To the Writers: A Call to Action

Dear Writer Friends:

Some of you—a lot of you—are feeling pretty hopeless today. It’s hard to keep going when you feel that way. And I know I’m going to come off as Little Suzy Sunshine here, but trust me, I’m struggling right along with you, desperate to believe each Facebook post and tweet that’s straining so hard for optimism.

Just hear me out.

Many of us awoke today in a world that roundly rejected us yesterday. It’s hard to find the will to keep going, to do anything but tweet our hopelessness. Write? Pah. Not a chance. How could I possibly expect the muse to show up on a day like this?

Really, all I want to do is curl up under my snuggliest blanket with a plate of cheesy hash browns and Doctor Who or Buffy queued up and ready to go.

It’s that very urge, though, that told me what I needed to do. That helped me find that one little bit of hope to make me get out of bed and face the keyboard today (fortified by cheesy hash browns, of course).

When the world looks dark and grim, when it seems like fear and anger and hatred rule the day, we look for better worlds. Worlds where injustice may reign for a while, but ordinary people with big hearts risk everything to prevail. Worlds where the good guys and girls win. Worlds where a little light shines in the darkness, and if you just have the guts to seek it out, you can find your way back into the sunshine.

When hope is hard to find, we look to those worlds. For comfort, for strength, for escape. For inspiration and courage. And we need them now more than ever. But if our fingers don’t come to the keys, if we don’t put our characters through the paces and make them face the very hard work of making their worlds better, then there’s nothing to comfort or inspire anyone.

So go to it. Get to your stories, and take it one word at a time. Because someday, someone’s going to need to read those words very badly—but they’ll never find them if you don’t write them.

 

Tuesday Book B-day Extravaganza: June 28

Okay, it’s time to look at a few of the week’s YA new releases and see what’s fresh and exciting in the world of books. Ready? Okay.

We’re going to start with a thriller–best to begin with our feet on the ground before we go a-wandering to distant times and lands (which we most certainly will!)…and then we’ll even take a surprise journey to something more poetic than our usual fare.

Never Missing, Never Found

by Amanda Panitch

Never Found.jpg

The title, with its inherent contradiction, really yanked me in good. It also hints at the main character, Scarlett, being in a sort of limbo state, at least to start off. Judging  by the description, I’m not wrong:

Some choices change everything. Scarlett chose to run. And the consequences will be deadly.
 
Stolen from her family as a young girl, Scarlett was lucky enough to eventually escape her captor. Now a teen, she’s starting a summer job at an amusement park. There are cute boys, new friends, and the chance to finally have a normal life.

Her first day on the job, Scarlett is shocked to discover that a girl from the park has gone missing. Old memories come rushing back. And now as she meets her new coworkers, one of the girls seems strangely familiar. When Scarlett chose to run all those years ago, what did she set into motion? And when push comes to shove, how far will she go to uncover the truth . . . before it’s too late?

Well, that’s definitely intriguing! I love it when characters have to face their past head-on when all they want is to escape it. There’s a lot of ready-made inner conflict there, and great potential for suspense as well as some good, satisfying character growth.

This one got a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which called it a “tense, clever thriller.” Looks well worth checking out!

Buy links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Let’s see, what’s next? How about some magic?

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet

by Charlie N. Holmberg

magic bitter.jpg

I’m sensing a title theme here: Two Words Comma Two Words. I have no problem with that–the rhythm resonates nicely.

So the title promises lots of magic, but what kind? Let’s take a look at the description:

Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from.

When marauders raid her town, Maire is captured and sold to the eccentric Allemas, who enslaves her and demands that she produce sinister confections, including a witch’s gingerbread cottage, a living cookie boy, and size-altering cakes.

During her captivity, Maire is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being who is reluctant to reveal his connection to her. The more often they meet, the more her memories return, and she begins to piece together who and what she really is—as well as past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.

