Happy Halloween and NaNoWriMo 2012

Happy Halloween!

Here’s my first attempt at shaving a pumpkin design.  I used a free template I found online.  I think it turned out rather well for a first try.  For those who aren’t Doctor Who fans, it’s the head of an evil robot called a Cyberman.

“You will be upgraded.”

Photograph by Elizabeth West

No matter what you’re doing this year, please remember to stay safe.  Watch those candles around costumes, and never leave them unattended.  If your kids find the stash of candy you saved for yourself, don’t kill them.  Just steal some from their bags.

From last year, but damn funny:

Tomorrow is the beginning of NaNoWriMoI told you earlier that I would be participating this year.  I’m not formally signing up, because technically, you’re not supposed to use NaNo for something you’ve already started.  But I have to do something drastic, or I’ll never finish.  This has been unequivocally one of the worst years of my life.

Because, you know, chaos.

Image:  US Navy- Aaron Peterson / Wikimedia Commons

I’m creating a category—NaNoWriMo 2012—and I’ll probably only be posting updates this month, especially if I find a job.   I’m not restricting myself from publishing any other posts if I think of one, but all NaNo materials will be under that heading for easy reference.  If you’d like to follow me on Twitter, I may be tweeting things there as well during this time.

Good luck to all other writers who are NaNo-ing this year!

Skating Programs Tell a Story Too

The ISU Grand Prix begins today with Skate America, live from Kent, WA.  I have a vested interest in this year’s competition series:  I know one of the competitors!

Gracie Gold, 2012 U.S. Junior National Champion, will be competing at Skate Canada and at the Rostelecom Cup (Cup of Russia).  We both began at my home rink, although she now trains in the Chicago area.  She’s worked extremely hard and sacrificed a lot, with the full support of her parents and twin sister Carly (also a very talented competitive skater!), and we’re all very proud of her.

Good luck, Gracie!

Watching skating for me is both entertaining and feeds my own attempts.  There’s no way in hell I’ll ever get to the elite level.  As you can tell by my repeated posts about it, I do enjoy it even if I kind of suck.  I like to copy what I can, which given my limited technical ability, isn’t much.

I couldn’t do a sport that didn’t have creativity at its heart, and skating does.  Putting together my latest program always starts with the following elements, which are very close to how I construct a story.


I only pick music that speaks to me.  Since I’m an adult skater, my coach doesn’t choose it.  Only once has that happened, and she picked Schindler’s List, which is John Williams so I can live with that.  It has to have an emotional component, which I also seek in story subject matter.  The music is the idea, the basis for a skating program.

Your idea is what you’ll build your story on.  The possibilities are endless—true love, the zombie apocalypse, a trip to another world, or any combination thereof.

Here’s something I skated to (I had to cut it for time):


Each movement communicates the idea or mood to the audience.  For the somber “I Could Have Done More” from Schindler’s List, I used long, slow strokes and smooth movements to express sadness and regret.  Jumps by their very nature are explosive.  But you can temper them with the surrounding elements and connecting moves.  For “Dance of the Witches,” in the above link, I used taps, turns, and hops to reflect the more lively music.

In writing, fast-paced action sequences call for short, staccato words.  Longer sentences and phrasing fit stream-of-consciousness passages and introspection.  Words are how a writer shows movement and mood, the way choreography shows it in dance and skating.  That’s one way different arts share similar elements.


Admit it—you like to see what they’re wearing.  I know I do; the costumes are one of the reasons I always wanted to skate!

And flying. Yes, doing spirals is like flying.

Image: Vesperholly / Wikimedia Commons

Dark colors impart a serious or melancholy feel, but so can very delicate colors if they’re muted.  Sparkles?  Yes, I like them.  If you’re not careful, an excess looks too flashy for a conservative program.  Costumes are rarely literal, but a jazzy number may have fringe or long gloves, while classical music lends itself to flowing, poetic fabrics.

I make my own dresses to save money.  Costumes are the cover on my little two-minute book. Okay, I haven’t tested Adult Bronze level yet, so technically it’s only 1:50.  Sue me!


Four kinds of music used in competitive programs that you tend to see each skating season:

  • Exotic (usually Spanish, sometimes tribal, Celtic or global stuff)
  • Jazz-flavored
  • Classical
  • Rock/modern

I’m almost at the point where I can tell by the costume what kind of music I’m going to hear.  And skaters recycle music like nobody’s business.  There are certain pieces that just lend themselves to skating, with variation in tempo and crescendo, and give skaters a lot of room for interpretation.  The genre dictates the program, the costume, and everything else.

