Wednesday, February 29, 2012

RTW: February Book Faves

This Roadtrip Wednesday is Leap Day, and we're spotlighting our favorite February reads! Like some, I had a hard time choosing just one, so I'll spotlight two for you.

If you read my blog, you've probably figured out by now that I'm a late-to-the-game, raving Terry Pratchett fan. Since I picked up my first Pratchett novel I couldn't get enough. That's why my first spotlight for February is Wyrd Sisters, from Pratchett's Discworld series. This book had me laugh out loud and snicker a few times. I also got another fascinating glimpse of the denizens of the Discworld. I knew I loved the witches from their first appearance.

(Three witches circle a cauldron. Eldritch cackling.) 
"When shall we three meet again?"
"Well, I can do next Tuesday."

A satire of Macbeth, with rambling, amusing sidenotes from the author? I'm all over that! Not to mention, the Discworld itself is enough to make you raise an eyebrow and go "Huh?" - a world almost like ours, only it's flat and carried on the back of three elephants, who stand upon a huge turtle, flying silently through space. Yep. If you're going to do fantasy, do it big.


My second spotlight for February is the long-awaited sequel to Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge called Fly Trap. I already loved Mosca Mye, the black-eyed fly-child who has a goose for a guardian and a con-man for a companion. This book puts Mosca in even more turmoil and tight spots. The plot surrounds a town that is divided into the 'day folk' and the 'nightlings' - people whose names are either "good enough for daylight" or so awful that they're cast off into the darkness where their nefarious deeds can be done without harm to the pure and good day folk.

Names brand you in Mosca's world - particularly in Toll, the city with two faces. There are way too many people living in the precarious Toll, and way too much superstition, fear, and prejudice. I love how Hardinge tackles the subject of prejudice and how blind it can make people. I also love how heroic Mosca and her fellows become when faced with all this blindness and superstition.

Some reviewers might say Hardinge's writing style is a bit presumptuous, with big words and incredibly rich descriptions, but I love it. Her writing has texture. You can feel, see, and smell each city and situation.

Here is the bit where Mosca's 'bad' name forces her into Toll-by-Night. 

Night air had a smell too, Mosca decided, as she heard the distant music of approaching Jinglers. Night smelled the way Havoc's songs sounded. It smelled of steel and rushlights and the marsh welcoming a misstep and anger souring like old blood. 
Havoc pushed at the door, and it swung open upon a silver scene, the cobbles glittering with frost stars. Once again Toll-by-Night had burst out of its captivity, like a monstrous jack from an innocent-looking box. And this time, Mosca was a part of it.


Now that you know mine, what are your favorite books of February?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Death by Chicken or How I Discovered Minecraft

I'm a little behind in comments/reading of blogs right now. Last Thursday I discovered a little game called Minecraft. Actually, I discovered it much earlier because my twelve-year-old nephew plays it, but I hadn't really played it much myself. Let me tell you, it's a completely different experience when it's you poking about underground or hacking up the turf with a shovel - not to mention, luring chickens and pigs into pens so you can harvest them later. Fun stuff.

Well, I won't go too geeky on you just now, since not many gamers read this blog (yet). I'll just say that I love caves! Sure, they're dark, creepy, echoing, monster-ridden chasms of doom, but when you put a few torches on the walls, plant some wheat, set up a bed and a worktable, they can become very cozy spaces. Just make sure you clear out all the monsters first. You really don't want to wake up to a creeper hissing by your bed.

As far as the ominous 'death by chicken' title, yes, I died by chicken... twice. That's what I get for luring chickens into my 'house' - which is really a castle-like hole straight down to a lava pool, the walls built out so they've become several levels. I didn't know how to house chickens, and they got out, ran amok in my house, trampled my wheat garden, and got loose on the outside levels. Trying to catch/kill/harvest them, I ended up tumbling headfirst down four levels and breaking my head. A very unpleasant experience. It left all my stuff lying on the ground and after I respawned I had to travel down to the bottom to reach it.

Farming chickens in Minecraft has taught me two things: Keep chickens away from ledges, and always put them in pens they can't fly over.

