can't be relaid--something about it being bad if the back comes off the front. Sheesh.

Oh well, at least we've had our three. Knock on wood. Several times. (Please, stop at three, Universe. I'm begging you.)

So, if any of you out there know how to get oil out of carpet, you will officially be my new best friend (oh the glory!), because after hours of trying, I despair.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bugs And Breaking All The Rules

Last night I dreamed about bugs. Now, normally I'm not the squeamish kind, you kind of have to get over that if you're the bug slayer of the house when Dad isn't home. But dreams are different. Why? Because bugs don't follow the rules in dreams.

What are the rules? So nice of you to ask.

Bug rule number one: They die when you squish them.

Bug rule number two: They stay dead when you squish them.

Bug rule number three: They are always smaller than you. Period.

Bug rule number four: They aren't allowed to engage in active warfare. This means no ganging up on the humans with the intent to kill everyone. (I know some of you will contest this rule, but getting attacked by a swarm of killer bees is way different because bees--even though they make honey--and wasps and hornets are evil and therefore do not count as bugs. They count as EVIL. And those killer African driver ants that devour whole cows and occasionally people don't live by me, so they don't count either.)

Can you see why bugs that don't follow these rules would be bad? Yup, nightmare city. I spent the whole night trying to fend of swarms of resurrecting/zombie bugs who had it out for me. Shudder. There should be some serious consequences for bugs who break the rules.

But! It did make for an interesting, if freaky, night. Why? Because they did break the rules. This got me thinking about writing. Weird, huh?

We spend so much of our time as writers trying to jump through the hoops and follow all the little rules. Sometime it feels like everyone has a new list of rules: Use internal dialog. Don't use internal dialog. Add physical responses. Don't ever add physical responses. Let your character cry. Don't. Use first person. Use third person. Do the Hokey Pokey. Stab me in the eye! How is a writer supposed to write? It's like getting caught in a traffic jam with five hundred policemen all directing traffic a different way. How is a girl supposed to know who is right? Is anyone?

Somerset Maugham said: "There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." (Even traffic directing policemen. And no, Somerset didn't say that last part, that's all me.)

I think it all comes down to breaking the so called rules. Martine Leavitt told us at the WIFYR conference that we could break any rule we wanted--as long as we did it brilliantly. Last night the bugs did, they slaughtered every one of the rules. And they captivated me. Even after nearly a full day of wakefulness, my mind keeps returning to them and their bug rebellion.

Maybe it's time for our own rebellion. Maybe we shouldn't stay squished. Maybe we should write larger than life and let the bug spray fall where it may. How about you, are you ready to revolt? What rules are you going to break today?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Living Like You're Eight Feet Tall

I have a tall friend, I'm talking six-foot-eight kind of tall. He's a great guy and stands above the crowd almost everywhere he goes. In fact, I saw him at a recent community fair where a little old lady, who barely reached five feet, approached him and asked: Are you eight feet tall?

He laughed and told her his real height, emphasizing the shortness of it compared to Goliath standards. I laughed, too, and even though I was only an eavesdropper (the innocent-just-happen-to-be-standing-nearby kind, not the creepy-spy-on-people kind, just so you know) on this conversation, it's stuck with me. Why, because this friend lives larger than life everyday. It's not just his height, it's his personality, his presence in the world, his persistent goodness.

I want to live larger than life, too--in every aspect of myself. I want to write, mother, friend, neighbor, work, and play like I'm eight feet tall, even if I'm only five-foot-nine and shrinking. Yes, I want to live like a giant, in everyway, because I want someone else's life to be impacted for good because of what I've done. Not in a showy prideful way, but in a quiet live-like-a-giant in goodness kind of way.

A very wise man once said:
“Believe in yourself. Believe in your capacity to do great and good things. Believe that no mountain is so high that you cannot climb it. Believe that no storm is so great that you cannot weather it. You are not destined to be a scrub. You are child of God, of infinite capacity.”
Gordon B. Hinkley

How about you? Do you know people who live taller than they are? Does it inspire you to greatness? What makes you want to live life like you're eight feet tall?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm Sorry About Your House, And Your Cat, But...

So, how often does your sister start off a conversation like this: "I'm sorry about your house, and your cat, but at least you have something to blog about."

Yup, it was that kind of weekend.

You know how they say bad things come in threes? Well! Let's just say we've had event one and two, and I'm very afraid for number three. It all started Saturday night. Kid A, my hubby, and I stayed up late watching a show. When I stumbled into bed past midnight and started drifting into blissful sleep, I heard the unmistakable sound of a cat screaming in pain just as a car passed our house.

Sleep vanished, and long story short, someone hit our cat. Poor old kitty. Thankfully, he's alive and kicking, but we didn't think he'd make it through the night. *Sigh of relief*

Then Sunday evening it started to rain. And rain. And rain. Monday morning I bolted from sleep at 5:45 to the sound of rushing water. Being the worry freak I am, I went to see what was causing said rushing, even though Hubby told me it was JUST the rain. Rain doesn't fall in biblical proportions, because when that happens it's called a plague. Let's just say it was plaguing outside.

The sound led me to the basement where I found our window-well filled three-fourths of the way to the top with churning, muddy water. And as if that wasn't enough, Niagara Falls had somehow moved from Canada/New York to my window sill. It looked like this:

But muddier. And meaner, because it wasn't pouring into a river. Let's just say couches and carpet and and basements are not meant to receive Niagara Falls. Ever.

I screamed, shoved the wet couches out of the way, and grabbed some towels. Ha! Towels cannot stop the Falls. As soon as I discovered this great fact I ran/splashed for buckets. Lots of buckets. Then I yelled for help.

Kid A stumbled from her room to the sweet tones of: I need more buckets!

Soon Kid A, Hubby, and I were in a race against Mother Nature and her plague. We filled and dumped (outside--not back on the floor, just clarifying) a four to five gallon bucket of water every two to three seconds for an HOUR AND A HALF. See? Plague.

What were kids B-D doing during all of this? They retreated to their bedrooms and cranked their stereo to the song, Uncle Noah's Arc. No kidding. We bailed out our basement to a theme song. At least it added some humor to the situation.

I also called in reinforcements in the form of my brother, his wife, and my sister. They came armed with sump pumps, shop vacs, and love. The plague finally stopped falling from the sky, and they all helped me suck out copious amounts of water from the basement--and move everything upstairs to dry out. And I do mean everything. The carpet now lives in the garage with fans provides by sweet, sweet neighbors (who also helped bail out several other victims of the plague). The basement has fans of its own, and in a few weeks we'll move everything back after someone re-installs the carpet.

Oh, and the cat lived through the plague just fine. So did we, but can you see why I'm afraid of bad thing number three? Yeah, I may just stay home for awhile and cower. But, at least I had something to blog about today. Ahhh, silver lining.

How was your weekend?


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