Monday, May 19, 2014

My Writing Process (Blog Tour)

I'm sure many of you are already familiar with the blog tour that's spread like wildfire across the blogosphere (especially considering most of you seem to have already participated -_-,). Being the slacker that I am, I hadn't heard of it until the hilarious Michael G. Munz approached me on Twitter and asked if I'd like to participate. You can read his entry here.

And I apologize in advance for the length of the following post. All right. On with the show!

What am I working on?

A lot of things. I have to split my time between projects, and I give myself waaaay too many of them.

I'm currently querying Tsirash, which is a New Adult Fantasy novel. Octras works as a bodyguard for Tsira, who may or may not be a witch. She's being watched by someone with a connection to the drold--giant, scaly creatures with a tendency to slaughter everything in their path. Octras has a dark history with the drold that may have to come to light... The book is filled with mostly dialogue, interesting places, intense battles, and romance. (Yeah, I am super-good at making my book sound the greatest in the world.*) Tsirash is my biggest priority right now. Then there's Najra, a sequel to Tsirash, where cool stuff with Dragonkin, a master thief, politics, and magick happens. I'm writing that while I wait for responses. So far they've been mostly, "Sounds interesting, but it's not for me, sorry."

I'm also illustrating a children's book, which is about inspiration. I need to work on it more. Here's a picture of the main character, Lily, for those who haven't seen it yet. There's also Dungeonball, which I might not be doing the artwork for after all *sniff*, music for Gaialite, which has been suspended until further notice, and the script for a Monster Hunters Visual Novel/RPG game. I also paint minis when I feel like it.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Fantasy tends to have world-driven or plot-driven story lines. They're always these sprawling epics where the fate of the world lies in the palm of some chosen hero and his sidekicks. (Look at Lord of the Rings, Shannara, The Sword of Truth, or any number of others for examples.) Tsirash is character-driven and small in scope. Yes, I think Octras is special, but he's not busy saving the world, he's just trying to keep his employer alive. The story remains very personal. It's all about their interactions with each other.

I also changed up the stereotypes commonly found in fantasy. Octras is not the calloused, emotionless badass a mercenary is expected to be. Tsira is socially inept and bad at fighting, but she recognizes her weakness for what it is, which is why she asked for Octras's help in the first place. My religious healer figure, Shenra, does not follow the same god as her peers and doesn't have a magical cure for every wound. Cute little Jake is a mixed-race boy who is not bullied for it as his sister suspects--nope, he's the one picking fights. And yes, my book passes the Bechdel test, though I've been told it's even more interesting and rare that Octras and Shenra can have deep discussions without being romantically interested in each other.

Why do I write what I do?

Because the books I wanted to read didn't exist yet (to my knowledge). I have an over-active imagination and I love the idea of otherworldly places and people, but I don't want the world to bog down the story, nor the story to get in the way of the characters' natural interactions. I admit I drew inspiration from LoTR, with my developed fictional language, from Dungeons and Dragons for the Vaen race (who look similar to the Drow), and video games like Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda. I love the fantastic. I have since I was a kid, whether that was as an ice-powered witch or a nature-loving shapeshifter or a thief with a prehensile tail. I just think that the genre needs a big expansion. I mean, how much of Fantasy relies on the classic Elves/Dwarves/Humans/Halflings/Orcs that Tolkien made so famous? I want a Fantasy story that doesn't use these things.

How does my writing process work?

As far as ideas go, there are too many to fit into my brain. I'm inspired by pretty much anything and everything. A distinct smell, the distorted reflection of my face in a raindrop, the way someone's mouth moves when they talk. Characters frequently walk up and introduce themselves to me, requesting or demanding that their story is told. I have vivid dreams in which anything is possible--heavenly and hellish alike. As for actually writing these ideas down, however, the basic structure goes as follows:

Designate time to write. I have a hard time with the 15-minute window some people like, because I get really involved. I can sit down for 8 to 10 hours without getting up to eat or go to the bathroom or speak to anyone. My husband is aware that if he asks me something while I'm writing, he's either going to be ignored or shushed. 
Write. It doesn't matter what the utensil is. I like my laptop, but if it's not available or it's taking too long to load, I'll use another computer or a notebook. I frequently have several notebooks AND my lappy open, with pictures I've drawn to the side for assistance. I also frequently edit myself as I'm writing, which makes my word count rather low per day, but good enough that I don't have to chop 15K when my draft is done. Actually, Tsirash went from 50,000 to 70,000 with the last draft, not the other way around. I had to add a lot more than I had to take out. 
Read. I like to read what I've written out loud. It helps with the flow and pacing. When I start the next day, it's easier to remember what I've already done if I've heard it first. The more senses you can engage (i.e. looking AND listening) the better off you'll be.

