Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Falling behind

Eeek, this is a pretty big week. I'm not going to list all of the mundane reasons for that here, but one of the somewhat less mundane reasons is that I'm in Query Kombat. It's the first round, so if you feel like a lark, you can go here and read the my entry (I'm Dr. Thermo). It's a head to head style contest (or is it Kontest), so one of us is going home. It's a brutal format because the judges literally have to pick one over the other, and that can't be easy. Anyone can comment, but no cheerleading is allowed in the early rounds (here's a post on how to comment in the Kontest). And I'm now completely off topic.

My point for this entry is that I've fallen behind on some big things. Big, BIG things, so I need to take a break from blogging. Every time I take a break, I've noticed that I really don't take much of a break, but I'm noticing that this is  a simple impossibility over the next few weeks. So for a couple weeks (hopefully two), I'm going on a blogger diet. I won't be commenting as much (but you can bet I'm still reading, cause I'm like that), and I certainly won't be posting as often. On the plus side, in a few weeks, I should be caught up enough to reveal new stuff on the ol'blog.... Right, who am I kidding. If I'm lucky, I'll be knee deep in Act III by the time I come back, and that never lends itself to pursuits other than Act III.

p.s. Me taking a break does not interrupt my insecure writer's post!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The secondary characters...

This is the Secondary Characters Bloghop to celebrate by Rachel Schieffelbien whose book Secondary Characters, releases on May 28th!

There's a ton of prizes, so be sure to stop by Rachel's blog and check out all the amazing entries!

Now onto the secondary characters!

I didn't have to think very hard before I pretty much knew exactly which secondary character I wanted to spotlight:


That's right, I'm a big fan of the big guy. I know, it's a picture from the movie, but I watched the movie before I ever read the comic (and let's face it, I never would have read the comics if  I hadn't seen the movie, terrible as it was).

Kilawog is one of my favorite secondary characters because he's got it all: a down to earth sense of right and wrong; tragic backstory; he's loyal (to a fault); and he's a two ton dude with side note of awesome.

As for a movie secondary character: Toothless.

I know, he's just too cute. I think what I like the most about toothless is that he works really hard to make things work with hiccup. It could have all just fallen apart terribly, but they made it work. Love Toothless.

Monday, May 20, 2013

First drafts, you know what people say about them

Things aren't going as fast as I'd hoped with my current WIP. Ah yes, so this is where most of you say “Eat your words! It takes three months to finish your first drafts, I. Think. Not.”

Well, who knows, but for those of you keeping track, I am just past the half way mark for the time, and just under the halfway mark for the actual novel. This would seem to be a recipe for disaster, but writing is a funny business, and I suspect that I’ll catch my 18th wind here any day now. Why do I sound so confident? Because I’ve been here before.

So that makes it easy, right?

Umm, no. Not at all. In fact, last week, I’d have told you that there was no way on God’s green Earth that I would finish this book this millennium let alone the next six to eight weeks. So what changed?

Are you ready for this? Whenever I write a rough draft there is this thing that happens: I want the novel to be awesome in the first draft. No really, I feel like the more I write, the more incredible my first draft should be. I feel like I've gotten better, and at some point in my life my first drafts will be ready for prime time. As in, I'll just slap them together and throw them back out into the world, because I'll be a great writer, so my first drafts will also be awesome. 

I’ll warn you now: this way lies madness.

Let me be frank: My first draft sucks. All first drafts suck. But it usually takes me about 35K words before I can go through the week of moaning before I suck it up and start to move on. This time it took a little longer (two weeks for those of you keeping count), but the end result is the same: I give myself permission to have a crummy, sucky, I’d-rather-lick-the-bottom-of-my-shoes-after-running-around-the-duck-pond first draft. That is to say, I follow Maureen Johnsons’ Permission to suck video. If you haven’t seen it, go HERE and watch it now. First drafts are terrible. As in they are so awful that there is nothing worse.

The hard part about this, is that we are writers and we want our writing to be awesome. When it isn’t we start to think that the reason is because we suck. Nope! That’s not the case. Every first draft is an opportunity to stink up the literary canals with hideousness. As a writer, your job isn’t just to write a first draft, it’s to turn the first draft into awesomeness. That means editing and revision. In the mean time, write something. It won’t be pretty, but a crap draft is a billion times better than no draft.

