Wednesday, December 31, 2008

ResoWHAT!?! for 09

I’m post 08. I have been since that fateful day in August. After careful thought about what I want 09 to look like, here is what I’ve come up with:

1) Story ideas are FREE! But I will die of pains of regret if they are never born. My goal is simple: to continuously give birth to my stories in whatever medium or genre they choose to come. (Even if it does turn out to be romantic comedy.)

2) The continued support the Pixies on the creative journey. There is a reason why we all met that particular day. Remembering to encourage through the hard times and celebrate the accomplishments.

That is my ResoWHAT!?

definition

"A malapropism is when you say one thing and mean your mother." (Thanks to Caetano, my nephew, whose birthday it is today.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Quote for the Day

"There's a seeker born every minute."
-germ


"The trouble with you is you don't believe in what you believe."

-Red

Okay, so I admit, the above quotes come from "Fraggle Rock." What, you wanted wisdom from actual humans? You could learn a lot from a Muppet, you know. Seriously.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fortune Cookie Quote

"You will obtain your goal if you maintain your course."

A goal rant, of sorts.

One of the biggest traps an unpublished writer can fall into is the "magical thinking" trap.  The magical thinking trap tells you that one day, the writing fairy will visit you and you will sit down at your keyboard, spit out 100,000 perfect words in a weekend, sell this fabulous story to a publisher (without any pesky agent taking his or her cut) and become famous overnight.  The magical thinking trap tells you that in the meantime, you should call yourself a writer, but not to worry about actually writing anything.  The writing fairy will come, and in the meantime you can just sit back and relax.

Don't deny it - you've had this thought.  We all have, in one form or another.

Last night, I ran into a woman who told me all about the young adult fantasy trilogy she was writing.  When she mentioned she struggled with getting things actually written, I helpfully recommended a class at the Loft to provide a kick in the pants, and some much-needed camaraderie.  To this, the woman responded with all the reasons she couldn't take a class: 70 hour work weeks, volunteering, and several other commitments that left her with "absolutely no time."  She wasn't actually writing at all.

This woman fell into the magical thinking trap, firmly believing she would write the Great American (fantasy) Novel with no work on her part whatsoever.  She was completely committed to the idea, but refused to make it a priority in her life.

The saddest part is that I'm fairly certain she had no idea she was doing this.  I realized (not for the first time) how easy it is to let the craziness of life get in the way of your dreams and goals.  

One of the biggest things I've noticed about those who are highly successful at reaching their goals (becoming a published writer, a CEO, aItalicn Olympic athlete) is that these people keep their eyes focused on their goals at all times.  Even if they must occasionally take a detour, they always come back to the dream.  They make sacrifices, rearrange their schedules, get up at four am, whatever it takes.

The idea is humbling, and motivating.  I've often said I suffer from a lack of applying bottom to chair, that this is the main thing that keeps me from becoming the writer I want to be.  The nice thing about this problem is that it is easy to remedy: Sit.  Place hands on keyboard.  Type.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

On the eve of a New Year, consider what's keeping you from your goals.  What will it take to get you there?  Are you willing to make the sacrifice?  And are you willing to fail, and try again and again until you get there? 

I'll admit that the idea scares me, but I'm not going to dwell on it.  I'm just going to take one day at a time.  Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a chair that needs a bottom . . . 

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lady Bug



I received the BEST Christmas gift ever! It is cute, fun and inspirational for penning great stories!! And it cleans house! What more can a girl ask for?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Death Pixionary

(Taken from the glossary of Death Pixie terms contained in the official Death Pixie manual)

Pixie Chix (n.) :Death Pixies of the female sex.
Example: "They wanted me to work tonight, but my Pixie Chix come first."

Hot Off the Brain: (adj.) Unrevised, in purest first draft form. (See Also: "page puke")
Example: "I'm warning you, this is hot off the brain. And I hadn't even had my coffee yet."

New Entry:

Protagony: (n.) The state of extreme unhappiness through which all protagonists must pass as the plot becomes more complicated.
Example: "I think I'll give Cicely about two more chapters of protagony before the climax."

(Note: In some instances, according to context, may also be used to describe the agony the author feels when trying to find a workable plot solution to the protagonist's dilemma.
Example: "God! I'm in total protagony here. How am I supposed to get Cicely and Ander back together before I wrap this puppy up?")

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Quote of the Day/WisCon

"Do your best to make it happen."
-- fortune-cookie fortune taped to my laptop

I got that fortune last year, dining with fellow Death Pixies at the Chinese restaurant near our hotel during WisCon. I thought of it last night as I bought my WisCon membership for 2009. How wonderful to think about Spring on a cold December night!

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Years ResoWhat?

I must confess, I am the worst at following through with my New Year's Resolutions.
In fact, if anyone would look at my sore card for New Years Resolutions, it would read unfulfilled resolutions 484,384 and fulfilled 2. I think it would be only two (and I am being kind with myself.) So, before I post them for the world (and our select audience) to read, I better think about it long and hard. To be continued....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Plotting a Series?

Does anyone know of good resources about plotting a series? I can find plenty about plotting a stand-alone novel, but not much that addresses the specific challenges of plotting, say, a trilogy-- for example, how do you construct a character arc that stretches over several books? Any tips on handling exposition when you need to remind the reader of all that happened in a previous book? I have read a lot of good series, but wonder if there is any material out there that talks about the craft of writing one. Thanks for any help you can give me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

M T Anderson/ Quote of the Day

I was sad to miss amazing YA author M T Anderson's speech at the Minneapolis Central Library tonight, but happy to catch his interview earlier this evening on MPR. Today's quote comes from that. When asked why he wrote YA he said "Some people are actually children who just happen to be grown up." I thought that was a great explanation :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Years Resolutions, Baby!

Well, Death Pixies (and allies in the blogosphere) it's that time of year again: time for New Years resolutions! What are your writing goals for 2009? Putting them in writing helps to make them concrete and helps us all to encourage each other and keep each other accountable. Post your goals to the blog, put them in the comments of this post, or email them to a friend if you're feeling shy. This is at least our third year of New Years resolutions in the Death Pixies and they are almost as important as kissing somebody at midnight. So, what are you waiting for?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Quote

“The images of myth are reflections of the spiritual potentialities of every one in us. Through contemplating these, we evoke their powers in our own lives.”

Joseph Campbell – Power of Myth

Deep Thoughts on a Snow Day

Lately, for my free time I’ve been reading, Joseph Campbell. This is not my first time through Campbell. I first was introduced to his work in AP humanities in 11th grade, studied him in college. I have to admit as an adult, his writings have become more profound. In fact, I venture to say I do understand his ideas far better
.
While reading, The Power of Myth, today, I was metaphorically hit by a train. In the first 10 pages of the book, Campbell talks about how important stories are to society. The plight of being human is NOT about the seeking the meaning of life but the experience of what it means to be alive.

The meaning for life and death are woven into the mythologies of a culture. There is inherent need for people to understand life and what happens after death. It is through story that helps explain our existence and understand what happens to us in our daily life.

Because our world has been demythologized we are left with particular rites of passage for childhood to adulthood. Leaving youth to emulate gangster culture, gossip girl and sex and city culture and other stories they see on television.

All of this brings to my point:
How important writers and storytellers are to our society. We have been given the gift to create worlds and to pen stories that will help people understand themselves and the world better.
We are in an amazing time period to be spec fiction writers. People are hungry for these stories!
As oracles we should use our gift wisely.

(P.S. This thought has inspired not only to write more but to actually FINISH my stories!!!)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Do you write what you would most like to read or what you find most amusing to write?

