Monday, December 7, 2009

Why doesn't this feel the way it's supposed to?

I've been kindof down about writing lately. Revisions are never going to end, this chapter stinks, my ending needs so much work that I should start over with it.

In "Virginia Woolf Writing Workshop", a line is taken from one of her letters that you must slay the 'house angel' to write. You know, the one that takes care of everyone. That your writing time must be inviolable. I've tried to do that to some extent, but I am the mother. Mother of four. Me. Hubby is helpful, but usually homework is done, dinner is done and I'm washing dishes when he gets home. I have been struggling with balance and setting aside time to write, time to clean (but who wants to do laundry? Not me). Truth be told, I hate housekeeping. Hate it.

I was going to blog a bit about that this morning, but first I checked my email.

There was an email from the lit magazine I'd submitted to months ago. I'd stopped thinking about it even on a weekly basis, so I didn't expect to care much. And then it was a rejection. I cried. Who wouldn't? Then I called up Nathan and read it to him.

And he said, "But that's good isn't it? You're doing good."

Here's the personalized line: "This is a facinating/interesting and unique piece with good writing; well done, Kelly."


So it's been a half-hour, and instead of feeling depressed and wondering if I can do this, I feel hope. I don't know how much was the effort that was made to personalize the email and encourage me, or my husband's support, but I feel reassured that I can write. I don't know why that's still something I wonder, but it is.

I think (just guessing here) that validation is the best part of being published. Money couldn't hurt as part of that validation- enough to justify the hours I've spent with my computer would be nice. But writing is so personal. I think the reason that the baby metaphor works is that feeling of "love my baby/story, love me."

So somebody loved my baby enough to hold it and smile. That feels good. That means that someone out there will be the right match for my stories. I hope.
Can't get enough?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Apple on ground close to tree...

Isaac is definately my son. He read Harry Potter 2 today. All of it. The neat part was I let him stay up to finish it, and he leaned over the rail at 9:30 and called down to us in the living room that he was done. He pumped his fist in the air and had a huge grin. I'm looking for the next book that will do that for me. Any suggestions? Nathan keeps trying to tell him that Harry dies in the next book, but Isaac is onto us.

Is everybody ready for New Moon? Nathan and I are gathering with all my church friends for our second annual Twilight Saga movie viewing tomorrow night. Are other churches besides Mormons having (unofficial) vampire parties? Last year, I had not read even the first book and had to get the young women to fill me in before we left. One of whom had read Twilight THIRTEEN times. Could be twice that by now.

Today while driving to school, I passed a mom walking to pick up her kids in a 'Team Cullen' shirt. I've seen one-fish-two-fish shirts and our library is currently selling "Where the Wild Things Are" shirts, but I don't remember that happening for any other NYT Bestsellers. Thinking. Still thinking. Nope. I can't think of any. Although Harry Potter was very well represented on Halloween around here, but I didn't see any Twilight vampires.

I just want to say that Nathan read all four books. He hasn't read The Lord of the Rings, but he's read Twilight. And my little sister, Cleo ISABELLA (age 12) has a poster of Edward on her ceiling and is sure she's going to marry him. And she wants us to call her Bella, 'cause that's her middle name. Isaac saw an add for New Moon and was like "ooh, Mom, there's that book." Pervasive, isn't it?
Can't get enough?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Smicker Reunion in Luke Butler, FL

We loaded up the car and headed down to FL, my beloved country.


Jonas, Eli, and cousin's son Aiden trapped in a hamburger.

Jonas, Emma, Aiden, and Eli looking for minnows. My cousin Pat and I were so proud of them for not falling in. They (mostly) stayed on the seam that that ran down the middle of the walkway.

Some adults got tricked into participating in this game too, but I will allow them their shreds of dignity by not posting the hip-gyrating pictures here.

Egg toss. Lots of cheatin' going on. Emma and I were partners, and I missed her first toss (it was overhand, and hard. Sigh. She should have asked Daddy) And my dad got four eggs tossed at him on the first throw, but none got splattered on him. 

My dad and Nathan thought they were the dream team...


But Eli and Michelle Wright won with some weird bowling/throwing hybrid move.
It made Eli's YEAR.

Just some folks wanderin' around. I didn't take as many pictures of individuals as I meant to, so this'll have to do. We had about 60 people there.

Isaac, Eli and Emma show Aunt Sharran a snake's skin they found in a tree.


We camped out in O'leno State Park Fri and Saturday with my Dad, Uncle Jerry and Aunt Sharran, Shannon and Jim and Aiden and Annemarie, Pat, Austin and gf Lauren. My favorite memory by far was the ghost stories. Nathan told the classic "Falling Rock" (Falling Rock goes on a hunt for the biggest bear and never returns. His father posts signs "Watch for Falling Rock" and you can still see them today. Shannon told the Green Ribbon- a husband finally removes the green ribbon that his wife has always worn after she dies, and her head falls off. The kids all had a go at a head-falling-off-story after that. Then I told a story about the beautiful Indian Semolina who waits for her Spanish lover, but he never returns. She hears his ghost in the whispers of the fire, and you can still hear it today. And the Robitussin-stops-that-coffin one. Who says oral storytelling is dead? Okay, we do, cause it was pretty awful.


Rule of picture taking in nature #1-if there is a rock in the river, you must take a group picture on it.
It's in our genetic code.
These pics are over the Santa Fe River, and we walked the River trail- down to the end of the river where a sinkhole swallows it. The river reappears about three miles away.



Corollary-Bridges count, too.
This is Shannon, Jim and their two: Aiden and baby Annemarie.


The cemetary. I had some fun playing with this one.

My dad and Pat and my clan drove out to Traxler FL to visit
the old church that Dad's grandma and husband and her parents are buried at.

My clan: Kelly and Nathan Bryson, Isaac, Emma, Eli and Jonas.


Interior of Traxler Methodist Church



A banana spider, about three inches across.
I'd like to write a book just to use this as a cover.

The end of the river. It's kind of anti-climatic unless you're there after heavy rains- the river just seems to dead-end. My dad said that he's been there when the water was high, and logs swirl on the surface above the sink. Dad and Isaac saw a really big gator.


My great-great grandparents (my dad's mom's mom's parents)



My great-grandparents' gravestone. The End!