Say it with me people: First Drafts Suck.

And of course, the only way to write the stupid thing is to give myself permission for it to suck. Recognize that it’s going to be so bad I’ll probably have to rewrite the whole thing (and boy-howdy, this one is going to need more spit shine than all the shoes in the Navy!). Which is to say, it ain’t easy, so cut yourself some slack and write that hideous first draft.**

**I think it’s important to note that not everyone has the same process, and pretty much mine is to rewrite the whole effing book, so if that doesn’t work for you, find something else. This, however, is how I write. As in, the only books that have “worked” for me were written like this.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Oh look! SHINY!

I know I’ve talked about how I consider myself lucky that I have more ideas than I’m ever going to be able to write. I’ve also mentioned that I feel like the way I get my ideas is entirely unprofessional, like I should be able to totally train up that whole idea generating part of my brain.


Not a chance. 

See, when a shiny new idea strikes, it just plows me over. There I am driving down the road, and BAM! Shiny New Idea, one fully formed novel downloaded into my brain from the Zeitgeist. Seriously, I stopped to write the query letter synopsis for it. 

It really was that fast. One minute no idea. Next second, a fully formed novel complete with protag, antag, sidekicks, and minor villains. The WHOLE THING! Like seriously, how can I even think a whole novel in a second? It’s completely impossible. 

And yet, I’m now penciling in appointments with Alicia Rodriguez (my MC, who comes complete with a full background story including exs, college and an overbearing grandmother who just wants her to marry a nice Latino boy). 

Did I mention I’m currently in the process of writing about pirates! I don’t have time for a news reporter with a black belt in Judo! 


And then, my new MC has the gall to suggest she get upped in the queue. Umm, no, sweetie, I’m finishing with the pirates. Then you. I promise you’ll get your turn. 

So yeah, pluses: I never have to worry about where next idea comes from.
Draw backs: I might need a stick to beat my Shiny New Ideas into line.

How about you? Do you nurse your ideas along, or do the stalk you down dark alleys for inappropriate times (like just before job interviews)?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

One of the Coolest Posts I've ever written: POP TRAVEL Cover Reveal!!!!

You know, I love to travel: I HATE the airport and the planes.

For a little while, I was flying so often that I was going through a suitcase every three months (no joke, I no longer qualified as a resident in the state I owned property in!). The whole time, I wished for a way to just teleport to my destination, and now Tara Tyler has written a story about just such a thing. But look out, Pop Travel isn't all that and bag of chips!

And today I get to show off Tara's AWESOME cover! I mean, how cool is that, one of my favorite peeps is about to have a book come out! I am SOOOO excited!

POP TRAVEL by Tara Tyler releases 7/7/2013!

You know you want to read it. Here's more:

Private Investigator J. L. Cooper always knew pop travel laser teleportation was too good to be true. Finding video proof of a disintegrating traveler is the stomach turning “I told you so.”

Not bothering to upload the video to the nosy, government monitored Qnet, Cooper digs around, bringing the death of his client and threats to his political little brother, who is in jeopardy of turning to dust anyway for disregarding Cooper’s warnings not to pop. Cooper has to do everything himself.

If he survives his first pop, Cooper won’t let anything distract him from getting the job done. Not the android security guards, the constant surveillance, or even Southern Comfort in a purple dress, Geri Harper. Nothing Coop can’t handle.

Ahh! I cannot wait, and it doesn't come out until JULY! It's like waiting for Christmas only way better. And that cover is *Perfect*! It's inviting and intriguing. It's like a noir mystery and you KNOW it's going to be awesome. OMG I cannot wait. July 7th, you are too far into the future for your own good. 

If you're absolutely excited like me, you can go check out Tara's blog. It's an absolute must follow as far as I'm concerned, but here's her bio if you can't wait for the web browser to load another page. 

Tara Tyler's book POP TRAVEL releases on July 7th!!!!!
 Math teacher by day, sports mom by night,
When does she have time to write?
Good question, but the Lazy Housewife makes time! Tara Tyler writes sci fi, thriller,
and fantasy, with dabs of romance and humor and tips for efficient living. Something for

The second you can preorder this book, I'll have a link here. (Amazon! Why are you taking so long? It'll be June here in seconds!)

