Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Epiphany and other deep thoughts on Why I Write

While meandering through the collage of writer, reader and publishing professional blogs, I stumbled upon a gift.  And oh, did I ever need this very timely gift!
On Weronika Janczuk’s site I found a link to an essay by George Orwell on “Why I Write.”  Now…I am in no way suggesting I possess the genius of Orwell, but something within his message about his own journey toward serious writing resonated for me so strongly that it brought tears to my eyes.  So, of course, I have to share.
But side by side with all this, for fifteen years or more, I was carrying out a literary exercise of a quite different kind: this was the making up of a continuous ‘story’ about myself, a sort of diary existing only in the mind. I believe this is a common habit of children and adolescents. As a very small child I used to imagine that I was, say, Robin Hood, and picture myself as the hero of thrilling adventures, but quite soon my ‘story’ ceased to be narcissistic in a crude way and became more and more a mere description of what I was doing and the things I saw. For minutes at a time this kind of thing would be running through my head: ‘He pushed the door open and entered the room. A yellow beam of sunlight, filtering through the muslin curtains, slanted on to the table, where a match-box, half-open, lay beside the inkpot. With his right hand in his pocket he moved across to the window. Down in the street a tortoiseshell cat was chasing a dead leaf’, etc. etc. This habit continued until I was about twenty-five, right through my non-literary years. Although I had to search, and did search, for the right words, I seemed to be making this descriptive effort almost against my will, under a kind of compulsion from outside.”
Ahhhh….thank you, thank you, THANK YOU George Orwell.  I am not crazy—or at least, not any crazier than you!  I’ve been hearing this mental dialogue my whole adult life and I’ve finally quit running and turned to embrace it.  And, if he could describe writing as like living through a painful illness (instead of the oft claimed—I write because I must), then I know my path to this art is not so impossible.  My mind may write without prompting, but the last couple decades attest to the fact that I can live just fine without writing anything down.  I was struggling with the notion that writing might not be for me if it’s so darned hard and I really can walk away at any time. 
I guess the real question is not whether I can walk away, but do I want to?  The answer is clearly no.  If I won the lottery today, I would still want to write a novel.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What not to do...

Wow.  I just learned so much. 

Not because I read a magical book though--rather the opposite is true.  I read a book that did a lot of telling instead of showing in the first chapter, had cliched main characters without the necessary character flaws to make them real and endearing, and a plot that I could see through within the first 25 pages.  It was an enlightening experience because I could see it all as plain as day.  I knew what worked and what didn't.  And so, I know my understanding of the craft is maturing.

I am awake now.  When reading my own first attempts, I hear the same mistakes and wooden-ness.  I suppose that's half the battle--being able to recognize when the magic is missing.

I know how it sounds when the words are right.  Their rhythm.  Their cadence.  The pattern they form on the page.  Though my ear can't miss, my mind can't seem to invent the symphony on its own.  Forever working, reworking, and deleting the lines anew; feverishly trying to create the magic that flows from the pens of seasoned writers.  I pray for the talent to orchestrate my imagination as they do-to let my characters live and breathe in vivid technicolor even when written in black and white.

What I'm wondering is:  How do you get yourself to finish anything the first time?  I keep stopping and starting over.  I am the queen of chapters one-three.  Do you just not look back and gallop toward the finish regardless of how the race began?


Thursday, December 9, 2010

DemonGlass ARC Give away!!!

I really LOVED Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins.  Her snappy, funny voice full of sarcasm and wit, made me want to hang out in the dorm with her even if it contained crazy witches or possibly murderous vampires.  Sophie could totally be my bud if I was still an awkward teenager instead of a boring old mom...

Anyway, the sequel is being released on March 1, but I have located a give away... so run on over here to get the details. 


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finally my review of Across the Universe

