Tuesday, March 31, 2009

When life threatens you, go protean.

I'm feeling really random today, so I thought I'd share a lovely life example from the animal kingdom:
Figure 1. Isn't this picture cute? Aww, that sweet little bear is waving to us!
That bear is threatening or counter-threatening. This is a behavior biologists like to call a Protean Display. Many animals (I'll say mammals because I know them best) judge a threat by its height rather than width. If it's taller than you, you'll likely not want to tangle.
So when a mammal, in this case a bear, feels threatened, it often will stand, assess the threat, and if worth it, will charge (or mock-charge, running past the threat aggressively). And it works both ways--if a brown/grizzly bear or a mountain lion ever charges you, stand as tall as you can, raise your arms even to make yourself taller and make noise. DO NOT RUN AWAY! Stand tall.
Figure 2. This praying mantis is also not being cute and funny. Its feeling threatened and standing tall.

The point of my randomness: I think we're all feeling threatened a little by the current state of the _________ (insert here either economy/life/state of the world/etc.) and could use some sage advice from the "lesser" creatures. And they say stand tall, my friends, stand tall... go protean.

'Nuff said.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Free Three

My "Frees" came in Threes today:

1. I love it when I'm in a dead sleep and hear the words, "I need a bowl!" Yep, that was me last night. My husband and I ran, raced each other to the cupboard, got to the bed only to find out that what the child meant was that she needed a bowl several minutes ago. And the pool of yuk has now spread to the floor as well as the mattress, covers, and blankets. And I'm standing in it. Barefoot. In the dark.

Yep, that was me last night.

So all my appointments are canceled for the day and I have the day FREE to clean up for company and to write. WRITE! YAY! I love it when I'm on fire with the desire to do that.

...And it's awesome being a mom!

2. Shannon Hale is giving away FREE ARCs of her next book. But please don't go and check it out because then it decreases MY chances of winning. Just kidding, I never win anything anyway so it might as well be one of you. :)

3. How did I NOT know that John Mayer did a cover of one of my favorite songs?!

Tom Petty... there just aren't many artists like him anymore....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Give Me Liberty (or Give Me Death)!

Last week I took a hiatus from life in general. Instead, I hung out with these three: the impatient fisherman, the ever-hopeful net holder, and the rock thrower. It was just what I needed to gain a better perspective because the trip caught many snags along the way (excuse the pun). And the smiling faces that have their backs to you ended up being the only highlight of the week.

All month I've tried to come up with a reason why my latest writing sucks... and why I can't sit down and belt out 1500+ words a day like I want. I know there have been many reasons, but one biggie is I've lost confidence in myself. I haven't allowed my brain to create ROUGH drafts, to write for myself, or to make mistakes. Really at this point my writing is only for me--I might as well face that and enjoy the ride.

I've had my nose in the air for too long, hopeful the scent of publication was nearing. It's not important right now, I've decided this week. All that matters is writing the next books, because they are what is bringing me happiness. The actual pure writing. And this week has taught me to live in the moment and appreciate simple joys and pleasures.

So here's the new me! Motivated! Energized! Upbeat! And I can't tell you how excited I am about my super secret new ideas... Okay, so I probably can since I'm horrible about keeping secrets...

1. A sequel to Courtesy and Patience. It will be mad-cap! It will have spies! And airplanes and proper British girls Patty is sure to want to knock flat on their frocked bums.

2. The Lithuanian folktale. My husband read the first part and says it feels very folkish, E European, and is reminiscent of Shannon Hale's Goose Girl beginnings. Except it's very flawed. Which is a good thing--since it's only for me right now and I think this will be one of those books that takes a looonnng time to get it just right.

3. A YA contemporary comedy. About a girl with a Beatles' obsessed dad. That's all I'm gonna say about that one because it's not ready for disclosure.

4. A YA Historical Fiction. There will be grave robbing, primitive surgical techniques, a little romance, a hanging, and a cure for an epidemic plague. Oh, I've talked about this one before? Sorry... still researching it. There's a lot to learn on this'un.

5. The Cierra and Sands of Tyne rewrite. (I call it The Lost Bloodstone, though I'm sure the title will change.) This book IS in the works, though for my eyes only. It's kind of like a steampunk/fantasy Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But not really. More like... Well, IJ is the closest thing I can think of like it, I guess.

There are other stories that won't leave me alone right now too, but this lists the ones in the forefront at various stages. (I also have one about a girl and a teen pregnancy that won't leave me alone, so we'll see if she surfaces soon.)

Hopefully telling you this won't damper my exuberance. I don't think it will. And the truth is I needed to get it out so that you know I'm not giving up. I've got goals, baby! And I know you, my friends, will help kick me in the butt.

So bring on the steel toes!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Species of concern #1: The Greater Sage-grouse

I've been really nostaligic about my "old life" as a wildlife biologist lately and decided that I need to relive some of those moments that meant so much to me.

One of the first projects I ever worked on was as undergrad help studying Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). Then, when I was a Sensitive Species Biologist for the state (of Utah), I would spend early mornings assessing lek visitation. It was always about this time of year (hence my nostaligia, possibly).

