Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Monday, December 19, 2011

Recharged

I haven't logged in many barefoot runs lately. One on Thanksgiving that got me all the way around the temple before my feet went numb. One two  days ago, late morning, when the sun was up and the frost had mostly thawed the grass in the drainage basin. Two times around the bowl before I couldn't feel  my feet. Perfect.

What those two barefoot days reminded me: how little we feel of the world most of the time. How much we miss, walking around with our shoes on. "The soil is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod." That's Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Too bad a barefoot run was out of the question today. I put on wool socks and my "barefoot" shoes and a hat and gloves and took Andrei the Giant up the mountain--next best thing to going barefoot. The dog agrees.

The fog made everything look so ethereal: hoar frost sprouting from each blade of long grass, each branch of scrub oak, and the cloud sitting low on the rocks jagging up the ravine.  Tried to take a picture for you, but my phone said no connection with my camera. Because of the two times I dropped it on cement, perhaps?

A day for  birds. A hawk sat on the top of a power pole, feathers puffed and head tucked in against snow that wasn't  falling as much as being squeezed out of the fog, like flour dust, dry and fine. Little flocks of starlings and sometimes chickadees kept flying up as we passed. I saw a flicker swoop into an oak cluster, wings pink in the snow dust.

Passed a man with two matching spaniels off their leash. I put Andrei back on his and was happy the guy sent his dogs down the hill off the path while we passed. Happier they were well-trained enough to do it. Andrei would never, off his leash. No self-control with other dogs.

Do the power lines sizzle more when snow hits them, or do they always buzz that way and you just don't notice until the fog makes things so silent that you hear remaining sounds more? Like the dog howling from some house, somewhere. The chatter of chickadees. The city noises, below and away from our path.

By the time I got home, my face, bum, and the second toe on my left foot were numb, even with wool socks. Perfect.

I think our brains need alone time with themselves. They need a chance to think, to feel, to be silent.  To run barefoot, if you're me. To walk on the mountain. Or just to sit and be alone with living things. Easy to forget in a wired world.




Friday, October 28, 2011

Finding a Rhythm

Sometimes your rhythms are off.


Sometimes when your normal rhythms falter, you look around for new ones, and you find something works in a way you weren't expecting.


I woke up this morning and was not feeling it. Went to bed late. Woke up late. Drank green smoothie. Drove kids to school. Didn't exercise. Sat on couch with computer instead. Decided to try out Stephen King's writing schedule and ended up writing from eight to ten, ate a snack, wrote some more. Took a nap, wrote some more. I don't think nap was part of Stephen King's schedule. Felt good about the writing. Felt kind of gross about everything else.


Stephen King writes until noon, then goes for a walk. So at 12:30 I went for a run with the dog. Dog was sluggish. I was sluggish. Couldn't fall into a rhythm. Dumped the route and went to the park where I took off my shoes and ran barefoot with dog. Andre was tired after one lap. I squished around in the grass and finally found my beat. Kept my shoes off and ran home barefoot. What the heck? It didn't hurt. Last time my feet felt thrashed. One lady almost drove into a telephone pole while staring at me running barefoot on the road carrying my shoes. One bored-looking young guy stopped looking bored and cracked a huge smile. Is running barefoot really that weird?


I've been trying to find a new writerly rhythm. What I liked about Stephen King's: I got to use that just-awake time when my subconscious is close to the surface and my inner editor is far away. I also wasn't tired from exercise.


What I didn't like: I wasn't energized from exercise when I wrote. And the dog was mad at me.


But it worked for today.


I've tried working in my bed, at my upstairs desk, at my downstairs desk, on the couch, at the kitchen table, at the library, at the bookstore. At 2:00 am. At 10:00 am. First thing in the morning until late into the night, only stopping for food and bathroom breaks.


I heard Marilynne Robinson read from her beautiful Gilead and then answer questions last Friday at BYU. I love her writing, so I was interested when someone asked her about her revision process and she said she doesn't revise. She has to get each word right before she can move on to the next. 


Gary Schmidt
Gary Schmidt (Okay for Now), whose writing I also admire, writes on a 1950s typewriter to make himself slow down, because, as he says, writing is not about speed. He revises by cutting with scissors, pasting with glue. When he's done with a draft, he burns it in his wood stove and starts over.


I need to revise. I am not a genius like Marilynne Robinson. She really is. I have a typewriter, but I cannot compose on it the way Gary does because I make too many mistakes and it would drive me crazy. Also, I don't like glue. And I can't help revising as I go. I do like to give myself permission to write a crappy first draft. But maybe I will try slowing down this week. Giving myself permission to search for the perfect word before moving on if I feel like it. 


So I will not be churning out an entire novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) in November. What I will be doing in November is working on the first draft of my novel, slowly, in whatever rhythm I find works. I just have to figure out the best way to feel the music of words, one day at a time.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bread-writing

Today I am writing by making bread.


I haven't made bread in a long time. Maybe a year.

It's cold and dark outside, so I built a fire in my wood-burning stove, and then I made bread dough. It's rising. Meanwhile, I've figured out all kinds of things for my novel that I will soon write down.

You think I'm dodging actual writing?

Ha. Doubters. I'm getting ever so much done in my head. Really. And I will have hot bread to eat while I get it all out on electronic paper.




