Monday, December 19, 2011
Thursday, December 1, 2011
My cat had two litters of kittens this year, six in total that we know of. Only three have survived; the others we lost to a strange disapearence and two vehicle accidents.
All three of the survivors are experiencing their firsts: first summer, first rain, first fall, first frost, first snow, and now, first ice.
This morning Chace--my "teenager"--and his little sister Forte decided to go exploring and find out what happened to the giant puddle in our yard.
This morning they discovered ice.
You can tell they are wondering, "What is this stuff?"
Who says cats can't have fun?
Okay, I'll admit it. I was laughing.
One...two...three...pounce! -- without falling.
Aw. Sweet brother-sister moment.
So there you have it. The adventersome morning of two of my felines. Both of them fell through the ice at least once, and would clamber out of the shallow hole shaking themselves off...but a few minutes later, they would return to their ice-walking.
I think they like it.
Note: please do not save, copy, or use my pictures without getting written permission from me first. All images on this site--unless otherwise noted-- belong to me.
Copyright (C) Hannah Mills Photography
Sunday, November 20, 2011
As of five minutes ago, my short story Take This is available in e-book format on Lulu, on the iBookstore, and will soon be available on Barnes & Noble's online bookstore as well.
Here is the description: She bumped into someone today while walking down the street. But this wasn’t some random encounter, and it wasn’t the random collision of two lives. Find out what can happen when one person takes the time to do something as simple as buying a stranger a cup of coffee.
One more venture into the world of self-publishing! =)
Rak Chazak Amats,
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Please watch this amazingly encouraging video (it’s only 6 minutes long!).We need a war cry.And I’ve found one.
Rak.Chazak.Amats.Three little words…three little words are enough.Let’s do this thing. Let’s fight this war.Let’s rock the world.
Rak Chazak Amats,
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Now, the families in my circle are all quite conservative, as is my family. The girls/ladies in my family/circle of friends wear skirts a lot; some, I think, wear them all the time. Yesterday I found it interesting that all but one of us were in pants. If we had been at another meeting, with another part of our circle, it’s likely that most, if not all, of us girls/ladies would have been wearing skirts.
It got me to thinking…why? If we don’t have a problem with wearing pants, then why, around certain groups of people, are we much more careful to wear a skirt? Is it respect? Is it fear of being judged?
I really don’t know. I can’t answer for anybody but myself, but…I’m not even 100% sure of my own reasonings.
Just something to think about.
[Image credit: Help by Kosta Kostov ]
Thursday, October 27, 2011
There are two kinds of tense: past and present.
Chosing one tense and sticking to it is very important. I hate finding tense-switches in books, especially published books. It irritates me to no end.
Past tense is the most common, and reads like this:
Teague stopped, glancing behind him. Was he being followed? He didn’t see anyone, but…that didn’t mean much.
Present tense reads like this:
Gripping the stair rail, Raine creeps down the steps, freezing as one creaks under her weight.
Mixing tenses feels cheap.
While past tense is more common, present tense is gaining popularity, and gives an immediete, sometimes more intense, feel.
Most of my stories have been in past tense, but one short story and my latest novel, Hosanna House are in present. The switch has been a little bit odd (and messes me up when I go back to edit a past-tense), but I’m enjoying it a lot. For some reason it just seemed to “fit” the idea for Hosanna House–it started out that way in my head, and when I tried to go traditional, it simply didn’t work. Whichever fits your particular story, you must stay consistent.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
http://www.wordle.net/ is a really fun site where you can make word-pictures of whatever text you enter into the little text box.
I am having too much fun with it. I made one for Jerome and posted it the other night, and today I made several for both Teague and Quinn.
Here are my two favorites from both of them.
Here’s Teague’s…my awesome, hilarious, sarcastic redhead with the South Dakronite accent, whose name means “poet” and who doesn’t have a poetic bone in his body.
And here’s Quinn’s, my easy-going, steady Kaeren, a blonde with a knack for handling hotheaded Teagues and cantankerous animals.
Hm…now I am thinking about all the other things I should have added to the text-pictures. I guess hindsight is 20-20!
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Tonight I am missing my Shadow of Glory bunch. They have been surprisingly well-behaved in my head since I finished working on the initial draft of the book, and I miss Jerome especially. Even his sarcastic comments.
Out of all of my characters, he is one of my top two favorites (yes, now I am publically admitting it).
