Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NaNo Loser, Snakes, and a Shoe Shelf

I'm not winning NaNoWriMo this year. But, my floors are clean. I'd only hoped to finish my current work in progress, so really, I'd only needed about 30k words. But, alas, it's not to be.

You zip along and zip along only to discover that a portion of what you've written is only fit to line the snake cage. Oh goody, now I'll get blog hits from googlers searching for snake cage lining. Well, FYI, there appears to be pine shavings in the bottom of ours. (Random Helpful Hint 42)
James the snake eating a mouse

They're not our snakes. We're borrowing them from my nephew so my girls can learn all things corn snake-ish, such as, it costs over $8 to buy three mice once a week to feed them. No wonder dear nephew was so eager to let us foster them.

But back to NaNo. I began with a bang, neglecting housework, proper meals, even nearly forgetting to pay a bill or two, like a good NaNo'er should, but I couldn't keep it up. Today, in a fit of writer's block, I scrubbed the floors and put together a small shoe rack for the hall.
You can tell we live in California- flip flops at the end of November. :)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Elevator Pitch: Your Thanksgiving Homework

Quick- in 50 words or less, tell me what your novel is about.

Can you do it?

When you're living your daily life you're probably thinking about your novel all the time, but if you're like me, you don't always have a quick way to describe it.

Somebody at a party says, "I heard you're writing a novel. What's it about?"

You stuff a handful of chips in your mouth and start inching away, thinking, Who told you that? I want them eaten by zombies.

But we need to have something ready. They call this our "elevator pitch." It's the pitch that's short enough to present to somebody in an elevator. You could also call it the, "quick-before-her-eyes-glaze-over pitch."

Give the essence without character names or place names. Tell me the gist as if you were a squeeing fan of this novel.

I'll quickly do the three novels that happen to be on my table right now and I promise I won't cheat.

An orphan learns he can do magic and must save the world from an evil wizard by keeping him from getting a magic rock.

~Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

It's about the thirteenth sister in the Twelve Dancing Princesses and she has to solve the mystery and break the enchantment on her sisters.

~The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler

A guy learns his best friend's an alien and the world is getting blown up and he has to leave. He travels the galaxy and learns that mice are hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings.

~The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Okay, all of those need improvement, but you get the gist. 

So, your assignment, if you're a NaNo'ing American, is to write an elevator pitch for your NaNoWriMo novel, memorize it, and utter it at some point on Thanksgiving, preferably before everyone is in an overfed stupor.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Roper Steam Cycle and Why I'm Normal

I have super news. I'm normal. When I sprang the news on my husband yesterday, he expressed disbelief.

"No you're not."

Well you, dear readers, will believe me when I tell you I'm normal. I found out yesterday when I read this.

I've been wild about old motorcycles for a heap of years. Long ago I wrote a series of stories about a girl who rides a 1922 Banshee, a cool looking bike made for a limited time by a guy who later went on to work for Triumph.
1922 Banshee

But the Banshee wasn't steam powered. When I began my WIP Twelve Keys, I had an excuse to research steam powered motor bikes. Before yesterday already had most of the very pictures shown in the Roper article in my computer for my own reference. I also have sketches I've done of them, because that's what I do while brainstorming--draw my characters, though I'm a lousy artist.

When I saw that the Roper Steam Cycle was going to be auctioned off, my first thought was, "Can I have it?" My second was, "Wow, other people want it! I'm not weird."

When this word "Steampunk" came into my vocabulary, I was thrilled and amused. Don't you love when things you enjoy become popular? Steampunk marries cool clockwork and steam powered gadgets with science fiction and fantasy. But it's not new. And writers adding steampunk elements to their stories will benefit not only from reading Jules Verne, but from learning engine history and development, (and checking out in real life or YouTube some of these guys who actually have running steam engine cars and motorcycles.)

If this post was interesting, you may also enjoy this one.

By the way, this is one of the bikes my husband rides. And he thinks I'm not normal? I guess he should know. ;)
My husband on his recumbent human powered vehicle

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mental Health Help for My Character

Not my character as in me, but as in--for a character in my work in progess. Laura Diamond over at Lucid Dreamer answered my question about the loner character in my fantasy story, Twelve Keys. It helped me sort him out.

Laura's a psychiatrist and a writer. Her blog posts are always super interesting, but I especially enjoy her Mental Health Mondays. So, go check out her blog! :)

photo by Stan Shebs
*image source embedded in image caption.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

42 Random Writer's Block Cures: Great for NaNoWriMo Participants

If you're stuck in your NaNo novel, pick a number from one to 42 and choose a random plot turn or other device thingy to get you unblocked. I can't guarantee they'll make your writing better, but they'll keep your fingers moving.

(edited on 11/24/11 to add: I found this random number generator to help you pick a number. It even allows you to set it for any upper and lower limit.)

1- Your characters meet a random dog. They try to read the tag, but it keeps wiggling away.

2- Something explodes in the sky above them.

