A Picture’s Meaning

{So, I decided to start yet another series of posts for the best reasons of all: because this is my blog, and because I can. It’s simply titled, The Magic of Writing—that indefinable, ineffable relationship between the writer and the muse.}

A picture’s meaning can express ten thousand words.

So, thanks to Rebecca Enzor (and indirectly, Amber West), I became thoroughly addicted to Pinterest this weekend. I loved creating my pretty vision boards, hunting down beautiful images to “pin” to them. I’ve always wanted to create huge vision boards for my novels, and with Pinterest, I created one for each of my works in progress in a matter of hours.

The best part? Finding an image that resonated with a specific WIP so well, that new scenes and subplots emerged from seeing them. I also love that certain images captured a mood that I’ve tried to convey in the past, but couldn’t really grasp, and I’d end up losing that mood or forgetting what it was that I’d wanted to say. Now, I can just click on one of my boards, and relive the moment until I have the right words to express whatever scene I want to write.

(Sidenote: I love all my WIP boards, but the one that’s most precious to me is simply labeled “First,” with images that remind me of my first novel. It gives me hope that one day I’ll have the skill to execute WIP1.)

There are so many uses for Pinterest, and honestly, I have to be careful to remember that it’s a tool to support my writing, and shouldn’t take the place of my novel writing. (SO ADDICTIVE. Srsly.) But, I so enjoy being able to experience my works in progress in this way and keep my muses inspired to continue working (and by working, I mean playing ^_^).

Are you visual like me? Do you have other methods to keep your muses inspired?

(*If you want to see my vision board for my current work in progress, CLICK HERE.) 🙂

Share the Love (this time with a giveaway!)

Cover of "The Iron King (Harlequin Teen)&...

Cover of The Iron King (Harlequin Teen)

I’ve read a lot of good books since my last Share the Love post. Let’s see, there’s…

  • The Iron Queen, by Julie Kagawa
  • The Iron Daughter, by Julie Kagawa
  • The Iron King, by Julie Kagawa
  • Darkest Mercy, by Melissa Marr
  • The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson
  • Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

I’ve actually read more than these books, but I list these specifically to showcase the inordinate amount of fantasy that  I’ve been reading lately. I wonder if that was a conscious decision on my part or not. I know I picked up Eon and Eona specifically to inspire me about an aspect of WIP2. And, I also picked up Ender’s Game (which I know is science fiction, but has fantasy elements I enjoy) and Among the Hidden for that reason, too. I know that somewhere in the recesses of my mind, my muses are tinkering with a post-apocalyptic fantasy, and I wonder if they’re hungry for more fantasy?

Maybe it’s a combination of the available e-galleys and ARCs that came my way, coupled with my need to read meatier works? After all, the fantasy genre does lend itself to intricate world-building, and often uses sociopolitical power dynamics to add conflict and tension to the narrative.

For example, take, The Girl of Fire and Thorns (newly released September 20). The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1)This book is full of political intrigue, magic, and adventure. Set in a world reminiscent of medieval Spain, the story centers around Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza (aka Elisa), Orovalle’s second-born princess. Though she is royal, her privileged status comes less from her royal lineage, and more from being a Godstone-bearer.

Once a century, God chooses a bearer during a baby’s naming ceremony by placing a Godstone (a living jewel) on the baby’s navel. The Bearer is destined to perform an Act of Service, and the mythos surrounding the Bearer sets in motion harrowing challenges that Elisa must overcome.

What appeals to me the most is the sheer amount of terrain that Elisa covers throughout the story. I loved the big-ness of this world. I loved experiencing the lush climates of Orovalle; the seaside of Joya d’Arena; and the desert mountains of the rebel stronghold. I loved the concept that all these various countries and people groups are on the precipice of war. But, what I love most? Carson weaves these settings and power plays brilliantly through the narrative, making the countries so unique they were almost characters in themselves. (Interested in reading the full review? You can read it HERE.)

Honestly, though, now that I think about it, this year’s obsession with fantasy probably started after reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. My initial Good Reads reaction to it was…

Daughter of Smoke and Bone“Holy. Crap.

This book was AMAZING!

I loved Every. Single. Word.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a beautiful example of what YA literature could be, and what I strive for in my own fiction. I wish books like these were available to me when I was a YA, but at least I can appreciate them and revel in them now!

Brava, Laini Taylor, for crafting such a remarkable story!”

