Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday on Research

Or: This is a really lazy post!

One of my books is based in mythology, largely Irish. I'm doing research for it and another I haven't started and I thought it'd be fun to talk about what I have, what I used to help write the first draft of my book, and that sort of thing.

Irish Myth book:

What I read before I drafted:

A Dictionary of Fairies by Katharine Briggs

This one was a HUGE help. It was printed in 1976 and I'm actually thinking about buying a copy I found for 15 dollars (includes shipping) because it's just crazy useful and I want a copy and it's out of print so they're kind of expensive.

Bearing in mind that it's about 500 pages, would you guys buy it for 15 dollars??

Oh, this is also known as An Encyclopdia of Fairies if you want to check it out from your library or something.

I very much recommend this one. *nods*

Goodreads link!

Abbey Lubbers, Banshees & Boggarts: An Illustrated Encylcopedia of Fairies by Katharine Briggs

This is basically the simpler, sort of for kids if you either have strange (and awesome) children or want to terrify them for some reason. It has less information but it's easier to read.

And (surprise surprise) I found a copy for a bit less than 6 dollars that I'm probably going to buy because 6 dollars and I want it.

Recommended because it shows more of the storytelling aspect of the mythologies.

Goodreads link!

Banshees by Kelli M. Brucken

This is a kids' non-fiction book but it had some very interesting stories and it was one of the only books I could find strictly about banshees.

(What's with the banshee hate??? I mean, yeah, death omen and all, but people are all over ZOMBIES.)

(You can't get that image out of your head now, huh?)

Anyways, fun. I wouldn't buy it solely for research but it's fine for what it's supposed to be, you know?

Goodreads link!

Things I have now to read:

Field Guide to the Little People by Nancy Arrowsmith

KT got me this one. I'm about a third through it and it's pretty extensive, but the only thing is, the author comes off a bit... she writes as though she honestly believes this/has experienced it and that throws me when I'm reading non-fiction about mythology, you know?

But it's got some good stories and there's a really extensive bibliography so other than the author coming off oddly, it's pretty good. She also  talks about mythologies from other countries than just the Celtic ones and that's cool, too.

Goodreads link!

Ireland: Its Myths and Legends by Kay Retzlaff

The picture of this is large because the book is really big. It's adult non-fiction, but it's one of those ones that are like picture book sized. It's probably because it has amazing pictures.

I've only flipped through it but the pictures are great and it seems interesting if nothing else.

Goodreads link!

A Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend and Folklore by W. B. Yeats and Augusta Gregory

Can I just say how HUGE this book is? It's like 700 pages long. You could kill somebody with this thing. Seriously, if I was being attacked, I'd probably go for this thing. HUGE.

I haven't read this one yet so I don't know how helpful it is. Sorry!

Goodreads link!

Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom by Caitlin & John Matthews

I think I ordered this because I got a bit carried away on my library website but there seem to be a few legends and such that might be interesting.

Goodreads link!

The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog by Patricia Monashan

I haven't read it yet but I think this is like a combination mythology book and travel memoir. Either way it sounds good.

Goodreads link!

Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins by Carol Rose

This is an encyclopedia format book. (Also I hate the word encyclopedia!) I like the look of this one. It seems to have a lot of information about a lot of things and I like that in a research book. This one might go on my Want To Buy List.

Goodreads link!

Circus Book Books:

Wild, Weird, and Wonderful: The American Circus Circa 1901-1927 by Mark Sloan

I got this one a while ago now and it's freaking awesome. It's all black in white (hey, 1901-1927, what do you expect?) and the pictures and stories are amazing. I just wish it'd been about eight times longer because it was so cool to read.

Goodreads link!

Circus Techniques by Hovey Burgess

*shrugs* Figured it couldn't hurt :D

Goodreads link!

The New American Circus by Ernest Albrecht

This one seems to have a lot about the history of circuses. I think this is more on the Circque de Soleil type of circus than the Ringling Bros. type of circus.

Goodreads link!

Circus by Linda Granfield

Kids non-fiction again but there are tons of pictures and it seems to have quite a bit of information so that's neat.

Goodreads link!

Two Hundred Years of the American Circus by Tom Ogden

This one I'm really happy I found. It's almost 400 pages long and it just seems like it'll be REALLY helpful.

Okay. This was supposed to be a quick little post and it ended up taking an hour and a half longer than I thought it would. Not so lazy after all, I guess XD

What kind of research, if any, do you do for your books? What are some of your favourite non-fiction books? Leave me answers in the comments while I go collapse of exhaustion.

Peace and cookies,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday Senses Something is Wrong with this Scene

Sensory details really kill me. Sensory details plot my death better than I plot my WIP (which admitted is not too well considering last week’s post). A fourth grader writes better sensory details than I do.

Have y’all seen the letter from a fourth grader named Flint to Mr. Ramon? You should. This letter makes me smile so much.
"Dear Mr. Ramon,
Thank you for coming to our school and teaching us about weather.
Some day when I become supreme Ultra-Lord of the universe I will not make you a slave, you will live in my 200 story castle where unicorn servants will feed you doughnuts off their horns.
I will personally make you a throne that is half platnum and half solid gold and jewel encrested.
Thank you again for teaching us about meteoroligy, you’re more awesome than a monkey wearing a tuxedo made out bacon riding a cyborg unicorn with a lightsaber for the horn on the tip of a space shuttle closing in on Mars while ingulfed in flames … And in case you didn’t know, that’s pretty dang sweet.
Sincerely, Flint.
P.S. Look on back for drawing."
Text source from here.

Come on. You smiled while you read that, didn’t you? I don’t even need to see the picture to visualize the unicorn, monkeys and tuxedo. Flint is that good, but here is the picture anyways.

Details can be a balancing act. Details can create a clear mental image. Too many can create boredom. I read this one book, and I could not finish it because I felt like it was 99% sensory details. I don’t need to read every single adjective that applies to the object/ person/ setting/ etc. I just need to know enough to visualize it. Your readers will fill in the rest.

Flint gave us enough details to visualize everything without smothering us in detail. I love this letter for more than the use of sensory details. I love this letter because it was a real big reminder to me how we all should use sensory details to take our writing to the next level. They aren't just for old authors from the 1800s who used pretty words. They are for every writer to utilize.

Are sensory details difficult for you? How much is too much? How much is too little? Doesn't this letter make you smile?

In case any of y’all are wondering, my writing break has been amazing for me. I still cry, but mainly for how well everything is coming around again. I really figured out how to make my love interest offer the kind of relationship that I hope all my readers will find in their own lives (though the guys in their real life still might not compare). I can’t really explain him. He’s not perfect or anything. He’s just him which is exactly the way I need to write him. I’m currently grinning like an idiot because of how happy I am to finally get that puzzle piece to fit. Plus all my other characters’ puzzle pieces are fitting together nicely. My MC is also shaping up. She’s difficult to write since she is all sweet and honest while I’ve been told I can be too sarcastic. The plot is shaping up better. I am getting “rid” of a lot of writing, but I’m not too hurt. I won’t finish by July liked I hoped, but I’m not giving up. I’ve started outlining. Afterwards, I’m gonna go back to chapter one and write it the way the story needs to be told. Wish me luck. I know I’m gonna need it. If any of y’all are at a stop sign in your writing, I definitely suggest taking a short break. Right after I decided to take a break, the ideas started to generate again. It doesn’t have to be a long break (maybe just a day if you really need to get back to writing), but a break could be just what you need. It was what I needed.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday on Writing Advice

Writers can sometimes have a lot to say about writing. The merits of this advice can be arguable. If you're like me, you probably look up to a few (if not many) people in the business of writing, but we should take their writing advice with a grain of salt. No matter where you go, whether you're sitting in Panera, in a high school cafeteria, a college class, or an airplane, people will have something to say about writing. After learning you're a writer, even people who haven't touched a pencil since they were in grade school will have advice on "how you should write." I hate to break it to you, but even the writers you love can't tell you how to write. There's no standardized approach to creative writing. There are probably manuals, but those are more like guidelines than rules. Being a creative writer is like being a pirate, guys-- you have to know the rules, but you usually have to break them too. To help you become the best Captain Jack Sparrows you can be, I have compiled some good and not-so-good writing advice.

