Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Requisite Thoughts on Banned Thoughts and Otherwise Related Books



I posted a snarky comment elsewhere on this subject, and felt bad. Thought I should follow up with more explanation as to why I tend to be cynical about BANNED BOOKS.

I think it works out to be something centered around the picture right here. If you look at that picture, you see an elderly, well-dressed, conservative looking guy with his thumb down. And that tends to be the public view of BOOK BANNERS. Though sometimes, it might be a barefoot housewife with a pickle face giving the adventurous and forward thinking world a thumbs down.

Going further, I'm thinking the majority of people complaining about book banners and censorship are people who are either pushing an agenda (for whatever reason) or who need that agenda to succeed so they can get their books into school libraries and into the hands of more readers without parents blowing a head gasket. Admittedly, I probably am part of that group that wants to cash in. I have a couple books which are aimed at older teens, which may or may not have edgy material still when I get to the final draft. If you ever looked over the submission guidelines for Christian publishers or agents, I would be rejected on every point. And I'm sure the anti-fantasy anti-witchcraft people would be after me too. So I am riding the coattails of the movement too.

These same people have no problems turning around and censoring other people who do not agree with their ideas, or who push an alternative agenda. In my snarky comment, I said that people should go out and buy Sarah Palin's book. Why? Because I realize that books such as her book (I don't remember the name except it had 'Rogue' in it) would never be allowed anywhere near a school library, if you left it up to some of these people fussing about BANNED BOOKS week.

It just gets silly for that reason - and it's the reason why I tend to scoot away fast and avoid the argument in general.

Though if you press me for an opinion on what people should do, or the stance they should take -

USE YOUR OWN JUDGEMENT

While I still won't read certain books banned by my parish priest (Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter), not because I believe there is any harm, just because I'm not into the books themselves, I might pick up other books whether they are on a list or not - because I'm an adult and I read what I want. This may include YA books which may have gay characters - if the plot and protagonist appeals to me, not because I feel like I'm a bigger person than that biblethumper over there because I'm reading a book with gay characters.

If we are talking about books that I would personally ban for my children (not that I have any), I would probably list books which have content they aren't ready for. As their parent, I'm the person who knows them best. That means I won't buy them books that are too much, and I don't want anyone else forcing them to read stuff that are too much. As I went through the whole thing myself as an avid reader, I know that when they are ready, the books will be there in the public library. Or they will borrow my books. :P

If you have a common sense and normal teaching relationship with your kids, you won't ever feel like you have to keep a blindfold over their eyes to protect them. I'm really glad my parents handled my education that way. Seriously. Mom was the one who was eager to discuss sex with all her daughters ASAP. And she shared her books.
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Judging a book by its cover...





This has nothing to do with writing - and admittedly, I'm pausing between writing mere sentences over here to browse the blog things to the right side of my page. YA New York, Interview with Alma Alexander.

Alma is the author of those three bizarre looking books above.

If you’ve been reading the Worldweavers series up until now, you know that our heroine, Thea, was long considered to be a magical dunce. In her world, where magical talent is the norm for humans, Thea showed no aptitude for the arts until she was shipped off to Wandless Academy. At that point it became apparent that she’s not only a magician, but a rare powerful one, whose talent lies in the supposedly un-magical area of computers.


This sounds like something I might read... well, with reserve. I'm of that generation that finds computers to be functional and frustrating but not necessarily magical, and it would take a lot to convince me otherwise. Of course this series might do the job.

If only I could get past the covers...

Does anyone else do that? They see a plot that appeals to them, but then they blah-out when they see the covers? It reminds me of a poll that somebody did a while back about fantasy covers and what percentage of fantasy covers contained X. I guess these covers count because they have a glowy thing. Still it could be verging on scifi, because the glowy thing has electrical streaks ensuing from the girls/creepy robot face. I'm very suspicious of the plot - particularly as it has two scifi mainstays: computers and Tesla.

RANDOM: Prestige is one of my favorite movies, but I HAD NO IDEA THAT DAVID BOWIE PLAYED TESLA! I find that so bizarre!

Randomlocal: Watched the news at my dentist appointment (2.5 hours with my mouth propped open, my jaw is angry, very angry). The 1984 Detroit Tigers team is celebrating something - I wasn't paying close enough attention to that part. I was too busy staring at them. I grew up idolizing those guys! And they looked OLD! Cryptkeeper old. My goodness.
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The difference between YA and MG

Please trot over to MiG Writers, mg-vs-ya fiction to read an awesome defining post that should settle out some of the confusion that a lot of writers (even experienced/published ones have about where the genre lines are drawn).

First of all - I didn't realize that MG can be as little as 20,000 words. Then again, the genre includes stuff for kids between ages 8-12. Some of those books that I was thinking about would be for upper MG (11-14) and those would likely be the longer word counts. Whereas, I know I've seen a lot of MG books that average 20,000-40,000. I know the reason why too (duh) - when I was younger, I'd judge books by their cover and their size. If the books were too thin, I didn't bother with them, because I was limited as to how many books I could take out of the library on one visit and I didn't want to waste 'a book' on something I could read in one half-hour sitting.

When I was much younger (8-9), I had the same basic idea - except I didn't like books that were too thick or the print was too small. A happy size would have been the Goosebumps books. Thick enough and big print.

My younger brother was a little different because he had some kind of reading disability. Basically, he had to read the print aloud in order to comprehend. Or his comprehension was tied in to hearing the words. If something was too thick or the print was too small - then the book was a pass for him.

But I digress!

Back to that blog post - I think it's something that a lot of writers get really confused and frustrated about. Let's say, you want to write a YA novel, and you get people (crit partners, not the agents yet) complaining about the total word count or the age of the characters, or the content.

I know, speaking for myself, I've done the opposite! When reading something labeled as MG, I kinda get twitchy when I see the protagonist is 8 yrs old and the novel is the standard 40,000 words. To me, that isn't going to work. Maybe I'm still right. *is conflicted*

Two things from the blog post that stood out to me as important to remember - w/regards to the themes in your novel:

Children in the primary grades are still focused inward, and the conflicts in their books reflect that. While themes range from friendship to school situations to relationships with siblings and peers, characters are learning how they operate within their own world.


Then YA -

They begin to step outside themselves and see how they influence, and are influenced by, the larger world. They go beyond their backyard and encounter adult problems for the first time.


Then I thought that this was pretty cool:

Adrienne Kress says that pretty much anything is allowed in YA as long as the book adheres to the following rules:

1. The main character has to be a teenager.

2. The plot must have something to do with coming of age.

Her theory is that YA is actually a new genre, and that YA years ago was actually MG.


There is more to the blog than quoted here. Definitely worth checking out (if you haven't already on your own).

Personally speaking -

The difference comes down to:

1. Age of the protagonist
2. Themes
3. Word Count

SO -

1. I've always been told that the protagonists in MG are generally in the 9-14 range. You don't want to go older or younger.

2. As quoted above, themes for a MG novel are slightly different than YA. It is more discovery of self worth and connection to family and friends, and whatever goal that the kid has at the time. This could be my favorite - winning the gold at the Olympics (I hearted the Silver Blades skating books). MG CAN DEFINITELY have boyfriends or girlfriends (as Silver Blades did), but it should be 'sweet romance'.

3. No more than 50,000 - even though it obviously depends on the project. HP started out as a MG novel.

Writing update from weekend = NONE!

I feel better today than I did on Friday when sister went MIA (ran away with boyfriend who then proceeded to write illiterate epistles to my parents admonishing them for worrying about their daughter and ripping into her siblings, because sister apparently had slandered us to boyfriend. Well either that or his little feelings were hurt because I point blank told sister that I didn't like him) and I started feeling these mystery flu symptoms. Considering I'm my dad's daughter - by mid-Saturday, I had a thermometer close at hand and was routinely checking my temperature for fever spikes. I was seriously convinced I had the Swine Flu!

Problem with detecting a fever - I have no idea what a fever is for me. My normal temperature is generally low as in 96.0F. So if I have a 98.0 temperature, it could feel like a fever. But technically not alarming for parents and doctors. And I wanted them to feel alarmed, dang it! *hypochondriac rage* :P

Should get writing done this week - I expect.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Your character's looks...

This topic emerged while I read the news this morning -

On abcnews.com, there is an article on the harmful effects which social habits have on aging.

This means that if you are a smoker, you are doubling your chances of vertical lines around your lips and wrinkles around your eyes. I'm guessing you have to be a longtime habitual smoker for this to happen, but definitely have noticed the 'smoker face' effect.

According to the article, smoking shrinks the blood vessels and dehydrates the skin - which is why you get those wrinkles and lines.

