Friday, March 30, 2012

Opening Statements

Yesterday in her post at Murder She Writes, Allison Brennan spoke about the first lines of novels.  And yeah, she does say that it doesn't always have to be the very first line that draws you in.  Still, there's something to be said for a really awesome first line.  Lord knows, I strive to make my first line as zippy as humanly possible - and the rest of the book meet the expectation that first line sets.  (Don't we all?)

So, thinking about that today, I decided to post some of my first lines and some first lines of novels I've read recently.

First me...

Djinnocide: No one ever asked me if I wanted to be a genie. (Still in revisions, so this isn't set in stone.)

Unequal: Rue Logan’s work boots squelched in the sticky red mess.

Blink of an I: The twisted hulk stretched into the air above her like a man straining to grasp the hand of a loved one being pulled away.

Dying Embers: As she approached the twisted Mercedes’ wreckage, its cracked side mirror winked at her as if they shared some unspeakable secret.

RTL: “Congratulations, Miss Lind, you’re going to be a mother.

Fear Itself: "We're on in two."

Nature of Destruction: "This is ludicrous."

Not all the most grabbyful first sentences, but even the least grabby of those flows from that to present an overall hook in the first couple paragraphs (I would hope). And yeah, I caught that both Unequal and Dying Embers start with describing something as twisted.

Now for some other author's first lines:

Doubletake by Rob Thurman (my current read): Family... it is a fucking bitch.

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire: Verity danced circles around the living room, her amateurish pirouettes and unsteady leaps accompanied by cheers and exultations from the horde of Aeslin mice perched on the back of the couch.

Blood and Bullets by James R. Tuck: Some nights are destined to go to hell.

The Poet by Michael Connelly: Death is my beat.

Feed by Mira Grant: Our story opens where countless stories have ended in the last twenty-six years: with an idiot--in this case, my brother Shaun--deciding it would be a good idea to go out and poke a zombie with a stick to see what happens.

Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman: You just know it’s going to be a bad day when you’re stuck at a red light and Death pulls up behind you in a station wagon.

I'm not sure if all of those first sentences would have me buying the book - especially if I hadn't already read some of the other books by that author - but where those books go from there were definitely worth the journey. And all of the books I mentioned definitely hooked me and had me reading from the get-go.

What are some awesome first lines you've read or that you've written? Come on, share. =o)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Picture Pause - Bob and Roberta

Since I'm still stuck in a non-writerly place, I'll keep offering you bits of my favorite hobby these days... photography.

Here's a robin I snapped last night.  I call him Bob.  (As in, the red, red robin goes Bob-bob-bobbin' along.)

And here's a shot of Mrs. Downy Woodpecker.  (I call her Roberta.  Yes, not seemingly original until you realize her full name is Roberta Downy Woodpecker - which makes her mate Robert, naturally.)


Monday, March 26, 2012

Picture Pause - Happy Spring

I know I'm late wishing you all a Happy Spring, but here's a nice picture of some jonquils to make up for it.  =o)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lucky 7 Meme

Okay, so I finally got tagged for the Lucky 7 Meme.  Silver James did it.  Stop over there and see her 7 lines.

Here's how it works...

Go to page 77 of your current WIP
Go to line 7
Copy down the next 7 lines/sentences and post them as they’re written
Tag 7 other authors
Let them know

So, in my version, I went with sentences rather than lines.  Here's the snippet from page 77 of my last version of Djinnocide (since my current work is all on notebook paper and I'm not to pg77 yet).

He shook his head. “Let me guess, Mary decided bartering with you garnered more than keeping her trap shut would.” From the grinding of his voice, I expected a spectacular display of rage. My ex and the pirate weren’t exactly fond of each other, and I suspected Zeke wanted the pleasure of divulging this piece of info himself. Whatever slim fondness they had for each other was now toast. Good thing Mary sat in her well-protected building and not here. If Zeke saw her, she’d be reduced to a few cells floating in a Petri dish.

And I know I never do this, but I'm going actually tag people with this - cuz it's like writerly and fun.

Janet Corcoran (you know you want to)
Natalie Murphy
Julie Dao
Debs Carr
Erica and Christy
Alexia Chamberlain
Kristin Rae

Feel free to participate if you want to, and if you do, stop back by and let me know so I can swing by to enjoy your snippet, too.  =o)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Give My Regards to Schartzman & Heinleken

Have any of you seen the function in Word where you can have it check for 'readability'?  It uses some test parameters developed for the US Navy by some dudes named Flesch and Kincaid and it tells you what reading level any given bit of writing would be at.

