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?