Thursday, January 27, 2011

Common Cures for Grumpy Gills

It has been one of those weeks.

My car window broke down. I fixed it with duct tape and cling wrap.
My body (tried) to break down. I fixed it with Nyquil and hot cider.
My brain has been in a fog for an entire month. But I'm kind of used to that by now. ;)

Needless to say, January has put us all in a funk. People's tempers are short, To-Do lists are not, and if someone says the word 'recession' one. more. time... WHY I OUGHTA!

...But fear not. Funks don't last. Creative juices will restore themselves. People will regain their patience. We will all look back and laugh.

Because seriously folks, isn't it funny that the gear that operates the back passenger window in my car decided to break right before a big rainstorm? I hope the sight of frizzy haired whimsy frantically taping up her car door amused someone. ;)

Just in case this month has you seeing red/ going nutters from cabin fever/ strangling your muse, I recommend you find something to cheer you up. Step back from the manuscript, hold off on artwork, tell your editor to take a hike and find something else to do.

Here are a few things that help keep me in good humor:

- Going out to lunch with Clara. The highlight of my week is spent with the BFF over a never ending bowl of salsa. We laugh, we groan, but mostly we laugh. Mostly.

- Singing far too loudly in the car/shower/grocery store. Yes, I know that song died in the '80's, but really? Who can resist singing along to Rick Astley? Also, a shout out to Glee for having the most upbeat soundtrack in the world.

- Watching stupid videos on YouTube. Come on, you know you love it.

- Bouncing between projects. If I'm waiting for a painting to dry I go out and take photographs. If the weather is too nasty to be outside with a camera I drink a pot of coffee through a crazy straw while pouring my heart out in my journal. When I have nothing left to write about I go back to painting. You get the idea.

- Bake. Cook. Clean. Something to keep me from sitting in front of the computer and having facebook suck out my soul.

Should any of these things not work there's everyone's favorite blue fish with a word of advice:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Inspiration, I don't have it

Maybe it is the post holiday blues or the thought of my work's busy season starting up, but let me tell you internets I am low on inspiration.

I'm going to take the easy route and blame my brother (it's always his fault, isn't it?). He gave me his Xbox in October, and since then I've noticed a sharp decline in my writerly ways. But here's the thing. One of my resolutions for this year was to not touch the Xbox during the week and only play on the weekend. Did that help? Not really.

Then, as soon as I quit the Xbox, here comes my new obsession with Stephen Fry and his hilarious show Qi. So, I've tried to limit my time watching that. But still it isn't enough. I can't get my mojo going again!

Here is where you come in, internet. I need your help to get back into the zone of inspiration and writing. What do you do to get your creative juices flowing? Is there some ritual you perform, some zen meditation to do? I'm willing to try anything, because not writing and not creating is killing me. Not making magic is, well, it's the pits.

Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope!

Monday, January 24, 2011

What a difference a second draft can make

—John W. Dower, Cultures Of War

I can't take credit for this finding this gem, but I hope you enjoy it and find inspiration for your next round of revisions. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Swag Like Me

This is a Guest Post. Ricky has been a friend of mine for years. I know him to be someone of sincere intellect and brilliant kindness. He is also a Connoisuer of Confidence and Surveyor of Swag. I asked him to contribute his point of view on my article from last week. I have a feeling you'll like Ricky as much as I do. Enjoy!

Before you read any further, put any preconceived notions you have about “swagger” out of your mind.  I am here to redefine this slippery, and oddly elusive term. When my friend, the charming Lucy, asked me to guest blog on The Fantastic Spatula, I was delighted! I have followed this blog for a year. At the end of a busy week, it is always a delight to sit back with a cop of coffee and enjoy the adventures of Lucy and her friends as they embark to find that flight temptress, magic.

So, I have a question for you: “What is “swag”? Well, frankly I cannot give you a hard-scale definition of this term: it is a cultural phenomenon. I have swag and you have swag! Yes, we do! To some people, “swagger” can be a negative quality, but those who believe this do not fully understand the true nature of swag. We must not confuse cockiness with confidence! I attribute my accomplishments (and life values) to one key equation: Manners + Confidence + Style = Swagger. And, for the record, I don’t like the word “swagger,” so we will call it “swag.” Rolls off the tongue better, I think.

The most common “definition” of swag is any behavior, which shows an air of superiority or insolent disregard of others.  I completely disagree. To be cocky and disrespectful is opposite of swag: it is the anti-swag.

