Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Today is the last day of November and as I look back over the past 30 days, I'm SO glad I skipped NaNoWriMo in favor of NaBalWriMo (national balanced writers month).

I had a number of goals for myself and accomplished a few of them, as well as a few things that should have been on the list. Highlights for me include:

More exercise.
Committing to regularly walking the dog also got me pumped to bike more often. Hobbit girl and I have found some great places to ride and we've had a blast.

Cast your bread upon the waters and it will return to you.
I've been decluttering the house like crazy and donating stuff whenever possible. During one drop off, hobbit girl wanted to pop into the thrift shop to look at books and videos. She found some Harry Potter stationery and I got a freaking miracle. There was a Maytag portable dishwasher (the kind you hook up to your kitchen sink for an hour) for $50, or 10% of what the machines cost new. At last I could be free from my 10 years of sink slavery without having to spend a fortune to redo the entire kitchen. We removed one cabinet and voila, I now have an extra hour a day of not doing chores!!! Woo hoo!

Reaching out.
I participated in Harry Potter week with some old and new blog friends and had so much fun! After nearly a year and a half of running this blog, it was great to rekindle my enthusiasm for it. I also finally got an author page for myself up and running on Facebook. It's been great connecting with people there and that's helped tremendously with query jitters.

Refreshing.
Letting myself off the hook to produce has been a mixed blessing. While not writing has loosed the grip of perfectionism that had been so immobilizing, I also began to feel lonely not hanging out with my characters. I missed them and yesterday dove back in to work on plot knots.

Movies, I found, were wonderful for restoring my courage and sense of play, perhaps because it's a different medium. The documentary American Teen is one I'd recommend to my YA writing friends if you ever need to remind yourself why reaching out to kids this age is your passion. Disney's Tangled will instill you with hope that old things can be refreshed and made stronger. If you're bogged down in revisions, this is the flick for you. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows instilled in me once again that evil wins when good people do nothing and that pursuing a calling can be hard and thankless at times, but support is near and abundant.

How was your November? What things have refreshed you during dry times? Have you ever taken a break from writing? What brought you back to the desk?
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 Laurel Garver
Today is the last day of November and as I look back over the past 30 days, I'm SO glad I skipped NaNoWriMo in favor of NaBalWriMo (national balanced writers month).

I had a number of goals for myself and accomplished a few of them, as well as a few things that should have been on the list. Highlights for me include:

More exercise.
Committing to regularly walking the dog also got me pumped to bike more often. Hobbit girl and I have found some great places to ride and we've had a blast.

Cast your bread upon the waters and it will return to you.
I've been decluttering the house like crazy and donating stuff whenever possible. During one drop off, hobbit girl wanted to pop into the thrift shop to look at books and videos. She found some Harry Potter stationery and I got a freaking miracle. There was a Maytag portable dishwasher (the kind you hook up to your kitchen sink for an hour) for $50, or 10% of what the machines cost new. At last I could be free from my 10 years of sink slavery without having to spend a fortune to redo the entire kitchen. We removed one cabinet and voila, I now have an extra hour a day of not doing chores!!! Woo hoo!

Reaching out.
I participated in Harry Potter week with some old and new blog friends and had so much fun! After nearly a year and a half of running this blog, it was great to rekindle my enthusiasm for it. I also finally got an author page for myself up and running on Facebook. It's been great connecting with people there and that's helped tremendously with query jitters.

Refreshing.
Letting myself off the hook to produce has been a mixed blessing. While not writing has loosed the grip of perfectionism that had been so immobilizing, I also began to feel lonely not hanging out with my characters. I missed them and yesterday dove back in to work on plot knots.

Movies, I found, were wonderful for restoring my courage and sense of play, perhaps because it's a different medium. The documentary American Teen is one I'd recommend to my YA writing friends if you ever need to remind yourself why reaching out to kids this age is your passion. Disney's Tangled will instill you with hope that old things can be refreshed and made stronger. If you're bogged down in revisions, this is the flick for you. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows instilled in me once again that evil wins when good people do nothing and that pursuing a calling can be hard and thankless at times, but support is near and abundant.

How was your November? What things have refreshed you during dry times? Have you ever taken a break from writing? What brought you back to the desk?

Monday, November 22, 2010

You might read my blog title in a Kenau Reeves way or as a reins-tugging command to Nelly. This post is a little of both.

HP 7.1
I went to a morning showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1 on Saturday, thankful that the film is popular enough for theaters to open before lunchtime. I have to say, I felt emotionally walloped by this film. In compressing the story to work on film, some of the very, very few moments of light get short shrift--Bill and Fleur's wedding, for example. What slow moments there are felt all the more oppressive and tense because of it.

I thought the Ministry of Magic sequence was one of the better adaptations--paced well and still as tense and scary as in the book. I also liked how the screenwriter handled the camping scenes with Harry, Ron and Hermione. You get the sense of their aimlessness and frustration without belaboring the point.

I was really impressed with Tom Felton's fairly cameo appearance as Draco Malfoy. He has almost no lines, but his expressions and postures shout his fear and misery. The sets and cinematography were also truly superior in this penultimate film of the series.

Friend me!
You might have noticed that late last week I added a Facebook badge to my page. I now have a page up for my writerly self, and if I haven't yet found you and sent a friend request, please take a moment to friend me--I believe you can do so through the badge. I've also registered my blog with the networked blogs widget, so feel free to follow using that widget as well. I'm happy to return the favor.

Blog un-plug
I'll be focusing on Facebook this week and unplugging from blogging.

Have a fabulous Thanksgiving, American friends (and a lovely normal week to my international friends)!
Monday, November 22, 2010 Laurel Garver
You might read my blog title in a Kenau Reeves way or as a reins-tugging command to Nelly. This post is a little of both.

