Saturday, December 11, 2010

Crafty Wonderland

Yep, in my other life- the one that makes all the money- I have been working 18 hour days. Today was actually a 21 hour day (in at 6am, back home at 3am), because I had to finish up everything for the giant craft show I'll be taking part in over the weekend.
In case you wondered, jewelers have no life and get very little sleep this time of year...and since that means no time to write,of course I'm dying to crack open the computer! It's a bit like shopping-- when I have no money, I want everything in the store, but when I'm flush, nothing interests me.

So anyway, if you live in Portland or are visiting Portland, come by the Convention Center, Hall C, from 11-5 Saturday and Sunday for the CRAFTY WONDERLAND! My booth will be in the far corner. You can see me in my 'other life', and give me crap about being such a slacker on my writing ;-)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hellion Gallery Grand Opening!

For the last couple months, hubby Matt has been showing artwork from Japanese artists, but it was all just backstock and extra pieces from older shows. Tonight, he has his first 'real' show, with a theme and everything!!
The show is called "Bridge and Bashi" and it features artwork from 8 Portland artists, collaborating with 8 Japanese artists.

Hellion Gallery is located at 323 NW 6th, near Everett Street Lofts, so if you're out and about for the First Thursday art walk, please come by and say HI!

(I'll be in the little gallery in the back, while Matt tends to the big show out front!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cleaning up Before the Maid Comes Over

I don't have a maid. But if I did, she would be useless, because I would clean the place spotless before she got there. I mean, do I really want her to see how dusty and doghair-y and dirty clothes-y my house really is? NO WAY. I want her to come and say, "My goodness, what a neatnik... she hardly needs me at all!"

The reason I bring this up is because this behavior of mine crosses over into many aspects of my life, including my writing. I recently was lucky enough to win a 3-chapter editing job (thank you Justine Dell and Candice!), and true to form, I am cleaning the dang house before the maid gets there. I can't help myself!!

Do you do this too? Madly editing before you're supposed to show it to someone? Or are you of the school that says, "why should I clean the house, that's what I paying for"?
(or winning contests for, as the case may be)

Just wondering.......

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Come see me, why dontcha?

So, hubby Matt decided over the summer that it was time to open his own art gallery, which should be a great help to my 'Art that Makes Me Wanna Write a Book" posts! As you can probably guess, the gallery is focused solely on the Japanese artists he has developed ties with over the last several years.

If you live in Portland, come swing by and see me tonight, at the gallery! He is having a soft opening this month, with pieces from a wide range of his artists (December will be the grand opening, with a show of all new works).
So if you're out and about for the First Thursday art walk in the Pearl, come on by Hellion Gallery! We're at 323 NW 6th, between Everett and Flanders.

And no, I'm totally not getting any writing done tonight....oh well, I'm being inspired by art instead!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Contests, Winners, and Shameless Plugs

First, check out this great contest posted by Amanda over at Ramblings of a Drifting Mind! She's celebrating her 100th, 125th,and 150th followers, plus her 21st birthday to boot!

Also, Justine Dell is having an amazing contest to celebrate her 250th follower, and some of the prizes include: a query critique, a 3 chapter line edit, and a full MS copy edit!! (Seriously people, do you know how much a full MS copy edit costs? Go enter RIGHT NOW!)

Next, WINNERS! After putting your story suggestions for my scar to the test, it turned out to be a close race... but only one caused a friend I haven't seen in a while to get ginger ale up her nose. This was the scenario:
Friend,"Hey, what happened to your hand??" (takes a sip of ginger ale)
Me, "Zombie."
Friend, (snorting laugh) "Ow..."
Me, "Yah, it hurt"
Friend, "No, I totally got ginger ale up my nose-- it hurts!"

So congrats to VALERIE GEARY!
Email me and we'll figure out the prize delivery :-)

And last, I am shamelessy plugging my sister's blog, which is made of AWESOME, particularly if you love Japan.
She regularly posts about life in Japan, from festivals and tradition to raising three kids there, and she has added a couple new features that I love:
"Monday Manglish", in which she outs Japan for its bizarre and unintentionally hilarious usage of english...
and Friday Field Notes, in which she posts photos of interesting bits of nature she has seen whilst walking the kids to school. She started this feature at the request of our mother. Our family, you see, is genetically inclined to notice every plant and bird and living creature within a 50 foot radius, and then rush home to look it up in a book.

We may or may not have been guilty of nearly crashing the car over a clump of daylillies on the side of the road...

But I digress-- go check out my sister's blog and follow her for some cool insights into Japan!

Friday, September 24, 2010

I Like a Good Scar. Also, a contest!

Seriously, I do!
I know, it's weird. Maybe even a little icky. But as soon as I see an interesting scar on a person, my head is filled with scenarios to explain how it got there. It must be the writer in me, finding inspiration everywhere....

And now, I've got a lovely little piece of inspiration permanently etched onto...ME.

That's right. See the date of my last post? That was exactly one day before...gasp...the accident. Oh OK, it wasn't that dramatic. Like most scars, it was caused by the silliest, most mundane thing you can imagine, and not by an exciting encounter with a bear. I cut the holy crap out of my first finger when I was (drumroll please) washing dishes.

A word of caution now goes out to my dear readers: don't ever, ever, wash a glass by shoving your hand and the sponge down into the glass and twisting. What happens, I learned, is that a giant chunk of the glass breaks off, and your whole hand runs into the sharp edge. YUK.

