Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Heart YA: Are you a Nibbler or a Devourer?

I'm talking about books, of course. The topic for Suze Reese's I Heart YA bloghop today asks this question: Are you a nibbler or a devourer? Or does it depend? And what's the worse thing you've blown off for the sake of a book?

My answer would have to be Sleep! I'm a notorious night-reader. In fact, that's when I prefer to do most creative things, including read. During the day, the sunshine beckons me to errands and chores and other active things. But as soon as the sun goes down, I feel like writing, reading, drawing - all those things I tend to put off during the day because life won't make time for it. 

When a book pulls me in and won't let me go, I'm a devourer. I prefer it. Even when I lose sleep and have to force myself to put that bookmark in, I read until I can't read anymore. 

I can also be a nibbler. Nibbling is nice, but sometimes nibbling just isn't enough. It's not satisfying. I like to make big meals of my books. 

Right now I'm nibbling Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters, and devouring Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Part of the reason for this is that Miss Peregrine's is due at the library sooner. The other part is that Terry Pratchett isn't as fast-paced at this point in the book. It's rolling and descriptive and fun and wonderful. It's meant to be savored. 

I love books like Pratchett's. I want to write a book like Pratchett's. While I love fast-paced books sometimes, I also think that reading should be as enjoyable as a walk in the park. It doesn't have to be all flaming arrows and hailstorms that make you run (or read) for your life. So much recent YA is like that, or feels it has to be. Where's the literary fiction? And more importantly, where are the agents who rep wonderful, engaging, multi-layer books like Pratchett's?

Oops! The question for today isn't literary vs. commercial fiction. But I think that plays a large part in the way I read books. Commercial fiction is easy to munch your way though, but it doesn't fill you up, whereas literary fiction should be savored and stays with you longer.

What about you? Do you nibble or devour? Are there any books you savor like fine wine?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Contests and Kreativ Blogger Award

I have a lot of great things to share. So here goes. I'm participating in two contests this week (thanks to Rachel for telling me about them). The first is here: QueryTracker Agent Contest and ends at 9am tomorrow. You need the first 100 words of your manuscript, and a one-sentence logline.

The second contest is coming up later this week and is hosted by Cupid's Literary Connection. You need the first 250 words of your manuscript and a query letter. Good luck to anyone who enter!

And now - On to the award! Francesca over at Zap's Lobster Tank was sweet enough to give me this award and now I get to pass it on to six other people.

The Rules:
1. link back to the one who gave you this award
2. share 10 random facts about yourself
3. pass the award on to 6 other people

Here are my 10 random facts:

1. I refuse to use videogame tutorials until I'm stuck and frustrated and have tried everything I know.
2. I stir my ice cream up into a sort of creamy soup before eating it - unless it's in a cone or a shake.
3. I like post-apocalyptic and dystopian videogames, but dystopian and post-apoc novels can bore me.
4. I never fantasize about dating television characters - except maybe the Doctor because he's a mad man with a box.
5. When I find out a novel is written in first-person perspective, I immediately like it less and it has to prove itself to me.
6. Adventure and comedy are more appealing to me than romance.
7. If I lived in the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I'd be a fire bender. Earth would be my second choice... because it rocks!
8. You remind me of the babe. ...The babe with the power.
9. I trained myself to like mushrooms, because they're cute and smell of soil.
10. My favorite animals are the kind that kill other animals for food. 

The six other bloggers I'm passing this on to are: 

1. Sarah from The Strangest Situation
2. Suze Reese
3. Yael Itamar
4. Rachel Pudelek (who blogged about those wonderful contests)
5. Cara from CP Slayer
6. Skye from Write or Die Trying

Have fun checking out their blogs! And enjoy the contests!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What I Thought of Catching Fire

Before I go ahead, I must warn you, this post includes spoilers. I don't like mixing big fat spoiler alert warnings in with the rest of the text, so tread with care as you read.

Like most people who read The Hunger Games, the blood-boiling, heart-pounding first novel in this series by Suzanne Collins, I had been eagerly awaiting the sequel. Catching Fire came and I dove right into it. It didn't take long before I was asking myself what was going to happen. What big nasty thing was going to face Katniss that could possibly be worse than nearly losing her life in the first Hunger Games?

