Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thief - Feline

Things I need to do:

  • Write three chapters of my new book, following POVs of
    • Octras
    • Shosu
    • Rael
  • Write in my journal
  • Write reviews for
    • Mistborn
    • Skyward Sword
    • Minish Cap
  • Finish reading Sherlock Holmes (done w/ first two cases)
  • Give Luna a bath
  • Do laundry
  • Draw more pictures
While I'm working on these things, you enjoy this picture. Jaron and I are making a dungeon crawler of sorts... I've been drawing all the characters, and he colors them beautifully for me. Didn't he do a good job? :)

-Tsira

Friday, December 23, 2011

Green Balloons

*Eee! I finally got my handmade journal from Juliana, and it's SO cute. I love it!*

--

It's the simplest gifts that mean the most.

I love the decorations and the spirit of giving that accompanies the holidays, the hot chocolate and peppermint candy canes, the smell of pine... and I love the unique properties of each snowfall. Sure, I hate how cold it is, and I don't want to get up in the morning, but there's something special about this time of year.

The best part is, of course, the presents.

I don't mean getting presents, though. It's giving them that makes it all worth it. People give to their friends, their neighbors, their families... and if their mindset is right, they're doing it without expecting something in return. But I wish that would extend year-round, not just when we're bombarded with "CHRISTMAS SALE" and "50% OFF" signs.

See, the best time to give presents is when they're not expecting one.

I know I told you this, but a few weeks ago I was injured at work. But there's more to the story than just that. Even though the damage wasn't incredibly difficult to bear (and has since scarred over), I cried a lot. I cried because I was angry, and frustrated, and yes, hurt. And I was left alone for some time to get over it before someone insisted that I go to the office and contact WorkCare. After all the paperwork was filed, and I was down to just sniffling, I returned to the classroom to collect my things.

One of the children in my class ran up to me and presented a simple piece of paper, ripped from a notebook. She was worried about me, she said, and she wanted to make me feel better. When I flipped the paper over, I saw 3 green balloons, drawn and colored like something you'd expect from a seven-year-old.

And I started crying all over again.

This time, though, it was because she'd given me exactly what I needed.

You never know when the simplest of gifts will help those around you. Take the time to show how you feel about them, and you'll be surprised at how much they needed you.

--

Well... I have the next week off of work, so I'll be catching up on everyone's blogs, finally writing all the reviews I need to do, and churning out the next two chapters of my new manuscript. Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope you keep that spirit of giving with you all through the year.

-Tsira

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dreams

How real are your dreams? How much do you remember about them?

My dreams are often very vivid, but almost never make logical sense. Of course, that keeps them interesting. I'm sure some psychologist could tell me some really crazy stuff about myself because of that... but still, they're just dreams.

Two nights ago, I dreamed about a house of death. Perfectly preserved corpses laid behind glass walls, their bodies positioned like any you'd see at a funeral. I knew none of them--but was asked to release their spirits. By making their spirits visible through my breath, I could set them free. Of course, I almost passed out every time I did so.

I also dreamed that night about telling my family about this dream. And I lied to them about it. I'm still not completely sure why that was the case. Dream logic is a strange thing.

Like I said, my dreams are vivid. Sometimes I am uneasy when I wake because of this, sometimes happy, or sometimes dizzy. I ran a lot in a dream last night, and this morning I woke with shin splints. I don't know whether I am a very strange person--and by extension, a character of mine--or if this is relatively normal for other people. This is both for research purposes and to satisfy my own curiosity; I'd like to know what your experience with dreams has been.

So again I ask: how real are your dreams, and how much do you remember about them?

-Tsira

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Birthday

So... it's been more than two weeks since my last post... but like I said, Skyward Sword. Yup. I finally beat it and started Hero Mode, with over fifty hours of play so far.

And I've been giving everything to work lately. This week I actually had to go to WorkCare because of something that happened, and by the way, it took them forever to document and treat everything. I'm doing just fine, but tetanus shots suck. I had to get one after the incident "just in case." You know, we expect little kids to get over their shots in five minutes, but this pain in my shoulder has lasted for three days. It feels like someone is repeatedly poking me in a very tender place. It's not the worst pain ever, but I still find what the nurse said funny. She said, "Your arm might get a little sore, and if it does, just massage it a little or put some ice on it." ...a little sore? Massage that painful-to-move-or-touch spot? Are you crazy?

Well, regardless, I went back to work the next day and today was totally a breeze. It helps that it's my birthday and I feel really loved by the awesome people I know well, but it also helps that the kids were amazingly good today. And by amazingly, I mean that it never happens. This week has been major trouble, so for everything to go this smoothly is kind of a miracle. See, God remembered it's my birthday and he calmed the minds of the kids for one day.

Or so I'd like to think.

Sometimes little moments of peace are all a person needs to get through the big storm. For me, today is one of those moments. It's been a really rough few weeks, but this is so worth it. Happy Birthday, and my sympathy to all those like me who have to endure Christmas ornaments as birthday presents. ;)

-Tsira

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unique Voices - The Basics

For my next novel, I'm doing something that I see in almost every Fantasy I've read: including multiple perspectives. This isn't new territory for me; Tsirash is written entirely from Octras's POV, but I've had lots of practice from my faery book and other unfinished manuscripts, numerous short stories, and even poetry. Anyone who could use a written reminder of developing unique voices for different characters (and yes, that means me, too), this post is for you.