Anyway, Daughter shoots me a message last night all bummed because of the score her unedited piece of fiction (she's been working on a book when she feels the urge) came in with.  So, interested in how this whole thing works, I checked it out with a piece of my own unedited fiction.  I came in at 7.2 - which is to say seventh grade, second month. 

Ummm yeah.  Not writing MG here folks.  

But the more I thought about it (and tried to talk KD off the ledge), the more I realized exactly what these tests are designed to do.  They were created to make sure incoming service men could understand the training manuals they were being given. 

And something KD did made it even clearer.  As I was FB messaging her, she took some of what I was saying and plugged it to check for readability.  My general speech scored low, but the one spot where I was screwing around trying to sound all pompous and pretentious scored high.  Voila!  The answer was laying right there in front of us.  This test - and many like it - was not designed to measure the quality of a work of fiction, but merely to check whether people are able to understand the words being used.  The shorter and more common the words, the lower the grade level that can understand it.

Short words and short paragraphs.  That's all.  (Total words divided by total sentences) plus (total syllables divided by total words).

They don't even take into account a word's meaning or the meaning of the words once they're put into a sentence or paragraph.  Deeper meaning?  Well, that's not their job. 

And btw, KD found out about this from a professor who apparently thought it was a good thing to have his students check the readability of their work before they turn it in.  I'd like to drive up there right now and punch him in the nose.  This test was never designed for that.  The readability of a training manual is one thing.  The readability of a person's writing is entirely something else. 

Anyway, to paraphrase an awesome line from a most awesome movie "And you can sit here and smugly lecture me on the importance of tests? Tests which exist to pigeonhole a writer's potential, a thing which cannot *possibly* be measured, least of all by anal compulsive HUNS! ... And I think my work is bright, and sensitive, so I have no doubts whatsoever about its intelligence. I do however have *serious* doubts about YOURS."

So, yes, that professor can give my regards to the people who took poor Flesch and Kincaid's work and tried to apply it where it had no business being applied.  (Yes, Microsoft, I'm pointing at you, along with the rest.)  Bah and Feh.

*bonus points if you can name the movie I've quoted in both the title and paraphrased in the above paragraph.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Picture Pause - No Carrots Here

You've heard of the old carrot vs stick motivational thing, right?  Well, I'm fond of joking about taking a stick to my friends (and my kid) when they're not quite motivated to do their work.  Yesterday, I found an associate who can help me with that.

So, get to work or you can say hello to my little friend.  She looks ready to use it, don't you think?

Of course, her stick is much smaller than mine, but it's still motivating.  I mean, who wants a pissed-off bird swooping in to harass them with a pointy piece of wood?

(In reality, the above is a Cooper's Hawk who's working on its nest.  I assume it's the female, since she was the one picking out the perfect stick while her mate sat in a tree watching.  And she doesn't look happy about the fact that he was laughing at her the whole time.)

(Ummm, just so you don't think I'm a total loon - Cooper's Hawks have a call that sounds like they're laughing.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Step Away from the Keyboard

I wish I could say I've been absent because The Kid is home on Spring Break.  Sadly, no.  She's home but she's spent most of her time here in her room playing Mass Effect 3.  I see her for meals mostly.  Last night, we did spend some quality time talking, but that didn't really mean I would've spent that time here if I wasn't there.

No.  I made an unconscious (until now) decision to step away from the keyboard.  We're having a love/hate relationship at the moment that's more hate than love.  Sure, I try to make up with it, but really it's just being a bitch.  I sit down here with every intention of writing - whether it's real work or just a blog post - and I can't seem to make the words flow.  So, I'm blaming the keyboard. 


Well, I seem to be writing just fine over there on the couch with my trusty notebook and brand new red pen.  (It's a gel pen.  Oooo.)  The words are flowing - not quickly, mind you, but flowing just the same.  As long as I'm not sitting at this blasted piece of black plastic, that is.

Maybe the keyboard is pissed because my constant writing is rubbing its letters off.  E and N are completely gone.  A, S, D, C, R and M are bits of white on their black squares.  L, G, W and T aren't looking too good either.

:shrug:  Whatever the reason, we're kind of on the outs, my keyboard and me.  So I've stepped away.  Perhaps it'll stop being such a pissy twit if I leave it alone for a while.  Maybe after it sees me paying so much attention to my old friend notebook, it'll regret it's decision to turn on me. 

Until that time, though, I'm over there in the living room hanging out with the ones who really stand behind me - even when I've neglected them for so long. 