Can't get enough?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Knock Knock!




Star Wars Halloween!





Emma loved her "Princess Amidala Battle Costume", and I was right proud of the cape. Pretty close, eh? I think I understand now why people go to conventions.




I had to wrestle Jonas into his Jedi Padawan costume, and he got stuck with the light sabre without a blade, but it seemed safer that way. He's holding Emma's Nerf gun here. I spraypainted it chrome, but she didn't like that it was still tacky, so she didn't carry it.



Eli wore his Luke costume all week after school.


Isaac got really sweaty in the Darth Vader helmet and ended up carrying it in his bag most of the night.




I was Princess Leia and Nathan was Obiwan Kenobi, which is forbidden love if ever there was. I felt dirty every time I kissed him. LOL. Emma liked that, as Padme, she was my mom.

We went to a neighbor's party- which I'd assumed was a costume party, but the only other adults in costume were the host and hostess. Dang. We sucked it up, and tried not to look self-conscious. Nathan might not have been-but it took me a few minutes before I forgot I was in a long white dress with a shawl and a silver belt around my neck. At six-thirty, it was time to get some candy.

We made it to about twenty-five houses before Nathan and I were carrying Jonas and Eli was asking to be carried, too. It was about 80 degrees, and we were all sweating, but I'd take it over trick-or-treating in a 40 degree drizzle like we got in Evans City, PA the last two years we were up there.

The sad thing about Halloween is that the Snickers are gone too soon. I believe I just started planning Christmas stockings:)


Can't get enough?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hickory Knob Triathlon

A few months ago, Nathan was talking to a guy that used to coach triathletes, and Nathan mentioned that he'd like to try one. The next day, the guy showed up with a bike to borrow. Nathan was a little nervous, since it's been about five years since he's even done a road race, but decided to go for it. I don't remember how I decided to train with him- maybe because he wanted my help in the pool.

I'd been saying that I wanted a canoe for a long time- like 8 months- and he said if I did the race, I could have a canoe. That tipped me. So we started training 4-5 times a week. I could really blow his doors off in the water, but would rather not talk about the rest.



Our biggest fans-
Left-right- Eli, my sister Cleo hugging Emma, Kelly, Nathan, Jonas, Isaac.


My mom in the purple, Nathan step-mom Anna is pointing for Jojo, and Nathan's dad, Ray


Nathan on the dock. It was about 50' outside. The water was 70', which was fine when we got in...


A few weeks before the race, Nathan switched to a knee-length speedo. (There's a very important distinction, there, folks.) This cut about ten seconds off his time, and I had to push to keep up with him. After months of schooling him in the water, he was ready to graduate.

We're very grateful to the help Anna gave us- watching the kids many nights after bedtime so we could go train.

What was race day like, you ask. I slept okay- Nathan didn't. That morning I was overwhelmed by this feeling of being a phony. Like- what am I doing here? I am a WRITER. This is not comfortable to even think about! But I'd already registered (mistakenly I registered for the international distance, 1500 yd swim, 20 mile bike and 10k run, but they switched me on race day. Whew!) so I went through with it.


Nathan and the blue caps are off!


The swim was bewildering. It is really hard to swim in a straight line without the line on the bottom of the pool, but we had practiced in Lake Murray. I'm sure I wasn't weaving (haha) but other people kept bumping into me. I elbowed one lady in the face really hard, but I promise I didn't know she was there until I'd clocked her. We were going into the first turn by the buoy, and everybody switched to breaststroke, so I know she was okay.



The bike was a bit cold at first, and there were a few really big hills, but it wasn't too bad. My hardest moment came when I tried to put my water bottle back. I wove around a bit, but finally got it in. A biker passing me told me "good job"--he was relieved that I hadn't taken him out, probably. And somehow my bike developed a squeak, so all these international distance people were zipping by me on the carbon-fiber frames, and I'm going "Squeak, squeak. Squeak, squeak." Slightly embarrassing, but I lived. I'd oiled everything, and it was fine before the race.

The hard part about the run was drinking out of that paper cup and finishing by the time I passed the trash bag. We'll have to practice that next time.


Nathan's finish
500 yd swim, ten mile bike, 5K run.
How can it be a ten MILE and five KILOMETER event?
Place  Bib NAME                 Ag CITY/STATE Rank SWIM   T1  Rank    BIKE    T2   Rank RUN TIME
5.  342 NATHAN BRYSON 31 IRMO SC       6   12:59   1:57     6         33:48    0:51  5 23:31    1:13:05
2. 555 KELLY BRYSON 31 IRMO SC            1   13:49   2:31     3         46:07    0:59  2 33:02    1:36:26

My finish!



I was a little (huge understatement) disappointed that training so hard didn't make me magically thin, but apparently you have to exercise AND eat healthy, so I'm working on that. Nathan is already planning his training for next year, and I'm thinking about it. I have decided, incidentally, that I'd rather attend a writer's conference (after my manuscript is polished) and rent a canoe wherever we want to go canoeing.

The best part was this feeling of appreciation that I had when it was over- feeling that my body is capable of great things and that I can do whatever I want to do. I highly recommend it.


Can't get enough?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Updates


First of all, the Tooth Fairy visited last night. Emma's trap for fairy dust did not work, but the Tooth Fairy inadvertently (so we guess) walked across the dollar she left, leaving a very clear trail of high heel prints in gold glitter, about a size .03. Kapow! Take that, neighbors' and friends' parents! Our Tooth Fairy ROCKS!

Second, I have decided to split my writing and personal life into two separate blogs. Because "Ink Well" has been used, I am keeping my url "kaykaybe.blogspot.com" for my personal life and have created a new writing blog "Book Readress". Get it? You are all welcome at either one. I just want to be free to talk about potty training without coming across as unprofessional:) I would also like to encourage you to click the button that says "Follow" because I'm not linking on Facebook every time I blog.

Third, I have a new publishing plan called "Live to be a Hundred". I was looking over Slate's list of powerful octogenarians, "80 over 80", and noticed that 18 of them were listed as writers. This is not counting the # 1 pick, President of the Mormon Church, Thomas S. Monson. He's written several books, so it should be 19/80. So roughly one out of four of the powerful octogenarians have written a book. Many of them are memoirs, but still. I tend to procrastinate, so I gave myself an extra twenty years.

