Monday, November 24, 2008

Good news!

I did hear about next semester, and I have been offered two classes. One I had to turn down, but she offered to find me another one that fit into my schedule. Hooray! I don't have to look for work again!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A New Look

I created a new look for my blog. I have been having a lot of trouble with header in the "stretch" style of template, so I gave up and went to a regular template. I really prefer the "stretch" style because it spreads the words farther across the page, rather than keeping them in a tight column.

Anyway, it's Saturday and my husband and I are going out tonight! We're going to our favorite Mexican restaurant, and then to see "Quantam of Solace." The restaurant is under new ownership, so we are curious to see if the food is still just as good - and just as authentic. Hopefully they kept the same staff.

I have a ton of stuff to do before tonight, though. I MUST prepare my lesson for Monday ahead of time. I've been scrambling on Mon. and Wed. mornings to finish my notes before dashing off to class. We are getting down to the wire here - next week is the third test and the final is Dec. 17th, so I have about four weeks to finish everything up.

I hope I have a job next semester. I haven't heard anything yet!

I also have to prepare something for Sunday School tomorrow. My friend Sharyn asked me to teach the kids about Christmas in Germany, since Mark and I went there several years ago and my dad is German and Hungarian. One of the things that I want to talk to the kids about is the German glass Christmas ornaments, and Hungarian marzipan candy. I wonder where I can find some marzipan?

I'm still chuckling over Jeffrey's parent-teacher conference. His teacher told me that he's very good in Math, which I knew. She said that she will ask the class for ways to make a number, like 54 for example. Other first-graders will say, "Fifty plus four!" My son says "What about twenty plus twenty plus ten plus four?"

I laughed very hard when I heard that, and then apologized to her. Now I know how my mom felt raising me. He also reads on a fifth-grade level and is writing books in his spare time. What in the world am I going to do with him? He's going to run out of appropriate reading material before he's ten. Ah well, it's a good problem to have.

I'm just very glad he's in the public school that he's in, because the little Christian school he attended last year didn't have the variety of resources that the public school does. His teacher is able to challenge him more than I know the other first grade teacher would have, dear lady that she is!

I didn't write yesterday, and probably won't have time today. But that's okay. If I get everything done, then I can work tomorrow with a clear conscience.

Well, I better go feed the boy and get started on my day here. I have to clean, as well. Jeff has a new friend coming over for a playdate tomorrow, so I want the house to look nice. We still haven't finished putting everything back in place in the basement, and I know the boys will want to play with the toys and trains down there.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

12:35PM Nevermind! I went back to "stretch". I couldn't stand seeing everything squeezed together with all that blank space on either side.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Note to My Characters

Dear Marenya, Faldur, Norry et al,

I have devoted more hours than I can count to your welfare over the past several days. Since none of you is currently in a crisis, I would like to suggest that you take it easy for a while. Have a nap. Make some hot chocolate. Play a couple of games of Parcheesi. I know you don't celebrate Christmas, but surely there is some shopping you could do. Faldur, go find some boots without holes in them!

I have other matters to take care of today, less exciting than yours but no less important. If you are truly bored, you could come over here and help rake leaves.

The Author

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I just finished rewriting one of the most crucial scenes in the book. I am utterly drained. I just gave myself chills; I couldn't help reading the dialogue out loud because it was so real it seemed meant to be spoken. This is when the characters take over; they truly come alive in a way that is completely inexplicable but just as completely compelling.

This is what writers live for! This is what it means to really write.

Tuesday Update

Miraculously, I have managed to get to 43,000 words since Friday, which means I am caught up. The problem is not using just any words, but good words. This is the difference between writing normally and Nanowrimo. But, I still think I'd like to do it next year. It sounds really fun!

I was talking with Michelle G. last night about plotting. She said that she has realized that she is a tight plotter, and needs to work everything out before she starts writing. I know a lot of writers work that way. I remember hearing one author say that you should not only plan what will happen in each chapter before you write it, but in each paragraph.