The other thing mentioned in the article was the effects of sun exposure on a person's face. This means that the person is more likely to have coarse dried out skin and deep lines around eyes and cheeks. Basically, this is the John Wayne effect. A lot of people I know from California either have the 'spots' or discolorations from sun exposure, or they have the squint lines around their eyes.

The article also mentioned stress and the obvious lines around the mouth and dark skin under the eyes... I tend to think stress has more effect on the eyes. The people look tired because of a sag or puff around their eyes because of lack of sleep or poor sleep patterns.

What does this have to do with writing?

I guess this is an extra bit of realism when you are building characters. People have certain 'looks' because of their genetic backgrounds. They also have certain looks because of how they live.

The abcnews.com story didn't exactly take into account the other reasons why a person would have crinkles around her eyes and mouth (squinting habit because of poor eyesight, for example), but it was still something you could well use when figuring out what your characters look like. It would add that extra bit of realism for your readers.

Friday catchup:

Lot of stress in real life as well as a lingering flu/cold/whatever have kinda killed writing-urges lately for the most part. :[

Baby sisters + obnoxious boyfriends = family hell

Did edit CH1 of UF and rewrite/nudge it quite a bit. It reads smoother. Hopefully real life stuff calms down and I can fix CH2 tomorrow.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

What you talkin' about?

Blog browsing this morning, came across Rachelle Gardiner's latest post, on pitching emotional journeys vs story. I posted my 2p there, but felt like this was an 'apt' topic for a new post, because of a revelation last night when I showed my first line of UF to the writing group. It was something like -

9th grade at St. Aggie's all-girls boarding school sucked.

The instant I posted that sentence, I cringed - because somebody who doesn't know the story will immediately be checking off a few YA cliches (Catholic school + angry at world teen + boarding school).

It gets worse when I try telling people what UF is about in a single sentence (as a logline or pitch) -

Here's my rough query that needs to be chopped down and cleaned up a LOT:


W's parents are dead, her older sister's bossy, and her youngest sister is a freak. They move together in a big old house that W doesn't remember living in before, though bossy older sister insists they did, and she begins to see ghosts. Well, mainly ONE ghost, and he's a dog.

So she's nuts. W should have expected that considering her parents went all Baroness Shraeder (sp, I know) and sent her away to boarding school where her only friend was a strango obsessed with detached dead-rabbit feet.

Thanks to oldest sister's intervention, she's now at a new school where hopefully people won't notice her whispering at invisible dogs to not pee on the English teacher's desk, even if he deserves it for killing the joy of reading and writing.

There is a guy at the school and W isn't sure how to sort her conflicted feelings about him. He's like the teenage version of her oft-dreamed rakish highwayman, but he has a reputation for playing with little Kelly dolls. Teenage boys secretly playing with Barbie dolls is - well, it's weird, but to be expected and easily blamed on raging testosterone. But Kelly dolls? Ew!

The guy, unfortunately, is her best chance at understanding why she's being followed around by a dead dog and why her new girlfriend tried to kill her in the school library with all of the books from the A-AL section.

That girlfriend is possessed by a vengeful spirit who either doesn't understand that the world is completely different than it was 7,000 years ago or doesn't care. All that matters is the spirit wants to reclaim her lost life, even if it means kidnapping a dozen children and hiding them between 'here and there', where they will linger until whatever time she decided to do the big horrible devouring ceremony.

W wants to call the police, but guy informs her that the police might put a stop to the devouring ceremony, but wouldn't be able to find the missing children. Only she - a shaman - can.

The bad news is it means she might be stuck with a lifelong job that doesn't pay and opens her up to possession and insanity, should she choose to accept it.


The logline for that vastly confusing muddle?

Um...

A shaman must stop her possessed friend from devouring children before it's too late.

Yuck.

Sweet, cheerful Kelly is possessed by a long dead evil spirit who plans to kill a bunch of kids unless Wesley with her newly discovered shamanic powers can get her act together and stop her.

Slightly better - but a mouthful and cliche territory. :[

But I didn't want to just ramble about my own work.

Rachelle's post reminded me of something that occurs to me from time to time as I read queries for friends or listen to story ideas. The worst thing evah is keeping my mouth shut sometimes, when I recognize a plot from a video game or popular movie. Having read the novels, I know that the writers did have a new and different plot. Not just that, but every writer has a different voice and has the possibility of telling you the same old story in such a way as to make you forget the original until you are looking at the very basic simplified plot. So even if a person starts with a much used skeleton of a plot... readers don't notice if you put on enough flesh, features, and clothes on it.

Yet, that isn't immediately clear when you have to strip all details out and present a dreaded logline (1 sentence) or pitch (1-3 sentences).

I guess my advice is people need to really be careful about what their logline/pitch REALLY says. They aren't just looking for (a) faithful and tidy summary or (b) something REALLY hooky. They have to consider how familiar the end product sounds.

You absolutely don't want somebody thinking that you are writing a Matrix-based novel. Or a Twilight rip off. Or yet another Lord of the Rings rip off. <- Because generally, you're NOT! But if all an agent hears is an overused theme or a formula that was used in Matrix/Twilight/LOTR, then that's what you will be accused of.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Idle Curiosity

This could be 'writing related', because I'm almost tempted to write a fun short going into the 'What if' -

Last week, I was bored and somebody left "Little Mermaid" in the DVD player. Which is exactly why I sat down and pressed play. I don't ordinarily sit down and turn on Disney cartoons and jive along to them (not that that I'd admit to it), but there is something special about Little Mermaid. It's one of those "Takes me back to my childhood" type of things. But that's besides the point.

The point as it occurred to me - the adult who obsesses about avoiding plotholes and 'duhs' in my mss - the whole point of the story is that Ariel exchanges her voice for legs. The good news is she can run around in the sand and discover what is fire and why it burns (yes, hot-romance authors/readers would have fun with that). The bad news is she can't talk to the prince and tell him She's the One, the One he's been looking for. The first suspicion is The Boy isn't going to be all that crazy about a girl he first meets wrapped in canvas and nothing else (yes, hot-romance authors/readers would have fun with that too), and that makes Ariel freak out until Ursula swings her octo-hips around and tells her to use her BODY LANGUAGE.

All good, right?

Well... see, my thing is Ariel had to sign the scroll. Which she did with a fish bone in her right hand, and according to the broadway musical, she even dotted the 'i' with a heart.

Dude.

If she could sign her name (indeed she had a prettier and more legible signature than I have), then how come she couldn't just write The Boy a letter explaining everything?

The 'what if' could take a iconic turn. Something like the usual - 'this gal is really a clever Polish worker named Anna out to gyp the entire royal family. But she says she's really our dear sweet St. Anastasia Romanov (I could be wrong, but I think she's listed as a saint in the Orthodox church)'.

Could be fun + exploration into the frailties and triumphs of human nature.

I mean, if somebody wrote you a letter claiming to be a mermaid who grew legs just so she could be with you - you'd either think that's the weirdest pickup line ever (really!) or that the dear red-haired girl, who brushes her hair with forks and has a pet miniature crab who apparently is in a zombie state after being boiled to death (unless I'm totally wrong and they ARE bright red prior to boiling), is stark raving mad.

And let's be honest - the way The Boy was set up, he probably would have patted her on the head and thought she was insane but hilariously cute. Since he hadn't laughed in months, a girl who made him laugh was a keeper.

Writing - stalled. I've been fighting off some kind of seasonal-change issue or maybe a bug. Just means I'm good to go during the day, but basically comatose in the evenings. And because I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, I'm not even doing my usual plotting/daydreams.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

#YAreaderfail

I'm a YA fan and reader failure, because I've only just discovered Maureen Johnson's blog. I might also give in to my impulses and pick up one of her books which I have been staring curiously at @ my local Borders bookstore, because she sounds like somebody I ordinarily enjoy reading. I'm behind the times!

I am not a Dan Brown hater, but I'm so tickled by her reading walkthrough of his The Lost Symbol.

Classic.

Go HERE to be amused....
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Regarding Twitter feed -

Sorry about whatever was visible of the Twitter feed. That was obviously not me.
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Who's afraid of the big bad query?

Being a member of a writing group and also because I spend (too much) time browsing the web, stalking agents, authors, and smart people, I've noticed a lot of fear and loathing concerning "The Query".

According to most people, who speak in trembling tones about the unavoidable visit to the torture room (aka the document file which has the bits and pieces of query, sometimes one or two words, that the hapless author is trying to cultivate into a query-feast), the only thing worse than a query is the synopsis.

Both abominations are the bane of the aspiring author's existence.

And supposedly - even AGENTS have to write queries and dread the chore.

