Monday, September 27, 2010

The Life of a Slacker

Has it really been nine days since I posted last? I truly am a slacker. So sorry.

I have no excuse. I've just been feeling "quiet" lately. Haven't shown my face much on Facebook either.

But here's a wrap-up of my life lately:

Critiquing some short stories for writer friends. One of those friends sent me an email thanking me for all the help I've given her on her writing. It was so sweet it brought tears to my eyes!

Catching up on some housework. Mountains of laundry. (Yes, I know, boring. Can't change the facts, though.)

Shopping for jeans. And actually finding ones that fit! Woot!

Homeschooling. Yeah, duh. :P

Last week the kids and I made wands since we didn't buy them at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Studios--see my last post). That was loads of fun. Leave a comment if you want to see pictures and I'll post them. Right now, I have neither time nor patience to figure out Blogger's new M.O. when it comes to pictures.

Watching movies. Harry Potter, of course, as we were put in the mood by our vacation. And last night, Prince of Persia. VERY GOOD, btw. It's a little hard to follow at first, but then something important is revealed and it all clicks into place. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a rent for sure!

Completely stressing over the fact that I'm submitting a short story AND Finding Angel to a small press. Trying to be positive without getting my hopes up so high that the fall might kill them.

And last night I started a wickedly cool jigsaw puzzle. A dragon. One of those cut-to-shape puzzles. I haven't worked on a puzzle for a while. Just so you know, I was raised by a master jigsaw puzzler. My dad. We spent many, many hours doing puzzles when I was growing up, and I love, love, love doing them. I'm as wicked-good at doing them as he is these days, too. I'll post a picture when I'm done.

So there ya go. The life of a slacker.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

YES, YES, YES! We spent the week at Universal Studios and I GOT TO GO TO THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!

Excited much?


In no particular order, here are some of my impressions:

Butter beer is YUMMY.

Pumpkin juice is good, but not nearly as yummy.

Hogsmeade village looks quite authentic. Although, most of the storefronts are fake. There IS a Honeydukes and Zonkos you can shop in for real. And a couple other gift shops with Harry Potter t-shirts and such.

Things are combined. For example, Olivander's is there as if it's part of Hogsmeade. But we all know Olivander's is in Diagon Alley. And Moaning Myrtle is in the bathroom there, but of course she should be in the girls' room in Hogwarts.

Even if you are not a roller coaster person, go through the line at the Dragon Challenge ride. Cool stuff to see!

The line for the big ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, is awesomely cool. So many things to look at! The mirror of Erised, Dumbledore's office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts room, and the sorting hat were my favorites. Oh, and the griffin that leads up to Dumbledore's office.

The Flight of the Hippogrif is a pretty small ride, but fun. A step or two above kiddie-coaster. But you get to see Buckbeak, and the top of the incline gives you the BEST view of the whole village.

The Three Broomsticks restaurant and Hog's Head pub were nifty. Good food, too. Get the fish and chips ;).

Oh, and I know you're going to ask about wands. You know, the whole Olivander's experience. Well, gotta tell ya. We did that. First, let me give you a hint. The line is CRAZY long. BUT, if you stay at one of the Universal hotels, you get into the Harry Potter area an hour before the park opens. That is what we did. Totally worth getting up early! We didn't have to wait at all.

So here goes:

Only so many people are allowed in the room at once. A wandmaster (or whatever they're called) greets everyone and picks a kid from the audience.

My son was picked!!!

He's given a wand and asked to point it at specific things in the room--like at a pot of flowers in order to "water" them. Of course, as in the movie, things don't go so smoothly with the first few wands.

Then the kid is handed a wand that "chooses" him.

And here's where the rumors may have you on the edge of your seat....

The fact is....the one who gets chosen does NOT get to keep their wand for free. Oh, no. Thirty bucks, baby. He's told, "If you would like to purchase your wand, there is a cash register through this door."

Color my son a bit disappointed.

"Oh, but didn't you buy it for him?" you ask.

No. He had money, and he chose to buy dragons. And if I bought him one, I'd have to buy his sister one. AND they are NOT made of wood. Molded resin. As in super-hard plastic. As in, you break it there's no fixing it.

Besides. We're homeschoolers. We're going to design and make our own!

Alrighty, then. I had every intention of posting pictures on here. But Blogger for some reason no longer inserts the html code, which can be cut and pasted wherever you want the pic. Now, it just puts the pic itself in the top, and I can't figure out how to move it. So, to avoid delaying the post, I had to do no pictures.

