Saturday, March 27, 2010

Walking and Chewing Gum


Last night I was thinking how great it would be if I could watch the movie I wanted to watch and capture every detail while I was still playing TowerMadness on my iPod. Of course, that's not possible, but it got me thinking about everything I wish I could do at the same time.

The list gets tiresome after a while, because I pretty much wish I could write while I was doing everything else, but there's some particular cases where I wish it was true.



I wish I could:
- read and write while I'm in the shower
- write while I drive
- write while I'm walking around outside with my son
- sleep while I drive
- clean the house while I sleep
- write while I'm pretending to listen to boring people (they'd notice, wouldn't they?)

Am I the only one who wants to combine activities? Is this a writer thing? Sound off!

- Liz

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Link-a-Palooza


Today I'm offering a smorgasbord of links that might educate or entertain you. (And, by the way, I spelled smorgasbord correctly the first time. Must be my German blood.)




For Writers:

An outstanding blog by a fantastic reader about the disturbing trend of romanticizing bad relationships in YA books right now. That's right, Stephenie Meyer, I'm looking at you.

This Twitterati is the ultimate source for the latest information in the blogosphere. Everyday she posts links to everything useful. She does the work so I don't have to! Follow her now, trust me.

A compelling video that tells you how you can run your own ad on national TV (don't worry, it's not just on Fox News) for a very reasonable cost. Book trailers, anyone?

In case I haven't mentioned this before, this site allows you to search for literary agents, create your own list and track the status of all your queries. Goodbye, awkward Excel document!

For your entertainment:


There are really no words for how weird this is, but I found myself grinning at it anyway.

The title says it all.

A really fun video, especially if you're a music nerd like me, or happen to by married to one of those annoying musician types that can play any instrument and learn songs just by messing around on the piano or guitar. (Also me.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Putting On Our Big Girl Panties


Richard North Patterson wrote, "Writing is rewriting." He couldn't be more right.

I've been thinking about critiquing lately, and having someone critique my work. It's nervous-making (Thanks, Scott Westerfeld, for permanently infecting my brain with Pretty-Speak.), but it's always worth the chewed nails.

The main problem with trying to critique your own work (a valuable skill that I'll talk about another time) is that you know what you were talking about. That makes it easy to excuse confusing phrases, or overlook glaring omissions. You know your characters, you know their tone of voice when they issue a line of dialogue, but just like when you receive an e-mail from someone you don't know very well, you can't be sure if they intend to be humorous or just plain mean.

Having fresh eyes on your work will tell you many things--what works, what doesn't, what got a laugh, or was interpreted as funny when that wasn't your intention (this happens to me a lot). A good critique partner will see all the typos your eyes have glossed over ten times, call you to the carpet when your characters are acting strangely, and give you the oh-so-necessary "Huh?" when you're not making any sense.

So what do you do with all this third-party input?

Well, you start by putting on your big girl panties.

You don't have to agree with every suggestion a critique partner makes (although I would argue that some rules of grammar are immutable and you should probably take heed of any suggestions in that arena) but you should learn from everything they say.

Here's just a few of the things that run through my head when I get notes from a CP:

1. I agree, thank God you pointed that out, or I might have sent that glaring error out into the big wide world.

2. Oh really? I totally didn't see it that way. I guess you're right.

3. Are you sure? I'm going to run this by a couple other people and look for a consensus.

4. You totally missed the point, but that means I did a crappy job communicating it. Better fix that.

5. Um, no. I would never use the phrase "heaving bosoms" in a novel and I'm just going to pretend you didn't suggest that.**

6. Yay! You got the joke! I was so worried about that one.

7. Really? That's funny? Huh. Didn't mean for that to get a laugh. Bonus!

8. Okay, okay, you're right, that part sucks. I was hoping I'd be wrong about that.

9. Oops! Now I feel like an idiot. I can't believe I mixed up it's and its.

10. Whew! That wasn't so bad. I can crawl out from under the bed and get out of my fetal position.

** Heaving bosoms is a pet peeve of mine, and here serves as placeholder for any off the wall suggestions from a CP. This business really is subjective.

Writers: Any other startling revelations come to you from a crit partner or beta reader?

- Liz

Myra McEntire: Don't Listen to ME


Myra collected some advice from two of my favorite YA authors in one easy spot. We love Myra.

- Liz

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My First Blog Award!



Yesterday, Jill over at
Jill Kemerer, honored me with The Sunshine Award. Thanks Jill! I greedily put it on my blog already, but wanted to give the fabulous Steve Novak a full day to be the top item on my blog before I posted this. Sorry for the delay, Jill, and thanks again.



