Thursday, December 27, 2012

2013 New Year Resolutions

It is time for my 2013 New Year Resolutions! As my health is still in the experimental stages of recovery, all my resolutions can be fulfilled at home - and revolve around words. But they mean you will be hearing from me a lot more - as will my Muse. ;)

1. I will post on each of the following blogs at least:

> Writing - once a week (with one book review a month)
> Japanese - once a month
> Review - once a month (this is on a separate account because I tend to be rather honest)

2. I will blog one chapter a month of my 2010 Nano novel, Toaster Loses Her Hatting, here. (Follow and join in the adventure!)

3. I will finish reading at least one novel a month. (Because to review, I have to finish.)

4. I will write at least 5,000 words a month. (Although hopefully a lot more.)

5. I will edit a finished novel all the way through at least once. (I have yet to do this, and it's high time I did.)

So those are my big five! They may not sound like a whole lot, but given my schedule and propensity for random bouts of illness, they will prove a challenge for me. Still, I look forward to each one with great excitement.

So what are your 2013 Resolutions?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Year, New Me Giveaway

It's the last week of 2012! This week I will be blogging my 2013 New Year Resolutions, as well as my 2013 Word for the Year. But first, as promised since I hit 30 Followers last week, my very first giveaway! *throws confetti*

The winner will receive an ARC of Something Strange & Deadly by Susan Dennard! Because who wouldn't want to read about zombies running amuck in 1876 Philadelphia?

Title: Something Strange & Deadly
Author: Susan Dennard

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—
The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.
And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.
Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

To Enter the Giveaway: Fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

  • Open to US residents only
  • Must be 13 or older to enter
  • Ends January 1, 2013
  • I will draw the winner the first week of the year, so be sure to check back for the announcement post, just in case I can't figure out how to get a hold of you (this is my first time using Rafflecopter).
  • If I don't hear back from the winner after one week of contacting/announcing them, I will draw a new winner.
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 24, 2012

First Annual BookFast: Results

Last week saw my First Annual BookFast! (For the introductory post, go here.) And now it's time to announce my accomplishments - and my failures.

It went really well...for a while. The first five (of seven) days I completed my word count, even though the 1k days proved a struggle. Then Thursday I put out 1.5k in just the morning! It felt like such an accomplishment - and for me, it really was.

And then the office holiday luncheon came on Friday. This threw off work and my day, and by the evening I was exhausted and in no mood to write at all.

Saturday saw me horribly busy, what with Christmas coming up, and by the time I got all my errands run and chores done the whole family just wanted to watch a movie and go to bed.

So here are the word results for the week:

Sunday: 1,000
Monday: 500
Tuesday: 1,000
Wednesday 500
Thursday 1,500
Friday: 0
Saturday: 0

So 500 words less than the 5,000 planned, but overall not too shabby for me.

As far as the whole "fasting from books" angle of this experiment, that bombed on Wednesday. I was doing so well! And then this showed up at my door from Epic Reads:

O.O ... Yeah. So needless to say, the temptation was just too great, and not reading became impossible. But then I made the requirement that my daily word count had to be met before I could read, and the BookFast and I were back on track.

So all in all it was a good dry run, and I think I'll try another BookFast sometime next year (just not around a major holiday). Although it will be with a few alterations, based on two very important facts I learned:

1. 500 words is a good daily requirement for me. While 1k is doable, it can prove difficult if I have anything else at all to do that day (like, say, living).

2. Not reading any sort of novel is torture. By making a few chapters out of my current read the reward for fulfilling my daily word count, both writing and reading became more enjoyable.

And so ends my First Annual BookFast!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

First Annual BookFast

The one piece of writerly advice I hear the most is: "Read. Read all the time." This is all well and good, but when a writer spends their writing time reading, complications ensue (like, say, no writing gets done).

This is a big issue for me. I'll have free time and take my writing pad/laptop and latest read to the couch. I look at the writing. I look at the book. Then I snuggle down into the couch and read. And no writing gets done. Soon I find that I haven't written a single word all week, and my WIP languishes.

So, beginning this Sunday for a week, I am giving up reading.

Yep, you read that right. No reading for a whole week.

*all writer/reader friends gasp in horror* *several pass out* *smelling salts are passed around*

I have a WIP to finish, darn it, and reading all my free time away won't get it written! So it's time for drastic measures.

The BookFast will run seven days, from this coming Sunday to Saturday, thereby giving me the long weekend to catch up on my reading as a reward. (I originally pondered doing it for a whole month, but the very thought gave me heart palpitations. So I'm going to try a week and see how it goes.) A breakdown of my required daily word count for the week is:

  • Mon/Wed/Fri: 500 words
  • Sun/Tues/Thurs/Sat: 1,000 words

It's not a lot, but it's what I know I can handle - and it's infinitely more than I'm getting down right now.

And I'm not going to give up all reading. That would kill me. I am allowed to read two things:

  • Research (aka non-fiction, for Project P only); and
  • Project P (the WIP I will be working on).

This will keep me on track and always in the mindset of the story.

And, if I make the day's word count, there will be a reward: one short story from The Curiosities! So I'm not totally cutting myself off from fiction, which should keep me sane enough.

I will probably go dark for the week blog-wise, but I will Tweet updates (@skyelyte), and I will post about the experience afterwards. I'm calling this my "First Annual" BookFast because I think it will prove really good for me, and I'll probably do it again if it goes as well as I think it will.