Fourth, your comments make me smile.

I'm surprised we didn't get one of these letters from the Tooth Fairy.

Dear _________________ :

Thank you for leaving one [1] tooth under your pillow last night.

While we make every attempt to leave a monetary reward in the case
of lost or stolen children’s teeth, we were unable to process your
request for the following reason(s) indicated below:

( ) the tooth could not be found

( ) it was not a human tooth

( ) we do not think that pieces of chicken bone are very funny

( ) we were unable to approach the tooth due to excessive odor

( ) the tooth has previously been redeemed for cash

( ) the tooth did not originally belong to you

( ) the tooth fairy does not process fingernails

( ) your request has been forwarded to the Nerve Ending Fairy for
appropriate action

( ) you were overheard to state that you do not believe in the tooth
fairy

( ) you are age 12 or older at the time your request was received

( ) the tooth is still in your mouth

( ) the tooth was guarded by a vicious fairy-eating dog at the time
of our visit

( ) no night light was on at the time of our visit

( ) the snacks provided for the tooth fairy were not satisfactory,
or were missing

( ) we discovered evidence of unsafe tooth extraction as follows:
[ ] string
[ ] pliers
[ ] gunpowder
[ ] hammer marks
[ ] chisel
[ ] part of skull attached to tooth
[ ] no dental care
( ) other:

Thank you for your request, and we look forward to serving you in
the future.

Sincerely, The Tooth Fairy

From Funny Jokes blog.

Can't get enough?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lower the Bar, People

Imagination has officially been replaced with proof.

  1. Emma's friend put the tooth she lost into a cup and set it in a dish filled with water to catch the Tooth Fairy Dust. Emma lost a tooth yesterday and is ready to try it tonight (She took the tooth over to a cousin's house and left it there, so we got it back today).
  2. There's also this really cute book called "Elf on a Shelf" that comes with a stuffed elf that comes alive at night, but only in December. Sometimes the elves do nice things, like load the dishwasher or fold a load of laundry, but most are mischievous—pulling books of the shelf, hiding TV remotes (but we get that in other months, too, and in broad daylight), unlacing shoes.
  3. And there's reindeer feed. Oatmeal with glitter that you sprinkle on your front yard for the reindeer.

The kids love it, but I guess I'm old-school. We set out milk and cookies, Santa fills our stockings and we've heard his sleigh bells, the Tooth Fairy leaves a dollar (not always on the first night, but she makes it.), and the Easter Bunny gets better at hiding those eggs every year.

But I'm wary of glitter. I feel burdened. When I was a kid (it wasn't that long ago, really) all we needed was a present to know Santa was real. He signed the tag, for goodness' sake. How can an imaginary being sign a tag?

So, to the parents of my kids' friends, please tell Santa and the tooth fairy take it easy. Especially you, Tooth Fairy- no more ten-dollar exchanges for a worn-out baby tooth. You may use them to build your castle in the clouds, but they're not worth all that. I'm begging.


Can't get enough?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bubble boys and girls

A short narration on why my mom is cool, then directions on how to make your own bubble-house (or biosphere, if you want to sound like a smarty-pants.)


I'm a preschool home-schooler. Our little friends had a blast. Not sure where Jonas was.

My mom was one of 'those moms'. She threw giant birthday parties where everyone got their own (non mentholated) can of shaving cream, and we all put on our bathing suits and got shaving cream all over the trampoline. My sister got the gene, as evidenced by the four days she spent making a cardboard pirate ship for her daughter's birthday. My apologies for the grainy picture off Facebook, but you get the point.

Mom had a stand-up rabbit cake pan, and she made that cake into everything. Need a baby cake? Cut the ears off. Need a Carebear cake? Cut the ears off? Need a car? I don't know. It never happened, because we were all girls, but I bet she would have cut the ears off and sliced them to make wheels. (This is why, when I was 'garage sale'-ing and saw a stand-up Carebear cake, I got so excited.)

I've used it at least four times. Once as Yoda.

This pic is another FB steal from my niece's party, but that's an awesome cake.

I think there's a rabbit in there.

During my high school years, she was always fine with a bonfire, an unlimited number of guests, and no curfew on her end. And if she didn't know about the occasional explosive device, well, we just didn't bring it up. (A friend was 'interning' at a fireworks company. I got to roll the chemicals into clay like balls and make my own four inch mortar- a red ring. There. I used to be cool.)

There's a lot to live up to. But even the cool stuff I do with my kids now is at least partly inspired by her, if not an out-right gift. Like the giant bubble we made last summer.

It's like sewing for giants. You buy plastic sheeting (I think we got our a thickness of 4 mil., a 20'x30' piece, or thereabouts) and a big roll of duct tape (we recommend red) from a home improvement store.

Cut a five foot piece off of the end. This is going to be a tube that inflates it, so measure the circumference of your box fan and then cut it an inch longer. Then make it a tube- line up the seams, don't overlap- and tape them together.

Then turn it inside out and tape it on the other side. So you'll have a five foot long tube, just big enough to slip over the front of your box fan.

Now for the bubble. Fold it in half, so that it is 20' x 12.5' (remember we cut off five feet). Tape the seams together from the outside. It helps to have a friend or two to keep the tape straight.

I like an 'I' shaped door. So in one end, I cut a four foot vertical line, then made a 2 and a 1/2 foot cut across the top and the bottom. Regardless of the shape, make flaps so it can be closed and stay inflated. Then tape the raw edges, folding the tape around the edge like 'seam binding'.

Then turn it inside out, and tape the large seam around the bubble again. This makes it stronger, and prevents people from getting their hair stuck in the duct tape (you can never line up the edges PERFECTLY. At least I can'tJ)

At the other end, cut a hole the exact circumference of your tube (slightly below the midline of the fold so that when the bubble is inflated, the tube can rest on the floor), stick the tube in the opening. You can tape it, but you don't have to.

Now, attach your fan to the end of the tube and make sure your tube doesn't block the air intake. And if you don't have a box fan, you can group together a few oscillating fans (don't let them oscillate, though.) That's what I did. Don't tape all the way around the fan, just a piece or two will hold it in place.

