Saturday, December 25, 2010

MEGA END OF THE YEAR POST

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to Everyone! I haven't posted in a while, and thus, I have much to say. Get cozy, grab a blankie, maybe a cup of hot chocolate, sit back and enjoy.

Congratulations to the Newly Weds Roopa & Rishi
2010 was the year of weddings for my best friends and my year to be a bridesmaid/maid of honor. It was an absolute honor to stand by Sefali, Huong, and Roopa this year as they embarked on their new life journeys. Roopa and Rishi wed in an outdoor ceremony at the magnificent Eden Roc Hotel in Miami, Florida.
On Friday night Auntie and Uncle Dhawan treated us to dinner and a night of dancing on tables and throwing napkins in the air at the Greek Restaurant Taverna Opa. 


On Saturday we had a Bridal Luncheon at Fontaine Bleu. The bartenders were quite talented. Photos are courtesy of Tommie Sledge Ford.




And then after many other festivities, there was a beautiful wedding ceremony at Eden Roc's Ocean Garden, followed by an awesome reception.



And now transition.....


GOSSIP TIME: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Though I may have been vacationing here:

Author extraordinaire Stephanie Perkins transported my heart here:




 This books is light and funny. During this page turner, I totally related to the main character Anna and all of her friends at SOAP. And as Anna fell for Etienne St. Clair, totally hot French-British hybrid guy, I did too. This is an excellent feel-good read.















Aaaaand Transition....again....


Where I am with Writing

I don't have a bright shiny manuscript to top off 2010 with. But, I think I have learned a TON about writing this year. Part of my education came from reading 37 books this year (see sidebar for list). Part of my wonderful education came from the many people who critiqued my writing this year: Diane, Shane, Rebecca, Joshua- THANK YOU SO MUCH! And most importantly, part of my education came from writing, editing, re-writing, editing, re-writing, editing, re-writing. It's a never ending process really. But I feel optimistic about 2011 and can't wait to see where my writing takes me.

A Shout Out to Champion Sports Medicine

I didn't plan on tearing my ACL in March 2010. Losing the ability to skate, surgery, re-hab, etc.... it has been a loooong year. But, I want to give a shout out to Champion Sports Medicine and my therapists Ryan and Nacy. You worked tirelessly to help me get better and gave me hope. And I'd like to give a shot-out and fist pump to my trainer Dedrick. You are amazing! Thank you for kicking my butt into shape and making me believe in myself again. I will forever hear you chanting in my ear, Way to Work! Way to Work!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! See you in 2011!! Peace Out! 

P.S.
If you didn't get a White Christmas as us fortunate Alabamians, I'd like to share some snow with you:


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Book Shopping

I always give my ice skating students and close friends books for the holidays. I've read so many great books this year, I thought I'd share my pickings for this holiday season.

Books for a Young Teen (No swearing or sexy scenes)
I know everyone has their own opinion as to what is appropriate and inappropriate for teens. But, I feel like if I had a 12 to 14 year old, I'd be ok with them reading either of these.
Books for a Mature Teen or Adult (warning may contain sexy scenes and/or language and/or violence/scariness)
These were my all time favorites from this past year.
Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 10, 2010

NARNIA!!!

Books make the best movies. I guess it's weird that I get so excited about seeing these movies, because it's not like I don't know what's going to happen in them. It's just so cool seeing the characters that you imagined in your head come to life on the big screen.

Tonight I'm going to see The Chronicle of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I absolutely loved the first two movies and I can't wait to see the third. In addition to the great actors and awesome scenery, I LOVE the soundtrack. It's so moving and so indicative of the adventurous fantasy realm that C.S. Lewis created. Check out the trailer (please excuse the MMA fight advertisement in the beginning. I am in no way trying to advertise for two men beating the poo out of each other).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fictional Moral Standards

Yesterday Sarcastically Delicious (aka boyfriend) and I were at Wal-Mart buying goodies for the big Sunday night football game, Steelers versus Ravens (woot! woot! Go Steelers!). As we headed for the check-out we passed a table of cakes specifically decorated in honor for the release of Eclipse the movie on DVD. Jacob, Edward, and Bella all depicted in sugary, sparkly icing.

This of course got Sarcastically Delicious ranting and wondering why so many girls swoon for Edward. I explained it probably had something to do with his impeccable manners, his immaculate teenage body, combined with the wisdom of a ninety year old.

Sarcastically Delicious balked when I said ninety, and then retorted, "So you're telling me that Edward, a ninety year old man, got it on with an eighteen year old girl?!?"

"Well, technically, they were married when that happened," I argued.

"Doesn't matter. That's sick. He's a pedophile," Sarcastically Delicious said, his face wrinkled in disgust.

Of course I vehemently argued that Edward was not a pedophile of any sort. But, if you know Sarcastically Delicious, he is not an easy person to debate with because he uses such outlandish arguments. He argued that if a 30 year old woman got stuck in the body of a baby, then according to Edward, it would be ok if Sarcastically Delicious took that baby out on a date. Because despite how the baby looks, it has the intellect and abilities of a thirty year old.

Sigh. What do you guys think?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Knowing When You're Ready

December 1st was my first day back on the ice since July. After I had ACL surgery in March my surgeon cleared me to skate (in a straight line only) around last June (of course I did more than just skate in a straight line). When I got on the ice last summer it was really hard to bend and it was painful, but being as stubborn as I can be, I pushed through the pain. And in the end, it just wasn't fun. During that period I also worked too much and neglected my therapy, and then my quad atrophied. It turned into a mess. So to be blunt, I just wasn't ready to return to skating.

When I skated on December 1st (8 months after surgery) however, it was amazing, and it was pain free. I could actually move (for the most part) across the ice like I could before my injury and for the first time I saw that I had the potential to reach my former competitive form, and perhaps with a lot of hard work maybe become even stronger. As I was taking my skates off I realized that I had never been ready over the summer to hit the ice. Ice skating is just way too demanding on the knees and I hadn't been strong enough.

And of course, as in everything in life, this made me think of writing. How we often think our manuscript is ready to query. But, it's really not. But we only realize this after we've let it marinade for awhile in our drawers. Or we think our characters are developed enough in our minds, so we throw them into a plot, which is probably under-developed also, and then you just end up with a shoddy draft.

