Friday, December 31, 2010

2010


Kisses! Hugs! A fond farewell!

So 2010 is over. It was a pretty darn good year, I must say. For us anyway. Hope the joy and semi prosperity extends to you and yours as well.
I'm not a big fan of resolutions, as they are so often about things we're going to try not to do.
I'm more of a goal setter for the new year. At least, I like to set up a target to aim for.
Here's my select few for 20ELEVEN!!
Work on my three WIPs. Get each one to the next stage of development. I'm not going to use that f-word (finished!)
Work on my portfolio. I haven't painted in some time, and my brain can feel the effects.
Finish the house projects. Seriously. The spare bathroom has been in a state of suspended animation since we moved in. Time to finish the trim and painting and actually break that bad boy in.
Take a family trip.
A small one. We managed to get away in '09, but this year, with all the weddin's and family reunions, we didn't really have a chance to get away, just me, Mr. Cate and the little guy.
I think that's enough. If I get through all those, I'll add something new.
Before I know it, I'll be typing my farewell to 2011

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

There's a zombie on my lawn


My son was Dr. Zomboss for Halloween. We made a bucketful of these little guys to go on his costume. This one has decided to become my writing buddy. He keeps telling me to write "brains" for some reason...

This was the first year we were home for Trick or Treating in our new neighborhood, and it was fantastic.
We have dark, narrow streets, lots of huge, creepy old trees and no streetlights messing it all up. And we went out after dark even. With all the orange and purple Halloween lights up, it was really fantastic.

In writing news I am not, for the 31st consecutive year, joining up for NaNo.
I have a half finished WIP that doesn't need 50k more words, and I don't want to start anything news just now.
But cheers for all my NaNo writing peeps. Good luck with the NaNo project.
I have to get back to my WIP now.
I have a zombie threatening to nibble my fingers off if I don't keep typing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Updates!

A lot has happened to our little writing community since I started this blog oh so many years ago. Much has changed. Many bloggers I visited regularly, especially industry blogs, aren't around anymore, or exist now only as archives.
It was time to update the links, and the page as well.
This one is much more fitting with the theme of my last book ;)

What am I missing? Where are the great middle grade, YA, or Steampunk bloggers that I haven't discovered yet?
And if I don't have a link to your blog yet, let's get that fixed!

Monday, October 18, 2010

One Hundred Wonderful Movies #2

Has there ever been a film more quotable than The Big Lebowski?
A film so awesome it inspired it's own annual festival (that didn't involve space travel of some kind)?
A more perfect celebration of Sam Elliot's mustache?
I think not.

This is the Coen Brother's first entry on my list of all-time favorites. Joel and Ethan Coen are among my favorite directors, and there is no better introduction into their deceptively simple style of storytelling than with the Dude himself.

The Big Lebowski is a delightful bit of absurdity that at first seems to be a random collection of hilarious setpieces, and slowly evolves from general wackiness and gratuitous recreational drug use into a genuine mystery, albeit with characters so inane and self absorbed it's difficult to care about any one of them. And yet they're all somehow so lovable. Walter and his temper, Donny and his total irrelevance, the cold, calculating Maude, Bunny (we're all quite fond of her) and especially the Dude himself.
The Big Lebowski centers around a happily rut-embedded old hippie who spend his days drinking white russians and bowling, and loving every minute of it. That is, until a misunderstanding involving a wealthy man (or is he??) with the same legal name as the titular Jeffery Lebowski (because they got the wrong guy, man... everyone knows he's the Dude.)

What follows is a classic Coen brothers tale, told in a simple fashion, but with a quite densely layered story under all the nonsense. And you can pick out just about any line of dialogue, throw it out into the world, and someone will join you in a volley of Lebowski-isms. Plus, the soundtrack is absolutely classic.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

One Hundred Wonderful Movies #1

Okay, this year was kind of a snooze at the local cinema.
Since January, there have been about five movies I've really wanted to see in a theater, or bothered to, for that matter.
Youth in Revolt, Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, Inception, and The Social Network.
(I rank them 5, 4, 2, 3, and 1, respectively. Social Network gets points over Youth for starring Jesse Eisenberg, Inception gets major points for Joseph Gordon Levitt, looses some for being in a race with no real competition)
(Note, I still need to see Get Low and Ondine) Still scheduled for release sometime this year are The Rum Diary, The Black Swan, (in which Darren Aronofsky decided not to cast his wife, so he could make it extra "adult" apparently) King's Speech starring Colin Firth, and The Tempest. (wow, really? yes, the actual The Tempest. Ooh, that's spectacular. I know, right??) Also, the Coen Brothers are remaking True Grit. But until they actually debut, it's been a rather slow 10 months for us film people.
Good news, we have Netflix, and all kind of things "on demand". (How do I sign up for Dr. Pepper "on demand"? Where's the button I hit for that? Isn't this A'merca?) So, if you're looking for something to watch you may have missed the first time around, I'm going to make a list, in no particular order, of my 100 favorite movies.

Starting with (again, in no particular order) The New World.
Terrence Malik is the kind of director who turns up every decade or so with an offering of lyrical, heartbreaking cinematic poetry, only to disappear again until the next Transit of Venus, or whatever it is that entices him to get back in the director's seat. In 2005, he shot the million feet of film that would become The New World (His next film Tree of Life, will premiere in 2011)






And so it goes. For over 135 minutes, or 170 in Malik's rerelease, hardly anyone speaks aloud, and every frame is completely captivating. There are no theatrics, almost nothing explicit. The film diverges from the historical record to focus on the legendary but probably fictional love story between Pocahontas and John Smith. The relationship between them is delicate and subtle, (partly because the actress was only 15) but it still manages to illustrate love and a true connection between souls with sincerity and brilliance. Smith and Pocahontas don't need to speak for us to understand exactly how they feel - her surprise and curiosity, his deep inner conflict and mistrust of his own feelings. Inaccurate as it may be historically, it's one of the best depictions of true love on film.

