Friday, September 9, 2011

Getting a Tumblr

So, I have officially abandoned this blogging sight because the interface is so difficult to use. I find it almost impossible to convince it to comment on things, or to control which blogs I'm following and which I'm not. Therefore, I will be moving on to greener pastures (though I may appropriate past blog entries).

That's right, I will now be writing on a new blog! The url is, and I have to say I am very impressed with tumblr's versatility as a blogging site. So please feel free to come join me at my new home!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The fall of the internet and preoccupations with outdoor activities

One day, I came home and the internet network I had been conveniently connecting to no longer existed. I believe there is a direct correlation between this happening and the random vanishing of one of my neighbors and all of his belongings, but I could be incorrect. In any case, this day began a long and internet-less period which even now continues.

I know it sounds terrifying, but far from being the stroke of doom that it seems, it has in fact been kind of refreshing. If I desire internet (which I often do not after a whole day seeking to distract myself with it at work) I toddle on down to the local ice cream parlour. Yes, we have an ice cream parlour, or in actuality, an Ice Cream and Soda Shop (which also sells awesome grilled cheese inventions accompanied with popcorn). The owner is also a bagpiper. I play with him at sessions in a pub downtown, which is not, in fact, how we met, but how I came to spend time at his store. He and his wife run their ice cream and soda shop, adopt children and keep creepy and exotic artifacts in their random cellar-museum of creepy. Don't tell him I told you. It's a secret.

Now, having become a bit more social, and investing myself a bit more in my surroundings, I have recalled one of my two most imposing writer-flaws. No, making up words and terms is not among said writer-flaws; in fact, I would say that as a writer I sometimes have trouble keeping my tone and diction from becoming too rigid, though this is not that imposing at the moment. No, the specific fault that I am discussing has nothing to do with wordliness or lack thereof, but with worldliness, or, more accurately, with place. In other terms, setting, the framework of the story, is at times an intense problem for me. You see, I have a very loose attachment to settings. Oh surely, I can describe images to you. For example, I could describe to you Pop's Ice Cream and Soda Shop, detailing the tiny kitchen and rounded teal bar, the black stools that wobble and spin, the tiny booths, the stack of family games in the corner and the random collection of bagpipe parafenalia floating upon the cheery pink and teal of 50's decor. I could also tell you about walking into the tiny doorway to be greeted by an image of shop owner, adopted daughter and random youth doing an ab workout in the middle of the tile floor with rapid, jerky motions, only to start up as if embarassed upon my entrance and explain, as if it were an explanation, that said random youth's phone had rang (this, if nothing else, will give you an idea of the character of the clientel).

No, the problem is not the ice cream parlour itself. It is the location of said ice cream parlour. How, for example, does it connect to other significant spaces in my life, such as my place of work, the pub downtown, or my apartment? Where is downtown? What does downtown look like? For that matter, where is the ice cream parlour? In what neighbourhood does it reside? How do you get there? Does it matter? In real life, I could probably answer these questions fairly easily. But in stories this becomes an Achilles' heel, with certain spaces vivid in my mind and others disconnected, indistinct. I cannot make the characters interrelate with their setting as well as I'd like, because I don't really grasp it myself.

To address this chink it my scrivener's armour, I have come up with a plan. It is a plan that involves short stories of the slightly unsettling variety, with a lot of inclusion of elements of my own current location thrown in so that I can focus on the art of setting construction first, and then use the skills acquired to capture my own imagined landscapes (which do exist in many ways quite solidly, if incommunicably).

Also, I will hopefully be posting a review of the lovely book "Act of Will," which I just finished reading not two hours ago, for your viewing pleasure by sometime Friday. Stay tuned. : )

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy (very belated) New Year!

I haven't posted on here in ages, I'm fairly certain. My how the time flies and all that.

So let's see...updates. I finished my rough draft of "Mother of Creation" and am now reluctantly dragging myself into the editing process. Numerous ideas kicking around in my head for book two, so I suppose I'm a little divided about whether to edit or not, but I don't feel that I can continue to advance without streamlining the setting/characters. As my brother (the only person who's read it so far) so aptly pointed out, I've at times run a little vague in my world creation. I suspect that's true of a lot of my work, so my goal for this round is to make if feel a bit more real, and to make the characters a little more distinct. Clarifying, as it were, more than a real rewrite.

