Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Something about the turning of the year propels people to resolve themselves. To lose weight, to finish a story, to find a (better) job. I find it hard to go back, scramble through papers and find the ending year's resolutions to see what was accomplished, but I still like the idea of starting off with a goal.

I have some of the usual goals, to exercise more, try to be more fit, and since I graduated in May (spent the summer and part of the fall editing and querying), I haven't found a job yet, so that's a big goal as well. I let my crafty Christmas pull me away from the job-hunting. For this blog, however, I focus on the writing goals.

Between tomorrow and this day next year, I will:


Revise 'Hounds' at least once more.

Query agents on that urban fantasy.

Edit Harry's Skin (my M.A. thesis, and frankly, the reason I applied for the graduate program in the first place).

Start querying for that around May/June.

Finish first draft of my steampunk ghost story. (Probably get some editing in as well, but we'll see how the other editing goes first.)


It was three, almost four years ago that I realized I could finish a novel-length story. After accomplishing a full first draft, though, comes the heavy editing. I've reached a point where I can see what doesn't work, and I can fix some of it, but some solutions still elude me. I resolve to examine my editing practices more this year, so that I don't look at the editing process as endless, hellish, or treat it so hesitantly that I neglect to textually weedwhack it as necessary (I know there are times that I let myself get bogged down in the small edits rather than deleting or rewriting scenes, because I didn't want to admit something so big was wrong.)

One revelation about my writing, which I've made this year, is that my first drafts are rather rambly. So you can see, most (all) of my blog posts are essentially first drafts, but for that, I hope you forgive me and accept the extemporaneousity of it. I'll try to recognize more in these writing habits so as to improve the first drafts and make the editing easier.

Any new writing goals for you readers out there?

I'll leave off this last post of 2009 with a simple wish, for all of you, your friends and family, to be healthy, be happy, and to write much and well.

Happy New Year! Happy writing, everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Winter Holiday Greetings

Just swinging by in the still-very-busy time before Christmas to say Happy Holidays to all the readers, writers, and passersby.

In a perfect world, I'd post a little 'Happy (insert holiday here),' for each one that arrives, but I tend to fall behind and don't keep track of them all. So to those who celebrate Solstice or Chanukah, a belated happy holidays. And to the Christmas followers and Kwanzaa celebrants, an early Season's Greetings.

I hope everyone is with people they love, eating food they enjoy, in a place they want to be.

For those in colder climates, stay warm; for those like me in less-snowy regions, don't forget sunscreen.

Happy Holidays everyone, and I wish you all a wonderful New Year!

~Sabrina

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Writer's Angel and Devil, aka A Giving Thanks Post

I've been away, writing, then trying to write, then getting ready for the holidays. I'm still getting ready for the holidays. But I'm dropping by because I got an email last night. It wasn't a fun email to read, but it brought to mind something I believe about what writers need:

Everyone who wants to write a book and get published needs their own version of the angel and devil on your shoulder.


I feel lucky to have so many people [my writerly sister, a writer's group, fellow (former) grad students in the English Department] who are willing to read my work. Most of the time, I get a sort of middling response, some encouragement or praise, and some critique and suggestions for improvement. But I feel like every writer (and of course, this is all IMHO) should have at least one friend who reads your work and points out all the good stuff, to stand by you and say you can make it, regardless of the countless revisions and rejections.

To counter that, we also seem to need one friend/critique partner who doesn't sugarcoat things. Of course, it's nice if they can put it in an encouraging way, but they should be the one person to say, "They haven't told that X, Y, and Z also need work. And these three chapters are weak/plotless/meandering/etc."

It's so hard to finish a novel, to face the hundred possible rejections from agents and publishers, that it helps to have at least one person out there who believes in you whole-heartedly. (Make sure they believe it, lip-service fiends need not apply.) Someone you can go to when you've had a bad day, the writing is stalling, your confidence is low, and they say one line to keep you going, to try that scene again, to brave the task of throwing out whole chapters (when you're so tied to your words, but you know they don't work and need to go).

At the same time, you want to be ready when you face those agents and publishers. Advice abounds, opinions vary, but one thing seems general enough and a strong enough statement to be almost universal: submit your mansucript when it's the best you can make it.

The best, the absolute best. I know that I get to a point in writing and editing when I'm too close to a story to see where the faults lie. I can tell if something doesn't quite work, but not always know how to fix it. Your "devil" is there to help you through that. To say, "Yes, that character is two-dimensional. No, your subplot about so-and-so doesn't work." It won't always be easy to hear, no matter how good they are at softening the blow, but if they're the right person on your shoulder, they'll tell you what you need to know to be a better writer. I find those are the critiques where I listen or read the comments and can agree almost immediately with most of what's being said, but it can be harsh, so I still need to step back and look at those edits a day or two later.

I said this was a giving thanks post, and it is. I find it hard to believe in or accept the historical stories we're told about Thanksgiving when we're young, but there a good idea behind it. One day when you stop and think about the things you have and the people around you that you should be grateful for. Tell them thank you when perhaps you take them for granted the rest of the year. I know it's already December, so very late for this, but giving thanks is something we should do throughout the year anyway. As hard to hear as some critiques can be, I am thankful I have someone willing to tell me what I need to know. It's nice to have one person always standing in my corner,telling me I'll get there, and they get me through some bad days, but...for both people...I try not to take for granted the ones who'll be there when I need them.

Thank you.


Happy writing everyone,
Sabrina

Monday, November 16, 2009

Maybe I Need Some New Music to Listen to

I haven't been writing nearly as much as I should be, or want to be. Although I didn't sign up for NaNo, I had thought it'd be a good time to jump-start one of the half-dozen story ideas that have been floating around in my head.

Halfway through the month and I've reread, and edited just slightly, the first page and a half of the sequel to the book for which I'm at the querying stage. [Some agents say mention if your book is part of a series, some don't want to know, but the generaly consensus, if there ever is one, seems to be that if you have a sequel planned, it doesn't hurt to work on it while querying the first one.] I've also bought new mini cassettes for my tape recorder, left a few notes on a different steampunky story there, and written a bit more in my Not Another Teen Vamp Story (where the male protag's first encounter with a vampire is nothing romantic and mysterious--I have no idea where it will go, because I want it to be a bit on the violent side, not gratuitously, though, and possibly by the time I'm done with it and have a publisher, YA vamps will be completely off the trend, but they say don't write to trends, and this is what I want to write, so if nothing else, it's practice).

Oy, that got really rather rambly there, didn't it? [Yay alliteration?]

The point is, while I've glanced over some stories and waved hello to them at a distance, I honestly can't say I have any word count to show for the past two weeks. I worked out the numbers and if I want to reach 50,000 by November 30, I should write about 3,333 words every day, which is just over 555 words per hour if I focus on writing for six hours. (Certainly not the entire time I'm at the computer, but a good chunk of time and more realistic than 8-10 hours per day.) 550 looks a lot more manageable than 3,300 words.

The title of this post was a passing thought--maybe some new music might jolt me into a creative spur. But why blame the music? I've completed three novel-length stories since 2006, so I know I can do it. I can have the self-discipline to write for 5+ hours straight. I just need to convince myself to get off my butt and do it. So I make that resolution now. I want to write 50,000 words before December 1.

To do that, I'll probably have to significantly cut down on my blog reading, which has already decreased (I swear, I probably have over a hundred writer, agent and editor blogs bookmarked under my favorites, I could never read them all in a day), but I'll probably disappear from updating CoffeeQuill, LJ, and my facebook as well (the FB games, oh, those time-eaters!). I'd say I'll be back December 1, and you might find me occasionally, but I'll be getting crafty this holiday season, which will also be time-consuming. Let's just call it January, and anything before then is bonus!

All right then, I'm off to try and get some word counts in for today. Any good music recommendations?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Breathing through both nostrils

A short, kind of silly post today. Maggie Stiefvater (author of 'Shiver') posted about numbers.

Number of emails received, comments replied to, harp strings she strung by hand, and randomly, the number of nostrils one breathes through at any one time. The answer is one, which I knew (trivia heard from someone sometime in the past, those pieces of info which you're never quite sure where they came from). But she noted that it's connected to which side of the brain is dominant. Left brain, right nostril, right brain, left nostril. Of course, as she knew readers would, I checked to see which nostril I was breathing.

Apparently my left brain is hard at work right now. [Or at least, it was when I first checked.] So I was thinking, despite my desire to post on this blog, or edit my synopsis, or work on book 2, I had no motivation to do any of it. Perhaps because my creative brain was chillin' at the time. Then I read that and thought I'd post about that.