The published books that we read make it seem so easy sometimes. I don't know how one ever knows when things are ready, when they're really good enough. Sure you can have beta readers critique, and you pick and choose through their comments and suggestions. But how do you know what you should really listen to and what you shouldn't? What if we think we're ready or good enough to ignore such and such and suggestion, when really we're not, and we should be putting more faith in other people's thoughts and suggestions. What if? When? How? I know the golden rule is to listen to your heart, but what if your heart is wrong? 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Update

I'm not really sure where I'm going with today's post. I'm posting because I haven't since November 16th. I'm posting because I do feel like I have a few things to say to my oh-so-awesome followers. So here goes, in no particular order:
  • Read Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and loved it. It's a prequel to her Mortal Instruments Series (which if you haven't read and you like YA Fantasy--you should most definitely do). I hadn't actually read a book in a long time. Lately, I've only had time for audio books.This time when I read though, I paid particular interest to punctuation marks and grammar stuff. It was very educational. Reading this book though, did have an interesting negative effect on my creative psyche. I think Cassandra Clare is amazing at describing settings and she has this intuitive way of weaving words together so that it really puts the reader in the thick of things. After finishing this book I thought to myself, I don't think I can ever write like that....sigh....hence commenced a week or so of self-pity, self-doubt, and a bit of writer's block.
  • I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Enjoyed every minute of it. Kind of want to go watch it again. Thought the screenwriter did an excellent job. Sure, he cut a lot of stuff out, but he kept what was pertinent to the ultimate story, without making it look like he hacked through the book.
  • I haven't written in about 10 days or so. I'm at a really important part of my manuscript. I don't know if I'm just afraid to go forward because I fear poor execution, or if I'm just waiting for some epiphany to make this point in my manuscript just freaking awesome, or if it's just a combination of both. 
  • Just read an excellent post at Kiersten White's Blog. It makes me feel better about where I am at with my writing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Too Many Gadgets....

I'm heading out to San Francisco today for a conference (work not writing related). But, I do hope to get a lot of writing done on the plane. As I was packing late last night, I realized that other than underwear and clothes, I had a good bit of packing to do for my electronic gadgets.

First, I needed to pack my Nook. Then I realized I needed the charger, lest I have what happened to me last Saturday when I arrived at the gym to run the elliptical machine (aka read on the Nook time) and found that my Nook was at a critically low battery level. I was freaking out because I didn't know how I would bear running without something to read. In case, you haven't heard, I hate running. It's soooo boring. Fortunately, The Goblet of Fire was playing on the television so the thirty minute run breezed by.

Next, I realized I needed to pack a real book. You know, the kind made of paper, because you're not allowed to use electronic devices in a plane during take off, landing, or until you've reached cruising altitude.

Following the book, I decided to pack my iPod. I've got the Deathly Hallows in audio format on my iPod and it would be nice to at least listen to half the book in preparation for the release of the movie in just a few short days. Squee!!!!

My cell phone is a permanent fixture of my body, so that was a no-brainer,  but the charger is not. So I threw the charger into the ever growing back pack of gadgets.

Lastly, the laptop was a must pack item. Not only do I need it to work on my manuscript, but the power point presentations for the conference I'm attending are on it.  But, then I realized that I need to pack a journal, you know the kind that doesn't need electricity and is made of paper, because I can't use my laptop during take offs, landings, or until the plane reaches cruising altitude. And even though my Macbook Pro astounds me on a daily basis with its infinite battery life, I knew that the charger was a necessity, so I tossed it into the backpack as well.

Just for safe measure, I tossed in a USB flash drive (never know when you might need it) and a USB cable for my iPod. Whew. I feel like I'm carrying Best Buy in my back pack.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Emotional Response

I just finished listening to Mockingjay on my way to work this morning. Don't worry I'm not going to give away any spoilers. But,  I have to say I am a ball of emotions of right now. All be it, over something that isn't even real. Part of me wants to burst in tears, part of me wants to isolate myself from the world (perhaps in a wardrobe or storage closet like Katniss) and just reflect on all of it, part of me is happy, but it's all very bittersweet.

Suzanne Collins is an amazing writer and I have no problem throwing her in the J.K. Rowling category. At the end of the audio book, there was a brief recording from Suzanne Collins herself. She explains how the Hunger Games trilogy was based on the story of Theseus and the Minotaur and inspired by a day of channel surfing between reality shows where young people play for money and footage of the war in Iraq where young people are fighting for their lives.

If you haven't read this trilogy. Do it. Now. And if you don't have the time, do what I did. Check out the audio book from your local library.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fortune Cookie For You

This past Saturday my mom came to visit and we opened up some fortune cookies that had been sitting on the kitchen counter for quite sometime. My fortune was something stupid. You know one of those grammatically incorrect mish-mashes of nonsense. My mom's however, said Keep true to the dreams of your youth. I shrugged off the whole fortune cookie incident and went on with my weekend and my mom didn't say much about her fortune after that.

This morning, I found my Mom's fortune (see picture) sitting on the window sill. My mom and I both have an affinity for windows and sunlight, and when I saw the small white strip of paper sitting there I knew my mom had purposely left this fortune for me. Now, I don't know if a fortune is transferable to a person who didn't actually open the cookie, but I appreciate the sentiment just the same.

My mom is amazing (yes, I know I'm biased). But the thing that amazes me the most about her sometimes is how much understanding she has for my decisions and the way that I chose to live my life. My parents may not completely understand my whole life-long-writing-and-reading addiction, but they know it makes me happy, and that's all that matters. And this was just one her ways to demonstrate her support.

So on that note, I'd like to pass on my fortune to you. Stay true to your dreams. Whether they be about writing or any other endeavor, hope, wish, or dream that you may have. Don't ever never ever never never ever give up. (I hope those extra nevers and evers help make my point clear).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Zen Effect

Doesn't the title of this post sound like an awesome book title? (Just googled it. There is a book called Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts. But there is no book called The Zen Effect. Hmm.... I wonder if anyone has tried writing a book merely around a cool sounding title (even though the title probably wouldn't be used if it ever got published anyway because the publisher chooses the title)). Yes, I know I just did a parentheses within a parentheses. And yes, I know it must be a grammatical tragedy.

Transition.

I'd like to welcome all the new followers that dropped by from Theresa Milstein's Halloween Haunting.

Transition with a twist. (Kind of like a sprite, but not as sweet. Ok. Maybe these early morning posts are not a good idea.)

I had only one day off this past weekend. And other than a fabulous lunch with my cousin and family, I spent most of the day cleaning, doing laundry, running errands, and being woefully sad about not having time to write. One of the errands on my to do list was to drop off the audio books The Supernaturalist and Shadowland (both quite good, but are polar opposites) at the Hoover Public Library.

When I stepped into that library on Sunday my sour-funk-of-a-mood just melted away. The towering shelves of books, cushy chairs, and rows upon rows of audio books made me happy. The feeling only amplified when I found a copy of Clockwork Angel. That book came out just a few months ago and I've been dying to read Cassandra Clare's new series. See that's what I love about the Hoover Public Library- they actually stay up to date with new books. The unnamed library that is actually close to my house is so behind it's pathetic.

Anyway, back to the land of happy. Then I realized that since I won't have time to read Deathly Hallows again, I wanted to pick up the audio book copy (the narrator Jim Dale is AMAZING) because of the impending movie release. Needless to say, I was royally bummed when they were out of copies. But the nice library clerk lady reserved a copy for me and told me not to worry as they had 13 copies and one would surely be in soon. I walked around the library for a few more minutes, soaking up the feeling. Being in a library or bookstore for me is like being in a toy store for a child. As I walked, I was happy, and giddy, already scheduling my next writing session at the library in my mind, and hoping I could schedule a squeeze in a reading session in one of those squishy chairs. Sigh. Bliss.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Which one is better? One? Or Two?" Dr. Vader asked.

