Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Smushing three into one

So I've visited a lot of blogs over the holidays and there are the common themes of years in review, what I'm thankful for, and goals/ resolutions. I think each one has its merit. So I'll try to touch base a little on all three.

2009 a year in review for Me
1. The year started with butt loads of video editting. My eyes were permanently glued to the screen sorting through video clips of weddings, Nutcrackers, and more ice skating than my poor eyes could bear.

2. Then around spring time it was the optometry soap opera. Let me summarize...
District manager: By the way. The new full time guy will be here in a week.
Me: speechless
District manager: Didn't the old manager tell you?
Me: umm....no
District Manager: Oh, yeah so I'm sorry, you kind of don't have a job anymore. Unless you want to be a full time doc.
Me: Definitely can't do full time. So. Ok. Guess I have more time to write now.

So I reinvent myself, start revising/ rewriting Product of an Illusion, and I'm perfectly content with life.
Three weeks later:

District manager: We need you! Full time guy flew the coop!
Me: What?!? I've kind of reinvented my life. I can't just drop that.

3. In June I won two agent reviews via Brenda Novak's Auction for Diabetic Research and this really kicked my writing up to full throttle.

4. In August I start officially blogging. Best decision EVER!

5. In September I'm maid of honor in cousin's wedding. Absolute fun craziness. See pic for example.

6. In October I'm writing away. Bliss.

7. In November, still writing and then finally submit to agents.

8. In December I recieve my agent reviews. Take a writing hiatus, contemplate, and decided to start working full time.

Whew...that was some year. Wish I had accomplished more, but there's always 2010.

What I'm thankful for:
1. My health, my family, Sarcastically Delicious, his jokes, my friends (these are listed in no particular order)
2. The joy that my blog and blogging has brought me (Thank you guys!!)

Goals/ Resolutions:
This is where the real conundrum is folks. I'm a very goal oriented person. If I don't make goals I feel like I'm just floating out there in a pointless ether. But the problem is that the goals are clashing with each other! It's worse than Monsters vs Aliens (funny movie by the way, just watched it the other night). When I figure out who the winner is I will definitely post it on my blog. They say if you write your goals down you are more likely to achieve them. So posting them on my blog should really improve my odds of accomplishing them, right?

And lastly, I'd like to thank Natalie Bahm and Shannon O'Donnell for thinking of me when it was their turn to bestow awards. I guess this should have went under the what I'm thankful for column. Alas, I try.
Happy New Year! Best wishes to everyone for a fantabulous 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A teenager with true Christmas spirit

Today at work I had a patient who was a fifteen year old hispanic male. As we were waiting in between dilation drops I asked him if he was excited about Christmas. He said, "Oh, yes. I bought presents for all my sisters and my family. But I told my Mom and everyone not to buy anything for me. We don't have a lot and I want to make sure everyone gets something for Christmas this year."
His response tore my heart out and I wanted to start bawling right there. Not only is this boy so generous, he broke his glasses two weeks ago and has been walking around blind. And here I was being ba hum bug about the holiday season and he was being so self less and mindful of his family's happiness on Christmas day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Holidays

A lot of people are taking a blog hiatus due to the upcoming holidays. I am still undecided on my blog status. As you all know, I'm a bit ba hum bug right now and I am trying quite hard to come out of the funk.

For starters, I made a fire the other day and hung up stockings, in hopes that  Santa would squeeze his fat ass down my chimney and bring me a muse.

Next, Sarcastically Delicious (this was more his doing than mine) and I put up a tree. Sasha Kitty is waging war against the tree. So far the score is Kitty 1  Tree 0. And what a terrible loss it was folks. Tree was laying panting on its side, ornaments scattered across the floor, and branches strewn hither and tither. To the right is a pre battle shot.

And lastly, I went to Barnes & Noble and bought all of my ice skating students and my skating coach copies of City of Bones, City of Ashes, and if they were extra special City of Glass. I even splurged on some peppermint hot chocolate, sadly it tasted off.

And finally, I want to complain about how kids get off of school until January 5th! That's the 5th! And us adults have to work!
Ok, that's it from me for now. I fear this post is veering farther and farther away from writing and books. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Does your significant other read your blog?

I hope everyone had a fantabulous weekend! Mine was quite busy. I got to spend a good bit of time with Sarcastically Delicious (aka boyfriend), but alas we spent most of it working. We did however have a very nice dinner at the Melting Pot on Friday during which we had some great conversation.

