May round-up: Thinking Sideways

May 31, 2013

Well, May is almost over, and one of the things I’m pleased that I tackled, (along with getting ready for Odyssey!) is my ‘How to Think Sideways’ lessons. I’d only just started lesson 1 back in February, never really got back to it through EdMo and Camp Nanowrimo, but I did some gangbuster Thinking Sideways in May!

I’ve even gone through the lesson material… well, maybe not strictly sideways, but I went through and did it my own way, maybe just because I’m too dense to have figured out the right ‘sideways’ path from the start. 🙂 You see, in HTTS Ultra there’s a couple of different elements to each lesson. There’s the lesson itself, in ebook or PDF format, which comes with worksheets to go through the main exercises on. That’s all there was to the old ‘HTTS Direct’ (which has now been discontinued,) which I got for Christmas from my sister and her family.

Since I upgraded to the Ultra course, though, there’s a few other elements to each lesson, like DVD bonus material. First, there’s the walkthrough, which has videos, audio files, and cool graphics; each walkthrough step has a section where Holly shows us what she’s working on with a creative project or two, tying in the same concepts that are in the core lesson, and discussion questions for people who are doing the walkthrough at the same time, and a ‘hotseat’ interview with a student writer who’s volunteered to have Holly help them out with a writing challenge that they face, for the edumacation of us all.

There’s also the Quick Fixes, which are little audio files describing useful techniques and worksheets to use them with, and a few other Ultra video files.

So, I went through the core lessons up to lesson six, where I sortuv ran aground on the ‘Amazon River’ exercise; I understand the description of the technique, but I’m not really sure how to apply it to the stories I’ve been working on this month or anything else I’m doing at the moment. The workgroup forum for Lesson Six had a prominent sticky thread for ‘The Fireside chat’, which was actually part of the lesson through walkthrough, but it took me a lot of exploring in the Ultra classrooms before I found that, and I haven’t actually gotten to it yet. First, I went through all the bonus videos and the Quick Fixes up to #6. Then, I finally found the walkthrough, and I’m still partway through the walkthrough for lesson three. It’s great stuff; I love actually getting to see Holly and hear her voice, after just getting to know her as words on the page in ‘How to Revise your Novel’ and the core HTTS lessons.

I’m not sure how much I’m going to keep tackling HTTS during June. Probably it isn’t wise to put too much time and energy into these lessons while I’m getting ready for Odyssey… but I never said I was wise, did I? 😉 And definitely I’m going to be really busy learning other things about writing once I get to New Hampshire.

I’m definitely going to keep the techniques that I’ve learned from ‘How to Think Sideways’ in mind when it comes to Odyssey, though; especially Calling Down Lightning. That one could certainly come in handy for my Odyssey writing assignments!

A Day Late: Teaser Tuesday

May 29, 2013

I’m used to being a day late for cool stuff in the Blogosphere. 🙂 I was doing my bloggy rounds this morning and happened across This little life of mine, where I came across the Teaser Tuesday meme. And I don’t believe in missing out on cool stuff, so here I go.

Here be the rules:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

So, I’m going to tease from a graphic novel: “Angel: After the Fall: First Night”, the second collection in the ‘After the Fall’ series. The random page I flipped to is actually in verse, and I couldn’t resist picking two sentences that make a rhyme:

“So Lorne hit a high note, his highest that day. And people grabbed tools and jumped into the fray!”

I’m on Storywonk Sunday! (Or is it Monday?)

May 28, 2013

First off, as Odyssey approaches, I’ll probably be posting a bit less frequently, and definitely a bit shorter. I don’t think I’ll be able to kick the blogging addiction cold turkey though!

And a really cool note for today; Lani and Alastair played a voice-mail from me on this week’s Storywonk Sunday! You can download the MP3 off the Storywonk site or from iTunes, (yeah, it’s a nice long episode this week,) and they introduce me around the 9:20 mark of “StoryWonk Sunday 48: Someone is Wrong on the Internet” 😀  They even have some awfully nice things to say about li’l ol’ me.


I got my new glasses today…

May 27, 2013

…for about five minutes. 🙂 They were so shiny and so clean, a little disorienting like new glasses always are, but I really liked having them on.

And then I gave them back so that the store can measure the frames for custom clip-on sunglasses that I didn’t tell them until today I wanted, because I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about sunglasses when I ordered the new glasses.

The sunglasses are supposed to be ready in a week, and then I’ll pick them up with the new glasses. Sigh. Why does everything to do with glasses take so long? 😉

Weekend Writing Warriors – The Aurigae Express 4

May 26, 2013

Good morning! It’s time for the next eight sentences from my Camp Nanowrimo project “The Aurigae Express.” To briefly set the scene, Alan and Diane are police partners who’ve volunteered to visit an alien planet where very few Earthlings have gone, to track down a fugitive and retrieve her ill-gotten millions. They’ve boarded an alien ship that takes Earthling passengers through hyperspace, and the ship’s just made its first Jump.


