Friday, December 28, 2012

Resting and Garbage

Leisha here.

Everyone knows garbage trucks are not supposed to come on holidays. They're supposed to stay parked in their garbage truck garages. Because everyone knows this, my hubby and I didn't bother to put our cans out this week.

Our only problem was, we didn't realize Christmas Eve day didn't count as a holiday. Apparently it counts as a garbage day. Waking to the sultry sounds of an approaching garbage truck at five-something in the morning the day before Christmas isn't fun because somewhere in your sleep-clogged brain lives a garbage warden. It sounds a lot like a warning klaxon.

This is what it said, and yes, klaxons are well know for their dialog.

Klaxon: Wake up, you fool! The garbage truck is here! You'll be swimming in post-Christmas garbage in less than twenty four hours, and the recycle truck won't be back for two weeks. This equals your own personal landfill. Wake up and run for your cans!

Me: Uhhhhhhhhh?

Klaxon: The garbage, woman! The truck is here! Run!

Me: Ubb nnm uuhhhh?

Klaxon: Run, you fool! Run!

Me: The garbage truck!

I bolted from my bed and ran for my cans. Down the stairs, across the house, out the door, and into the fresh cotton-candy snow.

Did you know snow is slick? I went down like only a forty-year-old, pajama-clad, bare-footed, klaxon-crazed, landfill-fearing-woman can. (Falling hurts.)

But! I had to get my garbage out. I scrambled up, slushy and wet, and limped for my cans. I grabbed the first one, dragged it to the curb, and faced a smirking garbage man. (Garbage men are the best smirkers, by the way.) He had one word for me: Recycle.

I glanced down and realized I'd grabbed the wrong can. I asked him to give me a minute and went to retrieve the correct bin. He waited, politely laughing the whole time. As he drove away with my junk, I hobbled into the house, bruised, cold, and somehow triumphant.

Now, I know this sounds like the typical Leisha adventure, but it really does have something to do with writing, and no, I'm not suggesting we take out our writing garbage. That's a whole other story. I am suggesting we slow down a little in our sprint toward publication.

Sometimes we, as writers, are like the sleep-drugged version of myself. Except, we're anticipation-drugged. We want to get our stories out. We need to get them out. We must get them out. We have some deep, irrational fear that if we don't run full-out for publication we'll miss it, and our stories will clutter up our heads like a literary landfill.

Here's the thing. Running like a crazy person toward publication isn't always the best plan. You might fall and get hurt. You might take out the wrong story. You might get smirked at.

Several of the recent posts here at Scribblers Cove mentioned taking a writing break and refocusing. That doesn't have to mean eons, years, or even months, but we do need to let our stories rest. As an example I finished my latest WIP during NaNoWriMo this year. I was jazzed. I was pumped. I was ready to rush into revisions December 1st. Then I got the flu, followed by bronchitis. I felt like garbage. Long story short, I took the whole month of December off, and the best thing happened. Ideas started percolating in my head. Unanswered story questions started answering themselves. Plot holes started filling in. Characters deepened. Settings became more vivid. All because I didn't rush on.

Now, not only am I rested and ready to move on, my story is, too. I'm awake, I'm rational, and I'm armed with fresh ideas. Perhaps if I had slowed down to think and plan in my race for my garbage cans this week, I might not have ended up splayed out on my sidewalk. And perhaps if we do the same thing with our writing, we won't injure our careers either.

Just keep in mind resting is good, waiting forever isn't. After all, we must get our stories out. And if we do slip and fall, there will always be a garbage man watching. At least we'll make his day.


Leisha Maw

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Briar Patch Life

It's been quite a while since I've really set foot into cyberworld. Yes, I have posted a few things here and there on Facebook, but that's the extent of my online presence.

Why?

Because I am pregnant! 6 months. My baby is due March 10th and we've named him Weston Rei. Love the way it sounds. As it is, I am uninspired to pursue new books. It's been this way with my every pregnancy.



One of the most frustrating things about this is that I've been hit with SO many book ideas, but I am not interested in pursuing them. The odd thing is that I've had the drive to edit Eros. It's been a very adventurous time and I am enjoying revisiting my characters and plot.

I am still mulling over traditional versus personal publishing. I've been jaded by my traditional publisher and have heard so many heartbreaking things from traditional authors, that I've decided to move away from traditional. I've had to jump through several fiery hoops that have burnt me, injured me, even unraveled me to the point of tears. But, as I sought other ways, I became more and more hopeless because this is SO new to me, and there is SO much information regarding the alternative.

Boy, am I glad for my 9 month hiatus.

It has actually given me time away from my career and has lent me a different perspective. During this time, as with the insistence and persistence of my 16 year old princess, we wrote a trilogy. She's thrilled to get it published. I keep talking about "when" she's published (she's written several books already!). Funny, but in my heart, I feel that personally publishing her books as well as the ones we've written together, is the way to go.

It really scares me to do this by myself--because of so many unknown factors from formatting to setting up accounts to knowing how to protect myself. I am determined to teach myself all these things because, as it stands now, we can't afford hiring editors, formatters, marketers and so on. This is a big thing to take on, yes, it is.

I've embarked on a sacred journey to discovering my pathway in my career. I am hoping I will be ready for this quest after Weston is born. Heartache and all. (Yes, I am scared, because I don't have a mentor to guide me every step of the way--I've made so many ignorant mistakes on my own already that have cost me a lot as an indie author).

I've come across this most-ever helpful post (and it has been very difficult for me to glean, if at all, any advice from my friends who've chosen this pathway). I hope this gives you hope to setting your roots firmly into the ground if you do choose this!


How I would love a business manual on how to avoid sharks, present yourself to bookstores and how to protect yourself when you do, effective book signing, presentation secrets, as well as everything you need to know to start your own publishing company from A-Z. Yes, I've heard, if you have an idea of how a story should be written, write it! I am no expert in this area and still have TONS to learn, so I can't be the one to write this book! Maybe some day...

How has your journey into publishing treated you? What kind of mistakes took you by surprise and how did you cope with them? Do you have a mentor?

Thanks for listening. I hope you guys have a great Christmas!

Elizabeth Mueller

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Indie Frontier: Foreign Language Translations

One of the main reasons I started a career as an indie author was because the field is brand new, and I wanted to be in the first wave of explorers. Even if my books weren't a commercial success, the opportunity to say, "I was there" when this major market change occurred was worth it to me. I published two chick lit novels and began to upload my previously published science fiction and fantasy short stories. A few months into this venture, I was contacted by Michael Drecker, who asked if he could translate my short stories into German. It took a few emails back and forth for me to catch on to the fact that he's German, given how strong his English is. He corrects my vocabulary, for example. Together we hammered out an agreement, aware of the fact that there wasn't really much precedent for this. Authors rarely hire their own translators and the usual arrangement is that the translator makes their full fee up front. Michael wanted to be an indie translator though, and thus we had to come up with a system that would make him affordable to authors without a big six publisher signing the checks. We settled on having him get a fraction of his fee up front, and then make 100% of the royalties until he earned out the rest of his fee. He translated three of my short stories and sales were strong... for short stories. Which is to say, they weren't going to earn out his fee any time soon, and so he decided to double down and asked to translate one of my novels.

