Saturday, August 25, 2012

Be Inspired Blogshop Meme

I was tagged by Amanda Olivieri, and it must have been a mistake. Or else she doesn’t know yet how much I love to talk about my novel. Sit down, grab some skittles or something to munch on, because there is no way I won’t talk too much here.

1. What is the name of your book?

Spider Silk

2. Where did the idea for your book come from?
Sometimes, when I can’t get to sleep, I indulge myself with story plots. Usually they’re a one-night venture, full of clichĂ©s and cheesiness and romance more gushy and cute and unrealistic than anything I’d actually put in a manuscript (not that there’s anything wrong with gushy and cute). Also, *cough* it may s
ometimes morph into mental fanfiction, about books/movies/shows I’ve liked lately.

Spider Silk’s premise actually started as one of these falling-asleep plots, but one that was more plausible than others. A boy had to team up with a girl who used to be his worst enemy, to save another world. It stuck around for a few nights, and I really, really liked it. Then one day I doodled a spider-girl, and she fit in this plot, and so the saga began. I still have that doodle. And I still really, really like the plot.

3. In what genre would you classify your book?
YA Fantasy
. My gut says Epic Fantasy, to be specific, but it does involve inter-world travel and is told from the POV of a modern teenage boy, so… *shrug* Based on that, maybe some would disagree?

4. If you had to pick actors to play your characters in a movie rendition, who would you choose?
Not sure off the top of my head. Maybe some new faces? I guess the best answer is, whoever feels right. Whoever could portray the characters the way I’ve always pictured. I have fantasized about this, as alluded to in this
post, but I’ve never attached big names to the daydream. Partially because I feel like anyone I pick now would be wretchedly old/no longer suitable by the time my book got published, let alone turned into a movie.

5. Give us a one-sentence synopsis of your book.
After five years of interrogations, therapy, and rumors of mental instability, seventeen-year-old David Archer’s adventure in another world seems almost as unreal to him as it does to everyone else—until his worst enemy comes to Earth and claims to need his help.
Bleh. That’s actually close to the first bit of my rough query-letter-in-progress (meshed together a bit to fit the one-sentence rule), but I don’t think it does the story justice. Long story short…

Boy who was once a hero teams up with his worst enemy to save another world.

That better?

6. Is your book already published?

No. I’d say ‘I wish’, but if it were published as it is now, I’d probably crawl in a hole and die. I still have quite a bit of revision to do. -_-

7. How long did it take you to write your book?

Finished the 120,000 word rough draft in two and a half months—NaNo pace.

Revision slays me though, and I’ve been side-tracked with other projects + school. That rough draft is years old now (and awful). My current rewrite started… 12-2-11. … I get distracted. And I’ve been going back to fix things, and—and--*hides face and types faster*

Does it seem better if I say I have the other four books basically fully plotted? XD

8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to? Or, readers of which books would enjoy yours?
I don’t want to say Narnia, because Narnia is Narnia, and I can’t call my book Narnia because it’s NARNIA.

So, I’m going to say it will appeal to anyone who’s ever loved the idea that someone ordinary could stumble into another world and become a hero. And anyone who ever wondered what could happen afterward.

Also, perhaps Graceling by Kristin Cashore, because Viss Arach’s got the whole ‘forced to kill since childhood’ thing going on—I MEAN—is a strong female character. ;)

I think there’s a certain nostalgia factor involved in Spider Silk. It’s a different spin on the kind of book everyone’s read at least one of. Some of the first books I ever loved involved portals to other worlds, and Spider Silk kind of draws on those memories. A lot of people have liked the premise, and I’d like to think it’s for similar reasons.

9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?

All of ‘em.

C.S. Lewis, because NARNIA.

Any author who ever wrote about other worlds, and the kids who move between them.

But… Honestly no one really specific. It’s not like the idea came while I was in the middle of a certain book. It’s a mish-mash of ideas putting a spin on a common fantasy trope. *shrug*

10. Tell us anything that might pique our interest in your book.

Viss Arach is a sarcastic ex-assassin with spider-powers who is secretly a nerd. David Archer’s a writer. There are ancient castles and rebel cities in ancient forests and festivals and folklore and betrayal and swords and executions and—

I’d better just cut this off here, or this blog post will end up being five pages long.