HP 7.1
I went to a morning showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1 on Saturday, thankful that the film is popular enough for theaters to open before lunchtime. I have to say, I felt emotionally walloped by this film. In compressing the story to work on film, some of the very, very few moments of light get short shrift--Bill and Fleur's wedding, for example. What slow moments there are felt all the more oppressive and tense because of it.

I thought the Ministry of Magic sequence was one of the better adaptations--paced well and still as tense and scary as in the book. I also liked how the screenwriter handled the camping scenes with Harry, Ron and Hermione. You get the sense of their aimlessness and frustration without belaboring the point.

I was really impressed with Tom Felton's fairly cameo appearance as Draco Malfoy. He has almost no lines, but his expressions and postures shout his fear and misery. The sets and cinematography were also truly superior in this penultimate film of the series.

Friend me!
You might have noticed that late last week I added a Facebook badge to my page. I now have a page up for my writerly self, and if I haven't yet found you and sent a friend request, please take a moment to friend me--I believe you can do so through the badge. I've also registered my blog with the networked blogs widget, so feel free to follow using that widget as well. I'm happy to return the favor.

Blog un-plug
I'll be focusing on Facebook this week and unplugging from blogging.

Have a fabulous Thanksgiving, American friends (and a lovely normal week to my international friends)!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter week is drawing to a close and we all know how hard it is to say goodbye. So I'll leave you in the vast forest of story and image being created by those who also want to keep making magic in Rowling's fictional world.

Fan Fiction
Fans who write creatively have long been weaving new tales to fill in backstory for minor characters, explore wizard subcultures only briefly mentioned, speculate what might have been, or practice a little wish fulfillment. Here are some of the big catch-all sites where fans post their Harry Potter-inspired fictional creations

Harry Potter Fan Fiction
Mugglenet Fan Fiction page
Fiction Alley
The Quidditch Pitch

There are dozens more sites, most dedicated to a group of characters or to taking the stories beyond the PG-13 realm into less kid-friendly territory, if you get my drift. These sites above all appear to keep the adult material separate and well marked as such.

Fan Art
There are galleries galore that illustrate the books scene by scene ("canon" artwork), and plenty more that reach beyond the parameters of the book--imagining extensive happenings for characters during their lives off the page.

Fanart at the Leaky Cauldron
Mugglenet Fan Art page
Harry Potter Companion (all "canon" artwork)

I'll leave you with a few of my favorites.


Neville being as awesome as I always hoped he would be.


Many fan fic artists take this sort of comic-book style approach.


Fawkes in flames


From this artist's amazing blog


This was created in a wholly digital environment. Pretty impressive.












Hogwarts by moonlight


This piece was made with traditional art methods.

You can purchase a fine art print of this piece HERE.






Ron and Hermione


Isn't this sweet? I like how the artist aged them, too. You can see more of this artist's work HERE.


Don't forget to visit the rest of the Potter Week sextet:

Jen Daiker
Lisa Galek
Renae Mercado
Colene Murphy
Melissa Wideen


What aspect of fan fiction and art intrigues you most? Backstories of characters? Taking the characters into the future? What might have been? Cross pollination with other fantasy worlds?
Friday, November 19, 2010 Laurel Garver
Harry Potter week is drawing to a close and we all know how hard it is to say goodbye. So I'll leave you in the vast forest of story and image being created by those who also want to keep making magic in Rowling's fictional world.

Fan Fiction
Fans who write creatively have long been weaving new tales to fill in backstory for minor characters, explore wizard subcultures only briefly mentioned, speculate what might have been, or practice a little wish fulfillment. Here are some of the big catch-all sites where fans post their Harry Potter-inspired fictional creations

Harry Potter Fan Fiction
Mugglenet Fan Fiction page
Fiction Alley
The Quidditch Pitch

There are dozens more sites, most dedicated to a group of characters or to taking the stories beyond the PG-13 realm into less kid-friendly territory, if you get my drift. These sites above all appear to keep the adult material separate and well marked as such.

Fan Art
There are galleries galore that illustrate the books scene by scene ("canon" artwork), and plenty more that reach beyond the parameters of the book--imagining extensive happenings for characters during their lives off the page.

Fanart at the Leaky Cauldron
Mugglenet Fan Art page
Harry Potter Companion (all "canon" artwork)

I'll leave you with a few of my favorites.


Neville being as awesome as I always hoped he would be.


Many fan fic artists take this sort of comic-book style approach.


Fawkes in flames


From this artist's amazing blog


This was created in a wholly digital environment. Pretty impressive.












Hogwarts by moonlight


This piece was made with traditional art methods.

You can purchase a fine art print of this piece HERE.






Ron and Hermione


Isn't this sweet? I like how the artist aged them, too. You can see more of this artist's work HERE.


Don't forget to visit the rest of the Potter Week sextet:

Jen Daiker
Lisa Galek
Renae Mercado
Colene Murphy
Melissa Wideen


What aspect of fan fiction and art intrigues you most? Backstories of characters? Taking the characters into the future? What might have been? Cross pollination with other fantasy worlds?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's day four of Harry Potter week, and today my compadres are all getting geared up for the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1. Go check them out for more Pottermania:

Jen Daiker
Lisa Galek
Renae Mercado
Colene Murphy
Melissa Wideen

Sadly, I can't get childcare to join the opening night festivities--that whole pesky school night thing. Sigh. We will be seeing the film, without Hobbit Girl, sometime over the weekend.


A big part of HP fan culture is dressing in costume for events, especially launches of new books and films. The elaborateness of costumes runs the gamut, from a simple themed t-shirt or house scarf accenting mugglewear to full head-to-toe character impersonations.

