Tuesday, September 30, 2008

writing advice from a fisherman

The other day, Brenda posted some great writing quotes on her blog and asked, "Do you have a quote or passage that helps you when you need that little push? I would love to hear it/them, so please share."

Ever since she asked the question, the quote I've had in my head is not about writing. It's a quote from a crab fisherman.

"Shut up and Fish!" - Sig Hansen, captain of the Northwestern, as seen on The Deadliest Catch

"Shut up and Fish," is really just a different way of saying, "Butt In Chair," a saying which every writer knows. It's just a lot more fun to think of Sig saying it, and besides, if those guys can go out fishing in below zero weather, in the middle of a storm, then I can get my butt in my chair and write or make art. My new mottos are:

"Shut up and Write!" or "Shut up and Draw!" or both.

Thanks Sig.

Monday, September 29, 2008

please give me my penny

Pondering Pennies
Why is it that cashiers no longer think it’s necessary to give you your change if it’s only a penny? This has happened to me several times lately (way too many times, if you ask me). The cashier is always upset that I want my penny, and that I am willing to stand there, while they check out someone else, in order to get the money that is rightfully mine.

The cashier today thought it was funny that she forgot to give me my penny, then was annoyed when I wanted it back. I had to wait (a long time) to get my change because the next person in line had a big order. While checking them out, she asked everyone that walked by if they happened to have a penny she could give me and she’d pay them back. She wasn’t willing to admit she was wrong for keeping my change, but she sure didn’t want management to notice me standing there waiting for change that she didn’t give me. (Nobody had a penny; I waited.)

Now I know that pennies aren’t worth much (roughly a penny on most days), but if cashiers don’t give penny change to every customer, that money adds up for the business AND for the customer. A penny may only be a penny, but if this happens 100 times, then it’s a dollar. If it keeps happening, those pennies and dollars can add up to a lot of money.

Even if I don’t lose hundreds of pennies in the long run, it’s still MY money, and I should be able to decide if I want to pay more for things or keep my pennies to help purchase something else.

Are people taking your pennies too? Do you ask them for your change if they don’t give it to you?


Book Pick: A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Charlotte Miller must find a way to save her family’s woolen mill, as well as the livelihood of the townspeople that work there. This book is an amazing re-imagining of Rumpelstiltskin, that adds twists and turns and depth to the original tale, along with a strong and sympathetic heroine who is much more than just the miller’s daughter.


It’s not too late to stop the House from passing the Orphan Works Bill/H.R. 5889
To email your House Representative (takes about 1 minute), go here.
Or call your House Representative and ask them to vote NO on HR 5889/ The Orphan Works Bill. Find their contact info here.
For more info about the Orphan Works Bill, go here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Help! Please send an email if you can.

Hi all,

The Senate passed the Orphan Works bill yesterday when everyone was concentrating on the financial crisis. I'm really discouraged today. I can't believe the Senate passed this bill, especially not in this way, while everyone is focused on something else.

If you can help out and send an email this weekend, that would be great. There's an easy form to send the email here:

Congress is working this weekend, so please don't wait to send this email. (DH and I both sent emails last night.)

If you want more details, I've pasted them in below.

Thanks so much for your help!!!!

Details here:
Orphan Works Opposition: Plan B
SEPT 27 Yesterday, in a cynical move, the sponsors of the Senate Orphan Works Act passed their controversial bill by a controversial practice known as hotlining.

With lawmakers scrambling to raise 700 billion dollars to bail out businesses that are “too big to fail,” the Senate passed a bill that would force small copyright holders to subsidize big internet interests such as Google, which has already said it plans to use millions of the images this bill will orphan.

With the meltdown on Wall Street, this is no time for Congress to concentrate our nation’s copyright wealth in the hands of a few privately owned corporate databases. The contents of these databases would be more valuable than secure banking information. Yet this bill would compel creators to risk their own intellectual property to supply content to these corporate business models. That means it would be our assets at risk in the event of their failure or mismanagement.

As David Rhodes, President of the School of Visual Arts has said, the Orphan Works bill would socialize the expense of copyright protection while privatizing the profit of creative endeavors. Copyright owners neither want nor need this legislation. It will do great harm to small businesses. We already have a banking crisis. Congress should not lay the groundwork for a copyright crisis.

– Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner, for the Illustrators’ Partnership


We MUST try to stop the House Judiciary Committee from folding their bill (HR5889) and adopting the Senate version.

If you’ve done it before, do it again!

It takes only a minute to use our new special letter.
Click on the link below, enter your zip code, and take the next steps.
Thanks to all of you who heeded the call to action yesterday.

Over 70 organizations oppose this bill, representing over half a million creators.

Illustrators, photographers, fine artists, songwriters, musicians, and countless licensing firms all believe this bill will harm their small businesses. The Illustrators Partnership Capwiz site is open to professional creators and any member of the image-making public.


For ongoing developments, go to the Illustrators' Partnership Orphan Works blog:

Over 70 organizations oppose this bill, representing over half a million creators. Illustrators, photographers, fine artists, songwriters, musicians, and countless licensing firms all believe this bill will harm their small businesses.

The Capwiz site is open to professional creators and any member of the image-making public. International artists will find a special link, with a sample letter and instructions as to whom to write.

If you received our mail as a forwarded message, and wish to be added to our mailing list, email us at: Place "Add Name" in the subject line, and provide your name and the email address you want used in the message area.

Please post or forward this email to any interested party.

Friday, September 26, 2008

yellow = happy

Yellow is a happy color. Yellow brightens up the day with thoughts of sunshine and sunflowers, sand at the beach and bananas from tropical places.

Today is a rainy day. Today is also laundry day, and tomorrow we get to take the Remus kitty to the vet (in the rain). He’s usually a happy, playful kitty, but not at the vet’s office.

Cute Remus vs. Angry Remus
(disclaimer: he’s not actually angry in the second picture, he’s yawning)

So today I am thinking about all things yellow, like butter and honey and fire and lemon drops. I’ll be thinking of them tomorrow too.

Wishing you a happy yellow day and a happy yellow weekend too!

Book Pick: Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot
Katie Ellison is not a liar, even though she’s dating two guys and participating in a town festival honoring things that she doesn’t support. Plus, her old friend Tommy Sullivan is back in town, and he could complicate everything. This book is so much fun, especially good for improving a rainy day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

birthday memories

Why I’m thinking about birthdays when it’s not my birthday?: This year I started a company to license my artwork (one2moo). I had a booth at SURTEX (a trade show for surface and textile design), and I also shared a booth at The Licensing Show. People talked to me about my art and made comments about what they liked and what worked (or didn’t). One thing I learned is that I need to have more birthday art, so I've been working on ideas.

When you think of celebrating birthdays, what images come to mind? I’m trying to think of everything so I have lots of fun things to draw. For instance, everyone thinks of birthday cake, but there are lots of variations that I could draw: whole cake, piece of cake, cupcake, 3 tier cake, etc. (BTW, the picture is my actual birthday cake from last year, the top tier was about the size of a cupcake.)

Writing Exercise: What is your favorite birthday memory when you were little? How about when you were a teen?

When I was little, we used to make caramel apples almost every year close to my birthday. This was before the caramel wraps and the caramel dips, back when you used to have to unwrap all of the caramels individually and put them in a pot to melt them before you dipped in your apples. After the apples were dipped and cooled, Yum!

When I turned nineteen, I went to a U2 concert, which was awesome. I loved seeing them live, but the best part was at the end of the concert. The crowd kept singing the last song (“40”) long after the band left the stage, and continued to sing it, out of the stadium and into the parking ramp. When we opened the car windows, we could still hear people singing on the way home. Can you imagine something you created inspiring people like that? Coolest thing ever.

Book Pick: Devilish by Maureen Johnson
Jane tries to save her friend Allison from a deal she made with the devil, that transformed her from awkward to amazing overnight. There are lots of twists and turns as good battled evil for the souls of Jane’s best friend and the girls at her prep school. This book is as delicious as the cupcake on the front cover!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

word guessing

What’s your favorite word game? Mine is hangman. All you need is pen and paper, and someone to play with.

