December 17

A Book Cover

I value all my friends.  But I truly worship those who have artistic ability.  Sometimes they can draw something better than I can describe it, sometimes they can convey mood, emotion, and setting with a few clicks of the computer.  This time my friend Cynthia Martinez of YKM Reviews has made a book cover I could never come close to creating myself:

Isn’t it gorgeous?  I think she nailed Arabella and Regan in this image and caught the mood of my book. She used the exact same scene my mother used to make me a book cover for the same book. However, Cynthia had a completely different vision of that scene than my mother.

I’m picky and specific so poor Cynthia went through a few drafts to produce this one.  I’m sure she wanted to strangle me a few times but if she did, she hid it well.  The fact we communicated via email probably helped.

This is not an official cover but it could be.  Don’t you think?  But so could my mother’s.

My book is still being edited. Actually, right now, I’m barely holding onto the precipice of time. I want to start editing my book now, which I’m currently calling The Land of Blood and Sunlight. But I’m holding out, waiting for my self-mandated break comes to pass, December 26. What does it mean when you’re more excited about being able to edit a book than opening Christmas presents? Is it old age?

Anyways,  I’ll be printing this image out and hanging it on the wall, as I did with my mothers. Hopefully it will inspire me when the writing is slow, when I’m in a “I’m a horrible writer” mood or any other time.  And when the image isn’t needed for my writing, it’ll look pretty on the wall.

Simply because I think they deserve recognition, both Cynthia Martinez and my mother are willing to do some freelance stuff.  Cynthia is more into designing things on a computer, website, logos, book covers etc.  Mom is more into working at her easel, portraits, scenes, book covers.  They both worked on projects with me through online communication.  If you’re interested, I’d be willing to provide contact information for either artist.  Just get a hold of me.

December 1

Writing is my forbidden fruit

The best way to motivate me is probably to tell me I can’t do it.  Geoffrey Chaucer wrote, “Forbid us something, and that thing we desire.”  My mind has been on Shadowed, nonstop since I forbade myself from working on the chapters.  It consumes my mind and this is what happens every time I take a break from working on any book.  And my body tells me that only by working on Shadowed will I find relief.

I’ve been trying to work on other writing projects.  However, I can’t seem to get past Shadowed.  Shadowed.  Shadowed.  It’s created a barricade on my mind, keeping me from putting pen to paper for creative fun.  I know that the demand to work on Shadowed will fade, probably by the middle of next week. At that point I won’t have a problem working on another story.  But until then, I’m reading books like mad, writing notes down so that I’ll know what I’ll be changing when I get back to Shadowed–new notes, not the notes that keep repeating in my head like a badly timed mantra. I clean, and sleep, and work. Waiting for the words to cease so I can work on another book, another story, another project.

It could drive someone insane.

But writing will always be my forbidden fruit.

November 27

Writing Withdrawal and Why I Suffer

My story is getting closer to being done. One or two more run through and I believe it’ll be ready for me to start query processes of publication. Who knows though.  I’ve said that thousands of times over the years.  I could be far from the mark. Despite feeling I’m close to having it done, I’ve decided, with some urging from friends, that I’ll take a break from Shadowed. I won’t edit anything on the novel for at least a month, perhaps longer, which, if you know me, is akin to torture.

I’ve been working on some version of this story for years. It’s really all I know, and although I’m tired of  working on Shadowed I don’t want to leave it alone until the story is finished. I have gone an entire month without working on Shadowed before. I don’t like doing it.  The moment I say I will take a break from it the ideas on how to improve the story overflow and I am forced to fight the temptation to do more than simply write the ideas down, and store them someplace safe until the month is up.  For me, going a month without working on Shadowed is like going through caffeine withdrawal.  The most painful process is getting through the first three days, and usually by the first week all my symptoms are gone or so weakened that they are easy to ignore.  By then I’ve settled into another book or project to focus on to past the time.  I believe the last time I took a break from Shadowed, I completely redesigned my website with help from friends. I don’t know what my project will be for the month yet, but I doubt it’ll be another website project.  I imagine I’ll get a TON of reading done however.