However, I have come to realize that I work in a completely different way. I have been gently accused of not planning enough before I start writing. (Not by you, Michelle.) The thing is, I don't get ideas in a vacuum. I have to start writing - pick a character, a place, a situation and just go with it. As the characters move around and interact with each other, the ideas for the plot take shape. It's more of an organic process. So, I end up going back to change things to make them fit, or even rewriting the whole thing from the beginning, but I just find that is the way it works for me. Both ways are good.

Personally, and it's just a preference, I've never been a fan of very tightly plotted books. I feel as if I'm being carried along on a whitewater rafting trip, without any chance of getting to know what the people in the boat are like when they're not fighting for their lives. I sometimes get to the point where I just don't care anymore and jump out (stop reading.) (Again, this doesn't apply to you, Michelle. I really enjoyed Eldala.)

It really annoys me when the author assumes that just because someone is in a life-threatening situation, I care about them. Well, I don't! Maybe they deserve to be in the predicament they're in, or maybe they're just stupid. There is one writer in particular who opens each of her books with a scene of such shocking violence that it makes my mind and emotions shut down. I've read two first chapters of her books and never want to pick one up again. She's a Christian author, to boot. Apparently, her books sell well. As I said, it's just a matter of preference.

I am aware, however, that the best plotting is invisible. Books that feel constricting, do so because the author hasn't taken the time to make the action seem natural enough. Diane Mott Davidson's culinary mysteries are an example of really good plotting that also feels really human. I am totally consumed when I pick up one of her books, which is not just rare for me, but emotionally exhausting.

A lot of books are written in that nervous-system pounding way because it's what readers want. I think it's kind of like movies. The audience gets so accustomed to the adrenaline rush of a thriller that anything less intense seems boring. For example, we are planning to go see the new James Bond film this weekend. I'm looking forward to it for the vicarious thrill, but I'm going to have to also brace myself emotionally for the non-stop violence, noise and special effects.

That's perfectly okay in its own way. I just hope there's an audience for my style of storytelling, too. I prefer books that are exciting, but also give me time to savor the characters and the setting. I have to keep in mind that, like many authors before me, I am writing something that I myself would want to read. I have to believe that I am not so unique, that there isn't a bunch of other people out there who would enjoy it as well.

At least, I hope so.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Halfway there!

Hey, I broke 40,000 words! I am still 1800 words behind for the weekend, though. But I have to clean up the house and start dinner and do my notes for tomorrow's Algebra class. I have to stop for now.

At least I'm halfway there!

Friday, November 14, 2008


November is National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. The concept is to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month. It doesn't matter how bad the story is, you just have to keep writing until you hit 50,000 words. Participants are judged solely on word count, and get recognized for meeting the goal. The purpose is to encourage writers to be creative and write freely, without worrying about the finer points. Just get the ideas on paper!

I am not participating, because one of the requirements is that it has to be a new project, not a revision or continuation of something you've already started. However, I really want to finish The Golden Gryphon by the end of the year, so I'm setting a goal for myself, like a mini-Nanowrimo. I need about 40,000 words, so if I can write 1,000 words a day (on average) for the next 40 days, I should be basically finished with my book. Of course, there will be a lot of editing and revising to do. I may end up writing significantly more than 80,000 words in the process, up to a third of which will likely be eliminated before the final draft. But the important thing is to keep going, and to pace myself. I tend to get frustrated if I can't devote as much time to writing as I would like, but if I give myself permission to do 1000 words a day, at least I know I can come back to it tomorrow for sure.

1000 words takes me about 2-3 hours. I expect many of those will be late at night and early in the morning. I haven't done anything today, so I better get cracking!

Have a great weekend, everyone. It's pouring rain here, and we have to go to a birthday party tonight. Yuck! At least there will be cake to reward us for venturing forth into the dark, wet, wildwoods of New Jersey.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Coming Alive Again

I have been feeling depressed this past week, about many things. Not just politics, but problems my son is having with friends at school, people I know who are ill or struggling, and about our own financial situation. I feel this black cloud hanging over me and can't sleep. I even don't feel like eating, which is rare!

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.-Howard Thurman

Anyway, I put up a quote from Howard Thurman this week. I don't know who he is, but it's a great quote. I borrowed it from Michelle G. Thanks Michelle!

