Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stitching Snow: here's to lady programmers

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
Personally, I can't get enough of scifi retellings of fairytales, so the more the merrier! This one is loosely based on Snow White, with some space travel and new planets. Snow's "domestic duties" are mechanics and programming, which she calls "stitching". Her seven dwarves are her bots programmed to help her. Dopey = Dimwit and Grumpy = Cusser. These guys were definitely my favorite part of the story.

As a part-time lady programmer myself, I loved Snow's mechanical and programming prowess (not so sure about her cage fighting habit, though; was it really necessary? she was plenty tough enough without throwing that into the mix).  

I read this book on Adobe Digital Editions, which has the unfortunate habit of NOT SAVING YOUR HIGHLIGHTS if it closes down unexpectedly (like if your battery runs out). So I highlighted half a dozen things I was planning on sharing or mentioning what I liked about this book... and sadly, can't remember a single one other than how the one planet was named Windsong, which annoyed me at first, because it sounded sort of My Little Ponyish. But eventually we get to see the setting a little more and the name comes from the whistling canyons. I longed for more world-building details like this one. I also longed for a little more development of the evil Queen (the emphasis is actually more on the evil King, Snow's true father who is still very much alive and irksome in this version of the story). Also, I believe Kip equated to the Huntsman, and I wanted to know more about this character too, but he always seemed to get skimmed over. 

The relationship between the Prince and Snow was refreshingly antagonistic to start out with and continues to have its ups and downs throughout the story. 

Overall a fast-paced, entertaining read; I wish I could remember more to say about it! Thank you to Net Galley and Disney-Hyperion for a free digital review copy.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Places books have made me want to visit

Books that make you want to visit places: this is an important subject to me, because I literally chose the place where I live (Laramie, Wyoming) based on three books I read as child, the series starting with My Friend Flicka, by Mary O'Hara. When I was about 10 or 11, I told my parents I wanted to move to Wyoming.  I moved here when I was 24 and have been here ever since.

(This post is part of Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish blog with a different top bookish ten list theme, every Tuesday) (see the full list here). 

To this day, I have never read any other books that have such a vivid, vibrant, emotional connection to place and setting as these books. I dearly wish for books that make that connection to place, and I was surprised at how hard it was to make this list because so many books have excellent settings, but not a deep connection to them.  Here are the ones that do have that deep connection to a place:



My Friend Flicka
Green Grass of Wyoming
Thunderhead
At Home in Mitford
Anne of Green Gables Boxed Set
White Fang
River God
All Creatures Great and Small & All Things Bright and Beautiful
The Call of the Wild
Daughter of Smoke & Bone
The Bronze Bow
The Island



All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot, set in the Yorkshire Dales
I got to visit the Yorkshire Dales many years ago, and it has been the most vividly remembered of the places I've been to in Europe (with the Swiss Alps being a very close second). I am 100% sure the strong memories are because of my deep love of these stories.

The Mitford series by Jan Karon, set in a small North Carolina town in the Blue Ridge
If there were any other place in America I'd want to live besides my own beloved Wyoming Rockies, it would be in the North Carolina or Virginia Blue Ridge/Appalachians, in a small town like Mitford.

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, Prince Edward Island
Haven't been there yet, but it's on my bucket list.

Jack London's stories set in Alaska/Yukon
Absolutely, emphatically on my bucket list

Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey
This is non-fiction, but it still tells stories: stories of the land rather than of characters. I actually visited the slick rock country and canyonlands of Utah before I read this book, but the land so deeply impressed me that I began to look for stories set in this most unsual of wildernesses.  Abbey's stories and descriptions of the Utah deserts always bring me back to my first time hiking in a state of wonder through Canyonlands National Park.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor, set in Prague, Czech Republic
I'm not much of a city girl, though I've been very fortunate to have opportunities to visit great cities like London, Paris, Rome, and most great American cities. Currently, this is the only large city that I specifically want to visit, and I blame it totally on this book.