Katniss, the female protagonist, was touring the districts with her pretend boyfriend Peeta (he bakes bread). Things were bad. Unrest in the districts, people getting shot, surges of Capitol Peacekeepers into Katniss' own district to make things uncomfortable. So, that was all pretty bad, but not bad enough. (Also, does anyone out there besides me think of Farscape when you read the word Peacekeeper?)

Then I found out what she could face that would be worse than the first Hunger Games. A second Hunger Games! (Actually, it's called a Quarter Quell, but nevermind that.)

Even if I thought it was pushing it to expect readers to get excited about another trip to the arena, I got curious to see what dangers the author would dream up for Katniss this time. And there were dangers. (In fact, at one point a scene got so bloody that I felt dizzy reading it and had to stop.) People died faster and in worse ways, the tension between the characters was higher, and the stakes were higher too. But for some reason, it just didn't resonate with me the way the plot in the first book did. I wish the author had chosen another way for us to get invested in this book, rather than throw Katniss in the arena again.

And that brings me back to Katniss herself, and why she bothered me in this book. I don't know if I could say she has grown since the last book. It felt more like she backslid. She managed in the first Hunger Games to be cool and strategic, but all this upheaval in the second book has left her confused, torn, changeable, selfish, and self-deprecating. She also seems to have lost all genuine belief in herself since The Hunger Games. Even when she realizes what she represents to the districts, it feels shallow. Throughout the book she's finding reasons why she's not good enough for either of the boys pursuing her, why her plans are worthless, or why she's going to fail. This is why I stopped being so invested in her by the time she got to the arena, and why I became so much more invested in everyone around her.

I wanted so badly to be free of Katniss' perspective so I could actually see what was going on. I lost interest in the love triangle and became more interested in the uprising that Katniss seemed clueless about. This book did give me hope in the possibility that her shackled world could be freed, but it shackled me to Katniss in the process. It was a strong reminder to me why I find first-person perspective so frustrating, limiting, and difficult to get through.

In wrapping this up, there's one last thing I really want to know. Why did the author choose to equip Finnick with a trident? It felt archaic, and very 'sea-god' to me. So, what about a harpoon? Are harpoons just not cool?

Finnick: I carry a harpoon now. Harpoons are cool.

Friday, January 27, 2012

10 Clues You're a Writer

I found this at Skye's blog Write or Die Trying, and she found them somewhere else, but I have to credit her. I love the things that keep popping up on her blog!

Here are the questions, with my answers. You can post yours in the comments or in your blog and link back. And definitely visit Skye's and link there too.

  1. You would rather talk to the voices in your head than the person sitting next to you. Well, with some people, yes. Though I'm awesome and nobody better ever prefer their cerebral tenants to me.
  2. You know the library's phone number, but not your work number. I have the library number saved in my smartphone. *sheepish*
  3. Some of the letters on your keyboard are completely worn off. Yes. I no longer have an 'L' and my 'M' isn't too far behind.
  4. You have a favorite pen that no one else can touch. I hoard ballpoint pens with blue ink. Specifically blue Bic Roundstick.
  5. Books are your favorite scent. Books. Smell. Awesome. Definitely one of my favorite scents - except when they're from the library and borrowed by a smoker.
  6. If you could meet anyone in the world, it would be your favorite author. Either that or Tim Burton. Or Gerald Brom. On second thought... he's kind of scary.
  7. You eat macaroni and cheese for a week because you spent all of your money at the bookstore. At the bookstore or art supply shop. I can't pass up an art supply sale.
  8. Your/you're errors drive you crazy. You're/your and there/their. Come on, people! It's not that hard!
  9. You named your laptop. Desktop. ...it's called the Ego Machine.
  10. You would rather write than go out. Write or read, game, draw. Yep. I'm a nesting geek, alright.

A fun fact about me and keyboards: I go through them fast because of all the chatting and writing I do (plus my online job where I correspond with my bosses through email). When I'm typing to someone I'm annoyed with, the sound of my typing gets louder and louder. My family has commented that they always know I'm disagreeing with someone online when I type furiously and strike my last key with a loud "clack!" That would be me, making my point, and often there's a guy on the other end of that conversation.

Do you have any typing/writing quirks?

Open for Banner Commissions!

