Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Seeds & Magic

That's my broccoli, which is growing circles around the other sprouts.

When I was a kid, I didn't ask my parents for pets half as much as I asked them if I could grow a garden. Strangely enough, they were always leery of my request, as if I could destroy the backyard with tomato plants. The horror!

Whoa, ahem, channeling my teenage self there a little too much.

What I'm trying to say is that I've always had an interest in gardening, but haven't really had the chance to do it until recently. The townhouse we live in now has a little strip of dirt in the back, and one in the front. I can't tell you how excited I was about that when we moved in. I could grow things!

I've made some mistakes. Much like writing, I tend to learn by doing really stupid stuff at first, like buying half-shade plants in the Utah desert. Sure, my front yard may only get "half-shade," but in Utah that's the equivalent of a whole day. Eh, live and learn, right?

And I have learned a lot, but no matter how much I know, when my seeds sprout it still feels like magic. Water, dirt, and sun—that's all it takes to make food or beautiful flowers or trees. I've known that since I was a child, but every time I plant I always have this thought, "Maybe they won't come up this year. What if I watch them and water them and all I get is dirt?"

I'm always wrong.

As I watch those seeds emerge from the soil and stretch their tiny leaves to the sun, I can't help but feel the magic. Because it IS magic, no matter how much I know about the science of growing things.

I've always found that interesting, how people tend to lose the magic just because they know how something works. It's as if people think magic is supposed to be this easy thing that just works with zero effort. The second there is any evidence of work, magic becomes science or craft or years of practice. I'm not sure why, but when we see how the "smoke and mirrors" are used, we think that the magic is gone.

I beg to differ.

We might see the magic differently, but knowing how magic works doesn't make it any less magical, just like knowing the science of how seeds grow doesn't make it any less amazing every time they sprout. For me, sometimes it makes it even better. I admire the work and complexities that go into making something look so completely effortless.

Look at those cute little green onions! I'm a proud mama.

Same goes for writing. Boy, have I learned a lot about the magic of writing and publishing. It definitely changed my view, but has it made writing any less magical? Nope. Every time I start a new book, the idea sprouts like a seed and grows before my eyes. It's definitely hard work, watering and weeding and tending that seed, but it's miraculous all the same. I don't think work and knowledge can ever take that away, nor can repetition. Writing book 12 has been just as magical as book 1, if not more because I know just how hard it is.

From everything I've ever seen, magic is a lot of work. It takes practice. It can go wrong. But no matter how much you know, it's always magic. It always fills me with a sense of wonder. It always puts a smile on my face when I get it right. And that, to me, is worth it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Weekend Sketch: Bribing Kids

On the Great Road Trip of 2011, Sara and I had the privilege of staying with our friend Renee, who lives near Grand Junction, Colorado. It was so fun to visit Renee for once, since she's usually the one driving out to Utah. And now that I know it's not that far to her place? Well, I might be more motivated to visit.

Anyway, while I was there I drew her daughter this picture. You be surprised how easy it is to get a kid to like you when you can draw. They think it's some magical thing! Yes, I'm admitting that I bribe kids into liking me with my drawing skills. It's kind of an ice breaker, I guess. Sometimes kids can be shy, and there's nothing like a few pictures to make them smile. That, and Renee's daughter gave up her room for me for the night, so I had to say thank you somehow. And there's nothing like a mermaid to show appreciation.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy Writers Society: Grab A Mentor

Today's post is brought to you by SM Schmidt, who is a long time reader of this blog and a fellow nerd. I am so glad she decided to send this along, because it's an idea I've never thought of and I think it could be really helpful! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Grab a Mentor
People love big statistical numbers that point toward your failure.
These same people will happily tell you writing is a crapshoot, hardly
anyone succeeds, and they wish they had time to write but they’re busy
having a life. Things we as writers already knew and gee, thanks for
reminding me that I really do miss tv.

So what do you do to keep a professional game face on twitter and (if
you have one) your blog? Obviously this means you won't be
descriptively giving this person a horrific death and sharing it with
the world anytime soon. But next time you sit down to write, alone
with your imagination, those doubts will be in the back of your mind
haunting you. Here is the scary part of writing that separates the
would be from the doers. We’re alone when we write. There is no wise
coach yelling at us from the sideline, no teammates to pick up our
slack, no curve to upset except our previous work.

