31 January 2012


I'm sure I've written about this before. The five “rules” of our dojo are:

Self Control

I'm still not sure why they're called rules—more like guidelines really. The rules consist more of things like:

No singing on the dojo. Except Sensei.
Only hit your neighbor if you are willing to accept the consequences.
Don't flinch when Sensei uses you as the punch in dummy.
Break a mirror and the rest of us get to plan your funeral.

Back to the first set.


Tonight we got started and after a brief meditation (so short even I, the short one, missed it) began with punches.

Oh, another rule is to kiya (however you spell it) each time you either strike or get hit.

Well, we threw out some punches, and only a few people in class did a kiiiiyyyyyaaaa! I almost always do it. Where else can I yell for an hour and not get in trouble? So sound factor was weak. Also, as I looked around I could see that no one was really into it. If our punches were handshakes, a majority of us gave the limp fish.

Not good. I saw Sensei go from being in a good mood to his face dropping into a mask of “seriously?”, his teeth clenching together and his eyes narrowing at us.

Great, I thought. Just wonderful. Here we go.

Sure enough, we then did more kicks than we've done in the whole month of January combined. We got a mini version of the “do you have the fighting spirit? If someone comes after you and you're tired or having a bad day, will you back down or do something about it?” speech he delivers a few times a year.

Effort. Put the effort into it, and not only will you probably enjoy it more, but you'll improve. And Sensei won't get mad. There is something to be said for keeping that man happy.

I'm really sweaty. Proof of my effort I suppose. Go ninja girl!

I think I need a writing sensei to help me put effort into my writing--it's been waning this past week. How do I get one of those?

28 January 2012

Are You Man Enough?

Or in my case, woman enough?

Today I read an article that quoted author Douglas Preston. He said this regarding what to do if you are stumped about what should happen next in your novel:

“Wow, what's the worst possible thing—and do I have enough courage to go there?”

I admit, much of the time I lack that courage. It can take me quite a while to decide that I can indeed torture my characters with the worst I think up. And I'm not even that mean.

How am I supposed to feel about getting meaner? Really, this sort of thing isn't exactly encouraged. At least not in my family. Growing up, if Mom heard anyone utter the words “shut-up” there were very, very serious consequences. Anything meaner and you may as well give up your life as you knew it. Tolerance, kindness and respect was the code at home—enforced by my mother's iron fist.

And now I need to be mean to people? I'm not only supposed to shatter every dream they've ever held dear, but also kill the ones they love, take away any respite they may find, have their friends betray them and perhaps harm their cute, fluffy pets?

Wow, I'm a monster.

“He's like a monster.”
“I'm not a monster!”

Brownie points if anyone can tell me where those two lines are from.

I guess it's time to let the Ninjas in my Kempo class beat me a bit. Toughen me up so I can do horrible things to innocent characters.

Being a writer is hard!

25 January 2012

Get Thee a Writing Group!

I think the single, most important thing I have done in my writing world is to be in a writing group.

From the first time I watched Aliens (no idea why this lit the spark, but it did) when I was about twelve, I've wanted to write awesome stories. Stories that “got” people like Aliens captured me. Action, suspense, a bit of romance, more action, aliens, men in uniform (not needed, but definitely a bonus), terror . . . all of it.

The first few attempts shall remain scratched on papers that will only see the light of day when some poor sap has to go through my “stuff” after I die. You may want to just burn it all.

I thought about stories a lot. And for a long time I had one set of characters that I would just randomly write cool scenes using. I called them random acts of fiction. Man could I write a scene! However, stringing them together didn't work at all. Plot. That's all I'll say about that.

Six or seven years ago (perhaps I should have the exact date in my notes—life changing and all that), a friend of mine said she wanted to start a writing group. I said I would join. Six of us got together and started the Accidental Metaphors, or Metaphors for short.

We met for a year or two, can't remember really, before people got married and moved away. Stupid real life.

