Friday, August 28, 2009


Metaphor of the Day Assignment:

Create a humorous metaphor:

One of the metaphor's most useful aspects is its ability to convey humor. Choose an aspect of your story or your character that would be most likely to be exaggerated into a caricature. Write a metaphor about it in a funny fashion.

Example: (Only highlight the text to read if you need to be inspired.)

I have a character who is very proud and snobbish, so I want to make those traits into a caricature.

She was as graceful and elegant in her movement as she was proud and snobbish in her speech: When she talked, her voice was the sound of a trumpet: it sounded like it could have been lovely if the player knew how to play Taps instead of blatting out Mary had a Little Lamb.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Audio Writing

Last night I decided to do something different with my writing.

I recorded myself reading the first chapter out loud. It was educational to say the least.

I've heard it said that to really see where your story needs improvement, you should read it out loud. It's so true. I did different voices for the characters and everything and it still sounded like less than publishing quality.

Things I learned from this exercise:

1. I read out loud too fast. It's hard to have patience and not get nervous when reading for the first time.

2. My first draft and second draft versions both have awkward sentences. They are ugly to say and ugly to hear. Gotta clean those up.

3. Things I thought were implied for my characters really weren't all that obvious and I need to throw a little extra time into character description.

4. I have a greater respect for audio books and the people whose voices are recorded in them. I realize now just how good they are.

5. There are lots of cool sound effects on my computer that make me want to add in extra scenes to my story just so I can use them.

Because of this exercise, I thought of how cool it would be to record myself thinking out loud in the car. My commute could become an hour long writing session if I worked hard at it. It would probably improve my story telling abilities as well since I'd be saying things on the spot and wouldn't be able to delete or edit what I just said. It's a thought, anyway. I might try it on my way home tonight.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Writing/Critique Groups

Hey all!

I was reading CKHB's blog about critique groups and it brought me back to an early memory.

I was homeschooled by my mom right up until I went to college and she was awesome at getting us kids groups of friends to hang out with. She started a homeschool co-op, was head of the homeschool band, and even started a homeschool writer's group for me and my brothers.

It was simply called Writing Club and every child was to bring something to the group that met once a month that they had written. We met in various places. Sometimes in my Grandma's church, sometimes in a Library. There was one time we met in a weird building I don't know the name of. It was awesome. There were bookshelves everywhere and tables in the middle and the building was almost in the middle of a gorgeous park so when we were done, I remember going outside and playing. I was really young, like 7 or 8 at the time.

Every month I would scramble to come up with something to share. For the first few times, I wrote a few short (very short!) stories and read them. But then I procrastinated and when the time came, I had nothing written and would just have to listen to everyone else read their stories. I thought everyone else wrote so wonderfully, I was kind of shy to share my own writing.

There was this one girl who wrote a story that made all the moms laugh. And it was long enough that she had to continue it from month to month. I was amazed. The concept of writing something longer than two pages was born in my world, and the next month I had an 8 page, single spaced story that I had poured my heart into.
As luck would have it, the morning before I was supposed to share our printer broke and I only managed to copy 5 of the 8 pages down by hand to share with everyone. I still have those pages and when I read over them now, I cringe at how horribly written it is, yet I smile at how ridiculous I was back then.

It was only after the Writing Club disbanded that I realized I wanted to be a writer. (Go figure.)
Ever since then, I've wished I could have another Writing Club and it sounds like critique groups are fairly close to that.

Many thanks to my wonderful and dear mother who took the time to organize such a club. She probably didn't know it at the time (especially those months I never wrote anything to bring), but they were one of the funnest things we did that year, and I learned a lot about writing. It planted a seed.

All this reminiscing to say that if anyone wants to start a critique group with me, we should talk. Leave a comment below and I'll get things started.
I have a wonderful critique buddy already, but I'd like to get more people's ideas too. My crit buddy and beautiful cousin Sarah. Sarah is awesome. There's no one like her.

Ok, this blog is getting a little bit away from metaphors but that's ok for now. There are no emergencies.........yet.

In response to publishing myths...

(In response to Rachelle Gardner's recent post, I posted a comment that turned out to be rather long, though relevant. Figured it would do better as a blog post than a comment.)

