Showing posts from 2011

You Know You're a Writer When...

Excerpts from the book You Know You're a Writer When... by Adair Lara

You were nine when you started writing poems, twelve when you moved on to tragic stories. 
Case in point: when I was 12, I think I wrote a story about a young woman alone in her apartment when there is a mysterious stranger who knocks on the door. I believe that was the same year that I tried to emulate Gone with the Wind and write a tragic Civil War-based novel. 

Downton Abbey PBS Q&A

The second series of Downton Abbey will begin on January 8 here in America. Some of the cast came over recently to do some promo.

Watch Downton Abbey, Season 2: A Special Q&A with the Cast on PBS. See more from Masterpiece.

The Hobbit Trailer

"Bagginses? What is a Bagginses, preciousss?"

A Basic Primer on British Noble Titles

I keep alluding to "Lord This" and "Lord That" on this blog because of the period I am currently writing in and because I like to read Regency and other historical settings where there are British people running about who happen to be titled.

And, of course, there's the small matter of my little Downton Abbey obsession.

Americans don't have these titles. We abolished them during our revolution. Other countries may still retain such honorifics, but they are probably different to the British styles. I've come across a few instances of mistakes when reading Downton fanfic lately... and really, who else has such arcane knowledge in their heads except authors, writers, Regency fans, Anglophiles and actual peers?

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Jane Austen, a great reason why I'm so fascinated by the British Regency era, an author whose works I adore, was born on December 16, 1775 in the parsonage at Steventon, Hampshire.

Today is her 236th birthday.

Jane was the seventh of eight children born to the Rev. George Austen and his wife Cassandra. Jane had five older brothers and one older sister, Cassandra, who was Jane's best friend. A younger brother followed in 1779.

Jane died in 1817, at 41, leaving the world with only six completed novels and two incomplete ones as well as her letters and her Juvenilia, the works she wrote when she was in her teens.

I think the first time I heard of Jane Austen was sometime in the 6th grade. I didn't read Austen until junior high, when I took a crack at Pride and Prejudice and couldn't quite get through it. This is the same time that I tried reading Jane Eyre and threw that to the side about 150 pages in, but read all through Wuthering Heights multiple times.

I have read P&…

Is This Plausible?

Once upon a time, there was an evil scientist. 
One year, sometime in the mid-1980s, in New York City, there were twin girls born, despite the fact that the girls were in fact eight months apart in age. Anyhow, the twins were plump, healthy and identical. Then the evil scientist  separated the twins and made them different races and added them to separate families in neighboring boroughs of New York City, never to know that they were, in fact, really sisters. 
This is the origin story that my childhood best friend came up with to explain our friendship. Snowflake (not, in fact, her real name) was always super good at coming up with elaborate backstories for the characters she created for stories or even when we just played Barbies. 
She can tell you more about some of the wacky backstories and backgrounds she came up with for her characters, should she choose to drop a comment here. Most of them were soap opera worthy, I swear. 
In a sci-fi/ fantasy setting, that sort of origin story could…

NaNo Stats

The Office of Letters and Light Blog has posted some stats on this year's NaNo.

The Number One NaNo city was New York. I wonder if that's because I kept updating my word count every five seconds...

NaNo's gasp-inducing 2011 stats

Post NaNoWrimo Pep Talk

This, the last of the 2011 NaNoWriMo pep talks, came in my mail tonight. It's written by Audrey Niffenegger, the author of The Time Traveler's Wife.

Writing Female Characters: A Dilemma?

I came across a thread on the NaNo forums that gave me some pause for thought. It's called Trouble Writing Female Characters. If you care to peruse the thread, it's linked right there. To summarize, it's a thread that's mostly female writers expressing that they have trouble writing convincing female characters. Some say their women are too cardboard cut-out stereotypical, others say their women are too strong and bitchy because they don't want to write simpering women. Other posters noted that they don't get along with or have many female friends in real life and therefore, have trouble writing women. Others say that all women they write are merely subsets of themselves.

Some jumped to internalized sexism or the Madonnna/whore complex or think of feminism with a negative connotation.