I can't talk about books with a sense of place without mentioning James Michener. I've read Alaska, Centennial (set in Colorado), Chesapeake, and the Source (set in Israel), and all of them have brought these places alive to me.

Amazing places I want to read more great stories about, and visit someday:

These are places that I love because of all their fascinating history, and purposefully seek out books about them to read. I've listed some good books I've read set in these places, but have not yet found THE BOOK. The book that really makes that hard-to-describe deep connection.

Greece.  Some good books that have whetted my appetite: the Island, by Victoria Hilsop (set on Crete); My Best Friend, Maybe (set on Santorini)

Egypt.  Have read so many books about ancient Egypt; would love a modern book set here, too. The book that has stuck with me the most: River God, by Wilbur Smith.

Italy.   Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I'm sure I've read many others set in Italy. But none of them really stuck with me, and I really want something to stick.

Israel and the Levant. The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth Speare. Would love a book set in Damascus, Bagdad, Babylon or any place in Israel, Lebanon, Arabia, etc - modern or ancient. Ancient Sumeria or Persia. So many books touch on these places, but I want one that is deeply tied to place.

Russia. I've read some Tolstoy, and probably half a dozen other stories set here, but most were character-based or so broad in scope it was hard to really get connected to any particular place, to make that deep connection.

What story has made you want to visit a place?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Throwback Thursday: where did the time go?

Today we are flashing back to 2002, 12 years ago when I just finally getting on my feet again after becoming a mom. I had no idea how exhausting and time consuming it would be. I was looking forward to my maternity leave as a VACATION!!! Ha!!!

Just about the time this picture was taken of me and my daughter at Glacier National Park, I had figured out how to start enjoying myself again. Now, I certainly enjoyed my baby girl from the moment she was born, but enjoying myself? not so much. Adjusting to less sleep, adjusting to hauling baby stuff everywhere, not being able to pick and go where-ever when-ever I wanted...

The biggest thing about parenthood is that you keep wondering where did the time go? I think kids are little time vacuums that suck away your time,  Granted, they give you lots of joy in return, but they definitely steal time.  Days just don't feel like they have 24 hours in them anymore. There's some sort of time warp going on.  I can't believe, for instance, that baby girl in the photo is taller than me now and 13 years old. It seems like just yesterday!!

Terry Pratchett has a lot of fun playing with time in his book, Thief of Time (published in 2002).
He basically takes every single common saying about time and wrings every fun twist or warp out of those sayings. So for instance, "where did the time go?" - well, suppose that there's an order of History Monks that tend to time, that can store time and redistribute it as necessary? They are secretly responsible for moving time around from, um, time to time (grin). 

Then there's the idea that Time, if personified, must be female, because "Time waits for no man." 

The saying that "procrastination is the thief of time": well, Procrastinators are real things in this story. In fact there are even portable, wind-up procrastinators that you can use to make more time for yourself.

Portable procrastinators also mean that "you can live on borrowed time"

"Time stands still" - trying to remember how this one is played out - something to do with History Monks being able to slice time? 

There's also a twist on "There is no time but the present"

A "child of our time" - ahh!! don't dare say too much about this. 

"Time plays tricks on us all" 

"Time bombs"  Soooo cool!!!!

"People have been messing around with time ever since they were people. Wasting it, killing it, sparing it, making it up. And they do it. People's heads were made to play with time"


"...Time was alive. He said it acted like a living thing"

On page 19 I met Miss Susan for the first time, (ah, time!) and Miss Susan is a grade school teacher. But trust Terry Pratchett to play on every possible boring old teacher trope out there and make Miss Susan both the penultimate quintessential teacher ("no dog ever ate the homework of one of Miss Susan's students, because there was something about Miss Susan that went home with them; the dog brought them a pen and watched imploringly while they finished it") and a complete satirical statement on teachers as well ("Susan did an unusual thing and listened. That's not an easy task for a teacher"). 



"And, er, what you are you, Miss Susan?"

"Me? I'm... a schoolteacher."

She followed his gaze to the wrench that she still held in her hand, and shrugged.

"It can get pretty rough at break time, can it?" said Lobsang.

Then there's Igor. He's a servant to a mad scientist, OF COURSE. He's actually an Igor, because there are many Igors, there's actually a whole temp agency of Igors where you can request a servant to assist you in your mad scientist pursuits. 

This Igor is unfailingly polite, and might appear to be a bit simple-minded, but he's really not. And then there's the business with all his scars and stitches (which are not really anything to be concerned about, they're "just cultural") (which leads into a satirical discourse on "cultural").

The code of the Igors was quite strict.
Never Contradict. It was not part of an Igor's job to say things like "No, thur, that'th an artery." The marthther (translation: master) was always right. (all Igors have a lisp)

Never Complain. An Igor would never say "But that'th a thouthand miles away!"

Never Make Personal Remarks. No Igor would dream of saying anything like "I thould have thomething done about that laugh, if I wath you."

And Never, Ever, Ask Questions. Admittedly, Igor knew, that meant never ask Big questions. "Would thur like a cup of tea around now?" was fine,, but "What do you need a hundred virginths for?" or "Where you expect me to find a brain at thith time of night?" was not. An Igor stood for loyal, dependable, discreet service with a smile, or at least a sort of lopsided grin, possibly just a curved scar in the right place. (because, Igors pass down their body parts. This Igor's double-thumbed hand was passed down from his grandfather and stitched into place)
Definitely a great book to study when it comes to writing satire and twists on character tropes like school teachers, monks, auditors and mad scientist helpers.

What's your favorite time-twist book?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Insecure writer: where did my voice go?

The first Wednesday of the month
 is time for Insecure Writers Support Group,
hosted by Alex Cavanaugh and his
excellent team. 
I'm pretty sure I've posted about this before: of all the problems that confound writers, the thing I feel most insecure about is "voice" - that unique, almost undefinable expression or way of looking at, talking about or showing the world that every artist needs.  I am struggling with voice, AGAIN.  A crit partner re-read my first chapter, which I showed her oh-so-proudly because I streamlined it (very nicely, I thought) thanks to help from my PitchWars coach. And she agreed, oh yes, this is good... but one problem, your 2nd main character sounds pretty much like your first main character. He needs a more distinct voice. 

Ah yes, my old nemesis: my characters sounding too much alike. I'm already insecure about my own voice, not to mention my characters' voices.  (Truly writers are odd creatures: the only people who WANT more voices in their heads!)  

Issue #1:  I've been thinking for two weeks now about how to give this guy a more unique voice. And it hasn't come to me yet. 

Issue #2:  I recognize my voice when I read it, when it comes spilling out of its own accord, but I can't force it, and lately it seems to be really scarce. I think a major reason being is this whole past year I've been doing nothing but revisions, and almost no fresh drafting. Can you edit out your voice? Can you edit it back in? 

Fortunately, another writer here in Laramie, Emily Moore (@EGMoorewriter) found me online (I live in a small town, this is close to a miracle, connecting with another kidlit writer!) and we got together and decided to  start a local writers group.  I have another friend who just recently moved here who was also interested. So we had our first meeting this week and we did a 15 minute writing prompt exercise, and a 15 minute free write.  I know that free writing and prompt writing are both excellent exercises to tease voices out (and new ideas!) but it's really hard for me to push myself to do these on my own.  Or in the online writing community.  Sometimes there's just no replacement for meeting face to face with other writers!

How do you find your voice? And your characters' voices? 

Monday, September 29, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks: Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

Absolutely True Diary of  Part-Time Indian just shot to the top of my favorites read so far in 2014, and got added to my list of all time favorites.  My husband even read this book in less than 24 hours, and he's not a reader. He hates to read, but he loved this book. In fact while he was reading it if I happened to ask him a question, he'd give me that glazed, "what did you say? I'm in the middle of a good book" look that I'm guilty of all the time (a couple times I think he was doing this on purpose just to give me a taste of my own medicine but a couple times I'm pretty sure it was genuine.) 
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian


14 year Spokane Indian, Junior, decides to leave the rez and go to a nearby mostly-white suburban high school.  Almost everyboy on the reservation treats him like a traitor, including his best friend, Rowdy. Not everyone in his new school is that thrilled about his bid for a life with more opportunities, either. 

