The book which changed the course of my life.

When I opened my email this morning, I was greeted with a message to check out a new post by a blogger I follow, Cristian Mihai. His lovely post this morning is on a topic which means a great deal to me. Entitled, The book that changed everything, for me this sentiment cannot be more true.

For those who meet me in real life, the importance of this book can be ascertained from only a conversation or two with me. Seriously. I talk about it, think about it, read about it, live it, every single day of my life.

 

That book is in fact, not a single book but a series. I give you, Harry Potter.

 

Yep. All that lead up and I’m sure that there will be a few who read this who scoff at a children’s series meaning that much to anyone. But I will confess right now, that every time I read those books, every time I watch the movies, or the musicals  (did you know there are musicals?), or listen to the music (wizard rock), I cry. I cry with joy, with sorrow, in pain and laughter. I have poured my heart in soul into this book series, and what has grown since I was ten years old into a fandom of epic proportions.

Prior to being introduced to the first book, at the time there were only three out, I hated reading. I hated books. I hated sitting down and being forced to learn. Harry Potter was the first book that I read, which spoke to me. It came off the page and was real before I even finished the first chapter. I loved it and subsequently I found it necessary to seek out that realism, that emotion invoking power in literature anywhere that I could. I became that kid who went to the library twice a week and picked up half a dozen books at a time, and actually read them. A book or two a night, and soon, I had a whole collection of books which whispered to me, varied as their messages might have been, but none spoke so clearly or powerfully as Harry Potter did.

From there it was only about a year later, (at eleven years old) when I decided that even though I had found many new friends within the pages of story books, I couldn’t forget Harry, Ron, or Hermione, and I couldn’t wait for the next book. Enter fanfiction. Harry Potter fanfiction was just beginning to boom on the internet and I soon found myself creating my own, albeit poorly written, adventures with my friends. I could escape to Harry Potter whenever I wanted, and others could comment on my work, and my plots and make suggestions. Soon, I wasn’t just revisiting people and places I knew, but making up my own. I kept writing HP fiction among others, but the pile of short stories and half conceived novels had begun to grow.

In bursts and fits I continued to write and I read voraciously all through grade school and high school. Hours and hours were devoted to crafting my own stories, but I still spent a ridiculous amount of time revisiting my Hogwarts pals to find inspiration and faith in myself and the world. I even went so far as to take a community college class at fourteen in an attempt to learn more about creative writing.

When the theme park opened, I planned a trip and showed up within two weeks.  Btw, it was awesome. When I studied abroad in France my junior year of university, if I felt depressed or lonely, I watched and rewatched the Harry Potter musicals and reread the books in French. My senior year in college, my small single was covered floor to ceiling in HP posters. And two months ago, I took a Greyhound bus for 30 hours to attend Leakycon, a four day Harry Potter convention in Chicago.

Clearly, as I’ve grown older, even graduated from college, my childhood love has stuck with me more powerfully than anything else in my life. I can mark the dates of my life based around my involvement with Harry Potter events, such as book or movie releases and important Fandom events.

Even now, with a nice shiny diploma which has absolutely nothing to do with creative writing, I plan to work as long and hard as I must to publish the works that I’ve been writing for years. When adults ask me who I plan to write for, I say young adults, teens, children. Why? Because I want to do for them what J.K. Rowling did for me.

To provide an escape from divorced parents and alcoholic abuse, to give comfort when other children are mean, to develop courage when the day becomes dark and to say that with enough love and hope and faith, in yourself and the world, you can achieve anything. You can fight the bad guy, prove yourself in front of a crowd, outwit the bully, get good grades, find help and hope if you only look hard enough, and to teach them the morals which have become so deeply ingrained in me.

Maybe these are children’s books, and maybe as an adult I should grow up and move on, but I’ve seen the difference in people who have been schooled by this woman and her incredible story as I have.

A common topic between fans I met at that conference, where nearly 4,000 people were in attendance, was that no matter who you are, where you come from, and who you’ll become, we love you. Why? Because we’ve lived this crazy ride and it’s changed our lives.