And others feel that writing females brings pressure, as if one female in a novel populated by mostly men must represent all womankind instead of being her own character. It's…
My 2011 NaNoWriMo winner's shirt came in the mail yesterday afternoon. Isn't it cute? NaNo is officially over now on the East Coast. I'm sad. 
I'm going to finish up the last dregs of my novel and then begin to educate myself on a logical way to revise an entire novel. I'll be reading up on that sort of thing and blogging about it, of course. Stay tuned. 

My Thanksgiving Weekend

Now that I am done (done! done!) with NaNoWriMo, I can get back to a more normal blogging schedule, which is lovely.

As part of NaNoWriMo, Writer's Digest was offering free e-book editions of a few writing and publishing related books, which I snatched up because they were free. So, this December, as I'm editing, shaping, rewriting, inserting research, writing better and hopefully, you know, actually revising and completing a viable second or third draft,
I'm going to read through my free ebooks to see if I can glean any novel writing knowledge on what to do when revising.

This ain't over yet. I'm not actually finished with my NaNo either; I have a few scenes left before I run out of time to validate and win. After that, I think I might bury it for a few days or a week, maybe give it to a reader, and then figure out how to revise the hell out of it.

Any of you have any revision tips? 

NaNo: Day 28

I have hit 50,000 words. That is, I actually hit 50,081 words two minutes ago. I'm going to finish this scene, write the last sequence, and then validate my word count for NaNoWriMo, likely sometime tomorrow.

I finished! I won!

Editing, here I come.

NaNo: Day 27

Current word count: 47,381

I am 2, 619 words away from the 50,000 necessary to win NaNoWriMo. That's not going to finish my story, by the way. I still have a few events waiting to be written.

I'm actually ahead, but my diligent daily word count of 1,667+ words has fallen slightly (hence the orange spots in word count calendar), due to Black Friday and Saturday. I worked a very long shift on Friday (and survived) and then basically slept most of Saturday and was too groggy to write much. So I won't finish early and I might not hit the 60,000 words I was hoping for by the end of the month. Boo.

Trying to get back on the wagon of 1,667+ words a day!

NaNo: Day 23

Current Word Count: 44,121

Received another amazing pep talk, this time talking about writing habits that NaNo can instill. Love all the points about thinking about your character during mundane moments like doing laundry.

Downton Abbey Predictions, Part Deux

Edited to add: Servants' Ball Pictures

Continuing on with my previous ruminations on the fate of the characters of Downton. What do all of you think is going to happen? If you know more about the history of this time period (1920), then how do you think it'll affect the denizens of Downton Abbey?

Downton Abbey Predictions

This post is pure speculation. Feel free to contribute to my wacky ideas via the comments down below (click on the  lavender link that says "Comments."Seriously. Do it. Good things will happen.)

I don't know what the plot of the upcoming Christmas Special is or what kind of stories we can expect in Season 3. So let's go character by character.

NaNo: Day 17

Current word count: 33, 274

Another pep talk appeared in my NaNoMail today. I find it the most inspiring of the bunch so far. I tweeted about it, too, and Chris Cleave, who wrote the pep talk, replied to me to wish me good luck.

What do you think?

NaNo: Day 16: Dancing Through

Current word count: 32, 448.

I'm finding that I have a real affection for the gossiping trio of Mrs. Henson, Mrs. Brown, and Mrs. Thomas. They are the old biddies of the village, who love to talk about everyone.

I finally finished Emma by Jane Austen late last night. I love the way the village of Highbury and its citizens are depicted, the way the social hierarchy is lived within the book. And of course, there is Mr. Knightley. I've decided that he surpasses Mr. Darcy for me.

I finished writing a ball scene yesterday--an event which the trio of biddies were gossiping about today, of course. Apparently, Lord and Lady Banston throw a huge Christmas ball the day after Christmas every year and people come from miles around to attend.

I used to think that dancing at the time was very graceful and decorous and intricate. Yeah, it's all of those things, I suppose, depending on the dance.

Maybe it's because I was reading Emma and watching the recent miniseries version of it, …

NaNo: Day 15

Today is NaNo's halfway point.

