Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas out there had a great day and got some even better books! Tis the season for reading until your eyes blur, after all. I got some of the books I've been hoping to read and plan on spending the duration of my break ensconced on the couch.

Yesterday I started and finished Matched by Ally Condie. And I loved it. It wasn't my favorite of YA dystopian novels, but the concept was thought provoking.

Imagine a world where disease has been eradicated, we are partnered with our perfect mate, and are assigned jobs based on our skill. Everything is clean and orderly and follows patterns. Sounds great on the surface, doesn't it? It would take so much stress out of life. But then we wouldn't get to make mistakes, wouldn't get to choose. That's what this book focuses on through the eyes of Cassia Reyes.

I'd recommend it.

Today I'm tackling Stardust by Neil Gaiman before my family arrives. Have a great Monday, everyone!






Monday, December 19, 2011

Joining the Ranks...

of people who wear glasses. That's right, all it took was a quarter of college to turn my eyes against me. I spent a couple hours in a store picking out frames, getting tested, then finally getting them fitted.

Anywho, I'm looking for book recommendations. I'm completely out and now that I have absolutely no homework I don't know what to do with myself.

Send the suggestions my way! And happy holidays!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Victory!

Well folks, I am back to the blog after Dead Week and the proceeding Finals Week. My word I'm exhausted. Learning and writing a ten page paper comparing the slave societies of Saint Domingue, Brazil, and Virginia inspired some pretty weird dreams, many of which have been written down as possible story ideas.

But anyways, hurrah! I completed my first quarter of college and can now spend the next two and a half weeks of break stuffing my face with homemade food, singing Christmas carols, watching movies, and WRITING :D

Oh it's going to be wonderful. I can flesh out Water Dance and Fire Crackle which has been spinning around in my head over the past two weeks. Maybe (it's unlikely, but maybe) I can have at least 30k by the time I head back to school.

What are you doing for the holidays? Any celebratory landmarks in writing, any Shiny New Ideas?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Baby It's Cold Outside

You may be thinking, wow she's posting earlier than normal today. Don't get used to it. As it turns out my first and only in-class final this quarter is at 8:30am, and since I have to walk a half mile to get there, I had to get up earlier than I have all quarter.

I'm a grumpy Heather. When you look up "not a morning person" my picture is there with a signed cup of coffee reading "took you long enough."

Fun fact about me before I scurry off to prepare myself for this ghastly day: No matter how many hours of sleep I get beforehand, if I wake up earlier than 8, I am grumpy and exhausted for at least an hour. But, I can stay up till the wee hours and wake up at 8:30 and be perfectly fine.

And that, boys and girls, is an insight into the wacky little world of me. Now I'm going to go find my socks.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Just Checking In

Hey, everybody! The official Dead Week is over, but now it's personal Dead Weekend at my university. I spent the week writing papers and going to classes, filling out evaluations, and trying desperately not to go nuts with the amount of work I have to do. Now all that's left is one ten page paper due on Wednesday, a three page paper due Monday, my final draft of another paper due Wednesday, and one in-class final to study for.

It's been quiet around here. One of my roommates spent the night with friends, and then today with them. The other roommate is staying with friends too. It's odd, having the place to myself for so long. I celebrated the end of the week by watching large amounts of The Big Bang Theory and not doing homework that I must now do today.

It's so odd to think that my first college quarter is over. In some ways it went by so quickly, and in others it feels like I've been here forever. Weeks themselves fly by, but I feel like it's been much longer than two and a half months since I moved here.

Next quarter is going to go well, I think. Currently I have a half mile walk to class 4 times a week. Next quarter I'll half that distance, which should do wonders for my muscle spasm in my back. Taking it easy like the doctor said is hard to do when you can't afford to miss class. But anyways, I'm taking a class on the Golden Age of Spain, and another about race in relation to power in America, and an entire course on listening to published writers talking about writing. Me = happy.

Hope all of you have had a lovely week, and I'll probably be back by Wednesday!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Coffee, Notifications, and Other Things

To those of you who are either in college, have been to college, or have siblings in college, you will know (and most likely shed a sympathetic tear) what I talking about hereafter. I am in Dead Week. Finals Prep Week, to the lay, but we college students know the truth. Hell week has also been used to designate this awful terrible horrible week.

In the next week I have to: Write a 3 page paper, write a 7 page paper, write a 10 page paper, write another 3 page paper, as well as organize my notes, keep on top of current homework and reading, and study for my big in-class English final in which I shall be writing 4 short paragraph responses and (you guessed it!) another essay.

Now I understand why at many colleges students will open their dorm windows at midnight and scream as loud as they can. For more interesting dead week traditions, look Here.

All of this to say, I may be AWOL on the blog this week because I have to do all this writing and studying and banging my head against the desk wondering why I'm an English major. On the flip side, I might use this blog as a way to procrastinate. Who knows.

So until next time, keep writing, reading, and drinking coffee. I know I will be.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Fun Two Days

Writing is the last thing on my mind over the past two days. You know those mornings when you wake up and realize you slept on your neck oddly, and it's going to be stiff all day? Well my morning neck pain turned into a two day muscle spasm radiating from my lower back down through my leg and up to the middle of my back. Can you say yay? Because it was just wonderful walking a half mile back to my dorm with that pain. I guess getting the Christmas tree off the truck without the help of my dad for the first time was not so successful. Woops.

So a night spent at home lying down, a quicky doctor appointment to determine it was in fact a muscle spasm, and then I got lovely lovely medication that makes me drowsy and loopy but miraculously pain free!

On the up side, all that time spent horizontally meant I got to read a lot. There's a silver lining to every spazzing cloud.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Holidays

This is almost every students' favorite time of year. We get a break for Thanksgiving, and less than a month later we're off for 3 weeks for winter break. I know I love it! Two weeks and it's back to the house to watch Christmas movies by the bucket load, hope and pray for snow, and to help decorate the tree.