"The Force is strong with this one," Darth Vader said early this morning as he hijacked Anita Saxena's body. Her flesh morphed into plastic and mechanical parts, and she scrambled for her inhaltor, wondering if she was having an asthma attack.

Yup, that's me dressed as Darth Vader giving little kids eye exams. I have to say this is one of the MOST fun days at work I've ever had. Not only do I have a light sabre (which is a bit wimpy on the light part if you ask me) I also have a voice box that projects Darth Vader's loud, sonorous breathing.

I haven't dressed up for Halloween in YEARS. Years, I tell you. But when you're employer says they're holding a costume contest and the winner gets a PAID DAY OFF I'm going all out.

"And, now, your highness, we will discuss the location of your hidden rebel base." Darth Vader says.

Shut up Darth. Can't you see I'm busy blogging right now. Jeez.


"Today will be a day long remembered. It has seen the death of Kenobi, and will soon see the end of the rebellion," Darth says in an eerie raspy voice.

Umm....anyway. So, If I win, you know what I'm going to be doing with that paid day off....

"Perhaps I can find new way to motivate them," Darth muses.

Um.... No. If I win, I 'm going to spend the day WRITING. Duh?!? Of course.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SQUEEEE!!! T-Minus 22 Days Until Harry!!!

OMG! I now know why teens use this term so much. OMG describes that squirmy excited feeling that overwhelms your body to the point that you think you're going to BURST!! I can not explain how excited I am about the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I the MOVIE!!

Have you seen the trailer? If you haven't, you need to go see it RIGHT NOW. Go. It's ok. I'll wait.

Aren't you totally beside yourself from the suspense of it all?!? I don't know how I'm going to wait until midnight November 18th. Yes, I'm going to the midnight movie. Go ahead. Judge Me. See if I care.

To top things off, I'll actually be in San Francisco that week for a conference and the theater is literally like a block from my hotel. Double squee!!!  To prepare myself for the release I will be re-reading the Deathly Hallows. Although, I don't know why I always insist on re-reading the book prior to the movie release, because then all I do after the movie is point out all the things that were different from the book. Sigh. I'm still going to re-read it anyway.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting Lost in Your Own Manuscript

Natalie Bahm has a great post about the chain reaction caused by revising. Her post got me thinking about my own revising and writing, and I realized I have a problem: I get lost in my own writing. As the manuscript accumulates more words, it becomes difficult for me to differentiate between the story in my head and the one that is actually typed out. Even though I didn't formally acknowledging this problem to myself until a few days ago, I've been utilizing techniques to circumvent my little problem:
  • When I sit down for a writing session I always start by reading the previous chapter or two (and of course I can't read without editing). 
  • I refer to my detailed outline frequently. Back in the day, I was the writer who cringed at the word outline. Go with the flow was my motto. Now, my outline is my life line and I find myself updating it on a daily basis. Just small changes here or there, nothing drastic (usually).
  • I know they say that a serious writer writes everyday, but writing everyday just isn't happening for me right now because I still work full time and am rehabbing my ACL (which is a full time job in and of itself). But, I can honestly say I write every other day. On my off writing days, I think about my book, the characters, their problems, the plots. Just thinking about things keeps the story fresh in my mind and reduces my fictional amnesia. Sometimes I will even jot down random thoughts on my off days and then refer back to them the next day. Small details like make sure Grandpa Miles puts on his reading glasses when he reads OR rework Maya's reaction to X, a teenager would react to X like this.
You may not get lost in your story, maybe it's just me. Maybe you do get lost. Either way, you have to figure out a way to get around it- outsmart yourself. I think the best solution to this problem is to of course write everyday. Any other suggestions?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What?!?

I was driving my car, listening to Eoin Coiffer's The Supernaturalist. I was on disc 5, the last disc in the case, and I'm thinking to myself how is Mr. Coiffer going to wrap this story up by the end of disc 5? There are too many loose strings, too many character dilemmas to work out. How is he going to do it by the end of this disc? Just this expectation alone, regardless of the intense plot, had me on the edge of my seat. When the end of disc 5 came it was anti-climatic. It didn't make sense. How could you end a story like that? It reminded of how I went to see the Fellowship of the Ring in the theaters (this was before I had read the books) and how disappointed I was by the ending. When was Frodo going to get the ring to Mordor? I didn't know there was going to be a second movie.

Anyway, I turn off the CD player and pick up the audio book case. On the back cover it said there were supposed to be six CDs. SIX. Not five. SIX.

Me and the Hoover Public Library are going to be having some words about this.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Anita's Edge: The No Camel Zone

Today's post is a hybrid of Bill O'Reilly's No Spin Zone and Kiersten White's Household Memos. It's called the The No Camel Zone because camels happen to be my favorite ice skating spin (well actually, I think the layback is, but The No Layback Zone just wouldn't make sense). And also because camels are smelly animals.

Dear Brett Favre,

I've always looked up to you because of your passion for football. It doesn't matter how many times someone calls you an old man, you go out on the field throw a touchdown, and then run around in celebration as if it's the first touchdown you've thrown in your life. I respect your passion for the game and desire to be an athlete despite your age.
Did you really text message a picture of your bo jangles to some girl that looks like a younger version of your wife? Did you? Since the story broke I've had to put up with Sarcastically Delicious (aka boyfriend) making jokes about gray haired winkies. It's not fun.

Yours still-reeling-from-the-shock-of-your-bo-jangles-fiasco,
Anita

Dear Fox News,

How have you managed to hypnotize Sarcastically Delicious? I understand that some important elections are coming up on November 2nd, but all he does is watch Fox News all day long. Well, I might be exaggerating. But, the other day he wanted to watch Fox News instead of Sunday Night Football! Can you explain that to me? Plus he makes me watch Fox News. I like staying up to date on current events, but after I've worked all day with screaming children, I don't particularly like coming home to watch people argue with each other about political issues. I hold YOU accountable for this Fox News.

Seriously annoyed,
Anita


Dear IRS,

I've been working my patootie off this past month. How do you get off taking away 43% of my paycheck. It's highway robbery!!! I went to school for eight years to do what I do, and I still have to pay back my student loans. How am I supposed to do that when you take 43% of my paycheck!!!

Sincerely ticked off,
Anita

And since this blog is also supposed to be about writing, check out this post by Sarah Dessen.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing is Good For the Soul

I don't know if you guys feel this way, but sometimes I feel like a robot. I do what I need to do, whether it be one of my many jobs, or cleaning the litter box (which made me gag five times yesterday. That is why I always clean the litter box on an empty stomach.). As I morph into this robot I feel all semblance of creativity literally seeping out my pores, until I'm left as this mechanical life form that thrives on WD-40 and pre-programmed repetitive actions. Feeling like a robot makes me sad. I don't feel like Anita anymore.