So, I've been holding off on this announcement for awhile, but today I feel I can finally reveal it. I've been working on a blog banner for Karina Fabian from Fabianspace, and I'm proud to finally be able to show it to you. This is the draft before the final edit, and once she has it up on her own blog, I'll post the banner after its final edit. (The edit is small, so this is pretty close to how the banner will actually look on her blog.) Pardon the ugly preview ribbon.

Click to see the actual size of the banner which is 1000 x 200 and 77.1KB

Karina commissioned a custom banner, with various elements from her writing. My custom banners start with either a stock photo or digital background and I add illustrated elements. Hers are a spaceship, dragon, zombie and catholic item (which ended up being a rosary). I thought it would be interesting to have all these things floating in space, since her writing is sci-fi and fantasy. I referenced covers of her books for most of these. 

The main title font in her banner is one I downloaded and customized for her. I'm careful to use fonts and stock photos that are royalty-free. I work mainly digitally in Photoschop CS5 on a Wacom tablet, but I can also work traditionally with pen and ink, colored pencils, and watercolor.

My custom banners range in price from $70-$90, depending how much detail and time is put into them. Karina's was $70. A banner with a finely-detailed character portrait, or a digitally-painted landscape would run $80-$90. These can be any size, but I recommend larger ones like Karina's so that I can get more detail in, and you can get more for your money.

If you're interested in a custom banner from me, send an email to donellelacy@gmail.com with "banner commission" in the subject. I believe in lots of communication, and working closely with clients to understand their vision and produce something that will blow them away. (I also have a lot of fun in the process.)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bounteous Blazing Book Jackets, Batman!

I have an absolutely wonderful problem! Strange way to start a post, I know. But here it is. *draws a breath and blurts* All the books I ordered from the library came in at the same time! (Approximately a dozen books.) Half of these books are on a waiting list, so I have three weeks to read them. The other half I can renew. But, man! I have two bags of books I've been drooling over all to myself for 3-6 weeks!

The left-hand pile of books has to go back in three weeks. Those books include Catching Fire, The Scorpio Races, The Night Circus, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

The right-hand pile I can keep longer and renew. Those books include The Insider's Guide to Getting an Agent, Well-Witched, Prophecy of the Sisters, Witches Abroad, and Fly Trap.

(the cat sniffing the books is Squirrel, my little curious tabby)

It's like Christmas! There's at least one Terry Pratchett in there, and Fly Trap is the continued adventures of Miss Mosca Mye and her homicidal goose, Saracen. Not to mention, Well-Witched is another book by Mosca's author Frances Hardinge who I'm really beginning to like.

So, while I'm going to have to read pretty much non-stop (when I'm not working) for three weeks, it's the best problem I've had in a long time! If you could die from too many books, then I would die happy! I walked out of the library, carrying my heavy bags and trying not to grin like an idiot. It was a great rainy-day treat.

What's your library haul this week? Or what books are you reading? Do you have a similar wonderful problem?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Boogey Boogey! Who's your favorite YA monster?

This is my first I Heart YA bloghop post! Yay! I really like Suze Reese's idea for a bloghop, and I hope it gets lots of attention. (Hint hint - go give her bloghop attention!)

The topic this week is: Who's your Freak?
(Which means, which paranormal creature in YA is your favorite.)

With all the vampires, werewolves, witches, ghouls, zombies and whatnot that have overrun YA in the past handful of years, you knew this question was coming. So, what 'team' are you on? The decaying undead, the sparkling undead, the hairy beasts or the cackling magicals? OR, you could even come up with your own! Does your book have some new supernatural creature that plans to make a splash in the YA market?

I have a confession... mine does. With Twilight and others like it sucking the popularity out of the vampire market (horrible pun fully intended), agents aren't as keen to sink their teeth into YA vampire novels as they used to be. Werewolves broke out with Shiver and are still pretty popular, but again, agents are divided on the hairy beast issue. I think YA's ready for a new kind of creature.

And that creature is Boogeymen! Or Boogeyman, as the case may be. In my YA novel series, I put a new spin on the old classic nursery tale of the Boogeyman. No longer is he just a nasty Bogey, jumping out of closets and snatching children from under the bed. Lividia's Boogey in my novel Lividia: A Shadow Story is gentle and mysterious, and fiercely loyal to his seventeen-year-old 'child' Lividia.

In my series, Boogeymen can transform into things, manipulate shadow, and travel through the Veil between the human world and the world of dreams (or the world of the fae). Boogeymen can dreamwalk, pass through any shadowy surface, and inspire their children to creativity. They also guard them from anything that tries to harm them.

