Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Who Says Writers Don't Work for a Living?

You'd think that, since I'm writing an urban fantasy series, I wouldn't need to do much in the way of research.

But that's not entirely true.

Because the witches in my stories live for so long, I want to make their ages feel more authentic, so I'll often look at pieces of historical information stretching as far back as they're supposed to have lived.

That also applies to my names, including my main character, Michelle.

Originally, Michelle was Michael, and I made the change a couple years ago in draft number 453479023. (Or thereabouts.)

And that's an old name, but I wanted to make sure that the feminine version was still something I could use given the age of my characters.

And I knew that it was French, but that's actually not entirely true. The name has its origins in Hebrew hundreds of years ago...

And the next thing I knew, I was reading up on the history of the feminine version of Michael and how old it is...

Okay, so it's more getting lost in the internet than research, but I'm totally counting it.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Title Queen

So, I'm in the middle of the edit of the rewrite of Book Two (who says writers don't work for a living?), and this run-through is my favorite, because it's the one where I add in more sass from my main character, Michelle.

It's where a lot of the "Right? Right." verbal tics come in as well as some of her insecurities and fears. After all, the first pass-through is all about getting the plot down and making sure that it all flows and makes sense.

This time, it's about making sure that the "voice" comes through.

And that extends to my titles as well.

I'm only four chapters into the editing, but I'm already enjoying going through and deciding on titles for every chapter. If any of you have read the first book, you know that half the fun is in the chapter titles. (My personal favorite is "Let's Take the Kid Who is Scared of Water and Dump Her in the Ocean" because I, too, am afraid of water and would freak out if I had ever fallen in the ocean. A close second would have to be "I Regret that I'm Not Well-Versed in Scary Spark Magic" because the phrase "scary spark magic" for some reason never fails to make me laugh.)

As my friends who write with me can tell you, I am the Title Queen. One of my closest friends, Kimi, writes with me in Google Docs (one day we will actually publish something we've written together, I swear), and half the fun is naming not only the chapters and volumes but the docs themselves, since we usually have to split it after 70-100 pages or so, or it's hard to load.

(Yeah... I know... that's a lot of writing. We like to write about the X-Men, okay? We're total nerds.)

Anyway, the point is, every day, I open up my Word doc and edit another chapter of Prisoners and Puppet Strings, and my favorite part is deciding on a new title.

Hopefully, the rest of you enjoy those titles as much as I do. :)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Endings Are Hard

I've spoken before on how I make it a point to write every day, but I've especially started to do more with the Halfsie series now that I've published the first book. I made a resolution to write at least 1,000 words in the series every single day until I finished the rewrite of Book Two, and now, I'm almost finished. I'm in the final chapter. It's just a matter of days.

And yet these are the hardest words to write, because endings are so hard. Even though this book isn't the last in the series, it's always hard to find a way to wrap up all of the ways you've poured your soul into something.

Now, I'm looking at the last few pages of this book and looking ahead to the massive editing that's to follow. I always try to go back through and add in more sass from my narrator, since the rewrite is always focused more on the plot and the emotions. Her commentary is usually spiced up later, because I need to take a step back from the plot. But I'll go back through and do that...

And then I'll add in more details, more descriptions. And I'll make sure it's all spelled right and all that. And then I'll send it to my sister.

Bethany is in the acknowledgements of my first book, but I'll say it here again: having her read through my book makes all the difference in the world. She's been the driving force behind a lot of my dreams, because she gets so excited about every story and points out places where I could do more.

In fact, I'm excited for her to read this book in particular, because part of the plot came from a conversation I had with her where she pointed out a small reference in the first book that she liked, and one thing led to another and basically, I wrote an entire memory just for her. It totally fits with the theme of Book Two, but Bethany, you'll know when you get to it.

It's still a little strange to think that I'm so close to closing this chapter of the Halfsie series. But as I approach the editing stages, I can't help but get excited.

Oh, and I've finally got a title (I think): Prisoners and Puppet Strings. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

For the Love of Writing

I don't think I'll ever make an actual living out of being a novelist.

I'm very lucky in that I'm able to be a writer, mind you, by being a freelancer and doing articles, blogs, that kind of thing. And I'm able to supplement that with editing as well, though recently I've been doing more writing than editing.

But I don't think I'll ever be a New York Times bestseller or a household name. And you know, I'm okay with that.

Writing, for me, has always been something I've done. It's more than a hobby, but that's the best word I can put to it. It's something that I do even when I'm not working, even when I'm not getting paid or published. And I enjoy it so much that when I do feel like I've got something worth publishing, I put it out there and promote it, because I'd love for people to fall in love with my worlds and my characters as much as I have.

But I don't think my books are going to "make it big." I mean, I'd love it if they could, and I probably vainly think that they could if given enough marketing and attention, but the truth is that this is just something I love to do, something I will always love to do, and right now, that's where I am.

Part of the problem is that I was put off of traditional publishing after college, because my first job was at a traditional book publisher, and I burned out hard. For years, I didn't want to even consider anything but self-publishing, because it took me a long time to recover my mental and, yes, even physical health after that burnout. I didn't want to look back at the industry that gave me panic attacks in the middle of the night. I could still edit for people who wanted to work with traditional publishers because of that background, but as for myself, I liked the control I had self-publishing.

Now, of course, I'm slowly getting back into traditional publishing and hope to reach a much larger audience with my infertility book. But I was reflecting the other day on this time in my life when I'm finally looking to do more than be a hobby writer and realized... I'm okay being a small-time writer. I obviously dream of fame and fortune and bestseller lists, but... I like where I am.

