27 September 2011

Time Riders

Book blurb (from author's web site)

Liam O’Connor should have died at sea in 1912.

Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010.

Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2029.

Yet moments before death, someone mysteriously appeared and said, ‘Take my hand . . .’
But Liam, Maddy and Sal aren’t rescued. They are recruited by an agency that no one knows exists, with only one purpose – to fix broken history. Because time travel is here, and there are those who would go back in time and change the past.
That’s why the TimeRiders exist: to protect us. To stop time travel from destroying the world . . .

What I expected: a Quantam Leap sort of thing with a pack of teenagers jumping around in time trying to fix broken stuff.

What I got: One guy getting trapped in an alternate line of history while the others stayed in New York with the cannibalistic Gollums.

Once this book got going I rather enjoyed it. I love history in literature—that way I get to read it in within an interesting plot. This guy Kramer goes from the far future back to WW II and tells Hitler not to invade Russia. Hitler wins the war there, Kramer takes over and invades America. The Time Riders are supposed to go back and stop him. Fun locations, decent history and a pretty good story. Like I said, once it got to this part I liked it. Too bad the beginning was slow.

This is just me, but I do not like omniscient POV. To jump from one character to another without some sort of a break drives me crazy. I get why people write that way, but it feels so impersonal to me. I definitely didn't get to know any of the characters very well in this novel. They've got potential, but nothing terribly substantial right now. Heck, the AI support unit they named “Bob” had the most character development.

The novel is directed toward a YA audience, and I'm thinking teenagers who like action, adventure and a smattering of history will really enjoy it. There are four more out in England (I believe) and who knows, I might pick up the second one. Maybe.

26 September 2011

Fluffy Goodness

I never thought about all the good things a dryer does. I never considered what it would be like to hang towels to dry instead of having them roll over and over themselves while being gently caressed by warm air. I never thought I'd go over two years without a dryer.

Here's the thing. When my roommate and I moved the last time we were bequeathed a washer/dryer set from her sister. Free stuff is so great. Except for when the dryer runs on gas and we only have an electrical hook up. Curse you cruel world!

So it sat in our garage, collecting dust and random leafs that blew in, for over two years. I thought about putting it on KSL, but never did. It wasn't really mine, so I kind of ignored it and buried it under the camping stuff. Good shelf.

On Labor Day my roommate finally decided that it was time to get a new dryer. She actually gave hers away to someone a few weeks before. Great. Sure. Let's go.

The guy at Lowes seemed like he was on top of it, but he sold us a model they didn't have in stock. When they tried to deliver it they kept calling someone else. They brought the wrong type of plug and didn't have the flexible vent tube. Rough day.

Lucky for me, my dad is very handy. So I called him and in less than an hour (and just one trip to Lowes) we had it installed and running. Yay!

Tonight I did, for the first time since 2009, two loads of laundry—washed, dried and put away. Not only that, but our towels no longer feel like crunchy paper, but like soft, inviting blankets that make you want to curl up and take a nap. Okay, almost everything does that to me.

Here, here to the new dryer! And yay for soft towels!

No, I'm totally not avoiding writing. Would I do that?

25 September 2011


I'm not Catholic, but sometimes I think it would be convenient to have someone to spill the beans to. A good confession could go a long way in clearing my conscience of a few things.

Today that thing is this: I haven't written a word toward my work in progress for a week. Actually, I haven't written a word on anything that's mine since last Sunday. Maybe Saturday. I can't remember.

I'm stuck. I'm maybe 10,000 words from the end of my story and I'm not sure how to end it. As the plot came hurtling toward the climax I noticed that the character relationships aren't as deep as they should be. I also caught the fact that maybe I've gone too big in this first book. Maybe I should keep the whole thing closer to home and not go all crazy with the part before the last part.

The thing that's killing me about it all is that the last 10,000 words I wrote came so easy. They flew from my fingers and onto the page with an ease that I haven't enjoyed in a few months. Writing is usually fun for me, but this was more. It was better. I loved it!

And now I'm thinking I might have to ax that entire section. I hate that. One of life's cruel ironies—and I get to deal with it this week. Gosh, thanks world.

My mind won't even switch over to plotting mode so that I can try to fix the problems. I made a list of all of my concerns about this novel and found it to be pretty long. Not only long, but most of the changes will significantly impact the story as I have it written now.