You have a range of options for dressing magical.

Licensed costumes
Warner Bros., the studio that produces the films, has an entire line of official costumes. This is your no-fuss option, but prices can be a bit steep.



































Adapt mugglewear
This is a good budget option, but it may require some legwork on your part. Hogwarts uniforms are perhaps one of the easiest options to adapt. Look how cute the Wizard Rock duo The Moaning Myrtles look in their easy costumes: white blouse, blue striped tie, grey pleated skirt and knee socks.

Or stretch your creativity a little farther, like this awesome librarian who added badges to graduation robes, made a uniform with simple black slacks and sweater, then added accessories: gardening gloves, a whistle, (swim) goggles and a craft-store broom. Viola! Madame Hooch, ready to coach quidditch.












Custom design
If you have some skills with sewing, you can take your costumes to the next level. Here are some particularly awesome character impersonations:

Stand up straight! Here comes Dolores Umbridge, the wizard facist that made us all seethe through Order of the Phoenix.













Watch out boys, it's one of those classy girls from Beauxbatons.
You can read how this talented crafter made the outfit HERE.















And who's to say the family pet can't be in on the fun? Check out this fabulous canine costume of Fluffy from Sorcerer's Stone.

Have you ever dressed up for a Harry Potter event? What did you wear? What's the best costume you've ever seen?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 Laurel Garver
It's day four of Harry Potter week, and today my compadres are all getting geared up for the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1. Go check them out for more Pottermania:

Jen Daiker
Lisa Galek
Renae Mercado
Colene Murphy
Melissa Wideen

Sadly, I can't get childcare to join the opening night festivities--that whole pesky school night thing. Sigh. We will be seeing the film, without Hobbit Girl, sometime over the weekend.


A big part of HP fan culture is dressing in costume for events, especially launches of new books and films. The elaborateness of costumes runs the gamut, from a simple themed t-shirt or house scarf accenting mugglewear to full head-to-toe character impersonations.

You have a range of options for dressing magical.

Licensed costumes
Warner Bros., the studio that produces the films, has an entire line of official costumes. This is your no-fuss option, but prices can be a bit steep.



































Adapt mugglewear
This is a good budget option, but it may require some legwork on your part. Hogwarts uniforms are perhaps one of the easiest options to adapt. Look how cute the Wizard Rock duo The Moaning Myrtles look in their easy costumes: white blouse, blue striped tie, grey pleated skirt and knee socks.

Or stretch your creativity a little farther, like this awesome librarian who added badges to graduation robes, made a uniform with simple black slacks and sweater, then added accessories: gardening gloves, a whistle, (swim) goggles and a craft-store broom. Viola! Madame Hooch, ready to coach quidditch.












Custom design
If you have some skills with sewing, you can take your costumes to the next level. Here are some particularly awesome character impersonations:

Stand up straight! Here comes Dolores Umbridge, the wizard facist that made us all seethe through Order of the Phoenix.













Watch out boys, it's one of those classy girls from Beauxbatons.
You can read how this talented crafter made the outfit HERE.















And who's to say the family pet can't be in on the fun? Check out this fabulous canine costume of Fluffy from Sorcerer's Stone.

Have you ever dressed up for a Harry Potter event? What did you wear? What's the best costume you've ever seen?

It's day three of Harry Potter week, and I'm teaming up with five fabulous women to celebrate all things Harry. Swing on by the blogs below for more Pottermania!

Jen Daiker
Lisa Galek
Renae Mercado
Colene Murphy
Melissa Wideen

Do you ever wish YOU could play quidditch? Good news--now you can!

Muggle Quidditch, my friends, is the awesome new sport sweeping high school and college campuses. To see a game in action, check out this video:



Last weekend was the Muggle Quidditch World Cup in NYC. The International Quidditch Association hosted 46 teams playing off for the world cup title. Middlebury--the team featured in the video above--took the 2010 championship.

More on the World Cup madness from New York Magazine is HERE.

What do you think--is this fandom gone too far (and too silly)? Or are you off to find your local club or varsity team to cheer them on (HERE is the link)?
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 Laurel Garver
It's day three of Harry Potter week, and I'm teaming up with five fabulous women to celebrate all things Harry. Swing on by the blogs below for more Pottermania!

Jen Daiker
Lisa Galek
Renae Mercado
Colene Murphy
Melissa Wideen

Do you ever wish YOU could play quidditch? Good news--now you can!

Muggle Quidditch, my friends, is the awesome new sport sweeping high school and college campuses. To see a game in action, check out this video:



Last weekend was the Muggle Quidditch World Cup in NYC. The International Quidditch Association hosted 46 teams playing off for the world cup title. Middlebury--the team featured in the video above--took the 2010 championship.

More on the World Cup madness from New York Magazine is HERE.

What do you think--is this fandom gone too far (and too silly)? Or are you off to find your local club or varsity team to cheer them on (HERE is the link)?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My brainy Ravenclaw friends, you'll be pleased to know that muggles in academia are giving Rowling's fictional world very serious study.

Literature
The first professorial types to bring Rowling into academia were the literature buffs. Some, of course, approached the popular series with suspicion and snobbery. Others saw the richness of Rowling's world and her engagement with existing tropes: the orphan story, the hero's quest, the boarding school adventure, kid sleuth mystery and dark humor ala Roald Dahl. Others delved deeper and saw exciting things in Rowling's narrative technique--especially narrative misdirection and the limited third person perspective as tools for educating the reader while Harry also learns.