This is my favorite time of year. My family always does Christmas in a big way. Actually, holidays in general are big for us. For my two weeks here I have a string of lights wrapped around the bottom of my lofted bed, a wire tree with a gold star, 2 mini stockings, and a gel-stick penguin with snowflakes on the window.

One unfortunate thing about the holidays though is that it promotes laziness in this writer. Sleeping, reading, eating, and watching movies is almost the only thing I'm good for during this season. I don't know what it is. Perhaps it's the clouds that seem so gray. Perhaps it's my way of procrastinating on work. But I think the most likely reason of all, is that it's just such a contenting month.

When I write, often it's because I'm unhappy with the way life is going around me, and writing is a way to slip into another world for a while. Other times I write because I'm restless and the work calms me down. But during the holiday season, I'm very very, scarily, content.

I guess all of this was to say that I love the holidays, even though it makes my WIPs suffer.

What interferes most with your writing?

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Little Delayed


So even though I finished NaNoWriMo on day ten, I haven't been able to post my winner badge. For those of you out there who participate in WriMo, you know we can't validate our novels till the 25th. So I'm here with my little gold star!

Hehe! It took me so long to get off my butt (metaphorically of course) and write the sequel to GS. And I'm so glad I did, because it got my somewhat dormant creative juices flowing again.

News on the new novel front: I'm still working on my synopsis and hope to finish it today and get a few pages written. What with classes and homework and Turkey Day (mmm pie) I haven't had a whole lot of free time. But now, with two days to relax before heading back to the grindstone, I plan to write and read until my eyes blur.

To all you other Nanoers out there, good luck on reaching 50k, and to those of you who have already reached that goal - you rock!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What is TOO implausible?

I'm thinking mostly in reference to fairy tales. I am a self-acclaimed Disney princess addict. No, not even a Disney addict, just a princess addict. So it stands to reason that the external drive that I brought to University with only movies on it has a good number of princess movies.

Yesterday, while I was procrastinating on writing my 9th essay of the quarter (I'm losing count), I watched The Princess and the Frog. I LOVE the music, so I naturally was belting out Down in New Orleans loud enough that it probably annoyed by male neighbors.

But anywho. I was thinking about it later that day, and I realized just how insulting Naveen is to Tiana when they first become frogs. And I thought "I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere near him after that." And of course I know they come to know each other and fall in love, but that guy was truly insulting. But you love him in the end.

Is it because he was a frog when he was insulting? The two main characters are animals for a large portion of the movie. Do we end up forgiving Naveen for his insults because he was unaccountable for them somehow when he was a frog?

This is what I was thinking of when I wrote the title of this post. How far can a character go in being a jerk before they have passed the point of no return? In some teen lit I've read, there's always the mean popular girl who is actually misunderstood, and the boy who is cruel to the protagonist (genders can be swapped here) before they end up together.

But can a character go so far that the reader goes "NO, RUN AWAY!" when the inevitable finally happens? Have you read any books like that? What were they? 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Back with More Pep

My last post was rather...brief. It's been a rough week in that I've had so little to do, it leaves me with no other option but to crave sleep. Of the 10 sessions of class I have a week, 3 of them were canceled. It was amazing and sort of sad. My one teacher has pneumonia and the other is suffering backlash from some odd virus in her lungs.

In writerly news, I'm working (slowly) on a new book called WATER DANCE AND FIRE CRACKLE. Rather long name, and I'll probably change it down the line, but for now this is it. I'm dabbling in the genre that I read the most, which in hindsight I probably should have started doing in the first place: young adult fantasy.

Right now I'm doing something I've only ever done once before, and outlining and world building as much as possible before I get too far in the story. This is my first time creating an entire world, and I want to do it right. Well, I guess that's a lie. I made up the world that Sarah and Jonathan live in, but they spent so much time on the ocean that the actual formation of land didn't matter. This time, it definitely will.

Do you outliner or a pantser? Why do you think that is?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Round 4

Well, tonight was my fourth publishing class.

I'm sorry if I'm not as perky as usual. I'm so tired for no reason.

We talked about marketing platforms and I got to hear the older people in the class ask how to use Facebook. And WriterHelper said she liked my query (woot!).

Then I walked home in the rain through very deep puddles and shivered a lot.

I'm going to go watch Finding Nemo and sleep.

Goodnight

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Little Things

Today was such a lovely day. And I don't mean weather-wise to all you Frank Sinatra fans out there. It was a little like being in the eye of a storm, with everything and everyone whirling around you as if the devil himself were on their heels, while you sit and relax.

For starters, I got almost 12 hours of sleep. It was wonderful. Then I got to laze around until I was fully awake and then took a shower (yay for being clean!). Following that my one class of the day got canceled so I got to do my laundry which had been piling up. Now I can settle in to doing my homework, aka finishing reading As I Lay Dying by Faulkner, writing up some questions about the book, finishing the reading for my history class, and starting the essay that is due on Sunday.

Yes indeed, it has been a lovely day.

How does this connect in any way to writing you ask? Good question. Well, sometimes I feel as if our characters can't catch a break. Take my main character Sarah for instance - she's shipped off to marry a man ten years older than herself, then the ship is attacked by pirates, her parents are killed, and she has to spend the next two years among men who plan to kill her when she turns 16. Not the happiest way to spend a childhood.

I've also noticed this in books like The Maze Runner by James Dashner, and any of the four books by Christopher Paolini. The characters fall from one terrible plight into the next. Why do we, as authors, do this to our protagonists? You'd think we'd like them, having spent so much time with them. Why do we insist on throwing these people into life or death situations where their poor nerves are continuously tried.