...Which I didn't do for a while. I still wasn't in the right frame of mind to write anything. I check again, as I finally start writing, and I'm breathing through my left nostril now (right brain woke up).

heh. Just some fun facts/coincidences. Apparently it also goes through two- to four-hour schedules, shifting from one to the other. Maybe I should check throughout the day, whenever I'm breathing through my left nostril, rush to open a Word doc. ;)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Honest, I didn't mean to disappear so soon for so long

I thought, "My self-imposed 'blog once a day for a month' is over, I'll take a few days off. Why, the first is even a Sunday, when I'm rarely on the computer anyway.' Five days later...

I ended up hitting one of those ugly walls of uncertainty, questioning a lot of things and generally feeling kind of junk. I opened up in more detail on my personal journal, and was reminded how great some of my friends are. I received some wonderful lines from a fellow writer, and an artist friend pointed me to this YouTube video:

Ira Glass on Storytelling


(Sorry, I'm trying to copy and paste the embedding link, but it doesn't want to cooperate.)

This was a great motivator.

And then I revisited Jeffrey Thomas' Portfolio, with the twisted Disney Princesses, such as a creepy Sleeping Beauty. Just the look of it just makes me want to write about a serial killer who kills in their sleep. (Not like a sleepwalker, but cursed or somehow self-induced, so people think there's no way it's Person X, they're always asleep during the murder.')


Isn't that a great painting? Super creepy. And some of the details on these are interesting (the books next to Alice, for one, but I won't say more because I like the thrill of discovery and hope you do, too). Seeing these, coupled with the encourgagement of friends, just makes me excited to write. It doesn't matter how discouraged I can get, I'll never stop writing.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, writers of the internets.


This is the second post for October 31, 2009, making up for a skipped post this past Sunday, and the last in my daily blog posting for a full month. Don't worry, I don't plan to disappear for a month or more, but I'll probably go back to taking the weekends end off, for sure.

Funnily enough, I never wrote that post on writer's block that I was intending to do, so expect that at some point in November.

Tomorrow is All Saints' Day, and November 2 is All Souls' Day, but today, the veil is thin, ghosts are coming through, and goblins prowl the streets wearing the faces of children.

Tonight might seem like a normal night in front of the television and the computer, clacking away on the keyboard in between channel surfing, but silent things drift past closed windows, rustle curtains through tightly locked panes of glass, and they can see you much better than you can see them.

All you hear are a few bars of old, tinny, music, a deep whisper behind your ear. There's a chill in the late summer air, too close to the equator to be autumn. And tonight is a full moon, so many more than the dead hunt in the shadows, in packs, looking for the lone costumed one, warmly safe in the thought that bad things don't happen to them.


Bad things happen to everyone.

Happy Halloween.
Happy writing.

~Sabrina

His Name is Normand

(I was thinking Norman and Normandy at the same time, I guess. I like it.)

This is my plot bunny.

Last night I joined my sister on an outing. She's also a writer, but is more successful finishing short stories, whereas I am much more comfortable with long pieces. As a challenge for herself, she joined NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Last night was the first meeting/get-together of the Hawaii writers who signed up. People were able to adopt their very own plot bunnies.
It was mostly an informational, get to know others, here's what NaNo is about, kind of meeting. At the end, they had plenty of plot bunnies left, so I grabbed my own. My sister suggested naming him Gerald, but I refused, just to contrary. ;)
I have not signed up for NaNo yet. I don't know if I will. But they seemed open to people coming to the write-ins and other events, even if you aren't official, so I joined my sister.
NaNo is interesting for me, because they emphasized that, not only did it not matter how good the draft was of your 50,000 story, but you shouldn't delete anything. If you write a scene and there are two options, start writing one, and if it peters out, skip a line and write option 2. I guess that makes sense--you can certainly learn something through trying out both and rereading them to see which works better. Plus you don't lose thousands of words. But they also said don't bother with grammar or spelling mistakes (which I'd be incapable of ignoring). And some people throw in whole paragraphs of poetry or song lyrics. 'It's all counts as words.' I don't know how I feel about that.
I think it's because I can't imagine writing a story with complete disregard for the story, only thinking about the numbers. I see NaNo as a device to help writers finish what they start, or get farther than a few pages, at the very least. And that is a great thing. 'But shouldn't you still try to write a coherent story?' I ask myself. ~shrugs~ I still think this is a great oportunity for people like my sister, who can't seem to finish longer pieces of writing, but I don't know that it would work for me. Much as writers have different processes and writing styles, so do writers improve through different challenges (I hope that makes sense). I do like Normand, though. And I think, for Normand's sake, I will try to write 50,000 words over the course of a month. Not for the sake of a word-count, but to jump-start a new story, while querying with my urban fantasy.
For all of you who are registered and ready with the kernel of a story: Let NaNoWriMo begin!
Happy writing!
(And if this posts without the handy paragraph breaks, I did include them. Adding pictures sometimes makes the space between paragraphs all wonky. Go figure.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Classics

It's really hot today. Yesterday was vog (volcanic ash from the Big Island which blows down and creates a fog-like haze in the air), but today is just flat-out hot. I had errands. As I walked down the street, I can feel the sweat trickling down my back, and the AC of the Ross' is not enough to get rid of that feeling. But I wander through the aisles and find my favorite area: notebooks, cards and random decorative boxes.

To my delight, I see a bunch of faux books--open the cover to reveal an empty box. One is titled War and Peace, another says Lady with an Ermine on the spine, with a reproduction of Da Vinci's painting on the "cover." There was also Treasure Island and a few others.

It started me thinking about my favorite classics. I've read a good number of them, but there are only a few from those long-dead authors that I either kept or bought my own copy, and would reread (given the time, the never-read books take precedence).

What immediately comes to mind: Frankenstein, both the more common 1831 version, and the earlier 1818 edition. The differences don't jump to mind (something about Elizabeth is different, I recall), but I loved seeing how the story changed in those years. I even did a project on it for a class on the Wordsworths and Shelleys.

I'm also a fan of Dante's Inferno and Paradise Lost, although the latter was sort of dense to get through when I read it (for high school, which I don't think many people can say--we had to read both books over the summer). Edgar Allen Pow's The Tell-Tale Heart, Coleridge's The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. I love John Keats' poetry (I have another blogspot from a project a year back). Beowulf I love, especially after translating it. Native Son, although it was sort of dark (I wrote down the page number every time I saw a reference to African-Americans as 'dark' or animal-like, far too many), as was Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. I also like The Odyssey, but I always have a hard time reading it through to the end (I skip around or just don't finish, don't tell my professors from six years ago).

Any absolute favorite classics of yours?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More on my Battle with Short Stories

But first: I love steampunk. I love it oh so much. The visuals are intriguing and amazing. I only hope that I can make my image of steampunk fit with the idea I have (because this idea already comes with distinct imagery, which I have to work past any time I write about it, here I'll need to mingle the two cohesively). Maybe I should actually draw it out, characters wearing clothes with both elements, as a visual focus for that mingling. Hmm.

Anyway, to the topic at hand. After yesterday's post, I was thinking about what is it that makes it more difficult for me to write short stories rather than novels.

One idea, the issue most writers encounter: the middle of the book slump. In a novel, I read that, or at least the first wave of it, around page 50 or 80. Then again two-thirds through the book, usually. But a short story. I've had time to muddle through not quuiite knowing where I'm going until I come to a halt. But I can rework things and plow through it. I have enough to work with at that point.

In a short story, though, there's usually a lengh limitation. In 1,000, even 5,000, there isn't much time muddle through 'here's a cool character, let's see what they do next.' So I need to know more about where the story is going (how it begins and ends, a little of the middle) when it's short, than when it's novel-length. If I don't know what's supposed to happen, I've wasted the rest of my words on meandering. To avoid that, then, I take much longer to write what length-wise I could finish in a day, because I need to think everything through before writing it down.

Example: The Halloween story. I started with an idea, an image, a problem with the neighborhood cats disappearing every year in October. Then I figured out my protagonist, and I start thinking out how that one night will proceed. Do I end it on a scary note, am I skilled enough to make it scary, or should I add some humor, or a twist, or just it ambiguous? Right now, I think I know enough to get to that point, but I almost don't want to write it before I can answer that question. Thus, I am stuck in what is approximately the middle, because it's a short-short story (I try to reason, if I aim for 500, I won't go over 1,000--we'll see).

I suppose that's my cue to end here, though, and start working through that middle slump.
I'm off!

Happy writing everyone,
Sabrina

*Photo is from Lisa Snellings' blog Slaughterhouse Studios . It's a detail of one of her sculptures, Grim Reading. I love her work, and whenever I want a creepy or intriguing atmosphere for writing, I go there to get in the mood.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Birds and Short Stories

I was chatting with a new friend about the birds I can see outside my room. Just half an hour ago, the more common visiting black cat chased away the newly visiting gray one. Then the waxbills came out (I'm sure that's what they are now, I really didn't know before). There's about half a dozen birds that flutter around from twig to twig and on the ground between me and the straggly bush.

