Monday, November 30, 2009

December is tomorrow!

December is tomorrow! And there's so much left to do!

I can hardly believe that in 25 days, it will be that time of the year again. I love Christmas, and everything about it--the traditions, the sweets, the foods, the sharing and caring (that *should* go on throughout the year), the stories, the gifts of the magi (thank you, O. Henry!), and everything else that you can think of. Music, concerts. Little tots with their eyes all aglow.

Oh, but there's so much to do! Twenty-five days doesn't give me nearly enough time. I have to bake my cookies, decorate my home, prepare presents, write two (yes--two) separate Christmas letters, send off everything else, *and* stay on top of my normal duties.

Can I do it? That's the big question of the day. I just have to remember to breathe deeply! It won't be difficult, if the scent of gingerbread and popcorn and other goodies is still in the air...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Happy Black Friday!

I had a good day. Got up at 3:45; ran with hordes of people in all different directions; raced for the best bargains. Towed my mother around. Found gifts for my family. Gifts for me, too (I shouldn't have! Really!).

We go every year; and every year, I have an interesting experience. Not always the best. Black Friday really can bring out the worst in a person, and it's just a shame that that's the case. Like last year, when deaths were reported, due to the fact that people were greedy for goods.

Yes, Black Friday is commercial, but does it really need to be as bad as all that? Good gravy. Death by shopping? It would be funny, in a morbid way, if it weren't true. And in my experiences, it just keeps getting worse.

Last year, I felt like I could have been carried inside Target (I was waiting on the outside) by the wave of people crunched all around me. I could have picked up my feet and let the sheer force of bodies on all sides of me keep me up and take me in.

This year, I played it cool, and just tried to make my way in to find what I needed. I didn't get caught in the push of bodies...until I got inside.

One of the worst experiences inside, this year! People crazy, people running everywhere, things sold out in minutes! And one woman who apparently decided that if she pushed against me with her cart hard enough and enough times, she could make me vanish and go right through where I had been. I may have a bruised heel tomorrow. I may have one already, actually. And she didn't care.

I know I can't complain too much. I do go, myself, after all. (For the adrenaline rush! And the sales.) But I do believe that people should still respect each other. Go around each other. Not just kick someone out of the way. There is no excuse for that. Black Friday should not be a contact sport, nor should it require supervision.

We all may be crazy, but we're not that crazy. Or, we shouldn't be.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oh, Barbie, you spoiled child

What the heck? Barbie has a chartered jet? Or she can, if you buy it for her, for whatever the price may be.

I just discovered this on an ad for Black Friday goodness (or badness, depending on your views) at Kohl's, and it makes me think about the controversies surrounding Barbie and her friends and her penthouse suite and unrealistic figure and the blow up surrounding her boyfriend Ken (if they're still dating--I don't remember. Curses upon Blaine!)

So, how did Barbie get a jet? I know from magazines I received when I was little, being a fan of Barbie as I was, that she was a model. But she's an every girl's girl, too. She is a movie star, but she's also a doctor, a career woman, a teacher. And somehow she is able to afford a chartered jet? I grew up knowing I could get a car, someday--sure, maybe not a plastic pink one--but in an economy like this, are little girls going to grow up thinking it's easy to get a jet of their own--even if their parents can't afford the toy?

I'm all for dreaming, but something about this strikes me as ridiculous.

As does this link. Bella and Edward Barbies. The horror.

Friday, November 20, 2009

NDYP Columns

So, because I don't want to run out of things to write, I'm going to shamelessly endorse my own columns and writings. Not that I'm out of ideas. Now that I'm slipping into the groove of updating a blog, it does seem like there are constantly things to comment on, to discuss, to write about. But I digress.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


This post is filled with blinding self-pity, so you shouldn't read it. FYI.

What in the world am I doing?

Trying to write a book? Trying to write at all? What in the world makes me feel that I am qualified to write anything?

And this--my first novel. How is *that* going to go over? First novels shouldn't sell. Right? Even if they've been gone through and changed hundreds of times, quite literally? This isn't what I started with. But is what I'm ending with any better?

Why is this even important to me? How is this going to make a difference? If I sell this book, will it actually sell to anyone else? How does one become creative, and how come I seem to be lacking the creative gene? And how am I to cover for it, and continue on?

OK. End message.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Addendum to "Self-publishing"

Prepare for rejection. Expect it. Often you will get nothing more than a form letter along with your rejections. If you're lucky, you'll get a few lines of constructive criticism. Writing is a lot like dating, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.

