Thursday, December 26, 2013

Clothes not required

For as long as I can remember, the library's been one of my favorite places. Every time I walk into one I feel full of hope and possibility--all the lives to live and worlds to visit fill me with excitement. In high school, my genre of choice of regency romance. Fewer, um, intimate scenes and loads of romance--especially the reformed rakes. I'd close the cover on the paperback novel and daydream in my head about the story. Frequently, my imagination would take it other places. I'd grab my notebook and pen and start writing. Then I'd get to the part where the MC was heading to an elaborate ball (practically required in regencies) and I'd get stuck. I would skip those words in the book because I know nothing about fashion--silk, I understand; lace, I understand. The complicated details the authors would get into detailing the woman's dress, even the colors, were way beyond anything I knew. Short of plagiarizing a book or a fashion magazine, I had--still have--no clue how to describe clothes. So instead of pursuing any writing, I kept my stories in my head and continued to read other people's. 

Then, as it happens with many writers, I had a character that would just not shut up. She plagued me, telling me her story all the time and I finally gave in. I described with ease the hospital room she was in, the drive home, the smell of the ocean off her back porch. I had no trouble describing the horribly tacky hospital gown she wore. And, as my story required, my character had to go shopping. I could see her in my head easily. Transcribing that image onto paper was another story. So I glossed over it. And probably went into too much detail. Seriously. The fact that she bought five pants, four shorts, socks, undies, t-shirts and button up shirts...snore. So I decided I would be one of the authors who wouldn't document every detail of my character's clothing. 

For all I cared--they could go naked. Now, I wasn't writing that kind of story, but I think you get my drift. For years, I let my perceived inability to write about clothes keep me from writing at all. Moral of the blog: Don't let that happen to you. Gloss over it. Leave a large space there and get a fellow writer to help you with it. Don't let something you think you can't write about stop you from writing at all.

Part 2: Book review time. I was born a Rebel. Literally. Best last name ever. I tried to get my husband to take it when we got married, but he wanted to stick with tradition. Boring. Lol. Fortunately, my brother has two sons so the Rebel name will continue. And, to the point. If there's a book with Rebel in the title, I'm naturally intrigued by it. I'd see the first book in this series everywhere and the cover caught my attention every time. So when the second book came out and I saw several authors I follow on twitter promoting it, I decided to jump in and read it. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes was hailed as Game of Thrones for YA. I can see why--she kills people off frequently and has borderline incest between two siblings who end up not being related anyways. Rebel Spring was the whole reason I decided to read the series. I almost did-not-finish the first book, but I hoped, really hoped, the second would be better. Nope. Maybe it's personal preference--I didn't like the frequent POV changes. This may sound weird coming from me, but how frequently the characters fall in love with each other, and how fast they do, absolutely drove me up the wall. I'm all for romance. But two characters meet and two chapters later they're in love. Beat my head against the table. I found the "history" confusing--I think the story would have been better without the Watchers. I guess Morgan Rhodes is setting it up for more intrigue in future books, but in these first two it confused rather than contributed to the story. The only reason I gave the books 2 stars on Goodreads was because I masochistically plan on reading the third book--only because I'm curious about Jonas. But I figure that's enough to warrant 2 stars rather than the 1 I wanted to give it.

Okay, that's all for now. Time to write--or get sucked into the internet and procrastinate a few hours. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Finding your voice

The more you write the better your craft. Everyone knows this. Something else I've found that makes me a better writer is reading other writer's WIP. My very first critique partner and I started at a local critique group on the exact same day. I handed my pages off, arrogant and waiting for the exultant praise for my pages I knew they were due. Um, yeah, no. That was the day I learned all the rules--we all know the rules. Watch your -ly words, don't repeat the same word too many times, show don't tell. I pretty much got my ass handed to me. Fortunately they weren't mean about it, it wasn't malicious. And I needed to hear all of it. Then came my CPs pages. I was immediately jealous. Snarky, witty, and fun, her pages were everything I wanted mine to be. Of course there were problems with them, but they were still good. I went home that night and began working on a new project that had been nagging me for a little while. The whole time I heard my CPs voice in my head. And it helped me find my own.

Cut to two years later and I was working on another round of revisions. Maybe all my positivity about doing another round of revisions was gone. For whatever reason, I lost my voice. I wasn't writing badly, just the magic of the very first version was gone. And I couldn't find it. For months--months--I wrote and rewrote and rewrote. I found a new opportunity to submit to new agents and sent them the beginning of my new version. I liked it, thought it was good, but I knew it could be better. Still, there was some of my old arrogance there. Then one agent responded and told me some of it read like "Sci-Fi parody." Ouch! That hit me where it counted. And it woke me up. I turned off my laptop, pulled out my notebook paper and began to write again. This time, I didn't write my story, I wrote facts about my story. Details about each character, details about the world, details about the enemy. I expanded on them and reminded myself of all the things I fell in love with about my story.

