Sunday, May 13, 2012


There are a few rules in blog writing. First of all, one should always be positive. People don't like hearing negativity. Unfortunately, I didn't get that memo until recently, so a few of my previous posts *coughs, "Twilight!"* didn't really fit that bill.

Also, one isn't supposed to talk about oneself. I've been a little better about avoiding the "I" word.

Today, I'm going to talk about yesterday. My yesterday. It's dangerous. Also because yesterday was a rather negative experience. So that's me and negativity. If you want to run screaming, do it now.

Criticism is a much needed tool in striving for betterment. We've discussed that critique groups and giving your work to reliable sources can make you see things that you couldn't on your own. We know that a necessary part of revision is hearing that your work is imperfect.

Yesterday, my first 250 pages were critiqued by an agent. Pretty awesome stuff, actually. I'm eternally grateful for the criticism, as well as the suggestions. I don't want to make it sound like this was a negative experience, because it was not. These precious words could be the difference between another agent passing over my work and choosing it. This could be the turning point!

But it also humbled me, and yes, it hurt a little. I don't know if you other writers have trouble keeping both feet on the ground, but sometimes I think I'm awesome. My weekly critique group helps me with that, of course. But lately, I've been bringing stuff that's worked for the group. So I haven't gotten my bittersweet injection of, "Yeah... you have some work to do".

I've discussed the personality of the writer many times. It changes from person to person, of course. But I think the very nature inherent to our species sometimes has trouble not putting walls up, especially when we've been hit. These humbling moments need to be treated as humbling moments, not personal attacks. Our tender little egos need to take non-praise like medicine. Doesn't taste good going down, but cures what ails you.

A loss in battle could become a victory in war. 
For me, yesterday was hard. A lot of things happened that made me feel inadequate in life. Not just in writing, mind you, but in my personal life as well. I think that the beautiful criticism I received was only difficult at this point because of all the other stuff going on. That can happen. Normally, we'd be resilient and logical. But when everything is crumbling like crazy, it's hard to stay focused and remember that we require the criticism more than the praise. You feel like a victim. This is when people start to give up. The crucial moment that divides the serious writers from the dreamers.

When I awoke this morning, I wanted to put all kinds of walls up. I wanted to retire to my corner and huddle in a ball. I wanted to bury myself  in my yards of hair, extending a claw-like hand if anybody came near.

There's no point to this behavior, of course. Okay, I've been hit. Somebody ran by and clipped me below the knees. It happens, sometimes in every wake of life. Career, love, bills, friendship, dreams... we just can't catch a blasted break. That was me yesterday. Despite a much needed gathering around a hookah, I had that weighing feeling of about half a dozen things that were bringing me down. Things I was failing at. Various avenues life was using to reject me.

But now is the time to recognize our shortcomings, analyze why we've been rejected (even if it's for the thousandth time and you're about ready to plunk down with a bottle of whiskey and tell everyone to expletive the expletive), and see these low moments as stepping stones wrought with failure that shall only lead to success.

That feeling of raw vulnerability is a hard one. Throwing yourself out on the line is never easy, and we aspiring writers have to do it all of the time.

I feel your pain, as I'm sure you feel mine. If life's a war, then some battles will be lost. We'll come limping back to the tents bleeding and bruised, maybe even with a few broken bones and exhaustion that makes it nearly impossible to run back out there and join the crossfire.

But that's exactly how successes become successes. Wrap that arm, make a tourniquet, stop the bleeding, and get your butt back out on the battlefield.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I like to think of writing as an extension of my childhood games by myself. I would come up with the craziest ideas using plastic horses, Barbie dolls, dinosaurs, and action figures. Whole, complex plots would unravel while my sister and I sat cross-legged on the carpet. Romantic affairs between Barbie and Godzilla. The unfolding of the evil action figure empire on the bed, with a purple-suited Dracula in charge. The pretentious world of the horses, who peered down at the world from their perch on the bookshelves.

Imagination. Pure, unedited imagination. If I succeed at this career, it'll be a lot of work. But it'll also be perpetual playtime. Me cross-legged on the carpet with a t-rex in one hand and a winged unicorn in the other.

