Thursday, December 6, 2007

Special Delivery

I’ve been MIA for the past month, I know. There have been several interesting things going on since I last blogged.

We delivered babies in our most recent EMT class. A local doctor sat on the other side of the mannequin and pretended to be the mother as he tested us on a normal deliver, and a difficult delivery. He’s a natural ham, and kept bystanders entertained as we waited. Class has been demanding, but I’ve only a month left.

Ambulance calls have been few and far between this month, but in the past week we’ve been called to monitor firefighters at two house fires in our area. Two families lost virtually everything just before Christmas, and I don’t believe either of them had insurance. The combined population of all the towns that send their kids to our high school is between 5 and 6 thousand total residents. We don’t usually have two structure fires in a year, never mind in a week.

The good news is, nobody was hurt and things can be replaced and the community is already stepping in to help. But it’ll be a tough adjustment for the families.

On the writing front, I didn’t quite manage the 50,000 words I was supposed to write for NaNoWriMo, but I did finish somewhere around 23,000, which is better than I did the previous several months combined, so I’m not complaining.

Also we had our first real snow storm last weekend. My birds had never seen snow before and while my ducks and geese just went with the flow, my chickens refused to leave the coop for almost three days—the amount of time it took for the snow to melt back from the door so dirt was showing again. It was pretty funny watching them stare at the snow, refusing to leave the building. They usually pour out the door the second it is opened in the morning.

Monday, October 29, 2007

NaNoWriMo Anyone?

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo, you haven’t been in the writing business for long. (Not that everyone who is in the ‘writing business’ is actually in the ‘publishing business’—me for example—but that’s another story.) November is National Novel Writing Month and somewhere around 80,000 people are expected to take part. My friend Darvell Hunt introduced our writing group to this a few years back, after he participated, and I’ve been making an effort to do something on it every year since then.

The idea behind the challenge is to write at least 50,000 words on a story in one month. So many people have a story idea, but then never get around to doing anything about it, and those that do start writing often never finish. (I didn’t say it had to be the next best seller—just write the dang thing). If you go to www.NaNoWriMo.com, you can sign up and learn more about it.

My first novel written this way was a romantic suspense which has undergone several revisions, and which I’m thinking is still salvageable—but not my highest priority at the time. I am rather pleased with it in general, though, as it was my first suspense novel and has some pretty good bones.

The next year I worked on bits of several novels, as I couldn’t pin myself down to just one. That’s not exactly the idea, I know, but there you go. Then last year I got part way through the month working on my story, and we all but had a house fall in our laps. Figuratively, that is. That was the end of my writing for the month as I spent the following month cleaning, packing, painting and moving.

This year I’m trying to be more realistic. Or not.

The trouble is November is insanely busy, but then, any month you picked out could be considered insanely busy by someone. And to top it off, I have to figure out what to write.

Now, I don’t mean I’m plumb out of ideas—something that could never, ever happen at the rate I come up with them. I’m just searching for the right storyline, the one out of the several dozen I’ve played with a bit that will captivate my imagination and push me to keep going despite the fact that I’ve got four hours of EMT studying to do, three loads of laundry to fold and dinner ingredients sitting crowded in the fridge because I can’t be bothered to cook. And let’s forget the yard work and winterizing that need to be done before the snow flies.

It’s a good thing my husband is an understanding soul.

And that he’s working swing shifts for most of the month.

And that he’s already an EMT running with the local ambulance so he understands the chunk of time this class is taking from my life.

Who needs sleep, anyway?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bells ringing in the middle of the night

Some of you may have read about the big car accident that happened in the middle of the night here in Fillmore. Five college students returning to school after a road trip didn’t quite make it back for school Tuesday morning.

One will never make it back again.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m taking the EMT-Basic course, which is turning out to be quite a bit of fun, even if it is sucking up a good deal of my writing time. I’ve also been running with the local ambulance as a driver, since we’re short-handed right now. At this point I’m mostly playing fetch and carry, since I’m not certified for anything but CPR, but I’m learning a lot on the job by watching everyone else.