Mmm. Come by. We'll have a bread-eating novel-writing party.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Going Barefoot

Here's a story about going barefoot. Not Going Barefoot, as in my novel. Going barefoot, as in my life. As in, no arc. No actual ending. Just my bare feet. Running.

Do people really get this far off the ground when they run barefoot?


Some of you have heard (and if you're my family are probably sick of) my rant about how my chronic knee and plantar fasciitis trouble healed when I zeroed out my running shoes and started running barefoot in the grass at the park. I realized I run very differently when barefoot, so I started trying to mimic that upright, butt-kicking, ultra-bent-knee style every time I ran in shoes, too. 

My favorite shoes: New Balance Minimus. Second favorite: Vibram Five Fingers. Both of which have zero padding and are only a couple steps beyond barefoot.

I mostly run in shoes because I'm scared of that crud always lurking on the side of the road, like to save barefoot running for the grass. Love splashing through that spongy, soggy, just-watered grass in the park down the road from my house. Mmmm. Yes.

I garden barefoot. I walk around my house and yard barefoot. I squish in the park grass barefoot. I love going barefoot.

Barefeet are happy feet

BUT, I do not run on the road with bare feet. I think my brother, a hard-core barefooter, whose bare foot-prints I have seen in snow, is certifiably crazy. Even though he's a math professor.

And then I read Barefoot Ken-Bob's book
sorry, you can't click to look inside unless you go to Amazon

and felt like a big ole wimp. I mean, the guy runs marathons barefoot.

So this week I started barefoot running on the road. I've done it twice, now. The first time I ran around the corner. Woo hoo. Today: down two-and-a-half streets and around four corners.

My feet were not torn to shreds. My legs and knees feel good. I was ok with people staring at the weirdness of it. The end.

Only it's not the end. I'm going to keep doing it. Told you there was no arc.

I'll let you know how it goes. Gotta go scrub my soles.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Write for the Fire


Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.
                                        --Ray Bradbury                           



I read this quote on Ann Dee Ellis's blog today and  it was like getting hit in the head with a pine cone. Ray Bradbury is a hero of mine. He graduated from the library instead of college. He writes original, inimitable stuff.


a pine cone

I started writing because I loved it. I loved it so much I could write myself out of a depression, and that's a big deal. I was totally in love.



me, in love


I didn't know what I was doing. A lot of what I wrote was buffalo chips, destined for the fire. But I was having too much fun to care.  




a buffalo chip

Am I still in love with writing? Yes. A lot of what I write is still chippy and fire-bound, only now I'm a little more aware of when I've produced poop, and also that someone else who knows the difference between buffalo chips and swiss chocolate might read it, too.  


definitely not a buffalo chip


I have been putting off writing this book because I'm afraid of producing poop instead of chocolate. Silly. That's what the fire is for, right? 
 

storyfire



I had to remember I'm writing for the fire today, so I have nothing to lose. If I don't, I might fall out of love altogether and have to get a real job that I don't love at all. 



Yeah, so, write for the fire, hey? Write (or paint, or run, or play your violin) for the joy of it, and even if all you come up with is buffalo chips, remember, you can start a fire with those.*** 


***Whatever that means. I'm not really sure. It's either terribly profound, or...well, you know. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writers Write, Billy

I know tons of people who want to write a book. 


Maybe it was the easy success of She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named with those vampire books, but at least three people within a couple of blocks of my house all say they're writing books. 


So when my son came home one day and said, oh, by the way, so-and-so from work is writing a book about a boy who grew up in Needles, California, my husband announced, "Everybody is writing a book. I'm going to write one." 


And he made one up on the spot, about a kid who grew up in Needles, California. My kids quote the entire thing on a regular basis, which isn't hard, because it's really short. Here it is:


"It sure is hot out here," said Billy, as he looked across the barren wasteland that he called home. "Mom, can I have a cookie?" 
"Sure, Honey, it's the least I can do since we live in such a crappy place," she said, wondering why she'd ever married a man who would move to a place like Needles, California.


That's it. The end. He never finished it. 


Most people don't. Yeah, everybody wants to write a book, but that doesn't make them writers. Writers write. Every day. And they keep on writing. And revising. And submitting. And reading about writing. And revising. And writing some more. And submitting again. And reading some more about writing. And writing again. And they keep on. Sure, they take breaks, but they always get back to writing again. 


Two days ago someone told me about a friend who writes but has decided she's quitting because she hasn't been able to get published. I know someone else who gave up after her first rejection, because it was too demoralizing to try again. 



Julie posted this on our One Page a Day Blog. It's by Sara Zarr (Once Was Lost): 


"Sometimes I think I could have just as easily not been a writer. For example, by not writing, because of fear or self-doubt or not feeling entitled to give it a try. Or by watching more TV instead. Or giving up when I couldn’t figure out what happened next in a story, or after the first five years of rejection, or after I lost my first agent, or after the second five years of rejection. Et cetera. I’m still aware, every day, that this career is mine to keep or lose. There are lots of things from the business side of things I can’t control, but if I don’t keep writing I definitely will not be a writer."

It's funny how ten years of sweat and dues-paying seems to be the magic number before publication for many writers (except a certain writer of vampire books, but that's just kind of freaky). It's good to keep in mind that Sara Zarr and even Madeleine L'Engle had their ten. Rejection and persistence is part of the job. 


