Monday, March 31, 2014

Sooo Much to Do!

I was unusually social this weekend, getting together with a friend Friday night, then a choir retreat and a Frozen viewing party with some of the choir on Saturday. Which means that today will be mostly a hibernation day, though I may take a walk to the library for the exercise and because I have the new Terry Pratchett book on hold and must go pick it up. Guess what I'll be doing next weekend. Yes, I have that much self-restraint. I want to be able to enjoy it properly, so it will be a reward for meeting my goals this week.

If I'm very good, I'll finish this round of revisions on the steampunk book in the next few days, then I'll let it rest and work on the other book and do some business-type stuff before I do another round of tinkering. I slacked off late last week and now have to get back on track.

I also learned on Saturday that I have to work on the singing daily because singing that high well requires regular conditioning. No one else could tell I was struggling in my solo in the Saturday rehearsal, but it didn't feel good for me. So, daily scales at the very least.

This is when I need to make specific daily to-do lists in order to not panic about how much I need to do. I can do the necessary daily tasks without worrying about the big picture, which would just stress me out.

So, off to tackle the list!

Friday, March 28, 2014

In Deepest Mourning

I got a bit of bad news yesterday that shouldn't be life-altering, but it is. They're closing Television Without Pity, my biggest Internet addiction. This is a site that offers sometimes snarky and usually highly entertaining recaps and reviews of television episodes, but the main thing for me is the forums for discussing television.

Discussing TV is the main reason I wanted on the Internet in the first place. I'd started watching The X-Files, and while I had a long-distance friend who watched it, I didn't know anyone locally who did. It was such a twisty show where all the details mattered, and I wanted to hash out theories about what was really going on. Then I read a magazine article about an online community focused on the show, and I figured out how to use the Internet access at the university where I worked at the time to get on the newsgroup. I soon bought a modem (yes, they came separately then) and signed up for AOL so I could discuss from home. When the show was airing on Friday nights, I didn't want to wait until Mondays to go online and see what people were saying. From there, I got on other newsgroups for other shows, including Angel, where someone posted a link to a recap at a site that was called Mighty Big TV at that time.

I started reading recaps there, and then later found that they had forums. The Television Without Pity forums were heavily moderated -- a huge shift from the Wild West of Usenet -- and that meant there weren't any flame wars, the 'shipping wars were toned down, things stayed on topic, and people were required to write in full sentences with at least an attempt at real spelling (no text speak). That meant that the people who were willing to abide by those rules tended to be intelligent and literate. I felt a little intimidated, so I didn't get an account and start posting until Firefly was on and I had things I just had to say. Soon, I'd migrated most of my TV discussion over there, and I've posted enough over the past decade that I've reached "Stalker" level. Communities have formed there. I've made friends there who've become real life friends and whom I've traveled to meet up with. I've discovered that I was having online conversations with people I knew in real life.

Even though I currently have geeky friends who watch the same things I watch, there's something different about this kind of discussion than I've ever had in real life. My friends and I chat about the cool events that happen in shows. On TWOP, we delve into characterization, character arcs, symbolism, themes, plot developments, etc. I've learned a lot from doing this that I've applied to my writing, so I think it's made me a better writer to look at stories this way.

We have until the end of May with the forums, and people are already making plans about migrating elsewhere. I'm twitching a bit about the loss, but it may end up being good for me because if I use the moves elsewhere to change some of my habits, I should free up a lot of time that I could be devoting to my own work. But I know I'm going to start twitching when I think of something to post at TWOP and it isn't there anymore. I may do something with my Stealth Geek blog that I totally neglect and do some of my own snarky TV commentary there. But none of it will be the same. I'm already twitching.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Singing in Front of People

It was a pretty good choir night. We had the harpists come to teach the kids about stringed instruments and try playing them, which ate up about half our time, and we had only seven kids. I got them to kind of sing for a little while, and we managed to play the quiet game to see who got to be line leader to go see the harps for about two minutes. The quiet game is a thing of beauty. We see who can stay totally quiet the longest. The kids who normally won't shut up get hyper competitive and go totally quiet. They start twitching after a couple of minutes, so the quiet game has to be used sparingly. My co-teacher came up with this, and she's the mother of twins, so I imagine they play that often at their home.

Then at dinner I was sitting with my teen helper, and she found out I was an author. She's basically me at that age, into science fiction and drama and carrying a book around with her at all times. She got all excited and wanted to talk about writing, and I told her about how I use my drama experience in my writing to create characters and to make sure the dialogue sounds like actual speech.

I had to do my solo during choir rehearsal -- twice -- and I think it went pretty well. If I sang that way in the service, I'd be happy with it. This one was kind of scary because much of it is above the staff, and I've been singing second soprano for so long that my upper range was getting rusty and I wasn't even sure I was still using the proper technique. But after rehearsal, the choir director said he didn't detect any rust and that I didn't seem to be doing anything wrong. I've been practicing a lot and working on my upper register, so it's becoming easier. I'd forgotten just how high I can go without even going falsetto. After I sang, there were some comments about how weird it was that I was a second soprano doing that, and one of the other seconds said I should be singing first. But that gets touchy because the fact is that there are three seconds and 6-7 regulars who sing first. I can't really switch without one of the firsts switching to second, and I don't see that happening even if I can sing higher better than some of them. I've got a first soprano voice without the personality to go with it, so I sing second unless the director has something special for me to do, like this solo, since I'm the one willing to sing second. I'm hoping that if I practice this solo a lot in front of the choir during rehearsals, I'll be over the worst of the nerves when it comes time to do it for a bigger audience. The scary thing is that the song is a capella, so the accompaniment for the solo is a long chord being sung by the rest of the choir. We aren't doing it unaccompanied yet. It's a complicated piece that we aren't doing for another month, so there's a lot of rehearsal to go between now and then. Still, I was feeling pretty good about managing to sing really high by myself in front of people. I've generally sung notes like that as part of a choir -- the big finish to a song, usually, and it's easier to be confident surrounded by people.

The juggling of the writing projects is going pretty well. I'm revising about three chapters a day on one book and then writing a scene in the other book. I'm thinking about taking a dance class tonight, but it depends on how much work I get done, how I'm feeling, the weather, and other stuff I need to get done around the house.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Writing Processes

I've got another writing topic from questions asked on Facebook, this time about processes. It's hard to do much of a how-to on process because it's such an individual thing. The only "right" way to do it is the way that allows you to produce a book. There are some situations where one method might be preferable, but if that's not a way that works for you, it's not going to help. I suspect that most writers fall between any extremes, and I know that my process adjusts with each book, sometimes due to the nature of what I'm writing and sometimes due to what's going on in my life. If what you're doing isn't working for you as well as you'd like, it's worth a try to change some part of your process until things click. I'll touch on some of the major process categories, and even if it doesn't change the way you do things, you'll at least have a better idea of what writers mean when they talk about their processes.