There is a constant stream of fresh air, so don't worry about the kids suffocating. Of course, if the fans get turned off or the tube gets pulled free, the bubble will deflate. So supervise kids in the bubble.

We like to put some blankets in to walk on, because it's slippery. And move or pad hard things on the outside, because four mil of plastic doesn't make the tv stand soft.


Have fun!

My happy Jojo. His alternate state is not nearly this cute.

Can't get enough?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Question: What number am I thinking of?

THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: Authors, do not send out your manuscripts until they are ready. Agents and editors will remember, even if they don't know that they're remembering. I'll explain.

Whenever I see the fractal pattern of an MRI, I am reminded of how I felt standing at the lip of the Grand Canyon.


On real MRI film, I recognize the amygdala, the frontal cortex, and the hippocampus, but that's about it. People who study the brain can learn a bit more, but there is still a limit to how much they can process, and how detailed they get. How long would it take to sort through all of the millions of neurons that fire while you decide if you want to watch "Fear Factor" or "Dancing with the Stars"? But computers can do it in real time.

I listened to an interview on NPR of Orson Scott Card yesterday, and he said that if he knew what story would get a response like ENDER'S GAME, he would have written it. Card has been extremely successful, so it's hard to feel bad for him, but I know what he means. As a writer, you want to touch people and connect with them. If you're not doing that, you might as well write textbooks. Textbooks on brain imaging, perhaps.

Check out this video of an fMRI of a brain watching the trailer for "Avatar". Amazing, huh?

What images illicited the strongest responses? The alien? The kiss?

Will we put people in an MRI and watch their brain while we read our entire book to them? Our editor might come to us and say, "Cut this paragraph. The test listener wasn't engaged. And Ch. 7 needs a bump. Can Wanda slap Gregory then? Or they could have sex. Either one."

The funny thing is that the first fMRI done was by researchers trying to understand "The Pepsi Challenge" blind taste test (and now Pepsi, according to this *wink* article, is done with trying to change people. Thanks, Jeff). Researchers wondered why people would continue to drink Coke if some of them liked the taste of Pepsi better. They discovered that emotions help process decisions. I don't drink Co-cola anymore, but I still think of it fondly, because my grandma loved a snickers bar and a coke. LOVED them. Together. And when I think of Coke, a tiny part of my brain accesses my memories of her. EVERYTHING we look at gets checked against our previous experience.

It's a little tricky ethically. Input changes brain chemistry. Would you like it if someone wanted you to buy Miracle Whip and injected dopamine into your brain so you'll put some in your shopping cart? Watch this (ten seconds will be plenty to get the gist. Miracle Whip is the new beer.) and tell me if that's not the intention. In the comments below the video, however, people- apparently young people- are a little, shall we say, confused about this new direction, and someone compares Miracle Whip to orthopedic shoes. In other words, "Don't bother, MW. You're not cool." Neuromarketing says it doesn't matter too much what the hipsters say, the association between MW and cool is being made.

Are we ruled by these associations? No. Are these associations bad? Not necessarily. But think about this:

At the marketing meeting hubby went to, the speaker, Steve Whigham, told a story about a marketing guy who approached a bum and gave him ten bucks to let M.G. write the bum a new sign. The bum agreed, and M.G. left for an hour and then came back to see how the new sign was working. The bum gave him his ten bucks back and told him how great the sign had worked- instead of the usual $6-7 a day, he'd made $60. And what did the sign say?

"What if you were hungry?" Simple empathy.

Is marketing reminding us of things we already decided or manipulating us? I don't know.

For Thursday- my first experience with Sonic and a new game system with a foil hat. Yep. It reads your mind.

Answer: 1984


Can't get enough?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sky writing

I apologize for not getting this out yesterday, but I'm sick and have the same bedtime as my kids until I feel better.


I did some brainstorming on marketing. Skywriting is my favorite. How I would love to look up at the beach and see my first scene written in one mile high letters (that's the size of the letters, not the altitude. Really.) It's almost dramatic enough for this writer's ego. Perhaps if the entire throng of beachgoers were taking notes, slack-jawed and/or teary-eyed…Oh. Hello. I forgot you were here. Ahem. Sorry about that.

I said last time that the average person is exposed to 30,000 advertisements a day (according to marketing guru Steve Whigham). How do you get your book to stand out among all of those? And WHAT has to stand out? Do you need a bright yellow cover? An Oprah's book club sticker? (Yes. Give her your soul. She will sell a lot of books and your soul will get time with Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil, so your soul will be self-embracing and in a happy place, surrounded by Oprah's favorite things.)

Let's talk about Oprah's book club. Love it or hate it, a recommendation from Oprah sells. Why?

Steve claims that 95% of decisions are emotional (based on brain-imaging studies- more below on this.) So how does Oprah make us feel? I notice four basic responses.

1. Loyal Oprahites- want to be able to send her emails about the book, detailing how the book changed their lives, their children's lives, their neighbor's life. These people consider Oprah a close personal friend and REALLY want to meet her. They take her recommendation as seriously as if she were their priest/minister/best friend/psychiatrist/medical doctor rolled into one. They have learned how to read because Oprah suggested it.

2. Casual Oprahphiles- tune in every once in a while, maybe thumb through her magazine in the checkout. She says some interesting things and most of it is pretty good. These people have read at least one of her other book picks- possibly because their book club picked it- and they're willing to give her recommendation a chance. They like how they feel after watching Oprah- grateful that their life isn't so messed up, hopeful and ready to put their life in order, serious about fixing the ills in the world, etc.

3. Oprah Indifferents- Think, "Crap. She recommended another book. Everybody is going to read it and be talking about it, so I should, too." A lot of 'book people' may fall into this group. (In a parallel example, the buzz around Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" has made some people read it, just so they could weigh in) This is, as are the rest of my Oprah categories, merely conjecture.


4. Oprah Reactionaries- WILL NOT read a book because she recommended it-but they won't be buying the books, so I only mention them. But they exist, as evidenced here.

Notice that these categories are related to identity (If I read these books, I am a good, caring person. Oprah said so.) Reactionaries have an opposite though equally strong emotion, which I will call non-identity. (I will not become a sheep in Oprah's herd.)

