These work for writers too

I was up all night working on the prequel novella for Slayers. The good news is that when it comes out, it will be free! The bad news is that I already killed off Nathan, Dr. B’s brother, in the first book of Slayers and sadly there was not a good way to bring him back from the dead. Dang it.

So, as I stopped making any cognizant sense somewhere around 4:00 am, I thought I would share a picture from my son’s comic blog. You can see other things he’s drawn at http://theodd1sout.tumblr.com/

I’ll be posting a real blog after I sleep.

research, sky-diving style

I hate getting details wrong in my books. This may not be entirely apparent since I have more than once gotten details wrong in my books, but I really do a ton of research. 

In Slayers: Friends and Traitors (due out in October) I have characters jump out of a plane, and I decided it would be a good idea if I went skydiving so I could write a more authentic scene. I didn’t think it would be too frightening since a large amount of people skydive every year. I figured, hey, people pay a lot of money to skydive so it’s probably even fun.

That was my first stupid assumption. People are idiots and you should never do something just because a lot of people pay large amounts of money to do it. Case in point: golf.

So I booked an appointment, went to the airport, and signed the twelve page waiver that detailed all the hideous ways I might die.  This was my favorite part:

Basically it says I may be struck by passing aircraft, hit by vehicles on the ground, or may run into trees, buildings, or poisonous snakes.

I still wasn’t all that nervous because I knew I was going to be strapped to an experienced instructor. He was not likely to skimp on parachute inspection or whatever, because he didn’t want to die any more than I did.

Then I met my instructor. He was a twenty-three year old guy who I suspect had no sense of his own mortality. I became a little nervous.

He took me to a small plane that sounded like a lawn mower and seemed to be held together with duct tape, super glue, and erector set pieces. I was a little more nervous, but I was still okay because I figured the pilot had been flying the plane for quite some time so he had a lot of experience doing important things, like not dying. 

We took off, gained altitude, and putted around in the sky for several minutes. I was now more nervous and cursing myself for ever switching from writing romantic comedies to action novels. Really, when you come right down to it, it would be fine to write a book about boring people who never do anything dangerous.

And then the plane door opened.

At that point a spike of terror hit me. I realized that people are born with several strong survival instincts and one of them screams: DO NOT JUMP OUT OF A PLANE! IT WILL KILL YOU!

I said many things at that point, all of which my twenty-three year old instructor ignored as he dragged me out of the plane.

And then we were falling through the sky.

Falling at around 130 miles an hour was like standing in a wind tunnel. All I heard was the wind screaming by. I couldn’t even tell I was falling because nothing around me was moving. Then the parachute came out and I glided through the air at a gentle 15 miles an hour. It did feel like flying then and was really fun—especially when we did spins. Spins are the best.

I landed and felt great.

This would normally be the end of the blog except for one thing.  Later that day I got a call from the skydiving company telling me that their computer crashed. (I guess this is better than hear that their plane crashed.) They had unfortunately lost all the pictures of me but they would let me skydive again for free if I wanted to reschedule.

Well, at that point I was still thinking about how fun the last part of skydiving had been and not the terror of the ominous open-plane-door-moment, so I not only rescheduled, I decided to take my teenage son with me. (Yep, these are all pictures from the second jump.)

This dear readers just proves that there is no cure for stupidity. Because there is only one thing more terrifying than being in a plane when the door opens and you know you’re going to plunge out of it. And that is: being in a plane when the door opens and you know your child is going to plunge out of it.

I do not recommend this as an after school activity.

When I went out of the plane the second time, I wasn’t looking for sensory details to use in my novel. I was searching the horizon to make sure my son’s parachute had opened.

It had.

And when you all read the skydiving scene in Slayers: Friends and Traitors I hope you appreciate my diligent research.

As you may remember from your high school English class (you kept all of your notes on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, didn’t you?) Shakespeare invented around 1700 words in his plays and poems.