The funniest thing was trying to explain to well-meaning people with vitamin E oil that I didn't really care if the cut left a scar. "But, it will make for interesting stories!" I said to blank stares. Then they would give me the oil and I'd mumble thanks. Really, the only thing I cared about was that it didn't cripple the finger, since I make my living with my hands. I discovered pretty quickly it's hard to set diamonds with that finger out of commission!

Fortunately, the finger is fine, I just missed the tendon, and all I have left now is a nice, curving scar.... which I am thinking up good stories about, because the glass thing just isn't cool enough. ;-P

For those of you with weak stomachs, look at the big picture below of our new puppy, Ebi, and think happy happy thoughts. For those of you with a high gore tolerance, scroll a little farther for a photo just after I got my 6 stitches.


I know, yuck, right? But man do I look tough now! Yah, just ask those muggers who's tough, after I wrestled the knife away from them and-- what? Story not believable? Alright, I'll come up with another one. Or better yet, why don't you guys come up with a good story for my new scar, and the one I end up using gets a fancy little silver pendant made by my pitifully scarred hands :-)

UPDATE: I always forget these things.... I suppose I need to put an end date on the contest, huh? So how about Tuesday the 28th at 9AM. Get your stories about my scar in by then, and I'll announce the winner on Wednesday evening, after I've had a chance to try out each story!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Favorite Summer Song

Cleaning out the basement and the garage today, and just thought I would share my favorite summer song ever. It's a Japanese 'golden oldie' from the 70's ! Miki Hirayama is the singer, and I found it thanks to my all-time favorite Japanese movie-- Adrenaline Drive. There's just nothing better than a movie about two shy young people who steal some gangsters' money, then overcome their shy natures and fall in love while on the run!

Imagine the bumbling gangsters, packed into a tiny, tiny car, chasing the couple... then they turn on the radio and start singing along to this tune.

OK, you don't have to imagine because I just found that on youtube as well.

And for those of you who thought the main 'good guy' in the back of the truck looked familiar... he is Masanobu Ando, of Battle Royale (and a lot of other movies) fame. I love that guy-- seriously the Japanese Johnny Depp.

That's it for today... sorry about the lack of writing relevance, but I thought everyone needed to enjoy my FAVORITE SUMMER SONG!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Slutty New Idea......

Yep. The dreaded (but seductive) Slutty New Idea. I've got one, and it's driving me completely, totally batty. So batty, in fact, that I had to put down my tools at work last week and spend 2 hours scribbling it all out in pencil on a series of post-it notes.

I know, it's been ages since I've been here, and you probably think, "She's ignored her blog for so long that she must have gotten a huge amount of editing done in the meantime... a few hours on a Slutty New Idea can't hurt!" In fact, I haven't edited a single word in the last month thanks to a sniveling little voice in my head telling me that the editing is just too much-- too much of a tangle, too much work, too overwhelming, too difficult. Yet that same little voice is telling me that this lovely little new idea would be sooo easy. I should just quit agonizing over every word of Old WIP, it tells me, and work on New Idea for a while.


I really want to work on the new one because it's fun and it's a good, fully-formed idea, but then I feel guilty, horribly horribly guilty. Oh, my poor Old WIP, bandaged and sitting in the corner, wondering why I don't love it anymore. Oh, my poor readers who have stuck with me and Old WIP over so many incarnations...don't they deserve some resolution? Don't they deserve a complete story with a proper ending after reading my revisions a million times? Hell, don't I deserve a complete story with a proper ending after writing a million revisions?

Sigh...... but Slutty New Idea is just so pretty....

OK. The guilt level has just bested the appeal of the slutty new idea.
I'm gonna go try to change the bandages on Old WIP again. Maybe this time it will quit festering!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Speaking of Egg Salad Sandwiches...

...and I'm totally not joking: I am in the Land of the Egg Salad Sandwich right now. Seriously, NO ONE makes an egg salad sandwich like a Japanese convenience store. You've never had eggs so perfectly cooked, mayo so creamy, or bread so fluffy. And it's from a convenience store, which means when you're drunk and walking home at 3AM, you can stop and get the world's best sandwich!

For those of us used to filthy, horrible, American convenience stores, the Japanese 'Konbini' is like heaven. And those egg salad sandwiches...

Sorry, I promise I'll quit talking about them and give you guys a real post soon :-)

Gonna see YokohamaMama on Tuesday, too!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Lovely Egg Salad Sandwich

First, I must tell you about an amazing contest over at Editorial Ass! Moonrat is celebrating the 500,000th blogviewing, by giving away a 20-page critique of your WIP! Go there! Now!

OK, back to my post...

I have this little joke that I make, about an egg salad sandwich. I think it is the height of hilarity, but then I remember that no one really has any idea what I'm talking about or why I'm cracking up. The problem is, it's an inside joke-- one that came about from a real circumstance, got blown up into a joke among friends, and then I forget that not everyone was there. And without the backstory, it just isn't as funny.

(Keep in mind that this may actually be funnier if you were there...)
One day, many years ago, hubby Matt was telling someone about the egg salad sandwich he ate for lunch. It wasn't exciting, it wasn't anything special, and he was as bored talking about it as the other person was listening to him prattle on about egg salad sandwiches. So he stopped. In the middle of the sentence, he just stopped and wondered out loud why the @#)! he was talking about egg salad sandwiches. The other person agreed.