Rules to Accept the Award:

◦Put the logo on your blog in your post.
◦Pass the award onto 12 bloggers.
◦Link the nominees within your post.
◦Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blogs.
◦Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

Nominees:
1. Jessie at JA Souders
5. Cassandra at C.A. Marshall
6. Kelly at Just Write

Yes, I'm aware that 7 is not 12. I know a handful of other bloggers who are more than deserving of all kinds of awards, but most of them would give me a raised eyebrow if I presented them with a flower, so they shall remain admired, but unawarded by me.

- Liz

Jill Kemerer: Spreading the Love

Jill Kemerer: Spreading the Love

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Interview with Steve Novak

Welcome to another author interview! Today's victim--er, subject, is debut author, Steve Novak.

Here's all the swell places to go to stalk Steve:
Also, you can buy his debut novel, FORTS: FATHERS AND SONS at all kinds of swell places, like this, and this starting on March 20, 2010. (Hey, isn't that this Saturday? Why yes!)
I'd give you his home address, but I'm told his wife frowns on that sort of thing.

In case you don't feel like initiating your stalking career before you read the answers, let me give you the skinny on FORTS:

After stumbling quite accidentally onto a doorway leading to another world, Tommy Jarvis and his friends end up becoming major players in an ancient war between creatures they once imagined only existed in dreams. The more time they spend in this incredible new world, the more they begin to unravel a mystery as old time itself. The only question now is, will they make it home alive?



Now, to the questions!



LC: Was there any one thing that provided the inspiration for FORTS?

SN: At it’s most basic the story is ultimately about finding strength in creativity – something I think I know pretty well – and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that I’ve written variations of this very theme at least a thousand times over the course of my life.

I figured if I rammed it down their throat enough someone was eventually going to publish it – for no other reason than they’re sick of me.

Apparently it worked.

Annoyance can be a powerful ally.

Seriously though, the book was actually inspired by a lot of situations, and feelings, and people I’ve encountered over the years. Buried beneath the sword fights, the foul-mouthed fairies, and the underground creatures that can see the future, there’s a surprising amount of my life.

LC: I think most writers use their lives for inspiration. How far did you take it, though? Are any of the characters in FORTS based on people you know in real life?

SN: There are a lot of characters pulled directly from my life, or at the very least aspects of them are. Put a snapshot of my profile alongside the drawing of the wispy, blond-haired main character on the cover of “Fathers and Sons” and you’d have to be the world’s biggest dope or pretty much anyone featured on an MTV reality show to miss the similarities.


LC: (I don't know what he's talking about.)





SN: Heck, the brother of the main character has the exact name of my actual brother…

My attempts to mask the real life comparisons are quite pathetic.

It works for me to write that way though. I’m not entirely sure I could do anything else, and I don’t think I would even want to. If it doesn’t mean something to me personally, I don’t see the point. If I don’t get something out of the act of writing it, why am I bothering?

LC: I know FORTS was always planned as a trilogy. Do you think you'll be able to let these characters go when you're done, or is there a chance for a fourth some time in the future?

SN: Not a chance. When the last words on the last page have been typed, that’s where it ends. Honestly, there won’t be anywhere else to take it. Without giving anything away, when you read those last words you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

You know, because everyone dies.

Oops, should I have typed “spoiler alert?”

Actually, I’m just pulling your leg, not everyone dies – just some people – maybe.

Despite there being a very definitive beginning, middle, and end to the story, I have toyed with the idea of a prequel that would expand the background of some of the ancillary characters. I think there’s a wealth of good, interesting stuff there, and I have a few ideas on how to present it and hopefully still keep it interesting. The biggest question is whether or not I’ll have the energy for it. I will have spent three years with the characters and there’s a high possibility I’ll be burned out and ready to move onto something else.

Plus I’m lazy - so very, very lazy.

LC: My kind of guy. Also, he's a liar. Just see his website to see how not lazy he is. Speaking of which, FORTS is your debut novel, but you've been working professionally with your drawing for a while. Are your friends reacting differently to you being an author than as an illustrator?

SN: It’s weird that you ask that, because yes, yes they have. It’s something I never anticipated. There are quite a few people that seem more than a little surprised by it. I’m not sure if they thought I was too dopey to write anything at all, of if they’re simply shocked by the fact that I was able to stick with it long enough to get 120,000 words out – then do it again – and again.

In fact, just recently my wife told me about a conversation with a family member that went a little something like this,
“Steven’s book comes out in a few weeks.”
“Steven wrote a book?”
“Yeah, three of them.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean he wrote a book.”
“Wait…do you mean he wrote ALLLLLLLL the words in it?”

