Friday, March 26, 2010

Doing Something for Myself as a Writer

It's probably no surprise that I like surfing the internet. Actually, it's more like a game of "The Floor is Lava," because I start in the usual spots (my homepage) and jump around from link to the next on my favorites list, occasionally trying a new route (when I Google something or follow a link).

But almost invariably, I start my day with a cup of coffee and the intention of checking email, LJ, facebook, and a few blogs, then glance up occasionally to see the hours whittling away. Ultimately, the day is gone and I have no writing or editing to show for it.

I was rasied Catholic, and still follow some of the traditions. Right now, it's Lent, and usually you give something up for those forty days before Easter. Religion-wise, you do so to bring you closer to that experience of sacrifice. Practicality-wise, it's a good chance to start a new, healthy habit. Usually I give up a certain food, or soda, or do extra exercise (which could be argued is a sacrifice of time and napping). Since it centers on sacrifice of self, sometimes you can squidge it a little towards 'doing more for others.'

This year, I really squidged it, and running with the intention of setting up a better habit, I had planned to write 1,000 words a day, because I'd been having a hard time getting words on a page. That quickly devolved to "well, as long as I have 40,000 words written by Easter." And honestly, that isn't looking very likely right now. I'd also wanted to get a big ol' chunk of editing done on one or two stories, and I haven't made much progress there, either.

Now, I know these aren't impossible goals--I wrote about 50,000 words over the three weeks of winter break when I was writing my Master's thesis--and I know I can have that kind of self-discipline, but I've been lazy and easy on myself. Part of that has been saying I'll get off the computer to write or edit (both by pen and paper right now), then wandering the streets and side alleys of the internet and its World O' Blogs.

So here's my decision/plan: It's a little over a week until Easter, and except for a couple of days, I don't have much to do. Therefore, I will be off the computer from now until, probably, Monday April 5. And if I do go on, it'll be to check my email, little things, but only after I accomplish a significant amount of writing and editing for the day. Maybe say, no computer until after 10 pm, too, so I might just decide it's too late in the day and stay off, get a few more sentences in.

If there's anything people desperately want me to know, I'll check blogs and such after the next week+ for sure.

See you homies on the other side.

Happy Writing,

Friday, March 19, 2010

Short Admin-y Post, and then some

Just to let readers, particularly those who grace me with comments now and again, that I've added word verification to the comment page.

I didn't want to throw in a bunch of additional requirements for people who wanted to leave their opinions, but I don't like seeing "1 comment" and getting my hopes up, only to have them dashed by a completely nonsensical piece of spam.

Although there was one a few posts down that had some funny lines.


To give you something fun to read, there is an interview with new-ish author, Seanan McGuire, over at Bitten by Books. I received her first book, Rosemary and Rue, for my birthday last month, and will soon be buying its recently released sequel, A Local Habitation.

[Actually, having not read the books yet, the few mentions of its plot make Writer-Me paranoid, because I've been working on my own UF 'Hounds' for years, but I keep seeing little details in descriptions of her protagonist that seem similar.

I keep thinking two things: 1. What if the books -are- too similar, and I can't get mine published because there's already one like it on the shelves, and 2. I can't read it until I've edited mine as far as I think it can go, so as to avoid inadvertently drawing from her book. The novel is written, but needs more editing, so I keep vacillating between -reeeaally- wanting to read McGuire's books, and wanting to hold off, so I can say this is my story without a too-close influence from hers.

...Of course, since I -have- the first book now, it is in the cue to be read, and the blue and orange cover entices me, saying "I'm sure once you read it, you'll see they're vastly different books, nothing to worry about. Read it. Reeeaaddd it. You know you want to." And I do, so I will, Writer Paranoia be damned.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Help a Book-Lover Help Others

I've just heard about this today, but I was eager to share: someone I do not know, is looking to spread the love of reading and create a space for readers, writers' groups, local authors as well as new and small publisher authors. Michelle Witte is opening a bookstore for children and young adult lit, and is looking for help in raising funds to accomplish that goal.

Details can be found on the blog for Fire Petal Books, about who she is and why she's doing this, especially with the economy still hurting. Also, the big fundraising method right now seems to be an auction of books by various children and YA authors, including Neil Gaiman, Maureen Johnson and a host of authors I personally haven't heard of until now, but whose work I am intrigued by, like Steve Ouch ("SteamPotVille," hmm).

