Saturday, June 30, 2012

In Which Susan Fails to Move the Plot Forward (sort of)

Due to my own personal writing issues, the end of Part III of our Blog-Epic left me with a couple problems: 

1.  My characters were headed straight into a new setting...which meant I would have to DESCRIBE stuff.  My reaction:  AHHHHHHHHHHH NOOOOOO!

2.  My characters were also in a situation ripe for explanations, and since I'm a plotter and not a panster at all, I was having trouble coming up with anything. 

So what could I do?  Option A was to make Digby inexplicably turn bad and have a fight scene on the stairs.  (No new setting to describe.  No plot to explain.  And I love writing fight scenes!) 

But then I thought of something better.  Let's see if you like it.......

Part III ended thus: 

"Good then." Cayden turned and kicked a slightly larger piece of roof gravel. The stone fell over with a chunk, as if it were a lever of some sort. There was a rush and a rumble as something below them roared to life. Marianne started back and watched in awe as the roof before them slid back into itself with a series of hisses revealing a dim, curling stairway leading down into the house below. The whirring and hissing ceased and Marianne took a step forward.

"Are you a sorcerer?" she asked.

Cayden smiled. "No. This isn't magic. It's science. Mechanics." He walked towards the opening and the horse followed him. "Digby! Where are you? Come and take my horse. We have visitors."

And so Part IV begins: 

A squat man, presumably Digby, hopped out of the darkness and stood by the great horse.  "I'll be down in a moment, sir." 

Cayden nodded and led the way down the stairs. 

When the ceiling closed over them, the spiral staircase was indeed dark.  Cayden took Marianne's hand and led her down the dim steps--he apparently knew them well. 

She hitched up her billowy purple skirts with her free hand and concentrated on making her sandals land firmly on each step.  "Don't you have lights in this place?  Or is that where your 'mechanics' fail?" 

Cayden's voice was patient.  "Just a moment--you're almost there." 

She struggled down another bend in the staircase, and he grabbed her hand and pulled her onto a landing.  Then he threw open a door to reveal a brilliant dining room. 

Marianne blinked in the light.  A dazzling blue-crystal chandelier glittered off matching blue glass chairs.  They surrounded a highly polished, oval brass table. 

Digby entered behind them and took Cayden's heavy black riding cloak.  "We'll get the food right out, sir."  He disappeared with the cape through a brass door that, instead of a doorknob, had a strange device with lots of whirring gears. 

"Please, sit down."  Cayden pulled out one of the brilliant blue chairs for her. 

"Thank you."  Marianne sat, and before she had time to ask Cayden her first question, Digby came bustling out the door.  He was followed by another manservant in an apron and a hideous pink cooking bonnet that obscured much of his face.

They set out a piece of pie and a small dish of something white and fluffy for Marianne and Cayden each.  Then they left.   

Marianne lifted her brass fork and inspected the pie.  "So you're not from Kvoliov.  I know that much about you." 

Cayden sounded annoyed.  "Oh, do you know that?"

"Yes.  The Kvolians are strange--they eat their dessert last." 

"Barbarians!" said Cayden, placing a black napkin on his lap with a flourish.  "But you're right.  I'm not from Kvoliov.  Though that is all you need to know about me for the moment." 

"But you've already told me that you're acquainted with the Order.  And that--"  Marianne placed her napkin on her lap with a flourish of her own.  "Is something I want to know more about."  She looked determinedly into his blue eyes. 

He nodded ceremoniously.  "The Order of the Red Toadstool," he corrected her. 

Marianne frowned.  "Is that their real name?" 

Cayden shrugged.  "It certainly works.  Alternatively, I sometimes just call them 'The Odor'."

"How do you know the Order?" Marianne demanded.

Cayden took a bite of his pie.  His eyes widened as he savored it.  "Have you tried this blackberry pie?  This is really the best pie I've ever had.  Digby!" 

A muffled shout came from behind the brass door.

"Digby, where did you get these blackberries?  They're practically seedless--it's wonderful."

An incoherent mumble was emitted somewhere near the complex doorknob. 

"Petrukia, you say?  And I always made fun of the Petrukians..." 

"Excuse me," said Marianne coldly. 

Cayden nodded thoughtfully and took another bite of pie.  "I will show them greater respect in the future." 

Marianne took a deep breath.  "Excuse me." 