I thought that would be a good one to begin with.
99 to go!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Social Network

I graduated from college in '02, so I missed facebook by about a year and a half.
Not the current incarnation of facebook, with all the games and quizzes and family photo albums. The original facebook. You know, for kids.
Watching the Social Network made me simultaneously wish I was three or four years younger, and also totally relieved I wasn't three or four years younger. It also made me want to go straight home and delete my facebook account.

The Social Network opens with a conversation between Harvard freshman Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend. While discussing his goals and ambitions for the upcoming year, Zuckerberg calously offends his girlfriend in just about every possible way, but is still confused and deeply hurt when she announces she wants to end the relationship.

He reacts in a classically immature way, by rushing straight back to his dorm room to get drunk and post some malicious gossip about her on his blog. In the same night, he whips up and posts a website that lets users rate the hotness of the female undergrads. Fasmash, as he calls it, is so popular that it crashes the Harvard network within a few hours.

In the first ten minutes, we've learned two very important things about Zuckerberg. He's a frighteningly talented programmer, and he's also incredibly vindictive and petty. Throughout the rest of the film, Zuckerberg's actions are surrounded by a haze of ambiguous motivation. Is he acting the part of a shrewd entrepreneur, or reacting as a jealous, insecure kid shaking his fist in the air and shouting "I'll show you!" ?

The raging success of Facemash gets the attention of a trio of young entrepreneurs on campus, Divya Narenda, and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. They pitch Zuckerberg and idea for an exclusive website that would basically help Harvard guys find girls that want to hook up with Harvard guys. Yes, these are the big ideas of 20 year old guys. Zuckerberg immediately runs to his best friend Eduardo Saverin with an idea of his own. Zuckerberg's idea borrows a bit from the Winkelvoss's HarvardConnection, but it also incorporates a bit of Myspace, and essentially just expands the already existing Facebook sites run individually by many of Harvard's school houses.

Did Zuckerberg end up backing out of the Winkelvoss's project simply because of immaturity and a lack of foresight? Or did he intentionally screw them over because they were exactly the kind of guys his girlfriend jokingly suggested she preferred to Zuckerberg himself? Either way, with Saverin's help and initial investment of 1k, Zuckerberg's site, The facebook, is up and running in a few short months. From that point, things move at a freakish pace, with the facebook expanding from Harvard to a handful of schools, to nationwide in a few short months.
Zuckerberg and Saverin succeed in getting the attention of Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, who meets with them to discuss business, or so they think.

There is immediate tension between Saverin and Parker, with Parker coming off as a greasy, opportunistic weasel, but also the guy with the corporate connections Saverin wishes he had. It's Parker's involvement that really gets the site from a project to a viable business, but it's also the wedge that finally splits Saverin and Zuckerberg. This was my only real problem with The Social Network as a whole. The film alternates between scenes of the founding of facebook, and the eventual avalanche of lawsuits by nearly everyone involved or remotely connected. We know that Saverin is suing his best friend for hundreds of millions of dollars. But when it comes down to the pivotal scene, where Saverin is cut out of the business, Zuckerberg is conspicuously off stage. What was his involvement in that decision? It's left very vague, probably as a result of non disclosure agreements attached to everyones multi million dollar settlements.

In the end, Parker ends up looking sad and desperate, Saverin comes off looking like a charming, trusting, betrayed but loyal friend, and Zuckerberg is exactly the same as he was in the first scene. A brilliant, awkward, immature, insecure kid. The only difference is, he's worth a billion dollars.

The Social Network draws immediate comparisons to Startup.com, the 2000 documentary that was supposed to chronicle the rise to success of another trio of sharp young entrepreneurs in the new landscape of internet business. Instead, it was a dramatic depiction of the 90's .com bubble popping. The only difference is that the facebook founders were fighting over real dollars, and the Govworks.com guys were so busy dividing up shares and squabbling over control of the company, they never really bothered to create anything that worked before they tried to sell it.

Zuckerberg would have been old enough to understand the .com mania, and the ensuing destruction of the new era of internet business. In that context, many of his decisions make perfect sense. He makes the right moves for the business, and it is a smashing success. The problem is that he also makes the best decisions for himself, and at the end of the day, he's standing alone at the top of the hill. He gets his revenge, even against those who tried to help and support him.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In the Grocery Store - Alone

For the past six years, I haven't been to the grocery store alone.

That's the kind of thing you don't realize when you're expecting your first child. Some changes are obvious, like "this is a lot of responsibility" or "This is going to be very expensive" You realize this when the equipment starts rolling in. Cribs, swings, car seats, diapers, bottles, safety equipment for your coffee table. It's a lot.

But you still don't really get it until a few months in. You're never really alone anymore. And I don't mean in some metaphysical sense. I mean seriously, there's a kid with you all the time. It doesn't quite sink in until you're living it.

The advice to other expecting parents becomes the stuff that blindsided you. My favorite bit of advice - enjoy being in the bathroom with the door closed. Especially for stay at home moms like me. It won't happen again until that first day of preschool, when you are finally alone in your own house. That's like 3 or 4 years of leaving the door cracked so you can hear what's going on in the other room. But preschool was still only half day. I had a few hours to write and paint, so I spent my few precious alone hours working, and did all the errand running when CJ got home from school.

Now he goes to school full day. There isn't enough time after he gets home for a big grocery store trip. Yesterday, for the first time in six years, I found myself shopping all alone. No carseat bucket, no cart cover for the seat, no kid circling the cart every .8 seconds. No 20,000 questions. There were a lot of other moms with little guys in the cart, looking exasperated while they compared the price of pasta or canned soup.

The only thing in my cart's seat was a can of pizza sauce.

It was sort of zen to be able to shop in silence. To just pick up what I needed and get out of there. But I also missed my shopping buddy. From now on, I'll be handling this mostly solo. That's the other thing I wasn't expecting. Once you get used to the situation, it all changes again.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

cool things

Forgive me, guys. I'm still a little tired from staying up till 3 to read Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth cover to cover. I had to. It was one of those perfectly paced stories, where so much has happened in the first 10 pages that I was thinking "There's so much book still in my hand, what else could possibly happen?"
And then all of a sudden, four hours later, I was sitting there with only 10 pages left, thinking, "How can this possibly get wrapped up with only 10 pages left? What else could possibly happen?!?"


In other great things news, I love this blog A New Dress A Day.
I love this idea. It's inspiring, without adding that sigh of "oh yeah, I'd love to do something like that... someday..." It's something I can do right now! Plus, I hate, hate, hate clothes shopping, and I love making things.
Although Marisa is absolutely adorable and looks to be about a size 2. She can pull off a few looks I wouldn't dare. Like the spaghetti straps, or strapless altogether. Uh, not quite for me.
Lots of her creations end up with that funky/vintage look of ModCloth dresses, which I love, and don't wear enough.
I must wear more dresses! Not just hippie skirts and maxi sundresses, either. Real dresses!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What I'm Doing When I'm Not Writing

Opinions?
We have 2 versions of a teaser trailer for Mr. Cate's new film.



Or




Which one, peeps?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ooh, you have books? I want some!

Sara McClung is doing a sweet book giveaway, and hey, I like books. So I'm helping her up the traffic in a bid to win some of those sweet titles for myself. Even though I just came home from the library with a chin high stack. She has some great new titles in the lineup, including Clockwork Angel and Paranormalcy.
There are never too many books in the house.

On the homefront, we have finally acquired a fishtank, or, to be more honest, we have decided to open a goldfish mortuary in our bathroom. First up on deck is a sharp little black and orange feeder fish that my son proudly named "George Rudebeckia". He's been giving me hourly updates, along the lines of "He's still alive, Mom!"

He has a nice little tank with a filter and everything, so we'll cross our fingers and see how hearty this little guy is. So far, only one marble has "accidentally" fallen into the tank.
Also, George seems to like watching the Simpsons.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Writing Tip #1 Show vs. Tell

Example 1.

I am a klutz.

Example 2.

The two liter Dr. Peppers were stacked chest high at the end of the aisle, in plastic trays that resembled giant egg cartons. I reached for the nearest one of only three left on the top tray. As soon as I lifted the bottle, the entire tray plummeted to the floor, sending one giant bottle of soda bouncing across the supermarket tile. The other bottle hit the ground ass end first, blowing the cap off and sending out a mentos-fueled jet of Dr. Pepper that hit me directly in the chest from ten feet away. I screamed, or squealed really, out of shock as I stood there getting showered in delicious, sticky soda pop. Then Mr. Cate walked casually over from the next aisle to find me dripping wet and standing in a puddle of Dr. Pepper, to which he replied, "I heard something blow up, and I heard a scream, and I knew it had something to do with you."


True story. That's a pretty typical trip to the grocery store for me.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Into the Sunlight

I don't have a picture of myself up here, I know.
(I'm working on it. I just got bangs after years of not having bangs, and I haven't decided if I like them yet.)
Anonymous blogs can be a lot of fun, but I really like seeing the people behind the curtain. Especially writers, who so often are just the words they submit for public scrutiny. People never look like what I expect they might.

Well, I don't have a picture for you today, but you can listen to an interview I did with my husband about independent filmmaking.
It aired in April on WUWM, Milwaukee's Public Radio affiliate.

Check it out here, under Starts Friday.


Also, I'm joining the online conference world with WriteOnCon, which rolls out next month. I've never been to a live conference, so this should be interesting. There are a lot of great writers and publishy people onboard.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Well, I wasn't expecting that

I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Hm. Is this good or bad for a MG/YA writer?

Also, I had no idea Joyce was into steampunk. Fair play to you, Jim.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Research

Working on a new steampunk ms.
This one is set far outside of Victorian England, which means it's research time. Fun research, because once I've read about the history and the mythology, I get to rewrite it all into something new and weird.
Fun times.

Anyone out there read steampunk? Need a recommendation?

I don't post a lot of reviews because, frankly, I'm not a great reviewer. Bad reviews are usually the most entertaining, and I can't bring myself to say anything negative about most books because, well, as a writer, I can't stop thinking about how much work went into the making of the book. Unlike a movie, which is the work of hundreds of people, or even music, which is a collaboration among a dozen or more, books are so singular in their creation. Of course there are many stages of editing and input along the way, many helpful minds that contribute to the finished, polished product. (shout out to all the betas out there) Still, a book is viewed so much more as a singular work.
I've seen reviewers slam books for things the author likely had no control over, like titles, or cover art, or similar works published at the same time. I know a little bit more about what goes on backstage. I just find it hard to say anything beyond, "Well, you wrote a book. Good for you! That's really hard work!"

And back to the writing...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Well how will you know unless you try?

A few years ago... like... eight now... I went to work with my dad for the summer. He's been at the same job for over 30 years, working in a plant that makes fruit juice. He works with a lot of lifetime juicemakers, so many in fact that even when he'd been there 32 years, he still didn't have seniority in his department. Yeah.

All of those long time employees have wracked up some heavy duty vacation time. So over the summers, when most of the union plant workers take their 16 weeks of vacation, the plant hires their college student kids on as temps. It was fantastic pay, and a great chance to see what my dear ol' dad really did all day for all those years.
This being the day and age of OSHA, the first week I was there I was in a room with twenty other undergrads, in a conference room, sitting through safety seminar after safety seminar. At the end, the lovely gentleman who would be our supervisor asked if anyone wanted to drive a forklift as their assignment.

Of course I volunteered. We were in a juice plant. Every other job involved manning a machine for 12 hours a day. Standing in one place, in the big gray windowless factory. No thanks. Forklift meant a magnitude of freedom, and besides, that's what my dad did.

Turned out I was the only one. No one else wanted to drive the forklifts. It did seem a bit scary, especially taking a fully loaded pallet up ten feet in the air, and stacking it in the freezer, but guess what? I was pretty damned good at driving that thing. Even though it steered from the rear. I even learned how to change the propane tank, (I think?) that powered the thing. It was great.
I spent 12 weeks zipping around the floor, bringing palettes back and forth, loading trucks and crates, and hanging out with my dad, who brought me a donut every morning at 6 am.

It turned out to be a pretty cool summer. And I was so good on the forklift that they asked me to come back the next year, even though by then I was out of school, and employed full time. It was kind of sad to say no.

So I am a natural born forklift driver, and working with my father is pretty entertaining.
You never know what you're going to be good at until you try it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The New Templates are here!

Ooh, new decorations!
I'm going to have to try a few of these out.
Why? Because it's New Manuscript Day! Huzzah!

That's right. Today I started with a brand new Chapter One Page One. Otherwise know as "The Hardest Part of the Book to Write".
Not on the first draft, neccessarily, but in revisions, for sure.
That first page has to be perfection. Not just the first page, but the first paragraph, the first sentence... the first word. Give the reader any excuse to close the cover on you and they'll do it. I know I have. There are just to many wonderful books, too much brilliant writing out there, to spend time on something I don't enjoy. Not just enjoy, but love.
I get it, you agenty types. I know what you want. Perfection.
Well, I'm trying, damnit!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Spit Shine, Tie the Twine, Glass of Wine, Yours and Mine

Ah revisions.
There are more stages of revisions than of grief, or addiction recovery, childbirth, aren't there?
I'm in the quite-possibly-end stages, where there is little rebuilding left, and mostly cleanup. The sheet rock is up on the frame, the walls are taped and mudded. Now it's time to sweep up the dust and hang some art on the walls.
Time to make sure all the seams are stitched nice and even, with no puckers or gaps. No characters heading upstairs to take a quick shower, and disappearing from the narrative, never to be seen again.

So I'm reminded of the plot holes in a lot of my favorite books and movies.
Such as this scene from the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.




Clever, except for the fact that you can't fold a painting in half like that.
It's stretched over a wooden frame. If he just broke the frame, fine (forget the fact that he would probably destroy a good portion of the painting if he did so) but he takes the painting straight home and hangs it directly on his office wall, undamaged.

Then there's the awesome parade scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. But it's supposed to be late afternoon on a weekday.
Is there really a parade going on in downtown Chicago then? (alternately, remember when they used to shoot movies in Chicago? That was fun)

Also the basilisk in Chamber of Secrets. Traveling in the plumbing sounds pretty clever, until McGonagall points out that the school, and also the Chamber, were built a thousand years ago. When there was no indoor plumbing. Would there even be bathrooms that long ago? And if they were installed later, then surely the Chamber would have been discovered, etc.

And so on. Sometimes it's artistic license, sometimes it's a writer hoping the audience won't notice, but I like to try to write things that are tight and logical, even when they are entirely fantastic. Fantasy still has rules. And if you're going to break a rule you've just invented, have an explanation why or at least how.
Otherwise its a big distraction for us smarty pantses.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Music, New Movie

Here you go, writer pals.
Some more of my current favorite inspiration.
It can be hard to find modern tunes that have a steampunk feel, but I think these guys nailed. it.
Also, Silversun Pickups have a new album that is delicious.

#1 Rather Lovely Thing
#3 Song for Jesse
#4 Falling


also

Exogenesis Part 1
Exogenesis Part 2
Ex0genesis Part 3

My thanks to Muse, and also Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Brilliant.
The blog has been a little slow lately. CJ is taking a summer school class, which means I start my weekdays with one pot of coffee and four hours of writing time now. Can't pass that up.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Playlist

I hesitate to post much about my WIPs here, because, well all the reasons, from coming off as unprofessional to looking like a total nut, but since this is supposed to be a blog about writing, I should, yanno, write something about my writing.

So I'm giving you guys my playlist for the ms that is sitting in middle draft stage, bubbling and reducing from a pot of raw ingredients into a thick, glorious stew. Or perhaps a gut busting sludge. Here's what I was listening to as I wrote -

Feist Honey Honey
Fleet Foxes Blue Ridge Mountains, White Winter Hymnal, Your Protector
Gorillaz Fire Coming Out of a Monkey's Head
Franz Ferdinand The Dark of the Matinee
My Chemical Romance uh, all of it.
Silversun Pickups Three Seed, Checkered Floor, Rusted Wheel, etc.
The Rolling Stones, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Ruby Tuesday, Angie
Vampire Weekend, Walcott, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Weezer - anything off of Weezer, of course
Passion Pit To Kingdom Come

And a whole pile of others, as well, but these were on the heaviest rotation during drafts 1-4.

Any other music-fueled writers out there? What do you listen to when you write?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

New Film

Yesterday was the first production meeting for the new film. We are privileged to be working with some fantastic actors, and shooting is scheduled to start next month.



While I'm submerged in this project, it has given me some time to slow down, and learn to be patient with the ms.

Rushing is my biggest problem-wanting it to be done as soon as possible. Writing every day keeps me motivated and activated, but it doesn't mean I'm doing my best work.