The waxbills and Japanese white-eyes quickly jump from one branch to another to the ground to a flower pot. The bulbuls come in quick then fly off. The doves mosey, strut around on the concrete and show off to the ladies. They all have their different personalities.
Different personalities and when you want to photograph them, it requires different approaches. Cats and swift birds need to be snuck up on, you have to be ready at any moment, but if you move too fast, they get away an all you have is a tiny, blurry sasquatch. The slower birds need patience because they'll sit with their butt to you for a while, then just get up and leave.
I think sometimes dealing with stories is like this. Not every story is the same (shouldn't be, IMO, despite finding unintentional similar themes or motifs on occasion). Every writer finds the process that works for them, but I think that process doesn't always work with every story.

I think, for me, there's a big difference in how I write short stories compared to novels. I'm trying, on the whole, to have a better idea where a story is going, rather than just starting with an idea and running with it. But when it comes to short stories, this is even more important. I need to know how it begins and ends, and I need some idea of the middle (compared to knowing the beginning, some of the middle and a vague sense of where events need to end up for my novels), unless it's a short story with no set word limit. If I don't know the ending scene of a short story, it's just a blurry cat photo. >_<


Each short story is also slightly different. Some need every detail planned out, others need two or three strong images and I get through it. The halloween story I'm working my way through is actually trippingme up, because it's a small, flightly bird story--I caught an idea and it stuck around, but if I sneak up too fast, it's slips out of my grasp and hops out of reach, taunting me. I have to turn it around, view it from all angles, and slowly come up to it, until we're face to face.

Happy writing, everyone,
Sabrina

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Muse musings

When I was younger, about 13 or so, I believed in a muse. It wasn't a serious belief, but the day-dreaming belief of a burgeoning writer. He had a name, and when I was keeping a hand-written journal (years before I joined LJ, and at a time when I couldn't maintain a journal for more than a few weeks) consistently for months, I trailed off from writing about my day-to-day life, to writing a story. I'd decided to write it as if my muse were telling the story.

Nowadays, a muse seems almost synonymous (in my own mind) with some of the other topics I've been writing about lately: inspiration and ideas. It's a motivating force; it helps when you get stuck in one scene, so you can move forward or jump ahead; it's there to offer ideas; it has some unquantifiable quality that helps you write.


It's a nice thought. Maybe I'm just in a cynical mood, but I don't quite see how the concept of a muse helps a writer, other than to say 'I couldn't write because my muse abandoned me.' I visit Sherwood Smith's LJ fairly regularly, and she linked to a great post about one's muse, and its fickle nature. I really enjoyed the post, but instead of equaling "Godfrey" with muse, I filled in the name with Writing. Writing was sometimes hard to come by, when I'd open a new Word doc but the words wouldn't come. It was an idea, or inspiration that slipped by me, or it was just that I failed myself and wasn't trying hard enough, perhaps.

I'm not saying the idea of a muse is wrong or useless, far be it, it's not my place to comment on others' beliefs, but I don't know that it works for me anymore. I think even at 13, my muse was more a character, a wizard, mature but young, sitting in a well-made, but old robe and telling this story about a princess and a unicorn with attitude. I like the thought that my writing comes from me, it's my accomplishment. My failures, yes, but also my successes.

~shrugs~ I suppose this is just one of those meandering, thinking out loud posts. I still need to make up a post, and I do have some topics simmering. We'll see how tomorrow goes.

In random writing news: I finally found a Halloween story idea that's staying with me. I've started writing and I mostly know where it's going. (I just need to decide how I want it to end, I'm thinking more mysterious than gruesome. We'll see.)

Happy writing everyone,
Sabrina
*Painting of the Greek Muses with Apollo on Mt. Helio, by Claude Lorrain

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pretend the Date says Sunday

I'm a day behind. I ended up not going to the ghost tour. Although I had an offer from someone to drive me there, I didn;t have a ride home, and the buses don't run from town to here at 10 pm. Plus, two of the four friends who were going seemed to hav stayed home as well, and that strikes me as a great event for a group to go to. It'd be more fun than going alone.

Instead, I stayed home, watched recorded copies of last Monday's How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory ("Wheaton!" heh), and watched the new episode of Amazing Race, during which I nearly threw up. The nausea lasted through the rest of the night and a good chunk of today, so that was not fun, and I don't really know what caused it.

Anyway, I've been off the computer today. But I have been reading--Skin Deep by Mark del Franco. It's the first book in a new series, but set in the same world as his three previous books (which I've mentioned here: Unshapely Things, Unquiet Dreams, and Unfallen Dead). Until today, I was only reading a few pages here and there, because my attention was occupied by other things. Today, focusing on resting and not moving suddenly and thus throwing up, I lay very still and really got into it. Good book.

All right, I'm off to rest for the rest of the evening.[That was sadly redundant.] I will leave you all with the best emoticon I've ever seen, shown to me, and I believe created by, my friend.

Klingon emoticon: (}}:->

hee

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween a Week Early

Quick weekend post to mention that tomorrow I am really going to try and get into town. There's a ghost story tour in the evening that starts at the main state library (which is right near a bunch of historical buildings).

If I can get a ride there and back, I am so going to go. And at the very least, my friends who live in/near town, are also attending, and were my classmates in the English program, will understand when an intriguing story is mentioned and I hastily scribble down details in the dark, unable to read whatever I'm writing.

I think it will be fun, and it's times like these when I wish I'd made more of an effort to take a Driver's Ed course (but in high school, and even undergrad, I didn't have enough of a social life to warrant it. Frankly, bookworm was too true a description, and plenty of my friends drove and were generous enough to offer).

Anyway, yay Halloween ghost research!

Happy writing, everyone,
Sabrina

Friday, October 23, 2009

Furlough Fridays--if it has a fun name, it must be good, right?

I try to stay clear of the politival and rant-y urges that occasionally come upon, at least for this blog. But sometimes I need to share.

I attended school almost wholly on Oahu, except for kindergarten (in N.C.). I also had some wonderful teachers growing up here. [I hope they won't mind me naming names.] In 5th grade, there was Mr. Uyeda. When a position opened up for next year in 4th and 6th grade, he siad he'd take the 6th grade position if he coul have his same students from 5th grade. He got mad once, I forgot what people were doing in line to annoy him, then he said we all had uncommon sense. I smile now. He also ordered shirts with our names on the back, calling us the World's Best Class. I still have mine.

In 8th grade, I had Mrs. Carmody for English. Her class was the first for which I ever finished a story. One was a single-page story where the assignment was to use ten color words (mahogany, cream, azure, etc.). Mine was about an elf hunting a deer. My second story for that class was seven pages (I think it was supposed to be 3-4) about that same elf being hunted by humans. But I did finish it. She was so enthusiastic about my work, and about reading and writing in general.

High school, I had great English teachers, Mrs. Itagaki, Mrs. Tanaka, Mrs. Fujimoto for 11th and 12th grade AP English. I didn't read the same classics as others classes, so no To Kill a Mockingbird or Of Mice and Men, but we read Paradise Lost, Dante's Inferno, King Lear and Walden. I learned the Queen Mab monologue from Romeo and Juliet in Itagaki's class, and Tanaka kepttrying to convince me to join the newspaper or yearbook (I did join the newspaper in college).

My history teachers, like Mrs. Schultz, and AP Psych, Mrs. Tappara, were so involved in their subjects, making sure students had fun and understood the material. Schultz had weekend sessions of studying for the AP US history exam, giving up her Saturdays for us. Dr. Mitchell loved chemistry so much, she made me love it, too, after losing my interest with other teachers. [I had too many to name in college of passionate professors who made you want to learn and love it.]

All of that, and teachers like Lisa-Anne Tsuruda, who received the Milken award just yesterday...yet all of these teachers, and others like them, are forced to stay home today.


This day, Friday October 23, 2009, is the first Furlough Friday. 17 Fridays each year, for a pay cut of about 8%, schools with be closed to teachers and students. It's a drastic measure to help counter-balance the state's budget deficit. A lot of people think it's too drastic. Hawaii, not often in the national news, was on World News Tonight with Charles Gibson yesterday, who reported on the furlough. We now have the shortest school year in the nation.

It doesn't seem fair. And I know the world isn't a fair place. But where does short-changing people on their education help the economy improve? Especially when the governor still implies that lay-offs may be necessary? It's just...~deep breath~Everyone should be so lucky to have teachers like these, and get the most out of the experience. It's harder to do that when they're losing three weeks worth of instruction every year.


*Both links are to articles in the Honolulu Advertiser, as an FYI.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mood when Writing

I'm in a good mood today. Cheerful. I have been told (by my siblings, you'd think they'd know better) that I seem to be grumpy most of the time. It's not true, but I have the sort of face which, when neutral, frowns a little. And I'm quiet, which they also equate with unhappy. In fact, most days I feel okay.

Today I woke up and was a little extra happy. Smile on my face, the urge to be silly for no reason. These are the days I like. It's overcast outside, not too hot, but not too dark and rainy. Cool inside, and my fingers are flying across the keyboard.

