Tuesday, November 6, 2012

In Light of my Sanity

I’m trying to keep it, or what left of it, and as such my blog is suffering from it. Even now I’m taking time from what I should be doing to write this post.

But my readers, whether you’re the ones I know and love, who have been with me from the beginning, or newly discovered friends, you deserve to know why.
  • Why I’ve been silent.
  • Why I’ve written posts and yet not gotten them up
  • Why...

And yes I know this may sound like a whine, and I hate whining (especially when not served properly with chocolate and cheese), but this is how it is:
  1. I am tired, with no real hope of catching up on sleep in the near future. And not just because I’m getting up early and staying up late to write for NaNo. (And try as I might for an earlier bed time I nearly always end up staying up till at least 11 and then suddenly it’s midnight *resigned sigh*)
  2. As a mother, many things fall to my responsibility, cooking, laundry and dishes being the main two after the kids, and when Daddy isn’t in the house the Puppy as well.
  3. I have become the sole person in my department as a result of my Boss departing and my coworker going on Maternity leave, right as we hit a big push to manufacture more 'widgets' than we ever have before.
It’s a short list, I suppose, but it’s got high impact and some days I just want to curl up into a ball and cry myself to sleep. But I can’t, I must forge forward and let those things I can slip. This blog happens to be one of them.

I’m still here.

I expect to be back.

You may see me on your blogs.

But for now...


:} Cathryn Leigh

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Day We Can All Dress Up

Halloween is my favorite Holidays; hands down. Why? Because I can dress up, in whatever I desire, call it a costume, and no one will look at me funny. In fact I suspect envy in some people’s eyes because I was brave enough to do so. I guess we can’t all keep our inner child. Such a shame since I suspect the world would be a better place if we encouraged it.

But back to the topic of Costumes! It’s been a while since I’ve actually made myself one. After all I have two kids and you can’t get them to make up their mind until Halloween is drawing nigh. Take my son for example – for six months he wanted to be Spider man, but then Grammy showed him a costume website and he wanted to be Sonic.  At that same time my daughter decided she wanted to be Cinderella.

No biggie, I went out and snagged two patterns (on sale no less) and started putting together my list of materials. But as I started cleaning out last year’s costumes I gave them one more chance, bringing out what patterns I had. After some back and forth between the two of them, and some discussion with me, they decide; a Prince (he likes costumes with weapons) and a Princess (she doesn’t have to be a specific one).

They love to coordinate – you can easily see that if you look at what they’ve been over the course of the past 3 years
2011: Cheetah and Snake     2010: Batman and Batgirl     2009: Pirate and Mermaid

This year I totally scored though. We were able to find the majority of the fabric in my stash (I used to buy fabric I liked when it was on sale all the time). Still it cost more than I’m willing to admit to get the trim and two small pieces of fabric, even with some coupons. But hey, my kids love them and they get good use out of them. My daughter can still wear the Mermaid costume (after I let out two inches) and my son his batman one (though it’s almost a crop top with shorts now).

For the Hubby, I’ve already made a pair of ‘Ren Fest’ wearable pants (not authentic, having an elastic waist, but much more passable than jeans).  

I’ve started on my son’s costume, which is coming out nicely and I only have the hood and pants to finish his look. Then for my daughter we found we already had a dress in the pattern she wanted in their Costume Closet. Now They’ll be definitely set for Girl Scouts Trunk or Treating on The 19th.

As for me, I’m pulling out a fancy cape I made (just need to hem it) and a Princess dress my mom made. It’s not like I have a Costume Closet of my own to go through *wink*

What about you? What goes through your mind when you see adults dressed up, outside of some sort of fair or conference? Do you dress up? (And do you secretly wish you could do it more of the time like I do?)

:} Cathryn

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I Hate Ranting But...

I’m feeling overwhelmed. There I admitted it. But I don’t know if it’s the time of year, or the point I’m at in my menstrual cycle (and right now we’re in the post stage, though I suppose you could call it pre-pre-pre stage) *sigh*

So what is making me feel overwhelmed?

Well the first thing that comes to mind is that – my boss is leaving. An opportunity came knocking and she’s taken it. This brings up many thoughts and questions in my mind:Am I doing the wrong thing by not looking/keeping my eyes peeled? Is my loyalty to the company that hires me an out dated thing? – It does seem old fashioned, but like a guy who is courteous and respectful to a woman, it doesn’t go out of style... right?
  • I’m feeling a little betrayed that she’s leaving, but it’s not like she can say, why don’t you come with me.
  • I’m feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities I’m going to be taking over. Like sending out meeting minutes from management Review and making sure all the executive managers approve it.
  • I’m worried I won’t make it. I’ll fail and the company will crumble.
Yes that last one is a bit of an exaggeration, but for 6 to 8 weeks I will be a department of 1, because my other coworker, who deals with a lot of the daily stuff, will be on Maternity leave. While she says she’s coming back, I have to prepare for the possibility that she might not. You never know... and suddenly I find myself thankful for the shortness of Maternity leave. If I lived and worked in the UK I could be a department for six months!

Wow did that make my mind boggle and put things in a little perspective.