First Snippet Second Snippet Third Snippet

The next thing he realized was that he was curled up in a fetal ball. That seemed to be wrong somehow, and after a moment of painful thought he figured out why; the last thing he remembered was being strapped in. How could he have curled up into a ball while the straps held his limbs in place?

The answer to that was obvious. Somehow he must have been desperate enough to retreat from reality that he’d worked the strap releases himself. That was a little hard to reconcile with his memories of being so unfamiliar with his body, but maybe there were layers and layers to how the human nerve system reacted to hyperspace exposure.

His nerve system reacted to the thought of hyperspace with a series of violent spasming shudders, and Alan struggled to strap himself back into the crash couch again before he managed to go flying into a wall.

Aside from that looming memory of something traumatic looming at the edges of his awareness, the worst appeared to be done with. 

Visit the other Weekend Writing Warriors at

An Odyssey Favorite

May 25, 2013

I’ve been busy doing Odyssey prep stuff lately. This morning I went through a ‘dry run’ of packing the car, figuring out how many suitcases, storage totes, and cardboard boxes I could fit where, so that I know what to pack my stuff into. Once the car was unpacked again, I  took it through a car wash, went to CAA to renew my membership, buy travel insurance, and get some maps. And I bought some new running shoes at the mall.

One other thing I’ve been working on is an assignment where we’re supposed to bring a photocopy (or printout) of a favorite short story along with some thoughts about why we like it so much. I wasn’t quite sure what to do about this for a long time, but I’ve gone through my bookshelves for anything that would have short stories in it, and thought about some other favorite short stories of mine, like the Beowulf Shaeffer stories by Larry Niven. I have those on audio, and also in Fictionwise multiformat e-book formats, including PDF, so I suppose I could print from the PDF format.

But I’m leaning towards a particular story for sentimental reasons, including the story of how I got it. When I was young, I was a voracious reader, but I didn’t read many short stories, and definitely not from magazines. There were Isaac Asimov collections around the house, (and probably some mainstream short story anthologies that didn’t appeal to me at the time.) I definitely picked up a few science fiction anthologies at school libraries and probably public libraries too; I distinctly remember one story set after the fall of the first Terrestrial Empire, where Earthmen shaved their heads for some reason and were kept as status symbols in the courts of alien kings.

But in my late teen years, when I was starting to get interested in writing, I came across the following pieces of advice, which was pretty good, especially at the time:

  1. If you want to get published in science fiction or fantasy, you should start with submitting stories to magazines.
  2. Before you submit, or even write the story, you need to buy them and read them to see what they’re publishing.

And that was more of an adventure than you might think. In my suburban, respectable neighborhood on the West side of Hamilton, you could get a lot of magazines at the corner store, but they didn’t stock science fiction or fantasy magazines. Neither did the libraries, or even the hobby store, (though that had tabletop gaming magazines!) And being that it was the early nineties, you certainly couldn’t go and order them online. I’m sure that if I knew the right phone number or mailing address I could have gotten a subscription, but I didn’t know where to find those out.

Eventually I found a news-stand downtown that had what I needed. I think it was in Jackson Square mall, but I can’t be 100% sure about that detail. And the magazine I picked was the August 1993 issue of Analog. (That means I was seventeen going on eighteen at this point, though I’d still be in high school for another two years, which is a very different story.)

There are quite a few stories in that issue that I remember well, but the one that has stayed with me the most, and I’m considering bringing, is ‘Swan Song’ by Gregory Bennett. It’s a tale of disaster and survival on a supply run from Earth to Mars, with a really cool AI computer and cool themes about the value of family, when to take chances, and how to never play fair with Lady Luck.


Taking criticism is still tough…

May 24, 2013

The revised version of “Won’t somebody think of the Children”, the one that I spent nearly sixteen months slaving over, (with a few breaks to work on other projects,) is still working its way through the critique queue. Chapter 4 got sent out for critiques on Wednesday, and I’ve gotten one full critique back of the entire novel by a dedicated reader and I’m waiting on a few others.

The results certainly haven’t been universally encouraging. I really think that the story is much stronger than it was in the first draft, and I’ve gotten some encouraging validation from some readers, but there have also been a few responses that took some wind from my sails. One of the critiques I got from chapter four said that there was no conflict, nothing at stake; and offered three different rewriting techniques for improving a scene. I was disheartened when I first received that, and then twelve hours later, I got a short commenting on my colon use, with four paragraphs of praise and apologizing for not having more negative feedback. 😉

I guess I’m going to have to organize all my critiques, including the feedback from the dedicated readers who haven’t gotten back to me yet, and evaluate it all like a big pot of soup without paying too much attention to any one piece. And always bear in mind that the first revision I did was based off my own impressions of the book, and there are dozens of tools from the Holly Lisle revision course that I can still turn to and use to fix the problems that I never saw, once a critter has pointed out that they’re there.

It may be a tough job, but a writer’s gotta do it at some point!