So you can send Oprah emails every day until she asks you on the show, you can drop leaflets from planes (think propaganda drops during WWII), stick flyers on people's windshields, tables at cultural events like fairs,tattoos, blogging, spamming, become best friends with the indie (independent) bookstores within a twelve-hour drive of your home, etc. Lots of people spend a lot of money looking at what motivates people to buy.

Did you know supermarkets use video of customers to measure time spend in a store, time standing in the aisle waffling about what to buy, observing what products people go straight for (and thus should be advertised outside, since by the time they get inside the decision is already made)?

I've wondered why they stick books like "Coffees of the World" and "The Ultimate Tulip Guide" in the entry way at Barnes and Nobles. Marketing people call it "decompression", and the purpose is to ease us into the shopping experience, to let our brains adjust. I think they use those books to give us some easy decisions. To give us confidence that we are in control. It reminds me a bit of a lobster trap. Here's another trap-

"Often a customer struggling to decide which of two items is best ends up not buying either. A third "decoy" item, which is not quite as good as the other two, can make the choice easier and more pleasurable, according to a new study using fMRI carried out by Akshay Rao, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota. Happier customers are more likely to buy. Dr Rao believes the deliberate use of irrelevant alternatives should work in selling all sorts of goods and services, from cable TV to holidays." (From this article in "The Economist")

So, the ideal situation would be to have a table with your book, the bestseller comp book, and a decoy book, like "Famous Quidditch Matches in Hogwarts History" or "The Life and Times of Dr. Carlisle Cullen". You'll have some fans that will pick the decoy, but most people want to relive the emotion of a golden book. They've already read the golden book, the decoy is out, and that leaves your book. Which looks pretty interesting, actually. In his email newsletter, "Daily Kick in the Pants", David Farland says this:

    "In fact, most purchases that most active readers make are based upon the fact that the book resonates with other works that they have enjoyed. The readers almost never make a conscious connection, but it is there.

    "As I mentioned the other day, we choose the category of fiction that we do because we are looking for a certain type of controlling emotion in our work. The word "genre" doesn't really explain what we're doing when we choose our fiction. Instead, the sections in the bookstore ought to be titled "Wonder, Romance, Drama, Intrigue, and so on...

    "Sometimes the resonance that induces us to buy a book comes from the cover. My own fantasy novels have covers by Darrel Sweet. Sweet of course is famous for doing the covers for Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan, two of our best-sellers of all time. So when readers look at my novels, they are immediately reminded of books by those authors."


I can see what he means. The publishers are very aware of cover art and what it conveys- hence the recovering of Wuthering Heights to look more like Twilight. More on this Tuesday, including how to make a living as a bum. Really. It's a good gig.

What emotion do you read for? Some possibilities- Adventure (like Dan Brown), romance (Stephenie Meyer), humor(Dave Barry), wonder(J.R.R. Tolkien), drama(Jodi Picoult)? Does it change?

What did one book say to the other one?
I just wanted to see if we are on the same page

Can't get enough?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Move over LeVar…

Nature abhors a vacuum. Apparently, so does the world of literature. Just weeks after the announcement that Reading Rainbow would be a warm memory/Trivial Pursuit question, Osama Bin Laden has stepped up to help Americans fill their bookshelves.

After last week's controversial picks, he decided to go with a classic: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

Mr. Bin Laden says, "The only thing that could improve this great literary work would be if it were set in Mecca."

He also comments that the scene where the rabid dog forced the community indoors and Atticus Finch—whom he refers to as Atabak al-Finzi—arms himself and shoots down the foaming, stumbling dog (representative of the Great Satan, America) was personally inspiring.

"A man willing to sacrifice his life to set a people free is an example to our martyrs," Osama explained.

In a twist, Osama discusses one of his least favorite books, "A Very Hungry Caterpillar," which exposes the consuming and destructive nature of Western Civilization. Says Mr. Bin Laden, "It doesn't stop eating. This book trains American children, from a very young age, to oppress others. We would never let our children wallow like pigs in this filth."

In closing, Mr. Bin Laden said, "Of course, you don't have to take my word for it."

For Thursday, marketing. Do you know how much marketing the average person is exposed to daily? According to a marketing seminar my hubby attended, 30,000. Yep. Thirty THOUSAND. I'll give some ideas about how you can make that can work in your favor.

Love is in the Hair...




Can't get enough?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

From the mouth of a babe

I don't remember learning that Santa wasn't real, or finding out where babies come from. But I read my first book (Max the Cat) sitting at our dining room table in Tamarac, Florida when I was four or five. I remember reading my first poem to my mom and that it rhymed dove and love. We were in our old blue and white conversion van, driving from our home in Ft. Lauderdale to Tampa to visit the grandparents. My mom told me she loved it, and I was so proud of myself.

I dug through a box of my old diaries and yearbooks yesterday. I found the poem I read to my first boyfriend when he stopped calling, entitled 'Mimes Suck'. What sophisticated imagery!

I'm glad I hadn't thrown away the diaries because, though painfully adolescent and confusing, they're a great resource if I ever want to write from a teenage girl's perspective. *wink*

I also found the lit magazine from my senior year in high school. Before I found it again, all I remembered about this poem was that I'd used the word rape, and I'd wondered if people interpreted that to be an event in my life. (It actually referred to the forceful nature of love, changing us without consent.) A lot was going on at this time- hormones, with my parents' divorce, death in the family, hormones, and the fact that my first love didn't last. No kidding, huh? Here it is, warts and all:

A candle sits there aflame

The wax melts into the form that it came

The fire burns the candle's thread,

A puddle grows by her whose strength has fled.

This flame too hot to let live,

This type flame has never a thing to give.


Curse the match who struck this spark

By the candle who ever bears this mark

Of cold wax which has no shape,

This gray pool is the one sign of rape.

This fire once long wished for

Was late seen not as an escape door.


It should not be wanted so,

For this love flame burns with a hurting blow.

None is in love always

And smoky storms cover love's bright gold rays.

So, new candle, fresh in mind,

Avoid the hot flame which melts all your kind.

In a Zen-writing book "Writing Down the Bones" Natalie Goldberg purports(that's the first time I've used that word) that everybody has to write their quota of junk before they can get to the 'good' stuff. Here's a review that matches my opinion.

What did you do with your old journals and bad poetry? (everybody has some, right?)Was writing a chore, a joy, therapy, a friend, a burden in your formative years?

