Nov
30
2010
23

A Fascination with Secrets

Everybody has them. But I’m wondering: Have you told your partner all your secrets? Do you still have secrets to surprise them with? Are there some you’ll carry to your grave?

Do you check out PostSecret every Sunday? If you don’t know what it is (really?!), a guy named Frank started handing out postcards for people to mail in secrets. It snowballed, and there’ve been five or so books, museum exhibitions, lots of money raised for suicide prevention, and thousands and thousands of secrets.

Some postcards could be made into a novel. In fact, I often troll PostSecret Archive for story ideas.

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Some postcards have secrets that touch you in some way. Sometimes in a funny way, and sometimes you feel comforted to read someone else’s secret.

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Sometimes people send in secrets that they made up, but that’s okay—because they are someone’s secret. And that’s the beauty of the PostSecret project: the postcards illustrate our common humanity, and they remind us that even when we feel alone, we are not alone.

I was thinking the other day about how I’ve lived with secrets for most of my life. My mother has tons of them, and I couldn’t pry those stories out of her for anything.

I’m the opposite. I totally spill my secrets when they’re mine alone, except when the secret involves someone else, and then not telling drives me mad. I suppose my pseudonym is a secret, but not really. It doesn’t feel like one, and not just because some people know: it’s more a no-go area, publicly, mostly because there have been kids in my life and there will continue to be… and heck, I’m working on a YA book, like everyone else. *grins*

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How many secrets do you have? Do you hold secrets you’ll never tell anyone? Or do you mostly tell everyone everything? How do you feel about your partner having secrets?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |
Nov
28
2010
16

It’s Time Again…

I confess that I rather enjoyed making fun of Sarah Palin’s lack of knowledge during the last election. (Oh god—remember how Putin’s head was going to float into Alaska?!) I have never laughed so hard during an election season in my life. I’m sort of ashamed of that, but at the same time, I was terrified to learn that according to the latest Gallup poll, Sarah Palin could stand a good chance of winning the Republican nomination.

If she were just in her own little world, doing her own little thing, it’d be fine. But I don’t find her appalling lack of intelligence and knowledge acceptable in someone who’s a contender to run the freakin’ country!

So, without further ado, Palin’s latest gaffe:

“This speaks to a bigger picture here that certainly scares me in terms of our national security policy. But obviously we’ve gotta stand with our North Korean allies.”

Read here for more.

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Politics | Tags:
Nov
22
2010
15

One Hell of a Dream

I’m not one to share my dreams, but I had a weird one*. It started with my arm. It half fell off, and so my mother, trying to help, grabbed an axe and chopped it all the way off. (This was apparently so it would be a clean cut and the surgeon would have an easier time reconnecting it.)

So I put my arm on with tape and bandages and set off for the hospital. I walked and walked, but could never seem to get to the hospital.

I wandered into a forest. One of my left ribs poked out of my skin a good four inches, and I was trying to hold it in. Then a few ribs on my right side fell out. I carried them, in the hopes that the hospital could just put me back together when they sewed my arm back on.

After some time walking, I found a clearing, where an ambulance sat. I asked for help, but the ambulance driver said I was fine.

“But look at my ribs!” I handed him the pile of right ribs I had in my hand.

The ambulance driver dropped my ribs on the ground and stomped on them. He picked one up and said, “These are just twigs, see? They’re not ribs.”

Sure enough, they were twigs.

So I still had one or two ribs in my hand, plus I was trying to hold in the rib poking out of my left side, and I made my way towards the city. As I walked, more ribs kept falling out. I gathered them in my good hand.

I was terribly concerned that some ribs were hollowed out, and others had some black stuff in it.

The more I walked, the more ribs kept falling out of my chest.

By the time I got to the hospital, I had only the one rib in my chest, and my muscles were having to work really hard to hold my insides up. I was in a lot of pain, so I poured the ribs out on the counter and begged the hospital staff to fix me.

There was some debate about it, and I begged them to put me under while they decided, so I could have some relief for the pain.

Then the surgeon came at the bottom of my foot with this huge needle, and after some pleading (on my part) and some begging (also on my part), she told me to hold up my hand—at which point she put a six-inch needle in the palm of my left hand.

(It did not poke out the other side. Apparently my hand was over six inches deep in the dream.)

Weird. I was relieved to wake up and find I had two arms, two hands, and plenty of ribs.

Have any weird dreams lately?

*No, I don’t write horror. Why would you ask that?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |
Nov
13
2010
12

On Success and the “Prize.”

“There is no prize.” I love that quote. I really believe it. In an interview with a student, Kevin Spacey talks about being successful. Here are my favorite quotes:

“Could you talk a bit about the early process? How can we help us appreciate this early experience, these lean years, these very difficult years leading up to the ultimate prize?”

“There is no prize out there. The only prize is this one [gestures to himself], and what you feel and what you want to accomplish.”


“To want, and to be ambitious, and to want to be successful, is not enough. That’s just desire. To know what you want, to understand why you’re doing it, to dedicate every breath in your body to achieve. If you feel you have something to give, if you feel your particularly talent is worth developing, is worth caring for…”

I really like the idea of developing and caring for one’s talent. And that there is no prize, because really, I don’t believe there is. It’s like saying Christmas is about opening presents. It’s not; it’s about giving. That’s why I write: I want to make people feel loved and accepted, even if for only a moment.

Thoughts? Why do you write?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |
Nov
09
2010
32

On Motivation & Motherhood

How many goals can you maintain? Mark Terry’s post “On Quitting” got me thinking. I’ve been missing the drive to write I had when it was my number one goal/passion/obsession.

Lately, it’s not.

You mothers are going to totally laugh and make fun of me, but I’m already feeling the pull between being a mother and a writer.

The focus thing: how do you do both?

When I daydream, I see my kids instead of mentally working on my book. My “imagination time” has plummeted lately. Even during my downtime, I’m researching homeschooling or somesuch, instead of researching writing or the market or the my next story.

I’m trying to get ultra healthy before I have kids, so I’m working out three or four hours a day. (Mostly walking 7 miles a day, so it’s not like I’m being crazy about it.) I want all systems go when it comes time.

Lately, writing has become a sub-goal instead of a primary goal. I want to build royalties so I can have more time to be a mother, to homeschool, to be at home with my kids. I dream of family dinner every night (I know, laugh) and big Sunday afternoon dinners and having a real family.

It’s a little weird. A part of me sort of mourns when my single-focused goal was writing, you know?

On the other hand, who’s to say that writing as a sub-goal won’t make me more motivated at writing than when it was an only goal, you know?

I was in Walmart last week and there was this little boy outfit and I really wanted to buy it. I could see putting it on my son. (*squeals at the words, “my son”* Can I say that again? *my son* *my son* *tears* *biological clock POUNDS*)

Did you guys sense what sex your first one was going to be? Were you right? Wrong?

If I could to choose, I’d probably choose a girl, but I seem to believe I’ll have a son first, which is weird, right? I don’t care which one it is, honestly.

(Okay, see? I’m trying to talk about writing motivation and this has derailed into tears and baby clothes.)

Thoughts?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags: ,
Nov
08
2010
17

A Fascination with Lies

We all are fascinated, aren’t we? It’s one of the reasons the show, “Lie to Me” is so popular. And we desperately want to believe we can force the truth from someone… but we can’t. Not by torture, for sure. What is in someone else’s mind is a mystery.

(If I had to pick a superpower, it’d be to read minds.)

Studies say that 60% of people lie 3 times in a ten-minute conversation.

Geeze!!! Seriously?!

I was going to say that I never lie, but then I read that 68% of women lie about their weight on their driver’s license.

Um, well… see, it was true, at one time… and it’s going to be true before my license expires…

People believe the internet allows people to lie more, but research says that only 17 percent of people lie in e-mails, while 27 percent lie in face-to-face interaction. A whopping 37 percent lie in phone calls!

I’ve known some who are compulsive liars. I can see lying about something you’re embarrassed about, but why lie about stupid stuff that doesn’t matter? –Stuff so small it doesn’t even make a difference to the conversation? –We’re talking about one freakin’ lie per minute? Why?

I. Don’t. Understand.

Oh well.

What’s that saying about accepting the things one can’t change?

I had a student who was an amazing manipulator and liar unlike anyone I’ve ever seen or know or heard of, real or fictional. She taught me half of my skill at detecting lies, and I’m pretty good at it. (You should see me at the poker table.) I was sad to lose her as a student, because I think I was the only person she couldn’t lie to—I really hoped creating that space for her where she had to be honest and I accepted her as she was helped her. I don’t know.

I guess we all tell lies now and then, whether it’s our driver’s license or “You look good in that dress.” Sometimes it’s just little lies that keep conversation moving, like “I’m good, how are you?” I remember when I was sick, I lied a lot, because the only socially acceptable answer to “How are you feeling?” when you’re chronically ill is “Better!” (Followed by a quick change of subject.)

Sometimes, I think it’s cute when someone lies. Sometimes not. It depends. Sometimes it’s nice seeing them lie, because then I know how they lie, and I am happy at how often they don’t lie.

But this seeing-lies thing isn’t exactly a comfortable skill to have. I never know what to do with it. Mostly it just makes me feel like the other person doesn’t think enough of me to be forthright. Or that I’ve failed to create a safe and accepting space in the relationship.

It’s handy in poker.

Must play more poker.

What do you think about lies? Little lies? Big lies? How do you react when someone tells you a lie and you know it? Have you ever been around a compulsive liar? How have lies impacted your life?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People | Tags:
Nov
06
2010
18

Express Yourself

Whether you’re NaNoing or not, a dash of inspiration from Glee, Neil Gaiman, and the Dresden Dolls couldn’t hurt, could it? I was thinking today about this drive we writers tend to have: the drive to express ourselves.

What an odd thing. Sometimes in life there are bits you can’t talk about, can’t write about, can’t even turn into fiction, and for me, it feels like I’ve got a muzzle on.

It. Drives. Me. Mad.

