Friday, April 30, 2010

The Big Blue Yonder

I know I posted a couple days ago about Simply Sara being done and over and all the happiness that such a thing has brought me. But now I've sent it to my editor, and I'm realizing that, hey.

I did it.

I had doubts. This was not an easy manuscript. It's a good book - I honestly think so - but it wasn't easy to write. Sara's voice is very different from Jayne's, which meant being very careful with my writing voice.

There are so many things I've learned through this process. Such as:

1.) If you don't know where your book is going, there's a good chance you won't get anywhere anytime timely.

2.) A seriously good chance.

3.) If you're non-linear and hate written synopses like me, 3x5 cards are your BEST FRIENDS. Write out plot points as they come to you, and organize them according to when occur in the plot. Adjust as necessary. Add and subtract as necessary. Stack them together (not unlike Jayne and her quilt squares, let's be honest), and you've got the most fluid, painless road map ever. Stuck? Check the cards. Find a springboard. Get unstuck.

4.) There's a term in screenwriting circles called "spit-balling." I'm pretty sure I've written about it here before, but here's a refresher - it's sitting around with at least one other person and throwing around ideas (like spit-balls, but more sanitary). Good stuff comes out this way. I had several scenes and major plot points that needed this kind of work to get through. Even if the ideas that are flying around are not the direction you're intending to go, just thinking about why they're not quite right will often take you to what is right.

5.) Ignoring your book for periods of time will not, in fact, cause ideas to flow better. It just won't. Sorry. I tried. It doesn't work.

Well, I need to pack for my computer-work-free weekend (I almost said fiction-free, but I never travel without three paperbacks). Hopefully I'll have pictures to post next week!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Simply Sara at a (temporary) close

It's been a long road. It's been a tough road. But that road is coming to a close, because I finished writing Simply Sara on Saturday the 24th, sometime in the early evening, while sitting with Danny at Starbucks.

Granted...the work is not done. I've been working on some of the editing this week, before turning in the manuscript on Friday. And after that, my editors, bless them both, will come back with more edits. And after that, my publicist will give me things to do.

If you're looking for a sense of completion, do not go into publishing.

But I'm excited. SS goes into print in July, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing the final product. I'm pretty proud of having published a book. But Jayne's lonely. She needs a friend on the shelf. And she'll have that friend come September.

What can I tell you about it? Not much, aside from the fact that I'm pleased with how it came out, and the ending TOTALLY took me by surprise. Sent me into a panic, actually. But it's good stuff.

In other news:

1.) My basil plant died. I honestly think it had a disease or something.

2.) Make sure you enter the Simply Sara contest! Details are here.

3.) Danny and I are going away this weekend! No computers, no book, no school, no work - I'm just a little crazy excited. I am, however, taking my camera, since we'll be going to the Oregon Garden, which is one of my favorite places in the state.

4.) Isn't this cute? I'm thinking 4th of July picnic with a basket of daisies or something.

5.) Watched The Young Victoria. Loved it! Thoughtful and lovely and observant. Totally recommend.

That's all for now - I made dinner last night, and should repeat the experience tonight (shocker!). But it's lunch time now, and for once, it's not ravioli.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

End Times

...at least where Simply Sara is concerned. I met my base word count yesterday in a workday that saw the completion of a chapter in a single day (which is nothing for a lot of people, but I'm the world's slowest writer, and two days for a chapter is usually the best I can manage).

Anyway, things are wrapping up in Sara land. And that's okay with me, because I don't believe I've ever eaten so much ravioli. Ravioli, different kinds of ravioli, lunch and dinner. The idea of cooking sends me into a panicked state these days (we won't even talk about grocery shopping), so I am deeply grateful for stuffed pasta with sauce.

My deep hope is to have the book completed by this weekend - Monday at the latest - so I can tighten up the prose for a week before turning it in.

And after that, oh, what a celebration there will be...

In other news, Glee is back! Though I have to say, not a huge fan of the Madonna episode. This might have something to do with the fact that I'm not a huge Madonna fan. At this point, though, Glee has gone from the little musical show that could into this merchandising monster that keeps knocking you over the head with reminders that, yes, the songs are available on itunes. As much affection as I have for the show, I hope that Ryan Murphy stays focused on old-fashioned things like plot and character development and not become distracted by the glitz of being Hollywood's baby.

This is the man who was responsible (and I know this is hitting below the belt, but it's true) for Running With Scissors, one of the best-cast, worst movies of all time.

Now that I've said that, I'll end with the fact that my favorite line of Brittney's was "I pulled my hamstring once and had to go to a misogynist." I cannot type this without giggling.

