Monday, December 17, 2012

A thought...

I was about to write a long post about how sad I am about Sandy Hook (I can't seem to get over it), and how inappropriate I think it is that the massacre has prompted an internet debate over gun control (now really isn't the time to start screaming about gun rights--at least wait until actual legislation is on the table), and how disgusting a certain shock-and-publicity addicted church is, which I will not name because their name already gets way too much coverage. And then I thought, I've been avoiding my WiP for weeks, and instead of writing this blog post, wouldn't it be better to get back into that? And I thought, yes. Yes, it would be. So I'm off to do that now.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Time Just Gets Away From Me

Well, it's been ages since my last post, and I can account for that. I started a new job, and between lesson planning and everything that goes into teaching jobs, carrying for my now one year old (!) son and everything that goes into being a wife and mom, and working on my masters and everything that goes into that as well as finishing my BTSA, I just haven't had much time for writing fiction, much less keeping up with this blog. I miss it! I love being a mom, but when it comes down to it, carrying for my son takes most of my time, and I do miss the days when I had hours and hours to just do whatever I wanted, be it writing novels or blogging or whatever.

Anyway, I did get back into writing for about a week and a half in November, and I started a third book in the Veronica Barry series (technically fourth, if you count Veronica in Paris). Wait, you say, what about the decopunk serial? I will get back to it, I promise. I just hit a wall with it, and now I have to let it simmer for a while. Besides, I so strongly associate Veronica to November--NaNoWriMo, you know. In fact, I (vehhery) optimistically announced I was participating in NaNo this year, and then the holidays struck, and I was too busy making pecan pie and green bean casserole and hanging out with friends. Oh, and being a mom and writing a paper for my MA. So yeah, didn't even hit the halfway point in NaNo. Oh well. At least my novel is off to a strong start.

Although if I'm being honest, I also ran up against a big problem with the plot, and had to stop and think about it for a while. But that's resolved. So I hope to continue to make progress on that front--maybe not every day or anything, but steadily, and have a first draft done some time in the spring. Fingers and toes crossed.

My goal for this blog is to post a review of Jacqueline Carey's Naamah's Blessing soon. And what I'm really really hoping is that I might possibly maybe get her to do a little interview to go with the review. Can't hurt to ask, anyway, and hopefully she won't think I'm a big flake for taking so long to do this (she sent me the copy of the novel to review many moons ago).

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Free book! Come and get it!

Hi everyone! To celebrate the publishing of The Fire and the Veil, book 2 in my Veronica Barry series, I'm offering my novella, Veronica in Paris, (it's a prequel) for free for a limited time. Go to Smashwords, start a purchase of a copy of Veronica in Paris, and enter coupon code TL69N, which gives you 100% off. Smashwords is convenient because you have many choices as to format (including Kindle and Apple), so you should find one that suits your needs. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New book out! The Fire and the Veil

I decided to devote last week to finishing the revisions on The Fire and the Veil, the sequel to The River and the Roses, which I'd been neglecting since last year. I created my cover and published it on Amazon! I'll need to find some more time soon to get it up on Smashwords, too. I'm so pleased to have finally got it out, though.

Here's the summary:
French teacher and reluctant psychic Veronica Barry is under pressure. Her best friend's daughter, Angie, still traumatized from the assault she survived, has transferred to Veronica's school. Veronica's new boyfriend, Detective Daniel Seong, already wants her to meet his family. And fellow French teacher, Khalilah Jadeed, asks for Veronica's help to locate a missing woman. Add some disturbing dreams and aggressive spirits, and Veronica may have more than she can handle. Soon, she will discover that the spirits she sees and hears sometimes affect her world in other ways as well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Adventure Stories & Orientalism

I'm so pleased that several people have commented on my post concerning dieselpunk and orientalism. I had already decided to write a follow-up post in order to delve more deeply into the question, as I really think it's worth discussing and it's something I mull over a lot. This is that post.

David Mark Brown commented on my original blog post about how he chose to flip character expectations around in order to challenge some of the problems of race relationships, etc., in his dieselpunk fiction. That shook me out of the assumption that the main characters of dieselpunk stories had to be westerners. I still have an issue with that, though, which is as a white westerner myself, I'm not sure how to believably write from the point of view of a nonwesterner or someone belonging to a nonwhite culture. I'm not ruling it out, just saying it would pose a considerable challenge to me. I've actually attempted to write from the pov of a black woman in the past (it was sci fi in a universe I built, so saying African American or Caribbean American doesn't fit). I never felt like I pulled it off, though.

A really big part of what troubles me is the issue of exoticism. Stephen A. Watkins commented on this blog post (which Tiyana Marie White wrote in response to my post), "I think there’s a difference between the aesthetic appreciation of something “exotic” meaning that it’s outside the norms of your experience and the type of problematic “exoticization” that results from fetishizing something that’s different for no reason than that it’s different." Exoticism/exoticization is huge for me. To be clear, the trouble I have is that I would like to write stories where the mc must go to some country foreign to them, to seek out some sort of treasure/have some sort of other adventure, much in the tradition of Indiana Jones. What I can't work out is how to impart all the thrills and fears of such a thing, without painting the culture as exotic and sinister. I'm not talking about describing the people in stereotypical terms (which isn't just offensive, it's also plain tiresome), so much as trying to achieve a tone of menace, etc., for the mcs, who are navigating a land that is foreign to them. Throw in some sort of cursed item(s) or whatever, and you have a recipe for your typical dark and threatening culture as seen in myriad books and films. The problem with that is that when you choose to represent a real Earth culture that way, you other them and contribute to a history of imperialism and oppression, something I don't want to do.

One option is to go ahead and represent some of the culture as sinister. For example, have some creepy big wig in the culture invite the characters to dinner, say, and then the characters proceed to navigate a house full of unnatural shadows and decorated with unsettling objects. The meal would be shocking to them as well due to whatever they're eating... if you've read my previous post, you might recognize this as a reference to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a movie that really beats you about the head with orientalist representations. As you may recall, part of the trouble with Temple is that it's not just portraying a culture in a very negative light, it's also doing so with blatant inaccuracies. Anyway, so let's say I want to have the creepy dinner chapter and I'm going to avoid the blatant inaccuracies. I'm still using items of the culture to create an aura of fear and danger. I could counterbalance that chapter with some sort of positive interaction in another chapter with much more approachable, appealing characters of the foreign culture. I don't mean yet another stereotype (lusty women who fall for the hero, mystical sages who provide guidance, etc.). No, I'm thinking more along the lines of the Colombian drug lord in Romancing the Stone (not a dieselpunk movie, but it operates on the same principal as interwar adventure stories with the mild mannered woman and rough and tumble male guide--think of The Mummy, same principle--who delve into a dangerous foreign land and encounter menacing characters, etc. in the pursuit of treasure). In Romancing the Stone, the audience is led to believe romance writer Joan Wilder and her adventuring guide, Jack I-forget-his-last-name are about to meet a stereotype of a Colombian thug: some backwards, unsophisticated guy who rides a mule. Turns out, the guy has modern ammenities, has read all of Joan's books, and the mule in question is a 4X4. Now, believe me, I'm not here to say that Romancing the Stone somehow avoided racist depictions because of this scene. Sadly, as much as I enjoy that movie, I think it's terribly problematic, too. But I digress. My point is that the scene challenges audience expectations. It does it, no doubt, in order to get laughs. Similar scenes abound in many films--and I think more often than not, they are there to get laughs. It's funny to set up expectations and then turn them on their heads.