I'd encouraged everyone to at least check out her blog, and if they feel so inclined, maybe even participate in the auction. The auction runs until this Saturday, March 20, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

I'm actually going to head back there and read the blog archives for a bit, but I wanted to put it out there for others who may not have heard about it. (Because sometimes, if I wait too long, I end up not posting, and I felt this was important to share. Yay for more independent bookstores!)

Today, I wish you all happy reading.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Crosspost-it from my LJ: Epiphany! Albeit a little one

Thank you to those who read that very long post below, reviewing The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer, and The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley--I enjoyed both and I don't always realize how much I'm writing until I'm scrolling through it after it's posted. But if you like mid-grade, fantasy, time travel, or fairy tales (especially fairy tales in the modern world), then please read the review, because I think these two series could appeal to you.

Moving on, I posted the following to my lj the other day, and realized it would connect very well to the purpose of CoffeeQuill, i.e. sharing my process on the road to and through publication. So here it is, with a few additional thoughts afterwards.


Okay, so, as in geometry, there is a given. Every writer works differently. Given that, I do think it behooves writers to read a lot. Not necessarily the same genre they write, hopefully not just research, but in soem form or another, ingesting the words, the stories of others.

Last night, I was getting ready for bed, and reading a few pages in a fantasy novel by James Owen (lj coppervale), "Here, There Be Dragons." I only read about 2-4 pages, closed it at page 24 to finish getting ready for bed, and I took a moment to think about how much had happened in those first two dozen pages. In my head, I started to list the big pieces of action and after just the first, had an idea on how to improve Hounds, my faerie UF.

I've known it needed work, much like its query I could see something wasn't right,, but didn't have a firm idea on how to fix it. Now I have at least one part. Get to the park faster, and see Din's death. It won't fix everything, but the risk will be more evident right off the bat, the reader will see the danger rather than just being told it's dangerous.

Like I said, not a magic bullet, but it's a start, and it'll make the first chapter or so stronger. Already I can feel the story whittling down into a sharper, clearer form in my head. Too much is going on in it that's unnecessary, I just need to go through a hard copy and start slicing.

[This is something I knew I had to do, and was going to do it after I did the same for Harry's Skin, but now I feel like I'm in the right place mentally to view the story more objectively. I was too close to it before.] <-- The one positive point about being unpublished is that I can allow myself the time to do this, and to wait for when I'm ready to work on something.

Also, I am toying with two new story/world ideas. Well, new to me. I'm going to try and let them percolate for a while, though.


After I wrote and posted this, I was listening to volume 1 of the Glee albums. A line in one of the songs hit me, and though it didn't seem at all related, made me reexamine another issue I was having. I tend to populate my novels with large casts, and in this particular story, I think it's too much and at least one character, a private detective, can go. Even after mulling it over, I still haven't decided whether to keep 'Det. L' or not, but more and more I think his actions that need to be there can be attributed to someone else, and the rest can be dropped. But it's just sort of funny how part of a song can trigger an idea for a story about a completely different subject matter.

Happy writing everyone,

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book Reviews, yay! And a bit about "my process"

I am back, utterly unscathed by the "tsunami" of inches. I've been continuing the job hunt, writing some (not as much as I want to be, but making progress), and reading a lot.

So at a minimum, I usually go to a bookstore a week, on occasion I go less often, more likely I go to multiple bookstores. On one weekend trip, I was with a friend and we wandered around manga, through YA fantasy, and ended up staring at the mid-grade novels. My eyes caught the cover of "The Time Travelers" by Linda Buckley-Archer, about two kids who have just met, who end up hurtled to the year 1763 by an experiment gone awry. There they meet Gideon, gentleman and [former] cutpurse (the original print was titled Gideon the Cutpurse, making the new title an interesting change, to me, to analyze for fun), who basically looks after them, and helps them find the device that will get them home. Unfortunately, the Tar Man (unpleasant fellow to say the least) has stolen the device and isn't going to give it back without a fight.

I really enjoyed this book. It's about the size of an early Harry Potter (maybe Prisoner of Azkaban), but the story really pulled me in. Peter and Katie, the kids, are about 11/12, and generally enjoyable. I felt like their reactions were genuine, though not always agreeable. They react more emotionally to little, or jump into action without thinking when I'm like, "But you just promised not to do that!" But they're kids, and children do that sometimes. I teach first graders, that's how they act sometimes, so rather than be a point of frustration--where I think "If that were me, I'd do it this way--it just adds another layer of detail to fall into.