And then I received an e-mail from my crit partner Diane. She's talking about a book. I think it's my book. I'm writing a book? Oh, yes. I guess I am. And then she starts discussing specific characters and scenes and something lights up inside me, a spark of something. Are these my peeps that she's talking about? Characters that I created? As I read her e-mail a smile forms on my lips. It's not because she's telling me I'm a flawless, fantabulous, masterful writer (although she does give me tons of encouragement). It's because reading her e-mail, thinking about the story that I'm writing, contemplating her suggestions, makes me feel like a human again. Spending this time in imagination land makes the robotic metal melt into flesh and I feel like Anita again.

Writing must be good for the soul. Right?

On this note, I suggest checking out Natalie Whipple's Happy Writing Society. Every Friday there's a meeting. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Who Says 12 Year Old Boys Don't Like Kissing

Some people like to break the ice with a joke. I prefer to start a blog post with a picture. Something that sets the tone for the day's subject matter. So what did I do? I googled kissing and clicked the images link. Bad idea, especially while at work. Let's just say I didn't find a cute cartoon girl and boy, holding hands, sharing an innocent smooch. But I did find this picture. Isn't it fab?

Now on to what this post is really about....

Some of you know that I'm an optometrist. Today I examined a twelve year old boy who loved to ask me random questions. I humored him with short simple answers. Near the end of the exam he asked me if I liked Greek mythology. I could have answered this with a simple yes or no. Instead I asked him if he had read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. This kid literally bounced in his chair from the sheer excitement of me uttering the words Percy Jackson. And you know what the next thing he said was?

It wasn't about the fighting.
It wasn't about Mount Olympus or the cool weapons.
It wasn't about the monsters.

"I can't believe Percy and Annabeth don't kiss until book 5!?!?"

Case closed. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blew My Pants Off

I apologize for my infrequent posting last week. While I wasn't posting I was writing, reading, or partaking in things that were quite literally blowing my pants off.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Normally, I would dedicate an entire gossip time post to this book. But, honestly what's the point. Everyone on the planet has read this book already. I'm not quite sure why I waited so long to read it. Sometimes, I wait for an entire series to be published before I plunge myself in it's world because I can't stand waiting for the next book sometimes. As many of you already know, this book is AMAZING, and if you haven't already, you need to read it, like right now. I'm currently listening to Catching Fire in the car and the drive to work just flies by.

Karate Kid starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan
I know. I know. You're probably wondering why I'm posting about Karate Kid. Over the summer, I saw the preview for this movie a couple times The story of a kid moving to another country, the ensuing teasing, the deep desire to go home- it resonated with me on so many levels that tears would fill my eyes whenever I saw the preview.
I moved ALOT growing up. Each move became increasingly difficult. Add in the dorky glasses, wearing hand sewn dresses that my grandmother made (which I now look back on with fond pride), and being Indian- let's just say growing up wasn't easy.
For Jaden Smith's character it was Kung Fu that transformed him. For me it was ice skating.

Awesome Guest Posts over at Nathan Bransford's Blog
On Saturday Brodi Ashton wrote a great post called When You Discover Your Agent's Not That Into You and then on Sunday Valerie Kemp posted about The All-Important First Chapter.


 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gossip Time....Carpe Diem

My close friends know that I love to travel. I frequently dream of selling everything and traipsing around the world. No job. No schedule. No worries. And if I ever need money for food or something like that, I want to do something cool, like be a tour guide for castles in Ireland or teach people in the desert how to ice skate (of course there would need to be ice) or drive a boat around the Mediterranean (of course there would be people inside my boat paying me to chauffeur them to Greece or wherever it is that we are going).

So when I read the back cover of Carpe Diem, written by Autumn Cornwell, I was immediately hooked:

"I've got my entire life planned out for the next ten years- including my PhD and Pulitzer Prize," claims overachiever Vassar Spore, the daughter of overachiever parents, who named her after an elite women's college. Vassar expects her sophmore summer to include both AP and AAP (Advanced Advanced Placement) classes. Suprise! Enter a world-traveling relative who sends her plans into a tailspin when she blackmails Vassar's parents into forcing their only child to backpack with her through Southeast Asia....

The term "overachiever" doesn't even come close to describing how over the top Vassar is about her academics and her incessant need to make plans and lists for everything. To be honest, I almost stopped listening (the narrator Lynde Houck does a fantastic job) to the book in the beginning because I couldn't stand Vassar's anal-I've-got-a-stick-up-my-butt character. But once Vassar was forced to leave her perfect, bubble world in North America and had to deal with roughing it in Asia the story became everything from hilarious to riveting. I don't know when I'll get the opportunity to back pack through Southeast Asia, but I feel like I vicariously experienced Vassar's adventures.

By the way, Ms. Cornwell has an awesome website (in particular check out her bio page). She's been to 22 countries! I'm so jealous.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Good and Great

A week ago I started participating in a program for athletes recovering from ACL surgery. It's for athletic patients who have finished with regular therapy, but still aren't quite ready to return to their sport. Today was my second session and I absolutely love my trainer.
Today while doing the oh-so-fun-make-your-ass-quiver hamstring towers, my trainer pointed to my right knee and asked if that was my good leg.
"Oh, no that's my bad leg," I replied.
"Anita, we don't have bad legs. Your operated leg is your good leg and your left leg is your great leg," Oh-So-Awesome-Trainer said.
I smiled at this, clenched my glut tighter, and showed that hamstring tower who was boss.

The good and great comment lifted my spirits and as I drove home from the gym, my arms so shaky I could barely turn the steering wheel, I of course thought about how this applied to writing.

Cutting Scenes
As I revise, edit, revise, edit I often come across scenes, that as much as I don't want to accept, aren't necessary because they don't contribute to character development or plot. I cut these scenes out and save them in a Word document called cut scenes. This document is a collection of scenes cut from multiple version of my manuscript and sometimes I like to go back and peruse. Usually, I think of cutscenes.doc as a trash bin, full of rotting food, maggots, and such. But, when I looked back and read through it the other day, I realized it's not all muck. There is something good in every scene. Even if the scene was putrid, the good part was that I learned form it. If I hadn't written it I would have never learned why it was so putrid.


Drawer Novels
I don't know about you, but sometimes I like to think these don't even exist. I like to pretend that I never showed such poo to my friends. But, they're awesome and supportive and still ask to this day How's the book coming? Sometimes, when I'm procrastinating from cleaning the bathroom or the litter box I'll pull out one of these relics of the past and read. The mistakes blare and I cringe. But, it's not all bad. There is some good. It's good because I sat down and wrote the freaking thing in it's entirety. It's good because I wrote it in all its awful glory and then continued to hone my skills as I writer so I could learn from my mistakes.