My question is, do those sorts of scenes challenge expectations enough to be an antidote to the sinister scenes that paint a "foreign" culture as dark, dangerous, magical, etc.?

Anyway, to return to what Stephen Watkins wrote, I suppose another way to approach the issue of exoticism to interrogate whether those "sinister" representations fetishize the culture or simply represent it as unfamiliar to readers/viewers. When I wrote the as-yet-unpublished sequel to The River and the Roses I wanted to introduce Daniel Seong's family, and I wanted to do so intelligently. So I went on a Korean American chat board and asked a bunch of questions. The people on the board were super patient with me and helped to dispell some of the stereotypes I had knocking around in my head. They gave me insight into how to represent the family dynamics, the words people use, the way a dinner would play out, etc. It was all very cool and I learned a lot in the bargain. I'm reasonably sure I did a nice job of writing those scenes concerning Daniel's family. It's just a lot easier in the realistic setting of my modern day psychic mystery to not fall into the orientalist trap. In River, I can have Veronica come in as an outsider to a culture she's unfamiliar with, and have her be a bit uncomfortable and nervous about it, but still see it as a real, breathing, normal culture. Then again, she's not meant to be in a threatening situation. It's not an adventure story. Aside from her ability to commune with the dead (which really makes her more exotic than anyone else in the book), there's no magic, no cursed items, no spooky caves, no dungeon crawls, no evil villains (there are bad guys, but they are much more plebean). Is it possible to write adventure stories where there are all those things and not fall into the orientalist trap?

I suppose another option is to take the flipping-the-binary thing even further. Have a nonwhite and/or nonwestern hero who is dealing with a white, western villain. I mean, you do see that, of course. Nazis spring to mind. Is that the only way? Isn't avoiding casting nonwhite and/or nonwestern villains in a story just another form of discrimination?

Well, I've written myself into a corner. Help me out, folks. What's your take?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What is Dieselpunk?

After my recent blog post on Captain America: The First Avenger, I got a couple of questions about the terms "dieselpunk" and "decopunk." There's a pretty nice description of dieselpunk here, but I thought I'd talk a little about what it means to me.

I've come across a forum post where someone described dieselpunk as a scene rather than a genre, mainly, if I understand correctly, because of the dirth of actual dieselpunk fiction out there. I'll grant you that there aren't as many movies and TV shows with the elements that make up dieselpunk than there are capitalizing on the popularity of steampunk, but I think it's incorrect to say there aren't very many. In the last few months I've watched eight movies and two anime tv shows (notably Last Exile, which perhaps due to the fact that I watch it at 3am when I'm giving the baby his bottle and I have the sound turned almost all the way down, has come to a point where it is incomprehensible to me, unfortunately. I still really enjoy the soundtrack, though)--and of those eight movies, none were in the Indiana Jones series. There are also quite a few books that qualify, at least according to my definition.

So I should probably get to that.

To me, dieselpunk is fiction genre (or, more broadly, a scene) that draws on sci fi from the 1920s-1940s. Dieselpunk differs from steampunk in that its machines have internal combustion engines. You don't see airplanes in steampunk--at least, not unless they are some sort of steam-powered clockwork. You do see airplanes in dieselpunk--prominently so. But you also see other, weirder vehicles like the vanships in Last Exile. Also, very often you see robots. The idea with dieselpunk is that the tech is retro-futuristic (a combination that I find delightful). Lots of dials, knobs, gauges, levers, and grease, but I could see a story where these old-fashioned machines allow for (minor) space travel or teleportation--much like Telsa's inventions in The Prestige are steampunk yet futuristic.

The time period encompasses the decades of history I find most interesting to study--the 1920s, especially in the U.S. due to Prohibition, are fascinating because they represent the moment when westerners entered the modern age. Probably because of that, much of the pulp fiction of the time involved exploration of nonwestern parts of the world--the exotic, mysterious places most threatened by extinction in the modern age. More on that in a moment, as it raises a rather thorny problem.

The 1930s provides the concept of noir--film noir, detective stories, and the rise of fascism in several locations around the world.

And the 1940s gave us World War II--a terrible time, of course, but also a time people remember as a golden age of victory gardens, radio programs, and shared purpose. In our memories, everyone was in agreement in the 1940s--the Allies were working together to oppose the evils of the Axis Powers, who in turn were working together to destroy everything good in the world. Through a simple lens, World War II is the most ethically accessible war, because there are such clear bad guys, especially in Europe. (Please understand, I'm saying this as a writer, not as a historian. As a historian, this sort of thing does not fly.)

So dieselpunk has a rich playground to run around in. Add to that all of the bright optimism and faith in science that preceded the dropping of the atomic bombs and the discovery of the death camps. Think of the excitement of the World's Fairs. And to top it off, dieselpunk has its own artistic style: art deco. In fact, a subgenre of dieselpunk (itself a subgenre of steampunk, of course) is decopunk--basically everything dieselpunk is without such an interest in the machines.

But back to the exotic lands, for a moment, and the problem they pose.

I may eventually devote an entire post to this minefield, because it's a doozy, and it's one I'm particularly concerned with because I'm liable to get caught in the middle of it one of these days. Orientalism.

What, you ask, is orientalism, and what does it have to do with dieselpunk?

In a nutshell, orientalism is the representation of nonwestern cultures (most often Middle Eastern, but it's just as valid for various Asian areas as well as any other part of the world where people are predominantly brown, in my opinion) through the filter of western ideas, desires, opinions, prejudices, etc. It's a form of racism with a long history in fiction. Probably one of the best examples of a movie that is both dieselpunk and orientalist: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. One of the big problems with orientalism is that writers who fall prey to it often misrepresent cultures or conflate two or more cultures. In the case of Temple, for instance, the goddess Kali is depicted as evil and ruling the underworld, which is inaccurate. Much of the cuisine is probably closer to Chinese than Hindu, as well. The attitude in days gone by among writers and fans of orientalist fiction was to shrug and say something along the lines of, "It's all the same anyway." (In case that's your attitude, try turning it around and imagining what it would be like for a Hindu or Chinese film to depict your culture as the same or at least jumbled with some other culture--usually belonging to a historical enemy. Now imagine that happening over and over in every book and movie that depicts your culture for hundreds of years.) For more on Temple's issues specifically, go here.

