Apparently this is about writing now!

Apparently this is about writing now!

Monday, May 7, 2012

This isn't much of anything, but I wanted to post my wall mural! So, buhnuh! You're welcome. XD

Monday, February 6, 2012

When the Real World Strikes

I've always had a terrible habit of falling silent when real things start happening. I switch out of creative mode, and lose myself in other people's stories. I read more than write, and watch more TV than I should, and make excuses to go out and see movies I'm not even interested in. And then, finally, things calm down again. Life goes back to as close to normal as it gets, but something seems missing. And then, one night (or day in this case,) I realize I've forgotten to pick up everything I dropped when everything went to hell.

I opened up my first chapter re-write the other night, and went to a coffee shop specifically to write. I didn't even remember what I had put in the first chapter anymore. I had to re-read what I had put down, and it all felt so forced and robotic that it was honestly unpleasant. I felt like I was doing something wrong--like I must have been, because I remembered writing as being easy, and this time it wasn't. It's not true, of course. I was doing the same thing I have always done--the problem was that I was thinking about what I was doing.

That sounds weird, but bear with me. I'll explain it.

There is a book about art that I am quite in love with, even though I'm not much of an artist. It's called "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain," and it's all about approaching art from a new perspective. You see, in that book, there's a lot said about trying to draw an object. To paraphrase, the author says that if you draw, say, a pair of lips while thinking to yourself "These are a person's lips. Lips look like this." you are likely to be dissatisfied with how the lips turned out. Why is that? Because you drew what you think lips ought to look like, not a real pair of lips. So what does she recommend you say in your mind instead?

"Drawing a curve, and another curve, and this curve is a little steeper."

By disconnecting yourself from the idea of lips and just working with how they appear, you manage to create a much more true to life image. It's a piece of advice I found very useful when I was still considering being an artist.

So above, when I said I was thinking about what I was doing, that is what I meant. I was writing while thinking 'this is the verb, and this is the subject, and this is what is happening.' instead of what I usually think--which is nothing to do with writing at all. I think in my story. I think 'Oh, Erin's not going to like this one. Oop, I was right,she didn't like it. Let's see how they handle this one..."

So today, I'm writing this blog post to let my brain do all its external thinking. I'm letting it go "Letting is the verb, and should these quotes start with capital letters?" because in a very short time I'm going to open my first chapter again. I'm not going to read a damn thing except the last sentence, and then I'm going to freakin' WRITE. And it's going to make SENSE. And be FUN, damn it...

Much love to you all, my beloved followers and visitors! May all of your blocks be shattered--be they writer's, artist's, musician's, or a cement block you're trying to break for a martial arts competition. Though seriously, I wouldn't do that last thing...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Okay, Actually Magic This Time

Alright, I confess, I felt kind of bad for that last post, so here's a real one for you, about real things! I've always loved magic. I adore reading abut it, and always intended to write about it myself. When magic started to worm its way into my first novel, The Nesting Grounds, I didn't try to stop it in the slightest. Now, as I read through the book, I'm realizing how poorly defined the magic is. I don't mind not having ten thousand rules laid out for the readers--keeping it vague keeps it interesting. I don't plan on telling everyone how every piece of magic in the books works, but eventually my main character develops a talent for magic. That's where the trouble sets in. I was busily writing at that point--I knew my character needed at least some magic to get her through a few plot points, and I couldn't decide how to teach her. Her martial arts teacher was completely inept and uninterested in magic, and the witch who ran the place she was staying had no interest in being someone's teacher. Eventually, I put a window in her room. That window led to the deepest part of the ocean, and every night mermaids would come and teach her magic in her sleep. Now that I'm reading the story, that sounds not only like a cop out, but like a dumb cop out. So now I'm faced with a problem. I want my character to have some talent with magic, and I don't want to add ten thousand more pages of her learning it. Do I keep the general idea I was working with and just flesh it out more? Have a dream character appear every night to teach her these things? Let her inherit magical powers for slaying dragons? (Skyrim has not eaten my life, I promise.) I could, earlier, have simply cut the magician qualities from her character entirely. But heeere's the problem with that. I've written the second book. And in the second book, though her magic is used sparingly, it is used, and in ways I heartily approve of, and that end up being quite important to the book. In fact, that in and of itself is helpful in that I can use those instances to guide me through how to organize her magical training... There's no real point to this ramble, except the usual one! Writing is hard, and editing is harder. Much love to all you authors out there, and serious respect to anyone who has figured out how to not run themselves into corners like this... Curse myself three years ago when I just started writing! CURSE YOU, PAST ME!!!!


