02 July 2014

ALA Las Vegas 2014

Let me think, Vegas...

It's hot there.
My huggy dropped me off on the exact opposite end of the convention center from where I needed to register (we both guessed wrong) so I got to take a little walk in the Vegas oven. Lucky for me it wasn't too far. I still had make-up on when I got inside.

I found out a few days before I left that I was only signing books for one hour on Saturday. So I got there a few hours early and roamed around.

They had an Artist Alley--authors and graphic novels mostly--where I lurked for a few minutes. I'm always amazed by the cool ideas everyone has. The rest of the convention center's huge room was filled with rows and rows of educational booths.

I honestly had no idea what to do. There were people who worked on legal stuff for libraries, provided furniture and shelves for libraries, provided every kind of information imaginable along with more ways than I could have thought of for distributing it, boasted being the next World Book Encyclopedia, then I found the actual Encyclopedia booth and was amazed that they were still around, publishers (mostly for grade school stuff, but I did find one who specialized in factual books about fiction. They had all sorts of topics like The Hunger Games, Doctor Who, Start Trek vs Star Wars and a whole stack I was afraid of going near for fear of buying more books) and more information.

I was amazed that the convention center had rolled out carpet over the entire floor. Usually only the booths have carpet, and they bring it themselves. I saw more than a handful of women in high heels and though them mad until I saw the plush carpets. Well, I still think them mad.

Part of me expected it to be quiet--you know, the shhhh librarian thing--but there was plenty of noise to go around. And apparently librarians are lured in by shiny objects, just like the rest of us. Oh, and free pens.

At the opposite end from Artist Alley lay the big publishers along with a handful of smaller presses. Each booth had people signing books and giving them away to the librarians, in the hope that the librarians would send them forth into the reading world of library goers everywhere.

Myself and one other girl from my publisher (Jolly Fish Press) signed for an hour at our distributor's table (IPG). We both ran through our rather large pile of books, which felt great, by the way, and had a good time.  I did my best to be nice and happy so that maybe the librarians would remember me and read my book first. A lot of them got books for their summer reading program, which is awesome.

There were people with rolling suitcases and crates full of books they'd picked up. This is serious business. Librarians are tougher than they look.


24 June 2014

Why Can't I Have All the Good Ideas?

Last week I mentioned my beta readers, and how they collectively pointed out that my main character was being, well, a bit too Bella from New Moon.

This was a wonderful catch, and I’m already working to fix it. First four chapters have been rewritten, and Lys only complains once—and I feel she is quite justified in it.

Another awesome thing about beta readers, is that they’re not you.

You see, I have this problem. Maybe it’s a complex, but I always feel like the ideas for my books must all come from me. All of them. Plot points, character issues, settings…all must originate in my mind if they are to be in my book.

Getting married has put a damper on this for me. You see, my husband has what I call a gerbil brain. His mind goes around and around all the time, powered by a little gerbil on a wheel who never, ever gets tired. I come up with one awesome idea, “Hey honey, what if I have one of the Babes in Spyland do this?”

He’ll smile, say it’s a good idea, then come back between five and thirty seconds later with six other ideas that could be used independently or added on top of my idea.

Granted, some of his aren’t all that great. He’s too much of a nerd and I don’t write hard core sci-fi.

But it never fails to make me grit my teeth together when he comes up with something good. That I know I should use. That isn’t really mine.

Grrr…

I’m working through this little problem. I feel like I’m making progress, because this is what one of my beta readers pointed out.

Let me preface that my main character has been lamenting her lack of offensive abilities with her magic. Because I’m into martial arts, in my mind offensive means being at the front line, punching stuff. At this point in the story, she’s just used her magic to look through an entire village in just a few seconds, and now she knows exactly where she’s going.

This is the line from my book:
Is this what having super powers felt like? Should her magic feel like this? Because a map in her head after six seconds of looking was pretty cool.

This is what my beta reader said.
Which is why she would be a great asset away from fighting…which after 6 months someone should have pointed out to her. Seriously, intel is just as important as the take down people, and intel can save the take-down people.