Manners were essential in my upbringing. I am a Southerner. In my neck of the woods, you are trained to speak to everyone. I would not dare walk down my street in Halifax without speaking to my neighbors, or cut past someone without saying, “excuse me.” Doing these things is like breathing to me: So when I moved to Indiana, I continued to be myself and use the manners that my parents instilled in me. Admittedly, some people looked at me as if I was a visitor from Mars, but most thought it was refreshing. I have met a lot of influential people at IU, and a lot of doors were opened simply because I followed the traditions of my youth. My manners were the first element that set me apart from my peers.

Now, I am a Hoosier. IU is the school of Meg Cabot, Tom French, Kevin Kline, Will Shorts, Joshua Bell, and Jared the Subway Guy, just to name a few prestigious graduates. To be a Hoosier is synonymous with being confident. There is a saying: “You can tell a Hoosier, but you can’t tell him much.” It is that kind of confidence that embodies the culture in Bloomington, IN. Students here are taught to be distinguished, self-assured, and proud of the their heritage. They are taught to “Live an epic adventure.” This unwavering self-confidence is the second element that sets me apart from my peers.

As for style, well, that has been my thing for a long time. Now, my friends in high school will tell you differently. Why I wore that pooka shell necklace for 3 years, I have not idea! But, I am observant. I knew the trends. I’ve never been one for following the crowd. When everyone was wearing oversized jerseys, pants that were way too big, and sneakers, I was wearing a black JCrew jacket, a white spread-collar shirt, a grey tie, and Third-Eye Oxfords. My motto: “Never leave the house looking like a Crayola Box.” Trust me, people have tried and they have failed.  Miserably. I had my own style that was, in many ways, a blend of many. My style became he third ingredient that set me apart from my peers.

Thus: Manners + Confidence + Style = Swagger.

Chances are, you already know something about how to work your swag. I think you want to know how you can break into whatever business or profession you’re striving for so you, too, can live out your dream. I get that.

After reading this, I hope you see being successful and having swag is all about the way you carry yourself, the respect you have for others, and the respect you have for yourself. Trust me, it’s easier said than done. It’s all about those little lessons your mother or grandmother tried to teach you when you are a “youngin’”, as we say in Halifax, but either you didn’t listen because you didn’t think they were that importance, or you have forgotten and need a refresher.

“Start where you are, use what you have, and the best you can.” This is the nature of true Swag.

Swag is not about everyone’s approval. It is about living an epic adventure, like the lovely ladies of Fantastic Spatula, and making it yours!

It’s been a pleasure,
Hi, Folks! How's it going?

My apologies first of all for this later posting. At the last possible minute I had an idea about what I wanted to post. It took me a little while to cobble it together, but I've just put the finishing touches on it.

What I have to share with you this evening is a video I just made using clips from my road trip with S. Kemp back in August. Yes, I know it's January. I'm slow about these things! *cough*understatement*cough* This was my first time using iMovie HD on my Mactop, so forgive me if it's a little rough. I have to say that for a first attempt it ain't too shabby!  Lemme know what you guys think!

*p.s. A little bit of legal mumbo-jumbo, the song is "Let It All Hang Out" by The Hombres. I don't own the song, and I'm not using it for the purpose of selling it, yadda yadda yadda. I just liked it, and it fits the mood, yo. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It Makes Sense

Please forgive me for being a bit lazy this week. I've not been sleeping well lately and my brain is ten different kinds of fuzzy.

As I was dusting my ideas off from their holiday vacation I came to a brutal realization. None of my stories are actually stories. Sure, I have nifty characters and a universe to put them in, but I am missing that one vital element; a plot.

How could I have overlooked this? It's kind of a big deal. You can't have a story without a plot! Otherwise, you end up with, I don't know, Twilight.*

I was so busy building worlds and creating their history that I forgot to give the people in these worlds a reason to exist. Ok, in my defense I've got a vague notion of what's going on, but nothing terribly concrete. It all began to seem hopeless.

Then, I remembered something that I had read a few months back that gave me a glimmer of hope. The very talented and keenly insightful Cleolinda Jones, of the Movies in 15 Minutes fame, wrote a little journal entry about plot that makes entirely too much sense. I need to find my glass of water. Confused? Well, do yourself a favor and read her entry here; she explains it better than I could and she'll make you laugh while she does.

