Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Years Resolutions

I hope everyone enjoyed my short story. I haven't updated my blog since I posted it so that I could draw as much attention to it as possible. Thank you to all who read it and all who shared it. I might work on a project about the entire life of Joseph, the father of Jesus, set in modern times...it sounds interesting to me, and I received a lot of positive responses to "That Man Might Live."

Anyway, as 2013 approaches, I want work on having a more concrete schedule.
  • Update my blog twice a week, instead of every day--I'm thinking Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • Wake up when my husband does, and go read for an hour or two (reading is the best way for authors to improve their craft, besides actually writing and practicing).
  • Get some sort of exercise daily.
  • Make daily writing goals and then accomplish them.
  • Spend more time with people, writing down the things that I hear and think about, and become better at observing the human condition.
I hope everyone had some good experiences with friends and family this holiday season, and I wish you all the happiest of 2013's.

Monday, December 17, 2012

That Man Might Live


That Man Might Live
By Jillian Leigh Torassa
          I stared at the smooth dark table my father made for me when I moved out of the house seven years ago. It was the only thing he passed on to me, besides my woodworking skills. I was different from him in every other way. He died a poor, miserable old man, and I didn’t miss him, though I knew I probably should.
          “Did you hear me?”
          “Yes,” I said.
          I looked up at Mary. Her arms were crossed over her chest, her pale pink lips pressed together tightly. The crease in her forehead--only there when she was upset--was deeper than usual, interrupting the flow of her smooth, porcelain skin. Her dark blue eyes appeared black as they watched me from beneath thin, dark eyebrows.
           “Don’t you have anything to say about it?”
           I looked down at my tan hands, which were crossed over the table. “No.”
          “Why not?”
           My eyes moved to her face, the muscles in my arms tense, and my stomach turning the fish and matzah I ate for dinner uncomfortably, making me want to vomit. “I’m not angry. But I wish you would respect me enough to tell me the truth.”
          A small tear ran down her cheek. She brushed it away and re-crossed her arms. “I am telling you the truth.”
          “You expect me to believe you’ve never been unfaithful to me?”
          “Don’t you trust me?”
          “I thought I did.”
          “Well, what’s changed?”
          I stared at her still-flat stomach, the words unable to leave my lips.
___
          The next morning, I arose early so I could be at the site before it got too hot. Building houses during the middle of the summer--never a fun job--paid the bills and helped me get my mind off things.
I pulled on my dirty pants and my snap-button shirt, grabbing a baseball hat to cover my messy black hair. I would shower after I got home from work. Buckling my tool belt around my waist, I headed out the door, ready for a day of manual labor and great distraction.  
          The Pennsylvania sun shone brightly outside my apartment, and as I walked to work, my mind wandered back to the summer, three years ago, when I first met Mary. I had been working in Allentown, which was 8 miles down the road. The kosher deli she worked at was a block away from our site, and while eating most of my lunches there, I managed to get to know the quiet but charming girl putting herself through grad school. Those were simpler times.
          Most of the guys were already there by the time I arrived. Andrew seemed to spot me first and cat-called, his dark chest already obnoxiously bare, despite the chill that still clung to the morning.
          “Look who slept in this morning,” he said, rubbing his abs with his already filthy hands.
          “Morning,” I said. Usually, I was the first crewmember on site, but I wasn’t in the mood to talk about what had kept me up all night, especially not with Andrew. 
         * “Did you finally . . . you know . . . ” Andrew leaned in closer, cupping his hand around one corner of his mouth as the rest of the guys started to chuckle. “Have the ‘S’ word with your little fiancĂ©e-poo last night?”
          Zeek, another now-shirtless team member started moving his hips back and forth, his fists pumping to signify he was “humping” the air. Andrew laughed wildly.
          I rolled my eyes, grabbing a hard hat from the make-shift desk we kept on hand at each site. Construction workers were every bit as crude as they were stereotypically thought out to be, and it was tough being the only Orthodox Jew among the bunch, unwilling to have sex before marriage, much less talk about it, or make lewd comments at scantily-clad females as they trounced by.
          “Seriously, man. We want to know what happened. If you’re hitting that sweet thang, we’ve gotta right to know,” Andrew said.
          I looked up, scratching the thin beard covering my cheeks and chin, my eyes narrowed and eyebrows raised. “Grow up, guys. Really.”
          Andrew rested his leg on a pile of wood, his hand on his thigh. “Then why are you late this morning? I’ve never seen you late, the whole six years I’ve worked with you.”
          Turning toward the partly-framed house, I chose to ignore him.
          “Lady troubles, I’ll bet.You know, it can’t be a coincidence. You get engaged, you become a slacker. The two have to be connected. It’s a death sentence, you know, marriage. I hope you’re prepared for that.”
          I pulled my hammer out of my belt and pounded a nail into the wood. Don’t worry, Andrew, I thought. I won’t be engaged for long. My chest felt tight as Mary’s small, beautiful face floated before my eyes. I slammed in another nail, and the vision vanished. 
___
          The sound of vacant stillness greeted me when I reached the apartment. Usually, Mary drove down from Allentown after work and waited for me until I got home, but not today. She must have realized I wanted to be alone.
          Gratefully, I sunk onto the couch, resting my elbows on my knees and rubbing my knuckles into my eyes. I just didn’t understand how she expected me to believe her. I would have been less hurt if she simply told me the truth. If my father were alive, he would have told me to publicly shame her—be the man, make the world know she had sinned, and be done with her forever. I didn’t want to be my father, and despite everything, I still loved Mary. I couldn’t marry her, but I didn’t have to embarrass her either.
          My stomach seemed to bubble up in my throat as I began to picture the conversation I would have to have with her tomorrow.
          I think we need to break off the engagement, I would say.
          You made a commitment to me. Why are you doing this?
          Because you cheated.
          No. I didn’t. Why don’t you trust me?
          How can you possibly be telling me the truth?
          I was never very good with words, especially when it came to confronting someone with unpleasant news, and I was sure to get tongue-tied and mixed up when she was standing there, weakening my judgment.
          Maybe I wouldn’t wait until tomorrow. I would have to do it quickly, like ripping off a Band-Aid. Reaching for my phone, I sent her a quick text.
          Can you swing by my place tonight?
          I flipped on the TV, all of my muscles feeling jumpy. Maybe I could just text her and tell her it was over. I knew she deserved better, but the idea felt so tempting. It would be hard to break off the engagement, her beautiful eyes staring up at me, anger and hurt etched deeply into every pigment of blue, her dark lashes fluttering rapidly in an attempt to remain in control.
          The phone vibrated on my leg. I picked it up, my stomach clenching.
          I can’t. I’m at my cousin’s. Are we okay?
          I closed my eyes and exhaled a shaky breathe.
          How can you even ask that? I texted back.
          The phone stayed silent at my side for the rest of the night.
___
          I woke up with a start, realizing I left the TV on through sundown and into the dawning of the Sabbath. I quickly turned it off, and headed to the bathroom, wishing I didn’t have to stay home all day tomorrow. I was grateful August agreed to give me every Saturday off as long as I worked for him, but I couldn’t help but wish he would occasionally insist I work through the weekend anyway, like a normal boss would. 
          I took a quick shower and headed to bed. My muscles were stiffer and more sore than usual, having worked them to the brink of exhaustion in order to keep my mind from wandering back to Mary. I slipped under the covers, welcoming the idea of sleep. 
          Somewhere between picturing my life without her and wondering what I would make for breakfast, I entered a huge white room with gold columns holding up a roof several stories high. I looked around me to find the floor covered in a thin, white mist. The warm mist danced and glittered with the soft light filling the cavernous space, and I felt a stillness come over me.
          “Aw, my son. You made it.”
          I spun around. An unfamiliar man in a white robe stood behind me. He wore a thick, white beard and a kindly look on his face. The corners of his eyes crinkled with a genuine smile as he headed toward me.
          “Who are you?” I said.
          “My son, I must tell you something. Something of eternal significance, not just for you, but for all mankind.”
          He reached me, and I found myself staring at my hands, unable to look at his oddly bright form.
          “Mary is telling the truth,” he said.
          I raised my eyes to his face, feeling tears on my cheeks.
          “How can that be so?”
          “Where is your faith, my son?”
          “I—”
          The man shook his head, and I fell silent.
          “Listen to me, Joseph. Do not be afraid to make Mary your wife. That which is conceived of her is of the Holy Ghost.”
          As he spoke the words, a warm feeling spread in my chest. It covered my whole body, filling my mind with light and peace.
          “Raise the child as though He were your own. He has an important mission to perform, and I have chosen you as His father in order that He might be raised to do all that He is meant to.”
           My eyes fluttered open as I awoke, and the warm feeling in my heart told me to call Mary immediately. 
___
          “What are we going to tell people?”
          I wondered the same thing.
         Mary’s head rested on my shoulder, her thin legs curled up on the couch next to me. I could still feel a wet spot on my shoulder from when she cried long after hearing the news.
          “I love you so much, do you know that?”
          I kissed her on the head. “I’m sorry I doubted it.”
          “I understand. I’m glad you decided to trust me. I know that must have been hard for you.”
          She snuggled a little closer, as my mind drifted back to the man with the white beard who told me I was chosen, chosen to raise a child who would save all mankind.
          “We could go away for awhile?” she said. “Elope, tour the world, not come home until after He’s born—”
          “I have my work here--I can’t just leave. And what about our families?”
          “You’ll never hear the end of it. Not from Andrew, not from the gang, not from your mother . . . I don’t suppose anyone else will ever believe our story?”
          “Probably not.” I slipped my arm around her waist, giving her a gentle squeeze, grateful for her presence, but wishing the warmth that filled my heart wouldn’t slip away so quickly.
          “I guess it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re together.”
          I looked down at her. She turned her eyes toward me, and her lips curved into a soft smile. I couldn’t help but smile in return. I bent down and pressed my lips softly to hers. “You and I know the truth. That is enough.”
          “I know. And we can worry about everything else later. But for tonight, let’s just spend some time together.” She rubbed her stomach, resting her head back on my shoulder. “You, me, and little JESUS.”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Naughty and Napkins


