Book Review: Purple Cow by Seth Godin


My day was unremarkable. In other words, it was boring. I got up--more like stumbled out of bed--much past the time my alarm went off, showered quickly, ate my breakfast--the same breakfast I eat almost every morning--without tasting it, and ran out the door to get to work late, my coffee in my hand. 

I'm late to work, but they still don't have anything for me to do except to browse the internet and pretend to look busy. They are still trying to get the system up. And I think what am I doing here? I could be home with my kids. Why do I have to sit in this seat, caged like a monkey, to earn a paycheck?

I come home late because I got to work late. We take the kids to the library--a special event that used to be a weekly event before we got too busy--and come home to make pancakes for dinner. Put the kids to bed. Exercise. Sit down to write. Maybe later I'll actually watch a movie. And then I'll get to bed late to start the whole thing over again tomorrow.

And don't ask me what I ate for lunch or what I wore today because I don't really remember. Don't ask me about yesterday or last week. Or last month. The days all run together in one empty blur. Unremarkable.

But I can tell you about the worst days and the best days of my life to the minutest detail. I remember my wedding gown and messing up my wedding vows and lighting the unity candle. I remember holding each of my babies for the first time, and I can tell you how many hours of labor each one took, what time they were born, and what day of the week it was. I can tell you about my sixth grade teacher making my 12th birthday a miserable day, but it snowed, which made it all better. Especially since it never snows in December in Texas. I remember missing an airplane flight and spending all day looking for my lost tickets.

What does all this have to do with my Purple Cow book review? Those moments--the best and worst days of my life--were remarkable to me. They are stories that will stick with me for the rest of my life, and I will bore people to tears telling them again and again. Remarkable things are what stand out in our minds.

Just like a purple cow would be remarkable if we should ever see one. It is remarkable products that market themselves, splash headlines, cause long lines at stores, keep you up late at night, make you tell all your friends and every stranger you meet. It's not that these items are just better than everything else, they are remarkably different.

Harry Potter was different. It was a fantasy set in our everyday world, and it made our world seem more magical. As if we might turn a corner and discover wizards walking among us Muggles. And everybody talked about it.

Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog was different. Not quite a move, not quite a TV show, and definitely not sanctioned by the standard producers. Great story and great music and brilliant acting, lovable characters, and a bad guy who was nicer than the good guy. My friend Chuck once said that Joss Whedon did a better job in 3 15-minute sessions explaining how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader than George Lucas did in 3 feature-length movies.

And those works of art that are just plain awful get more mention than those that just fit in with all the rest. Vaniel blogged about a book that was so terrible that he had to tell everyone just how terrible it was! So many people responded, asking for more, that he posted more about it. And believe me, it was so terrible that you just keep reading because you are so shocked by how bad it is. Check it out here.

And I will happily tell you about my favorite movies or groan about the ones I hated with such a passion that I love to list what I hated about them. But all the ones that were mediocre--I don't tell anyone about them. They were good, but nothing to talk about. Just another movie to fit in with all the rest.

And likewise, many of the good stuff--Girl Genius, EragonDr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, Full Metal Alchemist, The Gamers--were all raved about to us by friends who said, "You gotta see this!" And we did, and then we raved about it to others. Passing it on.

The book Purple Cow by Seth Godin explains how word of mouth works, how you find the "sneezers" that will market your product for you, how you focus on building your cow and finding your sneezers, and how to let that mindset build your business. Godin talks about why, what, and how, and gives many, many examples along the way. And this applies to whatever your product may be--art, music, books, technology, clothing.

Marketing is one of those things I don't really understand very well, and this book put the whole thing into proper perspective. It gave me a better understanding, not just of marketing and business, but also my place and my self-image as a writer. I realize I'm not going to make it if I just try to fit into my genre. I have to stand out. I have to do more and be more. I have to give more.