My love of writing and reading aside, I personally found comfort not to crumble in the dark times of my life because of these books and they are my rock. More important than family or friends that I’ve had over the years who’ve betrayed and faded, these books are immortal and I love them.

 

Oh dear god, I’ve gone on for forever and still I think I could go on for another three hundred pages.

 

Well. Please dear reader, is there a book which has changed your life, influenced you in ways which nothing else has, please share it’s name or a link to your own post on this topic in the comments below and I hope you find happiness between the pages of a lovely book as I did.

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Serials on Kindle?

So this was brought to my attention after yesterday’s post about self publishing in a comment by mlfables who said, 

I think the third option may be serial novels (the latest book selling technique from Amazon).

Serial novels (where readers pay upfront for the first three chapters and then recieve the subsequent chapters over time) may suit me better than having to write three whole novels then going all out on promotion (which is the most effective way to promote self-published ebooks).

My initial response was huh? Serial novels… on Kindle. And then my curiosity got the best of me and I soon found myself trolling all sorts of pages for the low down on this new form of digital publishing. Of course, as we all know, serial novels aren’t a new thing, but the idea of these being added to something like Kindle is. And the whole idea made me start to think about… well, a lot of things actually. 

 

My second response to serial novels on Kindle wasn’t a thought so much as an emotion. Specifically that of confusion and annoyance.

Now I’d never had much cause to give this type of publishing style a thought before, but I’ve realized something. To me, from both the perspective of a reader and as a writer, serials novels just tick me off. 

 

As a reader my immediate response is No. Capital N o. I am a fast reader and I like to devour my books. I don’t want to sit around waiting for the next installment. When friends recommend book series, my first question is, “Is it completed, or in progress?”. If I’m going to have to wait a really long time, I would rather wait until all if not most of the books are completed and on the shelves of my nearest book store. Why would anyone want to wait for a book to be completed, chapter by chapter? That just kills the experience. I’ll forget things, it will grow dull in my mind, I’ll move on to other works. If I can’t read it in entirety all at once, why read it all?

Looking at this topic as a writer, I’m equally baffled. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a lot of information about this process, and please feel free to correct me in the comments if I’m wrong or missing some piece of information, but I just don’t see how this is a good thing at all. 

If the piece is not complete, and truly is being written while it’s being published, there are a number of concerns that I have. Namely, consistency. My personal favorite kind of books are filled with layer after layer of nuances and details which are carefully drawn out through the whole piece. Symbols and sub plots abound, and make these books worth reading again and again because each time through offers some new experience or detail to notice. How can someone possibly create and manipulate a rich environment and stimulating characters when each chapter that’s published, limits the authors ability to revise and insert these elements?

More over some books can take years to craft and complete, and some never see a final product. Do you as a reader want to wait months or years for something to play out, or run the risk of it never being completed at all?

Now I know that the really big “plus” for serial novels, is that it give the readers a chance to have some input on the process of story telling and while this may be a draw for some, I find the whole idea appalling. 

The words be careful what you wish for come to mind. If your readers really only care about so and so hooking up with whoever, or Captain whoever catching the bad guy, then by all means, cut out the thirty chapters in the middle and just cut to the final chapters. But they’re not going to be any more satisfied than you will be with the resulting product. 

The idea that someone’s comments could or should have an influence on my stories is outrageous. It’s my story. I’ll write it how I damn well please and if people like it great, if they hate it fine. As long as I’m happy with it, then that’s all I care about. I’m not writing for people I’ve never met, half way across the world, I’m writing for me and while sometimes those two things over lap, I see no reason why someone else should have an influence on how my story is told. 

After the fact, when the story has gone through it’s own edits and has grown into something I’m proud of, then I’ll take the comments and suggestions from others. But when the story is fresh and immature and still expanding, it’s too fragile and precious to let the masses latch onto. 

While I appreciate feedback on my work, I don’t need or want someone messing with my creative process, and though knowing who likes who and who hates this character or what have you is interesting, it won’t make me change my work. I refuse to let others tell me how they think things should go in my own world because if something is happening, or if someone says something, it is because I meant it too. It has a reason for existing and ugh… 

 

I didn’t realize when I started this post how angry I’d get by the end of it. But clearly I’ve met my mark, said more than I needed to I’m sure and if you lasted this long dear readers, I apologize. In any case. 