11. Tag five people!

Amanda, at Truth, Justice, & Other Stuff – My lovely crit partner. ;D

Amy, at A Story of a Dreamer -- A while back she posted a short story on her blog, and I realized how GOOD she is. I'd love to hear more about her novel. *pokes Amy*

Maggie & Constance, at Twin Moment -- Two lovely gals I've been following a while. ^^ ... Online, not in a stalker-ish way. XD

Olivia, at Olivia's Opinions -- I know her premise, and I'd love to hear more about her novel. :)

Also, a Notice: So right now, I have started college. Freshman year, panic setting in, etc. etc. etc. My schedule may be…uh…hectic. So. I will try to keep posts regular. XD

Does Spider Silk sound like something you’d read? Did you have any favorite books in your childhood that involved portals to other worlds? Will you be participating in this blog meme? Feel free, even if you’re not tagged!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Ego Club

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know how I love character motivations. You know I love interconnecting things, and bringing aspects of Book 1 into play in Book 5. Those are things I pride myself on.

And I pride myself—often. *Ba-DUM, CH*

And I also put myself down. Often.

I flip-flop between “I am a suckish writer” and “I am the best writer ever”. Which I think is true for a lot of writers.

This is a good thing.

For a long time, I’ve had this idea about where your ego fits into writing. You need to believe you have the best book out there, then prove it to everyone else.

So I sat down to write this blog post, spring-boarding off that idea, and I realized I didn’t have much else. At that very instant, a conversation began on Twitter regarding the Ego Club—between Leigh Ann Kopans , Andrea Hannah , and Erica M.Chapman . ‘Who are ALL the Best, and have ALL written the Next Big Thing.’

That seemed like an opportunity to tease out some ideas on the subject.

So we started talking, and these were some of the highlights:

Leigh Ann Kopans (@LeighAnnKopans)

You have to have a degree of self-confidence or no one will want to be with you.

Ego is important because it gives introverts the push to do things like build platform and keep writing even when it gets tough. It’s an innate belief that YOU ARE GOOD.

Writing is INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT. Belief in yourself can help push you along.

Andrea Hannah (@andeehannah)

You need to put a positive vibe out there so good things happen. Ego helps with this!

Also, fake it ‘til you make it!

Me (@silent_pages)

Everybody’s got moments like “I can’t do this. How could I even think it?” But you need to keep writing anyway.

If you keep moaning how bad you are to an agent, they might believe you.

There needs to be a balance between enough humility to know when something needs fixing, and enough confidence to know you’re capable of fixing it.

By then I was feeling like I’d have a pretty good post, just by plugging in quotes from the conversation, and then Leigh says “I actually have a year-old blog post on this topic” so I told her to link me and she did and I subsequently realized that it sums this up way better than I can. So go read it. ;)

While I’m mentioning Leigh, I should also put in a plug for the chat she’s begun hosting Sunday nights on Twitter, under the hashtag #YAwritersAAT. In these chats (there have been two so far), YA writers tweet questions, and a horde of teenagers (myself included) answer them to the best of their ability, from a wide range of regions and schools and experiences. The topics so far have been ‘Slang’ and ‘High School’, and any YA writers could probably benefit from reading through both. Not to mention any future chats.

And, one last link, this recent post by Natalie Whipple also seemed applicable. :)

How do you think your ego comes into play in your writing? Do you see yourself as confident, or not, or does it switch from day to day? Do you have any strategies for when your ego needs a boost? Any strategies for when you need to check your ego?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Why I Take Long Showers


                I take long showers, guys. My family gives me grief for it, but I myself am at peace, for one very important reason.

A high, high percentage of my story-related epiphanies come to me while I’m in the shower. Or brushing my hair, or riding in the car, or anything routine where my mind can flutter where it wants…which is usually straight to my WIP.

                Still, sometimes just ‘waiting’ for ideas to land isn’t enough. So I’m going to share something only slightly embarrassing that I do. Often. Repeatedly.

                I interview myself.

                Under the premise that my current WIP has been published. Or optioned for the film rights. Or in some other way has been successful.

                I pretend I’m talking to a reporter/blogger, or taking questions at a book signing, or (perhaps most embarrassingly) telling the cast of the WIP movie exactly what they need to know about each character so they can play them the way I’d always imagined.

                … I swear this isn’t just to boost my ego, guys.

                It makes me think about my story.

                It makes me ask questions—ones that would potentially be asked by people who are not me.

                “Why did you write [THIS] the way you did, instead of this way?”

                “What purpose does [CHARACTER] serve in the story?”

                “What makes [SO-AND-SO] a good couple?”

                “What is your secret ship? If your MC wasn’t with [CHARACTER], who might they have ended up with?”

                Asking myself things about the story, and characters, and all the different connections taking place under the surface… It makes me search for answers.

Answers deeper than “Because I needed it to be this way.” or “Because it was the first thing I thought of.”

It gets me into character’s mindsets. It makes me think about what makes my characters who they are. And why they do things, and how we got to this point, and all the MOTIVATIONS that I love so much.

And okay. It might also be for my ego. A little.

But I’ll share my thoughts on that in the next post.

