This is how we do it…take two!

Time for the second week of Corrine Jackson’s writing process series on how writers do it. Today’s topic? Getting Into the Zone: What goes into the creative process of writing a novel? (i.e. Author’s mindset, the writer’s environment, etc.)

Lots and lots of junk food…whoa, what? Who said that? Actually, I don’t know if I’ve upped my junk food intake so much as I’ve maxed out on caffeine—one of the hazards of writing at Starbucks/Boudin.

Yeah, I’m one of those weird writers who doesn’t get much writing done at home unless it’s late at night. (read: kidlets are all locked up straight-jacketed asleep in their beds, and dogs are valiumed dozing on the couch). During the day, the house just distracts me. There’s always so much that needs to be done around here—and unless I want my MC seething with guilt over three-week-old dirty clothes piles or toilets that could be breeding the next super-bug, I tend to vamoose.

And then of course, if I sit all day at a coffee shop, it would be wrong not to buy drinks. Wrong, I tell you! Hence the caffeine.

caffeine yum

caffeine yum

Weirdly enough, I typically can’t listen to music when I write, but I can tune out conversations, background music, etc. I think I *love* my music sooooo much, that all I want to do when I hear it is sing along. I do brainstorm up a bunch of new scenes while I listen to my iPod and run, though. And I just totally digressed there, didn’t I?

Let’s see. So far, we’ve got caffeine and Starbucks. What else goes into the creative process for me? Tons and tons of desire. I mean, there are so many distractions and other things begging to be done, you’ve really got to have that fire. For me, I have to want, no, NEED, to get my story down on paper in order to make time to do it. And the best way to make that happen is to both a) start writing the darn thing and see what comes (which sounds slightly contradictory to what I just said but trust me, it makes sense) and b) think about my story/characters A LOT.

What doesn’t go into my creative process? Outlining. I’m a total pantser. One who is trying to reform but will probably fail miserably, given how I repel all things organizationally-related.

James Scott Bell doesn’t really talk about the creative mindset so much in Plot and Structure, but he does suggest ways to brainstorm Shiny New Ideas. Examples include:

- making up a cool title and then dreaming up a story to go with it

-list mental pictures from your past and come up with little stories to describe them

-listen to music and come up with a story for the song

- scour the obituaries and recreate an original character from the biographies (As Cordelia might say–morbid much?)

-write an opening line and go from there

-mind-mapping (Something to do with writing down a word/concept that intrigues you, then doing free association to come up with a bunch of words/ideas to go with it. Honestly, it kinda scares me.)

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, there’s a small section in the book on how NOT to get ideas:

Drugs, alcohol and stress

Drugs and writing = badness...unless youre Stephen King

Drugs and writing = badness...unless you're Stephen King

I know, I know—what a major killjoy! But note the conspicuous absence of caffeine from that list. Which obviously means it’s okay to tank up (hey, I had to tie this post together somehow!)

So, that’s my creative process in a nutshell—caffeine, somewhere that’s not home, and desire. What’s your creative process like?

And don’t forget to go back and check out Corrine Jackson’s post, along with all the other YA writers who participated!

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Totally Random Teaser Tuesday

Posted by houndrat on Tuesday Oct 13, 2009 Under Uncategorized

Um, yeah–this next snippet came out of pretty much nowhere.? I was working on revisions last night, and BAM!? ? ending up writing ? this instead.? I’m thinking it’s my brain’s way of procrastinating.? Just posting it for kicks and giggles.? Cheers!


Trista Bailey’s blond ponytail swung with just the right amount of enthusiasm when she bounced down the halls.? She clutched her pristine purple notebook to her chest, laughing that tinkling laugh that made everyone flock to her like brainless ducks.? Her jeans managed to be relaxed without looking sloppy, and her cream-colored shirt seemed to repel stains—even on spaghetti day. Her metal-free mouth never called anyone names—not even Bobby Stiffey.

But none of that mattered. I didn’t care if everyone at school—in the whole county, even—thought Trista could poop new kidneys for babies. I knew she was a big fat fake.? Like Mama always said—nobody is that perfect.? And it was my job to prove it.? Even if proving it would make me the meanest girl in all of Hobblesworth, I was going to bring Trista Bailey down.

Right after I finished mastering fractions for my sixth-grade math test which, at the rate I was going, would? take at least a? century.? Lucky for Trista I sucked at math.

