Monday, December 3, 2012

Hey, A Blog Hop!

I like these. They are fun, and I've discovered, a great way to find more writerly bloggers like myself. 
This one seems pretty simple - answer some questions, meet some new peeps. 
Here's the officals on this particular project And You Are...?
And here's my contribution :)

1. How many speeding tickets have you gotten?

None, actually. Though I get pulled over for things like having lights out I didn't even know were on my car (the one over the license plate??) or my plates on wrong. Yup.
2. Can you pitch a tent?

Heck yeah! And not just the nice new nylon ones with the springy poles and everything connected with elastic. I can build one of those old school square canvas deals with the huge aluminum poles. 

3. What was your worst vacation ever?

 There's no such thing as a bad vacation! 

4. What was the last thing you bought over $100?

Legos. My best advice for new parents - buy stock in Legos. Seriously. Just put that on the baby shower registry, and get it out of the way. You will soon live in a bucket of Legos that you will pretend is a house, and not just a fancy container for  ever more Legos. 

5. We're handing you the keys to what?

Oooh.... hm.....A cabin in the desert, where I can take a little writing retreat. 

6. What was the last meal you cooked that made even you sick?

Chicken. :P

7. Fill in the blank: Oh my gosh! Becky, look at her butt! It is so big. She looks like  ____?

One of those rap guys girlfriends. (Who else remembered the dancing fruit right away?)

8. What was your first car?

An 82 Celica with 200,000 miles on it and no working gas gauge. Best car ever. 

9. Your best friend falls and gets hurt. Do you ask if he/she's okay or laugh first?

Ask, then laugh. If it was just fall and no hurt, laugh then ask. 

10. What's the worst song ever?

 Whatever is currently on Clearchannel's 100 times an hour rotation. You know, the song that is on four stations simultaneously, so even if it was decent enough to begin with, you are now so sick of it you can't even turn on the radio in the car for fear of hearing it? So call me maybe? 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

We're Almost There

To anyone out there still in the NaNo Cave, this is it. Last call. Pretty soon they'll be turning on the lights and shutting off the music, pulling out the chairs and sweeping the floors. And man, that's quite a mess after being sequestered here for the last 29 days.
Only one more to go, which, for a chronic over-reacher such as myself means that it's time to think about what's going to eat up my time next month.
Well, revisions, of course. Not NaNo quite yet, but other projects that have been simmering while I made NaNo hash out of a new manuscript. Soon it'll be time to take the lid off and see what happened when I let those other books stew for a few weeks. Hopefully something delicious.

I also have another big project in the works, to be launched soon, and take up a lot of my time in the new year to come. But we'll save that for post- NaNo.

How about you? What are you going to do now that NaNo is over (if you were crazy enough to join in) And how are you planning on wrapping up 2012?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving and the NaNo Homestretch

Well, here we are with enough distance from Thanksgiving to appreciate it. I come from not just a family, but a united federation of families that is so big and spread out that holidays don't involve planning, they involve strategy. In the end, there was feasting and poker and a heartbreaker of a football game and laughter.

And like forty pies. Which was a lot of pies.

And now that Thanksgiving, with it's relatively light preparations compared to the looming juggernaut of Christmas, is behind us, it's clear sailing to the end of NaNo.

Perhaps some of you have finished, and are sitting back with a cigar and a brandy, wondering aloud what all the fuss and bother was about.

Perhaps you are one of the sane people who has washed their hands of this nonsense, and gone back to writing like a sensible person, and have been relieved of connecting every day on the calendar to how many @#$! words must be produced before sundown.

Perhaps you are like me, and are very close, but need to make that final sprint to the finish. In that case, the coffee is on, the chair is warm, the cats are waiting to sleep at your feet, and there is a whole week ahead of us. Godspeed, crazy writers!

(but we're going to need more peppermint mocha creamer. And I think we finally ran out of pie)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaNo Halfway Check In

I'm just shy of the mark, with 22k in. So still attainable, but I feel the last 25k are going to be way, way harder than the first half.