But in a strange way, I owe pursuing writing to this little group. We only wrote short stories, which I'm not very good at, but it brought me into the world of being accountable for the words I put on a page.

I've come a long way since that group, but the beginning of my story I owe to them!

So get yourself a writing group. Writing buddies. Dudes to hang out with and talk about writing over milkshakes. Whatever. It will help. And you'll figure out real quick if you care enough about writing to pursue it at this juncture of your life. Next month could be a different world.

23 January 2012


I needed something to do besides fail at outlining the other day, so I tried an exercise.

Not the physical kind—don't be silly. Those are very regulated, and since it wasn't one of those days there will be none of that.

I'm talking about a writing exercise.

So I got on Google Images (can I just express my serious doubts that I ever lived without Google?) and pulled up living rooms. About half-way down the page I found one I liked and looked at it.

Quite exhausting, all that looking, I tell you what. Especially since I tried looking from four different perspectives. What if the characters from my latest story got stuck in this place for a weekend. What would their thoughts be?

Char #1
There are a lot of windows in here. One set better be a sliding door. Only one way out of a room is bad. And all that glass—perfect shrapnel for when the gun fight starts. (Way to represent, ninja girl!)

Char #2
Look at that couch. I hope I brought a book, because I plan to lay there, admiring the view and reading all weekend long. If anyone interrupts me, I'll paper cut their fingers and pour lemon juice in them. Who was in charge of snacks again?

Char #3
Ooh! Water! Boats! Let me out, let me out, let me out . . .

Char #4
Is there a jogging trail along the water? I think I brought my shoes. Maybe I can get Char #2 off the couch so we can go trolling for men. We should have a party tomorrow night.

Okay, kind of lame examples, but the exercise helped me quite a lot. One character is an artist. What would draw her eye first? Would the others even notice the painting on the wall, or the beautiful wood floors? It gave me a chance to delve. I struggle going deep with characters or stories because it feels like a waste of time.

Yes, I know it's not, but it feels like it.

21 January 2012

What Were You Thinking!?!

I yelled that at someone today. Well, the exact quote (because it was present tense, because I was there) went more like, “What are you doing!?!”

The bonus punctuation is in there for a reason.

Let's start with the rain. Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day—in like March. I don't know about the rest of the valley, but we got drowned all day long.

Well, all day until the temperature dropped just enough to turn the falling objects into first slush and then snow.

I knew I should have run my errands this morning before Kung Fu class. But NOOooooo, I waited until after I'd had my shower and done my hair. (Note: doing hair on humid day is a waste of time.)

Late this afternoon I headed up the hill. I live at the bottom of the hill—not the “west side”, just the bottom, okay? As I ascended, the falling slush turned white, and began to stick. By the time I was within a mile of my destination, the roads were gone, replaced by newly souped-up car skating tracks.

Remember, going up the hill.

At one point there is some downhill, and since the road ahead of me stood clear of other cars, I built up some speed so I wouldn't spin my tires going up. Hey, don't judge, I've almost got stuck twice before on this very hill, so back off!

Well, there is one, lonely, usually deserted street that intersects the road I was on. Lo and behold, someone in a little, black Saturn creeps to the stop sign, doesn't stop, and pulls in front of me.

Not terribly close. But hello, it's slippery. And this bozo pulls out going like 5mph. I'm going 30. That gap closed really fast. If not for my pump action snowy road experience and anti lock breaks I probably would have either hit them or ended up on the side of the road. Stuck. In non-snow resistance shoes.

Yes, good job for going slow person in black Saturn. Yes, bad job for PULLING IN FRONT OF SOMEONE on slippery roads.

I'm sure they thought they were doing the right thing. Even though not a car could be see behind me for a mile.

I guess it's all in the perspective. Mine is right, of course.

This got me thinking about writing. (Writing my “Some idiot made me crash my car” blog rant.) And I coupled that with some advise I read a few days ago about how different people/characters see the world around them from different eyes. An artist will see the beauty in something, while the practical girl will roll her eyes and note that if someone had to run away in those heels they'd be dragged off to the molester van for sure. Unless they can be used as weapons, of course.