Nowadays I see a deep uneasiness in movies like Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow--they so desperately want to be able to depict grand adventures like those of Allan Quatermain (a character who was originally more steampunk than dieselpunk) but they don't want to come under fire for racism. It's a pickle. I love stories of treasure hunts, dungeon crawls, scary jungles and survival in ice storms. But how do you write about exotic lands without othering those people the main characters, who by nature of being dieselpunk characters will be westerners, will encounter there? How do you portray a culture respectfully while simultaneously making it mysterious, sinister, and, in many cases, somehow mystical? What's a white writer in love with the retro-futuristic fiction of the1920s-1940s to do?

The best I've come up with is to take the story off of planet Earth altogether, and set the dungeon crawls, barroom brawls, and mystical encounters on other planets entirely (Firefly, anyone?). And don't even think about basing the alien cultures on specific (stereotyped and misrepresented) Earth cultures. Lucas did that and it's painful to watch. Of course, the real problem with that solution is that you've pretty much left dieselpunk behind once you leave Earth or at least an Earth-like setting. Yes, it's sci fi, but it's limited sci fi. Dieselpunk is not atomicpunk, and I can't see diesel engines powering even the most fun retro-futuristic space ships farther than a trip to the moon, maybe.

What do you think about dieselpunk? Do you like stories set in the 1920s-1940s?
How would you handle the orientalism problem?

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Dieselpunk Surprise

So I recently rented Captain America: The First Avenger from Netflix. I did it knowing next to nothing about the movie and having little idea of what to expect. There are a couple of reasons for this. 1) I generally avoid all descriptions of movies I'm going to watch because they inevitably spoil things. 2) I was not initially the least bit interested in Captain America. It sounded cheesy and overly patriotic. I like superhero movies... sometimes. I didn't think I'd like this one. But then I saw that The Avengers is out, and I'm mostly a Joss Whedon fan (although after what happened to Wash I'm not as sure as I once was). So I watched Thor, which streams, and enjoyed it, particularly because of the Norse mythology since that's a core aspect of my WiP. And I thought, okay, if I'm going to see The Avengers, I'd better get up to speed on all the individual superheroes (The Incredible Hulk is next on the Netflix queue).

So Captain America arrived the day before yesterday and the hubby and I started watching it. Due to the nature of parenting a 7-month-old, we watch anything over 30 minutes in parts. Very quickly, however, I realized something fundamental about the movie that came as a surprise: it was set in the 40s. During World War II.

I know this was probably obvious to anyone who paid even the slightest attention to the movie when it came out; I had not. So I was immediately intrigued. Somehow overly patriotic heroes like Captain America are not nearly as grating in the context of World War II. And then I began to see it: the dieselpunk. Oh my goodness. The lovely, detailed, beautifully designed retro-futuristic dieselpunk.

This was awesome. Not only had I gotten a little boost of inspiration from Thor's Norse pantheon, but now I got to spend the better part of two hours admiring the machines, planes, costumes, sets, etc. of Captain America. Totally unexpected, and a real treat.

My only annoyance: what the heck was up with Red Skull's pin? It's a death's head (okay, that's appropriate for a Nazi) surrounded by tentacles. I'm not the only one seeing a Cthulhu reference here, but nothing comes of it. Empty Cthulhu references annoy me.

Monday, June 18, 2012

How to Become a Ghost Writer (Guest Post by Karen Cole)

Meet Karen Cole, a ghost writer and editor I've recently become acquainted with (online). I asked Karen what steps you have to take to become a ghost writer, and she graciously answered by writing this article.


Well, the best advice I can give is to start reading. Read everything you can possibly grab, especially modern work, as this will give you a “feel” for what people are putting out nowadays. Read, read, read, and then start writing. If you are already a writer, write as much as you can that is oriented toward getting published. If you are not yet a writer, write about what you know, and put out several articles on subjects that you know something about. Get these published in places like Ezine Articles on the Internet and in as many other places as you can, in order to build up your writer’s portfolio.

Once you have some published items, sign up for freelancers’ Internet services such as where you can start taking on some jobs as a freelance writer. You will want to have at least something of a career as a freelancer started before you begin your work as a ghost writer. It also helps immeasurably to get a degree in English, either in languages or literature, or both; a bachelor’s is probably all that you will need to get started.

Another great way to break in to a writing career is to do book editing and/or copy editing for people. You can find jobs for this listed all over the Internet, and it helps to edit your friends’ books, which of course is often done for free. You can also get work creating or editing copy for people’s websites; look at ads on freelancers’ websites, which are all over the Internet. Get as much paid work as you can, but you might have to start out working for free just to get the experience.

Once you’ve gotten some credentials under your belt, both under your own name and under other people’s names (you’ve contributed, but don’t get the credit), put up your shingle as a ghost writer. Start your own website, possibly listing yourself at first as a freelance writer, and add in your resume and some writing samples from your portfolio. You can also sign up as a ghost writer on several of those aforementioned freelancers’ sites. Be careful of trying to work for bidding sites, though, as the pay for those can be very low and prohibitive.

Be sure to search engine optimize your ghost writing or freelance writing website, so that it turns up in search engines such as Google. Maybe you can start up a Google Adwords account, too. Advertise on Facebook with a fan page about your business, and start up a Twitter account or two. Join for a classy way to keep your professional writer’s portfolio on the Internet, or you can just use MSN email’s SkyDrive to store your written work – or both! Get the word out about your new ghost writing business. Pretty soon, you will be making some decent money as a professional ghost writer – so get out there, read, write and publish your socks off!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Writing & Not Writing

William Tecumseh Sherman
The next couple of days are all about MA homework (I'm taking two courses this trimester: the Civil War and the 20th century). I've decided I'll be writing my final research paper--due in August, but the proposal was due last Sunday and I'm turning it in late--for my Civil War class on technology in Sherman's March. Which should actually be pretty interesting. I'm not a big Civil War buff--I tend to be much more interested in 20th century stuff. But so far I really like my professor for the Civil War course, so that helps, and I have been interested in the way technology evolved in the Civil War for some time now. It started with muskets and ended with repeating rifles and to a small extent, Gatling guns, you know. It's like it went from the Mexican-American War to World War I in the span of four years.

I'm less enthused about my 20th century course than I anticipated, though. It's super heavily weighted toward political history, which, on the whole, I find to be a big snooze. And we're barely going to talk about WWII or Vietnam, both of which I really want to learn more about. So I may tack on a couple of courses to my MA. I only have two required courses left after these: constitutional history (ick) and media and cultural history (or something to that effect--interesting, but kind of what I've been into for years, so probably not terribly enlightening--we'll see). I checked out the graduate certificate in WWII studies, and it looks fascinating, but it's 18 units and I don't know if I can really justify that expense. I'd stay a student forever if I could, though.

