Saturday, October 31, 2009

New Game!

Hear ye, hear ye! We have a new weekend feature!

I love words. I especially love the ones that are a mouthful, ones you can really chew on. And when they're done right, I get a little thrill seeing them worked into a novel I'm reading. On the flip side, sometimes they stand out like a chopped-off thumb (in the spirit of Halloween).

So my goal for future weekends is to flip through my dictionary and thesaurus, find a cool word, and post it here. I'll give you the definition and use it in a sentence. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with an even more outrageous sentence than I do, still using the word correctly.

Let's buff up our vocabularies!

Okay, today's word is...

MISCIBLE: (adjective) that can be mixed

My sentence: The miscible blood swirled with the Hawaiian punch until only the vampires would be able to tell the difference.

I just grossed myself out a little bit. Your turn!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Little Punch Drunk From One Too Many Conferences

Today at parent conferences I was talking to a very shy student about her lack of discussion during class seminars. I won't bore you with teacher details, but I confessed to her that I was the same way in high school and that I still remember the one day I spoke up in class to tell Rebecca DeGroot she was dead wrong about something in philosophy class. I then commented that it's really amazing that I'm a teacher because I hate talking in front of people.

Hmmmm...

And I was also a tour director where I had to talk in front of tourists all day. With a microphone. And don't get me wrong, I love teaching. But I brave the sea of teenage hormones on a daily basis. Willingly. Neither of those jobs really fit my college dream job of working in an archaeology lab. Or being an animator for Disney. (I'm nothing if not diverse.)

What did I love about both those jobs? Telling stories. I'm good at it (the humility button has been turned off today, can you tell?). I can see when I have my audience, be they graying retirees spending their hard earned cash on a dream vacation to Alaska or a group of jaded high school seniors with a massive case of senioritis. I can jazz up the story of Mighty Moses with his wire cutters freeing the Hebrews in Egypt or act out the Battle of Bunker Hill, complete with me standing on desks, shooting students with imaginary guns, and offering tips on how to take over the world (Rule #1- You MUST have the high ground!). I know when I've goofed the timing, can see where I need to improve the story the next time around for a bigger laugh, or more shock.

It didn't dawn on me tonight that even though I've finished a novel and am writing a second one, I've earned another title over the years: storyteller.

Yes, that's right. I'm a regular Homer. Except I'm alive and I can see. And I'm pretty sure I'm only one person. I'm not as famous though- that's still on my to-do list. :)

Are you a storyteller?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Synopsis? Yawn.

Who here has ever written a book report?

And who can say in all honesty that they really enjoyed writing said report?

*crickets chirping*

That's what I thought. Writing a synopsis is like writing a book report back in third grade. My favorite part of writing my book report on Ronald Reagan for Mrs. Neale's class? I got to draw his picture and bring in Jelly Bellies because they were his favorite candy. Since I don't write children's books there's no drawings and I don't know what an agent would do if I sent candy with a partial and synopsis.

I need to accomplish two things while this manuscript is curing. First, write a killer query. I think I have that. Second, write a jaw-dropping synopsis. I've got the first draft and started polishing, but it's not fun. It's not creative and I'm just not seeing the challenge in it.

I could test myself with the query, make it into a game. Just how does one sum up a novel in a one sentence hook? It took me a while, but I did it. But a synopsis? How do you make that fun? I know I need to interject voice, but I'm still not digging this part of the process.

Come on guys! Help a girl out here!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things... Er... Umm... Historical Things

I'm pretty much obsessed with history. My favorite eras would be ancient Egypt (obviously), Tudor & Stuart England, and probably the American Civil War.

My favorite historical figures?

1. Hatshepsut. As if you didn't know that. :)
2. Theodore Roosevelt. I'd stalk him if he wasn't dead. Or at least be his groupie. Yeah, I could totally be TR's groupie.
3. Henry VIII. This guy fascinates me despite my feminist leanings. I mean, what kind of guy does the things he did to his wives, all for a son? And I like Anne Boleyn too- I think she's gotten a bad rap.

There are scores of other people in history that I find intriguing- Abraham Lincoln, Caligula, Cleopatra VIII, Pope Joan, and Boudica all come to mind.

Now, I know not everyone loves history (although for the life me I can't fathom why not!), but humor me here. Who do you think is a nifty historical person? Who from history would you want to read a book about?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pass the Kleenex!

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. -James Michener

I love that quote. And I love books that make me laugh, but even more, I love books that make me cry.

