Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Update on the last post

Hello all! 
Today has been an interesting one to be sure.  
This afternoon, Axle had seizure #5.  That's right, since the last post, Axle has had three more seizures.  That's a lot in the past 18 days.  Too many.
Right now, I am perched over our sleeping dog and writing about him.  I feel like an overprotective mother hen sitting on her egg.  The seizures don't seem to hurt.  But I feel awful watching him go through that without being able to really help.  

Our little egg:

Today, he seized on the subfloor of our entryway. 
We had asbestos in the linoleum under our Pergo, so we have been out of the house for a few days during the abatement.  When we returned home, we found large chunks missing from the subfloor.  Half an inch deep in some places.  The floor is not really safe to walk on in some spots and is really rough.  

This is what the floor looks like.  Not really a good representation of the chunks missing, but you get the idea.

This is what the kitchen looks like: 

Other things have happened since the last post.  Both good and bad. 
Matt's Dad is at home, wearing a neck brace and trying to do too much too soon.  But that is the way of the Brenkle.  If they're not working, they're dead.  I am just so thankful that he is beginning his recovery!  

Matt and I have begun picking out new floors and carpet to replace what was damaged.  So far, so good.  But it's not an immediate process.  
We're thinking of doing an engineered Tigerwood (Brazilian Koa) for the kitchen, entryway and in the adjacent family room.  

Any good or bad stories on that?  

Matt will be doing all of the reconstruction in the house - so it will be a good opportunity for him to showcase some of his talents and to use the money estimated for labor to do little upgrades with the materials we're choosing.  

We've also had the opportunity to spend some time with our nephew, Tanner.  
Here he is in all of his adorable glory:  

He'll be one year old next month.  I can't believe it!  He's almost walking too.  I'm not really ready for that phase, but I guess I have to accept it.  The question is, are his parents ready?  Ha! We'll see.  

I am waiting to hear back on a job that I really want.  I feel like it would be a really good fit and a great company to work for, so I have my fingers crossed.  

I am also submitting next week for my writer's group for the first time.  I am nervous and excited to get feedback on my story.  
Matt actually just started "secretly" reading my rough draft and said he was impressed.  That makes me very happy to have his support.  I guess he didn't really know what to expect.  And I didn't know he was reading it!  Sneaky!  
I don't mind that he read it.  It actually takes the edge off of other's critiquing what I've written.

Anyway, there's a lot going on right now, sorry it took me so long to give you an update.
I hope all is well in your world! 



Friday, April 10, 2009

Bad Things Happen in Threes, Right?

Greetings from my bedside table. I can't sleep.  It's hot and humid in my room, my husband is in another state visiting his Dad who was bucked off his horse on Sunday and broke his neck; our house flooded on Tuesday and now all three levels are missing various flooring, ceiling, drywall, etc.;  and at 2:20AM this morning, my dog Axle had seizure number two.  

I can guess at the cause, since the last time he had a seizure was just under a month ago and the animal hospital couldn't find anything wrong with our boy that was very obvious.

I am hoping this ends the string of unfortunate events for our family, but am beginning to prepare myself for more despite the saying that "bad things happen in threes."

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm complaining - it's just that these circumstances are so incredible that I feel the need to share them with you.  

I have yet to give a full account of what's happening at the house and demolition, but here's some fun pictures to illustrate:  

Restoration crew member ripping up our kitchen floor-

View of kitchen floors being dried out - that's a very attractive linoleum that was hidden under our Pergo!
Where the kitchen dining area light fixture was (much of the water collected and funneled out through the fixture onto our kitchen table and the floor).

You can see how wet the drywall was!

It's hard to see from this angle, but the crew had to remove a lot of the ceiling to get rid of all the contaminated moisture.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Ignorant Americans?

I'm working on a bit of the book (it's actually just one tiny little paragraph that's bugging me) and I thought I'd ask your opinion.  

I have the main character, Ava looking at some old books.  Some of the titles are in Spanish and French.  She is a "typical" American teen in a "typical" American high school.  
Do you think she should be able to understand one or both of these languages?  Or neither?  

I personally took four years of Spanish in high school and could have probably worked it out on some level (though I am not fluent by any means) and I know many people took one or the other language at some point (or possibly another language like German or Mandarin), but I think those are the two main ones that are taught in high school today, right?  

If this book is published and just for fun, let's just say it gets published in other languages, would it perpetuate the stereotype that Americans are ignorant of the world's languages? 
I personally feel that I do not know as much as I should to be able to communicate effectively with the world.  

Many Americans have become very comfortable in our position of power.  We often feel that we do not need to learn another language since so many people from other countries are already learning English and can communicate just fine.  Is it right to wait for all of the world come to us?  To English?  

Here's the big question for the book:  Do I make the character a tiny bit educated in another language (but not fluent?); should she be  a prodigy who just "gets it" with language?  Or is it more realistic to make her only language English?  

What do you think?  