Every time I update my blog, people come and read it. It's like magic...

That is all, tune in next week!

(Actually, in real life, this update is brought to you by the real world coming crashing down around me and bringing my fictional existence to a grinding halt. My father was in the hospital briefly, and though it turns out he is fine, it has shaken me. It will take me a little while to regain my easy going happy-go-lucky attitude I need to write my incredibly dark stories. Stay tuned for a return to the real world! Or fake world. Wait, I've confused myself...)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The First Chapter Blues

As I re-write the first chapter of my very first novel, I find myself faced with a huge amount of nostalgia. I'm sure you've heard of murdering your darlings--it means that to write a good story sometimes you have to cut out the things dearest to you.
Now there is a good reason I'm cutting this first chapter--it doesn't fit the book. My POV switches constantly, the tone is airy and light rather than dark and slightly menacing. And, most importantly, it does not set up for the story I want to tell. A first chapter has a huge responsibility to the story it starts. IT has to lure in the audience, and prepare them for the tone of the story ahead of them.
Therein comes the problem. When I was writing this first chapter the first time, I had no idea what story I wanted to tell. I thought, maybe, a fun YA novel about magic and monsters--something that had been done, but could be done differently. But the truth was I didn't know what my plot would be, or how the story would go. So I just started writing a first chapter, throwing a bunch of characters I had designed years ago with my best friend (now girlfriend) and knew pretty well.
But now, that first chapter is going away--it is history--it should never be read.

But I just caaaaaan't. I shouldn't share it, or show it, or anything of the like, but it is so strange and quirky, and I am going to miss it. I want to know it's somewhere I can find it again--somewhere safe and sound and (hopefully) somewhere where it can be a little loved.
So guess what all of you get!

(On a side note, this is not going to be published, but it is still mine. Please don't use it without my permission. If you want to borrow part of it, just ask. I'll probably say yes. If you want to share it, just share the link to the post, please! Miranka, Erin, and Lee are all characters in my Bones like Birds series, which is still ongoing and unpublished. To read the original first chapter, click the jump link!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Top Ten Reasons to Write

To balance out the negative and worry-filled post of a the other day, I thought I would remind myself (and inform all of you) why I do this scary thing called 'writing.' After all, I don't spend huge amounts of energy pouring time and effort into a story to feel uncomfortable and worried--I do it for the thrill of creating something new.

Now, when I say new I don't mean that I'm writing stories that no one has ever thought of, or dreamed of, or written about before. But I will say that no one can tell the stories I tell in the same way. After all, I have an unreplicable net of neural connections inside my brain that I hone in my own individual way each day. Or, to put it in less needlessly confusing language--I'm a special daisy.

But you're all here for the list! That thing that has numbers! Let's get down to it--here's why I love writing:

  1. I Love Creating. It's just as plain as that. I love starting with a blank page and making something appear from absolute nothingness. Even if it isn't much of a something, at the end of the day I have still filled a blank page by myself. It's a strange sort of magical power that I don't experience anywhere other than creative fields. It's kind of like being in a fantasy novel myself—like I'm a super-special-awesome wizard who makes marks on white space. And then those marks turn into words, which can hold power, if they're used right. It's pretty freakin' bad ass, actually. I feel like I should put on an awesome wizarding hat to finish writing this post...
  1. Sometimes it's Creepy. There's nothing I love more than the moment a character surprises me. It's something I'm still new to, and one I doubt I'll ever grow tired of. I learned when I was a kid, a many children do. that one of the ways to tell when something is imaginary is that you know everything they're going to do in advance. It's only now that I'm finding out that sometimes you don't. My characters love making choices I didn't forsee for them, or finding new ways to get themselves in trouble. It's not a phenominon I find easy to explain—Yes, they're my creations, but apparently that doesn't mean I'm always in control of them. When they give me those strange, disuquieting signs of life, I always experience an unspeakable thrill. Even if they're doing something I really wish they wouldn't. (Looking at you, Erin. Stupid main characters...)

