Friday, June 30, 2006

Enamored Of My Own Words

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
9,140 / 25,000

Lusty League AmberPax story progress

A friend posts her progress to her blog just about every day, and usually adds a "line of the day." I tickled myself with this one, so I'm stealing from her. My words, her presentation.

Line of the day: When he first leaped off the car, his body tried to do what it knew how to do, but his brain tried to control it, and gravity said, “Ha ha, you fool,” and almost overruled both.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Always the Writing

Most forms of artistry done for entertainment or commercial purposes are collaborations. Even books and articles and stories aren't solely the product of the writer, because editing and packaging are essential.

But the more collaborative a thing is, the more important the writing.

Three examples.

One is something I've discussed before. The most-named episode of Firefly is "Out of Gas," which was written by Tim Minear. It was amazing. Three timelines, layers of meaning and conflict and emotion. The acting and the set design and the lighting all ensured the story was portrayed well. But without superb writing, it would have failed miserably.

My next example is the TV show Arrested Development. It was a huge critical success, with Entertainment Weekly, in particular, extolling its virtues constantly, and begging people to see it. It was a Fox product, so I kind of assumed that was the problem. I started watching the show last week, and finished the first season. And it's good. The acting and lighting and even the shooting are very well done. I laugh a lot. I have a crush on Jason Bateman. But when my husband calls it my "latest obsession" I have to say it's not. I have no desire to leave my computer (no matter how hard I'm procrastinating writing today) to go watch the new disk I just got. And he, himself, hit on the reason the other night as he went up to bed.

"Nothing good ever happens to these people, does it?"

And he's right. No matter how amusing the characters and their lines are, it's a really depressing show. Every so often the writers attempt to ease the load by making Mom come through for Michael, or making Gob redeem himself. But overall, it's one big hit after another, and that weighs on the viewers. It's stuff that's close to home, too. Divorce, and money, and cousin-crushes. That's too hard to sustain, even if Ron Howard is the one doing the narrating.

And finally, the bomb. The proof that it's always the writing. The Break-Up.

I went to see this two nights ago, and I couldn't believe how bad it was. The acting was fine. The condo marketing told us they were fighting over was divine. And Jennifer Aniston was just too sexy to be real.

But OH MY GOD I hated them. Every word out of both their mouths was so cliché, so stupid, and unimportant, and eye-rolling. There was nothing likeable about either person, and even their supporting cast was bad. They had nothing to do, and the things they said were just stupid. The worst part was that near the end, there were two touching scenes between the main characters, and one really insightful scene between the "hero" and his best friend. I even had tears. But it was empty, because nothing that had come before supported the sentiments in those scenes.

It makes me wonder. There are three writers credited on this movie, and who knows how many more might have been involved but not gotten credit. I think those three good scenes were written by a different person than all of the fighting scenes.

Man, I can't wait for Pirates of the Caribbean. Sequels are rarely, rarely as good as the first film, but this one was written by the same screenwriters as the first one, and I have high hopes.

The rest of the summer...let's just hope The Break-Up was the worst of it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

One Little Word

Jude Deveraux was one of my first adult favorite authors. I remember reading her as a teenager, which concerned my mother because she was afraid there'd be rape scenes and I'd learn about "bad sex." But Deveraux was never one of those kind of writers, and what I learned was about connection.

I loved the sets of series. She had the Montgomerys in Britain/Scotland and the Taggerts in the American West, and they intermarried and then we had a new set of books, in the more recent past, with all the family tree. And then contemporary stories full of Montgomerys. Time travels and, in the past couple of years, some really, really weird paranormals.

I can't say she's one of my favorites anymore. I've changed, and her voice doesn't speak to me as well as it used to. But I still buy and read her books, and usually they compel me. And she'll always be the reason I love interconnected stories of any type.

So the past few days I've been reading First Impressions. I've had it for six months, and just haven't been in the mood for that type of book. It took me a little longer to get through it than usual, because I was able to put it down and read Time, People, and Entertainment Weekly instead. There is NOTHING in the book to connect it to any of her previous books (that I can remember--let me know if Mrs. Farrington had anything to do with The Summerhouse or something and I'm missing it).

I'm getting off track. Point: The book was good, but less compelling than I'd hoped, and not one that was too hard to stop reading. But man, the last line made the whole book memorable. It's so cheeky, so winky, so delightful!


"Montgomery. Jared Montgomery."


If you highlight the lines in between the spoiler lines you should be able to see it.

I just felt the urge to share that, in the hopes someone would understand. My husband sure didn't. :)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

My Pimping Mother-in-Law

I'm watching Arrested Development, just after midnight last night. The phone rings. Panic does not ensue. Our phone number is off by one digit from the local Dominos. We don't get as many calls as you might expect, and handle them, usually, by playing around with the callers ("we're all out of pepperoni" or "that will be $50 plus delivery charge"). After midnight, it's likely someone drunk, and they're even more fun to mess with.