Some, like John Granger, found Rowing engaging with mythology, alchemy and (gasp!) even allegory. I HIGHLY recommend his books for exploring the deeper layers of the series (written for a general audience--very readable). And check out his fabulous blog, too. A new generation of scholars is subjecting the series to existing schools of literary criticism: archetypal criticism, feminist readings, psychoanalytical readings, reader-response, Marxist crit, etc. To give you an idea of the sorts of scholarly interest the books have generated, see a call for papers for an academic symposium HERE.

If you're toying with getting a PhD in English, know that yes, you can write your dissertation on Harry Potter!

Philosophy and Social Sciences
Literature profs. aren't the only ones taking Harry seriously. Philosophers have also been intrigued by the deeper questions Rowling's work explores. The difference between rule-following and virtue is one of many aspects of moral philosophy explored. The ethics of enslaving house elves, of oppressing centaurs, and other such questions are also of interest to philosophers. So is the epistemology (how we know what we know) at play when our hero's perspective is often limited and wrongheaded.

These are questions that intrigue my husband and led him to create a course called Harry Potter and Philosophy at his university. He also contributed a chapter to this fun collection of "philosophy for beginners" essays that engage Rowling's world--The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles. It was published by Wiley-Blackwell, an academic press!

One of the guest speakers he's brought in for the course is Potter specialist Travis Prinzi whose work Harry Potter and Imagination: A Way Between Two Worlds also engages philosophical ideas in Rowling's work. Travis also runs a fabulous blog, The Hog's Head and does a series of podcasts.

Social scientists have also been exploring the cultural and psychological implications of the books. Media studies experts study the films, fan fiction, fan art, Wizard Rock and other phenomena surrounding the series.

Don't forget to visit the others celebrating Harry Potter Week!
Jen Daiker
Lisa Galek
Renae Mercado
Colene Murphy
Melissa Wideen
What do you think of academia's embrace of the Harry Potter series? If you could take a college course on HP, which discipline would you choose: literature, philosophy, sociology, media studies?
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 Laurel Garver
My brainy Ravenclaw friends, you'll be pleased to know that muggles in academia are giving Rowling's fictional world very serious study.

Literature
The first professorial types to bring Rowling into academia were the literature buffs. Some, of course, approached the popular series with suspicion and snobbery. Others saw the richness of Rowling's world and her engagement with existing tropes: the orphan story, the hero's quest, the boarding school adventure, kid sleuth mystery and dark humor ala Roald Dahl. Others delved deeper and saw exciting things in Rowling's narrative technique--especially narrative misdirection and the limited third person perspective as tools for educating the reader while Harry also learns.

Some, like John Granger, found Rowing engaging with mythology, alchemy and (gasp!) even allegory. I HIGHLY recommend his books for exploring the deeper layers of the series (written for a general audience--very readable). And check out his fabulous blog, too. A new generation of scholars is subjecting the series to existing schools of literary criticism: archetypal criticism, feminist readings, psychoanalytical readings, reader-response, Marxist crit, etc. To give you an idea of the sorts of scholarly interest the books have generated, see a call for papers for an academic symposium HERE.

If you're toying with getting a PhD in English, know that yes, you can write your dissertation on Harry Potter!

Philosophy and Social Sciences
Literature profs. aren't the only ones taking Harry seriously. Philosophers have also been intrigued by the deeper questions Rowling's work explores. The difference between rule-following and virtue is one of many aspects of moral philosophy explored. The ethics of enslaving house elves, of oppressing centaurs, and other such questions are also of interest to philosophers. So is the epistemology (how we know what we know) at play when our hero's perspective is often limited and wrongheaded.

These are questions that intrigue my husband and led him to create a course called Harry Potter and Philosophy at his university. He also contributed a chapter to this fun collection of "philosophy for beginners" essays that engage Rowling's world--The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles. It was published by Wiley-Blackwell, an academic press!

One of the guest speakers he's brought in for the course is Potter specialist Travis Prinzi whose work Harry Potter and Imagination: A Way Between Two Worlds also engages philosophical ideas in Rowling's work. Travis also runs a fabulous blog, The Hog's Head and does a series of podcasts.

Social scientists have also been exploring the cultural and psychological implications of the books. Media studies experts study the films, fan fiction, fan art, Wizard Rock and other phenomena surrounding the series.

Don't forget to visit the others celebrating Harry Potter Week!
Jen Daiker
Lisa Galek
Renae Mercado
Colene Murphy
Melissa Wideen
What do you think of academia's embrace of the Harry Potter series? If you could take a college course on HP, which discipline would you choose: literature, philosophy, sociology, media studies?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The interwebs are all abuzz about this week's release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows film. Many other bloggers are writing Potter posts on topics big and small. Here are some lovely gals I'm joining for Potter Week, including some new friends:

Jen Daiker
Lisa Galek
Renae Mercado
Colene Murphy
Melissa Wideen

If you aren't deep into Potter lore, you might be surprised to know that this book series has spawned all sorts of cultural phenomena. I'll touch on a number of them throughout the week--a kind of intro to Potter Fandom.

Wizard Rock/Wrock
Since 2000, hundreds of bands have been spawned that do nothing but Potter-inspired songs. Here's a quick documentary to give you a feel for the genre:



Philly is one of many hotbeds of Wizard Rock. An annual Yule Ball is held in the Philly suburbs. I heard my first all Wizard Rock concert at the Free Library back in 2007, featuring The Moaning Myrtles, The Whomping Willows and the Remus Lupins. Since then, we've purchased or downloaded dozens more songs. I adore The Ministry of Magic, which does techno-pop. But all sorts of styles are represented, from country and adult alternative to rap and punk.

The most common venue for these groups to perform? Libraries. Most groups have literacy promotion as a core goal. But most of all, these groups are a kind of fandom that buys into Rowling's imagined universe and creatively makes it their own. How awesome is that?

