Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Click to Mix and Solve

Good Feeling's Gone (Part 2)

Lying awake in the wee hours, thinking about yesterday. So embarrassing when I let myself get worked up on a forum that doesn't allow one to delete one's comments.

Flogging does hurt. This time more than I expected, because I really thought I had something good. Not great, but good enough to keep the readers interested. Obviously, I was wrong. My response was to cry literary. "Well, maybe this is just a literary fantasy."

That's cowardice. If something doesn't work, it doesn't work, no matter what you call it.

The honest evaluation of the reviewer (who was kind enough to donate his time to do this in the first place) is that nothing happens in the first chapter.

"But it's literary!"

Just kidding.

I thought that rather a lot had happened, actually. My protagonist has a bad day at work that represents a major shift in how he's going to have to approach his job in the future and nearly gets killed. Then he goes to a party, tries to relax, and finds himself making out with the last girl in the world with whom he wants to get involved. That's what I thought I wrote. But obviously, the gap between what I intended and what I wrote was rather huge. Eight months of tinkering has made no difference.

The reviewer said that he suspected that there was a story on the verge of being told. Unfortunately, there isn't. The rest is 75,000 words of more of the same. Literary, or just bad writing?

Strip away the window-dressing (like, uh, killer lions) and I've got nothing. I think all the good stuff happened at Come In Character.

I stopped writing in my twenties because I realized that I was creating interesting settings in which absolutely nothing happened. Nothing really has changed since then. Interesting setting, nothing happening. Killer lions notwithstanding.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good Feeling's Gone

I submitted my first page to Flogging the Quill. I had a feeling the reviewer wouldn't care for it, and he didn't. I told myself I wouldn't look until Friday, when a new post would be up and mine would be moved down, but the reviewer sent me an email so I looked.

(groan) Bad idea. I'd been feeling pretty good about things, but, to quote Finding Nemo, "Good feeling's gone."

I've spent eight months rewriting the first scene. I like it the way it is, if it's going to be there at all. The reviewer suggested jumping ahead to the action a few pages ahead, but I'm extremely uncomfortable with that idea. (The later scene involves a Ranger being attacked by a lion.)

The thing is, I find myself in the excruciatingly uncomfortable position of trying to reconcile my own personal taste with what I'm told the publishing world wants. No doubt agents and editors would be more likely roused from their cynical fog by a guy in mortal peril from a ferocious, man-eating beast.

But, personally, if I opened a book and that was the first scene, I'd toss it aside as too graphic. I'd rather build slowly. That whole section seems a little gratuitous anyway, essentially a concession to readers who like more immediate action in their narratives.

I'm thinking now of doing away with the whole first chapter altogether. I'm thinking of eliminating the male POV and just focusing on the heroine. I'm thinking of redecorating my dollhouses, or taking up cross-stitch again.

I'm thinking maybe I should just write the book the way I want to, and stop trying to please everyone. But that's how writers don't get published. At least, I think so. I can't really say, since their books aren't available to read.

I have a literary reader who's offered to look at it. I haven't given it to him yet because, frankly, I'm a little embarrassed. I have a feeling he'll hate it. I've come so far from my original concept. Perhaps I've come too far.

Or not far enough.

Who the heck knows?

I mean, the feedback was good. I'm not questioning the responses. It's just that I really don't have a clue how to make this story fit what everyone else is looking for. For one thing, if I do cut the first chapter, where does all that character development go? So then I have to ask, is this story publishable? Maybe not. Can I live with that? I think so. I'd rather be done - finally - than just keep cycling back to the beginning like a hamster on a wheel.

Yes, I'd like it to just be done. Then maybe we can all (including you, my patient friends) move on with our lives.

I do think a big part of the problem is my fear of over-writing, which has possibly resulted in under-writing. I was told I was melodramatic a long time ago, and have tried very hard to avoid such a charge since.

I think I've succeeded.


I just finished rewriting an important section of my first chapter. I decided to add a scene from the female protag's point of view, since the current version doesn't have her POV until Chapter Three. I was in serious doubt whether I could make it work, as the section flows so well as written. But I think my characters, once again, have risen to the occasion and surpassed my expectations.

I am also amazed at how suddenly she has taken on a whole new dimension. Jeannie Campbell (The Character Therapist) talks about our characters having layers like onions. Wow, have I got some onions!

Anyway, I can't resist posting a passage I really like from this morning's work. My female protag is falling asleep, but trying desperately not to, during a Midwinter feast that is supposed to last all night. I love it when character's minds do funny things.

Guests drifted here and there, settling down in little flocks to smoke or talk or doze. Marenya leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes, then jerked them open, then felt them slide shut again. She mustn’t fall asleep. She must stay awake to see the sun rise. She must stay awake to see the surprise. The sun’s eyes. The birds had settled all around her with a great murmuring, waiting for the morning.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Some Holiday Fun

Click to Mix and Solve

This is a cool puzzle. Can you beat my time of 2:13?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Keeping It Small

Each year we say "We'll keep it small.
We shouldn't buy so many gifts.
Christ didn't come to earth for this."

Then the shopping starts
And our hearts

But surely God, if anyone, knows
Love overflows.

(c) Christine Hardy 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone.  Have a blessed holiday, and a peaceful, prosperous and prose-filled New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

C is for Christine, That's Good Enough For Me

Is this an awesome photo, or what?  Christine Havers at 1,000 Words A Day posted this photo over the weekend and I immediately asked if I could borrow it.  It's a frozen puddle with a letter C in the middle.  Not only that, it's so artistic.  How does this stuff happen randomly, anyway?  I'm a statistician, I know that randomness is a part of life, but really, how cool is that?

If you haven't stopped by Christine's blog, you've got to check it out.  She lives in Scotland and has just the most gorgeous photos.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  So I guess I'd better get writing to catch up with you, Christine!

Thanks for the photo, and have a wonderful Christmas over there with your castles and glens and moors and... *sigh*.  From one Christine H to another. ;o)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Going Omniscient

(Deep breath.)  I have decided to take the plunge and re-write my first few chapters from a third-person omniscient point of view.  Fantasy is just too darn hard to write in third-person limited, because you can't describe anything that the point-of-view character wouldn't consider out of the ordinary.  I have some wonderful things in my world that I can't describe, and I feel that a lot of the magic is being lost for the reader.

I know, I know - third person limited is the darling of popular fiction.  (Thank you, J.K. Rowling.)  But The Lord of the Rings was written in third omniscient and is my absolute favorite work of fantasy ever.  Jane Austen also wrote in third omniscient.  I love those narrator-ly voices, the voice of God that tells us things the characters don't know yet and then shows us how they react to them.  You can compare and contrast characters in interesting ways that third limited doesn't easily allow.

I may change my mind later, but right now I feel as I'm stuffing my story into a girdle that is too small for it. I've decided to let myself breathe a bit and see what happens.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

To prologue or not to prologue?

I have heard that prologues are out of vogue these days.  Apparently they have been used so much that agents and editors are shying away from books that contain them.