Pantser vs. Plotter
The "pantser" or "seat of the pants" writer doesn't outline or plot a book in advance, but rather just starts writing based on an idea fragment, a character, a scene or a bit of dialogue and then figures out what the story's about as it's written. A plotter plans the plot and outlines the novel in advance, often doing in-depth character development, figuring out stages of the hero's journey, etc.

I generally say that I'm the worst of both worlds -- I can't really start a book until I've done a lot of pre-writing work about the characters and have a solid plot outline, but then I don't know what the book is actually about until I've written a draft, and then I do extensive rewriting. But it varies by book or series.

Writers can go to war over these two, with each side claiming superiority. The pantsers often claim to be "organic" writers whose process is pure creativity, while plotters claim to be more efficient. I think the truth is that pantsers may do more plotting than they realize, but it's in their heads instead of on paper. The plotters do their "pantsing" before they start writing. The same things happen. The difference is in how and when they're done. Once you get to the point where you can sell a book on proposal, you'll have to be able to plot at least a little bit because you'll need to be able to write a synopsis before you've written the book.

Linear vs. Non-linear
A linear writer writes scenes in sequence. A non-linear writer writes scenes as they come to mind, and then arranges and links them. I think non-linear writers are more likely to be pantsers who are writing what comes to them and who later realize something needs to happen earlier to set it up. Even if you're very linear, writing out of sequence can be a good way to break a block. If you don't know what happens next but you do know something that happens later, write the scene you do know and then work backward to figure out what needs to happen to get there.

Polish as You Go vs. the Ugly Draft
Some writers revise and polish as they go, making sure what they've written is good before moving on to the next scene, while others just get something written, no matter how ugly, and then go back and revise and polish. Which method works best depends on your other processes. If you're a pantser and non-linear, you're wasting time to polish as you go because there may be a lot of rewriting to do, and there's no point in making the words perfect until the story is right. A detailed plotter who's storyboarded the whole book may be able to polish along the way so that the end of the first draft results in a finished book.

I generally recommend that new writers do the ugly draft and get to the end of the story before revising because it's very easy to get so caught up in making chapters one and two perfect that you never get on to the rest of the book -- and in most early books, you'll probably end up cutting the first two chapters anyway because that's where new writers tend to throw in a lot of set up and infodump that doesn't need to be there. My personal guideline is that I'll go back and fix things that affect the story moving forward -- if something needs to happen to move the story in a different direction or to set up something critical -- but I don't go back and fix the words until the first draft is done. On the other hand, reviewing the previous day's work is a good way to ease into a writing session, and if you spot something obvious then, like an overused pet word, typos or dialogue that could be better, there's no harm in fixing it.

There are a lot of other individual things that go into process, like writing in silence vs. writing with music, working alone vs. working in a coffee shop, writing in short bursts vs. marathon sessions, etc., but that comes down to finding something that works for you and that fits your circumstances. When you get stuck or feel blocked or just have the don't wannas, try shaking things up by working in a different way.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Epic Knitting Errors

My attempt to multitask actually went pretty well yesterday. I revised three chapters, then hit a stopping point where my brain couldn't take any more of that, so I switched projects. There I initially ran into a brick wall because I wasn't sure where to go next, but then did some brainstorming and came up with a really fun idea. It was something I came up with and then discarded for this character's story line in the first book, but it totally fits here. Hint: a Broadway actress figures she knows how to stir up a revolution because she was in the chorus of Les Mis for six months. I'm looking forward to diving into that story line today.

I also seem to have recovered from the epic knitting error. I'm not back to where I was, but I got back to a good starting-over point and have moved forward, and all the math now fits. I'm knitting a lace bedspread, and I sort of made up the pattern based on a shawl pattern, enlarging it and making the border only go on three edges (because I don't want a pointy edge at the head). The trick is that figuring out the number of stitches to cast on required not only figuring out the number of stitches for the pattern repeat in the body, but also figuring out the number of rows in the border, and then the number of rows on the border changes at the corners because there are double and triple joins. I'd given up on calculating all that and just picked a number of stitches that was the right size and that worked with the body pattern, figuring that I could adjust the number of double and triple joins when I got there. And I did, but it turns out that the adjustment is actually counterintuitive, and what worked on paper was the opposite of what I needed to do. And I didn't figure it out until I got to that point and started counting. I should have been able to fix it by undoing about four rows, but in double joins it's hard to tell what you're undoing and I undid too much, somehow. I had to undo around the whole corner and start the corner again. But now it works and I've even counted off and marked the stitches. I think I'm going to end up with more yarn than I needed, but I love this yarn and this color, so I can always come up with something else to make with it. So far, I have a throw and a tea cozy and the bedspread in progress.

I'm really going to have to write a character who's a knitter. Then I'll be able to justify all this as "work." You know, for research. But all the current projects were started before this obsession developed, so I'd have to retrofit the knitting into existing character traits, and I think that kind of character trait needs to be more organic than that. I have that idea for the gothic style story with a twist, and I think Victorian knitting would fit very well in there. The heroine who's shaping up in my head would probably enjoy all the math of matching border to body and figuring out the stitch count. She'd look totally engrossed while she's doing it because it's very detailed, complicated work, and that would allow her to eavesdrop, since the people with her would assume she's too focused on the knitting to pay attention to what she's saying. And she has a lot of tension to work out, so she'd be more or less yarn bombing her own room, knitting for the sake of knitting rather than because she needs a particular knitted item.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Onward with the Week!

I got a late start this morning after a knitting disaster of epic proportions kept me up way too late last night. It was one of those cases where trying to undo a little mistake led to even worse mistakes, and that meant going back to a particular point where I could regroup and start again. I'm on no deadline for the current project. It's mostly something I'm doing for the sake of doing it, so the setback isn't a huge issue, but it was still a frustrating thing.

Ah well, I did get other stuff accomplished over the weekend. Friday I started diving into revisions and found that my editor had some good points. Then I managed to get a scene written in the other book. Saturday and Sunday I did a lot of baking, so I have bread and scones in the freezer.

That means I'm ready to dive into the week and make real progress on both projects. I should set up a reward system for if I meet certain goals for the week. Anything to get me through all this project juggling. And if I can manage to juggle multiple projects, then maybe I can get over my all-or-nothing mentality when I only have one writing project going.