These are often different for me and sometimes opposite. It's easy and fun to write horror and anything gory, but I would never, ever read it. I like to read happy endings, I like to write miserable stories where everyone dies dramatically. I come up with concepts that make me chortle while I type, but which I personally would skim. Do you have this issue? What do you do?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Joss Whedon on Heroines

Here's a link to Sheerly Avni's interview with Joss Whedon for Mother Jones (from there you can download a podcast of their conversation). He speaks to a few of the issues related to movies, television shows and comics with female protagonists, as well as the basics of telling a great story. Let's just say he's a man with a mission who's work always fulfills the Bechdel Rule.

Can't wait for the premier of Dollhouse in January!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Black Swan Turning Points

Just wanted to point out an interesting conversation going on about turning points at Jennifer Crusie's website. Crusie defines a turning point as "an event that swings the story in a new direction, moving the protagonist to change so much that she can’t return to where she was at the beginning."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Play Alice

A bit ago I posted a link to a Publishers Weekly article about paranormal YA that asked where the werewolf stories are. I have been asking myself the same thing, and I have a prediction to make. I predict that in the future, "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer will write a novel set in the Twilight reality, but featuring more traditional werewolves (I mean ones who involuntarily change by the phase of the moon, not Jacob-type werewolves who can shape-shift at will). I'm saying this because, in the last book, Breaking Dawn, she bothers to explain that those traditional werewolves do exist in her world. There is no plot reason for her to explain this. It comes as a complete aside, during the climax of the last novel in a saga. Most authors and editors would have cut it because it doesn't serve a purpose. But I'm betting she's setting something up. And why am I posting it here? Because I want you all to tell me how clever I am when it happens. You heard it here first, Twilight fans! Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog :)

The Perfect Example

A while back, I posted my "blockbuster YA theory"-- an observation that, in a lot of chart-topping YA books, protags have "enviable problems,"big problems that are inextricably linked to major perks. The protags never fully enjoy the perks, but the readers certainly do, and I think that is what makes these books so charming. Well, I had to revisit my theory for a second because I am reading Meg Cabot's new book "Airhead" and I think it is the best example yet! The smart but mousy YA protag is killed in an accident, but her brain is able to be transplanted-- into the body of a teenage super-model! The protag spends a lot of time freaking out about her situation, only half aware of the fact that gorgeous guys are throwing themselves at her, she is breathtakingly beautiful, and she now earns $20,000 a day. I actually really like this book because it isn't afraid to go over the top, and yet the protag, Em, is extremely sincere and the question raised is a good one: Are we our looks? Since it is the purest example of the theory yet, I am thinking of renaming it the Airhead Theory. Obviously, Meg Cabot is still the queen of writing YA that taps into readers' fantasies.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Podcasts

For those of you with an mp3 player and some free time, I thought I'd post some links to podcasts of interviews with authors and editors.

Bantam Dell Publishing Group Author Podcasts (including an interview with Galen M. Beckett, author of The Magicians and Mrs. Quent)

Harlequin (interviews with both writers and editors)

iTunes has a series called "Meet the Author" which includes interviews with Chuck Palahnuk and George R. R. Martin.

Tor Podcasts (do I need to say more?)

Penguin Podcasts (very interesting podcast with Clay Shirky author of Here Comes Everybody)

Bechdel Rule

Do you think that the Bechdel Rule applies to novels as well as movies?

1. A movie has to have at least two women
2. Who talk with each other
3. About something other than a man

Here's the link to the Dykes To Watch Out For comic that created the Bechdel Rule


Thursday, November 20, 2008

May Vampires Never Die

Well, with the new Twilight movie coming out at midnight I thought it would be fitting to post this interesting Publisher's Weekly article on the trends in paranormal YA. I admit, articles like this always make me a little nervous. Since I want to work in paranormal YA more than anything, and since I have two works in progress in that sub-genre, I never want to read anything that suggests that the trend is on the wane. I work pretty slowly due to limited writing time so I know my chance of hopping on a hot trend is pretty much nil and I usually try to ignore "trend reports" for that reason. But I thought this was really interesting.
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6615438.html?industryid=47139

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Paging Dr. Jung

What does it mean if you dream that you have been committed to an institution for people with "King Arthur related mental illness." As you tour the grounds, you find that some of the other inmates have gone so far as to turn themselves into stags, unicorns and fae. Some are wearing crooked paper mache dunce caps with strange symbols on them. When you ask the nurse what the symbols mean, she gives you a disapproving look and says curtly "It means 'does not wish to be cured.'"
I had that dream last night. When I woke up, I thought sleepily, "The dunces must be the writers."

Pleasant dreams! :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stephenie Meyer Wrote a Bestselling Series (and all I got was this semi-cool t-shirt)

On Friday I took my four year old son, Harrison, to the Mall of America to spend some quality time on the Blue's Clues ride. On the way to the amusement park, we passed Hot Topic. Now, ordinarily at 11 am on a Friday, Hot Topic would be empty, but this particular day it was crawling with excited goth teenagers who had, evidently, skipped school. Since I consider black-clad teenage truants to be my reader demographic, I'm always interested in what they are doing. Turns out three stars of the new Twilight move (the actors playing Jacob, Laurant and Victoria) were coming that afternoon to sign autographs. To get an autograph, you had to buy a thirty dollar t-shirt which entitled you to a ticket which entitled you to stand in line at a particular time. When we passed Hot Topic at 11, they were still selling t-shirts, but when we passed again at noon all seven hundred t-shirts had sold out, and the kids who had bought them were joyfully taking over the mega-mall, decked out in Twilight merch (some of it hand made) and having loud, spirited debates about who was cooler, vampires or werewolves. Needless to say, I was thrilled. It was like wandering into a Twilight con! Watching them play, I felt three things:
1. Envious of them for their ability to just give themselves over joyously to someone else's fantasy and make it their own. I don't have much experience of fan culture and I usually find it kind of overwhelming, but I love the community and the no-holds-barred participation.
2. Envious of Stephenie Meyer. I don't care much about fame and fortune (they both have major drawbacks) but the ability to suck people into your fantasy world? That's priceless. That's a gift unto itself. Getting other people to play your game has got to be the ultimate rush.
3. Proud, in a weird way, that YA fantasy is such a force in pop culture. When I went to see Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist at the movies a few weeks ago, I passed movie posters for Inkheart and City of Ember and Twilight. Twilight alone has over 7000 t-shirt designs on cafe press. Things like that make me realize how hungry for fantasy the world really is.

So, sorry Heather, I didn't buy you a "Team Jacob" t-shirt (although there's always the holidays coming...;) I did, however, get something out of my trip to the mall. Now I'm going to go write.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Confessions of a Geek

I'm going to see Twilight at midnight on Thursday.
I will see the Watchman, Coraline, and Spirit, at midnight, when are released as well.


I feel much better now.
Thank you!

Character Mix Tape

How about this: if your character were to make a mixed tape (CD, iPod mix, I am dating myself here), for another character, what would that tape sound like? I think this would be a great exercise especially if the characters are romantically linked or are extremely close friends.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Smile Break

Need a break? Want to feel inspired to make up some original plot? Check out the world's cutest little French girl as she improvises her own fairy tale at http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1890164 I think this kid's a future Death Pixie, don't you?

Does your work have a soundtrack?

I've been experimenting with giving my novel-in-progress a soundtrack.  This is not an uncommon thing- many writers do so, often posting what they've been listening to so that you, the reader, can listen in and see how it all fits together.  Or so you may become even more of a Rabid Fan if you are in to such things.