Making every character sound unique is as complicated as it sounds--and at the same time, is not. 

We'll start with basic sentence structure, which is influenced by location and age. Someone who was raised in Germany would not speak English the way someone from Canada would. Nor would an American traveling to Japan necessarily know all their honorifics. Depending on where they were raised, a character's sentences would be put together differently. It follows that a child would have a lesser grasp of language than an adult (for the most part, anyway), and might make simple errors in grammar the way a student would when first learning a new language. Children are still studying how to speak.

A foreigner or child will likely have poor grammar or make basic mistakes that most adults native to the language wouldn't make.

Next we'll go into formality. If a character is brought up by the wealthy class, educated, or if they're just a nice person, they are more likely to use an elevated form of speech. For instance, my character Shenra is polite and formal with everyone, so she chooses words that sound respectful, and she never shortens her phrases with contractions or slang. However, someone on the opposite end of the scale, living a gritty, not-so-honorable, uneducated life is probably going to use gritty, uneducated speech.

Characters will almost always use the terminology they're used to hearing. Upper class generally means formal language; lower class usually means slang.

And everything is changed by the character's attitude toward themselves and others. Shenra obviously likes other people and treats them with respect because she feels they deserve it. My character Tsira, however, pretty much hates people, so she's either saying rude things under her breath or patronizing people who she believes "think they know more than her." Someone who is curious about everything will probably ask a lot of questions. And those who do think they know everything will probably look down others, and their voice will reflect that.

Attitude affects everything. 

Well, this is a simplified version, but really the only thing you need to know is your character. If you know them, their background and their attitudes, chances are, their voices will come through.

  • Here's a sample from Octras's POV:
Octras stared at his bag. “I hunt goods, not people.”
 
“That excuse is worth little. Haven’t you been in a league before?” Tsira's voice was frozen.

“No,” he said. “I never have.”

“Fine, go ahead and lie to me. That doesn’t change anything. I just wanted to tell you, I’m not worth the hundred ketts.”

“Life is worth much more than a hundred ketts.”

“Anyone else’s, perhaps. Not mine.”

Octras wanted to see Tsira’s expression, but he didn’t want her to see his. He was still angry. “You shouldn’t say things like that.”

“Don’t you do it to yourself all the time? I don’t understand why you even care.”

“Get out,” he whispered, putting his hand over his eyes. 

  • And one more, from Rael's:
Pain. It was a welcome reminder that what she had seen was real. Not some conjured fantasy playing out in her mind. The pain was real. She was real. Lost in murderous thought, Rael barely noticed that she was not alone. A Dragonkin she did not know leaned against her post, only a few steps from where she stood. One of Shosu's apprentices, no doubt, here to punish her disrespect for a Master of Aarii.

“If you're here to cut off my tongue, then do it and be gone, already,” she sneered.

The Dragonkin shrugged, holding his empty palms out. “I was asked to deal with you. How or when was not specified.”

Her interest piqued, Rael afforded him a second glance. “What are you going to do?”

“For now... nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

Know your characters, so that we can know them, too. Oh, and happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

-Tsira 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hey, Listen!

Pst. Guys. Skyward Sword.

If you don't see me for a while, you'll know why.

-Tsira

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Warm Fuzzy Moments

Well... it's almost over. The Warm Fuzzies Blogfest, I mean... and in honor of the conclusion, instead of asking questions, it's more of a "post one of your Warm Fuzzy moments" type thing. For those who are not participating, let me explain. 

When I write, I love every moment. Even when I struggle, it only makes getting through more worth the effort. I love plotting, outlining, exploring characters and worlds, critiquing, dropping ink bombs of revision onto my words, and plain-old churning out words. I can almost always find things to fix and twist and change as I'm writing (as I'm doing now) but once in a while, I write something brilliant. And I'm not talking about the "Oh, this is AWESOME" moment that precedes later embarrassment. 

I'm talking about the sort of gem that I still love when I discover it six months later, and I think, "Wow, I wrote that?" That is a Warm Fuzzy Moment.

I've always had an idea (you know, my little sister and I were like five and seven) for a faery novel that still lingers in the back of my brain. Two years ago, I attempted NaNo with a revised outline for this, and made it to about 8,500 words before quitting. But whenever I open the file, there's a certain part that I absolutely love. The main character, an orphan named Katie, has been taken from our world as a prisoner. The Pyrates lock her up below the deck of their ship, and there she meets a fuzzy creature who she lovingly calls Lucky. Well, that's where this scene comes in.

When I woke I remembered the darkness, though now everything was a dull grey. I could sense the bar near the opposite wall, and the stickiness that clung to it. A furry thing was curled up next to me, purring, and I impulsively stroked its head and ears.

The purring stopped, and Lucky stirred. “You said you didn’t mind,” he mumbled.

“I’m fine, thank you. You’re very warm. It was like having a pet—”

There was a long silence before the creature spoke.

“Katie?”

“Sorry, I… I’m fine.” I hadn’t woken from a nightmare. It was the first real rest I’d had since I was five and the dreams started.

“Katie, what’s a pet?”

I laughed and it echoed in the room. “You know, an animal you love and take care of, and sometimes they sleep next to you.”

