Words of Wisdom Wednesday

Non-fiction is hard.  It’s hard to be clever and keep your audience’s interest through a couple of hundred pages of science or history, no matter how intriguing the subject matter.  For today’s Words of Wisdom, I decided to post a couple of fun quotes from non-fiction.  When non-fiction makes you chuckle, you know the writer is skilled.

“I think I’ve always been the kind of person who gets caught up in obsessive quests, most of which seem to involve birds.”  The Grail Bird, by Tim Gallagher

“Unicorns cannot exist.  By the second quarter of the twentieth century this fact of biology was universally accepted, just in time for everyone to be proved wrong.” The Natural History of Unicorns, by Chris Lavers

“Invariably, Mangrove Cuckoo sightings are made by non-birders, thus proving the life-is-not-fair rule.” Good Birders Don’t Wear White, Chapter 10 “Follow These Rules to See a Mangrove Cuckoo” by Dan and Lillian Stokes

“So no, birding is not a hobby, any more than sneezing is, or Presbyterianism is, or liking the color blue is.  It is not something one chooses to do so much as something one cannot help but do.” The Verb ‘To Bird’ by Peter Cashwell

Do you have any to share?

We Have a Winner! A NaNo Update

At 10:45pm on November 28, I officially became a winner of the 2011 NaNoWriMo!  See my pretty badge?  I also downloaded the certificate to print later and post at work.

You better believe I bought a winner’s t-shirt, too.

Life in Dreams is currently standing at 50,190 words.  It’s not finished.  I was really glad that I hit that 50,000 mark before I got to Aurana’s big speech – I haven’t even started to draft that puppy, and the winning would have waited until the 29th if it required that part of the novel.

There are still many things to resolve in Dreams.  I’m guessing it will end up being around 70,000 words completed.  Of course, I’ll give you the full stats on it once it’s done. For now, though, I plan to write at a slower pace and maybe finish a few non-novel related projects that have been languishing as I worked feverishly towards 50,000 words.

My first NaNoWriMo was a success!  Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Galvanized Steel

Have you ever noticed that there are words in our language that reference physical objects, without discussing the physical object?

If you haven’t, and you write fantasy, you should probably take some notes.

There are many ways to say the following: His words strengthened her resolve.  As I discovered attempting to write this sentence, some of them are not really appropriate in a fantasy setting.

Oh, you want examples?  Here you go:

His words galvanized her. Galvanized refers to a process that is done to metal using electricity, and is derived from the name of a man (Galvani) who studied bioelectricity in the late 1700s.

His words steeled her resolve.  Steel was around, in small amounts, for a long time, but wasn’t in common use until the 17th century.

His words electrified her. Electricity, in the form of static electricity, was known early on, but it wasn’t really something in use until the 1600s.

These are some tricky examples, because I could use them even though the terms were not used in this way in the correlating time period.  It is fantasy, after all, so some modification of history is allowed.  The big problem is not that the terms are inaccurate or wouldn’t have been in use.  It’s that the words I use as an author set the tone and feeling for the reader.  If someone gets to that sentence and even subconsciously thinks “They didn’t have steel back then,” you will be throwing them out of the setting of the story.

Be careful with the references in your words.  We use them without thinking, but they might just ruin the setting for our readers.

Comma Cautions

The last two Sundays have been focused on commas.  I compared the comma to a multi-tool, highly versatile and a writer’s friend.  When I told this to a friend, however, she was unhappy with the comparison.  Her response was, “You can’t use a multi-tool too often, but you can overuse a comma.”

Fair enough!  Last week I turned you loose with commas; this week I’m going to rein you back in just a bit with two comma cautions.

A poorly placed comma can split your sentence incorrectly.  When I cooked, last night I made lasagna.  If you want to use a comma in this sentence, it should go after “last night” not after “cooked.”  Remember, the comma is a pause.  Read this aloud with a pause.  “When I cooked (pause) last night I made lasagna.”  Awkward…

Too many commas makes your writing hard to read.  For fun, Bob tried, to use, commas throughout, a sentence just, to see, what would happen. Obviously that example is a bit much, but you get the idea.  There are two commas that should go in that sentence: after “for fun” and after “sentence.”

Please keep in mind that it is possible to overuse a comma.  I always recommend double-checking by reading the sentence aloud when you’re not sure.

Any more sentence structure or grammatical issues you’d like to see me address?

I Didn’t Sign Up For Epic Poetry

I have to write the first stanza of an epic poem for Dreams.

For now, I have a few weak random lines that are standing in for said stanza.  After all, spending hours trying to craft a few sentences of maybe two dozen words total doesn’t seem like the most efficient use of my time during NaNo.  I can (and will) go back and work on it again later.

I’m not terribly excited about it either way.

The most intimidating part is that it can’t just be mediocre epic poetry.  No.  This has to be “some of the most breathtakingly beautiful verse the princess had ever read” and it has to be ridiculously inspiring.  Basically, this epic battle poem is about a farmwife-turned-fighter who wreaks vengeance on those who have wronged her.  The beginning has to set up the tragedy that caused her transformation, and it has to be remarkable.

In fact, it has to move a princess to tears and inspire her to fight for her right to the throne.

Hopefully, when the pressure of NaNo is off, I can find a few lines of dramatic, flowing epicness within me.  🙂

Texas Renaissance Festival!

I love the Renn Faire.  I’ve gone every year since I graduated from college.  Some years I’ve gone more than once!

I went on Sunday to the Texas Renaissance Festival.  It’s so much fun!  I got a tiny henna butterfly done on my wrist, in almost the same place as I plan to get a commemorative tattoo once Butterflies takes off.  (The tattoo is a reference to a part of the story.  If you want to know more, read the book!)  I ate tasty Faire food – my favorite is sausage on a stick – and I watched several fun shows.  I went to the bird show (of course) where I predicted every single bird before it was brought out simply based on the Royal Falconer’s description.  After three years I finally gave in and bought a CD of Tartanic, the only musical act at the Faire that I make it a point to watch.   And of course, no visit to the Texas Renaissance Festival is complete without attending the Dead Bob Show.  I believe it is a requirement before you are allowed to leave.

There are many moments in my stories that draw inspiration from the Faire.  Dragon has two entire sections that take place at a fictional Faire, and the concept for the book itself was inspired by a necklace that I purchased at the very first Faire I attended.  (I stopped by the booth where I bought the necklace eight years ago.  The two guys I talked to were excited that I’d written a story inspired by their work, and asked me to let them know when it was available.)  I’ve gotten ideas for clothing from costumes I’ve seen on people and for sale.  There’s even a fight scene in Butterflies with a defensive move that I learned at a Faire!

It’s always a good place to visit as a fantasy author.  Great people watching, great fun, and a wealth of possible inspiration!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Remember Thanksgiving when you were little?  You had to come up with something you were thankful for, and perhaps you had to write about it.   In the spirit of that same idea, I have written you a fun little acrostic poem!

T hings I’m thankful for:
nderstanding friends and family
eaders of my blog and fans on Facebook
nowledgable bloggers who make helpful suggestions
verybody who has bought my book!

Words of Wisdom Wednesday

Okay, it’s time for a bit of an odd turn for our now-routine Words of Wisdom Wednesday.  I want to know your favorite book dedication.  It can be a great dedication or just the dedication from a favorite book.  Just throw it out there!

“For Jamie, Will, Patrick, Chris, and Josh – the most remarkable creatures in my world” – Remarkable Creatures, by Sean B. Carroll

“This book is dedicated to my mom, for showing my the mogic in the world; to my dad, for revealing the man behind the curtain.  And also to my sister, Angela, for helping when I’m “blue.”” – Eragon, by Christopher Paolini

“The dedication of this book is split seven ways: to Neil, to Jessica, to David, to Kenzie, to Di, to Anne, and to you, if you have stuck with Harry until the very end.”  – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling

“For Linda, my mom, who knew I could even when I didn’t.”  – The Queen’s Butterflies, by Leigh Townsend

A Few Hundred Words Behind: A NaNo Update

I have spent the entire week behind on my word count.  The irritating thing is that every day I’m only a little bit behind.  Two hundred words one day.  Eighty words another.  I recover, I get past those words and onto the next day’s word count, only to end up still a little bit behind.

Thank goodness it hasn’t been cumulative.

To be fair, I was really sick this week.  I was absolutely miserable last Wednesday and I was lucky to get the 400 words that I did that day.  After going to the doctor, it turned out that I have (had, hopefully!) ‘walking’ or atypical pneumonia.  A round of antibioticslater and my cough is much reduced and my appetite is back.  And I’m still a little behind on my word count.

There’s something every week, right?  Second week I had a conference, but I recovered with a 4000-word day.  Third week, pneumonia, but I scraped through.  This coming week is Thanksgiving and my dad is visiting.  I know he understands and appreciates the writing; here’s hoping that he’s willing to let me vanish for a bit every day so I can keep up the word count!

Making a List

I’ve had to create so many characters for Dreams that I finally needed to make a list.  (And yes, they all have names!  I hope this ease of naming isn’t some kind of fluke.)

I hand-wrote the list for now.  It seemed easier to simply skim through the document and write down names than flip between two Word documents.  Plus, this way I can just have the notebook open next to me while I write.  Then I can reference it easily.

Once Dreams is done I’ll probably have to write up a character list like I did for Butterflies and Dragon.  I know it can be challenging for some people to keep characters straight when many are introduced at once, and I don’t mind helping them out.  I just hate it when a character list includes spoilers, so I try to limit the information (other than name and a brief identifier) to avoid giving the story away.

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