Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I saw this quote today and was impressed by how easily and succinctly Mr. DeStaebler summed up the gist of so many of my blogs. This is how I feel about writing.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Writing on Faye continues. November felt like one big hitch in the process, with so many scenes written and deleted and written and cut to be mashed into a new form until finally December hit and the book started moving forward again! What a huge relief!
Monday, November 22, 2010
67915 / 90000 words. 75% done!
The cuts continue. Recently I posted that I cut a total of 31 pages from Faye to move the story along. It had gotten off the rails, and I needed to go back to the point where things jumped track and start again. Today, I realized that my derailment happened a lot farther back. To be exact, it happened 66 pages before those 31 pages I cut!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
79988 / 90000 words. 89% done!
One of the facets of being an author that has always appealed to me is that every experience I have and every tidbit of information I learn can potentially be useful later in a story. This factoid has saved me from mind-numbing boredom in endless checkout lines (where better to study my fellow humans, pick up odd snippets of conversations, or glean details to make those secondary characters come alive?), it has made long road trips interesting (endless vistas out bug-splattered windshields are great for getting setting ideas, and great just for letting the mind wander and the muse create without pressure, too), and it has encouraged me to try experiences I might otherwise have said no to.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
It didn't stop me, though. I plowed on, adding to the scene, deepening it, changing and tweaking it. I followed it down a dark, halting path that grew progressively harder to continue. The scene had gained a life of its own, independent of the story.
Friday, November 5, 2010
79163 / 90000 words. 88% done!
Not having a book to read is a certain kind of torture, as I've lamented more than once on this blog. Not having a book to read is not the same as not having any books on my shelf that I've not yet read. It's not having a book that I want to read. I have three different TBR piles (categorized by genre), and not a single book out of those 29 appealed to me.
What's a girl to do? Go to the Official Number One Novels Amazon Bookstore, of course.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
72965 / 90000 words. 81% done!
Congratulations to all the people participating in NaNo WriMo! Today is the first day of your mad-dash adventure to 50,000 words in the month of November and, hopefully, a novel you can polish up and sell afterward.
After three years of being an active participant, I'm not taking part in NaNo this year a reason I feel everyone in the NaNo community would support: I couldn't wait until November to start this next novel.
Friday, October 29, 2010
As anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, I'm a huge Hamilton fan. Her characters are so very different than any others I read, and I don't mean in the fact that they have more magic and sex per page than most erotica and fantasy novels combined.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Then season two of Cake Boss came out on Netflix.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
61725 / 90000 words. 69% done!
When I was in high school, I took a few years of drawing classes. I studied with pencil, colored pencil, and ink. I loved it. Drawing taps into that same part of my brain that writing does. It shuts out the rest of the world and brings complete focus into every aspect of the piece, narrowing the world down to a line, a shadow, a shape, a texture. The only problem was that inevitably, at some point in the project, my mind would wander and I would start working by rote.
Friday, October 15, 2010
48944 / 90000 words. 54% done!
My last post inspired another few pages and now I'm only 1,056 words from the traditional NaNo goal of 50,000 words in a month! Hooray! I also finished the scene I had to leave off this morning when it was time to get to (paying) work. Tomorrow I start fresh with a very intense scene.
Now to get some food!
47332 / 90000 words. 53% done!
It's been one month since I started writing Faye, and having typed 47,000 words / 158 pages is a good feeling. Were this during NaNo WriMo, I would have failed the 50,000-word challenge, mainly because I took five days off during the last month. Still, an average of 1,577 words a day isn't bad at all!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
41798 / 90000 words. 46% done!
Normally I'm positive about my writing. I feel I've got it going on, at least well enough to know what needs to be edited and changed and fixed and polished. I truly love my Madison novel. I usually think it's well written. But this unlucky number 13 rejection took the wind from my sails. I've got a lot of doubts circling in my head right now—about my talent as a writer, about my main character, about my novel's opening, about various little factors that agents have commented on.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
36154 / 90000 words. 40% done!
