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Feb. 11th, 2009


Just a Note

This is a short note to say I'm making the jump and transferring the blog completely to The Tekaran Lady

This account will stay for the sole purpose of keeping up with some friends here on LJ, but no more posts will be made.

Thank you.

Feb. 4th, 2009


Being a Bookworm has its Benefits

In the comments following an earlier post regarding finding time to write again, Five Reflections asked, "What are some of the reflections on the four college literature classes and other classes you participated in?" and, "What deep intuitive understandings did you collect from your study of other authors?"

I've been thinking about the questions ever since.

I picked a rather mismatched set of subjects to study in college, majoring in English and minoring in Biology. Originally I thought this would help me become a journalist for National Geographic someday while still being practical for a local journalism job. Plus, I figured it couldn't hurt to study the work of some of the greats and know at least the basic biological principals in pursuit of my goal to become a science fiction novelist.

How helpful these classes have been outside of college is a matter up for debate. On the one hand, my degree isn't particularly helpful in obtaining employment in the local market aside from what few journalistic jobs are available and secretarial work. My background in the sciences would be a greater asset; however, just a minor doesn't really count for much. Yet, the classes were and continue to be a huge help when it comes to writing.

Let's start with the easiest to explain first. Coupling biology with English literature may have earned me a few odd looks over the years, but although I enjoy the sciences, I took it up for a purpose. Simply put, I wanted the worlds I created to be as believable as possible, and understanding the fundamental rules of life systems has helped tremendously when creating new lifeforms.

Plus, there's the added bonus of being able to recognize some ingredients in medications and homeopathic remedies not listed under their most common names. How some things are on the market, I'll never know.

When it comes to literature, it's all about taking away what you need from it. Studying the classics won't guerantee you'll become a memorable or even good writer yourself. Learning to write well takes practice and lots of it, but much can be gleaned from a study of literature, classical or contemporary. (Mythology and literature from Chaucer's day until the Victorian Era just happens to be my personal cup of tea outside of contemporary science fiction and fantasy.)

First there's the laundry list of terms to label techniques used throughout the years high school teachers and college professors alike are so fond of handing out. You get a definition of the technique, and then you pick up one piece after another and are able to see numerous examples of how to employ the technique. After a time, you can almost develop an "ear" for what works in a process similar to the one we use as infants learning to speak.

Then there are the insights you can gain from seeing how literature has been used throughout the ages.

I've been fond of science fiction and fantasy since my parents introduced me to Star Trek, Lost in Space, and Star Wars as a child. Then I studied The Time Machine, Gulliver's Travels, and other early examples of the genres. The teachers pointed out how not only were the stories entertaining, but they spoke to fundamental truths of the age while providing a layer of protection to the authors for daring to speak against certain aspects of society.

I learned "escapist" literature can serve a larger purpose than merely to amuse, yet every reader will generally take away what they will from a story. I have the things I want to talk about, but not every reader wants to hear the discussion. So, I tell my story, weaving in my points and allusions to other works for those who look for them and keeping it entertaining for those readers who simply want to step out of their lives for a time, and I have my studies in literature for helping me learn how to do so.


Jan. 31st, 2009

jump, joy

Blast from the Past: Oh, What a Grace

I'm feeling thankful this morning, so I thought I'd share the one and only song I've ever managed to write.

If you like gospel, jump in the ol' way back machine here and take a look at "Oh, What a Grace," a song written so long ago, I hadn't even met Hubby yet.

Many thanks go out to Mr. R. J. Stevens for composing the music.

As far as I know, the song hasn't been published in any songbooks, but it has been spread from hand to hand throughout several congregations here in the Tennessee Valley.


Jan. 30th, 2009

And folks wonder why I hate winter...

Our heating bill arrived, and it's outrageous! Seriously, it's over 3/5 as much as we pay in rent a month.

We had some bitter weather this month, much colder than is normal for this area in January, and we're paying the price. And this is with layering and keeping the thermostat set as low as we can stand it!

Thank goodness we're moving this coming month! The new house is the same size as the current one, but it's at least fifty years newer, better designed, and much more energy efficient.

Setting the thermostat at 68 degrees, when the house will actually get up to 68 degrees is one thing. Setting it at 68 degrees and having the house never get over 50 degrees is another thing entirely.

No wonder Boo and Sneak have been sick all month!



Random Thoughts on Writing

So, I've been trying to find a bit more time to write the last few says. My notebook has been getting a workout, but it never really seems to translate into posts. This is a good thing, since I've mostly been venting to the notebook about the frustrations of tending two sick children under the age of three, the stresses of trying to buy our first home, and how it looks like a giant has taken our house and shaken it like a child with a present the week before Christmas. It hardly makes for anything applicable to this blog, but it is helping me get into a better space in my head.