The CEO of the non-profit clinic I work at often says Good is the enemy of the great, so be GREAT.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Finding the Writer You Want to Be Like

In ice skating, when I have trouble landing a jump, I'll ask another skater to execute the jump. Watching someone else land what I'm trying to do helps me visualize what I want to accomplish. (On a side note, I can't believe I'm talking about landing ice skating jumps since I haven't been able to jump since March 10, 2010 and don't know if I ever will be able to again. Ok, self proclaimed pity party is now officially over.)
Now, I know no two writers are the same and I am in no way telling you to copy any one else's literary style, but I do think it helps to read books that you want to write like. Now, don't say you want to be the next Stephenie Meyer or J.K. Rowling. Be realistic.
  • Point of View- For me, writing in first person comes naturally. I think it does for most people. But due to agent recommendation (and I concur) my story needs to be told in third person. Anytime I read a YA book in third person I'm immediately drawn to it because it's an example of what I'm trying to accomplish.
  • Voice - I think I'm a bit more traditional in my writing style. In my YA I don't use a lot of teen jargon unless it is in conversation. And because my story is not told in first person I can pull away from the I mean that was totally snap when Joe got in Robbie's face like that. I'm exaggerating, but I think you catch my drift. Some of my favorite writers are Kristen Cashore, Christopher Paolini, and Ally Carter because I love their voice.
  • Narrowing Down Your Genre - I write fantasy and there is so much fantasy out there for me to read and draw upon. But, personally I'm drawn to a particular brand of fantasy. This may sound silly, but I like real fantasy. By real I mean that the world in the book pretty much exists as it does for me in my life, but there is one anomaly. A good example would be Twilight. Bella's world is relate able. She lives in Forks drives to school in a car, not a space ship. But there is one element that is an anomaly in her world, and that would be the existence of hot mythical beings such as Jacob and Edward. Kristen Cashore's Graceling is another example. Even though Cashore has created her own seven kingdoms, the people eat, sleep, and live pretty much like we do (or did in like the 1700 or 1800s). There is just one anomaly. Sometimes people are born with mismatched eyes and are graced with uncanny abilities.
Recently I came across THE book. The book that fits all the above criteria (plus some others I have in my head but don't know quite how to verbalize). It matches my dream for execution, voice, plot- everything that I want my book to be. It doesn't mean I'm going to try to copy it or anything like that. It's just more of an inspiration that my vision is possible.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gossip Time...The Heist Society


Heist Society, written by Ally Carter, is like Ocean's Eleven but for teens! Do you know how much I love Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, and Ocean's Thirteen?!? These movies glamorize the lives of thieves and are full of witty, subtle humor (my favorite kind). And of course some George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt never hurt either.
 Ahem, now that we have the eye candy over with, let's talk about the amazingness Ally Carter has created with Heist Society. Nothing can sum this book up better than the synopsis on the back cover:

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre...to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria...to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own-- scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal proves harder than she expected.
Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back to the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster's priceless art collection has been stolen and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled off this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat's dad needs her help...

I actually listened to this on audio book and the narrator Angela Dawe is phenomenal. There are two things I learned about writing from Ally Carter:
  • Building suspense by holding back information. There are a couple scenes where Kat will look at a photo or read a letter, but Ms. Carter never tells us what Kat sees. In my head, I remember thinking What is it? What did she see? What did it say? This technique is used in movies all the time, and it wasn't until I read Heist Society that I realized how this technique can be used to build suspense in writing.
  • Conversation that leaves you yearning for more. I think I have a habit of letting my characters be too transparent with each other. When there is too much transparency there isn't any tension. When Katarina and the other characters speak to each other it's often in witty, clipped phrases that don't entirely divulge the matter at hand. As a reader this made me want to pull my hair out from the sheer suspense and tension of it all. Ally Carter you're awesome.
Needless to say, if you're looking for a good read, you won't be disappointed by Heist Society.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

California Education

Last Thursday I had the honor of flying to California to be a bridesmaid in my good friends Diem & Andy's wedding. It was a beautiful event and I couldn't be happier for the couple. My friend Diem is drop dead gorgeous, look right for proof. My friend Rashi, a fellow bridesmaid, used the phrase "A star among stars." I wouldn't call myself a star, but I was honored to be in the company of such lovely ladies (see below).












While I was away in California, I learned a lot of nifty pieces of information:
  • Soy beans are grown in circular crop formations
  • To drive in the carpool lane in California you only need two passengers in the vehicle. It amazed me how many vehicles on the 405 had only 1 person in them.
  • When you hear that voice in your head that says: This is a bad idea. You shouldn't swing like a monkey from a series of 6 feet high rings because you might fall and hurt your knee. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS LISTEN TO THAT VOICE. No major damage was done, but still I should have listened.
  • Of the many cities that Southwest flies to, 19 of those cities are state capitals.
I probably won't post again for the week because I have a ton of weddings to edit and I have to prepare the first five hundred words of my manuscript for Agent Mary's webinar tomorrow over at Writer's Digest. Agent Kristen Nelson is also having a webinar on How to Write and Sell Fantasy and Science Fiction on September 30th. Check it out. See everyone next week.

Peace Out.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mt. Climax

You know that point in a plot where the main character reaches a point of no return? He or she can't go back to the good ole' life they had. They can't undo whatever decisions they made that got them into the mess they're in now. Granted, it's not all the main character's fault because there are always external forces at play, things that are completely outside of the main character's control. But the main character is irrevocably changed none the less, and as they reach that final push and look down from the pinnacle of Mt. Climax, the world is spread before them, miniaturized. The pieces of their past, the foreshadowing, the supporting characters, the chain of minor and major conflicts spread out like a criss-crossing trans-continental rail road track- it's all mapped out so clear.

Yup, that's where I'm at right now in real life. I know that once I make it past the last turning point and am comfortably settled in the after math, I should be able to look back and say, "Man, that's some good writing material."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Tale of Two Kitties

 The following story is based on true events:

Cottonball looked over at her furry feline boyfriend, Orange-and-White-Kitty. "Did you see what happened at the Saxena house the other night."
"No. What?" Orange-and-White-Kitty said as he stretched his paws in front of him and yawned.
Cottonball sauntered closer and gave Orange-and-White-Kitty a lick on the forehead. He had a piece of fur out of place and she couldn't stand it, what with her OCD and all.
"Well, you know that bird that always squawks at us whenever we get close to the Saxena house?"
"Yeah. She's so annoying." Orange-and-White-Kitty said and rolled his eyes. He flipped onto his back, letting the sun warm the fur on his under side.
"She died last night," Cottonball said then coughed. She then erupted into a spasm of wheezes.

Ignoring his girl's respiratory troubles, Orange-and-White-Kitty could only think of the news Cottonball had delivered.
Died.
The word brought back a flood of memories from a past that Orange-and-White-Kitty didn't want to remember. He usually kept the memory of the loved ones he had lost locked up tight in the recesses of his mind, but he couldn't push away the pain. He felt empathy for the Saxena family. They seemed like nice people, and even though that bird was freakin' annoying, he felt their sorrow.
"Perhaps we should pay the Saxena's a visit," Orange-and-White-Kitty suggested.
Cottonball agreed. The two of them stood and they made the block or so trek to the Saxena home and then settled themselves on the shady front porch. The cold cement felt good against Cottonball's flushed skin and it helped calm her wheezing that had intensified from the walk.

Not long after, the Saxena's arrived home. Mr. Saxena carried a bag of groceries and Mrs. Saxena stopped at the porch to admire her new fluffy visitors. She put out a bowl of water and after a quick repeat run to the grocery store, put out a bowl of a Nine Lives Crunchy Cat Food- Orange-and-White-Kitty's absolute favorite.

