Monday, December 14, 2009

A Long and Dark December

Hey all, apologies for lack of blogness lately. Still reeling a bit from my nano disappointment, I think, which has been reflected in my writing progress (or lack thereof). Feeling slightly more encouraged today, though, and beginning to think that maybe I can get through this weird writer's block or whatever it is.

I'm working on three different things: Seraphine, the not-really-all-that-short-story, the second draft of On Journeys Bound, and notes for an as-yet-untitled project.

Seraphine is at the beginning stages of editing, which, for me, means I've read through it all, made lots of notes in the margin, and am now trying to come up with a game plan of what exactly I want to do to it. Sometimes I know what needs to be done but don't know quite how to do it, which means I get to do lots of brainstorming and ask myself rough questions (like: Why do they fall for each other? and: where exactly is this food coming from???) and scribble things down in my notebook and bang my head against the wall until I can come up with a viable solution. After I figure out what to do, I'll probably re-type the whole story, which forces me to consider every sentence and every word and if I really want to keep it that way or not. My biggest challenges with this story are the middle (or lack thereof—I sorta skipped it), and consistency of details (a result of discovering things as I went along—I wound up contradicting myself a LOT). Overall, I really, really like this story and think it could be quite special if edited correctly.

I go back and forth with digging On Journeys Bound. It's such an old story idea that dates back to when I was twelve and obsessed with horses and Lord of the Rings (okay, I'm still obsessed with LOTR; that was when I first discovered it. I belong to the elite community of fans who adored the books before the movies came out. :-)) and journeys and adventures and mysterious identities and so on, but something about the characters and their stories keeps me coming back to it. Originally a short story of 18,740 words (which was monstrous at the time) penned in '97/'98 or thereabouts, I later expanded it into a novel, and finished the first draft the summer of 2005; it clocked in around 75k.

A couple of summers ago I started working on the second draft, fleshing out characters and inserting scenes and subplots and tightening up the writing and so on. One of my main characters was horrendously boring, and I had to figure out a way to make him un-boring. I think I've managed it. I dunno. There's a lot more story in the beginning of the second draft, which is going to make the finished product at least 100k. I'm currently at 48,914 words, so there's a waaayyyys to go yet. But after I get through the next 10-20k, the changes become a lot less major, so it ought to be fairly smooth sailing towards the end. It shouldn't need much editing after that besides some prose tightening (is that a valid expression?), and then I'll have another FINISHED BOOK. I don't know of course if anyone but me would ever want to read it. I'll have to figure out a way to send it back in time, 'cause it's the kind of story my twelve-year-old self would have adored. :-)

It's basically about Bren, an apathetic prince, and Connor, the bitter slave forced to serve him. Both of them have shadows in their past they would rather leave untouched. Neither of them have that luxury. There are battles and journeys. Tragedy and loss. Regret and betrayal. Fire and death.

It's certainly rather darker than its early incarnations.

At any rate. Currently, Connor has just rescued a little girl from a snowbank, and Bren has narrowly evaded another assassination attempt. Go him.

As for the third project, I'm still in the brainstorming phase, but the idea has me quite excited. It's a love story (go figure), or possibly two, and is set in the same world as The Whale and the Tree and The Silver Crane. It might even have a happy ending. *grin*

And that, as they say, is that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Book Review: The Bartimaues Trilogy

Just finished reading Ptolemy's Gate, the third installment in Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy. It was SO GOOD. Wow.

But I'm not being very coherent. Sorry about that.* I'll try and do better. Let's see.

The first book, The Amulet of Samarkand, introduces Bartimaeus, the fabulously snarky, famously famous, shape-shifting ancient dijinni of Incredible Power**, and Nathaniel, a twelve-year-old magician's apprentice who's out for a spot of revenge. Told in alternating chapters, the story traces their reluctant alliance*** against formidable foe Simon Lovelace, a powerful magician with some diabolical plans of his own.

The second book, The Golem's Eye, finds Nathaniel grafted into the British government****, with the much abused Bartimaeus back to try and salvage the mess he's making of his career.+ Enter a third viewpoint character, the fiercely idealistic Kitty Jones, who, along with a group of commoners called the Resistance, is fighting against the government.++ To make matters worse, a creature wreathed in shadow is wreaking havoc in central London, there's an insane skeleton on the loose+++, and the magicians have a traitor in their midst...

The third book, the aforementioned Ptolemy's Gate, finds Nathaniel, Bartimaeus, and Kitty forced into a tremulous alliance tied together with the shadows of Bartimaeus's past.++++

These books are fantastic. Lovely writing, compelling storyline, the characters evolve and grow... Just the right mixture of humor and pathos and history and detail. I'm excessively sad that they're over now^ :-(, but awesomely enough there's a fourth book coming next fall!^^


* It comes from being human, no doubt.

** And hilariously sarcastic footnotes. Like this one. Only funnier. And more sarcastic.

*** aka Forced servitude on the part of Bartimaeus. Darn magicians.

**** Which is made up entirely of conniving, power-hungry magicians.

+ The idiot couldn't do it on his own, of course.

++ sneaking around in the dark and pilfering magical items. It was the best they could come up with, being human and all.

+++ Don't ask.

++++ Hardly compelling, I know, but I wouldn't want to spoil it for you.

^ Who wouldn't be??

^^ Readers rejoice!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009: Thoughts

Well, it's been a strange November.

I started two different novels, writing a combined 91k in the process, and didn't come anywhere near to my original goal of completing an entire first draft. I sort of feel like, 91k aside, I failed rather miserably. Why? Well, I have no book. I have the beginnings of two different books (both of which, I fear, are quite badly written, though there's perhaps more hope for the second one than for the first), but nothing, well, substantial. In the previous two years, even though I didn't actually finish my novels during the month, I wrote hefty chunks of them and at least got halfway through.

I don't know.

It's like, it's like...

I know what it's like. It's like my piano recital senior year of college. Specifically, Beethoven. More specifically, Beethoven's sonata nicknamed The Tempest (for obvious reasons if one happens to play it/listen to it). Now I never had a very good relationship with Beethoven (I much prefer Chopin and Bach, though that's beside the point), but I practiced that sonata until I was blue in the face, and was as prepared as was possible for my recital. The first six pages of the first movement went marvelously, so marvelously, in fact, that I psyched myself out and managed to totally blank on the last page and a half. Which, in a manner resembling a train wreck or a cascade of perfectly placed dominoes or a really bad horror movie, derailed me on the other two movements. I got through them, but I didn't play them nearly as well as I was able to, because my mind was still chewing on what exactly had gone wrong with that first movement.

Rambling anecdotes aside, I think that's partly what bothered me during this year's NaNoWriMo. After penning an alarmingly awful 41,000 words of a novel I had been planning on writing for almost a whole year, starting completely over was more than a little disconcerting. I had never written such horrific prose before. It was shocking, I tell you! Shocking! Don't get me wrong, previous NaNo's have produced some wince-worthy passages, but they were always balanced out by some (in my mind) rather lovely writing.

This year? I found myself writing the same phrases over and over. I didn't connect emotionally with the characters, the scenes, the settings, the situations. I began wondering if I had somehow cracked and was incapable of writing a nicely-crafted paragraph ever again. I began wondering, in fact, if I had ever written a nicely-crafted paragraph in my life, or if I was deluding myself.

I got depressed, of course. It wasn't very pleasant, but you'll have that.

So I started The Blind King, which went a lot better, and had its moments, and got me comfortably to 50k, but still left me feeling restless and lethargic about my writing (and life in general—you know how it is with creative types).  I'm pretty sure TBK could be a super awesome book, but a few of things need to happen before I revisit/restart the draft:
  1. It honestly needs outlining. The beginning is worked out pretty well in my head, and I vaguely know what happens at the end, but the middle is completely nebulous in terms of actual form.
  2. I need to finish the rewrite of On Journeys Bound, the book it's a sequel to. It only makes sense. Plus then I can make sure I'm properly continuing threads instead of sort of remembering previous events and inadvertently creating loads of inconsistencies.
  3. I need to do some more world building, figure out things like the layout of buildings, roads, towns, and firmly decide what level of technology these people have.
 In other words?

I'm not going to have a shiny new first draft of anything any time soon. Rather disheartening. I feel like I ought to have gleaned some sort of a useful lesson from this. Maybe:
  • Some ideas can't be forced.
  • Sometimes not even extensive outlining helps.
  • This just wasn't my year.
 Hmmm. This all sounds rather depressing. I am, to ease your minds (is anyone still reading this? I feel like I've been rambling on for at least 50,000 words at this point), feeling much more optimistic about things. I've decided to dive back into the rewrite of On Journeys Bound while my mind is noodling on ways to rework The Last Garden (which, incidentally, I am still planning to write at some point). I'm also seeing revisions of Seraphine (which, incidentally, I've decided I like quite a lot) looming in the near future. **determined eyes**

All that to say, it's been an odd month, and I'm kind of glad it's over. But in a good way. Mostly.

