Road Trip Wednesday: #163 Goals Anyone?

rtwRoad Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Weeks Topic: What are your goals for the new year—for reading, writing, or other?

I am going to attack this question in the three parts it’s broken up by — reading, writing, other.

I am not really a goal-setter. I discussed this in my New Year post, you can see that here. To briefly reiterate, I do not like to fail. I do like to have a plan though, and that plan does leave room for me to fail.

So…whatever.

Reading:

I have set a reading goal on Goodreads this year. First year I think I have ever done that. You can see my little tracker over in the sidebar. I’ve read one book so far. My goal is 75. We will see. I would like to try to read in genres or sub-genres I don’t usually read in for at least 30% of my reading. For example) Literary Fiction, Contemporary YA, Nonfiction or Memoir.

Writing:

The biggest goal I have here should be obvious: get the manuscript to a sale-able place. For those of you who are agented, you will understand how very little power you have in reaching this goal. It comes down to absorbing the notes on your work, interpreting it through the eyes of your characters and your voice and your story, then making that happen in the writing. That’s what I’m doing now.

Beyond that, ideally the book will sell. I’m an holding my breath for that. Holding my breath, praying, crossing fingers, dotting “i’s”. It’s happening this year. I would also like to consistently blog, tweet, and build my presence on the interwebs. And, if my manuscript is out in the world of publishing, I’d like to begin work on the sequel.

Somewhere in there I will sleep and potty-train my three year old son.

Other:

Potty training is happening. Sometime between now and when he turns four. My husband and I joke about this, and other more challenging aspects of parenting, in order to remain sane in the midst of chaos. He says, sometime between now and when Sam’s eighteen he’ll be able to sleep through the night (use the big boy potty, eat his vegetables, dress himself, etc., you get the idea), so no pressure.

I’d like to find time to sew, which I haven’t done since moving to New York.

I want be more settled this year. This is more of a feeling, something I will know when I get to it, but not necessarily know how to get to. I’d also like to be more flexible. Last year, I was learning how to be a mom and a writer. I’m still learning, but I hope this year, I’ll be better at the dance.

Those are my current goals. I find goals evolve, like all living things, and goals should be alive. They are a part of who we are. As you journey towards something the end result you were hoping for usually matures. Sometimes it changes entirely. By the end of the year, I may not meet any of my goals, but I may still feel I’ve accomplished everything I set out to. (This is a mentality I am developing in order to counter my need to win compulsion. So far, it’s working.)

Road Trip Wednesday: #161 What’s in a name?

rtwRoad Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

 This Weeks Topic: The list of top baby names in 2012 had us talking about naming characters. How do you decide on names? Would you ever name a character after a friend/family member/ex?

I have always loved the meaning of names. Not because my name has the most awesome meaning. Rebekah means, almost everywhere you look, “to bind“, although the link I’ve included does try to improve the connotation a little bit. I’ve accepted this over the years. When I was pregnant with my son, there was never another name option other than Samuel. Samuel means “God heard”. He did hear when he gave me Sam, so it fits.

Naming characters in my writing is a different process, for me. The name of a character isn’t always a choice, or something I plot out. I tend to get a name stuck in my head in the early incarnation of the idea, and getting it unstuck is nearly impossible later on.

As the character develops, the name begins to feel like a part of their identity. Sometimes the name meaning turns out to be  ordained, connected to who that character is or what they represent in the story. I love when this happens organically. I also love when I begin to understand the character more because of their name. When you meet people in life, they introduce themselves to you with a handshake. You see shades of who they are, you know pieces of what their life has been, and you know their name. Over time, you get to know a person better and their name becomes synonymous with who they are to you. My relationship with my characters is very much this way.

In the case of my novel, some of my characters names are not actual names at all. This is always a fun thing to have happen because it feels like you’ve discovered something no one else could, and you’ve gone to a place truly separate from the framework of your own world.

There are different kinds of writers out there, this is true of every art form. I’m the kind who doesn’t plan much, at least not in the first draft. I don’t always know who a character is, or is going to become. I don’t always expect the character to turn out the way they do. I think this makes my discovery of the movements in my work a lot more exciting for me. It also means I have to do a lot of  revisions. That’s fine, I’ve accepted this is my writing personality and it will never change. Just like I’ve accepted I don’t really have any power over how my characters are named.

Road Trip Wednesday: #160

rtw
Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Weeks Topic: About how many books do you read in a year? Do you want to read more? Or, less?