Did I mention adults can't see Boogeymen? Imagine having an invisible friend who can chase away nightmares, and get revenge on that horrible girl who always embarrasses you in front of the guy you like. It also doesn't hurt that Lividia's Boogeyman is rather cute himself.

Of course my story wouldn't be complete without a villain. And I couldn't resist tossing evil Boogeymen in there as well, so I created the most evil (and wickedly handsome) Boogeyman I could imagine. If you want to know more about him, I guess I'll have to get on querying some more, huh?

Do you have a favorite supernatural creature?

{Really cool item: That picture came from an announcement of Dreamworks' up-coming movie Me and My Shadow. Check out the article here.} If shadows are coming into their own in movies, something tells me my book is right on time.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What am I Waiting For?

Woe is me! Actually, no. But I have had a bit of a rollercoaster day. You know the kind - where you get an up, then a down, then an up, then two downs simultaneously. Then you bring yourself up because you're really sick of the downs and refuse to think about them any more tonight. So there, rollercoaster!

Anyway, on to the topic of this entry!

I asked myself this question today: What am I waiting for? I always feel like I'm waiting for a force outside myself to tell me what to do, for circumstances to be just right. It would say "Now you will write. And it will be awesome. Then you will query, and that will be awesome too." and I would do it, because the force told me to.

But here's the thing. There is no force besides me. Family and friends can help, but I always convince myself that I need to do something else instead, no matter how many people tell me to write. (apparently I'm stubborn in a self-sabotaging way.)

Encouragement from other writers, from beta readers, and from family is great, don't get me wrong. But it's really always up to me. Myself. No one else. No one else is going to write that book for me. And I don't want them to. (Second book, by the way. I've already written the first one.)

Someone said that writing is a lonely business, and they're right. (or 'write', haha) When you finally decide to sit down at the keys and look your manuscript dead in the eyes and tell it "I am writing you!" it's just you and your words. Everything else is a distraction or a reason to procrastinate, again.

But here's something encouraging. When you emerge from that little cocoon of self-inflicted solitude, you'll have a higher word count and a greater sense of accomplishment. And then you can brag to your writer friends, tell your family, do those things that were competing for your attention while you wrote.

It won't hurt you to give your writing a few minutes of your time, no matter how many things are on your to-do list. They will always be there when you're done. - (hah, I just realized yesterday I told you to use your free time for play and tonight I'm telling you to use your time for writing! Really, it's all a balancing act. And I needed to give myself a good kick in the pants.)

My MS is waiting with open arms for me to work on it again. So, go give yours some love too.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Free Time! Play Time!

I'm so excited! At the moment I'm mentally running around my house waving my arms in the air. And you know why? I have a couple hours of time before bed and I'm in a great mood. I think the mood is why, but the hours definitely help.

The trouble with free time is that I don't know how to fill it. And when I finally figure out the best possible way, then it's over. Has that happened to you? I get so excited. I grab my 'To Do' list and then I think "uh oh, this will take more than a couple hours". So, I eliminate the things on the list that will take too long and try to do the other things. The eliminating takes time too, of course. In the end, guess what I decide to do? Something that wasn't even on the list!

And tonight, I think it's going to be Alice: Madness Returns. Unless it's retitling my novel again. One of those.

I just remembered something. About two handfuls of Brach's Classic Flavors conversation hearts. I suspect that may also be a reason why I'm mentally bouncing off the walls.

What do you fill your free time with? And don't say handfuls of candy hearts. I've had way too much of them for one night - or maybe forever. Barf.

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Deep Happy

Have you ever been in the middle of a task and thought all the while that you were doing it, "I love this. I want to do this for as long as I live. This satisfies me like nothing else can. When I do this, I feel productive and happy."  I felt like that today. I feel like that every time I illustrate - either digitally or with pen and ink. Writing is something I do for myself, but art I can do for anyone - me, you, that guy sitting next to you, the woman in the other room.

It's fun, it's creative, it's interesting, it's beautiful. It's one of the things that define me. I paddle out into it, sketching and exploring, and before I know it, I'm deep into hours of drawing and design. I emerge from it feeling alive, triumphant, productive, and wonderful. ...Also, pretty hungry. (did I mention I forget to eat when I'm working on a project?)