I've also learned that for a game with such simple graphics and concept, Minecraft is highly addictive. I'm probably going to see if I can build a better chicken coop in a few minutes. I wonder if that's anything like building a better mousetrap?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Balancing Your Day and Your Life

Life can get crazy, and the internet can make it worse. So many obligations, appointments, and responsibilities in both places. It's hard to keep balance. I've found that my best, most fulfilling days are when I manage to satisfy each of these aspects of my life (even if it's in a small way): my body, my soul, my career, my creativity, my responsibilities, and my relationships with others. Responsibilities include things like feeding the pets, doing the chores, and work obligations - especially if your day job isn't your chosen career. The others are pretty self-explanatory.

I just found this awesome pie chart from Colorado State University's website which is exactly what I outlined, but with different terms. There are even six of them! (I actually didn't know about the pie chart before I started this post, which is pretty neat.)

Here are mine for today:

  • For my body, I showered and ate activia yogurt. Small, I know, but it counts!
  • For my soul, I thanked God/prayed and listened to KLove on the radio.
  • For my career, I joined the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, queried another agent and updated the portfolio on my website.
  • For my responsibilities, I worked my day job, and had a business meeting.
  • For my relationships with others, I visited with my sister, and played Minecraft with my nephew. 
  • For my creativity, I updated my portfolio, and then I played Minecraft by myself. (hush, it counts!)

This list didn't include Twitter, Facebook and Blogger, but I'm sure you could count those under Responsibilities or Career. 

How about you? What'd you do for your body, soul, career, responsibilities, relationships, and creativity today?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are You Guilty of Writing No-Nos?

Writing no-nos. We've all heard them - mostly when we commit a particularly heinous one and a crit partner points it out. There are a lot, but I'm only going to list a few, along with the confession that I've broken every one of them.
  • Don't use a prologue and an epilogue. People don't read those.
  • Don't start out by describing the weather. It's boring and will lose the reader's interest.
  • Don't start the story with the protagonist in her bedroom. That is also boring.
  • Don't include dream sequences. There are better ways to advance the plot.
  • Don't include flashbacks if you can help it. There are better ways to relay information.
First, the prologue and epilogue. Whether you can use it seems to depend on what the current publishing trend is. Some years they'll tell you not to use them, and some years it's okay. How to know? My personal suggestion is to keep them short, or simply turn them into another chapter. People might not like to wade through a long prologue if they feel it really has no bearing on the story itself. So, if you want to keep it in there, make sure it has.

Second, the weather. The weather itself shouldn't be the focus of your attention, unless it plays a very big part in the plot of your story. As for weather being boring, I've seen amazing writers describe it wonderfully and not bore me at all. It helped to set the scene. (Just don't begin your book with "It was a dark and stormy night" unless it's a parody.)

Third, starting the story in a bedroom. I don't see what's wrong with this, personally. I know so many books start in the middle of the action, but I don't care about the action or the protagonist without first being introduced to her - however you manage that. I'm old-fashioned, and I like the plot structure formula.

Fourth, dream sequences. This one is a particular favorite of mine. I broke this one good and hard in my YA Victorian fantasy novel. I'd agree with this no-no, except when it comes to supernatural/paranormal or fantasy writing. Those can pretty much do whatever they want, as long as it works. But it has to work. Readers don't like watching the protagonist dream about doing something, they want her to actually do it! Action speaks louder than words, right? So your words need to relay some pretty exciting action.

And here's where I say fantasy and supernatural are different. In a fantasy novel, a dream can be a real place, and the actions taken there just as real as they would be in the waking world of the protagonist. Mine are. Think of Nightmare on Elm Street. Did the characters die any less just because Freddy killed them in their dreams? Nope.

Last but not least, flashbacks. I only did this once in my book - well, twice if you count the prologue. (See, that's why it's a prologue. It doesn't fit the sequence of the novel, so it stands alone and has to be separated. But it's still needful for the plot of the book.) Flashbacks are tricky things, but they can work in the plot of a novel. For instance, if a character encounters something that triggers the memory of a traumatic event, there would be a flashback. It would make sense, and I'd expect it.

There are exceptions to every rule, and only you can tell when to toss the no-nos out the window and just write. Trust your gut, hone your craft, and if you want to break rules, break them good and hard! (a la Granny Weatherwax) As long as your rule-breaking serves a purpose and improves the story, mind.