Some people have actors that they'll watch anything they act in or novelists that they'll read anything they write. I've got a few of those, too, but I also have a few directors/screenwriters/producers that I actively stalk. Their numbers are few at the moment—three, to be exact—but I'm very loyal to all three, and for completely different reasons.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Now, for me, this isn't about a canvas or creating a picture. I want to paint three-dimensional objects. Since I first moved out on my own, I've found a certain meditative pleasure in painting, and very few items in my home are safe.
Friday, October 1, 2010
26009 / 90000 words. 29% done!
I just watched part of J.K. Rowling's interview on today's Oprah, and I was struck again by how seriously she takes her craft—how much thought goes into each word. She thought she knew the final word of her novel before she even got there. She can remember certain lines that she considered writing into the work and later scratched. Much more than simply putting down the story, she put a great deal of thought into each word of that story.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
19734 / 90000 words. 22% done!
Through my recent NON author searches, I've encountered a lot of terrible and several good websites. Also, today I managed (after an hour) to upload a new banner on my website that's has a modicum of appeal. All this website surfing got me thinking about doing another critique.
I selected Kelly Armstrong this time by closing my eyes while standing in front of my bookcases, spinning my arm in the air, and seeing what I stopped on. Very scientific, I know.
Monday, September 27, 2010
And then I read Stephen King's On Writing, and he brought up a downside to critique groups I'd never considered: Do I really want to have my WIP critiqued as it is written?
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Which means that my attention has turned to the next project. I mapped this one out, and have it ready to go except for two looming obstacles: naming my main female and male characters.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Okay, okay, maybe not die. But Cody suffers. There's only so much of my undivided and disgruntled attention the man can take. When I don't have a book, Cody, who loves nothing more than to come home from work and stay home for the evening, is suddenly happy to escape the house at any hour of the night to obtain me one. The only thing that keeps him home are bookstore hours.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
After hours, days, or weeks of meticulous query crafting, it's refreshing to see these horrible, disastrous queries that agents have received. First, it reminds me that what I'm writing is definitely better than a lot of queries the agents are receiving. Second, it reminds me that despite reworking the same ten sentences for the last week, I still have my sanity.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
It's shocking to me how profoundly the health of my cats affects my general well-being. When they get sick, it saps my energy. The world grays at the edges, and my focus narrows to what needs to be done to make them better.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
The routine has not been working lately.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Open-ended stories are the result of lazy writers. I despise them.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Here are my findings on Holly Black's website.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I didn't think I'd ever look back. For one, I want to make a living as an author, and I think even short-story editors who've manned their post at various short-story magazines for the last twenty-five years would be hard pressed to point out one person who's made a good living on short stories alone.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
Thursday, July 1, 2010
I've been playing around with how to use the board. The idea is for it to be my new brainstorming space.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Granted, there are much bigger questions a person might wish to ponder at this point in the year. Questions that would help realign goals with those beginning-of-the-year resolutions. Questions about where you want to be at the end of the year. Both are good things to ponder, but not nearly as much fun as checking over my Excel "Books Read in 2010" spreadsheet.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I've had the opportunity to study this phenomenon up close and personally the last few days, due to some questionable reading and watching choices.
Monday, June 21, 2010
I've been studying the old-fashioned way: by reading.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
To distract myself from being annoyed at the new apartment managers, I decided to contemplate a story idea that's been brewing in the back of my mind. I'm so glad I did. I'd honestly forgotten how well repetitive motion helps me think!
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Today, I'd like to finish that post with this one, a true breakdown of a hero's journey, using the movie Leap Year as the example (since that's the most recent movie I've seen). As bonus credit (for me), this little exercise is the first of many to help me study my craft and improve my own work. If anyone wants to submit their own hero's journey breakdown (or link to one), I'd love to see it. I've determined that it's time for me to focus a little more on my own writing education...but that's a different post.