I don't usually listen to music when I write, at least not lately.  For awhile now my life has been loud and noisy and chaotic, and music often seems like just one more layer of noise and chaos.  It's hard enough to get my mind into the writing place without a distraction like music.  When I do listen to music, I'm rather picky about it - it needs to have a defined mood, and that mood has to fit the scene I'm working on.  It can't have words, or at least not so many that they interfere with my ability to write words (some of you will understand this conflict, some will not).  

While it's chaos and noise that drive me away from listening to music in general, it is actually those same elements that are driving me toward a soundtrack for this novel.  Specifically, because my writing happens in fits and starts, fit in between other things, I wanted to find a way to get my brain to the writing place as quickly as possible, no matter where or when I was writing.  I want the music to be a grounding force for me - a marker on the path that gets me oriented and moving forward.

Music also helps with other things - there's the aforementioned mood of a piece that can reflect and amplify the mood I want for my scene.  Pairing the music to the setting or the style of the story, like a movie soundtrack, can help to anchor you within the world and remember how it should feel and sound.  The energy of music can feed into the most tired of minds and propel them forward through clouds of fatigue.

I've also found another interesting use for music.  To start my soundtrack, I'm assigning my major characters a theme song.  This is helping me to three-dimensionalize  them in ways I hadn't thought of before.  For instance, my serial killer's theme song is Schism by Tool because the line "I know the pieces fit 'cause I watched them fall away" says exactly the right thing about her mental state.  The second I realized that, I knew how to tell her story.

How do you use music in your work?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Quotes

"The best thing in the world, she said, was to be quite sure of yourself and not expect admiration from other people..."

The Ugly Duckling - A.A. Milne

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Life is a (Sci-Fi) Cabaret

Okay, okay, I know. It's hard enough to find time to write, never mind have a social life on top of that, and I am the last one to propose going out since my children generally keep me under house arrest (um, I mean, "since I prefer to spend quality evening time with my children" :) But that said... Patrick's Cabaret in South Minneapolis is having a special sci-fi themed variety show Friday and Saturday, Nov 14 and 15, at 8pm. It will feature, among other things, covers of favorite sci-fi themes, alien-inspired dance, and local b-boys doing a set inspired by the Dune Chronicles. (You just don't see that every day, right?) If you've never been to Patrick's, you owe it to yourself to go. It's a great eclectic mix of avant garde performers. There are no auditions, but the quality of the work is always high and the evening is always fun. The cabaret is run by volunteers, so all the gate goes to the performers. This show is $10 at the door. You can reserve in advance at tickets@patrickscabaret.org I've had the pleasure of going to Patrick's since way back in the day, when it used to be in Patrick Scully's apartment and it is honestly one of my favorite things about Minneapolis.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Quote of the Day

Goodness but I've been lax about our Quote of the Day lately. We will have to start calling it "Semi-Annual Quote" soon! Shame on me.
Todays quote:

"Erv had a gift for optimism. He believed what he wanted to. Ruth said that if Erv tossed a ball in the air three times, tried to hit it three times with a bat, and three times missed, he would, undisturbed, conclude: Wow, what a pitcher." --Steve Fishman


Just for today, try seeing yourself and your work-in-progress in the best possible light. Declare yourself a genius and see what it does to your work.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Library Books

Today, I visited my hometown library, which I still have a library card. I checked out an older book that still contained a library check out card. The book was first checked out in 1959. The last return date stamped on the card was 1984. As archaic as this system may have been, still holds great memories of summers spent in the library. The first memory that came to mind was: how sore my hand was after writing my name 54 times in order to check out the entire Nancy Drew series. To this day, I am NOT sure how I was able to get away with checking out that many books at once. Much less, how I managed to carry the entire series home. I believe it took me five trips, six blocks and three of them were up hill.
Tomorrow’s local library adventure will be tracking down the Nancy Drew series to see if the check out card is still in there. ☺

Reminder



Get out and VOTE tomorrow (Nov. 4th)!!!!!!!!

Shameless Plug



A friendly reminder to all: patronize your local library. ☺

Friday, October 31, 2008

Books That Go Bump In The Night

It's Halloween, baby. Samhain. All Hallowes Eve. The holiday that put the "death" in Death Pixie and my most favoritest day of the year! I thought it would be an excellent time to chat about some books that are so good they're spooky and so spooky they're good. I love paranormal. Pretty much, if it involves vampires, werewolves, zombies, or ghosts, I'll read it. Sometimes, it sucks. But sometimes you find something wonderful. Here are my recent favorites:
Generation Dead, Daniel Waters debut novel, is set in an America where some people who die as teenagers inexplicably come back to life as zombies. These kids have trouble moving and speaking and face huge amounts of prejudice from a society that fears them. But some of them continue to go to high school and try to lead normal "lives." Although the premise is outrageous, the book is an emotionally real story of how one group of friends goes from being apathetic towards the zombies, to being advocates for zombie rights. As a mom of a special needs kid and as a queer person, I resonated with this story of teenagers uniting against hate crimes. Plus, I love it when authors let their character's blog, and Water's character Tommy has an awesome blog at www.mysocalledundeath.com.
Night Road, by A.M. Jenkins is one of those vampire books that takes it to a whole nutha level. Her vamps, called "hemes" are afflicted with a disease that makes them crave blood and allows them to live forever. Hyper-cautious, disconnected Cole is saddled with the training of a newly made rookie heme named Gordon and, through that responsibility, comes to realize that, although his life has quantity, it doesn't have quality. The characters are extremely well drawn and there is a less-is-more, indie movie aesthetic about the book-- a lot of it takes place in cars and motel rooms in the middle of the night, and the characters have no choice but to deal with each other and themselves.
And speaking of vampire books that are unique, Scott Westerfeld's Peeps and The Last Days
(stand-alone novels set in the same reality) give a fantastic scientific explanation for all the elements of the vampire myth-- plus lots of subterranean adventure, creepy cats, non-fiction asides about parasites, and the chance to revel in your rock star fantasies. What other books offer all that in one package?
But what if Halloween for you is not so much about monsters? Maybe fall is more a time to reflect on life, death and the afterlife? Then have you read Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere? It offers a brilliantly original vision of life after death-- which is a lot like life before death, except that we age backwards and have avocations instead of jobs. This lovely, literary novel is about
moving on, forgiving, and embracing life and it made me cry. Nuff said.
I could go on forever about paranormal books that make my day. But what about you? Any favorites? I hope you curl up with one tonight.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

NaNoWriMo

It's that time of year, time to sign up for National Novel Writing Month.

It's become a Death Pixie tradition fueled by coffee, coke and potato chips. This year I'm very excited about the professional writers giving Pep Talks over the course of the month. They include Piers Anthony, Meg Cabot, Philip Pullman and Jonathon Stroud. That alone is worth the price of admission (free!).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mama J

Tonight, I was on the phone talking to my mother (Mama J, as I affectionately call her.) I was talking to her about school and entering into a MFA program in the next two years. Her response was the following:

Mama J
You and the rest of the Pixies, need to focus on getting published. Mother Johnson has spoken.

(Yes, in my family we often refer to our selves in the 3rd person present.)

Me
Amen.