  2. Someday it will be Read. Seriously Some day someone will read this stuff I'm writing. I think back on all the books I've read, and how many of them changed my life in one way or another. Even if people don't like my work, I can live with that. Being disliked is another form of being recognized, and I'm something of an attention lover. My fondest daydream, and the one I revisit the most often, is walking down the street and hearing someone I pass say "Did you read the new L.K. Ralston book?"
  1. Wish Fulfillment. I know, I know, authors are supposed to write what they know—Wish fulfillment is for people who write Mary Sue characters (If you don't know what that is, please refer to this Wikipedia entry And yet, I think a lot of novels involve a certain amount of wish fulfillment. Mine certainly do! Mind you, I don't think too many other people's fondest wishes involve getting to go see the crumbling city of Prypiat in the radioactive wasteland around Chernobyl...

  2. Validation. I don't make a big secret out of the fact that validation is very important to me. I like feeling worthwhile, and I like having concrete examples of why I'm worthwhile. It's part of why I donate blood, and give money to charities. It's even part of why I go out of my way to be nice to people I meet, and try to make their days happier! Little acts like that make me feel like I'm changing the things around me for the better. Writing a novel, even without having published it or edited it, makes me feel valid. Particularly, it gives me a feeling of being intellectually worthwhile—something my day to day life has been somewhat lacking in ever since I left college. It's much nicer to tell people in conversation that I've written a novel than to tell them I'm working as a waitress.

  3. New Experiences. I know, I know, writing shouldn't really be an experience itself. It's all about writing about having experiences, not actually having them! But that's not how it works in practice—at least not for me. I'm constantly learning new things, about myself, about places, about human interaction—heck, in this last book I even learned about the city layout of Russian metropolitan areas! Not all of this is from the act of writing, but by sitting down and trying to write, and finding the gaps in my knowledge as I do so, I learn what I need to fill in. It gives me a starting point from which to do research, which then gives me a broader base of knowledge for the next task ahead of me. (Huge props here to my mother's medical, anatomy, and first aid books. They've given me tremendous insight into many important things such as how much damage my characters are likey to be able to survive...)

  4. It's Freakin' Fun. Seriously—how many jobs alow you to tell your friends "Sorry, I'd love to hang out, but I have to kill some people and cover the world in darkness." I mean, basically you have to be an author or an honest to goodness evil villain to get to say that, and if you were an evil villain you wouldn't have people asking you to hang out in the first place! So really, it's author or nothing with that line.

  5. Making it Better. As an author, you have an amazing opportunity that you wouldn't have in other places. You can connect in an intimate but not creepy level with complete strangers. You can share your hopes with them, and sympathise with their pains. You can offer insight into the world, and give your readers valuable perspectives. You can become part of their lives and vocabulary, and really enrich their experiences. Even though you might never know how much you meant to them, the very fact that someone might be quietly loving your work is more than enough reason to continue. (For me, anyway. I fell into the second person there and didn't feel like I should pull out halfway through the last sentence, so I added this parenthetical ammendum to acknowledge the awkwardness of number 8's point of view.)

  6. Acknowledgement. Some day, I'll write a blog post about exactly why I love fanfiction as much as I do, but I'll just touch on why I do here—Being acknowledged is one of the most amazing feelings a person can have. Getting reviews, hearing someone compliment your themes, having fanart done of something you've created—It makes you feel like you're on top of the world! It's a feeling of worth that settles deep in your chest, and faids very very slowly as time goes on. If you're like me, and keep writing all day every day as much as possible, you should have a pretty easily restockable supply of bubbly review-filled joy. (Of course, negative reviews go down like sour milk and tend to make everything that comes after them taste a little bitter, but eventually that taste wears away, and the more whiffs of the rotten reviews you get, the more resistant to them you become)

  7. It Helps Me Cope. When everything's gone to shit, when everyone I know is down and out, when I've lost somebody, or when I'm just plain depressed for no reason, writing is always there. It gives me a place to spew helpless and badly directed anger, and a safe area to cry in without feeling as though I'm burdening anyone who doesn't need to carry any of my baggage. I work out my strongest feelings in writing. It allows me an unparalelled opportunity to throw away any cares for how other people think I sound, or how they percieve me. Most of these writings never see the light of day, and I never plan for them to. Every once in a while I'll clean up one of my meditations on life and pass it along, but not often. As much as I write for other people, I write for myself too, sometimes just so that I can look at the words on the page and decisively delete them.

So that's it! Those are my top ten—or as close as I can come to them in the state of sleep deprivation I am currently inhabiting. Of course, everyone's reasons for writing are different. Some people just do it to make money—some do it only for themselves and no one else—some do it because they think it's what they ought to be doing. Whatever the reason, writing is what it is—It's the most valuable and wide-reaching form of pure communication we have.

(Do you have a reason or two I didn't touch on? Leave it/them in the comments for all to see and feel awed by!)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Too Many Victims--An Author's Lament

This past November, I participated in a well-known internet challenge known as NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. If you have not heard of it before, I highly recommend checking out their website at's a fantastic contest based around personal inspiration and discovery, and all done for the love of writing.

This is not the first time I have participated in NaNoWriMo--in fact, it's the third. I've won every time. (By winning I do not mean I gained some fabulous prize, or was awarded a super power. To win in NaNoWriMo one only has to write 50,000 words between November first and November thirtieth, and the prize you win is that you have written 50,000 words. Pretty bad ass prize if you want to be a novelist...) Suffice to say that I have thoroughly proven by now that I can write a novel-length story successfully. It has happened before, and if I have any say in it, it shall happen again.

However, I have also found that with each NaNoWriMo I compete in, I face a new and more worrisome challenge.

The first year I competed, I faced the dreaded opponent of my own laziness. It was hard to overcome the instinct not to write--not to create something new and fantastic. The internet became an enemy to me as I struggled to stay on target. I would sabotage myself--stranding myself in places without wi-fi to force myself into writing. I came up with all sorts of sneaky ways to trick myself into completing the novel. But around every corner was that perpetual block of 'I could be doing nothing.' It was a hard fight, but in the end, I had a book that no one but me could write. (Whether that is a good thing or not, I leave to the reader's imagination.)

The second year, I struggled with expectations. I wrote a story that was how I though a story ought to be. There were characters, a plot, interesting visuals, and creepy locations. And yet, despite having the formula for a perfect fantasy novel, I fought every scene. I pounded words onto paper with undue force and bitterness. Laziness was not the problem, but I fought my own mind, forcing myself to stay focused when all my imagination wanted to do was run wild with plot twists and complications. I beat the challenge, but in the end, I did not have a novel. I never even got to the words 'the end.' The book was dead from the moment I started it--a stillbirth of a story.

The third year, this year, I faced insecurities. (Here comes the title of the blog, everyone, hold on to your britches.) I wrote a sequel to the first story I ever wrote--the rambling NaNoWriMo of the first year, with its heart of gold. I'll admit right now that I love the book I wrote this year. I loved it from the moment I sat down to type the first words. It was the story I wanted to tell--I gave myself free reign, let go of what 'ought to' happen, and kept only the barest of plot threads outlined in my head, letting the story grow around it naturally. It should have been perfect. Except for one thing.

This year, halfway into writing my book, I realized all my female characters were victims.

It was a horrible moment. I am a lover of strong, independent female characters, and I had always intended to write them myself. And yet here I was, with two female characters who were physically strong, and emotionally damaged, who were both trying to gain their footing, but were still victims. In the first book they had gathered power and trained hard. Now in the second, they had run from the very people who had trained them. I had intended them to dabble in the darker side of things--use their power for evil a little, realize what they had been doing, reform and be stronger for the experience. There was only one problem with that.

