Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday 20

Yesterday I went out to weed and found some uninvited pests hanging around the edge of the garden:

Attack of the Giant Shrooms

This is just a close up shot; eight mushrooms in all had sprouted up (bad weather has kept me from my routine weeding rounds.) Two had already grown to the size of cake plates.

I hate mushrooms. They're repulsive, invasive and worthless, and still they sprout up wherever and whenever they please. Like they own my garden. Every time we weather a bad storm, we get hit with plagues of them. The only thing uglier than how they look is the way they smell.

They're dangerous, too. I never know how poisonous they might be, and I worry about the one airheaded member of this household who refuses to stay away from them:

I only sniffed them, Mom

Picking mushrooms also disgusts me. Even with weeding gloves on, I hate to touch them. You know the slimy way they feel, and the creepy sounds they make when you pull them out of the dirt? That's my definition of gross. I'm not the girly, squeamish type, either, but I'd rather handle ten snakes instead.

But to let them squat in my garden? That would be worse.

Anyway, after I trashed the unwelcome parasites, I went to inspect an ailing rose bush. It's one that I've been trying to keep alive for years, and it is the most stubborn, cranky, depressed, suicidal plant I've ever had to deal with. Every time I prune it, I'm convinced I'm going to do it in for good. Plus it hardly ever blooms, and when it does I get maybe one or two flowers from it.

But oh, when it does:



The pink and apricot flowers it produces are like those wonderful old Victorian roses. They don't last long, only two or three days, but their scent is so powerful that one rose perfumes an entire room.

It doesn't seem fair that my rose bush will never grow as fast or thrive the way those idiot mushrooms do. One day I'll walk out and probably find the mushrooms clustered and feeding on the dead rose bush. Still, I'm not ready to give up the fight. I know what that bad-tempered bush can produce, and that makes it worth my nurturing. Just as all the mushrooms will ever get out of me is a fast trip to the trash bin.

That's it from my corner of the publishing garden this week. You all have any questions for me?

26 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:03 AM

    What a beautiful rose! Do you know the variety? Your dog is beautiful too. Our dog gets into the toadstools too. So far, we've been lucky. She's a large German Shepard with a seemingly iron-clad stomach. The fungi were really bad last year, but this year they seem to be surpressed. Or she's been faster and finding them than I thought...
    If you were going to try a new genre (under one of your own names that is), what would be next? BTW, I just came across "The Familiar" and really enjoyed it.
    JulieB

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  2. JulieB wrote: What a beautiful rose! Do you know the variety?

    I inherited the bush with the house, and it doesn't match anything in my books, so I'm not sure. I think it might be a hybrid. I'm waiting for my cousin, the rose expert, to visit so she can ID it for me.

    If you were going to try a new genre (under one of your own names that is), what would be next?

    My publishers pretty much own my existing pseudonyms, and I doubt they'd let me take one of them over to a new genre, so it would have to be under (yet another) new byline. Whatever the name, I'd like to try YA, high fantasy or steampunk next.

    BTW, I just came across "The Familiar" and really enjoyed it.

    Thank you, ma'am. I write a lot of stories for my kids, and I thought it would be fun to post one online.

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  3. "What? eat the mushroom? Nah. Do i look like I would eat mushrooms?"

    Our slightly clueless fuzzball decided to start chewing on the wooden boat dock we were at. I'm getting really good at yelling "No! don't eat that!" and leaping for her snout. My dog is an unrepentant taster of things.

    (still little progress on the novel, returning to school issues and life....and my new computer refuses to read the files I copied to disk. Contemplating starting typing anew.)

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  4. I do have a question! Hooray! (I seem to be popping up with these a fair bit, now).

    My class is doing a writing task for school. It's a mystery/crime short story, and it sounds like fun to do. Only, we're a bunch of fourteen-year-old girls. To put it in a nice way, most of my classmates haven't learned as much about writing as they could have, and to be brutally honest, they aren't very good. Neither am I, really, but I'm better than they are. And as so, I'd like to teach them a few tricks to improve their writing, so they can get better grades. (Yes, I like my class).

    To that end, I was wondering if you'd mind if I used John and Marcia as examples to teach my class how to develop character and plot. I will, of course, plug you/your blog/your books- but I'd do that anyway :). I just want to help out the class with their stories, it wouldn't be used for profit in any way.

    If I can use it, thank you. If not, thank you anyway for writing it in the first place. I know that John and Marcia have helped me to become a better writer. Mostly by making me realise that "Aw hell, I do that!"