Let's face it - the query is essentially a sales pitch. Something that shouldn't be a huge deal if you are a used car salesman (those amazing people who somehow work their magic on clunkers so they hold together and perform until paid for and driven off the lot).

If you are the average person who avoids having garage sales, because they hate having to sell their old stuff to neighbors and creepy strangers who are just swinging by to snoop and privately snurk at all the 'junk' - writing a sales pitch is sheer misery - especially since you realize midway that you don't know how to tell somebody what your story is about without it sounding cliche/mundane/boring/blah - or even a blatant rip off of something already out on the market!

So the first impulse is to dance around and color in the plot with all of your amazing sideplots - end result is your query is cluttered, but at least you feel confident that nobody's going to notice that your plot is mundane.

Or if you are like me - you are tempted to ambitiously exaggerate themes and create plot loops which actually aren't obvious when you read the novel itself. I'm like one of those little kids who weirdly get excited about a caterpillar on the sidewalk outside the house, but see BFF getting a glazed over look listening to the story. So to hold the BFF's attention, the caterpillar is imaginatively turned into a fire breathing dragon.

Not going to say I've got it all handled and mastered, but something that helped me get over my fear and worst impulses is merely changing my thinking. So I told myself stuff like -

*It is just a regular business letter.

*KISS (keep it simple sappy)

*Three paragraphs. Hook, plot, bio. That's it.

*You generally get to include 5 pages to distract the agent with if your query DOES sound like Aunt Lucy trying to get the neighbor to buy her flea infested couch that looks like a blotchy Hawaiian shirt.

*Follow the rules

As for how to find the hook and plot for your 90,000 word book -

One thing I did was use an old book report trick from high school.

Go step by step -

1. Go through book and write very basic chapter summaries. 1-3 lines max.
2. Use chapter summaries to write up a rough but basic book summary. Cut out the extra stuff, focus on the main thread (usually what happened to the main character and what the main character did)
3. Use that book summary to syphon out the 2-3 sentence plot summary or expand into your synopsis.
4. For your hook, look at your plot summary and synopsis and draw on the most important point of the entire novel.

That's it.

Something that I notice when I help people at writing group is they usually have a great idea and hook buried in their rough query - but it's buried with a lot of extra stuff that shouldn't be in their query. Don't mention side characters, don't bother with world building or background information in a query. Focus on main points and main characters. Just keep it simple.

When I write my queries and read/crit other people's, I'm concerned about 3 things -

*clarity of the plot
*saleability of the plot
*word counts

The middle one is only one you really can't fix without going back to the drawing board and tweaking the plot. That's the position I'm in right now with SF and NSAM.

Clarity can be solved by putting the project aside long enough for you to read your work as somebody else would. Also put your query out there for somebody (who hasn't read your novel) to review for clarity.

Word counts is an easy fix too - one trick is to do a Wordle and see which words you use the most. Most of the time, those words can be safely cut without messing up your sentences (my bad habit is 'that').

ETA: I forgot the obvious!

Because a query is a business letter, and not those quicky informal cover letter things you send with short story submissions to most online mags -

Don't forget the very first line of the query is the personal greeting. Remember there is a person on the other side. Use this first line or two to indicate why you are querying this agent. If you follow them and worship their style - tell them. If you noticed on Twitter or whatever that they are looking for X type of novels, and your novel is exactly an X type of novel - tell them. If you actually know or like the other authors the agent represents and feel you would be a good fit because you have a similar style - tell them.

This is something I argued about with friends, simply because most people have one or two dream agents on their list, and then they query anybody else because they are listed in the market book as an agent. And most agents acknowledge that they get queried by people because they are listed (they probably have been accosted enough times out on the street by weirdly folks with maddened eyes and thick manuscripts in their sweaty hands).

If you don't recognize (or even LIKE) any of the books an agent reps, but hope that the agent will take on something different (you) - it is a mistake raving about the other books. I'm just saying.

I'm also uncomfortable about comparing my work to another published work (whether repped by the agent or not). Because perception shows different things to different people. You could be WAY wrong.

A friend of mine rightfully rebuked me and suggested I try a little harder to find something edible in an agent's rep list, or be a bit more artistic in my comparisions other well known works. <- That is something I still cringe about and am working on finding a comfortable medium ground. I'm trying, because this friend had a high rate of requests because of her queries.
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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Query Basic

I see this everywhere, but it can't be repeated too much -

Q. How do you simplify a 50,000 plus word novel into a 2-3 paragraph query?

The answer according to many, but most recently per the the Query Shark:

Answer three simple questions: who's the protagonist; what choice does she face; what are the consequences of the choice. That's ALL you need.

Perfect.

***

Random thought that has nothing to do with queries, just the genre abbreviation (GBLT):

And this might be due to my tragic and frequently unrequited love for BLT Pizzas, but I'm wondering.... Am I the only person who gets confused when I read about a friend's publishing success in that genre/market?
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Mary Sue vs Zitfaced-Baldspot-College-Dropout

*grins about the title*

That was something I was thinking about while washing my mondo-oily (Mom said that all of that surplus oil stuff would stop after I got out of my teens <- I'm still waiting.) hair and staring at all of the strands of inky black hair I've temporarily stuck to the side of the shower so they're off my fingers and not going down to clog the drain, even though there are plenty of loose inky black strands clogging the drain already.

I don't have zits - fortunately THAT stopped when I got out of my teens. And so far, I don't have baldspots, though you'd think I SHOULD have a few if you could see all the hair stuck to the side of the shower. Some people have black mold problems that they must clean up before having guests over. I have to clean up all of the hair clumps or have guests thinking they stepped into a Grudge movie.

The hair loss is my body's way of dealing with stress. According to my doctor, it usually happens after the stressout or crisis has passed. Your body which had been working so hard to hold things together during the worst kinda drops out at the relief point. For me, it means shedding more than my golden retriever.

And technically I AM a college dropout - I guess. I took a few classes before I realized that I couldn't balance everything I was dealing with, without losing ALL of my hair and dying from stress. So I made a decision. Rather than quitting my full time job and selling my horse - I put school temporarily aside.

That's all personal stuff that I generally try to avoid mentioning on 'public blogs', so why am I bringing up now?

Because it's something that goes through my head when I pick up books and/or observe the requisites for YA and 'college' books. You never really see books that have college dropouts - or not without plopping in that extra moral message:

THIS IS A VERY BAD THING, SO OBSERVE THAT MAIN CHARACTER GOES BACK TO COLLEGE IN THE END AND DOES THE RIGHT THING.

Probably the first YA media thing that I saw delve into the college dropout storyline was Buffy the Vampire Slayer - and it was VERY BAD. Buffy had to work at a fast food restaurant and take jobs like that, because nobody else would hire her. <- Not exactly true in the real world, but I guess people don't want teens getting the wrong message.<- Something I agree with to a point. I still think that it is COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS that kids today have to have a college degree to do the type of work that I learned on the job, but whatever. Is unimportant sidetrack.

The thing that is driving my whole schpeel here is how most YA books have teens as main characters who have relatively few 'normal teen' problems in life. That's verging on Mary Sue territory, right?

Is it because readers don't want main characters who are chubby and covered with acne? Maybe these books are getting written after all, but agents aren't taking them - because they don't sell?

Then what about extraordinary teen problems? Like premature baldness or hairloss caused by stress?

We have 'book teens' who either gain weight or lose weight or start drinking (the Immortals) or zonk out from major stressouts, but we don't have anything as basic as teens losing clumps of hair from stress. How come?

Or other circumstances, like we have kids who cut themselves to either relieve the buildup of stress or angst, but never anything that can't be hidden under a character's shirt or pants.

There are two little girls at my church who have always had hair problems. I don't know the specifics, but the girls would pull their hair out on purpose - and they always did since they were little. Prettiest girls and smart - except for the hair pulling thing. The one girl was so bad that they shaved her hair off completely. They are both either in their teens now or just about there, but they still have hair problems. Or they damaged the folicules so much that their hair just doesn't grow right anymore. They have to wear babushkas to cover up the bald spots.

Why aren't there protagonists like those two girls?

People are eager to kill the parents of their main characters off, or do physical and emotional harm to these girls or guys... but there is always an emphasis on passably attractive or pretty or extraordinarily beautiful appearance. Never any baldies.

So why not?
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Friday, September 18, 2009

Titles and Names

Another blog-reading inspired post...

See BookEnds,LLC and their latest post on titles.

I'm not in a position to accept or judge stuff based on titles, unlike those people at BookEnds, but it DOES make me wonder why people have so many problems with naming things - especially since they've put all that creative thinking, plotting, imaginating (yes, that's a word in my world), and other fresh worldbuilding work into their novels.

Why would coming up with a basic title be so complicated?

