Monday, December 26, 2011

See you in the New Year!!!

The Alliterati are taking a break for the holidays. We'll return on January 9th. Happy End-of-2011, everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A tiny question for a slow blogging week

It's the week before Christmas, which means that while I know I have a lot of loyal lurkers out there, I'm not expecting many people to be keeping up on their blogs. So I just have a simple question, one that's been nagging me for a while.

I hear people talk about "drafts" a lot. To me, a draft is a significantly different version of a manuscript. Perhaps a complete re-write. But when I hear people talk about drafts, I don't usually think they mean a complete tear-down and re-dress.

Or do they?

Tell me, dear readers: what do you consider to be a draft?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Amazon and the "Death" of Brick and Mortar Stores

Anyone following the news lately will have heard about's new Price Checker app. If you haven't a summation is this: the app allows you to scan a barcode on a product using your iPhone or Android smart phone and check how much the item costs on Amazon versus how much it costs in-store. To entice users into test-driving the app, Amazon offered a deal on December 10th that offered savings of 15% (up to $5) off qualifying items.

Predictably, this announcement led to outrage among independent retailers of all stripes. News websites and blogs have blown up with coverage about the app about how it's an attack on small business. The New York Times ran a blog post about Amazon's seeming small-business problem, Fox Business reported on Amazon taking heat from Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, the American Booksellers Association calls it a "cheesy marketing move" in an open letter, Josie Leavitt at the Publishers Weekly ShelfTalker blog said it was a "new low for Amazon," and that's just a smattering of the coverage. A quick Google News search resulted in nearly 150 news articles and blog posts about this very topic in the past few days.

But, like I said, this outrage was all terribly predictable. Amazon has been in an implied war with traditional business structures like brick-and-mortar retailers basically since its inception, so an app like this where it turns consumers into spies isn't really that big of a surprise (to me at least). One of the things that's struck me so far, however, is the argument many independent retailers make for why they're a better shopping option than Amazon. This has so far included charitable contributions to the surrounding community, keeping people employed in the community, and having the ability to hand-sell books people might not otherwise find. That's not an exhaustive list, but you get the picture. And these things are all well and good, but to illustrate my point I'm going to tell you a story.

When I was 16, I got a job at a local Wegmans supermarket. The company, which had been in business since the 1930s, was fairly high-priced in terms of groceries when compared to other stores like Price Chopper, Giant Markets (a local chain), and the Wal Mart supercenter. Wegmans had locations in New York State, Pennsylvania, Virginia (I think), and a few other states by that point, but they were by no means a major player in the marketplace. Mostly because of their prices, I think, but that's a story for another day.

Wegmans knew they weren't going to compete with major supermarkets like Kroger, Safeway, and Supervalu among others. And they were OK with this, because they'd discovered a philosophy that worked for them: "Do fewer things better." I got educated in this philosophy over the course of those two years I worked at Wegmans, and it's stuck with me ever since. The crux of it is this: You can't compete with the big boys on price, product selection, or any number of other things. Rather than do that, look at what you do really well and focus on offering that product to customers better than anybody else possibly can.

For independent bookstores, the philosophy of "Do fewer things better" might include shrinking certain sections of the store. If you don't sell a lot of history books, for example, you might eliminate that section from your salesfloor and shift it to an "order only" status. You might choose to stock more copies of books by local authors than NY Times bestsellers, or maybe you decide you're going to devote more space of your salesfloor to things like science fiction and fantasy, romance, and mysteries to the point where functionally all of your fiction section is those three genres. Maybe you've got an expert in unknown books on your staff and you give them a vehicle on your website to talk about great finds. There's a lot of possibilities open.

Sure, Amazon has their suggestion engine that people say shows them books they might not have otherwise thought of. But are you really going to trust Amazon to recommend a book from 10 years ago when you're purchasing the latest bestseller?

At the end of the day though, I feel like independent brick-and-mortar bookstores will still be around for some time to come. There's a major backlash already happening against Amazon, and this is going to only keep growing.What say you?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Am I Worthy ... ?

Whenever something great happens to me, there's always that niggling thought. Am I worthy?

Well this week, I got a promotion at work. WAAAAAHOOOOOOO!!!! It's been in the works for about five months now. I'm so so so so so so so so happy that it finally went through. But I still can't help but wonder, do I deserve this? Am I really smart or skilled enough to be paid for what I do all day? What if one day they realize I'm not worth it and they just get rid of me?

I guess it comes down to the notion that I still don't feel like an official adult. For one, I still get scared of the dark sometimes. Or wake up from a nightmare and can't fall back asleep because...


Just last night I dreamt that a tsunami was coming and my plan was to dive head first into the 50-foot wave and try to swim. Yeah, smart move.

I also feel like there's still so much that I don't know about the world. Maybe other people just pretend to know what they're talking about. Maybe no one knows as much as they act like they know. Maybe everyone else is just as clueless as I feel sometimes.

I guess it comes down to that when I was a kid, being an adult seemed so different than what it's actually like. I'm 27, and I still feel like the kid I was in high school. Unsure of herself, afraid of what other people think, constantly checking to make sure I don't have food in my teeth or pantylines showing, wondering if my breath stinks or if I should exercise more.

Adults always seemed to know what to do. They were so responsible and busy and made so much money. But now that I've been an adult for almost 10 years, I now realize that no matter how old you are, those insecurities never truly go away.

Do you still feel like a naive kid trying to wear big girl/boy pants? Or do you feel totally worthy of your adult title, ready to tackle any day with a cup of coffee and a detailed plan of attack? Or maybe, being insecure and humble is the way we should go through life so that we can appreciate every day?

What has happened in your life to make you question whether you're worthy?

Monday, December 12, 2011

If These Walls Could Talk, They Might Only Scream (With Joy?)

As I write this, I'm sitting in my newly-Christmas'ed-out house, sipping a mug of hot chocolate and curling up under every blanket we own because it's San Diego, it's not supposed to get this cold, darnit. I'm also typing up a blog post. Uh, well I guess that last part was probably pretty obvious.

Yesterday, I got to play keeper to some lowland nyala, which are these creatures.Then I got to help one of our keepers clear another exhibit which held some scary gigantic birds (which I totally love, by the way). Then I got to play with our rats, and played trainer with one of our trainers.

Today, I go to my new volunteer place, where I'll get to play with anything from hedgehogs to porcupines to wallabies to macaws to marmosets to foxes to rabbits to--

Sorry. I got carried away. I think you get the idea.Then I'll get to hang out with some cheetahs (though I won't be playing any games with them... haha... cheetah... get it?)

