Thursday, September 30, 2010

WiP... Thursday: Just Write!

[Tried to post this yesterday, for WiP Wednesday, but Blogger was giving me major agita and I gave up. I know, no one likes a quitter, but I felt like I was about to smash something that probably cost more than I make in a month. Makes the above picture that much more appropriate, non?]

Last night I hit the 30K mark of my WiP (see an excerpt here). Go, me! I rule!

Oh, wait, I don't really. Thirty thousand words may sound like a lot, but when I realize it's taken me almost a month to write the last five thousand words, it's really nothing to be proud of. *hangs head in shame*

In my defense, the past month has been pretty busy. So many books came out that I wanted to read, and I have to admit I've been a little... distracted. I've learned that having an agent hasn't stopped me from compulsively checking my inbox after all. If anything, my palms are even sweatier than when I was querying. My breath catches every time I check my gmail in the hopes there might be some good news: that an editor loves my book. Obviously, it hasn't happened yet, and I'm about thiiiiis far from a freak-out of epic proportions. Good thing I live in New Orleans, where no one would notice.

Ugh. Submission is worse than querying. I never thought I'd say that, but it's true. It's enough to make me throw my laptop out the window or set it on fire. Or go all gansta on it รก la Office Space.

But for a few hours last night, Finding Nemo on in the background (after I caught the beginning of this sweet documentary on t.v about the history of Pixar), I forgot about all that and wrote over 1500 words. And I thought of a new direction for the plot. No, there are no missing clown-fish involved, don't worry, but there's intrigue and danger, and magic... This story's going to kick ass, y'all!

That's when I realized that there's no excuse for not writing when I have the time to actually sit my butt in my chair and type. I know I'm not the first person to figure this out, and hell, it's not the first time I've had this same epiphany. But I'm adding it to my list of mantras for getting this first draft finished:

Butt in Chair = increased word count
Don't get it right, get it written.

Anyone else have a mantra they follow when drafting?

Anyone out there in editing/revision hell? What do you say to keep yourself motivated?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blogfest: Creating Memorable Characters

Creating memorable characters, huh?

Well, first they'll need a memorable name. Bob Smith just won't cut it, especially not if you write paranormal novels like I do. The guy's your hero, after all, you've got to give him a heroic name. Like Lance, or Vance, or Chance... actually, Chance sounds too much like a heroine, so don't forget to keep a list while you brainstorm. You never know what other characters will pop up needing memorable names.

Then, of course, they must have a memorable appearance. I favor the prodigious use of eye-patches, myself. Nothing sexier than a hero with an eye-patch. Heck, I bet a heroine with an eye-patch would be even more memorable. I mean, you've never heard of a heroine with an eye-patch, right? You wouldn't give your villain an eye-patch, because that's too predictable.

Speaking of predictable, that's one thing memorable characters never are. Like, no one ever suspected that Han Solo—the benevolent dictator of memorable characters—was going to shoot Greedo in that effed up space-bar (which was really George Lucas's basement. It's still like that, muppet band and all, except no one told them minimum wage has gone up since 1977). But Han did it anyway, because memorable characters are defined by their actions almost as much as they're defined by their cool one-liners. So be sure to have a stock of these ready before you start writing. A witty catch-phrase would be even better, so start thinking up a few of these now.

In fact, why even bother coming up with a memorable plot at all? All you need is to put these memorable characters in a situation where they're sure to get into trouble, and make them get out of it. Soooo easy when you think of it like that. Think, McFly, think!

Said plot doesn't have to be original (*cough* Cameron *cough* Avatar *cough*), as long as the characters are seven feet tall, and blue, and fly around on cool dragon-like things. Because everyone remembers characters who get to fly, so be sure to add some flying hippos, or giant eagles, or even a pack-angel, if you so desire. But nothing boring like a plane, because that's just not memorable enough.

Lesse, where was I? Oh, memorable characters must also ALWAYS get the girl. You remember her. Chance. The one with the eye-patch? Yeah, but she also has to have some kind of secret, because an eye-patch isn't quite memorable enough on it's own, and everyone loves secrets. And it would help to either make her a princess in disguise (which might be hard for poor Chance, since everyone would always recognize her eye-patch), or a girl dressed like a boy because she's in hiding from her evil uncle who wanted to marry her off to her gross second cousin, who doesn't even have an eye-patch or a memorable name. What a loser.

To sum up, if you want to create memorable characters, make sure they're tall, blue, have cool names and even cooler dialogue. If they could mouth-off to their boss once, that would be very memorable, because who here hasn't ever wanted to tell their boss exactly where they could stick something large and pointy? Okay, maybe I like my boss, so I wouldn't want to do that, but I'm proving my point right there. I'm not very memorable. Tere, WHO? I dunno, they'll all say. She didn't have an eye-patch.  ;)

Note: The preceding was meant to be humorous (or humourous, however you want to spell it). Ergo, I don't want to see a rash of heroes named Vance rescuing an eye-patched princess in disguise.

