This is not MY laundry pile. Mine is actually worse.
Monthly Archives: January 2012
I just wrote a bit in the YA fantasy novel I’ve only recently started, and in that bit there is a wooden sword fight between an eight year old boy and six year old boy. Now, in books and movies, the sword fight is a popular event. I haven’t finished the scene, just sketched out some of the important stuff (sketched using words); now I need details.
I need to work on my action writing. I get almost as exhausted writing action as I do …. doing action.
But I will persevere, mainly because action sells and also because I just have to make this little wooden sword fight scene iconic and memorable. I mean, come on, we can all list some of the most amazing sword fight scenes from films, can’t we? Here are my top three:
#3 – Captain Jack Sparrow versus Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
#2 – Darth Vader versus Luke Skywalker – in . . . well, take your pick, The Empire Strikes Back or The Return of the Jedi
#1 – Inigo Montoya versus The Man in Black in The Princess Bride
Who’s with me?
Anyway, this little wooden sword fight between these two boys is integral to the whole rest of my story. These two boys are going to grow up and spar in much more terrible and deadly ways in the future, and I’ve got to foreshadow that with their little playground antics. This is important.
Any tips on writing action, especially sword fights . . . especially wooden sword fights? Any witty banter you think I should include here? (i.e. “My name is Inigo Montoya,” etc., etc., or “Luke, I’m your father,” etc. etc., or “Pirate!”) I’ll take links, examples, ideas, quips, jokes, comments – any and all help is appreciated.
Sherlock over on BBC1 is my obsession right now. A big shout-out to my amazing graphic artist friend The Wrath of John. Go follow him over on tumblr. He rocks. Guess who I’m gonna ask to design my book covers whenever an agent and publisher fall in line?
If I stay up too late, eventually I hit that “midnight of the soul” where I feel a bit down about the fact that I haven’t gotten an agent’s attention with my query yet. The reasonable side of me says, “Go to bed. You’ll feel better in the morning.” The panicky side of me says, “What if none of them like it? What if?”
They may not. I’ve got to live with that. I’ll be the first one to admit that the synopsis of my novel is a gamble, that there probably is only one agent out there that will see its real possibility. The rest will dismiss it out of hand. I just wish that that one agent will see it sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, I keep tweaking the manuscript; I keep tweaking that query letter; I keep sending it out to other agents.
And my daughter wants me to hurry up and write chapter two of my second novel.
So, yes, I’ve got to go to bed, so that I can go back to this battle again in the morning, the new day.
I will be a published author. I will be.
I’m just not the most patient of people. My good friend G will remember this line: “I should have mastered the damned thing by now!” (Said Young Sherlock Holmes to Young Watson, after three days of violin practice)
It is Saturday afternoon. I have several hills of laundry, both clean and dirty, to tackle and an overall messy house to deal with. I haven’t even taken down our Christmas tree. I took down our outdoor decorations on the first of the month, but have been too lazy to take down the tree.
Why do I suck at housekeeping?
There have been a lot of theories on this over the years. Besides a general laziness when it comes to household things . . .
Well, let’s talk about that one, shall we? I am not lazy in other areas of my life. Right now I am a stay-at-home mom and fledgling author. I take my mommying fairly seriously. I get them up and off to school, pack their lunches and lord over their homework each day. I read to them, make sure they’re bathed and brushed, tuck them in. I shuttle them back and forth to various extracurricular activities. Make sure they practice their guitar and ukelele. I take them to Sunday school, teach Sunday school, to church.
I am the youth director for our church. That’s a crazy-busy volunteer job!
I volunteer at their school on Thursdays. I guess it’s not surprising how many little kids need tutoring, is it?
I care for three cats and two dogs.
I cook, occasionally. Eventually, when we run out of spoons and bowls and glasses, I do dishes. When my husband runs out of socks and underwear, I do (some) laundry. I try to host a Halloween party most years to give me an impetus to get the house in some semblance of order, but afterward it all goes to hell again. Right now, Halloween is in two “holding areas” – one on our dining room table, the other in buckets in the garage. Christmas is still waiting to be put away. And Valentine’s is just around the corner, isn’t it.
I watch more television that I should – curse you, TiVo! But smart dramas only, please.
I read A LOT. Always. I do mean always – bathroom, waiting in the school line, coffee shop, nighttime, porchtime. Whenever and wherever I can.
And I write. Also A LOT. Well, not as much as somebody on a deadline, I suppose. But I wrote a 157,500 word novel last year – that’s not shabby. And I’m well into another one now.
And I sleep. I love sleeping. I love dreaming. I get my best ideas dreaming. I wouldn’t be able to write if I didn’t sleep as much and dream as much as I did. There isn’t one of my novel ideas that didn’t have its genesis in a dream.
So, late at night, after the kids are abed, before my doctor-husband comes home, I walk back downstairs and weigh the daily decision: dishes/laundry/clean up? or write/read/television/sleep?
Not a tough decision, I tell you.
Just as an FYI for anyone out there who doesn’t quite know how to define YA, or Young Adult literature. A friend asked me if YA was for older teenagers….even though I’m beta-testing my YA novel on an eleven year old…..
Here’s a link that doesn’t really clear up this question, but it is interesting in how the boundaries between YA and Adult Fiction blur sometimes.
I am seated in my usual spot at my coffee shop. When I say my coffee shop, I cannot claim proprietary ownership, but I’m here a lot, and its owner is a friend….and I write here. So yeah, it’s mine .