Wish me luck!

(And if you want to join me, let me know and we can encourage each other!)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Where in the World Wednesday

It's time for another installment of my writing meme: "Where in the World Wednesday"! Show us where your character is right now in your story, either from a broad view like France or a narrow view like the library on First Street. Wherever they are, blog a picture of the location - but don't feel the need to explain or even tell us where it is if you don't want to! The mystery is part of the fun. ;)

Today's location comes once more from Project P, and my MCs are currently here:

I bet there are some of you who recognize this location! (I just hope it has a bridge somewhere... :\)

So where in the world is your character this Wednesday? Blog a pic and comment below with the link!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Etiquette & Espionage

It is time for Teaser Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading, where you open your current read to a random page and share two teaser sentences.

This week's read is an ARC I just received and will be starting today! I've been waiting for it to arrive for over a month, and dying to read it all year. It's "Book the First" in Gail Carriger's new YA Alternate Historical Paranormal Steampunk series, Finishing School. Here's the teaser:

Dimity looked at her, still recovering. "Really, Sophronia, it makes me most uncomfortable how you manage to sort everything out every time I faint."

I can't wait to get started! So what are you reading this week?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why Do I Love YA?

So why do I love YA? Well, it's all a matter of Less and More:
  • Less: language, sex, description, "intellectual" writing, boring topics and characters and boredom in general.
  • More: adventure, fun sexual tension (without the need for actual sex), fun in general, interesting characters and worlds, generally lighter topics (what I read, anyway), and let's not forget the awesome authors I love to follow online and meet in person. :)
And that's just a few reasons off the top of my head! For me, YA is less junk and more entertainment. What's not to love?

So what do you love about YA?

This post is an entry for Beth Revis' Library of YA contest, which you can find on her blog via the graphic below. Check it out:

Share the Love of YA

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Art of Wishing

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blogging event hosted by Breaking the Spine, in which one spotlights an upcoming release they are eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Title: The Art of Wishing
Author: Lindsay Ribar
Release Date: March 21, 2013
Summary (from Goodreads):

He can grant her wishes, but only she can save his life.

Margo McKenna has a plan of attack for everything, from landing the lead in her high school musical to dealing with her increasingly absent parents. But when she finds herself in possession of a genie's ring and the opportunity to make three wishes, she doesn't know what to do. Especially since Oliver--not blue-skinned, not bottle-dwelling, but a genie nonetheless--can see more than what she's willing to show him. With one peek into her mind, he can see the wishes that even Margo herself doesn't know she wants.

But Oliver comes with more than just mind-reading abilities, a flair for magic, and the prettiest eyes Margo's ever seen. Someone from his past is hunting him--someone bent on killing him, along with all the other genies in the world, for the sake of honor. And as Margo soon discovers, it will take more than three wishes to save him.

A whole lot more.

Why I'm Looking Forward To It: This sounds like a light and fun read, which is something I'm always scrounging to find in our current time of paranormal angst addiction. And who wouldn't like a book about a hot guy who grants a girl wishes? ;)

So what's your "waiting on" pick this week?


Between yet more health problems, Nano ML responsibilities, and life in general, I've been totally swamped. But I finally give you another entry for my "Currently..." segment, in which I let you know what I'm currently up to on a number of highly important topics.



Novels: In the middle of The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories, which I've been looking forward to for a while. I usually don't like short story collections (at all, really), but I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one, and it really hasn't disappointed.
Manga: Have 5 volumes of Bakuman saved up (had to wait forever for Volume 12 from the library), and now I'm enjoying reading through them all at once. Each volume takes three to four times longer to read than regular manga, so they are always a treat. And they are such an inspiration for my writing resolve.


TV: I was in need of a new old 1/2 hour comedy favorite, so of course I turned to The Addams Family. For drama, I finally, finally got my hands on Downton Abbey Season 2. As promised, it's even better than Season 1.
Movies: Watched Breakfast at Tiffany's again. I thought I remembered a bittersweet ending (i.e. she didn't end up with the guy), but she did so I was happily surprised. Only cried during the Cat alley scene, though.

Worth Mentioning: The Neighbors is my favorite new show this season! If you haven't seen it, DO - it's the funniest thing I've come across in a long time. I already plan to buy the DVD the day it's released.


Project P: Haven't made much progress until this week - just passed 7k for this month's Nano. I reached a point in my outline where I had nothing planned, so of course I threw them into a horribly dire situation I had absolutely no idea was going to happen until they got there. Always such fun. :) Yesterday had to re-do my timetable for the fourth time though, which took over 40 minutes of crazy math, but it was worth it. As long as it's now correct...I hope...
Project NB: I printed out what I have so far (39 pages) and re-read it. While a complete mess, the important bits are really good and I'd really love to finish it someday. It's literary fiction (with a supernatural-esque element), which is totally not what I normally write but I love it to bits.


Almost halfway through Nanowrimo 2012. Two of the three October programs went really well (one was a huge success, actually, to my surprise), and now I'm just trying to keep up with my duties. Luckily I've gained a helper this year (Shari is the bee's knees, guys, the bee's knees), so things haven't been as crazy as they could have been (considering I've been sick for most of my own November programs).

