Camp Nanowrimo: Into the Woods of Revision

writing

camp 2015

It’s that time of year. April is almost upon us, and for those active in the world of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) it’s time to consider doing the April camp.  For those of you who don’t know about camp, here’s the basics: it’s a smaller additional twice a year Nanowrimo challenge in which you chose your word count or project. Finishing a started project, short stories, editing, graphic novels or screen writing are no longer rebels but official projects. Often I use the camps to give myself that extra bit of motivation to get whatever project I’m working on finished. Unfortunately I don’t always “win” camp, like I do the official event.work

This happens because when I sign up they have the default 50k goal sitting in the box and when I look at it, ready to change it to my planned goal something in me goes, wait! You can do 50k, really! Why change it? After all, you really want this project done. Only, unlike in November where I’ve set aside other obligations for the last ten years and everyone knows I’m busy, I have other stuff going on during the months of April and July. But since anything I get done is a victory in a larger sense, I find it useful anyway.

Silver creek trailThis year, though, I want to do something dramatic, bold, and brave! So, off I venture into the deep woods of revision! I want to turn a good novel into a brilliant one. The book is one I’ve been working on for several years, has been through several rounds of critiques at Critique Circle, and several full book beta tests from close friends. After doing everything I could, I still didn’t feel confident about it though. Despite knowing the book and the writing were strong and supposedly market-ready, it nagged on me that I was still missing something. That it wasn’t as good a book as some of my others. So I took the book to Darcy Pattison’s novel retreat.

In a group with three other novelists, we worked through the exercises in Novel Metamorphosis interspersed with lectures from Darcy and small group discussions. What came out of that retreat was a focused map for revisions, one I’ve been honing this last week by doing some of the exercises in the book I didn’t have time for the retreat schedule being so focused. Unlike other camps, I’ve got my backpack full of tricks and a detailed map of what I’m adding and subtracting from the novel. And thus I’m going to be big, brave, and bold. The novel is 85,000 words long and I’m going to edit each and every one of them, so I’m upping that number on the nano goal to 85k.

And considering this novel is about the age of Charlemagne, I feel quite justified in using the traditional battle cry as I get myself fired up for April 1st: Monjoy!

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The Calico Avengers Strike Back

writing

It’s almost time for another adventure on the high seas! Captain Calico Patrick, his first mate and brother Natty, and their loyal German shepherd-collie cross friend Rifky will soon return in an all new Calico Avengers sequel. The book will be released on May 1st on all major ebook platforms and in hard copy from Createspace and Amazon. My awesome editor is Alexis Arendt of Word Vagabond, and here’s my fabulous cover, done by artist Leo DeBruyn:

Calico_Treasure_Web

When a mysterious thief attacks in the night, Captain Calico Patrick discovers there’s a treasure map hidden on his ship. Under the guidance of a wolf named Silver, the Avengers head off to Dog Bone Island to find the treasure. But a crew of scurvy pirates under the command of the evil Captain Halibut-guts are determined to stop them and take the treasure for themselves.

Take a peek and read chapter one.

***

As we get closer to the release date, I’ll be posting more information. Also, if anyone wants to do a review, I can send you and advance e-copy but it won’t have the inside art in it yet, but let me know if you’re interested. I’m thrilled this is almost ready! I have a third book in the works as well but haven’t yet nailed down a title. Hopefully I will get the plot kinks worked out and gear up for another release this fall to round out the series.

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From the Dreaded One’s Desk: the Demon of Procrastination

From the Dreaded One's Desk

ardythava3“Gotcha!” The Dreaded Author punched the button on her evil controller and the poor unfortunate monster before her exploded in a small puff of flame.

“Um, your dreadfulness?” A minion poked its head around the side of a stack of nearby books. “I thought we were going to–”

“Not now, I’m busy slaying,” snarled the Dreaded One. “Unless you want me to slay you instead.”

“But your evilness–”

“Quiet!” The Dreaded Author leaned forward, intent on the scene before her and ready for another kill. Only everything dissolved into blackness before her.

“Arg! I hadn’t saved yet!” roared the Dreaded Author. “What’s wrong with this stupid thing?”

The minion nearby jumped back in fear, however, another minion stood up behind the blank screen in front of the Dreaded Author. “I pulled the plug, actually,” the scheduling minion said, holding up the offending object in its hand.

With a series of curses, the Dreaded One tossed the now useless controller at the scheduling minion, but it only ducked.

“I’ll flay you alive!” The Dreaded Author was in a terrible mood.

“That game is nothing but a trap,” the scheduling minion said, entirely unfazed. “One that has stolen away not only your productivity but is stifling your creativity as well.”

“Nonsense.” The Dreaded Author scowled and folded her arms. “A good friend gave me that game.”

“You mean the Demon of Procrastination?”

“Well, I–”

The scheduling minion held up a claw, forestalling any excuses. “You really don’t think he might have ulterior motive?”

“Er…”

The scheduling minion brandished his clipboard. “Now see here, you have the proofs back from your editor on your newest Calico Avenger book, which means only the art is holding up the book from getting published–art you agreed to do personally.”

“Well I was getting to it…”

“Not to mention!” The scheduling minion tapped his claws on the clipboard. “There’s those revisions to your novel you planned from attending the Darcy Patterson retreat, including a brand new ending.”

“You see, I was–”

And you have those last minute line edits from your Dreaded Brother’s proof reading to fix on Dragon Boy, which I might mention is out on submission. What if someone requests it? Those definitely need to be fixed right away!”

“Oh, fine, fine.” The Dreaded Author sighed dramatically.

“Don’t fine, fine, me,” snarled the scheduling minion. “We have five weeks’ worth of things to get done in three weeks! You’d better get started!”

“I said fine.” With a vicious snarl the Dreaded Author reached for the laptop and the pad of drawing paper. “See, I’m starting.”

“Good.” The scheduling minion marched out of the room, clipboard held high.

“Just as soon as I finish this book,” muttered the Dreaded Author pulling one off the top of the stacks of books.

The other minion dared a peek back around the stack. “Isn’t that the Japanese novel the Demon of Distraction sent you?”

“Yes.” The Dreaded Author cocked an evil eyebrow at the minion. “And if you don’t get me a nice cold smoothie and a bar of chocolate to go with it, I’ll flay you alive.” Then she settled back to enjoy her book as the minion scurried away.

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The Writing Life: Pitching in Person

marketing, writing

Organized Tables, Valencia, Spain, March 2007Now that I’ve moved into traditionally marketing some of my book again, I’ve found that I get much better responses to queries when I give them in person than when I send them by email. This is something new and scary for me. I’ve only verbally pitched agents and editors a grand total of nine times, the last two just on Friday at the Portland Writing Workshop. But this limited experience means I’m also still close to the terror of doing so, because it can be quite terrifying. If you’re also new at this, here’s a quick list of what I’ve discovered learning to do it:

1) Verbal pitches work best when they are NOT the same as a query letter.

This isn’t too surprising, since written words and conversations are totally different. That’s not to say many people don’t just sit down and read their query, and the agent/editor will tolerate that, but that’s also pretty stiff. A personal connection is important when pitching. So when you prepare the pitch ahead of time, pare down the query into something about half. It should still introduce the characters, tension, and stakes of the book, but as concisely as possible. That leaves room for the agent/editor to ask questions after you give the pitch, and you can elaborate on the other aspects of the novel then. You need a prepared pitch, so you don’t blank out on talking about your novel, but ultimately it’s the conversation you want–like telling a friend about your book.

2) Make a copy of your pitch in large print or type and more space to reference. 

It’s amazing how small 12 point font in a solid paragraph looks when sitting there face to face with an agent/editor. I either double space my pitch in 16 point font or hand write it with every other line left blank on the notebook paper. If you’re pretty good at public speaking you might even just have your pitch in the form of bullet points so you can refer to them easily. The idea is, when you’re talking about your book and your brain hits a blank spot, you can just glance down and see where you left off and trigger the rest of it.

3) Practice aloud. Lots. And with other people as well as on your own.

Speaking and reading silently are totally different. You want your pitch to roll off the tongue smoothly. You want to sound polished. You don’t have to memorize it, but if you read it aloud over and over, eventually you should be able to go a couple sentences each time without looking at it, and just glance back down at it for the next bit.

Even better, practice with other people. The other people giving pitches at the event are great people to practice with. Each take a turn pitching. Practice making eye contact and sounding excited about your work (because you are, even if you’re also terrified). Then listen to their feedback and adjust your pitch if you need to. When you listen to theirs, ask questions about their book. What sorts of things does their pitch make you want to know about the book? Hopefully they will ask questions too.

4) Research the agents and editors at the event ahead of them.

Some events require you to pick the people when you register, some events you wait in line to pitch to the people you favor. Either way, you should research all the people you plan to pitch online ahead of time. A piece of paper with a few notes under each one to keep them straight during the event is a good idea.

I’ve found it’s also really handy to have this for ALL the agents/editors at the event, not just the ones you’re planning on pitching to. Sometimes there’s extra spaces for you to get in more pitches. On Friday’s event I could have signed up for some extra sessions, but since I hadn’t planned on it, I couldn’t remember which genres the remaining agents represented and so missed my chance. Sometimes the agent/editor you pitch to explains you’ve classified your genre wrong  and should try other people who represent that genre. This happened to me last summer, but luckily the event had a sheet with all the agents and what the represented in my program.

5) Treat the session as half job interview, half talking to a friend.

Before my first pitch, I was completely terrified, so I kept asking the people ahead of me how theirs went. Everyone kept saying things like, well, they’re just people, friendly people, and I relaxed and had a good time. Right. I wasn’t buying that, until I actually had my pitch session. I found that by the end of it, I totally had relaxed and just related to the agents/editors as people. Everything they’d said was true. It was like talking to a friend about writing… just a bit more formal. Be sure you have your written pitch and a pen/pencil.

Here’s my breakdown of the meeting:

Introduce yourself - Even if you have a name tag, this helps trigger normal social skills and make this a more pleasant interaction.

Tell the person if you’re overly nervous - There’s nothing wrong with saying, this is my first pitch/time doing this or I’m new at this, boy am I nervous. If you’re shaking or something, it’s even better to, first because saying it aloud will help calm your nerves, and second because chances are the agent/editor will say outright, that’s alright, don’t worry, just relax, or some other helpful response. If they’re a jerk about it, then you know they aren’t the right agent/editor for you anyway.

Give your pitch – It’s good to make eye contact. Don’t sweat reading/saying your pitch exactly the way you wrote it, so long as you cover all the points/ideas you meant to. Brief is good, because it allows for the next step.

Expect questions - If you’re pitch has done its job, the agent/editor will want to know more. They’ll ask you about your book or sometimes about you or your goals.  If there’s time, you can also ask any questions of your own you have. If they ask for materials, make sure you write down what (query, pages, synopsis), who (name and email), and how to title it (since many people use filters). Sometimes they’ll give you a business card, but taking a couple quick notes are useful when you’re trying to send the right stuff to the right person later.

Thank them - These sessions are timed usually, so this is brief and you may not have time to shake their hand, but nothing ends a pitch session than a big smile and a, “Thank you so much.”

 

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Five Reasons to Write Fanfiction

writing

stockvault-notebook-and-pen136687Fanfiction, while exceedingly popular, can often get a lot of scorn from authors. I think this is ridiculous. There’s a long history of re-imagining established stories and characters in literature. All the famous Greek playwrights wrote in one sense, fanfiction in that they took well known stories and characters and made them their own, creating new adventures or re-imagining older ones. In fact, I’m willing to go beyond just saying fanfiction is not a problem and people ought to write fanfiction (if they are inclined to).

With one caveat though: Always respect the authors’ copyrights. Don’t steal work and illegally sell stories based on their characters and worlds. Making money off other people’s work is wrong. But when done properly, there’s definitely five great reasons to consider writing fanfiction.

1) Learning Your Craft 

Fanfiction in some ways makes things easier for a beginning writer. It supplies the world building and the characters ready made. Sometimes it even provides plot, big events happening in the mainstream story that you can use in your own re-imagining. When trying to write for the first time, it can be overwhelming to create everything you need on your own. Trying fanfiction allows you to practice writing and gain skill in it with the support of elements you know are solid. I think of it a bit like tracing when learning to draw. Or copying masterpieces in learning to paint. These common exercise are used to educate beginning artists in how to do things right. It helps you learn to pick out elements in your own work that need further development when you compare them to your favorite stories.

Much of my earliest writing was Redwall or Star Wars fanfic. When I look at it, I can see ideas that I added to these worlds that were good strong ideas. Later on I kept some of those concepts and characters that originally came out of fanfiction and developed them further into original stories.

2) Keeping Enough Enthusiasm and Confidence in Your Story 

Another common problem beginning writers struggle with is believing your story is good enough to actually get to the end of it. Often writers will abandon a project because somewhere along the way they lost faith in it as a good idea. This can happen with any story, even fanfiction, but I’ve found that where fanfiction differs is you have the original story that excited you no matter what. You love something about this world or these characters, something about it got you so excited about it, you weren’t done when the story was over. You wanted more. Your brain is giving you more, filling in new ideas about what these characters are doing or how this world is changing. I find it easier to hold onto my confidence in the characters and the world when it’s so obvious popular with many people. This can help the writer stick with the story longer and thus learn more from writing it.

3) Feedback From People Who Care as Much as You

When you’re starting out as a writer, getting feedback on your work is essential. It’s the biggest way you learn and grow as a writer, to hear reader comments about how you can improve. However, as anyone who is a writer knows, it can be pretty difficult to get anyone to read your stuff. Friends and family get tired of you begging them to, and often don’t give good feedback. Joining critique groups is quite helpful, but sometimes you end up in groups where the people critiquing you don’t have the same interests in reading as you do. You might find what you’re critiquing in exchange just as boring back. While you’re all writers, you have different tastes.

With fanfiction you have an immediate community with other fans. These people are just as excited about this particular world and these characters are you are. They’re eager to read it. You’ll find their writing more exciting as well as it features the same things that excite you. On a fanfiction forum you can meat lots of people to share and connect with and to give you thoughts and reactions on your writing. It’s a fantastic way to grow as a writer.

4) Gaining Fans That Carry Over

If you have an active fanfiction community and fans who enjoy your work, sometimes that can carry over to your original work as well. These people know and love your fanfiction. They like your treatment of characters and find your style interesting. It’s also likely that your original work will have lots of the elements of the established worlds you love. I’m not saying copying, but more like they’d be in the same genre. My original books aren’t copies of Redwall or Star Wars anymore, but you can see the influences in things like animal characters, complicated family relationships, a hero on a quest to save his home or country, and other larger themes.

Many of the people read your fanfiction will likely enjoy your original work as well. Several authors have had success publishing original stories after having a large number of fans of their fanfiction work. It helps you to build up a platform from which you will eventually sell your own work.

5) You Can Make Money in Fanfiction 

Now, just to be clear, I mean LEGALLY, not trying to sell stories still under copyright. There’s several ways you can do this. First, some older properties are no longer under copyright. Notably, recently copyrights expired for Sherlock Holmes and Treasure Island. You can now legally write stories with those characters. There’s a lot of great older stuff like Alice in Wonderland or the Jungle Book. Just double check to make sure the property you’re selling actually is public domain before you charge money for it.

Sometimes, when a property is still under copyright, there are ways to get permission. If the owner of the copyright is willing to sell you or the publisher the rights, your story can be published. Peter Pan for example goes through the Children’s Hospital in the UK. Also, some larger publishers regularly put out books in various worlds like Star Trek and Star Wars. Someone has to write those books. If you’re good enough and they like your ideas, it could be you. Recently the Jim Henson Company held a contest to pick which author they’d hire for a Dark Chrystal prequel novel. If you really love the right fanfic universe, you just might be able to write in it. Just do your research about who holds the rights and the best way to legally write for them.

These days, you can even self-publish in a few established worlds. Amazon has purchased the right to sell fanfiction in several worlds through kindle publishing. These copyright holders receive a percentage of your story’s income. It’s worth checking out their list of allowed worlds to write in to see if any of them are worlds you enjoy. While it’s a limited list, it ranges from something as literary as Kurt Vonnegut’s novels to as pop culture as GI Joe. Each world has rules though that have to be followed before you can publish a story with it, so make sure your fanfiction follows the unique guidelines. Hopefully more copyright holders will be interested in joining the program in the future.

Now if only they got the rights to Redwall… and I might just return the field of fanfiction.

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Exploring the Willamette Valley: Cascades Gateway Park

Willamette Valley

Cascades 6I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but ever since Nanowrimo my daily walk has disappeared. Talk about unhealthy! I’ve kept up on Tai Chi class twice a week but that’s not the same sort of exercise, even if it’s good for me. The trouble with winter in Oregon is it’s cold, rainy, and dark, and mostly makes me want to curl up on the couch with hot chocolate or tea, not go out walking. I’ve been unable to talk myself into my usual route at Minto-Brown Island, and so to get myself finally moving, I went this morning to Cascades Gateway Park instead. It has the virtue of being just down the road from my husband’s work, so it’s right there when dropping him off.

That’s about Cascades Gateway’s only virtue unless you count it having a fancy name. The park is a slice of marsh right next to the freeway that probably isn’t usable for anything else. It has a small river (for Oregon) and a pond. The picnic area is nice enough, if you want to listen to the freeway right next to you with only a concrete barrier between you and it. The park isn’t really set up for walking either, the only thing it’s really set up for is fishing. And it must either actually be a great place to fish or its the only place around here to fish, because even at 9 am on a cold foggy January morning there was half a dozen people out there fishing along the pond and more people showing up. When I’ve walked during the summer there’s a ton of people fishing.Cascades 2

The trails, if you can call them that, are either a few going off from the picnic area into the swampy bushes that dead end at various fishing spots along the river, or you can circle the lake. Neither are ideal. The ones at the picnic area are overgrown, so you’ll get wet bushes in your face and mud all over your shoes in the winter and spider webs and mosquito in the summer. That and you’ll have to double back after it dead ends. Usually I opt for the lake.

It’s a short circuit, twenty minutes if you take it slow, but despite being muddy, the lake itself is nice enough. It’s at least a slice of nature instead of walking right next to cars on a sidewalk. The trail is well defined in some places with even a little foot bridge, but then in others completely disappears, like when the park turns into a disc golf course. You just have to pick your way across it until the trail picks up again at the other end. There’s also a section where you either have to walk through the gravel parking lot or across some grass that belongs to all the ducks and geese, which is sort of a toss up which is better.

Cascades 4Despite all that, it’s not a bad walk. I’m making it sound terrible, but it really isn’t. The fresh air and the trees are nice. Right now flocks of Canadian geese are wintering there, which are sort of interesting to see up close, and the fishermen are always very friendly. The convenience of talking myself into getting there means I actually did it. The fog this morning made the park look almost magical, adding some mystery and making the freeway barrier less noticeable (although the noise of the cars was still quite loud). Still, I found some nice shots of nature if I was careful about how I took them.

And best of all, I got an incredible view of this big guy. I’ve never seen a heron so close before. That was enough to cheer me up and get my morning off to a great start. Maybe tomorrow I’ll actually manage to get myself to Minto or Waterfront for a more vigorous (and drier) walk.

Cascades 1

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The Writing Life: Novel Critique Challenges

writing

This weekend I attended Darcy Patterson’s Novel Retreat held in my area through SCBWI. Revision and critique groups are something I’m rather intimately familiar with but I wanted to try a new format for looking at a particular book that was stuck. I’d put it through an online group twice, but still hadn’t been able to articulate what it needed. The retreat was focused on whole book critiques, done by a focus group who had read each other’s whole novel all at once. I was successfully able to figure out what the book needed this way, which has made me ponder why my online group has worked so well for some projects but not for this one. I think the answer is in that there’s two basic ways to critique a novel: a chapter at a time and the whole book at once. Each process has different advantages and disadvantages.

old-books-stackedA Whole Book at Once

Ideally, a novel should be taken in as a whole. It is a complete artwork and so when getting feedback it’s invaluable to get it on the whole book. When a critiquer reads a whole book they can comment on key things like plot, pacing, character arc, setting, tension, and message from a place of understanding the whole story.

However there are several downsides. Critiquing such a large work is a strain on the reader, which means unless you pay someone to do it, often people who offer either don’t get to it, or give a very brief reaction. It’s rare someone will have the time and energy to give line by line suggestion in an entire novel unless you pay them to. So, other than a few typos, it’s rather unfair to ask someone to offer editorial comments on that scale. Still, even asking just for general reactions, I’ve found sometimes the critiquer has only a brief reaction of a few things they liked and disliked. While that is helpful, it doesn’t really dig into the novel to help dissect what it needs.

Usually if you exchange a novel with another author, the process is more reliable since the person is also awaiting your feedback. What made the novel retreat stand out was that everyone had three other people who had read their book, which meant the whole small group could debate each novel in detail, answering specific exercise questions posed by Darcy. This was extremely effective because when one person was unsure why they felt a certain way, either the question or other member’s ideas would help spark them to find words for why this or that part was something they felt worked or didn’t.

workChapter by Chapter

While the experience was intense and awesome, it did take a large chunk of time reading the three other novels and thinking about what I thought before the retreat. Then, it was an intense weekend that I had to set aside for the process. Unfortunately, not only do critiquers not usually have that much time to put aside to help me, I don’t usually have that much time to devote to the process. This is where chapter by chapter critique groups come.

Usually there’s a set meeting schedule where everyone comes together and critiques either a single chapter, or in some groups a set amount of words. The most common schedules are once a week, every other week, or once a month. Everyone comments on the chapter, whether aloud (in a real life group), or in email/forums, on an online group. While this make some overall things harder to see, it gives more time to individual scenes and chapters, allowing for more in depth comments, and also help with sentences, grammar, description, or other specific writing problems.

Both processes are very helpful, and I think this weekend’s retreat underscored to me that ideally a book should be critiqued both ways. When one doesn’t help me find the problem, it makes sense to try something different, until I do. Hopefully, this next draft will be a definitive one!

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Sylvania: New Arrivals Start Up Businesses

sylvania

Sylvania 1Last fall Sylvania opened up it’s boarders to allow a wave of new arrivals, fresh from Korea. Two families arrived, the Kangaroos and the Hamsters, and one young kitten by herself. Most of Sylvania was thrilled by the new additions, particularly Ms. Cat who was excited to meet her young niece for the first time. “I’ve got a picnic planned first thing for the two of us,” she told the Sylvanian Times. “Even better, the park has a brand new children’s bathroom, also from Korea.”

“It’s about time our park had new facilities,” Mayor Oak Raccoon said. “These are state of the art, clean and safe especially for our children.”

Other members of Sylvania were less enthusiastic. “Couldn’t we have gone with a local company for the park restroom? We need to be investing in local business,” said Mr. Duck.

Most of the town gathered though to greet the new residents. “I just want to welcome everyone and show them what a great community we are,” said Mr. Chocolate Rabbit. “My children are eager to make new friends, and so are the adults.”

“I think diversity enriches our community,” said Mrs. Elephant. “I’m eager to learn some new recipes from both the Hamsters and the Kangaroos.

Not everyone however felt the size of the celebration was warranted. “I don’t see what the big deal is,” complained Mrs. Brown Bear. “We were all made in China. Who cares what country we were purchased in? I think this encourages prejudice under the false label of diversity.”

Hop for Pizza

Sylvania 3Despite just arriving, the Kangaroos are wasting no time in opening up a new business in Sylvania–the Hope for Pizza restaurant. It might seem a strange choice but the Kangroos are happy to explain. “While you don’t necessarily think pizza when you think Korea, let me assure you there’s plenty of pizza in Korea,” Mr. Kangaroo said. “My teacher was an Italian rabbit, so I know pizza inside and out, but over the years pizza has become a truly international cuisine.” Mr. Kangarooo suggests trying their special sweet potato pizza. “It’s a great Korean specialty that I think could really catch on here in Sylvania.”

“In Korea, pizza is always served with pickles,” Mrs. Kangaroo added. “I’d challenge people here to try it. It’s far more delicious than the raw tomato slices people serve it with here.” The Kangaroos still offer such Sylvanian classics as pepperoni, cheese, and Canadian bacon pizza, along with extra tomato for those who still like them.

No Paw Left Behind

Sylvania 2The Hamsters, the other newcomers, have also arrived with their very own new business–a shoe shop. The small store is currently right next door to Hop for Pizza, with both families going in on housing to get started, but everyone is hopeful that the new year will soon see them expanding. “Looking around, I see a lot of bare paws in Sylvania,” said Mrs. Hamster. “I think our shoes will be greatly appreciated. We have a wide range of styles currently stocked with my husband working away on yet more great footwear.”

Many residence, like Mrs. Badger are enthusiastic. “My daughter and I have both wanted shoes for ages,” she said. “And my husband will be pleased to finally have work boots.”

Her son, Wintergreen Badger however had other ides. “Who needs shoes? I’d rather have pizza.”

Either way, both new businesses will brighten Sylvania’s future.

 

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From the Dreaded One’s Desk: The Dusty Lair

From the Dreaded One's Desk

ardythava3“Your evilness?” The Productivity Head Minion poked its head into the Dreaded Lair. Cob-webs hung low from the ceiling and dust was everywhere. Papers, dirty clothing and dishes, leftover Christmas decorations, and snack wrappings littered the floor. The desk was piled so high with junk even the window behind it was obscured.

“Most Dreaded One!” yelled the minion, picking its way through the room.

“Go away, I’m busy,” snarled the Dreaded Author from behind her book. Her feet were propped up against the windowsil and she was just in the exciting part of the novel she’d gotten for Christmas.

“But your dreadfulness! You’ve neglected not only the lair this time but your work as well. Do you realize it’s been thirty six days since you last wrote anything new?”

The Dreaded Author glared, purposely not notifying the minion that a dirty candy wrapper had gotten stuck to its leg. “I’ve been productive! My goal last month was to edit! In fact, just two days ago I was at my writer’s group to read ten freshly edited pages!”

“Freshly as in you stayed up the night before and they were full of typos which embarrassed you horribly,” the minion said. “You’ve lost your muse!”

“It’s somewhere in here,” said the Dreaded Author. “Under all the junk.”

“Exactly! Lost! It’s time to get productive! Clean this up, find the muse, and get cracking.” The minion puffed up its chest. “We’ve decided it’s high time you stopped lazing around and got going again.”

The Dreaded Author growled and hurled the book at the minion. It ducked. The book hit a pile of boxes which fell down with a crash sending a cloud of dust into the air. Only then did the Dreaded One realize she’d lost not only her place, but probably the book as well. “Look what you’ve made me do!” She got to her feet, flexing her claws.

“And your awfulness, the worst of it is, it has be six months since you last did any marketing.” The Productivity Minion shook a claw at the Dreaded One. “Shame on you!”

“I was busy!” roared the Dreaded Author, incensed. “I was camping with friends in August! Visiting Korea in September! Writing a brand new novel in November! Christmas obligations in December! All perfectly good excuses!”

“And during October?” The minion smirked.

“Something very important, I’m sure.” The Dreaded One swiped at the minion, but it dodged and she knocked over a teapot spilling moldy water across the floor. Snarling, the Dreaded One jumped back only to land a sticky candy wrapper and knock over a pile of papers with her elbow sending them across the floor. “I can’t work in this mess! And I certainly can’t market in this mess!” she roared.

