Saturday, December 26, 2009

Book almost done! ... Again ...

So my husband couldn't quite get as excited this time around when I'm jumping up and down telling me him I'm about done with the draft of the Persephone novel. Yep, because this is the FOURTH time, with a fresh new take on the old story, and my old versions. In this one, Perspehone lives in modern times and mythological drama ensues from there. But my husband won't be fooled again, because, yeah, the last ones went exactly... nowhere. I too have tempered my steam about finished product, locked and loaded and agent-hunt worthy. Because while with the last version I was all vim and vigor and misplaced surety, I look back now at it and think, hmm, yeah - it wasn't a bad story, but it wasn't like other things I read in the genre, and it definatly lacked voice, my catch-theme that I focused on with the latest version. Finally, it's first person, present time, teenage voice but not whiny. So I don't trust my own judgement, and don't quite know what to think of my novel, edging it's way towards completion.

But that never stopped me before! I think I should finish it in the next few days - it just has a few more scenes left, maybe 20 pages, and when I'm in go-mode, that gets pumped out. It will fall at a nice YA length, a little over 70,000 words. The rest is pretty polished, and I'll start querying agents again. I wouldn't call myself a glutton for punishment exactly - some of my bets have paid off like sending that random abstract for the conference and some of the short pieces I've published. Rejection doesn't drive me to despair, and, while you might want to punch me for my optimism, I feel like I've learned so much each time around and become such a better writer, I don't mind. And I do still have this vague indefatiguable confidence that I will get a book published eventually, if not this one, the next. Though I'm done with Persephone--if this version doesn't get picked up, I'll sow my seeds in a different story finally. Though who knows? Fourth time's a charm?

And here's a short story just published in Theaker's Quarterly Fiction. You can read it online, or order a print copy. My story, "Under the Blighted Tree" is kind of out there, but I wrote it after reading Goethe's Faust, and thinking about quest stories.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Year in Retrospect

The cold weather has blown in (and I mean literally blown - the crazy hefts of wind have knocked over playscapes and a neighbors fence, not to mention stripping all the last of the stubborn fall leaves from the trees), and it makes me feel retrospective. Well, the whole Christmas season and upcoming New Year do, but the cold was like the last thing to click in place to remind me, wow, another year is finishing, and a new one starting. But January is the time to think about the newness - December is for remembering the old. Watching news shows recap 2009, I realize what a rough year it's been for our nation. Personally, it went from being horrible to being wonderful (last Jan I was working an office job and having health problems, by the end of the year I'm rockin' it and loving school).

It was definately a year that did NOT fly by, which is usually when things are new and exciting and one's world is opening up. That happened my first semester of undergrad - my first time out of the house, moved to Chicago, fell in love--those four months felt like a year. Likewise, my mind was stretched so much by the ideas I encountered in my first four months of grad school, I felt similarly like it couldn't have been just four months! And I've got the conference coming up, and waiting to hear back from a book anthology that is considering my essay proposal (the same Twilight paper as the conference), and then working on my own novel these past couple weeks since school has done - my world is opening up more and more and continuing to blossom. All the possibilities are thrilling, and I want to jump on every one of them, and wish I could be doing twenty things at once.

So thinking about the year in reflection is really amazing, because I had no clue I'd be at this place on the cusp of so much potentiality last December. And five years ago, I couldn't envision any future at all for myself, I was so horribly sick and incapacitated for months on end. At the time, I thought I'd be like that forever, that I'd never be able to hold a job or have any kind of professional career. I feel an awe and wonder about all the things I'm able to participate in now. And I don't mean to be cheesy or sound insincere when I say, and mean it, that I LOVE MY LIFE! Merry Christmas everybody, and a happy New Year.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Contemplating Theory is Turning Me Into an Insomniac Zombie...In A Good Way

I feel like completely vegetating all night and all weekend. Which I won't, because I've been like the intellectual energizer bunny lately - constantly working through these intese theoretical paradigms and working to apply them to my problem. I feel like I finally made some breakthroughs yesterday after struggling through this morass of psychoanalytic and semiotic critical texts so that I really have something innovative to say on paper that got accepted at an academic conference in Feb: The Hero in the Playground of the Id: An Inquiry into why Twilight is Popular.

But really, this is a philosophical inquiry that I've been working through over the past few years regarding my love for young adult literature - I feel like I'm finally tracing some of the threads of that attraction, and also, my own personal philosophy of the place of storytelling in one's personal and public life. Thinking and working through it all is LITERALLY keeping me up at night - I've had the worst insomnia because the idea-mill refuses to stop churning.