It's hard sometimes to come alive again when one (or several) things hit. But there are many things to be happy about. Our "cottage" has new windows that make the whole house feel different. We sold a lot of popcorn for Cub Scouts, and Jeff will get a little prize. He caught his first fish this weekend at the lake near our house. My husband is still employed, despite months of dire warnings that the job might be closed down. There are rumors now that funding may be approved to continue the project for another whole year. My students did very well on their last algebra test. By George, I think they've got it!

But the thing that really makes me come alive is doing the thing that I know I was made to do... writing. I still can't understand how this little story of mine is at all important, but somehow it is. I've stopped for a week or so in order to take care of Things That Must Be Done. And to sleep at night. Sleep is good, when you can get it. (see the Zombie Writer post) And after finishing a difficult segment, it seems necessary for me to step back for a little while and give my creative juices a chance to stew. But this morning I was worrying and couldn't sleep, so I got up at 5 a.m. and did some editing of the last couple of that chapters I wrote. The manuscript definitely won't be done by Christmas, but perhaps my house will be in some kind of condition that will allow me to write more and clean up less after the holidays. What a burden material possessions can be! What consumers we Americans are. Ugh.

And when I write, I come alive. When I teach, I come alive. And when I help my son reel in that little wriggling sunfish, I come alive. It's not such a bad life, if you can find a way to create your own life apart from everything else. As somebody said, "Everybody needs their own spot."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I hope...

Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States. I am very glad that we have finally overcome racial barriers in the White House and have elected a black President.

I just wish it had been a different black President.

Obama ran under slogans of "Hope" and "Change." I am trying to be hopeful that the changes he will bring to the United States are good ones. My concerns have nothing to do with race, but with his policies, his past voting record, and his associations.

He has demonstrated in private, although he denies it in public, that he is strongly pro-Arab and anti-Israel. He has associated with terrorists inside and outside the United States. I can't help wondering where some of that $700 million in campaign money came from that put him in office. I hope that it wasn't from anti-American Arab groups seeking to buy the Presidency. I hope that he won't jeopardize our relationship with Israel, our only solid ally in the Middle East.

For further implications of his Muslim heritage on U.S. foreign relations, see the following article: Barack Obama Through Muslim Eyes

He says that he will be bipartisan and bring the country together, but his campaign has been very divisive, pitting poor against rich, blue collar against white collar, employers against employees. Until pressured to change his position, he approved of the reversed racism preached by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. I hope that he really meant what he said in his acceptance speech and will truly bring America together.

I hope that he really believes in the right of everyone to medical care... including babies born alive despite attempts to abort them.

I hope that he won't drive businesses and entrepreneurs out of the country with his high taxes, and bankrupt the coal industry, and prevent us from drilling our own oil or building new nuclear power plants to create energy independence.

I hope that he won't tax the rest of us into another Great Depression. I have to say that I have lost much of my incentive to go back to work full time, because if I do, we will be in the "wealthiest American" category with a combined income of more than $120,000.

I hope that he can truly reform the health care system. I hope he'll start with clamping down on the trial lawyers that drive everyone's cost up.

I hope that he won't appoint radical judges that will re-write the Constitution from the bench according to popular opinion, rather than the law of the land. I hope he won't appoint judges who will oppress religious freedom, by taking away the freedom of speech of pastors in the pulpit, and the tax-exempt status of churches who refuse to perform gay marriage, and take away our right to keep and bear arms.

I hope that our enemies don't feel emboldened by his inexperience, and that he doesn't reduce our military to a feeble shell the way Clinton did. I hope he doesn't destroy our diplomatic powers by making the kinds of foolish statements he made during the election about his foreign policy plans, basically announcing to the world what he intends to do, without even giving our allies a chance to sit down and discuss it first.

I hope that the steps he has taken towards a less radical point of view aren't just a facade he is using to get him into the White House. I hope that after the glow of the election fades, he doesn't suddenly become Nancy Pelosi's, Barbara Boxer's and Harry Reed's best friend.

I hope that he keeps his future promises longer than he kept his promise to accept matching public campaign funds.

I hope.

(Comments on this post are welcome from all sides.)