I am past 30,000 words as of right now. My story is taking a really exciting turn. This character that I had the old biddies of the village referring to early on in the story is finally taking her important place within the novel. I gave myself fist pump in the air today as I was writing a scene.

Writers. We get so excited by the littlest things. Foreshadowing, for instance. I seem to really adore foreshadowing.

Also, I wrote 3,000 words today! Am so psyched!

Nano: Day 14 Another Pep Talk

Third week's pep talk:

Fellow Writers, 

I’m hoping your words are spilling out in fully formed plots, intriguing dilemmas, compelling characters, and sentences that feel vital and precise. But I well know that novels are unwieldy and that getting them under control can be like trying to herd planets into a line. 

NaNo: Day 13

I had no time to write today. I worked late last night and then basically fell into bed, woke up and went to work a 6 hour shift during the day, where it was very busy and I came home exhausted and not in the mood to write.

You know how many words I wrote just after midnight of Day 13? 52.

I just finished the daily word count--the bulk of the 1,667 words was written in the last hour. I hit 1,682 words for total words written today. I'm still ahead by about 2,500 words or so and I hope to increase that margin during the week.

And now, being very sleepy, I'm going to bed. Good night!

NaNo: Day 11

It's Veterans' Day. Today, at 11:00 am, the Armistice that ended World War One came into effect.

I suppose, for me, having watched Downton's second series already, the show naturally comes to mind when thinking about WWI.

There's a challenge going on on the NaNo forums today, to either write for 11 hours or to write 11,111 words. I'm going to try for the 11,111 words, but we'll see.

In addition to the excellent Write or Die, I'm finding that having my Word doc on Full Screen view hides the mounting word count. Which means that I'm not staring at the word count and calculating it against the NaNo stats over and over again.

In my trolling of the NaNo forums, I came across a few topics about Nano'ers not feeling supported in their writing.  It might be Week Two downslide, but those kinds of topics break my heart a little bit.

I have my moments of "God, this sucks" and "Who the hell is going to read this?" while I'm writing anyt…

NaNo: Day 10

Yay, we have word count widgets now. My word count widget is here, on the right sidebar.

Also, re-reading the last scene I wrote yesterday, I realize that the dialogue, as its playing in my head, sounds like Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey.

Just got Pep Talk #2:

NaNo: Day 9

No names for Mrs. Braddock yet?

Anyway. Was catching up on other people's blogs (this after writing over 1,000 words in an hour in an effort to make Day 8's word goal before the clock struck midnight) and read a short blog on how rules didn't apply to the peerage/ aristocracy of England and another on illegitimate children. Both are pertinent to my WIP.

Because the rules didn't apply--or because they were powerful enough to break them--the nobility were a fairly dissolute bunch. There was a lot of gambling, drinking, scandalous affairs and the like going on. And my MC is a product of that nobility, though he's gone his own route. He can do anything he would like to--and that's not false confidence.

And, of course, there's the oft-repeated maxim of writers that I came across today. It's ridiculously true:

I've said it before but it's worth repeating: If you don't take your writing seriously, no one else will either.

NaNo '11: Day 6. Name My Character!

NaNo Day 6 is going pretty well, though I'm not sure that I'll hit the 12k or so I was hoping for.

Anyway, I have a question to ask of you. Please give all answers to this question in the comments below. Just click on "comments" at the bottom and write it in.

I have a character in my novel named Mrs. Braddock. She is in her late twenties to early thirties, white, English, of the gentry class. She has just come out of full mourning for her not-so-lamented older dead husband, with a decent fortune of her own and a nice house with not much land, but enough, near the river in the countryside.

She has brown hair and brown eyes. Has evidently spent time being cosmopolitan in London. Is very seductive.

She's a merry widow. And she grows in importance as a character. But she has no first name!

So, what kind of name do you think would fit this lady? Keep in mind, it's 1800, so she would have been born in the 1770s.

NaNo '11: Day 5

I am currently at 9,136 words. I started writing today at about 4:30 pm (after I got back from work) and have been writing, watching a documentary on scary Stuyvesant students with my dad, writing, eating, writing, watching TV.