Warning: this post is going to be a huge spoiler if you've not seen Leap Year yet.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
As you can see, I had a very Hollywood-version idea of a muse.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
In an attempt to obtain a clear picture of the whole novel, I'm getting ready to sit down with my pages and plot it out, scene by scene in an Excel doc. It sounds like a tedious process, but in doing so, I find a lot of the plot flaws along the way, and when I have a finished scene-tracker Excel doc, it makes a great reference for all future edits.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Of course, it inspired me to hop around a bunch of authors' sites while we were looking for further inspiration. I have a list of authors for future critiques, now. Christy Reece isn't on that list. However, last night, when I was unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep after realizing that my birthday is only 14 days away, I had this wonderful thought: What if I sold Madison in a three-book deal, with three books coming out back to back over the span of three months. Then the next year, another three, so that in two years, I could have six books sitting on the shelves of bookstores everywhere!
Monday, May 31, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Heavy questions, especially whenever a rejection comes in and the doubts resurface. So for these last six months, while I ponder the depth and breadth of Conventional Demon, I've been thinking of ways to make it better. One of the best plans I've come up with is to weave what I wrote for book 2 into book 1.
Friday, May 28, 2010
If you've been a fan of Evanovich's for a while, you probably went by her site before it got its recent major overhaul. Gone are the eye-flinching teal pages and difficult navigation menus. Now, you'll find a professional site with gradated color, a clear tab system, and an interactive bar above the fold that changes to correspond with each tab. Her site used to be my least favorite author site, and now I think it's one of the best-designed ones I've seen.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The most bizarre came about slowly, building over the last several years, ever since I saw my first glimpse of Google Earth. There, before my eyes, was proof that there are incredibly powerful telescopic cameras in space that can take pictures of something as small as my toenail. It wasn't movie magic. It wasn't some trick of photoshop.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
I wasn't looking to make NON better, but I ended up doing it anyway: I created a Number One Novels Amazon bookstore!
Saturday, May 15, 2010
I hope to have a few fun stories and a refreshed outlook on life (and writing) when I return next week. Farewell!
Friday, May 14, 2010
Okay, he's not technically talking to me, Rebecca Chastain, but he could be. He's actually talking to people who want to create podcasts or get into TV or radio. Yet, everything he says could have been written for writers, especially writers just getting into the business or writers yet to be published.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
The woman's hero's journey sure has come a long way! I often forget the work of the women who came before me, the women who brought equality in the workplace (almost) and who changed the way the country thought about women, who changed a woman's role from being something tied to someone else (a wife, a mother, a daughter) to just being a person in their own right.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I'm still a bit awed by the fact that 180 or so people follow my blog and on average 140 to 200 unique people visit the blog a week.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
I'm craving cake now.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Ilona Andrews' Magic Bites has been sitting on my to-be-read fantasy shelf for at least six months, if not longer. Every time I went to pick it up, I wasn't in the mood for as violent a book as it sounded. Even when it made it to the first-sentence test phase (a way I help sort out which book will be my next read by which has the best-sounding first line), it never stood up to the test.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Black's writing style immediately hooked me, and the way she built the world and main character in the opening pages was a testament to how she became a New York Times bestselling author, but by the twentieth page, I was ready to stop reading.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
My goal, however, did not take into account the very exciting event coming up in my life: I'm getting married!
Between dancing around the house to my own internal celebratory orchestra and admiring my lovely wedding band, I've been wading through the plethora of details involved in a wedding—even a wedding as simple and small as ours! Most of these details are fun and exciting in their own way (like cake tasting and dress shopping and shoe shopping and color selections and...you get the picture), but they've taken over my life for the time being.
My regular posting routine should resume in the middle of April. Until then, thank you for checking back every once in a while to see if I've surfaced for a breather from the wedding vortex.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
We moved the 36" box TV (which weighs as much as I do, I think), and the stereo, sub woofer, and speakers, got everything into place along a new wall and realized we needed about two more inches of room. That's it, just two more inches and we'd be able to fit the love seat along an adjacent wall. Those two inches were being taken up by the jack to the cable, which juts out from the wall.
So we sat back and rethought the arrangement. We tried the sofa on a different angle, then a different wall. Neither worked. Then we looked around for other options. The problem is, there are just too many bookcases. They're taking up the "extra" space in the living room, dining room, and the office. Even if we moved them around, at best we'd fit a love seat in the dining room with the table, leaving the occupants of the love seat about one foot of leg space. Not good.
So Cody is currently running to Fry's to see if they sell something that can flatten the cable closer to the wall so the love seat can be squeezed in next to the TV. He also has a new 36" TV on his list, a flat screen because that would give us more space. And if we buy the flat screen, we'll need to buy a TV stand, and of course, with couches, we need an ottoman... And I'll need more books to read on the couch and a new reading lamp and a table to put it on... Maybe another bookcase... Basically, by purchasing this couch and love seat, we realized we need to buy a larger house!
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Which means that seventy percent of the authors on my list are new, which is double last year's average of new authors. I was surprised when I noticed and I've been thinking about it since.
I've been incredibly restless this year, at least when it comes to reading. Not listed in those seventeen books are the half dozen I've started but haven't had the desire to finish. That means that I've purchased at least six books that at one time looked really good to me, but have now become castoffs in my used-book donation pile. That in itself is odd.
Furthermore, of all those new authors, I'd only read about three again: Gail Carriger, C.J. Barry, and Sara Bongiorni. Not good odds.
But what does it all mean? The best answer I have is that my tastes are changing. That genres that before were sure things now only partially hold my interest, and only if written exceptionally well. It'll be interesting (to me, at least) to see what my totals look like at the end of June and to see if the trend of new authors continues.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Bongiorni doesn't come to a solid conclusion, not one that I wanted. I suppose it was unfair of me to want a concrete answer or directive, just as I wanted her entire book to have more specific, factual data about where to buy things not made in China. I was unrealistically looking to her and this one book and her year of experiment as a guideline, hoping to find a relatively easy way to live without China mapped out for me.
Instead, I got an interesting story, with a limp conclusion. Bongiorni ends the book saying that the year showed her the general global independence on China, raised her awareness of where the items she purchased came from, and prevented her from buying a lot of crap (because most useless, cheap stuff is manufactured in China). She notes that she was lucky: their TV did not die in that year, their computer did not need to be replaced, and she was able to live without a few electronic things like a blender and a new vacuum for the year. Lucky, because China has the monopoly on these items. Lucky, because she didn't have to test her resolution to her boycott by living without these items.
But did she go back to buying Chinese items? Yes. Was I let down by this? Yes. Was that unrealistic of me? Yes.
Since I finished the novel, I've done random hunts for where products are made. In the vet's office during a recent trip, I discovered they had a poster and a soap dispenser made in Canada, a calendar made in Singapore, but the plastic models of hearts and cat reproductive organs were made in China. I happened to be wearing a shirt made in Guatemala and a coat made in Canada (I decided not to drop my drawers to see where the pants were from). I'm sure the cat carrier was made in China, but I didn't traumatize my cat more by flipping over her cage while she was in it.
Thanks to TikiBird's comments to my "China, China Everywhere" post, I have a lot of places that sell USA products to research for future items. And TikiBird's response also prompted a set of new, unanswered questions: Has it gotten easier to live without China since Bongiorni's book was published in 2005? Has a greater emphasis been placed on locally made items? Have advances in the Internet and online businesses made it easier to buy non-Chinese products from smaller dealers?
But I think the question that is weighing the heaviest on me is the obvious one: Do I want to attempt my own boycott of China? The answer is as unsatisfying as Bongiorni's conclusion: I don't know.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
My left hip is sore because of the Olympics. Yes, they ended a week ago, but just as I was late to start watching them, I was also late in making my attempt to emulate them. Specifically the ice skaters.
For unknown reasons yesterday while I was chatting on the phone with my father, I felt compelled to try this ice skating move.
Every ice skater out there makes this look amazingly easy, and I was in my socks on carpet, so my distracted mind (remember, I'm on the phone with my dad) decides I've leveled the playing field, so to speak, and should be able to pull this move off.
The move works great on the right leg. Perfect balance, a nice stretch. All is good. Then I try the left. Not good. My hip and every muscle surrounding it attempted to seize into this remarkably uncomfortable position.
I collapsed, slowly, to the floor and gently stretched my hip back into a normal position, massaging the charlie horse away with my fist. I also managed to maintain a normal conversation, being too embarrassed to mention to my dad what I'd just done, especially not while he was being so kind and offering me the use of his truck.
