Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Random Observations

My head’s so deep in the book I’m having a hard time piecing thoughts together to create one cohesive blog on one topic. This is not to say I haven’t had random thoughts in my head, looking for an outlet.
So here goes.

1. I really hate the whole shorts with tights, boots/heals, and sweater/jacket look. I’m not sure how this evolved as a serious look, because to me, it says, “Hey mom, I dressed myself.” And not in a good way. What I love most is the fact that this look was thrown around back in December.

I don’t care if there are tights involved. Shorts are shorts are shorts. And December is cold. And shorts and tights look stupid. I don't care if it's one of "Jenna's Picks." Jenna needs to wise up.

I feel better having said this.

2. Starbucks has caught onto the “natural” trend by over hauling their baked goods. This means that my mom’s favorite cookie bar, the Toffee Almond Bar (her Starbucks Raison D’etre) is MIA.

The molasses cookie, a longtime favorite of mine, tastes…worse. If the molasses flavor is so week that you can contemplate what kind of flour was used (white vs. wheat), the molasses wasn’t strong enough. If an artificial ingredient (and the meaning of “artificial” is up for debate), I would kindly like it returned.

3. And the chocolate chunk cookie needs salt.

4. If you’re not from these parts, you may not know that while the rest of the country has been buried in thirty feet of snow, Oregon has experienced its lightest winter in recent memory. A lot of analysts told us, within the last few weeks, about how unlikely it would be for the rainfall to pick back up.

Well, time has passed. Rain has fallen. I don’t know what the analysts were smoking. This is Oregon. You can count on unpredictable warmth and the fact that it will always end in much water falling from the sky.

Like it’s falling right now. You’d think they’d learn. You’d think they’d have gotten the memo by now, taken the hint.

You know, gotten rained on.

Oh well. There’s always next year.

5. I bought a new basil plant!!! It's probably a little silly how much this has filled me with joy. But I've MISSED having fresh basil! Eating a lot of ravioli and tortellini these days (tortellini with roasted veggies, tossed w/ olive oil, a splash of pasta water, and Romano cheese is yummy! And easy when you're writing a book.) and it's nice to have basil to snip over the top to make it special. I will try to keep this one alive. I will not leave it in the car on a 102 degree day. I will take it to Gram's if it needs a spa weekend (the snippet she took from my last plant is still alive on her window ledge). I will not over-water. I will not under-water.

6. Simply Sara is nearing completion. At this stage, I kind of have to get out of the apartment to write otherwise almost nothing gets written. Starbucks and I are quite close these days. Hence the cookie observations. Anyway, as the last 20% gets written, I need to make up some new happy plot cards to get me through to the end. I want to be sure nothing gets left out!

That's it for now...on to the note cards!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ramona and Beezus and Beverly Cleary

I liked The Mouse and the Motorcycle. I liked Muggy Maggie, her handwriting-related trials and stubbornness. I liked Socks the cat and Ribsy the dog.

But I loved Ramona best.

I can't think about hard-boiled eggs without thinking of Ramona cracking a raw egg on her own. Sometimes the phrase "Yard Ape" pops into my head inexplicably.

My favorite of all, though, was Beezus and Ramona. I just found out there's going to be a movie adaptation. I have mixed feelings about this. Not sure about Selena Gomez as Beezus, but the rest of the cast includes Ginnifer Goodwin (!) as Aunt Bea (she is now too hip to be Beatrice, I get it), John Corbett (!!) as Mr. Quimby, and Sandra Oh (!!!) as Mrs. Meachum. Little Joey King will play Ramona. I think she has the right look.

Bridget Moynahan as Mrs. Quimby and Josh Duhamel aren't all that shabby either. And now that I'm thinking about it, I'm thinking that that means Josh and Ginnifer are playing a couple, and how much Ginnifer's character would have loved that in 2004's Win a Date With Tad Hamilton.

But I digress.

Beezus and Ramona first released in 1955. The next Ramona book, Ramona and the Pest, didn't release for another 13 years.

I was always a fan of Beezus. We understood each other; we both liked pretty, we both had oldest-daughter syndrome. I loved the end scenes of Beezus and Ramona that I would find my copy, flip to the back, and read them alone, laughing in bed late at night (late, you know, as in 8:30 or so). Poor Beezus - she just couldn't get that picture-perfect birthday. Not when the house smells like burnt rubber because your younger sister stuck a doll into your baking birthday cake. That's life, but it's tough.