Just for fun, go google your favorite HP character and find the band created in his or her honor. What did you find?

Have you ever attended a Wizard Rock event? Visited the Myspace Wrock community?
Monday, November 15, 2010 Laurel Garver
The interwebs are all abuzz about this week's release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows film. Many other bloggers are writing Potter posts on topics big and small. Here are some lovely gals I'm joining for Potter Week, including some new friends:

Jen Daiker
Lisa Galek
Renae Mercado
Colene Murphy
Melissa Wideen

If you aren't deep into Potter lore, you might be surprised to know that this book series has spawned all sorts of cultural phenomena. I'll touch on a number of them throughout the week--a kind of intro to Potter Fandom.

Wizard Rock/Wrock
Since 2000, hundreds of bands have been spawned that do nothing but Potter-inspired songs. Here's a quick documentary to give you a feel for the genre:



Philly is one of many hotbeds of Wizard Rock. An annual Yule Ball is held in the Philly suburbs. I heard my first all Wizard Rock concert at the Free Library back in 2007, featuring The Moaning Myrtles, The Whomping Willows and the Remus Lupins. Since then, we've purchased or downloaded dozens more songs. I adore The Ministry of Magic, which does techno-pop. But all sorts of styles are represented, from country and adult alternative to rap and punk.

The most common venue for these groups to perform? Libraries. Most groups have literacy promotion as a core goal. But most of all, these groups are a kind of fandom that buys into Rowling's imagined universe and creatively makes it their own. How awesome is that?

Just for fun, go google your favorite HP character and find the band created in his or her honor. What did you find?

Have you ever attended a Wizard Rock event? Visited the Myspace Wrock community?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ten years ago today, my hubby and I brought home our first pet, a handsome gold and white Husky/Australian shepherd mix I'd found through the local SPCA's website. When we first met "Lucky" and learned his history--that this was his second time being sent to a shelter--I knew he was going to be a challenge. He wouldn't make eye contact. He shied away from my husband. His chart said he ate phonebooks. Something about his shiftiness suggested trust issues and possibly abuse.

So beautiful, so traumatized, so un-lucky.

We renamed him Nicky, short for Dominic, "of the Lord." We stocked up on rawhide, bought a few baby gates to contain him and hoped for the best.

The first time I returned after leaving him a few hours, he pointed his snout to the sky and sang like a wolf. It was kind of beautiful.

He's not a quiet dog. We suspect his prior owners beat him for being so talkative. He has a stunning range of vocalizations for communicating all kinds of things, from "I'm thirsty" to "I'm scared of thunder." Once we really saw that spark of intelligence--especially in his expressive amber brown eyes--we realized he could comprehend many words too: walk, treat, bath, back yard, excuse me.

Nicky never ate a phonebook. He loved his rawhide for a few months, then lost interest in chewing things (outgrew the puppy phase, perhaps). He still can't comprehend "fetching" at all. He pulls like a sled dog when you walk him. He "herds" you toward the door when it's time for a walk. But he also comes running to comfort me whenever I cry, and nothing else makes me feel so welcomed home as his wolfish song of joy.

Happy adoption anniversary, Nicky.

Tell me about your favorite pet. Do you tend to include animals in your fiction? Why or why not?
Thursday, November 11, 2010 Laurel Garver
Ten years ago today, my hubby and I brought home our first pet, a handsome gold and white Husky/Australian shepherd mix I'd found through the local SPCA's website. When we first met "Lucky" and learned his history--that this was his second time being sent to a shelter--I knew he was going to be a challenge. He wouldn't make eye contact. He shied away from my husband. His chart said he ate phonebooks. Something about his shiftiness suggested trust issues and possibly abuse.

So beautiful, so traumatized, so un-lucky.

We renamed him Nicky, short for Dominic, "of the Lord." We stocked up on rawhide, bought a few baby gates to contain him and hoped for the best.

The first time I returned after leaving him a few hours, he pointed his snout to the sky and sang like a wolf. It was kind of beautiful.

He's not a quiet dog. We suspect his prior owners beat him for being so talkative. He has a stunning range of vocalizations for communicating all kinds of things, from "I'm thirsty" to "I'm scared of thunder." Once we really saw that spark of intelligence--especially in his expressive amber brown eyes--we realized he could comprehend many words too: walk, treat, bath, back yard, excuse me.

Nicky never ate a phonebook. He loved his rawhide for a few months, then lost interest in chewing things (outgrew the puppy phase, perhaps). He still can't comprehend "fetching" at all. He pulls like a sled dog when you walk him. He "herds" you toward the door when it's time for a walk. But he also comes running to comfort me whenever I cry, and nothing else makes me feel so welcomed home as his wolfish song of joy.

Happy adoption anniversary, Nicky.

Tell me about your favorite pet. Do you tend to include animals in your fiction? Why or why not?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One of my goals this month (that I've dubbed NaBalWriMo) is to seek freedom from the things that are bogging me down--burnout, creative low-ebb, disorganization and mess.

Spend a day with me and you'd see these things are all tied. My environment could be worse, mind you, but it isn't yet the haven I and my family need. What I need it to live with less. Lots less. But then the excuses start piling up, and I let the clutter problem remain unaddressed.

Stephanie Culp's Streamlining Your Life to the rescue. Here are some of the best excuse busters I've yet come across:

Know your goals and remove obstacles to achieving them
Clutter keeps me from having the energy and time to write. It also keeps my husband and daughter from being their creative, productive best, too.

Clutter steals time
Moving stuff from here to there and there to here is a huge time suck. So is scrambling to find essentials. And we all want more time, especially to write!

