Updates sporadically.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Phew! And we're back!

The radio silence is over. It's been a long one, but it's been for a good reason: my novel is done.

I repeat: IT IS DONE.

Lest anybody think I'm jumping the gun, let's go for candor. This has taken me a long time. Probably longer than it should have. Because, even though this is technically my "second" novel, it is the first one I've gotten into read-able shape. I learned a lot in the editing process to take into my future writing projects. And yes, I've decided to share these with you.
  1. Slow down. NaNoWriMo is great. No, I mean it. Without it, I never would have gotten this story to the page in the first place. But it still merits mentioning that a novel that took me one month to write then took me three years to edit. Three. Years. And the main reason is that I really didn't know WHAT I was doing. While I had the concept down when I started writing, I didn't have a plot. Let me tell you, going back and trying to inject more plot into a "finished" work is a lot harder than just getting your ducks in a row in the first place. So next time, I will slow down on my first take.
  2. Don't put another obstruction between the reader and the story. This was one of the biggest messes I had to clean up. I think it was on round three of editing that I finally caught this. Yanna, my MC, was framing EVERYTHING. Meaning, nothing just happened. It was "Yanna saw" this, "Yanna heard" that, "Yanna thought," "Yanna knew," "Yanna felt". And when it wasn't Yanna seeing/hearing/thinking/knowing/feeling, it was because something was busy "seeming". The grass wasn't just green. No, it seemed green. Adding these frames to everything puts a wall up between your reader and the work. If it is only warm outside because Yanna feels that it is warm outside, then your reader isn't experiencing anything firsthand. Nothing exists with immediacy. Nothing happens to your reader without being filtered and responded to by someone/something else first. Also, this is just repetitive writing, which you want to avoid when you're penning 70,000+ words. 
  3. Give your character a personality. So. My next big dilemma. I enjoyed writing my MC, but as a read and reread and edited and re-edited, I kept being struck with how bored I was. Not because of the story. Not because of the writing. No, it was her. Yanna. I was downright bored by her. And then when I realized: I'd given all of the personality to the supporting cast. I liked every other character, even the bad guys, more than I like her. Yikes! After finally getting an honest response by prodding one of my beta readers into confirmation, I had a big task ahead of me. I needed not only to figure out what her personality was, or how I could tweak it to make it more interesting: I also needed to go back and write it into her. A lot of headache could've been avoided by getting this figured out ahead of time.
  4. Find a helper and do some worldbuilding. And here's the ultimate lesson: writing isn't a solo project. For as solitary as it is to be at your computer typing out a story that no one else knows, creating a world that no one else lives in, you can't do it alone. Or, better put, you shouldn't. As smart as you are, as well as you know the world you're creating (which is certainly better than anyone else does), somebody out there is going to ask a question that you've never thought of. Luckily for me, I know that person's name. In my case, I'm married to him. My partner has the sort of practical mind that, as a fantasy writer, I occasionally find infuriating. While I'm busy creating a world of magic and wonder and mythology and gods, he's over my shoulder asking me where the sewage system is. What kind of metallurgy do they do? Have they invented bronze? Where do they get their copper and tin? Do they have irrigation systems? Where are the cattle kept? Do they have cattle? Crops?
    As much as it raised my hackles and I sometimes maybe just wanted him to GO AWAY ... his questions really improved my worldbuilding. Until he asked, my approach to many of these questions had simply been to ignore them until the novel required them to be answered. But by knowing the answers ahead of time, I was able to build a much richer, much more consistent world. So find someone to ask questions. Bonus points if they are not your intended audience -- odds are, you are at least a little bit your intended audience so you've probably answered all of those questions anyway.
And those are the big ones! I'm sure that there is a lot more, but just keeping in mind these four lessons is going to make book two that much easier. Because there is a sequel, and I will be starting it soon. And in the meantime, my query is nice and polished, my synopsis is getting a final spit shine, and I'm off to the races for a literary agent. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Fantastic-Schmantastic List of Easy Last Minute Costumes

Happy almost Halloween!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love dressing up in a costume of my own design and getting out there and seeing what other people have made. I begin working on my costume months ahead of time, all the excitement building up, until -- VOILA! HALLOWEEN!

That said, I know that not everyone is as Halloween-crazy as I am. Some of you may even be *gasp* costume procrastinators!

Well, no fear. If you're still struggling for a costume idea, you're in luck.

May I present to you:

The Fantastic-Schmantastic List of Easy Last Minute Costumes

All of these costumes are homemade and can largely be put together with nothing more than a journey through the back of your closet and perhaps a quick trip to your local thrift store. Here we go!

