Monday, August 31, 2009

Will Someone Please Create a Deviance Award!

Okay, I’m about to reveal just how hard it is for me to follow ‘rules’, especially award rules…

I received this commenting award a week ago, and was re-awarded by one of my awardees, Laura Martone—that means I have to nominate another 5 great commenters. So, I’m breaking 4 rules here by nominating 1 this time around. It goes to Scott, who from the time I posted this blog has offered helpful critique on my writing. He has been incrementally posting his WIP, Last Full Measure of Devotion, on 275 Words, One man, One Year, One Novel. Curious about how other writers proceed, I started following his blog from the start, and it has helped me develop a more discerning literary eye, and connected me with a writer who has an acute technical eye. He is gracious and cordial, always appreciative. So, Scott, this award is inevitable…do with it what you wish, just know that if you accept it, you have to give it to 5 others!

Next, Susan Mills, aka Lazy Writer, just nominated me for this 'Splish Splash' award, for my dazzling (not my word) blog. I accepted it with these self-indulgent words: “Thanks Susan…I guess I never associated the word ‘dazzling’ with my blog. Mostly I think of it as utterly self-indulgent (okay, well, there was that one post on embedding hyperlinks, but I think I was only patting myself on the back—again, self-indulgent. I think I should start a self-indulgent award…[I digress; again, very self-indulgent]) Anyway, thanks for the nice award.”

My obligation is to nominate 8 others with this award.

I’m in a quandary…8 others? Eight?
I follow some really interesting and informative, even entertaining blogs; but Dazzling? Surely, I’m just being too literal here, but words mean things. Do blogs actually dazzle? Do they overpower the vision of by intense light? Hmmm…maybe it fits in with definition 2. to astonish with delight. Or 3. to shine brilliantly. Or maybe 4. to excite admiration by brilliance…
Some of the blogs I follow are really, really good—maybe 1 or 2 are even inspiring, but then what is that saying about the other blogs if I don’t fulfill the whole number? If I do fulfill the 8 for the sake of following rules, aren't I being a wee bit disingenous? Besides that, I feel like I keep awarding the same bloggers over and over (not that I’ve received that many awards, and this will probably put the kibosh to any future awards).

And here's another thing: It just seems to me that as writers, especially ones who are supposed to veer away from excessive modifiers and melodrama…Well, do I have to say more?

I think I do.

I think whoever thought up these awards, and those who pass them on with such generosity are far better individuals than I am. I will accept the award in the kind and genuine spirit it was offered, because—as #3 in a family of 7 children—I am just so happy to be acknowledged by anyone.
Am I the only one who feels utterly overwhelmed by awards and completely inept when it comes to obligatory follow through?
Maybe I just need an attitude adjustment.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ironic, Isn't It?

Stuff I read in other writer’s posts and comments always gets me thinking.
A brief exchange I had with Strange Fiction got me pondering my ironic side, and thus irony in general, and why I love it so.

/uy"reuhnee, uy"euhr-/, n., pl. ironies.
1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.
2. an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.
3. the incongruity of this.

Not to be confused with its close cousins SATIRE and SARCASM; while all three indicate mockery of a person or thing, IRONY is exhibited in the organization or structure of either language or literary material. It indirectly presents a contradiction between an action or expression and the context in which it occurs. One thing is said and its opposite implied, as in "Beautiful weather, isn't it?" said when it is raining. Ironic literature exploits the contrast between an ideal and an actual condition, as when events turn out contrary to expectations.
SATIRE, also a literary and rhetorical form, is the use of ridicule in exposing human vice and folly. Jonathan Swift wrote social and political satires.
SARCASM is a harsh and cutting type of humor. Its distinctive quality is present in the spoken word; it is manifested chiefly by vocal inflection. Sarcastic language may have the form of irony, as in "What a fine musician you turned out to be!", or it may be a direct statement, as in "You couldn't play one piece correctly if you had two assistants!"*

Watermelon Eaters

That said, I love Irony. In many ways, I epitomize the word. In fact, it is irony that makes this one of my favorite photographs.

It’s also the reason why I can’t seem to make myself use the ever-popular emoticon. They are so handy for conveying subtleties, clarifying intent when commenting. But for me, they would seem to suck the irony out of my words. I can’t help it. I like to leave people scratching their heads.

*from Random House, Webster’s College Dictionary.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Commenting Award!

I just received this Super Comments Award from Strange Fiction, over at Ranch Girl Ramblings.

Here’s the thing of it; I don’t have much in the way of helpful insights to offer here on my blog (trying to do better with that), but I do read a number of blogs and generally read every one of their comments. Many of them are thought provoking.

It took me a long time to muster up courage to leave comments, and I will admit that I give each one more than cursory thought before I post it.

The bloggers I’m awarding are ones who have made me feel comfortable. As a general rule, they graciously acknowledge each comment left on their posts. They even comment here at times (some with amazing consistency). I do not take for granted the time spent making your followers and commenters feel welcome.
Not to mention the fact that you stop by and baffle the echos here on my blog.

