Some days writing is exhilarating. Some days it’s exhausting. But the research is always fascinating.
My recent Google search history would certainly befuddle the adorable little man in this picture. I’d imagine he wouldn’t have to look up the Oxford comma, but doubt he’d be researching ‘what skills you need as a mental health therapist’, ‘writing a novel in 30 days-is it possible? should you try?’, ‘are men with shaved heads more dominant’, ‘dashboard cats’, and last but not least: ‘track your Amazon package’.
As a writer, what oddball things do you end up researching?
Some of my writing friends listen to music for inspiration, mostly notably Lia Keyes who is working on her steampunk novel and listens to Phantom of the Opera. Seems like the perfect choice for what promises to be a deliciously, dark mystery.
Normally I don’t listen to music while I write, but I’m intrigued by the idea of using my auditory senses to help ‘set the mood’.
Here’s my dilemma though. What in the world would make good background music for a book with cats as the main characters, an evil professor and his Whisperer, a magical book of power and a host of mythological characters ranging from the dark to the light side, and settings that range from the ancient Library of Iskandriyah to a small public library in the foothills of California.
From my Writer’s Toolbox: Here’s a good resource to keep you from ‘stepping in it’ literally when it comes to slang and the new urban language. For instance, I want to use the word ‘wuss’ in a children’s book and I need to know if it has any off color overtones that would be inappropriate for my young readers. I’m not ‘up’ on my slang or ‘tween language. (Who is?) and many words these days are used differently than when I was…um…younger. With the Urban Dictionary I’ll know what to use and what to avoid, especially since I am writing for the YA and children’s market.
I checked ‘wuss’. It means: A person who is physically weak and ineffectual. Often a male person with low courage factor, as in “Tobias, you’re such a WUSS!” So it means what I thought it did and it seems safe to use for my middle-grade fantasy.
Be forewarned though. The Urban Dictionary is not for wusses. Anyone apparently can add a new word, or define a word and it contains a lot of sexually explicit verbage. What it will give you is very current, up to the minute social connotations for any word you enter in the seach bar. There’s close to 5 million definitions and the Word of the Day section is updated daily with words and phrases you’d be hard-pressed to find all in such a convenient location.
Here’s some examples of the ‘cleaner’ entries:
Fax potato: A person who faxes from one floor to another instead of getting up and running the information because they’re too lazy to get out of their chair.
Protohype: The process of leaking a prototype device to generate buzz about a product you don’t quite yet have ready for market to a friendly tech website who will promote the gizmo well before it’s ready to go.
Tree-book: A book printed on dead trees, i.e. paper, as opposed to an e-book, which only exists electronically. Compare with snail mail.
Pi Time: The time of the day where a digital clock reads 3:14.
Child supervision: When an older person, especially a parent, needs a tech-savvy kid to help him/her with computers or other electronic devices.
Do you write for middle grade or young adults? How do stay current with their language and their world?
So, knowing he’s the hero of my story, my hidden partner has suddenly decided he wants some of the limelight. Being a subtle cat, he didn’t make a lot of noise about this desire of his. Instead, he left me the following note in my ‘Suggestion Box’.
“I’d like people to know I’m more than just a furry paperweight. Have you told them I am a Reader cat? You could share something about my favorite books with your readers? They might find this interesting. Marco”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him I hadn’t got around to writing a post specifically about him. Up ’til now he’s only appeared in the form of my muse. But Marco definitely deserves a blog post of his own. Not only does he fulfill that warm, fuzzy pet need and the higher calling of a muse, but Marco is also one of the endangered species of cats who can read.
You read that right and there’s others out there. Your cat might be a reader too, but you might not be aware of it. Cats will wait until everyone is asleep before cracking a book, since they hate it when everyone makes a big deal out of it. They embarrass easily, so if you do catch them, just pretend like you don’t notice or that it is normal. If you’ve encountered books scattered out on the floor when you get up in the morning, now you know how it happened. Whatever you do, don’t try to make your cat put the books back on the shelves. They will absolutely balk at this and probably never pick up a book again.
I like to keep my cat happy, so I will post things that he leaves in the Suggestion Box from time to time. A recent read on Marco’s bookshelf is The Palace of Laughter, by John Berkeley. I picked this one out myself, but he finished it before me. (He has loads more reading time.) Marco liked this book, but not quite as well as I did. I found Palace of Laughter well written with a great cast of characters and just the right touch of the wicked evil.
The story begins when the Circus Oscuro comes to town in the dead of night. Miles, an orphan boy who lives in a barrel, is the only one who sees their mysterious arrival. When Little, a tiny circus performer who is actually a 400 year old winged girl, escapes from the sinister circus, the duo sets off to rescue two friends from an even more sinister sideshow called ‘The Palace of Laughter’.
With characters named Lady Partridge, the Great Cortado, The Null and Baltinglass of Araby what’s not to love? Marcos’ favorite characters were Lady Partridge and Miles. We agreed on that much. We tried to work out a compatible book rating system, but they don’t quite mesh. (Marco’s ratings are from one to four paws. Mine is on a scale of 1-5 stars.)
Marco rated The Palace of Laughter is: three paws. He would have given it four, except he said there were no cats in the story. I mentioned the tiger, but he said it wasn’t the same. I didn’t argue with him, but I gave the book a big 5 star rating. I would highly recommend for any younger reader.
Thankfully, Mr. Berkeley kept on writing. Palace of Laughter is part of the “Wednesday triology”. The next one is titled The Tiger’s Egg which we will review soon.
Do you suspect your cat reads? Please share your story.
“What are you writing?” asks my cat, who leads a double life as my muse.
“A blog post,” I answer.
There’s small silence while he considers admitting his ignorance. “O.k. what’s a blog post?”
“Hmmm,” I murmur. How do I explain this to a cat? “Blogging is writing down your thoughts on subjects you are passionate about,” I begin.
“I can understand that,” he says.
“Then you publish it on the internet where, with the click of a mouse, it flies off into cyberspace and you hope someone will catch it and read it and maybe even write back to you.”
This time there’s a longer silence. Whether it’s the clicking mouse reference or just the concept that has him most confused is hard to tell. I wait to see if his curiosity will win out over his need to appear all-knowing.
Now I’m in for it. What can I tell him when I don’t really understand it myself? I give him an evasive answer. “It’s kind of a mystery.”
“I love a good mystery. Go on.”
“All I can do is try to give you an analogy. You are familiar with analogies?”
He gives me that look; the kind that means the question is too ridiculous to answer.
“Cyberspace is a very ethereal place. You can’t see it or feel it, but there is so much going on out there. Millions and billions and gazillions of words and thoughts and feelings that people have typed onto their keyboard to share with others. Friends and strangers. Lost words swirling in a vast unseen world. Words waiting to be found. Words begging to be read by someone who will understand their passion.”
My muse finishes the analogy for me. “So, cyberspace must be something like cosmic space and the words are bits of stardust floating everywhere. No,” he pauses as he collects his thoughts on the subject. “More than stardust. Words and thoughts clustered together like galaxies waiting to be discovered.”
“Oh, that’s perfect! Can I use that in my blog?”
“I think you already have.”
He purrs and I scratch behind his ears. Having a cat for a muse is nice.