Happy December,


Monday, November 23, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 23: Green Bar!!

Wordcount: 50,107
Chapters Completed: 8
Number of Characters Being Badly Treated: all of them, in various ways (heh heh heh)
Sanity of Author: 67%
Overall Quality of Prose: Absolutely Atrocious
Color of Bar: GREEN!!!

Look, everybody! My bar's GREEN!

*dances wildly round the library, to the disapproving stares of the young woman simultaneously texting and browsing one of the computers, the lady with the patterned red skirt perusing the reference books, and the old man in the green sweater conversing with a lady in coral-colored pants who sounds exactly like Emma Thompson*

Okay so I'm not literally dancing. You know.

Last week I was about ready to give up on this thing entirely, but a much-needed Saturday writing marathon with good company and yummy tea boosted me up to 47k, and also reminded me that, horrible writing aside, I actually do like this novel. :-)

In non-NaNoWriMo news:

I just finished reading the first book in Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy, The Amulet of Samarkand, which I enjoyed heartily. It is narrated in part by a snarky djinni who employs footnotes with spectacular sarcasm. Very much looking forward to book two.

I meant to link to this in my last post; it's an interview with the fantastic Megan Whalen Turner, author extrodinare of The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and the forthcoming A Conspiracy of Kings.

And that about wraps it up!

Loving the color green,


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 18

As of last night, I have 40,033 words on Novel No. 2. That's 1k shy of my word count for Novel No. 1 before I scrapped it, which means I've written 80,000 words this month. Yikes. I'm feeling kind of exhausted.

The Blind King is progressing nicely, I think. I've been outlining-as-I-go with the handy dandy notecard feature in Scrivener (oh Scrivener, how I love thee), and haven't run out of scenes yet, so that's definitely a good thing. I'm currently in the middle of Chapter Seven, and have scenes jotted down on virtual note cards through Chapter Nine, so the outline is progressing at a slightly faster rate than the draft.

I have no idea how long this thing is gonna be. Long, for sure. At this point I'm guesstimating somewhere in the neighborhood of 150k, though it could (and, knowing my track record, probably will) be longer than that. I dunno. We'll see. I haven't decided if I'm going to keep powering through the rough draft after NaNo is over (it's quite clear I won't have finished by then), or shelve it for a while, finish rewriting the book it's a sequel to, and work on rewrites for a couple of other novels. So many decisions.

But this is the most boring blog post ever (superfluous paranthetical remarks and all). Lemme see if I can remedy that.

Stuff that's been happening in my novel:
  • Two not-quite-but-almost lovers are reunited after six years, the very day the female character accepts a marriage proposal from a different guy. They spend several thousand words shut up in a room together arguing about this.
  • A rather foolish sixteen-year-old boy gets himself lost in the mountains and captured by enemy soldiers. I'm sorry to say that a stint of enslavement in the silver mines lies in his very imminent future.
  • A princess being blackmailed into espionage has arrived at the palace of a newly-crowned king and (surprise, surprise), is beginning to fall in love with him.
  • An impulsive twelve-year-old girl is about to run away to the capital to try and uncover the secrets of her parentage.
And that's pretty much that, as far as Novel No. 2 is concerned.

In other news, the Doctor Who special Waters of Mars that aired in the UK (and, er, elsewhere, if one knows where to look... :-)) on Sunday was mind-blowingly awesome. Words cannot describe.

And to top everything off, it's link time!
  • Gail Carson Levine, author extraordinaire, has a fabulous blog filled with authorly insight and writerly wisdom. Some really awesome advice here.
  • Robin McKinley has a twitter. Robin McKinley has a twitter. Robin McKinley has a twitter!! I cannot emphasize this enough.
  • Duotrope's Digest is a fantastic free resource listing over 2700 current fiction and poetry markets
  • I'm pretty sure I was going to link you to a couple of other sites, but I forgot what they were. Stay tuned.
Okay, I think maybe I'd better go work on my novel, now.

Onwards to 50k (and lots more paranthetical remarks),


Saturday, November 14, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 13: Novel Love

Wordcount: 30,060
Chapters Completed: one scene short of five
Awesome Content: 100%
Mood of Author: gushing sonnets

Hey everybody! Apologies for not getting around to replying to your comments on the last post. Your sympathies and encouragements were greatly appreciated. :-) And I do have a good excuse for not blogging for the last few days:

I've been writing on that new novel, and am totally rocking it. Today, in fact, I passed the 30k mark! Wahoo!! Which means, wordcount wise, I'm almost at the same point as I was with that other novel (shudder) this time last week. Weird.

At any rate, I'm really digging this novel, though that's not to say I haven't produced some pretty horrific prose over the last five days, 'cause I have, and it's not to say this thing won't need the usual amount of editing, 'cause it will. But I like this novel, nay, I submit that I love it. This thing is making me feel downright giddy!

The whole sans outline thing is working out pretty well. This story has literally been in my head (in one form or another) for ten years, and I feel like all the characters are old friends. And it's just so dang FUN! I mean I've got love triangles (two different ones), blackmail, espionage, secret identities, epic misunderstandings, betrayal, war, escapes, death... pretty much everything awesome, as a matter of fact. :-) And I have six different viewpoint characters, so I'm not stuck with one voice like in that other (shudder) not-novel.

Anyways. It's late. I must away ere break of day to seek the long forgotten gold and so on.

Clearly having too much fun with my novel,

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 9: Let's Start Over Again

Wordcount: 5,556
Sanity: 3%
Mood: bemused

So this morning I was all set to buckle down, write 11k, and pass that glorious 50k mark a good twenty-one days early.

Instead, I wrote 2,000 words, and realized how much I loathed my novel. We're talking extreme hatred, here.

And so I started over on a completely new novel.

I know, I know. Shocking turn of events, right? I feel like The Last Garden could, possibly, maybe, one day in the distant future be wrangled into something resembling a book. But this is not that time.

Friday, November 6, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 5

Word Count: 35,132
Chapters Completed: 5.1/16
Worlds Visited: 2
Sanity Level: 65%
Mood: pensive

So it's 10:48 on the morning of November 6th, and I've yet to write any words (well, besides these ones). I'm at the very beginning of Chapter 6, and although the story is rolling along nicely (more or less), I'm still struggling to find this novel's voice. Voice is never something I struggle with (plot, yes. pacing, yes. voice? no), so it's a little frustrating. I don't know if it's because my main character wasn't fully formed in my mind when I started writing, or if the idea needed some more time to percolate or what.

And then yesterday, whilst driving to piano lessons, I had a completely crazy idea: what if I were to narrate the story from the point of view of my main character's dead sister?

I thought about it, and thought about it (I'm still thinking about it), and I could be completely and totally wrong, but this shift in narration might be the spark I've been missing for the last 35,132 words. I can hear her voice in my head, and last night I scribbled out a possible new beginning that just felt incredibly right.

Not exactly sure where this leaves me. I'm definitely not, at this point, going back to rewrite everything, but I'm thinking about shifting the narrative style right where I'm at (smack dab in the middle of a scene at the beginning of Chapter Six), see what that does for me, and rewrite accordingly after NaNo is over.

And that is probably WAY more information than anybody needed about the strange inner workings of my brain during noveling.

Need to get dressed now,
Who-Wouldn't-Want-a-Dead-Child-for-a-Narrator Smith

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 4

Word Count: 30,046
Chapters Completed: 4
Worlds Visited: 1
Sanity Level: 65%
Overall Quality of Prose: poor

So it's the end of Day Four. I'm sitting in Borders (which, incidentally has just recently implemented free Wi-Fi), having just hit my 30k (woot!) and am thoroughly exhausted and all worded out for the evening! Yesterday the words just sort of poured freely from my fingertips. Today I had to bribe/force/threaten them out of there.

I weep for the overall quality of my prose.

I weep for the flatness of my main character.

I weep for the reality of one's flawless ideas staring back in all their blatant black and white imperfections from one's computer screen.

But I still made it to 30k.

:-) :-) :-) :-)

As a sidenote, I keep meaning to link to my NaNoWriMo profile, where you can keep track of my progress and read the deplorable excerpts I post from time to time. So there you go.

Off to watch Stargate,

Penner of Pepostrously Perilous Prose

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 3

Current Word Count: 21,111
Sanity Level: 85%
Chapters Completed: 2.9/16
Character Deaths: three. 1 young child (before the story started), 1 old man (he had a full life! promise!), 1 mermaid (poor thing didn't have a chance) :-(

I should be noveling, as I'm headed for 25k today (yes, I am insane), but my brain was demanding a break, so I thought I'd blog instead.

