Monday, April 30, 2012

The Project

I think it's safe to tell you all about the project I've been working on for a few weeks now. I didn't want to tell ya'll until I thought it was out of the "Shiny New Idea" phase. Tentatively entitled Balancing Act, I'm telling the story of seventeen-year-old Callie Harding as she deals with having her athletic dreams taken away from her, and discovering that she can still be strong in other ways. Her best friend Jen, her boyfriend Scott, and her ex-boyfriend Ty help her along this path in different ways.

I'm at 21k so far. It's been a productive weekend - half of that total was from the last two days alone.

So, there you are. I'm hoping to get to at least 25k tonight.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Strangeness

Yesterday pretty much went down as the weirdest, yet coolest day of the year. It started with having only one class, which went quickly. Then I went for coffee and window shopping with a friend, which ended with me finding the perfect dress for seeing Harvey in New York this summer. I may have also picked up a couple more bottles of nail polish. Then (drumroll) I went to see the YA OR BUST tour stop in Seattle, and talked to Stephanie Perkins!

It was so cool. Her books are cool. She is even cooler in person. She signed my brand spanking new copy of Anna and the French Kiss (my original copy was on kindle. What was a girl to do?) with "never stop wishing on stars." Which she's probably put in hundreds of books, but I don't care! It was amazing the see the tour and listen to them talk about their journeys to publication and their writing processes. I even had the guts to raise my hand and ask a question.

Did I mention my aforementioned friend, who had never read any of the books by the authors, went with me so I wouldn't have to take the bus back to school alone and in the dark? Yeah, she's pretty much awesome. And now she will be reading Anna and the French Kiss as soon as she reads Graceling. I've already roped her into going to Kristin Cashore's signing next month.

The night ended with painting our nails back in my dorm room (hot pink with sparkles for her, crimson with silver sparkles for me) and helping my roommate locate her phone at midnight in a guy's room while she was a bit wobbly on her feet.

Have a crazy wonderful Friday, everyone!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Quick News

Alright, so I'm not having a traditional post today. I just popped in to let everyone know that I'll be much more exciting tomorrow. Tonight I'm going to the YA Or Bust Tour stop in Seattle where Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, will be doing a signing.

I am also plugging away at writing, and will have some things to tell you tomorrow. But for now, stay cool, and for those of you in the northwest, stay dry!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

When the Story's the Problem

Last night, for the first time in many months, I was unable to sleep. Because of a story. Not one I was reading, but one I wanted to create. I'd already spent an hour or so that morning working on it in addition to several hours the week before, and then when I climbed up into bed I wrote down a few ideas for scenes on my ipod. You'd think this would have satiated my creative desires for the evening.

Nope. I tossed and turned for AN HOUR before I was able to shut my brain up and go to sleep. This is how I know this story will come to fruition. With Water Dance and Fire Crackle, as well as Wings, I haven't had that "aha" moment where I write and write and write, then grudgingly go to class where I write ideas in a notebook.

That's not to say I won't work on them. I just need the moment. I won't tell you about the project yet, in case it all falls apart and I decide I hate it. But so far it is going well. Well enough to disrupt my sleep, that is.

Have you ever had a hard time getting your characters out of your head?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Weekend Exploits

All in all I had a very enjoyable weekend. How about you? I had family come into town to celebrate a birthday, and my aunt and I discussed books and movies for a long time. She recommended The Kane Chronicles to me, and I suggested The Circle of Magic series and Divergent. So, after I'm done with my current book (Water for Elephants) it's onto the first in the series, The Red Pyramid or something to that effect.

Yesterday I read What A Boy Wants by Nyrae Dawn, after hearing a positive review on another blog (only 99 cents on Kindle if you're interested). It is very short and is told from the male perspective, which was a nice change of pace. There were several times that I laughed/snorted out loud and times where I wanted to beat Sebastian over the head with the obvious: that he was in love with Aspen and only his fear of failure was stopping him from recognizing it.

After that I studied for a history quiz (wish me luck) then went to watch Avatar with friends at a dorm down the street. We started around 7, so naturally I didn't get back until very late. We had fun picking out the corniest dialog and debating why Jake Sully didn't become solely his avatar before the huge battle. Then we browsed the list of top 50 grossing movies and mourned the fact that three of the Twilight movies were there.

