"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" ~ C. S. Lewis

Monday, January 31, 2011

Letters to Juliet: It's All About the Characters

I suddenly realized IT IS MONDAY.

And I totally didn't have anything ready to post for Writerly Monday, but then I remembered that I said I might post about TV or movies, so here you go.

That was a completely unnecessary prelude, but it's there and I don't feel like erasing it.

And that was a completely unnecessary aside.

Last week my Dad went to stay with some friends so he could work on his dissertation without any as many distractions. When I knew he was going to be gone, I decided to add a chick flick to the top of my NetFlix queue, since he isn't a big chick flick fan. (note: he watches them with us quite regularly and even enjoys most of them, but they're not his favorite, obviously)

I had been wanting to see Letters to Juliet since I saw the preview for it, so one night Mom and I settled in to watch it.

I love movies like this! Besides, it took place in Siena and the Tuscan countryside and Florence. AND I am crossing my fingers that things work out for me to go on a trip in May to Siena and Florence (and Rome) and now I want to go more than ever. Gor.Geous.

Letters to Juliet was a lot of fun. But the thing I noticed the most (since this IS Writerly Monday I should connect it to writing in some way, right?) was the characterization.

First, a quick overview of the story, without spoilers - of course, it's a romcom and it's really not about the plot twists, if you know what I mean.

Sophie and her fiance, Victor, take a pre-wedding honeymoon to Italy. Victor is about to open his own Italian restaurant and he wants to spend the entire trip talking to buyers, going to wine auctions, tasting tomatoes and cheese, etc. Sophie loves him, but doesn't really care about his business, so they end up spending a lot of time apart. She discovers the wall where broken-hearted women leave letters to Juliet asking for advice on relationships. A group of women, called the secretaries to Juliet, collect the letters and respond. Sophie joins them and finds a letter from many years before that had been missed. She answers the letter and ends up joining the, now elderly Claire, on a quest to find her long lost love, despite the objections of Claire's grandson, Charlie.

This makes the story sound so dull, but it's not. But remember, the thing I wanted to talk about is the characters.

The characters totally popped. You had such a strong sense of who they were almost as soon as they were introduced. And they were very realistic. Sophie was such a rich main character. Sassy, funny, thoughtful and tenacious. Victor made you crazy, but he wasn't just a jerk. He was passionate and tried to do something right, it just wasn't right for Sophie. Charlie - well, he is hilariously obnoxious at the beginning. But you just can't dislike him. And his growth was really the main journey of the story. As for Claire, she had some of the best lines in the movie.

Many movies do a good job with character development, but what made this one stand out to me was the way you really felt like you knew them almost as soon as they appeared on screen. That is so hard to do.

It's something I struggle with in my writing. How do you make the characters pop? In Letters to Juliet, the key tool they used was dialogue. And I think that is really important. How a character says something is almost more important than what they say.

Example: (from my WIP) Instead of saying, "I have a headache," my MC, Layla, says, "It feels like rutabagas are tap dancing inside my skull." This give the reader a much better sense of who Layla is. (at least in my opinion)

How about you? What do you do to make your characters pop? What else is important, besides dialogue? Seen any good movies lately?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Could it be? Why yes, it is another Retail Wednesday!

And you guys probably thought that last week was a fluke. Admit it, it crossed your mind. I haven't been the most reliable bloggy friend.

*hangs head in shame*


On to the awards!


(confession - this one is mainly for my co-workers. Because we share the pain.)
We have a regular customer. He comes in multiple times a week. He has been frequenting the store since before I started working there. We all know him by name and, usually, we all walkie each other the warning that H is in the store.

There is a very long story in this person alone, but I don't want to get into all of it right now. My point is that he is a regular. Very regular. Very annoying regular.

Now that I'm beating a dead horse...
bwa haha! I can't believe the stuff that comes up on Google!
The other day he came in to order a book. This causes us to headdesk.

If someone does not have a credit card when they are ordering a book, they purchase a gift card for the amount of the order and use that to pay. It's really quite simple. Usually.