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  5. Anonymous2:48 AM

    I believe the only good mushroom is a cooked mushroom. however since I have only seen then in the supermarket. I really can't comment on the ones coming out of the earth. My green thumbs are really light. I take care of the house plants.

    The roses are beautiful and I understand why you fight to keep it alive. I argue with my sister to keep the roses bush I imported from our former home New York City. It does very well in Georgia. The roses are read and only bloom in the early spring.

    Your dog is very cute.

    My question: Do the publicist or marketing team stump your creativity? Or have you really fought hard to keep a title to a book?

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  6. Anonymous2:56 AM

    my first comment didn't go through I think. this is 2nd attempt. I usually don't do this.

    The roses are beautiful and I have one that disappoints me a little as well. I imported it from my hometown Brooklyn and moved it to Georgia. It only blooms in the early spring and the georgia bugs loves it leaves. Any hint on how to stop that w/o killing the plant will be appreciated. My thumbs are only light green. I like mushrooms cooked of course and from the super market. I haven't seen them in my yard and I am so glad. Your dog is very cut.

    My question was, have you ever fought your publicist or marketing team for a book title?

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  7. Your dog's gorgeous! And I don't even like dogs. :) I must disagree with you on the mushrooms though. I love them; I just find them fascinating, god knows why!

    My question is, how do you know if you're writing in a genre that's 'right' or 'wrong' for you? Is there even such a thing?

    I've been trying to write in a particular genre for years now because I used to love reading this genre. I haven't had much luck finishing anything I started, and always seem to run into a mental wall. Lately, I find I no longer enjoy books from this genre and I wonder if I've just grown up and moved on. The thought of switching genres (in terms of writing) is frightening, though, because I've never written anything else.

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  8. Nico wrote: Our slightly clueless fuzzball decided to start chewing on the wooden boat dock we were at.

    What is it with wood and dogs? During the puppy stage, mine ignored the all-natural expensive chewies I gave him to gnaw on our baseboards and door frames. I think all I did for a year was run around and scold "Stop chewing on that wood!"

    (still little progress on the novel, returning to school issues and life....and my new computer refuses to read the files I copied to disk. Contemplating starting typing anew.)

    There are a couple of freewares I found that might help with the data recovery, Nico -- if it's a Microsoft Word issue, try Repair My Word; if the disk is damaged there's Unstoppable Copier.

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  9. Ashlyn wrote: To that end, I was wondering if you'd mind if I used John and Marcia as examples to teach my class how to develop character and plot. I will, of course, plug you/your blog/your books- but I'd do that anyway :). I just want to help out the class with their stories, it wouldn't be used for profit in any way.

    I don't mind at all -- please do. The whole reason I created John and Marcia were as teaching examples, and if they can be of help, they're doing their job.

    I know that John and Marcia have helped me to become a better writer. Mostly by making me realise that "Aw hell, I do that!"

    Using humor has always helped me communicate better when I teach. If we can laugh at a problem first, it loses a lot of its power over us. I hope J&M are helpful to your students.

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  10. Anonymous wrote: Do the publicist or marketing team stump your creativity? Or have you really fought hard to keep a title to a book?

    I have fought very hard to keep a couple of book titles that were important to me. And I lost all the fights, but I have the small comfort of knowing I battled for them.

    I try not to see the folks on the publishing side who work on my books as my adversaries. It's hard when I disagree with them because it is my name on the book and not theirs. But I believe developing the ability to compromise and knowing when to give in gracefully has helped keep me employed. I want to keep my job more than any title.

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  11. No question, just agreeing with your publishing garden metaphor. Mushrooms spawn everywhere and grow readily on dung. When I read a rose, though, it ends up on my keeper shelf and perfumes the room of my heart.

    This week, I'm trying to finish a short story by a July 31st deadline. I don't know if I'm going to make it. Argh!

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  12. Dawn Firelight wrote: My question is, how do you know if you're writing in a genre that's 'right' or 'wrong' for you? Is there even such a thing?

    I think there can be if you have preset expectations and limitations for yourself. When I got into the game, I planned to write in as many genres as I could. I read everything, so why wouldn't I write everything? I also knew diversifying would help my range as a writer.

    Every pro -- and I mean every one of them -- I met after I signed my first contract thought my plans were insane. One genre, maybe two, I was told, was the absolute limit. Publishers would never allow me to write in more than that.

    I politely ignored all that wise advice, and I've since been published in five genres. It hasn't been easy, but in publishing, what is?