All in all a successful weekend. How was yours?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nerves

Today is the first time this year I will be tested in a math/science class. I did relatively well in math and science classes back in high school, usually scraping a low A or high B. But once I got to university I started focusing on my passions: history and English. This means that my math skills have floated away, and forget about science. I have no idea how I did well in physics my senior year. My guess is little goblins snuck into my teacher's classroom at night and changed my grades.

Anyway, I got up this morning, so nervous I thought I was going to be sick. It took me twenty minutes to calm down enough so I wasn't shaking or bouncing my leg. A shower helped as well. But *AH*. What do you guys do for nerves? I haven't been this nervous in months.

Wish me luck! The midterm is at 12:30.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Normal Programming

We shall interrupt out normal programming for a loving gush about studying history. Perhaps it is my love of reading and creating worlds that made my love of history. Or maybe it was vice versa. Either way, I like understanding what happened in history and why. Also, as I'm sure you are aware, some weird s**t went down, way back when.

Yesterday in my African History class my teacher described this scene: So this dude Mansa Musa, king of Mali, went on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324. He brought with him a huge entourage and an even larger amount of gold. Along the way he stopped at a salt mine, went through the desert, and then made a pit-stop in Cairo. He dropped so much money there that he caused a temporary depression in the value of gold in Cairo. I mean, wow. You have to spend a *lot* of money to hurt the economy.

I love hearing stories like this. They are so weird and interesting. Plus, there are times when it helps my writing. For instance, last quarter in my Golden Age of Spain course, we spent an hour learning about oceanic navigation. Rather relevant to Griffin's Song.

Anyway, back to normal programming tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I'm Impressed

I can't imagine writing a middle grade novel or a children's picture book. One of my friends wrote one for her senior project last year. She attended meetings and went through massive revisions. Because there's so much you have to impart into such a small amount of space. I mean, you need to get across a moral, while still being fun and lighthearted.

I don't think I could do it. I like being dark and sarcastic. So this post is just to say how much I respect those adults who write for younger children. Especially those who wrote the Secrets of Droon and The Magic Tree House series'. I absolutely loved them as a child.

Keep up the good work!

What was your favorite middle grade/picture book as a child?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Simple Senses

I love sensory additions in books. I love hearing about the unique smells and the texture of fabrics. I'm very biased in this however - I was cursed blessed with my father's sensitive nose, so my first impression of something is usually determined by sight and smell.

I'd like to stress how different description and sensory mentions are in novels. For instance, in fantasy novels, especially ones like The Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson. Wonderful wordbuilding, intricate plot. But there were chapters where he'd spend a page just talking about how a valley was laid out, how the wind blew from the east which was evidenced in the ripples on the lake which had thirteen types of fish that depended on...well you get my drift. These kinds of lengthy descriptions I can do without. If there's something important there, bold it or something because I'm likely to skip over large, wordy, pastoral scenes.

Now sensory mentions... they're different. They are typically one to three sentences and bring you right in to the scene or the world. In a project I'm working on about gymnastics, there's the smell of hand chalk and sweat. These kinds of mentions I absolutely love. But again, I'm biased. But either way, don't write an entire scene about the layout of a valley, I beg of you!

What's your opinion? Sensory or description?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Can A Villain Be Too Well Done?

I don't just throw this about willy-nilly. I had my prologue read by a companion, and she said she was so disgusted by the villain that she almost stopped reading. And she wasn't referring to the captain of the pirate ship, who is the true villain of the piece. No, it was the MC's fiance, who was 10 years her senior. The current prologue of Griffin's Song is written from the fiance's point of view, and how he decides he wants to marry Sarah. He is 20 at the time, and she 10. Apparently it was disturbing. What if other people stopped reading then?

It happened to me once or twice. The first time was when I read Second Ship by Richard Phillips. There was such a graphic scene of violence, and psychological terror that I had to put it down for a year. I finally pushed through it, but only because it had hurt my pride that I hadn't finished. Then it happened again later, with Brisingr by Christopher Paolini. The opening chapter concerns a viewing of self-mutilation in the form of cutting off limbs in offering to horrible creatures. I couldn't read further. Later I did, but it was a close thing.

