Friday, August 28, 2009

Excited like a little kid on her first day of school

So, I'm sitting here inside Flowers Hall waiting for my first grad school class to start - I'm here early of course because I'm a giant nerd, and not only was I excited to get here, I was worried about catching the bus, and times, and walking, and all of that... so I'm here thirty minutes early! And just sitting here buzzing with excitement. Literally, I have a giant goofy smile on, and I can't wait to meet my classmates and teacher and... wait, aren't I supposed to be cooler than this, or at least outgrow being excited about the first day of school? Or not.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I have a problem with the MICRO in microblogging

Because I always have so damn much to say!!

And my fingers like to type. And verbiage is my friend. In fact, it's one of my favorite snooty words: verbiage. Ahhh.

SO. I did not go to class tonight after all because I dropped my Medieval Lit class and added a Children's Lit Class - Golden Age of Children's Literature, which is on Friday afternoons. I've read almost all the big modern chidlren's lit classics, but not some of these older ones, like The Wizard of Oz, The Jungle Book, The Little Princess, The Wind in the Willows (though I do think I read that one as a kid).

I'm excited to learn about what has made children's lit tick in the past - what makes a classic, what makes great storytelling. Finally I'll be taking classes applicable to my extra-curricular writing activities. Much, much, MUCH better than trying to wade through Old English. Which of course I'll have to do eventually because it's required to graduate, but why do today what I can put off until tomorrow... or next year? :)

And I've finally decided I'm going to make Children's Lit my area of emphasis, or "cognate", i.e., the graduate version of a minor. I just admit it now: what I really want to do is be a writer, and this is the genre I love. I'll probably end up an old decrepit teacher instead, but it won't be for lack of freaking trying!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Name in Print !!!

Eeeeeee! Exciting - the first thing that I've had published in a print literary journal!! Came in the mail today! See how pretty!!!

2009 Permafrost Journal 009

2009 Permafrost Journal 016

2009 Permafrost Journal 020

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Schools almost here. Which means the summer is almost over, and I'm not quite ready for it to be. I got one of my manuscripts back from a friend who did a read-through, so now I'm hacking back through with the changes. Overall, really trying to contemporize the language. When I first thought about selling the book, I was like, oh, perfect - YA fantasy is huge right now!

Except, not exactly. Urban fantasy is huge. Epic fantasy, which I've finally realized mine could be interpreted as closer too, is pretty dead. So I'm doing something that I think all around is going to make it a better book - going through and checking every piece of dialogue, every chunk of description and taking out the stilted verbosity of which I am too fond :) Little things like having the main character call Demeter "Mom" instead of "Mama". Using slang, like "okay" and "yeah" throughout.

It's intentionally anachronistic, but I've read epic fantasy before where the language was so perfect and grand, it was hard to disappear into the story. I'm trying to cut through that shield between the reader and the text.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Realization of Category fit. And Zombies.

So since I've been reviewing all these YA books, it's made it clearer to me where my book fits in the genre. It struck me yesterday that while my book isn't urban fantasy, the gods are kind of like the heartless faeries - all powerful and many completely without morality. In tone, my writing is kind of like Melissa Marr or Libba Bray though without the gritty urban sheen.

Then today it struck me, when trying to describe what the dead would look and act like in the Underworld, that the best near description would be zombies (I'm reading a zombie book right now). Corporeal, but for the most part zoned and out of it (though not chasing the living around trying to canabalize them or anything). Zombies are another bizarre category in YA that's coming into style.

I've only read a couple zombie books, all though yesterday I came across a post of a person coining the term "Zom Rom", as in, zombie romance as a genre. WTF? These seem like two incompatible categories, though the book I was reading last night does a pretty good job of it:
  • Generation Dead by Daniel Waters - this book is suprisingly kick ass. Maybe I've just been reading so many poorly written books lately that I'm just shocked by how well written this book is. Really good, intelligent. It takes the undead trying to integrate into society in a situation throw-back to the 60's racial hatred at integration. Fascinating look at humanity - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan - first of all - how amazing is that title? Hands down, best title of the year. And here you get traditional zombies - mindless, hungering for human flesh, kept at bay from a small community in a post-apocalyptic world by a giant fence. Good and intense.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Faerie Tales - YA Lit Part II

So, faeries. And no, I'm not trying to be pretentious writing it that way, believe me, that's the way the new faery-tale writers want it spelled - or rather, the way it used to be spelled and they are going back to the original idea of The Fair Folk as mischievous baby-stealing hedonists.

