Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Little Walking a Lot of Researching - Newark Earthworks

Lately, I'm all about walking. Instead of counting how many words I'm writing, I've been counting how many steps I've taken. Well, I let my Jawbone UP 24 count for me, but I'm all up in the UP app watching my percentage and driving my family nuts. "Only at 54%, let's go for a walk!"

They recommend (whoever "they" are) that you get 10,000 steps a day. That used to sound like crazy talk. On days I work at home, I'm lucky to get 600 steps and I tend to work at home a lot. My friends and I jumped on the fitness band bandwagon only a couple months before my dreaded day job (a giant corporation) thought it would be fun to do a challenge. Something like 100,000 employees are participating all over the world and now I'm being challenged to make 8-10k steps every day for the next 12 weeks.

Holy crap...

Writers are sedentary. Most writing occurs at a desk, or somewhere seated with a laptop. To get 10,000 steps, I've had to actively make a point of going for a walk. I can't walk 10k with my normal routine, this is a change of lifestyle.

So I've tried to think of ways to make it fun. My pre-teen Drama Queen walks with me, we listen to music, we talk, and we people/place watch. Our newest thing is taking pictures of things we see on our walk. For example, a few streets over we discovered goats.

Seriously, who has goats in the city? But this will make for a fun story someday. The answer to that question "Where do you get your ideas?" is "Everywhere around us." But I digress. 

My favorite walk so far was visiting the Newark Earthworks. I took DQ and her BFF with me and we walked the entire inside of the Great Circle. 
Here's some info from the
  • Great Circle Earthworks: Formerly known as Moundbuilders State Memorial, the Great Circle Earthworks is nearly 1,200 feet in diameter and was likely used as a vast ceremonial center by its builders. The 8 feet (2.4 m) high walls surround a 5 feet (1.5 m) deep moat, except at the entrance where the dimensions are even greater and more impressive. 
It was much more impressive than I remember as a child. I drive past it every day and from the outside, it looks much smaller. What you don't know until you're inside is that there's a 5' moat directly on the other side of the mound. When we visited, the inside of the mound was overgrown and this photo doesn't give it justice, but if you were to step closer to the edge, you'd see the moat dipping down below. 

The circumference of the Circle Mound was shocking. Again, from the outside, it doesn't look dramatic. Inside, it goes on forever. DQ and BFF were on the mounds in the middle and all I saw were specks, like little bugs. Those slight mounds in the photo below are located directly in the middle of the massive Earthworks Circle. 

I pulled out my phone and proceeded to make notes about what I saw, what I felt, what I heard. I've known for a long time my characters will need to visit this place, and maybe defend it against the bad guys. My mind churned with ideas and later that night I wrote down my thoughts and even a couple scenes. The Earthworks is mind-blowing and I want to make sure those sensations I felt when I visited make it to the page. I want my characters to feel the power of this ancient place, and I want my readers so immersed they feel it too. 

I'm thankful that I live in an area rich in Native American history and that I'm able to visit these places and have these experiences. I hope I can do them justice in my stories. 

Stay tuned... the next location we're visiting is the Blackhand Gorge nature preserve!  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: Fragile Line

Fragile Line
Fragile Line by Brooklyn Skye

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Phew! This book was a serious emotional roller coaster and I loved it from the first page! I was sucked in by the sample and I had to run back to Amazon to download the rest of the book. Brooklyn Skye knows how to write deep characters that leap off the page. I had my doubts on how this would turn out and half expected it to be hokey but the author delivered. It was genuine, it cut to the heart, and I laughed and cried with the characters and I felt like I was there with them every moment. This is a story that's going to stick with me and haunt my thoughts for some time. Excellent!!!

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Initially, I was interested in reading this book as the story I'm writing is about Native Americans and I wanted to see what's out there for YA/Middle Graders. This was a great read, and I'm not surprised at all the good reviews and awards it has received.

I was a bit shocked at first - it does deal with some really serious issues! The main character, Junior, is a 14 year old boy living on an Indian reservation, and in great poverty. But this story is about hope... Junior's hope that there's a better life "out there", where the white people are. Junior deals with racism, bullying, alcoholism, and death. When he decides to make a change to his life, he's ostracized from his tribe, and ignored by the white people. He cries - A LOT - but he's such a strong character, you can't help but root for him. The artwork was a perfect addition.

I totally loved it. :)

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Monday, March 31, 2014

3/31 Goal Check-in

Update time! Today is the last day of March and I have these goals to meet:

  • Write 3 chapters (Ch 16 - 18) - NEARLY DONE!
  • Complete 1 drawing - IN PROCESS

What did you do last week to work towards your goals? How do you feel about your progress? 

It was an off week for me. Last Wednesday was 10 years since my mother passed away, and an ill family member passed away on the same day. It was a difficult day for my family, that's for sure. 

I've been struggling to write at home. I carry my iPad around the house. I look at the docs on my iPhone and think about writing. I sit at my Mac and stare at my manuscript (yes I love Apple products!), but I just can't seem to make the words come. 

I've always had better luck writing outside of the house. Yesterday I took Drama Queen (my 12-year-old daughter) and her friends to the mall and after a bit of shopping, I sat in the food court and wrote about 700 words. What an amazing feeling after this week of big fat zeros! 

Any changes you'll be making this week? What are you excited to work on this week? 

I am SO excited that March is nearly gone. When April comes I feel like I can breathe again, like it's a new year for me. And I am ecstatic to see what this year brings me. 

Today I started a scene that I've been looking forward to writing for months! My MC visits his grandma, who is a hoarder. This little old lady has a TON of knowledge. There's plenty of opportunity for subtext, for pointing out objects in her home that I can use later, and for setting the tone for the second half of my book. Because I just hit the midpoint! Yeah! :) 

April 2014 Goals

We are into the 2nd month of the YA Buccaneers Spring BootCamp challenge, and here are my goals! 
  • Write 5 chapters (Ch 19 - 23), or 1 chapter a week
  • Edit first 2,000 words
  • Complete 1 drawing

Did you meet your goals in March? What can you do better in April? Me, I'm going to try to write more away from home! 

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