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I have finally reached that special place in my current work-in-progress that every author just dreams about: it’s time to look for an agent.

Allow me to emphasize the word “look”? I’ve finished my second draft and plan to dig into the thing with my jackhammer and scalpel when all the feedback has come in. If I am relatively pleased with the finished result it will be time to query agents. But that’s still a few months away.

So why am I looking at agents now?

Why not wait until I have completed and polished manuscript (Those are the kind of manuscripts that agents like to see)?

The answer to that question can be summed up with one word: research.

I need to know who I’m querying. Sure, I could just start with the first agent listed on Writer’s Market. But it’s so much more efficient to target queries.

Otherwise, I could send my manuscript to someone who doesn’t even represent young adult fiction. Or worse, someone who doesn’t rep fiction period. I want to respect both my time and any potential agents.

So I need to know all I can about said potential agents. The most consistent complaint I’ve seen agents make is that people submit inappropriate manuscripts—meaning manuscripts that for one reason or another don’t meet submission guidelines (these are important, pay attention to them).

So how do I go from the 85 agents that represent young adult to the six or so (the final number is still under advisement) I plan on including in my first round of queries?

Easy, I put them through something I refer to as “The Agent Games”.

So far, I’ve only completed Round 1 of this endeavor. But that still cut down the number of agents that were up for consideration.

There are many ways that someone else could go about weeding out the unpromising recruits in Round 1, but here are some of the things I considered when I was going through the six pages of results that Writer’s Market generated.

  1. I kept a big eye on all of the genres they represented. Now, not representing science fiction or fantasy didn’t get them thrown off of the list. But if they stated that they did not represent those two genres, it was an automatic “no”. Also, I kept in mind future projects I’ve been contemplating. Granted, an agent doesn’t have to be forever, but I’d hate to find “the one” only to have to find different representation because my next book is out of their field of experience. If you’re looking at making the art of Typing in a Tiny Room for Hours your career, you want an agent who can go the distance with you.
  2. Availability of info was also a big factor. Almost every agent or agency on my list had a website. That’s something to keep in mind. If an agent didn’t have a website, they had to really catch my eye to stay out of the “no” pile. I want to be able to get as much information about a potential agent as I can before I submit. What do they like to read? How long have they been agenting? Did they do anything before they became an agent? Knowing these things about them is going to make it so much easier for me when it comes time for Rounds 2 & (if necessary) 3.
  3. Also, having a website with a profile or a short bio helped picture myself working with them. Not only does the bio tell me what they represent, but if it was good, it gave me an idea of who they were. I won’t lie, there were a couple that I read their bio and was like, “You sound wonderful, but I just don’t think we’d do well together.” Obviously, an agent and a writer will clash at some point. But if I can pinpoint any insurmountable differences in personality or ideology, I won’t want to submit to that agent. On the other hand, there were a few that I really liked and I put in one of my files because something about their personality or something they said just clicked with me.
  4. When they provided the titles of books or authors they represented, I always gave that a look. Did I see a lot of big names that I recognized? Those either went into the “no” or the “maybe” pile. I’m not saying that my book isn’t good enough to be in the same agency as say, Suzanne Collins (actually, it’s not, but that’s why it needs editing). It’s just that if I don’t see some unknowns, I feel that’s a pretty good sign that they prefer to work with established authors (some just outright tell you). On the other hand, WM does list the percentage of debut authors an agent normally takes. If the percentage was high they went into the “definitely check out” or the “maybe” file.

So that was my process for Round 1. I shall commence Round 2 shortly. It will involve a lot of reading, thorough perusal of websites & guidelines, and possible stalkerlike behavior on Twitter.

Anyone out there want to chime in on how they narrowed things down during their hunt for an agent?


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Ages 16 and up

Hazel Grace Lancaster’s final chapter was written when she was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. A miracle drug has bought her time, but she is still sixteen and living with cancer. Hazel knows her time will run out. That is enough to give anyone a perpetual bad day. And so she is sent to Cancer Kid Support Group, a weekly ritual that she barely tolerates. The only high point of this ritual is her friend Isaac. Until Augustus Waters shows up. In Augustus, she finds someone who not only gets what she’s going through, but also gets her. With him, Hazel goes on what will probably be the first and only adventure of her life.

The Fault in Our Stars. The Fault in Our Stars. The Fault in Our freaking Stars.

Seriously, where can I even start with this book? It …wait…can’t say that it’s full of spoilers. That is probably the hardest part of this review. Everything I loved about this book is tied to a spoiler. But I’m going to try. So, if you’re super spoiler-sensitive, just take me at my word: Read this book.

I loved this book. I shouldn’t have loved this book. But I loved this book.

I’ll start with the characters. Spot. On. Hazel is a teenager, but she also feels jaded and world-weary (nothing makes you feel world-weary like constantly struggling to breathe). She’s cynical without seeming dark. And she’s obssessed with a book called The Imperial Infliction, which I would totally read if it wasn’t completely made up. Augustus is fun and more. These are real kids having to live through the real consequences of a disease that can cripple families.

John Green could easily have created a novel with a sad and depressing narrative. Or written a story that was all happy and hopeful and possibly unrealistic (the usual method for cancer kid stories). But TFIOS has this great balance in its tone. It’s serious. It’s real. Hazel’s life is drastically impacted by her disease. But Green also allows moments of light-heartedness. TFIOS is neither mopey, nor sappy. It’s lifelike. Hazel goes through ups and downs, just like any teenager (just like any human, really), her ups and downs are just often dictated by her disease. One of my favorite things about these Hazel and Gus is their irreverence (the main vehicle for the book’s light-hearted moments). These two have confronted death and live. Yes, death might eventually come back to claim them, but they’ve been there. They’ve done that. And they don’t mind poking fun at the specter that terrifies them.

And can we talk about how beautifully Green covers description. The descriptions could easily have become heavy-handed and overdone. But Green shows the physical toll and complications of living with cancer with deftness and brevity. The reader is given just enough to get a picture of what is happening to Hazel, but now so much they are overwhelmed. And then it’s back to the story.

Now, this paragraph should be as spoilery as it gets, but I want to assure any people who might dismiss this book because it could end badly.

I’ll admit, I was hesitant at first. I’m good with death and destruction and general badness happening to characters, but there is a part of me that expects a happy ending. Or at least the possibility of a happy end. By all accounts I should not have loved the ending of this book. But I think it might have made my list of books with perfect endings. Currently, there are two books on that list. When it was all said and done and I turned the final page, I felt like I’d gotten exactly the ending Green had promised from the beginning of the book and it was a good ending. An ending that will stick with me for a long time. I’ve never felt such hope and sadness mix after finishing a book. And I’m a fan of Dickens.

My only issue with this book (and if you know me, you’ll have seen it coming) was how it deals with sex. Now, I know that not everyone shares my more conservative opinion. So this may not be an issue for you. But I know some of my readers are like me. So they might also be bothered by the idea that dying a virgin makes a person’s life less full. I disagree with this. However, this is a book about teenagers and death and that means it’s going to deal with sex at some point. For my more conservative readers, just know that it’s in there and make your choices accordingly. I don’t think it should be a reason not to read the book, but do know it’s in there and do be willing to talk with your kids (or parents, if you’re a kid) about it.