So, if you will all excuse me, I have some plots to figure out.

*I apologize to anyone out there reading this blog who actually likes Twilight. If you do like it, that's fine, more power to you, rock on, etc. We're all entitled to our opinions.  I'm of the opinion that the books are the most awful, trite load of bollocks to ever be put to paper in the history of the entire universe. But what do I know?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The magic of shared worlds: Jim Butcher, MarsCon, and a room of readers

This weekend Adam and I took a jaunt to MarsCon, a science fiction convention in Williamsburg, Virginia, to see a favorite author. Jim Butcher answered questions and signed books for the horde of fans, including people who traveled hundreds of miles. His humor and the reading of upcoming Ghost Story were not enough to draw readers in those numbers or from those distances; they came, like me, to experience the camaraderie of a shared world. It made me think. Each time we read, write, paint, or perform, we are participants in world building and we connect with others in that world. For me, the magic of conventions and author events is gathering to share the story world in this world. For those not able to  make it, I offer a brief clip from the Q&A on Saturday (please forgive the shoddy camera work).

The clip ends just before Jim announces Ghost Story's release date was moved from April to July 2011. We all groaned, but we know we'll sustain the story world no matter how long the wait. 

PS If you haven't read through Changes, the video contains spoilers. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Swag & Tell

Something that's peaked my interest lately is the idea and practice of swagger. Normally a word attributed to certain  males, I found myself being jealous of those given the title. As there are ample examples of men with swag, the voice in my head was whining "Not fair! I wanna have swag too!" Keeping in mind the voice sounding something akin to an impish toddler crossed with Fran Drescher.

This led to a search for a word that could encompass the feminine form of swag. Admittedly, I've probably spent too much time googling for answers and subjecting poor Clara to conversations regarding it. Still, I had to find an answer.

What I've found is that there are two different kinds of swagger. The first one being, as Clara put it, "[...]swagger as it has come to mean to the modern, rap culture, which I think looks like a bad imitation of how an ape walks. And that is rather an insult to apes, isn't it? Men who "swagger" nowadays are just dirt bags who think that walking like one leg is shorter than the other makes them look cool. Well, guys, it doesn't. It makes you look like a gimp."

The second kind is a little more beguiling. In my mind it means to have an aura of unwavering confidence in oneself and ones abilities. Also, it pulls from that confidence a sense of style that kicks it up a notch from the norm.  A guy who has varied interests as well as talents and can display them in such a way as not to come off as a dirt bag. Someone who can stay out all night but still show up for work the next morning in suit and bow tie. A 2011 Mad Men with a dash of class, if you will. 

Sounds a bit more appetizing doesn't it? For the sake of argument I'm going with the second definition. 

In looking for a fitting, ladylike descriptor I found this jazzy little write-up. The author suggests Cadence be the adjective of choice. While I agree with most of what is said in the article, I take umbrage with the idea that a cadence only applies to women out on the town clubbing and looking for a little 'action'. Certainly there is a word for the rest of us? 

In the end, what comes to my mind is a scene from one of my favorite movies, Some Like it Hot. Where Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon's characters are entranced by Marilyn Monroe's *ahem* cadence.  (Check it out here.) 

So what do you think? Is cadence a fitting enough word? Or can we do better? ;)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

mairzy doats and dozey doats

Let's face it, we're all a little nerdy. There's no use denying it.

I stumbled upon this revelation whilst perusing my Greek-English lexicon for fun words to use as inspiration for my fiction. That in and of itself isn't too uncommon a practice, but I realized suddenly that I may have taken it a little too far. I have bookmarked a dictionary. Now, in my defense, the Attic Greeks had some utterly fantastic words, but still. I looked at the little pieces of post-its fringing the edges of the lexicon and thought, "Good lord, I'm such a nerd."

I was a tad bit concerned for myself at first because it dawned on me that I was looking up fun ancient Greek words while listening to and singing along with Spike Jones, not missing a single gunshot or "gulp-gulp." Oh my, it was worse than I thought.

It used to be that being a nerd was a terrible social stigma, but surely in this more enlightened age that doesn't have to be true. Aren't we all a little nerdy in our own ways?

I say yes! Stand tall in your nerdy ways and proclaim loudly "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a nerd and I am damn proud of it!" Tell the world your nerdy vices and you will find that we are all share the same nerdy hearts.