From the author of The Paper Magician series comes a haunting and otherworldly tale of folly and consequence, forgiveness and redemption.

I’m loving the hints of fairy tales here–we have some Hansel & Gretel, the Gingerbread Man, and a touch of Alice in Wonderland.

What really piques my interest, though, is Fyel, the “ghostly being,” as well as the mention of Maire’s lost memories. How did she lose them? Why? Is the memory loss connected to her magical abilities? So many questions I’d love to dig into with this one, and I’m sure the answers are delicious (wordplay!)

This one’s hitting a lot of the Amazon lists right now, perched at #3 in Paranormal Romance, #4 in Historical, etc. Looks like it might have the potential to break out!

Buy links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

And now we’re off to visit with one of my favorite authors, always reliable for her ability to craft intriguing worlds and fascinating characters:

And I Darken

by Kiersten White

And I Darken.jpg

Ugh, that cover is too gorgeous. I could probably drone on for a good long while on the juxtaposition of beauty and violence, but instead, I’ll jump into the description:

NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.

I like how the protagonist here is set up to be in conflict with not only her potential love interest, but also her brother…oh, and the Ottoman Empire. That’s a loooot of conflict. Sign. Me. Up. yes please

Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Now we’ll swing from historical fantasy to…what’s this, poetry? And we’re jumping from one of my favorite YA authors to one of my favorite professors.

That’s right, I actually know this final New Release’s author in, y’know, real life. He taught some of my favorite courses in undergrad, and I know him to be a fantastic poet. This isn’t strictly a new release, as it came out in May, but I was crazed with grad school then and had pretty much no idea what was going on around me, so I’m just hearing about it now.

Cruel Folklore

by Eric Schwerer

schwerer_cruel-folklore_web1.jpg

I love the atmospheric, eerie cover photo.

If you go here, you can get a little taste of what’s inside with the poem “Listen,” an evocative piece with rich imagery and an inviting rhythm. Now, anyone who knows me knows I loooove poetry, like I’m a complete nerd for poetry, so I’ll definitely be snapping this one up.

Buy link:

Seven Kitchens Press

Well, that’s all the new releases my brain (and my poor wallet) can handle today. Happy Book Birthday to all the authors featured this week!

Stay tuned for my next post on Friday–I’ll be introducing the most recent additions to our household, some quacky little fluffbums who like peas and splashing around in water.

Did anything pique your interest this week? Did any of the featured books land in your TBR pile? If so, why?

 

Tuesday Book Birthday Extravaganza

Okay, so after a bit of a hiatus (understatement, anyone?), I’m going to dive headfirst back into this whole blogging thing. So bear with me as I work out the kinks and polish off the rust, yeah?

I’ve decided to do a feature every Tuesday–publishing’s traditional “new release” day–with info on some of the latest YA books being released each week. We’ll talk genres, covers, descriptions, reviews, and anything else that pops into my little head.

So without further ado, let’s get this started!

Read the rest of this entry »

 

The Next Big Thing

Author Wende Dikec tagged me to answer a few questions about my work in progress, and you know I’ll never turn down an opportunity to talk about my books, so here we go!

What is your working title of your book?

SHATTER AND FALL

Where did the idea come from for the book?

At a previous job, we got a delivery of a large piece of equipment one day. While one of my coworkers tried to unload the equipment, the rest of us chatted up the truck driver. He mentioned that his young son was with him, and of course we were curious about that, so he explained how he’d gotten custody of the boy (the mother had some serious issues) who now rode around the country with him, and he homeschooled him as they traveled. That’s how I got the idea for my protagonist, Natalie. I just had to wait a few months for the rest of the idea to take shape.