How can we stay happy writers then if naysayers and dream suckers
disrupt where the stories live? You can grab a mentor to keep you
company and ward off such bad juju. I don't mean an actual person.
That could be boring or hard to manage. A book from an author you
identify with is the mentor I suggest. Mine happens to be Barbara

As I write, when the doubts creep on me and leave the cursor blinking
for more than a few seconds, I look over to the book I choose. It
reminds me in a voice I think of as Barbara Hambly’s to focus the
doubt and find the real source. I ask myself is this doubt really
about my odds or is it because my character is flat, this scene has no
purpose or could I be unloading more conflict? I make that doubt
professional craft fodder and banish it with the aid of a mentor who
waits to give me that little boost.

Because sometimes it is too scary to talk about those sort of doubts
with a cheerleading family member, friend or fellow writer in the
trenches. Their biased praise really isn’t the fail proof cure for it.
The doubt isn’t always going to go away so easily, that’s what
chocolate and hugs are for too. If writing was simple as always
feeling good nothing would ever be written, however, having a secret
weapon doesn’t hurt either.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Changes On The Blog

Remember how I was saying that a certain event in my writing life was approaching? And how I wasn't sure what I'd be able to handle when, in fact, that event came to pass? Well, it turns out that the internet is still hard to deal with during this time, and I'm going to have to take some measures in order to maintain not only my sanity, but my ability to write.

First, I will be removing my email from my blog. As much as I enjoy the wonderful, sweet emails you send me, it's a difficult time to get the not-so-sweet ones. Not that I don't appreciate people expressing their opinions, I am just not in a strong enough place to handle it. I can fully admit that. Self-esteem is a valuable commodity right now, one that dwindles far too quickly. I have to salvage as much as I can so my writing will continue moving forward. That comes first; I learned that the hard way.

If you need to get in contact with me, I will be checking my Twitter account, and I will respond to questions in comments.

Second, I will be posting on Tuesdays, on Fridays for Happy Writer's Society, and keeping my Weekend Sketch feature. I have considered going down to just HWS, but I really hope I don't have to take it that far. I honestly enjoy blogging. It has given me so much. I hope to continue for a long time. But sometimes, well, sharing and being open can backfire. Sometimes you get bit. Sometimes it's hard to deal with all the experts on the internet. While usually I can handle this fine, right now I can't. I'm not perfect. I'm certainly not always strong, and I won't pretend to be. Last year I did a lot of pretending to be fine, pretending to be strong, and it hurt more than just admitting that I was struggling.

Third, the nature of my posts will change. There will probably be a departure from writing advice in general, and more of a focus on my life and the things I enjoy. I will certainly be open to questions about writing, and I will answer them, but I've given a lot of advice for someone who doesn't really have the cred to be doing so. My reference tab should have most everything I think about writing, anyway.

Fourth, I just want to say that this isn't anyone's fault, so don't wonder if you were the one who pushed me off the cliff or anything. Since "the event" began, I've been gauging my emotional response to things, and let's just say these changes have been in my mind for awhile. Part of me kept saying, "You're a wuss for admitting you can't handle it, just keep faking." But I've finally beaten it back and come out, so to speak.

Yes, publishing news is hard for me to read. Yes, my self-esteem is easily crushed. Yes, I want my book to sell so freaking bad and I'm terrified it won't because that's what happened last time and I can't even think about how I'll handle repeating history.

So here we are! I'm cutting back, and I know you'll all be understanding of that. Thank you, truly, for reading and for supporting me. So many of you have taken the time to brighten my day, and I wouldn't be here without your encouragement.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If You're Gonna Remake, You Better Bring It

I remember the first time I saw Shall We Dance?—I was in my very first Japanese class. I was fifteen and ridiculously excited that my Utah high school taught the language. This one thing redeemed moving from California. At the time, I was unapologetically obsessed with all things Japan. Seriously. I wanted to BE Japanese. I hated my stupid blond hair and big nose. I even had this plan to marry an Asian so I would have pretty babies.

Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but I am not kidding.