That’s why I had my pager on Monday night when my husband (a 911 dispatcher) set it off. I can’t go into any details about the accident except to say I wouldn’t have known it was a car if I hadn’t seen the wheel attached to the corner sticking up in the air. Also, the two worst-injured patients were not wearing their seat belts and were ejected. The one that was wearing a seat belt, but was reclined (at least, we think it was him, things were a bit crazy that night) had pretty serious injuries, but less than the other two, and the two who were sitting upright in their seats with their belts fastened walked away to get help.

There’s a big difference in how badly these passengers were hurt, so please, please everyone, wear your seatbelts. Don’t recline your seat back more than fifteen or twenty degrees, pay attention to the road, and don’t drive drowsy.

Despite the rush of adrenaline that floods my system when the pagers goes off, I’d really rather not be called out to scrape people off the side of the freeway.

But since people will continue to have car accidents, I’m glad I work with a crew of top-notch volunteers who take their jobs seriously. And here’s a prayer that the other four students will recover as quickly as possible, both physically and emotionally.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tagged again

Well, Danyelle tagged me over at FergusonAuthors.com, so I guess you are getting a real treat—two posts in under a month.

My reading I read a variety of things from sci-fi/fantasy to non-fiction to suspense, romance and other things. I’ve also audio read a pretty good variety since my library has a limited number of books on CD.

Total number of books owned

Somewhere in the 500 range, this after we gave away 7 boxes before we moved back to my home town. If I’d had a much bigger budget, and lived in places large enough to hold my books I’m sure I’d have two or three times that many, but instead I’ve been keeping the library busy. I’m about ready to burst my bookshelves at the moment, however, since I’ve been adding at a much faster rate over the past couple of years.

Last book I bought: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. I’ve only gotten a few pages into this on the way back from an ambulance transfer and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. My sister said it was really good, so I’ll push on a little further at least.

Last book I read

Probably Masquerade by Sierra St. James aka Janette Rawliston. Hilarious book, by the way. I love the way Janette writes and had to buy this one after reading What the Doctor Ordered last year—which my book club loved, even the one who isn’t LDS.

If you read my previous post you know I’m currently slogging through an EMT manual, so I won’t be doing a huge amount of recreational reading for the foreseeable future.

Five meaningful books

This is a hard one because I try and stay away from meaningful books. Meaningful books require you to think, and thinking is way overrated.

1) The Book of Mormon would have to be number one. It can change your life if you let it, and I noticed a big difference in my life when I study it regularly compared to times when I don’t read much at all.

I really love 2) Sheri Dew’s No Doubt About It and 3) Chieko Okazaki’s Being Enough, and always pull them out anytime I have to give a talk in sacrament meeting.

4) Dr. Suess’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go is also on my top list. I think as a society we forget that we have huge opportunities available to us, horizons we never considered and we just have to set our sights and start the journey. Most of the time the only thing holding us back is ourselves.

5) And on that note, I recently bought (I can’t believe I forgot to mention it earlier) Max Lucado’s You are Special. If anyone hasn’t seen this book yet, you have to get a hold of a copy. It’s a children’s picture book, but not only does it have incredible drawings, but the message that we don’t need validation from the people around us, that we don’t need to be better than anyone else to be loved and special to the one who created us is something I think everyone needs to remember. We are special simply because Heaven Father made us and we don’t need more validation than that as long as we are doing our best.

I’m tagging Darvell Hunt because he’s never changed my blog address listed on the LDSWriter’sBlogck blog to my new one. (I’m not sure what happened, but Blogspot doesn’t recognize *any* of my e-mail addresses, so I haven’t been able to delete the old blog). All right, so I probably would have tagged him anyway.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Up to my Cricoid Cartilage in Reading

Lateral, bilateral, mid-axillery, proximal, palmar . . . . I’m starting to think my head might explode before I get through chapter four of my EMT manual, and the first class hasn’t been held yet. On the other hand, I have a great 1000-something page reference book on injuries, body parts and physiological issues. And by the end of this course I’ll be able to hold the kind of coded conversations only medical people understand. “He has bilateral crackling in the lungs, get the BMV stat and get pumping. The AED shows an SpO2 of 93% and falling and he has serious bradycardia. Do we have a systolic yet?”