1. ZOMBIES. Look, we were never going to get through this list without mentioning zombies. Might as well get it out of the way. Way out of the way. It took a lot of strength for me to include this because, as people close to me know, I have a thing about zombies. Like, you know how somebody are irrationally afraid of spiders?
Yeah, like that.
But zombies.
Anyway, zombies are a decent last minute costume. But better yet, try going as a zombie with a twist! And since the blog is about fiction, why not make it a literary twist? Zombie Elizabeth Bennet is an obvious choice. Zombie Poe. Zombie Wilde. Zombie Peter Pan. Really, feel free to zombify to your heart's content.

Zombie Elizabeth Bennet Instructions

What you'll need:
For clothing:
White night gown (preferably ruffled)

For makeup:
White/pale face paint
Black/dark eyeshadow

For fake blood
Corn syrup
Red food coloring

Bonus: Peeling skinCorn syrup
Glycerin soap (liquid)
Gelatin (plain)
Makeup setting powder

Follow the instructions here to make some awesome fake blood. Before applying the blood, don your best frilly long white or light colored nightgown, easily found at a thrift store. Pin your messy hair bag in a "I slept in my prom hairstyle" kind of way. Paint exposed skin with white face paint or other very pale makeup. Use the dark eyeshadow to create sunken looking eyes and cheeks. For the finishing touch, apply fake blood to mouth and dress.

For the bonus:

This is the best recipe I've found. Never mind that he does a horrible job of giving any measurements -- just focus on getting the consistency right. In actuality, this is very hard to mess up. Once your concoction is made, apply to any areas you want to make look peeling/decomposed/scarred. I recommend a nice neck/jaw wound, as though a zombie chomped down on your neck. Once the concoction is applied, go over it with the white face paint. Then take your fake blood and dark eyeshadow, and any other colors you have/want to use, and begin coloring it in the make it look disgusting. Set with some makeup setting powder if available.

Congratulations, you look disgusting!

2. Patrick Bateman.* Get back to your scary roots this Halloween. Zombies not your thing? Yeah, I don't blame you. But you can still get your scary on with a character like Patrick Bateman. The American Psycho title character can be done in a few ways, whether you're going for the minimalist overgroomed wax figure look or, my preference, the plastic poncho look. 

Poncho Sporting Patrick Bateman
What you'll need:
For clothing:
Clear poncho or garbage bag (a bottom up deal would be amazing, but not essential)
Blue or white button up shirt
Red tie

For makeup:
Foundation and concealer (optional)

For fake blood
Corn syrup
Red food coloring

Again, follow the instructions here to make some awesome fake blood. Put on your nice clothes. Make the most pristine tie knot you can. You need to look immaculate. I highly recommend the foundation and concealer because you want that face of yours to look creepy smooth, like a wax doll. With a high hold gel, slick your hair back. If you have a garbage bag for a poncho, cut out a head and arm holes. Don your poncho. Now take your fake blood and splatter your face and poncho. Practice a manic grin and hand out business cards.

3. The Grand High Witch. Anybody else have the (mis)fortune of reading The Witches by Roald Dahl as a child? I love Dahl's work, but that doesn't make these witches any less terrifying. Intent on killing children they look like regular people until the remove the gloves, wigs, shoes and entire faces to reveal their true form. 

The Grand High Witch in Disguise
What you'll need:
For clothing:
Black shirt
Black pants or long skirt
Black gloves
Ugly black shoes (her deformed feet can fit in cute shoes!)

For makeup:
Lip liner
Dark matte eyeshadow
Dark eyebrow gel (optional)

Bonus: Hair
Long black wig

This one will probably require explaining, but the people who know The Witches will be sufficiently freaked out by your ensemble. The key thing here is to get the clothing right. Once you don your black ensemble, the goal of the makeup is to make your face looking a little to right to be real. This isn't your face, after all -- it is a mask you are wearing to trick people into thinking you're human. So make the blush a little too circular, line the lips just a shade darker than your natural color of whatever you are wearing, and fill in your eyebrows to make them completely uniform. A bonus here would be to use a light brown eyeliner or matte eyeshadow to draw a seam line around the perimeter of your face to show where it comes off.

For the bonus: A wig is not necessary, but it can be a nice finishing touch. A long, straight dark wig has the bonus of allow you to reach up and scratch under it -- a telltale sign that you are a witch!

4. G.M. Dark, The Illustrated Man. People seem to have a weird thing about carnival workers to begin with, the transient lifestyle being a little on the side of ideal for convicts and criminals. And then, a carnie covered in tattoos representing the souls of his victims? That is the making of true terror.

The Illustrated Man, G.M. Dark

What you'll need:
For clothing:
Black suit
Top hat (optional)
Walking stick (optional)

For makeup:
Temporary tattoos, or skill with some washable markers/face paint

Bonus: Mustache
A curled up mustache not unlike Dick Dastardly's

As much as the monochrome black is essential, nothing in this costume is more important than the tattoos. They are what give the Illustrated man his name. So cover any skin that is showing with tattoos -- except for your face. These tattoos should be of people. This might be hard to find in temporary tattoo form, so enlist a friend to help and paint you with markers, face paint, or go for outline drawings and just use an ink pen. Once tattooed, put on your snappy suit, affix your mustache and go steal some souls.