Duh! I’m a duh head. My mind just hadn’t gone in that direction. But after I read that, my brain kind of exploded. 

What had my main character been doing for the past 6 months? She isn’t stupid, she’d be finding ways to use what she had.  Which gave me a much better direction for my character, and an inner conflict that doesn’t involve more lamenting than action.


I still grumble about not being able to come up with all of the brilliant ideas (some days I’m pretty sure I don’t come up with anything brilliant), but I realize that other people have ideas that can help me too.

18 June 2014

Ode to Beta Readers

I sent the sequel of New Sight out to my beta readers a few weeks ago.


For those of you who don’t know…
An author, say me, writes a book. Then rewrites it, tosses that iteration and starts again.
Eventually I come to a point where I think the story is solid, but it’s not perfect. Instead of me trying to fix it—because I’ve been staring at it for months—I send it out to my beta readers.
At this point the plot should be okay and most things in the story should make sense.

This was my plea for help.

Hey writer, editor and reader friends,
I've just finished a decent draft of New Sight 2 (Yes, the title is astounding, isn't it?) I need beta readers!!!

I'd like feedback in the following areas:
Pacing-too fast, too slow or just right?
Characters-enough depth, not enough depth, too many, too little...do you hate them?
Plot-Does it actually work. Poke around for holes. Don't be shy.
Glaring issues-bring it on.

I don't need line by line edits. This isn't a final, final draft, so it's not perfect.
I've already got a few changes that I want to make, but I figured I'd get some outside feedback before I went into the breach one last time.

A few awesome friends agreed to help me out. Yay for them!

Anyway, I now have a handful of people who have given me their comments. I’m going to share some of them.

First off, the story lacks infodump from the first book. I thought I’d put enough in for people to pick up what was important. Maybe not. Here are a few of the comments. The first one didn’t set off any alarms in my head, the other two did. With all of them, I feel I have a problem that needs to be fixed.

“1/4 of the way through yours. Its kind of fun trying to guess what the original is like. Now I will have to read it.

“I didn't realize that "the New" were the technology people. Maybe clarify that at the very beginning when you first mention them

“You might want to add an info dump about her magic use here for new readers.”

“Need to explain all this for new readers.  Although I’ll go hunt down a first book, some people actually start in the middle and don’t care.  Why are they killing everyone?  What happened at Druid arch? That sort of stuff.”

I’ve got the gang in a swamp in Louisiana at the beginning of the story. Apparently I didn’t check on the local wildlife. Which is funny, by the way, because I spent at least 10 minutes looking for an appropriate owl for the scene after this one. Oops.

“Are you implying a crocodile is an amphibian? Because it’s a reptile”

“The first thing I noticed that bothered me was that you had crocodiles in the swamps in the USA.  We don't have crocodiles here, we have alligators

Last but not least, the characters. I feel like my characters could use some depth, so I’m focusing on that aspect of my writing. I knew these characters needed some help, but wasn’t exactly sure where I’d gone wrong. Here are a handful of comments.

“the characters were all consistent and the depth was good. I didn't hate any characters

From one of my nice beta readers. However, don’t fret, she had plenty of other awesome things to say, she simply didn’t find any big issues with the characters.

“Cindy and I were talking about it and she thought that Lys seemed a little whanny at times (but not as bad as Bella in Twilight), but I thought she was just trying to get a grip on her magic
First off, send something to a set of twins and of course they’re going to chat about it. Anyway, this comment set off an alarm. I hated that second Twilight book, mostly because Bella was awful.
Check out the next two…

“I hate Lys for more than half of the book.  The other half I kind of like her, but then she goes back into her stupid, self-absorbed twit behavior and I hate her again.

“Confused.  She’s heading into a fight, so she makes herself crash?  Running is difficult with all her sight, sure, but why not just limit it a little instead of making herself crash at an important moment?  Or have her friends guide her?  Or stay behind and be the backup?  The idiocy of this move made me so angry at her I quit reading for a day J

I love that the reader tried to soften the blow with the smiley face.