"If a young writer can refrain from writing, he shouldn't hesitate to do so," --André Gide.

I have a couple problems with this.

  1. I resent the assumption that all writers are male. Come on, really? 
  2. I understand it isn't easy to write, but I hate that so much of the advice from "great" writers is like this. It's cynical, sour, and kind of silly. You're not going to convince me not to write just because you crafted a witty statement about how hard the life of a writer is. If someone loves writing, you should have enough respect to assume they understand the drawbacks to the profession and are willing to deal with those problems. 
"It is by sitting down to write each morning that one becomes a writer. Those who do not remain amateurs," --Gerard Brenan.

Although it may not be everyone's cup of tea, I think this is great advice. Even when I'm stuck on my big work in progress, I will always try to work on a short story, write some poetry, or just write about whatever pops into my head. When all else fails, I'll go read for a while, and then come back to whatever writing or editing I was doing. I think that Brenan's advice is basically true. to become good at something, you have to practice. If you want writing to be your profession, you have to dedicate time to it, even when you don't feel like it. 

"I would recommend the cultivation of extreme indifference to both praise and blame because praise will lead you to vanity and blame to self-pity, and both are bad for writers," --John Berryman.

I definitely like this one. Personally, I think I'm probably the harshest critic of my own work that I've encountered (so far), but I know praise can completely go to my head. If you like something I've written, I automatically love you. I know it's a flawed way to think, but I try to control it. I know I don't take criticism very well either. I tend to take it very personally, even when it was meant to be constructive. When someone says, "I don't think your plot makes sense," I hear, "You are a horrible, talentless person." When you're so emotionally invested in what you do, it's hard not to take things personally. I mean, my writing is me, but I have to remember that other people don't look at it that way. I think anyone, whether they're a writer or not, can benefit from learning a healthy way to cope with praise and criticism. We need to depend on our own confidence, not on opinions of others.

"Read, read, read. Read everything-- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like the carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out the window."

Reading, apart from actually writing, is one of the most important parts of who I am as a person and as a writer (are those the same thing? I'm not sure). I think my style of writing is a mixture of all the things I've read, as well as my own experiences. That's how you get a "voice" as a writer-- you observe things, and then you explain them in a way no one else can. I think younger writers have to be careful not to imitate the authors they love, though. That's why you should try to read a variety of things. It can prevent you from accidentally creating copies of your favorite books. I disagree about the bad writing. I think you should keep your bad writing. There might be a line or a great metaphor in there that you can use later. If anything, when you finally write something you're proud of, the reminder of your not-so-great work will keep success from going to your head.

"Everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else," --  Georges Simenon.

Jesus. Can we stop with the whole "you don't want to be a writer" conspiracy? It's getting really old. Don't let anyone tell you that you don't care enough or aren't tough enough to be a writer. If you write, you can be and are a writer. You can have other interests. Your writing will benefit if you experience different things. Ugh. Advice like this drives me crazy. I need to be a writer--I could be something else, but I don't want to, and a quotation isn't going to convince me otherwise. Sorry, Georges.

"Unless you think you can do better than Tolstoy, we don't need you," -- James Michener.

I need to write. I don't care if I'm not as good as Tolstoy, and neither should you. Why? Because we aren't freaking Tolstoy, that's why. I'm not Tolstoy, I didn't experience what he did in his life, I have different influences, and I have a completely different perspective than he did. My writing isn't as good as his was, but that's honestly kind of irrelevant. Writing isn't some stupid competition to see if you can be the nest Tolstoy, or the next Rowling. If you're the next anything, we don't need you. We need people who are the first of themselves. 

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than write for the public and have no self," -- Cyril Connolly.

 This is one of my favorite quotations of all time. If you know what you write was written to please other people, you're never going to be happy with your work. I think you have to do it for yourself for it to be worthwhile. Don't try to write something you think is marketable. If it's good, there will be a market for it somewhere. 

"There is no advice to give young poets," --Pablo Neruda.

Well, OK. Not much to say about this one. 

"If I had to give writer's advice, I'd say don't listen to writers talking about writing or themselves,"
    -- Lillian Hellman.

I guess you can disregard the previous advice, then. Maybe she's right, though-- it might be best not to take any advice at all. Maybe some of the advice you've heard has helped you, and that's great, but don't shackle yourself to a certain way of writing just because someone said that was the way to write. And never, ever, ever, listen to people who tell you to stop writing. Prove them wrong. 



p.s. Have you bought a Ray Bradbury book yet like I told you too? 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thursday with Tears, Hope and Therapy

I hate where my current WIP is right now. I want to cry. I just can’t seem to get a handle on any of this right now. Nothing is going right. My internal dialogue is crummy. My characters are inconsistent. Three of my characters are BASICALLY THE SAME. The plots are spiraling out of control. I have no idea how I’m going to get from point A to point Z. I really wished I planned this out instead of pantsed it. I can look at a page and just not have a word to say.

I know that sounds super melodramatic, but I just wish it was better.

I love my story. When I started everything was going so well. The conflict was there. My characters’ voices were really pulling though. I would even cry in some of my scenes because I was even surprised what my characters decide.

Now I can’t find any of that.

I’m in The Middle. I’ve heard a ton of people talk about how horrible the middle is, but I didn’t really get it until right now.

I want to finish my story. I want to be proud of my story. I want to write something amazing.

I just can’t get myself to write this story.

There is another story that wants to push their way into my heart. I shouldn't say things like that right? I just can't help it.

It’s killing me inside since this new story is so heartbreaking. I haven’t even gotten inside my characters’ heads yet, but the premise already makes me want to cry (for them not because it sucks so much that even ice cream couldn't help me like my current WIP). My two MC’s motivations are so strong. It’s a harder book. There are a lot of sad things that happen, but I feel like it is a story that needs to be told. I once read that one day we are all going to die, and our ideas will die with us. We need to tell the stories that we need to tell before then. This is one of those stories.

Sounds pretty magical right? Finding the story that you think needs to be written, but it might just be another SNI. It seems like the brightest star in my mind, but the thing about stars is most of them are already burnt out.

I was read relationship advice saying
"If you can’t choose between two people, choose the second person because if you truly loved the first person you never would have noticed the second person."

I don’t think this applies to writers. We can’t always choose the second idea because there will always be that second idea. If we keep falling for the second idea, we will never write The Idea. The Idea is our writing soulmate.

In Natasha Bedingfield’s song Soulmate, she sings,
“Here we are again, circles never end
How do I find the perfect fit
There's enough for everyone
But I'm still waiting in line”

I think that’s the writer’s circle of life. We are all trying to find that perfect story. I mean look at all the published authors out there. They found their perfect story, but why can’t I?

