Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Christmas Chronicle

The Part Where I Make a Bunch of Gifts
I have a habit of creating extravagent projects for myself. I got particularly creative this Christmas and made things for my sister, husband, mother, mother-in-law, best friend's daughter, and more. I'm really proud of how all of these turned out and I've wanted to share them before now, but I couldn't because the recipients might have seen them.
Clockwise from top left: Mars Rover LEGO set for Derek (which I had to assemble piece by piece since it's not a real set); Harry Potter light switch plate for my sister; silk flower wreath for my mother-in-law; embroidery for my best friend's daughter
The Part Where Derek and I Can't Wait
Derek and I have a problem in which we cannot let gifts sit under the tree. I wish I could say this was a Christmas-specific problem, but it's not. It's a birthday/Valentine's Day/anniversary, etc. problem. We work hard to keep this a secret from my mother, who believes we should get struck by lightning for such behavior. She usually finds out anyway. Derek and I exchanged our first Christmas gifts back in November. We made it a few more weeks before we opened the next ones and I think we made it to a week before Christmas before we exchanged the last two. (I got this beautiful Lord of the Rings print from DeviantArt.) We've accepted that we have a problem, but we don't really intend to do anything about it.

The Part Where the Airline Industry Hates Me
It's a running joke in my family that every time I fly, something goes terribly wrong. Two years ago, a  storm in Atlanta led to a clog at LAX. Derek and I waited almost four hours in a line to get the boarding pass for our pug (which you can't get online). The result was that we missed our flight ON CHRISTMAS DAY and didn't make it to Michigan until 10PM. My family was opening gifts well after midnight.

THIS YEAR we had a weather delay followed by a mechanical delay. We were stuck on the runway for over an hour before we returned to the terminal, and we had to do all of this with a pug in a bag under the seat. So airline industry, what did I ever do to you???

The Part in the Mitten
After we got to Michigan - I grew up here *points to center of right palm* - things got crazy. We stayed up until 2:30AM that first night, thanks to our delayed flight, and got up early the next morning to wrap presents. In order to avoid paying to check bags or risk the airlines taking carry-on suitcases, Derek and I only travel with a backpack each. However, these backpacks have little space for gifts, so I do most of my shopping online and get everything shipped to my parents' house. There was a pile of packages on my bed waiting for me when Derek and I got to Michigan.

About a week before we'd left, I came up with the brilliant idea to cook a huge brunch for a dozen of my friends. My mother graciously did all the shopping for me before I arrived, but Derek and I had to cook for about three hours the night before and two more hours the next morning. Everything looked gorgeous and the food was devoured, but it was too much work. I need to figure out how to work smarter, not harder, you know? I'm a little too good at working harder.

Later that same day, I woke up from a much-needed nap and the whole family cooked. We made appetizers to share and had a little cocktail party that segued into opening presents. My favorite presents were rather simple this year: a fantastic pair of socks, a glazed stoneware mug, and a lovely little pair of earrings from my sister. My mom got Derek the Helm's Deep LEGO set and I might have pouted a little because I wanted that, but it's not like he won't share.

The Part Where We Get to Dinner on Time
Derek and I flew back to LA Christmas morning to celebrate with his dad's side of the family. Given my luck with flying, we were well aware that we might never get there, but we decided to give it a shot anyway. And miraculously, nothing went wrong. I mean, I almost threw up going through some turbulence, but what's that? Nothing some airplane pretzels and Diet Coke can't fix. Everything was quiet at LAX and the lack of traffic on the way home felt like LA's Christmas gift to us. We walked the dog, grabbed some presents and a quick shower, and drove down to Orange County. Everyone else had been there for hours, but they had just sat down for dinner. We ate, opened presents - get this: I got a doormat from my father-in-law that says, "Speak, Friend, and Enter" - and then we played with Derek's uncle's murderous cockatiel, Layla.

Thus ends my Christmas chronicle. If you celebrated this week, I hope your Christmas was just as fulfilling - but far more relaxing - than mine.

Happy New Year, everyone :-)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tipping the Scales

Today was one of those days where everything that happened was a sign that the day was either going to be good or bad. I don't know why there are days like this or they happen for anyone else. Here are the factors that were tipping my scale today:

Pro: Today was the first day in a while that I was able to dedicate solely to writing.

Con: Derek and I made an offer on a condo on Monday with a deadline of Friday, but now apparently they're not even looking at offers until Friday. I don't know what this means for us, but I'm losing hope that we'll get the place. Being ignored by the sellers for three days has drained me of any goodwill I had toward them. Any counter-offers or requests for delays are not likely to be received well, although it would be disappointing to let go of this place.

Pro: I got a phone call that contained news better than a condo. My sister got into her top choice law school!!! I am so proud of her. She had a dream and she is just making it happen play by play.

In the end, this was a good day after all.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lessons from Big Sur

Clockwise from top left: jellyfish, view from the PCH, sardines, a sea dragon, trees at the conference center, and a seagull who tried to steal my breakfast

Last weekend I attended the Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop. Ever since I got home, people have been asking me to sum up my experience, and it's been hard. But as I've answered this question over and over, my answer has gotten better, and I think I can sum up the experience in a few key points:

I met wonderful people.
The workshop was arranged so that each writer was part of two critique groups. You met with your groups twice, and each group had five writers and a faculty member, who was either an agent, an editor, or a published author. These critique sessions were what the weekend was really about. Getting feedback on my work was the primary benefit, but there was also a surprising secondary benefit in simply getting to spend time with other aspiring authors. We read each other's work, explained our histories with writing, and bonded over the shared misery of synopses. Before I even got home, I had emails from fellow writers. I now have several brilliant people I could ask to read my MS once it's ready, and I'll happily do the same for them.

My book is on the right track!
At my very first critique session, I brought copies of the first three chapters of Vix. We only got through the first three pages. It became a running joke with that group because nobody got through more than three pages at a time, and while giving feedback, people always wanted to know information that was on page four (grr!). My group had some great suggestions, but nobody said any of the things I had feared, e.g., you should start over, your protagonist is despicable, nobody will read this, I have no idea what's going on, this is offensive, etc. I was expecting much more criticism, but I happily traded that expectation for affirmation.

My synopses and query letters got some much needed help.
I brought querying materials for both Vix and for my last book, Safira. I queried Safira last spring a little last spring but I wasn't able to attract an agent's attention. I've never fully understood why. With my very first book, Mina, I knew a few weeks after I finished that I could do better. As the criticism for the book began to came in from agents who requested it, I agreed with everything they said, and I'm happy to keep that book on a shelf forever. But with Safira, it was different. I still adore that book. I love the characters and the world I built and I feel like that book somehow defines me, even though my current WIP is more directly related to my worldview.