Also, since it's New Year's, I've made some goals for this year. These include:

1) A mostly final draft of "Mother of Creation"
2) At least part of the rough for the next one (tenatively titled "Daughter of Chaos" or something to that effect)
3) Being generally more into cleanliness and taking care of myself. I'm proud to report that I've made significant advances in this regard. I've even eaten dinner every night since the first! Cleanliness of course refers to my apartment/desk. I already shower all the time, so that's not the issue.
4) Chopping off all of my hair. Also done.
5) Figuring out how to get out of Roanoke. It's lovely but the dating pool is limited. My goals include: Madrid, Japan, get the idea.
6) Learning at least a modicum of German.
and last but not least, 7) Creating a new mini-goal of awesome every month. Some current ideas include, but are not limited to: planning vacations, registering for the GREs, taking the GREs, determining what graduate school I would like to one day apply to, having a plant that lives, etc.

In short, 2011 promises to be an exciting, excruciating, mind-bogglingly awesome year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


In other words, sorry for dropping off the face of the earth as I have been doing. I've been an irresponsible writer, I fear. Probably because I'm frustrated with my current project. Also, work picked up. But enough excuses, it's time to be productive.

So Cathi asked me a while ago about maybe seeing one of my query letters to get an idea about how that works. Unfortunately, I'm kind of in agreement with Anne's assessment that if you just copy someone's query letter it's not going to be what you need. So I shall create my Handy Guideline of What to Do to Write a Query (the condensed version). I will be borrowing heavily from Anne's blogs but also adding some of my own personal opinions.

1) Research.

I wish querying were easy - heavens knows, I'm the worst querier ever. The logistics I've got down, but the actual practical aspect of getting that letter out and in circulation? Complete failure. The fact is that each letter is going to require research, and if you want it to be successful you might should spend some time on that research. There are a couple of ways to find agents to query. I am a fan of the internet search. There are several sites online that keep databases on literary agents, including such pertinent information as the agent's name, website, and whether or not they are taking submissions (as well as, if you're lucky, submissions requirements, though you should defer to the website on this). Once you get those, you can begin the second level of research (checking out the website, for example) and look for other authors that this agent has represented. Often those authors will have blogs or websites of their own in which they make mention of their agent.

The more espoused method is of course to look at the agents of your favorite authors, or the authors whose style that of your own work most closely resembles. I think this is a wonderful idea, but do suggest you follow the necessary steps to discover if this agent is still taking submissions, in your genre or otherwise.

Now, beyond knowing who to submit to, this glut of information gives you a chance to make a connection with the agent, which is what this whole thing is about. Your first paragraph, after all, should contain two major elements: your hook, or the single sentence that provides a tantalizing glimpse at what your story is about; and something to connect you with the agent - after all, you want to show that you've done your research.

2. The Meat.

Now, once you've done your research and condensed that into something intriguing and professional (remember, professional is your most favorite adjective of these two, though you need both) you follow with what is essentially an oh-so-brief sales pitch for your manuscript. This, I believe, was the main preoccupation of Cathi in her comment. Of course, the problem with this is that what this paragraph looks like is essentially going to depend on your book. The important thing to take away from this is that you're not summarizing. Far from it: the purpose of this segment is much like that of your hook. In other words, you are attempting to showcase your novel. Anne advises that you should use at least one sentence that contains good imagery, something that will stick with the reader. I think of this as giving the reader something solid to stand on in the floating vagueries that this paragraph, no matter how you strive, will inevitably contain. After all, how are you supposed to successfully describe a 90,000 word book within the confines of a single, tiny paragraph?

It's important to note that this is probably the spot in your letter with which you can be the most creative. After all, you know your work better than anyone. For The Last Disciple, for example, I used a descriptive sentence to provide a sense of the alieness my character felt at being forced to make her new home in a city landscape, which unveiled a key element of the plot while providing the reader with the echo of an emotional connection.

