Friday, October 30, 2009

The foreground

When you're taking a picture, it's important to look at more than just the subject. Ask yourself: Can there be more to this picture than just the subject? For my first picture here my family went to DC last weekend, and we were walking to the Jefferson Memorial. I liked the Washington Monument reflected in the water even though it was pretty far away. I included the trees for some depth.

For this next picture we were approaching the Memorial, and I wanted to include some color and visual contrast. The hard, straight, classical forms of the Memorial juxtaposed with the natural forms of the trees.

When we write, it's important to include these kinds of comparisons. When setting up a scene, don't forget to include contrasting elements or things in the foreground, so to speak, to provide a depth of field.

Have a great weekend everyone. AND. Happy Halloween.

FYI. I'm making some progress with my writing at long last. *Happy Dance*

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--More than just a maze

Up for today: THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner

Why I bought it? A bloggy friend recommended it on her blog, and when I saw it at the BN I snagged it.

Synopsis: Thomas wakes up in a dark elevator with all his memories erased. All he knows about himself is his first name. When the elevator stops an all boy group pulls him out the top, and he begins his new life in the glade. It is surrounded by a maze that is only open during the day because of the dangerous creatures that come out at night. The boys are trying to find a way out--a way home, but is home any better than where they are? So far one boy a month has arrived like clockwork. With Thomas' arrival things start to change.

What I thought? Here's a great book for boys. With the cast 99% boy it's a no brainer, but it is a book that girls can enjoy as well. This story is completely engrossing--unique enough that you don't know what to expect next. There always seemed to be one more twist in the road. The writing is brisk and well done.

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5

Cleanness Score: 6 out of 10, This is mostly for violence. There is a fair amount of death from the monsters in the maze (It's not a vague threat.), so this is not for the squeamish. I can say with confidence that there were no American swear words. The author seemed to get around that by making up his own (interesting concept) and using a couple British ones.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FYI: Unplugged

In case any of you are wondering, I've joined the crowd of third week unpluggers. So, officially, I'm not blogging this week, but, as you can see, I've made an exception to give you a heads up. It's been good. I've actually been making some progress with my WIP.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Where's the light?

There have been a few posts lately that I've read asking about whether writers are drawn to other types of art. As my regular readers know, I'm a HUGE fan of photography and used to do posts comparing photography with writing. I've decided to bring that regular feature back to my blog. I can't help myself. I've missed it. Maybe you have too.

A lot of people may think that the subject is the most important part of any given picture. While it's true that the subject is the focal point of the picture and may even be the reason the picture was taken, for a truly masterful picture it's all about the light. What is the source of the light? What is it illuminating? How bright is it? How does it color the subject?
Bright light can be very harsh on the subject.

Same subject (our lovely daughter), same beach backdrop but this time as the sun is setting. Notice the difference in the skin tones. See how her eyes stand out.

Here are some pretty colors, but this one is lacking something.
Illuminate it with a little light from behind. It makes a more powerful statement.

What you do with your light depends on what your goal is. Sometimes you want to show the leaf.
Sometimes you want to emphasize the hole in the leaf. That's the same leaf at the same time of day. One with the light behind me, the other with the light behind the leaf. In the first one you don't even notice the hole, but it's there.

How do we illuminate our stories? Do we use light at all? Do we shine harsh light on the subjects or let a gentle glowing reveal them to our readers? Do we show our characters in different lights and different angles to give a complete picture of who they are--flaws and all? How important is light to your story? Is it a symbol you use? For mine it is very important. It is a source of truth. It reveals hidden elements. It helps the MC see her path and follow it.

Just a few things to think about.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Austen fantasy

Up for today: AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale

Austenland: A Novel

Why I bought it? I really enjoy Shannon Hale's writing. I love Jane Austen. I was curious to see what Hale would do with the idea. I'd seen mixed reviews for it, but still figured I'd give it a try. I looked around for it at bookstores while I was there, but no one ever seemed to have it in stock. In the end, I ordered it from Amazon.

Synopsis: Jane Hayes has been obsessed with Mr. Darcy for years. Her relationships never seem to measure up. She receives a non-refundable gift of a 3 week stay at a Jane Austen experience retreat. She decides to try for love one last time before she gives up men forever.

What I thought? It was charming. Hale's voice makes this fun and witty. It could have deteriorated into something sentimental and sappy, but Hale never lets it. There are interesting twists and turns and unexpected things popping up. In a book like this, when you think you know what to expect, it was fun not to.

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5

Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10, It's all pretty tame. I can't remember any language, but there may have been the occasional mild word. There was a bit of gratuitous make-out kissing, but nothing explicit.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Using my ears

I've discovered a new way to exist. Oh the joy of getting tons done while "reading." I'm doing laundry--folding clothes, sorting socks, putting things away--and reading. I'm cleaning my kitchen, my bedroom, whatever is in front of me and reading. I'm cooking dinner and washing dishes and reading. Oh the possibilities. The tasks get done almost without me realizing it. What the heck? You may ask. Audiobooks, baby!

So far, I've downloaded only one book to my iPod (and it's a long one), but, with all this new productivity, I can see I'll be doing this a lot more often. This could especially be good for rereads.

The reader for the book I'm listening to right now is absolutely amazing. I just can't get over it. He has different accents and slight variations of tone and voice for the myriads of people when they talk.

I can't believe I've never done this before. I am funny about the whole reading process. I love a book in my hands, and this will not replace that entirely. But. For a busy mom, this makes the drudgery jobs so much better.

Audiobooks=A spoonful of sugar!

So how many of you have given audiobooks a try? Do you like them or hate them?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Feeling sick?

Up for today: THE GREAT INFLUENZA by John M. Barry

Product Details

Why I bought it? It was October's choice for my book club. I was excited about it. It sounded interesting. I ordered it online from Amazon along with several others.

Synopsis: It explains the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. How it happened. The medical environment of the time. The primary players in infectious diseases research prior to and during the epidemic/pandemic. The role of WWI in the spread of the virus.

What I thought? The research that went into this book was astounding. Barry went into a lot of detail. He had some great explanations of what happens in the spreading of influenza. I appreciated his point by point descriptions of what the H and the N refer to--as in H1N1 flu and how we classify different flu strains. I enjoyed hearing about the doctors who were trying to come up with vaccines or cures for the flu. Barry went into their personalities and personal histories fairly extensively. It was all very interesting. I really can't fault him for most of the things he included. I learned a ton. I did find, though, that it was pretty disjointed. He was kind of all over the place. I can understand. It is a huge undertaking with lots of players, but still I was glad to be done with it when it was over. I got annoyed at the way it was written until I started approaching it as random research notes. Barry's writing style didn't do much for me either. Sometimes his sentences were all turned around. Parts of it were brilliant, and parts of it were deadly dull. If you can stand the repetitions and the writing problems, it is a good thing to read. It really gets you thinking about what happened then, the impact it had on the world, and the possibility of it happening again and how prepared we are for it. That part is chilling.

My Rating: *** out of 5

Cleanness Score: 6 out of 10, This is mostly for the horror of what happened when the pandemic was in full force.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rock on!

Happy Monday, everyone! I read a few posts about music last week and thought it would be fun to share some of my faves. I LOVE LOVE LOVE music. It moves me like nothing else can. I play the piano and the trumpet, and I sing--solo and in groups, but most especially with gusto when I'm riding around listening to music in the car. I totally rock those bucket seats and make the windows rattle!

I listen to just about all types of music. From classical to pop to jazz to country to rock to broadway to big band (in fact, I used to play in a big band) to alternative rock to folk and on and on. I write with music. I make song lists for my WIPs and listen to them while I'm writing. I have music without words for when I'm editing. I can't imagine the world without music.

The posts I've seen about music have listed seven of their favorite songs. I'll try to keep it to that, but just know that I could be listing all day on this one. So in no particular order:

1. Vindicated by Dashboard Confessional (which happens to be the #1 most played on my iPod, so, apparently, there is something to the order here but not much.)
2. Butterflies and Hurricanes by Muse
3. The Reason by Hoobastank
4. Kryptonite by 3 doors down
5. Trouble Me by 10,000 Maniacs
6. Feeling Good by Michael Bublé
7. Ain't Misbehavin' by Louis Armstrong
8. Sing, Sing, Sing by Louis Prima (Performed by The Benny Goodman Orchestra)
--already feeling constrained. I should have just done my favorites from the last year. How can anyone pick only 7 songs from a whole world of music.
9. Have a Nice Day by Bon Jovi
10. Stormy Weather by Lena Horne
11. To Make You Feel My Love by Garth Brooks
--ok. I'm going to have to drag myself away. This is such an inadequate list. I don't think I could call it my top favorites, but it is a list of songs that I really love. It doesn't even make a dent in the possible choices. Sigh!
But what about
12. Keep your hands to yourself by The Calling
13. Storm by Lifehouse
and what about... my favorites to sing O Divine Redeemer by Gounod and On My Own from Les Miserables *drags self away from the list of songs sputtering that I've left out the best ones*

Friday, October 2, 2009


I don't want to offend anyone, but lately this has really been bugging me. I thought I'd just throw it out there on my tiny platform and see what the rest of you think.

I know Americans are notorious for expecting people to speak English around the world. They have a bad reputation. How egocentric are we? If Americans live abroad, I think they should learn the language of the country they are in. The people of the world seem to give us a pretty wide latitude. I'm guessing there are plenty of them that resent it though.

I find that we are not the only ones unwilling to speak another language. It really bothers me that there are people who move to the US (taking advantage of the things this country has to offer) and don't learn English. The language we speak in this country is English. I know that seems silly, and I feel people will think I'm heartless. I am not. Really. I'm considerate. I promise.

I understand the difficulty. I've been in the same situation. When I first arrived in France, I had only had a crash course in French. Getting around and communicating were real challenges. There were days I was so frustrated and confused that I just wanted to cry. (I did some days.) I made tons of mistakes (some of them very funny and a couple inadvertently quite profane), but eventually I learned the language. When I did, my experiences there became much richer. I was so much happier. It didn't take me long either. After a couple months I could carry on conversations about lots of subjects and get around pretty easily. After a year I could talk with anyone about anything. I didn't always understand every word, but I knew enough that I could ask for explanations and definitions. It's amazing how much people will help you when they see you are trying and how much you can learn if you try.

To me it just stands to reason that if you move to a country where you don't speak the language, you learn the language of the country you are in. That country shouldn't have to learn your language just so you feel at home. I think how much I would have missed out on if I'd had that attitude in France and Switzerland. It's important to adapt, and life is better for you when you do. I grew to appreciate the beauty of the French language, the pride the people have in it and saw how much they respect those who work to learn it.

It's not that hard to learn a foreign language, especially when you are completely immersed in it--when you are living in the country and surrounded by it every day. When I spent 3 weeks in Mexico I spoke to people in Spanish as much as I could, and by the time I came home my Spanish had improved tremendously.

I know everyone is not linguistically inclined, and English can be a real challenge as languages go, but anyone can learn another language if they try. I don't expect perfection. I just want communication and respect for the language of my forefathers. English.

Is it too much to ask?