This is only the first draft. Well, unless you count Nano a few years ago, but I don't really. This is a rough draft. And I'm all bent out of shape that the whole thing might change. I'm pathetic. Really. And petty, and in general feeling quite surly about the whole thing.

The real problem is this: I'm missing something. There is some aspect of the story that I've either over used or something that got overlooked. I've got to figure out what it is or this poor story (and I'm really liking the story and the characters) is never going to get finished.

So wish me luck as I drag out a notebook and a pen and start to write down what I think I need to do to fix it.

Anyone got a four leaf clover?

22 September 2011

Why Scissors are Not LIke Safety Glasses

You know it's been a long day when . . .

My desk is usually covered in piles of work. Papers from sales, details from the outsource team, post-it notes from everyone that can write in the building, glass shades, random pieces of hardware (most of it shinny), my in-box and bits and pieces of the avalanche that comes from the desk next to mine and tries to sneak across the line on an hourly basis.

Afternoon is the time to get rid of some of this stuff. Folders go back to sales, work orders go out to the shop, hardware goes back into lock-up and assignments get finished and passed on. So, with glee, I gathered all of the “off desk” stuff and headed out to drop it off.

I usually do a loop, and as I passed the first two drop off points, I looked down and wondered what in the world my scissors were doing in my hand.

Now take a look at the pictures above. Note that the scissors are black and the safety glasses are pink.

Yes, pink.

I feel I should explain. Safety glasses are a hot commodity at my work. All the guys in the shop have to wear them, and anyone who goes out there even to just ask a question is required to have a pair on as well. The first pair I brought to work had yellow lenses. Shooting glasses and all that. I had those for years. No one took them because they're pretty annoying to work in, and it's kind of hard to hide the fact that you're the only one in the building wearing yellow tinted lenses. But alas, they finally disappeared.

At some point our purchasing agent bought a bunch of pink safety glasses. Not for the guys in the back, but for guests—and the ladies. No self-respecting man in our shop would be caught dead in pink safety glasses. It was a good plan. And now, several years later, I still have mine. They're marked with blue sharpie on the front so I know they're mine. I usually don't get into pink (I feel pink has a whole fleet of supporters already, and that my energy could be directed at a less favored color like orange.) but I thought it would be okay just this once.

But note the pictures above. Pink glasses—black scissors. One for protecting your eyes and the other for putting your eye out. Hmmm . . . what unconscious acts of violence were brewing in my mind today? Because scissors are not like safety glasses.

19 September 2011

Biblical Weather Prophecy

How was your weather forecast this morning?
Good think I didn't plan that trip to Egypt . . .

17 September 2011

Worse than I Thought

This is Druid Arch. (Hello, Druid Arch) I found it on-line during a Google search for mystic places of power. Or something like that. I can't remember because it's been well over a year ago. Don't even bother asking me what I had for breakfast because I can't remember that either.

I needed an obscure bit of the world to set the climax of my novel in. So I made it an outlet for magic and used it. Pretty cool, huh?

So I figure that I should go there. I mean, I live in Utah, for crying out loud, and it's not that far away. I was supposed to go this spring, but that never happened. I spent too much time revising my novel like eight times and never got around to getting into shape.

Did I mention that Druid Arch is in the middle of Canyonlands National Park?

Uh, yeah. And it's not like some of the other places where you can drive to within a mile or two and walk a trail to it. Oh no. Don't be daft. I had to pick the arch that lays at the end of a trail that's just over five miles long. One way. Something like 10.9 miles round trip.

Okay, for a whole heap of the world an eleven mile walk is nothing. Sure, whatever, bring it on. Just let me go get a water bottle first. Heck, I could probably make it, but the point of a hike is to enjoy the scenery and to have a good time. Well, that's the point of my hikes. And if I'm sucking wind and having to drag my sorry butt along the bottom of the canyon I am not having a good time.

In preparation for this hike, which is coming up in six-ish weeks, I decided I would do some good walking. Last week I did four walks at forty minutes each. This week I did two walks at forty minutes each . . . plus today. Today I wandered up onto the hill in Bountiful and did 4.6 miles in an hour and a half. Yes, I'm slow. My hiking is even slower, if you want to know the truth. But the cold, hard truth is that my legs started to protest by mile 3.5, and they never stopped complaining after that.

I finished my walk and came home. I stretched, ate and then went off the Kempo class.

Sensei. How does he always know? He decided that today would be a great day to lay down on the ground, jump up, do some jumping jacks and get back down on the ground.