All in all, I am glad I read this book. It made me laugh. It made me sad. It made me think. And it made me grateful. You should read it. And then you should go sit outside and be thankful that you can breathe easily.

Also, I’m pretty sure I want to be a shorter, prettier version of John Green when I grow up. So basically, I am never going to grow up. Which sounds pretty awesome.

This is a good example of:

  • First Person POV
  • How to Handle Sad Subjects
  • Characterization
  • Endings

If you’re looking for a happier book, but still want to experience the made of awesome that is John Green, might I suggest An Abundance of Katherines.


7666431386“Show, don’t tell.” As a writer you hear it all the time

It’s very good advice. But it’s not a rule. There are no hard and fast rules for writing. Every author is different. Every book is different. Heck, every SENTENCE is different. Unless, of course, it’s a repeat of the sentence before that, but you get my point.

Yes, showing is the preferred form to communicate with your audience. Showing draws readers into the story. It involves them, forces them to use their imaginations. They don’t just read that the character gets angry, they feel the anger. But that doesn’t mean telling isn’t just as powerful and effective as showing. What it means is that telling must be used more sparingly.

So, here are my own observations about showing vs. telling. I hope these help you if you’ve ever been confused by this “rule”.

But first, a two quick and blatant examples of showing and telling.

  • Showing: He stood quickly, pacing in front of the bench. His hands went into his pockets. They came back out of his pockets. Stopping, he looked at her, took a breath, and got down on one knee.
  • Telling: Sharon could tell Richard was nervous.

Now that even the non-writers are on the same page, let’s talk about telling:

1. Telling is great for getting information out. In your novel, there can be as many characters you can dream up. And that can mean several different points of view (POV). So Character A is obviously going to know things that Character B doesn’t know (unless the two characters are conjoined twins). You can’t walk Character B through past events. A friend can’t go back in time and relive another person’s trauma. But if Character A is that person’s sister, A can impart the information  to B. Some things are worth showing. Some things the reader needs to know, but don’t need to be detail. You see this all the time when authors summarize the events between one scene and the next. (I wish I could put in examples, but I’m not entirely certain of how to work within copyright laws.) Or when a past scene is summarized for a character that wasn’t there.

2. Telling can be extremely powerful when used sparingly. Now you don’t want to overuse this. But sometimes telling can be used to repeat an idea, for example or to communicate and emotion,

“Elaine put her hand to her forehead. It was sticky and wet. Pulling her hand away, she examined her glistening fingers. She was bleeding.”

Now there are many ways that Elaine’s surprise could have been communicated. But I wrote it the way I did, with the repetition and the blatant statement because it shows the train of the character’s thoughts. Telling is especially useful in emotional response. Sometimes you want to show the emotion move through the character. But sometimes, you want something short and sweet like, “I love you,” or “You’re a bastard”.

3. Telling can be used to show character and growth. This is kind of similar and ties in to the last point, but I feel that it’s different enough to require its own number. Let’s set up a scenario: Suppose your main character’s mom never apologizes. At the beginning of the book, you might have a scene that shows more than it tells, like this one,

“Richard’s mother blinked as Sharon finished her explanation. He’d known the truth of course, but the look of surprise on her face was gratifying.

‘Excuse me,’ Eunice said. ‘I think I need to take care of something.’ She walked off in the direction of the ladies’ room. She was gone for fifteen minutes. When she came back, she looked much the same, but it was another fifteen minutes before his mother would meet his eyes. And that she was much kinder to Sharon.”

Okay, so that’s at the beginning of the novel. She is obviously ashamed of whatever wrong opinion she had about Sharon. And she does adjust her behavior. But suppose we’re at the end of the book and Eunice is a dynamic character (a character that evidences some change over the course of the story). You might end up with a mixed scene like this:

“Richard’s mother blinked as Sharon finished her explanation. She fiddled with the clasp on her purse a moment, then she met Sharon’s eyes.

‘I was wrong,’ Eunice said. ‘I’m sorry.’”

Unlike the first example, Eunice’s change of heart isn’t implied through actions. Instead, she demonstrates her growth but outright admitting that she was wrong. As far as character growth goes, this is the more powerful scene. Maybe the previous scene set us up for this scene, but I bet you the reader is going to feel something when they finally see Eunice admit she was wrong.

Now how do you know how much you should show and how much telling you can get away with? Again, no hard and fast rule. There are a lot of variable like: genre, POV, character, audience, time period. You might have a first person narrator who operates with a 50/50 mix. Or you might have an epic fantasy novel that is primarily showing, with the telling mostly in dialogue (dialogue is almost always telling in my experience).

Before we go, a quick word about redundancy. Keep constant vigilance. I was recently rereading a favorite series and while I still think it’s well-written I noticed that the author like to make redundant statements. For example (and this is my own creation), “‘What were you thinking?’ He stood, clenching his fists and glared at her. He was angry.” Again overly simplified, but you get the idea. Be careful with this. If you’ve already shown the audience something, don’t go back and tell them the same thing in the next sentence. It clutters up your writing. Readers are smart. They’ll get it. The major exception to this is when another character makes a “Captain Obvious” observation to another character.

And that’s it. If you want to read more about showing and telling you can check out Description & Setting by Ron Rozelle and Showing & Telling by Laurie Alberts.

Let me know your own feelings on Show vs. Tell. Do you struggle with the ratio? How do you decide when to use one over the other?


This blog post is a response to a Huffington Post UK article which argues that J.K. Rowling’s success is hindering the success of up-and-coming writers. If you think that sounds a little ridiculous, that’s because it is. Blaming lack of success on someone else’s good-fortune is a little narcissistic and certainly counterproductive. But I’m not here to defend Rowling (who has earned her place in world literature).

No, I’m want to address my concerns with the second paragraph. She says:

I’ve never read a word (or seen a minute) so I can’t comment on whether the books were good, bad or indifferent. I did think it a shame that adults were reading them (rather than just reading them to their children, which is another thing altogether), mainly because there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds. But, then again, any reading is better than no reading, right?

-Lynn Shepherd, Huffington Post UK, “If JK Rowling Cares About Writing So Much She Should Stop Doing It

(A little advice: if you want your criticism of a book/series to be taken seriously, you need to attempt to read that particular work, even if it’s only a few sentences. At least you can say you tried.)

As a whole, children’s fiction can encompass a broad age range. From picture books and Beginning Readers to the young adult genre. However, when I say “children’s fiction” in this blog post I refer to the middle grade (MG) and young adult (YA) genres because that is what I have the most experience with.

The idea that children’s fiction is not “stimulating” for “grown-up minds” is ludicrous.

Not because they are what I write and read the most. But because this is absolutely untrue. And that is why I love those genres. I have learned more about how to write well from books like The Lightning Thief and The Hunger Games than I have from most of the adult fiction I’ve read (and I’ve been reading in the adult section since I was twelve or thirteen).

My first issue with her statement has nothing to do with that appropriateness of an adult reading children’s fiction, it’s simply part of good parenting (or so my mom tells me):

If your child is reading a book, you should take the time to read it as well.

My mom and I were always passing books back and forth and thus we were able to talk about what I was reading (Still do, actually). It’s part of being involved in a child’s education and staying aware of what they are learning. Most of my thoughts and opinions are the way they are, not because my parents forced them on me, but because we had (and still have) frank discussions that allowed me to explore my own opinions.

Now it’s great (phenomenal!) if you take the time to read to your kids. Some of my best memories are of the half hour or so my mom would spend reading with my brother and I before bedtime (I used to get in so much trouble for staying up to read ahead). Those experiences are part of why I love to read. (Thanks Mom!) But even if they’re past that age where reading together is “cool”—or it’s not practical for your family right now—keep abreast of what your kids are reading.

That brings me to my second issue.

In the grand scheme of things, the Harry Potter series is only seven books (granted, some of them are gargantuan). Now that may seem like a lot to some people. But let’s break it down.

If the average person reads eight books a year and they start reading consistently at ten and the average lifespan is 78 years (these are based on vague internet statistics, if you have better stats, post in the comments), then an average person can expect to read 500+ books in a life time. The Harry Potter series is 1% of the total books a person will read in their lifetime. One. Percent. There will be plenty of time and (hopefully) opportunity to read other books of varying age brackets.

And that brings me to my biggest issue with the above statement.

Children’s literature is NOT inferior to adult literature. In fact, I think that authors of children’s literature probably have more difficulty than someone who writes for an adult audience.

For one thing, kids are far more likely to be…um, frank (brutal) when they don’t like something. They have no problem saying, “This is dumb. You’re dumb. Why do I have to read this?” (I used to work with kids and I still work with teens, so this is from experience.)

The other challenge MG & YA authors face is length.

A typical middle grade novel is going to be under 40,000 words (established authors may have more wiggle room). To put that in perspective an adult novel is usually double that number; Sci Fi and fantasy can end up pushing 100k words.

Because they have limited space, I find that MG & YA authors have to be more intelligent and concise in their writing than their colleagues that aim for the older audience. EVERY word counts for double. They only have 40k words (70k in YA) to develop the plot, expose character, reveal backstory and maybe throw in a theme. And it has to be entertaining. How long do you think a bored twelve-year-old will keep reading?

Now for those of you that padded your college essays with shady spacing and chili recipes, this might not seem like a big issue. But us writers? We’re the ones that spent all night trying to figure out how to cut 2500 words down to a thousand and always ended up turning essays with at least one page more than required. I’m not saying this makes us better than you, it’s just that…we like to write.

My point is that the grown-up brain can benefit from reading fiction even if it’s marketed to younger readers (and it’s all about marketing). I am consistently surprised by the depth of storytelling in MG & YA novels. If you want examples, I would suggest the Percy Jackson series, anything by John Green, Ally Carter’s books, and Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series.

Finally, children’s fiction is just as capable of making us to question society and our own opinions. More so I find sometimes. Most of the adult fiction I’ve read feels more geared towards escapism. It’s the YA books that make me sit up and think about the world. Don’t believe me? Read the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy.

And don’t forget, some of literature’s favorite classics are classified as “young adult”. For your perusal, I present this list (cross-referenced between Barnes & Noble’s website and Goodreads.com). Tell me you don’t recognize some titles that cover issues we still talk about today:

  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • The Once and Future King by T.H. White
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • White Fang by Jack London
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

So what do you think? Do you enjoy middle grade and young adult fiction? What are some of the reasons you like these genres? Can you think of any examples where a MG or YA author displayed fantastic story-telling?

Many thanks to my friend Dot Hutchison, who can be found at dothutchison.com, for answering all my questions and children’s lit. Also, you should check out her book, A Wounded Name. It is one of the two versions of Hamlet I approve of (the other being The Lion King)


Mind Games is finished.

Thank. God.

Actually, MG was finished last June (The 29th to be precise and I can be, because I finished the day of my brother’s 22nd birthday) and I’ve already slogged through a second draft. That was painful. But, more on that in a minute.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from friends and family about what I’m doing next and in interest of informing the greatest number of people possible, I thought that it was time to dust off the old blog.

It’s been forever and a day since I was last on here, hasn’t it?

I may have gone through a writing funk for a good part of last year.  Partly because I was settling into a new job. Partly because I lost said job in March. Partly because, I’ll admit it, I am lazy.

Writing of any kind repulsed me. I wasn’t even interested in writing fan fiction (up to that point, I have always been able to write fan fiction, ideas usually abound). Then about, oh, June I decided that enough was enough.

Did I feel like writing? Nope. But I also knew that if I followed my outline, I was literally pages from the end. So after ignoring the book since January, I sat down and cranked out six chapters over the course of seven days. According to my computer, Draft 1 was finished at 2:06 a.m. on June 30th, 2013 (although I count it as June 29th, my day doesn’t end until I go to sleep).

I felt like an idiot. I’d been sitting with a nearly finished book since November of 2011. All it took  finish a few hours over the course of a week.

I took a few months off to delve into some world-enriching research and then throughout October, November and December of last year I went through the excruciating process of editing my book.

Oh, editing. I think some part of my subconscious went out of its way to make it horrifying. It was a mess. I was a mess. If I could do it again, I would edit a chapter at a time instead of waiting until I’d gone the whole way through. Had time travel been possible there were no fewer than a dozen times that I would have gone back and smacked myself with all 243 double-spaced pages. Mostly, mostly the frustration came  when I ran across one of these:

Image

Just one of maybe twenty.

I mean, how unhelpful is that? Here’s another one:

Image

Unhelpful and creepy

I learned a very important lesson after that edit: My memory requires details. I know that I had specific things that I wanted to do in every instance. But my vague notes did little to jog my memory. Next time, I will be specific and detailed. And much more timely with my edits.

So update over, what’s next? Well, I plan to focus on three tasks, which I will probably be working on more or less simultaneously.

  1. The Final Polish- At least, I hope this is the final polish. I’ve decided (for now) that three drafts is my limit for a book. Two to (hopefully) get the novel nailed down and sorted and one final draft to get it ready for step two (see below). Now I’m flexible on this one. I’m hoping that when feedback comes in, there won’t be anything drastic that needs changing (in other words, anything that would require a major rewrite). As a writer, I know I could tweak until kingdom come and still find more to work on. Hence, the self-imposed limit.
  2. Find an Agent- The time has come to start researching agents. Which means, going through guides and websites to compile a list of agents that might be a good fit for my book. If I were trying to publish in a small niche market (i.e. Schnauzer grooming), I might be skip this step. But alas, I am a YA author and that market seems to abound with hopefuls. If you’re at this step or close to it, I recommend the Writer’s Market 2014 Guide to Literary Agents, which seems to offer a larger selection than say the 2014 Writer’s Market or the 2014 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market (though it does have a decent selection of literary agents). The other two, however, have more in the way of contests and book publishers, if those are your interests.
  3. Start a New Project- Or in my case return to an old one. I am currently in the process of doing research for a fairytale retelling that was put on the shelf in 2010 so I could focus on MG. Now that MG is finally in the editing and submitting phase, it’s time to think ahead. Everywhere I look writer, after writer, after writer (including the famous ones, like Stephen King) recommends starting the next novel when you reach this phase. So that’s where I’m headed.

[SPOILER ALERT]: This post was inspired by The Dark Knight Rises and my absolute love of the Bat-verse. This means that revelations of the identity of a certain DKR character are essential to the point I am making. So, if you haven’t seen it yet I give you permission to stop reading and go see it. NOW! Secondly, if you are not able to drop everything and go to the theatre I would suggest not reading this post until you’ve had a chance to. Unless you don’t care. Put simply: Read at your own risk. Also, serious spoilers about Batman comics from the last few years are featured in this article.

Crazy enough to give the Joker a run for his money.

Villains come in many shapes and sizes. There are the ones that are so awesome they kind of steal the protagonists show, like Darth Vader (quite possibly the bad guy of all bad guys). The ones that are disturbingly insane, but still awesome, like Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender.  The ones that creep you out, like the Borg Queen. The ones you sympathize with. The ones that are adorable. The ones you would date if they weren’t evil (or fictional). The ones you know will convert to the side of good eventually. The smart ones. The sad ones. The tortured ones.

And there are the bad guys you love to hate with every fiber in your being. The ones that you despise,  now matter how much it looks like they’ve turned a corner and finally separated themselves from their controlling, megalomaniac father. Because you know better. They just make it so easy to hate them. Sometimes, one even rises from among all the other bad guys and girls to become the character you loathe more than any other.

This may shock some people, but my least favorite villain of any story, ever is not from the Percy Jackson series. Nope. She’s from a world that I discovered a long, long time ago.

May I introduce Talia. Demonspawn of Ra’s al Ghul.

Time for a quick disclaimer: I am entirely opposed to hating actual people (it’s actually against my religion). However, if you’re a fictional person it makes you fair game (so are inanimate object).

Now, I’ll admit. This intense dislike may be heavily influenced by . If Talia is the character I loathe most, Selina is without doubt my favorite fictional character. Followed very, very, very closely by Bruce.

The only fight missing from DKR.

The only fight missing from DKR.

My excitement over Bruce, Selina and all things Batma- related can be traced to the three-inch Catwoman figurine I got from McDonald’s. At six, I thought she was the coolest character on the 90s animated series. Mostly, because I was going through a cat phase. I didn’t care that she was thief and constantly going up against the Batman, Batgirl and Robin. I think I wanted to be her. Because she had cats. And it only got worse when I started reading the most recent, pre-reboot version of DC comics where is more of an ally to Batman than a member of his Rogue’s Gallery. (My first foray into modern comics was started by the epic Hush storyline.)

Of course, that opinion is based on more than that. Like the fact that Talia is will stab you in the back, to your face if possible. And also, she is completely bonkers. At least, Ra’s wanted to save the world. His problem is that he thinks the only way to save the world is to rule. Still, there are limits to his crazy. Talia blows up her own son to make a point (No, seriously, read Batman & Son if you don’t believe me).

Naturally, both my least favorite character and my favorite character would be in the same movie. They kind of had to be.

Brulina-the moment

Not gonna lie. I waited 18 years for this moment.

Anyone who follows Batman would remember the amazing Heart of Hush arc (oh, how I love Hush for always brings Bruce and Selina closer). They may also have recognized that Bruce’s words to Selina are an echo of Superman’s iconic words to Lois, “I will love you. Always.” I think that one page had me in fits for a week. I may also have blown a blood vessel or two freaking the heck out (there was yelling and jumping and gibberish). The point is that you obviously can’t have the love of a Batman’s life in what is supposed to be the greatest Batman movie of all time without giving screen-time to her greatest competition (human competition anyways).

Selina and Talia are (unfortunately for me) tied to each other by the same man. And between the two, I was on a roller coaster during the entire movie.

As a chronic Batman fan, that movie met and exceeded my expectations. Even if my friend had to hit me for constantly whispering rude things when Talia was on-screen. With the exception of my very loud, “Don’t mess with the East End”, I was more vocal (though with less volume) about my feelings for Talia. She made me cringe, she made groan, she made me mutter “I hate her, I hate her” over and over. Even as the mild-mannered “Mirande Tate” I knew it was her. She’s under my skin in an uncomfortable way.

Just like Selina and Bruce are have gotten under my skin . And just like I want to write characters that are as compelling as Selina and Bruce, I hope that someday I can write character that my readers will loathe like I loathe Talia. It reminded me that you can’t just focus on the good guys. There’s gotta be something that makes you bad guy stick too. Maybe it’s the creepy craziness of Azula. Or the chilling cunning of a man like President Snow, who sends children and calls it keeping the peace.

The definition of creepy.

Are they barely human like the Borg Queen? Or completely badass like Vader? Do they make you want to hide under a bed like Howard Epps? Do they make your heart bleed for them like Snape does?

My reaction to Talia in Dark Knight Rises makes me want to go back through my list of memorable bad guys and figure out what makes them stand out. Because I want my readers to hate my bad guys for more reasons than that I told them to.

What are some traits that you feel make villains memorable? What do you think is essential to a “good” bad guy? Are there any villains that you despise like I do Talia?


I have a confession to make: My passion for my work-in-progress has kind of fizzled out.

I had some awesome momentum last year. Wrote twenty chapters in a month (thank you NaNoWriMo). I knew what was happening. There were great and exciting things running through my head.  I would sit down at my computer and typing was an adventure. And then, it all stopped.  Not like I hit a brick wall or anything and more like I ran onto a giant sheet of flypaper.

Today (actually, last Thursday), I stared at the screen for an hour and didn’t even make five hundred words. To put that in perspective, I was writing between 1000-1200 words an hour at the beginning of the year.

Thanks to my outline, I still know what’s going to happen next. I know how to get from point A to Z, I’ve just lost interest in getting there. There are so many other things I would rather do. Read City of Lost Souls or watch Psych or finally find out what this DC reboot is all about (I am suffering a relapse of Batman mania due to the sheer awesomeness of Dark Knight Rises, but more on that another time). Or write fan fiction, my mind is churning out all kinds of fan fiction ideas. And the sad part is, the fan fiction I’ve written lately is better that the three or four most recent chapters of Mind Games. I mean, Chapter 28 mostly reads like lines for a play, with a few notes about blocking and scene. Well, at least some of the dialogue holds water…maybe…once I polish it up. I have successfully reached the Half-way Blahs (which does not always occur at the actual halfway point).

If this was my first experience with the Blahs, I might be worried. And those of you who’ve just reached this point for the first or second time may be worried. But before you start throwing ashes over torn-out hair and hold a funeral for your muse, listen for a minute. I can tell you that this isn’t my first frustration struggle with the Blahs. And this won’t be your last (And if you haven’t met them yet, they’re coming). The Blahs will pass. The glue on the flypaper dries out eventually and you can build up to that run again. Better yet, you can use the flypaper as kindling to get your fire going again. The work you have to do to escape the Blahs is always worth it.

And as for me, I’ve been lounging about and feeding my inner artist for too long. Problem is, this diet of (phenomenal) reading with no writing has made my inner artist fat and lazy. She could run, but she had no desire to and obviously can’t last for very long. So it’s time to get back on the track. I’m going to make her work, even if she can only manage short bursts at the keyboard. Because even though it may take weeks or months, I will get back to the point when I can spend huge chunks of time writing. I’ll find the passion for this story again. But until then, I will push on (for more about writing even when you don’t want to, check out this blog). I’ll do so much research. I’ll drag out the playlist and listen to it incessantly. And I’ll keep stumbling through my story, because sometimes you have to fall a few times before you can run.


Note: This one has actually been sitting on my computer since November. Kind of got lost…but I found it and decided to post while it was still mostly relevant (And at least a little true).

I feel like talking about movies. Specifically movies that are based on books.

It can be a fan’s dream…or worst nightmare. I know that often I’ll be reading a book and think, “Hey, this would make a kick-butt movie.” Plus, I love to see my favorite stories leap off the page. At the same time, for every good/amazing movie version, there is an equal amount of bad movies. Some are horrendous. Some are merely blah. It seems like it is often hit-or-miss when a book is being turned into a movie. After all, a book can contain a LOT more information than a measly movie can. They’re having to fit a four-or-more-hour read into two and a half hours of screen time (sometimes). Things are going to get cut, things are going to get changed. You may find yourself at the Parthenon in Tennessee battling the hydra a book early.

Now before some people start griping about the all the book-movies gone wrong, which leads to “How could [insert author] have let this happen” let’s remember this: When a writer signs a publishing contract and becomes a published author, they typically sign away the movie rights during that process. And I don’t think that it takes author involvement to make a great book-movie (though it certainly may help). After all, J.R.R. Tolkien wasn’t around to see his Lord of the Rings trilogy get movie-fied, but it was an amazing set of movies.

I’ve come to realize it’s not about getting every scene and snatch of dialogue on the screen. When I think about some of my favorite movie adaptations, it’s about more than that. Think about:

  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • The Princess Bride
  • Holes
  • Pride and Predjudice (the Colin Firth version)
  • The Passion of the Christ (okay, maybe that one is based on four books)
  • The first two of the new Chronicles of Narnia

These are some of my favorite movies. I love them. I adore them. In the case of LOTR (and probably soon-to-be Hunger Games) I go stark-raving crazy over them. And it’s not because they are exact replicas of the original work. Heck, my favorite Princess Bride scene isn’t even in the book. They are amazing because they capture the spirit of the book. Ally Carter puts is beautifully when she talks about the possibility of aging up the characters in her book, Heist Society: “I for one would rather have an actress who has Kat’s same spirit than someone who only has Kat’s same age.” She makes the case that even if they age the characters into their early 20s for the movie, it can still be the same story and still have the same experience as the books and that is what she is most concerned with. For more about her thoughts on the possible Heist Society movie you can start here. (Can we get a “Heck, yes” to a Heist Society movie, by the way)

I’m not looking for every scene to be in the movie when I go see it. I’m not looking for a movie that follows the plot of the book exactly. Some books just don’t make good movies on their own. Take, for example, The Two Towers. Do I love LOTR? Yes. Once upon a time, did I read the trilogy every year? Yes. (Should I get back into that habit? Yes.) Which book was the hardest for me to get through? The Two Towers. I mean, as long as Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli were in the picture I was riveted (can you guess who my favorite characters were?). And then you got to Frodo and Sam and I remembered that I knew how it ended and went all, “Eh. I’ll get to it.” LOTR fan fail, I know.

The Two Towers is mostly walking and a little bit of fighting and some great dialogue between the Elf and the Dwarf. Walking, dialogue and a tiny bit of fighting do not make an amazing movie. Had they followed the book as Tolkien wrote it the movie would have like the bargain brand paper towels on a Bounty commercial.  Instead, Peter Jackson took a little artistic liberty and gave the fans a teeny taste of the action to come at the end of the movie. Big gamble? Definitely. Did it pay off? yes. As did saving the Shelob scene for The Return of the King. After all, we’d just been through the climax of the movie at Helm’s Deep. To add the scene in Shelob’s lair would have taken away from everything we’d just been through. Plus, it created a serious sense of anticipation for those who knew what was coming (and I guess for those who didn’t). Don’t believe me? Look it up online, I’m sure people have written dozens of articles to this effect. What worked so well for Peter Jackson is that he was first and foremost a fan. And he recruited fans. And they were all concerned with creating a movie that would stay true to the big picture of the LOTR books, not just the tiny details. (Though they did great with those, too.)

You cann’t going to please everyone. There are going to be people whose favorite scene is an obscure one or not imperative to the over-arching plot. People like me who were disappointed that most of the Eowyn/Faramir scenes did not make it into the theatrical editions (that was, however, my only disappointment). But for the most part, I think that LOTR fans world-wide ended up with a movie that lived up to their expectations. For me, at least, LOTR was one of the very few movies that I feel the movie was a good as the book.

Have I had some serious disappointments when it came to movie adaptations? Yes. Eragon and the first two Twilight movies being among them. These are the kind of movies that make me worry when I hear another one of my favorites is being translated to the big screen. Now, usually I enjoy the movie, but still think the book is better. Occasionally, I’ll like the movie better than the book (that list includes all of two movies, I think).

But, no matter how awful I think the movie is going to suck, I still feel  that a true fan must see it at least once and form their own conclusions (even if you wait till it’s in DVD form). That’s why I went to see Eclipse and why I went to go see Ella Enchanted, despite the weirdness of the trailers. In both cases I was glad I had gone. Eclipse turned out to actually be a good interpretation of the book (IMO) and Ella Enchanted, while nothing like the book, was a fun movie and I do enjoy watching it every now and again. This is why I plan to go rent part two of the Deathly Hallows as soon as I can, despite what my HP fanatic friend says about how much it stinks. Even if he’s right (and we do have different opinions about how to accurately transform a book into a movie) and I end up feeling indifferent or hating it, I need to finish it just to be able to say that I have. (Anyone feel me there?)

So, does this mean that I am worried about what they’ll do with Hunger Games?

Nah.

They’re taking the time to cast the right people and I’ve found that when a director takes the time to make sure that the actors are right, then they’ll make sure the movie is right as well. Not that anything but time will tell, however, I’m hopeful and I’ve yet to see anything that worries me. A word of advice though, don’t reread Hunger Games right before the movie comes out. You will spend the whole movie thinking about how this detail is different and how they left out that line. I did this once, never again. I’m planning to reread a couple of months before so that it will be fresh, but not so fresh that every difference has neon lights pointing to it.

So what about you? What have been some of your favorite (or least favorite) movie adaptations. Why? What was it about the movie that made you (dis)like it?


(Way, way, way overdue I know…it’s been sitting in my comp for two months. But here you go.)

The Heroes of Olympus #2: Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Ages 12 and up

In The Lost Hero we learned of Camp Jupiter, the Roman counterpart of Camp Half-Blood. In a desperate attempt to save Olympus, Hera had switched the leaders of the two camps, Percy Jackson and Jason Grace. Jason has been at Camp Half-Blood helping the Greeks, and now it’s time for Percy to make an appearance on the other side of the continent. Percy resurfaces with almost no memory of who he was. Of course, that doesn’t keep the usual brand of trouble from following him. Apparently, that Death has been taken hostage by the giants and until he is released, killing the monsters is going to be impossible. And it seems that the gods can find no better guy for the job than an amnesiac Greek demigod. After only a few hours at Camp Jupiter, Percy and his newfound friends set off on a journey to a land where the god’s power may not even reach.

I know, it’s short and sweet. But seriously, I’m not sure how much I trust myself to tell you. Now, I’m not saying that I have a favorite author. That’s just not a choice I’d be able to stick to for more than a few minutes. However, Rick Riordan ranks very close to the top, so naturally I was more than a little ecstatic when this book came out. And it was was almost (I’ll get to that) everything I could have hoped it would be.

Now, if you know me (or have read my blog), you would know that I have had a thing for Greek mythology since I was a little girl. That is what got me into the Percy Jackson books for the first time. (Okay, that and the movie trailer reminding me that I kept meaning to read them.) So I won’t deny that that is part of why I love these books. Riordan does more than just retell the Greek and Roman myths (and sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which), he reimagines them. He takes them and changes them is a way that his readers will recognize, while still keeping them true to their original character. For example, he takes the Amazons and turns them into business moguls funding their way of life through a company even children will recognize in this day and age, Amazon.

I didn’t figure it out until about halfway through, but there are several parallels between this book and the original Percy Jackson books. Not that I will tell you what they are (or maybe this amnesia thing is clouding my view). But, considering that his missing memory is constantly on Percy’s mind, I think that making him go through trials that the readers would recognize—even if it was only subconsciously—was a beautiful touch.

The characters in Rick Riordan’s books (I’m talking about all three mythology series here) have always been some of my favorites. I love them. They bounce of the page and come alive. You feel like you know them, like they’ve been your friends (or enemies) for ages. I could totally see myself hanging out with Annabeth and talking about books for hours. His characters, even the minor ones, so often have distinct characteristics that define them and make them different from all the others around them.

That little “almost” up at the top has probably been bothering you for three whole paragraphs. It boils down to one small fact. The book was great, I loved it. I can’t wait for the next one (The Mark of Athena Fall 2012). In fact, I’m already excited about the next one, all things considered (if you know, you know). However, despite how much I love him and how great I imagine he looks in a purple t-shirt (C’mon ladies, you know you were thinking about it too), Percy Jackson is not in fact my favorite character in the books. He is hair’s breadth close, but he is not. My favorite character sadly, has a very small part in this book…though I think I can bet on seeing a lot more of [redacted] in the next book. (It’s kind of a given.)

All of this, the characters, the mythology, the settings, the crazy, twisting plot that he seems to come up with—all of these things are used to create a book that keeps moving right up to that very last page. No joke, I’m pretty sure that my heart stopped for about five seconds when I turned page 513 and realized that the twenty or so pages that were left were actually the glossary and several black pages. Had my whole family not been asleep, I probably would have yelled. It’s a brilliant ending, but it doesn’t stop you from feeling like you’ve been thrown off a cliff. (Cause obviously, with three books left, we still have the world and Olympus to save.)

This a good example of:

  • Multiple POVs
  • Raising the stakes
  • Reimagining vs. retelling
  • Characters
  • Story Movement

New Years-1-002 by Ludie Cochrane

Happy New Year!

I know, I know. I sort of dropped off the face of the Earth for a while.

It all started with National Novel Writing Month in November. A great success if I may say so. No, I did not make it to 50,000 words by the end of the month. On Nov. 30 at 11:49 p.m., I looked at my word count and decided that 42,000 words was good enough for my first year. I mean, all things considered I am now 30,000 words and fourteen chapters closer to the end of Mind Games (which is plotted out at roughly 40 chapters, though that will most definitely change). It’s exciting being able to look at the word count for MG and see the number 42,000. My last “book” finished at 47,000 and I’m only halfway finished with this one. I think I have a pretty good chance of hitting that 80,000-100,000 word goal for this current project.

Can tell that I’m restraining myself from over-using my CAPS Lock?

And then there was the December-long reading binge where I endeavored to finish all of those books that I started in the last year, but for one reason or another put down (mostly for another book). That went relatively well also.

And that leads in to what this year holds for me.

Now, I’m not one to really make New Year’s resolutions per se. I believe that if you want to change there is no day like today. However, the last two months have brought me to some conclusions (not to mention drastically changed the plot of Mind Games):

  1. I need to read more.
  2. I need to write more.
  3. It’s time to get this book finished.
  4. I don’t want to write for money, I want to make money writing and there is a difference.

Which has led me to set some goals that could be considered New Year’s resolutions, if I made NYRs.

The easiest one is going to be reading more. My goal for 2012 is to read 48 books. Could I read a whole lot more? Yes. Would my house, school and life suffer? At this point, yes.  Most books take me 6-7 hours to read. So, finishing a book a week shouldn’t be too hard. That’s just an hour a day. To make it more challenging and improve my reading range, I have come up with a few guidelines. First, at least one of those books is to be a book on writing. Second, I cannot read two books of the same genre/age range back-to-back. With the exception of series (because that would be just cruel). So, should I want compare say YA paranormal fantasy and adult paranormal fantasy, I can. But I shall refrain from reading…oh let’s go with Fever by Lauren DeStefano and then Suzanne Collins Hunger Games trilogy (both YA dystopian novels). There has to be something different in between. This is to encourage me to read outside of my comfort zone. I read a lot of young adult, fantasy and science fiction. That leaves whole genres that I haven’t tapped. Crime, historical fiction, suspense (which, despite my mother’s protests, I love), romance, all those classics (which I also enjoy), “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera” as they say in The King and I.

All of this is just a step towards my becoming a better writer (my other goal).

Because by the end of February I’m planning to have a finished first draft. And then it will be time to edit. And then…it’s time to query (and start the next book). Eek! In fact, one of the gifts I asked for this Christmas was the 2012 Writer’s Market. If I want to be a writer…it’s time to BE a writer.

That’s my goal for 2012.

What’s yours? Have you thought about your goals as a writer? Have you written them down? Do it. It makes them easier to stick to. And then do your best!

The Music That Makes Me Write


I <3 Music by Dia

As writers we have our lucky pen. And our trusty laptop. And our favorite writing programs. We have our routines, our favorite writing spots, our “bibles”, our quirks and our writing buddies. I am no different. The pen I use changes, depending on what mood I’m in. Some days I can get a ton of writing done at home and some days I can hardly get two words out. I have a three ring binder that I carry with me wherever I go, even if I know I won’t need it, because it has all of my Mind Games stuff in it and I can’t bear to not have it on me (because, the one time I leave is the time I’ll need it). But my most important tool? The one that affects my writing the most? That one never changes.

My music.

Give me my music and I can turn almost anywhere into a writing spot. I can write in the middle of a lunch rush at Chick-Fil-A, with a packed lobby and a gaggle of high-pitched little girls two tables over. Music is one of the most important parts of my writing process. Can I write without it? Yes. Will I like it? Heck no. And it’s not just because I am a music major and have constant need for some form of music to be playing.

Music helps me write a better story.

Now of course, it does often help me to write faster (once I resist the urge to sing). I don’t have a specific writing CD as some do. What I listen to can change from day to day. Right now, country is the music of choice. Tomorrow, it might the Star Wars soundtrack or a Broadway Musical. Or,  it might be a collection of songs that I picked because they sync with my WIP in some way (Yes, I have a Mind Games playlist).

One of the things that music affects the most is the development and the relationships of my characters. For example, if I’m writing from Annette’s point of view, I might listen to Trouble by P!nk or As She Cries by La Rue. For David, I might choose Build Me a Wall from Shrek the Musical or Hero by Bethany Dillon. My friends can testify that I’ve been listening to my iPod in the car or at home and gone, “This is such a/an [character’s name] song.” I eat us any song that fits with a characters journey or relationship with another character. I have (or had, it’s gone apparently) a playlist that was dedicated to the relationship between Annette and David (my two mains in case you hadn’t guessed) which includes Accidentally in Love, both versions of You Found Me, some Disney,  and Haunted and several other songs by Taylor Swift.

In addition to inspiring my work with the characters, music is also extremely helpful in setting the mood when you’re working on a specific section. Creepy beginning? Then I listen to Fog Bound from POTC. Am I trying to get the writing fires revved and type a storm? Then I skip to the section of the list with the Kelly Clarkson songs. This may seem extreme to some, but when I was developing the playlist for Mind Games, I actually sat with my outline and arranged the songs so that they fit the mood of certain chapters. Doesn’t mean that I always stick to that, but it helps when I’m trying to get into the scene.

And who knows, the music you’re listening to might cause you to realize something about a character or discover a plot twist that you didn’t know was there before. Example? Oh boy, do I have one. Picture this: I’ve finished getting the outline for Mind Games down. It’s typed, I’ve divided it into tentative chapters, I’ve started picking songs that match them. And then I go jogging and Speak Now comes on. BAM! I realized that my book was missing a whole four chapters in which the heroine actually agrees to marry the big bad evil dude. What?! Needless to say, David’s not happy. It didn’t affect much of the beginning of the story, but it did completely change the ending of the book. Okay, not really, but it threw quite a loop in the road that got me there.

So what’s your relationship with music and writing? Can you live without it? Is it a necessary part? Or do you just use it when the mood hits you?

Keeping Me Honest–NaNoWriMo 2011


So, I figured that there is no better accountability partner than the internet. I’m trusting all of my friends online to keep me honest about my word count…and nag me if I start to slack. Yes, I’m giving you permission to heckle me.

Nov 1- 1866

Nov 2- 1020

Nov 3- 581

Nov 4- 2,008

Nov 5- 2,578

Nov 6- 0

Nov 7- 0

Nov 8- 266

Nov 9- 1322

Nov 10- 0

Nov 11- 0

Nov 12- 1223

Nov 13- 0

Nov 14- 927

Nov 15- 3,39

Nov 16- 4246

Nov 17- 851

Nov 18- 1,789

Nov 19- 0

Nov 20- 225

Nov 21- 517

Nov 22- 2,430

Nov 23- 1,099

Nov 24- 4,336

Nov 25- 1,035

Total: 31, 681

% Finished: 63%


“ Well, the first thing you should have is an idea and then… Well, first you need something to write with. They… they know that. Well, obviously you need a writing instrument and you need an idea. I’m just not sure which should come first.” –Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in The Woman in the Car 1.11

Warhol's Lightbulbs by zetson

Are there any Bones fans out there?

Oh, wow, yes I see you all. Remember this hilarious interview from the first season? I do. As a writer myself, I love it any time they work in details about Bones’ writing career. Moments like this make me giggle.

Though, I think if she went about it scientifically, she’d find that the idea usually comes before you even pick up the pen. The idea is, in fact, the reason that a writer starts writing.

You hear a lot about writers and their muses. This is it. The idea is the muse. The idea is the thing that gets us up in the middle of the night when we have a 6 a.m. shift and makes us turn the laptop back on. The idea is the thing that makes us laugh and cry and tear our hair out when we can’t quite figure out a certain part of it. Ideas don’t always come when it’s convenient and hardly ever when we have a pen or a piece of paper handy (often they like to come when you have one, but not the other). We learn to carry notebooks with us and enough pens to supply a small classroom, because, when that idea comes you don’t want to lose it. (Any fledgling writer’s out there, learn now. Go get a small notebook and a pack of pens and keep them with you at all times.)

And ideas aren’t that hard to come by. We are inundated by them (which is sometimes a problem). What’s the saying… “There’s nothing new under the sun”? It’s true. Original doesn’t necessarily mean brand spanking never-seen-the-light-of-day new, but it does mean that you’re looking at something in a new way. Think about all the retellings of Cinderella that there are out there:

  • Ella Enchanted
  • Just Ella
  • Ever After
  • A Cinderella Story
  • Before Midnight
  • Princess of Glass
  • Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

Those are just the ones that I could name off the top of my head. I know that there are oodles missing from that list. Each one of them tackles the “original” story in a different way. They play with characters, relationships and even the very plot.

This is one of the reasons that reading books is so very important. Reading provides constant exposure to other ideas. Ideas outside of our own experience and exposure. And you never know where a story idea is going to come from. You can find them in books, movies, music, dreams and life experiences just to start. Don’t believe me? I can give you a few examples.

My first “novel” (which is unfinished because I lack the skill to rewrite it into what I want it to be) was inspired by Lord of the Rings. Not the movies, but the books. I mean, the movies are awesome, but it wasn’t until I read the actual books that I realized that I wanted to be a part of that world. TROA (Still working on an actual title) started out as a LOTR fanfic and evolved from there (more about that later).

There’s also Shattered, my own Cinderella retelling (as a lover of fairy tales, I felt that I had to  add to the list at some point) which was inspired by a movie. That one came to me one day while I was watching Ella Enchanted with friends. It struck me that it might be kind of fun to write my own reinvention, but the kind of character that I envisioned wouldn’t be one to just sit idly by and let her stepmother bully her. So I started wondering: “Apart from horrible curses, how could I get Cindy to act so out of character and make it credible?” And then the answer came to me. Of course, that is still highly top secret. You’ll read about it someday.

And then there is my current WIP, Mind Games. My baby. The book that keeps trying to grow up too fast. This one is a hodge-podge of ideas and inspirations ranging from manga to previous story ideas.The first actual scene I wrote was inspired by a dream (which was the product of an Alias marathon and a Kelly Clarkson song). The idea was in my brain brewing, but I didn’t know the characters or anything about them. My dream didn’t lay out the whole book, it was only the one scene, but that was enough for me to sink my teeth into the idea and really start to develop it. Of course, that scene has since been cut. Sad, I know. But the story moved away from that plotline and into something better.

And that’s my final bit of advice. Don’t get too attached to your ideas. They’re going to grow, they’re going to evolve. So often ideas start out as a question, that becomes more questions with each answer you discover and the idea becomes more than you ever imagined. Remember that first story, TROA? That’s actually an acronym for the original title, The Ring of Alythya. That story started from a simple question (I am bearing my former sixteen-year-old soul in telling you this): What would happen if there was someone who was born to face down Sauron? That little bit of fanfiction eventually ceased to grab my interest (I think that character could win some serious Mary Sue prizage), but the idea was still there and some of the scenes I’d come up with were kind of decent. TROA started as a LOTR rip-off that was truly cringe-worthy, but with each successive edit/rewrite I discovered that even though the characters (and I) thought it was about a ring, in the end it wasn’t about the ring at all. It was about making the main character into someone who step into the role she was being prepared for. (Or course, it still is kind of Lord of the Rings-y, but now it’s more because they share the same genre.) I had to let go of a lot of my first ideas somewhere around draft four or five (And I’m going to have to let go of more when I’m ready to pick it back up again). It wasn’t pretty. It hurt. And turns out, it was better without all that gunk. Writers are like parents, we give that idea years of our lives, nurturing and growing it and then we have to let it go make its way in the world. We have two choices: We can let the idea change as the years pass, allowing the story to be its own person. Or we could be that psycho parent that forces their kid to wear children’s clothes and locks them in a closet. You know, the scary one that has to appear in at least one episode of every crime show? (Mrs. Epps anyone?)


Excuses, excuses, excuses... by hugovk

So, I’ve been thinking about these funny little things called excuses. You know, those strings of words we use to keep from working on our current WIP. And I figured that with NaNWriMo coming up, now would be a good time to talk about them. So, whether you’re planning to write a book in a month or if you’re just trying to write a book period, I invite you to examine your own excuses as I examine mine.

Now, of course, there are such things as legitimate excuses. There are times that you just can’t meet your goal or fulfill a task. Things like kids, car problems, relatives and basic sanitation do require some of your attention. You also require some of your attention. There are just certain things that we have to take time. And then there are those things are just helping us stall. For whatever reason, we don’t want or are afraid to pick up that pen and start writing and so you avoid it. Be warned, sometimes legitimate excuses can be used for stalling. Most of the time, you know the difference. I know when I’m stalling. Like, now. Actually, like this past week.

To illustrate my point, I’ve written down some of my most common excuses:

  • My room: This could be a legitimate excuse. My room has been in a constant state of chaos for months. Not to mention the laundry that has to be done daily it seems. Problem is, I kind of clean, but then I get distracted or start playing on the computer. So I can’t really say it’s legitimate, but neither is it entirely stalling. It doesn’t help that I currently have an extra mattress, a dresser, two ends tables, a crib and a box spring jammed in here at the moment.
  • “I’m tired”: This is probably my most common excuse. When you get up as early as I do (or earlier) tired is a common problem. Thing is, I’m always tired it seems, so apparently I’m going to have to deal with it. Getting enough rest is important, but somehow, getting too much ends up leading into getting too little.
  • “I don’t feel like it/I’m not in the mood”: There are times that I know I should write and that it wouldn’t be terrible, but for some reason I (mentally) stomp my foot like a three-year-old and go, “I don’t WANT to!” This one is probably the most embarrassing for me, considering that I’m a part of the write every day, rain or shine camp. But I’m no different from anyone else, there are days that I just don’t want to write. And there’s not necessarily any harm in taking a break for a day. Sometimes your noggin’ just needs a break. Still, you need to use discretion. Do you really need a break? Or are you just frustrated? Maybe you should walk away, go for a jog, get something to eat, possibly take a shower and then sit back down and continue working. Or start working as the case may be.
  • “Work was a bear”: Anyone ever have a particularly hard day at work? Really, no one? Ya’ll must be lying. Anyways, there are some days that I the last thing I want to do is sit down and write. There are days that my day has just been terrible and writing is just more work. Fine, whatever. Don’t let it stop you completely. Grab that book you’ve been meaning to read for months. Or grab some of your research materials if you find those particularly fascinating. Chill in bed, or on the couch or as you pig out on ice cream and Oreos and do something that is both enjoyable and constructive.
  • A book: Not much to say about this one. I stink at limiting my reading time. Now, reading is never a waste of time, but at the same time I have things that need to get done.
  • This blog: This one is a tricky one. Because sometimes I use the blog to avoid writing the book and other times I work on the book when I need to stop and work on the blog. So there are times that the blog is a legitimate excuse and times when I’m just using it to stall.

And that’s my list of most often used excuses. What’s your list? Sit down for a minute and think. Write them down. Identify which ones are legit excuses and which ones you use to stall. Of course, that’s only half the fight, but it’s easier to come up with a battle plan once you know what you’re dealing with.

Have you completed step one? Awesome, time to move onto step two. For each excuse that you’ve put down, come up with a plan of action. Is it something that needs to get done? Then get it done. Figure out a date or a time and stop using it as an excuse. Here’s how I plan to conquer my excuses:

  1. Clean my room- Once I get all this extra furniture out of my room, I am going to take an afternoon and that’s all I will do. No writing, no reading, no stalling.
  2. Use my desk- It’s a lot harder to fall asleep while I’m writing if I’m sitting in a chair vs. my bed.
  3. Give myself a cheat day- One day a week I give myself permission to just veg. I don’t have to write or do any research or get anything constructive done. But that’s it.
  4. Plan ahead- There are several things that I can do to keep work from being my excuse. I can do my heaviest writing on my day off or on my short day at work can help. Also, planning to get out of the house and going to the library to work. There’s something about going to a specific place to write that makes you get stuff done.
  5. Plan my reading time- again not much to say.
  6. Designate my writing time- It’s time for me to start designating one or two days a week to sit down and pound out a few blog articles (like I’m doing now) to store up for the rest  of the week. The rest of the days I work on my book.

So that’s it. That’s my plan. A lot of it will be easier as I work on prioritizing and managing my time.

Keep in mind that there are going to be times, long stretches of days or weeks or even years that you may not be able to write. And that’s okay. Life is kind of crazy. Things happen. Cars get crashed, loved ones die, finals week (*cough cough* month) comes. Those things  are bigger that an excuse. Just accept that there are going to be times that you have to put the book aside and focus on other parts of your life.

So join me as I say: “DOWN WITH THE EXCUSES!”


Tortall & Other Lands by Tamora Pierce

Ages 12 and up

I thought about coming up with something resembling a synopsis for this review, but I realized that due to the nature of this book, it would be very short (or really long). So I’ll just put it plainly. This is a book of short stories by Tamora Pierce (Song of the Lioness Quartet, The Immortals, the Beka Cooper Trilogy). Most of the stories involve Tortall or one of its neighbors. It is good. You should read it.

I’ve been reading Tamora Pierce’s books since I was a teenager. I actually picked them up because of her book Trickster’s Choice, the cover called to me. Of course then I found out that book wasn’t where the story really started, so me being me, I had to go all the way back to the beginning before I could start what I’d originally wanted to read.

It was nice to be able to interact with some of my old friends in from Tortall, as well as some of the new ones. I enjoyed that she switched up the point of view between the different stories. They weren’t all in first person, nor were they all in third. She matched the POV to the style of narration to the story and the characters.

Speaking of which, this book was an awesome study of different characters. With only a few pages for each story, Pierce managed to connect me with her characters. She used the details extremely well.  Many of them show you something about the characters at the same time that they move the story forward. There’s also something to be said about the continuity of style that she shows throughout the book. She may change voices, but Pierce is always at the helm. Some of the stories that stood out to me were: “Testing”, “Mimic”, “Student of Ostriches” and “The Dragon’s Tale” (because Daine and Numair from The Immortals remain my favorite of her characters and because Kit is awesome).

The only sour point for me was how the stories seemed to become repetitive. They always seemed to deal with a similar problem: a young girl being oppressed by her father or society or someone else. Which is a wonderful topic and the source of a lot of fiction, but at the same time, it’s not the only problem out there and I would have like to see some of the stories deal with other issues. It kind of felt like I was being beat over the head.

Still, this is a lovely little collection of stories that are worth the read. Especially if you are a writer (or already a fan of Pierce’s work). I think that the short story format allows you to see the individual elements of what makes a story great a little bit easier than a full length novel.

This is a good example of:

  • Point of View
  • Integration of story and world
  • Continuity of style
  • Character sketches

This book is on my recommended list.

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