Wednesday, December 14, 2011

WIP Wednesday: Candy Bar Scenes and Writing on Trains



Is it sad that I'm looking forward to the time off I have between Christmas and New Year's even more than I'm looking forward to Christmas? :P

My husband has to work, I have no family nearby and all my friends will be spending the holiday with their families. So that leaves me with no excuses:

I WILL finish my revisions of The Lost Days of Evangeline Cowen (the novel formerly known as Evangeline)

I WILL add at least another 10K words to my WIP.

I'm even making plans to utilize my time better, like spending my weekdays drafting, and then revising during the weekends.

But a part of me knows that the lure of books and television and internet will also be strong when I'm home by myself. So I'm swearing to keep the TV and WIFI off, and will likely have to make my husband hide my nook. ;)

I really want to achieve my goals, but after spending so long on these projects, the motivation's just not there. I'm going to have to ratchet up the incentive.

One way to do this is by plotting out some "candy bar" scenes for my WIP. Scenes I've plotted in my head, but haven't quite reached yet in the draft. Usually this works to push me forward, to keep writing.

Then there are candy bars of a more literal type. :) Chocolaty goodness (mmm... special dark...) works okay to bribe me into finishing a scene, but an hour break at the nearby sushi bar for lunch works even better. Though I prefer to do my typing in isolation, an hour with my notebook in a busier atmosphere sometimes helps me plot better.

With so much writing to do and sushi to eat, there won't be much time for blogging, I'm afraid, so this will be my last post of 2011. :(

But I'll be back refreshed and ready to go in 2012, with my revisions finished and my WIP that much closer to a complete first draft. Until then, here's a question I'd like to leave you with:

If you had the time and money for a writing retreat, what would it be like?

For me, I'd like to board a train and travel out west, to Utah, maybe where my WIP is set, and spend most of the trip writing. Trains are important to my novel, so it would be a research trip, as well. I could think of worse ways to spend the holidays, actually.

How 'bout you?

And Happy Holidays, y'all!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Five Pentacle Review: Kimberly Derting's The Pledge


I love to be able to give a book five stars. It means that the writing, the world and the characters completely captivated me. The latest YA novel that's completely won me over—I literally have nothing bad to say about this book, and a whole lotta good—is Kimberly Derting's The Pledge.

Though I enjoyed her debut novel The Body Finder, it wasn't until I read The Pledge that I became a squeeing Derting fangirl. It's dystopian with hints of an epic fantasy world-view, and just enough magic to make Tere a very happy girl. Here's the blurb on Goodreads, where you can find more reviews:

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.

Doesn't that sound amazing?!

I adored Charlie as a heroine. She is real, and flawed, and vulnerable. But she learns to do what she has to in order to protect her sister, and keep herself safe. She's a survivor, and I love that about her.

Like The Body Finder, The Pledge is told from multiple points of view, with Charlie telling her tale in first person, with the other povs (including that Max, and of the evil, ancient, power-mad queen) in third person. Max's pov passages give an insight into a fairly complex and complicated young man. The more you learn about his family, the more interesting his character becomes. 

I think that the format works even better here than in TBF. Gives it that epic fantasy vibe, while still maintaining an intimate relationship with Charlie and her secrets. Without spoiling the story, she and her family have quite a few of them, many unbeknownst to her and her adorable little sister.

But that epic fantasy feel is countered by scenes of modernity, like when Charlaina and her friend go out to a sort of "pop-up" nightclub/rave. The clandestine and fugitive nature of these clubs fuels the dystopian vibe, and makes the perfect setting for the intrigue that follows. And by the time all hell breaks loose, your concern for Charlie and her family will have you reading at breakneck pace to race to the end.

While the turnout of the final conflict might have been the tiniest bit predictable, in my opinion it was the only way to end. But there was some lingering creepiness that made for some extremely satisfying final pages. So to say I enjoyed this read would be an understatement. After The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Goliath, this was one of the most satisfying YA reads for me this year.

I hope you'll check out the other reviews on Goodreads and not just mine, but if you like a fast-paced dystopian with a hint of magic, this one's for you. If you liked The Body Finder, you'll most likely love The Pledge.

Read it yet? Let me know what y'all thought!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Can't Blog...

Setting up my new hp laptop!! YAY!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Blog Chain: A Time and a Place

So it's my turn to start the blog chain and between the recent Thanksgiving holiday and work, and obligations with friends, I've been so busy I feel like I barely have time for my writing, much less tweeting and blogging.

Then my laptop broke down on Thanksgiving Day. I freaked out at first, but and it gave me the opportunity to write something new on my wip for the first time in over a week. Without the distractions of the internet and blogging, or even an open Word file, I was able to get a lot of headway on my wip. In fact, it took me in a direction I hadn't thought of before, and probably all because I didn't have the distraction of my computer. And yes, I resisted the allure of the cable box, as well. :)



So here's my topic: What conditions do you need to get your best writing done? Closed door, crowded coffee house? Computer or notebook? Can you just sit down to write, or do you need to wait for the time to be right?

For me, I need quiet. Preferably in my chair at my desk, but I can't always make the words flow like I can when I write longhand in my notebook. Writing it out like that just helps me get the creative juices flowing better tan typing. I guess I just need to be able to daydream comfortably with a notebook. I'd probably frighten the people in the coffeehouse with all the faces and weird gestures and staring off into space that I do. :)

I'll usually wind up with thousands of words to transcribe if it's a productive session, but if you must know, I get my best results with this method in the bathtub. ;) Sometimes I change a word here or there as I type, but it seems to be the surefire way to get me past a word-block.

Shaun will post here tomorrow, so check it out!


What about the rest of y'all? Does your world come to a screeching halt when your laptop breaks down? Do you have a surefire way to get the words flowing? Or do you just need to set your butt in your chair? I'd love to know!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tangled Tides: I Choose GORGONS!!

Oh, how I have waited for this day! Happy Book Birthday, Tangled Tides, and congrats, Karen!
Isn't she cute with that dinglehopper?

Not to steal her thunder, but I was the mermaid in my family. At family trips to the beach, even as a toddling baby I always ran right into the water. I still do, which is part of the reason I was so psyched for Tangled Tides! Here's the blurb:

Yara Jones doesn’t believe in sea monsters—until she becomes one.

When a hurricane hits her island home and she wakes up with fins, Yara finds herself tangled up in an underwater world of mysterious merfolk and secretive selkies. Both sides believe Yara can save them by fulfilling a broken promise and opening the sealed gateway to their realm, but they are battling over how it should be done. The selkies want to take her life. The merfolk want something far more precious.

Treygan, the stormy-eyed merman who turned Yara mer, will stop at nothing and sacrifice everything to protect his people—until he falls for Yara. The tides turn as Yara fights to save herself, hundreds of sea creatures, and the merman who has her heart. She could lose her soul in the process—or she might open the gateway to a love that’s deeper than the oceans.

Young Adult fans of Mermaids, Selkies, Sirens and Gorgons will love this tale of the sacrifice one makes for genuine love. Love that could be lost at any moment to the ever-changing tides. 

Sounds incredible, right? So to help her celebrate, and enter to win a signed copy of Tangled Tides, why not join in the Underwater Web War on Twitter?

