Monday, January 31, 2011

I need to take a hiatus from blogging for the week. A work deadline is looming and between my sick kid and dead computer, it's going to be a major challenge to meet it.

For now I leave you with a fun video, close to my band geek heart. I played mallet percussion in high school, like the short guy in OK Go does here.




See you all on the flip side.

Any other former band geeks out there? Instrumentalist or color guard?
Monday, January 31, 2011 Laurel Garver
I need to take a hiatus from blogging for the week. A work deadline is looming and between my sick kid and dead computer, it's going to be a major challenge to meet it.

For now I leave you with a fun video, close to my band geek heart. I played mallet percussion in high school, like the short guy in OK Go does here.




See you all on the flip side.

Any other former band geeks out there? Instrumentalist or color guard?

Friday, January 28, 2011

What's life without a little spontaneity? I thought for fun I'd join in the 99th page blogfest, hosted by Alicia at Slice of the Blog Pie. Swing by her blog to check out the other entries.

In this fest, we post an excerpt from the 99th page of one of our projects without contextualizing or explaining anything and ask you, dear readers, to answer the questions following the excerpt.

EXCERPT REMOVED

Today's rough and tumble independent publishing world made it necessary to remove all snippets and previous versions of my work from the blog. The existence of such a "publishing trail" can be used to file false DMCA notices about my novels.
Friday, January 28, 2011 Laurel Garver
What's life without a little spontaneity? I thought for fun I'd join in the 99th page blogfest, hosted by Alicia at Slice of the Blog Pie. Swing by her blog to check out the other entries.

In this fest, we post an excerpt from the 99th page of one of our projects without contextualizing or explaining anything and ask you, dear readers, to answer the questions following the excerpt.

EXCERPT REMOVED

Today's rough and tumble independent publishing world made it necessary to remove all snippets and previous versions of my work from the blog. The existence of such a "publishing trail" can be used to file false DMCA notices about my novels.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Remember those magical snow days of childhood (or perhaps you've read about them)? When Mom made pancakes and everyone had a blast building a snow fort? I'm trying to remember happier times, because today feels more like Narnia under the White Witch. I've still got the cold that never ends, and my computer croaked last night--suddenly and inexplicably. Because of the 18 inches of snow, our computer-guru friend can't come and take a look.

I'm thankful to not be entirely stuck. Hubby is letting me use his laptop today while he grades piles of homework assignments. My writing projects are all backed up on Dropbox, so if my computer can't be fixed, I won't lose much but some very old drafts.

Besides gratitude, imagination can also be a help when circumstances aren't ideal. As Henry David Thoreau says, "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."

So let's have some fun with winter-themed writing prompts:

~Write a story in which a family's idyllic snow day degenerates into a family war.

~Write a letter describing snow to a penpal who lives in a tropical climate.

~It's 1910 and you're an urban factory worker. How do you cope when there's two feet of snow and the trolleys aren't running?

~Write a story in which the main character's emotions or circumstances mirror this weather pattern: four inches of fluffy snow, rain, sleet, wintry mix, violent thundersnow, heavy snowfalls tapering to flurries. (That was Wednesday in Philly, in case you're wondering)

~Write a story of two geeky kids who become neighborhood heroes because of their valiant victory in a snowball fight.

~Write a poem about snow using only food metaphors and similes.

~Write a story in which a chain of random acts of kindness during a snowstorm work together to avert a disaster.

~Write a story about magical snow sculptures that come to life. Try it as a middle-grade fantasy. Try it as adult horror. Try it as farce or black humor.

~Write a story in which a bickering husband and wife begin to reconcile while snowed in.

~Write a story in which a boarding school is snowed in for days, keeping most of the teachers and staff away.

~Write a poem from the viewpoint of a snowman.

Which prompt appeals to you? How have gratitude and imagination helped you when things go wrong?
Thursday, January 27, 2011 Laurel Garver
Remember those magical snow days of childhood (or perhaps you've read about them)? When Mom made pancakes and everyone had a blast building a snow fort? I'm trying to remember happier times, because today feels more like Narnia under the White Witch. I've still got the cold that never ends, and my computer croaked last night--suddenly and inexplicably. Because of the 18 inches of snow, our computer-guru friend can't come and take a look.

I'm thankful to not be entirely stuck. Hubby is letting me use his laptop today while he grades piles of homework assignments. My writing projects are all backed up on Dropbox, so if my computer can't be fixed, I won't lose much but some very old drafts.

Besides gratitude, imagination can also be a help when circumstances aren't ideal. As Henry David Thoreau says, "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."

So let's have some fun with winter-themed writing prompts:

~Write a story in which a family's idyllic snow day degenerates into a family war.

~Write a letter describing snow to a penpal who lives in a tropical climate.