Personally I think I'll be sending Sarah on a vacation after her story is all edited and completed. Perhaps I'll write a short story about her lounging on a beach with servants bringing her heaps of chocolate and crab cakes. Sort of like my apology for putting her through so much. Poor kid.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Does Writing Ruin Reading?

I just started listening to Inheritance, the final book in the quartet by Christopher Paolini. Now part of the reason I'm reading this (via ipod) is so I can say I've finished the series. I have so much time invested in these books and I just want to know who dies and who lives in the end.

To be upfront, I was not a fan of Brisingr. I thought it dragged on and was completely preparation for the fourth book. And I'm hoping Inheritance redeems it.

Which comes to the topic of today's blog post: Do you think that, on some level, writing ruins reading for authors? Do you automatically edit in your head, thinking "Oh, I would have said this instead" or "Dear me, he/she could have left that out to reduce the word count"? I do. It's become an unfortunate habit since I started editing GS over a year ago.

Does this happen to you? Do you think it effects how enjoyable reading is?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Big News

Well, folks, it's been one heck of a week. I finished reading Fire by Kristin Cashore (highly recommend it), and kept on top of my reading for school (an amazing feat in itself). I got a solid A on my one in-class midterm, and 100% on one of my papers for history. And if that weren't enough to send me through the roof with happiness, it's a three day weekend which I will be spending with my family, relaxing and hopefully writing away happily.

Oh, yeah, and I finished NaNoWriMo! Funnily enough, since I had already started WIND CHASER last year, having about 20k in random scenes and an opening chapter, the first draft of my second novel is now complete. Wow. I feel....odd. I thought at first that these books would be a trilogy, that I would need another novel to finish the maturation of Sarah and Jonathan. But when I wrote the final scene, I realized I didn't need that last book.

Both of these characters has changed so much from the people I thought they would be, and from the people they were at the beginning of GRIFFIN'S SONG. I've grown up with them, experimented with their emotions, and put them through literal hell.

So it is with great pleasure that I announce that the first draft of WIND CHASER is complete at 70,000 words. Of course later will come the editing and adding of scenes, and cutting of bad scenes. But that's later, and right now I'm just celebrating.

This is one small step for books, one big leap for this college writer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Round Three

Well holy chips it's been a busier week than I thought it would be. Completely forgot I had Friday off for Veteran's Day, and it seems my teachers are just piling on the reading. Of course I might just be feeling that way since I have to read Faulkner... I have discovered that I do not like stream of consciousness writing.

On a happier note, I've hit 42,000 words. I was hoping to be finished by today, but all that reading sort of got in the way. But I'm hoping to finish tomorrow night since it isn't a school night, and if that doesn't work I'm going to a Write-In on Friday, so it's all covered.

Tonight also happened to be the third of six of my publishing classes. And we finally got into talking about agents and all the different stuff publishers do. It was fascinating. I loved learning about the acquiring editor and the publicity team versus the marketing team versus so many other different people. We also read our back of the book summary and were given a short critique of it. Except for being told to tighten up one sentence, WriterHelper loved it. Homework: write a query letter.

I must admit I had to look at the table not to blush at this one, considering I have sent out about 10 queries WAY before I should have. But oh well, there's a learning curve with this thing. And I felt proud at knowing all the websites she suggested for finding agents, several of which are in the "links" page of my blog.

Have a wonderful night, everyone, and good luck with your books!

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's One of Those Happy Day Things

Well, folks, today I'm in a fine and dandy mood. Even though it's Monday, even though I have reading to do up the wazoo, even though it's cold and foggy outside, I am happy. Why is she happy, you ask? Good question. I spent the weekend with my parents, baking cookies and showering in consistently hot water and sleeping in a room with only my old stuffed animals for company. Then I went back my dorm loaded down with delicious food, received a care package from the store I worked at which means CHOCOLATE. Ahem. Anyways.

I also wrote two essays that I'm reasonably satisfied with and drained my creativity for two days. I finished editing my critique partner's book, and wrote over 13,000 words for Nano, bringing my current total (today's work excluded) up to 33k! I am very pleased. Goal for today: complete all of my reading for English class (eep) and reach 40k for Nano.

Since I foresee Nano as being short for me this year because I have had the sequel to GS swimming around in my head for close to a year, I plan on redoing it. That's right, my goal is to do 50k twice, either by completely finishing the draft of WC, or starting something new.

I'm really not as busy as I sound. I just like to have something to do, always.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Icon Association

If I said I had Justin Beiber's hair, Angelina Jolie's lips, and as many kids as Kate Gosselin, you would probably know what I meant. Why is that? Why do we assign traits to stars, whether they are deserving of the title or not, that live on for years? Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart are some of the most famous romantic icons. Hugh Hefner is the Playboy.

Do we do this in our reading and writing? This question is twofold. When you read, do you picture a person you know or have seen on TV or in a movie, even if that person does not totally fit the description the author gives you? I know I do. It's unintentional. And I think I know why I do it - because I have seen them and can fill in the gaps the book does not give me. As time progresses, we chop character descriptions down to the minimum (hair, eye color, height, angular or soft features). But if we have a model in our minds, we can have an entire image.

Then there is the second part. When we write do we base our characters off of real people? Or perhaps other characters we love? I know the dog in WIND CHASER is based off my own pup in everything except size. Is it easier to write a character if we have an entire picture in our heads, or maybe even taken from the internet?

I've given you move questions than answers. But it's something to think about. Our pop culture affects our lives, whether we consciously decide to let it, or not.

And for the record, my grown out pixie will stop resembling Beiber hair in less than a month. And I don't have Jolie lips or 8 kids. Just the hair.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Wonderfully Wonderful Finish

Can you hear the angels singing? Do you know why they are? Because it's FRIDAY! It took a long time to get here, but finally it did. It was a hectic week. Lots of papers to write and reading to do. Then doing my pleasure writing and reading.