The best part of hangman is that it’s a completely different game depending on who you play with. People can pick easy or hard words, or phrases, or even make it like hangman charades (with categories, like movies, TV shows, books, etc.). Your opponent can also change the number of guesses you have before your man is hanged. Some people are bare bones hangers, and others will let you add ears, hair, face, hands and feet.

I was at a party one time, and a couple of people wanted to play hangman (not your usual party game). I like to play hangman, so I said yes. I got to pick the first word; it had seven letters. The other two people I was playing with could not guess the word. I even gave them extra guesses. I even gave them clues.

Me: It’s something that’s here tonight.

Them: people?

Me: No, You already picked ‘P’ and ‘E.’ (Point to letters that got them almost hanged.)

Them: Shaking heads and looking confuzzled.

Me: It’s something you’re drinking.

Them: Beer?

Needless to say, they never got the word (alcohol) and didn’t want to play any more rounds.

For a fun online Halloween hangman game, click here.

What’s your favorite word game?

Book Pick: A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
Helen has been a ghost for 130 years and the living have never seen her, until now. She is afraid of the boy that can see her, at first, then falls in love with the ghost that has possessed his body. A haunting and literary ghost story with a different take on what happens after you die, or when you are alive, but have given up hope.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

dark vs. funny characters

Ponderings on dark vs. light in heroes and villains (that could be applied to most fictional characters and some real people).

Gossip Girls was good last night, but Heroes was made of awesome. It looks like there are lots of twists and turns coming up for both shows. After watching Heroes, the conversation dawn_metcalf and I had about slapstick superheroes came to mind. (I’ve been thinking and blogging a lot about superheroes lately because there are superheroes in my WIP.)

I love dark heroes and flawed characters, but I tend to write lighter, funny stories (with flawed characters). In college, I even painted “happy little dead people,” as one of my classmates called them. Funny books/characters are great, but I’m drawn to dark and brooding. I don’t know what it says about me that I’m drawn to one but can only create the other.

Where there are heroes, there must be villains. A good villain must have some sort of redeeming human quality for the reader to identify with, otherwise he will end up feeling flat rather than 3D. Do your favorite villains have traits that make you sympathize with them?

Heroes and heroines, especially the old comic superheroes, must have a dark side too. Sure, they help people, but they have their demons. I can’t think of a hero character that’s all happy-go-lucky or funny, except maybe The Flash from the animated Justice League (on Cartoon Network). Even though he joked around a lot, there was a whiny quality that made him seem human, and a bit childish. Does your favorite hero or heroine have a dark side or a funny side? Is that why you like them?

All characters need a good balance of light and dark. Lately in books, movies and TV, it seems like the dark side is winning, even in the good characters. Is this a sign of the times we’re going through, or just a current trend that cycles through every few years?

What kind of heroes (super or otherwise) do you like best? Are you drawn to the dark or funny in stories and characters, or a mix? Is what you like to read the same kind of character/story you write?

Book Picks: Flight Anthologies volumes 1-5, edited by Kazu Kibuishi and Flight Explorer Anthology – a version for kids! These books offer a variety of excellent comics. If you’re looking for a way to get started reading graphic novels, or if you already love graphic novels and comics, then these are for you. It’s really fun to see what the different contributors come up with, and some of them have comics in more than one volume. Read and enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2008

fiction, it’s all in my head

Do you write in your head? Or do you only write on paper?

There are people that say that you’re not writing unless it’s down on paper, but I think that writing in your head (a.k.a. daydreaming) can count as writing if you are actively working on a story. For me, there’s a time for writing on paper (or typing on the computer), but before that, there’s a time for letting an idea simmer.

In the beginning, writing things down on paper can be discouraging for me. It’s not just a rough draft, it’s a big dose of horrible. When I get a story idea, I might write down general thoughts, or even a character description or dialog, but most of the heavy work is pondered out in my head before I can start writing. Does anyone else do this?

For instance, in my current WIP, I know the general idea/premise for the book, and who the villains are (remember the Steves?), and I thought I had the beginning figured out. I wanted to start writing, I really did, but something just didn’t feel right. I let it percolate in my head for another day, and I figured out that the beginning scene is actually the last scene in my book; I was starting at the wrong part of my character’s story. Or maybe this is just the prequel to the story I was originally thinking of.