I had a little moment yesterday, after I finished up the ballroom bit: "What comes next?"

Then I remembered where I was in the timeline. September 1800. It's Mady's birthday. Soon, Alexandra will ask for a pony and Miles will train her. Then, of course, winter sets in.

I'm finding this one easier to get into as I'm writing. It feels easier, right now, to write this than last year's NaNo project. Whether that's because last year's was kind of made up as I went along...or because the research was driving me crazy...or because, let's face it, I've been immersed in this story for the better part of this year...who knows.

Aiming for 10,000 words tonight. 10,000 words is tomorrow's goal. Some Wrimos on Twitter are go…

My 1st pep talk of NaNo '11:Erin Morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern is an author. Her book The Night Circus is a current bestseller and was drafted during NaNoWriMo.

This is her pep talk, which arrived in my NaNoMail tonight.

I can't work ninjas into this book though. Too bad. I kind of feel like a ninja once in a while. I think it's a side effect of wearing too much black.

NaNo '11: Day 4

12:28 AM: Day 4 has begun well. I've gotten a sweet "you can do it!" message from a friend and a really nice "Your plot sounds intriguing" from a new NaNo Writing Buddy. Day 4's word count goal is 6,666.

2:43 AM: Well, without being too distracted, I have hit 6,667 words, which is past the word count goal, but not the daily 1,667 words--because I started ahead of daily word count on Day 1. Since I have a day off from work, I'd like to  write maybe a 1k-3k ahead.

2:38 PM: Let's sprint against the dryer. 30 minutes, go!

5:44 PM: Words written today: 2,333!!!! Total word count: 7,818. May try to get a little more in, at least to wrap this scene up. It's a ballroom scene.

11:07 PM: Through writing on and off for most of the day, I have written 2,999 words today. My total words written is 8,484, which means I passed tomorrow's word count goal :D 80,000 words, here I come!

NaNoWriMo: Day 3

I was doing my usual midnight to 1 or 1:30 writing, since I don't have the ability to sit for hours on end trying to make word count...and no matter how much I wrote, it doesn't seem enough.

That's not to say that the scene I'm writing is like pulling teeth, because it's not. And the story's pacing is moving along nicely, too.

I just couldn't get enough words out and I didn't really feel like...writing. So I better stop blogging (and reading the NaNoWriMo forums) and get to work.

I'll never be a publishable author if can't seem to write more than 2,000 words a day, right?

NaNoWriMo '11: Day 2

Day 2 began with about a thousand or so words written between midnight and 1:30. Pre-planning here, folks, since I have work tonight and won't be here to write during the day. Granted, I didn't write straight through. I took mini-breaks to check Twitter, read the NaNo forums (fascinating, as always), and watch Mr. Knightley being awesome (YouTube).

I got up to a word count of 3,130 words. Day 2's goal word count is 3,333. So, as of now, I have written 1,077 words today.

I love all of NaNoWriMo's charts and graphs that tell me how much to write. If I could write with NaNo all year long, it would kick my ass into high gear.

I'm really aiming more for 80,000 words rather than the 50,000 required. 80,000 words would actually finish my novel.

And so far, Buzzy (my Inner Editor) has been behaving herself. I'm finding that writing something I've been working on is not actually slowing me down at all. It's making me consider new scenes and think of my characte…

Nanowrimo '11: 13 hours in

Yes, it's 13 hours into the NaNoWriMo and I have written 1, 915 words. Which means that I am already 249 words ahead of the daily word count of 1,666 words. The word count widgets aren't available yet, but when they are, I'll add it to the blog.

Edited to add: As of 10:49 PM, I have a Day One word count of 2053.

Also, I'm a NaNo Rebel because I'm working on a previous work. The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that even though the rules say that coming up with something from scratch is best, it's not a hard and fast rule. In fact, to quote Captain Jack Sparrow, "they be more like guidelines."