Congratulations, Tara! This is so exciting I'm bouncing in my chair as I type!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cleaning up my act

So, things are starting to get busy in a very hopeful sort of way, but in my personal life. It's starting to leak into my writing life, as in, I haven't been writing because I've been doing all the little things that get delayed on a house. Like today I'm back to painting if the weather holds.

But I'm also doing some maintenance on the ole blog. As it turns out, a post for query contests that ended 8 months ago has been my top producing post. It's pretty crazy, but I think someone must have linked to it, or a bot got a hold of it, or something. So I'm going to pull it down.

I'm actually going to be pulling a lot of posts down. Mostly just the ones that are about current event stuff that's no longer current. I'll probably also put together some more professional looking pictures for the bio and what not. In short, I'm cleaning up my act.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Note to self, Ask First

Right, so in retaliation for having his picture posted on my blog, The Tea Thief murdered a giant vase. He pushed it like Humpty Dumpty right off the cupboards, and it shattered across the kitchen floor and into the dining room. I'm still picking up pieces. Next time, I'll ask.

So as I clean up glass shards (from the tea jar no less!), I have to finish grading term papers and exams. That means I don't have anything profound for today (sorry), but I will leave you with another cute picture of the crazy cat who drinks my tea, corroborates plant killings, and murders vases (fear not, he gave me permission to post this one).

Tea Thief in his natural habitat, my computer.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Happy Monday!

No, I’m not one of those eternally happy people, but things seem good. I think it’s the dark and stormy nature of the morning (I love dark and stormy, which totally explains why I live in a place that goes 200 days without precip!), and I thought I’d direct people hither and yon.

First up: Query Kombat: This is a fun query contest that pits 64 queries and their first 250 words against each other in a direct elimination a la NCAA bracket style. The fun starts on the 13th of May. This one is open to everybody with a finished, polished manuscript.

Oh but why Rena, why do you get involved in these things? Isn’t it enough to write your heart into a query letter and beam it to your favorite agents?

No, it isn’t always enough. The querying process is about finding an agent, but I have found more friends than agents by entering contests. No really, I often meet people I continue to be friends with after the contest. Want to find some crit partners? Enter contests, then you get to look at their writing, get to interact with them and decide if you make a good crit partner fit before you send off your work. So go forth, enter contests, have fun and make friends. (also, I know I shouldn’t have to say this, but the internet is sort of forever, so only put out your very best work when you enter contests).

Second up: The Writer’s Voice is going on as we speak. If you want a good look at what the inboxes of agents are looking like today, I recommend The Writer’s Voice. They have a blog hop for all 150 contestants, and there is nothing as eye opening as reading the query and first 250 words of a project. I’m going through and making a list of what worked for me and why. I did this last year too. It really helped to cement the idea of subjectivity for me, but also it made me really understand what agents mean when they say that the writing just wasn’t ready yet. There are tons of projects that are awesome in concept, but the writing just needed a little more polish. Reading the entries last year gave me the strength to take my time on some other projects, so I recommend you do the same.

Third and last: if you have YA Sci Fi, Fantasy, thrillers, crime or contemp, and you don’t have an agent, but your manuscript is so freakin awesome that your crit partners lost their socks when they read it, then consider sending it to Strange Chemistry, an imprint of Angry Robots. They’re a stellar publisher, and they are currently open to submissions until October. So you even have some time to clean up that spectacular, sock knocking manuscript before you submit it.

Well, I think that just about covers what I’ve got to say today. Good luck, and remember, Monday is just as scared of you as you are of it.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Perspective

I have no idea how the first Wednesday of the month snuck up on me like that, but boy howdy, it’s the first Wednesday of May! Happy Beltane! But it’s also the day we release our fears and insecurities into the world. Feeling good today? Then spread some of the joy, but don’t forget to head on over to the Ninja Captain Alex, and his cohosts, Lynda Young, Mark Koopmans, and Rachna Chhabria, for this month’s installment of IWSG.

