Tag Archives: books

On Process and One Very Sad Announcement

As you may know, I’m fairly neurotic about most things in my writing life. Cat recently tweeted about a girl who had her pitch stolen. To add insult to injury, it got agent-ed and the thief landed a major book deal with a pitch they didn’t write.

This makes me 1) angry, 2) upset and 3) incredibly nervous.

Especially since I was so excited about LIVING DEAD. I really enjoy doing little things, like posting snippets for people to read and it makes me happy when I can give you a full story to entertain you through the Halloween days. Since my level of copyright protection is significantly less than I’d love, and the internet is sometimes a cruel and scary place, I’m afraid I’m going to stop updating LIVING DEAD online. That doesn’t mean I won’t finish it–or the third installment I’d planned for next year–but it does mean you’ll no longer be able to view it. In fact, I’m taking it down altogether.

I’ve wanted to release them as ebooks in the distant future, so I guess you’ll have to wait. I’m sorry. At they’ll have some nifty cover art by then!

That being said, I’ve also been thinking about process. I have several writer friends, some who’ve already made it into Author territory and some just starting out. I think I have issues dealing with other people’s success in comparison to my own.

My freshman year of college, I took the AP level writing class. For the entire semester, the professor adored me, reading my work to the class, praising me on my creativity; it was nice ego boost for a girl who didn’t know what to expect from college.

Then I got into my first research-writing class and those glorious A’s declined into C’s and B’s. I was not please and didn’t understand why I wasn’t doing as well.

That’s kinda the feeling I’m experiencing. I don’t have a finished draft yet. I’m doing small revisions to what I have while working on finishing the story. Watching other people blossom sparks that jealousy in me. I feel inadequate for not writing a book in a month even though I know other people who’ve spent years finishing a draft.

It may also go hand-in-hand with my life situation at the moment. Toss everything into turmoil and making good art gets tough (see previous blog).

I got some positive feedback on the first 9 chapters I showed my darling beta, Laura, and the other day I had a great conversation with a coworker about writing and the fact that, sure, I got a college degree, but basically do whatever strikes my fancy.

And now, I’ve issued a challenge to myself, to overcome these–frankly ridiculous–feelings and push myself into at least hitting the mid-point of The Novel-Beast. I’m finally trying NaNoWriMo again.

I will push myself to write 50,000 words, which will land me at approximately 80k. This will not be easy. Someone will have to issue punishments if I don’t write.

I have 7 days to prepare. I’ll be posting info once I sign up.

Break out the tea.

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The “Next Big Thing” Meme

What is the working title of your book?

The Novel-Thing, or Novel-Beast. Ok, the document says “The Girl in Question.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It started with a short story I wrote for a college creative writing course. It focused on three girls in a waiting room. One of those girls was Charlotte. Charlotte appeared a later in a short story I wrote for my thesis on the portrayal of madness in literature. The first short story was more successful. My thesis director mentioned in her notes something about writing a series of  “crazy Charlotte” stories.

So I did.

What genre does your book fall under?

I’m not really sure. I fancy myself a horror writer, so horror I’d hope. I’m not really big on genre because often I feel there are too many things to slate it in one category.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in the movie rendition?

Dear lord. Were it possibly, Jonathan would be a young Benedict Cumberbatch or some other nerdy-cute guy. Charlotte and Lizzie? I don’t know. I’ve actually discussed this before. Actually, it’d all be stop-motion animation.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Charlotte Grimly thought it was hard enough being schizophrenic; now she’s being accused of murder.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m hoping to find an agent once I’ve finished my manuscript and polished it up a little lot.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I got 3/4 done with it two years ago and then stopped. I didn’t like it and it didn’t feel right. I picked it up again in April 2012. So, six months in and still working.

What other books would you compare this to within your genre?

Again with the comparing. I’m going to have to cop-out and scapegoat to Neil Gaiman for this one. I’m writing books I would like to read.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to write it. I think it’s fun. Charlotte inspired me. I like her and Elizabeth and the world they’re in. I like their story and I think it’s worth sharing.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s a paranormal crime novel. That’s pretty cool, right? One main character is schizophrenic, one is going blind, people are dying left and right, and there may be a not-so mysterious buzzing package on someone’s kitchen table. Spoiler: contains bees.

I would tag someone, but I don’t know a lot of people. So tag yourselves and link me so I can see your responses!