Lucky pulled on his ears. “I’m not an animal,” he said.

“Oh… I’m… I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“If it makes you feel any better, pets are supposed to be really sweet, loyal friends. They’re soft and fluffy and they’re way cute.”

He didn’t respond.

“Lucky… I’m sorry. I’m not used to talking to anyone… I feel like I’m going crazy, and everything is so weird, and I really didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

Lucky remained silent, but he wrapped his paw around my fingers. Tiny points of claws touched my skin, though not unpleasantly. His round, shining eyes made me feel guilty. I never wanted to hurt anything so sweet.

“I’m sorry,” I repeated a third time. “I don’t know what else to say.”

“Me neither,” Lucky mumbled. “I been alone too long.”

I'm going to miss doing this, but with how busy everything has gotten lately, it's probably good for me that the fest is over. Well, my husband is shooing me out the door... concert time. Good night, everyone; I look forward to reading your Warm Fuzzy Moments.

-Tsira 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Busy Week

Well, it's been a pretty good week. It started out a little rough because of work, but Thursday was a short day and there was no school on Friday, so that made this weekend much more smooth.

On Thursday I went to a Speculative Fiction workshop at the CWC, and it happens again next week. It was interesting to hear what others in the workshop thought the differences between Fantasy and SciFi were. We came up with lists, which basically defined SciFi as 'cold, hard steel' and 'science' and Fantasy as 'organic' and 'magic'. This is not always the case, though, and there's a lot of overlap between the two genres. I'd definitely put myself on the far Fantasy side of the spectrum, though.

We also did a couple of writing exercises, which got me to actually write something for the sequel to Tsirash. It's been too long. Rael was getting upset with me.

(Sigh. My neighbors are watching Harry Potter on full-blast... at least it's that and not Pirates of the Caribbean. I'm starting to hate that show.)

Where was I? On Friday I had a little get-together with my roommates from college. They're all married and most of them have a kid, and in one case a house, but I'm not as jealous as I thought I'd be. My cousin and I had a good long talk about it in the car, and... sure, they are farther on the career/money track, but they're working 12-hour shifts and never get to spend time with their husbands, and any free time is non-existent with a baby around. I love babies, and I want one of my own, but...

...ahem. Friday is also my writing group meeting. We've been more distracted lately by video games and stuff, though. Actually, we've been playing Phoenix Wright as a group, and we finished a case last night. Despite the grammatical errors, I love those games.

I also found out this morning that I won one of Juliana's handmade journals for the Blogfest this week! I never expected to get anything from it, actually. I just thought it would be fun to participate and meet some more writers/bloggers. And I definitely have. I'm sad that next week is the end of the Fest... :(

Well, this week has been much busier than usual... I'm headed to Desert Star Playhouse today, too. My brother gave Jaron and me his tickets. :O

How has your week been?

-Tsira

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shenra's Sucky Life

This week the Warm Fuzzies question is about main characters. How do you kick them while they’re down?

Let's face it, being an MC would suck. All of my characters actually kind of have sucky lives. Octras, Tsira, Shenra, and Jake are all orphans... hmm.

But let's just focus on poor Shenra for a minute. Granted, she's not the master character of Tsirash, but she is a major one.

-Her father died when she was too little to remember him much.
-She was raised in a slum and ate rats.
-Her mother was lonely and depressed, and often told her so.
-She was introduced to a new 'father' a short time before a new brother was born.
-Shenra constantly had to protect her younger brother from bullies.
-The new 'father' only stayed for a few weeks at a time.
-...and he died, too.
-Her mother died shortly after from heartache.
-She and her brother moved away on their own so she could study Healing arts.
-As it turns out, her religious views were not accepted by the other Healers.
-So, she couldn't learn the magical part of Healing, only the medical parts.
-She learned a hard truth then, that she could not bring back the dead.
-Oh yeah, and she's also going blind.

Yet Shenra is... kind of amazing. She chooses to focus on the few good things in life. (By the way, she is the one who explains 'tsirash' to Octras!) So, based on this, could you come up with a title for a book?

 -Tsira

PS. Speaking of slightly encouraging things, I got a partial request from one of my queries. It was turned down after that, but I'm still going ohmygoshohmygoshohmygoshyay. :) It's a step up from a rejected query to a rejected manuscript. Ha.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spoken Words

I don't know if I've told you this before, but I have a verbal communication issue. It's partly due to my family--we kind of have our own language that filters through movie quotes and inside jokes. It works when I'm with them, but when I'm with anyone else, no one has a clue what I'm talking about. Another part of it is my overactive imagination. I make jumps in subject that make sense to me, because my brain goes A-B-C-D-E-F in 0.6 seconds, but it comes out as A-F and again, no one knows what I'm talking about.

Beyond that, my brain wanders fairly quickly, and even when I'm focusing, I sometimes miss entire paragraphs of conversation. My husband could tell you all about that.

Then there's plain old blankness. My mind wipes my vocabulary when I try to explain things out loud. Let me elaborate.


I try to tell you something
your eyes show that you're wondering
I fumble--try anew
but my mouth will just not do
anything I ask it to

you cannot find a meaning
in the words that I am speaking
my spoken thoughts do not ring true
but when I write, I show to you
the message
finally gets through

Well, that's it for today. Happy writing, everyone.