~It's 1910 and you're an urban factory worker. How do you cope when there's two feet of snow and the trolleys aren't running?

~Write a story in which the main character's emotions or circumstances mirror this weather pattern: four inches of fluffy snow, rain, sleet, wintry mix, violent thundersnow, heavy snowfalls tapering to flurries. (That was Wednesday in Philly, in case you're wondering)

~Write a story of two geeky kids who become neighborhood heroes because of their valiant victory in a snowball fight.

~Write a poem about snow using only food metaphors and similes.

~Write a story in which a chain of random acts of kindness during a snowstorm work together to avert a disaster.

~Write a story about magical snow sculptures that come to life. Try it as a middle-grade fantasy. Try it as adult horror. Try it as farce or black humor.

~Write a story in which a bickering husband and wife begin to reconcile while snowed in.

~Write a story in which a boarding school is snowed in for days, keeping most of the teachers and staff away.

~Write a poem from the viewpoint of a snowman.

Which prompt appeals to you? How have gratitude and imagination helped you when things go wrong?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Conflict should be at the core of what drives a story forward. Ah, but here's the rub: being conflict-averse and passive aggressive is far more common in real life than shouting matches, car chases and fisticuffs. Given the choice, most will flee from conflict rather than stay locked in it.

Unless there's glue.

In Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell gives one of the better explanations for this aspect of characterization he calls "adhesive." He defines it as "any strong relationship or circumstance that holds people together" (81). In other words, adhesive is the compelling reason opposing parties can't just peaceably part ways.

What's the strong reason for your lead to stick around? What keeps her going in spite of obstacles and motivates her to reassess and take new action with each set back? How about the antagonist? Why doesn't he just go pick on someone else?

Adhesive is usually found in the reasons behind your lead's pursuit of her goal and your antagonist's opposition of your lead. Bell lists some broad categories:

~Life and death. If the opponent has a strong reason to want to kill your lead, that's a powerful glue. Your lead's struggle to stay alive is a powerful motivation to keep on keeping on.

~Professional duty. Readers can understand how a doctor won't give up on a patient, for example. Our professional lives are often tied up in our sense of purpose and reason for living. To fail professionally means a kind of psychological death.

~Moral duty. A husband whose wife and child are kidnapped won't sit idly by. Nor will a pastor who discovers one of his parishioners is being abused. To give up on doing the right thing would mean letting evil prevail--a spiritual death.

~Obsession. Someone who has lost touch with reality may become powerfully locked to something they desire--whether it's the celebrity they stalk, and object they believe will empower them or a family member they need to control and dominate.

~Physical location. This is a setting-based twist on the life-and-death adhesive. Opponents might become stuck in a place that would be more deadly to flee from than to stay in. Think of the family snowed in at the haunted hotel in The Shining.

In some genres, fear of losing one's identity, autonomy or reason for living--in other words, a psychological death--are the driving force. The lead must change and grow or die inside.

What's the glue in your story conflict? How might the applying concept of adhesive make your story stronger?
Tuesday, January 25, 2011 Laurel Garver
Conflict should be at the core of what drives a story forward. Ah, but here's the rub: being conflict-averse and passive aggressive is far more common in real life than shouting matches, car chases and fisticuffs. Given the choice, most will flee from conflict rather than stay locked in it.

Unless there's glue.

In Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell gives one of the better explanations for this aspect of characterization he calls "adhesive." He defines it as "any strong relationship or circumstance that holds people together" (81). In other words, adhesive is the compelling reason opposing parties can't just peaceably part ways.

What's the strong reason for your lead to stick around? What keeps her going in spite of obstacles and motivates her to reassess and take new action with each set back? How about the antagonist? Why doesn't he just go pick on someone else?

Adhesive is usually found in the reasons behind your lead's pursuit of her goal and your antagonist's opposition of your lead. Bell lists some broad categories:

~Life and death. If the opponent has a strong reason to want to kill your lead, that's a powerful glue. Your lead's struggle to stay alive is a powerful motivation to keep on keeping on.

~Professional duty. Readers can understand how a doctor won't give up on a patient, for example. Our professional lives are often tied up in our sense of purpose and reason for living. To fail professionally means a kind of psychological death.

~Moral duty. A husband whose wife and child are kidnapped won't sit idly by. Nor will a pastor who discovers one of his parishioners is being abused. To give up on doing the right thing would mean letting evil prevail--a spiritual death.

~Obsession. Someone who has lost touch with reality may become powerfully locked to something they desire--whether it's the celebrity they stalk, and object they believe will empower them or a family member they need to control and dominate.

~Physical location. This is a setting-based twist on the life-and-death adhesive. Opponents might become stuck in a place that would be more deadly to flee from than to stay in. Think of the family snowed in at the haunted hotel in The Shining.