Decluttering blesses others
The toys your kids aren't playing with could be blessing another family. Ditto with the toasty coat that's too snug, the magazines you've read already and the CDs you've loaded on to your MP3 player. St. Thomas Aquinas argues that not sharing from our over-abundance is a form of stealing.

If I lost this in a house fire or flood or tornado, would I really miss it?
I've been through a major house fire with my parents, and let me tell you, it wakes you up quickly to what's "just stuff" and what truly brings you joy. I find this question especially helpful for culling things that no longer fit this phase of my life.

Your clutter won't go away on its own
Ignoring accumulations won't solve the problem. You brought the stuff into the house, you have to carry it out. There is no magical solution to making clutter disappear--though such a device or power would make great fodder for spec fic. Even house fires have to be cleaned up. You can, however, hire someone to help you declutter--but you have to take the step of contacting them.

Good enough is good enough
You don't have to perfectly balance the "correct" number of possessions. This is not an algebra test with one right answer. You might accidentally get rid of something you wish you hadn't. Or you might put in the trash what might have been recycled or donated. You might not be ready to part with a boxed up collection you inherited from Grandma. It might take weeks of a half hour here, a half hour there. That's OK. Take a deep breath and remember your bigger goals--like having a streamlined life that allows time to write--and keep purging the best you can.

Which of these excuse-busters speaks to you? What dreams would you chase with a less cluttered life?
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 Laurel Garver
One of my goals this month (that I've dubbed NaBalWriMo) is to seek freedom from the things that are bogging me down--burnout, creative low-ebb, disorganization and mess.

Spend a day with me and you'd see these things are all tied. My environment could be worse, mind you, but it isn't yet the haven I and my family need. What I need it to live with less. Lots less. But then the excuses start piling up, and I let the clutter problem remain unaddressed.

Stephanie Culp's Streamlining Your Life to the rescue. Here are some of the best excuse busters I've yet come across:

Know your goals and remove obstacles to achieving them
Clutter keeps me from having the energy and time to write. It also keeps my husband and daughter from being their creative, productive best, too.

Clutter steals time
Moving stuff from here to there and there to here is a huge time suck. So is scrambling to find essentials. And we all want more time, especially to write!

Decluttering blesses others
The toys your kids aren't playing with could be blessing another family. Ditto with the toasty coat that's too snug, the magazines you've read already and the CDs you've loaded on to your MP3 player. St. Thomas Aquinas argues that not sharing from our over-abundance is a form of stealing.

If I lost this in a house fire or flood or tornado, would I really miss it?
I've been through a major house fire with my parents, and let me tell you, it wakes you up quickly to what's "just stuff" and what truly brings you joy. I find this question especially helpful for culling things that no longer fit this phase of my life.

Your clutter won't go away on its own
Ignoring accumulations won't solve the problem. You brought the stuff into the house, you have to carry it out. There is no magical solution to making clutter disappear--though such a device or power would make great fodder for spec fic. Even house fires have to be cleaned up. You can, however, hire someone to help you declutter--but you have to take the step of contacting them.

Good enough is good enough
You don't have to perfectly balance the "correct" number of possessions. This is not an algebra test with one right answer. You might accidentally get rid of something you wish you hadn't. Or you might put in the trash what might have been recycled or donated. You might not be ready to part with a boxed up collection you inherited from Grandma. It might take weeks of a half hour here, a half hour there. That's OK. Take a deep breath and remember your bigger goals--like having a streamlined life that allows time to write--and keep purging the best you can.

Which of these excuse-busters speaks to you? What dreams would you chase with a less cluttered life?

Monday, November 08, 2010

I can't be the only one whose weekends are often full of chores, chores, a tiny bit of fun, and more chores. There ought to be a way to get out from under the weekly press of it so I have more balanced weekends. I'm realizing my family members' attention deficit issues mean most of the organizing falls to me, because I'm the only one with the skill set. Let me tell you, it gets discouraging pretty quickly.

Years ago I picked up a couple of household organizing books and NaBalWriMo just might be the time to revisit them and blog about tips I learn. One's called Streamlining Your Life by Stephanie Culp and the other is Bonnie's Household Organizer by Bonnie Runyan McCullough.

The number one rule of organizing is only organize what deserves your attention. And a lot of things don't.

Tip of the week:
Don't have too much stuff.

Simple, right? We hang on to stuff we don't need or haven't used for years for one of the following reasons:

I might need this someday
It's still perfectly good
Every ____ is precious (scribble, stuffed animal)
But it's an antique!
This might come back in style
A special person gave it to me
It's a piece of my history
Someday I'll take up this hobby again

All these excuses seem on their face logical, but they're actually emotionally-based decisions. Getting rid of "perfectly good" things we "might need" scares us. But hoarding to stave off a fear of deprivation actually CAUSES deprivation. Your life becomes captive to mess. You lose time and energy when you hoard. Later this week, I'll share some of Culp's no-nonsense talk to help counteract with solid thinking the emotions that make us captive to stuff.

What are your organization battle zones? What kinds of stuff are crowding your life? What excuses and emotions are keeping you fettered to belongings you don't need?
Monday, November 08, 2010 Laurel Garver
I can't be the only one whose weekends are often full of chores, chores, a tiny bit of fun, and more chores. There ought to be a way to get out from under the weekly press of it so I have more balanced weekends. I'm realizing my family members' attention deficit issues mean most of the organizing falls to me, because I'm the only one with the skill set. Let me tell you, it gets discouraging pretty quickly.

Years ago I picked up a couple of household organizing books and NaBalWriMo just might be the time to revisit them and blog about tips I learn. One's called Streamlining Your Life by Stephanie Culp and the other is Bonnie's Household Organizer by Bonnie Runyan McCullough.