My sensei played this movie, Shall We Dance?, in class. I'd seen a lot of anime, but this was the first "real people" Japanese movie I'd seen. I loved it. LOVED. I loved it so much I made my parents rent it, which at the time was difficult. The foreign film section at Blockbuster was rather small, but, miracle of miracles, we found it. And I made my WHOLE FAMILY watch it. Guess what? They loved it, too. We adored this movie. It's beautiful, subtle, perfect. The characters are vibrant and real. It's everything a movie should be and still one of my all time favorites.

So you can imagine my rage when I saw this preview years later:

Let's just say I wasn't too happy. For a lot of reasons. The number one being that the original was perfect. Second, the cultural stigma of dancing doesn't quite work in an American setting. Third, they sexed it up. Fourth, they focused more on the Latin dance than the Standard ballroom.

Basically, they took a movie I cherish and turned it into a cheap imitation.

This seems to happen a lot with Asian-based movies. You may have heard about the whitewashing debacles of Dragonball and The Last Airbender, well, now they're planning to butcher Akira as well.

Look, the whitewashing is bad enough, I could spend a whole week talking about just how much it pisses me off. But the sad thing is it's only one symptom of a greater problem: The complete and utter ignorance of this medium and its fans.

I want to talk about this today because I think we as writers can take a lot of lessons away from these seriously bad examples.

1. Know The Audience
The biggest problem with these films is misreading/complete ignorance to their actual audience. It seems like instead of pleasing actual fans—fans who would support the movie and see it multiple times and make all their friends see it and then raise their babies on it—they are trying to reach a more "general" audience.

Obviously, it's not flying because these movies have TANKED. Why? Well, the general audience still didn't care (Shocker!), and they pissed off their actual audience.


As a long-time lover of Asian culture, it is downright offensive that Hollywood thinks I need to see white people playing clearly Asian roles. Seriously, it makes me extremely angry. People who watch Asian film—of any race, young and old, male and female—watch it because they like Asian culture. I mean, duh? The fans DO NOT want to see white people! We've spent the better part of our lives deliberately seeking non-white film.

Not only that, but we understand Asian themes and tropes—we LIKE them, even. So it becomes incredibly demeaning when Hollywood says stuff like this:
"Oh, no one will get this, we better make it more accessible to American audiences."

"That cultural nuance isn't important. No one will notice if it's gone."

"We need to spice that up, it's too subtle."

When they do this, they offend their audience to no end. They make movies that were once multi-layered and vibrant into shells of their former selves. We KNOW what's missing, and not only that but it's like they're "talking down" to us. They are making completely inaccurate assumptions about what we like.

There is no better way to turn off your audience than to treat them like they are stupid. Same goes in writing.

But let's look at a good example, too: the new Star Trek. Very well-recieved by the fans! Why? Because they nailed their audience. They delivered what was expected, but in a fresh way. And more than that, they respected the heart of the show. They didn't try to make it something else.

2. Respect The Story/World
Let's imagine for a second that Lucas decided to remake the original Star Wars, except Vadar wouldn't be wearing that "silly suit" anymore. He'd be some hot guy without asthma. Would people be mad? Um, yeah, probably. Because that "silly suit" is symbolic of the samurai culture that the Jedi are based on. Duh.

There are some things you just don't touch, you know? That whole don't-fix-what's-not-broken thing. Fans of franchises are extremely passionate about them. There are things they love and don't ever want to change ever. They know every detail. They adore every detail. You mess with key details, and you will be in BIG trouble.

Hollywood seems to get that with some movies, but not at all in the Asian realm.

There's no Snow White without the apple. No Cinderella without the slipper. No LOTR without the One Ring. And for Pete's sake, there's no Dragonball without a spikey-haired Goku! When you're remaking or re-imagining a story, there are some things that you must treat sacredly. It's a matter of respect for the medium. These stories are popular for a reason, and the wrong change can ruin it.

Once again, we can look at Star Trek—the guy in red, ejecting the warp core, etc.—were all nods to treasured details of the Star Trek franchise. The creators understood the world and what it meant to people. They knew people would hate them forever if they made Sulu white.

Just typing that made me nauseous.

3. You Have To Bring It
If you plan to retell a story, whether in film or book, it has to be freaking awesome. It has to improve on the original in some way, otherwise it's pointless. These whitewashed remakes? They bring nothing new, in fact, they destroy what was so great about the original.