Long live imagination.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Sometimes, it's hard not to self-sabotage. It can come in many forms. You might be involved in a critique group, and on the day of the meeting, you fail to print out your pages because you're low on toner or have a paper jam. You might feel a little sick, or the weather isn't nice. In your heart of hearts, you know that you're avoiding the group because you don't want to go. Each meeting gets you that much closer to a polished gem. Closer to the end.

It's also possible that when query time starts, you might sabotage yourself in half a dozen ways. You may not review your work thoroughly enough and overlook several typos or grammatical errors that may have otherwise not made it to the final cut. You might wait until you don't have internet service and then convince yourself that it isn't your fault you didn't meet your own deadline because you simply don't have internet. Or, you might busy yourself in some other way so that you "forget" to send it off.

Fear causes self-sabotage. We're afraid of success.

You might find yourself self-sabotaging without even knowing it. Here is a list of excuses people use when the lurking problem is really fear and nothing more.

1. My computer isn't working.

2. This stupid Microsoft Word thingy isn't letting me format correctly.

3. Well spell-check didn't get that one.

4. I've been so tired and rundown lately. I just don't have the energy to write.

5. My kids!

6. My spouse!

7. My job!

8. I don't know if the world is ready for my work yet.

9. I have nobody to revise or edit it.

10. I'm just too distracted right now. I'll wait until I can focus better.

You might find that these can also apply to weight loss goals, dating, and finding a new job. People come up with these excuses when they shirk from the possibility of a huge life change. When it's a dream, it's nice and safe. You're another individual with a dream. That's quite ordinary and comfortable.

But the minute you jump from one cliff to another, there's a fleeting moment when you're in midair, suspended in a vast sea of nothingness with no net below. You'll come up with any excuse you can create to try and avoid ending up in that void. And yet, it's necessary to your success to hang there so you can land on that other cliff and continue your wonderful journey to success.

Publication! Let the word roll off your tongue.

Get thee behind me, self-sabotage. There's no stopping me now!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Steampunk Generation

One of the reasons Steampunk is getting so hot is because Generation Y is in to the past. "That's so vintage." A lot of this is due to Gen Y being termed the "Peter Pan" generation, meaning that they take longer to grow up. They're closer to their parents and more appreciative of older generations, which is exactly opposite of Gen Xers who never needed their parents and were better off without them. Often times, a Y kid will enjoy the same music, movies and cultural interests as their parents. With this comes an attitude of respect toward older things.

I see this in my own lockshop.

We have a Baby Boomer supervising locksmith who was in the Vietnam War and believes in using his hands to do the trade. He likes things completed manually. He, in fact, has an inherent mistrust of technologies that make the work automatic.

We also have a Gen X locksmith who wants technology everywhere. He grows impatient with the Boomer. "Just stick it in the automatic duplicator," he always says. The Boomer just shakes his head and mumbles about the importance of learning skill.

I'm the Y in the shop. I tend to look at my Boomer boss with awe, although I also can't wait to update the lockshop's ancient technology. I'm somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, who duke it out at nearly every turn.

The growing Steampunk phenom is due to a lot of this culture in Generation Y, I think. The Millennial kids are the digital experts, sure. But they're also fascinated with the days of old. Steampunk, which is a sexy marriage between future and past, is going to explode.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Reader.

The reader is the client. This may seem like a no-brainer for a writer, but sometimes I get the feeling that writers in general have ulterior motives. We all want to be successful, sure. I think it's common for the author world to fantasize about book signings with lines of people out the door, standing behind a podium at a writing conference with dozens of eyes fixed unblinkingly, and the sweet weight of a real book with our name inscribed in our hands.

It's a good thing to envision success.

However, with any successful job, the consumer should be at the forefront of the mind. It isn't necessarily about the ego of the deliverer as much as it is about the appetite of the recipient. In writing YA Steampunk, I try to keep my audience in mind. Who are they, these people? Who goes to Barnes & Noble and peruses the fantasy aisle in search of Steampunk? Or do they seek Steampunk out at all? Is it the cover or the title that entrances the roving eyes of a reader? In the fantasy world, it's important to consider the fan. The trekkie, the Star Wars guru, the comic book store guy, the basement dweller, the Mac enthusiast, the PC devotee, the gamer, the Anime freak, the D&D overlord, etc, etc. The reason people read fantasy is to get away from this world. This is why, when Hollywood makes the ambitious decision to make a movie based on a book, the fans are going to come after them with torches if they don't make it the way people pictured in their minds. It's more than just a "stupid book". It becomes a whole other world that people make their own.