So seriously, I must have a character problem. Maybe a rather large one. What I thought was showing weakness in the character has come off as self-absorbed and her hesitations as being idiotic.

This is good to know.

Really, at one point in my writing career I maybe would have cried at these sorts of comments, but not now. Now I know what  I need to fix and I’m thinking through how to do it.

Whatever you’re doing in life, if you want to be good at it, gird your proverbial loins and put your stuff out there for people to see. They may throw eggs at it, but figure out why they felt that violence was the only answer and fix it.

Tune in next time for how one of my beta readers blew my mind!


12 June 2014

Maleficent Review

Maleficent



Synopsis: (hijacked from IMDb)
A vengeful fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover that the child may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled land.

Why did I watch this movie again?

I wasn’t totally hyped to see this movie. My husband and brother-in-law, on the other hand, were waiting about as patiently as 2 year olds for a handful of Goldfish. So we saw it. I’d guessed the basic idea of the show without seeing anything but trailers, and I was pretty much right.

I was expecting a Wicked take on Sleeping Beauty with lots of beautiful effects and some funny dialogue. I mostly got it.

4 out of 5

Characters

Maleficent was magnificent. I thought she did a great job of pulling the audience’s heart strings as well as working through the characters issues.

The King came off as a bad, bad man and I liked how all of that went down.

The rest of the cast didn’t perform nearly as well. Not sure if it was the writing or the directing, but not one else had a personality deeper than, comic relief, subservient or look good in the costume.

The three fairies from the original movie were almost as annoying as some people claim Jar-Jar Bink was. Is. Both. I hated the CGI they did on them, and while a little flighty is fine, their daftness almost drove me batty. I would have been totally fine if Maleficent had zapped them into oblivion.

4 out of 5

Did I care what happened?

Yes.

The story they wove around why Maleficent turned bad made me route for her. Stupid humans. What were they thinking?

The princess came off okay, I mostly cared what happened to her.

4 out of 5

Plot Holes

Although some of the plot points felt rushed, I don’t remember any gaping holes.

Oh, except the spinning wheels. If you’re going to burn them all to dust, then do it, don’t toss the half-burned ones in a cavernous dungeon of the castle. With the needles still attached. Put some effort into it people.

Yes, yes, I realize that a spinning wheel is imperative to the story, but don’t make it too easy.

4 out of 5

How many times did I yawn?

No yawning.  The beginning took some time to set up, but that’s to be expected when you’re being introduced to a completely fantasy world and the CGI guys want to show off. A lot.

There were a few Princess Aurora moments that could have been less like the first Harry Potter movie where they simply showed his adorable face smiling about a hundred times.

4 out of 5

Cool Factor

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of this movie. I am glad that Disney didn’t insist on a long, drawn out epic battle scene. There was one, but it didn’t last long, and actually made sense. Not like a few other recent-ish Disney films in which an epic battle got shoved in there just for the sheer impressiveness of the visuals.

I wanted some sinister Maleficent. Which I got, but not as much as I would have liked. She’s one of the worse/best villains of all time, and I wanted just a little more than this movie gave.

4 out of 5

The End

This is the second Disney movie in a row (I just saw Frozen) in which love is branched out from that of princess and prince to friends and sisters. I really liked that. Oh don’t worry, there’s romance.

The end of this movie left me happy and fulfilled. No loose strings.

5 out of 5

Overall Enjoyment

Fun show. Cool take on the original story. Loved the wings. Loved the dragon and the crow. I was surprised I liked it so much.

If not for those stupid fairies this may have gotten a black belt!

4 out of 5

Score=33
That's a Brown Belt!

09 June 2014

The Skinny Square vs. Tootsie Rolls



Each year, sometime in March, my sisters and I go shopping. The middle sister’s birthday is at the beginning of the month, and it is tradition that we buy her clothes of her choosing, and then spend money on ourselves.

After the birthday presents.

Almost always.