Frankly, I think I should be allowed the same freedom, and I get all snitty when copyeditors point out details like “Apexed isn’t a verb.” (And right now Microsoft is insisting that ‘snitty’ isn’t a word either.)
Shakespeare never had to deal with such constraints.
Here are some words you probably didn’t know he invented: eyeballs, puking, obscene, and skim milk.
Cool, huh?
Here are some words I wish he would have invented:
Another word for ‘drop’. Oh sure, there’s plunge and plummet, but you can’t use them interchangeably. You can’t have a character plunge her car keys on the floor.  No one has ever said, “Hey, plummet the act. I know you’re lying.”  Nor has anyone’s mouth ever plunged open.
Another word for ‘door.’  We use them all the time. Character’s are constantly coming in them, stalking out them, walking toward them, and slamming them.  It’s hard not to overuse the word. And don’t tell me I could use portal—no one actually thinks of a door as a portal unless they are in spaceship or a submarine.
And  Shakespeare should have invented multiple words for ‘turn’. In your novel, things will turn colors, turn up, or turn from one thing into another. Your characters will take turns, make right turns, turn over, turn back, turn their attention to things, see how something turns out, and turn things down. They will also frequently turn to each other. You can replace a few of those turns with spin, but that only works if your characters are angry or ballerinas. If any word deserves a few synonyms, it’s turn.
On the other hand, there are also words I could happily axe from the English language to make my life easier.  Ask me how many times I mistyped the word rifle in Slayers: Friends and Traitors and spelled it riffle.  The problem is that riffle is a real word. Spell check doesn’t catch it.   It means: to form, flow over, or move in riffles.
How many times have we all written about our riffling habits?
Maybe someone should add a function to the computer so that anytime someone grabs a riffle, a little warning pops up that says, “You amuse our computer brain, silly mortal.  And by the way, you have lightening cuting through the sky while your character is waking to the car.
Then again, sometimes I could use a good lightening bolt.

 


As you may remember from your high school English class (you
kept all of your notes on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, didn’t you?) Shakespeare invented
around 1700 words in his plays and poems.


Frankly, I think I should be allowed the same freedom and
get all snitty when copyeditors point out details like “Apexed isn’t a verb.”
(And right now Microsoft is insisting that ‘snitty’ isn’t a word either.)


Shakespeare never had to deal with such constraints.


Here are some words you probably didn’t know he invented: eyeballs, puking, obscene, and skim milk.


Cool, huh?


Here are some words I wish he would have invented:


Another word for ‘drop’. Oh sure, there’s plunge and plummet, but
you can’t use them interchangeably. You can’t have a character plunge her car
keys on the floor.  No one has ever said,
“Hey, plummet the act. I know you’re lying.” Nor has anyone’s mouth ever plunged open.


Another word for ‘door.’ We use them all the time. Character’s are constantly coming in them,
stalking out them, walking toward them, and slamming them.  It’s hard not to overuse the word. And don’t
tell me I could use portal—no one actually thinks of a door as a portal unless they
are in spaceship or a submarine.


And multiple words for ‘turn’. In your novel, things will turn
colors, turn up, or turn from one thing into another. Your characters will take
turns, make right turns, turn over, turn back, turn their attention to things, see
how something turns out, and turn things down. They will also frequently turn
to each other. You can replace a few of those turns with spin, but that only
works if your characters are angry or ballerinas. If any word deserves a few synonyms,
it’s turn.


On the other hand, there are also words I could happily axe
from the English language to make my life easier.  Ask me how many times I mistyped the word
rifle in Slayers: Friends and Traitors and spelled it riffle.  The problem is that riffle is a real word. Spell check doesn’t catch it.   It
means: to form, flow over, or move in riffles.


How many times have we all written about our riffling habits.


Maybe someone should add a function to the computer so that
anytime someone grabs a riffle, a little warning pops up that says, “You amuse
our computer brain, silly mortal.  And by
the way, you lightening cuting through the sky while your character is waking to the car.


Then again, sometimes I could use a good lightening bolt.

 

Tourist sites: the good, the bad, and the creepy

I just got back from Disneyland and it’s made me think about tourist sites in general and why we pack up our suitcases, pull out our wallets, and head off to see things. Some places are definitely worth the trouble, others, not so much. Here are a list of good and bad tourist sites.

On the good list:  Any mountain range.  Mountains are beautiful, peaceful, and make for good hiking. As an added benefit you don’t have to stand in line to see them.

On the creepy list: Mount Rushmore. I’m patriotic and all, but who thought four gigantic heads that stare down at people was a good use of funds or sculpting talent? They’re watching you, and they don’t look pleased . . .