Maybe—maybe—I could get past a white cast if the movies were actually good. But they aren't! They completely miss the mark every time. And I think that comes from Hollywood's seeming determination not to respect these movies or their fans on every level. If they took the time to understand, maybe they'd have more success.

It's totally possible to deliver, but they seem determined not to. It seems they forget the success of, say, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which made no apologies for what it was. And it was awesome. And people loved it. In fact, people outside the expected audience took notice. Not because it was whitewashed. Not because they "dumbed it down for stupid Americans." No, people took notice purely because it was a good movie. Same with Star Trek, which expanded that franchise's fanbase quite a lot (me included). Heck, even Lord Of The Rings could fall into that category.

If you can't do better Hollywood, please, don't bother.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So Not Like Riding A Bike

Every time I start a new project, I can't remember for the life of me how I managed to finish the last. It's not really fair, is it? It's not like jumping on a bike and riding though you haven't in years.

Even when I am writing consistently, it can be overwhelming. So many elements to string together. Characters to figure out. Surprises to discover. Mistakes to make. Right now I'm heading into the dreaded middle, and I'm sitting here thinking, "How did I do this twelve times? Seriously. How did I even write one book?"

Well, maybe because half of those were pretty bad, but even so, you'd think after so many books it would be easy. At least easier. But no, it's still as hard as ever.

And yet, in a way I think that's why I keep coming back to writing. It's certainly never boring. It's always a challenge. I'm always learning and pushing and experiencing something new. How blah would it be if I could pick it up and put it down like a bike and it never changed?

I can tell you one thing—I don't much care for bike riding.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Polishing vs. Fixing

Today while I was at the gym, sweating and panting and looking all around awful, a fashion segment came up on one of the TVs. I couldn't hear the sound, since I was rocking out to some trance, but I watched as they scribbled over pictures of women in "ugly clothes" like they do in sports games. You know, with the arrows and circles and cross outs.

I didn't have to hear to know what was going on. The first woman got her belly and her slumping shoulders circled. Big X's came next, making it clear how offensive this was. Then out came the woman, "fixed" with a few nice clothes and a big smile. The next woman got a box drawn around her middle, indicating her non-hourglass shape. And out she came, too, fixed and happy.

It seemed so...sad to me. I think because I couldn't hear the sound, I saw it for what it was: "You're not good enough as is. Let's fix you with spanks and a belt and some heels! And make sure to smile about it, because now you look better and somehow that means you are more valuable."

Yeah, I'm being dramatic. But it totally rubbed me the wrong way. How does any girl survive this mess? I mean, we are HORRIFIED when we see girls picking apart pictures of themselves, obsessing over a non-existent pooch, a "weird" nose, and yet here is a whole segment on a national morning show doing the exact. same. thing.

Now I'm not saying it's wrong to want to look nice. I like my heels very much. I've caved to the skinny jean (yes, I confess). But this attitude of "fixing" and "covering up" is what gets me. There is a huge difference between dressing well and feeling pretty, and dressing well to cover up your flaws. Our bodies aren't flawed—they are ours, and they are unique and beautiful.

Just like our stories.

I know, I'm totally lame for relating this to writing. But it really did get me thinking about my work, about editing in particular. Last year, in the pit of self-doubt and over-criticism, I didn't edit my work to make it shine, I edited it to cover up and fix all the things I saw wrong with it.

It's a subtle difference that makes a huge impact. One focuses on the positive, while the other is inherently negative. Focusing on how bad I was at writing made the process unnecessarily miserable. I fell into comparing, and self-loathing, and had a lot of hardcore pity parties. The more I tried to hide what a horrible writer I was, the more I hated what I wrote. The more I found wrong. The more I just wanted to give up entirely because I'd never, ever be good enough.

After a lot of soul-searching and all that good stuff, I was able to see what I was doing to my writing. I've been able to change my attitude about my books, to see them for the beautiful things they are. Editing isn't about hiding flaws anymore, it's about making my book shine. And that has made all the difference.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy Writers Society: Allow Yourself to be a Happy Writer

Today Teralyn Rose Pilgrim will be leading Happy Writers Society, and I'm so happy because vacation fatigue is still getting me. I absolutely love how any time I have no post for HWS, some lovely person decides to send me one (And you can send me one too if you want. Did you know that? HWS is totally guest friendly). My readers are so freaking awesome. So thank you, Teralyn, for saving the day!