There is even a forum for the Rebels--people working on previous work or revising previous NaNo novels or working on non-fiction or academic pieces. You could, conceivably, write your thesis by NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo '11

November 1st is the start of NaNoWriMo--November is National Novel Writing Month--where people from across the globe will gather together, drink lots of coffee, forsake any kind of social life during the dreary month of November in a quest to write 50,000 words of a novel.

I participated (and won) last year--with Iggy, the child of a monk and a nun. While the story itself turned out not-so-great, I had a blast doing it and it taught me some valuable things about the writing process.

I wasn't sure what to do during this November. After all, I've been puttering away on Miles's portion of the Great Regency Adventure for the better part of this year and I've not really got anywhere. Granted, I think it's more crafted a first draft than any of the others, but it's a long way from done yet.

But NaNo is really meant to be about writing a new novel--the rationale being that continuing on old projects will only make meeting the daily word count of 1667 words difficult, …

Bachelors of Highbury Quiz

I've been reading Emma by Jane Austen to get a feel for an English country village and because I haven't made my way through Austen's canon completely.

I think, so far, Persuasion is still my favorite of hers, but Mr. Knightley is quickly becoming my favorite Austen hero.

I've been sneaking peeks at the 2009 miniseries version of Emma, starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller. It's available on YouTube.

Lo and behold, I came across this quiz.

And this was my result: Boo-ya!

Character Deaths

In honor of Halloween coming up, let's talk about something I loved to do to my characters when I was a teenager.

Killing them off.

In the days before I bothered to finish my stories, I would often grow tired of characters and then invent ways for them to die. There was the ever-popular consumption, car accidents, death by war, drowning. One time, I wrote a story about a girl who had eight siblings, all of whom were killed one by one by their psycho estranged father. That one didn't really go anywhere because I gave myself nightmares.

The Soldiers of Downton Abbey

War changes things. So they say on Downton Abbey, so they say in books and on TV. It's the feeling floating around in the air as the war begins, that this'll change things in a profound way somehow.

This post was requested by a reader. She wanted to talk about how the rank of the solider becomes relevant--during wartime and beyond--and how others, at home or outside of the armed forces--can start to assume that because a man is serving his country, that he is being noble or heroic and not unscrupulous and taking advantage.

What triggered this? Major Bryant on Downton Abbey.

I made a very short submission to another blog: Downton Abbey History at tumblr. Here's the link.

Someone had asked about people being interested in Downton Abbey because of any family history they might have, i.e, was your great grandmother a maid? Was your grandfather a lord?

I know for sure that one of my great grandmothers was a maid, here in America. Both of my great-grandfathers fought in World War One. Supposedly, they went back to Ireland after the war to take part in some shady dealings in the Irish republican cause--though what they did and what stances they took is something I don't know yet.


I've come across this phrase "OTP" while trawling around fandoms on the Internet. Apparently, it stands for One True Pairing (shades of the One True Ring?). The OTP is a fan's particularly favorite romantic or possibly romantic pairing on a TV show or a movie. 

When one thinks a couple is an OTP, you "ship" them. As in, you want them to have a relationship. 

I've found that in most shows, there's the main couple who gets all the attention or a couple that is will-they-won't-they for ages and then, maybe, secondary characters who are coupling up or should be, but aren't because writers like to torture their viewers. 

Lies My History Teacher Told Me: American History Edition

When I was in junior high, the Social Studies classes we took focused on American history. Now, the events are pretty standard: The Bering Strait. Native Americans. Jamestown. The Pilgrims. 1776. The American Revolution. The Constitution.

The personalities are indisputable, too: Washington. Jefferson. Franklin. Madison. Lincoln.

History is not just dates, battles and events. It's not just things that happened in olden times and long dead rich white men making decisions that we now have to live with. History is also about biases and perception, different connections and angles.

As an example, a slight digression:
In high school, in the one day it took in AP World History to cover World War One (because we were running out of time), we came upon Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, which later became the basis for the League of Nations (which was the prototype for the United Nations). One of the bits in the Points was about nations under colonial rule having the right to self-deter…

Downton Links


I've been trying to give myself a quick primer on farming.

Yeah. Farming.