Dreaming of research

May 22, 2013

I had a rather odd sleep last night; not really bad, I didn’t wake up exhausted or with a headache or anything. But it seems that I spent several hours either dreaming or dozing about Christopher Columbus and questions about early European exploration of the USA. It was critically important, for some reason, to find out if Columbus had ever set foot on what’s currently the lower 48, if he’d met natives there, and if not, who were the first (post-Columbian) ocean voyagers from across the Atlantic to do so. I didn’t come up with any good answers in my dreams, though I do remember wondering about ‘The Amerigo guy.’

On waking up, I was able to do some research on the internet, but it seems that there aren’t any clear answers there either. Columbus pretty definitely never reached what is now the American mainland north of Central America; he got kinda close to Florida but didn’t reach it. I’ve come across an interesting pool of  early explorers:

Yikes! Messed up a date here at first… reshuffling the contenders.

John Cabot: Cabot landed somewhere in Canada in 1497 and sailed along the coast of New England in 1498, but as far as I can tell he didn’t come ashore in New England or further south.

Amerigo Vespucci: Vespucci’s travels were mostly in the Caribbean and South America, around 1499-1501. I’ve seen a few vague references that Vespucci may have gone to Florida at some time, but can’t find specific details.

Juan Ponce de León: After serving as navigator for Columbus, Ponce de León definitely landed in Florida in 1513. (He also came up with the name.)

Giovanni da Verrazzano: Sailed along quite a lot of the United States’ Atlantic coast, from the northern tip of Florida to Rhode Island, where he came ashore and met natives in 1524.

Henry Hudson: A surprise to me; I knew about Hudson from his Northwest Passage explorations in Canada, (including discovering Hudson’s Bay,) but I didn’t know that the Hudson river in New York state was named for the same guy. After several other expeditions for trade routes and passages in different directions, Hudson and his crew reached Maine and traded with natives in 1609.

So it looks like Juan Ponce de León is the solid answer to my question. Cool. 😉

Odyssey Prep: Nineteen days to go!

May 21, 2013

That’s how long I have until I expect to be arriving in Manchester. It’s exciting, and there’s still rather a lot to do.

I got some shopping for the dorms done today at Walmart. Nothing too exciting, mostly stuff that I’ll be able to take home and use around the apartment, but didn’t want to take the stuff that I’ve been using recently because it’s too old and grungy:

  • Bedsheets
  • Foam mattress pad. (This is one I didn’t have before, but Jeanne specifically suggested them for the student mattresses, and I thought it was probably a good idea. I need a decent night’s sleep!)
  • Pillow cases
  • Bathmat
  • Tea towels
  • Laundry detergent capsules
  • Scrubbing brush for dishes, pots, and pans.

Isn’t it so glamorous? 😉

I need to go back to the textbook soon, figure out what I think about the Tolkien essay.

A day to rest

May 20, 2013

Whoops! This post was supposed to go live on Saturday morning,  but I guess I managed to just save it in draft mode instead. So I’ll include the post as written, and then add some end-of-long-weekend wrap-up at the bottom.

I’ve been thinking about rest quite a lot since I went to church with my family last Sunday. I don’t go to church often, but Mom had decided to get baptized at the church she goes to now, and the date the pastor picked for the baptism fell on Mother’s day, and she asked the family to come, so who could say no to that? 😉

Anyway, the sermon was about the fourth commandment and keeping the Sabbath, and I started to think about that in a secular way. I tend to live my life at a fairly breakneck pace lately, juggling a nine to five-ish day job and all kinds of creative goals in my spare time, not to mention a writing Odyssey coming up that looks like twelve hours of studying and writing seven days a week for six weeks.

I’m not sure that taking a day off from work and writing every week is the right answer for me, but I think I’ve come to realize that slowing down and letting my batteries recharge is something I need to do again, especially in the next three weeks. And I had this odd notion of turning ‘Sabbath’ from a noun into a verb; something that I do for a few hours here or an afternoon there, as a way of blocking out time and not being tempted to ‘put that time to good use’ with a writing course or a programming project or something else. Of course, that brings up the question of whether working on coding or brainstorming story ideas might be a good Sabbath activity, something that will let me have fun and recharge instead of building up stress and exhaustion.

I’ve sabbathed a bit over the past week, catching up on some television and vegging out around the apartment. Today I’ve got big Sabbath holiday weekend plans; my mom and I are going to drive up to Stayner to spend the day with my sister’s family at their usual campgrounds. That’s always good Sabbathing.

What do you do, or not do, when you need to take time to rest?

So, I had a great day up in Stayner; played some games with my sister and nieces, drove my brother-in-law over to the store to get the dinner supplies, and got some good driving practice in.

The rest of the weekend was a lot quieter, and pretty restful. I’ve done plenty of walking, and enjoyed some TV marathons. But I’ve also been working on a few things; finishing lesson 4 and starting lesson 5 for ‘How to Think Sideways’, starting my textbook reading for Odyssey, and adapting an expense tracker for my Mom’s new Blackberry. 🙂

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