I think 90% of the reason Safira failed was because I made mistakes during the querying process. I shared my synopsis and query for this book at the workshop and got so much feedback that I struggled to write everything down. This was wonderful. It might not sound like it, because nobody likes to hear that something they wrote sucks, but the thing is, I already knew these things sucked, and I was thrilled to finally understand why. Not only that, but my group members gave me suggestions for fixes, things I can actually do to make the querying materials better. Despite the fact that I left with my pens half-drained, I felt extremely hopeful.

I remembered something important about querying.
Back before I ever sent my first query letter, I had a confident attitude toward the process of finding an agent. I was as concerned with finding an agent who suited me as well as I suited them. (See this post from almost a year ago.) But after getting so many rejections, it was easy to forget about the partnership and fall into the mindset that I was at the mercy of agents.

There were several panels regarding querying at the conference. The agents there supported the idea that an agent is a partner, and that writers need the right agent just like agents need the right writer. (Say that five times fast!) Hearing this took some of the pressure off my shoulders. Now, when I query Vix, I'm going to say, "Here's a little about my book. Here's why it's great. Here's why I think we might work well together." And I'm going to remember that I have to accept the agent just as much as they have to accept me, so there's no place for apologies or excuses or kissing up. I wouldn't approach my spouse, my neighbors, or my co-workers like that, so I won't approach an agent like that either.

I got to go to Big Sur.
I say this without reserve: Big Sur is the most beautiful place on Earth. The trees and the ocean and the rugged cliffs - it's so overwhelmingly lovely that it defies description. (Stupid thing for a writer to say, right? Maybe I'm just being lazy.) I'm already working on convincing Derek that we should go there for our next anniversary. Luckily, our anniversary is not in December. I didn't mention this yet, but despite my awe for Big Sur's beauty, it tried to murder me. Sheets of rain, strong wind, narrow roads, rock slides, and waves so big they washed over the freeway - this was my path to the conference. I got to appreciate the trees once I got there, but I think I'll return when the sky is clearer and the atmosphere is less hostile.

After the conference, I drove up the coast to Monterey and visited the aquarium, which I've blogged about before. Derek tells people he could leave me at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for days and I wouldn't notice. He's probably right. I spent almost five hours there this time. I wore earplugs to tune out the screaming kids whose parents are allegedly deaf, and I spent at least 30 percent of my visit just sitting in front of the Open Sea tank. I don't have a good picture of it, but this tank has a million gallons of water, floor-to-ceiling windows, and the most graceful creatures in the aquarium - sharks, rays, turtles, shimmering schools of sardines, yellowfin tuna, and my very favorite: the Mola mola.

The Mola mola, AKA the Sunfish, is the pug of the sea. It is a huge, slow, dopey-looking fish that's basically the biggest joke natural selection ever played. At least the pug has the excuse of being bred by humans. One of the great things about the aquarium is that a lot of their animals aren't permanent residents. They pull them out of the bay, keep them for a while, study them, then set them free. (They believe - and I agree - that caging mammals is inhumane, so you'll never find dolphins or orcas here.) This rotation means that you never know what's going to be in the big tank. There was one sunfish this time, but it lingered down at the bottom, so I didn't get a great shot. You can see a few of the pictures I did take in the collage above.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Perfect Song

I have a "writing playlist" in iTunes. It's 333 songs and 22.3 hours long. That playlist is exclusively instrumental, mostly soundtracks. Someday maybe I'll post my favorite songs. It would be a long list, though. When I'm not listening to my writing playlist, I'm usually listening to a single song on repeat, sometimes for hours. There are several Florence + the Machines songs that I've done this with, a few by Of Monsters and Men, a few by Mumford and Sons. I recently listened the Game of Thrones intro music for a few hours straight.

Today I listened to a single song probably a hundred times, and I credit it for helping me pump out  4,000+ words. The song is "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri featuring Steve Kazee. This song was in the final Twilight movie, which I saw with a friend last night. I liked the movie, and I loved this song. I was singing it in my head all morning until I finally went on iTunes and downloaded it. Even if you don't like music for writing - even you don't write - I highly recommend it. This is one of the most romantic songs I think I've ever heard. It was perfect for today's scenes.

Here's a video of the song, not the version I'm listening to, but just as lovely. The video has some footage from Breaking Dawn, P.1. BTW, this girl's got some wicked cool tattoos. I've been planning to get more for a while. If I keep watching this, she might just motivate me to do it.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Odds & Ends

Pinterest has created Secret Boards. This is a feature I've been wanting ever since I found Pinterest. As soon as they invented "secret" boards, I moved most of the pics for my WIP over to one. This allowed me to caption each picture and make notes to myself about the story without worrying about random people sharing my pictures and notes with the world.

On the down side, although Pinterest created the secret boards, they seem to be doing everything in their power to prevent people from using them. For one thing, you can't convert any of your existing boards into secret boards. You can't even edit individual pictures to move them to a secret board. To get my WIP onto a secret board, I had to re-pin every single picture individually. Finally, you're limited to three secret boards. I would love to make all three of my novel boards secret but then I would have no room for future-house boards, etc.


We haven't found anything else as exciting as the most recent condo we lost. (You can read about that here.) Yesterday we went to an open house, but it was disappointing. The place was too tiny for two people and a dog, our bed wouldn't fit in either of the bedrooms, and the place needed a lot of work. We don't mind work, but in order to buy a fixer-upper, the cost of the house has to be low enough that we can afford renovations on top of the house price. Derek and I are both trying to avoid the thought that we're fighting a losing battle. In our little pocket of the world - a place we're determined to stay - homes are expensive. My income as an aspiring author is exactly zero dollars and zero cents. One income + expensive real estate + high desirability = we have a serious challenge on our hands. We're trying to rise to it.
Work on Vix continues. I'm on my second draft right now. The first draft wasn't complete, but this seems to be the way I write:
  1. Develop an idea.
  2. Write a rough outline.
  3. Write the first few chapters to let characters and plot develop. They're going to take over anyway. Creating a safe space in which to let them seems to work well.
  4. Stop draft to write a very specific, detailed outline.
  5. Write a second draft.
  6. Stop when I start to lose control again.
  7. Re-outline.
  8. Write next draft, and so on.
This way, the book builds itself up incrementally. Vix is my third novel, and this is the third time I've worked this way, so I think it's safe to say there's a pattern. Right now I'm on Step #5. I'm already working off of an outline for my second draft, but last week I stopped to outline the rest of the book. (My original outline only covered the first third of the book.) I converted the complete outline into a synopsis, which is something I need for the conference in Big Sur anyway.

