Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Authors, Authors, Everywhere!

Instead of my usual library rounds this weekend (no Library Haul this week, btw), I attended a YA Writing Conference in Phoenix. It was piggybacked onto the annual YAllapalooza, in which 300+ teens converge on a group of unsuspecting YA authors to bombard them with questions and eat pizza. I didn't stay for the craziness afterward, but the Conference was a lot of fun and I'm really glad I went. I was also happy to get to hang out with J of Concrete Pieces of Soul for the day! We even wrangled it so we attended classes together. ;)

They had an awesome author lineup: Kiersten White, Aprilynne Pike, Anna Carey, Bree Despain, James Owen, Adam Rex, Tom Leveen, Janette Rallison (C.J. Hill), Robin Brande, Cecil Castellucci, and Amy Fellner Dominy (who I just realized I never even saw...bummer).

There were four classes to attend, although time restraints dictated you could only pick three. :( So I chose Heroes & Villains (Kiersten, Aprilynne, and Anna), Unforgettable Characters (Bree, James, and Adam), and Edgy Fiction (Tom and Cecil). And then they had a YA vs. MG panel during lunch with five of the authors (which I personally thought was extremely cruel, making the authors eat in front of everyone and talk without a break - but that's just me). Kiersten was not one of them (smart woman), so J & I got to "have lunch" with her! She's super-nice and it was awesome.

Five of the authors doing the panel during lunch. Poor things!

The classes were interesting and I picked up quite a few tips. Highlights included Kiersten's piece on villains (she loves villains), Anna's spin on The Hero's Journey, and Adam's Steamship Goggle Fish (see below). And then there was Tom and Cecil's class. Their sheer enthusiasm and energy had us all excited, and even though they made us do exercises (which totally freak me out), their class was a ton of fun and by far the best.

Kiersten and me. I wanted proof that I was taller than her, but then I went and slouched! ARGH!

The greatest part was seeing so many amazing authors in person at one time. As a writer, such a gathering is like catnip for me, and seeing them "in action" makes me want to work all the harder to become part of that "crowd." I kept thinking: "One day, I could be here! That giant poster could be of my book! Teens would flock to eat pizza with me! I would be the one sitting behind that signing table, handing out bookmarks and thanking readers and sweating like a pig from nerves!" Having something to strive for makes the struggle worth it, and every now and again I need reminding.

Adam Rex's Steamship Goggle Fish. Isn't it AWESOME? O.O

P.S. Adam Rex is my new favorite author to see in person! He's funny and talented and he sketched me this awesome Steamship Goggle Fish, which I now have framed on my wall. He created it on the class whiteboard in a moment of distraction when James was talking about the things a steampunk book is required to have. Author-Illustrators are awesome.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Top 10 Clues You May Be A Writer

Found this and thought I'd share it with you today (i.e. it's too long to Tweet ;). Here are the Top 10 Clues You May Be a Writer, and my comments to prove "My name is Skye, and I am a writer." ;) Enjoy!

Top 10 Clues You May Be a Writer
  1. You would rather talk to the voices in your head than the person sitting next to you. Unless that person is a writer - and then you can't stop talking to them!
  2. You know the library's phone number, but not your work number. In my defense we just changed my work number. Well, in July. The library's remains unchanged, despite their remodel.
  3. Some of the letters on your keyboard are completely worn off. This is also the mark of a secretary. Therefore, since I am both, my keys are letter-less.
  4. You have a favorite pen that no one else can touch. Well, a type of pen. But if anyone uses any of them (because, say, I accidentally left them about the house - but it's not my fault!), I get very upset (especially since they leave the cap off - they dry out people!).
  5. Books are your favorite scent. Any other scent usually gives me a headache.
  6. If you could meet anyone in the world, it would be your favorite author. DUH. Presidents and celebrities come and go - authors are forever.
  7. You eat macaroni and cheese for a week because you spent all of your money at the bookstore. But I like mac & cheese...
  8. Your/you're errors drive you crazy. O.O Crazy like an insane person!
  9. You named your laptop. Blue, for that horrible blue logo wallpaper I CAN'T CHANGE.
  10. You would rather write than go out. Going out takes too much energy, and can prove distracting. Unless it's to see a favored author, of course. ;)
So are you a writer? ;)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Post-Published Aspirations

What are looking forward to when you finally publish? What do you want to do when your story is en route to a bookstore shelf? If you hope to make a career of writing, I'm sure you've thought about it at least once.