Which brings me to the less embarrassing and more exciting reason why the rest of my body is sore: Yesterday Cody and I purchased our first-ever sofa and loveseat! I made it to thirty years of age before owning a sofa!
We hauled these two monsters up two flights of stairs last night (with a little last-minute help from some neighbors, thankfully). We're still trying to figure out how an inanimate object can grow while riding in the back of a pickup, going from normal looking in the floor room to gigantic in our apartment, which also means we're still trying to figure out how to squeeze these delightful pieces of furniture into our tiny front room. I have no fear that we can do it...after my body gets some much deserved down time.
Monday, March 8, 2010
When it comes to book covers, I fell prey to my usual thinking: The covers simply come out perfect with little effort on the artist's part since they look so right. I mean, maybe a few things with fonts need to be tweaked later, but on the whole, it's just a good look from start to finish. I also never thought about the fact that covers can be PhotoShop creations and collages of images as often as they can be paintings or photographs.
Today, Pub Rants has a great post on the creation of the newest cover in NON-interviewed author Gail Carriger's latest novel. I've linked to the creative ad for the upcoming third book in this series here for your ease, or you can slip over to Pub Rants to see it there. It's cover magic in action, and there's a lot more than one take of cut and paste and, ta-da, perfection.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
At the time, I was more annoyed by the rude intrusion upon my concentration and my work environment than I was interested in the book. But the idea of boycotting products made in China took root in my subconscious and has festered there for the last four years.
About six months ago, when I learned of China's horrific propensity to manipulate the weather, my subconscious split open around the memory of this book. I began to notice "Made in China" tags everywhere in my household. On my towels, my plates, my knives, and the majority of the clothes hanging in my closet. I began to look at the tags of items in stores. All the holiday decorations for Thanksgiving and Christmas were made in China. All the calendars but two in Borders in December where made in China. I can't find a dress that isn't made in China, or shoes. There doesn't seem to be a single plastic item left in the world not produced in China.
I subtly began to shift my buying: If there were two similar items that I liked, I would buy the one not made in China. I began to feel guilty when I did purchase something made in China. I wasn't making a conscious decision to boycott China, but it was there in the back of my head, idealized. I thought, I've managed to boycott Walmart for the last five or more years, how hard could it be to boycott China?
The answer: ridiculously difficult. In registering for our upcoming wedding, I noticed that nearly every kitchen item I wanted was made in China. The one time I had the choice between made in China and not was when selecting a colander. The one made in the United States was a Martha Stewart colander. I chose it. How sad is it that the better choice (in my mind) between China and Martha Stewart was to support the ex-con multimillionaire!
As I scanned the colander to add it to my registry, I decided that I needed to finally read Bongiorni's book. I needed to see for myself what she went through to live without China for a year. I also need to do more research on China. If I'm going to boycott an entire nation, I'm going to boycott it for a more platform-worthy reason than Bongiorni's.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
It's not a bad thing to love a book, but it doesn't make for an interesting discussion. I guess the most I can say is this: If you like fantasy, try out Mistborn. I've already purchased the second in the series and plan a back-to-back reading (and it's a rarity for me to read the same author two books in a row, but I can't wait to find out more about the characters!).
Friday, March 5, 2010
At first there were dragons in every story. Specifically, Pern-type dragons. Ones who could talk telepathically. Then there were large cats with similar telepathic skills. And then there was this bizarre time, when I was no older than twelve, if that, when every story I thought of had six children in it—and they were always sextuplets.
Sometimes it was the main character who was the mother of six children. Now, this is particularly odd for me. I don't want children and never have, and at twelve or younger, I couldn't fathom why anyone would want children, so having a character have six was peculiar. Something about the nonstop struggles of a parent with six children was vastly appealing to my preteen mind. Then there's the fact that I have only one sibling. Which meant when I imagined writing the story from one of the children's point of view, it would be about the camaraderie and sibling rivalry of a big family. Again, vastly appealing to my preteen mind. There was even the moment when I envisioned the series, each story showcasing a different child's adventures.
