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.
Every single time. I swear, it happens like clockwork, every single time. I start to feel really dull and uncertain with my direction, I take a day where I mostly don’t do anything and feel really guilty about it, only to have my batteries totally recharged the next day, forging forward with confidence and certainty into some hard-hitting success on my RoW80 goals. Give it some time, I’m sure I’ll be back down in the doldroms, but, for now, I’m taking advantage of the upswing and getting what I can out of it with some awesome productivity.
Have a look:
Goal One: Promotion. I sold a book on Friday! Something with the promotion might finally be working. Everyone get the confetti! I’m also thinking of switching my focus to promoting the open submissions for World Unknown Review, but I’m a little lost as to where to promote it. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to be enlightened. Or if anyone wants to promote it on their own blogs, that’d be even better. October is going to be here before we know it!
Goal Two: Short Stories. I’ve got a few new short stories that I’m working on finishing right now, one involving a mysterious masked woman and the other a book-loving gravedigger’s son, but I’ve been struggling with a “Creation” tale for Horror Novel Review‘s Horror in 100 Words contest. I have a new idea I might try scribbling down at work, so we’ll see. I just a rejection letter about a story I didn’t even realize I submitted to a certain publication, so that was kind of interesting and just proves that I’m getting a good amount of stuff out if I’m losing track of a few things. I’ll also be brushing up “A Song for the Underworld” again and retracting it from The Bad Version if they don’t respond to my query about my January submission soon (or if the response is good old rejection).
Goal Three: Madeline. Finally broke through the barrier I had in Chapter Three, onto Chapter Four, which is just flying by. So things are going really well with the manuscript now, and I’m getting into some cool things that may help calm my craving to be working on Rosewood Manor instead.
All in all, then, things are going pretty well! I’m over that little rough spot and my confidence is back and I’m feeling productive again. It’s a lovely feeling and, even better, I have tomorrow off, and I might finally get those books that have been sitting in my living room mailed out! Hooray for progress! What have you done this week that feels like a big step forward? Are your goals behaving and coming along? Have you checked out my fellow RoWers here yet?
Happy writing, everyone!
We’ve been having cold, rainy weather in Chicagoland these past few days, and I’ve picked up a handful of cheesy teen horror books from the ’90s about spooky houses and cursed families, so I’ve been finding myself wanting to return to Rosewood Manor. The characters of my haunted house story have been nagging at me to return to them, and I find myself somewhat at a loss. Ever since I pushed myself to finish Soulless with pretty good success, I’ve been wanting to “stay the course” on my other projects, as well. This means not giving into the urge to dig Rosewood back up again, not until I finish the first draft of Madeline. I know Rosewood will still be there, but, here’s the thing: you always kind of worry that, if you put it off, it will go away by the time you get to it. Follow the Muse, they say, for she is a fickle beast indeed. But what if we’re able to wrangle our Muse into a more cooperative state?
The funny thing about this is that Madeline is pretty much a haunted house story, too, just a little bit different, as it’s a period piece, while Rosewood is modern. I think that’s why I feel an odd sense of urgency to finish it, as though the modern themes will somehow become obsolete in the next few months, which is absurd. If the themes were to somehow lose their punch, then they were never really very good themes to begin with, were they?
So, just as with Soulless, I will plow forward with Madeline, with Rosewood as my finish line. Get this book out, you can work on that other one. Of course, by then, it’ll probably be November, time to work on Heartless, as well as getting World Unknown Review out in December, and then I can work on Rosewood….if something else doesn’t come along and take its place. Diligence. Patience. Staying the course. One of the hardest things I’ve had to get used to with my writing, but something I’m finding that, if I stick with it, it yields the best results.
And I didn’t even mention all the short stories buzzing in my brain right now, either. Yeah. My muse is definitely working overtime. Next time I start to feel like I’m not “doing enough,” I’m pulling up this post to remind myself otherwise!
What have you been working on lately? Does colder, rainier, more autumnal weather set your muse flying, or does it retreat somewhere nice and cozy with a big mug of hot tea or cider? How do you contend with various projects wanting attention all at once?
Hello. My name is Laura, and I have a work problem.
Let me explain further. You see, a comment from P.S. Hoffman on my RoW80 Update yesterday caught me a little: “But you’re so busy!” Of all the things that could be said about me, I wouldn’t have expected that one, especially on a day when I felt like I took “day off” to new extremes. And this isn’t the first time I had a day pass me by when I think to myself, “UGH I’m so lazy. I didn’t do anything. I’m such a waste of space!”