As for making 50k by December, I've given up all hope of winning. My record shall stand at 6 consecutive wins.

That's it for me. What are you "currently" up to?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sherman Alexie’s Top 10 Writing Advice

Another awesome and unique list of advice from an award-winning author. This one comes from Writer's Digest, and the original article can be found here.

#4 was the big one for me. While I don't necessarily agree with it, I still found that it relieved some pressure. :)

National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie’s birthday is Sunday, and his new title Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories was released this week. To celebrate the short-story writer (War Dances), poet (The Business of Fancydancing) and novelist (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), here’s some advice Alexie shared with in the magazine.

The Top 10 Pieces of Writing Advice I’ve Been Given (Or That I’ll Pretend Were Given to Me)
by Sherman Alexie

[10] Don’t Google search yourself.

[9] When you’ve finished Google searching yourself, don’t do it again.

[8] Every word on your blog is a word not in your book.

[7] Don’t have any writing ceremonies. They’re just a way to stop you from writing.

[6] Turn your readings into events. Perform and write with equal passion.

[5] Read 1,000 pages for every one you try to write.

[4] In fiction, research is overrated. But that means readers will write you correcting all of your minor biographical, geographical and historical errors. If you like, make those corrections in the paperback, but don’t sweat it too much.

[3] Don’t lose the sense of awe you feel whenever you meet one of your favorite writers. However, don’t confuse any writer’s talent with his or her worth as a human being. Those two qualities are not necessarily related.

[2] Subscribe to as many literary journals as you can afford.

[1] When you read a piece of writing that you admire, send a note of thanks to the author. Be effusive with your praise. Writing is a lonely business. Do your best to make it a little less lonely.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Where in the World Wednesday

I have decided to start a new writer's meme (or whatever these things are called): "Where in the World Wednesday"! Show us where your character is right now in your story, either from a broad view like France or a narrow view like the library on First Street. Wherever they are, blog a picture of the location - but don't feel the need to explain or even tell us where it is if you don't want to! The mystery is part of the fun. ;)

Today's location is from Project P, and my MC is currently here:

Okay, I'll give you a hint: she's in Manhattan.

So where in the world is your character this Wednesday? Blog a pic and comment below with the link!

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Another entry for my "Currently..." segment, in which I let you know what I'm currently up to on a number of highly important topics.



Novels: Shadowland by Meg Cabot, the first book in The Mediator series. I've been dealing with Restless Reading Syndrome again, but when I suddenly thought of them I got really excited - even though I've already read them twice. ;) I've been trying to get through Defiance by C.J. Redwine, but I've gotten to the point where I'm seething with frustration and don't want to pick it up anymore. No idea why, but it's the characters, for some reason.
MangaxxxHolic series. It was time for another re-read. So good. Highly recommend.


TV: Person of Interest Season 1. One of the best shows ever - can't wait for the 2nd Season to start later this month. Also Castle Season 4, the other best show ever. :) And for a little splash of comedy, Hot in Cleveland Season 2. Don't judge.
Movies: Just finished Mirror Mirror, which if you overlook the stupid beginning and ending (a Bollywood musical number to close, seriously?), it was pretty good. The set and costumes were amazing, and the mirror world and puppets were original and awesome.


Fell out of the habit of writing (so easy to do) and couldn't get back to it for several weeks. I literally forgot how, which was a little scary. But happily I'm back at it, and making some progress!

Project P: It is once more in play! I am halfway through Day 1 (the middle part is broken into 7 Days), and it's going well. Am currently at just over 31K. For the next scene I am researching New Museum and climbing gear. Spoilers. ;)
Project V: I have shelved it once again. So close, yet so far. One day, one day...


Aside for a few snags, my Nano2012 East Valley Region planning is coming along nicely. I have several new programs lined up for October, including a Q&A panel (which I will be on, gulp) and a Story 101 workshop I'm putting together with two awesome local authors. Breaking down the basic elements of writing is hard (especially for three discovery writers), but hopefully we'll be able to pull it off well enough. I also have four local authors lined up for pep talks (they are so awesome, squeezing us into their super-busy schedules!), so we're in for a star-studded November. ;) Thank goodness I have 100 tiny plastic ninjas helping me, though, or I'd never get it all done in time!

That's it for me. What are you "currently" up to?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Paranormal vs. Supernatural

I put this together for my writing group blog last month, and thought you guys might find it interesting as well.

Before Paranormal became the genre, Supernatural was usually the go-to genre name for out of the ordinary creatures and mysterious powers. While I personally feel Paranormal and Supernatural should be considered two separate genres, most consider them interchangeable.

Below is the basic description for both Paranormal and Supernatural from Wikipedia, to give you a better idea of how they are different - and alike.

Paranormal is a general term that designates experiences that lie outside "the range of normal experience or scientific explanation," or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure. Paranormal phenomena are distinct from certain hypothetical entities, such as dark matter and dark energy, only insofar as paranormal phenomena are inconsistent with the world as already understood through empirical observation coupled with scientific methodology.

Thousands of stories relating to paranormal phenomena are found in popular culture, folklore, and the recollections of individual subjects. In contrast, the scientific community, as referenced in statements made by organizations such as the United States National Science Foundation, maintains that scientific evidence does not support a variety of beliefs that have been characterized as paranormal.