Oh boy, was that fun.

Now my legs really hurt. I hate the first part of trying to get into shape. Even if the shape I want isn't perfect, but simply one that is about twenty pounds lighter than the one I have now. The first few weeks of exercising is the worst. I'll probably have to whine and complain about it a lot.


14 September 2011

A Most Dastardly Design

We have a lot of glass hanging out at work. Pretty glass mostly, although what some customers claim is their dream come true in glass would more likely be the piece that I would send off to the DI (second hand) store. To each his or her own, right?

Because of said glass, and all of the “delicate” (although how you can call solid steel delicate is kind of a mystery to me) light fixtures that we make, we have an abundance of packaging materials in the back. The expanding foam is one of my favorites. Wrap light in plastic, put in box, fill box half-way with liquid foam and wait until it expands. Very fun.

Another item we have an abundance of is bubble wrap.

Oh yes, bubble wrap.

Just imagine, taking it in your hands, the plastic, air-filled bubbles caving under your fingers as you search for just the right spot to start. Once you've selected your first victim, place thumb and forefinger on opposite sides of the bubble and then . . . pop!

Or, if it has been a bad day, take the ends of a bit of bubble wrap in each hand and twist. Pop, pop, popopopopopopopopop! Quite refreshing. Ahhh. I feel better just thinking about it.

And yes, there are those great bubble wrap popping games on the web. It's not the same, but it will do in a pinch.

Now, take a look at the photo above. Glance carefully at the bubbles and you will see that they are not individually sealed. No, no, the air travels freely between the pockets.

We received a piece of glass wrapped in this stuff today. One of my co-workers pulled it off, and as he studied the glass I snatched the packaging. What can I say, I go for what I want. :)

Unfortunately, my anticipation of the loud POP (big bubbles here) deflated like a whoopee cushion without the noise as I squished my fingers together and the air simply slipped from my bubble into the three or four or five or six surrounding it.

Naturally I tried again, thinking I'd just got a previously popped bubble. No luck. I finally looked closer and found those irritating little bridges between the pockets.

Who thought that up? Do they have any idea how many people's day they just ruined?

I supposed I could support it if it had been an evil plan from the beginning, but I would have appreciated a warning e-mail. Show some courtesy people!

So harsh, so unfulfilled. I'm going to have to find some of the real stuff tomorrow.

13 September 2011

The Amulet of Samarkand

Summary (borrowed)

Nathaniel is a young magician with only one thing on his mind: revenge.
As an apprentice to the great magician Underwood, Nathaniel is gradually being schooled in the traditional art of magic. All is well until he has a life-changing encounter with Simon Lovelace, a rising, star magician. When Simon brutally humiliates Nathaniel in front of everyone he knows, Nathaniel decides to speed up his magical education, teaching himself spells way beyond his years. Eventually, he masters one of the most difficult spells of all: summoning the all-powerful djinni, Bartimeus.

But summoning Bartimeus and controlling him are two very different things—and Nathaniel may be in way over his head.

I picked this up on CD at the library because I heard the author do an interview on a pod cast that I listened to. They guys in the pod cast said the book was funny, so I picked it up.

Now the book is funny. At least the Bartimeus parts. Nathaniel is a whining, sniveling, stupid little boy that I wanted to smack most of the time. He is decidedly not funny. I wanted funny. The djinni is funny. So half of the book is funny because about half of it is from each character's point of view.

The fact that I had to renew the book twice from the library tells me that I didn't like it that much. It just didn't draw me in after Nathaniel's part started. Of course, it's a middle grade book, and I'm not exactly a middle grader, so that could be the problem. If it's not middle grade my deepest apology goes out to Jonathan Stroud.

I'm thinking young boys would love it. There was plenty of action once things got going, and I liked the magic system. Seeing part of the book from the djinni's point of view made things more interesting. And more fun.

Did I mention that Bartimeus was funny?

10 September 2011

Stupid Traffic-Cool Machine

This morning I got up early. This is not a terribly unusual action for me, but I do try to avoid it on Saturday morning. However, today was writing group day, so I hauled my butt (along with the rest of me) out of bed, got ready for the day and set off for Orem.

Saturday morning isn't a popular time for accidents or traffic jams. The drive is about 50 minutes long, depending on how I hit the two dozen light between my house and the Orem Library. The freeway doesn't usually have anything to do with the time variable.