What activity makes you feel like this? And if you haven't found one yet, what activity do you desperately want to try?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dear Blog

I love you. I want to tell you everything - from how I saved the day helping my sister pirate my wireless internet from her house (two houses away), to how I am so eager to query my face wants to explode and I can't because I need to line-edit first, but... who are those people watching us? And why do I suddenly feel pressure to be entertaining?


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Very Non-Political Video

First off, this isn't a post about SOPA and PIPA, because I get angry thinking about it, and blogging about it will only make this a rant post. (If you don't know what SOPA and PIPA are, I'd like to know what internet rock you've been living under.) But I do have a video to make everyone feel better after we've protested, petitioned, and processed the scary ideas about government censoring the internet. It is scary. But the video is funny, and we could all use a break from scary. If you listen close, there are words like "freedom", "pray", and "revolution" in it. So, it could kinda be political... maybe. If you squint.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Inspired Tuesdays: Is that Really My Voice?

Do you hear voices? If you're a writer, that usually means your characters or plot are talking to you. Not that you're crazy. (Well, I hope that you're not.)You also should 'hear' another voice. Your writing voice.

This Inspired Tuesday is about 'writer voice'. I'll have to admit, this confuses the heck out of me sometimes. (It's a lot like 'illustrative style' which I heard a lot at SCAD.) When I went looking for the big secret behind writer voice, I found out there wasn't one. My writing (and illustration) already has a voice, and a style. Writer voice is just a writer's writing style, and the best way for them to connect with readers.

My writer voice is different on my blog than in my novels. For one thing, my current YA novel series is Victorian fantasy and I try to use words that herald back to that time. (Using a word like 'herald' is a pretty good example of writer voice.) My blog is more my everyday voice. This is closer to the way I talk to friends and family.

Doing a Google search for 'writer voice', I discovered this article on the blog Quips and Tips for Successful Writers. I thought it explained writer voice very well, and even gave some tips on improving it. If anyone is still confused about what writer voice is, check that article out. It's very helpful.

The article states that writer voice is hindered by bad writing, but good writing doesn't automatically give your writing a voice. It is a tool to help you strengthen that voice. So, how do you know if you have a voice?

Voice is when readers feel like an author is speaking directly to them. They can hear the storyteller in their heads as they turn the pages. They can feel the personality of the writer seeping through. They feel connected because, after reading that book, they feel like they know the author.

What's your take on writer voice? Do you like yours? Do you have some tips for writers who are still searching?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pitch Contest !

I've entered the pitch contest for Ammi-Joan Paquette over at Brenda Drake's blog. I haven't won one of these yet, but I still have hope. This contest ends tomorrow at 8am (Jan. 17), so anyone still interested in pitching to Ammi should dash over and post!

Ammi-Joan Paquette is from the Erin Murphy Literary Agency located in Flagstaff, Arizona. It is one of the leading children's book agencies in the US, and it looks like a pretty fun agency to be repped by. I don't know how I didn't know about this agency before! I certainly knew about Ammi-Joan Paquette! Her book Nowhere Girl is one I've most often seen on shelves and what made her name memorable for me. I also think it's a great asset that this agent is also a writer.

I'm not posting my entry for the pitch contest here, but I did post it on Brenda's blog. If you want to read it, follow the link at the top and find me in the growing list!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Inspired Fridays? Character Name and Personality

Boogey Music by Donelle Lacy
This is a bit of an odd post, since Fridays are usually reserved for Good Fridays posts and Tuesdays are 'Inspired', but I've decided to mix things up. I also have a secret weapon to share with you further in this post that should help you completely flesh out your characters.

To start, let's talk Character Names. Sometimes characters name themselves. I love when that happens. Other times you need a little help from a name generator or a baby name book. I usually name my characters through brainstorming, and combining names I already know with odd letters and sounds.

Here are two sites that can help you name your characters:  
Behindthename gives you real names from various cultures,
and Seventhsanctum is a name generator for world-building. You can name characters, realms, abilities and many other things. (some of these are pretty silly, but hopefully they'll spark your imagination to take over and lead you to something great.)

Now I'd like to move on to Character Personalities. This is a trickier topic. In a character development class at SCAD, the professor gave us a list of questions (in the form of a large Word document) we had to answer about our main character - and really our secondary characters too. This list included the character's appearance, motivation, favorite food, political stance, hopes, and fears - lots of things I don't always think about when I first sit down to design a new character.