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Posted by houndrat on Saturday Oct 3, 2009 Under Uncategorized

First off, I wanted to apologize for the tweet blog-post thingy. Obviously, I’m a little challenged when it comes to? mastering my Twitter Tools.? I wanted my tweets to show up in the side-bar, not become girnomic blog posts of their own.? Because, you know, I realize most folks don’t come here to read earth-shattering stuff? like “Go Sooners!” and “Beer Bad, Fire Pretty.”? Even if the Sooners are pretty cool.

Anyway–I’m excited to announce that I’ve just joined an awesome crew over at the OPWFT blog, or Old People Writing for Teens.? No need to know that I call us the geezers writing for teens.? Oops.? Let’s just say, some of us are more geezerly than others, and leave it at that.? (Cough, me, cough, cough).

All of the contributers to OPWFT are aspiring Young Adult authors who? post about–you guessed it–Young Adult books.? We often interview published YA authors, and also rant chat about topics dear to YA.? So swing on by sometime and check it out, if you get the chance.? Most recently, we’ve been posting about the American Library Association’s Banned Book Week.


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Twilight versus Buffy–still slaying me after all these years

Posted by houndrat on Sunday Jan 11, 2009 Under Uncategorized

So I’m now halfway into my second season of Buffy (for like, the? bazillionth time).? And not to be rude but, um,? Ms. Meyer?? ? You ain’t got nothing on Whedon in the tragic romance department.? That Joss–his brain must be twisted in an uber-twisty kind of way.? I’m just saying.? I mean, how else do you come up with a storyline where the vampire slayer falls in love with a vampire named Angel?? A vampire, who, due to an ancient gypsy curse, had his soul restored and has been suffering for the past? century until he meets and falls in love with Buffy, the one person who should be his arch-nemesis?? And then,? just because he? experiences a moment of pure happiness (think true love and teenage hormones and you’ll get the picture of how thatoccurs), the curse is broken and he reverts back to his former soulless, evil, torture-loving alter ego, Angeles.? You know, the one who (and I paraphrase) offered an ugly death to everyone he met for over a hundred years–and he did it with a song in his heart.?

So obviously Buffy, being? the slayer and all,? has to try to stop him.? But you know, it’s one thing to break up with your boyfriend, and another? thing entirely to turn him into a big pile of dust by stabbing him through the heart with a sharp pointy stick.? You think that’d be tear-jerking enough, right?? ? Oh no, not for Whedon.? Like some gruesome Big Bad from the Buffysphere, he couldn’t stop until our still-beating hearts were completely ripped from our chests and stomped on a few hundred times.? Because,? at the end of Season Two,? the curse and? Angel’s soul are restored—just moments? before Buffy has to kill him to save the world.? Talk about future emotional baggage.? So, Joss?? You may be genius-like and all, but please, do me a favor–don’t? go writing my future anytime soon.

Seriously, though, for those of you who have never watched Buffy before?? It’s worth a look.? I mean, even beyond the tragediest of tragedies, Whedon has? tons to offer.? The Buffy-banter alone–some of the funniest, hippest dialogue ever produced, bar none–makes this show entirely too addicting.? Yes, the special effects in the first season are unbelievably low-budge, but it just adds to the? campiness of the whole experience.?

? And how can you resist the supporting cast?? Xander, for instance, the nerdy side-kick who says stuff like,? “I laugh in the face of danger.? Then I hide until it does away,”? and “? I don’t know what everyone’s talking about–that outfit doesn’t make you look like a hooker.”? And then there’s always,? “There’s a party in my eye socket, and everyone’s invited.”? (Um, okay, so that last one is sort of a ‘had to be there’ type deal.)

And bitchy, popular Cordelia was always good for a line or two–”What is? your childhood trauma?” comes to mind.? Oh, and “Willow–nice dress.? Glad to know you’ve seen the softer side of Sears.”

I could seriously be writing for a week straight if I tried to include all of the great Buffyisms out there.? But since I think the kiddage would object, I’ll just throw out a few more favorites that pop immediately to mind.? If you’re? a Buffy fanatic, feel free to leave your favs in the comment section.


“Can you vague that up for me a little more?”

“I think I speak for all of us when I say…huh?”

“I may be dead, but I’m still pretty—which is more than I can say for you.”


Spike is always good for some hilarious lines, but one of my personal favorites is when Buffy commands him to sum up what he’s doing in five words or less. ? Spike, counting each word out on his fingers, says, “Out. For. A. Walk….Bitch.”