My current WIP might be my writing soulmate. It might, or it might not. I need to finish it. I can NOT give up. I will not let myself even if it’s horrible. It is horrible, but it’s just the first draft. I think I’m gonna just take the week off from writing and just relax. I’ve set a word count for myself to make sure I actually write, but I think that’s been taking the adventure out of writing. The rest of the week will just be for me to get back on track (plan and stuff without the pressure of finishing my word count). Back to loving this idea 100% because love can make anything horrible turn into something amazing.

For now, I’m saving my SNI idea away and seeing how my current WIP turns out.

It might be The Idea.
It might be my writing soulmate.
It might.

I know this wasn’t advice or anything. This was kinda like my therapy to help me decide what to do, but I hope someone reads this and understands.

You will find The Idea.

I have no doubt.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday is a Hero-Worshipper

"Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
--John Green

John Green is good at putting words to things I find hard to express, but as soon as I read the things he writes, I immediately recognize the sentiment or idea expressed as something it seems I've always felt. I mean, that's why I want to be a writer. I want to put words to things that are hared to express. The point, though, of this quote I've included is that it describes perfectly my feelings for Ray Bradbury's works. I'll be watching the news and think, "If only they had read Fahrenheit 451, maybe that wouldn't have happened." I find it extremely hard to hold civil conversations with people who don't like Ray Bradbury. Trust me, I'm not joking. I adore Ray Bradbury's style, but I also think his books are important because they use the fantastic--magic, in other words--to critique our own not particularly magical society. His messages are really timeless. The societal criticism in Fahrenheit 451 of shallowness, recklessness, and selfish living is still just as relevant today. There are still people trying to tell us we should not read certain books or say certain words or marry certain people. There are still many people who are unable to see beyond the borders of their own country, or even the walls of their own living room. Books are as important today as they were when Bradbury sat in a basement and typed the entirety of Fahrenheit 451 in eight days using a typewriter that took change like a parking meter. 

Unless you have been living under a very, very, very large rock ( a meteor, maybe?), you probably have heard the news of Bradbury's recent death. I feel a little silly for being sad. I never met him; never spoke to him. I just read his books, but his voice is so clear in what he writes that sometimes, it feels as if he's talking directly to you as you read. His death does not mean that he will be forgotten, but we have to make sure of this, not just complacently expect other people to keep his writing preserved. At the end of Fahrenheit 451, Montag and his band of outcasts head into the wilderness, carrying nothing except the books they have memorized inside their minds. They have been denied their right to read, but despite this, they carry their favorite stories inside of them. As J.K. Rowling says, "The stories we love best do live within us," so even though arguably (and I am more than willing to argue this) the most iconic sci-fi writer of the past ninety years is dead, his words have not lost any significance. 

Maybe after reading my drivel up to this point, you can understand I worship Bradbury a bit. I am personally offended when someone insults the style of Fahrenheit 451 or Jim's attitude in Something Wicked This Way Comes.  I love those books. I love Clarisse, and Jim, and Will. I love a bunch of people who have never existed. I don't think I'm the only one. However, the recent Twilight fan fiction turned bestseller, Fifty Shades of Gray, has sold more copies than Bradbury sold in his entire life. Please, feel free to read that again. I'm not trying to be a literature snob, though I'll admit I am, but honestly, does that seem OK to you? An Emmy, a Pulitzer, but supposedly less people have read his fiction than the number who've purchased a published version of Twilight fan fiction. 

Brothers John and Hank Green (an Edgar winning author and his brother), are the infamous vlogbrothers, and they recently brought this somewhat frightening issue to their viewers' attention. In order to encourage people to purchase and read Bradbury's work, they are reading Fahrenheit 451 for their summer book club. I don't want people to forget the things he has written, nor do I want his books to simply become "classroom" books. Reading in school is great, but some of the best reading is accomplished when you choose to do it. John and Hank are trying to get Fahrenheit 451 to sell more copies on Amazon than the book that shall not be named. I encourage you to join them. Go buy some Ray Bradbury. Ask your parents first. Or not. 

What books have stayed with you? What authors, dead or alive, have inspired your writing?

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.

It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” --Ray Bradbury



Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday on Naming Characters

Or: I’m Still a Bit High on Sudafed

(Note from present Saturday - this was written about a week ago, but I'm mostly not going to edit it for humour's sake.)

I had a major allergy issue today, sneezed about eight million times, couldn’t breathe and my eyes went wonky from the sinus pressure and reading was weird. So I took a Sudafed (Extra Strength Cold and Sinus – I don’t think it’s actually sold in the US because it has pseudoephedrine which has to be behind the counter there I’m pretty sure but let’s just say it’s reeeeeeally strong and reeeeeeally effective) ended up spending several hours reading magazines and watching Mythbusters because decongestants knock me on my BUTT.

(Also they make me chatty. ALSO my 8th grade Health teacher told us that if you take Sudafed, you can be disqualified from professional sports like the Olympic because it shows up on a drug test. I have no idea if this is true but I thought it was funny because my doctor had told me to take Sudafed once when I had an ear infection. It made me totally loopy back then, too. My mom found that hilarious.)

Anyways, I finished my revision of Spyder (waiting on feedback for that – patiently, of course) and did a round on Berserk (added six thousand words!! Still needs work but I think the plot working better) and I don’t need to order any more books for work because I get July and August off from the library so I ordered a bunch of research books.

Research books for writing are the BEST, for the record. I ordered a TON of Celtic mythology books, a couple magic books my friend Mires recommended, a bunch of circus books and a gymnastic memoir. The Celtic mythology and magic books are for a book that I’ve written but could do with a bit more world-building. The circus books and gymnastic memoir are for a book I haven’t written yet.

But I just might start it soon. I want to read my research books first (possibly outside with my feet in a kiddie pool with an umbrella over me because I burn like whoa). But… well, we’ll see.

Anyways, the point of this post was naming characters. (See? Sudafed makes me chatty.) There have been a couple of posts about this on this blog before (by Zoe and me and KT) but whatevs.

Sometimes, it takes me a really long time to name a main character. If they have the wrong name it can really throw me off. I’m half convinced my Genie book failed because her name didn’t suit her (also the plot kind of sucked). (Also most of the book kind of sucked.)

With this not-yet-a-book (which is why I am ONLY talking about names and absolutely nothing else #superstitious), there was another character who had a name first. Two, actually. A stage name, a stage persona, even, then a name that’s his real name, which let me in on the fact that his stage persona? Was not who he really was. Which made me really curious about who he really was. (Also, he had a nickname pretty earlier that the MC gives him which told me more about both of them.)

The MC was a bit hard to name. I knew pretty earlier that her name might be a bit unconventional. Then I was actually reading a Jezebel article about how Jessica Simpson named her daughter Maxwell Drew Johnson (which, how cute is that name?). The comments on the article, I think, mentioned that it was a pretty common thing for surnames to be given to both boys and girls, especially in the South. (If I’m wrong – it’s not my fault. Blame the internet.)

So I found a list of surnames that people use as first names and boom, Sawyer stuck to the character in my head. Sawyer Grace, to be exact. (And if you hate it, please don’t tell me!) Her brother has decided to be Rhett, from Garrett. They’re twins so I might actually make his middle name start with an S because… that’d be neat. I need to figure out their last name, though.

