Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Candy

The awesome Theresa Milstein is having an amazing event over at her blog. She's giving away enviable prizes and introducing some very cool bloggers to each other. Definitely Hauntworthy! Go and meet her today at Substitute Teacher's Saga.

In a few hours, I'm making the annual Halloween candy run to the store. This is my question. What should I buy? Which is your favorite treat? What kind of candy would your MC like and why?

Are you dressing up this year, bloggers? Who are you going to be? I may take my Fairy Godmother costume out of storage. I do like that silver cape and big, white wig! My husband refuses to get into the Halloween spirit, but my children are especially inspired. I have a ninja, a Midsummer Night's Dream fairy with attitude, two soldiers, a huge walking shrub, and Scarlet O'Hara. Love these guys!

Have the best holiday ever. Take pictures, have fun, and be safe!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The First Library

This was my first library, and surely that alone makes it special. Though I am but one in thousands who have crossed the threshold, I have a sense of ownership here. (I always want to spell libraries with a capitol L, don't you?) I learned about books, music and writing in this place. About life, travel and adventure! Do you remember your first library?

Let me introduce you to my fine old building, dating back to 1864. Though her bones are elderly, the Multnomah County Library in Portland, Oregon is still a beauty. As a girl, I was in awe of the sweeping marble staircases, tall windows and echoing ceilings. Young as I was, I sensed the magic of creativity and great thoughts at work. My mother would drop me off in the children's section, and I would be content for hours. The smell of dust and old paper always takes me back to those treasured days. (Don't all libraries have that smell?)
The library taught me to spread my wings, to see the rest of the world around me. I grew to love my hometown as well.
Portland is divided by the Willamette River, but there are many bridges. They carried me safely across the water in my teenage years. And back home again.
The City of Roses is encircled by ancient trees that have seen it grow and expand. They were there when my library was built!

Set like a jewel in the hills, the Rose Gardens offer peace and solitude. I visited this beautiful place with my children after being away for 17 years, and my eyes filled with tears. Sometimes, you can go home again.

I once wrote a poem for this Raymond Kaskey statue. (See? Libraries make you think you can do anything!) Her name is Portlandia, and she is the second-largest copper figure in the United States.
Cannon Beach is about an hour west of Portland, and my family owned a small cabin there. In moments of loneliness and longing, I would sit in the sand, look out over the crashing Pacific Ocean, and dream of the future. (Of course, libraries place great stock in hopes and dreams.) Who knew that after years of searching for the love of my life, he'd ask me to marry him in that exact spot on the sand?
Mt. Hood sits on the other side of Portland. I picked huckleberries with my mother there in the summer, and my father showed me how to ski on those slopes in the winter time. (Libraries instill a lifelong desire to improve!)

Thanks for taking this sentimental journey with me. I remember who I am by occasionally looking back and that sparks my motivation to move forward.

Where was your first library? Is there a city that makes you sentimental? Do you have fond memories of your hometown?

Friday, October 22, 2010

How Will I Know? (No, Really, How Will I?)

Okay. I know I'm dating myself here, but do you remember this album? Back in the day of 80's big hair and stirrup pants, I'd listen to it daily, singing into my hair brush-slash-microphone. Remember the How Will I Know song? Whitney was so cool in the video with her gray mini dress and florescent extensions. She bounced around, looking gorgeous, asking how she'd know if a guy liked her. (Seriously, wasn't this a moot point? Didn't every guy in the 80's love her already?)

Lately, I've been wondering about my story. I've worked on it for years. Revising, rewriting, taking breaks, and coming back again. Now the big question is . . . . Should I change the beginning? Should I take out the first chapter and replace it with the third instead? Like Whitney said, how do I know? What's the right choice? I've read this manuscript over so many times, I've compromised my judgement on the matter.

I have a great critique group, but life is interfering with our getting together. Recently, I've given thought to joining an online critique group. Have any of you done that?

What do you think, bloggers? How do you solve issues like this?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spare Time

Here is an example of what I've been doing with my spare time. Watching a television series and a movie and reading a book. Actually, I'm sure the time it took to do these things wasn't 'spare'. I should have been cleaning, cooking, or folding laundry, but I figure, once in a while, it's okay to shirk those duties and take a break. (Curse you, Netflix! You make it too easy.)
This is Patrick Jane from The Mentalist as played by Simon Baker. (Maybe he could be my substitute muse when Daniel Craig is unavailable?) I like this character a lot. He is complicated and not entirely likable. Intelligent, occasionally sympathetic, and often darkly funny. Each time I watch this show, I'm inspired to write deeper layers for the characters in my stories.
I read Mr. Monster, the sequel to I Am Not A Serial Killer, in one day. Dan Wells deftly writes a gripping page-turner. The way he weaves humor and irony throughout a dark, disturbing plot line is nothing short of brilliant. 'Tis the season to be scared, and I certainly was. (P.S. Don't read this if you don't like horror.)