The next day I started writing it (finally!), and it was awful, as any rough first draft should be. However, by starting to write the first scene, I was able to work on it a little more in my head while I was sleeping, and now I have a much better opening (same scene, much better writing, showing instead of telling, more emotion, etc).

The first line in my WIP is now: Chocolate, I needed chocolate or I would die.

It’s still rough, but it’s much better than the first draft drivel I penned the day before! Plus, who doesn’t like chocolate?

The benefits of writing in my head are obvious to me. The drawbacks are too. Sometimes I get so consumed by trying to work things out, that I never start writing, and if I never start writing, then I can never have a first draft to revise, or a final version to submit to an agent or publisher. I think the benefits are worth working this way; I just have to make sure that I push myself to the writing it down stage.

How do you write? Is fiction all in your head too?

Friday, September 19, 2008

meme tag-ishness

I've been tagged for this meme by Carrie Harris over at her fabulously fun blog. I’m supposed to tag eight people, but how can I choose? I’ll let you choose, because, I wouldn’t want to leave someone out, and I can only pick eight ;) Anyone that wants to play along, you have officially been tagged! If you tell me in the comment section that you are a taggee, I will update this post with your link.

meme questions:
1. What are your nicknames?
For some reason, people insist on calling me sruble. Weird, huh? I also went by the name Lefty after I broke my right arm, and when I was a stand-up comic. I was known as Janet Comiskey in college, and I’m considering using Sandi Apricot as a pen name.

2. What was the first movie you bought in VHS or DVD?
The first one ever? No clue, but it was probably Star Wars or Indiana Jones.

3. What is your favorite scent?
Unscented. People and products are way too smelly these days. You don’t have to wear the whole bottle of perfume/cologne, especially if the scent is super-concentrated. Plus, I’m allergic to pretty much anything that has a scent.

4. What one place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back to?
A small tropical island where DH and I went for a week once, either that or the North Shore of Lake Superior. DH hasn’t been yet and I’d love to take him.

5. Do you trust easily?
No comment. If I said yes, people would think I was a pushover, if I said no, people would think I was too cautious or uptight or something.

6. Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think?
Hahahahaha – sound of everyone I know laughing.

7. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days?
Yes, but trust me, you don't want to hear about it. Plus, I'm already in the, "making lemonade out of lemons," stage. Proof: In my last post, I blogged about getting lemons at the store to make actual lemonade!

8. Do you have a good body image?
Yes and no. Depends on the day.

9. What is your favorite fruit?
Strawberries, covered in dark chocolate. I actually like a lot of fruits, even without chocolate.

10. What websites do you visit daily?
Too many to list here, or admit, but they are mostly all writing and/or art related.

11. What have you been seriously addicted to lately?
Charmed. I just got done watching all 8 seasons (although not in order since I was watching them on TNT). It was cool to see how they handled the character and story arcs for each episode and overall, for the whole 8 years. The power of three is awesome.

12. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
Smart, funny, and someone I’d like to hang out with if we were in the same neighborhood.

13. What's the last song that got stuck in your head?
La, la, la, la. Nothing is in my head right now, so I’m not going to answer this. I almost always have a song in my head – usually for days or weeks at a time. If I try to think of what the last one was, it will plague me again.

14. What's your favorite item of clothing?

15. Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy?
Only if they are held together by marshmallows.

16. What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground?
Has that ever happened to anyone? If I see $ on the ground and I know who dropped it, I make sure they get it back. If it’s just there, and nobody is around, then finders, keepers, right?

17. What items could you not go without during the day?
Clothes, glasses, chocolate and a pencil and paper or a computer.

18. What should you be doing right now?
Writing my WIP and drawing elephants or moose or citrus-y things.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

2 rhinos and an elephant walk into a bar …

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to a local carnival where we tried fried Twinkies and Oreos (disgusting, but you have to try it once, right?) and played fun carnival games, like racing horses with water guns, popping balloons with darts, and shooting baskets. We won lots of toys.