Onward and upward :-)

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNo, Meet Life

NaNoWriMo
Disclaimer: This post has a lot of boring talk about real estate. If that doesn't interest you, maybe go read reddit instead. I promise my feelings won't be hurt :-)

I didn't plan to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year, but I did hope that today would be a productive writing day. Then life intervened. Here's how my day really went:
8:30AM
Wake up. Open Scrivner. Eat breakfast.

9:00AM
Husband sends me link about a nearby condo.
10:00AM
After walking the pug and getting dressed, I run errands and drive by condo property, which is lovely. I call husband and tell him I think we'd be happy there.

12:10PM
I call our agent and tell him I want to see the condo. He asks if I can be there in 10 minutes. I grab my keys and run out the door.

12:30PM
I meet agent at condo. We tour it. I take a lot of pictures to show husband. The condo is wonderful. Agent and I make a plan to move forward.

1:30PM
Husband despairs a bit about making a decision so soon, but he knows from past experience that properties around here get snatched up the same day they come on the market. Husband heads to the bank to get supporting documents for the offer.
5:30PM
Agent emails offer to us. We print it out and notice that our bid is $20k below asking price. Agent and I had earlier agreed to offer asking. I call agent, who explains that comparable properties sold for far less than asking and he doesn't think the property would appraise for more than he put on our offer. Husband and I sign pages until our pens run out of ink.
6:00PM
Husband heads back to the office to scan the signed offer to email it back to our agent.

6:15PM
Husband calls me from work to say that there were several attachments we forgot to print and sign. I grab a pen and head over to husband's work.

6:30PM
Husband and I sit in the car and sign another dozen pages. Several people walk past and give us suspicious looks. I head home. Husband scans docs and sends it all back to our agent.
7:15PM
Husband and I bath the pug, who now looks all fluffy and even sillier than usual. We laugh a lot at her expense and she responds by attacking herself in the mirror. I make dinner and include mini-pies for dessert because frankly, we earned them.
10:45PM
Agent submits our offer and CCs us on the email. Agent gives thorough explanation to sellers regarding our choice to under-bid. Seller has until 5PM on Monday to respond to our offer.
And that's how Life punched NaNoWriMo in the face.

* * *

UPDATE (11/4/12): We didn't get the condo. The sellers took the very first offer they got, which was submitted only a few hours before ours. Hopefully something better will come along for us in time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

An Existential Crisis Halloween

I'm celebrating Halloween by writing as much as I possibly can because my mother is coming this weekend and there's a negative correlation between my productivity as a writer and the proximity of people to my desk. Derek and I also sort of already celebrated Halloween this weekend when we went to a progressive dinner with our ski club. The dinner was scheduled early this year, and since it fell so close to Halloween, people were encouraged to dress up. About half of the people did, and we were two of them.

We tied for best costumes in the most spontaneous costume contest ever. I didn't want to participate because I'm shy and as the DD, I hadn't drank anything all evening, and I didn't want to stand up in front of everyone. I tried telling people that I always dress this way and it wasn't a costume, but they didn't buy it. We walked away with a prize bottle of Trader Joe's wine.

I've been writing like crazy the past few days. Thousands of words per day, squashing my outline, but fighting a constant battle against distractions. I read once on Veronica Roth's blog that once her book got published, she had to make peace with the fact that some people were going to be unhappy with her. She could no longer say "yes" to everything. She could no longer be perfectly agreeable.

I'm not even published (or perfectly agreeable) but I feel like I'm there. It's in my nature to be helpful and thoughtful and do lots of favors for people, but frankly, I like writing more than I like how I feel after doing favors. Last night I told Derek that everything other than writing seems like a distraction right now. He said I should think of those things as "obstacles" instead, but what's the difference? They both take me away from what I want to be doing.

I wonder if a degree of selfishness is necessary for a writer. Writing is long, hard work that requires enormous focus. How can you do that if you allow people to make endless demands on your attention? This is kind of an existential crisis for me. I like being a generous person, but I also like writing. Is it possible to merge the two?

If so, how would one do that? Seriously, I'd like to know.

* * *

UPDATE (20 minutes later): 
So I just took my dog for a walk and by the end of it, I feel a bit like an ass. At first I was feeling bitter, like, "if I were published, people would take my writing more seriously and not treat it like it should be my last priority. And if I don't take my own writing seriously, who will?"

But then I remembered that I know a published author who's like this. They're always so busy and self-important that they don't accept invitations from friends or offer to be helpful when their help would be invaluable to the person in need. I don't have much respect for this author, I intentionally don't buy or read their books, and I don't want to be like them.

I realize that in my ramblings above, I was espousing the "live to write" philosophy when I'm more of a "write to live" kind of girl. Honestly, if you have nothing to live for but your writing, that's sad. And most of the time when people say that, I don't believe them anyway. I think they're just being pompous and trying to make their work sound more important.

So screw it. I will be helpful and kind and also write and have it all! as Liz Lemon would say. I expect this attitude will work out as well for me as it does for her on 30 Rock.

Happy Halloween, fair readers :-)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Inspirational Poem

Watch this video. Not the whole thing, just the first 3 minutes or so. I can't say why, but this poem makes me feel powerful. Here's the original source on TED's website.

Enjoy :-)

video

Hilarious NASA Parody Video

I know it's a little late, given that the rover launched months ago, but this video is so cool that I have to share it. It's a respectful parody of the Mars Rover project.

Enjoy :-)



P.S. If you don't know why I would post this, read this post from the actual launch.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mood in Writing

Since I've taken such a long break from writing, or least a long break from writing without distraction, I'm trying to re-familiarize myself with my story before I dive into drafting again. To do so, I've been creating scene maps. I'm writing my book in three acts, like a play, with about 20 scenes per act.

Here's the template for my maps:

So far these map have been incredibly useful. Identifying the purpose of each scene has allowed me to see that some of the scenes I've planned weren't necessary. The maps have also allowed me to strategically place bits of exposition so that I'm not dumping too much in one scene. I try to drop exposition one or two scenes before that information becomes an essential part of the plot; that way the reader feels familiar with it by the time it's important.