Currently at the tail end of Chapter Three of The Last Garden, and getting excited because in another half chapter the story's really gonna get going! I've come to the conclusion that although I've been penning some truly atrocious prose, I'm having a hard time finding the novel's voice, and I'm a little afraid my poor, adorably bespectacled main character is rather uninteresting, I think the actual story is worth telling, and with a lot (a heck of a lot!) of future editing/rewriting/revising, it might come to resemble something akin to a real book someday. Well, maybe. :-)

I have also learned that I am woefully unquallified to write historical fiction. I fear I've been inadvertently altering Victorian history in the greater London area. But oh well. I'll do all that research I ought to have done earlier... later. :-)

Happy Writing!

Joanna, aka Murderer of Mermaids in Vaguely Historical Victorian London

Monday, November 2, 2009

And We're Off!

Writing commenced with a bang this weekend in Dallas! Thanks to the 10k scribed in the company of five other crazy novelists, three adorable cats, and lots and lots of sugar, my grand total thus far for Day 2 of National Novel Writing Month comes to 13,441 words.

Back to my mermaid in the Thames,

Joanna, aka Mighty Writer of Words and Hugger of Cuddly Cats

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quick Note and a Warning!

Hey everybody! Just thought I'd jot off a quick post to say:

1) I'm off to Texas this weekend to kick off NaNoWriMo in epic style with people I met on the internet (don't worry. They're cool. :-))

2) Two days till noveling season!! Posts will be sporadic, brief, and filled with word counts.

Consider yourselves warned.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Where Do Ideas Come From, Anyway?

Since I only have today, tomorrow, and Thursday to outline for NaNo (heading to Texas for an epic kick-off on Friday, so can't outline then!), I figured it was a perfect time to procrastinate and write a new post instead. :-)

I'm sitting here with my window open, sipping black currant tea (which is hands down the greatest invention since sliced bread; I'm thinking it's the nectar of the gods), and pondering the mysteries of the universe. Or something.

At any rate, I thought I'd take this moment to talk about inspiration.

Inspiration is weird. Ideas can come from absolutely anywhere, which is why having a notebook and pen glued to one's self at all times is imperitave. I get inspired by all kinds of things, normal stuff like books and movies and music and paintings, and weird stuff like bathroom floors and the way the sky looks and patterns on plates.

The Whale and the Tree, for example, was inspired by a whole jumble of random things: a single frame from The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants movie that for some reason made me think of mermaids, the atmosphere and mood of Keane's then-newly-released-album Under the Iron Sea, a serving plate emblazoned with an esoteric shape that looked (to me) like a yellow whale, the idea of using myths in the novel ala Megan Whalen Turner's (completely fabulous) The Thief...

The main idea for The Fire in the Glass was sparked, I must admit, by watching Star Wars episode three (the one where I-can't-act teenage Darth Vader turns into I'm-just-a-torso-in-a-scary-suit actual Darth Vader). It was that fiery planet at the end that did it. I started wondering if people could actually live on a world seething with lava, and why they would be there in the first place, and how they would escape... Everything spun out of control from there.

Last year's novel, The Silver Crane, was inspired by a random conversation about cupbearers. I started wondering about cupbearers, and what it would be like to be one, and if they chose their job or if it was chosen for them, and...

This year's novel was born when a friend told me that one of my characters from Fire in the Glass ought to have her own adventures. As it turns out, she's not the main character, but she's gonna be in it a lot, and I decided to give her a Pegasus, because Pegasuses (Pegasi?) are undeniably cool.

So there you have it, a strange and perilous glimpse at the inner workings of my mind.

What inspires you?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Who's Been Outlining? This Gal!!

So I've actually been outlining, and I'm getting super excited about my novel. Go figure. :-)

I gave up wrestling with my ending (for now) and have started Step Eight of the Snowflake Method, which is the one, the only, the invaluable List O' Scenes. This is absolutely the most useful step of the Snowflake, in my opinion, as it's where you get to take grand sweeping statements (like, for instance, "They fall in love") and figure out specific scenes that put your beautifully vague ideas into a format you can actually use. This saves SUCH a lot of headache time during the actual writing of the first draft. I love knowing exactly what's coming next so I can just focus on the scene I'm writing and not worry about it.

Of course sometimes your characters/plot/storyline/whatever decide to do their own thing regardless of the outline, but it generally turns out all right anyway. I often have a hard time getting my characters to talk about what they're supposed to (I have no idea why, but if I leave two characters alone for an extended period of time they tend to wind up discussing Deep Philosophical Truths), but eventually I force them to behave. Well, usually.

But anyways. Where was I?

Oh yeah, Step Eight. I'm currently in the middle of outlining scenes for Chapter Six of The Last Garden. It's all about mermaids, and evil Worms, so basically it's gonna rock. ;-)

I have sixteen-ish chapters planned, which leads me to this Very Exciting Hope:

I really think I can write the entire novel during NaNoWriMo. It's a pretty straightforward storyline (well, as straightforward as you can get when your plot revolves around ten different worlds), and only follows a few characters. Last year I had multiple storylines, six main-ish characters, and lots of (badly written) political drama. The year before it took me the entirety of November and 100,000 words just to get my two main characters into the same universe so they could meet each other.

So it's really looking good.

I think.

Successfully puting off outlining to write this blog,

also known as
Guardian of the Doors between Worlds

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No. 51

Well, it was an interesting week.

On Tuesday I went to pick up Sacred Scars (sequel to Skin Hunger) from the library, and when it wasn't on the holds shelf, I realized with a rapidly sinking heart that I might have waited too long to get it. So I approached the librarian at the desk and inquired after it—she looked up my card, saw that a different hold (Enna Burning; I've had it on hold for months now and it's yet to appear) was still active, and told me as much. I explained to her that, no, it was a different book I was after. She produced a Binder of Lists, and informed me that I was indeed too late to get it, and that it had been sent back. She looked at me and said, in a Very Superior Tone: "It waited a while but it could only wait so long."

I felt myself to be summarily snubbed. I went afterwards to Target, where I managed to misplace my wallet in the parking lot for half an hour. That was fun.

Then I sent out two new query letters, as I'd begun to despair ever hearing back from the full.

On Wednesday, I was attacked with a strange malady of Nausea Induced by Violently Spinning World, and had to stay home from teaching, alternately laying in bed moaning and reading Octavian Nothing.

(Which, on a side note, I finished, and liked a lot, though it was sad and disturbing and a bit unsettling in places. It was excellently written, with an intriguing story, characters, and very interesting viewpoint on the Revolutionary War. I highly recommend it if you can handle some disturbing concepts/scenes.)

Wednesday evening commenced, also the Weekend of Housesitting for Crazy Dogs, which consisted muchly of laying on the couch watching Stargate SG-1 on Hulu (I'm, er, partway through the second season now).

Then came Thursday and Friday, during which I taught piano lessons, housesat, ate ice cream, worked on my outline a liiiiiittttle bit, and watched Stargate. On Saturday, I popped home for a while and received a Large White Envelope in the mail with F & W Publications written on the return address. For about thirty seconds, I entertained wild notions of a multi-million dollar book deal from that errant full, and then I opened it to news almost as good:

My short story, The Painter and the Sky, won an Honorable Mention in the Writer's Digest annual writing competition! For proof, I direct you here. I'm number fifty-one on the list, which means, I suppose, that there were fifty stories esteemed more highly than mine, but, conversely, that there were forty-nine esteemed lower. ;-) Or it could mean nothing at all. Whatever. The point is, out of 13,557 entries (in ten different categories) in a national contest, I got an honorable mention!!! :-) :-) :-)

And that was my week!

Off to outline my novel *cough* watch Stargate *cough*,

Joanna, the Yellow Dart Smith
also known as
Genre Short Story Honorable Mention Winner No. 51

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Sordid Tale

Once upon a time, there lived a young woman who procrastinated working on her NaNoWriMo outline, even though November was just a few weeks away.

On Thursday, before lessons, she procrastinated by reading about mermaids and the National Archives on the interwebs at Paradise Bakery after writing only a few sentences. (Mmmmmmm cookies!!)

On Friday, before lessons, she procrastinated by reading Octavian Nothing whilst getting her tire fixed, then shopping (at Walmart!! She never shops at Walmart!). In the evening, she procrastinated by eating pizza and watching Seinfeld with friends. (Mmmmmmmm pizza!)

On Saturday, she procrastinated by getting up at four in the morning to take her sister to the airport, then returning to said sister's apartment and zonking out until noon-thirty. At which point she procrastinated by drinking tea, watching a movie, showering, and cooking eggs. Which effectively wasted the entire day, because after that she went to a bachelorette party and ate WAFFLES. (Mmmmmm waffles!)

