Monday, October 31, 2005

All Novel's Eve

Here it is again, the night before November. I've managed to work up some various bits of ideas for the next novel, luckily. No title, but some character names, situations, and the beginnings of a plot. Not enough to keep me from being nervous, but it should do. I won't be able to start writing until at least 8 PM tomorrow night, I'm afraid, but the first installment should be posted towards the end of the evening.

As for Halloween, the scariest part of tonight involved hula dancing. Two itty bitty girls dressed as hula dancers came trick-or-treating, and we asked them (very nicely) if they wanted to dance for us. They seemed too shy, so a bunch of us (three or four grownups) started humming encouragingly and waving our arms and shaking our hips in typical pseudo-hula fashion. The girls actually hid behind their mom and wouldn't take candy from us. I had to go put candy in the bags for them while I apologized. I felt very bad about it, though it was hilarious as well.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Cross Step Left Turn Pivots

At Friday Night Waltz last night, I was doing some cross step waltz and started thinking about the left turn pivot move. Richard had some tango-y name for it, I think, which I can no longer remember. It's the one where you cross into the middle of the room, then do three left turn pivots, then start a follow-cross-behind grapevine on 5, finishing up with more grapevine steps and an underarm turn. Anyway, it's a fun one, especially once you get the hang of keeping the turns tight enough to actually be able to lead that first cross-behind step.

But what I was noticing last night was that this move starts with a fantastic flurry of energy, which can be great for matching something dramatic in the music. The reverse direction and the acceleration and the zippy little pivots are really fun for that. But after that the momentum kind of dies with the grapevine, because all of a sudden you're not turning anymore, and you've got several steps to kill before the underarm turn. So it's not necessarily the best followup if the music isn't also winding down there.

Eric was kind enough to help me experiment with this a bit during a break, and I found that one simple thing to do is to just add two more pivots after the first three. It keeps the spinning going longer and it isn't actually too hard to then open up and go back to the right turning basic step afterwards. So not fancy, but it works.

An idea that didn't work was to add the 5-6 right turn pivot move at the end (going into an underarm turn on 1). It seemed good in theory (and on my own in the hallway) since I liked the idea of the direction changing pivots. But with an actual partner it turns out that your feet are align entirely wrong. You've got left feet in the middle for the left pivots, and there's no way to get right feet in the middle in time for the right pivots. Bummer.

Eric also came up with the cool idea of going into the first two grapevine steps only, then the underarm turn on 1, snagging the extra hands on the way to get into matador position. That was really slick, and probably the best idea we ended up with. I need more practice doing things from matador position, though, so I could do that and still have a good followup.

Anyone else have any good ideas for what to do after left turn pivots?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

No Soy Salsero

There's a new series of dance classes on Tuesday nights in Palo Alto, run by the FNW folks (info on their website). I managed to get over there in time for the salsa class last night, after the library. (I've been really needing to learn salsa for a while, if you haven't heard me bemoan that recently. Hustle's on that list, too, and some other things.) I got roped in as a demo partner for the end of the Congress of Vienna lesson that was wrapping up, which was kind of fun. The salsa class itself was interesting, and Anne is a fantastic teacher, but it all just feels so foreign to me. It's like oil and water. And I think I'm just not used to both taking truly beginning level classes and having it be difficult. My brain just doesn't want to accept the fact that I'm not waltzing. Oh well. I want to go back and keep trying, but unfortunately, it's not a series class. Next week there will be cha-cha though, so I might go to that, and then some other latin dances, and probably more salsa again at some point, though I don't know if it will come around again soon enough for me to build on last night's class. We'll see.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Ideas! I Need Ideas!