I choose Team Gorgon, because I love how Karen has de-monstracized (is that a word? is now.) them. And because, I, too, possess the hypnotic power of dance. ;) (Isn't Alexandra's art wicked?!)






GORGONS: of the moon, need cold, slithery dancers, can control the sea creatures (the original 3 gorgon sisters are like the gods of their world). Fun fact: Just like Medusa, the gorgons can turn any living thing to stone, but they aren't the heartless evil monsters that are portrayed in most legends. They are wicked smart, fast, and powerful. The male gorgons are tough as rock.

I, too, am smart, but kind of slow, and not very powerful. Not sure the gorgons would take me, but I support them none the less.

Are you Team Gorgon? Or Team Selkie? Maybe you're Team Siren? Or perhaps you're a Merfolk lover? Check Amanda's blog to check out all the spectacular sea-species she's brought to life, and vote on Twitter with the #TangledTides hashtag.

Don't forget to enter, but why not buy or download a copy TODAY?!! Don't make me dance for you!!

What team are YOU on?  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"The Book Warned...": WIP Wednesday Musings



Most of my story ideas come from premises, from what-ifs, or even from a setting. Sometimes it's the conflict that comes first.

Never have I started a new novel based on only a phrase, like I know some people do.

Exhibit A: Jade and The Silagree.  > "Bad people are sent to the Silagree."

As soon as I read this I knew she had something there. But where would she take this idea? Conversely, if another writer began with this same line, how different would their stories be?

Earlier this week I was helping my husband with the mundane task of using our new electric roaster, and said something like, "the book warned you not to do that." Meaning the warning/instruction booklet that came with the darn thing. You know, the thing my husband casually glanced at and tossed aside. Amirite, ladies? ;)

After the words left my mouth, I stood there for a second like an idiot, and at last, repeated, "The book warned."

Which is when my husband, who was elbow deep cleaning out the giant roaster pan, gave me the look he usually reserves for such inexplicable things as ads for Justin Bieber's perfume (Someday. Ironic, much?) or episodes of the Jersey Shore. O_o~

Which is when I, smooth talker that I am, recovered by saying, "That would be a good first line, huh?"

He actually agreed with me, but I barely heard him as I stood there twisting the forgotten manual in my hands, wondering what the book warned. What kind of book was it? Who wrote said book? What sort of people would need warning?

That's when I turned the Shiny New Idea center of my brain off. Yeah, I can do that. It's my superpower.

Why would I do such a thing? Well, I still have at least 40K words to go on my aetherpunk-western, which is not coming out as quickly as I'd hoped, so I don't have the time for this Shiny New Idea.

But maybe one of y'all do. Consider this my gift to you, my followers, or anyone else who reads my blog. A gift of thanks, for checking up on my silly and sporadic posts.

What are you writing? NaNo? Or are you finding it difficult to make the time for writing during this part of the year? Do you know what the book warned? ;)

Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 18, 2011

What Book Were YOU Reading? Of Course Rue is Black...



I know, I'm posting twice in two days. The Apocalypse has come early. It may as well be the end of the world the way certain "fans" of The Hunger Games are objecting to the casting of a black girl as Rue. Whose character was stated as being black in the book. Yes, Katniss said the girl reminded her of her own sister, but that comparison was not based on her appearance. That anyone would think Rue couldn't possibly remind Katniss of her little white sister because of the color of her skin makes me sick.

Y'all. She's from the south and she loves to sing. I almost thought Collins was being a little stereotypical in her portrayal of Rue at first, until the character won me over. To the point where I can't even re-read the passage where she and Katnis meet without getting weepy, knowing she's not gonna outlive the Games.

An Entertainment Weekly article out last year even told readers:

Don’t worry if you didn’t know that Rue and her fellow District 11 tribute Thresh were black. I didn’t either after my first read. (Like most people, I raced through the book in about three seconds.) But now that it’s time to cast the movie, we should ask: How important is it that Rue be played by an African American actress?


Ugh, really? Yes, it matters! A. it was obvious. B. whitewashing is flagrantly egregious and only seems unimportant from the prerogative of white privilege.


I don't have the energy to rant any more about this today, so I'll direct y'all to Racialicious.com, where you can see for yourself just how thoroughly some readers have whitewashed the character in their own minds. It's pretty discouraging—and disgusting, even—especially the comments directed at Lenny Kravitz's casting as Cinna. 

At least the movie-makers didn't follow the same train of thought. But it IS disappointing that there's nary an Asian character to be found in the trailer.

My theory: All of the Asians must have wised up by this point in time, and abandoned all us gwai-lo while they jet off to colonize the moon. Actually that sounds like a great story. Too bad it would never get made into a film... :P

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Steampunk Heroines FTW!



Some of you may not be familiar with my insane, obsessive adoration for the Leviathan series by Westerfeld (who also wrote the amazing uglies series, totally required reading for the YA author). It's more than just the awe-inspiring alternate reality—Georgian England with Darwinist Beasties, the Great War fought with man-made machines and engineered creatures alike—or the heart-stopping adventures. It's the people who inhabit this strange world.

One of my favorite characters in recent years is one of the pov characters of Leviathan, Dylan Sharp. He's the embodiment of the future of British aeronautics, or he would be, if he weren't actually a girl named Deryn. O_o ?

While the idea of a girl masquerading as a boy isn't exactly an original idea, especially for period novels, Westerfeld gives Deryn such a strong personality, and makes you care for her so deeply, that there's no way she could be considered your stereotypical girl playing dress-up. Westerfeld has obviously put a lot of thought into her character, as evinced in a quote from a great article I read this morning on Steampunk heroines:


“The steampunk movement is partly about messing up the stuffy ways of the Victorians,” Scott Westerfeld, author of the popular Leviathan series, said. “Adding anachronistic technology and modern social mores to that very constrained period is a bit like bringing a flame-thrower to a tea party."

That's Deryn all over. I don't want to say to much to spoil the story for those who haven't read it, so why not pick up a copy for your next read? It has pictures! ;)

I also hope you take the time to read the rest of the article if you've never read any Steampunk. Though I'm familiar with Westerfeld's writing and I've read Gail Carriger's Soulless, I've never read Cherie Priest's Boneshaker. It's set in the US, which I love. Apparently, Cherie's philosophy on writing steampunk to is to put your own unique spin on it, and follow your gut:

“There is nothing punk about letting other people tell you about how to participate in your hobby,” Priest said.

Which is exactly the approach I've been using to write the wip.

Are any of y'all steampunk fans? Anyone tried their hand at writing any? Do you stick to real history, or make it up as you go along? (which seems to be my method, lol)

Are you punk?!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blog Chain: An Accomplished Writer

For today's blog chain post, I'm going to talk about accomplishment. Michelle H asked:

 This is the month in creating writing goals and making big accomplishments. What is your greatest accomplishment -- in writing, your life or perhaps something incidental that had a big effect on you?

Michelle's post is here, and you can find Margie's post here. Check out my sidebar for the other bloggers in the group!