I've decided to share this list with you. I uploaded it to Google docs, so if you have any trouble downloading it, let me know. Also, don't let the list intimidate you. Much of what's on it can be developed as you write your character, but for those of you who prefer to completely outline a character before you write, here you are. I guarantee that if you manage to fill this list out - or even fill some of it out - you'll be on your way to really knowing your character.

A little tip about creating a character's personality: Start with a personality you already know - a character from a movie, book, video game, anime, a person you know in real life, and build on it. Edit it and expand on it. Use yourself - your own fears, hopes and dreams, your anxieties, and divide those among your characters.

I like to start with a 'type'. It might seem flat, but it's a foundation. I ask myself "Do I want my MC to be timid or bold? Prideful, sensitive, wild or reserved?" Once I have her type, I launch into polishing it up, rounding her out and giving her layers. My favorite characters are those who surprise me, who are flawed and quirky and sometimes let their desires or fears get the better of them.

Every character is driven by a force. You simply have to figure out what that force is. Is it fear, love, hate, revenge, justice? Is she seeking something?

Margo Kelly is doing a brilliant blog series about character development and she offered these three questions for us to answer:

1. What lie does your character believe?
2. What will your character avoid at any cost?
3. What does your character know that no one else does?

I love how compelling these questions are. I hope this information helps with your character development, and wish you wonderful writing!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Roadtrip: You? Who ARE You?

It's the 112th Roadtrip Wednesday! I've missed this blog hop and I'm glad to participate again.

This Week's Topic:

If you couldn't use your own name, what would your pseudonym or penname be?

Believe it or not, one of the first questions I asked an agent, when I met one in person, was do I need a pseudonym? Looking back on it, it doesn't seem like such an important question, but to a brand new writer who's always had her name mispronounced or misspelled in school, I really wanted to know.

My full name is Donelle Renee Lacy. I share the same initials as my deceased father. DRL. I was even named after him (Donald Lacy - Don L, get it?). I love my initials, but for years I didn't particularly love my name. I was always confused with the Danielles in my class in high school. One teacher even called me Donella because he didn't know how to pronounce it. I didn't hate my name, but I just thought if it was a little less like Danielle or Denelle, then it might be easier.

What this agent told me was no. Absolutely not. She said that my name was unique and fit my genre (Victorian YA fantasy) very well. Since then I have googled myself and discovered that (mostly due to the internet presence I've been creating) I'm the only Donelle Lacy there is. The first page of Google is filled with me! - the second one too. (not to brag, seriously, but it's pretty cool!)

Being an avid lover of character creating and naming, I still toy with the idea of a pseudonym for myself. I haven't decided if I'll call myself D. R. Lacy (a little more androgynous), Donelle R. Lacy (in tribute to my father with that same initial) or Donelle Renee Lacy when I publish. But I'm not worried now. Talking to that agent really put those concerns about creating a completely new identity for myself to rest. I can be proud of my name online in forums, chatrooms, and the blogosphere.

As someone who hid behind false identities for years in chat roleplay, I can tell you this is an anxious and exciting new world for me. I'm sometimes worried "What if I say something really stupid or off-hand to someone and they remember my name forever as that girl who said ____?" I'm still not quite up to using my real name in certain chatrooms yet, but I'm getting there.

What about you? Are you proud of your given name? Do you have a pseudonym?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Inspired Tuesdays - The Birth of Your Character

The muse must be drifting around the blogosphere dropping the topic of character development, because it's turned up in at least two of the blogs I watch, and now it's turning up in mine. I'll have to say, I love this topic! It's one of my favorite parts of writing/story-telling. There are so many wonderful suggestions, tips and techniques that you can get very happily distracted going through them all. And now I get to share with you mine! This is an Inspired Tuesdays topic (which is probably going to turn into a mini-series of blog posts all about character development.)

If you'd like to see the two blog entries that really inspired this topic, they are: CRAFT: Character Development Part II by Margo Kelly, and Some Thoughts on Naming Characters by Kirsten Hubbard at YA Highway.

