What’s Up Wednesday

wuwPLANEBORDER2What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s blog. And in honor of What’s Up Wednesday for the fall, Jaime made some beautiful new buttons. I’ll feature them all over the next few weeks.

I’m in my third story loft office, drinking coffee and thinking thoughts. For only Wednesday, this week has already kicked my butt, and there are still miles to go before I can rest.

Current View

Current View

What I’m Reading

I am still in the thick of A Game of Thrones, and yes, I am still blown away by the writing and world-building. The first season of the show followed the book pretty closely, but it has been a while (with many horrors in between) since I watched the first season. Slowly it returns, making the experience of reading an odd combination of accepting the interpretation and throwing it out all-together. Especially Dany. My swoon for Jon Snow has reached a fever pitch, and really, that is saying something considering the severity of my crush before.

I’m making slow progress and not feeling one ounce of regret for spending this much time on a single book. It’s sort of freeing to chew on a sentence just as long as I damn well please. To close my eyes, letting ice form around me as I stand on the Wall with Tyrion and Jon, or have my chest seize as Summer saves Bran by ripping an assassins throat out, or wanting to smack Sansa for choosing Joffrey over Arya.

Reading for me had become a bit of a job. Oh, I better read this because everyone is and I want to be part of the conversation. Or, I need to get so many books read, in this amount of time, in order to meet my 2013 reading goals and not feel like a failure. Reading and writing should never be a job, even when they are your job. The motivation should come from a singular desire to be transported by words on a page, whether those words are your own, or someone else’s. That is an idealistic view, I know, but holding on to ideals keeps the cynic from ruling when the dreamer really should.

What I’m Writing 

I wrote around 3000 words on my WiP, which puts me right at 15,000 words. I feel the pacing is getting dangerously close to not being what I want it to be, and that annoys me. So I’m now resisting urges to do drastic things because there is still a lot of groundwork to be laid. I have taken to pacing around my office to get the jitters out.

I also pulled out a feature length screenplay, which was a labor of love and the first big story I ever wrote, and decided it needs to be rewritten. Ten pages in on that, and not really sure why I’m doing it, but just know that I must.

What Inspires Me

Acceptance. I turn 29 in a little over a month, (November 3rd) and truthfully, I just want to hide. It’s not about getting older, though the thought of leaving my 20s does make my palms sweat, it’s about where I expected to be by 29 and where I am. I am a pretty ambitious person. Driven is an unflattering word maybe, but accurate. This year has been overwhelmingly productive. Productive to the point that the tired in my bones becomes lead if I contemplate the year behind me for too long.

Yet the dreamer in me, the part that forces me to move when I want to stay sedentary, wanted more from this year. And so the realist has to chide the dreamer, showing her the truth. She has no Time-Turner, nor a pensieve to pull the thoughts from her head fully-formed, and she doesn’t possess the ability to brew Felix Felicus empowering herself with supernatural luck, so she needs to cut herself some slack.

I am in a constant battle with me that makes me look like a nutter and feel like an outcast. Recently, the two sides seem to have reached an agreement, or at least, a level of acceptance with one another,  and this has allowed me to see the state of my life truthfully. It’s been a good year. I still want to accomplish more. I know I won’t accomplish everything and have decided not to bitch about it anymore.

Running. Ran about 75% of the 5k on Saturday, keeping pace with my husband and getting sprayed with a lot of neon paint. I’m used to pushing my brain, not my body. The sense of accomplishment does a lot to clear the head. You’re allowed to feel awesome, even if you’re the only one who understands why.

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Mumford and Sons. Hearing the music live changed my perception of their songs entirely. It is impossible to get good footage at a concert, and it wouldn’t do it justice to try to relay the experience via compressed and low-quality film. Just, yeah…it was as good as I hoped.

What Else I’m Up To

Leaving Friday afternoon for Austin with my sisters-in-law. These ladies are my buds, and I can’t wait to share all the bookish goodness that is Austin Teen Book Fest with them. Looking forward to spending some time with my friend Lindsay, as well as the cool group of Dallas-Fort Worth authors I’ve recently gotten to know, while there, and to generally soak in the knowledge.

We begin filming Cassie’s Cause, our Zombie related short film, on Sunday. Looking forward to the controlled chaos that is shooting a movie, because my OCD hates it, and I like to irritate my OCD.

What’s Up Wednesday

WUWKiteWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s blog. And in honor of What’s Up Wednesday for the fall, Jaime made some beautiful new buttons. I’ll feature them all over the next few weeks.