For the past few years, I’ve been using this little jaunt as an excuse to buy a new purse.



Because if I don’t, I’ll have the same one for ten years. I’m like that. And it’s not that having a purse for a long time is bad, but a 2004 purse in 2014 is kinda, well, telling. That I have no fashion sense.  Plus, if I get a new one each year, then I can decide I hate it  and live with it knowing that next March I will have another shot at finding one I love.

Now, if you’re not a purse girl, or boy, there are a few things you should understand.

First, pockets.

Those huge bags with one little zipper pocket inside the ginormous cavern do not work for me.

I have stuff. I have big stuff and small stuff, and trying to find my lip gloss underneath my wallet, notebook, check book, phone, keys, tissues, pens, pocket knife (it’s small), flashlight and business card holder is not a pleasant experience. And I feel like my mother.

The cough drops, lucky for them, get to live in the little zipper pocket. But they tend to drive the other non-medical items away, which is awkward

Second, the strap.

Oh yes, this is important. There are many options: short straps, long straps, one strap or two strap. Will it be leather, chain, string, chain mail?  The list goes on and on.

I’m not terribly particular on any of the above points, except the lengths. I have chubby arms (heck, I have chubby everything) so those super tiny, short straps on those cute small purses do NOT work. If I can’t tuck the thing into my armpit, grasp it like a football (American) and dash through the crowd like a running back (only with less protection on) then it gets tossed back onto the rack.

One year I thought I could handle it. One year the cuteness of the purse so overwhelmed me that I bought one without sufficient strap diameter to meet my requirements.

That will never happen again.

Third, shape.

And this is where I went awry this year.

All of my purse stuff is wide:fat wallet, notebook, lots of pens, business cards—mine and other peoples, flash drives, lip gloss, random meds…put it all together and it fits perfectly into a giant Tootsie Roll.

So why did I buy the skinny square?

I dunno. I think I was hoping I could slim down my purse stash enough to get it all to fit. I stuffed everything in, noticed it bulged slightly from the side, and decided to ignore it.

It would be fine. Nothing was ripping.

And things were fine for a few months. I made do. The purse is cute, and red, and, well, cute.

But a few weeks ago I was trying to jam my wallet back in, around my asthma inhaler, keys and some hand sanitizer, and my mind clicked.

Why in the world was I trying to jam my chubby purse stuff into the skinny square?

What had possessed me to think that after all these years, I could slim down my stash of it-might-come-in-handy stuff?

It just wasn’t me.

Within a week I’d gone to Ross, found the not quite as cute but nicely proportioned and pocketed, purse that I now carry with me.

Anyone else ever do that? “I can change that, no problem.” But when there isn’t a plan to change anything, then nothing will change. Just me jamming my too long wallet into my skinny square purse.

Now don’t get me wrong, you can change anything you want to. All of us can. But there are some things that are you. No matter what. For me it’s Tootsie Roll shaped purses, wearing my headphones long after the music has stopped and looking on the bright side of life through cool shades.

How about you?


01 June 2014

Take a Moment to Gloat

I’ve been reading Finished Being Fat, by Betsy Schow. It’s not a diet book—like I’d be reading one of those—but more the tale of one woman’s journey to change her life. It started with weight loss, and turned into so much more.

There is one chapter in which she talks about basking in the thrill of a finish. The first time she got that on-top-of-the-world feeling was when she finished her first half marathon.

I’m not running a marathon—half or otherwise—ever. Ever.

Instead, I do crazy thinks like taking black belt tests and writing books.

For me, it’s all about the finish. Some people get seduced into a new goal/project simply because it is new. They love the fresh start, love the thrill of the take-off and adore the way a new beginning makes them feel.

I hate starting things.

No, let me restate that, I won’t start things from which I don’t have a clear vision of the finish line.

Maybe because I hate wasting time, or maybe because I’m a pansy. Or a chicken. If I don’t think I can finish, then I’ll simply walk away.

Plus, I hate failing.