So these days, whenever someone is talking our ears off about THE most boring subject ever, we just say, "I had an egg salad sandwich..." (and sometimes we mention the creamy mayonnaise, or the fluffy bread, or another boring detail)
Hilarious to us, but probably confusing to others.
I do have to congratulate Valerie Geary for getting the joke when I used it to describe my feelings toward most Twitter posts, but for the most part, it confuses people.
Which brings me to my writing-related point: making sure there is nothing in my WIP that is an inside joke.
When you cut and paste and rework and rewrite as much as we all do, a lot of wordy backstory gets edited out. BUT BEWARE! If you cut all that backstory, you may do it at the expense of clarity. This is probably the best reason to use Betas (or at least have other eyes reading your WIP), because they can spot things you can't-- namely, when you've removed a chunk of backstory which has left your character doing something that doesn't make sense. You don't notice it yourself because it is like the egg salad sandwich. You have all the context and backstory in your head, but remember, your reader wasn't there. So drop the inside jokes! Or for crying out loud, at least explain them!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Art that Makes Me Wanna Write a Book!

Yes, it's finally time for another installment of Art that Makes Ann Wanna Write a Book!
It seems to be the only thing I get around to blogging about these days, but I feel some 'real' blog posts coming soon! I am going to be hanging out with YokohamaMama in the land of the rising sun next week, and two sisters+cherry blossom festivals= a good, old-fashioned blog post!

So anyway... This week's art is from Lani Imre, an artist originally from British Columbia, Canada. Her work makes me think 'book covers'. I see so much emotion in the eyes of her painted characters-- it really could fill a book!

And while much of the art I have previously posted is of a specific scene, and I spend time daydreaming about that scene and the story on either side of it... Lani's characters are solitary, lonely, almost existing in a vacuum.
There are no clues about what is happening to them, and yet it makes me yearn to know who they are... and that makes me wanna write a book!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

No, really! I have an excuse this time!

Seriously! I got a really great commission to do a jewelry piece for a talented celebrity that I love, I had Japanese houseguests for two-and-a-half weeks, and then I got diagnosed with asthma! Yah, see, Matt and I were going on this short bike ride, and when I coughed and wheezed for 8 hours afterwards, I decided it was time to talk to the doctor, and... wait, you're not listening anymore, are you?
Your eyes glazed over after the first excuse? Really? All these years, I thought the excuses were working... turns out you're just thinking about texting your other friend who wants to go out for drinks later.
OK, fine, so I don't really have a good excuse, other than the fact that I am easily distracted at times. It has been a good month since I really focused on my blog, and at least two weeks since I really dug in on my WIP.
I defer to Laini Taylor's great post on this subject. Also my sister's post, which proves that we are eerily identical despite being 3 years (and several thousand miles) apart. Turns out I'm not the only one struggling with keeping my focus, and the fact that I'm not alone in this... thank goodness.
And thank goodness for my inhaler, which will allow me to contemplate a more active lifestyle for the first time in my life. (Notice I said 'contemplate'-- we're not committing to anything here!) Still, it will be nice to be able to actually complete a bike ride!

I just have one question: where can I get an inhaler for writing? You know, so I can finally complete this manuscript?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Art that Makes Me Wanna Write a Book!

Hello again, here is this weekend's installment of 'art that makes me wanna write a book', even though I didn't get it posted on Saturday.... (houseguests. you know how that goes.)

Anyway, today's art is by one of my favorite Japanese artists, Shohei. I've posted his work before, and talked about his famous animator father, and his colorblindness, and I'm still blown away by the fact that he uses only ball-point pen to draw....

Yah. It's sort of shocking to see someone draw like that with a ball-point pen....

Which leads me to one of my favorite pieces by him: "Ping-Pong Geisha"

I love the movement, the playfulness, the details... She's so modern and so traditional all at the same time. I want to know why she wears sunglasses and who put a lock around her waist. I want to know why she plays ping-pong instead of practicing shamisen or dance. I want to know who the person on the other side of the table is. Maybe she is being controlled by a gangster... maybe she is sick of being a geisha and is breaking free.... So many possibilities and story ideas come to mind!

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

And the Winner Is....

Christine Danek!

congrats Christine, the monster is yours! :-)

just email me at annfoxlee(at)gmail(dot)com and let me know your address. I'll get it out in the mail to you next week!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Recovering from Olympic Fever/ Saturday Art

Sorry I've been away from my blog for a couple of weeks here... I've been suffering from Olympic fever, and have been rabidly following Johnny Weir's great performances (oh, the politics of judged sports! He was robbed....)
Anywho, now that I'm back, it is time for a contest!! The details will be later in this post :-)

Also, starting with this, I'm only going to be posting one art piece. On a rare occasion I may put up more than one, but I've got to be a bit more measured in posting the art, or I might run out!