I’d like to officially announce that I did indeed write ALLLLLLL the words in my books. I didn’t create them mind you, but I did assemble them in my own personal way, thus making them mine.
ALLLLLLL of them – every last one.

LC: Can you tell us about your experience with an independent publisher? What's the best part about working with Canonbridge?

SN: Canonbridge has been fantastic. In fact, I don’t have a single negative thing to say about them. If I hear you talking bad about the company I’ll box your jaw Marquess of Queensbury style – you know, like a flabby boxer from the twenties with a mustache so curly and smooth it makes the flappers swoon.

My editor Maggie Stewart-Grant was an absolute dream to work with, and I am forever grateful to her for taking a chance on the series. Despite its somewhat traditional, arguably safe cover art, I like to think that there’s a little more nastiness, fat, and grizzle on the “meat” of the books than one might expect. This becomes even more prominent as the series moves forward into books two and three.

If I can catch the reader off guard a bit I’ll be happier then Kevin Federline when the judge read his gargantuan divorce settlement.

LC: Except with the smarts to understand what's happening, too! Win! You mention getting a lot of rejections before deciding to go with Canonbridge. What, if anything, did you learn from the experience of rejection?

SN: People wonder why artists are often “moody weirdos,” but the answer is as obvious as Paris Hilton’s total lack of talent – we willingly subject ourselves to a lifetime of rejection. That takes guts – guts and stupidity – gutstitidy even.

If you’re an artist of any kind and aren’t prepared to accept the reality of being told that you aren’t good enough every single day, of every single year, until you die or the sun transforms into a red dwarf and swallows the earth whole, this business will eat you alive.

Quick story…

After high school I shelled out enormous sums of money to attend an art school in Columbus, Ohio. I can’t honestly say it was worth it, but that’s an entirely different story for another time. Anyway, there was a professor there that would come into class without saying a word and throw his stuff on the desk in the front of the room before sighing deeply and shaking his head. Again without muttering even a single syllable, he would begin silently examining the previous weeks homework, which the class had placed carefully on the ledges outlining the walls. For ten minutes he’d walk back and forth, rubbing his chin, occasionally groaning, and generally looking exasperated with the entire tiresome situation. After a long pause to collect his thoughts, the fun would begin.

By “fun” I mean he would start whacking stuff onto the floor.

Seriously, I kid you not. If the man came across something he didn’t like he’d grunt angrily and smack it onto the filthy tile.

With a single a swipe of his arm the illustration we spent hours lurching over your respective desks in the darkness painting would be sliding across the floor while spinning like top.

If it didn’t slide quite far enough, he’d kick it.

You may be thinking to yourself, exactly as I did the first time it happened to me, “Wow…that man right there is a D-bag of the highest order.”

Looking back on it years later however, I sort of understand what he was doing. Granted, it’s a bit extreme, but if you can have your work very literally treated like garbage one week, then dust yourself off and come back for more of the same the next, you slowly begin to understand what it really means to be an artist.

You have to be like Rocky Balboa in the original film – take your lumps and keep on coming no matter what.

LC: Okay, reason number 3,093,412 that I will never go to art school. Apart from wearing protective goggles to class to protect yourself from the shards of broken dreams, any practical advice for aspiring writers and illustrators?

SN: If your goal is to become the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King and you’re looking to spend your days rolling around in piles of money while wearing only your birthday suit, I must politely suggest that you punch yourself in the face.

If even after punching yourself you still think the naked money pile is a possibility, have someone far larger and stronger than yourself give you a whack in the noggin.

If at this point you’re bleeding form the nose, have a golf ball sized mouse forming in the space between your eyes, and you still refuse to give up on the dream, try having someone even larger and stronger than the second person kick you in the genitals.

If your goal is to make some money, support a family, and build yourself a sizable nest egg on which you can retire comfortably – become a plumber.

No one should ever go into the arts thinking they’re going to get rich. You’ve got a better chance of getting hit with lightning while holding the winning ticket to your state lottery.

If you aren’t doing this because you love it, because it’s a part of you, and the idea of doing anything else seems crazier than the insane asylum on the corner of Nutty Road and Wacko Drive in the city of Insaneville, you’re missing the point.

It’s not about the money. It’s never been about the money - mostly because there isn’t any money. If you go in with the right frame of mind I think you’ll get a lot more out of the journey.

LC: What do you like better: drawing or writing? (I know, I know, they're different and the answer is probably neither, but humor me.)

SN: Actually the answer is drawing, so suck on that Czukas! By the way, I’m still trying to figure out how to pronounce that wonderfully weird last name of yours.