Since that phase, I've not thought of a single character or story where the main character has a sibling. At best, Aria has a half-sister and an pseudo-brother. It simply didn't occur to me to provide Madison—or any of the dozens of characters I've written about in the last two decades—with a sibling.
That realization was enough to stop me in my imaginative tracks. I've been limiting my characters without even realizing it. I was so focused on them and their journey that I missed out on some key secondary characters.
I'm not going to change Madison, but some of my secondary characters in Aria are getting larger families. And it's given me something to keep in mind for future novels I write.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Then I got serious about my examination of the selection. I pulled out books with interesting titles and thumbed through their table of contents. I read back flaps and front bursts. I found a book on how to write memoirs (and though I've searched Borders' site and Amazon, cannot find the book's title now). It was filled with writing suggestions to prompt memory: write ten minutes about your happiest memory; write ten minutes about ice cream; write ten minutes about an unexpected trip or a trip you never took.
I immediately wanted a pen and paper or my computer. I was inspired to write. Now!
I don't know if it was the memoir book or simply being in that section, reading through all the books that promised to teach how to be a better writer, but I was ready to write. If I thought it was the result of the memoir book, I would have purchased it right then, but I wasn't completely sure. A source of inspiration is not something to idly pass up.
It's always satisfying to find a new source of inspiration. Just knowing that the writing section is there at Borders (or the memoir book) to prompt me into literary action is soothing. If ever I run out of ideas or gumption, there it is, ready to goad me forward again.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Perhaps Radioland Murders isn't as exceptional as it seemed last night. Perhaps it is only by comparsion to today's films that it shines as a well-written script. Much of recent cinema has dulled my expectations when it comes to good dialog. A lot of movies lately seem to rely on explosive action, stunning visual effects, and audience expectation more than they do a well-written screenplay.
All of the exceptions I can think of are older films: L.A. Story, The Princess Bride, even Caddyshack (to throw out one of Cody's favorites). Perhaps the most recent truly well-written movie I've seen is Stardust. Maybe I'd include Up, though I suspect if I read the script I wouldn't have loved the movie as much as I did while watching the visuals. None of the summer blockbusters spring to mind. Not Avatar for sure. In fact, I find myself struggling to remember any other of last year's "big" movies now.
Tons of money, huge special effects, action packed in around the gills, and these films lack that essential appeal that satisfies: they lack good dialog, the meat and bones of a film.
I suppose if you're in it for the opening-day sales, then you're not in it for the dialog; but if you're in it for the story, for the fans, for the audience, even for the sequel, you've got to have good dialog.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
But then I started telling Cody about my broader opinions on the novel. Sanderson has the typical oddly matched band of heroes-with-flaws who are seeking to overthrow the evil tyrant. Like David Eddings often does, he has the people sit down in a room together near the beginning of the book and thoroughly discuss their plan of attack, literally making a list of the obstacles they're up against and their plans to overcome them.
What should be a rather boring meeting of talking heads more designed for the author to get to know what needs to happen in the story than necessary for the reader to know in advance of the action becomes an interesting development of characters and an introduction to the rules that govern this world. It's a plot ploy that requires a certain level of skill, one where the author can clearly see the difference between self-indulgence/self-exploration of the world and actual crucial elements to the story.
Which was about as far as I got in my discussion with Cody before I startled myself into silence with a thought: I don't read like I used to. I don't sit down and read a novel and just get lost in a world. I'm analyzing it as I go, watching technique and character development, paying attention to the tricky (for me) third act.
I said as much to Cody, and he laughed and agreed. I no longer talk of authors with the same rapture of a world that fully captures me and takes me away from this one. There's always a part of me that is reading a book as a writer, watching and looking and learning and critiquing.
Is this a bad thing? The me ten years ago or even five would probably say yes. That books should be enjoyed for the stories themselves. Not everything has to be a learning tool. But the me now disagrees. Watching authors' skills with the craft doesn't take away my enjoyment of a story. In fact, it does the opposite. Now I enjoy more than the story: I savor the layers of advice and examples of what to do and what not to do, appreciating the intricacies of the myriad techniques used even as I take delight in the tale.
