Friday, August 31, 2012

Blog Epic Part IX

To recap:

“Bwenlair,” said the young Underworlder, nodding respectfully. “Would you please share with us the secret your father imparted to you?”

Caden looked at him with a guarded expression.

“The powerful secret,” Sahrim hissed, leaning forward with the torch, “which the Order is seeking.”

“I fear,” said Marianne, shivering, “that your treasure-box is empty. I know of no powerful secrets.”

There was a hint panic in Cayden’s eyes. “Marianne, think.”

She shrugged helplessly. “I’m sorry. I wish I knew.”

The newcomer spoke firmly. “Then we must leave her on the Dripping Ledge until she remembers.”

Anthony grabbed her arm.

“No!” Cayden shouted, stepping forward to look the young Underworlder in the eyes. “What good will that do? It won’t help her think—it will terrify the wits out of her!”

Part IX

"But is not a little terror worth so many lives, Elaistro?" the Underworlder said. "This is not the time for your caution and gallantry. If she knows, she must tell us."

Even in her fear, Marianne could see that Cayden's eyes were ice cold. He had no charity for this young Underworlder. He shot Sahrin a look, but the older Underworlder only shrugged.

"There's no need for any of this," Cayden said through gritted teeth. "She had a glass of the Larish Nectar. It should start working in a moment or two. Why is your first instinct always violence? You should control your men, Sahrin."

Marianne staggered even as Cayden spoke. There was something strange at work in her flesh. Her head was light. It felt as if she were floating. The light from the torches was all colors of green and purple flickering madly. She was no longer sure if her feet were underneath her or even still attached. Marianne put out a hand to support herself against the damp wall, but found only black emptiness. Her knees buckled.

Someone caught her under the elbows and kept her from falling. She could not see anything, just the bright colors of the torches blocking out everything else.

"As I said," she heard Cayden's deep voice in her ear. "Larish Nectar has other benefits."

Anthony was yelling somewhere a long way off. Marianne could only just make out the words. "What did you give her, you bastard? What did you do?" Someone muttered something in answer, but Marianne couldn't hear them. Cayden lowered her slowly to the ground.

"Now," Cayden said. His voice was the only thing that was clear in her flickering green and purple world. "Larish Nectar has a strange property. It is concocted from night-fish blood and from a particular type of fungus the Underworlders discovered a long time ago."

Marianne reached out to the void and fastened her hands onto something warm and solid. "What's happening to me?" she gasped.

"No need to panic, Marianne. It is no poison. Larish Nectar only helps you remember whatever it is you wish to remember. That is why they serve it in the tavern. Memory is a powerful drug."

"Why did you give it to me?" New colors began to flicker in Marianne's vision. Red now and a sunlight yellow.

"I want you to help us, Marianne." Cayden's voice was very calm. "We can save so many lives and free our city from the Order, but only with your help. We need to know what your father told you. Will you help?"

Marianne concentrated on breathing for a few moments. "Yes," she gasped.

"All right, then. I want you to remember all the times you were ever with your father. Most likely he told you when you were very young, when you wouldn't have understood what he imparted to you. It might have been some sort of token or just a passing phrase. Remember, Marianne. For all of us."

The lights came together in one bright flash behind Marianne's eyes. Then images flickered past her like the turning of a kaleidoscope. Her father laughing. Her father serious. Her father looking at her mother with love in his eyes. She saw him young when his hair was still dark like Tony's and older when it was greying. New memories she had never seen before flickered past, memories of looking out of a cradle at her father's face.

 He had told her so many things, given her so many things. How was she to know which was this vital piece of information that would save so many people?

Something glittered in her mind's eyes and it grew large to envelope her.

She stood on the stone walk in front of the their grand house. She was little, not higher than the edge of the tall fountain. It was her birthday and her father had a great gift for her.

Her dark haired father knelt so their eyes were level. Behind him, a younger Janth curled his neck up into the sky. His scales shone bright green still and his eyes glittered like jewels.

"He's yours," her father said. "You must take care of him."

"I'll feed him and water him everyday forever. I promise," a young Marianne said.

Her father smiled. "This is a great gift. You must not undervalue him when you grow older. Dragons are very special, my dear," he said. "They all know a secret."

Marianne liked secrets very much. "What sort of secret?"

"You would have to ask Janth. Each dragon keeps a different secret."

"Will he tell me if I ask?"

Her father stood up and Marianne craned her neck back to look up at him. He was a black patch against the sky, but better and braver than any knight. "Dragons only give up their secrets to their very good friends and then only if you ask very very nicely." He looked back over his shoulder at Janth who was watching them with clear deep eyes. "There may be a time when you must ask him, but not before." He put his hands on Marianne's shoulders. "Never ask Janth his secret unless there is no other way."

