Saturday, March 31, 2012

Weekend Sillies: Defies Explanation

Another quirky YouTube link for your weekend silliness enjoyment!

White Stripes + Joan of Arc + Ingrid Bergman = one heckuva history lesson

Seriously. What's not to love here?


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Quick PS ~ Thank You!

WOW. Today is the seven month anniversary of this blog starting, and today I reached 10,001 hits. That's a lot of readers for a Southern school-marm who ain't even published yet. Thanks to all my readers who have made these seven months an amazing journey! [[hugs all and sundry and hands out cupcakes]]

Editing, Lunacy, and the Baby Walrus

If you've known me for any reasonable amount of time, you know I'm a weensy bit crazy. (Or, if you're one of my students, then I'm certifiably insane with an extended day pass. Take your pick.) But sometimes with my creative projects I get an idea so crazy I just can't rest till I try it out. Sometimes the ideas flop.

This past weekend, however, was (I hope) one of the exceptions.

My Insane Idea: I created a 240,100 word monster.

OK. So I didn't write a book in one weekend, let alone a tome the size of a baby walrus. But I did something almost as crazy: I took two overlapping manuscripts which dealt with the same overarching story and merged them into one massive manuscript. 

This would be migraine-inducing to consider at the best of times, but is complicated by the fact that I haven't done a cold read, let alone any sort of edit, on EITHER manuscript in sixteen months. That amounts to a lot of editing.

Let me repeat that: A LOT of editing. Serious #stabbylove editing of the highest order.

My brains after a full Saturday of editing.
(Actually, this is a curried coconut trail mix thingy I made tonight. 
But I'm pretty sure my brain looks like this after editing, all the same.)

The Result:  During the month of April, I plan to pare down the 240K walrus into one, nicely watertight, 80,000 word novel. All my crazy sprawling ideas for these characters, plots and themes need to be shaved, pinched, winnowed, threshed, and otherwise boiled down to one solid book with a coherent beginning, middle and end. With maybe a plot twist (or two or ten) in the between chapters.

"Good luck!" I hear you say. Yes, I hear the sarcasm. Loud and clear.

But you know what? I think I can make this work. Here's my...

Plan of Attack*: 

     1. April starts now. Yes, I know it's still March. Doesn't matter. If I put this off till April 1st, I'll drag my feet even more. I would like to see this thing published before I'm eighty, after all. Won't happen if I continue to procrastinate. So for me, April has 38 days this year (I started editing last Saturday). 

     2. Editing happens every day. Notice I said editing, not writing - though I know I will need to rewrite several scenes, even whole chapters. The opening chapter, I know, needs to be entirely scrapped. Already I am deleting entire sections, while moving other sections around, in small chunks and large. The only way my poor ADHD brain can keep track of all this elaborate "shell game" is to work on it every day.

     3. Tell on myself. Hence this blog post. If I don't tell people about this stupendously idiotic idea of mine, then it will never happen. Heck, it will never even be half-attempted. Because at rock bottom we're all whiners when the going gets tough, right? So don't let me whine. I expect comments, emails and tweets heckling me toward April 38th, 2012. Yep.

     4. View editing as a reward, not a chore. One of the reasons I'm so distractible, and can be such a whiner when it comes to writing, is that I have three jobs whose variables and schedules change constantly. It suits my ADHD just fine, but it means that it's easy for me to drop things, especially when work obligations get really tough, as they always do this time of year. 
     When that happens, I'll reward myself with a 30 minute spurt of editing after I've reached some milestone with the work obligations. That way necessary things get done, and so does the editing. I might even manage to get more done of both than I originally anticipated.

This is how I beta-read other people's work.
I owe my own manuscript the same courtesy.

 So there you have it. I've put my nutzo writing ambition out there for all to see, and I'm asking you to hold me accountable. Any encouragement is always appreciated, though I should point out that heckling is often more effective when time constraints are an issue. 

Either way - what do you think? Any other crazies out there who have tried this before? Especially under a self-imposed deadline? Or should I have my day pass revoked?

Oh look - a donkey with a mustache!
Wait...that belongs with a different post altogether...