LC: [Editor's Note: It's pronounced CHEW-kiss. Two fun things to do with your mouth.]

SN: Seriously though, they aren’t as different as you might think. Ultimately they’re both telling stories, they just go about the act of doing so a bit differently. Drawing however is what I always come back to. If I’m bored, or just feeling a little down I tend to reach for a pencil and a sketchpad before my laptop. I can draw with my eyes closed. I can draw in my sleep. I can scribble on the back of a menu, or if I’m feeling extra dangerous, etch something into the desk itself. Back in the days when my plump little fingers were barely useful for picking my nose, I was already scribbling. I was drawing before I could speak, write, or avoid pooping my underpants.

Speaking of pooping my underpants; my mother likes to tell this story about me pulling a dirty diaper off myself as a kid, and using the puddle of baby fudge to draw on the walls.

My hands have been aching to draw from the moment I sprung from the womb. As much as I love writing, it would be difficult for just about anything to compete with that type of history.

LC: Like you need any incentive to do this, but: Tell us five random things about yourself.

SN: 1. I still have trouble swallowing pills. I’m thirty-two years old, six-foot one, come in at over two-hundred pounds, and have been told that I can look pretty scary if I so desire. Despite it all, a single medicine filled capsule can take me down with ease. It’s embarrassing. Having to ask my doctor if a prescription is available in liquid form even more so.

LC: Eat at least four Saltine crackers without water, maybe six if you've got a big mouth. Then, when you're so desperate for water you want to die, toss the pill in and down a glass. Or, you know, stop being a pansy.

SN: [ignoring LC] 2. I was once very nearly peed on by a wild-eyed, crazy-haired homeless man in a public restroom.

3. When I was twelve years old I had a bicycle accident that ripped open my forehead and required nearly three hundred and fifty stitches – not to mention a full head cast. The accident however left me with abilities that can only be defined as “superhuman,” and to this day I use those abilities to fight crime and put the wrong things right.

Okay, that last part was a lie.

The accident did however jiggle my brain like an Etch-a-Sketch and turn me into a slightly more introverted weirdo.

That story is hardly as exciting however.

4. There are only a few movies that break through the cracks in my “manly” exterior and cause me to weep so hard the gods themselves take notice. One of those movies is “The Muppet Movie.”

The song at the end – the rainbow coming in through the ceiling – come on. You’d have to be a robot, or at the very least a cyborg of some sort to not tear up at that.

5. When I was eleven years old I approached Harlan Ellison at a comic book convention, sprawled out my crude drawings of “Spawn,” “Wolverine,” and “The Incredible Hulk,” and tried my damndest to convince him to let me be the artist on a graphic novel he’d written.

The fact that I had no idea who Harlan Ellison was didn’t deter me one bit.

Though he looked at me like I was a fool, I think he appreciated my “moxie.”

LC: Impressive moxie, for sure. Thank you for taking the time to entertain us today, Steve. I hope FORTS kicks all kinds of ass on the book charts. Before we go, is there anything else you want to share about your book or yourself?

SN: I think artists in general – we’re lucky people. Sure, we might be underappreciated and most definitely underpaid, but I for one really do feel blessed to be able to do whatever it is I do. When we’re kids it comes so naturally – creating I mean. Imagination is so simple and easy a thing to children that when it blurs the lines of reality they hardly bat an eye.

One of the absolute greatest tragedies in the world is when the weight of adulthood sets in and all of that goes away.

I think the only difference between artists and everyone else is that we find a way to hold onto some of that feeling.

I personally don’t know how I managed to do it, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

Also, before I make like my grandpa and “skedattle,” I’d just like to add that everyone out there should order up a copy of the book on the 20th.

If it helps any, just pretend your life depends on it. Because it just may.

Wait, was that too intimidating?

What’s that? You think threatening people into buying the book isn’t likely to work? In fact you think it might have the opposite effect?

How about groveling? No? Groveling isn’t likely to get the job done either?

Oh, You think I should just stop typing altogether? I’m only making matters worse? Digging my own grave? Not only don’t you want to buy the book, but you think I look like an idiot to boot?

Maybe you’re right. Maybe I should call it quits.

I’m going to…

I swear…

Right now.

Bye

LC: Bye, Steve.




Monday, March 15, 2010

Ten Weird Things

1. I just started typing "Can I..." on Google and the auto-complete drop down menu offered up "Can I get pregnant from a dog?" as one of my options.




2. Autocomplete on Google has been responsible for more than a few giggles in my experience.




3. I endured some mega-drama over the weekend, and it left me feeling strangely unaffected.




4. The puppet Hoggle, from Labyrinth was transported by plane at some point, and left at baggage claim. It's now on permanent display at the Unclaimed Baggage Center Museum.