Thinking about what happened in Connecticut today, and what happened at the Clackamas Town Center earlier this week (in Portland, OR), it is tempting to think the worse of mankind. Also, during the holidays, some people get defensive, some people get rude, some people become self-centered as they search for presents, or try to make it to where ever they need to go in a timely manner. I admit that I’m guilty of “hating everyone” sometimes, especially when people are rude, small-minded, or  brutal, which unfortunately seems to happen a lot this time of year. I’m very sad for those who have lost loved-ones this week, and I’m grateful that my husband has returned safely home to me every night.

However, I’ve also been forced to realize that, with all the bad in the world, it is important to remember the good. The man who waves gratefully to you when you let him in on a busy road, the people who leave secrets gifts and do secret acts of service for one another, and the random lady who draws a picture of your father-in-law on a napkin at dinner, without his knowledge, and giving it to him as a lovely Christmas gift. “You have a great face,” she said.   

People are ultimately good. Sometimes you have to look harder for it than for the bad, but it’s there. And there are numerous examples of it, as long as you take the time to look. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to Write a Short Story


All of the following comes from the 6 different websites listed at the bottom of this page. Almost none of this is my own writing, and I will not take credit for it (Also, I'm sorry, Mom, for not doing in-text citations correctly. I know you're dying a little inside). 

There are 7 things you need to think about when you are writing a short story: structure, theme, plot, time span, setting, characters, and dialogue.

Structure 
Short stories usually follow a traditional plot structure: exposition (with a powerful “hook”), conflict (against self or an outside force), rising action or complication, climax, and resolution.

Something has to happen in the story. Things like conflict and resolution achieve this effect. You can build conflict through mystery (explain just enough to tease the readers), empowering both sides, intensifying the obstacles as the story progresses, creating surprise through sufficient complexity, empathy, universality, and high stakes—convince readers that the outcome matters because someone they care about could lose something precious.