I get to work with a lot of animals.

This is quite literally a dream come true. 

Sometimes it feels like I'm chasing a forever dream-- you know, the kind you can't wake up from. The kind that never ends. The kind that just keeps going and going.

Lately, I've been feeling kind of frustrated because things aren't happening fast enough for me. I had always thought that by this stage in my life, I'd be well established in a solid career. It didn't seem like such a big deal when I was 25. But now, for some reason, it feels like I'm approaching doomsday. (Yes, I'm an overachiever. And dramatic).

But today, I realized--really, really realized, not just thought it-- that I have it pretty darn good where I am. And while I'm not giving up on my lofty goals, I should be more okay being where I am until things happen. Especially because, while I hate to think it, there's always the chance that they won't happen. And even more especially because, where I am is pretty awesome!

We'll see how long my new-found pragmatism lasts. Here's hoping it's a while.

Tell me: a crazy dream you have, or a pragmatic one!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mission Statement. Sort Of.

so I've been thinking about my latest project --yeah thinking about more than working on. Hopefull that will change between now and when next semester starts -- and what its main purpose is.

Well Ok, its MAIN purpose is to be awsome but WHY it is going to be so awsome.

Appart from the fact that it has knights in it. I like knights a lot. Hard to have something with knights in it and it not be awsome.

But I digress.

Actually not. That flows rather well into my next point.

Except that I just messed it up.

Oh well. Moving forward.

I like old books. A LOT. Shakespeare. Chaucer. Sir Walter Scott. Spencer. BEOWULF. I am pretty much salvitating here as I type. Any combination of poetry, knights, complex language, people fighting with swords --I'm repeating myself a little here aren't I? Sorry. But you get the idea. Old legends. Old myths. The more obscure and less identified author the better.

Unfortunately most people don't. Or they don't have time to sit down and decipher them or maybe they just haven't heard of them (No really. You would be surprised). The versions people do know are typically --well Disney-ified or hollywood-ified. For example fairy tales. It took me a long time to figure out why Collodi's Pinochio is in the new ABC show Once Upon a Time when that is actually a victorian children's allegory rather than a folk tale. Then I realized it's a Disney movie and for most people that is synonimous with fairy tale. Yeah they recognize who the Grimm brothers are. They might even know who Charles Paurault is. But to them fairy tales are princesses and pixie dust and happy endings.

Not like a real fairy tale at all.

The original fairy tales were DARK. People in them cut off their own toes and heels to marry a prince or got blinded falling off a tower. They were punished by being rolled down a hill inside a barrel enbedded with nails or forced to dance in iron shoes heated in the fire place. Princes saw dead girls and decided to take them home to decorate their palaces. They were forced to marry ogres and locked inside towers with no walls or windows for decades at a time.

And Little Red Riding Hood? There was no huntsman in the original version. She didn't listen and she got eaten. The end.

But sometimes --if a kind stepdaughter or resourceful youngest son were kind and resourceful enough--they might make it through the dangers and mysteries alive and reach a happily ever after.

I love the one with the seven swan brothers whose sister has to spend seven years without talking while she weaves shirts out of nettles to return them to their human state. And the one brother who's shirt isn't quite finsished and spends the rest of his life with a wing instead of an arm.

And the Goose Girl who talks to the head of her dead horse while under cover at the castle of the prince she's supposed to marry and bears her soul to an iron stove in the hearing of the king because she is sworn not to tell a living soul what happened to her.

To me these are Fairy Tales. Not that silly pixie dust stuff.

So what does this have to do with my writing? My current project is an Arthurian piece. But not just the typical Arthur becomes King or Lancelot and Guenivere fiasco that we usually hear about. I'm going back further than that. To the older legends. The once we might read in school but hardly ever encounter for entertainment purposes. I want to stay as true to the legends as possible while still making them accesable to a modern audience --the audience that might not understand why a knight would travel through the countryside challenging every nobleman he saw just for the heck of it.

And that --for the time being --is why I am writing. To share a world of legend and mystery with this world. To show them that the next new exciting thing just might be ancient and sweltering in time.

So do you have mission statement for your current project?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's Right That's Left to Write About Right Writing?

Is anyone else tired of writing about writing? And reading about writing. Instead of reading good writing or writing good writing to be read?

It's not that the tipic bores me. Conversations about writing are quite pleasant its just thatwhen I think, Ok, the topic is writing, what shall I write?

my mind goes . . .


. . .




:P :D :P


Sure. I could write about writing methods.

But we all know that everybody has their own method. Golly, each of my manuscripts has its own method. That would take forever to cover and be relevent to only a few.

> > >

. . .



So I could write about structure . . .

but the thought of it makes me want to run and screem.

:O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O


I could write about the lack of structure.

But it would be a very short post:



. . .


I could write about being a writer.

About staying motivated to write.

About the challenges of trying to get published.

About writing (or trying to write) queries.

About what should be in your novel and what shouldn't.

About why short stories are supeirior.

About why short stories are inferior.

About just letting your creativity out and not worrying about the market.

About researching your market and not letting over ambitious "artistic ideas" get in your way.


Google any of those topics and you'll find a thousand blog posts addressing them.A thousand re-hashings of the same metaphors, the same "insights" the same experiences, the same conflicting conclusions. A story can be re-told no matter how many versions there are floating around in the world. Every version is going to be slightly different and just as worth reading. Because it is personal and relevant to a particular imaginary or sometimes real event. It happens to a specific person. But information is vague and overstating. It is just information in whatever new clothes you dress it up in. People can only read it so many times without going a little bit insane.

I may have gone a little bit insane.

But then again I already was a little bit insane.

I do however have some very basic information that I shall share with you now.

There is no "right" way to write.

Never has been. Never will be. Embrace your own adventure.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Publisher Lessons: Any Questions?

First let me congratulate the folks who've been NaNoWriMo-ing this past month -- today's the last day and you've gotten through the month! It doesn't matter if you've "won" or not, the important thing is that you tried.

I don't have a plan for this post (speaking of which I really need to consider that), so I thought I'd open the virtual floor up to any questions you might want to ask. I'm open to queries about ... well, queries, submission guidelines, whether to send chocolates or not, and basically anything else you might want to ask someone on the "other side of the desk" as it were.

Agented or un-agented, published or un-published, I'm sure there's things you're itching to know. So have at it, and I'll take a stab at answering starting next week.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Final Stretch

Tomorrow is November 30, which means I have a little more than 24 hours (OK, 29 hours to be exact) to add 3.5k to my WiP in order to reach my 15k goal for this month. Isn't that sad? Also, I have a work event tomorrow night so I will be lucky if I get 1k in after that.