I was at the register, in the middle of a transaction when H comes up, cuts in front of a customer in line, shoves his hand (clutching a $10 and a gift card) in front of the customer I am ringing up and bellows, "I need $8.49 on here."

"I'm in the middle of ringing this customer up," I tell him. "And that gentleman was already in line."

H: But I need $8.49 on here.

Gentleman: That's all right. You can take him first. (oh, how thoughtful! I love nice customers! [no sarcasm intended here])
3 Cheers for the nice customers!
Me: Thank you. But H, I have to finish this transaction first.

Customer I'm ringing up: I'm sorry, I'm holding everyone up. (More nice customers! yeah!)

Me: (to myself. I'm in the middle of scanning your books! How is it your fault?! But thank you)

I finish the transaction, ring up H. Send him on his merry way. Ring up the nice gentleman.

J comes up to the register, brow excessively furrowed.

Me: What's wrong?

J: It needed to be $9.98 on the gift card!

Me and J: headdesk

Annoying? yes. Insurmountable? No.

Get this.

When I get off register, J and I are talking.

J: Wait, what is H's last name?

Me: Smith (not really, but... you know, anonymity and all that)

J: Are you serious?

Me: Yes, I'm sure.

J: For the order, he told us his last name was Brown.

This is for Hannah
Even The Picard feels our pain


A woman and her daughter accosted me and J in the aisle. J is sitting on a stool with piles of books around her, busily alphabetizing. I am standing next to her, asking her a question. The woman addresses...

Why certainly I can help you.
As you can see, I'm not busy or anything.

Woman: Where are the horse books?

Me: (pointedly) I'll show you the section. It's right back here.

Woman: (huffs in annoyance, but follows me)

Me: Are you looking for anything in particular?

Woman: Just a book about horses. (points at Dog Breeds for Dummies) Something like that! But for horses.

Me: (looking over the shelves) We don't seem to have the horse one in stock. We could see about ordering it. Here are a few other books. (Pull out other informational books on horses) A lot of what we have here are like biography type books.

Woman: I need something with stupid questions about horses.

I have no words. See you next week for more bookland fun!

Monday, January 24, 2011

CPs, Goals, and Vampires

So today is my day to talk about reading or writing or to do a review. So I wanted to give a little update on my current WIP.

But first I just wanted to say how AMAZING all my bloggy friends are and how much y'all have helped me grow as a writer this last year or so.

Second I wanted to say that I can't believe that it's not even the end of January and I already have a fantastic Critique Partner (Lindsey, I <3 you!!!!!), but also a possibility of a second one. Last year at this time I was seriously doubting my commitment to writing. I had pretty much given up on myself as a writer.

Now I have a WIP I love, 1 (maybe 2) crit partners, and a burning desire to take this thing the whole way.


Your contests, your comments, your blogfests, your blogs, your spirit, your encouragement.


So far, I've stuck to the 100 words a day pledge that I made. Sometimes it's just barely 100 words, but I'm writing something each and every day which is a total win for me. I haven't written this much in the last 2 years. I'm up to 6500 words!

I'm falling in love with my FMC (Layla) and beginning to see how my MMC (Tavares) is going to work.

I'm finding myself VERY influenced by Mercedes Lackey's 500 kingdoms series and by Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which I am rewatching for the amazing rewatch over at Nikki Stafford's blog)

I am basically doing a blind rewrite - I know where the story is going and if I want to review a word choice or something I look at my NaNo document. But for the majority of the time I'm just writing it for the first time all over again. And it is SO much better. I did a dangerous thing on Saturday. I reread the 12 pages I've written since the beginning of January and guess what?

I still loved it. I love the changes, I love the tighter scenes. I love the way the characters are moving already. Is it perfect? No. Will I have to edit and revise and cut and rewrite? Most definitely. But that's okay, because I still love it.

Even if it does have a vampire. And no title (yet).

And just to make things interesting I thought I would post a tiny teaser.