Maybe I needed the hit to my pride for me to find my voice again. Whatever it was, I feel like I found it. I actually woke up today wanting to re-read my pages because I love them so much. That hasn't happened in a long time. I once read--If you don't want to read your pages, why do you think other readers would?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

By George I think I've got it and #writemotivation

First, I will confess, I totally googled the "By George" above to make sure I got it right. The frequency in which I use google to verify phrases...yeah, we'll just say it's a lot.

This phrase has been my personal mantra all week long: Get over yourself and just write already.

Years ago I was searching for a writer's group in the Pensacola area I could go to, a place where we could critique each other's work and I'd learn how to be a better writer. What I found was a group of people who wanted to sit around and give excuses as to why they weren't writing. I didn't go back until several months ago, hoping to find something different. Fortunately I did. This week I was so completely ashamed of myself when I realized that was what I had been doing--making excuses to myself as to why I wasn't writing, why I couldn't write that day or at that time.

Doing my normal "ooh, look at all the shiny things on the internet" procrastination technique, I saw this retweet on my feed (okay, so I tried to embed the tweet onto my blog and it didn't work--I need a little more practice at this stuff, instead, I'll just quote it below...)

Maggie Stiefvater tweeted on Sept 18: In fact, every writer get off Tumblr & Twitter right now and finish your damn manuscript. Yes, I mean you.

At first, the rebel in me (honest, I really was born a Rebel) told Maggie to shut up (in my head, not Twitter, because that'd be rude), she can't tell me what to do and I kept scrolling through Twitter.

Then I started talking to myself--really, it's okay, that's normal. I told myself, "Self, she's right. You need to get off the internet and write." I whined back, "But, but I just can't. You don't understand. You're not telling me what to write. It's all crap." So I responded, "Stop being a whiny brat and write your book. If you don't write it someone else will." And, ooh, that really scared me. So I shut up and started writing. And finally, finally, finally I am writing. And it's flowing. And my brain's cooperating and giving me the story. And all the crap I had before can be worked in somewhere so it's not all crap, just wasn't right for the beginning.

I have at least ten different Word docs saved on my desktop of various beginnings I thought I liked, then I didn't like, but I can't delete because I never know when I might want to use that one specific turn of phrase I hashed out in that doc. That doesn't even count the number of times I deleted a whole page or doc because it just didn't work at all.

I cleverly (in my opinion of course) tweeted a while ago: My computer keyboard gave my fingers the eye and told me, "This book ain't gonna write itself."

And it's really not. So, to summarize: me writing; it's good.

Writemotivation updates:
            1.) Did a lot of writing--doubled my ten page goal. Yay. A lot of copying and pasting, but it still counts!
            2.) Have you ever loved a book so much, been so affected by it that you're scared to read another book that you know will affect you that way? Especially when it's traditionally published and takes a year or more for the next one to come out. And you're just trying to spare yourself the emotional trauma. No, just me, okay. Well, last week's Sarah J. Maas books still have me aching inside, so I decided to give myself a break and reread Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series--freaking LOVE Bones. Cat really annoys me, frequently, and I feel as though Jeaniene Frost's writing of her is awkward at times--but she is always spot on when it comes to Bones. His voice, his personality, just all of him. She said she visualizes James Franco when she writes him, but I totally see Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer--especially when Bones has his blond hair. It might be that he so completely and unashamedly loves his Kitten and it's nice to read a story where they're not constantly fighting their feelings or finding reasons why they can't be together...anyways. Rereading the 2nd-5th book in that series, not to mention the new adult garbage I read this week (none of it's worth mentioning--not good enough nor bad enough), that's how I met (sort of) my reading goal for the week.
           3.) Here's my blog--3 for 3 so far. Yay me! Next month my goal will also be to comment on other people's blogs as well, but that's a challenge for another month.
           4.) Not letting myself focus on any other books besides my current WIP because I'm finally focused and don't want to distract myself again. So, that's a fail. But I'll accept it.

