Sunday Roundup

Dec 19, 2010 by

Status
100 words a day/100 days: Eighteen for eighteen. I’m not producing anything of significance at the moment, but the feel of sitting down at a keyboard and banging words out is coming back. Before all the distractions started, this was a very natural thing for me and it’s a good feeling to recapture. It also means that when I do actually get into working on the idea that I’m going to do for Storywonk, the writing muscles will be feeling much more in shape.

Knitting: Have started the sleeves for the Diagonal Jacket, so I may actually be into putting that together by the end of the year. Then I get to start on my vest that I have some lovely Malabrigio Rios waiting for. Might take a short pause form the jacket and work on a couple of small projects today.

Books: Finished Kissing Santa Claus, a Christmas-themed anthology, and am over half-way through Wolf Hall. That makes four books for the month finished, so I’m reading more than one a week. I’m very grateful of my electronic devices; they’ve helped immensely with this.

Social Media: I know, I know. Everyone says writers are supposed to put themselves out there on Twitter and Facebook. I have the accounts — and have decided that I’m not going to deal with it until the New Year and make a fresh start. Right now, it’s took crazed and I’m slowly bringing things back into my life so they all have space and nothing gets crowded out.

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Disneyland was absolutely gorgeous on Monday, but next time we go in December, we’ll avoid going on the very last day all of the annual passes are active. There was quite a crowd, more like the summer, because it was the last day the lowest level of the annual passes (available specifically for folks who live in Southern California) would be active for the year. We have a slightly higher level, so a day or two after would see the park much emptier. Still, it was very pretty, especially Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

The day was surprisingly warm, which probably also accounted for the locals coming out. Very strange to drive into the parking lot at Disneyland and see nothing but California plates for rows and rows and rows.

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Funniest moment at Disneyland: two dads with strollers talking to one another as they walked along and one says to the other, “Did you see Sherlock on PBS? Man, it’s incredible! You’ve got to get the DVD. They’ve updated Sherlock Holmes and it’s good.” I should do a post on Sherlock at some point, because if you haven’t seen it, you really should.

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While Monday was sunny and warm, the weekend is cold and wet. Mu-Mu has the right idea.

For me, I’ve got to get ready for church, so I’m off. Have a good Sunday.

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Just 750 Words a Day

Dec 18, 2010 by

I’m a big fan of morning pages. I find that if I get up and write the first thing in the morning, it seems to do wonders for clearing my head and getting my mind going. I’m not talking about getting a scene done or contributing to my word count for the day. I’m talking good, old-fashioned, steam-of-consciousness core dump. I just sit down at the keyboard and type.

I discovered morning pages back in the 90′s when I first read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I embraced them with a ferocity — only to discover hand-writing three pages each morning didn’t take half an hour, but more like forty-five minutes or more and there were times I found myself constantly interrupted. (You try meditating or doing any action that requires concentration when a small and determined cat is setting in front of you demanding breakfast.) At the time, Cameron did not encourage doing the pages on a computer; too easy to edit yourself she felt.

Over the years, I’ve tried using the computer for my pages, but found various things standing in my way. Maybe I let them stand in my way; maybe they were pointers saying, “This isn’t for you.” I’ve had some success in using my Live Journal for the morning pages, but every time go through the posts I made, there are the entries and it’s easy to get distracted. I don’t necessarily want to read what I write over again; the whole idea is to get the thoughts out and move on.

Finally, after bouncing back and forth, a friend suggested a site called 750 Words. You log in and a blank page appears. You start typing. When you reach 750 words (three typed manuscript pages), the system lets you know and you can either keep typing or stop. No formatting, no fancy things to fill out, just a blank page ready for you every day and you type. Oh, there are cool stats based on word usage to figure out what you’re focused on and if you’re positive or negative in mindset at the moment or maybe uncertain about things — but if you’re having story ideas start to dump out of your head (“Donna is worried he doesn’t care about her.” “What if things then go horribly wrong?”), you can be happy and excited and what you’re writing will say something else.

The point is to help clear the decks in the morning, get yourself ready to face the new day. With radical life changes over the past year which often meant I didn’t know what was happening from one day to the next, being able to do this is a valuable tool. I spent yesterday’s words just coming up with variation on one-sentence descriptions of a story idea for the Storywonk Discovery class I’m starting in January. Ended up about four different ideas, each with several variations on the one sentence. Took about twenty minutes, and gave me a very positive start to the day. Those ideas are now safely copied into my Scrivener file and I need to decide which one I’m going to use for the class — and had another contender today.

This isn’t for everyone, but if you feel doing a core-dump would help you in the mornings, check it out. At the moment, the site is free, though I opted to kick in a small subscription because I find it useful — and I do mean small. He measures subscriptions in the cost of a cup of coffee, so you can kick in a cup or two if you feel like it. Give it a try.

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RIP: Blake Edwards

Dec 17, 2010 by

Blake Edwards passed away Wednesday night; he was 88. While Edwards did have some clunkers in his career, there was also so much magic. Operation Petticoat, Victor/Victoria, The Great Race, and, of course, The Pink Panther — pictures that make you laugh and often touch the heart as well. He will be missed.