And after reading this I remembered, oh, yeah, summer is over and so is my break and the house is silent and if I don't get to work NOW I might not be a writer anymore; I might be a former writer, for which I have no excuse, because I have a book begging to be written about a slave boy, and he's haunting my dreams. Or nightmares. (And no, his name isn't Billy from Needles). He won't shut up and when I try to suppress him the way I've been doing all summer he gets into my psyche and makes me a crazy person with weird disorders. I should probably deal with him so I can pretend to be sort of normal again. 


Because yes, Billy, you do have to write to be a writer (and to be sane, if you're me). And you have to get past the first page and keep on and not give up, ever; otherwise it's just a little hobby, like flying remote control airplanes in the park, and you might as well be watching soap operas, because real writing isn't that kick-back. It's a job. 


"Hey," my husband says, "I'm going to publish my story. I might even get published before you do." 


Ok, I tell him, but you should probably finish it first. And that first page might need a little revision. Um, maybe a lot of revision.


*Disclaimer: I did not write the Billy story. Really. My apologies to anyone who lives in or anywhere near Needles, California or the Mojave desert. I'm sure it's a lovely place to live. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

July: Transformed into a Barefoot, Bearded, Green-smoothie-drinking Rain-cloud. Or Something.

Time has a way of evaporating sometimes. It has nothing to do with fun. It just disappears, like steam. I guess that's what happened to July, because somehow today is the second Tuesday in August, and a whole month is gone, and I don't know how it happened. The sun came out and, poof!


I wasn't writing. Riding, yes. Finally fixed my bike. But writing? Not on the new novel. Obviously not blog posts. Letters either. Both my sisters are probably mad at me.


Here's what I remember:


*We lost the dog and chased him down. 
*Worked hours in garden, which is growing like green demons. 
*Hiked mountains
*It poured rain every afternoon. In Utah. Where the total rainfall is 15 inches a year.
*I injured my Achilles and rehabilitated it. Didn't see doctor. 
*Read book on barefoot running.
*Read book on plot because I was mired in mine. Think I found my way out. 
*Ran barefoot with dog and kids in squishy park grass. 
*Experiment A: drank one quart green smoothie/day. 
*Quit experiment after one nasty green smoothie consisting almost entirely of collard greens, and another of watercress. Have you ever drunk watercress? Think of raw frog juice. 


Uh, huh.


*Made yummy (as opposed to froggy) green smoothies for the girls' cross-country team. 
*Experiment B: did all gardening barefoot. Awesome.
*Bought running shoes. Why? A mystery. Barefoot, hooray! Except on Utah rocks. Ok, which one marathon, do you think, inspired Barefoot Ken Bob's barefoot friend to scrounge up shoes made from a trail-marker, and even Ken Bob to admit it totally sucked? Park City, Utah. Yup. Utah rocks. The rocks I get to run on. Not so good for bare feet. I like my New Balance Minimus shoes for trails. Feel the rocks, but don't feel them.


Also:


*Read lots of fiction
*Hung my wash outside on line. Had to rescue it often from rain.
*Watched Harry Potter.


Funny, though. Except for Harry Potter, most of those things happened in the first eight days of August. Huh. I don't know where July is. Floating around the Universe somewhere. Lost on vacation. Transfigured into a barefoot, bearded, green-smoothie-drinking rain-cloud.


What about you? Do you ever lose a whole month of your life?

Monday, June 27, 2011

June Book Winner

Hey, all. Time for our June blog book give-away drawing. I'm using my uber-high-tech method of randomly selecting a name that I've scrawled on a folded orange sticky note and thrown in a cereal bowl, along with a lot of other orange folded sticky notes.

uber-high-tech selection process
I close my eyes, reach in, unfold the paper...

And the winner is Jamie! You get a free book! Email me your physical address and I'll get Leviathan in the mail right away.


Everyone else, head to the library right now and get yourself a copy. Unless you happen to be my sister, and you happen to live in Brazil or Fiji, and summer happens to be winter where you live, and books in English are harder to come by than they ought to be, in which case I might send you a copy anyway.

Happy reading!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Reading still makes you sexier and one more day to enter free book drawing

Perhaps you didn't believe me when I said that reading can make you sexier. Or skinnier, especially if you didn't click on the link in the last post, but it's true. Young girls who read a book about an overweight girl who made positive life-style changes had a reduced Body Mass Index after six months, compared to a control group, whose BMI increased.
See how skinny she's getting? See the stack of books she's reading?

Literature can be powerful, have I mentioned that before?

Even though the book sounded utterly BORING. Which, I guess, suggests reading could also make you fatter if you read an equally boring book that promoted unhealthy lifestyles. Or you could read an interesting book and perhaps magically loose weight anyway. Because the authors of the study didn't use a second control group of girls who read a very exciting book that had nothing whatsoever to do with weight loss and compare their weight at the end of the study. So maybe it really was the reading itself that made everyone skinnier. Why not? Reading uses brain power, which--who knows?--probably burns a few calories, especially if your heart rate goes up in exciting parts. I'm choosing to believe that the magic potion was the reading itself. But whatever.

Anyway, you only have one more day to enter to win a free copy of Leviathan. Contest ends at midnight, June 26th (Sunday).Go here for rules and a review of  the giveaway book. And then check back Monday for drawing results. Right now your chances of winning are one in six.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reading makes you sexier, and a free book for June

Summer Solstice was yesterday and the weather here in the Wasatch mountains is finally not cool or wet. Which reminded me that my favorite thing about summer is books. Which are also my favorite thing about spring. And winter. And fall. But especially summer, because you can read what you feel like (instead of what your teacher tells you) and you can read in the grass, or in the tree-house, or up the mountain, or on the beach, or at the pool...