Remember the movie The Pursuit of Happyness? The guy breaks all the rules about job interviews, shows up "dressed like a garbage man" and still gets the job. None of us, I think, would ever risk a possible job opportunity by dressing like a garbage man and showing up on purpose. But sometimes you just can't help it. I know I don't want to risk a possible agent or publisher liking my book by presenting them with a garbage man query. (No offense to garbage men! You guys are awesome! It's just a stereotype. Please still take my garbage out on Friday!) But you know, I suspect there are writers out there who have circumstances that have kept them from polishing their queries, their first pages, or toning down their word counts. Is it still possible for them to get published even if they disobey all the rules? Yes. But do I want to be one of those people if I can help it? No.
I have never known anyone to get upset about a query letter or manuscript rejection because they thought the agent or publisher was being least in person. I've read about several people who get upset online though, and I don't understand why.

Just keep your head about you, and it will serve you well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Linguistics and Jesters

The linguist in me was aroused this morning so I bring you a word of the week. The following is based mostly from information I gleaned off of online dictionaries that had shortened etymological facts at the end of the definition.

Note: I’m an EMERGENCY metaphor technician. The person who administers first aid before the real paramedics can get to the scene. If you don’t want to take my word for it, feel free to visit your own etymological sources. I just hope I point people down the right path.

Word for the week: demure

One of my family’s favorite movies is The Court Jester. It’s kind of an old movie but very funny, starring Danny Kaye and a very young Angela Lansbury. In it, the guy who’s been plotting from the beginning uncovers in front of the king the true identity (though he gets it somewhat wrong) of the Court Jester. While speaking of the Jester’s accomplice, he says “And this demure maid…”

The phrase bugged me because he spoke in an obvious fashion of dislike and disgust that I had to find out what demure meant. As it turns out, he was speaking very correctly by calling her demure, but incorrectly at the same time, and none of it was derogatory (though I’m sure his character thought it was).

Demure has many aspects of different languages and differing ages woven into it so that its original meaning is conjecture at best (at least by me. Any historical linguists who want to weigh in on this?)

In our language today, it means reserved, modest or shy, usually said of a woman or of clothing.

First there was the Latin sense of maturus, to ripen or mature. Then there was the Old French word mur meaning grave. This gave way to another old French word demoure, meaning remain or stay. This made its way into Middle English as demure meaning sober, serious, or reserved.

The maid in question is definitely mature, serious, sober, reserved and dedicated. But she is by no means shy, nor does she wear clothing that looks serious or sober.

She is not reserved. She’s a spy in the castle of her enemy, steals the King’s key, and hits people over the head with wooden beams. She is modest in her own way, that is, she doesn’t flaunt her beauty purposefully, though others do it for her and give her compliments.

Anyways, I just found it funny that the bad guy, who up until that line was doing a pretty good job at being a bad guy, suddenly uses what might be a compliment and might be simply a misplaced description to give his enemy’s accomplice a bad reputation. In the setting of the story, I assume it would have been seen as correct and right for a woman to be demure: a little woman who stays at home and is dedicated to running the household while being shy and modest.

In essence, he wasn’t insulting her. He was simply pointing out that she was a commoner and shouldn’t be sitting next to the king.

I find this fascinating. It’s amazing how many different shades of meaning there are for words. It’s like looking at paint samples. (Oh yes, here comes the metaphor.) If I look at a wall in a room, I might call it white. But if I go to a paint store and try to pick out the exact color, I will come away with 100 samples of white, off-white, egg shell white, cloud white, chalk white, etc. And they will all look incredibly different when next to each other. The wall I was looking at might even have been yellow in comparison and I just didn’t know it.

This is why it’s useful and fun to know the exact meaning of words and to distinguish between words of similar meaning that have different emphasis.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Week night Write-a-thon

Last week my cousin and I had a write-a-thon at Caribou. It was awesome. I highly suggest this if anyone is priveleged enough to have such a wonderful cousin and fellow writer as I do. First, it's helpful for me to have someone next to me who is also writing to keep me motivated and accountable. There were times I would rather have surfed the net or tweeted away the hours because I was working on a difficult scene. But because she was there, I pushed through it. (BTW, it especially helps if they can see your computer screen so they know if you're writing or not.)

Also, there were countless times when I needed a name for something, needed a synonym, or just an extra brain to pop out some ideas. We went back and forth asking for words, definitions, etc. "What's someone called who's in charge of a school but sounds more medieval-like than super-intendant?" (Provost is the word we ended up with for that one.)