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Victorian Prostitutes and Stirring Tea with Not-spoons

After what feels like a marathon stretch, I have finally finished the 895-page beast that is Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White.

And I loved it.

The story focuses on Sugar, a 19-year-old prostitute seeking betterment from her position. Enter William Rackham, unwilling heir to a perfume business. Other members of the cast include Agnes, William’s crazy wife; Henry, his pious brother; Emmeline Fox, determined to restore fallen women; and a ragtag bunch of other characters from Sugar’s fellow whores to the more esteemed of English Society. Oh, and Bodley and Ashwell, but they can speak for themselves.

Ok, it was daunting. I’m not sure why I thought a nearly 900-page book would be a breeze. The writing style is definitely very different, with an outspoken narrator who likes to remind you you’re reading a novel, multiple points of view, complex and extremely detailed storylines, locations and characters, all mingled with the dirt and depravity of Victorian England.

I started this book in March. After climbing the first 400 pages, I had to rest. The narrative is almost overwhelming with how painstakingly Faber has crafted these scenarios. They are intimately described, and unravelled at such a pace it’s like watching a film. A long film. I had to take a break. I read a few other novels: Timeless by Gail Carriger (because I simply couldn’t wait once I’d purchased it), and the Gretchen Lowell series by Chelsea Cain (Heartsick, Sweetheart and Evil at Heart).

Half way through, I wasn’t endeared to this book. I wanted to push to finish it to say I’d done it. Then I got back into it, and this time, everything clicked. Having now completed the marathon (because once I picked it up, it was impossible for me to put it down), I can’t praise it highly enough. I even adore its abrupt ending, which completely leaves the fate of these characters hanging. The story the narrator told is over and now it’s time to move on. Whatever happens next is up in the air.

I’m proud that I made it. This will certainly be a book I revisit in the future after I’ve overcome the book hangover.

Right now, I’m enjoying a cup of tea, stirred with a bone folder because I was too engrossed to head back into the kitchen, and trying to figure out what to read next. I’m thinking Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

It also begs the question, dear reader, which book has dragged you through the wringer? Did you ever pick up something that was difficult to finish, but powered through to a satisfying end? Given you book hangover lately? Discuss.

Bonus points for including what a bone folder is and it’s use. 😉

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Fifty Shades Further: How “Mommy Porn” is Screwing with Literature

My friend and top-Beta, Laura, posted this link on her Facebook tonight:

Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes to be Republished with ‘Explosive Sex Scenes’

Part of me, a large part, really hopes this is some horrible, horrible prank. The article itself induces feelings from extreme rage, the desire to cry in a corner and rage-quitting life. I am undecided, so I blog.

I know why this happening: Fifty Shades was such an unprecedented success that the pub world wants in on the cash cow, and what better means than to take public domain Classics and add ‘missing’ scenes.

Here’s the real kicker for me:

Some original fans of Jane Eyre might be unhappy to discover that the female protagonist has “explosive sex with Mr Rochester” in the publisher’s erotic edition.

In Wuthering Heights, heroine Catherine Earnshaw “enjoys bondage sessions” with Heathcliff while sleuth Sherlock Holmes has a sexual relationship with his sidekick Dr Watson in the new e-book.

I’m angry about a number of points regarding all statements:

1) These books don’t NEED sex; it’s already there.

If you read them, really read them, you’ll see that Jane Austen using the dancing as metaphors for sex. Where else do you see characters interacting, touching, conversing freely? How about Wuthering Heights, where there’s practically necrophilia in addition to an emotionally and physically abusive relationship? How’s that to satisfy your twisted desires?

In Jane Eyre‘s case, THE ENTIRE POINT is that she wants Rochester, but STILL SAYS NO because she’s unwilling to take part in an immoral union. He offers her mere companionship and she still says no. Honestly, I can’t believe there would be any raunchy sex after what happens to him at the novel’s end.

2) “Erotic” sex scenes are historically inaccurate.

Theses scenes aren’t “missing” because there were never originally there. In Regency England, that sort of thing wasn’t discussed. Why do you think there were two endings to the Kyra Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice?  Even in England, in 2005, the film ended with Darcy asking for Elizabeth’s hand. They added the ending where they kiss on the roof of Pemberly in America to appeal to this demographic. Sex happens. It’s just not widely publicized. See point #1. Also, there wouldn’t be bondage on the moors. Though depicted in paintings as early as the 1630s, bondage didn’t become a widely-known sexual thing until 1930, at least as far as research has shown me. If wrong, please enlighten.