This piece is an interesting one for several reasons. First, it is a collaborative piece. Naoshi (an artist from Japan) did her work first, and then Martin Ontiveros (a Portland Artist) finished with his painting of the monster. Second, while Martin's part is painted, all the rest of the piece-- the cake-head girl, the background-- is done in colored sand. YEP! Colored sand. It is an old Japanese technique called Suna-e, and if you go to Naoshi's website, she has drawn out a tutorial on how it is done. It makes it seem easy, but really, all those perfect little lines...hard!!!
I love that the piece, being made of sand, is so sparkly that you kind of want to eat it. And I am amazed that Martin could paint his monster so perfectly over the sand, and somehow keep it sparkly too.
Each time I look at the poor cake-headed girl being tickled under the chin by that colorful monster, It seems like the middle of a children's book to me. Kind of like the spot where Red Riding Hood realizes that the wolf is in grandma's clothes.
It is a dangerous scene, where she just might be eaten!

So now, on to the contest!
1. contest begins now and ends 8AM Pacific, next Saturday.
2. to enter, you have to add a comment on this post.
3. adding a comment on this post= 1 entry
4. being or becoming one of my followers= 2 more entries
5. mentioning and posting a link to this contest on your blog= 3 more entries
6.getting someone else to comment that they followed your link here= 4 more entries for you, 2 more for them

After the contest is closed, I will use the Randomizer thingy online, pick a winner, and post it by 9AM!

Good Luck to all!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Tale of Two Sisters

Some of you already know that my sister lives in Japan, but despite that distance, we are as close as two sisters could possibly be. We are the best of best friends, and to my memory, have been ever since I was in 6th grade and she was in 9th. Amy stuck up for me when one of her school friends was being a bit mean (I don't even remember what happened-- just that she pretty much told her friend to shove it.), and we've never had a cross word since.

We're also constantly discovering that we share secret obsessions (see my posts and our comments on Johnny Weir and Particle Physics for proof of random things we obsess about).

So if you've ever wondered what life in the Land of the Rising Sun is like (don't miss the bust-a-gut mangled English!), how to get started with origami anyone can do, or even how they get kids to eat spinach in Japan, pop on over and see her new blog: YokohamaMama !
I also have a link to it in my sidebar.

And don't forget to scroll down for pictures of 4-year-olds dressed up with sushi hats, singing a sushi song... it's seriously cute overload.
But I think my sister's three kids are cute overload too :-)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lazy Sunday

I know... I didn't get a chance to put up a Saturday Art post this week, but I promise to make up for it by having another art contest next week!

Until then, I am trying to stop cruising the internet and get some actual writing done today.

As you may have read, I am easily distracted by the internet.

What distractions get to you when you're trying to write? Are they legitimate distractions, or like me is it just a way to procrastinate when you're at a tough spot in the writing?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Sculpture!

Today's "art that makes me wanna write a book" is the work of Portland-based artist Brian Elliot . Brian's work is amazing, combining found objects and hand fabricated parts, done with painstaking attention to detail. Much of his work has a sly sense of humor, and all of it seems to have a secret story. You're always left thinking about the piece and its story, which is exactly what I love, and why it fits the theme of my Saturday posts.

Above is a piece from his raygun series (click picture to enlarge). Brian did write out the storyline for this series, but in his talented hands, it leaves me imagining even more.

Currently, I am obsessed with two projects of his.
First up: the" Aries 2010 Time Capsule", which was commisioned by Nike to debut at the 2010 Olympics. It was just installed at the Boardroom Snowboard Shop in Vancouver BC!
I think part of what is so striking to me on this piece is Brian's perfect details. Like the way he took a bright, shiny, 'finished' piece and dented and chipped paint and scuffed and added grease stains, bringing out the sense of time in this time capsule. A lesser artist wouldn't have known to add that layer of complexity, but Brian understands that great art, like a great book, needs that.

The second project is called "Racehopper'. Below is a photo of the almost finished cockpit, and under that is Brian's rendering of what a Racehopper gang would look like!

I can't stop daydreaming about all the stories this grasshopper-shaped vehicle could play a part in.... If I wasn't so far behind on my editing, I would be writing a story involving Racehoppers right now!

In addition to his sculpting work, Brian also worked for two years as a rigger on the Neil Gaiman book-turned-movie, Coraline. In case you missed the movie, it was incredible. Especially so in 3-D. You can see some pictures of Brian at work on Coraline on his website in the current projects section.

Brian Elliot is just dizzingly talented, and never fails to surprise and engage his viewer.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random Cool Things Thursday

Ummm, this has nothing whatsoever to do with writing, but I simply must make sure everyone knows about this. It is very important....
OK, it's not important at all, but it IS awesome. Check out the total kewl-ness one of our Olympic men's figure skaters doing an exhibition routine to Lady Gaga's 'Poker Face'.

Here's Johnny Weir!

Seriously, I LOVE Johnny Weir, and not just for that routine to Lady Gaga... He currently has a series running on the Sundance channel that I can't stop watching. He is obviously talented, but the guy is hilarious, ultra snarky, smart, and I can actually identify with some of his perfectionist tendencies. Now I am dying for the Olympics to start because I really want him to win!!

Some things you learn on the Sundance show:
He started skating just before the age of 12, after watching Oksana Baiul win the gold medal, and originally did so on roller skates in his basement, then on used ice-skates in the iced-over cornfield behind his house.
At 12 his mom was told that he had a real talent, and she was convinced to get him a real coach and lessons.
At 16(!) he won the Junior Nationals.
At 19 he won Nationals, after falling and having to withdraw the year before.
He has bursitis in the ball of his 'landing' foot, where his big toe connects, which pretty much makes it feel like he has a rock in his shoe every time he lands one of those jumps... yikes!
He doesn't quite get all the fuss over his skating style, which is far more lyrical and ballet-inspired than the typical, angular, athletic mens' routines. For some reason Russia and Asia get that style, but America is stuck on the idea of winning over football-watchers.