I'm also smack dab in the "dreaded middle" and it is a bit dreadful. Then I look at all of the other people doing NaNoWriMo and achieving their 50k goals and I feel a bit ashamed how I'm struggling to reach just 15k. Stupid day job and super long commute, and my own lazy butt! But then I remember that I've been working on this since February. I am a very SLOW writer, and I've written more than a third of this WiP in the last few weeks alone. Plus it's my very first WiP ever so it's bound to be tougher.

Maybe I can be proud of the progress I've made this month. Even though I've heard this a million times, I shouldn't compare myself to other writers. Maybe I'm more like the turtle than the hare, but didn't the turtle win the race? Not that the hares out there can't win the race sometimes too. (Maybe I should've chosen a different metaphor?)

Anyway, sorry for the slightly whiney post today. I really liked L.T. Host's post yesterday about what you guys want to read about on this blog. And it's nice to meet some of the lurkers out there too. You like us, you REALLY like us! *throws candy*

What do you do when you find yourself agonizing over other people's successes? Or finishing their first draft (yay Adam!) or getting an agent or being in the "groove" and hammering out 10k in a day? Is the answer chocolate? (Please say it's chocolate.)

I better get back to it if I'm going to reach my goal. Good luck if you're working on a (fake) NaNo project too!

By the way, either next week or the week after I am going to have a guest on my post. She is self-pubbing her book and is doing a blog tour. I can't wait!

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Cyber Monday, which means you should all be online, right?

Oh, you're here. Good. I have a question for you.

I've been struggling with this blogging thing lately. And I'm going to be honest with you-- my attention has been seeping elsewhere. Twitter, mostly, because I can read it a lot faster than I can read blog posts... but I think part of the reason is that I just feel disconnected. I don't know what you want to read anymore, if you even read blogs...  I mean, some people are following us, obviously, but I don't know how many of them actually bother with reading us.

So help me out! What are your favorite elements of the blogs you DO read? Do you like contests? Reviews? Writerly advice? Humor? Nothing writing related at all?

Help me re-connect, friends!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Eat-Too-Much-Food-And-Go-Into-A-Coma Week!

I am grateful for a lot of things, my dear Alliteratus. Especially you. I am also grateful for free time and therefore am giving us here at the Archives the week off. Enjoy food, friends, family, and even more food. See you next week!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Busy busy bee

So yeah ... between the dayjob, getting Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders back up after the switch in webhosts, getting Issue Three of the print magazine out, and all the other things I do on a daily basis -- including Super Sekrit Projekt Alpha Seven ... my brain is teh fried. Henceforth instead of intelligent bloggery, I leave you with ... Lolcats:

And that is all. Next week, I promise there will be intelligent discussion about ... something.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A painful post to write

Guys... Alliteratus...

You've been here for me through thick and thin. You've watched me struggle with my writing, celebrate joy, a new job, a marriage, and been great friends. That's why it hurts me so much right now to admit that . . .

I've made the switch.

When I started this blog, I was a die-hard pantser. You could pry my keyboard out of my cold dead fingers when I was writing, but I spent most of my free time trying to think about where I would write myself next.

Now, though, something has changed. Something I'm afraid to admit-- ashamed, even. It's not that I think plotters are in any way shape or form inferior, just that I was so proud of my pantsing for so long, and now--

I'm one of you, plotters.

This manuscript I'm currently working on has an outline. A detailed, thorough outline. It's handwritten, which maybe made it a little less painful for me to do, but it's an accumulation of thought all the way through the story's climax. I know sub-plots, secondary characters, conflicts, motivations, scenes, and settings.

And I freaking love it.

Why did it take me so long to make the switch? Well, a large part of me was afraid that knowing where the story was going would take all the fun out of writing for me. But the fun's still there. I still look forward to writing the awesome scenes, but now I have structure for the ones I'm not-so-excited about. I still have some surprises cropping up-- like a whole new character that appeared out of nowhere, but solved my secondary conflict issue. But the best part is that I'm motivated, and I can keep going and going and going as long as I want because I don't have to stop and take long breaks to figure out where the story is going next.

And I LOVE drafting. It's my favorite part. I love letting the story surprise me-- which it's still doing-- and I really, really love this world that I'm crafting.

Ah! I'm getting the itch even now!

What do you think? Are you a die-hard? Would you consider making the switch?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dover Beach

For some reason I can't get this poem out of my head today. It's been a good six months since I last read it but I can't stop thinking about it today. I probably should offer some kind of insight or analysis or question pertaining to writing but . . . nothing is coming to mind so I'll just let you contemplate it yourself. Enjoy :)

By Matthew Arnold
The sea is calm tonight,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Agean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Publisher Lessons: You've Got to be Insane

Remember last week I said I'd share what went on behind the curtain of being an independent publisher? Well this is the first one of those little Publisher Lessons I've decided to share with you. It's also easily one of the most important things I can impart to anyone who wants to self-publish or possibly go down the road that I have and found a company.

You've got to be absolutely, 150% bonkers.

I'm not talking "hide the sharp objects" crazy either. No, the type of bonkers I mean is the one where for some God-only-knows reason you've got a driving faith in your own abilities to make the enterprise work. Because I've got to tell you -- doing what I've done isn't for those who can't handle stress. Or multi-task like the Dickens. Or be chained to your computer 24/7. Or be willing to act as counselor, confidant, and taskmaster all at the same time.

Running a media company, even a nascent one like mine, is godawful tough work. There's emails to answer, manuscripts to edit, money to spend on things like websites, ISBNs, cover art, registering your company, software programs, and so on. It's been a lot of cash outlay in these opening months, and so far any money I've managed to make has gone right back out again into something else.

Lucky for me, I've got a crack staff of writers, web folks, designers, marketers, and yes even interns helping to make this venture work. They all believe in the vision I've created of a media company designed around the principle that artists should be able to make a living off their work. I could repeat the manifesto I wrote for The Doctor Fantastique Company, but why would I do that when you can visit and read the sucker for yourself?

I say you have to be crazy as the first lesson because let's be honest here: Publishing is not a get-rich-quick business. If you want one of those, study engineering or become a doctor. Publishing, and by extension many of the creative services industries, is very much a labor of love. Especially for me here in the early days of the organization.

