Monday, September 29, 2008

a lot of modern music just doesn't swing my verge

I would like to comment on a trend that seems to have exploded in the modern music scene over the last few years. I'm not going to speculate on where it originated or why it originated. But it seems to be proliferating itself exponentially--judging by the number of qualifying songs floating around on today's airwaves.

Anyway, the trend is this: twentysomething males with whiny, nasal voices who sound as though their throats are so closed off, only the barest thread of voice escapes in between their overabundance of glottal stops.

My comment: I don't like it. It makes my larynx ache.

Friday, September 26, 2008

in which i announce my intnin

Um, something happened with my keyboard up there. That's supposed to be my intention, namely, that

if I finish working through the entire hard copy of my first draft

by October 31

then I will be participating in this November's National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo

(and the idea I will explore in this particular NaNo is one that came to me in a dream this past spring).

Details to follow.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

in which i admit to linguistic failings of my own, gasp and egad


People who know me know that I'm kind of a stickler for correct spelling and grammar, which might possibly be the understatement of the millennium. But the millennium is young yet, so we shall see. Anyway, if you care to peruse the menus on the right side of my blog, you'll find my "Grammar and Spelling Pet Peeves," or some title to that effect. Clicking on that link will take you to said peeves, where you can view my personal collection of observed grammar and spelling errors. Maybe there are a few of you out there who actually care about that sort of thing. I don't know. Maybe the course of the millennium will discover some converts to my way of thinking.

Or maybe not.


Anyway, the point is...the point is....("Oh...I've forgotten the point." --"The point is that when Mr. Larabee finds out I'm not really Eunice, he's gonna think you tried to put something over on him, and it's bye-bye twenty-thousand smackers.")



So, I'm editing Chapter 16 of my book, and a spelling error caught my eye. This wouldn't be such a big deal--it could just be a typo, y'know--except that I've observed the same error in multiple places in the manuscript. Details as follows:

Apparently, I don't know the difference between "rein" and "reign."

Of the two, the one I *need* most in the story is "rein"--as in, the reins of horses, taking the reins, reining a horse (or a person) in, etc.

What I actually *used* in my first draft is "reign"--as in, a monarch's reign, the reigning ruler, etc.

Note to self: There is quite a difference between

"I reined in the horse"


"I reigned in the horse."

The latter would be, I imagine, fairly uncomfortable, not to mention a thing of impossibility in our dimension. Unless, of course, you happen to be Groucho Marx. Which I don't.

Monday, September 22, 2008

ahh, memories

Shortly after getting up this morning, I thought of this, and it made me laugh.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

i heart linguistics

Today, I read a terrific thing in Craig Storti's "The Art of Coming Home". Apparently, in Kenya, there is a curse that goes something like this:

--Your mother was a chicken, so you had to suckle a cow.

I am quite gratified that in this topsy-turvy world, the universality of your-momma jokes remains comforting and constant.

It also reminds me of a German saying that doesn't translate so well but still retains great amusement value:

--I've already seen horses throw up in front of the pharmacy.

I see your blank stare, and I raise you one sampling of flabbergasted befuddlement. ;o)

Friday, September 19, 2008

the internet might have to go

Fundamental truth: Time I spend on the Internet--blogging, Facebooking, reading Yahoo comics, reading articles on writing or on the mating habits of the South American aardvark--all is time I could be writing.

Should be writing.

Want to be writing.

I try to explain to people that I get a kick out of sitting at my computer for 4-7 hours a day, putting words to screen (or, as I've been doing recently, editing and revising two huge ringbinders full of double-spaced, double-sided manuscript). Many of said people are encouraging. Many of said people look at me as though I have a multi-warted fungus sprouting between my eyebrows. The point, however, is that I *love* to write, and I don't necessarily need anyone else to validate that.

(Though I will freely admit that said validation is balm to a writer's soul; and I am blessed to have a husband who supports me fully in my creative endeavors. Thanks, Schatzi!)

Anyway. So, I get a kick out of writing. I also get a kick out of my online activities. What with all the kicking--and in opposite directions, most of the time--I'm starting to feel a little bruised.

The Internet is a black hole that sucks me in and, when it does spit me back out again, does not necessarily deposit me in the known universe, much less in the universe I would like to occupy: the novelling one. I just read a great quote here from Jeff Vandermeer, who says,

"The writer me is monosyllabic, doesn’t care if his beard grows down to his ankles, scribbles notes on little bits of paper, takes long walks in the woods mumbling to himself, maps out character positions in rooms and notes where the light is coming from, doesn’t answer the phone, and isn’t fond of talking to people.

"The other me is, in general, chatty, sociable, likes talking to people and putting people in contact with one another, and uses the Internet to make friends, advance projects, and communicate a love of books."

That pretty much describes me, except for the beard part.

On that same webpage, Carolyn Kellogg asks,

"What if typewriters had also been telephones? What if you could press the top of your legal pad and have today's newspaper pop out? What if your fountain pen broadcast your favorite talk radio station? Today, when the tool of novel-writing is also the primary tool for all kinds of communication, it seems like a miracle that anybody ever gets anything (longer than a blog post) written."

I'm not announcing my renunciation of all Internet activities.

I am, however, reminding myself on one hand of my priorities and of the insidious nature of distractions.

On the other hand, I do know that all work and no play makes Courtney a *very* grumpy, *very* emotionally strung-out writer. Note to self: That's not okay.

The gripping hand (and major bonus points to those who get *that* reference) is that without the Internet, I wouldn't be writing this handy little reminder/informational in the first place.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

why being a TCK/expatriate is so weird

I've been reading "The Art of Coming Home" by Craig Storti. What follows are resulting ruminations.

Being a TCK means being a paradox that walks around on two legs and talks (sometimes sensibly, and sometimes not so sensibly). Here are a few illustrations:

I can travel around all of Europe, sleeping on trains, carrying nothing but a backpack, and enjoy it.
I can stand up to irate cleaning ladies in train station bathrooms and sling back as good as they're dishing out to me.
I can converse in three languages and order from menus in six.
I started traveling across the world by myself via airplane when I was 15. (And I've crossed the Atlantic more than fifty times.)
I have more than passing acquaintance with the cultures of four different countries.


I don't know how to use an ATM.
I don't know how to open a bank account.
Highway systems mystify me.
I wouldn't have a clue how to operate a gas oven.
I don't know how to buy a car.
I don't know how to buy a house.
I have a lot of trouble boiling eggs.
Until a few days ago, I'd never had a library card or checked out a library book on my own.
I don't know who the mayor of my city of residence is.
And a plethora of other things.

As a TCK, I have a storehouse of experiences and skills that enable me to function on a global scale. But when it comes down to some of the practical details of everyday life, I am often operating solely on guesswork.

I'm not bemoaning this; it is who I am. I don't feel any sort of desperation to "fix" the things on that second list. I am definitely interested in self-improvement, but most of those things, I figure, I'll learn in the course of life. I just thought I'd offer these two lists as an example of the TCK paradox--because unlike Tigger, I am not the only one. ;o)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

a first something! yay!

So on Saturday, Ed and I were driving south on Penn, when we passed the Village Library. I don't remember what I asked him about it or what he replied, but the end result of the conversation was that we turned around, drove back to the library, parked the car, got out, walked in, spoke to the receptionist...

...and I got my first library card. *Ever*.

Gasp and egad, right? How in the name of all that's Good and True and Writable in this world have I, writer extraordinaire and ultimate bookworm, managed to go thirty-one years without having a library card? It's not as though I've never before patronized a library--it's just that my patronization took place on the Army base, and Daddy was the one with the card. Plus, until recently, I always insisted on owning whatever books struck my fancy instead of simply borrowing them. Ed and I laughed about the fact that of the two of us, *I* am the avid reader, but he's the one who's had a library card in every city he has ever inhabited.

Holy moments of irony, Batman.

So on Saturday, to celebrate my new status as library-card-holder, I checked out John Scalzi's "Old Man's War," which I've been wanting to read because Wil Wheaton made me curious, and Roger Zelazny's "Princes in Amber" series, which I read in high school and have been wanting to re-read for about ten years.

Me happy. Like clam. End proverb.

Currently, I'm reading "The War of the Flowers" by Tad Williams, a copy of which I picked up at Barnes & Noble, where I went on Friday to console myself after Hobby Lobby didn't have the button-making-kit I was looking for.

It doesn't take a lot to make me happy. Really, it doesn't.

Yay, I can haz library bookz! Splendiforous!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

writing about writing

I can't promise that the following ruminations (I originally typed "rumniations," which I find rather amusing) will in any way segue (can I use that as a verb? Rule #152. Verbify anything.) into each other in a coherent fashion, but I'm not writing for publication here, so frankly, my dear, I don't give an unmentionable.

I've been wanting to write about my writing for quite some time, but, as other literati have said before me, when one is engaged in active storywriting, one finds oneself reluctant to channel much of that creative energy into blogging. I dunno know why, I just know that's how it works.

Whatever. I do know why. It's because the act of storywriting is such an intense process, there's simply no energy left for other writables (or, sometimes, anything else at all). Weekly, if not daily, I am stocking my creative pond (the pool where we all go down to drink, a la Stephen King, an image I wholly embrace) with creativity for my story, and I am intensely jealous of that creative energy. I want to channel it into the story, not into blopgosts that are, frankly again, not as valuable to me as the story itself.

Which is not to say that I don't care about my blog. Because I do. I'm only setting priorities here. Work with me, people! Gah.


That said, I give you the following: an excerpt from my journal, in which I expound upon my current noveling status. Please forgive the abbreviations and ellipses--I want to give you the journal excerpt without giving away parts of the story. So, without much ado about anything, an excerpt for your reading pleasure (or not, whichever the case might be):

September 4, 2008

While I ran this morning, I let my mind go over some possibilities for "Triad." Part of me is tempted to scrap the first half and re-write it, simply because the style of writing and the pace of the story are so different from what and how I wrote the second half. [Note: I know this sentence is grammatically horrid, but in my journal, I free-associate without editing, so there ya go.] This is what happens when one spend four years on the first half and four months on the second. ;o)

However, I'm putting the scrap-temptation on hold for now. First, I want to see what I can do with that first half in my second-draft edit, which I'm working on now. I've gone through eleven chapters--all in the second half. I'm reserving final judgment on the first half until I've worked through it again.

But back to the possibilities I was permutating on my run. Liz "Engstrom" Cratty, my Writer's Digest Novel Writing Workshop mentor [three? years ago], suggested I start the story with R.'s and Ch.'s capture... I don't believe that's the best starting point, as so much of the backstory would get lost, and explaining everything later would bog down the rest of it.

However, I wonder if the *argument* between R. and Ch. *would* be a good starting point...

I think I'm coming to the conclusion that my current Chapter One, in which D. and the guys break into the belltower and R. thwarts them, does not a good Chapter One make. *Prologue*, maybe. But for a first chapter, it doesn't get things moving quickly enough. I need a start with more tension...

...and the argument between R. and Ch. might just be it.

Of course, then I'll have to decide whether to make the break-in scene a prologue (in which case, it'll have to be *way* shorter) or toss it. I like the shorter prologue idea. If I toss it [current Chapter One], then Ill have the backstory bogdown again.

So, let's say the break-in is a prologue, and Chapter One begins with the argument. '"_______________!" ___________________________' might be a good opening line. [Hee hee.] Then what? I'd send R. directly to the T.s' (after the argument, of course), which would bypass N.H. entirely; if I didn't bypass her, I'd get into a bog again, interrupting R.'s storming out of the tower. (And what if R. failed to secure the lift before leaving? This could add some tension, because she'd worry about Ch. all the way to the T.s'...)

I've wondered for a long time whether or not I. needs a greater role, and if so, how to give it to her? Well, what if I combined I. and N.H. into one character? Perhaps I.'s mother was from the H. family....Hmmm.....

I'm getting ahead of myself, because these are all things to consider *after* I go through the text and finish my second draft. But it's good to get these ideas on paper. They've been in my subconscious for awhile, so this has helped me gain some clarity. My concentration on the second half will be better now...

< /journal entry >

Since I wrote that, I have gone through several more chapters and have finished a total of seventeen! That means eighteen more to go. When I say "finished," I mean that I have gone through the hard copy pages, marking with colored ink anything that needs changing/improving. When I'm through with this manuscript, every single page will be bleeding pink, purple, blue, or green, depending on which gel pen I used.

Have I mentioned I'm having a blast with this? Please to be noting my quote from a few days ago: "One of the best things about being a writer is that I get to go to work in nothing but my underwear, if I want to." I wrote that. You can quote me on it.

After I've gone through the hard copy pages, I will enter all the changes into the computer document and print it all out--that will be my second draft. Then, I'll begin re-structuring the parts of the story that don't work. *That* will be the hard part....because, as Mr. King teaches (in "On Writing"--a writer's bible, I swear), in order to create a working story, you must "kill your darlings." Meaning: I gotta cut out parts of the story I love but that don't fit.

That's where the other quote from a few days ago comes into play: "Psychologically speaking, writing a book is like getting into a knife fight with yourself in a phone booth" (The Waiter). When I "kill my darlings," I'm going to be fighting myself, and it's not going to be pretty.

You've been warned.

That's all for now. I hope you've enjoyed this look into One Writer's Mind. Metaphors be with you.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

prelim thoughts about writing

Two things regarding writing, upon which I wish to ruminate in the near future:

1. A great quote I ran across this evening:
"Psychologically speaking, writing a book is like getting into a knife fight with yourself in a phone booth."
--The Waiter

2. A great thought that percolated through the coffee filter of my brain a few days ago:
One of the best things about being a writer is that I get to go to work in nothing but my underwear, if I want to.

That's all for now. More later.