There are a million reasons why this deal could fail. For one thing, while my chick lits sell decently in the US, they sell significantly less in the UK (and I live in the UK!) Germany was yet another cultural step removed from where the novels are set. Michael also doesn't read a ton of chick lit (that he's admitted to me, at least) and is male. There aren't a ton of male chick lit authors in the world. And yet, we decided to be brave and try it out, though this required me to watch my budget, as I was prepared to pay Michael his entire fee if this venture failed. I paid him the agreed upon portion up front and he translated Someone Else's Fairytale into Nicht mein Märchen, which we then launched on Amazon.de. The result? I'm posting this sales curve to show some data, not to be obnoxious. This shows the book's ranking on Amazon.de since its release date:


What is exciting about this isn't just selling a lot of books, it's having taken a risk and seen a payoff. As far as I'm aware, Michael is the only translator working with this business model, and it's one I helped create and drafted the original contracts for. 

Aside from doing a solid translation, Michael made several other wise choices. Perhaps the most significant is that he contacted Emily Bold, a successful German indie romance author who'd just had a book translated into English. Together we struck a deal that I would help promote her in the US and she would help promote me in Germany. Hence in the back of all my English language books is a plug for her novel, The Curse, which really is fantastic, and in the back of her German language edition of The Curse is a plug for Nicht mein Märchen. We also posted on each other's blogs. Since then, Emily Bold has pulled back on the publicity while she gets the book re-translated. The Curse takes place in Scotland and Delaware and hence requires two dialects of English that are almost different languages. The current translation is in Scots dialect and British English, which Americans might find a little unusual, but I have to say, the story is rock solid and I highly recommend it. There's a reason Emily Bold's books are at the top of the German bestseller lists. When the new translation is out, you'll hear me singing its praises as we go full steam ahead with a publicity campaign.

Michael also contacted German book bloggers and I let him know that I would reimburse him for any paperbacks of the book he sent out for review. Thanks to this, we got several four and five star reviews right off the bat. This also got the book onto lovelybooks.de, which is essentially the German Goodreads.

But at the end of the day, this shows Michael's gift as a translator. Another friend of mine who started out as an indie author but got picked up by a major publisher, entered into her own German rights deal at around the same time. When she asked her agent about the terms of the deal, he let her know that it was always preferable to stay with the norms and let the publisher call the shots, as people who'd tried to hire their own translators usually failed. (Though, don't get the wrong idea, my friend got a good deal and was treated well in the process, she was merely curious about alternatives.) Just because someone can translate into another language doesn't mean they can do a book justice. Successful translators are almost writers in their own right, as they have to make a lot of creative and poetic decisions that make the prose work.

Our translation deal differs from traditional deals in other key ways. One is that Michael will continue to earn a percentage of the royalties even after his fee earns out, and will be entitled to this percentage for as long as the book is for sale, which to me is only fair. He took a big risk and did a lot of work without immediate compensation, so I think that if the book stays a bestseller, he deserves a share of the proceeds. I feel like the work we've accomplished, we've accomplished as a team. He didn't just translate the book, hand it back to me, and move on to other projects. He's stayed invested in its success.

As I write this, Michael's just inked a deal with a major indie suspense author who's seen FAR more success than I have, and I can't help but be thrilled. Michael's business is taking off, and I wish him every success as I look forward to continuing the Fairytale franchise with him on Amazon.de. But more to the point, I'm so excited and elated to have forged a path on this particular frontier of indie writing and indie publishing. Michael's got a full translation schedule at the moment, but can still calendar people for the months ahead and, if he gets enough requests, might bring on board another translator, so anyone who is interested, feel free to contact me (emilymtippetts@gmail.com) to get his contact info. He can afford to be choosy, though, so please don't take offense if he turns a project down. He works on a mostly contingency basis, still has his day job, and his first ever novel translation has been in the top 1000 books on Amazon.de for weeks.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Resistance Isn't Futile... It's Death Itself

This is Resistance's PR campaign. It wants you to think Resistance is Noble, when really, it's much more like being the Borg.

Steven Pressfield in The War of Art says, "Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."

Pressfield believes that Resistance is that anti-life, anti-creative force that stands between you and the creative life you are supposed to live. Resistance is literally Death Itself, a tiny, daily death that stops you from creating the works you are capable of. I agree with Pressfield, with the caveat that I believe there still needs to be a balance between life and creation - that our creative works are born out of the life we live, and sometimes the call to live life is exactly that, not just a siren song diverting us from our "true" creative work.

But caveats aside, The War of Art is well worth the read. And Resistance is a real and deadly (to your creative work) thing.

My Resistance mostly manifests as fear (see my recent internal dialogue with Fear as it attempted to stop me from writing my most recent NaNo novel). Resistance also pushed on my brain as I contemplated outlining my next SF series. It's always, always, there whenever I'm ready to start a new project, or finish an old one, or push the "publish" button. But Resistance doesn't reserve its deadly charms for when I'm attempting large, ambitious things. It wages a relentless war even at the smallest scales, most recently when a blogger asked me to write a guest post, topic: How would you explain Christmas to someone who has never experienced it before?

Me: Uh... what?

Resistance: You can't write about that! What if people get offended? I mean, you're going to explain Christmas?? That's like religion. Taboo topic. Walk away slowly.

Me: Oh good grief, it can't be that bad. Surely I can talk about Christmas without igniting some kind of religious war.

Resistance: I wouldn't be so sure.

Me: It's really that I don't like writing prompts.

Resistance: Me either! So... stifling. I mean, why would we care about this topic anyway? We should only write things when the mood strikes us, when something strange and mysterious wells up deep from within us, setting our muse on fire...

Me: Ok, I know that's complete bunk. I mean, I'm a writer. I should be able to make a grocery list interesting. Why would something like this stop me? I just need to be creative about it.

Resistance: Sure, creative. Like we have time for that. Don't you see all those emails clogging your inbox? Creativity takes energy. We ran out of that before we even got up today.

Me: Now you're just depressing me. So, let's think. What kind of person would never have experienced Christmas before?

Resistance: Jews, Muslims, Hindis... pretty much everyone who isn't Christian.

Me: That's the obvious angle. I want to be creative. Hey! Robots! I bet they don't have Christmas! Being immortal and all...

Resistance: That sounds really cheesy.

Me: Except that I happen to have a really non-cheesy androids-of-the-future story all plotted out already.

Resistance: You haven't even written that story yet!

