Beautiful Books (Out of My Head and Into Yours)

Somewhere, out in the blogosphere… specifically, on the blogs Paper Fury and Further Up and Further In… a meme is under way…

Just like every year, we’re giving our monthly link up “Beautiful People” a small rest so we can focus on “Beautiful Books” [and] our NaNoWriMo projects. The format is the same as Beautiful People. We’ll post 10 questions to answer about your WiP — aka your beautiful book.  Answer the questions in a blog post of your own and then come back here to link up!

Consider this the sequel to last month’s Beautiful Books post, in which I gushed about the pair of novels scheduled to release (and re-release) in March of next year – “Inspired” and “Out of My Head”!

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Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?

*laughs and laughs and weeps and laughs at my current mental state* But hey, let’s not blame the novel! After all, I had the good sense to make myself NOT do NaNo this year, leaving me free to have internal breakdowns over other things – like my baby sister’s recent wedding, and my imminent move across the country, and the fact that I had a clear plan to read 3 specific books this month, but then borrowed 4 million different library books instead…

I don’t know what to say about that one.

As concerns “Inspired”, though, I’ve reached out to quite a number of bloggers, asking if they have any interest in an early read ‘n’ review of the book. Some have even said yes! The reviewer hunt’s stalled out, for a bit, while I focus more on trying to land a job in the state to which I’m relocating. (And, y’know, reading 4 million library books.) But if YOU – yes, you reading this blog post – want a review copy of “Inspired”, let me know! We’ll make it happen!

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?

Of “Inspired”:

There are people, Luc found, who are very good at having ideas.

Bonus! Of the sequel, “Out of My Head”:

There are muses, Luc knew, who are very good at developing ideas.

(As readers of my Wilderhark Tales and Outlaws of Avalon novels may have observed, I’m big on first lines following a pattern within a series.)

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?

While drafting Book 1, it was Wilbur, since he’s based on my favorite character of the time. Then for a while, in the neighborhood of Book 2, I think it was Yves, since I’d grown closer to the character he was based on. XD Now it’s probably Uri – not because of who she’s based on, but just because I enjoy her as a person. A hardass with a heart willing to learn to soften, when necessary. Sayer of things I wish I gave few enough lip tricks to utter in public. Also, one of my small batch of characters who inherited their author’s asexuality. (Or, in Uri’s case, her author’s author’s asexuality. Though, I mean, Annabelle’s ace, too, and sexuality isn’t hereditary, so what am I even babbling about anymore.)

What do you love about your novel so far?

– How the characters’ relational dynamics grow from Book 1 to Book 2

– The narrative’s uniquely changeable style; keeps things interesting for me, even during my umpteenth read-through of the manuscripts

– All the little things from my own life I get to include, since Annabelle’s life is so closely based on mine

– When the language EVOKES THE VERY SOUL of what I’m trying to convey

– Mach x Annabelle (I sibling soul mates ‘ship it)

– Wilbur x Uri (I bromance ‘ship it)

– Yves x speaking (compared to the rest of the cast, he doesn’t do it much, but I like what he says when he does)

– The “Phantom of the Opera”-esque short story in Book 1

– The surprise solution chapter toward the end of Book 2

– I’m not even the illustrator, but can we give it up again for the books’ covers, tho???

Covers 1 and 2, side by side

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?

None that I haven’t already caught and vanquished, I hope!

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?

Probably middles. Beginnings are often shaky, because every new book is its own beast that you have to learn how to handle. And my sense of urgency tends to kick in toward the end, since I can feel how close that finish line is. Whereas in the middle, I’ve had time to get to know the project, and can just enjoy sinking into the story as it unfolds.

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music?

Back when I was in the habit of writing, you mean? <_< I basically just had to shut out the distractions of social media until my brain got lost in building the story’s scenes, word by word. I almost never draft to music – with the notable exception of #CamelotWIP (as I’ve dubbed it on Twitter). For some reason, I really needed noise reminiscent of a Faerie isle for that one. As for snacks, lol, I generally forgot to eat breakfast ‘til 2pm…

What time of day do you write best?