So I put this question out there: can a villain be too well done?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Frustrating Interruptions

Since I promised myself this quarter that I was going to maintain a social life, and since the weather has been beautiful, which is so weird for April, my writing has been going slowly. Generally I'll write a bit before I go to bed, or if I get that undefinable urge. Well, yesterday I had that urge because part of the plot of my current WIP clicked. Normally this would mean disconnecting the internet and clacking away at the keys for at least an hour. Unfortunately however, I was walking to class when this happened.

So what did I do? As soon as I got to class I pulled out a notebook and wrote down everything I could think of, and then wrote a rudimentary scene to get a few key phrases down. I may have annoyed my teacher. The class only has 5 people in it, and I sit across from him. Ah well. Since I'm the only English/History major in an English class about History, I don't think it'll last long.

But this event brings up the problems of inopportune epiphanies. I've written previously about the helpfulness of showers. But what happens when we don't have a chance to write when we want to? When our day-to-day lives gets in the way? I try to keep a notebook with me, or at least my iPod so I can type up basic ideas. It's never as satisfying as writing continuously for an hour or two.

What do you do when you have an idea and you aren't near a computer/paper?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Entwined

This novel by Heather Dixon is a retelling of the old tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. This is the second retelling I've read this year, the first one being Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. And I think I liked it better than Entwined. However, there were some very amusing parts dealing with an overprotective king, and an aggressive pair of sugar teeth.

Entwined also looks at the complexities of grief and father-daughter relationships, which I found very interesting. However, I thought there were parts where the plot lagged in order to use up time, as the plot is supposed to take place over the course of a year of mourning.

This is actually an interesting point, and it will probably make me look at Griffin's Song. For those of you who don't know, Sarah's story takes place over a year as well. Overall, I would recommend Entwined to people looking for an easy read. The margins are wide and there's space between the lines. I will say one last thing: the villain is seriously creepy, and it progresses throughout the book. Well done, Miss Dixon, well done.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Love Life

No, I'm not going to spout about my significant other. Hard to do when you haven't got one. Instead I'm going to talk about how life is great. Because really, you need those days where everything is wonderful. Mine was yesterday. The sun was shining over the Pacific Northwest, and it was warm enough  to wear sandals!! Add to that the book Entwined by Heather Dixon, and you've got a lovely day.


The only part that spoiled it was homework. But really, I'm used to that so it was no big deal. Just some reading and an assignment for oceanography. Tomorrow I have a quiz in history, which means studying tonight. This quarter is so relaxed compared to last quarter. I feel like I can breathe again.

And, in more exciting news, I'm back into writing. Right now I'm focusing on Water Dance and Fire Crackle. It gives me something to work on while I wait for responses on queries. That's right. I've started querying. Just a few got sent off this weekend, but I'm going to increase that number after my quiz tomorrow.

Kick up your heels today. Enjoy the sun. Love life.

Oh, by the way, has anyone read Entwined? What did you think of it?

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Intimidation Factor

Have you ever looked at a book and thought, wow that's amazing? Have you ever experienced that sweeping sense of despair when you look at your own WIP and think, why can't it look as pretty?

I've often felt both, and I think it's part of the writer mindset. We are constantly being told (by crit partners, friends, the media, or ourselves) to work on the characters, tighten the plot,check grammar, create a platform that will draw readers before you even have an agent. It's exhausting. And I think after a while it wears us down to where we think we'll never have it as good as those published writers with their gorgeous book covers and royalty checks.

So to combat this feeling, when reading I try to find scenes where I think something has been cut, or where a scene had to be condensed into a paragraph to shorten the book. It's really fun, actually. And it reminds me that these published writers were once like the rest of us: unpublished and praying to every possible deity that they'd find the right agent/get a good review/win the contest/become filthy stinking rich have the public be moderately interested in what they have to say. And, as I said before, it's just fun.