Rundown of the goods out there:

  • Wicked Lovely Series by Melissa Marr - Definately the best writing. But in book II of the series, she focuses on completely different characters, then back to the main one's for book III (in all, there will be five books). And the narrative goes places I don't want it to go. Unpleasant, certainly uncomfortable. But very REAL characters. Gritty. Urban. Just not my cup of tea, you know? I like conflict, but maybe not this much.
  • Impossible by Nancy Werlin - I really, really liked this book. It's not as heavily into the faery mythology as some of the others, but is based around a fairy-curse with an evil fairy-like dude taking his revenge, generation by generation. It's good stuff. It's out in paperback now. Check it out.
  • Wings by Aprilynne Pike - Slower start, but got very good by the end. A new take on fairy mythology, and I really liked it. I liked the love triangle built. I read it quick and wanted to know what comes next. Always a good thing.
  • Lament by Maggie Stiefvater - I didn't like this as much as I thought I would. I first read her newest book Shiver about werewolves, and it was excellent, so then I picked up this one, her first book. And I thought there were some leaps in logic that didn't quite make it for me - the love story between the two leads wasn't quite believeable enough. It just didn't do it for me.
  • Tithe by Holly Black - this is really the seminal book for the faery story revival - of faeries as dangerously beautiful and murderous, and humans as mere playthings. In a gritty, urban setting. It's good. I didn't love it, but then, I'm not all about gritty urban fantasy. And it gets props for being the first of the movement.
  • Wondrous Strange by Leslie Livingston - It was good. If you like the genre, check it out.

Others I haven't read (though I currently have one checked out from the library!)

  • Bones of Faerie - by Janni Lee Simner
  • Fairy Tale - by Cyn Balog - I've heard good feedback about this one. I'll probably check it out if I can track down a cheap or library copy.

In other exciting news - an agent requested a partial of my manuscript for Becoming Persephone! Which I know, I know, it's just a first step, and most partials eventually get rejected, but still! I got a bite!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Heather's Low Down on YA Lit Part I - Vampires

I’ve read a ton this summer – consuming and chomping up books like they were chex mix, almost exclusively young adult novels. Through a rag tag combination of library, Half-Price Books, buying full price, and even Ebay, I have read everything popular, checked out some award winning books, chewed through series. I’ve read about vampires (of course, and almost all of them done poorly), werewolves, witches, faeries (so many faerie books lately!), demons, immortals, dream-walkers, and re-told old-fashioned fairy tales. Ok, this makes me want to rank them by creature and quality. Let’s start with the obvious, shall we?


  • Twilight Series – sorry folks, but Stephenie Meyer is the best story-teller of the bunch, even if I did have multiple ick moments with Book IV.
  • Vampire Academy Series – Rachelle Mead tells damn good stories. With a great mythology, and great also because the lead character isn’t even a vampire, but a vampire protector. Great thoughts about loyalty, sacrifice, self-denial. And a kick your guts in love story, which I’m hoping will somehow magically resolve itself in the book coming out on August 25th. Mead is going to be in town, so I’m going to a book signing for the release! Very excited, both about meeting her, and getting to finally read the next book.
  • Evernight Series by Claudia Gray. Again an academy, with cool plot twists. And she’s just a better writer than some of them out there – good flow between scenes, good dialogue and relationships. I’m surprised this one isn’t more popular. I really liked it.
  • House of Night Series – by P.C. and Kristen Cast. So. This one was a good enough read. Again with the boarding school thing, and the predictable ream of friends and dumb dialogue. But it had some interesting ideas in it.
  • Vampire Diaries – I barely remember what it was about. Interesting enough for a couple night’s reading, but nothing to write home about. Throw-away relationships between the kids, stupid dialogue. I think this one just got popular because of it’s timing – it was already published (in the late 90's) when Twilight first got popular, and was an easily go-to for people wanting more sexy teen vamps. And this one is coming out as a TV show on the CW.
  • Vampire Kisses Series by Ellen Schreiber – Didn't love it as much

While we are at it, I am SO tired of the same storyline over and over and over and over again. Either the protagonist moves to a new town, or new/mysterious boy arrives. (And in at least ten different series, the stupid male/female love leads meet because they are science lab partners!! Freakin' A! Get some imagination!) Immediate attraction, interest. Secrecy.

Ooooooooo, are you tingling in your bedspreads yet? Time for some sublimated sexual innuendo! Or, in some cases, like the House of Night series, your first introduction to a main character accidently walking in on him getting a blow job. Not to mention the book I just read tonight was about a secret teacher-teen sex ring! Maybe you can talk about sex in YA. In Perfect Chemistry, the author even talks about the dude’s “erection”. Sex is everywhere – or at least heavy, detailed foreplay, and then shut the curtain for the main event.

Tomorrow I’ll give you my run down on faeries. I generally don’t like the faerie books, with their throwback to the original faeries as gleefully murderous fey. You can never really like the faeries, and that can be a problem, when they are the freaking protagonist.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Insomnia mumblings

Awake again, too late. Insomnia and nauseous. Feeling restless and emotional, like I want to cry but I don't even know what for, other than I'm too tired and feel weepy like a tired little kid.