What I believe falls under Paranormal: vampires, werewolves, fairies, monsters, aliens, zombies, ghosts, spirits, parapsychology

The supernatural is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature.

With neoplatonic and medieval scholastic origins, the metaphysical considerations can be difficult to approach as an exercise in philosophy or theology because any dependencies on its antithesis, the natural, will ultimately have to be inverted or rejected. In popular culture and fiction, the supernatural is whimsically associated with the paranormal and the occult, this differs from traditional concepts in some religions, such as Catholicism, where divine miracles are considered supernatural.

What I believe falls under Supernatural: anything "religious" - angels, demons, ghosts, spirits

So they are pretty much interchangeable, but can be separated.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

5 Writing Tips from Chelsea Cain

This article was just so good I had to share it. The original can be found here at Publisher's Weekly, and you can find the amazing (and colorful) bestselling author Chelsea Cain here.

5 Writing Tips from Chelsea Cain

Writing tips are like mini skirts. Sometimes they fit perfectly, sometimes they make you cry, and sometimes you can reuse the material and sew yourself a pillow or something. Maybe a few of these will work for you. I hope so. Personally I think you’d look very nice in a mini-skirt.

1. You won’t make a living writing until you learn to write when you don’t want to. A lot of writers wait for the muse to seize them. These writers don’t get much done. Here’s a secret: writing is not always fun. If it is, you’re doing it wrong. I love to write just about more than anything, but there are times I have to force myself to sit down and work. I want to play with my daughter, or watch a movie with my husband, or go outside on the nicest day of the year. But if writing is going to be your job, you have to treat it like a job. And that means that you don’t get to take the day off just because you’re “not feeling it.” This is what separates the writers who make it from the writers who don’t. Get your butt in your chair, and make yourself write. Do it every day.

2. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Don’t be afraid of clichés. Write the book you want to write. If you want to write about an alcoholic cop with an ex-wife and an insubordination problem, do it. If you want to write about a haunted hotel, or a woman who finds herself through a journey, or a teenage amateur sleuth – well, awesome. Your book will be different because you’re the one writing it.

3. Always remember that you are the boss. Don’t let your characters tell you what to do. They can be pushy. Some writers say that they create characters and then just sort of follow them around through the narrative. I think that these writers are out of their minds. I tried this for years. I would create characters based loosely on people that I knew, and before long that character would be talking back to me. “I’m not sure Stacey would do that,” Stacey would say, when I tried to convince her to go into the scary basement alone. And she’d be right. Stacey wouldn’t do that. No one would, really. I didn’t bloom as a fiction writer until I figured out how to make up characters out of whole cloth (not based on anyone), and I stopped worrying about what they’d do in real life. My characters have to do what I tell them. And if I need Stacey to go into that scary basement, then that’s what she’s going to do.

4. Write the stuff that makes you feel nervous. Sometimes, when you’re writing, you will get to a scene that makes you feel profoundly uncomfortable. You will think you’ve gone too far. You will imagine your relatives reading this scene and your face will get hot and you will clear your throat a few times and you will be very, very tempted to delete that scene. Don’t do it. Finish writing it. Leave it in. Tell yourself that you can always cut it out later. Because I promise you – that scene -- it will be the best scene in the book. When writing feels dangerous, that’s when you know that you’re doing something right.

5. Details are not created equally. Writing teachers go on and on about the importance of using details to flesh out a scene. But not all details are created equally. When you write thrillers like I do, and suddenly your main character is running for his life from a serial killer who is chasing him through the woods, slowing down the action with a bunch of descriptions seems counterintuitive. Why would the main character be noticing the pine needles on the ground when he has a killer on his heels? But I’ll tell you a secret, the more detail that I unpack about that woods, the night air, the sky, the sounds of his footsteps, the more tense that scene becomes. I read a study recently. Some professor wanted to look into the experience that time slows in life or death situations and he tied some graduate students to Bungee cords and pushed them off a ledge, and studied the results. His conclusion? In normal circumstances our brain culls details. In tense situations our mind stops culling – it notices everything – because you don’t know what detail is going to save your life. This is what creates the experience of time slowing—lots of details. The next time you’re writing a tension filled scene – maybe there’s a serial killer in it, maybe your character is asking someone out to prom – remember to stop culling. Notice everything. The acne on her forehead. The buttons on her shirt. It all becomes important. It’s the ordinary moments that fly by. With those, the brain does cull details, so the details that your character does notice become all the more important and revealing. An object accrues more significance every time it’s mentioned. Notice the vase on the table once in a scene, and it’s a detail in the room. Notice the vase on the table three times and it means something to your character. It becomes a prop you can use. It starts to tell a story.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


On the recommendation of web-buddy Gina, I am starting a new segment entitled "Currently...", in which I let you know what I'm currently up to on a number of highly important topics.



Novels: Spellbound by Rachel Hawkins, the 3rd (and final) book in the Hex Hall trilogy. While not exceptionally original, they are easy to read, well-written, and entertaining enough to keep my interest. Just finished: The Unnatural Inquirer, Book 8 of the Nightside Series by Simon R. Green. Blatant infodumping and the sloppiest plotting I've ever seen, but his description of the world (and the world itself) just keeps getting better and better.
Manga: Kamisama Kiss vol. 10 - aside from Skip Beat, my favorite manga series to date. Just finished: 5 Centimeters per Second, a melancholy romance about people who love too deeply. A beautiful story, but what is it about Japanese endings that it isn't worth telling unless it makes your soul hurt?