Right now, I’m going on break from Shadowed, already aware of about sixteen things that need to be changed in the story. I know how to fix some of them already.  Others I have no clue on how to fix them, but know it needs done.  I figure that by going on break now, I’ll have time to come up with solutions for all of them and see more things that need fixed when I re-look over the story a month from now.  A month usually gives me what I call ‘fresh eyes’ on a piece of writing.  I get a fresh perspective, more distant look, at my work than if I keep looking at the same thing too many times.

So, wish me luck on my writing withdrawal.

November 20

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien: A different review

In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother’s footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be “advanced” into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve.

Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.

So every month, or so, a few of my friends and I get together on Skype to discuss writing, whether we’re talking about tropes are critiquing a book we’ve all read.  This time Cyna of You’re Killing Me, Ollie of Olivia’s Secret Reading Room and I decided to try recording one of these meetings. The podcast is very rough.  We didn’t even introduce ourselves at the beginning but I think it turned out well for a first attempt and we are talking about doing this on a semi-regular basis. The project may become bigger than that, but right now no guarantees.  In the below podcast you can listen to what we had to say about Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien. Let me know if there are any topics you would like to see discussed whether via podcast or written.

 

November 20

And I’m back!!!

I’ve been gone for a while. Time just managed to escape me but I’ve had a lot going on recently, some of it too personal to say on a public blog, but others are writing-related.  I also suspected my blogging would die down once I was out of school and will probably pick back up when I’m back in school. I haven’t gotten a handle on writing a blog semi-regularly yet.

Anyways, to update you on what I’ve been doing:

I have a freshly edited draft of Shadowed.  Now I can start working on the changes I realized I’d need to make while I was working through this latest draft of Shadowed. Afterwards, I’ll go through the draft looking for other things that need changed or written better.

The story has changed so much during this draft that I no longer believe Shadowed is the best title for it, not that it was perfect for the story before the massive changes to the book..  I’ve continued looking for a new title for the book though and I keep returning to a phrase I used in my book: Land of Blood and Sunlight. Now whether I call it Land of Blood and Sunlight  or  simply Blood and Sunlight, if I use it, I don’t know. Any opinions?

One of my friends, Cyna of Your Killing Me, has been working on making a book cover for my story.  Some of you may have already seen the one my mother made. The picture is a scene from Shadowed, which remains relatively unchanged even with the major changes I recently made to it. This one was made primarily of oils.  And came to life after I gave my mother multiple descriptions and searched the internet for hours for pictures that looked similar to the characters I imagined. A lot of emails and back and forth commentary later, we got the result to the right. She left the title off so that should I change the name of the book, as I’m leaning towards doing, I can simply change the title on the computer.  The title and byline  is  my own work.

Cyna is using the computer to make the cover.  The first cover she came up with was nice, very clean, and much more traditional, less artsy, but it didn’t feel right to me. I told her what I would like to see changed, sorted through several images with her and saw the rough draft of the new cover today. I like this version much better.  Their were a few things I asked to have changed and we sorted through images again.   I’m looking forward to seeing the final product.  Once the cover is complete, I’ll probably post it here for viewing.

For those who are curious both my mother and Cyna are always willing to discuss the possibility of working on other projects. Both of them have an eye for imagery that I envy and have patience. I may be prejudiced, but I’d recommend either of them for projects.

In January 2013, I become Vice President of Communications for the Coeur du Bois chapter of Romance Writer’s of America. This will be an interesting new challenge for me as I’ve only had training in communications. I’ll also be starting another semester in school in May, which will end in October, and working as many hours as I can at my job, while working toward my writing goals. Phew.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it. But I’m looking forward to it.

Lately, I’ve been consuming books like chocolate and got together with a few friends to discuss one of them.  You’ll see the results of that discussion on tomorrows post.  I hope you enjoy the change in presentation.

