Sunday, April 30, 2006

My Moleskine Problem

This post from Cynthia, Coyote Underground: Pig Iron Blues impressed me so much I just had to blog about it. It's not just the beautiful prose it contains, and not just the stirring analogy of a writer's hopes and dreams being cast iron. Those are impressive enough, but it is the fact that Cynthia makes her own notebooks! She even gives you pictures of one, with a closeup of the gorgeous, handmade binding.

It wasn't until I met up with other writers that I realized I no longer had to hide my notebook obsession. What joy to discover that others shared the same desires, the same lustful strolls through the stationery sections, and then talked about it openly!

I'm so emboldened that I feel I can share another secret in the belief that you, my blogbuds, will be caring and supportive, that you wouldn't for a moment entertain any sort of laughing, snickering, or ridicule. It's ... my Moleskine Problem.

Cynthia says that making her own notebooks has cured her of her notebook obsession, with one exception, that being, of course, the Moleskine.

If I learned how to make my own notebooks, it might cure me of my notebook obsession, too, but it wouldn't solve my Moleskine Problem. Like Cynthia, I would still have to buy Moleskines. That probably goes without saying. However, my Moleskine Problem would then become my Notebook That I Made By Ownself Problem: I couldn't bear to write in it! I'd have to keep using sticky notes, like I do in my Moleskine. I can write in any other kind of notebook, but not my Moleskine, and certainly not a notebook of my own making.

Oh yes, I know of, and admire, people like Cynthia and Pooks, and countless other Advanced Beings who can write in their Moleskines and even (shudder) handmade notebooks. They even speak of the types of writing instruments and colors of ink they use. They just wriiiiiiiiiiiiite awaaaaaaaaay as if it was, somehow, an "okay" lifestyle.

I cannot bring myself to do it. I am just not there yet. The very thought of besplotching those pristine pages with ink, oh! The horror.

It is to weep.
Am I the only one?

A Dangerous Business

One day Pooks and I were comparing offices. This is a picture of my desk. My laptop, Harriett, is open to a picture of Pooks' desk, but you wouldn't know that because, you know, where's the desk? Pooks pointed out that writing is a messy business. That is so true.

But the point I want to make today is that writing is also a dangerous business. No, no, I'm not talking about the minor, day-to-day injuries we suffer, such as paper cuts and broken fingernails. Nor am I speaking of the occasional stubbed toe or banged knee incurred while trying to get to the printer.

I'm talking serious injuries, such as

Carpal tunnel syndrome
Computer eyestrain syndrome
(ok, those last two aren't so serious, but they sound like it because they end in "ia.")
Writer's Neck ("Video Displacement Syndrome" in chiropractic)
Writer's Block (think illegal block below the waist, only it's in your head)
and, of course

Yes, it is time that writers receive the same respect and awe given to those in any other dangerous profession. So, the next time someone asks about the ice pack on your neck or the splint on your wrist, just shrug (wincing in pain) and say, "Oh, it's just an old writing injury."

Friday, April 28, 2006

Points of View

Both online and in person, our writers' group has been having quite a discussion lately about POV. Many thanks to Shalanna for posting this on our group's website, quoting from a handout she received from Fantasy author Patricia C. Wrede:

"Third-person intimate is very similar to the effect you would get if you wrote something in first person and then changed the pronouns:

He walked into the room and sized it up. The babe in the corner was stacked. He saw her eye him, then turn away. That's a come-hither look if ever I saw one. He started in her direction.

Essentially, you stick to one character as your POV - everything is seen through his or her eyes, and you don't give anyone else's reactions or thoughts except as seen through the eyes of the viewpoint character."

That's exactly the way I've been writing Gino's Law, only I wasn't italicizing his direct thoughts, like the ones containing "I," "me," and "my."

I had not heard the term "third-person intimate" before. It's a little different from third person, where you can switch POV characters from scene to scene. I thought I was doing something like third-person limited, which is like third person, except you stay with only one character's POV.

Alrighty, then. There's a name and a definition. That's better.

