Friday, May 28, 2010

Since it's a holiday weekend (for us Yanks at least), I thought I'd wait to pick up the overwriting series next week.

There's nothing like a long weekend to lounge about watching movies (between the picnics and family gatherings). If you're looking for recommendations, here are a few quick picks for your weekend entertainment, all from about three years ago and available on DVD.

The Prestige
Synopsis (from IMDB): A mysterious story of two magicians whose intense rivalry leads them on a life-long battle for supremacy -- full of obsession, deceit and jealousy with dangerous and deadly consequences. From the time that they first met as young magicians on the rise, Robert Angier and Alfred Borden were competitors. However, their friendly competition evolves into a bitter rivalry making them fierce enemies-for-life and consequently jeopardizing the lives of everyone around them. Set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century London.

My take: Absolutely brilliant film about rivalry and deception among illusionists. The flow of the plot isn't strictly linear, so it requires some effort to follow on the first viewing. I found that the film got better and better with repeated viewings; each time I picked up new clues I'd missed before.

Unlike "The Illusionist," which was released around the same time, this one doesn't insult your intelligence by revealing the entire trick of the plot. That's what's so beautiful--I woke up in the middle of the night realizing the deepest rivalry isn't the one given all the attention. Talk about misdirection! That tie of form to content blew me away.

Once
Synopsis (from IMDB): An (unnamed) Guy is a Dublin guitarist/singer-songwriter who makes a living by fixing vacuum cleaners in his Dad's Hoover repair shop by day, and singing and playing for money on the Dublin streets by night. An (unnamed) Girl is a Czech who plays piano when she gets a chance, and does odd jobs by day and takes care of her mom and her daughter by night. Guy meets Girl, and they get to know each other as the Girl helps the Guy to put together a demo disc that he can take to London in hope of landing a music contract. During the same several day period, the Guy and the Girl work through their past loves, and reveal their budding love for one another, through their songs.

My take: This film starts so quietly and sucks you in entirely. I don't think I've ever been so emotionally undone by a film. Beautiful and powerful in its slow, subtle storyline and haunting music. It's filmed like the Danish Dogme films "Italian for Beginners" and others--hand-held cameras, ambient sounds and performances for the "soundtrack." It just made the emotional impact of the story all the stronger because it's so NOT Hollywood and felt all the more real and poignant.

In the Land of Women
Synopsis (from IMDB): His world in complete disorder after his break-up with a famous actress, Carter, a young script writer, goes to suburban Detroit to care for his sickly Grandmother and heal his broken heart. Along the way he forms a special bond with the family that lives across from his Grandma, and changes the life of each woman. They, in turn, help him find his way.

My take: I really liked Carter's character arc in this. He starts out pie-eyed about women, tending to project his fantasies on them (his job keeps him stuck in this mode). He gradually begins to know himself and females better after a break up, and spending time with three generations of females--his grandmother, his 40-something neighbor and her teen daughter. There's some great dialogue as he spends time with these women and they open up parts of him that need to be nourished and matured. That he tries to get romantic with age-inappropriate partners fits his fatal flaw and finally compels needed change.

Do any of these appeal to you? Why or why not?
Any special plans this weekend? Will you try to write or take a vacation?
Friday, May 28, 2010 Laurel Garver
Since it's a holiday weekend (for us Yanks at least), I thought I'd wait to pick up the overwriting series next week.

There's nothing like a long weekend to lounge about watching movies (between the picnics and family gatherings). If you're looking for recommendations, here are a few quick picks for your weekend entertainment, all from about three years ago and available on DVD.

The Prestige
Synopsis (from IMDB): A mysterious story of two magicians whose intense rivalry leads them on a life-long battle for supremacy -- full of obsession, deceit and jealousy with dangerous and deadly consequences. From the time that they first met as young magicians on the rise, Robert Angier and Alfred Borden were competitors. However, their friendly competition evolves into a bitter rivalry making them fierce enemies-for-life and consequently jeopardizing the lives of everyone around them. Set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century London.

My take: Absolutely brilliant film about rivalry and deception among illusionists. The flow of the plot isn't strictly linear, so it requires some effort to follow on the first viewing. I found that the film got better and better with repeated viewings; each time I picked up new clues I'd missed before.

Unlike "The Illusionist," which was released around the same time, this one doesn't insult your intelligence by revealing the entire trick of the plot. That's what's so beautiful--I woke up in the middle of the night realizing the deepest rivalry isn't the one given all the attention. Talk about misdirection! That tie of form to content blew me away.

Once
Synopsis (from IMDB): An (unnamed) Guy is a Dublin guitarist/singer-songwriter who makes a living by fixing vacuum cleaners in his Dad's Hoover repair shop by day, and singing and playing for money on the Dublin streets by night. An (unnamed) Girl is a Czech who plays piano when she gets a chance, and does odd jobs by day and takes care of her mom and her daughter by night. Guy meets Girl, and they get to know each other as the Girl helps the Guy to put together a demo disc that he can take to London in hope of landing a music contract. During the same several day period, the Guy and the Girl work through their past loves, and reveal their budding love for one another, through their songs.

My take: This film starts so quietly and sucks you in entirely. I don't think I've ever been so emotionally undone by a film. Beautiful and powerful in its slow, subtle storyline and haunting music. It's filmed like the Danish Dogme films "Italian for Beginners" and others--hand-held cameras, ambient sounds and performances for the "soundtrack." It just made the emotional impact of the story all the stronger because it's so NOT Hollywood and felt all the more real and poignant.

In the Land of Women
Synopsis (from IMDB): His world in complete disorder after his break-up with a famous actress, Carter, a young script writer, goes to suburban Detroit to care for his sickly Grandmother and heal his broken heart. Along the way he forms a special bond with the family that lives across from his Grandma, and changes the life of each woman. They, in turn, help him find his way.

My take: I really liked Carter's character arc in this. He starts out pie-eyed about women, tending to project his fantasies on them (his job keeps him stuck in this mode). He gradually begins to know himself and females better after a break up, and spending time with three generations of females--his grandmother, his 40-something neighbor and her teen daughter. There's some great dialogue as he spends time with these women and they open up parts of him that need to be nourished and matured. That he tries to get romantic with age-inappropriate partners fits his fatal flaw and finally compels needed change.

Do any of these appeal to you? Why or why not?
Any special plans this weekend? Will you try to write or take a vacation?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Overly elaborate diction is what most think of when they hear the term "overwriting." I'd argue it's just one facet of a tendency to go thick, lush and heavy-handed when drafting. The trick is to identify and correct it during revision.

Advanced vocabulary
Your characters' word choices show us who they are, so it's important to be accurate. Generally word choices should be consistent with a character's age, level of education and socio-economic status. Just as a fifth grader wouldn't discuss post-feminist hegemony, a college professor wouldn't call his enemy "stinkypants."

There are exceptions, however. You might sprinkle in words like "indubitably" and "elementary" to show that your fifth grader fancies himself an amateur sleuth like Sherlock Holmes. A social climber might adopt fancy lingo but misuse it. A grade-skipping child prodigy would wield her vocabulary like a weapon.

As you revise, be willing to question your word choices. Advanced vocabulary can communicate some things you don't intend. It gives the impression that you, the writer, are insecure or a bit out of touch. It can also taint your characters with a popular stereotype: the evil genius whose intelligence is paired with heartless ambition, or the socially awkward hopeless nerd whose head is stuffed with useless knowledge.

Literary devices
As I wrote in this post, sound devices can be an effective tool to make your work sing. But if you're too heavy-handed, it sounds silly or just plain annoying. Generally assonance (repeated internal vowel sounds) is less jarring than alliteration (repeated initial consonant sounds) or rhyming, so you can be a little freer with it.

How heavy is too heavy? I don't have a hard and fast rule. If sound is a big piece of your style, you'll have a hard time identifying overkill. Ask four or five trustworthy readers who get your intent to help you trim all but the best of your devices.

Metaphor and simile can quickly become overdone. Beware of the tendency to describe every detail through comparisons. Watch out especially for inept comparisons that don't fit the character or situation. Stephanie at Hatsheput posted some hilarious examples of simile gone awry.

A whole-work "controlling metaphor" or motif is often fine, however. If done well, it can unify and strengthen your work. Sarah Dessen's Lock and Key, for example, uses the motif of doors, keys, fences, houses to examine what makes a place home, and people around us family.

Allusion can be an effective way to say a lot in a small space--your reader will pour in all the context without your needing to explain. But if the book, film, song or historical event you reference is too obscure, it hinders rather than helps your reader. A character whose thoughts are filled with allusions to pop culture will come across as shallow and lacking original ideas of his own.

Name dropping brands is another type of allusion that becomes irksome quickly. Call your fleece jacket a "North Face" once, then stick with generic terms like fleece or jacket in subsequent reference.

Dialect
Take extra care when presenting a character whose regional accent isn't mainstream. The best way to handle dialect is through word order, cadence, grammar and word choice. But go lightly, especially with regionalisms like "youse guys" or "blimey" or "y'all." And as much as possible, stick to standard spellings. If you've done your research and can imitate the cadence and use the right lingo, your readers will "hear" the dialect without the tortured spellings.

