Friday, October 30, 2009
Today being the day before Halloween at work, I got to do a lot of awesome people watching :). I realized as I was watching a lady from the call center walk by as a Klingon that there might just be some great story material here!
1) The lady in accounting who is mean all year long, and then does the best decorating and puts out the most candy on Halloween.
2) The shy guy who puts on a mask and runs around scaring the HR ladies because he feels free when he's in disguise.
3) The loud guy pretending to be Billy Mays while everyone raises and eyebrow and says "Whoa, dude. Too soon."
4) The tiny Spiderman grabbing a candy out of the dish, dropping it on the floor, and then unable to pick it up because his foam muscles make it hard to move his arms. Awwww. Little help there, Spidey? :)
The great thing about people is that everyone has a story. People have eccentricities you just can't make up, and some have that kind of golden heart that make you want to be a better person. There are heroes, villians, adorable babies dressed up like chickens--the whole gamut!
So next time you're stuck on a character trait, go to Walmart or sit on a park bench to people watch. Just remember to take your notebook with you!
*Halloween costume picks coming soon ;).
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I'm going this year as Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica! It will be awesome. SO SAY WE ALL!
I have a short blonde wig, pants, boots, bottom tank top, and the beginnings of a huge "Top Gun" beer stein that I'll be carrying around. I'm going to be authentic down to the anger issues (well, as authentic as one can be on a budget.)
The funny thing is, I'm not even going anywhere. I'm going to work this way, and then answering the door and traumatizing young children all night long. I just wouldn't feel right doing it without a costume. This is definitely one of my all time favorite holidays.
So, I ask you, gentle readers:
What are you being/doing for Halloween??
Bonus points for showing us pictures of your costume!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
So here goes!
My weekly confession:
1) I'm adding Fear of Surgery While Awake to my list of irrational phobias. A friend told me today about a surgery where they gave her a spinal anesthetic and then just went to town. WHILE SHE WAS AWAKE. She said she could feel "pressure." I almost screamed just hearing about it.
2) This Baby Readiness Quiz from JennyMac's blog made me sterile. I've always wanted kids, but after reading that, I'm considering buying a few more cats and calling it good :).
3) Whenever my mom is reading over my novel and says "EW! This part is gross. What is wrong with you?" I know I've done something right. It's my goal in life to have portions of my books disturb people. Is that wrong? I think then you know you've written something powerful, and that is awesome.
4) I am becoming addicted to Stat Counter. You can see where people are from who visit your blog, what keywords they used to find you, etc. It's hours of fun! :D I love the funky google searches that lead to me. Recently, it's been the great Star Wars--is it Fantasy? debate that brought people my way. Who knew?
5) I am becoming addicted to the blog Secret Office Confessions! It's British, it's about the goings-on in a publishing house, and it's like a cross between The Office and Bridget Jones. One word: Fabulous! I can't get enough of the drama. Fingers crossed that it's all true :).
6) I'm starting to feel very smug now that I've learned how to create fancypants Hyperlinks! Can you tell? This is my smug face.
So how about you?
Anything you'd like to get off your chest? ;)
Monday, October 26, 2009
The devious Kat started us off this round with the following topic:
What are the primary fears that drive your characters? Do they battle aliens of gangsters or monsters? Or do they battle unreconciled issues in their lives? Which do you prefer writing about? What do you fear?
Wow! Love the topic, and not just because it's almost Halloween... Mwahahaha!
In my book, Legacy of the Empress, my characters have issues. Astrid, my heroine, spent the last ten years of her childhood locked away in a tower room. Her mother imprisoned her when she was eight after murdering her courtiers and usurping the throne using dark magic (what a bitch, right?). When Astrid escapes and finds the magic consuming the land and its people, she fears two things:
1) Being locked up again
2) Her mother killing more innocents before she can stop her.