Leverage Season 4, one of the best shows ever. Although if they were to replace Nate and Sophie, it most certainly wouldn't be the end of the world (Elliot, Parker, and Hardison totally make the show). Also watching the last season of Eureka - loved the "Smarter Carter" episode. And then I'm re-watching the 2nd season of White Collar, the 1st season of Human Target, the 2nd season of Sherlock, and random episodes of the 1st-3rd seasons of Leverage. Just finished: Warehouse 13, another awesomesauce show. Gotta have some variety, and television is my movies. :)


Project BW: I have a huge stack of research books from the library, the first few chapters are written and the first 3rd sort-of outlined, most of the main players are in place, and the world is coming along nicely. I'm even generating a few ideas for the 2nd book.
Project VFinally called for my attention again, so I printed out what I have so far and am reading through it to see if my interest truly sparks. So far I'm pleasantly surprised with how good it is. I really would like to pick it back up, so fingers crossed it sticks.


Nano2012 for my East Valley Region! I've got bigger plans this year, especially for October. I let time get away from me, though, so now I'm in a bit of a mad rush to get everything moving. Never put off today what you really should have done a month ago.

That's it for me. What are you "currently" up to?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Choose What to Leave Out

Yet another installment from Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon (you can find him and his awesome book here)! This chapter falls under Rule 10: Creativity is Substraction:

Choose What to Leave Out.

In this age of information abundance and overload, those who get ahead will be the folks who figure out what to leave out, so they can concentrate on what's really important to them. Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. The idea that you can do anything is absolutely terrifying.

The way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself. It seems contradictory, but when it comes to creative work, limitations mean freedom. Write a song on your lunch break. Paint a painting with one color. Start a business without any start-up capital. Shoot a movie with your iPhone and a few of your friends. Build a machine out of spare parts. Don't make excuses for not working - make things with the time, space, and materials you have, right now.

The right constraints can lead to your very best work. May favorite example? Dr. Seuss wrote The Car in the Hat with only 236 different words, so his editor bet him he couldn't write a book with only 50 different words. Dr. Seuss came back and won the bet with Green Eggs and Ham, one of the bestselling children's books of all time.

"Telling yourself you have all the time in the world, all the money in the world, all the colors in the palette, anything you want - that just kills creativity." --Jack White

The artist Saul Steinberg said, "What we respond to in any work of art is the artist's struggle against his or her limitations." It's often what an artist chooses to leave out that makes the art interesting. What isn't shown versus what is. It's the same for people: What makes us interesting isn't just what we've experienced, but also what we haven't experienced. The same is true when you do your work: You must embrace your limitations and keep moving.

In the end, creativity isn't just the things we choose to put in, it's the things we choose to leave out.

Choose wisely.

And have fun.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Writer, Know Thyself

Guess what? I'm dropping Project MS.

I know, I know - you are shocked. Me, drop a project? Unheard of!

So what's my excuse this time? The simple fact that I am ruining it.

As explained in my previous post, Project MS is technically the 2nd Draft of a finished manuscript. But it needed a complete rewrite of the first half, and a complete overhaul of the Main Character, a woman who had no life.

For the past month I and said MC have struggled together to create her a family, a background, a life. But no matter how real she becomes, I have no idea how she will react when I drop her into the story. Stick her into a familial situation, no problem, but fold her into the magical diversion that is the story and I find myself forcing it. And if I have to force anything, I know I am doing something horribly wrong.

The final realization that I was, indeed, forcing came with the last scene I wrote. It flowed smoothly from my fingers, but once the scene was done I stopped and thought, "Is that really how the characters would've acted in that situation?" I still, at this very second, have no idea. I have never asked that question of a story before, and so I knew it was time to give up on the book before I ruined it further.

So I am tucking Project MS back into the trunk for another time. I am determined to finish it someday, but this is not it.

Now, what am I to do with myself? I'm still not ready to tackle Project V, and I don't quite hear the call to complete Project P. I actually feel the need to take a kind of story break and focus on blogging - both my own and a new Q&A blog I shall be launching for my Nanowrimo group. To fill any creative writing itch, Project BW has been wiggling its fingers at me and throwing winks my way, so perhaps I'll play with it a bit - it always proves such enjoyable company. I also want to read more research books. I almost exclusively read novels, and it's high time I broadened my literary world a bit.

I know it seems as if I'm always dropping projects, never to finish anything. But sometimes, a person just has to go with their instincts. And so I am.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Muse, a Fickle Mistress

My Muse is a fickle mistress. And seriously stricken with a severe case of ADD. She can't keep her attention on a single project for more than a month - as she proved this June, dumping Project P as it tried to push through into its second month. I fought against her, but eventually she won (as she always does), and I am now working on Project MS.

Although I am frustrated with said Muse, I am not upset to be working on Project MS. I'm actually really excited, because I've been wanting to give it my full attention for so long. And finally, the time has come!