Next on the tour...

Nathan Cunningham tends to write sci-fi with poignancy and humor, and LDS fiction. He also happens to be an awesome guy that I know in person. He's very fond of puns. Watch for his post next week!

And, as I stated, most of the other people I asked throughout the week were already participating. So here are some awesome people's writing process posts:

Heather R. Holden - who has a webcomic called the Echo Effect, which is a modern-day Narcissus and Echo.

D. Wilder - who writes dragon-centric fantasy that challenges the stereotypes. (Be warned, this post is a long one!)

Juliana L. Brandt - who has been a great help with my own work and has graciously allowed me to critique a few of her works. Her imagery is the stuff of legend.

Until next time!


*Note sarcasm.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Multi-book Review

I've been working at the library for a while now. (I passed my six-month evaluation shelving test with flying colors!) Essentially what this means is that I see certain books a dozen times a week, and I wish I had time to read ALL the books. But I don't. So I pick a few which stand out or are recommended to me throughout the day and check them out. Not that I have time to read all of those, either. Usually I check them out, read a few pages, renew them, scold myself for not reading them, renew them again, read a few chapters, renew them again, and whine that I have to return them before I had a chance to finish. I'm like that.

That being said, I did finish a few good books since I last posted.

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Night Circus is a beautiful example of a world-driven story. The world, though magic, is vibrant, deep, and complex. It is easy to get lost in the stark black-and-white tents, the performances, the smell of popcorn, the cool lighting. It is also a long game and a romance, but those come second to the wonder and exploration of the world.

I'm not suggesting that I want it to be this way. I had hoped for more between the main characters, Marco and Celia. They lead very separate lives throughout the entirety of the book, and while this was by design, I wanted to see more interaction. My favorite scenes were of their brief encounters. But the book focuses primarily on the construction and function of the circus itself, even placing one of the primary viewpoints with a young boy named Bailey who becomes embroiled in their world.

The timeline skips around a lot, which adds to the surrealism but can make it hard to follow unless you have a pen and paper or an amazing ability to remember dates. At one point I thought a scene with Bailey and a scene in the circus were happening simultaneously, only to later be confused when I discovered they were a year apart mid-scene. It pulled me out of the story and I had to go back and track dates to make sure. This could be made easier to follow with a "one year earlier" type of note but all that's listed are generally arbitrary dates.

I was also a bit disappointed with the ending. It was good, but not great. I feel like there were some wasted opportunities there, especially with the development of seemingly small roles which suddenly became large. As a world, though, The Night Circus is amazing. It is intricate, delicate, and beautiful. The people and places feel real. The magic is visceral, the world tangible. The writing is fluid. It was so easy to forget myself and live in the book.

Bad Kitty (Bad Kitty, #1)Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was pure, lighthearted fun. Aside from Jasmine's distinctive, quirky voice and the footnote commentary, there are silly scenes dealing with underwear, crushes, and pretending to be celebrities. It is part teen romance, part mystery thriller. I laughed out loud at the sheer silliness of certain situations, just along for the ride. It was crazy, yet predictable. I had everything figured out before the end, excepting the identity of Alex (that's my superpower).

This is not to say that the characters weren't believable. Jas deals with many of the same concerns over body image and boys and talents that most teenage girls do. She says everyone has a superpower but her. (She has one, and it's staring us right in the face, but she can't see it. Sound familiar?) She has a love/hate relationship with her dad. She doesn't know how to relate to kids.

The only thing that really bothered me about this book was that by reading the back and excerpts, I got the impression there would be more... I dunno, Cats. The book is called Bad Kitty, after all. And it promises cat mayhem with the introduction of Mad Joe at the beginning. But it doesn't deliver on that promise.

Overall, awesome book. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes quirky, fast-paced writing and mystery stories.


View all my reviews