I don't feel like there's much for me to say today, but this mood strikes me as a clue. I'm another step closer to writing. Either of these new stories, or maybe even giving my novel one more go-around. [An extra round of editing to see if my nerves about it are just that, or if they're telling me it does still need a bit of work.]

I hope everyone else is having a good day, cheerful, and ready to write. I'll try to have a slightly more substantial post tomorrow, though.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Synopses: A Writer's Bane [Also, my Internet is Evil]

[Would have posted this hours ago, but my internet was down, and nothing I did could dissuade it from its evilness. But it's back now, half an hour before I leave the house.]

Here’s the thing about writing a synopsis, in my experience: there are just some lengths of summary that are nigh impossible for me. [This might also apply to short stories, too, come to think of it.] A query letter requires about one paragraph, short, to the point, catchy—it grabs the agents’ attention and gives them a sense of who the protagonist is, the author’s voice, and what makes the writer’s story different from others.

A two-page synopsis gives the writer (re: me) a chance to describe the story in more detail. Two full pages are about enough from something just slightly less detailed than a chapter-by-chapter rundown. [I keep a chapter-by-chapter chronology just for my own knowledge, to help cut down inconsistencies, but that ends up around 3-4 pages.] Truthfully, it’s about 2 and a half to 3 pages, but about 2 after editing.

Here’s the thing, or me personally, I don’t think I could write a one-page synopsis (well, maybe I could, but it would take some extra doing). Like short stories, I can write one paragraph, and I can give you a couple of pages, but one page ends up in that weird limbo space. I find it a challenge to teeter on the balance between general statements because there isn’t much space, and small details to give you a sense of distinction in character and world-building.

I’ve finished my synopsis for Hounds, the urban fantasy I’m querying agents with. It started off, first draft, at about three pages (2 and ¾). Now I’m editing, cutting out what doesn’t seem as necessary while still giving readers a full sense of the story. I think one point that should be made with synopses, is that the reader shouldn’t be left thinking, “How did we get from A to 3?” Leave out the smaller scenes, but make sure even the synopsis tells a coherent story.

At least, that’s what I’m hoping to achieve with my own.

Happy writing everyone,
Sabrina

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Inspiration

I was trying to think of what to write about today. I've been fighting that sensation of thoughts like rubber balls bouncing around inside my skull. When they rebound, it's even harder to grasp.

I end up drifting through the day in my own head, trying to settle on any specific thought I can grab.

I've already spoken about 'where I get my ideas,' and where I put them (notebooks!), so I figured I'd try to share a few thoughts about inspiration. For me, some of it can come from those overheard conversations, but word-nerd that I am, a lot of inspiration comes to me through visuals.

I love art. Before I really started writing, I was drawing. I still have sheafs of papers with drawings of aliens, elves, centaurs, some dragons and unicorns. Around sixth grade I started my first novel, unfinished. It was epic fantasy, I got about 40 single-spaced hand-written pages in, and the pictures of the main characters were inseparable from the story. If memory serves, the drawings came first, and the story developed from there.

Of course, I was utterly a write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of writer then, so I still don't really know where the story should end. There were two sisters, princesses, running the kingdom while their parents were at war. Father was human, mother elf, and a tentative alliance between the species cemented in that marriage. There was a long lost prince, living as a thief in the capital city. I still love the characters, and I think there might be a strong kernel there (well, the long lost prince bit has been done to death, especially when he grows up to be a thief)...Uh, I'm going off on a tangent, aren't I? Point being, the pictures came first, the visuals inspired the story.

I still draw, but not as much, and I don't feel as compelled to draw character sketches of every person in every story. Other inspiration comes from others' art. When I'm trying to get in a darker mood for a story, I visit Lisa Snellings blog and look at her Poppets and other creepy sculptures. I have a long list of art blogs, some dark and creepy, some cartoonish, some realistic.

I also find a lot of inspiration in music. There are some artists or albums that just get me in the mood to write, and they tend to make their way onto every playlist I create for different stories. Most of the time, though, certain song swill invoke specific moods and I'll get a jolt that propells me toward one story over another. A recent addition, "Who Killed Amanda Palmer," inspired me to want to write a steampunk story, but with the story growing and solidifying beyond that 'feel,' I think I'll need more than that album when I'm ready to write.

Right now, I'm trying to think of a Halloween short story to write. Short stories are already not my forte, and sometimes I have a hard time thinking of a story plot when I start with something so general as 'I want to write a Halloween story.' [Strangely enough, the latest three stories are just so, Halloween, steampunk, and YA teen vampire (with a vicious rather than sexy, sultry vampire), which would partly explain why they're all taking longer to get from conception to 'sitting down and writing'.] What is happening with the Halloween story is that an image, or mention of some old urban legend or nursery story, will spark an idea, which I jot down. But so far the interest hasn't lasted long enough to reach the writing stage. I think I need to find a catalyst and then quickly feel around for additional little propelling images or songs. The inspiration is the first burst of forward movement, but the extra bits keep me going.


---
Huh, apparently skin sensitivity is at its highest between 10 pm and 1 am, according to this guy on Rachel Ray's talk show (he wrote a book on when it's the best time to do various things, like make love). That clicks as a bit of inspiration. You might be able to play with that idea in a sci fi story. Genetic manipulation/engineering?


Happy writing everyone,
Sabrina

Monday, October 19, 2009

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

I haven't heard this mentioned much so far. It's halfway through the month. Part of me hopes it's just because I visit more writing blogs, many of which avoid "political" talk, or maybe I fall behind and scroll over/miss the posts on this topic.

But today I was on LJ, reading my friends list, and Jim Hines (author of Goblin Quest and the recently released Mermaid's Madness), had a post addressing abusive relationships. Specifically, he looked at the question, "Why Doesn't She Leave?"

No relationship is perfect, but I've never known any of my friends to fall into a physically abusive relationship. When they' have problems, I try to be there as a comfort, and a willing ear, strong shoulder.

But this is one of those things where, even if I don't have a personal experience to point to, I'm still drawn to articles about it, I want to understand it, and hope fervently that the justice system can be improved for the men and women who are abused.

I don't feel I'm in a place to give an opinion on it, though, because I know it on an intellectual level and empathically through others' stories. I did want to point those who are curious and concerned to Hines' post, though. He occasionally posts about the subject, having experience in counseling people in abusove relationships from a past career (apologies if my details are off about that, but he did work with them). This post examines the question, "Why doesn't she (the abused) leave the abuser?" He points to why people ask that question, and offers some explanation (economics, emotionally controlling, cut off from friends and family, etc.) while putting it out there that the question itself should change, because it still places the blame on the victim.

It's an interesting read, as are the comments, and it breaks my heart, judging from people's comments, the justice system isn't doing nearly enough, in many cases, to help the men and women being abused.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Brief Weekend Post the Second

Ironic Sans is a blog that I've known about for a number of years now, but visit only on occasion. I don't know why. Every time I stop by I run into interesting articles that teach me things I didn't know, and sometimes really wanted to.

As a senior undergraduate in the psychology program, I was required to do at least three credits worth of directed research with one of the psych professors. I asked Edward Chronicle, because I loved his Cognitive Psychology course. After a face-to-face meeting, he agree, and I was one of three undergraduates working with him and his graduate student. One, a PhD candidate, was studying migraines, and one of our tasks was to post flyers around campus. He was conducting research and needed people who had migraines with auras.


Professor Chronicle died about a year after that, but I still think about that semester of research, how much I enjoyed working with those people, and wondering how their research progressed.

Just a little while ago, I took a jaunt through some favorite websites that I hadn't visited much recently, and there was this post on Ironic Sans about aura migraines, and the blogger, David's, strange experience. He usually has the auras, but this time, it included typing gibberish, which hadn't happened to him before.

It was interesting to read his description of the auras, and commenters' additions on various migraine symptons.

Part of me wonders whether there isn't a story there, about someone who sees migraine auras, but rather than being a precursor to a migraine, it indicates something else. (Something magical, mysterious, or preternatural, because that's where my fanytasy head goes.)


It's a very warm Sunday, and I feel like I've been running around all day, even if I haven't. But read and enjoy, and I'll see you all tomorrow.

Happy writing.

(Note: the picture is a piece of art depicting visual phenomena experienced by migraine sufferers, from the slideshow David links to. Here also is the link to the sideshow. These paintings are pretty intriguing.)

Brief Weekend Post the First

Just wanted to point readers to this post by Patricia C. Wrede. After a post last week-ish about where I keep my ideas, I got a smile out of her post, offering an answer to that all-too-common question: Where do you get your ideas?

A taste: "If you just look slantwise at normal, everyday things, it becomes a habit after a while, and pretty soon you have more ideas than you know what to do with."

Much like her helpful soup analogy, Wrede offers an easy-to-comprehend grocery list example.