I haven't been working on the WiP at all these last couple of weeks. My sleep schedule has been messy--the baby started waking up two to three time a night for a while there, and still does every so often, etc. etc. So fatigue is part of it. His erratic nap schedule is also part of it. The excitement over constructing a garden is a part, and so is just plain falling out of the habit. But school is out for summer tomorrow which means after tomorrow, my husband will be around a lot more. That means sleeping in, and maybe being able to get away for a few hours at a time a few times a week to really get some writing done. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pen Names: Good Idea or Bad?

I've been toying with the idea of creating different pen names for different genres of stories I write (or intend to write). It seems like it might function as a way to keep things organized. I'm the type of person who has folders and subfolders for organizing email or documents on my computer. And yet, in real life, I'm pretty messy. Go figure.

There are my Veronica books, and I'd probably include Broken Ones in the same genre. Modern day, involves ghosts. Those have been around for a year, with "Sophia Martin" as the author name.
As a writer, you wear many hats. :)

Then there's The City Darkens, my current WiP, which is a serialized novel and in the genre of decopunk, sci fi/fantasy. So... I could put my same name on it, or something like S. D. Martin, or M. R. Tinn (= Martin, get it?) or something else. The idea isn't to disguise who I am at all. I'll be posting all about the book here and putting it in the margin with the other books, etc.

And I've been thinking about writing some Georgian or Victorian romances, because there just aren't enough Jane Austen novels, you know? I love them. A lot of people love them. So why not attempt to approach the brilliance of Austen--ha! good luck, Sophia--or at least capture some of what makes those stories so wonderful? Anyway, it seems incongruous for Sophia Martin to write ghost stories, sci fi, and Georgian romances. So some other pen name for that.

The problem is, would using pen names destroy any value my platform on Twitter, Facebook, etc. provides to Sophia Martin? Ultimately, I'm not really convinced those do all that much for my book sales anyway, but what do you think about it? If I'm not going to hide that all the pen names are one person, does that make a difference? Do you think using pen names would be useful or frivolous?

I'm really curious. I hope you'll comment.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Two hours a day to be productive

The title just about says it all. Luke-Andre is a sweet baby who, we've discovered, loves pureed green beans (who would have seen that coming?), but he's not big on naps. Most days--not all--he takes one 2 hour nap and a few 30 minute ones. The 30 minutes ones I use for taking a shower and eating. The 2 hour nap has become the one period in the day when I can be productive.

And I can get a fair amount of writing done in 2 hours. The trouble is, I have a lot of other irons in the fire:
  • homework for my MA in history
  • blogging here and the recipe blog
  • knitting a blanky out of the yarn my aunt used to make a sweater he won't sleep without--so far, in a week, I've knit about 3/4 of an inch
  • reading the signed copy of Naamah's Blessing Jacqueline Carey sent me herself to review (SO EXCITED)
  • and, most recently, designing my covers for the serial.

I had hoped to employ a friend of Jeff's for the covers, but he's a professional artist and I just don't make the kind of money he charges, even with the hefty discount he offered.

It's ironic because the part of the cover I thought would be hard--the background--I've already finished, and now I'm struggling with the rest. The background will stay the same for every cover, to provide continuity. It's a deco skyline, with the palace and temple in the story at the center. In the foreground I intend to have a close-up of the main character, and when I paint and draw, I'm usually all about portraits. And I'm finding this really hard for some reason. I've been toying with trying to do the portrait kind of deco-style. I can't decide if I like it or not. I voted on another blog when the author posted two possible covers--that was fun, so maybe I'll do something similar here.

More than the design questions, however, I'm running into technical problems: if I want the background the same, it makes sense to scan it and add each different foreground in a design program. Except 1) I don't own a design program anymore--I used to have PaintShopPro a long time ago but that died with the computer it was on; and 2) that means creating the portrait on paper I can cut to be able to place it over the background manually, as I don't think I'm skilled enough to do a proper cutting job on the pc. And doing it on paper means using pencils or pastels, not paint, and I intend to paint the background--I've already got it all drawn out on a flat canvas.So the two may not look good together unless I can work some sort of magic with the design program I don't have.

There are probably some nifty programs that do really useful things like make it possible to scan an image that isn't rectangular without filling in the negative space with white, but the learning curve for me on anything like that is bound to be steep. And I only have 2 hours a day to do it. And I'm still writing (I'm midway through part 4--I think there will be 8 parts, although I'm still not positive). So I really could use more hours in the day.

...And he's awake. After 30 minutes. Looks like today will be one of those exceptions where there is no 2 hour nap at all.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Still mired in grad work

I think I may lose it if I don't get this paper finished by tomorrow. I was really hoping to have it finished this weekend, but we drove two hours to an almost entirely useless* job fair in Chico yesterday--and actually had a nice time walking around Chico, so not a total waste--and today Jeff has a lot of work to do for his lessons this week so I won't have enough time once the baby is done with his nap to do all that much. And I felt compelled to post this blog entry, of course. Because even a short blog entry bitching about having to finish this paper is more fun to write than this paper. Ugh.

*Jeff got a lead on a job in Martinez, but he's not sure what it would entail or if it would actually be preferable to his current position, so we're waiting to find out about some details. I didn't even go in. All the districts there, according to Jeff, said the same thing. "Oh, we don't know what we're going to need. Check Edjoin." Thanks. I could have done that on my couch at home. Why do these people even come to job fairs, I ask you? What is the point? Anyway, I walked the baby around Chico in his stroller and we checked out a really great farmer's market. Made me want to live in Chico. The produce was gorgeous.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ack... be back soon...

Just a quick note to say, I will me MIA for the next few days (and have been already for the last few, in case you hadn't noticed). It's the end of my quarter with my MA program and that means paper-writing time. Which makes me feel like this:

...because there's no time for novel-writing, and with the baby, every minute he's napping I have to be working on the papers, and it's very stressful. In fact, I should be doing that now, so bye.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Morbid Taste for Bones, by Ellis Peters

No, A Morbid Taste for Bones is not a horror book and it's in no way a part of the current zombie craze. It's actually the first book of the Cadfael mystery series. In case you've never run into this series in its television incarnation, Cadfael is the name of a monk who solves murders. The show is a lot of fun and popular among those who've seen it. I enjoy a good mystery series, so I thought I'd give the first book a try.

Cadfael became a monk in later life after participating in the Crusades and having several love affairs, so he's a lot more worldly than your average monk. It's probably why he's prone to looking at situations more practically and why he's willing to examine bodies and investigate murders. In A Morbid Taste for Bones, Cadfael travels as part of a group of monks to claim the bones of a Welsh saint. As a Welsh man himself, he has sympathy for the villagers who would rather not give up their saint. The first half of the book focuses on this conflict, and then a murder complicates matters a great deal.

