Last week was an interesting one. Due to a variety of events, I wound up putting in more than thirty hours at my part-time job. Due to the variety of events still leaving some residual problems, I’m finding myself with about twice as many hours as I would like for my “part-time” job. It’s definitely a side-effect of being a hard and trustworthy worker, I guess, and I’m cool with it, as being busy seems to spark my creativity more and makes me appreciate the time I have to write even more, plus who doesn’t love extra money, but man. It’s a little rough, especially since the shifts are much longer. I haven’t even posted in the blog in a few days because it just didn’t fit in with the schedule. It happens. But, on the other hand, this happens, too.
“Three Day Weekend!”
For all my hard work (and the harsh set of three seven hour closing shifts in a row on a regular weekend awaiting me), I’ve been granted these next three days off, which is pretty freaking cool. That gives me one day to decompress, one day to really focus and drive home some stuff that needs to be done, and then one more day to prepare myself for the long haul ahead. It’s going to be pretty glorious, and, finally, I’m able to make a post. Granted, I haven’t had much to say lately. I’ve been reading through World Unknown Review submissions and scribbling down ideas for more short stories than I can keep up with, but I haven’t been able to think of very many blog posts in the meantime. We all have those moments of disconnect, and all the extra working probably hasn’t been helping.
Another glorious thing about this “three day weekend?” It’ll make Friday (aka PAYDAY) get here faster, and, with the 30+ hours. that’s gonna be a nice fat check. Mwa ha ha ha ha.
Enough of that. I’m going to get back to writing (and then treating myself with revisiting “The Walking Dead” on Netflix). But I figured I shouold let everyone know I’m still out here and alive and ready to write up a storm!
This is pretty exciting for me, because I’m usually a horrible procrastinator who gets all lost in all the things she has going on so a lot of things slip through the cracks, but I’m all caught up reading through my current World Unknown Review submissions! Which is fantastic, because I’ve already got a good crop of potential stories sorted out and listed, but I need more! Don’t wait until the October 31st deadline! Send me your stories now!
What is the World Unknown Review? It’s a literary journal I’m attempting to create that will be on sale through Amazon on December 31st of every year, because this is going to be a tradition, ya’all. I’m looking for tales of any genre, any length (even looking for a novella to cap out the collection), to really showcase of fantastic talent that might be out there. I adore anthologies for the wide breadth of styles and new authors that are contained within, and I wanted to be at the head of an effort to introduce more readers to more writers and a wider variety of stories.
Of course, that’s where you come in. It’s not much of a collection if I don’t have any stories. So please, send me your tales. Share this with your friends, on your blogs, or social media, to spread the word a little wider to encompass more diverse works. I eagerly await having another submission (or five or ten or twenty!) to read soon!
You can find all the details on the Submissions page.
Now, I know the whole WIPpet Wednesday is an official thing and everything, but right now, I’m kind of like that kid on the sidelines who tosses a football around to herself while the team plays out on the field, sort of doing my own thing in my old world because I feel bad about hijacking the idea, but not bad enough to not hijack it. I could usually sneak it into my RoW80 updates, but, since I’m not doing those at the moment, look like I’ve got to put one out there naked into the world.
So here’s a blatant no-hiding WIPpet from me today, from my current WIP, Madeline. For those not paying attention, it’s a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” but in novel form and from the perspective of the female Usher, Madeline. I’m four chapters in, getting right to the meat of one of the main events that causes the divide between the titular character and her brother Roderick. I’ve been WIPping by page, so today we’re on page four, looking into the strange illnesses that keep Madeline bed-ridden and trapped within the walls of their crumbling homestead. Since this is written very much in the style of 19th century epics, I usually just post a paragraph, since a paragraph is often a whole page of my 7.75×5 notebooks.
When I started to become ill, his stories would reflect that, too, though I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear those tales. He usually ended them with the young, beautiful heroine dying sick in her bed, surrounded by loved ones who wailed and tore at their chests and their hair in dismay that God should take such a sweet innocent from them. They didn’t realize yet that God took her because He was selfish and loved the woman and so desired to have her join the choir of angels that He called her back to Heaven early. He never said the young woman was supposed to be me, and I never asked, but we both knew, deep inside, that was how he meant it, and it brought me so much joy and happiness.
…yeah, Roderick and Madeline don’t exactly have the healthiest of relationships or perspectives on the world. And I hope that’s what makes them so intriguing.