Another thing that's been very useful is identifying the mood of each scene. This is usually the last piece of the map I complete, after I've written out the plot description. Never before have I actually written down the mood for a scene. Having it right in front of me is a good reminder as I write. Knowing the mood guides my choices for pacing, sentence structure, dialogue frequency, even colors. However, coming up with the right word for a mood can be tricky. I Googled "mood in writing" and found a decent list. I crossed out the moods I thought I'd never use (how do you even write a scene with a mood that's "flirty"?) and I've been adding new moods and organizing them by category. The moods aren't consistent when it comes to tense - I think that just has to do with the fact that "mood" in writing can be hard to define. You sort of just know it when you read it. In my list, just as the color indicates, moods are listed vertically from least to most extreme.

For anybody who might find it useful, here's the list:


Absence and Conference

It has been over a month since I've blogged! I have been using a thesaurus a lot lately (you'll see why in my next post), so I can't decide if I'm shamefaced, sheepish, chagrined, rueful, or plain old embarrassed. Now, why haven't I been blogging?

Derek's Birthday Party
Toward the end of last month I threw my husband an epic 30th birthday party. It was very much like planning and executing a wedding, only this party had twice as many people as our actual wedding! It took me away from my writing for a solid two weeks, but it was a great success :-) There are some photos from the event at the end of this post.

House Hunting
A time-sap if there ever was one.

Big Sur
I am going to the Big Sur Writing Workshop! Let me tell you, getting to the point that I can say that has been a process! The first night I heard about it, I stayed up for hours wondering if I had the courage to go someplace so far away by myself, be around strangers, share my writing with them, take professional criticism. But the more I thought about it and discussed it with Derek, the more I realized it's a great opportunity, and after writing for two years, this seems like the right time to do it.

Once I decided I had the guts to go, I had to register, then submit a query letter and an excerpt of my current WIP to get accepted. Who ever thought you had to be accepted to a conference? I sure didn't. Poppy and my sister helped me tear my letter and excerpt apart and put them back together several times. I emailed my materials to the conference coordinator on Monday and got my response yesterday, right after Derek and I got home from looking at a terrible house.

We were frustrated because the house was a mess, thus the visit a failure. When I glanced away to check my email and saw that I'd gotten in, I burst into tears. I don't think I've ever done that in my life, but yesterday I sat in my husband's lap and cried while he hugged me proudly. I know this sounds dramatic, but in terms of writing, I've known nothing but rejection ever since I began querying, which was about a year ago. The relief of being validated after all that rejection was overwhelming. Now that I'm going to the conference, I'm working on getting my MS into better shape and making a list of things I'll need to pack because nothing is good for procrastinating like making lists :-)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Seafood Watch

I think it's about time I explained the random Seafood Watch button in the right margin of my blog. There are two reasons that button is there:
  1. To put it lightly, I am sensitive when it comes to animals. I will forever be haunted by Michael Vick's atrocities, and by random news stories about people throwing dogs from second-story windows. My heart gets tied up in knots at the mention of someone eating lamb. I know it's common to eat lamb, but to someone who never eats meat, the idea of chewing and swallowing a slaughtered baby animal that didn't even have a chance to live is downright horrifying. I know this is unpleasant - bear with me. I am not writing this to condemn meat-eaters or to make people feel guilty. My view on life is very much live-and-let-live, so if you let me live my life the way I want, I will do you the same courtesy. (Okay, I might make a face if you talk to me about the taste of lamb, but that's the extent of it.)
  2. My favorite place in the entire world is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Derek tells jokes about that aquarium being my church. When I go there, I look at the little tanks, the kelp forest and the jellyfish, the seahorses and sea otters, but the main attraction for me is the open sea tank. This tank is over two stories tall. I like to sit at the base of that tank on the second floor, where the window into the tank goes from the floor to the ceiling. The last time we visited, I got so enchanted with a mola mola that the aquarium closed and a guard had to come tell me to leave. He was kind about it. I think he realized I hadn't ignored the closing announcements on purpose, probably because my eyes were all glazed over with wonder (see below).
"Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming."
Seafood Watch is a program started by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The biggest thing they do is give out booklets that tell you how you can eat fish responsibly. By responsibly, I mean in a way that doesn't endanger species or result in the accidental killing of dolphins and whatnot. Even though it doesn't apply to me - I don't think I've eaten a fish stick since I was 8 - I think it's a fabulous program. It protects animals without requiring people to drastically change their lives. Instead of one fish, you choose another. Doesn't seem so hard. So that's why I think this is a fabulous program that people should know about. If you want to know more, just click on the button on the right and you can get much better information than I've provided here.

<End PSA>

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Meet Poppy!

As promised, today I will be introducing to you Poppy Williams, an aspiring author who I am proud to call my critique partner! Yesterday I told you my first impressions of Poppy and how we met. Today I'd like to share some more, and in her own words no less!

And don't forget, you can read her interview of me (and see the first picture of me with blonde hair) over on her blog!


What is your current WIP about?
My current WIP is about a sixteen year old girl named Charlie Wilde. Every eleven years the town she was born and raised in plays host to an epic battle between good and evil. And this time, she had a role to play.
 Are there are any quotes that inspired your WIP?
There’s this great Marianne Williamson quote that really sums up my main character’s journey - “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… We ask ourselves, “Who am I” to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” I love the idea that we as people have the capability to be extraordinary. But so often we dim our brilliance because we think we’re not worthy enough to be great. This is an issue that my MC struggles with and overcomes.
What came first in terms of inspiration: plot, characters, setting, or themes?
I was at work one day about four years ago when this name came to me. I thought to myself “That would be a great name for a character in a book.” By the end of the day I had the basic idea for my book come to me in a rush of ideas and images. So for me it all started with a name.
What’s something you admire about the main character in your manuscript?
Charlie is an artist, and I love that creative side of her. She’s also someone who is loyal, and would really do anything for the people she loves. I admire the journey that Charlie takes. When this huge responsibility is thrust upon her, she struggles with it, but she doesn’t back down. I love that!
When did you begin your WIP?
Technically I started working on this idea last November during NaNoWriMo. I wrote a good amount of words that month, but I was nowhere near finished. After doing some outlining and seeing my story take on some different aspects, I decided to start my first draft over. I officially started again on Friday August 31st. Which is the same say that my CP Danielle started (which I think Is kinda cool!)
How would you define the term critique partner?
Initially I was looking for someone who would read my manuscript after it was done to help me get it into shape to submit to agents. But then as I was writing, I realized I’d love to be in the trenches with someone! When I met Danielle, I realized that it was possible to find someone who was on the same page as me, AND as committed to this process as I was. For me a CP has been someone that I write alongside, toss ideas around with, and eventually someone who I’ll trust with my baby!
How has having a CP helped your writing?
I don’t think I realized how helpful having a CP would be. Even something as simple as going through the process of explaining my manuscript to another writer, really helped me a ton. Danielle had so many questions, some that I had answers for, and some that I’d never even thought of! And she also had lots of suggestions. We have similar tastes, so I think we built a really good rapport early on. And as we both progress with our books, I think the list of advantages will only grow!
What are you looking for most in a literary agent?
To me the most important thing is finding someone who’s passionate about my book. I want an agent who’s ready to fight for Charlie as much as I am! I think there needs to be a certain level of trust between a writer and an agent, so I’ll be looking for that as well. Handing my book over to an agent is almost like letting someone watch your baby (I’m assuming since I don’t technically have my own babies!). I want someone who I can trust with my book baby!
If you get published, what part of the publishing process do you think you'll enjoy most?
Doing book tours is a total dream of mine. I love meeting people, especially people who love books like I do! I also love the idea of people getting to know my characters and wanting to engage in deep conversations about them. I know that's the sexy side of being a published author, but it sure sounds fun...
If you could choose anyone to blurb your book, who would you pick?
Joss Whedon. Because he's awesome (no further explanation needed).

It always seems to me that Poppy is everywhere on the internet at once. If you're looking for her, check the following places before you report a missing person:

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Joys of Working with a Critique Partner

A few weeks ago, something awesome and unexpected happened. A writer named Poppy left a comment on my blog. I replied, then she found me on Twitter, and all of a sudden, I seemed to be bumping into her all over the internet! She followed the same blogs as me, she has a Pinterest board for her WIP, and when I read her description of herself on Twitter, I thought I might be looking in a mirror:
Bookworm, Vegetarian, Sci-Fi Geek, YA Writer, God Seeker, Browncoat, Tofu Lover, Kung-Fu Movie Watcher, and so much more! Forgive me if I ramble...
Am I a bookworm? Check! Sci-fi geek? Check! YA writer? Check! Browncoat (Firefly lover)? Check! I recited this description to Derek and he asked if I'd cloned myself. I said no, but the list of things I had in common with Poppy was indeed extraordinary.

That's when I decided to learn some more about her. I found her blog (the adorably named Poppy Writes a Book) and read everything she'd written. I was so impressed with how dedicated she was to her writing, how hard she works, and how well she keeps herself accountable. (She has a Word Count Calendar on her blog!) I also really liked the sound of her WIP, Season of the Defender.

Poppy had a tab on her blog called Crit-Harmony in which she expressed a desire to find a critique partner (CP). When I read this, I had just shelved my second novel and was gearing up to write the third. With this new book, I was determined to do things differently from my previous books. Finding a CP was just up my alley. So I summoned my courage and sent Poppy an email.

I won't lie. I was super anxious while I waited for a response. I was afraid she'd email back and say that I wasn't what she was looking for or that she'd already found someone else. But to my delight, her response came quickly, and it was full of enthusiasm. She complimented my blog (my blog?!?) and over the next few days, we emailed back and forth constantly. We were interviewing each other  to see if we were a good match. Derek was surprised by how seriously I was taking the whole thing, but I explained that finding a critique partner was serious business. Poppy was spot-on when she titled her search for a CP Crit-Harmony. The process is very similar to dating. We had to make sure we were compatible in all kinds of ways - how quickly we worked, how far along we were with our WIPs, our goals in terms of finishing said WIPs, etc. Eventually we exhausted our supplies of questions and basically shook hands. We agreed to be in it for the long haul, helping each other along until both of our WIPs were finished and query-ready.

Finding a critique partner is the best thing I've done for myself in a long time. Knowing that Poppy is always working (and she is always working!) keeps me motivated to work, too. We help each other iron out wrinkly plot points, cheer for each other's characters, and sometimes just discuss our feelings about the publishing industry and this career we're trying to get ourselves into.

I've been thinking for a while about how to introduce Poppy on this blog. Ultimately I decided to interview her. Tomorrow you'll get to learn more about Poppy when I post her responses to my questions. You'll get to read about her WIP, her writing process, and more. Plus, she'll be posting an interview of me over on her blog. (Bonus: Her interview of me will feature a picture of me with newly blonde hair!)

P.S. There's a post over at Poppy's blog about how we met from her perspective. She's going to keep my identity secret from her readers until tomorrow, but it's still a fun read!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Qualifying Women in Fiction and in Life

I saw something disturbing on facebook yesterday. Here is it:


In case you don't immediately see the problem, here it is: This series of images creates a single standard for how women should look, allowing for no diversity. It promotes the idea that if you don't look like the girls in the pictures, you are ugly. But not only that - this collage says that if you're "ugly" (i.e., you don't look like these girls) it's your fault. It's because you make the wrong choices. Because you're weak. This collage is a pernicious weapon designed to make girls hate themselves. And the sickest thing is, it was probably created by a girl.

I wonder if I would realize how dangerous such messages are if I hadn't been a self-hating teenager myself. I didn't hate myself personality-wise, but I hated my body like crazy. I measured my weight and compared it to arbitrary numbers I'd heard, like, "a skinny girl shouldn't weigh over 120 pounds." I went hungry, got stomach-aches in school, was crankier than all hell at home, and I craved sugar constantly. I created an evil cycle in which I already hated my body, but I kept looking for more reasons to hate it, like I was afraid that if I didn't hate myself, I would become fat. (But wasn't I already "fat"?)

All of this ended one day during my junior year of high school when, during a routine check-up, my doctor asked my mother if she wanted to commit me to an eating disorder clinic. Luckily, she said no, but the fear of losing my free will jolted me out of my insanity. Ten years later, I have a very different attitude towards food, exercise, weight, and my perception of how I look. I eat when I'm hungry. I exercise as much for mental health as for physical health. I gauge my weight based on how I feel in my clothes, and I choose clothing that is flattering to my body type. A-line dresses look great on a pear shape like mine, but you won't catch me near that rack of skinny jeans. Finally, I have not weighed myself in . . . well, it's been so long that I've lost track. At least five years. I have a tattoo on my back that reads, "The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance." But in the the case of the number on the scale, keeping myself ignorant is one of the best choices I've ever made.

The book I'm working on right now is about women, only it's about women living in an environment where they aren't subject to the advertising and criticism that women get in our world. They aren't defined primarily (and above all other qualities) by how they look. I would love to live in such a world. Only I don't, and writing about a place that's free of a misogynistic paradigm while I'm living in one myself is tricky. How do women compliment each other in this fictional world? Do they praise themselves for strength or kindness or intelligence? Do they still recognize and appreciate physical beauty? If so, how is their definition of "beautiful" different from ours?