In the case of writing, I have some exciting news! The new material I have for WIND CHASER is at over 20,000 words. I feel almost mentally drained. Maybe I'll be able to get out another thousand before turning in for the night, but who knows. Have I mentioned how exciting it is to be writing again? And what's even more exciting is that I'm home for the weekend. It's been a few weeks, and I really enjoyed the idea of taking a shower without needing to wear flip flops. So here I am!

On the reading front I've dived into Fire by Kristin Cashore after finishing up Mastiff. I also had to read a few Sherlock Holmes stories for English, which is a-okay with me. I'm also finishing up reading my critique partner's book, which is exciting.

I know I've kinda been babbling about my own life lately instead of literary things, so I have some literary babbling for you tonight for a change.

Endings. I've finished one book. It was the start of a series, so I wanted it to be good. I thought I did a pretty good job, followed the traditional rules. No cliffhanger, but a sense of a story left unresolved. And then I read Mastiff. Now I'm biased because I love Tamora Pierce's work and have loved watching the writing evolve. By the end of that book though, I was amazed. I had cried - not an easy thing - and been uplifted. I was sad the story was over to the point that I was in a grumpy mood for at least an hour.

I want to write an ending like that. One that is emotional not only to the characters, but for the reader. That is what I aspire to in my writing.

What was your favorite ending of a book?


And HAPPY WEEKEND

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Second Round

Tonight's blog post title refers to two things. First of all, it's the second day of NaNoWriMo, and as promised I'm going to fill you guys in on where I'm at with my writing and word count. I'm pleased to say I'm still going strong in WIND CHASER and am at 10k as of these evening. I would try to make it to 11k, but I have a history paper due tomorrow night and I don't want to break my streak of "A"s (Two now!). It's been fantastic writing this much. Over the summer I blogged about writer's block, and how I spent more time editing GRIFFIN'S SONG - then titled Deceptor, than I did doing any serious writing. Well I'm back in the game folks. How I missed this. Not writing an introduction with body paragraphs and a conclusion. Now I'm writing something with a plot, rather than a thesis.

The second meaning of my post title is that tonight was the second meeting of my publishing class. We have moved on from genre and examining the different types of publishing, to book proposals, synopses, and query letters. Cue the scary music. Luckily I pitched a short summary to WriterHelper, and she liked it. The only suggestion she had was that I clarify this takes place in an alternate world. And then a genre was attributed to my book that I'm not sure why. Steampunk. Now for those of you who know my plot, and to those people who have actually read the novel, does these seem right? It was only mentioned once, but I was wondering if I've been deluding myself in thinking GS is a YA adventure novel.

All in all it was a pretty good night. A bit wet, as there was lots of standing water and rain as I walked back to my room. Lucky me, I had remembered an umbrella, but unfortunately had forgotten to use my rain boots. Oh well, at least my head is dry, even if my feet are not.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNo Beginnings

And so it begins! This is my first year doing NaNoWriMo (for those of you who don't know what that is, it's National Novel Writing Month) and I am very excited. I've been sitting on the idea for a sequel to Griffin's Song for...well since I started writing the first book. But I could always find a reason not to write it. Well of course, I should be editing the first one before jumping into the second!

But I made myself have a deadline - November 30th. Today was the beginning of NaNo, and since I only have one class today, I was able to make some serious headway. In the way of 5500 words. Woot! I'm hoping to get to 6k by bedtime (which is still pretty early considering I'm a college kid).

And I realized why I'm enjoying it so much. I'm not editing as I go on. I am not afraid to write something that is, excuse my french, shit. What matters is that I'm getting the words on the page.

I shall keep ya'll updated on my word count throughout the month, and have a wonderful night!

Are you doing NaNo? What's your NaNo book about?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Inspiration

Well, I did it! I made it through midterms! And found out I got an A on a paper that counted for 15% of my grade. So it was a pretty nice start to the weekend.

Since I spent the majority of yesterday reading Mastiff by Tamora Pierce, I didn't do much editing of my book. But while I sat reading my mind drifted back to meeting the author. She said that she is not good at making things out of thin air, and as such normally takes from real life.

I must admit I do the same thing. When I find that something I've written into my book isn't historically accurate (generally about the construction of a ship) I automatically feel the need to change it.

And then there are the stories. One of my favorite ways to come up with story ideas is to go to a museum. You can walk around and see bit of history, and almost every piece conjures up an image - be it an Inuit at a seal-hole fishing, or an Asiatic shrine in honor of the ancestors. Always when I leave a museum I feel the need to write.

What about you? What inspires your stories?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Division of Profits and Cold Walks in Fog

As promised, here is a post about my first publishing class. I'm sorry it's coming so late, but I had to write a midterm paper that proved harder than I expected. I flipped through around 30 pages of typed notes to find all the information I needed. Now I'm on a break before finishing studying for my exam tomorrow.

It was fantastic, first off. My instructor, who shall be known as WriterHelper (like Hamburger helper! I'm sort of hungry...) was great. Even though I am shy around new people, she put me at ease. Once all the students got there we talked about the different kinds of publishing - large press, small press, e-publishing, self-publishing. A lot of the information about large press publishing I already knew, but the stuff about self-publishing I did not. And I must say, I now respect self-publishing more as a business.

The most interesting part of the evening, and there were many fun parts, was when we talked about the division of profits on print books versus e-books. Obviously, I knew the division would be different since you don't have to worry about books being sent back if they don't sell, and plus you don't have to send people out to convince stores to put e-books in stock!

All in all it was a lovely evening surrounded by people who were interested in the sames thing I was. And I was pleased to realize I knew more about the business than I thought I did, and WriterHelper expected me to.

After class the sun had fully set, and I walked back to my dorm in the chilly swathe of the night with a pinch of fog blurring the lamp lights. It put me in mind of a setting for a romantic meeting between strangers. Or a thriller scene. One or the other. I was happy to warm up in my room.

