My good friend, Shaun Hutchinson, is getting ready for the debut of his new novel, FML (Simon Pulse). It will be out June 25, 2013, exactly 19 days from today!! I loved this story. It reminded me of a teen Sliding Doors. What effect do all our decisions have? If we chose Door A instead of Door B, where would we be today? The difference with FML and our lives, however, is that Simon, the MC of FML gets to find out. Which scenario is best for him? Will he get the girl of his dreams?
To add to the FML party, Shaun is having a blog countdown of others’ defining moments, complete with prizes!! And, I’m so glad he asked me to be a part of this! My post is about my friend David, and how we became friends. Check it out and win a copy of Pieces of Us. AND don’t forget to get FML. You’re welcome!!
Sandra is the woman behind the topic this round. She asks:
We all know it’s important to read fiction if you want to write fiction, but what about reading non-fiction? How much non-fiction do you read? What kinds of non-fiction books do you read, and why? Has reading non-fiction influenced your fiction writing style?
First, let’s get this out there: with a 5 1/2 year old, I don’t have that much time to pleasure read. Not fiction. Not non-fiction. Not much. When I do have the time (like, I am desperately trying to finish a book for my book club next Sunday and am hoping I am not THAT girl–you know, the one who never finishes the books?), I like to read books on my list–usually YA novels, I’ve been dying to read (like Barry Lyga’s The Game, sequel to I Hunt Killers, or the sequel to Unwind, or Lindsey Leavitt’s The Back of Sean Griswold’s Head that is currently on my Nook). Gosh, that was such a long-winded sentence, I almost forgot my point. Oh yeah, SO when I DO have the time, I try to catch up on books I’ve been meaning to read OR books that will help me with a genre I’m writing. Non-fiction usually falls under the category of pleasure reading unless it’s something I need for book research. And, if it’s pleasure reading, well….refer to the first line of my response. However, if all stars align perfectly and I have the time to pleasure read, I love biographies and memoirs. I love finding out the nitty gritty behind celebs or historical figures I think I know. Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood by Suzanne Finstad was a favorite read. The Bad Guys Won by Jeff Pearlman about the 1986 Mets was another winner. I really enjoy sports books, and Jackie Robinson’s autobiography, I Never Had It Made, is high on my list as well.
If I love a book and the purpose is pleasure reading, I try to keep it that way and not let the do’s and don’ts of the book get into my head. When you’re a writer, it’s very hard to read something and not take writing notes, but I try. So, good time books will stay just that, and I’ll not let them do something pesky like influence me.
Time for another round of blog chain fun! This round’s topic is brought to us by Kate. She asks:
As a reader and/or a writer what are some of your favorite fiction
tropes? Are you sucker for secretly in love with best friend type
stories, stories set in mysterious boarding school stories, stories
that contain time travel, or something else entirely? As a writer how
do you try to give the tropes you tackle in your own books a fresh
Hmm…I really enjoyed reading others’ posts on this, but I’m not sure what my response is. I don’t know if I’m drawn to one particular literary device when reading or writing. I suppose I like tried and true stories that take the traditional concept and then do something surprising. For example, GONE, GIRL, by Gillian Flynn, appears at first as a typical mystery. In fact, it seemed so typical that for the first 1/3 of the book, I was tempted to throw it across the room because I was so sure I knew how everything was going to unfold….but then, I didn’t. And as the book went on, just when I thought I knew what would happen, it twisted again. That was impressive to me. And, Flynn is a skilled writer, because I ABHOR plot twists for the sake of twisting and shock. I hate when I read a book and the ending or middle is a “surprise” but it totally does not fit with the flow of the story.
As I was writing, I realized another trope I really like: retellings. I love retellings of biblical stories, in particular, but also like new takes on other known stories (e.g. retellings of Shakespeare, Dickens, etc.). My favorite retelling is THE RED TENT by Anita Diamont. It tells the story of Dina, the story of Jacob’s 12 sons. Such an awesome prospective.
How about you? What’s your favorite literary trope? And don’t forget to read Amparo’s post, and if you missed any go back to Kate’s and start again.
Howdy! Today’s blog chain topic was created by moi. I asked:
“Pick a book or story and imagine it in a new genre. For example, what would Oliver Twist be like if it was a sci-fi novel. Would Fagin have been a robot? Do you prefer you new creation or the original?”
