Archive for the 'Writing' Category

Thursday, August 5th, 2010
Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen Ways You Know You’re an Author

Thirteen ways you know you’re an author:

  1. Your desk file drawer contains files and multiple kinds of chocolate.
  2. You get distracted during a romantic dinner listening to a fight at a nearby table and your date merely asks if you want a pen to take notes with.
  3. You arrive at work and don’t remember the drive there – but you have figured a way to solve your plot problem.
  4. You talk to your characters – and sometimes they talk back.
  5. You accidentally put the peanut butter in the refrigerator and the jelly in the pantry – and it’s not the first time.
  6. You could open an office supply store with the contents of your office.
  7. You choose music according to the story you are writing.
  8. You know every research site on the web that has anything to do with what you are writing – and visit them all far too frequently “just to check a quick fact.”
  9. You obsesses about wordcount – even when you’ve declared you have a day off.
  10. You try to blame your muse for all bad jokes, puns and suggestive comments that escape your lips (or fingers).
  11. You cannot help but shudder at bad grammar or punctuation and think “they’re editor will kill them.”
  12. Your friends constantly follow up their news and tales of woe with “promise me you won’t use that in a story.”
  13. You do use your friends in stories and can lie about it with an almost straight face.
Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
The perils of being non-visual

Late last night Mr. Maura and I finally got the last of my office furniture (bar a floor lamp) assembled and wanted to put it in it’s final positions so I could actually USE the office. A shove of (very large and very heavy) items into the places I thought I wanted them showed me something very important.

It Would Not Work.

I had been working with an idea of where I wanted the furniture but because I cannot visualize anything — I have no visual memory — I could not imagine what would happen when they were in those places. The furniture was bigger than I expected and the stupid closet kept mucking up my plans.

Mr. Maura started proposing other options – some of which did away with my reading nook (unacceptable). And here we come across the really annoying part of my strange brain wiring. He would explain where he wanted to move something and I could NOT tell him whether I like it or not. I can only really deal with layout if I can interact with it. He tried to get me to take some graph paper and graph it out and I had to explain (again) that it would not help. The drawing on the paper would not translate to anything I could say I liked or did not. That transition just never happens for me.

It wasn’t helped by the fact that Mr. Maura is the king of “or you could…”. He wants to make sure ALL options are considered and I hear, in deep and excruciating detail, about every single one of them. Often multiple times. This frustrates me because I like to make a decision quickly and execute. I don’t want to ponder for long periods of time and by this point I was SO ready for this damned office to be done. I couldn’t keep track of the options and couldn’t ponder how they might make me feel.

I’ll admit, after a while we were both frustrated and snarling at each other. Finally we moved some things around so I could sit in my desk chair and really see how much room I’d need for desks, etc. Then Mr. Maura proposed a plan that was not anything I’d really considered and we decided to try that one. I did swear that, if I turned out not to like it, I would only ask him to reshuffle furniture once more.

It’s actually really hard to explain to someone, especially someone highly visual, that your brain doesn’t operate the same way and you have to touch and experience things they just imagine in order for them to make sense to you. I cannot close my eyes and remember faces or picture something. I don’t even dream in pictures – I hear words as if someone is reading a story to me. When Mr. Maura wants to find something, he visualizes where he last saw it. When I want to find something, I try to remember when I last touched it or interacted with it. It’s actually a very different way of relating to the world. I’m very much a kinesthetic.

This also explains why I’m not much on comic books or graphic novels. I find them confusing to read and the pictures don’t really matter to me. They convey no emotion and I basically ignore them. The words are all tossed on the page and you’re supposed to somehow integrate the words and the pictures. SO not me.

The experience with the office is a good reminder, though, that when writing characters I also need to remember that everyone reacts to and interacts with their environment in at least a slightly different way.

I’ll crop and post the pictures in a day or two. Right now I think I’ve earned some dinner.

Sunday, July 18th, 2010
New Office is starting to come together

As many of you know, I’ve been working on my new office for weeks (seemingly forever) and it’s finally starting to get to where I can see the potential past all the boxes and piles of stuff for Goodwill or the dump. I think the real turning point was being able to start putting things away instead of shoving them from one side of the room to the other.