In other news, I need to start making my summer convention decisions. I've accepted an invitation to ArmadilloCon in Austin, and I'm seriously considering the North American Science Fiction Convention, DetCon, in Detroit (sort of the US answer to WorldCon when WorldCon is overseas). I have books coming out that need to be promoted, and I have money again (yay!). It's hard to wrap my mind around that.

But first, I have to get one of those books written.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sanctioned Procrastination and Progress

I got a start on making progress yesterday. I think I've worked out some ways to deal with the revisions, and I planned and got started on the next scene I'm writing in the other book. There was a minor rabbit trail, as the editor for the steampunk book e-mailed me and said she wants to put a map in the book. That led to me trying to find a map that fits the time period and place that I can mark story locations on and give to the art department. Since the street layout in Manhattan hasn't changed that much since the 1880s (and any disparities can be blamed on alternate history), I ended up hitting Google Maps and printing three pages that I spliced together to get all of Manhattan at the level of detail I need. I'll compare the general shape of the island to my historical atlas of New York to see when the various landfills were done (which changed the shape of the tip). Then I'll outline the key points in dark marker and trace over it to create a fresh map I can put my locations on.

I considered this editor-sanctioned procrastination. I needed to have the map before I start revisions because as I come across a location in the book, I need to be able to mark it on the map. I may have to work to resist the urge to learn a period-appropriate calligraphy and do a lovely antique-looking map, since I'm sure the art department will do their own thing. But it might be fun to have as an office decoration.

The plan for the day is to do maybe a chapter of revisions, then go to the library (I have books to return/pick up), then work a while on the new book. And then after Grimm I'm going to try to do one of my good old Friday-night marathons -- make some tea, put on some music and write until I can't stay awake anymore. When I was in my 20s, I could make it to 2 in the morning. Now, I might hit midnight.

Saturday is supposed to be rainy, or at least cloudy, and I may do what I did last weekend, alternating writing, reading and housework sessions. The Nebula voting deadline is approaching, and I still have tons of books to read.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Strange Urges

I got some sad news in children's choir last night. Alas, it seems that Problem Child has started playing baseball, and practice conflicts with choir. Oh no, what shall we do? My co-teacher admitted that when she told the mom we missed him, she might have been crossing her fingers behind her back. Baseball is probably a better activity for him, so I hope he is happy and enjoys himself and maybe works off some of that energy. The rest of the group is still crazy enough, even without him, but I worry less about physical injuries when he's gone. Last night wasn't too bad. I didn't even get through every item on my lesson plan because they got into one of the things I planned and it took longer than I expected.

And in case you hadn't heard, the DVD of Frozen came out this week. This is apparently the most exciting thing to ever happen in a kindergarten girl's life. I may have to get the DVD myself and learn "Let it Go" so we can let them get that song out of their systems (it's the only thing they really wanted to sing last night). According to the glazed-eyed mothers, that movie has been playing on constant repeat since they got it Tuesday.

And I may have really confused/freaked out the girls because they were talking to each other about whether or not they were going to get married. The other teacher said something about that, and one of the girls said very dismissively, "Oh, you two are already married." I said that I wasn't married, and they didn't seem to know how to deal with that because in their world, all adults are married. Not that I have anything against marriage, but I figure it doesn't hurt to let kids know that there are other outcomes in life. It kind of fits with the Frozen thing, where it doesn't end with a wedding.

In other news, now that I have a pile of work to do, with revisions on one book, copy edits on another, writing on a third, and some work to do for non-US digital release of the first four books in the Enchanted Inc. series, I have been possessed by a powerful urge to clean and organize my house. I almost NEVER want to do housework, and suddenly it sounds like the most exciting thing ever to do. I did manage to lift a stain from a countertop (thank you, Internet, for the rubbing alcohol suggestion!) and then stopped myself before clearing off the entire counter and polishing it. I also really want to exercise and practice music. The music practice I need because I have a solo coming up in a choir piece, and I need to build some strength in the upper end of my range, which requires daily work. I managed to avoid having to sing it in rehearsal last night, but we're starting to rehearse this piece, which means I'll need to be ready to sing it next week in rehearsal (the choir isn't performing it until May).

But I must work. I will outline my worldbuilding stuff for the steampunk book (the editor doesn't seem to understand my magical system) and write a new scene for the book I'm writing. I may let myself Swiffer the floors, just to satisfy some of the cleaning urge. I have to take advantage of that while I have it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Getting Radical

Yesterday afternoon, I finished the major rewriting, then went back and re-read up to the point where things take off. I was relaxing and finishing my tea after that when the doorbell rang, and I found a package on the doorstep -- another round of revisions on the steampunk novel. I kind of wanted to scream or cry because it seems like I can never get any momentum going on this book.

But I'm going to try something really radical. Since I'm dealing with two very different processes -- writing/creating and fine-tuning -- I'm going to see if I can manage to keep both going, doing a little of each every day. Maybe do some editing while I'm feeling more logical and then writing later. Or if I run out of ideas and get stuck writing, I can go do some editing. I might even try editing during the day and doing writing marathons at night on the nights when I'm free. That used to be my Friday-night routine in the day-job days. I'll probably have to work a bit more every day to make progress on both projects, but that's probably good for me anyway. For at least a few weeks, until the edits are done, I may have to cut back on "play" time. And I still have copyedits to get to. In order to accomplish everything I need to do this year, I'm going to have to be a little more dedicated and focused.

But it beats a real job!

Since most of the editor's issues seem to involve her not understanding the rules of magic in my world, I think today I'm going to work it all out in answer to each of her questions. I know this stuff, but I think it may help to put it in writing before I find a way to weave the info into the story. And then I need to work out some things for the next scene I need to write in the other book. So today's going to be a thinky kind of day. Meanwhile, I need to do lesson plans for choir.

In the meantime, I may have found my favorite version of Les Miserables -- the Cookie Monster version. I wish these songs were full-length because I'd love to be able to sing the "Not having cookies makes me sad" version of "I Dreamed a Dream" while I'm baking. If I could write decent lyrics, I'd get right on that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Modern Fantasy Worlds

I'm still fixing the first third of the book. I've done the major chopping and am almost done with writing a new scene that was needed to replace some cut scenes. Then I'll probably go back to the beginning to read through and make sure it all flows and fix a few details that I've changed to make everything work. And then from there I hope to move forward. I was pretty productive yesterday, getting some housework done, taking care of a bunch of to-do list items that had been lingering (I finally ordered some new ballet tights) and getting the writing done.

I've also been reading a lot, trying to work my way through the Nebula Awards ballot (guess what my weekend plans are!). I made it through three books in the past week. Most of them weren't my cup of tea, but there was one that I found intriguing, a teen fantasy called A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty.