The first novel I wrote, The Earthquake Doll, was in third person, with two viewpoint characters. I didn't switch the POVs within a chapter, though. If a chapter started out in Isoko's viewpoint, it stayed there all the way through until the chapter ended. The next chapter could continue in her POV, or it might switch to Susan's POV.

In third person, Wrede says, "you can set your reader at a distance from a scene or make it almost as intimate as first person. In many ways, third person is the workhorse POV of fiction."

I seem to have a better "voice" for third-person intimate than third person. It's much easier for me to write. The words flow without my having to make so many conscious word choices during the process of writing.

This makes me wonder if I should try the first-person POV for my next book, on the theory that the closer I get to the character's thoughts, the better. However, I've heard that people generally don't like first-person stories as much as third. What's your point of view about all this? Do you have a preference for POV, either in your own writing, or in the kind of books you like to read?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

First Edition

Chapter 1, New Digs

Thanks to Dawn at Dreamscape for bringing my vision for the new Chapterhouse to the screen. Isn't it gorgeous? She did a great job, all while mothering three kids and about to deliver her fourth any day now! At first, I was going to switch to WordPress because I mistakenly thought it would be easier to use than Blogger. Not! For Dawn to be able to get into the WordPress template, I would have had to subscribe to a web-hosting site for a monthly fee, whereas she could dink with Blogger's template for free. The only disadvantage was that I would not have WordPress's "Category" feature. The feature just wasn't worth it to me, so I'm staying with Blogger. If you're trying to find something on my blog, please just use the "Search" feature.

Chapter 2, Save "the Internets"

It's so gratifying to have your support, my blogbuds. Even though many of us will never meet in person, we are still a close-bit bunch. And speaking of the Blogosphere, did you know that Congress just voted to throw out the Net Neutrality portion of the proposed Internet Bill? This is so outrageous that I urge you to go to this site, Save the Internet, and read "How This Affects You." If you have a computer and if you ever go online, like you are now reading this, you will be affected by the omission of Net Neutrality. Then, go to this site, FreePress, and send an email to your representatives in both houses. The email is already addressed and written for you (you can change or add to it, if you wish); all you have to do is provide your name and address and hit "Send."

Chapter 3, Writing

I haven't done any writing for a week and a half, but I'm not going to worry about it. The last time I stopped writing for a while, I was approaching the Midpoint of my WIP (that's "Work in Progress" for us cool writer-types), and I just. couldn't. write. it. After a couple of weeks fretting about it, some specific ideas percolated up to the surface of Consciousness, and I did probably my best writing ever. Now, I'm looking at that long stretch leading up to the Third Turning Point and the end of Act II. Just as before, with the Midpoint, I've written a few scenes, and have the rest story-boarded, but … something else must be percolating.

Having the scenes storyboarded in advance makes writing a lot easier for me, especially since I'm working on a mystery story. It's the technique screenwriters use, but I'm finding it works great for novel-writing, too. I wish I'd known about it for my first one. I'm using sticky notes for the scenes, which I then put in my Moleskine notebook. Scenes to be written go on yellow stickies, and the ones already written are put on any color except yellow. Using sticky notes allows me to rearrange scenes as the novel progresses.

It's not quite as easy as it sounds. In the method I'm using, I'm not writing actual scenes on those yellow stickies, but notes to tell me what should happen next. The real scenes go on the non-yellow stickies, complete with the locale, the conflict, and the emotional arc. Here's how it works in real life: I congratulate myself because I don't have the specter of an infinite number of blank pages ahead of me. Nor do I have a constrictive (seeming) outline to work from (which is what I did the first time.) No, I have it all figured out. Pages of yellow sticky notes are my map, my very fluid plan, for writing this thing. So. Start. Go. Then I take a closer look at those notes. One says, "Danny's findings re: Tammy." Another says, "Arraignment." A third is, "More Brandye's Story." Oh. I still have to write this thing, don't I?