The best thing about A Morbid Taste for Bones is it had a Pillars of the Earth quality--it's set around the same time, and of course there are the monks. If you haven't read Pillars, stop reading this review and go buy it. And read it. Now. Don't look at the jacket description, either. You just can't get a sense of how engrossing that book is by reading the description, trust me. Just read it.

Anyway, back to Cadfael. The book was sleepy; not exactly a page-turner, I'm afraid. If all I had to do was read I might have enjoyed it more, but these days I squeeze precious minutes out of my day here and there for books, often only reading a page or two at night right before going to sleep. So it felt a little like I was wasting my time when I could have been reading a really fascinating book like Pillars of the Earth, for instance. Don't get me wrong, it was a pleasant book, but I won't be buying the next one until I'm really desperate for another book to read.

However, if you're just looking for a light mystery and you enjoy period pieces set in the 12th century, give A Morbid Taste for Bones a try. You can buy it here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Editing Blues

Yes, I have them: the editing blues. Or rather, I have the "I wish my husband, who I asked to read my draft, would just get to it already" blues. He's buried in work, but that's nothing new.

The real trouble is, at the moment all I want is for someone to read the WiP and catch the typos and stupid word-switch errors I'm prone to. Like writing "many" when I mean "main." Or "sure" instead of "such." The problem with these kinds of errors is my eyes just whiz right over them when I'm revising.

And of course I don't have to have it done right away. But it's like an OCD thing. I think about it. I worry about it. I have to wash my hands over and over until it's dealt with.

I'm not ready, at this point, for an in depth beta-reading. It's too early to start obsessing over phrasing or word choice: I'm in first-draft sprint mode, as much as that's possible under the circumstances (with a baby who usually doesn't sleep longer than 45 minutes at a stretch--although today he's been down a while). So I don't want to beg an online writer friend to read it because I'm afraid they'll give me more feedback than I want right now/I don't want to use up favors too early on. I'm looking at you, Kathryn.

How about you? Do you feel compelled to deal with basic errors early on? Have you ever been stuck waiting for a loved one to do you a favor? What other sorts of writing or editing blues are you dealing with at the moment?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sample of Broken Ones

The pounding on my front door woke me, which told me two things right away. One, I’d overslept. Two, whoever was at my door was about to break it down, they were pummeling it so hard.

I straightened out the tee-shirt and drawstring pants I slept in and ran my fingers through my hair a few times, although from the feel of it, there was no taming it.

“Alright!” I shouted as I made my way to the front of the house. “Alright, stop it!”

“Marie!” came the answering bellow. “Marie, I know you’re in there!”

Everett. “Oh, god,” I whispered, unsure of what to do. A quick look around my living room showed that Marie and the kids had already left. The afghans were folded, stacked one on top of the other on one end of my old worn-out couch.

Everett started pounding on the door again.

“Everett, knock it off!” I shouted, and opened the door. He stood there, red-faced and panting, eyes wild. Everett has coffee hair and eyes, and just a hint of olive in his complexion, but at the moment it was as dark as a beet.

Everett Karrar came from a “nice” middle-class family in Point Loma. WASPy-types; they went to their church and attended fundraising events at local nonprofits. Everett fit their image of the good son--but to look at him now, you’d think he was a reject from some reality show. He was so mad, spittle was flying from his mouth with every breath.

“Everett, she’s not here,” I said, trying to project calm.

“I know she’s here!” He was trying to look past me.

“See for yourself,” I said, and stepped out of the way so he could come in and look around.
Everett stalked into the entryway. I watched him take in the empty living room, and his eyes came to rest on the afghans on the couch. Some of the red was fading from his face. He kept his eyes on the afghans and said, “She was here.”

I shrugged. “Yeah. She spent the night.”

His gaze flashed to me. Two spots of red stayed in his cheeks. “Where’d she go?”

I shrugged again. “I don’t know. You woke me up. I didn’t know she’d left.”

His eyebrows plunged down and his eyes teared up. His hands balled into fists. “Bull-fucking-shit, Louise. Bull-fucking-shit. You think you can hide my wife from me? My kids? Where is she?”

I stood with my hand on my hip, trying to look bored. Inside, I could feel my pulse accelerating, and my hands went cold. I wasn’t going to tell him where Marie went, and I wanted him out of my house. But Everett used to be a Marine, and although his body was going to seed, he was still a lot stronger than me.

“Everett, I don’t know,” I said. “She was here when I got home last night. She asked to stay over, so I said sure. Now she’s gone.”

Everett grabbed my arm, fingers hard and squeezing. “You think you can just laugh at me, don’t you, Louise! Who the fuck are you to get in the middle of things? She’s my wife!”

“Let me go,” I said, trying to yank away, but he kept his grip on my arm. “Everett, I told you, I don’t know where she is!”

“Yeah, you do,” he said, nodding. “And you’d better tell me.”

“Listen, you fucker, I’m not telling you anything!” I said, my temper snapping. I raised a bare foot and slammed it as hard as I could against his shin, raking down to pound his sneaker. It wasn’t all that effective, except that his face flushed bright red again. “Let me go!” I shouted.

Everett gripped my arm tighter and then threw me down and away from him. I stumbled and my knees hit the floor.

“Jesus, Everett!” I cried. I scrambled to my feet and pointed at my door. “Get out!”

He ignored that and strode towards me.

“Get the fuck out of my house!” I shouted. “You’re crazy!”

That’s when he punched me. I hit the floor again.

“You think you can hide my kids from me? You think you can hide my wife? Where are they?” he yelled. I tried to get on my feet again but my head spun and my jaw felt like it had exploded. “Where are they, Louise!”

I grabbed at the couch for support, pulling myself up. He was fucking crazy. I had to call the cops. On my feet at last, I lunged for the phone, which sat on a table by the wall.

“Oh no you don’t!” he growled. My feet flew out from under me—he’d knocked them out—and then the phone was in his hand. I don’t remember much after that.

You can purchase Broken Ones on Kindle here, on Nook here, or in other formats here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Titles: How do you pick them?

Man, when they say "full-time mother" they aren't kidding. Lately the bug has been limiting his naps to 30 minutes at a time, and only about three of those a day. And the rest of the time, he demands constant attention. Even as I type he's fussing. ::runs over to crib::

::returns after entertaining the baby with his toy monkey and giving him a paci::

And yet, I've managed to finish part 2 of the serial novel, which is as yet unnamed.  Which brings me to the question of titles.

For The River and the Roses, the title came after a lot of deliberation, and while I think it's the best of the options I was debating at the time, I don't know if I really like it. It's long. It doesn't really say, "This is a mystery novel about a woman coming to accept her psychic ability." But I do like the gothic quality of roses, and I like the cover, which mirrors the title. So... I'd give it a B, I guess.