In some genres, fear of losing one's identity, autonomy or reason for living--in other words, a psychological death--are the driving force. The lead must change and grow or die inside.

What's the glue in your story conflict? How might the applying concept of adhesive make your story stronger?

Friday, January 21, 2011

I'm home sick again (apparently I'm all about the two-for-one specials on respiratory infections) but had to share this most excellent Harry-Potter inspired mash-up.



Imagine how many more spins you could do, were the wizarding world to adopt more of our entertainment genres. Auror true crime shows. House elf Upstairs Downstairs manor dramas. Gringotts goblins meet The Office.

What genre or book/film/show would you enjoy mashing-up with Rowling's fictional world?
Friday, January 21, 2011 Laurel Garver
I'm home sick again (apparently I'm all about the two-for-one specials on respiratory infections) but had to share this most excellent Harry-Potter inspired mash-up.



Imagine how many more spins you could do, were the wizarding world to adopt more of our entertainment genres. Auror true crime shows. House elf Upstairs Downstairs manor dramas. Gringotts goblins meet The Office.

What genre or book/film/show would you enjoy mashing-up with Rowling's fictional world?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I am so thankful to be part of a community that supports and celebrates one another and even gives virtual pats on the back. Yes, friends, I'm talking blog awards.

Wise Writer

The effervescent Shannon at Book Dreaming gave me this flattering award eons ago. The two rules are to name one (or more) favorite writing resources and pass the award along to other bloggers who've stimulated your thinking and whose wisdom has helped you along the way.

These are some of the titles most thumbed through and scribbled in among my collection:

The Scene Book by Sandra Scofield
Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
Beginnings, Middles and Ends by Nancy Kress
Actually, all Nancy Kress writing books are gold. She's my hero.

I pass this one along to the following sage ladies (no offense to the gentlemen, I just liked the assonance):

Angela at My Poetry and Prose Place
Faith at Faith Elizabeth Hough
Mary at Play off the Page
Laura P. at Exercising the Right to Ramble
Saumya at Left and Write Brained


Making Smiles

The "Making Smiles on Faces Award" is all about happy (and a smidge wordy, but if there's one thing happiness makes us do, it's gush, right?) This one came from the lovely Lisa at Read. Write. Repeat.

I pass this one along to the following cheer bringers:

E. Elle at The Writer's Funhouse
Janet at Musings of a Children's Writer
JEM at Can I get a side of reality with that?
Laura M. at Wavy Lines
Lynn at Place to Create

What are your favorite writing resources? What made you smile today?
Thursday, January 20, 2011 Laurel Garver
I am so thankful to be part of a community that supports and celebrates one another and even gives virtual pats on the back. Yes, friends, I'm talking blog awards.

Wise Writer

The effervescent Shannon at Book Dreaming gave me this flattering award eons ago. The two rules are to name one (or more) favorite writing resources and pass the award along to other bloggers who've stimulated your thinking and whose wisdom has helped you along the way.

These are some of the titles most thumbed through and scribbled in among my collection:

The Scene Book by Sandra Scofield
Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
Beginnings, Middles and Ends by Nancy Kress
Actually, all Nancy Kress writing books are gold. She's my hero.

I pass this one along to the following sage ladies (no offense to the gentlemen, I just liked the assonance):

Angela at My Poetry and Prose Place
Faith at Faith Elizabeth Hough
Mary at Play off the Page
Laura P. at Exercising the Right to Ramble
Saumya at Left and Write Brained


Making Smiles

The "Making Smiles on Faces Award" is all about happy (and a smidge wordy, but if there's one thing happiness makes us do, it's gush, right?) This one came from the lovely Lisa at Read. Write. Repeat.

I pass this one along to the following cheer bringers:

E. Elle at The Writer's Funhouse
Janet at Musings of a Children's Writer
JEM at Can I get a side of reality with that?
Laura M. at Wavy Lines
Lynn at Place to Create

What are your favorite writing resources? What made you smile today?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Shushing my Internal Editor (IE) is always a tricky task for me. I don't have the luxury of shutting off this side of my brain for months at a time, because I need dear, old IE for my day job. I have, however, come up with a few tricks to keep her quiet when I'm drafting.

Brackets
IE likes my drafts to read very smoothly the first go-round, which is of course, ridiculous. Drafting is messy. It's about getting ideas onto paper/screen as quickly as possible.

When IE starts nagging me about something I've left out, I've realized I can usually shut her up pretty fast if I leave myself a quick note in brackets.

Some of my messier dialogue looks like this:

T: [action beat] What are you doing?

D: What does it look like I'm doing?

T: Hiding. We do have a dishwasher, you know.

[Describe: He steps closer, sweeps a little cloud of bubbles off her nose. Her visceral reaction.]

