Archive for May, 2011

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day, American Squiders.  I have returned to you, albeit slightly more sun-roasted than I left you.  The sun and I have an understanding.  I slather myself in sunscreen, it burns me in places I have never burned before or in places where I swear I put sunscreen.

Memorial Day always reminds me of my grandfather.  He’s been gone eleven years now, but I still miss him and think of him often.  You know, I sometimes hear my grandparents’ generation referred to as the Greatest Generation, and I have to agree.  By the time my grandfather was my age, he’d fought in WWII, lost an arm, gotten his masters’ degree, was married, and had the first of his children.  What do I have to show for myself?  Sure, I have a college degree, and I’m married, but I still feel like I’m not really an adult, that I haven’t done anything with my life.

My grandfather went on to be vice president of an engineering company, help design NASA’s crawler, be part of a diplomatic mission to Russia, be head of the Mechanical Engineering department at a major university, raise five children and nine grandchildren, and ran his own company for years.  Today people are more concerned with making sure they have the latest iPhone and are not taking responsibility for anything.

We owe a lot to the generations that came before us, that defended this country and worked hard to make it what it is today.  Happy Memorial Day to them too, and I thank them for all that they’ve done.

Get Out and Live

As we speak, my husband and I are somewhere deep in the Rocky Mountains.  I’m using his cell phone as a modem – it’s like being on dial-up again – and we’re jamming to Falconer as my husband drives my automatic Subaru Forester like a manual.  (Previously we were unaware that this was possible, so we’ve already learned something this trip.)

Most of the other writers I’ve met tend to be similar to me – introverted, like to spend an evening curled up with a good book, perfectly happy to be left to their own devices.  (Not saying all writers are like this, but it certainly seems to be a decent majority.)

I think some level of introversion is necessary – it takes some time to write a book, and it’s hard to do in a social setting – but I feel like you have to go out and live a little, or you don’t have the experience needed to weave a believable story.  If you’ve never experienced love and loss, it’s much harder to have your characters portray it.  If you’ve never stood at the top of a mountain and wondered at the might of nature, if you’ve never had a conversation with someone without use of a mutual language, if you’ve never jumped off a waterfall into the frigid natural pool below, I think you lose something.

The world is great and wonderful.  As nice as it is at home, it’s worth it to go out and do and accomplish.  Take every opportunity you get.  Anything can help you out later.

As for me, I’m going to spend my weekend in canyons and mountains, wineries and dinosaurs.

For those of you in the States, I hope you have a lovely holiday weekend full of adventure and experiences.

Rabbits and Snakes

So, now that Spring has sprung (or so I assume – it’s hard to tell around the rain) I am getting a better idea of how my yard works.

We have a ridiculous amount of wildlife.  Foxes, coyotes, raccoons, birds (and spiders and centipedes and the largest earthworm I have ever seen, all of which I hope the birds are eating), but what I have the most of are rabbits and snakes.

Every morning, when I go out to get the newspaper, there’s a rabbit in my front yard eating some part of my foliage.  “Fred,” I say, because there are multiple rabbits but I have named them all Fred, “you’d better not be eating my grass seed.”  (And then, if I suspect he is, in fact, eating my grass seed, I will go and deal with it.  Grass seed is a precious commodity.)

I have seen four snakes since Saturday.  (Or two snakes twice.  Anyway.)  So far they have all been garter snakes which is good news, because I never notice them until I’m practically on top of them and they have to slither away for their own safety.

Kit, you ask, what does this have to do with writing?  Well, Squiders, I will tell you.

Rabbits are like story premises.  They’re cute, they’re everywhere, they will invariably eat everything in your garden, but they’re kind of useless.  A story premise looks nice, but it won’t get you very far.

Snakes are like plot.  They’re there, but sometimes you don’t know it until you almost step on them.  Plot burrows through the entire story, intricately twisted around all the other elements.

I could go on all day (characters are like birds – nice to look at but chirp incessantly) but I will spare you.