Which of these diction areas trips you up? Any other helpful hints to add?
Wednesday, May 26, 2010 Laurel Garver
Overly elaborate diction is what most think of when they hear the term "overwriting." I'd argue it's just one facet of a tendency to go thick, lush and heavy-handed when drafting. The trick is to identify and correct it during revision.

Advanced vocabulary
Your characters' word choices show us who they are, so it's important to be accurate. Generally word choices should be consistent with a character's age, level of education and socio-economic status. Just as a fifth grader wouldn't discuss post-feminist hegemony, a college professor wouldn't call his enemy "stinkypants."

There are exceptions, however. You might sprinkle in words like "indubitably" and "elementary" to show that your fifth grader fancies himself an amateur sleuth like Sherlock Holmes. A social climber might adopt fancy lingo but misuse it. A grade-skipping child prodigy would wield her vocabulary like a weapon.

As you revise, be willing to question your word choices. Advanced vocabulary can communicate some things you don't intend. It gives the impression that you, the writer, are insecure or a bit out of touch. It can also taint your characters with a popular stereotype: the evil genius whose intelligence is paired with heartless ambition, or the socially awkward hopeless nerd whose head is stuffed with useless knowledge.

Literary devices
As I wrote in this post, sound devices can be an effective tool to make your work sing. But if you're too heavy-handed, it sounds silly or just plain annoying. Generally assonance (repeated internal vowel sounds) is less jarring than alliteration (repeated initial consonant sounds) or rhyming, so you can be a little freer with it.

How heavy is too heavy? I don't have a hard and fast rule. If sound is a big piece of your style, you'll have a hard time identifying overkill. Ask four or five trustworthy readers who get your intent to help you trim all but the best of your devices.

Metaphor and simile can quickly become overdone. Beware of the tendency to describe every detail through comparisons. Watch out especially for inept comparisons that don't fit the character or situation. Stephanie at Hatsheput posted some hilarious examples of simile gone awry.

A whole-work "controlling metaphor" or motif is often fine, however. If done well, it can unify and strengthen your work. Sarah Dessen's Lock and Key, for example, uses the motif of doors, keys, fences, houses to examine what makes a place home, and people around us family.

Allusion can be an effective way to say a lot in a small space--your reader will pour in all the context without your needing to explain. But if the book, film, song or historical event you reference is too obscure, it hinders rather than helps your reader. A character whose thoughts are filled with allusions to pop culture will come across as shallow and lacking original ideas of his own.

Name dropping brands is another type of allusion that becomes irksome quickly. Call your fleece jacket a "North Face" once, then stick with generic terms like fleece or jacket in subsequent reference.

Dialect
Take extra care when presenting a character whose regional accent isn't mainstream. The best way to handle dialect is through word order, cadence, grammar and word choice. But go lightly, especially with regionalisms like "youse guys" or "blimey" or "y'all." And as much as possible, stick to standard spellings. If you've done your research and can imitate the cadence and use the right lingo, your readers will "hear" the dialect without the tortured spellings.

Which of these diction areas trips you up? Any other helpful hints to add?

Monday, May 24, 2010

If you've participated in critique groups, writing workshops or online forums, you may have seen or heard someone's piece criticized for being "overwritten." But what does that mean exactly?

Dictionary.com gives us a few useful definitions for "overwrite":

1.to write in too elaborate, burdensome, diffuse, or prolix a style: He overwrites his essays to the point of absurdity.

2.to write in excess of the requirements, esp. so as to defeat the original intention: That young playwright tends to overwrite her big scenes.

From these definitions, let's break down the key terms.

Overwritten fiction is...

too elaborate--its tone and voice don't fit the characters and situation.

burdensome--it is dense and difficult to understand.

diffuse--it goes on tangents, lacks focus.

prolix--it rambles and it explains more than it needs too.

exceeds the requirements, defeating the purpose--it uses the same effect repeatedly in a scene, sucking away power.

In an upcoming series of posts, I'll examine examples of each of these overwriting "sins" so you can identify them in your own work, then discuss solutions.


Are there other frequently-used critique terms that confuse you?
Monday, May 24, 2010 Laurel Garver
If you've participated in critique groups, writing workshops or online forums, you may have seen or heard someone's piece criticized for being "overwritten." But what does that mean exactly?

Dictionary.com gives us a few useful definitions for "overwrite":

1.to write in too elaborate, burdensome, diffuse, or prolix a style: He overwrites his essays to the point of absurdity.

2.to write in excess of the requirements, esp. so as to defeat the original intention: That young playwright tends to overwrite her big scenes.

From these definitions, let's break down the key terms.

Overwritten fiction is...

too elaborate--its tone and voice don't fit the characters and situation.

burdensome--it is dense and difficult to understand.

diffuse--it goes on tangents, lacks focus.

prolix--it rambles and it explains more than it needs too.

exceeds the requirements, defeating the purpose--it uses the same effect repeatedly in a scene, sucking away power.

In an upcoming series of posts, I'll examine examples of each of these overwriting "sins" so you can identify them in your own work, then discuss solutions.


Are there other frequently-used critique terms that confuse you?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Today's Logline/Hook line blogfest is hosted by Bryan of The Time Guardian Blog. Check out the other entries HERE.

Bryan challegened participants to post one-sentence descriptions of their work for feedback--up to five different versions. I found the most help for tackling this challenge in Nathan Bransford's posts on one-sentence pitches as well as his comparison with one- and two-paragraph pitches.

Describing the story's bright core is the goal here. I've written pages of sentences before settling on the four below. My book's story question is "how do you survive--and thrive--without the peacemaker?" My unique elements are ghost apperances, a British setting and religious themes. None of my hooks manages to include all of these things, and each has a slightly different emphasis.

----------------------------

1. A grieving teen’s dead father appears to her, opening a window into the family’s troubled past she must understand to build a new life without him.

----------------------------

2. When her dead dad appears, Dani Deane believes he might have a task for her, like Hamlet, which will help her reconcile with her cold, atheist mother.

----------------------------

3. A grieving teen hopes escape her workaholic mom and build a new life in England, then her dead dad begins appearing and the family’s past comes to light, challenging everything Dani thinks she knows.

----------------------------

4. A grieving teen who hopes to build a new life in England must face the truth about her estranged mother when her dead dad begins appearing and the family’s troubled past comes to light.


Which version do you prefer? Any suggestions for trims or recombinations?

NOTE: I'm out of town this weekend but still desperately want feedback! I'll visit other entries as soon as I can!
Saturday, May 22, 2010 Laurel Garver
Today's Logline/Hook line blogfest is hosted by Bryan of The Time Guardian Blog. Check out the other entries HERE.

Bryan challegened participants to post one-sentence descriptions of their work for feedback--up to five different versions. I found the most help for tackling this challenge in Nathan Bransford's posts on one-sentence pitches as well as his comparison with one- and two-paragraph pitches.

Describing the story's bright core is the goal here. I've written pages of sentences before settling on the four below. My book's story question is "how do you survive--and thrive--without the peacemaker?" My unique elements are ghost apperances, a British setting and religious themes. None of my hooks manages to include all of these things, and each has a slightly different emphasis.

----------------------------

1. A grieving teen’s dead father appears to her, opening a window into the family’s troubled past she must understand to build a new life without him.

----------------------------

2. When her dead dad appears, Dani Deane believes he might have a task for her, like Hamlet, which will help her reconcile with her cold, atheist mother.

----------------------------

3. A grieving teen hopes escape her workaholic mom and build a new life in England, then her dead dad begins appearing and the family’s past comes to light, challenging everything Dani thinks she knows.

----------------------------

4. A grieving teen who hopes to build a new life in England must face the truth about her estranged mother when her dead dad begins appearing and the family’s troubled past comes to light.


Which version do you prefer? Any suggestions for trims or recombinations?

NOTE: I'm out of town this weekend but still desperately want feedback! I'll visit other entries as soon as I can!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I've fallen a bit behind with acknowledging and passing along blog awards, so today I play catch up.

Janet of It Is What It Is... gave me the elegant-looking Beautiful Blogger Award

I pass it to the following beautiful blogs:
Amy at The Invisible Sister
Christine H. at The Writer's Hole
E. Elle at The Writer's Funhouse
Laura at Exercising the Right to Ramble (just discovered we're both Messiah alum)
Stephanie at Hatsheput, The Writing of a Novel


Sarahjayne Smythe at Writing in the Wilderness passed along the cuddly Sweet Blogger Award.

I pass it to the following sweeties:
Janet at It Is What It Is...
Lynn at Place to Create
Kelly at Kelly's Compositions
Tyrean at Tyrean's Writing Spot
Simon at Constant Revision (Don't let his macho exterior fool you. He has encouraged me out of slumps many a time. I think that qualifies as sweet.)


Nicole of One Significant Moment at a Time named me a Blogger Buddy

I pass it along to the following buds:
Charity at My Writing Journey
Elle at Elle Strauss, author
Lola at Sharp Pen/Dull Sword
Jemi at Just Jemi
Tina at Sweet Niblets

These are no-pressure awards. Pass them along to one person, twenty or none. They're just my way of saying thanks.

