Monday, February 25, 2013


Saturday night I finished the first draft of THE PAPER MAGICIAN. I would like the emphasize first draft. I need to revise it before I even shove it onto alpha readers.

Why? Pacing.

I always thought pacing was a strong point of mine. Brandon Sanderson paid me that compliment back when I wrote CIRCUS SOUL HEIRESS and I hung it on my trophy shelf to ogle every now and then. But me and pacing have not been friends lately.

Case and point:

THE TASTE OF ANGELS is paced too quickly, which is one reason why it ended up too short. And one reason why it's STILL looping through the revision cycle.

EMPIRE OF CRANES AND SPIDERS is paced too slowly. I got it back from the wonderful Juliana L. Brandt a few days ago, and this was the #1 flaw she pointed out. Fortunately, cutting stuff out it a lot easier than adding stuff in.

Unfortunately, THE PAPER MAGICIAN is paced even more quickly than TTOA. It's like I'm playing one of those racing car games at the arcade and keep over-correcting, making my car slam into the left barrier, then into the right, then into the left . . . instead of just going straight. XD

Anyway, I've updated my book statuses bar to reflect my planned edits for THE PAPER MAGICIAN and EMPIRE OF CRANE AND SPIDERS. I'm holding off on another round of TTOA edits right now. (Yes, I have three books that all need revisions. Hopefully this omgletsdraftalltheideas bug will jump down the garbage disposal and actually let me attempt to submit something.)

That, and I upgraded to a 32GB flash drive. I named him Chou Boy. :D

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Very Inspiring Blogger Award (AKA Another One Where I Talk About Myself)

My shiny new writer-friend Lauren Spieller recently nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award (aw, thanks!), which means you get to hear yet more blather from me. (Cue applause.) Seven things about me, to be exact.

Um . . .

  1. I love Miche bags. Too bad they cost money.
  2. My husband speaks fluent French (and no, that isn't meant to be taken raunch-ily).
  3. I've never been on an airplane. (Have I said this one before?)
  4. At one point in my life I played the piano, flute, French horn, and elk horn. I've since replaced the horn with a ukulele. Still can't sing.
  5. I'm MORMON. (No, I don't have sister wives. Yes, I don't drink coffee, but I don't think I would like it anyway.)
  6. My work had to buy me a footstool because my legs are too short to reach the floor. (I'm really not that short, though.)
  7. I cannot, for the life of me, walk in a pair of high heels. (I have some two-inchers I can wear if I think really hard about it, though.)

All right hooligans. I'm supposed to pass this on. Come and get it.

Sara Bowers

Melissa Maygrove

Alexia Chamberlynn

Amanda Burnett (Who posts immensely entertaining and alarming things about her adventures through motherhood, if any of you are interested)

Here are the rules:

1. Display this award logo on your blog. PROUDLY.

2. Link back to the person who nominated you. (Charlie's note: No one actually follows those links. We all know this is a sad attempt to draw followers. ADMIT IT, PEOPLE!)

3. State 7 things about yourself.

4. Nominate up to 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.

Monday, February 18, 2013

How to Write Fictional Characters That Compel Their Readers

Today I have the lovely Michelle Eging guest posting for me today. Michelle is currently shopping an AMAZING book, which I've had the privilege of reading. This girl has character down pat, so I asked her to share her wisdom with the rest of us. 

You can visit Michelle at her blog, Grab Life by the Pen.


I've heard it said over and again that there is no such thing as a new story. People with fancy degrees have written papers breaking down stories into formulas with words like “archetype” and “anthropological reflection” thrown in for good measure. (Ok, I might have made that last one up.) However, with the same seven or so stories being told over and again (or was it twelve?), why do authors even bother? Shouldn't we just wash the ink off our hands and take up a more useful trade like space pirating or discovering the gene for immortality? 

When Charlie asked me to write a guest post on creating fictional characters, I kind of scratched my head and went, "Huh." It's kind of a broad topic and I had no idea where to begin. With a Dungeons and Dragons manual?

