27 February 2011

New Beginnings

How many times have I ranted on here that I was going to burn the novel? Never look at it again? Throw it out my window? (Okay, I don't think I've ever threatened to defenestrate the novel, but it's a viable option.)

Last month I rejoiced . . . it was finished! I was read to query agents. They were going to fight over my story because it was just that awesome. Uh-hu, those were the delusions of grandeur that were galloping through my mind. Hey, give me a break, I'd spent 2 ½ months rewriting the novel from the beginning. And now I'm going to do it again.

I'm sure I've mentioned it in the last week. (Is it sad that I'm too lazy to go back and look?) I've go yet another insane self-imposed deadline that I'm writing to, and life is about to explode in several directions. Oh boy, here we go again.

How do people with kids do this? Seriously!

Today I finished the new first chapter of my novel. I'm trying to make the voice of my protagonist stronger. She needs to be a more aggressive character in general, and that is one of the items I am working on. I've got some cool ideas for the middle of the story, and I'm actually excited to write them.

It's going to be a rough, fast road this time around. I just hope I can keep up.

26 February 2011

Beef Welling-who?

Tonight I had the opportunity to go to a cooking class. A very nice, and enthusiastic, woman named Victoria had fourteen people over in her little condo for a demonstration on how to cook beef wellington. Should that be capitalized? It sounds very formal, like the Duke of Buckingham, or whatever. Beef Wellington—sounds capitalized to me.

Okay, I'll be honest (because what else am I good at, right?) before tonight I didn't have any idea what Beef Wellington was. Beef. Okay, I deduced that bit of it. Wellington . . . I've got nothing there. It's a place in England? And in New Zealand. I've been there, but didn't notice any beef hanging around in the streets, on the billboards or at the pier. And, unlike me, I didn't bother to Google it before I left.

So I wasn't prepared. I hadn't steeled myself against the 1/2” thick layer of sliced and diced mushrooms she put under the beef. Ugh. I'm not a huge mushroom fan. Mostly it's a texture thing (they don't have a horribly offensive taste on their own) but I normally avoid them. In this case—impossible. Not only did she lay down the mushroom law on the Beef Wellington, but also on the salmon wellington.

Hey, look at that, salmon wellington doesn't have the same ring as Beef Wellington does. No caps there.

The food was still good, despite the extraneous layer of mushrooms. Although my favorite bit was the orange gelato that she made. Yum! Oh, and the potatoes. A good heap of mashed potatoes is hard to ignore. I didn't bother to try.

I'll probably never try to make Beef (or salmon) Wellington, but it was fun to watch someone make it look so easy!

23 February 2011


It's been a while since Ninja-Wannabe had had some typing time. Last night at Kung Fu class, we practiced some ground work.

I remember this one time at a belt test when we did our entire workout from the ground. I don't know how kids do it, rolling around, kicking, flailing and crawling. It's exhausting!

Anyway, last night we did some backward rolls. Okay, so let's consider a few things. I'm short, I'm round and I've got a big butt. Not only the butt (we'll get back to that in a second) but plenty of rolls and, shall we say obstructions, in other areas. So I look like a ball, but don't roll very well. Especially backwards. Sure, the young things, and those accursed slender people, had no problem tossing their tiny bums up and over themselves. I, on the other hand, got about ¾ of the way over before halting and flopping to the side like a cold fish. I tried, hopefully there are bonus points for that.

After that we did forward rolls. Those I can do. It took me two weeks of lining my living room with all of the couch pillows I could find to get it right, but now I can do them from a run if I have to.

Our last challenge was taking someone down to the ground. To make a long story short (too late?) we grabbed each other by the lapels, got into a shoving match, and then ended up on the ground.

Hey, stop that, keep it clean people.

I've got knuckle marks all over my chest from my partner. Wearing a shirt hurts. I get bruises a lot, but I haven't had the opportunity to, uh, toughen up at section of my body. Poor girls.

20 February 2011

Lessons Learned at LTUE

For anyone who doesn't know, Life the Universe and Everything (LTUE) is a science fiction and fantasy writing convention down at BYU in Provo, Utah. It's been going on for almost 30 years. Every year since I heard about it, I remember to look into it two weeks after it's over. So this year I was persistent and managed to get Friday off of work so I could go! (It helped to have some of the other Death Camp survivors coming.)

I took pages and pages and more pages of notes. There wasn't anything earth-shattering that I heard, but that's okay. I went down there this past weekend with one goal in mind—how do I make my novel awesome?

That was it. This is the first time going to a convention that I've been able to say that! I sat in every session desperately looking for ideas and concepts that I was either missing or that I've forgotten about. I found a few, and I thought I would share them here. Aren't you lucky?