What I’m Reading

I finished Beauty last week. I loved it. I adore Robin McKinley, and everything I have read by her has been brilliant. Beauty isn’t my all-time fave McKinley, that title is still held by the haunting Deerskin, but it definitely enchanted me. Especially this passage. I want to live in the Beast’s library.

beauty

I began A Game of Thrones, the first in the epic Song of Ice and Fire series that inspired the massively popular HBO show. I have watched the show. I crush hard on Jon Snow (he’s 14 in the books, but not in my head, because…Kit Harington). I am taking my time, not only because the book is very dense, but because I find myself dissecting the sentence structure and world-building elements while reading. Bran has my heart, and that one scene from the first episode of GoT, where Bran sees something he shouldn’t and then something horrible happens, that was somehow more painful to read.

What I’m Writing

I made great progress on my WiP. I hit, and then passed, the 10,000 word mark for overall word count. I am now over 12,000. I feel really hopeful about this story. I have a pretty good idea of the larger movements, have a strong sense of the world so far, and the writing itself isn’t coming out as complete and utter horse-shit.

What Inspires Me

Reading the writing of others. As a writer, one must also be a reader, but what is especially amazing is when you can be a reader for other talented writers on the same journey that you’re on. I got to read a piece from a friend last night that floored me. It was a moment where the talent of this writer, which she has honed probably for many years, came together to create near perfect pages. Or as I told her on Twitter, “There was magic in those pages.” And that is a gift.

My son’s struggle with his own expectations. Sam is a very literal child, which maybe most children are, but this seems to also just be his personality. When things don’t play out as he explicitly expects them to, in the very specific way he has seen in his brain, he struggles. Dealing with this hurdle in his life has shed light on my own need to give myself and others a bit of a break, because I have realized, Sam gets this from me. The truth is, many things will not happen as you hope or expect, that just isn’t reality, but that doesn’t give you the right to pitch a fit. You have to change your perspective. You have to understand that expectations are just one element at play in the overall outcome.

What Else I’m Up To

Tonight…a Mumford and Son’s concert!!!!!! Yay and yay!

These next few weeks are crazy busy:

We are on the final leg of pre-production.

I am in a Fun Run (I know, I don’t understand the name either. Running is not fun.) It was one of those crazy things I let myself get roped into and then actually get excited about, until I realize I will actually have to run, and then I start to panic.

The last weekend of September is Austin Teen Book Fest and I’m GOING! Of course, as a fangirl and not an author. But someday…

If you live in Texas, or nearish Austin, you should also go.

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Happy Wednesday! What’s up with you?

So You Think You Can Write

sytycd

It is no secret that I watch — pretty religiously and usually while drinking or snacking to further differentiate myself from the sinewy dancers bodies — So You Think You Can Dance. It is pure entertainment, and unlike American Idol or The X Factor or The Voice, the talent on this show are (usually) highly-trained performers who have been working toward this much of their lives. There is less nonsense, in other words.

Besides that, there’s the other, slightly more private and embarrassing fact about me, that I secretly wish I could dance. I do not secretly harbor the same fantasies for being a singer. I also live with the daily knowledge that my future will never include me formed in the graceful lines of a pirouette. (As proven by my foray in Hula while visiting Hawaii this summer, which can be viewed here.)

But I’m straying from the topic. As I watched So You Think You Can Dance this season, I have also been in the very emotionally abusive (totally masochistic, I should specify because the agents have been very kind) journey known to all aspiring authors as querying. 

Of course, to soothe my own misery, and because I’m a writer who looks for storytelling tools, I drew some parallels between the Road to Publication and the Road to America’s Favorite Dancer, that I am now going to share with you. (And, because I know you’re getting ready to ask, there will be visual aids.)

1) There is a long line of talented, charismatic, maybe even gorgeously beautiful (for writers, more social networking savvy) people in front of and behind you vying for the same position as you are. There is room for many to succeed, at some level, but the majority won’t make it past this point.

sytycdThat is not meant to be discouraging. Querying agents is an ambiguously difficult task, where you can never really know if you’re doing it well or if you will ever make any headway.

Confession: I have developed a serious (borderline neurotic) phobia that all my emails go straight into spam folders. I have fantasies, and not the good kind, of the internet netherworld where emails from me wander around in limbo. Even when I get prompt replies, I then worry over my response email. Really…it’s becoming a problem. One with no solution because as a querying writer it is essential to maintain a front of cool. In other words, no psychotic Twitter stalking, no emailing to check they received your other email. Guys…we just have to wait.