Did anyone understand that? I only did because I looked up bradycardia and have now spent hours reading my text for this week’s beginning class. I can’t remember what crackling sounds in the lungs indicate, I’ll have to ask my instructor tomorrow, but I know it’s not good. Otherwise we’ve got someone with a weak pulse, need a blood pressure and because they are having trouble getting oxygen into their lungs they need help breathing. *Whew* only 700-some-odd pages left to go. It’s a good thing I’ll have instructors to translate all the mumbo jumbo into words I’ll understand, not to mention the hours I’ll spend practicing taking blood pressures and pulses.

I’m just as happy to pass on giving IVs for now. Thanks.

In other news, my flock of roosters is about to take a significant drop in numbers. If all goes as planned by this time tomorrow I will not only be in EMT training, but my 24 birds will be down to 3 hens, 1 rooster and 4-maybe-their-hens-maybe-their-roosters-we’ll-wait-and-see. Don’t worry, I won’t go into gory details here. I’m not sure I’ll ever cull my flock in this manner again, but millions of people around the world hunt every year, right, so it can’t be that horrible.

At least Evil Lester will stop picking on me.

PS the cricoid cartilage is located in the larynx (tube between the mouth and the lungs).

Friday, September 28, 2007

Things that should not be

OK, so life has been rather hectic lately, yeah, like that’s any different from normal, but I’m using it as my excuse for not blogging for the past month.

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to catalogue several things about myself that I never would have guessed could ever be possible when I started college. We’re not going to mention how many years ago it was that I was in college, that would be a bit too revealing, and perhaps a little depressing.

In no particular order:

1) I have birds in my back yard. Now, I’m not referring to black birds, pigeons or sparrows, though I do get all of those in and out. No, I’m referring to farm animals: chickens, ducks and geese. Yeah, I never, not in a million years, would have expected to own farm animals, and to be vexed that my chickens (I’m positive I have hens, several in fact) seem to be refusing to lay any eggs. What do they think I raised them up for anyway?

According to all of the official calendars, I should have been getting eggs for the past couple weeks, at least hit and miss. Have I come across a single one? No. So I guess I need to find that power timer thingie I bought a few weeks back and add a little more light to the situation. Did you know hens lay best when they have fourteen hours of light each day? Well, considering the time of year, I suppose a little supplemental light wouldn’t go amiss. And maybe I can stop making forty-dollar shopping trips because I ran out of eggs.

2) Sitting on my sofa, right this very moment, are CPR practice dummies. What are they doing there, you might ask? They’re not for my husband to practice on. Oh no, his being married to an EMT-Intermediate seems to have rubbed off on me. I’m starting an EMT training course in a couple weeks.

In the meantime I’m taking HIPPA classes, CPR classes, and earlier this evening I was learning how to do intubations on toddlers in a training Primary Children’s Medical Center organizes. Not that I’ll be doing them as an EMT-Basic, but that’s beside the point.

3) Speaking of farm animals, no I don’t live on a farm, I live in town. My home town. The one I grew up in and graduated high school from. Never would I have thought I could possibly end up back here. And even in my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t have thought that I would love being back in my home town. But I do. Granted, it would be nice to be able to go to a play more than three times a year. And the local theater only does shows Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Monday nights. One show each week. That’s it. But then again, who has time to go to the movies?

4) Over the course of my marriage, I have become a landscape designer. Er, well, I design my own landscape, anyway. And do the vast majority of the grunt work. We bought a new house last winter and I put in garden beds in the spring, which have grown a profusion of flowers and the biggest monster tomato plants in history. Right now we have two trenches in the back yard that I need to run pipe and wire through before I back fill them, then lay my flagstone patio.