Had Orange-and-White-Kitty and Cottonball found a potential new home? Will Cottonball's respiratory illness progress?

Stay tuned next week for the next episode of a Tale of Two Kitties.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Shout Out

I am an avid follower of the blog Kiersten Writes. Over the past year or so, I've had the opportunity to get to know her via her witty and often laugh out loud blog posts. Not only does she share her wisdom about writing but she also writes hilarious ancedotes about yettis and conversations with her laptop.

On August 31 Kiersten White debuted her first novel Paranormalcy. I'm in the middle of reading it and have fallen in love with the main character Evie and her side kick, a pink taser named Tasey. Since her debut at the end of August, Kiersten has sold movie rights to Paranormalcy and landed herself on the New York Times Best Sellers List.

She is such a short, sweet, funny person and an undeniable inspiration to all of us aspiring writers out there that I just had to give a shout out to Kiersten White and all her recent success.
P.S. If you've picked up a copy of Paranormalcy (and if you haven't you should go do so right now), check out the contest that Kiersten is holding.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Week of Ideas and Inspirations for Writing from the Pocket Muse PART FIVE

My favorite excerpt #5 from Monica Wood's The Pocket Muse:

Nobody has to see that first draft but you. You can eat it when you're done. You can make it into origami animals and decorate a table. You can dunk it in hot water, stir it up, mash it back into pulp. You can build a fire, line a birdcage, stuff a pillow.

You can't do any of this, however, until your write the thing.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this week of tid bits from Monica Wood's The Pocket Muse. Not only does this book have valuable information, but Ms. Wood suggests plenty of exercises to help stimulate the writer brain.

Stay tuned next week where I may post my first ever VLOG and share a secret fear. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Week of Ideas and Inspirations for Writing from the Pocket Muse PART FOUR

My favorite excerpt #4 from Monica Wood's The Pocket Muse:

MOST GOOD STORIES ARE ABOUT TROUBLE

Trouble getting from point A to point B
Trouble being understood
Trouble understanding
Trouble doing something
Trouble having something done to you
Trouble talking
Trouble listening
Trouble within
Trouble without
Trouble being human

The list is endless, of course. When your own work befuddles you, ask yourself: What is the nature of the trouble I am trying to explore?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Week of Ideas and Inspirations for Writing from the Pocket Muse Part Three....

My favorite excerpt #3 from Monica Wood's The Pocket Muse:

A Tip for Revision 


I call this exercise "color coding." First identify the area you wish to address:


Plot?
Theme?
Language/ Style?
Ratio of analysis to incident?
Dialogue vs. narrative?
Reflection vs. action?


Next apply highlighters in different colors to diagnose possible problems.

Ms Wood then proceeds to show how to analyze samples of a personal essay, short fiction, and poem. If you want to learn more, get the book =)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Week of Ideas and Inspirations for Writing from the Pocket Muse CONTINUED....

My favorite excerpt #2 from Monica Wood's The Pocket Muse:

A Tip on Structure

Most good stories, even unconventional ones, contain these classic story elements:

Setup: Three bears go for a walk while their porridge cools.

Complication: Blonde perpetrator breaks in.

Rising Action: Perp chows down, breaks chair, gets some shut-eye.

Meanwhile: Bears get home and survey the wreckage.

Climax: Discovered in Baby Bear's bed, perp screams and flees.

Denouement: Bears live happily ever after.

Does your story have a missing piece?

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Week of Ideas and Inspirations for Writing from the Pocket Muse

Whew...that was a long post title.
Every day this week I will be sharing my favorite excerpts from Monica Wood's The Pocket Muse- Ideas and Inspirations for Writing. I received this book as a gift (Thanks Catherine!) and whenever I feel down in the writerly dumps, reading a page or two from The Pocket Muse, lifts my creative spirits and enlightens me.

A Tip on Style

One way to enliven your prose is to avoid the use of the verb to be: am, are, is, was, were, etc. Very often you can trace a dull passage to the overuse of that pesky verb. Look at these two examples:

When she finally emerged from the house, Mary was stunned. The sun was blinding, but the weather was cold. All around her were frozen trees that had broken off at their waists. Everything was both beautiful and awful.

Eliminating the verb to be forces you to think about your method of expression, often yielding a more poetic and precise passage:

Mary emerged from the house, stunned by the blinding sun. The trees, broken off at their waists, lay over the yard, each naked branch encased in a sleeve of ice. The day felt both beautiful and awful.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Time

Here is a simple revelation that is bringing me a lot of freedom:
There is enough time..... --Claire Cloninger

This morning I was in kind of a funk. Life handing me lemons and I'm not making lemonade- that kind of thing. When in reality, I know I should be happy that life is even giving me lemons, because hey, I'm alive. It's life.

While I was getting ready for work this morning, a tiny book caught my eye, Life's Little Blessings by Thomas Kinkade. The book was a present from Sarcastically Delicious (aka boyfriend) half a decade or so ago. Sarcastically Delicious knew that I admired Kinkade's art, and being in college he couldn't afford an actual painting, so he purchased a tiny book that features Kinkade's work, miniaturized, with superimposed thoughtful quotes.

Ms. Cloninger's quote resonated with me on so many different levels. As writers, we have to straddle between the fictional realms in our minds and real life. Sometimes it feels like real life takes over and there is never adequate time to write. Sometimes we're too hard on ourselves, imposing self-made deadlines and word quotas. Isn't it always about time? Time is money. Time is intangible. Time is infinite, yet can seems finite. Time. Time. Time.

When I was in high school and college I was a watch junkie, verging on OCD in the number of times I would look at my wrist to check what time it was. My life wasn't that complicated back then. School, skating, and work. Pretty straight forward. Then one day when I broke my watch as a result of an ice skating fall, and I practically freaked out,  I realized I was way too high strung about time. 

Solution: stop wearing a watch. 

To this day I don't wear a watch. I just won't do it. I don't want to turn into that thing again. Although, I do admit that I will look at my cell phone a couple times a day to check the time. But, a couple times a day is normal, right?

Back to Ms. Cloninger....
I can't really put my finger on it, but Ms. Cloninger's quote gave me hope today. It made me realize that life didn't have to snowball and there really is time for all that I want to accomplish. I just have to be patient and...er...give it time.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gossip Time.....The Summoning

It's been a while since I've done a gossip time. And I feel the need to gossip about Kelley Armstrong's The Summoning, Book 1 of the Darkest Powers series. Before I had even finished listening to this book on CD, I ran to the library to get book 2 The Awakening, horror that it not be there the very second I finished book 1. Luck was on my side, they had book 2.
 
The Summoning is the story of  fifteen year old Chloe Saunders who is sent to a group home for teens called the Lyle House because she is seeing ghosts.  The doctors at Lyle House tell Chloe she has schizophrenia. But rather than swallow this pill (literally and metaphorically because at one point Chloe stops taking their meds), Chloe and a few other kids at Lyle house band together. It turns out they're supernaturals.