But of course there's always a chance it's an emergency, and when I answered and my mother-in-law said "Natalie!" in a very excited, strong tone, I went into crisis mode. Crisis mode for me is emotion clicked off, brain working a mile a minute cataloging possibilities and responses. In this case, I figured Dad had another heart attack and I was mentally already upstairs yanking Jim out of bed to drive to Hershey.

"What, what's wrong?" I ask.

"Orlando Bloom's on Jay Leno!"

Do I have the BEST relatives in the world or what????

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Stupid Owl

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
1,150 / 10,000

story for Lusty League AmberPax

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing some surfing online late at night, and I heard an owl outside. Which was amazing, because we're not exactly in an owl area. I was delighted. Over the next several days, the owl returned, ocassionally hooting a lot, ocassionally just once. But it tickled me that he/she was coming back. My desk is right next to the window to our back yard, so I figured he was in the big tree just outside.

Two nights ago? I discovered just how stupid I am.

It wasn't an owl. It was JK Rowling.

Here's what happened.

Most nights, one of the last things I do is read all my favorite blogs and stuff. I started going to JK Rowling's site every day because she updates it very infrequently, but if she puts up a new diary post, you can't access any old diary posts. At least, I haven't figured out how to. When her page opens, you click on the language you want to surf the site in, and that opens in a new window. It always takes a little while to load, so I click back to the first window.

Now, her site has sound. A radio. Cars passing by an open window. And, yes, an owl.

You know how I figured it out? The other day, I went to her site when the sun was still up.

Man, I'm dim.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Next Step, Vitamins

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

When I had a day job, plus family responsibilities, plus writing, I routinely got 4-6 hours of sleep a night during the week, and slept really late on the weekends (when I could), and was tired all the time. I hated it.

Being well-rested is supposed to be one of the benefits of being home this summer. I've gotten 8 hours of sleep or more almost every night. But last night I was so tired I went to bed at 9:00. And when I got up at 7:30, I was still tired. Even after my shower.

So I need to do two things: Eat better, and start taking vitamins.

I'm off to have popcorn and ice cream salad for dinner.

Monday, June 19, 2006


I'm so amused at myself.

I'm writing (4.9 pages so far today) but I'm writing a school board meeting scene and I wanted some agenda items to mention. (This is the kind of research I do--as little as possible, where and when I need it.)

Anyway, I'm reading my local school board's summary from the March meeting ('cause my scene is set around March-ish), and it lists some approved appointments, including new girls soccer coach and assistant soccer coach at the middle school.

Now, my oldest won't be able to play for nearly two years, because PIAA soccer only allows seventh graders to play, not sixth, and it's a spring sport in the schools. But I'm curious anyway. So I started Googling these guys, looking at some couple's wedding pictures because one of the coaches was in the wedding (I think--they had soccer pictures, too, so it's probably him) and weeding out the assistant coach from links to an industrial realtor in California and a family tree in the UK.

Next thing I know, it's been twenty minutes of sidetracking, for no good reason. They might not even be her coaches, two years from now.

Do you get the impression I'm trying to avoid writing this book?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sunday Ramblings

You would think, now that I'm home with a primary focus on writing, and this blog is about writing (though I rarely write about writing), that I would post to the blog every day.

Wouldn't you?

So, I'm sorry, I've been terrible. I have this belief that I'm only talking to myself here, mainly because of the lack of comments, despite the fact that people are always telling me they read my blog. (Hi, Cindy! Hi, Bethany! Hi, Jennifer, and Susie, and Patty, and Smith. Or whoever really told me they read it, 'cause I can't remember.)

Okay. So. Time for me to say all the stuff I've been bottling up for a week.


Seriously, I had blog thoughts. At least six times I thought, "I should blog about that."

Right now? Mind's a total blank. Dammit.

Well, how about an update on how this whole work-at-home thing is going?

Nothing like I planned, of course. My cleaning schedule fell apart Wednesday, which I spent in a sick haze (thanks, Ohio people! *waves*). I briefly but incompletely resurrected it on Thursday, and said "to hell with it" on Friday. My kids were happy.

But I did keep up with the dishes, which made my husband happy, which alleviated my guilt for sleeping to 8 or 9 every day.

I also managed to get some writing done. I met my goal almost every day I set one. The Blue Silver project is coming along nicely, though late. A five-author collaboration does run into obstacles. But we're all really pleased with the results, and I hope you readers are, too. Sequels and prequels are being considered.

Brianna's Navy SEAL would be about 15 pages from being done, except the story's longer than my minimum page count called for, so it will likely be another 50 pages before I hit the end. But that may be by the end of the week! Woo hoo!