Now, on to the topic! Most of you know when you create a character, you name it, you give it a personality, you drop it into your story and build a plot around it. But, what happens before all of that? First you have to get that crazy, brilliant, amazing idea that gives birth to your character. That idea can be a creeping, misty imagining or it can be a blazing supernova of inspiration, but however it comes, once it's there you have to see it to fruition.

How do you get that idea? What first inspires that lightbulb to pop over your head and spread that 'eureka!' grin over your face?

There really isn't a formula for getting the idea that births your character. You simply have to be aware. Observe, read, watch movies or tv, browse the internet for something interesting - anything that will get the creative juices flowing. And always be ready for when that idea plops down to make a cozy, accepting place for it.

I got the idea that inspired my MC Lividia through tabletop gaming... that failed. I'm a gamer girl, and in college some years back I was about to participate in a campaign of Whitewolf's Changeling: The Dreaming. Then it all just fell apart. I was very disappointed. I had outlined my character, her personality, what she looked like, etc, but I couldn't use her. I knew she had a story to tell. I knew she was special. When I finally took the steps many years later to adapt her and make her the main protagonist of my first novel, it was like she'd finally gotten the voice she'd wanted all these years. She finally got to live her story. She was happy and I was happy because it turned into an awesome book (which I am currently looking for representation for).

What crazy, brilliant, amazing idea brought about your character's birth?

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Love Song to My Manuscript

In my last post I explained my revision method. And now I have an update. I didn't revise long, and I didn't revise hard, but I did revise! And it went very well. Then I reached a spot where I knew if I changed the scene, it would impact the rest of the book. So, now I'm stuck again until I get up the courage to either change that scene (and thereby change the rest of the book) or leave it alone and not worry about it.

As I paused in my revisions, I talked with Zakgirl (this girl continues to be my biggest cheerleader and I'm glad for it!) in chat about my MS and my next book. After bathing in her glowing compliments of my first novel, I decided to revisit my second and get past the scene that had me stuck. I rewrote the scene and loved it so much more after that! I finished the first chapter, and now I'm ready to leap head-first into the meat of the book and get my MC to her first destination. It's so exciting and this novel series is so close to my heart!

Hearing readers tell me how much they love my book makes me love it more myself. Then rereading makes me fall in love all over again, and want to share it with more people, spreading that love all over the place.

This is why I love my book: It's about a female protagonist who struggles against both Victorian expectations of her and otherworldly creatures in her first book. She uncovers shocking family secrets, and mysteries about her mother that not even her father is willing to tell her. She discovers new truths about herself, inner strength, and abilities beyond her imagination. She reunites with a guardian who she'd lost by 'growing up', but who has never ceased to watch over and care about her. (potential love interest? I won't say just yet!) All of this is wrapped up in shadows, old books, faerie legend and the ghosts of the past that haunt the present. Lividia doesn't just have to save herself in this book. She has to save her whole family. Like any teenager with a seemingly impossible task, she is unsure, afraid, and seeks answers anywhere she can find them.

There is magic in this book - old magic, like incantations, cleverness and cold iron. There is frustration, not knowing who to trust and what to reveal. There is family you wish you didn't have, but they're all you've got. And Lividia... Lividia is wonderful and pensive and hopeful, and carries in her heart the reason she must be the one to save them, and the reason The Strawman, The Sandman (and probably a few women too) want to kill her.

A love song to my manuscript:

Do you love your manuscript? What do you love most about it?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

MS Revision is GO!

I've been thinking about it for a long time, revising my 76,786 word manuscript. I'm a pantser (which means I write without outlines, and meander my way into brilliance as I go) but this means I have to edit what I've written afterward for consistency and cohesiveness. I also edit like mad as I write. Can't help it. Then I edit a chapter set (1-3 chapters or so) when I finish it. And so on, until I'm finished with the novel. After I've finished, I'm loathe to go back into that vast pile of words and polish it again. (I'm sure you can understand why.)

But! After querying some at the end of last year and facing more queries this year, I think it's time I took another look at my beloved first novel. I'm taking suggestions and critiques into account as I read through, and hopefully I can improve it.

To tell you the truth, I don't think there's anything wrong with my novel. I think the edits and revisions I'll have to make will be minor, tweaks here and there, some clarifying or adding details. I just get daunted by the word count.

Here is my revision method.