And, of course, every now and then we ask each other for a metaphor for something. It's always tons of fun because at this point, we can either be serious or say something hilarious.

Friday, August 21, 2009


I was doing some research today for my WIP about sleep deprivation and what it can do to the body.
It's kind of scary.
I found out lots of fascinatingly odd and obscure facts which I plan to use on my kids when I'm 40 by beating them at Trivial Pursuit.
But until then, I'll spare you the details.

This week I downloaded TweetDeck to see what it was all about. It's an amazing little program (I feel like I should be able to call it an app, but I don't know if it officially is) that turns the concept of 140 characters from something simple to something incredibly complicated and amazing. I'm a little wierded out by the constant novelty and potential for connections. It's truly mind boggling.

But, even though I'm confused, I can immediately see why I would subject myself to such a tool. It keeps track of a lot of things I could never do on my own and enables me to experience live chats on Twitter. I'm already counting on it as necessary to every day life. Scary? Maybe. Fun? Definitely. Productive? That remains to be seen.

One thing about twitter, for those who don't use it or know about it, it has a completely different feel than blogs, facebook, or other social networking abilities. With twitter, things are done in real time and it feels like a much more real connection with people than other electronic venues. It's not for everyone, but now I see why several people say that Twitter is absolutely necessary for writers.

Have a good weekend! Be safe and get enough sleep. Your body will thank you in about 20 years.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Charged up and ready to go

It's time to get into Dodge for, that's not a typo, it's my fiance's silly pun about my new car.
I now have a 2008 Dodge Charger which is very nice. Not only can I listen to audio books now, but I can listen to them with the windows up in my car because I have air conditioning again. Yay! I'm so glad I don't have to listen to Mrs. Bennett's voice blaring at top volume along the freeway.

My cousin and fellow writer Sarah and I are meeting tonight to have a write-a-thon. In case you missed that, the mathematic breakdown goes like this: Coffee shop + Cousins + writing = awesomeness.

My WIP is a science fiction/fantasy novel. I just completed the first draft, refined the outline, and wrote the opening scene. Tonight I'll get to work on expanding the opening scene, and hopefully be able to fill in a few plot holes in the outline.

Side note: I own a 2008 Dodge Charger that's a sparkly navy blue. Any ideas what I should name it? Extra brownie points if the name comes from something having to do with Lord of the Rings or Narnia.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book List

I have an hour commute to work every morning and an hour drive back home. That's 10 hours per week of audio book listening time! I love to read printed books at home and books on my Kindle when I'm away from home. Thus, I have two or three mediums in which I read, none of which take away from the time of the others. In the past I used to be able to handle 2 or 3 books at a time at most. But now it's 2 or 3 books per medium.

Here's a list of the books I've read recently:

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (In progress)
4. Seventh Son Book One by J.C. Hutchins (In progress)
5. The Shack by William P. Young (In progress)
6. Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer
7. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (In progress)
8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (In progress)
9. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett (In progress)
10. All but the last of the Harry Potter series
11. Murder at Avedon Hill by P.G. Holyfield

Books I plan to read next:
1. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
2. Redwall by Brian Jacques
3. Saint, Sinner, Showdown, etc. by Ted Dekker
4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
5. The Godfather by Mario Puzo, Robert Thompson, and Peter Bart
6. 1984 by George Orwell
7. 'Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
8. The Silmarilion by J.R.R. Tolkien
9. The Legend of Sigud and Gudrun by J.R.R. Tolkien
10. ?

I can't believe it. I actually have a spot open for a book! I'm sure I could fill it with a quick search at my favorite book stores, but I'd much rather have someone recommend books to me. Anyone have an idea what I could fill that last slot with? I was tempted to put Stardust by Neil Gaiman there but I already have two of his books on my list and I like to be varied. I suppose I could put down the second book of Pratchett's disc world series, but that goes without saying since I'm reading the first one.

By the way, congrats to Neil Gaiman on winnnig the Hugo award for Best Novel!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Betsy posted about one of the many things poetry has to offer fiction writers.

I may not ever get my poems published, but I may never get my fiction published if I don't write completely unrelated and voraciously genred poems.

Writing poetry makes you think of all kinds of things one would never think of while writing strictly fiction. New and brilliant metaphors pop out. Deliciously aesthetic syllables come together.