* Not quite a 22 Things list, a'la Write Me Happy, but it's a start. Ain'tcha proud of me? (You know, I really should join that challenge as well...)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

6SS: Gair's Peculiar Gift

Our next installment for Six Sentence Sunday, from my fantasy work-in-progress 
concerning dwarfish mayhem, currently entitled Karst. In this excerpt, 
Gair shows another side of him that (eventually) proves both a blessing and a curse:

             Rough hands shook him, breaking his concentration.

            “Crazy lump-stone has fallen asleep,” muttered a nearby voice. 
Though muted, there was no mistaking the metallic note in it.
            If those words had been uttered by anyone other than Eitri, Gair might have shrugged it off. He was enamored with what he had just discovered – that by shoving away sounds near to him he could hear what happened far away – he did not know quite how far. Possibly very far. 

Got a comment? Leave it for me below!
Thanks for reading!! 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Weekend Link: More Nifty Than Silly

Yes, I know this one has been out a while. Almost four years, in fact.

That doesn't diminish my love for (a) the song (which in some obtuse way makes me think of Emily Dickenson's poetry), and (b) the video itself. I guess because I was a child in the 70s, and so the claymation approach really grabs my attention. Makes me nostalgic, or something.

Also I like the symbolism. Also, Fleet Foxes are some pretty talented guys.


Any favorite tunes - Fleet Foxes or otherwise - you think I should check out?
Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

6SS: Injurious Turning-Point

Next installment of Six Sentence Sunday - another six sentences from my fantasy work-in-progress of dwarfish mayhem, currently entitled Karst. In this excerpt, a critical injury comes to light, on which much of the following conflict rests:

            “Why doesn’t father want me to hunt?” Gair asked suddenly. “Why is Eitri at his right hand? I’m his son.”
            For the first time, Bragi’s face fell, and a cautious light leapt into his kind eyes.
            “I do not say it is the right thing,” he said, "but I would also say to not ask such a thing – at least, not yet. Do you want a second wounding, by making your father repeat his words?”

Got a comment? Leave it for me below!
Thanks for reading!! 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Weekend Silliness: Boy With the Cuckoo Clock Heart

Hmkay. Today's link is sortof a triple plug.

One: It's a shout-out to Anna Meade, who introduced me to both this video, and the book it is based on.

Two: It's a shout-out for the book Boy With the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, by Mathias Malzieu
which I haven't read yet but mean to at the earliest possible opportunity. It sounds amazing.

Three: It's a shout-out to the kind of French music I absolutely adore, my favorites of which 
have always been Tri Yann and, more recently, Le Vent du Nord. 

And now that I've posted the Amazon link to this book this video is based on, I now see it is available on Kindle. SCORE. Think I'll do a bit of downloading....right


Anyone else read Malzieu's book? What did you think?
Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Evolution of a (Shakespearean) Jackass

I mentioned in an earlier post that my school is putting on a spring production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, by ye olde bard Willie Shakespeare. I am in charge of the set/prop construction class, and our biggest project this semester has been, without question, the donkey's head/mask needed for Nick Bottom's transformation.

 Prepping the styrofoam "helmet"for the donkey's skull.
This was fitted specifically to the actor's head.

We are a small academy, so the set/prop class is only a half dozen students, two of which have taken on Bottom's transformation as their own personal project. Since we have an incredibly small budget - and most of that going to costumes - we made a point of "upcycling" as many raw materials as possible for everything we do.

 Trying the eyes on for size.

So far, we've spent almost nothing on Bottom's head, except for some Elmer's glue for the adhesive mixture, and a roll of screen mesh from Home Depot. The mesh allowed us to better refashion the packing styrofoam from a refrigerator box into something more reminiscent of a donkey's muzzle. The duct tape was instrumental for holding the mesh in place so we could apply the paper mache in as natural a donkey-ish approximation as possible.

Styrofoam, duct tape and screen door mesh - the art supplies of champions.

Egg cartons and odd corners of hard, squared styrofoam were used to create the molars and big buck teeth (nicely askew, since Bottom is a jackass, even before he is transformed). In the above photo, you can see the crooked buck tooth dangling from the bottom right corner of the skull.

Bottom also needs some seriously big donkey ears. These were made separately, in jigsaw fashion so they would fit neatly against the skull before being affixed - first with duct tape, then reinforced with paper mache.

Bottom's ears don't look very ear-ish at this stage, but that was soon remedied.

Bottom's head isn't the only prop needing some serious glue-and-paper treatment, as several of my other students have been making paper mache toadstools as part of our fairy forest decoration. But the jackass takes a good deal more planning, a solid know-how of geometry, and persistence (not to mention a light touch and a willingness to get very messy).

