Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Festival of Trees

Today was our local Festival of Trees, where there are lines and lines of trees and lights, a Kiddie Corner, Santa Clause, treats, and performances from various local organizations.  Oh, and all the proceeds go to the Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake.

I love Christmas.  And that thing I said yesterday about waiting to celebrate? It's just on the blog.  My trees (okay, yes, we have two) are up, we're playing Sesame Street Christmas carols on my iPod, and I can still taste the chocolate-covered banana we ate at the Festival earlier.  The greatest thing about it is that you know all the proceeds go to the hospital.  Not to some crazy-big bank or corporation, but to sick children who could use the support.  And there are some awesome things to do!  I stood in the center of a giant bubble with my three-year-old, chased my one-year-old around the quilt section, saw a tree made out of tires and another tree made out of books (that you could still read!), ate delicious cinnamon scones, and watched my children's cheeks get sore from all the grinning.

This is a tree from a few years ago (2009).  It was made out of glass, and had lights that flickered and danced to a soundtrack that played behind it.  I love seeing the art people donate--it's so selfless and cool!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The past few years of my life helped me develop some patience, but I still could use quite a bit more.  Pregnancy is an exercise in waiting, especially at the end.  Children--ah, children are a wonderful way to learn you can't plan everything (or, some days, anything).  And then there's publishing, which moves slowly (it doesn't help that I query slowly as well), and finishing books, and polishing books before you send them out...I'd like to think I could tell my five-year-old self, who really, really hated it when her mom said, "Patience is a virtue," that I've finally got it down.

Except that is a lie.

At least I've been patient about talking about the holiday season on this blog!  I love Christmas.  I love the music and the lights and that warm family-together-fuzzy-nostalgic feeling I'm sucker enough to get.  I do not love sappy horrible songs like "Christmas Shoes," but old classics like "Silent Night" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" can put me in a good mood within three or four notes.

But I am patient, and it's November, and I'm not posting about Christmas yet.  Nope.  Not one word.

So here is a totally innocent picture of Auburn, Washington, where I grew up.  The pine trees are coincidence, as is the snow, because I am waiting for two more days!  Except for the fact that we've already put up the tree, and the lights, and the nativities, and the train...

Monday, November 28, 2011

New computer!

We are buying a new computer.  It will be able to play Portal 2.  So I can play the co-op mode at last!  This makes me happy.  In honor of our new computer, I shall give you this trailer video:

Should I become the round one? Or the oblong one? My three-year-old wants me to be the shorter, chubbier model...but we'll see!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Grateful: Days 3, 4, and 5

Oops!  I guess having a Thanksgiving at our house on Wednesday at our house and another (possibly more official, day-wise) Thanksgiving yesterday at my in-law's house made it so I did not update my blog.  At all.  Hopefully you were so full of turkey and pie you didn't notice! Except I should probably delete this intro...

Let's see.  On Day 3 I felt especially grateful for the family I grew up in.  Brilliant parents, three awesome and hilarious little sisters, and traditions that I still love.  I am sort of homesick for Seattle right now, but seeing my sister and her husband and his brother made me super happy, because they are, as I mentioned, hilarious and awesome. Yay family!

Day 4: I married into a huge family.  Fourteen kids (counting my husband, who's right in the middle), with over thirty nieces and nephews between all of them.  We have the best time playing games, chatting, sharing food, helping our children run on the is pretty much the happiest exhaustion ever, and I love it!

Day 5: Wow, there's lots more I should add.  Books, creativity, our house, lots of tasty food, cats, education, cars, friends, games, libraries...I'm sure I'm missing something completely obvious that I should talk about, but right now I'm most grateful for my friendships with people I've never physically seen.  The Absolute Write Forums helped me meet so many wonderful writers, and I've got amazing critique partners in the UK and all across the United States!  The internet allows me to toss ideas over to New York and get them back within a day, and I've encountered so many incredible support groups and agents and blogs in the past year that I feel truly lucky.  So if you leave comments, or silently lurk-read (usually me), or send me your wonderful stories for feedback (yay!), or blog or post on the forums...thank you, and have a happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

I am planning on putting up our Christmas tree today or tomorrow, which will be so much fun with our three-year-old and (gulp) baby!  I waited until after Thanksgiving, though.  Aren't you proud of me?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Grateful: Day Two

I'm grateful for my boys:

There's nothing I love more in the world than these three faces. And yes, they are sitting on a dinosaur at the zoo.  Aren't they awesome*?