I have 4 of the 5 pieces of furniture that need assembly set up but only one is in its permanent home so far. The others are waiting for the new surface of the computer desk to arrive so that can be assembled before we block the floor with the final layout. Sort of a chicken-and-egg scenario (my mother calls this the “But First…” scenario – where you need to do x but first must do y and before that you must do m).

I am thrilled at the fact I can start getting my pretty things out so I can see them. I have a collection of eggs and spheres made of various minerals and gemstones and gave them their own shelf. There are about another half dozen that need to be set up but I had to order some more stands. And, yes, one of these things is not like the others, the huge egg in the back left corner is a russian painted porcelain egg – a gift from a friend.

On top of this bookcase is my fairy sculpture (yes, she’s headless, deal with it) and her collection of crystal points as well as a candle and vase I just really like.

The drapes you see in the background in a darker green are the ones over the closet. I have a baker’s rack in there with a surface on it to serve as a mailing center and place to put together promo stuff. The closet is, of course, for storage. You can see the room colors in this picture. The ceiling looks a bit white but it’s a light sage. The walls are a darker sage and the trim is an off-white.

I’ll post some more pictures as more of the room gets done and things get put in their places.

The interesting thing is that when I come into the New Office, I expect to work. Right now that work may mostly be putting away stuff but because it doesn’t mix with the place I watch TV or socialize with my family. I seem to (mostly) be better able to stay focused. Maybe that’s the sign of the right Writer’s Nest for me? Hope so – lots of writing to do.

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
Creating my new writing nest – Part 1

One thing I’ve come to realize over the last year or so is that I NEED my own office. We have a shared computer room (myself, my husband and our nine year old) but it has two problems with it. One is that it’s crowded and I have a pretty small little computer desk to work off of. The other is that the two men TALK to me, their computers and each other incessantly. They do things like insist that I come look at something on their computer or listen to something and get annoyed if I ignore them. No matter how many times I try to impress on them the fact that I need them to leave me alone to write, they can’t do it.

The other place I tend to work is on the sofa downstairs on my laptop and that’s okay-ish while I’m home alone, but it shares some of the same problems as the computer room — the men and their inability to leave me alone :)

Now I have tried to go to whichever room they are not in but they follow me. It’s a bit like a psychic call or something. No matter what they were doing that I thought would keep them in the prior room for a while, they somehow NEED to come to the room I’m in and stay there.

I decided about a year ago that I needed my own office but it’s taken me this long to as far as I have as of this last weekend. My oldest son is moved out and his room is larger than Minion’s, so we decided to move Minion to the larger bedroom and I’d claim his old room for my office. Great idea – the issue was finding time and energy to execute on it. I knew I wanted something calming, peaceful and a bit girlie but which would inspire writing and some focus (so no TV or such in there).

In the process of furniture hunting for just the right desk, I’d fallen in love with the Christoper Lowell Shore collection of office furniture but, true to my usual luck, it appears they are phasing it out. This DID get me to work hard on the room and I bought the pieces I could find easily before the room was even really started. These are now on my porch in boxes, awaiting my being ready to assemble them. I liked the antiqued white with cherry tops. The pictures below are courtesy of the Office Depot website (where I bought them from). I got the Executive Desk, the Computer Credenza and a small bookcase.

I also bought a large bookcase/storage piece from Ikea to provide more storage for books and supplies. This picture is courtesy of Ikea’s website:

I have green bins to put in about half the cubbies. The rest will have books and decorative things in them (at least that’s the plan). Yes, I know this piece is true white instead of the antiqued white of the desks but I also wanted to have a bit of an eclectic mix in the room so I wouldn’t have the matchy-matchy look that seemed too much like set dressing. With these pieces of furniture in mind, I went on the hunt for a paint scheme I liked and which would compliment the furniture.

This smaller bedroom had been painted to be a lively nursery with bright yellow walls and a dark blue ceiling, all stamped with suns, moons and stars. Fun nursery theme and it lasted Minion over eight years, so it was a success – but it’s not a calm or peaceful writing nest scheme. Just to test things out, I bought samples of the paints colors I thought I wanted and painted a corner of the room with them since that corner had ceiling, wall and trim in one smallish area. I liked it and BFF Jo did, too.