This bird, like many of the ones I care about, is a species of concern because of dwindling numbers due to various reasons. But it's the behavior that has likely caught your attention by the video. (I had to pirate a YouTube video because I can't find mine.) The males display for females in open areas between sagebrush. The display consists of filling the skin pouches beneath their necks with air and creating a booming noise. The jumping, the booming, the pouches, the defending a small circle around themselves--it all comes down to finding a mate. And the closer the male is to the center of the open area (i.e. the lek), the better his chances at copulating with a female or a few females.

Makes you wonder if we aren't picky enough about our mates. Or at least what hoops we should make them jump through to win us over, doesn't it? :)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Last Lecture #1

Here is our first submission for The Last Lecture Project. Remember, everyone is entitled to say whatever they want and I have no wish to change their words. I reserve that right only if it's unsanitary (hey, it's my blog). A little about this person: they are neither old nor ill. Way to have your life figured out well before this point, submitter!


1. What is the one accomplishment or event you are most proud of in your life?
I am soooo glad I can still say that I am active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love being a Mormon. I know I would not have met my husband or be raising my children the same way with out it. I would not be the person I am today without my faith in Jesus Christ.

2. What was the most amazing thing you have seen happen in your lifetime so far?
Without a doubt giving birth to each one of my babies and watching them grow and develop is the most amazing thing I have seen happen in my lifetime. I still look at their little chubby hands and feet and feel so grateful for life and all that it entails. It truly amazes me that something so complete and so perfect can come from inside me. I think the process of life is an amazing miracle!

3. What is a piece of advice you wish someone would have given you early on in your life?
I really wish someone would have convinced me to save money when I first got married by investing in a R.V. or motorhome to live in so that I wouldn't have wasted all that money on rent. I know it sounds weird, but I really could have had a lot more fun adventures with my husband if we would have done so.

4. What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your parents or guardians?
To LOVE my kids. To me that means to support them in all their dreams, interests and goals. It means to teach them right from wrong, and all that has been learned from one's own experiences.

5. Who were your childhood heroes?
All the elite and Olympic gymnasts and beauty queens. AND JESUS CHRIST!

6. What has made you happiest in your life?
My happiness comes from the simplest perfect moments, like being in a park for a picnic with my family and seeing a brilliant blue butterfly flitter by. Or hearing my son say something so hilarious that my eyes start to leak (as he says).

7. If there’s one thing you could say to your great-great-great grandchildren, what would it be? All you need is LOVE!!!

8. What is something you want people to remember about you?
To HUG and pass it on!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Times for genius

I'm really going to try and stay off the blogsphere today and get some important things done, so I'll just leave you with this great quote my friend gave me:

"These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life... that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues." ~ Abigail Adams (David McCullough, John Adams, Simon & Schuster, 226.)

I think it says all that I was trying to say last week and summarizes my thoughts since. Carpe diem!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"It belongs in a museum!"

One thing I've learned about writing is that it takes courage--courage to put yourself "out" there and courage to write the words that come to you. And courage to learn when to let a book go, to realize it isn't ready to be published and needs to be filed away. Just like the Ark in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, sometimes a book has to sit in a box and languish indefinitely.

And I've finally found the courage to admit this about Cierra and the Sands of Tyne. The book has died. It's gone. Filed. Vanished from my sight. Officially called my Practice Novel and the Learning Curve.

Now, that's hard for me to admit because I was so attached to it--I had sequels planned, I slaved over the thing for around three years, and thought the world of the characters. But it had to happen.

And here's why:

Because out of its ashes has bloomed the story I really wanted to tell; the story with the same characters, the same world, but free of influence from any other YA book out there (including schools, dragons, and what-have-you). CSOT has ended up more backstory and I chose a different character for the new story's POV. It still has series potential but it feels like a smoother, more action-packed story (at least to me). And speaking of Indiana Jones, I suppose that's the only story it's similar to--there are orphans looking for a stone--though that wasn't intentional. Here's the first page that is slowly coming together (same disclaimer of rough writing as always):

Saige Silverswell stepped to the edge of the cliff and looked down. At the bottom of the ravine the mining village folded in between the silent sentinels of granite-covered mountain. The blackness of the rock made the country seem brooding and the chill in the air from a late spring didn’t help. Patches of snow sank deep into the rocky scree like morsels between the teeth of some great beast.

Saige shivered.

“And you are sure they’ll be expecting visitors?”

His father shrugged, his intense grey eyes not leaving the straw-roofed huts of the village.

“It does look a little quiet, but last year the chieftain said to come back in the spring when the Master Delver would be back and willing to barter the Emerald stone.”

“The Ironfisted Emerald,” breathed Saige. “And you really want to turn around and sell it? Not add it to your own horde?”

Coleson Silverswell laughed and tousled his son’s hair, though he had to reach up to do it. “Gemhunters are not in the business of keeping their stones, they’re in the business of making a profit off them.”

“Yes, but it’s such a rare stone….”

At sixteen, Saige felt proud that his father was beginning to make him a partner in the gem trade, but being new to the business, every sell still felt like losing a friend and every gain the return of a lost relative.


The writing isn't getting the attention it needs right now (because of the folktale project), but Saige is always there, in the back of my mind, just waiting for his chance to get on paper. As time goes on, we'll see what his book also mutates into and if it will get shelved as well. Today I'm just glad I've found the courage to admit its predecessor is done.

Farewell, Cierra's little book, farewell.