I'll keep ya'll updated as I go through the course! Now I must get back to studying.

4 down, 1 to go, then it's the weekend! Yay!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Can Die Happily Now

Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I met Tamora Pierce. That's right. The author of more than 25 books, whose newest novel, Mastiff, came out today, I MET HER!!! She was doing a signing in Seattle and I can honestly say I haven't laughed that much in a long time.

She was great. She answered questions for an hour and a half, then signed books. She wrote in my copy of Alanna The First Adventure: "redheads rock!" Seeing as I am a ginger who for a while looked like Alanna due to an unfortunately grown out pixie cut, I love it.

Meeting one of my idols, one of the people who inspired me to become a writer, was perhaps one of the most amazing moments of my life. She was so....normal. Funny, a little eccentric, but amazingly, I felt connected to her as a writer. The things she talked about made so much sense. The problems in publishing, the nay-sayers of YA, the way our characters take over our heads until they tell us where the story is supposed to go. She knew them all, and was more than willing to talk about them.

She was everything I was hoping for and more. I am unashamed to say I did a little dance when I left the store with my signed copies of Alanna and Mastiff.

Off to read! Enjoy your evening, everyone!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

News Flash

I'm going to be upfront with my schedule this week, as it will no doubt affect my blogging. Midterms are this week, and I have several papers to write as well as tests to cram for. That's in addition to my 17 credits worth of classes and the no credit, two hour long course in how to get published!

And I'm playing a bit of hookie and taking a trip with my mom to meet Tamora Pierce, who will be signing copies of her new book, Mastiff, this week! SO EXCITED!! Hers was the first fantasy novel I ever read, and my copy of Alanna: The First Adventure is so worn out that white shows through on the majority of the spine.

So I'm sorry, folks, but there probably won't be much blog activity here over the course of the week, although I do plan on telling ya'll about the publishing course. And if I hear back from Mandy Hubbard about GRIFFIN'S SONG, and it's positive, I'll be shouting it from the rooftops and surely through here.

So enjoy your week, and I'll see you guys later.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Stores and Outlining

There is a Barnes and Noble about 15 minutes walk from my dorm, thankfully downhill (at least one way). And unfortunately, it will be closing this year. So my friend and I went down today to read the titles that we'll want to get once the good sales come. For years I've yearned for the day when I'd have enough money to get all the books I would want in one trip to a book store. The total would probably be in the thousands of dollars. So, I found some titles that I was interested in, and am interested in hearing some reviews before I shell out for them. Tell me what you think!

Divergent                  Stardust
Eyes Like Stars         Uglies
Lost Voices              Princess of the Midnight Ball
Daughters of Rome    Matched
Fire                          Daughter of Smoke and Bone

On another note, I spent a portion of yesterday outlining the sequel to GRIFFIN'S SONG, which I shall be writing for NaNoWriMo this year. It's amazing, the ideas that I had not thought of before to make the plot better. Avenues previously unexplored will hopefully make the story better. But first, I must finish the edits to my first novel and send off my query to Mandy Hubbard who, if you read my previous post on the subject, requested to see my query after I was a finalist in a blog competition.

Happy weekend! I know I'm excited to sleep in.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Be A NaNoWriMo Champion!



Fellow blogger Sommer is going to be posting some helpful encouragement throughout the month of November, to cheer us NaNoWriMo-ers on our way! She explains it much better than I can, so click the linky thingy above to find out more.

This is a Blog Hop!

Vic Caswell                         Words Are Timeless
TL Conway Writes Here     JP @ ~Where Sky Meets Ground~
Paradoxy                            The Writer and the Resin Roomates
Unique-Ink

Have a great Thursday, everyone!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Individual vs. Group

With NaNoWriMo coming up soon, I've been thinking about how we write. It seems that writers are paradoxical. We have critique groups and forum groups, where we write and edit together. And those connections are fantastic. We get feedback and, perhaps more importantly, we create a community of people who are going through the same things as we are.

But when we write, we also like solitude. Sometimes we just have to disconnect the internet, lock the door, and shut out the world.

Why do we do this? Why do we need these two things? Is it human nature to want solitude but crave company as well?

Maybe. I think it's because when we write, we are drawn into our heads and live there for a while. We transfer a bit of our consciousness into something that doesn't back talk, doesn't ask you to take out the trash, it's just there. But when we resurface it's like a withdrawal. We need those people to draw us out of our heads and make us look at the big picture again.

What do you think? Why do writers require group involvement and solitude?

When You Jump Up and Down

I was feeling sort of sad this evening. I had just gotten back to my dorm after a weekend at home, and was missing my folks. I know it's silly, since most college kids can't wait to escape their homes. In fact, looking back, I should be mad at my family for making me love them so much it hurts to leave.

But anyways, on to happier topics. I was lying on my bunk, listening to F.R.I.E.N.D.S and staring at an essay I should be editing, when I decided to procrastinate just a teensy bit more and check my blog feed. Since most of the blogs I follow don't post on Sundays, I figured it would only take a few minutes.

I pulled up the screen, went to blogger, and there it was. YAtopia had posted the winners of the pitch contest I blogged about a few weeks ago. My breath caught in my throat. Could it be? Could I have won? No, how silly, I chastised myself.

My heart in my throat, I clicked. Alas, I was not the winner. The winning pitch was very good, and I applaud Linsey Miller for winning. Then I scrolled back through the blog post, for it was not just a listing of the winner. No, Mandy Hubbard had posted her top six pitches, who were encouraged to send her a query letter and 5 pages. And guess whose name was there?

Mine! *insert insane happy dance with stuffed manatee*

So I thought I'd put my bit of joyous news here before going back and finishing that essay. See you all soon! And have a virtual hug, on me :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Extra Class!

