Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Paintings

Happy Halloween!

I've mentioned in the past  that I like to paint stuff and stick it on our walls.

So for Halloween, here is a post of what is up on our walls right now.  Sort of.  Although the pictures are from my phone, and taken quickly, before a certain three-year-old could snatch it away and open up Angry Birds...


After many Blogger image errors... are some pictures I finally managed to post!

The tiger is for our kids (our baby costume is a tiger), the vampire is my husband...

...and of course I get to be a powerful happy witch!  Although if I were TRULY powerful, there would be no more computer errors--even if it is a creepy, ghoulish night.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I am Dorrie!

Tonight we went to a neighborhood Halloween party.  We got candy.  Our costumes included:

Football fan (husband--he really was listening to the BYU game in one ear the entire time)

Dorrie the Witch (me)

Maskless Darth Vader (three-year-old)

Constantly Toddling Giraffe (one-year-old)

Dorrie is awesome!  She was my favorite character as a child--she showed me that girls can be witches with power to save everyone, and they don't even need matching socks!  Every book started with something close to this line: "This is Dorrie. She is a witch.  A little witch.  Her hat is always crooked and her socks never match.  She lives in a house with her mother, Cook, and her little cat Gink."

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Sister visiting.  Three-year-old sick.  Grading, editing, buying-candy-vacuuming-crumbled-crackers kind of day.

Here is the first music video I ever saw.  Enjoy?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I finished a book in the past week.  It followed a trilogy.  And it ended with a gigantic cliffhanger.

I'm all about letting readers do work when I write.  I love it when writers leave something open for me to interpret--not too open, but clever enough that I can feel smart when I understand.  For example, when I was doing my undergraduate degree I took a wonderful creative nonfiction workshop from Patrick Madden, and we did a section on fragmentary essays.  I chose food as a theme.  I picked all sorts of interconnected stories about food from my life, like the time when I was three that I tried to eat razors because I thought they were gum, or an day I spent with a friend with Willi Prader syndrome who couldn't tell when he was full.  And interspersed with these reminiscences were a handful of stories that I told in fairytale-like prose.  At risk of horrible embarrassment, I'll post the one my class chose to read aloud:

Hurry! her husband urges, shoving her through the door, but she leans on his arm, slowing him because she leaves behind people she has known for years and years, cookbooks and recipes, tastes and smells never to be found again on this earth.  Only half awake she stumbles through the streets and past the city walls, the stone cutting and hissing beneath her bare feet.  Her mind curls in the bed, still, and she longs for a warm drink or a bit of wheat bread, freshly baked.  She reaches the tall black stone on the outskirts of the town, and although her husband pushes on without glancing back, she takes a moment to rest.  To breathe.  The air tastes of fire—of cooking—and her stomach rumbles as she longs for wine, a bite of pumpkin pie or desert watermelon.  She turns back in the night, coolness seeping through her feet as she tries to remember the spices pressed in her neighbor’s roasted lamb.  Lemon salt?  Cloves?  Her eyes move absently across stone and sand to the city.  Seeing, her mouth gapes, and while her neighbor’s house burns she freezes, caught, her hands suddenly granulated colder and paler than the stone. 
She cannot move, the feel of salt weighs so heavy in her mouth.

We had to read a section aloud.  This was a rule of the workshop.  And when I read this section--blushing the whole time, because reading my own writing out loud always makes me realize what could sound better--my teacher let out a yell right when I finished, pounding his fist on the table.  "Lot's wife!" he yelled.  "That's Lot's wife!"  Turns out he thought I'd included all these weird tales that I'd made up, but he was pleased as anything once he figured out I had a Biblical base for my weirdness (I'd also included Eve and the Tree of Knowledge, although, like Lot's wife, I never named her).  I've had instances like that as a reader, instances where I put things together and I think "Wow.  I should have seen that!"  (Brandon Sanderson does that a lot, including twists he's set up but I never see.)  Anyway, I'm a huge fan of that making-the-reader-feel-awesome idea, and I can deal with open endings to novels, if they're done well.  Like Ethan Canin's Carry Me Across the Water, which may end in sleep or in death.  Or Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, one of the most beautiful books I've ever read.  I'm tolerant of many things in literature, because I will always be an eclectic, omnivorous reader.