Being a member of a critting group, I've seen a lot of people put "Untitled" or something like that in the title space when they put their work out there in hopes of connecting with readers and critiquers. Or they take titles that are already out there and tweak them a little bit so they are slightly different*, thinking that's all they need.

And I'm like - Oh gosh. People should settle back and have more fun. This isn't high school where an evil English teacher camps out at the front desk, red pen judgement awaiting. You can be as flippant as you want - if you are flippant. If mysterious is your thing, then be mysterious.

Creator, be creative.

*Moon titles, for example.

I'm divided about whether the Moon title convention is a 'bad thing' - because the MOON part of the title immediately communicates an expectation to the reader. I think if you do something DIFFERENT with the Moon title, it can still definitely work.

But! If it is too blatantly similar to something else on the market (especially something mondo popular or well-known), it can be a bit more problematic.

So - White/Red/Orange/Green Moon will always remind me of Blue Moon. A book I'm still trying to force myself to read in total and failing miserably.**

By the same token... I think there is a point where you don't want to be too outlandish. A title entirely in Elvish is going to be bad varmin. I'm just saying.

The same thing is true for character names. If you are writing a urban/contemporary fiction book, go through the newspapers, facebook, obits, etc and look up real people names.

Something to remember is that there is nothing wrong with using common names like Martin, Johnson, Smith, Lee, Andrews, Jones, Alexander, Sneider for your character's last name. I know a LOT of people with those last names. In real life, last names aren't all that important - and they usually are names we recognize from somewhere else.

The only thing you want to be careful about is the heritage and background that goes with a lot of these names. If you give your character a Jewish last name, be prepared to show that part of your character's background. By the same token, if your character is Jewish, probably want to find a common last name to suit.

First names - pay attention to the names most people have. Even when people have outlandish first names, they generally get shortened or mutated until they are a bit more normal. Part of going through middle/high school. You either want to stick out, or you don't.

Take my dad, for example. His parents took a popular Armenian first name Harutunian and shortened it to Harutun to suit the American side of the family (grandad armenian, grandma american). Was slightly better, but my dad wanted to fit in at school, so he went by Harry all the time.

That said - obviously there is a line you draw at some point as far as how 'common' you want the names to be.

One thought I had while watching Twilight (I heart that hilarious movie) last night with friends were the names. I was sitting back and thinking how most people don't name their daughters Bella (unless they have one of those uber-Italian backgrounds). Also, most boys in turn of the century US would have named their sons Edward (yes) but shortened the name to Eddie.

For the flair that the author wanted to give her book and setting up iconic characters, the out of the ordinary names WORKED.

I can't think of the name 'Eddie' working. It would have just increased the overall creepiness of Edward. :)

**If you've seen the movie "You Got Mail", think about the way Tom Hanks' characters was walking around trying to get into Pride and Prejudice for Meg Ryan's character's sake. Only he was better than I am, because he ACTUALLY read the book. I still haven't gotten halfway through Blue Moon. It just isn't snagging me like the first Immortals book did.
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Decisions

On working and thinking on my UF writing project (revision, not the original), I've been trying to make a difficult decision on the circumstances which push the main character into action.

Speaking for myself - I can always put urgent things aside until the Bad Thing happens to me or somebody I love. When 'it' happens to somebody I know, it's only then I get pushed off my comfy safe seat and feel pressed into action. That's because you (a) feel so vulnerable because it's right under your nose and (b) you have to deal with it on a daily/hourly basis.

How does this relate to my writing?

Easy.

The character will get a nasty initiation into the weird club. Last night, I daydreamed on the subject after watching Destination Truth (I heart Josh Gates) and suddenly I know EXACTLY how to 'unprotect' my character. It's perfect.

The next step is getting her over the 'I'm going to huddle in the fetal position and hide' instinct and pushing her into action. I thought about drawing on a few things I've heard and read about in real life. This would be family members becoming mentally crippled because of constant 'curses' from somebody who wants to keep the main character too frightened and distracted to interfere.

My problem is how realistic I want to make this. Most people who have inflicted like that will never be 100% ok ever again. They will have problems with depression and inability to deal with things.

While I waffle - I'm wondering if part of my problem is laziness or wishful-writing. Laziness, because I don't want to delve too deeply in the research and showing a traumatic situation that I myself have not personally dealt with. *stepping out of my comfort zone, in other words* The other thing is I wonder if my hesitation comes my wanting an absolute Happily Ever After at the end of the book.

End question - am I grown up enough to write this?
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Children and teenagers are YOUNG. Being YOUNG is not the same thing as being a MORON.

The title 'quote' comes from the Rejectionist blog (ie one of those amusing blogs you should have on your reading list).

All I have to say is - YES!!!!!

I'm going to take that post and translate it to mean something that's been bugging me off and on as I see various posts on the 'dirty books' that are getting published for kids these days.

There is just too much confusion in the reading and writing ranks about what is YA and what isn't.

All I can say is people need to grab their car keys, purses, and drive to the nearest mall on a Friday afternoon. They should aim for that time of the day when school lets out early and all of the high schoolers are ganging up at the mall for 'hang time'.

Or let's say they park near the high school parking lot and watch all of the kidlets come rolling out in their big thumping SUVS, trucks, hot-cars, etc.

Or they should definitely go out to the nearest mill pond (or whatever is the lovers lane spot in their town) and try to guess the ages of the kids engaging in a little too much PDA.

The people should also turn on the TV on college football game day. Take a look at those kids running around on the field, the cheerleaders, and also the kids in the student section.

Kids the same age as these students are members of the YA reading audience. If they read (yes, I find it VERY hard to imagine those football guys sitting around under leafy trees in full football gear, reading the latest Vampire Academy book).

Anyway - these people need to look at their books that they are supposedly aiming for the 14-18 crowd, and they need to judge whether or not they truly know their audience.

As far as writing the types of books you FEEL that kids should be reading. It probably depends on how you go about it. If you write a clean book with characters the readers can FEEL for - definitely, do it. I have a couple inspi-fiction favorites that I read as a teen and still have on my bookshelf (Summerhill Secrets, for example).

The difference there though is the setting is clearly Christian, so the kids are a little different. They aren't likely to get into TOO much trouble, or if they do it is once and quickly resolved through parents, community, and church.

When you get into the mixed settings - things are definitely a little different. Most people know that public high schools are a haven of drugs, bullies, 'hand me down boyfriends' and 'pass around girlfriends'. It's also a place where most girls get hit on for the first time, or wonder what's wrong with them if they AREN'T hit on.

Not all kids in high schools are like that, but it is something that kids encounter along the way. They see it happening. As much as we like to think they are living in a tenderly wrapped coccoon, that generally isn't the case.

Doesn't mean you should write about sex, drugs, and violence - but saying that OTHER people shouldn't deal with those issues because you don't want your kids exposed... it's silly. Most kids don't learn the facts of life from books.

I guess what I'm saying is you have to be conscious of drawing your characters and settings realistically. For goodness sakes - don't write about mid-upper teenagers like they still think like twelve year olds. They don't.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Never Surrender / Never Complain

Yes, I know I'm doing multiple entries on Tuesday and technically an early Wednesday post, but this is what happens while I'm staring at the chapter titles that I plopped in to remind myself where I'm going next with the WIP. Unfortunately, thanks to my brief encounter with a bug (semi-vanquished thanks to the excellance of Excedrin and sleep) I stopped on an odd spot and have no idea where I intended to go with the following title:

CH3 He wasn’t sparkly, but was close enough

To me, this says that I'm not going to be ripping off something by introducing characters who sparkle in the sunlight, hence the reason why they are terrified of going to the beach with classmates. But I knew that anyway. I'd chop my fingers off before consciously ripping off anything, least of all that well-known series that need not be named.

This means I must sit back and read through the first two chapters again to pick up where I left off.

Which leaves me debating about whether I want to read my own work or Blue Moon (which I'm still trying to stir up the I-care-enough-about-annoying-character-to-struggle-through-rest-of-book-even-though-it-leaves-me-thinking-that-Tolkien-might-be-a-lot-more-fun-and-that-is-saying-a-lot-yes-this-is-rampant-hyphen-abuse emotions).

My work wins - even with my dratted headache coming back.

This does remind me of something I considered before starting this blog. It probably is a bad idea to express loathing for your novels or the editing/revising part of writing. As much as it feels NATURAL to hate that mind-numbing part of THE CRAFT, I realize that it might give the wrong impression.

It's sort of like putting on my resume for an office job:

"I HATE computers, answering phones, scanning, filing, talking to people, smiling at people, and whatever. My favorite part of the job is the playing with the computer and looking up stuff on the internet. Hire me please."

Hah.