I have read some rather scathing comments by authors on writing blogs about the laziness of readers who dislike prologues.  Authors seem to feel that if they think the prologue is necessary, then the reader should dutifully agree.

As a reader, I dislike prologues.  As a writer, I dislike them as well, although I can understand why they are sometimes desirable.  They can be used to frame the story and provide background that is often difficult to include in a fast-paced, third-person limited point-of-view which is practically a requirement for publication nowadays.  A well-written prologue can draw readers in.

However, in general, I think prologues are a tease.  It's like the author is saying "Here's my story.  No, wait!  Here it is."  As a reader I tend to skim them quickly in order to get to the "real" story.  Most of the time, you can read the whole story without the prologue and fill in the one or two missing pieces of info by yourself, or just flip back later and find out (if it's really bugging you) whom the Queen's mother's uncle's sister was having the affair with.

What also bugs me is that the main character in the prologue is rarely the main character in the story.  You start to care for someone, and then find out that they were introduced just for the purpose of exposition.  I think that as authors we have to make some tough decisions about what and who our story is about.

This is something with which I'm currently struggling.  I have two point-of-view characters, one of whom starts the book and one of whom is the focus of much of the main conflict.  While I do go back and forth beween the two, they tend to dominate in different sections.  So I'm really telling two stories.  And my question is:  Should it be just one?  If so, which?  And if not, how do I effectively balance them both?    And then there is the ultimate, persistent dilemma:  Do I want to go omniscient?

This brings me back to the prologue question.  My first chapter was initially a prologue.  It explains some history between the two main characters that is essential to understanding their relationship.  Originally that history was just hinted at, but my readers were confused, so I decided to "show, not tell" by writing the prologue.  I mean, first chapter.  "Showing" has effectively ratcheted up the interest and tension at the start of the book, but it has also introduced a whole other dynamic with the additional POV character, as well as a time gap of a few months between chapters.  I decided to leave it as is, and just let the story flow from what I now realize is the natural starting point.

So my question for you, particularly if your book opens with a prologue, is: 

Where does your story really start? 

If you want to fully engage your readers from the first page, do you truly want to have a prologue? Can you include the essential details somewhere else in the story?  Does the prologue flow well with the rest of the book, or feel detached from it?

If you were a reader... would you read your own prologue? Or would you skip to the "real" beginning?  Or even worse, put the book down?  Be tough.  You can bet your readers will be.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


On Saturday, our Cub Scout pack visited a Revolutionary War home in our area.  I love old houses, especially colonial ones.  I get inspired by the faith, perseverence and courage of our founding fathers and mothers.

Here are some of the photos I took of the Whitall House, decorated for Christmas.

The Whitall House, built in 1748 by James and Ann Whitall, on the shore of the Delaware River

The pineapple is a colonial symbol of hospitality.  I'm guessing this is because exotic fruits were something special to serve guests.

The house was used as a hospital for captured Hessian troops in 1777.

The kitchen wing, with the large wood box on the porch for kindling.  Kitchens were usually built in a separate wing, to keep food smells and smoke from entering the main part of the house.  Bedrooms above the kitchen were warm because of the fireplace.  You can see through the windows to the trees on the riverbank.

The main parlor, with a feast of pastries and desserts, decorated for a Twelfth Night celebration.  Christmas was celebrated for twelve days, from Dec. 25th until Jan. 6th, the Feast of the Three Kings (aka the Epiphany)
The pier glass in the hall, beautifully painted on top, reflecting the feast on the table and some of the poinsettias in the fireplace.


The parlor, and a bit of the staircase leading to the upstairs rooms.

Needless to say, I was inspired to work on my dollhouse some more.  I haven't had time to do it, but perhaps I can get at least the parlor and dining room decorated for Christmas.  The front of my house looks a lot like the Whitall House. Only it has a Deerfield door, which was a popular style in Massachusetts, not down here.  I like the style, though, with its elaborate scrolls.  It will look more like the Whitall House when I get the red shutters put on.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

If You Chase Enough Dreams, You Just Might Catch One

I'm watching "Treasure Planet" with my son this afternoon. There's a great bit of dialogue between the young hero and his mentor.

John Silver: "You give up a few things, chasin' a dream."
Jim Hawkins: "Was it worth it?"
John Silver: "I'm hopin' it is, Jimbo. I most surely am."

I'll bet Myra McEntire is thinking it was worth it. Congratulations, Myra! You have certainly earned your young adult BOOK CONTRACT!!!! For not just one, but two books. I can't wait to read Hourglass.

What a wonderful Christmas present for you and your family. Here's to you, Myra!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I've Been Tagged

Thank you, Bane, for tagging me on yet another useless, time-consuming survey! Seriously, though, I'm honored. In return I tag Michelle Gregory, whose chaos is beautiful; Pam Halter, who has fairies, fantasy and faith; Jeannie Campbell, aka The Character Therapist; and Myra McEntire, who is Writing Finally. I also tag my cousin Rob Dubas, who is constantly working Toward Better Writing. I know more about total strangers' work than I do about his, so I hope he'll play along. Time to open up that oyster Rob. Enquiring minds want to know!

Note: Jeannie's survey is on her writing blog, Where Romance Meets Therapy.

1. What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?

Last thing? The poem I posted yesterday.  First thing? A little story about some flowers being attacked by weeds that I did when I was five.  I illustrated it in crayon.  My mom has it somewhere.

2. Write poetry?


3. Angsty poetry?


4. Favorite genre of writing?

Fantasy and contemporary fiction.

5. Most annoying character you've ever created?

Piffla, the owl sprite.

6. Best Plot you've ever created?

The current one for The Golden Gryphon.  Previously, I couldn't plot to save my life.  But this one has all kinds of twists and turns.

7. Coolest Plot twist you've ever created?

If I told you that, I'd have to kill you.

8. How often do you get writer's block?

I don't think I've ever had it.  I don't write often enough to get blocked.  Basically, I write when I have the time and feel like it.  The rest of the time I'm too busy doing mom and teacher stuff.

9. Write fan fiction?

No.  It feels too much like cheating.

10. Do you type or write by hand?

I mostly type.  I am a very fast touch-typer.  I only write by hand when I'm first getting ideas, or waiting somewhere for something.  Bane said "Usually it's a cross between cursive and print, which is supposed to be indicative of psychosis -- go figure."  I also use a cross between cursive and print, but that's mainly because I'm too lazy to add all those curly things on the capital letters.

11. Do you save everything you write?


12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?

Yes.  I never abandon ideas, I just lay them aside for later. (I have so few of them to start with.)

13. What's your favorite thing you've ever written?

So far, The Golden Gryphon, my current novel.  But I really want to go back to the children's story I started a couple of years ago, about some field mice living in an abandoned dollhouse.

14. What's everyone else's favorite story that you've written?

I have friends still waiting for me to finish my romance novel about Ginger and Ray.  They want to know what happens.  It's a romance novel... what do you think happens?