I think the universe was throwing a smack down via Mama J. (God knows I am easily distracted by sparkly objects, ideas and boys.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Blockbuster YA Theory

I love to read the big "blockbuster" best-seller YA and middlegrade series and try to figure out what makes them tick. Why is "Twilight" or "Harry Potter" a phenomenon? What put "The Princess Diaries" in the NY Times number one spot? Why do kids write Rick Riordan every day to tell him that Percy Jackson changed their lives? Of course there's no one answer. The thing that makes a book go super nova may be as mundane as the publisher's promotions budget or as esoteric as tapping into a zeitgeist-- the book hit at the right cultural moment. But I think there are certain things that flip a YA reader's switch, and my theory is that one of them is this: the protagonist has to have an "enviable problem." Are you in love with a vampire who is driven to kill you (Twilight)? That's a problem. Is he also gorgeous, ageless, drives a porche and has a psychic sister who can predict the stock market? That's an enviable problem. The darkest wizard the world has ever known wants you dead (Harry Potter)? Problem! You're a hero to a secret magical subculture and a legacy kid at a school for magic? Enviable problem. Does every monster in the Greek myths want to eat you (Percy Jackson)? Too bad. Is it because you're dad is secretly the god Poseidon, and you can now control the waters and command flying horses? A problem anyone would envy.
The tricks are this: First, the problem and the enviable aspect must be inseparable. You can't have one without the other. Don't give your protag a killer problem, and them give them something cool and enviable in some other, unrelated aspect of their lives. It just won't work. Second, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, your protag can not revel in the enviable aspect of the problem. Harry Potter is never fully thrilled with his celebrity in the magical world. Bella Swan doesn't care about money or fancy cars. Percy Jackson may have a moment of feeling that it's cool to control the tides, but he's ambiguous and conflicted in his relationship with his divine father. The list goes on. The thing is, if your protag digs the enviable aspect of their problem too much, it will cancel out the negative part of the problem. The stakes will become too low, the reader won't care, and the story will jump the shark because it reads as wish fulfillment. More importantly, if the protag enjoys the perks too much they are claiming those perks for themselves-- and in effect taking them from the reader. As long as Bella Swan doesn't enjoy that new Ferrari Edward bought her, I can enjoy it. But if she starts to brag about how great her car is, it's not mine to enjoy any more. She has become someone I envy rather than someone I'm living through vicariously and so she has lost some of my sympathy.
This theory mainly works for fantasy YA (and there are many fantasy blockbuster YA novels) but also works with some non-fantasy that has a high wish-fulfillment aspect (Meg Cabot's Princess Diary series, Teen Idol, All American Girl, etc.) Of course it doesn't apply to everything, but I still think it's a fun game to play. Any thoughts?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My inner 13 year old



My inner thirteen year old is still on the ceiling after yesterday's events.

I managed to have my photo taken with one of my favorite author's Neil Gaiman.
This is a NOT so serious photograph, I purposely requested we take a fun picture.

This moment has inspired me to do the following:
1) Buy a real camera and actually use it.
2) Learn how to use Photo Shop.
3) Keep writing and sending stories out.

PS...Thank you Neil, for pausing to take this!

Before Bedtime

Last night, I went to see Neil Gaiman read from his latest book entitled, The Graveyard Book. While sitting in the audience I realized how much I enjoyed being read to. There is something utterly magical having words read aloud from the page paint pictures inside your head.

Growing up, my parents use to read us stories before bedtime. Truly, that was my favorite part of the day. When my parents quit reading to me, the time before bed evolved into my personal reading time. I read before bedtime until I went to college. (My pleasure reading was traded in for exploring the night life.)

Last night, made me realize how much I missed being read to. (I know there are audio books but it’s not the same.) I still read for pleasure but there is this aching void.

Who knows, I maybe calling up my favorite local authors and Death Pixies up for a bedtime story.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Joseph Campbell

I fell in love with Joseph Campbell in AP Humanities, 10th grade. I remember reading interviews with him and Bill Moyers thinking to myself, finally people who understand the power of story.
It was Joseph Campbell’s ideas on the journey of hero that taught me how to effectively plot my hero’s arc in my screenplays & stories.
Lately, I’ve had a string of stranger than usual dreams. In one particular dream, there is a Joseph Campbell book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, is sitting on a table. I open it up to a series of pages that are book marked with little post it notes. Now, here is the annoying thing, I can’t read what the little post it notes! The dream is reoccurring which makes it even more frustrating.
I’m not sure what this all means, only that I need to re-visit Campbell and continue to write my own mythology.
My interested to know from the Death Pixies: what, who inspires you to tell stories? When did you fall in love with stories?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

YA Fatigue

To be a writer, you have to make yourself vulnerable to critique. To write YA, you have to spend a lot of time reliving the awkwardness of your adolescence. Tonight those two things combined into a perfect storm of insecurity for me. I have been writing and reading a lot of YA for this Loft class I'm taking and tonight I hit some sort of YA wall. I just couldn't stand to spend another moment in any one's fictional high school. I suddenly wanted to put on my most grown-up clothes and drive myself to a PTA meeting or something. I had OD-ed on cute quips and slang and prom dates and fights with parents. So I'm writing this to you folks to keep myself from writing any fiction tonight, because I'm afraid that if my insecure, vulnerable writer self spends any more time with my inner teenager, I may need therapy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Quote of the Day

Recently Charles Guarino, co-publisher of "Artforum" magazine, was quoted as saying that in the art world he has found "enough odd-ball, over educated, anachronistic, anarchic people to make me happy." That's pretty much how I feel about the Death Pixies in particular and about the world of science fiction and fantasy writers in general. My four year old makes a distinction between "bad weird" (stuff he's afraid of) and "good weird" (stuff that's odd, but he likes it). Our little subculture is darn good weird.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Finding Creativity

The other night, I met with an intuitive that coaches writers. We talked a great length about (my) creativity and writing process. I have to admit she helped me understand how my mind works (and accept it.) Maybe this will help you too.
What helps my creativity process:
Creativity for myself comes in waves. Some days are better spent editing & revising, while others are best spent giving birth to new ideas.
Exercising on a regular basis helps focus my energy.
Getting out of the house to write.
Meditation.
Traveling.
Beginning my day with writing, so, the rest of the day can be spent guilt free accomplishing domestic duties.
Storyboarding my ideas out. (Spend less time on how and more time on creating.)

Through the last three years, I’ve been activity with the Death Pixies. I’ve attended countless workshops on process. There is a common message that appears over and over again: find what works for you, it’s a matter of trail and error to discover what helps and hinders.
Have realistic expectations of yourself. If you don’t write because of (insert reason here) acknowledge it. Own it. (Don’t beat yourself up) Move on.
Happy writing!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

31 days of early morning insanity

Oh dear.  I may have finally become one of those writers.  You know, the ones who gleefully say that they get up at 0430 to write and get 18 pages done before breakfast?  Of course, an awful lot of those people are published, so who am I to argue against success?

My life has become absolutely insanely busy over the last month or so, and shows no signs of letting up.  My former schedule left writing until the end of the day, and more often than not that meant it didn't happen.  While I would typically say that late evening is my best creative time, when that evening is the end of a crazy day of meetings, errands, and other insanity there just isn't any brain power left.

Darned if I'm going to let my job get my best brain power.  Especially if it doesn't need it.  So I'm trying something.  For the month of October, I'm getting up early.  5 am, to be exact.  And pounding out a few pages over oatmeal and a cup of tea.  It's not my first choice, but it's what I need to do.  And I've promised myself that if October 31 rolls around and I hate this, I can try Plan B (whatever that means).

I'll keep you posted on how it goes.  In the meantime, send your early AM creative vibes and caffeinated beverages my way - I'm going to need all the help I can get.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Helpful Links

Just in case you were wondering what the correct form of address is for the younger son of the Duke of Marlborough....