1. To get myself inspired I do something very active before sitting down to revise. In this case it was dance around my dining room like a whirling dervish, listening to oldies... like this one:

2. Then I make sure the cats are fed, the family otherwise occupied, and any other distractions removed. My distractions include: cat demanding to be played with, family calling or dropping by, errands demanding to be run, belly demanding food, Facebook demanding I chat on it. You get the picture.

3. I break out the Word file, and turn off any distracting music (or tune into something more peaceful) and start my read-through. I also have to have a drink and a snack of choice around so that I don't need to keep getting up when I get the munchies. (It's good to take bathroom breaks before you start.)

Are you daunted by revising? Do you have a revision method? What are your distractions?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Positive Resolutions: A Good Fridays Post

For all the new followers from the Insecure Writers blog hop, hi there and welcome! I didn't get around to nearly as many blogs as I wanted on Wednesday. The list isn't going anywhere, though.

Good Fridays is a weekly spot on my blog where I mention one or two good things about that week. This week, in keeping with New Year tradition, it's resolutions.

I feel very positive about this year. I have already gotten a good start at my resolutions. And just to pump myself up and see if I can manage it, here they are, in no particular order:

  • Sell things on Ebay to declutter my house and get money for better things (already started, woo!)
  • Finish the second novel in my Lividia series
  • Finish the illustrations for the first novel
  • Finish the ball-jointed doll I started making 5 years ago (life happened, major procrastination followed)
  • Make her some hair and clothes
  • Finally buy my second bjd (reward for years of waiting for the 'right' time to buy her)
  • Gain more blog followers *grins sheepishly*
  • Aquire an agent
  • Get better at piano

That's my list for now. What about yours?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Inspired Tuesdays: Inspiring Jobs

This Inspired Tuesday pretty much snuck up on me. I was in the middle of my 'car job' and I realized it was Tuesday, so I'm taking a break to write this. Sometimes I wonder if anyone reads blogs on Tuesdays, since so many do the Monday, Wednesday, Friday blogging schedule. But here it is!

Inspired Tuesdays is a kind of weekly meme about what inspires you/me/everyone who's creative to do the creative things we love to do.

This week's topic is: Inspiring Jobs. Have you ever had, or currently have, a job that inspires you to be creative, produce a piece of work you're very proud of, or just really look forward to getting up in the morning?

I've had a handful of various jobs on my journey into adulthood, and as an adult, I've still not found that 'perfect job' for me. I want a career, but it's not easy to become a professional illustrator/author/character designer, etc. Breaking into the creative field is like trying to puncture a rubber wall with a letter opener, and freelance can't always guarantee you a steady income. I have bills to pay and things to buy, so I have another job.

I advertise for a new company that works with car dealerships to help them sell their cars online. I never thought I'd be in advertising and I never thought I'd sell cars, but here I am and I'm not half bad. So, while this job isn't in my field, it's helping me learn advertising, which I think every writer and artist should know. It's also letting me exercise my general cleverness and creative problem-solving.

You'll have many jobs in your search for the career of your dreams, but what matters is that you get the most out of each job you take. They can do more than simply pay your bills. They can help you learn about yourself. And who knows? The job you take to pay your bills could become the career of your dreams!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Christmas Extravaganza!

Must be the New Year. My stats say I've have no comments ever and no activity. (I love clean slates, don't you?) Happy New Year!

As for what I've been doing for the past week or so, I've been up to my eyeballs in family plans. We had a wonderful simple Christmas last weekend. My mom, younger sister and I cooked a meal together and spent a cozy evening playing Scene It. Then the week exploded. We did two gift-giving sessions with my older sister's family, one for the kids and one for grownups. Saturday we bustled around preparing for the trip to the city, and the gift-giving session with my brother's new family. New Year's Eve we were still wrapping presents for the little ones. And today we traveled an hour and a half there and back to see them.

Seeing them was great. We ate, we unwrapped, we watched them unwrap. And I made my new five-year-old niece tickled all over with a box of sparkly hairclips and my 1995 holiday barbie. There's nothing like a big glittery dress on a fluffy-haired doll to make a girl who wants to be a princess think she's in heaven.

After the food was eaten, the Veggie Tales movie watched, the gifts unwrapped, and the seven children herded down to the play room, there was a great Fruit Ninja battle. Many fruits met their untimely end and a wonderful time was had by all.

That was my New Year's Day/Late Christmas. Hope you all had a great one too!
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