There’s another character I need to name and one of the tricks I do is I use the top 1000 list from Behind the Name from the year the character was born. I have this tic where I won’t set a book in the current year because… well, something might happen. Basically, I need the year finished before I set a book in it. Right now, all my books are set in 2010. This book will be 2011, so I’m counting back from that for character birth years.

I like the top 1000 list because everybody won’t be Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Jessica, Ashley and Sarah (top 3 names for boys and girls in 1993), but I feel it also lends some authenticity to the book. Like it’s reasonable for these people to be named what they are. (But I might be a bit batty. But it works for me!)

For surnames, I have a list of last names in a word document that I found somewhere internet that’s good for naming side characters who just need a quick name, but this website seems like it’d be really good for finding last names that fit well no matter what you’re looking for and I’ll probably use it.

There’s some advice out there about the heritage of names and such. I’ve said it myself, even. And while that’s true to some extent, I think especially if your characters are younger, it’s not necessarily true that if your grandparents are, say, German, you will have a German name. With baby naming books and the internet, I think a lot of people just choose names they like for their kids and a lot of people aren’t from just one place. So that would not be something to stress out about in my opinion.

But, on the other hand, that might help you. I have an Irish-mythology based book and a lot of the names are Irish in that. It’s also set in a predominately Irish city so that fits well and it makes it easier to name characters. Basically, your mileage will vary.

My last trick for naming characters – I bug KT. Seriously, she’s named… well, a lot of my characters XD Or inspired their names, at least. One character in my Irish book, she flat-out named, first and last name. (It was a deal between us. She got to name a character in the book I was writing if she finished revising HER book and let me read it. It was quite effective and she chose a great name.)

I’m not GREAT at naming characters. Last names especially. But these are the things I do to name characters and maybe this will help you guys!

What are your tips and tricks for naming characters? (Also, wow this is long. Sudafed, man. Now I’m going to sleep, I think. Or at least to lie very still for the rest of the night. I still haven’t named that one character, but I’ll tackle that tomorrow when I’m not so woozy.)

(Present Saturday here again - I've been revising and actually forgot about the character (Sudafed doesn't help my memory) but I still want to hear your tricks and tips! Leave them in the comments below.)

Peace and cookies,

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Goes Shopping

Excuses to use that gif.

Um, get ready for more pictures in this post! XD Also, I'm sharing some of my, er, artwork with you. Please don't laugh.

I realized today, while thinking about how I wanted to go shopping, that none of us really touched much on the clothing worn in our settings. And clothing can be a really good give-away of the setting, and it also says something about the character--because, as we all know, clothing and fashion can be very imaginative and shows a bit of what our personality is (see, Lady Gaga). 

In my epic fantasy, the setting shifts a little bit. In the beginning, it takes place in a desert in a different time (and world, obviously). They tend to wear really loose clothing that's more colorful than cities (think medieval times). I picture the girls wearing bands around their chests and short-like undie things (I'm so good at describing this, aren't I?), and then something similar to a sari or wrap, but more translucent/smaller. Like this *cringes*

In this case, it gives more towards the setting. And when they're not in the desert, they wear more traditional medieval-y clothes you would think of (girls have corsets and skirts and galore). Which, once again, adds to the setting.

On the other hand, my contemporary, Society Road, I feel the clothes give more away about personality. My protagonist, Ember, can be very girly and she loves pink. She likes skirts and socks and scarves (basically all those 'S' clothing items XD). A lot of times, though, she tends to go with more neutral colors, though. 
For a large part of that book, though, Ember wears one outfit. Which is a black turtleneck top, a pink skirt, and black tights. Which looks like this... *cringes again*

And then in my sci fi I'm trying to write right now, the clothing can tell about both the setting and the personality of my characters. Alex really likes bright colors and fun things, but their clothes are very minimalistic. They're tight fitting and uniform. Star Trek like, you know? 
And I have no picture for this part ;)

So there we go. Clothes. I think they're really fun to think about in terms of a character's likes or what goes with the setting. This may also be because I like to DRAW them, but still, fun!

What kind of clothes do your characters wear?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thursday on Definitions

I know y’all are getting tired of all my love related posts, but I write YA romances, so love is a pretty big component. Bare with me. This can apply to any genre not just the ones with romance.

My best friend and I are huge Vampire Diaries fans (the TV show version). I love the love triangle going on (which is surprising since I’m not a love triangle fan) for a very big reason.

I prefer Damon (not just because Ian Somerhalder is super attractive though I would be lying if I said that didn’t play a part in my decision).

My best friend prefers Stephan.

The reason I prefer Damon and my best friend prefers Stephan is because… we have different definitions of love.

I agree with Damon that love should be about passion (I blame all the romance books I read with the amazing relationships that glow from passion).
Damon: “You want a love that consumes you. You want passion and adventure, and even a little danger.’”

My best friend agrees with Elena that love should make you happy.
Elena: “’You should love the person that makes you glad to be alive.’”

The love triangle works so well because neither definition is wrong. Both guys offer their own version of love. I think we (people who watch the show) root for the guy that offers what we look for in love. Almost every book guy I like in books matches my definition of love, and I think the same goes for my best friend.

Normally, there is always one guy that 90% or the people lean towards since the writers favor that one guy or the guys are so similar (gorgeous, talented, funny, has a six pack, plastic, etc) that it doesn’t really matter who the girl chooses.

In Vampire Diaries, I don’t think there is a real winner. Each guy is so different in their personalities and offers something a new type of love to the table.The conflict is between which type of love do we want instead of which guy is more perfect. Do we want passion or happiness? Do we want adventure or comfort? Do we want danger or safety?

I really liked how the writers did this. As a writer, I’m always looking for unique ways to write, and I think the love triangle in Vampire Diaries is something we can all aspire to.

I think this could be an interesting way to add conflict to a story. Think of conflict that could have double meanings (like friendship, hatred, courage, beauty, knowledge, death, evil, trust, etc) and find a way to show case both sides of the definition. It’s not easy, but the conflict could be really interesting.

I’m not sure if this made any sense, but I hope someone might be inspired.

Are you Team Damon or Stephan? Why? Do you think the writers of Vampire Diaries used a unique technique to showcase the love triangle? What other twists do you put on love triangles? What other definition of something could you use to showcase this technique?

I found the quotes here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wednesday Suggests Eavesdropping

Hear me out, OK? The first time I heard (or came across) the word eavesdropping was when I read the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I think the author was pointing out that eavesdropping can get you into a lot of trouble, which is true. I'm not suggesting you start listening at doors, or anything, but be aware of the conversations around you. Listen to how people talk.

  • what their voices sound like
  • how they respond to others
  • what kinds of phrases they use
  • whether or not they use proper grammar
  • what things they say are funny, or interesting
  • how their manner of speaking changes depending on who they're around
By observing the way people around you speak, you can write better dialogue. Although I love Young Adult fiction, many books in this genre are guilty of having very bad dialogue. Like, really, really bad. 
Nothing will distract a reader from your story more quickly than conversation that sounds stilted and weird. Not every person speaks in the same way, and neither should your characters. Sometimes writers forget to think about the way a character speaks and when this happens, that character usually ends up sounding like a weak version of the author themselves. Not really what you want. Making good characters is like making a collage. They will always have parts of you in them. If you're writing truthfully, they kind of have to, but memorable characters are not solely reflections of the author. They are bits and pieces of ideas and phrases and opinions and people coalesced into one juicy mess of a person. A made up person, but a person nonetheless. 

Read your dialogue out loud and ask yourself if it sounds too much like you. It should unmistakably sound like something your character should say, even the "OKs" and the "buts." If you find that you don't get a clear picture of a character from the dialogue in your writing alone, it's time to do some research. Go watch people. Maybe your character never uses contractions. Maybe your antagonist speaks slowly and in a measured voice, like Alan Rickman. Maybe they speak quickly, like Sherlock on the BBC series. If you don't feel like going out, reread a book you love and pay close attention to the dialogue, or curl up with your cat and watch Sherlock on Netflix--that show is the monarch of witty banter. While I wouldn't advise peeking through keyholes, sometimes eavesdropping can be good for you.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday Takes a Tour

I am currently Skyping with my friend Lander. The best part? He lives on the west coast. The worst part? He lives on the west coast. Ergo (and I love that word), I don't get to see him in person.

But now that I have figured out how to use Skype, I do get to see him. (Hi, Lander!)

Which brings up an interesting idea--how much is a picture/image worth, even if you yourself are not in the place of the picture? We've all heard the "a picture is worth a thousand words" thingamajig--so does that mean I can assemble a manuscript made up of seventy pictures and call it a novel?

No, probably not.

No, still probably not even if those pictures are of chupacabras/LOLcats/small rodents in party hats/cool urban graffiti/Misha Collins.

(Maybe Misha Collins...)

However, those pictures still can be worth a thousand words (or a hundred or a million, it depends on how concise/not concise you are) if you explain them. Lander gave me a tour of his house via Skype. If he hadn't been explaining what I was seeing, I would have been thoroughly confused. But all of the images on my screen went together quite nicely because Lander was telling me helpful information, like, "This is my couch. Die Hard is on the TV." Et cetera.

But at the same time, he could have totally made stuff up. "This is my couch. It is where my grandfather died. His last words to me were, 'Tag: you're it.' Now every time I see this couch, I remember those dying words and wonder what they could possibly mean." And bam, his living room would be transformed from the chill area to the den of mystery.

So good writing exercise: pick a picture and write two completely different stories based upon it.

Or give two different friends Skype tours of your house. You control the picture and the information. Kind of like how you control what you write--see how I drew a parallel there?

I won't be able to post the next two weeks, but I will try to understand Blogger enough to have it post some of my favorite older posts.

Happy Tuesday!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday on a Little Big City

I'm not so concerned about Internet predators, partially because I'm a naturally reckless person, and partially because it would be hard to write this post and not be extremely specific about where I live.

If you've never been to Alabama, good; you're really not missing anything. I'll start with what you probably know about - Rosa Parks and civil rights. Surprisingly (or not), I never actually think about these things unless I'm on the outside looking in from a different perspective.

So, let's go with a native's perspective, shall we?

I live in Montgomery, Alabama, the capital and second largest city in the state right after Birmingham. It doesn't seem like I live in a big city, since most natives have their own bubbles that they thrive in and rarely venture out. However, with a population of around 200,000, you can't deny the fact that you live with a ton of people.

Even more specifically, I don't exactly live in Montgomery; yet, my entire life is there. I live about 10 miles outside the city limits in the countryside, so it's just a short drive into school and other places I go. I attend a small private Christian school (K-12) with about 1,000 other people.

Fact: It's quite boring.

When people out of state (who have never been to Alabama) first hear I live in Montgomery, they say something along the lines of, "Oh, har har, hillbilly country," which I guess is true to some extent. But the hillbillies don't live in Montgomery. My definition of a hillbilly is a person who resides in the hills and lives on a farm; ergo, we have none. Unfortunately, Montgomery is home to thousands of rednecks that I come into contact with every day.

The correct definition of a redneck is a poor white farmer, but Montgomery natives have seemingly adapted it to fit themselves. Many of the guys in my grade at school are self-identified "rednecks" who go "mud-riding" on the weekends with all camouflage they can find in their closets. This is what gives Montgomery a bad rap. While I would love to tell you that we don't house all the stupid people in America, the truth is, we come pretty close.

Montgomery's racial tension is awful. Hate crimes committed on both sides are rarely reported on in the news, but they happen often.

Instead of dwelling on the unpleasant side of life here, I'll tell you about the good things. Montgomery is home to one of the largest Shakespeare Festivals in the world, and they put on around 7 productions a year. I've been to so many I've lost count, but the plays are so impressionable that I can remember every one that I've seen.

I also enjoy the somewhat "small town feel" that you get in Montgomery. While I don't live in a small town, per se, you really can't go anywhere without seeing someone you know. Whether they're from school, church, or they work in a place where you often go (Books-a-Million for me), people recognize you and give you a smile.

We're home to thousands of restaurants, two movie theaters, two bookstores, 6 private schools, and countless public schools; and while I don't plan to spend the rest of my life here, I'm enjoying Montgomery for the time being.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saturday on Small Town Saskatchewan

Or: This is going to be fun :D

Saskatchewan, if you didn't know, has 1,033,381 people according to the 2011 Census results. A city must reach 5000 people to by granted status as a city. The five biggest are - Saskatoon at 222,189, Regina (our province's capital) at 193,100, Prince Albert at 35,129, Moose Jaw at 33,274 and Yorkton at 15,669.

My town has 1400 people. (We've gone up 200 since the last Census!) This is not that small where I live. The town where my aunt lives is 500 people. A village has to have at least 100 people and there's one near us that's only 300.

Keeping up?

So, my town has 1400 people. It's a little over a square mile. We have two grocery stores, three bars, three banks, two pharmacies, a clinic, a pool (in the summer because it's outdoor), a hockey rink, a library, a museum, a Subway (the restaurant), a Dairy Queen, a pizza/chicken place, a Chinese restaurant, two hair salons, a post office, a golf course, a park, four churches within a two block radius of my house, and more clothing stores than you'd expect. Oh, and almost all of our stores are on Main Street. (No, that's its name. Really.) You have about two blocks of stores and then after that are houses on one side and the highway on the other side. We have like three parking lots in the whole town. Main Street has a cement border going down the middle, and then people park on either side of it. Each of the sides is one way only. We have a movie theatre but it's only open during the winter because we have a drive-in in the summer. But the theatre takes like 2 months to get a movie after it comes out and they SUCK at advertising so I never know what's playing.

Things we don't have: A bookstore, a McDonalds, a Walmart, a hospital, a coffee shop, many, many things I couldn't begin to list here...

My town has two schools, an elementary school (kindergarten-grade six) and a high school (grade seven-twelve). They're bigger than you'd expect because people come in from out of town. (And let me tell you, a 2 and a half hour bus ride in the morning and after school SUCKS.) No college.

I work at the library and while I love it, it's small. Every single book fits into one room, then there's a program room in the back. There are five computers in the same room as the books and the picture books are in one corner of it. The YA section is very small.

Okay, so, weather. Summer can be hot, but usually it's not too terribly hot and it's usually pretty windy here. (Prairie province. It's always windy.) This year has been warmer than usual, which is nice, and less rainy. We had a couple years where we had a problem with flooding because it rained so much. Saskatchewan doesn't handle a lot of rain well. Spring came very early this year. Normally, we have snow until April.

Yes, April. It usually starts in late October. Then by December or January, you can count on at least a week straight of below -30*C. (That's about -22*F.) And that's not counting windchills. I've seen -45*C with a windchill of -49*C. (That's -49*F, windchill -56*F.) You know what the worst part is?

You still have to go out when it's -40. And if you're like me and you don't have a car, it's not fun. You wear a lot of layers.