Anyone else participating in WIPpet Wednesdays? Have you read any particularly good ones today to share?
When I cam across Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest, at first I laughed. And then a little spark in my brain went off, and I thought, “I could so totally do this.” Romance isn’t in my wheelhouse AT ALL, but I understandt he appeal and the potential benefits of delving into it. I whipped up an idea about a vampire bartender in Chicago who falls for a mysterious stranger who enters her bar one night, only to soon discover he’s a hunter trying to get to the bottom of some nasty shit that’s been going down and she has to deal with her attraction to him and her ties to the seedy vampiric underground of the Windy City. A pretty solid concept, I think, and one I actually got pretty excited to write about. So I’ve been forging ahead with scribbling out a first chapter to submit for the deadline on October 1st, thinking that, hey, if I apply myelf, I could have the full manuscript required by October 10th, right?
Let’s remember we’re talking to the woman who participates in NaNoWriMo every year and has yet to actually reach 50,000 words (this year is the year, though! Heartless, here we come!). Needless to day, as I started working on it, I realized that I would never have a manuscript ready by October 10th, even if I dedicated every waking spare moment to the project (which I wouldn’t do, anyway). So my vampire romance is going to be put aside, maybe for next year, maybe for something else, and I’m going back to focusing on Madeline and outlining Heartless and all my short stories. Because I may be a stickler for deadlines, but I also know a realistic goal from an absurd one.
Once again, I’m reminded of how the biggest thing I need to focus on right now (besides World Unknown Review and Heartless) is the creation of more content. If I had a manuscript that I was editing or near finishing, I would have a much better chance at a contest like this…or any other contest I might come across. Pretty useless to read about an agent accepting book queries if I haven’t got a book I can send her. Sure, I can throw together a story for a contest if the deadline is in a week, but larger pieces are much harder to work with. So I just need to keep working, keep writing, keep creating stuff that I can keep working on and improving and eventually find a home for it. I am getting much, much better, though, as I’ve been able to focus on projects until their finished before being distracted by (too many) other projects. On top of this, I’ve been slowly coming to grips with managing the patience required in this. No matter how much I may want to get a project done right now, good work takes time. I might not be able to enter a contest right now, but, maybe a few months or so, I’ll be much better prepared. Missing one contest doesn’t mean there isn’t another one right around the corner.
I’m going to be 100% honest. I have no idea when this round of RoW80 officially ends. I know when the next one begins (October 6th!), but I don’t know when this one ends. That’s fine, too, because my goals have sort of run their course. So, even though I’m pretty sure this isn’t the last day of this round yet, I’m scribbling up a review on how I’ve done this time. I’m going to keep working on this things before October 6th, while also contemplating what my new goals will be. Let’s have a look.
Goal One: Promotion. I think I could still stretch my promotional muscles a little bit more, but I played around with some options and gained some knowledge on what works well right now and what does. No surprise here, but the personal touch, through interviews and blogs, is the best method, though I found a few avenues on reddit to be pleasantly surprising in their helpfulness, especially doing a CasualAMA. The email lists didn’t seem very helpful, though it was really cool seeing my book my inbox like that. Soon, I want to start playing around with discounts and give-aways, but I want to wait until I get a few others things settled first.
Goal Two: Short Stories. This goal has definitely been the crowning achievement of the round. I definitely didn’t make my goal of submitting a story a day, but I honestly never expected to. I did get a good handful of new stories written, though, as well as some ideas for some more and a few old stories returned to me and ready for revamping. Even better, I still have about a month before I have to drop the stories and focus on Heartless for NaNoWriMo.
Goal Three: Madeline. I didn’t make nearly as much progress with Madeline as I had hoped, but I got a good solid start on it and about a month longer to build on it, so that’s not half bad. It’s more than what I would have done if I hadn’t tried working on it, so there’s always that. We’ll see if I feel up to revisiting it when we get Heartless taken care of.
So, how’d everyone else do? I know I’m probably cutting the round a little short, but my round has kind of run its course and I’m going to focus on other things until October 6th. Don’t forget to check out my fellow RoWers here and cheer them on!
I’ve been seeing this meme floating around a lot, and a friend actually tagged me on Facebook, so I thought I would go ahead and give it a spin, especially since I love talking about books so much. I’ve been putting this off, though, because this is a big one, asking me to pick 10 books that have been the most influential in my life. Oof. No small task, there, especially because books in general have shaped my life so incredibly. But I’ll give it the ol’ college try all the same, highlighting ten particular ones, while feeling bad about all the books such a restrictive number leaves behind.