Check back tomorrow for Osama's weekly book picks.


Hubby had Isaac, our 8 year old laughing over this.
What does a duck army yell when they're fired upon?
Duck!
What does a squirrel army yell when they're fired upon?
Duck!
Sorry.

Can't get enough?

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Girl Can Dream

I pull out my slim, purse-sized, indestructable (even if I drop it in a sink full of dish water or slam it in the trunk of my car. Yes, I destroyed phones in those ways.) reading device. Sweet. It’s fully charged after only half an hour. Or perhaps it charges itself without being plugged in...

I browse a list of books (similar to the one I just finished) on my NetBoox account (only $19.99 a month. Awesome dream!)

Still browsing. Nah. I'm tired of reading space opera and wizards. I want something romantical.

Something paranormal. In ‘Books I’ve Previously Enjoyed’, I find one that I actually enjoyed. I tap “Something Like This, But Different”.

This one’s about Lara, a girl who is kidnapped and taken back to the Garden of Eden. When she runs away and is detained by FBI agent David Hatton, she finds love and the strength to endure the pain of mortality.

Hey…that’s my book! Wow. My first novel. It did pretty well, too. It sure is nice that it will be in eprint until the end of time. Ahh, nostalgia.

I'll check out "People You Know Have Read". My sister recommends this one, and it’s rated PG-13. For nudity…that could mean anything. Let’s look-there’s a scene where she is in an accident and the doctors cut her clothes off to save her life. That’s sounds fine. Only 200 people have read it, but they’ve rated it four and a half worms, too. I wonder if they've all read the book. I wish somebody would figure out how to stop inflated reviews (hint, hint. I don't have a clue about how you'd do that, though.)

I’ll preview the first chapter. Hmm. Why is she doing that? Ahh, now I see…but what about her father and the ostrich farm? This is interesting and well-written, thus far. I’ll take it.

A Day Later…

Wow. That was a great book. I’d like to own that. I’ll just click here, pay the $3.99 to get my hard copy sent and then I can read it whenever I want.

And I’m putting a star next to it so my other sister and my friends will see that I read it and loved it. Add a few lines to recommend it, and I'm done.

*Fog clears. Kelly blinks in bright sunlight*

It was only a dream?

That sounds pretty easy, doesn't it, Sony/Amazon/Netflix/Barnes and Noble?

Heck, if Google could give me this experience, I might not mind them taking over the world.

What's your techno-dream?

This article from "Backspace" (retelling the 1996 cut of book supply drivers intimately familiar with their routes and the resulting drops in sales and pressure on the remaining books) is what prompted my dream. The great thing is that people will be their own market specialists in the near future- if Amazon hasn't done that already.


Can't get enough?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A little tolerance, please…

I wasn't sure about my tone in this, so I pulled it after a few hours, but rereading it now, I feel like posting it. Perhaps the context of my recent posts makes this make more sense.

Mari Mercado, an IB (International Bacchalaureate) student is faced with either reading a sexually graphic book or flunking the class. From the article:


"I read a lot. I'm an avid reader and I have an active imagination," she said. And when it comes to the passages she saw in her school assignment, "I'd rather not try to imagine it."

Do you really want to carry trash around... in your head?

Inflammatory, isn't it? You can tell by the large, red font. I did a tally of the first three pages of comments (about sixty), and this is where the chips fell:

Get Back, Religious Zealot! (waves garlic and wooden stake, 'cause they're sure not using a silver cross): 58%
We're not worried about her, but You're Going to Hell: 40%

You spells pornographic wrong: 1%

Well, your dumb. 1%

And to give you the actual, non-exaggerrated flavor, here's four strongly worded responses.

•Abbi from St. Pete- Another instance where compromise is shoved down a Christian's throat. If 16 year olds can't buy a porn mag, why is it okay for them to read about this in school?

•Mimi from New Port Richey - This is a 3rd year student in the program. She couldn't know what type of book she'd be reading in 11th grade when she signed up in 9th. Even if you don't agree, we need to ensure personal preferences are guaranteed in this county. Freedom!

•from dunedin- Grow up! The only reason people see this as controversial is because people make it that way. I went to a catholic high school and we read The Color Purple...parents had a hissy fit and we lost good literature because of it.

•Maire from clearwater- What is she going to do in college when told to read something she does not like? Life is supposed to revolve around her? How selfish.

Basically, I see the supporters viewing her refusal to read the book as a courageous act of personal integrity, but the majority think she needs to unwad her panties. Or, better yet, buy a thong (my interpretation of their remarks). You can also check out this discussion on Nathan Bransford's blog last week.

The article does not state what Mari's reasons are, but it mentions that she is a leader of the Christian club. The readers picked up on that, and several people (4 or 5) told her to give up on Yale and MIT because she doesn't want to read about other people boinging each other. Seriously?

Dave from SPHS IB Alum
She doesn't deserve to be in the IB program with her attitude. Should she get through and get into a secular accredited college, she will have to endure reading many other things she will doubtlessly be 'totally against'. Bible College awaits.

I would add that someone who doesn't smoke pot or drink has no business going to any college, but somehow a few people manage it. Like this clean cut Mormon gal at Harvard. Seriously, it's a great interview.

I don't believe that people re-enact every behavior they see and read, but it DOES affect world-view and what you think of as normal. Read up on concept formation and the role of memory in cognitive psychology. Here's a previous blog on Kelly's model of memory and why I'm careful about what I put in my brain.

It sounds to me like neither side wants to be told what they can or can't read. I say fine. Read whatever you want, but let her do the same. Why is it so insulting to say "I don't feel this book is appropriate for me"? That's what I'm trying to teach my kids- not that they should judge others, but that they are the first judge of what is good for them.

I checked out "Living Dead in Dallas" by Charlaine Harris- the second in the Sookie Stackhouse vampire mysteries. I haven't read any of her other stuff, but I want her agent, Eddie Schneider, to represent me (hello Eddie!) so I'm looking at other works he's represented. I had a great reason for reading this book, right? I loved it...until I got to the sex. If I want some romance, I will experience the details ONLY with my husband, even if that attitude keeps me out of MIT.

Here're some resources for those that are so inclined:a blog with clean book reviews! And another one that rates books like movies!

