Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy, Happy Friday


 Former Metropolitan Opera House, 1937

      I love Fridays. Just the name..Fridays sounds like freedom and excitement from the drudge of the work week. Or maybe I'm just giddy because a new story is percolating in my mind. It's shiny and pretty and hilarious and ripe with potential and it's been keeping me company while I run errands today and wait for the weekend to officially begin. Hello, shiny story idea. You make everything more exciting in a relatively simple life.

   I've been reading some interesting articles lately and here's a small link roundup!

Advice to Young Writers. I've read this before but it's circulating again. Not sure what I think about them all, it's daunting. Your thoughts?

The best-selling books of 2012 so far... Doesn't take a genius to guess what they are but it makes me want to take a pencil and gouge out Fifty-Shades..

Letters from Famous Authors to their young fans. My favorite is one from Ronald Dahl to a 7-year old girl who sen him one of her dreams (oil, giltter and colored water) in a bottle.

 FastPencil announces a merchandising partnership, a solution for successful self-published authors to potentially see their books in B&N. Sa-weet.

 Amanda  Hocking's Under the Seapalooza There are tons of interviews, reviews and giveaways on various YA blogs in anticipation of her first (new) published book out in Aug.

 Happy Friday!

Love, me and Shiny New Book Idea

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Guilty Confession-Crackers and Frosting

Picture and "recipe"from MADE

   Yes, this is one of my favorite snack foods. Salty and sooo sweet. This is my guilty confession and no, I do not feel bad about it! I won't feel bad about iiiittttt! ::dives back into crackers and frosting::

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Violence in YA..Too Much?

 Author: TexasRose via Wikimedia Commons

      I haven't been posting as often because of vacations and with the clock ticking away at this impending labor and delivery. Any day now! And I'm so ready to go. I really hope I can continue to blog a few times a week or so. We'll see.

   Today Nathan Bransford posted about violence in the American culture, especially it's growing prevalence in YA literature. It's a great read and he brings up a lot of great points and questions HERE. Here was my comment:

   I, too, have been thinking about this lately. When The Hunger Games really caught the hype wave I was so disappointed because of what aftermath was surely to follow: a flood of books depicting children/teens fighting or competing to the death. Suzanne Collins wanted her books to be talked about, to raise awareness of the effects of war but I highly doubt authors publishing such similar books hoping to ride the success wave have that same motive in mind. And regardless of the motive, what a topic to flood our youth's shelves!

  (*Actually I've already read a review about a book that just came out with this very same idea. I confess, I ranted to my husband about it. I mean, you take all that time to write a book and you're stealing someone else's story bones to tell it!?!? And then you're proud of it!?!? Come on. Everyone knows you're just trying to ride the success wave of another author's hard work and creativity. If you want to talk about censorship, these are the books we really should ban! :) Back to my comment..

I'm against censorship but I don't agree with the idea of exposing our children to all of these things, through any type of media, just to "prepare them for the real world". Yes, let's not ignore it or pretend that bad things don't happen but you don't have to watch or commit cyber murder to understand that it happens. Or better yet, why don't we try to better our world so it's not supposedly best represented by violent video games and R-rated movies and books. Before anyone says anything, I DO believe that this particular topic is up to every individual parent and their own judgement for their own child. I just don't think it's a valid point for why violent literature/media is alright or why it's not potentially doing more harm than good.

I don't think you can argue whether or not such media creates murderers and bad people, but listen to the ways children talk and watch how they treat each other and's usually pretty clear what kind of entertainment is prevalent in their homes. There's no doubt these things influence, it's more a question of how much and how harmful an influence?

(end comment)

    Simply stated, I just don't think that in order to teach my child about fear (of which there is a LOT of in this world) I need to scare him. Or, that by scaring him he is any better prepared to handle real fear when it inevitably shows up in his life. You can tell which way I'm swaying in the Violence in YA media debate.

   I think too many people are debating the wrong issue...we butt heads to debate whether or not to allow such media to exist and whether or not that's ethical. But I think the real issue here is that it's going to exist no matter how many mothers get up in arms over the release of another Modern Warfare type game and how we are going to deal with it in terms of our children's exposure to it. Also, how available or prevalent we're going to make such media be to our youth. As shown below..

    A while back there was a question brought up on Agent Janet Reid's blog where she showed a picture of an erotica cardboard advertisement set up towards the front of the store and displaying a few of erotic books underneath it. It was easily seen by children coming into the store. A mother had spoken up about it to the management asking them to please move it to a different, further section where children would not be subjected to it. I was so surprised how may commented that they were not in support of this mother's actions because they believed it was ok for their children to see those things. I think, again, the debate is not whether or not your child is influenced by it (they are, it's really more about how much and how harmfully) but what you do when it comes up in their faces. Censorship is not asking them to move the stand to another area, rather, it's allowing both sides to get what they's not in the faces of children whose parents believe it's too mature for them, and those who think it's fine aren't hurt by their children missing out. And if they want them to see it they know which section it's in.

   It's like the great debate on gay rights and bullying in school..I think we miss the mark. So many parents tell their kids "It's right, don't stop at anything to defend it" or "It's wrong, don't stop at anything to put it down". And these kinds of talks are getting students beaten up and killed. Really, we should be teaching our kids what our own family's belief is and further more, that other people won't believe the same things we do but that we need to treat them equally and with respect. In this school situation, where gay youth are getting beat up and even killed, who cares if this child is homosexual or not when the greater issue is HIS/HER LIFE and safety. And we need to be teaching our children how to respect that life regardless of if they live it the same way we do or differently. Too many people are getting caught up in "right verse wrong" and not realizing the effects of their anger and intolerance on their children.

 End of rant. This is probably as political/ morally opinionated as I will ever get on this blog. Both politics and morals bug people so I don't want a lot of it here. I guess Nathan just opened the flood gates today and I had more to say about it then I thought. Again, these are my own personal thoughts and I tend to think differently then a lot of people.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sometimes I feel like a fool

Song I'm listening to right now: Set Fire to the Rain by Adele

        Sometimes I want to be an accomplished writer so badly I can feel the strain in my veins. Everyday, there is nothing like the high I get off reading an incredible article or blog post that excites me about some aspect of writing or publishing. I've become such a book blog junkie because of it. Ask me the states about book sales last March compared to last year at that time, I know it. Where to find book recommendations for gifts? I know. What did Kurt Vonnegut say about writing? I'll show you.

   I say all this not to brag because, frankly, it's common knowledge and there are millions of people more knowledgeable than I on anything I may think I know, but to wonder aloud if knowing all of these things actually helps or hinders when comes to the actual writing.

 Sometimes I sit down to write and feel like such a fool. As though this vast knowledge is sitting on my shoulder and suddenly Stephen King's voice rings out: "description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's!" Bah, I cross out the few lines that are too telling. I scratch around a bit more then a list unrolls of the Top Twenty Beginnings Every Agents Hates and there is mine, number eight. Cross out. And on and on. Sometimes I wonder if knowing too much kills imagination. Actually, I think it does.

     But there is the other side of it. Looking back on my old MSs and old drafts I am so glad there was reasoning that stopped me from continuing on in a vein that so did not work for that story. (Or, did I kill it before I had time to figure out what would have worked instead?)

      Sometimes I want to be an accomplished writer so badly it makes my head hurt. Sometimes I have to dig deep in order to keep persevering. Sometimes I need someone to remind me that I CAN write decently. Sometimes I wish there was something else out there-easier-that happened to be my life's passion, something other than writing. Sometimes I wish all these nap times I give up, the staying up late while everyone else is in bed, the weekends spent in the library writing instead of playing would automatically translate to luck that slips under my door and breathes life into my pages guaranteeing the success of my hard-won novel.

   But when it comes down to it, what matters most is the hard work I put into my novel. Then everything else will come into play. Maybe when I want it to, maybe later. Perhaps I've hindered myself by researching too much about the craft and maybe I've stuffed my brain with facts no one but a handful of others would be interested in knowing rather than absorbing the life experiences around me that would make my characters and situations better. But in the end I've got to believe that it will help me. That all these wrong turns where logic has dictated a better story has been for my betterment. That all these voices shouting out to me has helped and not hindered.  I guess it's what I will keep telling myself until I publish or take my stories to the grave. Hopefully the first, and maybe then YOU can tell me if I am found wanting despite what I think I know.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Love Lists

Song I'm listening to right now: Dream by Priscilla Ahn

Love List: Birthdays. Check.

     If I may be so bold, Stephanie Perkins is a rock star writer. Her debut novel Anna and the French Kiss is one of the best YA ones out there IMHO. It's made up of all the best parts, you know, the parts you always skip to in a story. AND the book is all about falling in love in Paris with a British guy ::swoon:: But I digress..

    Stephanie Perkins is a rock star writer. So when I read a post about "Love Lists" I was intrigued. Basically, every time you're starting a new project you list all the things you love about this new story. It helps you 1) stay excited during the heck, physical and emotional torture, living nightmare drafting process. And 2) it provides a loose guide of what ideas you should be building up as you writer (genius, people). At the end of her post she says:

  "If you keep a list of ideas in your novel that make you proud, you will CREATE a novel that makes you proud."

   How wise is that? As I've been drafting this story of mine I keep searching for the "be all, end all, golden goose" of a storyline. I had myself convinced for so long that everything had to click right into place or the entire thing had  to be re-written. What I've been looking for so long is a formula. Instead of whipping everything together from scratch and CREATING a beautiful novel, I was searching for something to make it "perfect". This week I've realized that that "perfect" formula isn't out there; that no matter how many new beginnings I write, it's the characters that drive the story, the suspense that makes the reader turn pages, a strong back boned plot, and a fresh voice that makes a story "perfect".

   So I'm trying my hand at a love list. I've never made a love-list about a book before. I have made these kinds of love lists:

   My Celebrity Crushes:
   Brad Pitt
   George Clooney  (I'm afraid you'll never find them on my list. Good looking yes, but not my type.)
   Johnny Depp
   Tom Hardy
   David Bowie in The Labyrinth tights and all.

   Things I Love: 
    ice cream
    summer nights
    live concerts
    driving with the windows down
    snuggling in a down comforter

 My Book Love List:

 death personified
 magical abilities with your hands
 a wonderland forest
 creatures that live in flowers
 a ghost district
 a shape shifter posed as a neighbor lady
 creatures from dreams running loose
 beautiful chiffon dresses
 a secret room
 a transporting cloak

It doesn't help me a dang way of how to now construct such a fabulous sounding story but I think the two reasons Stephanie listed are valuable in creating a story you have enthusiasm for. Which is what (us) readers are really looking for....something that wraps itself around our brains like hazy cashmere transporting us to another world while a little hand breaks through to our hearts and makes us feel.

For the whole post read HERE. It's on Natalie Whipple's blog..a writer whose debut novel I am SO eager to read next year. So also speaks straight to struggling writers so check out her blog for shizzle.



Thursday, July 5, 2012

You Can't Just "Kill Your Darlings"

All I have to say about the second article in my post yesterday is that it is one of the most influential articles on my writing thus far. Which surprises me because I've read the usual standbys-On Writing by Stephen King, The Elements of Style, the Paris Review interviews, NYTimes articles, Huffington Post articles on advice from writers etc-. And maybe it's because this article wasn't so much on how to craft your book but literally how to write productively. The number one rule for how to be a writer is WRITE. So, logically I guess I see why this article was so profound to me.

   I guess I should confess, too, that one of my hardest battles in writing is maintaining direction. I have so many "drafts" clouding up my hard drive and sitting in piles under my desk, in my room, in the corner, etc.. It's so frustrating to have a few hours a day (usually at great sacrifice of sleep esp for a pregnant gal) and to write a sizable amount of text only to realize at the end of the day that my character wouldn't react that way or that I've spent too much time on world building and no action. I know any writing done is helpful but I can't help but feel that at that point, looking back, the day and sacrifice made to write was a waste. Because at the end of the week when I've gotten 10,000 or however many words and lack of planning or direction cuts them all, it's like running a treadmill but never loosing a pound.

  So what I've taken from the article is that I need to be more methodical. Not to squelsh the ole inspiration and creativity but that if I want to write "for real" (and that is the goal here) that maybe too much creedence is given to "inspirational flow" and " writing from the well" and more emphasis needs to be placed on structure and intelligent examination of a WIP. And that when that happens, the rest will follow and be allowed to thrive.

 To tell a story well, the popular phrase is you have to "kill your darlings". But more than that, you've really got to look at how you're going to do it, why you are and what is the best build-up to get there so that your reader is absolutely hooked when you do it.

 In closing, here is one of my new favorite songs/writing inspirations that I've listened to a gazillion times this week:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

2 Writing Articles to Note

I read two articles this week that I think every aspiring advanced writer should take a look at.The first one is from the NYTimes about how one book a year (which so many notable authors have publicly commented on as being very difficult to do. Unless you're James Patterson who had part in releasing 13 novels last year.) just doesn't cut it anymore and that you should be producing at least two/year and or supplementing your work. Read the article Here

   I do agree that getting your books out in front of people more often will increase your sales. That's why James Patterson does what he does. Every time you walk into a bookstore I guarantee you see one of his books in the front of the store because of how many new releases he sells per year. That's on purpose, people.

    The article also references how other authors are supplementing their major works with small stories or snippets in the off-publishing time. The reason for this, according to the article, is because in the e-book age readers are hungering for and expect more from their favorite authors than the traditional one book a year. I'm not sure I agree with that exactly.

      I do lust for the sequel of a favorite book and to read more from favorite authors so I get that part of it. But I don't know if this idea of having to publish more to be successful is reader driven. I think current media has allowed more direct contact between authors and readers allowing un-traditional publishing protocol to exist. Like publishing shorts in between your novels or chapters of unfinished works on blogs etc. The traditional publishing mode is generally seeing your work 1-2 years after a publisher has accepted it and before this modern media rush they were largely in charge of all promotional marketing. Now, authors have really had to take the reins on Twitter, blogs, facebook etc to get themselves out there which is where they idea of More! More! comes from I think.

  There are so many books coming out all the time, no reader could ever read them all. I've never had a problem supplementing my reading with a lot of these other books I'm excited about while waiting for the next book of my favorite author. I haven't heard a lot of grumbling from readers seriously complaining of the wait either.

 Although I will say, I believe self-publishing is different. The more book you can get out there the more money you should make (if you're good and are lucky) and the more changes of readers finding you in the swamp of self-published works. Amanda Hocking had 8 books out one year which launched her to success. Joe Konrath has many, many more than that out now. That's why they make so much at it. I do not think they could at one book per year.

   What are your thoughts? Am I behind the times? Should I be demanding more of my authors? Or this, with self-publishing and how you can literally write a novel one week and publish it the next, are people not caring about content as much as getting the next fix from their author? Even if it means sacrificing quality?

 Which brings me to the next post that has thoroughly enlightened me. I think this one is for more advanced writers, those who have been around the block a time or two and looking to take their writing to a new level.

Original post by Rachel Aaron here

It's gotten a lot of talk from authors such a Holly Black who had an excellent post on the topic you can find on her blog. As this post is already lengthy enough, I'll be back tomorrow with my take on it and eager to hear yours! 

Monday, July 2, 2012

You Can't Force Your Luck

I'm writing a novel. It's a fantastic novel that dips it's toes into magic and wades into fantasy. In my mind, it is great but when it comes out on paper it's something else. Maybe it's like when someone gives birth; for 9 months you imagine this child and what they could be like or what they could possibly look like. And then you see him/her in front of you and you realize that they have their own personality independent of you. That they have semblances of you in their physicality but they look entirely like their own self with a face never seen before. That no matter how long you wished or dreampt or thought of this creation, in the end you really have such little real influence over the creation process itself that it's better to realize this before you even  have the child. Else you'll hold on too tight, create unrealistic expectations, head down a bitter road of unrequited wants and never be fully satisfied.
    I believe if you create the time every day inspiration will know where to knock. The key is to let in that inspiration and allow the story to be its own person instead of suffocating it and twisting it and altering it to fit into your pre-concieved "outline".  This is not to say, let the story run amuk because back to our metaphor?..simile?..every baby needs constant nourishing and direction to grow properly so we should never confuse whose really in the driver's seat. But to allow ourselves to let the story come, to practice like the dickens to be able to transfer these lovely, intangible visions into words on paper, and hone the raw talent that bubbles up from within our creative psyche to become a world that others can see and feel and hear.

   This morning I woke up two hours too early and tried to think up a better beginning of my story. My brain got twisted up like my sheets that no matter how many ways I bundled them, scrunched them, flattened them etc I could not get comfortable. This is a post to remind myself that the things we want most usually come after diligent hard work and persistence but also a bit of relinquishing the reins to allow Karma, intuition, luck and everything else good to come our way.

Why We Should Write

(from by Toni McGee Causey)
    Somewhere, there is a woman, sitting in a room, three days past a rape. Her bruises are turning purple and in a few more days, they're going to be that greenish hue of ghouls. She hasn't looked in a mirror, yet, but the swelling is starting to abate, and she can open her jaw without the execrable pain. The screaming is almost entirely in her head, now. The stitches hurting her remind her she's alive and she's not really sure why people keep telling her that, as if that's a good thing. She's not sure she wants to be. There's been just enough time to get past the initial shock, the stunned chaotic business of having lost any sense of strength in the face of the world. She has had just enough time to be processed, and there should be a stamp for her forehead: file # 56449A221. 

Oh, people have been caring. They have been very professionally caring. All of the people, scads of them. They have been very careful not to touch her or move too fast. Everyone is diligent about addressing her respectfully, using her name, always making sure she feels like an individual. She can see it, see in their eyes how she is now different. The opposite of the person on the other side of the desk, where there are things like strength and weapons and confidence. 

And right now, she is finally alone, though the moat around her has turned into an ocean, and the screaming, it just keeps on coming. For a few minutes, not having to deal with anyone else is good. A relief. But then there is the silence, and in the silence, it all happens again. She cannot close her eyes, because it's all happening. Again. She cannot talk to someone, because the screaming will break free. Or the tears. Either may kill her. 

She needs. Needs. To be somewhere else, other than here. Other than this thing she's become. Needs to be able to step outside of her skin for a little while. Maybe a long long time. 

She's going to go to her bookcase and pick up something. Maybe it's something where the woman kicks someone's ass. Maybe it's one where the good guy wins. Or the DA is brilliant. Or the girl comes of age and has confidence. Whatever it is, she gets to step outside of the bruises and the cuts and the broken bones for a little while. She gets to live a different ending. A different beginning. Have a safe place to be. And somehow, maybe, have a little hope that this thing, too, will pass. 
Write a story for her.


Somewhere, there is a man, sitting in a hospital room. His wife has cancer, and he's been there, every day, before and after work. Except now, he can be there full-time, since he's lost his job. He's spent days seeking help, trying to find a way to keep her there, to make sure she has the care she needs, when all of his benefits are gone. He's filled out more paperwork in this one week than he's done in a lifetime, and only barely understands half of what they've told him, if that. 

He'll try to get a second mortgage for the house. Sell off the second car, trade his in for something cheaper. The savings--such as it is, there's not much with two kids--is gone. The retirement will go next, and that might last a month, at this rate. They don't qualify yet for any sort of Medicare or help. His sister is at his house, boxing up stuff to sell. Doing it while the kids are at school, so they don't see.

The screaming is almost entirely in his head, now. The anger, the rage, the helplessness. His wife's asleep, and sleep is so rare with the pain she's in, he can't risk turning on the TV. She's been in too much pain for him to leave the room, though.

He's lost. He sees it in the eyes of the nurses, sees it in the eyes of the administrator. The woman running the accounts payable office.  He's become this other thing, this person he doesn't know, and right now, for a little while, he needs. Needs. To be somewhere else but here. Someone else but him.

He'll slump down in the God-awful chair they have in the room, punching a pillow that one of the orderlies found for him, and he'll crack open that favorite paperback he grabbed on his way out the house this morning. For a little while, he gets to be a hero. He gets to fight crime or solve problems, save the world or save the girl. For a little while, he gets to have hope.

Write a story for him.

A lot of people in the industry are scared right now--things look bleak. If you're pushing through NaNoWriMo or that draft on deadline or beginning a new project, you may be at that part of the process where you're feeling exhausted--or scared to begin. Writer fatigue and fear are hard to combat in the face of a lot of bad news, and especially hard to slug it out when it looks like the possibility of selling is dwindling to nothing.

And this, ironically, is when we need story the most.

Story-telling has been around for millennia for a reason--we need to connect. We need to both transport somewhere other than our own daily circumstances and to connect to others, to know that someone out there understands us. Understands our fears, our desires. We need to escape, without physically abandoning our family and friends. Stories do that. We need the hope, the connection, the dream. 

Write a story for us.