Appreciating Art

I am learning that I can't and shouldn't write in a bubble. The Jews had it right when they made it a law to take a Sabbath rest, and our nation would gain much if we took a national holiday once a week as well.

Imagine if every restaurant was closed on the same day every week, and we were forced to have a true sit-down meal with our families. Maybe have a picnic. Watch the kids play. Maybe go down a few slides too. Play catch or tag or hide-and-go-seek. And then tumble into bed at the end of the day, feeling happy and content. Feeling truly alive.

Imagine if artists took the time to enjoy the art of others. A really good movie. A play. A comic. Sit down and read good books. And then wake up refreshed and ready to love your own work. A new outlook. A fresh perspective.

It's much like that day of rest. You gotta enjoy life in order to write about life effectively. You got to love to live in order to love your work.

Here's a quote from Mark Twain:

What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn't have done it.

Who was it who said, "Blessed is the man who has found his work"? Whoever it was he had the right idea in his mind. Mark you, he says his work--not somebody else's work. The work that is really a man's own work is play and not work at all.


What's your favorite book / movie / TV show that motivates you?

Book Review: Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell




My editors (intelligent friends who love to read) kept coming back with major flaws and harsh criticisms. And I'd have to pick myself back up, dust myself off, and try again. And again. And again. My book is almost done, but it took me 30+ edits (at least, 5 of them being major revisions) to get something worthwhile.

I think the hardest part about the criticisms was that I didn't know how to fix what was wrong. That's when I learned that talent is not enough. You have to study your craft and you must apply skill to what raw talent you may have. Like woodworking, sports, and music, writing takes effort, practice, perseverance, and applied skill

I started studying some great writing resources. Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell was one of these. Now I understood not only what I did wrong and why but also how to fix the problems.

In this book about self-editing, you will find detailed information about many aspects of writing with practical examples from great writers as well as writing exercises that you can use to practice the techniques.

Practical Advice
Read. The more you read, the better you understand the craft. Bell gives detailed descriptions on how to, not just read, but study good books to understand what made them good.

In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin talks about how he studied good books and practiced his own writing endeavors to exhibit the qualities that he admired in other authors. So the best way to learn to write is just to read and write. For the rest of your life. It is an on going endeavor, just like a runner must continue to run to keep in shape.

Character Development & Dialog
This was--and is--one of my biggest challenges, making characters that sound real but aren't carbon copies of myself. In my first draft, everyone spoke like me. Everyone sounded just like a grammar book, like my ninth grade English teacher with perfect prose. One of my editor's complained that there were no interruptions (as if everyone had perfect manners); there were no fragments (as if everyone could speak as though they were standing on stage); there were no distinctions in character's personalities in their words (as if I only really had one character--me). And after he said all this, I realized everybody said exactly what I wanted them to. I had boring plot-driven characters rather than a great character-driven plot.

Bell talks about these kinds of problems, describing how to create real characters that jump off the page. He talks about characters with attitude--with grit that makes us root for them and wit that makes them personable and a certain amount of charisma that makes us love them. Then he tells you how to do it.

Plot & Scene Structures
Many high school and college courses talk about the three-fold plot structure, but this book also tells you WHY it works and HOW you should use it. I patted myself on the back on this aspect because I already had those elements in my story, but scene structure was another problem altogether for me. My scenes were wishy-washy at best. They weren't spell-binding.

Scenes need structure too. You need a hook to grab your audiences attention at the beginning of every scene, you need varying levels of intensity throughout the scene, and you need to end the scene with a push to make them keep reading--something that makes the reader feel like they have to know what happens next, like they can't put it down. Bell tells you just how to do that.

POV
There are many ways to create point of view within a book, and this chapter helps you build a correct viewpoint and ensure that you don't make POV mistakes (i.e. give inside information about a non-POV character). Readers should only see things from the perspective of one character at a time, or they will feel the author's presence. Once they feel the author's presence in a story, it no longer feels real. The magical storyland that you've created falls apart around them.