Friday, February 26, 2010
But this last week, I haven't been able to allow my mind to wander. Each time I purposely engaged my imagination, thumbing through ideas for short stories or longer ones, it was like coming up against a brick wall. Nothing. It was like all my creativity had been washed away. Frankly, it was unnerving.
I didn't panic. Barely. I've got a lot of non-writing things going on in my life right now, and I decided that was what was blocking the flow of ideas. I wasn't actively working on Aria, so it wasn't crucial that I be in her world and I also didn't need to think of new story ideas because I have enough on my plate.
None of which mattered. There was still that little voice in the back of my head questioning me, asking, Are you sure you have more than these two stories in you? Are you sure you're creative enough to be a writer?
Last night, I lay awake, listening to my cat purr herself to sleep beside me, and I decided to see if I could force creativity. I can't. But what I discovered was that an idea for a book that I've been purposely ignoring wouldn't leave me be. Hours came and went with just me, the darkness, and thoughts of this book. It was like having a hangnail—I didn't want to fuss with it, but every time I thought I'd turned my mind to something else, there I was, picking at this idea again.
Eventually I got up and wrote down some notes. Five handwritten pages (front and back) and a hand cramp later, I was able to return to bed. The idea was out there. Every angle and every nuance that insisted on being thought was down on paper.
The moment I laid my head down on my pillow, images began to flow again. I fixed a plot problem in a story that's not even in the queue to be written yet. I had a vivid picture of a scene for another book. Aria's world was right there for me to explore again. It was like that one book idea, the one that I didn't want and didn't completely want to care about, needed to be gotten out first. It was the gum in the funnel, blocking all other ideas from coming through. Once it was removed, the regular, steady flow of creativity was released again. What a relief!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I was most captivated by the Alpine skiing event where the women raced four at a time down the mountain. It looked like so much fun! And of course, they made it look so easy. I've been skiing all of once in my life when I was 13 or so. It wasn't pretty. I spent most of the day with my legs cramped in a V, trying to slow my downward decent. (I'm no better at snowboarding.) I had to keep reminding myself as I watched the Olympics last night that the women I was watching were the best in the world, so of course they made it look easy. And even they made mistakes and crashed.
Still, there's that small part of my brain that thinks, It doesn't look that hard. I'm sure if I just got on the skis at the top of the mountain, I'd figure it out.
The rest of me is wondering how to partition and exterminate this suicidal part of my brain.
It's not only skiing that that small part of me feels I could do. That same small margin of complete arrogance imagines bobsledding with ease, shooting targets dead center every time, and even ski jumping with grace. I've been ice skating often enough to know that I don't have what it takes to do a jump on blades. I don't think I'd even make a 180 turn and be able to skate backward without falling.
But watching these amazing athletes, I get, for that moment, to put myself in their shoes and imagine that I can do all these incredible activities. It's a heady experience.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I'm close to done with reshaping the beginning for the fifth or so time. I like the way it turned out. It feels truer to my writing. The leftover beginning bits from the first draft are gone. The final piece is streamlined and, I hope, more interesting.
It has occurred to me, though, that I need a better saying in my profile box here on the blog. I'm not currently querying (waiting on responses) and I'm never really done editing. Once I finish Madison, I'm going to move on to editing and rewriting Aria. But I'm afraid to jinx myself by putting something down like "forever editing," even if it feels that way.
Monday, February 22, 2010
It was the horses that drew me back to watch episode 2. I love horses. I love them enough that Cody sings half-mocking songs to me about my love of "ponies" when we pass one by the road and I stare at it longingly (and usually shout, "Look, a horse!"). If there's a horse on TV or in a movie, I'm usually watching it rather than the action of the people. I grew up with horses, and I miss them.
I don't miss the daily care of them, nor could I afford it, since I'd have to board a horse because one surely wouldn't make it up the two flights of stairs to my apartment, let alone fit on my balcony. But I miss the camaraderie with a horse, and I miss riding them. I miss the horses I had. And there's always going to be part of me that's a horsewoman at heart.
But I was talking about McLeod's Daughters. The second episode was the same. Slow. Sllloooowwww. I thought I'd delete the show from my queue and carry on without it. But something stopped me.
I watched one more episode, and I was hooked. Without noticing it, I'd gotten to like the characters (and the accents!). Now I'm almost done with the first season (which, gasp, has 23 episodes, not the paltry 12 or so that a lot of programs seem to have lately). When I found myself thinking of Cody and his friends as blokes, I knew that I was addicted to the show.
If you like a more British-paced show (I've no other Australian show in my repertoire to compare it to) and you like strong female leads, give McLeod's Daughters a try, and hang in there for a few episodes.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Then I looked up names by category, getting serious about it, looking for names for characters in my novels. I found some, but more often than not, I'd end up thumbing through the book as one name would spark an idea for another, one category would lead me to another.
Lately, as nothing else (especially not novels) seems to be able to hold my attention for long, I've found myself reading Baby Names Made Easy as I would any nonfiction novel: in snippets while eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, or while idly watching Cody play a video game. And, oddly, it's a very soothing thing to read. It captures the attention of my creative mind without demanding my full attention. I can bounce around from page to page without "loosing my place" and I can set it down without marking my page. It's been just what I've needed to satisfy the part of me that needs to have a book to read.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Sunny (who did not get on my good side from the get-go with a one-word name that screams overinflated ego) has a dedication in the beginning of the novel that thanks Laurell K. Hamilton and Anne Bishop "whose wonderful stories inspired my...series." The acknowledgments intrigued me. I've read both those authors and liked both their works. Their mention had a lot of promise. The reality fell short.
The world Sunny created was a mixed fan fiction of Hamilton and Bishop's worlds, mashed together by their most primary elements, filled in with knock-off cast members from both novels and a main character, Mona Lisa, who reads like a flat character sluiced off the leftovers of the larger-than-life heroines of Hamilton and Bishop's novels.
Mona Lisa is where everything fell apart to me. I might have forgiven the plagiarism/homage of the world Sunny created if her main character had the meat to uphold her own tale. She didn't. A dozen bizarre and dangerous situations happen around her, and she accepts them all with aplomb. She falls in love in less than twenty-four hours, almost all of it off-page and unbelievable. She accepts her remarkable heritage—which comes complete with the magical ability to feed from the moon, shift to other creatures, manipulate humans' minds, and heal with an orgasm—with grace and dignity, always perfectly genteel to the good guys, merciless with the bad guys. She focuses only on the current situation, her thoughts rarely farther than the man in front of her, with nary a thought to the very large problems lurking in their future, including danger to the people she loves.
Above all these problems was a major flaw in the overriding theme: Sunny sets up a world corrupted by people who've held power too long, learned to kill off those with more power and enjoy torturing the rest (usually with rape). A world without love, without compassion, where all the men are broken, longing for a woman they can respect but finding none. And along comes little Mona Lisa, who shows unprovoked, bottomless compassion and intense love with little prompting, and who merely has to be in the same room with a broken male for him to fall madly in love with her (unless he's already insane, in which case, he wants to use her for his own gain).
Now, with my beloved Evanovich novels, I don't expect a lot of character depth, and I don't need a lot of time spent on the main character's motives or reactions—they're action novels meant to be guided by the plot. Sunny's novel was developed around a character, and for me to believe that this character can inspire such devotion and flourish so easily in her new, bizarre world, I need to understand her motives and her reactions and they way she thinks and the leaps in logic she makes. Sunny left me dangling. The novel leapt from action to action, Sunny's attention as tunnel-focused as her main character's. I was struck halfway through the novel with the thought that the book felt like a world Sunny knew so well, had built so clearly in her head, that when she saw it on paper, she was filling in pieces in her head that she never bothered to type. The thought remained true to the last page.
In the end, the novel felt hollow. I'd traveled through a miraculous week with Mona Lisa, and I never grew to care about what happened to her, because I always knew she'd come out unscathed, and if she did get a scratch, she'd just have to have sex with the nearest man to heal. The world felt like snapshots of scenes from Hamilton and Bishop's novels, as if Mona Lisa's tale had been lived out in the backgrounds of these more well-written novels, and a publisher had picked it up simply because it came with the rest of the territory.
Of course, Sunny is a nationally bestselling author, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.