On Sunday, inbetween church services, she procrastinated by going shopping and buying a fabulous hat, and when she finally returned home circa nine in the evening, she procrastinated by watching three episodes of Stargate SG-1 on Hulu and chatting on Facebook until she passed out from exhaustion.

Right now, she is procrastinating by writing this blog.

Things are looking very grim for that outline.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Most Boring Post Ever

Happy Wednesday, peeps!

Not a whole lot going on over here in Joanna-land, I fear. Been outlining The Last Garden (and keep finding plot holes—argh!!), enjoying the suddenly gorgeous weather (SO gorgeous), and trying not to think too much about the full still floating out in agent-land. **sigh**

In other news, I finished A Coalition of Lions yesterday and liked it pretty well, though I didn't find it quite as haunting or compelling as The Winter Prince. I'm still eager to read the third book, though.

And that's about it. NaNo lifts off in twenty-four days!

I'm off to make some tea and enjoy the clouds. :-)

Friday, October 2, 2009

NaNo is Coming! NaNo is Coming!

It's October, and you know what that means? Less than a month till National Novel Writing Month begins! The site's been relaunched. It's all fresh and shiny and waiting to inspire thousands of crazy people all over the world to write a novel in a mere thirty days. Feel the power. Eeeeeeee!!

So to celebrate, I thought I'd give a low-down of my NaNoWriMo experiences thus far:

My first NaNo. Ah, the memories! Wasn't sure at all if I could a) write a novel in a month, or b) write a novel in first person that was a mixture of fantasy and very-badly researched historical fiction. :-) I committed to writing 2,000 words a day to give myself a buffer zone, and when, lo and behold I hit the glorious 50,000 word mark with part of the month still left to go, I decided to see if I could buckle down and get to the actual end of the novel. I finished The Rose Queen on the 30th of November with 84,495 words. Yikes!

Year two. The fear: could I really do this again? The answer: yes. I was way excited about my crazy story idea and went in armed with a detailed outline. That helped. On November 30th I had 104,009 words and the completed first draft of The Whale and the Tree. Did I mention I get a little obsessive and competitive when it comes to word count? Um, cause I do.

Year three, and my first year participating in the NaNoWriMo Viddler group (which rocks). I gave up trying to deny the fact that I was going to go way over 50k, and started typing like a fiend. By the end of the month, I had 103,888 words, but only half of a novel (my main characters had only, erm, just met). It took me until the end of March to finish the monster that is The Fire in the Glass, which eventually clocked in at 209k.

Year four. I kicked it off in Tucson (a drab little town a couple hours south of Phoenix. Sorry people who live there, but it's true) with fellow writers I met through the Viddler group, and proceeded to once more lose myself in the delicious heady rush of noveling at high speed. On November 30th I had 112,253 words and another unfinished novel. I completed the first draft of The Silver Crane at the end of March with just under 193k.

Year five. The goal? Actually finish the novel during November. Wish me luck with that. :-P 

So those are my NaNos in a nutshell. I cannot gush enough about what a fantastic experience NaNoWriMo is. I've met fabulous people, written a proverbial ton of words, and drunk lots of tea whilst staring out windows. What isn't to love about that??

Off to get lunch and make me a donation and buy me a t-shirt,


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In Which Joanna Finishes her Story

Evening, ladies and gents! I would like to announce the successful completion of Seraphine, clocking in a few hours ago at 18,110 words. My weird little not-really-all-that-short story is doooooone!

*cue fanfare and flowers and marriage proposals*

Ahem. Anyways.

Not remotely sure if this story is a) coherent b) good or c) anything like what I originally envisioned. Kinda scared to read it, to be completely honest, but I'm sure I'll succumb to temptation momentairly. :-)

At any rate, I'm rather sad that it's all over—I enjoyed my little whirwind romance!

Goodbye, Seraphine.

Hellooooooooooooooo NaNo prep time!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Novelist and the Not-Quite-Happy Ending

I hate how the smell of coffee can permeate one's clothing in under thirty seconds. Especially if one happens to be a tea drinker. I spent a couple hours in Starbucks writing this morning, and even after a shower I still stink. Yuck. And in case anyone was wondering, the tea at the old Bucks of Star leaves pretty much everything to be desired. What they lack in taste they make up for in central locations, I guess.

Anyways. Between Saturday and this morning, I pounded out another 3k on Seraphine and am hurtling myself towards the ending (at least I think so). Made an important discovery about the plot today, and am feeling kinda smug about how clever I'm being. Don't worry, that's sure to evaporate as soon as I go back and read this thing. :-) Also, there's no way out of my tragic ending. I'm such a hypocrite about endings. Happy endings with a tinge of bittersweet are my favorite kind to read, with plain old happy endings a close second. I hate sad endings. I don't know why I write them. Just following the demands of the story, I suppose.

Speaking of which, I was up until nearly one this morning finishing Shannon Hale's The Actor and the Housewife, which, incidentally, never quite made it over to my "Currently Reading" tab. The book follows the quirky friendship of Mormon housewife Becky Jack and famous British actor Felix Calahan. It's hilarious, and sad (I cried. Shannon Hale made me cry. We're talking Kleenex, here.), and didn't end the way I wanted it to, but the way it probably should, even though I'm not sure I want to admit that. Ms. Hale's writing is bright and bouncy and lyrical all at the same time, and she's penned some of the most witty dialogue in the history of prose. All told, an enormously touching book. *sniffle*

And now, for this week's goal: finish Seraphine by Wednesday.
And this week's incentive: ordering my NaNoWriMo t-shirt.

October looms nigh. Which means November is right around the corner. Which means I really need to figure out what's happening at the end of my novel.

After Wednesday, of course.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Here an Update, there an Update and another little Update

Happy Friday, peeps! As the title promises, here are some updates:

Seraphine is up to 10,036 words, and I'm ready to be finished with it but I'm not yet. :-P How quickly the romance dies! I still like the story and I think it could be good, one day, after lots of editing, but I'm really feeling the lack of outline and wondering if it's turning out anything like the original idea. But I am glad I'm doing it, and I do think the story has merit, and I'm gonna finish it!! I'm hoping I can wrap it up in another 5k and be done by the end of the month. We'll see. Incidentally, what does one call a story that's 15,000 words long? Certainly not a short story and nowhere near novel (or even novella length). Hmmm. This is why I've been calling it a not-so-short story; guess that will have to do!

The partial of Whale and the Tree was rejected yesterday. :-( Sad, but the agent was very nice and the letter left me feeling ever-so-slightly encouraged. Maybe because I'm irrepressibly hopeful, but you'll have that. Still waiting to hear back from the full. Trying not to hope too much on that one, but... I definitely am. :-P I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for all your comments regarding the Roen/Wren post from Wednesday. I've decided I'm definitely keeping Wren's name, so hooray!

Rose Queen edits didn't get very far this week. I think I worked through part of a chapter on Tuesday, making a few very minor word-choice changes. So pretty epic fail on progress there.

And the elusive ending for this year's NaNo? Still elusive, though I feel like I'm *this* close to figuring it out. Here's hoping!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review: The Winter Prince

First published in 1993 (Was that really sixteen years ago???), The Winter Prince, by Elizabeth E. Wein, tells the story of Medraut, eldest—and illigetimate—son of Artos, high king of Britain, as he struggles to come to terms with his jealousy of his younger half-brother, heir to the throne.

This is a gripping, powerful book, at times disturbing and dark, but always beautiful and elegantly told. The story, the characters, the setting, the history—all are marvelously drawn. The writing itself is exquisite. We're talking Charlotte Bronte-level gorgeousness of prose, here:
We rode through a tangle of dripping trees, then burst into a cloudy brown clearing, silvered over with mist, to see the rusty deer bright bounding through the winter bracken.
Sentences like that make me my little INFP heart soar. Dripping trees! Cloudy brown clearing! Silvered mist! Rusty deer bright bounding through the winter bracken! I want to marry this sentence!

Um, at any rate, this is a beautiful story told by a fabulously talented writer, and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Naming Conundrum

Okay, so I've a question regarding character names. Let me 'splain.

My yet-to-be-penned 2009 NaNoWriMo novel is a sort-of sequel to two earlier novels (written in 2005 and 2007, respectively), and has a few characters who carry over. One of these is a rockin' female named Roen, and although she isn't the main character, she's quite important and is present throughout most of the novel. I'm also introducing a new female character (she's not the MC, either, but is also important) who wants to be named Wren. Question is this: Roen and Wren are really similar-sounding names. Are they too much alike? Should I call Wren something else even though the name seems to fit her? Or is it enough that the names look different on the page? What do you think?

And on a related note, I still can't figure out my ending. ARGH!!!