Let's Get Some Writer's Optimism

Writers complain about everything under the sun. They can’t think of any ideas, the story doesn’t develop the way they want, it’s too hard to revise, they can’t get published, their book doesn’t sell. People call writing a hell, an uphill battle where every step along the way is agonizing.

I ask them: then why do you do it?

They always answer proudly. “Because I must.”

I ask them why they “must.” It’s not like they have a boss who will fire them if they stop writing. It’s not like their family will disown them. God didn’t forbid you from ceasing to write and you won't go to hell. There is no greater force that compels a person to write.

“It’s in the core of my being,” writers insist. “I can’t stop writing any more than I can stop breathing, no matter how hard it gets.”

As far as I know, only people with obsessive-compulsive disorder must do things whether they want to or not.

You can put down your pen right now. You can stare at an empty page, and you don’t have to fill it.

But you will fill that page. You will pick up that pen, and you will use it to create something beautiful.

Why? Because you have to? Or maybe – and I’m just throwing this idea out there – because you want to?

Is there a chance you actually enjoy writing?

If writing is the core of your being, doing it will be the greatest of pleasures. Sometimes when I get going, I feel intoxicated by the power of what I write and how much it resonates with me. I want to throw my arms in the air and shout to the world, “I am a writer! I love every minute of it, and I don’t regret a single word!”

Please, please don’t get discouraged if writing causes you pain or if it seems like more of a wicked compulsion than the joy I just described. I’m not saying you have an inadequate core. The fact of the matter is, we’ve heard artists act like martyrs for so long that it can become ingrained in us. Tapping into optimism might be difficult, at first. But it’s there for the taking.

Think of it like forbidden fruit. You see juicy, red, luscious fruit hanging from a tree. This is the ability to feel nothing but pure happiness that you have the gift of writing. This is the satisfaction of knowing that what you write is a part of you, is infinitely meaningful to you, and even when it’s hard, you can enjoy every step of the process. You can even enjoy revising.

You want to eat this fruit, but other writers are watching you. They starve themselves because they pretend like writing isn’t the most wonderful thing in the world. They self-inflict misery to make themselves feel important and to give their life meaning.

As you reach out your hand for the fruit, what do you see the writers saying to you? What are the words that go through your mind when you dare to be optimistic about what you write?

These are some of the things I hear: “If you aren’t challenged to the point of pain, you’re not working hard enough. You’re just fiddling with pretty words. We are better than you because we actually challenge ourselves. Real writers have a difficult time. Real writers suffer.”

Pluck that fruit. Take a huge bite – as much as will fit in your mouth. Feel the juice run down your chin. You can be a happy writer.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Being Accessible: Where's The Line?

So I'm back from The Great Road Trip of 2011. Never fear, I will not regale you with tales of strange billboards and miles of empty fields. (Seriously, Kansas? You totally live up to what I pictured...wow. I didn't quite comprehend open space until I met you.) Basically, I drove a lot. The highlight was probably having lunch in Effingham, Illinois. Oh yes, Sara and I giggled about it the whole way to Utah. I'm still giggling.

Being away from the internet left me thinking a lot about what it means to "be accessible." We are always hearing that as writers, aren't we? At least I am. It's important to "be accessible" to your readers. It's important to "be accessible" to bloggers and reviewers and agents and editors and essentially the media at large.

To be honest, sometimes I feel TOO accessible. Sometimes that makes for difficult, awkward, or time consuming situations. And I'm not even published! I can't imagine how much time it takes for an actual author to "be accessible."

When I really think about it, why are we expected to be available to the whole world? Why do I feel pressured to have my email on my blog, so that anyone under the sun can talk to me? Truth is, I don't know the answers. I've just been thinking about it a lot, trying to figure out where the line is—the line between being available, open, kind and supportive, and being so overstretched with non-essentials that I don't have time for the most important part of my "job." You know, that whole writing books thing.

What makes it tougher is that the line changes, I think. When I first started exploring the online world, I had the time to comment and reply and be there for whoever needed it. That time seems to dwindle everyday, and it makes me feel awful. I worry that people will think I'm a jerk because I'm not saying yes to absolutely everything. I worry that I am somehow hurting feelings or losing opportunities or whatever.