As I brainstormed this topic, I thought of the novel I've been working on for eight years and that the reason why I cannot leave the story alone is that the characters have an almost physical pull on me. Even after writing and re-writing their story, they still surprise me and I am still moved by who they are, the situations they face, and the bonds they forge with one another. So although I am fully aware that elements of my story are not new, the characters make the story new for me and, hopefully, my readers.

To me, characters can be the lens that makes a story engaging and new. 

Take the story of Cinderella, for example. We have the Brothers Grimm version of third person omniscient with a definite bias leaning towards a girl covered in soot. However, tell that story from any other character's point of view, be it the step-mother, the step-sisters, or the Prince, and you have a different story.

And yet the story of Cinderella doesn't even need to be told from a different character's prospective to make it fresh. A Cinderella who witnessed her would-be step-mother murdering her mother, for instance, would experience her story very differently from a Cinderella who's mother dies at childbirth and who lives with a reclusive father.  A Cinderella who grew up learning her father's dry cleaning business might use different metaphors or adjectives in describing her experiences (something like, "It was a polyester sunrise, the kind that made you sticky and wet before you even lifted a finger”) than a Cinderella who grew up mucking stalls ("Even before the sun began to rise, the dirt in the air turned to mud on her skin").

When I was in middle school, I spent hours scouring the Internet looking for the ultimate method in character creation. Almost all the sites I found at the time told me to write lists. How tall is this person? What does he/she wear? What is his/her favorite foods? Facial features? Hobbies? Etc. While I do find this helpful at times, there comes a point where the writing can become stiff and dead because it is composed of nothing more than lists, and your characters interact almost independent of each other rather than with each other. 

It wasn't until college when I took a few acting classes that I learned something that helped me set aside my lists and let my characters duke it out, so to speak, with not only their circumstances, but with each other. We did this exercise where two people have something that they want from each other and they use tactics to get it. So, these two boys pretend that they're roommates and there is one hot dog left in their fridge and they try to talk the other person into letting them have it. My professor stopped the scene and said that if they truly wanted the hot dog, they would not just stand there talking about it. So, they redid the scene. This time, both of them looked at the hot dog, looked at each other, and then lunged for the processed meat in casing. Something of a brawl ensued as they both fought for what they wanted.

That exercise made me think of my characters and what they might want from one another. Sure, sometimes it is something tactile, like once character wants to kill the prince and the other character has sworn to defend him. Make those two characters siblings and the story becomes even more gripping. But, sometimes, what my characters want is more subtle. One character—let’s say his name is Bob—might want Vera to forgive him, while Vera wants nothing more than to wreak revenge on him. Put those two together at the dinner table and the result is awkward conversation for everyone. Put those two in charge of saving the world and suddenly the stakes seem even higher because of their dynamically destructive relationship.

Another thing personal experience has taught me is that senses trigger memories and behaviors, good and bad. Take the Cinderella example from earlier. The Cinderella who witnessed her mother's death might have memories triggered by a certain song that had been playing when it happened, a song that perhaps begins to play the night she first dances with her Prince. That sounds like a far more compelling and rich scene that makes the familiar ball scene in the fairy tale unfamiliar.

Sometimes we create this awesome setting plush with detail, but how the character moves through and interacts with that setting makes the character far more interesting, at least to me, than the setting itself. A valley girl moving through the jungle is going to interact with it differently than a soldier or a local. A germaphobe at the roller-rink is going to notice different details than, say, an eight-year-old.

 One final thought on character is the fact that, upon our first encounter with another person, we are already formulating opinions about them. We size up a person's personality based on their shoes, their tone of voice, their eyebrows, their jewelry, and so on. I once knew my relationship with a new roommate was doomed from the start because she decorated the toilet paper in our bathroom with ribbons. When characters interact with one another, they are forming opinions as well and that can, once again, make for a more fascinating story. Especially, in my opinion, when those judgments are inaccurate. For instance, we have Cinderella once more, and her step-mother is abusive. However, Cinderella thinks the abusive behavior is normal and it takes the reader reading between the lines to discern that it’s not. If it takes Prince Charming for her to see that she's been abused all her life, then the twist will come out in the prose. Perhaps it’s a bit darker now, more bleak. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day to all, whether you're single or not. ;) And happy 50% candy come tomorrow at all Walmarts and Walgreens near you!