I get my perspective. What was theirs? Not getting stuck at the corner? Not looking? Completely petrified of driving in the snow and ignoring the fact that there was another car coming? Texting? Late for something more important than their life?

I'll never know. But it did get me thinking. And my adrenaline going too.

19 January 2012

Lord Sunday

The fantastic conclusion to Garth Nix's NEW YORK TIMES bestselling series!

The House is falling apart, and when it is destroyed, all existence will be destroyed with it. Arthur Penhaligon and his friends Leaf and Suzy must use every power at their disposal - magical or practical - to defeat the enemies attacking them from all sides.
For Arthur, the most formidable challenge comes from Lord Sunday, the most elusive of the Trustees of the Will. Lord Sunday's magic is unlike anything Arthur has encountered before - and his secrets have the potential to destroy not only Arthur, but also all the people he holds dear.

(Hijacked from Amazon)

It's been years and years since I started this series. All of the books have been very imaginative and engaging. Although I do have to admit that large chunks of the sub-plots have been lost over the last few years—that's what happens when your brain is full and it starts dumping unimportant information out the back end. I wish I had a flash drive. Or one of those cool things in Harry Potter that keeps memories. Yes, I could look it up, but I'm not going to. Mostly to frustrate those who remember what it's called (and can perhaps spell it). :)

Anyway, I finally got this on CD from the library and listened to it in my car. The reader was great—has been since the beginning—and once again the imagination that went into the world building blew me away. Poor Arthur seems to be destined/cursed to live in the mysterious house forever—never again able to go home and be with his family. Leaf has to lead the charge to save the upper house with Daisy (a large everything killing plant who only obeys whoever has her leash) and Suzy has to be (can we have a gasp) responsible. Action, fun, adventure and plenty of tension.

Up until the very last part.

You know, the part that should be awesome.

To me it was a major let down. I drove down the freeway, yelling at my CD player. “What!?! That was the plan . . . all of these idiots knew the plan and not one of them ever bothered to TELL Aurthor? Not ONE!?!”

The words, “That's totally lame!” also came out a few times.

I hate it when the end of a book doesn't live up to the rest of the set up. Garth Nix is a genius. I love his writing, world building, magic systems and all of the deep tidbits he buries in his books. Not liking the end of this series made me sad. I'll keep reading Nix, but with somewhat lower expectations of the impending payoff.

Seriously, just the last thirty pages or so. *insert dramatic sigh*

17 January 2012

Bad (or good?) Amazon!

The publishing industry is in complete chaos right now. Someone posted this on Facebook, and I thought it was pretty interesting.


It infuriates me to think I'm coming into this business "late in the game." However, if I can manage to look at it as diving into a new wave, it might be different.

I've never been great a diving. I'm more a belly flop sort of girl. Or cannon ball. That might work.

Perspective. I think a few people have said a thing or two about it.

Like having to fight the biggest guy in the room. It can either be "I'm going to die" or, "If I can take this guy down his friends will leave me alone."

15 January 2012

One More Thing . . .

I forgot something. It relates to the Below the Belt post yesterday.

Not only is hitting below the belt a great way to command someone's attention, but it pretty much works every time.

Not 100% of the time, but probably 99.9%. And if you boys are feeling picked on (sorry, I promise to use a less delicate area of comparison next time) girls react the same way. They may recover faster, but it's a pressure point in the human body—male or female. Yes, I know this because it's happened to me. Grappling is brutal, and girls are way meaner than boys. Way meaner.

The point of a good hit to the groin is to make your opponent (or attacker) feel excruciating pain and to double them over. This leaves them open for further offensive on your part. For me that means I can now kick them in the head—normally out of reach.

So think about this; when you write, what reaction are you trying to induce? When you get that in your mind, figure out which of your writing tools will work to get that reaction.