Torin, the boy who joins her quest to find an ancient Empress and defeat the dark magic, has his own set of fears:
1) Living an unremarkable life
2) Letting Astrid down.
He longs to be something more, a hero, and sees himself as Astrid's protector on her journey. When he is weakened (no spoilers!), he struggles with feeling useless--a burden instead of a warrior.
I prefer writing about internal fears because those are the ones that haunt us the longest. We all have them: those tapes in our heads that tell us things we wish we didn't believe, but struggle with on a daily basis. We long to realize these fears and rise above them, to change the tapes to say what we want them to say. Instead of hearing "I'm not good enough," we want to hear "I'm good enough the way that I am!" It takes a journey to get there, though, and we're afraid of failing ourselves the most of all.
I read this quote the other day, and it really spoke to me:
"Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are."– Don Miguel Ruiz
We want to change, to better ourselves, but that requires a journey, and sometimes, a painful sacrifice. That conflict makes for some great storytelling, don't you think? :)
As for myself, some of my greatest fears include:
1) Losing loved ones before I'm ready to
2) Sliding down mountains (a weird phobia)
3) Living a fearful life and dying with regrets
The first one I can't control, the second is odd and means I don't like skiing, and the third is up to me. Regrets are for pussies! I can choose to follow my dreams, even if it means risking failure, and dammit all, I'm going to!
What about you? What fears do you characters face? What fears do you face in your everyday life?
Please check out the remarkable Cole answered before me, and the fearless Kate answers tomorrow! Don't miss it!
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Despite having kind of a crazy week, I've actually made progress! AWESOME progress!
Here is a list of progressy goodness for you to feast your eyes upon:
1) I edited a lot of LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS. There's still a ways to go, but I'm okay with that. I want it to be so shiny when I send it out to agents that at least one of them goes temporarily blind.
2) I finished a short story that I've been ignoring for far too long. You know what I'm talking about. That short story I swore I'd finish and polish 100 times but never got around to touching. Well, baby, I finished that mofo!
3) I wrote a whole other short story! BOOSH! I've read it several times, and I'm still proud of it. Now it's percolating before I edit it again.
How have your weeks been going? :)
Thank you for all of the support along my journey, blog readers and friends! I hope this little community here has been a support for all of you as well.
I'd love to hear what projects you have going on!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Check out this post over at author Nicola Morgan's blog. In the post (and later the comments) are real stories of authors out there sorely dissapointed after being published. It got me thinking.
We writers have big dreams, don't we? :) We have Never Say Die attitudes, enormous goals, and lofty expectations. Well, what happens if when we meet those goals, we're not met at Barnes N' Noble with fanfare and hugs?
What if no one cares at all?
Not even our moms... ? :(
Will we still consider ourselves successful? Will reaching our goal of *sparkle* PUBLICATION *sparkle* still be enough?
And if not enough, what the hell are we gonna do about it?
As Nathan Bransford pointed out today, writers are sensitive, emotional freakazoids. We know this about ourselves, and we embrace it :). However, this means we have to not only think about what we're going to do if our books tank, but cope with that idea before it happens. Expect the worst, but hope for the best!
After all, what is the fun of inflating your expectations so much that you're disappointed after you've achieved your dream? THAT'S depressing, people: not the other way around! If someone expected Disneyland to be full of real giant mice dancing about in human clothing, they'd be disappointed, too. And it's freaking DISNEYLAND.
We have to make sure we are prepared emotionally, ready to deal with whatever comes our way.
What are you going to do if you face disappointment?
A) Give up and go get your real estate license?
B) Whine about it on your blog?
C) Get hugs from friends/family and then get back to Kicking Ass? :)
I'm on board for Option C.
Writing is not only a dream for me, it's my favorite passtime. I'm proud to do it, kudos or not! I fully expect the road to be difficult, but I remember one thing: God does not play dice with the universe (I <3 you, Einstein). If it's going to happen, it will happen. I just have to be ready for it when the time comes.