3) It’s basically bastardizing these novels, especially for the Brontes.

The Sisters B originally had their manuscripts published under the names Currer Bell, Ellis Bell and Acton Bell. Why? Because the books they wrote were too “dark, erotic and unseemly” for women to have penned. They then had a hell of time proving three women, in fact, wrote those books.

Bronte Sisters Power Dolls, anyone?

Sure, if the Brontes were alive today, I’m sure they’d be all over the erotic fiction. For the 19th century, they were. They were some truly badass bitches.

4) It’s a cheap way to promote Classics people already read.

It’s basically fan fiction. Again. And it’s not even the whole story. They claim they won’t alter the author’s voice or the text, but that’s exactly what they’re doing! The original author never wrote these scenes. Adding them in changes the text. You honestly expect me to belive you can write 19th century bondage? Does that mean you’ll be painstakingly researching the lexicon of that era? Guess what, words you think are 19th century probably aren’t. I’d be interested to see exactly how one describes auto-erotic asphyxiation like a proper lady.

“But I’d like to see some naked Mr. Darcy!” Wouldn’t we all? You know that’s why there’s that Colin-Firth-swimming-in-lake-and-emerging-soaking-wet scene in the BBC film.

 And guess what. You can! Darcy Takes a Wife, by Linda Berdoll, is  basically nonstop Darcy/Liz sexcapades. There are plenty of “erotic” novels. How about The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber? It’s a daunting 900-page read, but the story centers around a 19-year-old prostitute named Sugar, and let me tell you, it’s not shy.

If there’s anything that should be fic’ed and reproduced, I’m going Jane Austen’s Fight Club.

“We were no longer good society.”

EDIT: Oh god, it gets worse. The Sun released this article, naming other books to be fucked up fuckedwith… ruined.

Northanger Abbey and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea have also been given a racy rewrite with Dracula, Treasure Island, Wuthering Heights, The Three Musketeers and the Phantom Of The Opera set to be released too.

I’m going to die now. Don’t even get me started on Phantom of the Opera and the endless burning of buildings that will ensue if there is Erik/Christine. There sure as hell better not be Erik/Raoul. A disaster beyond your imagination will, undoubtedly, occur.

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Input Mode: Reading and Researching as Procrastination

Remember how last writing-post I spoke about getting the creative juices flowing by dancing around and whatnot? Sometimes, it just doesn’t work. When I start feeling itchy about linking one chapter to the next, I stop and look at the story as a whole. Let’s say I’m trying to wire the spinal column (remember that whole body analogy from last week?). This is a critical part of the story, the substance, the binding holding it all together.

Spinal construction is definitely not as easy as it sounds.

When in doubt, I turn to research. I don’t actually make a habit of tried and true research, which to some is just shameful. In the same token, I’m not fond of actually labeling a time or a place as setting, so I guess I more or less skirt the rules. I prefer context clues over flat-out, “And today is Wednesday, March 13, 1937, in London, Canada.” I don’t even if March 13, 1937 was, in fact, a Wednesday. I looked; it was a Saturday. The things Ido commit to are lesser known, sometimes not even used facts, like what so-and-so would wear, the condition of mental hospitals from 1920-1950, the treatment and diagnosis for schizophrenia, if international phone calls could be made. Given that, you my dear reader, can probably guess the novel-thing is set somewhere between 1930 and 1950, or somewhere therein. I’m not even quite sure myself; I do know that when I started it in present day, it just didn’t pan out.

The other thing I do is read obsessively. But you do that anyway! Yes, I do, but I narrow my book selections to the vein I’m trying to work within. Chelsea Cain’s Gretchen Lowell series (Heartsick, Sweetheart, and Evil at Heart) were great. I’ve never really read detective fiction, and while my story isn’t quite detective fiction, it helped me hone into the mindset I’m trying to achieve. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, which I was supposed to read for my thesis, is a wonder semi-autobiography of a schizophrenic girl and her experiences in therapy and reconnecting to the world.

It also means I get to do something other than stare at the file on my laptop, watching the cursor blink, waiting for me to start typing. I also feel less guilty. I used movies and television shows the same way. I’ve watched several episodes of Castle, studying the great twists in some cases and where it was a bit lacking in others. Also, Nathan Fillion is always awesome. Always.