Show programs, like the ones you see at the final exhibitions or in ice shows, are flashier, looser, and less serious.  Comedy is always welcome.  Evgeni Plusheko, three-time Olympic medalist, skated a good example in 2006:

The general writing equivalents would probably be:

  • Ethnic
  • Historical
  • Literary
  • Mainstream

You have to know into what genre your idea fits.  This will color the way you write it, and determine the way it’s marketed.  There are certain standard plot elements in genre fiction also, and although readers like a fresh approach, they still expect the basics.


Check your local listings for the Grand Prix series, which airs on NBC through December 9.  Below, see a schedule someone was nice enough to post online. Thanks, Heather Winfield!



National Novel Writing Month – or, That Crazy Writer’s Locked Herself in the Closet Again

Next month is November and the National Novel Writing Month spectacular, aka NaNoWriMo.  Yes, writers are lazy; why type all that shit when we don’t have to?

What is NaNoWriMo?  It’s this crazy idea that in thirty days, you can bang out a 50,000-word novel.  It’s a chance to take that idea swimming around in your head and birth it out into reality.  Not polished perfection, mind you—that takes a much longer commitment.  Since many writers suffer from butt-in-chair deficiency, NaNoWriMo is designed to force you to sit still and write.

To do this, you can formally sign up for the process at the NaNoWriMo site and participate in the contest.  Or you can do it on your own, whatever.   The site has forums, advice, word counters, and much more.

I hate trying to crap out first drafts.  HATE HATE HATE HATE.  I’m considering doing NaNoWriMo informally this year, just to finish something.

I would like to get some voice recognition software and just talk the damn thing out, like “Then Dr. Equate stabs the zombie four times—no, three—and his evil diseased brain cocktail is about to fall into the water supply!  Yeah!  And super spy Dirk Fabulous shows up and forces him to drink it!”  Same process; no hand cramps. I can clean it up later.

The awesomeness of this would be, well, awesome.

Image:  Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The current WIP is stalled, but I think I finally figured out something that was borking my story.  By borking, I mean it threw up a giant roadblock that effectively killed forward progression.  This has nothing to do with the fact that my life imploded, by the way; it was a glitch in the plot.

If you want to do this, I suggest you take these next couple of weeks to prepare, if you haven’t already.

Do an outline

I get a rough concept of a book and when I’ve thought it out a bit, I write a synopsis and then break it down into scenes.  Later, I use it to organize chapters.  Since I tend to skip around when I write, the outline keeps me on track.

Get your life in order

My writer buddy James Allder recommended that I make sure I’m not interrupted in any way during my NNWM writing time.  He’s got a good point.  A break in concentration can mean death to a writing session.  Shouldn’t be hard, considering I have no life right now.

If you have one, make sure you get extra crap out of the way so you can sit down at the same time every day and work.

Do a few practice sessions

You may already have a set time you write every day.  If so, good for you.

Here’s your trophy, you self-righteous bastard.

Image:  Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you don’t, I would suggest a practice run.  Take a few days and try it out.  It doesn’t matter if you’re only writing gibberish, just so you get the feel of actually working during that interval.  Mind you, it’s against the rules to work on your NNWM project before the start date.

Remember it’s only a tool

You are not going to produce a complete book in one month.  Let me repeat that, because it’s important:  you are not going to produce a complete book in one frigging month. 

A complete book, ready for publishing, will require at least another few months of editing, rewriting, polishing, submission to first/second/third readers, more editing, more polishing, etc. before you can even think about querying.

Your goal is to finish something, not write a goddamn bestseller.   Use it to get your butt in the chair.  When the month is over, it’s up to you to keep it there.

NaNoWriMo is only a tool.  Its purpose:  to make you WRITE.  In a burst of uncensored, freewriting word diarrhea.   Your brain will open the creativity floodgates and not even the Brain-o-pectate will stop it.  At the end, you will have the bones of a book.

If I do NaNoWriMo—and I think I will—I’ll create a separate category on this blog where I can update my progress and tears.  You may live through the actual process of writing (well, finishing, technically) a book along with me.

Lock and load.

Image:  vudhikrai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Helpful links:

25 Things You Should Know about NaNoWriMo”  by Chuck Wendig

Chuck is no-holds barred.   If you don’t like me saying goddamn and shit, you’ll hate him.  But he knows what he’s talking about, goddamn it.

