Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ahhhh..... Christmas at last!

After one last rush to finish a pretty sapphire engagement ring for a friend, I am officially done with the x-mas work season! Now I can catch up on episodes of Ghost Hunters while I lounge in my PJ's for the next three days :-) Although I'll probably have to put clothes on at some point Saturday because I just fandango'd myself some tickets to see Avatar in 3D. I know its plot could be a bit cliche, but after seeing Coraline in 3D, I've become a sucker for anything filmed that way!

So, today we're grocery shopping, tonight is dinner at a friend's house, and tomorrow we're cooking a duck and a beef tenderloin for a party at our place. Wait, that means I have to get out of my PJ's all three days! Dang...

Well, at the very least, I won't get out of my zebra Snuggie!!

Happy Holidays to everybody, and happy writing to us all :-)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Light at the end of the tunnel!

Just wanted to report that I am about three days away from freedom...
I will have five days off starting X-mas eve, so I can finally get in some quality writing time, hooray!!! Then an easy few days of normal hours, and another few days off for New Years (which means even more writing time!)

Whew. I can't quite believe I'm running ahead of my deadlines, but it appears everyone will get their Christmas gifts on time, and at last I will be able to get back to the thing I love, the thing I have been bottling up more and more over the last 8 weeks.

It is strange how much I notice it bottling up. My dreams are more story-like instead of the usual disconnected random mishmash, I keep thinking of new ideas for novels ( I have scribbled them out on scraps of paper at work as best as I can!), and when I lay down to go to sleep my brain won't stop going over scenes in the current novel. That last part, I have to admit, is kind of fun... it's like I have it on a dvd and I'm skipping around to my favorite scenes, which reminds me how much I really love this story!
In that way, this forced writing hiatus is probably good for me, because I am not only dying to get back to writing, but I'm dying to get back to writing this story :-)

Or maybe I'm just trying to look on the bright side because I've finally seen the light at the end of this very long tunnel...

Either way.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holy Cow! A month? Seriously???

I cannot believe it has been a month since I had a chance to blog. Really, I meant to be much better about this, even with the craziness of the christmas season...
I have excuses, plenty of them, but honestly I just need to suck it up and keep writing--wait, can I make one complaint first? Christmas is plain awful for anyone in the jewelry business. 15 hour days, 7 days a week for a month are NOT fun, and my fingertips have all split. It kinda hurts to type, even!
I ditched work 'early' today and came home at 8, because even though it is Christmas, I just can't continue to let my day job rule my life.

So I came home, turned on the color-changing fiberglass tree my husband Matt bought and put up for me, and looked at my computer for the first time in a month. Matt also just cooked a pork tenderloin (what that man can do with pork!), and if a halo suddenly appeared over his head, I would not be one bit surprised.

And now I'm off to try to do a bit of writing, because my best friend is having a bit of surgery tomorrow, and she told me she'd feel much better recuperating if she had some new chapters to read. She always calls to nudge me when I'm not being productive, which is precisely the sort of thing that I need to get myself going. Thanks Angela, the Catholic guilt worked again! I'm writing, I'm writing! ;-P

UPDATE: My friend had her surgery and came through with flying colors. She's a bit loopy at the moment from the pain meds, but she's doing great, plus she's funny to talk to right now ;-P

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Title change...

Yah, I know, I'm supposed to be editing, but couldn't a title change be considered editing?
The title of my novel for the past few years has been 'Gathering the Stars', which I was rather proud of and loved for a long time. The problem is, now that I've done a massive revision of the story, the title doesn't make as much sense as it once did.
For while I simply ignored this because I liked the title, and worse, because I thought I could find a way to still make it fit. Then I realized that it was ridiculous to have a title that didn't relate to the story, and even more ridiculous to try wrapping the story around it so I could avoid thinking of a new one.
So I spent the last several days writing down words and ideas that related to the new direction of the book, and finally came up with the new title...I think....
For the moment, it will be called 'Under the Floating World', with the second book of the series to be called 'Guardians of the Floating World'. The third and final book is probably going to be called 'Dreams of the Floating World', though that one is less definite since I have the least written for that book. Collectively, the set would be called 'Tales of the Floating World', which as Japanophiles will know, is an homage to the thousands of woodblock prints depicting Edo-era Japan, as well as to the 17th century text quoted below:

... Living only for the moment, turning our full attention to the pleasures of the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms and the maple leaves; singing songs, drinking wine, diverting ourselves in just floating, floating; ... refusing to be disheartened, like a gourd floating along with the river current: this is what we call the floating world...
--Asai Ryoi, in the Ukiyo Monogatari, c.1661

Anyway, I'm supposed to be editing! But at least I have titles for the moment :-)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On sending inadvertantly pornographic text messages...