I'm doing an epic amount of revising at the moment, so I'm a little short on time. Please bear with my distractedness. I'll visit and comment when I need a breather from the WIP.

If you are a new follower, please tell me a little about yourself! What's your genre, your stomping grounds, your favorite film?
Thursday, May 20, 2010 Laurel Garver
I've fallen a bit behind with acknowledging and passing along blog awards, so today I play catch up.

Janet of It Is What It Is... gave me the elegant-looking Beautiful Blogger Award

I pass it to the following beautiful blogs:
Amy at The Invisible Sister
Christine H. at The Writer's Hole
E. Elle at The Writer's Funhouse
Laura at Exercising the Right to Ramble (just discovered we're both Messiah alum)
Stephanie at Hatsheput, The Writing of a Novel


Sarahjayne Smythe at Writing in the Wilderness passed along the cuddly Sweet Blogger Award.

I pass it to the following sweeties:
Janet at It Is What It Is...
Lynn at Place to Create
Kelly at Kelly's Compositions
Tyrean at Tyrean's Writing Spot
Simon at Constant Revision (Don't let his macho exterior fool you. He has encouraged me out of slumps many a time. I think that qualifies as sweet.)


Nicole of One Significant Moment at a Time named me a Blogger Buddy

I pass it along to the following buds:
Charity at My Writing Journey
Elle at Elle Strauss, author
Lola at Sharp Pen/Dull Sword
Jemi at Just Jemi
Tina at Sweet Niblets

These are no-pressure awards. Pass them along to one person, twenty or none. They're just my way of saying thanks.

I'm doing an epic amount of revising at the moment, so I'm a little short on time. Please bear with my distractedness. I'll visit and comment when I need a breather from the WIP.

If you are a new follower, please tell me a little about yourself! What's your genre, your stomping grounds, your favorite film?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thanks to Roni of Fiction Groupie for hosting today's Let's Talk Blogfest. Stop on by her site to see the listing of all participants.

My offering for today's fest is from WIP-2, Clearing, a sequel to my first YA book. I've had three people help me with the few snippets of French and deeply empathize with my protagonist's sentiments about learning the language.

Context here...Dani, 17, and her mother are about to head to Paris in a few days. She's studying for finals with her boyfriend (and sometimes French tutor) Theo. Earlier in this chapter, Dani learned of possible complications to the trip while he was asleep and her mother was out.

==========

I reach for Theo’s shoulder, give him a little shake. Then a harder one. “Thebes?”

He lifts his heavy head off of me. His hazel eyes flutter open, more gold than green in the afternoon light. He groans. “Oh, Dani, I did it again, didn’t I? Jeez, I’m sorry. I’m just so tired all the time. Maybe I need to start drinking coffee like you do.”

I smile. “It would stunt your growth.”

“Little late for that, don’t you think?” He leans back, stretching, and his firm stomach peeks between his shirt hem and the waistband of his khakis. I look away, sit on my hands again before my hormones get the better of me.

“Mum wants to know if you can stay for supper.”

“Yeah?” he says, poking me in the ribs. “What about you?” Poke. “Do you want me?” Poke, poke, poke. “To stay?”

“Not if you’re gonna be a bully!”

Moi?” He strikes a Miss Piggy pose.

Non, ta jument méchante, qui ronfle comme un os endormi.”

Theo roars with laughter. “My evil what? Mare? Who snores like a sleepy bone?”

“I meant twin. Ju-something…else.”

“Ah. Jumeau, ma chérie. Jumeau méchant. Evil twin. And I do not snore. Especially not like a bone.”

I roll my eyes. “Bear. I wanted to say bear.”

Ours, not os. Bien? Dis-le et répète, Danielle.”

Say it and repeat. Oh, brother.

I tip my head side to side as I chant, “Ours, ours, ours, ours, ours. Happy?”

“Cheer up, babe, you’ve improved a lot. Your grammar’s quite good. You used the feminine adjective with jument, which was great, even if it wasn’t the noun you wanted.”

“I’m never gonna get this. Parisians will bludgeon me with baguettes for crimes against the mother tongue.”

“You are getting it. Can’t you see that? You’ve picked up in six months what it took me three years to learn. Of course, I didn’t have a patient instructor completely dedicated to my success.”

“Come on, Thebes. You’ve got to be bored out of your mind teaching a dunce like me.”

“Dunce? Hardly. You are way too hard on yourself. So you made a mistake. Big deal. Who doesn’t? Heck, I’m learning here, too. Remember the flashcard fiasco?”

“I’d rather not.” Theo pounding the wall, purple-faced; me curled up in fetal position—not a scene I care to replay. Ever.

“Well, me neither. That was totally my bad. But I learned from it, right? I’ve had quite the adventure developing my cutting-edge teaching techniques.”

I snort.

“Yeah? You doubt me? I’m deeply insulted.”

“What’s so cutting edge about, ‘Dis-le et répète’?”

“How do you think you learned to draw, Dani? Practice. Lots of it. Years of filling sketch pad after sketch pad until your scribbles became shapes became art. Anyone who thinks they can get some new skill without practice is an idiot. So, ma chérie, after we get through tomorrow’s finals and my last regatta, we will répéter, en français all day, every day, until you go. Très bien?”

Mum strides into the living room, clenching the phone. I can almost smell the fury pulsing out of her, like fumes from a hot engine.

Pas bien. Mal. Très, très mal.

“There’s been a change of plans,” she says.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010 Laurel Garver
Thanks to Roni of Fiction Groupie for hosting today's Let's Talk Blogfest. Stop on by her site to see the listing of all participants.

My offering for today's fest is from WIP-2, Clearing, a sequel to my first YA book. I've had three people help me with the few snippets of French and deeply empathize with my protagonist's sentiments about learning the language.

Context here...Dani, 17, and her mother are about to head to Paris in a few days. She's studying for finals with her boyfriend (and sometimes French tutor) Theo. Earlier in this chapter, Dani learned of possible complications to the trip while he was asleep and her mother was out.

==========

I reach for Theo’s shoulder, give him a little shake. Then a harder one. “Thebes?”

He lifts his heavy head off of me. His hazel eyes flutter open, more gold than green in the afternoon light. He groans. “Oh, Dani, I did it again, didn’t I? Jeez, I’m sorry. I’m just so tired all the time. Maybe I need to start drinking coffee like you do.”

I smile. “It would stunt your growth.”

“Little late for that, don’t you think?” He leans back, stretching, and his firm stomach peeks between his shirt hem and the waistband of his khakis. I look away, sit on my hands again before my hormones get the better of me.

“Mum wants to know if you can stay for supper.”

“Yeah?” he says, poking me in the ribs. “What about you?” Poke. “Do you want me?” Poke, poke, poke. “To stay?”

“Not if you’re gonna be a bully!”

Moi?” He strikes a Miss Piggy pose.

Non, ta jument méchante, qui ronfle comme un os endormi.”

Theo roars with laughter. “My evil what? Mare? Who snores like a sleepy bone?”

“I meant twin. Ju-something…else.”

“Ah. Jumeau, ma chérie. Jumeau méchant. Evil twin. And I do not snore. Especially not like a bone.”

I roll my eyes. “Bear. I wanted to say bear.”

Ours, not os. Bien? Dis-le et répète, Danielle.”

Say it and repeat. Oh, brother.

I tip my head side to side as I chant, “Ours, ours, ours, ours, ours. Happy?”

“Cheer up, babe, you’ve improved a lot. Your grammar’s quite good. You used the feminine adjective with jument, which was great, even if it wasn’t the noun you wanted.”

“I’m never gonna get this. Parisians will bludgeon me with baguettes for crimes against the mother tongue.”

“You are getting it. Can’t you see that? You’ve picked up in six months what it took me three years to learn. Of course, I didn’t have a patient instructor completely dedicated to my success.”

“Come on, Thebes. You’ve got to be bored out of your mind teaching a dunce like me.”

“Dunce? Hardly. You are way too hard on yourself. So you made a mistake. Big deal. Who doesn’t? Heck, I’m learning here, too. Remember the flashcard fiasco?”

“I’d rather not.” Theo pounding the wall, purple-faced; me curled up in fetal position—not a scene I care to replay. Ever.

“Well, me neither. That was totally my bad. But I learned from it, right? I’ve had quite the adventure developing my cutting-edge teaching techniques.”

I snort.

“Yeah? You doubt me? I’m deeply insulted.”

“What’s so cutting edge about, ‘Dis-le et répète’?”

“How do you think you learned to draw, Dani? Practice. Lots of it. Years of filling sketch pad after sketch pad until your scribbles became shapes became art. Anyone who thinks they can get some new skill without practice is an idiot. So, ma chérie, after we get through tomorrow’s finals and my last regatta, we will répéter, en français all day, every day, until you go. Très bien?”

Mum strides into the living room, clenching the phone. I can almost smell the fury pulsing out of her, like fumes from a hot engine.

Pas bien. Mal. Très, très mal.