I love these kinds of twists, and the dystopian I’m working on now has some of this element (more on that later). The idea of a known tale being set in our time period or the future is so fun. For example, while I never read, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I’m dying to. It takes a creative mind to come up with something like that!
But, if I had to think of a way rework something, I think I’d choose Shakespeare. I know I’m going to be struck down by the literary gods for saying this, but I so prefer modern retellings of Shakespear’s works. Whoa, I think I just missed a lightning bolt. It’s not that I don’t like the stories and word play, but reading Shakespeare is a project. It’s hard to understand the language without someone explaining it to me, and that’s just so much work these days. One of my favorite Shakespeare retellings was the movie version of Romeo and Juliet, starring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio. I loved the modern twist of gang wars, and it worked so well. Plus, I have always been a huge Leo fan. AND, I enjoyed that version more than the play. Blasphemy, I know, but THEY did use the same language, so it’s not complete betrayal.
On topic, one of my favorite shows is GRIMM. It’s set in modern time, but the premise is that many who walk among us are a form of creature, good or bad, and this explains the bad things in our world. For example, Hitler possessed these magic coins that made anyone who had them hungry for power. Add to that, that he was a certain type of monster, and it’s just brilliant.
Back to the dystopian I’m working on (I know you’re dying to hear about this). So while it has a variety of things (power-hungry government, tormentors and the tormented), it also (very) loosely uses some themes and elements of the biblical story of Moses. In fact, that’s how the idea of this story began in my head. It has veered in some ways, but that’s ok. It was never intended to be a step by step retelling. However, the parts that remained are pretty cool to me, and I look forward to adding more as the books progress (I see it as a trilogy).
How about you? Do you prefer your stories tried and true or with a twist? Be sure to catch Amparo’s post before mine; then, head over to Sandra’s blog to start from the beginning in case you missed some.
This rounds blog chain question was posted by Lisa. Unfortunately, it’s her last and we’ll miss her! As her parting question, she asks:
“The balancing act. How do you balance your writing time with everything else in your life–including, kids, job, book promotion?”
When I first saw this topic, my heart sank. I imagined all the other chainers writing about how they had everything under control, how they carved out time in the wee hours of the morning or late hours at night to write, how if writing was important to you, you just did it. Then, I read everyone else’s posts, and I felt a lot better. Why? Because I’m not the only one who has trouble with balancing it all.
When I left my job to write full time, I was the balancing queen. My friends and acquaintances talked about how they couldn’t do what I did because it took self-discipline, and it made me feel so good. I had self-discipline! I was awesome! Go me! I could carve out time in my day and make it work! Hurrah! Then, I had my son, and people still said, “Wow. How do you do it?” And little sleep deprived me felt even better. Here I was on 3 hours of sleep a night and I was WRITING. Every day! My little guy did take long naps–albeit only on top of me–but hey, I had one free hand and typed, typed, typed. And I thought I was superwoman. I’m a mom! I’m a wife! I have dinner for all! And I’m writing! Fetch me my cape!
Before you vomit thinking I still have things under control, let me fast-forward five years. My kid entered Kindergarten this year. I started working full time. Ask me how much time I have for writing now. Go ahead, ask. It will make you feel better. Here’s a hint: the superhero police came for my cape. Ah, but the joke’s on them because I told them I no longer had it. It’s really hidden in my closet, but don’t tell them. It’s a nice memory of when I thought I could do it all.
Yes, I can have time at night once my little guy goes to bed, but I’m exhausted. Yes, instead of vegging and watching TV and exercising (I try to put these together because lord knows there’s no time for both and a pox on anyone who makes me give up How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory), I can write, but my brain is so fried. I DO bring my notebook to work and jot things down when I have a few mintues. I also decided to give myself at least 2 hours every weekend to focus on writing. It’s hard. I wish I had a better answer. I wish I could get up at 5:30 every morning and write. Since September, I’ve done it twice. Yeah, go me. This week, both my son and I are off so I booked a sitter for 3 hours. I’m also off from tutoring so those hours will go to writing. All I gotta say is that I better make some good progress this week.