So, I'm going to make every effort to put my best smiling face forward and not quibble. After all, I truly love writing. Even the dratted revising and editing part.

As far as my non sparkly guy - I'm going to pretend I was talking about Wesley's guide spirit whom I'm ANXIOUS to bring into the picture because he's so adorable. Not sparkly - check. But close enough. I think I described him as shimmery around the edges, like a Star Trek hologram.

Oh and he's a golden retriever.
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Dark Angels - literally!

Continues to grimace...

Saw a heads-up on Twitter re/a new movement in the YA publishing arena.

Angels.

Yep.

Vampires are out. Angels are in.

Quote from Publisher's Marketplace:

“The young books like Sharon's are using angels to suggest the world can be a better place,” said Kate Jackson, editor-in-chief of HarperCollins Children's Books. In YA books, however, she believes angels “are a symbol of forbidden love. What's more forbidden than having a romance with someone who's not human?”


Better question:

"What's more forbidden than having a romance with somebody who doesn't have a body and thus technically isn't male or female but just a 'pure spirit', but is officially set up as male because the Bible has a thing about making all authority figures male to get the ancient chauvinists to listen?"

That's the religious issue for me - as a reader, and a reason why I instinctively distance myself from books with angelic protagonists. I can't wrap my mind around it. I'm just convinced that this is yet another attempt to do a "angels=fairies" thing - a movement I resisted even when my aunt (same religion as me) fell prey to it and kept sending me admittedly adorable statues and... stuff.

That said, I understand why this isn't a religious issue with other people. Other religions have different beliefs concerning angels. Like, recently, I was surprised when somebody told me she believed that humans used to be angels, but that all changed after our fall.

Going from that person's point of view, there is definitely something romantic about an angel getting together with a human-who-has-angel-genes-somewhere.

I guess.

*exhales*

I just hope this movement moves along quickly and returns us happily to wizards, sorcerers, shape shifters, vampires, elves, goblins, and other delightfully imaginary and made-up creatures who belong in fantasy and don't straddle fantasy and religion and make us ask moral questions about WWJD if our angelic protagonists get a bit too hawt. Just saying. :P

ETA - I should properly admit that there were people of my ilk who had moral issues with the hawtness of vamps, because they were technically dead people possessed by demons. So vamp-loving was technically nechrophilia and yuck.

People uncomfortable with that issue played around with the details until they had something that 'worked' better for them morally:

Instead of dead people who became possessed by demons, the vamps were folks who had been infected by a virus which turned them into immortal superhumans with a blood/immortal-juice addiction. Or they were simply a race of immortal superhumans who had more than one way of spawning offspring.

I guess at some point, I might very well come across something that 'works' better for me. Like putting angels in a fantasy world instead of the urban reality, or creating a seperate dimension, where God gave angels a little tweak. *looks thoughtful* It might work for me. It might also work in a regular urban fantasy - as long as you emphasize that it is a 'SEPERATE' race of angels that the Bible didn't talk about.

Just please don't give me Archangel Michael falling in love with Bella-clone and battling between his duties (leader of the angels) and his desire to become human for her. Said battle which has him considering the ultimate sacrifice to give up his high archangelic position to become a lowly guardian angel, just for her. God, of course is pleased with that sacrifice and makes Bella-clone an Archangeless just for Archangel Michael. A step they beg Him to stall until after they marry and have marriage relations, because angels apparently can't spawn and she wants to give Michael a little Archangel-baby.

Blegh.
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Thinking

While blog-hopping this morning, I visited Tabitha's blogsite (excellent site people should follow, plus she's just snagged an agent so do visit and congrat her)

Her post for today -

When to Give Up

- got me thinking about something I saw over the weekend somewhere. And this 'something' pops up from time to time. It is an excuse or prop that writers use a lot, depending on where they are in their own writing.

If a person feels confident about their writing (doesn't mean it's good writing, just that THEY feel it's good), they are more likely to make a statement like "You are either born a writer, or you're not".

If somebody doesn't feel confident or is looking at the craft from viewpoint that their glass is half empty and they have no idea how to make it overflowing, they'll make the same statement - "Some people are born writers, the rest of us are scribblers".

I can't tell you how much I HATE and LOATHE such statements. They are simplistic and degrade and demean people who have truly worked and applied themselves to their craft. To other people, it may appear natural and easy, but it isn't really. As Tabitha said, those people are successful because they took the time.

There is that quote from Pride and Prejudice which I think of all the time. I'm away from my well-worn copy of the book and am dratted at quoting lines exactly, so I won't attempt it. It's that part where Elizabeth is sitting at the piano-forte between Darcy and his cousin. She's berating him for not applying himself at balls. She draws on the comparision to her piano playing, saying she is not a master because she never took the time to practice enough. Darcy brightly tells her that she spent her time doing better things. Which seems to indicate he had a poor opinion of the piano-forte, unless I'm recalling his statement completely wrong.

Both Darcy and Elizabeth were RIGHT. Elizabeth struck the correct point in saying that she might have been an absolute ARTIST had she applied herself. Darcy reminded her that she never considered her time wasted when she spent it on other things.

That (to me) is the difference between a successful writer and somebody who's looking in from the outside. I guess they they need to acknowledge Elizabeth's regret (though I don't think she was truly regretful) and apply it to themselves.

They call themselves 'writers', but do they give all they can to the craft? Do they practice and push themselves? Do they take the time?

Or are they like Darcy, and did they deliberately take that time they might have spent practicing (in his case - developing a better social manner so he could go all-Bingley whenever the occasion called for it) and use it to do other stuff that they enjoyed doing?*

*In my case it would be a huge list of OTHER STUFF which limited the daily hours spent perfecting my craft.

Yes, I will allow that some people are more personable and effusive than others, which makes them ideal storytellers, but even that viewpoint doesn't exactly say the rest of us are non-ideal storytellers. It just means one more step that we must learn and master before we reach our pinnacle of success.

As for how you apply yourself - you first need to identify the ways you have and are wasting your time. Compare the time you spend actually writing to the time you spend 'preparing' to write. How much time do you spend agonizing over an exceedingly long post on a forum, and how much time do you spend agonizing over a mere 500 words in your WIP?

Speaking for myself, I have no problems typing up a long post such as this, but I meticulate (is that even a word) about getting in my 1-2 thousand words a day in my WIP.

Way bad me.

But you will never catch me saying that the reason why I'm not selling a LOT of shorts and novels is because I was born minus a genetic mark.

Unlike some other people out there, I made the deliberate decision to begin writing. I had the desire to create something, and my drawing ability didn't cut it. :P

The learning process for writing is a LONG one, and relies on a constant flow of inspiration and practice. But it isn't impossible.

Unless you make it so by not trying anymore. Even then, I guess the point before you kill yourself trying to regain everything you lost by lack of practice:

- Do you just want to be a dabbler like Elizabeth, content to entertain from time to time, but not willing to put in that extra frustratingly self-denying time to excel?

There's nothing wrong with that, just try to understand WHY you do not excel. It's generally because you have applied yourself otherwise.

Or you have been trying to convince yourself that you must do a 'certain' kind of writing or nothing.

That would be like me if I tried to become a mangaka - a style of art that I admire. Problem is, I'm TERRIBLE at drawing stuff like that. I just don't draw proper people. I make them look very strange and yuck. But I AM a fairly good landscape, abstract, and animal type artist. The emotion I can't manufacture when drawing people emerges when I'm drawing a delicate flower waving in a breeze. Same thing when I draw a dog or a horse. It's something I had to acknowledge to myself.

So, if the writing isn't working - be flexible. Discover where your stronger areas are.

Weekend Review

Editing - Nil

Writing - 5000 words. I'm mourning my failure to reach 7-10 thousand words, but acknowledge that was VERY optimistic considering the time I had available both days. College football is very detrimental to my writing application. I did finish a chapter and figure out a LOT of plot that I'm happy with.

Reading - Um. I read half a page of Blue Moon.

Week Plot - Continue where I left off, write the next chapter. One thing I'm battling with this morning is trying to figure out how to 'unprotect' my main character. The reason why she hasn't seen or felt anything is because her paternal grandma had something done (possibly through Ethan's mother) to shield her. This is the reason why Wesley was rejected by her mom, because she was essentially useless.

Originally was going to have a near-death situation. At school, nearly run over by a SUV, but ERK! I fortunately realized where my imagination got that idea from before I did any writing on it. :S
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Figures in my Writing

It occurred to me that I have one bad habit (technically have more than one bad habit, but let's focus on one thing at a time, okaibai) when I'm writing a new story - as is the case with the new version of UF.

Super intelligent and weirdly advanced children

I'm not kidding.