And it's tough trying to get your aunt's attention when your sister is debating what kind of jelly to put on her mashed potatoes. That scene always killed me laughing.

Thinking about the potential film made me think about that scene, how it's a conversation around a table with multiple things going on, interconnected dialog, and rising tension until the protagonist does something really, really memorable.

Thinking about that scene and how much I loved it, I realize how those are my favorite scenes to write. Those are the scenes that make me clap my hands together and think I'm not such a slouch at this writing thing after all. Here I thought I loved them just because, but now I realize how the things I read and loved influenced my work, whether I'm aware of it or not.

Beverly Cleary is 93, according to Wikipedia. She was born in McMinnville, Oregon. She wrote 43 books. Caldecott Award winner Paul O. Zelinsky (whose work I mention here) illustrated a few of them, including Ralph S. Mouse. Mrs. Cleary wrote with a magic touch, a special ability as an adult to write about the childlike in a way that was real and respectful at the same time.

Will the Ramona film be any good? Hard to say. I'm hopeful. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl was wonderful; it is possible to make a female-oriented adaptation and not ruin it. Either way, knowing about it reminded me of things I hadn't thought of for a long while.

For that, I'm thankful.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The *Exciting* life of a writer

Really it's riveting. (type type type)

Nothing but excitement around here. (type-ety-type type)

For the last two weeks, I've been on schedule. Perfectly - so perfect, that I've not written at all on weekend. So perfect that by Friday night, I have the mental capacity of a...

...I can't come up with a good simile. Sorry. But basically, I sit around reading somebody else's book (this week it was Melanie Benjamin's Alice I Have Been) and trying not to self-destruct. Because before then, it's very possible that I only left the house two, maybe three times in the past week, and I've written two chapters. Some days, I don't do my hair or put on makeup. Instead, I spend most of the day staring at a computer screen that doesn't seem to change...

...and then out of nowhere it seems, it does. Seems all of the little nothing words add up to a lot of something, and when I read it back it's not that bad. Sure there's typo and continuity issues (the latter having bitten me in the behind quite often, lately), but it's coming. This puppy's going to end, and I might be alive to see it.

The good news, though, is that...hm. Went searching for an image (cute, no?), came back , and lost my train of thought. Train's gone. However, I can think of some other good things:

1. The Book Signing at Barnes & Noble's. Part book signing event, part "This is Your Life," seeing someone I see everyday (my husband), and someone I haven't seen in YEARS, a teacher from my old elementary school. There were a lot of people in between, enough that we sold out B&N's stock and dipped into the stash in the back of our car, selling enough that Plain Jayne was the store's top seller of the week.

When I found that out, I was like, "Hey, in this one market, I outsold Sarah Palin. Good times."

2. Hopefully, my laptop may be fixable with a $45 (ish) part, which would be nice because if I had to replace the whole thing (which is only three years old), I'd also have to buy a new operating system, update Microsoft Office, and update Photoshop. All of this means major dollar signs, and while I'm all for tax write-offs, I'd just rather not right now. I like my laptop, and the teensy fact that the screen doesn't work doesn't strike me as a good enough reason to part ways at this time. I am thankful for my handy husband, and this is just another example why.

3. We finally bought tickets for Danny's Vermont graduation, and are planning a jaunt to D.C. and farther south to visit the east coast family.

And the BMW museum. Everybody wins here.

Neither of us have been to D.C. for a while, but it's really less that we're going to D.C. and more that we're going to the Smithsonian Museums.

4. We returned the Big Book o' Bridge Codes to the University of Portland, further signifying Danny's completion with school. Sally (our car) started making sounds that one doesn't desire a car to make. Filled her with oil (the handy thing about being in Portland at a time, you can throw a rock in any direction and hit a Fred Meyer's), now she seems better...but definitely keeping an eye on that.

5. Ate the best red pepper I've ever eaten in my life last night. It was also the reddest red pepper - Dior lipstick red I've ever seen. Coincidence? Probably not. Just thought I'd share. It was a really good pepper, roasted(ish) in our toaster oven with olive oil and sea salt.

Well...diverting as the pepper news is, I should return to writing before I tell of my laundry successes (as in, laundry got done last week). It's Chapter 25, and so far, so good. Onward!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Words I Have Strong Feelings About

Words I Hate

1. Escarpment. I hate this word so much I can't even talk about it.

2. Doorjamb. Its cousin, the door post, makes sense. Doorjamb sounds like an unhappy kitchen experiment or a terrible accident. And it just looks weird.