What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult/Contemporary Fantasy

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Natalie – Nina Dobrev
Ollie (Natalie’s cousin) – Nicholas Hoult
Liam (Natalie’s friend & mentor) – Kevin Zegers

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Sixteen-year-old Natalie Verbeck finds herself drawn to her dangerous family legacy, but she discovers that the cost of saving her family and friends might be too much to bear.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m represented by Marlene Stringer of The Stringer Literary Agency.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I was working on other manuscripts while writing SHATTER AND FALL, so it took about a year.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

CITY OF BONES and BEAUTIFUL CREATURES

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Once Natalie popped into my head as a character, I knew she had a story, I just didn’t know what it was yet. Figuring it out was more of a long slog than a burst of inspiration, but I did have one particularly magical moment. The day after I started writing SHATTER AND FALL, my husband took me to a bar right by our house. It was my first visit (not my last–I would later work there)  and I happened to sit next to a very chatty guy. Turns out he had been a career truck driver, so that was a very fruitful night for me!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Natalie’s been all over the country, but once she lands back in her hometown, she finds that there’s a lot she doesn’t know about one small city–and even more she doesn’t know about her family and herself.

Tagging Amy Spade, author of Hope Rising and one of my students, up next!

Other “Next Big Thing” participants:

Wende Dikec

Jen K. Blom

 

On Writing…and Waiting to Write

Listening to: Dispatch, “Melon Bend”

So about three years ago, I read an article that gave me a great idea for a short story. It was about a family that discovered a runaway teenager who’d been living in their attic for months. When the family left the house for the day, the kid would leave the attic to steal food, use their laptops and ipods, etc. Something about the article stuck with me, and I knew there was a short story there.

I kept saying I was going to write it one of these days, one of these days, one of these days.

And then I kept feeling bad that I never wrote it. I mean, yeah, I’m busy writing novels, but I can’t take a little time to dash off a short story? What kind of a writer am I, anyhow?*

Eventually, I stopped planning to do it next week or next month. I didn’t necessarily lose interest in the base idea, but face it–after three years, ideas tend to lose their shine.

Until you take a shower just two hours before you have to head to work, and then out of nowhere BAM!–what was once a block of marble becomes a full-fledged sculpture in your head. I’m talking voice, plot, characters, and a central conceit that went far beyond the original inspiration.

Cut to me furiously typing out as much as I can while my hair dries, then running back and forth between the bathroom and my office, writing bits and pieces while I get ready for work (put on foundation, run to office–do hair, run to office–apply eyeshadow, run to office–etc.). Three years after the inspiration, and after three years of putting it off, I suddenly couldn’t wait to get it all on paper. And I saw all that procrastination in a new light.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write the story, or that I was too lazy to do it–the story wasn’t ready, or maybe I wasn’t ready. Now, three years is a long time for a story idea to bake, but whatever. I’d rather let it take shape after a long time than jump on it too soon and ruin any chance of that magic that only seems to come when I let my mind wander. I’m not necessarily promoting procrastination (most of the people reading this will be writers, anyhow–I don’t need to promote something we’re all far too familiar with!), but in this case, it might have paid off.

And besides, I got to have that lightning-strike moment, that OMG-gasp that comes only with sudden inspiration. That’s always worth the wait.

How about you? Ever gotten one of those out-of-nowhere inspirations, whether it’s in the moment or a long time after? And just out of curiosity…was it in the shower, the car, or somewhere else? Popular consensus among my writer friends is that showers are idea chambers. MY IDEAS LIVE IN MY BATHROOM, YO.

*I’m very good at chastising myself. It’s one of my many talents.

 

Turning a Reluctant Reader into a Booklover

Listening to: Silversun Pickups, “Lazy Eye”

So my little brother has been a little less eager to read than I’d like.

He’s 11 years old now. When he was younger, I used to read to him before bed whenever I visited home. He’d pick out a few books (usually Dr. Seuss, as I introduced him to the wonder that is There’s a Wocket In My Pocket and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish), I’d read them to him, give him a hug and a kiss and tuck him into bed. It was my favorite part of every visit.