On the good list: The beach. Nothing is more relaxing than enjoying the waves on a floaty raft. That’s the ultimate in vacation time. Here’s a picture of Techno Bob and I on our 25th anniversary.

On the bad list: New York Times Square. According to Travel and Leisure Magazine this is the world’s most popular travel spot with nearly 40 million visitors a year. I’ve been to New York and I think Travel and Leisure Magazine may have gotten it wrong . About 20 million of those people were lost in New York’s corn-maze-like streets and just wound up there as angry taxi drivers honked impatiently at them.

On the good list: The Lincoln Memorial. It’s not only been immortalized by the back of the penny (as a child I was convinced the trolley from the Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was really the thing on the penny) it’s majestic at night when it’s glowing in light, it’s free, and the roof makes a darn good place to toss a character off of, if you happen to be an author. (Slayers 2, coming out 2013)

On the bad list: The Washington Monument. Okay, what is this thing supposed to be? How does a a really tall, skinny, useless building honor George Washington? Did anyone ask him about this design? Maybe he would have liked a nice statue with him on his horse instead. And am I the only one who looks at this structure and wants to play an areal game of ring toss? On the plus side, it makes a good place for flying characters to zoom around as they try to evade each other. (Again, a Slayers 2 scene.)

On the good list: The National Natural History Museum. You get to learn interesting stuff, covet  precious gems, see frightening looking fish that lurk in the dark parts of the ocean–something for everyone. Plus, again it’s a good place to set a scene for a book. Do you notice a Slayers 2 theme?

On the creepy list: Any museum that has mummies. I mean, there’s something unsettling about seeing shriveled dead people from thousands of years ago laid out in front of you like they were treasures. If I ever inherit an antiquity, the last thing I want is a mummy. Shriveled dead people don’t go with most people’s home decor and there are just so many things you can prop up in your living room.  A nice vase, I would take.

On the good and the creepy list simultaneously: Disneyland. The travel magazine says that 15 million people visit a year, and I believe them as there were at least that many people standing in line in front of me for the Toy Story ride. I love the princesses, the songs, the decorations–I mean, where else can you see a big, glowing pink castle? (Pure awesomeness!)

But sorry Disney, the large smiling rodent is creepy and giving Mickey a flesh colored face only makes him creepier because it looks like he’s mutating into a person. (Yes, that is me as a teenager.)

Well, I could go on but I have a book to write. I’m officially done with five pages of the next Fairy Godmother book.

Writing—it’s sort of like budgeting

Time and money never add up like I think they should. I’m always amazed at the amount of money my family spends. It seems like we should have lots of moeny left over at the end of the month, and yet we don’t.

This year I took on an insane amount of writing. Why you might ask?  Because I have no grip on reality. It’s like all those times when I walk into Michaels and see cute scrapbooking stuff on sale and suddenly think I’m Martha Stewart—or someone with scrapbooking talent.  Which I’m not.  But that doesn’t matter, because I see said cute stuff and I think, “I should buy that because one day I’m going to put together cute, touching scrapbooks that are a tribute to my kids and their innate darlingness.

No, no I’m not. What I’m actually going to do is buy the stuff and put it in a box in my closet with the rest of the scrapbooking stuff I will never use until Armageddon or the zombie apocalypse hits.  Yep, while all the electricity is down and we’re all holed ourselves in our houses with nothing else to do I’ll have plenty of scrapbooking stuff to keep me busy. (Assuming of course that I’ve previously downloaded pictures . . .)

Anyway, when my publishers both wanted a book within the same 6 month period, I thought I could do it.  Here is my reasoning: If I type two pages an hour and work an average of five hours a day, I’ll produce ten pages a day. If I work twenty two days a month, I’ll have the first draft of a 300 page book done in a month and a half—easy. Then I can take the other month and a half to revise it.  Bingo. Two books in six month.

Why is real life never like a math equation?

Perhaps because when all is said and done I write slower than two pages an hour. I actually average more like one page an hour (poof—I just gave myself ten hour days instead of five hour ones.)  And my books are closer to 400 than they are to 300. (Poof—there went my Saturdays) And you don’t have a six month period without things like family reunions, holidays, birthdays, conferences, school visits and other things that don’t allow you to write for ten hours a day.

So what actually happened is I was ensconced in myroom without showering, cooking or cleaning. I was frequently up until 4:00 AM. But the worst is over now, I think.

 Echo in Time is at the copy edits stage. I’ll have revisions for Slayers Two in a week or two. Masquerade’s copy edits should be back to me any day now. And I’ll hopefully have revisions for The Wrong Side of Magic soon too.

And when I’m done with all of that, I’ll start working on the third fairy godmother book.

The art of mothering during revisions part one

When I say there’s an art to mothering during revisions, the art I’m talking about is the equivalent of those modern art statues you see which resemble tangled coat hangers, or giant erasers, or someone’s pile of  recyclable milk cartons. You know the ones I’m talking about–the ones you see and think, “That’s art?”
That’s pretty much how my mothering has gone for the last few months while I finished writing Slayers Two and did revisions for Echo of Time. (Erasing Time’s sequel.)  I’ve stayed up until four in the morning on more than one occasion, and Techno Bob has had to get our youngest daughter off to school.  There’s only one problem with this system. Techno Bob is an engineer, which means he was born without the gene for fashion. I’m never sure what youngest daughter will be wearing when her father gets her ready. You can imagine how thrilled I was when I picked her up the other day and saw this ensemble. And her hair hadn’t been touched with a brush either.

Yeah, this is pretty much why children need mothers.  After our first child was about two years old, I took my husband aside and lovingly told him, “If I should die, I want you to remarry. And let her dress the children.” This advice still stands.

Next blog: How the children have entertained themselves.

Hey fellow YABL (young adult book lovers) it’s time for me to clear my closet of some of my stash of books. Yep, keeping copies of 19 book titles has made several rooms in my house look like an episode of hoarders.  Soooo in celebration of Erasing Time’s August 28th release date, I’ll be giving away one (well, two really) of my other book titles every day for the next two weeks or so. And for the most part, I’ll do it on both of my blogs. (Since I’ve become CJ Hill, I post under that name too. You can double your chances by leaving a comment at: http://www.cjhillbooks.blogspot.com/)

This is the third time I’ve done a book a day giveaway which means I’m pretty certain two things will happen.

1) At some point I will forget to pick winners for the day. I will feel horrible about this oversight, and yet will still be unable to go back and change time to remedy the situation. (Although Erasing Time is a time travel book, so maybe it will be different this time . . .)  So some days won’t have a winner posted and some day’s I’ll post two winners and an apology.

2) I will lose track of which winners have sent me their address and which haven’t–so be sure to check and see if you won something because I most likely won’t hunt you down.

I used to put up a schedule of what books I would giveaway on each day.  This time I’m not going to do that. It will just be whatever book I feel like giving away that day (My Fair Godmother; My Unfair Godmother; All’s Fair in Love, War and High School; My Double Life; Slayers; Fame, Glory and Other Things On My To Do List; How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-boyfriend; It’s a Mall World After All; Revenge of the Cheerleaders: Life, Love, and Other Things On My To Do List; and I also have a signed Shannon Hale Austinland and a signed Angela Morris Taken by Storm that I will throw into the mix at some point. (Is it a sign of hoarding if you buy two copies of books you like? Not if you give them away on your blog, right?)

We’ll start with um . . . How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-boyfriend

Leaving a comment will get you an entry, being a follower will get you another entry–and don’t worry peeps reading this on Goodreads. I count your comments into the mix too, and then ask Random.org to pick a winner.

Sixteen-year-old Giovanna Petrizzo finds it hard enough to fit in. Three years since her family moved to Texas, she’s still the newcomer compared to everyone around her. It doesn’t help matters when her twin brother, Dante, takes on the mayor’s son by running for class president. The least she could expect, though, would be for her boyfriend, Jesse, to support their cause. But Jesse’s apparent defection triggers Giovanna’s rash emotional side, and before she knows it, she’s turned Jesse from the boy of her dreams to the ex-boyfriend she dreams of winning back.
In her trademark style, Janette Rallison delivers a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that only leaves readers wanting more.

Good luck

Editing mistakes–or: Why, yes, my character does have super powers

Before I published my first book, my editor told me there would be mistakes in it. “No matter how hard we try,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a perfect book.”

At the time I didn’t realize how right she was. I get it now, though.

Go ahead, ask me about the hay-straw debacle. (Although I tried to change every reference to horses eating straw in My Unfair Godmother, one still slipped through.)

Or there was that time when my heroine’s hands were tied, then untied, then magically retied.