-Tsira

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stupid Synopsis

I sent out my second batch of queries today after taking a long, hard look at my basic query letter. My pitch needed some work.

The standings are now thus:
Sent: 15
Rejected: 4

As soon as I revise my synopsis I'll send out some more. The synopsis... is just okay. It's work to me to do this. Writing the book was the easy part. This is nerve-wracking, wear-me-down, make-me-bleed work. Writing a query wasn't so tough, but for some reason that synopsis is killing me. I don't know what balance to strike between speed and detail, what rhythm I should follow, how much I should hold back, and how much I should let go.

And the thing is... there's no perfect solution.

Because people are different, there's not an answer that will appeal to every agent. I just have to trust myself. And that scares me.

...

-Tsira

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Everything is Inspiration

*Sniff* I despise being ill.

Okay! The questions over at the Warm Fuzzies Blogfest this week are: What do you look to when you write? What inspires you? How else do you use your creativity? Music? Pictures? Art?

I'll start with this.


This is the drawing that summarizes my entire first novel, Tsirash.

As for what inspires me, the answer is everything. I've talked about this before, but my inspiration comes from everywhere. The color of a leaf. The scent of warm soup. The sound of a purr. The taste of smoke on the wind. The texture of skin. The ache of love. Anything and everything I experience makes me want to write.

But it's more than that. I don't just write words, but also music. I often lament the fact that I have no piano of my own, and cannot sit down to play whenever I want, but thanks to the numerous music-creating programs out there, I can come up with pieces I will never get to hear with real instruments. Most notably, I've written a dozen pieces so far for my husband's project, Gaialite. Right now it's taking backstage to some other creative works, but if you want to hear it, here is one sample, and here another.

I also have a piano piece titled Tsirash, for, you guessed it, Tsirash. It captures the mood of my novel really well, I think. But I won't post it here for personal reasons.

And one more thing: I draw, too. I know, I know. I have a finger in every pie. Below my profile pic (over here -->) is a link to my deviantART page, where writing, drawing, and photography can all be found. I even have a folder for my book there... it's the LOM project. Yes, LOM, standing for Legend of Mura. That was the name I created for the project back in... oh, 1998. It doesn't fit anymore, but that doesn't really matter, does it?

My head is all fuzzy from medicine, so... I haven't thought of a way to wrap this post up all tidy-like. Until next time... peace.

-Tsira

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Proud To Be a Writer

I'm totally excited for this BlogFest. The question this week: Do you tell other people that you're a writer?

Yes, I do.

The common answer in the writing community seems to be "No." And I get it; it doesn't come up, or worse, you've had a bad experience. When we tell others that we write, we're worried that they won't care, don't understand, or will try to talk us out of it. "That's not a career, it's a hobby."

But more often than not, I get a positive response from my coworkers and friends.

"So what did you do this weekend?"
"I wrote a bunch," I say.
"Oh yeah? You're a writer?"
"Yeah... I finished a book this year. I'm trying to get it published."
"What's it about?"
"A mercenary protects this girl on a journey south. It's a fantasy, so there's trolls and sword-fighting and stuff." (Note: professionally, my oral pitching totally needs work, but in casual conversation with friends, this simple delivery will suffice.)
"Sounds cool. Good luck with that."

Sometimes they actually ask about the writing process, what it's like trying to get published, or ask for more details about the story, but usually that's the extent of the conversation. Painless.

For me, it's harder to not talk about being a writer than it is to tell everyone. It's such a big part of my life. I've been writing since I could hold a pencil, and it's always been my dream to get a book published. But I'll tell you the best reactions are these:

"You're a writer?"
"Yeah."
"Hey, me too!"

We're not as uncommon as we think we are. I have two different writing groups (one that Jaron was referred to, and one that we made on our own) and they're full of people from all walks of life. We have friends who work with children, with medicine, with computers, and with music who are working on something of their own.

My deep affection for my husband started with one such conversation. We were both stuck at our high school, and when we talked, we eventually delved into our stories. The long discussion about rules of magic, types of characters, and family situations that ensued was the starting point for our relationship. So do I tell people I'm a writer?

Always.

-Tsira

Monday, October 24, 2011

Coincidental Resemblance

Story time.

Last weekend, I went on a mini-vacation with my husband, Jaron. For the most part, we lounged at the hotel and ate all sorts of body-destroying deliciousness. We did, however, spend one morning walking around a mall, shopping (but not buying). During this time, Jaron insisted on going into Game Stop. Despite my protests* I was whisked into the store.

After getting high scores on Wii Play Motion, watching several people play inFAMOUS 2, and glancing over hundreds of titles, Jaron and I eyed the used PSP games (we bought a PSP this year). That's when I saw this box art.


The art style and colors are what caught my eye--so I picked it up, and began to read.

"Drunk, despondent, and down on his luck, a spellsword mercenary named Crais Sewell reluctantly accepts a job from a young, cheerful troubadour named Sophie Rothorn. Their mission: to recover seven jewels scattered throughout the world of Iyar- for what reason, Sophie refuses to say. On their travels, Sophie and Crais meet Melrose, an eccentric mage with a penchant for dissection, Tinon, a tomboy who wields her magic a little too liberally, and Patty, a young woman with a good heart and a love for magical items disproportionate to her funds. As it becomes clear that Sophie's quest is not unrelated to a past Crais would prefer to forget, he faces a choice: Will he confront his past failures, and ultimately overcome them, or succumb to despair and misery? It is entirely possible that the fate of the world, or at least Crais's corner of it, may depend on his answer."