I know, I know, it seems strange for me to gush so much, but after you watch the sundance channel thing, you'll love him too.

UPDATE: One more reason I love him-- this was in his Q&A section on his webpage:
Q: Johnny, your skin is gorgeous. Not a single pore! What products do you use?

A: I am very consistent with my regimen. I use organic washes by Ren and creams from both Ren and Cle de Peau. Thank you very much. I get so into a routine with my products that when one has a packaging change or the company stops making it, I have a month long depression. I am currently in the throws of a deodorant disaster. They stopped making the only one that I liked that worked for me and now I walk around unsure if I smell like a flower or just smell period.

Hilarious. I so want to be his best friend.

Breaking Out of Your Shell

I joke that I am a Cancer Crab and that I live up to it, but really, it's the sad, sad truth.
I am 20 times more likely to stay at home in my little shell doing what I think I want to do, than to accept an invitation to do anything else. Seriously,the way I complain about it, some people could get the idea that I'm agoraphobic!
Now, I am a bit of an introvert, and I do get nervous meeting new people or having to interact with large groups (parties where I don't know anyone drive me crazy), but that's not what's stopping me going out.
No, the whole 'staying in my shell' thing is really more a combination of laziness and overzealous time-management.
I'm terribly content to be in my house. I have lots of fun art to look at, and books to read, and two dogs to cuddle up to, and once they're snuggled into the crook of your legs on the couch, it's just impossible to move... and....what? you want me to go with you to the fabric store? Oh I know, it's something I like doing, but I think I'm just too busy today (Ann says as she is sitting half asleep on the couch with the dogs curled up against her)...
Also, my idea of time-management is almost always finding some excuse to turn down going out. I tell myself it's because I need to write, or read, or research something for the book, or watch some movie, or relax for a few minutes because I had a hard week at work, or something, but I have a sneaking suspicion it is related to reason #1.

ANYWAY... my whole point in this post is to tell you to Break Out of Your Shell! Don't be a Crab like me, no matter how comfortable you are in there, you've got to challenge yourself sometimes, leave the house, and do something you would't normally do. Unless you're writing a book on how one becomes agoraphobic, because then you'd be right on track.

So last night I went with fellow blogger, Valerie Geary, to hear 5 successful, award-winning Portland YA authors, Laini Taylor, Lisa Schroeder, L.K. Madigan, Christine Fletcher, and April Henry, speak about their writing, their processes, and their experience in the business. And it was great. There were parts where I felt proud that I already knew something they knew about the business, and parts where I felt relieved to know that my writing process wasn't that different from those of successful authors. I loved hearing that they all came to writing a bit later in life and were published in their 30's-40's (sometimes on the web it seems like everyone is getting a book deal at 15, and I'm the irrelevant old fogey just now trying), and I loved hearing about their reactions to editor's notes on their manuscripts-- it seems a certain level of venting and a few days of trying not to think about the editor's changes (before finally giving in) is normal. They all agreed that their books were infinitely better thanks to the insights of their editors.
It was also super fun to hang out with Valerie again (although I think the fabric of space/time will rip wide open and the universe will implode if we come up with any more eerie similarities between us-- last night we discovered we're both reading World War Z!). Doing her part to break out of her shell, Valerie has been reading books in genres well outside her normal comfort zone, and then posting reviews on her blog. This month has been travel books, next month she tackles another equally foreign (to her) genre.

So, I am going to take my own advice and try to break out of my shell more often. I'm going to read books that I'm not sure about, I'm going to go to author events and writer's group events even when I'm feeling shy, and by god, I'm going to go to the fabric store next time someone asks. You never know where inspiration is going to strike! And you never know what experiences are going to come in handy for your next book.

Besides, who wants to be on their death-bed reminiscing about all those great times sitting on the couch?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday Art!

In today's edition of "Art That Makes Me Wanna Write A Book", I'd like to introduce all of you to the art of Amy Sol!

Amy is a Korean-American artist, living in Las Vegas, and has deservedly become quite a sought-after artist over the last few years.

The thing that I love most about her pieces is the atmospheric quality. Misty and windy and rainy and moon-lit... I'm instantly transported to the other-world she's created, and always the image haunts me-- like a scene from a long-lost fairy tale.

I love to bask in all the details she paints. They way wind blows through her paintings, how mist turns into giant creatures, even the tiny details like jewelry or freckles. All of it draws me in and sends me right into her daydream!

Sigh...I feel like there is a book in every one of her paintings!
I often check out the gallery on her website for inspiration, and I love her blog to see works in progress-- always interesting when an artist shares their process.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

EEEKS! My work out in public, sort of...

Steph Bowe did it. She coaxed me out of the dark corner I've been hiding in...