15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

Yes to the first, no to the second.

16. What's your favorite setting for your characters?

The insides of trees.

17. How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Just one.

18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?


19. What are your five favorite words?

Omniscient. Pearlescent. Prescient. Somnolent. Redolant. Seriously, I have no idea. But those sounded good.

20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?

Marenya. She is supposed to be me, but as the heroine of a fantastic adventure.

21. Where do you get ideas for your characters?

I have no idea. They just live in my head like parasites.

22. Do you ever write based on your dreams?

No, I don't write horror.

23. Do you favor happy endings?

I see no point in a story that doesn't end well for the good guys.

24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?


25. Does music help you write?

Yes.  If I have Enya on in the background, it's much easier to get into a relaxed, creative mood.

26. Quote something you've written. Whatever pops into your head.

The gryphon raised its head and uttered a single, musical cry that seemed to shatter him like glass, and at the same time make him whole.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Shall Go Quietly to Sleep

I shall go quietly to sleep
And lay my dreams aside
Bury them in prudence deep
And clip the wings of pride

More stalwart souls than mine will prove
Determination's right
I will applaud with genuine love
And hope I have done right

But a rock and a hard place sorely press
Ambition frail as mine
And in my captive desperateness
My doggerel tales repine

Seems better now to let them sleep
Beneath the mothering earth
Perhaps in quietness they'll steep
Unto a greater worth

Or else they'll just disintegrate.
The tragedy: I stopped too late.

(c) Christine Hardy 2009

I'm deep in the hole tonight.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Another Snowy Easter

We were visiting my parents for Easter a couple of years ago and were hit by an April blizzard.  In fact, this phenomenon has occurred every year that I have taken my son to their house during break.  The child actually thinks that the only proper way to hunt for Easter eggs is in the snow.  He says to me every March, "Mom, are we going to have another snowy Easter?"

That year the snow was unusually heavy.  We got about a foot and a half.  My son had an absolute blast!  I took him and my nephew on a trek in the woods, where we had a picnic under the branches of a huge pine tree that was so weighed down with snow that it completely concealed us. 

That day inspired one of the most important scenes in my novel.  I don't want to spoil it by telling, but the secret space beneath that huge pine's branches was the perfect setting for that particular scene.  I was reminded of it today, because I'm listening to Enya's "And Winter Came" CD while doing housework.

So, what odd things inspired brilliant ideas for your book?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

We Now Return to Your Regularly Scheduled Life

After three weeks of blissful novelling, I have to get back to Real Life.  *Sigh.*
I'm sure all my friends doing NaNoWriMo feel the same way.  Too many things have piled up - laundry, mail, paperwork.  Plus Christmas is coming, with its requisite shopping and cleaning.  Fortunately, we're all on diets so I no longer feel obliged to bake pies or cookies, although I'm sure that DS and I will still make gingerbread men.  He loves decorating them.  Actually, I found those train cookie cutters in the back of the drawer.  We should make gingerbread trains!!!

Finals are approaching.  Egads!  Finals, when students approach me with fear and trembling, begging for extra help which I, the benevolent Mistress of Mathematical Light and Knowledge, generously bestow.  As well, I'll have one more bunch of tests and homework papers to grade.  Oh, the joy of late-night movies!!!

I envy those who have the discipline to stick to a regular writing routine.  I tend to write in bursts.  I find that novelling requires such intense concentration, that I can't just do a little here and there.  For the past three weeks, I have been eating, sleeping and breathing my story.  I wake up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep.  After an hour or so of lying in bed I'll get up, work for a couple of hours, then crash on the couch until my alarm goes off and try to get through my day.  Yesterday I was so exhausted, I went back to bed at 8:30 a.m. and slept until 10:30.  Ten-thirty!!!  (the only reason I can do this is that my Tuesday class is done for the semester.)

So, what about you?  How do you manage (or not) your creativity?  Does your book take over your life, or are you one of those people who is really good at organizing your mind and your time?  If so, please excuse me if I throw a candy cane at you.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm Famous! (sort of)

My friend Michelle Gregory interviewed me for her blog, Beautiful Chaos.  So I feel (slightly) famous.  In honor of National Novel Writing Month, she is doing a series of interviews of her writing and blogging friends.  Thank you, Michelle, for the honor!  Your friendship and encouragement have been invaluable to me on this writing journey.  If you want to read it, my interview is here.

Speaking of NaNoWriMo... How is everyone doing?  I don't really expect anyone to answer, of course, because you are frantically trying to finish that word count by midnight.  I think writers are the new vampires... half-human, half-shadow, spending the nighttime hours with their pale faces reflected in the glow of their monitors.  I can't wait to hear about all of my friends' projects!!!

I'm almost 30K into my revisions right now.  It's taking a lot longer than I thought it would, but I think those are 29,163 words are much better words than they would be if I were rushing.  Still, I have to resist the urge to keep going back and changing things.  I need to start a "To Change" list and keep it by my computer so I don't forget the details that need tweaking.

Best of luck to you "Nanites," and I look forward to hearing from you in about a week, when you've recovered.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Random Thoughts on "New Moon"

Okay, I admit it... I went to see "New Moon" on Wednesday.  I rushed to the theatre from work to catch a matinee.

Random thoughts:

1. Jacob looks a LOT better than Edward without a shirt on.

2. Bella is even more annoying than Harry Potter. And that's saying a lot. I like them both, I relate to them, but Boy, are they annoying!

3. I shouldn't trash Bella too badly, since I was a pretty hopless case myself at 18. But, Really!

4. I can only imagine the number of term papers that will be written in the next couple of years comparing "New Moon" to "Romeo and Juliet."

5. The story was horrible. I think they could have just skipped this one altogether, and worked Jacob's transformation into the next one. (I didn't read the books.)

6. The first movie was about chastity. This one was about two things 1. Domestic Violence and 2. Emotional Abandonment.

Domestic Violence - strip away the whole "werewolf" thing and what you basically have is a metaphor for what men do to women when they lose control. The woman still loves the man, even though he hurts her, and he hates himself for turning into a monster. Jacob typifies boyish innocence suddenly turning into masculine power.

Emotional Abandonment - I don't mean Edward leaving Bella. I mean Bella's parents leaving her in this situation with no guidance or support. The dad was a nitwit - he should have packed that girl off to her mother's right away. And made sure she got emotional counseling.

The mother needed to be there for her daughter, saying, "Look, honey, I know this feels like the end of the world. I've been there, I know. But it really, truly isn't. You've got to trust me on this one. Now, let's go shopping and have a hot fudge sundae and paint our toenails."

The closest thing Charlie got to in terms of guidance was when he said to Bella, "I think you need to learn to love what's good for you." But then he totally negated himself by saying "What do I know? I'm just a terminal bachelor." Even this is telling, though, about how often parents lack the confidence to give even the most basic advice to their children.