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo” by Steve Shepard

Some decent tips, even if it’s kind of an ad for the Storyist software.  I prefer PageFour myself.  Plain old Word is fine; you don’t have to buy anything to do NNWM.


History, rules, and more.


Vocabulary – P

P is for pizza, prestidigitation, paranoia, and pizza.  Did I mention pizza?  Yes, I’m hungry.


Paisley –a drop-shaped, ornamental fabric pattern.   It originated in Iran, but the word paisley comes from a town in Scotland.  The pattern is very popular even today in the Middle East and southeast Asia.  As a kid, I had a paisley dress of which I was very fond.


Image:  Makemake / Wikimedia Commons

Pallid – pale.   In The Yearling, Penny Baxter is bitten by a large timber rattler.  Author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings describes his face as “green and pallid, like a frog’s belly.”

Note also the use of simile as illustrating the point-of-view character Jody—his thoughts, comparisons, etc. reflect his world.  He would not have compared his father’s pale face to a ream of fine silk, for example.

Pearlescent – a lustrous finish, like a pearl’s surface.

The Doctor bent so close to the beached alien’s glistening, pearlescent surface that his nose nearly disappeared.  “I smell–NOTHING,” he said.  “If this is really a Zaken, it should smell like kippers and chutney.” 

Penury (PEN-yuh-ree) – extreme poverty or deprivation.

Phallic – pertaining to or resembling a penis.


Image:  AgnosticPreachersKid / Wikimedia Commons

Phrenology – a pseudoscience where measurements of the skull and bumps on the head are studied and thought to reveal aspects of the person’s character.  It was popular in the early to mid-nineteenth century.

Piquerism (pick-er-ism)– From the French piquer, to prick.  A fetish involving pleasure at piercing the skin of another person with sharp objects.  Found this one when studying serial killers.

Batman’s lip curled in disgust at the collection of dark-stained pins, sharpened chopsticks, and nails in the drawer.  From the condition of the bodies, he had suspected the same as Gordon—the Pokey Stick Killer engaged in piquerism.  Now he had proof. 

Placebo – a substance that produces a result, such as cessation of pain, but which has no medicinal power.  The result is typically psychological, and is termed “the placebo effect.”

During the sixth season of M*A*S*H*, the 4077th was stuck with a bad batch of morphine, and tried to convince patients that sugar pills were a special new painkiller, until a fresh shipment could arrive.

They know what they’re doing. Most of the time….

Image:  aftermash.blogspot.com

Pluperfect – also called past perfect, the past tense form that shows something happened before something else.   Usually the writer will use had to show this.

Many writers don’t like to use had over and over throughout a passage, such as a flashback, in this tense.  It’s perfectly acceptable to start with it, and then switch to regular past tense.  To avoid confusing the reader, the end of the passage should return to past perfect.  This will close it and return to the present.

Giles stood over the sleeping Buffy.  He wondered if she were dreaming about the last time they had encountered the Kek demons.  Buffy threw them through the flimsy drywall, leaving chunks all over the floor, along with green bloodstains and loose scales.  Her powerful kicks left holes in their chests.  Light fixtures lay like broken Easter eggs around the room.  The mess was incredible.  They had barely escaped the building before Willow’s magical barrier had worn off.

He went to her and shook her gently.  “Wake up, little Slayer,” he murmured.  “Time to go home.”

Polymath – a person who is well-versed in many subjects.  Leonardo da Vinci is probably history’s most famous example.

Prurient – lustful, lascivious.

“I say, Jenkins, this phallic Dorchester architecture is engendering the most prurient thoughts,” Miss Havisham said, fanning her neck.

Image: Quinnanya / Wikimedia Commons

Psittacosis (sit-uh-KO-sis) – an infectious disease caused by breathing an organism found in parrot poop.

Psilosis (sahy-LO-sis) – hair loss.  Not caused by parrots.

Pteronophobia – fear of feathers.  No, really.

Puerile (PYOO-er-il) – pertaining to a child; immature, childish.

“You must be slipping, Joker,” Batman said.  “Your traps have become puerile.  A half-dead alley cat could have escaped that one.” 

Python – a large, non-venomous snake of the family Pythonidae, found in Africa, Asia, and Australia.  Pythons are constrictors—that is, they wrap around their prey and squeeze them to death, then swallow them whole.

Also make good cat toys, apparently.

Image:  Josh Scheinert/BNPS.co.uk / telegraph.co.uk

That’s all for this post.  I must go prepare for possible severe weather.  I’ll wave if I fly by your house.