Obviously, my greatest accomplishment is not punctuality, as this post was supposed to go up Saturday. Instead, I spent the weekend huddled shivering under my blankets trying not to overdose from mixing too much NyQuil and DayQuil, so apologize to my blog chain members. I also apologize in advance to everyone else reading this post, since my body's been running on a combination of decongestant and Sleepy-time tea for the past four days.

But now that my head is only half-filled with mucus, I know that my greatest accomplishment ISN'T the first thing that springs to my mind when I read this question—which was getting an agent last year. Don't get me wrong, I love my agent and her wonderful assistant, but since then I've learned a lot about myself and my writing. And because of their feedback, and the crits I've gotten from my crit group and other amazing bloggers and writers, I've learned to trust my authorial voice. To write the words in a way that is truly my own, and not second-guess my own style. So I think that's my greatest accomplishment.

Some of you might think, "Well, geez, how hard is that?" But after I signed with my agent, I experienced a case of "not-good-enough-itis" about my work. It was nearly fatal. :P

I thought that I needed to make my voice more like other writers I admired, even envied. Once I gave that itis an injection of self-confidence, it vanished like Vick's vapo-rub in the night.

What's your greatest personal accomplishment, writing-related or otherwise? I'd love to hear it!

Monday, November 7, 2011

I'm Grateful For...

 
 

Ah, November. Time for spicy pumpkin pie, the crackle of gas heaters, and the return of socks. Yes, I hate wearing socks, but I hate cold toes more. But ya know what I love the most in this weather? Curling up with a wonderful book (or, more often these days, my nook). I'm overwhelmingly grateful for the role books have played in my life, from my earliest memories of board books, right up to reading on my phone during my lunch hour today. 

One book I am particularly grateful for is Roald Dahl's The Witches. So many amazing, whimsical, magical books that I read during elementary school (this was the stone-age, mind you, years before harry potter came on the scene) helped shape my personality, Dahl's books most of all. Charlie, James, and Luke seemed to have all the fun... despite their often tragic backgrounds. (as you may well know, james's parents were killed by a rhinoceros that had escaped from the zoo. that's a rhinoceros for you, no respect for pedestrians.). The combination of humor and horror made these books my all-time favorites.

The Witches even served as a sort of primer for me, shaping the way I've perceived the paranormal genre ever since. The book was "educational" on the subject of identifying witches, but more importantly, it scared the bejeesus out of me. Especially the dark stories delivered by the benevolent, yet un-traditional grandmother, whose missing finger undoubtedly augmented the creepiness of her macabre tales. Her memories of her childhood in Norway, and the children who went missing, set the stage for Luke's adventure at the seaside resort where he and his grandmother are attempting to have a relaxing vacation.

Though I hate to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn't read the book, when I first read The Witches, I loved that Luke stayed a mouse (which was thoroughly ruined by the movie and its desire to give in to the allure of the happy ending), resigned to the fact that mice don't exactly have the same life-span as humans. But Luke, bless his little mousy heart, only cared about traveling the world to vanquish the rest of the witches. What an amazing role model, huh? ;) Can't believe this book has been on the most-challenged list just about every year. Oh, wait, yes I can. It's a book about "witches". Hence, it must be teaching kids to worship the devil. *eye-roll*

So, what books are you grateful for? Did you post about it? Are you dying to read A Million Suns as badly as I am? ;)  I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Writing Setting with Attitude


Just downriver of the French Quarter, past Frenchmen Street and the Faubourg Marigny, there's a neighborhood called Bywater. It's funky without trying to be (although some of the so-called gutter-punk kids seem to be trying a little too hard), home of Krewe du Vieux and Mardi Gras Zone and the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.

It's a neighborhood where you won't find a lot of chain restaurants (capt. sal's seafood doesn't count), or trendy businesses. Which reminds me of a story one of my friends once told me. He's been doing location scouting here for years now, and a year or so ago he met a guy who bought an old building on Saint Claude Avenue, which basically separates Bywater from the Upper Ninth Ward. The guy later found a Starbucks sign, and, as a joke, put it up outside his building with a Coming Soon notice.

He expected people would get excited about a new Starbucks (i think there are two in town, excluding hotels), but that's not what happened. Within days, the sign became defaced, scribbled on, graffitied. I think someone may have smeared some sort of excrement (human, animal, who knows?) on the sign.

The citizens of Bywater (okay, probably mostly the gutter-punk kids who are too cool to bathe or use deodorant) had spoken. Faced with the threat of a Starbucks invading the neighborhood, the neighborhood fought back. Luckily for Starbucks, they never knew a thing about this mutiny.

For me, this knowledge turned into a writing lesson (doesn't it always?) about how setting is more that just the sight of the old buildings, the smell of the river, the hot breeze whipping through the crape myrtles, it's the sound of car horns and profanity, and tags spray-painted on the crumbling brick walls. The gum on the sidewalk and the cigarette butts smoking in the gutter. It's about the people as much as it's about the place.

It can be easy to treat setting and people as two distinct entities, two different parts of storytelling, but the setting has just as much effect on people as people affect the places they inhabit, whether town, city, or alone in a big scary house (anyone else watching american horror story?).

How do people interact with setting where you live? Do you use this as inspiration in your writing?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Favorite Monster

For this blog chain post, the question on everyone's mind is: What's your favorite monster?

This topic was started by Matt, who's been writing a whole series on monsters and magical creatures this month. Very informative. Check it out! Michelle posted before me, and Margie will post tomorrow, on All Hallow's Eve! Spooooky!

When I was a kid, I wasn't afraid of monsters... I loved them! Anything that would freak me out was spine-tingling, bone-chilling fun. There were lots of monsters in movies when I was a kid. My Pet Monster, The Monster Squad (still one of my favorites. "there's only one way to kill a werewolf"), but none of them ever scared me.

Until I saw Legend.

Yes, with Tim Curry in that creepy demon outfit (seconded only by the creepiness that was tim curry as dr. frankenfurter. talk about scary! lol!). This picture doesn't do the scariness justice, but it haunted me for years after seeing the movie. That red skin, those horns, the cloven hooves! Scared the bejeesus out of me. To this day, anything demonic is still the scariest to me, and at the same time, the most intriguing. It's no wonder I write demons into my stories wherever I can.

What's so scary about demons, you might ask? If you went to catholic school like I did as a kid, demons were about the scariest thing ever because they weren't just trying to kill you, no. They were after your immortal soul.

I'm not the most religious person these days (though i do consider myself spiritual, i just don't identify with the tenets of most organized religions), but the idea of demons, and how they were used over the centuries in a propagandist way still fascinates me. And it's amazing how much time and work ancient scholars put into classifying demons in books like The Lesser Key of Solomon. Sound familiar? ;)

What's your favorite monster? Do you find demons scary, like I do? Or fascinating? Or do you just want to leave the demons alone to keep from attracting the devil's attention? I'd love to hear it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WiP Wednesday? What's That?

I could look back through my posts and tell you how long it's been since my last WiP Wednesday, but I prefer hyperbole. It's been centuries! Whole forests have grown and been sawed down to make crappy Ikea furniture in that time. I think they've even added a new geological time period to the mix since then.

