Monday, April 29, 2013

Roommate habits

The other day, I was trying to convince Hannah to do something she didn't want to do.

"You're totally bailing on me!" I wailed.

"I never technically agreed to go," she replied.

Diego piped up: You got Hannah'd.

What is Hannah-ing, you might ask? Well, it's when you silent sit through other people making plans, allowing them to assume that you acquiesce, and then quietly going down to the basement without saying goodbye.

"Come on, Hannah, it will be sooo fun!" I argued.

Hannah raised her eyebrows. "You know you're Ru'ing right now, don't you?"

Ru'ing is apparently when you try to sell an activity as more fun than it is, even if you know it will probably suck. ("We're all going to get sooo tan after working in the yard all day!")

Diego pointed out many past examples of Hannah'ing and getting Ru'd, and finally Hannah said, "So what is Diego'ing?"

Oh, that one's easy. Saying you're going to be somewhere at 7:30 PM, and showing up at a quarter to 9.

This is what happens when you've known your roommates for 13 (Diego and Hannah), 10 (me and Hannah), and 7 (me and Diego) years.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What book made you LOVE books?

This article in Publisher's Weekly got me thinking about what first fired up the need-to-read in me.

In first grade, I hated reading. This was mostly due to the fact that my first grade teacher, Mrs. Nielson,* had assigned me extra work to do at home. My mom would make me sit at the dinner table and do extra workbooks while she made dinner and my siblings played.

(Freakish Hermione nerd alert: I found out later that all this extra attention was due to the fact that in 20+ years of teaching, Mrs. Nielson had never come across a kid who never got anything wrong. The extra workbooks were designed to challenge me. But because my parents and Mrs. Nielson didn't want me to get a big head, they never pointed that out until I was in high school. Who knew?)

But by third grade, I had discovered the lure of Ann M. Martin and The Baby-Sitters Club, which I found enjoyable primarily on the basis that (1) Kristy was awesome and (2) you could read an entire BSC book in one night, partly because you can always skip the second and third chapters, which tend to just re-explain the business structure of the club. ("One night when Kristy was eating pizza, listening to her mom on the phone trying to find a babysitter for her little brother David Michael ...")

In fourth grade, though, the reading fever really took hold, thanks to a little book called Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. I tore through that series and then everything else that followed.

What was the first book that made you interested in reading?

* Here's a brief ode to Mrs. Nielson, who passed away a few years ago. In addition to being my first grade teacher, she was also my Sunbeams teacher in church, and a good friend of my parents', so I was always slightly confused about whether I was allowed to called her Nanette, Sister Nielson, or Mrs. Nielson (since I had been using all three interchangeably my whole life.) Believe it or not, there was one other relationship Mrs. Nielson and I shared, I found out later -- sorority sister. After I went to college, I found out that Mrs. Nielson had also been a member of Theta Phi Chapter, Delta Delta Delta.

Mrs. Nielson was also an artist, and when she illustrated her first book, she used me and my sister Echo for her illustrations. (We--and Echo in particular--were weirdly beautiful children. It must be so disappointing for our parents that we turned into merely-adequate-looking adults.) Unfortunately, the book was never published, so no one ever gave a crap that we were former-baby-models. C'est la vie.

But man, that book was a winner. It was based on a true story from Mrs. Nielson's childhood. If I recall the story correctly, it was about a little girl named Emma who loved ducks. Her parents told her to never let the ducks get into her mom's poppy patch, but one day Emma wasn't paying attention, the ducks ate the poppies, got stoned, passed out, and little Emma was super sad because she thought they were all dead. She planned a funeral for the ducks, and when she started singing to them, BAM! all the ducks woke up. I'm pretty sure some other stuff happened too, but it's been awhile.

Friday, April 26, 2013

I need to ask for a favor (and oh yeah, I'm quitting that A to Z thing)

I need to think of a name.

It has to be a girl's name. It has to start with J.

