Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Last night's reading: Nancy Kress at UW

Last night I saw Nancy Kress read at the University of Washington bookstore. This is the second reading I've attended as part of the Clarion West Summer Reading Series. Last week I saw Paul Park.

The first of Kress' books I read was the excellent how-to write book: "Beginnings, Middles & Ends." There are many good texts in the Elements of Fiction Writing Series, but this was my favorite.

Later I realized she was also an award-winning science-fiction author--a big clue I spend too much time in the how-to section--so I picked up one of her many novels, "Beggars in Spain," about a future where people can be genetically engineered not to sleep. I've just cracked the spine, but I'm hooked so far.

I go through genre phases and I've fallen behind in sci-fi and fantasy. I've read a lot of the most popular ones, as they rank historically. At one point I kept a list of top 100 sci-fi/fantasy novels and checked them off slowly, but it's not a static business and now I play catch-up. My self-imposed homework is to read the writers from the Clarion West readings, and become familiar with their work.

I haven't read "Game of Thrones" yet either, and as you might imagine, that's coming up more and more. I ordered the books from Amazon and they should be here in a week. On July 29, I have a ticket to see George R.R. Martin read at Town Hall in Seattle.

And so my education continues.

This entry brought to you by the hyphen, the most mystical sounding of all grammar beasts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Now with Twitter

I've been fooling around with twitter for a few days as @follyblaine and I have questions.

I need to view the feed some other way besides the web page. I don't know if it's IE9 or what, but I scroll down the page and then the feed refreshes and I get stuck in an endless loop of frustration. As the great and animated MC Skat Kat once said to Paula Abdul, "Two steps forward; one step back."

I have TweetDeck on another computer and my sister-in-law recommended Echofon.

Do you have any other suggestions for taming Twitter information overload? What do you use?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Seeing Neil Gaiman, and revealing I'm a grump, surprising no one

Last night Jer and I went to Town Hall in downtown Seattle to see the Neil Gaiman interview. We both enjoyed it. We lucked out on parking -- the first time we haven't had to pay for street parking in I-couldn't-tell-you-how-long. We lucked out on tickets -- I'd picked ours up from will call last Tuesday.

The will call lines were long and snaked around the building. We were able to sneak past to the open door.

Our seats were pretty good. Until a couple sat in front of us determined to demonstrate their love throughout the entire show by morphing into a two-headed monster, adept at swinging its joint and giant head in whichever direction best blocked the stage.

I get that you guys loved each other, that's awesome. Love is great. But stop leaning over and kissing each other on the shoulder when you are already six feet tall, sitting directly in front of me, and removing any ability for me to see between your noses.

Maybe it's my fault, snuggle bear. I think of author readings and interviews as fascinating, almost dry academic events. Not foreplay.

So, how was the event? Great. Neil Gaiman read two pieces, was interviewed by a fellow author, and answered a few audience questions passed forward on notecards. The whole night was a little over two hours.


Dear other members of the audience:

Why are you talking while Gaiman is talking? Repeatedly? And when you're asked to be quiet by the guy sitting behind you, why do you give him dirty looks and sigh loudly? What story are you telling yourself where that's okay?

Why did you get up to use the bathroom two times each? And then climb over a row of people to leave early, fall on several young women, and then laugh at them? You hurt them, assface.

People. Why are you needing to repeatedly wave your camera phone in the air and block the view of everyone behind you just so you can have five seconds of the author saying something out of context? Why can't you just remember it?

Similarly, you're not paparazzi and you shouldn't aspire to be one anyway. They're dicks. The room is dark and there's no chance your photo will turn out from the back row, so why bother using flash? Flash won't fix the cavernous room and the distance from your subject. It will only blind everyone around you. And the end result will be a blurry pixelated image of a dude with lots of hair sitting in a big blob of white light and you'll say to your flickr feed, See? That's the night I saw Neil Gaiman. And your friends will be like, if you say so, man. Looks like two ghosts dueling.

Don't blame me. Blame the physics of light and optics.