On one memorable occasion, I tried to read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree to him. I started crying about halfway through. He took the book from me, closed it, and said, “No, Sissy.* Let’s try another one.”

And on another extremely memorable occasion, he took a Dr. Seuss book from me before I’d begun and said, “Okay, I’ll read the first page and you can read the next.” Then he just started reading aloud, as I sat there completely flabberghasted and so very proud.

I visited his 1st grade class and read some Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein to a little crowd of adorable kids.

Obviously, that's me on the right.

My brother is the boy in the black and red striped shirt. Yes, he’s a little cutie =)

Over the years, though, he’s become more interested in video games and less in books. I bought him the first Harry Potter book for Christmas, and although he seemed to enjoy it, he hasn’t asked for the sequel. His grades in his language arts (reading, grammar, & spelling) have been declining. I tutor him, I quiz him on spelling words, and it helps–but it’s not enough. Not for me.

I grew up so addicted to books that many pictures taken on family occasions–Christmas, vacations, what-have-you–feature me with my nose in a novel. Actually, speaking of vacations, I usually pack at least a dozen books for a week-long beach trip. And I’ll frequently speed through two in a day.

My whole family loves to read. We are READERS. And being so immersed in literature from a young age, I believe, did a lot for me. It increased my vocabulary, taught me the basics of writing, and provided a wonderful escape as I grew up and real life occasionally got to be too much.  I want all of that for my little brother, but I didn’t know how to get it.

And then something occurred to me.

I have books he could read. Books I’ve written.

My last several books will have to wait, as they’re firmly in the YA category and a bit too old for him, but the first few I wrote skewed a bit younger.

So I asked him. I didn’t want to force the books on him–I wanted him to make the choice. He seemed excited to see my work. I believe his exact question was, “Are any of the characters based on me?”

I printed out a copy of my very first novel, Whispers of the Past, written when my brother was about five years old–right about the time I was reading him to sleep. I took it to him last Friday. He took the book and went back to his video games.

And then that night, my mom texted me. “He’s reading your book and comprehending it very well. He’s read the first few pages and told me all about it.”

Needless to say, there was much excitement in my house. Especially since weekends are the only time he’s allowed video games.

And then last night, he persistently shouted in the background when my little sister called me. “I need to talk to her! Give me the phone!” And then his little voice came on the line.

“I’m on chapter four. I love it. I can’t believe you had them break the glass horse! Is Ben based on me? Or Seth? I wanna know what the other kids’ powers are! Tell me!”

I grinned so widely that it hurt my mouth.

I’ve given my books to friends. I’ve given my books to other members of my family. Heck, editors at some of the publishing houses I’ve dreamed of all my life have read my work and said wonderful things.

No one’s response has ever made me as happy as my little brother’s.

I don’t know if this will make him a more eager reader. If it does, I won’t necessarily credit my gorgeous prose and riveting plots (especially not from that first book, har har)–I’ll credit the fact that my brother knew the author and therefore was more interested in the story. But the why doesn’t matter.

It’s the results that count. And I’m very excited for him to reach that last page–and I dearly, dearly hope that he does what every booklover does and asks for more.

*That’s his nickname for me. He was not, in fact, insulting me for crying.

 

The Great Tetris War of 2011

Listening to: The Mountain Goats, “Collapsing Stars”

There’s a war being waged in my living room. It’s one of a long line of wars that have come and gone over the past several years: the Epic SSX Tricky War of 2005 (which began when Husband told me, “You probably won’t be very good at this game”. That’s a sure way to make me kick your butt), the Wii Fit Plus Hula Hoop War of 2010 (which was the most physically painful of all the wars), and the ongoing Super Mario Bros. Coin Battle/Free-for-All Modes War.

The war in question began in 2010, when we discovered that Tetris was available for the Wii. Now, to fully understand this, you must know my history with Tetris. My family, when I was young, treated Tetris like a religion. My mom and my older sister constantly battled for the high score.* I think in the end, my sister ended up being the all-time victor, with a score no one could possibly top. After all that, the famous Tetris song is ingrained in my head forever and ever. This version of the song, in particular, gave me great joy and also a neverending earworm.