Give it a look, and I'll be back later today with another brief post.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Some Linkage to Start Your Weekend Right

There's a pretty interesting conversation going on in the comments to Bookends, LLC most recent post, "Agency Policies." The topic is pretty basic: why do agents require personalized query letters and no mass emails? But it's nice to see the thought-out and detailed explanations by agents Jessica Faust of Bookends, and Colleen Lindsay in the comments.

---

In those comments above are a couple from JJDebenedictis, whom I first encountered through a quote in Writtenwyrrd's blog. From these comments, I decided to visit JJ's blog, and one of the current posts is also addressing some basics, in this case, of writing stories. She breaks down plot points (the risk of ambiguity), subtext, backstory and the over-arching idea we all hear about at one time or another, "Show, don't tell."

It all comes down to the reader's imagination.

"Show, don't tell," according to JJ, is really just giving the reader a few key details and letting them fill in the blanks, when it comes to description. In the example of the second Star Wars movie (the new second one, Attack of the Clones), the IMAX version made the movie better in terms of action and plot. Redundant scenes were cut for length, and the love story between Anakin and Padme was reduced to a few hinting glances and touches. Viewers filled in the blanks and the relationship worked.

The post is the last of five, but works all by itself, and the examples are clear and pretty useful, I find. Even if you already know the "rules," this is a handy post to read.

---

Lastly, if you haven't watched "Die, Vampire, Die," I heartily suggest it. It's funny, but it speaks to that worry in many of us (writers, artists, performers)--the awful voices in our heads that say 'it isn't good enough.' The video is embedded on the blog a few posts down.

Happy weekend,happy writing,
Sabrina

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Went to Writer's Group Yesterday, but This isn't About That

In fact, it's about women. The ladies (and here I imagine Maira Bamford saying, "I'm a lady-ist") of fantasy, books, movies and television.

A couple of months back, Sarah Rees Brennan (author of YA UF 'The Demon's Lexicon') posted about the inequality between male characters and female, opening with the idea "What if Harry Potter were Harriet Potter" and ending around the TV show, 'Supernatural,' about demon-hunting brothers (similar premise to her book), which lacks awesome chicksthat stick around.

Today, Justine Larbalestier (author of YA fantasy, most recently 'Liar' and 'How to Ditch Your Fairy') wrote about some reactions to the female protagonist of 'Liar,' Micah, in her post "On Hating Female Characters." There's this idication that some readers hate female characters more than male characters, or if Char. X is male, his behavior is more acceptable than if Char. X did the same as a female.

Larbalestier mentions some characters--a male would be considered "hot" and desirable to readers, while a female in the same situation is a "slut." In both posts, one of the biggest distinctions seems to be made in how male/female characters deal with romantic/sexual relationships and attraction. One commenter proposes that male protagonists aren't as "depth-y" as female characters, and Harriet Potter would be seen as Mary Sue-ish. Others examine the possibility of female characters being judged more harshly, because they judged in relation to the male characters.

Brennan offers a multitude of examples, how characters might elicit different reactions from readers if genders were reversed (Laurie-->Lori in 'Little Women,' for example), and discusses her own work, with two characters who use their attractiveness to their benefit and the different responses because they're opposite genders.

It's good stuff, and Brennan breaks down the Bechdel test. [Tangent: The Bechdel test is for movies, books, TV, etc., and has three parts--does it have two women; do they talk to each other; about something other than men?--What I find interesting every time I hear about it or see the test mentioned, is that no one ever says exactly what it means when a movie or book fails the Bechdel test. Sure it's bad, and there are bad gender things going on, but people also seem quick to point out, rightly so, that there are good books and movies that fail this test./Tangent]

These posts bring to mind the novel I was editing this summer. It's urban fantasy, with a female protagonist and a number of male and female characters. When I first wrote it, bringing pages to my writer's group in five page chunks (as per our rules), they didn't like her. The group was mostly women and the protagonist was curt, stubborn, and resisting the call to action (IMO), but they saw her as bitchy for no reason. Some of that was learning to be clear about character motivation, but I still feel they were too harsh on her. At the time, my mind kept jumping to the tv show, House. He's grumpy and sarcastic and pushes everyone away, with seemingly even less reason than my protagonist (who had been running away from the fae for years, and pushed people away so as not to bring them to the fae's attention, 'don't get close to them and they can't get hurt'). At least/Especially in the first few seasons.

I ended up softening her character a little bit, but more than changing her behavior, I focused on making her motivations clearer, so her "bitchy" actions wouldn't be dismissed as her being unlikeable. But it jarred me a little, how vehemently they disliked her in the beginning, and it confused me that a male character with similar behavioral ticks was thriving on television (I know I love 'House').

This isn't a romance-related example, but I see this problem that Brennan and Larbalestier point out as cropping up in a variety of situations, not solely romantic. I'm not certain exactly why this is. Larbalestier says she has no resolution, because she actively writes to present females as atheltic and males as fashion-conscious, and break down gender steroetypes, but this perception still seems to show up in people's responses to her books and others'.

I don't have a resolution either, except to make my female characters as three-dimensional as I can, give them believeable motivations and let them exist outside of gender stereotypes -and- outside of their relation to the male characters. (My protagonist for the novel I mentioned has, until this point, avoided dating altogether, and romance is about as far from her radar as anything. I wanted to write an urban fantasy that didn't rely on a romantic subplot.)

I'll leave you all with Brennan's words in the post, because they make me smile and feel good:

"The femme fatales, the ninja ladies, the shy girls, the chatterboxes, the ones several guys wanted, the ones none of the guys wanted, the heroines, the sassy sidekicks, the girl the hero fell in love with in one episode we never saw again, the girl who wanted a guy she didn't get, the girl who was with a ton of different guys, the girl who was devoted to her job, the girl who was into other ladies, the murder victim, the tomboy, the feisty redhead, the dumb blonde. There was never anything wrong with any of them.

"It's worth it to recognise that we're all okay. We were always okay."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hard and fast Rules, or just good advice?

It seems there are a number of writers, agents and editors mentioning writing rules lately. Some offering up a few, others commenting on "Writing rules" long established. I read them and think about the rules I've heard growing up: don't use anything but "said;" don't use "said;" don't use adverbs and adjectives; know every character's motivation; all main characters should have a growing arc over the course of a story; and so many more I can't even remember.

My basic response, as can also be found in other writing rules posts, is that nothing is carved in stone, some of these rules are a good idea, generally, but you can probably hurt your writing if you stick to every rule you hear, especially the absolutes.

Among the myriad posts I seem to have come across lately, is a new one by Patricia C. Wrede, "So What About All These Rules, Then?" who shares some "rules" a burgeoning writer brought to her attention. I read it thinking that I'd heard many of the same rules, and she addresses that thought of readers.

"And I just bet that there are people out there right now looking at this and thinking 'Wait…aren’t those things that every novel needs?'" The answer is no.

Wrede goes on to compare writing a book to making a soup--there are a lot of possible ingredients and spices you can add, but you don't need to add all of them. But, some soups lend themselves well to certain things, i.e. vegetables in a minestrone, but if you put all vegetables and all spices, it can turn a soup bad. Wrede says, "You have to tell a story. That's all...A novel requires a story, written down in some sort of comprehensible language. Everything else is your choice.

"Mind you, it’s a good idea to look at things like character growth and worldbuilding and so on, to see if the story you’re telling will be better if you add some. It’s like checking the soup to see whether it might be a good idea to add some of those extra green beans and carrots. Nothing is right for every novel or every soup."

Related to this is a quote that Writtenwyrdd posted the other day by JJ Debenedictus. "Every rule works like that; by learning to obey it, you gain enough knowledge to break it with skill."

She herself adds that when you do break a rule, such as 'only use said,' one should do so with a reason. Don't throw around phrases like "'blah blah blah,' he/she ejaculated" unless you really mean it. Or you're going for the humor.

Visit Writtenwyrdd's blog for the full quote and post.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Free Reading for Fans of Fairy Tale Parodies

That was getting just a little silly in the alliteration department, wasn't it? I love alliteration, although that post title is just the basic facts, the details of which are these:


The Story
Nadia Lee is the author of "A Happily Ever After of Her Own," a story about Melinda, a teacher with the ability to visit fairy tales. She does so until the Fairy Tale police catch up and offer her a chance to avoid the charge of fairy tale killing--find Beauty, who disappeared from Beauty and the Beast when Melinda stepped into the story.

The Deal
Lee is offering the first two chapters free of charge to anyone who wants to read it. For further chapters, she'd like readers to sign up for her newsletter, which looks like a simple process of typing in your name and email at the end of the two open chapters. Here's the link for the first chapter, although earlier blog posts detail her decision to go through with this offer.

The Disclaimer!
I found out about Lee and her book through Diana Fox's LJ, and the story sounded right up my alley. It's fairy tale parody, and the sort of meta-fictional aspect that reminds me of Jasper Fforde's Tuesday Next series

Plus, I'm a sucker for Beauty and the Beast. Although Disney wasn't the first version I read/saw, I loved that Belle in the Disney version was a bookworm. Give me a bookish heroine and I'm almost guaranteed to be there.


*Caught up with those missed weekend posts. Should be one-a-day from now on, barring other missed days.

Fun Stuff for Writers

I love the idea of Steampunk. In fact, I'm pinching little details that I come across to gather research and inspiration for a steampunk story I'm going to write (I'm working on having more of a solid base to start writing from, rather than opening a new blank Word doc and just going with no idea of who teh story is about or what happens, thus not "writing" yet). I'm enamored of the visuals, and the details.

Allow me to first point viewers/readers to Cakewrecks, a wonderful site which situates the horrendous next to the divine. One of their latest posts is steampunk cakes.

The trend for steampunk stories has been floating around the blogs for a while, or so it seems to me. Scott Westerfield has an illustrated YA steampunk book just out, entitled Leviathan. And Cherie Priest is John Scalzi's most recent Big Idea, with her book, Boneshaker. It's got inventions, a prolonged Civil War, a walled Seattle, and zombies! Who doesn't love that?

She does a ton of research to make her alterations to history believable (and you can see some of that here), and just from this Big Idea post, it seems she spent a long time world-building. But ultimately, the story is about a woman and her son, inside that walled city fo Seattle, filled with zombies.


Another fun thing for writers, which my writerly-inclined older sister pointed me to, this YouTube video. It's a song from a Broadway show called [title of show], and is enjoyable, and aplicable to screenwriters, painters, novelists, and all sorts of artists. The song is "Die, Vampire, Die," and the lyrics are available on the actual YouTube page, but below is the video itself. Go forth and enjoy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Update on the new FTC guidelines, and a book plug

From the post interviewing Richard Cleland about the new guidelines with the FTC about bloggers, free swag, and the possible consesequences of that being considered "compensation" for "endorsement" of a product, like bloggers who review a book they received as a -free- ARC.

Well, that poster updated with this link to another interview with Cleland. Further details on who might be fined, and how much, along with some responses from other bloggers, relating to their concerns and confusion.

Good information for all.


In only slightly related news, a former classmate of mine, currently a PhD student at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, has a book soon to be released. "Big in Japan: A Ghost Story" will be released around November 1 of this year, but Tom Gammarino, Author, will be turing at the end of October. First stop, the UH bookstore, on October 29, at 3 pm.

He'll also visit Philadelphia in December, and Pennsylvania, Washington and Vancouver, BC in January. Go here for more details about the tour and the book.

It follows the "Dantesque" travels of an American (USian, specifically) musician in Japan, and skips along the border of reality and fantasy. It's "riotously serious and deadly funny," according to the blurb at the website.

I haven't read it yet, but I plan to when it comes out, and it sounds interesting enough that I wanted to make mention of it to others. [Disclaimer: He didn't ask me to say anything, and I am being no way compensated for this mention. Just in case y'all wanted to know. ;P]

"Where do you get your ideas?" The Importance of Being Curious

*Finally, a title that doesn't refer to missing, or almost missing, a post per day. Of course, I've missed two--for being sick, some more, and 'cause it's the weekend. I'll make them up.

A couple of days ago, I went to a Borders store and was enamored of a notebook they were selling. A darkish teal, with ravens and dead trees in silhouette, the inside cream with more raven sketches, and quotes from Edgar Allen Poe. I love Poe. I wanted that notebook. I am notebook kind of gal. But it was $13.00. I passed.


Plus, I already have tons of notebooks/notepads--spiral and composition, plain and decorated. Some empty, but most of them filled to some degree with notes, snippets, phone numbers, and occasionally sketches and doodles.

Thing is, I almost never leave home without at least one form of paper, usually two or three. [I try to use different notebooks for different stories or purposes (one has become the exclusive notebook for my booky research notes, others are specific to a novel or story I'm working on).] I keep so many near at hand, partly because of that question, "Where do you get your ideas?"

No writer seems to enjoy being asked that question, because the answer isn't an easy one (unless you get asked a lot, and eventually work out a rote response). For me, part of the answer lies in these notebooks. They're next to my bed, tossed throughout my room, in every shoulder- and messenger bag, in my army jacket with the deep pockets. Even when I leave without all those things, chances are there is a pen and a battered notepad shoved into a jeans pocket. Because you never know where an idea will come from, or when it will arrive.

Ideas ride in on a breath carrying with it a snippet of conversation, the funny line you hear and wonder what the rest of that conversation is surrounding it. Or listening to the radio and a particular line jumps out at you, a few minutes of a dream, a weird-looking (however you define weird) person walking down the street.

Any of these things and innumerous more. You see them, jot them down, and wonder why. And then life goes on. Go about your day, forget that snippet or dream. Later that day, the next, a week or a month later, some other snippet arrives to your ears and you pull out that notepad, see the other one, and things start percolating. Two snippets together and maybe they begin to form a conversation, and you find out who are those people talking. It builds from there.

At least I think so. Sometimes I flip through older pads or early pages of current ones, and see notes for one story that triggers a revelation for a new story.


Read widely, too. ( :P That's me, master of segues.) I have an idea for a story, YA, teen male protagonist, vampires. But in a big way, it's a reaction to many of the vampires books already out there, because I want to see how a YA book would work with violent, bestial vampires, where their bite isn't dainty or romantic, but a violent attack. It's still in the early stages, and maybe the trend will be long gone by the time I finish, but the characters are forming, and I have an opening, and bits and pieces of interesting facts are coming to me, and it's a story I want to write, because I love a fancy French vampire with a flair for the dramatic.

And I'll stop there, because I am still sick and my thoughts are getting a little scattered. Plus, I've been trying to type this throught the some house drama.

Happy writing, everyone,
Sabrina

--
On a completely unrelated note: I love my television captions sometimes. Through various circumstances, I now use them with the volume on on a regular basis, and it's just kind of funny to watch a season 3 episode of Heroes and see the caption "Breathing heavily, lips smacking" to take all the romance out. heh. Lips smacking is not a romantic sound.
(Sorry if the paragraph breaks are weird, sometimes, I add an image and it goes all wonky, despite my efforts to fix them.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kat Richardson tells it like it is, booyah!

DISCLAIMER! My dad and little sister have read, I think, every Kat Richardson book currently out in paperback. They love the books. I, sadly (~weeps~), haven't read them yet because my to-read pile is a tottering hazard.

Plus, with this post, I've totally caught up with myself.

[I have decided, using my stuffy head-cold as an excuse, to be silly here. Please accept all of the above as truthful and deliberately exaggerated and silly.]

Urban fantasy writer, Kat Richardson, posts about Acquiring an Agent on her blog. It's long, but detailed and comprehensive, and basically, some overall good advice for writers currently editing, or just about to begin querying agents. And of course, the usual disclaimer--this is her opinion, based on her experience, and everyone who reads it has to look at it through that understanding. Besides that, it's a good read, IMHO.

Didn't post yesterday

Boo on me, I know. But I was still fighting the Fever-y Head Cold of Doom. doomie doom.

I'll try to make up for the lapse with an extra post soon. If not today, then sometime in the next week or so.

I did spend yesterday thinking about my writing, though--even when my bedsheets were laying lightly on top or smoothed beneath me, and I felt tangled in then--I still feel like I wasn't completely lazy yesterday.

Mostly, my thoughts were drawn to the myriad agent, editor and writer blogs (both published and unpublished) that I visit. So many of them mention at some point the need for a writer who wants to get published to be confident, but not overly-confident (horror stories from agents receiving the 'of course you can't understand my magnificent work, you have to read it to see its stunning depth'). Bloggers in the know say writers shouldn't send out query letters until they believe their novel is the best they can make it. Not 'good enough,' not 'good,' but great, as close to perfect as the writer can accomplish.

The past few days, with this cold (or whatever it is), I can't help but wonder where I fall in the spectrum, except to know I am not firmly on the crazy over-confident end--I can be rather practical-minded, I like to believe. I do my research, and double-check it before sending out queries, so I have the most up-to-date information. But I can also be a pretty anxious and neurotic individual, and I'm finding it difficult, after a summer with my head in this one novel, to see whether it is as good as I can make it, or if I'm just too close to see its flaws, and a bit too tired. I don't know if my worries about the quality are justified, or just my over-active anxieties.

Anyway, that's what was going through my head while I was sick, so you know, grain of salt.

I want to present myself, especially with this, my "official" writing blog, as a competent and reasonable person. At the same time, it's chronicling my journey towards publication, and the worry is a part of that. I debated whether to mention how neurotic I can be, but this anxiety is a part of me, and it's part of my process as a writer. If I continue to receive form rejections, then I'll reevaluate my novel. Until then, and from now on, I'll keep the jibbering anixety to myself. For your sakes, dear readers. Because I care. ;P

Happy writing,
Sabrina

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Almost didn't post today

I had a slightly sore throat last night, but it was worse this morning, with a partially clogged nostral and a really annoying cough. Mnnn...