7. As someone else has said, the role models for relationships were horrible. True to life, but horrible.

8. I'm glad Bella picked Edward, because Jacob can do better.  He carried the whole movie, as far as I'm concerned.

9. I laughed when the wolf (was it Sam?) came out of the bushes for the first time. I clamped my hand over my mouth so as not to annoy everyone.  But it looked reeeeeeeally cheesy.

10.  I loved the vampire elevator music.  I thought that was one of the best moments in the whole movie.

11. I want the soundtrack.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Being Thankful for the Gift of Creativity

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Take a moment today to thank God for the blessing of your creativity.  I know that living in two worlds at one time can be, in the words of my favorite TV character, Adrian Monk, "A gift... and a curse."  (I've blogged about this here.)  But recall that God himself is the Creator of all things, and by breathing a little bit of the creative gift in us He has actually given us the incredible blessing of sharing in His own nature.
I recently read these words in an article by Dr. Charles Stanley about Caleb, who was with Moses, Joshua and the Israelites in the desert.  He dreamed of entering the Promised Land, and was 85 when he claimed the hill country of Canaan - some of the hardest area to settle - for his territory.

Stanley writes "(Caleb) had to wait years for the blessing to materialize, but he never lost hope, never stopped dreaming, and never doubted God's goodness. He had a fixed focus, and not even 40 years of wilderness wandering was enough to distract him...

"You don't have to give in to your doubts or fears.  Your imagination is a gift from God.  When you stop using it, you begin to age.  Go ahead - dream big and watch Him do the impossible in your life!"  ("Caleb's Conquest", In Touch Magazine, Sept. 2009)

Your imagination is a gift from God!  So, take some time to thank Him today.  And then get back to writing!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why do we write?

Today's post was submitted by Douglas Clarke.  Thank you for being a part of the Writer's Hole!

We love to write, we hate to write, so why do we write?

To share yourself
To connect with others
Because your heart is screaming inside
To leave something for our children
It's your job
or something else completely ...

For me it is therapy. By writing down the stories that my characters are going through, I deal with the same feelings, if not the same situations, that they do. But working out how my characters deal with issues, I work out some of my own issues.

Douglas Clarke

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday, Monday

So, how is everyone feeling today?  We all know Monday is the pits.  At least this one was.  Cold and rainy. I'm dragging my tail from staying up too late all last week writing and blogging.

This is the Writer's Hole, so it's important to know that you can complain if you want. Go ahead. Get it all out.

I was feeling a little better about my manuscript, ready to stop re-re-re-re-revising my first chapter and move onward, until I got a new writing book in the mail.  It's called Flogging the Quill: Crafting a Novel that Sells by Ray Rhamey, who has a fantastic blog by the same name.  I came home, opened the box from Amazon before I'd even taken my coat off, made a cup of tea and read the first 38 pages right there at the dining room table.

Rhamey's book is excellent.  He has a totally readable and yet razor-sharp analysis of how to craft compelling fiction.  It's unlike any other book on writing fiction that I've seen.  As I read, I realized that I have a lot farther to go than I thought (well, to be more accurate, than I hoped) before my manuscript is ready to send out.  And that I have to revise the first chapter again, especially the first page. It's still not compelling enough to make a reader - let alone an agent - want to know more about my story.  The story is there... just not right on the first page.

Two steps forward and one step back.  That's the writing life. Thoughts, anyone?

FTC Disclaimer (not) - I didn't get anything from Mr. Rhamey for talking about his book on my blog. I bought it from

Friday, November 20, 2009

Remembering Your First Love

Writing a novel is like falling in love.  And out again. And in.  And out.  Until you can't remember why you ever wanted to write it in the first place.

So what made you fall in love with your book? What idea, or character, or theme, sparked the romance for you?

For me, it was the idea of writing a Tolkein-ish story from the girl's point of view. Let's face it, there is hardly any female perspective in the fabulous "Lord of the Rings."  The movies did a better job than Tolkein did.  Which is okay.  He was a guy writing a guy's epic.

But what if you had a similar world, with magic and danger and heroism... with girls in it who actually got to do stuff?  Girls who weren't Amazons or warrior princesses, but real women who hate blood as much as I do, but can screw up the courage to stab somebody when there's no other way to stop them?  Like Padme Amidala and her "aggressive negotiations."  So that really turned me on... how can I write an exciting story that has strong feminine leads who still retain their femininity?

What happened was that, as I wrote, I discovered that I needed to get inside of the male lead, too.  He went from being a two-dimensional Disney-style "guy with a sword" to a real guts-and-grime hero.  I still don't quite know how he sprang into being, but he did nonetheless. I guess there's a little Faldur in me, buried deep down somewhere.

It doesn't hurt, of course, that I'd mentally cast Hugh Jackman to play him in the movie version.  You gotta love Hugh!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Writer's Hole

Dear Readers,

You probably figured I couldn't stay away for long. You were right. But I want to create a whole new concept for the blog.

I want to call it "The Writer's Hole." Like that little hole you want to crawl into when you're feeling discouraged and hate the manuscript you were in raptures over just last week. I need a cute header... a Winnie-the-Pooh-like illustration of a little door in a tree trunk - that kind of thing.

I've always secretly wanted to live inside a tree trunk.

Anyway, the new blog is going to be not mine, but OURS. Anyone who wants to post something can do so. Just email it to me and I'll put it up. But I don't have time to add photos or edit the text, so just be sure it's edited beforehand, and appropriate. No profanity (you can use @#$#@! if you want), nothing offensive. And focused on writing fiction.

I also welcome short passages for which you want feedback. I'll post some of mine, too.  But it may take me a little while to put things up depending on how busy I am.  I want this to be a way we can encourage each other, but I also want to be a good steward of my time.

Please post comments with ideas/questions! I look forward to hearing from you.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Change of Season

Two important things happened this past weekend. I had a birthday, which hit me rather hard, and a friend died of cancer. Along with other things that have been gradually accumulating, I have come to the conclusion that it's time for me to grow up.

One of the things that Jeanne said to me before she died was that she always wanted to try to get some of her poems published, but just never got around to pursuing it. That's understandable. She was a single mother, a schoolteacher, and a very involved member of our church. She took on a lot of responsibility with a perpetually sunny spirit, right until the end. I believe she actually spent more time comforting others about her illness, than we comforted her. She even arranged to have a posthumous email sent to everyone after she died! That was Jeanne.

The tears are welling up, so I'll keep this brief.

I'm shutting down the blog. I just can't resist the constant temptation to post my oh-so-fascinating thoughts, nor respond to others' posts on their blogs. The amount of time that I waste each day is staggering. I have been telling myself - and others are telling me as well - that the book will always be there later. But there may not be a later.

I am extremely grateful to everyone who has befriended me here in the blogosphere and provided feedback on my work. You have made the past few years much richer and more informative (writing-wise) than they could ever have been without you. I will miss you all greatly.

I am still committed to Come In Character, as I made a promise to help keep that blog running. Ginger, Marenya, Faldur et al will still be there, as I have time. And I will still be on Facebook, since that is the only way I can keep in touch with certain friends. I have a Yahoo mail account now as well - Feel free to email me any time.