Thing is, I’ve got my girls with me. How did MY coffee shop also become THEIR coffee shop? My eleven year old is seated on the banquette beside me, reading. I am so proud of her. She has really become a reader in the past year. She does it for pleasure now, not because I make her to. She stays up late at night reading until I have to yell at her to go to sleep . . . and then she keeps reading. As a result? Her grades are improving. They were good to start with; now they’re golden. She’s getting smarter! Reading is miraculous.
My seven year old is on the new family Kindle Fire. She is not reading, however, but playing on some game called “Where’s my water?” which is about trying to get water to flow down into a sewer system so that a friendly crocodile (or perhaps alligator) can take a shower. Hmm. Well, to each her own, I suppose.
The point is that they share my love of this neighborhood coffee shop. It feels like family here. It’s like Cheers without the alcohol. Here I can write with a buzz of uninterrupting conversation in the background. If I want companionship, I can have it. If I don’t, they leave me alone. It’s the perfect writing environment. I get a lot done when I’m here.
Unless, of course, I’m here with my daughters. Well, actually, they’re letting me write now….but that’s because they are diverted by their own interests .
Anyway, the local coffee shop phenomenon is interesting to me. There are fables of J.K. Rowling breathing life into Harry Potter in a coffee shop back when she was impoverished and needed a nice, warm place to write, with her baby in a pram and an endless supply of caffeine. I know I’m not J.K. Rowling, but I can understand that.
I hope my coffee shop never goes out of business, because I would be so lost without it. So, here’s to you Monkeez Brew. I love you. I love your ambiance. I love your people. I love your lattes. God’s blessings.
If any of you have a coffee shop like this, please share your stories!
So, I have a middle-grade/YA reader in my home, and since I’ve begun working on a YA novel, I thought I’d make use of her. So I read a bit to her last night . . . and she didn’t understand it. Just didn’t understand it!
This is an interesting lesson for me. I’ve read tons of young adult novels, and I thought I had a handle on how to write language that is not dumbed down but is clear enough, with enough context clues, to allow them to increase their vocabulary without losing them from the story. Clearly I was wrong.
So this morning I’ve gone back to the “drawing board” so to speak, and am rewriting what I’ve already written . . . before I get in too deep into to this novel.
Firstly, this novel is set in a medieval-esque period and the main character uses magic. This requires some archaisms in language and vocabulary. I realized that a young adult reader not only lacks the prior knowledge necessary to understand some of what I was trying to convey (monarchy and feudal structure, etc.) – not to mention a complete lack of knowledge in Latin roots, prefixes and suffixes . . . and here I was throwing in Old English as well. I also had altered the syntax and formality of the language a bit – no contractions, for example.
The result was not the effect I had intended. Instead of firmly grounding my young adult reader in another time, I just lost her. So, to fix it I’m doing a few things: 1. I changed the story from third to first person. This personalizes the story a bit more, makes the main character more approachable, and forces me to throw in more monologue, dialogue and less description. 2. I am steadfastly not throwing out all the “confusing” words, instead I’m having the narrator explain them more, and more naturally, rather than having the reader wait until a later point in the story to learn more about them. YA readers are impatient. 3. I am going to include a glossary of terms.
About the glossary of terms: I have been asking myself whether doing something like that is a cop-out for a writer. After all, J.K. Rowling didn’t use a glossary – and she had all sorts of magical terms that young adult readers without an understanding of those Latin prefixes, suffixes, and roots, might not immediately understand. She simply used the term in conjunction with the spell or jinx that it related to, and voila: Levicorpus! Now, perhaps you and I would know the “levi” means raise (levitate) and “corpus” means body (corpse) . . . but her YA readers probably inferred all that. If they didn’t infer it, just wait ’til they start taking a romance language (Spanish, French, Italian) in school. It will come back to them! (Hey – I think I learned that word from Harry Potter!) Or maybe not . . . I don’t know . . . I’ll have to ask my daughter. Hmm.
But many of the magical terms that I’ll be using in my novel aren’t Latin, they’re Old English, and since that’s less well-comprehended than Latin, I’m going to go ahead and include a glossary.
I am trying to think of my favorite novels that have included glossaries: Dune, of course, and a few paranormal romance series that I read (J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, for example.) Neither of these are young adult, of course. The Percy Jackson series doesn’t have a glossary of terms or of gods and goddesses, I don’t believe, although they do have a companion book that offers all of that. And Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles, which feature the lesser known Egyptian pantheon, rather than the better known Greek Mythology, does include a glossary, my daughter just informed me.
If any of you can think of any other examples of novels (either adult or young adult fiction) that include glossaries, please let me know.
I guess, despite the fact that I am embarking on a new career, I am still clinging to my old one. I’ll always be a teacher. Here’s a passage that is of interest to this topic. It’s kind of snobby and elitist, but not without truth:
“The poor and the affluent are not communicating because they do not have the same words. When we talk of the millions who are culturally deprived, we refer not to those who do not have access to good libraries and bookstores, or to museums and centers for the performing arts, but those deprived of the words with which everything else is built, the words that open doors. Children without words are licked before they start. The legion of the young wordless in urban and rural slums, eight to ten years old, do not know the meaning of hundreds of words which most middle-class people assume to be familiar to much younger children. Most of them have never seen their parents read a book or a magazine, or heard words used in other than rudimentary ways related to physical needs and functions. Thus is cultural fallout caused, the vicious circle of ignorance and poverty reinforced and perpetuated. Children deprived of words become school dropouts; dropouts deprived of hope behave delinquently. Amateur censors blame delinquency on reading immoral books and magazines, when in fact, the inability to read anything is the basic trouble.” Peter S. Jennison