the last dance

(with 2 bonus sweater-destroying illustrations!)

I’ve had a blast with this blog. It began accidentally in January 2010, with this post on Two Rules of Storytelling. I wasn’t after a blog; what I really wanted was a website. I thought I needed one, so that droves of literary agents and editors could find me and request my stuff. (This happened…once. And I still consider myself lucky for it.) And while exploring website options I found WordPress, and the rest, as they say, blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah. That’s what I’ve felt like lately. For some reason, nearly four years later, it’s stopped being fun. I took some time off, hoping to be recharged and work up really cool things to share, but instead, as that month wore on, I got more and more stressed out, worried about what I would say. There isn’t anything to say.

Or is there?

When faced with the prospect of writing a “Fare Thee Well, Blog” post, I’m feeling a little panicked. Unsure. Do I really want to say goodbye? Leave my site up with a static front page explaining who I am & please, by all means, browse the archives, but I’m leaving the dance floor? Can I give up Colonel Shifty and my Microsoft Paint illustrations?

sweater 5

Well, that’s the thing. I don’t have to. I’m blogging every couple of weeks at the YA Muses, a fantastic site with regular writing themes and the occasional “open topic” weeks, with eleven different voices to keep things fresh. And I can always nip back into this blog and post news or Colonel Shifty illustrations.

I’m constantly whining about not having enough time for my fiction, and Maverick’s naps aren’t getting any longer. Letting go of this blog will free up more time, allow me to focus a little better. I’ll still be checking in on everyone else. If you haven’t already, feel free to subscribe by email so that if I decide to dance this bloggy dance again, you’ll know.

I love you all. Thanks for reading. Have a great new year.

Friday Five: Beta Bliss

1. I’m beta-reading a book that I like so much, I’m cranky I have to take time out to write this blog post at all. Seriously, the beta reads I’ve done in the past year? Really enjoyable. Friends, keep writing fab books, because you’re making the “work” part of critiquing, well, less like work!

2. The Mentalist – Homes and I are addicted. Or wait. Were addicted. Because we breezed through the DVDs of Season 5 in, like, a week. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and wondering what is it about annoying detective-types? Columbo, Patrick Jane, Richard Castle, the guy in Lie to Me, the guy in The Finder, the doctor in Bones. Sherlock Holmes! Gone are the hard-boiled detectives with the checkered pasts…actually, this isn’t a new thing at all. Take a quirky person, give him or her a mystery to solve, and watch how those quirks put a new spin on solving the same question over and over: who killed the dead person?

3. I’ve been feeling super lucky this week – a shiny new idea for a novel (see more below), the way-fun beta read, and an awesome contact to talk about 1950s Hawaii with. It’s incredible how kind and generous this woman is, exchanging emails with a total stranger about random personal facts. Now if I can just find someone to tell me the exact dates of the Makaha International Surfing Championship in the winter of 1956/57, I’ll be good to go. (That’s a lie. I need about twenty or thirty other questions answered. But one thing at a time. One thing at a time.)

4. The Shiny New Idea! And National Novel Writing Month! They happen to very nearly coincide, which is a first. I never thought I’d do NaNoWriMo, because what are the chances that I’ll be in a place where I can start a new project right at the beginning of November? It has finally happened, so I’m going to join the insanity next month. I’m nervous, because it sounds like a recipe for frustration. I get most of my writing done during Maverick’s naps, while Z is in school. But in November she has seven days off (five for Thanksgiving, one for Veteran’s Day, and then an inservice day). Worst-case scenario is I don’t “win” NaNoWriMo, so I don’t have 50,000 words. But I bet I come close, which is better than nothing, n’est-ce pas?

curiosities5. For awhile I was on a short-story kick, and that seems to have passed. This makes me a little sad, almost nostalgic for that month of short stories. This last time I was inspired by reading The Curiosities by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff. Whenever I put the book down, it seemed I had a new idea to write about – it was incredibly energizing. Maybe after I finish my NaNo novel, I can read through The Curiosities again.

three gophers - one dressed as a surfer, one with a blond ponytail holding cash, and one dressed as a witch

Battle of the Protagonists

Let’s just assume it is normal for a writer to have her characters talking inside her head. I’m not saying this happens to me…okay, fine, it does. But it’s usually limited to conversations between the characters within a single book. Awhile ago I got to wondering what would happen if my various main characters met each other and compared notes on how I’m treating them.