*Speaking of awesome, my three-year-old made up a joke a while ago that goes something like this:

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Cow who?
It ate you!!!

He told it three times tonight.  It cracks me up every time.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Grateful: Day One

There's lots of people posting about things they're grateful for every day this month, on Facebook and Twitter and such, so I decided to have themed week.  I've got lots to be grateful for, and I can't cover everything even if that's all I ever wrote about.  But I can try to say some of the big things.  And I will:


Today was the only day I have to work this week, because my students get Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off, and I teach every other day.  And I have to say: I am grateful for my job.

For those of you who don't know, I teach writing as an adjunct professor for the University of Utah.  I used to travel up to classes and hold lectures there, but they have a partnership with a nearby charter high school, and I've always loved teaching younger (freshman-aged) students.  Of course I volunteered, and it was the best decision of my career.

The students I get in my classes are generally smart, motivated, and super talented.  I love in-class discussions, and the questions I get from lectures, and watching how carefully and intelligently they review each others' essays.  I may not be especially fond of the grading process, but I do appreciate how my comments can help create a personalized dialogue between me and students, ultimately improving their writing and, in some cases, teaching me a thing or two as well.  I took a lot of science classes as an undergraduate, and I toyed with the idea of becoming a microbiology professor or something (chemistry professors get to blow stuff up!), but writers can tie anything in to their discipline.  Water polo rules? Woorari poison darts? Werewolves? You can write about anything you know (including explosions) and you can learn from students (I've learned tons!), so I'm pretty happy with my chosen subject.

I stayed at work late today to talk with a handful of students about Thanksgiving traditions, Ayn Rand, and fantasy villains.  I've worked a lot of jobs in my life, but I can tell you that I never stayed late at Dairy Queen during high school, or at the DoubleTree Inn in Seatac where I temped over summers between semesters.  I love my job now, though, and I know how lucky I am to spend time with such awesome people!

My handwriting on the board actually isn't that good, and most my classrooms have whiteboards.  Still, I can pretend this is something I wrote, blurs and all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Game Night!

I'll post this morning, because last night my sister and her husband came over, so after the kids went to bed we played games.

Now we have a lot of games.  My dad loves games, and we grew up with whole closets full of games we could pick out and play.  Since we have many choices, we choose our game for the night by starting out with Mario Kart Wii.  Whoever wins the four-person race by earning the most points picks what we'll do next.

Yesterday we played Scribblish, which is super fun if you have the right group and completely deserves its own post.

So that's what I was doing instead of blogging.  Doodling kangaroos and mad scientists and zom-bees (terrible pun--I was tired).  Whee!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Well, I wasn't lazy the rest of the day, but I'm feeling lazy now.  Earlier, I taught, finished a shot story, edited a critique partner's novel, took my three-year-old to the dentist, and (with my husband) watched three kids in addition to our two.  Now I am ready to sit back and watch something.  So here are my two favorite Kid History movies--the first because of the grapes, the second because the healthy eating reminds me of my own mother.  Watch with me, if you'd like!

(By the way, this really is the sort of thing you do in college when you're at Brigham Young University.  Make weird videos, tell stories, watch videos other people made in huge auditoriums while yelling things like "Yellow grapes!" and "Ninja vanish!" I recognize those auditoriums, by the way.  I'll have to write a post about a 'modern music' concert I went to in one of them...when I'm less lazy!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Building a World

Information flow is a tricky beast for me.  I spent lots of time during my undergraduate and graduate degrees examining books with beautiful language, excellent characterization, timeless themes...and absolutely no magic.  Or, if there was magic, it was allegorical and in a seventeenth-century poem.  So I get out of school, and I write a book, and I find that I have strategies for characters.  And language.  And themes.  But I discover that there's also this thing called world building, where you have to explain how your magic works, where you have to set up rules in a careful way to make your book punchy-surprising at the end.

And it's something I never learned how to do.

For an example of my rewriting style, I'll share my strategy for characters: I highlight each main character with a single color, every line they speak, every action they do (sometimes I just draw lines down the side).  Then I take a page in my notebook and make a list of their goals, attributes, habits when they're nervous/angry/happy--anything I know about the character, including what I want the reader to feel at various points.  Sometimes I make (bad) sketches.  And then I go back through the manuscript with my colored markers and rewrite (or give a page in my notebook where I rewrite).  And it works.  Sometimes it takes me a few drafts, but it works!

I need something like that for world/magic building.  Ideas are welcome.  And I'll let you know what I end up doing, because if you're crazy enough to write fantasy, you've got to build those words into worlds!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I love games.  And I'm not all that picky--we've got board games and card games and computer games and Wii get the idea.  But one of my favorite games, probably because I'm twisted, is the game of Werewolves.

Werewolves comes from a game called Mafia, which was made up by a psychology grad student in 1986.  The premise is fairly simple: you get a group of eight people or more, pass out roles that the players aren't allowed to share, and start playing based off of whatever character you get.  In the most basic game, you're either a werewolf or a villager--if you're a werewolf, you want to eat villagers until you rule the town, and if you're a villager, you want to execute all those vicious werewolves so you'll stop getting eaten.

Okay, so it sounds more complicated on paper than it does in my head.  Just trust me.  It's fun.  I play it every year with my class (I moderated it today, in fact!), and my students rush out and buy copies over the weekend to play with their friends.  And it really does help with writing!  Watching for people's tells while lying, and figuring out how to manipulate others when you're a werewolf--it's a play of charisma, rhetoric, and character study that I love.  In case I've confused you more than helped, there's a video below that explains the basics (although the included games are not nearly as good as the games I've played/moderated).  But werewolves is awesome!  You should try to play it, and tell me if you do!

Monday, November 14, 2011


Tomorrow I teach.  In fact, tomorrow I pick up another batch of papers to grade--and lots of my students, this time, chose to write about education.  I come from the public school system.  I always loved school, except middle school, and even then I had some exceptional teachers.  But I know there are lots students who struggle, lots of brilliant people who just aren't "academic," and I've thought a lot about what can be done to help those students reach their full potential.

So here's an interesting video--with animation!--about how the school system works.  I'm especially fascinated about the changes that go on in out-of-the-box thinking between Kindergarten and High School and how that might have to do with the factory mentality of the current system.  Also, I wish I could draw such clear images!  It is a few minutes long, but it's worth the watch (did I mention drawings?).  Parents, kids, or anyone who wants to be treated by a smart doctor in 2030: I figure education should be important to all of us!

Friday, November 11, 2011


I can't listen to music while I write--I need silence to focus--but I love music. I particularly love albums with beautiful lyrics tied together by theme or by story.

One of my favorite albums ever was Lungs by Florence and the Machine.  So last week I bought Ceremonials, their latest work, and I am enjoying it more every time I listen.

Where Lungs seemed to have a fairytale feel, with beasts and blood and wishes gone awry, Ceremonials draws heavily on Christian ideas and myths.  Demons, revelations, light, sacrament--the music is still full of drums, it's still haunting, but I love how the two albums draw on very different sources and come up with magic from both.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Still recovering...

...but I am feeling well enough to post a nerdy joke.  It is something I always thought was strange:

Also, I want these earrings:

If I get them by 3/14 of next year, I will smile all the day long.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Blah.  I'm sniffly and tired, which isn't essential for you to know at all.  What is important for you to know is that I may use my evenings for the next few days for recovery rather than blogging.  Chicken soup and saltines and sleep.  That sort of thing.

But babies make everything better, right? Well, except for the sleeping stuff...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Five kids

I got to watch five kids today!  Two nieces, one nephew, and two sons.  They play super well together...but I am exhausted, and have nothing but respect for mothers who watch five (or more) kids every day.  I can't imagine a harder job!

Speaking of jobs, I'm currently rewriting key points in the middle of my first manuscript (Swindle Witch) based off of some excellent critiques.  I have had fits with the middle, but I think I've finally figured it out.  It's all about world building and info dumping, and I struggled because--well, it was my first novel, and my first fantasy story in a really, really long time.  I'm excited about the changes I'm making now, though--I think they'll make my middle chapters as strong as my start, and strengthen the ending as well.  Yay for revision!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kid History!

I've just received some wonderful feedback on my novel, and I must go edit the middle (oh, middle, you coy, tricky beast!).  To entertain you, here is the first of the Kid History clips.  They are funny, and there are six.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Phone cameras

I never had a cell phone before this summer.  True story.  Now that I have one, I've decided that one of my favorite aspects is the camera.

Here are some pictures I took when I first got the camera.  They summarize the basic awesomeness of my day:

Not perfect quality, but who wouldn't want to catch these crazy brothers when they're playing together on the couch?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

Thanks to Josh over at The Blog that Helps You Diagnose Your Characters, I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award! This is exciting, especially since I hop over to his blog every time it updates because it is fascinating.

So.  The rules in accepting this award: thank the person who nominated you (thanks again!). Share 7 things about yourself so that your readers can learn more about you (see below!), and nominate 7 other newly-discovered bloggers and let them know you nominated them (see below, and I will!).

Things About Me:

1. I can wiggle my ears.  Both at once and one at a time.  I can't do it while smiling, though, which makes it tricky when I try to show people.
2. I've got brown hair and brown eyes.  My husband has black hair and green eyes.  My three-year-old has golden-brown hair and hazel eyes.  And my one-year-old has golden-brown hair and blue eyes.  The blondish hair and the blue eyes surprised us--we expected our darker-hair-and-eye-genes to win out!
3. Me and my husband picked up Marilynne Robinson once and drove her from her hotel to a reading at the library.  So I've met one of my favorite authors.  She sat in my car.  She is very, very smart.
4. Apparently I love working with ice cream or writing.  I was a manager at Dairy Queen in high school, worked odd ice cream and editing jobs during my undergrad at BYU, and entered my current job teaching writing at the University of Utah when I started my graduate program. I did work at a plastics company, a hotel, and as a painter during some of the summers, but I didn't like pretending to be busy when I really had nothing to do, so those jobs were somewhat painful. Writing and ice cream rock, though!
5. I'm the oldest of four girls, but now I'm outnumbered by boys in our house.  Unless you count our two female cats...then we're even.
6. I love Portal.  And Portal 2.  And the Half Life games, because Valve is awesome.  I used to play more Blizzard games (never World of Warcraft, but I've beat the others), but I haven't played those as much since I had children.
7. As I child I loved My Little Ponies, and I am glad they now have a TV show that is fun and hilarious.  It's all about the writing (well, the writing is the base, at least, although you still need the animation and the voice acting and the music and the directing and so on...).

Let me know if there's other random stuff you want to learn about me, and I shall share more sometime...

Now to the list of seven bloggers!

1. Monica the Mighty: A blog about a super-amazing mother of seven who happens to be a fantastic writer.  You should read the archives. In fact, you should read everything she writes.  Because she is awesome. (She's my sister-in-law, so I can attest to her awesomeness in person as well!)
2. The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment: This one is probably already known to everyone, but I've been enjoying it.  Especially the recent series on monsters! Very useful for writers, and fun, too.
3. C'MERE: Website of K. Marie Criddle.  Pictures of surly unicorns.  Facts about butterflies.  Makes me smile every time.
4. Walking in a Writer's Wonderland: The blog of my romance-writing critique partner of coolness. Personal tidbits about another writer's experience in this big, bad writing world.  Also, mini muffins!
5. Rebecca Mahoney--Writer: She's busy revising right now, but she's got great information, and she's a terrific and supportive writer!
6. Losing Sanity: A new discovery from the recent Pay It Forward blogfest.  I love the happiness project! And I'm enjoying the archives too.
7. Winget Family: I love the photos! This is another sister-in-law blog, and she is a foodie and a mother of three very cute little girls! The Wingets are the best hosts ever, by the way.  Just so you know.