And psst, I hope the keyboard straightens out soon.  I don't know how much longer I can take writing by hand.  Plus, sooner or later, everything I write with notebook will have to be entered using keyboard.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Learning to Walk Again

by The Foo Fighters

A million miles away
Your signal in the distance
To whom it may concern
I think I lost my way
Getting good at starting over
Every time that I return

I'm learning to walk again
I believe I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I'm learning to talk again
Can't you see I've waited long enough?
Where do I begin?

Do you remember the days
We built these paper mountains
And sat and watched them burn?
I think I found my place
Can't you feel it growing stronger?
Little conquerors

I'm learning to walk again
I believe I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I'm learning to talk again
I believe I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?

For the very first time
Don't you pay no mind?
Set me free again
You keep alive a moment at a time
But still inside a whisper to a liar
To sacrifice but knowing to survive
The first decline another state of mind
I'm on my knees, I'm praying for a sign
Forever, whenever
I never wanna die
I never wanna die
I never wanna die
I'm on my knees
I never wanna die
I'm dancing on my grave
I'm running through the fire
Forever, whatever
I never wanna die
I never wanna leave
I'll never say goodbye
Forever, whatever
Forever, whatever

I'm learning to walk again
I believe I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I'm learning to talk again
Can't you see I've waited long enough?
Where do I begin?

I'm learning to walk again
I believe I've waited long enough
I'm learning to talk again
Can't you see I've waited long enough?

Poignant in more ways than one. - B

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Burnet Onicapeo

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm really enjoying the new word verification system Blogger has foisted upon us.  (No.  Seriously.  That isn't sarcasm.)  I mean, sure, at first it irritated the crap out of me.  But since I can't beat it, I might as well join it.

So, I made a game out of it.  Now when I hit a blog with a difficult word verification, I challenge myself.  "Okay, Meissner," I says to myself, "see if you can figure this one out on the first try."  If I do?  Winner winner diet-friendly fish & veggies dinner. 

Life throws all sorts of irritating, difficult, annoying, time-consuming crap at us.  We can either let it bother us, we can go with the flow, or we can make a game out of it. 

Have you ever made a game out of something that annoys you?  

Thing 1: The title of this post is the word verification I caught when I commented this morning over at Paperback Writer.  Is it just me or does that sound like the name of some exotic CPA?  "If you're in East Timor and need your taxes done quick, call the offices of Burnet Onicapeo."

Thing 2: When I talk to myself, I still use my maiden name.  The Husband is Sanderson when he talks to himself, so if I was Sanderson, too, it would get confusing.  Besides, I've been calling myself Meissner for decades. Why stop now?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Release Day!

I know a lot of awesome books have released recently, but I've been waiting for today for like... forever...

And here's why:  Books from 4 of my favorite authors hit the shelves today.  And lucky me, they were all in Amazon's 4 for 3 promotion.  Yay!  So here's the order I just placed.  (Yeah, I could have them quicker if I waited until Friday and bought them at B&N, but I want my purchases to help with the authors' first day sales numbers.)

1) Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire.  Squee and Gush.

2) Nightborn by Lynn Viehl

3) Doubletake by Rob Thurman

4) Dying Wish by Shannon Butcher

Life, my friends, is very good when new books are on their way.

What new releases have you been dying for? I was so focused on these four that I'm wondering, was there anything good I missed?


**Image deleted**

I shamelessly stole this from Kaye Wilkinson Barley's facebook page after several of my FB friends shared it on their pages.  It's just too true to not pass along.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Inner Voice Drownded

Yeah.  I've been kinda quiet recently.  I'm not sure if it's my usual case of mid-winter blues, or post-manuscript malaise, or what.  Could be I've spent the past few weeks figuratively curled up in a ball licking at my imagined wounds.  All I know is I haven't been writing.  So much for No Excuses and Sustained Effort, eh?

And it all came about - at least from what I can trace - because of an offhand comment someone made to me. (No, it wasn't you.  And it wasn't you, either.  In fact, it wasn't anyone who stops here.)  It wasn't even anything major, and thinking about it over the past couple weeks, it wasn't meant to be mean or even to be critical of me or my process.  I just took it harder than I probably should've.  (Again, probably because of the mid-winter blues thing combined with the post-manuscript malaise disorder.)  Why?  Because when she said it, she touched on something I've been wondering about myself anyway.

No, not gonna tell you what she said because then a couple people who stop by will know exactly who I'm talking about and what she said, and this might get back to her.  I seriously don't want her feeling bad about this at all.  It's not her, it's me.

Anyway, that's the reason for the change of quote up there.  Courtesy of my friend, Janet - who posted the Steve Jobs quote in its entirety right here.  It's all worth reading, but my brain grabbed onto what, for me, was the salient point: Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. 

Which is, of course, exactly what I've been doing.  It's a bad habit that dates back to childhood, but I'm working on it.