I love doing what I'm doing with The Doctor Fantastique Company, and I'm confident that I can turn into a very profitable business down the line. It's the love of it that keeps me going right now though, and I'm sure that should you begin to self-publish your books or try going down my path you'll find that you either love every second or hate every minute.

But to be successful? Yeah, you've got to be crazy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Unicorns Are So Distracting

I'm sitting in a meadow, admiring the beauty and meandering through the wildflowers. It's a familiar meadow, comfortable. If I just keep strolling along, I'll reach the other side. That's my plan. It's a promise I made to myself. I just need to focus and not get distracted. And then...

Ohmygoshohmygosh!! A sparkly unicorn!!

It promises me adventure and candy-coated dreams. It says we'll fly off to an enchanted land, just the two of us. We'll see a world I can only imagine, it says. It entices me with a shake of it's head and a wink. And a swish of that flowing, shiny tail.

So shiny.

But I can't, not when I made a promise to stay in my familiar meadow. I dream of seeing the other side someday. It's something I set my mind to and I can't stray now, not when I've gotten this far already.

Or can I?

My meadow is my current WiP - familiar and comfortable. I've thought about so many possible plot turns, the major steps along the way. I want to see the other side of the meadow. But that unicorn - it's just so tempting. It's this shiny idea that's been sneaking into my thoughts. It's so distracting and so exciting and how I just want to hop on it's back and ride to that magical new land.

*flails* What do I do? I'm afraid of leaving this story - one that I love - and not ever coming back. I could write a few pages of the new idea. But will that satisfy? Will I want to keep going deeper until I can't find my way back to my old WiP?

Worst of all, this happens right in the middle of NaNo month when I made a pledge to write 50 pages this month. And now all I can think of is this shiny idea, and my old WiP has lost a bit of its luster in comparison.

How do you handle a shiny new idea with bad timing? Seriously, it's so inconsiderate.

Monday, November 7, 2011

In honor of NaNoWriMo, how to write like lightning

Those of you who know me well know that I am known for writing, well, I guess you could say . . . quickly? I hear a lot of lamenting when people find this out about me. "Why can't I write that fast?"

Well, firstly, don't despair, my more-normally-paced writer-friends. Your way ensures far fewer revisions, I'm certain. Your way also probably allows you to have a normal life among the chaos of the ever-present story. Mine doesn't (sort of).

There are pros and cons to every writing style, but I thought that in honor of NaNoWriMo I'd share a few tips on how to write like me-- that is, so ridiculously fast you're embarrassed to share exactly how fast. Because I am embarrassed. I always feel that when people see how fast I wrote something they'll just judge what I wrote as utter crap-- and with some reason.

But, without further ado, although some sarcasm, a bit of sincerity, and a touch of aplomb, here's how to write with lightning speed:

1.) Let go of everything but the book.

Okay, so I'm starting with a doozie. Basically, the number one thing that helps me write so fast is not something I can really pass on to anyone. But please promise me you'll keep reading, because the rest of the tips WILL help you write fastER, even if you don't wind up writing quite like me.

The biggest reason I write so fast is because I get completely obsessed with my story. I think about it when I'm falling asleep. I think about it when I wake up. I think about it in the shower, on my reeeeeaaaaaallllly long drive to and from work, when I'm bored in class, and even when there's a cheetah staring me in the face. I think about it in asides when I'm talking to my husband. "Speaking of timing belts, I bet a belt would be a good plot device in this scene."

I carry a notebook with me wherever I go to write down little notes and thoughts that come to me during the day. I get a new notebook every time I start a new project, so each one has its very own place. This lets me get as messy with my notes as I want because no matter which page I scrawl them on or how legible they are, they all go with the same project.

And I write and write and write in every. free. moment. I have, often much to the annoyance of my husband, friends, mother, in-laws, and animals.

This obsession is the number one thing that helps me write so quickly. I wish I could pass it off to you because believe me, sometimes I don't want it. But there are some things you can do to help yourself.

And now for a completely mechanically-sound tip that hopefully doesn't make me sound like a vain jackass:

2.) Learn to type faster.

Seriously. I'm not judging you on your typing skills, but increasing the speed that you can get the words out of your head and onto (virtual) paper will make a huge difference. Find a free online typing game and play it to improve your words per minute, and you'll see an improvement in how fast you write, too. I have a bit of an innate advantage here because I play the piano, and have since a young age, which I think has helped my typing immensely. But typing games? Whole 'nother level. Even if you already type pretty fast, it can never hurt to learn to do something faster, right?

3.) Know where you're going, even if you only know the next step.

So there's a whole extra blog post out of this one, but I will say that I've recently been converted to outlining. (I know, I know... GROAN). I'm not saying YOU need to outline, but-- I'll share a secret with you. I write slowly sometimes, too. I call these my writer's block phases, where I may not touch my WIPs for days, weeks, or even months. And it's always a plot problem that stops me. If I don't know where I'm going next, I can't write. Sometimes it's enough to let the story just capture me and sweep me away, but with major plot points, it's better to know how the dots connect at least a few steps ahead of where you are.

Once you know where you're going, all you have to do is write yourself there.

And now to completely contradict myself (but it will make sense, I swear):

4.) Let the story sweep you away.

No matter what you're writing, write it because you want to. Because it speaks to you. Because something there makes you feel all tingly and giddy inside when you think about it, because your sweet old neighbor asked you to, because you know you have the words to shape and mold and twist into something beautiful about beautiful things. This is the closest I can get to passing my obsession on to you. Let the story, whether you're excited about it or not, speak to you and pull you in. Something there is just for you-- something needs YOU to tell it. So tell it.

The second novel I wrote was a story that came to me in a very weird way, during a very weird time. When the idea first hit me, I thought, "Oh, that would make a great book. Someone should write that." But I didn't think I was "qualified" to write the story. I thought people would think I was crazy, writing that story.

Except no one else was going to write it. So I did. And I am so glad I did, because writing that first terrifying story that wouldn't leave me alone (my first novel had been very safe), opened me up to a whole world of possibility.

5.) And finally, let go of perfection.

You know what? I'm going to go out on a limb here and act like I am someone that anyone listens to. And I give you, yes-- YOU-- permission to let go of perfection. Use adverbs. Mix tenses. Forget you're in first/ second/ third person and mix them all up. Stick in a prologue. Heck, have three prologues. Start every sentence with a character's name. Forget dialogue tags. Use the same word six times in a paragraph-- or a sentence.

In other words, throw all the rules we're all so used to following out the window and just WRITE for once. Let the story pour out of you, messy and glorious. You know why?