This is in service to the current Mess-in-Progress, of course. I wasn't originally going to involve any farming at all. My protagonist is an estate owner and a new one at that. He doesn't actually do any farming.

That is, until I read this while I was researching:

In war-weary England, wheat was four times what it was at the start of the war; the 6d loaf had risen to 17d.

This is a reference to England's harvest in 1801. I'm writing about 1800 and in reading about the time period, found that 1799 and 1800 had bad harvests. Very bad harvests. Apparently, it rained too much and ruined the crop. 

I've been searching and digging for more evidence. Was it really that bad of a harvest? And what could a landowner do to alleviate his tenants' hunger? 

I found a source to confirm the bad harvest and famine in 1800. 

From History of the consulate and the empire of France under Napoleon:

"The harves…

The Passage of Time

Sometimes, when I'm writing, I forget that I'm allowed to skip time. I've often found myself writing the most boring minutiae in a scene, realizing that it's boring, then thinking, "Wait... that does nothing for the plot...I can skip over this month, can't I?"

But sometimes I can't remember the timeline exactly--I know it's 1800, for example, and it is summertime, but is it late June or is it July already? I tend to write it into the text just so I know. I may or may not take out the indications in a later draft.

When I wrote my soul-swapping story, Last Request, I had a fairly tight timeline--two weeks, I believe--on one storyline. My protagonist, Eva, was in a coma and through research, I'd learned that two weeks is about the time someone can stay in a coma and still wake up with all their brain functions intact. To widen the scope of the story, there were a lot of flashbacks, ranging about fourteen years. I wrote in clear indications about …

"Too many adjectives"

There's a great bit in Becoming Jane where Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) is writing to her sister Cassandra. She's describing Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy).
The scene ends with Jane's writerly verdict: "Too many adjectives." 
I once read, in some writing craft manual, that adjectives are lazy writing. Also, in writing class, I was taught that the word "just" should never be used. 
Really, where do people come up with such wacky declarations anyhow? 
How many adjectives are too many adjectives? Sometimes, it feel like there aren't enough. How can you describe the tone of someone's voice, for instance, when you hear it but don't know how to describe it? Is it husky or sweet or rich? Is it low or loud? Is there a scratch in it? 
Is it really even that important to a reader that they hear or see the character the way the author imagines them to be? Jane Austen describes her characters thoroughly--but not how they look or sound, but how they think. I'm …

Friday Links:9/30/11

"That's what happens when an English teacher has you reading Hamlet for four months. I kid you not. Four months."

Once upon a time, when I was a snarky high school student--long before I became a snarky adult--I used to think that what my English teachers told me was pure myth. They used to say that all that symbolism, the rich metaphors, the characterization in the works they fed to us was written like that on purpose.

I disagreed. I mean, yeah, sure it took a few drafts to get something like that and a lot of thought and some planning, but did Salinger seriously sit there for hours and hours just to plan that Holden Caulfield's hunting cap was symbolic of his hunt for...whatever?

I thought this because a) I was, as I mentioned, a snarky teenager and b) no matter how much I planned something I felt the urge to write out beforehand, it was only later on that I saw the clever turns of phrase or good dialogue. Surely, I thought, it's impossible to plan every little bit of your piece and some things just come about by accident.

I still think that my English teachers were overzealously readin…

"What exactly does he do?"

When my friends settled with some popcorn and Downton Abbey a few weeks ago, it was the first time one of them had seen it and I could tell that while she wanted to see it, she wasn't wildly enthusiastic about it. But as my friend got into the plot and characters, she asked that vital question, when realizing that your historical English nobles seem to have a lot of land, big houses, and lots of time on their hands---

"What exactly does he do?"

"He manages his estate."

"Yeah, but what does he do?"

It's question I found myself asking quite a lot of, when I read Regency-set romance after Regency romance because these lords, they sure had an awful lot of time to be worrying over their future wives. Some of them actually did manage their lands--they would sign and read papers, talk to their stewards, visit their tenants, or talk about being in the House of Lords in Parliament. A few books would manage to convey the power the upper echelons had, whethe…

Coming Off a Mini-Block

I've coming off of approximately a week, maybe more, where I just couldn't put a word down. It's been a long time since I've had any kind of writer's block problem. I would sit and type a line here, delete a line I hated there, but couldn't get into the story or the characters and would go and read Downton Abbey fanfiction instead.