5. Mona Lisa has no eyebrows.





6. I hate mayonnaise.







7. This.





8. Tall Clubs International offers $1000 scholarships to men under 21 who are 6'2" or taller, and women under 21 who are 5'10" or taller. (Missed it by an inch--damn!)





9. Yawns are so contagious that even blind people will yawn if they hear someone else yawn. (And if you're as susceptible as my mom, you yawned just reading that word four times.)





10. No one knows what Shakespeare really looked like. There was never a portrait of him painted during his lifetime.


(Not him!)


That is all.

- Liz

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Geek Alert: My Case for Daylight Saving Time All the Time

Note: I wrote this for my college newspaper when I was an opinion columnist back then. And updated it a smidge as an adult. I just felt like posting it today in celebration of Daylight Saving, Albert Einstein's Birthday and Pi Day. I'm nerdy like that.



Almost every year at two a.m. on the first Sunday in April, most of the United States sets its clocks forward one hour and wakes up with that unpleasant feeling of jetlag and the nagging sense that there really aren’t enough hours in the day. The reason is to “save daylight”. If clocks are set forward one hour, the sun seems to rise an hour later—preventing people from sleeping through full sunlight hours in the early morning. It also appears to set an hour later—allowing more sunlit time in the afternoon. When the sun is up, people use less energy because they do not have to turn on as many lights. In other words, Daylight Saving Time helps America to use less energy.



Most of us are too young to remember that Daylight Saving Time (DST) was not always standardized. In fact, DST is not standardized all over the world or even all over the United States: Arizona, Hawaii and the part of Indiana that is in the Eastern time zone do not observe DST.* (If you really want an example of the arbitrary nature of time, consider China. The gigantic country doesn't even have time zones.)



Daylight Saving is an arbitrary time period set by the federal government. Its duration each year has changed dramatically since the idea was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin. As recently as 1986, then President Ronald Reagan moved the date that DST began to its current position on the first Sunday in April. During the early 1960s, DST was not federally regulated and each region, state or city could determine if and when it would observe DST. Not surprisingly, broadcasters and mass transit companies protested the variability of time. After all, how could an airline give an estimated time of arrival if they could not be sure what time it would be in the destination city?



All of this information is meant to give you, the reader, the understanding that time is extremely relative and can be changed arbitrarily. In the spirit of that idea, I propose that the United States move permanently to Daylight Saving Time.



It’s happened before. During both World War I and World War II DST was instituted on a permanent basis to conserve fuel used to create energy. Also, during the oil embargoes of the 1970s, Congress put the nation on extended DST for two years in order to save on heating oil. The experiment netted 10,000 barrels of oil a day in saved energy use.

Currently, we are facing an oil crisis and the results have been reflected each month in our heating bills and in our gas tanks. Oil is expensive and anything we can do to conserve it is worth doing. Considering that we have a precedent for extended DST, I do not understand why the government has not moved on this plan. The Bush Administration has already extended it this year; why not make it permanent?



Extending Daylight Saving Time also has other benefits. Because people were able to complete the majority of their transportation from school and work as well as errands before the sun went down, the Department of Transportation estimated that 50 lives were saved and 2000 injuries prevented during the extended DST of the 1970s because many common crimes occur after dark. American and British studies also indicate that pedestrians are four times less likely to be killed by car accidents during Daylight hours.



Surveys by the Department of Transportation indicate that most Americans like DST because there is “more light in the evenings” allowing people to “do more in the evenings”. Critics of extended DST (generally farmers or farming states) do not like how late DST would “make” the sun rise in the winter. I opine that the majority of farming work does not take place in the winter anyway, and furthermore, most of the country revolves around commerce and industry, not farming.



I am a reluctant early-riser--thanks to my job and my child--and I could really care less when the sun rises in the winter. It's not pleasant to be up early no matter what. I would much prefer to have an extra hour of daylight in the evening than in the morning. After all, I’m going to work in the morning and that sucks anyway. I would certainly rather see the sun when I get to come home from work.



If public opinion is not enough, if pedestrian safety is not enough, oil conservation should certainly be enough. Congress can and should extend DST to at least eight months of the year if not all twelve. We could save at least 120,000 barrels of oil a year. That’s four times as much as the controversial amount released from the Federal Oil Reserves by president Clinton in September of 2000. Permanent Daylight Saving Time is good for the economy, public safety, and personal morale. How can we say no?



* Indiana now observes DST statewide.



- Liz



P.S. Sorry for subjecting you all to my geekery. Back to my usual blathering tomorrow. ;)