Show and Tell
I have heard this said from many different authors.  Show what happens rather than summarize. Don't say "She grabbed the hammer and threw it at him, yelling and snarling and shouting obscenities." Say "'You make me sick," she screamed. The hammer thunked the wall beside his head." Okay, I can handle that. I think I can tell the story without turning it into a boring summary.

Actually, no, there is more to it than that. There are times to tell and there are times to show, and Bell does a great job of telling you how to do it. There were things I would show that I should have told, like long scenes wandering through the forest, and there are scenes I should have shown, where I could have put some great action, character development, and dialog.

Other Areas
And here are some of the other features for learning to write contained in this book:

  • Developing a unique voice & style
  • Writing description & settings
  • How to handle annoying exposition
  • A complete revision checklist
Check the book out here at my amazon.com store or get it from your local library.

Self-Investment

I am in the unique position of being able to ask myself,
"What do I want to be when I grow up?"

If I could be free to choose, I'd choose to be everything. I'd want to live in such a way that I could live on my creative efforts. I'd like to sew a quilt and sell it on E-Bay. I'd like to write a novel, weaving a tale that keeps people spellbound, and get it published. I'd like to buy an old house and fix it up, make it something beautiful once again for someone to make into a home. I'd like to invent something and market it. I'd like to paint beautiful art and display it in a gallery. I want to have a greenhouse and sell my flowers and fresh produce at a farmer's market. I want to learn to develop software and come up with a great web site that people will love. I want to be a freelancer, writing articles about home schooling and about life. I want to be a teacher and teach classes on writing and scrapbooking and home schooling and whatever else I have learned. I want to be a psychologist and study child development and help parents learn to understand their children.

Why not? Why does our society say that we must get jobs, work for someone else, doing the same thing year after year, until we're old, and then retire when life is gone? We're slaves to someone else's agenda. I could have been done with my work 5 hours ago because I'm good at what I do, but I still have to sit at my desk to fill up my 8 hour day. They own me for 8 hours. And responsibility is the task master that keeps me in my seat. If I were to fail on my own, 3 little children would pay the price for my selfishness.

After all, I am the sole bread winner for my family as my husband is the wonderful stay-at-home dad. That is, until one week and two days from now. Then they lay me off and I step into the great world of unemployment.

Hoping that somehow I can put food in front of a family of five. Hoping that we won't be living in our van, bankrupt and homeless. Hoping that life has something more to offer than busy-ness and frustration and stagnation. There's gotta be something more out there!

The Betrayal of College
"Look to the person on your left and the person on your right. They won't be here when you graduate," this is what my husband TJ was told in his college orientation class. He was attending a major university to study architecture. They bragged up front that their goal was to make him fail.

And every class he took, he realized just how much they meant that.

He had stacks and stacks of note cards about skyscrapers that seemed to look exactly alike. He had to memorize the architect, the year it was built, and the reason the building is significant for hundreds of buildings so that he can answer only three questions on his fifty question test. Each test had a larger stack than the test before.

Then he had art teachers that seemed to enjoy finding fault with his projects over little things that had no rhyme or reason. My husband had this wonderful model of a restaurant or night club that had a stage for a musical band. It took him all quarter to design and put together, and one week before it was due, they made him start over.

"You should separate these stairs so that you can put tables on the steps," his teacher told him.

In one week, he had to recreate what had taken him months to do because of this one change. Funny thing is, I could see several, very good reasons why separating the stairs was a very bad idea:

  1. Waitresses, carrying heavy trays full of food, would have to navigate these stairs that are placed at random intervals. They would have to watch their feet and watch their trays and watch for people just to be sure that they don't trip.
  2. Patrons probably would not be as alert for the stairs as a waitress would be. This would make it more likely for a patron to fall, a recipe for disaster and a very good way to get sued.
  3. People sitting at the tables on the bottom level will probably not be able to see the stage. That is the reason that stages are elevated, so that people can see over the heads of others.