Laura Martone, Laura’s Simple Pleasures
Susan Mills, A Walk in My Shoes
Lady Glamis, The Innocent Flower
Bryan Russell, The Alchemy of Writing
Weronika Janczuk, * Home Weronika Janczuk
The only requirement for claiming your award, is pass it on to 5 other worthy commenters!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Possible Story?

Recently, a couple of posts, by Laura Martone and Lady Glamis, got me thinking about what inspires a story. Many ideas seem to spring from random whims, and some from snippets of real life.
Here’s a possibility…

A handsome young artist attends a soiree, where he notices a pretty newcomer. Alas, his scorned lover befriends her, thwarting his attempts to make her acquaintance.

Some time passes, during which he works to perfect his art. He hears she marries, and so does he.

More time passes. His marriage dissolves, as does his satisfaction with his painting. Consequently, he undertakes a study of an American Impressionist, copying his loose style, even replicating some of his work.

Through mutual friends, he hears about the young woman, that her marriage blew apart.

Maneuvering providence, he places himself in her company. He studies her face and falls in love with her countenance. Inspired, he returns to his studio and paints all night…

Of course, she marries him—how could a woman resist a man who, from memory, paints her face on a masterpiece?

...And they live happily ever after.

Sometimes real life situations inspire the best stories. I know there are many out there…

John Singer Sargent’s Mrs Henry White, with some alteration.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Embedding Hyperlinks in Comments, for Dummies

I just figured out something very new and exciting, well, exciting for me in my stimuli deficient world.

I have seen a number of bloggers add a hyperlink in their comments, and I think, how cool is that. Problem is, I don’t know all the HTML lingo, but I had a hunch that comments are translated from that code—they just have that look about them. That is surprisingly intuitive for me.
So, on that premise, I decided to experiment…
I tried it out in a comment on my Unsupervised and at Large blog, and it worked

This is how I did it:
I type out my comment in MS Word (I always do this anyway—it often catches my spelling errors and allows me to use my ever so beloved em dashes). This is also where I embed a hyperlink, using the ‘Insert’ menu, hyperlink; or right click on the highlighted word/words and choose hyperlink from the popup menu. It shows up with the nice blue line now, so I know I’ve succeeded.

Next, I go to my Blog Dashboard—New Post. I copy and past my comment from my Word doc. in the Compose window. I switch to the Edit HTML window.

Next, highlight and copy all that funny looking text, then, finally, paste it in the comment box of your choosing.

And, you can apply italics and bold lettering!

I know this is the Dummy’s way of doing it, but what can I say?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

An Award

Oh, my, I’m feeling very queasy.
Weronika, this is such a nice gesture…what was it my mother was always telling me..oh yes, “Just say thank you when someone offers a compliment—don’t try to convince them why you’re a big ninny and don’t deserve it.”
Soooo…Thank you.

The rules are as follows:
1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award. Did that…
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog. Okay, here it is...
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award. I think that worked…
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting. Ugh…
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers. This is really hard because I don’t follow that many blogs.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate. Okay...
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated. Whew, Done...
Here they are: well, 4 of them...
Laura's Simple Pleasures
A Walk In My Shoes (I know she’s already got one)
Weronika's Novel-in-Progress (I know this is re-gifting, and I hereby absolve you of any obligations stated herein.)
Elana Johnson, Author (I don't think she has this one…)

I know this is really cheating, but if I add any others, it would be disingenuous. These are the ones I have been following for a while; I enjoy their content and actually leave comments when I feel moved. I’m sure that in time, I will come to enjoy some of my recently added blogs, but I don’t want to come off sounding obsequious—so for now, I shall refrain.
Having said that, this is one blog I’m not nominating (‘cause he seems shy to me) but I’d like to drive some traffic his way: 275 Words
I'd nominate Rick Daley, but honestly, can you see this award on his blog?
I hope that taking liberties here doesn’t offend anyone…

Seven things about me…
I don’t have a lot on my profile, because I’m kind of a private person—and, it’s true, I hate the thought of boring people.
Nevertheless, I shall be daring:

1) This one’s easy, because there’s a link on my blog—I’m a watercolorist.
2) This one’s also easy because there’s an additional link on my blog—I’m a watercolorist who hasn’t finished a painting in over a year.
3) I’m relatively new to blogging. The first time I entered a comment on some forum, (back in March) I freaked out and couldn’t sleep until I deleted pretty much everything in my profile.
4) When people meet me for the first time, they think I’m gregarious and funny. They don’t realize that I simply get over-stimulated in social situations and then need a great big nap afterward.
5) My husband and I have moved quite a number of times. People think we have wanderlust or that we’re running away from something. The truth is, we’ve simply been left unsupervised for too long.
6) I had a nightmare once, where ‘They’ told my husband and I, “We’re sorry…It’s been brought to our attention that you have exceeded the ‘Lifetime Quota for Marital Bliss’. The two of you must separate immediately!” NOOOooooo!!!!
7) I used up all my best material writing this list.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Group Therapy Gone Wrong

