Friday, July 22, 2011

My Favorite Authors, and Why

I was trying to decide who my favorite authors are today, and I realized that I don't have very many. I've read widely and there are very few authors that I actively dislike, but only a couple have really captured me.

J. K. Rowling - She did something magical. She took all the rules, followed them to the letter, and wove together a magnificently crafted story. I hope to see more from her in the future.

Jim Butcher - I don't know what it is about Jim Butcher that makes his Dresden series so fascinating to me. I think it's the character of Harry. He's so real, and his life has been so very miserable, that I can't help but pull for him.

Anne Rice - This woman's description is amazing. The best I've ever read. Of everyone I've read, her voice has had the largest impact on me.

S. K. Epperson - Her work comes to life so vividly in my mind. I can see every scene. The way she gets you inside the killer's mind is chilling. She does psycho better than any other author I've read. She's an amazing story teller.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Shame vs. Pride

When I was young, I had a lying problem. I knew the difference between fantasy and reality, I just enjoyed telling stories. Unfortunately, I chose to pretend those stories were true. Other kid's parents, and my school teachers had several conversations with my mother about my behavior before she finally sat me down at the age of twelve, looked me straight in the face, and said, "Nobody likes a liar."

I stopped lying.

But, some of those old lies haunted me into adulthood. I gave a few kids nightmares, and made a couple of them cry. It was funny and impressive when I was seven, as an adult, I felt ashamed of my behavior.

I once pretended to be a fortune teller and gave all the little children on my block horrible predictions about their futures. One little girl ran home hysterical. I was banned from her house.

Another time, I had forgotten to bring anything for show and tell so I got up in front of my whole class and made something up. I told a room full of eight year olds how my sister, while attempting to bathe our new kittens, had been scratched up so terribly that she was now in the hospital. Furthermore, she had accidentally drowned all five of the tiny cats. Of course, nothing of the sort had happened, and I got into HUGE trouble. It probably wouldn't have been as bad if the teacher hadn't believed the story and called my mom to check on my sister's well being.

These sorts of incidents stuck in the back of my mind, taunting me every time I laid down to sleep. Just recently I finally made peace with them. Last week I started to think about those childhood indiscretions and instead of the usual shame, I felt amusement. I realized that if I hadn't been that mischievous kid, the kid who told stories that terrified the other children, the liar, I never would have grown into the woman I am today. That early drive to entertain, frighten, and amaze, never really left me. It grew up too.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

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This was posted as a comment on one of my blogs. Yes, it's some kind of advertisement but I couldn't figure out for what. It seems to have been translated, and poorly. Oh English language, how I love you. 

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Lolz, spambots, lolz. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Writer's Block

I think there are four different kinds of writer's block. There are probably more that I haven't thought of, but these four are the ones that I have personally dealt with.

#1 - Procrastinator's Block - You really want to write, but for some reason, something else always seems more appealing. For instance, creating twelve blogs and then scheduling them to post one at a time over the space of a month. Hulu, flash games, Facebook, or a leisurely drive down Lake Rd. to admire all the fancy mansions. Some procrastination has led me to some very useful tools in my writing. The night I spent creating character bios with little pics and surveys infused my writing with a lot more realism. Unfortunately, most of my procrastinating is useless, and guilt ridden. The solution to this type of writer's block is to turn off your internet, unplug your tv, butt in chair. This is my most common problem.

#2 - Uninspired Block - Your brain feels like dead weight and you're sitting in your chair but nothing is coming out. When this is the case, attempting to keep doing what you're doing is going to be like slamming your head into a brick wall. Stop. Do something else for a little while. Exercise. Listen to inspiring music. Take a walk. Watch one of those movies that really moves you creatively. Have some caffeine. Rejuvenate yourself.

#3 - Burn Out Block -  A writer can't write ALL the time. I tried spending an entire day doing nothing but writing. It left me with a brain that felt like mashed potatoes. My spelling and grammar began to slip, and most of the last three hours of work had to be deleted in edits. Some of it barely made sense.  When uninspired, I look for inspiration, when I've overworked myself, I take a very different approach. When my creative mind feels like mush, I exercise the other side. Logic puzzles, time management games, cleaning, reorganizing CDs or bookshelves are all things you can do to exercise your logical left brain and give your right brain some down time. 

#4 - Naysayer Block - This is the inner editor saying, "Look at what you just wrote. That is pompous crap. No one will ever want to read this. You have no talent." Kick your inner editor in the nuts. That'll shut anyone up. Trying to edit while writing is counter productive. Editing uses your left brain. Writing uses your right brain. Keep your focus on your writing. The time for editing is later. I know it's hard. I actually had to blindfold myself an hour a day for a week to get into the habit of writing without reading my work back after every few sentences. Here are a couple of mantras to help you get past your inner editor. *You can't judge your own work effectively when you're so close to it. Wait. If you still think it sucks when you're editing it next month, you'll be able to change it. *Everyone occasionally writes crap. *Plenty of published authors EXCLUSIVELY write crap. *Practice makes perfect... competent. Even if what you just wrote IS crap, and you won't know that until you read it back in a month or so, every word you write takes you one step closer to mastering... not sucking at your craft. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Casting Your Novel

I've found something that really helps me see my characters better, but first, the conundrum.