I know, I know I'm running late on this...
Across the Universe begins with seventeen-year-old Amy and her parents being processed into cryogenic sleep on a spaceship called Godspeed. Amy is seemingly trapped in dreams during the long 300 year journey to the new planet that her parents are supposed to help colonize.  
The story alternates point of view between Amy and a boy of seventeen named Elder who has been born and raised on Godspeed.  He is the heir apparent to the leadership role on the ship. 
Amy is suddenly awakened 50 years earlier than their projected arrival at the new planet.  Emotionally, the impact of the situation is devastating since her parents are still in stasis and cannot be awakened without endangering the entire mission.  Amy cannot be refrozen without endangering her life as well, so she is alone essentially.  She followed her parents on this frightening journey to avoid being left alone on Earth, but now she must learn to live without them in the very odd culture that’s been established on the ship.
Her awakening itself is the first mystery.  Was it an attempted murder?  That seems to be the case when several other frozen passengers are murdered or nearly murdered.  Elder, Amy and Elders friend must protect Amy’s parents and the other frozen colonists while solving the puzzle of what could motivate the attacks.
Across the Universe is absolutely an engaging read that kept me turning pages late into the night.  I had to know the secrets of Godspeed.  It reminded me of several different classic dystopian stories.  To sum up thought, I would call it a swirl of Soylent Green meets 1984 with a side of dystopian love. So, if dystopian tops your book love list, then this one will definitely be a new favorite!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Just received my very first ARC!!! Wahoo...

I'm officially a real book blogger as well as writer!

I actually asked (begged really) for this ARC all over the place and I'm not sure yet who took pity on me...but I will find out so that I can send a million thank yous...(I'm really liking the elipses today. I think it's my more mature version of the !)

Whew.  I am breathless with anticipation.  Not just about Across the Universe, although I have been dying to read it since the first few paragraphs of the excerpt that I read over a month ago.  I am breathless at the idea of being entrusted to read and review books before they are even released.  What a thrill -- and yes, I am aware that I'm a book geek.

So, probably within a day or so, I'll send my first official ARC review out into the blog-iverse or blogosphere, the world basically.  Yes!


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Strong female lead anyone?? ---Have you read Nightshade by Andrea Cremer?

If you've been waiting for a vulnerable, yet tough female lead in your paranormal YA genre...I found her...

Get lost in Nightshade by Andrea Cremer like I did.  I could not stop turning the pages even though my crazy children expected me to feed them and stuff--the nerve!!  Although I might have chosen a different naming strategy for the main opposing forces in the book since Keepers (masters), Searchers, and Guardians are rather obvious, she otherwise created an fascinating world to explore and characters I will follow directly  into the next sequel in this debut novel.

Oh, and I finished The Replacement and it was really the best 'Faery Fic' I've read of late.  It reminded me of Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely with a dark, scarily evil faery world hidden underneath the lies and secrets of a whole city.  The story is told from the unique perspective of a 'replacement' child for one that was stolen. 

Someday, if I read with enough deliberate concentration, I will be able to infuse my own writing with some of their creativity.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You must read The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

I am telling you this before I even finish the book myself, because there is something here that makes it not necessary to finish the book before deciding it's good.

Remember how you felt when you first read Maggie Stiefvater.  Come on, if you are reading this, you must have read Shiver, Linger, Lament and Ballad...I know you have.  Anyway, remember how the words sounded almost musical together and you reread some sentences over several times because they were so great--Ok, yeah, it's like that.

“…she still smelled crisp and kind of sweet.  It made me think of flowering trees or something you want to put in your mouth.  The kind of smell you shouldn’t notice about girls who are covered in tragedy…”

I'll post an update as soon as I'm done.  (I'll bet I read until 2am since I must spend time with my family today even though I would really love to drown in this book instead).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just add zombies...

While I was searching for inspiration I read another author waxing poetic about the virtues of Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy novels.  They’re very early YA books-- first published starting in the 1940s. 
Now, I admit to loving Ann of Green Gables and thought these would be right up my totally uncool alley.  Unfortunately, I found myself unable to read them without copious amounts of skimming.  Betsy, Tacy and all the women in these books are so saccharine sweet, even when they are supposedly not being sweet-- I just couldn’t take it.  Without a little edge to give their personalities some depth, I just end up wanting to smack um. I really missed Elizabeth Bennett slamming the hypocrites every other page.  I was longing for a zombie or something and I don’t even like zombies.
What I did appreciate though was how she captured daily life in a very realistic way--the easy banter of people who hang around together regularly.  The male characters especially were drawn with the sarcasm, humor and rhythm with which people truly interact.  I need to get myself some of that.
Takeaway:  Make your novel’s universe a real, living place instead of cardboard scenery--a place where the reader can get lost and forget it’s just make believe.  And the peripheral characters play an essential role in creating that universe. And—when things get slow for gosh sakes, throw in a zombie or something!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Just read the coolest first chapter from Across the Universe by Beth Revis!

You have to check it out here .  And, while you are at it..tell about your most awesome adventure.  You could win an ARC!!

Since I've only read one chapter, I can't say for sure if there are sparkly vampires, but I do know that it's YA and SCI FI, so I'm guessing aliens only.  Anyway, I was a Star Trek junkie before the Next Generation and am stoked to find a stellar book that combines my love of science fiction and YA-- which has ruled my world for a few years now. 

On a more personal note, this book gives me hope that there will be a market for my genre jumping work when the time comes. 

I just can't wait to read the rest.

I managed to make it to the writers group this week for the latest news, but I didn't stay to read.  Mostly, because I didn't write.  It's been painful the last couple weeks to get anything on paper and I need to bust out of this sludge pit.  I'm thinking about just skipping around and writing whatever chapter is playing in my head at the moment.  I really haven't found that magic formula yet.  Everyone has to discover their own way to get from the point where characters keep talking in their head to where they live and breathe on the page...ugh.

My second hand quote for the week (Kiersten quoted it at her signing) from Aprilynne Pike 'Give yourself permission to write crap.  Then, make it better.'

I like that.

I can write crap.  THAT, at least, I'm sure of!!!


Monday, September 6, 2010

On finding my voice...

I'm back at the drawing board, or keyboard, as it were, and I am rethinking my tone and the voice of my main character.  I had intended a sort of serious romantic YA story and was forging ahead in that direction when I realized how hard it is to sensor that snarky part of myself that wants to spill over into the things I write. 

Then, I read a posted excerpt from Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.  It just came out this week and I was so excited about it that I accidentally ended up with two copies--which should may Kiersten very happy indeed.  I had a preorder, but then Books a Million released in 3 days early and I COULDN'T wait!

I just fell in love with her character Evie, who is light, sarcastic and fun--even though she has a deep and serious side.  Don't most of us? 

Kiersten wrote a blog entry herself about finding her voice.  What actually inspired me most was that she was able to write the first draft of this fantastic book in three weeks because she found the voice/character that  was right for her.  If you read the blog you will hear bits of Kiesten in Evie. 

All this helped me realize my character was too one dimensional and serious.  She wasn't living yet.

Thank you, thank you, Thank you Kiersten for blogging and for posting an excerpt that reminded me how things should be when you've got it right.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Help! I'm bleeding....

I've been  stabbed in the hubris!

Ok, maybe it's not that bad, but it does smart a bit. I just read at the critique group for the first time and I've got to say, it was hard.  I already knew most of the things they mentioned:  Don't use an -ly words just choose better verbs, stay away from 'was', create more tension, and get to the main action quickly (yeah, I know I just used an  -ly word- $@#$ ). 

Before I began reading, I thought I'd receive at least a few more 'I liked xxx part' or the humor kept me reading.  Of course, I hated the whole thing myself by the end.  Nervousness made my voice pitchy, I fumbled words and ruined the tone/pace by speeding through it.  I stopped reading before the timer to save us all from the agony.

Whew.  It's done though.  It'll never be my first public reading again.  I'm a bit daunted, but ready to work on making my story something people would want to keep listening to or reading.

Now the hard part...more writing!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hello, my name is Cinnamon and I'm an...

author.  Or, someday I will be. 

In an effort to make someday sooner rather than later, I attended my first writers group meeting on Wednesday.

I'd avoided joining one because, well, I'm not a joiner.  And, I thought I needed to be a better, stronger, faster, (starting to sound a bit like the bionic woman about now, right?), and all around cooler writer before I went. But, time is not my friend, so I need to commit despite all my shortcomings. 

So, you know those 'group meeting' movie scenes where the heroine shows up at the basement of an old church to drink bad coffee out of styrofoam cups and sit on old metal chairs?  At some point, she stands in front of a large group of strangers and says 'Hello, my name is Heroine and I'm a (fill in the blank with suitable personal failing)'.

 I was really afraid it would be like that....and, of course, it was. Exactly like that. Except that there are no basements in Texas, the cups were paper, the chairs were plastic and the coffee wasn't bad (actually all coffee that's not Starbucks is pretty bad, but I'm trying to be kind). 

Anyway, the craziest part was that even though I was purposely sitting in the back row trying to hide, the moderator took about two seconds to hone in on fact that I was visiting and single me out.  ACK!  I was so ready to sprint for the exit after having to stand up and admit my love for science fiction and paranormal YA books.  Lemme tell you, if I hadn't thrown a fit at home about taking time to do something for myself for once (three kids, three dogs, one husband, ya know how it is), I would have done it too.

But, for the record, I am so, so glad I didn't run. 

What I learned:  These people can write. They take it seriously.  They also like to laugh.  I want to fit here. So, I joined.