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Writing a novel set in early 1900 San Francisco? This rare vintage video was shot with a  35mm camera bolted to the front of a trolley car as it traveled down Market Street  in 1905. What makes this even more exceptional is the fact that it was captured before the earthquake/fire of 1906 destroyed the area. Remarkable footage of the turn of the century lifestyles in California.

Cool digital background music somehow fits!

Does anyone else find this terribly disturbing? I’ve been reading about the trend for libraries to digitize themselves but this is unbelievable!

 “The headmaster of a central Massachusetts school that eliminated most of the books in its library says the move has worked well, turning the the library into a magnet for students and faculty. The school whittled the library’s stacks from 20,000 to 8,000 books, Tracy said in an interview today. Only about 1,000 books will remain after the two-year transition is completed by the end of this summer. The bookshelves that were exchanged for learning areas have created “exciting” social learning spaces for a generation that is “very much about networking,” Tracy added. Stanford University is also moving toward the creation of its first “bookless library.”   
Why throw ALL of the books out? Why can’t we blend what they are calling old and outdate (that would be the books!) with the new digital technology? It makes no sense that libraries are doing this without thinking of the consequences. If the power goes out or the Kindle breaks down, you can still read a book. You can drop a book and still read it. You can spill coffee on it and still read through the stain.

Digitizing the entire library makes books completely inaccessible for those who do not own computers or … perish the thought… simply want to check out a book to take home.

I’m not a Luddite. I love a lot of things about new technology, but I think there’s room for a different vision than this barren wasteland that has none of the smell or feel of a library.  This is truly the sad sheep of a tragedy dressed in digital wolves clothing.

Spring kittens

 There’s a barn cat who’s been roaming around our property for several months. She’s black and white with a broken tail permanently bent at a 90 degree angle. We never saw much of her, except to scurry in and out of bushes or grab a bite of food off the porch.

Today she showed up in our pool area with four kittens. I was so surprised, but I don’t know why should I be. Feral cats breed like rabbits. They’re the first kittens of the spring season and so it was a great start to the day and she was so considerate to bring them to where I can see them playing outside my bedroom window.

I love having feral cats around, although I’ve lost count of all that have come and gone over the past twenty years. They wander through our two acre semi-wildlife habitat as though we are part of some feline migration route.

Now at this point in my blog, if I were Cat over at Words from the Woods I would be metaphorically tying yarn around these feral cats to brilliantly illustrate some aspect of writing. Cat is the Metaphor Queen. If you don’t believe me, check out her Plot Bunnies.

From my Writer’s Toolbox: Here’s a good resource to keep you from ‘stepping in it’ literally when it comes to slang and the new urban language. For instance, I want to use the word ‘wuss’ in a children’s book and I need to know if it has any off color overtones that would be inappropriate for my young readers. I’m not ‘up’ on my slang or ‘tween language. (Who is?) and many words these days are used differently than when I was…um…younger. With the  Urban Dictionary I’ll know what to use and what to avoid, especially since I am writing for the YA and children’s market.

I checked ‘wuss’. It means: A person who is physically weak and ineffectual. Often a male person with low courage factor, as in “Tobias, you’re such a WUSS!”  So it means what I thought it did and it seems safe to use for my middle-grade fantasy.

Be forewarned though. The Urban Dictionary is not for wusses. Anyone apparently can add a new word, or define a word and it contains a lot of sexually explicit verbage. What it will give you is very current, up to the minute social connotations for any word you enter in the seach bar. There’s close to 5 million definitions and the Word of the Day section is updated daily with words and phrases you’d be hard-pressed to find all in such a convenient location.

Here’s some examples of the ‘cleaner’ entries:

Fax potato: A person who faxes from one floor to another instead of getting up and running the information because they’re too lazy to get out of their chair.
Protohype: The process of leaking a prototype device to generate buzz about a product you don’t quite yet have ready for market to a friendly tech website who will promote the gizmo well before it’s ready to go.
Tree-book: A book printed on dead trees, i.e. paper, as opposed to an e-book, which only exists electronically. Compare with snail mail.
Pi Time: The time of the day where a digital clock reads 3:14.
Child supervision: When an older person, especially a parent, needs a tech-savvy kid to help him/her with computers or other electronic devices. 

Do you write for middle grade or young adults?  How do stay current with their language and their world?

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Victory laps!

The cats are doing victory laps! A major breakthrough in the final chapters of the book. Approved by my toughest critique!

Should I let Algernon die, or let him suffer at the whims of his evil brother?

Even cats have trouble with the blank page.

Here’s what I’ve learned about writing in the last three years. When everyone else is:

  1. watching TV, I am probably writing.
  2. sleeping, I am usually writing and editing.
  3. on FaceBook, I’m…ooops…gotta get back to writing.
  4. blogging, I am writing, wishing I had more time to blog.
  5. shopping, I am revising a chapter.
  6. texting and tweeting, I am talking to my MC.
  7. eating, I am eating but it’s at my computer so I can catch up on email, blogs and news.
  8. reading, well,  I might be reading.
  9. showering, I am showering, but usually in writing mode with no way to write down the brilliant idea that came to me.
  10. working out, I am exercising my brain wishing it would burn 300 calories an hour.
  11. cutting the grass, I am letting the grass grow to revise another chapter, or paragraph, or sentence.
  12. cooking, I am throwing something in the crockpot to go revise another chapter, or paragraph, or sentence.

You gotta love writing to be this crazy!

How do you imagine the settings in your book? This is one of my weak spots, especially since one of my settings is in a place I’ve only visited in my imagination. Much as I would prefer to travel and do ‘on location’ research, I’m not at liberty to pack up and fly to London at the moment.

I thought a few images would help round out my descriptions and make them more realistic, so I went to Google maps to search ‘London, secondhand bookshops’. I clicked on ‘street view’ and explored further. Now I’ve played around with Google maps before, but no where quite as interesting as the back streets of London.

I roamed around for, well…way too long…and got lost trying to find my way back to one particular bookshop. I turned corners, zoomed in and out, all without the hassles of getting a ticket because I was on the wrong side of the street.

I swear I felt like I was actually there and could practically enter the shops. I ended up with plenty of visuals that helped me add just the right descriptive touches I was looking for. 

Pretty cool, I thought and I wanted to share with you. Have any of  you ever used Google street view to help bring your story’s setting to life?

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