Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You Must Read This Post

Now. Just click the link and read the awesomeness. Cole Gibsen has written an epic post about writing like an X-men. It is without a doubt The. Best. Post. Ever. I dare you to disagree!!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Blog Chain - Dream On

I should NEVER be allowed to start a blog chain! For some reason or other, I always seem to forget and this round is no exception. Since finishing my agent revisions last week, I sort of went on mental hiatus. I still have comments to post from last round, and I'm sorry fellow chainers... I'll get to you ASAP! :)

I'm going to combine the blog chain with a post I've been thinking about writing for a while now:

What do you do to keep yourself motivated when you feel like you're not making any progress in your writing career?

It could have been last week's episode of Glee that inspired me. Aerosmith's DREAM ON has got to be one of my favorite motivational songs, and it made me think of all the times on this journey to publication where I felt like I was spinning my wheels and making no real progress at all. You begin to feel hopeless, and that's not a feeling I enjoy.

There were times when I had extreme ups and extreme downs. Requests for fulls and an agent conversation that had me soaring through the clouds, only to send me slamming down to earth. That was the worst for me, that episode almost six months ago. I leaned on my family. I whined to my friends. I cried. I cried for about three days. It was the one time that I truly felt like I needed to take an extended break from this dream of mine. My friends and crit partners rallied, telling me I was good enough, reassuring me it was only a matter of time. My kids urged me to keep going despite the odds. And my husband, usually a writing opponent, turned to me one night when I was at my lowest and said, "You're going to get up in the morning, you're going to sit down at that computer. And you're going to write."

I needed that kick in the ass. It was like waking up from a stupor. This was my dream! How could I even THINK about giving up so easily? I hadn't even broken the surface of the query pool! I wasn't even close to throwing in the towel!

Thanks to my friends and family and their kind words and in case of my husband, some firm commands, I sat down at my computer the next day and I spent the next two weeks revising my novel. I spent the next two months querying that novel, and three months to the day after that low moment... I signed with an agent. This is my dream. Some dreams are harder to achieve than others. But when I was feeling less than motivated to keep fighting, I listened to the voices around me, the ones that lifted me up from that dark place. To write a novel is a solitary thing, but I've never felt so surrounded by support as when I dreamed the dream of becoming a published author.

How do you keep motivated when you feel you're losing momentum with your writing? Check out Sandra's post after mine to see how she keeps her wheels spinning!

We Have a Winner!!

Sorry I didn't post this on Friday, guys! Blogger and I were NOT getting along. Anyway, the winner of my Patricia Briggs Book Giveaway was selected from my followers using to generate the winning number. And the winner of MOON CALLED by Patricia Briggs is....

Lady Glamis! YAY! Michelle, shoot me an email with your mailing address and I'll get the book sent out to you! Congrats and enjoy! This is one of my very favorite book series! :D

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blog Chain - Reading Obsessions

Blog chain time! I've been so excited for this post, because I get to talk about the books I love to read. The AWESOME Christine started us out this round asking:

“Which author or authors have most influenced your writing and how?”

You'll all be surprised to know that being the Urban Fantasy junkie that I am, the writer that has most influenced me has nothing to do with my genre at all. Bernard Cornwell writes historical fiction; my two favorite series being THE WARLORD CHRONICLES which gives a fresh spin on the Arthurian Legends, and THE SAXON TALES which centers around King Alfred's resistance of Danish invasion. Mr. Cornwell's writing strikes a chord with me. He writes the most honorable, heartfelt, complex, and strong protags. Granted, they're all men, but I aspire to write my female protags in much the same way. I also bow down to Mr. Cornwell as a writer because he taught me how to write a battle scene. My female protags are fighters! They can wield a sword or dagger with the best of them. I learned from his books about sword fighting, the gruesome details of battle, and the warrior's mentality. I can honestly say that when I received the revision notes from my agent, she didn't touch my battle scenes. And I have to admit, I am damn proud of myself for that!

Another writer who has influenced my writing is Anne Rice. Her fearless exploration of the dark and taboo only served to enrich stories woven with some of the most beautiful descriptive passages I've ever read. The woman was a vampire powerhouse before vamps were en vogue! A true Urban Fantasy Pioneer! She took literary flare, family saga, fantasy and psychology and wove them together to create books that have no comparison. I love Ms. Rice's writing so much, that everything I write has a secret little homage to her!

In my own genre, I have many loves. Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris, Ilona Andrews, Jeaniene Frost, Cheyenne McCray, Lilith Saintcrow, Caitlin Kittredge, and on the YA side, Melissa Marr and J. K. Rowling just to name a few. All of these talented women have taught me a thing or two about writing kick-ass heroines and writing tension that keeps a reader enthralled come hell, high water, laundry, kids, work... well, you get the picture! ;)

Be sure to check out Michelle's post before mine and Sandra's tomorrow to find out what books distract them from real life and fuel their creative lives!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Patricia Briggs Book Giveway!!

Okay, so I know I said I'd announce this contest last week, but I totally spaced the fact that I was going to be out of town. Better late than never, I guess!

In honor of Spread the Awesome two weeks ago, I am giving away a hard-cover copy of Patricia Brigg's first book in the Mercy Thompson series: MOON CALLED. All you have to do to enter is be a follower on my blog! No retweeting or facebooking necessary, but if you want to pass the word around, that would be great too!