Now, let me put this into perspective here. I just finished writing a book about a mercenary acting as a bodyguard for a mysterious rich girl. I'll revise the above description to show you what exactly why I was so startled.

"Despondent and down on his luck, a mercenary named Octras reluctantly accepts a job from a young, mysterious girl named Tsira. The mission: to protect her as she heads south--for what reason, she refuses to say. On their travels, Tsira and Octras meet Shenra, a healer with a penchant for honesty, and Jake, a boy who wields his tongue a little too liberally, though he has a good heart and a love for swordplay disproportionate to his skills. As it becomes clear that Tsira's quest is not unrelated to a past Octras would prefer to forget, he faces a choice: Will he confront his past failures, and ultimately overcome them, or succumb to despair and misery? It is entirely possible that the fate of the world, or at least Octras's corner of it, may depend on his answer."

Anyway, I spent some time looking up this game, Mimana IYAR Chronicle, and as it turns out, the game isn't like my book beyond this snippet. And it's supposedly a failure. Its ratings are really low, the gameplay is considered tedious, and the story apparently falls flat. But it got my attention, so...

Similar stories could be applied to many of the ideas I (and my younger siblings) have come up with. The character Tibblz from my TimiThy story (you know, from the first grade) was almost a perfect match with J.K. Rowling's Tonks. My little brother thinks up Rowan of Fire, and next thing we know, we see Rowan of Rin at the library.**

We joke that someone with brain cameras is stealing our ideas, but honestly, is there anything original anymore? Has this ever happened to you?

-Tsira

*Going into a game store is exhausting in much the same way as going into a book store. It's partly because I want them all, and I know I can't afford any of them. I mean, we can afford like $50 a month for that stuff. That's only ONE game. And right now, we're waiting for Skyward Sword.

**Rowan of Rin has very little to do with my brother's idea, and was published before then, but I was just talking about the shock of finding a coincidental resemblance here. At the time we discovered the book, we freaked out. I was only ten.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Newness

It's been a pretty crazy week. Between teaching, getting spit out of my hair, celebrating a wedding anniversary, visiting art galleries, fixing Jaron's haircut, browsing for Halloween costumes, trying to beat those stupid red chocobos (curse you, Final Fantasy Tactics!), attending writing group meetings, and many other things, I've written a few new scenes.

For me, this is a totally different style. I haven't written much from Tsira's perspective, since Tsirash takes place entirely from Octras's POV, and finally getting into her head is so strange. It's kind of like visiting my seventeen-year-old self, who had a pretty depressing, hateful thought process. But I have to balance that tension with her sensitive side so that she doesn't come across as, as my friend Nikki put it, a heartless b****. 

I have a lot of practicing to do. 

-Tsira

Oh, and by the way--Jaron, I love you. :) Happy anniversary, angel.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Three Types of Stories

They say there are two types of stories: character-driven and plot-driven. But, being a fan of fantasy and science fiction, I suggest that there is a third--world-driven.

While every novel should be some combination of the three, most writers tend to favor one over the other two. I've stated my preference before; I love books that are primarily about the characters. But what kind of story do you favor? Where should you begin when you write? Do you draw up a character, a world to populate, or a fantastic adventure?

Character-Driven Stories

My ideas generally spawn from ideas for characters, and ways to make them interact. My first novel, Tsirash, relies heavily on the relationship between Octras and Tsira. They are foils for each other, "mirror characters" who handle similar circumstances in different ways--and different circumstances in similar ways. While the plot and world are interesting, the focus is on the characters.

If the story consists mostly of internal conflict or dealing with relationships (and I mean all relationships, not just romantic ones), you are probably reading/writing a character-driven story.

Examples of character-driven stories:

Plot-Driven Stories

My little sister and I once worked together on a story called "TimiThy" (although we later decided it was a stupid name). The story had a specific goal: kill the villain, Mr. G.(Gladiator), and restore the kingdom of the Fairies. While we had some fun characters, Timi and her friends were really just along for the ride, doing what was necessary for the plot to advance. 

Whatever the goal may be (getting the Holy Grail, rescuing the princess, or achieving enlightenment), if it takes center stage, it's a plot-driven story.

Examples of plot-driven stories:

World-Driven Stories
Dave, a friend from one of my writing groups, cannot say that he has people living in his head the way I do, nor can much of his writing fall under the plot-driven story. You see, Dave's specialty is world-building. His science fiction creations often revolve around ideas of virtual space, countries where video games affect the real world, and theories of quantum mechanics. And that's perfectly fine--in fact, it has worked for many, many authors. There are lots of readers who love nothing more than delving into another world for the possibilities it presents.

Science fiction, and its sister, fantasy, are the rulers of the world-driven story. I listed Lord of the Rings as plot, but it could just as easily fit here. J.R.R. Tolkien was a master of world-building and languages; writers and game creators almost always draw from the mythology he created for their fantasy. Even I am using the race "Elf" in my book (although the similarities between my Elves and his are few).

When the mechanics of the world are explained in great detail, even to the point of halting the plot, the story is a world-driven one.