Am I the only one who does this? (Please say no) What would you ask yourself in an interview? Where do your best ideas come from?

Also, guys, I’m sure interviewing yourself could work just as well OUT of the shower—perhaps even better because then you can write down everything instead of trying to remember it by the time you get out. Just sayin’ what works for me. ;D

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I Ripped Apart My Beginning

                In the past few days, I completely ripped apart the beginning of my novel.

                I slashed away 1,700 words. I flung far-apart settings together and threw out some unsuspecting characters. I obliterated conversations from existence, and I even rejected that lovely, kind-of-symbolic bit that was going to echo throughout the series.

                And the beginning of my novel is so much better for it.

                You may have heard me mention my strategy for this rewrite is to NOT LOOK at the rough draft, ever, at all. You may have heard me complaining that despite this, the rough draft is still creeping in at times.

That was my problem with this beginning; the events were the same as they’d always been. It dragged (I need time to set up the characters!), there wasn’t enough tension (But the writing is so pretty here…), and by the time the inciting incident happened, my reader probably would have been bored.

I knew this. But for a long time I tried to squeak along, still using it, because it was the picture I’d always had in my head, and because I thought it looked cool the way I imagined it, and because I wanted it, despite the fact that it didn’t make sense in places. I wanted it. So I left it.

And then I read this post by Donald Maass at Writer Unboxed.

“Reverses, curves, twists, shocks…instead of saving them, start with them. Distrust your first ideas. Push toward what is unexpected and counter-intuitive.”

Read that post, guys.

Three minutes after I finished it, I’d rethought my beginning. I’d decided that instead of luring my main character to the Inciting Incident, I would drop the incident right into the middle of his school.

Now I’m wondering how I ever had it any other way.

I’m also guiltily prodding at the rest of my novel, which now seems inadequate in comparison…

But those are struggles for another blog post. :)
What writing breakthroughs have you had recently? What blog posts or books have really made you think about your novel? What sorely needed changes have you made, and which changes are you avoiding?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book Review: The False Prince -- Jennifer A. Nielsen

                Like Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, this book promptly went from my reading stack to my little brother’s.
In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.
                The narrator, Sage, was the best part of this book. His voice was not only funny, but unique; he’s usually a step ahead of all the other characters, and the reader. He keeps secrets, from them and us. He threads us along in the best of ways, parceling out info on himself a bit at a time, never really lying to us, but surprising us all the same. Sage is a master of omission.
                He’s a likable character, who’ll have you rooting for him from the very start. And yet, in my opinion, things sometimes came a bit too easily for him. Some minor characters favored him (and started helping him) almost immediately, but the ‘why’ was never fleshed out as much as I’d have liked.
                One other thing: If the back-of-the-book summary has you expecting diligent etiquette/fencing/horse-back-riding/book-learnin’ PRINCE lessons… Well. They’re there, but the participants aren’t so diligent.
Considering they’re training to convince a kingdom that they’re a lost prince, and competing with other boys who have the same goal, and facing death if they fail, sometimes they don’t take it that seriously. There are a few instances of them being kept from their lessons by the one orchestrating the whole thing.
I’m not saying I’d have loved fifty pages detailing royal table settings. But the way the lessons are treated in this book struck me as a teensy bit implausible; even the lessons we see are mostly skimmed over. It’s as if they’re present because we expect them to be present, yet they aren’t really necessary.
Bottom line… If you’re looking for something reminiscent of the “I Can Learn to Do It” number in the Anastasia movie, this may not live up to your expectations.
Still. Sage is a fun narrator, and his antics and schemes and occasionally-noble nature were more than enough to make me pass The False Prince on to my brother.
For everything else, there’s Youtube.
 *clicks around on Youtube* ... For everything except the version with the actual clip, I guess. -_- BUT YOU ALL KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.

If you’ve read The False Prince, what did you think? And what are you reading now?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Put Down the Swords & Spaceships: Reading Outside Your Comfort Zone

*is slapped by an assortment of things*

Laptop difficulties = Drastic drop in productivity. Moving on.

Less than a month from today, I will be starting college (which, by the way, may lead to another drop in productivity. -_-)

Once I get to college, I'll be starting my first college English class there, and a few weeks ago I got a postcard informing me that the sunday before classes, the students in this English class would meet to discuss a book that we would read over the summer--

Me: Forcing me to read some boring memoir instead of all the pretties on my shelves? UGH...

--while chatting and getting to know each other and eating desserts.


So I got the book. The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls. And for a while it sat on the desk next to my notebooks and stacks of manga, because I was fairly sure I wasn't going to like it, and I had other things to read--things with magic, and knights, and dystopian societies, and gizmos, etc. etc. etc.