"You see an ass, do you??" - Nick Bottom

Attaching the ears. Get a load of those buck teeth...!

 Our set/prop class doesn't meet every day, and paper mache must dry completely between layers, so it has taken us a couple weeks even to get this far - and it will take us a few weeks more before it is complete. But we were finally able to attach the ears and do a refitting with the actor playing Bottom.

You can't tell from the photo, but the mask enables full sightline from beneath the nose, and between his oversized teeth.

This turned out to be a very good idea,  since the additional paper, glue, tin cans (for the eyes) and styrofoam had added significant weight to the mask. It also shifted most of that weight to the rear of the mask. Our next step, then, is to offset the discrepancy with some carefully modified counterbalances inside the nose, as well as some foam padding in the dome of the skull so it better fits the actor's head (fortunately, we left room for both those adjustments).

So now you've seen what I've been up to lately....or rather, what I've been instigating lately, as my students have done all the hard work. Nor is this the limit of the creative mayhem we've been plotting. More updates forthcoming - especially as the mask nears completion!

I should also do a post about how the mushrooms are coming along...they have been so quirky to make, but o so much fun!

And I haven't even mentioned Oberon's crown...but that is a whole other post unto itself.

Did I mention that I love teaching?

Seriously. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Questions? Comments? Snide remarks? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

6SS: Bragi's Calculations

In keeping with my current seriesfor Six Sentence Sunday - another six sentences from my fantasy manuscript of dwarfish mayhem, currently entitled Karst. In this excerpt the dwarves in the Uplands,  coming out of their alternate shape and preparing for the next challenge:

By the time darkness fell, all the dwarves were in their proper shape and preparing for the hunt. They would, of course, hunt at night, when their cave-vision gave the best chance of seeing their prey, with or without hoods. Though Razivan miscalculated their timing in coming to the Uplands, he had been right about one thing: it was a new moon. No moon meant less light, and an easier time seeing during the hunt.
            “He was right about that only because he didn’t do the calculating,” Brenna muttered to Gair as she laid out the hunting-knives. “Bragi’s the only one with the charts and sense to predict what the moon is doing from five leagues beneath the ground.”

Got a comment? Leave it for me below!
Thanks for reading!! 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weekend Silliness: Dance-Off!

So you think you can dance?

Yeah, right. Not like these two.

Below is a favorite clip from another favorite movie, White Christmas, in which the amazing Vera Ellen (and the often over-looked John Brascia) tear up the floorboards in the short but intense "Abraham Number."

They don't make 'em like this anymore, folks.

Got a favorite dance number? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Agent Tweets #8: 2-in-12,000 Shot

Editing is the bane and the blessing of a writer's existence - a bane because it is so frustrating and time-consuming; a blessing because if managed properly, it puts a writer's work out front as the shining gem of storytelling that it is.

More importantly, editing is the key to getting noticed.

If I repeated every tweet I've seen on this topic, this blog would be about nothing BUT editing. Even so - there were six recent tweets about editing that really stood out (Ha! I'm an agent for agent tweets...there's some irony in that...).

TWEET #1:  

I get 800-1000 submissions a month and maybe take on a couple new authors/yr 

Eye-Opener: I'd lie if I said my eyes didn't widen just a wee bit when I read this one. The 800-1000 submissions per month I totally understand; but out of a potential 12,000 submissions per year - only two are taken on?

Yoiks. This means if I want to stand out, I need to make sure my manuscript is in the best possible condition before sending it in.

TWEETS #2 and #3:

Finish your ms and edit and polish it before querying. 
You can't expect an agent to help you finish writing it 

Sloppy, typo-ridden final manuscripts just reek of unprofessional entitlement to me. 
Your editor is not your MAID 

Hard But True: Both of these tweets back each other up with the same reality: you can't expect an agent to be so wowed by your story that they'll overlook typos or loose writing, and just "let the editors fix that later." As we discussed earlier in our Agent Tweets series: the query letter - and then the manuscript - is more or less part of a job interview. Editing is the way you dress it up right for the interview.

Yes, yes, I hear you wail. I hear this all the time!!! But how much editing is enough? There is such a thing as spinning your wheels for too long.

I completely agree. Sometimes you need to know when to stop tampering and just send it on.