I went and saw New Moon this afternoon - luckily bought my tickets ahead of time because the ENTIRE day's shows were already sold out by 3pm. So I watched that, then feel like I have this overload of new data to incorperate with all that I've already been thinking about.
And I want to submit an alternate version of the paper to a book of academic essays about Twilight, so I've been trying to finalize that abstract. And I have a presentation due in another class this coming up Tuesday about three other theoretical frameworks - analyzing critical articles, identifying underlying theoretical base, and applying it to a Hemingway short story.

And what I really want to do is curl up and vegetate. Soak in, without contemplating. Just. Be. Without thinking about being, you know?

But then, what I really want is more time and energy because all of this is lighting my ass on fire to get cracking at my own YA novel (left in the dust now for a month) and enrich it with all this new shit I've been learning and feeling. The thing is - I LOVE everything that I'm doing - all the new things that I'm learning - I feel like it's been an explosion of contemplative exposure - my courses in literature have turned into courses about life, and seeing the world, and I'm completely fucking awed by it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It's already that time in the semester...

when I start feeling bogged down and tired and I don't want to do it anymore! And it's not even halfway through. This is probably my pms and burgeoning cold talking, but still! I feel just after I finish reading the hours of reading for one week (literally, six hours of reading for one class last week), the week is over and it's time to start all over again! And this month is when I have two papers due and three presentations. And then at least November is calm again. But I don't want to be researching for papers - I want to be writing! I get so jealous for time to write, but this week, being so exhausted I've just been managing to keep up with school. Bleh.

Plus thinking about next year is getting intimidating. I have to take school full time in order to be a TA, so that's 9 hours (3 of which are thesis hours, but still!), being a TA, and writing my thesis! Coupled with my health problems, I'll barely be getting by, not to mention abandoning my extra-curricular writing all year. Which makes me want to finish the book THIS year. And who are we kidding - I'm Heather - I want to finish the book next week. Or yesterday. Which means finding time and energy to WRITE!

Whin-y whine, I know. I've got life good and easy, and when I don't have a cold anymore and the pms cramps are gone, I'll probably remember that.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Philosophy as Fiction: Is Life Meaningless?

Literature has the power of philosophy made plain, tied to human emotions and given a body. I’m reading the 6th in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, and I am continually moved by it’s lengthy examination of the question: is life meaningless?

This is where Goodkind shows his true genius – not in his writing skills per se, but in examining and pushing the limits of human psyche in various fictive scenarios. With the last book, I was about to give up on the series – I don’t really care about movement of troops and battles. But this book, Faith of the Fallen, he has stepped back into the intimate of the human. Why do we do what we do? What is the point of continuing on? His answer, I think, is moving toward something I’ve thought similarly – meaning is found in relationships and the experience of loving and being loved.

This sounds like a trite answer on the face of it. It is, when it’s the knee-jerk response. Love is the reason for living and for hope – a common fictional tool – It’s the thing that saved Harry Potter and is otherwise commonly depicted as the only thing can ultimately overcome the greatest evil and power. It is so common we cannot see underneath the statement – the never-ending complexity of this answer.

The more I think on love, and experience it, the more I think of it as something magical, and by that I mean, it’s Other. Not grasped by reason, or even words adequately – the experience of it, like other physical sensations I can feel, but never describe, or have described to me in any way close to the actual experience of it. I’m not even talking about understanding it from biological and anthropological standpoints – the emotion of love as a series of chemical responses and electrical brain activity that maybe one day will be charted by computers. That won’t make it less real, because it is Other. It is a language that reason cannot understand. It simply IS.

Maybe one could try to explain in terms of evolution – that these feelings of attachment evolved as a way of keeping a family unit stable, of bonding a mother to care for her infant so as to promote the survival of the species. I’ve tried for a long time to understand why love is. But at the end of the day, I can only call it magic. Other. Something I experience in different ways at different times, and whatever makes love what it is, it's the reason for living.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making Art Without "The Mood"

I was reminded again today that doing art is most often about working and practicing when the mood or inspiration isn't striking. It's about the day to day, as oft-quoted Jane Yolen put it, of "Butt In Chair". Writing and painting when you DON'T feel like it, practicing a craft to become great is just like atheletes working out for hours a day. Oh god, did I just use a sports metaphor? I hate sports metaphors, but you get the idea. Other people work hard hours practicing to become good at what they do, I don't know why we think art becomes "stiff" or "formalized" if you do it when not in the mood because there's a presupposition that it should be this magical process of some muse taking over our body and producing Art. Maybe it's just a lot of hard work. Maybe we use the tired phrase of needing "inspiration" as and excuse for procrastination. If I only wrote when a thunderstorm struck and I had the perfect cup of coffee while listening to the perfect piece of music for that shining moment when I was really "in it", I'd write maybe ten pages a year.

