Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Is that you with smelly underpants?

I got your attention with the smelly underpants. Don't deny it.

Today's blog is about smells- good and bad. When I read I like it when an authors describes smells. The smell of a setting, the smell of a character, the smell of an object, the smell produced by an action- they all help paint a better picture in my imagination.

I've been listening to the Lost Symbol in the car and there is a specific scene (don't worry I'm not giving away anything and if you've read it you know what I'm talking about) where Brown creates a pivotal moment centered around the smell of Ethanol. Woah. I so felt it. The burn. The noxious fumes. I was gripping the steering wheel at this part.

When we write we use words to describe sensory stimuli for the five senses. The best writers I believe cover all FIVE. A few months ago, I noticed my writing only utilized four senses. Smells were mentioned minimally in my WIP. So I went through the entire thing and where I felt it was needed, I described the smell of that moment.

How do you guys feel about the description of smells in what you read and write?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Confession Time

So I haven't blogged for awhile now. It isn't because I've been that busy or ill or having Internet connectivity issues.
I'm embarrassed.
And because I'm embarrassed and self conscious I'm experiencing a total creativity shut down. This is what happened:

I've been trying to establish myself in the blogosphere by not lurking and being an active commenter. Before I post a comment I always quadruple check it for grammar and spelling mistakes, but my eyes just gloss over sometimes and I don't pick up half the mistakes. Anyway, I posted a comment with some silly spelling errors and I miscalled a piece of punctuation (punctuation was the topic of discussion). I know it's not a big deal. But, I'm trying to be a writer, and when you do stuff like that, it makes you feel incredibly stupid. Other readers of the blog pointed out my mistakes (I'm so glad they did! I learned a lot!), but at the same time I was embarrassed because I messed up.

So, I'll be back as soon as my funk departs.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Random Tuesday Turbulence

So many interesting blogs out there today.

Writer Kriesten took my recommendation yesterday and wrote a poem about Rainy Mondays. It made my rainy Tuesday!

Secondly, Writer Natalie has a deliciously fun post today. She wants everyone to share there favorite character from their WIP. It's like playing in the sandbox on a sunny day.

And lastly, I am investigating a statement made by a Barnes & Noble employee. I always like to check out the section at B&N where the employees display and comment on their favorite reads. A B&N employee chose City of Bones (The Mortal Instrument Series) and on the comment card she wrote: "Better than Twilight."

Wow. Better than Twilight. That's a pretty bold statement. I know there are a lot of you out there who don't like it, or who are scared to admit it (great discussion on this). But I have to say this about the Twilight series: It sucked me in.

So even though, I have oodles of work to do on my WIP and I already started reading Nick of Time by Ted Bell (which by the way is fabulous), I have started reading City of Bones.

I've only read one chapter, so I think it's a bit early to decide if it is "Better than Twilight." But, I'll let you guys know soon enough. Anyone out there ready the City of Bones; The Mortal Instrument Series?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Don't let others cramp your style

I am so fortunate to have a circle of friends and family that proof and critique my manuscript or simply let me bounce ideas off of them. So first I want to thank all of you (you know who you are).

I think its important to work with readers/proofers that don't cramp your style.

1. Most of my proofers/editors/critique masters volunteer themselves. I think this is important. Rather than it being an imposition, these people genuinely want to read my work and help.

2. They should have some interest in fiction.
My boyfriend Scott doesn't like reading fiction or talking about things that aren't real. But despite his revulsion towards imagination land he has helped me develop some crucial concepts for my YA. Tread carefully with these anti-fiction types, they can give you a good reality check, but at the same time totally stall you're progress with statements like: There's no way that can happen OR You need to show the step by step chemical reaction for that.

