Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Fridays: Thankful

This Good Fridays post I can't fully express my joy and gratitude - for my life, for my family and friends, for my gifts and talents, for everything I have. What I've been given is life past anything I could imagine. What I do with it is up to me, but I want to make it as full as I can, and make it full of good.

I don't always bring the best and happiest of myself to this blog. I often bring frustrations and sadness, loss and dejection. When I remember everything I have, all that I've been given, I don't feel any of those things. I feel all the possibility I truly hold, the possibilty we're all
reminded of in the Spring - that we can be better. We can start new. We have another chance to make an impression on the world, to change it. Whether we change it in a book that touches hearts, a piece of art that alters perspectives, or words that open a mind to truth it never saw before. We've been given that chance.

I'm thankful for that opportunity and amazed by that thought. However you celebrate this weekend, I wish you a happy Easter and a wonderful beginning!


Monday, March 25, 2013

The Next Big Thing: A Shadow Story

2012 Mock Book Cover

I've been tagged by Carissa Taylor in the Next Big Thing Bloghop, a meme that asks authors questions about their current WIP. You answer the questions, and then you tag 3-5 more writers to answer them, inspiring the bloghop. Since I can't answer most of these questions for my WIP yet, I'll answer them for the book I'm querying. Tagging will come at the end.


What is the working title of your book?
A Shadow Story
Lividia first design 2003



 Where did the idea come from for the book?
Many places, but initially from a character I was creating to play Changeling: The Dreaming (tabletop roleplay game). She was a sluagh named Lividia. I never used her for the game, but instead she got her own story, and a completely reworked past.

What genre does your book fall under?  
YA, specifically YA Victorian Fantasy

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Lividia 2009
Lividia Blackwell (Anne Hathaway - Les Miserables)
Lividia is a repressed bookish daydreamer who lost her mother when she was five years old and lives under the over-protective hand of her father and the soft coddling of their housekeeper Mabel. Her story starts when she begins dreaming about a mysterious man in a blue tailcoat surrounded by living shadows. Struggling with her father's expectations and her mother's wild blood, Lividia realizes her flaws might become the greatest strengths she has.


Boogeyman (Jesse Spencer - House M.D.)
Boogeyman 2010
Lividia's Boogeyman is her childhood protector and friend, the guardian only she can see. He's a messenger, a guide and a catalyst for the journey Lividia will embark on in the second book.


He is gentle, protective, patient, enigmatic and fiercely loyal. His flaw: Lividia is the only thing that matters to him.



Nephenia Blackwell (AnnaSophia Robb - The Carrie Diaries)
Nephenia, Lividia's younger cousin, is the complete opposite of Lividia in every way. She is socially adept, musically talented, petite, blonde, and pretty. She is also jealous, haughty, deceptive, materialistic and spoiled. Her strength is her piano playing, which rivals the best musicians of her time. Her weakness is her jealousy and her bad temper. She is jealous that Lividia is engaged to a handsome, affluent gentleman, and angry that Lividia doesn't seem to appreciate it. While Lividia is ill-suited to Victorian high-society, Nephenia sparkles in it like a diamond in a tiara.


What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A Victorian girl must uncover the truth behind her mother's death and escape her engagement to an otherworldly cad by unravelling clues her mother left behind.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Repped by an agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Since I didn’t work on it steadily, but off-and-on, it took me roughly a year. There were months I didn’t write at all. I didn’t have a ‘first’ draft when I was done, but chunks of writing that’d been through different stages of revising along the way. It was a ‘frankendraft’.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

It has some of the mystery, along with the Victorian time period and the low romance factor, of The Poisoned House. It has some of the magic and suspense found in Splintered

Truthfully, I have a hard time comparing my book to other YA novels, which is why I wrote it in the first place. It has a girl who reminds me of an older Alice, a premise reminiscent of the movie Drop-Dead Fred, and the whole story is drenched in an atmosphere that smacks of Tim Burton.