Husband’s family, meanwhile, went all-in for Pac-Man in the early days of gaming, and Husband quickly graduated to other games where he could enact more violence than simply eating a ghost.**

Fast-forward to present day. We discover that we can not only play Tetris, but we can compete with each other.

And thus the war begins.

At first, I am the clear victor. I spend more time practicing than he did, as I find playing Tetris tends to calm me when I got stressed or upset.

However, Husband is sneaky. He discovered several special weapons in the form of power-ups that can be deployed in Vs. mode. He is especially fond of throwing two power-ups at me in quick succession, so that I have to deal with the second before I’ve finished with the first. For instance, he’ll use the “fog up the screen” power-up, which requires the recipient to shake the wii remote to disperse the fog obscuring the screen, and then throw the “pieces come down super fast” weapon at me before I’ve cleared the screen.

He is a devious, devious man.

And slowly, he is catching up to me. He’s getting better at inching away from defeat when his lines near the top. He’s getting better at taking advantage of the extra lines that build up on his screen every time I get a Tetris, and using those extra lines to get Tetrises of his own, which in turn throws my screen into anarchy.

And I do believe he’s in league with the cats, who seem to want to walk all over me and impede my view every freakin’ time we play.

Currently, our records stand at 512 games won (me) to 245 games won (him). The other night, he won four games out of five, so I can’t expect to hold my (astronomical, hehe, TAKE THAT SWEETIE) record for too much longer.

Yes, that’s a LOT of games. This is just one way of bonding with each other, chilling out after a long day, spending quality time as a couple.

Of course, our quality time in this case includes a lot of trash talk and a merciless, war-like mindset.

That’s just what we do.

Have video games resulted in all-out war in your household, or with your friends? More importantly, WHO WON?!

Next post: probably my favorite 80s movie quotes, since I watched Heathers again last week.

*Hm. I guess this isn’t really like a religion at all. I’m keeping this in, though, to see how many people pick at it.

**Although I guess it’s pretty violent from the ghost’s point of view. And don’t get me wrong, Husband is not abnormally attracted to violence. His favorite thing to do in GTA is stand on a car with a chainsaw and see how long it takes the car’s occupants to flee. I have heard him maniacally laughing during long sessions of  his chainsaw-car-evacuation game. It’s really amusing to watch.

 

Genre Snobbery: In Defense of My Genre

Listening to: Muse, “Uprising”

So I spent a few days after Mockingjay‘s release avoiding all reviews and commentary on the book–third in a trilogy, I’ve been slobbering for it since last year at this time, and I had an upcoming anniversary trip (six years, baby!) for which I wanted to save the book.

And when I returned from my trip, I decided to check out some reviews here and there. I like to read reviews after, in most cases, generally to chew on others’ opinions and see how their thoughts line up with mine, and frequently to gain new insight on things.

Bad idea, in this case. Because it just got me mad.

Most of the reviews, actually, weren’t the problem. It was the comments that followed. I should have just stuck to review outlets that cater to YA and genre readers, but stupidly, I did not. So many of the comments displayed a certain cluelessness about YA in general, and of course a few threw in jabs at speculative fiction just for good measure.

I’m not going to point to the reviews and comments in question, because it’s not my intention to call anyone out, especially not a random anonymous person on the internet. Suffice it to say that the outlets in question are entertainment-like blogs that usually address their subject matter with a certain level of intelligence. And it was not so much the content but the general tone, repeated again and again, that bothered me. Something like this:

“I thought about checking these books out, but…Young Adult? Really? I think that’s a bit simplistic/tame/childish for my tastes.”*

Also:

“Eh. A love triangle? Sounds a bit Twilight-y in my opinion.”**

Head, meet desk. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

And here we insert the obligatory xkcd link, because I know exactly what I’m doing when I get mad at people on the internet and yet I can’t stop myself from reading more.