 

I now need a fourth option for publishing cause clearly I’ve got enough angst to fill up the first three. 

 

As always if you have an comments or care to rant back with me please leave your thoughts below. In regards to this particular topic, if you would like to offer up some explanations as to why this does or doesn’t work for you as a reader or an author, please let me know. I’m interested to see what others think about this topic and how they view the process and their readers. 

 

Traditional publishing, self publishing. Can I have a third option?

Once upon a time, traditional publishing wasn’t traditional. It was the only way to go. But no longer.

Self publishing has been getting a lot of press time on blogs across the web as well as in connection to the rise of ereaders like the Kindle or the Nook. And while I own a Kindle, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading ebooks on it as well as my iphone and tablet, I’m not really feeling this new pressure to see everything digital.

As I gaze along the road of my future plans, I see many books being brought forth into the daylight and hopefully into loving hands. But I’d like those hands to be gripping paper backs, not ereaders.

This consumer likes the ease with which she can carry all the books she loves around with her, however that’s about where her love stops. 

I love to have a real book in my hands. I love the weight of it, and the smell and even though ebooks are cheaper, almost everything I’ve bought digitally, I will buy again in hard copy, just so I can have them at my finger tips. Literally. 

Thinking about publishing is something which I dread. I, like many writer’s I would imagine, would love to make a career out of writing however, so publishing in some form is sort of unavoidable. 

Now for years, I’ve thought I’d only ever go toward traditional publishing, but some of the more recent articles about self publishing have made me question that decision. In fact, the more I think about the whole process, the more leery I am of both options. 

 For me personally, the pros of self publishing are 

– No waiting. ( On agents, publishing houses, seasons, editors, whatever) I’m a particularly impatient person so this, one really means a lot.

-The ability to reinvent yourself and write in a variety of genres. It seems I’m only just beginning to discover that not falling into a niche could be a problem. But I write all over the place. Horror, urban fantasy, dysotopian sci-fi, Children’s fiction, YA fiction, Adult fiction. I like to explore it all, and I’m going to write what I want, how I want to. 

Cons

-Marketing. This is a naive thing to say, although since I’m aware of it, I suppose it could be worse but, I don’t want to market my work. I don’t want to have to make a twitter account, or another facebook or  whatever, just so that people can thumbs up my photo. I want to write. I just want to write, and whether anyone discovers what I’m writing, is something I’m not concerned with. With a career in mind, I should be concerned, but honestly, I just don’t give a damn about marketing.

-Do people really buy unknown authors ebooks? Now I can only speak for myself but I don’t. There are already an outrageous number of books on my to read list that I don’t have the time or the need to go searching for obscure new gems. With that in mind, I don’t really like my chances of someone finding my books online. 

-Snobbish tendencies. I can’t take self publishing seriously. I know it’s this whole revolution and it let’s authors beat the system or whatever, but I just can’t get over my negative perceptions of self publishing. All I can think of are fan fiction sites when I imagine self publishing and I’m immediately covered in goose bumps from poor spelling, ill conceived plots, and lack of ability. And this coming from someone who loves fanfiction. Despite what I know about it, neon flashing signs inside my mind blare ‘cop out’ whenever I even consider going the easy way out.

Unfortunately the pros of self publishing are the cons of traditional publishin and visa versa. 

So this is my plea to you, fellow bloggers and hopeful authors out there. Where’s our third option? 

I would like to choose door number three and not look back. 

Sigh. 

I’m just glad that I’m not at the point where I have to make this choice for real, because it just makes my head dizzy. 

Do you have preference for one kind of publishing or the other? Why do you feel the way you do? 

Please leave a comment and let me know.

 

Writer’s Block – Fact or Fiction?

Ok. This is a thing. I tried making excuses for it, but I’m really enjoying these posts, so this is a thing. Embrace it.

I’ll make a separate category for these posts later, but for now I would like to draw your attention to this post which caught my eye earlier. Writer’s Block: Imaginary Affliction or Tangible Trouble?.