Okay, I’m cheating here…I just posted this as a comment on Lazy Writer’s Blog, but this scenario has been jarring me for a while. I’m sure I can’t be the only writer with characters that gang up on them—like in a group therapy session out of control…

You know, like, Leila says, “It’s all about me!”
Kyle rebuts, “Hey, girl, you’re not the only one with a dysfunctional family.”
“Oh, yeah?” Ian interrupts, “Quit being whiny brats, you don’t know conflict till you’re a 27-year-old-coach in love with a student.”
“What’s the big deal,” old Artie interjects, “at least you’re not getting killed off in a month…”
“Would you all just shut up and wait your turn,” Myles shouts, “she’ll get around to resolving all your piddley issues if you just give her a little peace and quiet!”
“Thank you,” I say to Mr. Myles. I know I’m supposed to be the one in control, but ever since he showed up, I seem to have no voice of my own.

I love Mr. Myles…

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

'Lars and the Real Girl'—A Study in Character Development.

Last week my sister recommended Lars and the Real Girl, knowing I have a predilection for movies that intertwine unconventional relationships with strands of mental illness. (I’m sure that says far more about me than you need to know, but I love movies like Harold & Maude, Shine, Benny & Joon—stuff like that.) I think this may be one of my new, all-time favorites (it didn’t hurt that it featured music by Talking Heads).

Here’s the gist: Socially awkward Lars lives in a garage apartment beside the house where his brother and his sister-in-law live. It becomes evident that he has gone fully delusional when he accepts their dinner invitation, and arrives with his ‘date’, Bianca—she is a life-like version of an ‘inflate-a-date’ doll. The entire town becomes involved in an effort to help Lars work through his delusions.

What really struck me was Bianca’s effective character development, facilitated by Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer and Paul Schneider’s great acting.

Amazingly, with the help of Lars, his family and the townsfolk, Bianca takes on a whole personality and life by means of their ‘interactions’ with her. In the end, I just couldn’t believe that I was crying over a stupid manikin! Honestly, if you want your perceptions of character development challenged, watch this movie!

Director Craig Gillespie defines Bianca, solely by the use of supporting characters. That got me thinking about my own characters; about how much more efficiently I can reveal them by their interactions with each other as opposed to narration and rumination.

Now, as I rewrite Girl Running, I’m looking for all those places where I can breathe more life into my ‘imaginary friends’.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Pithier Introduction

So, I gave it a few days, thought about all my pretty words—I really liked the description of the beach sights and sounds, but it seemed to delay the real action. This is a revision of the first few paragraphs of Girl Running—Hopefully it’s more effective, without diluting what I needed to convey.

Two paragraphs instead of five. Have I been too extreme?

During those winding down hours, long after paraphernalia-laden and sunburned city-dwellers headed home, Leila too started for the beach parking lot. Disregard for July’s midday sun now showed up as sunburn, evoking the feeling of seven years ago—being ten again, eating gritty peanut butter and jelly, digging sand out from around the elastic of her swimsuit. Racing her daddy in the sand was fun compared to her ten-mile jog, but the fatigue of it was one of the best sensations she knew.

In the emptying parking lot, sprays of sand stung her legs and whipped strands of hair from her unraveling braid. That’s when she caught sight of her little blue car sitting without neighbor, jarring her from bittersweet memories. As she approached the passenger door, seagulls overhead called out and dashed toward the ground to fight over someone’s leftovers, discarded beside what was obviously a flat tire.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Girl Running: To Revise or To Rewrite—That is the Question

Okay, I’m going ahead and putting it out there. This is just the first chapter of Girl Running.
I had some POV issues in the original draft, but given that the first chapter is a recollection, it was easy to correct, sticking with one character. The rest of the story vacillates between close 3rd and omniscient 3rd, something I’m really struggling with. I also have a genre conflict. It probably fits into Young Adult, but some rather adult issues arise. And of course there’s the word count…

Bear in mind that although I have revised the beginning in order for something to happen in the first pages, this is still a rough draft. (To be honest, I’m only calling it rough, in case any of you readers are thinking, “Wow, this is really rough…”) As my first serious attempt at a novel, I had much to learn. I have cut out a lot of the exposition, and deleted much of the explaining before and after the fact. I’m not saying I cut it all, but I sure would appreciate knowing how I’m coming across.

Also, if anyone enjoys playing sleuth: What do you gather about each character from what is supplied in this first chapter.
Honestly—does it hook you?
Here goes...

Chapter 1 (deleted)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Waiting & Working on Another Story

Well, I’m gearing up to send out some queries on Story for a Shipwright, hopefully by the end of the month. Feedback from beta-readers have been trickling in, with one manuscript still out there—the one I’m most looking forward to. (No pressure there, Laura).

In the meantime, I’m preoccupying myself with my first viable novel, Girl Running. I ‘completed’ it a year ago, and have learned a great deal since then. So, why not apply all that learning to what I still consider a good story with great potential. The biggest challenge will be trimming nearly 50,000 words off 150,000 to better fit the Young Adult genre. Maybe I’ll just call it Commercial Fiction, instead.

I couldn’t wait to see it in print, and bound a few copies. Perhaps I’ll even post a few pages…