Those are my ideas, and they don't come cheap. They are however, for sale. First come, first served.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Cass

It's been a while since I shared a snippet for Teaser Tuesday. I'm a little stuck on my WiP, but I'm still absolutely in LURVE with it. I just don't know what to do next. It's still untitled—shocker, I know—but I was going to call it Clockwork before Cassandra Clare's novel came out.

The main character's name is Cassia, but she goes by Cass. She lives in modern day Mississippi (I had originally set this in the 1890s, but again, Clockwork Angel made me change my mind, and I think things are going to be much better this way now, except it's technically not steam-punk. Whatevs. It's still going to kick butt. Once I figure out how it ends) with her mother, who is a witch. An honest to goodness, spell-casting witch. Sixteen year old Cass, however, isn't. But it still affects her whole life. As you'll see when chapter 2 opens...

Sunday night, only two days into my vacation from Ma and the coven, I was watching t.v. and finishing up a Spanish lesson to email back to one of my junior college professors. The classrooms there were the first I’d ever sat in. The nearest elementary or high school was over thirty miles away, but that wasn’t the real reason Ma had home-schooled me. She always worried about me, that I’d be teased because of her.

Everyone in town thought she and her sisters were silly women playing with Wiccan incantations, but I knew better. And as a kid, I promised Ma I’d be able to handle school, that I wouldn’t let anything anyone said get to me. I wanted to meet other kids, kids who maybe didn’t have a witch for a mother. Sit at a cafeteria table, kiss a boy who wasn’t Jody. He’d been a lot cuter when I was thirteen, and kissing him had been kind of exciting at the time. That excitement quickly faded. Especially since Ma never gave in.

I could’ve held my ground and at least convinced her to let me go to high school for a few years, but instead, I decided to take the fast track to college. I’d be matriculating before my seventeenth birthday. I was taking junior college classes in calculus and Spanish, which I needed to get into a good school, and I couldn’t learn all by myself. My calculus professor was actually the one who convinced me to apply to MIT, her alma mater. She wrote me a recommendation letter and everything, which was hidden in my sock drawer next to a plane ticket. I had an interview scheduled there in October, which I had to go to if I wanted the kind of financial aid I’d need.

I turned off the t.v. and pulled up the MIT admissions page on my laptop. Ma didn’t want me to go so far away. She didn’t get that this was my dream. Maybe because I hadn’t exactly told her. She’d never understand.

So focused on the laptop, on the cheery MIT freshmen and erudite faculty, it took me a few seconds to realize the lamp next to the couch was off. Had the bulb burned out? No, all the lights on the entertainment center had gone dark, too. How could we have lost power on such a calm night?

The moonlight coming through the windows was pretty bright, but I held the open laptop in front of me on my way to the kitchen to find a flashlight. A sound like a creak came from behind me. I turned, washing the weak glow of the computer screen over the living room. Empty, just like I left it.

As I turned back around, the light didn’t shine on the open doorway of the kitchen. A guy, not even twenty, stood in the door.

I clutched the laptop to my body. Who the hell was he? Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin, and a cleft chin, he stood completely still.

Just as I was about to work up the balls to tell him to get his ass out of my kitchen, another small creak sounded behind me. I slammed the laptop closed and swung it at the guy’s head. He staggered into the kitchen. I didn’t stick around to find out what kind of damage I’d done, I just raced toward the kitchen door. I’d locked it at sunset, I knew I had, but I was betting it’d be open now. It was. My keys were right by the door and I grabbed them.

The warmth of the laptop was reassuring under my arm as I ran to my truck. I slid in the cab, turned the key in the ignition, and… nothing. Baby’s engine was dead.

A shiver ran up my spine. I grabbed the Maglite from behind the seat and ran into the garage. I slammed my palm against the button to lower the garage door and hurried toward the back, where there was another entrance. It was really an old barn that had been converted decades ago by my grandfather. Swallows nested in the rafters and over the years Ma had packed the rear half of the building with junk. Cutting through the garage with only a flashlight would take longer than I thought.

I’d left the laptop in my truck. My cell was in the house. The coven was gone, and the nearest neighbor who might be home was a good eighteen miles away. A part of my brain wanted to hide in the garage, hoping these assholes would take the t.v. and the silver and whatever else they wanted, and go. The more cynical part of my brain knew they’d done something to my truck, which meant they weren’t after Ma’s paltry gemstone collection.

They were after me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hypothetical Thursday: SPACE MADNESS!!

I watch the Weather Channel every morning when I'm getting ready for work. It's addictive, and fulfills my need for some kind of science quotient in my life. Don't judge me. I'm not out buying heroin from high school kids. But it would be hilarious if I was buying earth science books from them instead... Okay, end early morning pre-caffeinated rambling.