*Update: So, the inclusion of this costume has been bothering me. I'm not gonna remove it from the list because it is a good costume. American Psycho is a well done horrorshow of a novel, and Bateman is an awesome horrible character. What's bothering me is the weird sort of tooled up cult around Patrick Bateman that seems to idolize him. But let's not get it twisted. There is a risk of this costume making light of murder, rape and general violence. That is not the intention. I think, in this case, it is a matter of where you personally draw the line. He is a fictional character from a well-written gruesome novel. But his crimes are very much poignant in the modern zeitgeist.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Short List of Don'ts

I've been away for a while ... obviously. Where have I been? Touring the Antarctic? Toiling away trying to find the next perfect number? Trying to make a sweater out of my own hair?

No. None of these. I've been working, hanging out with my partner, playing softball and doing a personality overhaul on my MC.

And I've been reading. I'm always reading. Any spare minute I have -- at lunch, on the train, on the elliptical -- I read. I read because I enjoy it, but I also consider it my writer homework. I read authors I respect, established authors, but I also read new authors. First novels, newbies to the field of YA and fantasy/sci-fi. I read to see what is being written, what is being published, what is being read.

And while I've found enjoyment in many of these novels, I've also come across some Don'ts. I was inspired to write these down for you after I had to put down a novel on page 7 because I was so beyond exasperated. It was such a sad experience as a reader, I realized that it was my heroic* duty** to share these Don'ts with you.

A Short List of Don'ts

  1. DON'T use dialogue as an excuse for exposition. Really, it's annoying. Imagine you live in a world where magic exists, but only a 7th child has the ability. Don't reveal this on page 2 by having Mary-Jo turn to Bucky-Bob and say, "We are so lucky to be 7th children, which means that we have magic and other people who are not 7th children do not since only 7th children have magic." Not only is this a horrible sentence -- it's also silly. Bucky-Bob lives in the world, too. Why would Mary-Jo feel the need to explain this to him in casual conversation?
  2. DON'T make your super special character go on about wishing they weren't special. Being special is every little kid's dream. Deep down, we all harbor some secret wish to be better at something than everyone else. So when Mary-Jo is the most awesome-est gymnast ever, don't make her prattle on about wishing she could just be like everyone else and not know how to do a quadruple tuck backflip into a roundhouse handspring ...or something. She was receive approximately zero empathy or sympathy from your reader.
  3. Speaking of which, DON'T have your character whine about being privileged. And while we're at it, don't you do this either. I've come across this a few times, usually monarchy wishing they could live like the peasants***, but the most egregious example was in the book I just put down. The MC, Guilty Gertrude, tells us there are two classes of people: the Gonna Dies, who are lucky to have food once a week, and the Silver Platters, who live in luxury. Guilty Gertrude then goes on about how she wishes she wasn't a Silver Platter. Oh really, Guilty Gertrude? Because you've just said the other option is to be one of the Gonna Dies, and I really don't think that's the better option. White guilt, or any permeation of it, isn't a good look.
  4. DON'T make your character tough. It's played out. I'm not saying that there can never be another good stoic character. But maybe it's time to consider some other personalities? There are a lot of options out there.
  5. DON'T make your character hotheaded. Again, this is not a hard and fast rule. If this is how your characters handles things, then go for it. But understand that this is also played out. You need to bring something else to the table the a redheaded girl who's badass with a bow and has a bad temper.
  6. DON'T be too serious. Not all novels are comedies, but all novels can use comedy. Your MC or somebody around your MC should be making jokes occasionally. Because that's what people do. If somebody was walking around taking everything in the world super-serial all the time ... well, people would probably laugh at them for taking everything so seriously.

*Because noticing flaws in others is the definition of heroism ... oh wait ...
**Hehe, duty.
***Really? You want to live in the street that people are emptying buckets of excrement on from their windows? Because that's what's happening in your medieval-y world.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Happy Fantastic-Schmantastic Birthday!

It is Fantasy-Schmantasy's one-year-iversary today!

And it's not just us, all these other famous people are celebrating birthdays as well:

Michael Jackson
Lea Michele
John McCain
Ingrid Bergman
Rufio -- I mean Zuko. I mean  Dante Basco.
John Locke
Paul Frank

And, most importantly and schmantastically of all, my baby sister, Rainey who is a infantile 17 years old today.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

*NSFW (or grandparents)* Upcoming Author Interview

You ever have that moment where it's after 5pm and you suddenly realize it's a posting day and you haven't even thought of what you're going to write?

... yeah, me neither.