I find the answering of this question a little maddening. In years past I read…some. Some is to say, I made time for reading when I stumbled across a good book. I didn’t seek out books so much as occasionally find them. In fact, I relied largely on friends recommendations and I didn’t ask friends for many recommendations.

Then I started reading young adult. I can read adult literature, don’t get me wrong, and occasionally I still do. (Like when a friend wants to have a book discussion at a fancy restaurant with cocktails.) But now that I’m reading YA, I read as much as my life allows. I read in the morning. I read in the bathroom. I read on the train. I read with coffee, and wine, and nap time.

This brings up another reason I have read more this year than any year before. Writing. When you are writing, you read more. Or, at least, I do. It encourages you to hone your craft. It fills you with confidence and understanding. It also makes you hungry for the art form you’ve chosen to express yourself in. Writing YA just means I have an excuse to read more YA.

I tell people it’s for my job.

So, not every year, but this year I have so far read 30 books. Could that number be improved? Absolutely! I hope it keeps on climbing. There is so much out there to read, so much of quality, and interest, and relevance. So much, in fact, for anyone to ever complain they are bored, or have nothing to read, or have nothing to do, is just laziness.

FYI if you follow this blog, you may think I’ve been complaining of boredom. That is not the case. I’ve been complaining of missing my son. There is always something to read, but in life you must have variety. Once I’ve written for six hours, and read for a few more, my eyes start to ache and I have to find something else to do. When my son is around, this is not a problem.

donnie darko

I’ve read 30 books this year, and next year, I hope to read more.

Road Trip Wednesday: # 146

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This weeks topic is:  Back to school time! What’s your favorite book that you had to read for a class?

High school was brief in my case, at least, public high school anyway. When I was a freshman my family lived in Colorado right down the street from Lewis Palmer High School. My brother and I both attended, but for me, high school was a bad dream. I got into trouble. Not your typical teenage rebellion, the trouble I found for myself had nothing to do with smoking pot on school grounds or vandalism. Mine was about justice (or my fifteen year-old skewed perspective of justice, which usually had to do with my authorities messing with my plans) and it usually meant tense confrontation with teachers I had no interest in understanding. I was frustrated with my life, felt trapped and out-of-place in Colorado, and missed family and friends back home. One teacher really had it out for me though. He taught algebra and grouped me in with the vapid mean girls I would never associate with under any form of torture, let alone his stupid glass. I was more of a drama geek than a cheerleader type. I also didn’t like being boxed. When he then punished this group of girls, including me, a foe was created. I spent the rest of my (short) career in his class terrorizing him. I also landed in ISS and Detention more times in three months than I like to recall. And that was just one of the irons I had in the fire. Needless to say, my parents decided that I should be schooled at home.

In my home schooling I read a lot of books — what else did I have to do?— and wrote a lot of crazy plays and short stories. One book, the book I am choosing as my response, was also one of the first books I read in my private education. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, struck the outcast in me like lightening.

 

I remember feeling Hester was someone I could be, someone I could actually understand and relate to. A testament to the classics is their long-term relevance. That book was published 150 years before I was reading it, and yet is made me feel almost normal. No, I was not a woman branded by adultery and raising the illegitimate child that was a result, but I felt branded nonetheless. I felt like the part of me that was true was deeply misunderstood. I carried secrets, and had few real friends. The tragic ending also played into my overly-dramatic-hopelessly-romantic side. At that time the idea of dying for love was super appealing to me, a girl who had never been in love or anywhere near love’s neighborhood.

I spent a lot of time with the classics as a teen, especially once I entered my banned book phase. But The Scarlet Letter was one of the first times I truly felt kindred to a character, and it was a character written well-before high school algebra teachers were throwing girls in detention because they threw a ruler at their head when called “sweetheart”.

What about you? What high school required reading book stands out in your mind today?

P.S. The website I pulled The Scarlet Letter book cover from featured an article about fashions inspired by the book. It was awesome, here’s the link.

Road Trip Wednesday: #145

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Weeks Topic is: What was the best book you read in August?

I feel I must say — and I think I’m touching on a something being expressed by a collective moan among  others, and especially school teachers and children — that I would like to know where the hell August went? At the beginning of this month I actually recall saying to my husband that I couldn’t wait for the end of August. (At the time my son’s school situation for the fall was a lot more solid and my babysitter had not returned to college, how a month can change things?) August put me through the ringer, as it somehow always seems to, and I am left now breathing both a sigh of relief and scratching my head at it’s ending.