All right, enough melodrama. I thought maybe y'all would like a tiny taste of what I've been working on lately, when I haven't been busy with revisions or work or life or eating or sleeping (imagine how much writing i could get done if i trained myself not to need sleep. tempting...). Though it doesn't have a title yet, I've just been calling it "my aetherpunk". It ain't steampunk, it ain't historical, it's something in the middle. An alternate history with pseudo-scientific inventions based on—what else?—aether technology. I've almost got 30,000 words, and I'm hoping to add another 50,000 by the end of November.

Instead of a long, drawn-out explanation of the world and the "science", I'll just let the work do the talking. Enjoy!


Chapter 1


A bead of sweat slips off Sela’s nose and down her shirt, into the dark shining well between her— 



“Miles!” she snaps at me. “Time to go.” 



Blinking, I curse myself out in my head as I sneak out of our hidey-hole and follow her to the front of the car. Cain’t believe I missed the signal. Pa woulda skinned me alive.



With a loud huff—at my dunce self, no doubt—Sela yanks open the door to the next car. In the tight space between cars the wind rushes past, spitting sand in our eyes. The train hums down the flat-plate track, which glows a sickly green color ‘til the connection is gone and the train has passed. The smell of Tahoe aether stings my nose. I oughta be used to it by now, but it’s strong enough to make me gag, so close to the fumes coming off the track.



Sela, braver’n me by buckets, stretches one of her skinny arms toward the car coupler. I grab her belt so’s she won’t slip, and lean back toward the car. Dunno what I’d do if somethin’ happened to her. First, her pa would kill me, and then my pa would burn whatever was left to ashes. Which would be fine by me. Not sure I like the idea of a world without Sela in it.



“Give us some more slack, Miles,” she calls back to me. “I can’t reach it.”



Silently, I grab the door-handle and stretch a little farther. Cain’t see her face, just the orderly rows of brown scalp that show between her neat black braids. 



After what feels like ages, she pops back up next to me. “Time to jump,” she says.



This is the part what always chills my blood winter-cold. The train’s movin’ close to forty-five meters a second, fast enough to break a man’s back if he jumped off the side. But me and Sela, we ain’t regular men. All right, Sela ain’t a man at all, and she ain’t a true sorcerer neither, but she can use aether tools just as good as me. Sometimes better.



She hooks her leather harness to mine and we both grab our buffer rods. As if we’re one person, we twist the rods so the little symbols on the side light up and then we jump. Sela used to have to pull me, but not no more. As our feet leave the metal platform between the cars, a thin blue bubble of Coyote Canyon aether forms ‘round our bodies so I barely feel the ground beneath my feet when we go bouncing away from the train. The engine and the soldier car scream away from the rest of the train cars where Sela uncoupled them.



The left-behind cars slowly sink instead of hovering over the track of metal plates, the way trains usually speed across the flats the Trans slices through, like a pair of monstrous silver snakes. Without the engine to activate the aether worked into the plates, the train cars are as immobile as any mountain, and near as heavy. Sela grins at me. We switch off the buffer and she grabs my hand and we go running toward the back of the train. All the hot hours hiding out beneath a trunk in the luggage car were worth it. We’ll be eating high on the hog tonight to celebrate, and the Staters will be eating crow.



Pa’s already brought the dual-engine up behind the last car. The dual-e can haul cars from either end, but the Staters’s engines can only attach cars at the rear. Pa and the others was following us the whole way from Salt Lake City, only just far enough behind to stay unseen. Once he deactivates the aether field, the train sinks to the level of the other cars. This is where we gotta move fast, and get control of the cars before the soldiers what remain onboard do. If the Staters reckon what happened soon enough to deploy the troopers in the soldier car, we might be in trouble. But it looks like that train’s still speeding off toward Carson City and the mines at the end of the world.



Sela and I hop onto the dual-e just as it starts to rise up again, aether fumes wafting in the paltry wind that only blows the salty dust around, never cooling us off.
 



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No Writer is an Island; Or, The Importance of Earnest Crit Buddies

For this blog chain post, Sarah asked:


Do you work with critique partners? How did you find your crit pals, and what influence have they had on your work?


I can't say enough about how important crit partners are to my writing. Neither could Michelle, whose post is here. Margie will post tomorrow.

I found my first crit partner in the same places I used to look for beta readers before I started "meeting" so many writers through blogging. Mostly websites like QueryTracker and Absolute Write. Finding readers there was easy. Finding readers I could trust took some time, but those sites also helped me to hone my query-writing skills, and learn the gentle art of constructive criticism. It wasn't until I'd been blogging a while that I discovered other people had trusted readers, sometimes small groups of them, that they called critique groups. You can probably guess that this was a huge epiphany. ;) 

Beta readers are invaluable, especially if they write in the genre you do. But even more important to my creative progress than trusted readers (and i've had quite a few over the years for evangeline. you know who you are and I'm terribly sorry i made you suffer through those horrid early versions. i promise the final version will actually be good, lol) are my amazing critique partners, Abby, Plamena and Jade.

We check in with each other pretty much every week, (mostly thanks to abby, who is the organized one) and offer our services. More than that, we offer an ear--a virtual one, anyway--to vent to, or to cheer each other on. It's nice to know that there are people who care about what's going on with my writing, when others in my life have begun to forget about the faith they once had in my writing career. (you know, non-writer folk, who don't realize what a slow beast publishing is. yes, those people. :P)

So while there's no way I could write without beta readers, there's no way I could function the way I do, and keep myself focused, goal oriented, without my crit group. They know my deadlines, and while they don't call me on them, just knowing that they know helps me stay motivated. And I can be absolutely certain that any comments they give me on my manuscript, or synopsis or queries, are meant honestly, and with my best interest at heart.

Actually, I'm looking for a new beta reader right now for this latest revision of Evangeline (any takers?), and while I'll always need to find new betas (even unabashedly soliciting them through a parenthetical in a blog post), while I'll always need new readers to evaluate my work from a fresh perspective, I'll never outgrow my crit buddies. And I'll never stop valuing their opinion of my writing.

Not only do crit buddies watch your writing change, evolve, they are a direct part of the process. I wouldn't be the writer I am today without them.

Thanks, y'all!

Where do you find your crit buddies?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wonderfuly Written Worlds

Yes, I meant "worlds", not "words". For me, a wonderfully written world goes a long way toward luring me into a book, seducing me with sights and smells and sounds and cultural differences. I can forgive telling, mediocre character building and even an abundance of adverbs (as evidenced by my previously mentioned love for Dune) if the world becomes real to me. Some of my recent reads have taken place in amazingly unique worlds, part of the reason I enjoyed them so much.

Most recently, Marianne de Pierres' Burn Bright led me through the inky dark, staying always on the lighted path, for who knows what lies in the darkness? Her Ixion is as foreign to me as it is to her heroine, Retra, but it wasn't long before the lights of the clubs, the spires of the churches and the spiderweb cables of the kars to come alive in my imagination.

Goliath, the third and (hopefully not, please, scott, write more!) final installment of Scott Westerfeld's amazing Leviathan series wowed me with the way it wrapped up the tangled plot-lines, even as it added more with every chapter. More amazing to me than the complex and loveable characters and more intriguing than the threat of a war to end all wars is Westerfeld's Clanker/Darwinist world. Between the Beasties and the walkers, there is no imagining this world the way of our own pre-WWI history, from everyday life to the war front.