Now this lovely individual very gracefully covered a topic which is apparently controversial in the writing world. I wasn’t aware that there was this epic debate over the validity of writer’s block, but evidently there is. Personally I think that Daniel Koeker did a nice job confronting some of these anti – block sentiments that are floating about the internet.

 

And naturally I’d like to address some of my own beliefs on the topic. Settle in readers. Settle in.

 

Alright, so as I mentioned above, I never realized that there are writer’s who don’t believe in writer’s block but I guess I’m not terribly surprised. For every opinion out there, someone has to oppose it. It’s a rule somewhere.

The things that make perfect sense to us, are the fuel for bloody battles and rude conversations from someone out there, and it doesn’t matter what that thing is.

So you might be one side of the argument or another but I feel as though I’m kind of in the middle on this particular debate. You see, I believe writer’s block exists. I just don’t ever have it.

Someone out there is probably cursing me for that I’m sure.

I’ve been writing fiction both fan fiction and original fiction for the better part of twelve years and while there are times when it’s difficult, I can’t say as I’ve ever experienced writer’s block.

That being said, I’m curious as to the definitions of writer’s block and how mine pairs up with other people’s.

Is writer’s block the time when you stare blankly at a page without knowing what to write? Or is it when you’re too busy with chores or work or life to find time to write? Is it those moments when you’re working on a project and you don’t want to be? Or when you’ve spent ten minutes trying to think of a name for your MC’s, cousin’s dog and a Fido is just not working for you?

 

I guess what I’m saying is who makes up the definition for this phenomenon and how exactly do people react to it?

Perhaps it’s my outlook on the writing process that leads me never to feel like I’ve experienced writer’s block?

I am never at a loss to write something. Seriously, I think you’ve all caught on by now that I could just talk forever and it’s no different when I’m writing. I am never lacking a project wishing to be started in my mind. In fact I wonder if I’ll have enough time before I die to see all my projects through to the end.

I guess by some peoples calculations this means I’ve never had writer’s block. But I’m sure someone out there is saying, “Well, what about when you’re sitting at you computer and can’t think of something to write?”

Doesn’t happen.

I’m one of those people who whole heartedly takes the NANOWRIMO approach of write now ask questions later. If I don’t know what my characters should be doing, I let them wander around aimlessly until I figure it out again. I don’t stop and wonder how to make it all perfect. At the same time I spend a ridiculous amount of time planning, and world building and asking my character’s questions  and crafting all my subplots or ideas in one place so that I am rarely at a loss as to where the story is going or at the very least, I write myself a list of options.

If I’m planning and I don’t know where a story is going to go from a certain point on I write my outline until that point and then give myself a logical list of options for where to go from there. When I get to the scene I take the path that feels the most right at the time and when that scene is over I go back to the outline and plan ahead until I hit another option. But I don’t stop writing for hours or day or weeks at a time.

Which is another thing entirely. If I’m not writing because my life is too full, then that’s the reason. Not because I can’t think of anything. When I am not writing, even if I’ve written for two or three hours, when I stop for the day, scenes and options are always being worked out in the back of my head.

I feel like if I can’t go further on a particular story, it’s because I haven’t spent enough time plotting or figuring out my options. And let’s face it, you have all the options you want to have. You’re the writer and basically the God of whatever you’re working on. So then I work on what I know and the juices flow and eventually I can get back to the actual writing. But to me, plotting and world building is just as important as getting the chapters written. The world and plot are the skeleton and the chapters the meat so I never feel properly prepared if I don’t have any info ahead of time.

I don’t know if all this is normal for other’s but I honestly never feel like I’ve got writer’s block. You might disagree with me, but I say Tomato – Tomato.

 

Do you have writer’s block? Are you immune? What techniques do you use to keep the ball rolling? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear how other’s feel about this topic.

 

Also a bit of shameless plug, I just opened an Etsy store to sell Harry Potter earrings and I’ll be adding other Nerdy charms and such in the near future. So if that sounds at all interesting to you please check it out.

 

Otherwise Happy Scribbling!

Reading Children’s lit as an adult, Yay or Nay?