What else...hoping to possibly see The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo this weekend at the Bijou. Though Ebert gave The Losers a surprisingly good review, so maybe we'll hit that.

Oh! Radio show follow up. You can listen to the episode here. I did not forget my name. I did not make up any words (as far as I can tell), though i did stumble wildly over defining the term "Urban Amish," which is unfortunate considering that I coined the phrase. But it was a lot of fun, and Suzanne Woods Fisher was so much fun to chat with, I'd do it again.

You know. After practicing a better definition of "Urban Amish."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Over the Airwaves. Kinda.

So, I'm on internet radio today - you can listen in here. I'll be chatting with Suzanne Woods Fisher, who, in all honesty, sounds just delightful. She does. Am I still nervous? Um...it's possible.

Why I'm nervous:

1. I make up words when I'm tired. Sometimes not even when I'm tired, sometimes at normal times.

2. I'm not sure I want to make up words on live internet radio.

3. I'm concerned I might mispronounce the word "Amish." I feel, given my current platform, that this would be bad.

4. My name might also get lost in the morass that is my memory. Is morass the right word? I don't know. I'm aging here, folks.

5. Describe my book? How? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

Big stuff, I tell you. Want to hear this will-o'-the wisp live? You know what to do.

(Side note. I always thought the nuns were singing "flibbertigibbet, whillamawhiz..." Now google is teling me it's will-o'-the wisp. Now, I'm fairly certain I'm more of a whillamawhiz than a will-o'-the wisp, but that's besides the point. I'm feeling a paradigm shift coming on...)

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Winter Adventure and Two Contests

If you are a Facebook Participant, pop by Bonnie Leon's new fan page. She's got a contest going - enter your favorite winter adventure story to win a complete set of her Sydney Cove Series.

Now, I already have the series, as Bonnie is a dear friend and mentor of mine. But, it got me to thinking...

It was the winter of 2005. I had been graduated from college for a few months, and was doing my internship in Portland at Northwest Palate Magazine.

My family and I had just attended to a private piano concert in Lake Oswego, OR with my aunt and uncle. The concert was lovely, but halfway through the snow starting coming down. Great for ambiance, bad for travel.

If you're not from 'round these parts, know that snow tends to freak out most Oregonians. Not all - snow is much more common on the Eastern side. But Oregonians on the Western side are to snow what Californians are to rain. What be this strange material falling from the sky? We don't get snow often enough to have well-trained responses, or cities prepared to deal with it.

Back to the story. Lake Oswego is pretty hilly, and we were at the top of one of those hills. The guests were invited to stay, but my uncle felt certain that he could get us safely down the hill and back to their home in Portland. All of us - including one of the pianists, for some reason (we were ostensibly driving him home, I think) - piled into the car.

At this point, my normally cautious and gentlemanly (think Cary Grant) uncle went into Mountain Man Mode. Come hell or high water, he was getting us off the hill. Off he started - cars were stuck in snow to the left and right, but he continued on, often missing them by mere fractions of an inch. Everyone else traveled at about 5 mph. I think we were going at least 25, if not 30. I also have memories of passing some of those cars...again, missing them by almost nothing.

My mom and I (and I think at least one, if not two) other people were in the middle bank of seats. Though I felt that, logically, we would likely collide at any moment, I rationalized that we were enough in the middle not to be mortally wounded. And since we were still deep in the neighborhoods of Lake Oswego, it was unlikely to present a Donner Party type situation.

The sequence of events is a little hazy in my memory. I know at one point my dad got out to Scout The Territory. I remember that he slipped, and that my uncle started driving off without him, not realizing that we were short a passenger.

My mom did not appreciate this much.

The part that is burned forever in my brain is when my uncle started driving on not only the curbs, but the - berms? Inclines? You know, when there's a sidewalk, then a steep hill of earth and shrubbery before it levels out to where the house is? Well, that. He was driving on that. Which meant the SUV was moving forward while tilting left at about a 40 degree angle. Now...this part concerned me. And after my uncle did this a few times, the pianist (having been quite silent throughout the trek) decided to try his own luck on foot, and departed.

Rather hastily, I might add.

Eventually, we made it down the hill with all of the family members in the car. We got onto the freeway, which wasn't in bad shape at all. We arrived at my aunt's home safely. The women were shaking their heads. The men were, I think, energized from the trip and ready to chop wood and hunt caribou.

So if anyone tells you that men and women aren't truly different, well...they're wrong.