TJ was not the only one who had to restart projects from scratch. Architecture students spent every waking hour in the art lab. Let me rephrase that: architecture students spent EVERY hour in the art lab. There was no sleeping. TJ jokes about how this was a psychologist's fantasy: an experimental study on the affects of sleep deprivation on a large group of people.

Some students would take No-Doze with a jug of Mountain Dew. Oh, they'd be awake! But they'd also be so shaky they couldn't hold a pen. No sleep AND no progress on their project. Others would fall asleep with their heads in their projects.

"Should we wake him?"

"No, his project's already ruined from the drool. Just let him sleep."

Then came time to present their final projects to the class. Those that slapped their projects together without giving it any effort got A's. "Yes, this ink smudge over here represents my mood that day." And those that poured their hearts out into their projects failed because they were too tired to B.S. their way through the presentation.

After two years, TJ failed architecture, and it took him close to five years before he was even willing to pick up a pencil again. They killed his love for drawing and for art, and they gleefully bragged about it before they did it.

Having failed architecture, he went into environmental science. Now he had math and science teachers that barely spoke English who would mumble into the chalk board and then erase the notes before the students had a chance to see them because they stood in the way.

Furthermore, changing majors caused a great deal of trouble. He had to retake electives to meet new graduation requirements, and he needed new paperwork. It was like changing colleges rather than changing majors. But then there was the hassle with getting the right class at the right time to finish his degree. Again and again, they screwed him over, canceling classes he needed or scheduling two classes at the same time, delaying his expected graduation date.

"Nope, sorry, you will have to take that class next quarter, and graduate next year. That will be an additional $1000. Thank you. Have a nice day!"

Finally after seven years, he finished college with a Bachelor's of Science in Environmental Science, a degree that actually did not prepare him at all for the direction he wanted to take. The science program was mis-advertised. He had planned on working in parks and with animals, and instead he was trained for water sewage plants.

And TJ was the lucky one. He could have been one of those upper-classmen architecture students who got in a car crash when they drove themselves on the class field trip. It wasn't drugs or drinking that made them ram the semi in front of them. It was lack of sleep. The driver fell asleep at the wheel.

After four years in architecture, enduring to the end, one student lost his right arm, and he would never be able to draw again. So much for a career as an architect. The other occupants of the car were all seriously hurt or maimed, including paralysis.

"Look to your left. Look to your right. Your classmates won't be here when you graduate."

The Frustration of the Work Place
"You wrote an awesome performance appraisal this year," Kevin said to me. "Lisa asked me to review it. It was great. So how'd you do?"

"She gave me a three," I answered. A three. It means that I met expectations. I saved a project from utter failure while balancing two other projects that I was also responsible for. I wrote over a hundred defects for one release alone. I talked Product out of not releasing a project by explaining why one bug could be a very nice product feature.

I was so proud of my performance, but my boss saw all that I did as nothing more than what was expected of me.

Being a three means no promotion this year. Being a three means I only got a very small merit-based raise. The raise was eaten up by the increased cost of health insurance. I actually got about $100 less this year per paycheck than I did last year. Being a three means I was included on the list to be canned. I wasn't valuable enough to the team.

Looking back at our last few product releases, I shake my head in disbelief. I cover two-thirds of the product functionality, and we have a team of three. This means that the other third is split between two other employees. That does not include the other projects I cover where I am 100% responsible for the functionality.

But I am not valuable to the team.

I was proud of my work. It felt like the projects I was responsible for were my own. For years, I nurtured them like babies. I planned the tests. I ran them. I verified the results. I researched the defects. I wrote careful documentation so that developers could easily fix the problems. I was good at what I did. And I was proud of that.

It was mine. My very own. Dare I say, "My precious?"

And then it was theirs. They snatched it away and gave it to contractors in India who had no clue what they were doing. And I was expected to continue my duties while training my replacements. I spent 3 hours explaining the same functionality, and after three hours, they asked the same questions as when we started the training session. Didn't they get it the first five times I explained it?