Here goes nothing.
1. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. This book is without a doubt, no holds barred, absolutely-needs-to-be-on-this-list the first thing to pop into my head. I wish I could truly explain how influential this book as been in my life, but I never feel I do it justice. I was introduced to it in forth grade, where so many wonderful books came into my life, and I think that was the moment I consciously realized how much I love reading. I’ve read it nearly every year since, and it never ceases to surprise me and move me at the end. Turtle Wexler was the first fictional character with which I felt such a powerful bond; I would hop on my bike and ride around my farm pretending to be her, and even eventually pretended to be her for Fandom High, where she still stands as one of my most iconic characters. It opened my mind to critical thinking, diverse characters, real life situations and issues, and inspired me in so many ways. It’s an incredible book that has helped make me the incredible person I am today.
2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Another book that’s so influential to me that it’s really difficult to explain just how. Some things are so ingrained into our psyche that you can’t really separate from it. Alice, to me, is the perfect example of the fantastic and the crazy and wandering through a mystical world and feeling the pull of becoming a part of it or putting it to order, which is what I constantly feel as an author. My boyfriend started reading it lately and has been reading some passages out loud and I realize how freaking brilliant it is, especially for someone who has never quite viewed the world in the same way as anyone else. I recently has a bit of a crisis regarding maturity, which lead me to almost get rid of my extensive collection of Alice books and memorabilia, and it helped me to realize that it’s okay to need those flights of fancy and those playful needs on occasion. Alice keeps me young and weird and imaginative and reminds me that there’s nothing wrong with that.
3. DragonLance Chronicles Volume 1: Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. There are a lot of things that influenced me in my love of fantasy, but I don’t think any of them truly cemented it into my brain as effectively as the discovery of the DragonLance series of books in the sixth grade. I was no stranger to the genre, especially since my house growing up was littered with my dad’s books of the same type, but DragonLance was the first one that was truly mine. As far as I knew, he’d never read them, and it opened up a whole new world of imagining that kickstarted my Aryneth series so long ago. It’s gone through a lot of changes since those first inklings of an epic tale, but it might not have developed at all if it weren’t for this iconic series. I recently unearthed a few of the books; I should really revisit them and see if they recharge my grand world again.
4. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie. Reading this book wakened an entire part of my writerly soul that I wasn’t even aware existed, spurning a new love for the sparse style of modern Chinese fiction and memoirs, as well as an incredibly powerful interest in Mao Tse-tung’s Communist China as a historical point and literary muse. I remember being so incredibly moved by it and thirsty for more, and I still love to occasionally revisit it.
5. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. A lot of these books, I’m noticing, are books that awakened certain aspects of my creativity and The Witching Hour, along with the Roberta Williams game Phantasmagoria and R.L. Stine’s Fear Street Saga books, truly sparked my love of creepy old houses, the supernatural, and disturbing paranormal encounters (dare I say sexual ones, too?). I was a bit of a punk-goth type in high school, and my love of this book might have been part of the reason. It’s also the first book I encountered with very graphic sex scenes, and I have a feeling everyone remembers their first literary intimacy (I have very vivid memories of being huddled with my teammates on the bleachers at track meets, giggling and reading these passages and gawking at them). Lasher still stands out in my memory as the perfect charming demon, much more than Rice’s other notable vampiric dandy Lestat, inspiring many of my own mysterious, supernatural strangers.
6. Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. Keeping with the so-far theme of inspiring the things I love, Catherine, Called Birdy was a great introduction into medieval history that sticks with me to this day. Not only did this book offer me a very cool look at a period of history that fascinated me, but it also presented me with a wonderful quirky heroine that I could relate to and fall in love with. It didn’t matter that Birdy lived her life hundreds of years ago, she worried about the same things I did, though with a little bit of a different twist. She loved to paint a mural on her wall, just as I did. She got crushes on boys but for the most part thought they were strange and kind of stupid and a nuisance. She liked learning about things, so long as they were interesting ,and abhorred things that were dull. She sparked my interest in the lives of saints, too, though I’ve always been a little disappointed that March 24th’s saints were a little dull. So much inspiration from this book. So much love.
7. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Expert storytelling. Intriguing and varied female lead characters. Random little slice of history and a vivid landscape. The Poisonwood Bible has all the ingredients to make a fantastic book that pack a heck of a wallop. And while this book has one of my favorite and inspiring fictional characters in Adah Price, I find almost all the Price women inspiring for many different reasons, especially since they’re all so different themselves. A powerful, moving story, and the Adah chapters alone make this more than just a book. It’s fucking poetry.
8. The Amber Gods and Other Stories by Harriet Prescott Spofford. I would have never known of Harriet Prescott Spofford if it wasn’t for the luck in getting a professor who wanted to focus on women writers of the 19th century and brought this incredible and little known writer into my life. This was at the start of my love of 19th century literature, and there are plenty of well-known names I could cite, but Spofford holds a special place in my heart, because she was writing like Poe…only better. This collection of her stories is a rich and vibrant look at all the things I love about this era of literary history, from the incredibly powerful sexuality imbued in her title tale to the quintessential Arctic exploration, this catapulted me into wanting to read more of the lesser known work of the era and discover all sorts of wonderful new things. “The Amber Gods” still sticks with me, just a little bit more than all the other iconic stories I love from this period.
9. The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone. The first book I can recall loving to the point of it nearly falling apart. This is the first book I will read to my children should I ever get to that point. I have incredibly vivid memories of being in the back of our mini-van (the one with the big mark on the side from where there was a gasoline fire), flipping through this book and reading it with my brother way too loudly and going into peals of laughter and screams at the end, despite knowing what waited for me. It’s marvelously interactive for a time way before multimedia and things like that, and it’s absolutely brilliant. You know a book is good when it stick with you from pretty much age three and you never forget it.
10. Bowlful of Bunnies by L.S. Engler. Your own books count, right? Why wouldn’t they? I think the first book I ever published is a pretty influential book. This changed my life in ways I’ve always dreamed of, but might not have ever really ever achieved if my life hadn’t gone the route that is has. Maybe egotistical of me, but, let’s face it. This definitely fits the bill, doesn’t it?
How about you? What would be on your list of influential books? Have you had similar experiences with any of the ones on my list? Let’s chat.
Yesterday, I did what I know all people must do but, somehow, can rarely bring myself to actually do it: I took a break from writing. One of the hardest things to adjust to since I began to focus on writing full-time is the concept that writing is work, and, as such, you cannot work all the time or else you will burn out. I had been neglecting a lot of things around the new apartment for my writing, though, so I decided that yesterday was an apartment-fixing morning, and only took care of a few housekeeping things in my inbox here and there.
The timing was perfect, as I have today off from my part-time job and the break allowed me to refresh myself. I woke up recharged and invigorated, ready to hit the books and get shit done. The problem with doing something you love is exactly that you love to do it, so you do it quite often, perhaps too often. Taking a break is something that probably doesn’t even cross your mind that often, but it crucial to maintaining productivity and the love you feel for your craft. I’m glad I’ve finally been able to embrace a break for what it is: a chance for your brain to do something a little different so that, when the break is over, it can work better. After all, what happens to a car if it runs too long? A computer? Any other variety of machine? It starts to break down or it overheats or it begins to lag and work less efficiently. It’s best for your phone to turn it off at night, rather than just leaving it on continually, right? Same with your brain. It needs to shut down a little or else it’s likely to wear down much more quickly.
So, yes. Take that break. Indulge in it. Enjoy it. Do something completely unrelated to your work. For me, it was taking advantage of the awesome cinder block bookshelf my boyfriend cobbled together and finally sorting through all these clothes to par it down to just the ones I know I’ll wear (many trips to Goodwill in my future!). I then watched a little bit of Mysteries of the Museum and Deadly Women, guilty pleasures that also get my brain going for new stories. It was excellent, and I feel so ready to take on a productive writing day!
How do you unwind when you take a break? Do you sometimes have to remind yourself that, hey, you should probably relax a little, too? What’s your favorite thing about coming back after an effective recess?
It’s been an odd couple of days for me, though not necessarily in a bad way. I did some much-needed rearranging in the bedroom for my rare Monday off, though I didn’t get a lot of writing work done. I’m oddly at peace with that, mostly because I’m finally getting a good grip on the importance of balance between the writing world and the actual world. My morning sessions have been pretty productive, too, though that’s usually the only writing time I manage to squeeze in. I’ve been doing a lot with it, though, and that’s the important part. All in all, things are going well.
Let’s break it down:
Goal One: Promotion. Besides a thread on /r/writing, I haven’t been doing too much promotion. I feel like I’m running out of places to really throw out a line, so maybe it’s run its course. I need to get these packages of books to the post office soon so I can focus on more snail-mail marketing and free book offers again. That’s definitely on the agenda for the day.