Edwards’ comedy was often tinged with a dark edge born of a life-long struggle with depression and he could find humor in situations that in other circumstances wouldn’t be funny at all. As such, he would probably be amused that he managed to pass only a few days after Turner Classic Movies posted their annual “TCM Remembers” video, so he is not seen in the retrospective of those movie fans have lost this year. I had considered waiting to post this until closer to New Year’s Eve, but it seems appropriate now as I remember a man who made me laugh so much when I was young (you couldn’t get me away from the TV whenever The Great Race aired), to remember some of the other folks who graced cinema screens with their talents and whose work lives on in images which move through the projector at 24 frames per second.

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Not Really a Book Review, but a Rant

Dec 16, 2010 by

Yesterday, I admitted one of the books I was reading turned out to be a great, big, Did Not Finish. In fact, if I hadn’t been reading this one on a rather expensive electronic device, it would have been pitched across the room and straight into the trash. While the style of writing might be entertaining (the author gives good snark), the characters were so thoroughly unpleasant that the snark quickly wore thin. About a quarter of the way through, I skipped to the end to see if the author really was going where I thought she was going. Turns out she wasn’t — but it turns out the heroine doesn’t end up with anyone.

Now, I don’t insist every book I read has a happy ending with our two leads pledging eternal love; there are stories where that is simply not organic to how the plot flows. Look at Casablanca. If Ilsa had ended up with Rick, it wouldn’t have worked. In Chick Lit, women often end up on their own because the story is about the journey, not the romance. But, if I buy a book that is labeled “Romance,” then I’m expecting certain things when I curl up with it. One of those things is the romantic journey and the promise of two people building a life together at the end. If I don’t get that when that’s what’s promised on the tin, I get a little annoyed.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the name of either the author or the book. I’m not annoyed with them. If I’d known this wasn’t a romance, I wouldn’t have picked it up at this moment — and if I picked it up at another time, I might have felt more open to the story. But I’m in the mood for romance, especially as a counter to Wolf Hall, which is marvelous historical fiction, but I know what ultimately happens to our happens to our main character and it’s not pretty. No, I’m annoyed with the publisher and their marketing department and whoever decided it was a brilliant idea to put something that’s very definitely a non-romance in a romance line. I don’t care what else the book might be; the marketing said Romance, it was grouped with Romance, and that’s what I thought I was buying.

I’m speaking purely as a reader here. I know it’s likely to be difficult to go back to the book later when I’ve gotten so annoyed with it, and that also means I’m less likely to go spend my money on any of the author’s other books. This is one reason I’m loving buying stuff for my Kindle. Some things I thought I really might like to read? Turns out I’m feeling “meh” a few pages in to the sample, while books by authors I’ve never read before are causing me to finish the sample and click the “buy” button. Getting to read a chapter or two is encouraging to take some chances I might not have taken otherwise — but books like the one I just dropped are making me more wary of just clicking “buy” without reading the sample first.

Years ago at an RWA Conference, Anne Stuart joked, “Editors aren’t the enemy; Marketing is.” The audience laughed, but in this case it was true. The marketing told me I was buying a banana split; turns out they were selling me a meatball sundae. They didn’t either me or the author any favors.

Rant over. I need to pull something else onto the iPad because the Thalberg bio is a bit too dense to read casually during breaks at work. Maybe a short story anthology, one that is — hopefully — guaranteed to be fluffy.

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Holiday Cheer

Dec 15, 2010 by

A friend shared this with me. I honestly cannot see either one of my cats sitting still for this — unless they were blissed out on catnip.

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And All My Sins Remembered…

Dec 14, 2010 by

So the husband and I exhausted ourselves at Disneyland yesterday, and when the park closed at six (they were doing a private party in the evening, so early closing), we headed over to California Adventure, which was open until nine. Our goal was to hit Soarin’ Over California, which is easily the best ride in the park, simulating the experience of sailing over the incredible landscapes in our state.

First, however, we had to pass the stage that sits at the end of Sunshine Plaza, which usually seems to have folks doing stuff from High School Musical, which means we hurry on past. Last night, though, the big screen above the stage started showing clips from Tron. Figuring it was a preview for the new film being released this month, we decided to stay for a while. That is, until the music started pumping and the dancers showed up.

Yes, Disney has a dance show to promote Tron. With girls in denim jackets with shoulder pads, tight jeans and bad 80′s perms.

Needless to say, we hurried on toward Soarin’. While waiting in line, the husband couldn’t help saying, “Okay, putting aside the fact it’s a dance show for Tron, if they were going to do 80′s fashions, why did they do the ugly ones?”

I replied, “There were good fashions in the ’80s?”

He conceded I had a point and we continued waiting. Then, because one shouldn’t keep secrets from one’s spouse, I had to confess, “I had a perm once. Back when the movie came out. And I wore shoulder pads with my t-shirts.”

He said that after 13 years of marriage, he hadn’t thought anything I said could shock him — but he couldn’t picture me in a perm. Boy, am I glad none of those pictures are digital and we didn’t have Facebook back then!

Any fashion skeletons lurking in your closet?

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