Thursday, June 30, 2011

How to be a Literary Dick. Lesson 2. In the Classroom.

Lesson 1. Get the Look

Lesson 2. In the Classroom. 
(Community College=best.)

1) Wire your ipod earphones under the front of your shirt. Turn up the volume when anyone is speaking who is not you. It's just not worth your time when you could be listening to Dave Matthews.

2) Disdain any author you are asked to read, or any assignment emulating their work. Throw up your hands, lean back in your chair and exclaim, "I'm just not seeing the merit in their work!" The more famous, the older, the deader: the better. Hemmingway, Dumas, and Steinbeck are great targets.

3) Use an obnoxious format or grammar-style when writing an essay. Italicizing the entire text is a good one. When the idiot revisions of your classmates and teacher come back to you, fight tooth and nail. They just don't see the vision. Consider writing your next piece in first person, using a dialect.

4) Constantly refer to your "career in print communication" and "professional work" writing for an angsty indie newspaper only circulated at Food Co-ops and vinyl record stores.

5) Disagree with your professor. Police all comments that do not coincide with your views. Interrupt them when you have to. They're only teaching because they couldn't get published anyway.

Extra Credit:
Make sure to groan whenever any reference to Twilight is made. Ignore the fact that it is out of your genre of choice, and that you are outside of its target age and audience, but do not ignore the book. Name some of the greatest authors in history and compare them to Stephanie Meyer.

Anyone have any suggestions to aspiring classroom Dicks?

Stay tuned for Lesson 3: Dick at the Movies!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Write to Save the World

I could not resist the prompt for Kayeleen's Blogfest today:

Why I Write.

Truth is, I've been leaving here and going to another world for over 15 years. I've danced in their parades, eaten their food, and breathed their ginger sunsets from the pier. Most of all, I've met their people.

When I die, all of that goes with me. All of them go with me.

Unless I can take you there.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Publicity for Hermit Crabs

Back in February, some of you saw this little project:

Posting the cover was a big step for me, as it was just about the first time I put my title online, and shared a glimpse of my WIP.

Friday's Blogfest was an even bigger step, because I actually dared to put some story details up for public reading.

I can't say how much I appreciate everyone's supportive and useful comments! I do think things looked a little bleaker than the story actually runs (probably due to the fact the 2/3 of the questions were about fears and regrets...), but it seemed like readers felt the character and world were rich, which is really really motivating.

And then came the niggling (which I told my husband the other day is a real word without being 100% sure it actually was.)

Is it a good idea to put any of this online? What if someone steals my story/character/plot/idea? What if I present something prematurely and everyone hates it and someone leaves a nasty comment and my spirit is crushed and I never write the book that I was supposed to write that would have brought me fame/money/success/self-respect/a new car?! And then comes the inner turmoil.

The nigglings.

Coming out of the Bat Cave and revealing your Secret Writer's Identity to your family and friends can be a challenge. Showing people your baby manuscript? Whoo-boy.

Let me share my amateur and mostly-useless perspective with you.

For starters, let me share Natalie Whipple's advice on this to me.
Here's the link where I asked, because she actually said quite a bit more on the subject.

Here's a secret: No one is going to steal your ideas. Why? Because they all think their ideas are better. I'm not kidding. Writers are both the most narcissistic and the most self-deprecating people out there. --Natalie Whipple

That was my key to get out of the Bat Cave.

I'm looking forward to occasionally sharing more tidbits from my story. This will include hooks, character/setting/scene studies, and discarded crapfest writing that will never cost the life of a tree. 

Posting your hook online is a great tool for gauging reader-reactions. In Save the Cat, Blake Snyder challenges writers to go out and share their hook with everyone. Not only do you get to move out of your hermit-crab-shell (to move into a bigger one, as hermit crabs do), but you are practicing pitching your idea to another person.

But there's a flip side, because Natalie did go on to say that execution of a good idea is what is key, so that is what I don't post.

Do not post anything you want to publish. Ever.

Personally, I think it is a horrible idea to put up actual pages, chapters, or heaven forbid--your entire manuscript--online. It not only puts it in danger of being plagiarized, but it's rather unprofessional to query something that an agent would consider a monetary investment, when it's been published (in whole or in part), for free online. The only time I see this being appropriate is when you actually have a release date and your publishing company puts the first chapter on your book's official website.

I've seen some people keep their writing 100% hush-hush online, but to me, that's swinging the pendulum a little too far the other way. So this is where I draw the line. I'll post ideas and snippets outside the manuscript, but never a piece of the manuscript itself.

Where do you draw the line?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Therapy Session with my Main Character (Blogfest!)

Participating in Elizabeth Mueller's Blogfest today! The challenge is to step into your Main Chara's shoes and ask three interview questions from Jeannie Campbell's Character Therapist site. 