Examples of world-driven stories:

What kind of story do you like the most, or the least? (Any other thoughts about these three types of stories are always welcome. I love hearing from you!)

-Tsira

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Getting Around Writer's Block

In recent months I've heard a great deal about writer's block. I'm sure that all of you have at some point felt it--your drive just isn't there, or if it is, the words you're searching for can't seem to be found. But what can you do to overcome it?

1. Write. I've heard this advice countless times. When you've written yourself into a corner, write your way out of it. Actually, all other solutions are pointless unless you write. If you're stuck on one scene, try writing another scene and coming back to it later. You may also want to backtrack and try the previous scene again. Maybe you can't do that. Well, then, you'll write a different book, or if you must, write about a completely different topic.

2. Brainstorm with a close friend. I struggled with a scene last week because I can't write about nothing. It bores me. While I knew I needed a scene between point A and point B, all I knew about it was that it had to show the relationship between two characters. There was no conflict, however, and when I realized this I tried to solve the problem on my own. I had no ideas. So I asked my husband, Jaron, to help me. He gave me a simple suggestion that spurred my imagination again: "Do they celebrate birthdays in your world?"

The answer was no, but that prompted more questions: What do they celebrate? Would there be some kind of festival at this time? What would it be for? Would they give gifts? What kind of things might they give as presents? Having a second mind was just what I needed.

3. Read. You may find the answers you're looking for are right under your nose. Books, poems, critiques, articles, blog posts, research... there's so much in the world to be studied. Chances are, one of those things will ignite your interest in your writing. 

4. Go outside. I know how easy it is to relax in your jammies and just eat cereal. But leaving the comfort of your home is essential if you're going to write anything. Why? There are so many things that you can't have from your seat in front of the computer screen; the sights, scents, sounds, tastes, touches, and emotions that make up your experiences will shape your writing, in whatever form that may be. 

Go to a museum, or a park, or a restaurant. Enjoy life. Soak up that information, and then use it. Take a notebook with you wherever you go, and write your thoughts down. It's simple and effective.

5.  Imagine the problem as an obstacle you can overcome. Jaron once told me that he imagines a little samurai slicing up his fears like they're made of paper. This can apply to your writing, too--and in a strange way, it works. I've fired catapults at imaginary fortresses, pretended flight or invisibility, and punched holes through 'impenetrable' armor. It's a temporary solution, but if it's the kick in the rear you need, go for it.

I've used all five of these things at one point, and they've always worked for me. But if there's any others that work for you, feel free to comment and I may include your solution in a future post. 

-Tsira

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Great News

Yes, exactly that. I come bearing great news!

A new site for writers, called inkPageant, has launched!

inkPageant is an easy-to-use writer's reference, aggregator, and search engine. Having the pleasure of joining the site before its official launch today, I see huge potential for this site. I have already enjoyed exploring the posts on inkPageant a dozen times, lapping up the information from both professionals and hopefuls like me. And with your help, this could be the #1 place for writers from around the world. 

Right now the site holds about a hundred blurbs, all linked to writing ideas, tips, and reviews... and guess what? You can be a part of it for free. You can share your ideas, your tips, and your reviews. For their launch, inkPageant is even holding a contest for a $50 Amazon gift card, where the writing posts you share become your entries.

--

I also have some great news about my writing--I sent off my first batch of queries yesterday. From one time-efficient agent I already received a reply: "No, thank you."

Polite, sweet, short. Rejected. 

Yay. I think I'm going to print it out and hang it on my wall. (I'm being serious here. I'm not disappointed or angry; in fact, I'm just thrilled to receive such a prompt response.)

-Tsira

Monday, October 3, 2011

Concise, Character-Driven Stories

I know, I know, you think I'm a slacker because I haven't posted anything. And in a way I guess that's true. Work leaves me stressed and tired, and keeping up with everything I enjoy is very difficult. I think I have too many hobbies.

But writing takes up most of my time. Most of the hours I spend on the internet are for precious networking and research. This weekend alone I spent over twelve hours researching queries, synopses, outlines, agencies, and agents. And how many agents did I end up with? Eight. Sure, it's easy to look up agencies. The Writer's Market helps with the basics, but even using that, finding someone who would enjoy my particular style took a lot of time.

I'll make this clear now: I love fantasy--but while I love exploring worlds, that is not the only purpose of a book. To me, a good story must first and foremost be about people. Elves, Drow, Na'vi, whatever you call them, a story needs interesting characters. My favorite book right now, Inkdeath, is centered around diverse but realistic people; Dustfinger in particular is so interesting to follow as he struggles against the roles assigned to them. My favorite video game, Majora's Mask, forces Link to relive the same 3 days over and over again, living in a beautiful but sad place where all the citizens are trying to cope with the prospect of imminent death. Their dreams and nightmares, successes and failures, become his purpose.

Hand in hand with my love of people is my love of concise language. Fantasy is often full of florid descriptions, which sometimes bores me to a stupor. The best way I can think to present my idea is through comparing it to poetry. Using vivid, tight language will get your point across in a much better way. While you could string any words together to make a poem:

I like to read a lot; reading is awesome and fun.
I curl up in a corner, getting ready,
then soak up every little part because my mind is like a sponge for words.
I feel a sort of aching in my chest because I love it so much.
I go to a different place in the story; I am no longer me, but the people of the book.