I'm trying to get into the discipline of writing a 1,000 words a day, or about 4-5 pages, but then again, I'm in the kick-it first draft writing phase right now, so it's the get-words-into-the-blank-pages kind of writing and play around to mold it later. Pages produced, in the right 'voice' (voice being the new Big Idea affecting my writing lately). I'd say that's my primary focus right now.

Oh, and you know, grad school. Which is starting to really rock my socks off, as far as the things I'm learning. The classes themselves are still not uber-great, but all the reading I'm doing is really awesome - pushing the boundaries on my thinking kind of stuff. Both classes are challenging me with new ways to see the world and humanity. I could go off on all this stuff, and maybe I will soon. But today I mainly just wanted to express the thought: making art has to be a discipline just like everything else. The discipline should certainly be mixed in with some love and ethos, but nothing will ever get done without Butt In Chair.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Utopia That Was Not

So. Grad School. Let's just say that it's not what I thought it would be. Because the discussions that are had are not any more intelligent than undergrad... and, how do I put this delicately? the standard for academic excellence isn't set very high. Why, in grad school, am I still only required to write five-seven page papers? In both my classes. Aren't much longer papers supposed to be the standard - like 10-20 pages? Which would be hard, but that's the point - it's supposed to be a lot harder therefore making you push yourself to new levels. Because, you know, we should have a lot more to say about topics, more research, more analysis, I mean, freakin' A! I guess I just imagined grad school like this academic utopia where every one is really smart and dedicated, and not only DOES the reading, but tries to UNDERSTAND and analyze the reading in a meaningful way that promotes intelligent discussion. Isn't that the point? Where we are learning how to participate in the larger academic community of quality scholarship??? The answer is, maybe not at Texas State University. Time will tell.

In other news, I'm re-writing the novel I had been querying agents for. Really learning the ins and outs of how the market works, especially as regards to children's publishing, has been invaluable, and something i think only could have been done the hard way - i.e. writing a book, trying to sell it, understanding why its not selling, and not just being like - fucking publishers! don't realize GENIUS when they come across it! So. There are some problems with the book. The main one of which is "voice". I kept seeing this all over agent requirements - they don't care what the material is but only if it has strong voice. One agent put it simply, "Voice, voice, voice!" And me sitting there constantly seeing the phrase and idea pop up, was like, what the fuck is voice????? That was always one of those words I'd heard bandied around, and vaguely had an idea of meaning, but not specifically, and not enough to put my novel and my writing under the litmus test to discover if it had this elusive entity of "voice".

I'm finally kind of getting it. It's like tone, which is also hard for me to define, other than just saying - you know, how it feels, the vibe you get from reading it. But where the rubber meets the road - how the hell do you CREATE that feeling or tone? I've been writing seriously for four years now, written two and a half novels (two of which were about Persephone, trying different angles, but all completely different...and all shitty) and I still don't know exactly how to manipulate language to create the tone I want - though I'm finally learning. I've written thirty pages on the new novel, writing it as Persephone in the 21st century as a teenager - and I'm writing first person, plopped directly in her head, so that what is on the page are her thoughts and personality. And I think it's getting a vibe.

Also, it should be a much better sell when I start querying for it because it actually FITS. Unlike straight high fantasy, which the one I've had is. Urban fantasy, or at least starting from a relatable protagonist who is just like us, and then taking her to crazy places, is not going out of style anytime soon. It's kind of timeless - that starting in our world and then bringing in fantasy or surreal elements. Just ask Alice. And I'm writing with attention to voice for the first time, which is this wild paradigm shift that I've really needed to move forward with my writing. I'll still be querying and honing the old version in case I do catch interest somewhere, but I have a feeling it'll be the new version that starts that chapter in my life.

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:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Novel Notions

My husband took the day off of work yesterday for the sole purpose of sitting down and reading my whole book. I don't think I mention often enough how much I love this man and how I got the best man in the entire universe for a husband, hands down. But it's true.