What about you?
Monday, October 19, 2009
He received over 2100 aspiring authors' first paragraphs, read them all, went blind, got Lasik, came back, and chose the top few paragraphs that really spoke to him, and finally, one glorious winner.
The best part of the contest, is that today he told us why he chose the paragraphs he did, and why they jumped out at him from the contest Slush Pile. Go check it out! Not only can you read the paragraphs from the finalists, but you get Nathan's commentary free of charge on why they were so awesome. Also, if you go back to the Original Post, (and like a challenge), you can read each and every one of the entries he received to see what works for you in a first paragraph and what doesn't.
What a great opportunity for us to learn a) what the slush is REALLY like (only this slush comes soley from smarty pants blog readers who have a leg up), and b) what makes a truly great opening. I learned a lot from reading what other people did about my own preferences and how to make my opening even sharper.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, last week I was one of two runners-up in the Guide to Literary Agents' Blog "Worst Storyline Ever Contest." LOL! I know, I know. I'm the best at being the worst. I'll take it ;)!
The best part is, you can check out the hilarious story premise that took the cake, as well as the fantastic finalists.
Go on over. You know you want to!
What makes a good premise or start to a book in your minds? Are there any books on your shelf that grabbed you? What made them special?
Friday, October 16, 2009
I like books. I like the publishing industry. I would like to get to know the publishing industry better, if only it would return my calls (j/k).
After all, it's only my life long ambition to make my living as a writer! :P I have a vested interest.
So, when I saw this Huffington Post article this week, it made me smile.
Finally, someone defending the publishing industry in an intelligent fashion!
Take a look, guys--I'd love to hear what you think.
Steve Ross, former CEO of Harper Collins, makes some great points about e-book pricing I hadn't considered. What's to be done? It sounds like there's a reason there's a debate going on over Amazon's low low $9.99 price point, aside from E-BOOKS SIGNALLING THE DESTRUCTION OF ALL MANKIND. It's actually quite fascinating. I'm excited to see what happens!
It's nice to read a more optimistic (and I think perhaps, realistic) view point once in a while :).
What do you guys think? Doomed? Or just trying to adjust?
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Only 16 more days to get in your present shopping! Or... whatever it is one does before NaNo. NaNo tree? Manuscript carving? I've got nothin.
I've never participated in this great event, but almost all of my writer and blogger friends have and call themselves addicted. I'm not entirely sure why.
Is it a jump start to a new project? An exercise to get the juices flowing for a month and recharge? A way to crank out a for reals novel?
You tell me: Why do you love NaNoWriMo or Why are you participating for the first time?
As a curious bystander, I want to know what all the fuss is about! :)
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Sandra starts us off this round by asking this question:
What kind of journeys do your characters make? What effects do they have on the characters and the plot? Also, if you wish, please tell us about one of your personal journeys and how it changed you.
This is a really interesting set of questions, and some that would definitely take more than one post to go in depth on. The journey of a novel's characters is one of the most important things to me both as a reader and a writer. Everyone is shaped by profound events in their lives, and watching those changes occur is what makes a story interesting. How will the characters react to different situations? Will they make good choices? Will they stay true to their values? Will they crack under the strain? These questions create delicious tension!
I like to torture my characters :).
Like Kat said in the comments on Cole's post, the more shizna that people go through, the greater their triumph when they come out the other side. My family (like many others) has gone through some serious poo during my lifetime. I've learned that there are certain ways that people react to horrible circumstances: they can choose to thrive or choose to give up. I've felt the victory of going through the darkness, coming out the other side and thriving my ass off.
The thing is, no matter how well people triumph over evil or adversity, there are always scars. I want my characters to suffer and see what choices they make, but I also don't want it to be 100% happily ever after. Everyone has to make sacrifices, and everyone has memories that change them and linger throughout their lives. It's what makes us human, and I think, what makes a character's redemption beautiful.