I'll pick a winner randomly from my followers on Friday, May 21st. Good Luck!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Flexing my Writerly Muscles

I'm closing out this round of the blog chain. Sandra really challenged us by offering us a choice between two topics--or both:

1)Have you ever created a character different from yourself in some significant way, such as (but not limited to) different gender, race, ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation? If so, what, if any, research did you do to portray these differences? Was this character a main character, secondary character, or walk-on? Did these differences have an impact on the story?


2)Have you ever written writing exercises? If so, did you find the experience useful? What type of writing exercises were they, and did you do them on your own or as part of a writing class or workshop?

Because it's relevant to my life right now, I've decided to tackle option number 2.

I'm currently working on round 2 of agent revisions. My world building just isn't quite there yet. The who's and why's of my imaginary world need to be set out--definite and firm. I'd held back vital information from the reader. Things I knew in my head and didn't bother to think another person might want to know. Creating rules for my characters to live by is hard. Like, aching brain hard. So, I've used a couple of writing exercises to get the ball rolling.

Two groups of characters in my book, Shaedes of Gray, needed histories. Namely, my Shaedes, and their antithesis, the Lyhtans. Where did they come from? *Amanda scratches her head* How to begin? I wrote their history. I used a cheesy fairy tale format, I told the story like I would read it to my children at bedtime. I used flowery purple prose and antiquated speech. I mean, it's not like any one's ever going to read it. This story was for me, to give me insight into my characters' origins.

Next, I needed to lay out some rules. Such as... What do Lyhtans eat? Where do they live? How do they make money? Where it might not seem relevant to the story itself(it's not like we take a peek inside their daily life) it IS relevant to the world building. And with that thought in mind... How do my supernatural creatures interact with one another? How do they get by in a world populated with humans? How do they govern themselves, who polices them? You can see how this may have triggered a migraine or two. Enter the storyboard! I was going to use this system to plot the next book in the Shaedes series. But I've decided to modify it and use my storyboard as a world building board. Sticky notes, headers, Sharpy markers, and viola! Rules and lifestyles mapped out and ready for me to incorporate into my novel.

In fact, the storyboarding is working so well for me right now, I can't imagine starting another novel without one! Character biographies as well have become an indispensable part of my writing process. Do you use writing exercises? Storyboards? What works for you and what doesn't? I'd love to know!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spread the Awesome! Books That Deserve Ten Stars

Spread the Awesome: Books That Deserve Ten Stars

Thanks to idea machine, Elana Johnson, May 3rd has officially become Spread the Awesome Day. Throughout the blogosphere you’ll find posts dedicated to authors and books so good, they deserve ten stars. As my own journey in publishing continues, I can’t help but think of the great authors who have inspired my own writing and I’m using today to pay homage to an awesome author who has distracted me from household chores, meals, kids, work, and my own writing: Patricia Briggs.

Believe it or not, my first experience with Ms. Briggs’s writing came to me via a fireman. One of my husbands colleagues and a voracious reader, he approached me one day and said, “You’ve got to read this book.” Moon Called was my first Patricia Briggs reading adventure, and from the first sentence, I became a head-over-heels Mercy Thompson fan.

Mercedes, the WV mechanic (cute, right?) is a shape-shifter. Thanks to her Native American father, she can shift into coyote form whenever the mood suits her. But raising a shifter was no easy task for her very human mother. She’s sent to the Marrok (the alpha of all alphas) in Montana and fostered by the werewolf community. Needless to say, she grows up more than able to hold her own. You have to be tough as nails to deal with werewolf egos. Mercy’s adventures in the Tri-Cities area of Washington have her tangling with vampires, fae, demons, and ghosts. And in the fifth installment of the Mercy series, Blood Borne, her plate is more than full:

When Mercy attempts to return a powerful Fae book she'd previously borrowed in an act of desperation, she finds the bookstore locked up and closed down. It seems the book contains secret knowledge-and the Fae will do just about anything to keep it out of the wrong hands. And if that doesn't take enough of Mercy's attention, her friend Samuel is struggling with his wolf side—leaving Mercy to cover for him, lest his own father (the Marrok) declare Sam's life forfeit. All in all, Mercy has had better days. And if she isn't careful, she might not have many more to live...

I just can’t say enough good things about this book. Not only is Patricia Briggs an excellent world builder, her werewolves ROCK! She’s done a great job crafting a tough, independent female protagonist who can hold her own in a fight while surrounding herself with Alpha males who can still bring a flush of excitement to her cheeks. In Ms. Briggs’s series, the Fae and werewolves have come out to the public. I love that even though the world knows about the existence of these creatures, an esoteric veil remains to conceal their deeper secrets. And as far as Mercy goes… well, Ms. Briggs has crafted a multi-dimensional, emotional character, unique as she’s a shifter and not a werewolf. Though she lacks the super-strength of the werewolves, she possesses her own magic that I suspect we readers know as little about as Mercy. I’m hoping to see that aspect of her character develop in future novels.

Haven’t read the Mercy Thompson series yet?!?! Well, you’re missing out! To celebrate this great day of blogging dedicated to our favorite authors, I’ll be giving away a copy of the first Mercy Thompson book: Moon Called right here next week. Stay tuned for details! In the meantime, if you’re looking for more awesome reads, check out Shannon Messenger’s blog to read about her featured book: The Candy Shop Wars by Brandon Mull. And for links to all of the Share the Awesome participant’s posts, check out the Recommended Reads page at Elana Johnson’s blog!