When I'm making a new character, I write down dominant physical characteristics. I fill out personality worksheets. I do character interviews, surveys, and yet more worksheets. Even after all of that, when I picture my characters in my head, I don't see them very clearly. I can see their surroundings with ease, even down to the litter in the gutter, but the characters are blurry watercolor people drifting through a backdrop of photo realism... I know what they'll do, think, and say, because I KNOW them but I can't make up a randomized appearance in my imagination.

So, I don't want to base my characters physically on people that I know because I would be irate if those people's personalities started to show up in my characters. So if I can't make them up, and I can't use the physical characteristics of real people. That leaves me with... actors.

And it's helping. Every scene seems far more intense now that I can really SEE my characters moving around my settings. It also gave me a fun project. Scissors, tape, markers, and I now have a little notebook with character bios and pictures.

So what do you see most easily? Is there something for you that's hard to see? Does anyone else use actors as character models?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Lakewood Public Library and I Love My City

As bookish as I am, I've never really been a library person. I hate the idea of having to give my friends back. I get most of my paper books from used book stores, flea markets, and garage sales. Recently, in an attempt to squash some of my writer's procrastination, I decided to check out my local branch library. WOW! We have the coolest library I have ever seen.

I'm going to make a broad, sweeping, over-generalization, and say that Lakewood is the trendiest city in Ohio. Oberlin would come close if they didn't have those dry laws. Lakewood is a strange amalgam of hip, rich, liberal, poor, trendy, and eclectic. When they decided to update their library, they went all out. It's huge, beautiful, and full of art as well as books.

The entire layout is very open with a multitude of desks, cubicles, and computer consoles. It reminds me of a university library in that way. It is in fact at least twice as large as my university's library.

I plan to live in Lakewood for the rest of my life. It's an old city, full of old buildings (more than half of the houses in Lakewood were built before 1939) that people actually care about. There are no crumbling churches, or condemned mansions. The entire city has the camaraderie of a small town but the sophisticated air of a metropolis. At least 75% of the businesses on Detroit road are owned by individuals, not corporations, and I've never seen so many consignment shops and antique stores. People walk to and from the multitude of bars, raucously singing at 2am on Saturday morning. No one is afraid of being mugged, possibly because our large and friendly police presence deters potential thieves. In fact, the sidewalks of Lakewood are much busier at midnight than are the streets. For every car on the road, there are at least ten pedestrians. 

I love everything about this city and if I have my way, I will never leave... Okay, well the snow can get excessive... and being so close to Lake Erie, there are some massive spiders... but still. I <3 Lakewood.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Goals for July

Goals for July
  • Same unreasonably high word count goal! 60-90k. Yes, I set the bar too high. I want the pressure on. I work really well under pressure, and not at all if I don't push myself. 
  • Finish my WIP. Since I have added a whole slew of new scenes, I have split my WIP into 2 novels. The first is still called Out of the Shadows. My working name for part 2 is Into the Light... Hokey right? It'll likely get changed. 
  • Edit OotS - Send to Jyl
  • Start on ItL - Finishing this one in August. 

The BIG GOAL - This is the one that I'm really going to try to keep. I'm setting a kindle date for Out of the Shadows. This novel will be completely finished, edited, copy-edited, formatted, and posted on AUGUST 24, 2011. That comes out to 55 days. Wish me luck. 

My abysmal goal setting skills leave something to be desired. As seen below. 

 Goals for June

  • Write between 2-3k words everyday.  30 days has June, so that comes out to between 60k and 90k.
    • C+ June was my most productive month since I began my WIP 4 months ago. The 60-90k word goal is completely and intentionally unrealistic and was not met. 
  • Finish Out of the Shadows. If I keep to my word count goal, I shouldn't have any problem with this. Shadows is getting pretty close.
    • F Still not done. :) I made a sweeping change at the last minute, added another 75k words... and decided to turn Out of the Shadows into a 2 part 200k novel, instead of a 1 part 125k novel. 
  • Do a rough edit to  get it ready for Beta Reader Jylie Bean.
    • F Jylie is still waiting.
  • Outline Echoes of Death - This outline will be included in my words per month goal. 
    • F But this book is CALLING to me. I already have the plot entirely outlined in my head, just not on paper. I DREAM this book. It's going to be a ghost story set in outer space. Jealousy, psychotic ghostly possessions, and sexiness. So excited. 
  • This one probably won't get done, but the goal is to get as many of them outlined and finished as I can. So, if I finish OotS, and I finish the EoD outline before my beta reader gets my manuscript back to me, THEN I want to outline and write three short stories set in Lythian's past. Working titles - Origin (10k),  Eternity (20k), Sacrifice (20k). This goal will continue into July.
    • This is a two part goal, though none of it is done yet. We'll see, but I think it's going to have to wait until September. I want to finish my two part Out of the Shadows, and my sequel Echoes, before I start the stories. This might get pushed back as far as December. 
  • Keep my nice, neat, working spaces nice and neat. 
    • A+ With the help of my very neat husband, we're like the odd couple. He walks behind me and catches the stuff I discard. 
  • Enforce the "leave me alone while I'm working" rule better.
    • A- I found a few things out about myself this month... Mostly they involve this rule. I'll do a blog post. 
  • If my favorite Jylie Bean gets my draft back to me before the end of the month, start the second round edit on Out of the Shadows so it can get sent to my two Gamma readers and back to the Jylie Bean.
    • She'll have pt 1 soon. Then we'll start on editing.