It just angers me, not because these people look down on YA, but because they’re missing out because they look down on YA. When you dismiss an entire genre, you close yourself off from shelves and shelves at the bookstore, all because you won’t consider that your assumptions might be wrong.

Let me help you out a little bit with a few examples:

“Simplistic”: In John Green’s Paper Towns, the protagonist learns how we can never truly know people, and how, quite frequently, our opinions of them are colored and shaped by our own experiences–and what we want them to be, rather than what they are. Also? Funny as hell.

Simplistic? What now?

“Tame”: The entire Hunger Games trilogy is a good example of not-tame. It’s bloody, breathtaking, and wrenching. Need another example? The Gone series by Michael Grant. These books had several moments that made me wince or gasp in horror, shock, OMG-did-that-just-happen. And I’m a grown-up.

Tame? Nope.

“Childish”: An older example, but the best I can think of–the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. This one takes on societal perceptions and expectations of beauty and conformity, with a little environmentalism thrown in the background.

Childish? No. No matter how old you are, when you look in the mirror, you see what society tells you is pretty or ugly or fat or skinny. You have to look beyond all that to see yourself. And that’s damn hard sometimes.

All of these examples are from different subgenres within YA. From introspective (and yet hilarious) fiction, to gut-wrenchingly horrific but thrilling, to a piercing look at a troubling societal issue. These books address an incredibly wide-ranging set of issues that affects us all, child or adult. And they do it entertainingly. And they do it without talking down to their audience.

I guess what really bothers me is that, in the dismissive tone of so many, we’re not just putting down an entire section of the bookstore. We’re also insulting teenagers. We’re saying that depictions of their lives aren’t as important as anything involving adults. Yeah, there’s drama and angst. Maybe a bit more than in our lives. But there’s also figuring out who you are, what you’re capable of, and where you belong in the world. I know people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, etc. who don’t have that down yet. I don’t have that down yet.

YA is becoming more and more popular among adults, so I have little to complain about, really. It’s gaining respect. It’ll never have everyone’s respect–no genre ever will.  Some people absolutely need something or someone to look down on.

All I ask is this: if you haven’t yet, wander into the YA section on your next trip to the bookstore. Take a look at the incredibly diverse reading material there. And think about when you were a teenager, no matter how long ago that was.

Do already read YA, or have you tried and found it not to your liking? Wander into another foreign area of the bookstore. Pick up something new.

This life is too short to limit our experiences, and that includes reading. So check out something new, something different from your usual.

Give it a shot. I promise, you won’t regret it.

*These same people would have been FURIOUS if, at the ages of 13-18, anyone had called their reading material childish or simplistic. Oh, how quickly we grow from the sneered-at to the…sneerers? Something like that.

**OMG, you guys! So there’s this series called Twilight, and it totally has a love triangle! Not only is it the only YA book in existence and thus everything must be compared to it, but also: love triangle! THIS HAS NEVER BEEN DONE IN ALL OF HISTORY, YOU GUYS.

 

Adventures in Crazytown

Listening to: Thrice, “Stare at the Sun”

So I guess I’ve officially lost my mind.*

I’m doing something I swore I’d never do unless I had to…writing two novels at once.

*Gulp*

But wait! There’s more!

The novels are written from different POVs–one’s in first person, and the other is in third person with multiple narrators.

And I almost always work on both in one day.

*brainsplosion*

Actually, it’s going rather well so far. I wouldn’t advise anyone to do this starting out–oh HELL no. It splits your focus far too much, and in order to finish a first, second, or even third novel, you need that focus and passion (also known as obsession). But I’m 40k into the first draft of one novel, and this other idea just kept poking at me.