…and, since this book is holy-crap-amazing, I wonder if I just wanted to keep experiencing that awe, thus glutting myself on more fantasies. Hmm.

(BY THE WAY, Daughter of Smoke and Bone will launch on Tuesday, September 27, but I was lucky enough to read an ARC of it back in June, thanks to my dear friend and crit partner, Kayla (which I talk about HERE) and I remember gushing about it to my friend, Carol, that she was awesome enough to give me a signed ARC (which I talk about HERE.))

I plan on putting up a full review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone next week, because, DUDE, you all need to read this book. For reals, yo.

 SO, have YOU read any good books lately??

 

Flash Fiction Challenge

I decided to participate in this flash fiction challenge because I wanted to give life to a WIP that I’d abandoned over a year ago. I simply called my WIP “Red” because it was influenced in part by this photo, posted here with permission by the artist, Robin Barcus Slonina.

I hope to explore this WIP again, one day.

* * *

First Campaigner Challenge

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: “the door swung shut.” (also included in the word count) For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

* * *

The door swung open.

Calla turned as a trio of withered crones swept into her room. They were her newly appointed attendants, bound to serve her, the House Prime’s new Cabochon. Her new title.

His new pet, he called her. She seethed at those remembered words.

I was once a cherished wife. I am no one’s pet.

The crones bowed low before approaching her, displaying more grace than she expected. They bore the marks of their class status, their genetic weakness, formed after the sundering of the world. After the ash fall separated the weak from the strong. The Withered from the Hale.

They worked quickly to remove her wedding gown despite the twisted claws they had for hands, the breathers fused to their mouths whirring with each labored breath.

Too soon, Calla stood in nothing but a whisper of cloth.

“Leave us.”

Calla startled at his voice. The crones retreated. She turned toward him, feeling the weight of his leer from across the room. She steeled herself against it, her face a peaceful mask.

He sneered, a promise of what this night would hold. She shivered, but stood her ground. He stalked toward her as the door swung shut.

* * *

[If you liked this flash fiction, you can “like” it here. I’m number 333. ^_^]

Measuring Progress

02.19.10

Image by colemama via Flickr

This year is my Year of No Excuses.

Six months into it, I would have hoped to be a lot farther along than I am right now in terms of my writing goals. After all, I’m supposed to be revising/rewriting material that I’ve already written with a concept that I already know. This should be a lot easier than dashing through a rough draft of “What Happens Next.” Well, I could have only guessed at the “easier”, because I’ve never been in this stage before, one where I’m supposed to make rough drafts and rough ideas into a presentable, novel-length story.

So, honestly I didn’t realize how L O N G all this revising and rewriting would take, and how easily distracted I am now by bright, shiny ideas and remembering the rush I felt when I got to play with something new and unexplored.

And, to be really, really honest, I’ve had to overcome the belief that I didn’t have what it takes to write this story. And, when I say overcome the belief, I mean I had to do so many times. (Like, a lot. Daily. Maybe even this morning.) Even now, I have to drown out all the chatter about not being enough to write my WIP (or any other story, for that matter). The talent, the intelligence, the words, that indefinable It…whatever It is, I don’t have It enough to write. Of course, because I’m me, I don’t just get this as a one-time mental obstacle (which is hard enough to overcome on its own), but also as a recurring obstacle that likes to morph and come at me as different versions of “I Suck.” I won’t get into the nitty gritty, but I’m sure you get what I mean.

Of course, I realized that I focused on the wrong things entirely. First, I’ve been focusing on the time frame in which to finish my story, and kept getting discouraged that I wasn’t finishing quickly enough. Crazy, I know. Second, I lost sight of the idea that “All writing is practice.”

Laurell K. Hamilton wrote in a recent blog post, “Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly makes better.” She also went on to say that she desired to write well more than any other distraction. That even though she was years away from selling anything, she owed it to herself to finish a piece of writing . She owed it to herself to continue writing and finishing stories and sending them out for publication, because she knew that the only way to get better at writing is by doing it.

So, I’ve decided to narrow my focus on the story itself, and let go of all other expectations that I have of it. It will be finished when it’s finished. The one rule I have now is simply to write at a set time each day. No need to overcomplicate the process, which I seem to want to do (no surprise why I had to embrace the words “Simplify” and “Focus” last year, right?)