Writing Roads has issued a call for submissions for a LOVE e-book. I believe it's a grand idea. I've been looking for something for Hubby's birthday, which just so happens to be the day after Valentines, and this looks perfect. I haven't written poetry in years, but I'm actually thinking of dusting off those long neglected skills and trying for a submission. Even if it's rejected, I'll still have a little something personal to print up on pretty paper for Hubby's birthday.

You know, I don't believe I've taken the time to do any sort of writing exercise since graduating college. It's a shame really now that I stop to think about it. I got to thinking of them as a waste of time because they rarely result in anything publishable, but I've been missing the whole point. It's not about getting something publishable. It's about improving overall skills and gleaning ideas.

I haven't written a word on any of my major projects in well over a year because I've had an awful time getting my mind in gear. I've tried everything to break through the writers block besides a few random exercises, and just writing down random thoughts in a journal is actually doing more to get the words flowing than anything else I've tried. Perhaps it's time to give writing exercises a try again.

Yes, exercises it is!

Alright folks, leave me a prompt in the comments, and I'll answer the challenge as soon as I can.


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Jan. 28th, 2009

Practice and Nonsense

I've been working on a compilation video of the girls' pictures to send to far flung family members using Microsoft Movie Maker, so naturally I got a silly idea. It wouldn't leave me alone, so I ended up making a Right of Succession teaser as practice.

Right of Succession Teaser

It needs work, but it's a start.

Any suggestions for inexpensive improvements?


Jan. 27th, 2009


Finding Time to Write

It seems like I've been struggling to find the time to write since I started the hobby all the way back in fifth grade.

At first it wasn't such a huge deal. I'd just take out my notebook and start writing sometimes in the evenings after homework and before bed, and weekends were largely free. It got a little trickier in junior high. The high school band was seven through twelve back then, so I suddenly went from one concert a year to several weekly practices, football games, parades, contests, and at least two concerts a year not including competitions. Plus, I had more school work and added responsibilities around the house, plus the occasional babysitting or tutoring job. Still, I could usually find a few minutes or a stolen hour here or there to write. (Half hour long bus rides to and from school helped.)

College brought tougher challenges of the same type between fair to heavy coursework and working to pay tuition; however, I usually had a long gap or two between classes, and studying didn't require the use of every gap.

The true problems finding time to write started up about the time I seriously began to think about trying to get some of my writing published. How well it all flowed and if it had meaning suddenly began to matter more, and I kept trying to carve out larger segments of time to devote to writing. When I wasn't thinking about dragging out the trusty old notebook, I was studying the work of other authors.

Have you ever tried taking four college literature classes while also trying to pass two science courses? I wouldn't recommend it.

Then I graduated, started a full-time job, and got married. Fifteen months later, I managed my first paying publication just a week before Boo was born, and I've barely written since. I certainly haven't gotten anything else published, and you know why? I kept telling myself I didn't have enough time, or I couldn't get my head in the game. I was always so distracted by housework, taking care of first Boo and now Sneak, and trying to find something I could do from home.

My problem was in my way of thinking. It's not about sitting down and making this grand leap all at once. It's about making headway.

It's such a simple concept, it's a wonder it has taken this long for me to get it through my thick skull. I've used it to good effect with the housework following particularly rough weeks, or incidents like my back injury last month. It may take three weeks to get back on track after being derailed for one, but it can be done, one small step at a time.

There's no need to try and set aside an hour to write each day. With two very small children, trying to buy our first house, and Hubby trying to teach four subjects at once, it's just not going to happen. But there is this sweet spot on the afternoons, when nothing will do for Sneak but to cuddle up in my lap for a bit of quiet time. She doesn't mind letting me have one hand free so long as the other arm hugs her close as she snoozes. So, I think I'll start gathering my new notebook, pen, and a cup of tea when I go to settle down in the big rocker each afternoon and steal a few minutes to write.

* Picture is my "little" brother with Boo and Sneak last month.


Jan. 24th, 2009

bored, teacher

Blast from the Past: True Nightmares

Yeish, it's been forever since I've posted! Twenty-one weeks actually, but I've only just now regained enough time to notice.

I sadly don't have time for an in depth post on a new topic, so I've decided to bring you our first blast from the past post. Below is an excerpt from Succession, accepted by The Writer's Hood Science Fiction page, but never run due to the magazine's founder abandoning it the month it was due to run.