The number one rule of organizing is only organize what deserves your attention. And a lot of things don't.

Tip of the week:
Don't have too much stuff.

Simple, right? We hang on to stuff we don't need or haven't used for years for one of the following reasons:

I might need this someday
It's still perfectly good
Every ____ is precious (scribble, stuffed animal)
But it's an antique!
This might come back in style
A special person gave it to me
It's a piece of my history
Someday I'll take up this hobby again

All these excuses seem on their face logical, but they're actually emotionally-based decisions. Getting rid of "perfectly good" things we "might need" scares us. But hoarding to stave off a fear of deprivation actually CAUSES deprivation. Your life becomes captive to mess. You lose time and energy when you hoard. Later this week, I'll share some of Culp's no-nonsense talk to help counteract with solid thinking the emotions that make us captive to stuff.

What are your organization battle zones? What kinds of stuff are crowding your life? What excuses and emotions are keeping you fettered to belongings you don't need?

Friday, November 05, 2010

It's the first Friday of a new month, and that means ART, baby! Philadelphia's art galleries in Olde City hold their monthly First Friday event, with new shows opening, later gallery closing times, meet and greets and refreshments. It's a fun, invigorating environment to hop into. Buskers pop up all over the neighborhood and local artisans--especially young students--hawk their wares from rickety card tables or blankets spread on the sidewalks.

The art world is one I love exploring, so of course my MC is an artist. Some of that choice of passion/career aspiration was thematic. She mentally rearranges what she sees so she can draw it the way she wants. But she also uses art to speak truth into the world. It's a gift I admire. One I wish I had.

I've loved drawing since I was quite young and took three years of art in high school. But honestly, I was just a dabbler. I could render a likeness with some competence, but narrating the world in image? I don't have the right kind of brain for it. Not visual enough. I can't follow those Ikea directions that are all pictures--I need words.

So writing Dani is my entree into being something I'm not, but wish I were. Tonight I'll rub elbows with the cool crowd and tell my daughter what's impressive about this technique or that composition. My artist wannabe self will fill up and I'll have more to pour into Dani.

What passion or skill have you given to a character that you wish you had?

Image from Hyatt's concierge.com site
Friday, November 05, 2010 Laurel Garver
It's the first Friday of a new month, and that means ART, baby! Philadelphia's art galleries in Olde City hold their monthly First Friday event, with new shows opening, later gallery closing times, meet and greets and refreshments. It's a fun, invigorating environment to hop into. Buskers pop up all over the neighborhood and local artisans--especially young students--hawk their wares from rickety card tables or blankets spread on the sidewalks.

The art world is one I love exploring, so of course my MC is an artist. Some of that choice of passion/career aspiration was thematic. She mentally rearranges what she sees so she can draw it the way she wants. But she also uses art to speak truth into the world. It's a gift I admire. One I wish I had.

I've loved drawing since I was quite young and took three years of art in high school. But honestly, I was just a dabbler. I could render a likeness with some competence, but narrating the world in image? I don't have the right kind of brain for it. Not visual enough. I can't follow those Ikea directions that are all pictures--I need words.

So writing Dani is my entree into being something I'm not, but wish I were. Tonight I'll rub elbows with the cool crowd and tell my daughter what's impressive about this technique or that composition. My artist wannabe self will fill up and I'll have more to pour into Dani.

What passion or skill have you given to a character that you wish you had?

Image from Hyatt's concierge.com site

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Alliterative Allomorph Jessica Bell, everyone's favorite Aussie ex-pat, is having a big, shiny giveaway of amazon.com gift cards. This one's open to international entries--good thing since Jessica lives in Greece.

Click HERE to learn more and enter. Go check it out!

And don't you love her theme?

What little things do you want to celebrate?
Thursday, November 04, 2010 Laurel Garver
The Alliterative Allomorph Jessica Bell, everyone's favorite Aussie ex-pat, is having a big, shiny giveaway of amazon.com gift cards. This one's open to international entries--good thing since Jessica lives in Greece.

Click HERE to learn more and enter. Go check it out!

And don't you love her theme?

What little things do you want to celebrate?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Getting out from under a work deadline has been incredibly freeing. And so has committing myself to NaBalWriMo, my experiment in "filling up" in a period of burnout.

I got in a bike ride with hobbit girl yesterday and she was quite impressed, since I haven't ridden in over a decade. That old adage about never forgetting how to ride is totally true. My muscles were remembering all my best bike memories. The summer between eighth and ninth grade, for example, I biked 10 miles nearly every day going to visit my BF Becky and her new horse, Chess. I liked to imagine my silver 10-speed was a dapple grey gelding named Strider. Unlike Chess, he never tried to throw me. Chess was green-broke, and I don't know what Becky's parents were thinking buying such an animal for a 14-y0.

But I digress. And I have to say it's an exceptionally good sign I'm able to do so. A week ago I was so fried, I could not have called up a memory from that era.

I did some quality writing yesterday on a scene I've been stuck on for ages. As Anne Lamott said, sometimes you just have to try things. Four hundred words later, I feel like energy is coming back in this project I'd begun to despair about.

Film time with hubby was the most surprising part of the day. We'd had this Argentinian Netflix pick "The Secret in Their Eyes" sitting around for two weeks unwatched. The fact it was about a writer researching and writing a novel appealed to me. The description on the sleeve was rather offputting, though:

"A startling discovery comes to light for retired Argentine criminal investigator Benjamín Espósito (Ricardo Darín) as he pens a biographical novel about the unsolved case of a young newlywed's brutal r*pe and murder years ago. Past and present intertwine for Espósito and colleague Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil) in director Juan José Campanella's Oscar-winning character study in which justice, pain and love collide."