Broken Ones was tough, too. I wanted to address the emotional damage the characters are coping with, as well as make a reference to the several broken windows in the story (which are tied symbolically, of course, to the emotional damage). I also wanted a title that was original, and there are a lot of titles with "broken" or "broken windows" or whatnot. When I chose Broken Ones, it was the only book with that title that came up in an Amazon search, although since then more have popped up. But I wonder if it sounds too angsty, and maybe that's why people haven't been downloading it. I changed the (VERY) brief description I've been sending out with my "thank you for following message," though, and there have been three more downloads in a week, so I do think calling it "paranormal" was part of the problem there. It's very hard to capture what Broken Ones is about in three or four words, though, so the new description says "a novel of escape & survival of abuse." Which has a weird feeling to me, syntax-wise, and may give the impression, again, that the novel is angsty. Which I guess it is, a bit, but I wouldn't describe the narrator, Louise, as angsty at all. I think what makes Broken Ones stand out is her voice, which is very matter of fact. Louise has a lot of humor and she tends to see things in fairly cynical terms--she's not the "woe is me" type. Anyway, so I'd give that title a B, too.

Veronica in Paris is the best of my title choices, and it was totally easy. There was no debate. It was my working title, and it stuck. It gives a pretty accurate impression of the story, I'd say--it's about a woman named Veronica who goes to live in Paris for a year. Paris is pretty strongly associated to romance in people's minds, so the fact that there's romance involved probably comes as a shock to no one who reads that title. So, A for that one.

Anyway, so now I'm working on this new book, and the working title is the name of the city, Helésey, where most of it is set. Which isn't going to tell anyone anything about the book, and may even mislead them into thinking it's French in some way. It actually draws on Norse mythology for some of the culture, although I've altered a lot of aspects. I also draw inspiration from America and Italy in the 1920s, as well as Germany in the 1930s. But there's really nothing French about it--the word "Helésey" is an altered version of the name of an island in Norse mythology, and the city is on an island, so it seemed to fit. The accented e comes from the original word, too.

My main character is named Miadar, which is not a common enough name, I think, to put it in the title--I suspect most people won't recognize it as a woman's name at all, which isn't surprising since I made it up by combining the words for "honey" and "hair" I found on a site claiming to have words in old Norse. I have no idea if the site is legit, and it doesn't really matter--I often choose names for characters based on what they mean, but it never comes up for the reader, so if it only means something to me, that's okay. The first part of the novel revolves around a coronation, and Miadar leaving her home because she's summoned to Helésey, the capitol, to witness it. So I've thought about The Coronation as a title, and also Summoned. The former may work, but I'm not sure about the latter, although I like the idea of having a verb in the title. Summoned conjures images of magic and demon summoning to me. Maybe I've read too much urban fantasy. The second part revolves around a night out Miadar participates in, where she visits an illegal gambling hall (think speakeasy). So I thought about Invited, The Invitation or The Gambling Hall for that one, although I'm really not in love with any of them. The next part will have to do with a seduction... so The Seduction, perhaps. Seduced, maybe. Parts four, five and six I haven't worked out completely yet, but they will have something to do with a vigilante, and probably at least one debauched party, and a betrayal. The last parts (not sure how many there will be total) will involve fighting for freedom, bringing down an evil leader, finding someone who is lost, and escaping. It's fairly murky in my mind at this point, and I don't like talking in detail about stories I haven't written, but you get the idea.

I'd like the titles to all work together:
The Coronation - The Invitation - The Seduction - The Betrayal - The ???
Summoned - Invited - Seduced - Betrayed - ???
The Capitol - The Gambling Hall - The [location] - etc.

Or I suppose it could be something like: Miadar Summoned, Miadar Invited, Miadar Seduced, Miadar Betrayed...

What do you think? What makes a good title? How do you choose your titles? Are you satisfied with the titles you've chosen in the past? Do you think about parts of speech or other specific characteristics of titles when you're trying to choose one?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Marketing: Doing Nothing Works Better?

In the first week of March I made a list of things to do for my writing/publishing goals. Among those things was to start marketing my books again, at least on Twitter. Over the last year I've gone through different phases with the marketing. I got a couple of book review bloggers to look at my books, but mainly I've sent out tweets promoting them. In the beginning this did seem to make a difference. Then I stopped doing anything to promote the books and even pretty much stopped blogging, because I was pregnant/a new mommy and my head just wasn't in it. And now since early March I started up again. Here's what I've observed:

Marketing seems to have no effect on my book sales, at least the tweet marketing. In past months when I wasn't doing any I sold an average of five books a month. This month, with renewed attempts to market, I've sold one.

I've been giving away books as thank yous to long time followers (let me know if you didn't get a DM on Twitter with a coupon code--I think TweetAdder has been patchy with this) and also new followers. The long-time followers got a coupon for Veronica in Paris, and the new followers got a coupon for Broken Ones. So far, about a dozen people have downloaded Veronica in Paris, and one person has downloaded Broken Ones. Generally, I sell about three copies of Veronica for every one copy of either Broken Ones or The River and the Roses. I thought it was because Veronica is priced at $0.99 and the other two are $2.99. But this would indicate that some other factor is at work, since I offered both for free.

Veronica is a novella, while Broken Ones is a full length, if short, novel. I've heard that novellas are popular--I didn't really believe it, though, because I like long books for the most part.

Veronica is a romance and is set in Paris, so it has a travel aspect. Broken Ones is a ghost story. Could people be tiring of the glut of paranormal novels out there? I think this is a possibility. Look at the popularity of The Hunger Games and the Steig Larsson books. No paranormal there. And everyone on Twitter seems to have a paranormal novel to sell. Myself included, of course. It's frustrating because I like paranormal stories a lot, I always have. But I think maybe some of these authors are just trying to sell what they think is popular. Did they all watch every single episode of Charmed via DVR, like me? I don't think so! Anyway, whether all of these authors are sincerely into vampires (or witches as the case may be) or not is irrelevant. I think paranormal may be in oversupply.

Then there's also the possibility that more people downloaded Veronica because they've known me for a while now and they wanted to give my book a try. It was free, so why not? Whereas with Broken Ones, it was offered to folks who've only just "met" me so it's much more of an unknown entity.

What do you think? Have you offered a book for free? What results did you get?

Do you think there's an oversupply of paranormal fiction? What genre are you into these days?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Blog Versus Blog

I recently read that WordPress may be preferable to Blogger for search engine optimization (read the comments of this blog here). I'm pretty lost after trying to make sense of this and all the ins and outs of versus, etc. The conclusion I've come to is I'm going to just have to see about setting up a second recipe blog using WordPress (not .com, though, because I want to do my Amazon affiliate thing, and I think I understood correctly that you can't in any way make money off a blog unless you get some sort of approval, and then you only keep 50%). I think the recipe blog is the best choice for this experiment because the blogger recipe blog I set up is still so new. I should get a fairly clear idea of whether this claim about WordPress having better SEO and getting a lot more traffic is true or not. And I figure if I don't just do it myself, I'm never going to understand what people are talking about. However, what may stop me short is cost. I have no idea what it's going to cost--as I mentioned, I'm not going to do this through, the free site, so I'll be checking out Bluehost because so many people seem to think it's the best for hosting WordPress blogs. How hard would it have been for the makers of WordPress to come up with different names for their free blog and the other thing, the thing, which I can't even think of an appropriate label for (that's how confused I am)? Sigh.