Cayden poked at his slice of pie and raised a blonde eyebrow.  "Would've been fantastic served fresh.  Digby!  Why didn't I get to eat these berries fresh?" 

Some rather loud mumbling came from behind the door.

Cayden's handsome face scrunched up in befuddlement.  "They were a strange color?  Come out here so I can hear you!" 

Marianne's patience was gone.  "Excuse me!" 

He blinked at her, pausing with a forkful of pie halfway to his mouth. 

Marianne drew herself up in the blue glass chair and tried to look commanding.  "I demand answers." 

A shadow crossed Cayden's face.  She had apparently spoiled his fun.  "You'll have them when your brother gets back.  Which should be..."  He cocked his blonde head, listening.  "Ah, that could be him." 


Check back on Tuesday for Part V!  And if you've missed any episodes and care to catch up, you can always find them in the "Blog-Epic" tab at the top of our blog. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Evolution of a Blackberry Pie

Every summer, when the blackberries are ripe, I make my dad a gluten-free, dairy-free, fresh black berry pie.

That's what he asked me for for Father's Day, but we didn't have the right ingrediants. I finally got around to it last weekend.

On its way to feeling like "coarse meal."

Top crust and bottom crust in a primordial state.

Lovely fresh blackberries.

Bottom crust all rolled out and in its pan.

Blackberries in their tasty thickener.


Ready to bake.

Just out of the oven.

A little later. I had to take another because it was so pretty.

Happily Demolished.
My father was pleased.

Did I mention it was gluten and dairy free? I've got Skillz!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Part III

To recap:

Maybe Tony is right.

The moment Marianne thought it, she felt a stray breeze play at her hair. In the next instant, strong hands lifted her out of the chariot seat and placed her on the sturdy back of a sleek, midnight-black horse. It was the handsome blonde who had passed them earlier.

The animal spread its wings and they were almost immediately soaring above the road.

Marianne opened her mouth, and the first thing that came out was a scream. Then she yelled at the strong arms that wrapped around her waist. “What are you doing? Is this a kidnapping?”

“Look down." Said the deep voice above her shoulder. 


Part III

Marianne looked and felt her stomach drop earthwards. They were maybe twice as high as the tallest building in that district and directly below them she could see her brother standing in the chariot, looking up and yelling something she was too far away to hear. On the roof of the house where she had seen the man in black stood another man also looking up. The sunlight flickered off some metal object he held in his hand.

Then another patch of black caught her eye. There were other men on other roofs, all holding something that glinted in the sun, all looking up at Marianne and the winged horse's rider where they circled above the city streets.

"There were men following you on the rooftops," the young man said over her shoulder.

Marianne jerked forward, nearly throwing herself out of the young man's arms. "My brother! What about my--"

One of the men down below moved suddenly and something whizzed past Marianne's face. The arms fastened themselves tighter around her middle and in moments the winged horse was in a steep climb.

"Arrows," the young man hissed over her shoulder.

Marianne craned her head around to look back. Where was her brother? Where was Tony? God, she couldn't lose him. There had been enough death in her family already.

There he was! Very small, still standing in the chariot. The other men were just spots of black scattered about.

The horse leveled off and Marianne struggled, clawing at the her captors arms. "Take me down. My brother's down there!"

The arms didn't loosen. "Stop that. I'll drop you rather than let you pull me and Torrent out of the sky. Then my good deed would have been for nothing. We'll be on the ground soon enough."

Marianne stopped struggling long enough for the ground to get a little closer.

As the winged horse descended toward one of the mansion's flat roof tops, Marianne fought again. When the horse was only a few feet from touching down, the man released her and she fell onto her hands with a thud that jolted up her bones to rattle her scull.

Marianne stood, cradling her aching arms. She turned and backed away from the winged horse and its rider. "How could you leave him?" Tears streamed down her face. "He could be dead. They must have shot him. We have to go back!"

The man had slid from the saddle and stood with his back to her, speaking softly to the horse. It lowered its head to rub it against the man's chest. He smiled then pulled the reins over the creature's head and looped them over his arm. The man sighed, then turned to Marianne. "You're brother is, no doubt, fine," he said. "They wanted you. The Order isn't interested in just anyone."

Marianne stopped in shock. "You know the Order? Then what--Then, in God's name, who are you?" she asked.