So beyond that little stressing development I’ve piled onto my life:
  • POD Formatting for hire - I’ve a contract with MWiDP, thanks to Anne R Allen and her worry about getting How to be a Writer in the E-Age out in time for her conference (my paperback just arrived *grins*). So along with formatting the 10 to 15 books mark’s got me listed for I’m also helping someone else with hers. (She’s even paid me.)
  • Keeping up with spending time working on writing every day, be it word count or planning or world building. This is part of my retirement plan folks. I have to keep marching forward, so that when I’m ready I can start putting books out there one after another.
  • Teaching Sunday school about every other week. So far I plan the morning before... I’d like to give it more fore though, but I never seem to.
  • Making Halloween Costumes (I have a drafted post on that, that I’ve not gotten up) potentially in the next two weeks, ready for an event my kids will be going to.
  • Keeping up with this blog. I’ve been horrible at it since I hit the one year mark in June. Kind of like my Diaries... only better, because those never had the weekly punctualness for a whole year.
  • Making sure I read, not just books to my kids (but how can I not read “STAND BACK!” cried the Elephant “I”M GOING TO SNEEZE!” – okay I haven’t read it yet, but the title was too awesome not to pick up for 50 cents from the Library book sale.) but also books related to the genres I write in.
  • And all the while not ignoring the kids, hubby, dog and visitors (the In-laws are in town right now), part of which means making sure there is food in the house (totally failing at that right now) and doing laundry (failed that two weekends ago, but caught up last weekend)
Yeah – if anyone ever tells  you, or you think to yourself, I can’t wait till I’m out of school I’ll have more time – think again.  Eventually we all have to get out of the house and live on our own. With age comes responsibility, until you get so old you need someone to care for you, then you just sleep a lot.

Responsibility is just a weight on your shoulder and right now it’s making me grimace more than smile. Maybe once I have those costumes done....

} Cathryn Leigh is sorry this is more of a rant than anything else. She hates to rant, to anyone, even herself, which means she probably bottles up way to many thing for her own good. So she thanks you for reading. {

Friday, September 14, 2012

It’s Just a Stinky Old Diaper...

Figure 18
Or is it? *grins* Today in the interest of something completely different I bring you step by step instructions for creating your very own Frosted Diaper Cake. And no we’re not making it out of stinky used diapers, or baking something. And really all you have to do is look at all the pretty picture to the right to see what I mean. So without further ado let’s get to making!

Materials Required
  • Cardboard base, 1 each (the cardboard form frozen pizza is what I used)
  • Wrapping Paper, enough to cover the cardboard
  • Diapers, ~ 1 jumbo pack (30+) per layer
  • Small Hair Elastics, no. = total no. of diapers (I like the invisible ones)
  • Sticks, 2 each, (I used wooden shish-k-bob skewers)
  • Ribbon, ~2 yd per layer, 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch wide
  • Receiving blankets, 1 per layer, plus one extra
  • Baby toy, one for a topper

Instructions (majority of the figures are at the bottom of the post - sorry for the amount of scrolling you'll have to do, but I just can't get them to work with the text! *grrrr*) 
  1. Cut the wrapping paper to extend about 2 to 3 inches beyond the cardboard base. Since I was using a circle I turned my wrapping paper into an octagon (Figure 1)
  2. Fold over the side and glue or tape them to the back of your base. For the circle I folded four sides (Figure 2), and then the other four sides (figure 3)
  3. Now the fun part – diaper rolling. Open up the box of elastics and a pack of diapers now, start rolling, making sure the pretty top is on the outside (Figure 4 and 5)
  4. Create the first layer by placing one rolled diaper in the middle, then make about three circles of diapers around it. Carefully stick a skewer through the center diaper, poking it into the base if you can for additional stability. The skewers I have will go through 3 layers of newborn size diapers. (Figure 6)
  5. Now cut a lengths of ribbon that will go all the way around twice, plus enough extra to make a bow. Only go around once this time though. Pull it as tight around those diapers as you can and knot it to hold in place. (Figure 7)
  6. Next we fold our first layer of ‘frosting’. Pick a Receiving Blanket, and fold it into a triangle, then fold the point up to meet the top (Figure 8), then, point on the inside, lay it down across the first layer so it touches the skewer and drapes over the side (Figure 9)
  7. Using any origami skills you might have, carefully fold each side around that skewer (Figure 10) and then tuck those stray ends around the base before tying the extra Ribbon around the blanket with a bow (Figure 11 and Figure 12). (Yes, the diapers showing, is a feature – otherwise who’d know what was under there!) *grin*
  8. Make the next layer the same as the first. Since the base of Layer two isn’t as flat as layer one, I used my ribbon to help hold the diapers in place as I worked (Figure 13)
  9. Since my skewer sticks up just enough beyond layer two (Figure 14) that I made one more layer, but since it’s the top layer I covered it in a different manner.
  10. Take another Receiving and fold all the corners into the center and then fold the corners in to the center one more time, almost as if you were making one of those paper fortune cookies (Figure 15 and Figure 16).
  11. Lay that on top of the final layer (the folded parts on the inside) and then tie ribbon around it to hold it steady (Figure 17).   Note: My top layer is smaller than the rest because it was made with Preemie size diapers rather than the Newborn size I used on the bottom one.  If you wanted a decreasing tier cake, you could use three sizes of diapers, or just make one less ring for each layer.
  12. Top the cake (I used tape to keep him on) with the toy and feel free to tuck any other useful item (like a gift card) under the ribbon (guess where I bought my supplies) *grin* (Figure 18)
  13. But I had diapers leftover after this, and as no diaper should go to waste (until filled with waste, ha ha) I rolled those up as well; and made two ‘mini cakes’.
  14. I only had one Receiving Blanket left and after much fussing I decided to fold it in thirds and wrap my little two layer cake. Notice I folded in the end that would be on the outside, to make it look smoother. (Figure 19)
  15. Then I tied it up, one ribbon per layer, and it made a nice little side dish for the main cake (Figure 20)
Figure 20
I’m afraid I forgot to get picture from the baby Shower itself where the cake was presented. But there you have it, and easy, though not necessarily quick, way to create a pretty (comma optional) useful centerpiece for any Baby shower. (Cause I know all my readers are attending lots... *laugh*)

This is just one of the ways I spend my creative energies when I’m not writing.