I have been working on my novel for a while. Quite a while. Like, this is probably year 4, or maybe 5 depending on when you started counting. Now, I know we're supposed to write that first novel and then throw it in a drawer and write something else to submit to publishers and agents, but I just like this story too well to diss it like that. I'll finish polishing it up this year, and then I'll start querying again, and we'll see what happens.
As far as the length of time it has taken me, well, the whole first 3 years of that time I really don't count, except for the part where I won a fellowship, because that part was awesome :-)
I was just such a newbie to the craft of writing in those early days. I've always written, of course, but this time it had to be good enough for others to read, and that meant 3 years of writing, and learning, and writing some more.
No information dumps, get rid of your adverbs and passive voices, don't get too flowery with adjectives or dialogue tags, keep your eyes on the end of the story and move your MC toward it in every scene, get rid of too-familiar tropes, show don't tell, simplify.
Three hard years of making all these mistakes and more, and then revising each time I realized that one of these things was bogging down my story... and finally this year, though I have much more to learn, and always will, I feel like I am finally proud of my story! Even if it never sees the light of day, or if I have to revise it a few more times, I'm still proud of it.

Which leads me to explain the title of my post. For the first time, I'm happy enough with my story that I've actually posted the first few paragraphs of it where people can see it and critique it. I'm really excited to hear people's feedback! Eventually I will post a bit of it here as well, but right now you can read it on Steph Bowe's blog, where she's put up a 250-word "share what you're writing" post. She's making comments on everyone's pieces, and encouraging others to give feedback as well. So go, post a piece of your own, and if you want, tell me what you think of mine too!

PS, My piece is posted in two comments, one below the other, because it wouldn't all fit in one. Thanks to Valerie for pointing out that this could be confusing :-)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Science Sunday

click to enlarge

"I want to be a chemist. And if I was a chemist I would mix up lots of chemicals. And I would make $50.00 a day." --ann foxlee, aged 8

.....And this is where I mention the part about me being a secret science nerd-- a slightly technophobic science nerd, but that's another post.
That's right my lovely readers, before I decided to pursue arts or writing, I was absolutely positive I wanted to be a chemist (or at least positive about the '$50.00 a day' part). Also, I was rather interested in proving I could correctly spell 'chemicals'.

These days, the secret science nerd in me is a sucker for Particle Physics, Theoretical Physics(including dark matter, string theory, and supersymmetry-- squee!) and most of all, the Large Hadron Collider. Just thinking about it makes my brain go tingly!
MMMMMmmmmmm.... shooting a stream of protons at 99.9999991% the speed of light, in opposite directions around a 17-mile circular track until they collide, creating conditions that only existed a billionth of a second after the big bang.... oooohhh, tingly.

I was asked the other day why it mattered, and why they were bothering to do this.
Besides the obvious pursuit of knowledge, most of the scientific advances we've had-- from going to the moon to the personal computer-- would not even be remotely possible without the work of physicists, like Einstein and those who followed him. Before Einstein we didn't even know that mass could be converted into energy, that mass WAS energy. And electromagnetism? Nope, we had no idea it was connected. Without understanding that magnetic fields produce electric fields and vice versa, computers are kinda not possible.
As far as we've come in 100 years, imagine then what we could do if we truly, completely understood what it is we're made of and how/why it is all stuck together the way it is. (tingly, tingly).

The things that make up the universe have been described as like snowflakes-- once, the flakes were a simple thing, water, and with time and cold, they grew into unique, complicated, separate things, with intricate crystal structures. But at the core of their beings, they are only that original pool of water. Similarly, we and the earth and the stars also 'crystallized' out of a simple source, and are at our cores, all the same thing. (sigh, tingle)
But how and why?

As it is right now, there is something predicted, but missing in all the theories-- something so small or dark that it's hidden from our view, or perhaps it's something larger that is driving all the other forces. The theorists have made their best predictions, and hope to find what they're looking for via the LHC and its mini big-bangs. Otherwise, they'll all be rethinking the existing theories.
The exciting part is that, no matter how it is solved, we'll end up understanding why you and the table and the light coming from your lamp are all fundamentally one thing (tingle tingle), and why, like snowflakes, they are coalesced into so many forms. Understanding this would open the doors to making and manipulating anything. (tingle...............)

My two favorite physicists are cool not just for their contributions to Particle and Theoretical Physics, but also because they have a unique ability to charmingly explain these complex things to laypeople like you and me. Both have regularly appeared on the Science Channel, the BBC, and give lectures whenever they can.

Dr. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist, and often talks about the impact and potential of science in the future. His writings give you the ability to visualize and 'get' things like extra dimensions. His books are very readable, although I did re-read sections a few times here and there to make sure it stuck, or just to make my brain tingle some more. So far I've read Visions and Hyperspace, which are great, and I'm looking forward to his new book Physics of the Impossible (which I think his current Science Channel show is based on).

Dr. Brian Cox (otherwise known as ann's nerd crush-- hands off!) is a particle physics professor at the U of Manchester, a former rock star (really!) and is a total dreamboat because he actually works at the Large Hadron Collider, in the ATLAS detector. Plus he sometimes cusses and calls people tw*ts when discussing science, which only makes me love him more. You can youtube him and get some great shorts of him discussing everything from the 2012 conspiracy theories, to what excites him about the Grand Canyon (hint: the rocks at the bottom are 1/7th the age of the universe--TINGLE!).
Here is a not-to-be-missed speech he gave for TED, all about the LHC. In it he also explains so many things about particle physics, and does it in such easy to understand language that I almost feel qualified to work at the LHC too. Mmmmmmm......Me and my science nerd crush, working side by side... what? It could happen, you know, extra dimensions and all!
OK, maybe not quite, but I could visit the LHC and understand what the hell they're talking about. And I would wear this t-shirt:

heh heh. It's just the sort of cheesball, dirty humor my nerd crush will love.