When that’s done I have more garden beds to build, along with a pond to complete planning and put in, a pergola, a zillions trees . . . . I guess you get the picture. And that’s all before I stat dealing with sprinkling systems and grassing my bare ground.

Oh, and don’t get me started on fencing. I could write whole novels about my fencing woes, but that’s best saved for another blog.

5) Last, but not least, there’s writing. If I had any clue back when I started college that I might want to write books some day, I would have taken a few more creative writing courses. As it is, I took only the bare minimum writing courses in college—only what I had to have for my lit major. But when I started college, I didn’t think I was doing English at all, so I suppose I couldn’t have been prepared for my eventual career direction.

Now if I can just come up with a story idea using a EMT who moves back to their home town to raise stubborn chickens and take over a weed-infested yard, I can take advantage of all the directions my crazy world has led me in.

Monday, August 27, 2007

We’re All a Bunch of Rejects

Writers are a strange breed—seriously, what other group of people do you know out there who celebrate rejection like we do? My online writer's group has a rejection contest running right now, in fact. I can't remember who started it, but whomever gets the most rejections before the end of the year gets free ice cream, and the rest of us are invited to go along with them.

Now, this may just have been an excuse to get everyone possible together, we love sitting around talking about, well, whatever, but of course, our writing experience often takes a front seat in the conversation. Writing is, by nature, a very solitary pursuit, but it's hard to learn in a vacuum, and we all need support from time to time. Of course, we don't only share our rejections, but all of our successes as well. In a world where the average writer collects more than 100 rejections (one woman in my group is well past that now—but then, she's sold a large number of articles and short stories as well) it's important to remember that others who are striving for the same thing we are also get rejected. But sometimes a publisher loves what we wrote—it’s all about persistence.

Just because eight publishers/agents didn't think the story or article fit what they were looking for doesn't mean the next one won’t think it's perfect for his or her needs. Most all of us has received a personalized rejection at some time or other—a very rare thing in this industry. Comments range along the line of 'I liked dialogue but you need to work on exposition' to 'It's not what I'm looking for right now, but another agent will snap it up.'

Personally, I'm hoping to find someone to snap up my book, rather than pass it on. But as even my amazing paid editor—who is also a published writer—told me how amazing it was that I got a personal note back from a publisher, I'm hoping it will be sometime before the year 2020. Or better yet, early next year.

I'm afraid I'm not even in the running for the contest, but I'm going to try and join them all for ice cream anyway, even if it is the dead of winter. If nothing else, it might motivate me to keep sending those manuscripts in—after all, one of them has to hit eventually.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A deep, white layer of it

It’s snowing at my house.

No, we’re not experiencing unseasonably cold weather, and other than the occasional bird feather around my coop the ground isn’t turning white. I’ve been using the snowflake method of plot planning this week.

I can hear you, “The snowflake method? And you make detailed plot plans in advance? Doesn’t that stifle your creativity?”

The Snowflake Method, as set out by Randy Ingermanson on his web site http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php is a step-by-step guide to learning who your characters are and where your story is going.

This past spring I worked on a bit of fiction where I really knew the characters and how they would react, and I knew my major plot points from beginning to end. Amazingly, I was writing three to six thousand words most days without breaking a sweat and my rough draft ended up being pretty clean and organized.

That got me to thinking, if I had an advanced plan for my other writing, would I be able to write an entire novel in six weeks or less every time. And could I do that without having to go back and rewrite the whole thing because I dropped story lines half-way through and my characters changed over time? And to be honest, I usually lose steam about three-quarters of the way through because I’ve used the conflicts I originally planned, and haven’t developed anything for that last bit.

So I decided to give this a try. As Randy points out, it’s a fluid, living document, so even if I thoroughly work through step eight: writing a sentence for every planned scene, I can always change and shift the story as I go. Which is good, because you never know when your character is going to hijack the story and take it in a slightly different direction than you had planned.