You can always fix that stuff later. (Isn't that what December is for?) (Somewhere, four hundred literary agents all just reached for the scotch).

Let it out, my friends. In public, if you must. Let it all come out.

*I am not responsible for any arrests and/ or criminal records that may result from this blog post.

**I am also not responsible for any carpal tunnel. Ow my wrists hurt.

Got questions? Ask and I'll answer in the comments.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Joy thief! Come back with my WIP!

So I found a quote the other day that just about slapped me senseless:

(free printable courtesy of

Confession: I compare. I compare with others way too much. And when I compare with a million other people, I'm bound to find the very best, the flukes, the sudden successes and whatnot and---WITHOUT regards to the fact that everything between me and the other person is completely different except the fact that I like to write or insert other endeavor here---I'll think:

"Why am I not as good as them?"

"Why can't I write a book in 9 days? Or 17? Or a month? Or even six months?"

"Why do they have a agent/book deal and I don't?"

"Why do they have 10,000 followers and I only have 13?"

"Why won't anyone buy my painting/e-books/ad space/serialized webcomic/selflessly self-published self-help book?"

And of course, somewhere on the internet someone is making a mint over it and people are lauding their brilliance and talent.

And we think to ourselves: "WHY NOT ME?"

But as Theodore Roosevelt said (why am I not president? Wait, no.) "Comparison is the thief of joy." When I think crappy questions like that, I'm taking a heck of a lot away from the good things about my art and writing. Maybe I can't write a book in ten days, but I can do in in ten months. That's better than nothing! And maybe I don't have a million followers...but I know every follower I do have and I adore them to death. And who am I to pick and choose what I compare? Maybe they've got a seven figure book deal, but they don't have a lick of artistic talent. And they don't have my cute kid. And they don't have any idea how to make my killer spicy spaghetti sauce. Since when are we allowed to pick and choose when comparing a life? Are we not a culmination of everything we do?

As NaNoWriMo gets under way, comparison seems to be the thing to do: how far am I along today compared to writer A, B or John Green? If this gets you motivated, by all means keep going. As former agent Nathan Bransford said, it's good to have deadlines with teeth. If those teeth of comparison make you a better writer, by all means go on with your bad teethy self.

But if comparison is making you slow down, get jealous and stop all together, put out an APB and haul that thief in. There's enough out there keeping you from being happy. Don't let writing be one of them.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

When Chocolate Talks

This is what my chocolate told me during lunch today:

You may have to be female to understand this or you may not but when chocolate talks you had better listen. There isn't anything else to it.

And boy did I need that chocolate. This morning was . . . one of THOSE mornings.
You know? The ones where nothing seems to go right and no matter what you do you're going to end up three steps behind the ball?


Not fun. Especially since I had planned on participating to some degree in NaNoWriMo this year and haven't been able to get started on it yet.

And then my choclate tells me to challenge myself and seek inner peace and I think "Hey that's what NaNoWriMo is suposed to be all about."

Actually it's what pretty much anything is about. Sure we want to be challenged and push the limits of our strength but ultimately its about being at peace within ourselves, not end results or what others think about our acomplishments. It's about what we think of them and whether they satisfy us.

So here's wishing you good luck in your NaNoWriMo endeavors and reminding you not to stress out about it. Enjoy it, learn from it. Be proud of it.

Do you know what else my chocolate told me?

And there's no arguing with cocoa beans.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Publisher Lessons: The Introduction

As many of you know, I'm the owner/publisher of an independent media company focused on the Punk genres. Primarily Steampunk for right now because, well, I know that one the best, but we're expanding into the other -punk genres slowly as time goes on.

To that end, I decided to start a series of blog posts here at the Archives elucidating the things I've learned from becoming a publisher of fiction, magazines, radio plays, and graphic novels. The second two are just getting off the ground, and the first two are a little bit further along.

I'm going to write these posts, starting with next Wednesday, about the things I've discovered as I go along running The Doctor Fantastique Company and the sorts of things I wish I knew before I started. These lessons will, I hope, help people who want to self-publish as well as the folks who are going through the process with a legacy publisher and want a little bit of a window into how that world works.

I'm also doing this because I'm still a writer at my core, and knowing what goes on "behind the scenes" has made me a better one in that it's made me more accepting of certain practices that publishers have. I still might do things differently, but I can understand why certain pathways are taken over others if I look at it with my "publisher" hat on as opposed to looking at it with my "writer" hat on.

I want you to feel free to ask me questions as well, so feel free to ask me anything. If it's not proprietary or I can't talk about it for whatever reason (i.e. it's not a 100% sure thing yet), I'll say that and just hold off.

I hope we can all learn something from these posts, and I encourage you to join the discussion.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Oh My, Your Scene is So Big

If you've been anywhere in the blogosphere or Twitter today, you'll know that it's the start of NaNoWriMo!

Last week I pledged to add 50 pages to my WiP this month. I realize this is a small goal compared to a 50k novel that the regular Nano-ers are doing. But considering this is my first one, I thought I'd start out with a modest goal so that I have a good chance of reaching it and hopefully blowing it out of the water.

On each week's posts this month, I will give you a word count update. Today I will start at writing at the 20,624 word mark. I hope to reach at least 36k by November 30. I'm sure I will learn some lessons along the way. This is still my first novel, after all.

Which brings me to what I'd like to discuss this week: writing the big scenes.

Last week, I came to a pivotal moment in my WiP. It's the moment my MC's world comes crashing down around her (it's actually where I'm going to pick up writing after I finish this blog post!). Here is what went through my mind:
  1. (Weeks prior) How should she find out? Who should tell her? How? When? ...
  2. *thinking, thinking, thinking* *weeks pass*
  3. OK, I should just start writing and see what comes out.
  4. *thinking thinking thinking* *puts it off* *slowly writes scene leading up to BIG SCENE*
  5. (Last week) *starts writing BIG SCENE*
  6. Hm, she ends up at this location with this person. OK, I'll go with this for now.
  7. Oh dude! Look who just walked in! (Yes, I frequently surprise myself)
  8. OK, so what should they say to each other?
  9. *thinking, thinking, thinking*
  10. *writes some awkward dialogue* (awkward for the characters - not awkward writing, I hope)
  12. Yes! She finally knows! *dances in chair*
  13. Aww, poor MC *sad face*
  14. How should MC handle this news? Scream? Cry? Laugh? Go on a shooting rampage?
  15. *writes MC's inner torment* *re-reads scene*
  16. *thinks writing stinks*
  17. Dang it! This scene is MUY IMPORTANTE. It has to smack the reader in the face!
  18. *fidgets* *adds a sentence or two*
  19. *whines to self*
  20. Should I come back to it later?
  21. No, no, no. I should make it GREAT the first time through. Don't be so LAZY.
  22. *stares at screen*
  23. Think like a best-selling author - what would THEY do?
  24. *squirms some more*
  25. That's enough for today. *closes WiP*
So that's where I am now. About to embark on step 26 and make this BIG SCENE and BIG BRILLIANT SCENE. Or, make it a solid scene and move on. (More likely the latter)

There's always the editing process, right?