Food. Eh, nothing much to speak of special here. Although apparently it's not normal to be able to buy perogies in the frozen section of your grocery store. (Perogies - dumplings stuffed with mashed potatoes and sometimes cheese.) Pizza here kind of sucks but I'm biased because I grew up in a predominately Italian city and I've had AMAZING pizza.

Sports. I'm not a sport person but we have a fair few things you can do. The kid I baby-sit takes karate. There's hockey and skating during the winter. The high school, when I went, had volleyball teams, badminton teams, basketball teams, a golf team and track and field. (No football team and no cheerleaders. They also don't have homecoming or Prom.)

Football is kind of a big deal. Go Roughriders. There is no possible way for me to explain this without my town sounding insane so I'm not even going to try.

One thing you need to keep in mind when it comes to my town is - we're in the middle of nowhere. There's like nothing for twenty minutes (driving) in any direction. The closest city (which is 10k) is fifty miles away. The next closest city is almost a hundred and thirty miles away.

We actually have a fairly large tourist population. There's a lake near us where people stay for the summer. There are cabins there, and camping, and waterslides. We also have a LOT of festivals. Our biggest one is probably the one we have in December which is A Christmas Carol themed. There's a parade and food vendors on Main Street and people dress up in period costumes. There's even a Scrooge. It's a lot of fun. People come from towns and cities all around us and even from the States.

People quad here a lot. It's also normal to see someone riding a lawnmower or a golfcart around town. Trucks are very popular because... well, small cars are kind of dumb in winter here. They get stuck. A lot. The shiny pretty cars come out in the summer, though. A lot of people rig here (oil drilling) because, even though it's hard and dangerous, it pays twenty bucks an hour, and small cars aren't really good for that, either.

Um... I think that might be about it.

OH. One more thing. I don't think I have an accent but KT thinks I do.

Tell me about where you live!

Peace and cookies,

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Posts on Small Towns, Cities, and Sunday

But we'll pretend it's not Sunday.

SO. Onto the small towns and cities part. Well, as you've noticed, we've had the running 'setting' theme this week! I've lived in a lot of different places. A small city-island in Michigan, a medium sized charming town in Michigan, a beach house in Connecticut, a medium sized town in Connecticut, aaaand an itty-bitty village quite close to a medium-sized city in Illinois (I've lived many places. Did I say that? I have).

Basically I'm used to small-medium towns and I am quite familiar with the Midwest. For this setting post, I'm going to talk about where I live now, which is the tiny village right by a medium-sized city (Peoria) (which, as Wikipedia says, is the largest city in the Illinois River Valley and the seventh largest in Illinois). We've already had posts on small towns and beaches and the such, so I feel a Midwestern city will be a bit of a change!

Okay, starting with my tiny village. It's about 900 people. It has a post office, a couple of restaurants, a gas station, a small library, a tea room, a shut down coffee place (SAD), one high school, two middle schools, and four elementary schools. Why we have four elementary schools for 900 people will be explained later (because right now that sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn't it?). Everything is pretty much within walking distance of each other, and the village is no larger than a total of 16 blocks, or 0.4 square miles.

The majority of the village is just houses and the people that live in them. Surrounding the village, as most villages and towns and cities, in Illinois, and other states of the Midwest, is corn. Lots and lots of corn. Did you say corn? It's all over. Everywhere. You can't escape it. Not that it hurts or anything. Though there's also soybeans occasionally, too. And cows. In fact, right next to one of the middle schools and the high school, there is a cow pasture. It smells like cow manure and you can often hear the low rumbling of cow 'moos' before and after school.

However, back to the reason as to why there are so many schools in my town. Which would be Peoria, that city I mentioned before. The school district in my tiny village actually extends into the city of Peoria, and therefore, it takes in more school students than the actual population of the town. Last year, my high school had almost 1200 kids in it. And the schools are expanding at a very fast rate because of the city and the jobs it has. Peoria is home to Caterpillar, Inc. headquarters (which, if you didn't know, is that company that makes all the construction stuff. That sats 'CAT' or 'Caterpillar' on it. I know you've seen it), which brings in a lot of new people and students every year.

And that's pretty much it about the tiny village. Moving onto the city. The city has around 115,000 people living in it (over 300,000 in the total area). There are three movie theaters, one of which has IMAX, and countless restaurants. There are chains, private owned restaurants--almost anything you can think of. There are two major malls (one of which is quite new and one of the furthest points from the main part of the city, and about ten miles from my tiny village). One is an outdoor mall that is still expanding and being built onto, and the other is an indoor mall. There are several large roads that go all the out of the city and all the way in, apart from the interstate. 

The main part of the city is like most other cities. It's comprised of alternating one-way streets and has tall buildings. Most of the tall buildings are corporation centers and hospitals (there are two major ones in the downtown area). As Peoria is, as I said earlier, the largest city in the Illinois River Valley, it is right on the Illinois River. There are several bridges that cross the river, and more of the city is on the other side, and then branching into other towns and cities within the metropolis area. The river is quite large, and therefore the city plays into that. There are several riverboat casinos and many restaurants in the downtown area are centered around the riverfront. On the 4th of July, fireworks are set off on the riverfront.

Most people that live near the city or in it complain that there isn't much to do, which may be because they're used to it, or are a three hour drive from both Chicago and St. Louis. To someone who has just moved to the city, though, there is a lot to do (hello two malls and countless restaurants).

As for the weather. Well, Midwestern weather, in my experience, is about the most untrustworthy, fickle weather you will ever run into. It can never make up its mind. It will literally be 72 (Farenheit. All my degrees will be in Farenheit) one day, and snowing the next (I'm not making this up. It really happened). Most of the winters bring mild amounts of snow (unless you live in Michigan, like I used to... that's a lot more snow than Illinois). However, in Illinois, the weather was a bit colder and drier because of a lack of lake water and a flatter, prairie-like terrain. In the winter, the weather can drop down to about -20, the average is usually around 10, however. Spring usually comes around mid to late April, and it can be very hot by the middle of June. On average, temperatures will be in the upper eighties during the summer. As Illinois is near tornado alley, and has that praire terrain, tornado watches and severe storms are common. 

Once again, though, the weather is subject to change in the blink of an eye because it's the Midwest.

On to people and dialect! People in the Midwest are usually pretty friendly. They tend to make friends with their neighbors and help people out. Though there are always those who aren't. And teenagers have cliques, as expected. The further south in the Midwest you go, the more conservative it tends to be. Unless you're near a larger city, it tends to be more liberal (such as Chicago).

As for the dialect, it is said by linguists that the Midwestern accent is the clearest form of spoken English. It's the accent used by national TV journalists and the like. Though, if you start to head to the more southern parts of the Midwest, the accent has a southern, hick-ish sling to it. S sounds sound more like a Z (instead of greasy, it's 'greazy') and the I vowel sound tends to sound more like an E (See--KT's endless teasing of her father's southern Illinois accent).

Well, that's pretty much the gist of it. A tiny village next to a medium city in Illinois = lots of restaurants and stuff to do if you don't mind a ten minute drive, and lots and lots of corn.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thursday Tips her Hat to Texas… her Cowboy Hat

To continue this week of where we are from, I came to give y’all a taste of the south. More specifically, I’m gonna talk about Texas.