Although I desperately want Technology to like me, and I keep trying to be friends and hang out with her, I know that Technology is secretly making fun me.
How do I know?

Because Technology totally made me send a pornographic text message, on accident, to a work colleague. I 'm sure I heard Technology and her friends laughing about it in the hallways.

I shouldn't be surprised. Technology is popular-- everyone loves Technology! And I'm just a dork trying to be cool. I thought she would like me because I use a laser at work, but all she cares about is the fact that I'm still the teeniest bit intimidated by an iphone.

Are you still wondering what an inadvertant porno text is? I thought so. Well, that would be when you have your texting set to automatically figure out which word you want, and it picks the wrong one.
My message was supposed to say: "I don't have time to go out with you today", in response to a male colleague saying he was going to grab lunch.
Here is what Technology, snickering away across the lunchroom, made me say:

"I don't have time to in out with you today"

How mortifying. My male colleague was shocked, but laughed right along with Technology.
And now everyone knows that I am a total dork, and even if I get an iphone, Technology will still find something new to torture me with.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Crackers Kill My Life!

Sorry, that should be, "Ze crackers, zey keeeeeel my life!"

I just heard this from a chef on a Food Network show, and I think it's easy to see why I find it so hilarious. Isn't it? Or maybe it is because I just know this relates to me somehow... I promise to explain tomorrow when I've had a chance to figure it out!

It just has to be my new motto, or my new battle cry, or something. As soon as I figure out what it means :-)

update #1: the chef who said it won the competition, so apparently the crackers did NOT kill her life!

UPDATE #2: So, I figured out why this funny little phrase resonated so much with me. Lately I have been very frustrated with so many things: the slow editing process, my burning desire to send the queries out even though I'm not done editing, the looooooonnnnng hours at work, the demanding customers I deal with all day long, and not enough hours in the day to get my 'work' done, let alone my writing.
All this frustration just seems perfectly summed up by 'Ze Crackers, zey keeeel my life!!' Every time I said it today it made me feel better :-)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Editing: A Report From the Trenches

So, I know there are probably loads of fantastic books out there about editing, but other than the basic grammar books already on my shelves, I haven't gone running out to buy anything else. This is partly because I am a cheapskate, and partly because I assumed I ought to just know this stuff, instinctually.
Yes, I actually thought that. Needless to say, when I finally took the time to read what editors and agents and writers with years of experience were saying, it was quite the eye-opener. Any of you new writers out there... I highly suggest a peek at blogs like super agent Nathan Bransford's blog , or writer Natalie Whipple's blog. Nathan has a number of older posts on the subject, and Natalie is currently discussing it.
That being said, I have come to a small epiphany of my own regarding editing and writing. There will be some who feel this is nothing new, but that is why it is my epiphany and not theirs.
If you are like me, you've spent weeks or months or years writing a book full of perfectly good scenes, and now that you are editing, you think all you need to do is get rid of adverbs and simplify your language.

But the single biggest thing you need to do is to ask yourself one question:
Does this scene move the story forward?

What do I mean by that? Well, does the scene show an important side of your character? I mean really important?
If your story is about a character with a fear of the dark, are you writing chapters and long drawn out scenes about how he plays the saxophone? Don't, unless he plays sax for a living and the lights keep going out in the concert hall, or unless the saxophone is going to be an integral part of some clever allegory about the whole thing. Otherwise, it doesn't make him interesting, it annoys everyone who wants to know what's going on with the actual story, and if through some miracle they continue reading your book, they will very likely roll their eyes and skip pages every time they see that damn sax brought up again.
I'm not saying that characters should be one-dimensional and without backstory. What I am saying is that not every scene and every drop of backstory that pops into the author's head need be in the book. This, in a nutshell has been my epiphany. I know all sorts of trivia about my characters, even the bit characters, but very little of it needs to be in the book. Certainly not as much as I had in the first draft!
I'm also not saying that you shouldn't write it down somewhere if you think your character would play the sax. I have a file on my computer of 'Extra Bits', where I categorize and stuff all these little details for now. That way, if one of them turns out to be important, I have it there, ready for me to use. If not, then I still know it, and it may influence the personality I ascribe to that character. As most people know, J.K. Rowling recently said that Dumbledore was gay, and all the fuss about that aside, this was a detail that didn't do anything to move the story forward, so she didn't put it in the book. It was just a small detail that she knew, which in some way probably helped her to write his character.

So don't cling to scenes and details simply because you wrote them! They can always live on in your 'Extra Bits' file where they won't clutter up your story.