In totally unrelated news, today's post is a teaser! I will be interviewing self-published erotica author Jessica Satin, recent winner of the Bad Girls' Bible Erotica Contest with her piece Snow White and the Seven Huntsmen.* We'll discuss what got her into writing erotica, why self-publishing, how the process has worked for her and what her ambitions are as an author.

Get ready!

And readers of an appropriate age**can find some of Jessica's work on Amazon.

*To any parents and grandparents of the Blog Lady who might be reading this right now -- if you click any of these links, I seriously do not want to know.
**Whatever that may mean.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Problem Child (or Child Problem)

Think about everything that makes up a person. A person is a sum of their experiences, their circumstances, their genetics. They are influenced by friends, family, enemies, acquaintances, events. They are motivated by lust, greed, empathy, generosity, hormones, or even just the phase of the moon.

There is a lot that goes into writing a character that feels real -- even the most obvious author simulacrum creates headache and heartache as the writer attempts to create motivation and consistency that represent a personality and establish real personhood.

Which is why things get even stickier when we're talking about child characters.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Superman and the Suspension of Disbelief

As genre authors, one of the most complicated things that we demand of our readers is the suspension of disbelief. Whether you are writing a outlandish mystery, a sci-fi opera, a paranormal dystopia or any other world where you are messing with the laws of plausibility or reality, suspension of disbelief is necessary for readers to buy into your story.

But the cost cannot outweigh the perceived benefit. Asking a reader to stop believing what they know to be true -- that no heist can be so complicated and run so smoothly, that no man can dodge all those bullets, that aliens probably wouldn't be following over themselves in lust with humans, that society simply doesn't lose its sense of entitlement to self that easily, that vampires don't exist and they certainly don't sparkle -- and to buy into your world is an action that costs the reader something. To stop believing what we know is real and invest in your world and your story, we the reader need to know that our forfeiture is going to pay out in a story that is worth it.

That is why I believe, no matter how fantastic your story is, you need to limit the price you're asking of your reader.

Let me ask you: why does nobody recognize that Clark Kent is Superman?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Call to Action: Normalize Diversity

This post is not going to be funny. Instead, I'm going to pull out my soapbox, and ask you to do something. Something important. Because I don't have any clout or any high platform to talk about important issues. But I do have this blog and a feeling of obligation to say something.

I do not want to diverge completely from the purpose of this blog. I am here to talk to you about writing and publishing and genre fiction. I'm not here to give my op-eds about the world. So, I am going to frame this in the context of writing.

You have a responsibility to normalize diversity.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I'm back, and I've brought pictures!

To repeat myself: I'm back!

It's been a long break, but I'm happy to let you know that it was not for nothing not only did I break the 70,000 word mark after buckling down and rubbing the letters off my keyboard* thanks to Camp NaNoWriMo, but I also had a fantastic GISHWHES hunt.

Oh my. What is GISHWHES? You haven't heard of GISHWHES?

GISHWHES is the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. Created by Misha Collins, actor/philanthropist/extremely absurd human being, the short version of it is I just spent a week doing some good deeds and making a fool of myself.

So it goes without saying that I did not come back from my hiatus. Your prize, for bearing with me, is insider access to some photo moments from the Hunt. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mini-Milestone Day!

Hello readers!

I am writing for two reason:

1. To let you know that I haven't forgotten about your lovely faces during this brief hiatus. You're in my thoughts!
2. To celebrate a miniature milestone! Today I officially surpassed the 70,000 word count.

Let's talk about word counts and milestones for a minute.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I wasn't calling you a racist

We interrupt this temporary hiatus to bring you a very special message:

I wasn't calling you a racist.

No, not YOU-you, dear readers. Well, I mean, I wasn't calling you a racist either.

During a critique I was giving to a fellow writer, I may have offended. I'm not going to give any specifics around who (perhaps*) thinks I called them a racist, because I don't want to violate the trust of a critiquing relationship. However, I will share with you my offending words. And the set up: the author had used the term "Asian" or "Asian features" to describe several characters, who then received no further physical description. Meanwhile, other characters were getting entire paragraphs devoted to the shade of their hair and shape of their bodies.

MY CRITIQUE (an excerpt)

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Very Temporary Hiatus

Hi readers!

I wanted to give a heads up that I am going to be ducking out for the month of July -- I will perhaps have periodic check-ins, but I will not be able to follow any kind of updating schedule.*

The excuse, if you need one, is that I'm travelling a lot this month starting this weekend and have a lot to do to prepare for my month of jetsetting. I'm also participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, so will be writing like a fiend for the next 31 days or so.

That said, I'll be back in August and I'll have some wonderful goodies for you when I do -- you'll see when we get there.

Until then, temporarily do svidanya!

*Some of you are wondering if I ever did ... point taken.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Be A Reader

Go me for being oh-so topical. Yes, I partook as a child. And yes, I'm a backer for the Kickstarter.

I missed yesterday's update. But I have a good reason.

I was reading.