One week and two days, and I will be on my own with no job lined up. I have tried to find another testing job, but I have been met with one closed door after another. The city where I live isn't hiring testers. I'd have to drive to a neighboring city to get a job. If I'm lucky, that will add only an hour to my commute.

To find a job, we may have to move, cramming our large family into a small apartment. Because we couldn't afford to keep an apartment and the house on one income, we would have to try to sell, and as this is a slow market and our neighborhood is deteriorating, we would probably have to abandon our house. This could mean foreclosure and eventual bankruptcy.

I feel trapped and frustrated, and I don't really like software testing anymore. I yearn for something more than jobs and the rushing around that we do. Yet I have to feed my children, and I like having a warm home to live in.

The Disappointment of Retirement
My father-in-law worked at a major power plant in Ohio until he finally retired four years ago. He had worked swing shift that required long hours, and overtime was often not optional. You did it, or you lost your job. So he was often not home. He barely got to enjoy his children growing up, but he plugged away, just thankful that he could put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. And he dreamed about someday, when he retires.

It was shortly after retirement that he found out that he has emphysema and lung damage caused by years of exposure to asbestos. The plant never told their workers that they were being exposed to very harmful material. Now he is on oxygen, and those dreams of gardening and bowling are marred by the difficulty of breathing. The doctor says he won't make it to 80.

And his father before him retired from coal mining in Pennsylvania with third-stage black lung. Selling your soul to your job doesn't pay in the end.

The Heart of a True Artist

A true artist doesn't do things by halves. You can't be half-hearted about life, love, adventure, or craft to be truly an artist.

Today is my day of rest. The day I spend with my family and my home and put aside all my drivenness. Which is why this blog entry is a thoughtful look at myself as an artist, as a person, as a mother, as a wife. Today is my day for reflection.

I am watching my kids play outside. Three little girls playing with worms and digging in the dirt. Completely lost in their exploration. Every spring they could play for hours just moving dirt from one bucket to another. I wish I had that kind of abandonment. That's what an artist--one who abandons themselves to their expression.

It is likely my lack of abandonment that kept my stories stilted at first. I felt awkward in fulling expressing myself. I would "Tell" instead of "Show" because showing felt too free. Like dancers who are too shy to truly dance. They move like robots and look around to see who might be watching them. But a dancer who gives it all she's got--well, you can see the difference. You can feel the difference.

My husband is my first editor. There are times when he reads and says, "This paragraph doesn't feel right." He doesn't know what is wrong with it or how to fix it, but I go at it again. What do I change? I usually add detail, fill it out. Pour more of myself in it. Again and again and again.

That's abandonment. That's being a true artist.

The Demarian calendar

In Demaria, there are 365 days in the year. Just like us. But they structured the year differently than we did.

There are 13 months in the year, and each month is exactly 28 days. (28 x 13 = 364 days)

Plus an extra day for the Winter Festival. (364 + 1 = 365 days)

Every four years, the Winter Festival has an extra day for games. (365 + 1 = Leap Year)


Lunk

At work, I would stop at David's desk in the mornings. It was a good way to waste a little time if the day was slow. We'd sometimes talk much and sometimes have nothing to say. But we could usually discuss what lunch plans we had. David's response was often, "You decide."

One day--was it me or was it him?--someone said, "Do you want to go to Lunk today?"

The other did a good job of making fun. Probably him. He was good at making fun of me.

That very night I started writing the short story Scrolls, and as inevitably happens, the story takes a turn. Something happens that my notes--ok, I barely had any notes to begin with--didn't cover. And I needed a name. A name for a military school. Hmm.

Lunk jumped to mind.

Naw, you shouldn't make up words.

But once the word had been considered, nothing else would come to mind. I'm terrible at naming things. Most of my names for people actually come right out of the baby name book. Most of my names for places are very flat and unimaginative, like the Dark Forest, Dragon Keep, Crown City.