The first was a question. What can't you do with your magic system? Any story in which magic is a key element will be defined by what the magic is unable to accomplish. I have plenty of things the magic system does in my novel, but I hadn't thought specifically about what it can't do. Not that I remember anyway.

The second came from a presentation Tracy Hickman gave. He was using Lord of the Rings to show us plot and story telling, and he mentioned a threshold. When Samwise says (and this is the films) If I take one more step it'll be the furthest I've ever been from home. Something like that anyway. This is the threshold—the point of no return, so to speak—when the character steps over a line that will send them into the adventure (and possible horror) beyond. I made a note to figure out where my character's threshold his. This isn't hard to identify, but I hadn't ever thought about it.

I put a star next to the third one while I was listening to a panel about agents. Query like crazy and keep track of everything you get back and send out. I knew this, but I felt like it was important.

Interestingly, the next note came out of a dialogue panel. Stories are about conflict. Duh, I know that, but when someone said it, I immediately flipped to another section of my notebook and started to write down places in my novel where I've somehow diffused or downplayed a potential conflict. Be meaner to the characters. Another bit of advise I got from a good friend on Friday night.

Characters seem to be my biggest weakness. Write characters people connect with. The guy giving this presentation expressed his difficulty in learning to make strong main characters. He said he would get finished with the first draft of a novel and find that he'd written a protagonist that was generically boring and got pushed around with wherever the story went. Huh, that sounds all too familiar. His subsequent revisions were much better because he would put a backbone into his protagonist and release them back into the story. Make sure your characters have sizzle.

One of the editors said (and this is brilliant advise) that the best way to get out of the slush pile is to be in it in the first place. I'll just leave that one alone. It explains itself.

This next bit I wrote down and put a star next to, however, I'm not sure I fully comprehend it. Figure out the difference between with holding information and unfolding the story through the characters asking the right questions. Good point. Not sure I get it yet, but I'll work on it.

So what did I learn? The novel needs some more work. As the Prince of Tennis says, “You've still got a long way to go.” I hate that little kid.

18 February 2011


I'm off to Life, the Universe and Everything down at BYU this morning. I don't usually hang out at BYU, but in this case I've decided to make an exception. There will be local authors, classes about writing, discussions about characters, ideas on how to come up with ideas and probably a few random things that will surprise me. Hopefully those will be good things. Bad surprises tend to go awry, if you know what I mean.

The gems if wisdom (or the tales of the ridiculous) that are discovered will be posted later this weekend.

14 February 2011

Not Allowed

Who knew that on Mondays, after work, I should not be sent to the store without a written list. Nor should I go to an unfamiliar grocery store without a shopping buddy.

Four things. One would think that I could remember four items for long enough to find them, purchase them and then get back out to my car. Uh, no. I got the cake and the ice cream for the Single's Awareness Day party that we went to. Check. I remembered to get the Pepto Bismol (this third item has nothing to do with the first two). Check. I went looking for the Sprite at least three times, got distracted by other things that I may or may not have needed, and managed to make it all the way out to my car before I remembered it. Ugh.

Any idea how busy a grocery store with a good bakery is on Valentine's Day afternoon? I was not going back in there. I toyed with the idea of going through the McDonald's drive-thru, but juggling a 32oz cup, a cake and the eight bags that I got for my nine items at the store felt more like a recipe for disaster than anything else. So I went to a store I am more familiar with, found the Sprite on sale and picked up a bottle. Getting it all up the stairs was great fun, but I didn't drop anything!

Happy Single's Awareness Day, by the way. I look at it this way—no one gave me chocolates that I have to go work off at the gym for the rest of the week.

13 February 2011


Last night I went to see the high school production of Les Miserables down at Woods Cross High, my old alma mater. (Just a side note, I had no idea that alma mater was spelled like that. When I look at the second word I think of 'Mater from Cars. You know, To-mater, without the to?)

I'll skip the nostalgia that came over me as we walked in. Sadly I haven't gained any height since High School, so the entire building doesn't seem shorter than it used to. Oh, sorry, I was going to skip this part.

As we sat and watched this powerful production about the French Revolution, I couldn't help but think of the recent protests in Egypt. I'm no expert on the subject, but I've paid enough attention to be extremely impressed by the fortitude of the Egyptian people. How easily could that entire situation have turned violent? But it didn't. The people persevered, following their dream of a better country and government for both themselves and their children.

A woman sitting behind us during the play told us that she'd been to Paris and had seen bullet holes in buildings from the French Revolution. Scars that will never be healed. How amazing is it that the world has changed so much? Not all of it for the better, and not all of it for the worse. We move forward the best we can, hoping that the next step will take us to a better place.