*Poke, poke* Psssst, hey, you, writer girl, look over here, it would whisper. Aren’t I a pretty, shiny new idea? Wouldn’t it be fun to write me? Come on, you know you want to!

I couldn’t abandon the other novel–not 40k in, for sure, and not at all because I enjoy the characters and the idea.**

So I decided to go for broke. So far, it’s actually working. Plus, I figure that I’ll finish the first one just as I get to the hard part of the second one.

I couldn’t have done two novels at once, much less in different POVs, even two years ago. That was when I was struggling with GRIM LIGHT, which had both first and third (eventually, after changing the third to first and then back to third), and boy did that ever get hairy. We’re talking man-on-the-beach-who-looks-like-he’s-wearing-a-sweater-but-he’s-not hairy.

The greatest thing so far is how, after years of writing almost exclusively in first person, I discover the joy of third. Now, my first two novels were in third, so it’s not like I’ve never done it. But I’ve never been very good at it. Those first two novels read rather blandly, as third never allowed me to get into a character’s head like I wanted. And I could never nail voice in third person. It took me a few novels in first person to really get it.

We all know that each POV has its benefits and drawbacks. For a few years now, I’ve been dealing quite happily with the way first limits the amount of information you can give the reader. It hasn’t really bothered me. Occasionally I’d shake my fist at the sky because dang it, the reader needs to know something and I couldn”t figure out how to impart that info, but I always figured it out and it made for a nice challenge.

And if I got really frustrated, I just reminded myself how much I hated my third person work. That did the trick.

So, when I realized that the 2nd new novel (working title: THE COLLECTOR) absolutely had to be in third person, I did some serious angsting. Could I do it? I’ve done some short stories in third, in addition to the third person sections of GRIM LIGHT, but I wasn’t sure about an entire novel. Especially after the multiple failures way back when.

But I had to try. So I did. And I loved it.

It’s freeing. Really. I love the narrative freedom it offers me, and how I can now get into the heads of multiple characters, figure out their hopes and fears far more easily, and see the world from their eyes. It felt new, surprising, bright. By the time I reached chapter 3, I was practically floating. I had a dentist appointment that day, and I couldn’t stop smiling even while the hygienist scraped my teeth.***

The lesson here, if you’re looking for one, would be this: Just because you sucked at something before doesn’t mean you always will. Somehow, writing in first person for a few years enabled me to write in third. Oddly, it’s the opposite of practice-makes-perfect. Except not, because I was practicing, just not the thing I sucked at.

Okay, I think we’ve reached the maximum confusion threshold here.

So, what have you avoided due to fear of failure? Did you ever come back and try it again?

*We all know I lost it a long time ago. I just have all the paperwork in order now.

**Plus, I have it set in Johnstown, and boy is that ever fun. I feel like I’ve lived here long enough to set a book here. Apparently reaching this comfort level takes about ten years for me.

***OW I HATE THAT PART.

 

Kristy vs. The Wasp

So, I’m quite the girly girl.

I’m not sure if this will surprise those who really know me or not. I’m don’t know how visible or obvious it is. I wear semi-battered Chucks almost constantly, I’m far more comfortable in ripped capris than a skirt, and I love a good dirty pun.

But put me in the makeup aisle at any drug store, and it’s quite clear which chromosomes I possess.

Another thing that brings out my inner little girl: anything that stings. Bees, wasps, hornets–you name it, I hate it. I know no one particularly LOVES these things, but my crazy meter goes pretty high when they’re around. It’s the surprise pain factor. I can handle surprises, and I can handle pain (three tattoos, too many fillings to count, etc.) but combine the two and I turn into a giant mess. Just ask the dentist who performed my first fillings, as I lay in the chair not knowing what to expect at all. He told me to close my eyes and next thing I know, OWWWWWW WHY ARE YOU STICKING A NEEDLE IN MY GUMS OMG THE PAIN.

But when I’m prepared for pain, I handle it pretty well. I laughed through my third tattoo–even during the outline portion, which is the most painful part.