Ummm. I think I would just cross my legs!


Can't get enough?

Monday, September 14, 2009

One Potato, Two Potato


I am a woman plagued by projects.

  • Pulse, a 110,000 word project at least three edits from completion.
  • Three picture books I've written for my kids. (I inked a drawing this week. At this rate I'll finish one book every five years.)
  • A midgrade novel about a girl who becomes queen of the pirates when her pirate parents die.
  • The short story "The Sweet Life" that I previously posted, but needs the tension ratcheted up (and four hundred words cut so that I can submit it to the ROSE and THORN ezine-accepting submissions again as of today!).
  • A short story I've outlined wherein a man lives in a culture where he must set up his spouse with a new lover before he can dump her- and in the process of finding someone willing to take her, he remembers the good things about her and changes his mind.
  • There's this werewolf astronaut story challenge floating around.
  • I have a couch to recover.
  • And a rocker.
  • And I want to terrace the back yard and am researching price points on materials and a Bobcat.
  • My next novel, about an Ancient Egyptian woman searching through time to find her lost son. I wrote the opening scene maybe two years ago and haven't gotten back to it.
  • Oh yeah...this blog.


I was talking to my sister, Jenny, who is an AMAZING artist and clothing designer, about her recent meet 'n greet with a brand representative Urban Outfitters corporate (she's the set designer in the Urban in Salt Lake City). The woman asked her where she gets her ideas, and Jenny said to me (nicely) that that is a question that people who create do not ask. They know that you take a butterfly net with you everywhere you go, collecting things until some of them fit together.

You don't have to know when you're going to use an idea, just that it appeals to you, that it feels real. For instance, the grass in front of a church we drive by is bare in places like the bald patches of fur on a mangy dog. I have no place to use that right now, but maybe I will one day. Maybe in my next novel Atum-Re (or whatever her name ends up being) will journey into a fertile land that an army has marched through and that is how the earth will look to her. I don't know.

Another example--I was struggling to come up with a way to transport my current protagonist between worlds. Then we went swimming in a cenote, a sacred sinkhole that was a religious center for the ancient Mayans. They believed it was an entryway into the spirit world, which was perfect.



I tend to get bored with things—my long-suffering husband has dealt with too many 90% completed projects to count (but who doesn't like sheets of drywall leaned against the kitchen wall for a year?)—so sticking with one story has been a struggle.

I decided a year ago that my novel is the priority. I keep a list of edits to make and when I'm tired of going in order, I'll pick something from the list. I'm doing my third edit onscreen (I'm in Ch. 17, I think) and my fourth edit on paper (Ch. Ten- just finished nine this morning. Yea me!)

In my defense, short stories are part of my long-term goal of being a (paid) writer. I am trying to get some publishing credentials so I'll have something to put at the bottom of my query letter, and the process of getting a short story published should teach me a few things. Because how can you hope to hold a reader through four hundred pages if you can't hold them through ten?

To keep sane (relatively, at least), I take every Sunday off from writing or other projects. It's a time to relax and clear my mind. But every Monday morning, I start thinking about it again, and then it's go go go!

For me, the trouble is not getting ideas, but deciding which one to chase. Which is my next topic. Any tips?


Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson. You find the present tense and the past perfect.

Can't get enough?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Comfort Zone

Where do you write?

I look for a place that is quiet, and when that fails, I look for a room with a door that locks and my ipod. And when that makes me feel like a bad mom, I'll sit on the back porch with my laptop and squint at the screen while the kids chase each other around the neighbor's yards.

When the sun gets too bright, I'll open an umbrella and sit under that, but then the screen looks all stripey and I can't stop checking out my hair in my reflection, and then I move inside to the kitchen table and crack a window so that I can still hear what's going on.

The problem here is that I waste a lot of time trying to write, trying to remember what I was thinking five minutes ago, before [insert child's name] came crying home with a scraped knee, and I put some Neosporin on it and a bandaid, but the Neosporin smeared and now the bandaid won't stick and [insert other child's name] is crying because[insert neighbor child's name] told them they couldn't play 'soldier hide-out' because my child won't give them the big watergun, that is actually neighbor child's weapon.

So, I get a teensy bit frustrated.

But...

School is back in. Three kids down, one to go.

Jojo does all the standard things a 2 1/2 year old does. He stands on the couch next to me and jumps, wets his pants for attention (I studied functional behavior from the man who invented it at college, so I'm sure what the function of this behavior is.), lays on the floor with his shoes clutched to his chest and cries, "Weady go, Mommy!" As in "I'm ready to go to the park/pool/YMCA/store/playgroup/Granna's/eat lunch with Daddy/walk/ride bikes/sidewalk chalk/just get me out of this house!

Sometimes I feel like that as a writer. I have six hours a week (when noone is sick- last week I got zero hours due to illness)to write in solitaire. I will drop off Jonas at my friend's house for preschool and have 3.0 hours to do whatever I want. She lives 20 minuites away, but the library is only 5 minutes away from her house, so I go to the library. It is a small, 24'x40' building, but there are several desks and comfortable chairs (really- my toosh didn't fall asleep at all last time)and it is QUIET. A heaven on earth. I get more done there, away from my messes and refrigerator than I do in any six hours at home.

I don't want to misconstrue things. I love my kids and they are amazing and so fun.

I'm just speaking to the frustration of having a reasonable goal- such as edit one chapter a week- and not being able to get it done! My family is my life, and I was happy without writing, but I wouldn't be happy without them. I do need some time to work on my goals, and writing satisfies my creative itch. I'm trying to set some boundaries for writing and children, because good fences make good neighbors.

How do you carve out time for yourself- whatever it is you do for you?

I drove car pool yesterday, and all the kids had watched Obama's speech. My kids couldnt remember anything that he had said, but Neighbor Girl and Boy informed me that he'd said a Bad Word.

"What word?"

"I can't say it."

"It's okay. I just want to know what it was. You won't get in trouble."

"The 's' word."

My kids nod, solemnly remembering the moment of horror.

"The 'ST' word!" girl chimes in.

Ahhh, this is why everyone was so worried. I dig and, though noone will say the word, find that Obama said that even if you make mistakes, it doesn't mean you're "that word." I'm okay with that message. Have a great day!