As Dory from Finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming . . .”

On a side note, I also thought it was apropos that Viewmont High is performing the Scarlet Pimpernel next month. Did they plan a whole French Revolution theme? Not that the two high schools would ever work together. No, no. There will be none of that!

09 February 2011

Another Installment in the Novel Saga

My novel is written. It needs one more go around of editing before I sent it off to a copy editor (it's good to know someone), but right now I feel like it's close. I've put together a query letter. Again, it's not perfect, but it does the job. Yesterday I finished the first round of a synopsis. Okay, this needs some serious love, but I figure it'll come in time. And who needs a synopsis before anyone requests the manuscript anyway?

Whew. That's a lot of work back there in that last paragraph. Novel, query, synopsis, outline (not before mentioned, but very important) and a partial outline for the rest of the series.

And now I have to do what? Make a list of agents who want to sell my novel?

They don't even know it yet, but they're dying to read my novel. It's what they've been waiting for all year long. Haha, I wish it was that good.

Back to the list. So I get to troll the web, searching for literary agents who represent:
-Young Adult
-Contemporary Fantasy
-First time authors

Why doesn't this sound fun to me? I'm getting ADD in my old age. I swear as a kid I loved to dive into things, figure out how they worked, watching them for hours on end. Now if I can't get it finished in fifteen minutes I get irritable or bored. Or both. Ninja girl likes quick and mean.

A few months ago I made the insane goal to start sending query letters out by Valentine's Day of 2011. Yes, that would be next Monday. The scary thing is . . . I could do it. Should I do it? Will I do it? I'll let you know. It's never to early to start collecting rejection letters, now is it? What a lovely Valentine's Day gift that would be.

06 February 2011

Gosh, Can I?

This afternoon I went to a Super Bowl party. Frankly, unless the Bronco's are playing I don't care who wins. I spent seven of my most impressionable years living just outside of Denver, so no matter what, they're my team. Even if they're terrible. Which they frequently are.

So basically I was there for the food, the commercials and the chatting. Someone thought it would be a great idea to put a TV in the same room as the food. Not good. Having the ability to graze while still being able to watch the game (or whatever else happen to be on) allowed every stitch of self control that I have—had—to jump out the window and run for Canada.

In another room they had an Xbox Kinect hooked up to yet another huge TV. I wandered in there to get away from the grazing. They all know that I take a Self Defense class (Yes, I took the opportunity to show off my latest shin bruise) so one of the guys said I had to play the boxing match.

Okay, I have to admit that it was pretty fun. However, I was too fast for it.

Wait, wait, don't think I'm saying that I'm all that. No, no. Not even close. Speed is not a description that can be used for any part of my martial arts unless you are commenting on the lack of it. So to be punching faster than the Kinect could keep up was just wrong. Maybe it was the hook punches I kept throwing. And it didn't like back fists much either. Then there was the problem that I kept advancing on my opponent! A little warning on the bottom of the screen telling me to “Move Back” kept coming up.

Me? Aggressive? Moving forward? Quick, someone tell sensei!

Oh, and in case no one warns you, the Kinect takes extremely unflattering pictures of you while you flail about trying to hit things that aren't there. Ha ha, very funny.

05 February 2011

Query Letter Tips

I wandered around on a few web sites trying to figure out how to write a good query letter. Here is a list of the tips I gleaned on my journey.

-Structure your query like your story. Unfold it for the agent or editor
-Don't put your punch-line / reveal right up front
-Entice the recipient into reading your novel—that's the whole point
-Read it aloud to make sure it flows well and sounds good
-Make sure you have rhythm in your sentences
-Take out everything that isn't needed—extra words and flowery descriptions
-Including the character's motivations is key. What does the character want?
-Make it clear what the stakes are your novel
-What choices need to be made by the protagonist?
-Show, don't tell . . .
-Who is the antagonist?
-Don't send a list of “ingredients” (a boring outline) send how to bake your cake
-The entire query letter should be right around 250 words
-Show the voice of your story in the query letter
-The level of polishing and writing in your query reflects on what is expected from your novel
-Include the word count and genre at the end of the query. Title of book should be in all caps
-Leave out personal details about yourself unless they somehow pertain to the agent or (and better) the story. If you're a nurse and the story is about a hospital note that. If you're a nurse and your story is about flying pigs, probably doesn't matter.
-Use the agent's name when you query
-Make sure they represent what you're trying to sell them

Telling the agent if this is there are planned sequels for this novel is up for debate. Some say yes, others say no.

I'm still working on my query. There never seems to be quite enough time in the day . . .