Well, except for the time I was listening to the end of an audio book and because the freeway is under some heavy construction they keep changing the exits and what they look like and just having little signs that I apparently ignored and I ended up in the next city. Oops. I blame the freeway for that.

So today, listening to a fantastic music mix, windows down and the cruise control on, it took me a second to figure out that yes, the entire six lanes of freeway were filled with cars that had their brake lights on. Stopped.

In an uncharacteristic quick decision I bolted to the slow lane and got off on the next exit. I should have taken the frontage road one more exit, because when I got back on everyone was filed into one lane going about two miles an hour. Oh boy. So much fun.

And the worst part . . . stuck behind a big truck who was behind a semi.

That's why I didn't get a good look at the crazy machine that came by. Seriously, if I'd seen it coming I would have snapped a picture with my phone. Lucky for me, KSL had a picture. They call it the barrier mover machine. And as it went by I seriously was like, “What the heck? That's so cool!” and I craned my neck to watch it pass—lucky that the truck in front of me hadn't stopped by the time I got finished rubber necking. Basically the cement barriers are hooked together with big hinges (or something) and they're flexible like those dumb snakes you get at the carnival where you hold the tail and the rest of it sort of weaves back and forth. The machine eats the barrier and spits it out one lane over.

Stupid traffic jam vs very cool machine. Almost worth it. Almost.

07 September 2011

Didn't See that Coming

Over the past six or seven weeks, I've been working on a new novel. This one is YA Dystopia—sort of. It's a story that I've had wandering around in my head for years. It's one of my oldest, novel ideas in fact.

I used the story as my Nanowrimo in 2009 I think it was. And you know what, when they say you shouldn't use your baby for Nano . . . they're totally right. I got through it, but stopped at 50,001 words because the story wasn't going at all the way I wanted it to. There is action, intrigue, memory loss, awesome sparring matches, jokes and a little love thrown in for good measure.

About 30,000 words into the Nano month I found that the story had moved away from the action and had delved into the emotional, love story.


Don't get me wrong, the love story is a big part of the plot. These two characters grow together through hell and back, so it's not like I wasn't expecting some gaggy blah, blah. But it got totally out of control. What was she thinking about him? Was he thinking about her? Would the other guy understand? Who was going to sacrifice themselves for who first?

Ugh. What happened to my very fun romp? The bad guys are scary! The good guys are cool (most of them). How did this hapless love take over my story?

It took me quite a while to pull it out and look at it. Yes, they fall in love, but there are other things going on as well. I think I've said that. Sorry. Anyway, so I pulled it out and read it about eight weeks ago. Messed with the plot, tried to coordinate all those things that are supposed to go into a story and started to write. Type. Whatever.

Type, type, type . . . things are going well. I did have the non-action scene fit right after World Con, but that's gone away, and I got some good emotion out of it. Not me, the characters. I'm still typing like crazy, up to almost 75k at the moment, and the story takes a seriously scary turn to the dark side.

Like, I can't believe that came out of my brain and onto the computer screen for a YA novel kind of dark side.

First love sick story and then the “it may no longer be okay for YA” bit. I mentioned this last week, but that was only the beginning. Since then the story has continued to move in the dark direction.

I'm a little scared. I'll keep going, and who knows where it will lead, but sheesh. What's this all about?

05 September 2011

A Personal Pet Peeve

The other day I Googled (I just love Google. Can I say that again? I just love Google.) for best books on writing, or something like that. It's easy for me to get rusty on the finer points of writing, even if I am doing it everyday. And when is it a bad idea to stay sharp?

Unless you're supposed to be blunt, that is.

Some of the best books on writing I've read. I own them. I've underlined in them. Others I've heard of an one or two I started and never finished, for various reasons that I won't get into here. One that came up again and again was a book called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I'd never heard of it, so I jumped over to my local library web site and put it on hold. A few days later I got an e-mail telling me that my book was ready to be picked up. Yay, writing book!

I kind of expected a commentary on her life. Especially when the reviews said things like, a great view of writing and life. Or something like that. Okay, fine, I can handle someone's view of writing and life all squished together in an overly wordy book. I'm an author (aspiring) so I can dig it.

And mostly I can. The mistake the author made was to tell me, in one of the early chapters, that the ONLY way to write a good story is to create characters first and then put them into a plot.

This is the only way. She left no doubt about it. She was very firm in her belief.