Goal Two: Short Stories. The yarn about the mysterious masked woman is almost finished, and I really like it. It’s in the vein of a lot of horror I like to read but rarely write. I’m distracted slightly as I’m considering maybe entering Harliquin’s So You Think You Can Write contest, although Romance is way out of my wheelhouse. It’s important to challenge yourself, though, and I’ve got two ideas brewing in my head, one stronger than the other of a bartending vampire and the paranormal hunter sent in to investigate some seedy activity in Chicago. The other is not as well formed, but focuses on veganism, because I thought it could be an interesting topic for a romantic heroine. As soon as the masked woman story is finished, I’m digging up “A Song for the Underworld,” a modern Orpheus retelling, and trying to find a home for that one. I also need to figure out/recall where I sent “Moon Night”and what it’s current status is. I lost my notebook where I kept track of all of that in the move. Argh.
Goal Three: Madeline. Coming along nicely. Not too much to report, other than the next chapter is going to be a lot of fun to write. I would say more, but I really want to surprise people with this one, though anyone who has researched the subject matter might get what I’m doing with this. Those who haven’t will just be in for a really crazy ride, though it’s all inspired by actual events. I will, however, include a little sample from page 3, since it’s Wednesday:
I fought the urge to hold such imaginary soirees for myself; it would be easy to make friends with all the shadows lurking in the House of Usher. I didn’t want to fall into the same mad traps of my fragile mother, but the temptation was strong. I finally convinced Roderick to throw old sheets over all the horrific portraits lining the halls, keeping watching over our sitting rooms, gazing down with their dead eyes and dusty finery. I was too quick to want to converse with them, tell them about my day or have them tell me of theirs,or perhaps offer some fairy story or song. We covered them all, except for the ones Roderick had done of us recently, even the one of us when we were children, standing stoically in front of our parents, just as stoic, almost scared. I would never forget the grip Father had on Roderick’s shoulder that day, so tight he said he had bruises there for months, until after our father had died.
Finally, I’ll conclude with another cool image I found from reddit to inspired Heartless….how’s this for an attempt to protect against zombies, huh? (Clearly, it didn’t work).
How’s everyone else doing? Have you checked in with other RoWers here yet? Hard to believe we’re almost done with this round!
Excuse me while I drop a ton of images that have totally been inspiring me for the big attempt to write the draft for Heartless in November, mostly found on reddit. I don’t really have much to post today, as I slept in and have to leave for the part-time soon (and I know I won’t have the energy to post something later), so have some cool pictures in the meantime. I’m really starting to get excited for November, and I have a feeling this might be the first time I actually manage to hit the goal for NaNoWriMo. If I do, it not only means I’m good on my schedule to have Heartless out by August 2015, but it’ll be my first “win” in all my many, many years of participating. So, yes. Bring on the inspirational pictures! You might be seeing a lot of these posts in the near future. For now, I bring you just a handful:
This old photograph from 1907 totally makes me think of the speaking tubes on the Queen’s Airship. If only her hair were darker and curlier, this could be Veroh speaking with the Captain in another part of the ship, as their relationship starts to develop into something somewhat romantic. Ooooh~ <3
So help me if this gorgeous shot of a broken wagon wheel in South Dakota doesn’t bring to mind the prologue of Soulless and the wagon under which the young Slayer of the Soulless hid from the monsters! Will it make another appearance in Heartless? Hmm…interesting idea!
Now, here’s another interesting idea. So far, most of the villages and settlements had been pretty welcoming to our wayward band of adventurers, but not everyone would be so welcoming. Perhaps at least one village woudl have the decency to warn strangers of the dangers….that is, if those strangers knew how to read! I never thought of a militarized zone that tries to keep both Soulless and humans out, but now I’m kind of thinking it over…
Grand Tetons. I’ve never been there, but, let me tell you, this is pretty much the entire landscape I envision when I write the Slayer’s world. It’s perfect.
Another beautiful landscape, this one of a barren, almost scorched looking earth, from Hawaii, which I imagine resembles the places where the Soulless have ravaged to the point of near desolation.
We followed an overgrown road to Lord Gizak’s kingdom in Soulless; where might an old railroad lead in Heartless? I was avoiding railroads in Soulless to hide my The Walking Dead inspiration, but it might be something to explore in the second book.