Also a very happy birthday to my brother-in-law Donovan, who has had to share his birthday with this holiday for 32 years now.

Husband and I like any excuse to go out and celebrate and buy presents, so we're celebrators of the holiday, of course (Valentine's Day and Donovan's birthday, but we're not in Utah to do the latter). It's slim pickings this year, but NEXT WEEK I get my FIRST PAYCHECK. And then I get paid every two weeks after that. ISN'T IT AMAZING? I've forgotten what that feels like... :D

Anyway. Go tell someone you love them today or something. Even you cynics. Go have some fun. :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Saying No to Considering Agents

As my Internet access is now pretty limited, future Link Blitzes will be postponed for at least a little while. I did have one link in my queue before I started work, however, and it's a good one!

Professionally Picky (Saying No to Considering Agents)

An excerpt from the post, written by Natalie M. Lakosil:

I had to resist saying “WE’re big boys and girls” here just because I can’t speak for every agent, but in my experience honesty is the best policy in this situation. My only caution would be against jumping on the first offer received, due to excitement, or jumping on the best-known agent without weighing the pros and cons of each you submitted to. But you did all that research before you queried, right? RIGHT?
I’m certainly not suggesting that you have to make this decision the second you get an offer. If you’re not sure, you’re not sure. But, if there are one or two agents still considering who you ARE sure wouldn’t win out over the offering agent, it’s definitely ok to pull your material.

I've read several posts about actually getting the agents as of late, and I must say they've put a healthy perspective on my otherwise "rose-colored glasses," as Natalie describes it in her post. I was one of those willing to take ANY agent who would look at me twice, but over the last few weeks I've had to reconsider. If I get an offer (*cough* WHEN *cough cough*), I need to look at it objectively. I need to think long term, as do we all.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Whole Schedule Caboodle

The blog schedule is changing.

My WHOLE schedule is changing.

Now that I have a full time+ job to dedicate the majority of my day to--one that doesn't allow me to take breaks online--I won't be able to continue with my three-posts-a-week trend. I have to drop it down to one or two, and I'm not entirely sure I'll be able to assign them specific days. One post will probably be done over the weekend. (And I say this after getting four new followers over the weekend, ha! Thanks y'all. :D)

For now I also have to move all my writing time to weekends, which is an 80% time-cut for me, maybe more. I'm a little heartbroken about it, to be honest, but I'm glad to finally have a good job that pays! Even if it doesn't allot me the same free time I had with my last position (and certainly not as much as I had being unemployed, ha!).

Fortunately, I have two books lined up for editing and one I plan to draft on those upcoming weekends. THE PAPER MAGICIAN is a lighter book and young adult, so it won't take as much time and effort as EMPIRE OF CRANES AND SPIDERS did. Once I finish it, I'll have three books in the editing queue, and that means three books to eventually query, which will keep my name fresh in the agents' ledgers. I suppose, writing-wise, this job came at a pretty good time for me.

It's a little weird to go from the "I WROTE FIVE BILLION WORDS THIS WEEK!" person to the "When I have time..." person, I admit. But just like I said on Jeff Hargett's blog, you make time for the things you want to do. While I hate being on the computer all hours of the day, if I want to keep my productivity up, I'll have to suck it up. I'll have to start dedicating specific chunks of time to writing on the weekends. I might have to start waking up really early. In other words, I'll have to make it work.

Not trying to post a sap story or whine (most of you are probably thinking, Yeah, welcome to the real world, sucker). Just trying to arrange the whole schedule caboodle. (And I just got an R&R, which is putting a wave into my pre-planned writing path...)

How do you manage your writing time when real life demands so much of your attention? I can honestly say that I've never had so much of my time consumed, because I've always lucked out and had jobs with a lot of downtime that allowed me to write. I can't even use my USB drive at my new one (high security).

BUT work has gone well so far. There's a lot to learn, but I think I'll enjoy it, and the people I'm with are really nice. It's just different. Then again, I think 2013 is going to hold a lot of "different" for me.

Just a feeling. :)

Friday, February 1, 2013