Plus, my reading is falling woefully behind. Happily, it was book sale day at the library last week, so for 3 bucks, I picked up a grocery bag full of goodness to tear through until The Boneshaker comes out in next month.

What are you eagerly waiting for?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Honesty in Dedications

Let's be honest...
Who really deserves the credit for getting you through that book?
When it all comes down to it, what really got you through the minutes, hours, days, months and years from that first word on the page to completed manuscript, or better yet, printed and bound copy with that legit publisher's logo stamped in gold on the spine?

Mine would be hot cocoa and preschool. Seriously. I get so much more done with them in my life. It's nice to be so simple.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Books of all kinds

You might have been there... so deep in revisions that every minute is problem solving. You're writing while you're driving. You're writing while you're working. You're writing while you're shopping, chopping onions, tilling the flowerbeds, getting dressed, cleaning the house, sending emails, paying the bills, washing the car... just... all the freaking time.
It was time to take a mental break. A little time where I kept the laptop/notepad at least 20 feet away, so I couldn't drop everything to write notes, or jot down a revision of some particularly stubborn sentence.

And to do that, I have to work on something else. Which happens to be books. Ha!
I love fabric. I love chopping it up and making new things. (like writing much??) So I chopped up some fabric and made some journals.



And then some bookmarks to go along.




The way to take a break from making books is sometimes to make more books.
:)






Saturday, March 20, 2010

What have you been up to, eh?

Good gravy it's been almost a month.
What's been going on?

Around here, I've been
- revising ms 1, for 2010, Year of the Agent.
- setting off the smoke alarms every time I made dinner for about 2 weeks running.
- painting in the mornings with Cate Junior.
- more revising.
- worrying about the old, old car that's starting to make weird noises and smells...
- more revising
- reading sample pages from new crit buddies- you guys are some good writers!
- more revising
- getting some pleasantly surprising feedback on parts of ms 2, which I was feeling less than love about, but seems to be hooking the readers.
- more revising!! It's like working out, man. Pointless if you don't do it every day.
- seeing lots of movies.
- reading Chamber of Secrets with CJ. He's five now, and getting bored with pbs already (tear) so we've moved on to HP, and he's loving it.


And of course, revisions.

So, what is everyone else doing?

I have to go turn off the smoke alarm, and take the potatoes out of the oven.
Oh, and call my little brother... it's his birthday!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Artwork Day

I finally got around to putting some of my illustrations up on etsy.

More to follow, of course.








This is the dog. Not a Chinese dog, I know. He's a borzoi, or a Russian wolfhound. This is the dog I have always thought I would get, if I was in any way a dog person. Maybe it's all the years of staring at Alfred Knopf spines.




Monday, February 22, 2010

Advantage: Books

There are 10 movies nominated for Best Picture by the Academy this year. I think this is the second year since they expanded the category. Looking at the list, there are five wonderful, crowd pleasing, artistic, brilliant entries- The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, An Education, Inglorious Basterds, and Up. That's five good ones. Give it to any of those, and I would totally agree. (except I'd swap out Up for Where the Wild Things Are) so why do they need to tack on stuff like The Blind Side, and District 9?

Because a few years ago, the movies were too good.
No, really, that's the logic. Remember '08, when No Country for Old Men won? When its competition was There Will Be Blood, Atonement, and Michael Clayton? Well, it was also the lowest rated Oscar broadcast of all time. Which was immediately attributed to the Academy being full of snobs, and the movies being too smart. The average movie goer couldn't relate, or wasn't interested, or whatever excuse was used for low box office grosses among the most decorated movies. To get people to watch the Oscars, they added 5 slots to the Best Picture category in an incredibly crass attempt to show give the television audience a reason to tune in.

The problem isn't that the most artistic films are too high brow, and no one wants to see pictures of that caliber. The problem is this- the nearest cinema to my town is a 14 screen multiplex. 14 freakin' screens, and they didn't show Atonement until after the Oscar picks, and Michael Clayton not at all. ?!?!

Let me repeat- Not. At. All. FOURTEEN SCREENS!!! They could set aside two whole screens for art films, still show 3 screens of Alvin and the Chipmunks, plus 3 screens of Avatar, and still have six (6!) other screens for showing whatever plotless Nicholas Sparks novel was just optioned into a film, plus all those buddy cop comedies we've been clamoring for. The multiplex, of course, argues that audiences in my town don't pay to see films like An Education, even though they don't bother to show films like that in the first place, so what data are they basing this on? Of course they didn't make a profit off of a product they didn't offer for sale.

Now, to see films like An Education, or No Country on release day, I drive 45 minutes to see it an an art house. Fine. They have 3 screens, they show only stuff like documentaries, foreign films, and stuff with Daniel Day Lewis involved, and they've been around since long before the era of the multiplex, so they seem to be turning a profit. Surely the 14 screener can support something other than blockbusters, mindless rom-coms, and 12 Tyler Perry movies a year.

My point is this- Movies suffer greatly at the hands of distributors, theater chains that pander to the lowest common denominator, and an industry that blames their own audience, and calls them dumb. There is no reason in the world why artistic awards should be based on box office grosses. If they do, then things like Norbit are going to start being nominated*, so Eddie Murphy can be named in all 4 acting categories at once.

Books have distribution issues of their own, certainly. But when I want to read almost any book that is in print, I can find it online, buy it, and let the publisher know with my $$ what I support as a reader. I can't choose to vote with my dollars at the box office if the movie I want to see is only in limited release in LA and NYC.

So I hope, dearly, that our publishing industry can get their @$%! together with the e-readers and electronic rights. There is no reason now to say that a certain genre, or a topic won't sell in a given geographic area. We can finally see what people in the flyover states really do want to read and watch, and this could be a golden age for literature.


* Norbit was nominated for an Oscar the same year as No Country for Old Men won. No, seriously.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valen-Tiger Day

So it's Valentine's Day and the official start of the Year of the Tiger.
Here's my Tiger, from the series of Lunar Zodiac animals I've been painting. Yes, he's still a work in progress. I'm hoping it's good luck to finish him in his official year.
I am from the year of the Sheep, or the Goat, depending on what source you use. I prefer sheep, because then I can be the black one.
Mr. Cate's year was the Rabbit, which brings me to the other occasion today. I know I should be making a list of romantic books, but cuddling up together and reading silently isn't exactly something you plan for a date night (well, maybe in this crowd!). Also, Mr. Cate and I met at a movie theater, and fell in love (even more) over late night diner discussions of cinema. So here's a list of my favorite romantic movies that I can think of right now while I type this.
This one is so simple, and so touching. The whole movie consists of one night of conversation between two twenty-somethings who meet on a train ride through Vienna, and spend one bittersweet evening together before they have to go their separate ways. This movie had one of my favorite endings, until the sequel-
This one came out nine years later, and once you overlook the opening, in which Ethan Hawke's Jesse is wrapping up his international book tour for his debut novel at a reading in Paris's Shakespeare & Co. (where the crowd of media types is hanging on his every word) and get to him catching up with his long lost love, Celine, it is the perfect follow up to Sunrise.
This one was surprising, considering it came from the director of Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Wrestler. And also its about a woman dying of cancer, and a time traveling philosopher/soldier/scientist who is driven to the brink of madness trying to find a way to be with her forever, and in the meantime, ends up loosing the short amount of time he really had. But when you think about it, Aronofsky has cast his wife, Rachel Weiss, as the embodiment of beauty, unattainable perfection, and eternal life. Kind of an elaborate way to say "I love you", but hey, it works.
Charlie Kaufman is one of my favorite screenwriters, and this is possible his best script. It also boasts a cast that includes Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, and what will probably be Jim Carrey's best theatrical performance. As in the best Kaufman works, its not the story he tells, but how he tells it, through the memories of Joel Barrish as he simultaneously tries to erase his ex-girlfriend Clementine from his memory, and desperately hang on to her. In the end, Joel and Clementine realize that even if you could wipe someone from your memory like erasing a tape, you couldn't forget that you loved them.
So what are your favorite love stories? They can be books, too ;)

Monday, February 8, 2010

How Sports Works for Me

Hockey is awesome live. Can't stand it on TV.
Baseball can be fun live, but the season is too long.
Football is awesome always. Someday I'll get to see a game live. Good work, New Orleans.
I have absolutely no use for basketball. Ugh.
The Olympics are coming up, which means we get to see some weird sports that don't get out otherwise. Biathalon? Cross country ski races? It's like a world-wide county fair.
Bobsledding and downhill skiing are unreal. Love to watch those.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Romance Versus Responsibility in YA*

Ah, stupid teenagers... thinking love is all pure and true and magical. Why can't they just be bitter and disillusioned like normal people?

I keep coming across opinion pieces discussing the perils of all the romance in YA, and how it is silly/stupid/damaging to young women. How too much of female centric YA is about love and guys and how bad that is for the self esteem of every teen girl, which is the most fragile thing in nature, and must be guarded like the mythical mcguffin of every fantasy novel- when we all know it will fall into the hands of some dark lord or other eventually, anyway.

Romance is for teenagers. The way Christmas presents are for children. Yes, we still get some when we're older, but it never holds that same mystery and wonder as it did in the beginning. There's a reason Juliet was all of 13- any older and she would have thought about it for a minute.
"Kill myself?... I mean, you're cute and all, but damn, I have to think about that one."

Make her a 30 year old, and it just doesn't fly, the way the woman in Braveheart seemed WAAAAAY to old to be living unmarried in some pastoral hut village when the clearly 40something Mel rides back into town and woos her. That never played right for me, because were both just too stinking old.

Your teen years are the only chance you get to fall in love for the first time, all fresh and optimistic.
At my age, if you're still out there dating, it's because you're a little messed up, or something a little messed up happened to you. Now, that doesn't mean you don't find happiness. You probably end up making smarter choices. It just isn't as magical watching a jaded 30 something chick lit heroine learn to love again as it is to see a 15 year old have that first experience of "I really like him, and he really likes me back!!!"
In that way, romance was made for teenagers.

Yes, there is a metric ton of romantic YA being backhoe'd into bookstores every week. Yes, agents you get a lot of queries for YAs with paranormal love stories. That's what teenagers like to read. Always? No. A lot of the time? Yes!

I don't think books about relationships, or romance, or even sex are damaging to girls. It's the "Happily Ever After" part that requires some caution. We have to remember that we're telling a story, not the whole story. People of every age get the difference between fantasy and reality.




*Disclaimer- written by a girl who met her love at 19, would have married him that day, and has been wildly in love with him every day of the almost-11 years since.


** also, thanks for the opinions on the posters!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Shameless Solicitation

So it's February!
Wow.
This is the month to discuss Romance in Writing. I have some plans for the upcoming posts. But first, in the name of love, I have to ask a question on behalf of Mr. Cate.
Which one do you prefer, the green background or the white?















This is his new project for '10. We're camera shopping now, which is a trip. There are some new cameras you can pick up at Best Buy that do more than the top of the line DV camera Mr. Cate used to film his last movie, Starts Friday.


Also, from now on, I promise to keep the film making stuff to Mr. Cate's blog. Oh, that's right, he has his own blog now, and for some reason, he's adorably shy about it. So I'm going to try to help get him some followers. Pop over to September Son Films and say hi.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Love

I have found something AWE-some to share with you all.




Beards!!
- to a degree. The lead singer is a bit over the barrel on this one. But still. I like beards.

Also Rock Dulcimer!! Woo Hoo!

These guys (and an ocean of coffee, let's be honest) are getting me through this round of revision.

Thank you Foxes.


P.S. This album is also fantastic to ski to.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Literary Tastes of a Flying Green Marshmallow

We all have our preferences for the stuff that works for us, so we stick with it even in the face of improvement. My grandmother has her window air conditioning unit and refuses to get central air, my mother has a VCR and refuses to get a DVR or TiVo of any kind, and I still ski, despite the fact that snowboarding is infinitely cooler.

See, I learned almost 20 years ago, and I'm now proficient enough to actually have fun while skiing. Even though my very first ski experience was a disaster in which I was knocked over and clocked in the head by the ski lift while on a class trip, and this got around the school faster than I could get back, resulting in widespread rumors that I was in the hospital with some kind of skull fracture.
Ah, eleven year olds. It was just a goose egg, people. I kept right on skiing, although it would explain a lot.
When I got my first lift ticket, snowboards were brand new. Like, most hills wouldn't allow them, and those that did had special times and places to keep those punk kids away from us normal, respectable skiers.

No freaking wonder this caught on like hot cakes.

After high school I got a little busy, with things like college and jobs and a husband and a kid, and I didn't get out for years. In the last few years, I started hitting the slopes again, and holy crap, those kids are everywhere.

There are still a lot of us old, crusty 25- and- up types on our comically long and ridiculous skis, with out silly poles and our little knees bent like we're trying to sit down daintily the whole way to the bottom of the course. But everyone under 18 who isn't training for the giant slalom is riding a snowboard. Its just so undeniably cool. And the outfits are way better. Snowboarding gear is in some kind of graphic design renaissance. And everything coordinates, from the ear buds to the boots to the hats has the same design as the image on the bottom of the board. You know, the one nobody can even see unless you're sailing off a huge jump and spinning through the night over our heads.
(also, stuff they NEVER let you do when I was a kid, but now they have whole terrain parks where you are free to smash your face into rails and poles and moguls embedded all over the hill.)
My skiing ensemble is not very cool. Big puffy lime green jacket, big puffy dark green snowpants, mitten-gloves, and a complimenting lime green hat with poofball. Classy.
No, it's not very cool, but I'm warm, and dry, and I don't have to stop at the top and bottom of every hill to take my boots out of their bindings. (Which has to be annoying enough to make up for the coolness, right? No?... Fine)

So my point was- really, this was going somewhere- I know what I like by now.
I don't read a lot of contemporary, or high fantasy, or mysteries. In the interest of professionalism, I'm trying to put more on the list, expand a little, even though I'll probably never write something like that myself. If I'm selecting something I want to read for my own enjoyment, it wouldn't be one of the above categories, either. I prefer adventure, paranormal or magical realism type stories that start off with reality, and then make up a few new awesome rules. But genre categories, unlike the definite ski/snowboard divide, blur a lot. Which is why I will probably never try snowboarding, but I will keep picking up new books and at least giving them a shot.




(spell check does not like the words "snowpants" nor "poofball". Stop being such a snob, spell check)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Youth in Revolt

I'm not the biggest Michael Cera fan.
Superbad was alright, Juno was pretty meh. And then I saw Jessie Eisenberg in Adventureland, and thought "How is this kid not a bigger deal than that Cera guy?"

Youth in Revolt almost changed my mind a little bit. Cera is perfect for the role of Nick Twisp as written for the screen. If you've read the book, you might have wondered how 20- something Cera was going to play a 14 year old character. Easy. By jumping him up to 16. You could argue that casting a real 14 year old instead of cashing in on Cera's built-in dweeb appeal might have been funnier, but it would have made the movie much darker. Count your blessings, writers, that you can always get away with more in a book than you can on the screen.

Cera's Nick Twisp is close to the stock issue sex obsessed teen. He's so frustrated with his lack of accomplishment with the women that he is actually envious of the amount of action all the adults in his life seem to be getting, despite the complete trainwrecks they are the rest of the time.
After meeting a girl who's actually interested in him on an impromptu lake vacation, Nick determines to be reunited with her by any means necessary, including the creation of a "supplementary persona" with the much cooler name of Francois Dillinger.

Unlike the suggestion in the trailers that he undergoes a personality makeover, Francois is more of a split personality along the lines of Fight Club's Tyler Durden. Nick, however, is always present when Francois takes charge.

From there, the plot becomes completely implausible, and the characters are a little too indy-quirk. Note to film makers everywhere: some of your stock "Indy-Quirk" trademarks are about to become cliche, including obsession with hideous suburban interior decor, teenagers who would rather listen to vinyl records and don't own an iPod, and drugging the uptight parents are on that list.

But it's a movie, after all. It's just as offbeat as Adventureland was surprisingly earnest. The characters are far from realistic. The dialogue sometimes sounds like it's all coming from the same mouth. The teenagers are able to manipulate their situations to such a degree that the initial conflict seems like it would be much easier to overcome that all the hoop jumping that comes between the credits. Similar to a Charlie Kaufman or Wes Anderson project, Youth in Revolt takes place in a semi-self contained alternate world, where the characters all speak with the same voice. Sometimes literally.

But it is still a lot of fun.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Okay, Go

Alright, now I'm ready for Christmas. It's like this every year. It's such a rush from Halloween through New Years, with way, way too much going on and then the first two months of the new year are... nothin'.
Which is kind of nice, but just as everyone is packing up the ornaments and lights, I'm feeling like I'm finally in the tinsel and cocoa mood.
Oh well.
It's not like we don't have enough going on. In fact, here's a link to Mr. Cate's new project, which will probably take up most of our free time in '10. (note: writing time is not valid for transfer to "free time" hours)

I know the new year means a lot of new writing goals, besides all the resolutions to become Perfect within 12 months.
What were they for you? What is the plan for this 20-10 thing we have going now?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Artwork Day

No thanks to the Scanner Beast. (see below) But regardless, I have found a way! This Bunny is the first of the Nouveau Zodiac. Next is my Year - the Sheep.