In spite of my determination to be patient, I did some research for literary agents yesterday, and have found two perfect agencies to send off the query and book proposal to. But I will clamp down my impetuous streak and make sure I've perfected the manuscript first, and synopsis. It's a one shot deal with each agent, and I'd hate for a few weeks left polishing to make it an easy reject for them.

So that's what I'm doing today - writing the world's greatest query letter and synopsis... ;)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Strange July

This has been a bizarro couple of weeks. Last week, for about seven days straight, I was an emotional PMS-y wreck. I'm not usually a cry-er, other than PMS, but even then, it's like maybe once or twice a whole month. But last week PMS from hell decides to descend out of nowhere and there was one day I swore I woke up crying and went to bed crying!! It was like some strange weepy robot had taken over my body!

And this week - ta da! Back to my normal happy go lucky self. Bizarro and disturbing. But back to the good times. Which this week has been, with minor interruptions of wanting to pull out my hair because I feel overwhelmed with the Persphone novel for young adults I've been working on for about four years. I finished it... again. And it's much, much, much better than the draft I did two years ago. And the story I think is solidly good. It's logical and I've worked hard to make it move, move, move. But now I have this 300 page bohemouth to edit. I feel like every time I work through and cut and hack and edit a chapter, then print it out, a hundred new things pop up to fix. So I never get forward, because you can always perfect what has been already edited. It seems like an impossible, never-ending process, and how is one person supposed to do this?? I keep thinking about those damn thank-you pages at the end of novels where they list off a ton of people who helped them and I'm like - YES! - you need a freaking team to produce a book. How is one person supposed to do all this?!!

I'm still going to my writer's group, but it takes a month to work through two chapters, and my finished version is twenty-one chapters. And I'm freaking impatient. I think impatience might be one of my defining characteristics actually.

So today I sat my butt down in a chair for five hours and made a detailed outline. There's just so much that happens in a novel, how can you even begin to grasp the whole thing in the same scope? I keep trying. At least paging through the entire thing and pointing out the key moments of each chapter and scene did get me really excited about it. I think in the end, this can be something special. But then I try to tamp down those feelings, because I thought similar things about the draft two years ago, and it was crap. Anyway, I'm still aiming for workable draft by the end of the summer that I'll start submitting out places. Then I'll have school to occupy my time, which will give me four months away from it, and fresh eyes to edit again at Christmas, and send out more places. My eyeballs hurt from looking at the computer screen all day. And how did it get to be the end of freakin' July already???

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Good Times Continue

Know I've been out of pocket lately. I've just not been much for communicating in any way lately - I'm backlogged on emailing people, seeing friends, blogging - I've just been taking this space lately. This beautiful pristine space just to BE and to DO. What I've been doing is writing.
I quit my job totally (I'd been slowing down on hours, until I finally just decided it wasn't worth the stress on my body even part-time). And I've been writing, and writing, and writing (randomly I'm back to working on the Persephone novel for young adults, which my goal is to complete in fair shape by the end of the summer). And I completely love my life and know that this is completely unfair and nobody gets to actually DO what they WANT to be doing, and believe me, I feel very lucky!

I just got the official acceptance today into the Master's in Literature program at Texas State. I'd talked to the advisor after taking the four extra undergrad class throughout last year, and he said everything should be fine, but it's nice to have it in writing now. Yes, I will be a graduate student. Deal sealed and locked. I have to wait until mid-August before I can register for classes, but I'm still super-stoked. I'll be taking two classes either way.

If anyone's interested, you can check out a short-short story published in a little online zine at: MudLuscious.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Classics Reading List

So, after half a year of reading tripe escapist books, I've cleared out my palate for some heavier dining. I'm trying to dig through some primary source texts on classic mythology. I read the first six books of Ovid's Metamorphoses a couple nights ago. Some of the stories in there are surprisingly captivating. All the chasing of virgin maidens to "ravish" (aka, rape) them gets old after awhile, but then every so often there will be a story like Echo and Narcissus or Phaethon (a story I wasn't familiar with before, about the Sun's son who borrows his dad's sun-weilding chariot and lights the whole world on fire) that are just amazingly written and captivating, even by today's standards. And the blood and gore scenes too - like when Perseus slaughters all the men who come to fight him at his own wedding feast with Andromeda - seems bloodier and gorier than a lot of other things I read. The men are slipping in the blood-drenched floors, skulls are crushed on stone, it's intense.