As I write my characters, I catch myself wanting to describe most of them as physically beautiful in one way or another. In doing so, I would conform to 98% of young adult books on the market. Every heroine is beautiful, usually in some unique way, often in ways she doesn't realize until a boy tells her so, and even then she struggles to believe it because a pretty girl who doesn't know she's pretty is a safe bet for a guy. Despite my clear disdain for this cycle, I worry that readers won't like my characters if my writing deviates too much from the norm.

Romance is an even bigger problem in my fictional world. The way I understand evolution, men value physical beauty in a woman because beauty used to equal health, and guys needed a healthy woman to bear their babies. For women, physical attractiveness wasn't as important. If they were going to be pregnant all the time (we're talking about a pre-birth control world here), they needed a guy who was strong and skillful enough to bring them food and protect them from danger. While I think we've moved beyond this paradigm in some ways, it still exists in the idea of classical romance.

The main character in my book is going to fall in love with a boy. I want them to love each other. I want there to be romance, the kind that makes readers shiver and sigh. But is it possible to do that without resorting to the boy telling the girl anything other than that she looks lovely? Likewise, is it possible without the girl complimenting the boy on his physical strength? These are such primitive mechanisms. I want my characters to transcend them. But is that possible? Would I have to invent a new kind of romance? And if I did, would readers be able to enjoy it?

This is why my brain often feels like an elephant on ice skates. While I contemplate writing about a world that's so fundamentally different from ours that readers may not be able to appreciate it, I'm going to go make dinner. And I'm making chocolate cake for dessert just to spite that awful collage.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Obey the Brain!

I began writing my third novel last Friday. I'm about 10,000 words in, and I even have a title! Now that I'm drafting again, I've had to make adjustments to how I use my brain power. The part of my brain that's responsible for making stuff up seems to act like a vacuum, stealing energy from the rest of my brain and leaving me kind of...vegetably. Every weekday morning, I've been writing. I always start out fresh and excited, but by the end of the session, although I'd like to keep going, I'm forced to stop because I lose focus, like I'm running out of juice. Even this post is surprisingly difficult to write.

This creativity exhaustion is also responsible for retarding (literally) my communication skills. I was on the phone with my mom today and I had to stop half a dozen times just to ask her what we were talking about. My mind wasn't wandering. I wasn't thinking about anything else. Just drawing blanks. So that's probably what can be expected from this blog for a little while: blank pages. It sucks because I'm making tons of progress with the new novel and I want to talk about it, but it'll have to wait until later. Maybe my brain just needs exercise. I'd like to be to write 2,000 words and still have enough brain power left over to write a blog post or have a phone conversation.

So what have I been doing with all this brain-dead time in the afternoons? A lot of the time has been spent planning an epic birthday party for my husband. I'm also trying to cook healthier for us, and that takes more time than it took me to cook meals that weren't as healthy. And I've discovered Eureka! I'm still mad at Netflix about the price hike, so I won't actually thank them, but I have enjoyed watching the first three seasons of this show. It's super geeky, full of awesome characters and surprisingly plausible science. (That's according to Derek. Most of the time when they talk about science I kind of zone out and look at the scenery.)

That's all I can muster for now. Here's hoping that anyone who reads this is getting along better with their brain than I am with mine!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Introducing Vix

I'm about to begin writing my third novel, which will be known here as Vix. I've been outlining, brainstorming and researching for a while now. I've profiled my characters and developed my setting. (By the way, my setting is THE PLANET VENUS!)

Original Image
And I've made an important realization about my previous book, Safira. I think it lacked energy. I focused a lot on character development, and this is probably why I love the characters in that book so much. However, the plot could have been more exciting. The plot in that book was driven strictly by the characters. The setting had no hand in anything that happened, and there wasn't anything close to deus ex machina or even coincidence. Perhaps all that book needs is a healthy dose of serendipity.

Needless to say, I don't intend to write another plotfully lazy book. I've thought a lot about the plot of Vix, and I've even broken the book into three "acts". This is how Suzanne Collins writes her books. I figured it couldn't hurt to imitate her. Yesterday I outlined the first act. My Excel spreadsheet includes all of the following information:
  • Short description of the scene
  • Setting
  • What exposition is required to understand this scene?
  • How do I want the reader to feel during this scene?
  • How will I accomplish this feeling?
  • Which characters are present in this scene?
  • What is each character's goal?
  • Do they succeed or fail?
I have a few empty cells to fill in tomorrow. And on Friday, I begin writing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My sister's cat is a meme!

So a while ago my husband showed me this meme of a cat:


I sent that meme to my sister because she has a cat who seriously likes her Fancy Feast. Today I got a link to this:


That is my sister's cat! It's not a real meme, just one of those make-your-own things, but I'm falling off my chair laughing about this.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Still Learning About Genre

I think it's safe to say at this point that my second novel did not succeed to attract an agent. The majority of agents I queried have responded, and while some were surprisingly complimentary about the premise, etc., nobody really bit. It's been difficult for me to understand this novel's failure since I love it so much. I thought about the characters long after I finished it. Not to flatter myself, but it was like the first time I read Harry Potter. In both cases, the characters stuck with me. And they're still with me, but I'm trying to slowly push them characters aside because the reality that I won't be writing the rest of their story in sequels - at least not now - is painful.