This time, I'm not feeling so much insecure as I am feeling like a bit of a n00b.
I don’t know how many of you know this, but last year about this time, I was going crazy for a little thing called The Writer’s Voice (They’re doing it again, and you might want to go read Brenda Drake’s post about it here). We were all desperately signing into Mr. Linky (or not), and I entered a manuscript that wasn’t quite ready yet.

It still got me a spot as an alternate.

I was so thrilled. I mean over the moon ecstatic. Until that moment, my work had never received any recognition as something that might be worth reading. I thought I was on easy street to getting an agent. I got a partial request. I spent a lot of time doing the happy dance.

Then, that partial came back with an “uh, yeah, not for me.” (I always envisioned the agent getting to some deal breaking part, dropping the manuscript, dashing off a no, and then running like mad in the opposite direction).

I was disappointed, but I figured “hey, I’m getting experience. I’m learning how to handle the whole rejection thing. This is really important for my work, etc. etc.” That novel didn’t pan out. I realized there was something broken with it right around October. I revised it, but it seemed, you know, good enough. (hint: good enough just isn’t)

I sort of blew off the manuscript around December, deciding that I had other fish to fry, and I needed to work on a different project (which I did, and it’s incredible and I love my query bait. I shall love him and squeeze him and call him George). I revised another manuscript, and got it ready for the trenches. I’ve been slaving away on my WIP (go pirates!), but then, something came up. Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robots is opening up to unagented submissions.

Now only a fool would pass up an opportunity this good, especially since the only YA manuscript I have is that one I pretty much abandoned in December. It’s free and clear of any obligations, just the sort of thing that can be sent out into the world for a lengthy engagement. I figured, “oh, what the heck, I’ll dust it off. That story is great fun, everyone loves the humor and the world, but all the agents hated it. Maybe some editors will like it.” So I thought I’d just pop open the manuscript, tweak some minor bits of grammar and send it off to do battle in another circle of query hell, the unagented submission hell.

Just a few little grammar tweaks…. Sweet mother of Science, I am so na├»ve.

I opened up that novel, and to my complete horror, it was awful. And by awful, I don’t mean filled with awe, I mean filled with the stuff that falls out of the south end of a north-bound horse. BAD. (OMG There’s even a shower scene!!!! Who the hell was I kidding?? Did I think no one would notice that I spend a full page taking a bloody shower???!!! ON PAGE 10!!!! **hangs head in writer shame**).

Which is to say that for the better part of eight months, I labored under the false pretense that my novel was pretty darn good, well polished, and otherwise only lacking the stamp of approval from an agent. I was wrong.

So what was the difference between how I felt about that novel in October and how I feel about it now? About 200,000 words. If writing is like walking down a path, and the number of words is how far along the path you are (which it isn’t, but go with me), 200,000 words is a lot of experience. If you’ve ever been to Yosemite, there’s this moment where you’ve been going through some lovely terrain, full of forests and what not, and then you turn a corner, go through a tunnel and there is Yosemite Valley. It’s just laid out before you. There’s a sign on the road for people who haven’t been. The sign says “Hey, idiots, don’t stop driving, the people behind you aren’t gawking yet.” 

Yeah, this isn't that view, but it is this spectacular.
Okay, it doesn’t say that, but it should. Sometimes in writing, you can hit these turning points where the view becomes vastly different on the other side. It’s called perspective. If you have it, then you can look at your work objectively**. If you don’t… well, you have shower scenes in your first ten pages of your novel and think it’s fine. So, I guess this is yet more advice that boils down to “Keep writing, it gets better” and “be sure to give your manuscript space.” (which, by the way, I thought I had… le sigh).

It looks like I’m going to interrupt my writing schedule to do some rewriting of my YA to see if I can get it into a place where it won’t be embarrassing to send it off. I mean, rewriting is a skill I have to learn too… (If I sound less than enthused, it’s only because this novel is like a zombie, I hack off a leg and it just keeps coming. I take off an arm, the arm crawls after me. It must really want to get out into the world).

**Some people get perspective like this really quickly. Some people have to grind away at the wheel for a long time. Some people never get perspective, and worst, you have to get perspective for each manuscript (oh writing, I would totally stop being involved with you if I didn’t go crazy every time I stopped).