I am a YA scifi/fantasy nut. It's what I write, and it's what I love to read. I've diverged a bit here and there, but all in all I haven't branched out and read outside that genre very much, which of course blatantly disregards all e-advice to the contrary.

I've heard so many authors say "Read, read, read. All the time. ALL the books."

But sometimes my gut response is, "There are so many books in my genre to read. I don't have time for anything else."

I got time to read The Glass Castle the day the kid I tutor played hookey. I pulled it out and started reading at the kitchen table, half expecting the aforementioned kid to walk through the door.

...and I read.
...and I read.
...and I read.

Until, for the first time in a long while, I'd finished a book in one day. In one sitting. I could not put it down.

It was strange, and good, and well-written, and interesting, and not what I expected, but fascinating. And true.

And not a witch or wizard in sight.

It is important to read outside your genre, whether it's as a break from what you've gotten used to, or just a really, really good book. I hope to branch out more in college, and I can't wait to have that discussion with my fellow classmates.

What have you been reading? What do you usually read, and when was the last time you read something vastly different?

And how have you been, guys? I missed you.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Book Review: Nightspell -- Leah Cypess

                First, I must say that Leah Cypess is incredibly, delightfully nice. Since reviewing Mistwood ages ago, I’ve started following her on Twitter, and I’ve had the chance to read some short stories by her and give feedback.

                Which was awesome.

                I also won/was-gifted-for-reviewing copies of her books.

                And she did not just sign them, people.

                She doodled mythological creatures upon them. *-* I’ll put pics at the end of the post.


                Nightspell is a story that picks up quite a while after Mistwood ended, in a whole other kingdom (reminiscent of the progression of Graceling and Fire, by Kristin Cashore). This kingdom is very different than the one in the first book, most notably due to the fact that all murder victims come back as ghosts.

                The official, back-of-the-book summary:
Here be ghosts, the maps said, and that was all.
In this haunted kingdom, ghosts linger—not just in the deepest forests or the darkest caverns, but alongside the living, as part of a twisted palace court that revels all night and sleeps through the daylight hours.
Darri's sister was trapped in this place of fear and shadows as a child. And now Darri has a chance to save her sister . . . if she agrees to a betrothal with the prince of the dead. But nothing is simple in this eerie kingdom—not her sister, who has changed beyond recognition; not her plan, which will be thrown off track almost at once; and not the undead prince, who seems more alive than anyone else.
In a court seething with the desire for vengeance, Darri holds the key to the balance between life and death. Can her warrior heart withstand the most wrenching choice of all?
                Even though the setting’s changed from the first book, there are strong ties between the two that come out as the book goes on. Fans of Mistwood will be intrigued by the reappearance of Clarisse, and will enjoy trying to figure out exactly whose side she’s on.

                There is a twist in Nightspell that I began to suspect early on, but that’s alright because there were a million and two other twists that kept me guessing at every turn.

                I find that Leah Cypess is very good about planting false leads—about giving every character their own agendas. Even when you think you know what’s going on, you never really know exactly what’s going on.

                Figuring out who can trust who, and uncovering hidden motivations is something that I find very enjoyable in Cypess’ books. Court intrigue and political maneuvering is something I rather enjoy, yet there’s also plenty of action, and knives, and—in a court half-full of ghosts bent on revenge—murder.

                I really enjoyed the premise of Ghostland, and yet I also enjoyed allusions to the plains tribes, and this whole other culture some of the main characters left behind.

                And then… There’s the ending.

                I wish things had turned out differently. And yet the slightly melancholy, bittersweet kind of ending suits Cypess’ writing, in my opinion. Even though it’s not necessarily the ending that I—or the characters—wanted, it might be the one that was needed.

                All in all, I found Nightspell to be a wonderful, intelligent book, and I would highly recommend it.

                Now, look at the pretty pictures!



                Pretty, yes? Have you read either Mistwood or Nightspell? Will you? Do you enjoy twisty, mysterious books that keep you constantly thinking, or is nonstop action more your cup of tea?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: Hero's Guide -- Christopher Healy