And waiting for things to happen and working to make them happen, and then just... alone here in the middle of the night sitting in a chair and feeling like my guts are empty.

Feeling too much, but I don't even know what about - emotion without substance, even though it feels very meaningful, here alone, in the middle of the night. I feel like curling up and sleeping for days and waking up after life starts to have motion again.

Ok, ending emo-girl post now.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Things an Aspiring Author is Not Supposed to Say

I sent out four query letters to agents today. I don't know how many you're supposed to do at once. I'll probably do more tomorrow, but I figure I'll space them out. All I have is time - I mean, excluding my extremely impatient nature. I'm starting at the top with the best agencies, because, why not? I'll work my way down the list I'm compiling. I'm researching each agent, finding the ones that sound like they might fit - aka, interested in young adult, fantasy, romance. I queried a couple who are the agents of books that I really liked.

I read a very good YA book tonight - Blue Moon, by Alyson Noel (better than the first book in the series, I thought), and after I finished it, I was like, crap, I think I've been thinking my book is better than it is. Over-estimating it. So then I opened up my long document and sifted through it... and it's good. It still needs some tweaking here and there, small things, but it's good.

Here's the thing. I know a person is supposed to be all about false modesty. I get it. I try not to tell people I'm writing a book, or have written one, because I know how stupid it sounds! I know it sounds ridiculous saying out loud, or digitally writing it here, that I have this good feeling that I'll be able to sell this book. Maybe not with one of these first agents who are way out of my league. But I know my genre. I love my genre - young adult - the genre that's not a genre almost because it welcomes everything - just with less sex :) I'm a good storyteller. I've written a good book that is both like enough to what is out there, but with a new angle to make it stand out. A marketable book from an agent's perspective.

These are things you aren't supposed to say out loud. To say them out loud means you will jinx yourself, or make yourself look like a fool when the months pass without a bite. What the hell. I think my young adult novel will sell, if not now, then eventually. There. I said it. Jinxes fall upon me as they may!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Thinking Ahead

Ahh, this is the life - getting back to what is just hilariously fun about writing - planning out and doing basic outline for book II (Persephone Rising) after being elbow-deep in editing the first book for so long. I've given out the manuscripts of the first to friends, and now I'm forcing myself to take a week or two off from it and get thier feedback before I send out. And in the meantime, looking into getting on paper all these ideas that have been swirling amorphous in my brain about Book II.

And it is just so much fun. Just straight storytelling - thinking of the first obstacle, resolution, next conflict, relationships built along the way - new characters, new conflicts. I'm introducing Hercules, who will be kind of a bastard out for his own ends, and Prometheus, who will teach Persephone to learn how to finally value the beauty and dignity of mortal life - all the more beautiful because of its fragility and transient nature. Figuring out where Hera is during all this, and Zues' sneaky longterm plan (which will come to fruition in Book III). I'm finally understanding what author's mean when they say that even if the first book doesn't get published, they still have to write the others, if only for themselves. Because the stories are banging away inside, wanting to be told.

Plotting a book is like creating a puzzle - sneaking bits in at the beginning that won't click till the end. But right now, I'm discovering it as I create it - I run into a problem, and get to brainstorm around a solution - usually resulting in something else super cool I can incorperate from mythology. It's an endless mine of great characters, images, themes, stories. Freaking fun.

My working tagline for the entire series is:

Ages from now, bards will tell tales of the times when the gods walked among men. This is the story of how that era came to an end.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Sorry all I'm talking about lately is the book I've been working on, but it's what's been filling up most of the brain space. It's completed. I'm giving it to three friends to read and edit, I've written a good query letter and a not-so-good synopsis that I'm still hacking away at. Then I'll super-edit the first fifty pages for a partial in case requested. Then, I think in two weeks when I get the manuscripts back from friends, I'll start querying agents.

I feel a lot different about it this time than I did when I sent it out before, over a year ago. It's a different book, a much more interesting book, a much better written book. I feel this giddy optimism, which I know will soon be crushed by piles of rejection letters, but no matter how much it gets rejected at first, I think I've created something special this time around. Something akin to the piles of published YA books that I read on a daily basis. And I'll keep pushing to get it into the hands it needs to be - go to conferences where you can schedule time with agents, and query, query, query. I'll let it sit for four months, then do even more re-writes in December after my classes are done, then do another pile of querys. For the first time, I really think this is a book that is publishable. Now, we'll see in a few weeks if any agents agree!
And either way, in three weeks, when grad school starts (eek! yay!), it will get put on the side-burner, and I'll get to fill my brain up with entirely new things - namely, reading Old English in my Midieval Lit class (eek again!), and Hemmingway short stories in the other.

Oh, and because I'm a total dork, I like to document the process: