great tools


Ever wonder what a place actually looks like? You can use Google Earth, but that’s not updated all that often.

I found a site called Weather Bonk that collects live webcams of various places. This one is of a California freeway, for example, but they have ones of all sorts of places, from beaches to residential neighborhoods. And the webcams are updated fairly frequently.

How’s everyone doing?

Since April, my sons have started high school band (they integrate the 8th graders in at the end of the year), my daughter has graduated high school, and the house is all in a flurry because she’s getting married next month.

It’s bittersweet to be losing a daughter (yet gaining a son, so to speak), but they seem to love each other, and she’s continuing with her education. So I’m pleased about it.

I’ve been working on the garden (which has really perked up this year), taking care of home and rabbits, driving kids places, and working on the Think Sideways class. I’m a bit behind, but learning A LOT.

Each class builds on the one before it, so it’s a bit difficult to explain, but the homework for this lesson is to split your planned story into scenes then write a one-sentence blurb for each scene. For example, the Council of Elrond in Lord of the Rings could be summed up this way:

The Council of Elrond meets, and after much controversy, appoints Frodo and eight others to go to Mount Doom and destroy the Ring.

As you can imagine, this homework is taking me a while to do. But it’s a great way to get a handle on the book before you write it. I had an idea of where I wanted the story to start then realized that I really needed to start the story a few scenes earlier. Also, doing this has shown me where I need to do research (anyone know how to sail?) and where the logic holes in my plot are. All this before I spend weeks writing this thing.

So I’m very happy about the class.

What have you been up to? Anything good going on the rest of us need to know about?

I just started lesson five on the How to Think Sideways class (lesson six is up but I’ve been slow). This lesson … mind-blowing. If you can imagine tapping into your subconscious for all the things that motivate you, then putting THAT into your writing on a conscious level … it’s incredible.

I have two great ideas for stories from lesson 4, but I’m going with the SF one (any surprise?) because I can do a better job on this without a ton of research — I’ll need some (know someone who curses in Chinese?) but it’s set in Los Angeles and that’s a place I already know.

Click the box at the top of the sidebar on the right there for more information on the course, or you’re welcome to ask about it. I’ve gotten my money’s worth already and I still have the rest of the year to go.

Right now I’m taking Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways class (the 12 month edition, which I recommend if you’re coming off a slump, have a lot of outside work going on, or are in general a busy person, as it’s the same lessons, only once every two weeks instead of once a week), and it has been just what I needed.

The first lesson is deceptively simple: what are four barriers (she says THE four barriers) to success?

At first I thought this was one of those first class ‘gimme’ lessons, but when I really took a look and did the work on it, boy, it kicked my butt.

The thing I like best about this class is that you’re assigned to a workgroup. We’re having some very thought-provoking discussions that are changing the way I look at life in general and writing in particular.

And the second class homework is one of those assignments that is so outright FUN that I look forward to working on the project more. (Yeah, it’s a project, already!) I’m getting excited about writing again.

Anyway, if it sounds interesting go by and check it out here. You can start the series at any time, she just assigns the workgroups as a bunch of people join up.

I’ve talked about Holly Lisle’s “How to Think Sideways” course before, but since she’s closing the Charter Member category (and I’m to the point where I could benefit from some input), I decided to join up. She has 6 month and 12 month courses (the only difference is that you get one lesson a week or one every other week, which is the one I picked), and just looking at the first lesson I made a good choice.

If you want more information about the course or how to sign up, go here.

I just got hold of Page-Turning Scenes by Holly Lisle, which will be available at her site tomorrow. I’ve had a chance to look at a few excerpts and so far so good!

Hopefully I can get a review up here in the next day or two.

If you’re anything like me, you have bookmarks on your browser. Good articles, websites, maybe even a blog or two 😉

A friend passed me a link to free software that helps you weed out dead links, duplicates, etc. Very handy! AM-Deadlink 3.2

I had almost 2000 bookmarks, so this has been a great find.