This isn’t always true, but for bigger goals and aspirations in my life, this is how I roll.

Finishing, however, is a whole different story. I love finishing so much that I’ll make daily to do lists, just so I can check things off and prove to myself (and the world, if they care) that I have, indeed, accomplished something today. Usually three or four things.

Neither way is bad—the world needs both starters and finishers. I’m a finisher.

I’m impossible to live with if I’m not finishing things.

For instance…I’ve been working on my current work in progress (Book 2 for New Sight) since last fall. The beginning was rocky—I struggle with creating—but I managed to pull out a rough draft during a writing retreat.

Yay! Go me! I finished!

And the next day I dove into revisions. Which didn’t go well. I took the next four months of me revising it twice and it still wasn’t right. I’d made a personal deadline to be finished by February. Well, March… April? No, not April, that’s book launch month.

Fine, by the end of the year!

No, not quite that bad. I finished the revision at the end of April and then looked at my schedule in May.

Full. Weekends, weeknights, weekdays…all full.

I heaved a sigh of regret and figured I wouldn’t get it finished until the end of June.

Well, people, I’m here to tell you that miracles are real. I spent a good, hard 30+ hours over the last two weeks at my computer editing this dang book. And by the grace of a power much higher than mine, I finished it Thursday afternoon.

I put the last period on the last sentence and stared.

Was that it? Have I missed a bunch of words somewhere? An entire swath that’s about to jump out and say boo?

Alas, no. Done.

Awesome.

I basked. I sent a text to my husband reminding him that I was awesome and that I deserved a treat. Too bad I’d sworn off treats for the week. (sugar overdose, don’t ask) I was so happy that work the next day didn’t even phase me.

Now my point is this: I’d just finished something that had been kicking my butt for months. I sent it to beta readers, and now I don’t have to think about it until I get it back. Yay!

I went to Kempo class that night and probably grinned through every single stupid squat jump because I was so happy.

But then, Friday afternoon—not even 24 hours later—I let something set me off. It was stupid. There may have been hormones involved. But it dissolved my good mood like salt on a slug, and I spent the rest of the weekend kind of grouchy.

Okay, a lot grouchy.

Which is stupid.

If you’ve finished something great lately, take a moment to really celebrate. Whether it’s your fitness goals, your project goals, your not killing your family goals or your being happy goals, put some effort into a self-high-five.

Trust me, it’ll be worth it. Finishing is great. Don’t let yourself toss your accomplishments aside, and try to ignore that voice in your head that says, “Don’t get too excited, there’s still a whole mountain range to traverse regarding this project.”


Ignore that guy. He’s a tard.

19 May 2014

Blog Hoppin'

Hey all,
I'm participating in a blog hop. This one is all about writing.

The author who invited me to participate is Ann Marie Meyers. Ann Marie is a successful MG author whose first book, UP in the Air is on the awesome side of adorable.  She's also a fellow Jolly Fish Press author. For more information about her or her book, check out her website.

First question:What am I working on/writing?
Right now I'm working on the sequel for New Sight. Today I went through the first five chapters and hopefully they're finally finished!

Second question: How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
Well, the magic system is pretty complicated...and the magic is addictive. I feel like it's mostly original.

Third question: Why do I write what I do?
Hmmm...good question. I generally write fantasy or science fiction, and the reason for that is because I love to travel and see new places. And what better way to do that then to make them up? Then a place can be anything I want it to be. Which is cool. Also, both dragons and space ships are awesome.

Fourth and final question: How does my writing process work?
Well, most of the time it feels like it doesn't. I get an idea or a character and then I come up with a story. Then I outline it about six times, toss that and start again. At some point I get impatient and start to write. The creation process of the first draft is the hardest part for me, I think because I know that most of it will get tossed. Rough drafts are fodder. I feel bad for them.
Once I finish a rough draft I usually end up re-writing huge chunks of it two or three more times before a manuscript gets to a point where I want to share it with others.
My biggest secret is to keep writing, even if it's terrible. For me, fixing is easier than making it out of nothing.