Every single new book I'm writing of late, even the short stories, have children who aren't just the "Mommy, I wanna toy" types. My little munchkins generally know long before the adults in the same novel when something bad is going to happen. Or they know exactly what is going on while the adults are distracted by other worldly things.

The children generally serve as the first guideposts to the main characters. They are the ones who point the main characters in the right direction, or warn them that they need to be careful and watch out for ogres under the bridge.

These children generally are solemn and sad little things, who are colored with a tinge of weary fear. Their powers of prophetic vision and premonition only shows them so much, or they can only comprehend enough to recognize the figures and circumstances, but not the exacts. <- I'm tired after a long day, so sorry if that last line or two doesn't make any sense.

I think the reason why I do this is because I remember vividly what it was like to be a child. Not saying I'm THAT close to my childhood. I'm just saying that as a child things are that more frightening and serious. You see things very different from adults, and even the slightest omens are quickly picked up on, and because you can only understand SO MUCH, it generally gets blown way out of context.

One thing I remember as a child was the guy next door and the way he turned into a monster after my parents sat down and gave me 'the talk' about bad guys out there who would kidnap pretty little girls like me. This was because I wanted to go biking and couldn't find anyone to go with me. I didn't let that stop me from having my own way, and I took off. I had a great ride and enjoyed myself muchly, until I got home and saw my entire family out there freaking out. I was in huge trouble, because six year olds were not supposed to go on bike rides alone, even in the subburbs. Well especially in our area - the teenage boys in the neighborhood were troublemakers who already harassed my oldest sister whenever she went outside alone (she was 12 at the time). The result of the talk had me being convinced they were really talking about the guy next door. This meant I kept having nightmares about him hiding behind trees and bushes and waiting to jump out and grab me. That guy had nigh superhuman abilities in my dreams. It was awful.

Sidetracked - sorry.

My point is that kids do have their own concerns that get blown out of proportion. They dwell about BAD THINGS and will have nightmares about them. Those nightmares are much worse than any nightmares that adults might have, because children have the idea ingrained in them that they are helpless little things who can't defend themselves from the bogeyman.

Add to that the fact that traditionally, people believe that the eyes of a child's soul are wide open until they reach a certain age. This is why they are said to be more likely to see ghosts and angels than adults would.

Add to that the fact that adults (the more perceptive and superstious kinds, anyway)are more likely to believe a child's words - if they say something absolutely outlandish. They assume a child, in all innocence, isn't likely to cook up a complete lie just for fun.

That's pretty much my reasoning.

In the novel I'm working on right now, Tamara is the youngest sister. She says she took after the unknown maternal grandmother instead of her mother. This means nothing to the main character, because that maternal grandma died long before any of the girls were born. But what it does mean is Tamara is perceptive and sensitive. She can see things and knows things. Could be part of the reason why is because the dead grandmother is looking after her (I haven't thought that out completely). She is unchildlike, not just because of this sensitivity, but because she's also seen things that no child should see. Her mother was a shaman, and did perform her job (healing and seeking) on occasion, with Tamara watching. Tamara also saw both parents killed in the crash. Everything her mother told and shown her has stuck and caused her to seem older and more mature. This is because she senses that the things she sees and feels are MORE than just her imagination. They are real.

There is also an element of a child who basically is protecting herself after having her whole world (parents) stripped away. She lacks the trust and reliance on adults that make children seem normal.

So anyway - I'm not (always) pandering to the usual "evil child" movement because the children in my novels are the dark and tragic figures they are.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Ahem... research!

Maybe not, but this snippet from WOWWIKI gave me an idea. It might very well explain my one guy character (Ethan), why he is so pathetic... and human.

Code of conduct
A paladin must be of good alignment and loses all light abilities if he ever willingly commits an evil act. Additionally, the paladin’s code requires that he respect legitimate authority, act with honor (not lying, not cheating, not using poison and so forth), help those in need (provided they do not use their help for evil or chaotic ends), and punish those who harm or threaten innocents. While he may adventure with characters of any good or neutral alignment, a paladin will never knowingly associate with evil persons, nor will he continue an association with someone who consistently offends his moral code. A paladin may accept only henchmen, followers or cohorts who are of good alignment. A paladin who violates this code, becomes an ex-paladin, and loses all Light-given abilities and can not train further as a paladin until he atones for his violations.[4][5]

Paladins don't always have to work within good or neutral organizations as seen by the Scarlet Crusade and others — however, they do have to believe they are working for good organizations or have faith that their cause is good and just. A paladin can be evil (as illustrated by Renault Mograine), but as long as they believe their cause to be just, the Light will continue to serve them.


And the following reminded me of something else. While it doesn't figure in my current plan for UF (pretty sure it doesn't), I was thinking about my 'desert people' who figured in this old trilogy I wrote. Too bad I can't think of a way to bring them into UF.

A number of the eternals died during the War of the Ancients. This doesn’t, however, mean that those powers can have no influence in later eras. Many of the fallen powers still have followers 10,000 years later, such as the furbolg who follow in the path of the long-dead ursine demigods Ursoc and Ursol. Further, though written history says they perished, can eternals who possess the special quality of immortality truly die? Perhaps a "fallen" eternal simply sleeps away centuries while his wounds heal...S&L 68


Eternals usually only appear before mortals only when they have truly earned the audience through their actions, such as by performing a great service to the eternal or by making a formidable stand against its plans. The tangled web of relationships among the eternals means that a favor performed for one may be a slight to several others.


The desert people live in a fold between dimensions. They only listen to the calls of their descendants, and even then they won't necessarily step out of the fold. They can act fairly well within its protection.
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Friday Freezer

Editing: Nil. Technically I am 'editing' if you think about complete revisions/rewrites in that fashion.

Writing: Yes. Managed about 3,000 in the past two days. This would be on the UF revision. I'm up to 10,000 and continuing my relentless march to my usual 90,000 (I'm hoping for 65,000 words total, but that usually is the 5 chapter mark for me).

Research: Discovered that my idea of school is purely based on my own experience. I looked up other Catholic schools and realized that they are run a bit different with different schedules and vastly different curriculum than I had. Probably the only class that I totally recognized (in content focus) was the theology class. I spent a couple hours last night going over all of the details and writing up the setting - including class content. I won't be using much of it, but I need to be confident as I put my characters in the setting and use it as a backdrop. If I'm second guessing myself, it will show.

MSFV Contest: Is still going on. I really enjoyed commenting on everything as always, and I noticed a few subs this time that I'd really like to see more of.

I did cringe a bit over some of the comments that popped up now and then. A few people losing their cool. There also seemed to be two schools of thought going on - people who thought the idea was to fully critique and offer detailed feedback to the subbers and people who thought that they were just doing the thumbs up or down, offering polite/gently worded reasons why or why not.

I sided with the people who wanted to keep things simple - hooked or not. If somebody wanted a critique, they should really join up with a critting group (like Critique Circle) and get that feedback there. If they are submitting to a contest, they shouldn't expect detailed critiques on their writing. Least that is my way of thinking.

There also seemed to be people who were trying to use their comments to sway public (as well as the SA) opinion in favor of themselves (the authors posting as themselves or anonymously) or for their friends/critting buddies. I enjoyed the contest - learning experience, etc - but my goodness. Some people get my goat.

*Wonders what that saying - get my goat - means or how it originated*

Book Recommendation: Nothing as of yet. I should know tonight, because I'm stopping at the bookshop for a b-day present for one of my sisters. Of course I'll pick up something for myself too. My b-day is next week, after all.

In honor of the day:

May they who lost their lives on this day rest in peace, and may the living never forget or take things for granted. The life we live is unexpected and the future is uncertain. All we have is the path we have followed and experiences along the way to indicate what might happen if we let up on our guard. If you forget and flunk history, be prepared to repeat. May God bless us. May our children remember that we have a right to exist and live our lives as we wish. Those who came before us fought for every freedom we enjoy, and we should not be ashamed of those freedoms or squander them. Rather, we should cling to them and keep our heads high. Those people who have their heads up and ears and eyes open won't fall away.

Plan for the weekend: Ambitious. Planning on 10,000 words, though I'd be content with 5,000. :P
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Writing, MSFV-ing, and so forth

Writing - still working on UF for right now. I got halfway though the book before deciding I wasn't entirely satisfied with it. Decided to go back and try out a different (new) version of the story. I changed the main character's name, setting, and age - she's now in high school and just moving in with her sisters. Her name is Wesley instead of Geisha - because I have a feeling people will have a tough time getting past the name 'Geisha'. Readers, unfortunately, can be very literal sometimes. Wesley is still a weird name for a girl (which is what I wanted) and it suits the character. I'm also adding another dimension to the story - that would be the wild older sister who'd straightened out her life suddenly. Then I'm going to show the sisters growing closer, maybe finding things in common. One thing I'm thinking about is me and my oldest sister. We have six years difference between us, and she and I don't always 'mesh'. There are times though when she does something that I absolutely respect, and/or I have to let myself rely on her for guidance.