He’s multi-faceted, stubborn, funny, courageous, impulsive, afraid, sarcastic (sometimes at the worst moments), loving, hateful, driven, apathetic, questioning, hopeful, despairing, blunt, annoying, awesome…
Since I am missing him…I made him a Wordle =P Several, actually. But here’s one.
He didn’t like most of the ones I made, including this one, because several of the words he wishes I hadn’t added are highlighted in red. Whatever =P
Friday, September 16, 2011
The subject of change in writing, more specifically in story ideas, is something that has been bouncing around in my mind a lot for the past week or so.
Why? Because I had an idea. A dangerous idea. The last book in the Arindraen Series, Honor, is one I never got so excited about that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for more than an hour and couldn’t keep my hands off of it for more than two days.
I like it, yes. But it’s not finished; I haven’t touched it in several months (partially due to the OYAN contest deadline, but still). I’m 52,000 words into it and I am not in love with the storyline.
That is not a good thing! If I don’t love it, chances are, it won’t impact my readers as much. If I don’t love it, will I really dedicate the necessary hours and brainspace needed to finish it–and give it my best?
My dangerous idea is to start over with that book. Instead of doing it in multiple 3rd person PoV’s, I am entertaining the thought of hacking it down to the PoVs of my two favorite characters in the book, Teague Sparhauoc and Morwen (who shall someday get her own post because I like her so much), and change it to 1st Person, and make several plot changes. Which is really quite scary! I don’t want to start over! There are a few scences I really, really love that I wouldn’t be able to keep because they are from the PoV’s of more minor characters. There are plot bugs that would arise–details, hints, clues (it’s a mystery/adventure), that could be very hard to work in.
For all I know, changing PoVs might ruin it.
So why am I even considering it?
Because it just might save the story instead of destroying it; it could give it the power-jump it needs to excel from mediocracy to a satisfying last-book-of-the-series.
I love the Arindraen Series. It is my “maiden voyage” into dedicated fiction writing. Called was my baby for the longest time, and still is, in a way, but now I look back and see things I could have done better.
Plague of Darkness is my special pet, and I think it’ll always be extra-special to me for a number of reasons.
Fate by Proxy has a lot of issues that need straightened out, but I love the characters in it.
And Honor? I love a lot of the characters and a lot of the scences. But overall, on the actual book, it isn’t one that has been very hard for me to push onto the back burner. It feels rambling in spots. There are time-jumps and filler material that are awkward and need cut.
But the gems in the story are Teague and Morwen. I think that needs emphasized. At first I thought it was Teague, Christian, and Tori’s story. But I think I am starting to realize that, really, it’s Teague and Morwen’s story. I’m still not sure; I need to think on it some more and go over what I have written so far. And I need to stop feeling scared!
So why am I writing this?
Because of change.
Changing huge things in story ideas and books is scary. I dislike intensive editing because it often involves cutting and/or rewriting entire scenes. That kills!
But it’s good. It improves your skills and your book.
So do what I need to teach myself to do–-if you need to make a change, do it. Jump in with both feet, fearless, and ready to go (but save original copies!). Don’t do what I’m doing…dancing around the problem. Tackle it. Take a chisel and a polishing stone to that hunky rock of a manuscript and find the gemstones hidden underneath all the dull, excess stone. Listen to that annoying little voice in your head that tells you “Something just isn’t right here”, and, if you’re like me and have writer-friends that will tell you when something isn’t up to your normal par, listen to them. They have nowhere near the same attatchment level to your manuscript that you do and can, a lot of the time, find the problems that we can’t.
Then go, make the painful, necessary changes, and turn your work into the amazing story that it’s meant to be!
Saturday, August 27, 2011
This post is building upon Part 1, so if you haven’t read Part 1 yet, I would suggest it.
Giving critiques, like giving anything in life, is much different than getting. It requires a lot of thought sometimes! And loads of concentration. I have a bad habit of getting really wrapped up in some of the incredibly well-done books I critique for friends, and when that happens…the amount of comments I leave decreases drastically. I tell them that’s a good thing, though. Because it means, to me anyway, that they are doing a great job.
In my previous post, I defined three kinds of critiques that I have found: the Good, Bad, and Balanced.
Building upon that, I’d like to add three more to the mix that are interconnected to the first three: the Techy, the Story, and the Blend.