And I've read some great books this year, so I have some recommendations for all y'all's summer reading lists. In fact, I think it's time for a freebie.
I've been enjoying steam punk lately. Maybe you've read Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld? And the sequel, Behemoth. If you haven't, you're missing a fabulous series. Although just when you're really getting into the story, you'll realize it's not done, and the next book doesn't come out until fall. How rude.

The world of Leviathan is an alternate WWI setting, where countries with technology based on engineered beasts pit themselves against the Star-Warsesque machines of their enemies. Westerfeld has a lot of fun playing with the two super-techno cultures, but my favorite part (of course) are the characters: Alek, prince on the run, and Deryn, a girl posing as the boy of all boys, one of the best soldiers in the Darwinist forces, whom everyone admires, but is always a misstep away from exposure.

As Alek and Deryn become friends, Alek thinks Deryn is the boy he's always wanted to be, while Deryn finds herself falling for Alek, a romance that can't happen. And we don't even get to know how it all turns out, because the next book isn't yet published. My twelve-year-old son loves the action, and he especially likes Alek; I like the great story and, yes, the romantic tension that is subtle enough for boys. Can't wait for the release of Goliath, the sequel, which comes out September 20th of this year.

Meanwhile, I'm offering Leviathan for my June blog book-giveaway.To enter the drawing for your free copy, same rules as usual apply:

1) Follow my blog. If you already follow, you're good.
2) Leave a comment here, letting me know you follow and want to enter.
3) Do 1 and 2 by midnight, June 26th.

That's all. Follow, comment, do it on time.

Or you can just head to the library or the bookstore pick up a copy right now and not have to wait. Except if you're like me even the library won't be free because can I return a book on time? No, I cannot. I find it's cheaper to buy books in the first place. And then they are new. And then you don't have to feel guilty when you don't bring them back. Cheapest of all is to enter my drawing and win one.


Whatever you do, grab lots of books this summer and read them. New evidence shows that reading can make you skinnier. We already knew reading makes you smarter. It probably makes you prettier. Stronger. Sexier. And it's fun.

Take off your shoes. Lie in the grass. Ahh...

**********************************************************************************

And if you're interested, a few more ideas for great reads:

*The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte. Who reads Anne Bronte? I hadn't. I really enjoyed this, although it was sometimes a tiny bit too preachy. Considered scandalous in her day.

*Snow White and Rose Red, Patricia Wrede. The sort-of-steam-punk/Renaissance version of one of my favorite fairy tales. Lots of fun.

*Thirteenth Child, Patricia Wrede. More ultra-creative steam-punk.

*Rick Riordan's latest: The Lost Hero (more Percy Jackson's world, but with new lovable characters), and The Throne of Fire (sequel to Red Pyramid). My kid likes this second series better than Percy.

*If you like dystopian stuff, Matched, by Ally Condie is one of the best. Beautifully written.

*Dragon Slippers (and sequels), and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, Jessica Day George. I didn't like the covers for her Dragon books, so I never got around to trying them until this year, after I heard her at a conference and she was one of my favorite speakers. Really fun, for middle-grade and younger YA readers.

*Each Little Bird That Sings, Deborah Wiles. Again, for middle-graders. Ruby Lavender by her was my daughter's favorite for years and is lovely, too. She has a mesmerizing style and the character development is always wonderful. I liked Aurora County All-stars, as well.

Monday, June 6, 2011

LargeThings: Cups and Cockroaches

I spent the weekend in New Mexico at the Great Southwest Track and Field Meet.

Albuquerque was hot. And smoky, thanks to a huge Arizona fire that filled the place the night we got in. The city was also full of fast people with large muscles and zero-percent body fat running in the heat. Luckily, a hot wind blew away most of the smoke so the runners didn't die of smoke inhalation.

My favorite part: water cups in Albuquerque are HUGE.


Yes, huge.

You know how if you go out for fast food or to a movie theater and ask for water, most places give you a leprechaun-sized styrofoam cup and if you complain they threaten to call the cops for suggesting something so outrageous as a full-sized drink of water? In Albuquerque, you get giant water cups. Humungous. With lids. And straws. And lots of ice. Which was great, because did I mention New Mexico is hot?

My least favorite part: large cockroaches. Like  the one we found in a drawer in my hotel room. Nice and healthy-looking.

Albuquerque cockroach in drawer

We closed the drawer and hoped it would go away. It did. We don't know where. I'm scared to unpack my luggage.


And yes, I watched my kid run. Which, ok, yeah, was a bigger deal than large water cups. But, hey, it was over so fast and the ice-water lasted the whole 2000-meter steeple-chase. How cool is that?

Better than an over-sized cock-roach roaming loose in my hotel-room. And perhaps in my luggage. Or in the bag of left-over pretzels. Ergh. Ick. Pretzels are going into the trash right now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Loving the Path

I didn't set any New Year's Resolutions this year. Not one. I felt sort of guilty about that for awhile.

Um, not that guilty. Not guilty enough to set any.