I generally avoid movies with the word "brutal" anywhere in the description. I have to say, however, that this film approached a heinous crime with such sensitivity and emotional beauty. What matters is how deeply concerned the protagonist is with seeing justice served for the victim and the husband she left behind.

As a writer, I was especially interested in the protagonist's grappling with the aesthetic and ethical implications of fictionally "doing justice" to this case that has haunted and shaped his life.

The cinematography draws you in right away. Arty scenes suddenly cut to Benjamín crossing out lines and crumpling pages. He tries opening after opening--something I could totally relate to, even if my genre isn't crime fiction.

The film switches back and forth in time. In the present, a retired Benjamín writes and researches his novel and tries to make sense of his past. In flashbacks, younger Benjamín the legal counselor gets drawn into a case that is bungled by his superiors. He and a colleague (to whom he's obviously attracted) work to solve the crime and bring the killer to justice.

Justice, and how it is intertwined with love and fear (and love with fear) becomes the thematic thread linking the case, Benjamín's novel and Benjamín's search for meaning as he enters old age. Several very clever literary leitmotifs echo among the story lines. In the end, Benjamín must learn to reinterpret and re-narrate his own life. It's a powerful picture of how writing shapes the writer.
Have you tried something new lately? What pleasant surprises have resulted?
Wednesday, November 03, 2010 Laurel Garver
Getting out from under a work deadline has been incredibly freeing. And so has committing myself to NaBalWriMo, my experiment in "filling up" in a period of burnout.

I got in a bike ride with hobbit girl yesterday and she was quite impressed, since I haven't ridden in over a decade. That old adage about never forgetting how to ride is totally true. My muscles were remembering all my best bike memories. The summer between eighth and ninth grade, for example, I biked 10 miles nearly every day going to visit my BF Becky and her new horse, Chess. I liked to imagine my silver 10-speed was a dapple grey gelding named Strider. Unlike Chess, he never tried to throw me. Chess was green-broke, and I don't know what Becky's parents were thinking buying such an animal for a 14-y0.

But I digress. And I have to say it's an exceptionally good sign I'm able to do so. A week ago I was so fried, I could not have called up a memory from that era.

I did some quality writing yesterday on a scene I've been stuck on for ages. As Anne Lamott said, sometimes you just have to try things. Four hundred words later, I feel like energy is coming back in this project I'd begun to despair about.

Film time with hubby was the most surprising part of the day. We'd had this Argentinian Netflix pick "The Secret in Their Eyes" sitting around for two weeks unwatched. The fact it was about a writer researching and writing a novel appealed to me. The description on the sleeve was rather offputting, though:

"A startling discovery comes to light for retired Argentine criminal investigator Benjamín Espósito (Ricardo Darín) as he pens a biographical novel about the unsolved case of a young newlywed's brutal r*pe and murder years ago. Past and present intertwine for Espósito and colleague Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil) in director Juan José Campanella's Oscar-winning character study in which justice, pain and love collide."

I generally avoid movies with the word "brutal" anywhere in the description. I have to say, however, that this film approached a heinous crime with such sensitivity and emotional beauty. What matters is how deeply concerned the protagonist is with seeing justice served for the victim and the husband she left behind.

As a writer, I was especially interested in the protagonist's grappling with the aesthetic and ethical implications of fictionally "doing justice" to this case that has haunted and shaped his life.

The cinematography draws you in right away. Arty scenes suddenly cut to Benjamín crossing out lines and crumpling pages. He tries opening after opening--something I could totally relate to, even if my genre isn't crime fiction.

The film switches back and forth in time. In the present, a retired Benjamín writes and researches his novel and tries to make sense of his past. In flashbacks, younger Benjamín the legal counselor gets drawn into a case that is bungled by his superiors. He and a colleague (to whom he's obviously attracted) work to solve the crime and bring the killer to justice.

Justice, and how it is intertwined with love and fear (and love with fear) becomes the thematic thread linking the case, Benjamín's novel and Benjamín's search for meaning as he enters old age. Several very clever literary leitmotifs echo among the story lines. In the end, Benjamín must learn to reinterpret and re-narrate his own life. It's a powerful picture of how writing shapes the writer.
Have you tried something new lately? What pleasant surprises have resulted?

Monday, November 01, 2010

For some of us, November isn't the month to become drafting warriors. Perhaps you're in the midst of querying and have a draft underway, or have been revising a while and need to maintain momentum. Or maybe you're just a bit tired, period, and haven't been able to write much of anything for a while.

I'm in categories A and C. And it's the latter area that concerns me. It's not block, it's burnout. What I need is time to fill up and recharge.

I propose a month of creativity-building and moving forward on existing work as new energy comes. I'm calling it

NaBalWriMo
National Balanced Writers Month
more creativity, less guilt

If you're interested in joining the fun this month, let me know. Then post your own goals and the small step you plan to take. You can read mine HERE.

What are you up to this November? Want to be my NaBalWriMo buddy?
Monday, November 01, 2010 Laurel Garver
For some of us, November isn't the month to become drafting warriors. Perhaps you're in the midst of querying and have a draft underway, or have been revising a while and need to maintain momentum. Or maybe you're just a bit tired, period, and haven't been able to write much of anything for a while.

I'm in categories A and C. And it's the latter area that concerns me. It's not block, it's burnout. What I need is time to fill up and recharge.

I propose a month of creativity-building and moving forward on existing work as new energy comes. I'm calling it

NaBalWriMo
National Balanced Writers Month
more creativity, less guilt

If you're interested in joining the fun this month, let me know. Then post your own goals and the small step you plan to take. You can read mine HERE.

What are you up to this November? Want to be my NaBalWriMo buddy?