Next up I might be documenting my Halloween Costume creation process.

I might as well, seeing as this is my Diary, why fill you in on all my creative endeavors. I might even put in some useful information, like how to format a document for Create Space using Word. Cause I can do that. *grins*

:} Cathryn

P.S. Appologies for being inconsistant with posting lately. A Family Crisis and adding some new things to my responsibilities list has taken some adjusting to. I hope to return to my more regularly scheduled posting soon. Though if it doesn’t happen until next year (January 2013) you have been warned! *grins*
The Figures for your creating reference!
Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 7

Figure  8

Figure 9

Figure 10

Figure 11

Figure 12

Figure 13

Figure 14

Figure 15

Figure 16

Figure 17

Figure 19

Saturday, September 1, 2012

To Review or not to Review that is the...

Lemon! No wait, sorry I had a surrealist moment and really, there is no question. I’m not reviewing a book this month because I beta read Destroying by Miriam Joy rather than something published. However, sending her my comments gave me my idea for this post – A review of the edits I made to draft seven of Watching, also by Miriam Joy (and she gave me her permission).

Now, I’m no expert editor with years of experience. Watching was the first non-self book I’ve edited, but Miriam claims it helped her a lot. So, without further ado I give you the original passage, with a word count of 208. 
     “Hi,” I said with a tight smile, and hoped that would be enough to stop myself from appearing rude. It seemed to be all that was required.     Talking to her parents was not easy. It would have been hard to talk to the parents of the girl I had just almost kissed even if I wasn’t absolutely crap at talking to humans – especially the adults – the rest of the time.     “So, Alex, you’re a friend of Jennie’s from school, right?” Her father was speaking, laying the table while Jennie and Alex bustled around, helping their mother to serve the food. I could smell pizza. I forced a smile onto my face before I replied.     “Well, we’re in the same set, yes, but we hadn’t talked that much before recently,” I said truthfully.     “So what brought you here today?”     “Well, I sort of scared Jennie earlier and I actually came over to apologise,” I said, while looking at her to check I was saying the right thing. “Besides, we hadn’t finished our conversation.” Lame excuse, but nobody noticed because at that moment Jennie and her mother brought over the large plates full of pizza and sat down. I was about to tuck in when their father started saying Grace, which surprised me. I hadn’t known that Jennie came from a Christian family.

Now here is where I requested changes and some whys; [brackets = delete] and (parenthesis = add)
  • “Hi,” I said with a tight smile, [and hoped] (hoping) that [would be] (was) enough to [stop myself] (keep me) from appearing rude.
    - The first two changes are about tightening the sentence, while the last one is, I hope, using stronger words,  
  • Talking to her parents was not easy. It would have been hard to talk to the parents of the girl I had just almost kissed even if I wasn’t absolutely crap at talking to humans – especially the adults – the rest of the time.
    - I didn’t change anything here, but I did make a note on how this statement related to Alex’s character and his interactions with others
  • “So, Alex, [you’re] (you are) a friend of Jennie’s [from school, right] (then)?”
    -  Its hard to emphasis a contracted word, and how they are friends isn’t as important to the father clarifying that Alex is or isn’t a friend, since there’s been some waffling on this subject earlier.
  • Her father was [speaking] (spoke as he ), [laying] (laid) the table(.) [while Jennie and Alex bustled around, helping their mother to serve the food.]
    - This sentence was long and the second half of it unnecessary, especialy since Alex wasn’t helping (probably should have been Alys, the little sister)
  • [I could smell pizza.]
    - Not needed, we find out about the Pizza at an appropriate time later.
  • I forced a smile onto my face(.) [before I replied.]
    - His dialog follows this so before I replied isn’t necessary.
  • “Well, we’re in the same set, yes, but we hadn’t talked that much before recently[,](.)” I [said] (was) truthful[ly].
    - I decided that said wasn’t needed and in taking it out the adverb ‘disappeared’.
  •  “Well, I sort of scared Jennie earlier and I actually came over to apologise[,](,)” I [said, while looking] (looked) at her to check I was saying the right thing.
    - notice that removing said, allows us to remove one more word and we break a long sentence into two (not always necessary)
  • I was about to tuck in when their father started saying Grace[, which surprised me]. (Surprised I bowed my head;) I hadn’t known [that] Jennie(’s family was) [came from a] Christian [family].
    - Here I chose to take Alex’s reaction to the action (saying grace) into a separate sentence, while trying to tighten up the wording.

The hardest part of the editing is keeping the author’s style. You’ll not I removed said twice. It’s a word I tend to avoid, but one that Miriam likes to use. There’s no wrong or right way, it’s just a matter of preference. I’d like to think that because I wasn’t changing said to a descriptor (like yelled or whispered), I managed to keep her style. But here, you judge if the 187 word result sounds similar in style, I didn't check to see what she did with my comments.
     “Hi,” I said with a tight smile, hoping that was enough to keep me from appearing rude.
     Talking to her parents was not easy. It would have been hard to talk to the parents of the girl I had just almost kissed even if I wasn’t absolutely crap at talking to humans – especially the adults – the rest of the time.     “So, Alex, you are a friend of Jennie’s, then?” Her father spoke as he laid the table.
     I forced a smile onto my face. “Well, we’re in the same set, yes, but we hadn’t talked that much before recently.” I was truthful.     “So what brought you here today?”     “Well, I sort of scared Jennie earlier and I actually came over to apologise.” I looked at her to check I was saying the right thing. “Besides, we hadn’t finished our conversation.”
     Lame excuse, but nobody noticed because at that moment Jennie and her mother brought over large plates full of pizza and sat down. I was about to tuck in when their father started saying Grace. Surprised I bowed my head; I hadn’t known Jennie’s family was Christian.