3. They should be familiar with your genre.
Most of my pals have read Twilight, Wings, etc... But prior to pal proofing I used to work with a published author, Vicky Covington, on my manuscripts. Vicky is AMAZING. She literally taught me to some extent the craft of writing. She taught me the importance of Less is More; Showing rather than telling; and Just getting the damn thing on the paper. She helped me with my first novel, an adult women's piece, that I will never pursue to publish, but still learned a tremendous amount from writing. But, when I proposed my science fiction YA to her, she crinkled her brow, and I could tell off the bat she wasn't in to it, and that's when we went our separate ways. And that's OK. I think it's really important to surround yourself with people who get your vibe.

4. You need to work with people who won't get offended if you don't take their advice.
I love it when people critique my work; when they point out grammatical flaws (commas are a mystery to me and I always use its and it's incorrectly); or when people pose questions or problems with the plot or characters that I didn't think of. But, on the same token, it's your work, and you get the final say.

How do you guys feel about friends and family critiquing your work?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Magic City Ice Classic

On September 11-12 the Birmingham Figure Skating Club hosted the first annual Magic City Ice Classic Competition. I had students competing, my company was filming, and I took a test. I was busy. What many don't know is how much of an emotional roller coaster ice skating competitions and test sessions can be. So many triumphs, so many heart aches, all happening in a span of less than 24 hours. Let me fill you in on a tiny bit of the saga.

Settting: Preliminary Freeskate Event

Skater A
13 year old bouncy, flirty, skater A turns in the wrong music for competition. The announcer hits play and a look of sheer panic and horror cross over the announcer and the skater's face. Skater A's mom is the announcer.
Mom then shrugs and mouths through the plexi glass, "Your the one who turned the CD in."
So what does my student do? She starts skating her program to the wrong music (last year's competitive ballad). For those of you who don't follow ice skating you can't really do this. Her program was choreographed to a dazzling fast techno piece and she was going to try to skate that to a ballad. I yell across the ice, "Student A! Stop!" She throws her hands in the air with a look of sheer bewilderment on her face. I meanwhile haul ass to the coaches' room, praying that I have a copy of her correct her music. On the way I even strain my ankle a bit (I don't think fur boots are meant for running). Thankfully, I find her music. I run it to the announcer (who is her mom). Mom A is wallowing in guilt. It's because I'm announcing. I do everything for my kids. And this is what happens when they try to do something on their own. I'm enabling them I know. But this is what happens when they do things on their own.
I run back to Skater A who is now standing next to our over dramatic choreographer. Over dramatic choreographer likes to embellish everything. Skater A rushes out on the ice and Over Dramatic Choreographer whispers in my ear, "Skater A was in absolute hysterics. And I calmed her down. Oh, look she just landed her double salchow. I'm so glad I calmed her." I look over at Skater A and I don't see any sign of tears. She skates a clean program. Lands all her jumps (although some are lacking on height and control). Does all her spins. And puts on a show with her bippity boppity choregraphy.

Skater B
Skater B is a 13 year old blonde who apparently has had the teenage week from hell. The cheerleaders on her squad are being mean to her. Her Pre-AP classes keep her studying into the wee hours of the morning. She's all nerves because she knows she barely has an axel and all the other girls are trying doubles. "Miss Anita! I don't have a double!" Horror is plastered on her face as if she's watching someone drown puppies. At this point my body is metamorphosing from ice skating coach to psychiatrist. Didn't you know? All ice skating coaches can do this. Words of wisdom start rolling off my tongue.
"Skater B. The reason we signed up for this event is so you could try your axel. Secondly, don't worry that the other girls are trying doubles. Did you know that at olympic and world level there have been men who have won gold without a quad? Competing at senior men's without a quad is unheard of....but if you do all your jumps and all your spins to the best of your ability that can carry you a long way. So if you land your axel- FANTASTIC. If you don't, then just move on and you do the highest single jumps and the fastest spins that you can. And you might be surprised with the results." Skater B's face is stoic and she nods. Comprehension and slight relief replace the earlier horror on her face. When she steps on the ice, she lands her axel on one foot, but it's cheated on the landing. She does some high single jumps and some of the best spins that I have ever seen her do.