Ideally, I want it to be unique -- but not so unique that no one will know how to say it.

I could go to a baby name book or website, but here's the kicker -- I want to know what names people like, and not just what names exist.

So if you guys could get me started, you'd have my eternal gratitude. :)

Finally, regarding A to Z: I've done it for the last three years, and for some reason this was the first time I found myself struggling with it. I've enjoyed finding some other blogs, and I hope some readers enjoyed finding me. (Hi, readers!) But I think that's all for now.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for UMBRAGE!

About two years ago, I lost a lot of pictures on blogger, including the adorable header a reader friend made me. And no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to recover any of it.*

* When I say "try," I mean "don't do anything," since the issue really is that all the backups were on my computer that died.

Big sigh.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

S is for slapped with the sillies, T is for tuckered

I have a secret.

And it's going to stay a secret for at least a little while longer.

But do you want to know a secret about the secret?

It's making it close to impossible for me to get anything done.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

R is for Ru is Reading

I am currently reading The Litigators by John Grisham. I went through a Grisham phase in junior high (my all-time favorite was A Time To Kill), though he eventually lost my interest.

Recently my dad suggested I give The Litigators a try, and I'm so glad he did. As a grownup Lawyer Girl, Mr. Grisham is cracking me the hell up. In case you want to know, yes, this is how it goes sometimes. I heartily recommend it to lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

Next up at bat is Confederacy of Dunces.

What are you reading? What are you planning to read?

Friday, April 19, 2013

P and Q are for your P's and Q's

In high school, I had an English teacher who was really big into "allusions" and the origins of common phrases. We had to bring in 4 examples of allusions every quarter, and memorize fun facts about phrases as a part of a "cultural literacy" unit.

The phrase "mind your P's and Q's" means to mind your manners and be on your best behavior. There are two probably origins of this phrase, as I recall from 10th grade English. The first is from old timey pubs, where innkeepers and bartenders would keep track of patrons' tabs by writing down how many pints and quarts a person had consumed. So mind your p's and q's meant, for the bartender, keep track of what people owe you, and for the customer, be a good guest and pay your bill.

The second alternative is stems from the first printing presses that used individual letter keys. Lowercase p and q could be easily switched, since on a press, each letter is a mirror image of itself. So the phrase was a reminder to the printer to always double check his work.

So how have I been minding my Ps and Qs these days?

Well, I'm gearing up to attend a writing conference in May, where I signed up to pitch a project to an agent. My initial plan was to pitch a project I have been working on-and-off for I-don't-want-to-reveal-how-much time.

Some time ago, I realized that this project is my white whale (allusion!) and as much as I love it, I may need to buckle in and try something new. In the last year, I came to a new philosophy about my writing ambitions: internal deadlines. If I can't move on from Project X in Y amount of time, it might be best to give Project X a rest and start in on Project Z.

And that's what I've done, and it's going swimmingly. I hope to have Project Z to critiquers and beta readers in time, because gosh, it's going to be awkward if I don't. But that's what's new with me!

What's new with you?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

N and O are for, "New followers! Oh hey."

So I've noticed some new faces on the old blogaroo and I wanted to get to know you (or old followers) a smidgen better. If you wouldn't mind, answer a few questions for me?

1. What's the last book you read?

2. What time zone do you hail from? (I would just say, "Hometown," but I don't want to be a creeper.)

3. Guilty pleasure movie?

4. Are you also obsessed with Miranda Lambert's song "Mama's Broken Heart"? Oh, no? Welp, which song are you currently obsessed with?

5. Any other information you'd like to share?

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for majestic

"You know, that dog of yours has a real majestic stance when he pees. You should get a picture of it sometime."

- Pops

I shall try.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

L is for look it up and share

Open your iTunes. (Or music storage program of choice.)

What artists do you have that start with L? Let's give each other some options to find some new music, eh? Or at the very least, some good options for the next L round of Scattegories.