Guide to British noble titles and the etiquette surrounding them
http://www.chinet.com/~laura/html/titles02.html

Guide to European Imperial, Royal and Noble titles
http://www.heraldica.org/topics/odegard/titlefaq.htm


There's a balance between authenticity and read-ability when dealing with characters' names. Watching Casablanca last night drove me crazy. Humphrey Bogart's character is named Rick Blaine, but in service of the rule of calling your character only one name, the script had everyone calling him Mr. Rick, Monsieur Rick, and Mr. Richard. Annoying, but possibly the origin of a new drinking game...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Writers of the Future Podcast

Towards the end of our Writers of the Future experience, our group was fortunate enough to do a podcast for Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing. It was extremely fun and covered a huge amount of ground. We gave our best advice to anyone entering the contest, talked about all we learned at the workshop, got some insight into the process the illustrators went through, and a lot more.
You can hear it at:
http://adventuresinscifipublishing.com/2008/09/aisfp-62-writers-and-illustrators-of-the-future

Monday, September 15, 2008

Launch Pad Part Deux

http://www.launchpadworkshop.org/

Launch Pad

I was babbling on about this last meeting. It was my intention to post this information on the website after the meeting, but I forgot.

So, here it is....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Quick Fix for the stuck

I've decided that when my plot stalls, my characters are stuck and my muse looses her voice. There is a little box that magically appears! This beautiful box contains a pair of patent red leather stiletto heel shoes. Now, it does NOT matter if my character female, male, monster, alien, spirit, young, old, dead, alive etc. They are going to take the shoes out and run. They will run until the muse speaks to me once again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Writers and their pens

Over at Justine Larbalestier blog writer's are talking pens. Let me just say, there's something about writers and pens that equals passion. For example, don't get me started talking about the difference between the Pilot Precise V7 vs. the Pilot Precise V5... Anyway, just wanted to let everyone know that Sharpie has come out with a pen that doesn't bleed. Let the stampede begin.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Quotes...

"your imagination is your preview of lifes coming attractions" -albert einstein

"words are your seeds in the tree of life" -unknown

WotF Launch Video

The launch video for Writers of the Future Volume 24 is up on YouTube. It includes clips of some of the presenter's speeches and the book trailer video, which I think is quite cool :)
Check it out at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyoQMpA168

The actual release of the book is scheduled for October (although I believe it's available as an aubiobook from audible.com now).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Young Adult Fiction Discussed

Last week on our local public radio station, a high school English teacher, an English professor and a pundit discussed which books they thought should be taught in schools. While theses experts noted that when teens are asked to list their favorite books, ninety-percent of the titles are fantasy and science fiction, they couldn't come up with a single title on their own. Boy, was that some awkward silence.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/09/05/midmorning2/

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

special thanks

Do to circumstances beyond my control I’ve had a week of forced rest. I’d like to take a moment, to thank the computer gurus’ for invention of the laptop. In between sleeping, reading my never-ending list of books & magazines, it is lovely to have the ability to roll over to a statically placed shrine (laptop) that holds a crucial link to the outside word (e-mail) and also contains the very heartbeat of creativity (my stories).

Thank you computer gurus for having imagination, vision and not giving up! You have made the world a better place!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Quote for the Day

"Do it every day for a while. Do it as you would do scales on the piano. Do it by prearrangement with yourself. Do it as a debt of honor. And make a commitment to finishing things."

--Anne Lamott, quoting her father


"Wishes come true, not free."

--Stephen Sondheim, in "Into the Woods"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quote of the Day

"I never quite know when I am not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says 'Dammit, Thurber, stop writing!' She usually catches me in the middle of a paragraph."

--James Thurber

"But I mark my beginning as a professional biographer from the day when my bank bounced a check because it was inadvertently dated 1772."

--R. Holmes

Lost in your work much? Have your mind send us a postcard from wherever it may be.

Book Pimpin'

Our friend Doselle has an awesome story out in the anthology THE DARKER MASK, and he's signing this week (on my birthday, no less!).  If you're in the LA area, check it out.  If not, well, buy it anyway.  It promises to be really cool. . . 

~picture to come!~


Just a reminder. The book signing for THE DARKER MASK (Tor Books 2008) is this weekend. Information is found below.  
DATE: SATURDAY, AUGUST 23RD.
TIME: 3-5PM
WHAT: A BOOK SIGNING FOR THE DARKER MASK 
 
WHERE: MELTDOWN COMICS in HOLLYWOOD.
                 7522 Sunset Blvd. 
                 Los Angeles, Ca 90046
                 323. 851.7223
Publishers Weekly describes The Darker Mask as: "Themed along the grayer areas of superhero fiction, this anthology of 18 original stories nonetheless covers a wide spectrum. Deceptively simple and entertaining while never skimping on serious topics, this tight anthology will satisfy any superhero enthusiast." I think that's likely true and, if not, the anthology features stories by well-known luminaries in the mystery and science-fiction genres, including Walter Mosley (Devil in a Blue Dress), so I'm sure there'll be something in it even for the discerning lit-snobs among you. 
There's coverage and further information available to be found here at the LA TIMES link: DM Book Signing

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Aurrgh!!

So I've been working on writing anywhere and everywhere, and generally just writing a lot.  Over the past week I've gotten into a groove where I wander over to the local public library to write over lunch.  It's perfect - 4 minutes from desk to desk, no one asking you to buy food or drink, no co-workers looking over your shoulder, free wifi, and all the reference books you might need. 

I just found out that this branch of the library will be closing on Sunday for remodeling, and will not reopen until January.  I'm so disappointed!!  Now I'm back to going out for lunch, or writing in the breakroom at work, neither of which really appeals.  

Has your favorite writing place ever disappeared?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Home from Writers of the Future

Well, I'm back from my adventure at Writers of the Future-- at least, my body is back in Minneapolis. I think my brain is still somewhere in beautiful California! Writers of the Future was a fantastic experience! The workshops were top quality with lots of "aha!" moments for me (and quite a few "ha ha" moments, too. We laughed a lot this week!) Tim Powers and K.D. Wentworth, who lead the workshop, are both extremely funny and have a gift for teaching. I took a ton of notes and seem to get something new out of them each time I reread them. The workshop is intensive and we covered a huge amount of ground. The professional writers who came to speak to us were wonderful-- very generous with their time, approachable and full of good advice about both the art and the business of writing. And my fellow WotF Volume 24 peers were an incredible group of talented, easy to like individuals. Many of the workshop leaders commented on how close our group was and how quickly we bonded (I think it was my friend David Parish-Whittaker who compared us to a litter of puppies :) I am thrilled to be in the same volume as these good folks and eager to keep in touch with them all.
The anthology itself is also a thrill. I read many volumes of WotF while entering the contest and my (slightly biased :) opinion is that WotF 24 holds its own with the best of them. The stories are extremely varied and I am enjoying finally having the chance to read every last one!
I'll try to blog more about WotF soon. At the moment, I have to actually write some fiction before I go try to make up my sleep debt!

New Inspirations

In short, I adored WorldCon. I came away very inspired to have my work published.

The biggest inspiration came from Melinda's Snodgrass' panel on screenwriting and Hollywood.
For those of you who don't know, Melinda is a professional screenwriter turned novelist. In this particular panel, she talked about her personal writing process. The following is a bit of advice she gave us:

(Please note: this is paraphrased from my notes)

We are all writing on limited time.
You must break your story down. (She gives her process for breaking a story down)
Don't waste time, don't get lost.
Remember writing is an art AND a job.

Since, I've been back, using her method for breaking a story down. For me, this particular method works well.

I can wake up in the morning/come home from work and know-where my character is, who are the supporting characters in the scene, what action is happening, and where my character is headed, etc. Knowing the basics has made my writing time much more productive.

In fact, today, I was able to write five chapters!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

WorldCon!!