Let me tell you a bit about Sarcastically Delicious....
1. He doesn't like fiction.
2. He doesn't like anything with "fantasy" in it. It's beyond him why I participate in a fantasy football league. He says it's NOT REAL!  But it is SD. It is.
3. To this day he says, "I just DON't understand why you like Twilight. It's just gay." And if he can squeeze in a comment about "sparkling nipples" and "taking ones shirt off one too many times" he will never miss an opportunity.
3. He's not on Facebook
4. He is very FUNNY. He makes jokes about everything.
5. And of course he's sarcastic and hot. Hence his namesake- Sarcastically Delicious (which I believe he came up with himself)
6. He gives me my space. He doesn't care that I like to ice skate at the butt crack of dawn, spend most of my time in la la land, and do a wide assortment of careers.

So as you've probably figured out he doesn't read my blog. And I don't think he ever will. Does that bother me? Not really. He does however comment on my e-popularity.

So does your significant other read your blog? And how do you feel about that?

Friday, December 18, 2009

What I learned from my other agent review....

Alex Glass emailed me a partial critique of Product of an Illusion about 10 days ago and I've been digesting ever since. Getting partial critiques from two different agents (Nathan Bransford was the other-see my thoughts here) was an eye opening experience to say the least. And for those of you who are new visitors, I won these critiques via Brenda Novak's online auction for diabetic research.

Getting two different critiques reminded me of how subjective writing, reading, agenting, publishing, etc... are. After reading Nathan's critique I figured that I pretty much knew what Alex was going to say. They're both agents. They must share the same thought patterns, views, etc... Not quite.

I'm not going to share every detail, but just the things that I found thought provoking and that made me uber happy.

1. Alex said he "read with interest." 
Is that just a formality? Or was he really interested? I suppose he didn't have to say it unless he meant it. It's not like he would have said I read your manuscript with complete utter mind numbing boredom

2. He said I was a "talented writer" and that the  "core universal themes of the novel (coming of age, overcoming adversity, sacrifice, and redemption), and situates it pretty solidly within the YA fantasy category, with some great supernatural and adventure elements. It’s a strong premise and there is a large commercial market for this category of book."

I re-read this part several times. And then I re-read it again. And then I just kind of stared at the computer screen for awhile in a state of pleasant shock.

There were some other positive comments that he made, but the above two really MADE my day.
Now for the things that I learned and I hope are helpful for you guys too.....

1. I've always struggled with the concept of a prologue. To prologue or not to prologue- that is the question. Here's what Alex's take was on it:
"A prologue should set up a story and give some background details, but most importantly it should serve as gateway into the world of the novel. The reader needs to have a taste of the world and the character before we are given a lot of plot elements."
The part that really hit home for me was the not introducing a lot of plot elements. I think I was trying to throw too many plot snippets into my prologue and it just ended up being confusing and muddled. Thinking of a prologue as a gateway or a tasting really puts it into perspective, for me at least, as far as what I need to do for the opening.

2. Synopsis
I've read a lot of agent blogs and consulted many sources and let's face it- I think the concept of a synopsis is subjective. Alex said that he prefered a two paragraph synopsis and he said that some agents may disagree on that. But he feels you should have a clear, concise synopsis that you could use as part of your query letter.

3. Voice
Just as Nathan, Alex found some issues with my narrative voice. And he suggested (just like Nathan) that an omniscient narrator may perhaps be more appropriate.

4. Telling versus Showing- Alex's thoughts:
"The “telling” type of writing shuts the reader off from being able to sympathize with the characters or figure out what is going on and what the subtext of the novel is, which is the crux of a reader’s connection to a story."

5. Chapter Length
My chapters average 5-6 typed pages when using 1 inch margins, double spaced, and 11 point Times New Roman. Alex encouraged me to "focus on writing longer chapters with evocative scenes and fleshing out sympathetic characters that can stand on their own without the intervention of a sometimes-awkward narrative presence and plot-advancing devices."

So there you have it folks. I now have so much professional suggestions/critcisms on my novel that I almost don't know what to do with it all. I've been on kind of a writing embargo the past few weeks. And now I'm afraid if I start writing I'll just...I don't know....not do it right. Don't get me wrong, I feel soooo lucky to have these professional critiques and my inner writing engine is getting revved up for what I'm confident will be the best version of Product of an Illusion yet. But, still...it's uh...daunting.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I might be the real life Ba Hum Bug

I usually love the holidays. But I'm not really looking forward to them this year and I can't really explain why. I haven't put up a tree or hung up lights. I only bought presents yesterday for my skating students (I gave them books!) but have yet to buy presents for my family, skating coach, or Sarcastically Delicious.
I think it may be because I'm working too much these days. When the day is over all I want to do is veg, and thinking about Christmas just reminds me of all the things I should be doing to make it a holly jolly good time. Bah!
I think me and Scrooge should hole up somewhere and just have a ba hum bugiriffic time.