One of my stranger guesses as to why Safira failed is that agents may be less receptive to new work in the summer. I had suspicions about this early on in querying because the agents who did get back to me took much longer than they took to respond to queries for my first novel. I queried my first novel last December, and within 2 weeks I had most of my responses. This summer, agents often took longer than the response times they posted on their websites. I understand why they're taking longer - vacation, kids, etc. - but I wouldn't have believed they're actually less receptive to new work until Kristin Nelson discussed it on her blog. So add this to my list of growing query advice:
Query when it's cold.
Another reason I think my book may have been rejected is that it fails to conform to genre. I struggled a lot at first to determine whether Safira's story was an adult or young adult book. You can read about that struggle here. I went back and forth because my protagonist was 17/18 years old - right on the line - and while she did grow into her own identity in the novel (1 point for YA), the book was also adult in some ways:
  1. The story is told in 3rd person. I love the flexibility of 3rd person, but it's been out of fashion with the YA crowd for several years.
  2. Not only is it in 3rd person, it's also 3rd person limited, and I shift around a lot. At various points in the novel, my narrator is looking over the shoulders of my villain, my heroine, and at least two other characters. I love all that shifting because I like getting a complete picture of what's happening. However, I am an adult,  and I wonder if when I was a teenager, I would have struggled to identify with so many characters.
  3. My book is character driven, and according to Writing Great Books for Young Adults, which I recently checked out of the library, YA books are plot-driven. This is another topic that book-lovers could argue about until the cows come home, but the author of Writing Great Books was right. Of course, highly developed characters are desirable in YA as they are in adult fiction, but in YA, plot is the driving force, whereas character is often the driving force in adult books. In Safira's story, her development as a person drives the story forward more than the plot does, and I'm afraid a lot of teenagers would interpret the story as boring for that reason.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that now that I know more about YA and how to write it, I intend to do better next time. I've got a really good idea, and I've already begun to draft early chapters. This book is going to take a lot of research, but it may just be the one that succeeds. For Safira, she's going on the shelf now, but unlike Mina, she isn't staying there. I intend to revise that book, pushing it more toward the norm for YA, and maybe even querying it again in a year or so.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How to Seduce a Writer (my version)

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I only found this little piece of cuteness by Neil Gaiman this morning. I found it thanks to reading the comments on Nathan Bransford's blog.

Neil Gaiman on Seducing a Writer

I wanted to add to the Honorable Mr. Gaiman's advice by sharing a snippet of my own successful story of "seduction". I'm also sharing my story because it involves online dating, and I want to combat the stigma of online dating only being for people who are socially backwards. I feel no shame in telling this story. You know why? Because whatever teeny tiny bit of embarrassment may be associated with the method, the result of my online dating experience eclipsed that embarrassment a million-fold:


Here's the story:

Since I'm introverted and a wary of pretty much every person on the planet, I knew when I moved to LA that I wasn't just going to meet a guy and fall in love. So at my mother's urging, I joined e-Harmony. That very first day, I found my husband. He'd been waiting for me a bit longer, but I lucked out. And indeed, I found him. I liked how happy he looked in his pictures and he sounded so interesting in his profile. As soon as I found him, I initiated communication, which means that I sent him a set of five pre-written multiple choice questions.

And then I waited.

Here's the thing. I didn't want my face just floating around on the internet, so I had set up my account so that nobody could see pictures of me until we had agreed to communicate with each other. Before he answered my questions, Derek couldn't see me at all. The blank profile picture frustrated him, so he ignored me for a few days until he got bored or something, then he answered my questions sort of half-heartedly and shot them back. At this point, my pictures became available to him and . . . let's just say, he became much more motivated.

We shot questions and answers back and forth for a while, then sent each other long emails, then exchanged phone numbers. I wanted us each to have the other's number, and I told him, "Whoever has the most courage can call first." He called me five minutes later. We met on a Sunday afternoon for coffee. After that date, we saw each other again on Tuesday, then Thursday, then Friday. By Friday, I was sold, and I cancelled my e-Harmony subscription. Derek and I got married two years later. You can see some of the pictures from our intimate wedding in Hawaii above.

I would never deign to question the Great Gaiman, but apparently there is more than one way to seduce a writer :-)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mars Rover Landing Party!

As practically everyone knows, the Mars Rover Curiosity AKA the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) landed safely on the surface of Mars Sunday night. This is a big deal for NASA, JPL, the US, humankind . . . and me!

It's a big deal for me because my husband works for JPL and he worked on MSL. Back in November, when the rover launched out of Cape Canaveral, Derek and I got up early in the morning to watch. It was exciting, watching it fly off into space. Of course, it was also a bit nerve-wracking. So much work and money had gone into that project. It had a long journey to Mars and a difficult, never-tried-before landing that involved a parachute and a hovering crane.

Eight months later, on Sunday, August 5, 2012, around 10:30PM PDT, the rover landed. Its landing was tricky. Curiosity arrived at the planet's atmosphere going about 7,500 miles per hour. For a reference point, consider that a Boeing 757 (that's the single-aisle airplane that's common for cross-country flights) has a cruising speed of 530 miles per hour. My mind can hardly grasp a speed like 7,500 miles per hour. But that's how fast the rover was going. Between the time it reached the atmosphere and the time it landed, it had to slow down to nothing. Not only that, but it had to use a parachute to slow down, then it used a hovering sky crane to lower itself gently to the surface. Honestly, the more you know about the landing operation, the more stressful it is - and the more shocking it is that the whole process went off without a hitch.

Since Derek worked on the project, we got to go to a landing party at Cal Tech. The party was great. We ate little snack boxes of fruit and cheese and drank bottles of "Martian Water". We sat with two of our friends, one of whom worked on the camera that took the first pictures after the rover's landing. Before the official NASA broadcast began, they showed little videos about the "7 Minutes of Terror" (as if anyone there needed to be more terrified). I had heard Wil Wheaton did a video about the landing with JPL. I was hoping they would show it, but they didn't. At least not after I arrived. You can watch it here, though.

From top left, clockwise: Derek and I celebrating after the landing, live feed of the EDL (Entry Descent & Landing) team from the ops room, ISS flying overhead (below the "T" in "Party", Derek and I at the landing party, cute water bottles that came in our snack boxes
While we were waiting for the official broadcast to begin, something cool happened: the International Space Station (ISS) flew right overhead! I would have mistaken it for an airplane if I was alone, but given that I was surrounded by a bunch of NASA scientists, one guy ran up to the microphone and pointed it out. The whole crowd clapped as it flew overhead. According to one of my friends, the ISS circles the planet every 90 minutes, but all kinds of things interfere with our ability to see it that often, so Sunday night was a rare treat.

Everything got really exciting once the NASA broadcast began. The cameras were in the ops room, which I've seen in person, but I've never seen it full of people. And the rest . . . well, you don't need to hear it from me. At least a thousand different news sites have covered it. (The best information is at MSL's page on JPL's website.) The rover landed perfectly, everyone was relieved, the whole crowd in the ops room and at the Cal Tech party cheered and congratulated each other. Derek was getting so many excited text messages from friends that he couldn't keep up with them all. The first pictures came back from the rover only minutes after the landing. I love the one where the rover is looking at its own shadow in the Martian sunset. It's kind of like it's saying, "Look, Mom, I'm here!"