Decisions must be made beforehand, though. It's already been decided that Danny will present these findings at a meeting. Now I need to decide things like, where will the meeting take place? Who will be there? What conflict(s) occur? What's the tone? How detailed should this be? For that matter, what about the next scene, the Arraignment? Do I want to put Gino back in the courtroom for this one? Hmm. Probably not, because the bail hearing was covered almost gavel-to-gavel. Maybe the Arraignment should just be referred to, but how, exactly? It could be a conversation between Gino and Brandye, perhaps, since more of her story needs to come in now, anyway. Except that Gino and Brandye are on the outs now, so that needs to be resolved. Maybe it's during the resolution that the arraignment comes up? No, wait - Brandye comes to the meeting where Danny reports his findings, and then Gino and Brandye get back together and talk about the arraignment. Except that the arraignment can't take place until 48 hours after the indictments were served. And so forth. This is how it works for us cool storyboarding types.

So, I'm content to do busywork in the meantime. Besides, I'm enjoying the heck out of Dr. Phil and Oprah.

Part of the busywork involves going back to the beginning of the WIP and italicizing Gino's internal dialogue. I thought I could get away with not italicizing it, following the advice in one of my mystery-writing books, but in my writers' group, everyone said that the unitalicized internal dialogue made it look like I was switching POVs ("Point of View" for those of us in cool writers' groups) all over the place. I had to concede they were right. It is confusing. In fact, it confused me at first because I kept thinking I had a POV problem, when all it was, really, was a problem with how to present internal dialogue. For a very good discussion of this, visit Ron's writing blog. He's a member of the writers' group I'm in. While visiting, you could also click on the link to his other blog, The Horse Spoon Trick. You won't be disappointed. It's always fun to find a new blog you like, isn't it?

The End

I hope you like the new look here at Chapterhouse. Lemme know whatcha think! (And please remember the Net Neutrality provision - we must have it.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Stay Tuned

Chapterhouse is currently under construction
(I'm so excited!)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Things That Work

This is a meme that Pooks devised. You share the Things you have found That Work, at least for you. There's no set number, just whatever you feel like doing.

1. The LightWedge is good for reading in bed when you don't want to disturb your Significant Other. Battery operated, it comes in Original or Paperback sizes. There's also a small one to keep in your purse or pocket. Lightweight, no glare, two intensities. Feel free to regress and use it under the covers.

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2. Tube Reading Glasses. I use them for needlepoint, too.

When I was looking for images, I ran across this:

Now you're all set to read AND write.

3. Speaking of writing, I love this pencil!

No more clicking, twisting, or sharpening. The lead somehow senses how much you need. No hassle, and it writes smoothly. Great for revising hard copy.

4. Revlon's ColorStay Overtime Lipstick in Sheer Rosette. The color stays on for eight hours no matter what, without smudging or bleeding. You do have to reapply the top gloss coat once in a while to keep your lips from drying out. I prefer the Sheers to the others.

5. The London Pass With Transport. Since we're going to London again in July, we've already ordered this. You can't get the "With Transport" part once you're there. The transport pass gives you unlimited travel on all public transportation -- the trains, the tube, lightrail, and buses. It also includes passes to about 50 different attractions, like Windsor Castle, Hampton Court, The Tower, plus river rides. No queuing up. You also get a free beer with meal at certain pubs.

6. And finally, Novel In Less Than One Year, or Niltoy. You commit to writing 500 words a day, five days a week. When you know that you "have to" report your word count every Saturday, you somehow get lots more writing done during the week.

I tag Steve, Ron, and Glenda!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Pooks' Peeps

Yesterday was the first "real" meeting of Pooks' Peeps (the previous meeting was just for planning purposes.) This is a writers' group that I wanted to form for ages but didn't do anything about until I read Getting Things Done!

Pooks, you may remember, is my APW* friend who let me take her Basics of Novel Writing class a couple of years ago. I asked her if she would mind telling her current class that a group was forming, so she did. She also put me in touch with Ronniebeegood, who had lots of email addresses from her classes. That contact led to a third person, Rick The Blogless, who volunteered to set up a password-protected website for us.