"Who I am is not interesting. But if you wish, you may call me Cayden." Cayden turned and ran a hand over his horse's neck. "I am much more interested in why the Order found you of note. I think you should come inside and tell me about yourself. I will, of course, provide dinner."

Marianne hesitated. Not only was she still kidnapped, but for all her brother knew she had been taken by the Order and was dead. "My brother--" she began.

"If you tell me where you were going," Cayden interrupted, "as soon as we get inside I will send a messenger to apprise your brother of your health and well being and to summon him to our impromptu dinner party. Is that agreeable to you?"

He had probably saved her life. There was nowhere else for her to go. And he was going to call her brother. Marianne shrugged, then nodded. "Yes."

"Good then." Cayden turned and kicked a slightly larger piece of roof gravel. The stone fell over with a chunk, as if it were a lever of some sort. There was a rush and a rumble as something below them roared to life. Marianne started back and watched in awe as the roof before them slid back into itself with a series of hisses revealing a dim, curling stairway leading down into the house below. The whirring and hissing ceased and Marianne took a step forward.

"Are you a sorcerer?" she asked.

Cayden smiled. "No. This isn't magic. It's science. Mechanics." He walked towards the opening and the horse followed him. "Digby! Where are you? Come and take my horse. We have visitors."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Things Not to Do: Protagonist-Centered Morality

I recently came across this term for the first time (there's a first time for everything): 
Protagonist-Centered Morality.   

My reaction:  WHAT IS THIS THING and why are people ranting about it on the internet?  Also, AM I GUILTY OF THIS in my writing? 

The term is pretty self-explanatory, but I did a little casual research.  It seems that basically, protagonist-centered morality is when
A.  things are only bad in a story if they're bad for the main character and...
B.  only good if they're good for the main character. 

(Here is TV Tropes' entry on the term.) 

To some extent, protagonist-centered morality makes sense.  It's called self-interest.  It's part of being a cognizant, living thing.

But it can definitely go too far.  If this is not just part of the protagonist's mindset, and becomes the morality of the narrative itself...that's a little skewed, and it appears to annoy the audience

From what I've gathered, protagonist-centered morality becomes a problem in cases like this: 
A terrible genocide occurs.  But the protagonist is not bothered by this, and **the narrative does not encourage distress in the reader** until people the protagonist knows and loves become victims. 

Or this: 
The protagonist's enemies are not presented as real, valuable human beings; rather, they are demonized and over-simplified because they are against the protagonist.  There are little or no emotional consequences for the reader when harm comes to these adversaries.  (I believe Tolkien's Lord of the Rings has a small but excellent example of how NOT to do this when the Haradrim or "Men of the South" are introduced--in both the book and the movie, if I remember correctly...?) 

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this, so what do you know about protagonist-centered morality?  Can you give me a better definition?  Can you think of any stories that seemed to have a problem with it?  Any that did a great job of avoiding it? 

And...I might be opening a can of worms here, but was anyone irked by protagonist-centered morality in The Hunger Games series?  I admit I haven't read them, but the rants I came across were referring to Suzanne Collins' work... Do you agree? 

Also, in case you haven't been here recently, Tyler-Rose and I are writing serial blog fiction together for a bit of summer fun!  So far, our heroine is dealing with sickly dragons, flying horses, handsome strangers, tragic backstory, an uptight older brother, and impending danger. 
Check out the first two installments in the tab labeled "Blog-Epic." 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hair Smoothie

I put a smoothie in my hair yesterday.

On purpose, no less. Even knowing my unorthodox views on hair care, Susan was stunned. Her first question was whether this was an "experiment or a lauded hair therapy."

The answer was something in between, but either way it sure was fun.

I feel I have license to continue in this vein since we already have a grand total of maybe four guys who have ever read this blog. And that is only if you include my father who does it because he loves me.

So I'm not afraid of chasing anyone away.

I put a smoothie in my hair because the recipe promised "luscious, manageable curls."

Everyone say: Oooooooooh! Aaaaaaahhh!

I find the word "manageable" nearly as attractive as the word "luscious."

I discovered I had all the ingredients, mixed it up, drank some of it, and with no more than a tiny internal quiver (I've been a fan of alternative hair care for a long time and so have built up an immunity to putting slimes of various sorts on myself), I slopped it onto my hair.