I'm not advocating that all writers should go overboard with setting descriptions. That can get long and boring and doesn't serve your plot or your setting. It's a delicate balance. It's the reason I still haven't finished The Name of The Rose. Sorry, Umberto. It's part of the reason I know a lot of people couldn't get into Dune.

Not all books need to set the stage so vividly, but Goliath and Burn Bright are wonderful examples to learn from if you are looking to write a fantastical world. In both of these books it is the way the characters interact with their surroundings that makes the skies stay ever black, or brings the smell of the Leviathan to life in my mind. Don't be afraid to fascinate the reader. It's the reason we all want to go to Diagon Alley and get our own wand at Ollivander's, or visit Samwise in Hobbiton, or have tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter. It's the reason I'm so in love with my WIP.

What worlds have drawn you in lately?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Can't Blog...

Reading The Death Cure. ;)

"It was the smell that began to drive Thomas slightly mad."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Seriously, it gets better...

For today's post I'm sharing three books that I think need to be endured a little (AS IN, NOT THROWN ACROSS THE ROOM) before they get better. This blog chain question was asked by Shaun. Michelle's post is here, and Margie will post after me.

Dune. Arrakis. Source of all the Spice in the universe... Ahem. by Frank Herbert. I lovethisbook. But yeah, mostly the second half. The first half is mostly ponderous world-building, imagined book excerpts (which could be considered more ponderous world building) and not enough sandworms, dammit. Seriously, keep reading until Duke Leto is dead. The the spice really starts to fly. Enjoy the ride. ;)

Room, by Emma Donoghue. I know the subject matter seems a little gruesome, but the treatment is tasteful and appropriate. I can't say this is one of my favorites or anything, not like Dune and the next book on my list, but it's certainly one that needs to be finished before it can be fully appreciated. The voice is consistent enough to keep you in the story, and innocent enough to mitigate the full weight of the horrific situation the main character and his mother are in. For those who are still squeamish about the story line, young Jack and his mother do not stay in their "room" for more than the first half of the book. As disturbing as Room occasionally was, it was thought-provoking, to say the least. In fact, I still think about it often, and remind myself how thankful I am of the life I'm living.


His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novik is one of my favorite series. Who doesn't love dragons? I appreciate how the author has put a twist on the traditional dragon-rider story by militarizing them. Some dragons are like flying horses, while others are more like airships, soldiers climbing in the rigging. Though I know some people find the writing style to be dry, old-fashioned, I like how well it compliments other novels fictionalizing the Napoleonic Era, such as those by Patrick O'Brien, whose series inspired the film Master and Commander. The main character's relationship with his dragon borders on adorable sometimes, but I can't say I would act much different from Will Laurence if I was confronted with harnessing a dragon as wily as Temeraire.

Hope you like my suggestions, but you don't have to take my word for it. ;) You can always see what other folks have to say on Goodreads. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hello, Old Friends: Banned Books Week


The Color Purple
The Handmaid's Tale
The House of the Spirits
Go Ask Alice
A Wrinkle in Time

I read these books as a teen (and many others like them), not knowing that they had been challenged by parents and administrators in other schools. My parents might have known, since it was on their bookshelf that I found the first four. They were very much aware of what books had been banned. My step-mother even made it a point to buy banned books.

As aware as my parents made me on their own stance when it came to book banning, they never pushed it on my siblings and me. They knew my sister and I loved books (my brother was more of a comic reader, but hey, it's words, right?), and they let us read pretty much any book of their shelves. Some of which I got bored with and didn't finish (Bonfire of the Vanities? Try Yawnfire. Blerg.), but the first four on the list above were books from their shelves that stayed with me, that have shaped the way I think, the way I feel, and even the way I write.

Books aren't banned simply because they are subversive, or because they speak lies about the world. Good books should make you angry, repulse you, frighten you. Most importantly, they should make you feel empathy for others. Your reaction to the content, as you read it in context, of course, says more about you than it does about the author.

I added A Wrinkle in Time to the list because it had an even greater effect on my desire to write fantasy novels, which started out as a hobby when I was fifteen. And because it's one of those O_o ? bans I just don't understand.

Anyway, I didn't write this post to preach, only to say that if it weren't for the above "bad" books, I wouldn't be the person that I am today. A writer. A lover of beautiful words and haunting imagery. A sci-fi nerd. A feminist. A tolerant, curious person who wants to find out as much as she can about the world, particularly through the magic of books.

What are your favorites?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Winner!

And the winner of my ARC giveaway of Legend by Marie Lu is Fatal Hellbent..., er Cynthia Lee!

Get me your mailing address and I'll send it out as soon as possible!

Congrats, and let the rebellion begin! ;)

Monday, September 12, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night...

Believe it or not, that's the first line to a much loved children's classic, and one of my all-time favorites, tired as it sounds. Major karma if you loved it as much as I did. It's amazing what you can do with a supposedly tired idea if you interpret it in a different way...


Which is just in time for this month's Blog Chain. :) 


Last to post was Michelle, and Shaun will post next, but Christine got to choose the topic:


Since we are all writers, I thought it was about time for us to stretch our creative muscles and do a little writing. So, take the following topic and go crazy! Show us what you've got. Your story can be as long or as short as you choice.


T
he topic: A dark and stormy night:



Just as soon as I think it's safe to de-reg and bunk down for the next few hours of starless space, the prox-sensors buzz me back into awareness. Farging asteroid cluster wasn't on my map. Hard to see them in the depths of the black like this. My time card says I've been on too long to handle this sitch, but poor Karla's been twelve-on/six-off for so long, I don't want to disturb the last precious hour she's got left. And I know the protocol like I know the ceiling above my bunk, I've run so many sims. And maybe I want to show corporate that I can handle a little more responsibility.


Maybe I should just wake Karla.


No. I shoot a little more O2 into my reg and prime the manual override. Just like the sim. Of course, in the sim, it's not the lives of thousands of pleasure cruise passengers in stasis for the long haul. A trip that takes us all away from our home planets for the better part of four years. Not that they'll age at all during the voyage to Griphon Eta. Not like Karla and I will. Another reason to let her have her beauty sleep. I snicker to myself--there's no one else to hear me--and file the joke away for the few minutes of contact we'll have next hour.


The nearest asteroid is the size of a cargo loader, easier to see on my O-scope than with my naked eye. Barely have to push the thrusters to maneuver out of its trajectory. There's a tight cluster of them at to my right that move slow as a loader, and I swerve back the way I came to avoid them. Only to come face to face with a faster moving asteroid half the size of the ship. 


There's something wrong. Asteroids never crowd this close together in a field, headed in a similar direction. Why didn't I wake Karla? There's another big one just below me. Instead of heading doggedly in a single trajectory until it hit something else, like a normal meteor, it starts rising up toward my belly. I thrust away, back toward the slow-moving cluster. My O-scope is full of huge asteroids angling toward me. Are they magnetized? Is the ship attracting them? The whole screen fills with red. I can't trust it anymore. I need to use my eyes. I raise the ultra-shield from the view-screen and flick on the flood lights.