As with any type of writing, the beginning and the end are the most important parts. Make sure your first and last lines are the strongest in the story. The beginning should catch your reader’s attention with the unusual or the unexpected, or drop her in the middle of the action or conflict. Begin with tension and immediacy, starting as close to the end as possible. Then, the end of the story should resolve the conflict. This shouldn’t be too drawn out though, and it can simply show that the character is beginning to change, or hint at how things might be different in the future.

Theme
Every piece of writing must have a message or thread of meaning running through it, and this theme is the skeleton or framework on which you hang your plot, characters, setting etc. As you write, make sure that every word is related to this theme.

It's tempting to use your short story to show off your talents of characterization, descriptive writing, or dialogue, but remember that every excess word is a word that dilutes the impact of your story.

The best stories are the ones that follow a narrow subject line. Decide what the point of your story is and even though it's tempting to digress, you must stick to the point. Otherwise, you end up with either a novel beginning or a mish-mash of ideas that add up to nothing.

Plot 
Always begin with an intriguing first paragraph or lead.

Be selective: Every sentence must do one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.

Always remember, unexpected consequences ramp up emotional energy. Also, be a sadist. Make drama happen.

Time Span
You should shoot for about 10-25 pages as a good rule of thumb.

Limit the time frame--It's unrealistic to cover years of a character's life in twenty-five pages. (Even a month might be a challenge.) By limiting the time period, you allow more focus on the events that are included in the narrative.

If you find that your story overflows these boundaries (or any of the boundaries) no matter what you do, consider expanding it into a novel.

Setting
Choose your setting carefully—you are limited by space in a short story.

Appeal to the five senses to make your settings more realistic to the reader.

You need to paint such a vivid picture that the reader can imagine herself in the scene. It helps to place yourself into the setting and transpose this into your writing. If you can’t see it clearly, the reader certainly won’t be able to.

Characters
It is important for the writer to know everything about the characters (name, job, temperament, phobias, strong memories, etc, etc), but in a short story, ONLY INCLUDE THE DETAILS RELAVANT TO THE STORY.

Give the reader at least one character she can root for.

Use few characters and stick to one point of view.--You simply will not have room for more than one or two round characters. Find economical ways to characterize your protagonist, and describe minor characters briefly. Having only one or two protagonists naturally limits your opportunities to switch perspectives. Even if you're tempted to try it, you will have trouble fully realizing, in a balanced way, more than one point of view.

Dialogue
Don’t use any synonyms of “said,” unless the emotion can’t be built into the scene. For example, you don’t need to write “I love you,” she said passionately, or “I love you,” she gushed, because the reader already hears a tone associated with the words “I love you” in her head. BUT if the character says “I love you” sarcastically, or manipulatively, you might want to add that tag so the reader catches it, unless the drama is already built into the scene.

Always remember to show, not tell. If there is silence in the scene, don’t just tell the reader, “They sat in silence…” Describe the silence—“She heard Mr. Smith’s lawnmower outside as she stared at her shoes.”

Dialogue is a powerful way to convey character, but it must contribute to the main focus of the story. Every word you put into the mouth of your characters must contribute to revealing your theme ... if it doesn't, cut it.

If you are still having trouble, here are some brainstorming tips:
Brainstorming
Keep a notebook on you—write down overheard conversations, expressive phrases, images, personal experiences, ideas, and interpretations of the world around you as they come to you.

Write on a regular basis, even if you don’t feel like it.

Collect: Keep the amazing, the unusual, the strange, the irrational stories you hear and use them for your own purposes.

Just always remember that “writing short stories means beginning as close to the conclusion as possible, and grabbing the reader in the very first moments. Conserve characters and scenes, typically by focusing on just one conflict. Drive towards a sudden, unexpected revelation,” and you should be good to go.

Websites

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Random thoughts

Today, I have a lot of random thoughts floating around in my head.


  • First, I heard these exact words from an anchor on Fox News yesterday: “Water boarding? More like Awesome Boarding.” I'm pretty sure he was 100% serious, because he went on to say how everyone, even liberals, would be okay with torture at some time or another, if the circumstance was right. Are you kidding me? Is this some kind of joke? Man, I hate Fox News...
  • Second, I found two amazing recipes yesterday: Peanut butter-chocolate chip banana bread, and then one for fajitas. They were both delicious. I have a very tasty list of recipes that I've started collecting, if I do say so myself. I'll post the links at the bottom of the page, if you're interested. 
  • Third, I'm going to change my Smarts story into the first person perspective. It'll take a lot of work, but there are some good reasons to change it. I think the story will be more powerful from an "I" narrator, and I want to solidify my characters a little better. It will mean taking a break from moving forward with my story and editing what I already have, but I want to change perspective for the 75 or so pages I already have, rather than for an entire, completed novel. That project will start immediately. 
  • Fourth, I want to write a short Christmas story from the perspective of Joseph, the father of Jesus. I finished character sketches for that project yesterday. 
  • Fifth, Jordan and Allison will be home soon, and The Hobbit comes out on Friday!!!
  • Sixth, I had an ANWA Moonwriting meeting today...they are splitting the chapter into three, and I was one of the 7 out of 30 members who was there today. That means I somehow ended up being the president of one of the new chapters, even though I've only been a member of this group for about two months. Yikes! I'm nervous, but I'm grateful for the chance to serve and bulk up my resume!

I think that's all for now. Tomorrow, I'm going to post the lesson I compiled for the ANWA meeting about writing short stories. It's mostly a compilation of other peoples' suggestions, so I can't take credit for the writing, but there is some good advice in there. Stay tuned. 