Me: Yeah, but I already have the characters banging around in my head. It wouldn't be hard to let them loose for a while...

Resistance: Wait, no, don't do that!

Me: Why? What are you afraid of?

Resistance: Those characters... you love those characters... 

Me: I know. It will probably get me excited about writing the novel too.

Resistance: Nooooo! *sobs* *slinks away*

Me: *writes furiously, grin on face* 

The funny thing about Resistance is that whenever I overcome it, I invariably create things that I love. (Like this little bit of flash fiction - scroll to the bottom.) I've come to recognize Resistance of a harbinger of great work waiting to happen, if I just let go of my fear and tackle it head on.

In this Christmas season, I hope you take time to enjoy your family, friends, and Holiday Celebrations of Choice. And I hope you also find time to let your creative energies loose and bring something new and wonderful into the world.

~*~
Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Series, which includes two novels, three novellas, one novel-in-waiting, and a trailer. She's currently writing her NaNoWriMo novel, a steampunk fantasy romance, and has plans to embark on that androids-of-the-future story as soon as Resistance gets out of her way.



Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Gift of Story


My favorite thing to do around the holiday season is to curl up with a great story. Winter seems to lend itself to it -- bathrobes and wassail and Christmas cookies... and books.

To me, it's a great gift to be able to read certain stories over and over, personal classics, and also to find new ones to add to my canon. So, I love to give books and films as gifts!

There are four types of stories (as discussed in Tell Me a Story by Daniel Taylor):

There are four types of stories: bent, broken, whole, and healing.

A. Bent stories portray evil as good, and good as evil.  Such stories are meant to
enhance the evil tendencies of the reader, such as pornography and many horror
books and movies. The best decision regarding Bent stories is to avoid them like
the plague.

B. Broken stories portray evil as evil and good as good, but evil wins.  Something is
broken, not right, in need of fixing.  Such books are not uplifting, but can be very
inspiring.  Broken stories can be very good for the reader if they motivate him or
her to heal them, to fix them.  The Communist Manifesto is a broken classic; so
are The Lord of the Flies and 1984.  In each of these, evil wins; but they can be
very motivating to because people often have felt a real need to help reverse their
messages in the real world.

C. Whole stories are where good is good and good wins.  Most of the classics are in
this category.  Readers should spend most of their time in such works.

D. Healing stories can be either Whole or Broken stories where the reader is
profoundly moved, changed, and significantly improved by his reading
experience.

Remember, that as writers, we have the incredible opportunity to create and give the gift of story--a story that can delight or even ignite change in the heart of the reader. So write your gift today, and offer someone the healing power of your story. You are needed to help someone through her day...or her life!

Write on!
Amber M
mindsbase.com

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Going-Back-to-the-Beginning Syndrome



I’m reading a good book called “The Plot Whisperer” by Martha Alderson. She brings out an interesting phenomenon called Going-Back-to-the-Beginning Syndrome.

I’ll bet you can guess what that is.

We get a new story idea and off we go. However, after completing a few chapters, we realize the beginning needs work. So we go back and work on it.

Again.

And again.

And again.

Months or years slip by. The novel never progresses.

Why do we continually migrate back?

Of course there’s procrastination and perfectionism, but those are caused by psychological road-blocks. Would you like to hear a few? (I'm paraphrasing from "The Plot Whisperer".)

  1. The beginning of the project is introductory. We present the setting, the characters, the mood, the issues and all the other important dynamics of the story. We are in control—and being in control at the beginning sounds far superior to being out of control in the middle and the end, places where you must dig deeply into emotions.
  2. In the middle of a story, things get messy as the relationships between the characters develop. Scenes show them as they truly are—warts and all. For writers who like things nice and neat, the middle is an uncomfortable place to linger. It’s much nicer to return to familiar territory.
  3. Going back over what you have already written is easier than coming up with something new.
  4. The middle of the story requires twice as many scenes as the beginning or the end. Each scene in the middle shows, on a progressively deeper level, who the character truly is. If that’s not hard, I don’t know what is.
  5. The energy throughout the middle is more intense than in the beginning, because the protagonist is more rigorously blocked from reaching his/her goals.
  6. Bad things happen in the middle. If you’re in love with your characters, you’ll instinctively be reluctant to let any of these things happen.
       In real life, many of us shy away from disaster and drastic upheaval in order to protect ourselves from deep loss. We don’t want to treat our characters any differently. Once things get rough, we long for the good old days at the beginning of our story, where things were smooth, happy, and superficial.

What can we do about it?

  1. Stop worrying. It won’t be perfect the first time. Writing a “slop-on-the-page” rough draft is preferable to no progression.
  2. Identify your writing strengths and weaknesses. Take a few minutes and think. What makes you love writing? What makes you hate it? What freezes you up? If you can figure it out, you can make a plan of attack. See:  http://thescribblerscove.blogspot.com/search?q=waxing+the+cat 
  3. Use discipline and structure. Compensate for your weaknesses and embrace your strengths.
  4. Start writing whatever words come to you. That’s why you started writing in the first place, isn't it – taking an enthralling thought and putting it on the page?
  5. Push forward, even (and especially) when the writing gets uncomfortable.
  6. Follow through to the end. Until you write the entire story, you do not know what belongs to the beginning. Once the skeleton is in place, you can stand back and see the story in a new light. One benefit of writing a truly awful, lousy, no good first draft is that it can only get better from there.
Not much beats a first full draft, even though it's so raw it’s crawling with flies.

However, it’s there. It’s created.

Yes, it’s begging you to get a it personal trainer and a serious make-up job.

So onward. No more excuses. No more working on the same portion for ten years. Embrace the muscle-tightening terror of the murky middle and, if you’re crazy enough, do a NaNoWriMo and press through. The rewards are worth it.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and FINISH that story! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Co-Writing

Hey, It's your cabin girl again, and it's my week to post. I'm actually posting early in the week because I really have something to post about.

So, last summer, I decided to try co-writing something with my friend, Carina Aldrich. We started it just after I got home from Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. And I'm almost surprised, but it actually worked. We finished it on election day, all ninety-something thousand words of it. And the plot holds together wonderfully, better than any of the plots in my other stories. It's a paranormal dystopian spy story, heavy on the dystopian-spy part, with only a little paranormal.

One thing that made it easier was that our minds work almost exactly alike. Before we even knew each other very well, we would accidentally say something at exactly the same time. It got kind of scary, actually. Another thing that helped was that we live only a few houses away from each other. We're also both on our emails all the time, so communication was reasonably easy. Even at eleven o'clock at night.

We had a wonderfully loyal test reader who helped Carina pester me to write whatever part I was writing next. Because where Carina would always have her chapter done a day after I sent her mine, I would take up to two weeks on my chapter. Our wonderfully loyal test reader also proved to drive us up the wall by guessing exactly who was going to die and constantly calling our plot twists. 