Some books that made me laugh: River of Doubt (Candice Millard), Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt & the Crusade for America (Douglas Brinkley), The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd), Pride & Prejudice (Jane Austen).

Books that made me cry: The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd), Where the Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawls), The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold), The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseni).


There are numerous others, but these are the ones that I remember laughing out loud as I read or bawling through. I'll never forget driving back from a field trip to go whale watching and reading Where the Red Fern Grows, hiccuping and sobbing in the back seat while all my friends slept. I'm sure the dad driving the Suburban thought I was a basket case middle-schooler.

There's one scene in HATSHEPSUT:FEMALE PHARAOH that should be a tearjerker for anyone not made of wood. Almost two, but definitely one. And this new book? I've been laughing as I write it so that's a good sign. I think.

So here are your questions for the day. What books have made an impact on you? Do you want your readers to laugh or cry? Or both?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

You'll Never See This One Coming

A while back as I was writing Hatshepsut, I wondered what handful of words would best describe her. The list?

Temperamental, dutiful, loyal, passionate.

Oh. My. God.

Hatshepsut is a Klingon! (Yes, I am a nerd. Like you didn't know that already.) She's Worf with a little Picard thrown in for some extra elitism. (Yes, I only watch The Next Generation. I'm a picky Trekky.)

My latest protagonist? She's Q. *cue evil laugh* With a little Riker thrown in for that playboy edge.

Can you tell I'm having fun writing her?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Let the Madness Begin!

Yesterday I started my second book.

*cue evil laughter*

It's kind of intimidating to be back on page 1, but I think it's going to be good!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Theme of the Day

Yesterday, amid my wishing for an HBO series on Hatshepsut, Amalia wrote that she wanted people to think when they read her book.

Okay, so that's much more noble than an HBO miniseries. :)

In Stephen King's book, On Writing, he mentions that one should never start off writing a book with a theme in mind, but instead that the theme should come later. I gave myself a gold star when I read that because I feel like HATSHEPSUT: FEMALE PHARAOH definitely has a coherent theme, but it wasn't something that I planned to write. I just wanted to tell her story, but discovered during the revision that the whole novel revolved around one key question.

How much do we control our own destinies?

For those of you who critiqued my query, you probably picked up on the fact that Hatshepsut has a lot of obstacles in her path to becoming Pharaoh. Some are of her own making and others are blamed on the gods (although that's open for interpretation as well). I rewrote the ending, leaving the final message open for the reader to decide. I like books that make me think, ones where I'm left pondering long after I finish the story (Life of Pi!).

So that's the overarching question in my book, what I hope readers will think about. Does your book have a theme, some big question hidden within its pages?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reach For the Stars!

All of us want to walk into Barnes and Noble one day and see our books sitting on the shelves, hopefully with a display to rival that of Twilight and New Moon.

One of my motivating factors for a lot in life is that I just want to make an impact. I quit my job slaving away at a department store because I simply couldn't sell another tube of lipstick or I was going to go completely banana bonkers. So now I teach kids, something I think makes an impact.

But I also want to leave my mark, some tangible evidence after I die that I was here. And if I can get a book published then I know that five hundred years from now, someone will be able to walk into the Library of Congress and hold my book in their hands. Provided the Library of Congress is still there, of course. My novel is no Gilgamesh, but there's something heady about being linked in even the slightest way to authors like Plato and Dante.

Of course, I also think it would be cool if HBO turned HATSHEPSUT: FEMALE PHARAOH into their next mini-series.

So what are your grand schemes, your highest hopes for your novel? And I'm talking high here, people. Reach for the stars!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ticking Time Bomb

Yesterday I mentioned my self-imposed deadline for HATSHEPSUT: FEMALE PHARAOH so today I thought I'd elaborate a bit.

When I first set out to write this book I gave myself three years just to finish it. I'm not sure if that meant to write it through the first draft or to get it totally polished, but I figured I could write a book in three years, seeing as how I didn't really know what I was doing. I started in January 2008 so I'm ahead of schedule regardless.

My new goal is to have the manuscript out on agent submission some time in February of next year. I feel like there's this fire under me, keeping me hopping with this book. Part of that is due to a little fortune cookie. I still have the fortune taped to my printer, reminding me every time I sit down to goof off online what I should really be doing. According to the cosmic fortune telling cookie (feels like the Mayan doomsday calendar), I'll have an agent by July 16, 2010. It darn well better be right! :)

I also have this terror that someone else will write a book about Hatshepsut and it will get published before mine and end up on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Egad!