I suggested naming the group Pooks' Peeps and the name caught on right away because everyone in the group had taken her class at one time or another. Rick's first website post was about People of the Pooks (love that!). We ended up with so many interested people that we had to form two groups. One meets during the day, the Day POPs, and the other at night, the Night POPs.

The Day POPs meeting yesterday was such a joy! We meet at a Borders book store in a quiet, cozy corner of their music department. I was excited and nervous. I'd been in an online critique group before, but had no experience with a non-virtual group. I mean, when you crit someone else's work, they're right there in front of you, in person! I think we were all a little hesitant at first, but pretty soon we were discussing each other's Work like we'd been doing this for years.

I wasn't sure how I would feel about receiving critiques of my work in a face-to-face group. After all, my current Work in Progress (or WIP, that's the lingo for those of us in cool writers' groups) is like my baby. I tend and nurture its every utterance! After about two seconds, though, I realized that I was learning how to improve the work and make it strong enough to go out into the world when the time comes. What mother writer wouldn't want that?

Everyone approached this the right way. Critiques were given and taken in the spirit intended. I know we each left feeling pumped (peeped?) and eager to get back to our laptops. I can hardly wait for the next meeting, in two weeks.

*APW: Actual Published Writer

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Did You Know?

Did you know about this? I didn't. As I read it, I kept thinking, "Meanwhile, in New Orleans..."
[emphasis mine in the article]

U.S. Building Massive Embassy in Baghdad
By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent
Fri. Apr 14, 4:58 PM ET

The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.

The new U.S. Embassy also seems as cloaked in secrecy as the ministate in Rome. "We can't talk about it. Security reasons," Roberta Rossi, a spokeswoman at the current embassy, said when asked for information about the project. A British tabloid even told readers the location was being kept secret — news that would surprise Baghdadis who for months have watched the forest of construction cranes at work across the winding Tigris, at the very center of their city and within easy mortar range of anti-U.S. forces in the capital, though fewer explode there these days. The embassy complex — 21 buildings on 104 acres, according to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report — is taking shape on riverside parkland in the fortified "Green Zone," just east of al-Samoud, a former palace of Saddam Hussein's, and across the road from the building where the ex-dictator is now on trial.

The Republican Palace, where U.S. Embassy functions are temporarily housed in cubicles among the chandelier-hung rooms, is less than a mile away in the 4-square-mile zone, an enclave of American and Iraqi government offices and lodgings ringed by miles of concrete barriers. The 5,500 Americans and Iraqis working at the embassy, almost half listed as security, are far more numerous than at any other U.S. mission worldwide. They rarely venture out into the "Red Zone," that is, violence-torn Iraq.

This huge American contingent at the center of power has drawn criticism. "The presence of a massive U.S. embassy — by far the largest in the world — co-located in the Green Zone with the Iraqi government is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country," the International Crisis Group, a European-based research group, said in one of its periodic reports on Iraq.

State Department spokesman Justin Higgins defended the size of the embassy, old and new, saying it's indicative of the work facing the United States here. "It's somewhat self-evident that there's going to be a fairly sizable commitment to Iraq by the U.S. government in all forms for several years," he said in Washington. Higgins noted that large numbers of non-diplomats work at the mission — hundreds of military personnel and dozens of FBI agents, for example, along with representatives of the Agriculture, Commerce and other U.S. federal departments. They sleep in hundreds of trailers or "containerized" quarters scattered around the Green Zone. But next year embassy staff will move into six apartment buildings in the new complex, which has been under construction since mid-2005 with a target completion date of June 2007.

Iraq's interim government transferred the land to U.S. ownership in October 2004, under an agreement whose terms were not disclosed. "Embassy Baghdad" will dwarf new U.S. embassies elsewhere, projects that typically cover 10 acres. The embassy's 104 acres is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the acreage of Washington's National Mall.