Tuesday, December 11, 2012

11 Writing Commandments

I found some good writing advice yesterday from Henry Miller and John Steinbeck. Henry Miller's was labeled "11 Commandments of Writing and Daily Creative Routine," and Steinbeck had "Six Tips on Writing." The two sort of contradicted each other in areas, and not everything seemed to apply to me, so I pulled 11 out of the 17 combined that I really liked.
Here they are:
1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
2. Don't be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is at hand.
3. When you can't create you can work. 
4. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
5. Don't be a draft-horse! Work with pleasure only.
6. Discard the Program when you feel like it--but go back to it the next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude. 
7. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
8. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
9. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
10. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
11. If a scene of a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it--bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole, you can come back to it, and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn't belong there.

11 Commandments from Miller
6 Tips from Steinbeck

Monday, December 10, 2012

Google

Thanks to the Google home page today, I realize how extremely grateful I am for computers.
I can't even imagine what life was like before we had them, especially for writers.
It's so convenient to have the internet at your fingertips, when you can't think of a name for a character, you don't know what the pointy shoes were called that they wore in the Middle Ages (crackowes, by the way), or you need to find scientific evidence to back up your latest story idea. 
Besides that though, I don't think I would be able to stand writing out everything by hand. Now, you just whip up a Word document and start typing. You can even edit as you go! Considering how many drafts, half-drafts, and minor edits my writing (and also my college papers) have gone through and have yet to go through, I am so glad that I don't have to do any of it by "hand." 
Although, I am starting to lose that callus on the middle finger of my right hand since I graduated (I never stopped taking notes by hand in my classes). That's a little sad, but not sad enough to make me stop using my laptop. 
Thank goodness for computers (I would have hated typewriters too).


Friday, December 7, 2012

Angry Birds

Today, I hung out with my cousins who didn't have school.
I learned how to play Halo, and I wasn't as terrible at it as I was the last time I tried.
But the really horrible thing is that I learned how to play Angry Birds. Star Wars Angry Birds, no less, and I can't stop playing. Luckily, the tablet battery died, so I was forced to let it go.
Yikes.
It was a relaxing day though. It probably shouldn't have been...it's almost the weekend after all. But Ethan and Eli had the day off, I just finished finals, and it's almost Christmas.
Man, I feel like a lot of my posts are about how I decided to take the day off...I'm not as lazy as I sound, I promise.
At least, I don't think I'm lazy...
I've having a hard time feeling like my life is worthwhile today.
I guess that means I should go play more Angry Birds.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Celebration!

Today is the last day of History 417!
By 5:00 pm today, all of the assignments will be turned in. I'll spend tomorrow grading them (although, there really isn't much of a chance that more than 8 papers will be turned in), and then I'll be done!
It was a good experience, and I'm glad I got a chance to beef up my resume a little bit, but if I have to read another paper that is formulaically about Mythpoeic cultures, Egypt, Mesopotamia  Greece, Rome, Christianity in the Dark Ages, and Islam (almost always in exactly that order, almost always about the exact same things), I will kick a puppy. I mean it. A real live puppy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Songs


I heard this song on the radio today, and it made me smile.
For those of you who don't know, which is probably most people, I also like to write songs. I play a little guitar, and I've written about 12ish songs since I learned how.
This song inspired me. I think I want to take a break from all of my novel-writing projects, and write a Christmas song or two in the next couple of weeks, to give my muse something new to do.
We'll see how that goes.
In the meantime, I'll just keep on truckin', since I'm going to start looking for a job in January, and I want to take advantage of being able to write all day while I still can.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Walking

I've discovered that walking is a good way to clear my head and get some good ideas for my writing. 

Today, I walked 3.5 miles round trip to Office Max to pick up our 2012 Christmas letter, and I was able to brainstorm lots of good ideas for book titles on the way. Titles are probably my biggest weakness, and it was kind of cool how fun/good/great ideas kept randomly popping into my head. 
 
I'll have to work walking into my schedule more purposefully/frequently in order to aid my writing career. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Bragging time

So, I've had writer's block all week. Today, I'm going to continue working on describing scenes.
But, since I don't have any other writing news to share with you today, I'm going to write about my Disney Cruise in detail, complete with pictures.
Here goes.

After driving from Salem to LA, we finally got to board the Disney Wonder, after weeks of anticipation. We arrived, and guess what? It turns out the one thing I forgot to legally change my name on was my passport. I was still Jillian Reid. But, after sweaty palms and a mild anxiety attack, we finally got it figured out. The lady at the counter told me not to worry: Micky would know we were married and not living in sin, even if my Key to the World card suggested that Josh and I weren't legally wed. True story.

Anyway, after being greeted regally by a cast of cheering crew members, we immediately headed to lunch...did you know that on average, an adult will gain 7-14 pounds on a cruise? The eating starts as soon as you get on, and doesn't stop until you're gone. It was bliss.

After that, we decided to explore. We went up to the spa, just for fun, and ended up taking a tour. After the tour, we got to enter our names into a drawing...and I won! $150 toward any spa treatment! I've never won a drawing before, and I booked a seaweed soak/massage thing for that night. Unfortunately, I was wearing a seasick patch, had taken some supplemental Dramamine, and some anxiety medicine...so I woke up the next morning, thinking the entire thing was a dream. But it wasn't. I have pictorial proof!

The next day, the fun really started to kick off. We began the morning with a character breakfast, where Puto, our Indonesian waiter, made us all napkin hats. Then, we watched Aladdin by the pool on the 9th deck, and explored the ship. It was gigantic and amazing.

But the really fantastic part was the formal night. We got all dolled up, went to a beautiful dinner, and then saw a spectacular show: The Golden Mickeys. All of the entertainment on the ship was top notch that week, and the Golden Mickeys were certainly no exception. Then, we went to an after party, where we danced like idiots and Allison fell in love with a cutie crew member named Robin. After that, we saw Michael Harrison's adult only ventriloquist show and played 80's music trivia, where our team kicked butt, and there was a lot more dancing. Robin was dressed up as Elton John, and he danced with Allison. Just in case you were wondering.

Because Monday night was exhausting, we decided to sleep in Tuesday morning. We had a late breakfast buffet, and then tried to see Brave at the Buena Vista theater. But, it was in 3D, and the enclosed room + the 3D glasses + the seasickness made for a very bad combination. So, instead we hung out in our state room, where they played old Disney movies (as well as a few newer releases that weren't Disney) 24/7. We grabbed some lunch (free food and soda whenever you wanted it!) before heading to movie quote trivia, where Josh, Jordan, and I won a metal. No big deal (it totally was).