Now, this may seem completely irrational, and I'll admit it probably is, but there's always a chance catastrophe could strike. Dearest Hat has been in the media a fair bit the last few years since her mummy was "discovered" by Zahi Hawass. And historical fiction overall is in higher demand in recent years. I might be a little paranoid, but at least it's motivating me, right?

So this is yet another reason that this six weeks cure time is killing me!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Look! Something Shiny!

Have you ever played pinball, watching the shiny metal ball bounce all over the place and hoping it would go up the twirly ramp and earn you a bonus round? This post is like a pinball being played by an amateur, bouncing all over the place with no real target. You've been warned.

I'm currently stewing over two things.

1. Whether to join NaNoWriMo. I really think it would set me up to fail to be forced to write a novel in a month and the perfectionist in me really can't handle that. But I have this story idea...

2. My reading list. I'm currently reading three books: Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by David Brinkley, Widow of the South by Robert Hicks, and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

Wilderness Warrior is non-fiction and I absolutely adore Theodore Roosevelt. Like, to the point of obsession. As in I would stalk him if he were still alive. I would write a novel about him, but he hasn't been dead long enough. I have an authentic letter he signed, a life-size cut-out of him in my classroom, and waaaaaay too many books on him. In fact, a fellow history teacher just gave me a set of books TR published. I squealed when I saw them waiting on my desk so it's a good thing no one else was in my classroom at the time. It was a pretty loud squeal.

Widow of the South is historical fiction set in Civil War America. In the South, obviously. It's pretty good. In fact, if it wasn't historical I'd say it was literary fiction. And here's the thing about literary fiction. I love reading it, but then it gives me an inferiority complex. I swoon over the metaphors and then shed a few tears (not really) because I don't think my novel could ever really fall into the literary fiction category. I have the same issue with The Lovely Bones. It's disturbing, mostly because it's about the murder of a teenage girl and I have daughter. Every few minutes I have to wipe away tears, real ones. But the book is beautiful, exquisite even.

That's what I want my book to be like. I have this deadline for myself on when HATSHEPSUT: FEMALE PHARAOH needs to be ready for submission. But if I miss my deadline I'll survive. The world will not implode, the publishing houses back East will continue to exist. I'm used to being able to kind of slide by on a lot of things in life, but I can't do that with this novel. There's too much blood on my keyboard to give it less than 100%. It needs even more than that.

Hmmm... That got a little more reflective than I'd planned. As a reward for making it all the way to the end of the post I have a reward for you- a quote of the day!

I can't write a book by Shakespeare, but I can write a book by myself. -Sir Walter Raleigh

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I've Been Baaaaaad!

I didn't even make it a week.

*sigh*

I was reading through one of my books on ancient Egypt tonight, looking for information for Novel #2, when I discovered several nifty historical tidbits that would fit perfectly in HATSHEPSUT: FEMALE PHARAOH. Now, many of these I knew, but had either ignored or forgotten about in the course of writing the novel. So I made a list of things I needed to go back and write into various scenes.

But could I wait five and half weeks to do it?

Um... What do you think?

So here's my list of random ancient Egypt trivia for you, all somehow worked into the story now.

1. Traces of beeswax have been found on ancient Egyptian wigs. The wigs were often very elaborate and the styles would have lasted longer on wigs than live hair. (Fleas prosper in both, not a detail I'm including. Maybe I'll save that for Novel #2.)

2. There were no pillows on Egyptian beds. In fact, most people had to be content with a bench or just a mattress on the floor. There were no headboards, but the bed slanted from the head toward the floor and Egyptians used rather uncomfortable looking ivory or stone headrests in place of pillows. (This was highly inconvenient as I had a couple scenes where I really wanted pillows. Alas, one really should be historically accurate whenever possible.)

3. By the time of Hatshepsut in the New Kingdom, women's fashion had evolved from the plain white tunics we typically think of from tomb scenes. Sheer overgarments were the height of fashion, often embroidered or beaded. However, the main color choice remained white, the better to show off all your snazzy jewels with!

4. Wool was rarely used for clothing, linen being much more suitable for the hot climate. The higher classes had thinner linen that could be so thin as to render it transparent.

5. On duty priests had to be entirely hairless. I've read that many farmers would serve in the temples while their fields were fallow, covered by the floods of the Nile. So those guys would have to be shaved from head to toe for about three months.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Query at the Slushpile

Some of you already know this, but in an attempt to put my six-week editing break to good use I posted my query for HATSHEPSUT: FEMALE PHARAOH over at the Public Query Slushpile. Thank you to everyone who has already commented- you guys ROCK!