So how DO we know when enough editing is enough? Here are a couple agent responses:

TWEETS #4 and #5:

You shld finish the ms, edit it, polish it, get some1 else to read it, re-edit, sit on it a wk, re-read it & THEN query

One of the best and most underused tools for polishing your query is TIME. Let it sit for a week. Then review & revise

Time is Your Friend:  Though the second tweet specifies "query" and not "manuscript," the principle is the same for both tweets ~ to really get a polished manuscript, you need time - not just to work on it, but to walk away from it for a while. Get some emotional distance from it. Then go back and edit. This is what is generally called a "cold read" and it is hugely valuable to writers, enabling them to become more objective about their own work.

Notice that both tweets hint that editing your manuscript comes in repetitive stages:

Write - Edit - Polish - BetaReader - Wait - Edit - Polish - BetaReader - Wait - Edit...

Most published authors that I read and admire generally advise going through these "layers" a minimum of three times before sending out that first query letter. Remember: agents want the manuscript finished and at its glossy best when you query, so that when they make that full request there are minimal hitches in the proceedings. how horrific are these editing stages we're talking about?


Sometimes #editing has to be drastic, entire scenes and sections lopped off. What's left will be stronger for it./ Every #word on the page must have reason to exist; it should add to the story or your piece./If you, yourself, feel a loss over a word or line cut from your story or piece, then it needed cutting. 

Bruised Egos:  None of us like to be told that some interlude of which we are very proud isn't worthy of the whole story. But therein lies some advice that is also some of the oldest, and difficult to accept, which the above tweet touches on neatly: If you or I are deeply attached to any character or scene, or prosy description, because we feel we "did so well" at that point --- chances are it shouldn't be there, because we're just showing off.

Bottom Line: "Editing" is not merely a matter of correcting grammatical and typographical issues. It involves removing those bits that burden the tale unnecessarily, and hold back your manuscript from being its best - from being a two-in-twelve-thousand chance of catching an agent's eye, and finding your way to the publisher's desk.

Monday, March 5, 2012

FSF: Enchanted

Time for another Five Sentence Fiction entry! 
Here is my contribution to Lillie McFerrin's weekly challenge:


Harsh defiance stood between her and freedom, though she could not see it. She was perpetually sore from straining against it, her face splayed grotesquely against the transparent wall, while the rest of her body folded into a cage so narrow it took up virtually no room. Though so cruelly distorted, her vision was not - a cruel gift by those who had ensnared her. She could see through her glass wall into a vibrant world, full of life and beauty and color - a dream from which she was forever barred.

And all because she was gifted in one pitiful strand of prophecy, enabling her to tell dangerous flattery to whoever muttered: "Mirror, mirror, on the wall..."

Thoughts? Comments? Let me know in the comment section below!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

6SS: The Rooted Stair

In keeping with last week's Six Sentence Sunday - another six sentences from my fantasy work-in-progress concerning dwarfish mayhem, currently entitled Karst. In this excerpt, Gair and the other dwarves are on an urgent march to the surface, to scavenge for food before the pier-lamps that guard their city against the millipedes burn too low, and the gigantic insects overrun their city:

Through the brittle layers they moved, rising like vultures through gloriously festooned clouds, heaped with fascinating embellishments – some natural, some obviously dwarf-made. The closer they came to the surface, the more Gair noticed other details – expert carvings drawn straight out of the damp rock. At first the etchings were mostly of millipedes, their lithe bodies and countless legs twisting in and out among the folded stone. But these soon gave way to other pictures: great trees, their roots stretching down into the cavernous folds; birds, flying fearlessly between the wet teeth of grinning flowstones; cougars and wolves, prowling the blank surfaces as though they only waited for Gair to look the other way before pouncing. They were carved so deftly, so very life-like, that they seemed almost real.

“Why would our father-dwarves carve such things?” he wondered aloud.

Got a comment? Leave it for me below!
Thanks for reading!! 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Weekend Silliness: The Vessel with the Pestle

For our weekly detour into silliness, allow me to offer up a favorite scene from a favorite movie, The Court Jester (1955). It involves Danny Kaye at his vaudevillian best, especially in this scene built around one crafty tongue twister.

ALSO: Be on the lookout for a very young (and rather stunning!) Angela Lansbury as the princess (on the dais by the king, in black and green).