Are there any writing no-nos you're guilty of? What do you think of breaking writing rules?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Heart YA: Offbeat and Unpretty Heroines

Yep, you all get two posts today because I didn't post on Monday - whee! Today over at Suze's I Heart YA bloghop, the question is: How do you take your female protagonists? (next week is about male protags, so you might want to check it out too)

My answer: Offbeat! I like the protags that don't fit in, aren't always pretty (in the traditional sense), and somehow have a keen sense of what's going on when others don't. These girls have a good head on their shoulders, a plan in their pocket, and a fire in their eyes. Sometimes they have to stir that fire a bit to get it going, but once it is, stand back!

An excellent example of these qualities is Tiffany Aching from Terry Pratchett's series that begins with The Wee Free Men. This girl is so kick-butt her weapon of choice is a frying pan! She's a young witch who wears very unwitchlike clothes, and boots that are far too big for her. Since brunettes in stories never become princesses, Tiffany is perfectly content with being the witch. After all, it's the witch who knows the most... even if she might end up cooked in her own oven at the end.

Of all the female protags I've read recently, Tiffany has the best sidekicks - the Nac Mac Feegle (AKA "the accused", violent kilted smurfs with claymores). They are the Wee Free Men spoken of in the first book, who for some reason have taken a liking to one stubborn, determined girl from the Chalk. And it's a good thing that they did.

Tiffany even has a miniature of herself! Not to mention cosplayers and fanart. Go Tiffany!

Next in my offbeat heroine lineup: Mosca Mye from Frances Hardinge's Fly By Night series. Born with a very inauspicious name in a world where names create your destiny, Mosca has to claw and scrape, lie and steal, for the right to life. Her only friends in a world 'determined to swat her' (Mosca is named after the god who keeps flies out of jars and butter churns) are a smooth-talking con-man and a homicidal goose.

Mosca doesn't have magic, but what she does have is just as dangerous in her world - the ability to read and write. Guilds hold all the power in the Shattered Realm and the power over the printed word is governed by the Stationers. They don't take kindly to scrawny little girls with nosy tendencies usurping their power.

I love both of these series so much I can't even tell you! Both the heroines are spunky, offbeat characters with good heads on their shoulders. Interestingly enough, both of the heroines are also preteens. (I hope that doesn't mean girls lose all their common sense when they become teenagers.)

And what lineup like this would be complete without Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series? I know she's already been mentioned in this blog hop, but I have to mention her again. She might be know-it-all, and she might be a bit bossy, but she's a witch who knows a thing or two about common sense. Not to mention, Hermione is unpretty. She had buck teeth and frizzy hair - until they put her in the movies. I'm glad she at least kept her frizzy hair for awhile.

Hermione is constantly helping out her male counterparts with all the knowledge she possesses. She's one book-worm who's not at all the stereotype we normally think of. Rock on, Hermione!

That's all the offbeat, awesome YA ladies I can think of for now. What about you? What female protagonists are your favorites?

Dear Dream Agent

I love adventure stories with an offbeat, independent female protagonist who has good common sense. I love imaginative new worlds and world-changing events. I also love magic, monsters, fae (like the Tuatha De Danann from Celtic lore), ghosts, witches and innate special abilities. I love J.K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, Frances Hardinge, and Neil Gaiman. I love nearly every kind of tea, and I'm beginning to think there isn't an asian country out there whose food I won't eat!

I can't wait to meet you. I hope that when I query you it will be love at first sight. I hope that you will love my story and its illustrations as much as I do. I hope that you will see how hard I worked to reach out to you, to get my novel in the best shape. I hope that you will understand my insanity and my perfectionism - because I rewrite my query every time I send it out, which I think is just a little bit crazy. I always think I can make it better. Always. I hope that tells you something about me. ... Perhaps that I should have my word-processing privileges revoked.

I hope my query is exactly what you're looking for. I know you won't turn me away if it isn't perfect. It's the story you're interested in. You're looking for one that's magical and shadowy, one that's interesting and a little mysterious. One that makes you chuckle a little in places. One that's set in a long-past time period with gaslight ambiance. One with a curious, odd-looking female protagonist who has a penchant for invisible men in blue jackets. 

You believe, like I do, that illustrations aren't just for graphic novels and children's books. When I show you mine, you'll love them. You'll promise to help me find a publisher who believes in both my talents - writing and illustration. You'll have me sign a contract for a series - which I've already begun to write. We'll land a wonderful deal with a big publisher, and we'll live happily ever after.