Will post more writerly thoughts tomorrow. Stay tuned for the scoop on my other agent review.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Seriously disappointed.....

Dear Pittsburgh Steelers,

I have been a long time fan of your team and an especially huge admirer of Hines Ward. I love the fact that he smiles after every play and genuinely looks like he's having the time of his life.

Well, I'm not smiling team. Last Sunday before you guys played the Oakland Raiders I announced on Facebook that I would disown you guys for the season if you lost to them. I mean come on, they're the Oakland Raiders. And you let me down! And then last night you played the Cleveland Browns. The poopy Cleveland Browns. And they beat you! I hope you're hanging your heads down in shame.

Mike Tomlin said that you guys were going to unleash hell in December. Do you need me to chase you around with a pitch fork? Seriously, I'll do it.

Further more, what kind of line lets their quarterback get sacked a gazillion times a game? I bet I could protect Rothlesberger better than you guys can. It's no wonder the poor guy has had so many concussions.

I understand that Polamalu is hurt and has been spending a lot of his free time doing Head & Shoulders commercials. But you guys are a team! And just because one defensive player is off shampooing his hair for money (just kidding I know you have a strained MCL, I've had one of those before too and I feel for you- ouch!) that doesn't mean our entire defensive scheme should fall apart.

And lastly, you have disappointed my fantasy team, Straight Trippin. I'll draft your defense in the second round just because I think you're that cool. And I'll pick up Hines in the third. Just beacuse I love you guys that much. But, I'm seriously regretting that this season. Well, Hines not so much. He's put up some good numbers.

So if I don't watch any more of your games this season it's not because I don't love you guys. I just can't stand to see you self destruct. I don't know if you should even trying winning anymore games this season. Just end the misery with a pitiful record so we can at least draft some better safetys and peeps who'll actually protect Big Ben.

Happy Holidays Team!

Seriously Disappointed,

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I've been tagged....

Matthew Delman over at Free the Princess just tagged me. Wow. How exciting! I'm frozen in place. No! Don't crawl through my legs to undo the nefarious tagging spell! Let me break it myself by answering the following questions:

1. What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?
The last thing I wrote (before Product of an Illusion) was a novella called Waggledance. The first thing I wrote, as a child, was a short story called Fireball Island (and of course it had illustrations because everything in second grade needs colorful pictures). When I was twelve I attempted to write a novel called The Time Struck. It was about a mouse named Lettuce Breath who lived in the NYC subway system and one day fell in a puddle that transported him to a parallel universe. 

2. Write poetry?
Not anymore. Used to when I was young- back when I thought all poetry was rhymey and sing songy.

3. Angsty poetry?
When I was in highschool I wrote a poem about a depressed teenager that killed herself (and of course I illustrated it with a picture of a smoking gun).

4. Favorite genre of writing?
When people meet me they usually ask where I go to school. And then I have to tell them I don't go to school. Then comes the predictable displeasing look of shock as they silently call me a drop out or accuse me of  playing hookie.  (I finished grad school in 2006) Most people say I look 18. Although the other day someone did tell me I could pass for 21. So, I have to go with young adult. Specifically fantasy young adult with an intertwined love story. Those are my favs.

5. Most annoying character I've ever created?
John's uncle from Waggledance. John's Uncle is gay and is convinced that John must be too. But John has the hots for the MC Anna. And right when Anna think that John likes her, his Uncle has to go and tell her that John is gay. Poor Anna.

6. Best plot you've created?
I'd have to say the plot of Product of Illusion. The problem is that it's fantabulous in my head, but doesn't quite come out that way on paper.

7. Coolest Plot twist you've ever created?
Definitely in Product of an Illusion. But, sadly I can't tell you, or it would ruin it. Sorry.

8. How often do you get writer's block?
I don't personally suffer from writer's block. It's just life that keeps erecting road blocks preventing me from spending time with my journal or laptop.

9. Write fan fiction?
I don't know what that is and I'm too lazy to wiki it.

10. Do you type or write by hand?
Both. Just depends on my mood. Pen on paper has an artistic, exotic lure.

11.Do you save everything you write?
Uh...yeah. What stinks today maybe gold tomorrow. Hang on to those words.

12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you abandon it?
Usually never. If I abandon you don't expect me to come back. Sometimes I'll go back to a short story or a previous novel and pull words/ideas from it. But if the idea and I have a break up, I almost always move on.

13. What's you're favorite thing you've ever written?
I have a terminal illness called self deprication-loathing-itis.
The other day I was talking to my coach. And he was like, "Anita, what's got you so down today?"
"Oh, nothing really. Just the fact that I'm average at everything I do."
So, I really don't have any favorites of anything that I've ever written.

14. What's everyone else's favorite story that you've written?
According to my skating buddies/beta readers it's the first draft of Product of an Illusion.
15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
I'm not a romance writer per say. But everything needs a bit o luvin' in it, right? Angsty teen drama? Angsty is such a subjective term.
16. What's your favorite setting for your characters?
London Baby!
17. How many writing projects are you working on?
Well, there's Product of an Illusion. And then I started dabbling in something called Ice. Just a chapter or two. And then this past weekend (since I was taking a break from Product) I started writing something called Second Chance. It's based a bit on my life intertwined with 13 Going on 30.
18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Why would anyone give me an award! Come on people.
19. What are your five favorite words?
Reconciliation (it was the first big person I learned to spell when I was a kid)
Trifecta (I love how they use this word in Ocean's 12)
If I named three other words I'd just be lying when I said they were my favorites. Beause two is all I have folks.
20. What character have you created that are most like yourself?
Kate Rose from Second Chance and Anna from Waggledance.
21. Where do you get ideas for your characters from?
No clue. I just start writing and they show up. It's as if my imagination puts out a casting call and they just show up to audtion.
22. Do you ever write based on your dreams?
I usually don't remember what I dream about. And if I do remember, the dreams are so outlandish and crazy that you really couldn't do anything with them on paper.
23. Do you favor happy endings?
Definitely. I won't watch things or read things that I know have sad endings. I write/read for an escape, not to get depressed. My cousin told me that Up had a sad ending and I almost didn't watch it. But, then I thought how sad could a Pixar movie be? So I went ahead and watched it. It was wonderful! So creative. And in my opinion, not sad.
24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar when you write?
I'll usually let things flow at first and then go back right away and fix the kinks.
25. Does music help you write?
If it has lyrics its a distraction. I could do instrumental. But since I haven't created an instrumental play list just for writing time, I don't listent to music when I write.
26. Quote something you've written. Whatever pops in your head?
Umm....gee...thanks for putting me on the spot there.
I'm drawing a blank. Sorry. Too many things on my mind right now.
Ahhhh....the freezing spell has dissipated. So it's my turn to tag someone.....
You're It:
Marissa Spector, Hilary Wagner, and Thomas Taylor.
Have fun guys! And as always, happy writing!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What I Learned from My Partial Critique

Having my work critiqued by an agent was an eye opening experience. I submitted the first thirty pages of Product of an Illusion to Nathan Bransford for a critique that I won via Brenda Novak's auction for Diabetic Research. I won't go into the nitty gritty details, but I will share some things that I learned, how I digested it, and where it leaves me at today. For those who don't regularly follow this blog, the manuscript that I submitted to Nathan was a rewrite, of a rewrite, of a rewrite. Five years in the making, it was the best that I thought I could put out.

1. He liked the plot. (inner squee!!)
2. He thought I could craft interesting scenes and images (double squee!!)
3. I need to polish my voice. (hmmm....I'll have to work on that)
4. Too many adverbs (Wince. How did I miss those? I know adverbs are a no no)
5. Too many exclamation points and italics are used to say rather than show what is going on. (Stupid me. I know you're supposed to show rather than tell. I know that.)
6. Inconsistent narrative.
7. The protagonists is being bounced around rather than playing active role. (I feared this. I really did. And I am so glad Nathan came right out and just said it.)

And now for the most important thing Nathan helped me realize....

The cast for Product of an Illusion is large. Each character has a unique back story and in some way contributes to the protagonist. But, its been difficult orchestrating everyone and moving the plot along because I chose to tell this story from first person. I've always written everything in first person. I'm not sure why that is. And, I've always seen writing in third person as daunting. On a whim, I did write the prologue in third person, and after I wrote it there was this voice in my head, haunting me, telling me....You should tell this story in third person. You should tell this story in third person. But I just didn't do it. So I asked Nathan what he thought about me rewriting the story in third person. He thought it might be a good idea.