I've got about two weeks now until November. Meaning I'm in the pre-writing worry stage of this year's NaNoWriMo novel. It would be really nice right now to start getting some plot ideas. Or at least some characters. Or really, at a bare minimum, some decent names for characters, just so I can at least have someone to write about once I jump blindly in. Unfortunately, I tend to balk at actually thinking about these sorts of things, and my brain shuts off. Though actually, I'm okay on coming up with little ideas, things like an interesting scene, or a magical object. But what I need is some sort of general framework that I'll be able to stick those sorts of things into. Right now the most I can say is that it will very probably be another magic-realism sort of thing (a la Charles de Lint, or Neil Gaiman) because that's the sort of thing I like and most want to write. Other than that, suggestions are extremely welcome. :-)

In other NaNoWriMo news, I've so far got three other people I know planning on tackling it. Any other takers? It'll be fun, really.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Google Reader

Google's new feed reader launched today. Go to and sign in with your Google account to check out the spiffiness. Those of you who are used to feed readers know what to do with it. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, this is a fine opportunity to find out. You can use a feed reader to to subscribe to blogs (or similar sites) and get all the updates for all those sites in one place, cutting down on the amount of time you need to spend going around and checking all your friends' blogs just to see if they've updated or not. Very handy. If you want to subscribe to my blog, the address of my site feed is:

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


So it's getting to be that time of year again. National Novel Writing Month begins on November 1, and signups started a few days ago (minus some server downtime). I've been having very mixed feelings about it recently, to tell the truth. A great deal of me would both love to do it again and love not to.

I think that approaching it for the second time might actually be harder than the first. The first time around, you don't know if you can do it at all. And if it turns out you can't, well, an awful lot of people have never written a novel. You can just remain one of them. But now that I've actually done it once already, I'm in a bit of a pickle. If I don't make it through this time, then I'll learn that I can no longer do something I could do a year ago. And really, I have no clue if I'll be able to manage another book or not. So that's a bit scary, without even factoring in the time and effort involved (each considerable).

On the other hand, it was awesome to actually write an entire novel of my very own. I rarely get to do creative work of any kind on that scale, and it's an incredible feeling when you come out the other end of it and realize what you've accomplished. The insecure artist inside me really wants that boost.

Anyway, what it works out to is that I did go ahead and sign up. And over the next month I will hope and pray that I'll come up with something resembling a character or even (gasp!) a plot. And then we'll see what happens in November.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Watch His Writing

Since I mentioned the other day a category of "books that make me want to write," I'll go ahead and give Watch Your Mouth, by Daniel Handler, as an example. I've read certain other books written by this author under a certain other pseudonym, and I was very curious to see what sort of stuff his alter ego came up with. I chose this book only because it was what the library happened to have in stock the day I was there. It turned out to be excellent. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at first, given the somewhat excessive horny-college-kids and incestuous-family themes. But it worked out to be a kind of fascinating web of complex crazy people, with a monster story mixed in for good measure. So it really stayed intensely interesting all the way through.

The structure of the whole book was extremely unique, which I liked. (There's nothing wrong with a nice, standard, straight-through story, but I'm always intrigued by new ways of putting things together.) A little over half of it is written like an opera written like a novel, and the rest of it is like a 12 step recovery program. Sounds bizarre (especially since I didn't realize that the opera was going to end midway through the book) but somehow it really works. The opera section in particular had some really brilliant moments. The story-telling version and the opera version blend in interesting ways, and some of the descriptions really tickle me. Such as at one particular (ahem) climax of a scene, where he says "seizuring so hard that the orchestra has to extend its budget and hire some additional percussionists just for these ten measures or so."

Another smaller scale thing that I liked was a twisting of perspective within sentences. As an example, the narrator was in a diner when he found out that he needed to go somewhere a couple exits farther up the freeway. He says "I signalled for the check and then for the left-hand turn at the end of the ramp." The driving doesn't need to be mentioned, but he makes the ignoring of it interesting, by slipping it in there and sharing the signalling between the check and the turn signal. When he gets there, he says "I parked in a lot crammed with mid-life crisis cars, red and shiny and probably divorced," describing the drivers by describing the cars. The book throughout is filled with clever little bits like that.

So anyway, great book all around, and a good example of some of the things that make me want to have the kind of creativity that produces novels. In unrelated news, Book 12 of A Series of Unfortunate Events is coming out on October 18th. I will be looking forward to that.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


The movie was fantastic. Every bit as fascinating as the book, plus you get to watch everything actually moving around and coming alive. In the way that certain really good books make me want to write, this movie made me want to draw. I felt like I didn't have enough eyes to catch everything I wanted to. And the music was excellent, as well. I actually went out to Borders afterwards and bought the soundtrack (by Iain Bellamy) which I very rarely do. Anyway, really good stuff all around. Go see it. (It's at the Aquarius, for those of you near Palo Alto.)