After the Cal Tech event ended, we went to a nearby pub. It was 11PM on a Sunday night and there was standing room only. I couldn't believe it. I'm not big on crowds like that, so I hid outside until one of our brave friends pushed her way through the crowd and ordered drinks. Her gumption paid off when two of the tables behind her spontaneously vacated. We sat down, I ordered a slice of pie, and everything was well with the world :-)

Being in the pub that night was one of the coolest experiences ever. It was filled to the brim with scientists who were all celebrating a momentous collaborative achievement. Everyone congratulated each other, and everyone clapped whenever a new image from the rover popped up on TV. You know how bars usually have their TVs tuned to various sporting events? Well, on Sunday night, every TV was showing the NASA channel. How awesome is that?

The whole event still feels like a dream. For eight months we've been silently (and sometimes not so silently) worrying about MSL's landing. It's such a relief that the mission has so far been a success, and it's been surreal to see how much enthusiasm everybody is showing for JPL. People I know are actually memes. Agents in my twitter feed are talking about watching the landing (yes, the thought of offering to get them an inside tour in exchange for signing me crossed my mind, but no, I'm not going to do it). MSL has its own twitter account, and some its tweets are surprisingly dirty ("Gale Crater I am in you"?) Even The Oatmeal made a spoof about the first landing picture! I love how much credit all the JPLers are getting for their work. Of course, they deserve every bit of it :-)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Breathtakingly Beautiful


Watch this full-screen and in the dark if possible. For the record, I am staunchly opposed to the captivity of whale sharks and manta rays, both of whom are featured in this video. There are no tanks large enough to keep those animals in a fashion that is humane (this applies even more so to orcas, dolphins and other pinnipeds).

However, even though I may be reinforcing the captivity of these animals by showing this video, I would feel greedy not sharing it. This video was part of my early inspiration for Safira, and it continues to inspire me today.

Querying Advice from A Published Author

If you're reading this years or even months from now, you may not know it, but I only released this blog into the world two days ago. Before then (for TWO YEARS before then) the blog was private. I did this by telling Blogger than I wanted to "authorize" readers - and then I only authorized myself. Not even my husband ever read my entries. But if I want to be an author, I'll need the courage to expose my thought to the world. Making the blog public is practice.

Something Strange and Deadly
Speaking of blogs, one to which I subscribe is that of author Susan Dennard. She wrote a great series of blog posts on how she got her agent. Most debut authors write posts like this, but unfortunately, too many that I've read come across as braggy rather than helpful. Susan Dennard's are very helpful, so much so that I'm going to post links to each of them below. I learned a lot from reading these. For my next book, I'm going to try to do everything she did and more, if possible.

Susan Dennard's Blog Posts on Querying:

How I Got My Agent (Part 1: The Parts of a Good Query)

How I Got My Agent (Part 2: The Prep)

How I Got My Agent (Part 3: Query Submissions)

How I Got My Agent (Part 4: The Calls)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Wordle!

A friend of mine on facebook just did this with her thesis and I thought it was so cool that I copied the entire MS of Safira into Wordle and made my own! How cool is that???


Monday, July 30, 2012

Pinterest as a Writing Tool

I read somewhere once that the majority of people are visual learners. I definitely remember visual stimuli best. That's why I can't watch horror movies, because I'll never forget them. But having clear visions of characters in mind while writing is very useful. Before I began using Pinterest, I would print pictures that reminded me of my characters and settings and tape them on the wall next to my desk.

When Pinterest came out, the first thing I thought when I saw a "board" was how useful that format would be for storing all of these images. Privacy was a slight concern. By creating a storyboard for my novel, I'm giving a lot of it away, exposing it to the unforgiving eyes of the internet. What if somebody steals my story? What if someone makes fun of it? The latter isn't so much a concern, but I do worry about copycats. However, right now I'm in the process of querying, and as fun as it is for me to see the images that inspired my book on a Pinterest board, it's also a way to explain my novel to agents. As soon as the board for Safira was finished, I started attaching the URL to the bottom of my query letters. I have no idea if any agent has glanced at it, but it seems worth the risk to give them a better idea of my story.

A screenshot of my Pinterest homepage
Speaking of copycats, one thing I was very careful of when making a public board for my book was choosing images that aren't protected by copyright. There are one or two illegals on there, but I'll probably cut them out soon or search for legal alternatives. The reason I'm concerned about copyright infringement is this post by an author who got sued for using a photograph on her blog without permission. She wasn't even making money off the blog, but the photographer wanted compensation, and I'm pretty sure she had to pay. It was a scary read. But she had useful suggestions.

For my public book board, I got most of my images from Wikipedia and Deviant Art. Wikipedia's images are always either public domain or under a creative commons license. And Deviant Art images have a "Pin It" button next to them if the artist is okay with their images being used on Pinterest. Other images on my board are straight from websites that sell the product in the image. In that case, I make sure the image links to a place where someone could buy the product. If none of these options worked, I went to flickr. I used their advanced search option and only searched for images under a creative commons license.

The whole copyright thing is scary, even though I've followed the rules better than 99.999% of Pinterest users. I figure it's more important that I don't use protected images here on my blog. That I haven't done once, and after reading that author's story about getting sued, I never will.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I've Made a Huge Tiny Mistake

Behold the most tragically cancelled show in history.
First of all, if you don't understand the title of this post, watch Arrested Development at your earliest convenience. All three seasons. Every episode. I promise you won't regret it.

Now on to my mistake. Like most of the mistakes I may or may not have made during the querying process, this mistake is speculation. Why? Because in spite of all the queries I have sent, I've gotten a negligible amount of feedback in return, which means I have to guess when it comes to what I do right and what I do wrong.

The thing I think I did wrong this time is write a prologue for my book. I don't call it a prologue in the MS. I call it Chapter 1, and when agents ask for the first few chapters, I include it as the first chapter. However, I realized this weekend that everything I talk about in the prologue is covered later on in the book. Thus, the prologue is unnecessary. I think this may have hurt me in terms of querying because my protagonist doesn't make an appearance until the first word of Chapter 3. Chapter 2 (what will now be my Chapter 1) is spent entirely on my villain. I don't regret that move. I like books and movies that explore the villain before the hero. After all, the villain is the one who complicates everything and puts the plot in motion. In my story, as in many stories, the heroine finds her opportunity to become a hero by reacting to the villain's villainy.

By scrapping the prologue, I now have a greater chance of sending the chapter that includes my protagonist off to agents. I hope that makes sense. Here's a summary:
  • My prologue is being scrapped
  • Chapter 2 (villain's chapter) is becoming Chapter 1
  • Chapter 3 (heroine's chapter) is becoming Chapter 2
It may be too late for this revelation, which is why I call this a mistake. But perhaps I should think about it instead as simply being a new strategy.