The lights glint on what at first looks to my eye like ice or some exposed metallic ore. But the cluster sparkles all over, loader-sized balls of diamond. With what look like... tails? The closest one to me rolls, the flood lights almost blinding as they reflect off its shining surface. Until I see eyes looking back at me. Eyes like emeralds, the size of human skulls, over a scaly snout. There are a dozen of them, smaller versions of the ship-sized not-asteroids filling my O-scope screen. In my ten years piloting stasis-cruisers, I've never seen anything like them, but there's only one thing they can be. 


Dragons.


I should have woken Karla. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review of LEGEND by Marie Lu

LEGEND, by Marie Lu, get four out of five pentacles.





I was worried when I first started this book. Worried that the dystopian world wouldn't be convincingly built. Worried that the dual first person narrative wouldn't allow for enough characterization of both pov characters. Hell, I was worried I wouldn't be able to read the gold font the ARC used for Day's narration.

But I needn't have been. LEGEND was not only a fun adventure, but I could see the world clearly and more or less comprehend out how it got that way, which matters a lot to me for suspension of disbelief.

Most importantly, unlike some books that employ alternating first person povs, I was never unsure of whose head I was in, gold font or no. Though June and Day are very similar in their characterization, it was revealed to us in very different ways. Both characters, June in particular, grow and change through the book, which always helps me empathize with a character.

While I don't think LEGEND will be the next Hunger Games, I think it will satisfy fans of that series, and Divergent. Day is a hero worthy of every girl's affection (Day is his awesome street rebel name, of course), and June is a tough yet fragile heroine whose flaws only make her more likable.

So here's the real question:

If you were an outlaw from the Republic, what would your outlaw name be? Enter it below until Saturday the 17th to win an ARC copy of LEGEND! (US only at this time, sorry, Jade!) Winner will be drawn randomly and announced Monday the 19th.

You don't have to follow or tweet, just play along. Hmm, I'm going to need some time to think of a good handle (I just accidentally type "hzndle" and thought about keeping it. Time for some strong breakfast tea).

Good luck!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Blog for a Dog—Because their paws don't fit on the keys.

Earlier I was trolling through the blogs I follow and saw this post on Books at Midnight.

I've always loved dogs. Especially old, mean, ornery, cantankerous ones. And they seem to love me back (because I'm quiet and move slowly and smell like food, I'm sure) My husband loves them even more than I do. Our dog is a 15 year old terrier/chihuahua mix, and she's about as cantankerous as it gets. Though you'd never get my husband to admit that. He's blind to her many, many, many faults. In our house, the dog is treated like a human who just happens to eat off the floor and have the ability to lick her own butt.

So. You can imagine how eager I was to share my love for dogs via a blog post—particluarly senior dogs—and at the same time do something to help dogs in need. Well, so can you! Sign up and post the information below in a post on your blog (along with a bit about your own love for dogs, if you like), and Pedigree will donate 20 pounds of dogfood to shelter animals. Only a few more days to participate! Check out the details below:


The following info is copied from Books at Midnight:


Details:
Pedigree is resurrecting is insanely successful Write a Post, Help a Dog program. In 2010, 391 bloggers wrote about the program and with each post, Pedigree donated 20 pounds of its Healthy Longevity dog food to shelter animals. In all, 7,820 pounds of food was donated to two shelters renowned for their care of senior dogs: Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco and Castaway Critters in Harrisburg, Pa.

How you can help in 2011

Simply spread the word about Write a Post, Help a Dog 2011 and once again Pedigree will donate 20 pounds of food for each blogger's post. Here's all you need to include in your post:

  • The Write a Post, Help a Dog program is aimed at raising awareness and food for the more than four million dogs that wind up in shelters and breed rescues each year.
  • For each blog post mentioning the Pedigree Foundation from now until midnight ET on September 3, Pedigree will donate 20 pounds of its new dry Pedigree recipe food for dogs -- its best recipe ever -- to a shelter, because every dog deserves leading nutrition. 
  • The Pedigree Foundation -- a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organization is committed to helping dogs by providing grants to shelters and rescues and encouraging dog adoption. This year the Foundation has already raised more than $376,570 against its goal of $1.5 million to carry out its work to fund grants that not only help shelters operate, but to further shelter innovations.
The Pedigree Foundation depends on charitable contributions from individuals to carry out its mission to help dogs find loving homes. In addition to writing a blog post, here's how you can help:

Then, link up to the Blog Hop, hosted by the Pedigree BlogPaws bloggers to help spread the word about Write a Post, Help a Dog.

Friday, August 26, 2011

10 Random Facts: Tag, I'm It!

Been a while since I had a "just for fun" post, so since it's Friday, I thought I'd play along! I was tagged by Rebecca Knight (of Legacy of the Empress fame) to list 10 Random Facts about me, and tag four others to play. Here we go...

1. I've always wanted to rewrite my author bio to make myself sound more mysterious: "An international woman of mystery, Tere Kirkland was born in Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. She now calls the Crescent City home." Or something like that. 

2. I have a huge issue with controversial food items... veal, goose liver, sweetbreads. My issue is that they're so DELICIOUS!!

3. Food in general is my biggest weakness. I really should exercise more, but then I'd probably become one of those people eating out of the Ben and Jerry's pint while walking on the treadmill. Maybe I just need to find a house to buy with a second floor so I'll be in better shape. ;)

4. You may not know this about me but I've been house-hunting since spring and it has consumed my every waking moment. I used to spend my lonely hours writing or reading, but lately it's all real estate listings and hgtv shows. Room Crashers? Yes, please! (sidenote, but will someone please convince hgtv to play actual renovation/decorating shows instead of one episode of House Hunters after another, interspersed with the random House Hunters International and the occasional Property Virgins. Not even My First House is about the house as much as the hunt. Boring!)

5. Also, since we've been seriously house-hunting, I have curtailed almost all of my bad shopping habits. I haven't stepped into Urban Outfitters for over a month and I haven't even bought a new lipstick at the drugstore or anything. Necessities only! Like Snickers Ice Cream bars. What? Snickers Ice Cream bars aren't a necessity? O_o

6. Speaking of guilty pleasures... I shouldn't admit this, but I have been recording far too much MTV programming this year. My Life as Liz season 2, Teen Wolf (did they ever clarify what was going on in Jackson's neck with the wolf's bane, or did I miss that?!!), and now Awkward. RE: Awkward, this show is hilarious, touching, and yes, oh so very awkward. Just like high school. What? It's called research, people. MTV scripted television is how I keep current, okay?

7. I'm loving True Blood this season. Every storyline except Sookie's. She's kind of boring, and seriously, the worst problem she has is that she's in love with two vampires and can't choose? WTF? They really ought to change it to the Lafayette Chronicles. That storyline with the ghost and the baby totally made me cry! Witches FTW!

8. I tend not to read adult paranormal romances because they should really be called adult paranormal sexcapades. All the sexual tension in YA is so much more satisfying. Nothing against writers like Charlaine Harris, but it starts to get old after a while...

