Friday, August 29, 2014

The Engineer and the Author

Huh, sounds like a title for a romance novel. Anyway...

My husband is an engineer and works in an industry that most hippies picket. (I say that lovingly. I'm a hippie.) Needless to say, his artistic side is seriously lacking. His ability to be creative is limited to picking out paint colors for the house, and painting walls. Most of his wardrobe is made up of neutral colors with a bit of light blue thrown in. The man can't even see a straight line.

And then there's me. I admit my fashion sense is lacking but I have Pinterest at my disposal. I can't draw or paint like my siblings can but I can sew and, obviously, write. We're pretty much opposites and agree that if we had met as children, we would not have been friends. (I played with dolls. He beheaded dolls. You get the idea.)

However, my husband loves me and is supportive of my writing. He understands that this is something I love, even if he doesn't understand why I love it. He listens to me ramble on about plot and characters and I listen to him talk about cars and job sites and paperwork. We're a weird couple but we love each other and it works.

Even though my husband can't string a creative sentence together, I do ask for his opinion on certain things- namely, what kind of car the characters should drive. Our conversations go something like this:

Me: What kind of car would a parent buy their two teenage daughters to share?
Him: Is this Europe or America?
Me: [answers] Oh, and it needs to do this, this and this. I'm thinking it's green.
Him: What year does your story take place?
Me: What does that matter?
Him: (long suffering sigh) Okay, it's THIS CAR, with this engine and does this.
Me: Is that a four door? Because I'm seeing it as a four door.
Him: Yeah. Now, make sure you put THIS MAKE, THIS MODEL and THESE ENGINE SPECS in when you talk about the car.
Me: I don't need that many details in the novel. The story isn't about the car!
Him: Your readers will want to know all the details. Doesn't the car have an important role in the book?
Me: No. No it doesn't...
Him: You could MAKE it have an important role!
Me: Go back to watching Doctor Who, honey.

I love that he's interested and supportive. I really couldn't do this without him! Still, I don't think a book about cars is in my future. (I think Pixar took care of that, in movie form.) However, if you ever read my stories and find a paragraph extolling the virtues of a car, you'll know my husband influenced that!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My own Scottish Book

JK Rowling once reference to her then-planned massive book about all things Harry Potter as "the Scottish Book." The original reference belong to Shakespeare, as Macbeth was called "the Scottish play." It was considered bad luck to speak the name of a play before it was preformed. I jokingly refer to one of my works as "the Scottish book" in the same manner. Not because it doesn't have a name (it does) or because I think it's unlucky speak the name of a book first (I don't) but because if I don't joke about this book, I'll cry.

Many eons ago, I wrote a highly fictional account of my time spent in Asia. It was awesome, or so people said. It won an award or two. Friends read it and liked it. I've reconnected with people from that time period and they all ask me about this book. It was never published and it was tucked away to be edited and revised later.

Like many of my ideas from that time period, it was undergoing extensive re-writes at my hand. This book was particularly difficult to revise because I had to look up dates from years ago (was that day a Monday? Tuesday?) and keep events historical accurate and realistic. It required reading non-fiction books and speaking to my parents about events that happened when I was a young teenager. My father had to fill me in what had really happened, events that had been hidden from me because I was too young to know about them.

Needless to say, it was super slow going and a very painstaking process. While I was working on this, I was also in college, dating my now-husband, getting married and having babies. Technology was changing, computers were changing and upgrading the files the hosted my book wasn't a priority. When life settled down a bit, I began to work on it again- and my computer died.

Gone were many pictures of my son in the NICU. Gone were several books, including my "Scottish Book." You see, my computer had a virus. I think I had backed up the story on CD-ROM. I think. I don't know for sure and the computer tech told me that my CDs were likely infected too. I never tried to put them in my new computer, for fear of infecting that one too.

That was also several years ago. After a second computer crash (I'm a slow learner), my father gifted me with an external hard drive. All my writing is backed up on that and on my computer. I also have an external CD/DVD port but I haven't tried to run the Scottish book's CD on it. Honestly, I don't know if it would work with my computer; I'm using the same program but a much, much newer one. And if the tech is right and there is a horrible virus on it? I can't risk my shiny new computer like that.

But! Allll the work. I still have hard copies of the original, thank God. I could go back and re-type a new copy but I had some awesome scenes in the most recent re-writes. I had figured out dates and done a lot of the "grunt work" so to speak. It's upsetting to think of it all there, but not. When people ask me about it, I sternly say, "We do not speak of this. Ever." They laugh but I'm sad.

Will my Scottish book ever be written? I don't know. It's not even in my personal que of novels I am working on. Nevertheless, it holds a special place in my heart and I hope that, one day, it shall be officially named and worked on.

And the moral of this story, if there is one? Back up, back up, back up and get a damn good virus software.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Movie Miracle

Earlier this year, I was gearing up to watch The Hunger Games (again) when my ten year old asked, "Is this the movie about people who fight each other, their city is bombed and they go to live underground in District 13?" Um, yes son, it is. How do you know that? "Oh, some kids in my class are reading the books for their novel study. Can I read them?"

Now, I love me a good dystopia. I'm the only person who loved 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World and so on in high school. We won't talk about how many times I have read The Hunger Games series. But for my ten year old son? No. Nope. Too young. If you want to read dystopia, I suggested, then read The Giver.