At at a later phase, I can decide how many dialogue tags I need, if any. I can also take the time to hunt for the perfect words to describe how my protagonist reacts bodily to an intimate gesture from someone she's fuming mad at.

Alternately, I might decide I don't want these characters fighting at this juncture. I may end up tossing this whole scene. The lovely thing is, I haven't agonized over the wording and become so married to it I can't bear to part with it. It's a choppy little experiment I can revise or cut with no hard feelings.

Highlighting
Say you're happily drafting and suddenly get a brilliant idea that's going to make the whole story freaking awesome, BUT you'll need fix an entire earlier plotline to make it work. At times like this, IE rubs her hands with gleeful anticipation of your stopping dead in your tracks to revise.

The good news is you don't have to perfect the earlier scenes in order to keep going. You just need to keep track of changes you'll need to make during the next draft. In other words, NOTE the needed changes, but don't actually make them.

At the end of your drafting session, go back to earlier sections and highlight material that you will need to change. (This function is in the Font menu in MS Word.) Drop notes to yourself in brackets about why you plan to revise and possible ways you might do so. Voila! You've captured your ideas without losing your flow.

Slashes
There are times of day when my inner dictionary-thesaurus goes kaput and I can't readily call to mind the perfect word to capture my meaning. When I'm otherwise on a roll, I don't want to waste energy googling synonyms or flipping though reference books. Instead, I just plunk down a word cluster that approximates my meaning, separated with slashes. For example:

Towels from the middle of the stack slip and he dances/skitters/flounders around trying to right them.

During revision, I can search for slashes and make a decision then, based on what sounds best in the line and doesn't echo something else on the page.

What tricks do you use to keep the Inner Editor quiet when you're drafting? Have any other ideas for keeping your flow going?
Tuesday, January 18, 2011 Laurel Garver
Shushing my Internal Editor (IE) is always a tricky task for me. I don't have the luxury of shutting off this side of my brain for months at a time, because I need dear, old IE for my day job. I have, however, come up with a few tricks to keep her quiet when I'm drafting.

Brackets
IE likes my drafts to read very smoothly the first go-round, which is of course, ridiculous. Drafting is messy. It's about getting ideas onto paper/screen as quickly as possible.

When IE starts nagging me about something I've left out, I've realized I can usually shut her up pretty fast if I leave myself a quick note in brackets.

Some of my messier dialogue looks like this:

T: [action beat] What are you doing?

D: What does it look like I'm doing?

T: Hiding. We do have a dishwasher, you know.

[Describe: He steps closer, sweeps a little cloud of bubbles off her nose. Her visceral reaction.]

At at a later phase, I can decide how many dialogue tags I need, if any. I can also take the time to hunt for the perfect words to describe how my protagonist reacts bodily to an intimate gesture from someone she's fuming mad at.

Alternately, I might decide I don't want these characters fighting at this juncture. I may end up tossing this whole scene. The lovely thing is, I haven't agonized over the wording and become so married to it I can't bear to part with it. It's a choppy little experiment I can revise or cut with no hard feelings.

Highlighting
Say you're happily drafting and suddenly get a brilliant idea that's going to make the whole story freaking awesome, BUT you'll need fix an entire earlier plotline to make it work. At times like this, IE rubs her hands with gleeful anticipation of your stopping dead in your tracks to revise.

The good news is you don't have to perfect the earlier scenes in order to keep going. You just need to keep track of changes you'll need to make during the next draft. In other words, NOTE the needed changes, but don't actually make them.

At the end of your drafting session, go back to earlier sections and highlight material that you will need to change. (This function is in the Font menu in MS Word.) Drop notes to yourself in brackets about why you plan to revise and possible ways you might do so. Voila! You've captured your ideas without losing your flow.

Slashes
There are times of day when my inner dictionary-thesaurus goes kaput and I can't readily call to mind the perfect word to capture my meaning. When I'm otherwise on a roll, I don't want to waste energy googling synonyms or flipping though reference books. Instead, I just plunk down a word cluster that approximates my meaning, separated with slashes. For example:

Towels from the middle of the stack slip and he dances/skitters/flounders around trying to right them.

During revision, I can search for slashes and make a decision then, based on what sounds best in the line and doesn't echo something else on the page.

What tricks do you use to keep the Inner Editor quiet when you're drafting? Have any other ideas for keeping your flow going?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Characters can be found in all sorts of places--our families, friends, acquaintances, strangers on the train--all mixed up with bits and pieces of our own imagination. In other words, every character, even those you base on real people, have some of you in them.

I'll give you an example. The poem below I'd written as a sort of tribute to some of the extraordinary yet ordinary boys whose friendship I'd cherished in childhood.

Gilbert

My friend Gilbert
had the kind of face
you see on milk cartons
on rainy Thursday mornings
that puddle in your brain
without a grain of sense
of purpose but dripdrip drip.