I picked up these other classic texts at HalfPrice today:

Ten Plays - Euripides
The Aeneid - Virgil
Theogony; Works and Days - Hesiod
The Homeric Hymns - ascribed to Homer

All of these mention Persephone, or talk about visits to the Underworld. I want to both read the Persephone stories from the sources, as well as get a feel for how the Underworld was envisioned. In general, it's much more horrible than I've written it so far in my novel. Ovid's version of Persephone is your classic chase and rape tale, though there are a couple of twists (like Cupid shooting Hades while the latter is inspecting Titans chained under a volcano because Aphrodite was pissed at Hades for something). And later, during Orpheus' story, in his plea for Eurydice to come back from the dead, he says to Persephone, "you too were joined in love" and this great line, "reweave, I implore, the fate unwound too fast".

I've briefly read "The Homeric Hymn to Demeter" before, but now I'll have it in book form. From what I've heard of Hesiod, he offers a more moral version of the pantheon. In the Aeneid, Aeneus spends a portion of his tale traveling through the Underworld to go visit his father and Tieresias (speaking of, I also found out how he got blinded! He's always just the "blind oracle", like in Oedipus, but Ovid tells how he got blinded, by pissing off Hera when he made her lose a bet. Hera's always getting enraged by one thing or other, and damn, she can get scary. I think she's the scariest character in the Metamorphoses).

So most of these I've read bits and pieces of online here and there, but I'm hoping to sit down and really soak them in and underline and highlight - basically, study them. Studying the books I want to be studying - what a novel thought! I love the freedom to do and read and study what I want.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Doing what nobody in the world ever gets to do

I quit work in order to write. Well, mostly. Like all things, the motivations are more complex and multi-sided including health difficulties, but the reality of my day to day is that I have no job and all the time in the world to write. Hmm, what I wanted to express in this post came out so much better in my head while I was showering. Basically, I'm terrified, and guilty-feeling for not being A+ productive suburbanite. Because nobody gets to quit thier job and do what they WANT all day! Unless you are going to college, of course, so that is how I justify this to myself - I'm basically having a self-created internship, or creative writing workshop - and the only money I pay for it is the money I lose by not working. It's a lovely cycle of self-justification and nagging guilt and feeling like a total ass to think that anything will ever come of my writing. And then I just have to try to get the fuck outside myself and worrying about all this and just write, or rather, edit, the Persephone novel. Which I've done in these total of two days into this crazy freedom land of no-work.

I'm just not good at transitions. I don't have a routine, and all I am doing is thinking, which gives me horrible insomnia when I'm not in the mindless go-go-go routine of work. And then I'm sleepy when I go to write, and then there is no point in any of it and I should have just stayed at my crap job that was horrible and suffered unhappily like a good little suburbanite.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


I'm really excited about this publication. To read my short piece, "Conversation With My Four-Year-Old", click here:

Paradigm Journal

I'm under the non-fiction section!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Acceptance in Paradigm Journal

Another acceptance into a literary journal - Paradigm! It's for a short non-fiction piece about the bittersweet tension of being a mother with a chronic illness.

I wrote this piece a couple of months ago, but have been especially reminded of how much I hate being sick lately. I've been sick for 8 years now, and the anger at it comes in waves - there's months when my norm seems like normal to me - as if, of course I walk around tired and weak and unable to do things other mothers can do - of course that's normal. And then there are days and weeks and months where I wish illness was a tangible thing that I could beat to a pulp and scream at for what it has stolen from me.

But then of course, it's not a tangible thing, only as tangible as my body, and hating my body as if it were a separate entity from me, the real, true me inside - dude, that's kind of fucked up. Lately I've been trying to come to terms that I can't separate my identity from my body - that I am both mind AND body, even though I'd rather only identify myself in terms of the former. I've been stretching and lotioning and got a new large beautiful tattoo - like I'm reclaiming territory, or at least control, of this physical body that so often feels like the enemy. But then the damn body kicks back, like this week when I tried to do too much light excersize, and the rage starts up all over again.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Shoulder/Arm TATTOO!