It's kind of hard to describe the plot in a way that makes sense without giving too much away. It actually took me a little while to settle into the world because I was having a hard time wrapping my brain around it. I sometimes call these the "I'll have what she's having" books, otherwise known as the "obviously someone has access to the GOOD drugs" books, but it did finally all click into something rather lovely.

There are two parallel stories going on. One takes place in some other fantasy world, and this was the part I had a little trouble figuring out at first. It seems like a quaint European farming village in a world with magic-like stuff going on, so I was picturing your standard fantasy Ye Olde village. But then the technology level seemed wrong, and I kept upping my estimate of the analogous timeframe until I realized that it was essentially a "modern" fantasy world with cars, televisions and teenagers who wear jeans. It still felt like a fantasy world and still had a lot of that "Ye Olde" quality to it. I guess an analogy might be the original Willie Wonka movie, which was set more or less in the contemporary world of that time, with all the right technology, but there was still that timeless fairy tale quality. At any rate, the main character in this world is a teenage boy who's driven to find his father, who went missing about a year earlier. Some people in town believe he was attacked by a nasty Color (there are attacks by various flying Colors that these people have to deal with. Just go with it), while others think he ran off with the schoolteacher who disappeared that same night.

Meanwhile, in Cambridge, England, in our world, there's a teenaged girl living with her mother after they both ran away from her jetsetting father. One day, she notices a little corner of white sticking out of a broken parking meter and pulls out a little piece of paper that says "I am being held against my will." Thinking it's a joke and feeling whimsical, she writes back, pretending she's addressing a parking meter. Then in the other world, the boy finds this piece of paper sticking out of a sculpture. His world has heard of ours and he's even studied it in school, though there's been no contact for centuries. The two start corresponding, but she doesn't really believe him and thinks it's just some local person making up all this fantasy stuff.

This book goes from "what the huh?" to really very charming. I'm assuming there's a sequel coming because the end seemed to really kick off the real story in earnest. It certainly kept me guessing, and there were some fun twists. Once I got the other world in my head, I rather liked this quirky, quaint, but still modern place. I guess it's like when an American visits a historic European village and finds it a little jarring that there are modern people living ordinary, modern lives in this medieval setting. It's like a storybook fantasy world has kept progressing with time, just as our world has, and that got me started imagining how other fantasy worlds might have developed. What would a "modern" Narnia look like? (Ignore for a moment that Narnia ended while still in a medieval phase -- I generally try to ignore that book, anyway.)

Oh, just checked Amazon. The sequel comes out next week.

Anyway, one of my favorite things about the fantasy world was the really messed-up weather. It's described as "Seasons drift across the Kingdom, moving on whenever they get bored." That's pretty much been this winter for us, with the 80-degree day followed by the ice storm the next day, and then back to warm and sunny. That explains so much about Texas weather. It's not a constant stream of fronts. It's seasons drifting around, getting bored and moving on. I wish we could keep some of that going in the summer. It would be nice in July if a little bit of fall or even mild winter would drift in for a few days.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Productive, Fun Weekend

I had a really good weekend in which I got a lot done and had fun. There was a nice rainy Saturday in which I alternated reading, writing and cooking. I made a wonderful beef stew. It turns out I'd been doing it wrong, but when I followed a recipe, it came out so much better. I may have to make it again, since I've got some stock left and some more chuck in the freezer. Then Sunday, some of my friends were hosting Heather Dale for a house concert.

Heather was the music guest of honor at FenCon last year, and I barely got to hear her but instantly clicked on what I heard. I'd say if you like Loreena McKennett, this is along the same lines -- Celtic/folk sound with some twists and updates, and new songs in that style, but based on legends and folklore. And she's on pitch (can even do whole songs a capella on her own and stay on pitch). That's an issue I have with a lot of folk-style singers, but I can sit right in front of her and not even twitch at all. I came home from the concert with two new CDs that I haven't even played yet because I like to just sit and listen to new music and I haven't had a chance. I've learned not to play new music for the first time when I'm driving (especially at night) because I never know if some ballad will make me cry and blur my vision.

Since I ask others to spread the word for me, I'll return the favor here and mention Heather's current crowdfunding project, Celtic Avalon, which is going to be a stage show, DVD and educational project about the King Arthur legend. I'm particularly intrigued by her vision for using those stories to interact with kids and do some character-type training, since it seems like teaching chivalry would be an excellent way to combat bullying. Good behavior sounds a lot less "goody-goody" when it's something badass knights do.

One other thing from this weekend (well, Friday afternoon) was that I may have found my dream house. There's a house I pass on one of my routes to the library that I've had my eye on because I liked the outside (it has a very Victorian-style front porch). A couple of weeks ago when I was heading to the library re-opening, there was a for sale sign in front, and it had a bin of flyers. When I got home, I checked out the Realtor's web site for a virtual tour and decided that the floor plan really wasn't right for me. But there was another house on that Realtor's listings that seemed to have the perfect interior for me (I realized later that it's essentially a larger version of my current house with an extra bedroom, but since my current house works aside from being a bit too small and not having that extra room, that's okay). This house was under contract, but I'm nowhere near ready to buy anything. Since it's in a subdivision, I figure there's likely another house with the same floor plan that might come up when I'm ready to buy. I couldn't remember the exact address, but the street is about a block from where I live, so on Friday I walked over there. I was hoping that maybe the sign would still be up (the listing was gone) and I might be able to figure out what other houses might have the same plan, based on the exterior layout. It wasn't, but I did spot a house that instantly spoke to me. It looked rather different from everything else on the street, like when the subdivision was first built, those owners had customized it. This house looked like a half-timbered Tudor manor. I fell in love. It's not for sale now, but who knows what may happen in a couple of years. I'll keep an eye on it. I figured out once I got home that the street address for the house I'd been looking for was in the name of the web site for the listing, so I tried typing that street name into my browser, found the address, and learned that this house is next door to the Tudor. The layout looks different, though, so it's possible that I won't love the interior, as was the case with the Victorian front porch.

But this gives me something to visualize and aim for. It's good to have an extra incentive to sit down and write. I find that I'm more productive when I'm at least a little dissatisfied with something and writing is the key to getting what I want.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Depressing Epiphany and a Charming Rogue

I think I figured out the reason behind some of the story nag. My subconscious must have needed the conscious part of my mind to get out of the way so it could work, and it did it by creating busy work for it. I decided I needed to take another look at my plot outlines for the current book, since I've changed a lot about the plot, and I had a really depressing epiphany: The "crossing the threshold" part of the story that's the end of act I doesn't come until nearly halfway through the book. I tried a few ways of charting it to try to call that the "approach to the inmost cave," but it wouldn't fit. Even when I gave each character his/her own journey, it didn't work. The moment I aligned that scene with crossing the threshold, everything else snapped into place.