Now what do you think? Is it better or worse than the original passage? Are there additional things you might change if you were editing it?

:} Cathryn Leigh

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Aieeeeeeee! Says the Specter

At least that’s as close as I can get to her wailing. She does it a bit, especially in those situations where the systems she’d help set up 950 or so years ago have fallen into corruption and ruin. But before I say any more let me introduce her to you.

Tabitha S Era (S is her last name, Era is equivalent to saying Ms.) was born around 1,000 years before Unearthing Magic begins. Her history is a complicated one, and suffice it to say that she was the catalyst for the Separatist Revolution that broke the single Magi kingdom into four, and founding the country in which non-magi live without being enslaved by the magi. However during that revolution Tabitha was encased in crystal to ensure Trabia remained under its own rule. Set free by accident, she’s not really happy with what the Non-magi have done, but after 1,000 years of crystallization, she’s not really in the right mind to fix it.

Much like in her own life, she’ll be acting as a somewhat antagonistic catalyst for my main characters, specifically the farm girl, Lori, who is a direct descendant. Here are my answers for her to the 20 Beautiful People questions I picked out of the archive.

Easy Questions
  1. Does his or her name have a special meaning? – Tabi was likely named for a tabby cat, given her hair is bright orange. Other than that, Tabitha was not chosen for its meaning, but apparently (according to the book I have) it means gazelle in Greek and Aramaic.
  2. Right, or left handed? - left, well, once she was taught how to write
  3. Favorite color? - Sky Blue, the kind you find on days when the sky is dotted with fluffy clouds
  4. Do they like hugs? - Definitely, especially those rare ones from Sabareil... Who isn't even a character in this book *Glares and character who bubbles with laughter and sticks her tongue out at her author* - she's also very mature for a 1,000 year old *eyeroll*
  5. Favorite season of the year? - Spring, she loves the colors that spring up everywhere
  6. Favorite kind of weather? - warm and gentle summer rains
  7. Does he/she have a good sense of humor? If so what kind? - Yes, probably more so than the cast she's supporting would like. She's a practical joker and a bit loopy; not that I blame her.
  8. Is he/she naturally curious? - Yes, in fact it was her curiosity and desire to know how things worked that made her one of the greatest magi of her time, unfortunately she never managed to be in a position to truly be a magical scientist, magisist?
  9. Does he/she see the big picture or live in the moment? - She used to live in the moment, but once freed from her crystal prison she's beginning to see the big picture (and she's not liking it one bit) *Tabitha wails in agreement*
  10. What do others expect from them? - Not a lot as Lori is the only one who can see her. But when Tabitha appears Lori’s sure it’s because she needs Lori to do something for her or she's causing mischief.
  11. What does their average day look like? - Tabitha spends her time flitting about Trabia, checking on this and that, sometimes she even goes back to her prison to ponder the crystaline structure she had made. Other times she studies the spells that flow around it, trying to figure out how to undo the damage that was done 1,000 years ago
  12. What does he/she do with his/her spare time? - See above, all of Tabitha's time is spare now.

Thought Provoking Questions
  1. What would they do if they discovered they were dying? – Tabitha would try to do something to bring good into the world. Which is why she's a bit pissed at Trabia, since she already sacrificed herself to save them and they are NOT running the country nicely. *More agreement wails from Tabitha*
  2. If they could change one thing in their world, what would it be? - Make the whole world see that neither separation, nor suppression is the answer and that magi and non-magi can live together in peace – Yes, folks she just went for the World Peace answer.
  3. What do they think about when nothing else is going on? - When she's not worrying about how to fix what went wrong with the Trabian government, she's probably pondering how things work.
  4. If they had to amputate one body part, which one would they choose? - Her source (of magical power), preferably before she discovered she had it, thus choosing the life of the non-magi, which she felt was simpler and less 'out to get you' than the magi life she ended up with.
  5. If your character crashed on an island with a bunch of other people, how would your character help the group survive? - She'd help them keep their spirits up with humor, while guiding them on how to build a boat, without them realizing it.

Relationship Questions
  1. Describe their relationship as a whole in 3 words or less.- With Lori:  Annoying Mentor
    - With Travis: Inspiring Historical Figure
    - With Andrew: Puzzling Presence

Questions out of their world
  1. If they could drive any kind of car they wanted, what would it be? - Tabitha would totally have a red sports car, and she'd probably modify it to be faster than it was off the showroom floor.
  2. What would their favorite be at the local coffee shop? - Iced Mocha Frappachino

So there you have it. Tabitha S Era, the forgotten protector of Trabia.

:} Cathryn Leigh

Friday, August 17, 2012

Let the Plotting Complete!

Yesterday, I did an unthinkable thing – I completed the plotting of Unearthing Magic.
But this didn’t happen without hiccups along the way.

