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:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2RZQlx

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.