Hasn't she heard of Orson Scott Card's M.I.C.E.? Or does she assume that the M, I or E stories are all bad. This is a distinct possibility. However, I'm pretty sure some of those M, I or E stories have won awards. Sold more copies than most of us can imagine. Made otherwise plain people quite famous.

Now don't get me wrong. Good characters are essential to a story. As a matter of fact I think my first novel suffers from a lack of character development. I've been meaning to go back and fix that for a while. So I believe! In some of it.

I heard another author/writing teacher earlier this year say the same thing. Not about characters, but about writing. He said you can write any way you like, as long as you follow his formula to the tee. This was after he criticized Stephen King for saying the exact same thing in different words.

Uh-hu. Who are you again?

Sorry, I get a little grouchy when people pull the my way or the highway card. Just write. If the characters come first, great. But don't go beating your head against a wall or stalking people at the Wal Mart to try to get great characters to jump into your mind. (Which isn't a bad idea, by the way) And if the idea comes first, dive in. Don't stand on the shore of a beautiful ocean refusing to take a dip because the surfers haven't appeared yet. Who knows, maybe your story is about a jelly fish.

Just over 68k on the latest novel, by the way.

03 September 2011

My Spacing Thumb is Down

It's been a while since I've been to sparring class for Kempo. Sparring always happens on Saturdays, and half of the time I'm meeting with my writing group, and the other half of the time it seems the world is ending and I can't possibly get there in the middle of the day on Saturday. Yes, yes, I am full of all sorts of excuses. Things like:
Family stuff.
Mercy mission for friends.
Work. Yes, it's happened several times over the past few months.
Out of town.
I'm teaching class because Sensei is out on a secret ninja mission.
Hair appointment. Hey, this is important.
I had to take a shower so I could go do (insert activity here) and didn't want to get all sweaty only to have to get ready again for the day.

Okay, I've never used that last one, but I might. Some days the thought of doing my hair twice is about as much as I can take. No idea why. Just not girlie I guess.

So anyway, I don't get to class much. Today not only did I get to class, but we actually sparred. A lot of times we go over really cool drills, but don't get to do full speed sparring. Both are good, I just usually manage to hit the drill days.

In my mind a sparring match goes something like this.

Ugh, it's (insert name here). They're so (Pick one: fast, tall, big, young, old, mean, nice, slow, obsessed with kicking, grabby . . .)

We bow. Get on guard. Sensei says go. I wait.

You see, I'm not a tiger to the throat kind of a girl. I prefer my prey to come to me. Saves energy. Most people classify me as a tiger, because I do fight in a linear fashion usually, but I'm not aggressive enough to be a real tiger. I lean towards a tiger/snake style. Wait until they get close enough (which is pretty darn close considering with my fun sized arms and legs my range is about a foot) hit them in a couple of key places and then back off. Snakes only have one weapon, so they have to make their strikes count. That's how I like to play. And yes, once in a while Sensei reminds me that I have two hands AND two feet I can use to attack. Not just my left hand. Lefty is mean.

Oh, sorry, we were in the middle of a fight. I'm waiting. They get closer. I might fake. They follow it in and if I've got the speed on my side I get them before they get me. I'm okay with my hands. My legs, on the other hand (haha) are pathetic. First they're short, and a lot of people can still hit me as I kick them. You have no idea how frustrating that is. Second, they're heavy and slow, so I don't use them for much but moving around.

Today I got squared off with a kicker. She's tall, thin and all about kicking. I can block kicks. My thumb will tell you all about it. Not that I remember when it happened, but I've got a great bruise going on under my right thumb nail. It went like this:

Ack! Stupid kickers, I hate them.
Ooh, knock that kick aside and jump in there. Go for the head!
Ouch, that hurt.
No blood, no foul.
Eeek, duck. Back up. No, go forward. Punch, punch, punch!
Block another stupid kick. I swear I'm going to elbow her shin next time.
Drat, missed.
Hah! Get her. Freight train her into the corner until she . . .
Darn it, she got another kick in. How is she doing that? Oh, she's running away. Get back here, you yellow bellied (insert favorite insult here)
Hey, why does my hand hurt?

And that's how it goes in sparring class. I've got another nice bruise on the top of my foot, and a couple on my shins.

Still I got a good workout, and sparring someone with an entirely different style than mine is always both fun and educational. And sometimes painful.

Go Ninja Wannabe!