The Techy: I am very guilty of giving way too many critiques of this sort, especially in my early stages of giving critiques. Techy critiques are basically just that: comments on the technical aspects of a manuscript. Misplaced commas, missing question marks, paragraphs that belong to the previous paragraph, et cetera. It rarely ventures past commas, “*likes*”, and the occasional “this sentance is awkward!”.
The Story: This is the antithesis of the Techy. This sort of critique, which, in my experience, is much harder to give or get, delves into the aspects of Story (if you’re an OYANer, this will make perfect sense. If not…keep reading my blog. Someday I’ll write a post about Story ^.^ Or go here and check out the OYAN curriculum! [/shameless advertising]), the characters’ motives, and the like. Techy comments in this kind of critique are usually few, unless the mistake is glaringly obvious.
Comments tend to sound more like, “Really…could Rosa honestly trust Mike so soon after he almost shot her?”
Or, “This piece of dialogue doesn’t fit what you’ve shown us of Nikki’s character. It sounds more like something Troy would say.”
Or…worse still…”This scenario is completely far-fetched. I can’t believe any of it at all. And…it’s boring me. If this were a published book, I’d probably set it down about now.”
The Blend: Just like with the Balanced, the Blend is a “hybrid”, so to speak. It covers the Techy side, but the Story side as well. These are the ones I strive to give. And it’s tough! I’m so tempted to read quickly, skim over things, and just enjoy the story without stopping to comment when my little inner-editor starts screaming his fool head off, even if I don’t realize he’s talking but just feel that something about the story is “off”.
Let’s say you’ve never critiqued before. Maybe you haven’t. Or, if you’re one of my amazing OYAN friends, you’ve probably critiqued a lot. If you are one of those awesome people, please comment and tell me what I’ve gotten wrong in this post/add your 2c.
Now, back on track. You’ve never critiqued before, and your best writing-buddy has just sent you a chapter of her book and asks for your feedback.
What do you do? Just saying “awesome job!” could work…but would that really help her?
No (yes, yes, I’ve done that before myself. Especially if I haven’t been asked to give any feedback, even though I should ). Not really.
Read carefully. Make notes.
If something doesn’t make sense, make a note.
If there’s something missing, whether it’s a word, a period, or whatever, make a note.
If something elicits emotion in you, make a note!
If you really, really like something a certain character does, or the character in general, make a note!
If the plot takes a turn you weren’t expecting, or rather, if you predicted the ending way too easily, make a…you guessed it! A note.
Really, that’s an easy way to sum up what critiquing is. It’s making notes of what you’re observing in the story–the good and the bad.
It’s finding the passive voice and the adverbs that really could be replaced with something better.
It’s finding inconsistencies in characters, holes in plot, things that could be better described.
The things that simply aren’t right…like a semi-automatic .22 taking down a deer, or a bottle of gasoline exploding when thrown against a hot motorcycle engine.
The things that make you laugh…or cry, or grit your teeth, or give you that funny feeling almost like you’re feeling pain or adreneline right along with the book-people. Make notes of it all! I can't even begin to describe just how valuble good critiques are, both for the giver and the receiver.
Well, there you have it. That's what I have learned so far about the nature of critiques.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Ah, yes. An exciting, yet scary moment. The moment when you receive a critique on your much-loved piece of work. You shared it with the world, or part of the world anyway, and now…said world is responding.
There are a few things that can happen. Depending on the nature of the feedback, you could…
1) Be completely crushed and vow to never show your writing again (if you got a “bad” critique).
2) Be in 7th heaven and convince yourself that you’re the best thing in the writing world since…since…hm. Since your favorite author (if you got a “good” critique).
Yes, there is a third option.
3) You can take the good, the bad, and the ugly. Roll with the punches, take comments as they are meant to be taken, keep a level head, and decide to improve (if you got a “good”, “bad”, or “balanced” critique…it doesn’t matter).
The best reaction, in my personal opinion, is #3.
Now, these are strictly my opinions and observations here, but these are the natures of critiques:
The Bad: Comments galore, and all negative/negatively constructive. Each and every adverb, “was”, “had”, etc. marked up. Things that you thought were great and fit your scenario blasted to smithereens without good, solid reasons and suggestions for improvement.