“There’s been a change of plans,” she says.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Französisch is French auf Deutsch. Can you guess which language I studied and which one wants a role in WIP-2? Um, yeah, the German speaker is going to wrangle with French. (Whether you're thinking Toll! or Zut alors! probably depends on which side of the Rhine you're more comfortable.) Why do I do this to myself? I guess my curious side that likes to look under rocks is begging for some stimulation. I seem to add at least one element to each of my stories that's outside my current knowledge base. Researching keeps me on my toes, I think. The less I assume I know, the stronger my work becomes.

My entry for tomorrow's "Let's Talk blogfest" is out on a language consult right now, so I hope not to be late to the party or garner too many giggles.

Do you strictly stick to writing what you know, or is your work research-based? Where are you pushing past your knowledge base?
Monday, May 17, 2010 Laurel Garver
Französisch is French auf Deutsch. Can you guess which language I studied and which one wants a role in WIP-2? Um, yeah, the German speaker is going to wrangle with French. (Whether you're thinking Toll! or Zut alors! probably depends on which side of the Rhine you're more comfortable.) Why do I do this to myself? I guess my curious side that likes to look under rocks is begging for some stimulation. I seem to add at least one element to each of my stories that's outside my current knowledge base. Researching keeps me on my toes, I think. The less I assume I know, the stronger my work becomes.

My entry for tomorrow's "Let's Talk blogfest" is out on a language consult right now, so I hope not to be late to the party or garner too many giggles.

Do you strictly stick to writing what you know, or is your work research-based? Where are you pushing past your knowledge base?

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's a curious thing how my energy and enthusiasm for just about anything is not consistent. And even more curious is that it surprises me every time I hit low ebb. My low ebb times piss me off a little, frankly. I don't like the procrastinating lump I become who wants to pull into a shell, turtle-like. Doubt and darkness are not fun. They feel like death.

But here's the strange thing--nothing good in my life has happened without being preceded by a low ebb. Ever. The day before my husband proposed, for example, I wrote a close friend that I was losing hope the relationship was going anywhere. (She teases me about this now.)

You see, low ebb times are when real growth actually happens. Life begins in the dark. Tulip bulb awakens under the snow, egg and sperm fuse in the womb's deep, seed sends its first searching roots into the lightless soil. It is a great mystery. Divine.

Low ebbs don't end until I give up and stop fighting them, stop pretending that I am my own god who can make my dreams happen the way I want when I want. When I admit I am inadequate for the task God's given me, he never fails to show up. And some strange, new flower I've never seen before, never anticipated, begins to bloom in the murkiest spot imaginable.

Do you fight the low-ebb times? How might surrendering to doubt be an act of faith? What strange blossoms have grown for you in and through a dark time?
Friday, May 14, 2010 Laurel Garver
It's a curious thing how my energy and enthusiasm for just about anything is not consistent. And even more curious is that it surprises me every time I hit low ebb. My low ebb times piss me off a little, frankly. I don't like the procrastinating lump I become who wants to pull into a shell, turtle-like. Doubt and darkness are not fun. They feel like death.

But here's the strange thing--nothing good in my life has happened without being preceded by a low ebb. Ever. The day before my husband proposed, for example, I wrote a close friend that I was losing hope the relationship was going anywhere. (She teases me about this now.)

You see, low ebb times are when real growth actually happens. Life begins in the dark. Tulip bulb awakens under the snow, egg and sperm fuse in the womb's deep, seed sends its first searching roots into the lightless soil. It is a great mystery. Divine.

Low ebbs don't end until I give up and stop fighting them, stop pretending that I am my own god who can make my dreams happen the way I want when I want. When I admit I am inadequate for the task God's given me, he never fails to show up. And some strange, new flower I've never seen before, never anticipated, begins to bloom in the murkiest spot imaginable.

Do you fight the low-ebb times? How might surrendering to doubt be an act of faith? What strange blossoms have grown for you in and through a dark time?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Today's fest is hosted by the Alliterative Allomorph and our fun, fun theme is internal conflict!

This piece is from my second book in progress, so it's basically a cleaned-up rough draft. (In revision, I need to thin out some figures of speech, or so my CPs say.)

I don't think this needs much explanation; it's the second scene in the first chapter. My MC is 17-yo Dani, an arty New Yorker who lost her British dad in a car crash two years prior; her widowed mother is an MFA student. Poppa is her maternal grandfather, Theo, her boyfriend.

=================

My hands start shaking so bad I can barely hold the paper scrap where I scrawled the hospital’s number. For all I know, Poppa will be dead in minutes if they don’t operate. But without Mum’s approval, they legally can’t.

I cannot believe my mother would leave Theo and me alone in the condo. She’s usually checking on us every ten minutes like clockwork, bugging us with incessant questions or roping Theo into chores like opening jars or pulling things off high shelves. She seems to have this bizarre fear that Theo and I are going to rip each other’s clothes off at any moment and make me the next teen pregnancy statistic. Yeah, right. That’s as likely as my being drafted as a linebacker for the Giants.

Mum can’t have gone far—probably just to the little market on Columbus to pick up dinner ingredients. Surely she’ll be back any minute. I should call the front desk, ask the guard if he saw her go out. Theo could hold down the fort while I look for her.

Gosh, I can just picture her standing in line at Rico’s, looking for all the world like a bohemian free spirit in her snug t-shirt, paint-spattered jeans, strappy sandals, gobs of gypsy jewelry, hair in long, loose layers. She’ll glance up from her basket of Thai basil and coconut milk, see my face and just know. Know that I’m about to hurl a bomb at her. Know that trouble’s found her yet again, like it always does.

How can I tell her? How? Especially after what happened to Dad.

I just wish I could make this all go away. In days we’re headed to Paris to spend golden mornings on the banks of the Seine, painting side-by-side on matching easels. The hot afternoons we’ll while away in the Louvre, communing with the masters. We’ll finally meet some of my mother’s long-lost French relatives. We’ll wear goofy hats and stuff ourselves with pastries and sleep well for a change. We’ll have time to just hang out, have fun, really talk. Create and dream. Pray and meditate. Rest. Finally heal. Six months we’ve been planning this, down to the daily café stops, a different one each day.

I see the hospital number in my hand again, and my mouth goes as dry as a day-old croissant. Poppa could have massive bleeding on the brain right now. I know exactly what that means—pressure building like floodwaters behind a levee, flattening everything. Cells, synapses, ganglion crushed, dying, dead.

My grand Paris dream starts to pull away, a face in a taxi window. Off toward Midtown. Off to find a more worthy recipient. Then a homeless drug addict steps in front of my metaphorical taxi and it stops. The coked-up guy stands there, fists on hips, chin jutted out, dark eyes flashing, as if daring the driver to flatten him in his frayed cords and Nietzsche T-shirt. He winks at me and scratches his head, which is suddenly bald. In a blink, the stoner philosopher I only vaguely remember transforms into the flannel-shirted craftsman I’ve come to love: Mum’s little brother, my uncle formerly known as DJ.

Of course. If there’s anyone who can make the Poppa problem disappear, it’s the prodigal son.

I carry the phone to my bedroom, hit #4 on speed dial.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010 Laurel Garver
Today's fest is hosted by the Alliterative Allomorph and our fun, fun theme is internal conflict!

This piece is from my second book in progress, so it's basically a cleaned-up rough draft. (In revision, I need to thin out some figures of speech, or so my CPs say.)

I don't think this needs much explanation; it's the second scene in the first chapter. My MC is 17-yo Dani, an arty New Yorker who lost her British dad in a car crash two years prior; her widowed mother is an MFA student. Poppa is her maternal grandfather, Theo, her boyfriend.

=================

My hands start shaking so bad I can barely hold the paper scrap where I scrawled the hospital’s number. For all I know, Poppa will be dead in minutes if they don’t operate. But without Mum’s approval, they legally can’t.

I cannot believe my mother would leave Theo and me alone in the condo. She’s usually checking on us every ten minutes like clockwork, bugging us with incessant questions or roping Theo into chores like opening jars or pulling things off high shelves. She seems to have this bizarre fear that Theo and I are going to rip each other’s clothes off at any moment and make me the next teen pregnancy statistic. Yeah, right. That’s as likely as my being drafted as a linebacker for the Giants.

Mum can’t have gone far—probably just to the little market on Columbus to pick up dinner ingredients. Surely she’ll be back any minute. I should call the front desk, ask the guard if he saw her go out. Theo could hold down the fort while I look for her.

Gosh, I can just picture her standing in line at Rico’s, looking for all the world like a bohemian free spirit in her snug t-shirt, paint-spattered jeans, strappy sandals, gobs of gypsy jewelry, hair in long, loose layers. She’ll glance up from her basket of Thai basil and coconut milk, see my face and just know. Know that I’m about to hurl a bomb at her. Know that trouble’s found her yet again, like it always does.

How can I tell her? How? Especially after what happened to Dad.

I just wish I could make this all go away. In days we’re headed to Paris to spend golden mornings on the banks of the Seine, painting side-by-side on matching easels. The hot afternoons we’ll while away in the Louvre, communing with the masters. We’ll finally meet some of my mother’s long-lost French relatives. We’ll wear goofy hats and stuff ourselves with pastries and sleep well for a change. We’ll have time to just hang out, have fun, really talk. Create and dream. Pray and meditate. Rest. Finally heal. Six months we’ve been planning this, down to the daily café stops, a different one each day.