That night, we played Banana Grams, ate more, took pictures with Peter Pan and Ariel, and saw Lincoln. It was a very relaxing day.

 Wednesday, however, was less relaxing. Don't get me wrong, it was still a blast. But, that's the day the seasickness and heat exhaustion hit me the worst. I'm an Oregonian. I don't fair well in the heat. This was the day we went on a Pirate Adventure!


We took the ship to a private beach, where we played in the water and got huge, rocky grains of sand everywhere. The crew of the pirate ship was nice and funny, and everything was fine once I took a couple of Dramamine. I even got to drive the boat for a little while! This was our day in Puerto Vallarta, and I bought a couple of pairs of cute, hand-made earrings as well. Also, that night was Pirate themed, so we had a pirate dinner and there was a deck party. Josh and I didn't go though, because we went to bed super early, but we did get to see the fireworks out of our state room window.

For Thanksgiving, we spent the day in Cabo San Lucas. If I learned anything from my time in Mexico, it's that their economy is driven by pushy vendors trying to get you to take their water taxis. "No thank you," was an important part of my vocabulary there. It was really fun though, and I loved how bright and colorful everything was. It was awesome to see Josh haggle with the vendors: We got a hand-crafted plate and bowl, a hand-made doll, a finger painted tile with the Wonder on it, some salt and pepper shakers, and 2 pairs of "90% genuine" Raybans. We spent the day on the beach, and then watched Toy Story the Musical and a magic show back on the ship.

Friday was another relaxing day. We spent the morning in Cabo, but the ship left for LA at one in the afternoon, so we spent the rest of the day reading in the hot tub and hanging by the pool, as well as watching more movies in our state room. This was the night of the semi-formal dinner, and we saw Disney Dreams for the on-board entertainment, played a "newly weds" game, and saw Ed Alanzo's magic show. Also, I just have to say, Josh looked awesome that night.

We slept in our last day of the cruise. The morning was leisurely, and we ate lots, did more trivia, and played Banana Grams. The final show was called 'Til We Meet Again, and we saw the juggling, joking, and music act of Steve Carte. Then, our favorite crew members did a skit ("If I Were Not Upon the Sea"), and we went to bed, sad to be leaving in the morning. I will always miss Boniface, Puto, Robin, Simon, and all the other crew members who made out week so enjoyable.

Sunday, we drove straight home, and everyone had work early Monday morning.
But, it was the best vacation ever. The crew was amazing, friendly, and on top of things, we didn't have to clean or cook, the entertainment was awesome, we could relax when we wanted to and play when we didn't, the food was spectacular, the experience was unforgettable, and of course, the Disney magic was undeniable.

(P.S. 2012, not ZOIZ. In case you were wondering.)
It was a Reid Family Reunion to Remember!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Maps

I've made a discovery:
One of the problems I've been having is that I don't clearly see WHERE my story is taking place. The setting has been of a secondary importance--up until I realized that it shouldn't be--which is making it hard to really get a sense of the world I'm creating.
How can I understand the relationships between my characters, the society they live in, or their reactions to things, if I don't even fully understand where they are living?

So, today, I am going to devote my time to writing out the setting for my novel. I'm going to write detailed descriptions of the town, the school, etc, and then I am going to draw out some maps. Maybe I'll even draw in a bit more detail the world I am creating.

My readers may never see this supplemental information, but it will help my story become a lot more full and realistic if I know what the heck I'm talking about.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Focus--

I had none today. 
  • Making Christmas presents
  • Watching White Christmas
  • Baking chocolate peanut butter bars
  • Laundry
  • Facebooking
  • Writing letters
These were all things I did today instead of writing and grading. 
I tried my best, but I just can't do it. 
Do I have it in me to write an ENTIRE novel??

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Where to go next?

I'm currently working on a novel (working title: The Smarts) that I'm very excited about. However, I've reached the end of my detailed outline, and I need to figure out what happens next.

Initially, I went through chapter 7 and made specific bullet points of how I was going to get from one point to another throughout the chapters. I have a bunch of other bullet points that tell me generally where I want to go before the end of the novel, but it's time to think details again.

That will be my project for tomorrow: Make bullet points of how I can get from where I am now to where I want to go. Problem is, I don't know what I want to happen along the way. I guess I'll find out tomorrow.

In other news, my first novel is on the back burner until 2013. It's discouraging that the process of becoming an author is taking so long, but that's the nature of the job, I suppose. I need a break from it--it will be more beneficial for me in the long run when I try and submit it to publishers.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Real World

We arrived back in Salem from our wonderful Mexican Riviera Disney Cruise at 1:45 am last night.
This morning, I only had 4 essays waiting for me, which was not as many as I was expecting, as I was incommunicado for a week, but still 4 more than I wanted to grade.
I still feet like I'm on the ship...when will the dizzies go away??
My stomach has stretched and I've been craving juice like crazy.
I gave myself the day to readjust to reality...but tomorrow--

It's back to work! 

Yippee?

Friday, November 16, 2012

30 days has November...


Sunday, I leave for a Disney cruise with my Dad’s side of the family, and consequently, I will by MIA until Monday, November 26th. Because of this, I thought I’d leave you with a list of things I’m grateful for, since it’s the month of Gratitude.
30 things (for the 30 days in November) that I’m thankful for:
  1. My writing talent
  2. My savior
  3. Cell phones, computers, and Skype
  4. I am married to my best friend, and we are sealed for eternity. 
  5. The scriptures--The New and Old Testament, the Book of Mormon, the D&C...they're all so wonderful in their own ways. 
  6. Books and pictures
  7. Laughter
  8. My family and friends
  9. Running/hot water
  10. The opportunities I have had to travel
  11. The Holy Spirit
  12. The fact that my husband is so supportive of my dreams and will never let me give up on them. 
  13. Epiphanies
  14. The Temple
  15. Second chances (and third, and forth...)
  16. Modern medicine
  17. My education
  18. My healthy body
  19. The restored gospel
  20. The fact that my husband found a job, and I get to work doing what I love
  21. Despite temporary unemployment, we have wanted for nothing, thanks to loving and caring family members
  22. I live in the most beautiful place on Earth
  23. Electricity
  24. We have a reliable car 
  25. Netflix
  26. Washing machines and dishwashers
  27. Air conditioning/heating
  28. Pizza and ice cream
  29. Fire places
  30. We're going on a Disney Cruise!!!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Have a great week. 