The more comments, the merrier!

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Could Write a Book in That Time!

Bane's blog post tonight got me thinking about how long it takes each of us to write our novels. I've read of some people who can pound out a book in a few months (Stephen King) and others who take years (Sue Monk Kidd) to complete their masterpieces. And then there are the crazies who can push out a whole book in a month for NaNoWriMo. That makes my head hurt just thinking about it!

I started writing HATSHEPSUT: FEMALE PHARAOH in January 2008. I only managed 100 pages in the first year. I just didn't know how to manage my time and went whole months without writing, knowing where I wanted to go, but now knowing how to get there. And then this January I buckled down and started writing. Unfortunately, with a two-year-old and a full time teaching gig I only managed about an hour of writing each night.

Thank goodness for summer vacation.

I started the summer at around 250 pages and finished August 16th with something close to 430 pages. I used page tallies instead of word counts to keep me motivated. Now I'm at 369 pages. So I exceeded Stephen King's 10% formula. But I think a lot of beginning writers write a lot more than they need so I feel good about all that chopping. I still have some fluffing, metaphors and the like that I tend to add in last so it will probably grow a teensy bit before I'm totally done.

How long did it take you to write your latest manuscript?

Huzzah for Beta Readers!

Yesterday, L.T. Host asked how many beta readers I have.

Starting today, four fabulous humans are slogging their way through my WIP- my husband and three fellow teachers. Strangely enough, none are history teachers, but I begged an English teacher, science teacher, and the German teacher to read the book. I've also had another super-fab English teacher read a very early draft before I finished the WIP and she gave me some valuable feedback that helped me develop my characters, but she's now indisposed with an infant. I don't know any other writers in the flesh to pull into my cadre of beta readers, but I like to think teachers are some of the more critical readers around. And you know, it's not like they have anything else to do with all their free time. ;)

Of course, flipping through the pages today I found a gazillion things that need culled or reworded, but I refuse to touch the book for another 6 weeks. Saving any major epiphanies (love that word!), of course.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Made That!

This afternoon is going to be pretty exciting.

After work I'm going to Kinko's to pick up my printed and bound WIP. *squeals* There's just something about holding that pile of paper in your hands and looking at all those paragraphs you wrote that's kind of breathtaking. It's not as cool as holding my daughter for the first time, but it's still pretty nifty to touch something you've created. I've agonized over every word on those pages and killed many of my darlings, but today I get to hold it. That's pretty freaking awesome.

And then I get to hand them out to my beta readers. *holds breath* I want them to be critical and I want a lot of feedback on what works and what doesn't. But I also want them to like it. Tell me what's wrong, but tell me that after another couple revisions it's publishable.

So while they're reading I get to let the story cure. I need a time out from Hatshepsut. I love her, but she's all I think about at night when I'm trying to sleep. It's getting a little weird. :)

So over the next six weeks I'll be starting a new project and shining up my query. Hurray!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Vibes

MattDel had a pretty nifty blog post today about positive waves and what makes him happy. I'm all about sending out happy vibes so I thought I'd post what makes me happy, in no particular order.

1. Sunshine. The days are getting shorter and Alaska is about to plunge into really, realllllllly long days of very little sunlight. But on Monday we had a gloriously sunny day- a last gasp of a beautiful summer. It made me happy.

2. Chocolate covered pretzels and a glass of red wine. Preferably a zinfandel that's so dark it's basically black in the glass. Yum.

3. A good book. Right now I'm reading three! (More about that later.)

4. My husband and daughter. Together we are the trifecta of goofiness. I'm sure today I'll be treated to multiple impromptu renditions of The Lion King or Cinderella when I get home. And some cuddles. Cuddles are good.


Spread the happiness! What could you have right now that would make you happy?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New First Paragraph!

Today I was inspired by Natalie Whipple over at Between Fact and Fiction to write a new paragraph to start my first chapter. My intro starts with dialogue and I never really liked that. Plus that meant I couldn't really enter Nathan's contest!

So here's my new intro. Natalie made a great point that the first paragraph should kind of encapsulate the whole novel.

Eureka!

The paragraph kind of wrote itself (during my conference period when I'm supposed to be making copies). It's really rough and needs fluffing, but here it is for comments.

------------------------

If only she were a boy. A boy wouldn't need to climb a tree to escape Thutmosis and his stupid slingshot. A boy could pummel her brother and break that slingshot over his obnoxious little face and still get away with it. If only.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Passive Voice is NOT My Friend

I hate passive voice. I must have missed that lesson in high school. I managed to skip all English classes in college except for Ancient Literature so I missed it there too.