Quick get-your-footing:
M*** is the second-highest ranking of the 13 wives of Duke Drew Marcory. She escapes from him and joins a group bent on overthrowing his reign, only to find that her newfound "friends" have plans of their own, and they're willing to risk her life to achieve them.

This interview takes place shortly before her escape. Tirri is her best friend (the Head Wife), and Nicholas is her lover.

Here we go!

What is your greatest fear?
Breaking. There's this vision I have of myself, sitting under the cherry trees in the garden, wearing some new fabric from Farnorth, trinkets that have been melted down thousands of times to be turned into something stylish yet again, my body is soft, and I'm smiling. It's the smiling that kills me--that I ever might do that here--that I might feel warm in Drew's hands, or inside these walls. I hate it. I really do.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
I've donated enough red scarves to Nicholas' group to fill the wallets of every sericulterist in Jim? With Drew's money too, that's something. Ah, the scarves aren't that great a feat, but Nick's men use them to identify themselves--it's sort of romantic, really. Just think, every man in this castle who wishes he could throttle my husband's neck is wearing one of my tokens under his lapel...I can smile at that.

Other than that, I'm a good swimmer, hey.

What is your biggest regret?
I was--you swear you're from the foreign lands and this will never leak out? Mm...okay then. I was there the night Tirri had her baby. The second one. The boy. She pretended she understood what happened to the girl. She's been pretending for two years that she still loves Drew, and maybe she does. It's kind of sick, but that's what it's become. She's, well she's sick in the head. She's been that way since Drew had the girl killed. And when the boy came, you know what she told me? That she'd rather see him dead than raised as a demon in the devil's house. And what everyone's suspecting? It''s true. They came and took his body away and they're all pretending that they believe her, that it was an accident. But I was there. I could have stopped her. I tried, but not very hard.

And I think the reason why, why her skinny arms could even stave me off, is because deep down I agree with her. I think. I don't know. Maybe I do know, because I regret it.

Image purchased and used according to copyright laws. Please do not repost.

So what do you think of M***'s session?

If it's still June 24th, you're in time to participate yourself! Head on over to Elizabeth's blog and sign up. Be sure to leave a link in the comments so I can check your entry out.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fox Woman

Once upon a time I took a Modern Dance class. (My final was a ten-minute comedy routine dance summarizing the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. There was a blender involved.) My instructor was an obvious participant at the fabled Woodstock, and the flower-child's glory days careened her into the lively calling of Space Cadet Dance Instructor.

As far as characters go, she was Luna Lovegood gone to seed.

Needless to say, I loved her to death.

At any rate, after two months of rolling around on the floor pretending to be books opening and closing, listening to her brooding stories of her past career as a flamenco dancer, and ignoring her while trying to learn to do the splits, she announced that we would be learning a dance. An actual dance. We were stoked.

Our teacher turned on her decrepit CD player, and one of the strangest songs filled every cranny of my brain. I was transported to the more humid world of my mind's imagination. A rather flat female character in my story began to round out in delicious colors. I looked forward to hearing the song every day. No one knew what the words meant, not even our instructor (insert witty 60's reference here), but I began to feel the motivation of one of my most mysterious characters, forest under her feet, the heat of a firepit on the side of her face, and I could smell the sweat of the dirt and hear the howl of a human moving with their deepest carnal strides.

The class came and went. Our teacher could never seem to remember the name of the song or the composer. She retired. My only clue was that it was "Alternative Scandinavian Folk."

That was in 2006.

For the next three years I kept that song in my head. The forest scene was exactly what I needed in my story, and the beginning of one of my strongest characters. My villainess moved from the translated fast-pitch clique from high school into an instinctive, natural creature. I wrote a scene for that song, and for that character. I daydreamed about the song being used in the movie's soundtrack. I had no idea how to find it. If only I could write to it...

In 2009 I took a walk around a lake. And there she was. My Modern Dance instructor. I think she pretended to remember me. We called each other by several variances of each other's names.
"Paula? or was it Donna?"
"Oh! Kathy! It's Susan, actually. I remember you, of course! You had blonde hair then? Went by Cat?"
"Christine, um, but someone might have called me Cat...yeah...hey I have a question for you."
I was desperate to find more clues. Did she remember what the cover to the CD looked like? No, it had been burned. What language the song was in? Maybe Finnish? What genre did stores put it in? World Music? That helps, sure...maybe the title had something to do with Foxes. Foxy Women? But that was the translated title, not the actual one.

Half-hearted Google searches left me empty-handed.

Until this January I buckled down and made it my mission to find this song. I searched every tidbit and YouTubed Scandinavian Alternative Folk until I found it on Ebay. I bought the CD for three dollars, and the day it came I opened it with glee, telling my husband of my epic quest in obtaining it.

"Oh yeah," he says. "That's R√§ven by Hedningarna. They're a pretty cool band."

So sly! That elusive Fox Woman...

The translated lyrics could not fit more perfectly.

Do you have any songs that you not only like to write to, but have helped you shape your actual story or characters?