Don't get me wrong, I love me some social networking. It has brought me many a good thing. But having done it for a while now, I'm starting to understand that it certainly takes a toll. Sometimes I'm just plain tired of trying to make my life look interesting. You know what? It's not. I love my life, but it's your average life.

Everything we say about ourselves has to be sensationalized, doesn't it? Everyone else seems to be doing interesting stuff. Why aren't we doing cool things? Why don't we have any news? Why can't I think of anything to tweet about that doesn't involve food?

And worst of all—Why does it make me feel so bad about myself?

It's always, "Don't be boring. You're doomed if you're boring. No one will like you if you have nothing new or funny or interesting to say." Talk about pressure. Talk about encouraging people to put on a mask and perform their social networking duty. Sometimes, the whole thing feels supremely un-fun. Even knowing that most everyone has an extremely normal life, the facade still tricks my mind into thinking I'm the only one out there who spends the day doing nothing but the simple things that make up life.

I'm not even sure what I'm saying here. Perhaps that I get tired, and maybe that's okay. Maybe it's okay that I don't want to be accessible sometimes, and maybe it's okay if you feel that way, too.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy Writer’s Society: Friends You Haven’t Met

NOTE: I will be gone Mon-Wed of next week, so if I don't answer emails/tweets/comments that's why. I'm heading to Ohio to help my dear pirate Sara move to Utah! Yay! Road tripping FTW.

Today we get to hear from the hilariously, ridiculously awesome Carrie Harris, whose novel BAD TASTE IN BOYS comes out this summer. I love Carrie so much. She totally understands my weirdness. I get to finally meet her on Sunday, and I can't freaking wait. Ohio might explode with awesome, just so you're warned.

I remember feeling all neurotic about joining the book blogging world. Did people really want to read about how it hails golf balls when I get good publishing news, or about how I think merpires are infinitely sexier than vampires? (It’s the sloshing. Gotta love a good slosh.) Because I sure as heck don’t know anything WISE. People do not come to me for wisdom. They come to me because it makes them feel relatively normal. I’m happy and flattered to provide such a valuable service.

Anyway, it was a quite a surprise to me when I started making friends behind the blogging scenes. And I’m not talking the “Hey, howya doing?” kind of friend. I’m talking the kind of person with which you have long, drawn out conversations, the person who miraculously GETS YOU, merpire fetish and all. The one who understands when you complain for the seven hundredth time about writing fears, deadline disasters, or the fact that your resident merpire won’t clean up after his baby pool and it’s RUINING YOUR CARPETING.

Ahem. Sorry. Got a little carried away there.

In a way, these friendships remind me of college, where you’re thrown into a dorm with a bunch of random people, and you’re expected to LIVE with them! They will see you in the morning when you’ve got bad hair and worse breath. They’ll know that your pajama tops don’t match your bottoms. But somehow, you end up staying up with these relative strangers until all hours of the night talking about life, the universe, and the relative sexiness of merpires (or whatever your fetish might happen to be). Your friendship develops fast and furious, cutting straight through the crap and getting on to something really honest.

My writer friends don’t see me in my pajamas, but I still tell them some things that I’d put a brave face on with other people. They’re always reminding me that I don’t have to amuse them all the time, because sometimes I feel that pressure. And it’s a relief to be able to just babble and not edit every single word. Because trust me. Behind the scenes? There’s editing going on. I don’t want to unintentionally say something I don’t mean. Even if it IS just a joke.

Those cosmic soul-level friends come and go. There are some people that I talked to daily a year ago, or two, that I now hear from about once a month if we’re lucky. And every time we write, we say, “Yep. We need to be better at keeping in touch.” But it gets harder and harder to keep up because the circle keeps growing. And that’s a good thing, not a bad one. Now, I’m not only talking to aspiring writers, but also to published ones, and librarians, and book bloggers. And seeing their names in my inbox brightens my day. It makes what would otherwise be a solitary profession into one heck of an awesomesauce community.

And it helps me to spread the merpire love, which sounds vaguely pervy, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It Comes Down To One Thing: The Book

The internet has been a buzz with interesting articles and talk. Is there a YA mafia? Oh, how I love a good conspiracy. Is the publishing industry going to finally burn in apocalyptic flames? Oh, how I love me some doom and gloom. Is self-publishing the new revolution in which all we authors stick it to The Man? Oh, how I love a good, bloody revolution...