People will tell you a story is terrible. Don't storm off. Ask them why they don't like it and what they would do to change it. Don't get me wrong, if you believe in something, REALLY believe in it, don't change a thing. But think of rejection as a chance to polish your story. Or submit somewhere else and be prepared for possible rejection again. Even the best writers spent years being rejected before someone stood up and took notice.

-Will Ross, author of Barfly and One Eighteen: Migration.

Self-publishing nightmares

This is perhaps not the best name for this entry. I think it is very obvious why people should not self-publish. First of all, it seems important for new authors to go through the anguish of rejection before they make it big--it adds so much more to the importance of the FIRST BIG STEP that they are receiving. Self-publishing feels like cheating. And self-publishing--well--if you're the only one who thinks your book or story or novel is good enough to be published, what's the point? What will your readership be like? And doesn't that take your book down a few notches?

OK. So, I discovered that I tend to get worked up over this subject. How, you may ask? I found this article on a local newspaper site: a story of a girl who published something because she thought it would be cool and different.

First major issue I have with this? It's not different. Heck, it seemed like a good 30 percent of my graduating class was writing a book before school got out. Me, too. And you know what? I'm still writing it! I'm still revising it! And thank heavens I am, because it was trash. Trash! Do you know how a high schooler writers? Not everyone can drag out Eragon before they hit college. (Not that I've actually read Eragon yet, by the way.)

Now, I'm glad this girl has done something like this. Writing and working on a big project like this totally helps evolve your understanding of language in a way that a grammar class simply can't. But I don't think she should have published this quite yet. And I think she needed another editor. And, I think she should have gotten rejected a few times, too.

Case in point: here is a bit of an excerpt of her book, taken from the Web site she has up for it.


Amid a rising storm, a powerful elf walked towards a great castle. Drops of rain spattered his face as the wind blew his hair across his eyes. He gripped the hilt of the sword in his left hand, tucked securely into his belt. He edged slowly toward the castle, forcing himself to follow through with his decision. When he approached the thick gray gates, a malicious guard stopped him, staring at him with fierce eyes.

“And just where do you think you’re going?” the man spat at him.

“I came to see Soren. He is expecting me,” said the elf, keeping his voice apathetic.

“Does Lord Aleron know of this?” he demanded.

“Yes, he has been informed.”

“Okay. I’ll take you to Aleron.”

The man silently led the way, the elven man smirking at how easy it had been to get in. The elf watched as the man unlocked the large silver castle door, his grip tightening on his sword. As the man finished tattering with the lock, he hastily jerked out his sword. When the human turned, he jumped in alarm. The elf made one quick thrust of his sword, wincing as he watched the guard gasp in pain; his eyes rolled back as fell to the ground. He knew this was the only way his plan would work and trudged through the door, glancing back one last time to see the crimson stained human. He knew that could easily be him next.

He moved slowly, trying to remain quiet and unseen. What would happen if Aleron saw him? He shuddered and pushed the thought from his mind. He studied his surroundings, glad that this part of the castle seemed to be deserted.

Only a little further now and he would encounter Soren. He slowed to a walk and cautiously peered around the corner to see a man guarding Soren’s door; he was far more muscular than the slender elf and had mussed blond hair. A large sword was slung on his back. The elf decided to get him away from the door first. He walked out from behind the corner to where he could easily be seen. The man guarding the door spotted the elf at once and began yelling ‘intruder.’

The elf began running away from Soren’s door and sure enough, Soren’s guard followed. The elf pressed himself against the wall around a corner as the man continued running past him. The elf drew his sword and stabbed the guard from behind and ran back towards the door, briefly looking back to see the guard lying on the ground. His attack had been swift and precise.

He knocked on Soren’s door anxiously; his hands were now shaking violently. He could hear footsteps approaching as more guards were coming. He had just killed two people and was about to kill yet another, but it had to be done. It was the only way.

A lanky human who looked no older than seventeen opened the door. He had a long narrow chin with high, defined cheekbones. His reddish brown hair fell across his forehead. At the very top of his cheeks were faint blue streaks. His mouth was curved into a small frown. He eyed the elf in disgust with his flashing red eyes.

Soren, I have an important message for you,” said the elf in a keen voice.

“A message? From whom?” he asked apathetically.

