Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Temporary Leave and Toothbrushing

So, I realize I have not posted in forever. I'm sorry. There's this thing called life. I think it hates me.

Anyway, I'm now going into desperate writer mode, hoping to get through a tricky part of Horizons before Christmas. So, much as I hate to, I'm going to have to put this blog on hiatus. I'll be back on January 7th at the latest. In the meantime, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, etc. etc.

And to round off this admittedly lame post, here is a picture of me brushing my teeth, which totally freaked me out when I found it on my sister's iPod. (I mean, really? WHY?)




Also, Happy Birthday to my mother, who turned Very Young one week ago.

And I get my braces off on Valentine's Day. Please give me bubble gum. Thank you. I will now stop stalling and go write. Thank you for putting up with me. I love you. Seriously.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cleanliness: Next to Usefulness

Today's post is about showering. No, I am not going to tell you about how I read this book when I was eleven and became convinced that the bottom of my bathtub (nearest thing to a boat that I could find) was going to open up and reveal rows of zombie pirates clamoring for me to take their place. Nor am I going to tell you about how this image became so real in my mind that I developed a deathly fear of showering in said bathtub and still feel a tremor of horror when I even see the cover of Isles of the Dead.

It's a good book, really. Just don't read it in a boat/bathtub.

Instead of telling you that story, I'm going to tell you why I think showering is important. One of the wide-spread myths about both homeschoolers and writers is that we spend the whole day in our pajamas. 

This myth is completely true. And completely false.

Let me elaborate. I do, in fact, wear pajama pants ALL THE TIME. I have yet to venture out of the house in them, but as soon as I come home the jeans/skirt/whatever is immediately exchanged for pajamas. ALWAYS.

But this luxury is not without its limitations. I cannot go a day without showering. Not without becoming the most pathetic being on the face of the earth. There seems to be a switch in my brain that turns on as soon as I turn on the hot water. It tells me, 'Enough stalling. Go do something cool.'

Seriously. I don't care what I'm trying to do -- clean my room, write a battle scene, it all gets better if I just take a shower.

And yet I consistently put off that part of my day. I tell myself that I'll do it after I eat breakfast. Then it's after I write a few scenes. And five hours later, I've wasted my day tweaking a million things that didn't need to be tweaked and I still haven't showered. By then I'm so disappointed in myself that my entire day is ruined, and I settle into the Slump of Doom.

All that can be fixed by the Magic of the Shower.

This might be a Sarah thing, but I don't think so. I think there's a connection between cleanliness and productiveness, one we can all use to our benefit. So why don't you try it? Next time you're feeling useless, ask yourself, 'Have I showered today?' If the answer is no, do it.

Then report back, so that I don't feel like the only hygiene-challenged slug in the world.

*This post brought to you by the Magic of the Shower, which reminded Sarah to blog.
**Now Sarah is off to save the world. Or write that scene she's been dreading. Either one works.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Grateful

Today I thank God
For giving me the trials I need to grow
And the peace to endure them
And for giving both together.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hudson's 1st Law (Or Writing Romance: Sarah Style)

For this post, I'm going to depart from my usual rule and actually try to tell people what to do. Shocking, I know. But recently I've read a number of books which did not do this well, and ended up souring my love for an otherwise excellent book (sometimes an entire series!) Since I can't actually talk to the offending authors themselves, I'm talking to you.

Before I want to go any further, I want to clarify that I'm talking about writing books with romance in them, not romances. There's a distinct difference, and I don't actually have any experience writing romances.

That said, I'm sure the following rules apply to any love story.

1. CHARACTERS BEFORE RELATIONSHIP: Writing Excuses had a few excellent things to say on this subject a while back. (I believe it was in this podcast.) It ties into the concept of character-driven plots versus plot-driven characters. If you want your readers to fall in love with a relationship, first make them love the characters. When we love both characters, we will want them to be happy.

This will make your job much, much easier. If your heroine is whiny and suicidal and your hero is a jerk ... well, you might be able to pull it off. But only if you follow the next rule perfectly.

2. BUILD THEM UP: Loving each other should make your characters better people. I mean, if you want their relationship to last, there has to be something deeper than attraction involved. Identify your characters' emotional needs and weaknesses. Now figure out how their loved one meets those needs and builds up those weak places.

This is the reason I was Team Peeta every page of The Hunger Games. It's the reason Elizabeth and Darcy are meant for each other. They complete each other. They build each other up. No matter how good your individual characters are, their relationship won't go anywhere if you can't find some concrete reason they should be together. And once you have ...

3. KEEP YOUR PROMISES: I cannot stress this rule enough. This is where so many good books go wrong. Once you've made two wonderful characters and drawn a connection between them -- even if it's just the barest hint of foreshadowing -- you MUST follow through. You must.

I'm not saying that every couple you've ever hinted at has to end up together. If that were so, love triangles would be much more creepy. I'm saying that if they don't end up together, you need a really solid reason. Right now, I can only think of three.

a) One of them dies. That's a pretty good reason not to get married. It's also one that will make a lot of people angry with you, so be prepared. Also, it's a good idea to have some satisfying resolution before death steps in, to make your readers feel less cheated.

b) There's someone else who's TRULY a better match. This is a very tricky line to walk. Love triangles are becoming more and more popular these days. I've never written one myself, but I have enjoyed several books that utilize them. (See Hunger Games above.)

This solution itself has a few rules, the first and biggest one being FORESHADOWING. It boggles my mind when I read a five-book series where a possible relationship is very clearly underlined, then disrupted with an alternate love interest who turns out to be evil, leaving the way open for the relationship again ... and then in the VERY LAST BOOK a spanking new character shows up and skips away with the main character's heart. I mean, really? I put that book down feeling cheated and generally dissatisfied.

Do not do this. I beg you. If you're going to end with an alternate relationship, introduce the other character at least half-way through the book (or if it's a series, even the penultimate book will do.) Make it clear to the readers what advantage this second character has over the first.

c) Your book is a tragedy, or otherwise an exception. I hate tragedies, myself. I don't just think they're depressing -- I think they're unrealistic. I personally believe that everyone's ending is happy, even if it involves their own gory death. If a book ends sadly, it ends too soon. But that's just me, and there must be plenty of other people out there who like sad endings.

As far as other exceptions go, the only thing I can think of is Star Wars. There were several hints of a possible Luke/Leia relationship throughout the movies. Obviously, this turned out to be impossible, since they were actually twins. Still, I've always been a little disappointed with Luke's ending. He obviously wants someone, yet he seems doomed to live his life alone. Depressing. But I still watch the movies, even though they broke their promise to me and to Luke.


I have several more rules for my own romance writing, but those are the only ones I really think should be universal. To be honest, I don't understand why so many people break them. Perhaps they're afraid of being 'too predictable', or doing the same thing everyone else does. I have news for those people -- good plotting is not cliché. It's what makes me read a book more than once. And as a reader, I would a million times rather be able to predict the ending than feel that it was contrived and unnatural.

Please, please, please write romance that builds my faith in love, rather than convincing me that I'm better off alone. The world needs your help. So do I.

Rant over. You may turn the Christmas music on now. (December! Eee!) (Does this mean I'm allowed to wear my snowman pajama pants now? Cause I sort of broke them out in October ...)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Music and Meh

I haven't posted in a week. I know this. Part of the reason is because I have been Doing Things.

The other part is that I just wrote a book in eighteen days. So while I'm sorry that I haven't said anything, and I'm sorry that this post does not shine with the stellar randomness/awkwardness you all know so well, I will not apologize for needing a little recuperation time.

Since I really don't know what else to say, here's a song a friend showed me the other day.

Behold: Christina Perri's The Lonely

Isn't it incredible? I admit it -- I have a thing for haunting music. I'm also one to be instantly captivated by phrases that aren't quite explained. Dancing slowly in an empty room ... let the lonely in/to take my heart again ... These are the phrases that stick in my mind and create an obsession. And, in this case, a story.

That's right; I wrote a story yesterday. It was only eight hundred words, so I suppose it's more flash fiction. This song was too much for me -- I couldn't find anything in my current writing to identify it with, so I had to produce something else.

And I did. I produced dusty chandeliers and hidden dreamworlds, ballgowns and a character whose broken heart consumes her being. I fell completely in love with the idea. I sat down to write it.

I failed.

The sad thing is, my failure wasn't even exciting. It was 'meh'. The story was meh, the writing was meh, the characters were meh. Right then, that seemed like the worst word in the world. But today, I see things differently. I do, after all, have three other projects underway. This idea has great potential for blossoming into a novel, but I can't let it do that right now. I need to focus on the things I already have. At this point, the meh of my writing isn't important. What's important is that I wrote down the idea. I saved it. Someday, I will write it again.

Be prepared. It's going to rock the world.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Confession

Do you remember this post? If you're too lazy to click the link, (and trust me, you're in good company if you are) it's a post I wrote last month, after my first dance class. I was horrible, and I made a lot of self-deprecating comments, which resulted in a self-examination and finally a resolution to be nice to myself, however poorly I do.

Well, I just came home from dance again, and I have a confession.

I have fallen in love with dance.

I love the music. I love watching other people move to it, and I love feeling myself keep time with them. I even love that burning feeling in my legs, when my muscles start spasming out of control until I simply can't take another step. It isn't like writing. I don't love it that much yet. But it comes closer than any other activity ever has.

It may seem strange for me to feel ashamed of this ... but I kind of do. Here I was, using my suckitude as a metaphor for perseverance and self-confidence ... and I went and got better. I'm actually pretty good now, to tell you the truth. Not as good as the girls who have been doing it for years, but I seem to have at least some talent. Yet another metaphor goes down the drain.

Except ... maybe not. Maybe the lesson has just changed. After all, I never would have come this far if I had been beating on myself like I did at the first class. Sure, I actually did have natural talent. But would I ever have discovered it if I hadn't given myself a chance? Just a little something to think about.

And lest you think I'm getting full of myself, I still can't touch my toes. At all.

I'm working on that.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Momentary Aberration

You remember this post? Well, it has happened again. Except this time, instead of an assassin with a knife, it's an arsonist with a scary helmet.

Don't ask. Just don't.

I am quite certain that this dream is NOT a product of detective shows, which leaves me to wonder what exactly it is. Have I read any sci-fi/horror in the last few years?

Since I'm up anyway, I thought I might as well produce a blog post. And since I know you're all dying to know about the novel I finished on Friday, why don't I post about that?

Um. *gathers scattered 4 am brains* Ready, set, go.

I know what you're probably thinking right now. It's something like this. A Winters Tale, Sarah? You wrote a blog post just last month about every project you have planned. This was not among them. I know, I know, okay? This book was not supposed to happen. It was an accident. A momentary aberration.

That or it was just NaNoWriMo.

Either way, it was fast. I'm not entirely sure what day I began contemplating doing NaNoWriMo this year. I know it was sometime near the beginning of October. I had hit THE WALL, and I was having more difficulty getting through it than I expected. I felt like I was digging through solid rock with a tiny chisel -- a task I have, on occasion, given a character, but have never been faced with myself. I fully intended to get through that wall, but I did not want to lose my love of writing in the process. At the time, a combination of life events and writing blocks were conspiring to make me really hate writing.

This had to stop. Hence the NaNo idea. Nothing says 'I love writing' like a month-long noveling frenzy, right?

There was only one problem. I did not have a plot. Yes, I know this isn't supposed to be a problem, but without just a kernel of an idea to build a story around, there was no way I would make it through November. I played with several half-formed ideas (a traveler-goes-to-fantasy land book from the POV of a fantasy character, a world in which the French Revolution basically happens every twenty years,) but none of them seemed right. Until Wednesday, October 19th. (Thanks Lisa for catching that I wrote November at first.) I confess, I don't remember what first gave me the idea. But I know that by the end of the week, I had a plot. It went like this:

Hammer and Carol Winters have seven children. That in and of itself is enough to get them strange looks from many people they meet. What those people don't know is that the Winters family is full of superheroes.

Or ... well ... not SUPERHEROES exactly. Yes, they do have powers ranging from invisibility to perfect mimicry, but they don't really do the whole 'vigilante crimefighter' thing. Instead, they use their powers for more ordinary acts of heroism, blending in with the rest of the world.


That is, until Hammer's extraordinary skill as a firefighter catches the attention of the media. When a particularly stubborn journalism student refuses to leave without his story, it's up to the kids to drive him away. But will they succeed in protecting their family's secret, or will they blow their cover to the moon?


I loved this idea. I loved the characters it sent buzzing around my brain. I loved the humor of it and the idea of just making it up as I went along. I knew by the end of that day that there was no way I was writing anything else.

November 1st came along. I started writing. And, in the tradition of NaNovels everywhere, A Winters Tale did not do what it was supposed to. For starters, the journalism student was too nice. If my other characters started picking on him, everyone would hate them. Heck, I might hate them. Secondly, the dynamic between him and one of the other characters was far too interesting for me to let it go. Thirdly, I unintentionally set it at Christmas time.

By the end of the first week, my novel had transformed from the above drive-away-the-pest story into a full-blown romantic comedy. I was undeterred. I plowed on through the misery of stomach flu (in the book, not in me.) I wrote on as things marked 'Do Not Eat' were devoured, snowmen were crafted, and kitchens caught fire. (Again, not my own, though it would be super cool to write in a burning kitchen. Extreme Writing, yes?)

On November 18th, I knew it was time. I warned siblings and parents that the penalty for disturbing me would be disturbing, hid in a dark corner of my bedroom, and wrote the last 6k in three hours. It was hilarious. It was tender. It was gripping enough that one of my alpha readers' computer died of suspense while she read it. (True story.) And it was done. Two (or I guess it's three now) days later, I'm still in shock. I don't have a clue how it happened, but I finished a book, and it's good.

I'll try to get an excerpt up sometime in the next few days. Right now, I'm going to get up. I know better than to try and sleep any more.

UPDATE: Thanks to a ridiculous lack of sleep, I have now done something outrageous. Am still waiting to know what the repercussions will be. I'll update you if it's something worth posting about. In the meantime, feel free to mock me. I'll add something for you to start with: I am afraid of the movie Toy Story. (This is truth.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

In Which I Make Strange Noises

EEEEEEEEE!!!

AAAAAAAAAHHH!!!

AGGA AGGA AGGA!!!

In case you don't speak Totally Incoherent ... I just finished a book. Or, well, I almost finished it. There is an epilogue, but that hardly counts. And, because I am totally geeky and shameless right now, I am going to post a video of myself. Wearing no makeup, with writing hair. But overflowing with awesome and strange noises.



(Gah! Off to write the epilogue now!)

Update: It is 12:30 AM. The epilogue is complete. I have no strange noises left.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why I Love This Job: Reason #429

Today, I was writing a scene. In the scene, there was a crayon drawing. I was trying to describe it, then thought ... why settle for description? Instead, I whipped out my handy Paintbrush and produced this beauty:


And that brings us to Reason #429 that I love writing. Drawing stick men? It's totally legitimate.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go write a scene about ingesting copious amounts of chocolate. But first, I really ought to do some research ...

(And yes, I know writing is not technically my job. But I don't have another job [except maybe math homework], so why not count this one? Positive thinking, people!)

P.S. Hooray for the fiftieth post! This REALLY merits chocolate! You can have some too. I feel selfish eating it all.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Little Miracles

I am thinking about the little miracles today. This morning, I went about my usual routine (check email, check Twitter, check Facebook, slap self for wasting time, study scriptures, take out contacts, do stuff.) It all went splendidly ... right up until I went to take out my contacts. (Yes, I wear my contact lenses overnight. I am supposed to. They are magic.)

You see, my contacts are very expensive. Were I to lose one, it would cost a great deal to replace, and I would get to walk around half-blind for some weeks while I waited for the new one. That is why I am very, VERY careful when I handle those things. I close the drain, and then I plug the whachamacallems ... the overflow holes? ... with tissue. I will not lose these contacts.

Guess what? This morning I forgot. And what do you know, my contact popped right off my eye and fell straight down the drain.

Cue heart-stopping panic.

It took me about thirty seconds to stop hyperventilating and actually do something. Praying as hard as I could, I bent over, squinting into the drain. No sign of contact. I poked my finger into the limited space between plug and drain, hoping against hope I would find my contact trapped there. Nothing.

Now I panicked. I dropped to my knees and begged my Father in Heaven to help me, because I didn't have a clue what to do. I couldn't afford to replace my contact. I couldn't afford the guilt of having lost it. As I was on my knees, I noticed the cupboard under the sink, and the sight sparked an idea. I had q-tips in there!

I grabbed one and swabbed the drain with it, my heart in my mouth. I will not describe the gunk my q-tip produced, in case you plan on eating in the next few days. I will say that my contact did not appear with it. Undaunted, I soaked the (clean) end of the q-tip in my contact fluid, which is slightly sticky. Then I tried again.

And, miracle of miracles, my contact appeared. I absolutely cannot describe the relief that filled me when I finally worked it free from the drain. I fell to my knees and thanked God that I was saved, then scrubbed my contact for about ten minutes until I believed I could put it in my eye again.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I don't know what your religious beliefs are. You might be atheist, Christian or Zoroastrian. My goal is not to challenge your beliefs, or to change them. But today, I just want to invite you to notice the little miracles in your life. Notice and express gratitude, either through prayer or service or something else entirely. There might be a better path to happiness, but I don't know what it is.

(And on the subject of miracles, congrats to my cousin Tasha on her beautiful baby boy! I'm a greatcousin now! *happy dance* I want to kiss his beautiful scrunchy face!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Butterflies (Or First Drafts: Sarah Style)

When I first started writing, I read a lot of books about (would you believe it) writing. Among them was Seize The Story, by Victoria Hanley. I highly recommend this book -- it gave me the perfect combination of inspiring advice and kick in the pants that got me through Sarawen. But today, I'd like to quote the only sentences that I do not relate to.

"I dread starting a new book the way I'd dread living in the middle of an especially disturbing nightmare. Getting through that first draft feels very much like clawing my way through solid rock using only my fingernails."

This image caught my fancy so much that I have it heavily underlined in my copy of the book. It was my mantra as I launched each failed beginning, my solace when I began to believe that I could never make it. "So what if it's terrible?" I'd tell myself. "All first drafts are terrible, and none of them are fun. If I just make it to the end, then I can revise! That's the fun part."

I'm not sure when I realized just how ridiculous that was. It might have been Christmas Eve of 2009, when I stayed up until two in the morning wrapping presents, and then pulled out my laptop to get just a few more words in before bed. It might have been in March 2010, when I wrote my first love scene, a scene that made my mother cry. It was surely before that October day when I wrote my first 8k day and crested the climax of the book. It doesn't really matter when I realized it, because it's true.

I love first drafts.

Are they hard? Yes. Are they long? Yes. Do I sometimes stare at the stationary, blinking cursor until I'm sure my eyeballs are bleeding? Absolutely. But with all the pain, with all the heartache and the frustration, there is nothing more beautiful than watching your precious story take shape before your eyes. It's magical. It gives me butterflies.

On November first, I started my new novel, A Winters Tale. The first day was agony. The second was better. On the seventh, I fell in love. I wrote a scene so glorious, it kept me up three hours past my bedtime. I danced all the way to bed and rose in the morning with a song in my heart. That scene stayed with me all day, glowing somewhere near my abdomen. I wanted to curl around it and never let it go. I wanted to share it with the world.

Three days later, I am rattled. I am vexed. I may even be frothing at the mouth. Why, you ask? Today, I reached a scene that WILL NOT WRITE! I am currently beating it into submission, abusing my poor keyboard in my fury. But beneath it all, the glow is still there. I am a writer. And this is what I love.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Misery

Remember that time when the first week of NaNoWriMo was ending? Remember how I was over a thousand words behind, but I worked all morning and almost caught up? Yeah, I remember that.

Remember how I then went to seminary, then came home and did my math (ugh)? Without even being told? And remember how my mom said I could have a cookie when I was done?

Remember how I finished my math and ran upstairs to collect my cookie? Remember what I found when I opened the cookie jar? Crumbs. I found cookie crumbs.

That was the day my world was destroyed in fiery burning chaos. The day ... when there were no cookies.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Things That Inspire Me

THIS.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFBzZfxkWUg&feature=player_embedded#!

I am exploding with epicness. If you hear that I wrote three thousand books and then exploded, you know why.

NOW GO AWAY WHILE I EDIT AND WRITE AND DEFEAT THE ULTIMATE EVIL. GOODBYE.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Scary Dreams

It is four in the morning. I am awake. And the chances of me getting back to sleep soon? Not good.

After all, I am currently huddled under my blankets, typing with my ears peeled for suspicious noises. Because that is what happens to me when I am awakened by a horrible dream.

It is not very fun.

So, in my hour of need/terror, I remembered you guys. Because I have not posted in a while, and I have never, ever seen a movie where someone was murdered while writing a blog post.

Please do not write that movie.

In case it is one of my followers who wants to kill me, let me just say that I'm sorry I haven't been posting. I'm SORRY, okay? There's this little thing called housework. I have been doing it. And NaNoWriMo started yesterday. And I have had ideas, but all of them were rather too complex for my tastes. Fortunately, Someone-Wants-Me-Dead is not complex. I can write a post now.

I sure hope it's not my NaNo ML who's hunting me, because I DID get my 1,667 done yesterday. I did, I did.

So now it's your turn. Have you ever hidden under your covers at an ungodly hour, scared to death of something you ought to know is not a threat? Please tell. Also, please come over to my house and turn on all the lights so I can get out of bed. Also, someone please get my friend Stephanie. She's the only one who can see the assassin. Goodnight (morning?) all. I think I will still be alive at sunrise. Probably.

P.S. I hope someone saves me soon, because I really need to pee.

P.P.S. This all comes from watching detective shows. Curse you, Lisa. Curse you.

P.P.P.S. Maybe I should just watch another episode of Psych while I can't sleep ... *facepalm*

Update: I am, indeed, still alive. Turns out some of the scary noises I heard were actually my sister, who was also awake and terrified of dangerous things lurking in the house (although hers were zombies.) It must be a sign.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Loss (and Links)

I did not mean to ignore my blog. I had good intentions when I wrote that last post. Intentions like 'I will post every couple days! I will be interesting! I will be entertaining!' But then, on Sunday morning, I found out that four of my classmates had died in a car accident.

I will not go into details of the next few days. Let's just say it's been horrible, yet I have faith that they're in a better place and things will be better soon. But in the meantime, my blog has been suffering.

I am back now. I am here, and I will continue to be here. Posting. Every couple days.

Since the rest of this post is rather less than cheerful, I thought I'd advertise a few awesome things to brighten up your day.

First, NaNoWriMo is just around the corner! Yay! *does happy dance* *panics about plot holes* *tries to come up with more ways to outline*

For those of you who are going 'NaNoWriwha?' right now, I shall explain. NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) is thirty days and nights of joyous literary abandon! For the whole month of November, novelists all over the world will be pounding on those keyboards, trying to produce 50,000 words in a new project before the time runs out! (An average of 1,667 words a day.)

But Sarah, you say, what does this have to do with you? You already have three projects going! You don't need another one!

You're right. And yet, you are also wrong. The truth is, I am out of gas. I have become so drained I don't even WANT to work on any of my current projects. I don't want to write. But I need to write if I'm ever going to get out of this slump.

It is a problem. NaNo is the solution. The sheer awesomeness of the people I do it with might be enough to cure me, and if not, hey, I still get a new book done, right? And you can too! Feel free to hop over to the site and join me. It's totally free and totally insane and totally fun. A lot like me, actually.

Not sure you can write 1,667 words in a day? I have an answer for that, too! The other day, a friend (who herself is the answer to many problems) (but you can't have her. She's MINE.) (Um ... hi, Lisa. You appreciate my possessiveness, right?) told me about a little site called 750 Words. The basic idea? 

You write. 750 words, or the equivalent of three pages. You don't have to do that much -- you can do anything from one to seventy million words. (Although the latter might make the servers blow up. Which would not be good.) Everything you write is totally private, but it has a nice sprinkling of competition to make it more interesting. Every day that you write 100 words or more, you get a point. If you write 750+, you get another point. If you do it all at once, without getting distracted? Another point! You also get special badges for going so many days without a break, or for writing fast, or whatever. It is delightful. I highly recommend it, both to NaNo-ers and ordinary people alike.

So, now that the linky love is done, I am going to go write my 750 words! (Bet I can do it in 15 minutes. Are you listening, Lisa? This is a CHALLENGE.) Tell me if you're coming too, so I can admire your awesomeness!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ramblings

So, I really really meant to write a coherent blog post today. But then I got up at seven AM. And then I went to school. And then I did social and math and seminary and I made freezer meals and I ate pumpkin pie and I went to a friend's sixteenth birthday party dance. My thoughts have been reduced to this:

Dancing is fun. My feet hurt. Do your feet hurt? I think I strained a muscle practicing my jazz splits today. I approve of pumpkin. I think everything should have pumpkin in it. Except ravioli. That's just gross. But maybe it's not. After all, I thought eating apples with cheese was gross until someone made me try it. Then I cut my finger open trying to make myself MORE. I ought to think of something witty to write on the blog.

....

PINEAPPLE!!!

To distract you from this embarrassingly pointless post, I shall post a picture of how I feel right now.




Goodnight, all. I hope you dream of kittens in pineapple hats. And that you wake to pumpkin pie. (Best breakfast ever.) (Seriously.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Have Joined The Mad Ones

Some of you may have seen that my mom has started a blog. It's called 30 Minute Madness, and it's built around a daily writing prompt, to which people must respond in, you got it, thirty minutes.

I have been enjoying reading the contributions of others, but until today, I hadn't given one of my own. Now I have. Click on this link to read. There may be a little Kaz ...

P.S. You should follow the Blog of Madness. You should also follow mine if you haven't already. It will give me warm fuzzies. Which are ALMOST as good as footie pajamas. But not quite.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On Dance Class and Appearances

Today, I had my first jazz class. It went exactly as expected.

I stink.

I have no balance, no grace, no rhythm. And I'm surrounded by a lot of girls who, if not perfect, are way too close for me to tell the difference.

It's kind of humiliating. But that's okay, because I am not there to excel. I am there to improve. And when you're looking for improvement, rock bottom is a pretty good place to start.

Anyway, today's class got me thinking about something that's far more important to me than it ought to be. Three billion guesses what that is.

Yeah, you're right. Appearances. I focus WAY too much on how I appear to others. I obsess over tiny details of things that I say or write, terrified of accidentally insulting someone. Then I anxiously wait for their response -- and if they don't give one, or if it's non-commital, I'm sure I've committed some HORRIBLE social crime that will forever doom me to nerdy lonerhood.

Yeah. Seriously. My only solace is that lots of other people do the same thing.

But how much solace is that, really? If everybody else chewed on their shoelaces, would I want to do the same thing? It's not really my CARING about appearances that bothers me -- after all, if I didn't care about appearances I WOULD be an outcast. It's the way that obsessing about them changes my behavior.

Take jazz class, for example. I was horrible. I knew it, and I knew everyone else knew it. But there was a part of me that was terrified that the others wouldn't realize that I knew how horrible I was! What if they thought I was too stupid to notice? So I almost unconsciously fussed over my difficulties, grimacing when I stumbled and saying self-deprecating things like 'I can't even keep my balance' and 'I'm horrible at this'. It was effective -- I'm sure no one doubted my awareness of my own failings. But was it worth it? It didn't improve my dancing. If anything, it made it worse, because I became so preoccupied with my appearance that I couldn't focus on my feet. Talking myself down did nothing for my confidence and less for my ability. I would never have done it had the others not been there. But what did it do for them? It didn't help anyone's opinion of me. It was self-destructive. And I do it all the time, not just in dance.

This can't go on. I need to work on accepting and caring for MYSELF. I need to practice and not care what anyone else thinks if I'm going to improve my form. I need to have more faith in them. I need to believe that they want to think well of me. I need to allow them to be the best they can be. And if someone doesn't like what I do, I hope they'll care enough to let me know in an encouraging way, but if they don't, I need to move past it and try to better myself. That's the only way I'll ever get anywhere.

(Speaking of appearances, who likes the new color scheme on the blog?) (I do! I do!) (Blue! Blue! Blue!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Inspiration: Sarah Style

Being fresh out of blogging ideas, I thought I'd take a leaf out of the clever and talented Shannon Whitney Messenger's blog and begin a post series, giving you guys a glimpse at my personal writing process. (Incidentally, Shannon recently sold LOTS OF BOOKS. Yay! *throws confetti*)

So. Ahem. Anyway, today's post is about inspiration. A writing buddy of mine (Hi Charity! *waves*) recently sent me an email asking about my inspiration for Sarawen. Can you say big topic? I can. BIG TOPIC. I'm going to do my best to cover it, but I am easily distracted by sparkles and gummy bears, so you'll just have to bear with me a little.

First thing I must establish: I CAN NEVER LOCATE ALL MY SOURCES OF INSPIRATION. Every second of my life inspires me. Even this one, probably. But I can pinpoint the main sources. So that's what I'm going to do. Right now. For every book I have ever begun to write. In. My. Life.

This should be interesting.

1.) BREAK FORTH THE SEERS: Yes, the title is dreadful. Rest assured, the book is worse. I came up with this story at age 11. It was what carried me from 'I hate writing' to 'I must write'.
Plot: Seers revolves around a teenage girl -- fourteen, I think -- named Kestyn (pronounced kess-teen). Red hair. Blue eyes. Clumsy, animal-loving, and otherwise suspiciously like her youthful creator. The plot? Basically, the humans are at war against the Sendrants, a race of brightly colored winged cat-things who used to be their friends. Kestyn goes on her first hunting expedition and is given the prestigious job of smashing the egg (yes, apparently cats lay eggs) of a pair of slaughtered Sendrants. Being animal-loving and clumsy, she fails at this and ends up with a very snarky (and WAY too intelligent) Sendrant baby on her hands. This was the beginning of a nine (NINE) book series I called Prophesy, where each title was a new line in a prophetic poem.

Status: I ... think I wrote about thirty pages. But I had the whole series plotted out in painful detail with gaping plot holes.

Compares to other books?: Um, I guess it was kind of like Paolini's Eragon, if anything. Teenager accidentally comes into possession of magical egg and then ends up at the center of the movement to bring down the Evil Emperor. But Seers? Had SEVEN teenagers. More complicated=better to 11-year-old Sarah.

Inspiration: Oddly enough, this story was inspired by the Sendrants. My school at the time, Hillview Elementary in Vernon B.C., had an annual Create A Creature contest, where students were invited to create a picture and a brief description of an original creature. As one might imagine, I rocked at this. Imagining fantastical things was my forte, and the Sendrant won the contest for my grade level. But I couldn't leave it alone. I kept imagining events happening around these Sendrants, and soon I had a full-fledged story screaming at me. I tried to shove it off onto my mother -- she was the writer, not me -- but she didn't have time. Eventually, I grudgingly began to write it myself, and I never stopped. That is, until ...

Seers crashed. It popped like a balloon blown up too big, leaving me with NO BOOK. My solution? Cannibalism, of course!

2.) ELEMENTS: This was a rough working title -- I never got around to finding a more official one.
Plot: Elements cannibalized my favorite bits of Prophesy -- three characters and a volcano -- and built a brand new world and story around them. Kestyn's bossy cousin Aidail became my new MC, the slave girl with the scar on her face became Aidail's scar-free cousin, and Margarita the peddler got a name change. (Margarita was the best part of Prophesy. I'll post it someday so you can see.) Add a couple boys and a whole new mythology, reintroduce the SAME evil emperor/king and voila! We have a four book series.

Status: Believe it or not, I actually intend to continue this one. There are some elements (ha ha) to it that I absolutely LOVE. (Yes, the volcano is at the top of that list.) (As is Aidail, who's like Sara+Netta+feminism, for those of you who've read Sarawen.) Is it going to be the same when I go back to it? Definitely not. Since I put it on hold, I've already blinded a major character, aged Aidail and cousin several years, and added a whole new race of dirt people. And I haven't even been working on it.

Compares to other books?: Uh ... there are elements people. Like, fire people and water people and stuff. Other books have those, right? Just ... never like wanted them. Elements has them like I want them.

Inspiration: I think we covered that already. Elements was made out of the cannibalized remains of Prophesy. Which I then covered with plastic so that I didn't have to touch anything someone else had chewed on. Yech.

Elements was great for a while. But my talents as a writer were growing rapidly, and pretty soon I had grown out of the story I had planned. I started to itch for something new. Something with dragons.

Enter ...

 3.) SARAWEN My baby. No, that title is not changing unless a publisher requires it. I like it just the way it is.
Plot: Sixteen-year-old rebel Sarawen DaiClar meets a dragon in a (forbidden) tunnel and ends up with an orphaned egg and a map embedded in her subconscious mind. Is her Village going to go along with her plan to take them across the (also forbidden) mountains? Um, they'd better, right? Otherwise she's going to have to do something stupid ...

Status: I finished the first draft of the first book last November and got about 80k into the second before I realized I really can't put off revisions any longer. Revisions. *whimpers* *hides under rock*

Compares to other books?: So far, readers have compared it to two other works, Eragon (cause it has dragons) (and other reasons, but I can't remember them) and Lund's Fire of the Covenant (because of the trek across icy mountains, probably. Except that it has to be more than that, because more than one person has brought it up. Anybody want to help me out here?)

Inspiration: I was so stuck in Elements. So, so stuck. My dear, dear mother, sick of hearing my cry about how bad my life was, offered to write me a story starter so I could try something new (with dragons). I accepted. She produced this:

Kaidra hunched in the sweltering tunnel, hardly daring to breath, every inch of her tensed, every thought focussed on the hot, rhythmic wind flowing over her and the rasping sound that accompanied it. Her knees were bruised and bloody, her throat parched and raw, and her breeches in tatters from the hours of crawling toward the enormous Presence that was source of both the wind and the noise. Now, at last, she felt the tunnel opening and was overwhelmed with the nearness of its breathing. Certain that the beast must be just around the next bend, she found herself fighting down the urge to scuttle away as fast as caution would permit. Surely her courage wouldn't fail her now? 

I took it from there.

4.) PRINCE KAZOOLI AND THE QUEST FOR THE MAIDEN: I know, I know. You thought Sarawen was the end, given that I'm working on it right now. But I just couldn't resist a little Kaz ...
Plot: Thirteen-year-old Prince Kazooli Nevillax Percivitus Yerkobitz XXII runs away from home to find adventure (or just get away from his sister -- he's not picky), but gets a bit more than he bargained for. Guaranteed to include hags, talking swords, and way too many kittens. My only middle grade book (so far).

Status: Currently on hiatus at 21,000 words. I doubt that will last long.

Compares to other books?: Think Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles. There's a similar zany randomness to Kaz. Also, there are many cats.

Inspiration: My dear brother. He wanted ideas for his writing, so I gave him some, in the form of 5 minute story starters. Including this:

Prince Kerr Berkowitz IV, the heir to the kingdom of Marcelox, hated his sister. "I really do," he told the elaborate shield hanging on his bedroom wall. "She's snobby, and ugly. And she smells bad."
The shield didn't answer.

I wrote it. I gave it to him. Three days later, I took it back. Aren't I a great sister? (Just so you know, he'd already decided to go with one of the OTHER story starters I gave him. I'm not that mean.) Fatigued by the enormous task of drafting Sarawen, I liked the randomness of this idea, and I wanted to see where I could go with it. Man, did I ever go somewhere. It's planned as a five book series (yes, I like those) but I might cut a book as I fine-tune the story. I don't know. But rest assured, this story is going to go places NO ONE expects. Quest for the Maiden might seem like lighthearted fluff, but Soul of the Sword? Not. Fluff.

I'd better move on before I spill all my Kaz secrets.

5.) IMAGINATE: I came up with this story two weeks ago, okay? I don't need a new title yet.
Plot: Grade 11 boy Shawn O'Connel (with only one L, please and thank you) might be flunking science, but he has access to powers other people can't imagine. Emphasis on imagine. Involves flying skateboards, microwave dinners and a world where science is actually important. Obviously fantasy.

Status: In the delightful fluffy pink stage where ideas are falling like frogs from the sky.

Compares to other books?: Best I've got is Sanderson's Alcatraz. I don't even know why I am comparing the two of them. Probably just because I adore Sanderson and would love to compare ANYTHING I wrote to his stuff.

Inspiration: I do not have an imaginary bicycle. This book was born of my longings for one. (But Shawn doesn't have an imaginary bicycle either. Sigh. My life is hard.)


Conclusion? I have lots of ideas. Lots and lots and lots. And you can too. Let's run over the main ways I spark stories:

1.) Let your imagination run wild. Like to draw? Great! Grab a pencil and doodle something no one has ever seen. (Or, if you're really good, draw someone. Characters are the foundation of story, after all.) If not artistically inclined, freewrite. Give yourself a time limit, then write whatever comes into your head until the time runs out. No censoring. No editing. Just write. You will either get ideas or become really, really good at rewriting your ABC's. I have done both.

2.) Write about things you want. Now I'm not talking about Mary Sue characters here. Please, please do not insert yourself as the protagonist in your story. Your character will inevitably end up flat and boring, as poor Kestyn's did. Sara, on the other hand, is very much her own character, despite her name. (It's a funny story how she got that ...) Let your characters be their own people ... but build the story around things you like. If you've always dreamed of meeting a mermaid? Toss one in. Have an obsession with mountain climbing? Please, write me a book about mountains. Make sure your book is chock full of the things that interest you, because trust me, you're going to need as much incentive as you can find to finish it.

3.) Cannibalism is acceptable. Everything you write serves a purpose. Yes, even that horrible story from third grade. If you're stuck for an idea, reread your old stuff, laugh at it a little, then see if there's anything good to rework. Who knows? You might just find the answer to that plot hole.

4.) Ask for directions. There are people out there to help you! You might not have a writer mother like mine, but you know lots of other people. Like me! Feel free to brainstorm with us any time. I promise not to steal your ideas. And if I take my own back ... it will be with your permission.


Wow, that was a long post. If you read all of it, I commend you. If not ... what, did you skip to the end? Go back and read it for real. Sheesh. You lazy sillyhead.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Chews Food

That's right. Today is six weeks post-op. And I can chew my food.

*does happy dance*

With everything I have gone through in these last six weeks, with all the pain and the swelling and the misery, far and away the worst trial has been eating. I. Am. Starving. All the time. I've lost about ten pounds, which might not sound like a lot until you consider how little I had to lose. I was worried about my weight before surgery. Now, after six weeks of struggling to eat, my clothes are literally hanging on me. Do not feel jealous. If you saw me in person, you wouldn't need to. I look like a stick. A tired stick, because I don't have any calories to spare for energy.

But enough of that griping. I can chew now, and that makes everything (almost) better. I still have to eat the same foods, mind you. No fruit leather for me. No, it's oatmeal and mashed potatoes for a few days yet ... but I can chew it. And that is glorious.

A few more post-op updates: My face has returned to its normal proportions. The new normal, that is. I love this new bite. My jaw has angles to it that it never had before. Before, I used to miserably think that my face was fat. I know it wasn't, but the shape of my jaw made me think it was. Now, though I'm lamenting the LACK of weight on my body, I couldn't be happier with how my face looks. The pain isn't bad anymore. My jaw feels just fine most of the time. There are occasional flare-ups, usually after I try to eat something and strain my jaw a bit. My surgeon assures me that this is normal, and has advised me to apply moist heat if it troubles me.

One funny phenomenon I noticed couple weeks ago -- my head hurts. Not my jaw, my head. There are sore spots on my scalp, usually when I wake up in the morning, but sometimes at other times. I was concerned about this at first, but came to the conclusion that it's probably just muscle strain from the elastics. I checked with my surgeon the other day and it looks like I was right. It still hurts, but I can take the pain if I know it's not a sign of something worse.

So there's my surgery update. I'll post pictures later if someone reminds me.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October

So I looked at the calendar today ... and realized it was OCTOBER! Please imagine my cries of anguish and shock. I don't want to subject the Internet to them.

*Waits for a moment* Am I done yet? No, there's still a little more. *Pauses to let you grasp full impact of my misery*

So anyway, it's October, folks. The obvious question now -- or at least it's obvious to me -- is WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SEPTEMBER?! I WASN'T FINISHED WITH IT!!! WHO TOOK MY SEPTEMBER? WHO??? *sobs incoherently in corner*

And then I think about it, and I realize what happened to September. Three things happened to September.

1. Jaw Surgery: All right, I was actually the one who went through this. But my September certainly suffered for it. I spent the first week or so taking painkillers, and the rest of the month losing weight. Does this help my productivity? No. No, it does not. (On the other hand, I am LOVING my new jaw. I can feel angles on it now, something that had never even crossed my mind before. This is good. Being able to count the vertebrae in my back? That is bad.)

2. Horizons: Now this, THIS is the culprit. I started this baby while I was so miserable I couldn't even THINK about anything else, and it happily gobbled up three weeks of my September. It looked like it was going to take the rest too ... until this showed up.

3. HIGH SCHOOL: Am I adjusted? Uh ... not quite. My sick week didn't really help me catch up either. I'm still a fair bit behind in math, and I'm still totally capable of getting lost in the halls.

When you look at it that way, my September doesn't seem so bad after all. Sure, I didn't get everything done. But I started school. I recovered from surgery (I'll be allowed to chew on Thursday! Yay!) I wrote over a third of my next book.

Plus also I came up with a New Story. But I can't tell you about that yet. (Hint: It involves a cheapo flying skateboard. Make what you will of that.)

So what about you? How was your September? And what are you hoping to get out of your October? (And for you LDS people, isn't General Conference great? Can't wait until tomorrow. President Monson's talks always make me happy.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

THE WALL

Okay, I admit it.

I have hit THE WALL.

It's that point when you look at your WIP and you say ... "Oh, ice. What have I done?" (At least, you say that if you're me. Because I, uh, pick up some in-world language from my characters.) And then? Then you put your head on the keyboard and cry. That wild, intoxicating rush that Horizons once was.

It's gone. And I can't help but feel like it's gone forever. How did I do this, I ask myself. How did I manage to dig myself such a deep hole while writing so joyously?

The truth is, I was ignoring the problems. I should have noticed when that one thread started to feel a little awkward. I should have realized that I couldn't wait to get away from my MC, and I should have fixed the problem right then. But I didn't. And now I have 15,000 wasted words that I need to replace with new ones.

Okay, that looks really pathetic written out like that. But it is DEVASTATING. Perhaps it's that I'm ill, or that I have the constant stress of school looming over my head, but lately every word feels like it's being wrenched from my brain with a ... wrench, probably. What else is good for wrenching?

I don't think I've ever felt this discouraged by my writing. I'm so discouraged, in fact, that I did NOTHING today -- or I guess it's yesterday now. Despite my many looming self-imposed deadlines, I spent the whole day checking my Facebook and catching up on other people's blogs. And chatting with crit partners/best friends, because honestly? That IS what keeps me alive right now. (Warmth knows I can't eat enough food to do the job.) (One of these crit partners, by the way, is reading the climax of Sarawen AS I WRITE THIS. And it's 3:30 AM her time. And she has triplet babies to help care for. I am awed by the awesomeness of Lisa.) (Also, I freaking love her to pieces. Although that seems a little violent for someone who is going on 4 hours of sleep for me. For the second time in ... what is it? A week?)

So yeah. I am at the point where random shadows on the wall seem to say 'You suck. Your writing sucks. You are never going to be anything close to anything.' (And even my evil voices don't usually say 'suck', because I have a particular grudge against that word.) Getting through these next weeks ... well, it's not going to be fun.

But at the same time, I am so lucky. No, I'm not lucky. I'm BLESSED. And when I find myself starting to complain ... I'll probably keep complaining. But I won't for one second forget how wonderful my life is. Even when I hate it.

Life is wonderful. You are all wonderful. Please don't let me forget.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cough Cough

So, I didn't go to school today. I haven't had to for a whole week. You might expect that I've written, I dunno ... twenty or thirty thousand words in that time?

Nope. Not even close. Total is closer to 6k.

That's cause I'm sick. My head is pounding, my nose is running, and my coughing sounds like a rabid wolf is caught in my throat. These are not conditions conducive to writing, people! Especially when I'm still unable to chew after jaw surgery. To top it all off, Horizons is being difficult. I think it's caught my illness ... or maybe something different, as it seems to be throwing up regularly. I'm frantically scrubbing off the vomit and trying to fix the problems, but it's SO FRUSTRATING.

SO VERY FRUSTRATING.

On the bright side, I just gained a new crit partner. (Or rather, I entrusted an established crit partner with Sarawen.) And she is awesome. Awesome enough to stay up until 4am reading. That might be all that keeps me moving forward right now. What would we ever do without friends?

Anyway, I have no mental energy. So again, I am turning to a snippet from my book. (Sarawen, this time.) I hope this makes enough sense out of context for SOMEBODY to laugh at it.

"Are you ... Did you just ask me to marry you?"
"No!" he blurted. "I ... I asked you to consider ... it."


Drat. That was much funnier in context. I'll leave it anyway. I've got urgent matters to attend to. You know -- Cough, sniffle, blow nose, repeat ...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

HIGH SCHOOL

This is it, people. I am officially in HIGH SCHOOL.

As in, I'm not just studying HIGH SCHOOL subjects at home. I get up in the morning. I get ready. I go to the school building, where I am surrounded by teenagers, most of whom I don't know.

And I have a locker.

I confess, these things all freaked me out at first. It wasn't the number of people around me ... I can take those sorts of crowds in situations I'm used to. Part of it was the realization that I was starting school a few weeks into the year, having skipped a year in many of my subjects. But it was mostly the unfamiliarity of it all. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was terrified of doing something wrong.

I'm happy to report that those fears are under control now. I haven't cried in two days. I haven't thought 'Oh-my-goodness-I-can't-do-this-I-should-just-go-hide' since yesterday morning. And I seem to have mastered the art of opening my locker. I now do that at every opportunity.

I wonder when the novelty will wear off. I hope never. I could use a little wonder in my school-day.

One thing that's been hit hard by my return to school is Horizons. Poor baby only got 600 words yesterday. My brain was just too overwhelmed to produce more. But I've done 400 words today, and I've got the rest of the afternoon to add to that, so maybe I'll be back to normal soon. Maybe. If not ... there's always the weekends.

Weekends meaning Saturday. Because I don't write on Sundays.

And on Saturday, I have chores.

OKAY, I AM GOING TO STOP THAT LINE OF THINKING RIGHT NOW. THAT MEANS THE END OF THIS BLOG POST. GOODBYE.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

2 Weeks Post-Op

I have survived. The worst is behind me ... or at least, I hope it is.

The last two weeks have been rough. I have cried and bled and taken pictures. I have lost weight. Maybe ten pounds. Maybe more. (My bathroom scale isn't all that reliable. This morning, it told me I weigh a whopping total of 0.00 lbs. Yippee!) (NOT. I was only 127 lbs to begin with. That seems like a good weight to me. Besides, I miss food. A lot.)

On the bright side, I'm completely off painkillers and able to sleep most of the night. The wounds are healing well, according to my orthodontist. The swelling is almost all gone. So is the bruising, except for one dark spot on my throat. (No idea what happened there.) My bite is wonderful. Strange, but wonderful.

And Horizons is 60,000 words. My record for words-written-in-a-day? Ten thousand and four.

Am I pleased? Yes, I am pleased. Am I sane?

Um ... More ice cream? Yes, I would like some more ice cream, please.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Catching Up

First, a few pictures!

Me, morning of August 31. (Happy Birthday, Lizard-beth!)

My bruising, evening of August 31. I wore the sickly
yellow shirt to match, of course.

So late on September 1 that it was technically September 2.

Really September 2. As you can see, the swelling went 
back up a little overnight. Yes, the deer-in-the-headlights
look is intentional.

September 3, and the swelling is holding steady.

So is the bruising.

Now here I am, sitting on the couch, staring at the
headlights of my laptop right before it runs me over.

The marks where it ran me over, duh.

So that should give you an idea of what's been happening with my jaw. It's healing well enough, though I have trouble sleeping at night. I'm trying to keep my head elevated, which means I have to prop myself up with pillows to sleep. And with the jaw pain, it's hard to lie on my side. I never sleep on my back. So sleeping is probably the hardest part.

And eating. Eating stinks. But my wonderful parents bought me some of the taboo flavoured oatmeal packages, so I can whip myself up a meal in as much time as it takes to boil water. That helps.

On the bright side, I WROTE 31K THIS WEEK!!! (Breaking my words-in-a-day record. TWICE.) I am so in love with this book. More in love than I was with Sarawen. Maybe it's because it's a sequel, and I already have the plot mapped out in my brain. Maybe it's because I'm a better writer. Whatever it is, I am rejoicing as a strong man to run a race. Minus the sweaty icky parts. Plus sleep-deprivation. But, you know. It's a simile, so anything goes.

Also, I had my first post-op appointment on Thursday. Everything is going great. Wounds are clean and healing well. Yay! I got to see x-rays of the hardware in my head. It was pretty sweet. I'll see if I can scan one for you guys soon.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why Sleep Is Good

So, you know how yesterday I wrote 9,028 words? You know how I said I was going to sleep after that?

Guess what? I DIDN'T SLEEP. It's not my fault. Seriously. I got all ready for bed. I brushed my teeth and everything. (And let me tell you, brushing my teeth is hard these days.) Then I shut out the light, got into bed, and stared at the wall for 3 hours. Every time I was almost asleep (at about the point where my disconnected musings become dreams) I would clearly and distinctly hear something so freaky it would wake me up. Once it was a baby crying. Once it was maniacal laughter. Once it was a hoarse voice, whispering my name.

None of those sounds were real. I am not sure what was wrong with me. I blame it on a combination of painkillers, a writer's imagination, and an aquarium gurgling in the other room. The fact remains, I didn't get to sleep until three o'clock in the morning.

And then I woke up at 8. Because my mom was working in the kitchen, and I just had to tell her all about my wonderful writing spree yesterday. You ought to know: I need at least 8 hours of sleep to function on a remotely normal level. So this morning ... let's just say there was a lot of giggling and erratic tiptoeing around the house. That was when my mom reminded me that I had to take an exam today.

Why? It's a long story. Basically, I'm returning to public school this year, and they need proof that I belong in Grade 11. They wanted me to write the Grade 10 English exam. (I wondered whether my 220,000 word book would qualify, but decided not to ask.) So I ate some breakfast and got back into bed to try and get some sleep before the big test.

I lay here for two hours. I did not sleep. However, by the end, I was irritated enough to be alert. I just finished the test. It was nerve-wracking. Really, really nerve-wracking. I never stress over tests, but this one had me nearly crying. The combination of jaw pain, lack of sleep, and total ignorance about advertising terminology had me shaking with terror. But the test is taken. I've tossed the dice. Now I just have to wait and see what comes up.

I'm starting to realize why I don't gamble.

9,028 WORDS

I WROTE 9,028 WORDS TODAY. (OR I GUESS IT'S YESTERDAY NOW)

THAT IS A NEW RECORD.

MY LAST RECORD WAS 8,288 WORDS.

(DARN. I THOUGHT IT WAS HIGHER. I COULD HAVE STOPPED HALF AN HOUR AGO AND STILL BROKEN MY RECORD.)

I JUST THOUGHT I WOULD LET YOU KNOW.

I LOVE YOU.

I WILL GO TO SLEEP NOW.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Because Sometimes Pictures Aren't Enough

If you've read yesterday's post, 'Going Under The Knife' (and if you haven't, you should) you may have wondered what happened to those videos I filmed on Thursday night. Never fear! They're right here, just waiting for you to watch them.

No, seriously. They're right here. Look down.

And down some more.

Here they are! I think they're pretty self-explanatory. Watch and pity me ... or at least laugh at me.