(There is a baby Fred that lives under the back deck.  He is the most adorable thing ever but I suspect he’s the one eating my spinach.)

When is a Story Truly Dead?

I hear it in interviews, from my writer friends, at book signings – the novel that went into a drawer, never to come out again.  Their first or third or eighth novel that was so bad it didn’t deserve to see the light of day.  The novel that, for all intents and purposes, was dead.

But do stories ever truly die?

I admit I can be somewhat unfocused.  For every finished story I have there lies four more abandoned, forgotten, lost to time and space.  They’re dead, right?  If I haven’t thought about them in a decade, then obviously they’ve kicked the bucket, shuffled off their mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible, right?

Wrong.  So very very wrong.

It seems that any story I put real thought into, where I spent any time at all thinking about plot and/or characters, whether I got two pages or ten chapters, never dies.

Recently my muse blessed me with a plot for a story that I considered so dead I had already stolen two of the main characters for another story.  The scifi series I worked on as a teenager continues to give me scenebunnies.

Perhaps most telling of all, the dragon story I wrote when I was twelve (starring my and my cousins’ extremely thinly veiled counterparts) occasionally rears its head, bringing promises of intrigue and betrayal.

What do you do when old stories won’t die?  Maybe it’s not worth it to kill them, but I feel bad when I’ve got a story idea that’s been sitting there for a decade and I haven’t gotten around to it.

Do you have stories that are really, truly, dead?  What was it that killed them – plot, characters, marauding alpaca? What’s the longest you’ve gone from putting a story away for “good” and when they reared their head again?  (It’s 16 years for me on the dragon story.)

Comfort Books

Sometimes life kicks you in the stomach and then sits on you and pokes you repeatedly in the face.

Those times sucks.

It seems to be human instinct to wallow, at least for a short while, during these times.  To lay on the couch eating ice cream by the pint while watching bad daytime soap operas.  (I imagine back in the 1700s it was probably more fashionable to spend days on the fainting couch and complain of nerve issues.  Before that people, I don’t know, invented poetry or something.)

And we develop coping mechanisms.  Movies, games, people, books that we count on to, if not cheer us up, at least make things feel a little better for a little while.

I have a theory.  To see if it is true or not, what book do you turn to first when you’re feeling down?  How long has this been your go-to book?

My comfort book is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.  I read it first in middle school and have read it so many times since I can quote large swaths of it from memory.  (I also have fond thoughts of LOTR which helped me through a rough spot in high school, but it doesn’t lend itself too well to general comfort reading.)

The Writer’s Dream

I thought about changing the title of the blog to “Where Sky Sharks Fear to Tread” but then I realized that there is nowhere that Sky Sharks fear to tread, and also that they would probably eat me for even implying it.  So.

We’ve all thought it.

If only I didn’t have to go to a day job and stay home and write all the time.

Some of us like our day jobs.  I do, but I would still give it up in a moment for the chance to write.

But then the doubts creep in.  Let’s say I took the plunge, quit my job, and decided I was going to write full-time – would I be able to?  Or would I procrastinate on Twitter for hours and play Pokemon?

I would hope that I’d be able to impose some sort of organizational structure, but I am really easy to distract.  (My husband says I have ADD but I like to think that I am just too awesome to do one thing at a time.)

Still, I dream.

At what point would you make that leap?  When you hit the bestsellers’ list?  When you sell a book?  As soon as you can manage it without your spouse throttling you?

Any ideas on how you’d lay out your day?  How many projects you’d work on at a time?

While we’re dreaming, we might as well plan out the entire thing.

Alpaca vs. Landsquid: The Aftermath

Phew!  I am exhausted, but I am home, and it seems like a good time was had by all with my lovely guest bloggers.  Much thanks and love to KD, Ian, and Anne, for their stimulating pieces on interspecies warfare.

To wrap up our epic battle, I thought I’d let you, Squiders, vote on which creature you think would win in a fight.  (Also, I must figure out how on Earth I’m going to follow that.)

Quick reference: Landsquid, Alpaca, Sky Shark