            Erandell almost fell over the balcony. She couldn’t have heard that right.
            “Let Moira go and I will stay,” the girl said. Her voice was quiet, but firm.
            Tavares was silent and Erandell held her breath waiting to see what he would do. This whole situation was completely unprecedented. She couldn’t interfere; she could feel the enchantment holding her back and she gritted her teeth in frustration.
            “You would stay in her place?” Tavares asked.
            “She has a family that needs her.”
            “And you don’t?”
            “Are you taking my offer or not?”
            There was definitely something special about this girl with her pale green eyes. Not only had she somehow resisted the impellment charm, but she had spunk. Erandell wondered if Tavares had ever been slapped before.

So how about you? Super excited about any writing projects? Stuck in the doldrums? Cheating on your WIP with an SNI? Do tell!

Friday, January 21, 2011

What Dreams Are Made Of?

No, like for reals. Probably the most random post I've ever written.
I am not one to normally remember my dreams. In fact, I don't normally even remember dreaming and if I do, it's usually just this really strong emotional response, but I rarely remember details. Which is why I had to share this.

Especially since it was one of the most mixed up and hilarious mashes of a dream I think I've ever had. (that I remember)(of course there was that one about a yak...)

Mainly I find this so hilarious because of the random media references. Who's been watching too much TV? *waves hand in the air*

I dreamt that I was running away from somebody. Like, terrified-running-for-your-life, running. Which in the middle of my dream made me think of Dr. Who. Yes. Dr. Who. Because recently we saw an episode where either Martha or Donna says, "And there's a lot of running involved."
Running. Always Running!
Random, right?

I haven't even started.

So then I have a teddy bear and I think that there's some sort of special message in the bear, but only one person can help me figure it out and she just happens to live in same house where the guy I'm running from lives. (convenient, right?)
The Bear holds ALL the secrets!
So I sneak in against the recommendations of my friends (who only show up to try to stop me from going and then are never seen again. Thanks a lot, guys.) and manage to find this woman who randomly looks like an adjunct in the department where I teach. But she won't tell me anything because the room is bugged. So I just leave. (ummm... sure) But on the way out, the guy I'm running from sees me (of course).

So I start running again. Like seriously running. Down this dirt road and the guy is chasing me and he looks a lot like.... wait for it....

Benjamin Linus. Say what?
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Then, by the magic of dream logic, I am suddenly in a car - a jeep - with the guy's son.
Always a good getaway car, right?
Who is my age and decides he wants to help me. (yeah!) But then I catch him making signals to his dad and he was double crossing me all along (jerk). So when we stop at a rest stop I sneak out the back of the gas station and start running through the woods. (perfectly logical) (do gas stations HAVE back entrances? I feel a sudden urge to know this! Maybe it depends on the gas station.) And of course they're chasing me again.

So I wake up with my heart racing and I'm literally out of breath.

And the worst part is? I can't even get a short story out of it.

But I figured it'd make a pretty random Friday post :P

Happy Weekend!

(well it IS called Friday Randomosities emphasis on the RANDOM)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Triumphant Return of RETAIL WEDNESDAY!

Yes, yes, I know I said that I wouldn't neglect my favorite feature, but I did. I wasn't very good with time management last semester (though some people disagree with me) and usually if I wasn't working on school I felt like this:

funny pictures - U wanna do sumthin? Nah. Me neithr.

Yeah, lame.

I don't usually make resolutions, but this year I determined to do 2 things:
1. Write at least 100 words a day. I posted about this before and our little badge is on the left. It's working so far and I'll probably give an update on Monday.
2. Get my blogging back on schedule - not only posting regularly, but also visiting all y'all's blogs because I have missed it dreadfully. So Mondays will be about writing or reading. I'll talk about a book or author or my WIP or even maybe a TV show or movie. Wednesdays will be back to Retail Wednesdays (hold your applause please) and the occasional Friday I'll post something else if I feel like it.

One more prefacery note (is that a word? It should be.)
Retail Wednesday will be much shorter than it has been in the past. Probably just 2 stories. I'm only working 8 hours a week, so there's less opportunity to encounter craziness.


Phone Freak Award:

I answered the phone and a woman asked who she should talk to about getting product into the store.

Me: (thinking she was a local author wanting to get her book in the store) What do you want us to get in?