The writing part worked well, because Carina's better at female pov characters, and I prefer writing from male pov. So since we had one main character of each gender, we just each took the pov most comfortable for us, and alternated chapters between them. My character was more the main character of this story, but when we eventually write a sequel, if we eventually write a sequel, her character will take center stage.

So, here's what I learned about co-writing:

The great stuff about it:
-You have someone else who cares about the story and the characters as much as you do.
-You can bounce ideas off of each other and work out plot problems three times as easily as on your own.
-You have someone to tell you honestly when the chapter you've just written stinks and you need to fix it.
-If the other person has a job and you don't, you have someone to buy you ice cream.
-You only have to write half of the scenes.
-When you get stuck, the other person pesters you and gives suggestions.

The less great stuff about it:
-Killing characters hurts more.
-Petty revenge on your test reader becomes a serious and amusing possibility.
-You end up wanting to kill each other. (Actually,  I think it was Carina mostly wanting to kill me).
-The story doesn't feel like something that is yours as much as it does when you write it on your own.
-When you get stuck, instead of sympathy, you get pestered.

And here's some of the other things I learned.
-Carina likes to temporarily kill her main character, no matter what she's writing. Every. Single. Time.
-Flying trains are just not cool enough to be covered by the rule of awesome
-Even mint chocolate-chip ice cream can be ruined forever.
-When Indians (from India, not America) get married, they only get a party if it was an arranged marriage
-Do not name one of your characters something that sounds like a common object you see every day, and then kill that character.
-I cannot write on demand. At all. It ends up horrible when I try.
-laughing gas is very deadly
-I am good at writing torture scenes. And I instinctively know how to brainwash people.
-Do not write what you dream. Make your co-writer write what you dream, because then it won't be so cheesy.
-My pov character is pretty cool when he's depressed, but really weird when he's happy.
-When your test-reader figures out your plot twists BEFORE you do, you want to kill them, or at least get some sort of petty revenge on them. 
-Petty revenge is a whole lot of fun.
-Ice cream fixes everything. Unless it's mint chocolate-chip ice cream. Don't even mention that.
-The worst thing that can possibly happen after killing your comic relief character is to realize that he had a wife and kids.
-I have a bad habit of systematically making my main character destroy everything they care about, mostly by coincidence and bad luck. (although I should have known this one already).
-I should not write dystopia. Because of the torture thing. It's just too easy with evil governments.
-I honestly can't face the death of my characters. The only scene I wrote in which a character actually died was from that character's point of view and the other characters didn't know he was dead yet. He didn't even know he was dying.
-Co-writing takes a lot of energy, a lot of tears, a lot of near-murder, and a lot of work. We are not going to write that sequel for a LONG time.

But overall, it was great. Another manuscript completed is one step closer to getting published! And working with Carina was far too much fun, even if it was emotionally taxing for both of us. We'll get to that sequel eventually. Someday. Maybe.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

More than Wires and Lights

"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference.”
-Edward R. Murrow


Two things happened this week that have converged in my mind.

Disney bought Lucasfilm.

I watched the film, "Good Night and Good Luck."

In "Good Night and Good Luck," broadcast journalist Ed Murrow takes on Senator McCarthy at the height of the Commie-Terrorist-Witch hunts in the 1950's, much to the dismay of Mr. Murrow's boss at CBS. "People want entertainment, not a civics lesson," CBS executive Mr. Paley says. "You're losing your sponsors. Keep this up and one is going to buy advertising time on your show." But Mr. Murrow believes that television should be more than flickering lights in a box. It can educate. It can inform. There are people out there who really want to know what's going on, not some sugar-coated, totally-balanced, everybody's right version. There is evil in the world, and if people don't stand up to it then others will suffer.

Mr. Murrow's boss never censored the content of Mr. Murrow's show. A whole generation of Americans that were being terrorized by the same sort of fear that kept citizens in Communist regimes in check, the fear of being turned in by your neighbors, of being falsely accused with no recourse, are grateful that some prominent figure in broadcast media like Murrow took a stand against McCarthy's unconstitutional actions, and that CBS let Murrow do it, in spite of the fact that some other content would have brought in more money.

So what's this got to do with Leia and Padme acquiring the status of "Disney Princess" this week?


A USA Today article quotes Disney CEO Robert Iger: "We actually determined that we'd be better off as a company releasing a sequel to Star Wars than probably most other, I'll call them 'not yet determined' films," Iger said. "So we love the fact that this will take its place in our live-action strategy as an already-branded, already-known quantity."

Did that send a chill down your spine? As the hopeful creator of several "not yet determined" intellectual properties, I want to bring my babies into a world where executives in book, television, and film are willing to take risks on new ideas. Sure, most new ideas won't be smash hits. Hardly any of them will be. I know everyone's going to go see Star Wars sequels, no matter how horrid they are. If Joss Whedon writes and directs them they'll probably be pretty good. But in the end, an entertainment company who's greatest priority is to make the most money possible is going to deliver nothing but the same old, familiar, sugar-cereal, already-branded, already-known, flickering lights and wires that Murrow refused to conform to.

“We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late. ”-Ed Murrow


The surpluses are gone now, and so is television the way Murrow knew it. Now we have the internet to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate ourselves. With so much freedom of choice on the consumer's end, we have no excuses. Are we going to forever imitate each other, endlessly re-posting the same memes, or are we going to seek for new directions?


Support some independent media today.



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts tomorrow.

The goal is to complete a 50,000 word novel in one month, which works out to writing approximately 1666.66 words each day (or a little more if you take weekends off). It's wild, it's crazy, you get to watch your progress - as well as that of your writing buddies, and more people are joining each year.

Here is their website:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/dashboard

If you're interested, check it out.

If you're wondering who in the world would be loco enough to do this, check it out.

If you always wanted to write a book and are feeling a sugar high or Halloween mania, drink some spider cider and sign up. You never know what might happen - maybe you'll get your happy ending . . .

And for everyone who is doing it this month, here's a shout out for you!

Go! Go! Go!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why You Should Never Think You're Going To Be Rich And Famous

A friend of mine sent me this video recently. Maybe you've seen it:

RSA Animate-Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us from The RSA on Vimeo.

The basic idea is that when you offer a really big monetary reward for completing a difficult mental task, people get stupid. They can't do creative, high-level thinking very well. The stress and excitement probably interferes with their brain. We've all seen this. While we're sitting, relaxing in our living rooms and watching a game show we can remember all the answers to the million dollar questions. Why can't that idiot contestant do it? Well, it's because a million dollars is at stake. 

How does this apply to writing?