Project MS is an Adult Urban Fantasy about a woman with unique abilities, wizards, tons of magic (mostly dangerous), and multiple worlds (though mostly set in our own). To give you a better idea of Project MS, here are six things you should know about it:

1. Project MS is actually a finished manuscript of over 100k words (my longest finished manuscript to date). I began it at least half a decade ago and got two-thirds written before my Muse lost interest. Then, several years later (for some reason I can't recall), I took up the challenge and finished it (my first finished non-Nanowrimo manuscript). So I am technically working on a 2nd Draft, which means I am finally trying my hand at Editing. I've been dying to be inspired to truly edit a manuscript, and now I have - bring it on!

2. Project MS is my Dream Project. That one story that is your Perfect Story, with all your favorite elements and characters set in your favorite places. The one story that, even though you wrote it and it may not be all that good in spots, you can't help but re-read all your favorite scenes every chance you get. That is Project MS for me.

3. Going over my 1st Draft, I discovered my main character (female) was awful. This rarely happens to me, especially when she's female. But originally I gave her the most stupid job and absolutely no life (for a reason, but still), so there are big blocks of the book where she literally sits around waiting for something to happen. She needed a complete overhaul, right down to a new name. Now seven chapters in I still haven't quite got a handle on her, but I'm getting close.

4. In complete contrast, my main male character is practically perfect in every way. This is another anomaly for me - my supporting love-interest guy usually ends up two-dimensional and such a bore. But with Project MS, the roles were reversed - my female was boring, and my guy the perfect balance of everything he needs to be, and so sure of himself about it! I can only add to his brilliance - at the moment with a nasty smoking habit. ;)

5. My opening scene just didn't cut it anymore. This was tragic for me because I pride myself on my opening scenes. But given the new angles of the main female it no longer worked, and has now been shifted and reworked to become Chapter 3 instead.

6. The first fourth of my 1st Draft is BORING. Seriously, who wrote this, because I could not have thought it would be interesting for anyone, including me! All my favorite scenes are in the second half of the book - mainly the last part written several years later. So now I have to go back and write a beginning (mostly from scratch) that makes the end proud to be in the same book with it. Luckily, I think I'm up to the challenge.

Wish me luck!

Monday, June 4, 2012

In the Beginning, Obscurity is Good

Yet another installment from Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon (you can find him and his awesome book here).

This chapter falls under Rule 6: The Secret: Do Good Work and Share It With People. I find it a particular comfort and inspiration:

In the Beginning, Obscurity is Good.

I get a lot of e-mails from young people who ask, "How do I get discovered?"

I sympathize with them. There is a kind of fallout that happens when you leave college. The classroom is a wonderful, if artificial, place: Your professor gets paid to pay attention to your ideas, and your classmates are paying to pay attention to your ideas. Never again in your life will you have such a captive audience.

Soon after, you learn that most of the world doesn't necessarily care about what you think. It sounds harsh, but it's true. As the writer Steven Pressfield says, "It's not that people are mean or cruel, they're just busy."

This is actually a good thing, because you want attention only after you're doing really good work. There's no pressure when you're unknown. You can do what you want. Experiment. Do things just for the fun of it. When you're unknown, there's nothing to distract you from getting better. No public image to manage. No huge paycheck on the line. No stockholders. No e-mails from your agent. No hangers-on.

You'll never get that freedom back again once people start paying you attention, and especially not once they start paying you money.

Enjoy your obscurity while it lasts. Use it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Updates! Updates! Read All About'm!

Project P is coming along well, although the past week (and the long holiday weekend) weren't as productive as I'd hoped. Between having some type of stomach bug and the complicated part of the Project P I find myself working on, my word count has been sluggish to progress. However, I am on schedule.

The "opening" part (Act 1?) is finished. It turned out a lot longer than I initially anticipated, but it was fun and easy to write so I don't care. It does, however, mean this book is probably going to be a lot longer than I'd originally planned. If my 60K by June 30th schedule does not see the end of the story, then I will add on another 30K more by July 31st "to end or bust."

I have been saying that I am entering "the good part" of the story, but in reality it is proving the most difficult. I'm only two chapters in, and my resolve has already been tested thrice by other stories trying to tempt me away. Almost the entire rest of the book takes place on Manhattan, and each step my MC takes must be carefully calculated down to the block. I have never been to New York, let alone Manhattan. What do I know of teeming metropolis islands, let alone the intimate details of one like Manhattan?!? O.O But with map and guidebooks in hand (and Wikipedia and Google Images & Maps on my Taskbar), I sojourn on. Thank God for technology, or this book wouldn't have a prayer.

At this exact moment, my MC is entering the King's Castle to receive her instructions - and learn that everything is as bad as she feared.


How is your current writing project progressing?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Practice Productive Procrastination

I'm still busy toiling away on Project P, and while I plan to give you an update on my progress this three-day weekend (don't hold your breath, though), for now I offer you another piece from Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon (you can find him and his awesome book here). This book has been nothing but an inspiration and comfort to me, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Today's excerpt falls under Rule 5: Side Projects and Hobbies are Important:

Practice Productive Procrastination.

Take time to be bored. One time I heard a coworker say, "When I get busy, I get stupid." Ain't that the truth. Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing. I get some of my best ideas when I'm bored, which is why I never take my shirts to the cleaners. I love ironing my shirts - it's so boring, I almost always get good ideas. If you're out of ideas, wash the dishes. Take a really long walk. Stare at a spot on the wall for as long as you can. As the artist Maira Kalman says, "Avoiding work is the way to focus my mind."