Or here’s this excerpt from a conversation with Angeles about killing Buffy:

Spike: ? Why don’t you rip her lungs out? ? That’ll leave an impression.

Angeles: ? It lacks poetry.

Spike: ? Doesn’t have to. ? What rhymes with ‘lungs’?


And of course, some of the best ones are totally random. ? For instance:


Vampire Girl: ? Does this sweater make me look fat?

Sunday: ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? No, the fact that you’re fat makes you look fat. ? That sweater just makes you look purple.


Girl: ? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?

Buffy: ? Uh, you know, I meant to, and then I just got really busy.


Buffy: ? I seem to be having a slight case of nudity here.

Oz:? ? ? ? But at least you’re not a rat any more. ? Call it an upside.

But, I do have to say, Meyer’s got? Whedon on the endings. Unless you’re into ‘lonely-ever-after’.? ? Because when it comes to? giving us what we want in terms of a romantic conclusion?? ? Well, let me put it into Buffyspeak. Basically, on a scale of one to ten—Whedon sucks.

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How to Downsize your New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by houndrat on Sunday Jan 4, 2009 Under family life, Uncategorized

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of coming up with resolutions at the end of every year, only to realize by the? conclusion of the following year I’ve been a miserable failure at each and every one.? So I’ve decided to change things up a little bit this time.? Instead of making a bunch of lofty goals that I haven’t got a a snowball’s chance in hell of achieving, I’ve decided to go the underachiever route.? Basically, that means I’m scaling way back on my? New Year’s resolutions.? You know, so that I can actually be successful for a change.

Here’s how it works.? For example, instead of saying that I’m going to get in great shape next year and hit the gym at least 3 times a week, I’ve made it just a teensy bit easier–my goal is to do at least one sit-up a month.? I figure if I can’t accomplish that, I deserve to have my abdominals atrophy and fall off.

? As for organization-related resolutions?? Well, you saw how far we got with those last year.? ? New, improved goal?? To? get my mail organized just enough so that I don’t lose my daughter’s social security card the day after it arrives, thus rendering us incapable of getting our full tax refund or stimulus check (yes, that actually happened).? Or proving that we have a daughter in the first place.? ? ? I really want to add? a resolution that states we’ll? clean our garage? up enough to attract one less rat this year, but I thought that might be pushing it.

When I go to Target to pick up baby wipes and a magazine, I resolve to spend no more than $99.99, no matter how tempting the dollar bins are.

I promise to? pick up? the mail at least once a week, and more importantly, open it at least once? a? month.? I also plan to keep my aol inbox monthly average at 950 emails versus 999.? Alas, the answering machine is on it’s own.

Oh yeah, and I resolve to only use feminine hygiene products of the human variety this year.

I have a few more.? Like, when Skye eats a shoe in 2009, I vow to throw the other intact one away immediately, instead of hanging on to? it in hopes that the shoe fairy will magically grant me an unchewed mate.? Don’t snicker–that’s a tough one.? You just never know when the shoe fairy might strike.

? And Fergie has assured me she’s cutting back as well.? For starters, she’ll try to destroy one less item per month.? If I were her, I’d probably think about starting with Santa’s? head–I figure it can’t be good present Karma to go around munching the face off of Old Saint Nick ornament.?

Also, she’s going to try not to jump up on the counters any more–unless there’s actually food up there for her to steal.? Impressive, huh?

? So, with goals like these, I’m reasonably certain I can achieve some success by the end of 2009.? And if not?? Well, social security cards are over-rated, anyway.





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A profound New Year’s Eve conversation with my son

Posted by houndrat on Wednesday Dec 31, 2008 Under family life, kids, Uncategorized

son? “I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, please”

me:? “What?? You want a peanut-booger and jelly sandwich?? Coming right up!”

son, shrieking:? “EWWWW!? That’s gross!? I don’t want a peanut-booger and jelly sandwich—I only eat boogers straight from my nose!”

Silly mom.?

Happy New Year, everyone.? May your sandwich and your nose? remain booger-free.?

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Why my womanly cyle is going to the dogs

Posted by houndrat on Wednesday Dec 31, 2008 Under dogs, family life, random stuff, Uncategorized

Okay, this is a warming upfront for any of you menfolk who get squeamish at the slightest mention of, oh, how shall I word this? Let’s try “womanly cycles”.? How’s that for vague and non-masculinity threatening?

At any rate, consider yourself forewarned, and on with my story, which happens to be about how I am so disorganized that I managed to use species-inappropriate womanly cycle devices.?