Unfortunately, there's a natural tendency to assume that writers become rich and famous because most of the writers we hear about are the rich and famous ones. Of course anyone who knows anything about the business knows that's not true, but the impression is still there because the writers we hear about most often are the ones who are rich and famous. Sorry, that's the way it is. It's the same way with people who win the lottery. The losers are never on the billboards, only the winners, so we get this impression that winning isn't so unusual. This "all authors are rich and famous" effect is even bigger for people who don't know much about writing. When my friends hear I'm working on a novel for children, they say, "Oh, so you're going to be like J.K. Rowling."

You wish.

So dig down deep inside and tear out any old, left-over roots of the idea that your brilliant masterpiece of a book is going to make your rich and famous. Not because that's impossible, but because if you're thinking it in the back of your mind, you won't do your best work.

This goes for ANYTHING you see as a big reward. Is your fat, juicy carrot a literary agent? A publishing contract? Ten thousand sales on Amazon? According to the research, carrots just get in your way when you're doing high-level creative work. Forget about your carrot. Tell yourself it doesn't matter. That's not really why you're doing this.

As Daniel Pink explains in his little video presentation, there are three things that people really want, three things they will do creative, high-level brain work for. The first is to be in charge of ourselves. We want the freedom to choose. Next, we want skills. We'll work hard to gain higher levels of expertise in anything that interests us. This is probably why I practice the harp for an hour a day so I can play with an Irish band that performs only four or five times a year for free at churches and libraries. What do I get out of it? Besides hanging out with friends, I'm getting good at something. Third, people want a sense of purpose. We want to be part of a greater cause, we want to make a difference in the world. This is probably why I spend all that time sorting and rinsing containers for recycling. It isn't exactly fun, but I feel like I'm part of a greater purpose.

So is this why I write?

I've certainly got a lot of freedom. At this stage of my career I can write whatever I want. As for skills, there is so much to learn about writing, so much to gain from constant practice, it's kept me happy for half a life-time and I expect it to do the same throughout my remaining years. Do I have a sense of purpose? I think back to the eleven-year-old girl I once was, who was constantly searching the library for a really good book, and the delight I felt every time I found and read one. I write because I want to make children happy. Well, happy, and sad, and angry, and worried, and scared, but then happy again at the end. Children need emotional exercise. I build emotional playground equipment called books.

So what's the external carrot that's tripping you up? Change your focus to the freedom you enjoy as a writer, the skills you're developing, and your sense of purpose. Those are things no one can give you or take away.





Monday, October 15, 2012

FNR or "Full Novel Review"

If you like to write, as I do, you may have at one point, participated in a Full Novel Review (FNR). A FNR is fun! If you haven't participated in a FNR, you must! Of course, you'll need some key ingredients for it to work well. Here's the recipe!

4-6 serious writers
1/2 - 1 WIP per writer
2-3 months to prepare
2-4 weeks to read
1 great setting to meet

Gather 4-6 serious writers. It works best if you are all part of the same critique group. And by serious, I mean serious about the craft, not necessarily "serious." Each writer must have a WIP that is at least far enough along to be completed in a couple to three months. Please note that a polished completion is not necessary. It can be rough!

Let writers simmer for 2-3 months so their WIPs can be ready MS. Spread WIPs around so all writers have a copy. Let bake for 2-4 weeks so all writers can read each MS. Each writer should prepare at least a 1 page critique for each MS.

Take critique pages and writers, and let cool in a nice setting. A cabin or condo in the mountains sounds nice! But even at someone's house. Bring real food.

Have each writer say good things and then talk about things that are issues to them in the MS. Spend 30-45 minutes on each MS.

I have gotten great feedback at the FNRs I've been to.

I highly recommend them!

Kevin

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Battlefield Casualties, Hair, and Books

Leisha here.

Okay, so I was supposed to post last week. Ahem. Yes, I'm just a tad behind, but my week blew up.

Kabamm!

What was left? Only all my good intentions strewn from Monday to Saturday like battlefield casualties. It was messy. Gory even. I tried to do triage, but a few good intentions died a tragic death. Sob.

So, here I am trying to make up for eviscerated intentions. In doing so I will talk about hair. Yes, hair.

I have hair. Pretty decent hair, even. But here's the thing, I'm kind of a competitive person. Not beat-you-up-if-you-win-at-Pictionary kind of competitive, mind you, just the I-want-to-win kind. Normally this isn't a problem unless I play Risk with my hubby. (That has only happened twice in twenty years for a VERY good reason. It was not pretty. Either time.) But I digress. Hair.

The other day my cousin and I were talking about her daughter's hair. Apparently it is thick and luxurious. I'm ashamed to admit I had hair envy. Mine is long and thick-ish, but, strangely and quite suddenly, I wanted my hair to be more thick and more luxurious and take bigger elastics to hold it back in a pony tail than my cousin's daughter's. See? Hair envy and competitiveness galore. And, yes, I may need therapy. Sigh.

Anywho, I, being a grown-up person, took a deep breath and admitted--out loud--that my hair wasn't as thick as my cousin's daughter's.

My cousin, who probably didn't know that I had been struck by competitive hair envy, went on with the conversation like nothing astounding had happened. BUT something astounding had happened.

"What?" I hear you say as you lean closer to your computer screen in eager anticipation.

This happened: My admission set me free.

EMANCIPATION!

From hair envy.

Go figure.

I,  strangely and quite suddenly, no longer needed to have better hair. I remembered I was very fond of my hair. I liked how it grew out of my head. I liked the color. I liked the thickness. I liked how long it was. I even liked to twirl it around my finger looking for dead ends in church when the speaker was boring.

I liked it just how it was.

Then an even more astounding thing happened, which my cousin probably didn't know about either. I realized I had book envy.

I wanted my book(s) to be better and thicker and yummier than every other book in the whole freaking world. I wanted it to appeal to everyone. In every genre. I wanted it to be loved by every age group. I wanted every agent to weep when they read it. I wanted editors to hear angelic trumpets when it landed in their in box. I wanted it to be the best book ever. And I even wanted all those other books to know it.

Competitive book envy.

Now, hair envy is dangerous. It can lead to all kinds of craziness, like wigs and baldness, but book envy is worse.  It can lead to dead ends, unfinished drafts, and traumatized critique groups. It can lead right to battlefield casualties of the literary kind. It can paralyze you, the writer, and keep you from writing your truth. It can keep you from seeing your book for what it is.

My book will never be the Great American Novel. It will never be Leo Tolstoy or Shakespeare. It won't ever be Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, or Megan Whalen Turner. It will never be so many things because it was never meant to be those things. It was meant to be mine. My own. And I like it for what it is, even with all its flaws, and especially for all its potential.

Admitting that somehow set me free.

How about you? Have you been emancipated? Do you ever suffer from competitive book envy? Or hair envy? Or battlefield casualties?

How do you cope? What sets you free?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Aloha Young Writers Blog - Check it Out!