So at the moment I am taking 17 credits at my college, mostly English courses, and one history class (which I adore). My school also has extra courses you can take through the fall quarter that, unfortunately, don't count for any credits, but are classes students have expressed interest in. These include: flirting, salsa dancing, practical welding, interviewing 101, chocolate truffles (yum), solar home design, beginning stand-up comedy, partner massage, and my personal favorite: A Guide to Getting Published.

Needless to say, when I saw that in the course catalog I jumped on it. No credit be darned, I wanted to take that class. And my wonderful parents were supportive! So for the next six weeks I will be sitting in on a 2 hour lecture by a former literary agent, listening to the pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing, how to improve a query letter, etc.

Can you say excited?!

I love college. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fairy tales

Fairy tales have ruined me for any man. I am a shameless lover of Disney and Pixar films concerning princes and princesses. The plots are thin, the antagonist is one-sided, but I absolutely adore them. Perhaps it's because it reminds me of a time when I believed in gallant princes. Oh, and of course because of the awesome music.

I never wanted to be the damsel in distress though. It bothered me, as I got older, that Aurora did nothing but fall in love and fall asleep. She had no way of breaking the curse itself. My favorite was Ariel, who went after what she wanted, and helped to bring down the monstrosity that threatened her world.

Why do we love these tales? We writers, who are constantly preaching that characters must have layers, even the villains, and stereotypes make for worse stories.

I think it's because of the possibility. What person, at one point in their life, hasn't dreamed of finding their soul mate, and riding off into a happy sunset, preferably with some cheery woodland creature bounding nearby?

What all these stories have in common is freedom.

Cinderella - freed from her evil stepmother
Aurora - freed from a curse that's dogged her since birth
Ariel - freed from a life where she was expected to fit in rather than make her own splash
Mulan - freed from the necessity of finding a husband to bring her family honor
Snow White - freed from a stepmother who envied her beauty
Rapunzel - freed from a tower and an oppressive "mother"
Tiana - freed from her own all encompassing work ethic to find love
Jasmine - freed from her oppressive life inside the castle where all that was expected of her was to marry

Now, my personal favorite is the Swan Princess. I could watch it over and over again without getting tired of it. I adore Derek, who risks his life to find the woman he loves. And Odette, who is kind and brave, and never gives in to Rothbart.

We all dream of our savior, of being brave, of love, of spreading our wings (quite literally in Odette's case) and flying free. What child wouldn't love these stories?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale

Well, I wouldn't have believed it possible, but today I read The Miller's Tale, one of the stories in the Canterbury Tales, and heartily enjoyed it.

It was an assigned reading for my English class, and we were supposed to consider the concepts learned over the past two weeks concerning different types of time. In the book we are reading - Imagined Communities - the author argues that all communities are imagined (didn't see that one coming, did ya?), because there is simply no way for us to meet everybody and like everybody within our community.

He then goes on to explain how there has been a transition from religious and dynastic communities to nationalistic community. For instance, nowadays if someone asks you "What are you?" you are more likely to say "American" or "British" (etc.) than you are to say "I am Christian" or "Hindu" (etc.)

This all connects into the Canterbury Tales because the author also discusses the different types of time. In religious time there is the concept of predestination and events are cyclical. In modern, national, time, we don't know what is going to happen, and one moment does not have more meaning than the last or the next. I don't know which one I agree with, but I do know that the concepts relate to different communities.

In The Miller's Tale, you know from the beginning that the wife is going to cheat on her husband, and you know that her lover is going to make a fool out of the husband so he can have her. It was predestined! (Oh my word I actually applied a concept learned in English class to a book! That has to be a first)

I loved this story. If you enjoy collections of short stories, and can find the side-by-side translation from Middle English, it is definitely worth the read.

What do you think? Do you think time is cyclical, or an empty yawning hole where we don't know what's at the bottom?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Different Page

So, while I should have been working on WIND CHASER, I was instead evolving a new idea for a story that I got in history class. The class has a focus on slavery, and encompasses the scope of the exploitation in Brazil, Saint Domingue, and Virginia.

I feel a little guilty for not working on the edits from the advice I received from my critique partner. But I have a Shiny New Idea that must be put on paper before I get any further in polishing my current manuscript. All day in class I was tossing around ideas for a first line, for a main character name, for a central plot, etc. So, here is a little teaser from the 2k words I scribbled out so that I have the idea down before going back to GRIFFIN'S SONG, my WIP.

This, eventually, will be a YA Alternate History/Dystopian story.

"The sun shone brighter during the seventeenth year of my enslavement. For it was the year of my Saving. The year I could be freed, should I find a wealthy Patron."

Now that that's done, back I go to editing! Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

From There to Here

Today I was in reminiscence mode. I went back through my folder of query letters and found the first one I sent off. And I felt like banging my head against a wall or laughing hysterically. Both on a good day. It was terrible. Not only did I mention that I'd seen good reviews of their agency on P&E and Absolute Write, but I also only had a one paragraph summary of the plot. Then I didn't include contact information. Ahhhh so painful.

Then I looked back at an early draft of GRIFFIN'S SONG, back when it had a different name. Not only was there only one point of view, but the punctuation was off and there were holes in the plot.

And then to make myself feel better I looked at my current query letter and ms. It was like seeing the sun for the first time. I realized today that over the past year I have learned so much about writing and publishing. I had no idea going into this that there was such a large community of writers out there. And now I feel like I'm part of a family.

I know to be impressed if something is taken on by Curtis Brown Ltd. or gets a book deal with Random House. I know to avoid PublishersAmerica and to check P&E and Absolute Write to learn about different agencies. I know how to navigate QueryTracker and AgentQuery. And I enjoy the witticisms of Slush Pile Hell.