This probably won’t be funny to anyone except me. And that’s okay. If I can’t entertain myself, what’s the point of doing this anymore?

July 2012

INT. A TRAVELING PET SPA

Amalia, a privileged witch, smiles smugly at Ari, a teen entrepreneur from a working-class background.

AMALIA

I suppose you’ll have to wait a little while longer for your story to be revised.

ARI

What? But…but she promised.

AMALIA

Well, my story’s further along. It takes priority.

ARI

You sanctimonious little b–

August 2012

EXT. FLOODED WAR ZONE OUTSIDE STONE CITY WALLS

Amalia skips past, wielding a flaming ball of magicky something-or-other.

AMALIA

Never mind. My book’s done now!

ARI

FINALLY. It’s my turn!

January 2013

EXT. SMALL-TOWN CITY HALL

Ari’s shaking her fist at the miniature dog fountain when Annie shows up with a surfboard. Annie leans her surfboard against the dog fountain, which promptly tips over.

ANNIE

Hi!

ARI

Who are you?

ANNIE

I’m Annie. I’m in the next project.

ARI

What is it with the A names?

ANNIE

I don’t know about you, but my name totally fits me and my time period. I’m historical.

ARI

Actually you’re a little too present, cutting in to my time. I should be completely revised at this point.

ANNIE

It’s not my fault your story’s unmarketable and weird.

ARI

Unmarketable? Unmarketable? Oh, I guess you’d know all about that, Miss Historical-Novel-In-Verse.

ANNIE

At least I’m not completely wackadoodle. And I don’t hit people.

ARI

I don’t hit people. Much. Besides, you hit someone!

ANNIE

Yes, but my reasoning was dark and dramatic. Yours is because you feel like it.

ARI

I kinda feel like it now. Come a little closer.

October 2013

EXT. BALMY HAWAIIAN BEACH, MONSTER WAVES IN BACKGROUND

ANNIE

I’m nearly in draft 3 and she’s still going strong!

ARI

(sobs) I’m in Draft 480 and she still isn’t done with me!

END

Ink by Amanda Sun

ink

Holy rats how did it get to be Friday?!

It’s been ages since I reviewed a book, but when NetGalley offered a YA by an author I met through Miss Snark’s First Victim, of course I had to snatch it up. Well, as much as one can “snatch up” an ebook. They’re not very, ya know, physically there. Still readable, though! And this one was. Very readable.

The set-up: After the death of her mother, Katie Greene goes to live with her aunt in Japan. She feels marginalized as a gaijin, or foreigner, because of her blond hair and clumsiness with the language and social norms. Much of that discomfort takes a back seat when she meets Tomohiro, the bad boy whose drawings are a little more than two-dimensional.

Main character’s goals: Throughout the first half of the book, Katie wants to get back to North America – a place where she knows the language and feels comfortable. Her more immediate goal, however, is figuring out Tomohiro and what causes his drawings to be so unique.

My reaction: I was insanely curious how the author would handle juggling the language. It’s an English book, but most of the dialogue happens in Japanese…but it’s in English. And it totally worked. Sun strategically placed Japanese phrases and exclamations so that I’d remember the speech was happening in Japanese…without having to read (or know) Japanese.

And hello! What a gorgey cover!

Of interest to writers: Setting. Setting setting setting. This relates to the dialogue in part – I was able to feel a part of things when I was included in the language, but even more engaging was the total immersion in another culture and place. Katie’s the perfect gateway character to the setting, because it’s new to her as well.

Bottom line: A unique & edgy paranormal with a sweet, believable romance. And blossoms raining down from cherry trees.

To visit Amanda Sun’s blog, click here.

SilverReminds me of: Silver by Talia Vance, for its unique take on an old mythology.


5 Reasons Why Writers Shouldn’t Drive

Woo! Back from my Social Media Blackout. It was very refreshing. While I’m happy to be back and check in with people, I’m coming away from this with a definite desire to set more limits on my social media use.

A comment a writer friend made got me thinking of…this. Blech. Let’s just jump in, shall we?

1. Fictional Worlds I.

You may think the writer present, noting details about her surroundings. This happens on occasion. But writers are often off in alternate realities. Another time, another place. With other people. Figuring out a plot issue, or having imaginary conversations with talkative characters (SHUT UP!). Suddenly the writer has missed several turns. She finds herself somewhere in Canada when she was trying to get to the corner store (in California) for chocolate.

2. Fictional Worlds II.

There is another, more secret kind of fictional world experienced by that of the writer (indeed, of any daydreamer). That of the fame and fortune that will, of course, inevitably be given the writer upon completion of her book. Imagining various scenarios in which she will be interviewed, how she will spend her humongous paychecks, where in Italy she plans to buy the villa – these thoughts are known to especially distract the writer whilst she drives to whatever mundane location happens to be on the day’s itinerary.

3. The Big Idea.

Ever have a sudden bolt of inspiration that just MUST NOT BE FORGOTTEN? I have. Usually when I’m drifting off to sleep, taking a shower, or driving down the highway. It’s pretty easy to deal with. You stop what you’re doing, grab a pen and paper, and jot down the big idea (or super important rhyming couplet, as was a recent case for me). When driving, this is very important: PULL OVER FIRST. Sometimes pulling over isn’t possible. In which case you’re stuck either a) trying to fumble for a pen and paper and write something legible while driving 70 miles per hour (NOT RECOMMENDED), or b) repeating the bit of dialogue (or rhyming couplet) to yourself over and over until a proper pull-over place is found (NOT FUN BUT BETTER THAN DYING).

4. Words.

Words can be a problem. Specifically, for me, certain traffic directives can either totally get on my nerves, and/or provide more than a years’ worth of imagined debates. Take, for instance, SPEED LIMIT 25 WHEN CHILDREN ARE PRESENT. It’s so ambiguous! Where do the children have to be, to be considered “present”? On the street? Behind the fences at the school? In their houses? In my car? Also, if you see a child, you slow to 25, I was told. What if the 25 mph zone continues for quite some time but there are NO other children? Can you speed up again? People frequently do. My latest beef with that particular directive is I’m trying to grammatically figure out if I have to slow down when there is only one kid. Child. Singular. Or if I have to see two kids (children, plural, as the sign says) before I must slow to 25. Either I’m distracted by the words themselves, or trying to convince an imaginary traffic cop, judge, or my sheriff brother of why I did the right thing. (Lest anyone think I’m an irresponsible driver, let me assure you: if I see a kid, I slow to 25 until I’m all the way through the school zone, end of story. I just like to argue with myself…and the people in my head.)

5. The Thoreauian Desire.

Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a project, or trying to work out a  plot problem, and I just know that if I could get away for a couple days and have total solitude, I could get the thing figured out. It’s sometimes a real danger that on a solo trip to Target, I might take the freeway by mistake and wind up in a nice hotel two towns over with my cell phone turned off. This hasn’t happened…yet. Cancun is also a real possibility. I bet there are margaritas there.

(Total sidenote: Does anyone else ever feel like a total cheater when referencing classic novels they have not, and never intend to, read?)

Dabbling

Last week’s post on piano-playing and success is still swirling around in my brain.

How many hobbies have I had?

  • Piano
  • Jewelry-making
  • Tennis
  • Rock-climbing
  • Painting
  • Fortune-telling (I was nine. My “crystal ball” was a marble.)
  • Embroidery and sewing

I’m certain I’ve forgotten some.

Writing used to be a hobby. Now I try to think of it as work, although that’s difficult when nobody’s ever paid me for it (a short story will be published and paid for soon, though!)

In looking over that list, I feel the familiar itch. Most of the supplies and gear necessary for those hobbies are in closets or the garage or the Love Shack (aka Writing Studio aka Guest Room). With enough time on my hands, I could create a new bracelet, or force my feet into the toe-bending climbing shoes. With the exception of fortune-telling, each of those hobbies are things I’d love to do, right at this moment.

But I had to make some choices, because I was dabbling. Dabbling in so many things meant I wasn’t getting good at any of them, and remember, writing used to be a hobby. I felt like if I wanted to be good at something, I had to sacrifice some of those other things, because I just don’t have the time to be good at all of them. It’s not possible – at least  not for me, not right now.

I chose writing. Maybe once Maverick starts school, or maybe even before that, I’ll find some time and energy for one or two of those other things. I mean, I wish, I hope it can be that way. Can I do them all? I don’t know the answer to that question. Because I still want to be a good mom and a good wife and while I don’t need to excel in each of those hobbies, some of them aren’t as much fun if I totally suck.

Is the choice really: dabble in many, or excel in a select few? Anybody want to weigh in with some advice?

NaNoWhateverMo

Last week’s whiny and meandering post had a lot to do with a writing funk I’ve been in. There’s so much I want to do and so little time, blah blah blah, and I found myself paralyzed. This week, however, I FOUND THE SOLUTION! (Repeat that with manic abandon. Go on, do it, you’ll feel good.)

Ever-Suffering Writer Mama: [on the phone with Homes] I did it! I FOUND THE SOLUTION!

Homes: To what?

ESWM: To my malaaaaaise. I FOUND THE SOLUTION!

Homes: By the tone of your voice, I can only guess the solution was crack.

ESWM: Hahahahaha! No! The solution is…

Homes:

ESWM: [sighs] The solution is a LIST!

And Homes, bless him, didn’t even snark. He just said: Huh. It’s been awhile since you used a list.

Because he knows me.

Why did neither of us think of this? Whenever I’m bummed or in a funk, all I’ve got to do is write up a list of tasks (writing-, housework-, or exercise-related) and start working on them. As soon as I cross off the first item, it’s like MAGIC. I feel accomplished, productive, and a hundred times more beautiful.

Because I’d been paralyzed and listless (haha! Get it? That was totally an accident) and focusless in writing, I made a list of writing tasks. And because everyone else is doing NaNoWriMo but I don’t even want to try, I’m doing my own version: NaNoWhateverMo. Each of the tasks is fiction-related, some of it drafting, some of it craft-learning, and a lot of it revising. I get to work on two different projects. The tasks are small enough that I can finish them in an hour or less.

NaNoWhateverMo: Thirty Fiction Tasks in Thirty Days

  1. Do GMC (Goal-Motivation-Conflict) for TR
  2. Do plot points for TR
  3. Re-map ATRS with index cards (um, already started this one. It takes WAY longer than an hour. Days.)
  4. Write synopsis of TR
  5. Rewrite opening of ATRS
  6. Maass workbook exercise on character for TR
  7. Freewrite how to make big moments bigger for ATRS
  8. Rewrite a big moment for ATRS
  9. Maass workbook exercise for ATRS
  10.  Rewrite another big moment for ATRS
  11. Write scene for TR
  12. Write scene for TR
  13. 3 pages freewriting on TR
  14. Put new structure for ATRS in Scrivener
  15. Write new scene for ATRS
  16. Brainstorm new ATRS ending ideas
  17. Rewrite a big moment in ATRS
  18. Maass workbook exercise for ATRS
  19. Maass workbook exercise for TR
  20. Write scene for TR
  21. Write scene for TR
  22. Scene/character chart for Jameson
  23. Read how-to chapter on synopses
  24. Write ATRS synopsis
  25. Write new ATRS scene
  26. Write scene for TR
  27. Maass workbook exercise for TR
  28. Write scene for TR
  29. Rewrite a big moment in ATRS
  30. Add Maass exercise stuff to ATRS Scrivener file

I’ll try to post progress on Twitter…but notice social networking is NOT on the list. With limited time, we’ve got to prioritize, and writing wins. Anyone else skittish about NaNoWriMo and wanting to commit to something a little less intense?