At least, that's what I hope will happen. Until then, I'll keep querying, praying, and looking for you. Because I know you're out there, and I know you're looking for me too.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Attention: Frustrated Post Ahead!

Disclaimer: This post is not a happy one.

I've read that people don't like angry, sad, or less than happy blog posts. But when you're deadly serious about publishing, when you've sweated it out, revised the life out of your MS, pulled late nights querying, braved contest after contest in the hope that you'll catch the eye of an agent, you can't always be cheerful.

This month has been a difficult one. I've received a couple rejections, no biggie. I've launched into another read-through and revision of my novel, and so far the edits are very minor. It's made me wonder if I should even bother, but I'm bothering.

I've received suggestions from beta readers on how to make my MS 'better'. The suggestions would require me to rewrite 3/4 of my novel. But it has got me to thinking. What if only a handful of people really like my novel the way it is? What if it would be more 'marketable' if my MC was twelve years old instead of seventeen, and facing boarding school and an evil stepmother instead of an arranged marriage and a wicked cousin? The book wouldn't be my book, but maybe it would be 'more like Harry Potter'. It wouldn't reach the audience I had originally intended, but maybe it would be more appealing to a wider audience. It wouldn't be so 'girly'. But what's wrong with a book aimed at girls, with an MC who doesn't fit the mold of a typical teenager?

The form rejections don't help either. I've tried researching each and every agent, but when the only hint of what they're looking for is that they represent YA, the possibility of rejection is great. I'm considering the buck-shot approach, to hit as many agents who rep YA or illustrated MG as possible. Maybe if I query enough agents I can find one who reps a book like mine.

What do you do when people suggest you change your book drastically to make it more appealing? What do you do when you just can't find the right agent, and reading writer success stories only makes you depressed?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy V-Day from BJ

What I want for Valentine's Day this year: Anything that dies or can be eaten, so it doesn't take up space in my house. ( I'm a practical gift-receiver.)

Here's my V-Day card to you :

That funny feeling in your stomach? - yep, it's nausea.

From BJ's perspective, Valentine's Day is the grossest holiday ever. Pink and red hearts everywhere? Fat babies with wings? Flowers? Candy? Love songs? It's enough to put him off beetles for a month! (or at least until all the pink and red, and flying babies are gone.)

For those who don't think V-Day is as repulsive as Beetlejuice does, here are a few sweet motivations I made:

And my favorite:

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

[Edit] If you want more Valentine's inspiration, you can read my post about Love Stories HERE. (I might not like the 'pink aisle' at bookstores, but I won't turn down an enchanting, well-developed adventure/romance!)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Adventures With You - Love Stories

(Because it's not one without you)

First off, I'd like to say: Holy cow, I have 70 followers, wow! Thanks to everyone who has read and commented on this blog! You all make me so happy! ^_^

I usually don't do Thursday blog posts, but I might not post tomorrow, so I thought I'd leave you all with this for the weekend:


You knew I'd weigh in on it eventually - love and romance in books. I've ranted a bit about how I'm not big into romance as a main plot. Like Miss Cole, I must be 'dead inside' because I avoid romance novels like the plague.

It goes sort of like this: (as illustrated on the right)

I enter a bookstore, I begin browsing, 
I see the 'pink aisle' as I like to call it. 
I make a nasty face and veer far away from it, seeking refuge in the science fiction/fantasy aisle or the manga. 
(Sometimes I think my inner child is a six-year-old boy.)

I need to clarify that I don't hate love in books! I've read a few novels where romance is a key element, but I don't seek out romance as the primary element.

I think there should be a place for romance in a novel, but like real life, it isn't  a central focus. There are often bigger things that demand our attention and time. And to me, that just makes the romance even more precious.

I like romance to be something that happens organically in the story, that grows like a seed and doesn't just force its way into the protagonist's life. Also, I'm not going to get invested in a romance between characters I know very little about. An author needs to take time to develop the characters before the romance, in my opinion. To woo the reader before the protagonist woos her love interest. Get us invested. Once I know them, then I'll care more about what happens to them, including who they fall in love with. Only then can I decide "He's totally her type!" or "I can see why he fell for her."
 I like sweet love stories between friends who become more. I like unexpected love stories where a couple is thrown together and then realize they're falling for each other. I like epic "I'll change the world for you" love stories. (Yes, I'd love a guy to walk up to a girl with an "I have reordered time" speech, but only if it makes sense.) I like love as a great and driving force in a character's life, but only after I know why the character feels that love.