Gil played games
that brought down bullies
to less than larger-than-life
lugs we could look in the eye
and not cringe.

Gil's games
made emperors of roaches
and elf queens of
bucktoothed, freckled girls
that are good at math
and can't sing.

Gil thought thoughts
that entered me like garlic
and permeated blood
and lungs and skin,
reeking and lusty of life,
lingering in the pores
for days.

Laurel J. Webster [pre-married me]
About Such Things 1.2 (Spring 1997)

The name of this fictional friend is of course an homage to Gilbert Blythe from L.M. Montgomery's Green Gables books. Some of the details are bits and pieces of Duane who lived next to the awesome graveyard and Billy who was willing to be Pa from Little House on the Prairie and Brad who still thought forts were cool long after other kids did. These boys were kinder than average--and willing to give anyone a shot at joining the imaginative game of the moment. But to be honest, I was usually the one who came up with most of the ideas when we played. You might say Gilbert is the kid I wish I'd been--imaginative, sure, but also the kind of leader who brings people together by drawing out their best selves gently and naturally.

When you build a hero or a villain, you will (mostly unconsciously) add pieces of yourself to the mix--what you admire and aspire to, or what you find most loathsome, or even parts of yourself you most want to heal or change. This is the aspect of writing that some consider therapeutic or even mystical.

What aspects of yourself have you been surprised to discover coming out in your characters?
Friday, January 14, 2011 Laurel Garver
Characters can be found in all sorts of places--our families, friends, acquaintances, strangers on the train--all mixed up with bits and pieces of our own imagination. In other words, every character, even those you base on real people, have some of you in them.

I'll give you an example. The poem below I'd written as a sort of tribute to some of the extraordinary yet ordinary boys whose friendship I'd cherished in childhood.

Gilbert

My friend Gilbert
had the kind of face
you see on milk cartons
on rainy Thursday mornings
that puddle in your brain
without a grain of sense
of purpose but dripdrip drip.

Gil played games
that brought down bullies
to less than larger-than-life
lugs we could look in the eye
and not cringe.

Gil's games
made emperors of roaches
and elf queens of
bucktoothed, freckled girls
that are good at math
and can't sing.

Gil thought thoughts
that entered me like garlic
and permeated blood
and lungs and skin,
reeking and lusty of life,
lingering in the pores
for days.

Laurel J. Webster [pre-married me]
About Such Things 1.2 (Spring 1997)

The name of this fictional friend is of course an homage to Gilbert Blythe from L.M. Montgomery's Green Gables books. Some of the details are bits and pieces of Duane who lived next to the awesome graveyard and Billy who was willing to be Pa from Little House on the Prairie and Brad who still thought forts were cool long after other kids did. These boys were kinder than average--and willing to give anyone a shot at joining the imaginative game of the moment. But to be honest, I was usually the one who came up with most of the ideas when we played. You might say Gilbert is the kid I wish I'd been--imaginative, sure, but also the kind of leader who brings people together by drawing out their best selves gently and naturally.

When you build a hero or a villain, you will (mostly unconsciously) add pieces of yourself to the mix--what you admire and aspire to, or what you find most loathsome, or even parts of yourself you most want to heal or change. This is the aspect of writing that some consider therapeutic or even mystical.

What aspects of yourself have you been surprised to discover coming out in your characters?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Obviously the best thing about being married to a left-handed person when you're right handed is you can hold hands and both still write. Cool, huh?

Beyond that, I've also discovered that handedness dictates one's orientation to the world. Thus, my hubby does a lot of things "backwards." Sometimes it's just puzzling. Other times I realized he's shown me an approach I'd never considered.

Take loading the dishwasher, for example. He loaded a stack of bowls the opposite direction I do--and they fit BETTER. Holy habituation, Batman! I'd never have tried that trick on my own.

I think this lesson has application to writing--especially when you're perplexed with a plot hole or an uncooperative character. Instead of plowing ahead full steam on your usual course, consider approaching from the opposite direction. Reorient. Perhaps you need to draft a scene from a secondary character's point of view in order to see your protagonist and his motivations more clearly. Perhaps your protagonist needs to react differently to her circumstances--opposite of what you've planned. Maybe the antagonist is a misunderstood hero, or the nice neighbor is a psycho.

Mental habits can be a tough obstacle to overcome. When you're most stuck, you might need to add more "lefties" to your circle of beta readers. Or you might try rearranging the furniture in your writing space or changing writing venues. You'll be surprised how a single turn can open new possibilities.

Have you experimented with approaching a problem from the opposite direction you usually take? How might reorienting help your writing?
Thursday, January 13, 2011 Laurel Garver
Obviously the best thing about being married to a left-handed person when you're right handed is you can hold hands and both still write. Cool, huh?