You see, recently, I just started having my womanly cycles again (somehow,? I’m finding it unbelievably amusing? to use that phrase as much as possible in this post–chalk it up to my uber-maturity).? Now, one would think with my vast experience in the womanly cycle arena, I would be beyond making mistakes of this variety.? In fact, one would think my five-year old son would be beyond making mistakes of this variety.? Okay, granted, between pregnancy and nursing, I hadn’t had a womanly cycle (how many times is that now?? four?? five?) in over two years, but really, when you think about the fact that I have over twenty years previous experience? in the womanly cycle? department, I should be familiar with the equipment that goes along with it.? I mean, how hard can it possibly be??

And yet, there I was, reaching for another, um, piece of womanly cycle paraphernalia (yes, I’m still snickering like a seventh grade boy) when I make a little discovery. Mind you, I’ve been using the items in said box for the last few days and didn’t notice anything unusual.? Possibly because my bathroom cabinets are in such a state of a disarray that I don’t know if I’m grabbing my hairbrush or a stray porcupine half the time.? But I don’t know–maybe it’s not that big of deal.? I mean, I don’t think Fergie or Skye would really care that I accidentally borrowed from their stash:

? Um, yeah.? So maybe it is a little out of the ordinary to erroneously be sticking your dog’s womanly cycle products in your undies for days without noticing.? But in my defense, notice they don’t actually put the word “dog” or “canine” on the box.? Granted, it would be a little odd to buy a box of human womanly cycle items with a picture of a Yorkie? on the front, but really, that’s just a minor detail.? Besides, advertisers are getting crazier every day–who’s to say the next Tampax commercial won’t be sporting a Labradoodle in a white dress, waxing poetic about the joys of riding the white cotton pony while playing tennis and sipping a cosmo?? Okay, now I’ve really gone and done it–my apologies to any males who are feeling completely violated right about now–I may as well piss off the feminists? while I’m at it? and blame it all on hormones.?

And actually folks, I’ve got a little secret to share—those dog products? really aren’t? half bad.?

Of course, who knows?? That could just be me growing fond of that ‘fresh from the groomers’ scent.



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Oh Christmas Tree

Posted by houndrat on Monday Dec 8, 2008 Under Christmas trees, family life, husbands, Uncategorized

Never, ever tell a man that something? just isn’t big enough.? Never.? Because any comments on size or lack thereof? are merely going to send? him into a “bigger is better” frenzy.? I mean, let’s face it–there’s a reason our inboxes are flooded on an hourly basis with emails entitled “enlarge your penis to 100x it’s actual size!”? ? Um, ouch.

But I’m not talking just private parts, people.? I’m talking ANYTHING.? Take, for example, a simple Christmas tree, and an innocuous comment about how last year’s six foot tree wasn’t quite tall enough for our vaulted ceilings.? In the same conversation, I’m pretty sure the words “eight feet would be nice” were mentioned.? But I could be wrong.? Because hubby did not come back with an eight footer. Or even a niner.

No, he proudly proclaimed, “I got the BIGGEST ONE on the lot–what do you think?” with a goofy smile on his face.?

What I think is that the twelve foot green monstrosity dwarfs our entire living room.? And sheds like an SOB.? We’re going to have to fork over some serious cash to buy about a? billion more lights to deck it out, and that goes double for? ornaments.? Also, the tree skirt is not remotely large enough to go all the way around that sucker, and I’m afraid if? it? tips like last year’s tree in the Fergie incident,? the resulting quake will be read on the Richter scale up in San Francisco.

On the plus side, it does smell super piney–always a good thing when you’re trying to mask the not so fresh “my dog peed on the carpet while I was in Chicago for Thanksgiving” odor.? Especially? when you just? hosted Bunco at your house.? And regrettably, the theme? was “holiday pajama party”, not “boarding kennel brouhaha”, so eau de doggy bladder would most likely not have been a big hit.

But the biggest problem? I’m having with the giant? Christmas tree?? Well, I can’t think of anything that rhymes with “ginormous”.? See, I tend to make up little ditties all the time in my head, and this one, if you’ll pardon the pun, is stumping me.?

So pretty please–if you can come up with a second line for “Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, why are you so gi-normous?”—my brain would be eternally grateful.