Thursday, November 15, 2012

8 hours and counting...

I'm going to put in 8 hours of writing today. Just writing.
I don't care how far I get. All that matters is that I work until my husband gets home.
Then, I'm off for ten days!
I'm so grateful I have all this time to write before my life starts to get super busy. I know it's coming...but as of today, I have 8 hours free in which I can dive into the lives of my characters, and create a world that isn't my own.

How exciting is that?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dialogue


One of the things I am really good at is writing dialogue. I don't often get to toot my own horn, so I'm going to go ahead and do it today. 

Many people have told me that I write really realistic and funny conversations between my characters. Now, I'm not so good at other things, such as describing the scene, filling characters' thoughts with emotional responses, or describing action, so I've been thinking that maybe I should divert my efforts to writing screenplays instead of novels. 

But, while I'm contemplating a major shift in my career aspirations, I'm going to make a pathetic confession: My favorite night of the week is Thursday night. Want to know why? It's because Thursdays are when new episodes of The Big Bang Theory, The Office, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, and hopefully soon, Community come out. And, I can watch Modern Family on hulu before the fun starts at 8 pm. 

Isn't it sad that my life seems to revolve around these TV shows?

Well, first of all, it doesn't. I don't actually watch much TV besides this, so I think it's okay to indulge myself once a week. And secondly, these shows are so well-written and funny that I really look to them as inspiration in my own writing. I write good dialogue because I've grown up watching smart TV. 

Every author has a list of his or her influences, and mine just happens to include funny TV shows. Obviously, not exclusively, but still. Arrested Development, The Simpsons, and Gilmore Girls are also brilliant contributors to my genius. 

I feel like my life is just a little sad by admitting this. But let me give you an example: 
"Stale pastry is hallow succor to a man who is bereft of ostrich."
--The Big Bang Theory

Hilarious, right? 

Anyway, that's my thought for the day. 

And to my mom, and all other like-minded English teachers who bemoan the loss of culture in the younger generations: Cheer up. Culture is just shifting. I agree it's sad that people don't read the classics (or any books, for that matter) as much as they used to, but the human spirit will always need a creative outlet, an escape from everyday life. Culture isn't disappearing: it's just shifting. For better or worse, I guess that remains to be seen. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Four more days...

I just need to put in four more days of hard work until I can start my Disney cruise vacation!

Getting back from Veteran's Day weekend, I'm not quite ready to jump back into work. But I only need to focus for four more days...that's all that's keeping me going.

In the next four days (did I mention it's only FOUR more days?), I need to grade papers, reach 100 pages in my current novel, attend an ANWA meeting, pack, tie up odds and ends for the week I'm going to be gone, make a doctor's appointment, write a short story, and...I feel like there's something else. Uh oh. I hope I can remember everything I need to do IN THE NEXT FOUR DAYS, before leaving for California/Mexico on a DISNEY CRUISE!

I need to make a To Do list. I'll put that on my list of things to do before my Disney Cruise. Which I'm leaving for in four more days...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Everyone's gotta start somewhere...

When you start working in business, you can't just jump in and become the CEO. When you start acting, you can't just expect that you'll get a call asking you to be in the next big Blockbuster hit of the summer. When you run for public office for the first time, you can't assume that you'll be able to get elected as president of the United States right off the bat. When you start working at any company or in any profession, you can't just walk in and conclude that they want you to run the place.

It's a simple concept, but one I've been struggling with a lot lately.

I want to be an author. That's my dream, and I don't want to give up on it. But it's so hard to devote my time to writing when I have nothing to show for it yet, especially when I feel like I should be contributing to my family's finances.

"What do you do?"
"I'm an author."
"Really? Would I have read anything of yours."
"Well, no. I'm not exactly published yet."

How can you be an author if you aren't published? I want to be able to point to a physical object and say, "Look. See that? I wrote that." I want to be able to look at my bank account and say, "Yes. I do get a check from my work. Everything I do does pays off."

I know I have to start at the bottom, and I have to develop my talents and get discovered, but it can just be so discouraging sometimes.

I'm so grateful for my husband, who will never let me abandon my dreams. He encourages me when I start to doubt myself, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to support me.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Is it Friday yet?

I've been editing like mad all day today.
Both History of Science midterms and a novel for a fellow ANWA writer.
I'm exhausted, and I don't know if I have any juice left in me to work on my own stories.
I can't wait for the weekend.
Only one more day.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hatred and Fear

You can't fight hatred with hatred.
Focus on leaving the world a better place than you found it,
and love people with all your heart.
All people.
Understanding, empathy, charity, and love are the only ways the world has a prayer of getting better.
Care a little more about humanity, and don't focus on the prideful tendency to be "right."
Only when you purge yourself of hate will Darkness be defeated.
Giving into that hate will only make it stronger, no matter how pure your intentions.
And don't be afraid. Just have faith. In yourself, in humanity, in whatever Greater Power you choose to look to.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.
--Yoda

May the Dark Side never win.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kayaking: An Object Lesson

When my husband and I were in Hawaii, we stayed with his sister and her family. Josh had two things he wanted to do: Snorkeling and kayaking. Stephanie and Harold said they would take us to do both. Everything else, Josh could take or leave, he just wanted to do those two things. That's why I felt so bad when I got sea sick snorkeling, and I almost died kayaking.