I got lotsa -ly words and parenthesis above...kinda cringing. But it's 2:20am and I still have words in my head ready to get on the page and a goal to meet for next week. Ready. Set. Go.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Expecting more from New Adult and #writemotivation

I follow several self-pub'd New Adult authors on Facebook. All of them like to rant when they read a reviewer talking about the devolution of writing because of the self-pub'd industry. I've read many, many book blogs that recommend self-pub'd books, effusively praising the story and how amazing it is and they give them all 5 stars. Eighty-five percent of those books make me want to beat my head into a wall.

First, a disclaimer--there is absolutely nothing wrong with self-publishing. It takes a lot of work to promote your book after the hard work of writing it.

Here's my problem--the lack of editing. As I've ranted before, they don't maintain the tense. They flip back and forth between present and past and I don't think half of them have heard of past perfect. Using then versus than. And my favorite so far: "He wondered off to the other side of the club." Wondered? Wondered? The word you're thinking of is wAndered. Another author describes the MC as having her head on her love interest's shoulder. The MC "elevates her head to look at his face." I understand wanting to avoid cliches and wanting to find a different way to say what has been said a million times. However, elevate is awkward at best. Maybe it's because I'm a nurse and we elevate broken extremeties to reduce the swelling.

I'm fairly certain I've discussed those in a previous blog, so I'll stop there. Obviously it bothers me.

Now, is the traditional publishing industry jumping on the New Adult bandwagon? When I search for New Adult books, most of what I find is self-pub'd. Maybe that's because they're so much more popular due to the lower cost. I'm not sure.

I obeyed one of my September writemotivation commandments this week: read a book in my genre I'm writing. I, of course, read several self-pub'd New Adult books--those are so easy to read and I devour at least one a day. The books I read this week for my Young Adult genre are the first two books in a series: Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. Can I just say WOW!

Throne of Glass follows condemned assassin Celaena Sardothien in her quest to re-claim the title of royal assassin. I couldn't stop reading this book Thursday night, probably finished it about 3 a.m. Deciding I wanted to see where the Crown of Midnight started, I told myself I'd read the first couple chapters and go to bed. One-hundred-and-fifty pages later, at 7:30 a.m., I forced myself to stop so I could sleep. The first book was completely and utterly captivating and amazing. The second took that farther. Her love interest straightened itself out a bit, she suffers a horribly heartbreaking loss and the ending she reveals the big secret about herself that left me speechless. Speechless. And so completely frustrated that not only is there no release date for the third book, there's no title yet. I know it probably won't be out for a year and I can't freaking wait. I haven't felt this way about a series in a very long time.

I think the thing I love best about this series is Celaena's active struggle with readjusting to life outside of the salt mines she had been condemned to the year before. Her thought processes and emotions are real and relatable and I feel them so deep in my stomach I ache for her.

So, writemotivation goals:
                   1.) Did some writing, nothing towards my current WIP. My very awesome agent decided she wants to focus her career in a different direction and passed that news on to her clients last weekend. I allowed myself the week to be in a funk and now I'm making myself snap out of it. She was such an inspiration and I wouldn't have started my New Adult without her and my YA WIP wouldn't be where it is now without her. Also, without her, I wouldn't have found the awesome K.T. and her writemotivation and I wouldn't be doing this blog. There's me focusing on the bright side!
                   2.) Read a book in my genre: as noted above, very two awesome books by Sarah J. Maas.
                  3.) Here's the blog!
                  4.) Haven't focused on sketching out a new story because I let myself funk.

Now, onto the writing, because the voices in my head won't stop if I don't.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Superheroes and September #writemotivation

Looking back at my previous blogs, I did my very first writemotivation last September. Ha ha! And then I really slacked off...oops.

And, as many writers know, the writing world is very much a waiting game. The industry is super busy and your MS will be reviewed in the order in which it was received--which could take months. So while I funnel my limited patience to, well, waiting, I'm getting my tush in gear (again).

I'm currently very fortunate to have the work schedule of every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Because of that, I'm going to bend the writemotivation rule for posting my blogs on Mondays and due them on Thursday/Fridays instead because Fridays are my Monday. This gives me the whole week to work towards my goals so I can update my progress, etc.

As the entire world knows, Ben Affleck's been cast as the new Batman in the far-far-far-away Superman sequel. In the entire superhero universe, Superman is my most favoritest superhero. Now, I haven't read any comics. This is based solely on movies and TV shows. I will confess that my love started with Dean Cain on Lois and Clark. And I did not completely hate Superman Returns with Brandon Routh, honestly I kinda liked it. Then, there's Tom Welling on Smallville. I'm not forgetting Christopher Reeve from the original movies--I love his "aw, shucks, Lois" Superman.

When they cast Henry Cavill as the newest Superman/Clark Kent: fangirl overload.