The first thing I encountered was trying to think in terms of scenes. After all Save the Cat is about screenplays, so of course it’s looking at scenes. This meant, if I used Snyder’s method, that I would include on my post-its:
  • Setting (interior, exterior, one per scene)
  • What happens (short sentence)
  • +/- (The emotional change)
  • >< (the conflict, every scene has one)

My initial introduction of the characters, Snyder's way
I got about fifteen post-its in, laboring on each one for fifteen minutes or more over the course of two or three days. It wasn’t working for me, so I took a step back because one of my life’s lessons has been; people think in different ways, even if they are good at the same things.
~You see in college, I had a friend who was a Chemist, like me. We took the same classes, studied in the same group, and got the same grades, until we hit the mandatory programming class. The language doesn’t matter (Fortran77 is you must know), what does was the fact that I breezed though (creating programs on the side), while she struggled. Turns out my brain can think like a computer, but hers couldn’t.~
So instead of continually bashing my brain against Snyder’s method until I plotted the whole thing, I looked at the result that was desired – a series of steps that could be followed to be expanded into chapters of a book that moved through a plot progression – and tried to come up with my own method for getting there. Then *BAMN!* I remembered something I did during NaNo 2011:
-  To ensure I didn’t lose the flow of the story when I had to stop, I tries to always write a sentence or two, summing up my thoughts on where things were going. For Example:
"<In which Rachael and Michael deliver Transium to Terra Firma 2 and Rachael is waylaid by a couple of UCPA authorities, who quickly realize they are in over their heads.>"
Okay so it worked as a word count booster, but more importantly it helped with the flow because I ended with 82k words (compared to my 53K of NaNo2010). It was time to see if it’d work for pre-plotting.

The character introductions, my way
Clearing my board of plot (keeping title and log line), I started fresh, using sentences beginning with “In Which”. I had to do a little rewriting at one point because I picked the wrong colors to do Point of View in, but then it started to flow. I mean really flow – suddenly in two or three sittings I’d reached the mid-point. And then in two or three more I’d cascaded to the finish line.

Now, my work isn’t done. I’ve already spotted some potential weak points and are thinking about rearranging the view point order (Blue and Green are the two foreign Princes, and Purple is the farm girl). Plus who knows what the story will do once I actually start writing it. But maybe, this time, there might be more of a plot than Rachael and company in the Nueri gave me for NaNo2011.

The next step – to do a little more characterization on my main characters. So who would you like to see answer some Beautiful People questions first:
  • Lori – the farm girl who finds out she a magi, from the country that suppresses magic use
  • Travis – heir to the throne of the neighboring kingdom and an average magi
  • Andrew – the older brother of Travis, who lives in Lori’s country and isn’t a Magi
  • A random supporting character, protagonist or antagonist.

:} Cathryn Leigh

Friday, August 10, 2012

Toujou-ing through the ... Jungle?

So I got double duped into winning the Toujou Blog Award. As in, two people nominated me for it and as I consider them bestest friends, despite the generation gap and lack of physical connection, I shall concede to participate. And besides, when they lavish such praises on me (see below), how can I not participate? :}

From Charley: “Both on an off-line, she's one of my bestest friends-I-haven't-met-yet. We talk about everything, we laugh about everything, and even the figments of our imagination have started uniting in order to dispose of us when we're not looking. She's awesome.”
From Miriam: “She completely shredded my novel and prompted me to rewrite the whole thing, she’s always there with helpful comments when I’m going through a bunch of emotional poo, and she’s a not-at-all-calming influence on mine and Charley’s madness.”

The Rules:

1. If tagged you must tag five others, giving each a quick sentence as to why you ALWAYS read their posts, and tell them that you've tagged them.

2. If tagged you must post your five favorite words. I know, I know, most people do facts, but facts are hard to think of so...

3. If and only if you want to/can be bothered to/have time to you can put up five questions for the people you've tagged. If and only if you want to/can be bothered to/have time to you can ANSWER the five questions your tagger set. If you want to answer questions but your tagger left none, answer your own questions :)

The Famous Five
Okay, so I’m modifying this bit, since the people I’m going to make famous (wouldn’t that be a nice power to have?) are ones who mean so much to me that I don't want to bother them with this silly award. *grins*

Charley Robson – Ditto – basically what she said about me I can say about her. Someday we’ll meet, and I half expect our heads to explode and our characters to emerge from them to join forces and battle the evils that will come out after them. If this happens, I’m sorry world, because it’s likely to start Armageddon.

Miriam Joy – She talks about my shredding of her novel like a good thing, all the time. It boggles my mind, but I thank her for it. And though we don’t talk as much to each other as we talk to charley separately, when Charley goes on radio silence, we know we can talk to each other.

My Mom – She is my best friend, even when I was growing up (when she wasn’t having to be my mother, which wasn’t often because I was the best kid ever! *giggles*). When the rest of the real world doesn’t seem to be listening without judgment, I know she will.

My Hubby – He keeps me grounded in the real world, when my mind would much rather be flying free in imagination land. Yet, despite that, he’s been very supportive of my writing and helping me ‘gain space’, even if I have yet to figure out how to take a writing vacation.

Anne R. Allen – Not only are her posts extremely informative, especially for a newbie to publishing like me, but she’s the first real, published, author I’ve actually had contact with. She’s even commented on my Blogs, particularly the ones in which I’ve reviewed her books. She connected me with my first job in the publishing industry (more on that at another time). And is just all around funny, awesome, and stuff. *grins*

Quiz Me!
The questions from Charley’s nomination – too fun to pass up.

1.  Which fictional character do you think you're most like?
 - I used to think I was like Menolly from DragonSong, by Anne McCaffrey, but that was wishful thinking. The fictional character that is most like me, as I am now, is Kaylee from Firefly (and Serinity). I know it’s a TV series that didn’t last long (and movie), but she’s fictional, but her seeming spaciness yet competience when it comes to keeping the ship running, is like me, trying to manage my writing family and day job.