Beyond that, I've also discovered that handedness dictates one's orientation to the world. Thus, my hubby does a lot of things "backwards." Sometimes it's just puzzling. Other times I realized he's shown me an approach I'd never considered.

Take loading the dishwasher, for example. He loaded a stack of bowls the opposite direction I do--and they fit BETTER. Holy habituation, Batman! I'd never have tried that trick on my own.

I think this lesson has application to writing--especially when you're perplexed with a plot hole or an uncooperative character. Instead of plowing ahead full steam on your usual course, consider approaching from the opposite direction. Reorient. Perhaps you need to draft a scene from a secondary character's point of view in order to see your protagonist and his motivations more clearly. Perhaps your protagonist needs to react differently to her circumstances--opposite of what you've planned. Maybe the antagonist is a misunderstood hero, or the nice neighbor is a psycho.

Mental habits can be a tough obstacle to overcome. When you're most stuck, you might need to add more "lefties" to your circle of beta readers. Or you might try rearranging the furniture in your writing space or changing writing venues. You'll be surprised how a single turn can open new possibilities.

Have you experimented with approaching a problem from the opposite direction you usually take? How might reorienting help your writing?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The truth is I'm on day five of a nasty respiratory infection and I'm getting worse instead of better. So I'm going back to watching goofy, nostalgic TV (everything from Gidget and the Partridge Family to Three's Company and The Three Stooges) on this new station called "Antenna TV." They have the best tagline: "Vintage,without the funny smell."

I've nearly depleted my haul of books from the library. Maybe I'll take another stab at reading Finnegans Wake. That one's on my bucket list.

How do you while away the hours on sick days? What books are you determined to read before you die?
Tuesday, January 11, 2011 Laurel Garver
The truth is I'm on day five of a nasty respiratory infection and I'm getting worse instead of better. So I'm going back to watching goofy, nostalgic TV (everything from Gidget and the Partridge Family to Three's Company and The Three Stooges) on this new station called "Antenna TV." They have the best tagline: "Vintage,without the funny smell."

I've nearly depleted my haul of books from the library. Maybe I'll take another stab at reading Finnegans Wake. That one's on my bucket list.

How do you while away the hours on sick days? What books are you determined to read before you die?

Friday, January 07, 2011

If, like me, you prefer to curl up on the couch rather than trek through the snow on a winter weekend, chances are some movie recommendations might be welcome. This week, my theme is SciFi suspense films that examine the ethical use of technology (no goofy aliens in these, I promise).

Moon (2009)
Description from IMDB: "Sam Bell has a three year contract to work for Lunar Industries. For the contract's entire duration, he is the sole employee based at their lunar station. His primary job responsibility is to harvest and periodically rocket back to Earth supplies of helium-3, the current clean and abundant fuel used on Earth. There is no direct communication link available between the lunar station and Earth, so his only direct real-time interaction is with GERTY, the intelligent computer whose function is to attend to his day to day needs. With such little human contact and all of it indirect, he feels that three years is far too long to be so isolated; he knows he is beginning to hallucinate as the end of his three years approaches. All he wants is to return to Earth to be with his wife Tess and their infant daughter Eve, who was born just prior to his leaving for this job. With two weeks to go, he gets into an accident at one of the mechanical harvesters and is rendered unconscious..."

The synopsis trails off there to protect folks from spoilers. All I can tell you is that after the accident, things get weird and Sam begins to question what's really going on at this station and why. If you've seen the space classics 2001 and Solaris (either the original Russian or the American remake with George Clooney), you'll definitely feel resonances.



Gattaca (1997)
Description from IMDB: "In the not-too-distant future, a less-than-perfect man wants to travel to the stars. Society has categorized Vincent Freeman as less than suitable given his genetic make-up and he has become one of the underclass of humans that are only useful for menial jobs. To move ahead, he assumes the identity of Jerome Morrow, a perfect genetic specimen who is a paraplegic as a result of a car accident. With professional advice, Vincent learns to deceive DNA and urine sample testing. Just when he is finally scheduled for a space mission, his program director is killed and the police begin an investigation, jeopardizing his secret. "

This film features A-list stars including Jude Law, Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, but I know few people who've seen it. It's visually stunning and tightly plotted, with amazing visual motifs running through, such as a spiral staircase gesturing toward the DNA that determines fates in this world. My husband wrote a wonderful article examining themes and motifs in the film. You can read it HERE.




Cordwainer Smith stories
If you're in more of a reading mood, I recommend The Rediscovery of Man: Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith. Smith was a pioneer in writing SciFi about bioethics, especially how cyber enhancements and assisted evolution of animals might effect a society.