Best wishes, and thank you,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

National Day on Writing

October 20th is the National Day on Writing.  I just submitted my entry to the gallery for one of the colleges where I teach.  It is a poem I wrote when my son was two years old.

Twenty-Six Months

with your mosquito bites and bruises
and crew cut
Long limbs folded around Big Bird
curled against cheeks
That aren’t as chubby as they used to be

Still you want me to lie down with you
An ally in your fight against sleep
But I am your ally in a different way
Fighting my own war against your charms
As you wriggle and giggle and tell me
that you love me

How I cherish every kiss
Every affectionate butt of your head
Every “Night-night Mosah!”
Until you finally succumb

Will you still like me this much
When you are older?

I doubt it

So for now let me soak in the feeling of your body
Curled against mine
The weight of your cheek
On my cheek
The sweaty warmth of your head
Jammed under my chin

Fighting my own war
Against your charms

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nothing Interesting

Hey, nothing fascinating happening here. It's been a hectic week and I'm tired from staying up late, grading papers.

No writing happening. Very little cooking or cleaning either! But Mom is coming tomorrow  for a short visit, so I'd better get cracking.  She needs a comfortable place to sleep and the office is overflowing with paper and laundry baskets.

So, have a good rest of the week everyone. And congratulations to Laura for winning the contest!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Another Contest Entry

JJ is running another great contest! I don't know where she comes up with all these great ideas.

This is my entry for the Character/Object Monologue contest at JJ Bennett's blog.

I stood in a forest, the heart of a stout birch tree. Lumberjacks sawed me down. Oh my branches and roots! What a terrific crash I made. I was loaded onto a truck, taken to a mill and formed into sheets of plywood. “Furniture grade,” they called me. I was proud. What would I become?

I was taken to a workshop in New Hampshire, where my sheets were cut Into rectangles and triangles. They used a jigsaw to cut out small openings. I was packaged with a vast quantity of other, smaller pieces, and shipped to a buyer in New Jersey.

A birthday present! But what am I? Nothing but pieces and parts.

She opened the box and spent many early mornings and late nights assembling me. She used nails and glue. She applied a gritty paste over a stencil shaped like mortar lines, which created more rectangles to cover my lovely wood. I wasn’t very happy about that. Then she fastened many flat, thin pieces in rows onto my head, overlapping each one.

She spent hours poring over books to get just the right look. She seemed obsessed with me, and I was pleased. She added little towers to my head, and applied layers and layers of watery paint to “age” me. The inserts for my openings were also carefully painted and fitted. She wouldn’t let the man help her at all.

The first of my chambers was finally decorated. She hand-made all the little pieces of my woodwork, and added lights. It was beautiful! It was even featured in a magazine.

But then she became ill, and couldn’t work on me anymore. She said she couldn’t stand up. She was tired all the time. The couple started buying strange-looking furniture. One piece was like a tall cage. What was it for? It was too high for the dog, and he already had a cage.

Then He was born, and she did nothing but take care of Him for a very long time. I waited patiently. I am still waiting.

I’ve seen all the things that are meant to go inside of me. They are tiny, exquisite, perfect. Some she brought all the way from Germany, just for me. Why won’t she finish me? That boy is in school now, but all she does is sit at the computer, or go away for the whole day to “work”, or walk those dogs, or take the boy to “socker.” When will I be finished? What work could be more important than me?

I am a place for dreams to dwell in. Doesn’t she have any dreams any more?

Perhaps if she had a baby girl…

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Finally Writing Again

At long last, my muse has reawakened from her dreamless slumber.  I want to smack her, but that might make her withdraw again, so I'm making nice.

And now my timer is set for an hour, so instead of blogging I'm going to go revise.

The problem with revising is that I delete as much as I write, so my word count isn't going up.  In fact, each day it goes slightly down!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Quote of the Week

"Twenty-thousand discontented females in the British Isles, and every one of them is writing a novel."

I was watching The Ghost and Mrs. Muir this afternoon on one of the classic movie channels, and got a good chuckle out of that line!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reading vs. Writing

There was a heated discussion going on last week at Nathan Bransford's blog about whether or not authors need to be well-read in order to be good writers. Click here for the discussion.

The first answer, of course, is "Duh!  Of course you have to read to be a writer."  But that wasn't the question.  The question is "Do you have to be well-read."  Which then begs for a definition of "well-read," which seems to vary according to individual perspectives from "lots of classics" to "lots of currently popular books" to "lots of books in the genre in which I write."

There are very good points on either side of the discussion.  For example, one person pointed out that if you absolutely must read a lot of books before you can write a good one, what about those who wrote some of the first books (like Chaucer), or the first books in any genre?  (Obviously, we're talking about fiction here.)

And then there is the issue of "staying current."  You don't want to write what everyone else is writing, so the argument goes, so you must read every new book that comes out (or at least every one in your genre) and monitor current trends.  For me, this is like saying you have to keep track of all the waves on the ocean. Even if there is a trend that you want to take advantage of, or avoid, chances are that by the time you write a whole book, revise it, find an agent, sell it, rewrite it for the publisher, and go through all that printing, marketing and distribution time, the trend will be over.  Not to mention the huge drain on one's time, creativity, and enthusiasm.

My comment on the topic was a bit more practical, betraying my insecurity with writing in general:

"At the risk of getting jumped on, I'm going to admit that I don't read much any more, although I was a voracious reader in my younger years.

The reason is two-fold, and related to my attempt to actually write a book of my own.

1. If I am reading, I find that the part of my mind that resides in my novel leaves to go live in the other book until I'm done with it. I literally can't write until I finish whatever I'm reading.

2. Reading other books, particularly in my genre, tends to be very depressing. Like Guy Piano on Sesame Street, I then look at my own work and cry 'No, no, no! It's horrible! I'll never be able to finish. Never!'"

I will amend this to say that of course reading widely helps one learn how to tell a story, and use punctuation and grammar, and all that fine stuff.  But in my opinion, at the end of the day all that really matters is that you have written the story that you had to tell, to the best of your ability.  What happens to it after that, is up to Fate.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sometimes Dreams Really Do Come True!

My family have been calling and emailing each other this week with great excitement.  Why?  Because Justin Moore's single "Small Town USA" off his self-titled debut album hit #1 on both the Billboard and USA Today country music charts.  You can see it here:

Why do we care?  We're not related to Justin Moore. However, my cousin, David Dubas, plays bass guitar in his band, touring around the country with him.

David with Josh Cross and Justin Moore

The band does not appear in the "Small Town, USA" video.  Justin hogs the spotlight in that one, along with a bunch of nameless actors.  Phooey!  Dave does appear as a tall, indistinct, wookie-like figure, playing guitar in the distant background of their first video, "Back That Thing Up."  The video is about teaching scantily-clad girls how to drive tractors, in case you were wondering.  Catchy tune, terrible video.  I told Dave that if they had shown Justin and the band members with their shirts off, driving tractors and pouring water over themselves, it would have been a lot better.  He laughed at that and said, "Noooooooo!"
I saw him perform on television last month, and he really has an awesome stage presence.  He seduces that guitar as if it were a woman he was desperately in love with. I hope they'll feature the band more in some of the future videos.