So I figured I'd forego the computer today, but I do like to check my email and check my friends list, see what people are up to. And since I was doing that, I'd check my other email (designated for querying agents and other publication-related emails) and post here.

Query email had a new unread letter of rejection, my first for the a novel.

I'm not a person who likes rejection (who does?), and who will generally do things to avoid situations where rejection is a possibility (at the same time, joining programs that I don't need, but which add to my work plate, like the Honors program--go figure). Writing is the one thing where I knew I would be rejected a certain number of times before finding an agent who I wanted to work with, who would want to work with me. But I did it anyway. I worked through writing a novel, then editing an novel; writing a query letter, and a synopsis (finished that yesterday, yay me), and researching agents. All to send a letter out, and more than likely get a form letter saying, 'sorry, not for us.'

I knew it would happen all through the previous stages, but writing is such an integral part of my life, and I want to make it a part of the rest of my life, hopefully in the sense of a paying career (eventually), that I was willing to risk rejection. I don't like it, and I hope there won't be many, but I think knowing the process ahead of time helped me not to take this first rejection so seriously.

Anyway, it's there, and it's like breaking the skin of water on top of a glass. The water is flowing, and I can keep moving forward. Because for all my neurotic insecurities, I believe I'll find an agent.

...

Don't worry, I won't devote an entire post to every rejection. Just this time, because I knew I didn't want to freak out when it happened, but I still wasn't entirely certain how I'd react. And I hope doing so even this first time isn't a mistake, so we can chalk it up to blogging while sick, yes? ;P

Happy writing everyone,
Sabrina

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Pay for the Books I Review

Tracing back some links to the origin and then disseminating it further.

Apparently the Federal Trade Commission has revised its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials. Basically bloggers (not print reviewers) would be required to disclose any "compensation" or "endorsement" of product. So for all the bloggers out there who receive free books from publishers, in the hopes of a review, or bloggers who have advertisements for books (I suppose they mean ads for the book in questioned that reviewed) on their blog.

In response to these new guidelines, Edward Champion spoke with Richard Cleland, who works with the Bureau of Consumer Protection, via telephone. They had a "civil, but heated" conversation wherein Champion asked Cleland about the new guides.

Some issues received less than clearly defined answers, while Champion updates his interview to add a few points that weren't asked.

It's an interesting article, and informative for even the casual review blogger. The new Guides are effective December 1, 2009.

For myself, I only blog books I already own, or borrow from the library. I am a very casual reviewer. But I wouldn't mind receiving books for free to review, and I know there are plenty of bloggers who are lucky enough to receive books from publishers. For them, come December 1, they'll be required to, at the very least, state they are receiving books for free, or linking to Amazon. And one might be able to mention it once, or every single time they post a review. And if one doesn't do this, the consequences will be...

We're not sure yet. In the post, Cleland says they wil be focusing more on advertisers than individual bloggers, in terms of enforcing the new guidelines. Which doesn't make so much sense to me, if one of their main concerns is reviewers receiving free books as "compensation."

Champion is updating the article with new information (he emailed Cleland with a question and will also update with a reply), so I'll try to check back there and see if there's any new information to pass along.

Thanks to writtenwyrrd for the first mention.

Happy writing,
Sabrina

Monday, October 5, 2009

Good, Solid Advice from Janet Reid and a Sort-of Addendum from Me

First, I swung by Janet Reid's blog today. She has a pop quiz for writers looking for agents. Three questions, pretty darn firmly tongue-in-cheek. Personally, the first two are easy, but the third threw me a little. I read it and thought, "None of those seem particularly good options." The question inquired as to whether it's appropriate to call a publisher for an agent's name if one couldn't find it in the dedication or acknowledgements page of a book. As Reid informs us, though, the answer is absolutely none of the above.

Never call a publisher to learn the name of an author's agent.


MY TAKE
When it comes to using an agent's name found in the acknowledgements: (all IMHO)

I have heard the advice that writers looking for agents to query can use this as a method--find books in your genre/style (for example, humorous urban fantasy) and look at the dedication and/or acknowledgements page for an agent's name. I don't think this is bad advice, but at the same time, I think it behooves the querying writer to be careful in comparing themselves to the book from which they found the agent's name. I've heard that since agents can't take on too many writers (yay economy/sarcasm), they might not want someone who points out their work is exactly like Already Acquired New Writer X.

Also, one might rethink if the published author is really well-known--if JK Rowling's agent is looking for new writers, and your work fits what they're looking for, go ahead, but then comparing yoursef to Rowling... ~shrugs~ My feeling is, go ahead and look for an agent by checking out books by writers whose work is similar to yours, but there's no need to compare yourself (general you, of course), or mention you got their name from so-and-so's book.

Anyway, my two cents, once again. (Where and when did two cents become equated with one's opinion like this? I wonder.)

Happy Monday everyone,
Sabrina

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Sunday Slump

I definitely think weekends will be hardest posts to stick with. Those are my running around days, especially Sunday, and I don't usually turn the computer on, let alone do all that pesky thinking about stuff.

Scanning through my enormous list of writers' blogs, looking for inspiration or an interesting article to link to, Anna Genoese (editor, and co-author of Salt and Silver) had some neat points to make about editing--three main questions, 1. can you tighten it up, 2. what story are you telling, and 3. who's your audience, really--but maybe I'm too tired at this point to say much more than that.

It's been a really long day. And I'm already tired thinking about having to get up tomorrow.

I also visited Carrie Vaughn's blog. She has a recent post about going on a ride-along with a police officer. This was almost startling in its helpfulness, because I have, on a handful of occasions in the past, wondered how some writers keep the police procedures in their books authentic if they don't personally know a cop or have a friend who knows a cop. Ride-alongs seemed like something only a well-known writer (or previously mentioned 'person with connections') could achieve. And although the police officer with whom Vaughn went on the ride-along is a friend, according to the post, I was caught by the last paragraph--that police departments usually have a ride-along program and/or "civilian academies," where one can learn about actual procedure.

That seems, in one way, pretty common sensical (is that word? it is now either way ;) ), and I like to think I have a healthy dose of common sense, but at the same time, it had never occurred to me that police departments would have something like that already in place.

Well, there are my two [sleepy] cents for Sunday. I hope to bring you something more coherent tomorrow.

Happy writing,
Sabrina

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Last Day of Banned Books Week, if only

A List of the top ten banned books for 2008:


And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richarson and Peter Parnell

His Dark Materials trilogy, by Phillip Pullman

TTYL, TTFN, L8R G8R, series, by Lauren Myracle

Scary Stories, series, by Alvin Schwartz

Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Gossip Girl, series, by Cecily von Ziegesar

Uncle Bob's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Flashcards of my Life, by Charise Mericle Harper *


The reasons for their being banned across the US range from sexually explicit material to unsuitable to age group, drugs, suicide, and religious views or because it contained material related to the occult/satanism (because those always go hand-in-hand; amd then what would happen to the urban fantasy section?/sarcasm).

I haven't read all of these. I've heard of most of them, come across reviews for them in Entertainment Weekly or other magazines my sister picks up (I'm not much fro buying them myself). I have the Scary Stories and Dark Materials books. I never read them, back in elementary, intermediate and possibly high school, with any thought to cwensorship or the deeper, "subversive" commentary in them. I was simply obsessed with detailing every item/picture on the alethiometer, and was more disconcerted by the illustrations in the Scary Stories and More Scary Stories than I was by the tales of spiders laying eggs in a woman's ear.

But even though there are books on this list I haven't read, I like...love knowing I -can- read them. I can go to the library or bookstore and pick it up and flip through it, reread it until I can quite whole pages. It pains me to think there are people out there who want to take that right away from others, based on their own subjective opinions.

Censorship seems to be the personal opinion of a vocal few. That small opinion shouldn't become the standard for libraries and bookstores and schools.

I think I'm lucky to live in a town where there's never been an uproar over a book that's supposedly inappropriate (at least, I've never been aware of such a thing in the media, and I hope it would be a big enough deal to warrant mention on the news), and I hope never to live in a place where that happens. But at the same time, it can make a person complacent. "It won't happen to me." It's one of those times when I think there's nothing I can do tomake a difference, but I hope just speaking out about here is at least a start. If I can be so bold, I also encourage others, especially if they hear about a book being banned in their community, to speak out against it.

[One of the reasons I like Neil Gaiman--he's very good about informing readers of his blog when something like this happens. He's got connections. He's like a one-man mafia. ;) ]

I have to say, this one post a day thing is not easy for me, at least over the weekend, when I don't usually go online. But it's the third, last official day of Banned Books Week. Coming up, I want to do a post on writer's block, and I have a few other topics written down for posts.

