Quiet week

It’s been a quiet week, all told, and for that I’m very thankful.

The kids and I have settled into our school routine, and its funny how happy they are when we’re doing routine. They’re smart as whips and I’m trying to find ways to work with their learning styles. My son will sit and work out of a book, but my daughter wants to turn somersaults and do head stands. Right now she’s drilling her letter sounds via word games and synchronized throwing-toys-in-the-box.

On Fridays we do art and science. Popular subjects! We discovered that beet juice is acidic and won’t change color when you add vinegar–but baking soda turns it an interesting shade of violet. We melted ice to learn about the states of water. Also, baking cookies counts as science, right?

My computer’s hard drive crashed earlier in the week, so I’ve had to read books instead of letting them play Minecraft. We just finished book 2 of Troubletwisters and we’re chewing through the first Harry Potter book. I’m considering the Mouse and the Motorcycle next.

So I haven’t gotten much writing done, but man, the kids have been happy. 🙂

Advertisements

YA doesn’t have to be dirty

This article was circulating Facebook, and apparently it’s very controversial. The case for good children’s books.

Why is it controversial?

She postulates that the young adult genre, usually aimed at kids 12-15, shouldn’t be filled with abuse, sex and rape.

GASP!

She says that by allowing the genre to become filled with garbage, we are normalizing garbage.

GASP!

She points out that the first person present tense books currently in vogue stick kids in the present and never lets them look to the future. In fact, many of these books present the teen experience as all there is.

Also, beauty has been removed. By and large, YA is gritty and dirty and dark. Our culture shuns beauty. If you do meet beauty, its a vampire who wants to kill you.

For me, this was such a breath of fresh air! Finally, someone speaking up about how nasty YA is! I have a hard time reading it for exactly that reason. I’d rather read middle grade where there’s usually some adventure involved and we don’t have to bother with sex.

I’ve worried for a whole that Spacetime wasn’t gritty enough for YA. It’s just good, clean fun, the way I’ve always written. I don’t really want to smut it up because that’s not my vision for the series. Also the teen characters grow up a little each book until they’re adults by the end. Isn’t that what teens want? The freedom and autonomy of an adult? Shoot, I did.

Apparently this is a hugely controversial topic. Lots of people whining about how much they love dirty teen stories and teens need to read garbage to make them mature.

Seriously, people? There’s more to life than sex and teens need to know that, of all people.

Friday random

I don’t have any coherent thoughts that can be turned into a blogpost right now. So here’s a bunch of random stuff.

My sister in law is giving away some of her all-natural lip balms!

Jalapeno pepper poppers can be made of any kind of pepper you like. Bell peppers are quite nice.

Wanna see James Gurney paint a horse and a donkey?

The kids just watched a video of a Minecraft Pokemon mod. The players messed it up every way possible. They ended up running in terror from a pack of angry flareon. It was hilarious.

My son is really into this Troubletwister book series by Garth Nix. I fear I’m giving him a taste for horror. Of course, Minecraft may have already given him that …

The next Avengers movie should be the Avengers vs. Slenderman.

It’s fun to find Doctor Who fans, but finding other Grimm fans is even more fun.

Flashcards make math fun!

Tossing out yogurt-covered raisins in payment for correctly answering a flashcard question is even more fun!

Bribes! Bribes!

I don’t like zombies. But editing a story about a zombie apocalypse is actually really fun. Filling it with remarks like, “This needs to be SCARIER! Use grosser verbs!”

And that’s been my eclectic week.

That kite won’t fly

The kids and I read a lot of books, and I’ve developed my own set of favorites.

In one of the Frog and Toad books, by Arnold Lobel, there’s a story where Frog and Toad try to fly a kite.

Frog holds the string and Toad runs across the field, trying to launch the kite. It goes up in the air and falls down in the grass.

Some robins are sitting in a bush, and they laugh at Toad. “That kite will never fly! Give up and go home.”

Toad goes back to Frog and repeats this disappointing thought. But Frog is more optimistic and insists they try again, only try harder.

Again the kite doesn’t fly, again the robins laugh, again Toad returns to Frog, discouraged.

After four tries, despite the snarky robins, the kite takes off and flies all the way to the top of the sky. Even the robins can’t fly as high as the kite.

I’m encouraged every time I read it. 🙂

Planet sounds

Paul Speer, instrumental rock/new age artist extraordinaire, just released a new album called Ax Inferno. One of the songs on it is a brilliant arrangement mimicking the sounds the sun makes–its underscoring mutter and the ripping guitar-chord sounds of the flares. The instant it came on, I knew what it was.