So, this morning on the Weather Channel there was an interview with two astronauts, engineer Doug Wheelock, and Tracey Caldwell Dyson. Dyson will be coming back home later today.

Mike Bettes, the Weather Channel meteorologist, asked what they missed most. After running water—Wheelock said he hadn't had a shower since the middle of June—they said they missed simple things like smells, cooking food, the smell of the outdoors.

This got me to thinking: Some of you write science fiction and dystopian, and some of it, like Beth Revis's upcoming debut novel Across the Universe (you know, the one with the BEST FIRST CHAPTER EVER? ;D ) is set in space.

I know I'm a hard-core fan of television/film space dramas. Battlestar, Firefly/Serenity, Moon with Sam Rockwell—an awesome mix of science fiction, psychological thriller and ethical drama—most kinds of Trek. I'd love to write a story set in space someday. But just watching astronaut Dyson's ponytail floating around in that low gravity made me realize how different every sensation must be, how even touching things would be a different experience, and that's just orbiting 200 miles above the earth. Real research would be difficult without interviewing an astronaut, or going into orbit yourself.

Here comes the hypothetical:

If you had the opportunity, but had to spend three months in space or more like real astronauts do, would you go? Since this is a hypothetical, let's say kids and husbands and jobs and pets are a non-issue. I'd like to say I'd immediately shout YES!, but now that I'm thinking about all the things I'd miss, I'm not so sure. About all the sensations that usually fill my writing and how it might change without them.

Plus, there's the issue of bone loss, which also occurs during prolonged periods in low gravity. Astronauts are required to do weight training exercises to keep bone loss at a minimum. And of course, SPACE MADNESS! ;)

So what do you think? Would that kind of in-depth immersion in your research be worth it to you? Or would you prefer to keep your feet on the ground and your head in orbit?

Love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Have an AGENT? How Did THAT Happen?

It came yesterday. The author/studio agreement.

I signed a copy to mail back. I put the other copy up on my fridge to look at everyday, at least for a little while. I haven't been this proud of an accomplishment since I got my Master's, y'all.

Dreamy McAgent loves EVANGELINE. She even read my revisions and got back to me during Labor Day weekend. Of course, I didn't think I'd hear from her for at least three weeks, so I vowed not to waste any time during my Labor Day weekend pouting over my empty gmail inbox. Now I may never have to use that gmail account ever again, since it was only for querying.

Who is this amazing woman who was kind enough to get back to me as soon as possible about my manuscript, even during a holiday weekend? Why, none other than Rosemary Stimola, of Stimola Literary Studio. She' s signed quite a few other YA authors in the past year, like Leah Clifford, and also represents an author named Suzanne Collins. You may have heard of a certain book trilogy she wrote? ;)

Rosemary Stimola, or Ro Stimo, as she signs her emails, was interested in the story from the start, but she also had enough recommendations for two rounds of revisions. Her analysis of the manuscript really helped me look at it more critically, and I could see that she really knew her stuff! On top of that, she was quick. Lightning fast! She requested my query in days, and got the manuscript back to me in a month each time. Well, except the last time. That was about ten days. Amazing!

Yes, it's still so surreal, and no, I'm not still laughing maniacally every time I'm reminded of the fact I have an AGENT! Mwah-ha-ha-ha! Only just that once, I swear I'm done.

My crit buddies deserve medals for what they helped me do to improve this manuscript. I also wanted to thank all my followers for providing so much emotional support and encouragement during my journey to representation.

Wish me luck for submissions, and I promise to keep you all posted.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Girl with the Dragonfly Tattoo

My dragonfly tattoo. Right between my shoulder blades and larger than life, right where it's been since I was nineteen.

These days I buy conservative Banana Republic-esque blouses to hide it. Doesn't exactly go with the dress code at work. But I used to be the Girl with the Dragonfly Tattoo. I used to live in a converted church with four other girls and one girl's boyfriend. And a black lab. We threw crazy parties with Beirut tournaments (like beer pong, only with quarters) in the basement, and freaked out when bats flew out of the belfry. Yes, we had a belfry. And we got in trouble for ringing the bell. We got in trouble for a lot of things. Let's just say the police came to the door on many an occasion, but no one was ever arrested or anything.

Some days it seems so long ago. Other days, like last weekend's Mid-Summer Mardi Gras, I feel nineteen again. Of course the next morning, after following the parade route for about a mile, I felt every one of my thirty-one years. Used to be I worried about being hung-over the next day, now I'm in a different sort of pain.

Despite the aches and pains, this year has been good to me. I just hit two hundred followers yesterday. Dreamy McAgent loves my manuscript. My family and friends are healthy and happy.

Best of all, I still feel like that girl with the dragonfly tattoo most days, regardless of the time that's passed since I got it. Regardless of how it's faded.

Maybe it's time I got my wings re-inked.