Happy writing everyone,
Sabrina

*List from the Banned Books Week website. More details about events you can do to participate (good reference for next year, too) can be found here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Banned Books Week, Post #1

Not the most original post title, but it's been a long day (still the 2nd though! for me at least) and I only just booted up my computer.

Since I love a good personal anecdote, this post will be a short-ish one. Tomorrow, I'll try to take some time, do some research and one of those thoughtful, well-informed posts I hear so much about.

BANNED BOOKS

My second semester at university, one of the first english classes I took was a fiction/poetry workshop, taught for half the semester (the poetry half) by a visiting professor, Professor Joy Harjo.

One class, we were talking about rhythm and beat when reading poetry aloud. She had a t-shirt with a list of that year's, or the previous year's, banned books. I don't remember what she origially proposed as the task to "win" it, but I'd been introduced to Slam Poetry that semester. I had interviewed some of the well-known names in Honolulu, been to a campus slam poetry event, and been given a cd with some performances of this local artists.

One poem in particular stuck with me--"Recess" by Steven Kealoha Wong, known solely as Kealoha to many. It was fast and smooth and paused in all the right places and made me think back to that joyful existence when one word meant the highlight of my day: recess.

With the discussion of rhythm, beats and pauses in poems, I brought the cd to class and played it for everyone. She gave me the t-shirt.

I'm not one much for t-shirts that promote specific stores, brands or causes, but I like this one. Because really, how could I dislike a shirt with book titles on it? :)


Stay tuned for Saturday's edition of the ever-thrilling "Banned Books Week,Post #2." I know. I have chills, too.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October First: Catch-All and Linkage

The countdown begins to my-favorite-holiday-on-which-I-have-nothing-to-do, Halloween. I love Halloween, the idea of dressing up as something magical and maybe a little scary, a night to pretend I'm someone/something else--it's like taking the stories I write a step further.

When I write, I am, in some ways, every character. I need to get in their heads, know how they think, how they react, how they feel. On Halloween, instead of quietly looking over the shoulders' of these fictional characters, I can walk the street as someone else.

@_@

Not to take that idea too far, I just love Halloween.

It's incredibly sad that I never have any plans for the night. Candy for the handful of kiddies that show up, yes, but my family never has parties, none of my friends have parties as far as I'm aware, and I'm not a dance club kind of gal.

But moving on. October 1 also marks the not-quite-midpoint of Banned Books Week, as well as the first day of NaBloWriMo--National Blog Writing Month. Seeing as how I love to read, but have been lax in my CoffeeQuill blogging, I want to attend to these both.

Briefly, a WHAT TO EXPECT:

Tomorrow, I'll post about Banned Books, talk about this year's list, banned books I have or have not read, and share an anecdote from 2003.

Then, it will be my fervent attempt to blog each day of October. I don't imagine I'll keep up the once-a-day post after this month, but if memory serves, it takes about 21 days to form a habit. If I can manage NaBloWriMo, maybe I can manage a more regular posting schedule. I'm already making a list of topics to post on.

LINKAGE

On Publisher's Weekly, there's a vote going on--PW is planning to do an interview with an urban fantasy author, and they want to know which UF author people want to read about. Voting is happening on now, and you can go here to cast your choice. You don't need to log in to leave a comment.

Today also heralds the guest post on "The Charming Bracelet," by "Only Milo" author Barry Smith. Jennifer Ambrose, the author of the blog, is running a Big Idea--a chain letter of sorts, but with a book. Receive it, read it, sign it, blog or tweet it if you like, mail it to someone else. Eventually, the book returns to Jennifer and more writers and readers are aware of a debut author. The book sounds interesting, and you can go to Jennifer's blog for more details about the book, Smith, and her chain book idea.

ETA: While writing about NaBloWriMo, I knew there was one more blog I wanted to mention. By the time I got to Linkage, I forgot. 'Cause I'm a dork like that. Seeing as I love Halloween, and by extension, October, here is a link to Writtenwyrdd's short fiction contest. 500-1,000-word horror story. Halloween as the deadline. Prize is a cuddly Chthulu plushie. I haven't written much horror, but for that, I'm going to give it a try.

(Thanks to Writtenwyrdd for reminding me I wanted to post about this.) :)

So that's October 1, day one of NaBloWriMo. 30 more days to go.

Happy writing,
Sabrina

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When I Knew I Wanted to be a Writer

[*According to my blogger dashboard, my last post was #100. It's taken me a couple of years to get there, but it's a nice marker to reach. :) ]

Since the statehood post, I've been thinking about my childhood a bit more. Then I saw a post or two about writers who knew they wanted to do this since they could write, or even before, because they were storytellers. I realized, that was not the case for me.

My kindergarten class was set up as different stations--little square spaces where you could draw/color, play house, read, there was a small sandbox to play in, and other puzzle games. I think just from this you can see what I preferred, I can't even remember most of the stations on the other side of the classroom. we were supposed to move around, not stay in one area all day, but I loved playing house, though I seem to recall not necessarily needing the typical mom, dad, baby set-up (I wish I could remember what I -did- want to play, wizards?).

I still have a single page story with picture about a girl catching a butterfly, but I remember I actually didn't like the color station--we were given pages of animals that were supposed to be certain colors, blue bear, red cat, etc., that would be compiled into a booklet. I thought it was boring. But I did like that single page story I came up with. And I loved to read. I still have the book (similar to a "See Jane. See Dick. See Jane's dress." ones) and it was the first thing I read all by myself. I went and read it to my teacher and she gave me a post-it with a stamp of (or it was printed with) a 'good job so and so,' with the teacher's signature. It's still in that book.

Drawing and writing have always been tied for me. From those early years to fifth and sixth grade, whn I drew countless characters, just waiting for stories, and then the stories develop concurrently with the pictures. Outside of class, I didn't do much writing, but I had the pictures and notes, and the stories in my head. In school, the drawings were never as good (rephrase--I actually did most of my drawing at school, but when it was assigned, it didn't look at good). And I remember a story I was supposed to write in 6th grade--I never finished it. I have no idea what I got for a grade, but I think it was passing, because at least my teacher saw me working on it in class. I just couldn't get to the end.
Ending stories...From the time I started writing stories, I couldn't finish them. A one-page, or even 7-page story for 8th grade English, I was able (barely) to wrap up, but I started so many stories that I didn't finish until my undergraduate years of college. I joined the Honors program in order to finish a novel. I've finished two since then (the second novel is the one I'm querying agents on).

When I was thinking about this, I would have said I didn't know I wanted to be a writer until intermediate schol/high school. The latter is when I started what would be that first novel. And I had another story that I worked on during PE, while still adhering to teh activity of the day. During the former, I started finishing what I began, at least if they were short.

Now, though, I think maybe I've wanted to do it for a long time. I didn't know it at first, but I -did- love drawing and writing and coming up with stories. I just wanted to write on my own terms.

And now I am. hee.

Happy writing, everyone.
[PS. The redhead is Kelin, and the silver-haired lady is Phoenix, my two mage protagonists for that first complete novel. Not my best work, but I was rushing to finish them for a poster at the time. I still tend to draw a lot of my characters as I write their stories.]

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Editing Updates <3

Here's my good mood: I finished my edits. I do believe, my dearies, that 'Hounds' is ready to go out amongst agents.



Here's my less-than-good mood: That means jumping out amonst the agents, handing over my novel, and waiting for rejection.



I like to think I am knowledgable about the publishing industry (although less so about the spelling here--knowledgeable?), but at the same time, I hate rejection. I have, one can argue, led an occasionally boring life, partly to avoid rejection. But I know rejection is part of the game, as much as I want to be confident and say, "I'll get an agent with my first query sent." People like confidence, they like certainty, they like to see that you (read: me) can handle stress and not fall apart at the drop of a hat.
Well, stress is fine, good, I can deal with that. (You guys haven't met my family. Stress is daily entertainment in this house.) I love writing. I want to write for the rest of my life, to get better with every story, to make a living out of this skill and passion. I just hate rejection.
I commented on a post on Sherwood Smith's journal once, a few weeks back--the topic revolved around conversations, conventions and introverts, but it reminded me of this feeling I struggle with from time to time. I shared my example. For introverted me, stepping into a conversation is like a game of double-dutch jump rope, rocking back and forth, waiting for the right moment. Unfortunately, my "right moment" never seemed to come. I would stand there rocking, waiting, and someone else would jump in on the other side.
I don't want writing to be another missed opportunity. [And my writerly instincts scream at all the 'I' statements.] But I need to screw up the courage (a weird cliche out of context), and just do it. Query is ready, book is done and edited, and there's an excel sheet with a good number of agents and their requirements listed, just waiting for me.
Everything waiting for me. ~cue scared kitty again~ I think I'll be okay once I start. So here I am, watching the rope as it slaps the hot pavement. Someone nearby sings a silly rhyme. I'm gonna jump...now.