I've started a blog for my teen writers club to document our weekly writing lessons and awesome author skype visits. Still a work in progress, but we're ready for company now. There will be great advice for young writers (also helpful for those who aren't so young). Do me a favor, gals, and link to me.

http://alohayoungwriters.blogspot.com/

Mahalo!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Adventures in Cover Design

As most of you know, I have two writing careers. One is as traditionally published Emily Mah, who sells her science fiction and fantasy stories to magazines. The other is as indie published E.M. Tippetts, who is an experiment on my part to try my hand at all the different aspects of the publishing industry. Up until this point, I've always had my novel covers designed by professionals, but this week I've taken the plunge and put one of my own covers out there.

My bestselling book so far is Someone Else's Fairytale, and so I've been writing a sequel. I wanted to design a cover that would work as a template for all the books to come after it. So, here it is, the first cover I designed and put out there:


I debuted this cover on Wattpad, where Fairytale is a featured novel (as of Wednesday). I've since uploaded it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. The images are all stock art off Shutterstock. The leather texture is from Scrapgirls, as is the gold tone effect (I purchased a commercial licenses). The swirly patterns are royalty free brushes that my professional cover designer used, and my knowledge of how to put it all together comes from digital scrapbooking. Yes, really. That's how I learned to use Photoshop, from JessicaSprague.com and her online classes :-)

This first cover's gotten a positive response, so I put together a mockup for the second cover:


This is the book I'm working on right now. I debuted this cover on my site, (www.emtippetts.com) and people have been very positive. I need to make a few changes. I'm going to play with what word I put in the magnifying glass. Maybe "crime" or "police" might look better than just "ot cr". I also need to fix the title block. It's crooked, but nobody noticed that, right?

Now, I suppose I should tie this up with some intelligent, meaningful comment, but to be honest, I am so exhausted I can barely see straight! I launched the German edition of Fairytale, also on Wednesday, and have been writing over 2,000 words a day on Damsel, so as soon as I finish this post, I'm stumbling off to bed ;-)




Thursday, September 13, 2012

You're a Storyteller, Not (Just) a Writer

Titles lack nuance. But they work, if you're reading this now. :)

Susan Kaye Quinn, Young Adult Author
I'm using my website banner, because it speaks to the topic at hand.

Some people are natural-born storytellers. But even if you're devastatingly funny at the dinner table and can regale your friends with the hilarity of your trip to the grocery store, you're still going to have to learn the craft of storytelling if you want to write an entire novel full of story.

Many writers become so in love with their written words that they forget that a story isn't made from them. No more than it's made from the spoken words you use or from images on the screen. It's the imagination behind these words, something that exists in a snapping of neurons inside our heads, that creates story.

This was brought into full relief to me a few months ago when award-winning producer Beth Spitalny asked what I had in mind for the live-action trailer we would be making for my Mindjack series. I've never written a screenplay before, even a short one, but I pitched my idea to her anyway. It boiled down the essence of the story, the basic conflict of the characters told in a moving image format, with a beginning, middle, and end, just as any story should have. The final script that Beth wrote was very close to the images that were playing in my mind. It was a direct transference from one media to another, going through two brains in the process, but keeping the story intact. (I can't wait to see how it looks on the screen!)


Story isn't just plot. It isn't just images one after the other. It lives in the feelings it evokes. The laughter and tears that it causes. The brain-tingling possibilities it conjures. This is what readers respond to.


This is all very romantic, but how does one go about becoming a storyteller, not (just) a writer?

I tend to think of writers and story as being like the Blind Men and the Elephant: viewed one way, we can use structure to understand story; viewed another, we see the emotional journey of a character compelling the story forward; yet another, we see the deeper lessons that a story is embedding in the readers' minds.

All of this work is right and good (and necessary) to becoming a good storyteller. But first we have to pay more than lip service to the fact that story is important. As writers, it is too easy to fall in love with a character or a world and forget that delivering a satisfying story to readers is what is most important.

Right now I'm working on the second draft of my current WiP, Free Souls. This is my most heavily plotted novel to date, because I have to make sure I get the story right. Getting the story right is crucial in every novel, but a wee more complicated (and in some ways, more important) in the last novel in a series. It's like getting the ending right in a regular book. Readers will forgive a lot of things, but not an ending that leaves them dissatisfied. So I wrote and re-wrote the chapter-by-chapter outline for this novel a couple times, making sure the story would hold together, before I ever wrote a single scene. When I finally wrote the first draft, things shifted around and I made some new discoveries, but for the most part, the story held together.

Only during the second draft am I worrying about things like complete sentences and pretty metaphors and tight action sequences and witty dialogue. I'm diving deeper into setting and the emotional arcs of secondary characters. Those are things that a writer does, before she lets that work go out into the wild. Because she takes pride in her work and because it's just not readable without it!

But the story is already, essentially, there.

I'm not saying you have to plot a novel to make the story work (although I do think it helps, even if you're a natural storyteller). Your process may involve discovering your story by pantsing your way through it. I make no judgments there. I do think that you should focus on story first, however you get there, and words second, in order to make your story the best that it can be.

How do you make yourself a better storyteller?
 ~*~
Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack series. Her most recent releases are the short novellas The Handler and The Scribe. You can find all her books on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and iTunes. Susan's business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist," but she spends most of her time writing, because she loves it even more than shiny tech gadgets. When she's not writing, you can find her wasting time playing on TwitterFacebook, and her blog.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Courage to Revise

This is your cabin girl, posting several weeks late (for which you can blame my AP history class) on where I am in the process of revising my brick of a manuscript.

Revising is something relatively new to me. The only revising I've ever gone through with has been short stories. But now I'm going to attempt to tackle a larger project. Which is pretty scary.

Always before, I could never get up the motivation to revise anything because by the time I was finished writing it, I was a much better writer than when I started and it wasn't worth it. But my latest manuscript won't leave me alone.

I've thrown it against the wall, re-written the ending three times and the beginning twice, given it up as a lost cause, argued with my characters (out loud on occasion), and come up with brilliant ideas for it that, upon five minutes of thought, actually turned out to be stupid.

And in the end I figured there was nothing for it but to revise because maybe then it will stop pestering me and I can write something else.

But as I skimmed the first few chapters and started working out my plot and setting and character and everything problems, I realized that I needed to be able to see the big picture before I went in and started changing things.

I had to read the manuscript.

This seems very obvious. But I have actually never done that before. I wrote it and then I let some of my friends read it (besides the ending, which was horrible), but then I shoved it in a drawer and let it sit.

I was a little nervous about reading it, because when I was writing it, I felt like the story was dragging me along and I had no idea what I was doing. I worried that reading it would be like that too. Or that it was so bad it really wasn't worth revising.

But I went ahead and started reading it. I'm a little more than halfway through right now. What I've found is very, very relieving: It's good, but has an amateur feel to it. It's very engaging, and intense in some places, but a bit patchy and thin on detail. I have some things I need to do more research on. I have a lot of things that need re-writing. I have a LOT of work to do.