I liked the developing relationships in The Hunger Games. They felt real and believable, but I didn't like the crazy-making love triangle that consumed Katniss' mind in the second book Catching Fire. The characters still need to remember the bigger picture. Love is a great catalyst, but it has to lead to something. It becomes a selfish thing when the protagonist wants to keep her love interest at all costs, but doesn't want to help make a world in which he can be safe, doesn't want to save anyone else but him.
Love isn't stagnant. It doesn't stand still. It motivates. It drives. It makes a character strive to be better than they are.

It also doesn't die. 
How many of us have lost loved ones and stop loving them because they're gone? None. In fact, sometimes the death of our loved one only makes us love them more, and remember them more fondly. Then they become immortal in a way, and love transcends into that driving force I mentioned. We carry it with us and it continues to inspire and motivate us years after the loved one has left this world.

And if a love interest dies in a story, pining for him makes sense. But eventually I'd like to see the protagonist continue on in memory of him. To keep going because that's what he would've wanted. Nothing brings tears to my eyes more than the protagonist making a grand gesture in memory of her lost lover who died in their struggle for a better world.

That's the kind of love I like to read about - love that's bigger than life and death. And when the characters express it, the expression can be as simple as a touch or as profound as saving the world.

One of my favorite love songs

What about you? What's your favorite love story?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

RTW: Your Dream is My Wish!

Today's Roadtrip Wednesday topic over at YA Highway is

What SNI (Super New Idea) were you psyched to work on, but discovered it was too close to something already done?

I've had this happen, but it wasn't until later on did I discover (with more than a few heavy sighs) that a character design I thought I dreamed up, had already been dreamed up before... by Neil Gaiman.

Speaking of dreams. Here's the character:
Dream or Morpheus from Gaiman's
Sandman comics.
I also need to state that these comics have been around since 1989, and I didn't create my character
until almost ten years later.
Somehow in all that time, even if I read comics (most of which I got from my older brother) I hadn't run across Sandman before.

Here is my character:

Jakin the Wishmaster from a series of short stories I wrote in high school. Jakin was originally dressed all in black like Morpheus, but when I discovered just how much they resemble each other, I redesigned Jakin's clothes.                       


I still prefer him in black.

You might wonder what inspired my character since I hadn't discovered Sandman yet.

The Goblin King!

"Well, of course!" I hear you saying. "It all makes sense now!"

I love that movie, and the first short story I wrote with my Wishmaster patterned very closely to Labyrinth. It was about a spoiled teenage girl who made a wish and the Wishmaster showed up and whisked her away to a magical wish kingdom. Of course, all her wishes turned out to be horrible mockeries of what she really wanted. 

This story laid the groundwork for other fantasy stories I'd write in the future. It still has a special place in my heart since it was my first epic fantasy story. Maybe in time I'll rework that story and turn it into a YA novel, as a tribute to my favorite 80s movie.

Now that I look at them together, my Wishmaster doesn't really resemble Morpheus as much as I thought he did....

What about you? What idea were you stoked to write and realized someone else already wrote it?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Heart YA: Debut Authors of 2011 Spotlight

Today's I Heart YA prompt is

Which 2011 debut author do you think deserves a spotlight?

There are a lot of books published last year that I still want to get my hands on. But the two I would have to spotlight are:

The Night Circus 
by Erin Morgenstern


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

I haven't finished reading The Night Circus and I'm already thinking it'll make a great movie. I'm hoping the story will fulfill all my expectations of it, though. This book seems written with a movie in mind. It's non-linear and full of characters that would be stronger in movie format than a novel. Plus, the plot - a game between two powerful illusionists using their young wards as players under the tents of a spectacular dreamlike circus - just screams film. In addition, there's a love story. So, there you go.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is inventive and impressive. The story is built around a collection of authentic old photographs that the author owns himself or has borrowed for the novel. It's a novel about exactly what the title says, told from the first-person perspective of a teenage boy who finds out he's more peculiar than he realized. Set this in two time periods - present day and WWII Europe - and you have a pretty epic situation. There are also monsters. Real monsters that eat you if you encounter them.