My mantra is beginning to be, “I didn’t plan to write this but here we are…” I apologize. I’ll be back later today with some flash fiction but for the moment I’d like to briefly comment on this gem, why do grown ups read ‘childrens lit’?. Please follow the link to this lovely individuals blog   for some of their thoughts on the subject.

 

I for one love this question, because it is one that I find myself answering all the time.

While I won’t say that I only read children’s lit, I will say that I head right to it’s section in every library or bookstore I visit. Though I do pick up other books in other genres with more adult themes and topics, I personally am more often than not let down by books made for adults. Part of this is because I prefer fantasy and sci-fi genres and not the realistic non fiction my parent’s and their friends go to, but that isn’t all of it.

Often times, the books made for children or teens have more life in them, at least I cry and laugh and shout when reading those books because of the quirkiness of the characters or their outrageous actions or circumstances, and yet I rarely find myself so moved by adult lit.

I firmly believe that any book which can, even for a moment, distract us from the real horrors of the world and our lives is a good thing. More than that though, I love that more often than not children’s lit expresses those same horrors in disguise. It’s Voldemort, not Hitler after all.

The ability of children’s lit authors to take the horrors of the world and make them understandable and real to children, introducing kids to topics and ideas that they won’t see for years in school, is a wonderful thing. No parent is going to give their 10 year old a documentary of how dictators can ruin countries or oppress and torture their people, yet you can hand your child the Hunger Games and do the same thing.

Yes these worlds are fantasy and yes there are things within that cannot mesh with reality, but the fact that children’s stories are able to focus on the worst and best things about human life and add life lessons and morals too, is something you won’t get from a history book. It’s easy to point fingers and say that one side of any argument is right or wrong, but in fiction we find that often the bad guy had good intentions, or a bad childhood, or was simply misguided, but at least we get the opportunity to decide for ourselves.

Too often the news and textbooks paint the facts in one light or another and it takes time to decipher the truth. But in a children’s book, we are given the opportunity to see the whole story and are shown that even the worst people can do good, and even the hero has his faults.

Maybe it isn’t a grown up decision to pick up Percy Jackson and the Olympians instead of the Iliad, but guess what? I’m an adult and I don’t have to act like one. Thanks for teaching me that one Peter… Pan.

 

As written from behind my desk while sipping cream soda and wearing dinosaur footy pajamas… Adult size!

 

Are you an adult who likes to read children’s lit? What are your favorites? Has anyone ever given you hell for it? Let me know in the comments.

Writing what you know – the pros and cons

I stumbled on this lovely post, Write About What You Know by Cristian Mihai and I think it covered some important topics for us as writers. While I wasn’t planning to post on this topic today, it got me thinking and before I knew it, I had a neat little note card of things to say and well, here we are.

Firstly I’d just like to say that some of what I’m about to write is a reiteration of what Cristian said, however I’d like to focus on some of the more personal outcomes of following the advice -Write what you know.

I can’t remember when I first started writing stories. Though I imagine I wrote plenty of terribly crafted-half  thought out ones as a child, the earliest ones that I remember began when I was eight. That being said, I don’t remember creating anything but flash fiction and nonsensical fairy tales until after ten. My first attempt at a true book, though, was around the age of fourteen.

That particular story was basically an embellished Mary Sue and while the set up and the characters seemed to be fresh and creative to me at the time, looking back on it now, as an older college grad, I can see all the details of my own life. The main characters friends were my friends, only prettier, with different names. I think I probably even have notes written in the margins somewhere that those girls had the personalities of people in my life. It didn’t stop there though. The drunken dad, the absent mother, the perfect boy; they were all versions of my family and friends, or at least my perceptions of them at that time. In that respect, rereading those clumsily written chapters is like reading a diary entry from around the same time. I drew on the things I saw around me and I planned and imagined what would happen to my characters, but ya know what?

I never finished that story and I’m pretty sure that I know why. Writing my fictionalized life story couldn’t very well end, since I hadn’t lived yet. I ran out of ideas once I hit the points to which I had lived through, and while I didn’t see it that way then, I see it that way now. Only a year ago I decided to pull that unfinished story out and try to finish it. A I read over the chapters and my notes it stirred up some painful memories, but at the same time, with the distance of many years between us, I could finally see my work for what it was.