We like to play carnival games, but we don’t really need the toys (even though they are fun to win). Sometimes there are kids that look like they might want a toy (we always ask the parents first), and sometimes we can’t give them away, so we take them home.

We were walking back to the car with our bounty of stuffed animals, when DH says, “two rhinos and an elephant walk into a bar …”

and then he has no punch line! We’ve tried since then to come up with a really good punch line, but so far, no luck. We’ve come up with some really bad punch lines, just no good ones.

In honor of the rhinos and elephant, I thought it would be fun to have some writing and illustrating exercises (there are several, so hopefully everyone can play).

Writing Exercise #1: Write a poem ( in any form) about 2 rhinos and an elephant.

My haiku example:
2 rhinos standing
An elephant twirls on by
Dancing with the storks

Illustration Exercise #1: Draw an image with 2 rhinos and an elephant at a carnival.

Writing Exercise #2: Write a paragraph or scene or story that starts with: Once upon a time, there were two rhinos and an elephant at the watering hole. Suddenly …

Illustration Exercise #2: Draw a cartoon where the characters are talking about (or eating) fried Twinkies, or any other fried food you’d get at a carnival.

Writing Exercise #3:
Write a punch line for: 2 rhinos and an elephant walk into a bar (or a library, or a classroom, or the courtroom, or …)

Here’s my best one, which is so bad that you’ll probably want to write your own:
2 rhinos and an elephant walk into a bar. “Duck!” says the first rhino, and a duck flies by.
“Duck!” says the second rhino, and another duck flies by.
“Goose!” yells the elephant.
“Where?” ask the rhinos.
The elephant pinches them.

See, totally lame. You can do better!

Book Pick: Hippo! No, Rhino by Jeff Newman
In this picture book, the poor rhino is mistaken for a hippo at the zoo, when the zookeeper puts the wrong sign up. Rhino makes several unsuccessful and frustrating attempts to fix things, but is finally identified correctly at the end. Funny story and fun, bright illustrations.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I am Batman! Who are you?

Ever wonder why some characters resonate so much? Or what makes people want to be certain characters, like Batman, James Bond, Jason Bourne, Bella Swan, Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, Jasmine Callihan, Araminta Spookie, Judy Moody, Captain Underpants, or even the Pigeon that wants to drive the bus? I think it’s for one of three reasons:

Universal Everyman – for example, Batman. Something bad happened to him and he couldn’t do anything about it, so he’s dedicated his life to getting rid of crime / making sure it doesn’t happen again. Wouldn’t we all like the power and the money to be able to do that for whatever our personal demons are?

Universal Fantasy - for example, Bella Swan. Who wouldn’t want a sexy guy or girl that’s totally in to you? Or Harry Potter, people love to believe in magic and a world where magic exists.

Universal Desire to be Someone Else – Everyone is going to have their own reason for wishing they were someone else, and they will have their own favorite characters who they’d like to be.

Do you think there are other reasons why people are drawn to characters?

If you could be any character, who would you choose to be and why? (You can choose more than one!)

There are lots of characters that I would really like to be, even if it were only for a day. My top two choices are Batman and Araminta Spookie, because they are both really cool and get to do amazing things, plus Araminta lives in a haunted house.


Book Picks: The Araminta Spookie series by Angie Sage
Araminta is a spunky girl that lives in a haunted house and has wonderfully wacky adventures with her friend Wanda Wizzard. There are ghosts and vampires and bats and frogs too. This series is lots of fun and there are excellent illustrations by Jimmy Pickering.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Making Lemonade

A Teaser Tuesday post, of sorts ...

Making Lemonade by sruble

Sometimes Life hands you lemons and you make lemonade, but sometimes Life thwacks you in the head and you forget how to make lemonade. I mean really, this should be easy, right? You need lemons, sugar, and water. If you want to get really fancy, you could add an orange or a lime, or even a bit of mint. It’s lemonade, how hard could it be?

My best friend says that Life’s funny like that sometimes, like Life has a bad sense of humor or is a person with no social skills.
My dad says that Life is about building character, which is his code for take charge and make your own path. Dad was in the military; he can’t help himself.