In NaNoReviMo news, I've hit the 23.5k mark on my revision project, which is just about halfway as well. (It's another MG)

That's about all. I'm still here, still writing. Still taking my days one cup of coffee at a time.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 12 - Progress on all Fronts

So far, so good!
This NaNo beast seems to be tamable!
I've made it to the 19k point, right about the place that the Big Lag happens, when it's time to launch into the swamp that is The Middle.... But that's the fun of NaNo - just write through it!

In other news, Mr. and Jr. and I got around to having an official family portrait taken over the weekend, Mr. Cate started editing his section of an anthology film he's been working on since spring, and Cate Jr. has decided he would like to pursue a career in astrophysics. He's eight, so we'll see how long he runs with that one. I could be paying for a lot of college.
Maybe he'll swing back to  the career he picked last month, "Lego designer". Then again, I went to and Art and Design school, so that could be a lot of college, too.

To all the NaNoer's out there, good luck! Now is the time to keep pressing forward. We're nearly halfway through this. The end is in sight, with a brand new (possibly slightly terrible but that's what revisions are for) manuscript!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 8

15,100 words on Classic NaNo. I'm now considering the possibility that I could hit the halfway point by the end of this weekend. Ooooh.

20,000 words on the revision  Never mind. Didn't like it. Back to 13,000.

Halloween candy still holding out, which is a shock and relief, but tonight I feel I may have to make a pie of some sort. Pumpkin sounds good. Pumpkin goes well with a steampunk manuscript, don't you find?
For other types of manuscripts, recommended pies include -

Cozy Mystery   - Apple
Romance          - French Silk
Western            - Rhubarb
Fiction              - Shepherd
Thriller             - Blueberry
Horror             - Cherry (or strawberry)
Sci Fi               - Key Lime
Fantasy            - Banana Cream
Poetry              - Pecan

Good luck and happy baking!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 6

Reached 13000 on my NaNoReMo project. Had a minor coronary incident this morning, when I opened the document to find none of my progress from yesterday anywhere to be found. Recovered lost document. All is well.

I have also embarked on a Classic NaNo project, to get a mess of an idea I've been playing with for months into actual manuscript form. It stands at 7290, with more work tonight.

Halloween candy still plentiful. Spirits still high, despite evening now arriving at 4:30. This truly is the writing time of year.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day Three

All is well.
Have made it to 7000 words.
The summit is far, but we have rich stores of Halloween candy left to sustain us, coffee supplies and spirits are high.
45k left to climb.

For my fellow travelers:
An evening constitutional works marvelous much for generating ideas and invigorating the blood.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ah Ha!

A version of NaNo for me!
As I am the Perpetual Reviser, who has way too many manuscripts piled up on the ol' chicken to even think about starting another one, I have always opted out of NaNo officially. But this year, I've found the magical Na No REVI Mo. Wheee!

So, what am I going to Revi for this Mo? A lovely little ghost story that is in a late draft and still needs some nipping, tucking and polishing. 52k total to polish and perfect by the end of the month. And I'm already about 4k in, so it's really more like 48/52k to work on before December. ONwords and UPwords!

Just to make this interesting, with each update post, I shall have to include a Lily Cate approved Writing Tip or two. So for today -
 Get some comfy slippers, it's too distracting to write with cold toes.
The Mint Condition from Caribou Coffee is the best barely-still-coffee drink evah. Live near a Caribou.
If you like music while you write, I suggest creating a Submarines station on Pandora. AWEsome.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Halloween!

... a little early.
Also happy NaNo to those who are jumping in again this year.
I, as always, have revisions to work on, so no new projects for me this fall. I'll be working on existing projects.  I must have completed my revision request Dungeon Master Blackbelt by now. I never seem to not have revising to do.

There was time for pumpkin carving, of course!

A sample of this year's crop

And then a walk in the Haunted Woods under the full moon. 

Fall is officially here. We had our last warm days, I feel. Now the air is sharp and cold, good weather for bundling up with a coffee and a manuscript, and a couple of cats, of course.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

In Which, for the Purposes of this Post, I am Played by Rodney Dangerfield

Or maybe Adam Sandler.
Cause I'm goin' back to school!*

I started my first new class in a very long time and it was just as much fun as when I was going all those years ago, and didn't appreciate it, only now I totally appreciate it. Maybe it's just the novelty, which I really needed. It was time to try something new, and put myself in a new environment. I find it helps as a writer to go try really new things on occasion. Keep your mind fresh, and challenged. Especially when you've been revising for months (or years). Do something to shake up those ol' cerebral neurons, and get the sparks crackling again.
Also, I can't wait to surprise all my classmates with my flawless Triple Lindy.

*to take a few classes on things I took already, long ago, but which I have gotten quite rusty at doing in reality, and so decided I could use a refresher course, and also some guidance to keep me from wandering off for another decade. There are a lot of things to play with in this world. One can get easily distracted.

Monday, September 3, 2012

GUTGAA Ofcourse!

I see a few of you on my blogroll are already signed up! Yay! For anyone that I might be introducing to the party, welcome to Gearing Up to Get an Agent, a blog hop/contest hosted by the lovely Deanna Barnhart that looks like a lot of fun for us solitary, writerly types.

Deana Barnhart

I'm excited to start something new today, and meet some new writer peeps. This is a big week for me. I'm going to finish a revision (really!). And my son and I both start school this week (wow!) He'll be in second grade, I'll be taking a few classes to build my portfolio and brush up on the ol' digital arts skills.
My basic stats, if you're just meeting me for the first time -
I just turned 33, so I suppose I'm officially an adult, even by hobbit standards. I have one charming little son, three fuzzy cats and one fuzzy husband. We all live in a cottage in the trees, where my husband makes independent films, my son builds the world out of legos, and I write steampunk and ghost stories for the Middle Grade set. And now the official GUTGAA questions!

Where do you write?
In a big squishy chair in the living room.

Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
A table covered in stacks of notebooks and yellow writing pads, filled with scribblings and ramblings about my current WIP. Also usually a black cat, in one of two sizes.

Favorite time to write? 
Morning. That's when I think I'm the most productive. But really, if I can find some time to work, I'll take it!

Drink of choice while writing?

When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
Occasionally I listen to music, but usually I have to just ignore the noise going on around me.

What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
Ooh, well, the inspiration for my current WIP came about ten years ago, when I was often alone in a huge stable at night, walking down the long barn aisle, with horses watching me from both sides, and the occasional dark, empty stall lurking somewhere at the end of the row...

What's your most valuable writing tip?
It's been said before - a bunch of times - but really, don't be afraid to kill your darlings! I've been working on a manuscript for years that had tons of potential, but it wasn't until I was able to see the forest for the trees, and let go of certain bits of writing that I was "so proud of" that it's really become something awesome. Was it hard to let some of that writing go? Absolutely. But the work really is better overall because I was able to be honest about what had to stay, and what had to go.

So, that should get us started. Now it's off to tinker with the WIP for a while. Happy GUTGAA - ing!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's Not Really Over... But We All Know It's Over

My calendar says that September 22nd is the first official day of Autumn. But "summer" as we know it, is over after Labor Day weekend, and even earlier for some.

 Like now.

For me, the next week and a half before school starts for the sprout (and me!) has become an official Big 'ol Mess. Too many commitments that have ballooned into obligations, not nearly enough writing time, hardly a second to worry about the blog. Thankfully, looking ahead into my favorite time of the year, I have a lot more to look forward to than just the colder weather, the changing leaves, and all the pumpkiny goodness.

 I'm going back to school, as a student, which is something I love and have missed since I graduated XXX years ago ;)

I have plenty of manuscripts to rewrite, revise, draft and/or polish, and plenty of subs out there waiting for responses. I've had quite a crazy journey on this "I'm going to write a book" adventure, and I hope very soon to be able to write a nice long hilarious post about it all.

I have Plans, which are a great thing to laugh at, or wave at as they pass you by, but I'm so bad at coming up with Plans, that I have to  be a little bit proud of myself for even getting them in order.

This summer, like most of them, went by too fast, too hot in the beginning, and too busy at the end. Here's to a slower, gentler, more delightful fall. What are you up to?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saturday the Bookworm

He is already learning that when we turn on the computers, its time for a long nap.
 His favorite place to sleep (besides on or next to us) is on or near some books, of course! 

 Also, his favorite place to sleep at night. 

He was a little bit scared by this one. 

Perhaps he is still too little for Anna Dressed in Blood? 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pure Deleted Gold

Today I have for you a revising tip. I've been revising for... ever... and I've actually learned a few things that I realize might help others one day.

One, surprisingly, was as I was watching the deleted scenes from some of my favorite movies. Watching the scenes that got cut- the ones that were filmed, developed,(back in the day) edited and mixed for sound and then, at the very end, they still didn't make it into the final product - illustrates just how much everything really needs to contribute to the story, even after you think you've edited and polished and spit shined the polish job.

It also helps to listen to the director's commentary. They almost always say something like, "I really loved this scene, but..." or "I really hated to lose this scene, but..." or "this was beautifully shot/acted, but..." and after the but is always a "we had already established this relationship/motivation/plot point in another scene," or "this slowed down the pacing" or it otherwise simply didn't fit, no matter how good, into the final, finished piece.

Remember this as you revise. No matter how perfect and elegant and polished a scene or page or paragraph or sentence may be, if it doesn't contribute, it can go. Really. Go ahead and save it somewhere, if you must. I do this. I have files as long as some of my novels full of things I hated to see go,  but in the end, they just didn't contribute enough to the narrative.

Directors only have so many minutes, and writers only have so many words. And while there is room in the world for epics and opuses and other vaguely gross sounding words that mean long and dense, not every book has to be 700 pages, and not every movie has to be 4 hours plus intermission. We already have a Thomas Pynchon and a Terrence Malik. There is always more room for the tight, clean, beautifully written work of a more manageable length.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Just a Moment of Life

It's been a very busy summer over here.  Two manuscripts are out with agents (and an editor!)  I'm revising one for the 12,000th time. I have two more first drafts that have been simmering, and are just about ready for editing now.
Mr. Cate is editing a feature film, preparing to shoot a short for his anthology project next week, and writing at least two new scripts, that I know of. There could be more.
 We're teaching the kid to play tennis, since he pretty much has no use for baseball. He wants to take swimming and horseback riding lessons, too, but I'm trying to keep the activities to a manageable dull roar for now. Baseball ends this week, and then we'll start something new. He's only 7. There's plenty of time to try it all.

In the meantime, there's just about nothing more perfect than taking a stroll in the woods with my dear love, listening to the Sonny Son sing this song.

In Saturday news -  he's been with us for almost a whole week now. And he is still the cutest thing ever, and will be the baby prince of the family, I can tell. This morning, on his way to work, I asked Mr. Cate if he wanted to take the kitten with. "I really do," he said. "He'll fit in my bag." It's just cuteness overload around here.

Here's to nice little moments each day. Not big stuff, but definitely more important.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Introducing Saturday

A new little buddy came home to live with us this weekend. 

Mr. Cate is teaching him to be a good writer's cat. 

He will get to study with Zorro, the zen master of writer's cats. 

 I think he's a prodigy, of course. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Update to the Update Post

The next book I picked up after the 80s YA was a 70s MG.
Not an update to be seen. I have a hypothesis about this*

The difference in age group has to be a factor there. There's still something about technology in the hands of younger children that makes parents - and especially grandparents - grimace. It seems that with preteens, there is still enough fight to keep the electronic gadgets away, but by teenagerhood, we've given up, with much moaning and lamenting.

So, leave the older MG books alone, because its fine to have those kids living in an outdated world, (because sometimes it seems like we're trying to raise our kids in a fairyland bubble of what we think the world should be like, instead of how it really is) but update the YA, because teenagers don't or won't read about kids without cell phones and iPods?

* I am basing this hypothesis on exactly one example from each category, which happened to tip off an internal discussion with myself over what parents think of updating older books vs. what authors think vs. what the intended readers think, seeing as the kids who would have read these books when they were current now have children that are in the intended reader age range. I know the perspective of writer and parent, but how about kid reader? Do they care? Will updating or not updating make a book more appealing?

Friday, June 1, 2012

To Update, or not to Update

I've been on a YA/MG horror binge lately, as I work on my new project. I've been searching for recently published ghost stories, and in my digging, I came across a YA book, written just about 30 years ago, that had been updated to include references to e-mail and laptops and iPods and all manner of things that wouldn't have existed in the early 80s, but somehow appear in the published text. 

Upon flipping to the back, I found a discussion with the author in which they described updating their originally contemporary novels to keep them current. Interesting. My first thought - why? Possibly to appeal to the current YA market, but then, several problems arise there. First of all, this was a mild horror story, so the author went to all the trouble of including references to modern technology, only to have to come up with ways to get rid of them, in order to isolate the MC and put them in danger. 
(The old "Oh no! I have no cell-phone reception on this remote island/mountain/abandoned subway/cabin in the wilderness" etc. that everyone has to deal with to avoid the inevitable "Why don't those idiots just call the cops" phenomena, though we all know that crime and assault still happen in this age of constant technological contact. Can we drop all that, and just have the cops not get there in time? Or set our novels in the 80s and prior, to avoid the whole mess?)

Second, I think a teenager of today would understand that when their parents were kids, they did not have cell phones and laptops and the internet. The way my mother understood that her grandparents didn't have a phone when they were kids. It makes you think about what it would have been like to live at that time. I don't think the lack of modern technology would be enough to turn away a currently modern kid from a technologically outdated book. A kid today has lived in a world of technology that they would probably be a little frightened to abandon. So, bonus for the scary stories out there. 

Additionally, this particular novel had reference to characters e-mailing, probably in place of letter writing in the original. Which begged another question, how far do we have to take this concept? When the author updated, just a few years ago, e-mail would have been the way to go. But by the time I picked it up, my first thought was, "That kid would never send an e-mail. This would have been a text message, if not a straight up cell conversation". Once we get started "updating" it doesn't end. We've all seen George Lucas trying to chase that dragon. Technology changes so fast, and kids are usually among the first to adopt-adore-abandon it. Do all contemporary YA/MG writers have to do the same? Do we have to put Siri in everything written before 2012, and then update in six months when it's something new again in 2013?

And lastly, how about posterity? How can classics ever become classics if they get changed? Readers are quite used to encountering times and places and eras that are unfamiliar. It's part of the fun. It's also how we learn, and encounter the new in the old. How better to explain an era than through its written works? Through the language and the atmosphere of the time authentic? Yeah, the 80s are a historical time period now, when it comes to children's lit. All us 30 year old fogies will have to get used to that. 

Ultimately, it was a great book, updated or not. I think I'll try to find an older addition, because sometimes, the only thing that needs to be updated on a book is its cover. 

What do you think? Is there some merit in updating books so they seem more modern and not "historical"? Will more younger readers pick them up? 

(Btw, spellcheck still doesn't like the words internet, iPod, Siri, or even... spellcheck :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

3 Great Things About Today

1. A box of recently ordered books arrived at my door.

2. Moonrise Kingdom had the world's best weekend, meaning it will maybe possibly make it to a theater closer           to me that much faster. Tomorrow would be nice. But I suppose I can wait a little while longer.

3. I've finished the major rewrites on the brand new manuscript. It will be off to beta readers this week, and into the Revision Lab soon after.

And a bonus #4 - the little stick-in-a-bag rosebush I bought and planted two years ago, in honor of Mr. Cate finishing his film Dove, bloomed this week. Today was it's best rose day.

whatever you do, guys, don't tell the Queen of Hearts, k?

Saturday, May 26, 2012


So my Book A Day project has become a bit curtailed by the actual writing of books...yeah.
Over the winter I drafted a brand new manuscript, and for the past few weeks, I have been a revision machine, taking every spare minute I can to get this thing clipped and pressed and polished and ironed, and it's working, I'm making a lot of manuscript progress, but - as usual - at the expense of my little blog.
That's alright, I suppose. I've used this blog mainly to find other writers of middle grade and young adulty type books, and those are the kinds of wonderful peeps who understand when one disappears for weeks or months at a stretch, when the manuscript starts to work.

Something I've found especially helpful lately -
 C.J Omololu's post on How to Write A Book details the nine point plot map, which I found useful even though I'm in the revising stage. I added at what chapter or page number certain events took place, which helped a lot with pacing.
And now I'm in the clean up phase, that process that can just stretch into forever if you let it.
So I won't. I've given myself some deadlines, which I always find helpful, even if they are observed casually rather than devoutly.

How about you? What are you working on this fine morning/afternoon/evening?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Catching Up

I'm due for about five books here. *blush*
In my defense, it was mother's day weekend, and as I am a mother, and have a mother, mother in law, sister in law who is also a mother, and a grandmother to visit, I was a bit busy.
They are all doing well, in case you were interested. Also, writing has happened, and that just erases my mind to anything but my manuscripts for large chunks of time.
Anyway, now on to the books!
Today, to make up for my egregious lapse in consistency, I'll give you a lovely treat - poetry!
Five of my most favoritest children's poetry collections, in, of course, no particular ranking, because that's just impossible.

Plum, by Toni Mitton. Illustrated by Mary Grand Pre.
I have an autographed copy. Yeah.
Science Verse
Everything by these guys is fun.
This one is fun and educational. 

Where the Sidewalk EndsShel Silverstein: CD Cover
Every kid should own a copy of this book. 

Creature Carnival
I've posted this one before,
but it's so cool, it gets a second mention. 

Dear World
Beautiful poems, beautiful pictures. 

I don't know if there's anything better to read to a child than poetry.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Book A Day In May - Alex and the Ironic Gentleman

Alex and the Ironic Gentleman

Middle Grade Week rolls on along here, with a romping adventure story by Adrienne Kress, who has a lovely blog by the name of The Temp, The Actress, and The Writer, where you can read about her many other books and adventures. But today, we're talking about the first book of hers I had the pleasure to read, Alex and the Ironic Gentleman.

The story follows one ten year old Alex Morningside as she begins a hopefully exciting new year at the Wigpowder-Steele Academy, with a brand new and equally hopefully exciting new teacher, Mr. Underwood, a gentleman with a curious amount of old-timey pirate type skills, for a supposedly ordinary teacher.
The narrative unfolds in a theatrical and timeless rhythm. Though Alex is introduced as a perfectly modern child in a contemporary setting, the story quickly tunnels into its own delightful history, which nestles perfectly with the classic adventure story tone of the novel.

This one is up next on the nighttime TBR pile for me and Cate Junior.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Book A Day In May - The Children of Greene Knowe

The Children of Green Knowe

I first picked up this book up as an adult, about a decade ago. But no matter how many hundreds of books I've read since then, this one stays always at the top of my favorites list. (In no particular order, because I can't do favorites that way.) It is one of those books I always recommend, especially to younger kids interested in ghost stories. It's got enough ghosts and history to be engaging and mysterious, without being a "throw it against the wall and run shrieking to your parents' bed" kind of scary.

The Children of Greene Knowe - and its sequels, have a quieter, slightly old fashioned feel to them, perfect for a ghost story. It is a book I wish I had found as a kid, because it seems like the kind of story one could love even more, if one happened upon it at just the right age.

And now one more bit of business - the lovely and brilliant Kathy Collier has bestowed upon me the Beautiful Blogger award :D

And so, in the spirit of these fun mini blog-hops, I will share with you seven random things about myself, and pass along the award to seven others.

1. I love black cats. I share a home with one named Zorro, who is my best writing buddy.
2. I am the oldest of three, and a mother of one.
3. I know how to weld. I learned in college. I once set my professor on fire, but only briefly, and he was okay.
4. I also know theoretical cooking, though actual cooking still eludes me.
5. I love movies. Some of my favorites are Rushmore, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Before Sunrise, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Black Stallion and The Goonies.
6. I have never owned a new car, and I probably never will.
7. I recently visited California for the first time. I would like to go back, and spend more time in the desert.

There we are.
Now, I must bestow this honor upon seven more bloggers, I've made pretty even mix of some I've been following for a while, and some I met through awesome A-Z....

Ellen Oh
Heather Kelly
Julie Danes
Mandy Bohgan
The Contemplative Cat

Visit them all, and enjoy the continuing awesome.