3. Infarction. You hear that one on House a lot. They love infarctions. It always throws me for a loop when they say it seriously, because it sounds like the kind of word that would make a fifth-grade boy giggle and make noises with his armpits.

4. Maintenance. I can never spell it right. Ever. Without spell check. In fact, editing this, I realized I didn't spell it right then either.

5. Orientated. Not a word.

6. Disorientated. Also not a word.

7. Nonplussed. I have yet to meet someone who has 1) pronounced this correctly with 2) the correct meaning. A lot of authors get it wrong too. It means "baffled," but most people think it means "unfazed." I nominate to have it removed from the dictionary for the time being.

8. Blog. Yes, I write one, but it sounds like the name of the Ogre in the Dell. Or something.

9. Scurf. Sounds like it should be a combination between a skirt and a scarf, and what I'm visualizing isn't going to sweep fashion week anytime soon.

10. Scudding. It's like a gerund that has something to do with a missile. But doesn't. And it's always clouds scudding; I guess the action of scudding is limited to clouds. Mystery.

11. Cul-de-Sac. Note to city planners of yore: Were there no other terms available for little circular neighborhoods? No? Really??? Did you check???? You couldn't find one without the awkward plural of "Culs-de-Sac?" No????? Try harder.

12. LOL. Or its cousin, lol. True, not a word, but that's news to some people. And it doesn't look like laughter. It looks like...I don't know. Letter vomit. Hard to say. Again, not laughter.

Words I Love
1. Assuage
2. Indicative (I love it. It's like carbonation on the tongue)
3. Amalgam

4. Lieu, as in "in lieu of"
5. Felicity
6. Poignant
7. Foreseeable. Not only is it a great word, but it looks like the vowels are going to stretch out forever.
8. Lilt. No such thing as an unhappy lilt - it's just happy all around.
9. Happy. Happy gets a bad rap, especially in Christian circles. I think we feel guilty over happiness, since we know that joy is more permanent. But you know what? Happiness happens. It's on of those rare words that makes you feel exactly what it means.
10. Indeterminate. See 2.
11. Lithe. Seeing pattern. I like single-syllable "l" words.
12. Blithely. I really do like it best as an adverb.
13. Triumvirate. I'm not sure that I'll ever learn to say it right, but everyone needs a goal.
14. Twirly.
15. Chocolate. It sounds as wonderful as it is. It's even a good Snow Patrol song.
16. Inexplicable. See 2, again.
17. Foliage. I really do like this word.
18. Fetching. As in pretty or attractive, not the action of chasing after something. Although one can lead to the other, doesn't it? It's an old-fashioned word, but it's fun to say.
I'm probably leaving some out, and that's after working on this post for literally just under a year. What about you? What words are you a little obsessive over?

Monday, March 1, 2010

You know you're a (fiction) writer when...

1. Certain office supplies have the power to bring you to tears. Of joy.

2. You about had an apoplectic fit while viewing Stranger Than Fiction.

3. You've found yourself editing the Bible for run-on sentences.

4. You discuss characters in your book to the point that the person you're conversing with thinks they're real.

5. You see unending possibilities in a blank sheet of paper.

6. You see unending failure in a blank Word document.

7. You own more books than anything else.

8. Though you haven't read all of them.

9. However, none of them are going anywhere. You are a haven for the printed page.

10. The librarians at your library have dirt on you.

11. Good dialog makes you swoon.

12. You collect names the way other people collect recipes.

13. No one in your household has clean socks.

14. You re-plot popular fiction in your head so that it actually, you know, works.

15. You re-plot films and TV shows verbally.

16. Your spouse may not always appreciate this input.

17. You've spent serious time trying to figure out if Irish creeks are frozen in February, or if Amish women wear normal bras.

18. There's a list of words you love - and hate.

19. A lot of good reviews make you happy.

20. One bad review makes you, very, very, very, very sad.

21. Forget review. One negative comment in the middle of a good review, and it's depths of despair, all over again.

23. Your work space used to be clean.

24. You say things like, "That was such a good set-up/pay-off" during a movie.

25. You enjoy crosswords.

26. You know a little about a wide variety of subjects from past book research.

27. You keep track of who knows what in your circle of friends - for future book research.

28. Carpal tunnel is referred to in hushed tones.

29. You fulfill over stereotype concerning writers and chocolate.

30. Like Emma Thompson's character in Stranger Than Fiction, you know that while storyboarding and synopses can be your friends, truly good ideas - like anything worth writing - come inexplicably and without method.