And I like where I'm going as I try to find a publisher for the infertility novel, too.

Basically, life is good.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Thanks, Bethers

So, if you've read my book, you might know that in the acknowledgements, I talked about my sister, Bethany, who is basically my hype woman.

She was also my editor for the book, because she is so, so good at substantive edits. I'm better at knowing where the commas go (every editor has her strengths), but she has a big picture mind. Not that I don't know how to substantively edit, but she takes things to a whole new level.

Plus, it's always hard to edit your own stories. In my head, everything makes sense, and then Bethany will point out to me that I never actually explained myself like I thought I did. This is especially true because I've been working on this series since college and have done so many rewrites that it's easy to forget whether or not I've already included crucial details in this draft.

I tell you all these things not just to praise my sister for helping me to put out an amazing book but also to explain the background of the idea that she had for my series.

So one of the big parts of the Halfsie series has always been the fact that my main character, Michelle, has hundreds of years of missing memories. All six rough drafts in the series have followed her journey.

But when Bethany was reading one of the flashbacks I had, she jokingly emailed me and said that she wanted me to write a side story about one of the minor characters in Michelle's memory. She wanted a whole set of adventures about Michelle taking in a little boy and finding family in human society.

Well, congratulations, Bethany. Now there is a little boy named Jacob taking up the majority of the flashbacks in Book Two.

I mean, it's not like it was COMPLETELY new, to be fair. Early drafts of later books in the series explored the family of humans that took Michelle in before she met the Rendezvous. But your idea, little sister of mine, gave that family a start in her memories in a way that simply didn't exist before.

So, well, I hope you're happy :P

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

New Book Idea

I'm in the middle of doing the rewriting work for Book Two, so of course, that means my brain is already looking at other stories.

Sometimes, parts of a book come to me in dreams. For example, my first book, Lady Thief, didn't have Devon as a character for a long time. But that character appeared to me in a dream, and I rewrote the entire book with him as the focus because of it.

Now, this isn't quite as dramatic as an entire rewrite, but it is a pretty cool dream, and I want to write it down so that I can find it later.

In my dream, I was in a beautiful facility, with gardens and amenities like a cultural hall, a piano room, an outdoor eating area, that kind of thing. I was there being treated for a head injury that, I was told, happened as the result of an attack by rebel terrorists.

I truly enjoyed my life there and trusted my therapist wholeheartedly as she helped me with my complete amnesia. She explained that the country was run by good people who wanted the best for their citizens and that anarchists had been trying to overthrow the government for years. And I didn't have any reason to doubt her, especially since she had gone to so much trouble to help me.

But slowly, I started to uncover more about this place that didn't sit well with me. For example, I had noticed that there were several slave laborers, and what's more, I noticed that they seemed to hate me in particular. Not their masters... well, not quite as much. For some reason, I was the one getting the looks of betrayal, the evil eyes. They would spit at me, call me traitor. And I didn't understand it.

Slowly, I started to find more things that I didn't like. I didn't say anything to anyone else about what I saw, but it festered in my mind until I couldn't ignore it anymore. I was supposed to be writing in my journal for my therapist, but, unbidden, new words started to blossom out of me. And before I knew it, I'd written practically a rebel manifesto.

I was horrified, not only because I believed still that my therapist was telling the truth but because I knew she would read what I'd written and come after me.

I ran away.

And then the dream skipped ahead to the point where I was taking refuge with some of the slaves, who had warmed up to me when they realized that I legitimately didn't remember who I was.

Apparently, I had once been the feared leader of the entire rebellion. When I was captured, everyone expected me to be executed. But instead, the government had decided to wipe my mind, and they had been brainwashing me into becoming a model citizen, a little spokeswoman for their cause. It was a bodyblow to the rebellion, because so many people had believed in me.

Which meant that now, I had to earn back my people's trust.

And that, my friends, seems like a story I want to tell.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Write It Down

Over the past several months, I've had the really neat opportunity to work on my grandfather's personal history, editing it and copyfitting it so that we can put it all together into one place and print it in a book that my family members will be able to enjoy for generations to come.

As I've worked on this project, I've been struck not only by the importance of passing down our stories but by how vital it is to write down our experiences.

Maybe I've just been thinking about this a lot lately after I spent all that time recently writing down five full years of my own personal history related to my infertility struggles, but I've really found that each person has something unique to say, some new point of view that is so vital to understanding the human experience, that it's too important to stay silent.

Take my grandpa, for example. In the course of working on this project, I have learned things about him that I never even knew... and have learned things about other members of my family that I never even knew!

The Grandpa that I knew was very sweet and very gentle, and you can see that in the way he writes, but I had absolutely no idea, for example, that he was such a sassy little prankster! Imagine my surprise reading about him playing pranks during his time in the Navy or reading about his students having to put up with his teasing.

There were, of course, other stories that I'd heard before, that were told around the table during family gatherings. My dad, for example, got my grandfather's playful streak and would prank his dad right back.

But all of these stories combined tell a story that no other person who has ever lived or who will ever lived can tell. It's my grandfather's, and no one else's.

I'm not very good at journaling, but I think through this infertility project and this blog and other things like it, I can at least write down some of my own stories, too, so that my future grandchildren will be able to read things like how my husband panicked during a Newlywed Game and said he'd throw my sister off an island. (Never gonna forget that, honey.)

Anyway, I guess the point is: our stories are our own. Our memories are our own. And we need to preserve them.