Any other Danny Kaye fans out there? What's your favorite Danny Kaye moment?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Creative Pacing

A new month, a new blog design - and a new update schedule. Welcome to the new AL.

When I started my blog waaaaaaaaaaay back in September, I decided that I would not marry myself to one specific updating schedule, though the "shiny" of a new endeavor naturally meant that I was posting a lot. As in, every day.

I wasn't worried about the frequency at the time. New things always have their lustre that must wear off before you step back and readjust. Knowing that this blog would be a learning process, and an ongoing "writer's resume" (of sorts), I decided to keep up the 5-6 posts per week routine until I felt that both the topics and the pacing had worn thin, and I needed to scale back.

The big surprise: It took me five months to get to that point.

But that threshold - or perhaps I should say crossroads - has at last come. Personal craziness aside (the Goff Clan has been racking up frequent flier miles at the doctor's offices and hospitals lately), I've come to a point where the daily writing energy that I've funneled into blogging needs channeling to other projects, not the least of which is the now nearly-completed trilogy that I hope to query beginning in late May or early June.

The Upshot: I am going to hold true to my original vision of what I set out to do, by:
(a) Going to a Tuesday/Thursday update schedule (weekend silly posts and Six Sunday Sentence excerpts will continue as usual) 
(b) Hold myself accountable to the original discipline which started this adventure in the first place. (Especially item #3 in that link)

This new schedule will allow me to do three things:

1.  Focus on the writing that is at the heart of why I do what I do. 
2. Give updates of higher quality to my blog followers (including the popular Agent Tweets series) 
3. Stay sane.

OK ---- so maybe that third item is a bit of a stretch. But here's hoping. :-)

I also intend to continue with Lillie McFerrin's weekly Five Sentence Fiction challenge (really excited about this week's prompt, by the way - go check it out!). So expect the odd random flash fic to appear here from time to time.

So with all that being Agent Tweets coming to you next Tuesday! With a little weekend silliness along the way.

Keep Reading --- Keep Writing --- Keep On Creating!

Let me know what you think in the comment section!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Favorite Nooks

On the road today, so I'm sending out a quick little post with some of my favorite nooks and crannies from across the web - all favorite blogs of mine, that have become my frequent haunts over the last few weeks (and months, some of them):

Yearning for Wonderland:  Snarky, spleen-eating, Downton Abbey-loving, can't-remember-where-she-parked-her-Barouche-Box-and-in-which-century Anna Meade has a wonderful blog full of fairies, fiction, whimsy, yearning for yesteryear, and snark. Love this girl. You will too.

Amanda McCrina: Poli Sci student, movie aficionado and soon-to-be published author, Amanda writes concise, thoughtful posts on a host of topics. Having been privileged to be one of her beta readers for His Own Good Sword, I can also vouch for her giftedness as an insightful and incisive writer. Look for more about this savvy lady on my site in the coming weeks as she approaches her May publication date.

The Surly Muse: Keep Daniel Swensen's blog on speed dial for insightful articles and some of the most original flash-fiction I've ever read. (Don't believe me? Check out this one. Or maybe my personal favorite over here.) He writes phenomenal longer works too, as this happy beta-reader can tell you. Wish you could read them for yourselves...hopefully you will, and soon.

Going for Coffee: I wish I did live close enough to meet this gal for coffee in person. Jo-Anne Teal is one of the kindest, encouraging, most sweet-hearted writers I've met since joining Twitter*. Her blog exudes her natural sweetness and sincerity, and her flash fiction - though entirely hers and in that same calm tone - carries an extra edge that will surprise you at every turn. Go for coffee at her blog and sip some of her writing - you won't be disappointed.

Kristen Lamb: I discovered Kristen's website just the other day, and let me tell you: Kristen Lamb is sharp. She knows the publishing business. She's made mistakes and learned from them. Nor is she afraid to tell you about them, or which side of the prickly Mistake Fence you've fallen on. This lady has a LOT to share - including some great writing, the #MyWANA hashtag - and even some morbid hints about The Pants of Shame.**

* No, I was not paid to say that --- I mean it whole-heartedly! Seriously.

** Not for the faint of heart. Trust me.

Enjoy these stellar blogs - and then join them! Follow these savvy people on Twitter.
Then enjoy the knowledge that your Coolness Quotient just went through the roof.
You're welcome. :-)