And on an unrelated note, the greater Phoenix area totally got gypped in terms of a monsoon season this year. No rain for me. Just sun. Forever. And ever. And ever. And ever. And ever. And ever. And ever. And ever. And ever. And ever...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Don't Know Half of You Half as Well as I'd Like...

Well, first off, a great big Happy Birthday to these guys:

(Yes, I'm one of those.)

Second off, my whale bag came yesterday!!! It's super cute, and today will be its first official outing:

And lastly, because, really, this post should have something to do with writing, I give you my Writing Goals for the Week:
  1. Write as much as possible on Seraphine, and hopefully start edging towards the ending
  2. Keep brainstorming for this year's NaNoWriMo novel, and hopefully figure out what exactly happens at the end!!
  3. Keep editing The Rose Queen.
  4. Try not to have a miniature heart attack every time I check my email. Er, I mean... Wait patiently to hear back from agents.
And there you have it. Hope everybody's week is off to a fabulous start! Don't forget to eat some cake for Bilbo and Frodo today! :-)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Update Friday

Okay, so thought I'd jot off a quick update.

First off (and most important ;-)), thanks for all your input about the Adorable Whale Bag of Adorableness! I decided, after much thought, to go with the messenger bag, with possible purchase of the pocketed one to follow at a later date. I can NOT wait for it to arrive!! Wa-hoooo!! :-) :-)

Both of my status queries garnered very very nice responses—one hoping to have an answer by the end of the month, the other hoping to have an answer soon. I'm not exactly sure what this means, beyond the simple fact that both agents are exceptionally nice people and I get to wait some more. :-P / :-)

Seraphine is up to 7,027 words, and I've definitely reached the middle because I feel like it's started to flounder a bit. Still, I think I can press through and wrangle this thing on to the end. I think. Next task is to make my characters fall in love, reveal pertinent backstory, and then zap 'em with my beautiful but tragic ending. Sounds easy, right?

Finished reading Skin Hunger the other night, and I liked it pretty well. One of those stories that sort of starts out quietly and slowly builds up to something profound, but is written well enough to keep your interest. Except...

Let's talk about trilogies for a minute. You know how in most trilogies, the individual volumes, although very intricately connected to each other, have their own story arc? Build-up, conflict, at least partial resolution to the conflict, leading to a semi (or perhaps full-blown) cliffhanger ending. Right? You know those?

Skin Hunger didn't follow this pattern. It was starting to get really, really interesting when it stopped. Just... stopped. No ending whatsoever. And I know it's part of a series and that the second book is out (and I've reserved it at the library), but it left me feeling a bit cheated, because it didn't really feel like a complete book. It didn't resolve anything. But then maybe that was the point. I don't know.

What do you think? Should books that are part of a series be able to—at least partly—stand alone?

I'll leave you with a link to book editor Cheryl Klein's thoughts on what makes writing good.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Adorable Whale Bag of Adorableness

So, ever since I penned The Whale and the Tree, I've been irrevocably drawn to purchase adorable things with whales on them. So far, I have a t-shirt, and that's about it. And then, on two separate occasions, I saw people wandering around in public with the most fantastic whale tote bag that was an absolute must-have (if you're me). So I googled it, and found it, except there's a problem. There's more than one version.

The adorable tote with pockets:

The adorable messenger bag:

My problem? Which one do I want??? It's cruel to be forced to make this kind of decision.

What's your vote?

P. S.  Aren't they ADORABLE???

P. P. S. The bags are made by Bungalow360, and you can purchase them on Amazon if you really wanna nick my style! ;-)

P. P. P. S. What? Writing? Um, yeah, I'll get to that later. Promise.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Muse: The Resistance

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled bookish blogging to gush about Muse's new album The Resistance, released in the US September 15th.

So. Muse. First fell in love with them when I heard the song "Butterflies and Hurricanes" off the Absolution album. Mostly because there was a bloody PIANO CONCERTO in the middle of it. Can you say awesome??? I afterwards grew to love the rest of the album for the soaring melodies and strong, gorgeous chord structure that very much had it's roots in 19th-century romantic works. Plus they just plain know how to rock.

I bought their earlier album Origins of Symmetry as well as Black Holes and Revelations when it came out, both of which I liked a lot, though I was ever so slightly disappointed that they weren't quite as pianistically-driven as Absolution.

And then The Resistance happened.

Wow. Piano galore. One of the tracks (United States of Eurasia) actually features part of a Chopin nocturne, and many of them have lots of epic piano styling courtesy Matt Belamy. The first half of the album is good. The second half is phenomenal. Don't get me wrong—in amongst the lush orchestral harmonies, gut-wrenchingly beautiful chord progressions, and almost inhuman vocal prowess, there's a lot of good old-fashioned rocking out going on. Oh and at one point Matt sings in French. It's enough to give a girl a heart attack.

So, to sum up... THIS ALBUM IS BRILLIANT. Go buy it now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Writing and Reading and Status Queries, oh my!!

So I just did the scariest thing ever: I sent out status queries for that partial and full, at eight and nine weeks respectively. *shudder* I thought initial queries were terrifying, but no. SQ's are much worse. Probably because there's the possibility of a response. At any rate, I'll keep you posted.

I'm sure you're all anxious to know how my elopement with Shiny Idea is progressing, and I'm happy to announce that it's going pretty well so far. This might be love. :-) I'm at 5,500 words exactly (end of a sentence, too!), and I think I'm at the beginning of the middle, so keeping this thing under 20k is looking good at this point.

Writing without an outline is generally a Very Bad Idea, and I have hit a few snags, but for the most part it's gone smoothly, even if the story's already turning out different than I'd initially imagined. But then, most things generally do—and that is by no means restricted to the writing part of my life! At any rate, the story's called Seraphine, and is about a guy named Demetri who gets tossed into a labyrinth (sans David Bowie :-) ) to get eaten by a monster. It has a vaugely Greek mythology-esque setting, and is kind of a backwards Beauty & the Beast. Yesterday this rad underground library even showed up.

So. That's that. We'll see if I can stick to my guns and write the tragic ending originally planned... I'm already kinda wanting it to end happily ever after instead. :-) But you'll have that.

Finished reading Catching Fire on Thursday, but can't really review it without completely spoiling The Hunger Games, so we'll just leave it at: I enjoyed it, though not quite as much as the first one, and I'm really anxious for book three because I need some closure, dang it!!

And there you have it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Yes, this is another book review. I seem to be on a reading binge lately—the world is as it should be. :-)

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan, is set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by the Unconsecrated, dead people infected with a disease that reanimates them, making them hunger for the flesh of the living. And yes that means zombies. :-) :-) Not the kind of book you normally find me reading, but online reviews combined with the title (it rocks) intrigued me enough to hit it up at my local library. Forest follows the story of Mary, who lives in a village protected by the fanatic Sisterhood, the Guardians, and a fence that keeps the Unconsecrated out and the living in. Her comfortable world (as comfortable a world as you can have surrounded by a Forest teaming with Unconsecrated) is shattered when her mother dies and she is forced to join the Sisterhood.

I have slightly mixed feelings about Forest. I liked it, mostly. The prose was gorgeous, the imagery vivid (dessicated zombie flesh and all ;-)), the themes deep and the storyline—for the most part—compelling. The first person present tense POV read smoothly and naturally (same tense as Hunger Games, incidently) which is a hard thing to do.

The first part of the novel reminds me strongly of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, because the setting is so similar, but that isn't a criticism. Around a third of the way through, though, the story takes a different turn than I had been expecting and breaks away from The Village comparison almost completely. Somewhere around the three-quarter mark Forest seemed to drag a bit. (To me at least. This was where I read Sorcery and Cecelia, Fire and Hemlock, and The Hunger Games, respectively.)

(Minor spoilers in white, highlight to read.)
There were a few things that bothered me about this book. One was the love quadrangle. I didn't know who to root for, and so found the whole Travis/Harry thing kind of confusing and unsettling (of course, maybe that's the point). I also thought it a liiiiitle bit of a stretch that  the only people who survived the attack on the village were all the people Mary was close to. I was also hoping for more of a reveal about what the Sisterhood was up to and at least some closure for Mary regarding them and what exactly they did to Gabrielle. I think part of my problem was I lost the connection with Mary partway through—I'm not sure why. And my word the death toll was higher than one of my novels, which is quite a feat! :-)

I did like the ending. There's a second book in the works, too, so that might answer some of the things I felt were unresolved.

So, to sum up. Slightly mixed feelings, but I mostly liked it. :-)

Shiny Idea Update

So I thought I'd jot off a brief Shiny Idea update, because we have indeed run off together. :-)


Word Count Thus Far: 2,087

Character Deaths: a pile of dessicated bones and mention of a before-the-story-started murder. Does that count as two?

Strange Winged Creature: 1

Times the Author has Gotten Disturbed: 2

Next-to-Last Sentence: It seemed that she sighed, though it came out more as a rush of air, hot and tinged with flame.