As I listen to this story unfold, it strikes me over and over again how well thought out Armstrong's characters are. She could head up a school on character development. The plot is rich with many interwoven sub-plots and motivations. And if you don't have time to read it, the narrator of the audio version is excellent.

I'm near the end of The Awakening, so I need to cut this short so I can go pick up Book 3, The Reckoning.
While I'm out, check out Kelley Armstrong's amazing website.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm Back!

Did you miss me? Just spent an amazing weekend with my besties in Vegas. And of course I can't indulge you in the debauchery, because as they say, what ever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

About to steal a lead in from the amazing Nathan Bransford.

You tell me: For all you avid writers out there, do you feel that your reading experience is somewhat different now that you know the inner workings of plot, pacing, and character development; now that you're in the trenches carving out your own novel?

For example, I was listening to The Summoning by Kelly Armstrong the other day, and something horrible happened to the main character, Chloe. And I was like, wow look at how Ms. Armstrong just "raised the stakes" and as I read further, the plot thickened, and I remember thinking to myself that the story had just reached "the point of no return."

I assume regular-non-writer-people don't think like this while they read. You tell me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Skating Update

As many of you loyal followers know, I tore my ACL on March 10, 2010 and it absolutely devastated me. But, after I had surgery, my life changed considerably, and once I got over pitying myself, I learned that every mishap in your life, somehow has a silver lining, no matter how thin it may be.

I learned how to slow my life down. Learned, really isn't the appropriate term, my ailing knee forced me to slow down. I'm a dreamer and I think I was just trying too hard to achieve too many dreams at once. I was on a downward spiral to stress, heart attack, and just plain working-too-much insanity. Since the injury I haven't found more time to write per say. But, I have learned to give myself time to think, relax, and spend more time with the friends and family that I love. And when I do have time to write, I can see the difference in the quality of prose that I produce. My characters are richer. I feel my voice actually shines through the words I string together. And in the end I take joy in reading what I have written.

I've also found time to read more. I've found time to beta more, and I love critiquing for my new writer buddy, Diane Magras. But, I love even more contemplating  the thought provoking suggestions Diane gives me on Product of an Illusion.

That being said...
I am back on the ice. Slowly, in a way, relearning to skate. Truthfully, I don't think that its my body that has forgotten to skate. I can feel myself wanting to turn and flow as I did before the injury. The biggest challenge I face is having to actually think about contracting my quad and glut when skating. I have never had to think about what muscle to contract to accomplish a specific skating element or to push through a therapy exercise. It's like the nervous connection between my brain and the muscles in my right leg became apathetic after surgery. Granted, there is significant muscle weakness in my right leg. But, that's a given. The strength will come back in time. It's a challenge to say the least.

That is why I'm absolutely bursting with glee. Today was the first day since my injury that I muddled through the Starlight Waltz, Paso Doble, and Argentine Tango. Even though my legs are absolute Jello right now, this progress makes me all sorts of happy. Not only did I skate these dance, but also with the support of my wonderful coach, I was able to do counter, rocker, and bracket turns on my right foot. So happy. Can't even explain it. =)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reading Binge

On the right hand side of my blog I have a column dedicated to the books I have read in 2010. I have to admit that I'm a bit surprised to see how much I have read/listened to this year.

 The amount that I read ebbs and flows with the different stages of my life. When I was in elementary school, if I helped my Mom with the chores, she would take me to the grocery story (yes, back then there were not any Barnes&Nobles or Borders) and I would pick up the latest release of the Baby Sitters Club series. I then would take said book home, huddle up in a corner, and read that book until it was completely finished because I coudln't go another day without knowing what happened to Kristy and the gang.

Then as I became a teenager, reading fell to the wayside, and wasn't until I was fifteen or sixteen and a good friend's mother suggested that I read Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks. I couldn't put it down and oh how I cried. Mr. Sparks has a way of bringing out my emotional side (which I admit isn't really that hard to do). But he did rekindle my love for reading again.

And then college came and I didn't have time to read. I even stopped writing in my journal. I even forgot that I ever wanted to be a writer. Yes, college was a confusing time. But you know who set everything right around senior year of college. A 12 year old boy with round, black glasses and a wand with a phoenix feather core. Through graduate school the only fiction I managed to read was Harry Potter.

Then after graduate school I fell into the pits of what many call real life. But then a certain sparkly vampire and accident prone girl sucked me into the world of books, and I haven't stopped reading since.

And here we are in 2010 and I have read so many great books! I feel like I am back in my elementary school days, reading voraciously, book after book. What books have you read and adored this year?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Non-Writer Folk

I sometimes wonder what people do who don't have the desire to write. Do they watch a lot of television? Exercise more? Hit the clubs? Spend more time with family and friends?

My days revolve around my family, friends, occupation, and ice skating (aka rehabbing my ACL). But whenever I get a free moment, my mind immediately flits to the characters in my book. I'm imagining the next scene, contemplating a character's motive, thinking about red herrings, or brainstorming ways to improve my plot.

What do non-writer-people think of during their free time? What fills their minds when they're not thinking about their families, jobs, religion, hobbies, etc...? Do they think of anything else? Do us writers have a special compartment in our brain for the imaginary that other people don't?

Writers are a breed unto themselves and often only writers can relate to how another writer's mind works.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I've Been Solving a Puzzle

I apologize for my absence from Anita's Edge. The least I could have done is called and left message, at least let you know where I've been. I can be so inconsiderate at times. But, I've been busy.....

I'VE BEEN SOLVING A PUZZLE!!

It's not a hundred piece puzzle or a five hundred piece puzzle. It  feels like someone opened up ten different puzzle boxes and spilled the pieces everywhere and I have to find every single puzzle piece. You know, the ones stuck between the cushions of the coach, the one the dog buried in the back yard (I don't have a dog...he's more of a metaphorical mutt), the piece your senile great aunt put in the freezer. Yes, I have to find every single, freakin' piece. Then I have to figure out which puzzle the piece belongs to.

By now, you've probably figure out that I'm not talking about a puzzle you buy at the toy section at Wal-Mart. Yes, this post is yet again about my manuscript. I know. I'm self indulgent.

Some people may call this process "outlining." But what I'm doing is more than outlining. It's more like I'm hosting a show of Unsolved Mysteries in my brain. As many of you know, I'm revising (more like rewriting) my manuscript, Product of an Illusion. But this time, I am being brutally honest with myself and I am leaving no stone unturned.

Step1: I took the advice of Agent Mary over at kidlit.com and initiated the painstaking process of writing 100 Declarative Sentences about each of my major and minor characters. This has truly been an eye opening experience and helped me solve problems in my plot, as well as discover new ideas to strengthen my story.

Step 2: Determined to not let massive amounts of work deter me from writing, I've started talking to myself in the car (I'm sure I look no weirder than people who sing in their car). I'm not writing, per say, but I vocally outline and work out character and plot problems. I record my musings on my iPhone. Later, when I have time, I listen to the recordings, type out the brilliant stuff, and fast forward through the bad.