Here is a photo of him when we were kids, and another onstage with the band. He is on the right in the second photo.  You'll notice his hair has always been something of a problem for him.

Just kidding, Dave!  We're really proud of you, and I give you permission to post embarrassing childhood photos of me when I'm famous, too.  (By the way, this blog is not listed on Google, and can't be searched.  Just so you know.)

This news has really given me a lift this week.  It made me realize that perhaps my own dreams aren't as impossible as I sometimes think.  David is a very focused and talented young man.  He's not there for the fame or the parties (although I'm sure he enjoys both); he's there for the music, and was willing to do what it took to prove himself.  The life of a musician is truly not glamorous or pretty most of the time.  In fact, it's downright grueling.  But it has its moments... like this one!

"I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen." - Frank Lloyd Wright

Thanks for reminding me, Dave!  And, once again... Congratulations!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

You Deserve a Break!

This evening I found myself standing in line at McDonald's, waiting to order dinner for my family, after a very busy day.  I had my eyes closed and was thinking how nice it was to have a little break, with nothing to do but wait.  It was a lovely feeling for about half a minute.

Then I realized how strange I must look, and that the line might have moved up without my knowing, so I opened my eyes again.

When I was working full time in an office, I often snatched a little fifteen- or twenty-minute power nap on my lunch break, either in my car or on one of the benches tucked into the university's botanical garden, which was located just behind my building. As a middle school teacher, I would close the door and turn the lights off when I had a free period and put my head down on the desk where no one could see me.  Or, I would take a little stroll in the woods on the pretext of scouting out my science class's next nature walk.

So I'm wondering... how do you snatch some rest or quiet time during a busy day?  What things do you do to keep yourself sane?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Fortune Cookie

Thanks to Laura Martone's post on fortune cookies, I've had a hankering for them this week. So yesterday I got Chinese food for lunch and ordered extra fortune cookies. This morning I am having a cup of tea and a couple of cookies.

The first one said, "Your mind is filled with new ideas." I hope that is prophetic, because I don't feel very filled with ideas at the moment.

The second one said, "Everything is possible, just not so probable." Now this I love! I teach statistics, and I am going to use that in my classes today. No, not today because we aren't discussing probability yet. But when we get to that topic, I will.

Truly, that is statistics in a nutshell. Any random event can happen, but the probability of a certain event depends upon the parameters of the situation.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


The feedback on FTQ for my first page (and alternate version thereof) has been great. I have learned so much from Ray Rhamey and everyone at Flogging the Quill. Now I feel ready to plunge into the revising process.

But I don't see where I can make the time. More and more, I'm realizing that the time I redeem from the Internet needs to be invested in my real job, and in my family. My friend Ann posted a comment about "where your treasure is, there your time will be also." That was so convicting. My real treasures are my husband and son.

I'm already running in sleep-deprivation mode right now, struggling to keep my head together. Other people work more hours than I do, have families, and still write, which makes me feel utterly incompetent. I had a terrible weekend, and I just feel so torn in so many directions. No matter what I do, it's the wrong thing.


I used to think people who posted Scripture all the time were either being really soppy, or trying to impress people with their spirituality. Now I know that it's a way of holding your sword out, to keep the dragons of self-doubt and discouragement at bay.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths."
~ Psalm 3:5-6

Monday, September 14, 2009

Please Flog my Quill!

That is... critique my writing. It's my turn for abuse.

Click here: Flog-o-meter for Christine

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dog Pic of the Week

I love taking photos of our doxle, because he's so comical. There's something inherently funny about dachshunds, and crossing that with a beagle produces something halfway between Snoopy and the Slinky dog from "Toy Story."

He has this skinny, whippy body, but he thinks he's really cool. He was rolling over to get his tummy rubbed and I couldn't help thinking of that 80's song, "Don't you want me baby... Don't you want me? Ooooh!"

P.S. The look on our other dog's face while he was doing this was priceless. As in, "I don't BELIEVE that guy!"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who shouldn't have been killed?

Bane's Blogging Blues has a post titled "Who Would You Kill?" Despite the grammatical incorrectness (it should be whom, not who because it is the object of the verb kill) it's an interesting question. Which fictional characters are so annoying that we wish the author had killed them off?

My vote was for Dolores Umbridge. I mean, she very nearly gets done in by the centaurs at the end of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," but then she's back like the cat who just couldn't stay away. If anyone deserved to be offed, she did. The situation was one in which her death would have been the direct result of her own fatheadedness, so it was ideal. Rowling dropped the ball there, IMHO.

Anyway, it prompted me to think about which fictional characters should NOT have been killed.

My vote is for Obi-Wan Kenobi. I never really understood that whole "If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can imagine" thing. I mean, it's not as if he turned into Gandalf the White and returned from the dead with incredible powers. No, he just became a shimmery apparition that sometimes spoke to Luke. "Use the Force, Luke!" But Luke did all the work.

So, it makes no sense to me. It was just a shameless dramatic ploy. Of course, according to Joseph Campbell, the hero's mentor must die, so "Off with his head!"

Whom would you not have killed?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Redeeming Your Time

We had a lovely family day at the beach yesterday. It was windy and slightly cool, which made a pleasant change from the searing heat of August. I came back feeling refreshed, ready to face the fact that summer is over and that it's time to get down to work.

My motto this semester is

"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil."
~ Ephesians 5:15-16

I certainly need to redeem my time. This morning, I have spent almost two hours already on Blogger and Facebook. These social networking sites have been invaluable sources of information and encouragement, but they do tend to be black holes in terms of productivity. So, I need to find some way of managing my time there.

I also picked up a second teaching job at the last minute, which means that I will be teaching five classes this semester. I thought this would be overwhelming, but judging from last week it may not be as bad as I thought. Perhaps there is still some hope to work on my manuscript this fall.

Ah, my manuscript! The child I both love and hate. I am approaching my revisions with fear and trembling. At the moment, I think the whole thing is totally unoriginal and worthless. I'm sick and tired of it, and wish I could just forget I ever thought of it. But, perhaps forcing myself to do it when I don't want to, will be good for me. Perhaps if the story becomes work, I will be able to lay it aside more easily when my time is up.

I hope so.

I am debating how to structure my day, making the most of my mental and physical energy. I also want to be sure to include some time for daily exercise and devotions, two activities that have been sadly lacking for far too long.

I often think that I should just put the book aside until my son is older and I'm not so busy. As many people have told me, "It will still be there." However, no matter how well everything else is going in my life, if I am not writing, I am unhappy. If I am true to myself by fulfilling that creative urge, I find that I can function better in all the other areas despite the time struggle.