I know it’s important to take a day off every once in a while, but I realized that, even when I take a “day off,” I still write, I still network, there’s quite a lot I still do. But is it really enough to constitute as “busy”? That’s when it hit me that I have a very faulty concept of “work,” especially now that most of my work consists of doing something I absolutely love for little to no immediate, visible, tangible “payment.” My brain is still stuck in work-as-hard-as-you-can-in-a-thankless-job-you-hate mode, even though it’s been months since I’ve left that kind of life far, far behind.
How do you define work? I know that submitting a story and getting a chapter of a book written during a day is some pretty important work, especially if I throw a promotion of something into the mix, which is what I’ve been doing for the most part these days. But my brain is still in the process of defining my 24 hours at the part-time job, quantifiable, official, blah blah blah, as more “valuable.” It’s so bizarre to make that mental shift, and I have a long way to go in that respect. I don’t feel like I’m working as I sit at this computer, typing this up, but I am. Spending two hours every morning doing all of this is work. It’s good work. And I keep myself busy. But I enjoy it immensely, so it might never feel like work. And that’s okay. I just have to keep reminding myself of that until I break through that barrier and start to truly believe it.
What do you think? Do you find writing work? How much writing do you have to do before you feel you’ve put in a good amount of work? Is it possible to ever break through the mentality of the typical 9-to-5? I’d love to hear some thoughts…if you’re not too busy.
Isn’t it awful how just a few bad days can throw you off your game? And those few bad days can easily happen in between RoW80 updates! But, just as those few bad days can put you off your goals, a few good days afterwards can set them right again, and I’m going into the upswing with having today off and finally getting to the post office to send out some of the copies of Soulless and Bowlful of Bunnies that have been sitting in my living room, waiting. Monday, I didn’t get any of my little daily goals on HabitRPG done…none of them. Yesterday, I got a few of them. Today, the goal is to get back to smashing all of them down, and not just because I’m very close to leveling up. Its time to get back on track, and, really, it’s all rainy out, so my original plan to run some errands is currently on the shelf.
But what about my RoW80 goals? How have they been measuring up? Let’s have a look:
Goal One: Marketing. I’m starting to feel a little burned out and disenchanted with the whole marketing bit, but we’ll see how I feel when I start flinging out free copies in a week or so. Most of the sites I stumble on are pure crap (seriously, who designs these websites? Blind people?), but there are a few gems out there. Right now, I’m kind of digging Fiverr, which is like a low-key Kickstarter where everything is five dollars. Once I work my way through it, I want to put up some ad space on the blog up there or something, but it’s also a cool place to find some unique services and opportunities.
Goal Two: Short Stories. I just finished another one, which I’m going to type up today and potentially send it off to Ruthless Peoples. Trying to decide whether or not to go ahead and withdraw a piece submitted in January, since I still haven’t heard anything and it might be a good idea to try it elsewhere. Next, I might focus on sending in another Horror Told in 100 Words for Horror Novel Reviews, on the theme of “Creation” since I already submitted a “Destruction.” I was really thinking about how incredible this goal has been going, even though I’m falling short of my “story per day” mega-ambition. I’ve sent out five stories since I’ve started this, four of which are entirely new, and that’s really pretty awesome. I’m looking forward to seeing how many more I can pump out before November, when I shift my focus on NaNoWriMo and Heartless.
Goal Three: Madeline. Oh, Madeline…she’s fallen through the cracks again. I swear, my progress with this book is just like the character herself, going in sharp rises of productivity to stomach-wrenching drops of inactivity. Right now, we’re in an inactivity state, but I hope to change that a little bit today. And, since it’s Wednesday, I’ll follow the trend of including a little snippet for everyone to enjoy. Let’s see…today is 09/10/14. 9+10+14=33. 3+3=6. Six lines from page two! Well, more than six lines. The first part of the book is pretty big paragraphs. The whole of the book is pretty big paragraphs, in the style of 19th century works, so here’s a paragraph from page 2.
Besides, he’d remind me, the parties our parents held were not the grand affair I seemed to think they were. I was too young to see them for what they were, dull, dry affairs, somber and grim. With Father’s illness, he was rarely up to the task of entertaining, and Mother certainly couldn’t keep up after he’d passed on. I do remember hiding in the dusty velvet curtains and watching her pretend, a glass of brandy in one hand catching in a beam of light from the windows, cubes of ice clinking as she raised a toast to an imaginary guest. Then she would dance, swaying and twirling as though our father’s spirit had her hand, until she fell to the couch or sometimes even the rug in a deep, exhausted sleep. Sometimes, she made Roderick dance with her and called him by Father’s name, or, occasionally, by he name of some secret lover–and I was either to pour more drinks or bring around the carraige or other such tasks more suitable for the servants who had left us long, long ago.
My second goal has consistently been my strongest, which is awesome, because I feel that is the most important one right now. How is everyone else doing? Did you check out my fellow RoWers here?