I finally got it painted over the long weekend with the help of BFF Jo. The room now has a light sage ceiling, darker sage walls and white trim. I can highly recommend the Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint + primer. In case you want to look up the colors on the Behr website, the ceiling is Whitened Sage, the walls are Environmental and the trim is Pillar White. The paint covered really well and was remarkably non-stinky to boot.

Last week, with an idea of colors, I went looking for a lighting fixture for the room as well. I originally thought I wanted a chandelier but could not find one I liked and which would work in the space. The ceiling isn’t all that high and the fixture is in the middle of the room. I certainly didn’t want a goose egg if I forgot to duck. I finally discarded what I thought I wanted and just poked around until I found this on the Lamps Plus website (photo courtesy of Lamps Plus and I did buy my fixture from them):

Not what I thought I wanted but I fell in love and isn’t it the perfect bit of whimsy for a writer’s nest? It’s really bright if it’s on full but there’s a dimmer in this room anyway and I don’t like a lot of overhead light when I’m on the computer. So it’s ambiance and general room lighting. I plan to have several lamps for task lighting.

Right now the nest is waiting for my husband to put up the new baseboard molding and put in my network wiring for me, then I’ll be able to take down all the plastic drop cloths and start putting furniture together. I can’t wait!

I’ll try to take pictures once it’s set up so you all can see it.

Friday, June 11th, 2010
Tip of the Day: Don’t use words if you don’t know what they mean

Reference books

Today’s post is really a public service announcement mixed with a plea for people to use real words, correct spellings and to be sure they know the meaning of the words they are using.

Let’s start with a confession – I am a complete anal-retentive Luddite when it comes to the use of language. This is probably because of a combination of being raised by parents with the view that it was important to know the correct words to use and to use words correctly and the fact that I work as a programming-writer and editor as well as write fiction. I realize many people will not agree with my views and that’s okay. But I’m still going to state them today.

I know it sounds terribly formal of me and maybe a tad superior but I HATE diminutives. I hate cute names for things used in place of their real names. Maybe it’s related to why I HATE text-speak. I don’t use “u” in place of “you” or other abbreviations. “Later” is not “l8r”. It makes it horribly hard for me to read and I pulls me out of anything I read it in. For heaven’s sake, don’t use text speak in business communication or professional forums. I’m not sure why this seems to have become the thing to do but I was raised with the idea of using the correct word for what I meant, not slang and not making one up. Maybe that’s why it sets my teeth on edge sometimes and I had some emails at the Evil Day Job that really made me cringe.

I hate diminutives when coming from or talking to anyone over the age of three. Lipstick is not “lippie.” A snack is not a “snackie.” A blanket is not a “blankie”. It always comes off as overly cute to me. Or overly lazy sometimes.

I hate the whole trend of creative spellings of things. Things have a defined way to spell them – USE IT. These weird spellings come across as either the person is too lazy to look up the spelling or thinks they can remake the rule. It takes me forever to sound out what is being meant and it’s just weird.

Then lets talk about using a word without knowing what it means. I have a funny (to me at least) experience to recount about this. My ex-manicurist is quite young and very prone to two of the issues I talk about in this post. She’s always using something resembling babytalk and she has used words without knowing what they mean (and certainly never tried to find out). Last year I was getting my nails done and she was chattering away, when I heard her use a very interesting word as a nonsense word. It was used where I’d consider “whatever” or “etcetera” instead. During the ninety minute appointment, she did it multiple times with that flair you see in someone that is currently in love with a new word.

Except I was sure she would not be using that word this frequently and to her business customers (many of whom are far less easy-going than I) if she knew what it meant.

Finally, after we finished, I asked her if she knew what that word meant. She waved her hands in dismissal and said “Oh, isn’t that the best nonsense word? My friend taught it to me and I think it just sounds fun.”

I had her go over to her computer and look it up in an online dictionary. She about died, turned bright red and seemed like she might faint. It was a real word, with a real meaning, and quite inappropriate to the way she was using it and the venue she was using it in. Apparently I was either the first to know what it meant or the first to be brave enough to tell her.

I made her swear to not use a new word again without knowing, for sure, what it meant.

Now, this applies to writers as well. Don’t use words in your manuscripts without knowing what they mean. Look them up. Please. And do your readers a favor and use real words with their correct spellings.

What word was my ex-manicurist using with her customers.