2) Even if you make it past this stage into the first round of eliminations, (or what can be compared to a partial request) that may be where your journey ends. This, of course, is up to how well you dance and how willing you are to be vulnerable on stage. (Is your writing “there”? Did you revise enough for a stranger to connect with your words?) Also, what kind of contestants they are looking for this season. Producers have an idea of the kind of show they want to make, you just may not be what they are looking for. (The “Not for me, not right now” response.)

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Many writers, after multiple partial requests without an upgrade to full, will give up. It is draining to have the hope dangled — even with good intentions, as I am inclined to believe agents generally have — in front of you, for it to then be snatched away.

Confession: I try to see requests as nothing more than a first date. The agent is grabbing coffee with your MS, flirting, maybe fantasizing about kissing, maybe looking for an out. It is not a commitment for more, but could result in further courting.

3) You make it to the top 20! Yay! This is further than almost every other dancer in America. You should be proud. You should be grateful. You still just really want to win. Winning is the goal, not placing, not getting some recognition only to be told you’re not popular or talented enough for the big time. (You’ve had a full requested, but still no offer of representation. You’re progressing, but your goal is an agent willing to rep you, not nice words about how much they love your book…just not enough to take it on.)

Your road to dance success may not be through So You Think You Can Dance, it doesn’t mean you can’t dance.

sytycdeliminationsUltimately, you want an agent who gets your book, can conceive of how to make it better, will be able to sell it, and will defend it right along beside you to anyone who doesn’t get it. Submission is a bitch, mediocre feelings won’t carry you through it. An agent who passes because of that is a kind person indeed, who respects their position in the author’s life and sees they aren’t the best to represent them.

Confession: I actually would rather continue to search for the right agent than sign with the wrong one.

4) You make it to the top 10. (A position I will equate with having an agent, but being in revision still, maybe even out on submission with no luck. I have no agent, though I feel I will always be in revision.) You’re gonna go on tour, you know that much. You’re popular. Your talent is real, and your discipline to improve has so far held up. Any number of things can result in your elimination at this point, but the greatest seems to be that you just aren’t what America is drawn to right now. It’s really not about your skill, but what you’re selling.

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Jenna, who I thought was a very talented dancer with a lot going for her, never seemed to grip the audience. In the end, both she and Tucker were eliminated after dancing beautifully all season.

Confession: I am not a technically perfect writer. My grammar can be lacking. I’m a fan of a comma in odd or random places, and my education has come from reading a lot, writing a lot, but not going to school a lot. This does not make me better or worse. In fact, betas on my early drafts probably wanted to strangle me, but somehow also still loved the story. However, technique isn’t the most important thing. Technique can be improved by practice and a willingness to learn, something easily managed by all if we put our minds to it.

5) Even when you make it to the end, you still may face disappointment and set-backs. (Expectations for your publishing deal, your sales, your fame and fortune are not met.) The truth is, this is what it all leads up to. The finale.

aaron

This season of So You Think You Can Dance featured a really talented tapper who made it to the finale. Aaron had auditioned three times for the show. He had made it to Vegas twice. He had made it through multiple cuts only to be sent home before the Top 20. Finally, he made it into the Top 20, then the Top 10, then the Top 4. His skills as a dancer were top notch. He had a great charisma on stage. He was masculine and strong and, really, not bad looking. I was rooting for him. Sure, I liked Fik-shun. I thought he was talented. I loved him with Amy, etc. But I wanted to see the happy ending for Aaron. I hoped, after all the years of him knocking on this door, him seeking this prize, the answer would be America’s Favorite Dancer Is…Aaron.

Why? Because I want that. As do all writers on the journey toward publication. To pretend we don’t dream of a great publishing deal, a New York Times Bestseller, a film adaptation that doesn’t suck, would be a boldfaced lie. This dream isn’t about the realistic, the what we know will probably happen, because in the end we will be happy to be published and continue writing books — no, the big dreams are what keep us sending out queries, revising, writing. We must write, this will not change if we are never validated by a publishing deal, but the yes from an agent, the sell to an editor, is our goal.