Three members of the Pixies have arrived safely at Denvention 3 and have jumped right in to the thick of things.  Heather, Norma and I are happily gorging ourselves on all the yummy knowledge, and getting in a lot of walking miles, too.  Downtown Denver is very pedestrian-friendly, which is so nice!

 I'm blogging more extensively over at my personal blog, and I'm sure we'll all stop in here a few times over the weekend to check in.  I hope all of you are having fabulous weeks/weekends as well!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Federations Anthology

John Joseph Adams, assistant editor for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, has a call for submissions for a new anthology.

From Star Trek to Star Wars, from Dune to Foundation, science fiction has a rich history of exploring the idea of vast intergalactic societies, and the challenges facing those living in or trying to manage such societies. The stories in Federations will continue that tradition.

What are the social/religious/environmental/technological implications of living in such a vast society? What happens when expansionist tendencies on a galactic scale come into conflict with the indigenous peoples of other planets, of other races? And what of the issue of communicating across such distances, or the problems caused by relativistic travel? These are just some of the questions and issues that the stories in Federations will take on.


Here's the link to the submission guidelines.

Monday, August 4, 2008

WotF Count-Down

Hey! Less than a week before I leave for the Writers of the Future workshop and award ceremony in California! I am extremely excited-- although right now I'm pretty wrapped up in the nitty-gritty of getting both myself and my daughter Shanika packed to go out of town at the same time. (Shanika will be spending the week at a sleep-away camp for kids with autism.) Dress code for WotF week is supposed to be "upscale casual" and, while everything I own qualifies as casual, very little qualifies as upscale, so packing is a bit of a challenge :) I am so eager to meet the other writers and to get everything I can out of the workshop. I am going to try my best to blog about the experience here-- although, in looking at other people's blogs about WotF, I have noticed a trend: People tend to blog the first day and not at all after that! Hmmm... I think it's safe to assume that we'll be kept busy... :)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

WorldCon 2008

The pocket program for WorldCon is on line, and now that I've stopped hyperventilating, I thought I'd post a link to the website.

http://denvention.org/

Thursday at 5:30 has both Connie Willis and Lois McMaster Bujold signed up for Kaffeeklatches. I am prepared to elbow my way to the front of the line for that! Minnesota nice? Bah!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized.  Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistence."

- Daniel Hudson Burnham

Mr. Burnham was an architect and, perhaps more importantly, one of the first city planners.  I figure he knows a thing or two about plans big and small. . . 

So how big are your plans?  Are they big enough for your dreams?  

Friday, July 25, 2008

Publisher's Weekly Sneak Peek

You should treat yourself t0 Publisher's Weekly's sneak peek of children's and YA books coming out in Spring 2009. Since it's arranged by publisher, it's a nice chance to get a feel for what each house is publishing, what their individual tastes are. Also, it's a great way to build your reading list in advance. (I didn't know Cynthia Leitich Smith was coming out with a sequel to "Tantalize"! I'm sure you'll find something to look forward to, too :)

The link is http://www.publisherweekly.com/article/CA6579808.html

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quote of the Day

(On being condescended to as a YA writer) "I recall a number of people looking down their noses at me when I explained what I do for a living, as if I painted watercolors of cats or performed as a clown at parties."

--Mark Haddon
author of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"

"A lot of people have no idea that right now YA is the Garden of Eden of literature... I thought I had been condescended to as an Indian. That was nothing compared to the condescension for writing YA."

--Sherman Alexie
National Book Award winner for "The Absolutely True Diary
of a Part-Time Indian"

Both these quotes come from a recent New York Times article about the changing definitions of YA and the enduring stigma against YA writers. To read the article in full, go to http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/books/review/Rabb-t.html?em&ex=1216958400&

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Writing more art less wrench

The most difficult thing about writing for me and my current and foreseeable lifestyle is that it's a slow burn. You just keep plugging away at it day after day. With the limited amount of time that I spend on it, I don't get very far, very fast. My current goal is to write five hours a week. I'm really a "get in, get it done, get out" kind of guy at least when it comes to projects around the house. Writing isn't like that. It's a long grind.

Of course, I don't like household projects. I don't know what I'm doing when I start. I try to study up ahead of time, but there are often surprises along the way, usually unpleasant. This parallels my writing experience, too. I don't know what I'm doing. It seems like hard work, and I don't enjoy it. Conversely, in domestic projects, I usually learn a lot, and I hope to do the same with writing. However, house projects are a lot more about hard knocks, and that kind of learning isn't subtle, and so it cannot be missed. It's hard to ignore how you should have shut the water off before disconnecting the pipe when it's spurting across the floor. With writing, it's harder to pinpoint why the story didn't work.

I hope that writing for me becomes more like practicing music. I'm reasonably knowledgeable about music, and I like practicing. I can do that for half an hour a day or more without complaint. There is more immediate feedback with music, and it also seems to come together in a reasonable time frame. I'd like my writing to be more like practicing a piano piece than fixing a leaky toilet.

Jason

Monday, July 21, 2008

And now for something a little different

This isn't so much about writing as storytelling. You have to watch this totally amazing video acting out/retelling all three of the original Star Wars movies. The three members of the George Lucas Appreciation Society are amazing.

http://www.wired.com/entertainment/hollywood/multimedia/2008/07/gallery_star_wars_remakes?slide=6&slideView=8

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Good Advice

Never stop writing.

When you are done with one project move on to the next.

Have a separate time set aside to research, send out manuscripts and network.

Quote of the Day

"The legend that characters run away from their authors-- taking up drugs, having sex operations and running for president-- implies that the writer is a fool with no knowledge or mastery of his craft. The idea of authors running around helplessly behind their cretinous inventions is contemptible."
--John Cheever

(Say what?? "Cretinous inventions"?? If my characters weren't so busy running for president, they might take offense at that...)

"Many of my characters are fools and they are always playing tricks on me and treating me badly."
--Jorge Luis Borges

"In a sense, you build a corral for your characters to run around in. The fence keeps them confined to the limitations of the plot. But where they run inside the corral is a function of each character's freedom to be what he/she wants within the confines of the plot."

--Ronald B. Tobias
"No surpise for the writer, no surprise for the reader."

--Robert Frost

Tell the truth: do your characters run the show? Do you like it that way or do you want to call the character version of "Nanny 911"? When was the last time a character really shocked you? Did you keep it in the story, or did it wind up on the cutting-room floor?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Perfect Time?

Never feel guilty about taking time out of your hectic schedule to write! I know there are household chores to do, children to attend to, spouses/partners/friendships to nurture. Each day that passes that you do not write, is a day without writing.
Understand that there will never be a perfect time to write. There will always be something to do. If you find yourself overbooked give yourself permission to:

1) Be selective about how you spend your time.
2) Find an hour, once a week to feed your inner writer and write.

Remember no one else can pen your stories!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What's in your wallet?

Wallet, toolbox, laptop bag - whatever you call it, the items therein are invaluble to you as a writer.  They're the paraphernalia you can't live without, the tool/technique/talisman that saved a story.  The thing that keeps you writing, no matter what.  

Every toolkit is a little different, just like every writer is a little, well, different (I know what you're thinking.  Yes, we're that kind of "different," too.).  So what's in your toolkit?

I've got quite a few things in mine, and several new ones have made an entrance lately.  There is, of course, the trusty laptop.  The Moleskine notebook (they really are the best) and the Pilot G-2 gel pens.  The Edgar Allen Poe action figure who got me through NaNoWriMo and oversees all creative activity.  These are my old standbys.

The new ones?  Index cards and sharpies to help my scattered brain outline (in hopes that this will make for more tension and general freakiness).  Coffee shops, in all shapes and sizes.  Isaac the cat (who sits next to me and purrs & tells me I'm wonderful).  