I need to express myself. I have to. I don’t know why. (Is this a good time to embed Glee’s rendition of Madonna’s “Express Yourself?”)

I remember once asking my best friend about what I would tell some people about something (I’ve since forgotten the details), and she answered, “Nothing. It’s none of their business.”

I was stunned.

That hadn’t occurred to me.

(Duh.)

Neil Gaiman reviewed a concert by the Dresden Dolls yesterday, and I discovered a new song: Sing. He described it:

Then it’s "Sing." If there ever was a Dresden Dolls anthem, it’s this: a plea to make art, whatever the hell else you do. "Sing for the teacher who told you that you couldn’t sing," sings Amanda. The audience sings along, and it feels important, less of a singalong and more like communion or a credo, and we’re all singing and it’s Hallowe’en and I’m up on the balcony slightly drunk, thinking that this is some sort of wonderful, and Amanda’s shouting, "You motherfuckers, you’ll sing some day," and it’s all so good, and I’m standing with two dead girls, and we’re cheering and happy and it’s one of those perfect moments that don’t come along in a lifetime that often, the kind of moment you could end a movie on.

I keep thinking that if I’m not going to get much thinking on anything other than the things I can’t talk about, why can’t I just use the stuff I’m obsessing about and turn it into fiction?

Lots of people do.

I’ve never been able to.

Maybe with time.

What about you? Ever felt muzzled? Do you turn the thought-stealing issues from your life into fiction? And how’s your writing going, NaNo or not?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Pop Culture | Tags: , , ,
Nov
05
2010
19

Why Hand-Code Ebooks?

Designers are not always coders, and I’m not sure NY publishing has figured this out. I was wandering through some coding forums and stumbled across a post by a frustrated employee of one of the NY publishers pleading for help on converting an InDesign file to the various ebook formats.

(Adobe InDesign is the program used to design the interior of a book for print publication.)

She let loose a rant at how customers are blaming them for missing and added spaces and various other errors in ebooks, for which she blamed the conversion programs and threw up her hands.

Okay. I’m not yelling. I just have to say this big and bold because it’s an important point.

There exists NO automatic program that will convert a document to .mobi, .epub or Kindle format with both forward and backward compatibility. And automatic conversions will introduce formatting errors on various devices and various formats.

It’s a bear, but the only way to get a well-designed ebook product that looks professional and renders perfectly on all devices and in all formats is to hand-code it—and to hand-code each separate format.

(If you don’t know, this is what hand-coding is. In a nutshell, it’s knowing what you’re doing and not relying on a program to know it for you.)

The book designers in NY publishing either need to hire hand-coders, or they need to put up with the fact that their ebook products will be sloppy and inferior in comparison to those smaller publishers and indie publishers who hire people to hand-code ebooks.

People have been saying that the conversion script for the latest release of InDesign is better, but if you’re a Kindle owner and you’ve read those $9.99-12.99 ebooks put out by the major New York publishers this year, you may have noticed the “36 highlights” in random paragraphs.

OMG. So. Irritating. Like every other page, there’s suddenly 52 highlights in a paragraph, icky dotted underlines and all.

Would people put up with random errors and extra junk in print books? This is why those who read digitally feel like NY publisher’s ugly stepchildren instead of those who read print who are NY publisher’s preferred children.

That’s not to say the big publishers haven’t done some beautiful work in recent years. Sometimes they experiment and it’s clear when an ebook is given the design and coding attention it deserves. For example, Tor’s Kindle edition of Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey is more beautiful than the print edition! 

Most top websites are coded by hand. In fact, even the New York Times eschews Dreamweaver and codes by hand for their website:

It’s our preference to use a text editor, like HomeSite, TextPad or TextMate, to “hand code” everything, rather than to use a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) HTML and CSS authoring program, like Dreamweaver. We just find it yields better and faster results.

With clean, hand-coded websites, you’re not going to get a bunch of extra junk that WYSIWYG editors put in. And the cleaner your code, the more likely it will render correctly in all the major browsers, including the older versions and the new versions yet to come.

With clean, hand-coded ebooks, you get the same benefits. The cleaner your code, the more likely it will render correctly in all the major e-reading devices, both the older ones and the new ones yet to come.

Even better if you hire a hand-coder who can code with respect to the various quirks on the different devices and stores.

For those who self-publish, this is definitely an area in which you can stand out as more professional than your traditional-published competition.

So hire me! Kidding. Well, not really. I hope you will! :-) I’ve just been so busy with coding books for people, I haven’t had time to put up an information site about it yet.

For realz, though, I’ve got several posts on Kindle Formatting to help you, if you want to give it a go yourself. Joshua Tallent has an awesome book, The Complete Guide to Kindle Formatting, which is the one you want to get. (Most others are junk.) I have yet to find a book as good as Tallent’s on Epub Formatting.

So there’s my rant for the day. It boggles my mind how the NY publishers can complain that we don’t want to pay $12.99 for an ebook, and they can’t even bother to put out a product that is free of GLARING, intrusive errors.

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Kindle Formatting |

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