3- Your main character sits down and contemplates how he/she's divided. He/she really wants that main goal, but must have to give up something to get it. Go deep with this one. Put soul into the scene, not explosions. I believe it was Orson Scott Card who once wrote that thought is action.

4- A character smells something strange. Describe it in detail.

5- A character goes blind.

6- Something explodes.

7- Somebody spills something. How do they feel about it? How do others react?

8-A character tastes something new. Describe it in detail.

9-They find a dead animal.

10-Put music in your story- somebody sings or an instrument.

11-Your character realizes she/he lost a favorite necklace or pocketwatch.

12- He/she sits down to read and finds parallels in the story with his own life.

13- Write from another point of view. Just try it and see. Even if it's not in the final novel, it's eye-opening for you.

14- Your character prays.

15- Somebody gets drunk. What are the ramifications?

16- A man in a hat and umbrella is watching your characters from afar. Just put it in, even if it seems out of place. Trust me on this. :)

17- Somebody thinks your character lied when they haven't.

18- Look to your right, left and center. Write down three things you see. Now write a scene involving those objects. No cheating. If they can't possibly be in your novel, somebody can imagine/remember them.

19- Compose a poem about your character or novel. (I actually did this and one of my characters sings the song in the novel.)

20- A baby monkey riding backwards on a pig go by. How do your characters feel about it?

21- Write a chapter with no dialogue.

22- Your character must go shopping for bread.

23- Somebody suspects they're pregnant. How does everyone respond?

24- A large dog is hiding behind a house.

25- Somebody finds a gun in a drawer.

26- It rains. Does your character like rain? Describe the experience in detail.

27- The most unlikely character in the novel dances.

28- Write a chapter with only dialogue.

29- Write a chapter that begins- "I've lost my suspenders."

30- The weather unexpectedly changes and your characters are unprepared.

31- Write the closing scene to your novel if you haven't already. Do it now even though you haven't written the rest. You'll know where you're headed and you can always modify it later.

32- Hundreds of butterflies are suddenly flocking toward your characters. What now?

33- Write a gambling scene.

34- Open a scene with the words, "The stench was unbearable."

35- Write a journal entry or letter written by your character- main character or any character you're trying to get to know.

36- Give the villain, or some unsympathetic character, a stomachache and have to curl up in the fetal position for a while.

37- There's a car crash, steambike crash, space vehicle, or horse and carriage crash (depending on your genre).

38- Somebody says, "Hasn't this all happened before?" Everyone looks at him and he says, "Never mind. Déjà vu." Dumb, but it's a NaNoWriMo filler until you think of the right dialogue.

39- They find a dead kitten. The toughest guy cries.

40- Somebody makes a Shakespeare reference and after that, eerily the story starts to take on the shape of Macbeth.  

41- A new character is introduced. He/she resembles your real life first grade teacher.

42- The TARDIS appears, Doctor Who steps out, and ...

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Machinima is a basically the use of games such as The Sims to create animated films. It's a fascinating art form, which I realize won't appeal to everyone. I've never played Sims. Heck, the most advanced game I've played is Tetris, so it's a mystery to me how they pull off this Machinima stuff, but I hear it's complicated.

Two super creative ladies are responsible for a piece of art that may interest you. The novel is Left on Stonehaven by Carol Kean. It is, as yet, unpublished. The Machinima based on the novel was created by a rather humble yet brilliant lady who goes by the moniker DoLittleSayMuch. She's got a cool site as well as a YouTubepage.

The Machinima captures the gritty raw aspects of Carol's novel. To read the Machinima's description, go to the YouTube page but you can access the Machinima from either of DoLittleSayMuch's sites.

Just to warn you, the machinima contains adult themes, so don't watch while your little ones are present. Be sure to have the sound turned on. There's music and dialogue. It has the elements of both a story-ish film and a music video.

I was blown away. The story is gripping, as I suspected it would be, knowing what a talented writer Carol is. Technically, the film is amazing. I happen to know, this was a huge labor of love for the machinima film artist. She did a brilliant job bringing the characters to life and interpreting the story into a new form.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo for Young Writers and Homeschooling Parents

Today's the first day of NaNoWriMo, National NovelWriting Month. I've done it twice before. I've succeeded once. Well, I succeeded in writing a very poor zombie novel with flat characters.

This year, sitting in my chocolate induced daze, I resist the urge to tackle NaNo again, especially since I'm about half to two quarters the way through my WIP. But after some coaxing from my niece, I'm giving in. I'll approach NaNo as NaNoPoint5.  That is, I'll use it to complete my half-finished novel.

Enough droning about my project, I'm here to encourage you and your kids too. Unless you are an under 21, in which case, you're a kid to me. (Insert obnoxious toothy grin.) Did you know that NaNo has a kid section? Yeppers!  Here's that link. As a homeschooling mom, I get to call the time I ignore my kids while doing my own writing, "Homeschooling Time," and let them work on their own stories. Is that the best scam or what?

So, brew your poison--coffee, oolong, or some newfangled beverage with a cryptic name, dip your hand into the kid's candy stash, and start your NaNo flop... I mean masterpiece.
rainbow coffee

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