Saturday, March 26, 2011

Nature of Magic Blogfest

Thanks to Tessa Conte, who prompted me on Facebook to participate!  I would not have wanted to miss this one.  But it has been an absolute hell of a week.  I can't even describe the overlapping, intertwining layers of stress that have converged in the past three days, except to say

"Big Presentation to Entire Company + Severe Cold +  Loss of Voice + Child with stomach virus + No Sleep + First Writer's Conf Ever + Unprepared Pitch = ACK!"

But thankfully, we have magical worlds to escape to.  Here are the instructions:

Write or share something you've already written that, to you, shows the nature of magic. It can be an excerpt from your WIP, something you've written especially, poetry, whatever strikes your fancy. It just needs to show the nature of magic as it exists for you or for those you write about. Unless you're writing poetry, try to keep the entries somewhere between 250-1000 words.

So, here is Marenya's first experience with creating an orb of light.  She can light a fire, which any Hanorja can do, but only the elevja, or magically-gifted royals, can do more sophisticated magic.  Or so she thinks.

* * *

The cavern was dark. Raynor had completely disappeared, taking the light with him. She called out, but her voice was swallowed by the sound of the water. What do I do now? she thought.

Cast a light.

The words came unbidden to her mind. She raised her eyebrows in surprise. Could she do that?

If you can make a fire, you can make a light.

She tried what Raynor had done – opening her hand as if throwing something into the air. Nothing happened. She tried again, but as she did so she thought of fire. Again, nothing happened. Frowning, she thought for a moment, and tried again, this time thinking not of fire but of the yellow sun. To her amazement, a small, bright orb left her hand and floated above her.

Perhaps all of the magic didn’t belong to the kings.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm An Idiot

Argh. I looked at the website for this weekend's conference, to double-check what I needed to have with me, and I realized that the agent I have an appt. with doesn't consider fantasy. I had looked all the info over carefully before registering, but somehow I must have gotten confused.

So I emailed the organizer and asked if she could switch me. I doubt it, but it's worth a shot. In any case, I told her to give my appt. with this person to someone else.

Oh well. What can I say?  At least I made a lot of progress the past month or so.

(tries not to cry)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Snapshot, and an update on my retreat

I had a FANTASTIC weekend "off the grid." I knew we wouldn't have wi-fi, but I wasn't expecting "zero bars" on my cell phone, too.  I got so much done, and feel comfortable about talking to an agent next weekend. I sincerely doubt I will get a request for a partial, but if I do, I'm ready.

I could do this once a month.  It was just so great to be in a cabin with four other writers, doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and writing.  I arrived around 8 pm Friday. It took a while to find the place in the dark.  But the cabin was clean and everything was in good order.  I wrote until 10:30, went to bed, woke up at four-thirty on Saturday morning, wrote all day (except for meals and a long walk) until after midnight, got up at 6:30 Sunday and wrote until 1:30 pm.

Of course there was plenty of comraderie as well, and food.  We used almost an entire can of Melitta coffee in a mere 36 hours!  I'm sure the other campers wondered what cult those strange women belonged to who almost never stirred from their cabin.

And now it's time for the Sunday Snapshot.  Post the last paragraph (or about five lines of dialogue) that you wrote.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  It doesn't even have to be good.  It just has to be yours.

“What else did he tell you?”

“He told me,” said Faldur, “not to bring hawen along on missions, because they waste their breath on useless questions.”

“And distract the Captains from their duties,” added Gorrith, who had come up behind them.

“Hush, you idiot!” hissed Marenya, afraid the men would overhear.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

~ C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Character Playdate

Last weekend, we talked a little about the difficulty of keeping things fresh when you've been working on the same thing for a while. I have the solution: Come in Character.

I know I've mentioned the site here before, but last night things went to a whole new level of interaction. I had no idea what it would take to make Faldur totally lose his famous cool, but I found out last night when one of author Betsy Dornbusch's characters developed a little crush on Marenya, and she decided to pursue it.

Well, actually, Marenya has had a crush on Aidan for a long time. It's kind of hard not to, considering he's a beautiful boy demon who has nice manners to boot. She kind of threw herself at him and... well.. you just have to read it.

As Betsy said, this type of thing is like improvisational theatre for writers. I had no idea what was going to happen, just that Marenya was so lonely and desperate for affirmation, she was going to latch onto Aidan no matter what. But she did it in a very gracious, Marenya-like way. She is extremely compassionate, and sensed that he needed her to reach out as badly as she wanted to do it. I didn't feel as if I was writing, but rather channeling these characters I know so well.

The key that makes CIC work is that you have to take your characters out of the carefully constructed environment of their own book. The interactions are spontaneous, and take place entirely via the comments. So it's a great way to build your dialogue skills. It also forces you to think about your character's worldview and setting. For example, mine don't live in the modern world so many things the other characters mention are totally foreign to them. I have to think carefully about what they would say or do in response, as well as how they would explain their own world. By this time, however (it's been what...2 years?) they've picked up some of the jargon and begun to use it themselves.

I do feel a little guilty for spending a couple of hours just playing around, but I know I'm going to dive into my revisions tonight with a new enthusiasm and a much better understanding of who my characters are. I realized that Marenya is not just lonely, but insatiably curious, and that Faldur would do almost anything to avoid a scene.