I felt unmotivated and a bit bored with the story, too. And I couldn't seem to come up with anything to jog a blog post out of me. Part of this lack of motivation stems from the lovely autumn allergies I've been encountering as we head toward the official start of fall, part from scheduling at work, and the rest of it was just disinterest.

I managed to write a whole page last night, though, so I guess I'm coming through this mini-block.

I introduced a new character who grows in importance as we go on. Introducing new characters are always amazing ways of getting more words out.

I have Miles, the father, concerned about hi…

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11/01

I wasn't going to write anything about September 11, 2001 on this blog. But it being the tenth anniversary and being a New Yorker, it's not a date that is easily ignored. It's a watershed date for my childhood, one of those dates where there was a clear difference between the before and the after. If one was writing a novel, it would be the moment that the story turns.

Ten years ago, I was 15 years old. I was in the car with my mother, who was driving me to school early because I had to change my schedule. We were listening to Z100, as we did most mornings, when one of the DJs suddenly said, "Hey, I think I saw a plane go into the World Trade Center."

Mom and I thought it was a joke. I got to school, couldn't get my schedule changed that day, and since there were a few periods between my actual school day beginning, Mom took me home for a little bit. I turned on the TV. Only CBS came in and they were already on news coverage about the plane that had flown in…

Childhood Games; or, Writing Out Loud

I spent the Labor Day weekend with my family and more specifically, my nieces, who are 3 and 1. The 1-year-old is doing the usual 1-year-old thing of toddling around, eating everything, grinning, and drooling. The 3-year-old wanted to show off her Halloween costume (Princess Tiana, if you're interested), then played on the playset outside loudly and very imaginatively.

She said it was a spaceship. They were flying through space to Planet Monster. Her engine was dying, it had bugs in it.  Hysterical, and some proof to me that children born in this very digitized age do still have imaginations.

I spent my childhood doing the same thing--and really, what is it but telling ourselves a story, making it up and acting it out? It's writing, but in acting form.

I still do this, to some degree, because I have a habit of talking to myself. I think it's an only child thing. I'll talk out dialogue or do both sides of a conversation (with myself, granted, but it's in character, …

Downton Abbey Season 2 trailer


How women inherited in the olden days

This post was inspired by this one: Heroines in an era lacking women's rights

In Pride and Prejudice, the reason the five Bennet daughters must be married is because there is an entail on their father's property, they will not be able to inherit it, and without a marriage and a husband, they will be dependent on their father's heir.

That, in summary, is how we think of nineteenth century women. They were under the control of their fathers and then their husbands. They could not own property, did not seem to inherit it much, could not vote or work, and were constantly pregnant.

If a woman remained single (as Jane Austen did), she could run the land she inherited (if she inherited any) and keep her own earnings and inheritance. When the woman married, she ceased to be her own person. Beforehand, however, if she had conscientious parents, guardians or lawyers, a marriage settlement could be drawn up to ensure that whatever she brought into the marriage would pass to her child…


An interesting post from the blog of the Office of Letters and Light, the lovely people who brought the motivation and madness of NaNoWriMo into our lives. The post is called "What Do You 'Do' To Your Books?"

Books are physical objects. You can curl up with them (as I do), smell the new-book (or musty old book) smell. You can takes notes and highlight and underline in them. You can pass them along to others. You can dog ear them. You can stick stickies in them.

And, in the meantime, you can be educated, informed, empowered, entertained and gain insight, wisdom and quiet.

It's that relationship with a book as an object that cannot be replaced by an e-reader. Yeah, the content might all be there, but it's not the same experience.

I, for example, never used to write in my books. I wanted my books to remain pristine. Sometimes I used bookmarks, but I usually just bent the top corner of the page I was on. Still do. It's fun to re-read something and see that s…

One Day

So in addition to an earthquake shaking us up in New York for thirty seconds, I finished this novel the other day and I want to tell you guys about it, because, as usual, it has spawned an idea. And it's really, really good and you should run out and get it right now.