Original cost estimates ranged over $1 billion, but Congress appropriated only $592 million in the emergency Iraq budget adopted last year. Most has gone to a Kuwait builder, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting, with the rest awarded to six contractors working on the project's "classified" portion — the actual embassy offices. Higgins declined to identify those builders, citing security reasons, but said five were American companies. The designs aren't publicly available, but the Senate report makes clear it will be a self-sufficient and "hardened" domain, to function in the midst of Baghdad power outages, water shortages and continuing turmoil. It will have its own water wells, electricity plant and wastewaster-treatment facility, "systems to allow 100 percent independence from city utilities," says the report, the most authoritative open source on the embassy plans. Besides two major diplomatic office buildings, homes for the ambassador and his deputy, and the apartment buildings for staff, the compound will offer a swimming pool, gym, commissary, food court and American Club, all housed in a recreation building.

Security, overseen by U.S. Marines, will be extraordinary: setbacks and perimeter no-go areas that will be especially deep, structures reinforced to 2.5-times the standard, and five high-security entrances, plus an emergency entrance-exit, the Senate report says. Higgins said the work, under way on all parts of the project, is more than one-third complete.

Associated Press news researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.
___ Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press.
All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Wishing You

A Hoppy, Scampery, Meowie, Arfy Easter!

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Galaxy Wars

Speaking of that whole space-time continuum thingy, the April 15th Astronomy Picture of the Day (click that under my Links to see it) shows two massive galaxies at war with each other. They've been at it for a billion years. That's like, way longer than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Christians vs. Islam, Cowboys and Indians, and even the war between the sexes.

Every hundred million years these two galaxies pass each other, and the gravitational pull from one causes everybody in the other to have a really bad "day" (cosmically speaking), and vice-versa. In just a few billion years, they will collide and form one big galaxy. I hope whoever's left will learn to get along with each other.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


We're moving across town in June, and in July we're going to London to celebrate a significant birthday (big five-oh) for Tomcat! And, Uncle Sam is paying for half the trip. snerk.

Last time we were there, the war was starting. You know, the one where they were going to greet us in the streets with flowers? And now it looks like the Bushman is going to get us into Iran, too, so our troops can get even more flowers! If so, Tomcat and I will again be out there in front of Parliament with the other 999,998 protestors. And this time maybe people in the States will get off their butts and do some protesting of their own, wot?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Back to Plan A

After the fifth (5th) (numero five-o) deal fell through on the sale of Maxwell House, Tomcat and I have decided to take the house off the market and ... move in there ourselves. That was the original plan over a year and half ago, before we decided we wanted to move to North Carolina. We'll just have to put the move to NC on hold for a year or two.

So now we will have another house to sell - the one we're living in now! Surely this one will sell. Won't it? We've had enough real estate drama to last a lifetime!

I called all the tenants in Maxwell House last night and asked them to move out by June 1st. I said I wasn't going to cry, but I did.

The good news is that we've already got a lot of stuff packed, but instead of moving across country, it'll be across town. The bad news is, we're still in Texas and summer's around the corner, just as soon as the three days of "Spring" are over.

We plan to keep Maxwell House a four-plex, which will be ... fun? interesting? ... because to go from, say, our living room to our bedroom, we'll have to go outside and come back in through another door. Ditto to go upstairs. Hahahahaaaaaaaaaa. And housework? Let's see... four kitchens, five bathrooms ...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Fat Lady Croaks

Nope, the fat lady didn't sing this time, either. She croaked.

We give up. Maxwell House is off the market now. After a "sale" has fallen through for the fifth time, that's it. We're just not going to keep putting ourselves through this.

So, our plans to move to North Carolina are postponed. We're very disappointed.

But, on the bright side, we get to vote for Kinky for Governor of Texas in November!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

This Little Guy

Glenda in the Land of Oz found this little guy in her garden. He isn't fully grown, but you get the idea. Those who don't live down here in the Southwest may not know what species this is. It's a horned lizard, but we call them "horny toads." (Oh, grow up! It's because of the little horns on top of their heads.)

Here's one that's grown. It's a picture from a museum exhibit. That's because these little guys are now an endangered species. Note that he's camoflauged himself. Another trait they have is squirting blood from their eyes when threatened. That tends to scare the heck out of the raptors that feed on them. What do horny toads eat? Mostly ants.