So, I'm back at square one. Pages Zero. Not only am I going to switch the point of view of the story but I'm going to change up the plot so that Maya (the protag) is actively moving the story along. I think I'm just going to lay low for awhile. Research. Brain storm. Write some other things for fun. And maybe with the start of the new year jump into the rewrite.

Happy Writing!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Yes, You Heard Right...There is Snow in Houston Folks!

After napping at thirty thousand feet, my eyes open as the plane descends for landing. The clouds thin and I rub my eyes in disbelief. The roof tops are coated in a thick layer of snow and giant flakes are swirling in the sky. Did I get on the wrong plane? Did the pilot take a detour? This couldn't be....Texas?

And of course iPhone, as vindictive as he is, purposely told me that the temperature in Houston would be 55 degrees today and in the sixties for the rest of the weekend. I ain't packed for no thirty degrees freezing cold weather. I think my iPhone is in cahoots with Kiersten's laptop.

Anyway, I've got sixteen hours of gloriously boring lectures to look forward to this weekend. Usually I tune out and work on my book. But since my book is still radio active (with radiation levels slowly but surely dropping) I guess I'll have to actually....cringe....pay attention to sixteen hours of blather on corneas and contact lenses. Bah.

Hope everyone has a fab weekend! Happy writing!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How an Olympic performance is much like publication

Yesterday Sarcastically Delicious (aka boyfriend) and I were in the car and I was babbling as usual. S.D. is a great listener. I had a revelation earlier in the week where I realized how writing a book worthy of being published is much like becoming an olympic level figure skater.

Sure, I can skate, do more things than the average person: double salchows, double toe loops, axels, layback spins, I can even Starlight Waltz or skate the Blues on the ice. But I by no means have the grace, power, edges, spirals, spins, or the triple jumps, frankly, to be an elite skater.

Similarly, with writing I probably write better than the average joe who doesn't like to read or write for fun. But, to take it to the elite level it's going to take years. I've been skating eighteen years and I still can't do a double flip consistently. And if it takes me eighteen years to perfect the craft of writing and create something that's worthy of being published, then so be it. I write because I enjoy it.

And then as if the fates heard my words, waiting for me in my inbox when I got home was Nathan Bransford's partial critique of Product of an Illusion. Nathan posted on Monday about how to handle a manuscript critique. According to him, the critique is apparently radio active, and now that I have read it, I must distance myself from it for a few days.

Happy writing everyone!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Driver seeking good YA audio book reccomendation

Hey guys! I'm looking to purchase a good YA audio book.  I've already listened to all the YA at my public library and I'm currently listening to Twilight for the upteenth time.
Any suggestions?

Gossip Time...City of Glass

Monday's awards were fun and now it's time to get back to business. Which means it's time for another installment of Gossip Time. Today we will discuss Cassandra Clare's City of Glass the third and final book in the Mortal Instrument Series.

 Like most of my recent reads, I listened to this one in the car. The second and third books in the series are read by Natalie Moore. She does a snaptastic job. The first book in the series, City of Bones, was read by Ari Graynor (and according to Bane of Anubis wasn't as snaptastic. The publisher was obviously in agreement and so they made the change to Natalie). But I digress.

Usually, when I gossip about a book I like to discuss everything about it, including spoilers. But since this is the final in the series I don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't read it.

Some things I liked:
1. Clare is the master of cliff hangers.When I read her writing it feels like I'm watching a movie. She'll get you engrossed in a scene and right when you reach a pivotal, climactic moment she whooshes you over to a completely different scene. And then repeats. I was like WTF! This is too much to handle! I can't worry about all of these characters at the same time!

2. I like it when writer's use creative, innovative metaphors and similies. But what Clare does that is so cool is that she'll relate a present moment to a moment in the past. There was one part where the MC Clary is in tight spot and Clare describes the sensation as "jumping off the roof of the Hotel Dumort" from book one. Not only does it clearly describe Clary's feeling but also reminds the reader of the past story.

3. I like how Clare doesn't introduce us to Sebastian until the third book. That's the epitome of writerly patience- to hold on to someone as crucial and wham bam in your face until the third book! That's some well planned pacing.

I think the Mortal Instrument Series would be a great read for any teeny bopper or adult that likes that kind of stuff. On further note, I want to clarify that I am not being paid for gossip time or in any way receiving compensation for promoting Cassandra Clare's work. Have a great day peeps!