It turned out my characters didn't like that idea. There was a schism between my two beloved female leads--Erin and Lee (properly her name is Leanne, but she really dislikes it.) Erin was thrilled to be off on her own with no responsibilities. She tuned out anything negative Lee had to say about their new friend Cala, a teenage boy I desperately need to rename. She tuned out her closest friend Miranka, her ghost follower who is himself a victim. She fell easily into the life of semi-crime that Cala provided for them.

Lee, however, didn't like it. I thought she would, but she didn't. She thought it was dishonorable and wrong of them to turn their backs on the people who had helped them before--and she was right about that. And yet, she didn't force Erin to see reason. She sat back, thinking Erin would see it for herself eventually, and basically watched the situation crumble around her, while feeling grumpy that she hadn't been listened to.

Enter the problem. I don't want to give too many spoilers--this book WILL eventually be something I want to market--but I'll give you the run down. Lee falls under the control of the bad guy. Erin doesn't notice. Bad guy takes control of her ghost friend, and hides that from Erin as well. He then brings in a character from the first book, and has the brainwashed Lee torture him, even though she was once his friend. Erin, though uncomfortable, sits back and watches because she doesn't want to rock the boat when she's finally where she wants to be in life.

The realization of who my characters were becoming shook me. Erin, I had always known, was a victim before. She was an adopted child, who'd been rescued from an abusive home, and she had never quite gotten out of the victim mentality. But Lee? Lee was supposed to be her support structure. She was supposed to be the strong female character of the books--unwavering but not inhuman. And here I was halfway through the book effectively writing her out to be replaced by an imitation her who conformed to Cala's will.

I reassured myself that this was always supposed to be a bad thing. This was the center of my trilogy, where the girls tread the most closely to darkness for the sake of experimentation and got burned by it. A story with infallible characters, after all, is rarely very interesting.

But the reassurance didn't stop the flood gates that I had opened. I examined with meticulous detail everything that might be read into my book. Would the fact that two lesbians were being manipulated by a straight man cause people to think I hated straight men? Would people think that I was saying that lesbians are just confused and easy to brain wash? Would they think I was saying that all blonds were evil if my villain was blond, or that all gay men are victims if my ghost was gay? Would they take the whole thing as some moral tale about the dangers of exploring your darker side?

I reconsidered everything--every choice I had made thus far. I went back over plot points, my fingers hovering over the backspace button. I went to my outline and searched for whether or not I'd let myself become a stereotyping jerk while I was plotting the story's course. It seemed like everything in my perfect story was falling apart in front of me.

Finally, I had to just put those thoughts away. I just stuck them in a box and forgot about them while I blazed on with my story. I haven't gotten closure on them--not in the slightest--but I couldn't deal with them and write at the same time. I had learned my lesson from Year Two. I wasn't going to change my story to be what I thought a story should be.

Today, I finally finished this novel. It stands as a proud 78,005 word document, with the final two being 'The End.' I gained some closure on the issue through the finale. Backbones were grown. Big girl panties were put on. Erin impressed me--I have hope for her for the sequel.

And yet, here I am, still worrying.

Of my cast in this book, three out of four main characters were victims. The character who was not a victim was the bad guy. It's a disturbing thing to consider, and I hope I'm reading too much into it.

Of course, the one thing I can count on to help me is change. Victims can grow into survivors--I've met some survivors myself, and they are some of the strongest people I know. The fact that my characters were wounded and taken advantage of by someone does not mean they are not strong people, good people at their cores--at least I hope it doesn't.

I feel like I've seen my characters at their weakest now. Erin, Lee, and Miranka have fallen about as low as I can foresee them falling. Now I have a third book looming. It could be a book that would highlight my flaws as a writer in striking detail if I fail to allow my damaged characters to become survivors and face their own demons head on, while still maintaining the air of believably I've been working so hard to build. However, it could also be a book that makes all the trauma, and difficulty, and soul-searching agony of writing this painful fall worthwhile.

(Erin, Lee, and Miranka are part of the as of the Bones Like Birds trilogy, which may still be renamed. The book in question here is The Wingless, the second in the series. To learn more about the book, hear more ranting, and possibly get a sneak preview of the books themselves, stay tuned to Hodgepodge-o-phoria!)