Even so, the time struggle is a mighty one. I often think that blogging and Facebook tend to squander the creativity that should be focused on the novel. Yet I find that the visual and social stimulation of the Internet helps my brain wake up in the morning. My mind is as blank as my Word screen if I don't do a little social networking; unfortunately, the networking tends to turn into "notworking."

So I would like to ask you, my readers and fellow writers,
"How do you redeem your time?"

P.S. My friend Kristal Shaff has a relevant post here: Death to Blogging

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Voting Has Begun!

The Fairy Tale Contest Voting has started. Please consider voting for my entry. It's the first one.

Also, please note that the story ends abruptly because of limited word count, and because it was meant to fill in the previous history to the original fairy tale blogger JJ Bennett posted last month.

Thank you for your support! Have a donut on me.

And, here's a raspberry jelly one for Laura.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Princess Willa: A Fairy Tale

JJ Bennett has a contest running over at her blog Jennifer J Bennett for the prequel (or sequel) to a Fairy Tale that she posted a couple of weeks ago.

My entry follows. On September 1st, the entries will be posted on her blog and readers will be allowed to vote for their favorite. Please, if you like my story, pop on over and give me your vote!

Here it is:

Princess Willa

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful orphan named Wilhelmina. She loved a farmer’s son named Purleon, whose one ambition was to become a knight. He was tall, handsome, and an excellent fighter. However, he lacked a suitable horse, and was too poor to buy one.

As the annual tournament approached, Purleon trained even harder. The tournament was his one chance to prove himself. He hoped that he would be taken into the service of a great lord. “When I am a knight,” he promised Wilhelmina, “I will marry you, and take you to my lord’s castle. You will live like a princess!” This made her laugh with love and happiness.

But he still lacked a horse. As the weeks went by, Wilhelmina racked her brains for some scheme by which she could help him obtain one, but could think of nothing. She supported herself by doing laundry and mending. She had very little money to lend her beloved.

A few days before the tournament, Wilhelmina was walking to the market in the next town, feeling very sad for Purleon. Suddenly she saw a thin, tired, homely-looking woman leading a magnificent charger down the road. “Where are you going with that horse?” Wilhelmina asked.

The woman looked at her sadly. “My husband died,” she said. “I have no more money to feed myself and my children. All that I have left is his horse. I am taking it to the market to sell it.”

“My young man needs a horse,” said Wilhelmina, “so that he can go to the tournament and become a knight. I want to buy your horse for him, but I have no money.”

The woman eyed her shrewdly. “Perhaps you can barter with me.”

“What could I possibly give you in exchange for something so valuable?” asked Wilhelmina.

“Your beauty,” said the woman. “If I were as beautiful as you, I could win another husband to take care of me and my children.”

Wilhelmina thought for a long moment. She was convinced that Purleon would love her whether she were beautiful or not, especially if she were able to give him this charger. She agreed.

The woman put her calloused hands on Wilhelmina’s face, and as she did so Wilhelmina saw the woman’s cheeks grow youthful again, her teeth become strong and white, her hair like flowing gold, her figure full and pleasing. She felt herself grow thin and worn in exchange. The woman put the reins into Wilhelmina’s hand, picked up her skirts, and ran down the road, rejoicing.

Wilhelmina was afraid that she had been tricked by some sorceress, but the horse was just as strong and handsome as ever. She took him to Purleon proudly. “Look, I have found a horse for you! Now you can enter the tournament.”

It was hard to determine whether Purleon was more astonished by the gift, or by the change in his beloved. “What happened to you?” he asked. She told him how she had met the woman on the road, and exchanged her beauty for the magnificent charger.

“You’ll still marry me and take me away with you, won’t you?” she asked.

“Of course I will!” he promised, but he did not take her in his arms.

The day of the tournament arrived. Although Purleon was not the champion, he fought so well that he did capture the attention of a rich lord. His head had been turned, however, by the many beautiful maidens who threw their scarves down to the contesting knights. He paid Wilhelmina for the horse out of his winnings, but he did not take her away with him.

Wilhelmina was heartbroken. All of the women who had been jealous of her beauty now mocked her, calling her “Princess Willa.” None of the young men would court her, or even go near her, because she was so ugly. For a year, she waited for Purleon to come back for her. She used the money he gave her to buy a beautiful gown, and wore it every day in the hope that he would see her in it and remember that he loved her.

Eventually, she realized that he wasn’t coming back. She went to the riverbank to drown herself. As she sat there sobbing, an enormous orange cat walked up to her and rubbed his head against her shoulder. “Go away!” she cried.

“There, there,” said the cat, rubbing more persistently and purring. “No use crying over spilt milk. The best thing to do is lick up as much as possible, and try to trip the milkmaid again.” He grinned.

In spite of herself, Willa laughed. The cat jumped into her lap and settled there. “I know your story, Willa. I am convinced that Fate will somehow reward you for your good deed. In one way, it already has.”

“What do you mean?”

“I happen to know that Purleon is miserable. He doesn’t like serving a great lord as much as he thought he would. He has married a pretty, selfish young woman. Neither he nor his wife think of anyone but themselves, which makes for an unhappy marriage, indeed.”

At this, Willa began to sob again and wanted to throw herself into the river. But the cat had fallen asleep in her lap, and was so heavy that she couldn’t remove him. So, she sat on the riverbank until he woke up again. The crisis past, she and the cat went home together.

So that is how the lovely Wilhelmina became Princess Willa and met her magical cat. Knowing that Purleon was married helped her set him free in her heart, and she became happy again. She withdrew from society, living in a cave and helping those who were more unfortunate than she. Secretly, however, she hoped that the cat was right, and she would be rewarded for her good deed.

Perhaps, she might even get her beauty back.

(c) Christine Hardy 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Publishing Time

Publishing Time. As in, the glacial pace of the publishing industry.

Nathan Bransford's blog post has suddenly taken a lot of pressure off of me in terms of rushing to finish my manuscript. Heck, I might even be satisfied with one sentence per day. By the time I finish, medieval fantasy novels may have been out for a while and then come back in again, and I'll be riding the cusp of the new wave!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why I'm looking for help so early

There was a debate yesterday at Nathan Bransford's blog about whether or not writers should seek advice about representation for their first book. The assumption one poster made was that you have to write 10-12 books before you can be considered a real writer, and that if you are hanging out on agent blogs, you aren't really serious about doing the hard work of getting your novel written. I came in late to the discussion, but wanted to put my comment up here for your perusal:

Not to stir up the old debate here, but I have an observation about the whole "writing lots of books before looking for agenting advice" thing. Perhaps this will explain to certain posters why people like me are doing what we are doing - i.e. looking for lots of advice while working on our first (or nearly first) manuscript.

I am almost 39. I have been writing stories since I was a kid, and attempted a couple of novels before this one. My English teachers always told me I was very talented.

But, I also have technical skills and stopped writing in order to pursue an M.S., get a job in a technical field (clinical research), get married, stay married, and have a child with medical issues. My life has been hectic, to say the least.