For example, just this week I cut one entire chapter (it was mostly one scene) because it was, well, boring. It had action, it had emotion, but it did absolutely nothing to move the story forward. It didn't bring out the emotions my main character is struggling with, it was just something for him to do, and that was...boring. I cut it and instead wrote a new scene that tied into the chain of events catapulting my character to his 'destiny'.
I feel much better for it and so will you, so close your eyes, get out your scissors, and CUT! Wait, on second thought, you probably ought to do that with your eyes open...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Five Ways To Distract Ann From Writing:

One: Let her near an internet connection. She can't stop herself from checking everyone's blogs, then checking political news, then-- oh my, she can't forget her email! And before you know it, it is 10PM, when Ann turns into a pumpkin and heads for the nearest pillow.

Two: Tell her she never goes out, and it is so-and-so's birthday or this person is leaving town, or that person just got back into town. She is always feeling guilty about these sorts of things, so this is a good tactic, and one her husband employs regularly.

Three: Start watching a so-so new TV show, then shout, "Ann, get down here! The guy on this so-so new TV show who used to be on Firefly just dressed up for Halloween as his Firefly character-- it's AWESOME!!" Actually, just mention Firefly and she'll come peeking around the corner to see what you're talking about.

Four: Take her to Japan. Oh sure, she'll lug that laptop all the way there every time, but she'll never type a word. She'll check her email once if she's lucky.

Five: The Internet. Did I say that already? That's because it counts twice, it distracts her so much.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ah...'Day Jobs'...

In my 'day job', I am a self-employed jeweler. In fact, up until just a few years ago, I thought that this was the thing I loved most, and writing was just something I did when I was bored. Being self-employed does have its perks, affording me a bit more flexibility, but it also means that if I want to make sure the bills are paid, I might just have to work 70 hours in a week. And that is where the day job starts to chafe.
I know it seems whiney to complain about being successfully self-employed in this economy, but when you start feeling that your 'calling' 15 years ago should be your hobby, and your hobby ought to be your day job, it does get to be... difficult.

Right now I'm going to work at 6 or 7am, working until 5 or 6pm, and then trying to write from 6pm until 10, when my eyes just won't stay open anymore, and it just doesn't feel like enough. I try to devote most of my weekends to writing all day, but throw in a husband and dogs and friends that want a piece of my time, and all I can do is thank the heavens that I don't have kids yet. I'd never have a moment to myself!

All that said, I hope that I can manage to finish the novel by Valentine's day (I know I'm already going to miss the Christmas deadline I had set for myself). I probably shouldn't beat myself up about it too much... I'm sure plenty of writers struggle with finding the time between family and job to finish their novels too, but man every time I hear someone talk about how they finished their book in a year because they really knuckled down and did it, I just wonder what the heck I'm doing wrong! I'm almost to year 4 of writing! Granted, I did finish it once, then went through and changed a major plot device that required a massive overhaul of the entire thing, and I'm on the final re-write now... but still!
Anyway, I don't see how I could squeeze in any more writing time, and the only way I can really console myself is that this really is my first effort at writing a novel. I had a pretty huge learning curve, no writing groups to rely on (I'm a bit of a loner where my creative pursuits are concerned), and google was my best friend. So.... all in all, I probably spent half that time researching and trying to figure out the business.

OK, I feel better now. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This is Post # 1, This is Post # 1, Isn't This a Lot of Fun...

Well, yes and no. I do like technology, I really do, but sometimes I am certain computers are hiding things that card catalogues never would have. I am also certain Facebook is a time-sucking vampire, so I currently have 43 friend requests that have gone unanswered, and I don't even remember what my password is. Twitter? Puhlease, not a Luddite like me.

And yet, I now have a blog, not because I think anyone would be interested in the five posts I'll probably get around to in a year, but because of Nathan Bransford (one of these days I'll figure out how to embed a link in this thing). His blog is a thing of beauty, and I couldn't resist its siren call any longer. I highly recommend reading it, particularly if you are a writer.

Speaking of writing, I ought to be doing it now. I am in the process of the final rewrite on my first novel, and hope to be finished around Christmas.....ish. It is YA fiction, or more precisely, young adult historical fantasy fiction set in an alternate feudal Japan (what a mouthful!). For a first effort, it was incredibly encouraging to be awarded a fellowhip in YA literature from Oregon Literary Arts, and it keeps me motivated on those slow days. Before this rewrite, I also queried about eight literary agents, and was pleasantly surprised to receive partial/full requests and very complimentary letters from several of the agents. Unfortunately, none felt it was quite the project for them yet, but they took the time to write detailed explanations of what they'd like to see worked on, and asked me to keep them in mind in the future. Very encouraging indeed for a debut writer like me!
I'll keep the blog posted with my progress, but for now, its time to go do some actual writing... you know, so I have something to blog about later!