Skater C
Skater C recently turned thirteen and she is in permanent la la land. She forgot to warm up off ice and all she can really think about is her brand new cell phone. She's not worried about anything and she cheers her friends (Skater A and B) and all the other competitors with voracious clapping and shouting. When its her turn to skate I remind her to keep her core strong, hold her spins, and have fun. She nods and says, "Ok." in her cute cartoony voice.
She falls on her double salchow (and she takes an eternity to stand up from the ice), her butt is sticking up in the air on her back sit spin, she squeaks out her axel combination, her layback doesn't really hit a true position before she comes out of it, and at the end she fights for a squirrly landing on a double salchow/single toe loop combination. And I think to myself, this is the girl that placed top 3 at a competition two weeks ago. She comes off the ice smiling and shrugs. Whatev. It happens.

RESULTS: Skater A 5th place, Skater B 4th place, Skater C 7th place (dead last)

Stay tuned for more of As the Ice Melts

Friday, September 11, 2009

Green Chutney and Chole

So here is the the long awaited maid of honor speech you've been waiting for....
It is about my dear cousin Priya Chandan and her now husband Beau Hagler. Priya and Beau attend UAB School of Medicine and despite their rigorous study schedule they remain young at heart. When they mailed out their save the date cards Priya printed a quote from Dr. Seuss. And the quote got me thinking....I needed to utilize Dr. Seuss somehow in my maid of honor speech. So I decided to put my own twist on the ever famous Green Eggs & Ham.
Here it is... At the reception I read the part of Priya and the astounding Jared Dovers read the part of Beau.

Green Chutney & Chole
By Dr. Saxena

Priya: I am Priya
Priya Chandan

Beau: That Priya Chandan!
She has a permanent suntan!
I really like that Priya Chandan!

Priya: Do you like Green Chutney & Chole?

Beau: I’m from Mississippi, Priya Chandan.
I don’t know if I like Green Chutney & Chole, but try I can.

Priya: Would you like them at Volker Hall or my apartment?
While studying the renal system or some other abdominal quadrant?

Beau: I would like them here or there
I will eat them as long as you are there
(pretend to eat something and then pat your belly)
I think I like green chutney and chole
I think I like them Priya Chandan

Priya: Would you like them while we play Wii?
Would you like them while we watch a funny movie?

Beau: I like them in your house
Even though you eat like a mouse
While playing WOW here or there
I’ll eat green chutney and chole with you anywhere
I think you’ve got some beautiful hair
I think I like green chutney and chole, eat them I can
But I think I really like Priya Chandan

Priya: I like eating green chutney and chole with you Beau.
We seem to have a similar life tempo
To Atlanta will you go?
To meet Mama & Papa Chandan and eat a mango?

Beau: To Atlanta I will go
To eat green chutney, chole, and a slice of mango
And I will ask Papa Chandan if Priya’s hand in marriage he will bestow
I will eat green chutney and chole here or there
I will eat spicy Indian food with Priya anywhere
I really like Priya Chandan
I want to marry her, hope I can

Priya: You’re going to ask Papa Chandan!
So happy with joy, weep I can!
Are you going to ask him at the house?

Beau: No, I will ask when Mama Chandan is shopping at Kohl’s for a blouse
(Turn to invisible Papa Chandan)
Papa Chandan. She’s a Taurus and I’m a sagitarrius
I hope that one day a Hindu and a Christian Priest will marry us
I really like green chutney and chole Mr. Chandan
Can I marry your daughter? I hope I can.

Priya: Green Chutney & Chole! What did Papa Chandan say?
Can I eat green chutney and chole with you everyday?