Art That Makes Me Wanna Write a Book. Also, WINNERS!!

Seriously, I am secret science nerd.
More on this in another post, possibly tomorrow, but today I know what you're really here for...


I popped over to, assigned the 8 contest entrants a number for each entry they had, and out of the 40 numbers assigned, I ended up with 2 winners.
That's right, 2! The gods of Randomizer did something so... random...that I had to take it as a sign. Either that or Randomizer has stalker tendencies, so I'm just gonna back away nicely and let Big R have the two he picked . Of the top 6 numbers, 3 belonged to one person and 3 belonged to another...and they alternated.

So randomizer totally has a stalker crush on:

VALERIE (from Something to Write About )
STEPHANIE (from Hatshepsut: The Writing of a Novel )

Congrats you guys! but you might want to make sure your phone numbers are unlisted...
email me at: shop (at) mystudioacorn (dot) com, and tell me which print you want and where to mail it :-)

Today's piece is one Matt ended up giving me for my birthday because I love it so much.

It's called Fighting, by Japanese artist Shohei.
Three interesting facts about Shohei:
1. He doesn't use his last name, because his father happens to be uber-famous Japanese animator, Otomo-san, and I assume he'd rather make art without that kind of baggage.
2. He is color-blind, hence the use of black and white, and sometimes a splash of red. His mother told me she noticed the color-blindness when he was a kid-- he pointed to green leaves on a tree and said they were purple!
3. His art is done entirely with a ball-point pen. Let me repeat that. He works entirely in ball-point pen. All that shading, ball-point pen. Seriously. Watch him work on youtube-- it's freaking amazing

Obviously I love this piece, and there are many reasons, but here are the two main things:
First, the two boys make me think of my nephews-- not so much that they get into bloody fistfights with each other, but they are Japanese schoolkids and they wear those cute uniforms and leather backpacks.
Second, it reminds me why I love writing MG and YA. There is such complexity and depth to kids' emotions. Look at all the hurt and rage on those 8 year old faces!
Too often adults write off kids' emotions as simple or not important, as if adults are the only complex ones in the room because they have Responsibilities. How many times have we heard an adult tell an upset kid to just "wait until you're grown-up and have Real Things to worry about"?
I happen to think that adults are waaay more emotionally simple than kids, because they're not in the throes of Figuring Out How The World Works! Remember when you were 8, and still trying to find your place in all that mess, and how to interact with...everything without getting in trouble? And just when you started to think you were in control, hormones wreaked havoc on you and you had to learn everything all over again? Yah. Emotionally speaking, way harder to be a young person. And probably the reason so many people are drawn to MG and YA fiction, because it allows us all to remember and rediscover the incredible rush of all those synapses and neurons making connections.

Did I mention that I'm a secret science nerd?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Yeeehaaaww!! Contest Round-Up

Not sure what has gotten into all of us, but there seems to be Contest Fever going around, and even I caught it on Saturday .

For those of you who haven't caught it yet, your luck just ran out!
Remember when we we little, and a friend came down with chicken pox, and our moms were suddenly very interested in having us go hang out with the pox-y friend?

Well this is just like that.

I care about you, I really do, and I know it's better to catch this thing while it's going around-- it only gets worse if you wait until you're older! I swear, get it over with now, or you'll end up on that Hoarders show, surrounded by stacks of publisher clearing house entry forms...

So enter as many of these contests as you can, and save yourself an ignoble fate.

First up, my Art That Makes Me Wanna Write a Book contest, wherein you have a chance to win a lovely art print for doing something as simple as one comment.

Next, Shannon Messenger has an awesome contest going where you can win 3 signed Lisa Schroeder books, and as a bonus, she will be interviewing Lisa this week too!

Steph Bowe (a YA novelist and real live teenager whose debut book comes out in September!) is running a contest that offers a "first five pages" critique. She's picking at least 5 winners!

Shelli from Market My Words is running a De-lurking Contest and as part of the Comment Challenge going on this month, if you both comment and become one of her followers (or, de-lurking, as Shelli calls it!), she'll put you in a drawing for an author marketing book.

Don't forget Kasie West's First Contest ! A totally hilarious and fun contest where you come up with a good Faerie T-shirt idea, and you can win your choice of the joke t-shirts she has posted. Or if your inner comic just isn't coming through, she'll be randomly drawing a second winner out of the commenters/followers.

NEW ! It looks like the Fever has spread to Carla Gade from Writing to Distraction , where she has started a monthly contest, "A picture worth 1000 words" with a photo as a writing prompt.

Sadly, I missed Natalie Whipple's fun contest to write a story based on one of her drawings, and I also missed Nathan Bransford's contest for The Secret Year, where everyone wrote teenage diary entries....

but anyway, enter plenty, and good luck! that a pox spot I see on your stomach?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Saturday Feature... with CONTEST!!

This is it! My spectacular new saturday feature called "Art That Makes Me Wanna Write a Book". Spectacular, no?

Ok... how about if I add three awesome pieces of art instead of just one? I mean, I know I blew the surprise a little by putting up a preview on thursday, but still, it IS the first official post...

Oh alright, I'll throw in a contest too. Sheesh. NOW it's made of spectacular.