  


Who or what inspired you to write this book?  
first boogeyman sketch 2003
I wanted to write a book about a girl who didn’t want to give up her belief in the unseen just because she was growing up. The book was originally about keeping your childlike awe and imagination in the face of life’s disappointments and mundane trials, then I decided to add to it all the elements I love, together in one YA novel (series). 


What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  
Victoriana, a curious and clever female MC who seeks adventure instead of romance, a touch of mystery, imaginary friends, old keys, locked doors, faerie magic, and beings that can manipulate shadow. I also hope they like the color green.


Now for my tags (check out their awesome blogs!):

Hope everyone has fun with this!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Good Fridays: Geek Feel-Good Movies

Fridays are days to unwind from the week, to be thankful for the weekend - whether you've been toiling away at a day job or toiling away at your latest masterpiece/manuscript.

For me, Fridays are a great time to watch a feel-good movie. And it isn't what you might think. Since my taste is geektastic, my kind of feel-good movie is:

          This                                                      This                                                and This!


Every one of these movies made the happy leak out my ears, so I thought I'd share.

What movies make you feel good?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Writer or Author?

Since I missed my Good Fridays spot this week on account of work, I'm doing a Saturday post. For this post I want to ask the question: What does the term 'author' mean to you? Is there a difference between an author and a writer?

Dictionary.com has these two definitions:

Writer
1. a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.
2. a clerk, scribe, or the like.
3. a person who commits his or her thoughts, ideas, etc., to writing: an expert letter writer.
4. (in a piece of writing) the author (used as a circumlocution for “I,” “me,” “my,” etc.): The writer wishes to state….
5. a person who writes or is able to write: a writer in script.

Author
1. a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work, as distinguished from a compiler, translator, editor, or copyist.
2. the literary production or productions of a writer: to find a passage in an author.
3. the maker of anything; creator; originator: the author of a new tax plan.
4. Computers. the writer of a software program, especially a hypertext or multimedia application.

By those two definitions, they're pretty interchangeable. The main difference is that 'author' can be used in a broader sense than 'writer', but I think we all have our own definitions of the terms. That's what I'm more curious about.

mug from zazzle.com
To me, a writer is someone who writes (specifically prose) either professionally or as a hobby. Writer is flexible and can be "I'm a sports writer for the newspaper" or "I think my daughter's becoming a writer!"

As for 'author', I can't help but hear the word 'published' in front of it every time. Such as "J.K.Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series." or "YA has so many new authors!" You never get the impression they mean unpublished. This is why I refer to myself as a writer (or, in most cases, writer/illustrator), and not as an author... yet.


What about you? Do you consider yourself an author or a writer? Does it matter?

 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Midnight Inbox Surprises

Must share some awesome news I got around midnight! I've been really down this winter due to rejections, but recently the sun's been peeking out, I've gotten a new fire in my blood, and I've started another round of small revisions to polish my novel. I even sent it out to a new beta reader (a wonderful grad-school friend of mine who's very supportive).

Well, I just finished my pre-beta revisions, my beta has just now gotten to her copy, and when I checked my email I had another surprise. I got a full request!

An agent I queried back in November passed my query on to another agent. The second agent emailed me out of the blue requesting my book! I'm currently on top of the world. Yaaaaay!

Here's proof that you should never give up hope on queries. You never know what can come of them.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful!

Over the weekend I went to see Oz the Great and Powerful in 3-D with my nephew and bro-in-law. It was a phenomenally colorful movie. I liked it, though I'm not a big James Franco fan. My favorite characters were the china girl, the Wicked Witch of the West (after she turned green), and the Wizard (after he became a smoky projection). I noticed I liked these last two most after they attained their signature style. New writers are a lot like that.

New writers remind me of Oz before he becomes The Great and Powerful, still searching for the key that will make us great.We know what agents want, so we try to transform ourselves into that thing. Promoting is the same. Self-promo and platform-building feels like constructing an elaborate stage to perform on. You pick and choose what you reveal about yourself and what you don't. You flash your knowledge and skill around like a fancy cape.You project yourself as you'd like future readers (or current ones) to see you. It all starts to feel like a big show.