Cinderella. Rapunzel. Sleeping Beauty. Snow White. Four massively popular fairy tales, retold time and time again…
                And the Princes Charming always get the short end of the stick.
                In The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, by Christopher Healy, the story begins where the old stories ended – but in an ‘after’ that’s really not so ‘happy’.
                For one reason or another, nothing’s gone as expected for these princes. They find themselves separated from their princesses, each dealing with their individual problems – cowardice, life in the shadow of sixteen mighty brothers, lies spread by a rotten (ex)fiancĂ©, and a sore lack of friends (as a result of general craziness).
                Princes Frederick, Gustav, Liam, and Duncan band together in order to stop an evil witch and save the day. And some hostages. Not to mention their reputations (which are a bit lackluster, thanks to the bards’ failure to fact-check before spreading their stories).
                As someone who loves fairy-tale retellings, I was very excited by the premise of this book.
                And Hero’s Guide exceeded my expectations. It addresses common questions asked by fairy-tale lovers everywhere --“Why didn’t the prince in Rapunzel go get a ladder?” “Why did the prince in Cinderella send a servant to track her down instead of going himself?” “If two people have never even spoken before, can it really be ‘True Love’s’ kiss?”
                The book also crafts deep, connectible characters who develop widely over the course of the book. They’re all so plausible that you wonder why you never imagined them in such a way to begin with. Watching the friendships grow (especially in the case of two certain characters) was wonderful. The princes have very different personalities – each uniquely their own – and yet they fit. Together, they make for a fabulous tale—even if they’re not always sure exactly what’s going on.
                Aside from the characters, there’s the fact that Hero’s Guide is absolutely hilarious. A quirky, fun book that had my inner critic relaxed and laughing from the first page onward.
                The story (and the accompanying artwork) remind me a lot of movies like Tangled, and How to Train Your Dragon. It’s a whole-heartedly fun read. You’ll fall in love with the Princes Prince Gustav characters, and be rooting for them the whole way through.
                I, personally, am very glad that this is only ‘Book 1’, and have placed it prominently upon the family bookshelf so that my younger brother can read it, too. Frankly, I think that’s the highest praise I can give to a book.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Book Review: Storybound -- Marissa Burt

Storybound, by Marissa Burt, was another book I read for the 2012 YA/MG Fantasy Reading Challenge. I loved the premise; I think every reader/writer has dreamed about being pulled into a storybook world. In Storybound, that’s exactly what happens to Una Fairchild.

                “When Una Fairchild stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, she thinks nothing of opening the cover and diving in. But instead of paging through a regular novel, Una suddenly finds herself Written In to the land of Story—a world filled with Heroes and Villains and fairy-tale characters.

                But not everything in Story is as magical as it seems. Una must figure out why she has been Written In—and fast—before anyone else discovers her secret. Together with her new friend Peter and a talking cat named Sam, Una digs deep into Story’s shadowy past. She quickly realizes that she is tied to the world in ways she never could have imagined—and it might be up to her to save it.”

                I really liked the idea. I still do. And it was fun to see characters walking about, from many different genres, going to classes like Advanced Heroics, Villainy, and Backstory as they figure out what kind of tale they’d like to be in. As a soon-to-be college freshman, thinking about potential careers, I really connected to this concept.

                Unfortunately, I didn’t really connect with some of the main characters. They were amusing at times, and I liked certain qualities of each. But some just didn’t quite ‘pop’ for me, and I ran into that accursed disconnect that I get when I just don’t understand what’s going through a character’s head.

                When the summary says that Una ‘thinks nothing’ of diving into a storybook world, they mean it. Cloaked figures in her school basement? ‘No big, just find another corner to read in.’ Waking up on a stone dais, in strange clothes, with no idea how she got there? ‘Must’ve found a secret passage. Whatevah.’ The moods – of Una and other characters – flip flop occasionally, like, they’re mad, and then cheerful, with very little transition between.

                I liked the academy in Story. It almost gives off a Hogwarts kind of feel. And yet sometimes, the school and standard classmate-related conflicts seemed to overshadow the Uber-Important Events that are supposed to be going on.

                Like, when Una first appears in Story, her ‘new friend Peter’ spends at least eleven pages thinking Una is a student, even after she gives him every hint that she is not supposed to be there. Then, instead of leaping into action and ‘digging into Story’s history’, etc… he goes to check if he just failed his exam. Then we actually sit in on a few classes, and they still don’t do a whole lot of ‘digging’. Even when they (mini-spoiler) go to find some all-important books to try and figure out how and why Una was brought to Story, Una thinks something about how ‘she’s never gone so long without reading an actual book.’ Like, the act of reading is more important to her then figuring out what the heck she’s doing in Story.

                To paraphrase Ron Weasley: “These guys need to sort out their priorities.”

                The action picked up a lot toward the end, almost to the point where things moved so fast that it was hard to understand. It cuts off in a weird place too. Things are kind of resolved, but it leaves a very major strand of the plot dangling. It’s a cliff-hanger, but it’s a cliff-hanger that we last heard about several chapters from the end. Then it was never mentioned again. By the time the last page rolled around, I’d almost forgotten about it—not good, considering it left some of my favorite characters of the book in danger.

                Bottom line, I wasn’t really pulled in by the characters, and some of the pacing seemed off. However, it’s an alright, fun little read, and younger readers will probably enjoy the Hogwarts-y feel, and descriptions of the characters in Story. Writers will also appreciate the references to things like dialogue and backstory, I think.