I see the hospital number in my hand again, and my mouth goes as dry as a day-old croissant. Poppa could have massive bleeding on the brain right now. I know exactly what that means—pressure building like floodwaters behind a levee, flattening everything. Cells, synapses, ganglion crushed, dying, dead.

My grand Paris dream starts to pull away, a face in a taxi window. Off toward Midtown. Off to find a more worthy recipient. Then a homeless drug addict steps in front of my metaphorical taxi and it stops. The coked-up guy stands there, fists on hips, chin jutted out, dark eyes flashing, as if daring the driver to flatten him in his frayed cords and Nietzsche T-shirt. He winks at me and scratches his head, which is suddenly bald. In a blink, the stoner philosopher I only vaguely remember transforms into the flannel-shirted craftsman I’ve come to love: Mum’s little brother, my uncle formerly known as DJ.

Of course. If there’s anyone who can make the Poppa problem disappear, it’s the prodigal son.

I carry the phone to my bedroom, hit #4 on speed dial.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Crystal at Write Because You Must tagged me some time ago to complete the following blog meme.

Where were you five years ago?
-In year five of living in our three-story row here in Philly, preparing to potty train my daughter.
-Restless and bored as a SAHM and exploring self-employment options, such as a freelance editing and/or a publication design business.
-Riding high on spiritual pride and systematically burning myself out doing entirely too much church volunteer work.
-Being regularly tormented by a reproductive endocrinologist. Fun times.
-Being amazed daily by how incredibly fun, imaginative and easy my toddler daughter was.

Where would you like to be in five years?
-Secure and content with our choice of junior high for our daughter.
-Getting more regular exercise with a young, new shelter rescue dog. (Chances of current pooch living to 17 is slim at best.)
-Getting my kitchen redone so I have a dishwasher!
-Agented, with three books complete and marketable, at least one on shelves.
-Using my teaching skills in some way, possibly at writer's conferences.

What is on your to-do list today?
-send rejection letters
-mail review book to a prof. in Florida
-further revise chapters 14 and 15, in hopes ideas present themselves for fixing two scenes in 13
-put away clean laundry
-return Mom's call

What snacks do you enjoy?
-Granny Smith slices dipped in caramel
-popcorn
-sour cream and onion chips
-pretzels dipped in spreadable cheddar
-Keebler EL Fudge cookies and Lion bars from the UK

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
-Start a large charitable foundation to fund these types of projects: support services for the mentally ill, including free meds and counseling; urban renewal, especially parks, reforestation of land and urban agriculture; literacy and libraries.
-Build a retreat center in the Poconos where hubby could hold philosophy intensives and I could run writers' retreats. It would be near a lake and have a riding stable, of course!
-Build a Gothic-style church for our congregation, plus facilities from which to run mercy ministries.
-Provide for family members' college and retirement, on the stipulation they work with the foundation in some capacity. (Because being too comfortably well off tends to ruin people.)
-Travel .

I pass this along to the following five bloggers:

JEM at Can I Get a Side of Reality with That?
Jamie at Dancing Down Serendipity Street
Janet at It Is What It Is...
Jenna at Writing in the Dreamstate
Lynn at Place to Create

Do any of you feel simultaneously excited and terrified by the prospect of big success, especially financial? What excites you most? What do you fear about it?
Tuesday, May 11, 2010 Laurel Garver
Crystal at Write Because You Must tagged me some time ago to complete the following blog meme.

Where were you five years ago?
-In year five of living in our three-story row here in Philly, preparing to potty train my daughter.
-Restless and bored as a SAHM and exploring self-employment options, such as a freelance editing and/or a publication design business.
-Riding high on spiritual pride and systematically burning myself out doing entirely too much church volunteer work.
-Being regularly tormented by a reproductive endocrinologist. Fun times.
-Being amazed daily by how incredibly fun, imaginative and easy my toddler daughter was.

Where would you like to be in five years?
-Secure and content with our choice of junior high for our daughter.
-Getting more regular exercise with a young, new shelter rescue dog. (Chances of current pooch living to 17 is slim at best.)
-Getting my kitchen redone so I have a dishwasher!
-Agented, with three books complete and marketable, at least one on shelves.
-Using my teaching skills in some way, possibly at writer's conferences.

What is on your to-do list today?
-send rejection letters
-mail review book to a prof. in Florida
-further revise chapters 14 and 15, in hopes ideas present themselves for fixing two scenes in 13
-put away clean laundry
-return Mom's call

What snacks do you enjoy?
-Granny Smith slices dipped in caramel
-popcorn
-sour cream and onion chips
-pretzels dipped in spreadable cheddar
-Keebler EL Fudge cookies and Lion bars from the UK

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
-Start a large charitable foundation to fund these types of projects: support services for the mentally ill, including free meds and counseling; urban renewal, especially parks, reforestation of land and urban agriculture; literacy and libraries.
-Build a retreat center in the Poconos where hubby could hold philosophy intensives and I could run writers' retreats. It would be near a lake and have a riding stable, of course!
-Build a Gothic-style church for our congregation, plus facilities from which to run mercy ministries.
-Provide for family members' college and retirement, on the stipulation they work with the foundation in some capacity. (Because being too comfortably well off tends to ruin people.)
-Travel .

I pass this along to the following five bloggers:

JEM at Can I Get a Side of Reality with That?
Jamie at Dancing Down Serendipity Street
Janet at It Is What It Is...
Jenna at Writing in the Dreamstate
Lynn at Place to Create

Do any of you feel simultaneously excited and terrified by the prospect of big success, especially financial? What excites you most? What do you fear about it?

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day to all moms, and a special reminder to love well your sisters and friends suffering infertility, miscarriage and loss of a child. Today is ten times more painful than any other day of the year to these ladies. Nurture them and let them know how they are mothers of your soul!

Have you ever given thought to your mother's influence on what and how you write? Here's a story I posted last summer reflecting on that. (Another lazy repost?? Um, yeah. *blushes*)

4 August 2009

I had a harrowing night last night when our third floor toilet's water line broke. The problem went unnoticed for about 20 minutes, until the water started raining into the second floor, first floor and basement. The next few hours were eaten up with bailing, mopping, tamping down towels, laundering towels, running fans. Today as I slump around, fatigued and worried a ceiling might still collapse, I can't help but remember what my mother always says about these sorts of disasters: "it will make a good story later."

I think Mom's philosophy on life as narrative has shaped me in ways I'm only beginning to understand. If my life is a story, then it's the messes, mishaps and failures that actually make it interesting. Not that I seek these things out, but when disaster does occur, it carries with it the promise of bringing something ultimately transformative, maybe even redemptive. "It will make a good story later" makes me notice things I otherwise wouldn't, from the shape of stains on the ceiling to the way my husband's shoulders slump as he contemplates them.

Watching Mom over the years ferret away details in the midst of turmoil then transform them into captivating comic stories has been quite an education. Not only have I learned to see the humor potential in all things (and to never take myself too seriously), I've also gained a habit of attentiveness when life goes awry--a valuable skill in any writer's toolbox.

How has your mom's influence shaped your writing? In how you see the world? In your themes? In your characterization?
Sunday, May 09, 2010 Laurel Garver
Happy Mother's Day to all moms, and a special reminder to love well your sisters and friends suffering infertility, miscarriage and loss of a child. Today is ten times more painful than any other day of the year to these ladies. Nurture them and let them know how they are mothers of your soul!

Have you ever given thought to your mother's influence on what and how you write? Here's a story I posted last summer reflecting on that. (Another lazy repost?? Um, yeah. *blushes*)

4 August 2009

I had a harrowing night last night when our third floor toilet's water line broke. The problem went unnoticed for about 20 minutes, until the water started raining into the second floor, first floor and basement. The next few hours were eaten up with bailing, mopping, tamping down towels, laundering towels, running fans. Today as I slump around, fatigued and worried a ceiling might still collapse, I can't help but remember what my mother always says about these sorts of disasters: "it will make a good story later."

I think Mom's philosophy on life as narrative has shaped me in ways I'm only beginning to understand. If my life is a story, then it's the messes, mishaps and failures that actually make it interesting. Not that I seek these things out, but when disaster does occur, it carries with it the promise of bringing something ultimately transformative, maybe even redemptive. "It will make a good story later" makes me notice things I otherwise wouldn't, from the shape of stains on the ceiling to the way my husband's shoulders slump as he contemplates them.

Watching Mom over the years ferret away details in the midst of turmoil then transform them into captivating comic stories has been quite an education. Not only have I learned to see the humor potential in all things (and to never take myself too seriously), I've also gained a habit of attentiveness when life goes awry--a valuable skill in any writer's toolbox.

How has your mom's influence shaped your writing? In how you see the world? In your themes? In your characterization?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Looking for a few good rentals for the upcoming weekend? (Is it bad that I'm thinking weekend already?) Something to stimulate your writerly brain a bit, instead of the usual car chases and pedestrian romances?