So Lunk stuck. In honor of David. Who refused to read the story after it had been written.

Racism

I am white. And my husband is half-Hispanic. We have a wonderful marriage with three children, a cat, and a bunny. And we will have many long years together. We support each other, build each other up, sacrifice for each other, and we both will go to the ends of the earth to build an even better marriage and become a better team.

My mother-in-law is Hispanic. And my father-in-law is white. Their's is also a happy marriage. Many wonderful years together. Three children. Nine grandchildren. And you should see our family get-togethers. About 50 people or more. Some white. Some brown. And then you have the blond-haired, blue-eyed Hispanic children playing beside the brown-haired,  brown-eyed white children. The guacamole is served beside the Thanksgiving turkey. Now that's what I call all American.

I am not racist. I don't really see color. I see wonderful people, made in God's image. And I believe our colors of skin bring spice to life. Much like different colors of hair and different colors of eyes. Skin color--brought to us by melanin--is just another expression of God's love for diversity. For heaven's sake, if we all looked the same, life would be boring. Just like if all flowers were red roses.

We are all human. Scientifically speaking, we are all labeled as the same race and species, whatever color we may be. It's not like we are breeding goats and puppy dogs here! We are all one race. All one beautiful set of people.

So I don't get all riled up when my daughter tells me that she likes the little black boy who comes over to play. She wants to marry him when she's older. He's a well-mannered child. Says "please" and "thank you." And doesn't fight with others. He plays kindly--gently with my younger kids--and I admire his parents for his disciplined upbringing.

"Oh really? You like him?"

It's a conversational tone. I imagine she will have many crushes over the years, and I doubt we will still be living here when she grows up. She may marry a black boy, a white boy, or a brown boy like her daddy. That's not a problem to me. What matters is his character. Will he love her and protect her and work to build a real relationship? Or will he cheat on her or beat her or tear her down with his words?

So today, she asks him, "Will you marry me when we grow up?"

He says to her, "Your mommy and daddy are white. My mommy and daddy are black. White people and black people don't mix."

She came to us crying. What child wouldn't? She was being rejected because she was white. Much like someone making fun of her freckles. Or her unruly hair. Nobody wants to be judged based on their physical characteristics.

This was her first time to face racism. I had hoped I would never have to tell talk to her about this. I would have loved to keep her innocent.

But here it was. Right in our own backyard. So TJ and I sat down to talk to her.

"That's not true. Mommy is white, yes. But daddy is brown," TJ says to her.

"Saying that black people and white people can't mix is like saying people with brown eyes and blue eyes can't mix. What difference does that make?" I add.

"None!" She is smiling now.

"Or like people with black hair and blonde hair can't mix. What difference does that make?"

"None!"

"So what difference does it make what color skin you have?"

"None!"

She runs back outside. "My daddy's not white! My daddy's brown!"

Oh the joys of parenting! Now I just have to convince her that sometimes 6 year old boys just aren't ready to commit to marriage.

I saw something today

The strangest thing.

As I was coming out of work, two people were standing in the parking lot behind one of the cars. At their feet was an open grate. The woman, wearing business dress, brown skirt and dress shirt, was bent forward at the waste, staring down into the hole. She looked like a statue, not even moving the whole time I watched. And the man, also wearing business attire, stood, not looking in the hole, not really looking at anything. His brief case was set on the ground beside the open grate.

The hole was in the way of the car moving. I wondered if that was why they stood there. Or maybe she dropped something down in? Was there someone down in there? Did they open it? Or were they waiting for someone to come and close it? 

My curiosity was prickling. And so was everybody else's. The girl walking two steps behind me, talking on her cell phone, was screwing up her forehead as she watched. 

I wanted to ask questions. But we don't really do that in this society. Do we?

This would be the makings of an interesting short story. What story can you make out of this?