The ways people deal with the pain of living just makes the joys that much sweeter, and the characters' lives that much richer.
How do you think about your character's journeys, as either a reader or a writer?
I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Monday, October 12, 2009
I've heard a lot of writers describe the writing process as "writing because I have to" or "the story idea has to come out or it drives me crazy."
We write for hours whenever we can, but most of us also have day jobs. And families. And chores.
How do we deal with all of the passion but at the same time balance it with the stresses of every day living?
I'm currently trying to figure that out.
I've been sick for the past few weeks, and it just got worse last week. I've been having stomach pains, nausea, fatigue, and finally dragged myself to the doctor. The diagnoses? I'm way too stressed out, and it's making me ill. The solution? A acid reducer the size of a hockey puck daily, and learning to relax.
Easier said than done, right? ;) I think every writer deals with the same difficulty in leading a balanced life.
However, an interesting thing happened to me at that appointment. When the doctor was frowning over her clipboard at me and telling me that I seriously need to take a chill pill, I felt a weird calm creeping over me. Okay, well, first I felt a wee bit embarrassed, because heh, I'm giving myself an ulcer (oops), but then I felt calm.
Before, every time I thought "I need to take a night off from writing to recover from my day" or "I should exercise/read for a while/sit quietly and drink tea" I immediately felt guilty. Guilty that I'm not as dedicated as other writers because I already write less often than they do. Guilty that I wasn't getting my novel done more quickly. Guilty that I was being "lazy" if I wanted to relax for a little while. Then, when I finally did crash, I'd just lie in front of the TV like I was in a coma. There was no balance. And I felt like crap.
The doctor telling me I needed to relax was as powerful as a prescription for anti-guilt pills. In that moment, I gave myself permission to relax.
Over the past few days, I've been trying to take a half hour to an hour each day to be quiet and spend some time for myself, drinking tea and reading, reading my Bible, or taking a hot bath. Afterwards, I can write or do chores or whatever, but I have the freedom to spend time taking care of myself.
I also try to look at one beautiful thing a day, eat slowly, and walk slowly. Did you guys know that the leaves are changing right now? :) Have you noticed how absolutely gorgeous that is? I have. I realize that I missed paying attention to these things.
I wanted to write about my experience today, because I'm sure I'm not alone. Do you guys give yourselves permission to relax? Do you balance your time by allowing yourself some room to be still and recharge?
Or do you need to take a look at your schedule today and carve out a half hour for a bubble bath or a walk outside?
Do you take care of yourselves?
How can we be the best artists we can be if we don't take the time to be still once in a while?
Friday, October 9, 2009
Here are some things that bring me joy to send you off to your weekend in style:
All hail Brain Frog... All Hail Brain Frog...
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Hi, Blog Friends,
I'll be unplugging for the next couple of days to recover from some icky sickness.
In the meantime, if you're short on awesome blog reading material (ha!), please check out my list of helpful publishing blogs on the bottom right. There's great stuff in there!
I hope you're all having good weeks, and I'll see you soon :).
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
"It took me 95,000 words to tell my story, and now you want me to boil it down to 500??!"
Well, yeah. Basically.
No pressure, right? :P
Luckily for us, there are those wiser than we are to give us a helping hand!
Chuck over at the The Guide to Literary Agents blog posted some great tips on writing a good synopsis of your story.
Search wikipedia for movies and read what the wikinerds had to say! How did they sum up the movie? How did they describe the main character and conflict? It's one of the best ideas I've heard in a long time for finding examples of tight story outlines. Hats off to you, Chuck!
Author Anne Mini also had a very detailed post about questions you should ask yourself while writing your synopsis. Go check it out! It's extremely thorough and will whip your synopsis' butt into shape!
I also read a neat trick somewhere (I forget where, so please clue me in if you know, and I'll give credit) that if you're stuck on how to begin, follow these simple steps:
1) Sum your book up in one sentence. That's all you get! Think about what you'd tell someone if they asked you what your book is about, but you only had ten seconds to spit it out.