Good luck with your NaNoWriMo endeavors!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The winner, my review of THE IONIA SANCTION, and a spooooooky interview with author Gary Corby!

I am going to try my best to do this without spoilers.

Okay. So. Some of you may have heard recently that I managed to get my eager little paws on a copy of Gary Corby's upcoming second mystery, THE IONIA SANCTION. Which I then proceeded to read in three nights (fast for me, lately), staying up until 1:30 AM the last night trying not to wake up my husband so I could finish it.

Because, you guys, I LOVED IT. Gary has such an easy way of writing history. I'm sure it's not easy for him, but he makes it look easy. I love how his books fit neatly into these little spaces between real events (more on that later!)

One of the things that I really like about Gary's books is that he doesn't shy away from being historically accurate to soothe modern sensibilities. The main character, Nico, acts exactly as a young Hellene male should: like he's in charge. There's one part in the story where Nico buys a young girl as a slave, and despite the fact that he does this to save her from a much worse fate, he still expects her to treat him with the respect due a master. This dynamic is both comical within the setting of the story and appreciable from a historical point of view. Nico only acts as he would be expected to. In Ancient times, slaves were property, animals were tools, and men couldn't marry without their father's permission.

The mystery in this story is well-crafted, with an appropriate body count and an even-more appropriate exposure to the brutality of the ancient world. I think Gary does an excellent job of brushing up to the bad/gory parts but not focusing on them to the point that the book gets gruesome and loses focus. The plot is clear and easy to follow, and the twists are well-spaced. The pacing is compelling (obviously, since I couldn't put it down), and I love the historical lessons woven throughout the narrative without feeling forced.

My favorite part? Well, as a horse person, I loved the part where Nico tries to impress a lady and ride a horse. Actually, I just loved that horse. And Gary's inclusion of said horse in the cast of characters at the beginning of the book.

I also really liked the relationship between Diotima and Nico, which only gets better in this book.

So while I could probably go on and on and on about THE IONIA SANCTION, I think I will stop there and let Gary speak for himself a little bit.

Me: What's your favorite death in the book?

Gary: A father never has favorites among his children! I guess that's a weird way to talk about killing people, but welcome to the demented world of mystery authors.

I don't know that it's a favorite, but the very first murder in the first book seems to have become the stuff of legend (A dead man fell from the sky, etc.). There's a death in the second book, The Ionia Sanction, that I had lots of fun writing. That killing appears about halfway through, but in early drafts, it was the first in the book. I was told in no uncertain terms that scene had to be moved back! It seems I did a good job of evoking reader reaction.

The importance of a death in a mystery isn't the ick factor, it's what it means to the reader. I once disemboweled three women, and no one batted an eyelid. But then I wrote a scene in which a woman was merely punched unconscious, and I couldn't get it past the editor. Context is everything.

Me: Did the Greeks have a holiday like or similar to Halloween?

Gary: Anthesteria!

The Greeks had a zillion more festival days than us. That's because their calendar didn't have weeks, so there were no weekends. The only way to get time off work was to hold festivals in honor of the gods.

Four of them were in honor of Dionysos, the god of wine and fun parties, and of these the oldest festival -- so old it was considered ancient even in classical times -- was Anthesteria. It went over three days.

The first day was the Day of the Jars. The previous year's wine was opened and everyone had a taste. Children were adorned in flowers.

The second day was the Day of the Libations. Everyone partied. People dressed up in costumes.

Weirdly, both days were considered hugely unholy. During this time, the psyches of the dead rose from Hades to walk the earth.

The third day was the Day of Pots. It was a festival of the dead, designed to drive the psyches back to Hades. People offered food sacrifices to the dead, and to Hermes Chthonios. You probably won't have much trouble working out where Lovecraft's Cthulhu comes from.

Me: One of my very favorite parts of your books is how you find little pockets of intrigue in real history to tuck your stories into. Has it been hard finding those pockets and putting Nico in them? Of THE PERICLES COMMISSION and THE IONIA SANCTION, what is your favorite coincidence that worked out this way?

Gary: Searching for intrigue in ancient Athens is like looking for toys in a playroom. You only have to take one step inside to get Lego embedded in your foot.

Inserting Nico into ancient conspiracies is more of a challenge, because I don't want to break history. So I spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to do it. In the case of The Pericles Commission, because the assassination of Ephialtes was so little documented, I had room to move. (I certainly didn't think so at the time, but I do now!). The Ionia Sanction was much more of a challenge because one of the central characters, a fellow named Themistocles, was extremely famous and thoroughly well documented. I must have spent a month doing nothing but think about how to thread my plot into known history. This sort of puzzle is one of the most fun parts of the writing.

The best coincidence is a toughie, because it's surprising how often coincidence comes to my aid. Here's an example: that death I mentioned before, in the middle of Ionia Sanction...I put that in because the plot required it, but then I discovered while doing research that a real historical person had died exactly the same way, in exactly the same place, almost exactly 60 years before the events of my story. Needless to say I wrote that into the plot!

Me: If Nico could dress up as anything or anyone he wanted for a day, what/ who do you think he would pick?

Gary: Diotima's the one who's into wearing disguises. She'll dress as a man to get into places she's not supposed to go.

Somehow I can see Nico dressed as James Bond. In fact they'd make a terrific partnership. Nico would almost certainly do something that got Bond killed.

Thanks so much, Gary, for taking the time to answer these questions (and write such a fun book)!

And congratulations to Amalia T., who won the IONIA SANCTION ARC prize pack! Thanks to everyone who entered!

THE IONIA SANCTION comes out on November 8th. Pre-order at or B&

Happy Anthesteria, everyone!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Need writing counseling? The Doctor is (preposition)


Ah, who am I kidding, I know this thing's on. I just haven't been here in a while. While my fellow Alliterati have been banging away faithfully on their keyboards with great topics, I've been dark. Sure, I've been moving, but moving doesn't take six weeks. C'mon.

To be honest, people, I've had a serious case of writer's block.