Lady Antebellum
Lady Gaga
The Last Goodnight
Laura Ixibor
Leona Lewis
Leonard Cohen
Leroy Anderson
Leslie Carter
Lil John
Linkin Park
Little Big Town
Liz Callaway
LL Cool J
The Lonely Island (One of my all-time favorite songs is Jack Sparrow. Not even kidding.)
Los Mono
Los Straitjackets
Loudon Wainwright
The Lovemakers
The Lumineers
Lyle Lovett

That was actually a lot more than I would have guessed. Now let's see what song titles we can come up with, oui?

Ladies' Choice from Hairspray
Lady Marmalade from Moulin Rogue
Lala (Ashlee Simpson - and no, I'm not ashamed)
The Land Race (John Williams, Far and Away soundtrack)
Last Call (Kanye)
Last Dollar (Tim McGraw)
The Last Thing I Do (Brooks and Dunn)
The Last Time (Rolling Stones)
Lay All Your Love on Me from Mamma Mia
Lean Back (Fat Joe - seriously)
Learn the Hard Way (Nickelback. Again, no, i'm not ashamed. i sincerely feel like Nickelback is like the Richard Nixon of our generation. No one admits to liking them or having bought their albums, but it wasn't a bunch of ghosts that made them best-sellers, nor was it magic that made Nixon president. Get over it, posers.)
Learn to Do it from Anastasia (I like movie soundtracks)
Learning How to Bend (Gary Allan)
Learning to Live Again (Garth Brooks)
Leave Out All The Rest (Linkin Park)
Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf (The Killers)
Leave the Pieces (The Wreckers)
Let it Be (The Beatles)
Let it Rock (Kevin Rudolf)
Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear (Elvis)
Let Me Entertain You (Robbie Williams)

... oh man, I'm starting to get carpal tunnel here and we're just on the Le's! I'm giving up ... for now, anyway.

But please, share, share! Doesn't everyone always need ideas for new tunes?

Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for existentialism (see what I did there?)

No friends, K is actually for Kafka and K, one of his more famous characters.

In high school, we had to read The Metamorphosis for AP English, and then the Cliff Notes version of The Trial. (Literally. We sometimes just read summaries of famous works, in the event they might become handy on the test. This has allowed me to pretend I've read way more classic works of literature than I actually have. Shhh, don't tell.)

The trial is about a man named Josef K., who goes by K almost the entire story. He is inexplicably arrested but not charged with a crime. He's subjected to a tribunal of some kind (I like to think of it as an arraignment), but no one tells him anything about what he has supposedly done. He's then released to his own recognizance (that part I'm interpreted liberally) and told to await further instructions. The story continues on like this for some time.

Now, the story isn't really just about the law or a trial (it's about life and how we can all sometimes feel like cogs in the greater machinery of modern society), but on some level it actually is about a trial. Kafka was a trained lawyer and it's hard to argue that (various levels of AP English analysis aside) he wasn't also delivering a very literal message with The Trial. 

After AP English, I kind of forgot about The Trial, though the images of The Metamorphosis can be hard to erase. But then, during my first year of law school, I signed up for a class called "Storytelling and the Law." (Supposedly, it was about the narrative forms lawyers employ to effectively connect with and represent our clients. I would still like to take that class, because the class my peers and I actually took involved a lot of introspective essays entitled "Who am I?", watching documentaries about the communication styles of domesticated animals, and bringing poems lyrics to class to interpret them. Due to my resistance to sharing feelings, my grade was ... not good. But at least now I know what Spencer wants when he goes into puppy play pose!)

But one thing that actually stuck with me from "Storytelling and the Law"was my professor's belief that the law is inherently a violent construction. That there is no "right" or "wrong," and people who engage with the law (litigants, defendants, victims) inevitably end up worse off than they were to begin with. As such, a lawyer's primary function is to minimize the additional damage that the justice system is about to inflict.

I don't particularly agree with that vision of the law. In fact, sometimes I think it's the clients themselves who are making the law so violent, with lawyers, mediators, commissioners, and judges all shielding themselves from the shrapnel. But my vehement disagreement has softened somewhat since law school. The justice system can be a scary thing, even when (and sometimes especially when) you're a lawyer.

But much like Kafka himself (who had a tendency not to finish projects), I'm not entirely sure where I am going with all this, other than to ask -- what do you all think? About the law, about existentialism, or even about Cliff Notes?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for just can't quite take this too seriously

Hello friends! I know I should have a fantastic J post, but I don't. And since I've now been "reported" (Sorry Officer Kripke, I'll never do it again!) for failure to complete the A to Z blog hop, I suppose it doesn't really matter.

So here is J, the letter that I already feel gets too much credit in the world!

PS, if anyone is going to be in the Provo-area anytime soon (including for a particular writing conference, hmmm?), you should check out J Ddawgs, a thoroughly delightful hotdog place.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for I don't think that means what you think it means

Ever seen an endorsement for a book that reads something like this ...?

Read Sally's book! She's the bomb!

Read Bob's book! He's so great, and there's no way he wrote something bad!

I want to read BOOK by Katie because there's no way it's not as awesome as she is!


Here's the thing. I understand the reasoning behind such endorsements. If I am ever published, I plan the shill the hell out of myself, and enlist all my friends and family in the same. I suspect some of those endorsements will sound like, "Buy my friend Ru's book! She's so funny/has shiny hair/pays her taxes, you won't regret it."

On some level, that sort of positive word-of-mouth is inevitable.

But friends, being a good person does not mean you produced a good book. This goes back to my previous post about authors who think any criticism of their work is a criticism of them.

Good people write bad books. Bad people write good books. People who reject traditional notions of morality write good, bad, and mediocre books.

So let's save the Good Person = Good Book false equivalency for siblings and elderly relatives, ok?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for ... "Have you heard about ...?"

One funny thing, one hopeful thing.

I may be the last person on the planet to find this little gem, but if you're into Jane Austen, check out The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, an online adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. (Lizzie's a grad student! Jane's a fashion intern! Darcy runs a digital media company! Kitty is actually a cat!)

The girl playing Lizzie can be ... a bit much, initially. But she grows on you. Stick it out for a couple episodes, you'll see what I mean.

Now for the hopeful thing.

Many of you may read Robin Ambrose's blog and may have already heard about this, but David Farland's son Ben was recently in a long boarding accident that left him severely injured. The family doesn't have any medical insurance and Ben's medical bills may reach into the million dollar range.

Robin and some other writers are organizing a book bomb for Ben. Basically, a book bomb is when everyone buys a book during the same 24 hour period, hopefully driving that book into Amazon or Barnes and Noble's Top 100 Best-Seller List for that day. More people are then able to see the book, and they buy it too.

Ben's dad David has written a lot of great books, but the two books we're focusing on tomorrow are Million Dollar Outlines (nonfiction about writing craft) and Nightingale (young adult fantasy). From noon on Wednesday, April 10th, until noon on Thursday, April 11th, if you could buy one or both of these books, it would really help Ben and his family. And I've heard they're awesome, so that's a win-win!

See Robin's blog for more details.

Monday, April 8, 2013

F is for feminism, G is for genre


Because feminism is the bomb, and for some reason it’s still getting a bum rap in 2013. Guess what, folks? We don’t live in a perfect world. We do live in a world that can get better, and that includes better for all the ladies. (Imagine that. We are part of the us.) (And guess what else? When life gets better for women, it usually gets better for men too! Because quality of life is not a zero-sum game.)

Something that frustrates me to no end is people who don't understand that I can support feminist issues in America ... and other issues. ("There are starving children in Africa! Women are still getting stoned in Afghanistan!) 