Every single actor they cast in the movie I love, with the except of Russell Crowe. That almost put me over the edge, but that can be for another blog.

Anyways, the casting of Ben Affleck of Batman I didn't immediately love or hate. I, again against the norm, enjoyed Daredevil. Do I think they have some serious screws loose to recast Batman this close to the "retirement" of the amazingly awesome Christian Bale's Batman. Oh, yes, totally crazy of them. Few actors completely embody a superhero so completely.

The most relevant example of this is Robert Downey Jr as Ironman. Perfect. You don't see RDJ on the screen, you see Tony Stark. The second closest is Christian Bale as Batman. But the difference there is the entire Batman trilogy focused on Christian Bale AS Batman, not so much of him as Bruce Wayne.

Now if you're thinking about Affleck having been Daredevil and seeing him take on a new superhero facade, think back to Chris Evans as The Human Torch in The Fantastic Four. The only actor in that movie I think was more their character than Chris Evans was Ioan Gruffudd as Mr. Fantastic. Chris Evans is another actor who becomes his superhero character so well that I forget I'm watching Chris Evans and see Captain America on the screen.

I'm cutting myself off there because thinking about Captain America makes me think about The Avengers and that makes me think about Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk (both also awesome casting choices).

Why is this all relevant? Because this isn't going to Christian Bale's Batman in the next Superman movie. This is what the new Batman's going to be:

     "I want you to remember, Clark. In all the years to come. In all your most private moments. I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you."

Holy goose bumps, Batman.

Again, I've not ready any of the comic books, but apparently Batman has not beaten Superman once, but twice. The only person to have done so. Do I love this--of course not. I love it as much as I love seeing Superman kissing Wonder Woman in fan art instead of him kissing Lois Lane--which is not at all. But is it going to be badass...hell yeah it is!

Okay, gotta wrap this up before I ramble on some more. Because that can totally lead me into a Justice League movie and who's gonna be The Flash (personally I think Ryan Reynold's would've been a better Flash than Green Lantern) and who's gonna be Wonder Woman (and I'm sure every fanboy across the world can't wait to see that movie poster).

                 1.) Here's my blog!
                 2.) Met my writing goal plus some (yay!)
                 3.) May have cheated on my reading--I re-read the Significance series by Shelly Crane. It falls under my genre, but it's self-pub'd and a series I'd already read.
                 4.) Have begun mentally exploring another idea and I'm going to start putting an outline into a doc next week. Hoping it won't take away from my WIP, which is currently acting like a petulant teenager and cooperating with difficulty.

To end this blog with some alliteration:

Superheroes, September, and Sexy Superman :)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Choose your words wisely

Writers everywhere want to avoid cliches like the plague. Sometimes as I write, I just let the words throw themselves up onto the page and decide I'll go back to edit later. Sometimes I painstakingly choose every word, trying to get the right feel and emotions I want conveyed right then. Words mean something--we're not just happy and we're not just mad. There are different levels for each emotion.

The thesaurus offers many, many options for happy: blessed, blissful, blithe, captivated, cheerful, chipper, content, delighted, ecstatic, elated...on and on and on. I'm stopping there because two of the words you can substitute happy for are perfect for making the point I haven't gotten to yet.

Happy is such a broad, general word and is used frequently. As a writer, not only do you want to convey the level of their happiness, you want to choose words that are different and not used all day, every day. Utilizing the thesaurus, you can show the depth of your character's happiness by subbing in cheerful--in my mind it's on the more mild level of happy. Your main character's boyfriend finally proposes, your character loves him and wants to spend her life with him--she's happy. How happy? Is she cheerful? Probably, but that wouldn't necessarily be the right word. Is she content? Again, probably, again not the right word. Ecstatic? Yeah, of course she is. She's jumping up and down, smiling, laughing, hugging and kissing him, shouting "Yes!" for the entire world to hear.

Now, what's my point? My point is just because the thesaurus offers you hundreds of options, or even a few options, for the word you feel is over used--don't do it! I read a book last night where the character was snuggling with her boyfriend, head on his shoulders. When the car stopped, she "elevated her head." Really, pretty sure saying the character lifted her head would have been okay. In fact, the ordinariness of it would have been better because elevated read very awkwardly and pulled me out of the moment. She also wrote that "her mouth sinks into a frown." Again, awkward. Her mouth sinks? Makes me visualize a face that's melting and the mouth sinks down because the skin's, well, melting.