2.  What is your guilty pleasure?
- Writing pure teenage romance... and eating sweets. I do more of the sweet eating than I should. It’s probably the one reason I’m stuck at the weight I’m at.

3.  Name your three utter essentials.
- food, air and water. I know it’s a copy from Miriam, but no one can live without them, whether they want to or not. Once I have those, then I'll take my hubby, um... a well stocked Kindle, and some way to charge them both. *grins*

4.  Which famous person would you most want to kiss?
- My hubby, because he is famous in some circles (seriously I saw it happen – random dude from his company comes up to him and starts lavishing the praises, while my hubby has no idea who the guy is). Oh, you probably mean real celebrities, that anyone might recognize... well I’m sorry, but I’m a one guy girl and very happily taken. :}

5.  What would be the best ever present?
- Ohhh... tough question. I think a writer’s cruise with Miriam and Charley for fourteen days would be super cool – or winning enough money from the lottery to make that happen. I’m not picky.
Bonus Question (Courtesy a comment on Charley’s blog):
6.  If stuck on a desert island, and given a choice of a pointy stick, an automatic rifle with only one bullet, and a talking goldfish, which of these would you choose to help you get off?
- The pointy stick because it needs no refills and I prefer the quite solitude of my own monologue. Besides, the pointy stick has multiple uses and much easier to fix or replace than the other two. :}

Now what about you? Which would you chose? *grins* 

:} Cathryn Leigh

Thursday, July 26, 2012

They are Men, Manly Men!

But they aren’t men in tights*. Nope they are the men of Sherwood Ltd. and Camilla’s gotten herself all wrapped up with them. Okay, just the one, but her taste in men is slowly improving...

Last night I stayed up till midnight to finish reading the last book of the Camilla Randall Mysteries Set; Sherwood Ltd. by Anne R Allen. I loved it! But here's a more detailed review. *grin*

It starts off with Camilla being penniless, it seems to be something that plagues Camilla a lot. And of course, shortly thereafter, her ability to attract danger rears up its ugly head; again. Her ex-husband, Jonathan, has disappeared with no hope of retrieving the money that should have been hers from him. Desperate, she crashes at her friend Planet’s SF Apartment while he’s away and meets an intriguing English Man in the alley below.

But is Peter Sherwood, a Peter Pan or a Robin Hood? It’s hard to tell, but what’s clear is that Camilla starts falling for him, even though she knows how bad her luck is with guys. But, he gives her an offer she can't refuse and thus her journey to England begins. Upon landing Camilla has hopes for a bright future, until she reaches her destination.

And so begins a complex unraveling of what is truly going on at Sherwood ltd., where nothing is as it seems. But, somehow, thing are unraveled and the story ends; perfectly.
But what intrigues me most is the fact that this book and the second one, Ghost Writers in the Sky, were inspired by events in Anne’s own life. Just goes to show that if you work hard and find your creativity, you can turn what might be a mediocre event into an extraordinary story.

Which reminds me...

The first place my husband (then boyfriend) and I rented together turnout to have been the sight of a triple Murder suicide. And we’re not talking a decade earlier, we’re talking the people who lived there before us. The rental company didn’t tell us, my husband found out with his awesome internet hunting skills (back when Google was in Beta). The event explained why the front hall stairs, and front bedroom/office/closet (it was 5’ x 10’ if that) had brand new carpet and why the back bedroom’s wood floors were painted maroon.

Nothing spooky happened to us, though the downstairs neighbors kept asking if we heard or saw things. Living there gave us street cred too. An important thing when you’re two young white people living in a somewhat Hispanic neighbor hood, with the projects two blocks away.

I suspect if I wanted to, I could turn that into a good story. Obviously something would have to happen, but that’d be the fun of using my imagination. Of course, now that it's out there and you want to run with it – feel free. I won’t make you pay me 50% for the idea. *wink*

:} Cathryn Leigh

*Robin Hood: Men In Tights – directed by Mel Brooks. Delightful film, and I got to see it twice in the movie theater.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Unearthing Magic is Like...

...the title of my NaNovel of 2012. No, really it is. *grin*

I was sitting outside, eating my lunch trying to come up with titles when, *BAM* it hit me like a punch from a Batman comic. I didn’t even have another contender on the page, and I’ve got the feeling that this will stick. After all my there will be a few things ‘unearthed’ during the course of the novel. The most symbolic of which will be the main protagonist’s digging deep into herself to find the strength to do what needs to be done.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Remember how I mentionedthe Board last week? I’ve since figured out how to make a reasonably portable one. I went to Staples this past week and I bought myself the items listed below for about $27.56 plus Tax.
  • 11”x14” (expands to 33” x 14”) Grid Project Board - $4.99
  • 10 Pack of Zebra #2, 0.77mm, mechanical pencils (w/eraser) - $4.29
  • Pentel R.S.V.P. Colors, 8 pack, M (i.e. 8 colored pens for coding) - $6.29
  • 12 pack of 3” x 3” Canary Yellow Post-it Notes (probably way more than I need) - $11.99

One I got home, I pulled out my sharpie (normally used to label my kids lunches) and created the masterpiece you see below. Acts 1 2 (in two parts) and 3 with a block for title and logline and a color code key.
(It was hard not to get a glare and those grid-lines really do disappear, a bit too easily) 

Portability wasn’t a problem. I just made sure I mended everything that I had in the purple peace bag (two skirts for my daughter) and voila! It amazingly fit (just) and of course into the bag went “Save the Cat” as well as my working notebook for Trabia (now with the immensely better name of ‘Unearthing Magic’).