All I can say is, I hope this has a sequel.

So, there are my two debut authors for 2011. I'm curious to see what everyone else picks.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse! Forest of Hands and Teeth Review

I finally read The Forest of Hands and Teeth, a post-apocalyptic YA by Carrie Ryan. It was the title that drew my attention first. It conjured all sorts of great creepy images and impressions that piqued my curiosity and convinced me to read it. But I have to say, it fell short of what I expected it to be. There are a few spoilers in the middle of this review, but you'll probably see them coming.

The title alone should tell you this book is about zombies. It's also a romance. I didn't know this when I first started reading the book, but it soon became apparent. I don't usually read romances, or books about zombies, but I'd started it and I wasn't going to stop until I'd finished it.

One more thing. This book is written in first person, present-tense. Not a fan. It also skips around into past tense when the MC is remembering anything. Also not a fan.

As I was reading, I found out that this book is basically a narrative of the MC's experiences. It's as if you're being read a running diary of her experiences. You are in her head constantly, and if that's not a pleasant experience for you (which it isn't for me) then you might not like this book.

As I was being narrated to, I began to wonder how many pages the MC's dialogue would take up. I came to the conclusion that in the first 100 pages, her dialogue would take up about 2. I began to think perhaps the author wasn't able to switch back to dialogue-mode after narrating for so long, or perhaps she'd decided to make the MC mute. When the MC took a vow of silence, my suspicions were nearly founded. With everyone talking to her, explaining things for her and answering for her, the MC became a very passive character. It's only in the second half of the book that I see more dialogue from her.

Dialogue aside, I didn't like the language in this book very much. I suppose it fit the tone of the book - what with the danger of zombies lurking to eat you and all. But I felt it was a bit over-dramatic and needlessly aggressive. Words like 'roar', 'claw', 'thrust' and 'tangle' kept turning up - but not in correlation with any zombie attacks. These words were used to describe the interactions of the main group of characters with one another. The MC tangled her legs in her skirt at least twice, and once she tangled them in bedsheets, clawed across the ground to reach her man, and roared at her brother. A few times people were thrusting their hands into their hair. Almost every touch was forceful, regardless of whether it really needed to be.

The trouble with the aggressive and over-dramatic language was that sometimes it left me confused. I had to reread a paragraph where the MC took hold of a "burning metal" lever, wondering why she was about to sear her hand off. Then I realized the author had mentioned "harsh sunlight" a few sentences before, and that's why the metal was hot. Because of the choice of words, I was expecting fire or electricity, not sunshine.

As the book continued, I kept getting unfortunate images of soap opera couples whenever the MC and love interest spoke (mostly because her name was Mary). Nearly every description of love included craving or need, whether the couple was in an intimate situation or not. And when she ran to meet him, tripped and clawed her way toward him (when nothing was chasing her), I nearly put the book away. This, mingled with the language of the book, made me think "Is this why I've been avoiding romance novels? Is this what they sound like?"

There was at least once instance in the book where I felt the romance completely took over the action, becoming impractical and ridiculous (and making me say "What??" in a very loud voice at the page). The MC and her love interest were sheltering inside a big house, surrounded by zombies. They had been traveling for days and were thirsty and hungry. They had not explored the house. When they were alone in the bedroom, he turned to her and said "Tell me a story, Mary." This was followed by them cuddling on the bed. (Romance apparently trumps food and water)

I read halfway through the book and got bored with the zombie apocalypse. I was tempted to stop reading, but I thought that perhaps the end would make it all worthwhile. But it didn't. The end wasn't very satisfying. (I recently discovered that this book has a sequel entitled The Dead-Tossed Waves, which I don't intend to read, but which explains why this book ended the way it did.)

That said, I have some positive things to say about this book. It's a book you can read fast. (I read it in two days.) It's not overburdened with heavy description, but it does narrate. For those of you who like zombies and romance, it has both of those things. I'm also sure that not everyone is as picky as I am about dramatic language.