This is why the writer's job can't be taken lightly. This is also why character development is so important. If our desires and motives start to dominate those that are natural to our character, then the fans WILL notice. You'll get that one guy who raises his hand. "Excuse me. Yes. Um, why would Captain Bartholomew Vortex make plans to travel to the Cropton Nebulae when he has a pathological fear of Gortangus Squid, which are common to that particular region of the galaxy?"

If the author stammers out, "Well I uh...needed him to go there to move the plot along..."

Then we clearly have a problem.

This character is so important to the reader. Writers are readers too, so we know this. It's the same with any business trying to reach out to the consumer. The grocery stores have to sell things they want to buy and they're supposed to sell the freshest stuff to make us happy. Restaurants serve with a smile even on their worst days. Custodians clean up after us, keeping our sanitation, health and well being in mind. Chefs cook things that taste good. Politicians rule and delegate with the best interests of the public at heart. (Ha. Ha. Haaaa.)

The writer's task is to create a world into which any person can dive when they need release from this one, ESPECIALLY fantasy and ESPECIALLY YA. Do we all remember how hard it is to be a teenager? Angst, hormones, awkwardness, budding puppy love, enslavement in the establishment and the rents' house, and so full of dreams that they spill out. Of course, one of the most rewarding audiences is YA, who are so hungry for hope, stimulation and intellectual inspiration that it hurts. The reader is also sensitive to patronization, uninterested in inflated moral platforms and eager to read about sexual tension. They want strong characters with clear objectives, and they're crazy about good versus evil and overcoming "the man". A rebellious, rule-breaking hero is right up their alley, I've noticed. And I remember being that age! I think we all could if we thought about it.

Hail to the reader. Without you, the writer would be nothing.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hey baby. What's your exploded chakra?

In character-driven fiction, it’s important to know the characters inside and out.

My sister takes a voice and movement class for her acting degree, and she’s been learning about the ancient study of “chakras”.

The chakra comes from Hindu texts originally, but has been studied in many eastern cultures.

These are “force centers”, or spinning discs of energy within the physical body. If someone has an “imploded” chakra, the energy is withdrawn from that chakra. There’s a disconnect there. This could result in a change of posture, behavior or affect interaction with others. An imploded chakra could come from a traumatic experience (If someone has a deficiency in chakra 2 where sexual pleasure is located, it’s possible that the individual may have undergone abuse in childhood.) In the case of an “exploded” chakra, there’s an excess of energy. If someone has an exploded 1st chakra at the root, that could mean that he or she speaks with forceful conviction and enters rooms with great assurance.

So how does this affect character development?

Does your character have exploded and imploded chakras? Is your character earthen, with a strong 1st root chakra, with a tough attitude and a forceful presence? Perhaps he or she has a strong 7th chakra at the crown, and feels connected to the heavens above. Or, perhaps this person is weak at the 5th throat chakra and has trouble voicing his or her opinions. I think it would be a worthy practice to diagram a character based on this ancient study of movement and soul. I think it would affect the way the character walks into the room, the way he or she speaks and the way he or she deals with problems.

I can’t wait to map out my characters in this fashion.

More on this later. Perhaps a blog about some famous characters and how their chakras may have been.

Happy writing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


It's important to think positively in any wake of life. As the following link explains, it's crucial in our relationships with people and in the way we affect the people around us.

Negativity is like a contagious disease. It festers and spreads to those we contaminate. As a cynic who speaks fluent sarcasm, I'm one of the biggest offenders I know. I also have a bad temper problem, so it can be poisonous.

But honestly, it's important to talk with a smile and think with a smile too. It's especially important in writing, because this can be a discouraging field with little to no validation. We write because we love it, because we have a vision, because we can't stop...not necessarily to feel better in terms of feeling awesome. There are a lot of brick walls. There is a strength that exists within, and it comes from KNOWING that it's going to work out.

When your fingers fly over the keyboard, make sure you've got a smile on that dream of yours. Smiles toward success.