Anyway, Now I’ve brainstormed ideas for that dangerous empty zone of the story, and I’ve begun detailing what I want to happen in each section, I’m working on more detailed character analysis than I’ve ever done. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll be ready to tackle the serious editing my mess of a 270-page manuscript has become as I’ve worked on different plot ideas in different versions and haven’t finished integrating the old with the new.

I’m choosing to see this as creating a new direction in my story instead of editing, since I’ve already established that I hate editing. Maybe that kind of outlook shift will work for motivating me to clean the kitchen. Hmmmm.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Even rule breakers get tagged

OK, so Connie Hall over at LDSwriterblogck tagged me a few weeks back and I’ve been way to distracted with other things to follow through, so I decided it was time I got around to it.


What were you doing ten years ago? Taking summer classes at Southern Utah University, working in the deli of a gas station and having a ton of fun with my roommates and neighbors.

What were you doing one year ago? Working part-time at the library, part-time for my parents in their store, part-time in our computer business and reading a heck of a lot.

Five snacks you enjoy: 1) Anything chocolate 2) Popcorn-even just plain from the air popper 3) A slice of homemade bread slathered in butter and strawberry jam 4) ice cream 5) cookies.

Five songs you know all the lyrics to: I have to pick just five? 1) Most of the songs in Handel’s Messiah, 2) Anything off of my VoiceMale CDs 3) The entire Newsies soundtrack 4) most of the play list from the Manti radio station (I was raised on easy listening) 5) The modern LDS Pride and Prejudice soundtrack—which is easily among my favorites for writing to

Things you would do if you were a millionaire: Take a trip to Europe, pay off my bills, those of my family members and finish my landscaping this year instead of sometime before 2020.

Five bad habits 1) I often leave my clean laundry piled in the other room for several days before getting round to folding/hanging it 2) procrastinating my writing because I found this fascinating book I can’t put down 3) eating too many sweets 4) leaving the sliding glass door unlocked after I let the dog back in—I can’t wait until we put the new door in 5) Letting the duck/goose “pond” go more than three days between changes

Five things you like to do: 1) read 2) work in my yard –but not when it’s 90 degrees out 3) play with my birds or four-legged fur babies 4) goof off with my sisters 5) Just sit on the porch at night in the dark and smell my flowers


Things you will never wear again: 1) Bangs sprayed to stay two inches above the top of my head 2) Pants pegged until they are tight on my calves 3) size 6 jeans 4) half a gallon of soft ice cream mix 5) Blue eye shadow

Five favorite toys: 1) laptop, 2) cell phone 3) digital camera 4) mini photo printer 5) ipod

Where will you be in ten years: Hopefully still in this house, writing for profit, and still playing with my animals.

I’m actually not going to tag anyone else, even though it is a gross violation of the rules because everyone I know has already been tagged, and I just like flouting tradition.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Either way it's cleaning out the muck

Can I just say that I hate editing?

Don’t get me wrong, I love the way my story looks after the edit is done. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing you took your work—that you once thought was wonderful—and made it even better. I’m not talking about shifting around a sentence, correcting spelling or adding half a dozen semi-colons. I’m talking about major scene changes, cutting the fat and rerouting plots gone awry.

I’m talking about staring at that three-hundred double-spaced pages of manuscript that is bleeding ink from a critique and facing down the fact that my baby has some serious problems. Even worse is doing it after facing that same situation on this book through four critiques and an editor, and now I’m doing it again.

There are times when I’d rather be mucking out my chicken coop or scrubbing down the duck pond (Eeewww!) than face two thousand places where someone (even me) found problems with my story.

It’s a good thing I love the story so much more when it’s done.

And that I can look at the pile of pages I’ve finished as I go along and remind myself that I’m making progress.

Still, there are times I would much rather just start a new story and shelf the old one—if only the first one would stop nudging my mind that I’ve been procrastinating the edit. Besides, if the story is as good as everyone keeps telling me it is (despite the copious amounts of red ink they’ve left on the manuscript) then don’t I owe it to myself to get the editing done?

I suppose the coop will survive one more day. Back to editing for me.