I just finally got a library card, and may have gone a little crazy with it. You've got to understand, libraries make my soul feel complete. As much as my partner and kittens. I need libraries to be a real girl.

I love reading. I was definitely that kid with a flashlight under the covers in bed at night with a book. That's actually how I finished Bridge to Teribithia in 4th grade -- alone under the covers at 4am sobbing as quietly as a could so as not to wake my sister sleeping in the next bed over.*

I think this is an experience a lot of you, dear readers, can probably relate to. If not, find that little kernel inside of you that loves to read, and give it some water and light and let it flourish. Because a good writer should be a Reader, too.**

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Make 'Em Laugh!

Don't you know everyone wants to laugh? Ha-ha!

When I take a look back at the last few books that have really made me cry*, I've realized that what really makes the punch hurt is that these are the same books that have made me laugh. Good dramatic writing is a balance of light and dark, sometimes heavy and sometimes airy -- it isn't all one low tone of melancholy and tears.

Not to be cliche with the whole "you need the dark to know the light" -- because I don't agree with that. Funny things can be funny without being juxtaposed against tragedy. But the opposite isn't as true. In order for something to be exceptionally impactful and painful, you need to have a little levity.

And that's my advice today: lighten up.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Stacks of Cash

Work has been insane for me this week so, unfortunately, I will not be able to get a new post up. That said, I couldn't leave you with nothing. Therefore, I decided to bring back this old gem: Ms. Rowling dancing atop piles of cash-money.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How to be a better Writer in 4 Easy Steps

That's all it takes! You have more fingers than this has steps!
4 Easy Steps being a fairly relative assessment of easy and, perhaps, "steps", becoming a better writer is really as simple as knowing how to approach a solution. To be cliche but apt, no one is perfect and no writer is a perfect writer. Becoming better at our craft is something that we should all struggle towards. Sure, I'm sure there are those of us out there who can say "good enough!" and rest on our authorial laurels. But even to them, I would say pick up your butt and resist the temptation to embrace laziness. The act of writing, being a solitary one by nature, requires self-reflection as well as a willingness to put yourself out there and seek critique.
Let’s face it: seeking criticism is pretty much the antithesis of laziness, going against our basic instincts as humans. It is the opposite of protecting yourself. It is exposing yourself* to people who may not like you or what you have made. And that’s pretty scary.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Complicating Factors

One thing I've always admired about the Harry Potter books (besides pretty much everything) is the intricacy of the plot. The way elements in the simpler early books come back and inform key pieces of the later books, the red herrings and misdirection, the subplots that come around and turn into major influences of the overall arc of the series -- it's masterful to the point that the word is almost insufficient.

The Harry Potter books are a beautiful concoction of complications.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Share Your Work: Inspiration, Dedication and In Memoriam

Blog Lady Note: 
I've just noticed that the post that was supposed to go up on 5/23 never made it. Most likely due to some technological issue (definitely not user error) it did not publish as scheduled. I apologize for the oversight, and will be running it tomorrow. However, in the meantime I've decided to make it up to you with a bonus Thursday update!

This post isn't about writing -- that is to say, it is not instructional about writing. It is, perhaps, more about writing than any of my other posts.

As some of my readers my know, I was a poet before I turned my attention to fiction. I got my BA in English with a focus on poetry, took as many creative writing poetry courses as I could (even auditing some), I have journals dating back to middle school filled with some of the worst poems you could imagine, I wrote a play in verse as my senior comps project ... you get the gist. I love poetry, and have been touched by the work of many fantastic poets, including Dr. Maya Angelou. When I write poetry, it is often because I have been inspired by a poet, or a person, or a loss. For Dr. Angelou, it is all three.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In honor of Dr. Maya Angelou

I had a post planned for today, but have put it on hold. Instead, I'd like to focus on honoring Maya Angelou, who passed away today at 86 years old.

I believe in poetry. I believe that it has power, the ability to capture the pathos of a time and place and people and resonate through humanity. I believe it has the power to inspire and fuel change, and I believe in Maya Angelou's work.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hey, Author: Get out of my head!

I've pointed out previously that some of us are authors of plot-driven fiction, while others focus on character-driven stories. I typically follow into the latter of these camps, and one of my biggest struggles is to get out of my character's head.

I believe that this is an issue a lot of greener authors struggle with -- and the last thing any of us wants is to Stephenie Meyer it. Yes, that is a verb.

Stephenie Meyer
stɛf-ɛni ma-yər/
  1. 1.
    to move a story along by throwing a car at your main character.
    "That story was going nowhere fast until they Stephenie Meyer'd it."
    synonyms: cop out

I mean, yes, I entirely plan on being a billionaire author someday (and then JK and I can finally be besties as I've always dreamed) but I want to get there a better way. I mean, Ms. Meyer is only a hundred-millionaire, after all.*

So, after all the hard work I've put into figuring out how to get out of my MC's head and into the story, I have graciously decided to share with you a bit of what I've learned. That is very gracious of me, isn't it? You're welcome.