When I was a kid, horny toads were everywhere. The most fun thing about them, to us kids, anyway, was that you could rub their bellies and they would go to sleep!

Those of you who remember my old blog, OkeyDokey, Let's Get Started, may recall this story. One night Mother went into my brother's room to check on him. She was in her bare feet, by the way - that's important if you're a woman - and my brother told her not to step on his horny toads. Eeeeek! Can you imagine, you're standing there barefooted in the dark and ... oh, too funny. What my brother had done was tie one live horny toad to each of the legs of a cardtable, sort of like hitching a horse to a post. That way, he'd have them to play with the next day. By now, you're getting an inkling of one reason these little guys are endangered.

Anyway, Glenda was rightly thrilled to find one in her garden. I haven't seen one in decades, but then, I don't get out much. :)

I'm already missing horny toads if we make our alleged move to North Carolina. sniffle.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

If I Only Had a Brain

Yesterday I spent hours fiddling around with a WordPress template because I keep hearing how it's way cooler than Blogger. That may be, I don't know, but I found it to be the most un-user-friendly thing I've ever encountered! Pooks wanted to know what was wrong, and I emailed back that it would be easier to tell her what was right, and I'm still trying to think of something.

This is the WordPress site I was trying to set up.

I really, really wanted a cool-looking blog where I could have something like that pen graphic at the top, and I wanted to have a theme that would go with the name, Chapterhouse. I envisioned a sidebar with titles in a book theme, things like "About the Author," a dedication page, acknowledgements, and then I'd have posts grouped into categories, only I'd call them "Chapters." I'd also have a Library to replace the "Currently Reading" section. Different skins would be Book Covers. I was even thinking of a tawdry-looking skin for the Paperback version.

Oh, I had dreams, people!

Bottom line: I just can't figure this out. I have books on html and all (of course I have books on this stuff), but I still can't do this.

Can anyone recommend an affordable blog designer?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Writers' Group

Tomorrow is the planning meeting of a writers' group. I had wanted to join one for a long time - you know, a face-to-face one with real people instead of a virtual online group. So finally, I decided to start one! I've had a lot of help. One talented member set up a message board for us, and another one got email addresses together and sent out queries (oops, maybe "query" is a bad word?) to prospective members. The three of us have brainstormed some preliminary ideas, and tomorrow we'll get input from the full group. So far, we expect a total of seven people, including ourselves.

Question of the day: Why the heck did I do this just weeks before my alleged move* to North Carolina?
* As both of my regular readers know, this is the fifth "deal" we've had on selling our rent house. We are NOT packing another thing until the fat lady sings!

Monday, April 03, 2006

She Bad

Three thousand words today. Um-hum. Fifty-five percent com-puh-leet! Uh-huh. She bad. That's right. She fine!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Everyone's a Winner

Last night we went to see a play competition put on by TeCo Theatrical Productions. There were six one-act plays by local playwrights.

TeCo is an arts education program whose objectives are to "provide cultural and artistic opportunities for children and families who live in at-risk communities [and to] provide instruction in theater, acting, dance and other art forms ..."

Everyone was asked to vote for their favorite of the six plays, winner to be announced after the last performance next week.

Of course there are no losers here, because it's a win-win for everybody.

Thanks to James (a rising star who makes my latte for me in the meantime) for inviting us.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Take My Blogroll. Please.

How many times do we bloggers stumble (clumsy bunch that we are) across someone else's blog, read and like the first entry, and the second entry, then maybe bookmark and/or leave a comment, and move on, or how many times do we revisit our favorite bloggers because we love them so much, but never really pay attention to their blogrolls, the blogs they loved enough to link to? If you're like me, not very often. Only so many hours in the day, right?

Starting today, I'm going to make a point to visit blogs on other people's blogrolls as often as I can. I know that I'll find some great places and people out there, and as an added plus, I won't be stumbling around, I'll be on a clearly marked path. Wow - was that profound? Uh, nah ... second thought, not so much.

Anyway, take my blogroll, please. You'll find some wonderful people over there!