The other key that makes CIC work: Participation. We can always use more writers who are willing to think outside the box and bring their characters out to play.

So... come on over to Come in Character! You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

Time for the Sunday Snapshot!  Post the very last paragraph (or up to 5 lines of dialogue) that you wrote.  It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be yours!

Here's mine:

Marenya was shaken from a kind of stupor by a deep, hollow rumbling from under the earth behind them.  Everyone turned to look over their shoulders. A great white column of steam rose up to join the clouds that coated the sky like ice on a frozen pond.  They waited, but nothing else happened other than that the birds flew up from the valley and wheeled south on the wind in one long, trailing mass.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Painfully Familiar

After working on the same book for so long, the characters with whom I was once so rapturously in love have now become like painfully familiar relatives I am reluctant to introduce to society.

 Insert gratuitous Hugh Jackman photo here:

Lost in Revision

"It was so much easier in the first draft."
I am really struggling to come out of the fog here. Final revisions are going nowhere. I'm just so stuck!  Things keep changing, which requires more revision, and I'm getting lost in all the additional emotion and plot complications. Don't get me wrong - both of those things were needed (emotion and plot complication) but I am desperate to finish the manuscript by the 26th.

I don't see how I can possibly do it without help.  My husband is helping today by taking our son out for the day so I can be alone, but the house needs cleaning, we need laundry done, we have no groceries, and I MUST go to the post office before it closes.  I have decided to write for 50 minutes, then do chores for 10 minutes, until they come home.

I need another form of help, too.  I need a few objective readers to look at the first several chapters and tell me if
a) it's crap and
b) I should re-restructure the opening.

So if anyone who reads or writes fantasy is willing to do a quick read and get back to me by mid-next-week, please let me know in the comments.  Thanks.

In the meantime, forget the "Tea, Earl Grey, hot."  I need a double cappuchino pronto!  Good thing my favorite coffee shop is right next to the post office.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Blog Encouragement and Sunday Snapshot

Michelle Gregory at Beautiful Chaos (what a fantastic name for a blog!) has generously given me the "Friends for the Journey" award.

She says, "Every one of us in on a journey called life. If we’re fortunate, we find friends along the way who can help us with their words of encouragement, something to laugh over, or a shoulder to cry on. Some friends stay with us for our whole lives, but often, they are with us for only part of the journey. I have friends like these in my life – some I see in person, and some I know via the internet."

Thank you so much Michelle. The feeling is absolutely mutual. I don't know if I would have kept going in the beginning if it hadn't been for your kind, sweet, generous friendship.  And I hope that one day we can get to know each other in person, too.

I am supposed to pass this on to seven other bloggers.  The first person is Kristal Shaff, whom I met through Michelle and who has been a fantastic encourager and critique partner, someone who is tough on me when I need her to be and from whom I've learned a lot.  She also has one of the most unique careers I've ever heard of: Professional Face Painter!

The next person is Donna Hole, who always comments, always supports, and has that dry, cutting humor that so often makes me laugh.

Another person I'd like to pass this on to is Laura Martone, the perky blogging diva at Laura's Simple Pleasures and Come in Character, and author of Ruby Hollow.  Thank you so much for your steady support and encouragement, Laura, and all the fun we've had along the way with our characters.

 I must include Jessica Bell, the Alliterative Allomorph, who always is so encouraging on both Blogger and Facebook;

Krista at Literary Debauchery - I can't tell you how much I appreciate all you do for our writer's group and the personal encouragement you've given me;

Elaine Smith at Wordsmithing (whom I met at Come In Character, through our characters) - I hope we can meet in person some day, too. You are so good for my writing soul!

Last, but not least, is Betsy Dornbusch, aka Sex Scenes at Starbucks. You write some funky stuff there, girl, but without Aidan's crush on Marenya, and all the back and forth our characters have had, I don't think Marenya and Faldur's relationship would have grown to be quite what it is now.  Your interaction with my characters has truly been invaluable, and I've learned a lot from you, writing-wise, along the way.

                     Time for the Sunday Snapshot

Post the very last paragraph (or 5 lines of dialogue) that you wrote.  It doesn't have to perfect; it doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be yours!

Faldur crouched opposite them, catching his breath.  He found himself suddenly afraid to draw Marenya's attention. But when she saw him, she jumped up with a small cry and ran to him.  He took her in his arms and felt the frailness of her, as her hands fastened around his waist and her head pressed into the hollow of his neck.  She was surprisingly thinner for having only been gone a fortnight, dirty, scarred and strangely dressed, and yet he thought her the most beautiful creature he had ever longed to hold.  She began to cry deep, gasping, tearless sobs, her whole body shuddering against him, and he found that he was doing the same.

Friday, March 4, 2011

My First Live Pitch: I need your help!

I have an appointment with a real, live agent in three weeks.  This will be my first big writer's conference as well as my first pitch. I am desperately trying to finish my manuscript and polish it by then, but I also have to think about the interview and what I'm going to say.

I also don't know what to bring with me.  Should I have the first three chapters?  A synopsis?  Business cards?

Help!  Give me your best tips, helps, anything you can suggest.  Thanks!