Ah, sad news. Inara Press is closing its doors. That's a big shame, because Dawn and Sara and the editors and authors over there were doing a bang-up job, but reality is often difficult to predict. That means Black Widow won't be out this summer/winter like I announced, which means Cindy has to wait for her dedication. Sorry, Cind. I'll make it really good when it finally makes it out there.

Got a new cat. Her name is Frisbee, because the rescuer saw her get thrown from a truck on the highway. She's sweet, but she's also a candidate for She's affectionate and likes being around us, but nips. McKenna got scratched several times, too, which is possibly her own fault, but is a bit worrying. She hasn't eaten much that we can tell, because Maya/Garfield keeps getting into her food. She is either low appetitish because of the move up here, or finicky. She sniffs and walks away, and then if Maya doesn't chow it down, the dog does. She also took offense to our litter box, and used the clean sheets in the laundry basket instead. I went to buy a second litter box. Someone's used it, and I hope it's not Maya, because that kind of defeats the purpose.

Dammit, I don't want a smelly house! So far, we've completely avoided it. If she starts pissing all over the carpet, we're in trouble.

Ummm...Oh, yeah. In case anyone doubts the problems with the ozone layer--I was in the sun for two hours on Friday. SPF 60 slathered on before we left the house. SPF 50 layered over it after an hour, and I'd done minimal swimming (one dip in the water, no toweling) and sweating (not wiped off). These sunscreens proclaim to be effective for 4-6 hours, even with swimming, sweating, and toweling.

Yeah, you know where this is going. Burned! The worst spot is a place I obviously missed, along the crease of my arm next to my armpit. But my face and shoulders and chest, which I paid close attention to, are fried. My only consolation is that the sunscreen seems to have worked better on my kids, who do appear to be a bit darker, but did not burn. They've had one minor burn in their entire 10 and 7 years, respectively. I'm very proud of that.

Of course, the only reason I try to be careful with myself now is the pain. You know how they say one bad sunburn in childhood predisposes you to cancer as an adult? I'm totally doomed. Try one bad sunburn EVERY YEAR, MINIMUM. I was always a nice dark brown by September, too. So we'll see.

Okay, is that enough content to make up for the past week? For those of you who haven't fallen asleep? All one of you? :)

I'll try to be better...

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Sun, She Is Too Bright

I have a serious problem.

I was writing by the pool today--I know, true hardship, right?

But seriously. I was doing revisions on my laptop. The sun was mostly out, so it was too bright to go without sunglasses.

But I couldn't see the screen with my sunglasses on. I bumped the Zoom up to 200% and squinted at the screen, and got 47 pages revised, which is probably half of what I could have done if I'd worn a hat.

But did I wear a hat?


If I wear a hat, the sun won't lighten my horrible uncolor hair.

Serious problem.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

First Day of Summer Vacation

I'm sure I made references over the years to it being a cold day in Hell when I would be a stay-at-home-mom. Heh.

In case you can't tell from this amateurish camera-phone shot, that's hail.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Leaping With Glee

One of my mother’s favorite sayings was “Leap, and the net shall appear.”

As a single mother, she did that a lot. New jobs, new homes, new marriage…somehow, she had the faith she needed to make the leap, and somehow, it always worked out. Not necessarily the way it was expected, I admit, but always in a way that felt positive.

Today, I took my own leap. I have left my solid, secure, ego-boosting day job to write full time. To fully embrace the dreams I’ve been pursuing for nearly fifteen years. And it feels so good, I’m not even worried about the net.

Writing, like most creative pursuits, is a “don’t quit your day job” proposition. For every American Idol finalist there are hundreds of night club chanteuses and chanteurs struggling to find success. For every Orlando Bloom, there’s a Joey Tribianni. And for every Nora Roberts, there’s a me.

We work hard, fitting our writing time around all of our other obligations, working sometimes fulfilling, sometimes soul-deadening day (or night) jobs to feed our families and our NFL Sunday Ticket needs. Some of us can make that work and slowly build success, selling more and more books and building the writing income until it is enough to replace the day job’s income. But some of us need to take the leap.

Over and over again, throughout my entire life, I’ve heard about people who did it, who faced horrible odds and dire consequences, and found corresponding success instead. I’ve always known, deep inside, that I was going to be one of those people. It was only a matter of time until I reached the cliff.

My circumstances aren’t dire, of course. I have backup. I wouldn’t have quit my day job if my husband and I hadn’t positioned ourselves financially to absorb the hit. The sacrifices we will be making are closer to Netflix than fresh vegetables. And I’m doing it as much for my kids, the oldest of whom is entering middle school but still too young to be home alone every day, as for myself. It’s possible the gods who hold the net will laugh at my pathetic little jump (my vertical leap is about negative one inch). But I can’t know unless I try.

