Friday, May 27, 2011

Broken Blogger

Dear Friends,

Blogger (run by Google) has a chronic problem that is keeping many of you from commenting on this and all other blogspot blogs. In fact, I can't even comment on my own site!
There is a massive complaint thread on this topic on Blogger's help forum, but it's not doing any good.

Those of you who are able to comment, please leave a note to say by what method you signed in that allowed you to post a comment successfully. I believe the problem occurs for those signing in with a Google (gmail) ID.

And thanks to all of you who are commenting on my posts. I love reading your thoughts and I'm not ignoring you!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

So You Think That's Funny?

Humor makes the world go round. It certainly makes people turn a book's pages. As I started writing fiction, I found that my natural sense of humor was missing from my writing, but now that I am more relaxed and confident in fiction, I'm able to be funny in a story.

In considering this, I've been thinking a lot about the nature of humor. It's a widely drawn conclusion that everything one might consider funny has an element of surprise. Whether it's a clever twist of phrase in satire, a pratfall, a fart joke, or a silly costume, we laugh as a reaction to the unexpected.

But there's another side of humor which I believe is just as important: strength. Humor is a nutrient for the human spirit, and we seek it out and take comfort in it. Humor galvanizes us and lets us face the unbearable in life, and nothing can stamp it out. The Russian poet Evgeny Yevtushenko (pictured) wrote about this in his poem "Babi Yar:"

Tsars, kings, emperors, rulers of the world
Commanded parades, but humor--- humor they could not command...
They wanted to buy humor, but he cannot be bought!
They wanted to kill humor, but humor thumbed his nose.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Seeking Grown-Up History

I pride myself in being able to research any historical period, using any type of resource. No sitting at home checking Wikipedia for this writer. I hie me to a university library and dig in for the day, then go back for more.

But here's what I'm finding I can't do: I can't think in terms of adult historical fiction. What's that about, do you suppose? I'm staggering under the weight of all the original middle-grade historicals I'm dreaming up. I'll never live to write them all. But when I try to sprout a story idea for adults, all I can think of are things I know already exist.

I'm about to take a short vacation. I'm determined that one of my travel projects will be to come up with a historical fiction plot of interest to adults. It needn't be about where I'm visiting, but getting away from home will surely jump-start my imagination.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Freedom Is Scary

School's out for summer, if I may quote Alice Cooper (and why not?). I graded all the exams and have wiped the chalk dust from my hands.

And now I'm free to write. How thrilling! How terrifying! No excuses, nothing in my way. Hope I can be a grown-up about this, rather than a kid in a candy story, munching everything in sight and making myself sick. The writerly equivalent would be writing a little bit of lots of things and finishing nothing. Or worse, thinking about writing lots of things and not actually doing it because I'm overwhelmed.

Trying to make goals, reasonable goals, for each day and each week. At the very least my adult SF novel will get finished, since I'm drafting chapter 18 now. The trick is to decide what other projects to work on.

Pretty nice problem to have, eh?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Speculative Specialties

One thing I love about reading the great science fiction authors is comparing their special approaches to world-building. Ursula K. Le Guin supplies a complete philosophical, cultural, religious, even sexual profile for the societies she creates. William Gibson invents machines so intricate and realistic that you believe you could work them yourself. Robert A. Heinlein nails the social aspect, the intimate interaction of people in both familiar situations and those they're adapting to. Larry Nevin is particularly good at describing the creatures he invents and giving them well-rounded personalities that suit their physical selves.

The list goes on. Anyone care to add to it?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blog Hop: Getting Noticed! Look at Me!

Today's Alternative-read is "What lengths would you go to, to get noticed as an author/writer?" Well, let's see...

I'd vacuum an agent's office suite, even the sofa cushions. I'd write a gushing review of the 850-page ms about nail polish by a senior editor's daughter. I'd do a homemade-cupcake giveaway on my blog (maximum five thousand). I'd do a book tour that put me in Anchorage late Tuesday night and Miami early Wednesday morning. I'd empty my savings and max out my credit for one 20-second book trailer broadcast in Times Square. I'd grow my hair long and get some plastic surgery so I could be on mainstream TV.

Okay, those might be jokes. But one thing I really am willing to do for attention is blog-hop when I should be writing. Anyone else know that feeling?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Friend the Alien

Over the years I have read many books I really liked, and some I greatly admired  and even loved. But there's a special connection that I rarely make with a book, when I become the best friend of a character. As the book ends, my heart breaks. My sadness is not necessarily because of a bad thing that befalls my new friend, but rather because my daily time with him or her is ending. The experience is painful, but fills me with joy and wonder at the power of human creation that can make me love someone who doesn't exist at least as deeply as I love the real people in my life.

Most recently this happened to me when reading Adam Rex's middle-grade novel, The True Meaning of Smekday. It wasn't the human protagonist whom I befriended, but her companion, the mixed-up alien who names himself J.Lo in hopes of blending in to Earth's culture. I couldn't get enough of him. Several days after finishing the book, I still think about him, miss him, and keep hoping to find him sitting on my couch eating shaving cream.

What characters have affected you like that?