Or, at the very least, tell me... so I won't sit here feeling like such a total loser.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Write yourself a love note

Go ahead, write a love yourself.

Yesterday the husband, Adam, and I removed our Christmas tree and stopped by Target for a cup of something hot and bleach (not to be used at the same time, of course). Pink, glittery, schmaltzy decorations hung from the ceilings, glared on the counters, and generally made me want to puke. We'd just taken out the Christmas tree, why the Valentine's Day decorations? What did I do to deserve over a month of those things?

Perhaps my animosity is because I'm not the best at giving Valentine's Day presents. Adam is tremendous at it, but his handwritten notes on the cards mean the most. Even if they are spontaneous, occasion-less notes left on stationary pilfered from a work conference, they leave a warm glow over the entire day. They're on my wall as a pick-me-up for down days.

As much as those notes of affirmation and love mean to me, I've never thought to leave one for myself. I have a wall covered in quotes and notes from Adam and friends; many are from Spatulans; and I have an unexpected email of praise printed and stuck to the wall. Thinking about each of these love notes, I gave myself a goal: the next time I feel good about an accomplishment, big or small, I'm writing myself a love note and attaching it to the wall.

Try it. Leave yourself a love note. You deserve it.

Friday, January 7, 2011


My Dear Friend:

I know that this New Year has brought you a whole host of emotional upheaval. Let me express my gratitude that this barrage hasn't been easy for you! Not to say I wish you harm or ill- quite the opposite. I wish you a great deal of happiness- a flock of bluebirds.

I do not, however, want you to take your joy for granted. I want you to work for it. I want to earn it. I want you to want it.

Yes I see you everyday walking through life with shoulders slumped and confidence pin-cushioned into silence. I know that doing something new, something different, something that you really want to do has you paralyzed. Fear keeps you concealed tightly in your little glass jar. Freedom is hazardous! Better to be safe than sorry! I hear those warnings too.

This year I am going to tell them to bugger off.

I don't know about you, but I have spent far too much of my time worrying about other people's happiness and too little time on cultivating my own. So much so that I have forgotten what really makes me happy.

You wouldn't think such a little thing like happiness could be so elusive would you? Yet that bluebird is a clever little thing. They don't call it a pursuit for nothing. But you can still catch it as so many people already have. You don't have to sift through shadows anymore. 

How? You ask. Easy. Find out where Happiness lives and then go knock on it's door. When it answers drag it away with you kicking and screaming. 

That's how it works for me at least. 

Drag that stubborn fowl if you have to. That is my wish for you this year- that you be happy by whatever means necessary.

With Love & Affection, 


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A resolution I can keep.

I, like Kristi, was going to write something about resolutions, but I got distracted by videos of the British comedy game show "QI." (Let's face it, Stephen Fry is infinitely more interesting than anything that goes on in my feeble little mind.)

Well, so much for the being productive resolution. And you know what? I don't care, because I now know several quite interesting facts about anteaters and that somewhere there is a redwood tree named Adam. More important than that, though, is that I am laughing like a hyena and it feels great to laugh so much.

I'm also ignoring my resolution to write more by dancing like a fruitcake to every song that comes on my player. I suppose I could argue that it is a very round about way to keep my get in shape resolution, but mostly it is because the music makes me happy and happiness leads to dancing.

And, ultimately, that is the point of life, right? To be happy. Sure I could have sat here for a few hours and come up with something resembling a coherent story, but I wouldn't have been happy with it or myself. And that is just a waste of time.

So, now I have one resolution that I am sure to keep this year. I will be happy. I will dance like a moron when the mood strikes. I will laugh out loud at funny things that pop into my mind. My levity of spirit will carry me though any tough times that appear in the year ahead.

I invite you all to join me in my resolution and I hope you find the time to be simply happy and to enjoy the little things in life.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Being Resolute, Take Two?

Last year I quoted the numbers. "Of the 100,000,000 Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, four out of five do not follow through. That means by the time we’re toasting 2011, 80,000,000 Americans will have failed." I vowed not to be one of the millions, but here I am with champagne still in the fridge and broken resolutions on my calendar. I always want to fulfill them, but without the TARDIS, it ain't gonna happen. So I pick up the pieces, and I move forward into another year, and I make my list again, because that is what we do. We look forward. Despite all the set backs and failures, we look forward and try again. So here is to another try, another toast, another race against the odds. Best wishes for 2011.