9. So my Evangeline revisions are finally done and turned in, but just as I was finishing, I inadvertently came across an old photo (Bayou Saint John, 1878) of one of the locations in the novel, which revealed that the area was quite a bit more developed than I thought. A frantic scene rewrite ensued. Here's the pic:


10. Now that I'm done with Evie, I'm back to work on my alternate-reality aetherpunk-western. Wahoo. Except that I've left it alone for so long, I fear I may have lost my way. A re-read, and a total immersion day of writing is definitely in order. Wish me luck for Saturday's writing binge!


Okay, these were not random so much as loosely associated, but still, I came up with ten, which should count for something. Now, on to the lucky taggees! (Not sure why, but "Taggees" sounds like a line of baby clothes to me, lol)


Krispy!
Susan Mills!
Karen Denise!
Caroline Starr Rose!

Tag! Y'all are it! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Surviving Submission—Blog Chain Post

Last night I was in that weird half-awake, half-asleep state, the kind that usually provides a drowsy sort of contentment with myself, the world and everything.

Then I felt a tickling near my head. Thinking it was just the dog's tail, or her foot, about to kick me in the head as usual, I brushed at it. Only to have my fingers catch on the jagged spurs of a palmetto bug's leg. *eep!*



Frantic sheet swiping ensued, which woke the husband and the dog, and still, the little bastard got away. I spent most of the rest of the night feeling phantom insect legs crawling on my skin, so I got almost no sleep. It gave me a lot of time to lie awake and worry about the revisions for Evangeline I just finished...

Oh, wait, I forgot! Welcome to my very first post as a member of a blog chain. :) Don't forget to scroll through the blogroll in my sidebar, and be sure to check out Michelle's post here, and  Margie's post here.

Sandra asked us to blog on this topic: How have the recent changes in the publishing industry affected your career/writing plans?

This question was also in my thoughts last night. A lot. While others have posted to applaud the increasing respectability of self-publishing, or to lament the closing of so many brick and mortar bookstores, those changes haven't had much of an impact on my career or career decisions at this point. What I'm the most affected by right now is the increasingly selective submission process at publishing houses, and the rate at which trends keep changing in young adult literature.

I'm an agented author who's been trying to sell a paranormal romance since late 2010, when the genre had pretty much already peaked. While my manuscript has improved substantially (or at least, I like to think so) since I first sought representation, now the market is much tighter. Too many YA paranormal romances are being submitted to editors. If a publishing house recently acquired a paranormal romance and they only buy a certain number of them per year, it's unlikely my manuscript will find a home there. The same holds true for dystopian right now. The popularity of books like The Hunger Games has led to an increasing amount of futuristic and post-apocalyptic submissions.

So, it's become bigger than just writing the best novel I possibly can. My manuscript has to do more than just stand out from the pack. It has to have luck and timing on its side, too.

Now, I'm not trying to sound defeatist, or say that someone just got a book contract because they're lucky. It's a combination of so many factors, and luck is the least of it. Which means that we wannabe authors are just going to have to strive even harder to make our manuscripts shine, to work with what we CAN control. And that as tempting as it may be to drop your paranormal romance and start writing a suspenseful thriller, the best thing you can do is right [was just about to change this typo, but it just proves how tired I am today. Blerg.] the story that you love. The story that calls to you and demands you share it with the world.

But you're also going to have to be tough—palmetto bug tough!—enough to withstand more than your share of rejections. And just like that palmetto bug, you're going to have to be persistent. (Well, my imagination sure thought he was persistent, even though in reality, he probably scuttled off into the kitchen once the light went on, in search of the trash can under the sink. Goal oriented, those palmetto bugs are.)

So I guess I'll close by saying, that as gross as a palmetto bug's legs are, they did give me a lot to think about last night. I need to be as tenacious and impervious to rejection as my winged friend to achieve my goals. If only they were as simple as finding some garbage under the sink. ;)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reading like a Writer: Nook Style


Some of my newest minions may not know this about me, but I can't stop talking up my Nook.

It's no secret that I love being able to scroll to change pages, read for hours without my hands cramping, to sideload library books, and—most importantly—my manuscript. (On an unrelated note, I vacillated like a mofo on whether to use an Oxford comma there, or leave it out. I think it adds a much needed dramatic pause, so I kept it in. Viva la comma d'Oxford!)

Though I'm a big advocate of printing out my manuscript, or reading it aloud, I think transferring it to another device, like an e-reader, does the same job. Just by shifting the format of the words I've been staring at for months (years?), editing suddenly becomes a whole lot more interesting. I don't know about y'all, but after a while, I stop *seeing* the words. It's more like I'm aware of them. They don't have the impact they should. And if my words have no impact on me, how am I supposed to tell if they'll have an impact on anyone else?

So here's where the e-reader comes in. When I read my manuscript on an e-reader, it feels more like a real book. (Same goes for printing, but I know ink and paper are of the essence for some folk) So when I read, I'm—hopefully—being pulled into the world I've created with my words. Usually, glaring style issues I've unwittingly been ignoring make themselves apparent: too much repetition of sentence structure, weak transitions from one sentence to another, and even pacing problems.

Mostly what I've noticed is that I can let myself enjoy the words, the way they sound, the images they conjure, much more when it feels much more like a real story. I mean, who hasn't been reading a great book, when suddenly, you're thrown out of the story by a strange turn of phrase, or repetitive sentence structure? It's those little things that can help make or break your novel when it comes to finding an agent, or later, an editor. These are craft issues, which I took fairly seriously before, but only because I was still learning. Now, even though I feel more comfortable with my style, I put even more emphasis on the way the words come together.

Anyone can "tell" a story. I want my readers to smell the mildew in the Louisiana air, sense the chill of witch magic, and feel along with my characters.

How do you get yourself out of the editing rut? Read aloud? Print? Write everything on Post-its? I'd love to hear it!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Editing: The Hard Way

Sit down now, minions, and I'll tell you a tale of woe and frustration, but one that has a silver lining.



Way back in October of 2008 (two-thousand and EIGHT, y'all!) I had an idea. A shiny new idea about a girl and a boy and the adventure they shared, and the love that blossomed between them. Sure, that story has been done to death, but my take has a unique twist. When I started out, the words just poured out of me. Words that didn't always make sense, or seem to fit the tone. By the time I'd finished, and mustered the courage to show it to betas, I was worried about some of those words.

Not the ones that made up my plot, or the dialogue (though all that has since gotten a major overhaul), but the words that contributed to my STYLE.

Problem was, I didn't trust myself.

When I got back a few crits back that recommended killing some of my darlings, I lost what little confidence I'd had in my ability to turn a phrase. This was not the fault of my critters, by any means. Those darlings were begging for it anyway. But over time, the editing demons nipped away at me. I felt the need to homogenize my work, to make my mc sound more like an average teen. To reduce the writing to plots and characters and dialogue and get rid of all those darlings that abounded.

But the problem here was, they weren't all darlings. In my attempt to regulate my character voice, I'd slowly stripped away all my authorial voice. I'd undermined my own work because I felt the need to try and write like someone I'm not. I wanted to make my Evangeline as snarky as some of the other teen heroines out there, but she just ain't a snarky girl. BIG mistake. So now, my manuscript for EVANGELINE has some consistency issues. Subconsciously I was aware of this fact, but had no idea why, or how to rectify it.