“So which is easier? Dishes or a blog post?” the Productivity Minion asked with a wicked grin.

“Eating you for dinner is what I’d call easier!” The Dreaded One attacked again, furious that the minion had a good point. Getting mold out of a teapot or packing away the Halloween decorations from last year were all considerably more bother than a simple blog post. Unfortunately the junk was too thick to get anywhere near the little minion. It raced across the room and out the door before the Dreaded Author could even begin to untangle herself from the mess.

“Bother those minions, they’re useless anyway,” she growled sulkily. At least the last pile to fall over revealed the book she’d been reading earlier. Wiping the tea slime off on a stray sweatshirt, the Dreaded One settled back down to read. Productivity could just wait a little longer.

“You missed October,” said the

Your lair isn’t just messy, it’s covered in dust. Your lair has been neglected while you’ve been off gallivanting around!”

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Exploring the Willamette Valley: Covered Bridges near McKenzie Bridge

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Parvin bridgeSo I’ve had a really busy couple of last weeks… I went to the PNWA writer’s conference two weekends ago, but I’m still letting the experience filter through my brain mentally and so will be writing on it belatedly. Instead, I needed a perfect way to unwind, and so when my father suggested we go on a drive to find some covered bridges just southeast of Eugene, Oregon, I jumped on it.Unity bridge

People who haven’t gone looking for covered bridges mostly don’t understand why it’s so much fun. I know I didn’t before my father first talked me into it. But once I tried it, I was hooked. There’s several fun aspects of it. First, you have to find the bridges. While there’s directions online, those are only so good, and so there’s always a bit of a question as to if you’ll be able to find the bridge, if the bridge is still there even. In that respect, it’s rather like a treasure hunt, usually traveling around beautiful Oregon countryside and farms.

Then, a covered bridge itself is really quite lovely to visit. Usually it’s over a quiet and rather charming river, with lots of plants, flowers, farm houses, and other pastoral scenery. The bridge itself can frame very lovely views of slices of countryside or river, and so it’s rather like going to an interesting park. Also, some of them have interesting histories, which is what my father enjoys. He likes to read up on the bridges, when and how they were built, Oregon history surrounding them, and get several photos of each bridge.

Lowell bridgeEugene is definitely the right area of Oregon for covered bridges. While it took a bit longer to arrive in the area, once we got there all the bridges were close together. The first one we visited, Parvin Bridge, was off on a quiet back road and quite charming. Since it was still in use, we took care to watch for traffic, but there wasn’t any, so we got to fully explore the bridge at our leisure.

The second bridge, Lowell, surprised us by being on a lake more than a river. A dam upriver had changed the flow of the water and so the bridge was more on a dock attached to the main road’s modern bridge.Lowell bridge 2 It is also a much larger covered bridge and historical exhibits are housed inside of it with lots of interesting information. On the downside, it has a pigeon problem, which makes much of the floor of the once lovely bridge covered in bird poop and lots of annoying birds flying around inside it.

However, not only was it still an interesting bridge despite the birds, but it had a very handy map of all covered bridges in the area. Looking at the pictures, my mother and I saw a distinctive red bridge we instantly fell in love with and wanted to see, one that was not on the tour my dad had constructed from research online. Since it was only 20 mi out of the way, we decided to go see it.

Office bridgeOffice Bridge was well worth the detour. It has a covered pedestrian walkway built into the side of the covered bridge that makes it quite unusual. According to the signs, it is also the longest covered bridge in Oregon. The bridge itself can be driven across but leads only to a parking lot and park, with a number of hiking and biking trails leading off from it. There was also a cute cafe and lodge across the street from the bridge that looks like it’d be a great place to stay.

We went looking for Pengra Bridge and found Unity Bridge first, since our directions didn’t quite work out. Unity is currently under construction, replacing the roof, and on a bit busier of a street, but I still got a really nice view from the bridge in between traffic.Pengra bridge

Eventually after several wrong turns and extra exploration, we found Pengra as well, which was on another quiet road and worth the hunt. Overall, I had a fantastic time and would like to see more of the covered bridges another time.

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