We fantasize about the finer things that come with signing that book deal - launch parties, tours, the long line of fans waiting hours just to get our autograph. But while these are pretty much pipe dreams for a debut author, there are still plenty of awesome things we can aspire to.

Here are the top 5 things I plan to do, and look forward to, when I get published:
  1. Sneak-signing my book at a store. Stephanie Perkins tweeted that she did this at a Target once, and I knew right then that I had to do it myself someday. What an awesome surprise for a random reader!
  2. Meeting other published authors as colleagues. Right now I meet authors on a reader-to-author or aspiring-writer-to-author basis. I can't wait for the day that I meet some of the authors that inspire me on an author-to-author basis and be able to say, "Yes! I am published too! Meet Tuesday for coffee and discuss how to fend off hordes of screaming fans? I'm free!"
  3. Being a Guest at a convention. I've been an attendee to many conventions, even a volunteer, but the thought of being invited, possibly even paid to attend a beloved convention would make my decade.
  4. Being part of a multiple-author tour. While I'll admit they look a bit exhausting, how awesome would it be? Passing a mike up and down a long table with fellow genre authors answering odd questions with hilarious anecdotes and riling the crowd into a screaming frenzy. Good times, good times...
  5. Receiving fan mail. I'm not stupid - I will receive dislike and hate mail as well. But those few instances when a reader takes the time to write and tell me how much they loved reading my work will make everything worthwhile. 
So what's on your post-published checklist?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Library Haul: Poltergeists & Prohibition

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:

  • Merlin Season 3 arrived! Time for a medieval magic marathon.
  • Saw a PBS promo for Prohibition and thought it looked interesting. I need more history in my life - I hear one can learn stuff from it, or rot like that.
  • Brought home practically ML's entire ghost section (bottom half of the pile). Mostly juvenile books. When in doubt, start with the kids books.
  • I put I Don't Want to Kill You on hold before reaching the disturbing Chapter 11 of Mr. Monster, so I may take it back unread and wait a while before tackling the final (and apparently most creepy) book in the series. As it was I needed a good year-long buffer between Books 1 and 2.
  • I picked up the essays of Descartes, which most of you might find hard to believe. Heck, I find it hard to believe. But I read about him (in a "knowledge for idiots" kind of book) and thought it might be interesting to read his exact conclusions. We'll see if I can actually understand any of it though. :\
  • Discovered I didn't have a copy of Emma and found a good one at TL. How could I have called my book collection anywhere near well-rounded without one?
So what did you pick up on your last trip to the library?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monsters & Demons & Killers, Oh My!

It's time for Teaser Tuesday, a bookish meme brought to us by MizB at Should Be Reading! You grab your current read, open to a random page, and share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

I am currently reading Mr. Monster by Dan Wells, the second book in the John Cleaver series about a teen sociopath who struggles to keep his inner madness at bay while "protecting" his small town from serial killers. It's spooky and creepy and awesome, but most importantly it isn't focused on a teen girl discovering her special power while falling in love with some hot broody guy! (I'm really sick of YA dystopian/paranormal romances right now - can you tell? ;)

"Well, normal on the surface. Somewhere inside,
Mr. Monster was just waiting for me to make a mistake."

Dan Wells is an amazing writer who devoted himself to his research, so you can read assured of the accuracy of his facts on psychology, serial killers, and mortuary practices. This series isn't for the squeamish, but if you can take, say, Bones or Dexter without much trouble, definitely give these books a try.

So what are you reading today?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Writing Workshops for Fun & Free

I hosted a workshop this weekend for my local writing (and Nanowrimo) group, which I co-lead. It was a dialogue workshop entitled Toil & Trouble: Theatre Techniques to Sharpen Dialogue presented by the amazing Tom Leveen, local YA author of Party and the upcoming Zero (April). If you ever get the chance to hear him talk, do - his energy and passion for writing is inspiring.