That means I need to cut a lot, probably at least 60 pages. The really sad thing is that I don't have to strain my brain to come up with which parts to cut. I think I was always sort of aware that I had a lot of wheel-spinning going on. That's probably where that "but there's no peril or urgency!" issue came from a few weeks ago. Adding danger to the scenes didn't help the real problem, which was that the scenes weren't necessary. There's some information in those scenes that will have to be added in a different way, but otherwise, I can cut them. The really depressing thing is that one of them is a "kill your darlings" scene -- a scene I've been visualizing since I was midway through writing the previous book. It's a lovely scene that tells us a lot about the characters, but I think I could cut it without changing anything other than removing later references to it. However, it might be a better fit for a sequel to this book, so I'm not trashing it entirely.

Other than going instantly from being halfway through with the book to being a quarter through with it, I feel pretty good about this. Usually, when I get stuck, there's a reason, and once I figure it out, everything moves a lot more quickly. Today will be plot machete time, then I want to do a good writing marathon tomorrow to get back on track.

In the meantime, that story nag is still there, but much less insistent. I have this vague idea of a modern woman from our world captured and taken to a fantasy-type land, where she in desperation tries to prolong her life, Scheherazade-style, by telling stories -- the fairy tales she remembers from childhood. But it turns out to be the history of the world she's in. But I don't know where to go with it from there or how to use the stories if they're history.

I will confess that part of my current interest in Once Upon a Time has nothing to do with fairy tales and everything to do with Captain Hook, which really surprises me, as I've never been the type to go for the bad boys. This version isn't really a villain. He started as a rogue with a personal agenda that aligned him with one of the villains, but since then has become more of a Han Solo type who works with the good guys. Still, I've never been into the Han Solo types, so I was surprised by how appealing I found this character. Then we got his backstory and learned that he started as a very earnest Horatio Hornblower-type young naval officer who turned pirate in rebellion against a king who betrayed his people. That explains a lot. He's not so much a Han Solo as a Luke turned cynical by having his ideals betrayed. And then I saw an interview of the actor, and it seems it's very easy to make him blush furiously (and his co-stars know exactly how to do it). I hadn't thought that blushing really showed up on camera, but he managed it. If he didn't have the current job, I guess he'd be a good fit to play Owen because he can pull off the visible blushing (the coloring is right, too, though I don't know if he could play American, as he's rather Irish). So now I don't feel quite like I've turned against my usual patterns. If you haven't seen the show, this should give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Be warned that it loads very slowly since some of the pictures are animated.

In other geeky news, SyFy has announced an actual show with a spaceship in it. Wow! They describe it as being like Battlestar Galactica meets Downton Abby. I'm not quite sure how that would work, but it sounds like it would be right up my alley. However, about 90 percent of the appeal of Downton Abbey for me is the costumes, and that would be lost with the typical spaceship jumpsuit attire.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Story Nag

Well, I didn't make the USA Today top 150 list, but that was a long shot, considering it covers all books, including children's picture books. I was surprised how many self-published-looking 50 Shades clone-type books were on the list. I guess if you want to be a bestseller, write a book about a naive college student hooking up with a hot, kinky billionaire. Not my thing at all (where are these college students meeting all these billionaires?), but it looks like there's a market for that sort of thing.

Still, I gained a lot of new readers, which was the point. The "bestseller" thing was purely for ego and marketing purposes. I hope the new readers find the rest of the series and then follow me to new books.

That is, if I ever get this book I'm working on written. I was in a weird fog all day. I tried to sit down and work but kept spacing out. Usually, that means there's either something in my brain I need to get out or the thing I need to write next isn't clear in my head. I think both may be the case here. The next scene isn't that clear -- I know what needs to happen, but I'm not seeing the mental movie -- and I think that's because there's something else in there. Unfortunately, that something else isn't really clear enough to get out because it's simply a case of what I think of as "story nag." That's when I have a nagging sense of a kind of story I want to write, but there's nothing concrete. It's all just out of reach other than a vague sense of dissatisfaction, and it's close enough to the imagery of what I'm working on to interfere.

I have this strange kind of longing to do something with fairy tales, a retelling or mash-up. I started getting this nag while reading one of the Mercedes Lackey 500 Kingdoms books earlier this year. Something in me kept going "This! I need to write this!" Then there was the ice dance routine of the gold-medal couple, set to Scheherazade, and that got me thinking about the story behind it, that idea of desperately telling stories as a life-saving measure. That added to the story nag. And then last weekend there was a catch-up special on the series Once Upon a Time, and the story nag intensified as the writers and actors talked about the appeal of the series in taking these timeless characters and delving into their pasts and doing different things with them.

I just have no idea what to do with the general concept, especially not how to make it unique, since it's being done all over the place now. I like the idea of blending the stories so that they all take place in the same world, and usually there's a new story that serves to tie them together, like in the musical Into the Woods. In the Mercedes Lackey books, she's playing with the idea of the tropes that people are aware of because the magic in that world comes from the traditions and tries to turn everything into stories. So we do get stories with things like girls who need to be awakened with a kiss, but they're not exactly the Snow White or Sleeping Beauty story we know. Once Upon a Time really mashes things up by making everyone related, then throws the characters into the modern world, but with flashbacks into the fairy tale land to give us their backstories.

But I'm not sure what out of all those thing the story nag is drawn to. I get the same response from the Patricia McKillip books, which don't use recognizable fairy tale stories but that still have the same feeling.

I started playing with the fairy tale concept last summer when I tried writing a short story that will probably have to become a novel that was about the behind-the-scenes stuff going on in Cinderella, but it didn't satisfy the story nag. I don't know if I want to throw these characters into a modern world, have a modern person thrown into their world, if I want to do a series with each book focusing on a single story, all set in the same world, or if I want it to be a sweeping epic with all these things going on at the same time.

Whatever it is, it's using valuable brainpower that needs to be focused elsewhere. The problem with a bad case of story nag is that, unlike the Shiny New Idea, writing down everything I know about it doesn't make it get quiet for a while since I don't know enough to write down. It just results in more trying to catch something just out of reach. It's like having a word on the tip of your tongue that you can't quite think of, and that takes over your brain until it pops up at three in the morning.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Giving Feedback

Earlier this year, I discussed the different kinds of editing and feedback. So, today I'll talk about what to do if you're the person who gets asked for feedback on someone's writing. You may have formed a critique partnership with a fellow writer, where you give feedback on each other's work, or someone who knows you know something about writing might ask for your advice. You might also be able to apply some of this to evaluating your own work.