Someone just emailed me and pointed out that I have a character pressing the gas pedal on his motorcycle in Slayers. Did you know that motorcycles don’t have gas pedals? I clearly didn’t.

A few years ago I got back the rights to my first book, Deep Blue Eyes and Other Lies. After I got over the horror of my bad writing (I wrote the thing 16 years ago. I’ve improved since then) I went through it, rewrote portions, and put it up as the ebook Blue Eyes and Other Teenage Hazards. I had it copy edited, but the problem was that I also made changes to the manuscript per the copy editor’s suggestions.

I’ve sold something like 1600 copies in two months. I just reread it because I’m going to have it formatted for a paperback and I found all sorts of typos.

I also found a place where the characters refer to an event that hasn’t happened yet. (Funny line, too bad it doesn’t make sense to the readers.) I’m not sure whether I should be gratified or not that none of the 1600 people who bought the ebook have told me about this problem.

Maybe they just haven’t gotten to the book yet. (Sort of like those three stacks of books that I’ve bought but haven’t found time to read.)

So, for anyone who already bought Blue Eyes and Other Teenage Hazards–Why, yes, my characters are psychic. In fact, they put the chic in psychic.

And the fixed version should be up late tonight.

On the subject, Virginia Maughan Kammeyer wrote a poem about editorial errors :

WESTERN DAZE

Moving as rapidly as light
You type a novel in a night,
Then galloping at frantic pace
Over the hills your heroes race.

From cattle ranch, to gambling room,
To mesa bluff and back they zoom.
How can you, writing at such rate,
Keep places, plots, and people straight?

Your marshal, now—I fear that he
May someday meet catastrophe,
(A mix-up by some typing elf)
And handcuff, jail, then hang—himself.


So, so true

Creepiest kids’ toys


Okay, on first glance, cute pink-haired Lalaloopsy doesn’t seem creepy–that is unless you’ve read the book Coraline or seen the movie. Because the evil-scary-bad people have those exact same button eyes. Creepiest thing ever! (Shudders just thinking about it.) Don’t put this doll on your bed. She may kill you sometime during the night. That’s why she’s smiling.

Some things shouldn’t be combined. Dora and Pillow Pets are two of those things.

Dora looks like she has become some sort of mutant furry animal akin to that freaky dog in the original Body Snatchers movie. (But at least he doesn’t have button eyes.)

I’ve always loved Barbie. Really. I have more Barbies than is probably healthy for a grown woman to own. (But that’s a different blog.) So I was understandably disturbed to see decapitated Barbie heads in the toy aisle. My first thought was, “Well, it looks like Mattel has finally done a Marie Antoinette doll.” Then I realized that no, Barbie now has a line where the heads are switchable. Remember how people used to worry that Barbie sent the wrong body image message to young girls? I’m glad they’ve straightened out that issue.

I’m a huge Star Wars fan. At one point I wanted to marry Luke Skywalker. (On some days I still do.) I hate to criticize anything Star Wars, but despite this deep seated love, I must point out that Yoda makes a really creepy child’s toy.

Um, am I only the one who thinks that Yoda looks like he has emerged from a horror film and is trying to strangle this hapless child?


The catalog copy says Cuddle with you, I will! Judging from this picture, Yoda is also saying, “Hide under your bed, I will. Come out at night while you’re sleeping, I will. Try to suck your brains out, I will.”

No thanks, I’ll pass on that Star Wars memorabilia.

If you haven’t seen the movie Rango, this next picture is Ms. Beans, the love interest of Johnny Depp–er, I mean Rango. Johny Depp just does the voice for Rango. Anyway, she’s supposed to be a Desert Iguana.

Personally, I think she would frighten most children and many adults. I mean, really, she is clearly just an alien wearing a wig.

So parents, if you are going to go to the trouble to buy your children a gift, don’t buy them one that they will later need therapy for. Hey, I know what would be really great. How about a book? I know of many good ones, including this one:

It’s available at all your fine bookstores (including the Portland airport–how awesome is that?) Here are links for your convenience. (Because I’m thoughtful that way.)

http://www.changinghands.com/book/9780312614140

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Or if you’re looking for a kindle bargain try this book at 2.51

http://www.amazon.com/My-Fair-Godmother-ebook/dp/B00413PHVO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1326120589&sr=1-1