I know. And I believe that as a feminist who supports the legal, economic, and social equality of women, I care just as much about women in the U.S. who aren't getting paid fairly for their labor, and women in Romania who get substandard medical care.

There are a lot of causes that need help and a lot of them are interrelated. And we can care about and work for all of them! 

Think poverty and feminism. Internationally, I think it's pretty obvious the two are related. (Recommended reading: The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman: "... though climate, natural resources, and geography all play roles in why some countries are able to make the leap to industrialization and others are not, the key factor is actually a country's cultural endowments, particularly the degree to which it has internalized the values of hard work, thrift, honesty, patience, and tenacity, as well as the degree to which it is open to change, new technology, and equality for women.")

Domestically, it's also an issue. Single mothers are the demographic most likely to live in poverty. There goes that myth of the welfare queen/evil ex-wife living off child support. Turns out, that lifestyle is not terribly glamorous. Research on the feminization of poverty finds that 2/3 of those who live in poverty are women, despite only making up 1/2 the population. If you've read Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, you may recall that one of the indicators of a child's academic success was the child's mother's level of education.

It's the circle of life, folks. We get better, or worse, together.

So if you're a feminist, wootie woot for you! 

And if you think you're not, maybe consider why you aren't. I suspect that if you asked yourself, "Do I support the legal, economic, and social equality of women?" the answer is probably, "Yes." (Guess what? You're a feminist.) If the follow up thought is, "But I don't like to 'label' myself, or associate myself with something that has so many negative connotations."

In which case I'd just ask you, should Christians just stop calling themselves Christians because they don't want to be associated with the Westboro Baptist Church?

G is for GENRE

I read in all genres. I have ideas in all genres. I tend to write romantic comedies, mystery, and horror – though I’ve realized that romantic comedies come most easily to me. 

As a currently unpublished, unagented writer, I can write whatever I want because no one has expectations of me. But I imagine that, if this little pipedream of mine ever works out, I may have to reign myself in, at least as far as publication goes.

What about you? Do you have particular genres you love? Any you hate? Any you pretend you know what they are, even though you sorta don't? (Cough, steampunk, cough.)

Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for echo-chamber

There is a rule of thumb out there in Blogland that says if you’re an unpublished writer, you don’t get to criticize … well, pretty much anything.

Everything is “be nice” or an unspoken “or else.” If you didn’t like a book, keep it to yourself. (If you did like a book, however, BY ALL MEANS review it to the moon and back!) Apparently, if you ever want to be an author yourself, your identity as a reader with discerning taste just evaporates.

Recently, I read three different self-published books. I specify self-published in this instance mainly because self-published books rely more heavily on word-of-mouth for their marketing—which, for some people, makes a negative review seem less objective and more vindictive.*

The first self-published book I’ll call ARISTOPHANES. It had clearly defined, compelling characters. The plot was simple, but believable. It was funny, sexy, and the writing flowed. I would happily recommend it to others.

The second self-published book I’ll call ROCKY BALBOA. It had one-dimensional characters. The male romantic lead was one part Manic Pixie Dream Boy, two parts cliché Bad Boy With A Heart of Gold. The plot, such that it was, had plot holes you could drive a truck through. And there were some messages embedded in the novel that, frankly, I found pretty appalling.  

But the writing, itself, was actually pretty good. I found myself wanting to finish the book, to see if it got better, to see if it got worse

The third I’ll call JUST SHOOT ME. The writing was weak. The characters were paper thin. The plot was practically non-existent. The sexy-time scenes actually made me laugh out loud once – and I can only assume that wasn’t the goal. The messages presented were good, but handled awkwardly and obviously, which is almost worse than a bad message. Worst of all, it was boring.

ARISTOPHANES, ROCKY BALBOA, and JUST SHOOT ME don’t have a lot in common, except they were all self-published. The quality of these three books is, in my opinion, wildly different.