I mean, I'm constantly evaluating myself and trying to do better. Maybe too much. And then I decided, maybe goals are overrated. Maybe I spend too much of my time looking forward, wishing, wanting, dissatisfied with myself and others, and not enough time savoring the moment.

Beautiful Mt. Timpanogos. My favorite.
When Robert Persig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) pointed out that it's the sides of the mountain that count, not just the top, he wasn't just talking about hiking.

Maybe that's what I haven't been doing in my life.

Maybe I need to do what my neighbor does: wake up every morning, see the sun or the rain or the snow, and say, I am alive, and that's a gift. And just enjoy whatever the Universe dumps in my lap. Even when it looks like pig poo. Er, perhaps I don't have to be grateful for the pig poo.

I did happen to finish my book this year. But not because I set a goal to do it. I finished because I was doing something I love every day.

I want to find joy. I don't think a list of goals is going to get me there. It's here, now, all around, if I take the time to stop and see it. Rest. Relax. Quit setting so many goals. Learn to love the path as much as the peak.

Ok, that's sounding suspiciously like a goal. So stop it already. Savor, savor.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cookie Apocalypse and Free Book Winner

the apocalypse
Ok, so we're post apocalypse now, and still alive, even though we ate all but two of the cookies we made last night, which is sort of a disaster, since how are we going to decide who gets the last two?

And also, my son's broken ipod is sitting next to the computer here and mewing. Yes, mewing. I don't know what that means, but it's bugging me.




 But I think we're ok. And I still have a book to give away.

So I wrote down a bunch of names on little scraps of paper and threw them in a bowl and drew one. Very random and scientific.

And Amberly, you own a copy of Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now. The perfect not-actually-dystopian post-apocalyptic read. Congratulations!

I'm ready to send it to you, so if you email me at ejjube at gmail dot com and let me know your address, I'll get it in the mail. 

Thanks to all you new and old followers who entered the drawing. If you like free books, keep watching for another giveaway. I try to do this every month or two, and your chances for winning are always pretty good, since the contest is nice and small.

Even if you didn't win, you should still go check out this book from the library, or buy a copy for yourself. Because all y'all need to read this one.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

End of the World and Last Day for Free Book

The world ends today. 6:00 pm, I think? So does my blog contest.

Good thing I finished and sent off that book of mine this week. Whew. So, this is your last chance to enter to the drawing for Gary Schmidt's latest, if you haven't gotten around to it. Except I'm giving you a post-apocalyptic six extra hours (until midnight), if we're not all dead or translated or whatever.

See post below for my review of the book and for contest details.

I'll announce contest winners Sunday or Monday (if I'm feeling lazy), so be sure to check back then, anyone who still happens to be around. I mean, if Armageddon does come, the power will probably be out, and we'll have no T.V., so you'll want something good to read to get you through, right? Books and chocolate, everything's A-OK.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Magic "Send" Button=Free Book for You

I did it.

Finally pushed the magic "send" button on my computer. Yes, only three weeks later than I'd wanted. My verse novel is out of my hands and into my agent's and I'm going to have a life again.

I'm going plant my garden.

Going to exercise.Writing is so dang sedentary. Gained 10 freaking pounds writing this novel.

Buy food (we're tired of nothing but cereal).

Read Brideshead Revisited before next week's book group.

Take care of the huge tax error the IRS thinks we made but didn't. 

Attend my kids' dance showcase, State track meet, and sixth-grade graduation.

Hang out with the fam.

And of course, give away a free book. To you. To celebrated finishing my novel. All you have to do is enter my drawing.

It's a great book: Okay for Now, by Newbery author Gary Schmidt.



Wow. Such a great book. Perfect, actually. I have faith in literature again. Schmidt's two Newbery's were good. This one's better.

I love the way he organizes the story of tough-kid Doug Swieteck around the pictures in John James Audubon's Birds of America,  as Doug discovers new friends in a small town where he didn't want to move; new talents; new ways of living and dealing with old problems--such as an abusive father, a delinquent brother, and another brother crippled from his time in Vietnam. Schmidt's gift is powerful understatement that takes the top of your head off, Emily Dickenson style. His language is beautiful and simple and poetic, the story simple and wonderfully rich. One of those books you finish and think, yes, that was a perfect book.
 Really. And you will cry.

I had to give this one away. Meant to do that in April, but I was trying to finish a book, ok?

Rules as usual:


1) Follow my blog. You can do that by clicking on the "Followers" link to the right. If you already follow, good enough.

2) Leave a comment here to let me know you follow and want to be entered.

3) Deadline Saturday, May 21, Midnight.

Sorry, except for Fiji and Brazil, U.S. addresses only.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Saving the World From Fantasy

My daughter's History teacher goes on a class-long rampage if a student mentions the word "Twilight." Not because she thinks the last book is somewhat sexually explicit for 13-year-olds, or because the romance is a tad over the top. She thinks Edward is "too perfect," which gives kids "an unrealistic view of the world." My daughter rolls her eyes as she tells me this.

Er, by the way, did we forget Edward is a vampire? He sucks blood for dinner. Craves his girlfriend's blood. But no, the story isn't realistic. The genre is called Fantasy. Definitely not History.



Sigh. Another fantasy-basher.

I couldn't help thinking about the anti-fantasy proselyters that came to my door a couple of years ago. And since I'm still trying to finish up my novel to send off by the end of the month, I thought I'd rerun this post.

*                    *                    *                   *                  *

Here's a real-life story for a Friday afternoon.

