Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 Resolutions

I am the actual worst at updating this blog that perhaps my actual resolution should be to actually remember that I have a blog and to post on it occasionally. Yeah. But, no. That's not what it is. But I am getting ahead of myself. Welcome back to the WriYe Blogging Circle posts. This is January 2015's post.

What is your one main goal for this year? Call it your writing resolution. Not two. Not five. Your main and only one. And why is it your goal?

Well. This took me a long time to thing of because there's a lot that I need to work on. From not overdoing description to the opposite -- making sure I describe things enough, instead of summarizing them. To showing more or cutting dialogue tags or working on the overuse of characters' names... There's a lot of things I need to work on fixing. 

And then there's the little things regarding my craft like writing with any semblance of regularity, or focusing on one / two things at a time so maybe (eventually) something will get finished, to keeping all of my work in one spot and then backing it up elsewhere... But no. That's not what my writing resolution is for 2015.

My 2015 Resolution is Finish Sky of Light once and for all. Editing, publishing / self-publishing, whatever. 

I am ready to wipe my hands clean of that novel for once and for all. I've been working on it in one form or another since 2007 and I am definitely ready to be done with it. There's still the prequel and the sequel to write / finish, but at least it's not this chunk of the story.

So that's my main goal. Blow through the rest of this edit and be done with it for good.

Monday, June 30, 2014

JulNoWriMo 2014: Zombies Get their Unhappy Endings

Most people know that I'm a realistic fiction writer most of the year. I'd rather have a box of chocolates and bouquet of roses for weapons than a sword and shield most of the time, despite the lack of real defensive properties of flowers and candies. There is one time every year that I hang my proverbial genre-niche hat and break out into another genre. I don't mind that the genre I write in is a very tiny subgenre. It's something different and that's all that matters. And that genre? Supernatural Horror. Because I write about Zombies.

As is very consistent with my normal writing, I am terrible at finishing things that I start. My zombie novels are no exception to this pattern. Of the three zombie novels (and one short story) that I've started, I have finished one of those things. The short story. This year, my goal is to finish at least two of those currently-in progress novels. And those are the two I want to ramble about for a few minutes here. 

Boarded-In: The Hell Academy Boarding School was never quite as it seemed: rules were broken constantly, people were worse behaved there than they ever were in public school, and not everyone came from the background they appeared to. But when eating flesh becomes the new fad in school, Rachel, Jake, and Carol realize they are really in for far more than they originally had bargained for.
Carney-Vores: Bucca Park is one of the nation’s biggest collections of rollercoasters and Mallory Skyy cannot keep herself away any longer. Despite a shocking ride-related fatality only a few weeks before her Spring Break trip to the park and many hushed secrets about the place, she drags her boyfriend to the park anyway. There’s more thrills than the attractions as they battle through this Zombie Park.

So, those are the two stories that I'm focusing on this Zombie July over on JulNoWriMo. Alongside my Camp NaNo novel SKY OF STARS, which is a traditional romance / chick lit within my normal series. Why these two novels? Well, the easiest reason / explanation is because they are the two oldest, so they should be the ones to be finished first, I think. But also, they're the two that are the most planned out and I have a pretty well-established plot for both of them. And then there's the cheating reason... That those two are both already over 10k, whereas my third unfinished zombie novel is sitting, currently, at a whopping 800 words. (It was a very sad realization that of the 9k I had written last summer in Zomb-Chicka-Bow-Wow, most had been lost.) Yeah. I don't know what else to include in this post. But Zombies! They will be had. :D

Monday, June 23, 2014

Character Relationships: First Meetings

Give us the story of how your favorite written characters got together and what makes their relationship strongest.

My favorite characters... It's really difficult for me to decide who to be writing about in this post. At first, my gut instinct was to write about Nick and Audrey because they really are my favorites. However, their story about how they met is really uninteresting. Audrey moved over to the US and was introduced to Jimi by her boss and then, at the same time, she met Nick. There's a little more to it then that, and they definitely have a lot of bangs, bumps, and bruises along the way, but their initially meeting was definitely nothing to write home about.

So, digging a little deeper, I figured I would tell the story of how Lindsey and Aaron met because it makes me giggle a little bit. And there's no better way to do that than by sharing the scene in which it happened. So long as you promise to keep in mind that this is writing from 2009 and mostly unedited, feel free to read and be amused by a silly little romance.

Lindsey was sitting on the porch swing watching the sun go down over the few acres of the fifty her family owned that she could actually see and dangling her thin white sandal on her big toe. The shoe that belonged on her left foot had long since fallen to the ground and was being ignored as she floated lazily above it. The phone in the kitchen began to ring. It was a piercing sound in the thick, moist pre-dusk air. Lindsey let her other shoe drop to the ground before she stood up. She walked across the porch, feeling the soft worn wood below her feet, still holding in excess warmth from the brutal afternoon sun. She pulled open the screen door that covered the back door and reached her hand in, feeling around on the wall for the phone. She knew it was hanging just inside somewhere. Finally her fingers brushed across the familiar plastic of the receiver.
             “Hello?” she said.
             “Hey sweetie! It’s Mom,” the voice on the other end said. Lindsey smiled and took a few steps so she was inside the house completely.
             “How’s Florida?” she asked, hopping up on the kitchen counter to talk on the phone. She knew the call would be long, since it was her mother and they hadn’t talked in a few days. Lindsey was secretly hoping that she was calling to spill some great and offensive secret about Tiffany that no one had known until it was unearthed on the trip.
             “Hot. If you think it’s hot at home, you should come here! I feel like I should be swimming through the air there’s so much moisture in it. I just wanted to call and see how things were going,” she said.
             “As good as they can be with everything considered,” she said. That was it. No news about the secret transvestite life her sister had been living, or the fact that Kyle was really Kristy, or even that they were going to be a few days late getting home. Just checking up on her, but probably more on the house and animals, since they knew Lindsey could hold her own.
             “Good to hear. Have you thought any more about what you want for your birthday?” she asked. Lindsey smiled, glad to have the attention focused purely on her again.
             “A boyfriend,” she started, “a good looking one about my age—more than a year difference would be weird—with blonde hair and blue eyes,” she said.
             “I’ll work on that one,” she said, laughing. “Actually, there’s a good looking blonde boy right over there, I can’t guarantee the blue eyes right now though. I’ll go find out.”
             “No! Mom, no don’t! I was kidding! It was a joke! Don’t talk to him!” Lindsey said. There was no stopping her mother now that she had already started on her little adventure.
             “Hi there, sorry to interrupt you, I just have a few questions to ask you, if that’s okay,” she said. Lindsey held her face in her hands; she was blushing even though she wasn’t there to actually witness the event. Over the telephone might have actually been worse. “Do you have a girlfriend? Now, before you get weirded out, I’m not asking for myself, but for my daughter. She’s about to turn eighteen, and well, the only thing she asked for was a boyfriend. You just so happen to fit her requirements,” her mother said.
             “Mom, stop please. This is embarrassing!” Lindsey said. She could hear the guy laughing in the background, but it didn’t sound like he was laughing at her, but rather that he was actually entertaining the idea.
             “I’m single, actually. Where’s the daughter? Can I at least meet her before you put a bow on my head and call me purchased?” he said. Lindsey’s mouth fell open; she could not believe that this might actually work.
             “She’s back home in Mississippi, but she’s on the phone right now. If you want to talk to her, that’s okay. I have a few photos too,” her mother said.
             “Mom, no! Stop, don’t give him the phone. Do. Not. Give. Him. The—”
             “Hello?” he said. He voice was low and manly.
             “Uh, hi. I’m really sorry about my Mom. She sometimes takes jokes a little too far, and yeah. Sorry,” she said.
             “If you’re as cute as your voice, I don’t mind. Even if you aren’t, I could handle that,” he said.
             “I, uh...” Lindsey stuttered. She had nothing to say.
             “You have a name, pretty lady?” he asked. “Can I keep this even if I don’t date her—you’ve got a gorgeous daughter,” he said, presumably to her mother.
             “Lindsey,” she mumbled.
             “Lindsey,” he repeated, “I’m Aaron and I’m from California originally, but I’m moving around the States right now looking for a place that I fit in,” he said, “hopefully it’ll be in Mississippi.” Lindsey heard her mother inviting him to her birthday party at the end of the week.
             “Birthday party. Sounds like as good a time to meet you in person as any,” he said, “especially since it sounds like I’m the gift you’re most looking forward to,” he said. Lindsey stayed silent, not sure what to say to the boy her mother had just picked up for her. “You still there, Lindsey?” he asked.
             “Yes. I’m still here,” she said. Her southern accent was starting to show more than it normally did now that she was so nervous. “I just don’t have much to say right now,” she said.
             “Tell me about yourself,” he suggested.
             “Why don’t we wait and save that for the party, that way we know we’ll have something to talk about when you get here and we won’t just be staring at each other uncomfortably while the entirety of my family watches us interact,” she said.
             “Good idea. I’ll see you soon, Lindsey,” he said.
             “Good bye, Aaron,” she said, more embarrassed than ever about what had just happened. Aaron handed the phone back to her mother and Lindsey heard them exchanging important information before ultimately deciding that they would just talk more after Lindsey got off the phone.
             “Well, you can’t say I never get you what you ask for,” her mother said.

Apologies for the slightly wonky formatting and not the best writing, but I think that's an amusing first meeting story.

Written for the WriYe Blogging Circle February 2014 Post.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Developing Character Relationships

Character Relationships
How hard is it for you to create character relationships? Do you pre-plan them, or do you end up letting them develop as the novel goes on?

For me, "writing character relationships" is basically synonymous with "writing a novel." My novels are 98% character-based and, since romance is my home genre, a lot of the information, plot, and storytelling is done through their relationships -- or the lack thereof, depending. That's not saying that I can't write a novel that's not centered around a relationship (because I'd like to think that I can), but in regards to my series that I'm typically writing in? A lot of times, just the pairing of the main character and whomever it is that they will be dating is all I know about a book when I think it up.

Writing character relationships comes pretty easily to me at this point. That probably goes / went without saying after the previous paragraph. But, that's also a very misleading statement. In fact, I almost want to say that it's a borderline lie.

Maybe the relationship is easy at a surface level, but then when you get down to writing the dirty details, it's not so easy any more, especially when writing a huge series. No two relationships in real life are the same, so fictional relationships should follow the same vein, right? Well, theoretically, yes. They should. But that's where it starts to get hard. There's only so many different ways to write a first date. Eventually, things start to get repetitive (at least in your own head) and it's almost a crippling fear of mine that they're also going to come across that way to my readers. I don't want to bore someone and I don't want to write the same book seventeen times. I think (fingers crossed) that I'm not and that the differences that are there are strong enough that I'm avoiding that sort of thing for the most part, but everyone has their insecurities; that's one of mine.

Also, as a planner, I do typically pre-plan out most of my major fictional relationships. It's a control thing. I like to know what's going to be happening in my own novels to avoid the winding rambling chapters of death that I would otherwise be left with. But, that's not to say that things always work out as I'd intended. And sometimes the way they develop within the novel themselves is to blame for plots changing and novels (in the form of prequels and sequels... And sometimes entirely new spin offs...) being born. Yeah, that's happened to this particular series more than once already. Awesome, right?

My favorite example is Erika and Colin (RIP Erika and Mike). They are a part of the Mississippi region of the series and I thought it would just be the cutest thing for Lindsey and her best friend (Erika) to end up happily with another pairing of best friends. As a modern-day Southern Belle, I just thought that would be an adorably appropriate ending for Linds. Unfortunately, Erika had other plans. See, she and Mike? They don't really work together. I should have known that putting two opinionated, hard-headed, sarcastic, world-hating assholes together wouldn't work out for very long from my own real life experiences. But I guess I thought that if I were the one in charge that I could change that and make it work. And I probably could've forced it, to be entirely honest. But then... Then I created Colin. He was meant to be a background character in SLS. Nothing more than a passing name of a character who happened to work alongside Erika in the coffee shop downtown. I wrote a prompt featuring the two of them for Runaway Tales (back when I was still posting there) and people liked it. I had a few more ideas for their arc, so I penciled those into my plans and intended for that to be the end of things with Colin. Now he had back story and a little bit of depth so that if he ever got a speaking part in SLS, he wouldn't just be a flimsy piece of cardboard. 

Except then he kind of stole my heart. And Erika's, much to her own disappointment. And Mike's (except... Well, never mind. That's delving too much into my plot if I keep going down the road that was starting to traverse). 

Anyway, long story short, Erika and Mike? They're not forever and I'll have to think of another way to incorporate that adorable best friends duo love story idea into the series, if I want to use it still. But Colin? Colin and his smarmy personality are here to stay because of the amusing and interesting way that his relationship with Erika developed during writing.

Alas. That's enough about relationships today. I'll continue this topic next week! 

This was written for the WriYe Blogging Circle post for February.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Planning: Why I love it.

Planning. I seem to be on a kick about it lately. Yesterday I mentioned that I use typical planning strategies for my editing and now I want to talk about how much I adore it, and why. 

I used to be a pantser, back when I first started writing. My first ever completed novel was a BSB self-insert fanfic about myself, my best friend [then and now... Impressive, right?], and obviously the Backstreet Boys. The whole premise was that we had somehow through the local radio station won a week-long stay in "The BSB House." Just us, two 13-year-old girls... And the guys. That's it. No media for some reality thing; no parents because we we minors. Nothing. Not to mention, "The BSB House?" That's a thing only a slash fangirl would dream up [or one in the making, like I was at that point in my life] because those poor boys spent enough time together on tour and recording that they definitely didn't need to live together too.

And I mean, let's ignore the fact that a radio station, no matter how good the band's rapport was with their "hometown hit station," would never give that prize away under any circumstances... And especially not to a minor.

Suspension of disbelief [or lack thereof] aside, that was my first novel. I came up with the idea on the fly one afternoon on my bus ride home from 7th grade, got home and pulled out the hand-me-down, Windows 3.1 running laptop [it didn't even have a color monitor, guys. it was 50 shades of green for me. #oldschool], and started writing. 

I went through it day-by-day and ran through every potential interaction that could have happened between me and my Backstreet-beaus [yes, plural.] or my BFF and the fictional love of her life. I didn't discuss it with Jessica until it was written and she had read it. I wanted it to be a surprise. I didn't even like thinking about the story until I was home and able to write it, back when I was a decent student and didn't write novels in the margins of my "notes." I wanted it to be a surprise to me, too. 

By the end, it was a 450k rambling monstrosity that was unfortunately lost in a computer death, and it's definitely for the best. I don't know if that novel ever could've been saved from the massive plot holes and terrible roundabout writing that resulted from not having any idea what was going on.

Eventually, I started looking at writing like an academic endeavor and outlined novels as if I was writing a three point essay. And then, things started coming together, but God was writing boring as sin. It was definitely beneficial for my writing, but I hated the actual act of doing it, so it was rather counterproductive.

However, I have since found a nice balance and it brings me a lot of peace knowing that my stories both start and end where I want them to, hitting key points along the way. There's still a lot of wiggle room for the plot to go in whatever way it develops naturally, because that was something missing from the academic approach, but there's guidance and direction and things just end up in a nice, neat little package and I love it. A lot. 

This entry is for the WriYe Blogging Circle topic "Planning" for January 2014. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Planning Strategies in Editing.

Maybe I'm weird, but I've always liked the editing stage of writing the best. For me, the hard work is in the writing and it bogs me down. I love to plan out stories and share my ideas. I want everyone to read what I have to say because I really do believe in my series and I feel like it's innovative in the genre and that the characters are likable and all of that. But writing? Takes too long and takes a lot of commitment.

Maybe I just have trouble with commitment? That's something to take up somewhere else.

But editing? That's the good part of this craft. That's the step where I get to take all of the work that's gone into my novel and enjoy it... And then tear it apart. I get to analyze things like punctuation usage and repetition of words and sentence structure. But that's just part of it. That's the "boring" grammar stuff that you do on the first pass through. That doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the really fun part of editing.

Themes and motifs and foreshadowing and symbols and metaphors... All of that fun stuff. Plus the nitty-gritty details of character growth throughout their arc and consistency of their actions and all of the intricacies that those details include.

And that is where my planning techniques as editing techniques come in handy. I've recently fallen in love with making revision outlines. Where I go back through each chapter of an already completed novel and map out all of the plot points, taking note of characters coming in and out of the scenes, locations that are visited, themes and motifs that pop up in each chapter as well as any instances of foreshadowing. It lets me see what's being focused on and what I need to make stronger.

I also like charts. And calendars, which I guess are sort of charts in their own rights? So I made these things that I am actually really, really proud of:
 So, first there is this one. With notes on colors and how they morph throughout each book, as well as the series as a whole. There's notes on other symbols that appear and then in the orange at the bottom are three main motifs that are in each of the three Sky of... novels -- including ones that tie together across the trilogy. On the back there are more specifics that break things down by character, but that was too specific to share online, I thought. Plus, it takes all of the mystery away.  [;

And then there's this one. Ignore the scribbles on the calendar; it's still in draft mode. I was trying to figure out timing for some chapters, as well as the space in between said chapters and some things had to be moved around to make things right.

Pacing is part of that editing fun part.

Yeah. I'm pretty excited about everything I've done for this novel so far, even when it leads to entire chapters being trashed and rewritten from scratch. All of the work that goes into it is only making it stronger than it used to be.

What are your thoughts on editing? Do you have pages and pages of strange documents that won't make sense to anyone other than you?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review: "Eleanor & Park" by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park [click to buy / read other reviews]
Pages: 336
Genre: YA / Romance
Pubished: 26 February 2013
Book Jacket Summary: Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds -- smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Going into this book, I really knew nothing about this book, outside of the fact that it was a high school romance and that it came with strong recommendations from people whose opinions on literature I greatly value. So, I figured it couldn't be terrible, with such high recommendations.

And with a start like that, it sounds like I hated the book. I didn't; I'm just not sure really how I feel about it. I didn't love it, I can say that outright because when I finish a book I love, I want to read it again and again and with this book, I'm willing to shelf it and not reread it again for several years. I feel like a lot of my issues with the book came with the ending, combined with not being able to really get into one of the main characters' minds. But. Focusing.

Plot: I mostly like it? It's high school and a lot of it was the whole stereotypical high school BS and predictable, but then you get to the romance. And it's so fresh and vibrant and just perfect in all of the ways that a relationship between two weird and outcasted 16 year old kids should be. It's set in the eighties, so there's none of the technology and white noise of the present to get in the way of things (no anonymous texts like in pretty little liars to out your secrets to your abusive stepdad and all), and in all honesty, I found that super refreshing and just wonderful. I read a lot of YA set in modern-day and everything is cell phones to communicate because that's just how it is now and I miss the days of walking over to someone's house and having real conversations with them, face-to-face, especially in fiction.

Then, there was the one night that she was at her biological father's house and they got to have a real conversation on the phone with no one listening and that was probably one of my favorite scenes in the entire book because both Eleanor & Park just got to be themselves.

But, back to plot. It was a little predictable in that the step-parent was the big bad guy and he made everything terrible, but at the same time, finding out that he was despicable enough to write things like "suck me off, bitch" and "slut, you smell like cum," etc. on her TEXTBOOKS? that is just absolutely repulsive. I, personally, saw the big twist that it was him and not Tina coming, but it was still shocking when Eleanor found that note.

Characters: One of the big things with this book is that Park feels like he doesn't know Eleanor. And I, actually, feel the same way. Which, considering half of the book is from her POV should not be the case. It makes sense, in a way, that even though Eleanor is one of the POV characters that we don't really get to go inside her head much, but it really created a HUGE disconnect for me from her and I didn't like that. At all. I loved Park, but I definitely had a hard time physically imagining him. Most of his description is done through Eleanor's eyes / filter and basically, all she says is that he's cute and Asian. And focuses on his hairstyle. To me? Cute + Asian = no, not ever [sorry; personal bias], so I had a lot of trouble with that. In my head, he's often just an olive-skinned oval with hair. Awesome.