                I just wasn’t pulled as deeply into the world of Story as Una was, I suppose.

                Have you ever imagined being pulled into a storybook world? Have you read Storybound yet? If so, did my observations line up with yours? If you haven’t read Storybound yet… Will you?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Post-Hiatus List of THINGS

Okay, so I did that thing where I forget the blogging world exists. And, like last time, it lasted almost exactly one month. And like last time, I believe it happened because I've been participating in a NaNoWriMo-related event. Last time, it was NaNoWriMo. This time, Script Frenzy.

But considering my comic book script died on day... four? It really shouldn't  have affected my blogging sched--

--So, anyway!

I'm back. I'm still busy with a whole slew of things related to graduating high school, but I am back. In the near future I'll have some book reviews going up (Storybound, Nightspell, and The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom) along with some actual posts related to writing! I promise.

And if these actual posts fail to happen, I hereby give all my followers permission to slap me with assorted unpleasant objects (for example, fish, shovels, walruses, etc.).

Lurkers who with to participate in any potential slap-fests are encouraged to follow. ;)

Now then. The bad news is, my script died. I quite quickly realized that I did not want to write a script in April, despite what I thought all through March. Instead, I wanted to work on my novel.

So I did, a bit. I've been exchanging chapters with my fabulous critique partner, I've had a few more of those world-shaking epiphanies that I tend to get every time I start thinking "No way this series' plot could possibly get any more intricate!" Also, I might be getting a crocheted doll of one of my characters from a lady in my writers' group. *is super excited at this possibility*

I've also made some goals for the coming months. Failure to meet these goals may also be acceptable grounds for smacking me.

  1. I will finish my current WIP (a rewrite) by the end of May. This will mean writing NaNo style, but I'd really like to get it done so that I'll be all set up for...
  2. Camp NaNoWriMo: June. I've got an outline of a Middle Grade novel just waiting to be explored. It involves living gargoyles, a boy who talks to pigeons, and a little girl with a bag of twenty tricks. And I'll be happy to get it on paper. Quickly. XD And when it's over, I should have just enough time to get ready for...
  3. Camp NaNoWriMo: August. I've had another idea knocking about in my head for a while. Not sure if it's MG or YA yet, but I like this idea, and I think it's got potential.

Oh, yeah, and there will also be more exchanges with my critique partners, a writer's conference this summer, and uh-- oh yeah, COLLEGE. o.o Which starts in the fall. And I am terrified to find out how that's going to affect my posting schedule. *gulp*

Well. There you have it. Where I've been, what I'll be doing, and what penalties you'll be able to give me if I decide to fail at life some more...

I think that covers everything for now. :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lucky 7 Meme -- Spider Silk

Ok, so it’s been a while since Bailey Hammond (Over Yonder…) tagged me in this meme, but I’m finally joining the party!

The rules are pretty simple, and I will be blatantly ignoring some of them.

1. Go to page 77 of your WIP.
2. Count down to the 7th line.
3. Copy the next 7 lines and paste them into your post.
4. Tag 7 others to participate.
5. Let those writers know they've been tagged.  It seems like everyone I know has already been tagged. XD So, if you haven’t gotten in on the fun yet, feel free! Tell ‘em Silent sent ya’.

And now, without further ado, approximately seven lines from page seventy-seven in my current WIP: Spider Silk. Please note that it kind of crosses a scene change. XD

            “And Danny was left sitting in a puddle, eighty-five percent sure that he would be missing his date on Friday.

            If he ever saw David Archer again, Danny was quite simply going to kill him.


            Bear was laughing. His grin stretched like a ‘Welcome Home’ banner. All was right in the world. Or… Almost all.

            The man was sitting on the stump-table, eyes bright as he absently reached behind him for another leg of poultry from one of the platters they’d brought in. He sat facing David, who’d long since been squeezed onto a chair between Foel and Anzy.”

I hope you found this little excerpt diverting, and I can’t wait to see what your selections are like! ;)

Keep writing! ^^

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: Above World, by Jenn Reese

Cover of Above World by Jenn Reese

Title: Above World
Author: Jenn Reese
Genre: Fantasy (+ a quite healthy dose of scifi. Or vice versa)
Back-of-the-book Blurb:
"Thirteen-year old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean, just like all of the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after remaining hidden from the Above World for centuries, her colony is in trouble, its survival in doubt: the tech that allows the Kampii to breathe underwater is beginning to fail, and many Kampii have already died. Yet the colony's elders, including Aluna's father, are unwilling to venture to the dry and dangerous Above World to search for answers.