Now I’m working on filling it up with post-its. The first one I put on the board – The title and logline (that’s what I dedicated the box in the top left for). A logline that’s even gone through some revision based upon feedback. Okay, so I didn’t approach strangers, but my Maryland NaNo Facebook group gave wonderful feedback (as did Charley and Miriam).

Thanks to them I’m now plotting out *cue movie trailer voice*

Unearthing Magic
- In a kingdom where magic is suppressed, a farm girl discovers her powers. Honing them under the protection of two foreign princes, she sets out to help defeat the vengeful magi threatening their world.

I’ll be writing from the perspective of the farm girl and the two foreign princes. It’s going to be fun! Next week, if you like, I can post up a picture of how I’ve filled it in the past week.

At some point, I should probably get some reading done, don’t you think? Miriam is waiting for my comments on Destroying and I’ve got the third Camilla Randall Mystery to tackle!

:} Cathryn Leigh

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Loglines, Beats and the Board!

I’ve read three more chapters in “Save the Cat”, but before I get to them I’m going back to loglines. After all having one might make writing the story easier, since it lays out the plot. The funny thing is I’ve been working on my Phoenix Trilogy in parallel with my NaNovel2012, which we’ll call Trabia. I know it needs a better name, and according to Blake I should get one before I write the story, but I like working titles. Besides it’s short enough for simple file names. *grins*

Right so back to Loglines ... (no not lines made of logs... I wish it were that simple!)

Here’s what I got for My Phoenixes:
Sarah’s Phoenix: An independent young woman is ported to an old world society and must choose between stoking the hearth fire, or wearing pants to help her love stop a war.
Phoenix Rising: An independent woman wearing pants must prove her worthiness to her love’s superiors, if a war-mongering General doesn’t kill them first.
Phoenix Triumphant: Ready to settle down with her love, an independent woman is called upon to rescue the Princess in a covert operations, in the hopes of uniting two kingdoms.

And here’s what I got for Trabia. I wish it was one, but I’m waffling on what it will be. (Rough sketch by me of a young Magi's learning tools: Pouch, Mirror, Key and Book)

1.  A hardworking girl on the verge of womanhood discovers she’s a magi in the land of non-magi.
2.  A late blooming magi becomes the only hope of stopping a powerful magi’s undead army.
3.  A young Prince sets out to implore the help of his aunt, only to find her unexpected daughter instead.
4.  A young girl and her cousins must hone her skills, physical and magical, so that she can help defeat a powerful magi trying to take over the world
5.  Three teens must learn their weaknesses and strength to help thwart an evil magi trying to take over the world.

Unfortunately, I need to pin down my loglines (according to Blake) before I start on the beat sheet, which he suggests is best done on The Board – the Board being a story board broken into four lines (see below) with 40 scene cards split between them. I might be able to start doing that with my Phoenixes, once I figure out what kind of portable board I want to use.

Portable is key, because I work at my desk at home, on my lunch break at work and in libraries (loving the one I’m currently at – outside seating!).  However, the other key thing is that the scenes that you put on the board should be movable too, yet also able to stay where you put them. (And apparently if I had an iPhone, there’s an app for that) *eyeroll* (or I can buy the software)

And there you have it, my quest for this week – find a Board I can use for my plotting. So if you have any thoughts (Notepad and sticky notes maybe?) I’d appreciate them. Or even better, I’d LOVE, to hear your thoughts on my loglines. *grins*  Thanks.

:} Cathryn Leigh

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sarah Saves the Cat! I Think...

As mentioned in my last blog post, I was going to read Save the Cat! (The Last Book OnScreenwriting that You’ll Ever Need), which is by Blake Snyder. No, I’m not writing a screen play. Just because the book is about making movies doesn’t mean there isn’t something that can be taken away and used for books.

For instance, Catherine Ryan Hyde did a guest post on Anne R. Allen’s Blog on what can happen to a book when it’s turned into a screenplay. Reading Blake Snyder’s book explains why some of that happens. I’m not sure a lot of books follow his fifteen beat plot. But, apparently that’s what makes a movie successful. After all the audience wants their entertainment in short time frame.

Not to mention I’ve seen the book pop up on other blogs, or maybe it’s just that Roni Loren (steamy romance novelist) has mentioned it, a lot. So I ordered the book, it was delivered and I’ve read through chapter four. And what all has Blake been talking about in chapters 1 through 4? I’ll tell you, using My Phoenixes for my examples. *grins*

Chapter One is about the logline – that one line that you use to get people interested in your story. He suggests walking up to strangers and pitching your idea, but, I’m not quite sure I’m up to that sort of thing, so I’ll pitch it here. Unfortunately, it’s for the trilogy and focused on Sarah. If you have suggestions to improve it, I’ll gladly take them. 
  • Logline: A war weary independent young woman finds herself in a medieval world helping her future husband save it from a warmongering General

Chapter Two is about Movie types – not necessarily genres, because each type can be made into any genre. What Blake is talking about are story lines. In a condensed format like a movie, you’re pretty much going to have one (I’m beginning to see how I could apply this to a short story). In a novel I suspect you might have more than one of his 10 types. I pined my trilogy down to three
  • Phoenixes Blake Types: Dude with a Problem (there’s a war to avert), Buddy Love (the romance), and Institutionalized (the sacrifice of one for many, military mind set).