Here's what Amazon says:
"These are futuristic tales told as myth, as legend, as a history of a distant and decayed past. Written in an unadorned voice reminiscent of James Tiptree Jr., Smith's visions are dark and pessimistic, clearly a contrast from the mood of SF in his time; in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s it was still thought that science would cure the ills of humanity. In Smith's tales, space travel takes a horrendous toll on those who pilot the ships through the void. After reaching perfection, the lack of strife stifles humanity to a point of decay and stagnation; the Instrumentality of Mankind arises in order to stir things up. Many stories describe moral dilemmas involving the humanity of the Underpeople, beings evolved from animals into humanlike forms."

Have a great weekend!

Any other SciFi films on this theme you can recommend? Seen any good films that made you think?
Friday, January 07, 2011 Laurel Garver
If, like me, you prefer to curl up on the couch rather than trek through the snow on a winter weekend, chances are some movie recommendations might be welcome. This week, my theme is SciFi suspense films that examine the ethical use of technology (no goofy aliens in these, I promise).

Moon (2009)
Description from IMDB: "Sam Bell has a three year contract to work for Lunar Industries. For the contract's entire duration, he is the sole employee based at their lunar station. His primary job responsibility is to harvest and periodically rocket back to Earth supplies of helium-3, the current clean and abundant fuel used on Earth. There is no direct communication link available between the lunar station and Earth, so his only direct real-time interaction is with GERTY, the intelligent computer whose function is to attend to his day to day needs. With such little human contact and all of it indirect, he feels that three years is far too long to be so isolated; he knows he is beginning to hallucinate as the end of his three years approaches. All he wants is to return to Earth to be with his wife Tess and their infant daughter Eve, who was born just prior to his leaving for this job. With two weeks to go, he gets into an accident at one of the mechanical harvesters and is rendered unconscious..."

The synopsis trails off there to protect folks from spoilers. All I can tell you is that after the accident, things get weird and Sam begins to question what's really going on at this station and why. If you've seen the space classics 2001 and Solaris (either the original Russian or the American remake with George Clooney), you'll definitely feel resonances.



Gattaca (1997)
Description from IMDB: "In the not-too-distant future, a less-than-perfect man wants to travel to the stars. Society has categorized Vincent Freeman as less than suitable given his genetic make-up and he has become one of the underclass of humans that are only useful for menial jobs. To move ahead, he assumes the identity of Jerome Morrow, a perfect genetic specimen who is a paraplegic as a result of a car accident. With professional advice, Vincent learns to deceive DNA and urine sample testing. Just when he is finally scheduled for a space mission, his program director is killed and the police begin an investigation, jeopardizing his secret. "

This film features A-list stars including Jude Law, Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, but I know few people who've seen it. It's visually stunning and tightly plotted, with amazing visual motifs running through, such as a spiral staircase gesturing toward the DNA that determines fates in this world. My husband wrote a wonderful article examining themes and motifs in the film. You can read it HERE.




Cordwainer Smith stories
If you're in more of a reading mood, I recommend The Rediscovery of Man: Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith. Smith was a pioneer in writing SciFi about bioethics, especially how cyber enhancements and assisted evolution of animals might effect a society.

Here's what Amazon says:
"These are futuristic tales told as myth, as legend, as a history of a distant and decayed past. Written in an unadorned voice reminiscent of James Tiptree Jr., Smith's visions are dark and pessimistic, clearly a contrast from the mood of SF in his time; in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s it was still thought that science would cure the ills of humanity. In Smith's tales, space travel takes a horrendous toll on those who pilot the ships through the void. After reaching perfection, the lack of strife stifles humanity to a point of decay and stagnation; the Instrumentality of Mankind arises in order to stir things up. Many stories describe moral dilemmas involving the humanity of the Underpeople, beings evolved from animals into humanlike forms."

Have a great weekend!

Any other SciFi films on this theme you can recommend? Seen any good films that made you think?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Tuesday I wrote about taking up an "unresolution"--One Word. Many of you chimed in with a desire to embrace this idea and select a word that for you encapsulates a vitrue or idea you want to grow toward and pursue.

I chose the word COURAGE because it encapsulates what I admire in the most mature people I know. I also chose it in response to an amazing conversation I recently had with my mother after reading something she'd written for her memoirs class. Hearing about some of the tough stuff of my childhood from her perspective made me realize I'm a heck of a lot more resilliant than I ever give myself credit for. Fear makes one forgetful, it seems.

Anyway, as I take steps toward a brave, new me in 2011, I thought I'd share some provocative quotes about fear and courage:

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."
~C.S. Lewis

"Courage is fear that has said its prayers."
~Dorothy Bernard

"Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die."
~G.K. Chesterton

"To live with fear and not be afraid is the final test of maturity."
~Edward Weeks

Which of these quotes resonates most with you? Has remembering a past moment of bravery ever given you courage in a tight spot?
Thursday, January 06, 2011 Laurel Garver
Tuesday I wrote about taking up an "unresolution"--One Word. Many of you chimed in with a desire to embrace this idea and select a word that for you encapsulates a vitrue or idea you want to grow toward and pursue.