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pray for Tom

Good evening. 
For all of you who read this, I could really use your prayers tonight. 
Matt's Dad was in an accident with his horse today.  He was bucked off and the fall broke his neck.  
Thankfully, he is not paralyzed.  But further testing is needed tonight to determine how extensive the damage is and what needs to be done to repair it.  
Tom was in front of the house when the horse threw him off.  Natalie was home and heard their dog barking more urgently than normal.  

He was very lucky that he was not out on the Ranch alone when this happened, but like most Brenkle men, he is made of some pretty stern stuff.  I believe he could have probably marched himself to the hospital if he had to. 

I will keep you all posted on what is happening, but for now, just keep him in your prayers.  

Thank you! 


Thursday, April 2, 2009

The problem with characters

I am working on the first draft of my first novel and hope to have it completed by the end of May.  If I miss my deadline, I won't be too hard on myself, but it is good to have goals in place to keep the story moving.  

Right now, I'm hovering around 40,000 words - which is a good chunk of the book (it's about 175 Word doc pages), but apparently, in the world of publishing and "real" authors, you are supposed to speak in terms of how many words you've written, not pages.  When the book is published, the pages are all different sizes, so it's impossible to know how many pages the book will have once it's actually printed.  

My goal in the end is to have a polished 90-95k words in my manuscript, so I'm almost half way there.  

I've just come from a writer's meeting, so I'm jazzed about getting back into it.  It's a nice encouragement to be around other writers.  We all feed off each other's energy and what we've learned since we met last.  We all have different genres and motivations, but the overarching goal is the same:  to be published authors.  Some in the group already are, and that's a huge comfort for those of us who are striving to become published.  

We all have our own unique perspectives and backgrounds.  We all had something different happen to us today that colors the mood we're in.  So, in a way, we're all like characters in a book.  In this story, the characters have all convened in one place, united by the single purpose of getting published.  And it's really cool.  Some people are helpful.  Some are cynical, overwhelmed or curious.  Some well-versed in the publishing world and are focused on "giving back."  Each meeting is steered a different direction just based on who shows up.  It alters what questions are asked and how everyone responds.  It changes the story.   

I am at a point in my book where the pace is really starting to pick up.  There's a lot happening and a lot that needs to happen and it's difficult because I still don't have a full understanding of my characters.  It was brought up in the class today, and I guess that's normal to have questions about our characters as we get to know them throughout the course of the book.  I thought I was prepared before I began, but apparently not.  I have a Power Point presentation with all of the characters and who they are, what they look like, etc in a slide or two that is supposed to define them to me.  I may know their eye color and all the names of their extended family, but there's something missing.  I don't always know what they're going to say or do.      

I have about 150 characters right now - some have not yet been used (and won't be because some are family members who have passed on), some have made small appearances so far, and some are central to the story.  The only problem is, I sort of started to fall in love with some of these characters and their back stories, so now, I have an infinite number of ways my story can go.  AND there's that issue of keeping the story focused and meaningful.  If I tell too much, I think I would definitely lose momentum.  

There are characters in the story who are really good on the inside, but they make terrible mistakes or decisions that change the course of the story.  

My story is about a young teenage girl named Ava.  She has already endured a lot at her age.  She has lost her twin brother (whose name I am currently thinking of changing).  Not only that, but she feels that the reason he is gone is because of a disobedient decision she made.   So not only is there pain, but now there's guilt.  Every person I know would deal with these powerful feeling differently.  Ava shuts down.  She doesn't enjoy things she used to; she even avoids them.   

At some point, Ava has to change.  Her life and her story must move forward.    

She begins to take control of her situation.  She begins to act, rather than just watch.  As she does this, her fears and insecurities slowly begin to disappear.  We begin to see her as she used to be before her brother died, but with a new perspective.     

What I'm working on right now is making sure that this doesn't happen too quickly or slowly.  I got bogged down by the depressed version of Ava and wouldn't allow her to change.  I was writing a scene that would inspire curiosity in most people, but she played it safe.  She didn't want to investigate.  And I started to think:  if the character doesn't feel like being interested, would the reader be?  Am I robbing the story of a greater possibility because I am not ready to let go of the sad, unengaged Ava?    

I needed to let her branch out into a more dynamic character.   But it wasn't easy.  

I physically had to step away from my computer, take some time and think about it.  Should she follow the person in the shadows or wait for help?  Follow her curiosity or stay safe?  

It's interesting because I find that the problem with characters is within myself.  It's my lack of understanding or willingness to allow them to change and grow.  It's the struggle between what I might do and what the character would do.  
I guess I would compare it to being a parent.  When a new situation comes up, you may not automatically know how to handle it, so it's easy to hold onto the old way of doing things.  At some point you have to give them a little slack and let them write their own story and, at times, make mistakes. 

And that's what's happening.  Once I allowed Ava to change, I have found that things are happening more organically in the story.  It's exciting to watch the story change.   
And I am growing and changing as an author.

It's strange how that works.  

All I can say is that I'm really loving this process.  I am stretching my imagination.  I have learned so much already, and I haven't even scratched the surface.