    I've been trying to write in a particular genre for years now because I used to love reading this genre. I haven't had much luck finishing anything I started, and always seem to run into a mental wall. Lately, I find I no longer enjoy books from this genre and I wonder if I've just grown up and moved on. The thought of switching genres (in terms of writing) is frightening, though, because I've never written anything else.

    There are writers we admire so much that we sometimes try to emulate them. At one point before I was published I wanted to be the next Elizabeth Lowell. No lie. I wrote what I considered epic, flowery, haunting romances. I agonized over these novels, and poured all my creative energy into them, but no one would touch them.
    Probably because I'm not Elizabeth Lowell, and I don't do a very good imitation of her, either.

    I gave up on being the next Elizabeth Lowell and wrote some books for fun. StarDoc was the best of that bunch, and when that sold, everything clicked for me.

    This is not to say you can't write in a genre if you love reading it. Knowledge of a genre is important, and the books we love are our best examples. I would just make sure that you're writing as Dawn the writer, not Dawn the reader.

    It's fun to try out new genres, too, just to experiment and stretch your wings. Why not try writing a short story in a genre you've never attempted? It might be fun, and if you do it for your own pleasure, there's no pressure. You might find a whole new voice that's your own and doesn't sound like anyone you love to read.

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  13. Joely Sue wrote: Mushrooms spawn everywhere and grow readily on dung. When I read a rose, though, it ends up on my keeper shelf and perfumes the room of my heart.

    Beautiful. Joely Sue is now going to edit all my long analogy posts. :)

    This week, I'm trying to finish a short story by a July 31st deadline. I don't know if I'm going to make it. Argh!

    Deadlines are a bitch, but they're good for your self-discipline. Write, woman, write! :)

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  14. I thought of a question!

    I write SFF, and my tendency is to try to normalize everything in my story: I want to write about people going about their day-to-day dealings in a world where the extraordinary is common. Needless to say, my stories are all boring. I gather that what I'm SUPPOSED to be doing is writing about extraordinary circumstances, and throw my protagonists' lives out of whack, but all I really want to do is explore calm, ordinary days when their lives are IN whack.

    Any insight? Any advice?

    (Perhaps not incidentally...I love mushrooms.)

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  15. I've written most of a first draft (it's really short, but given that most of it's dialogue without tags and such, I figure that's okay).

    The problem is, I don't have an ending. That's not totally true. I kind of have one, but when I sit down to write it, I forget what it is--I pretty much only remember that last line I posted in yesterday's post.

    Worse, all the words I've been writing in the past few days are filler words.

    So I'm thinking of revising (not throwing out and starting a new draft) and hoping that the momentum will carry me through to the end. Thoughts?

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  16. Gorgeous flowers.

    Something I've been thinking on: How does a writer know when an idea is viable? How does a writer know if the idea can carry a whole novel? Are they just learned tricks over time?

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  17. Looks like everything is a bit bigger in America, even the mushrooms. :)

    How do you stop soldier no. 5 whom you have given a name because that looks better in the book, from developing his own story and pestering you to give him a few scenes?

    Or, in short, help, my characters are taking over. ;)

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  18. 150 wrote: I write SFF, and my tendency is to try to normalize everything in my story: I want to write about people going about their day-to-day dealings in a world where the extraordinary is common.

    Sounds good so far.

    Needless to say, my stories are all boring. I gather that what I'm SUPPOSED to be doing is writing about extraordinary circumstances, and throw my protagonists' lives out of whack, but all I really want to do is explore calm, ordinary days when their lives are IN whack.

    Not necessarily. Conflict can take on many forms; it doesn't have to be specifically about something that wrecks your characters' lives.

    Any insight? Any advice?

    This is not my forte; I'm all about the conflict that wrecks my characters' lives. So let that be a disclaimer.

    No matter how cool or extraordinary it is, no one wants to visit the Village of Happy People to Whom Nothing Bad Ever Happens. Stories like that are travelogues and Walgreens commercials, not fiction (my opinion, your mileage may vary.)

    My first impulse as a storyteller faced with a perfect world like the one you describe would be to tear it down. I don't believe in fairytale worlds like this. If I used one as a setting, I'd immediately have a character challenge why everything runs so smoothly. I'd make the fact that nothing bad ever happens the story's conflict.

    Worldbuilding can be so seductive that fun you never want to do anything else but construct new universes. I know that feeling. Sometimes our fictional worlds become an escape from the conflict in our real lives. But the only way we learn and grow as people is by facing conflict, and the same holds true with our characters.

    Imagine going to Disney World and seeing all the wonderful buildings, rides and characters, but you can't get into the buildings, or ride on the rides, or talk to the characters. You can just walk around and look at the perfection of the place. That's what a story with no conflict is like to read. Pretty to look at, but otherwise, no fun.