So, how do you handle your online persona? With a mask of smoke and mirrors, or by finding that delicate balance between your writer self and your everyday self? Is there a difference?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Good Fridays: Book of a Thousand Days

This Good Fridays post is a book review for the YA fantasy novel Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. If you haven't read this book yet, do!

Book of a Thousand Days is based on the story Maid Maleen by the Brothers Grimm. It's the diary of Dashti, lady's maid to Lady Saren of the fictional realm Titor's Garden. The two girls are imprisoned in a tower by Lady Saren's father for her refusal to marry Lord Khasar whom she hates and fears. During their imprisonment, both girls undergo a slow transformation of spirit that colors their life and decisions thereafter.

I admit that when I first started reading Book of a Thousand Days, I wasn't sure what I thought of Dashti's voice. The book is written in first-person, which usually gives me pause as I decide if I like the MC, but it hooked me. Dashti's personality was vivid and sturdy from the very beginning. With humor and strength, this girl was built to withstand gales in both her story-world and the literary world at large.

Shannon Hale did a wonderful job making me sympathize with the characters, to the point that Dashti's choices seemed like my own if I were in her place. I became invested in her growth as a character and eager to see her discover more past her limited view of the world. I also appreciate that Dashti wasn't traditionally pretty, a stark contrast to the lovely, but frightened, Saren. Readers could see the flaws in both of the girls and very readily in Saren, in spite of her beauty. (There were times I hated Saren too, I must admit.)

I thoroughly hated Lord Khasar and was as disgusted by him as Dashti herself was. I also absolutely loved Khan Tegus. He was a man who I would pick for myself, and I don't often find that in YA novels. This guy is pure gold. Honorable, noble, compassionate, gentle and caring. He held true to the personality the author had given him all the way to the end of the book. I appreciate that she didn't change him or spoil him just to create drama for the two girls. He was also fully-formed. He had his own problems, his own desires, his own responsibilities. He wasn't a flat character created for the MC to swoon over.

Yes, there was romance in this book. I read and enjoyed a romantic sub-plot that was so twined with the main plot that it couldn't be separated. That's because I was truly fond of both characters involved. The romance was slow-building, formed from a genuine connection and spiced up by attraction and admiration. It was an incredibly sweet, incredibly moving romance and I wish I could find more like it.

As for the world-building, I questioned a lot whether the culture was invented or just unfamiliar to me, and that means it was good. Because it reads from Dashti's perspective, we get a strong view of her belief system and her values, as well as how she changes from the beginning of the book to the end.

My rating on Goodreads for this book was five stars, but it merits more.

Monday, March 4, 2013

In Defense of Traditional Publishing

There's always a firestorm of comments shot back and forth across the internet regarding that topic. You know the one. Self-publishing.
Is it bad? Is it good? Should you do it?
(Oh, c'mon.... You know you want to do it!) I'm sure you've heard it too.


I'm not going to talk about self-publishing. As much as I want to douse water on those who use it as their own private word-waste dumping ground. I don't think it should be used that way. (No, I don't want to buy your unedited 580-page YA novel about a unicorn princess who falls in love with an alien space fungus and shuttles to Venus to participate in the Peckish Games for .99 on amazon.)

I'm going to talk about how wonderful, and awful, and beautiful pursuing traditional publishing is.

You've all heard the Cinderella stories of how a young writer gets noticed in her first blog contest, at his first conference, from her first query, and immediately signs with his or her Dream Agent. This isn't that story.

This is the story of a dream. My dream.

When I was in junior high, I realized I liked to write. I liked to write so much that I thought one day I would write a book. No, better yet, a series of books! I would write them, illustrate them, and then I would get them published and share my world with as many readers as my books could reach.

I'm still following that dream, and still trying to publish my first novel in that series. I've learned a lot in a short time. I've learned that everything moves slowly, and the only things you can control are your own skill and your own choices. You hone your skill, and you choose carefully when you query, how you query, and who you query. (First, you have to learn what makes a 'good' query.)