The book is called One Day by David Nicholls. It is about Dexter and Emma, who meet at their college graduation on July 15, 1988. The book then follows Dex and Em through their lives--their friendship, careers, mistakes, drunken nights, relationships--every July 15th for the next twenty years. So basically, chapter one is July 15, 1988 and chapter two is July 15, 1989.

What I loved about this premise is that there is a great deal of reality, despite the clear fictional structure. Some years, it seems, Dex and Em have been talking and hanging out a lot and so, when July 15th rolls around, they are hanging out together. Other years, they've lost touch with each other or are plain busy, so they are living their sep…

Because sometimes it's nice to borrow other people's characters instead of analyzing your own.

So I wrote this after re-reading some old fanfiction on my computer and online. Because sometimes it's nice to borrow other people's characters instead of analyzing your own. 
Author's Note: I want my season 2 of Downton Abbey now. I saw this clip and of course, my mind spun off into directions. Also, I can't remember the last time I wrote a fanfic based on a show or a movie, so….be gentle. Disclaimer: I don't Downton Abbey. Obviously. If I did own it, it would be the Branson and Sybil show.

The rant about race

Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help on cover selection:
"They sent me this really gorgeous black-and-white cover of an older black woman's hand holding a white baby's hand. I told them I loved it and within thirty seconds, they called me and said, 'Oh my God, no, we can't use that... people might think it's about race." 
I've been thinking about race a lot lately anyhow, but reading and finishing The Help has me ruminating on the topic, so just bear with me for the epic length of this post. A lot of this--most of it--is because of my book, which is not nearly as finished or polished or as complex, as of yet, as The Help. And of course, since The Help is set in the American South in the early 1960s, when Jim Crow was still the order of the day, it's a familiar setting to American readers because we all had to learn about it in school. It's part of American history, one that is still definitely very much felt till this day. 
Remember in 2008, w…

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I'm sure you've all heard of this book or the upcoming movie starring Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone. 
It is about three women living in early 1960s Jackson, Mississsippi: Aibileen, a longtime black maid who has raised seventeen white children; her outspoken friend, Minny, who is just a too opinionated for the comfort of the white ladies of Jackson to employ her as their maid; and Skeeter, a white girl, a recent college grad and aspiring writer, who wants to write about Jackson and its people--but from the perspective of the help. 
I've only just gotten up to the part where Skeeter begins her project by interviewing Aibileen and Minny, but with three different narrators and a beautifully written and detailed narrative--you can literally read the different voices these women have--it's a surprisingly gripping read. Kind of reminds me of The Secret Life of Bees a little bit, but the similarities are really just that it's Southern, the '60s, and about r…

Meet Mr. Tops

Ladies, gents, followers, lurkers and dinosaurs---

I give you, Mr. Tops--the traveling triceratops.

Seriously, Mr. Tops has traveled about extensively in the Northeast. Check out his blog:

You can look for updates in the sidebar with the other blogs I follow.

Practical Tips on Writing a Book from 23 Brilliant Authors

Found this list via Twitter (thanks @NaNoWriMo)

Practical Tips on Writing a Book from 23 Brilliant Authors

These authors write non-fiction, so I think their advice on not reading similar subjects while writing may work for them, but doesn't necessarily work for me. I would think that non-fiction, non-memoir involves a ton of notes as well, so I'm ignoring the organizing of interviews and research. I did a bit of work in that direction when I was ruminating over Iggy, by using wikispaces as a more comprehensive way to organize myself so I could really see what I had. 
I'm not normally one to go with advice given by published authors, oddly enough, but I can relate to a few things on this list:

Ben Casnocha
Entrepreneur and author of My Start-Up Life Shitty first drafts. Anne Lamott nailed it! But with books, it seems to be more like “shitty 20th drafts.” So shitty, for so long.Develop a very serious plan for dealing with internet distractions. I use an app called Self-Control on…