Once upon an actual Sunday morning, not too many months ago, a couple of lovely, polite, and very earnest people knocked on my door, Bible in hand.

Earnest Woman: "We're worried about the disturbing trend of children's books about witches and wizards and magic."

Me: (blink)

Earnest Woman: "I see you have children, I'm sure you're concerned about their well-being?"

Me: "Mmmm."

Earnest Man: "We'd like to read you a verse from the Bible about the dangers of witchcraft, if you don't mind."

Me: "Mmmm."

Whereupon they proceeded to read a verse where Paul warns against seeking out witches and wizards who "peep and mutter."

These people were so earnest, and really nice, I didn't have the heart to tell them that I, myself, had written two books about witches and magic. I didn't want to horrify them.

I also didn't have time--I would have been late for church--to explain how I (and a large number of fantasy-writers out there) can claim to be Christian and justify writing witch books: George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien among them, not to mention J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer. These books we're talking about ARE imaginary, after all, not how-to books, or tracts.

Fantasy is not supposed to be literal, I wanted to say. No witch is ever simply a witch, no monster is ever just a monster, as author Brandon Mull (Fablehaven) likes to point out, and magic isn't exactly magic, either. Symbolism allows a story to take on as many different meanings as it has readers, each person bringing his own real-life experiences with him. Story is inherently interactive that way, even read alone under the covers at night.

I could go on: fantasy lets a child lay out her fears and look at them in a way that doesn't have to hurt so much it cripples her. It lets little people go away for awhile and do the impossible, and then they can come back to regular life and see new possibilities. Ideally, it leaves them with hope, and that's not imaginary at all. Not incompatible with Christianity, either, as far as I can see. Even Jesus told parables. And Job sure feels like fantasy to me. Which might be why it's such a powerful, meaningful story.

Well, I didn't say all that to the people on my porch. I didn't want to burst anybody's earnest bubble. I also didn't feel like apologizing for what I do all day. So I just blinked and said, "Thanks," and let them go on saving the neighborhood from witchcraft. I shut the door, got dressed, and tried not to giggle hysterically all through church.

And you can bet if you peek in my window on any given day, you'll see me typing away at my latest witch book. I didn't hear anything in that Bible verse to make me think that's such a terrible thing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'm Fine.

I had a good marathon weekend before last. How about you?

Met my goal: finished my shotgun phase of revisions; fixed all the piddly things I'd made notes to myself to fix and had been putting off for later; ready to print! in prep for the next phase of revisions.

Then Spring break happened and

1. I broke my printer while printing out my book.

*Note: that's not, "The printer broke," it's "I broke the printer," as in, I yanked out some already printed pieces of my book that were getting sucked back in and that's when I heard a crack. And then my printer wouldn't feed paper any more. And I had lost my receipt. And hadn't bothered to register my product when I bought it (who does that?). So they couldn't look it up. (Next time just tape the receipt and protection plan to the bottom of the printer, they told me. Duh. You idiot.)

2. So I had to go out and buy a freaking new one. Which was a downgrade that cost as much as the last nicer one. And which didn't even come with a USB cord. Which made the new printer unusable until I went back and got the old one from my broken printer which I'd traded in for a discount. But I'm fine. I took some yoga breaths on the way back to Office Max. I'm fine.

Even though I didn't get around to shopping for that stupid printer until Saturday, because I was

3. Shopping for a prom dress (because I don't sew anymore). And a puffy slip. And shoes. Which had to be ballet flats with ribbons up the ankles. That have to be dyed. Prom is Friday. Of course my kid wanted one we have to alter. And add stuff. Cut stuff. rearrange stuff. Take things in. Urgh.

4. And I took my kids to a movie.

5. And jumped on the tramp with them (well, for about 10 minutes).

So did I write all week? No. I did not. Even though the entire month of April is supposed to be my personal Writing Marathon Month and I promised Agent Steve I'd get my book into his hands before month end.


But I get to watch my daughter promenade. In her altered dress. And dyed ballet shoes with ribbons up the ankles.

And I read three books.
And I found my free book to give away for April, so check back soon.
And the forsythia's in bloom.
And my magnolias are recovering from the snow (sort of).
And it's getting green on the mountain.

And I printed out my manuscript without another mishap. Whew.

So I'm fine now. Just fine. Ready to get back to my book. Even though we're still figuring out the dress. (Did I mention I don't sew anymore? )

No problem.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Writing Marathon Weekend

Hey, I'm doing a writing marathon this weekend. Decided...um, just this minute.

I wish


It was Carol Lynch Williams's and Ann Dee Ellis's idea, and they're throwing a dinner if you meet your goal, so consider dumping everything and joining the marathon. Here's the link that tells what you have to do. It's free, and you set your own rules/goals, so how can you lose?




I'm doing this because I need a deadline.




 
An excuse not to cook dinner or clean my house for three days is always nice, too.

Do I need an excuse? No. But it sounds slightly better than the usual: my mom's a writer so it always looks like this around here.



My goals for the marathon: finish my current polishing-up run-through of my novel and go back and fix all bajillion things I made notes to myself to fix, so I'll be ready by Monday to print out my WIP for yet another run-through.

Goals are good, but you don't have to do a writing marathon to have them. What are yours for this weekend?

Do you need an excuse to write? Sign up! Write! Just do it, like Nike.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hello, Spring!