Aaaaand scene.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Goodbye, Cyndy's House of Pancakes

I'm back to working on a short story I set aside a few days ago, hoping distance would help me be more objective about its flaws. The story is not quite right yet, but after receiving some welcome feedback, I have ideas of where to go next.

Jer and I made a rare trip out for breakfast this morning and ate at "Cyndy's House of Pancakes"-- at the intersection of Northgate and Aurora. I'm sad to report there was a sign in the window saying they'll be closing forever on July 10, 2011.

They serve the best chicken fried steak with country sausage gravy I may have ever had, and anticipation of their absence makes me sad.

The building will be torn down and replaced with low-income housing.

First, Marie Callender's and now Cyndy's. My guilty pleasures are crumbling around me!

At least I got to eat there one last time. I'll just be locking in that sense memory now, seeing as how it has to last a lifetime.

Friday, June 24, 2011

More information about that video

Tell it to me straight. Did I scare you away?

If you haven't watched it yet, here's another link to the video I posted yesterday.

Yeah. It's not exactly a classic retelling of the hero's journey, is it? I chose to use this play because it only had two characters, and that's all Xtranormal can handle. I also chose it because the play cracks me up. True, I go on and on about the mafia and its conspiracy against the ultimate power, and the animations are rooted to one spot with one inflection, so the subtext is lost... but I'm just so tickled by the level of absurdity delivered by the whole package.

At one level it's this crazy scene between a man and the closet monster he met as a boy saying goodbye after 15 years--a story of growing up and putting away childish things. And at another level it's about robots taking over the theatre.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Made this for You

If you follow Folly Blaine on Facebook, you will have seen this. My followers get all the special scoops.

Otherwise, I am pleased to introduce an animated short I made this afternoon using Xtranormal. It combines dialogue from a play I wrote and had produced in 2005, with canned sets, movements, and actors. It was a lot of fun to make. And yes, it's supposed to be silly.

Without further ado, here is "The Science of the Balance of Ultimate Power," as performed by the dude from Avatar and random frat boy with a robot voice.

If the video embedded in this post doesn't load, click here to view.

Sir, I Exist

I slept until 9am this morning, lulled by rain water trickling down the gutter outside my window. Now at noon, the sun is high in the sky and begging me to go outside.

If today is anything like the other days, I probably won't.

I worry about talking so much about writing here. First of all, I worry it sounds like I'm complaining. Life is hard, I get rejected, boo hoo.

That's not my intention. I'm not one of those people who think just because they want something they're entitled to the thing. I know it takes hard work and commitment to get what you want. I don't expect the world to roll over and notice me because one day I announced "Today I am a writer."

One of my favorite poems is by Stephen Crane:

A man said to the universe:
"Sir I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."

These few words so accurately sum up my worldview, it's best to leave it at that.

Secondly I worry about calling myself a writer prematurely. Mentally I always precede the word with "aspiring." That's stupid, isn't it? I don't need permission from an outside entity to change the noun I call myself. Validation would be nice, sure, but not permission.

Unless I start calling myself Doctor Folly, in which case, by all means, stage an intervention.

It's not been a bad week overall. I finished a draft of a story, and will be having it critiqued on Saturday. I'll incorporate the feedback and submit it by Monday. I attended a reading by Paul Park at the University of Washington Bookstore (my first visit.) I will be seeing Neil Gaiman speak on Sunday. I registered for a conference and I joined a professional organization, and am looking at a second to join. And I've been reading classic science-fiction stories to learn more about the genre. Yesterday I rewatched a documentary on Harlan Ellison called "Dreams with Sharp Teeth." Listening to him rant is always interesting.

I've also been trying to read John Gardner's "The Art of Fiction" and "On Becoming a Novelist," but his opinion of genre writers is so low I have a hard time getting through it.

Of course I'm writing, too. Just not very fast. Without the writing, there's no point in any of the rest of it.

All of this is to say, my dear void, I hope I am not boring you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rejected? Revise and resubmit

I received another rejection this morning. I know it's character building and all that, puts hair on your chest, nothing personal, yadda yadda, but there it is. One of the best things I learned recently is the importance of having a Plan B. Anticipating rejection, I added a column to the spreadsheet I use to track submissions and pasted in the next market I'll submit to.