The novel itself is basically the same, but I'm planning to do a little more research on Wiki* to dig up new angles I can try out to distance my novel from the cazillion other novels which have ghosts and shamans (shamen?)

@Wiki - I know, not a good or reliable search site. But it is useful for finding ideas and different things that you will be fictionalizing anyway.

And just for fun since this is Wednesday, and we get to do a Wednesday WIP Corner. The following would be the first 3 paragraphs words of the 'new version' of UF.

Very rough stuff!

9th grade at the St. Agnes boarding school sucked, and Wesley thought 10th grade would as well, only her parents died. Then Tasha, her older sister, did the unthinkable and announced that Wesley would not attend BS any longer.

In her private letter to Wesley, the one that the Mrs. Eckerd didn’t get to see, she said she wanted Wesley to have the normal life she herself never got to experience. Tasha emphasized that a normal life for an American teen depended on attending a coed school with hot boys to fight with the cheerleaders over, if Wesley didn’t in fact do the unthinkable and become a cheerleader.

Laugh of the century!
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Monday, September 7, 2009

New Shelf

The original book shelf thing that I had on the right side of the blog didn't work out very well for me. Or I didn't try hard enough to make it work? I switched to shelffari (sp?) down on the bottom of the blog entries. It looks tidier, and more important - it's easy to find and add books.

And that is how I've spent my afternoon. Instead of visiting the gym or writing, I've been going through my brain (instead of putting in the time to physically browse my bookshelves and stacks and car) trying to remember all of the books that I've read recently, or which are still important to me.

Yet another reason why I love modern technology. When I was a munchkin and doing reading competitions with my best friend/big sister, we had those little reporter notebooks that we carefully entered the book title and author name after we finished the book. No offense to the old-fashioned pen and paper types, but I worship the ease of clicking to add stuff to my list.
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Labor Day Lackness

Personal TMI: Technically have just awakened from a deep sleep and am trying to figure out what to do with the face which broke out a little bit (changes pillowcases FRANTICALLY). This happens after a long weekend. I do not look in the mirror or fuss over much with the hair or face, and things HAPPEN. *weeps*

Writing: I played around with a chapter last night. Am in a state of confusion over which POV I want to use for UF. I'm more fluid and comfortable in first person, but third person looks better and allows me to hop POV when needed.

Saturday night, I stayed up until 4AM working out a full outline and plan of attack. I need to work out bugs in the plot.

I'm planning to do another intensive round of edits later today - first on agenda is gym and shower and face cream.

Reading: Still struggling with Blue Moon. I'm on my way over to the gym now, so I'll see if I can become a tiny bit more interested. Temptation is to put the book aside and read something else.

Blog Hops: Check out Miss Snark's First Victim (see link on right side of blog). On Wednesday, she's having another Secret Agent contest. I'll try to comment on everything as always. This is a great learning experience, especially after the SA logs on and works through the entries.

Random: Reading Rainbow died on Friday? Or will die this Friday? - I'm not sure which. Um. Dude. I know this is irreverent and against the whole stream of popular thought, but I didn't realize that thing was still on!!!

The sibs and I were more interested in Wishbone. Because, Wishbone = Adorably cunning dog in costumes playing the main characters in a lot of books which I read when I was a kid. It was also a TV series with kids, always a winner.

Blogger's Note: Yes, I admit to going crazy with the tags. I didn't really use them at all the last two months, and now I'm trying to overcompensate. It will even out at some point. :P
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Friday, September 4, 2009

When you ask for advice....

This came up while meandering through some online group stuff. Sometimes there are people out there, especially young or new writers, who want advice and frequently ask for it, but never take it!

I don't mean to rant here, but nobody wants to be mean or abusive. They aren't going to come out and tell you what you should already know. Sometimes they hint around the corner, or suggest you start following the publishing sector (for example, add agent blogsites to your daily reading list).

They aren't just talking to hear themselves speak (well, some writers do like hearing their 'voices' or they enjoy the excuse to stave off their own edits and writing). the bulk of writers who hang out at writing workshops and offer advice to newbies do mean well and they are trying to help somebody find out what they themselves learned the hard way.

There is one example that I know of and I'm going to speak carefully, because I don't want to out this writer.

This person wrote a book that probably isn't going to fit into the current market. This person is young and has been trying to publish this book, but is frustrated at lack of success. This person asked for advice, and a lot of people promptly told the person that there were various problems with the length of the book and the content of the book not fitting with the genre.

The person waited a week and then asked for advice again. Same question. Like the other question and subsequent advice/answers did not exist.

This probably fits in with all of the other people out there who are trying to publish 180,000 word middle grade novels and getting frustrated at all of the form rejections.

Dear writers, kindred spirits of mine, fellow trudgerers through the slush and daily writing grind... the answer is in the pudding.

Pudding = internet.

We live in a golden age of information at our fingertips.

And even when you ask questions of fellow writers instead of doing the market research yourself, you are still offered friendly advice from people who did have time to do the research (and moaned and suffered agonies over the unfairness of boundaries and limits too).

Please listen.
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Friday Freezer

TGIF before the holiday! May it be long, warm, dry, and did I mention long?

Editing

Edited 5 chapter of Unwilling Fringe since last weekend. Also cut 30,000 words and added 2,000 after that. My best hopes for today is to add another 2,000 words and/or finish the chapter.

Part of the problem I'm coming up against is this feeling that to stay close to the YA genre, I need to tighten up the plot considerably. I have too many lapses where I'm doing too much character building and not enough action. That must change when I get to the next draft.

Book Recommendation

Nothing as of yet. I'm reading Blue Moon and am quite a bit dissatisfied with it, and conflicted. It starts off with Ever and the guy (I'm drawing a blank, because it's early and my memory switch hasn't clicked on yet) are practicing in her bedroom. This leads to serious making out which Ever aborts, because she's feeling weird about his vast experience. That isn't the part that bothers me, exactly. What kinda made me wrinkle my nose right off was the description of the beyoooootiful guy.

Two things -

1.) Guys aren't beautiful at least not after they transition from crawling to walking. It's too feminine a word for most guys - even the good looking ones. When a male character is described as beautiful, it instantly gets my nose wrinkling and has me edging back in distaste. Reminds me of those animes with the bishies (think, anime guys who look like women).

2.) This goes back to my other problem with romances like Twilight. If the girl gets the guy too easily, and there is no conflict or uncertainty in the relationship, then it gets a little blah and page-flippy for me. Now, I've only read the first few pages of Blue Moon, so it could be I'm speaking too soon. I think the conflict in Blue Moon is the fact that Ever has a problem being all lovey-dovey with an old guy who's been around - much. Not a conflict I'm very interested in as a reader, but it might get better. I shall find out on lunch break. Well. Maybe.

Blood Promise Recap and Obsessing

I'm still thinking about this book, 2 days after reading. Just a couple things sticking to my mind.

There had been a emphasis on Rose and Dimitri not 'getting together' while he held her prisoner. They did everything else but. Rose assumed it was Dimitri holding it out like a carrot, sort of like, "Let me turn you, and then we will [bleep]."

What I'm wondering though is if there is more to it. Like maybe becoming Stringoi rendered him impotent. Could be. :]

Other thing that I wanted to look up when I had a chance. What exactly is the difference between a Stringoi and a Morai? Are Stringois zombies to evil? Or what?

I anticipate in the next two books - even though I'm totally Team Adrian: Dimitri is going to be cured. That may or may not happen in the next book - personally speaking, I think Mr. Creepfest makes an excellent villain, especially since Rose handily got rid of his competition and he now runs the Stringoi Party.

You'd think the easiest way to cure him is to kill him and then bring him back from the dead ala Lissa. The problem with that is he would probably be brought back as he was - a dhampir. That would not work out in the long run, because he and Rose wouldn't be capable of having kidlets.

If he is cured though, he might remain a vampire. But minus the evil-obsessed weirdness.

I'm just thinking aloud though - it could be cure or kill/revive would have the same result: Dimitri turned back into what he had been, a dhampir.

Personal Note of the Day

I'm peeved. Instead of visiting the gym, I need to go somewhere in search of new shoes. Just discovered that the sandals I'm wearing - my favorite pair - are torn. Torn. Noticeably. And I just noticed - three hours after putting them on.

I apparently just woke up.

PS. Why does Stringoi always make me think about food (and possibly Pinocchio), as in 'stromboli' ?