Don't let the "thumbs up" full you. It was scary.
Here's why I almost died:

Kayaking takes a lot of core work. I've never had very strong abs, therefore I used mostly my arms. Here's a technical tip: That's wrong. I was not expecting to tire out so quickly, but it didn't take long at all before my arms were aching and I started to loose control.

Then, we ended up in a some pretty rough waves. After my arms were already aching, mind you. The waves kind of came out of nowhere: One minute, we were dinking around in the kiddy section of the ocean, the next, we were way out in the bay, being attacked by the vindictive Poseidon  Neither of us stayed in our kayaks very well, and I got tired even faster trying to keep from drowning.

Once I finally got out of the waves, I had to paddle back to shore. It felt miles away, and every part of my upper body ached. I didn't think I could make it. I really wanted to hop into someone else's boat, and have them tug my kayak to shore, but I didn't think that was possible. All of our kayaks were made for one person, and one person only. I wanted to give up and just let the waves have their way with me.

BUT, and here's the object lesson of today's story, Harold, my brother-in-law, ended up coming to my rescue. He took my kayak, attached it to the back of his, and tugged it back to shore. He couldn't take me back on his kayak though, so I got to walk. The water was about mid-thigh high, so it wasn't exactly easy to walk, not to mention the uneven bottom, sharp coral, small and tugging waves, salt water, and sinking sand, but it gave my arms a break. I wasn't close to collapsing from exhaustion anymore, and I made it safely back to shore.

 I learned a lesson about Christ that day: He lets you go, until you are seriously considering giving up and just letting the waves of life pull you back from your destination, but then, He helps you. Right at the last moment, He lightens your load so you can do it. You can keep pushing toward the shore, toward the end. You still have to do some work, and it's still going to be hard, but you can do it. He wants to help you, as much as He can.

It's an experience that I've thought a lot about since our trip, and I'm glad I finally got around to writing it down.









And at least we got to see this guy when we went snorkeling!



Monday, November 5, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse 2012

I had  this really great idea to write a novel or short story called Zombie Apocalypse 2012.

I was going to collect clippings, quotes, and pictures from 2012 newspapers to create a zombie story linking reality with imagination as I created a new, crazy, apocalyptic, sad, gruesome, romantic, touching, etc story that had to do with the end of the world and the 2012 presidential election. Unfortunately, I didn't think of this idea until much too late in the year. I wasn't able to collect clippings from all of 2012, and I wouldn't have had time to finish it before election day anyway. It just wouldn't be topical any more if I pursued it at this point. 

But, I thought I'd share the synopsis: 

A brother and sister (Catsup and Mustard) are home alone when an army of zombies burst into their house. They are children of a washed-up movie star (Tootsie Collins) and a camera man she picked up from her last film (Javier Chavez, who is an immigrant). They are a middle class family, but they are bent on living above their station (because of Tootsie’s history of would-be-glitz). They are an average American family, and yet a picture of how the American Dream doesn’t quite get you anywhere special. News snipits caught from TV’s, radios, etc alert the small town that they will receive no help from anyone…the government is too busy fighting itself. The children die because political “monsters” in Washington become more important than the actual problems of the every-day American. 

I didn't really know how to fill in the holes though, so the project has just been sitting in my computer, a concept without a body. 

I did get this far thought: 


        “I am never living in New York,” Mustard announced as they marched out of the dark theater into the bright sunshine.  
        Tootsie and Javier laughed.
        “Oh, my darling. That wasn’t real,” Tootsie said in her Hollywood Voice with a sweep of her thin, white hand and a chortle that surely would impress the Queen of England herself. She always used her Hollywood Voice after they left the movies.
        "Yeah, dummy. Don't you know that movies are fake?" said Catsup, Mustard's horrible older sister. 
        Mustard just stared at his feet as he walked across the hot asphalt. It was true though. Bad things always seemed to happen in New York. Today, as the family sought to escape the July heat in the pleasantly cool town movie theater, there had been an alien attack led by a Norse demi-god. The city had been destroyed. 

Then I didn't have anything else to say, except for this little paragraph, which would obviously be much later in the story: 

Mustard hauled the old and heavy boxes over the attic door. They weren’t getting in here. He would be safe up in the attic. Wood and cardboard scraped over the dusty floor boards as the sound of undead feet dragging across the carpet below drifted up into his ear canals. They could search the house high and low. They would never find him. And then they would move on.       

That's all I have, and tomorrow, it won't matter anymore (thank goodness it's election day). Should I write it anyway? Maybe I'll save it for the next election. Who knows. But it would have been perfect to add clippings from the news on Hurricane Sandy (Everything bad always seem to happen in New York!), at the risk of sounding unfeeling or unsympathetic. 

What do you think? Should I give up on it, or does it have potential to be awesome?  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Homework

It wasn't quite the shot I wanted, because I had to drive a little too far down the hill to park safely, but I did it!


That's all I have to say for the day. Go enjoy your weekend!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Smell the Roses

There is a beautiful spot in Keizer, just as you start down the Wheatland hill, that is so gorgeous during the fall, that I can barely stand it. It's a small thing, but it's something in my life that makes my heart feel light, no matter what.

Today, as I drove down the hill, I thought, I should just pull over and take a picture of this beautiful scene, so I can look at it always, not just during the fall. I had an appointment to get to, so I didn't stop.

...sad.

But I am going to drive back over there, pull over, and take a picture. Just as soon as I finish writing for the day.  It won't be as wonderful as the real thing, but I need to stop and smell the metaphorical roses.

Do what makes you Happy every day!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ghosts

I know it isn't Halloween anymore, but I'm still allowed to be a little spooked by the wind outside: Branches scraping at the window, the howling of the air current (which I know is really a call from the dead), and the creaking of the house make me want to curl up on my bed with fuzzy socks and watch something ridiculously happy and nowhere near creepy, sad, or abysmal.