Someone said something about not beating yourself up for not being able to balance everything. I should try that. I WILL try that. But, honestly, I so miss my cape.
This round’s blog chain comes from Amparo. She asks:
“It’s a new year, and some writers have taken it upon themselves to switch things up. *points at self* It might be the genres you write in or your revision process. It might be your main character’s voice. What’s one thing you’ve chosen to change in your writing this new year? Why do you wish to change it? If there’s nothing you’re going to change, why do you think it should remain as is?”
I have been thinking about writing a lot lately. Not just writing, but MY writing path. Where do I see it going? What’s in store for me? I had started working full time again so finding time to write had become more difficult (especially since my son is still young). I wrote when I had the chance, but I began to feel really discouraged. It lasted awhile. A LONG while. But I’m starting to come back. I’m trying to put less pressure on myself. I also began thinking about genres I like to write. My first two books were contemp YA. Another idea I had was contemp YA. But I decided I needed something different. My current project is dystopian, and I like it a lot and hope to finish it soon. I was really scared to try it, to be honest, because I had put myself in a contemp YA box. And I was scared to try something new. What if it wasn’t good? However, letting myself branch out must have dislodged other blockage in my brain. I am now thinking of dusting off an adult book I was working on years ago and giving it another go (I probably will be able to only keep the ideas, not any of the pages–that’s how much revising it needs–but that’s ok). And, I have been pursuing more freelance opportunities because I have missed this too.
So that’s where I’m at–embracing the unfamiliar and returning to a new kind of familiar. How about you? Want to get inspired? Check out the other posts in this chain, starting with Sandra’s.
Heya all! Welcome to another blog chain round! Today’s topic was chosen by the lovely Cole. She asks:
“In this season of giving, what one piece of advice can you gift aspiring authors?”
It’s so funny that this is the topic (not funny haha, but funny coincidental) because I was just talking to a friend of mine about motivation and how it’s important to keep writing, and all the usual pep talk stuff. I also realized how much easier it is to give others pep talks and advice than to listen to the spiels myself. If a friend, acquaintance, or even stranger asks me about how to get published or complains about not finding time to write or says s/he has been down because of lack of productivity, I’m right there to lift them up. “Just focus,” I’ll say. To my writer friends: “You can do it,” “you’re too talented to stop writing,” “you’ve come this far; don’t quit,” and the list goes on. Each time I mean every word. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by uber talented writer friends who put their hearts and souls into their work, who try so hard, for who success did not happen overnight but who are well on their way to much fanfare and kudos. They’re inspiring and awesome and persistent, and I would never want any of them to ever stop writing or feel down because of what someone may say. They’re too good.
When it comes to me, though, it’s hard to give myself the same pep talk. It kind of reminds me of that SNL skit with Stuart Smalley where he’d look in the mirror for daily affirmations (“gosh darn it people like you”). It’s not that I think I CAN’T do it or don’t have the skill or the drive. It’s just that sometimes (kind of often lately), I just keep psyching myself out. The “what if” thoughts creep into my head. You know the ones, “what if no one wants this book?”, “what if they don’t like it like I do?”. Once these viruses invade your brain, it’s hard to push them out.
I’m grateful for friends who will give me the same pep talk. The friend I spoke to today, gave me a deadline to finish my WIP. I need those external motivations. I mean, the only way we can be certain to never sell another book is to never finish it, right? I don’t want that.
So, my gifts to writers, are these. We celebrate Chanukah so I’m gifting 8 things.
1. The ability to never lose faith in oneself and one’s abilities.
2. The time and space to write uninterrupted without the aid of caffeine. (But, I’m not going to be greedy so even just the time and space to write uninterrupted, period, is a good gift).
3. Never-ending motivation to write, write, write
4. Never-ending persistence
5. An endless well of ideas
6. The power of knowing how to fix a bad plot, set of characters, etc. without having to revise numerous times
7. The fearlessness that allows you to cut scene, after scene, after scene (yes, even the one with the sparkly rainbow you adore) if it’s not working in the story
8. And, the most important one of all: the gift of never ever giving up.
Happy holidays!! May 2013 bring you the best writing gifts yet!
To check out the well-wishes of the others in the blog chain, start with Kate, and work your way down!