So, if you feel like reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth, pick a weekend. Then if you stay up late reading you don't have any obligations in the morning. And if you do read it, I'd love to hear your opinion on it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

When to Let Go
Perhaps it was listening to Coldplay. Perhaps it was the stress of contests, polishing up my query, and considering the prospect of more rejections. I've been thinking a lot about the rocky road to publication. So I have a question for everyone.

How does a writer decide to set aside a novel that isn't working? 

Don't worry, I'm not considering giving up on my own novel. I still very much believe in it. But I read this moving article by the author of Cracked Up to Be and Fall for Anything, Courtney Summers (if the article doesn't touch you, you must be made of wood.), and I had the thought: it's such a difficult thing to finally admit to yourself that something you created isn't working, and you should shelve it and move on to something else. This author had to face that realization more times than I could have handled, but she kept on trying and eventually she got published!

To me, it would be like the stages of grief to let go of a manuscript I had believed in. For some writers it isn't an option to give up on a manuscript. They would simply self-publish if traditional publication failed them. It all depends on the writer and their attitude toward publication.

How would you handle it? Would you accept it as a part of the business and realize it was time to try something else? Would you mourn it for awhile and then plunge onward? Or would you choose to self-publish?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Insecure Writers - Green-Eyed Motivator

ENVY. We've all been there. From the "I wish I'd thought of that!" to the "If that crap can get published, I know mine can!" We've all felt envy, but how many of us have used it as a motivational tool?  I read a couple articles that suggest it could be a very power one, if you know how to use it right. 

"Use envy?" I hear you ask. "But envy's a nasty, horrible, negative emotion that we can't even admit to having, or we would be shunned by all our friends and no one would ever buy our books!" Not so. The writer of the article Why Envy Motivates Us suggests there are two kinds of envy: benign and malignant. The article goes on to state:

We tend to feel malicious envy towards another person if we think their success is undeserved. This is the type that makes us want to strike out at the other person and bring them down a peg or two. However when another's success feels deserved to us, we tend to feel a benign envy: one that isn't destructive but instead motivates. 

Sound familiar? "If that crap can get published, I know mine can!" is malignant envy, the destructive kind. You might think it's good that you'll show them by getting published, but often emotion isn't enough to motivate. "I wish I'd thought of that" can actually be more motivational. Use it as a challenge. So, they thought of something good? So what? Analyze their idea, figure out what made it so successful for them. Then use their strategy for yourself. As the writer of Competition Getting You Down? Why Envy is Your Biggest Motivator states: 

Whenever you come upon something great that you wish you’d done yourself, you have two choices. Live in the small minded world of jealousy and resentment, or be the phoenix and evolve. When you skulk around in the places where others shine, you’re like that cockroach scavenging for a crumb. People step on cockroaches. What you should be doing is taking notes. Why not use someone else’s great idea as a springboard for your own creation?
Instead of shriveling up with resentment, we can use the success of others to inspire our own. I've experienced both types of envy in my life - the benign and the malignant. Thankfully, a lot of the envy has been benign and it has motivated me.

My decision to attend The Savannah College of Art and Design was inspired by benign envy. I knew a SCAD student and she always seemed to have more fun, more interesting projects, and more enthusiasm for her major than I did. I had gotten burnt out, jaded, and disgusted with college. I was sick of the whole thing, and ready to give up, but when I spoke to her, I realized I wanted what she had. I wasn't out for the count yet. I just needed a different setting, new challenges, and brighter opportunities. I wanted SCAD. But I hadn't even realized it was an option before. When I discovered it was, there was no stopping me.

Ariel, Me, and Celly eating outside O-House
With my family supporting me, I put together a portfolio, gathered financial resources, and applied. I was accepted in one try, and by the end of the following year, I had become a SCAD student. I moved to Savannah where I lived for two years, having the time of my life. I learned from professional illustrators, completed awesome projects, and met amazingly talented and wonderful people who became lifelong friends. I felt creative and alive again. I felt like I was truly where I was meant to be. And most of all, I appreciated it more because of how hard I worked to get there.

I used my envy of my friend's situation to catapult myself out of my own discouragement and into better circumstances. Since my years at SCAD, I've realized I can do anything I put my mind to. Sometimes it just takes another person presenting me with the challenge that says "I did this. Can you?" I've always been competitive, so the motivator for me is rising to those unspoken challenges and beating them.

Have you ever used envy as a motivator? What's yours?

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