Alright then. How DO you get out of your character's head enough to move a plot along?

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Genres

Knowing what category your novel falls under is imperative in the querying process. Not only do you need to identify your novel to be able to talk about it and the audience in the right way, but you need to know where it fits just to be certain that you're talking to the right people.

This seems like it should be easy enough. And I say "seems" because I recently had an eye-opening revelation. My YA/NA novel is apparently not so YA/NA as I had previously thought.

My protagonist is 22-23 years old throughout the novel and a mother. I always knew YA was a big stretch, but NA felt right. Until I went through the critiquing process and almost everybody told me that it didn't fit. That got me thinking: how many others are out there talking about their novels in the wrong way?

That's when I decided to make you a Quick and Dirty Guide to Genres. This guide isn't intended to just explain genres to you -- I knew what the genres were and still got my novel wrong. The guide is designed to help you, as writers, categorize your work. Can you take this a little loosely? Sure, why not. But it's here to help you, and hopefully to unseat any misconceptions you have about your own work. It is not all-encompassing -- it is, as the title suggests, quick and dirty.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Update on the Blog Lady's Life

Hello, loyal readers!

If there are any of you left, that is ...

You know how you can sometimes hear the excuses coming from a mile away? Well, this is an excuse train running express, getting ready to blindside you with some weakass reasons for not updating regularly lately.

Let's just list this and get it over with:

Meeting Batman at C2E2.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How to throw away the Author Goggles: become best critic possible

Author Goggles: responsible for 95% of your worst writing.

There's one inevitable difficulty that writers face as they begin to edit and finesse their work. No, it's not a lack of time, or a lack of willpower. It's not even that their work's just too damned good to criticize. It's ... the Author Goggles. The dreaded Author Goggles.

Friday, April 18, 2014

How to celebrate the holidays, writer-style

Happy Good Friday and/or Passover and/or regular Friday!*

Celebration and tradition can be beautiful things. How you celebrate and what your traditions are says a lot about your culture, and who you are as a nation, a religion, a society, a people and an individual. How we celebrate, how we engage and respond to celebration, is telling and -- from an author's perspective -- worldscaping gold.

Let's just look at our world, for a moment. Let's focus, specifically, on Easter. Easter is great for this post, because Easter is weird. It is the same religious celebration the world over: it is the day Christians and Catholics celebrate Christ's resurrection. But if you didn't know that, you wouldn't get that from looking at a lot of Easter celebrations and traditions. Being an American, I'm partial to the absurdity that is Easter in America. Easter in America (and, according to my [Wikipedia] research, the UK, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Austrailia) involves the Easter Bunny.**

He wants your children ... and your chewy, chewy flesh.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

POW! Making an impact with action scenes.


...okay, not really. Readers, loyal readers, I am back! Thank you for your patience. Death Cold 2014 turned into Horror Sinus Infection 2014 last week and I still can't bend over with my head feeling like it's going to explode from the pressure -- so that's been fun. But I'm well enough to be at work, and I'm well enough to write!

And what a treat I have for you today! I've talked a bit before about how to make more interesting descriptive passages -- and sure, descriptions are kind of important. They're the seasoning in you story burger. The cherry on your plot sundae. But today we're going to talk about the good stuff: the action scenes!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Where have you been?

Sorry, readers. I've been down for the count this week -- I should have given a heads up, but I've been busy battling Death Cold 2014. It hasn't been any fun. The good news is, I have some great topics lined up for next week that were originally planned for this week -- and hopefully, with more time to think about them, they'll be even better.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to my meal of green tea and Halls cough drops.

Love Always,

Your Blog Lady

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Heavy Lifting

Willpower, the ability to grit your teeth and make it through the tough stuff, is something that comes in handy in life. They say willpower is limited, a finite resource that you need to allocate appropriately. Once you've used up your willpower reserves, don't expect to sit down and crank out your taxes. Try again tomorrow. Your willpower tank has been tapped dry. This all might be true, but here's what I don't see them* saying: willpower is also a skill that you can develop, a muscle that you can train. Best yet, it's a transferable skill. The strength of will developed in the heat of the fire can be used for any number of things: getting through a hard work day, crunching through the editing process or powering through that final set of deadlifts.

Here's something you may not know about me: I am a fitness fanatic.

No, not like a green smoothie drinking, gluten free, yoga-going vegan type.** I mean, I love kale as much as the next girl***, but I'm just too tomboy for all that. I'm never going have my feet standing on my own head while I execute a perfect scorpion pose. I'm a boxing, powerlifting, macro-dieter. I get my 100+grams of protein every day, drink water by the bucketful, and try to be the most badass version of myself that I can manage.