So lots of karma points to Judith for pointing it out in my sample pages!

Just in case anyone out there is lost on what passive voice is or wants a refresher, here's an example I just ferreted from my WIP.

Her family members had been recalled by Anubis one by one, leaving only her mother and Sitre as fragile links to Hatshepsut’s childhood.

This reads better as:

Anubis recalled her family members one by one, leaving only her mother and Sitre as fragile links to Hatshepsut’s childhood.

I've discovered this weekend that I really like to write in passive voice. Thank heavens for Word because otherwise I would totally skip over all the had beens in my WIP. I guess that's why it's called a Work In Progress, eh? But seriously, I just don't see passive voice. I can usually spot bad dialogue tags and pesky little adverbs. Sometimes it takes a few readings, but eventually I'll weed out the majority of the little buggers. It's just how I write. When there's a scene I have to get out of my head I don't care about showing instead of telling. I substitute an adverb and move on, knowing I'll fix it later. Rough drafts are supposed to be messy!

But passive voice? Blecch. Double blecch. Give me a passive voice grammar exercise and I'll can spot the problem, whip out a solution. Give me my manuscript and tell me to fix the passive tense? That's like asking George W. Bush to find a sentence where he used an imaginary word.

Yes, I just compared myself to Bush. I tried to think of an analogy for Van Gogh or Hemingway first, but couldn't manage it. My brain is too tired after fixing all these stinking passive voice sentences.

So, yeah. I hate passive voice.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hatshepsut: Female Pharaoh- 1st Two Pages

These are the first two pages of Chapter 1. There used to be a prologue, but I cut it in an attempt to get to the heart of the story quicker (Hatshepsut meeting with her father). Please critique to your hearts' content!

----------------------------------

"Stupid girl!" Thutmosis’ voice cracked, the prince’s voice pimpled as his face. “I’ll climb up there and get you myself.”

"I’d like to see you try." Hatshepsut rubbed the pebble bite on her shoulder, clutching the sycamore’s branch with her other hand. He was bluffing. Her pudgy half-brother was terrified of heights- always had been. However, if Hatshepsut wasn't careful one wrong move would send her plummeting to the grass below. That was an experience she could quite happily live without.

"It's time for our lessons and we're going to be late," she said. “Let me come down.”

"As if I care about being late," Thutmosis said with a sneer. "Nebtawi will just have to wait for me- I’m the prince."

Hatshepsut rolled her eyes. She wished Neferubity was still at her side, the two sisters united together against their obnoxious half-brother. But her older sister had died from a fever almost a year ago, leaving Hatshepsut to fend for herself.

"I'm sure Nebtawi would consider himself blessed by Amun if he didn’t have to teach you today,” she said to Thutmosis.

Again, Hatshepsut received the sharp reply of a pebble, this time perfectly aimed right between her eyes. Squealing in pained surprise, both hands flew to her face. Too late Hatshepsut realized she had upset her precarious balance on the branch. She reached out to the tree’s taunting limbs, but they merely mocked her, already out of reach as she fell backwards, the green needles of the tree disappearing into the blue expanse of the Egyptian sky. Time slowed for the merest of seconds in the awful realization that she was going to hit the ground in an explosion of inevitable pain. Hatshepsut hit the grass with a thud that knocked the wind from her lungs in one pained gush.

Thutmosis sauntered over, his thick lips pulled back in a gloating smile. "You deserved that," he said, chuckling as he sheathed the slingshot in his belt.

Hatshepsut was dying to respond to her brother's barb, but couldn't force the air into her lungs to breathe, much less talk. She lay on the grass, trying to ignore the wave of panic as she struggled for air.

"Too weak to get up? What a wimp." Thutmosis' sandal nudged her deeply in the ribs. "I should have suspected as much from you."

He was enjoying this. She lay on the ground a few moments more before her lungs finally expanded, taking in ragged breaths of sweet air.

Struggling to her feet, Hatshepsut glowered at her half-brother. She was about to berate him, but was interrupted by the growl of a furious woman.

“Hatshepsut!”

It was her mother.

The princess’ heart plummeted to the soles of her feet. It was obvious the queen was in a perfectly foul mood, but despite her nasty glare, Ahmose was still breathtaking stalking across the landscaped green. This afternoon she wore a shimmering sheath so artfully embroidered that the water and fish along the bottom hem splashed and jumped with each step she took.