Saturday: 74 degrees and the magnolias popped. 

Today: my poor, frozen magnolias.




And what's left of the daffodils.




Hello, Spring!


April's writing goal: to finish my Barefoot revisions and send them to Steve by the end of the month.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Acquainted with Night

It's 12:15 am and I'm drinking green smoothie and writing a blog post. Robert Frost fit my mood. Simple, elegant, eloquent. And depressing. Perfect.

Acquainted with the Night 




   I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Friday, March 25, 2011

How do you know when you're done with your book?

It's snowing again. But last week the weather was warm, and I put on my barefoot shoes and went for an almost-barefoot run in the park.

Have I mentioned that running barefoot in the grass is Epiphany and Nirvana and Halleluia rolled into one?

                                                       Aahh....Bare feet.
                    


                 That's why I had to write a book about it. Which is still way too long.

 
People keep asking me (since the revisions go on and on, Judah), how do you know when you're done? That's a REALLY good question. The answer on the current book is: not yet.

It's not like I know anything. I just write because I can't help it. But I can tell I'm NOT done if I'm not happy with these things:


*Plot. Problems? Does everything build to a climax? Does everything connect? Loose ends?

* Characters/character traits.  Do they talk in a way that a reader could recognize without dialogue tags?

*End of chapter hooks?

*Do I love every word on my first page? On my last?

*How's the rhythm? Does anything jar?

*Transitions, cliche's, confusing spots, anything awkward?

*Get rid of every extra word, sentence, paragraph, page, chapter. Cut, chop, slash. I always write too much.

*Play proofreader; go over grammar, punctuation and spelling like a lice-picking chimp. If that stuff isn't your forte, you might want to hire someone to do it for you.

I happen to like this part. Yeah, weird. Got a C in my college Physical Science class because I copy-edited the textbook instead of studying it. It was a terrible book. (Hmm. Maybe you should hire me. Then I could hire someone to clean my house).

*Check chapter titles and format: headings, spacing, all that crap.


These things can take, well, like, forever. Sometimes a year if I get really hung up on plot issues and decide to rewrite the entire book. But when I find myself changing everything I did yesterday back the way it was the day before, I know I need to get it out of my house.

Then I'm done. I push "send", the scariest button on earth.



What about you? How do you know when you're finished revising?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Winner

Thanks everyone who entered the free book-drawing, and welcome to all my new followers! Wow, everyone wants to get their hands on The Clockwork Three. Of course. It's a great book. Even if you didn't get it free, you should go buy yourself a copy.

As a little introduction if you're new to the blog, I am a fiction-writer in the process of shopping my stuff. I have an agent, so I let him do most of the work there, while I do the work of writing books.

I love to read, love to write, love all things bookish. Here on the blog, I write about  the writing process, review books I liked, talk about the life of a writer, and try to give away a book a month. The drawings are small, so your chances of winning are always pretty good.

My rules for give-aways: must be books I've read myself and loved, with great stories and beautiful sentences. They aren't always the hot sellers, but I swear they're worth your time. Because there are so many books out there. And so few minutes in a day.


Ok, the drama moment. 

The winner of the give-away is...............ALEETHA.

Congratulations, you now own a copy of Matthew Kirby's Clockwork Three. Email your address to me at ejjube at gmail dot com and I'll get your book in the mail ASAP.


Thanks for participating! Talk to all y'all around the blog soon.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Time Running Out...

Only two more days to enter to win your free copy of Matthew Kirby's The Clockwork Three. Contest ends at midnight tomorrow. Check Monday for winner. See below for details.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lucky You: Matthew Kirby's Clockwork Three

In honor of St. Patrick's Day and Irish luck, I'm giving away a free book today that has nothing to do with Ireland:  my friend, Matthew Kirby's  The Clockwork Three.


If you haven't heard of Matt's debut novel, you're missing out on a fantastic middle-grade read. Released in October of last year, Clockwork is a wonderful adventure story with three main characters, three converging plots, an automaton that comes to life, boy-pleasing amounts of danger and - my favorite bit - a magical green violin. Kirby's book defies genre, but manages to weave elements of steampunk, historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery into one thoroughly satisfying, well-crafted book.

My eleven-year-old son's simple review: "One of the best books I ever read." You'll want to read it, too.

Check out the book trailer, if you like. I tried and failed to get the video to work on my blog (not too tech-savvy right here), so click on the purple/red link to watch on YouTube.


To enter to win The Clockwork Three:

1. Become a follower of my blog by clicking on the "follow me" icon to the right. If you already follow, good enough.

2. Leave a comment and let me know you follow and wish to enter the drawing.

3. Do the above by Sunday, March 20 (which also happens to be the Vernal Equinox. Happy spring!).

4. Check back Monday, March 21 for results.


Good luck! Wear green!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Novel Update: Triage Mostly Over

I think I'm finally finished with what Dave Farland calls the "triage" phase of my novel revisions.




You know, the part where you assess what drastic measures you need to save your story's life. The big stuff.





Adding, chopping, sewing things together.


Bloody. Painful. Satisfying.


Now, onto the "shotgun" phase, where I shoot it all to pieces again. Why are Dave's metaphors so messy? I wipe my hands on my pants, hope the casualties aren't too great, and move on.

Only six more phases to go.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Month, New Look

It's almost spring, February died a gruesome death (good riddance), and the blog wanted a new look. Whadaya think?