I love this community. For several years I considered becoming a teacher, and writing on the side. And one day I might do that. But what I've learned about myself over this past year is essentially this: I love the book world, and I want to be a part of it. Either at a publishing house or literary agency, as a published author or editor, I want to live and breathe books.

Which I suppose I've known since I was in grade school and would be the only kid on the playground with a book. Or when I was even younger and scared my dad by reciting The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

When did you discover your love of reading/writing?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Wake Up Call

Well, I got a general critique on my novel, and it couldn't have been more helpful. That's the thing about writing a book, and then being too shy to let anyone you know read it - you can't improve. But boy did I get some helpful advice tonight!

To my critique partner, Seabrooke, thank you so much!

Now that I know what to focus on to improve my story, I can have a better manuscript. It's amusing - the thing I always thought was hardest was characterization. I've known these characters for so long that I don't know if I'm conveying them well enough to the reader. But it turns out I have other things to think about.

It looks like another round of edits is in the offing.

In other news, I had a burst of writing today, which generated two new story ideas (as if I needed any more). One being an alternate history slavery book, and the other involving Fancy Girls. I just need to find a reliable source where I can learn about them. I also worked on the sequel to GRIFFIN'S SONG - WIND CHASER which is coming along slowly but steadily at 16k.

What's the most difficult part of the writing process for you? Why?

Good night, everyone!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Little to Report and Other Literary Ramblings

There has been very little going on in my life, literary wise. I was home this weekend, grabbing some things for a my dorm and spending time with the parental units. We made peanut butter cookies, talked about classes and the movies we've seen recently (Me - Thor, Them - Paul), and generally ate until I wanted to collapse into a ball on my bed. It was nice being the only one sleeping in a bedroom. Nice and quiet and uncluttered.

What I've been thinking about, book wise, it was makes a novel realistic. I'm thinking mostly of Jodi Piccoult and Nora Roberts in this case. They really do their research, and add those tidbits that bring you into a scene so it wraps you up like a blanket. For instance, instead of saying "They made cookies, spilling ingredients everywhere." they say, "They made oatmeal raisin cookies, spilling flour and nutmeg on the linoleum floor."

Much more specific. George R. R. Martin does the same thing, describing the importance of the different kinds of clothing and weapons, and how these things indicate the world the characters live in, and what it means about the character.

I've noticed that in many young adult books, and even in some cases, fantasy, that these little details are left out. And I wonder, neutrally since these are books I love, if this is due to lack of research or simply that those details would be excessive and do nothing to further the story.

What do you think? Are those little details important to make a story realistic, or are they excessive?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Contest on Another Blog

YAtopia is having a pitch contest, open until October 5th! The winner will receive a full ms request from Mandy Hubbard, a literary agent at D4EO Literary.

You have to put your entire pitch in two sentences, so good luck!

Link

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1 Down...So Many More to Go...

And two classes later, I've finished my first college day! Please restrain your wild cheering. I received a Poe reading called "The Man of the Crowd" that was very interesting. It concerns a man who is watching London stroll by him while he's in a cafe. The character descriptions are amazing! Even though each sentence refers to several people he sees, you can picture each one clearly.

My favorite one is as follows: "...the loathsome and utterly lost leper in rags-- the wrinkled, bejewelled, and paint begrimed beldame, making a last effort at youth."

In that one sentence is an entire story that we don't get to finish. And I have an image of her in my head. Dirty brown hair, long skirt faded from too many washings, large blue eyes with lots of makeup around the corners to hide the crow's feet. I feel sorry for this woman, and she doesn't even have a name.

These are the characters that make books worth reading. The descriptions that are unusual and moving, even if in the long run you won't remember them. This short story reminds me of Iva Ibbotson's books. If you haven't read them, you should! It's historical romance, but very light and has multiple plot lines.

1 day of college down, and I'm loving it!

What is your favorite character description, or one that made you really connect with the person?

Monday, September 26, 2011

A New Day, A New Page

Now that I'm all settled in at the dorm, I'm ready to do some writing. As of yet each day has been filled with activities meant to keep us involved in campus life, get to know one another, and more importantly: not get trashed every night.

Since I don't drink, am shy to the point that I should be called a hermit, and know the campus pretty well, there has thankfully been some down time. Like now!

I've been thinking about the difference between my first novel and this burgeoning second novel. GRIFFIN'S SONG is written from three points of view: Sarah's fiance, Jonathan Harper, and, of course, Sarah. The sequel, WIND CHASER is written from even more points of view, ranging from the standard three above, to the pirate captain Tiras, to a lowly dock rat called Porter. I added different POVs so you can get a scope for what is happening throughout the world because of this one pirate ship. However, I don't want to do what, say, Greg Keyes does: have so many POVs that you don't have a main character.

Even though classes will be starting soon and I'll be up to my eyes in work, I want to continue writing the sequel. In this past year I've come to consider GRIFFIN'S SONG a home, a place where I can manipulate emotions and escape from whatever problems I have in real life. And WIND CHASER will be even better - perhaps a vacation home in Hawaii.

Do you prefer stories with a plethora of POVs, or do you prefer only one or two MC perspectives?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Blue Bedding and a Giant Etch-A-Sketch

So I'm all moved in at my dorm! It was an exceptionally busy day. And hot. Very very hot. It was a bittersweet experience. On the one hand I'm leaving my childhood behind. And on the other I'm claiming my independence.

But at the moment I'm so tired I can't even get up the energy to miss home. I didn't even stay up late. There was a movie in the commons on a giant blown up screen that looked like an etch-a-sketch. My alarm clock went off at midnight because everything reset when I unplugged it. Then at 1am one of my roommates came home and finished unpacking.

Then Wake Up came at 7:30 when my other roommate left the room. After breakfast I tested the showers and set up my internet.

That's all I have for you today. It's lovely to have my own space and to be able to decide where to go when I want to. But I miss my parents and my dog. And my air conditioning, since it was 80 degrees yesterday in a building with only central air.