Come to the land of indie film! This week I'm highlighting a few recent faves that feature teen boy protagonists and offer three very different takes on male adolescence.

Charlie Bartlett
Flixter description:
A wealthy teen goes to a new public high school and ingratiates himself into its social fabric by using his charm to become the school's resident "psychiatrist."

My take: Fun and charming film about a nice kid who's had entirely too little parenting. Charlie's misguided attempts to become popular perpetually run afoul of adult rules, but his underlying vulnerability and caring attitude keep you rooting for him. I especially like the way the romantic relationship develops, founded first on a supportive friendship. It's rare to see that in teen films. The parent-child relationships are also done well, and not the usual cliches. I've heard others compare this film to Ferris Beuller's Day Off--I think CB is deeper and more concerned with teens having healthy connections with the adult world rather than simply kids gone wild, thumbing their noses at authority.

Pope Dreams
Description from the film site: Pope Dreams is about a directionless, 19-year old boy, Andy Venable, who works for his hard-case dad in a warehouse during the day and plays drums in a loud heavy-metal band at night. His only clear goal at the moment is to get his sick mother, a devout Catholic, to meet the Pope before she dies. While he's busy with that, he falls for a girl who's totally out of his league and gets discovered by two Broadway producers for a musical talent that just might be his true calling. Andy's a dreamer. But dreaming is easy. It's reality that's hard.

My take: I love independent film for bringing sweet stories like this one to the screen. Despite the rather silly title, this redemptive story of a teen boy totally adrift as his mother is dying of cancer hits many of the right notes and mostly avoids being maudlin. The romantic subplot will make your heart ache at times, but it serves thematic purpose. Andy learns, like the biblical Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery, "you intended it for harm, but God intended it for good."

Brick Flixter description: "Brick," while taking its cues and its verbal style from the novels of Dashiell Hammett, also honors the rich cinematic tradition of the hard-boiled noir mystery, here wittily and bracingly immersed in fresh territory -- a modern-day Southern California neighborhood and high school. There, student Brendan Frye's piercing intelligence spares no one. Brendan is not afraid to back up his words with actions, and knows all the angles; yet he prefers to stay an outsider, and does -- until the day that his ex-girlfriend, Emily reaches out to him unexpectedly and then vanishes. Brendan's feelings for her still run deep; so much so, that he becomes consumed with finding his troubled inamorata. To find her, Brendan enlists the aid of his only true peer, The Brain, while keeping the assistant vice principal only occasionally informed of what quickly becomes a dangerous investigation.

My take: A stylish adaptation of the film noir detective genre, set among affluent, suburban teens embroiled in drug culture who speak in incomprehensible slang. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has grown up nicely since his Third Rock days and plays the smart, tough-yet-vulnerable leading man with aplomb. The Tiger Beat crowd won't see his appeal, but the smart, arty girls will.

As with most SciFi, you're thrown into a new world and must put the pieces together. The story's pace and tension keep you intrigued, even when the characters don't quite seem to be speaking English.

Do any of these sound appealing? Why or why not? What films do you recommend that feature teen guys?
Thursday, May 06, 2010 Laurel Garver
Looking for a few good rentals for the upcoming weekend? (Is it bad that I'm thinking weekend already?) Something to stimulate your writerly brain a bit, instead of the usual car chases and pedestrian romances?

Come to the land of indie film! This week I'm highlighting a few recent faves that feature teen boy protagonists and offer three very different takes on male adolescence.

Charlie Bartlett
Flixter description:
A wealthy teen goes to a new public high school and ingratiates himself into its social fabric by using his charm to become the school's resident "psychiatrist."

My take: Fun and charming film about a nice kid who's had entirely too little parenting. Charlie's misguided attempts to become popular perpetually run afoul of adult rules, but his underlying vulnerability and caring attitude keep you rooting for him. I especially like the way the romantic relationship develops, founded first on a supportive friendship. It's rare to see that in teen films. The parent-child relationships are also done well, and not the usual cliches. I've heard others compare this film to Ferris Beuller's Day Off--I think CB is deeper and more concerned with teens having healthy connections with the adult world rather than simply kids gone wild, thumbing their noses at authority.

Pope Dreams
Description from the film site: Pope Dreams is about a directionless, 19-year old boy, Andy Venable, who works for his hard-case dad in a warehouse during the day and plays drums in a loud heavy-metal band at night. His only clear goal at the moment is to get his sick mother, a devout Catholic, to meet the Pope before she dies. While he's busy with that, he falls for a girl who's totally out of his league and gets discovered by two Broadway producers for a musical talent that just might be his true calling. Andy's a dreamer. But dreaming is easy. It's reality that's hard.

My take: I love independent film for bringing sweet stories like this one to the screen. Despite the rather silly title, this redemptive story of a teen boy totally adrift as his mother is dying of cancer hits many of the right notes and mostly avoids being maudlin. The romantic subplot will make your heart ache at times, but it serves thematic purpose. Andy learns, like the biblical Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery, "you intended it for harm, but God intended it for good."

Brick Flixter description: "Brick," while taking its cues and its verbal style from the novels of Dashiell Hammett, also honors the rich cinematic tradition of the hard-boiled noir mystery, here wittily and bracingly immersed in fresh territory -- a modern-day Southern California neighborhood and high school. There, student Brendan Frye's piercing intelligence spares no one. Brendan is not afraid to back up his words with actions, and knows all the angles; yet he prefers to stay an outsider, and does -- until the day that his ex-girlfriend, Emily reaches out to him unexpectedly and then vanishes. Brendan's feelings for her still run deep; so much so, that he becomes consumed with finding his troubled inamorata. To find her, Brendan enlists the aid of his only true peer, The Brain, while keeping the assistant vice principal only occasionally informed of what quickly becomes a dangerous investigation.

My take: A stylish adaptation of the film noir detective genre, set among affluent, suburban teens embroiled in drug culture who speak in incomprehensible slang. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has grown up nicely since his Third Rock days and plays the smart, tough-yet-vulnerable leading man with aplomb. The Tiger Beat crowd won't see his appeal, but the smart, arty girls will.

As with most SciFi, you're thrown into a new world and must put the pieces together. The story's pace and tension keep you intrigued, even when the characters don't quite seem to be speaking English.

Do any of these sound appealing? Why or why not? What films do you recommend that feature teen guys?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The fiction experts tell us time and again to "show, not tell." It's a useful enough guideline, as far as it goes. But how should one go about showing? Describing physical sensations is one way: throat tightening and eyes stinging shows a character is sad or upset. But a whole page of this sort of description gets tiring to read. Ditto with descriptions of movement and tone of voice.

Tapping into a character's interior world and showing thoughts that are never spoken can be another way of punching up a scene. The real trick is to write "non telling" thoughts. One of the ways to do that came to me, strangely, while editing an essay about Knut Hamsun at work. The author of the piece was from Denmark, and my mind made the association he's Danish...mmm, I could go for a danish. Wouldn't knut hamsun be the perfect name for a rich, eggy dessert bread full of pecans, sultanas and candied cherries? I posted some of these random thoughts on Facebook, and a friend piped up, "you must be hungry." Of course, I was hungry. Ridiculously hungry. Those strange associations said it colorfully and memorably, much more than if I'd made my status "Laurel is hungry."

So when you want to tell it slant in your character's inner monologues, remember "random associations" as yet another way of showing, rather than telling, how you character feels.

Ever played word association games with your character? How might he or she respond when asked to name the next thing in his/her head when hearing these words: home, trouble, desire, peace, friend, normal?

=================

*Yes, it's another repost from my early blogging days. I don't want to entirely neglect the blog, but I'm on fire with revisions right now--completely rewrote three chapters in under a month, and just got critiques back last night to make them shiny. Ideas for revising the back end of the book are popcorning in my brain. Back to work!
Tuesday, May 04, 2010 Laurel Garver
The fiction experts tell us time and again to "show, not tell." It's a useful enough guideline, as far as it goes. But how should one go about showing? Describing physical sensations is one way: throat tightening and eyes stinging shows a character is sad or upset. But a whole page of this sort of description gets tiring to read. Ditto with descriptions of movement and tone of voice.

Tapping into a character's interior world and showing thoughts that are never spoken can be another way of punching up a scene. The real trick is to write "non telling" thoughts. One of the ways to do that came to me, strangely, while editing an essay about Knut Hamsun at work. The author of the piece was from Denmark, and my mind made the association he's Danish...mmm, I could go for a danish. Wouldn't knut hamsun be the perfect name for a rich, eggy dessert bread full of pecans, sultanas and candied cherries? I posted some of these random thoughts on Facebook, and a friend piped up, "you must be hungry." Of course, I was hungry. Ridiculously hungry. Those strange associations said it colorfully and memorably, much more than if I'd made my status "Laurel is hungry."

So when you want to tell it slant in your character's inner monologues, remember "random associations" as yet another way of showing, rather than telling, how you character feels.

Ever played word association games with your character? How might he or she respond when asked to name the next thing in his/her head when hearing these words: home, trouble, desire, peace, friend, normal?