Beau: He said, “What spell did you cast on my daughter, Harry Potter?”
Which I guess means yes.
But first I must make a plan to propose before I digress.
Shoo. Shoo. Go away I must eat green chutney and chole with you
another day. (shoo Priya away)(pretend to pick up phone)
Anita? I’m in a bit of a scuff. I want to propose to Priya tomorrow, and with
that artsy fartsy romantic stuff I’m a bit rough
What? Is a day’s notice not enough to put together all that girly stuff?
(nod and scratch your chin)
Ok, we’ve got a plan. But surprising Priya can be tough, yes it can
(hang up phone)

Priya: Oh Beau! Your tummy ache at the mall was fake!
Rose petals! Candles! It so much to take!

Beau: (Get down on one knee or pretend to propose)
Will you marry me Priya Chandan?

Priya: I will marry you Beau. Yes I can.
A Wedding! A Wedding! A Wedding! A Wedding!
Could you, would you, wear a kurta for the entire thing?

Beau: Of course! And then we can exchange wedding rings.

Priya: But first we must study for boards.
And then make weddings plans!
Will you drive to Atlanta in the dark?
Every weekend?
Would you could you drive to Atlanta almost every weekend, in the daylight
or possibly in the dark?

Beau: I will drive with you anywhere.
I’ll eat green chutney and chole in the car from here to there
I’ll eat green chutney and chole with you everywhere!

(Priya pats Beau’s stomach)

Priya: We’ll need to eat healthy and go to the gym,
A cake, shoes, a dress! We must not pick things on a whim!
Let’s throw some dance lessons in.

Beau: I love you Priya Chandan.
I’ll eat green chutney and chole with you forever, I will, I can!

Priya: I love you Beau Hagler
Lets eat and stop this silly banter

Priya and Beau are a unique pair with a bright future. They are caring, sweet, and despite the rigors of medical school, remain young at heart. I’m honored to be a part of their wedding day. I wish them infinite years of happiness and may they eat green chutney and chole forever!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Brave Hook

Back in 2005 I participated in a screenwriting workshop offered through Sidewalk and taught by the wonderful Elizabeth Bradley. Elizabeth gave a wonderful talk about the importance of a hook. Let's see if I can convey what she so artfully said back then.

She used the following example:
The movie Brave Heart is in essence the story of Scottish Independence. But the hook, the thing that made it so captivating was William Wallace with his bright blue war paint and bleeding heart. And the two women (the quaint Scottish girl in the village and the royal French hot lady) in William Wallace's life are two characters that draw you into his story. Without them the story wouldn't be relatable; only politics and genocide.

There has to be a reason for telling your story, your particular fantastical tale, or murder mystery. What makes your story worth reading?
There needs to be unique drama and conflict. And most importantly the protagonist must change. We're not talking about their hair color or just making a new friend. Their very soul must be inexorably affected by the conflict you construct in your story. If your protagonist is the same at the end as they are in the begining, then the protagonist isn't compelling or interesting.

Find that hook or angle that makes your romance or mystery or YA intriguing. Are you going to write a political diatribe on Scottish independence or are you going to weave in the story of a brave man with a torn heart who captivated and moved the down trodden Scottish people towards independence?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Selfish Excitement

My cousin is getting married on Sunday and I'm the maid of honor. And as the position calls for, I wrote a speech. I don't want to say something generic, or something mushy that would make me cry. For those of you who know me, I cry quite easily. I'm not ashamed to say it. I think people who are passionate about things have emotions that constantly teeter on the edge. And I think it's ok to go there sometimes.
But I digress...
It's not wrong to be excited about the wedding, but is it wrong to be slightly more excited to read out loud what I wrote to my family and friends?
After Sunday I'll post the "speech". But for now, it's top secret.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Means of Terrorist Communication

My boyfriend recently started working as a dental assistant at a pediatric clinic. After watching more cartoons and hearing more screaming children then he probably cares to, he has come to the conclusion that the television show Dora the Explorer is actually a secret means of communication for terrorists. Those moments of silence are really pauses so the terrorists can scribble down the encrypted message.