Thankfully, when I couldn’t finish that story, I didn’t stop there. I wrote many other stories that would never see endings, and while a number have been resurrected and will (hopefully) see the light of day sometime soon, others will remain with that first book. In a bin of old memories, to be put aside but not forgotten.

I guess what I hadn’t realized, until last year at least, was that writing what you know, might be so subconsciously done that we don’t see it for what it is. In my case that didn’t end so nicely, but I think for adults or at least more experienced writers, it becomes easier to discern what came from fact and what it purely fiction and what strikes a happy medium in between.

That’s what this advice is all about. Finding the balance between what you know to be true about life or people and what you have experienced because of that, vs. how you see the world and how you recreate it for others. Each one of us has different experiences in our lives, and it’s those experiences which give us the fodder for our writing. I personally keep a journal, and while most of what goes on in there is random, I always write down bits of dialogue or notes from what I see or feel to use later. Sometimes I will even write my surroundings out as a description one might see in a novel. For future reference of course.

And whether I use it or not, who cares. But I suppose what I’m trying to say is that we can’t choose how our feelings and memories will influence our work. Sometimes it’s unpredictable and some times it so predictable it’s absolutely ridiculous.

For instance, I was recently reading one of my mother’s novels (she writes too!) and a description came up as the characters were walking through this gorgeous house showing another character the grounds. And as I read the passage I pictured a house we used to live in in my mind.

Suddenly I was there, walking through the dark wooden doors which snapped tightly closed, down the hallway where the floor boards shown like glass and squeaked like mice, up the grand staircase, past the … I think you get the picture. And so did I. I wasn’t just imagining my old house, my mother had written the story to take place there. Right down to the servants stair case.

Great fun to run up and down with my friends, but frightening for a child alone at home.

At any rate, when I confronted her, she agreed. She had been imagining our old house when she wrote the scene. And she’s not alone. I did the same thing with my current home on a novel I’ve been working on recently.

Why?

Because it’s easier to conjure the map of your old house, or your high school, or your dentist’s office, rather than to try and write a floor plan on the spot, let alone remember it for future scenes. In the heat of the moment a insignificant detail gets replaced with our go to details from our own life. Bars, local restaurants, towns, you name it and we’ve used the things from our lives to make our fictional world’s easier.

Now I’m sure there are probably people who don’t do this, but I think that a lot of people do and why not. Write what you know.

Not the traditional meaning I know, but still, it makes sense when you think about it. Right?! It’s not a bad thing either. It’s what gives us our unique perspective. When I read about some character walking to the park, I’m reading a road map to a place that author once lived or visited or vacationed, or even dreamed of going. Either way that is something which I haven’t seen, or maybe I have, and still it gives me more insight into the world.

Write what you know people!

I was going to address something else in that got me thinking in Cristian’s post but I think I’ll leave that for another day.

 

How do you feel about the advice, write what you know? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Scribbling!

It’s all in a name.

I wasn’t expecting to post again so soon but when I stumbled on this gem I couldn’t resist.  To all aspiring authors, read this —>How to Name Call.

Did you read it?

 

Be honest.

 

Alright, I have to confess that even though I’ve spent the better part of my brain power reworking my principle series for the past several months, I’ve not given any consideration to names and their meanings and I’m currently kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

My favorite author is J.K. Rowling and as this lovely blogger pointed out, The Harry Potter series would have been seriously lacking a major element of its development had the names been chosen at random.

As someone who cares deeply for double meanings and secret information buried away like dragon’s treasure  in the darkest pages of my favorite books, I cannot believe that I’ve overlooked this for as long as I have in my own works and now, I have something else to add to the To Do list…

Poor/random naming is actually one of my biggest pet peeves in sci-fi and high fantasy. While I can appreciate creating a new language from a linguistic perspective, I have trouble feeling anything for characters with whom I can infer nothing about their presence from their name.

 

Seriously.

 

Kicking myself…

 

At least I can repent within the pages of my manuscript until suitable changes are made. Thankfully I can only think of three names which actually require a total overhaul. There are also three MC’s whose names require no changes at all and were perfectly chosen. Well, perfect to me. At any rate.

 

Happy Scribbling!