Unfortunately, I am only spooked because I have an over-active imagination, which is why I have decided to become on author, which means I can't watch happy movies all day, but rather, I have to write and write and write until my fingers fall off, and then I can join the group of zombies waiting for me outside the door, because they too do not have any fingers, seeing as they are rotting messes of stinking flesh. Maybe I'll write something happy, if I can't watch something happy...but who has time for happiness anymore? Besides, I don't know long I'll have my brain for...

At least my imagination is revving enough to have a very productive day.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNoWriMo

I would really like to participate in National Novel Writing Month, but I don't know if I can.

  • For experience and for a little extra cash, I am working as a class room assistant for a writing intensive class at Oregon State University, and it's midterm season. 
  • For the next two weeks, I would like to critique other group members' work for our monthly ANWAMoonwriters meeting. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, right?
  • I swapped books with another ANWA writer, and I need to finish looking at it by Nov. 10
  • After Nov. 14, I might have more time, except I'm going to be spending a week on a Disney Cruise with my family. 
November is pretty busy for me, but it sounds like such a fun thing to do. Maybe I'll wait until next year?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Editing

One of the "joys" of being an author is the constant amount of editing you have to do.

So, I finished my first novel, or collection of short stories, a while ago. I set it aside for a little bit and worked on other projects so that I could look at it with new eyes once I was ready to keep working on it. I've since picked it up again, and I've reached a somewhat disheartening conclusion: I'm not finished yet.

I need to tie my stories together. I am pretty happy with my short stories at this point, but I need to write something more. Perhaps one story with one set of characters that I can intersperse with my other unconnected stories, to make it more...I don't know. I have to keep thinking about.

I thought I was done writing and moved on to just editing, but I guess I was wrong. I'm not done. Not yet.

You're never really done with a story. There are always ways you can improve. I just hope I will some day get this project to the point where I'm happy sending it in to an editor to publish.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Check your blind spot!

This morning, Josh and I woke up early. We headed down to Albany, where we worked all day helping my grandparents move out of their house.

First, We helped clean out the barn: I was attacked my spiders. I really don't like spiders.

Second, we had to work all day packing and/or getting rid of memories, not to mention all of the memories that come just from the structure of the house itself, as well as the extensive yard. Sad.

Third, my blood sugar dropped super low without me even noticing, and I almost passed out.

Fourth, we moved a lot of heavy things into a llama trailer to be transported to storage. Very heavy things.

Fifth, Josh tripped backwards over a bed frame and almost tumbled to his death. We haven't been married quite long enough for me to wish him dead yet!

So, after a long and stressful day of packing/moving/cleaning, it was time to move things to the storage unit. We get to the storage unit in Stayton after dark and unloaded everything. Once that was done, we were all tired and starving and ready to be finished. So we planned to leave.

WRONG!

The gates [apparently] stop working at 8 o'clock pm. We reach the gate at 7:59. We accidentally put in the wrong code. The door gate doesn't open. The minute hand rolls over. We're locked in.

It's very cold out (and misty and damp!) and we're locked inside of the storage unit that we didn't know closed at 8.

Despite all the complaining, none of it was all that bad. The storage unit thing was actually pretty funny. Here is the part where I REALLY complain:

TWICE today, yes, TWICE a car--on the free way--in the other lane tried to switch lanes into the space that out car was already occupying. CHECK YOUR BLIND SPOTS! This isn't the first time this has happened to us either. Seriously? Why is it so hard? Don't put other people's lives in danger. Pay attention. Please, please, please pay attention. I'm not ready to die. I have so much I have to do with my life still!

My biggest fear: Car accidents. Now you know, and you obviously will never drive negligently ever again.



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mind-blown

Our minds are powerful things.
Hold your hand out in front of you. Focus on it. Does it feel different? Are there pains or pulses there that you never noticed before?
Your mind can make you sick. Your mind can make you better.
A mind is a beautiful thing!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Change

My grandparents are moving out of the house they have lived in for 18-ish years. I feel like I grew up in that house, and it's been a really sad thought to get used to. I don't want them to go!

But, with change often comes stories.

After helping them pack and clean all day yesterday, a flood of memories that I hadn't thought about in years came to the forefront of my mind. I always try and look for inspiration in all of my experiences, but until yesterday, I hadn't even really considered the experiences I went through many years ago. My past is still part of who I am, and maybe I will use some of those memories for inspiration in future projects to come.

Good luck, Grammie and Bubba, with all your future endeavors. I know you're sad to leave too, but change is an important part of life. It is one of the many things that fuels our storytelling, as well as our imaginations. What will happen next? Who knows!





Monday, October 22, 2012

Mondays...oy.

Last night, after lying in bed for hours without being able to fall asleep, I decided to watch a movie. I picked Finding Neverland. I've always really liked that movie, and last night, I enjoyed it just as much, despite the frustration of being awake at 2 am with no prospects of sleep in view.

I really like how Johnny Depp portrayed JM Berry, and I want to be a girl at heart all throughout my life, imagination alive, just like he was (except he was a boy, and I'm a girl...obviously). I want to do what makes me happy, and imagine away all the troubles that I can possibly imagine away. Life is too short to be bogged down with unnecessary grown-up cares.

My next technique, to trick myself to sleep, was to let my mind wander, discovering my happy place. I was surprised at how nerdy it was, and then I was sad that I care too much about what people to think about me to write down all that is in my imagination, all that is in my happy place.

Maybe one day, I'll get over it.

It didn't work, by the way. I passed a sleepless night (a sleepless weekend, really), and now I'm running on empty. I'm very excited for bedtime, and hopefully I'll feel better (and more productive) tomorrow.

The one thing about being a writer is that it requires an extraordinary amount of self-discipline. Again--oy.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Compromise

I have compromised with myself.
Remember that story I wrote about earlier? Junk it or save it?
Well, I decided to do both. I went through all my old stuff and cataloged it. Then I started from scratch. I can go back and yank stuff from my original transcript if it's good/useful, but I won't be bogged down by it when trying to write something better.
It's a bummer to start over, but it's for the best. Besides, it's not really starting over--everything I did before, whether I use it or not, helped me get to this point, and eventually to the finished product.

Also, here is a picture of a beautiful fall tree: