Monday, December 26, 2011

Blood and ashes!

My all-time favorite book series is Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time". My brother introduced me to these books about 14 years ago, when my second son was just a toddler and we were renovating and remodeling a little house in the country and living with my in-laws. I was desperate for some good reading escape material, and my brother said to check these out. I had never really been a big reader of fantasy-- still not, really, though I adore "The Hobbit" and all of the "Harry Potter" books. I really only read mysteries and some thrillers. I had read all the "Cat Who..." books to that date by Lillian Jackson Braun, most of Dick Francis and Tony Hillerman's collections, and a handful of random titles. I hadn't really read any series of the scope and extent of Jordan's books. Of course, 14 years ago, there weren't as many of them. I think there were 7... maybe.

So I picked up "The Eye of the World" and after slogging through the completely detached and confusing prologue (I tell new readers to skip it, they won't understand it until later, anyway), began the story of Rand al Thor, Mat Cauthon and Perrin Aybara, along with the various female characters, whose names I struggled to pronounce, even in my head: Moiraine, Nynaeve and Egwene. (I happily report that all these years later, those names are no longer so foreign to me...) I was hooked, instantly and deeply. I adored the first book, and, I devoured the rest as quickly as I could. I remember driving down the streets of Salt Lake City, in my old Toyota Corrolla, with the book in one hand, face down, until the red lights, then I would sneak in a page or two until the light changed and I had to put it down again. That's the only time in my life I've actually been hoping to hit lots of red lights.

In my mind, this set of books sets the standard which all other fantasy series try to live up to. I haven't read many fantasy series, still. I've read the first three of George R. R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" books, but there was a bit too much sex and incest for my taste, so I haven't ever re-read them. I started a couple of books by Terry Brooks and someone who I can't even remember, but wasn't really intrigued. I do love Orson Scott Card, and I've read two fantasy (not Sci-Fi-- that's a whole 'nuther genre, and please don't treat them as though they are the same. They aren't) books by him, "Enchantment" and "The Lost Gate", which are both fantastic books, especially the latter. I've read the LOTR trilogy, by the legendary Tolkein, and I was bemused by his over-descriptions of certain aspects of the scenery. I read those long before reading WOT, and yes, I'm aware that most fantasy books pay homage to Tolkein whether deliberately or unintentionally, but in my mind WOT still sets the standard.

I suppose I need to read more fantasy before making such a bold statement, but most that I start are pale imitations of this great series and I just don't care to waste my time on them.

The only series to come close to the magic and power of the world Jordan created (for me) has been Harry Potter. When I read those books, I wish I could visit at Hogwarts just a little longer. But Jordan's world is so vast, so epic and rings so true, I honestly feel like I'm there. Every now and then, especially when I'm doing a re-read of the books, aspects of WOT will creep into my conversation as though it's a real place. For example, once we were driving to Southern Utah for a vacation in the spring, and we were driving past a dry, arid place with no wildlife growing, and my mouth almost said, "Huh, kind of like the Aiel Waste, don't you think?" What made it out was "Huh..." and then I just grinned...

There are fans that are obsessed with these books, who attend "Jordon Con" and other events; who create costumes and fan art; who write songs and create video dedicated to WOT. I find them amusing, but I don't want to join their ranks. I adore these stories, I feel like I know the characters personally, but I am happily able to separate fantasy from reality.

It's been a long time since I read the entire series. A few years ago, when Brandon Sanderson finished book 12, I listened to it in absolute glee. When book 13 came out, I was in awe. Sanderson has taken the magic of Jordan and made it even better! I would have thought that would be impossible. Sanderson is a wizard. Absolutely amazing. His books are good, and getting better with time, but none of his older stuff is anywhere near as great as WOT. Until now. His "The Way of Kings" is excellent, and I look forward to more of the same. In the meantime, though, WOT reigns supreme and I'm just thrilled to have him at the wheel.

Yesterday, for Christmas, my husband gave me a Kindle Touch. It's nice and a lot of fun. Just for kicks, I downloaded a "sample" of "The Eye of the World", which I haven't read in about 6 years, I think. I can't put it down... If I pace myself, I could read a book a month and be done right about the time that the last book is released next year. But I've never been very good at pacing myself... I read super fast. I'll have to make a concerted effort to savor the stories, to try and keep all the Aes Sedai and Windfinders and nobles and other second- and third-tier characters straight. Maybe I'll finally figure out who Demandred is hiding as. Maybe I'll remember things I've forgotten and notice details that didn't make sense before.

Whatever happens, I'm sure I will enjoy the ride. Again. May you always find water and shade.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Missing Marbles, reposted from my private blog...

I find it moderately interesting and incredibly frustrating to discover that my brain has a very limited capacity for memory, thought, creativity and, especially, energy.  Recently, as I've been training at my new job and trying to learn about four thousand new things, along with all the HR stuff that comes with going full time, I've noticed that I just can't seem to squeeze any time in for writing.  It isn't just time that's lacking, though, it's mental faculty as well.  I have found myself making typos, misspelling words (which really is strange for me), and misspeaking.  A lot. My mouth fumbles with my words, making me look and feel like a nitwit.

Basically, my writing has come to a screeching halt.  Since one successful Monday spent writing a few months ago, I've done nearly nothing!  I've had a few minor blog efforts, only one of which I think actually got posted, but that's it!  I have been busy on my Mondays, and I don't really feel like I can dedicate what little precious "free" time I have to writing right now.  Which is sad, because I still have aspirations to really write something wonderful one day.  I hate that "one day" keeps getting pushed further and further into the future, though.

I'm really hoping that in the next few months things will settle into a routine, or that a miracle will happen so I can go back to part time (or quit?  I love my job, but my first dream job is to be at home with my kiddos and have some writing time each day... not to be negative; librarian is on the list of dream jobs, so I'm enjoying it... don't get me wrong. :) ).

My life is very full, and I'm so thankful for that.  I have remarkable kids and a good husband and a warm home and a soft bed.  Life is good.  I just wish I could remember my Sunday calling before Sunday.

Monday, October 17, 2011


It is my first day off in quite a long time.  I don't count Sundays, because I am busy busy with church and church choir, and I don't count the magical, occasional Saturday because then I am 100% mom, which I love, but it is not relaxing nor restful.  So I took today and washed a little laundry, did a load of dishes and considered taking a nap.  Instead, however, I took a look at one of my favorite blogs, Gail Carson Levine.  She is a published author, who kindly blogs answers to questions from wannabes, like me, and at the bottom of every blog post, she offers a few writing prompts.

Since I couldn't think of anything to write about today, I browsed her prompts until something jumped out at me.  I started writing some ideas and managed to flesh it out into an actual story outline and synopsis. This is the first time I've ever been able to do this-- breakthrough!  I generally write linear stories- I just write until it stops flowing.  This has not been very successful, as evidenced by my 40 or so half-tales that may never get finished.  I am very excited to have a beginning, middle and end in mind for this new story.  I took a scene that Gail suggested and changed it slightly and kazaam!  I have an outline, ready to go.

So, thanks Gail!  I can't wait to see what happens next...

Friday, September 16, 2011

A look back

Posted a while ago, but I would like comments, if you have any.  I still haven't come up with a complete story to go with this scene, yet.  Writing Exercise #2

Deus ex Machina, which I'm still not comfortable pronouncing aloud

I've been pondering a BLOG ENTRY I read a couple of days ago, by an author I haven't actually read yet.  His name is Peter V. Brett.  My sister-in-law recommended his books, beginning with "The Warded Man", and I went to and read the first few pages they have posted as samples.  It is very good, Wheel of Time-ish fantasy.  I think I'll enjoy them when I get my hands on the books.  Anyway, I was reading his blog on, and he was discussing a book by a new-comer that he had been asked to read and comment on (or "blurb") for the back cover.  Read the blog, you'll see what I'm saying.  That other book sounds really good, too... I'll be reading it one day, as well.

In the blog entry, he mentioned that he will pass on "blurbing" new books if he finds literary taboos such as deus ex machina, flat characters or flaws in the story.  This is the second time in a month that I've gone looking for the definition of deus ex machina.  The first time was while watching "Lost", which I chat about in my other blog, found HERE. There is an episode titled "Deus Ex Machina", and I didn't think I had ever heard that Latin phrase before, so I looked it up.  This is what I found on :

De-us ex ma-chi-na
[dey-uh s eks mah-kuh-nuh, dee-uh s eks mak-uh-nuh]
1. (in ancient Greek and Roman drama), a god introduced into a play to resolve the entanglements of the plot.
2. any artificial or improbable device resolving the difficulties of a plot.

1690–1700;  < Neo-Latin  literally, god from a machine (i.e., stage machinery from which a deity's statue was lowered), as translation of Greek apò mēchanês theós  (Demosthenes), theòs ek mēchanês  (Menander), etc.

So, all you fellow would-be authors, keep this in mind as you are writing.  A good example of deus ex machina is how Glinda magically appears (twice!) to save Dorothy's hide in "The Wizard of Oz", first with the snow to wake them in the field of poppies and again at the end to free Dorothy from Oz, by telling her simply to click her heels together and she'll go home.  There are a long list of other cinematic, as well as book and comic examples if you are interested, HERE is a good site.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New blog title and address

A few days ago, I moved my "wanna-be author" blog to this new link and title.  I think it reflects a more positive attitude about my future as a writer to say that "eventually I will be a published author" than to say "I sure wish I was a writer!"

So here we are.  I am trying to wrap my head around a new way of thinking that will open my mind and free my creative juices a bit.  I tend to get a little discouraged when I think about wanting to get something published.  Not because of the intimidation of submitting something to a publishing house (I'm not there, yet, you have to FINISH something before you can submit it, I'm fairly sure!) or because I don't feel like I am skilled enough.  I feel confident in my abilities, and I am a fast learner so if I got to learn from mistakes or bad writing decisions, that would be great.  It's because everywhere I go, constantly, I meet other people who consider themselves yet-to-be-published authors.  Some surprise me, some astound me and others, I'm not surprised, I just have one of those sarcastic voices in my head saying, "everyone's an author", the same way my photographer husband says, "everyone's a photographer...". 

I need to not worry about the sheer volume of manuscripts, books and authors there are out in the market.  I need to not feel competitive about this.  I need to just write for the love of writing and when something gets finished, clean it up, submit it and keep writing.  That's what I need to do.  I can't reduce the number of people (women, mostly, but men, too) who also think they are good enough writers to do it professionally.  I don't have control over when/where or even IF I ever get published, not directly, anyway. But "Failing to try is the same as trying to fail", right?  Right.

I'm trying to accept that there is a lot of competition.  A LOT.  But that's okay.  If what I write is good enough, it won't matter that there are 45 million others like me.  And the main thing is that I love writing.  I just love it.  I need to write for the joy and the mental release and the addiction of writing.  The rest is just gravy, anyway.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Just a little exercise...

I think what I'm good at is ambiance, at writing scenes.  I haven't yet figured out how to flesh out a full story from my scenes, though. They pop into my head and flow out my fingers, but then it ends and I'm stuck with about a dozen good story beginnings...

Here's one I wrote recently.  Comments are welcome, in fact, if you can think of a unique story to go along with this scene, share it and we'll collaborate!  I think that's what I need.  I'm good at writing it out, but the "big picture" seems to escape me...  Enjoy! 

It wasn’t raining.  It wasn’t overcast.  It wasn’t even dark.  But it felt like it should be.  I glared up at the cheerful blue sky, scowled at the clouds in their fluffy white perfection and pressed my heels a little deeper into the flawless green grass.  I imagined it whimpering in submission.

“Whump!” the first shovelful of dirt seemed to echo off the coffin.  “Whump!” Again.  Not quite rhythmic, the repeated sound bounced around my head.  It was an ugly sound.  The sound of good-bye.  The sound of emptiness: hollow and howling. 

Cursing the fluttering breeze in the maple leaves over my head, I walked away.  “Whump!” The sound faded slightly as I moved to the other side of the ancient church.  The path I was walking meandered into a grove of trees, where a hill sloped down to a trickling stream.  It couldn’t have been more picturesque.  I hated it.  I hated that the world just moved on, birds flew, rabbits jumped, trees dropped leaves and acorns, completely unfeeling. Their callous indifference surrounded me, suffocating me.  I walked into the glade and cursed, loudly.  I cursed the Earth beneath me, the trees, the sky, I cursed it all, falling to my knees, tears pouring down my cheeks to drip onto my dress.  I cried until I was numb, then lay on the soft Wildgrass and closed my eyes. 

When I awoke, it was dark. Not the oppressive dark that lurked in my chest, but a bright, star-filled summer darkness with a cheerful moon peeking at me between the tree branches.  Grimacing, I stretched, standing.  It was time to leave.  I muttered an apology to the trees, the glade, the glittery heavens for the cursing earlier.  My chest ached, but otherwise I felt better. 

Home was a short walk from the churchyard, and I resisted kicking the cat as I stepped over him lying on the wooden steps.  My father was standing at the kitchen sink, staring out the back window at the darkness.