the last dance

(with 2 bonus sweater-destroying illustrations!)

I’ve had a blast with this blog. It began accidentally in January 2010, with this post on Two Rules of Storytelling. I wasn’t after a blog; what I really wanted was a website. I thought I needed one, so that droves of literary agents and editors could find me and request my stuff. (This happened…once. And I still consider myself lucky for it.) And while exploring website options I found WordPress, and the rest, as they say, blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah. That’s what I’ve felt like lately. For some reason, nearly four years later, it’s stopped being fun. I took some time off, hoping to be recharged and work up really cool things to share, but instead, as that month wore on, I got more and more stressed out, worried about what I would say. There isn’t anything to say.

Or is there?

When faced with the prospect of writing a “Fare Thee Well, Blog” post, I’m feeling a little panicked. Unsure. Do I really want to say goodbye? Leave my site up with a static front page explaining who I am & please, by all means, browse the archives, but I’m leaving the dance floor? Can I give up Colonel Shifty and my Microsoft Paint illustrations?

sweater 5

Well, that’s the thing. I don’t have to. I’m blogging every couple of weeks at the YA Muses, a fantastic site with regular writing themes and the occasional “open topic” weeks, with eleven different voices to keep things fresh. And I can always nip back into this blog and post news or Colonel Shifty illustrations.

I’m constantly whining about not having enough time for my fiction, and Maverick’s naps aren’t getting any longer. Letting go of this blog will free up more time, allow me to focus a little better. I’ll still be checking in on everyone else. If you haven’t already, feel free to subscribe by email so that if I decide to dance this bloggy dance again, you’ll know.

I love you all. Thanks for reading. Have a great new year.

if you want to destroy my sweater

While on the way home from school, Weezer’s “Sweater Song” came on the radio, and Z was intrigued. “Can you really destroy a sweater like that?” Not being a knitter, I don’t know the answer, but I said you could definitely do some damage. Then we brainstormed other ways to destroy a sweater. Here are three:

Run over the sweater with a car.

sweater 1

Bake the sweater in a pie.

sweater 2

Bake the sweater in a pie and feed it to an alligator.

sweater 3

When I listen to the song, I always picture the sweater as red. Not sure why that is.

NaNoWriMo continues to be fun! I’m going to run out of story before I hit my word count goal, but that’s what revision is for, I guess.

one gopher says "Did you eat all the Halloween candy already?" and the writing gopher responds, "Don't talk to me. I have a masterpiece to create."

And the beat goes on…

I’m having a blast with NaNoWriMo. The one big tragedy that I confessed to a writing friend the other day is that sometimes I write a scene that cracks me up, and I’m laughing out loud while I type it. This is great, actually. The tragedy is that I can’t share it with anyone. It would require so much explanation that by the time I get to the punch line, it isn’t even funny anymore.

So I live in the hope that a) leftover Halloween candy is calorie-free, and b) when I finally revise this monster and work up the guts to share it with critique partners, it comes back with LOLs written in the appropriate margins.

There was another big tragedy – for awhile, every time I thought about the story, the soundtrack from Disney’s Aladdin got stuck in my head. Specifically “Friend Like Me” and “Arabian Nights.” I like these songs. They have their place in my childhood and in my heart – I don’t need them, however, stuck in my head for a week. Thankfully, this has mostly been remedied by Christiane Karam, a vocalist/composer I stumbled upon on Youtube. I don’t really have the vocabulary to talk about music intelligently, but I really like the songs of hers that I’ve listened to so far.

And since I’m sharing videos, I just finished reading the ARC of Stasia Ward Kehoe’s THE SOUND OF LETTING GO, and the main character plays this song, which I now love so much I think I’ve listened to it eight times since yesterday. Probably more. As Z would say, “Seriously. I’m not teasing.”

Now. Go. Have an amazing weekend.

One gopher saying to other gopher, "Yup, you're still crazy, I see." The other gopher stands in front of laptop with a box of Leftover Halloween Candy next to her, with thought bubble, "But I'm having fun!"

And let the madness begin…

National Novel Writing Month has begun. I wrote straight through Maverick’s nap and am 63% of the way to my goal. For the day, people! Not for the month!

Blog posts will be short on Fridays (or not at all) while I join in the writing frenzy this month.

Friday Five: Beta Bliss

1. I’m beta-reading a book that I like so much, I’m cranky I have to take time out to write this blog post at all. Seriously, the beta reads I’ve done in the past year? Really enjoyable. Friends, keep writing fab books, because you’re making the “work” part of critiquing, well, less like work!

2. The Mentalist – Homes and I are addicted. Or wait. Were addicted. Because we breezed through the DVDs of Season 5 in, like, a week. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and wondering what is it about annoying detective-types? Columbo, Patrick Jane, Richard Castle, the guy in Lie to Me, the guy in The Finder, the doctor in Bones. Sherlock Holmes! Gone are the hard-boiled detectives with the checkered pasts…actually, this isn’t a new thing at all. Take a quirky person, give him or her a mystery to solve, and watch how those quirks put a new spin on solving the same question over and over: who killed the dead person?

3. I’ve been feeling super lucky this week – a shiny new idea for a novel (see more below), the way-fun beta read, and an awesome contact to talk about 1950s Hawaii with. It’s incredible how kind and generous this woman is, exchanging emails with a total stranger about random personal facts. Now if I can just find someone to tell me the exact dates of the Makaha International Surfing Championship in the winter of 1956/57, I’ll be good to go. (That’s a lie. I need about twenty or thirty other questions answered. But one thing at a time. One thing at a time.)