Or, if that's too broad, which of your tricks in writing work every time?

A good hook will make people react the same way—I want to read more!!! What's going on? Tell me, tell me!!! They might become enraged at their co-workers or family if they're interrupted before they finish this one last chapter.

What other reactions do we, as authors, try to get out of our readers; laughter, shock, tears, a scream, a gasp, a giggle? Each one of these things requires a set up. A punch in the right place, so to speak.

The part of writing a story that is my most powerful weapon is usually dialogue. It can lead to almost all of the above. Shocking revelations, tear jerking confessions, belly aching laughter and maybe even a scream of protest or fear. I turn to dialogue when I need something done right. It's my #1 go to writing tool.

I need to work on a bundle of other tools, but I think I'll always be a dialogue girl. It's one of my best kicks to the . . . well, you know.

Anyone else have a go to tool?

14 January 2012

Hitting Below the Belt

Hey, I'm short. I have to use what I can . . . and if I can only reach that high, well, that's just the way it's going to be.

Whenever Sensei gives us a situation (some guy is going to grab you and take you to the molester van or whatever) and asks what we would do, a bunch of the women in my Kempo class say “Every other kick to the groin!”

It's a standard answer. Well, there is the woman who always pantomimes pulling her gun from her purse and simply shooting them, and one kid who says his plan is to use C-4. But for the rest of it, first shot of a dire situation is to hit below the belt—do it fast and hard so they can't come after you.

Believe it or not, this relates to writing.

As a writer, you want to hook your audience.

If I kick someone in the butt, they just look at me, grab me and take me to the molester van. (Okay, that wouldn't happen, but let's just say) If I kick them somewhere more, shall we say, sensitive, then I've got their attention. They're worrying about one thing only, not what they're going to have for dinner or that cute girl that just walked by. Focus.

That's what a hook is in writing. Those words that roll across the page—letters that might or might not be interesting—have to snatch the reader's attention . . . and keep it.

Not, “That's kind of interesting.”

Two paragraphs later, “I wonder what movies are playing this weekend.”

No, no, that won't do.

Grab and hold.

Don't imagine that. Sorry.

Back to writing. One hook isn't enough. The first hook doesn't have to be the big one, but it does have to lead to another, and another, and another, until you (the author) reveal the sucker punch that ensures that the reader is not going to set that book down when their phone chirps at them that they have a new text message.

Hooks. Love them. Work them. Write a bunch of them. Think back on all those books you read and at what point they made you go, “OOOoooohhhh!!!!!” or “What!?!”

The best part—you can use hooks in every paragraph it you're really excited about it. Try it!

10 January 2012

Do Something

The very, very, very, very ,very, very, very first lesson I ever learned in Kempo was this:

Do Something

Anything. A large fellow is coming at you with a haymaker, screaming at the top of his lungs, convinced that you took the last copy of Call of Duty . . . and you do what?

Quick! Defense Maneuver #2.

Wait, that doesn't work on a big guy. Well, not for me really. And it's better with more room. And not great with that strike. Hard to do in a crowded game store.

By now he's hit you and you're on the floor, Call of Duty being pried out of your grasping fingertips.

And why? Because you failed to react. The worst thing to do is nothing. Something, even something horribly wrong, is better than just standing there waiting.

I've been on belt tests where they told us to do a specific technique. All reason bleeds out of my mind and dribbles onto the floor where it puddles nicely and waves up at me. Leaving me with nothing. But I do something. Dodge, hit, kick . . . do not stand there. Sure, sometimes the instructors come by and give an overly friendly punch because you did the wrong thing. But trust me, the punch they'll give you for doing nothing is much, much worse.

This relates to writing. Writing something, even if it's worse than terrible, is better than staring at the screen and typing nothing. Or just watching TV instead of even booting up the computer.