We hear nonstop about the subjectivity of this business. So You Think You Can Dance beautifully illustrates this concept. In the end, what another person loves is not up to you. Be a champion of what you love. Write the stories you want to write, with the characters you can’t ignore, and have faith that you will one day become Your Agent’s Favorite Query, That Editor’s Must Read Submission, The Bestseller Everyone Loves, or The Book That Someone Won’t Be Able To Put Down.

What’s Up Wednesday

WUWRocketWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s blog. And in honor of What’s Up Wednesday for the fall, Jaime made some beautiful new buttons. I’ll feature them all over the next few weeks.

What I’m Reading

After I finished Crown of Midnight, I was hesitant to jump right into another book. For the next books sake. So, I waited a few days, in which time Crown of Midnight and The Bitter Kingdom both hit the New York Times Bestsellers list! This makes me happy as both a reader of YA fantasy, and a writer of it. I decided to pick up a book by trailblazer for females writing in Fantasy – both YA and Adult — Robin McKinley. I have already read a handful of her books, but had been putting off the book that started it her career. Beauty is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and the writing is…well…beautiful. Robin McKinley tells stories with meandering, dreamy narration, the kind many of us wish we could execute with even half the grace she manages to. It was the perfect book to follow up Crown of Midnight and celebrate two wonderful YA fantasy novels hitting the bestsellers list!

What I’m Writing

A lot. I’ve worked on the sequel to my novel (still querying…with some nice developments) and my WiP, alternating, this week. I’ll have a few days with one story screaming for attention, and then it quiets, and the other takes over. It has gotten very noisy in my brain, but the company of my characters is always welcome. I spent a good deal of time writing a brief history of the world my WiP is set in, and figuring out some major world-building questions. This resulted in the realization that I am now working on a much larger project than I meant to when I set out to write this novel. Which leads to…

I really had hoped my second project would be a) not fantasy b) not a series c) not complicated. Why? REDHUNT, my novel in query phase, is all of the above. I have failed my own goals miserably in my WiP because it is solidly all three, and I am hopeless to ever write anything that isn’t.

What Inspires Me

My Hawaiian Mama. I have mentioned my brother married a dazzling Hawaiian beauty. This last weekend some of her family visited, and I got to spend time with her Mama. Christine talked stories with me about the Hawaiian islands, helping me gain some perspective on the research I had already done, giving me more research to do, and enchanting me with knowledge only a true Kumu could. Here is a video from my time in Hawaii which features my new sis, her mother, and her younger sister. To train their voices, Hawaiian women stand beside the ocean, aiming to be heard above the roar of the waves.

 

On September 11th, hold near the ones you love and remember that time waits for no one. We are here and then gone. Be thankful for now.

Pilot Point, TX. Yesterday the director of our film, Cassie’s Cause, and I met with some local talent in Pilot Point to discuss filming a scene from our movie on the square. I’ll be doing a post about this on the film blog, but the characters and setting have already inspired more ideas in my mind than I can number.

What Else I’m Up To

I spent most of my day cleaning and reorganizing Sam’s bedroom yesterday. I had been meaning to get to it before his birthday. Then I meant to get to it once birthday presents destroyed all semblance of organization. Then I crossed over into full on neglect once we got another piece of furniture for the room. I finally got the courage to tackle it (my OCD makes these kinds of projects really daunting), just in time for my aunt to bring him a fabulous new chair.

"Reading" in his Batman chair.

“Reading” in his Batman chair.

Have a wonder-filled Wednesday! And I’d love to hear…what’s up with you?

Busy, busy bee…

busybee

Much of my creative energy has been going to actually writing. No, plotting. No, thinking. No, all of the above. These last few weeks have been full, to the brim, overflowing. I would like to say I am not kind of person who likes to be busy, that busyness pulls me from a carefully constructed shell where creativity is guarded, but that’s not entirely true.

As a writer, time alone with my thoughts is valuable. Necessary. The only way actual words get down. As a person who edges easily toward the OCD overpass right off anxiety highway, alone time (when not actually writing or doing something I see as productive) is a slippery slope. A carefully constructed busy can be the best possible way to jumpstart my creative, while also maintaing my sane.