I was using the thesaurus to replace "too much." As I read through the synonyms offered, I came across fulsomeness. Could I choose fulsomeness? Yes--except when I read its definition, it was more of a "too much" in the sense of the parties the Capitol threw in The Hunger Games--offensive to good taste, especially as being excessive. Not the right context. I found, and chose, overabundance because it's a common enough word that readers will know and it fit my scene perfectly. And I also figured, it'd be conspicuous if I used fulsomeness instead of overabundance. The reader, at least I would, think, "hmm, someone's been playing in the thesaurus."

Use words you use, not words you wished you used. Some writers get away with using big words because they use them correctly and without making me feel like they're rubbing their intelligence in my face. Other writers use big words and you know it's because they're trying too hard or they've been playing in their thesaurus.

Avoid being cliche without using awkward words that really aren't appropriate for what you're writing. "He's full of passion"--in romance novels, very cliche. However, it's cliche because it works so well and saying "He's full of ardor" sounds awkward and like maybe he's smelly.

Monday, January 14, 2013


That's my dorky way of saying it's been a year since I became an agented author.

January 11, 2012, I received the most amazing e-mail. Ever. The agent I had an e-mail conversation with the day before wanted to call me. As in, dial my number, speak with me on the phone and talk about the manuscript (MS) I had sent her the day before. I had to breathe. Deep, slow, deliberate breaths. Otherwise I was going to bounce my butt right off my bed in my giddy, happy shuffle (that's what happens when you check your e-mail while you're still in your pj's, tucked under the covers). The hubs didn't understand what I could possibly be so excited about. Duh, hello! If she wants to actually talk to me it has to be good! And it was!

Right after I submitted my full MS the night before, and she asked for exclusivity on my submission for 72 hours, I read back through my completed 84k document. And found errors. And more errors. And a major potential plot point that would move the story forward faster. And she was reading this imperfect bunch of crap I had the audacity to think was ready for submission.

So in my most professional, yet not ridiculously formal, words I e-mailed her back. Of course, I'd love to talk to her. These are the times I'm good (all day, I'll sit with my phone in my hand and stare at it until it rings). Then she called. I squealed before I answered the phone, jumped up and down in place, then took several more deep, slow, deliberate breaths so I didn't sound like a complete moron when I answered the phone.

She loved me. Er, it. Well, I guess me, too. And she asked if I'd have any problems changing things and I told her the brain storm I'd had the night before. And she loved it, too. We were both very excited.

The super-official, you know it's really, really, real part happened--I signed a contract, she signed a contract. Then we got to the fun stuff. Revisions.

Re-writing the first time was more about adding. Adding this new plot point and changing the little, minor details to reflect it. I also added 12k words. That made a whopping 96k word MS.

Then came the time to trim the fat. Tighten it up. Make the major plot point I added occur sooner in the story. I condensed the beginning from about 105-120 pages down to 50 or so. Then there was more fat trimming throughout the rest of the book. The liposuction dropped the MS down to 73k words.

All this happened by about May/June. The literary agency conned students into being interns for them and my agent got a very smart, very into-my-genre intern who was allowed to attack my MS. And, being the very intelligent Yale student she is, she helped me see that my MS needs mini-peaks to help keep the tension levels up as it built to the climax, keeping the reader interested and engaged. I even outlined. *gasp* It didn't kill me. It's, not surprisingly, helped keep me focused on how this new version's getting from beginning to end with all the meaty, juicy, good stuff in the middle.

Now, we're on round 4 (this is just with my agent, this doesn't count all the times I re-worked my MS before I started submissions 18 months ago). It's  like renovating an old house without indoor plumbing or electricity--the shell and foundation remain the same, but the details change. Which I'm great with--I wouldn't do anything I wasn't comfortable with. I'm all about maintaining my story and not folding into what's popular or guaranteed to get me pub'd, but I do want a book that will sell. I do want a book people will read and enjoy. So I needed to make changes. And I am.

Out of the roughly 75-80k words I'd like to have at the end, I'm at 35k. I've been re-writing almost the entire thing, copying and pasting from the previous edition as applicable. And I'm freaking falling back in love with this story all over again.

In my crazy, nerdy, dorky mind, I've labeled the previous edition of my MS as this Universe and the one I'm working as the other Universe. Like in Fringe, where the characters and everything's exactly the same, but their lives are different because they've made different choices and decisions than their alternate selves in the other Universe.

So that's the abbreviated version of how this last year's gone with me and my agent and my MS. I receive lots and lots of love and encouragement from my agent and I couldn't be happier with me choosing her and her choosing me.

Now, I've gotta finish the other Universe so I have something to sell to publishers in this Universe and I can start working on the next book in my planned series--I don't know which Universe that one'll take place in, yet!