So I started showing the kids the NASA Voyager recordings of the sounds the planets make. They’re really amazing–the Voyager recorded the frequencies coming off the various planets’ magnetic fields and NASA translated them into audio.

Here’s Earth. It’s like some kind of choir.

Here’s Jupiter. (The visualizations are interesting, too.) It’s like some kind of bell sound or something.

Here’s Saturn. The sounds of it start about 1:37. I believe that’s the sound of its rings. Very different from Jupiter. It kind of reminds me of a theremin.

Here’s Uranus. It sounds like the sound effects we use for aliens and space ships. I wonder if that’s from the rings, or being on its side or something?

Neptune, singing a weird cricket-y song to itself.

Isn’t that weird? I wonder if it sent back any information on the heliosphere when it went through that. I wonder what that would sound like? (As far as I can gather, the heliosphere is sort of this magnetic field shield put out by our sun that encircles our entire solar system.)

The Voyager is getting up on the Oort cloud now. Forty years and still working! They built that sucker to LAST.

And then the battery died

Here I didn’t have a blogpost for Wednesday. Then the car battery died and now I have one. 🙂

So yeah. Car battery died. That sucks on the best of days, but we only have one car, and due to circumstances beyond our control but involving rent, we’re completely broke until the next paycheck next Friday.

The battery’s been dying for a while. You know how when a noisy toy starts losing its battery, iiiiittt geeeeeetttts ssslllooooooowwww until you just want to strangle it? Our car’s fancy electronic systems were doing that. It would start, and the dashboard would take ages to light up … and the dials would click for a minute until the car had enough power to register the gas gauge … and all the emergency lights on the dash would go on and off for no reason …

Yeah. We knew it was dying. The battery was three years old and it’s summer in Arizona. Heat’s notorious for killing batteries.

So the car wouldn’t start. Dun dun dun. Lots of clicking and funny noises from the electronic systems, though. My hubby had work in 4 hours and we didn’t know what to do. We’re in the doghouse with family right now, and calling them up only resulted in a fight.

At the end of our ropes, my hubby and I hit our knees and prayed. We did like Nehemiah when he took the threatening letter and spread it out before the altar in the temple.

I chose to believe that God would answer our prayers. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I went ahead and made dinner for lunch, which had been our plan since my husband has to work all evening with no dinner break. By cooking that meal, I was believing that God would make a way for him to get to work.

While we were eating, the phone rang. His mom was on her way over.

Within two hours God parted the Red Sea and we had a car battery. My hubby made it to work on time. I took a very long nap.

This was one of the most terrifying things that’s ever happened to me, but God was there all the way. All of my prayers were answered. I’m still totally blown away.

kids-2013

Pony and griffin, and other art

I’m trying to get back into my art mojo, and the first pic I’ve finished in a long while has been for Jess Owen’s griffin contest. The contest stipulates that since the griffin island is more or less Iceland, you can only use creatures that are found on Iceland. I wanted to try to draw one of the pretty little Icelandic ponies. And a griffin.

griffin-pony

Click to enlarge

For a pic done while coming out of an art hiatus and being very rusty, I’m satisfied with it. I might go back and tinker with it, though. I wanted it to be a little more sparkly.

I’m also messing about with this sequential art story idea thing. Not sure what it is, because it’s not a comic or a graphic novel. It’s just a series of pics with an ongoing story in the description. Kind of like a concept album, like Pink Floyd or the Decemberists do. Only pics. I have a little Sonic story I’d like to tell, and I need to brush up on my Sonic art again.

Not to mention composition and landscape skills. I did some sketches and every single one of them had two figures. Ugh!

I’m dabbling a bit with Spacetime book 4, too. It still needs a lot of thought, but it’s finally coming together. I had to reconcile the political thriller plot with the magical plot.

Game of Thrones cover look alikes

I’m noticing all these books coming out with phonetic titles and covers. First, the original bestseller:

A-GAME-OF-THRONES-new-HC

Then these started showing up.

This one was actually phrased by the author to make people laugh at him and notice his book.

A_Throne_of_Bones_Cover-260x390

No idea what’s up with this one.

a-cast-of-stones-book-cover

There obviously needs to be a rash of books named after Game of Thrones. What if I redid Storm Chase to cash in on the popularity?

chase-of-storms

What else rhymes with Thrones, anyway?

shame-of-gnomes

And one more:

cane-of-crones

Don’t leave it in rough draft

I’ve been crazy busy the last couple of weeks. Nothing physical–all the work’s been inside my head.

Finished the complete rewrite of book 3.

Accepted and finished a heavy critique of a book for a friend.

Started work on this pic for a contest.

griffin-pony1

Guess which task has fallen by the wayside.

This pic is a rough draft. I did it in an hour and a half in one sitting, scribbling furiously away with my tablet. It has lines. It has gaps. It has issues with lighting and shadow molding and what the heck is up with their legs?

But hopefully you can see that it’s a pony and a griffin. And it has nice colors.

The story I just finished, book 3, is the word-version of this scribble. Holes. Gaps. But that’s what revisions are for. Hopefully the finished product will–well–be art, and not a further mess.

The story I finished critiquing was somewhat the same. It was messy and unfinished, but beneath the plotholes and thin characters lurked a really good story. I’m hoping the author takes the time to really polish it, because it’ll shine. If not, well, it’ll be one more scribble posted to deviantArt (I mean Amazon) that people will glance at the preview, say, “Meh” and move on. But with polish, people will notice the sparkles and stick around for a longer look.

I’ve dumped “speedpaints” to DA before. They get a meh and a tiny bit of applause for effort. That’s it.

The same thing happens when folks dump a rough draft to Amazon. Passers-by glance at it, shrug and click to the next thing.

Of course, amazingly-painted masterpieces sometimes get that treatment, too. Maybe it’s the cover. Maybe the blurb is boring. Maybe the thumbnail’s composition looks lame. But given enough time (and if the author/artist pushes it on people), its hits/sales will start to climb. I’ve experienced this on Wattpad. It’s like a snowball you start rolling downhill. It takes a bit of pushing to keep it going, but after a while it gains momentum and rolls by itself.

I’m positively metaphorical today!

Anyway. Fix up those rough drafts. If you don’t know how, find somebody to critique it who does know. Give it your best shot and move on to something else.

Scent of Water quotes

I just finished reading the most wonderful book: The Scent of Water, by Elizabeth Goudge. My mom and I are on an EG kick, and we’re getting the same titles from the library to read together. Apparently The Scent of Water is one of EG’s best known works. Delving into it, I see why. It’s simply wonderful.

On the surface, it’s about a woman who inherits an old little cottage in a village in rural England, and goes to live there. Her coming sends ripples through the whole community and everyones’ lives wind up enriched.

But it’s about more than that. It’s about the Scent of Water, which comes from a passage in Job:

For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.

And that alone tells you more of what the book is about than I could.

I wanted to post some of the lovely passages that stuck with me after I finished.

I had not known before that love is obedience. You want to love, and you can’t, and you hate yourself because you can’t, and all the time love is not some marvelous thing that you feel but some hard thing that you do. And this in a way is easier because with God’s help you can command your will when you can’t command your feelings. With us, feelings seem to be important, but He doesn’t appear to agree with us.

And a character sketch:

Mr. Hepplewhite was an astonishment. The back view she had seen getting out of the car had predisposed her to expect the round red face and hearty manner of a conventional self-made man, genial and self-satisfied in what he had achieved. But Mr. Hepplewhite’s front view was not at all like that. His fleshy face was smooth and olive-skinned, he had firm beautifully molded lips and a profile like a Roman emperor on a coin. His gray hair was thick and wavy, his plump hands white and well kept, one of them adorned with a sardonyx signet ring. He had fine dark eyes which looked straight into Mary’s as he talked to her, giving an appearance of great candor, and his voice was clear and well produced and at the same time caressingly gentle. There was no sense of strain about him, for he was entirely relaxed on his part.
There was little to suggest it was only a part; only his back view and the fact that his signet ring was just a little too large. He was an enthusiastic host and talked with knowledge and intelligence upon every subject that came up; although, as Paul had said, he did not listen well. He never looked at his wife but now and again her eyes turned to him, nervously and with a naked adoration that made Mary want to weep.
She realized that Mr. Hepplewhite was an extremely clever man. She did not know if she liked or disliked him, for he did not allow her to find out. His presentation was too dazzling for her to be aware, as with Mrs. Hepplewhite, of the person behind the personage. Perhaps there wasn’t one. Perhaps Mr. Hepplewhite was dead. It was a startling thought. But he had a different back view and she found the remembrance of it oddly reassuring.

I’ve thumbed back and forth through the book, and there’s so much more. I’ll have to read the whole book over again, just to savor her writing. It’s so slow, but so deep, too. Her childrens’ books, The Little White Horse and Linnets and Valerians, are just as wonderful. I’d consider them magical realism, if I had to pick a genre.

There’s so much we can learn about writing by reading old books. There’s something to be said for a slower-paced book with a deeper, thoughtful narrative. Maybe if more of us read old books, new books wouldn’t be as fluffy and trashy as they are now.