Speaking of contests, there's a Simply Sara related contest on AmishReader.com. The site is down at the moment, but the contest is posted on their facebook fan page. Enter your favorite baked-good recipe - the winner, chosen by me, will not only receive a signed copy of Simpy Sara, but will find that the recipe has been featured in the book, having been baked by Sara. The author of the recipe will also be noted in the acknowledgements section of the book.

No recipe will go unnoticed, though - they'll all be posted with your permission on the AmishReader.com site.

When the site's back up I'll write another ditty about it, but I thought I'd give a preliminary head's up. Happy baking!

Monday, April 5, 2010

My Favorite Movie This Year

Friday night, Danny and I decided we wanted to go see a movie, something light and silly. After watching Liam Neeson pronounce the releasing of the Kraken for several weeks during TV commercials, we decided to give Louis Leterrier's Clash of the Titans remake a go.

Oh. My. Goodness.

It's tricky, pulling off a decent, silly popcorn flick. There's a fine line between silly and stupid. Many start strong and get snoozy in the second act.

I am thrilled to tell you that Clash of the Titans has it all, except I don't think the Titans ever make much of an appearance. Whatever. We've got a Demigod who'd rather be fishing, an assortment of scarred, well-meaning military men, hunters who can kill anything - anything! There's a princess who's about to be sacrificed to a hideous monster (an age old tradition), an a mysterious cloaked woman. Oh, and kindly people with a short lifespan. And a Kraken. And jinn.

Yeah, Jinn. Because it's important to be multi-cultural in movies about Greek Mythology. Nothing says white bread like many men in mini-skirts.

Yes, mini-skirts. Before William Wallace, there was Perseus. And Perseus wasn't afraid to show more leg.

Where was I? Oh, yeah - the fact that Clash has everything. I saved the best for last.

It's Liam Neeson. And he's glowing.

So. The Plot. We've got Perseus (Sam Worthington, of Avatar fame), who was found as a baby by a friendly fisherman. Raised a fisherman, he leads an idyllic life on a boat with his foster family until...well...

Let's just say the idyllic existence ends. Through a series of unfortunate events. Perseus makes it into Argos, barefoot, and is trotted into the palace. This is a palace of depravity, but we know it won't stay that way! We meet the princess, who's the original rebellious child, annoying her parents by feeding starving children and giving water to strangers.

She's a real pill, the princess.

Anyway, Hades (Ralph Fiennes) comes in, spoils the party, and figures out that Perseus is no just a fisherman, but a Demigod. Wow! But Perseus is told to lay low for the time being by Io, The Mysterious Hooded Woman (Gemma Arterton, Quantum of Solace, Prince of Persia)...


...who has pretty good advice. Next thing he knows, Perseus is shipped off with the remaining troops to perform a series of tasks designed to save the Princess from being sacrificed to the Kraken.

Perseus learns to fight like a man from Draco (Mads Mikkelson, the top-notch Danish actor from Casino Royale and After the Wedding) in a sequence that may remind you of the "Be a Man" song from Mulan. It might not. But if it does, you'll enjoy it that much more.

Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy, A Single Man) also has a role, with the Band of Courageous Soldiers, and a bunch of other people who are tricky to place because, you know, they've all got names like "Eusebios" and "Kepheus."

We also see Danny Huston (Marie Antoinette, The Constant Gardener) briefly as Poseidon.

The adventure takes us across deserts, up mountainous crags, and into the underworld (and when the ferryman pulls up, don't you half expect it to be Johnny Depp? At least a little?). It doesn't mean much, but it's great fun. There are lengthy battles with very large mythical creatures. The plot progresses, and it's Time to Release the Kraken (believe me, this is so not a spoiler, at least not if you own a TV). Liam Neeson is so good at what he does, that we can watch him say the line in an edited snippet for weeks, and it doesn't take away from the moment.

Maybe even made it better. Who knows. Neeson is also able to make Zeus (did I mention he plays Zeus? No? Sorry.) likable, which if you're familiar with the character, is really something. He is able to release the Kraken with an impressive amount of dignity, considering that Krakens (or Kraki?) don't actually exist in Greek Mythology (read about it here), but neither do jinn, and it doesn't matter, because we're in this for a good time.

And it is. It's a good time, guided by fresh young newcomers in Sam Worthington and Gemma Arterton, and a supporting cast of actor's actors. Everyone is dead serious about their work, and their stiff upper lips pay off. The movie looks great, the effects are top notch.

Who's the audience for the movie? People who like taking their adventure films with a grain of salt. Adults who enjoyed the animated Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Movie goers wanting to see Liam Neeson looking more radiant than ever.

Did I mention there's a happy ending? All's well that ends well. And starts with a Kraken.