October 27

What are you doing in November?

I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo for years and last year was the first time I actually “won”.  NaNoWriMo, for those who don’t know, stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November.I participate every year in this great challenge, and though I may not always reach the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days, I always have fun participating.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in you can learn more and sign up (It’s free) at NaNoWriMo.org.  If you want to add me as your writing buddy go ahead.  You’ll find my NaNo page at http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/avikar. I’ll do my best to add you to my buddy list.

Right now I’m debating on what to write on for this years novel. Should I work on Lorenne’s story?  This time combining the two stories I’ve written in separate years to make a completely different one and see if this one sticks?  Or should I work on the sequel to “Shadowed,” which I have very little planned and nothing written. Or I may try something completely different.  Cockroaches saving the human race anyone? Does anyone here have a preference on what they’d like to see me do? I’d be interested to hear comments you have.

Although I’m not sure of a lot of things when it comes to NaNoWriMo right now, like what I’ll be writing, if I’ll win or if I’ll even be able to start on time, I do know that I believe that a Non-Profit organization that helps build communities in classrooms, coffee shops, libraries, and living rooms all over the world and help the inspiration flow for me and thousands of my fellow novelists will need some funding to reach all their goals and make next year’s NaNo even better.  So, for the month of November, I am Fundraising money for NaNoWriMo.   To help me raise money, go to my donation page.

Thanks for your generosity and support.
Also, if you want to help, but want to get something more out of it than a Thank You, NaNoWriMo does sell merchandise that does help them get the funding they need. https://store.lettersandlight.org/merchandise  Be honest, even if you’re not a writer, who can resist the prospect of having a 2 GB USB Bracelet?
October 13

Slow Down. Breaking down and Setting Time limits

When I’m going to edit my own work, my process is usually predictable and simple.

Step one: Print the entire manuscript out.
Step two: Mark each individual chapter with post-it notes so chapters are easier to identify.
Step three: Break the book into 4ths–to the nearest chapter ending. So if the 1/4 mark is on page 60 and the chapter doesn’t end until page 63, the first quarter will contain 63 pages.
 Step four: Use paper clips to keep each fourth separated and together, except for the quarter I am working on. I do not always order the quarters in chronological order, though I am only allowed to work in one quarter at a time.
Step five: Edit an entire quarter.
Step six: Transfer notes for quarter edited onto computer.
Step seven: Start on next quarter
Step eight:  Repeat step five, six and seven until the entire manuscript is edited.
Step nine: Incorporate final notes and clean up final passages from edit.

During my first semester in Spalding’s MFA program, I’ve already seen a change in my editing processes, mainly due to needing to get my requirements throughout the semester, but the new procedure seems to have a much stronger effect on my novel than my original way of editing.  I can see and feel the changes in the novel almost instantly, whereas I may need to go through the above process three or four times before I truly noticed a consistent change in the draft, sometimes in entire chapters.

What is this new, more effective way of editing? It’s simple really.

I’ve been breaking the novel into sections for my packets. About 40 pages each–to the nearest chapter ending. So if I’m on my third pack of 40–with the packet supposed to end on page 120–but the nearest new chapter ends on page 119, I’d break it a page short. I work on the forty page section for three weeks. I am not allowed to work outside those 40 pages during those three weeks.  If I make all the major changes to the draft before my three weeks is up, I start at the beginning of the forty pages and do a deeper edit, grammar, sentence structure, smoothness, general clean up.  If their are changes I still want to make at the end of the three weeks, I make a note of it and MOVE onto the next section of forty pages.

How is what I’ve been doing, different from what I’ve started doing? Honestly if you break my novel down–at least before I started editing it, I’d have only had 5.5 sets of 40. So, I’d only be adding a section and a half to my original idea, which can’t make too much of a difference right?