It's kind of awkward to take a picture of the back of one's own shoulder, so here's the best angles I could get:

Cool as hell! I was freaking grinning WHILE the guy was tattooing me I was so excited about it. And I feel like it didn't hurt as bad as the one on my leg, or that could have been because I was so stoked!!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Literary Vs. Commercial

I just came across a good Newsweek article about the commercial/literary divide in literature. And the question I hear more and more - Is reading a good end in and of itself, or is reading so called fluff or escapist literature little better than just watching tv? Is escapist literature, and reading just for fun a potential "gateway drug" to more premium, difficult literature? Or is it just another brain-sapping activity?

In the article, Zadie Smith is quoted as saying, "readers fail when they allow themselves to believe that fiction is the thing you relate to and writers the amenable people you seek out when you want to have your own version of the world confirmed and reinforced."

I think this is a valid point, especially about the nature of comfortable reading that only reinforces ones already-entrenched worldviews and values. At the same time, so much high-brow literary fiction is just so damn boring. Neither the story-lines, nor the language-usage is interesting or beautiful. For example, I read Zadie Smith's White Teeth. And I didn't like it all - I thought there were several bizarre story-lines that were held together by the contrived image of "teeth" in a novel that did shed light on a culture I was not familiar with, but felt overall pointless.

What drives me crazy is that there appears to be so little dialogue about creating a middle ground. Because each side is indignant and defensive against the other, calling each other alternately sell-outs or snobs, the accessible well-written fiction is hard to find. Why do we have to be afraid of literature that is enjoyable? Why is it either "genre" fiction or "literary" fiction (I mean, literary fiction is pretty defined by what it is NOT, i.e., NOT genre fiction)? Why don't MFA programs allow genre writers in? How do we expect to get better written genre writing, or more interesting and accessible literary fiction, or better yet, blurring the line so completely that its not entirely identifiable as one or the other?

Here's the link to the article:

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I've been feeling very blogg-y all of the sudden, ever since my sister-in-law wrote and asked why I wasn't blogging as much, and I was surprised I'd gone almost a month without blogging (I used to blog extensively at another site). It's been an odd winter, down in the dumps, and one I'll be happy to put behind me. The world seems to be perking up again - due in part to me working fewer hours, part because the weather is warming up, and warmer weather means a new shoulder tattoo! in the next couple weeks, and partiallty because it means I'm that much closer to getting to quit and focus just on school next fall. I'm finishing up one literature class that is a pre-req for grad school - Multi-cultural Literature Focus: The Southwest, so I need to get going on finishing it up.

I now have over a hundred submissions out, literally. So waiting for those responses to filter in, writing the occasional poem, tweaking short stories, but I think I'm going to take a breather from the heavy writing I'd been doing in the past few months.

The weather's warming up, which means Heather get's a new tattoo soon. Life is good. Hopefully I get the tattoo in the next week (victorian scrollwork pattern, on my left shoulder). Pictures to come!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Vive La Acceptance!

Just got my second acceptance into a lit mag!! Two poems will be appearing in The Houston Literary Review. Maybe this will induce my jaw to relax?

Also, just checked out classes for the Fall semester, and I can't wait to start going back to school again. There's a Literary Scholarship class and a History of Children's Literature class that I'm eyeing...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


And, in honor of this new blog, thought I'd share a little of my artwork too. Here's my favorite painting from this past year. I should paint more, but usually it goes in spurts, most often right when winter begins.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jaw-Ache Inducing Neurosis

So, in a new episode of neurosis, I have started grinding my teeth when I sleep and doing a bizarre tensing-my-jaw constantly when I'm awake. The husband told me I was audibly grinding my teeth while I was sleeping the other night. Plus, during the day, I can feel myself holding my jaw tight and tense, but then when I think about it, it gets worse, which makes me even more neurotic about it, which makes it tense even more!

Yeah, it's weird, and I'm attributing it to underlying stress while I wait for a second acceptance from one of the damn literary magazines - some of the irons in the fire should be coming up with a response this week, and it's driving me crazy. And inducing me to a penchant for Advil to calm down my aching jaw and neck.

Other than that, life's good. I finished the numbers obsessed story, titled "The Numeric Plague" and edited it like hell all weekend, then sent it out about 8 places. I think it's the smartest thing I've written, and with the actual rising action, big climax thing, along with intentential irony throughout. I won't hear back about that one for 2 months though, so the waiting game continues, and continues, and continues...

I am not a patient person.

But I'm also nothing if not stubborn, so even if it all comes up rejections, I'll keep pounding away at it, re-editing, writing new stuff. I'm not sure if that makes me an optimist or a masochist.

Sunday, March 15, 2009