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


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.



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


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.)