Write something. Every single day. Don't be afraid to suck. Find more writing tools to put into your tool box and figure out how to use them. Sure, your writing group might tell you how horrible your latest submission is. Good. Use what they tell you and fix it. Move forward. Don't stop.

Do something.

The first million words or so are supposed to be warm-up anyway. Gotta get them out at some point, right?

Next time I'll relate the always dependable kick to the groin to writing.

08 January 2012

Low Center of Gravity

Aka-My Big Butt

There are very few advantages that I have at the dojo. The blond hair is usually a sweaty mess by the end of class and clings to my head quite unattractively. The, shall we say, girls are completely obscured by the gi. My rapier wit, while quite sharp, isn't exactly an asset when someone is trying to hit me in the face.

The one thing I can always count on is my “low center of gravity.” This is a nicer way of saying I'm short and round and have a big butt.

When I'm in a good mood I joke about how it took me two years to get all of my chi into my ankles. When I'm in a bad mood I just glare at people and dare them to try taking me to the ground again.

One might not think that being closer to the ground would make it harder to toss me around, but it does. For others. They hate it. Even the tall, athletic, good-looking in the gi people don't usually get it right the first time. They give me a bit of a push, maybe sweep the leg (yes, I just typed that) and I look at them. Perhaps give them a slow blink. Put some effort into it.

Maybe people think I'm nice. (All those who just snorted water or soda onto their keyboards—my apologizes. Better not drink again for a second.) I do have one of those sweet, angelic, innocent faces. The blond hair helps.

Or maybe they're afraid to hit a girl.

Wait, no, that can't be it. Although I do have to admit that girls usually hit harder than the boys do. But the boys eventually get over it. Most of the time.

Anyway, back to my point. One of my goals this year is to lose some weight. Yes, yes, everyone says that. And when it happens, and my butt is smaller, and people can toss me on the ground at will (poor Will) I shall have a moment of silence for my lost “low center of gravity”, and then I will kick something. For fun. And because I can. And I will smile.

And I will need to find a new advantage at the dojo. Any ideas?

05 January 2012

Don't You Hate it When . . .

Well, two things really.

First, I hate it when I tell someone about a new idea that I'm thinking about using in a story and they go, “That's just like (fill in blank)” . . . I have no idea where the period should go there, sorry.

Second, I hate it when a cold that I thought was on the out comes back around with a vengeance.

These two things don't relate, except for the fact that right now I hate them both. Well, I'd probably loathe them no matter when or where I encountered them, together or separately. Pretty much they must consider themselves my enemies.

Let's go back to the first, shall we?

I have this idea for a short story. It's twisted, a little bit sick and very much not my style. In the end it could practically be a literary *hack* piece. I've never harbored the need to write the next great American novel. Anything I write is meant to entertain people.

But this would be different. It would have *gasp* deeper meanings. Layers. Like an onion and all that.

It's a good idea. Which is the only reason I want to write it.

So I tell my sister and our hairdresser about it the other day, and they're both like, “Oh, that sounds just like . . .”

Drat. Really? I supposed from what I know about the . . . story that it is similar. Which means I now have to go read . . . so my story will be different. Lucky for me the library has it on CD. Good to know, but it hurts the ego to know my idea isn't as original as I thought. Everyone let out a dramatic sigh with me.

Second-the cold.

Dumb virus. I had a bad sore throat last Friday, so I proceeded to drown it with as much liquid as I could drink. Got lots of sleep and felt almost all better on Saturday. Well, I didn't get much sleep on New Year's eve, or the next night or the night after that. Mostly due to the lingering effects of the cold. Last night I finally bought some night-time cold meds and slept like a baby. Because I used the meds, not because I bought them.

This morning I wake up, feeling better, but with a distinct lack of voice. And I don't mean character voice in a story. No, no. When I do get a word or two out I sound like a man. A really big, throaty man. “Hey baby.”

Oh darn, I shouldn't make myself laugh—it riles up the cough.

I dub it the ninja cold. If only whacking it with a bow staff would make me feel better.