Have a relaxing weekend, everyone! I'm off to nap. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Zero to Hero

There are a few characters in books that have stuck with me over the years. I admit that I am not an aficionado in the areas of paranormal, sci-fi, steampunk, and traditional YA stories involving stressed high school students. But I do know what I like, and my favorite characters are not limited to one genre.

Alanna of Trebond: I picked up Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce when I was in elementary school. It had sat on my shelf for a while without my feeling the compulsion to read it. A quick grab for a novel to read on a plane ride began my decade long love of this author's books. And my favorite character is Alanna. I wanted to be her so badly. She had spunk, she had a temper and wasn't afraid to use it. She didn't let others make her decisions. And she could fight as well as any man. What little girl hasn't wanted to be a knight? I loved her.

 For a while a grown out haircut gave me a striking resemblance to Alanna. Seriously, that is almost exactly what I looked like for a few months. Minus the poofy shirt and sword.
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Image: Goodreads
Keeley Grant: Again a spunky character. I am a shameless reader of romance novels. Probably because in books the love actually works out. This tough girl was an Olympic silver medalist in horse jumping. Now, I am a dedicated fan and ex-participant of barrel racing so I don't understand jumping as well. But I loved this character because she was mule-headed enough to go after what she wanted.

Eleanor Dashwood: This quiet protagonist of Sense and Sensibility tried to never burden her family with her problems, unlike her volatile sister Marianne. I wish I could be as restrained as her.

Peeta Mellark: Kind and compassionate, this male character in Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games never let go of his true character. He was hardened, of course, by the tragic events in the books, but he was straight-forward and charismatic.

Leafpool: Yes, I'll admit that I read the Warriors series. It began a long time ago, and now I read them to see how the books connect and how the authors change the story and keep it interesting. Considering there are over 20 books, it's quite a feat. And I love the gentle medicine cat, Leafpool, for her love of her family and her belief system that's so strong it led her to give up the option of a mate to pursue her destiny in the Clans.

Briar Moss: Tough as nails on the outside, but a love of all things green and his adoptive sisters on the inside. In another Tamora Pierce series, this ex-street rat wormed his way into my list of favorite characters because of his sense of humor and tenacity. I wanted him as a big brother. He would be the kind of guy to make you laugh while secretly putting a whoopee cushion on your chair.

Harriet Morton: And finally there's this protagonist of A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson. She was helpful and like a small ball of sunshine. Intelligent and desperately wishing she could love the family that oppressed her love of the theater. I wish I could have her bravery. Instead of Alanna's flashy bravery in ditching it all to go after her dream of being a knight, Harriet slunk away with a ballet company up the Amazon, and eventually came to terms with her decision.

All these books that I've read have been spread out over the years. My bookcase is double stacked with books filled with likable characters. But I find that the ones I love the most are the ones where I either have something in common with them, or wish I were like them. The genres include historical fiction, dystopian, MG, fantasy, and romance. There are many more. But these characters, all different, have taught me how to be. How I can be brave, romantic, practical, strong, and compassionate.

They have taught me who I am.

What characters have influenced your life or made you seen things a different way?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Recommendations

So I'm heading off to school soon, and have had to cull my library to an excruciatingly small amount so as to maximize space in my dorm. And I want to have a nice representation of genre.

My list is as follows:
Under the Black Flag - research book for my novel
East - bildungsroman
Tricksters Choice/Queen - fantasy
Too Good To Be True - romance
Sense and Sensibility - novel of manners
All the classics on my Kindle and the books required for my English classes

What other books do you think I should take that would be in equal parts inspiring, humorous, enjoyable, and otherwise good?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Long Long Night

You know those scenes in books where a character tosses and turns all night while thinking/dreaming about the conflict in the story? Well I had one of those last night. Only it wasn't because I was thinking about that special guy, or debating how to overcome some obstacle the next day. No, I kept waking up because of ridiculous dreams and my dog leaping up and down from my bed.

And it always amazed me how in those novels the MC would wake up the next day, be achy and grumpy for a while, but then when the conflict escalates they can put it aside and make it through death defying climaxes a la Dan Brown.

It amazes me still, because after a night where I did, however briefly, sleep, I feel like someone has tried to glue my eyelids shut and stuffed my ears with cotton wool.

So much for my plan of packing up all my dorm equipment. I think I'll just stay in bed researching literary agencies and watching sitcoms. And make more coffee, since I've already emptied my thermos.

Quote of the day: "It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly" - C. J. Cherryh

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Other WIP

Now that GRIFFIN'S SONG is off to my critique partner I'm spending time with a pet project. TRAPPED IN MY HEAD is a young adult novel focusing on the social system in high schools, and how everyone has a motive, no matter how simple.

I began this project while I was at the coast, working. It started as emotional purging, for I wrote into the characters traits of people I knew. But after writing the general idea, I started into the character descriptions. And the story just took off.

If you've ever seen She's the Man, you'll know the kind of story I'm talking about. Everyone has preconceptions, and something in their life that forces them to act certain ways. Be it love, disease, homework, heartbreak, or parent troubles, there is always a motive.

And that's why I started writing TIMH, starring Ellie, a seventeen-year-old with Ivy League aspirations and a boyfriend who dumped her for her friend. Enter Sage, a plump eighteen-year-old, who is as prickly as a cactus. With her family moving to Los Angeles after graduation, she's just trying to survive her senior year and the other kids' taunting. When the two meet all hell breaks loose, secrets come out into the open, and no one knows if it's for better or for worse.

What started out as emotional downpour now has full character charts, a story outline, and 12,000 words. Every time I work on this project I slip back into my own senior year, and I can't help but remember everything that happened - good and bad.

It's probably just a purging novel, that I won't try to polish and sell. But it certainly is fun to write.

Enjoy your weekend, everybody!