Weather: HOT! I remember times in the summer where it was too hot to go into a swimming pool since the water was like taking a bath. Since it’s so hot, almost all the indoor places (grocery stores, malls, movies, etc) blast their air conditioning. I’ve been told I exaggerate how hot Texas really is, but I think if it gets over 100 degrees, it’s too hot. The winters are really nice since it’s not too cold, but we still get that little bite of cold that makes it feel like winter (or in most normal places like fall). I can manage wearing a light jacket through the winter. We can do construction all year round (not just in the summer) since it RARELY freezes down here. It doesn’t rain too much here (last year we had a burn ban since it was too dry, and we were susceptible to forest fires :/). It has snowed a little these past few years, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been let out of school for bad weather. When it does snow, you'll see people trying to make snow people with our few inches of snow (since snow is so rare, people like to get the full experience while it's still here). The snow people are really impressive though.

Food: I don’t know what it is about the south, but for some reason people like to eat hot food when it’s hot outside O.o. Yeah, I don’t get it either. I mean Mexican food can be super spicy, and everyone puts a ton of spice on BBQ here. Personally, I’d rather chew ice than have to worry about my lips burning. You know your food is hot when you get a case of the sniffes which I have gotten from some very hot Cajun. I am guilty of putting Cajun seasoning on everything though (BBQ, pasta, stews, etc). Spices do preserve food though, so that’s a plus. Tex-Mex is big here. It’s Texas Mexican food. It’s basically American Mexican food. Texas is known for Bluebell ice cream (we have Ben and Jerry’s and those kinda places, but Bluebell is from Texas). People drink a lot of beer here. I don’t think that is just a southern thing though…

Sports: Sports are really big. College sports tend to get the most buzz. Football (which is an all weekend event) more so than others though any reason to tailgate and drink beer seems to be a winner. Hunting is also really big down here. Hunting tends to be a family outing. I’ve seen restaurants (BBQ restaurants mostly) and houses with stuffed animal heads on the wall or animal hide as a rug (these houses are normally in the country though). Hunting isn’t just a guy thing. I know plenty of girls who know their way around a gun better than most guys. I don’t hunt since I’d probably end up with a dislocated shoulder from the blow back or accidentally shoot my foot.

Dialect: This is a weird one for me since I don’t really think I talk different, but I have heard I have a thick accent… I say y’all lot. I say it more than others though, but I have no idea how northerners manage NOT to say y’all. We don’t really say howdy unless you’re an Aggie (meaning you went/ have family who went to Texas A&M). Aggies like to say howdy, gig’em, whoop (for good things) and ssssss (a snake hiss for bad things). I think they are the only university/ college who uses the texasy words. A lot of the people with thick accents tend to take their time when they talk (like they savor their words).

Life: It really depends on where you live. Big cities are really diverse and tend to be pretty liberal. Austin’s slogan is “keep Austin weird” (and they’re proud of it :D!). There is a large Hispanic (since we live so close to the boarder), African, and Asian/ Indian (not as much as the other two) population in the big cities. In the smaller towns, there is still diversity, but not as much as in the big cities. Also, small towns tend to be more conservative. Small towns tend to have more ranches and dirt roads. There are a ton of pretty wildflowers on the side of dirt roads during the spring (blue bonnets, red Indian paintbrushes, etc).

Hot Spots: Tubing is relaxing down here. It’s like a lazy river where people just drink and talk. We have beaches by the gulf. I don’t suggest Galveston beaches though because it’s always super crowded and doesn’t really seem fun. The roads over look the beach like a three feet high concrete cliff. The roads, that over look the beaches, have the beach on one side and beach themed tourist trap restaurants and stores on the other side. The smaller towns on the gulf are my personal favorite since it’s homey and pretty calm (holiday weekends do get kinda crowded though). The waters tend to be really calm, so we don’t get much waves (surfing isn’t likely). Hurricane season is tricky though. Also the water isn’t blue. It’s kinda a grey ish blue. In San Antonio, we have the River Walk. The water is not blue. The River Walk is very photoshopped on its website. It’s a green ish black. There are always ducks on the river though. San Antonio also has Six Flags (so does Dallas). Outside of San Antonio and Austin, you’ll see the hill country where you can do the stereotypical Texas things like horseback riding. We also have the galleria in Dallas and Houston, but most people don’t go there often. It’s way too big. You walk around forever in the Houston Galleria, and there are barely any convenient drink places to grab a refreshing water bottle. The Houston galleria has 375 stores/restaurants and has 2.4 million square feet of retail space (according to their website), so you’re probably going to want a refreshment after walking all that which you can't find. It’s really pretty in the winter when they put up a Christmas tree in the middle of the ice skating rink (on the bottom floor).

Misc: Towns without railroads tend to be ghost towns (this might be the same for all over, but especially in Texas when railroads were important for selling cattle to the north). The sky is huge here (Texas is very flat, so the sky fills up three-fourths of our windshield.) There are a lot of small towns, tourist traps that defiantly utilize our stereotypes. Beware. We get a LOT of birds. Birds suck. They just poop on your windshields and stalk grocery stores and fast food restaurants. Don’t park under a tree during the winter (the birds migrate down here to stay warm). We also don’t have basements because the ground is too dry.

Incorrect Stereotypes: Texas is not all desert. Maybe if you go by El Paso (I’ve never been that way, so I’m not sure). We also don’t wear cowboy boots with spurs or cowboy hats. Well the majority of us don’t. I do have one cowboy hat (hence the title), but it’s pink and five times too small since I got it when I was 7. We do NOT ride horses to school. My cousin thought we were all cowboys in Texas who ride our horses to school. No. We have cars. Pickup trucks and jeeps are popular, but we have BMWs here too. I do know a handful of people who actually own horses, but they don’t ride them to school. Imagine trying to tie up a horse to the bike rack. It wouldn’t be pretty. We are not all rednecks/ uneducated hicks. We are not all super religious Christians. We have a lot of all different types of religions here. Christian is probably the largest, but we aren’t all gonna slap you with the bible if you don’t do the right thing.

Correct Stereotypes: Yes, everything is bigger in Texas :D

Where are y'all from? Do you ever have trouble making setting feel real and not stereotypical?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wednesday Talks Toes In The Sand

Hello, beautiful people. As a follow up to Kieryn's post, I'm also doing a post on setting, but I will be using the little beach town I go on vacation to every summer.

Think about it. What makes a place real? What are the things that identify where you are? They aren't singular characteristics. I know I'm nearing the beach when we are sitting bumper to bumper on the Bay Bridge and I can see the little white specks of sailboats bobbing against the slate of the Chesapeake Bay. As we get closer to the shore, I spot seagulls circling overhead and soon after that, sandy groups of people toting surf boards, folding chairs, frisbees, coolers and every beach related thing you could possibly think of.

Smaller beach towns do have a number of year-round residents, but many of the people you see there are vacationing. This means that there will probably a main street lined with a good number of shops. Junk shops, clothing stores, family restaurants, a penny arcade--these are all common in towns like the one I spend a week in every summer. In the evening, the vacationers come out to pay a visit to one of many ice cream shops, or lounge in the air-conditioned arcade playing wack-a-gator and lucky ducks. The knick-knack shops (home to painted seashells, wind chimes, wooden signs, key chains, fake vomit, flip-flops, watches, and stuffed dogs that move and bark) are usually full to bursting with ice cream splattered children and their bedraggled parents.