    You don't have to blow up your world or kill your characters in horrible ways to engage the reader. Your conflict can be subtle, intellectual, emotional, or whatever appeals most to you the storyteller. But something has to happen, or you're just giving the reader the fictional equivalent of a Grand Canyon vacation slide show.

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  19. May wrote: I've written most of a first draft (it's really short, but given that most of it's dialogue without tags and such, I figure that's okay).

    Sounds good. There is no rule that I know about how a first draft has to turn out. :)

    The problem is, I don't have an ending. That's not totally true. I kind of have one, but when I sit down to write it, I forget what it is--I pretty much only remember that last line I posted in yesterday's post.

    I sometimes reference back to my plotting notes between writing sessions when I feel fuzzy about a certain scene or result. Have you tried working out various endings on paper?

    Worse, all the words I've been writing in the past few days are filler words.

    You can clean up the filler during your edits.

    So I'm thinking of revising (not throwing out and starting a new draft) and hoping that the momentum will carry me through to the end. Thoughts?

    You might be too close to the story, May. If it were my WIP, I'd work out various endings until I found one that I could live with -- doesn't have to be perfect. Then I'd write it in, take a short break, and stop thinking about the story. When I felt ready, I'd go back, edit, and see how the ending works.

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  20. Jess wrote: Something I've been thinking on: How does a writer know when an idea is viable? How does a writer know if the idea can carry a whole novel? Are they just learned tricks over time?

    I think it's different with everyone. To carry on my gardening riff here, an idea is a story seed. I know when I get a viable idea (which usually starts with a character) because it doesn't stay a seed. It plants itself in my brain and blooms and grows and spreads until I can clearly see all the characters, the conflicts, the setting and how the story will play out.

    Every blooming seed I get doesn't always feel like it's going to go the distance, though, so with those I'll write the idea in short story form, to see how it feels on paper. Or if it's slow-growing, or I don't have time in my gardening schedule to plant new seeds, I'll sketch out the idea with a synopsis or a couple of chapters and file it away.

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  21. Gabriele wrote: How do you stop soldier no. 5 whom you have given a name because that looks better in the book, from developing his own story and pestering you to give him a few scenes?

    Well, if you don't want to kill him outright, which is the only sure-cure I know for pesky characters like this, and you don't want to give him more stage time, I would send him off to a place from where he can't meddle in the story at hand.

    Or, in short, help, my characters are taking over.

    This is why God created the sequel, G. :) Seriously, if I have story time to every interesting character who shows up, I'd write nothing but cool character scenes. I try to look at why this character is important to the story, use them accordingly, and then send them on their way.

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  22. You might be too close to the story, May. If it were my WIP, I'd work out various endings until I found one that I could live with -- doesn't have to be perfect. Then I'd write it in, take a short break, and stop thinking about the story. When I felt ready, I'd go back, edit, and see how the ending works.

    Makes sense to me.

    Thanks, and may your roses keep on blooming!

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  23. This is why God created the sequel, G. :) Seriously, if I have story time to every interesting character who shows up, I'd write nothing but cool character scenes. I try to look at why this character is important to the story, use them accordingly, and then send them on their way.

    I write out of order, and yes, cool character scenes is what I get that way. I suppose a number of these will end up in an extra file. I can make a book out of them once I'm famous, lol.

    For the rest, I think I'll kill some of the buggers. Some 18,000 Romans died at the Varus battle, so why should Vibius and Pellius Longinus escape. Mwuahaha.

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  24. How beautiful. My rose bushes look like death. I have tried every year to grow roses. I even buy the ones that have a pretty little bud sprouting out, this year we even planted them in nice new soil, but it never fails, I kill them. Sadly I am a rose bush murderer.

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  25. Unlike you, We love mushrooms. The Autumn afternoons here are spent trying to find and identify all the amazing species we have here in our town. Those you have are called parasols. I don't know about the sticky stuff on the top, or about your local varieties but I'm sure the library would have something to help you identify the type and tell you if it's poisonous.

    the amazing thing about mushrooms is that left to develop, they can become the largest known organisms in the world, because they are all connected underground by threads. But - ok. You hate them I can relate. I feel the same way about thistles - they often are full of earwigs - Ugh!

    Beautiful roses! I've yet to find one that can scent a room though, so maybe the bush just exhausts itself to create the few perfect blooms it does.

    Your dog is adorable.

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  26. Ah, thanks for the advice, PBW! That's given me something good to chew on.

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