Junior is smart and funny and self-deprecating and scatters  hand-drawn commentaries (e.g. cartoons) in with his words. Which came first? Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian? they are remarkably similar in style (right down to all the bathroom humor. Warning: this book is full of, um, very physical humor). But Sherman Alexie's book treats a desperately serious subject with both humor and heartbreak. 

I'm fourteen years old and I've been to forty-two funerals. That's really the biggest difference between Indians and white people.

Another funny/sad example is how the Indians would get pulled over by the police for  DWI's  (Driving While Indian). But before I get to the heartbreaky parts, gotta share some of my favorite parts. 

After Junior, his friend Rowdy was my favorite. (warning: gross parts ahead)

Rowdy didn't believe in himself. Not much. So I tried to pump him up.
"You're the toughest kid on the rez," I said.
"I know," he said.
"You're the fastest, the strongest."
"And the most handsome, too."
"If I had a dog with a face like yours, I'd shave its a.. and teach it to walk backwards."
"I once had a zit that looked like you. Then I popped it. And then it looked even more like you."
"This one time, I ate, like, three hot dogs and a bowl of clam chowder, and then I got diarrhea all over the floor, and it looked like you."
"And then you ate it," Rowdy said.
We laughed ourselves silly.

Junior has a hard time making friends at his new school, but he finally falls in with Gordy. Who is a super smart nerd and gives Junior a new perspective on books that made me want to meet Gordy in real life and high-five him. 

We ran into the Reardan High School Library. "Look at all these books," Gordy said.
"There aren't that many," I said. It was a small library in small high school in a small town.
"There are three thousand four hundred and twelve books here," Gordy said. "I know that because I counted them."
"Okay, now you're officially a freak," I said.
"Yes, it's small library. It's a tiny one. But if you read one of these books a day, it would still take you almsot ten years to finish."
"What's your point?"
"The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don't know."
Wow. That was a huge idea.
Any town, even one as small as Reardan, was a place of mystery. And that meant that Wellpinit, that smaller, Indian town, was also a place of mystery.
"Okay, so it's like each of hese books is a mystery. Every book is a mystery. And if you read all the books ever written, it's like you've read one giant mystery. And no matter how much you learn, you just keep on learning there is so much more you need to learn."

Another character I fell in love with was Junior's grandmother, the only Indian that was enthusiastic about Junior leaving the rez school.

Now, in the old days, Indians used to be forgiving of any kind of eccentricity. In fact, weird people were often celebrated.... my grandmother, she still hung onto that old-time Indian spirit, you know? She always approached each new person and each new experience the exact same way. Whenever we went to Spokane, my grandmother would talk to anyoe, even the homeless people, even the homeless people who were talking to invisible people. My grandmother would start talking to the invisible people, too. Why would she do that? 
"Well," she said, "how can I be sure there aren't invisible people in the world? Scientists didn't believe in the mountain gorilla for hundreds of years. And now look. So if scientists can be wrong, then all of us can be wrong. I mean, what if all of those invisible people ARE scientists? Think about that one."  
So I thought about that one: [ draws a cartoon of Invisible Mountain Gorilla Scientist] 
 After I decided to go to Reardan, I felt like an invisible mountain gorilla scientist. My grandmother was only one who thought it was a 100 percent good idea.
"Think of all the new people you're going to meet," she said. 'That's the whole point of life, you know? To meet new people. I wish I could go with you. It's such an exciting idea."

A kind of funny but sad part was when a billionaire shows up at the reservation to dole out his "graciousness" to the Indians....

"I'm not Indian, but I feel Indian in my bones"
... we all groaned... he was yet another white guy who showed up on the rez because he loved Indian people so much.