So until I can drive those other opinions out of my head, I'm taking a break from writing.  Yeah yeah, I know I invite people to give me their opinions every time I post on this blog.  That's not what I'm talking about.  I'm talking about the opinions I have allowed inside my head that are waltzing around making trouble at the moment. 

And in this, too, it's not you, it's me.  Totally me.  So comment away.

Forgive me if I don't post as often or if the posts aren't nearly as wise and poignant as they could be.  Everything will be fine now that I've realized the problem.

(* As for the title of this post, when I was about 4, I think, my family went swimming in a local lake.  At one point, I slipped under the water for a moment.  No harm done, but I ran out of the lake screaming 'I drownded, Mommy!'  So, yeah, the phrase might be wrong, but it fits. :wink: )

Friday, March 2, 2012

Someone Needs to Tell...

Well, I had no internet access all morning, and the rest of the day was bleh from there.  On the upside, I spent enough time screwing off to present you with what I'm going to call 'Someone needs to tell'...

Some dorkbutt senator in Wisconsin wants to reword a law so it implies single-parenting is akin to child abuse.  I guess there are studies that show a higher percentage of single-parented kids get abused compared to double-parented kids, but someone seriously needs to tell this guy that CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION.  (And that senator guy needs to hook up with my daughter's first grade teacher so they can get therapy together.)

I don't know if any of you heard the story about the dog that fell in a lake, was rescued, and during his on-camera live interview bit the newswoman's face.  Yeah, she was the co-anchor for my lunchtime news here, so it was big news here, but my mom heard about it in Michigan, so it must've made national news.  Someone needs to tell her not to get all up in the face of a dog that doesn't know you - especially when it's a pit mix.  She may have wanted a poochy-smooch, but she's now undergoing a lot of surgeries to repair her mangled mouth.

(And before anyone jumps down my throat - I did the same thing with a Doberman Pinscher when I was like 12.  He bit me, too, but I got lucky and he didn't break the skin... Come to think of it, I did a similar thing with a German Shepherd when I was 15, and for that I have a lovely hand scar to remind me why I petting someone else's guard dog is a bad idea.  I guess someone needed to tell me something when I was younger.)

On a lighter note, a friend of mine took one of his kids to McDonald's for a Happy Meal - and it had EIGHT french fries.  Not a mistake - part of the chain's effort to make kids eat healthier.  Now, I know these friends and they don't let their kids lay around stuffing their faces with fast food.  This was probably a special treat for the kid.  And the poor little guy got screwed on the fries - supposedly because the chain was complying with some govt mandate.  Someone needs to tell McD's we don't appreciate getting shorted on the spuds, and someone needs to tell the government to butt the hell out of our Happy Meals.  Or should I call them UnHappy Meals?

And is it just me, or does someone need to tell the cruise lines that part of making money is making sure your customers survive their vacation?  First the Concordia sinks then its sister-ship the Allegra catches fire.  Umm, guys?  SAFETY FIRST.  Because like if you don't put safety first, you'll be seeing your profits come in dead last.

'Nuff said.  Carry on with your weekend festivities.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Free Writing Madness

Taking a page from Janet this morning, I think I'll share a little bit of what free-writing looks like for me.

Below is a free-writing session that I would typically conduct in one of my notebooks with my trusty red pen.  This morning, I'm doing it here.  And this is for the book I was calling Nano (or Bloodflow) that I started years ago but never quite finished

Okay, so you know where you want to go with this.  It's pretty clear.  But I think you got off on the wrong foot - again - damn it.  Sure it would add a little extra twist if you made X & Y formerly ellicit lovers and it might even add a punch, but it would totally cut out Y's motivation for what he doesn't want to do but knows he has to do.  And the last rewrite you did - the one you just tossed aside - was actually pretty good.  Stupid.  Why reinvent the wheel?

Okay, setting that aside, what do we do with the scenes showing Z's backstory and motivation?  He's got issues, but do they all need to be on the page?  Do they all need to stay in the book or can they be cut without damaging the plot line?  And would leaving them in make the book better in the long run?  

What is the point?  What are you trying to accomplish with this story?  Is it too contrived?  And no matter how hard you work or how much you love this, is anyone anywhere going to want to buy it?  Or will it end up as just another stack of paper on the junk pile that is your career?  Stupid.

At which point I usually just degenerate into a bunch of negative self talk, and a good self-asskicking until I get myself back on track.  As for the above, yeah, I talk to myself using 'you' and 'we', like I'm talking to someone else.  But I'm sane.  Really I am.

Do you free-write?  Or do you just talk to yourself a lot?  ;o)