The Good: A glowing, flowery critique full of compliments and little else.(note that the Good and the Bad are somewhat reversed. Sure, you might want a Good critique, but the Bad ones make you wisen up a whole lot faster)
The Balanced: A mix of the Good and the Bad, comments are largely constructive, and yet balanced out with notes on things that you did right, or things that elicited different emotional reactions in your reader. Sometimes the Good comments may simply contain “LOL” or some other such amused/amusing notation.
My favorite kind of critique? The Balanced. I don’t think I have ever actually gotten a Bad one. Not a really, really Bad one at any rate.
Balanced are the kind that I try to give, but giving critiques is a subject for Part 2.
So, anyway. You have your document full of comments. What do you do with it now?
Digest it, and, if you’re not currently in the revising process, save it for when you begin revising. A lot of the more technical comments are ones that are helpful but don’t require much thinking, but ones like in the example below need some thought and brainstorming to make the most out of the comment.
This is just a random paragraph that I made up for this purpose:
Reaching into his pocket, Jace pulled out his handgun. The weight of the Glock felt good in his hand, but he didn’t have time to notice as the thug came closer. Jace raised the gun and fired once, twice, ten times. He had no idea what he was doing, and all but the last three shots missed. The man fell just as Jace’s gun make a clicking noise. Empty. Jace swallowed hard and edged forward, ready to use the butt of the gun as a club if the person lying on the concrete not fifteen feet from him wasn’t really dead. Blood pooled beneath the man and red rivers ran through and around the trash in the dirty alley. Jace let out a sigh of relief as he drew closer; the thug was indeed dead.
Now, I will “critique” this paragraph.
Anything in bold in the above text is something I have commented on here below.
How big is Jace’s pocket?
In the next sentence you mention he’s carrying a Glock…aren’t most Glocks too large to fit into a normal-sized pocket? Or is it a compact/sub-compact? Specify.
If he didn’t have time to notice the weight of the gun, don’t write about it — slight Point of View switch.
How many rounds can his gun hold? Make sure this is in line with the right gun model.
Since he has no idea what he is doing, why is Jace carrying a gun in the first place? This could make for an interesting backstory. Elaboration would be really cool, but maybe not at this point in the scene. Toward the end, or even earlier/later in the book would work too. I’m sensing an excuse for foreshawdowing or backshadowing.
Good job of showing Jace’s nervousness instead of just telling us about it!
Slightly gory, but nice, detail. Gives us a better idea of where Jace and this dude are. Some more detail would improve on this further.
Some of this will overlap into Part 2, but I actually need an example like this in both posts, so…forgive the repetitiveness.
Now that you’ve read this “critique”, do you see what I mean?
Researching the sizes of Glocks and picking which model Jace is carrying, giving him a good reason for having the gun, keeping the PoV in line, and maybe adding some more detail, those are all things one has to think about before changing or deciding not to change.
Now, after some quick referencing, I’ve found that the compact Glock model I looked at holds only five rounds. That’s not enough for what I need in this scene. However, the Glock 22 has a mag capacity of 17 max, and it is also the model used by much of our law enforcement, which means it is likely one of the models easiest to find. While it’s rather bulky for a normal-sized pocket, that’s not the only place Jace can carry it (and how long did this research take? Under five minutes).
This all ties in to the specifications I needed to clear up. So here’s the re-written paragraph:
Reaching behind him, Jace pulled the Glock 22 from his belt. He tightened his hand around the grip and curled his sweaty finger around the trigger as the thug came closer. Jace raised the gun and fired once, twice, ten times. This was only the second time he’d fired the gun after getting it at the pawn shop that morning, and he really had little idea as to what he was doing. All but the last three shots missed. The man fell to the ground just as the gun clicked. Jace checked the magazine; empty. He swallowed hard and edged forward, fully prepared to use the butt end of the Glock as a club if the person lying on the filthy concrete in front of him wasn’t dead. Blood pooled beneath the man and red rivers ran through and around the trash in the dirty alley. Jace let out a sigh of relief as he drew closer, his shoe scuffing against an empty soda can. The thug was dead.
See how few things I actually changed, but now it looks as if I know what I’m talking about when it comes to guns?
I guess the bottom line is, when you get critiques, be thankful. Thank the critiquer–s/he took time out of his or her day to help you– and while you are not required to take all of their advice, at least consider it and do your research.
Plot holes are detrimental, even if they are minor. Critiques are one of the best things that can be given to you as a writer. Part 2 coming up soon, LORD willing!
[image credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=15769&picture=notebook-with-pen]