So it's up to Aluna and her friend Hoku to face the terrors of land to find a solution. Once in the Above World, Aluna and Hoku learn that their colony is not the only one struggling to survive -- so are others in the skies and in the deserts. Will Aluna's warrior spirit and Hoku's intelligence be enough not only to keep themselves safe but also to find a way to save their city and possibly the world?"

The plot summary of Above World intrigued me. And the plot itself is intriguing. Far into the future, after overpopulation crowds humans out of their usual dwelling places, they transform themselves into beings based on mythical creatures (mermaids, harpies, centaurs, and so on) capable of living in other ecosystems – the ocean, high altitudes, the deserts, etc.

First of all, I love the concept. The world-building was rather good, with noticeable distinctions in culture between the Kampii (mermaids), Aviar (harpies), and all the rest. There was no shortage of action. The fight scenes were rather exciting, and detailed (the author studies martial arts, so…. There you go).

There’s an interesting blend of fantasy and science fiction here. It’s the kind of thing I would write. I’ve actually already written about bird-people and fish-people…

…which is what made it so disappointing when I could not bring myself to fully love this book.

I never really was engrossed in it, perhaps because that action-packed, exciting pace is so fast. Things move so quickly that certain areas weren’t developed as much as I would have liked.

Right from the beginning, things got a little Tell-y. The information was usually interesting; the placement just didn’t feel natural. Characters talked too long about things that should’ve been common knowledge to them. While reading, I thought more than once, “This book is mainly about showcasing the world and/or technology.”

Character motivations were sketchy in places. They flip-flopped – made rather dumb decisions on one page, then berated themselves for it (literally) two pages later. While some of the characters were interesting at first, I couldn’t truly like them because of their nonsensical actions, or actions that were out of character.

Out of character. That’s another thing I wasn’t thrilled with. I ask you, how can two Kampii children (who to our knowledge have never left the water before) pull themselves onto land for the first time and immediately recognize the smell of smoke? The word ‘smoke’ shouldn’t have even been in their vocabulary. Little things like this were scattered throughout the book, just noticeable enough to distract me and make me question the narration.

For instance [Minor Vague Spoilers in this paragraph, but not too big because it all happens within the space of a few pages anyway] in a colony of all females, where reproduction takes place in a nutrient bed  (In other words, no males required) and a couple-in-love from another colony is something to gossip over… In about two pages a girl from this colony begins a relationship with our male main character. This colony began as enemies, not entirely trusting, holding our MCs captive, as prisoners – and then again, two pages later, they’re all grand friends. *sigh*

Maybe a younger reader would be more entranced by Above World, but the logical inconsistencies and the info-dumps within the narrative made it hard for me to really get into this book.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

First Submissions

                Just before writing this blog post, I submitted my entry for a writing contest.

                Then I tweeted this:

"OH MY GOSH, TWITTER, I JUST PRESSED SEND. They HAVE the story. The story I've had around for a YEAR AND A HALF. AHHHHHHHH. #firstsubmissions"

                And this:

"I would like to think such occasions will be much less panicky as time goes on. Sadly, I'm not certain that will be the case. XD"

                And was met with several reassuring/sympathetic/commiserating tweets, along with an imaginary paper bag to breathe into and some imaginary bite-size brownies.

                This is not the first thing I’ve ever submitted, though, guys. It’s one of the biggest contests I’ve entered, sure, and I haven’t submitted much anywhere (yet). But I’ve entered contests, including a few small-scale, local ones in elementary and middle school that I, uh, won/placed in. *blush*

                Just recently, I got back results from a major contest I entered at An Honorable Mention in my region. Not great, but not bad, either. And I didn’t freak out as much about that contest.

                I still freaked out, mind you. I just freaked out less.

                Why? I think because my entry for that contest was not the best thing that I’ve written. I knew that, was okay with that, and decided to send it in anyway (partially because winners there would lose the rights for two years, and I wanted to possibly submit some other stories to magazines, etc.). Because I knew it wasn’t my best work, I was thrilled to get an honorable mention.

                It’s different with the story I’m submitting now. It has been around since October 3rd, 2010. I wrote it late at night (*cough*earlyinthemorning*cough*onaschoolnight*cough*) while listening to the song Airplanes by B.o.B. and Hayley Williams. I loved the thing. And I blogged about it way back then, for heaven’s sake, before this blog was even active.

                To this day, I think it’s one of the better rough drafts I’ve written. It’s changed in small spurts, with just a few major paragraphs altered or deleted after getting feedback from I-forget-how-many people. A few changed wordings. A few lines ironed into something smoother. That’s about it. The core is the same as it always was, and yet there’s a stronger focus now. A stronger character. A stronger story.

                It’s probably the most completely polished thing I have ever written thus far.

                Which is what makes this 1,500-ish word story so terrifying to send out into the world.