I'll be giving away more books soon, so check back.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tips From Dave on Revising

 "Your first draft is for what you want to say; your final draft is  for how you want to say it." --Dave Farland.



The most useful advice anybody ever gave me as a novice author was go to writing conferences.

I had a 27-page picture book that wanted to be a novel, 60 pages of another book, and no idea how a person would go about getting anything published - or whether my writing was good enough to bother trying.

Writing conferences answered my ignorant questions, pointed me to the resources I needed, gave me valuable feedback on my writing, and eventually led to signing with my awesome agent, Steve, who loves my writing and believes in my books, even when I am ready to throw them in a mud puddle.

I still often find something I hear at a writing conference gives me some little insight I needed. Last week at LTUE it was Dave Farland's session on revising.

Aha, said my brain. Oh, yeah. Now I see.

I got a little excited. I like revelations. So I'm passing Dave's secrets on to you. Maybe you're stuck, and something will help you, too.

Dave's Excellent Editing Tips:

Your first draft of a  novel is the one where you're figuring out what your story is, where it's going, finding its shape. After that, Dave goes through each novel at least 7 times before sending it out into the world.

First time through: what Dave calls the "triage" edit; the high-level, drastic edit, where you add, chop, and change major stuff, figure out what shape your story needs.

Second time through: "Shotgun" edit. Go through manuscript, identify problems, bug-a-boo areas, look at all ways to improve my story--world creation, characters--go through until every word feels right, then make a to-do list to come back and fix it all.

Tracy Hickman says at this point that he likes to print manuscript out and do a chapter-by-chapter break-down on paper, with color-coded markers for different characters, to see where somebody's not getting enough page time, etc. Which sounds really organized. Like the kind of thing I will never do. Although I admire Tracy for being able to.

3rd time through: Voice edit.
- throw away the beginning and start where characters come alive.
-make sure each character sounds consistent, uses the same kinds of unique buzz-words and dialogue tags.
-make sure each is recognizable, remind the reader of his characteristics throughout, so they don't forget what he looks like.
-do research at this point, if necessary, to make the character feel authentic, to get a true feel for your guy or gal.

4th time through: Descriptive edit.
Check all your descriptive passages and ask
- are you using all five senses?
-do you give a clear sense of place throughout?
- are your metaphors/similes fresh? Do you need more?
-check the poetic elements; is your language evocative?

5th: Syllabic edit: Dave loves Hemingway. Hemingway uses short words.
- Dave's take is that cutting back syllables speeds up the writing, lowers the level required to read it. Sometimes that's not what you want. I feel you could overdo it, give your writing a chopped, too-harsh rhythm, but it's something to consider.

- cut extra words (you can always cut "finally" and "then")
- cut extra paragraphs
- cut extra pages

6th: Line edit.
- Put the manuscript in a new typeface, like palatino 14, and print it out, then read aloud for typos.

Um. I'm not a math person, but I'm pretty sure that's only six edits. I don't know what the mystery seventh edit was, but Dave swears he does seven. Maybe I got mixed up somewhere in there.

*Dave's final warning: don't over-edit or you'll kill it.

My mini-apotheosis: I was trying to do all six edits at the same time. I am a compulsive copy-editor. Triage needs to happen all by itself or I will copy-edit my book into oblivion. Ready to dive back in. Hooray!

What's your revision style? Do you have any methods you love? What works for you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Life, The Universe, and Everything

 Tomorrow is the first day of LTUE (Life, the Universe, and Everything), a Conference for Sci-Fi and Fantasy writers.

Yep, the crazies. Like me.

 Extra fun because...

1. At least one friend is speaking (Bree Despain).

2. I just finished Diana Wynne Jones's book Deep Secret, which makes hilarious fun of Sci-Fi/Fantasy conferences, all while creating an exceptional fantasy story with multi-verses and magic. Incredibly creative. She always astonishes me. And the book put me in the mood. I like fantasy people.

3. It's cheap. You don't get much better than twenty bucks for a writers' conference.

4. It's close to my house.


Are you going? I'll see you there.

If not, you're probably hard at work, unlike the rest of us slackers who are spending the next three days talking about our work instead of doing it.

Write like the wind!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

I forgot I meant to post this lovely poem for Valentine's Day. My disgust with February doesn't extend to romantic poetry as long as it's truly lovely. As usual, I use the Emily Dickinson standard for judging: you feel it takes the top of your head off. This one did for me. 


Here it is, a day late.



On The Origins Of Things
by Troy Jollimore

Everyone knows that the moon started out
as a renegade fragment of the sun, a solar
flare that fled that hellish furnace
and congealed into a flat frozen pond suspended
between the planets. But did you know
that anger began as music, played
too often and too loudly by drunken performers
at weddings and garden parties? Or that turtles
evolved from knuckles, ice from tears, and darkness
from misunderstanding? As for the dominant
thesis regarding the origin of love, I
abstain from comment, nor will I allow
myself to address the idea that dance
began as a kiss, that happiness was
an accidental import from Spain, that the ancient
game of jump-the-fire gave rise
to politics. But I will confess
that I began as an astronomer—a liking
for bright flashes, vast distances, unreachable things,
a hand stretched always toward the furthest limit—
and that my longing for you has not taken me
very far from that original desire
to inscribe a comet's orbit around the walls
of our city, to gently stroke the surface of the stars.

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