Happy Monday! Look! A puppy!
A fluffy, white puppy wearing a red and white, striped shirt.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Character Influence

Here is the trouble with the way I read. When I get a new book I will likely finish it in two days because I really want to read it. This happened last week when I polished off Specials by Scott Westerfeld in less than 48 hours. It's a satisfying two days filled with literary immersion. But then I have no new book much sooner than if I took my time.

I have been told by my parents not to buy any books till next week, due to the fact that I'll be receiving one on Easter that has apparently been on my TBR list for a while. It's been tough. So I've been re-reading Lola and the Boy Next Door.

This time around I began liking Lola's ideas about costuming much more. One time in the book she states that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Then another time that it doesn't matter what people think of what you look like, as long as it says something about who you are. And this time, I really connected with it. Whether it's because I've had free time these past two weeks and haven't known what to do with myself, or because this book has really had an influence on me, but I've started experimenting with my appearance.

Dramatic makeup. Carefully chosen outfits. And nail polish. Lots and Lots of nail polish. For years I stuck to neutral colors, or colors that matched most of my clothing. But this week I went to a local store and bought Bright. Sparkly. Turquoise. Polish. I think it's beautiful. Like my nails are mermaids. My friends think it's too sparkly. But I'm embracing the Lola and not caring.

Has a character ever had a great influence on you? Which one?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Beginning the Query

Perhaps one of my favorite quotes about query letters comes from Nathan Bransford, author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow, and here it is: "A query letter is part business letter, part creative writing exercise, part introduction, part death defying leap through a flaming hoop."

For those of you who have been reading this blog since summer, you'll know that I had already created a query letter and was making up a list of agencies to send it off to. I discovered some extremely useful sites that helped me gauge if I could be a good fit, or if the agency was a scam. And I sent a few letters off.

I can proudly say, looking back, that I made every mistake in the book. I had no idea how to format a query letter, what contact information to include, or how long it should be. I got a few personal rejections, but the majority were form. I respect those agencies for rejecting Old Me. New Me would be worried if they'd taken on a client with such a terrible query letter.

Well, here we are now. The sequel to Griffin's Song is in edits, and Griffin's Song itself is about 30k words shorter after multiple edits. My new letter was sent off to my marvelous critique partner, Seabrooke, and I am almost ready to start querying agents.

Wish me luck! And for those of you querying out there, remember to do your research. It may take forever, but it is so worth it in the end.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How Writing Effects Everyday Life

You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won't be able to take a break from being a writer. - Stephen Leigh.

Truer words have never been spoken. How many stories do you see on the way to work? Around your house? In your dreams? I'd be willing to bet it's more than you can count. There's just some part of a writer (I'm generalizing here) that just can't not be working on writing, thinking about writing, or telling you that you need to get back to your computer and type. It infects our day-to-day lives.

Clearest example in my own life: I decided to take an oceanography class because I thought it might help me understand tides and sea currents better, so I could then use the information in Griffin's Song and Wind Chaser. Lots of water in those books. Walking around campus I look at people and file away expressions and features to use in characters. I think of how I could use the sights, sounds, and smells in a setting. How that setting would be different. And I try to construct stories out of what I learn - okay partly because sometimes I get bored in class. But the point is that storytelling is always in my mind, even if it's on the periphery.

I'll end on this note: A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing. - Eugene Ionesco

How does writing effect your everyday life?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Is It Seriously April?

It's unbelievable how fast time has gone this school year. I remember elementary school dragging on and on until you felt like you might as well just bring a sleeping bag and your favorite barbie and live under your desk. Now I am actually living at school, and it's amazing to realize that I am almost done. Only April, May, and a tiny bit of June left to go, and I'll be done with my Freshman year.

I've heard from adults that time starts to jump more quickly as you get older. So far I believe it. It seems like (to use a cliche) just yesterday I unpacked my boxes in my new dorm. And just last week when I graduated high school.

But I also noticed that I remember much more of the time that has gone quickly than the time that went slowly. My parents tell me that when I was younger I got to see the Redwoods in California. I have absolutely no recollection of this. However, now that I'm older I remember separate trips to Orange County, and how bad the weather was on different excursions to the malls around me. I remember much more now that I'm older.

Have you experienced this? Do you think this is a positive or a negative?