Hatshepsut felt like a bug scurrying out from under a rock. The welt on her forehead certainly wasn’t going to help her mother’s mood.

“What in the name of Amun are you doing, child?” Ahmose sized up her daughter with a mixture of annoyance and disgust. Since Neferubity’s death, her mother rarely looked upon her with any other combination of emotions, but today Hatshepsut could hardly fault her for being upset. She was supposed to meet with her father this afternoon and it would hardly do for her to see the Pharaoh looking like she’d just fallen out of a tree, even if she had.

“She started it, Hemet.” Thutmosis was always more than happy to throw the blame at Hatshepsut. “It was her fault.”

“I’m sure it was, Thutmosis. It usually is.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Self-Promote Like a Two-Year-Old

I'm getting close to the querying stage and am getting a little anxious. Granted, growing a super-human layer of skin to protect myself from massive rejections is pretty darn close to a superhero power. Is it as cool as x-ray vision or being able to fly?

Well, no. But I digress.

A few weeks ago my two-year-old was having a little emotional breakdown (read: temper tantrum worthy of UN intervention). I told her she needed to calm down so she could be happy again.

Amidst the rivers of tears, spit, and snot, she was able to choke out, "But I am happy!"

This was, of course, said to persuade me that she didn't need to sit on the time-out step. And you know what? I laughed. I laughed and laughed until I had tears in my eyes.

And did she have to sit on the time-out stair? Of course not. Sometimes I'm a softy.

When it was all over and she was happily ensconced in the TV room watching The Lion King it dawned on me that very soon I'm going to have to self-promote like a two-year-old. Even when I'm cranky because my in-box is full of form rejections and I just want to curl up with a box of Kleenex I'm still going to have to send out more queries. And put on a happy face.

And then maybe I'll find an agent who thinks I'm hilarious (or maybe just that my book is wonderful) and wants to sign me for a ten book deal.

Monday, October 5, 2009

On Writing (Yes, I Stole That From Stephen King!)

I just finished Stephen King's book On Writing and have to say I really enjoyed it. (Thanks, Judith!) I've got several how-to writing books on my shelves that were cracked open and put aside to fulfill their secondary job as dust collectors. A how-to manual on writing just doesn't appeal to me. Good writing is one of those things I know when I see it. It's kind of like painting. I could read a gazillion books on how to paint, but that doesn't mean I'll ever be able to do it.

My theory is you've just got to practice. I've been actively writing for pleasure for almost ten years now. I've had some amazing English teachers over the years (and have worked with quite a few too!) who gave me the frameworks on how to write, but it's been up to me to slog my way through stories to figure out what works and what doesn't. I also strongly believe, as does King, that in order to write well you have to read. A lot.

One thing I'm still digesting from King is his premise that "while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a bad one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one." I'm usually not for blanket statements, but I think he might be onto something here. Some people have a hard time just writing a coherent sentence and will probably never be able to write a great story. And very few of us are Shakespeares.

Do most of us just start out as competent writers? Are we all striving to become merely good writers?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lucky & Unlucky Days

Surviving calendars from ancient Egypt categorize each day of the year as either lucky or unlucky (Reminds me of that goofy country song- the stars are stacked against you dear, get back in bed!). Days were apparently categorized based on mythical events that supposedly happened on them eons ago. For example, a day when one of the gods had made a successful journey= good. A day when two of the gods fought= bad. Possibly very, very bad.

This meant than any Egyptian planning a major event or even performing certain rituals would know whether the day they chose was auspicious. Temples consulted these luck calendars and individuals also possessed them- some of them have been found in various tombs.

Kind of sounds like the Farmer's Almanac, doesn't it? I always wonder about this kind of stuff. Was it the whole population that was obsessed with lucky and unlucky days or just a select few?

The Egyptian calendar was a 360 day calendar with an extra five days added on. They didn't have leap year so after several centuries the calendar got all wacky. According to the mythology, those five days were added on so that Osiris, Isis, Seth, Nepthys, and Horus the Elder could be born. They were considered extremely unlucky- nothing of consequence was ever to be done on those days.

These luck calendars were also used to predict a child's future depending on what day they were born on. If a child was born on the fifth day of the second month of Akhet, it was predicted that their death would be caused by copulation. Quite a way to go, eh?

Believe it or not, these Egyptian lucky and unlucky days made it all the way through to Medieval times- the observance of such days were one of the charges made against heretics in France all the way to the 13th century. Ohdalolly!