Take time to mess around. Get lost. Wander. You never know where it's going to lead you.

My "boring creative time" is in the shower, the ride to/from work (I don't do the driving), and the hour it takes for me to fall asleep. What's yours?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Nothing Is Original

I am elbow-deep in Project P right now, but I hate to leave you, my wonderful readership, in silence! Therefore, I offer you this piece from Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. If you have never heard of him, or read this book, you have now and I highly recommend not only the amazing read but the author himself (check him out on his website here). His book has been inspirational to me, and I'm only on #2!

To inspire you today, I offer a comforting excerpt from the book, entitled Nothing Is Original:

The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something "original," nine out of ten times they just don't know the references or the original sources involved.

What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.

It's right there in the Bible: "There is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Some people find this idea depressing, but it fills me with hope. As the French writer André Gide put it, "Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again."

If we're free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.

"What is originality? Undetected plagiarism."
- William Ralph Inge

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Library Haul Hiatus

Dear Readers,

So I can focus what little energy I have on writing Project P, I am taking a short hiatus from my weekly Library Haul installments. I will, however, try to blog as often as I can with updates on my writing progress, thoughts on writing in general, and perhaps the occasional book review (who knows).

Until then, yours in writing,

Monday, April 30, 2012

New Project Ahoy!

(Due to the fact that I was unable to attend my libraries this weekend, and therefore my haul was extremely malnourished, I have forgone the usual Library Haul this week. Do forgive.)

As you are aware, Project V has been giving me no end of trouble and refuses to be written, so I decided to work on another story, hoping it might get me back into the swing of the thing. I pondered a few options and started a few promising stories, but it wasn't until late last week that I found The Story.

And so, I am announcing the new and exciting Project P!

If you must know (because, of course, you must, right? ;), I am currently describing Project P as "The Hunger Games meets Legend (by Marie Lu) meets In Time." It is a stand-alone YA dystopian novel with a female protagonist in 1st Person Present Tense.

After much personal debate, I decided to devote the next two months to write it. To insure I don't aggravate my already bad health, the word count schedule is: 500 words on work days, 1,000 on off-work days, and 1,500 on weekend days. At this slow but daily pace I will have 56,500 words on June 30th. I do not consider this a novel length, though, and plan to write as many words as I can each day to be sure and make at least 60k in the end. But I need an attainable daily goal to strive for, lest I write nothing at all.

So why this story, you wonder? Well, there were two very important and very striking factors right from the start that indicated Project P was The Story:

(1) Before I could even wrap my head around it, my mind started writing a query blurb. I have yet to write a query letter, let alone a blurb for one, and yet there it was, pouring out of my pen onto the page. It was like another, more structured writer had taken over, which was both fascinating and freaky at the same time.

(2) And then, after several sentences of blurb, came The Outline. I am a hard-core discovery writer. I DO NOT outline. And yet I am now the proud owner of a currently 3-page and growing, honest-to-goodness outline. I don't normally outline because, once I get even the gist of the story written down, I lose interest. But so far, it has only increased my excitement to get this book written! Again, fascinating, yet totally freaky.

Needless to say I have no idea what happened, but I saw it as the writing on the wall - to write this novel, and NOW. Strike while the story iron is hot!

I begin tomorrow with a 1k day (although I'm hoping for 2k). I've had less than a week to get my main characters figured out, do some extensive research (of which I've only scratched the surface and will have to do as-needed from now on), draft an outline (currently only one-fourth done), and get some very important rules in order. But writing on the fly is what I do best, and I am all aquiver with excitement. I don't think I've been this excited to write a novel since perhaps my first Nanowrimo. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Writing Block

I have writing block.

This is not to be confused with writer's block. Writer's block is when a writer is blocked in their story and they don't know what to write.

This is not my problem. I am not blocked in my story. My story overflows with ideas and material, my brain churning out new points and angles for Project V like nobody's business. If anything, I am too not blocked in my story - it refuses to stop evolving, constantly changing this bit and that bit until what I had before is nothing more than a second-rate idea.

My problem is that I'm blocked from writing, the physical act of putting words on paper. I know what I want to write, but when I go to physically write, I can't. And right now I am re-writing, which means I have 100 pages already written that only need to be physically typed and tweaked. You think this would make things even easier, but it hasn't.

I know the solution to this problem: sitting my butt in the chair and writing. I KNOW THIS. And yet, the physical act of writing repels me like magnets of the same polarity.

Luckily, I have found some solace in a new story. I am physically writing, and that counts for something with me. But sooner or later, I know I have to return to Project V. I have sworn to have the first draft finished by the end of this year. I keep telling myself this, scolding myself for every wasted writing moment. Yet every time I glance at my laptop, my mind simply goes blank of anything remotely resembling a cohesive sentence.

Here's hoping my polarity changes soon...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Library Haul: In Translation

It's time for a look at my Library Haul, the tower of goodies I picked up during my weekly trip to the libraries (TL, ML, and CL). Sideways are borrowed, upright are purchased used from library Friends.