So, I put a few on my Facebook page.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's Going On

I got an email the other day from Chicken Soup for the Soul. My story "Lights of Hope" will be in their Christmas Magic anthology.

The book releases on October 12th. But you can pre-order now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Lastly, my word count on Finding Angel dropped by over 8800 words after the edit I just completed. I intend to go through one more time before submitting it to a small press I have my eye on :). I suspect maybe somewhere around another 1000 words coming off, max. So, final count somewhere around 97,500. Quite a drop, but still not a quickie story. I'll also be submitting a short story to that press. October will be a nervous month for me!

I guess that's it. Just wanted to let y'all know.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What today is.

We all know today is 9/11. I'm not going to post a politically charged diatribe, or a heartwarming story about our soldiers giving their lives for our freedom. Not that those things aren't important. Oh, my, they are SO important. But they are all over the internet. (And if you don't get yet how much that all means, I suggest you spend some time web-surfing today and find out.)

I thought I'd share with you, though, what was happening with me personally on that day. You see, my husband was on a plane headed to California. No, thank God with every fiber of my being, NOT one of the ones that got hijacked.

But it could have been. I mean, there wasn't anything different about the plane he was on than the ones that got hijacked. His left at the same time they did. His was headed to the same destination.

I was outside, working in the flower beds, when my sister-in-law called. Frantic. "Have you heard from Jeff????????"

I had no idea what was going on. She told me. I ran in the house and turned on the news.

And freaked out.

Called Jeff's boss's wife, since Jeff and his boss were traveling together. She hadn't heard from him either. We stayed on the phone together most of the morning, glued to the TV. Watching. Waiting.

Finally, after a couple of hours she got a call from her husband. I had to wait a few minutes to hear from Jeff because his phone was in his boss's car and he had to use his boss's phone. They had emergency landed in Dallas, and were renting a car to drive home.

The word relief gained new meaning for me that day.

I feel for the families that lost loved ones. I could have so easily been one of them. So while I fully understand all the political implications of 9/11, and I thank God for the soldiers out there fighting for our freedom, this day is personal for me. I could have lost my true love. I wouldn't have my daughter right now. Everything about my life would be different.

I learned I am not untouchable. None of us are.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Progress Report

And...another week has gone by without me posting. Go ahead, say it.


I've been editing, though. Scraping away ever word I can from my manuscript of Finding Angel. I am ASTOUNDED by how much I've cut. I'm three-quarters of the way through and I've shaved off 7,000 words. My guess is that I will hit about 8,000 words at the end, bringing my final word count down to just over 99,000.

NOTHING about the story itself has changed. When I went on my little tirade before, saying I'd never be able to get my story down to the recommended 80k words, that's the kind of thing I was referring to. I knew the story itself could not be cut or altered.

But...I did find a lot of little words. Line edit kind of stuff. Surprising stuff. Shaming stuff...

Lots of places where I combined dialog tags with action thus:

"Blah, blah, blah," she said, tugging her arm away.

That can be changed to:

"Blah, blah, blah." She tugged her arm away.

Shorter. Gets rid of "said" which, let's face it, has to be used a lot in novels. Take out all the ones you can without making it hard for the reader to follow who is speaking.

Another thing I discovered: I overused the words finally, immediately, and suddenly. How wickedly embarrassing....

I'm not an "-ly adverb"-hater. I do think they work sometimes. Don't use 'em as a crutch, of course. But they're not the devil.

However...finally, immediately, and suddenly are weak, weak, weak.

Lastly, I cut a few sentences and paragraphs here and there. Places where I had shoved in a blurb of back story that wasn't really needed. Or where I let the internal dialog go on a smidge too long. Minor changes, though, really.

What it boils down to is this: I can still stand on what I said before. The story is ready. This final bit of polishing seems to me to NOT be enough to hold a publisher back from taking my book. The plot and characterization are strong. I found only a few, tiny places I felt the need to actually rework a paragraph or bits of a scene because I didn't like the wording. Can count them on one hand, though.

Granted, that included the opening. BUT, and I've said this before, I've had some professionals look at that chapter and say it was fine as-is. Still, can't hurt to ramp it up a notch.

So there ya have it. I have been working. Feeling pretty bad about calling me a slacker now, aren't ya?