=================

*Yes, it's another repost from my early blogging days. I don't want to entirely neglect the blog, but I'm on fire with revisions right now--completely rewrote three chapters in under a month, and just got critiques back last night to make them shiny. Ideas for revising the back end of the book are popcorning in my brain. Back to work!

Monday, May 03, 2010

It's day two of results from Friday's name game. Here is the second batch of names I looked up for you in one of the books in my name library, The Baby Name Personality Survey by Bruce Lansky and Barry Sinrod (New York: Meadowbrook Press, 1990). The authors surveyed 150,000 people from across the nation and asked their impressions and expectations of image, personality and appearance for 1,400 names.

These are heavily influenced by popular culture, so keep in mind the book is 20 years old.

Here's what the survey said about your requested names:

For Jemi:
Eleanor a form of Helen ["light"]
Eleanor is pictured as a pretty, statuesque woman who is ambitious, hardworking, serious and smart.

For Angela:
Mason (Old French) "stoneworker"
Mason is viewed as a hard-boiled, tight-lipped businessman or professional.

For Piedmont Writer:
Anne "graceful" English form of Hannah
The name Anne brings to mind a plain, middle-class woman who is kind, practical and industrious.

For Sarahjayne:
Libby a short form of Elizabeth ["consecrated"]
People picture Libby as a cute and chubby woman who is warm, friendly, homespun and talkative.

For Amber:
Sorry, Laurel isn't in the book. I've known only three other Laurels in real life: two were college classmates, one was a kid in the church nursery, born in 2006.

David (Hebrew) "beloved"
David is described as a strong, handsome, intelligent man who is friendly, good humored and dependable.

Owen (Welsh) form of John ["God is gracious"]
Owen is pictured as a tall, gray-haired, attractive sophisticate who is either friendly and dependable or phony and snobbish.

Adam (Hebrew) "man of the red earth"
Adam is described as a tall, dark and handsome man who is quiet and smart.

Carol (Latin) "strong, womanly" a form of Charles
Carol is imagined as a friendly, family-oriented extrovert who is lots of fun.

Laine/Lane (Middle English) "from the narrow road"
People have two images of Lane: a large, tall woman who is funny and easygoing or a trendy social climber who is posh and sophisticated.

Do you agree or disagree with any of these popular conceptions of name images? Do you think in the 20 years since the book was published any of the images have changed significantly? How so? Discuss!
Monday, May 03, 2010 Laurel Garver
It's day two of results from Friday's name game. Here is the second batch of names I looked up for you in one of the books in my name library, The Baby Name Personality Survey by Bruce Lansky and Barry Sinrod (New York: Meadowbrook Press, 1990). The authors surveyed 150,000 people from across the nation and asked their impressions and expectations of image, personality and appearance for 1,400 names.

These are heavily influenced by popular culture, so keep in mind the book is 20 years old.

Here's what the survey said about your requested names:

For Jemi:
Eleanor a form of Helen ["light"]
Eleanor is pictured as a pretty, statuesque woman who is ambitious, hardworking, serious and smart.

For Angela:
Mason (Old French) "stoneworker"
Mason is viewed as a hard-boiled, tight-lipped businessman or professional.

For Piedmont Writer:
Anne "graceful" English form of Hannah
The name Anne brings to mind a plain, middle-class woman who is kind, practical and industrious.

For Sarahjayne:
Libby a short form of Elizabeth ["consecrated"]
People picture Libby as a cute and chubby woman who is warm, friendly, homespun and talkative.

For Amber:
Sorry, Laurel isn't in the book. I've known only three other Laurels in real life: two were college classmates, one was a kid in the church nursery, born in 2006.

David (Hebrew) "beloved"
David is described as a strong, handsome, intelligent man who is friendly, good humored and dependable.

Owen (Welsh) form of John ["God is gracious"]
Owen is pictured as a tall, gray-haired, attractive sophisticate who is either friendly and dependable or phony and snobbish.

Adam (Hebrew) "man of the red earth"
Adam is described as a tall, dark and handsome man who is quiet and smart.

Carol (Latin) "strong, womanly" a form of Charles
Carol is imagined as a friendly, family-oriented extrovert who is lots of fun.

Laine/Lane (Middle English) "from the narrow road"
People have two images of Lane: a large, tall woman who is funny and easygoing or a trendy social climber who is posh and sophisticated.

Do you agree or disagree with any of these popular conceptions of name images? Do you think in the 20 years since the book was published any of the images have changed significantly? How so? Discuss!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Results time, friends! Thanks to everyone who posted their name requests on Friday.

Below are descriptions from The Baby Name Personality Survey by Bruce Lansky and Barry Sinrod (New York: Meadowbrook Press, 1990). The authors surveyed 150,000 people from across the nation and asked their impressions and expectations of image, personality and appearance for 1,400 names.

These are heavily influenced by popular culture, so keep in mind the book is 20 years old.

For Nicole:
Julie (Latin) "youthful"; a form of Julius
The name Julie calls to mind a tall, quiet woman who is pleasant and average.

For Miss V:
Faith (Middle English) "fidelity"
People picture Faith as a petite, blonde, highly religious woman who is trustworthy, gentle, shy and quiet.

For Janet:
Bob a short from of Robert [(Old English) "Bright fame"]
Most people consider Bob an All-American good guy -- tall, easygoing, friendly, confident and successful. To some, Bob is studious, quiet and boring. Others describe him as lazy, selfish and whiny.

For Bish:
Marvin (Old English) "Lover of the sea"
Most people picture Marvin as a pleasant, middle-aged, skinny, bespectacled musician.

For Kristi:
Moira (Irish Gaelic) "great"
The name Moira evokes an image of a plain woman with thick glasses who is religious, quiet and reserved.

For Lola:
Lola a from of Dolores [(Spanish) "sorrows"]
Lola is described as a sexy Latin woman who is pleasant but loose.
(they used a meaner word :-( Sorry!!!)

For Talli:
Matilda (Old German) "powerful in battle"
Matilda is thought to be a big, heavy, old spinster who is bossy. Some also think it would be a great name for a witch.

For Rosslyn:
Rosalyn (Spanish) "beautiful rose"
There are two images for this name: happy, energetic and classy like Rosalind Russell or quiet, Southern, businesslike and strong-willed like Rosalynn Carter.

Brooke (Old English) "from the brook"
Brooke is described as a rich, sexy sophisticate who is superficial and stuck up.

On Monday, I'll post the next batch of results. Stay tuned!

Do you agree or disagree with any of these popular conceptions of name images? Do you think in the 20 years since the book was published any of the images have changed significantly? How so? Discuss!
Sunday, May 02, 2010 Laurel Garver
Results time, friends! Thanks to everyone who posted their name requests on Friday.

Below are descriptions from The Baby Name Personality Survey by Bruce Lansky and Barry Sinrod (New York: Meadowbrook Press, 1990). The authors surveyed 150,000 people from across the nation and asked their impressions and expectations of image, personality and appearance for 1,400 names.

These are heavily influenced by popular culture, so keep in mind the book is 20 years old.

For Nicole:
Julie (Latin) "youthful"; a form of Julius
The name Julie calls to mind a tall, quiet woman who is pleasant and average.

For Miss V:
Faith (Middle English) "fidelity"
People picture Faith as a petite, blonde, highly religious woman who is trustworthy, gentle, shy and quiet.

For Janet:
Bob a short from of Robert [(Old English) "Bright fame"]
Most people consider Bob an All-American good guy -- tall, easygoing, friendly, confident and successful. To some, Bob is studious, quiet and boring. Others describe him as lazy, selfish and whiny.

For Bish:
Marvin (Old English) "Lover of the sea"
Most people picture Marvin as a pleasant, middle-aged, skinny, bespectacled musician.

For Kristi:
Moira (Irish Gaelic) "great"
The name Moira evokes an image of a plain woman with thick glasses who is religious, quiet and reserved.

For Lola:
Lola a from of Dolores [(Spanish) "sorrows"]
Lola is described as a sexy Latin woman who is pleasant but loose.
(they used a meaner word :-( Sorry!!!)

For Talli:
Matilda (Old German) "powerful in battle"
Matilda is thought to be a big, heavy, old spinster who is bossy. Some also think it would be a great name for a witch.

For Rosslyn:
Rosalyn (Spanish) "beautiful rose"
There are two images for this name: happy, energetic and classy like Rosalind Russell or quiet, Southern, businesslike and strong-willed like Rosalynn Carter.

Brooke (Old English) "from the brook"
Brooke is described as a rich, sexy sophisticate who is superficial and stuck up.

On Monday, I'll post the next batch of results. Stay tuned!

Do you agree or disagree with any of these popular conceptions of name images? Do you think in the 20 years since the book was published any of the images have changed significantly? How so? Discuss!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Charity at My Writing Journey is hosting today's blogfest of scenes with cooking or baking. I hope to include some funny cooking moments in my next book, because domestic tasks are so not my MCs strong suit. But since I'm revising the first book like a madwoman, I had to pull out an existing scene with cooking.

This scene is narrated by MC Danielle (Dani) Deane, who's 15. It's the day after a large memorial service was held for her father, a British ex-pat. Her paternal grandparents are making Sunday dinner. Dani's mother and maternal grandfather enter at the end of the scene and have one of their usual "touching moments."