2) Now that you've sweated some blood and have your sentence synopsis nailed down, summarize your book in a single paragraph! This should feel much easier now that you've boiled it down to a sentence. Focus on the barest most essential pieces of the main conflict. What's at stake? Who is the MC? Why do we care?
3) Expand your paragraph into a one-page description! Some agents prefer a single page synopsis to the garden variety 2 page synopsis. This should feel like a walk in the park compared to what you've already accomplished. Stop and have a glass of wine. You're almost there!
4) Expand to 2 pages! Ahhhhhh. It's like unbuttoning your pants after a big meal. Finally, some room to breathe! The daunting task suddenly doesn't seem so daunting any more.
Hey, you've now got a 2 page synopsis :). Go send some queries, and good luck!
Does anyone else have any tips for writing a great synopsis? What works for you and what doesn't?
Monday, October 5, 2009
So, now, without further ado, here are the answers to some of your burning questions ;)!
Tere Kirkland asked:
So... what's your all-time favorite fantasy novel? Is this a hard question,like making you choose between kids? Or do you know already?
Oh, man! That is a tough one right out of the gate. It IS like choosing between kids, or more like choosing between best friends. I'd have to say, because it is my oldest Fantasy Novel friend, The Lord of the Rings. I must have read the trilogy at least ten times, and it's what made me fall in love with the Fantasy genre. Before that, it was just me and Ray Bradbury over in Science Fiction land, kickin' it with our robot butlers.
The Badass Geek asked:
If you could have written any book that has already been written/published, what would it be?
Man, these are good questions! My first thoughts were "Ooh, Tolkien. No, Bradbury! Gah, George R. R. Martin!" but then it came to me. Hyperion by Dan Simmons. Without a doubt, Hyperion is the masterpiece I would have written if I had the chops. Sadly, the second book, Fall of Hyperion ended with a slight whimper, but my love for Hyperion is so strong that I don't even care. It's a science fiction/fantasy version of The Canterbury Tales (which I also love.) The characters and their stories are incredibly rich and moving, and the Shrike is one of the most terrifying creatures... well... ever. Read it :). It's amazing!
Susan Duvall asked about my unwashed hair:
You rinse the baking soda out and then just dry the hair and it turns out beautiful like your picture? Where did you find the idea to do this?Ha ha! Potential converts ready to throw off the shakles of the shampoo bourgeoisie and use the cleanser of the proletariat! Uh.. you know... water! Annnyway, to answer your question, I don't blow dry my hair--I just let it air dry like a bum. It is naturally wavy so that usually turns out nice, and then the next day I curl it with the old curling iron and turn it loose on the world.
I got the idea from a forum I'm on, and then read about it all over the internet before trying it. People have definitely had mixed results, but eventually everyone's hair will even out :). Here's a website to get started: http://www.naturemoms.com/no-shampoo-alternative.html. It's called the No 'Poo movement.
Bonus Tip! A lot of people say they use vinegar to "condition" after they cleanse their hair. Don't do it! They can't smell themselves after a while, but others have said they smell like vinegar. All. The. Time. I brush my hair with a boar's bristle brush to smooth down the hairs. Smell-free and shiny!
Abby Annis/ asked me two questions, that wild woman!
If you weren't a writer, what would your ultimate career goal be?
Oooh, I daydreamed a little after I read your question and came up with my Dream Job! Believe it or not, I would own my own Tea Shop that also happened to sell books (of course!) One weird thing about me is even though I love Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica and chicks like Sarah Connor, I also happen to love tea, tea cups, teapots, and yummy tea sandwiches almost as much as life itself. My greatest pleasure in life is eating a salmon curry tea sandwich and drinking out of something like this. I know that makes me shamefully girly, but I just can't help myself.