Step 3: I'm not leaving any stone unturned. If a character does something in my book there has to be a motivation for his or her actions. Unfortunately, a character's motivations aren't always easy to read (like people in real life) so I've started a list of "unknowns." I have to turn every unknown into a known. I may not necessarily mention it in the story, but I have to know the whys, whens, and hows, since I'm the creator of my fictional world.

The puzzle-that-is-my-manuscript can be fun and exciting at times and then other times I want to flush the puzzle pieces down the toilet.

But, that's where I've been, pretending to be Sherlock Holmes in a way, hoping that one day, when this whole rewrite is figured out, I can look at my finished manuscript and say, "Elementary, my dear Watson. Elementary."*

*Although, Snopes disagrees that Sherlock Holmes ever said this line.

Monday, July 5, 2010

We'll Miss You Kiwi Lacey

Kiwi Lacey Saxena passed away suddenly June 26, 2010. She had been a part of our family for fifteen years. She was special to the Saxena family, but will also be missed by the many friends she made through out the years. Not only was she known for her insatiable love for cheese (which was most likely the cause of her untimely death) but her preference for west coast versus east coast rap. She'd bob her head and break it down any day to California Love.

Kiwi Lacey, the only potty trained blue crowned conure that I know of, enjoyed eating safflower seeds, head massages from my brother (see photo to right), and the occasional bath in her water bowl. We never needed to invest in a home security system as Kiwi Lacey always kept an eye out for perimeter breaches, immediately alerting us with an ear splitting squawk. When our dogs were alive, she would relay orders to them, and they would disperse to various look out points, then report their findings back to her.

Kiwi Lacey was also known to cop and attitude from time to time when she knew that you were intentionally ignoring her. Nobody could say "hello" with as much sarcasm as she could. She was tri-lingual, fluent in English, Hindi, and bit of what we like to call birdy-warble-jargon. And although I was never able to successfully teach her the Andy Griffith whistle tune, she was able to cat whistle well enough to make anyone's head turn. She was known to have an inflated ego from time to time when she got on those never ending kicks of "Pretty, pretty, bird" and "Good Kiwi." But she could also be incredibly sweet and thoughtful when she gave you kisses and nuzzled her head against your chin.

There are so many stories I can share about Kiwi Lacey that involve grocery store trips, walks around the neighborhood, and the never ending funny things that she said. But most importantly, I want to share how much she meant to us and how much we will miss her.

Rest in peace Kiwi Lacey.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Makes Me Wonder....

Across the street from the clinic where I work, everyday, there's a group of old guys sitting in folding chairs underneath the shade of a large oak tree. I see them in the morning when I pull in to the parking lot and they're there when I leave in the evening. Granted, I don't know if these are the same men, or if a shift change occurs in the middle day.

Some days I envy them. Especially on a sunny, breezy day like today, when for once the Alabama heat is timid and not scorching.

Some days I feel bad for them. They must be unemployed I suspect. In this economy I know it can be difficult to find a job.

Some days I envision that they are in fact a super secret council that meets in the open, hence no one suspects that they are super secret.

Some days I'm happy for them because they're a bunch of retired men planning their bucket list.

Some days I think their gathering is an informal daily poker tournament. Bring your lawn chair and chips.  BYOLC&C?

Somehow this post is pertinent to writing. Seeing these men day in and out sparks a bit of my imagination, and isn't imagination one of the key ingredients for creative writing?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Real Life Teenage Angst

I know a lot of us out there write YA, and I'd like to think that because of it, we're more in touch with our young side. But there are some things, such as perspective, that dramatically change from the age of 18 to 30. And I didn't realize how much it had changed until this real life encounter:

Me: So how's your summer going?

Teenage Patient: Alright. I guess.

Me: What's going on?

Teenage Patient: Well, my girlfriend is going to Florida for a week. (the kid's frown turned down to his chin and his head was hanging so low I couldn't see his eyes. Which is um...kind of important when trying to do an eye exam).

Me thinking to myself...ok....it's not the end of the world.
Teenage patient can tell by my facial expression that I just don't get it how dire his circumstances are.

Teenage Patient: Well, we've been dating for like a year and four months. So you know.... (head hangs even lower)

Me (straining to keep a straight face): Sounds serious.

Teenage Patient: Well, yeah.

Me proceeds to check his peripheral vision and fail miserably at holding back a smile.


Teenage patient can tell that my smile is a reflection of me laughing at him on the inside.

Me: I'm sorry. When I was 18 and if my boyfriend was leaving I'd be upset too. But, now if he left for a week. I'd be like See ya.

Teenage patient then proceeded to ask how old I was, and then made my day by saying that I looked like I was in my early twenties, and told me about the new tattoo he was getting today of a skull with wings coming out of it's ear sockets that would span the width of his back. Thank you teenage patient for not only making my day but teaching me a good review on what true teenage angst really is.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Would You Hire a Professional Editor?

Today I received this email from Authonomy/ Harper Collins:

Save 20% on Editing Services from CreateSpace
As an authonomist, you'll know better than most that no matter how well you write, a simple typo or a stylistic inconsistency can disrupt the reader and potentially derail the meaning of your work. But you don't have to face the challenge of editing and proof reading alone. Our partner, CreateSpace, offers professional editing services to help refine your manuscript and prepare it for publication.


My first instinct after reading this email was...umm....NO. 

Reason #1: I want to personally know who's going to be editing my manuscript. I know grammar is grammar. But I think finding "stylistic inconsistencies" is subjective. What if their subjectivity doesn't jive with my style or vision?

Reason #2: Isn't that what Beta Readers are for? After much searching and networking, I've met a few beta readers that I really trust AND they understand my vision for the manuscript. AND I like them as people (that I've never met), but I'm sure they will treat my work with the same respect and sincerity that they treat their own with.

Reason #3: A service like that can't be cheap. And if it is, I would seriously question the quality of said service.

Maybe, I'm making incorrect assumptions. Maybe some of you have hired professional editors and had wonderful experiences. What do you guys think?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why Not Writing Can Be a Good Thing

No, I'm not just saying that to make myself feel better about my low word count. I'm not going to tell you all the reasons why I've been too busy to write, because face it, you don't want to hear that. But I am going to tell you why NOT writing sometimes can actually be good for your manuscript.

Reason #1 Sometimes we need to spend some time in imagination land without immediately putting our visions on paper. Just frolic in your fictional worlds. Wiggle your toes in the mythical sand on your fantasy island (yes, I'm going through LOST withdrawals, hence the island reference).

Reason #2 To protect your wrists. Too much typing with poor wrist posture can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Reason #3 To have time to contemplate your character's motivations. I'm a firm believer that a character must have clear cut motivations for why they do what they do when they do do the do. In fact, my recent stint of time off from writing helped me realize the major motivation why supporting character "A" traveled to "X" where she met "Y", and it was all because of retaliation from a broken friendship with "Z." Hey, it was groundbreaking for me.

Reason #4 You can't rush good writing. Sometimes you need to sit back and examine the big picture, but at same time comb through all the fine details. Is that adverb necessary? Is that scene to gimmicky?

I'm sure I can come up with more reasons not to write, which are equally as good as the four above, but I'm going to open it up to you guys instead. What are some reasons not to write?