I read four books this month— four!— which was incredibly awesome considering I also finished a major rewrite at in the early part of the month as well. Woo-hoo! August was productive. Maybe that’s why it disappeared…? Anyway. My August books are:

So, clearly a trilogy and a stand-alone. Clearly, high fantasy and contemporary. Clearly, very, verydifferent books. If forced to pick a BEST book, (which I am if I want to participate in this RTW — and I do) I would have to go with…

Bitterblue!

Description courtesy Goodreads:

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle–disguised and alone–to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

As the final book in the Graceling Realm, I was already deeply invested in these characters and the Seven Kingdoms created by Kristen Cashore. In some ways Bitterblue could be considered weaker than the first two books in the series, primarily in the romance department (Cashore has this to say about that), but what it lacks there it makes up in vivid storytelling, drama, and such intricacy’s to plot that I found my mind reeling at the work she had to put in. But that’s not why Bitterblue wins out. For me, Bitterblue herself is why I fell so hard for this book. Bitterblue is a character I sort of relate to. Not in the sense that I had a pathological father who was also a demented king of a fictional land. (Although, wouldn’t that be a a shocking coincidence?) More because she was grappling with very human questions about love, sexuality, family, truth, and ultimately what all of those are wrapped up in, identity.

Much of my quest as a writer — mother, wife, friend, human being — is about the need to solidify and mold our (my) identity within the many confusing hats we are forced to wear as people. I think this is true at sixteen or twenty seven or whatever-age. I love watching Bitterblue come to terms with her world, it’s history, and the people she loves, in the midst of helping her kingdom do the same thing. I also adored Kristen Cashore’s passion and open-mindedness. Plus, I learned a lot about ciphers and code breaking. Really, send me a ciphered message, I’ll crack the bitch.

I am thankful for this writer, these books being on the market, and the joy that was reading them. The End.

Inner Itch

Image Credit Charlesroper

THWACK! My fly swatter made contact with the dashboard, not the fly. The fly spun in the air toward the back seat of the car where the baby snoozed, neck contorted, his plump lower lip sticking out and gleaming with spit. The fly landed on the baby’s plump, white arm.

“Lovely,” I groaned, catching my own eyes in the rearview mirror. The fly is now throwing up its microscopic stomach contents onto the baby’s skin. The baby’ll suck that same wrist all slobbery and sticky when he wakes up. I’ll have to get to him before he does. I glare at the drivers side window. This window is why the stupid fly got inside and now sits on the baby’s arm in the first place. This. Stupid. Window.

I guess if I’m going to blame the window for my problems, I may as well blame the loser who bought a car with a window that wouldn’t roll all the way up in the first place. That idiot is my younger, slightly more attractive sister, Layla. Being twenty four with breasts like melons and hair from a Pantene commercial does not afford Layla with the foresight to anticipate needing a window to close all the way when driving through the sweaty, insect infested roads outside Houston-hot-as-hell’s-asshole-Texas. Stupid Junior College Dropout.

The fly is taunting me. This is now clear. It has flown to the ceiling above the back window, I can actually see the blasted thing rubbing it’s creepy little hands together. I wish Layla would hurry up so I can pee, and then maybe I’ll forget about the fly altogether. It’s just a distraction really. I’m not dense.

My cigarettes are empty. Layla again. Though, I guess maybe I shouldn’t smoke with the baby in the backseat like that. Secondhand smoke kills. It killed our cousin Larry. Larry had a brother who smoked like the tailpipe of a dying jalopy. His brother burned their trailer down with a lit cigarette while Larry slept off his high in the bathtub. Larry was an idiot.

Out my back window, where the fly now crawls, I see a rusty red pick-up squeal into the parking lot. My heart in my ears. That’s his truck. The truck! Layla. I grab my cell and text rapid fire:

Trck, hrry, go round back — bring tp, i still hav to p. 

It’s too late. Layla, her shiny blonde hair and vacant blue eyes, those long legs that used to be so tan and muscular, saunters the front door of the Stop-N-Go. She’s not looking because she’s pulled out her phone to see my text. She doesn’t see him rush her, his t-shirt showing off tan arms made for beating little woman, the lip of his cap blocking his face from the security camera. She doesn’t notice until his hand grips the hair at the top of her head, a huge clump of golden, and yanks her into the truck. I see him send a lightening quick smack to her face and then I don’t think anymore. Inside I feel the itch to press my foot to the pedal. At least the baby, me, and that damned fly will get away.

This post was inspired by BeKindRewrite’s stellar InMon prompts.