I will admit, though, that occasionally my fitness routine includes something like this:

Notice that my legs can't even hit 90 degrees.
As I said, I'm not so good at the yoga stuff.

Friday, March 21, 2014

But is it worth it?

I read somewhere that some stories need to be written but don't need be read. They burn inside the author, wanting to be put to paper -- but are not meant to move on. They aren't meant to be published or consumed.

The idea irritated me. It may have been the context in which I read this pronouncement -- an agent reviewing a query declared that the main character was unsympathetic and appalling, and therefore not read-worthy -- but it got stuck in my brain, itching and making me uncomfortable until I had time to sit down and pick at it.* It's similar to feedback I've seen stating that some authors choose the wrong protagonist.** It makes me wonder -- what makes a story worth writing? How can we judge if a story is worth the effort, or if we're just coming at a story from an entirely wrong angle?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It's not all about writing

"Just write." The easy, obvious, and highly unsympathetic advice that is often distributed blindly amongst writers. It is the wisdom of the published to the unpublished, the layman to the writer, the writer to the layman. The advice flows and all directions, despite the fact that it is a radical oversimplification.

Sure, almost anyone can sit down and "just write". But any author who is being honest with you will tell you: it's not all about writing.

Friday, March 14, 2014

But am I allowed to write that?

As writers, we have power over who is represented in literature. Not enough leading women? Not enough healthy relationships? Not enough diversity?* As a writer, you have the chance to change that and to create the representations that you want to see in literature.

But then there's the other question: not can you, but should you?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Oopsie! Why being wrong is a good thing.

If there's one thing that people everywhere can agree on, it's that we don't like making mistakes and we don't like being wrong.

Of course, there are those who say that being wrong is a good thing. It points in the direction of what may be right, it teaches us more than being right can, blahblah. That's all well and good, but I'm not talking about having a scientific hypothesis shot down and some other mathy/sciencey what-have-you wrongness. I'm talking about being wrong in a very personal way. In a way that shakes us, embarrasses us, exposes us. Wrongness that makes other people want to look away.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Schmantastic List of Fantasy: Fantastic-Schmantastic Writing Prompts!

It's March! That means it's practically almost springtime and we can kiss this winter goodbye. I'm a weirdo that loves the winter, but this one's even grating on my nerves. I'm ready to send the snow away to the southern hemisphere and start the warm season. I'm feeling so emboldened and refreshed by the very thought! All this creative energy! There's only one thing to do for it -- March's Fantastic-Schmantastic list will be: 

The Schmantastic List of 10 Writing Prompts Inspired by Short Fiction

This list will contain 20 awesome writing prompts that are based on a piece of fiction that I love. Take a stab at the prompts, and then check out what inspired it!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Making the Time

"I'm writing a novel," you say in a totally-not-bragging way to a friend. After all, they asked.

Said friend stares at you a little blankly before replying, "I would love to write a novel, I just don't have the time!"

Time. Despite the full 24-hours available on the clock, there never seems to be enough of it. And writing a well-crafted piece of fiction demands a lot of it.

But having the time to write a novel isn't about clearing your schedule or being super-human. The secret to having enough time to write a novel is making the time.

Friday, February 28, 2014

It takes a (well-informed) village ...

Not to be trite but yes -- it does, in fact, take a village.

I've been working on finishing off and polishing up my novel, with a weary eye on the word count. For the story I'm telling, I know that I'll be expected to have at least 70,000 words down. With about 14,000 to go, and just a handful of obvious holes to fill in, I've been focusing in more on identifying where my story lacks development or depth.

This is where the village has been helpful.

Hopefully your village is better than a painstakingly diverse group of stock people.
Photo copyright 2014 iStockphoto LP. 

Here's my confession: tvtropes.org has been an invaluable resource to me in the editing process. Followed by my partner, a trusted friend, and then the handful of writing blogs I follow. Followed then, most strangely, by the advice I solicit from internet friends on a fitness site I frequent.

There are a lot of hands in my novel, finding the questions and prodding me for answers, or supplying me with answers on the rare occasion that I actually know the question.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How to be Red

The red light reddened the red room ... redly. It was very red.

Have you ever sat there reading a novel when you were suddenly jolted out of the experience by a description so inarticulate or inane that you have to stop, stare at the page and wonder if that really just happened?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New schedule!

Hey, readers! Starting today (which is definitely not an impromptu notice) Fantasy-Schmantasy will be moving to a Wednesday/Friday schedule. See you tomorrow!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Power of the Pen Challenge!

So last post I talked a bit about the Power of the Pen writing team I was on in middle school. I was all prepared to write another instructive* post on par with "Plan More!", "Practice More!" and "Try Harder!" when I realized that I'm not up for it right now. I'll save it for another post, because today we're going to have some fun!

Inspired by the Power of the Pen, I am going to provide you with a challenge. Below are 3 different prompts (all from actual Power of the Pen contests), and you're going to tackle them Power of the Pen competition style.