Most beach towns, in addition to this sort of main centre, also have a boardwalk of some sort. In the town I visit, the boardwalk is pretty small, but has many more stores (mostly selling beach related items) and food stands.  In some places, there might be a band shell where musicians perform in the evening. Boardwalks sometimes even have little hoses so that people can rinse off sand as they come up from the beach. Also, most beaches have a closing time, say, 9:00 at night or so. Don't ask me how I know that.

The rest of the town is usually made up of adorable, pastel beach houses. Some grand and showy, others cozy and cottage like. Most will have screened porches, decks, or balconies, and often, the houses are raise up off the ground and cars are parked underneath. The air in the entire town feels sort of wet, but light at the same time, and sometimes, when it's windy, you can smell salt. Sand is everywhere. The bottoms of shoes. The roads. The houses. Behind ears. Between teeth. It invades the entire town.

The beach itself is probably something you can easily describe, so my suggestion would be to think about what the beach is like at different times of the day. Early in the morning-- foggy, gray, the sand cut by the tracks of the trucks that smooth it over each night. Or at noon--when the sand burns the soles of your feet, the sun hits the water in that way that makes it look like stained glass, and the beach is crammed with umbrellas and towels and tents and people smeared with sunscreen. Or in the evening--when it's windier, the sky looks purple, and the beach is empty of people.

If you can't tell, I really want to be at the beach. But I'm not, so my setting advice is to focus on using a variety of sensory detail and to research the place you have chosen to set your story (know how the town would be designed, who would live there, what kind of housing would be available etc.).

Happy writing.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesday's Tips on a Medium-ish Town

...More specifically, Tuesday's Tips Specifically Regarding Places That Are Medium-ish Towns Not Particularly Close To Any Real Cities And Have A College Smack-Dab In The Middle.

To provide a bit of context for the topic--we at YA Lit Six decided to theme our next round of posts, and the theme is setting. We're going to provide you with information about different types of settings we have personal experience with, so if you decide to set your next story at, say, the beach, or down south, or in a medium-ish town not particularly close to any real cities and has a college smack-dab in the middle, you can throw in some authentic-sounding details.

So! A medium-ish town. A medium-ish town is characterized by having way more clothing stores, restaurants, and banks than a "small" town (namely, multiples of each one) but way less than a city or even a town with a decent-sized (read: more than one story) mall, and also lacks skyscrapers. Large billboards are absent, and grocery store parking lots are large but never packed with cars.

Most of the multiple restaurants/shops/banks are located in the downtown area. This downtown area is navigable via a grid of streets, and people who frequent these streets (mostly students of the aforementioned college) could be major contenders in 2016 if jaywalking ever makes it as an Olympic sport. Community members complain constantly about driving downtown, but in reality the situation is a cakewalk compared to, say, the streets of NYC.

For entertainment throw in two movie theaters, two pools, a laser tag arena, and multiple public parks. There is one nightclub in the entire town and it's really not that popular. Seeing as this supply of entertainment might get cycled through multiple times and become "old," younger residents of the town usually spend time at one another's houses, the two main shopping areas, or, when the weather's nice, wandering downtown mixing up where they eat dinner/lunch/ice cream. (Throw in many ice cream places.)

As a whole the town is fairly affluent, so add in at least two golf courses. Most residents live in suburban-style neighborhoods with lawns large enough for a swing set in the back. There are a few apartment complexes and a few mansions, but the mean is the mode in this case.

Line the town with farmland and forests--though the town itself does not seem very rural, residents are less than an hour's drive from many--many--hiking trails, fishing spots, and hunting grounds. Some people on the edges of town can simply walk through their backyard and up one of the low mountains surrounding the town. (The northeast isn't particularly flat, but these are no Rockies.)

The town itself is fairly clean. Roads are well-maintained, and graffiti is rarely seen, except a few glimpses in some downtown alleyways. Because it is a college town, the public library is pretty large and the college libraries are well-stocked with scholarly material.

In Autumn the leaves turn all sorts of colors, making the mountains look purple and coating the sidewalks. Winter covers everything in a nice layer of white, making the town seem smaller, somehow, and really cozy--until the snow turns to slush, and then it's just gross. Summertime gets hot, very hot, and lots of sunbathers flock to parks and lawns downtown to partake in the yearly ritual of seeking out sunburn and/or boys. Mosquitoes fly rampant. Spring brings many flowers, bees, and thunderstorms.

(Sorry this is in no particular order.)



Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday on the Books She Doesn't Write

Or: There Are A Lot of Voices in My Heads

You're probably all sick of hearing about my revisions and stuff by now so I thought I'd talk about something else.

(Just to recap for those of you who are new around here) I have three books that are written. One has been polished and revised a lot more than the others because it's older. One of the other two is my next/current revising project and one I'm waiting on feedback for because holy heck I don't know what to do with it.

I have two things I'm playing with that might be my next drafting project when I get to that stage. KT posted about new books yesterday and since she's actually writing hers, her post is a lot more exciting them mine where I vaguely mumble about snakebites and circuses and cute boys. (There are always cute boys in my books. And kissing. Even my short stories have kissing. Which says a lot about me considering one of them is about zombies.)

Also I'm kind of superstitious about talking about books that haven't been written. My crit partners only know a little bit about them, really, and I've only let them read one thing mostly because I was sorta shocked I had written it. Books that aren't written yet can change too much too quickly and I'm always afraid talking about them will jinx them. Eventually, though, I'm pretty sure those will get written.

However there are books I don't write. I don't write sequels, to start with, because that road (for me) leads to heartache and pain and so we just don't go there because that is a bad place to go. Bad bad bad bad place. (Trust me. Bad. Heartache. Pain. Five million binders hidden in strange and unusual places that you only remember about when you need a new binder for a WIP and don't want to buy one and then you spend a full day reading the awful awful things you wrote years ago.) (Not that I did that or anything.)

And there are others. Right now... it's my superhero book. Mostly because it's not ready to be written. I think when, eventually, I write it, I will love it lots and it'll be... well, I'm not gonna say awesome because that's just not happening. I think it'll be a challenge. I think I would adore the characters and the world and just about everything in it.

I know that it isn't ready to be written. I adore the pieces of it I've written (hey, this is how I work, run with it) but I know that it isn't ready to be plotted and drafted and, well, written yet. (I also feel like it wouldn't be a very good standalone and, well, see above about the heartache and pain of sequels.) It's a one-day book. For now, that's okay.

So what books do you guys NOT write? What are your reasons?

Peace and cookies,

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday Announces SOMETHING

I find it slightly amusing that almost all of us didn't post last week! Oops.

And I'm late to the game, once again. At least it is still Friday this time!

Well, I was going to announce this last Friday, but I wasn't home. So! Here it is!

I AM OFFICIALLY WRITING A NEW BOOK! I'm almost 13k in right now. *dances* If you follow my twitter, you've probably known that for a while now.

So. New book. Kind of scary. It's scary for several reasons. It's a sci fi. I have never written a sci fi. It's also in present tense.  I sometimes write short stories in present tense, but never an entire book. I keep slipping into past, or having trouble making the present tense sound right. But that's what revising is for, right?

A little about the book, then? As I said, it's a sci fi--in this case, a sci fi as in it takes in the future on a spaceship. My protagonist is a seventeen year old girl named Alexandra (Alex for short) who is a boxer and an aspiring pilot. I'm awful at describing my books, so I'm going to leave it at that!

Oh, it's also untitled. Which bothers me. Lots.

In other news, I have a beautiful idea for the book I want to write after this one. And it's based on this song -

Pretty, right?