But it means I can master this story. It felt like some insane, enormous, impossible thing that I couldn't control. But it isn't. It's not brilliant, and it's not terrible either, but most importantly, it's not beyond my ability to improve.

So I'm going to go ahead and attempt at a second draft and see how much I can do to make the story the best it can be.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Writer Therapy and Awesome Contests

Hey everyone, Leisha here.

I know it's not my week to post, but I thought you all would want to know about some really cool things going on at Writer Therapy.

What is Writer Therapy?

I'm so glad you asked.

Writer Therapy is an online webseries for writers, about writers, that is going to air Thursday, Sept 20

They even have a teaser trailer.

Check this out (and yes, there are some Scribblers Cove peeps involved in this cool adventure):




This is what the Writer Therapy group has to say about themselves:


One group. One goal. Get published.
For any writer who has aspired to be published, or any reader who has wanted a “behind the scenes” look at the writing process, Writer Therapy launches their first two online webisodes. The web series follows the life and laughs of a critique group as they (try to) finish their manuscripts and get published. Each webisode runs between 4-10 minutes in length, with twelve webisodes comprising the first season.
The first season kicks off with Chersti, a recent college grad who has just finished her first manuscript. Fortunately, she has her critique group to help her through the querying process. Through the groups’ crazy antics—including everything from stalking famous authors to striking out on a personal quest—might deter from them actually writing, it is perfect research for their books, which will obviously be the BIGGEST thing since Harry Potter or Hunger Games.
Webisodes for season one will air consecutively on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in September-October. Special guest stars include authors Dan Wells, Brandon Mull and more!
More information can be found on the Writer Therapy website at www.writertherapy.com.

AND!!!!!!! They are having some killer contests to launch the website. I'll just highlight the awesome first page contest. http://www.writertherapy.com/ to check out the others.

Contest information
With the launch of the new website, Writer Therapy will be hosting a 250-word contest. Winners will receive a query critique from an agent. Details will be announced on the Writer Therapy blog on September 10th, the first day of the contest, but here's a sneak peek at some of the prizes:

Molly Ker Hawn - query critique (Bent Agency)
Nicole Resciniti - 1st chapt critique (The Seymour Agency)
Sara Crowe - query critique (Harvey Klinger, Inc) 

And a bunch of other runner-up prizes, too!

So, pull out your first pages and polish them all shiny. This is killer. Now, go forth and do!


Links
website: www.writertherapy.comhttp://www.writertherapy.com/

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Grabbing the bull by the horns


Overheard at my dinner table:
Dad: You just gotta grab the bull by the horns.
Son #2: And do a flip onto it, and ride it on home. (laughs)
Son #1: (shakes head) Little kids are so literal.

Well, maybe I'm literal too, but when I saw the book First Draft in 30 days by Karen Wiesner, I thought, "Who wouldn't want that?" and bought it from the title alone. The fact that my familiy was (very) ready to leave the bookstore may have been a factor, but either way, on that day I became the newest author to fall for a get-a-book-quick scheme. :)

Upon closer perusal of my new treasure, I discovered that Wiesner's method doesn't actually produce a manuscript in 30 days, but rather a detailed outline from which you can produce a fairly painless, solid, semi-final draft. Okay, that sounds more reasonable. And, more what I need anyway, because I haven't thought too much about outlines since my junior high school days. I did create an outline for my first novel (and the whole series) but that was a simple roman-numeral plot sequence outline. Since then, other than a little dabbling in the snowflake method, I have been acting as a seat-of-the-pants discovery writer even though I know it doesn't suit me. Yes, I'm messed up. Moving on.

Wiesner's outline method includes way more than just plot; it has multiple days dedicated to research, character sketches, setting descriptions, and more. I've dabbled in these things, too, but without structure or order to them.

So, in grabbing a catchy title on my way out of the bookstore, I have stumbled upon a book that may be perfectly suited to shoring up my writing weaknesses. Giving structure, sequence and even deadlines to my pre-writing.

So how extensive do you make your pre-writing phase? Do you outline plot, do extensive research, do character and setting sketches and more? And what is the more?

And... how important do you find these steps in helping you create your masterpiece?

P.S. I have been away from novel writing for more than a year, but am planning to grab the bull by the horns, do a flip onto it, and ride it home. If all goes as planned and I don't get gored, I'll have a spiffy super-outline by November, and I can do NaNoWriMo this year to produce the manuscript itself. I'll let you know how the whole experiment goes. Oh, and I'm not affiliated with Ms. Wiesner or her book in any way. Just sharing!

Write on,

Amber M of Mindsbase

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It Takes a Village



It’s been two and a half months since I read Holly Lisle’s article on One-Draft Editing.

I’ll cut right to the chase and tell you that . . . nope, I didn’t make it in one session, although I did learn some lovely new editing tricks. Those tricks helped shorten my previously protracted process, for which I am very grateful.

It took me three tries this time, and I didn’t do everything myself. After years of writing and interacting with others, here are the people I’ve found invaluable in the editing process:

Work-shopping:
In June, at WIFYR (the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference – which I highly recommend), I was able to receive feedback from my fellow work-shoppers as well as my talented instructor. They were kind but honest. They came from many walks of life and gave varied advice (from which I could pick and choose – you don’t want to take it all) that enriched and deepened my story.

People who know the story:
When I ran into critical plot issues, it helped to bounce ideas off others who understand my characters and storyline. A thousand thank you’s go out to my amazing critique group!

One member of my group read the last forty pages, and then the first forty pages in one day—in that order. (I know, she’s brilliant, and she deserves a medal!) She came back with great advice on how to make my main character’s arc stronger, make my ties between the beginning and end stronger, as well as feed in more foreshadowing.

Beta Readers:
Two new friends from WIFYR agreed to read my story. It’s a huge help to get a fresh perspective from someone who doesn’t know your story. They caught completely different things from those in my critique group, like lame lines, confusing parts (after I’ve removed sections and didn’t clean up all the ties), and questions about character motivation.

Age-appropriate readers:
This book is a mid-grade. One of my friends had her young daughter read it, and mark the parts that worked, the words or parts that confused her, and give general feedback. It was like striking gold!

I guess, at least for me, it takes a village. And it took years to find that village, but it was worth the search. There’s just no way to produce a book of quality without help.

I know some people have a hard time finding or joining a critique group. What holds you back? What spurs you on? How did you find your village?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Launch day for Castles on the Sand

Many of you will remember me advertising my Kickstarter campaign to get a Kirkus Review for my novel, Castles on the Sand. That campaign was ultimately successful, and Kirkus dubbed the novel: "A fast-paced blend of high-stakes drama and average teenage concerns (sex, appearance, friends), capped with a welcome message of hope."