PS2. I really hope I spelled Stringoi and Morai right. I'm having doubts.
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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Quick Question and Obvious Answer

Q. Dear World, what on earth do I do if I suddenly had a revelation that my X story is too similar to the X story which I critted for a friend?

A. Be respectful of your friend and/or follow the 'do unto others and you would have done unto you' rule, and gut the plagiarized content.

Furthermore: Sometimes this happens by accident, and it isn't always an unpublished buddy (who, if you publish first, will make like the Twilight-avenger and sue you for ripping off his/her idea). Generally it happens after you finished reading a book which you worshipped to death and kingdom come. Just keep on your toes and be aware that cheaters never prosper and look like a schmuck afterwards.

The reason for this post? Mainly picking on myself. I set up a novel and was gaining excitement and interest as I wrote, until I started telling a friend about it. Then it struck me that my story sounded a lot like her story. It was so almost-embarrassing. Fortunately I shut up before I got too far and that friend will never know how close she came to being unconsciously plagiarized.

What will I do? I'll worry about what I've already written in the next draft. My objective right now is to plow a road that bears absolutely no resemblance to my friend's mss. Even if I have to add man-eating clowns riding on black clouds at night as minions of the king. Darnit. I like that idea.

SIDE NOTE TO SELF: When you get a chance, do fix all the tags. You forgot them, goofy.
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The Power We Have Now

No. Not a post on magic powers or special skills which I'm debating about giving one of my characters in Herbarian.

Do I make her a chosen one type character? Or just an person who really is destined to be a normal person, if she wasn't best friends with two people who are (doomed) with the two other possibilities. Readers want the MAIN CHARACTER to be the special person who gets all the attention for their magic powers - at least that was my feeling when reading a book recently where the main character had no skills whatsoever, but was friends with somebody who was a magician.

This post is really just a thank you to the inventors of the internet, and most particular Google. As a writer, it means that resources are right there at my fingertips at all times. All I need is a proper computer and internet connection. We are living in the time that scifi writers of the past dreamed of.

In real life too, the internet is exceptionally helpful in correcting people. Not that I'm a witchy person who must correct people and does so with glee in her witchy little heart. Honestly, I only do that when people incorrectly correct ME. Only seems fair to correct them back in that case. Right? :P

Back to the power of the internet + writing - something that occurred to me is that a lot of people don't realize how much power they have to use the internet to good use. For example, we don't need to call agents and publishers up to see if they are accepting subs. Furthermore, we don't need to send them a puzzled email to find out if (a) they are taking queries or (b) if they would consider your work. My goodness! Everyone has a website or some kind of listing online which offer that exact information. You would get it instantly instead of waiting for a e-response that might never come because the agent is piffed at you.

The danger of the internet is recklessly slaughtering your good name on it. I regret stuff I posted on websites when I was a silly teenager. If people search my name, they immediately find those posts. Plus websites often refuse to take things down, even if you repeatedly request that they do.

I assume it's the same with websites - part of the reason why I've ducked and hidden this blog and others from public viewing so much. I like the practice of working on a blog, but sometimes I'm afraid I'll have a brainless moment and post something religious/political/stupid that somebody most important would see.

I'm going to stop that now and try to step into the sunlight (cringes and winces away like a vampire afraid of melting*, but summons spirit and tries again).

*Just think about the one Dark Shadows episode when Dr. Julia (was that her name?) cured Barnabas of his vampirism and he was allowed to step out into the light for a little while. Until he turned into crypt keeper and bit the good doctor.

And that reminds me of two things: As an impressionable preteen, I loved the name Barnabas because of Dark Shadows. It never once occurred to me that it really was one of those horrible names. Barnabas=Barney=Big Purple Dinosaur

The other thing - it really is too bad that somebody doesn't write a vamp romance which has all vampires turning into cryptkeepers when they are hungry. It would do away with the "He's biting me, I'm (bloodwhore) so in lust!" junk.

I think they did that on Buffy - not with vampires, but with mummies. Should definitely write a short story like that just for fun.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rules and Rewrites

Found this rule while browsing:

ABDCE—Action, Background, Development, Climax, Ending.

This rule is supposed to apply to the Short Story, if you are into writing them, but they also apply to any story - even novels.

If I posted a comment on your blog and came across as arrogant or all 'braggedy'.... sorry. This is the reason why I revise and edit my own work so much. I write things down, and then ten minutes later I realize that it could be taken totally weird and wrong.

Speaking of rewrites - I just deleted 30,000 words (I have them backed up, but I don't want to use them in this story which changed completely after I looked over my story notes and drafted a revised synopsis.

Personal News: Doglet ran away from home. Got 3 miles away even and I haven't the faintest idea what he'd been doing that entire time. He's been sleeping all evening. Didn't even miss his walk. Good neighbors snagged him and bringing him back home to me when I frantically drove past. Did quick reverse and thanked them profusely.
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First and Last Sentences

I thought this might be a fun thing to do - and partly, because of a problem I have with one of my WIPs.

A first sentence - generally the first thing a reader sees. Doesn't exactly have to be the 'hook' sentence, but you want it to be snappy. As a writer, the first sentence generally is that first step before you take off running.

Last sentence - not last of the book, but the one you've left off and have currently stranded the WIP First Draft or WIP Revision. My theory is when you close the Word document for the day, you want to leave off on a hook. Or something that makes you want to return to the WIP the next day to continue. The last sentence of a novel is completely different. You want it to satisfy your reader, tie everything up in a nice bow, slap a period on without stabbing anyone with it.

So - let's just take one of my First Draft pets, "Herbarian" for example:

First sentence:

Ages ago, things were a bit tidier in world affairs, but people started down the messy road when they began keeping gardens.


Hah. So not hooky, but it worked for me in first (rough) draft, because it gave me a focus point. It won't work on readers, probably, but I will work on that in following drafts.

Last Sentence:

If you went there, you might have very bad company, whatever was left of them.


This sentence in itself works for me. Because the paragraph basically expresses the main character's concern over her new friend, who has shown some rather vivid signs of being a greenwitch (forbidden).

My real problem from a writing standpoint is I ended with a complete scene or at the end of a complete loop (introduce character, set the place and problem). I haven't figured out yet what my next loop is - whether I need more time before I get to the (revelations, BIGGER problem) loop, or if I should just jump into it. I feel like I need a scene before then, but am having a problem getting started. I've lost the momentum.

This has led me to sort of agree with somebody (who I used to COMPLETELY disagree with) that you do not want to end a 'writing session' at the end of a complete loop. This person said you want to stop with the beginning of the next action or scene, so you have everything set up and ready for you to jump back in.

It will be miserable going, but I'm going to just sit down and write an in-between scene, promising myself if the scene comes out too dithery, I can always edit it out of existence when I edit.

The other option, of course, is not writing a possibly dithery scene period, but just jump to the next important scene that is important to the story (revelations, BIGGER problem).

Clichetic Brainstorm

I'm throwing this one in, because I can't make up my mind about something from Herbarian. Thanks to various kiddyfic, it probably is a BAD thing to create that one evil teacher who scares all of the students into behaving.

I was listening (well, technically reading, but it works out to be the same thing) to somebody talk about a teacher who would break children's hands if they wrote with their left hands. Or break their fingers or tear their nails off if they were caught using that same hand.

I somewhat suspect that some of this could be urban legend (kids do make up junk about their teachers, embellish details, etc), but I sat there thinking that creating somebody like that would be just what I need for that in-between scene. I could tie this teacher in to my one character too. She is usually somebody who is very good at what she does (fancy handwriting or art), but she is rightfully in a bad mood because she missed something and now is punished by being put in a position between her work and family. And a member of that family is taking advantage of her loyalty and it drives her insane - which is why she does stuff that appears overly rough and terrifying to the other students.

Ok. I think I'm going to do this!
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Blame Richelle

Just an FYI: If I zonk out on my work desk, amidst the paperwork I ought to be filing/scanning/whatevers, it is all Richelle Mead's fault. I started reading her fourth book yesterday. I was up until 4AM simply because I wanted to find out how Rose gets away from ooked-out Dmitri. Seriously, I couldn't sleep a wink until I found out.

This reminded me a little bit of Buffy who had to kill Angel when he was bad. Only she was having doubts about whether there was anything of him left. Buffy never let herself sink into a smooch and nude cuddle fest (no sex, I have strange theories about that) with a guy with dead body skin and fiery red eyes. Oh, and she let him bite/drink from her, because of her addiction.

Ending part to read today and then I might sneak a review (read: blatherfest) in later this week.

Now - back to zonking/ I mean working.

*uses paperclips to keep eyes open*
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My Shelfari Bookshelf

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog

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