4. The Shiny New Idea! And National Novel Writing Month! They happen to very nearly coincide, which is a first. I never thought I’d do NaNoWriMo, because what are the chances that I’ll be in a place where I can start a new project right at the beginning of November? It has finally happened, so I’m going to join the insanity next month. I’m nervous, because it sounds like a recipe for frustration. I get most of my writing done during Maverick’s naps, while Z is in school. But in November she has seven days off (five for Thanksgiving, one for Veteran’s Day, and then an inservice day). Worst-case scenario is I don’t “win” NaNoWriMo, so I don’t have 50,000 words. But I bet I come close, which is better than nothing, n’est-ce pas?

curiosities5. For awhile I was on a short-story kick, and that seems to have passed. This makes me a little sad, almost nostalgic for that month of short stories. This last time I was inspired by reading The Curiosities by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff. Whenever I put the book down, it seemed I had a new idea to write about – it was incredibly energizing. Maybe after I finish my NaNo novel, I can read through The Curiosities again.

three gophers - one dressed as a surfer, one with a blond ponytail holding cash, and one dressed as a witch

Battle of the Protagonists

Let’s just assume it is normal for a writer to have her characters talking inside her head. I’m not saying this happens to me…okay, fine, it does. But it’s usually limited to conversations between the characters within a single book. Awhile ago I got to wondering what would happen if my various main characters met each other and compared notes on how I’m treating them.

This probably won’t be funny to anyone except me. And that’s okay. If I can’t entertain myself, what’s the point of doing this anymore?

July 2012

INT. A TRAVELING PET SPA

Amalia, a privileged witch, smiles smugly at Ari, a teen entrepreneur from a working-class background.

AMALIA

I suppose you’ll have to wait a little while longer for your story to be revised.

ARI

What? But…but she promised.

AMALIA

Well, my story’s further along. It takes priority.

ARI

You sanctimonious little b–

August 2012

EXT. FLOODED WAR ZONE OUTSIDE STONE CITY WALLS

Amalia skips past, wielding a flaming ball of magicky something-or-other.

AMALIA

Never mind. My book’s done now!

ARI

FINALLY. It’s my turn!

January 2013

EXT. SMALL-TOWN CITY HALL

Ari’s shaking her fist at the miniature dog fountain when Annie shows up with a surfboard. Annie leans her surfboard against the dog fountain, which promptly tips over.

ANNIE

Hi!

ARI

Who are you?

ANNIE

I’m Annie. I’m in the next project.

ARI

What is it with the A names?

ANNIE

I don’t know about you, but my name totally fits me and my time period. I’m historical.

ARI

Actually you’re a little too present, cutting in to my time. I should be completely revised at this point.

ANNIE

It’s not my fault your story’s unmarketable and weird.

ARI

Unmarketable? Unmarketable? Oh, I guess you’d know all about that, Miss Historical-Novel-In-Verse.

ANNIE

At least I’m not completely wackadoodle. And I don’t hit people.

ARI

I don’t hit people. Much. Besides, you hit someone!

ANNIE

Yes, but my reasoning was dark and dramatic. Yours is because you feel like it.

ARI

I kinda feel like it now. Come a little closer.

October 2013

EXT. BALMY HAWAIIAN BEACH, MONSTER WAVES IN BACKGROUND

ANNIE

I’m nearly in draft 3 and she’s still going strong!

ARI

(sobs) I’m in Draft 480 and she still isn’t done with me!

END

A New Short Story

On Sunday, the fab team at Cast of Wonders, a young adult audio magazine, will broadcast my flash fiction story, “Come With Me,” along with two other shorts that I am really eager to hear! “Come With Me” is a creepy story I wrote for a prompt long ago, and it’s one of those pieces that felt effortless. This doesn’t happen often, sadly, but when it does my euphoria is great.

[ETA: Click here to reach Episode 99, which includes “Come With Me,” “The Piper” by Ian Rose, and “The Boatman” by J.A. Ironside.]

Writing a novel is engrossing and magical – there’s no way to describe how involved I get in the characters and their worlds (although, um, the word obsessive might work…). For me, writing a short story is fun. It’s still work, and I revise and revise and revise, just like I do with my novels. I get immersed like I do with my novels, and I obsess, but it’s different. The time it takes to write and revise is shorter. I don’t have to keep an entire 300 pages’ worth of information in my head, and worry about plot holes or how subplots do or don’t support the theme, or if characters behave consistently over a long story arc. Short stories are packed with emotion and mood delivered in just a few scenes, often with a change that is sudden or surprising. If I can come up with a twist, even better.

I’m especially thrilled that Alice Munro, an author I admire greatly, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature yesterday. I am notorious for not paying attention to any kind of news, but happened upon the story in Publisher’s Lunch. She’s quoted in The New York Times as saying, “I would really hope this would make people see the short story as an important art, not just something you played around with until you got a novel.” I wonder why it is that people wouldn’t see the short story as an important art? I understand there isn’t the market for short stories that there is for novels, that it’s harder to publish short story collections… And I’m a part of that market. I am more likely to reach for the novel than the short story collection. Why is that?

Something else that perplexes me: earlier this year, Ms. Munro announced she was finished writing. It seems…well, I just can’t imagine quitting writing. I could imagine being done with publishing books (I’ve imagined that scenario over and over and haven’t even published a book), so maybe that’s what she means? I don’t in any way think she’s not passionate about writing or anything like that, but I just don’t get it. Homes told me that sometimes people get tired of one thing and just want to move on to something new. Maybe someday I’ll understand.