It all matters.  It's all important, at least for a time.  And all only good while you apply the fundamental Rule #1 of writing: Apply butt to chair.  Write some stuff.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Question of Character

Hey, Death Pixies and accomplices of the Death Pixies, does anyone have a favorite "character questionnaire" that you use to create character profiles or to get to know your characters better? Would you be so kind as to post a link or give us some key questions? I don't usually use them, but I'm feeling the urge. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."

--Leonard Cohen

"Water which is too pure has no fish."

--Ts'ai Ken T'an

Repeat after me: Just for today I will set aside any perfectionism that inhibits me from sharing my writing with others. I will let the "good enough" word (or phrase or story or novel) be good enough.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

slash and burn

Hello rainbow and glitter people--let me ask you a question: is your second draft the same story as your first draft but told differently, or a different story with more or less the same plot and characters, or your just your first draft improved?

I am involved in some serious slash and burn here and it's freaking me out. In the meantime my son is playing with his Indiana Jones action figure, which for some reason involves singing Waltzing Matilda at the top of his lungs in falsetto. I feel like this is making me indecisive, but probably I could be indecisive even without help.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Quote of the Day

"The saving of our world from pending doom will come not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a non-conforming minority"

--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Okay, this quote doesn't have to do with writing, but I wanted to give you an American hero in honor of Fourth of July :) And of course it has everything to do with writing if writing is your creative way of staying maladjusted...
Have a very independent Independence Day!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Quote for the Day

Okay, does it qualify as a "quote for the day" if your kid said it?

The other day, my three-and-a-half year old son, Harrison, picked out a video to watch. We happened to have that show on DVD as well as video, so I started to put the DVD on for him.
He rolled his eyes at me in exasperation. "No, Mama," he said, "I want to watch it in hardcover!"
What do you think? Future publishing exec? :)

This reminded me of something that happened about a year ago. I was washing the dishes, elbow-deep in suds. Harrison wanted my attention and I told him I would be with him in just a moment. "Why, Mama?" He asked sweetly, "Do you need to write one more sentence?"

I guess he hears that a lot :)

Parents who write often focus on the time that our writing takes away from our kids. Little moments like these remind me of how lucky our kids are to grow up surrounded by people who speak fluent Book.
Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Quote of the Day

"We have to realize that a creative being lives within ourselves, like it or not, and that we must get out of its way, for it will give us no peace until we do."

--Mary Richards

"I don't have any idea why I started writing and I'm prepared to feel about it the same way I feel about, 'Why did you fall in love with your husband?' It's really better not to know. Grateful that I did and that's good enough."

--Amy Bloom
(best-selling author of "Away")

Word Count Junkie

Hi, my name is Nola (Hi, Nola!), and I am a word count junkie.

My first time was NaNoWriMo 2007.  It was great - a blank sheet of paper that I filled frantically over the course of 30 days.  It was good to be a junkie then, that was what NaNo was all about - those 50,000 glistening, glittering, brand-new words.

I told myself word counts were only for rough drafts.  Like in NaNo, they were a way to track my progress when progress shouldn't be measured by quality.  And for awhile, that was OK.  I dutifully tracked my words for each new story, for each new novel.  I checked the count before and after each writing session.  As long as the after was bigger than the before, it was good.

Then I started playing games with it.  "Just a few more words and you'll have an even 1000 for this session."  "Only 400?  Is that the best you can do?"  "Let's see if we can get to a nice round number."  "Just 50 more and you'll have crossed the threshold into the 5600's."  I needed more and more.  I began counting words per writing session, words per week, words per month.  I count new words, revised words, even blogged words.  And like any good junkie, I get excited as the number gets bigger and bigger.  I get nervous if it hasn't changed in a couple of days.  I've even started getting nervous if the difference over a period of days isn't big enough.

Recently, I've even started using the time log.  Now I can count words and minutes.  And I do . . .

Is there a cure for such madness?  I don't know that I want it if there is.  I just want more words. . . 

Monday, June 23, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We think, 'who am I to be brilliant, talented, gorgeous, fabulous?' Actually, who are we not to be?"

--Nelson Mandela
from his 1994 inaugeration speech


Nuff said.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Quote of the Day

"To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk."
-Thomas Edison

Edison held 1,093 patents by the time he died, so I figure he must know what he's talking about.  As writers, we often feel like what we've got in our heads is Grandma's Attic - full of all kinds of junk, most of it worthless and weird (six bins of rubber bands, anyone?), but with the occasional priceless diamond ring hidden deep in a corner.  

What Edison reminds us is that the quality of the junk isn't nearly as important as what you do with it.  With the right bit of imagination, a little ingenuity, and some hard work, even the strangest pile of junk can be made beautiful.

Happy writing, everyone!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Six Word Stories

Hey, we had so much fun writing six word stories, Hemmingway-style, a few weeks ago, I wanted to make sure you knew that Wired magazine ran a feature on them last year and that Smith Magazine published a best-selling anthology of six word stories, "Not Quite What We Were Intending: Six Word Memoirs By Famous and Obscure Writers" this spring. And if you want to go longer, sixsentences.blogspot.com is just that: six sentence stories. (Maybe our next exercise?)
Feel inspired? Post your sixers here so we can read them!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Free downloads of Hugo Nominees

Nola's post about the free books at TOR and EOS reminded me that John Scalzi has posted links to free downloads of four of the five books nominated for the Hugo award. This is for everyone going to WorldCon and can vote for the Hugo. You can check this out on his Whatever blog.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Free Books!

There are two imprints giving away free e-books at the moment.  While I'm usually an ink-on-paper girl when it comes to reading, they're books and they're free!!

Tor is in the process of launching a new website, and if you sign up at Tor.com, they'll send you a link to a book, wallpapers, and a newsletter every week.

Eos is celebrating their 10th anniversary with free books - it looks like one every other month.  The current selection is The Serpent Bride by Sara Douglass.  I had to do some weird things with Adobe Readers to be able to read the file, but all of it was free.  

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Call for YA Short Story

This doesn't give you much time, but Sherwood Smith is guest editing an issue of Coyote Wild that will feature young adult fiction. The deadline is July 1st. It would be a great opportunity to work with Smith, author of the Court Duel duology and the continuing Inda series. Here's the link to her blog post talking about the issue.

Just thinking that a couple people in our group might have some stories that would fit the YA category...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Quote for the Day

"When people ask me what qualifies me to be a writer for children, I say I was once a child. But I was not only a child, I was, better still, a weird little kid."
--Katherine Paterson


So, I suppose those of us who write YA should feel thankful that we were once weird teenagers? :)
Hope your inner (weird) child is alive and well and writing something new for us to read!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Great Local Con

I heard about The Fourth Street Fantasy Convention while swapping oh-my-gods about Shadow Unit with another fan. It's the return of what looks like a fantastic, small con with amazing pros attending. It's the child of Steven Brust, Elizabeth Bear is the Guest of Honor, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Eleanor Arnason, Sarah Monette and Ellen Klages will also attend.
"Fourth Street is a small convention for people who are serious about good fantasy and good books– serious about reading them, serious about writing them, serious about appreciating them in all their various forms. It’s also for people who are serious about having a good time. It’s a weekend of high-quality, high-intensity, mind-stretching fun, focused on books– there’s a single track of programming that is at the heart of it all. When everyone sees the same panels, it leads to fascinating conversations in the consuite, hotel bar, and corridors."

WisCon Debriefing

I think I've finally come down off the post WisCon high enough to talk about it.  :)  For me, this was most certainly the best WisCon I've been to yet, although I did it very differently than the prior two.