Here is this week's haul:

  • For 25 cents, wouldn't you pick up a nice copy of Torment? Even if you weren't reading the series. *blinks* Book hoarder? *looks around* Who?
  • The Japanese manga (25 cents at TL Friends) is Alice 19th Volume 5, which I was then able to borrow from the same library to have some fun translating! Been waiting for something like this for a while.
  • I've read Yurara before, but it's been long enough that I can enjoy it again. And I am.
  • The last copy I got of Skinned was nasty - this one is almost like new! I'm a library gal, but sometimes even I'm afraid of where a book has been when it looks that dingy. And germs can live a long time on paper. Better safe than sorry.
  • I didn't get Timeless back, but I got a book just as good: Glamour in Glass! I've been desperate for another Mary Robinette Kowal book since I finished Shades of Milk and Honey. I fear, though, that reading all these Jane Austen-period books one after the other is going to affect my writing voice. :\
  • Nothing to speak of in the movie department... wait, two movies are missing from this photo! (I knew I was forgetting something!) Hehe, oops. :) They are second tries, though - In Time and Doctor Who Series 6, Part 2. Let's see if I get time to watch them this week.
  • What I am finding an abundance of is CDs, especially awesome soundtracks at TL: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Big Miracle, Downton Abbey. Oh, and I would like to announce at this time that I have put the first season of Downton Abbey on hold. It will take a while, but soon I shall be finding out what all the fuss is about!

What have you picked up from your local library as of late?

A Note to My Readership:
Do you enjoy reading Library Haul? I haven't gotten any comments in a while, so should I cease this odd little weekly segment? I would hate to continue boring you, if I am. Please let me know, even if it's a quick "I enjoy it. Keep it up!" or "It's pretty dull. I'd rather hear more about your cats." Thank you in advance for your comments!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Library Haul: The Adventures of Ex Libris

It's time for a look at my Library Haul, the tower of goodies I picked up during my weekly trip to the libraries (TL, ML, and CL). Sideways are borrowed, upright are purchased used from library Friends.

Here is this week's haul:

  • Not much in the way of books this week. Went looking for another book and discovered A College of Magics instead - we'll see if it's any good.
  • FINALLY got Rin-ne Volume 4! Now I can read all the volumes I've gathered and get on with my life.
  • New movies are The Adventures of Tin Tin and The Three Musketeers. Musketeers wasn't bad, although I would've liked to see Bloom as one of the three, and not the bad guy.
  • I've heard so much about Columbo, but don't think I've ever actually seen a full episode. The first season called to me. Same with The Bodyguard.
  • TL is getting in all sorts of new CDs, which means I'm trying all sorts of new artists and getting some great soundtracks, like Hugo. Who knows who I will discover!
What did you pick up from your local library this week?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Necessary Infodumping

I hate infodumping. I definitely hate reading it, but even more I hate writing it. Yet alas, sometimes a certain degree of infodumping is necessary to explain the details of a more complicated idea or world aspect.

We all hear time and again that infodumping is a no-no in novels. Never infodump!, They say. But sometimes, there are those rare things that simply cannot be shown, and must be told. The trick is to whittle down that information as much as possible until it is just the bare minimum, and then tell it in as interesting a setting and scene as you can. It usually comes out rather clichéd (as mine is, taking place during a tour), but sometimes it's just gotta be there for other things to make sense.

I am at the necessary infodump point in my re-write of Project V, and it's even worse to re-write than it was to write. I'm having to rearrange the information, which has me all confused with what needs to go where, and because I've become so frustrated with it, the whole ordeal has been like pushing a car through the mud. I have been at it for weeks (also on account of my health, though), and I have yet to see a dry patch to get the story back on the fast track.

I've been tempted to try my hand at another story for a while, perhaps just a short story, so I can at least keep writing to some extent. However, when I sit down to write, I cannot decide on any one project, and in the end my mind comes back around to Project V - as it should, really. So I end up working on whatever bit of Project V that pops into my head - be it the story of what happened that fateful day months before the first book begins (part of which ended up becoming the first book prologue, and a darn good one at that), or the beginning of the POV change in the middle of book three, which only this past week I discovered is going to happen (oh...uh...spoiler alert! :). Even if it doesn't fit into the books and will never see the light of day, it's writing - and more importantly, it's writing in my current WIP. So I don't sweat it as much as not writing at all.

I'm not sitting on my hands, however (which is a funny idiom for a writer :). This week I have begun trying some new techniques, which I hope will get me out of this infodump rut I'm stuck in and back onto the smooth road soon, sailing along towards the end once more. Wish me luck!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Library Haul: I Hunt Books

It's time for a look at my Library Haul, the tower of goodies I picked up during my weekly trip to the libraries (TL, ML, and CL). Sideways are borrowed, upright are purchased used from library Friends.

Here is this week's haul:

  • Lots of yummy new YA novels to read! I'm attacking Black Heart by Holly Black first, since it's a favorite series. I Hunt Killers looks to be interesting, although I read the first chapter and it's no I Am Not A Serial Killer - which is actually probably a good thing.
  • New movies include War Horse, Atlas Shrugged Part 1, Jane Eyre, and Cafe. CL had I Dream of Jeannie Season 3, so I grabbed it for some quick and fun entertainment. I used to watch reruns every weekday as a kid after Bewitched. We finally finished Jericho, and I'm going to watch Still Walking this time around even if it kills me (it's my third check-out)!
  • I picked up two Vanessa Carlton CDs, hoping they would be just as good as her first two (which I own). Talk about disappointing! Her latest doesn't even sound like her. What happened?

What interesting items have you picked up from your local library as of late?