Also, Steph Bowe is hosting a first five pages critique contest over on her blog, and I need some eyes to look at any and/or all of my YA, so I'm in.

Was This Helpful? NO!

Sometimes, I really hate new stuff. Especially when it has 4000 new features, and none of them are what I need.
I used to have this oooooooooooold sewing machine. It was my mother's actually, and it was made in about 1973. I used it for years. She used it for years. Then the motor finally blew. I wanted to get it fixed. Instead, Mom went out and bought me a nice new one, with computerized controls, and all kinds of fancy push button features. (like, Instant Buttonhole, which I still can't use right) It actually sews great. The problem came when the teeny, tiny little screw that holds down the sewing plate came loose. I don't know when, or how, I just know that the other day, my machine was suddenly @$#! and one of the teeny, tiny little screws seems to have fallen out. (??)
Let's parallel this with my printer/scanner situation.

I used to have an Epson scanner. That's all it did, was scan. And it did a FANTASTIC FREAKING JOB. Perfect, crisp scans, with super accurate colors. Awesome. Perfect. Except the plug port broke, and then it was crap.
Of course, by the time it broke, that model had been discontinued. When I went out to get a new scanner, everything was a scanner/printer combo. I didn't need this. I had a wonderful, cheap-piece-of-crap printer that none the less printed beautiful, clean images on anything I jammed through the paper feeder, from photo paper to fabric sheets. It was wonderful.

And then it all ended.

I bought one of those stupid scanner/printer combos. I hate it. No, literally. It does absolutely nothing I need it to do. The scans are fuzzy, the software doesn't give me as many options for setting the scans as my old one did, it won't print on anything besides printer paper (even though the box said it would handle card stock and photo paper. It lied.) It just all around sucks.

Meanwhile, for some reason before I knew the new scanner beast was a useless paperweight, I let Mr. Cate take Old Trusty to work at his non-profit office day job. Grr.

I now have two useless machines, and a ton of work I need those machines for.

But wait- we live in the internet age. I can hop online and figure these problems out.
First, the screw on the sewing machine. It is such a weird size and shape that there is nothing, even in my engineer dad's office, that quite matches. But, I think, maybe I can just order a new one over the ol' computer.
No.
The company does not sell replacement parts for my machine- or any other- online. In fact, to just submit a question or comment, I have to register a new account, with all kinds of info they don't need- unless they just want to send me endless spam and junk mail.

Same thing with the printer company. In order to submit a question to their troubleshooting page, such as "how do I get this !@#! machine to do what the box says it will do??" I have to register an entire account I don't need. I hate doing that.
So much, that I would rather buy a new printer/scanner from someone else, and never deal with these Epson people again.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to say, to all companies that make it a total hassle to get some customer support- YOU ARE USING THE INTERNET WRONG.
You loose.
This is supposed to be more helpful. Don't make me long for the days of those horrendous phone menus. At least there was always a way to mash down the buttons, and get a person on the phone. They never had any answers either, of course, but there was sometimes a little satisfaction when they sounded like they were trying to help.

Monday, January 4, 2010

First and Last Book of the Decade

I'll start with the last book I finished in 2009. Which was Impossible, by Nancy Werlin. This was the first book I've read by Werlin, and I think I'm going to pick up another, for comparison. I grabbed Impossible because of the premise- a paranormal story revolving around an ancient curse hidden in the lyrics of Scarborough Fair. This was a song my sixth grade teacher made the whole class learn, and I thought it was fairly depressing even as an eleven year old. So I thought I would connect pretty sharply with a story that basically parallelled my initial reaction to the song.

Werlin does have a great concept here, but overall the story seemed to suffer from something I see a lot of in YA, especially girl-centric YA- Perfect Characters. Not just the MC, Lucy, but the whole, entire human supporting cast. The only real baddie is the supernatural villain. Everyone else, from the saintly foster parents to the obvious eventual love interest, are just unbelievably, overwhelmingly Kind and Understanding. Even the rapist isn't really a bad guy. (when there would have been plenty of ways to make the story more interesting without the rape, actually)
There is also a lot of scrambling in the beginning of the book to set up the plot.
Overall, it's a romance, and a fantasy, so I give the characters a little bit of a pass, but it would have been refreshing to see at least one negative reaction, other than a lot of worrying that everything will reach it's inevitable happy conclusion.

Impossible is by no means the only book I've read lately with characters that seem a wee bit too nice.
In fact, here's a short list of the Random Writing Trends I noticed in the past 6 months or so.

Fraternal Twin Protags.
This is mostly in MG, but last summer it seemed like every other book I picked up featured a set of brother/sister twins at the helm.

Super Short Chapters
Like, less than a page. These are everywhere. Of course, that's not new, it just seemed to be in a lot of the new books I've picked up lately.

Super Disgusting Characters
This is for adult fiction, actually. I'm not an especially queasy person, and I like a bit of grit and realism, sure, but I could use less graphic descriptions of aging bodies and "performance" issues among the guys. Yuck.

Now, on to the First Book of 2010, Sarah Dessen's Lock and Key. Which I picked up simply because her books are freakin' everywhere, and yet I've never read one before.
I'm about 50 pages in, the chapters are nice and long, and we're barely into the plot outlined on the back cover, which was essentially nothing.
The Brother In Law is shaping up to be one of those Preternaturally Nice Characters, but the bitchy sister has some potential. We'll have to read on and see just how good this gets...