It tasted pretty good and I think it worked. My hair is really soft and curlier than usual and plus it smells wonderful.

I think writing should be approached with a similar attitude. It's something between a lauded therapy and an experiment. If it works, you've made something beautiful (luscious curls or a charmingly original metaphor). If it doesn't, you can always wash it out.

Meanwhile, it tastes pretty good.


Recipe for the hair smoothie:

2 1/4 ripe bananas
1/4 cup carrot juice
1 teaspoon almond oil

1. Blend until smooth and frothy.
2. Have a few sips. It's good for the inside and the outside.
3. Apply the smoothie to your wet hair. Make sure every strand is coated. WARNING: it will get all over you and your shower. Fear not! Shower, hair, body and hands can all be washed.
4. Wrap your hair in a damp towel (in case you were wondering, the best way to dampen a towel is to dry your body with it) and wait 30 minutes.
5. Rinse your hair with warm (not hot) water. Do not use Shampoo!!! or you will lose all the benefit of this wonderful hair smoothie.
5a. If your hair is still a little sticky (or orange) use a little conditioner.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Blog-Epic, Part II

Welcome to the second installment of our summer serial blog fiction series

In case you missed Part I, **here it is**. 

Now it's my turn.  I want to preface this by saying that my brain is not wired to write in such an unplanned manner.  So this was fun for me but a little difficult.  Kind of like eating your vegetables or lifting weights.  (Except...those things aren't fun--unless you're like Tyler-Rose and enjoy eating vegetables--so nevermind.)  In any case, I'm learning spontaneity! 

Here is the end of Part I: 

Marianne turned quickly to see a man with a face a pale as white marble and hair as black as the clothes he wore watching them from one of the balconies across the street. He had his arms pinned across his chest and what Marianne could see of his sharp face looked forbidding, to say the least.

His eyes widened when he saw her looking and, in a quick motion that made his black robes swirl around him, turned back into the mansion behind him. As he turned Marianne caught a glimpse of the insignia of office embroidered in red on the corner of his robe.

Marianne gasped. She knew that mark.

And here is Part II:  Enjoy!

purple jacket
She turned to Anthony. “How much faster can Janth go?”

He gave her a sideways look.  “Not much…”

“Well we might have to test his limits because—“  She lowered her voice to an urgent whisper.  “In that house we just passed, there’s a member of the Order.” 

Anthony pulled down the brim of his hat to shade his face from the sun.  “I saw him.  Don’t get yourself worked up.” 

Marianne's gaped at him.  “Don’t what—how can you say that?  They killed our parents.” 

“Their leader killed our parents.  It was a personal vendetta, and now he’s dead.  We should not fear the Order.” 

Marianne clenched her purple skirt in her fists.  She disagreed. 

“Besides,” he added, staring bitterly into the distance, “you need to move on.  They’ve been dead for a long time.” 

Marianne hit him in the shoulder with her fan as hard as she could. 

He winced. 

“If I said that about Elena, you’d be furious!” 

Anthony’s face hardened.

She grabbed the reins out of his hands and gave them a flick.  “Come on, Janth!  Come on!” 

Janth scrabbled along at a slightly faster pace.  Marianne looked behind her and found the road still empty. 

“You see?” Anthony said.  “They’re not coming after us.  They only hope that we won’t seek revenge.” 

Marianne didn’t dare speak her thoughts this time.  And why don’t we?  Why don’t you?

Suddenly, their chariot stopped and Janth fell to a fit of wheezing coughs.  Little puffs of grey smoke shot out of his ragged green mouth. 

Anthony took the reins back and slapped them against the dragon’s thick hide.  “Come on, Janth!” 

Marianne turned in the hard chariot seat and surveyed the road behind them.  Still empty.  But she wasn’t convinced that would last…

Janth responded to Anthony’s goading by sitting down in a slump on the dirt road and scratching his face with one of his front feet. 

Anthony groaned. 

Marianne turned to her brother and frowned.  “He has the Flake.” 

Anthony nodded.  They sat there in silence for a moment and blinked at their pathetic dragon.  Marianne tried not to imagine what their rich relatives would think. 

Except for Janth’s scratching and coughing, the road was silent. 

Maybe Tony is right. 

The moment Marianne thought it, she felt a stray breeze play at her hair.  In the next instant, strong hands lifted her out of the chariot seat and placed her on the sturdy back of a sleek, midnight-black horse.  It was the handsome blonde who had passed them earlier. 

The animal spread its wings and they were almost immediately soaring above the road. 

Marianne opened her mouth, and the first thing that came out was a scream.  Then she yelled at the strong arms that wrapped around her waist.  “What are you doing?  Is this a kidnapping?” 

“Look down."  Said the deep voice above her shoulder. 

Check back in a few days for Part III! 

And I'm curious...can you notice differences in out writing styles already?

Monday, June 18, 2012

In Which Serial Blog Fiction is Attempted

Hear ye! Hear ye!

Susan and I have decided to try a new kind of post for a little Summer fun.

We are going to create a magnificent, blog serial for your entertainment. We will alternate story segments, posting approximately once a week each. We plan to run on in an unplanned manner as the muse strikes us, with the only rule being that we will not contest or change the facts and details the other has written.

We may end up with a cohesive tale or only story goop. Either way, we promise amusement, wit, a splash of the bizarre, sweeping drama and spectacularly clashing writing styles.

For inspiration we have decided to select a sentence at random from a well beloved work of literature. This work is The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. We chose it because it symbolizes the beginning of an epic journey and we are about to embark on an epic journey.

With no more ado, let the magnificent blog serial commence!

"He sighed."
            ~P. 281, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Part I

He sighed. “How many times have I explained it to you?” he said,with long suffering written all over his face. “We're going because they're our relatives. Our very rich relatives.”

Marianne shifted on the hard chariot seat and jerked at her billows of purple silk skirts. Marianne hated purple. However, according to Anthony it was going to charm those rich relatives. Apparently rich people love purple. “Anthony, you are deluding yourself if you think you and I showing up in a little bit of purple, in our only, and very out of fashion chariot with poor Janth pulling it, is not—” The elderly, dull green dragon in the harness, upon hearing his name, gave a disheartened cough of pathetic flame. “Is not,” Marianne continued, “going to impress anyone.”

Anthony ground his teeth. A tick flickered in his pale cheek.

“I'm sorry, Tony, but that's the truth.”

“I've asked you not to call me that.”

“What? A girl can't have a nickname for her big brother?”

“No and no more of this. Let us endeavor to maintain a dignified silence for the remainder of the journey.”

Anthony flicked the reins and Janth turned off the busy main street leaving the chariots, dragons, servants taking taking household sphinxes for their daily walk, and peddlers of various mysterious and probably illegal things behind them, and onto a quiet, residential street. Tall, disproving mansions rose on either side of them, walled front gardens keeping unwelcome passers-by at a safe distance. The only other traffic was a man on a winged horse coming at a graceful walk towards them. Marianne leaned forward, one hand on the side of the chariot to get a better look.

The winged horse was one of the large, silky black variety. They were rare as diamonds, boots that never wore out, and jars of oil that never emptied. The great horse lifted its big, feathered hooves gently and set them down without a sound as if it never truly touched the earth. The sound on the street was not of hoof falls on cobble stone, but only the scrabblings of the unhappy Janth and the creak of their own chariot wheels.

As it passed, Marianne saw that the winged horse's rider had a young and very handsome face. Blond hair had always been Marianne's favorite. She smiled at him.

He smiled back and nodded, lifting a finger to the brim of his hat in solute. “My lady,” he said.
Marianne opened her mouth to respond in kind, hopefully before her brother could tell the handsome stranger to mind his own business, when the man's eyes flickered away from her face to something behind her. The man paled. Without another look at her, he goaded his horse into a silent canter disappearing up the steet.

Marianne turned quickly to see a man with a face a pale as white marble and hair as black as the clothes he wore watching them from one of the balconies across the street. He had his arms pinned across his chest and what Marianne could see of his sharp face looked forbidding, to say the least.

His eyes widened when he saw her looking and, in a quick motion that made his black robes swirl around him, turned back into the mansion behind him. As he turned Marianne caught a glimpse of the insignia of office embroidered in red on the corner of his robe.

Marianne gasped. She knew that mark.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Fathers' Day!

Happy Fathers' Day to all fathers, grandfathers, and otherwise father-figures out there! 

I know this is different for everyone, depending on what your dad is like, but these things look festive to me today: 



At least, those are things I associate with my dad, for whom I am very thankful. :)   What do you think of when you think of Fathers' Day?  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

I feel I'm doing a public service with this review. I really only want to spare you as much disappointment and distress as possible. If you haven't already forked over $10 to see Snow White and the Huntsman, spare yourself. Please don't.

Warning: the following contains SPOILERS

Then again, there wasn't much to spoil.

I have always been of the opinion that Snow White should have married the huntsman instead of a prince named Charming. I am a big fan of the scraggly-woodsman-who-turns-out-to-have-hidden-depths-of-nobility-and-intelligence cliche/archetype. I am happy whenever it appears. I heard the title of this movie and thought Oh goodie. Snow White marries the huntsman. That means the huntsman features prominently and displays hidden depths of nobility and intelligence. I may have to see this movie.

Then I saw the casting.

I am not a fan of Thor nor fan of Twilight. I think really I am mostly not a fan of Kristen Stewart or Chris Hemsworth. I don't really mind the book and I prefer my fictional men with short, dark hair, thank you very much.

But I saw the title and thought about how nice it would be for Snow White to marry the huntsman and thought, Okay, I'm pretty sure the writers of Thor were drunk while they wrote it, and not the good famous, writerly, inspired kind of drunk. Just the "Wow, this script I'm writing sucks so bad I think I'll have another drink" sort of drunk. So maybe hunky Chris just got a bad script. Maybe he has hidden depths of acting ability yet unrevealed. And then I thought, Well, Bella Swan is a pretty lame character. She's never happy and she's not good at anything. So maybe the fact that I don't think Kristen Stewart smiled once during the Twilight movies that I saw had to do with the character and not her acting skills. Snow White is a pretty happy character. Hmmm . . .

So as soon as I got back from Paris I asked my mother to go see it with me.

It was nice going out with my mom, but I have to say I haven't seen a movie this disappointing since the new Jane Eyre where they suddenly decided resolutions were no longer necessary for storytelling.

Serious, This Time: How to Accomplish a Big Revision List

This last week has been busy for me--starting a new job, my sister's graduation, having houseguests... Hence my absence from the blog lately. Also the reason why I haven't revised much yet. 

The ticking clock has put fear in me, however, and now I have begun.  100 revision points.  1 month (ish).  Here are some ways I've been making it less difficult: 

1.  Block off "No-Internet Time."  Alternatively, you can pull out your ethernet cables and hide them, smash your wireless router, or go sit in the middle of a field. 

2. Be comfy in order to convince yourself that it's really, really fun. Ways to do this in your home include sitting in bed with popcorn and/or chocolate. Ways to do this in the middle of a field include setting up an air-conditioned tent and having people roast you marshmallows downwind. 

3.  Read about someone who is both really successful and obviously hard-working.  Like Patrick Rothfuss.  Then IMMEDIATELY resume No-Internet Time. 

4.  If you're feeling desperate and you don't have very good vision, try this: 
Step One:    Take out the contacts. 
Step Two:    Hide the glasses. 
Step Three:  Open up that word document. 
RESULT:    All you'll be able to do that isn't totally irksome is TYPE. Anything else will require you to put your face very close to the screen and squint.

5.  Just write two sentences.   JUST TWO.  And I dare you not to write more. 

That last one is the most helpful, in my opinion.  What are your tips for digging in and doing work?  (Whether it be revision, drafting, or something else.)

Happy writing, happy reading, happy blogging! 


Monday, June 11, 2012

A Writer's High

I finished the first draft of a longer short story yesterday. I think I wrote about three thousand words in one sitting to push through to the end. Then when I tried to print it we were, of course, out of paper. I then ran around screaming in what I think was left over story frustration then jumped in my car, drove to the store, bought a ream of paper and was back in ten minutes. I'm surprised I didn't get pulled over.

But I had to print it off. I had to. There is nothing to compare to the feeling of printing off a first draft, when you are still full of that vibrating energy and there is nothing in the world that would drag you away from the side of that printer watching each page come into miraculous being. Then in the same fever I finished writing it, I read it for the first time all the way through.

I have a rule. I never read more than two paragraphs back into my piece before I pick up writing again. So whenever I print something off for the first time and sit down to read it, that is really and truly the first time I have read it. The only feeling that might compare to seeing a piece print is reading one for the first time and realizing that it was better than you thought.

People always talk about first drafts being crap. I agree completely. First drafts are crap. But they are some of the most beautiful, miraculous crap in the entire cosmos.

God, I love being a writer.

My manuscript
 with roses for added effect
(as if it needed any)

And, by the way (since I can't seem to keep myself from bragging about its existence), my short story is called
Marry Me

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Relative Age of Cities

In London it feels like the age of the buildings is pressing them down into the ground. Like perhaps there are things as old as the stones crouched on the roofs snarling down at you through the rain, watching you pass, small and mortal beneath their stony gaze. That is not to say they are malevolent at all. No, they are quite content for you to walk under their buildings, to go about your life, perhaps even do great things. But standing under edifices that have stood for unimaginable lengths of time, you are suddenly made aware (as the snarling things already know) of your own mortality; that all flesh will turn to dust and nothing will remain but these impervious stones. London is an old city.

Not so in Paris. In Paris, even in the rain, there is light. The ancient buildings sit lightly upon the earth. Though there are great snarling things there as well, they are beautiful. The old buildings are part of the now. London's gargoyles say, Live . . . while you can. The gargoyles in Paris say, You are alive! Dance, eat, laugh. There is time enough for stones later. The ancient buildings make you feel more alive, younger, more vibrant. It makes you want to ask, How many people were here before me, laughing? And say, I am part of something greater than myself. Not listen for their whispering ghosts like in so many English cathedrals. Paris, even in its great age, is still young.

The view from our flat

Saturday, June 2, 2012

100 Posts and a New Look

I'm back from Paris just in time to celebrate having 100 posts on our blog!

Our blog is 100 posts old! Yay!

In honor of this magnificent and solemn occasion we have given The Feather and the Rose a lovely new look. Observe the genius of our new favicon, the beauty of our new header and please do take a moment to grab our wonderful new button.

That's almost like cake and bagpipes, right?

We would like to thank:

akinna-stock for the paper texture in our header,

Adam Ruf for the green Picaboo DiamondBack pattern also in our header,

and DP Nguyen of Hip Chick's Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies for the code in our button.

Also: please do not be alarmed if there are some color and font fluctuations in the next few days. Some textual disturbance is common after a dramatic shift.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Tips for working on very large to-do lists.

1.       Wait until very late at night to start.  Preferably until several moments before one in the morning—then you can tell yourself you are actually starting early.  The real reason to start at this time, however, is that your mental faculties vastly improve as it gets later and later.  Your desperate need for sleep has a direct relationship with your ability to complete high-level tasks. 

2.  Adopt a policy of not going to sleep until you accomplish what you set out to do that day.  This will allow you to take full advantage of your late-night alacrity.  (It will also give you an opportunity to completely misuse words you should know.)

2.      Re-arrange, consolidate, and re-organize your to-do list many times.  This is the best kind of procrastination—it is actually almost useful.  You can imagine how organizing your list might increase your efficiency when you do (in the distant future when you will be much more motivated) actually accomplish the items on the list. 

2.  While you are re-organizing your list, have as many fights with your word processor's auto-formatting as possible.  This will serve as a bonding experience in which you and your large, unfriendly to-do list are forced to exist on the same team.  If  together you and your list lose the battle against the auto-formatting, you may just end up making your list look shorter by having three number two's.  It's like wearing black for to-do lists.  Universally slimming and a total illusion. 

3.      At this stage, hand-picking elaborate fonts for your list and printing it out as a trial run might be a good idea.  You could also hire a calligrapher to copy it down for you if you want an old-world feel that even Black Adder cannot achieve.  Actually, you might not have to hire the calligrapher at all—they would probably accept a hardy meal as payment.  I imagine it’s a very competitive field these days…

4.      If starting at the top of your list looks too daunting, start at the bottom.  This is especially effective if A) you used a numbered list and B) you’re good at lying to yourself.  That way, you can scroll to the bottom of the document, start at the last item, and say to yourself, “Hey!  I’m already at task #1,483!  This list is just whizzing by!”  (Note:  While this technique could be used during the actual completion of said large to-do list, it is equally helpful if one finds the re-organization stage of the process harrowing.  See tip #2.)

5.  This is also an ideal time to hone your best life skills.  Such as:  emptying trash cans, coloring, staring at Facebook, eating cookies, doing sit-ups, and writing silly blog posts. 

Update:  The next post we post will be our 100th blog post!  There will be a bagpipe performance and cake for everyone.