================

Some interesting kitchen smells waft down the hall and I realize, for the first time in days, that I’m actually hungry at a normal time.

My Deane grandparents buzz around the kitchen in aprons, looking like characters from the BBC’s Vicar of Dibley plopped into an episode of Chef! Grandpa, in his clerical collar, busily whacks a whisk around a saucepan, scourging a sauce with medieval zeal. Grandma leans over the open oven and prods something richly meaty-smelling inside.

“Hey, what’s up?” I ask, trying to sound casual and not drool.

Grandma closes the oven, smiles. “Ah, sweetheart! You fancy a nice Sunday dinner—leg of lamb, Yorkshire pudding, roasted carrots?”

“And gravy!” Grandpa holds up his whisk with a flourish.

“Sounds scrumptious. Shall I set?” Jeez. I’m talking like a Brit again. I swear it’s contagious. Give me another day with Dad’s family and I’ll be emptying the dustbin and waiting for the rubbish lorry to haul it away.

“Please do,” Grandma says. “I think your aunt got caught up in her e-mail and quite forgot about us.”

I squeeze past Grandpa and pull six plates out of the cabinet. In the midst of cooking noises, a faint tune plays in the background. “Winter Wonderland.” Gosh, I’d forgotten it’s still the holidays. This’ll be a real memorable New Year’s. Instead of screaming in Times Square, I’ll be flying over Greenland with an urn.

“Let’s see.” Grandma shifts her foggy glasses to read the oven timer. “Just seventeen minutes more. I do hope Grace isn’t late.”

“Where is Mum?” I pull out fistfuls of silverware.

“Meeting some fellow, name of Bell,” Grandpa says. “Is it usual for her to work on Sundays? Is that why she’s been at church so little these years?”

“Mr. Bell is headmaster at my school. I hope she’s bribing him to get me out of the piles of homework my teachers expect me to take to England.”

“Bribing! Is it really as bad as all that, dearest?” Grandma asks.

“Hellooo!” Mum calls, bustling in, red-cheeked. There’s a dusting of snow in her hair. She plops a stack of folders and paperbacks on the counter and unwinds her scarf. “That was quite invigorating. Flurrying a little, but not so cold. I should think you could manage the walk to Rexford easily, Dani, with those long legs of yours.”

“Dad liked driving me.”

She leafs though the pile like she didn’t hear me. “Headmaster Bell was quite helpful in getting your reading assignments into travel size. Let’s see. Hamlet in a lovely paperback instead of that huge complete works you’ve been lugging around. Colored photocopies of your textbook chapters: world history, geometry…and anatomy. There’s a pamphlet on volleyball rules for PE, sheet music for chorale….Didn’t think you needed drawing paper. Now this is fabulous—all of your Spanish on CD-ROM! It’s got audio and video clips and even some games. That should pass the time quickly, eh?”

Behind me, someone snorts. I turn, and there's Poppa Tilman, standing in the doorway looking rumpled, like he just woke from a nap.

“Work, work, work,” he says. “You always think that’s the answer, Gracie. Work enough and nothing in life touches you.”

Mum stiffens. “I don’t see how wallowing could help anyone.”

“No, you wouldn’t.”

Grandma and Grandpa busy themselves fussing over a cookbook. I’m curious, since they’re arguing about me, but I take the cue: act busy. I stay by the table and slowly place silverware: spoon, spoon, fork, fork. Argument? I don’t hear any argument.

“Are you suggesting we let her fail?” Mum says.

“I’m not suggesting anything,” Poppa says. “I’m saying right out that our girl needs a vacation. Time to just do nothing if she wants.”

“She’s getting time away from classes and routine. But be reasonable. She can’t just drop out of life and expect things to magically get done.”

“So what if they don’t get done, Gracie? You think the headmaster’s gonna call for heads on platters? I don’t think so. All you need’s a note from a therapist. Far as I know, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one in this town.”

Poppa pushes roughly past her, pats my Deane grandparents on the back. “Gayle, Elliott, dinner smells divine. Many thanks for fixing this fine feast.”

Mum quietly straightens my mega-formal three-fork, two-spoon place settings, her mouth downturned. For half a second, she looks like a sad little girl, wishing Pop would compliment her for a change. She notices me watching her, jerks to attention and hurries away.
Saturday, May 01, 2010 Laurel Garver
Charity at My Writing Journey is hosting today's blogfest of scenes with cooking or baking. I hope to include some funny cooking moments in my next book, because domestic tasks are so not my MCs strong suit. But since I'm revising the first book like a madwoman, I had to pull out an existing scene with cooking.

This scene is narrated by MC Danielle (Dani) Deane, who's 15. It's the day after a large memorial service was held for her father, a British ex-pat. Her paternal grandparents are making Sunday dinner. Dani's mother and maternal grandfather enter at the end of the scene and have one of their usual "touching moments."

================

Some interesting kitchen smells waft down the hall and I realize, for the first time in days, that I’m actually hungry at a normal time.

My Deane grandparents buzz around the kitchen in aprons, looking like characters from the BBC’s Vicar of Dibley plopped into an episode of Chef! Grandpa, in his clerical collar, busily whacks a whisk around a saucepan, scourging a sauce with medieval zeal. Grandma leans over the open oven and prods something richly meaty-smelling inside.

“Hey, what’s up?” I ask, trying to sound casual and not drool.

Grandma closes the oven, smiles. “Ah, sweetheart! You fancy a nice Sunday dinner—leg of lamb, Yorkshire pudding, roasted carrots?”

“And gravy!” Grandpa holds up his whisk with a flourish.

“Sounds scrumptious. Shall I set?” Jeez. I’m talking like a Brit again. I swear it’s contagious. Give me another day with Dad’s family and I’ll be emptying the dustbin and waiting for the rubbish lorry to haul it away.

“Please do,” Grandma says. “I think your aunt got caught up in her e-mail and quite forgot about us.”

I squeeze past Grandpa and pull six plates out of the cabinet. In the midst of cooking noises, a faint tune plays in the background. “Winter Wonderland.” Gosh, I’d forgotten it’s still the holidays. This’ll be a real memorable New Year’s. Instead of screaming in Times Square, I’ll be flying over Greenland with an urn.

“Let’s see.” Grandma shifts her foggy glasses to read the oven timer. “Just seventeen minutes more. I do hope Grace isn’t late.”

“Where is Mum?” I pull out fistfuls of silverware.

“Meeting some fellow, name of Bell,” Grandpa says. “Is it usual for her to work on Sundays? Is that why she’s been at church so little these years?”

“Mr. Bell is headmaster at my school. I hope she’s bribing him to get me out of the piles of homework my teachers expect me to take to England.”

“Bribing! Is it really as bad as all that, dearest?” Grandma asks.

“Hellooo!” Mum calls, bustling in, red-cheeked. There’s a dusting of snow in her hair. She plops a stack of folders and paperbacks on the counter and unwinds her scarf. “That was quite invigorating. Flurrying a little, but not so cold. I should think you could manage the walk to Rexford easily, Dani, with those long legs of yours.”

“Dad liked driving me.”

She leafs though the pile like she didn’t hear me. “Headmaster Bell was quite helpful in getting your reading assignments into travel size. Let’s see. Hamlet in a lovely paperback instead of that huge complete works you’ve been lugging around. Colored photocopies of your textbook chapters: world history, geometry…and anatomy. There’s a pamphlet on volleyball rules for PE, sheet music for chorale….Didn’t think you needed drawing paper. Now this is fabulous—all of your Spanish on CD-ROM! It’s got audio and video clips and even some games. That should pass the time quickly, eh?”

Behind me, someone snorts. I turn, and there's Poppa Tilman, standing in the doorway looking rumpled, like he just woke from a nap.

“Work, work, work,” he says. “You always think that’s the answer, Gracie. Work enough and nothing in life touches you.”

Mum stiffens. “I don’t see how wallowing could help anyone.”

“No, you wouldn’t.”

Grandma and Grandpa busy themselves fussing over a cookbook. I’m curious, since they’re arguing about me, but I take the cue: act busy. I stay by the table and slowly place silverware: spoon, spoon, fork, fork. Argument? I don’t hear any argument.

“Are you suggesting we let her fail?” Mum says.

“I’m not suggesting anything,” Poppa says. “I’m saying right out that our girl needs a vacation. Time to just do nothing if she wants.”

“She’s getting time away from classes and routine. But be reasonable. She can’t just drop out of life and expect things to magically get done.”

“So what if they don’t get done, Gracie? You think the headmaster’s gonna call for heads on platters? I don’t think so. All you need’s a note from a therapist. Far as I know, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one in this town.”

Poppa pushes roughly past her, pats my Deane grandparents on the back. “Gayle, Elliott, dinner smells divine. Many thanks for fixing this fine feast.”

Mum quietly straightens my mega-formal three-fork, two-spoon place settings, her mouth downturned. For half a second, she looks like a sad little girl, wishing Pop would compliment her for a change. She notices me watching her, jerks to attention and hurries away.