Then there's a really cool scene at the high school which ends with Junior's classmates stomping out of the classroom in protest.

Also, there is this different way of looking at tribes: 
I realized that I might be a lonely Indian boy, but I was not alone in my loneliness. There were millions of other Americans who had left their birthplaces in search of a dream. 
I realized that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms. And the tribe of cartoonists...And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends.

I loved the ending, how it ends on the rez,  not on the bad parts of the rez, but the good parts. The great, ancient trees (some of them older than Benjamin Franklin). And the spooky stories about Turtle Lake. And Rowdy talking about how Indians used to be nomadic, but they aren't anymore... except for Junior... "you're an old-time nomad," Rowdy said. "You're going to keep moving all over the world in search of food and water and grazing land. That's pretty cool."



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday: owning my oddness

Everyonce in a while I own up to my inner oddness. Usually  I try to keep it inside my head (or at least, my home. My family is understanding). Usually I try to appear like a generally normal wife, mom, professional mapmaker and writer (if any writer can be called normal). I might get a little too excited about maps once in a while, and I might let it slip that I'm a Trekkie and a Tolkien addict, but mostly the oddness stays safely contained.

Even here on the blog I keep up tidy appearances. Gushing about books is socially acceptable, after all. Confessing fascination with mythical creatures... no biggie, right? But something I don't often share is my love of lizards. My daughters buy me mugs with lizards on them for Christmas. And lizards pins that hang out on my purses. They know what charms me.

I used to bring my pet lizard to high school with me. Really. He was a little anole named Loki (I kid you not. Btw, this was way before the Avengers Loki) and I'd carry him around in my pocket and when I was bored in class I'd let him hang out on my desk. Amazingly, all my teachers were quite tolerant of this behavior and my economics teacher once borrowed Loki and taught a class with the lizard peering out of his front pocket.
Throwback Thursday: a picture of Loki from high school (I'm on the left. The year I died my hair black)
Here's where I use my oddness to also promote a very worthy book. I bought a copy of the newly released young adult fantasy Gates of Thread and Stone because
1) "gargoyles" was mentioned in a review, as in "Gargoyles had been native reptiles once" and gargoyles have definitely been underutilized in fantasy literature, in my opinion, and 2) reptiles - sweeeeeetttt!!! and 3) manipulating time never fails to make me prick my ears and 4) this cover. Look at the shimmery threads weaving around the title. MUST KNOW MORE ABOUT THE THREADS. 



oh, and 5) I read the sample chapters first and was so hooked, so very much hooked I must have gills. I fell in love with Kai on the first page when she says this:
A shoulder smacked against mine on the sidewalk. I didn't bother checking my pockets. They were already empty. But sometimes I left little notes in them I thought might amuse a pickpocket: "Try me again tomorrow. I forgot my diamonds at home" or "Might have better luck with that guy", alongside a scribbled arrow. Well, they amused me, anyway.

and oh, oh! 6) I kind of missed this part of the blurb at first, but by chapter 2, I was deeply impressed by the genuine brother-sister love between Kai and her older adopted brother, Reev.
When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability [to maniplate threads of time] comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home.
The ties between Kai and Reev run deep and strong through out the story, and explode at the ending into something breath taking and heart breaking. The ending! Whoa. Such a good ending. And all I can give is just this obscure hint:  if you've happened to have read Thief of Time, by Terry Pratchett, there are a few similar mythical characters that appear. To say which mythology would give too much away). 

But in addition to the stellar beginning and ending, the middle parts of the book keep up a good pace, too.  I caught a fun steampunk feel from the walled city Kai and Reev live in, especially the mechanical beasts that people ride: 
On the cobblestone road, riders steered enormous Grays in the shape of long-extinct animas: creatures with three foot horns, lumbering feet, spiny backs, or long slender necks that bobbed as they moved. Their massive chests glowed in two spots, indicating they needed two energy stones.

And then there are the gargoyles. Loved the creepy/beautiful scenes at the top of the spiral staircase:
The gargoyle touched its nose to G-10's knuckles, and then bobbed its head, its tongue flicking out to lick his fingers. It was almost... cute. 
(Really, lizard head-bobs are adorable. Trust me). I hope the gargoyles play a larger role in the sequel... they have so much potential. They reminded me of the flying lizards in the movie Avatar (without the wings, and a little creepier in this story). 

One last thing: the love interest, Avan. I loved the slow, quiet development between Avan and Kai, and just have to share this little tidbit about him and his tattoo: 
Avan’s tattoo of a tree: “I got the trunk and the branches done when I moved out of the shop. The tree had one leaf. Kind of like… the start of something new.” He rubbed his neck and shifted so that he was turned away from me. He actually seemed embarrassed. “Something good, I mean. I figured I would add more leaves as… well, as things changed.”
Okay, anybody else out there with pet lizards? Or what's the oddest pet you've read about in a book? 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What works for me

What's Up Wednesday has a new question: What works for me? - and a new button. If you're interested in keeping in touch with other writers, join this meme hosted by writing sisters Erin Funk and Jaime Morrow


What works for me? 
My biggest challenge with writing is getting started. I have four kids  (I homeschool two of them) and a part time job, and a hundred things I *should* be doing (like, exercising!!) and a big temptation to escape them all by losing myself in a good book. So what works best for me to get started writing (instead of succumbing to other things calling my name) is to shut off the internet, plug in my earphones (soothing spa music works best), re-read what I worked on last and make a short bullet list of what I want to accomplish in an hour. Just an hour. If I think longer than that, then I freeze up.

What I'm reading
An e-ARC of Stitching Snow, by R.C. Lewis (due out in October).  A version of Snow White set in space (I love space ships!) where Snow's "domestic duties" are mechanics and programming! (I love programming! Well, mostly. When my programs work, that is). She calls programming "stitching". Oh, and her seven dwarves are her bots programmed to help her. Dopey = Dimwit and Grumpy = Cusser. I'm loving all the twists in this fairytale retelling.  And look at this intricate cover!

What I'm writing
YA author Veronica Bartles picked my YA science fiction, Star Tripped, as her altnerative for Pitch Wars, and she's given me some great feedback. So I'm busy ripping apart my first chapter and stitching it back together. I knew I wanted to submit to Veronica when she said she loved Isaac Asminov's science fiction stories. Also her book is called Twelve Steps - a young adult's version of the A.A. Twelve Steps, but a twelve steps for dealing with sister problems (that made me smile).  I'm in O.A. (Overeaters Anonymous) and the twelve steps keep me sane on a daily basis when the chocolate and Cheetos demons are calling my name, but I love this teen's take on a relationship-problem version of the twelves steps.


What else I've been up to
Finishing my first publication through work: the Wyoming Student Atlas. It's 46 pages of maps about Wyoming - two of my favorite things (maps, and Wyoming) and its for middle school kids (another favorite, as I have two middle schoolers of my own). If all the last minute edits go well we go to press next week!!! Here's the cover:
What state would you like me to work on next for an atlas?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Insecure writer: writing a love list

The first Wednesday of the month
 is time for Insecure Writers Support Group,
hosted by Alex Cavanaugh and his
excellent team. 
Last month I wrote about five things I do to fight the insecurity of the querying process, and this month I'm expanding on that with a love list for my manuscript. Discovered this idea through the wonderful group of YA authors that hosted theReady, Set, Write! challenge this summer, who in turn discovered it from author Stephanie Perkins (Lola and the Boy Next Door, Isla and the Happily Ever After). 

To quote Stephanie, from her post about the love list, "I use this love-list as a touchstone to remind myself during the hard times why my story is worthwhile. It’s easy to forget the GOOD STUFF when I’m wading through the muck"  (the muck might be writing the middle of the first draft, or 2nd draft revisions, or in my case, querying - after a round of rejections wondering if what I wrote had any merit at all). 

