Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lovely Language

While looking at a large wall-map the other day, I was struck by an interesting place name I had never noticed before. Kalaallit Nunaat. According to Wikipedia, in the language Kalaallisut (natives of Greenland), it means "Land of the Greenlanders."

I just love the sound of it Kalaallit Nunaat, Kalaallit Nunaat. As a fantasy writer, I'm always looking for ways to name things that don't exist in our world, so I started to play with this as a place name in The Hidden Land of Gre. Sadly, I didn't think I could get away with using the real thing...

Kaliit Nanuut... Kallalu Niinat... Kaliilu Nanuud... Kaluut Nuunad! That's it! Well, that's it for now. The City of the Crossroads will be called Kaluut Nuunad. The owner of the inn, Hadrosep Bakkar, will say "Tula Kaluut Nuunad" when he greets the children. The translation will be, "Welcome to the land of those who live there." Of course, at this rough stage, everything's likely to change, but I love having little background tidbits like this to flesh out my story.

I wonder if other people are as interested as I am in messing around with words like this?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Writing on Command

I think I mentioned that at the Write Stuff conference, Jonathan Maberry encouraged us to write every day. The more you write, the better you become, as with most things in life.

I've managed to write on nineteen of the past twenty days, for a grand total of 16,000 words, give or take a short story or two. There are certainly times I just want to give it up, but I manage to keep going. I think it helps to have experience writing in a not-necessarily-creative field. For example, journalists don't have the luxury of not writing; for them, writer's block equals not having a job anymore. Loss of income source is a powerful motivator.

For me, the non-creative writing comes in the form of technical writing. In one way, they are the bane of my existence: page after page after page of "Press this button, and this window opens. In order to add..." They represent boredom to the nth power. On the other hand, like with journalism, you can't just say "I'm not going to write today," unless you value your job very little. And, surprisingly, technical writing does help to develop your skills. The more you write, the better your spelling, stronger your grammar, and faster your typing. You focus less on the deceptive beauty of flowery language, and more on the nuts and bolts of getting your message across. At the same time, you develop various ways of saying a certain phrase to preserve interest in the most mundane situations.

I'm not suggesting all emerging authors go out and get jobs as technical writers, but it never hurts to consider writing styles outside of your main focus. Before I wrote the user manuals, I often found myself bogged down with painting the perfect picture with luscious verbs and tantalizing adjectives. "She swayed as the wind took her, and flicked about her mellifluous, auburn hair." I've learned now that whimsical turns of phrase do not a story make. It's much better to indulge in conciseness and clarity than thesauruses (thesauri?)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ultimate Frisbee Season!

The smell of grass is in the air, the cherry trees are blossoming, and in the Mid Atlantic region it's that time of year again - time to lace up the cleats, pack up your light and dark shirts, and head out to throw some disc!

I've been playing Ultimate Frisbee for about four years now. I can honestly say, I've never been happier. I was never much of an athlete through elementary and high school (except for a couple of years of track and field). Writing can sometimes lend itself to a somewhat sedentary, secluded lifestyle, and having the balance of an active team sport is all but indispensable to me.

Others will disagree, I'm sure, but Ultimate is the ultimate sport. I mean, you can tell just by looking at the name. The threshold to entry is very low; all you need is a pair of running shoes, running shorts, a light and dark shirt, and a friend with a disc and cones. You can get a decent disc from a toy store for less than $5. In addition, just about anyone can throw a frisbee. I've had trouble with baseballs, softballs, basketballs, footballs, and just about every kind of ball out there. The "ball" shape just doesn't seem like it's meant to fly. As Stancil Johnson says, "When a ball dreams, it dreams it's a frisbee." I could get a decent pass off every now and then on my very first day. Pickup games, unless you're in an intense Ultimate region such as California, tend to be very casual. All ages are welcome, and no one will be mocked or turned aside from lack of skill. And then, of course, there's the Spirit of the Game. There are no referees; calls are made by the players themselves, and in my experience, the players are always more than fair.

If that doesn't sound like heaven, I don't know what does. I can't wait until next week! If you live anywhere near Eldersburg, check out Freedom Ultimate Now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

About Gre

My fifteen minutes a day is paying off! I'm almost to 13,000 words already. Which means that, if 50,000 words a novel makes, I'm more than 1/5 of the way there!

Since The Hidden Land of Gre started me on my current adventure, I thought I'd put a little synopsis here to whet your appetites (also available on my website ).

The Hidden Land of Gre is set in Gre, a world between the worlds of Day (aka Lume) and Night (aka Nock). Long ago, enemies of the Grelings stole the source of Greling power. In return for not destroying the source, the enemies demanded the right to all male Greling children, whom they enslaved. To preserve their race, the Grelings began a tradition of kidnapping human boys from Lume.When the book starts, the tradition has fallen out of favor because the humans have grown fearful and destructive of the dim places that overlap with Gre into which their children disappear. A Greling named Elish defiantly resurrects the tradition by catching Cade when he ventures alone into the forest near his school, and thus their adventures begin...

Stay posted for more about The Hidden Land of Gre!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lessons Learned from Bathroom Reconstruction

I'm reached the final leg of my epic bathroom reconstruction today. For about a month, I've been scraping, sanding, painting, caulking, sweeping, dusting, removing, and attaching almost every day. And now, I'm about to be finished.

There were many times during this project that I didn't feel like I wanted to go on. Of course, a bathroom is not like a novel - it's a bit harder to give up when your toilet is disconnected and you can't use your shower. Now that I'm almost done, I find myself wondering the big wonder that comes at the conclusion of all great journeys: was it worth it?