I try to feed my mind as much as I can, from old mythologies on monsters to how not to get away with murder. In a way, I’m buying myself time with “research.” I also count flailing around my room to music as research. I’m taking the actor’s method of getting into character. Or that’s what I tell myself.

Bottom is the same: writing is damn hard work. It may get easier as you go along, but it’s never going to be easy. It’s a give and take process, and even though the first draft probably won’t be brilliant, it’s getting the story out that’s important. Revisions and edits can wait. If you need to pop in a zombie flick, do it. If you have the sudden, overwhelming urge to watch cartoons, do it; there’s probably a reason your mind brought it up.

Also, avoid reading articles about writing. If you’re like me, they only make things worse. I’m now petrified I’ve “let the steam out” of my novel-thing by telling someone the plot and that’s why I’ve been so… unproductive. Truth is, if I didn’t tell someone, I was worried it wouldn’t make sense. That’s what happened with the initial draft. No one helped me sort it out. I think I’m ok.

Now I just need to write.

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Fifty Shades of Do You Even Know What a Plotline Is

I’m doing something different. I’m going to attempt to update twice a week: one day about everyday things, one day about writerly, novel-shaped things. Today is the Writerly, Novel-Shaped Day. And if you haven’t guessed, I’m going to discuss a very popular novel.

If this is the novel that made your year, good for you. You read all three books? Well, awesome. Glad to see you engaging with a book. Please consider reading more books in the future. If this book did it for you, stop reading this blog post.

If, like me, you find this novel to be a thorn in the side of actual literature, by all means, continue reading. Many people already know Fifty Shades of Gray started out as fan fiction. I’m in no way bagging on fan fiction; in fact, not only do I read fan fiction, I’ve even written a couple. Not ashamed. Fan fiction is a good outlet. However, in the case of Fifty Shades, it was Twilight fan fiction. And bad fan fiction is BAD. We’re talking My Immortal standards here.

I’m no fan of Twilight. I found the plotline, when there was a ghost of one, simplistic at best, the characters were not developed, cliché, and Bella is probably the worst role model for every girl ever. She may be a teenager, but she’s utterly devoid of personality, common sense, and intellect. Fifty Shades may actually be WORSE. Unless you read it as a comedy. Then it’s hilarious.

Do you really expect me to believe that Ana, a 21-year old college girl, has never held anyone’s hand? And that she doesn’t have a computer despite being an English major? That she miraculously made it into college despite her apparent mental condition? “Her inner goddess” should know something is massively wrong. Aside from basically making every character a Mary-Sue, there is actually one thing that makes this “book” far worse. Let’s talk about descriptions.

“His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.”

Or something? With an ellipses? Seriously? Clearly, though the break allows the reader to fully grasp the emotional connection between subjects. The “something” implies that he is mysterious, something she can’t quite identify.

Oh wait, it’s just poorly written fan fiction.

There’s also a part where he mentions all the “vanilla sex” they’ve been apparently having in the Red Room of Pain (yes, it’s capped like a proper location). She says something like,

“I thought it was chocolate fudge brownie sex. With a cherry on top.”

Surely, I can’t be the only one with the “Are you kidding me?” face on. How the hell did this get published? E.L. James landed a book deal because it was a popular story based on Twilight. Her 21-year-old heroine acts like she’s 16, her 27-year-old protagonist is just a creepy stalker who likes tying people up. Sounds like a cross between Twilight‘s Edward and Jack the Ripper.

I could understand if the book was just poorly written, but the fact that it has no original merit whatsoever is a stab in the chest. Has all of literature seriously become some gimmick? Sure, editing accidents happen. I’ve seem some pretty funny typos.

But when the ENTIRE BOOK is one glaring error? How do you overlook that?

Those of you who’ve read my blog over the years know my writerly ambitions. For me, books like Fifty Shades of Gray mean only one of two options:

Either my work will be a godsend to the literary world, or I am absolutely fucked for knowing how to properly format a sentence and use a thesaurus.

I’m not saying don’t read it. I’m saying don’t read it seriously. As a comedy, Fifty Shades has some merit. It may be difficult to read through the blinding tears of laughter. I wouldn’t drop the money on the series either. Rent it from the library. Borrow it from a friend. Or just read another fan fiction. One with a plot line and actual formatting. They exist. I’ve read them.

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