The Plan B column helps prevent wallowing because there's no reason to wallow. Reread the story with a critical eye, see if it needs revision, revise it, then send it out again.

I say 'critical eye' like that's easy. The distance imposed by time helps. If I knew right away what was wrong with my stories I wouldn't be spending all this time trying to learn.

Speaking of learning, I signed up to attend the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference in August. If you'll be there too, let me know.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A transcription of my internal debate on attending a writer's conference

Writer's conference or not to writer's conference, that is the question.

The biggest drawback is cost. And it is a big drawback. Volunteering doesn't bring any discounts -- I'm guessing because writers would volunteer the shit out of a conference if it meant they could go for free.

So next I look at the panels. They look interesting. Damn. Yes, but synopses have let me down before.

Time commitment isn't a factor. It'll cut into my writing time, which if my work isn't sellable then what's the point, anyway, right?

So then I ask myself: I own a library's worth of how-to books, wouldn't the time be just as well spent reading those and applying what you've already learned?

Networking, I answer, cringing. I know few other writers. But then what about the writing groups you've joined?

And why do I keep switching between first and second person? You're worse off than we thought.

Gratuitous emphasis!!!

TANGENT START: Last night at Jimmy Johns, Jer picked the receipt off the table.

Jer: When did we get a receipt?

Christy: It's always been here. It's been inside of you all along.


I'm no closer to making a decision. All I know is, if I wait another week the price goes up $100. In summation: I think it would be useful. It'd give me a chance to meet other writers. I could still look into volunteering to learn more about the organization. And if the money figures itself out, I'm in.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I keep a few potted plants, of the succulent type, in the windowsill of our living room. On Saturday night I noticed a trail of ants just inside the window, crawling down to the carpet.

Ants. We've been lucky in Seattle. In Santa Barbara, ants were routine. I suspect all the houses were built on ant hills because living ant-free was a constant battle for just about everyone.

In Seattle, our house may have big carpenter ants around the deck, but none have ever come inside. Until Saturday. I moved the plants, grabbed ant spray from the shed, and applied it judiciously. Then I realized what they wanted: dry cat food.

We have one of those cat food feeders that's programmed to go off twice a day so there's never much food sitting there. At least there wasn't when Vash was alive. Chiana is smaller and takes her time. She enjoys the chewing, relishes the graze.

I moved the feeder outside, dumped the dry food into a sealed bag, and went to the store to buy a few child-proof ant traps. (The only kind I saw.)

So that's the story of our Saturday night ant adventure. Jer washed the feeder as best he could -- you can't submerge the mechanical bits -- and I left it in the garage next to two ant traps.

Poor Chiana will just have to accept a human dry delivery system for a few days. Though she doesn't seem that torn up about it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Writers have gills

It's earlier than I expected to get up. Not yet 7 on a Sunday.

I'm sitting at my laptop because of a dream, and the familiar thought, "Write this down or you'll be sorry." So many times I've convinced myself I'll remember. I stare at the ceiling and try to imprint some idea or image into my brain. Hours later all I'll actually remember is that there was something I was supposed to remember. Something big.

It's warm in bed, and cozy. Surely I can keep a thought in my head for another hour...

You'd think I'd learn and keep a notebook by the pillow. Nope. All I have next to me are a stack of how-to write books, a clock set for the wrong time, and a pile of dirty clothes.

I know there are theories and anecdotes about the origin of ideas. Since it's so much fun to speculate, I'll add mine.

I think the idea layer is just another slice in the strata we aren't equipped to see. Like it's a great thin ocean of connections and wave-like energy, and you can either fall in or take a dip. I can't decide if the layer is just above our heads or is only accessible through the synaptic firings of our brain.

I imagine the layer is a swarm of blue with zig-zag bursts of white threading though it.

Either way, I've always thought dropping into the place From Whence Ideas Come was like swimming. The surface might be rough, but once you go deep the water is comfortable and calm, and you feel pressure in your ears.

I guess if I were to follow that analogy to death (and mix my metaphors): creative types develop idea gills, and work to upgrade their story sticks to trap the bigger ideas swimming free. But we all fish in the same pond.

Ha. Welcome to what I actually think about when you ask me what I'm thinking about.

By the by. This was not the idea that got me out of bed this morning.

Coffee time!

Friday, June 17, 2011

X Marks the Spot

The difference between the amateur and the professional writer is that the professional didn't quit.
- Richard Bach

A writer I respect told me she gets about ten rejections for every acceptance, and that was considered pretty good. Ever since then, I've felt better about receiving the dreaded "No thanks" email/letter.

Which is to say, I received another one last night. I believe in the story as written -- I scanned it to make sure I hadn't changed my mind -- so I found another market and submitted.

I'm learning there are many factors to being accepted. Some I hadn't even considered. Like, does the story fit in with other stories already accepted? Even if it "clicks" with everyone else you've ever met, if it doesn't with the editor, that's it. Of course there are the more obvious reasons: the story is unsatisfying in one or more ways, ranging from format to characters to plot to pacing; the story isn't a good fit for the market, ranging from diction to genre; or maybe the story is too similar to what's already been accepted.

It also helps that I believe there's an audience out there for me, I just have to find them. Writing is like a great big treasure hunt. My prize is finding readers. A reader's prize is finding quality content they connect to emotionally. At least that's my theory. :)

If it's naive to make a game out of rejection, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Yesterday, wow. I know I'm supposed to act cool and take it in stride, but over 730 unique visitors clicked through to my camera bag review yesterday, for a grand total of over 840 views. The link was published on Twitter and Facebook, to a page with over 20,000 fans.

Maybe those numbers aren't a lot to you. But they are to me. I kept reloading the tracker count throughout the day, just blown away that so many people, from so many countries, stopped by. Whether they read it or not, I don't know, but hey, they took 5 seconds to click-through and I'll take it.

Of course it was fun for a day, but it's much more fun interacting with my core group of loyal readers. :) You guys are the best.

So what else is going on? I'm still working on the same short story I started about a week ago. Last night I had an idea to tie all the bits together, so I'll work on that today.

On our way to trade-in a couple of Arby's coupons for chow (high-rollers, we) I had a conversation with Jer about what I'm doing here. I had a few doubts, some guilt, some low-grade anxiety about everything.

(Chiana is attacking the shadows next to me. It's cute.)

I told Jer I'd gone to a job search web site and lots of jobs came back I'd be qualified for, including one at his company. And that it would be so much easier to give up and go back to work. I wasn't pulling my weight and maybe there was a way to write and work at the same time. Even though I'd never found that balance before.

Jer reminded me of how much work I've put into this. The classes, the submissions, the reading of many how-to books -- the months of learning to be a better storyteller. He told me I had to keep writing.

It goes without saying -- but I'm saying it anyway -- I am so thankful to have Jeremy in my life.

So after recommitting to this strange journey, I finished my Arby's Regular Beef sandwich, we went home, I read some more academic type texts on writing, had the idea for my story, jotted it down, and fell asleep.

Time to pour the coffee.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The story was called, 'I Want My Head'

I have two passions: photography and writing. (The word 'passion' makes me cringe, but it's the best word for it.) I received my first camera when I was 7 or 8. It took 110 film and was blue and orange plastic. I shot a lot of trees.

About that time I started writing. The first story that stands out, I wrote in sixth grade. It was about a man without a head trying to get his head back. I drew a (bad) cover for my story, of a man's bloody head coming out of a paper bag. And I made a diorama with little dolls running around a haunted shoebox, away from the headless doll. The doll was actually headless. His disability inspired the original story.

The diorama was for illustrative purposes. So you could really immerse yourself in the action.

X years later and I'm still fighting with which half of me wins: photography or writing. Recently, I combined the two and wrote a review of a few camera bags, with roughly 28 pictures attached.

This morning I woke to find hundreds of people had visited the page even before I had my coffee. So that was pretty cool.

Sometimes I think of myself as split in two, and then take a mental tally to see which half is "winning." Did photography win today? Or was it writing?

Hard to say. I'm grateful to have all those new eyes on my work, but I know it won't last. Just have to keep plugging along and find new headless dolls to write about, new shoe boxes to corrupt.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Farewell, Marie. I Will Miss your Wainscoting.

The Marie Callender's in Northgate has closed. We tried going there for dinner last night and arrived to an empty parking lot and a sign taped to the window.

I thought I might be the last to know, but the story I linked was posted yesterday. This is sad news.

They had the best little bar. Waxy, dark wood everywhere, local beer on tap, and great happy hour specials. On the way home from work I'd walk over from the transit center, grab a bite and a beer and then get back on the bus for home. I'd sit at one of the two booths and write or read. The same bartender always seemed to be there with a smile.

I will miss the wainscoting. And the pie.

Quite a few places have closed shop around here. By now I usually take it in stride. There's the Family Italian place down the street, the Hobby shop, Rimrock Steakhouse, LC's Kitchen, the wine shop we used to go to... and now Marie Callender's.

Maybe this will open the door for some fresh blood to grab the culinary torch.

And maybe, just maybe, I could fit more cliches into a single sentence.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Camera Bags

I had the opportunity to try out three camera bags from a company called Think Tank Photo. So today I turned my dining room table into a photo studio (I used the umbrella AND the soft box) and took photos of the bags.

Then I wrote up my thoughts and posted it at my photoblog. You should check out my in-depth camera bag review. It took, like, 10 hours.

So you know it's good.

In related news, I think brain just dribbled out of my ear.

Deviating from the tense of majority since 1999

With the exception of 11pm to midnight yesterday, I spent all day thinking about other people's writing. (During the last hour I thought about my own.) In addition to a morning class and a meeting in the afternoon, I volunteered to help edit a private anthology.

It was a great experience, but time consuming. I spent two hours on Friday and five hours on Saturday tracking changes in Word. Reminded me of all those years I spent as a Technical Writer, marking up documents. Fewer bullet points in fiction though.

What did I learn? It's a good idea for everyone to brush up on their comma usage, myself included. Commas were the number one issue in the draft, particularly commas around dialogue tags and between multiple adjectives preceding a noun. For example: "This is a sentence." She said. (Incorrect.) "This is a sentence," she said. (Correct)

Deviating from the tense of majority (ha, sounds like a heinous crime) was the second biggest issue. For example, if you start in past tense, you need to stay that way. You generally shouldn't write, "He leaned against the fence. He walks to the street."

Mostly I was line editing, but I did throw in a few suggestions to improve flow or word choice. In the improvement context, the third issue was a lack of clarity around pronouns. You should generally only use "he" or "she" when it's clear who is the subject.

Okay, so I know I make a lot of grammatical mistakes on this blog, and I'm still working out the rules for myself, but these are a few common mistakes we can all work on together.

Cue rainbow shooting across the sky with a star at the end. And can I have a xylophone, what what?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

More writing about writing without actually writing

Busy day. I went to a "publishing your work" class this morning and met with some writers about writing stuff in the afternoon. It was a good day, but it's nice to finally sit down and have a cup of coffee.

Ebooks interest me. I don't have enough quality content yet to take advantage, and even if I did, I need to be better about self promotion. Obviously, without content there's nothing to promote, so it's best to keep my priorities straight... but if I don't self promote, potential readers won't find me. Still, it all comes down to:

Write. Finish. Publish.

Simple, right?

Learning about all the balls a professional writer has to keep in the air makes my head spin. Sometimes it amazes me anything ever gets published at all.

I have great respect for a person who can make a living at writing.

Yeah, Christy. Way to be controversial. Of course it would sound stupid if I said anything different. Can you imagine? "Someone who makes their living at writing is an ass." Just doesn't ring true.

Better get back to Word. That short story isn't going to write itself.

Unless I invent some sort of short story writing robot... although that seems like a waste of a robot making ability if you ask me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Something About a Chicken

I'm sitting at the table, reloading the same five pages over and over again. Jer is watching "Robot Chicken."

Hello, Friday.

I played World of Warcraft again on Tuesday night. It's been, hm, months since I last played. I already feel the familiar WOW itch, the familiar WOW burning. I wonder where I left the familiar WOW ointment.

Tomorrow I'm going to a class on publishing your work at Bellevue College. I've done some research on creating eBooks, but not enough. Mostly because I haven't written enough yet and didn't see the point. Then I decided, heck, why not?

And I really can't argue with that kind of logic.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Impotence of Urgency

I never feel comfortable talking about Jer's stuff here, but since many of you know both of us I will tell you he saw a doctor yesterday to talk about the pain in his neck. (He was in a motorcycle accident last Saturday, where he dropped his bike on a corner and landed down a grassy embankment. His bike is likely totalled.)

So he's dealing with that. Ice and Advil and X-rays, oh my.

I am working on a short story and planning to write a review of three camera bags I was sent for that purpose.

Since classes ended I have felt an urgency to write, but without an opportunity to show-and-tell right away I haven't produced as quickly. The last couple of days I've been working through what I want this story to say. If it's good enough I will submit it to another anthology.

Time goes too fast. I am running out of time. Hello, melodrama.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Some Good News about the Lost Wallet and the Dryer Formerly Known as Broken

I've started posting to my photoblog again. It's at if you'd prefer a visual narrative to all these pesky, perfidious words.

I have 9 minutes until internet shutdown. I really should have planned this better.

Last night a police officer knocked on our door and asked for my husband. For a moment, I was nervous-- temporarily forgetting the fact that we are squarest people I know-- and then I looked down and saw the officer was holding the wallet Jer lost two weeks ago, to the day. Everything was there (except for a few bucks in cash) and it was such a relief.

An anonymous female found it on the street and turned it in to police. I am so so grateful. And then the officer stopped at our house as a courtesy on his way home. How incredible is that?

AND on Monday I got the dryer working again. The replacement part arrived and I installed it and it was wonderful. I've never been so happy to dry my clothes.

The end.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Netbook, of the Asus Netbooks

I have just 33 minutes 'til the internet shuts off, and I haven't had my coffee yet. The horror.

A couple of weeks ago I got my first brand new laptop since 1998ish. Technically it is a netbook, of the Asus dual-core netbooks, and it is shiny red and fast. The laptop I've been using since 2004ish is one I bought used on eBay and belonged to a university professor in California. I know this because his network connections weren't wiped--his name and school were still attached--and the information was unique enough that I was able to find evidence of the man's actual identity.

I felt like Computer Columbo that day, my friends.

So since I got this shiny thing I've been putting off using it. First I had to install MS Office, and then I had to do all the updates and figure out how to use IE9. Ugh, I still haven't reinstalled Final Draft.

It's true. People, in past lives, have paid me to fix computers, administer servers, maintain databases (poorly), yet I am exceedingly stubborn about upgrading my own gear. It frustrates Jer something awful.

This morning is the first morning internet silence is being enforced on my poor laptop. The first morning we limit its unlimitness and teach it to be alone.

From 9am to noon, I have Jer shutting off my internet access automatically. How, I wonder, will its detachment from a greater consciousness be perceived? Will the silence drive my baby mad? Will it be forced to look within and find nothing but cold, lifeless gears clicking an endless Morse code of abandonment? And then, when confronted with its own hollow and pointless void, how will it react? Will it quiver in subservience, zero out its own drive, or lash out at the smug humans who bore it?

I grieve for your lost innocence, shiny red thing.

Or maybe, just maybe, I should brew some coffee now.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Newish Facebook Page, Baby Spiders, and Fresh Produce

I have a newish Facebook page for Folly Blaine, if you'd like to be a part of the secret conversation where I will be telling secrets about secret-y things. Here's the link:

Folly Blaine

Promote Your Page Too

If you can't see the Badge, click here to go to the page directly.

How come it's always when I can't do something, I desperately want to do it? I'm sitting here, babysitting the front door while I wait for UPS, thinking about how nice it would be to go for a walk. And then "nice" becomes I MUST DO THIS NOW. And I pump my fist skyward and will the UPS truck to arrive post haste or else.

I am also sitting here wondering what happened to the nest of baby spiders that were hanging around outside my kitchen window. They were cute in a can't-get-inside type way.

I sure hope they didn't get inside.

Let's talk about food. Lunch was very tasty. I made a sandwich out of toasted Bagel thins, a sliced up ball of mozzarella, two thick slices of tomato, fresh basil, a smear of red pepper hummus, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

At the grocery store I also bought another cantaloupe and a quarter of a pound of thinly sliced prosciutto. I plan to cut the melon into chunks (appetizing sounding!)and wrap them in prosciutto since that was the appetizer I never got to eat in Rome.

How pretentious is that, right?

Well, if you want to think judge-y thoughts about me, allow me to help: why don't you start with all the hypothetical baby spiders in my kitchen?

Decent folk don't go around cavorting with arachnids. Not if they know what's good for 'em.

Three Writing Books

On Sunday I scanned through a stack of writing books and took notes. I set up a mini-fort on the couch in the living room with my afghan and bottle of beer -- my favorite way to spend a sunny afternoon.

The three books I focused on were:

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel -- A good overall text that applies not just to novels, but to storytelling in general. The author, Tom Monteleone, clearly defines and describes all aspects of writing including the process, common mistakes, storytelling elements, and the business side. Although the "idiot's" tag always makes me cringe, this book provides a great writing overview.

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy - I have mixed feelings about the author, Orson Scott Card, but one thing is for sure: he knows his craft and explains it well. I recommend this text along with his other book, "Characters and Viewpoint" as excellent writing resources.

Writing the Breakout Novel - I took the most notes on this book by Donald Maass. I like how he's structured his chapters, so at the end of each one there is a convenient summary of the relevant points. One downside: I'm reading a version that was written in 2000 -- I don't know if there's a more recent one -- but because of the time period, some of the slams and speculations about eReaders are distracting. If you ignore those bits, it is a very informative resource. One of my favorite sections is where he talks about raising the stakes, and how you never want your reader to say, "So what?" For every structural problem he discusses, he also provides examples and possible solutions.

These are my favorite three at the moment, but you should know "the moment" changes depending on which three are on the top of the stack.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Stressing the Unstressed, or, A Common Meter

I submitted another flash fiction (under 1,000 words) piece this morning, which means I have 4 active submissions in the wild. I know it's not much, but it's a good start.

The writing classes were incredibly helpful for pinpointing a couple of problems with my storytelling. The number one issue was establishing (and sticking with) a point of view. I was completely ignoring point of view, which showed.

I am also much more conscious now of pacing. Rhythm within dialogue has always fascinated me, but I ignored the bigger picture. I should also be thinking about the ebb and flow of the story as a whole. Which parts drag? Which parts zoom past?

Here's a fun fact: Sometimes I write dialogue in iambic pentameter.

Perhaps I've said too much.

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

I saw a Bald Eagle on a bridge

It's almost comical how badly this week has gone. We're still in the middle of the bad things, so I hesitate to tempt fate, but let's see. Wallets missing. Cat put to sleep. Dryer breaks. A small wreck.

It could all be worse. It could still get worse. So let's focus on the positive. With relentless persistence and extreme prejudice.

It is June. I am watching Carl Sagan on the television talking about the cosmos. It was a beautiful day. I spent the day in a classroom discussing language, one of my favorite subjects. For dinner I had a warm brownie topped with ice cream, and a slice of lasagna.

I am thankful for ice and Ibuprofren, soft pillows, and the dry cleaners. I am thankful for traffic jams on floating bridges, light sunburns on pale forearms, Bald Eagles on lamp posts, and the wind's dispersal of fluttery, silky seeds across my windshield.

Thank you, Seattle. You give with one hand, and you take with the other.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Why, As a Book Lover, I Gave Up On Libraries

I used to put my faith in libraries. Growing up I spent hours in our local library, thumbing through card catalogs, pulling down dusty encyclopedias, spinning the racks with all the mass markets... I'd leave with a bag full of books. Sometimes I'd go into the sale area, where they stacked the discontinued paperbacks, and I'd buy a couple of paperbacks for a dime each. Dime books were the best books. Even when the pages stuck together.

For a year, I volunteered in the junior high school library, and freshman year I worked in my college library.

For 2-4 hours twice a week I'd collect all the stray books (college books were much heavier than junior high books), load them onto a cart, alphabetize them in a back room, and then shelve them. Up and down in the elevator, over and over again.

Then there was the year I worked for Barnes and Noble. (The worst part was having to work at the Starbucks in the back. I was the worst barista.) But getting back to the point--

Obviously libraries have changed. And somewhere along the way I realized I don't trust them anymore.

Used bookstores are my libraries now. That doesn't mean I return books after I buy them. (Ask my husband and he'll tell you I hardly ever get rid of books, ever. Mostly because I'm afraid I'll never find it again.) But, as the books disappeared and the computer terminals appeared, I grew tired of not being able to read the book I wanted or having to wait weeks to get my hands on a copy.

So I decided to make my own library.

It's true, many of my books are used--though you might be surprised at how many aren't. The used books I buy are typically out of print, and they're not on the Kindle. Many are inexpensive collector's editions publishers don't bother to make anymore.

For example, I spent years trying to find a copy of Una Woodruff's "Inventorum Natura." It's a beautiful book, filled with fantastic illustrations of flora and fauna as described by Pliny the Elder.

Libraries and bookstores failed to help me find this book. (Yes, I tried. For years.) It wasn't until the Internet came along, with its used bookstores linked online, that I found a copy I could read.

So what's my point? Why am I being so defensive?

I've been thinking about how I want to someday make my living as a writer, yet I buy used books where the author doesn't get any money for it. Is that morally wrong?

I've always thought of a book as a product that doesn't self-destruct after initial purchase. The ability to recycle or redistribute a product on a secondary market is inherent in a product's nature.

Generally, if a living author does resonate with me, I will seek out their other work in stores and purchase it new, but not because I feel morally compelled. I just want to read it.

And if a book really resonates I will promote it like crazy. Word of mouth is a powerful thing -- many times that means putting the book in a friend's hand and saying "READ THIS." Sometimes I even get the books back. But again, I don't feel morally compelled to do this in exchange for buying used.

Am I a hypocrite because I divorce the creator from his content, and treat the content purely as a product? Is that approach conducive to the sustainability of the artist?

How is buying used different than using the library for what it was originally intended?

I am curious about what you think. Well, I know what a couple of you think, which is why I wrote this. :)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Thursday Plan

I don't know why I've never checked out Richard Hugo House. I knew it existed, but that was as far as I took it.

They offer an interesting schedule of summer writing classes, and this Saturday, June 4, is Write-O-Rama, a full day of writing workshops. If I wasn't already taking an all day class at Bellevue College on Saturday, I would jump on this.

My plan for today is much the same as my plan for Tuesday: brew and drink coffee, write, and pet Chiana a lot. Tonight I'll be meeting up with my friend C Ro, who I haven't seen in a LONG time, and we'll be heading to Hugo House for their "Two Books Enter, One Book Leaves," event. (Need to pick two books, already!)

I should also be ready to send out another writing submission today. Flash fiction this time. (Flash fiction is the term for very short pieces. The one I'm submitting is a little less than 1000 words.)

A quick Chiana anecdote. As my dear cat howled for me to put her down this morning, I said to Jer, "Her cuteness balances out the evil. Just like with The Muppet Babies."

Ba dum dum.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Party Supplies

Setting: Tuesday night, QFC (grocery store), 9:40pm.

Christy approaches the checkout carrying a 12-pack of Charmin Toilet Paper, an 8 pack of Brawny Select-a-Size Paper Towels, and a case of Pyramid Alehouse Curveball Beer.

Checker (male, young, scanning items): Would you like a bag?

Me: No thanks, I can carry it.

Checker (chuckling): We don't have any bags big enough anyway. It was really just a courtesy. (He may have winked.) Can I see your ID?

Me: Sure. (Hands it to him.)

Checker: No, I mean your real ID. (Laughs louder, hands the ID back.) So... what are you doing later?

Me (gesturing to the paper towels, toilet paper, and beer with a flick of the wrist): You're looking at it.

So that happened.