The first thing you need to do when asked for feedback or a critique is determine what the other person wants from you. They might really just want a pat on the head or encouragement to go forward, and if you give a detailed critique, it can get ugly. I often ask people for what I call a "sanity check" -- yea or nay, does this work at all, is it worth developing further, should I stop trying to write while taking allergy medication? In that case, I don't want detailed constructive criticism, just did you like it or not, was there anything major that worked or didn't work. I might sometimes send sections of a book out with a specific question in mind -- which of these two versions works best? Does the other person want a detailed critique, a line edit or proofreading? It's okay to do some negotiating here because it's your time. It's rather pointless to do a detailed line edit or proofread on something that's still being revised at the plot level, so it's unreasonable for someone to expect that level of editing on a first draft. If you establish expectations -- on both sides -- up front, you're less likely to end up with hurt feelings or misunderstandings.

If it's a general beta read or critique where you're not doing final proofreading or answering a specific question, what do you look for? A good guideline is to look for the "hey, wait a second!" things -- anything in the story that gives you pause. Would he really do that? Why would he do that? Could he actually do that? How did he do that? How does this work? Why is this happening? Why didn't this happen? Can't they just talk about it? This includes things you don't believe, where the world building or characterization isn't strong enough to make you suspend disbelief. It also includes things you flat-out don't like -- you had me until this. Or it can be things you didn't understand. Look out for boring parts where your attention strayed or scenes that seem repetitive (they're doing that again?). Even if you're not doing a line edit, you can point out obvious problems like a word that pops up way too many times (how often does she grimace?) or a word that's being consistently misused (I once did a critique where I had to ask if the story was about soldiers or actors because the word "troupe" was being used throughout, but the context seemed more military, and I wasn't sure what the writer was going for -- the militant wing of the USO?).

Don't forget to point out the positives in addition to the negatives, and not just to ease any fragile egos. Knowing what works is important because the writer needs to know what to keep when rewriting or what to build on. A character who became one of the most popular in my series initially had a smaller role, but when I was sending chapters of the first book to a friend for feedback as I wrote, she really loved the character and wanted to know more about him. That told me there might be something there, so I gave him more attention and put more thought into his story.

Criticism should be constructive in the sense that it gives the writer something to work with. You don't have to offer a solution to the problem because that's up to the writer, but you need to give more detail than "this sucks" or "I hate this." At least give a "because." "This scene didn't work for me because your character, who seems like an intelligent person, was suddenly making idiotic decisions. Is there a reason why he lost his ability to think rationally, or do you just need him to make these bad decisions for your plot to work? You either need to justify his decisions or think of another way to make the plot work."

Finally, you need to check your own ego. It's the author's story, not yours, and even if you put in hours of blood and sweat on the critique, it's up to the author how much or how little of your feedback to use. I've had people resist making any changes, and their books went nowhere, and I've had people have great success in spite of disregarding my critique (I still think it was a plot hole, but it was a genre trope, so I guess it was a plot hole acceptable to the publisher). It's not your book, and once you've said your piece, it's out of your hands. You do, however, have the right to decline the opportunity to do future critiques if the writer is unpleasant to you about it or disregards all feedback with the sense that they really just wanted to be told how brilliant they were.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An Unusual Fantasy

I think my body and brain want to be on spring break this week because concentration has been hard. I resorted to doing busy work that needed to be done but that didn't require much actual thought. We're supposed to get another drastic weather change tomorrow, and the cooler weather may spur me back into work mode.

I've learned that the audio books are doing surprisingly well, so it looks like there was a demand for them!  It's cool that so many things are coming together for me at about the same time, but it does seem to be yet another case of all the time and effort that often have to be spent in order to become an "overnight" success. There are some people who hit it big right out of the gate, but most people have to put in a lot of work and be very patient before it all pays off and starts to look like success. That work and patience is the part of the iceberg below the surface of the water. The success is the only part most people get to see.

But enough about me. I have other books to talk about. Last week, I read The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, and it's a very interesting and unique fantasy novel. I love the setting among the immigrant communities in turn-of-the-century (19th into 20th) New York, and I love that it deals with some mythologies and cultures that are outside the usual realm of fantasy. Plus, it does that thing I love in books (and wish I could pull off) of having multiple storylines that converge as the story progresses. There's just something about the "oooh!" response of seeing the pattern created by all those threads weaving together that gets me every time.

One story thread in this book starts with a Polish Jew planning to emigrate to America, and since he wants a wife but is generally too much of an arrogant jerk to get one, he gets an elderly (and rather shady) mystic to make a golem for him -- a woman made of clay who will be the perfect wife and who will exist to serve him. He ships her to New York as cargo, but can't resist saying the words to wake her during the voyage, then he dies before reaching New York. She's left awakened and masterless in a strange world. Meanwhile, a Syrian tinsmith in New York is doing repairs on an antique copper jar when, much to his surprise, a jinni appears. He'd been imprisoned in the jar for centuries, and an iron cuff leaves him trapped in human form. Now he's in a strange world he doesn't understand and frustrated because he's limited by his form. The story follows them as they adapt to their new lives and learn about a threat that links them.

This is a very atmospheric book. You really feel like you're there. I've studied this period a lot, ever since I studied Jacob Riis in a journalism history class in college and became fascinated with his work. That gave me a lot of mental images to work with, but I think the book describes the setting well enough that you would get it even if you hadn't seen tons of photographs of the setting. I also liked seeing the cultures depicted. I knew more about the Eastern European Jews, but the various Syrian/Lebanese communities showed a sense of nuance. There's a general sense in popular culture that Middle Eastern=Muslim, but there was a large Christian population, including Eastern Orthodox and Maronite Catholic (there's a Lebanese Catholic church nearby that does a food festival, so I'm somewhat familiar with that). It's like an education while reading! But I also really got into the characters and felt for their plights. In a way, the fantasy elements provide a metaphor for immigration and that sense of being a stranger and having to rebuild a life. It's not really an action-packed book, though it does build toward the end. It's a really good rainy-day read when you can immerse yourself in that world.

Monday, March 10, 2014

In the Aftermath

I've done my usual trick of adapting to the spring time change automatically. It helps that I always seem to be singing in the first service that Sunday, so it forces me to adjust my body clock, but I got up at the usual time without setting an alarm this morning (which should have been an hour earlier to my body). If I go by my usual pattern, I'll start waking up "early" tomorrow now that I've caught up on missing sleep from getting up so early Sunday.