Thus far it seems to be going well. We'll see how long that lasts.

Did I mention this story is weird?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Book Review: The Hunger Games

So I'm really glad I didn't read Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games until the week the sequel was released. This way I don't have to wait whatever horrifying amount of time everyone else did (a year?? torment!) for the second installment. I am, as a matter of fact, sitting in Borders poised to get my greedy hands on Catching Fire as soon as I finish this post.

Any review—or even the briefest mention—of The Hunger Games I've ever read online gushes about this novel. So now I'm gonna gush a little, too. Because The Hunger Games was nothing short of fabulous.

Set in the ruins of North America, an oppressive government yearly sponsors the Hunger Games, a reality TV show where twenty-four randomly selected young people are forced to fight to the death as the entire nation watches. It's brutal. It's terrifying. And there can only be one survivor. The reason the government does this? To show all twelve Districts of the nation of Panea that they are in control. The story follows Katniss, who volunteers to join the Hunger Games in place of her little sister.

It's sort of a sci-fi thriller adventure dystopian borderline-horror (though not more than I could handle, which means it's mild :-)) novel that's fast-paced, to say the least. I finished it in between piano students today, gripping the book with white knuckles and forgetting to blink. I got to the end very, very happy that Catching Fire was only a bookstore away, and wishing eye drops weren't quite so expensive.

To sum up? Highly impressed. Hats off, Ms. Collins. May book two be just as fabulous and book three be swift in coming!

(As a side note, it seems like there were a lot of typos in Hunger Games. I'll often find one or two in any given book, but there were upwards of half a dozen in this one. Did anybody else notice that?)

Going to Gretna Green

It's official. I'm thinking of running away with the Shiny Idea. It could very well be a brief romance that ultimately turns sour, but I'm frustrated with Rose Queen revisions, and I'm stuck at the end of Snowflake Step Four for this year's NaNo novel because I can't figure out exactly how my villain means to cause the collapse of the universe. (Troubling stuff.) I might do it. A little whirlwind writing never hurt anyone, right? Right? Besides, it has a shiny title, shiny character names, shiny not-quite-worked-out-in-my-head plot, shiny romance, shiny tragic ending. It's the Shiny Idea of my dreams!

Yeah, I think I'm going to do it. Sans outline and all. I'll keep you posted.

In other news, no word on the partial or the full; they're at seven and eight weeks respectively. Next week I'm gonna have to bite the bullet and jot off some status queries. *shudder* This Agent Hunt is not for the faint of heart.

Reading Hunger Games (ack, I'm still not finished with Forest!). Gave up on the library queue (I'd made it to 20 out of 60) and just bought a copy. Over three-quarters of the way through and really liking it. Hard to put down (in fact when I'm done writing this blog I might have to run off and finish it).

Signed up for an account on Goodreads this morning. It remains to be seen how much I'll actually use it, but for now the site seems pretty cool. I've realized lately that I have a hard time writing book reviews. I love talking about favorite books, and I'll do a fair amount of gushing (see post below :-)), but to wrangle a decent review out of me takes a lot of effort. I wonder why that is?

Went to Prescott this weekend (trees! temps in the sixties!) and wandered into a used bookstore downtown. They had a lot of great, great stuff in there, not least of which was an entire collection of way oldschool George Eliot (so oldschool they didn't have copyright dates). Tragically, I couldn't afford to buy the whole set, but I did nab Middlemarch (even though I already have a copy), because it's one of my favoritist books ever.

I love books. Did I mention that?

Speaking of books, Hunger Games is calling me.

And then I have to pack for Gretna Green.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Book Review: Fire and Hemlock

Yes I know I posted once this morning. And yes I realize I mentioned I was reading Fire and Hemlock.

I spent the last four hours finishing it, mostly forgetting to breathe.

It was amazing.

But not at all what I expected. If I manage to write a book half that good I can die happy.

But that's not really a review, is it?

It all starts when nine-year-old Polly accidentally gate-crashes a funeral. She meets a man named Thomas Lynn, and they do a bit of silly play-acting together. Except it all seems to come true, right down to the giant in the supermarket. Ten years later Polly isn't sure it happened at all. But she still has the picture she stole the day of the funeral, the picture of fire and hemlock hanging over her bed. And she has the memories that she can't quite seem to reconcile with real life.

This book is gorgeous and gripping. Vivid. Intriguing. And it ended just a tiny bit too soon.

Diana Wynne Jones, you are my hero.

Any Other Name...

So I'm reading Fire and Hemlock (yes, yes, I know my sidebar still says Forest; I'm reading that, too—nearing the end in fact—but got distracted again), and a random, extremely minor character popped up named "Joanna."

This got me pondering some of my reading excursions when I was a kid. Which got me thinking about the random books from my childhood I read because the main character happened to have the same name as me. Which got me googling madly until I actually found said books.

So here they are:

The Best-Kept Secret, by Noela Young, in which a magic carousel ride takes Joanna seven years into the future.

The Time Tree, by Enid Richemond, in which Joanna and Rachel befriend a deaf girl from Elizabethan England.

And that's all! I remember there was a grouchy old countess named Joanna in Catherine, Called Birdy (I hated this book, not sure why; I adored Midwife's Apprentice), and of course we can't forget Joanna the lizard from The Rescuers Down Under.

Okay, that's all. This exceptionally weird post is done now. :-)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Much Ado About Not Much

So Far This Week:
  • Revising Progress: none
  • Notes for Shiny New Idea: a page and a half
  • Rejections Received: none
  • Responses to Outstanding Partial and Full: none
  • Sanity Level: none
  • Precipitation: a few giant rain drops on my windshield, and a light rain for about ten minutes.
  • Spelling Errors: three
  • Cups of Tea: four

As you can see, it's been a very exciting week so far.

Okay, not really. But I am quite fond of my Shiny New Idea. It's quite beautiful and tragic and will contain Greek names and hopefully a Greek-ish mythical feel. Not exactly sure if it's a short story or a short book. Guess I'll have to write it to find out. But don't worry, I'm not allowing myself to get distracted away from revisions for Rose Queen or outlining for November. Well, not that much.

Finished Sorcery and Cecelia on Friday and enjoyed it heartily! There were even a few squee moments at the end, so that's always a plus. :-) When I get through my to-be-read* pile, it's back to the library for the sequel!

Exactly like my sidebar would have you believe, I'm reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth. About halfway through, and really like it. The writing is beautiful, and the world well-drawn. Has to be said that it reminds me a lot of Shyamalan's The Village (a movie I adore), but not in a bad way. I'm extremely interested to see where all this is going...

And now, for your clicking pleasure, some links:

And that, I believe, is that.

*The to-be-read pile includes, but is not limited to: Skin Hunger, Silver Phoenix, Fire and Hemlock, The Winter Prince, Enna Burning, The Hunger Games

Monday, August 24, 2009

In Which Joanna is Supercilious in Matters of Vocabulary

Supercilious, adj., the word that was going around in my head on Saturday night. Yes I realize that's a little weird. Normal people get music stuck in their heads—I do too. It's just sometimes a word will rattle round in my brain and drive me crazy because I can't quite remember what it means and don't have a dictionary handy to look it up. If anyone was wondering, supercilious actually means: behaving or looking as though one thinks one is superior to others. It's also really fun to say. Supercilious. Supercilious. Supercilious. Okay I'll stop now.

In any case, I'm happy to report that I actually got a lot accomplished with Rose Queen edits this past week! I did decide to make the first chapter into two chapters, which worked great and didn't turn out as lopsided as I'd feared. New chapter is titled Daphne Dreams, which is not the most brilliant thing in the world, but whatever. It works pretty well with the rest of the titles. I now have the entire rest of the manuscript to slog through, in which I have to make some character—and possibly plot—decisions. Scary. I'm also considering changing a few of the minor character's names because initially I made them up and some of them just sound… stupid, if I'm going to be honest. But you'll have that.

Unlike my sidebar would have you believe, I'm not currently reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I've started it, mind, and like it (quite a lot, in fact, though it is kinda disturbing so far), and will definitely get back to it before the week is out. You see, I got distracted by Sorcery and Cecelia, a novel written in letters that detail all the Events (magical and otherwise) that are happening in London this Season. Enchanted chocolate pots? Check. Mysterious Marquis? Check. Ballgowns and parties and one's brother being turned into a tree? Most definitely check. At any rate, it's vastly amusing, and I must say a wee bit more comforting to read before bed. :-) Picked up Skin Hunger at the library yesterday, so my to-be-read pile is stacking up. I guess it's a good thing I'm number 30 out of 40 on the holds list for The Hunger Games.

And the Great Agent Hunt? Still no word. I think I might be eighty-four by the time I hear back.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Review: Around the World in Eighty Days

Just finished reading this hilariously delightful novel a few minutes ago, so thought I'd post a quick review.