I think the difference is the forced three weeks to work on the section. By setting that time limit, I force myself to slow down, to really look at my writing, no matter how much I may want to be done with the round of editing. Without the time limit set, I would push through the entire novel at my pace.  I’d make notes to make major changes, however I missed a lot of the changes that were also needed in that same section because I wasn’t looking closely enough.  This also works to keep me motivated, focused on working on my story, so that I can make sure all the changes that need to happen can be made, instead of delayed for another draft.

If you’re needing a new method of editing, this one may be worth trying.

October 10

City of Bones: Critical Review

City of Bones opens at a dance club called Pandemonium. Inside, a demon searches for prey among the dancing humans. By slowing this scene down and choosing the correct words, Clare turns a simple walk across a crowded club into a sort of dance that also raises the tension in her novel.  This is seen in passages like:

His hand tightened on the blade he carried and he had begun to step out onto the dance floor when a girl broke away from the mass of dancers and began walking toward him. (…) She smiled, passing him, beckoning with her eyes.  He turned to follow her, tasting the phantom sizzle of her death on his lips. (3)

Despite the demon’s unsavory intentions, this passage has a clear flirtatious feel to it, at least from the girl who is later identified as Isabelle. She is acts almost predatorily with the way she moves around him, makes sure that he sees her and he watches.  We know she’s constantly moving but readers may not realize how much it’s mentioned because Clare wisely chose her words carefully. Instead of several “walks” and “moves,” readers instead encounter “step out,” “broke away,” “neared him” and “passing him.”  Keeping their constant movement from feeling repetitive as it would have if Clare had used the same set of words repetitively to tell the actions.

On the next page, the constant walking continues with the following passage but Clare’s choice of words only adds to the tension that the author has already started to build:

The girl was a pale ghost retreating through the colored smoke. She reached the wall and turned, bunching her skirt up in her hands, lifting it as she grinned at him. Under the skirt she was wearing thigh-high boots.
He sauntered up to her, his skin prickling with her nearness. (…)
A cool smiled curled his lips. She moved to the side and he could see that she was leaning against a closed door. No Admittance—Storage was scrawled across it in red paint.  She reached behind her for the knob, turned it, slid inside.  (…)
He slipped into the room after her, unaware that he was being followed. (4)

Here the words that Clare uses to show the girl’s movements up the tension in the same way that simply slowing the scene down does. The word “retreat” has connotations of fear and prey attached to it.  However the word sauntered is the opposite. Someone who saunters is confident, perhaps even a predator. And as readers are aware that the boy/demon wishes to make a meal of the girl, the tension is raised with those word choices.

In two pages, with the two above passages, Clare describes the boy and girl walking at least ten times and only actually uses the word walking once.  Instead Clare uses descriptions like “retreat,” “sauntered,” or “pass” to add more tension and keep redundancy at bay.

Works Cited
Clare, Cassandra. City of Bones: The Mortal Instruments #1. New York: Simon Pulse, 2008. Print.
September 23

End of Semester is Coming

So some of you may already be aware that I am working on my last packet for this semester.  I won’t be able to attend school for the fall semester, which starts in November.  However, I plan to attend the next spring semester–late May.  By all appearances, second semester students are strongly encouraged to try a different focus for a full semester.  So, instead of taking in YA next semester, try memoir, poetry, screenplay, playwright, adult….  I’m leaning toward Screenplay.  I’ve just heard a lot of great things about that program and it would be different from what I currently write.  I think Adult writing would be too much like YA for it to show me a different way of writing in a significant way.  So I thought I’d ask readers to recommend books or screenplays to me.  Partially so I can keep posting reviews on this blog.

Any genre will do, though I would prefer YA novels for books.  And I have no idea what I’d want Screenplay-wise so I leave that to readers to suggest.

Also, I know, I owe a book review on City of Bones still and two more critical reviews.  Those will be coming shortly!

September 12

Girl Meets Boy: Critical Review

Please note: This is a critical review.  A overall review will not be provided for this book.