Plus, then I could eat tiny quiches all the time, and no one could say anything, cause Hey! I'm the owner. Get back to work! Mmmmm... tiny quiiiiiche...
Do you use any product on your hair, like mousse, hairspray, or pomade? Does it wash out?
I totally used to, but since I've been going No 'Poo, I haven't bothered or needed to. I used to spritz my hair with sea salt spray to make it wavy, or do a little hairspray in the front, but yeah. I've been pretty much good to go without anything. I secrete nature's pomade now ;). Hehehe, just kidding (ew.) But my hair looks fine without, so I just wet it down or curl it, and I'm ready to roll!
That was fun, guys! I loved hearing your Fun Facts!!
If anyone wants to leave any more telling info or bizarre childhood stories in the comments, please feel free ;).
Friday, October 2, 2009
My followers list has grown, and so I'd like to take the time for us to get to know each other with some fun facts!
From now until Monday, please leave ANY and ALL questions you can think of that you'd like me to answer! They can be about absolutely anything ;), so be creative!
But here's THE CATCH!
If you want to ask a question, you have to leave a Fun Fact about yourself, too!
Tell us what your childhood talent was! Tell us the weirdest thing you've ever named a pet! Tell us what your dream job would be if you had a billion dollars! Tell the truth. It's space cowboy, isn't it? I knew it!
To get things started, I'll tell you guys about this whole crazy No Shampoo thing I'm doing!
I do wash my hair, but for now I just do it every few days with baking soda and water. I have a plastic cup in my shower that I shake about a half inch of baking soda into, fill with warm water, and dump on my head. It works wonderfully and actually feels great! :) I just massage my roots down to my tips, and I'm done.
The first night, I made the horrible mistake of filling the cup up with water from the tap instead of from the nice hot shower, and yeah. Cold water + head = Bad Times. But hey, I learned quickly! ;)
After that, I brush my hair with some boars bristles and just let it be. It was nasty as hell for the first week, but now it feels awesome, and smells squeaky clean.
Eventually, I'll be able to get away with just water once my hair fully adjusts :).
Think about it. You know all those old pictures from the 1800s showing native american women with their awesome, shiny hair? What about all those flappers, too? Curls to die for! Well, shampoo was invented in 1930, so you do the math. If those ladies didn't need shampoo, neither do we!
It turns out shampoo is just like The Matrix. We've all been programmed to think that we need it, but it actually makes us need it by screwing up our hair. MADNESS!
So, please ask anything you'd like, and I'll be happy to answer. I'm both frightened and excited to see what you come up with ;).
I'm also very excited to hear your Fun Facts, so let's get this party started!
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I gave up shampoo!
You heard right, guys. I haven't shampooed or conditioned my hair in two weeks. To the left is what my hair looks like as of this evening.
Turns out the hippies were right! My husband did a sniff check, and my hair not only looks nice, but smells like shiny clean hair goodness.
This bizarre and unexpected success got me thinking. It's easy for me to experiment with real life things like new foods (I'll try anything once) or my hair, but I have a hard time experimenting with my writing.
Why is that? And am I alone?
For instance, I recently rewrote some scenes in my WIP, LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS, and it was some of the most difficult writing I've done. My husband kept telling me to just "let loose and see what happens," but a I found myself hesitating. I didn't want to let go of the words I'd written, my previous ideas, or even my inner editor, shouting "don't screw this up!"
Eventually, I cringed and just did it. These new scenes are now some of the coolest moments in my book. The experiment paid off!
Are there times when you struggle to let go when you're writing? What do you do to give yourself permission to experiment?
Do you find the results equal success? Are you too afraid of failure to even start?
On the hair front, it was a complete disaster the first week before it balanced itself out. Somehow it was both frizzy and oily at the same time. Not pretty, my friends! But, I stuck it out. Fear didn't stop me from seeing it through, and now I'm glad I did.
What about you?