I liked to get cracking first thing in the morning.

My muse liked to show up just after I’d turned off the light for bed.

#rude

1 Light Bulb, Inspired Countdown, long

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?

I don’t prefer to let anyone see my work until the first draft feels finished. Then I run it all by my writing bestie. Beyond that, I’m okay with sharing short snippets here and there – so long as they don’t give away any important surprises!

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?

If my characters need me to. I’ll push myself to my limits and farther, for them.

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?

1) Find out what you love about the writing process

2) Chase that

3) Tell yourself that you can do the hard thing (whether that hard thing is pushing forward, or giving yourself a break)

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And that is that. To any o’ y’all doing NaNo this year: How’s the first half of November been treating you, and how ready are you and your characters to tackle the last two weeks? ^^

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Beautiful Books (and the Big Ideas Behind Them)

Somewhere, out in the blogosphere… specifically, on the blogs Paper Fury and Further Up and Further In… a meme is under way…

Beautiful Books Meme

Just like every year, we’re giving our monthly link up “Beautiful People” a small rest so we can focus on “Beautiful Books” [and] our NaNoWriMo projects. The format is the same as Beautiful People. We’ll post 10 questions to answer about your WiP — aka your beautiful book.  Answer the questions in a blog post of your own and then come back here to link up!

I enjoyed taking part in the Beautiful People meme, that one time in August, and I’ve enjoyed participating in National Novel Writing Month several times, though not this year. Fortunately, you don’t need a NaNo project to take part in Beautiful Books. Any story in progress will do. So I’m jumping in with my debut novel, scheduled to re-release in a brand new edition, March of next year – “Inspired”!

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Cover w Text 06.3, front

What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

I’ve got brainstorming notes on the earliest iterations of “Inspired” going back to May 2011, and the first draft came out over the following December. The spark behind it all started around the NaNo before, when my (brand new, at the time!) best friend and I created the Stranger Than Truth club. Originally, the novel was going to feature not just one author navigating the fictional realm, but two, imagining in tandem. And there’s still room for that to happen, if I ever get around to a sequel centering on that. I just felt there was a lot of groundwork to lay down first.

Describe what your novel is about!

Happy days – I’ve got a blurb ready. ^o^

For a muse like Lucianíel, one story’s end is another’s beginning.

In the wake of his author’s sudden death, Luc takes ownership of her surviving creations—four fantastical characters with tales yet to be told—saving them from unwritten lives crumbling around them and giving them a second chance at a literary future.

Luc finds that chance in the unsuspecting mind of Annabelle Iole Gray, a quirky teen with her head in the clouds, nose in a book, and imagination ripe for a brilliant muse’s inspiration.

Or so he hopes.

Neither Luc nor Annabelle, however, realize all they’ve undertaken. Even with a to-write list including accounts of a shape-shifting cat creature, gentle knight-in-training, vigilante skater girl, and a mystery boy smothering in unspoken fear, the most remarkable saga created between author and muse just may turn out to be one stranger than fiction.

Their own.

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

Oh, the “Inspired” gallery on my website may have a few applicable images…

PhotoFunia-Luc and Jean

Inspired, Only the Beginning, 02

Inspired Avengers

Introduce us to each of your characters!

Whoof, there’s a lot, so let’s restrict it to three words each:

Lucianíel = That lightbulb moment

Abishan = Just… total cat

Wilbur = Chivalrous sweetie pie

Uri = Entirely judging you

Yves= Smol, with secrets

Annabelle = Danielle E. Shipley

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

Step 1 = Talk to myself in a Word document until I’ve got a fairly solid idea of the book’s shape.

Step 2 = Outline chapter by chapter, to ensure every puzzle piece gets slotted in somewhere.