Overall, it seems to me there's a heavy helping of paranoia out there. And we all know how healthy that is. Nothing like paranoia to get people hiding their savings in secret safes. Better build that bomb shelter while you're at it.

That might sound a little rude, but seriously, can we all chill out here a little? Yes, I know change is scary. I know we're all trying to get into (or stay in) a business that is increasingly hard to crack. But no matter how much things change, no matter if there are secret societies blocking you, no matter if the four horsemen swoop down and demolish publishing, no matter if self-publishing goes all French Revolution on books, there is still only one thing that matters:

A Good Story.

Stories will never die. We have all of human history as example. Millions of stories over thousands of years. People love stories, no matter the form. So if you have a good story in you, chances are people will want to hear it in one way or another.

If you get a case of the paranoia, don't forget this. Because it's truth. Yes, maybe knowing someone can get your book to the top of some pile, but that doesn't matter jack if it's not well-written and the person doesn't connect with it. Yes, maybe publishing is struggling, but it will not die—we won't let it die. Who the crap wants it to die? There is so much we can do to encourage and support reading and books, in whatever form.

But I do understand the paranoia, really. I've been there many a time. When I was querying my dragon book, I thought maybe people were out to get me. I got a lot of requests—more than with any other book. Why? Because the query was awesome. The query also was miles better than my book, because I'd had more people revise my query than my manuscript. So partials got rejected over and over, and I got frustrated because I didn't understand. They liked the query! They should like the book! Never mind that guilty pit in my stomach, mumbling that I hadn't revised it as I should.

And being on sub for 15 months? Oh boy, can that make you paranoid. If they think the writing is "so great," then why aren't they buying? Why won't they give me a chance? I've done everything they asked and still I can't get anyone to like it enough to buy.

It's a helpless feeling. And when I feel that way, I start looking outside myself for something to blame. There has to be some kind of conspiracy! Right? It's not my fault. I'm putting in the work. I'm doing what I'm told. So what is the deal?

Well, there isn't a conspiracy. Nor an impending apocalypse. Though, well, some kind of revolution is at hand, but let's hope it's not the French kind. It's really quite simple—there are a lot of good books out there, and only so many spots to be filled. That's always how it is in any creative field. Sometimes it comes down to having the right book at the right time, and that's all.

Write a good story, and people will want to read it. Plain and simple.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Holy Sickness

I have not been this sick in a long time. Not that I'm on my deathbed or anything, but I'm a generally healthy person and this virus or whatever is one nasty little monster. I've been "under the weather" for over a week, the worst hitting last Thursday and barely letting up today. Fever, congestion, sore throat, hacking cough, headaches, vertigo, and more. And not just for me, but for my whole family. It's been quite the party, trying to take care of two sick babies and a sick husband as well. It's almost hilarious, how miserable we've all been.

But times like these always leave me feeling extremely grateful for the health I do enjoy regularly. Not to say I'm glad to be sick, but I am reminded just how great it is to be well. It's something so easily taken for granted when you have it all the time, and I really need to treasure my health more often.

Because right now? Man, I'd be happy if I could muster enough energy to write more than a paragraph. Or if I could go for a walk without hacking up half a lung. Of if standing to do dishes didn't mean going for my own personal carousel ride.

It's funny how we humans tend to forget how good we have it until something bad happens. I try not to be like that, but it's inevitable in ways. It's so easy to forget the wonderful things when we're always being told there is stuff that will make our lives even better. So it's times like these when I sit back and remember how good I have it. Of course things aren't perfect, but they are good and I'll take it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Weekend Sketch (Painting, really)

I have always liked to paint, and I've always been kind of horrible at it. But lately it's been one of those cathartic things I do when I'm super stressed. It's just fun to mess around with. There's something about getting a little messy and mixing colors that makes me forget my worries for a moment.

So this is a water lily I painted for Kiersten. Sometimes I like to motivate my friends with prizes when they're writing. I convinced her this was worth getting to 50k, mwahaha.

And now I'm going back to being sick. It's like my full time job right now.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Happy Writers Society: Laugh

Laugh or cry. I've heard it my whole life, and it's something I know to be true. Personally, I prefer to find the humor in things, rather than cry over them. Crying makes my eyes swell, and my skin gets all splochy. It's not pleasant.