Tom Leveen telling (and showing) his tips for revising dialogue

I've hosted several workshops and author talks for my group over the past few years (including one with Aprilynne Pike, who if you ever get the chance to hear her talk on the industry, do not miss it - her knowledge on the business of writing is very informative). They are a lot of fun to plan and throw, although the authors I can bring in are limited since we are non-profit and therefore have no money to pay appearance fees. However, I have been able to find some awesome local authors who, once they hear I can pack a room with 40 eager writers, are willing to waive their fee. ;)

If you truly want to become a professional writer, keep on constant watch for writing workshops, and attend as many as you can. They are a great way not only to learn more about the craft but also meet fellow writers that could potentially become critique partners - and good friends. And the workshop energy is infectious, so when it ends you'll be raring to get back to your story as soon as you hit the door!

Also, you might find out that if you publish a young adult novel and live in the Phoenix area you might earn the right to attend the local young adult author dinners they throw. How awesome would that be?! You never know what you'll learn at one of these things!

Sign up for local bookstore and library email lists - they sometimes host free or cheap workshops and conferences. Also check community colleges' continuing education classes. Browse meetup.com for local writing groups, and your nearest Nanowrimo Region for seasonal and sometimes year-round programs (like mine). There are so many ways to find writing programs if you take the time to look for them, so consider it part of your writing research and make the effort. Don't be the stereotypical author, huddled at home over your keyboard - attend something! You may be pleasantly surprised with what you find.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Library Haul: Now That's What I Call a Haul

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).

Here is this week's haul:

  • Watched the Lemonade Mouth movie last week and had to get my hands on the soundtrack. Even grown-ups need a good empowering dance song or two sometimes.
  • Also got Now That's What I Call Music 40, which has some awesome songs on it that are playing on the radio right now. And the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack, which I am listening (and enjoying) right this moment. :)
  • A new Otomen (Volume 11)! My much-needed infusion of cute. ;)
  • The hold list for Crossed was RIDICULOUS. We're talking over 100 for one library! Unfortunately I'll only have three weeks to read it, and there are about six books ahead of it in my stack. Why do they always come in when I don't have the time? *sigh*
  • And Left Hand Magic is finally in! Maybe what I need is to take a YA break to get back into my reading groove - it's worked before...
  • It's time to learn how ghosts tick - and how ghost hunters work. So I picked up what I could find on the shelf at the one library I had time to peruse at. The pickings weren't that good, but a quick catalog search showed there are awesome ones to be had if I put them on hold, so expect to see more in the upcoming weeks. Although an entire town that talks to the dead (Lily Dale)? Sold!
  • Lastly, the last season of Gilmore Girls is finally mine! Whom will she marry?
So what have you picked up from your local library lately?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Library Haul: Sleuths and Serial Killers

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 (it's quite a tower):

  • That Harry Potter is in German (at least, it looks like German). I saw it and just had to have it, even though I can't read a single word of whatever language it is and have no intention of learning. Yeah, I'm that kind of book collector. ;) 
  • Got Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon - and it's in paperback! The chances of it actually getting read went up 50% because of its softcover status.
  • Every week as I listen to the Writing Excuses podcast I'm reminded that I haven't read the rest of Dan Wells' serial killer series yet. So I finally got Mr. Monster. I think I'll be able to stomach it now...
  • Don't have any really good new movies to watch (well, except Kung Fu Panda 2, but we'll see just how "good" it is), so I always check out an overabundance of random discoveries to fill the void. We usually don't end up watching most of them, but it's nice to have options. Snagged the first season of Sherlock for a re-watch (and yes, it is as good as I remember ;). Housemates never did see all of Doctor Who Season 5, or The Proposal, so I picked them up as well. And no stack is complete without a few Shaun the Sheep, right?
  • Finally got a few Shonen Jumps (Jan & Feb), but when I got them home I realized that I haven't read December's yet! Now I have to wait for it to appear...
  • CDs: Lady A's latest (pretty good), Harry Potter Part 2 Soundtrack (haunting), and the latest Taylor Swift, among others. The TS doesn't have the song I want on it tho! Majorly disappointed. :(
So what did you pick up from your library lately?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Last Quarter Swamp