I started making lemonade again recently. There was a huge display of lemons at the grocery store that must have triggered my memory, because the next thing I knew, I was walking out of the store with a bag full of lemons and a few other necessary ingredients. My lemonade recipe is a bit different these days and it takes longer to make. But it’s still lemonade, and that’s all that counts, right?


Book Pick: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
Ever wonder what it would be like to lose your memory and not know anything that's happened in the last few years? Now imagine that happening when you're a teenager trying to navigate school, boyfriends, best friends, parents, extended family, and tons of people and things that you don't remember. That's what Naomi's life is after she hits her head.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Beware of the Steves (part 2)

I have found the villains for the YA novel I’m working on! It’s a bunch of Steves.

Two years ago, when I was working at the Empire State Building, one of the guys from the building came into the office and warned me about Steves. Turns out I misunderstood him and he actually said, “thieves,” but Steves is just so much better and I’ve never forgotten it.

Can you just imagine a gang of evil Steves? (There will, of course, be girl Steves too, like Stevie, or Stevi, or Stevy.)

Or what about a gaggle of zombie Steves, wandering around and wreaking havoc?

Every time I think about it I start laughing. It might be way over the top for a YA fantasy novel, but I’m hoping I can make it work. If all else fails, I could have a group of Steevs, some sort of supernatural creature (looking a lot like lizard men or sleestacks, but with long tails).

Do you think the Steves will work? Which group of Steves do you like best? Or do you just think I’m a little too wacky and esoteric for my own good?

Book Picks: BAD KITTY and KITTY, KITTY by Michele Jaffe
These books are over the top fun, and at times snort-through-your-nose funny. Jas is the kind of girl that’s always getting thrown into the middle of things, usually dangerous things, involving police and sometimes murderers. It requires some ingenious action, like stealing limos or dressing like a giant squirrel, to get out of disaster. I can’t wait for the next book in this series!!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

standard teen-read stuff

Yesterday, there were great discussions on seaheidi’s blog and an excellent post by jenlyn_b on Stephen King’s comment that the term “Young Adult” is an oxymoron, in his review of THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. I won’t rehash that here because it was done so well already (go check it out!), but I did want to talk about a different point from his review.

“The love triangle is fairly standard teen-read stuff; what 16-year-old girl wouldn't like to have two interesting guys to choose from?”

I would have to argue that a love triangle is standard entertainment stuff, used in movies, TV, and books (adult as well as YA). The love triangle is as standard as “boy meets girl.” There’s no reason it can’t and shouldn’t be used in any form of entertainment, as long as it’s done well and fits the story and the characters.

If there is a higher percentage of it in YA (and I’m not sure there is), then I think it’s because at that age, not only are there more choices and chances for love, but love is also new, and navigating the waters and deciding who is right for you is not easy. Books are just another avenue of experiencing love and choosing whom to love by living through the experiences of the characters in the story.

Just like adults, teens have a variety of responses to love and the possibility of love. Some teens may think that the person they are dating or crushing on is the only one out there for them, and they will be forever in love, even though evidence around them (friends breaking up, former relationships not working out, or even parents divorcing) shows that it’s usually otherwise … just like adults. Other teens may think love is not possible, or worth it, after a breakup or after seeing what the dissolution of love has done to those around them … just like adults.

So if teens can react to love like adults, then why can’t they have storylines that reflect this, without it being called “standard teen-read stuff?”

What do you all think about “standard teen-read stuff” and tired themes like the love triangle?

On a related note, I’d like to thank Stephen King for inspiring me to think of a kick-a**, killer, love triangle story. Now all I have to do is write it and make it not seem like a cliché, which brings me to JoNoWriMo! My goals are to write and illustrate something every weekday, with bonus points if I work on the weekend. The main thing is to get myself to keep moving forward on both art and writing projects.

With these goals, I'll work on both art and writing every day, even if it's just a little bit. I won't feel guilty about writing if I have a mostly art day and I won't feel guilty about art if I have a mostly writing day.

I’m not going to force the big goals, but I’d also like to get specific illustration projects done (a PB dummy and art licensing collections) and at least 1 draft of a YA novel (right now I can't decide which idea is pulling at me the most, but it may have to have a love triangle in it).