Lady: I want you to get in some of those rubber bands that are in funny shapes.

Me: Silly Bandz?
You mean these things that no one buys or wears anymore?
Lady: Yes, I want you to order a particular kind that you don't carry.

Me: I'm sorry, that isn't something that we can order. That kind of thing is handled by our buyer at a corporate level.

Lady: Well, do you have their number so I can call them.

Me: We have all the kinds of Silly Bandz that the company carries.

Lady: What do you mean?
What part of this are you NOT understanding?
Me: We can't order something that the company doesn't carry. There are some Silly Bandz that are exclusive. Our store carries every kind of Silly Bandz that Borders can get.

Lady: Well, I want you to get in a different kind. (Note: she still hasn't mentioned what type of Bandz she was looking for)

Me: We can't get them if the company doesn't carry them. There are some we just can't get, but we have all the different kinds that Borders carries.

Lady: Can you give me your buyer's number so I can call them?

Me: I'm sorry, I don't have it. But if the company doesn't carry it, then they wouldn't be able to get it either.

Lady: (exasperated) Fine. Thanks anyways. (hangs up)

Me: (headdesk)

Vaguest Request Award:

A man approached me and asked for help finding a book.

Man: I don't remember the title. It's by Theodore. Something with Romans in the title.

Me: (after nothing comes up) Is Theodore the first or the last name?

Man: No, Feodore. It's like a classic book.

Me: How do you spell that.

Man: F-E-I... I don't know. Something like the Roman Brothers.
Me: (lightbulb) Do you mean the Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky?

Man: That's It!
Because this obviously looks like Roman Brothers

And that's it for today! Oh, but it's good to be back :D

Monday, January 17, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss

I tend not to read much contemporary fiction, either in YA or adult fiction. But there was so much buzz about Anna and the French Kiss and I follow Stephanie Perkins on Twitter, so when I saw it on the shelf at work I decided to give it a whirl.

I've read a few YA romancey books in the last year, but haven't ever been excited enough to talk about them. But Anna and the French Kiss is not your average YA romance. In the absolute best way possible.

Yes, there is romance. And yes there is kissing (after all it IS called Anna and the French KISS) but it's so much more than that.

Her characters are so complex and rich and ALIVE. I seriously feel like if I went to Paris I might run into Anna and Etienne at the movie theatre. <3

Not really spoilery summary:
Anna is sent off to the School of America in Paris against her will. She doesn't speak French and just wanted to finish out her senior year of high school in peace, but her Dad has other ideas and doesn't seem to care what she thinks.
Fortunately she meets Meredith on her first day and then Meredith introduces her to her group of friends and suddenly it doesn't seem like such a lonely place after all. Especially when she meets Etienne St. Clair. Who unfortunately already has a girlfriend. But in some ways that takes the pressure off. They can just be friends and talk and get to know each other without the pressure of wondering where the relationship is going. Until Anna starts to realize that she might want more than friendship. And it seems like he might too. And things get complicated.

As much fun as the romance part of it was, the stuff I loved was the background of the characters and how absolutely real they felt in their reactions and interactions. Sure there are the typical misunderstandings and such, but they don't feel cliched or overdone. I really feel like I got to know these people.

It's not often that I cry over this kind of book, but I found myself tearing up several times (yes, I am a big crybaby) and I laughed quite a bit too.

And did I mention that I totally need to meet an Etienne that's my age. He has a BRITISH ACCENT and he likes history and random facts <3


In short - if you like a good story with romance, humor and rich characters, you should love this book.

Warning - there is some brief language including the F-word, but it is basically in one scene and isn't gratuitous. I am pretty sensitive to profanity, so I like to warn people about it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New and Improved! Resolve!

sounds like a cleaner or something ... oh wait, it is.

Um, moving on...

Soooo the most amazing and spifferiffic Lindsey over at Dangerous with a Pen posted that she had made a resolution to write 100 words a day.

And I realized that this was possibly the most brilliant idea I had ever heard.*

because even when you're dead tired and you've taught 32 ungrateful little freshmen** and have literary theory oozing out of your ear and your pretty sure your contacts are now fused to your corneas from staring at the computer screen for so long, you can still write 100 words. Like totes easy. It's what, a paragraph? pshht. Anyone can write a paragraph.