One way you could practice this is by looking at some of your favorite books. For example, many of you have read Cherie Priest's Boneshaker, which I wrote about last post. Distill this book. What is the key turning point, the moment when exposition because rising action? If, like me, you see this as the moment in which Briar finds her son missing and follows him into the ruins of the abandoned Seattle, your short paragraph about this book might focus on that point as the central image the paragraph is built around. Before that, there would be a few brief sentences introducing Briar and her son as characters, and afterwords there would be a sort of teaser sentence. Unfortunately, since I'm at work and my muse is on vacation, I will not be crafting this example for you. I trust that you can use the description as a reference, however.

3. Closing Up

Alright, wrapping up quickly now. If you've made it this far kudos.

You have your lead-in, telling why you picked the agent. You have your hook, which makes them want to read more. You have, somewhere in there, the
title, word count, and genre of your book, so they know how to place it. And of course, you have your brief pitch in which you let the book speak for itself. Now what?

The final paragraph contains the things that may help you to get published, such as: Have you been published before? Do you have any prior experience that might make you stand out from other writers? What about your book, how is it different? Anything (reasonable) that makes you stand out should be thrown in here, along with contact information and large amounts of copious thanks for taking the time to read the letter - you worked hard on it after all, you should thank the reader who makes it to the end for recognizing that.

And that's all, folks!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I didn't realize it had been a week since I posted. My life got a bit busier over the past couple of days, which is in some ways nice, and of course leaves me less time for other things.

However, one thing I did get to this past week was to finish Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, a steampunk adventure set in Civil War Seattle. It is, fortunately, a book filled with the notable steampunk elements, such as warring airships and almost magical permutations of technology, based primarily on steam as a generator of electricity; but luckily, Ms. Priest does not stop there. The book also contains such exciting things as zombies (personal favorite), shotguns, mechanical arms, subterranean tunnels, and mysterious ravens which I'm hoping will be an important part of the next book. Also of note is Ms. Priest's lovely use of unsettling details. At times, she will randomly insert a moment of what could almost be poetry in an eery fashion, which is definitely in keeping with the almost surreal nature of some of the book's events.

My only critiques of the book are that the characters were, occasionally, unapproachable, and the plot was at times filled with almost unbelievable coincidences that went thoroughly unremarked by the characters themselves. Perhaps owing to the stoicness of the main character, it was at times difficult to understand exactly what the character was feeling, or, if not to understand, to feel the same. This is perhaps a result of the author's voice itself, which is both casual and drily engaging. In general, however, it was a good read, and one I would recommend. Since I don't have a lot of steampunk experience, it doesn't get a grade (that certainly wouldn't be fair to anyone) so that assessment will have to do until I rectify that little problem.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

1 Month Friendiversary

Well, it's still cold outside. I suppose that's to be expected in December though. And who would have thought December could come so quickly?

As David noted yesterday, it has been just a smidgen over one month since I met many of you lovely people at the World Fantasy Convention! I can't say just how wonderful it is to know that we still talk at least occasionally, and with how much anticipation I look forward to next year's convention, where I hope to meet up with many of you again as the fates allow. Not to mention the prospect of meeting new friends at that most illustrious of gatherings. Indeed, I am quite excited.

Something about Christmas carols and other such songs of the holidays, combined with long and chaotic visits with the family, that make me really happy to be alive. With that in mind, I would like to address something which I read recently in David Farland's writing newsletter, entitled "Your Daily Kick in the Pants." I receive this newsletter, as it's name suggests, daily, and in it I often find tiny grains of wisdom, some of which I agree with and others with which I choose to also consume the proverbial grain of salt. After all, there is no foolproof method to write a great work. What works for one author might not work for another, and what appeals to one reader may leave another yawning and toddling off to watch Glee or something. It's all about our sensibilities.

Something that I received recently on this lovely newsletter (which you can subscribe to through David Farland's website, if such an action catches your fancy) was about the concept of gratitude. Mr. Farland was discussing making a character likable, and emphasized that a good way to do this was to make the character grateful for things that he or she was given. Now, for me, the forthright description of gratitude is often trumped by the oblique. It's easy to say thank you, and harder to mean it. However, I think that there is a grain of truth here that is worth exploring, and that is this: sometimes, likable characters are what make the story.

Take, for example, Harry Potter. Now, I don't know about you, but there were times when I thought Harry needed to go jump off a bridge. He was snotty and rude and angsty for pretty much the entirety of the fifth book, and large parts of the sixth. If I had been his friend I would have dropkicked him or whacked him with a tire iron. Instead, I was forced to grind my teeth whenever he had a mood swing, and keep reading. What made this experience bearable was not J.K. Rowling's wonderful writing or even the lure of finding out what was going to happen next, though both of those kept me reading. It was the existence of Fred and George Weasely. When Harry was lacking in the appropriate levels of mischief and foresight, the Weasely twins set him straight, with, among other things, their general good humor. Never did a Weasely twin mope or wallow in negative emotion; no, Fred and George at their maddest set off fireworks and other such magical wonders to delight and uplift their fellow students, then flew off into the sunset. Wonderful.

In any case, it occurs to me that no matter how dark a novel gets, or how misguided your main character might become, it's important to keep a balance within the text that allows the reader to feel, at least for a moment, uplifted. The contrast not only makes the characters themselves more endearing, but makes the eventual tragedy, when it comes, that much more horrible. And that, too, is quite wonderful.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter and the Holidays, aka: Why is NaNoWriMo in November exactly?

First of all, thanks to Rob and Cathi for the feedback! I tried to leave you a friendly comment but apparently me and are fighting, so instead you get a shoutout! Way better, right?

To answer both of you on the subject of Liana, she is indeed very protective of herself, especially at this point in the story. She is the crown princess, and has been raised to be very conscious of herself and her position. My goal is to write her as a person who, while she is very devoted to her duty, will only really go out of her way on a personal level for Liander. And what you don't know here is that she's actually quite young, so she still has much of the self-interest of youth, and the self-doubt. Being pregnant in this scene probably doesn't help her ability to engage in the sort of mental stillness and flirtation with death that to me make a good warrior. All of this would be way more apparent with some context, so I apologize for just kind of throwing you under the bus there.

In any case, moving on. The subject of my post is one near and dear to my heart. That is, of course, finding time to write for relatively extended periods of time (instead of just jotting down a few sentences in between other activities, which all too often happens to me and leads to longer rewrites). I'm sure the lovely people at the Office of Letters and Light thought they were positively clever to pick November as the month for the national writing of novels, for many reasons not least of which is the natural alliteration inherent, not to mention the sudden deepening of cold in the temperate climbs of our own northern hemisphere. However, as was so correctly pointed out to me at the beginning of my attempt at this illustrious and unctuous activity, November is an unnaturally short month for writers who aren't residents of a small hut on the edge of the Arctic Circle or somewhere else equally reclusive. Why, you may ask? Because the end of November is the start of the holidays.

For me, holidays mean going home, spending a whole lot of time sleeping, talking, and eating food, only to realize suddenly that I haven't done anything I said I was going to get done that week, including writing that chapter I was hoping to finish, or submitting that short story. Much less completing the last leg of a 50,000 unit lexicological demonstration of skill. (For entertainment this morning I am reading a thesaurus. Pardon me if I stretch the usage of some words, I like to experiment.) Ultimately, you're left having gained about twenty pounds and having written about five words, which you will probably scrap as products of food-induced dilusions. But I digress.

The worst part about holidays is that once you have hit November, you're often, whether you like it or not, on a rollercoaster ride straight through to New Year's. So how do you find time to write between all of the magical activities that surely crop up? It's a sticky situation, and I think all of us run into it at some point or another. There is a divide, after all, between who we would like to be and who we are currently that can often only be bridged by sleeplessness. But I say to you, fellow writers, that there is a silver lining in all of this madness! At least, there is one for me.

I find that my greatest inspiration for projects often comes when I am encountering something new. There is a fine line to walk, of course, but after being exposed to new ideas, scenery, and people, I often find myself better able to communicate the reality of my story in a more visceral way. It is not necessarily that I didn't know where the story was going before, but that I had lost touch with reality. After all, a good story only truly exists when you have brought it far enough into reality to be felt by the reader (though you must make sure not to bring it too far.) In essence, living life fully brings you closer to your art.