As for Sunday, I think it went okay. I felt really good about the first service, but something seemed weird/off in the second service, and that started freaking me out and then the paranoia kicked in. I didn't get a real chance to talk to anyone afterward, so I didn't get a lot of positive reinforcement, and that also triggered the paranoia that no one wanted to talk to me because of the "if you can't say anything nice" thing. It's probably all in my head. I'm just going to remember the first service when I felt like I did well and wasn't even that nervous. One reason I didn't get the chance to talk to anyone after the second service is that everyone else I was singing with slipped out after singing instead of sitting through the whole service a second time, and it didn't even occur to me that I could do that until I went back to my spot in the choir loft and the person sitting next to me acted surprised that I hadn't left. But then I was already up there, so it would have looked weird to leave again, so I heard the sermon twice.

Thinking back on the thing about me not really having a lot of "vice" in my life, it's possible that self-denial itself can become a vice if it's done for the wrong reasons or if you expect a reward for it. For me, I suspect it has to do with my tendency to go for difficulty points in life. I also have a weird thing about delayed gratification, where I enjoy looking forward to something more than I enjoy doing or having the thing I'm looking forward to. Anticipation might be my real vice, so if I gave that up for Lent, I'd have to actually do stuff instead of just planning it and looking forward to maybe someday doing it.

A whole team of psychiatrists could probably make careers out of studying me.

It's theoretically spring break here, which means I don't have dance or children's choir. But I'm behind on the book, so I will be making use of the extra time to be super productive. I hope.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Failing at Vice

Since the recent push for my series means I may have new people here who've just discovered me (I got a Facebook message from someone who got the 99 cent book and has already devoured the entire series!), I thought I'd say hello. This is where you'll read about my discourses on writing and the publishing business, my own travails in trying to pound out more books (writing is hard), my efforts to instill some musical knowledge in a group of insane kindergarteners, my personal phobia about singing in public, my never-ending effort to maybe get a bit organized, books I've read, TV shows I'm obsessed with, my fondness for bad TV movies, and my overall attempts to get something resembling a life.

Speaking of which, I'm apparently so bad at vice that I may have to pick up a vice or two in order to properly observe Lent. At church, they passed out some prayer and self-denial calendars, with the idea that instead of giving up one thing for the entire period, you would give up a particular thing each day, and if you fail that day, you donate a dollar to charity (they even passed out the little banks for your fines). I guess whoever made up the calendar and I have very different lifestyles because for the most part, it won't even be a struggle for me. It's things like "don't go shopping except for food," "no personal texting" or "don't go out for coffee." I don't do much shopping, I try to avoid texting, and I don't drink coffee. I do run into a fine line on the days where it's personal computer use, since there's such a blurry line between personal and professional for me. While social networking is a way I keep up with friends, it's also an important part of marketing my work. Instead of splitting hairs, I'll put a dollar in the bank for that day. Then there's the day for no secular reading. That's another dollar day because reading is an important part of my work and I'm currently trying to read my way through the Nebula nominees so I can properly vote. I might have been able to get by if it had been a weekday for that item, but it's a Sunday, and that's the day I catch up on my reading because I try to avoid doing any other work on Sundays. My biggest vice is probably watching TV, but I didn't actually watch TV on the day marked for that.

So maybe I need to go out for coffee (tea, in my case) or take up gaming so I can give it up for a day. I'm fortunate that my work and the things I do for fun are so entwined that I can't give up the things I do for fun without hurting my work. But I probably could stand to have more fun -- not necessarily "vice" fun, but a little self-indulgence wouldn't be bad for me.

But now I must go obtain tea, some spices and some lemons from the Indian market. Most of that is medicinal so I can sing properly on Sunday morning. I'm still getting that adrenaline surge every time I think of it, so maybe I'll be used to it by then. I just need to be able to control my breathing better when I'm nervous.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Choir Nightmares

Okay, so maybe the bestseller thing isn't just a pipe dream I need to give up on. I'm now in the top 100 Kindle books, and the #2 humor book on Amazon overall. I still wish there was at least some tag for fantasy, since the rest of the series is tagged that way, but at least by being in the top 100, it's more visible for people to see and figure out for themselves. And apparently some people are going on to the rest of the series because the second book is #48 in romantic fantasy.

It was a very interesting night for choir, both children and adult. I tried a new movement game out of a book recommended at that choir workshop I went to, and I've come to the conclusion that the theories are lovely, but the person who wrote that book has never met an actual child. Or else my kids are all demons from another dimension and not actual children. I'm trying to subliminally instill the next song we have to sing by playing the recording while we do other things (and it's working -- they're unconsciously singing along). I tried a game where one kid is the leader and does some movement to the music and the other kids are supposed to follow the lead. They just didn't get it. The kids tapped to be leaders would have been moving around, ignoring the previous leader, then when it was their turn to lead, they'd just stand there. It's the corollary of the situation where they're talking over people, raising their hands to be called on and even bursting into tears when they aren't called on right away, and then when I call on them they clam up and duck away without saying anything. We've learned that a story time helps settle them down, so the other teacher had brought some books to read. One kid had read these books and shouted out what would happen. I called out, "Spoilers!" which cracked up the teen helper, who's a Doctor Who fan.

I did have some success introducing them to "When the Saints Go Marching In," from a recording by a French Quarter band. I'd forgotten I had that CD from my last trip to New Orleans, when I made friends with the band playing at an outdoor cafe and ended up sitting in with them as their girl singer.

Then there was adult choir. I'd been assigned to do a quartet for the upcoming Sunday, and the anxiety nightmares had already started because we hadn't yet practiced it as a group before last night's rehearsal. There's a solo within the piece, with the voice unspecified. In Tuesday night's nightmare, we never did manage to rehearse and just got up there to sing in the service, and when we reached the solo part, the director pointed at me. Because I'm paranoid, I did practice the solo on my own yesterday. Then we got to rehearse last night, and the group turned out to be different than I anticipated. When I got the assignment, the whole group was just ordinary choir members. Then it turned out that it was mostly the music grad students who get scholarships for singing with the choir (the ringers). One who normally sings soprano was doing the alto part, and then the men's parts were doubled up, with the ordinary choir members singing along with the pros. And then there was me. I was a wee bit intimidated, with my training consisting of a few continuing education classes up against all these people with master's degrees in voice. But I figured I was safe on the solo, with a soprano soloist in the group. Then we got to the solo part, and the director called my name. I might have actually said "EEEP" out loud. I'm glad I'd practiced it.

I may have actually worked out the worst of the nerves while rehearsing in the group because the people I was singing with scare me more than any audience, since they know singing and are more likely to judge. In last night's anxiety nightmare, I didn't end up getting to the solo because we'd just started singing the piece in church when the secretary from my first job came up to us to demand to know what pens we wanted her to order for the office. We tried ignoring her and kept singing until we finally gave up. I'm not sure what Jung would have to say about that dream. I have three more nights before I have to do this in two services, so there's no telling what I can dream between now and then.