When I'm struggling with life or writing, I always seek out the funny in the situation. I try to laugh at myself. I want to laugh and find the bright side. I love funny books, movies, games, conversations, etc. I think that's why I personally shy away from extremely tense or sad books, because when I'm looking to get away, that most likely includes looking to laugh.

There's something magical about laughing. It's a release. I always feel better after a good laugh. I swear it heals my heart.

So laugh. There's always something to laugh over.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Wall

There's always a point in my writing where I crash into a huge wall of holy-crap-what-am-DOING? At first it would make me doubt my story, but I've written enough books to know that The Wall is just part of the process. There's always a point where you get overwhelmed with all the story elements and how in the world are you supposed to tie it all together in an intelligible manner?

My wall is always somewhere between 20-30k. Seriously, every time. I'm going along at lightning speed, everything is flowing, I'm feeling great, and then...SMACK. I just stand there, scratching my head.

What now?

This is where I'm at with the WIP. It's kind of like I let a litter of kittens out in my house, and now they've spread out and found hiding spots. My job is to gather them all up, coax them out, wait patiently for the to come sit in my lap. (Gosh, can you tell I'm sick? Talk about wacko comparisons...)

Oh, the middle of books. Admit it, it's totally like trying to herd cats.

I think I caught one kitty yesterday, but I have quite a few more to go. And who knows? That cat could escape the second I catch another. But then I start to figure things out. By 50k it's like I realize all I have to do is open a can of cat food and they all come running. It's usually pretty smooth sailing after that.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

All Day Q&A

It's about time for another Q&A, right? That, and I'm sick and can't think for the life of me about a blog topic.

So if you have a question—any question—I will answer asap in comments today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Writing Part In All This

I'm fairly open about my struggles with the writing journey, but today I wanted to make it clear that the main reason I keep going is this: I love it.

I really do. I love to write. We're probably all the same way. All the publishing stuff, yeah, it's frustrating and daunting and sometimes even unfair, but the actual act of writing a story (for the most part), is a joyful, rewarding experience.

I am totally in love with my WIP, House Of Ivy And Sorrow. I am writing when I shouldn't, sneaking in paragraphs here and there when the kids let me. It's always there in my mind, as I play with the plot and characters and possibilities. It's so new, and it's been so long since I just messed around. I wish I could write and write. It's freaking awesome.

That's why submission scares me so much, I think. Yes, there's that fear of failure and rejection, but the worst mistake I made on my first round of sub was losing sight of why I was trying to get published in the first place. It was so hard to enjoy writing when my confidence was being challenged daily. I don't know what it is, but I have to be feeling good about myself and my writing to put out words. Discovering that your beloved novel isn't marketable? Not so great for the self-esteem.

I have felt really great these last few months. I'm not even sure I can express it, but the words have been flowing. I'm in a groove. I love what I'm writing and even editing, and sitting down to work is more like sitting down to play.

That is not something I want to lose. To which you might say, "Then don't lose it, silly! Focus on your writing when you're on sub. Don't think about that book—it's out in the world and you can't control what happens." Et cetera and so forth. Oh, how I wish it was that easy. But it's not. It is in no way easy to just forget about that book I slaved over for approaching two years, to say, "Hey, yeah, I put all that work in and it may not pan out and I'm SO okay with that!" It takes time to get there, because as much as you tell yourself that, you still really, really want it to happen. There is no way not to want it. There is no way to just move on. Yes, you can distract yourself, but it's still there in the back of your mind. The waiting. The wanting.

So yeah, sub is not the best state for maintaining writing confidence. That doesn't mean I won't try, because, oh, do I have a plan already in place. But I'm so worried I'll lose my groove, even with all the lessons learned.

That is the worst—when writing becomes the enemy. It should never be the enemy, but I guess it's that whole "there's a fine line between love and hate" thing. I never want to go to that bad place again, but is it something that always comes with sub or was it just another one of my rookie mistakes?

I don't know the answer to that question, which is why it's all so stressful, I suppose.

But right now I am writing. And I am loving writing. And I'm trying to soak in every moment so I can remember what it feels like, so I can call upon those memories when things get hard. Because despite everything, that's why I'm here: the writing.

If I forget that, go ahead and give me a swift kick.