I wanted to do some major work on my NaNo novel over break, but I hadn't written a single word. I started doing this, each night it's easy to say, oh, yeah. Just 100 words before I go to sleep. And I've managed to work out the back stories and background information I was needing to do before I could officially start the re-write. I've written more in the last 3 days than I had in the last 2 weeks! (which isn't really saying much. Because I really didn't write ANYTHING in the last 2 weeks. Which is my point.)

Sometimes the 100 words turns into like 200 or 500 or 1,000 words. But even if it doesn't, at least I've written SOMETHING. Which is kind of the point of this whole writer thing, right?

So we have an official badge and everything and we're going to encourage each other, because 100 words is totally DOABLE.

Feel free to snag our button if you want a little motivation and you're like us with crazy busy lives that too often zombinize your brains and you think it just might be doable too.

Here's to a year of writing 100 words a day, which, if you think about it, would be 36,500 words over the year, even if you never wrote more and that's like half a novel! Just from 100 tiny little words a day! Crazy talk.

*except for all of those other brilliant ideas I've heard that I say that about.
**well, not all 32 of them are ungrateful

Monday, January 3, 2011

Show Me Yours Blogfest!

I'm so glad I saw this blogfest before it was too late. And I know I'm getting this post up a bit late - I meant to set it yesterday, but ... well, honestly I just forgot. But it's here now! You can go to Sarah's or Hannah's or Summer's blogs to see the links to all the other fantabulous entries!

My NaNo novel doesn't really have a title, but it's a YA fantasy mixing faerie tales and mythological creatures. The basic premise: Layla and her best friend, Moira, are backpacking when they're caught in a storm and seek refuge in a castle where they find themselves caught up in an enchantment with Prince Tavares (who happens to be a vampire) and his horde of zombie-like servants. Strange things start happening and Layla discovers that she can see magic - different colors for different types of magic.

I would also like to add that this is the rough draft - I didn't have time to do any revision with the lateness of my joining the party (um... pretend that sentence was grammatically correct) And it's rather rough, but there you have it.

this scene starts with an invasion of gnomes. Layla's personal servant, Daria, takes her down to the kitchens to try to protect her.


            A strange chattering noise started coming closer and Layla spun around in time to see three small creatures come running down the steps after them. The gnomes were about a foot tall and their faces were deep brown and craggy like hardened clods of mud that had happened to form face-looking shapes. Their eyes were deep set, but were surprisingly an almost glowing blue. Their clothes were also dark brown, and fit tightly to their bodies.
            They were so small, but there was a terrifying aura of menace around them and Layla shuddered and backed away, moving closer to the servants. The leading gnome snickered and his deep rasping voice seemed to send shockwaves through the room. They advanced and as she shrank away from them, Layla felt a shudder deep inside and she straightened up.
            “Why am I scared of you little pipsqueaks?” she asked and grabbed a large metal skillet off a table nearby. “You leave us alone or I’ll bash your little potato heads in.”
            None of them had any reaction to her threat other than a mild interest.
            Layla felt Daria pulling on her arm again, but she shook her head. “I’m tired of running and fainting and everything. You gnomes weren’t invited and you can just go home.” She lunged forward, swinging the pan and then several things happened at once.
            There was a burst of bright blue light. Layla’s head started to pound, but the pan connected with the side of the gnome’s head and green sparks scattered and then dissolved. Tavares fell down the stairs into the kitchen with about ten gnomes clinging to him. Daria grabbed a long spoon and stabbed one of the other gnomes in the eye. The cook grabbed a pot full of some boiling liquid and dumped it over the third gnome.
            Tavares jumped to his feet and began peeling the gnomes off and flinging them around the room. The cook kept hitting her gnome over the head with her pan. Over and over and over again she brought the heavy metal down on him until he stopped moving. The gnome that Daria had speared screamed a terrible deep animal scream and clapped his hand over his wounded eye, scrambling to get away as she lashed the spoon at his head again. But Layla was seeing all of these things as if she were watching a movie. They all registered, but she wasn’t really paying attention to any of them. Instead she was looking in horror at the main gnome, the one she had knocked to the ground. The one that now had angry green burns from wherever the sparks had landed.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Some Stuff I Learned :)

So today I actually took time to bounce around and catch up a little bit on y'all's blogs. If I haven't made it to you yet, well, let's just say that I spent all day reading and I still have 848 unread posts in Google Reader.


One thing that I have noticed all around is that people are posting lists of things they learned this year and I had so much fun reading yours, that I decided to make one of my own. So here goes - my witty and wise lessons of 2010:

1) Pantsing can be totally good for me. Sometimes I need to shut up my internal editor and just get some words on the page. Because really awesomesauce things can happen that way that I KNOW would never happen otherwise.

2) "Research" and "Plotting" can = "Procrastination." I am NOT saying that I shouldn't research or plot, but when I sit down to write and spend the whole time doodling about things that might possibly happen in the sequel to the book I haven't even finished yet, it is NOT GOOD.

3) It is possible to write a WHOLE lot more than I do now. If there was one thing I learned from NaNo, it's that when I make myself find the time, I find it. Even in the middle of the rest of life there IS time for writing.

4) There are really awesome authors out there. Okay, so I already knew that, but with the chance to meet some of my writing heroes as well as some authors I had never really heard of or read, I have come to one conclusion. We authors are pretty much the coolest people ever.

Crazy people tend to gravitate to each other :D

5) You meet the right people at the right time. I met a lot of new people this year, both in person and online and each one of them has come into my life for a specific reason. Some of them it was only for a season - maybe even just that one encounter. Some of them are friendships that could last me a lifetime. I am incredibly grateful for every single one of them.

6) There is NO substitute for a good book. Okay, I knew that already, too, but having lost a lot of my leisure reading time, I can tell you that I adore those moments when I can curl up and lose myself in a book I'm reading just because I want to. Each book I read becomes a part of who I am and reminds me that it is still possible to write something good and fun and worthwhile, no matter how much has been written before.

7) TV shows can sometimes feel like a good book. You know, when the writing and the casting and the acting all gels and you get that really special show that pulls you in and makes you believe that it's real and you cry and laugh and want to LIVE with the characters. It doesn't happen that often, but I've discovered a few shows like that this year. Some are fluffier than others, but each one of them has impacted my story-telling abilities. It's still the written word, even if we're receiving it through a different medium.

8) Sometimes you need a break from the internet. I am blessed in that I have easy and ready access to the web pretty much any time I want it. We have WiFi at home and it's at school too. Then we left on Christmas day and visited my Grandma and Papa who have no computer much less interwebs. It was a much needed and surprisingly refreshing break. I'm glad to be back, but I think I will definitely need to take a week off here or there to keep myself alive.

9) You learn something SO much better when you teach it to someone else. I spent 30 years of my life trying to figure out how on earth to use commas. Then I taught college freshmen and we went over it and now I remember almost all of the rules and I'm actually able to give the reason as to why a comma should or should not be used. Does that mean I always do it right? No, I screw up that no comma before a coordinating conjunction that's followed by a dependent phrase rule ALL the time. But now I can go back and see that it's wrong.

10) Never say Never. I told myself I would NEVER in a million years write a novel featuring a vampire. Cue SNI with the faeries and the vampires and the gnomes and everything. And cue me loving every minute of it. It's not like most vampire novels and they're not really normal vampires either. I mean they are, but don't go thinking Sookie Stackhouse or Twilight or anything. It's more about the faeries and the faerie tales. But what I'm trying to say is, if I'd stuck to that vow this WIP would be a LOT less interesting and I'd be having a lot less fun right now. Keep your mind open to the possibilities or else you might miss something!

And I'll stop it there. A lot of these are writing related, but I think I've done the most growing in how I approach my writing this year so there you have it. Thank you to everyone who has helped to to learn and grow and realize that I'm not alone on this crazy journey whether it's writing or reading or grading a thousand papers - you all rock socks.