Can't get enough?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Advice to an aspiring novelist

Hello world! I have a friend that has just started a novel. She asked for some writing tips and is a little reluctant to join an online writer's workshop because of possible idea theft. (Links to the the best writing tips are at the bottom!) This is my response:

I was concerned about letting people know what my story is about at first, too. But now that I'm talking to writers and understanding how much work it is to get something publish-worthy, I think the feedback I get from OWW far outweighs any risk. Everybody on their has their own "baby" that they're nurturing, and it's just too much work to take someone else's incomplete idea. Anyway, you only post up to three chapters at a time, and someone would have to stalk you for months to get the full story, and you don't have to post the polished version if you don't want to.

In addition, your computer files have save dates on them, and if someone uses large chunks of your work- not just the general ideas, because that's very very hard to prove and also extremely unlikely- you're protected that way.

Unless you're writing term papers, the risk of plagiarism is very unlikely. More likely is what happened to Stephenie Meyer- She sent out a few copies of a draft and that friend gave it to her friend, which gave it to her friend, etc.


(This happened after she was on the NYT bestseller's list. Most writers have to struggle to find someone who loves them enough to struggle through the early versions, myself included.)

So unless you don't want to risk *anyone* reading it, I wouldn't worry about posting it piece by piece online. Of course, this is my advice and you have to make the decision about what you feel comfortable with. But even after starting as a good writer, studying and writing constantly for a year, I find the impartial advice of people that aren't afraid to hurt my feelings (and to tell me what works) is the best best thing I have done to improve. Way cheaper than conferences, too.

The great thing about being in a workshop is you can also read other people's reviews of other writers' submission. This helped me to understand the vocabulary, to have the words when something wasn't "right", and to glimpse what experienced writers see when they read. It's a whole new process.

If you don't find things that bother you or you wish that they'd handled a little differently in MOST of the novels you read, then you either pick the greatest books ever penned or you need to develop your inner critic.

Again, this is meant as friendly advice based on my experience. Read, study, write. Make sure you understand passive voice and can spot it (and slay it like a dragon).
Find out what an info dump is and make a solemn vow not to do so. Don't overuse
"that, just, really, kindof, sortof" or other words that aren't necessary. Avoid adverbs unless you really really need one. No more than one exclamation point every ten pages, and the same for metaphors. Get a book on grammar if you don't have one already.

Be aware that when you send in a MS, you will have to change italics to underline, because the agents have weak eyes, poor things! And you will have to have your MS double spaced, one inch margins, with name/TITLE/page # in the upper right hand corner. Start each new chapter half-way down the page. 12 pt Times New Roman or Courier are the preferred fonts.

There's also the option, if you're really concerned about theft, to write short stories and post those to develop your skill as a writer but keep your novel at home.

The thing about early drafts is that they're early drafts. I can't say if your idea will fly because I truly believe in the hands of a persistant writer any story can be worth reading.

I write (roughly) for plot and character the first draft, consistency and flow the second draft. Deep characterization and believability in the third draft (where I'm at right now). It takes a lot of work to get it pretty, correct, charming, balanced, smooth, flowing, engaging, generous, surprising, and lively. I read an author's blog who posted all twelve of his versions for his chapter one. I read 1,2,3,4,5,8,and 12...and wow. He was a hack in the first draft, but by the end...it was good writing.

(And the book is getting published. I've searched for his blog but it's lost. Should have bookmarked it- Drat!)

My kids' guidance counselor has a quote on her bulletin board that I smile at everyday when I walk Eli to his door. "The great thing about being a writer is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. -David ???" I'll update tomorrow morning after I get his full name:)

Okay- that's all I 've got! Good luck, and send me your Ch 1. and a plot summary if you're still game:)


I would add, read up on writer's and agent's websites. A good place to start is my friend Teresa Frohock's Very Thorough Post of links to writerly tips. Nathan Bransford, super agent, put it all together in one place for you, too.
And, for anyone interested, I love Online Writer's Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Happy writing!

Is there another word for synonym?


Can't get enough?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Original, fresh...or not.

Back to plagiarism.
We went to the library today and checked out way too many books (25 total- seven for me, the rest for the kids, and hey- there's four of them.)

But how does this relate to stealing people's ideas and passing them off as your own? Simply. The children's area is right next to magazines and I picked up a copy of Reader's Digest. Guess what they call a section on writerly tips? INK WELL. Hey! That's my idea! I googled Ink Well when I picked it, and didn't get anything 'big' from that search, but apparently I missed this one. OR they stole my idea!

Either way, it is a big compliment, right? Because it says that professional writer magazine people picked the same double-meaning title for their regular column. Writer magazine writer must be doubly discerning, right?

I'm thinking of new titles for my blog- Ink Good (Well and Good are interchangeable, right?) Ma Gellin' (okay, no European explorer puns, but I'm struggling.)
Any ideas?
Can't get enough?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dan Brown Versus William Dietrich


What am I listening to on the ipod? Nothing.


Where am I supposed to be? In church, but I've two sickly children who are sleeping. Which means that I tried to fix my collapsing posts, but still can't find a way to get rid of the "click here" on posts that are not collapsed. So, Nathan will be home in an hour and wonder why I didn't do anything to tidy up, but the blog is important, people!


What am I reading? The Rosetta Key, by William Dietrich. About a hundred pages in.

Here's Chapter One


Rosetta Key follows Ethan cage though Jerusalem in the months before Napoleon is due to bring his conquest of the world to the Holy City. Cage is searching for a possible artifact of great power- power that pharaohs, Moses, and even Mohammed might have used to establish their nations.


Here's an analogy. Angels and Demons is to The Rosetta Key as National Treasure is to Indiana Jones.


Some, like my good friend the Book Dragon, have issues with Dan Brown, who many of you will know has a third book coming out. (On the other side, my mother-in-law has her copy reserved.)


I feel a bit sorry for him. No, really. Because how many symbols can you pack into a book before it all runs together? Readers pigeonholed him from the start, and good luck to him if he wants to write anything else.

And all of the fame, the over-crowded book signings, the bushels of letters and emails. How tedious. What a curse.

And, as Tevya says in Fiddler on the Roof, "May the Lord smite me with it."

Two snowmen are standing in a field. One says to the other : "Funny, I smell carrots too".

Can't get enough?