Road Trip Wednesday: #144

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Week’s Topic is: Inspired by Stephanie Perkins’ post on Natalie Whipple’s blog, what is your novel’s “Love List”?

I had to go read the post (as if they were twisting my arm, or something) to understand what this question meant. Once I did, I realized two things:

  1. This is a brilliant idea, it’s also something I have done mentally since my first draft without ever putting a name to what I was doing.
  2. I am now following this authors blog. My blogroll grows again.

So, you may or may not want clarification, but I’ll give you some anyway. As Stephanie says in her post, the “Love List” is a list of things that remind why you love you WIP and why should keep pressing forward to make it what you in your heart believe it can be. It’s like a Pro’s list about your book. It’s also a guide to the strongest parts of your book, and can help you focus when you lose your way in rewrites. The “Love List” is your breadcrumbs home.

So, here is my “Love List” for my Manuscript (or what I can say without giving too much away):

A field of Poppies

Fur

Hands

Velvet

The silent child

Moonshine

The Way of the West

Poaching

A beautiful, lopsided face

The smell of her blood

Telling a secret

Lamplight

The Forest

Dangerous kisses

That was fun. Hmm…it also makes me miss my Manuscript, which is just minimized in my dock. I think I’ll open it, just to be close to them.

Road Trip Wednesday

Wednesday, which means it the day to Road Trip with YA Highway. Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and we bloggers link back with our response.

This weeks question, and it’s a good one, is: What music has been your summer soundtrack?

Now, my summer soundtrack consists of the music I listen to when I write. Writing music is a funny animal. It’s music I like, but can’t be distracting, and it has to evoke the mood I am trying to convey in my words. I have listened to a wide variety of stuff — from instrumental film soundtracks, to pop, to moody bluegrass. Here are just a few examples, courtesy YouTube.

 

You get the idea. The mood and tone of my manuscript is not entirely heavy, but the intensity with which she is pursued and with which she must battle is akin to the crashing symbols and abandon of these singers. I used Spotify to make playlists, as well as have access to way more music than I have in my iTunes. Spotify is good for us as writers because the possibilities are limitless, as long as we always remember to support the artists beyond the easy listening of the internet. Uploading these videos got me distracted, what was I doing?— oh, yes, a make-me-gag-synopsis.

The Monster Saved Me

There’s a door in the floor of my granny’s house. It sits under the rug we use to wipe our feet on. Bayou stench festers on this rug. The smell of dead earth — that lingering hideousness of a body rotting into the ground. Every time we get the rains, more show up, more coffins the ground couldn’t hold. The coffins remind me I’m mortal. Sometimes I forget. It’s easy when I wear the cape Papaw made me from the duck cloth he uses to mend the sails of his shrimper. The cape is red, it repels water and knives. But it calls to the monster that lives under the floor of my granny’s house. The door to his prison — the prison my granny made for him.

Granny invited the Priest over for tea in the parlor. The Priest stood right on top of the monsters door, his bible in his hand, his collar crisp and white. He’s talked a lot about my sins since he got here. I’m a sinner. I’m too old to be wearing a cape and saying whatever comes to my mind. The Priest says Gran can’t help me, but he can — the church can, he corrects with a smirk.

I tap the handle of my knife on the crisp white lace tablecloth. I sip my tea through my teeth. Every time, Granny closes her eyes like that will block out the sound of my slurps. The Priest is asking me if I understand my sins. I nod. I’m a girl with dirty fingernails, who won’t sit through Mass and refuses to go to confession. I got no interest in cooking and my hair mats at the back from laying in the grass by the bayou with boys in dirty overalls. I’ve spread my legs too much. Granny says she’s knows I’m just like my momma that way. She don’t know the half of it though.

Gran agrees. I need some reform — a ruler to my thighs. I need to see the monster. He’d know what to do about my problem with civility. He’d know what to say to the Priest that would make him stop eying me like a piece of dirty meat. The Monsters voice is a whisper in my ear. Even when I’m swearing to Granny I never opened the door. That cellars off limits, Noula, you mind me or else. The threat’s wasted now. There is no or else. Or else is a few days away, its a uniform of white knee socks and plaid that sits on my bed.

The Priest is leaving. His long fingered hand covers my shoulder and squeezes, too hard for a Man-of-the-Cloth. Granny wants me to carry the tray. Yes, ma’am, I say sourly. The rug over the door is all furled. The Priest’s collar, a corner all starched and stiff, peaks from the crack in the door. I’ll get it later, I think, after the bones are all clean.

Written as an InMon prompt. My first in a very long time.