Sometimes, Step 3 (or 1-and-a-half, or at whatever point on the list I feel thus compelled) = Ask the characters questions so that I can begin to hear their voices in the answers.

Cover 2 w Text, front

What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Since it’s already been written and published once, at this point I’m just eager to have it back on the market again – and with such a beautiful new face! Plus this time, it comes out with a sequel. I’m always excited to give the world something brand new to read. ^o^

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

Oh, perfect, ‘cause there are three different settings.

1 = The Material Plane – aka, the real world. Like Annabelle’s home, inspired by the house where Childhood Me used to visit my dad’s family over Thanksgiving.

2 = The Immaterial Plane – aka, the world of imagination. Where muses live, and where some characters may choose to hang out, if they’re self-aware enough to know they’ve got an author’s mind to roam.

3 = Book Worlds. The intersection of material and immaterial. Fictional, yes, but no less real to the people who inhabit the story. One of “Inspired”s special charms is that it offers a glimpse into several.

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Boiled down to one word, Luc’s main goal = security. In this, Annabelle is both a tool and an obstacle, because while she’s willing to be the author for Luc and his loved ones, she’s basically just in it for the fun. Clash of motivations. Expect fireworks.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Nothing like putting in the time on the craft to mature an artist! Not that Annabelle doesn’t still have plenty of growing up to do by novel’s end, but you can see she’s getting there.

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

Themes… How ideas are planted… How stories grow… How people can blossom, with a little help from their friends – real, imaginary, and in between… As for how I want readers to feel at novel’s end, how else? Of course I want them to walk away inspired.

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And that is that! Related note: I am currently seeking folks interested in providing an early read ‘n’ review of “Inspired”. Is that you? Talk to me!

Over, out, and good luck to any o’ y’all doing NaNo this year. ^o^

I Quit; Here’s Why

As of November 6th, I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.

I signed up because it’s tradition – as much a part of my Novembers as going to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving.

I signed up because I always think back to my first NaNo in 2010. The rush of the race. The camaraderie on the forums. The blessing of making my Avalon outlaws’ acquaintance.

I signed up because I said I would. I said it because I felt I had to. Felt like I needed someone’s permission not to participate, or a Valid Reason™ not to.

Well, I’m giving myself permission, and declaring my reasons’ validity.

nanowrimo_2016_quitting

I quit because this year, my heart doesn’t have the energy to throw its whole self into a project of any ambition.

I quit because over the first less-than-a-week of this year’s NaNo, I started stories that I quickly became too scared to continue, because how could I give them the tender attention they needed in the scant hours between the new day job and bedtime?

I quit because the NaNo numbers game is not playing well with my depression, and does not suit my process right now.

I quit because I’d rather let myself fall in love with a few hundred words every day – or every two days, or a few days here and there with a rest in between – than miserably churn out thousands of words I don’t have the wherewithal to care about.

I quit because, if I can’t relax into writing, then for the sake of my mental, emotional, and physical health, I really need to let myself find that rejuvenating downtime somewhere else.

I quit this arbitrary writing deadline so that instead I can read and color, play music and play with my nephew, take walks through autumn’s glory, and maybe sometimes just do nothing – all without a self-imposed burden of guilt.

I quit because, contrary to my anxiety’s belief, I don’t actually have anything to prove by forcing myself on.

I quit because I already know I have the discipline to make myself finish NaNo. Now it’s time to exercise one of my weaker strengths: The strength to say “no” and walk away.

I quit because, just as you can come out of a NaNo a winner even without hitting 50K, there are ways to lose even if you do.

So auf Wiedersehen, NaNoWriMo. Maybe next year. Peace out.

(Emphasis, I hope, on peace.)

What Is Even Happening

We* interrupt this delightful run of flash fiction to bring you a report on current events!

*By which I mean “me, myself, and I”. Unless some character or another decides to jump in with their two cents.