I chose the word COURAGE because it encapsulates what I admire in the most mature people I know. I also chose it in response to an amazing conversation I recently had with my mother after reading something she'd written for her memoirs class. Hearing about some of the tough stuff of my childhood from her perspective made me realize I'm a heck of a lot more resilliant than I ever give myself credit for. Fear makes one forgetful, it seems.

Anyway, as I take steps toward a brave, new me in 2011, I thought I'd share some provocative quotes about fear and courage:

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."
~C.S. Lewis

"Courage is fear that has said its prayers."
~Dorothy Bernard

"Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die."
~G.K. Chesterton

"To live with fear and not be afraid is the final test of maturity."
~Edward Weeks

Which of these quotes resonates most with you? Has remembering a past moment of bravery ever given you courage in a tight spot?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

In a few days it will be Epiphany, celebrating the "wise men from the East" coming to honor the Christ child. The Magi had been watching for something good and were willing to make great effort to get close to it. This story resonates a lot with me as we enter 2011.

Yesterday Kristen at Write in the Way had asked "why is it so hard to hope?" Hope comes from being like the Magi--keeping an eye on the far horizon, watching for something good. We lose hope when unhappy things in the immediate environment consume our vision and we stop regularly scanning the horizon. Big signs could come and go, and we'd miss them. The first step in getting the blessing of an epiphany is to be watchful.

The second is to move toward the good. And this is no easy feat. Pondering why that is brought to mind Sherrida Ketch's post about the "unresolution" approach called One Word that's highlighted on THIS site. Here's a quick description:

Every New Year we hope this will finally be the year that things will change. We make promises about the new person we're going to become, pledging to get a grip on our finances, get in shape, become a better parent, spouse, even a nicer human being! But there’s one problem: our resolutions seldom work. The busy pace of life gets the better of us, and suddenly, the year is over with little to no personal growth having occurred in our lives.

“My One Word” is an experiment designed to move you beyond the past and look ahead. The challenge is simple: lose the long list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick ONE WORD. This process provides clarity by taking all of your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single thing. One word focuses on your character and creates a vision for your future. So, we invite you to join us and pick one word in 2011.

This approach isn't simplistic, it's holistic. I can't help feel the implications are huge--both wide and deep. Drawing together all these ideas--epiphany, hope, searching the horizon, following the good--I discovered my one word. What's keeping me "stuck in Persia" and not following the star, metaphorically speaking, is fear.

So my one word for 2011 is courage. I need to become a person who stretches even when it's scary, to leave safety and go, even though my knees are knocking.

What about you? What makes is hard for you to hope? What's keeping you from following your Epiphany star?
Tuesday, January 04, 2011 Laurel Garver
In a few days it will be Epiphany, celebrating the "wise men from the East" coming to honor the Christ child. The Magi had been watching for something good and were willing to make great effort to get close to it. This story resonates a lot with me as we enter 2011.

Yesterday Kristen at Write in the Way had asked "why is it so hard to hope?" Hope comes from being like the Magi--keeping an eye on the far horizon, watching for something good. We lose hope when unhappy things in the immediate environment consume our vision and we stop regularly scanning the horizon. Big signs could come and go, and we'd miss them. The first step in getting the blessing of an epiphany is to be watchful.

The second is to move toward the good. And this is no easy feat. Pondering why that is brought to mind Sherrida Ketch's post about the "unresolution" approach called One Word that's highlighted on THIS site. Here's a quick description:

Every New Year we hope this will finally be the year that things will change. We make promises about the new person we're going to become, pledging to get a grip on our finances, get in shape, become a better parent, spouse, even a nicer human being! But there’s one problem: our resolutions seldom work. The busy pace of life gets the better of us, and suddenly, the year is over with little to no personal growth having occurred in our lives.

“My One Word” is an experiment designed to move you beyond the past and look ahead. The challenge is simple: lose the long list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick ONE WORD. This process provides clarity by taking all of your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single thing. One word focuses on your character and creates a vision for your future. So, we invite you to join us and pick one word in 2011.

This approach isn't simplistic, it's holistic. I can't help feel the implications are huge--both wide and deep. Drawing together all these ideas--epiphany, hope, searching the horizon, following the good--I discovered my one word. What's keeping me "stuck in Persia" and not following the star, metaphorically speaking, is fear.

So my one word for 2011 is courage. I need to become a person who stretches even when it's scary, to leave safety and go, even though my knees are knocking.

What about you? What makes is hard for you to hope? What's keeping you from following your Epiphany star?