Sparked by a wager with the gentlemen of the Reform Club, the passive, mathematical, ridiculously OCD Phileas Fogg sets out for a tour around the world. He's accompanied by a recently-hired domestic, Frenchman Passporteau, and followed by the hapless detective Mr. Fix, who is convinced that Phileas Fogg robbed the Bank of England and means to arrest him (well, if that warrant ever arrives!). Along the way they pick up Aouda, a charming (if completely one-dimensional :-)) young Indian woman. Methods of transportation include: steamers, railways, carriages, yachts, trading-vessels, sledges, and elephants (well, one elephant). No balloons. For some reason I thought there would be a balloon.

This is a great book. I love the language, and there are some priceless one-liners. Really gives you a feel for the time period, in regards to both history and the way people viewed the world and different cultures back then. Nowadays this book would be woefully (often hilariously) politically incorrect, though I think that's a part of its overall charm. The whole novel comes off as firmly tongue-in-cheek, and at the same time conveys a lot of interesting information (bits of it almost read like a travel narrative), and some really beautiful prose.

Oh and the ending. The ending is nothing short of utterly fabulous.

Makes me want to pack a carpet bag full of banknotes and jaunt off on a world tour of my own. :-)

Five stars!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Which Joanna Explains What She's Been Reading Lately (amongst other things)

Isn't my new blog template shiny? *pets it* I spent waaaay too long fiddling with it the other day and absolutely adore it. :-)

As you can see from my sidebar, I'm reading Around the World in Eighty Days, and am enjoying it thoroughly. It's about this obsessive-compulsive British chap named Phileas Fogg who sets out to traverse the globe in—you guessed it—eighty days, because he bet a roomful of other British chaps that he could. :-) So far he's still acting very mathematical and precise, but I'm fairly certain he has hidden depths. I'm expecting a hot air balloon to show up at some point; other than that I really don't know what awaits me at the end. I'm certain it will be fabulous. Three cheers for classic books (and for Esther, who told me to read it! :-))!

When I'm finished jaunting round the world, I really want to read The Hunger Games, as pretty much every blog or comment regarding it gushes about its amazing-ness. I'm currently 37 out of 40 on the holds list at my library, though, so it looks like I might need to buy it if I expect to get my hands on a copy sometime this century. I also want to read The Forest of Hands and Teeth (even though I thoroughly expect it to freak me out), Skin Hunger (the dual storylines sound highy intriguing), and Enna Burning (because I adore Shannon Hale and haven't actually read it yet). I'm finding that one of the side affects of following YA book blogs and message boards is discovering lots and lots of reading recommendations. Which is fine by me. :-)

In other news, I saw the marvelous film Ponyo with Jenny on Saturday. It's the latest from Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (who gave us Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, and others which I've yet to see), and is basically a Japanese Little Mermaid, with lots and lots of heart. Gorgeous and completely adorable, I highly recommend it!

Also, I'm not sure I've yet gushed about Vienna Teng here, so let me do so at once. She is utterly amazing, and writes some of the most beautiful, melodic, piano-driven music I've ever heard.

On the writing front, still not a lot to report. I am making a little progress on revisions for Rose Queen, though I have yet to make it out of the first chapter. I'm adding a few new scenes, which is making me ponder whether or not to split the first chapter into two chapters, as it's getting rather unweildly, though any split point that I've found so far would make the chapters really unbalanced in terms of length. If I do decide to go for two chapters, that leaves me with the task of coming up with a brand new chapter title, which won't exactly be easy. Hmm. At any rate, I'm really proud of my revisions so far; I feel like my writing has matured a lot since Rose Queen was first penned, so I'm glad this puppy is getting an update.

Other than that, I've joined an online writer's critique group! I've never been a part of one before, so I'm pretty excited about it. :-)

And the full and partial requests? At five weeks and four weeks, respectively, still no news. But I'm not going to start stressing about jotting off status queries (brief, polite notes that basically say: "Ummmmm haveyoureadmybookyet'causeI'mgettingimpatient'kthxbye.") for at least a few more weeks. Hopefully I'll hear something by then.

Despairing ever hearing back from the remaining five outstanding queries. One of them is nearly eleven weeks old! Yikes.

UPDATE: As of this morning, I've received another rejection, leaving the outstanding query total at four. No word on anything else.

And that, folks, is that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Not Much to Report...

Well ladies and gents, summer is pretty much over. In terms of the calendar, anyway. Temperature-wise, Arizona has a loooooong way to go, but at least there's the glimmering of hope that jeans and Converse weather is just around the corner.

The Kansas trip was A-mazing. Sleepy little village. Awesome kids. Gorgeous trees. Rain. Hugging kitties. It was pretty much perfect. :-) This past weekend I went camping with a friend in a ridiculously beautiful place called Lockett Meadow, which is near Flagstaff, AZ. Trees galore!! We went hiking, drank tea, ate hotdogs roasted over the fire wrapped in slightly-nibbled-on-by-a-chipmunk hotdog buns, and generally had a fantastic time. We topped it off with a trip up the ski lift at the Snowbowl. Great fun and a great view, though not nearly as scary as one might hope. :-)

Not much to report on the Great Search for an Agent. Got one form e-ject whilst I was in Kansas, other than that haven't heard a thing. Still waiting to hear back from the full and the partial, which are at four and three weeks respectively. Five queries still at large, though it's looking like a couple of them are lost causes at this point. What an excruciating process!!

Writing/editing has been really touch and go recently. I'm caught in-between projects and have fallen out of the groove and it's quite frustrating! I have been slowly pecking away at outlining my nano novel, which I am quite excited about. It's pretty much going to contain everything awesome that ever was, well, awesome. :-) I don't know why, but it always seems like once August rolls around it's practically November already. Dang I love November.

At any rate, all that to say...

I haven't gotten any writing done lately.

Better luck next week.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


So if I've gone about it properly, this post will appear in the future. But I'm writing it from the past. Weird, huh. Wibbly woblly. Timey-wimey. You know.

Anyways, I thought I'd spew some randomness on the process of novel writing as seen by me. So here goes:

The Process of Novel Writing as Seen by Me
(a not-very-scholarly collection of thoughts)

Stage One: The Random Idea

I love random ideas. I have a Molskine notebook specifically meant for them, and I carry it around with me everywhere—one never knows when inspiration might strike. The weirdest things spark ideas: a mis-heard song lyric, a pattern on a plate that happens to look like a whale, a brief conversation with friends about the relative merits of cupbearers… Some ideas suck. And some turn into novels. That's why they're so much fun. I do think if a random stranger were to read through my Molskine they would definitely assume I was mentally unhinged. But you'll have that.

(There's sort of a half-stage that comes after Random Ideas and before Brainstorming, but I'm not sure the phenomena known as rattling-around-in-the-subconscious can be very clearly defined, so we'll just move on.)

Stage Two: Brainstorming

I'm currently brainstorming for this year's NaNoWriMo novel (I know I'm starting early. Shut up, you're just jealous) and I love it. I start a notebook for every novel I write, which is great because it 1) Gives me an excuse to buy notebooks, and 2) Gives me a place to jot down ideas without cluttering up the aforementioned Moleskine.

This is where I figure out basic storyline, characters, and world-building, and usually get ideas for a few scenes as well. This stage is fun because of all the POSSIBILITIES!! They're endless. The world is your oyster. And dang it if it isn't going to be the most amazing novel ever written!! :-)

Stage Three: Outlining

I never used to outline beyond your basic Beginning-Middle-Ending type of thing, which inevitably left me with a heck of a lot of head-scratching and getting into plot difficulties I didn't know how to get out of.

Then I discovered the one, the only, the amazing SNOWFLAKE METHOD and was immediately converted. (I know I've mentioned it on here before, but it's been a while and bears repeating). I really like this method of outlining, as it allows you to grow your story and your characters without it seeming forced or false. It's also super fun, at least most of the time. Oh, and I never go past Step Eight.

Stage Four: First Draft

Way back in the summer of 2005, I discovered the awesome that is NaNoWriMo, and despairing of the fact that Novemeber was months away, I did my own finish-it-or-bust challenge with my current work in progress, a novel then titled Connor's Journey. Apart from a book I'd completed pre-college that's not quite long enough to technically be called a novel and is way too embarrassingly cliché to actually talk about in public anways, Connor's Journey was my first novel. I'd been floundering in the first quarter of it for quite a long time, and decided I wanted to finish it. So I did. It felt amazing. And in the process I learned something: first drafts are fun, especially if written at high speed with a deadline hanging over your head.