But if you were to read their reviews on blogs, Amazon, or Goodreads, you wouldn’t have much idea that anyone shares my opinion. There have been a few people on Goodreads who have noticed, and pointed out in greater detail, the issues I have with ROCKY BALBOA. No one seems to have the same issues I have with JUST SHOOT ME, but then again, there are a lot fewer reviews -- so either I am off-base, or there are a lot of readers holding their tongues. But for the most part, you’d think they were OMGAMAZEBALLS.

Weirdly, this almost makes ARISTOPHANES look ... less good by comparison.

I mean, yes, the reviewers gushed over it. They also gushed over some fairly terrible books. What does their opinion mean to me, the consumer?


Do you think there is any way for an aspiring author to give an honest review, AND attach his or her name to it? Have you noticed the same phenomenon I've noticed? Or do you think this concern is overblown?

* This, to me, is the problem with all reviews. Notice that, although my critique is harsh, I haven't said anything about the aforementioned books' authors, because as personally as people take their own writing, to call a plot "weak" or "unbelievable" is not the same thing as calling an author "dumb."

Do I think ROCKY BALBOA is a bad book? Yes. But that doesn't mean I think the person who wrote ROCKY BALBOA is especially a bad author. He/she might be a very good author who wrote one bad book. It happens! In fact, I recently read two books by the SAME author, and I thought one was great and one was just so-so. Wacky how that works!

And yet, you hear now and then about writers who read a review that says, "The book wasn't great" and turn into "Your mom is a smelly pirate hooker" (Name the reference!) in their minds. 


Take it down a notch with the "artistic temperament" thing.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for declining to post today

What? That's not against the rules.

Really, I'm pretty sure there aren't rules.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for critiquing

Here is what my financial future looks like at the moment:

1. Potential dog brain surgery ($X,XXX)*
2. Almost-certain main sewer line retrofitting ($XX,XXX)
3. I-wish-I-could kitchen remodeling ($XX,XXX)

Let's just say, vacation prospects aren't looking good for 2013. To say the least.

When you already live a relatively frugal lifestyle (my indulgences include eating out, the occasional moderately priced cardigan, and vacations), it's hard to know what you ought to cut out. Once you eliminate Cafe Rio, H&M, and road trips, what is left to axe?

Cable? Don't have it.

Fancy cell phone plan? Don't pay for one.

$1,500 a day Faberge egg habit? (Name the reference!)

As I ponder what I could do to make up the difference between What I Need and What I Have, the thought occurs to me ... hey, remember that writing thing you do that you currently don't make any money from?

Could I possibly find a way to make money from that?

So I’m putting it out there – starting in May, if there is any interest, I will be offering editing and critiquing services.

Section and copy editing experience (May 2005 - May 2006)
Textbook editing (September 2007 – April 2009)
Fast reader (like, like whoa levels of speed)

If you’re interested, email me at theadventuresoflawyergirl (at) gmail or leave a comment. I would love to get some feedback/thoughts on this idea, even if you aren't interested in my services. What kind of critiquing would YOU want, if you were to hypothetically pay for some?

(Disclaimer: Of course, if we've already done the critique partner thing, I wouldn't charge you, and if you would like me to read for you in exchange for you someday reading for me, why of course that's a different matter! But if you just need someone to tear up your manuscript or even term paper with their little red pen -- or track changes, as the case may be -- I'd be happy to oblige for a fee that is yet to be quite determined ...)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for Blackwater Bay

Yup, it’s a blog post about Game! Of! Thrones!

(I find that when you say Game of Thrones like Pat Sajak would say Wheel of Fortune, it becomes even more awesome. But why would you need to make Game of Thrones more awesome?)

I have been waiting for season 3 of Game of Thrones for nearly a year now, and the premier two days ago more than lived up to my expectations. If you’ve read the books, I’d put money on Storm of Swords being your favorite. (And if you haven’t read the books, what are you waiting for?)

Do you watch Game of Thrones? And if you do, care to totally geek out in the comments with me?