I filmed two more videos after this, but they were personal messages to my family. I think I'll keep them that way. They're a little long to try and put on here. Hope you enjoyed these, at any rate! Thanks again for sympathy and prayers!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cue Panic

I've been neglecting this blog. Again. But there's a good reason. It's called 'I HAVE SURGERY TOMORROW, PEOPLE!!!' That means there have been a lot of important things I've had to do for the last several days. The most important being running around like a chicken with my head cut off, of course. (Note: It's my jaw they're going to mess with. No one is going to cut off my head. Just thought I'd clear this up, you know, in case my surgeon reads this and gets any funny ideas.)

In case you don't know about my surgery, here's the explanation.

My lower jaw is messed up. It has been since I was ... I don't know. Really small. It doesn't match up with my upper jaw, and that makes it so that my natural bite is a face most people have to strain to make.

I don't like it. In addition to obvious aesthetic problems, it's causing premature tooth wear, premature jaw wear, and general issues. So, after consulting with my orthodontist and investigating all the possible solutions, I decided to go for surgery. This surgery is taking place in Calgary tomorrow. It will hurt. A lot. But if all goes well, I will end up with a healthy jaw and a happy Sarah.

There are some risks, of course. There always are with surgery. But am I nervous? YOU BET I AM NERVOUS. Nervousness is a particular talent of mine. I have had nightmares about everything from having to go through the surgery twice to having the surgeon shoot me in the head. (It's a breakthrough in anesthesia.) But I made my decision. I don't want to back out of it. I have faith that everything is going to go well.

I'll post as soon as I can after surgery. Be ready for pictures of my swollen-drooly face. In the meantime, your prayers and well-wishes are appreciated.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fun With Names

So, I'm working on the side project for a few days. (I'm just too drained to edit Sarawen anymore. Yes, this is how I recover from writing. By ... writing.) And for the side project, I need inns. A fair number of them. And they need names. So I did a little searching and found this handy generator. Modified it a bit to fit my world and voila! Inn names galore! No guarantees that they won't be a little wonky, though. Take a look at some of the gems I've discovered:

The Prancing Crown
The Lovesick Fist
The Rosy Harp
The Yak's Lair
The Bard and The Squirrel
The Shining Wagon
The Smelly Mermaid
The Diamond Squirrel

Those were all created by my friendly neighborhood random number generator. (Except for one. One is a fake that I slipped in there. But you can't guess which one, can you? Can you?) Most of these probably won't make it into the book, though I rather like The Lovesick Fist. Here are a few that probably will:

The Cowardly Centaur
The Thief and The Unicorn
The Blind Sphinx
The Laughing Elf
The Silent Flute
The Withered Rose
The Cat and The Fairy

Also The Dirty Mug, but I totally made that up myself. What's the best inn name you can come up with? (Note: by posting it, you are giving me permission to put it in my book. Unless you say 'please don't,' in which case I will cry but obey.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Out of Context

I don't know what to say today. So I'm turning the blog over to ... myself. Behold, a lot of out of context lines from books I have not written yet. (These lines may or may not make it through the edits. They may not even make it through first drafts. But you want to read them anyway, right?)

* * *

Guard: Hey! This is private property! You and your sweetheart go canoodle someplace else.
Boy: (splutters)
Girl: (indignant) We are not canoodling! I don't even know how to can noodles!

* * *

Wife: I'm old, [Husband].
Husband: I know.
Wife: (winces)
Husband: That wasn't what I meant to say, was it?
Wife: I hope not. What did you mean to say?
Husband: I love you.

* * *

Girl: If you lose your head like that again, we'll both lose our heads!

* * *

Girl: I was trained to use this on men who are less than animals. Don't prove yourself one of them.

* * *

I hope you got something out of that. If you didn't, too bad, because I'm not going to explain it to you. Feel free to write your own explanation in the comments. (EDIT: Please, please write your own explanation. Pretty please?)

Bonus points if you figure out which character appears in two of these snippets, and which snippets. (If you know his/her name, too, then you're my mother or sister, and you're not allowed to guess anything. Bad, bad family member.)

P.S. Does anybody know how to can noodles? I'd really like to learn ...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Falling In Love

I didn't really get much editing done yesterday. Or the day before. I've been too busy falling in love.

His name is Dogface. And he's a character introduced in Book 2 of Sarawen. He appeared on Thursday, and he brought a whole cast of new, shiny characters with him. This thread has it all: humor, romance, tragedy. And novelty. We can't forget novelty.

A new story (or part of a story, as this really ought to be called,) always sucks up my brain for a few days. It's just part of the frantic, intoxicating rush of creating characters, naming characters, killing characters, marrying characters ... How can I even think of editing when all these brand new people are bouncing around in my head? But the rush is over. I think. And maybe, just maybe (PLEASE?) this is going to be the last thread I add to the series.

Goodness knows it's long enough already.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Best Laid Plans

You remember that time when I told you I was going to blog the next day? And have pictures? And, you know, words?

You remember how I didn't do it?

I'm totally not sorry. Because while I was supposed to be writing that post, I finished editing Dann and Resni!!!
Eek! This is exciting news, people! (Aside from the fact that it's totally boring and all.) D&R ARE ONLY, LIKE, A FIFTH OF THE BOOK!!! And to make it even more awesome, I checked some numbers this morning and realized I have edited over a third of my book. That is a lot. The edited portion of my book is as long as most full novels.

Yeah, my book is really long. But that's the other exciting news! It's getting shorter! I've cut over 25k from my first draft length. Not bad, considering that I've only edited a third of the book. If I can cut another 25k, I'll be under 200,000 words total.

So to commemorate this momentous occasion, I'm going to give you some interesting facts about the D&R plot thread. (I'm not sure how much this will mean to people who haven't read the book. But you'll at least pretend to be interested, right?)

Fact #1: At 40k, D&R is the second shortest of my four plot threads. (Of course, that might be because they're edited. But I'm pretty sure they'll keep that ranking.)

Fact #2: They were also the second-last to be created: I only came up with their story a few weeks before I began work on what eventually became my first completed draft. (As opposed to Sara, who's been there since the beginning of time, N&M, who came into being on my second failed attempt to write the book, and Jia, who was actually added mid-book. As in, I was 20,000 words in before I thought of her.)

Fact #3: D&R were what kept me going through that first draft. They were just SO FUN to write! I remember times when I was frustrated with all my other characters and ready to throw my laptop out the window, and then I'd write a D&R scene and the world was interesting again. They saved my neck.

Fact #4: They were not nearly so fun to edit. For some reason ... perhaps their late addition to the story ... I had a really hard time latching on to voice for these two. I would guess about half their scenes had to be totally rewritten. What. A. Pain.

But am I happy with the finished product? OH YEAH!!! There's something incredibly fulfilling in looking at a completed story in the chaos that is my first draft. Something that makes sense from beginning to end, that I wouldn't be ashamed to show to an agent. Now I know it's still a long way from finished. There's a lot more polishing that needs to be done. But what I have now is so much better than what I had before. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go see if I can polish off N&M too. Then we'll really have a party.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Have Returned!

This post is here to tell you all I'M BACK!!!

And also to tell you my blogging plans. Because I have plans. Obviously.

Um. Plans?

I plan to blog. Tomorrow. About my family reunion. And this time, I'll actually have pictures.

After that, I'll take Aunt Ardie's advice (because she was the only one awesome enough to offer it) (just joking, I love you anyway) and talk about a pet peeve. And not just any pet peeve. This one is fluffy. And doesn't bark.

After that, I will have new ideas. Unless, of course, they are sucked up by my book. Again. People talk about baby brain? Try book brain sometime. Hyper-active, one-track, overtired book brain. It's like ... like ...

Ooh, look! A butterfly! OH MY GOODNESS BUTTERFLIES WOULD BE SO CUTE IN THAT ONE SCENE ... AND THEN HE WOULD SAY ... HA HA HA THIS IS SO AWESOME!!! WHO CARES ABOUT BLOGGING WHEN THERE ARE BUTTERFLIES?!

(See what I mean? Writing is hard.) (Scratch that. Writing is easy. Writing good stuff? That's hard.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

On The Road Again

Well, tomorrow I'm off again. To BC this time. Sigh.

Don't get me wrong -- I love BC! Can't wait to see friends and family. But I'm a homebody at heart, and two long trips in a month is a bit much for me. Especially when I'm just starting to be productive again in my writing. (Cut 2k yesterday and wrote 3 new scenes!) But that's life.

At least I don't have to camp again. Camping=Blegh. For me. You can like it if you want to.

See you when I'm back.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Totally Not Worth The Wait

So. Um. Hi?

I had a great time at my family reunion. Loved seeing everyone and even meeting a few new people, like my adorable six month old cousin Gus.

[Picture of me holding Gus that I do not have.]