It goes without saying that I adored NaNoWriMo. I've done it four times now, and am gearing up for a fifth. I love love love love love the amazing process of writing, especially on those days where you can't seem to type fast enough to keep up with your brain. Yeah, you hit slow days, but it only makes the non-slow days that much more awesome. And I love the freedom of a first draft. Doesn't have to be perfect. There just has to be words on the page.

Oh first drafts, how I love thee.

Stage Five: Revision

Oh revision, how I loathe thee.

Okay, maybe not loathe, but it's certainly a love/hate kind of relationship. Revision is just so painful, and it takes such a looooong time. Nowhere near as much fun (or as quick!) as those glorious first drafts. It's always rough when you're forced to admit to yourself that the perfect novel you churned out in November ain't so perfect. Blech.

At any rate, for me revision generally includes a heck of a lot of deletion/rearrangement/addition/restructuring/reworking of characters/list making. Figuring out what's wrong with the novel and exactly how I want to fix it is sometimes half the battle. Once I figure it out, I start over from page one and re-key the whole thing. Cringe-worthy, I know, but it forces you to consider every single word in a way that you don't really do if you're just changing a sentence or two here and there. It also helps you to get back into the groove of the story and lets your new scenes match the style and feel of the old ones.

In the event that I ever make it to line-editing (debating for five minutes whether this word or that one would be better, and you know I think this sentence needs a semi-colon), I'm always deleriously happy!!

I've only thus far wrangled two of my novels through the horrible revision process, and am back revising one of them (the 2005 nano) again—though it won't be near as extensive as the first time.

Stage Six: World-Wide Fame

Just kidding. :-)

So that's the noveling process as seen by me. If you actually read through all of that, you are amazing.

Cheers from the future (or is it the past? I don't know. I'm confused).

See you on the other side of Kansas!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Happy Tuesday, world!

In lieu of more interesting things, I give you

Querying Stats Thus Far:

  • Number of Queries Submitted: 21
  • Number of Rejections: 13
  • Number of Fulls Requested: 2
  • Number of Partials Requested: 1
  • Currently Outstanding: 6 queries, 1 partial, and 1 full

Not exactly sure what any of this means (I certainly never claimed to be good at math), :-) but I feel like I have a decent enough percentage of requests-versus-submissions to give me some iota of hope regarding eventual agent acquisition. Plus, I haven't run out of agents to query yet, which is good.

Got the partial request yesterday morning and was quite happy about it, because 1) The query was 6 weeks old and I'd almost written it off, and 2) The submission included the synopsis, which I don't feel that great about, but the agent requested a partial anyway so I guess it doesn't suck quite as much as I feared. Anyways, huge YAY on that score!

No word on last week's full request as of yet, but I wasn't really expecting one, as the agent who requested it said she was way behind on reading manuscripts.

So we'll see.

*is trying not to be irrepressibly hopeful but failing*

In other news, the revision see-saw has definitely tilted towards The Rose Queen; almost finished with a re-read, and am rather optimistic that it can (and will! and must!) be fixed.

Didn't do any editing yesterday, mostly because I was wrapped up in re-reading The King of Attolia and squeeing at all the awesome parts (which, to be honest, are pretty much on every page) like I hadn't already read it three times. Oh man. SO much love for that series!! (I know, I know; you're probably all sick of me mentioning these books in like every single post, but seriously, they really are THAT awesome. Not even kidding you.)

Also, I'm going to Kansas next week, which will probably mean no Tuesday post, unless I'm really awesome and write one beforehand and figure out how to make Blogger post it for me in the future. Hmm. I'll have to work on that.

Over and out!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ju-ly, Ju-ly, Ju-ly-y-y-y, It never seemed so strange...

Well, we're smack dab in the middle of summer, now. Temps have been rising horribly into the hundred-teens, and I'm getting cranky. Especially when I realize that 1) There's three and a half to four more months of this, and 2) Billions of people across the planet live surrounded by trees and green growing things and can be outside during the summer without the flesh peeling off their bones and their inner organs gasping and dying like a bunch of shriveled-up raisins.

Not that I'm complaining or anything.

Okay, not much.

But really. It's HOT here. I mean, seriously! I tried to take a cold shower the other day, and there wasn't any cold water. If that's not bad, I don't know what is.

And now for an update on all things novel related:
  • As of last night, I have twelve rejections, eight outstanding queries, and one request for a full (which is a MAJOR yayyy! but doesn't necessarily mean anything).
  • Editing on The Fire in the Glass is going absolutely terrible. I'm very disheartened.
  • Re-reading The Rose Queen and thinking it might be possible to fix after all...
And that's it.

Guess I'll blame the heat for my increased levels of inactivity.

Dang heat.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fantastic Reads!

Today I give you a list (complete with mini reviews) of Children's and Young Adult Fantasy Books I Love (in No Particular Order). So, here you go:

Children's and Young Adult Fantasy Books I Love (in No Particular Order):

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine

I discovered this book at the library as a kid, and have reread it multiple times over the years. Unlike the movie version that shares the same name (the movie was sorta cute in its own way, but the book is about ten thousand times better and completely different), Ella Enchanted is a quirky, imaginative, and touching re-telling of the Cinderella story. Complete with fairies, curses, masked balls, adventure, and ridiculously-adorable-romance-by-letter.

Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith

An old favorite—pretty sure I could quote the entire thing from beginning to end. Originally published in two separate volumes (Crown Duel and Court Duel), this book chronicles the history of the spunky Meliara, Countess of Tlanth, from her role in a misguided war to her noble (but equally misguided) attempts at unraveling the multi-layred intrigue at the royal court. Complete with battles, dashing and mysterious members of the aristocracy (swoon), secret admirers, squee-worthy-Jane-Austen-esque-romance, and a fabulously satisfying ending.

Beauty: a Retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast, by Robin McKinley

Another old favorite, this gorgeous retelling of my favorite fairy tale is as touching as it is beautiful. Last time I re-read it, I got all teary, so you know it must be good. :-)

Jackaroo, by Cynthia Voigt

Another old favorite, Jackaroo is not quite fantasy in the traditional sense, as it contains no magical elements, but in my mind it still totally counts. It's a medieval-esque adventure-romance set in an invented land called simply "the kingdom," and tells the story of Gwen, an innkeeper's daughter, who happens upon the clothes of an infamous folk hero crammed in the back of a cupboard... Full of gritty details and touching realism, this story has a wonderful ending that you don't quite expect.

East, by Edith Pattou

A more recent favorite, East is a retelling of the lesser-known fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which is sort of a mixture of Beauty and the Beast and the Cupid and Psyche myth. This is a gorgeous book, told in alternating first person points of view, which in some cases can be annoying, but in this case works marvelously. It's about a girl named Rose, and a White Bear under an enchantment, and an evil Troll Queen, and an epic journey North... Beautiful and gripping; first time through I read it all in a day.

The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner

Another semi-recent discovery. I first read The Thief on the plane en route to Michigan for a friend's wedding a few years ago, and devoured Queen and King shortly thereafter (I've read all three twice more since then). These are the kinds of books where the least amount of info you know going into them, the better you'll enjoy them. Which makes them kinda hard to review. I'll just leave it at:
  1. Well-drawn and realistic world inspired by ancient Greece
  2. Ridiculously intricate and clever plotting—with surprise twists and turns galore
  3. Fascinating characters
  4. Equally fascinating relationships.
Basically, read them NOW. You won't be sorry.

Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones

Tragically enough, I didn't discover this wonderful book until last December. I've already read it twice. Basically, Sophie works in a hat shop, gets turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste, and becomes a cleaning lady for the heartless Wizard Howl. Filled with delightfully quirky characters, a rollicking (and complicated) plot, and deliciously amusing chapter titles (like "In Which Sophie Talks to Hats" and "In Which Howl Expresses His Feelings With Green Slime"). This is the kind of book that, once you get to the end, you want to turn back to page one and read all over again.

Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale

I know I mentioned this book a while back when I'd first read it, but it bears mentioning again! Based on a lesser-known fairy tale, Book of a Thousand Days tells the story of lady's maid Dashti and her Lady Saren, who get shut up in a tower for seven years because Saren refuses to marry the suitor chosen for her. The prose is beautiful and rhythmic, the plot fascinating--and surprising!--and the characters well-drawn. A great, great book.

Curse Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce

A very recent addition to my list of favorites, Curse Dark as Gold is a compelling reworking of Rumplestiltskin. It follows the story of Charlotte Miller, a young woman struggling to save her family's mill. When she accepts the help of the mysterious Jack Spinner, who can spin straw into gold, she fights against the idea of the old family curse, afraid of what it might ultimately cost her. As well as the gorgeous prose, great characters, adorable romance, and chilling fantastical elements, one of the neat things about this book is the attention given to detail; it almost reads like historical fiction set during the industrial revolution, and one really gets the feel for life in a woolen mill. A fascinating and intriguing read.