OK, if you made it this far, you may be thinking one of two things--either that I'm being too critical, or that this was a hard passage to read. Grammatically okay but not great, too much description, some confusing phrasing, bad word choices, first line needs work--

This is my real problem with self-publishing. Writing should be a work of art. It should mean something, if not to anyone else, at least to you. If it's not--what's the point of it? Here is a way I would edit part of this passage: add description, delete senseless words and change many word choices; not describe people so much in terms of how they look, and express fierceness, apathy, fear, whatever. Don't use the term apathetic, especially not twice within a few pages. Let the ideas grow a little. This story could have been so much sharper.

We all start somewhere, and I think it's great that this girl is writing at all...but how can I take it seriously? Published as if it's a real book, yet edited and written by this girl, published by her, and obviously not ready for it.

But that's the beauty of self-publishing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Health issues

I find that I, an anti-news person almost all of my life, have become obsessed with it. Well, as obsessed as I can be with it. Perhaps this is due in part to my year's work at a local newspaper; perhaps this is due to the current situation of the world: recession, politics (which I am not such a fan of, by the way), world interest. It could be because I really like Harry from CBS' early show, too. Not completely sure. But more and more, I find myself discussing news with my friend at work.

We have some pretty interesting discussions, and today's morphed from new reports by some that people shouldn't be getting mammograms, to men with breast cancer on the rise, to this article from Newsweek: The Case for Killing Granny. She found it, or heard about it--I had not. She sent me this link, and I read it, a little--just a bit. What with the current health care issue, it seems all of this is ever more important, ever more interesting. Most of the time, I feel I don't know what to think. But if a person wants to die, isn't that their right? If a person wants to live, shouldn't they have that option? And if a young woman can get cancer at the age of 27, why shouldn't mammograms be important, no matter the age of the woman (or man)?

I don't know. I really don't. And I hate to not be able to tie up my posts. But there you have it. News never really ends, either. And maybe this is sort of like reports on the healthiness of eggs. First they're bad, then they're good, then the cycle starts all over again. It's almost like the old question of the Chicken and the Egg. In fact, maybe all health issues can be related back to that question.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is a fantastic author. Seriously, he just blows my mind.

Last night, instead of sleeping, I stayed up to read yet another one of his short stories out of "M is for Magic," a book geared more for younger readers (though it still contains some heavier themes, much like his other books). It's been fantastic so far, and in fact, it includes a chapter out of one of my favorites of his books--in fact, another book for younger readers: The Graveyard Book.

When I think of these stories, and others he's written--like Coraline, which was made into a decent film by Tim Burton--and Stardust, another motion picture made from his books--I just get so inspired, myself.

Some days, it feels like there is no new Narnia, no new Hogwarts, no new worlds or lands that can possibly be pushed in the way that Lewis, Rowling, Tolkien, Coville, E. Nesbit and other authors have created. And yet--when Gaiman publishes something so bone-chilling, so imaginative and so lustrous out of something that sometimes seems so obvious (when you get to the end), but which you can't see for the beauty of the writing and of the weaving, I feel chills of excitement.

Neil Gaiman inspires me to push myself, to find that blood-curdling edge, to go beyond my imagination. His works seem to tell me it's okay. He writes with such heart, too, and with such conviction--I know his worlds are real.

I will always treasure his books--and thank him for his stories.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The old ways

OK. So, we tend to look down on old wives' tales, right?

The guy in this article--he reminds me of my grandpa. I never met the man, but my mom tells me stories about him. No, he didn't butcher pigs and look at their spleens, nor did he do any other form of augury. However, he could tell weather from different environmental factors. Some my mother told me about; some she didn't.

For example: Heavy fog can make for heavy moisture after 4 to 6 months, as I recall. It's a bit more exact than that, but I really couldn't say for sure, anymore.

The fur on a caterpillar can tell what sort of winter it will be. Heavier for colder winters; less for milder winters.

People laugh at a lot of this. There's no science in it, some say. It's an old wives' tale.

I've seen a lot of this stuff in action. And I've seen it actually work. And it makes sense, to me. Don't we find that we can develop or lose abilities, based on what we know? In fact, it seems to me that it is somewhat related to some evolutionary theories. Survival of the fittest; changing for what is to come.

I don't know if it's all true, but I do have to say--it shouldn't all be laughed at. And I'm going to make sure I have a shovel handy.

But I would do that anyway. After all, experience teaches, as well. And I know what it's like to winter in the midwest, no matter what the caterpillars are saying.

Right now, though, they aren't talking.