Chapter Three is whom the story is about and the Primal urges that connect it with the audience. In addition, there is an emphasis on growth of the protagonist. Someone once told me that Hasón was too perfect. They might be right. He has no growing to do, while Sarah has loads.
  • It’s about a Guy Who:  Sarah’s a war weary, independent young woman. Hasón’s a staunch commander who follows his gut. Wholwaski is a conniving war mongering General.
  • It’s Primal Elements Are:  Survival, Protection of Loved Ones, and Fear of Death

Chapter Four is about Blake Snyder’s beats. One story, split into Three Acts, that are broken down into a total of fifteen “beats”. Each one to be placed in the script at specific point for maximum effect. Let me summarize them in my words, as best I can.
  1. Opening Image: Shows us where the hero begins, his life before the story happens
  2. Theme Stated:  Someone states something that clues us into what the story’s theme is
  3. Set-Up:  Where we meet everyone in the A Story, showing what needs fixing in the hero’s life
  4. Catalyst:  The thing that turns the Hero’s world upside down and starts him on his journey
  5. Debate:  The answer to the question of – can the hero handle what he’s been tasked with and how?
  6. Break Into Two:  The hero takes the action that leads from his life onto the path of his new life
  7. B Story:  It’s a break from what’s been going on and introduces new people to the hero
  8. Fun and Games:  Slightly lighter in tone than the rest, it’s the fun part – the part that trailers take their clips from...
  9. Midpoint:  Halfway through, the hero gets a small, or false full, victory though sometimes it can be a down as well as an up
  10. Bad Guys Close In:  Everything begins to align against the hero as the bad guys close in for a win
  11. All is Lost:  There is a whiff of death, be it metaphorical or actual, where it seems the hero has lost
  12. Dark Night of the Soul:  This is how the losing affects the hero, how it manifests itself
  13. Break Into Three:  But now the Hero has a solution taken from both the A story and B story
  14. Finale:  The hero wins and his old world has  now completely transformed into his new world
  15. Final Image:  A mirror image of the opening image, showing us how far the character has come

Art by Gabriel Morrison
I tried beating out Sarah’s Phoenix and found myself mixing it with Phoenix Rising – clearly a novel can have a lot more going on in it than a movie can – that’s why books are so often better. It’s also helped me realize that the story revolves very much around Sarah – after all it’s all from her viewpoint right now. But, I’m going to change that and Hasón is going to become less than perfect so the two of them can grow together.

At least that’s what I’m hoping.

But, for NaNo2012, I’ve decided to pick on ‘Lori and her Boys’. You’ll be hearing more about them as the march towards November continues!

:} Cathryn Leigh

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Foibles of Plot Straightening

This weekend I finally did what I kept meaning to do (months ago). I upload my trilogy into Scrivener. Yes, they are now all in the “Book with Parts” template. I did this because I’ve become very aware that my plot needs work. Book 1 doesn’t really contribute much to the overall story and no one gets anywhere near death...

(Okay I do kill off one of Phoenix’s scouts and one of Griffon’s scouts, but Sarah didn’t witness it because she was out for the count. Still, it’s more romance than action/adventure while the other two are a much better mixture.)

Anyway, once I had the three books all in one place, I began to split apart the chapters. I did this for Book 1, since it has so few and then I went looking at Book 2. Splitting off the beginning of Book 2 and adding it to Book 1 does an amazing remedy for the lack luster plot. Now there’s a climactic fight scene, in which a villain dies after mortally wounding the Heroine. Of course I’ll need to edit it a bit, since it needs make you want to read the next book, not the next chapter.

So, I moved on to Book 2 and stopped to ponder something. No villain dies in this one, though our Heroes manage to save the Royal family. I read some place that a villain, even if he’s not the main boss, should die. So do I make up a villain to die in it, or make it seem like the villain is dying? Or leave it as is?  I’ll have to come back to that question later*, since the ideas is to get down what I have, not what I will have. I did decide that leaving the book off with our Heroes in a coma wasn’t nice, so I move some of the beginning bits from Book 3 over.

I haven’t started on Book 3 yet, aside from moving the beginning bit over, but I know one thing for sure; the climax doesn’t happen as close to the end as it should. There’s a lot of winding down the killing of the Master mind Villain to the marriage of our Heroes. I’m contemplating turning that into Bonus Book 4, for those who really want to see them happily wed and bed (and no I don’t go into details, thank you very much). *giggle*

One of the things I’ve suddenly realized. Having looked at all this – my Phoenixes of Vervell Trilogy need a lot of work. And I’m suddenly wondering:
  • Should I consider them to be my practice novels and shelve them for eternity? (Be still my beating heart! Breathe my hyperventilating lungs!)
  • Should I shelve them for now, until I’ve learned more about plot and structure? (But it’s already been at least five years since I wrote the first book!)

No matter what option I go with, and I lean toward the second for I love Sarah and Hasón and their tale, I’ve come to realize:
  • I’ve gotten pretty good at creating characters. I’m not an expert, but the ones I have been working with for a while are living beings in my head.
  • I could use a hand with plot and structure, perhaps with some practice in pre-plotting given how discombobulated last year’s NaNovel went. (Not that I’ve bothered to read it since then)

NaNo! Why that’s only four months away *gulp* and I plan on participating *double gulp* But I think I know what I’m going to do...
  • Buy “Save the Cat” and read it – several people have said it’s great for helping pantsers plot
  • Pick a story to plot - Alethia’s Lament? Rainbow Island? Another story off my hard drive? Something completely new? – yikes, this’ll be the hardest bit!
  • Tell you all about it! (So erm... what would you like to know about my process leading up to NaNo?)

:} Cathryn
P.S. And what would you think if I slowed down my posting rate - this posting weekly is taking too much precious writing time at the moment. *sigh*