Contest Rules:
1. contest begins now and ends 8AM Pacific, next Saturday.
2. to enter, you have to add a comment on this post.
3. adding a comment on this post= 1 entry
4. being or becoming one of my followers= 2 more entries
5. mentioning and posting a link to this contest on your blog=
3 more entries
6.getting someone else to comment that they followed your
link here=
4 more entries for you, 2 more for them

Wait, now it's starting to sound like a pyramid scheme! Anyway, I'll close the contest 8AM next Saturday and then at 9AM I'll draw the winner's name from a hat, and announce it along with the satuday feature!

I bet you're wondering by now just what it is the winner wins... See the three art pieces at right? Well the winner gets their choice-- in a print, not the original. When I get published, I'll do a contest with originals to celebrate. Until then, prints!

So now, on to the art!
As I said on thursday's post, I tend to stare at certain art pieces over and over, and I finally realized that it's not just because they're well-made, but because they spark something in my own imagination.

The piece at the top of the post is called "The Journey" by Jen Lobo. The original oil painting is stunning, with incredible depth, not to mention that the wheels are shiny and golden! Every time I look at this, I start daydreaming about Gypsies or circus caravans...except now thanks to Southpaw, I'm worried about what those butterflies are doing. Still, I'm taken with that rhino!
The middle piece is one more by Japanese artist Kana Ohtsuki, and now it seems I can't stop finding pieces with butterflies in strange predicaments... what's going on there? I must have a subconcious desire to write a book with a butterfly villain that Must.Be.Stopped.
The last piece is by another Japanese artist, Ren Sakurai , who also happens to be an insanely talented tattoo artist right here in Portland. My ankle is now very pretty thanks to him! Anyway, his piece titled "Red Dress" (which has no butterflies!) sends me straight into a steampunk type of story. Even though I know it grew from Ren's love of old military stuff, I still look at that dress and the belt around her waist, and suddenly I'm jotting down notes for a steampunk novel!

Which one is your favorite? What stories do you want to write now?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Art That Makes Me Wanna Write a Book

So, I just got back from hubby Matt's monthly art opening (he curates for a gallery in town), and while I was looking at a piece from a previous show, I wondered why it is that certain pieces really grab my attention and make me go back for second or third or tenth looks. What I decided is that I'm drawn to those pieces not only because they are well-made, but because they're just mysterious enough to spark something in my own imagination.

This is the piece I was looking at, "Ayatoriebi" by Japanese artist, Kana Ohtsuki. And now I've gotta know:
Why are those strings interlaced? What's making those bubbles? What is that liquid she's standing in? Why does she have a pair of scissors on her waist? And the shrimp and butterflies...what do they have to do with it?

And then it happens. Suddenly my head is filled with scenes and stories and plot twists based on that one vivid image... which I guess is how I tend to write anyway. I usually get one shining little scene that pops into my head, and then I have to know the rest of the story.

Consider this post a sneak preview, because beginning this Saturday I will be starting a weekly feature about "art that makes me wanna write a book". Each week, I'll post a new piece guaranteed to send someone to daydreamland!

P.S., anybody got an idea about the shrimp? I'm still trying to work out whether it's a villian or a hero...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What I Want For Christmas Next Year... an open letter to bookstores

Aside from the fake fireplace that dear hubby got me for x-mas (it looks real! flickering 'flames'! glowing logs! a heater you can turn on and off! ...sigh, I'm sitting by it right now... so very cozy), the other best present he gave me was a gift certificate to Powell's.
Now, for those of you who don't live here, or who don't know Powell's, you might want to consider a trip to Portland just to go. Seriously. Best.Bookstore.Ever. It takes up a whole city block, several stories high in parts, a wonderful labyrinth of every book you could ever want. New and used side by side on the same shelf, out-of-print and rare books galore... every time I think I'm just going to run in and grab something, it takes me an hour because I'm drawn off into some twist or turn of the bookstore, wondering if they have, say, an in-depth book on the lives of Japanese servants in feudal times (they do!), or a picture book of shopkeepers signs in Edo era Japan (how did I have any doubt?)

That being said, I do have one minor bone to pick with bookstores, including the great and wonderful Powell's:

Why do they continue to confuse age range with genre?

I certainly understand that YA and MG books have exploded in the past 10 years, and I noticed that Powell's recently rearranged and expanded the room dedicated to them, but that has only made it all the more confusing to find anything at all.
In 'adult' (I mean grown-up, not porno) book sections, they have real genres, like fantasy, romance, historical non-fiction, etc etc. Not so in the YA and MG spots. I routinely have to scan through every genre of book, hoping the fantasy ones will catch my eye. So much more difficult than it needs to be, and I fear that it's only going to get worse!
What would truly make my day is to hear that bookstores have finally read the definition of a genre, and realized that an age range does not a genre make.
I will seriously have a party on the day I hear that bookstores are going to start shelving YA and MG into real sections of their own! Oh the glorious relief of not having to scan past 20 books about mean popular girls at school or serious non-fiction books about life under the nazis, just to find the fantasy novels that I love! (and I'm quite sure that people looking for those non-fiction, 'life under the nazis' books would dearly love to quit sorting through vampire books to find what they're looking for as well)

So bookstores, listen up! For my x-mas present next year, I want bookshelves catagorized into real genres!
Pretty please?