Writing this love list reminded me of how much I love this story and how much I want to NOT GIVE UP ON IT. 

So without further ado, here are all the things I love about this story, a young adult science fiction. 

scuba diving
coral reefs
golden retrievers
Shakespearean insults
Harley Davidson motorcycles
anti-gravity
cheese biscuits
the butterfly nebula
sailing
lighthouses
jazz
blue hair (a nod to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor)
how my title came to be
henna tattoos
Treasure Planet (anyone else love that movie?)
Captain Hook
raining stars
love across all of space and time
Moroccan style headscarf
I'm Glad You Came by The Wanted
Lake Brienz, Switzerland 
Soli Deo Gloria

What's helping you fight insecurity or providing inspiration lately?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

But it is not this day!

Fellow writers, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of writers fails, when we forsake our works-in-progress and break all bonds of critique partners and beta readers. But it is not this day. An hour of despair and shattered hope when the age of inspiration comes crashing down. But it is not this day! This day we write. By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you take up your pens, writers of the West!*

However, today is the day when I shall say: time for a short blog break.

Most of the time writing my blogs and checking in with other writer friends provides me inspiration and motivation to keep writing and revising and querying.

But it is not this day. This day... or week, or two... I shall not be blogging.  I need a bit of a break.

I will be back in late August or early September.


* Since the quote I've personalized above is from the movie version of the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (not the book) I feel it is acceptable to mangle it. If it was from the book, I would never desecrate Aragorn's words, even for the sake of writing inspiration and fun. (Hmmm, maybe I'll pull out my much worn, tattered and beloved copy of the book just to make sure!) 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Insecure writer: five things for fighting insecurity

The first Wednesday of the month
 is time for Insecure Writers Support Group,
hosted by Alex Cavanaugh and his
excellent team. 
My methods for fighting the insecurity of the querying process:

1) "passes" sounds so much better than "rejections"

2) I have started a "surviving the querying process document." I went back through all my critique partners' and beta readers' comments and collected all the compliments, copied and pasted them into this document. That way when I get a "pass" and I need some encouragement, a reminder to keep going, I have instant access to some positive words.

3) I have links to other authors' posted statistics to remind myself that offers do appear even after fifty or seventy rejections. After first, second and even third books have been shelved, the fourth book gets an offer. Or the first book gets dusted off and revised and then gets an offer on its second round.

4) I remind myself of the best, most concise advice about publishing I've heard: "it's all about the timing" - from our IWSG inspiration, Alex Cavanaugh.

5) Keep writing. Start another project. Free write. Journal. It reminds me of why I love being a writer: because I LOVE TO WRITE.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ready, Set, Write: from passive to active

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at in our writing—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and Katy Upperman. Find the rest of the details HERE.

* How I did on last week's goals: 


Fail. FAIL. I knew it was going to be a tough week, but I wanted to get a few hours of writing in, squeezing them in somewhere between the camping, the travelling, the visitors, and the kids competing at county fair.


Bunny hop fail (if only writing fails were so cute)

I didn't get any actual writing in but I did stew over my story in my head, though, especially the weak points that still linger in its opening chapter (see the Biggest Challenge part below).

My other goal is read-one-book-a-week  and last week was Like No Other, by Una LaMarche, which just released. Billed for fans of Eleanor and Park and the Westside Story. It was quite a bit tamer than either of those, but still wonderful and  it satisfied my #WeNeedDiverseBooks craving. Highly recommend!
* My goals this week: 

Aiming for 6 hours of writing this week. Another busy week with travel, but I have three "normal days" where if I can't spend 2 hours writing at some point during the day, then I can be officially branded the lamest writer ever. 
* The biggest challenge I faced this week:

I had an agent pass on my first chapter but she took the time to give me compliments on what she liked, and what didn't work for her: she didn't quite connect with my characters.

So, I went back to reading some really good opening chapters and studying the characters.  Came up with three things the characters all had:
1) they are actively DOING something (something interesting. Whining and self-pitying does not count) 2) they express strong opinions, out loud or at the very least, in their thoughts
3) they have a unique view of the world and their circumstances.

* A favorite line from my project OR a word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

Changing my main character from passive to  active:
original version - Camria's friends surprise her by floating a bunch of candles in the pool as a memorial to her sister
new version: It's Cam's idea to float a bunch of candles in the pool instead

* Something I love about my WiP. 



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Fire Wish

Some words are pure magic to me... they bring me right back to all the fairytales I loved as a child. Words like palaces, princes, jinnis, lamps, silks, veils, thick Persian carpets, moonstones, geodes, viziers, wishes...


And when such magical words are mixed with pieces of ancient history, like the Tigris River, and Baghdad, they take on an even more fascinating dimension (especially since these are parts of history that are still around, even to this day). 

So when a book combines all this magic with real places, like The Fire Wish (by debut author, Amber Lough) it is irresistible to me, especially since all the old favorite things appeared in new and original ways (no Disney genie vibes). The Fire Wish also had a tricksy "switch places" plot (be careful what you wish for!) and the one story trope that I love endlessly and never tire of:  forbidden love. 

In this story, humans are at war with the Jinn, but then a human girl, Zayele, and a Jinn boy, Atish, fall in love. Yes, it's instalove. Though I acknowledge instalove can rot your mental teeth and skew reality, done well it can still be delicious like forbidden sweets. Hey, I grew up on instaloves like Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet. 

 The human girl, Zayele, tells her side of the story, but there's also a Jinn girl, Najwa, telling a different side of the story, and there's a best friend, Rahela, who is incredibly brave to help a stranger she'd been taught her whole life was an enemy. And then there are the two worlds....

I wasn't sure which I loved more, the rich details of Baghdad: so well done, descriptions that completely transported me both in place and time. Reflecting pools, palms, details on the gates, ouds and flutes, 
peacocks, carpets lush as moss, patterned glass of lanterns, the preciousness of saffron, interesting words like qaa'ed...

Or the entirely fantastic underground world of the Jinn. The Jinn live inside a giant, hollowed out geode full of jewels. Is that not crazy cool or what??? Their homes are stacked on each other, set into the curving inner walls of the geode, and "decorated using liberal doses of wishes." (The cavern is lit by wishes, too, with lantern-lighters on stilts that whisper wishes).  There is a lake of fire in the cavern, too, but it's not the scary lava kind, it's more a sort of playful fire. 

Humans can demand wishes from Jinnis, and the whole wishing aspect of the story was fascinating. Another thing very well written in this story was how the Jinnis, used to living underground, perceive the human world, and vice versa. 
In the distance between the sky and the retreating clouds, a rainbow arched in the air. How could that be? There were no prisms large enough to cause such a thing. Then I realized what it was. It was the world - the wet air and shimmering light - that set the rainbow across the sky. They didn't need crystals here.

But this next quote is my absolute favorite from the story.

The door closed behind me and a puff of air blew my skirt, but I barely noticed. I was in the House of Wisdom, and all I could think about was that no jinni had been there in ages, and female jinni had never been allowed to enter. I was the first.

Thousands of books, with spines of red leather or brown linen, sat on shelves two stories high and a hundred feet long. The scents of ink and glue laced the air, and I breathed them in deep. At least thirty men, all in long robes, were in the library. Some sat at low tables, bent over opened volumes. Others stood in a small group, listening to two men discuss something. A few roamed along the walls, pulling books off the shelves and tucking them beneath their arms. The room was heavy with stories, and I ached to read them.

Faisal had once been one of these men, with access to all these books. All these minds. No wonder we built the Lamps - the bridge between the worlds. No wonder we gave the humans cartloads of jewels to set foot in it.
I have more favorite excerpts and other things I loved about the Fire Wish in my Goodreads review. Many thanks to Random House and Net Galley for providing me with an advanced copy to read; I was in no way compensated otherwise for this review, which is my honest (and happy) opinion of this book.