You may also remember my post on how to make a book trailer, in which I showed the trailer for the book: 



Today, the book was released on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords, and I shall update my little section of the righthand sidebar accordingly!

Monday, July 23, 2012

826 Valencia: Writing Center and Pirate Store

Your cap'n here! Hope you've all had smooth sailing this summer. I've had my share of traveling delays, but in those delays there were some unexpected treasures to be found.

On an unplanned layover in San Francisco, due to a random plane-grounding thunderstorm in Denver, I discovered something truly amazing.

There's a free writing tutoring center operating behind a pirate supply store in downtown San Francisco. It's called 826 Valencia, With a pirate store in front and a publishing company in the back, there's plenty of buccaneers and professional writers and editors on board to volunteer their time to help high school students improve their writing.

From a slow beginning, their program has grown to over a thousand community volunteers. They have placed writing centers in schools, helped high school students publish collections of essays, poems, and fiction, and inspired countless young writers to a high level of achievement. And now more and more writers and educators are opening similar tutoring centers all across the country. Some of them with their own unusual supply stores.

826 Valencia, the Scribblers Cove salutes you.


If you want to learn all about it, here's the founder of 826 Valencia, David Eggers, giving a TED talk on his fine establishment:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Candy

Hi, this is your cabin girl. And here I am, posting out of turn, but I have direct orders from the captain, so there.

Here's my random rant for the day: So I went to the library and checked out some books, one because I liked the author, one because it looked epic, and one because it's been recommended to me-I think. And I started reading the recommended one because it's big and shiny and not the kind of book I would normally touch with a ten-foot pole. I didn't expect to get past the first few pages.

But I did, and now I'm halfway through the book. Its acceptable prose and intensity surprised and pleased me. The world unfolded naturally, full of magic and delicious darkness. The characters were instantly likeable and mysterious at the same time. Stuff I'd already figured out started to reveal itself and I was pleased to have figured it out before the characters. This book is CANDY to my teenage soul. The guys are cute, the girls are pretty. The characters are magical sarcastic teenagers with lots of weapons and other cool stuff. I sat in my room this early afternoon, reading, feeling guilty for liking a book that seems most unhealthily YA. By less early afternoon, I needed a break, so I wrote something and then went back to the candy. By dinner, I was starting to feel sick to my stomach.

YA will be YA. There hasn't really been kissing...yet, but I guess that's not my only issue with the genre. The characters are stereotypical. And it does *sigh* have vampires and werewolves, though we haven't seen any werewolves yet. I feel like I've read this story before. Thinking back, I realize that I have. At least three times, this being the fourth. I feel like I've met these characters before. I have. THE EXACT SAME NUMBER OF TIMES. The main character girl and the incredibly-hot-and-charming-but-also-secretive-reserved-powerful-and-with-an-angsty-past-full-of-death-and-despair guy who lets her follow him around and seems to like her maybe, go and save the world, usually by finding some sort of magical item that's been stolen or hidden, going to exotic places full of booby-traps and/or working out riddles and occasionally stabbing monsters. But before they do that, they have to figure out all this crazy family stuff like 'who are my parents really?' and 'wait a second, how come they never told me there was magic' because your parents would NEVER tell you if there was magic, right? If they're even your parents...

And by the end, we've figured out all the angsty family stuff, and solved the 'end of the world' problem, at least partly, and killed lots of monsters and survived lots of booby-traps and stuff. But you NEVER work out the relationship problems, love triangles or otherwise, especially if it's the first book in a series. So I'm not sure I want to finish this book, even though it's good compared to most YA. But I think I will. Because I need to read twenty books over the summer and I spent most of the time reading 'Wheel of Time' books, which take about two weeks to a month each, even for an avid reader.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Running and Writing

Kevin here!

So recently my twin bother and I ran a half marathon. It was the American Fork Canyon Half Marathon, which goes from Tibble Fork Reservoir in American Fork Canyon down to American Fork High School. Here's a map!:


The "good" thing about this half marathon is that it's mostly down hill. Here's the elevation map:


Those of us with iffy knees are thinking "That's not good..." but it does make it easier to run faster!

The best part of this? I beat my goal of 2 hours 10 minutes. Sure, that time, while decent, isn't even close to the winner of the race.

The crazy part? My brother and I are going to try a full marathon next year. Yes, we are crazy.

Now you're probably all wondering what this has to do with writing. At face value, it doesn't. You can't write while running. Trust me. It's even hard to think about your WIP while running. However, we can make a parallel!

First, running 13.1 miles isn't easy for all of us. Writing also isn't easy for all of us.
Second, running 13.1 miles is rewarding. Writing is also rewarding.
Third, I set a goal for myself that I was sure I could reach, with some effort. We can set writing goals that we can reach, with some effort.
Forth, running 13.1 miles is hard, especially towards the end. Writing a book takes effort, especially towards the end! (The beginning and middle can also be effort-full!)

I've decided I need to apply this to my writing.

So let us run and write!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Packing For The End

Leisha here.

It's my turn to post this week, and I'm sadly late. Not because I didn't want to post, or because I'm lazy (maybe). Or even because I died of heat stroke. I'm late because I've been pondering what to write.

Recently my neighborhood had a fire scare. Nothing like Colorado, but the fire was very close to some homes. Fire + dry grass and trees + gusty wind = big flames. And that means evacuations. My family wasn't evacuated, but some of our neighbors were. We packed just in case.

When you see flames framing your friends' homes in a demonic embrace, you pack fast. And it's amazing what becomes important.

Here's what we decided to take:

Me:

My computer
Photo Albums
Pets

Hubby:

Important documents
Family pictures

Kid A:

Art portfolio
Art supplies

Kid B and C:

ipads and one irreplaceable stuffed elephant named Baby

Kid D:

Loads of toys, stuffed animals, books, blankets, trinkets, keepsakes, drawings, and enough tears to fill a swimming pool. Poor kid.

For most of us, everything perishable faded away as unimportant. We didn't even grab clothes. Clothes you can replace. It was like those flames simplified everything down to what we couldn't get back.

What does a wildfire have to do with writing? More than you would think.

It could have been the end for a lot of homes if it wasn't for amazing fire personnel and a hefty dose of divine intervention. It was kind of like the climax at the end of a book. As writers, we have to make that moment when things look the worst count.


We need to pack the right things into the ending. Things we can't do without. And we need to cut the extras, things like twenty stuffed animals, six boxes of crayons, and a pile of Legos. 


The thing is, as writers, we're a lot like Kid D. We love our stuff, our words, our scenes. Each one is important to us. But that doesn't mean you can fit them all into the end. And sometimes we cry just like Kid D when we learn we can't cram all of our stuff into the car.


So, my question for you is, what would you take if you had five minutes to evacuate? And more importantly, what do you really need to keep in your story? What can't you do without? 


Leisha