It's kind of like how I read Pride and Prejudice and suddenly my writing had much to recommend itself to others and sounds very proper.
At least to me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Metaphor for Social Networking

Sometimes I feel like a greasy, slick haired salesman who's selling products that are great but that no one cares about because they would never buy from a door-to-door salesman. The same product, if advertised on TV, then seen in a storefront window, then recommended by friends, would sell.

The publishing industry seems full of free advice givers and I am so grateful to them for taking the time to write blogs and show me the way. They are doing their part to make sure that agents and publishers have the most talented, capable, and polished writers to choose from. This in turn will (hopefully) lead to better books which will (hopefully) lead to more readers.

But is social networking really the golden goose of the new publishing era? I can't help but wonder if it's really safe to assume that because networking is free, people will network with you. Do you follow someone on Twitter just because they follow you, even if they're not of interest to you? I was followed by a self-proclaimed professional psychic the other day. (Outside the context of Twitter that sounds funny and creepy.) But I didn't follow them back because I have no interest in the tweets of that industry. (If I start writing a novel with a main character who's a psychic, well, then I might change my mind.)

Even though networking is free, I don't expect others to follow me or connect with me just because I'm there. I feel like I still need to be the agitated salesperson sticking their foot in the door before it slams (ouch!) begging for someone to buy my wares for free.

Price used to be a filter for decision making. But with networking, we no longer have that blockage/convenience/inconvenience.
So what kind of filter should we use to decide how our networking minutes are spent?

I don't believe networking is free. It just doesn't cost U.S. dollars per every tweet-follower or blog poster. But it does have its own currency and that is time.

Here's a fun activity to try: Quantify the currency of networking in values of time, specifically your time and what it's worth. Is one hour spent tweeting, facebooking and commenting on blogs worth 3k words of a novel? Are the ten minutes that people spend reading your blog worth one hour of your time to research what you put into that blog?

Note: This activity will drive you nuts. Have fun.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sci-Fi and New Things

I was thinking today about what draws audiences to Sci-Fi and/or Fantasy genres in the media. After seeing G.I. Joe this weekend with my fiance, we had a discussion about it.

Notice: He disagrees with me what genre G.I. Joe should fit under and had some interesting points. But I'm not going to get into that. Just assume G.I. Joe is loosely related to Sci-Fi for this post.

To me, the draw of sci-fi is that someone else's imagination is at work and I get to experience it, adding it to my own collection of strange and weird ideas that have spawned from human nature. Even though Sci-Fi Fantasy worlds are often completely different than our own, I find I learn more about human nature and the real world from them than I do from realistic movies.

There's no way a sci-fi or fantasy genre can be completely unrelated to our own world, so I am mostly interested in seeing what is the same. Are heros still praised for their cowboy wrecklessness? Or is a villain still disdained for his disregard for human life and happiness? Is gravity still the same? Do birds still sing in those worlds? Why did the author wish to create his own world the way he did and what does it say about his/her view of the real world?

Seeing something new and amazing, something meant to drive hand-picked emotions through our hearts, is what interests me. The rush of something new. The excitement.

Speaking of something new, last night I was graced with the presence of a tiny baby bird in the cage of our two finches whom we had assumed were both female.

Despite having seen G.I. Joe this weekend, a very exciting movie, seeing that little tiny bird wave a struggling wing into the air was the better of the two.

Movies, books, audiobooks and the media go to great lengths to produce the emotions of awe and excitement in us. But the image of an Eiffel Tower crashing down making my seat vibrate, however cool that is, was surpassed by the little red scrawling thing in the nest. Plots must bloat themselves with dastardly and unexpected happenings to equal real life experiences.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Being Reachable

I read a blog post by Janet Reid about being reachable on the internet in case an interested agent or publisher or someone important wants to contact you.

So I googled my name to see what I could find. Then I realized I needed to sign out of facebook, amazon, and a lot of other things to make the search more honest. After all, a stranger wouldn't be able to see my full facebook page.

To my surprise, I found an article I had been interviewed for without even knowing it. Cool.

I was also talking to my writing friend cousin about this blog. She said she thinks I've gotten bogged down by trying to make it just about metaphors. So I'm going to cut that out.

I'll still post about metaphors when it comes naturally, but I think once I get the main information up here for people to reference to, posting about writing, publishing, and other stuff will be ok too.