Granted, the bathroom is beautiful. The ugly, peeling wallpaper is gone, replaced with the perfect shade of blue paint. The 80's style wooden cabinet and vanity have been updated with several coats of glossy white. I've replaced the mirror with a sexy upscale version that TILTS! There's no comparing the before and after versions.

But still - the project turned out to be much, much more expensive in terms of time, money, and stress than I had expected it would be. In fact, if I had known in the beginning how much it would cost me, and how frustrating it would be, I can't say for sure whether I'd have taken it on. Not only that, but now that I've gotten up close and personal with my bathroom, I know all it's flaws. I know where the paint dripped, where the scraper slipped, where the screwdriver missed it's mark. It was and continues to be rough, to say the least.

In the end, I would have to say yes - it was worth it. I don't believe there's any way to reach the end of a large project and say, that was perfect! Everything turned out exactly how I planned! It's just not going to happen. If you can come out of it having learned a thing or two (how to caulk a joint, for example, or why it's important to flip the breaker switch before installing a light fixture), and have some fun along the way, you can consider yourself a success.

So now I wonder - what does the journey of writing hold in store for me?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Don't leave writing to the last moment

I've been working on establishing a habit of writing every day. I've started small with a goal of fifteen minutes (starting small is important for establishing new habits!), and so far I've managed to write on eight of the past nine days. Not bad, considering my previous recent record was two for sixty...

Getting motivated isn't a huge problem; I love to write, and I'm excited to finally be making an honest go of it. However, I'm also a lifelong practitioner of the ancient art of procrastination, and I often end up leaving writing to the very, very, tail end of the day when all I want to do is sleep. Sleep is one of my most favorite things in the world, and I'm not one of those people who can get by on a measly seven and a half, or even eight, hours. Additionally, after I write my, mind starts to churn with all sorts of ideas and possibilites: not a great starting point for a good night's sleep!

My solution: write during the day, and not at the end of it! But of course! Stress relief gurus advocate taking frequent, short breaks throughout the work day, and what better way to relax than to cozy up with a laptop for ten minutes and build worlds out of words? Or instead, I can type a few while eating lunch, or maybe (gasp!) even get up fifteen minutes early to write. The possibilites are endless.

We'll see how that works.

GLVWG shoutout

In other news, there's one more shoutout I'd like to send relating to the Write Stuff conference. This one's to Timons Esaias. It's great talking to all sorts of new people at a conference, and it's somewhat of a shock to find out the person you were casually chatting about travel and databases with turns out to be a well-known published author and an actual workshop leader at the conference!

Friday, April 4, 2008

GLVWG Write Stuff Conference - Impressions and Recap

Okay - it's been a week now, and I'm ready to write about my first writer's conference experience.

In a word, it was amazing. Hmmm - if I'm going to be a writer, I should be able to come up with a better word than that! Astonishing, wonderful, mind-blowing, remarkable, incredible astounding, and marvelous. That comes close to summing it up.

I've been to conferences before as a salesperson, and they're always a blast. You go to a new place, meet a bunch of new people, everyone is exciting and interesting and putting their best face forward. The Write Stuff conference had all of that, but in addition, I was surrounded by people who truly got me and readily accepted me into their group. Want to start a conversation about whether to kill off one of your characters? Not a problem. Questioning the use of the word "obsequious" on page 3, paragraph 2? They know what you're talking about. Trying to fit writing into your busy lifestyle? They've been there, done that, succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, and now they want you to do it, too.

Jonathan Maberry presented several inspiring workshops. He advised us that if we wanted to become professional writers (i.e., people who are paid to write) we need to act like professional writers. We should spend a little time on writing every day, and reward ourselves for our work. He also encouraged us to believe that we could take on new challenges. Not only does he talk the talk, he walks the walk: he's written articles, short stories, novels, nonfiction, and even greeting cards. His range of subject matter stretches from martial arts to horror to bio terrorism - see Ultimate Jujitsu: Principles and Practice and Ghost Road Blues, among others.

I also listened to Elvira Woodruff, a great presenter and children's book author of books including Awfully Short for the First Grade and The Ravenmaster's Secret. The moment she started speaking, I could tell that she knew how to speak in public, which was interesting because her whole talk was about how afraid she was when she first started her public presentations! I always find it inspirational when people are willing to talk about how they started out, before they became successful and published and all of that. It's nice to know that everyone has to start somewhere.

I don't know if he presented anything, but Don Helin was also very helpful. He's just published his first novel, Thy Kingdom Come, after years of hard work and determination. He encouraged me to stay in the game for as long as it takes, and to have a group to work with to keep me motivated. I hope to check out the Penn Writers soon.

Here's to everyone who made the GLVWG conference a reality, and all the wonderful people who made me feel completely at home. Thank you!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

On Motivation

A couple of days ago I got back in touch with Karen Syed, who taught a great class at the Carroll County Community College last year about how to get your works published.

Main points to remember:
- Get your work out there wherever you can
- Craft a tagline that tells people about your work and how to contact you
- Learn how to write flawless query and cover letters
- Marketing a book is just as important as writint it
- Do something every day to advance your writing career!

Now that's she's seen what I'm working on, she's made up her mind that I have no choice but to go forward. Talk about motivation!

Karen is a publisher who owns the publishing company Echelon Press. She also has a line of books for children and young adults AND she is a successful writer and public speaker in her own right, so I have a lot to live up to!