For the past few months, try as I might, I haven't been able to return to writing - and ultimately finishing - Project V. I've become disinterested with the story, which I have been away from since early October because of sickness and Nanowrimo. Although I know how it ends, the forthcoming story feels flat and murky, and I can't get back into it no matter how hard I try.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. I seem to have a Last Quarter Swamp, where I get bogged down by the chaos of what's come before and can't reach the end that is so close and yet so very far away.

This is a side effect of being a discovery writer, since I start writing without a clear idea of the characters and plot. Instead I create as I write, coming up with things as they are needed. This is all well and good as a quick fix, but things conjured on the fly can prove weak with time - and sometimes don't even conform to the progressing story. By the time I hit the Swamp, I find myself with one giant mess of a book. How am I supposed to create a viable and satisfying conclusion from utter chaos? So I become overwhelmed and ultimately lose interest.

For me, story creates character. But the snag lies with the fact that you really can't write a story without a character. It's very chicken and egg, where you can't have one without first having the other. I do start with a rudimentary knowledge of the main characters, but I discover who they truly are as the story progresses, watching how they react and interact with the world and story. And as the characters develop, so does the story, revealing new angles and areas I hadn't initially imagined. Which then expands the characters even more, which in turn expands the story even further... It's a vicious cycle.

But as the characters and story grow, they leave behind an outdated mess that isn't of much use, creating a 1st Draft from Hell. And you wonder why I have yet to finish a full edit?

I'm happy to say that, instead of abandoning the story as I normally do, I'm working through the Swamp by brainstorming. When in doubt, go back to the drawing board. Right now I'm pondering the main character - especially who was, i.e. backstory. So far it has been an amazing discovery of epic proportions that will shatter the very foundation of my story, mainly because it adds two new characters into the mix (one in Book 1, and one in Book 2). This will cause me to undertake major re-writes of the 60K+ words already written, but it will ultimately deepen and broaden the book. (Who knew he had a best guy friend growing up? And a girlfriend? I certainly didn't.)

Ultimately, with this new material re-piquing my interest, I hope to return to writing Project V soon, either re-writing the first 60K or finishing the story (badly, but finishing). (And yes I know, "everyone" recommends I should try to finish before re-writing the rest.)

But first: Brainstorming the world. Might as well get the major disruptions in all at once. ;)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Library Haul: Super 8 and Eve, of Late

It's time for the first Library Haul of the year, in which I show you what goodies I picked up during my weekly trip to the libraries (TL, ML, and CL).

Here's my haul:

  • Legend by Marie Lu is back, so I can finally finish it! Woohoo!
  • I Follow Anna Carey on Twitter, and one day realized I'd never gotten my hands on her book Eve. How had that happened? After Legend, it's next on my list - and I'm really excited.
  • Also grabbed a copy of Misfit by Jon Skovron (who I just started Following on Twitter).
  • Picked up Super 8, which we watched last night. It was pretty good, but aliens? Really? The two main kids did an awesome job though. Fannings have such amazing talent.
  • Brainstorming Project V like mad right now, so once again I checked out a few books on plot (what I feel to be my weak point). I'll never really end up "reading" them, but I'll flip through'm at least once before taking them back. ;)
  • Acquired the new Florence + the Machine, although after an initial listen I'm not impressed. Also got the new Rihanna, which was even more of a disappointment. Not a good way to start off my new year of music.
  • Also made a stop to the nearest B&N (not all that near, but it was worth it). I snagged Skip Beat! (one of my favorite manga series ever) Volume 26, which I quickly breezed through and now find myself screaming with frustration at its speedy passing. It begins the Violence Mission saga, in which Kyoko and Ren act as very close brother and sister for his secret part in a movie. I was squeeing through the whole thing, and wailed when as it ended! Three months until the next installment... *sob*
So what did you pick up at your library as of late?
Oh, and Happy New Year! XD