But I hate cliffhangers.

It feels like cheating.  I like cliffhangers before scene breaks.  I'm all for cliffhangers at the end of chapters.  But at the end of books? I pay for a whole story, thank you very much!  I like an ending with my beginning and my middle--and don't add a whole bunch of spicy starting-the-next-story-in-this-one sauce (although you can include some dark-hint-sprinkles, if you must).

Anyway.  I've rambled on long enough.  Perhaps I should go investigate that shadow that's been lurking just outside my window--that shadow that I completely didn't make up to cause this post to have a cliffhanger ending, because there's going to be a picture anyway....

This pillar is called Lot's Wife, and it really does exist near the Dead Sea.  Haunting, no?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ira Glass is wise

I like this quote, and because I am all burnt out from a Halloween carnival (oh, the cotton candy and the donuts and the root beer and the treats for every. single. game.) (which delight and beguile three-year-olds and one-year-olds and make their parents exhausted), I shall post this quote from Ira Glass in lieu of my own dubious wisdom:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

"But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. 

"And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”


Monday, October 24, 2011


On Saturday I officially finished the second draft of my second novel.  And I think it's better than my first--even this early on, the middle hasn't given me near as many headaches.  Exciting! what should I do?

My first novel, for those who don't know, is currently under submission, and even though I've got some ideas for revising (it could always be better, right?), I've decided to wait on the fulls I have out before I do anything too drastic.  I should wait a few weeks before rereading my second novel, because...well, it's still too fresh, and waiting is usually a good idea.  Plus my wonderful critique partner is going at that draft, and her feedback will be exceptionally helpful.

So...hmm.  I could start a third novel, but I'm not certain I've got an idea solidified enough.  I could work on the business stuff (yay queries?), I could write a couple of short stories, I could actually spend some time learning new piano music or paint...but I've got to use my naptime-writingtime-golden-afternoon-hours for something creative.  Not grading!  No...not grading.

If anyone has any brilliant post-one-book-but-not-yet-ready-for-the-next-book ideas, let me know!  In the meantime, here is Night on Bald Mountain.  Because it is Halloween week (pretty much), and I love Night on Bald Mountain.

Friday, October 21, 2011


I like Fridays, especially Fridays like today: it's autumn, and we could crunch over leaves, but the sun made walking with a double stroller pleasant.  We got to talk about grasshoppers, and ants, and vultures.  I nearly finished the second draft of my second book.  And even though I really should grade some of that stack of essays I collected on Wednesday I'm still remembering the songs I sang with my three-year-old at bedtime, and I'm feeling content.

So here is Batman.  Because I must have an image, and I love Batman the Animated Series, and doesn't he just look happy? It must be Friday for him, too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I'm one of those people who sit down and write.  No outlines, at least on the first draft.  I've got a premise and some characters, and I see what happens as I go.  So that means, when I get to the end, I need to figure out how to tie everything together.  And I get sort of obsessive when I'm at an exciting part--I need to keep writing!  I need to see what happens!

I'm rewriting the end of my second book now.  And even though it's a second draft, and I do have a rough outline, I'm wanting to change things, to put them in words and see what happens next.  I want the end to be satisfying, though, exciting and scary and wonderful.  So here's a question: when (or if) you're writing a book, how would you do the end? How much do you outline? What books do you think have some of the best endings of all time?

I'm off to write some fiction now!

Our three-year-old is being Darth Vader for Halloween.  He wants our baby to be Yoda.  But this looks like a pretty cute costume, so we'll see...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Locked out

Well...we sort of locked ourselves out of our house today.  And the locksmith couldn't get us in, because our two doors were deadbolted.  We just got back in, because my most wonderful sister drove here with a spare key.  So, on the plus side, we get to play games tonight!  Also, we can remind people smarter than we are to hide a key, or have some sort of awesome break in plan, because if I could've broken in without smashing a window I would have felt pretty cool.

Anyway.  This calls for some Guy on a Buffalo.  He could've gotten us in!  Although I wouldn't want to pay for what he'd do...or clean up the stinky stuff a buffalo would leave behind...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


My nose is numb, and the top of my mouth.  I love getting fillings.  Except really I hate it, and I am being ironic here.  Because there's that smell--burning-drilled tooth--and the spray from the squirter, and the high-pitched drill noise and the weird things they stick between your teeth that dig into your gums and make them bleed.

And the numbness.  Did I mention I'm numb?

Well, you don't have to feel your nose to enjoy big cats playing with pumpkins!  Our zoo's got tigers and cougars and snow leopards and lynxes--but this zoo's got a lot more.  Also, am I the only one thinking of how to use wonderful dental appointments in my writing the whole time I'm there? Inside my head I've got this interior monologue, like I wonder what that blue light thingy is called.  And tooth isn't exactly bone, is it? So this wouldn't be the smell of burning bone.  But I bet teeth and drills could be a really creepy detail in the right story.  And what if there were a villain who thought anyone with this limp numb-lip look was weak for needing anesthetic!  Would that be crazy? That would probably be crazy...

Anyway.  Sorry.  Cats.  Pumpkins.  Yay!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reading and pumpkins

I love reading.  In fact, I have several new intriguing blogs I want to be reading right now.  Also, after buying pumpkins today (one for each member of the family), I also want to start designing a stencil for the one I picked.  Prior pumpkins I've carved have looked like this:

Okay, so the photography could be better--but that's The Count, the most lovable vampire ever
And this:

Okay, so this one's not carved.  But later I carved it into Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas.  I can't find those pictures--but look, a baby!  Awesome!
I guess all of this setup about pumpkins and such is my way of saying...I shall be off to read more blogs now.  And to take the pumpkins out of our car's trunk.  Whee?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pay It Forward

I may be a little late to the Pay It Forward blogfest, but I decided--better late than not at all!  My list:

The blog of one of my wonderful critique partners, a great romance writer and exceptionally kind person, the blog of Kristin Nelson, which may already be famous but is very encouraging and useful to first-time writers, and the blog of Shannon Hale, one of my favorite writers (and I think she's hilarious--I only met her once, and there was a pygmy goat at the reading, and her children, and her witty husband, but I did meet her, and she is funny and worth reading in book and blog form).

I love finding new blogs!  Reading is pretty much awesome.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lemony Snicket and Writing

I love this: in fact, I may illustrate it sometime.  It's a letter about writing, and the irony is beautiful and poetic and encouraging all at once...

Dear Cohort,

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it’s nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.

For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every website and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies – what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop.
Clearly, the future is moving us proudly and zippily away from the written word, so writing a novel is actually interfering with the natural progress of modern society. It is old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, a relic of a time when people took artistic expression seriously and found solace in a good story told well. We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past. It is like sitting in a gondola, listening to the water carry you across the water, while everyone else is zooming over you in jetpacks, belching smoke into the sky. Stop it, is what the jet-packers would say to you. Stop it this instant, you in that beautiful craft of intricately-carved wood that is giving you such a pleasant journey.

Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one’s entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient – the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste.

Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for? Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down. Even your friends and associates will never appreciate your novel the way you want them to. In fact, there are likely just a handful of readers out in the world who are perfect for your book, who will take it to heart and feel its mighty ripples throughout their lives, and you will likely never meet them, at least under the proper circumstances. So who cares? Think of that secret favorite book of yours – not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they’d never understand it. Perhaps it’s not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you’ll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.

Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor’s waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your n ovel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.

–Lemony Snicket

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Corn maze

We took the boys to a corn maze after I taught today (and after we jumped the Prius--you know that recipe, with one three-year-old + two minutes alone = lights on + one day = dead Prius battery? well, it still works), and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  One-year-old toddled all over on his new wobbly walking legs, three-year-old climbed in rope spiderwebs and on wooden trains and onto tractor-pulled cow trains.  We went through the kid's corn maze, spinning Simon Says wheels as we went ("Simon Says skip while patting your head and rubbing your belly until you reach the next wheel...") and we watched some piglets race.  But the most popular part (for our three-year-old)? The empty haunted houses (or hay mazes or blow-up toys, whatever).  He "likes being scared," much as the red-and-white walls of an inflatable clown house can be considered scary, so we got to go through them all, and he had me "haunt" his books tonight before bed by reading in a scary voice, and he kept insisting that our cats could make evil "bwahaha!" laughs.  So...yay haunted houses? We shall see how long they stay popular over here...

THIS creature/house actually scared three-year-old.  The heart makes a loud noise when  you get close--it made all of us jump, and then the baby laughed and laughed and laughed...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Simon's cat

This video had my three-year-old laughing so hard he could barely breathe before he giggled again.  It is funny, and somehow fits the nature of those mysterious, crazy creatures we call "cats"...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A quick picture break

Scheherazade probably looked nothing like this, but the picture is sort of interesting...

I hate to admit it, but this is a picture I like better.  In perhaps my nerdiest admission  yet, I will reveal: I want this card.  I like Magic, I like what it does.  And I like the way she smiles...

My interest in Arabian Nights led me to do a few image searches.  Funny enough, my favorite image of Scheherazade is one I knew from my dad's binders of Magic: The Gathering cards--and after scanning several pages of pictures, it's still the best to me...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday is...

...not a day I typically hate, actually.  And the weather is getting nicer.  But I feel like I need something.  Maybe a pep talk, or a good night's sleep, or...

...a Guy on a Buffalo Part 2, perhaps?!? (Yes, I am lazy.  But revising my book/beta reading two other books/teaching/caring for two children/waiting for agents with fulls takes all my patience and energy, and I really do like the baby part in this one.  A baby? Awesome!)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Timpanogos Cave

Today we braved Timpanogos Mountain's 1 3/4 mile trail so we could see the cave at the top.  I say "braved" because we weren't allowed to bring a stroller (we found out when we got there), and it was snowing when we got to the higher levels.  So between the cold and carrying two children in the arms of three people (my sister came, too!), it was a memorable trip.  At least the caves are beautiful, slick and haunting, with cave popcorn and cave bacon and water drips frozen in stone over hundreds of years.

Here's the picture of what they call "the heart of the cave." I'm pretty sure we also found the cave's belly button and spleen, too, although those aren't officially labelled...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Snowy October

Well, it snowed today--nothing that stuck, but the loose wet flakes reminded me that I can't count on sun anymore.  And there's something to be said about snuggling two little boys in blankets, something about heaters and warm baths and oatmeal dinners.  Still, I'd like an autumn.  And in honor of that (okay, not really), I shall post this awesome video:

Are buffaloes a fall animal? They're warm colors, sort of...and fuzzy, so they'd stay warm in a crisp wind...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday Blahs

I'm feeling sort of...blah-ish today. At least I've got an excellent book to read (Jonathan Stroud's The Ring of Solomon, which is, of course, brilliant and witty and thoughtful all at once), and our one-year-old walked through two rooms today with wobbly, adorable steps, and our three-year-old is pretty much potty trained.  So there's good things, this waving giraffe!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Halloween Costume: Check

Our three-year-old chose a costume: between a boxer, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Darth Vader, he chose...Darth Vader.  He's got a slightly crooked lightsaber, a mask he looks more adorable without (he has his adorable "mean guy" scowl on constantly when he's a Sith Lord), and a cape/outfit made out of that super-thin Halloween costume fabric that requires clothes underneath it or a child'll freeze to death.  It is awesome.  In honor of his choice, I shall post this video:

Three-year-olds are awesome!