So here I go…

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

So All Men AREN’T Sexual Pigs?

Note: I wrote this back in January and never posted it.

I hate when people have negative opinions about something they haven’t read. But I hate generalizations more, so here I go, voicing a negative opinion about something I haven’t read, and actually have no intention of reading.

The book in question is Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent, who spent quite a bit of time pretending to be a man so she could write this book, which is apparently all about how different men are from women.

Obviously, her observations are more valid than mine, because they are based on her experience. But the parts I have read (excerpts in magazines and quotes in reviews) seem to work too hard to push those observations further than they really go.

One that bugged me was that she said she learned to adapt an attitude of entitlement, and that women apologize a lot more. An example was that when ordering food, she’d say “Get us two filets,” where as a woman she would be more like, “Excuse me, so sorry to bother you, but when you get a chance do you think you could maybe get me a glass of water?”

A--If I were on a date with a man who ordered the waitress to “get us two filets,” that would be our last date.

B--While I acknowledge the tendency expressed in the second example, she is going way overboard in her demonstration. I don’t know any women who go that far to be apologetic about asking the waitress to do her job. And my husband says, “when you get a chance” to people all the time. He never says, “get me a filet.”

Some of the excerpts and references state that men are expressionless and hide all their emotions under armor. Sorry, but my brother (non-gay, fairly masculine, and very comfortable with himself) is one of the most emotional people I know. The references I’ve read imply (or I’ve inferred) that she took her observations of one group of men (rough-and-tumble types in a bowling league) and applied it to ALL men.

The final “big observation” that’s been discussed in the media I’ve read is about how women have sexual power. She made it sound like we have it in an unfair way, but I think how we feel when a man we’re not interested in approaches us balances with how they feel when they do the approaching and are rejected. Our power to reject directly equals their power to reject by omission.

The Time magazine article also quoted her as saying that while in recent times men have attempted to “learn our language,” women have made no attempt to learn theirs. I just gaped at the words. What about all those women who’ve battled for success in the last four decades (and longer) to succeed in traditionally male-dominated professions? I betcha anything the first female major in the Army would take offense at her oversimplification.

The bottom line, for me, is the generalization. SOME groups of women may not have attempted to “learn men’s language,” but it doesn’t apply to all women. SOME groups of men may pretend not to feel emotion, but that doesn’t mean all of them do. In my opinion, trying to give her research broad application to society as a whole does damage to her purpose.

This really turns me off to reading the book, so I could be wrong. Feel free to correct me or voice a different opinion. However strong I may feel, I always welcome the opportunity to admit I’m wrong. No, honest. I do.


Thursday, June 01, 2006


Jim mentioned the other day that I say, "Yeah, but..." a lot. As in this type of exchange:

"I'll be so glad when I don't have to practice cello every day."
"Yeah, but you'll have to practice every WEEK."

"Movie prices are going up."
"Yeah, but I don't mind that as much as the concession prices."

He has proceeded to tell me, every day since, how many times he, himself, has said it. And I realized just about any topic can lead to a yabutt.

So here are some Yabutts for today.

Main News Story: Family sits by bedside of daughter in coma, only to discover it isn't their daughter after all.

It's easy to understand how this happened. The coroner's office accepted the identification of acquaintances of the two girls who got mixed up. No tests were done to confirm identity, and the parents of the girl who died didn't want to see her battered body.

Yeah, but how can parent sit by the bedside of this girl, touch her, look at her, and then watch and hear her for several days after she wakes up, without knowing it's not their child? She'd been in the coma for several weeks, so most of her external wounds should have healed enough that once her eyes were opened, once she started struggling to communicate, they should have figured it out sooner.

Of course, it's always easy to say something like that from way over here. I mean, I joke that when my daughter is playing soccer, the only way to distinguish her from three other players on the field are her pink shoes and the number on her back.

Yeah, but that's at a distance with them moving. Close up, even battered, there's NO WAY I'd mistake them. Even at 10 years old, my kid has scars and moles that make her unique.

TIME magazine reports this week that the personal savings rate in 2005 was -.04%, the first time since 1933 that the average American's spending exceeded disposable income.

Yeah, but it's not that "the average American's spending" etc. It's that "the average of all Americans' spending." Half the people made more than they spent. I hate misleading statistics.

TIME also reports that there were 726 gay and lesbian members of the military discharged in 2005 for breaching the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Yeah, but it's estimated the U.S. spent $200 million to recruit and train replacements for those discharged members.


I just don't know what to say about that. Its stupidity seems outrageously obvious. Our soldiers don't have armor or enough bodies to fight this war in Iraq, but hey, at least no one is staring at their asses!