Last Thursday I went to an author signing and panel in Frisco, TX featuring the fabulous talent of Tessa Gratton, Myra McEntire, Tara Hudson and Sonia Gensler. Before the event, my dear friend and 2014 debut author Lindsay Cummings signed us up for a Fresh Fiction organized dinner with the authors. I was one of the very few writers present at this dinner that was unagented or unpublished. I don’t say this for sympathy, being in the company of these many talented women was inspiring. Lindsay and I were seated with Tessa Gratton, who I heartily recommend you follow on Twitter, buy her books, and generally adore. She said something at dinner about writers commonly being introverts, and that she has learned to play the extrovert for the purpose of promoting her books.

tessa

I would agree with her, most writers are introverts. I am not. I am also not a people person. I don’t love everyone. I don’t get along with everyone. I define friendship, at the most basic level, as a connection born from mutual interest, mutual respect, or mutual benefit…or all of these things.

I do well in social situations where there is a common love of storytelling, whether that mean they’re filmmakers, writers, of fans of Dr. Who. I will not (happily, without much resistance) entertain a conversation about breast milk, or Obama, or baking. (Though, if you are a baker who likes books, I will love you forever.)

What does this have to do with busyness? There are inevitable times where we are more productive, more creatively affluent, more stimulated and therefore more in demand. This can mean professionally, personally, emotionally, but rest assured whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you will have to conquer your inherent inner monologue to succeed. I enjoy socially engaging. I am a bit of a performer. I am a fan of banter. But at the end of the day, I’m a writer, and in order to succeed I have to will myself away from the lure of the spotlight or the joy of connecting socially, to connect with the creative ability inside.

When I was a girl, my uncle who likes to recite limericks of all kinds, used one in particular on me and my brothers. The Busy, Busy Bee.

The busy, busy bee he circles all around; the busy, busy bee, he needs a place to land, he’ll circle round your nose, he’ll circle round your toes, he’ll pull out his stinger, and he’ll get you in the seat!

Life is a balance, between our desires and our fears, between what we know we can do and what we long to conquer. Busy is a poor descriptive word for searching, and as you search, you start to connect.

What’s Up Wednesday

whats up wednesdayWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s.

What I’m Reading

I just finished Crown of Midnight, and OH MY HOLY GEEZ! If you fell in love with Throne of Glass, you will want to propose to Crown of Midnight. I caress this book, stroking the pages with effusive affection. There was a point where I set it down, filled with grief, and considered not picking it back up. For pages and pages I was so distressed I actually considered writing a very strongly worded open letter eviscerating Sarah J. Mass for ripping my heart so thoroughly to shreds. But I persevered and was rewarded. This series in YA High Fantasy at its best.

What I’m Writing

I actually got quite a lot of my own writing done this week. Not only did I knock out a little over 3000 words on my WiP, but I spent a good chunk of time plotting and researching as well. I decided, after getting about 30 pages in, that I needed to understand a bit more about the history of this fictional world and by extension the MC’s family line. I spent a few hours Saturday morning putting together a fictional family tree, which was very fruitful. Haha…anyway, then I decided I might have to rewrite the whole thing in third person. I haven’t written in third person for a few years, which means I’m now very intimidated by my own ambitions.

What Inspires Me

The book Ancient Hawaii. Yes, my WiP is inspired by Hawaii. No, it is not set in the real Hawaii. Yes, I will have to go back for “research” in order to properly tell this story. No, I am not sure how I will afford that.

Twitter writing parties are still happening, and I for one an grateful. Last Friday, when I was considering shittin’ around on the internet Googling images of Kit Harington, Tracey Neithercott suggested a writing party check-in. This accountability, and my first hour word count failure and subsequent shame, helped me get almost 1000 words in two hours. I am not begging, but please, pretty please with a cherry on top can we continue these forever?

What Else I’m Up To

Our Kickstarter for the short film Cassie’s Cause funded on Monday, Labor Day! Not just funded, but exceeded our goal by over $2000 clams. You can still pledge your support! The campaign will run until September 25th. With Kickstarter, you must reach your goal in order to fund, which is why ours was so low, but exceeding your goal isn’t limited in any way. So, if you still want to be a part of the project, you can. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook, we’d love to share the experience with you that way!

Along the same lines, pre-production for the film is in full-swing. We had a meeting last week to discuss where we stand, what we need, and how we plan to make it happen. Making a film, even a short film, requires a lot of diligence and attention to detail. The things you think you can skimp on are what will likely make the difference in the end.

My son had his first week in the 4-year-old class at his Montessori school. He is LOVING it. Witnessing his progress, even after one week, makes my heart glad. He’s jumped right in to learning, and brings that energy and excitement home with him. We spent an hour yesterday evening writing his letters. He kept saying, “More! More! I want to write more!” (I’m totally beaming.)

Happy Wednesday to all! What’s up with you?