It also doesn't hurt that the cover, which first drew my attention, was illustrated by James Jean, who creates the covers for the Fables graphic novels (fairy tale people come from their own worlds to modern-day New York), and has done pieces for Entertainment Weekly (and Rolling Stone if I recall correctly).

Now, after reading "The Time Travelers," I was ready for the second book in the series, and the third, if it was out (alas, it's hardcover, so that one must wait), but this was a period of time when I couldn't seem to get to the bookstore very much, and when I did, they didn't have book two, "The Time Thief."

Here's the thing, and the reason why (proceeesss!) I can't read a lot while I'm in the writing groove: because I get into a reading groove, which eats my brain, so I don't want to write or edit or draw, or do anything other than find an entire series and read it to the end. When I get in the groove and one series runs out, I jump to another. Which is what I did this time.

Speaking of James Jean, and thus Fables, back in May I received a graduation present of a gift card for the university bookstore. It's expensive and other than textbooks I didn't shop there much, but I looked through, found a couple of giant cookies (cappuccino and a pumpkin spice, I believe), then veered, as I am wont to do in any store with books, towards the book section. They had books 4 and 5 of The Sisters Grimm series, by Michael Buckley.

The main reason I picked up number 4 is because I love books the retell or play around with fairy tales, myths, and nursery rhymes. Sisters Grimm is like Fables for middle grade readers.

But I also love to (read: have to, almost obsessively) read books in order, so a few months ago I found book 1, then when I couldn't find a copy of "The Time Thief," read "The Fairy-Tale Detectives," then hunted down the rest of the books in the series. (Now that I've read all six of those, and have hunted down TTT, I'm switching back to Buckley-Archer.)

The second smaller reason I grabbed TSG 4, is because one of the sisters is named Sabrina. I know, it's a silly reason to pick up a book, and if it had been a genre I didn't read or if the description didn't appeal to me, seeing my name in print wouldn't make a difference. But I've only met/known of a few other Sabrinas in my life, and fictionally, only my namesake, Audrey Hepburn's Sabrina.

So anyway, I am a big, honking dork.

To the review: I've read all six books now, only number 3 out of order, because I really had a hard time finding it, so this is about the series in general.

Perhaps the worst part about it was the data-dump backstory in the first few pages of books 2 through 6. But it din't hinder my enjoyment, because I figure it's a little more acceptable for a younger audience, and I know it's difficult to explain everything that's happened in the past two or four or five books. Once again, there are young protagonists: Sabrina, 11, turning 12, her sister Daphne, 7, and Puck, who's thousands of years old, but acts like a 12-year-old. Again, it was interesting to look at the way they interacted with each other, and tugged on my emotions, especially when the older sister acts with the intention of protecting her sister and family, but ends up just making everybody mad. It's hard to try to do what you think is right, and end the day with your sister not speaking to you, turning her back on you, and having to face your grandmother's quiet disappointment.

The books are definitely set up for readers to empathize with Sabrina, and I found myself tearing up quite a bit when those sort of scenes ocurred, because even if I'd act differently, it was still hard to imagine being in that position with that kind of harsh fall-out. ('Cause remember, I am a big, honking dork. =P )

The series premise centers on the girls and their grandma trying to find their parents, and then releasing the sleeping spell upon them. In the process, they meet various fairy tales characters, some of whom act much like their story counterparts, others of whom are rather different from the ways they're portrayed in stories. They're handled well, a balance between these two degrees, and none feeling like two-dimensionl caricatures. Mayor (formerly Prince) Charming is a great example of this, and I liked how Buckley played with the Big Bad Wolf, usually seen as a thin, old man with watery grey eyes called Mr. Canis. Canis goes through a lot of transformations--the sort of character you just want to hug.

Perhaps one of the best things I can say for the series, besides I'm a big ol' softy, is that I'm never quite sure where things are going, whether from the beginning of a book to its end, or from one book to the next.

Warning to readers, though, there are a few books (2 to 3 to 4) that should be read in order at the same time. They have those "To Be Continued" sort of endings. Although the main events of the book are wrapped up, the last chapter or so will lead into a new thread that is picked up whole-heartedly in the next book.

[Weird feeling of deja vu, but I know I've never blogged about these books, or the TBC-ness of this series. ~Twilight Zone theme~]

If you don't mind a younger protagonist, these were two fun series, and I definitely recommend them to fans of fairy tales or time travel stories.

Happy reading,