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Wii Wii Wii all the way home

Posted by houndrat on Sunday Nov 30, 2008 Under babies, family life, health, mommies, Uncategorized

Oh yeah.? There’s nothing like a baby on a time change to? put a little extra spring? in your step.? Or a little? extra baggage? under your eyes.? No, really–I enjoy waking up at 4:45 in the morning.? Almost as much as I enjoy cutting hound dog toenails.? It just hacks me off a? teensy weensy? bit that she goes back to sleep instantly, whereas I toss and turn, beat my pillow, and check the clock every five minutes in? some? sort of psychotic, sleep-deprived, delirium-induced ritual.? Hopefully this is not indicative of what to expect for the upcoming month.? Because there’s nothing worse than? a grumpy Santa.? Bah humbug, already.

So, I just had a birthday the day after Thanksgiving.? Which was actually quite nice, once we got past? the baby plane vomiting incident.? And no,? I did not turn 45, regardless of what the stinkin’ Wii fit says.? That has got to be the most masochistic birthday present ever.? I mean, I did ask for one, which demonstrates that? I’m obviously a glutton for punishment.? But seriously, to add 7 years to my actual age just because I can’t stand on one leg and balance without my foot looking like it’s having a seizure?? Totally unfair.? It’s not like the darn thing can actually see my wrinkles.? Or can it?? CAN IT?? And I fail to see what’s wrong with missing a measly eight gates on the downhill slalom game.? I mean, if they were all that important, they should really think about putting them closer together.? Like in a straight line.

I don’t know about you, but so far, I’m finding 38 to be a bit of an awkward age.? It’s too old for mini-skirts, yet too young for a mid-life crisis.? Maybe I could combine the two and have a mini? crisis.? Which is in the works if that baby keeps waking me up butt early.? How can I be expected to assume crazy? balancing poses? when I can barely keep my eyes open?? On second thought, maybe I should try closing them the next time I slalom–it could only be an improvement.

I guess I’ll give? the Wii fit another chance–’tis the season, after all.? But seriously–if I see “Wow, your wrinkles look way more pronounced this morning–Add five more years to your Wii age,” up on the screen, I’m getting out the jackhammer.

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Back to the blog with a little Thanksgiving gag

Posted by houndrat on Saturday Nov 29, 2008 Under babies, dogs, family life, Uncategorized

Um, yeah.? It really has been that long since I’ve blogged.? I guess that makes me either the laziest person on the entire planet, or somebody who seriously needs to think? about off-loading a few of? her dogs.? Or kids.? Possibly both.? In fact, would you be interested in borrowing some?? Just for a short time–say, six months?? A year, tops.? Fergie promises to be good.

But I’m back.? At least for now.? ? See,? I’ve been trying to keep up with the writing gigs that actually contribute towards my monthly mortgage payments, rather than just gleefully ranting away on here for free.? Okay, so? maybe my funded articles really only contribute towards a few outings to Target.? And rather? minor ones at that.? But given my dollar bin addiction, it’s probably a worthwhile endeavor to continue.? Even if I do sometimes get to write about less than scintillating topics. (Don’t ask.)

So, on to more crucial stuff.? For starters, can I just say–what is up with Meaningful Beauty?? I mean, have you people read the commentage coming in about that? rotting? honeydew excrement? masquerading as face cream?? No?? Well, all I can say is–if you see Cindy? Crawford walking down? the street, peg her with a melon, then run like hell.

Speaking of melons, Thanksgiving was great.? Not that we ate melon. or even anything remotely resembling melons, come to think of it.? Unless sweet potatoes count.? Although they’re not all that melon-esque.? But we did go to Chicago, kids in tow. Because everyone knows what a hoot it is to take a four hour plane trip with a 13 month-old and 4 yr-old.? We just kicked back, watched the in-flight movie, read a little, had a beer, and slept.? Well, maybe in a parallel universe somewhere that happened.? Just not in our world.? Actually, the kids were troopers. Provided, of course, that we entertained them for virtually every second of the plane rides.? And there was that one baby barfing incident involving parmesan peppercorn cheese spread.? But we don’t need to sweat the small details.? At least? no melons were upchucked.? All in all, it was a nice visit.? I mean, who cares that our house smelled like an? immense urinal once we came home?? Just chalk it up to? the joys of dogs on prednisone.?

As for what I’m thankful for this year?? Oh, the usual stuff.? Like family, good friends, and a (fully mortgaged) roof over our heads.? And the fact my husband was the one holding the baby during the above-mentioned? plane hurling? episode.? What can I say?? Sometimes, it’s those little? things we cherish the most.

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