I HATE Eleanor's mother. Almost more than I hate her stepdad. Because her stepdad has been raised as the alcoholic, drug-dealing, gun-wielding white trash that he is. Yes, he's evil and I hate him. But Eleanor's mother opted to marry this man after her original marriage fell apart and, while she does still try sometimes for her children, it's obvious that her alliance is with her evil husband and the youngest two kids, rather than the older three. And, coming from a family with major father-issues in the past? That just made me SO MAD, and also made me snap out of the book and right back into the real world. If you have FIVE children, obviously, you wanted to have a family. As a mother, those kids should be your life. Not the husband. If there was one accidental child with the ex, sure. Much more believable. But not like this. When Eleanor hands her mom the $50 she got for Christmas in the store and her mom doesn't even put up a fight, just takes it and spends it? No. No, no, no. 

Park's parents are about the only characters I felt were realistic in the entire book. They both freak out at things and his dad is so hard on him for not being the sportsman type like his little brother. His mom freaks out because she's a beautician and Park's girlfriend is anything but dainty and pretty. And it's great. They are great.

Tina is flat until the very end. She's just a bully, but then you find out that her boyfriend wants to kill her stepdad and suddenly in the last 30 pages, she has backstory and depth. And it's never explained. So that's great. And the rest of the characters? Even the ones that are supposed to be important? Feel like they're there as a convenience to the plot. 

Writing Stuff / Technical Things: Language. OMG Language in this book. I don't really think it detracted from the book to have all of the swearing, but I also know that it added nothing. Personally, I'm of the belief that swearing in a book needs to have a purpose. And this, most of the time, didn't. The language should have been crude and awful in the notes on the books; that would have had a huge impact... Without all of the other f-bomb dropping throughout the book. As it's written, by the time you see the first note, you're so used to seeing swearing that you're desensitized by it and the note has a far lesser impact on the reader. 

I also am not a fan of some of the POV alterations. I do like the stylistic approach that swapping between Eleanor & Park's POVs gave the book, but I also feel like because of that, the reader learned more than Park about Eleanor and because of that, Park got away with things he wouldn't actually be able to because we just forget that he's not there with us. Basically, it made it feel lazy / cheap. 

Great Quotes"There are things worse than selfish." [re: the way she feels about her stepdad vs. her real dad who left them because he was selfish]

"You just look like you with the volume turned up." [re: the makeovers]

The Ending: The ending made me so angry. It's unbelievably rushed and absolutely would not happen. Her stepdad raids her room and finds the comics, the mixtapes, her makeup, etc., and realizes that she's been sneaking around with a boy. Eleanor is convinced that he's going to kill her [and honestly, I think he would definitely try] so she runs away. Not only do Tina and Steve help her for NO REASON, but Park's father catches him sneaking out and says OKAY to driving from Omaha to St. Paul, under one condition: he takes the truck and proves he can drive a manual transmission. Which, that is a cute tie-back to the beginning of the book and would be completely plausible if they were going to the next town over, not crossing state lines. 

BUT ALSO. His dad asks if she knows that her uncle is going to take her in. He says no. His dad then says "well, if you get there and he doesn't, bring her back to our house and we'll figure things out." NO. YOU ARE A PARENT OF A 16-YEAR-OLD. YOU WOULD TAKE THAT STEP FIRST. 

And then the fact that Eleanor just shuts Park out of her life so completely for a year and then sends him a postcard -- the one he originally sent her, back when he was sending her DAILY LETTERS THAT SHE IGNORED -- with three words on it. Rowell leaves them ambiguous, which I kind of liked, tbh. The tone of the postcard arriving [RIGHT as Park is starting to move on, of course] is optimistic and I think you're supposed to assume that the three words are I Love You [or I Miss You, which I prefer because that phrase plays a huge part in the earlier part of the book], but at the same time, it's entirely possible that the postcard says Park, just stop.

Honestly? I almost hope it was the last one. Because a girl that is STUPID enough to do that to a boy that has done nothing but help you and even drove you to runaway from HIM doesn't deserve to be happy. At all. And it enrages me that he even wasted his time trying.

Overall, I'm still not 100% sure how I feel about this book. I gave it 4/5 stars on Goodreads because it's pretty well done and I don't think it's Rowell's fault that I, personally, couldn't connect with Eleanor. I'm still going to stick with 4 out of 5 Stars on this one.

Would I recommend this book? Maybe. Depending on the person. It's not bad, but I don't feel like it's the kind of book I think everyone would love.