Top 5 Writing Mistakes

I've compiled this list from how-to-write books that I've read, from boring stories that I've perused, and from complaints my editors frequently said about my own writing.

1. Flat Language
Whether it's description, dialog, action, or internal thoughts, it should be colored with personality. Even if you are writing in third person. This is how you build style.

2. Yes-Men Characters
A book can have 1-dimensional characters and still be good. These are like one line jokes--you can still get a laugh out of your audience. But flat characters are emotionless cardboard cutouts that do nothing but fill the plot. They do exactly as the author wants to move the story. A good book has character-driven plot rather than plot-driven characters.

For example, three characters, chatting together, say:

"We should go in there and steal the book."
"Good idea. I'll help you."
"And me too!"
When in the real world do three people cooperate together so easily? It reminds me of the song I hate the most in this world. "Shiny Happy People Holding Hands."

Makes me want to blow them all to smithereens.

(FYI, this is the shortcut version of my original writing of Barra planning to get the hidden book from Ashon's office.)

3. POV
"My eyes sparkled like blue gems." Um, how do you know what your eyes look like, unless your looking in the mirror? Who ever comments on their own eyes? I don't. Well, unless I'm talking to my kids. I want my kids to hear me say good things about myself, just as I say good things to them. But other than that...

Or "The door opened behind me, and Bob walked in." And I have eyes in the back of my head.

And POV rules apply to writing in third person as well. Each scene should be written from one perspective, or the reader will be pulled out of the story. Readers want to experience the story from the minds of the characters. Not from the mind of the author.

4. Telling.
I don't want you to tell me about your vacation, show me the pictures, and give me a slide show presentation. I want you to take me with you. I want to live it, experience it, taste it, smell it. I want to be there. Don't we all? That's true story telling.

5. The Prologue.
Don't tell me about your character before we even start the story. Boring. I'd rather jump right in and take off. Lace the details into the action.

Top 10 Favorite TV Shows

Good movies, good stories, good TV shows, good books, and good music are an important part of making a good author. You have to appreciate fine art to make art. 

I was about to call this post "Top 10 Favorite Movies" but then I realized, as I was making the list, my favorites weren't movies, they were shows. I guess I prefer shows because there is more time for character development. You don't have to cram or chop the details.

10. Digimon

9. Battle Star Galactica

8.  Alias

7.  Cowboy Bebop

6.  Trigun

5.  Babylon 5

4.  Full Metal Alchemist

3.  Escaflowne

2.  Heroes

1.  Farscape

What's your favorite?

My Scary Moment This Week

I posted my first short story on lulu.com this week, and then I sent an email to friends. And when it was all done, my heart was in my throat. I felt naked to the world. I had just opened myself to every kind of criticism that anyone should wish to hurl my way.

It wasn't that I don't expect criticism. Not everyone loves science fiction. And those that do may not like mine. Just because someone doesn't like my work doesn't mean that it's bad. Think of all the great books that ended up on the ban list.

No, it was more that I had just poured my heart and soul into this story. I edited and edited and carefully thought about each detail and expressed deep emotions--some mine, some my characters, all leaving me very vulnerable. I thought I'd be excited about sharing my work with the world. And it was exciting. And it was horrible too.

It's like telling someone you secretly admire how much you love them. In that moment of exposure, you give them the chance to trample you for the hope of being cherished. And now I realize that art, when expressed to the fullest, is beautiful because the artist has poured themselves into their work. It is when the artist holds back of themselves that the work is stilted, disjointed, broken.

Have I given every last ounce of who I am? Probably not. I could do more.

Announcing my First E-book Release

I published a novella, and I wanted to share it with all of you.
 
Go here for a free download:
 
I'd love to here honest feedback, so whether you like it or not, please leave a comment / review. Thanks!
 

Learning to Write

As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on. "Reading Rita," my mother called me. You couldn't find me anywhere without a book in my hands.