True Nightmares

Brihanni absently looked out the window as their enclosed sled topped the hill and picked up speed. The driving snow blotted out all else.

Where were they? Ralic's men should have appeared before now. She didn't know if the men could even find their small group in this storm. Had she lied to Kalie, pushing her to visit her "dying" mother, for nothing? She felt a pang of guilt as she glanced over at her friend, sitting with her feet jammed against the foot board to steady herself.

A commotion exploded outside, and the sled skidded to a halt. Brihanni looked across at Princess Kalie. Curious as always, the other woman leaned forward to peer out the window. Seeing her opportunity, Brihanni pulled the dagger secreted in her pocket free of its sheath.

"Whats this?" Kalie asked as Brihanni snaked her arm about the princess' neck and laid the bare blade against her skin.

"I'm sorry, Madam," Brihanni whispered in Kalie's ear, gripping the woman's arm as tightly as she could. "But, if you move I will slit your throat."

"Why, Bri? I thought you were my friend."

"I am, but I'm an ambitious woman. If you hadn't taught me how to hide things from that boy of yours, you'd know that by now."

Outside, Borcon's voice erupted in a primal roar. The cold slowed and weakened the dragons, but it wouldn't be enough to prevent Ralic's men from being slaughtered. It was time to give him a reason to still.

"Out," Brihanni ordered, keeping hold of Kalie as she opened the door and exited, gingerly feeling along the blind decent. "Call to him. Now!" She pressed the dagger's point to Kalie's jaw.

"Borcon!" Kalie screamed, setting Brihanni's ears to ringing and drawing the Yekaran's attention immediately.

"Surrender to us now, Borcon," Brihanni yelled, "or I'll kill her."

The dragon snarled, literally fuming but unable to produce flame this late in the winter. He roared again, louder than she'd ever heard any dragon bellow before, but he attacked no more of the strange soldiers. Where they wearing fur over their armor?

"It's nothing personal, Kalie," Brihanni whispered. "You're in my way. If you behave and do exactly as you're told, you'll be free again once I'm on my own road."

* * *

After what seemed like hours, the company reached the shelter of Tembar Proper. She'd be with her beloved Ralic soon, but not before she retrieved some warm, dry clothes. Borcon would attack again if he thought there was even the slightest chance to save his friend, so Brihanni rode beside the sled driver and pressed the dagger to Kalie's throat the whole way. She was soaked and freezing after sitting in the full force of the storm, but it would all be worth it to be queen.

Once they were inside the gates, the sled came an abrupt halt and a man in what appeared to be an odd-looking suit of armor modeled after a large bird sprang from the interior. He grabbed Kalie's slender wrist, wrenched her from the carriage, and held her close at his side. The soldier thrust his hand at Brihanni, and guessing his desire, she gave him the dagger. He laid the blade above Kalie's jugular and turned away without a sound.

Brihanni climbed down from the carriage and stood well away from the soldiers, but remained in the courtyard. She'd agreed to deliver Borcon to Ralic, and she wanted to see him chained and secured with her own eyes. The large, ebony Yekaran entered the courtyard, glaring at the man threatening Kalie, but complied in silence. He lay prostrated while the soldiers bound him with heavy chains and locked them into huge rings bolted into the ground. His silver eyes never left Kalie.

Brihanni watched the other woman; sorry building her future required her to betray her friend. The princess stood unmoving in the bird man's arms. Strands of long, blond hair escaped from her hood and blew in the wind. Brihanni could see Kalie was panting as the cold produced tiny, rapid bursts of fog before her. Brihanni could tell she was terrified even though her features were schooled into a mask of calm reserve. Why nobles always thought they had to hide their emotions was beyond her.

The last chain was secured, insuring Borcon was paralyzed from muzzle to tail, and one of the soldiers alerted the bird man. He nodded in acknowledgment as Borcon watched. In a flash, bright even in the blinding snow, the bird man raked the dagger across Kalie's throat.

The pure, white snow grew scarlet. Borcon's insane howls drowned out any other sound as Kalie's body fell to the ground in lifeless slow motion, and dead eyes glared accusingly into Brihanni's very soul.


Aug. 30th, 2008

DIY Adventure

What do you do when it's time for those traditional formal pictures of your growing children, the photo places in your budget stink, and you can't afford prints at the good photographer's studio even with the half off discount former employees get for life? You either shell out your hard earned money for crappy pictures, or roll up your sleeves and do it yourself, of course.

Today's technology makes it as easy as such things can be. You don't have to be a pro, or even more than average to take a decent photograph...if you can get the child to cooperate. Mistakes can always be touched up in photoshop, and red eye can be removed.

It's something we tried when Boo was still a newborn. We took her to get pictures made for her birth announcement, and after pictures where the angle was horribly wrong, three reschedules, and continual computer crashes, we decided to forget the photo center and just do it ourselves out of frustration. So, we threw one of the fancy baby blankets we got at her baby shower over our carrier, dressed her up, and snapped a few close ups. It took some tinkering with the lighting, but the end result was several times better than what we got elsewhere.

Here's the one month photo we took of Sneak yesterday. It's not perfect, but it's better than the ones we paid over $100 for when Boo was the same age. These will only cost us a few cents per print, and we can make replacements anytime we want without hassle.

We found out it's more difficult to get a good picture of an older child the hard way. We never would have tried this in our old apartment, the one we called "the cave" for a reason. The lighting is a thousand times better in the house we're living in now, and we overestimated it big time.

As you can see here, we threw a white sheet over a box we set on our kitchen table and used the lace curtains in our dining room as a backdrop. It would have been pretty if we had about three times the lighting. As it was, our camera's flash went off, and the colors were all thrown off by the shadowing. This is the best fix I was able to do on a color version.

Luckily, Mom reminded me about the huge sheet of black felt I got several months back to use as a table cloth at my Usborne Books at Home shows. I'd completely forgotten about having the thing, and as you can see from the pictures below, the high contrast between Boo's dress and the black backdrop made a huge difference.

So, we borrowed a halogen lamp from Hubby's parents to provide better lighting. Then we hung the sheet of felt over our entertainment center, and sat Boo on the lime green ottoman she received as an Easter gift this past year, and tried again.

She wasn't in near as good a mood the second time around, so we didn't get the big smiles we did before. The pictures turned out pretty well anyway.

Seeing Hubby act like a fool is usually good for a laugh or two from her no matter how grumpy or tired she might be.

Once we finished snapping the pictures, Hubby downloaded them from our camera while I tore down the "set." Then we got the girls to bed before I went back to fix them as well as I could.

Between nearly a year working for the local paper and two years of making sales materials for the local radio station in my days before motherhood, I've gotten pretty fair and quick with photo prep. Otherwise, I doubt we would have tried this again after the issues we had trying to take Boo's infant pictures in "the cave."

It was mostly just a matter of fixing the color balance and taking out a nasty case of red eye. However, there wasn't enough felt to cover the ottoman, and it clashed something horrible, so I painted over it with black as best as I could to make it look like it too was covered in felt. Then I cropped them down, and presto, formal pictures made for pennies.

What are your DIY adventures?

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Aug. 28th, 2008

Right of Succession Weekly Update

Unfortunately, there's not much to report this week. Between Father-in-law's parents coming up from Savannah to visit on Friday, a one-month-old not feeling well while going through a growth spurt at the same time, a toddler determined not to nap anymore, a visit to the doctor, and Father-in-law's heart surgery, things have been kind of crazy here at home. As a result, I've had my hands full of a sleep deprived toddler and a infant who eats like she's a ravening wolf cub.

I took advantage of what little time I managed to snag here and there to write in my notebook, but those moments were few, far between, and short lived. Plus, I couldn't really remember where I'd left off with the Succession rewrites before, so I had no idea where I needed to start back. That's why I'd planned on going back through and rereading what I'd done. At least I did get a chance to start on that yesterday.

You see, it took me a day or two, but I finally figured out there was going to be no way I'd be able to get anything at all done on Succession unless I used the laptop Hubby and I share and work at the kitchen desk instead of the one in the office. For one, Hubby's needed the office computer to keep looking for a position to further his quest for a career change. Besides, I can get more done when Boo can play under the desk while I work instead of either trying to climb the bookshelves or screaming outside the door because Mama's inside, and apparently Daddy isn't enough to suit her.

Then, I had to track down the charger for said laptop. It's been sitting unused since the end of the former school year, and the battery was depleted. I found the charger yesterday afternoon and began going back through the completed rewrites, correcting the occasional typo and getting back into the voice of the story. Unfortunately, Boo cut her nap short just as Sneak woke to eat, so I only managed the first half of chapter one. However, I did find something I'd forgotten. I rewrote the first few paragraphs of chapter five a few months back, so there's more done than I originally thought.

Well, Father-in-law's parents are heading home this morning now that Father-in-law is through his surgery safely and back home. Boo, if she follows her normal pattern, will settle back into her regular nap schedule as things settle back into the routine, and Sneak is nearly through this growth spurt and not due for another one for about a month. So, circumstances should make for a more productive week to come.

Knock on wood.


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