                For me, and every other person who’s begun submitting stories, I’m sure there’s more than a few questions floating around. We just need to live with those questions, and try to hold on to the answers.

                What if I lose?

                There will be other contests. Other places to submit. Other stories to polish, that will be better than this one ever was. Maybe they loved the story – they just loved someone else’s even more.

                What if they don’t even like it?

                Then they don’t like it. It’s a matter of opinion, a matter of who the judge is, and even a matter of what stories they’ve already read. It’s no different than when you sent this story out to reviewers, asking for feedback. There was a chance they wouldn’t like it. Your response to a rejection here should be similar to your response to a bad review; Make it better, or move on to something else.

                Most terrifyingly, what if I screwed up the formatting and get disqualified for something dumb? And then DIE?

                You will not die. Probably. I know this part is stressful, especially for people who haven’t submitted much before, but this should not be the most paralyzing part of the experience. Just follow the given directions as closely as you can, and if you’re not sure about something, ask someone. Preferably someone who knows what they’re talking about.

                … What do I do now?

                The answer to this one is simple. You keep writing. Write another story. Work on polishing other projects. Or maybe just write a blog post about the experience. *looks around innocently*

                And now, some questions for you.

                Have you started the submission/querying process? If so, what’s your experience been like? Any tips for the inexperienced submitter, or things about the process that have always tripped you up?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Removing the Layer of Distance

Imagine you’re reading what should be a really good book. The settings are detailed, the dialogue is fairly witty, and important, action-packed thing are happening in its plot.
And yet, you still feel unsatisfied.
Your attention lags. You find your inner reading voice drifting into a dull monotone. You catch yourself skimming more than once. At the very least, you find you don’t quite care about the main character, or whatever trials they’re overcoming.
It should be a really good book, and yet you just can’t get into it.
One possibility is that the author has left a level of distance between you and the story’s main character.
I see it all the time when I review short stories and first chapters**, especially among less experienced writers. Exciting things are happening. But we – the readers – are a step removed from the action, like we’re watching the events from across the street. We see the characters moving, but… We’re not really there.
To demonstrate, here’s some very rough, paraphrased lines from a scene in my WIP:
“David flinched as the kickball flew over his head. As Jameson and the other kids laughed, David scowled and went after the ball, vaulting over the fence and landing with a grunt on the other side.”
Not the best sentence in the world, but it’s not the worst, either. A little Tell-y. A little flat. A little more likely to drop our attention. It’s written like an outline, leaving us to fill in most of the details.
Now, let’s step into David’s shoes, and try to see the scene through his eyes.
“He turned his back to Jameson and stalked toward the fence. He vaulted it, moments before realizing that fence-vaulting probably wasn’t something they’d expect from him – the ‘crazy, formerly-kidnapped slacker’. He didn’t look back to gauge their expressions as heat crept up the back of his neck. Orange ball. David blinked as his eyes adjusted to the mottled light under the trees. Just find the stupid orange ball and toss it back to ‘em before somebody breaks out the baseball bats from the storage locker.”
I’d like to think that the scene from my actual draft is an improvement, although it’s still a bit rough. XD
At the very least, David’s more engaged in this scene. He’s moving. We’re hearing his thoughts. Seeing things from his perspective. We can infer more about his personality.
It’s my belief that readers can get more invested in a character – more drawn into the story – once they step into the character’s shoes. Obviously, methods may vary depending on what Point of View you use, but there are few tactics that can really start to connect your character with the scene around them.
  • Show your character’s opinions and perspectives. And not just in the dialogue. “Just find the stupid orange ball…” David doesn’t care about the game they’re playing, and chances are it’s not just because of any screw-ups on his part.
  • Use word choice to show the character’s mood. “David stalked…” As opposed to ‘jogged’, or ‘skipped’, or just plain ‘walked’. Using a tense verb carries David’s tension. If your character is at one of the lowest of low points in their life, the stars may not ‘twinkle’, the birds may not ‘chirp’, and dogs may not ‘yip’. They will – respectively – glimmer, caw, and growl.
  • Keep the focus on your main character. They’re called ‘main’ for a reason. I could’ve added a few sentences about Jameson nudging one of his buddies. Or I could’ve gone into detail about the way he smirks at David’s back. But instead, we get “heat crept up the back of [David’s] neck”. David is our focus.
Don’t make us watch events from across the street. Take away the layer of distance, and place us firmly into the scene. Put us into the main character’s shoes, and let us feel what they feel.
Have you read a book where you just couldn’t connect with the main character? Are your character’s engaged in every scene? Do they cast their own perspectives onto everything they see? And, uh, thanks for putting up with the rough example from my WIP. XD
 **This also could be because I read some early drafts, before the author’s gone back to tweak all the things into their final, polished form. XD