I remember getting ready for school one morning, and when it came time to leave, I balanced ten school books in one hand--just about to slip all over the floor--while my other hand held a book that I'd been reading, my thumb holding the place. And I headed out toward the car with my bunny slippers still on my feet. Oh, my mother was upset!

I think that was what spurred my interest in writing in junior high and high school, my love for reading. But I put it all aside to pursue a career in computers. Why didn't I at least dabble in writing on the side? I don't know. I call it madness to let a dream die.

With the coming layoffs and the questions about what I wanted to do with my life, I figured I would explore my dreams again. I thought about a story concept, wrote a few notes, and started typing. I didn't start with a short story or two. I decided on a full-fledged novel with two sequels.

* shaking head *

What was I thinking? Oh, I was thinking that I was good at writing. I excelled at it in all my classes, right? I aced my freshman writing class in college. I took all the advanced writing courses in high school. Yeah, I was talented. I could do this.

If I knew how hard it was going to be, I might not have started. Or maybe I would have started smaller. It was a year and a half of constant effort. I carved out time before and after work. Lost out on sleep. Stopped exercising. Slowed down on my home schooling schedule. Gained weight as though I was pregnant. And I was pregnant, only not with a child. Maybe when I finally birth this thing I can shed the baby weight. 

My husband TJ was the first editor, and he told me it was good. But that was because he could see the diamond in the ruff. He knew where it would go. He's a visionary. He could see what the end product would look like even though it was nowhere close to that yet.

My second editor Jacob was kind in his feedback but gave me some advice on content and wording. He too could see where I was going.

My third editor Joe tore me apart and left me bleeding on the floor. I had flat characters and boring dialog and boring description, he told me. I thought I had achieved great character development and all that, and I wasn't sure if I could do any better than I already had. It wasn't the criticism that hurt. It was the feeling of being lost. I didn't know how to improve what I had.

I thought about giving up, but even if I had determined to put it aside, I don't think I could have at that point. I was too addicted to writing. I couldn't stop even if I wanted to. So I went back to my notes and started thinking about my characters. This time my edits focused on the voice of each character. What were their motivations--other than what I wanted them to do?

My fourth editor was Jonathon. He saw holes in the plot. Mostly old stuff not meshing with new stuff. But that's when I started to take this whole thing seriously. It was time that I learned what it was I should be doing. I started looking for books to study on characters, on writing, on dialog, on editing.

My editors were no longer there to tell what to do. There were just there to tell me what I had missed. It all fell into place. I knew what to do. I knew how to weave a story. I understood what needed to be done to make a character pop from the page.

So I started with talent and obtained skill. Now I just need to practice. 

How It All Began

It was August 2007. The big honcho sent an email, announcing the decision to analyze the pros and cons of using a third-party offshore company to replace us. People were shocked. Angry. Depressed. Some of my coworkers had been there close to twenty years and didn't believe life could exist outside of their four gray cube walls. Most people didn't think management would do it, and if so, they were too important to be canned.

It took them until May the next year to announce their decision, but I already knew what their decision would be and that I'd be on that list. I knew this was going to happen four years before it did, and I was ready to move on.

I hated my job. I hated working for someone else, living on their schedule, punching my time card (figuratively speaking), running the same tests over and over. Computers don't talk back. People do. And I discovered long ago the futility of my job.

I discovered that when I left my first child at home with her daddy and drove away to go to work. And again, when my second was born and my maternity leave was over and the little girl refused to take a bottle and would starve all day while I was gone. And again with my third. 

My family. That is what was important.

And I prayed to be set free. And God promised to move on my behalf.

So I knew I would be free someday. And when they announced the possible layoffs, I knew I'd be on that list. I would collect my severance and go home to my family. One door closes and another always opens. There is always something new to face. A new challenge. A new phase of existence.

But what about money after the severance check was gone? What if being home with my kids wasn't possible? What if I still need to bring in money?

And that is when I was faced with the question: What do I really want to be when I grow up?