Normally, I'd find the piece on YouTube so I could hear the accompaniment, but it turns out this is a fairly common hymn, so I may have to search for the particular arrangement. At least I'll get a dress rehearsal in the 8:30 service during spring break, the morning of the time change. It won't be a big crowd.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Work of Daydreaming

It doesn't look like I'll have my dream of hitting a bestseller list on the basis of this one promotion, as I'm now sliding in the rankings, but it still helps improve exposure overall, which is good. The next book in the series is creeping up in the rankings, so some people may be moving on to the rest. By the way, the cheap price on the first book is only available for the e-book in North America. The publisher doesn't have the rights outside North America. I'm working on getting English-language e-books available in the rest of the world. I doubt they'll be in the 99 cents range because there are expenses to cover in getting the artwork, cover design, formatting and all that, but they'll be available at what I hope is a reasonable price for non-American readers. Stay tuned for release dates.

In the meantime, I'm still plugging away at the current project. This article on making yourself work came across my news feed at a particularly good time. I'd embroider the tips on a throw pillow to remind myself constantly, but that would be a massive procrastination project and I need to be writing.

On the other hand, the creative brain does work in strange ways, as seen in another article I came across. Daydreaming does count as work! In fact, it's vital to the work I do because I kind of have to see the movie of a scene in my head before I can write it. Much of my work day consists of staring into space, watching mental movies, and then trying to capture what I've just seen in words. That's been part of the problem with the pieces I've been rewriting lately. I had tried to write the scenes without seeing the mental movie first.

I know today's going to be a low-productivity day because of choir stuff and some errands I need to run on the way there. It may even be a mostly mental movie watching day because I have stuff to figure out, since I changed the main plot for one of the characters.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

More Adult-Friendly YA Fantasy

Thanks to all who helped spread the word about the sale on Enchanted, Inc. It went as high as 214 on the Kindle bestseller list, but last time I checked it was on the way down again, so I may have peaked. It probably doesn't help that the publisher seems to have classified it as "humor" and it isn't showing up as fantasy at all, which makes it harder for readers to find it. Hmm, maybe this is what any problem in the first place might have been. Unfortunately, my agent is out of the hemisphere at the moment, so I can't get her to talk to the publisher about this and I don't currently have a direct contact.

But enough about my books. I want to talk about other people's books!

I went on a YA kick recently, but they were YA that didn't read as "YA" to me, so they're not only adult-friendly, but strongly recommended for adults.

First, there was Rachel Caine's latest, Prince of Shadows, which is the Romeo and Juliet story from the viewpoint of another character, fleshing things out and adding some behind-the-scenes explanations. Now that story makes so much more sense. We even learn why those two idiots fell so passionately in love after one meeting that they were willing to die for each other. Now I kind of want to re-read Romeo and Juliet with this in mind. What I was really impressed with, though, was the use of language. The narrative and dialogue definitely have that Shakespearian flavor while still being readable. These people talk in a way that sounds like the characters in the play, with the witty wordplay and colorful phrasing, but it's not at all like struggling through Shakespeare. I'm really not sure how she did that. I shall have to ask next time I see her. (I should probably put in a disclaimer that Rachel Caine is a personal friend -- I've been to her house often and even traveled with her and her husband -- but that doesn't affect my opinion of this book.)

And then the book I read on the wacky weather weekend, the first part in the springlike warmth on the patio and the second part snuggled under blankets during a sleet storm, was Hero by Alethea Kontiss. This is a follow-up to Enchanted, which I loved last year, though I think I like this one even more. This series is about the Woodcutter family -- the family all those fairy tales are about. This book is about Saturday, the tomboy daughter who's a bit miffed that her gift from their fairy godmother was an axe, not a magical power like all her sisters got. But then she finds herself having a great adventure and being in great danger when she's captured by a giant bird and taken to the mountain lair of a witch who wants to open a gateway to the demon world. The witch's other captive is a boy who's been enchanted to appear like the witch's daughter. The two of them know that they have to stop the witch, but doing so could endanger their own lives. I really liked these characters and felt for their dilemma. I didn't want this book to end, and the ending seemed to leave it open for a sequel, though it looks like the next book is about another sister. Maybe there will be a few books putting all the pieces on the board before tying up the larger plot.

These books remind me a lot of the 500 Kingdoms books by Mercedes Lackey, in that they use fairy tale elements woven together in often unexpected ways, with the characters somewhat aware that they're living in a fairy tale. I emerge from these books wishing I could stay in the world a little longer and wanting to write something that makes me feel this way.

Ooh, and fangirling pays off because I mentioned something about this on a Facebook post of someone who turned out to be a mutual friend, and Alethea Kontis posted this link of behind-the-scenes goodies and bonus material. Now I must go friend her and we'll become the very best of buddies in a not at all creepy fangirly stalkery way.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Weather Whiplash

It's 99 cent Enchanted, Inc. week! The price has dropped for both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I don't know how long this is supposed to last. The prices for books 5, 6 and 7 have also been lowered, since we're at "paperback" time. It would be really cool if during this special promotion I could manage to hit at least the top 150 at USA Today so I could call myself a "bestselling" author, but since it was still in the 6,000 range at Amazon the last time I checked, I won't get my hopes too high. I know that if you're reading this, you've probably already got a copy, but any tweeting, blogging, holding friends at gunpoint to make them buy multiple copies, etc. would be greatly appreciated.

We had bizarro Texas weather this weekend. I spent both Saturday and Sunday drinking tea and reading. On Saturday, I was sitting on the porch, listening to birds singing. On Sunday, I was huddled under blankets on the sofa, listening to sleet rattling against my windows. The high on Saturday was around 80. At around 7:30 on Sunday morning, it was 30, and it dropped from there. It's still really cold today. School was cancelled around the area because of ice and sleet on the roads, but the roads near me look pretty clear. There is ice on my sidewalk, though.

Fortunately, I don't have to go anywhere today. I just have work to do. I realized that in addition to the rewrite putting the character in a tricky position, the initial draft had been more "telling" than "showing" and then I realized that was because I didn't have a clear image in my mind of what was happening. I had a list of things that were happening, but didn't see them. So, before I let myself read on the patio on Saturday, I sat on the patio and brainstormed. I also wrote the song the characters in the scene are singing. Now to put that in the book.

Since the bad weather didn't start until Sunday morning, I was able to get to the library opening, and I did not trample the mayor. She was a little eager to get inside, herself. I'll have to get used to the shelves being in different places. I used to be able to just zoom in to whatever I wanted, but everything is different now. I can't tell if the adult areas are any bigger. Most of the expansion was in the children's and teen sections. I'm just so glad to have the library back, and am glad that I had books before it started sleeting.