(Bored? I was... I couldn't continue to write this.)
Carefully choosing your words will strengthen every aspect of your writing.

Out of curiosity I grasp the giant book.
My fingers start to trace
The letters black and smudged. As I begin to look,
I’m in another place.

The words flow with such eloquence, the paragraphs with grace,
And I, in reverence rare,
Wander to a corner, finding my own space,
For this I cannot share.

I have never been so ready, never so engaged.
My body starts to chill.
My mind enraptured, focused, devours every page.
My eyes cannot stay still.

Until into reality I step, I’ll stay right here.
A world of fantasy
Awaits my anxious heart. The story whispering near
Is beckoning to me.

I included these two points in each query letter. I'll be sending those off tomorrow or the next day after I get some feedback on my synopsis. Hopefully there won't be too many major problems with it... I'm off to edit it now. Wish me luck!

-Tsira

PS. The poem at the end is titled "Reading" and was first published by me in 2008. It can also be found here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Inspiration

I feel really lazy for not writing in over a week. I may have said this before, but my job is very tiring and so when I get home I don't feel like doing anything. Lately that means spending way too much time on video games.

However, just because I haven't written anything doesn't mean I haven't thought about writing. I've gotten all sorts of good ideas this week from people-watching, working, and trimming my mom's bushes... which brings me to the main point of this post.

Inspiration can come from anywhere.

It doesn't have to be from an intense brain-storming session, or even from being slightly productive. Going about work as usual can be just as inspiring as going on a soul-searching journey through the wilderness. And I would never rule out video games as a source of inspiration, either. I started up Minecraft again this week, and as I was making a map and exploring the randomly-generated world, this random thought popped into my head: what if I wrote a story centered around this world? Snow to the North, deserts to the West, mountains and caves to the South and East... that might make a neat setting for a novel.

Of course, inspiration can also come from others. I love having two writing groups--one of people I knew in school, one of people I met through the library system. Each group has a different feel, and so when one group is stumped by a problem, the other can solve it. This past Tuesday the Columbus writing group said something that really stuck with me, and I think I'll be incorporating that into Rael's character. So cool.

Well, I'd like for you, dear readers, to tell me what crazy things have inspired you.

Until next time!

-Tsira

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Warbreaker

WarbreakerWarbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars: ****^

Well, I'm finally getting around to doing this. I have to tell you, I loved this book. I loved the world, I loved the characters, and I definitely loved the writing style. There are no glaring flaws with the book. However, there were a few little things that bothered me, and so I'm going to explain what took me away from giving Warbreaker a five-star rating.

One thing that I always notice about writing, in any form, is that grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors are everywhere. And while I make mistakes of my own, I'm sad when I see it happen in a formally published place. On a sign, in magazines, newspapers, and especially books (which should be showing off the best writers). Anyway, I'm happy to say that this was generally not a problem in Warbreaker. There were a few sentences I stumbled over, but on the whole, the writing flowed beautifully. But the reason I bring up this point at all is this. On page 501, Vivenna is having a conversation with Vasher--when suddenly Lightsong replies to something Vivenna says. Since Vivenna has never met Lightsong, I assume Mr. Sanderson meant Vasher. But that, little as it is, has been coming back to me every time I think about this book.

The second problem with this book is a smaller form of what I didn't like about Elantris. It is this: when a book sticks to three or four characters for five hundred pages, it is jarring and frustrating to introduce a tiny, trivial character's POV. Here we are in the action--I want to know what is going to happen to the characters I have come to know and love--and there's a random two-page chunk from a guy sitting in his boat. And while this sort of explains the question of "What happened to this thing?" It isn't really even necessary. Because through Vivenna's POV shortly after, we could have filled in the details ourselves.

The last thing that annoys me when I think about it is Vivenna. She's pretty useless. Sure, she gets into a lot of trouble, but she's being led by the hand the entire time. And when no one is holding her hand, she drops off into oblivion until someone rescues her. Her actions (or rather inactions) make her by far the weakest character in the book. I could get into details here, but I don't want to put spoilers in this post.

Like I said at the start, I loved this book. I was even caught by two big surprises! That doesn't happen very often for me; I can usually figure out what's going to happen at least a little while before it does. That was part of why I loved it so much. The little mysteries like who Lightsong was before he Returned and why the God King, Susebron, acts so strangely at first really kept the story engaging. I was happy to ride along, even if I wasn't sure where the story was headed. I believe that anyone who likes fantasy should pick this up. My favorite thing, its original take on magic (the colors and Breath system), was executed in a brilliant way.

Now to see if I can pick up a copy of Mistborn...

-Tsira

View all my reviews

Friday, September 9, 2011

Query Letter Babylon

I should be writing the next part of my sequel right now.

I finally came up with a sample query letter. It says pretty much nothing about me. It's a hook and a few lines to show what Tsirash is about. I still have a lot of research to do agent-wise. Nikki from the Columbus Writing Group lent me a book called Your First Novel, by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb. Half of the book is about writing, half is about publishing.