But now I am teaching part-time and finding that the lid on Pandora's box won't stay shut any more. I have to pursue my dream or die.

But I am writing in isolation. I know no one else who writes, I am not hanging around literary types, I teach math and statistics all day, and I married a guy who doesn't even like to read. So the Internet is my only connection with other writers and with the publishing world.

As well, EVERY SINGLE article, speaker or author about writing says that you have to write what agents want. The very first person I ever heard talk about writing was from some tapes my mom brought back from a writer's conference she attended, and he said that you shouldn't write ANYTHING at all until you've sold the proposal. Otherwise, it's a waste of your time. "Don't write for free," he said.

I found out since then that although this may be true for non-fiction, it is not true for fiction. But, taking his advice, I did craft a proposal for a novel and submit it to a publisher. It was rejected, but she took enough time to send me a letter explaining her reasons and asking for more things from me in the future. That encouraged me to try to find out more and to keep writing.

So here I am... and that's why.

Oh, and, like Laura, I really love THIS book and THESE characters, and want them to have a fair chance at getting published.

(As well as justifying all the time I've spent on this to my spouse.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Good News and Bad News

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I picked up two more classes to teach for the fall; the bad news is that now I won't have the time to finish my manuscript before Christmas, as I had hoped. It is just so *very* frustrating!

I know... everyone says "If it's important enough, you'll make time for it." Well, that's true, but at what cost? I have learned the hard way that I can't write and be an effective wife, mom and teacher. Teaching is a 60-hour a week job for 20-hour a week pay. It would be different if I could use the same notes, but darn it if every semester I don't get different courses. So I have to make up new notes, handouts and tests all the time, which is incredibly time-consuming.

(This semester, I do have a few sections of a course I've already taught, but they changed the book on me! As Charlie Brown would say "Arrrrgggghhhhh!!!!")

But, I'm grateful for the income and the scheduling flexibility. I'll just keep taking it one day at a time.

I just hope Zeke gets used to being in his crate. That dratted beagle just pees all over himself whenever we leave him. Today I was gone for TWO MINUTES before my husband got home. We drove past each other on the street. Don't you know that dog made a mess? God bless his little furry peabrained self, but I hope he "gets it" soon!

P.S. I just have to add that I realized after this post that I hadn't cleaned the cage yet, so I went downstairs. That wasn't pee in the cage... it was drool!!! Too, too funny.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"When you write you tell yourself a story. When you rewrite you take out everything that is NOT the story."
— Stephen King

Stephen King also says that he is "the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries." I haven't read any of his books, so I can't comment on that. Horror is not my genre.

But, I can say that my goal is to be the literary equivalent of a spinach quiche. Healthy, satisfying, a little bit unusual, and appealing to those who are tired of Big Macs.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rainy Day

We're having a soft, rainy day today. I love rain. It's an excuse to curl up with a cup of tea and a book and not stir until dinnertime.

Only, I can't quite do that. The house still looks like a bomb hit it, from being on vacation. It always seems as if the van vomited our belongings into the living room upon arrival. I've been slowly sifting through and putting things away, but it's been a busy week. This is my first slow day.

Where's Rosie the Robot when you need her?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Brag Day

Okay, everyone, here's an idea I just had:

Today will be "Brag Day." I am inviting you to post in the comments a paragraph or so of dialogue or description of which you are particularly proud. It could be fiction, non-fiction, whatever. Give us a taste of what you are working on!

Alternately, email it to me and I'll add it to this post.

C'mon... Brag a little!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Too much feedback spoils the novel

With a short hiatus ahead of me, I am psyching myself up to start writing again. I did a *little* while on vacation, but not very much. I was too busy spending time with my long-lost family in Ohio.

Having had some time to reflect (between early morning Scrabble, trips to the zoo, fishing and walking the dog and boys in the park), I've come to the conclusion that one of the reasons I was able to stop completely for a while is the level of confusion that has resulted from too much feedback.

I'm more eager for feedback than most writers. I really want to know what people think before I spend more precious months of my life working on something. The problem is that other writers have totally different opinions from mere readers. The other writers who have looked at my stuff say, "There is way too much exposition here, you have to take this out as it slows the whole thing down."

The readers say, "This is happening way too fast! Who are these people? Where are they? Why are they doing these things anyway?"

From all the writing blogs I've looked at, it seems that the only writing style allowable these days is basically stream of consciousness. Or, rather, stream of action. Everything has to happen pretty much in the moment to hold an editor's attention. The number one rule is "Show, don't tell."

But when I read books that have been published by very successful writers... oops! They use a ton of exposition in their first chapters. I just read one by bestselling romance author Nora Roberts in which the entire first chapter was basically backstory. I enjoyed it. I kept reading. It didn't slow me down. But apparently, if I were to submit a similar first chapter, I'd be given the good old "form rejection."

None of it makes sense.

So I have decided "To heck with them all!" I'm just going to write the story the best I can and if no one wants to publish it, I'll just self-pub and move on with my life. Grandma's not getting any younger... she just celebrated her 98th birthday. I need to finish this and record it so she can listen to it. She can't read any more, but listens to audio books all the time and is waiting for mine.

I owe it to Grandma.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Well, I'm not writing at all. I'm too busy working. But I hope to get back to my book in a few weeks when the semester is over. I hope everyone is having a great summer!


Friday, July 3, 2009

The Cuckoo Clock

This week we re-started our Bavarian cuckoo clock. It's been idle for years, while our son and other people's children were too young to resist yanking on the chains. But I started it again when my friend's four-year-old daughter was here and begged to hear the cuckoo. She was thrilled as I turned the hands again and again so she could see the little woodchopper raising his axe, the mill wheel turning, the people dancing, and the little bird popping out of his door.

I slept on the sofa last night because I'm not feeling well, and enjoyed the clock's reassuring sound. It made me recall our trip to Germany eight years ago. Much of my novel was inspired by that trip: by the castles, the mountains, the forests, the turquoise waters of the alpine streams, the brightly painted houses, and the fortress-towns like Rothenburg. We visited Nuremburg but didn't get to see the castle. The rest of our fellow tourists did, but, being unable to read the German signs, Mark and I ended up taking a long circuit of the grassy moat! By the time we found the castle entrance, it was time to return to the bus. I've always regretted that.

But I got plenty of inspiration from Neuschwanstein. I could go to the Alps every year, I think! Fresh air, fresh ale, a sense of timelessness and incredible scenery. What more could a person ask for?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I know I said I wasn't going to blog anymore but I couldn't resist putting up this photo of our puppy, Zeke. I have been training him not to sleep on the sofa unless he lays on his blanket, so that all I have to do is wash the blanket from time to time rather than have a dirty sofa.

Last night the blanket was in the wash and he was tired. So the closest he could get to it was my statistics books piled at one end.

It looks as if he's either had a long night of studying, or is hoping to absorb the material by sleeping on it!