The first year was all about panels.  Get to as many panels as possible.  If a panel is good, feel lovely and wonderful, and get a little ego boost from picking so well.  If a panel is bad, sit and try to get something out of it anyway, and feel a little silly for not having chosen very well.  Meet friends for meals and discuss all this very, very seriously.  Oh, and make sure all those friends are people you know from home - don't branch out too much . . . 

The second year was about finding a comfort zone.  Go to a lot of panels.  Feel free to leave if it's not so great, or if you suddenly realize that three hours of sleep was not enough.  Learn to be "open to the universe," that is, be willing to smile and say hello to people in the hallways.  Strike up conversations with total strangers.  Realize that you can get any writer to talk for at least 20 minutes if you just ask "so what are you working on?"  Realize you are one of those writers.  Forgive yourself.

The third year was all about people.  I went to some panels, but not as many as prior years.  I met a lot of people, and wasn't nearly as shy.  I felt comfortable, and even more than that, I felt at home.  

What was really cool about this year was that the comfortable-ness let my brain do other things: make new friends, think about my own writing, come up with new ideas for stories and for my own process.  It's like my brain woke up, and it has yet to shut down.

I'd gone through a bit of a dry spell over the last few months.  I was writing, but it felt a bit stale, and I wasn't generating ideas or coming up with cool turns of phrase in the car like I had in the past.  This past week has been different.  I've had to pull out a notebook on my drive to work every morning (don't worry - I only write at stoplights, or in parking lots if the idea is really good).  The protagonist in my WIP is speaking to me again.  I've got short story ideas falling out of my ears, and all kinds of things I want to research.  It's exciting!

I think one of the biggest things I was reminded of at WisCon was that I'm part of something that is so much bigger than just me at my desk.  There are people out there who want to hear my stories, and I can't wait for theirs.  Hey, I even found out there are real people reading this blog!!  (Yay!!)

We always say that writing is a solitary process, but I was reminded of how untrue that really is.  For every writer there are readers, and other writers, and fans, and publishers, and editors, and we're all here because we love this stuff.  The stories are what keep us going and bind us together, and that is very, very cool.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What I did over my WisCon vacation

So, another WisCon has come and gone, and after a weekend of feminist science fiction and fantasy I'm ready to jump back into my writing projects with both feet. But first I'd love to hear about your WisCon experiences. What was your favorite pannel? What did you learn that the rest of us should know? Who said something that really made you think?

Hope a little bit of WisCon leaks into your "real" world!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

From the Slushmaster

I wish I could remember how I found this great post by the Slushmaster of Realms of Fantasty. I'm sure a shout-out is due to someone, so thanks!

In this post, the Slushmaster goes over the opening of the 14 stories he picked up from the slush pile. What I found most helpful was the fact that what caught him for each story was different. In fact each story was entirely original. He wasn't just looking for one kind of story and the only thing that they had in common was quality. They were good enough to be published in RoF.

So, yeah, I'm looking at a new place to start my WIP...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Take your writing seriously and yourself not seriously at all and you'll be fine."
--Linda Zinnen
author of the middlegrade fantasy
"The Dragons of Spratt, Ohio"

"Hey, it's making stuff up for money! Have fun with it and all will be well."
--John Lescroart
author of "The Suspect"

It's all good, right? :) Happy writing!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Plot Made Simple

As a person who is sometimes plot impaired, I've often tried to grok the essence of plot. Yesterday my fourteen-year-old niece Sage was over to the house. She was telling me all about her latest favorite YA novel. She spent a long time explaining the set up, introducing me to the protaganist, describing her family, etc. Then she said, "Then a lot of bad, weird things go down and they have to figure it out." I had to laugh. She had just summerized three fourths of the book in one sentence-- and pretty much summed up plot in general, don't you think?
Hope your writing is going well!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Two Brains

"I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter."  ~James Michener


I'm fully into rewrites these days, as are many of the Pixies.  I've discovered that I have two types of brain: Creative Brain and Rewrite Brain.  Creative Brain is a thrill seeker, devil-may-care type.  She likes to try anything, writing with big flourishes in multicolored ink.  "Oh, just throw it in there, we'll work it out later."  She's a big fan of "what if" and "how about" and "ooo look!"  She's got an energy about her - breezy and vigorous, obsessive and joyful and crazy.  

Rewrite Brain, on the other hand, is a more methodical soul.  She looks at things through a pair of half-moon reader glasses, a carefully chosen black pen in her hand.  She is a big fan of "oh really, are you sure about that?"  and "how does this character really feel about that?" and even sometimes "what the hell were you thinking?"  

I had thought that it was most important not to let these two ladies spend too much time together.  After all, they are at odds with each other - for every two building blocks of story Creative Brain builds, Rewrite Brain pulls down three.  Or so it seemed.  

Lately, though, I've been letting them play together.  Cautiously of course, but it seems to be OK.  Better than OK, really.  You see my first draft was a house of blocks built entirely by Creative Brain.  It was an OK house, but structurally shaky, and there were holes in the roof.  I tried to keep Creative Brain out of the process when I began to revise, allowing Rewrite Brain to push the blocks around and make what she could.  Problem was, when Rewrite Brain began to ask her questions, Creative Brain pushed her way back into the project, not just to answer the question but to suggest complete project overhauls.  

I balked at this at first - no way was I going to take all the detours suggested by Creative Brain.  I had my house, it just needed some tweaking.  Rewrite Brain was there for that.  But some of the suggestions were good, better than the original.  I began to see the finished product in my mind, and it was very, very pretty.  

So I've let them work together, my two brains.  We've had to rip a lot down and we've had to even redo some of the blueprints, but it's coming along.  And I must say, it's going to be beautiful . . . 

 

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Balancing Books & Baby

One of the Pixies was wondering how to balance writing and a new baby. In this month's Clarkesworld, Tim Pratt explains how he does it. I don't think that there's any special formula. We all just find our way. But I'm always fascinated to hear other people's stories.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Quote for the Day

"I've seen things you wouldn't believe and I believe in things you can't see."
--Danger Ranger

"I think sabotaging the mundane is the wonderful, subversive civic duty that we have as weird bohemians."
--Peter Doty


Go ahead, people. Weird your world.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Quote for the Day (sort of) Continued

To continue on Nola's theme of not-sucking-ness... I'm currently reading "If You Want to Write" by Brenda Ueland. It's great-- more philosophical than "how to." One of my favorite quotes is:

"And so no wonder you don't write, and put it off month after month, decade after decade. For when you write, if it is to be any good at all, you must feel free, free and not anxious. The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you're interesting or very important or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: 'Tell me more, tell me all you can, I want to understand more about everything you feel and know and all the changes inside and out of you. Let more come out!' And if you have so no such friend-- and you want to write-- well then you must imagine one."

I'm awfully glad I don't have to imagine you folks (I mean, I didn't imagine you... did I?:)

Friday, April 18, 2008

AgentQuery

AgentQuery is a database of agents and authors so you can look up your favorite author and find out who represents them. I thought that this would be very helpful for those of use who are getting ready to query agents.

http://www.agentquery.com/Link

Quote of the Day, sort of.

"You don't suck.  No really, you don't.  In fact you are even farther from sucking than you were this time last year when you didn't suck."

A very loose paraphrase from last night's Death Pixie meeting.  

I must say, this is a large part of why I belong to a writer's group.  I need people in my life whom I believe to be trustworthy resources to tell me that the voices in my head are wrong.  I really might actually be OK at this writing thing, I am improving, and most of all I don't suck.

Now to find a way to pound this tasty tidbit into my brain BETWEEN meetings . . .