Like, identity crisis serious. Everything I managed to squeak out of my keyboard or pen was disastrously bad or incongruous with the rest of the story's tone or Just. Plain. Weird. I had a bit of a breakdown. I felt like a poseur trying to write about writing when I had nothing to write about, right? I had a serious case of the fakers, and I didn't know what to do.

Except take a little time off. I forced myself to get my butt OUT of the chair (apologies Jane Yolen!) and I forced myself NOT to stare at the great, uncomfortably white screen of death that is an empty word document. When baby's naptime and my regular writing time came around, I did anything BUT write: I read books, I worked out, I (sob!) cleaned the house, I filled up my canteen of thoughts and quotes and quips and experiences from which we all drink in order to write what we know. When the itch came to write, I settled down and tapped out a few things...but as far as forcing myself to pen out a thousand words a day? I couldn't do it.

It took a long while and a lot of rereading past WIPs that I loved to reconcile our breakup. And I'm still working my way up to a full recovery! Writing and I have made an unsteady truce (mostly in the form of a really motivational crit partner and a renewed interest in an old WIP) but I know I can crawl out of it. Because despite the fact that writing was a joyless drudge for a few months, it wasn't before that. I loved it. I LIVED for it.

And I know we can get back to that.

What about you? How are you and your writing getting along? Any suggestions on overcoming a massive writing conflict? What your form of counseling/therapy?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Candy from Strangers and Other Ghostly Traditions

In four days is the only day of the year that children are allowed to take candy from strangers. The only day of the year when most pranks are not only tolerated, but laughed at. The only day of the year when someone comes toward you with an ax and you laugh instead of scream.

In short, it is the only topsy tury, role reversal holiday we have left in modern America.

If we lived in europe some thousand years ago, or even today we would have more. May day, Twelfth night, the feast of fools, even the way they celebrate new years with mummury. Medivial holidays were a chance to dress in silly clothes and parade through the streets with your neighbors, handing out and recieving treats. They were a day when the drab, normal, work filled life that everybody lived was put aside and new rules where established. The serf was master for a day or the a choir boy was served by the bishop.

Are you noticing any parralells? Strange clothing? Parading through streets? Pretending to be someone else?

But Holloween (or All Hollow's Eve), which has been celebrated since the Medivial period, takes it all a step further. Not only do we change roles but we become what we most fear. In a sense, for one night at least, we conquer those fears. We define them and then we make a mockery of them. We turn them into a game.

And that is why, even though children are told every other night of the year not to take candy from strangers, this night they do.

And that is why I love celebrating Holloween.

Oh, yeah, and the costumes *evil grin*. Can't keep a ren faire geek away from her costumes. I finally have everything I need for mine.

What about you? Do you prefer not to celebrate Halloween? Do you take the kids out trick-or-treating or throw elaborate marsquarade balls? Why or why not?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

If you want something done, give it to the busy guy

Or at least that's how the old saying goes. I'm honestly not sure how that's supposed to work though, because lord knows I'm crazy busy and it doesn't feel like I get anything done.

However, this isn't supposed to be me whinging about working full time, and attempting to write fiction while also growing a media empire ...

It's more a curiosity as to how you fine folks deal when your to-do list gets entirely too massive. So ... how do you cope with a large workload?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My NaNoWriMo Pledge

I should be scolded. I've been a bad, bad writer. You see, I have a horrible, dirty confession:

I've only worked on my WiP maybe three times in the last month.

Dun dun DUUUUUN! And even when I sat down to write, I put in MAYBE 500 words - if that. Well, it all stops here. No more excuses. No more "But Hubs wants to watch a show with me" or "My Spidey senses are tingling and I need to go save someone." Because seriously, they can take care of themselves. I have no muscle to save them from whatever predicament they're in anyway.

So, you are all my witnesses. I PLEDGE to work on my WiP as often as possible during NaNoWriMo next month. Should I be so bold as to set a goal? There's no way I can write a full novel. I'm still working on my first one ever, and I have the day job.

Should I say 50 pages? Or about 15,000 words? That's a lot for me, guys. SOME people *cough, cough, L.T. Host - cough* can write 15k in a couple days. But I move at a slower pace. Yes, this feels about right. That means I'll have to put in 3,750 words a week. Once I wrote about that much in a single day!

Woo! I feel better already. I really enjoy writing. I do. Life just gets in the way sometimes. And then I get lazy. It happens to everyone. But I love my story and my characters. I want them to be more than just thoughts in my head. I want other people to read about them and give them life.

So who's with me? What are you pledging to do during NaNoWriMo? Let's all stick together and be each other's cheering squad. Without my fellow writers, I'd probably still be saying "yeah, maybe I'll write a novel - someday."


Monday, October 24, 2011

WIN an ARC of Gary Corby's second book, THE IONIA SANCTION!!!

Okay, so--

Guys, I don't mean to brag, but I know some people.

I know some people (like Gary Corby) who were awesome enough to think of me when it came time to send out ARCs of their (his) second book in their (his) awesome historical mystery series. And that's how I happen to have a copy of this book, a few weeks before its release date.

I'm betting there are some historical mystery fans out there who would also like to have a copy of this book, a week or two before its release date, amiright? gives this description of THE IONIA SANCTION:

"Athens, 460 B.C. Life's tough for Nicolaos, the only investigating agent in ancient Athens. His girlfriend's left him and his boss wants to fire him. But when an Athenian official is murdered, the brilliant statesman Pericles has no choice but to put Nico on the job.

The case takes Nico, in the company of a beautiful slave girl, to the land of Ionia within the Persian Empire. The Persians will execute him on the spot if they think he's a spy. Beyond that, there are only a few minor problems:

He's being chased by brigands who are only waiting for the right price before they kill him.

Somehow he has to placate his girlfriend, who is very angry about that slave girl.

He must meet Themistocles, the military genius who saved Greece during the Persian Wars, and then defected to the hated enemy.

And to solve the crime, Nico must uncover a secret that could not only destroy Athens, but will force him to choose between love, and ambition, and his own life."

Now, you guys may have noticed that I am a huge fan of Gary's work, considering that I put his first book up for grabs every time we have a contest here at the Archives. Frankly, I love how Gary makes the ancient world come to life in his books. The plots are twisted, and classic mystery in and of themselves, but they come with a helping of a history lesson that, for a history buff like me, is extremely interesting.

And I think you'll love his work too.

So! On to business. I have an ARC of the next book in the series, THE IONIA SANCTION, due out November 8th, 2011, to give away to one VERY lucky Archives reader.

But! I'm not JUST giving away an ARC of THE IONIA SANCTION. No sirree. I'm ALSO giving away a copy of the first book in the series, THE PERICLES COMMISSION, just in case you've never heard about a mystery series set in ancient Greece and need to catch up. (If you already have THE PERICLES COMMISSION in your possession, we'll talk. I've got some other books I can send along, as well). I am also giving away two THE PERICLES COMMISSION bookmarks that Gary gave me on his tour stop in San Diego last year, along with three mini replica Greek-style statues to adorn your desk in the highest Hellenistic style. Or maybe Roman. Let's be honest. I really have no clue what they're supposed to be.

(They didn't come labeled, okay?)

So! Here's a picture of what you could win:

The statues are two busts, and one Angsty Leaning Guy. (Perhaps if Gary stops by the comment section, he might be able to shed some light on these).

Now on to the contest itself:

All you have to do to enter to win is leave a comment on this post, telling me what I should do with the leftover Vegemite I also have from Gary's visit last year. (Preferably besides eating it). Or not. Just commenting will be fine. But it would entertain me to hear your answers. I'd also really like it if you followed this blog, so I'll give you one more entry for that. And if you tweet or blog about it, I'll give you one more entry for that.

So, in an easier to read format:

+1 for commenting telling me what to do with leftover Vegemite (besides eating it)
+1 for following the Archives
+1 for tweeting/ blogging about the contest

But you need to hurry up and do this because I am going to draw a winner on THURSDAY, October 27th, 2011. I will accept entries until noon Pacific on that day.


I'd REALLY like you to get this ARC before the book actually comes out. So, if you enter, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come back and check the comments section of THIS POST on Thursday afternoon to see if you're the winner, and email me your address so I can send it out ASAP. If I don't hear from you, I'm going to assume you don't care about getting it before the book comes out, which is also fine, but yeah. There you have it.

Minor note: Due to FTC blah blah blah, I should probably tell you Gary's publisher did send me this ARC, along with one to review. It does not change this blog post, nor will it affect the review I will do of THE IONIA SANCTION next week.

Happy contesting!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Harry Potter to the Rescue

I don't really have much to say today. I had a long and stressful day, and I'm winding down with a California burrito and I lit all of my Halloween candles. Even though it's really hot in my house. But the ambiance is perfect.

One great thing to come out of today is that I ran across a video that reignites my passion for Harry Potter. Which is appropriate because Halloween is so close. It almost makes me want to confront a troll on Halloween night with nothing but a wand and wingardium leviosa as my best spell. ALMOST.

Anyway, this is what I'd like to share with you today (grab the tissues) ...

*sniff, sniff* So much love right now. I can't wait to be swept up by something as much as I was by this magical world. I hope that something does, but it's hard to imagine.

What made you happy today?

(By the way, guess what we're going to be for Halloween??)

Monday, October 17, 2011

My kingdom for a horse

I would have given anything to have my horse in San Francisco.

Don't get me wrong; she probably would have been terrified. It's a very busy city, which scared me at times. I guess it would be more appropriate to say I would have given anything to have A horse in San Francisco. One used to the city.


Well, mostly, because travel by car, bike, and foot are nigh impossible in that place. Public transportation wasn't actually convenient for us. And there are SO. MANY. HILLS. But a well-trained, well-shod horse?

Easy as eating pie. (I don't like saying "easy as pie" because it implies that making pie is easy. Have you ever made a pie? It's a lot of work!)

It would have made our two days in the city a lot less stressful, that's for sure.

But the city had some great architecture; neat little unexpected pockets of "ooh, pretty!" that kept me pretty well entertained whenever we walked somewhere. At one point, after we managed to spring our car from parking jail, we drove by this massive stone cathedral that looked like it had been dropped from Europe into a neighborhood where I totally would NOT have expected to see it. It had buttresses and everything! Unfortunately, because we were driving, I did not get to take any pictures of it. Yet another situation where being on horseback would have been awesome.

And of course, a horse would have been useless in getting to Alcatraz, where one of the best parts of our vacation happened. But that's a story for another time.

Anyway, I got a lot of exciting news/ potential news while I was on my vacation, which means some great stuff will be coming up on this blog! Stay tuned, Alliterati! I'm back!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Art of Words: Form

Something I don't like to think about very much when I write is . . . form.

That isn't to say I don't think ahead or know where my story is going. I just don't like to feel locked in and the more order and symetry I start to see the more I stomp my feet, shake my head, and stray from the path laid out for me.

Likewise, almost the first thing I notice when I am reading a new book is . . . form.

I am more than unusually impressed if the cliax is well planned out, if it pulls things together from all corners of the story, if every little tangent the story seems to run off on eventually has a direct purpose I was too distracted to notice at the time and the themes are consistent but not immediately obvious.

If you are sensing a problem here you are not the only one.

Fortunately, as un-fond as I am of form and structure (*shudder*) I am very fond of what I like to call Asymmetrical Form.

In other words, "What feels right" or "The story pull".

In a painting or sculpure a sense of unity and balance can be achieved by a combination of repetition (of shapes, colors, etc.)and rhythym, usually centered around a focal point. Paintings would be boring, however, if their rhythym was strictyly symetrical. Imagine music with the same notes in every measure.

Thus, we have Asymetry. A counter balence of wieght but not identical images. Also, the center focus doesn't always have to be in the actual center.

So, in fiction, you probably want more weight (let's say instead of brighter colors and larger or more complex forms, more detailed descriptions, tension, and colorful language) toward the end of the book or centered around themes you want to draw out. Hopefully some of those themes will repeat, but will not necisarily be evenly spaced. The climax can begin as early on or as late as you like so long as its intensity is enough to balance out the rest of the book. As long as there are still connections of similar "shapes" and "colors" that have already been used and won't take the reader by surprise.

Assymetry done right, looks like chaos but is actually strategically structured order.

Not that you have to be thinking about it the whole time. Most of the time it boils down to "What feels right". And if it doesn't quite yet . . . That's what editing is for. Writing is a much more forgiving medium than paint or marble. We have a delete button. And back up files.

So, rather than ask the usual choas vs. order question of panster vs. plotter, I would like to know:

How do you balance chaos and order within the manuscript itself? How do you know when things are too tidy and when they are just out of control?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

All right, I've got nothing ...

Because my brain is teh fried with work, I can't possibly come up with intelligent things to blog about this week. So as a result, I leave you with some pictures of writer humor.

You know the following exchange has gone on in your head (Sure has in mine!).