But the reunion was also tiring. Between taking care of younger cousins and an unfamiliar bed, I didn't get a whole lot of sleep. Three days after I got home, I am still ridiculously tired. So tired that I'm having trouble coming up with a brilliant blog post that will make you all laugh and be totally worth the weeks I've been gone.

[Long pause, in which I stare at the pretty blinking cursor and do not think. At all.]

What? You're still here? Oh, sorry about that. I ... don't remember what else I was going to say. I think I'll post again when I can do advanced calculus. (What's that? I haven't learned advanced calculus yet? Oh well. I guess you'll be seeing me in a couple years. Goodbye.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Insert Witty Title Here

So. I had my blog post for today all planned out, and written out, and even posted. And then I realized that there were pictures of me holding someone else's babies in it, and that I had to check and make sure it was okay to post those pictures. So here I am. Posting. With no cute pictures to distract you from the really obvious fact that I have nothing to say.

Um. Well.

It's all summer's fault. I hate summer, you know. With the bugs and the pollen, I'm stuck lying on my couch day after day, taking allergy medication and littering Kleenex all over the house. I've been making the most of it. I've been plotting and scheming intensely over the weekend, and I've done a lot of outlining and file-sorting and a lot of other things that really don't matter to you.

So what does matter to you? I'm really open to suggestions. What do you wish this post were about? What should my next post be about? Suggest a title, or a subject, or ask me a question ... anything.

If my next blog post isn't interesting, it's your fault.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I Am Not A Stalker (That's Why I'm Staring Through Your Window With Binoculars)

It took me a while to decide what to post about today. I'd come up with an idea, and then I'd wonder: does anyone else care? It's not like you really want to hear about the dream I had Thursday night where both my arms were amputated or the huge discoveries I recently made about characters you've never read about. I need to write about things I'm doing, sure, but you also need to care about them, or you won't read.
Hence this post. Which is about research.
Research and I have a tolerate/hate relationship. I tolerate it. It hates me. Oh, there are moments, like when I discover the site that has exactly the info I need (with sources and everything!) and the facts happen to perfectly coincide with what I already had in mind. But those are few and far between.
Most of the time, my researching technique is much different. Below is a sample, taken from a research 'opportunity' that I actually went through in Sarawen.
Me: Oh my goodness, I need to hurt her, and I don't know how. She can't be too mangled, because she needs to recover, and I don't want her to die, but I want her to almost die. How do you do that? I mean, it's a big cat; it'll go for her neck, right? Don't cats do that? I'd better learn more about cats.
[Several hours omitted, in which I learn a lot about cats. None of it is of use.]
Me: I know! I'll have her be bleeding to death. That's nice. But … where do I make the wound? It ought to cut an artery, I think. Where are her arteries?
[Even more hours omitted, in which I learn that human bodies have way too many arteries. Finally, I choose one.]
Me: I think I can make that work. Probably. Oh my goodness, what if a doctor reads my book and realizes that I don't know much about arteries? I'll die of shame! Or what if it's such an obvious mistake everyone can tell, not just doctors? I'm only sixteen! I've never been to medical school! I'm gonna die …
That about sums it up. Research hates me. But oh, I do a lot of it. So, at risk of making this blog post unreadably long, I'm going to tell you how I do it.
  1. Books. Advantages: Books are excellent research buddies, because they have focus. A book will set out to tell you about a certain thing, and then it will. Disadvantages: It's really, really awkward for a sixteen-year-old girl to check out a pregnancy book from the library. So mostly I hide in the corner and read them. And jot down notes. And stammer if anyone sees me.
  2. The Internet. Advantages: No one calls the police on you for researching the most fatal places to cut someone. And you can access any information without moving off the couch. Disadvantages: You can access any information without moving off the couch. There's nasty stuff on the Internet, and you always have to be on guard. It's also much harder to verify your info. And it's not as focused as a book, meaning it can take forever to find your information.
  3. Real People: Advantages: This is definitely the easiest and most enjoyable of my sources. Instead of combing the Internet for sources and notes about triplet babies, why not read the blog of someone who has triplet babies? And look at their adorable pictures? You get the full picture, not just scattered pieces of information. And you know your source knows what they're talking about. This doesn't just apply to blogs, by the way. I've learned a lot by observing people around me. Disadvantages: It's hard to thank someone for their wonderfully relevant piece of information that saved your book, because the last thing you want is to make them think of you as a stalker. And people tend to freak out if they think you're 'writing them into a book'. (By the way, I would never do that. Way too hard. I will, however, lift characteristics and circumstances and apply them to my own characters.)
Hopefully that information is helpful and relevant. If not, at least you can imagine me hiding outside your house with binoculars. Who knows. Maybe I'm actually out there. (I love the windows. Think you should lose the blinds, though.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Laconic

I hate that word. It ought to describe how I feel right now.

Instead, it describes this post.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It's Got Ups And Downs

Writing has its downsides. That might be a bit shocking to hear me admit. Everyone who knows me knows writing is my life. But, like all great things, it can cause problems. And I'm not just talking about the time when I didn't shower for three days because I was writing the climax of the book. (Erm, let's pretend I didn't tell you about that, okay?)
In this particular post, I'm talking about health. I went to the chiropractor a couple weeks ago, and I was really messed up. After an extremely painful adjustment, he asked me how much exercise I got. My answer: Um. I walk to church? And to the library? When was the last time I left my house, anyway? Him: What kind of walking? Do you do any exercise that makes you sweat? Me: ARE YOU KIDDING ME? IF I SWEAT, I'LL HAVE TO SHOWER, AND THAT'S FIVE MINUTES THAT I DON'T SPEND EDITING! DON'T YOU REALIZE I HAVE TO FINISH THIS BOOK BEFORE MY SURGERY IN AUGUST AND WRITE A QUERY LETTER AND A SYNOPSES AND EAT FOOD?! I DON'T NEED MORE DEMANDS ON MY TIME!!!
Let us have a moment of silence to reflect on why I have a blog. (Actually, this helps me write.) (Actually, so does exercise.) (The real problem with exercise is that it requires me to clean my room quite thoroughly, which I haven't done since last week.)
Okay, I didn't actually say that to the chiropractor. I thought it. But then I thought, 'Exercise is a good thing, really. It always makes me more productive.' I resolved to exercise more. And then I thought of a really great person to kill in book 4. And I forgot about exercising. (I was also supposed to go back to the chiropractor last week, which I didn't do, because he's a half-hour away and I can't drive. I think it would really break a sweat to walk there, and that would be a pain, because I wouldn't even have a shower handy.) By the time I remembered, my sinus trouble had started, and most of my usual exercises (jumping jacks, sit-ups, hopping on one foot) was too painful to even attempt. I settled for some wimpy leg-lifts.
And then, yesterday, I finally decided to really exercise. And promptly broke my neck.
No, that's not what happened. But that's what it felt like. I was doing sit-ups, minding my own business, and then I was flat on my back, and my neck hurt. As in, I could not move because my neck hurt so badly. I had to find a way to get up without bending it AT ALL, then stagger over to the couch, grab my computer, and figure out if I was going to die. I'm not. Best I can guess, I messed up one of the disks in my neck, trapping a nerve, which decided to complain. It is still complaining, and I still have about half the normal range of motion that a neck is supposed to have.
I'm going to see the chiropractor today. He's going to tell me to exercise. This time, I might actually cry. (And then I'll have to hold my neck still, because crying really hurts right now.) (I've done a little more research, and come to the conclusion that if I supported my neck when doing sit-ups, this probably wouldn't happen. Not only am I lazy about exercise, I'm really, really bad at it.)
So who wants to come be my personal trainer? I'm warning you; I'll whine. A lot. But I'll love you anyway. (Nobody? Are you sure? Drat. I don't love you anymore.)
And lest you come out of this thinking 'Oh no, the life of a writer is horrible and I never want to do it,' let me show you one of the moments that really makes it worthwhile.
Disclaimer: The star of this moment (baby sister Lizard-beth. Not to be confused with lizard breath.) (Yes, I'm going to keep using these inane nicknames for my siblings even though you all know their real names) has refused to let me share this video unless I make it clear that she doesn't look like this all the time. She doesn't. At six o'clock in the morning, she looks like this:

[Image deleted due to disturbing content. And fangs.]


The rest of the time, she looks like this:



The exception is candid videos, one of which I am about to show you right now. This was filmed on my webcam while Lizzie read the scenes I edited yesterday. Behold the glory of being a writer. (And please, ignore the household sounds/conversations/tantrums in the background. We've got six kids here.) (Sorry about my loud, obnoxious voice. It was loud because I was in a different room from the one I was talking to, being immobilized by above neck injury. I can't help the obnoxious part.) (I can't believe I'm actually going to post this. Deep breath.) (You don't have to watch all of it unless you want to. One minute is enough to get the gist of it. But it's really, really awesome to watch the whole thing.) (At least watch until she whimpers the first time. Please.)