Since my book is already done (although I'm still open for revisions as little issues come up--my brother Andy and I have been trading feedback for the past few weeks) I kinda skimmed the first half of Your First Novel and went straight for the publishing part. It's been really useful and I'm so glad Nikki let me borrow it. I'm thinking about just purchasing another copy so I can have it on hand even after she wants it back. Anyway, there's a lot of work that goes into publishing. I knew that already, and I knew that there was a lot I will have to do to promote my own book. But getting to know what agents do/don't do and what I can expect in terms of waiting periods, questions I'll be asked, advances (money--sure I want to make a profit, but it's not the main reason I'm doing this... if it was, I'd be in major trouble) and contracts.

One great suggestion given in this book (and I'm sure I've seen it elsewhere too) is that I look for the agents of authors I admire, whose writing styles are similar to my own. My brain screams, "Brandon Sanderson!" I finished Warbreaker a week or so ago (a review is coming soon, I promise) and loved it. This may be pretentious, but... I do think we have similarities in style. The idea wasn't even brought up by me. Someone at our writing group brought it up several times a few months ago. "This reminds me of a Sanderson novel," he said. "Have you read anything of his?"

"No... but I will now!"

So far, I've digested two of them, and I definitely want to consume the Mistborn trilogy. Om nom nom.

Words are delicious.

-Tsira

PS. The title for this post comes from a chapter heading of Your First Novel.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

All Sorts of Things

A small box caught his attention. It was unadorned, unlike most of the other things on the table. He picked it up and brushed the dust off with his thumb. A simple carving, shaped like a dragon with a circle beside it, cut into the top. He blew the remaining dust from the marking and twisted the box around, looking for a way to open it, but none could be found.

Like a steel blade, Tsira’s voice cut through the musty air. “It doesn't open.”

--

I'm listening to some music I wrote for Jaron's game. I... really like it. And I don't want all that work to go away. Our new computer, one that needs a new motherboard, is being held by the store until the motherboard arrives. And they're saying "If we can't get it, we'll get you a replacement."

But there is no comfort in that. I don't want a new computer--I just got one, and I've done a ridiculous amount of work on it. A ton of my artwork, newer revisions of my book (luckily that one was backed up in several other places a few days before the final crash), and most of all, my musical compositions--they're all on that hard drive. There's no reason for them to wipe the hard drive, but I'm still terrified. My brain keeps telling me they're going to wipe it just because they can. And then I'll lose all of that work. Jaron told me to back up everything when the crashes first started happening, but as we were doing just that, black screen of death happened.

I feel really emotional about the work I've done the past couple of months. I don't think I can handle losing all of that. Sure, I have mp3s of about half the game music, and versions of my art all over dA, but I'm kinda paranoid. Makes me want to cry when I think about that happening. I've been saying stuff like "if that happens I'll shoot someone," and that's not at all like me.

Anyway... adding to my stress right now are all sorts of other things. I feel like the laziest person on the world for not having submitted queries to fifty agencies already, but the truth is I've already done the hard part. Tsirash is done. How many of the would-be writers in the world have actually gotten that far? I know a lot of people who want to write something and have never done it, because it's a ridiculous amount of work.

If you can call it that. For me it was happiness, and a lot of well-used time. Certainly not 'work' at all.

Although, I love my job... and it's a ton of work. It feels like a service that goes unrecognized. The pay is not that good for what I do every day. But it's because I didn't jump through the career hoops of professionals. I'm a teacher, without the degree. I'm a mom, without the childbirth. I'm a cop, without the training. I'm a psychologist, nurse, and babysitter. My job takes everything I have.

Even my skin.

-Tsira

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to Work

Lost in murderous thought, Rael barely noticed that she was not alone. A Dragonkin she did not know leaned against her post, only a few steps from where she stood. One of Shosu's apprentices, no doubt, here to punish her disrespect for a Master of Aarii.

"If you're here to cut off my tongue, then do it and be gone already," she sneered.
--

Work started again this week. I'm working with third and fourth graders now, so they're a little younger, a little less hormonal, and also a little less communicative. They're super adorable and don't have the social understanding of what's for "little kids" and what isn't. What I mean is, you can ask them to touch their nose, and they'll gladly show you where their nose is. They'll tell you what color crayon they're holding. They go crazy over pop-up, open-the-flap, and magnet books. They dance and sing the alphabet.

It reminds me of my nieces and nephews.

But! (if you buy two completos...)

But these kids also have the capacity for great trouble. If they get frustrated, instead of asking for help they will just scream and hit things. We have a couple of wanderers that get into anything and everything. They can't manage to walk in a line... or keep their hands to themselves. We have a lot of sticky fingers in our class. We've already had kids try to take classroom items home (so we have to check backpacks now). And a few of them are also terrible liars.

What I mean is, they'll think up lies quickly to get what they want. And luckily, they're not very good at it. I watched today as someone sat on another person's feet, and when the one behind them moved, they immediately started crying and said that they'd been kicked. I'd watched the whole thing because I knew they were fighting over a certain spot, and it was really obvious what had happened even to those who weren't really paying attention. Other such problems happened all day. 

But I really do love my job. Like I said, they're super-cute, and I know I can help them learn to be better with the work that I do. Granted, not all of them will accept my offer, but if even one of them improves in the slightest, I am happy to be a part of it, to have the opportunity to watch them grow.

...off topic, I'm still stuck on the query letter stuff. It scares me, that a little page has to sell me and my entire manuscript, and that it can easily be brushed aside without a second glance if I don't deliver on the first sentence.

Long sigh.

-Tsira