And for a completely different change of pace, I watched The Young Victoria. (Sorry the picture is so small.) I loved this movie! I cried at the end and wanted to rewrite history for Victoria and Albert so they could grow old together. Excellent film making, beautiful costumes and scenery. Five stars out of five stars.

Now, after this mental vacation, I'm relaxed and set to tackle my current project. I'm finishing an adaptation of Dr. Suess' How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I am writing it for a performing arts center in my community, and they want it in rhyme. (They're paying for it, so who am I to question?) Let me tell you, I'm not a poet, but it seems to be coming along anyway. I am revising the last paragraphs today. Challenges, challenges . . .

Have you watched or read anything good lately? Are you facing a difficult writing project? I'd love to hear, blogging friends.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Writer Vs. The Wild . . . (The Wild Wins)

Two things have distracted me over the last week. A wicked cold--yuck, enough said-- and a more wicked, four-foot-long gopher snake--ah, this might require some explaining. Remember my spiders-in-the-shirt gardening experience? So, so much scarier.

Last Sunday, I took a walk with my family through the foothills of my tiny town. You ever have an outdoor experience that leaves you feeling like you're Les Stroud from Survivorman? Or Bear Grylls from Man Vs. Wild? This walk turned into just that type of thing. And, quite frankly, the Wild kicked my butt. As Jeffrey Archer would say, hereby hangs the tale . . .

It was a beautiful, autumn day. Nothing ominous, no premonition about the ordeal ahead. We piled everyone, and the dog, in the back of our truck, found an isolated spot, parked, and began walking. We had a great time until my 12-year-old son complained about the heat. My husband cheered this kid up by chasing him around a field of sagebrush. Although we were all laughing and oblivious, this is where the downward spiral began. We continued our journey on the dusty trail until we realized that we had taken a wrong turn. Tired and hot, we had two choices: retrace the route we had just traveled or take an off-road shortcut. You know what we did, don't you? We took option B--the shortcut.

After crossing a vast expanse of open, desert plain, we finally arrived back at the truck. Our keys, however, did not. Somehow, they fell out of my husband's pocket. Of course, the spare set of keys were in my handbag. The one that was in the truck. So there we were, four miles from the outskirts of our subdivision with no keys and no cell phone.

The kids climbed into the truck bed and drank some water, and leaving our oldest teenager in charge, hubby, dog, and I headed out on a key-retrieval mission. It's hard, though, to search miles of desert at twilight. So we went to the place where my husband and son chased each other. Stooped, eyes scanning in all directions, we searched for about twenty minutes. I then heard a noise that I really didn't want to hear. Hissing. Really, really loud, close, hissing. I looked to my right, and it was as if the brush had come alive. Camouflaged in shades of black, grey, and brown, this coiled-up creature was amazing. Huge and terrifying, but beautiful at the same time. It was also seriously ticked off. Although the hissing continued in fortissimo, and the snake was vibrating with wrath, it made no move toward me. I backed away slowly, and then, I ran.

My husband said that I left a trail of dust hanging in the air behind me. I might have set a new speed walking record. (At the time, I thought it was a rattler. Only after researching and Googling did I learn it was a gopher snake.)

Looking a bit like the Joads from Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, we eventually made it home. We now have three, count them three, new copies of our car keys, and we'll definitely take a cell with us next time. Live and learn, right?

Here is my question to all you writers out there. Think of the surprise encounter with the snake. How do you make your plot twists jump out and surprise your readers? I hope there's no hissing involved . . .

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

To Kill Or Not To Kill

We have liquid sunshine at last! That's rain, if you didn't know, and it's a big deal for the sage brush and rattle snakes around here. Not to mention the desert dwelling people. Having grown up in Oregon, I am drawn to falling water and love hearing it hit the pavement, bouncing like hot oil in a skillet.

I often file sounds and sensations away in my brain to use in future writing. In my trusty spiral notebook, I record experiences, impressions, interesting words, and human characteristics. Do you do this?

Of course, the big challenge is transferring these word-pictures from thought to paper. Sometimes, I try to communicate too much. That's when I have to ask myself, "Does the reader really need to know this?" Curse you, TMI writing.

In my salad days, I imagined that all good stuff must survive revision. Forget plot and story tension, if it sounded pretty, I'd leave it in! Sadly, this practice interfered with pacing and bogged down my readers. Those needless details didn't mean to them what they did to me.

I've since learned to kill my darlings, as Mr. King said in On Writing. Painful? (Acutely, since these are my darlings we're talking about.) Yet so necessary.

Now, if I love something, I'll copy it off before I cut it out. I store the snippets in a notebook where I can always read them~ even if no one else does. So many questions in this post, so little time. Here's one final inquiry: How do you decide what to keep and what to delete?

To kill or not to kill, that is the question . . .