Luckily, my rock-star agent and her awesome assistant noticed what was happening with the voice in my recent revision, and commented on it. And let me tell you, they are some patient ladies, willing to work with me through every edit to develop this story from "good" to "great". Pretty much the only thing standing in my way right now is myself. Or, more accurately, the changes in voice I'd made over time. The last thing I want to publish is a book that isn't genuinely mine.

In my desire to write like someone else (not even one person, but multiple people, which is even worse for consistency), I totally robbed myself of my own advancements in style. For a long time I thought that the editing process was squeezing the individuality out of me, but it wasn't. In my misguided attempt to write what I thought others wanted from me, I was moving farther and farther from my ideal story.

Only now do I feel like I'm finally getting "my" story back. And it wasn't because of any criticism anyone gave. It was just my own lack of faith in myself. Since then, my editing demons have taken wing, probably to go pester one of y'all. Sorry about that.

So here's the moral of this story. Have faith in yourself and don't read too much into reviews unless you hear from multiple betas that you need to make a change. It's funny, but this realization that I actually CAN write made me feel like a huge weight lifted off me. This has been the most important realization in my entire writing process, a cathartic epiphany.

So, what epiphanies have y'all had about your writing lately? I'm thinking everyone should have at least one. ;)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Win Win!

You know those weeks when you just can't seem to lose, when all the pieces fall into place and the timing is right for amazing things to happen?

Yeah. I don't either.

Have I ever told y'all I have Scottish Luck? (Just so you know, Scottish luck is the exact opposite of Irish luck. Don't believe me? Brush up on your Scottish history sometime.) Sometimes it seems that I can never have any good luck without karma, or fate, or destiny coming back in to even things out.

So this morning I was very happy when I drew a winner for my City of Fallen Angels giveaway. It made me feel like somewhere along the line I did something right. Because not once in two years, 2 YEARS, has this person won any of my blog contests, even though they've entered pretty much every single one. Okay, so MAYBE her 18 entries had something to do with the odds, but I'm still gonna go with destiny. ;)

And the winner is:

ABBY ANNIS! 

Please email your address (which I promptly deleted from my email last time you sent it to me. I'm an idiot) and I'll get it out to you ASAP!

Congratulations!

And Happy Wednesday to everyone else.

Remember, there'll be another giveaway at the end of the month for THIS:


Thanks to everyone who entered, especially my new followers!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

It's been a dog's age since I did a Teaser Tuesday, and even though I usually tease y'all with snippets of my own work, I've been reading so many great books lately (ARCs, all, but I vow to review each and every one on Goodreads) that I figured it would be more appropriate to feature a snippet from what I've been reading.

After I finished The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, I realized how fast I've been tearing through books lately, and since hubby is still reading Ashfall, by Mike Mullin, I figured I had one more book binge in me before we were back to sitting on the couch scrolling through the contents of our dvr. So I better make it a good one. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor.



My crit buddy Jade had been so excited about this one, I put it on the pile for her and never really looked at it until last night. Once I got to page 8, (of this ARC edition, which is still subject to change, and I shouldn't quote from it, but isn't the point of an ARC to spread the word about the book?) I was HOOKED, and now I'm bound to finish this book before Jade gets here. Shhh, don't tell her. I'd never read any of Laini Taylor's previous novels, so as I read, her words and imagery cast a spell over me. This is the passage where it all began:

As Zuzana took the book, a couple of other students, Pavel and Dina, crowded in to look over her shoulder. Karou's sketchbooks had a cult following around school and were handed around and marveled at on a daily basis. This one—number ninety-two in a lifelong series—was bound with rubber bands and as soon as Zuzana took them off it burst open, each page so coated in gesso and paint that the binding could scarcely contain them. As it fanned open, Karou's trademark characters wavered on the pages, gorgeously rendered and deeply strange. 

There was Issa, serpent from the waist down and woman from the waist up, with the bare globe breasts of Kama Sutra carvings, the hood and fangs of a cobra, and the face of an angel.

Giraffe-necked Twiga, hunched over with his jeweler's glass stuck in one squinting eye.

Yasri, parrot-beaked and human-eyed, a frill of orange curls escaping her kerchief. She was carrying a platter of fruit and a pitcher of win.

And Brimstone, of course—he was the star of the sketchbooks. Here he was shown with Kishmish perched on the curl of one of his great ram's horns. In the fantastical stories Karou told in her sketchbooks, Brimstone dealt in wishes. Sometimes she called him the Wishmonger; other times, simply "the grump."

And that's only the start. It gets more intriguing and amazing the longer you read (I'm at page 122). Check out the Goodreads page for more info. Believe me, I'd love to tell you more, but you'll just have to read it yourself. I'm evil, I know.

Don't forget there's still time to enter to win a signed copy of Cassandra Clare's City of Fallen Angels! And at the end of the month, a giveaway of an ARC of The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson.

Friday, July 8, 2011

On Necessary Evils

The devil made me do it.

I must admit, I never thought I'd say this—kind of like I never thought I'd trade in my paper books for my Nook—but I'm kind of addicted to Twitter. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? I know, you're all aghast at this revelation. Or maybe you're not, if you're one of those people who have already embraced Twitter. But if you are still resistant to Twitter, yet think it might be something worth learning more about, this post is for YOU.

The reason I started (eventually) messing around with Twitter was because I figured I needed to make connections with my peers, i.e., the other writers out there who are slogging through social media trying to figure it all out. Obviously, some of us figured it out faster than others. But there is a tool that helped me get into the swing of things much easier than simply staring at a seemingly endless stream of tweets and wondering who the eff all these people are. That tool is Tweetdeck. It's a free download for both Mac and PC platforms that helps me organize using columns.

Slow down now, you're probably saying. Why in the name of pretty pink poodles would I need to organize my Twitter stream into columns?

Because there's more out there to discover than just the tweets of all the people you follow. That can be a column of its own—All Friends. Add a second column for direct mentions if you want to be sure you didn't miss any tweets where someone replied to you or mentioned you.

I like to stick with only three or four columns, total, so let's pretend there's a particular topic of conversation, that for the sake of accuracy, we'll call a trending topic, that you'd like to follow. Simply search for the hashtag (#YAsaves has been a pretty stable column for me, as was #ALA11 last month), and you'll get any post that contains that hashtag. All in one pretty little column next to your others.

Searching for trending topics helps you to put this whole Twitter thing in perspective, anyway. For example, say you're writing. You want to tweet about a specific trial or victory you've encountered. Instead of sending out a tweet to just the people who are already following you, you send that tweet with the hashtag #amwriting. In this manner, more people will see your tweet, that is, all the people who currently subscribe, so to speak, to that trending topic.

Which is pretty amazing, if you stop to think about it. It can help you discover new people to follow, or lead others to your twitter stream.

For the sake of sensory overload, we'll call it quits today. But I think that by using Tweetdeck, you'll be able to tell very quickly whether this type of social media is for you. Or isn't. But don't judge before you've tried it, or at least taken advantage of the tools out there to make it easier to manage.

Now fly, my fledgling Twitterers! And tweet me @TereKirkland if you've gotten over your Twitter fear. I'd love to hear about it!

And don't forget to enter to win a signed copy of City of Fallen Angels!