I owe it to myself to get these crappy words out and finished so that I can move on to the next batch of crappy words and the next batch. Pretty soon, the words will eventually become less crappy, and maybe even more polished. Because, I too want to write well enough to sell a story one day. And, the only way I can do that is to get out of my own way, and write and finish stories. The road to a pretty and polished story is paved with a ton of crappy versions of that story, so I might as well get started on my contributions.

 

So Tell Me: What’s Been Going On With You??

 

Being A Published Author Wasn’t Always My Dream Job

I Have a Confession

I haven’t always dreamed of being a published author.  Nor have I spent my childhood/teens/college years diligently writing stories with the hopes that others would read my work.  In fact, I spent most of my life keeping anything I wrote private.

I know I’m not alone in my experience.  But, what bothers me is that I was embarrassed about it.  Yes, I was actually embarrassed that I haven’t always wanted to be an author.  So much so, that at one point, I desperately scoured my memory banks to find a scrap of evidence that yes, indeed, I wanted to be an author.  I wanted to stand with those authors who always knew that they wanted to write, and couldn’t imagine being anything else.  The authors who claim that writing for them was like breathing.  I wanted to be able to say that, and if I’m honest with myself, I still want to be able to say that.  To claim that.  Of course, if I do, it would be a lie.

What bugged me more than being embarrassed by something so silly, is realizing why I was so embarrassed.  I’d built up authors beyond being merely role models, that their life stories and beliefs became truth to me.  Became The Way.  And, if I diverged from The Way, then, by my actions, I have excommunicated myself from the society of authors, and I didn’t have the right to pursue being a full-time novelist.

A Side Story

Last week, I was able to spend time with my side of the family.  Because, my immediate family is split between east and west coasts, I only see them for one week, twice a year, and we spend those weeks that we’re together sharing stories about our lives thus far, updating each other on any news.  (This is nothing new.  Growing up, we all often shared stories while eating breakfast on Saturday mornings.)  We’re a talkative bunch, and can be quite dramatic in our renditions, so it takes a good week for us to regale the other branches of the family on our happenings.

Anyway, whenever we’re together, it doesn’t matter that we’ve already heard about each other’s stories through some other means. (For example, my older brother might have called my sister who could have Facebooked me about something my younger brother allegedly did in college that my parents may not know about.  Or, an elderly aunt may have accidentally emailed my sister instead of the Internet scammer who was the intended recipient of said email, and who may have duped her out of money. Again.)  But, until we all get together, we pretend not to know what we all really know anyway, and talk in obtuse pronouns and pronounced facial expressions until the Big Reveal.

What’s important in our ritual story telling over breakfast is sharing the information RIGHT THERE and hearing it from either the source, or from a witness’s first-hand perspective.  The conflict is always more heated, the emotions, more intense, in these real life re-enactments.  (In case you’re wondering, my favorite perspective is from my momdad, seen as one unit because they can’t seem to take turns telling a story, nor can they stop editorializing, so they’re like a two-headed, story-telling juggernaut.)

My Point?

Though I may not have written epic fantasies when I was six years old, I grew up surrounded by stories.  My family breakfasts were proving grounds for telling the best stories, especially since we lived the stories that we told.  It really wasn’t a matter of us telling the truth or not, more like the truth abounded in the conviction that what we told actually happened.  That we believed what we said.  In the telling, our “characters” refused to be flat and lifeless.  My parents can make buying groceries a more interesting story than hearing about a multiple car pileup on the news.  They can’t help but be enigmatically complex and full of conflict.  When my family orders dinner or pays the bill, drama surely follows.

I realize now that I was silly to feel like I had to legitimize my claim for wanting to be a published author.  I’m grateful that I’ve been able to experience stories.  That I was born to a family of storytellers.  Though I didn’t necessarily scribble stories about princes and knights or ghost tale massacres, I told the stories that have surrounded me my whole life (some journals may have been filled with angsty-teen, anti-parent rants.)  Besides, we all have to follow our own writerly path.

So, I’ll let other writers talk about how they’ve been writing stories before they can walk, and how writing to them is like breathing.  For me, I can embrace my heritage of story telling.  If it weren’t for my family, and our stories, then I wouldn’t have become such a devourer of tales.  Creating more stories, albeit in written form, is just an extension of that.

Stories are my life, and that is not only a truth that I can claim; it’s one that I’ve lived.

SO TELL ME: What did YOU want to be when you grew up?