Anyway, I'll report back here on my findings. Although it may just be to say I can't even afford to do the experiment!

Where do you have your blog? Are you happy with it? Do you get a lot of traffic? Have you considered switching? Do you have a good understanding of the ins and outs of WordPress?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Just a quick update on the goal...

Last week I announced my goal to write 10,000 words by tomorrow, March 16. I just wanted to check in and say, got there! The difficulty is I promised myself See's Candy or Trader Joe's chocolate-covered pretzels and I will probably not be able to fulfill that, at least at the moment. We live in the boonies and either treat requires a drive of at least an hour, and we're trying to save money.

But next week we're probably driving down to the Bay Area for a few days, so I'll just consider this a postponement, not a cancellation. I will have a scotchmallow, dammit.

The serious upside is that the story is moving along a lot better now, and really, that's the reward I wanted most of all. I didn't get to write today because I had homework to do for the MA program (although technically that's writing too, although it's for history), but tomorrow I'll dive back in. I'm almost to the end of a first section. I'm not really sure how many sections there will be--I'm a weird hybrid of pantser and plotter where I outline some parts and have little idea where I'm going with other parts. But I have been considering releasing the novel in parts as a serial... priced at 99 cents each, and then several parts together for some lower amount (like 4 parts for $3 or something). I do think I'll need to have the first few parts done before I release anything, though, as I'm likely to go back and make changes to part one as I move along.

Am I crazy, as a partial-pantser, to consider doing a serial?

Have you ever written a serial? Do you like reading serials?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Writing Goal

I wrote a bit today. For about 20 minutes. Which is better than nothing! Of course. But I think what would really help is to set myself a goal, with a reward at the end. The question is, what would make a good reward. Hm.

Chocolate. Definitely.

So I hearby declare my intention to write 10,000 words by Friday, March 16. If I succeed, I will reward myself with either a scotchmallow from See's Candies, or a bag of Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered flat pretzels.

Your turn. What is your goal, and how will you reward yourself when you reach it?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review of Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races

Maggie Stiefvater's  The Scorpio Races is set on a Celtic island called Thisby (in the early 20th century? there was talk of bowler hats) where flesh-eating kelpies, called capall uisce, wash up on the beach each November. The bravest (or most fool-hardy) denizens of Thisby capture them and ride them in the Scorpio Races.

 I bought this book hoping it would be like The Hunger Games. It was and it wasn't. It had the same quality of tension that exists in the beginning of The Hunger Games, because the characters live in poverty and must take part in a deadly competition. That's pretty much where the similarity ended, though. If you expect The Scorpio Races to get to the racing any time before the end, you'll feel impatient, as I did. Once I realized that the race would happen only at the end and would probably comprise only a few pages of the novel, I was able to stop feeling impatient and enjoy the story. And once that happened, I really did enjoy it. And the end made me cry (not for the reasons you might guess), which is saying something, as books rarely get tears from me. I really liked the characters, and while many YA novels annoy me with the requisite romance, this one, like The Hunger Games, did not, because I didn't feel that the romance weakened the characters. That's a feat most authors don't manage (it's why I struggle with including romance in my own stories).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Using Tweetadder

In order to quiet some of my "shoulds," I've subscribed to Tweetadder, which Michael R. Hicks recommends for marketing your novels. It's a cool utility. You may get a direct message from me in the next week or so if you follow me on Twitter offering you one of my ebooks for free, for instance. I'll be curious to see if the marketing I'm doing with it amounts to anything. So far, I seem to sell between 1-5 books a month not doing any active marketing at all. If that number increases in any significant way, that would be exciting. I'll be sure to post here with my observations either way.

Also, I've redesigned this blog a bit. What do you think? Do you prefer the previous, aquamarine version, or this beige?

Friday, March 2, 2012

My current "shoulds" of writing

My cbt therapist (or should that be cb therapist?) Shiva, would probably tell me to rephrase this, but there are several things I "should" be doing for my writing right now.*

First of all, there's the sequel to The River and the Roses, which has been through one round of revisions, and probably could stand to undergo about nine rounds more. If I gave it some serious time and energy, I could probably get it up to par for April, and publish it. I even have most of what I need to create the cover. I've been meaning to do this for about six months, with the intention of dropping the price for River to $0.99 once the sequel is out. Why have I not done it yet? Well, aside from the whole pregnancy/bed rest/newborn baby distraction, revisions are... well, work. And often annoying, painful work at that. I read a quote on twitter the other day, I forget from which famous author, saying something about how revisions or rewrites are more pleasant than producing the first draft because you don't have the dread of not finishing the novel hanging over you. I can relate to that, but for me, revisions are way more difficult to get into. Still, and Shiva would approve of this phrase, it would be satisfying to get that item done.

Then there's marketing. I stopped actively marketing my books nearly a year ago, I think, or at least nine months ago. I'm still on twitter and I update my facebook page from time to time, most often to notify you all that I've got a new blog post, actually, but as for directly sending out messages on twitter suggesting that people check out my book, no. Michael R. Hicks, one of those lucky and driven self-pubbed authors who is living the dream (he quit his day job last April, I think it was--I admire him so much!) suggests that the "tipping point" for twitter as a marketing platform is to have 1000+ followers. At the moment I have about 845. I use my twitter account to recommend news articles and just talk about things I'm doing or am interested in. And also let people know when I've posted something new on either this blog or the recipe blog. I don't advertise the family blog because it's much more personal and I figure if you're really that interested in me you'll check it out off this page. And probably most people aren't that interested in me! Anyway, I don't have a problem with people posting on twitter to advertise their books (in fact I try to retweet them when it's clear to me what they are about). Although some people will spam the feed for like, ten minutes, and it makes me wonder whether they've ever read an article about twitter etiquette. So my point is, though, I haven't been doing that. Why not? I feel like until I've got something new to offer, I don't want to risk losing followers because I'm self-promoting for the sake of self-promoting. Probably not sound business reasoning, but there it is. Maybe this week I'll send out a couple of links to my books.

I'm on Pinterest, now, too. Please feel free to follow me. I even have a board devoted to books, although they are books I want to remember to check out, so it seems weird to post my own books there. Maybe I'll create a new board for my books and stuff related to them. I do have a decopunk board where I collected a bunch of stuff to help me world build my current story. So I suppose when (if) it's done and I've published it, I could pin it to that board and it wouldn't be weird.

Speaking of the current novel, it is teetering on the edge of that going-to-be-abandoned cliff because I haven't been working on it regularly and I'll lose so much steam I'll never get it back at this rate. And that would be a shame, I think, because I have some interesting ideas for it. So what would be good there is to set up some sort of schedule or something... and bribe myself with some reward for achieving a word goal too, I think. My attempts to create NaNos outside of the official NaNoWriMo have failed thus far. It's silly, it shouldn't (there's that word again) make a difference whether I'm looking at the official site's graph for the word count or a ticker I created myself, but for some reason, it does. So the trick may be to abandon the large goal of a NaNo and make smaller goals. Shorter term, too. And small rewards as a result. Hm... must give some thought to what rewards would motivate me.

Any suggestions? Must be cheap. We are broke-ish.

How about you, do you have any writing "shoulds" or other projects that need your attention? How do you get yourself on task?

* By the way, if you have ever struggled with depression or anxiety, I strongly recommend going through cbt. Changed my life, no exaggeration.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Modes of Story Writing

I did a little bit of writing today: maybe 20 minutes worth. And a little is better than nothing. I'd like to get into doing it more regularly and doing more of it, though, because this story hasn't gained the momentum it needs to start moving along without a lot of extra pushing on my part.

Sisyphus (from
I find there's different stages, or maybe just modes, as stages implies a chronological order, to writing stories. The mode I'm in is the trying-to-overcome-inertia mode that NaNoWriMo is so wonderful for curing. The next mode, and the one I seem to spend the most time in usually, is the this-is-work-but-I-know-where-I'm-going mode. Then there's the story-is-writing-itself mode: that's the best one, the one I wish I lived in. It's rare and elusive, but usually by the last week of NaNo I reach it.

How about you, do you find your writing has different modes? Any tricks for how to get from one to the next?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I did plan to write today...

I promised myself, when I woke up this morning, that I would write for at least a half an hour today. I hoped that it was a low estimate. However, the baby is having a bad day (he's in his crib, not sleeping, right now--it's only a matter of time before I have to pick him up again, I think). We've both had colds and I switched him to soy-based formula in the hopes that it would alleviate his sinuses (when I drink cow's milk it always makes me stuffier), and I don't think it's agreeing with him. I'm especially frustrated because 1) the doctor told me to switch to soy weeks ago because of the baby's eczema, but I didn't because we couldn't afford new formula at the time, and the eczema got better on its own 2) due to a snafu with Amazon I ended up ordering a large quantity of the soy formula and now he seems to dislike it and possibly be having a hard time digesting it, and maybe even getting a bit of a rash from it 3) this all comes at a point where my own milk supply is really dwindling and I've been having to "pump-and-dump" anyway because I'm taking cold medicine so that I can actually sleep the few hours I get here and there... ugh. I feel guilty about not breastfeeding him and now I'm going to have all of this soy formula, and it looks like I have to order more of the other kind. I'd consider returning it, except we're almost completely out, and I can at least mix the soy formula with the regular while we wait for another shipment of the regular... and I have to order all this stuff online because everything at the local store here in lovely Mount Shasta is ridiculously overpriced. Basically I'd pay more than double if I bought the formula there.

Sorry. Didn't mean to go on a tirade about baby formula there. Looks like he's dropping off, at last. Of course, in about 45 minutes I have to pack him up in the car to go pick up his dad from work. I hope he doesn't freak out, poor thing. He's having a rough day.

So maybe I'll grab these 45 minutes to do some writing. I haven't been making much headway, but that has more to do with the cold, the bad sleep patterns, and all the other mommy stuff than with a problem with the story. Jeff and I just started watching the first episode of Boardwalk Empire, which is awesome as it's set in the 1920s, like my story. I love it when a tv show or movie fuels my inspiration, just by its setting, like that, or sometimes there's an actor I've envisioned for a character, and it can be inspiring to watch them, too.

Do you have shows or movies you watch to get your writing juices flowing?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation is seriously cutting into my ability to write. I know, it sounds lame. It's just sleep, right? But as my husband pointed out, sleep dep can be used as a form of torture. Yesterday was a bad day! The baby didn't go down until 5am and I hadn't had a nap at all so I was a mess. Today is better--got a three and a half hour nap in the evening and then the baby went down at 2am and slept through until 6:30 when I had to take Jeff in to work.

So I actually feel functional enough to do some writing, which I'm off to do as soon as I'm done with this post. Nathan Bradsford recently wrote a blog post about returning to writing after a long break and he recommended, among other tips, writing anything to get the juices flowing, like a blog post. So here I am. Plus, I like feeling like I'm talking with you guys again--I missed it. It's no fun being isolated from the world. Don't get me wrong, I have a tendency to be a hermit. But I do like to feel connected to people who are interested in the same things I am.

Anyway, I started my decopunk story about a week ago. I wrote about 2700 words, I think, and now I'm going to get back into it. If I can just convince this baby to let me sleep at least five hours every 24 hours (doesn't have to be all at once!) I might even get to where I can maintain some sort of routine again.

What about you? Do you have issues with sleep and writing? How do you handle them?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writing again...

Well, it's been nearly a year! Finding out I was pregnant pretty much stopped my creative juices from flowing in the writing direction. I spent my time cooking and knitting, instead. But I am now finally starting to work on a story again. I'm happy about this, although I really didn't sweat the months on hiatus. I figure, as long as I'm not feeling stressed out because I'm blocked, I just have to go with my creative flow.

Of course, I've done some writing for the MA program I'm in online. It's for American History. That's been good, getting back into writing papers. There's something really satisfying about putting a paper together, like finishing a puzzle.

I have yet to actually start writing the story, although I think today may be the day for scene 1. We'll see; I'm not entirely sure the idea has matured enough. I've been using Pinterest to collect images for the idea I have. I discovered dieselpunk and decopunk recently and after watching Fritz Lang's 1927 silent film, Metropolis, I became inspired by the possibilities of a 1920s/scifi setting.

Actually, it all started when I was on Netflix in the middle of the night--I've discovered that the only way I can stay awake to feed the baby is to watch movies or tv shows--and I started watching Deep Space Nine from the beginning. And the first thing I realized, is that I am craving good sci fi. The second thing I realized is that I'm really intrigued by the space station as a setting. I can't say I was overly impressed with the writing of the shows--I can only hope they gain in depth as the series progresses--but the setting is really interesting. I like Quark's gambling hall, the promenade, the way that characters can come and go due to the daily docking and departure of ships.

One thing I haven't really hammered out yet, and I may need to give more thought before I jump into writing, is the tone I want for this story. I'd like to make it quirky, in the vein of dieselpunk stories such as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and make it a fun adventure, but I also just got finished reading The Hunger Games Trilogy, and I was blown away by how brutal Suzanne Collins is with her characters. It really made me realize how NOT brutal I am with mine. So... something to ponder.

How about you, how do you treat your characters? Do you like to just have fun with them, but keep it light? Or do you put them through the ringer?