No Clue, Aka Sean by Rita Williams-Garcia is the companion piece of Sean + Raffina by Terry Trueman and vice versa.  Through these two short stories, readers can see the point of view of the boy and girl as they try to start a romantic relationship. In a few short pages each, Williams-Garcia and Trueman reveal a lot of information through voice.

According to Julie Wildhaber, “Voice is the distinct personality, style, or point of view of a piece of writing or any other creative work.” Voice is often conveyed from a mixture of things, namely word choice and sentence structure. Williams-Garcia and Trueman have developed very different voices. Even though the narrators are talking mainly about the other person, reveal a lot of information about the narrators.

In two paragraphs we know that Raffina is a confident, black teenage girl who is perhaps a bit aggravated with her love interest:

What a bug-out. Here I am watching you pretending not to watch me.  I’m not turned off by shy, but shy will get you sitting by your lonesome. Shy will get you watching from the sidelines while I’m stepping out with some other guy.  Come on, Sean.  Let’s get in the game.  Say those two words as only you can say them: Hey, Raffina.

I have to admit the whole shy thing is part of the appeal.  Sean’s a complete switch from what I’m used to dealing with.  A girl can’t eat a hoagie in the caf without some playa rolling up, trying to get those digits. Now that’s a turnoff.  Guys assuming too much, too soon.  It’s not just because I’m fine–which I am, but because I’m Gary’s sister.  The Highlander Hero. Holds the state record for the most triple doubles in a season.  Scores thirty-two points on a slow day. So you know what that means.  Everybody’s scouting. Recruiting. Rubbing up on him, trying to get to know him.  Yeah. Even if they have to go through me to be in with Gary. The guys want to part of the entourage.  The chicks want to be the girl in the prom picture when ESPN takes a look back on the life of Gary Frazier. (p. 103)

Outside of what Raffina actually tells us, we learn a lot by how the narrator speaks, thinks and the vocabulary she uses. Words like “bug-out”, “stepping out”, “caf”, and playa” all let us know she’s a teenager.  Lines like Come on, Sean, lets readers know of Raffina’s discontent with Sean. There is also a rhythm to the words that mimic the African-American cadence.

With Sean we get a totally different voice. In two paragraphs we have the same affect, learning more about the characters than they are actually saying through voice:

Her name is Raffina, pronounced “ruff-eena.” I’m not even sure I’m spelling it right.  Maybe it’s spelled Ruffina, but I don’t so.  I glanced at a homework assignment she turned in for Human Relations 2, and I’m pretty sure it was an a not a u.  Whatever, it doesn’t matter what her name is, or how she spells it anyway–what matters is that I wanna hit on her, and I’m not sure if I should or how to even start.

She’ll be the first girl I’ve tried to ask on a date since I got TKO’d in the seventh grade.  That’s if I ask her.  I’m not sure about that yet.  If you’d been coldcocked by a petite blonde when you were thirteen, you might hesitate to think of yourself as God’s great-red-hot-lover-boy gift to girls too.  I owe my nondating history to Debra Quarantino. (p. a111)

The reference to homework and the slang, like “wanna hit on her” and “TKO’d”, let us know that Sean is also a teenager. The minimum rhythm to the sentences makes it read like a caucasian is the speaker in this one.  He isn’t as aggressive as Raffina comes across, nor aggravated with his love interest.  He just seems, as Raffina accuses him of in her story “shy.” 

With the help of word choice and sentence structure, Rita Williams-Garcia and Terry Trueman create voices that convey a lot of information by letting the narrators’ voice speak louder than their words.

Works Cited

Crutcher, Chris, Joseph Bruchac, James Howe, Ellen Wittlinger, Rita Williams-Garcia, Terry Trueman, Terry Davis, Rebecca Fjelland Davis, Sara Ryan, and Randy Powell. Girl Meets Boy: Because There Are Two Sides to Every Story. Ed. Kelly Milner Halls. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle, 2012. Print.

Wildhaber, Julie. “Understanding Voice and Tone in Writing.” Web log post. Grammar Girl :. N.p., 1 July 2010. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. .