Of course, when I heard that The Giver movie was coming out, I told my husband that I HAD to go see it. I told my son that I would take him IF he read the book and then hounded him to READ THE BOOK so I had an excuse to see the movie! He finished it, liked it and wasn't about to turn down an excuse for movie popcorn and a soda.

Now, I am the worst person ever to see book to movie adaptions with. (This is according to my husband and friend, who vow to start a support group for people who go to the movies with me.) I gripped at the end of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I had... moments, shall we say, with Twilight. Divergent was interesting. We shall not talk about the Percy Jackson movies because my blood pressure can't handle going that high. In fact, the only "book to movie" movies I like are The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Sure, they made changes and left some scenes out, but they were mostly character development scenes and they were able to develop the characters well without them. Well done, actors, well done.

In a miracle of epic movie proportions, I actually liked The Giver movie. They upped the ages of the characters but I honestly don't think a 12 year old could have played Jonas with the depth and maturity the character called for and it would have looked silly to cast, say, a sixteen year old as a 12 year old. Most of the changes they made were due to the added maturity of the characters, not for shock value or to make it a teenage romance movie.

According to Lowry, the baby who plays Gabe should be given a special baby Oscar and I completely agree. The kid stole scenes like it was nobody's business. He cries in most of them and I just wanted to reach through, hug him and give them all a lesson on the type of parenting this kid needs. (Wear him in a sling often, cuddle him, answer his cries at night...) No wonder Gabe was failure to thrive! Oh, and the scenes with Jonas and Gabe? So precious.

Lilly, Jonas' sister, was fleshed out a bit. In the movie, we view the Ceremony of Loss and Lilly makes a smart-alec comment that had me and my friends laughing. Typical nine year old.

Now, in the book, Rosemary is never seen from or heard but we "see" her in the movie. People made a big deal out of Taylor Swift playing this role but she really had no screen time and her musical talent? Not really there. I thought they could have gotten anyone with a decent voice to play her. I was expecting Taylor Swift stuff like, I dunno, SINGING. Rosemary IS a big part in this movie but not in a visual sense.

One thing that really thrilled me about THG and CF was the behind-the-scenes politics that make the actions of some of the characters, such as the Gamekeepers, make more sense. You get this in TG too. There's tension between the Chief Elder and The Giver and Jonas' mother has a fairly important role. You see more of what happens AFTER Jonas' leaves. (SPOILER ALERT: Did anyone catch the comment between The Chief Elder and The Giver that implies they were once partners?)

The ended actually tied up better than the book. I like the ending of the book and it is open for sequels (or not) but a movie needs to be tied up tighter and it is. It's still the same ending but tighter. You get a sense of completion, which many readers did not get from the book. And, again, it works that the book ends as it does, just as the adjustments to the ending of the movie work for a movie. (I know, it's vague but I don't want to spoil the movie-ending because it is a little different from the book.)

I will give a parental warning: you DO see the scene where they release a twin and (movie spoiler) they also show how they release a teenager/adult. It involve needles, so if you have a kid who FREAKS THE FREAK out over shots, skip those scenes when it comes out on DVD. My daughter is eight and wants to see this movie but I think the Release of the newchild might be too much for her. She adores babies and is sensitive to them being hurt. As a mother, I worked to distance myself from the scene (I knew it was coming, so it helped) but it was still hard to watch.

I think we'll get it when it comes out on DVD. I'm not sure if it will be a Christmas present for myself or my son! It's a movie I will gladly watch with him again.

Monday, August 25, 2014


I was 13 when we moved to South Korea, thanks to the USAF. Back in the dark ages, the internet was just getting started. We didn't have internet at home, although I know my father e-mailed our extended family in the States. As a result, friends kept in touch with me by letter and packages, sending us things we couldn't get on base (like my brother's favorite cereal) and fun trinkets.

One such trinket was a hair clip. (Stay with me people...) You know those giant flowers and bows you can buy for baby girls? Adorbs, right? Well, this was the height of the handmade hair clips made with balloon, ribbons, buttons and this thick plastic stuff that you could heat up mold into a variety of shapes. I really liked them and a friend sent me one that she bought at a craft fair. I remember it was blue, pink and purple, all with a metallic sheen to it. It even had a name: a king's ransom.

"That would be a good title for a book," I thought and began to mull it over in my head. What would a book titled A King's Ransom be about?

The story popped into my head the next day, as I was walking to school with a friend. There, in the middle of the playground, the whispers of the story came to me. Over the next few months, the story was fleshed out.

Over the years, the story was written and printed and shoved in a drawer. It went through another revision when I received a new computer and needed to update the files. There was another version, completely rewritten. Characters were added and changed. Events were thrown around. The title changed. They grew. I grew. Now, many years and many changes later, it's finished.



See, my anal type- A personality is rearing its head. I have the book to an editor but I keep thinking, "Oh, I want to change this! Would this work better? I think I should build up this character!" It's taking everything I have to NOT drag up the file and change things. I'm going to see what changes she suggests first.  If I have a new scene in my head, it goes into a new file, waiting to be cut and pasted in (or not). It's going to be a long process but I have to remind myself that when I get there, it will be so worth it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

First Post!

For those of you who followed me here from my parenting blog, WaldenMommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door, WELCOME! If you are new here, WELCOME WELCOME!

This blog is all about... writing! I'm an aspiring YA novelist. Here you will find less about my kids and more about writing, blogging, reading, novels and inspiration. I'll still write at WaldenMommy but I thought a blog devoted to my journey as something other than "just" a mom is worth its own blog.

So welcome and please pardon my dust as we get this thing up and going!