The Rules:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Practice makes passable

We practice public speaking, we practice sports, we practice asking our boss for a raise, we practice drawing, even kissing. We understand that practice is essential to doing something well.

Why do I love flash fiction and writing prompts?

Because practice is essential to being a good writer.

Good authors don't just expect to write a bestseller the first time they ever pick up a pen or plop down in front of their word processor. Writing is a skill and, like all skills, it's something you need to work at to get better.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sorry for the cry-icorn pt. 2

Sorry for the cry-icorn, everyone. Blahblahblah I've been busy, blahblahblah work, blahblah. Actually, I'm just exhausted because my kitten has recently decided that sleep time should actually be wake-up-and-play-with-me time. 3 AM is not my favorite time to see what things you've thrown to the floor in your inifinite cat jerk-itude, Kitten.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Voicemails from the Future

Voicemails from the Future is a new flash fiction challenge brought to you by terribleminds and Futurecoast.org. The premise is pretty awesome: it is the near future. You must write a voicemail left by one person for another.

This is a great exercise for practicing conversational writing, and also to practice developing a story or a worldscape without paragraph upon paragraph of wordy exposition.

Find the details of the challenge a Flash Fiction Challenge: Voicemails from the Future.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Schmantastic List of Fantasy: Fantastic-Schmantastic Birthdays!

Happy birthday, Me!

That's right -- your totally amazing, perfect and not-old Blog-Lady just celebrated her birthday. As such, I'm going to put aside all the griping about bad weather and winter time and bring a little joy into your life like only a birthday can. This month's Schmantastic List of Fantasy features books that are celebrating their 26th birthday with me! So join me in congratulating them, and add this treasures to your reading list!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

So what's the plan?

The coffee is the most important part.
Now that I've spurred you all into action with my super-inspirational post about being a Doer -- let's back it up and get all cerebral again. It's time to talk about the planning.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Bucket List: Good writing, good living

The beauty of being a Doer -- one wrong step from here and it's a steep and cactus-ridden 100-foot fall to the bottom.
Writing is a cerebral task. As writers, we get caught up in the adventures of our characters to the point that if someone asked us if we've ever been attacked by wolves, been in a sword fight or disarmed a bomb we might say yes without hesitation.

But then, how do our tales of awesomeness measure up when compared to the real deal? How much can Wikipedia research really inform us about what it's like to jump from the top of a building or kayak across an ocean?

Previously, I posted about how we can write what we don't know. But today, I'm taking the challenge one step further. Don't just write what you don't know. Do what you don't know.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

An Interlude: Questions, Answers and other Awesome Blogs

It's a busy week for me in the Schmantasy World (aka The Real World, and not the tv show either). Actual work that pays me has demanded extra helpings of my attention for an annual "Kick-Off!!" event. Isn't it cute how they try to make it sound fun?

Anyway, I thought I'd take the opportunity to rest my brain from the more "business" side of things and just answers some questions about myself and spread the blogging love.

These questions were sent to me by Ben Adams over at Write-First.

First of all: This is me, your Blog-Lady. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge: Helical Earth

First things first -- go check out this blog. I've been enjoying it.

Second things second -- this is not a regularly scheduled update. You may be saying, "Duh, it's Friday. I can tell time, you know." Well, Friday is a day, not a time, smartass.

This post exists as part of the Flash Fiction Challenge happening over at the TerribleMinds blog. It seemed apropos given yesterday's post. Therefore, I wanted to participate and encourage all of you to participate, as well!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Baby Shoes, never worn: The Power of Brevity

"For Sale: Baby Shoes, never worn."

This super short has been popping up lately, reinvigorated, perhaps, by Stephen King's recent tweet. This super short/"flash fiction" which has been attributed to Hemingway (although, who knows?) is powerful no matter who wrote it. The first time I encountered it, I sat for a moment and then started tearing up -- although we have established previously that I am a crier, so this might not be so miraculous, it still says something for the power of words that six of them could get you going.

Which brings us to today's topic: the power of brevity.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Schmantastic List of Fantasy: Fantastic-Schmantastic New Year's Resolution Books

Happy New Year, and happy first Thursday! It's officially 2014, which means that if I started college again immediately after graduating ... well, I'd be graduating for a second time this year. Yikes, that went by quickly. I'm to the point where I've been friends with people for spans of time that can be measured in decades. That's a scary milestone.
Still, 2014  is gonna be a kickass year, so I think we should all prepare to kick some literary ass. Which is why I now present to you:

The Schmantastic List of 15 Books You Should Read in 2014

These are the books that we've all heard about, that ever English major claims to have read, but that we never seem to get around to. This list is aspirational in nature, so I'm violating my rule -- I have not read all of these. So take a look, give yourself a hearty pat on the back for each one you've read, and add a few entries to your 2014 reading list.

The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allen Poe