First off, yes, I’ve bid Germany farewell and am back safe and sound in the States. ‘Twas a grand adventure, while it lasted – running on and off from one autumn to another – but I’m glad to be home with my family. And I was all set to chill out in a recovery coma for a few weeks, but then, rather suddenly…

I got a job!

A second job, I should say, since obviously I’m already an author at work. It’s just, y’know, I thought it’d be financially pleasant to also hold down a gig that comes with steady pay. Hence my new data entry position over at [name/location omitted for privacy]. Here’s hoping all goes well, and doesn’t throw too much of a wrench into my plans for…

NaNoWriMo!

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_participant

Another National Novel Writing Month is here – the first I’ve ever done while working a full-time day job.

Couple that with the body-and-spirit exhaustion that slowed down my project plotting (or even project settling-upon-and-sticking-with) in October, and who even knows what trying to draft this novel will be like? …or if it will even be a “novel” so much as it is a bunch of fiction-y words just trying to get by together. But I’ll give it my best heroic effort. And speaking of truly great heroes

There’s more Outlaws of Avalon on the way!

To help tide us all over until Book Two drops in the spring, I’ll be releasing a special little stocking stuffer this December: “An Avalon Christmas Carol”. (On Goodreads here.) Eyes open, everyone – the cover reveal’s coming next week!

“It will be gorgeous,” Allyn informs you.

“And the book itself? Too much fun!” Will assures.

So ends today’s broadcast. Any cool news of your own? Toss it in the comments.

Open Journal: Muse on the Fritz

#CampNaNo July was a weird one.

I mean, I guess…

I mean, I guess…

April’s laid-back version of the internationally acclaimed National Novel Writing Month was a breeze, with me getting through my edits of “The Sky-Child and Other Stories” easy as a minstrel strumming a lute. Then came July, and I don’t even know where my brain went.

I’d originally planned to collaborate with Tirzah on a superhero novel set in an alternate universe Hawaii. But as the first of thirty-one days of worldwide writing madness drew near, mounting stresses on several fronts compelled me to beg off on beginning that project until another time. (Bless you, my writing bestie, for your understanding.) What I needed, I decided, was something fluffy and fun. And what better fit that description than a continuation of the “Lord of the Rings” spoof I once wrote for Tirzah’s birthday?

StT LotR Bookmarks

Good, clean, stranger-than-true fun.

Featuring (among many others) Edgwyn, Lute, and Rosalba from The Wilderhark Tales, Allyn-a-Dale, Will Scarlet, and Robin Hood from my (coming soon enough to taste, I swear it) “Outlaws of Avalon” trilogy, Tirzah herself, characters of her creation, and yours truly, the first part of my parody of the classic Tolkien novels and their film adaptations was a glorious mess of a romp. I couldn’t wait to pick up where I left off.

Until, like, Day Three or Four.

The view from my Camp NaNo cabin.

The view from my Camp NaNo cabin.

Out of nowhere, I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

I wanted it written. And I wanted to write. But I didn’t want to write that.

I was hungry for words, and apparently running high on inspiration, but satire just didn’t satisfy. I craved additional scenes to insert in “Outlaws of Avalon” Books 2 and 3. I hankered to begin work on a potential Wilderhark Talette idea that had been sitting for a few weeks. I followed my nose to a couple more verses to the start of an Allyn-a-Dale song found years ago. (And accompanied the finished composition on my Rosie, of course.)

Maybe it was a reflection of my less than stable psycho-emotional state. Maybe it was just these unexpected projects’ time to move up from the back burner to the front of the stove. Maybe somebody spiked the punchbowl at the muse party, because it wasn’t just me – basically my whole cabin reported feeling similarly out of whack this time around, so what even, people?

I didn’t end up getting very far on the story I’d planned to. But I remained committed, at the least, to writing more than zero words every day until I hit my overall goal. And when I was working on whatever I guess I was meant to be, I was in my happy place. (Particularly with the “Outlaws” additions, since those books are always my happy place.)

There may be any number of morals, here.

“Same moral from circa NaNo 2014, if you ask me,” says Will. “Again I say: You need a vacation.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

Black and White and Red[Eye] All Over

About a month ago, those who check in with my author page on Facebook may have noticed the giddy announcement of my first-ever authorial newspaper interview.

FB Status Screenshot, RedEye Interview

I received a tip from a friend (what up, Stace!) that one Lauren Chval was looking for Chicagoland participants of Nation Novel Writing Month to chitchat with for a piece in the Chicago RedEye (a subset of its parent paper, the Tribune), and you betta believe I passed along word that I’d be interested.

Next thing you know, I’ve got an e-mail from Lauren, kicking off arrangements for us to meet up. (Cue the squeals of honor and delight!) As of this past Friday, the end result of our get-together – “30 Days and 30 Nights to Write” – is online for the world to see! (Article in print, still to come.)

So go check out my story, along with those of two other ChiTown Wrimos. And, y’know, feel free to share it with everyone you know. That’s what I’m doing. ;D

Heck yeah, the interview came with a legit photographer! Photo cred to Andrew A. Nelles

Heck yeah, the interview came with a legit photographer! Photo cred: Andrew A. Nelles

Open Journal: Disconnected

Recent-Past Me writes…

I met my best friend in the forums of NaNoWriMo. It’s a story we’ve rehashed a ton of times, to curious outsiders and among ourselves: Her foxy Thief Lord, my legendary outlaws and Song Caster of minstrel; a passing connection between states-away strangers that, somehow, went beyond passing to lasting these four years and counting.

A once-in-a-lifetime miracle.

At least, not a miracle I’ve seen repeated yet in my life, and don’t expect to during NaNo ‘14.

I haven’t spent much time in the forums, this past month. By which I mean, I’ve half-heartedly poked my head in once, lurked around for a short while, then wearily closed out the tab. I don’t have the energy for socializing chitchat. For dragging on a smile and feeling around for common ground. For friendly emoticons and exclamation points.

There are few things I want to deal with less, in this state, than exclamation points.

Besties For Good 02My best friend just got married, moving even further out of reach. I was her Maid of Honor; her personal assistant; the collected, efficient go-getter striding around with a rapidly marked-up notebook. My brain, it seems, works differently than the average human. (Gasps of faux surprise all ‘round.) The bride-to-be and her family, the wedding itself, needed me in cyborg mode. Cue three weeks of setting self aside that I might to best ability serve.

Greater love hath no one than this: To lay down her life for a friend.

My insides feel slain on the altar where she spoke her vows.

I pushed myself so far, strained so hard, strove so long, and I’m proud of me, but I’m injured.

It’s not the first time I’ve maimed myself like this. The summer I published “Swan Prince” then dove straight into my second season on cast at the Renaissance Faire blew me out in much the same way. Strained, sprained, drained.

My brain works differently than the average human.

Participant, mm? I hardly feel like one.

Participant, mm? I hardly feel like one.

I’m not made to deal so intensely with so many people for this length of time. I’m slowly recovering; better now than I was days ago, and likely better by the time this post goes live than I am during its drafting. But in the meantime, much as I’d love to get back into the international camaraderie of NaNo – one of my favorite parts of the event, in years past; what separates NaNo from just another month of me bingeing on word-making; the gateway, once, to a friendship like I’ve never had before – I just can’t with the socializing, right now.

So a world of Wrimos is over there, and I’m over here, with days to go ‘til THE Writing Month begins, feeling wholly disconnected from it all.

My tired = sad.

My sad = lonely.

My cyborg powers, experiencing technical difficulties.

“The girl needs a vacation,” Will Scarlet opines.

The girl doesn’t believe in vacation.

Edgwyn says kindly, “That’s why the girl’s a wreck.”

I’ll sleep when I’m dead. ‘Til then, I’ve got writing to do.

“Mercy on our souls,” Allyn murmurs.