On Friday, I had to watch the possibility of surprise pain flying about my house and then destroy it. Twice. Specifically, I had to kill two big, fat wasps. Seriously, these boys must’ve been eating their freakin’ Wheaties.

I doubt there are few things more amusing than me and a wasp facing off. I mean, personally I’ll take dry British wit or some veiled sarcasm any day, but for most people, the sight of me wielding my weapons while (to the casual observer) talking frantically to myself must be HI-FREAKING-LARIOUS.

Herein, you will learn the time-honored ritual I perform upon encountering one of these beasties in my house when I’m not alone.

  1. Find someone else in the house.
  2. Ask him/her to please kill the scary monster.

The process differs a bit when I’m alone in the house. I’ve honed it, though, so I can follow the steps in their correct order to ensure success.

  1. If possible, isolate the enemy by closing the door.
  2. Call The Husband.
  3. Tell him what’s going on.
  4. Put him on speakerphone.
  5. Retrieve hairspray. NOTE: If the beast is particularly large, bring two canisters. Nothing wrong with double-barreling it.
  6. Retrieve phone book.*
  7. If the enemy is closed off in a room, stand outside the door and chatter aimlessly at The Husband in a futile attempt to stall. If not, stand across the room and chatter aimlessly. Make jokes if possible.
  8. If the enemy is closed off, say, “Okay, I’m going for it. 1…2…3…oh crap, I can’t do it.”
  9. Repeat steps 7 and 8.
  10. Repeat steps 7 and 8.
  11. Repeat steps 7 and 8.
  12. Finally muster up the courage and get close to/enter room in which the enemy awaits.
  13. Set phone down somewhere nearby.
  14. Observe the enemy, waiting for the right moment and chattering aimlessly some more. This is the best part for lame jokes. An example from today: “Yeah, I know I’m just stallin’. And I don’t mean the murderous Russian.”
  15. When the enemy is in the perfect position–say, on the wall directly above a clear floor space, or on the ceiling directly above the sink–chicken out for long enough that he moves somewhere inaccessible.
  16. Repeat step 15 as many times as necessary.
  17. When you’ve mustered up incredible amounts of courage, and the adrenaline finally hits your bloodstream, AND the enemy is in the perfect position, break out hairspray and ATTACK. Keep a running commentary on what he’s doing and how much hairspray remains.
  18. When the enemy is partially disabled and falls to a low, flat surface, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT: continue the hairspray attack WHILE throwing the phone book on him. DO NOT GIVE HIM AN OPPORTUNITY TO ESCAPE.**
  19. Stomp or smack (floor = stomp, counter or table = smack) the phone book. Shout very, very bad words as necessary.***
  20. Very carefully, lift up phone book and check on the enemy’s status. If he’s still moving, return phone book to its previous position and stomp/smack some more.
  21. Usually, he’ll be officially dead after about ten more blows. Gleefully announce the time of death.
  22. Leave the phone book in place until The Husband comes home, because seriously, you did the hard part.
  23. Thank Husband for his time and unwavering support in this, the battle of your life.

If you follow these foolproof steps, I GUARANTEE that you will achieve icky-painful-bug-killing success. You will also waste a lot of time, but in the process you’ll prove your bravery and provide valuable entertainment to a loved one.

He can repay you by taking care of the carcass.

*I may be the only person in the Internet world who still appreciates the physical version of the Yellow Pages. They multiply like bunnies, they’re unnecessary for anyone with Internet access, and they’re so very bad for the environment, but I know nothing better with which to smack/stomp big bugs to death.
**If you’re double-barreling it, this requires a certain amount of juggling and physical dexterity. It is also funny.
***I picked this method up from a friend in high school. I feel a lot tougher when I’m screaming expletives, like really really bad words, the kind I’d never say in front of my mother. I don’t know why it helps, but it does.

 
 
 
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