You must let your manuscript sit awhile before revising it again. You must get someone you're not related to to read your manuscript and give feedback/edit (and you must take their responses into consideration). You must not lose your love for the story you started out to write. And you must continue to move forward no matter how hard or often you're pushed back down. Get back on the horse.

Among my musts isn't "you must self-publish when you get angry, frustrated, depressed, or desperate", because that isn't the right reason to self-publish. (And that would only add to the festering cesspit of word-waste out there in ebookland.) You might be getting rejections from agents because your work isn't ready yet. You might be getting them because you queried the wrong agent and need to keep trying. You might be getting them because the market isn't ready for your book and you have to wait awhile. (And if the market still isn't ready for your book after you've waited awhile, you might want to consider self-publishing.)

You should never assume there's a huge conspiracy against you, that the agents and editors are all evil, and that you will show everyone once and for all what your grandmother has known for years - how talented and amazing you are! In your FACE, Gatekeepers!

Agents know marketing, they know if they can sell a book or not. And I, for one, trust their judgement on that. If they've been in the business long enough, they know the big ones and small ones in publishing, and they've seen a ton of stories similar to yours over the years. If yours is the one to catch their eye, consider yourself on the right track. Even if they reject you. That's right. I said it. Rejection isn't the end. It's only the beginning. It means you're trying, and that you are getting attention. It means your work made it in front of an agent (who sees a LOT of writing) and was considered. Next time, it might be an offer of representation.


I've been through the muddy trenches of querying and I'll be going through them again before it's all over, but the worst for me wasn't the rejections. It wasn't the waiting (though the waiting is pretty horrendous). It was the pain of feeling like what I made wasn't good enough, when I know better! It was the slow piling on of self-doubt, which is as deadly as quicksand to a writer. When I went back to my book again, read it, really looked at it, the doubt went away. But I saw my book for what it was. I saw how it can be pulled here, tweaked there, improved upon. But not thrown away. It's worth however long it takes to get published, and I have to make that my determination. So do you. If you believe in something enough, you'll do whatever it takes.

Traditional publication isn't about the Cinderella moments, since those don't happen to everyone, and probably won't happen for you. It's about the perseverance. It's about not letting yourself stay down in the doldrums of rejection, not letting yourself take it personally, not letting yourself doubt. It's about not letting yourself and your book down. You know that when it's over, it'll be worth it.

Go, trad pub!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Good Fridays: Just Not Your Week

Have you ever woken up and thought that you couldn't even get sick right? You feel only nasty enough to make work unpleasant and hard to get through, but wake up well enough to go in again the next day and do it all over.

Then, you work so hard for a week on a contest, only to find out the day before it's over that the deadline is at a time when you're at work so you can't participate. You begin to think life favors the unemployed.

You make it to the post office to mail a bill so you're not saddled with late fees, and your car dies. Filling it with gas and jumping it doesn't work. In the dark and smelling of gas, you finally call a tow truck.

You end up spending over $100 on a new starter and get overdrawn at the bank because it's the end of three weeks and you're still waiting to be paid. How were you supposed to know you'd need that $200 you dropped down your backyard savings hole?

You put off laundry, showering, grocery shopping, because you're too tired after work. Eventually, you wonder who will notice anyway. ...Then your cat pees in your bed.

You go in to work and get slammed so hard by customers you swear your grandchildren's employees will feel it.

You haven't been to the grocery, so your lunch looks like the leftovers in a dorm-room fridge. And you have to eat it at 4 pm next to a guy who keeps telling you about his bowel movements.

The whole week feels like one long day. Or maybe a year. You don't know anymore.

But your car is fixed now and you finally got paid. You go to bed Thursday night dreaming of Friday at 5 o'clock and hope that when you wake up it really is.

This was just not your week. No really, this wasn't your week. It's just a story - only some of which actually happened to someone else. So, Happy Friday!


(Edit: the point of the post was black humor. Sometimes exaggerating things to their extremes makes you handle the real things better. I hope a few of you chuckled, or at least realized at the end that I wasn't entirely serious.)
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