Marianne's eyes snapped open. The strange colors were gone, but everything she looked at had a smooth hard edge as if all the world had been coated with diamond. Cayden knelt on the damp floor in front of her. Her hand was fastened like a vice around his forearm.

"Do you remember, Marianne?" he asked.

Marianne released his arm and started to struggle to her feet. Cayden helped her, lifting her when she staggered.

"Janth," she breathed. "Janth knows."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
If you missed part of the story, you can catch up in the Blog Epic tab. There are beautiful maidens, handsome strangers, a dragon with the flake and a great evil which is plotting to undo them all!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

FIRST LINE: COMPLETED

(Alright, so the title is sort of a joke, but the post isn't really...)

After something like two and a half years, I believe I have finally hit upon a good first line for THE MADMAN'S CROWN. 

YAY!!!!!!!!!

It happened when a critique partner pointed out the ultimate irrelevance  of my first couple paragraphs.  This was something I knew in my heart, but wasn't ready to come to terms with.  (Note:  This is what CP's are for.  Oh, how I do love them.)


CP's also deserve non-creepy cupcakes.


And while I was dealing with that, I noticed a way I could rephrase this line--this line that I really liked, that had started near the beginning and floated up and down the first couple pages and even been deleted and reinstated a couple times during revisions. 

And when I rephrased this line slightly, I realized I had FOUND my first line. 

I liked it so much that it gave me the courage to delete that itty bitty prologue that I'd been holding on to forever.  (I decided it would have been necessary if I were telling the story in a different way.  But I'm not.  But Prologue Love is another topic entirely...)

So yes!  A first line that I love has finally emerged.  I don't want to share it, because I feel self-conscious now that I've made such a big deal about it, but...I think it's good. :) 

I realize now that finding a suitable first line was a lot like looking through a kaleidoscope.  I find myself using the words "found" and "hit upon" and "noticed."  It wasn't something I just sat down and wrote

That said, some of the future story ideas I have on file started as first lines.  Hmmm.

I'd be interested to hear how first lines work for other people.  The sharing of favorite first lines is also welcome. :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

FIRST DRAFT: COMPLETED

So, I was typing along last night when all of a sudden I arrived miraculously at the end.
 
That's right.
 
Let the world rejoice, because I just 
FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT OF MY WORK IN PROGRESS!!!!
 
There it is in all its glory.

It was so thick, I didn't even bother with zazzle.
 
I finished around nine last night and went straight out and bought sweets. I've spent the time since eating raspberry tarte and watching movies.
 
At the moment the title is The Archer's Witch.
However, I have plans of coming up with a better one.  
 
Since I am done with that, I feel I can safely promise more frequent postings and the epically epic conclusion of our blog epic.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

The Experience: 

3:00 pm:  I must get out of the house or I will go batty.  Look!  A Barnes&Noble coupon sitting in my printer!  Expires today!  *gets in car, leaves*

3:30 pm:  *buys Austenland by Shannon Hale*

5:30 pm:  I'm SO tired.  This is just one of those tired days...  I'm going to go to sleep at nine o'clock--maybe earlier.  *yawn, droop*

9:30 pm:  Finally, I'm done with everything and I can go to sleep!  *brushes teeth*  I know, I'll read that good-looking book I got today until I pass out. 

10:00 pm:  *starts reading Austenland; is amused by the dedication even before the book starts* 

10:30 pm:  *does not pass out* 

11:42 pm:  *develops awful cramp in right shoulder*

2:00 am:  AHHHHH HOW WILL IT END?  THE FATE OF HOPELESS ROMANTICS EVERYWHERE HANGS IN THE BALANCE. 

2:30 am:  That was excellent.  I can't stop smiling.  What time is it?  2:30 in the morning?  HOW did I not fall asleep?!  *both texts and facebook messages Tyler-Rose about what a good book it was*


Other things you should know:  The "men in cravats" label attached to this post is so, so, sooooo very deserved.  It's a quick, engaging read with a fun, casual, beautifully hopeless, and sympathetic narrator.  It's also suspenseful, down to the very end. 

What I was most impressed with was the way Hale captured the bending of reality that the main character was experiencing.  She made you stand there right beside Jane, trying to figure out where the line between reality and make-believe actually was.  For me, the way Hale maintained this confusing, intoxicating balance is what distinquishes this book.  The premise is unique and intriquing, the plot was well-executed...but the fact that I was always self-consciously asking myself, "Wait, what IS real here?" was just plain cool

Thank you to Tyler-Rose for repeatedly recommending this book to me!  It was well-worth the loss of sleep!

Buy Austenland from B&N. 

Buy Austenland from Amazon.


And oh, yeah.  Here's a synopsis from Goodreads: 

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?


Just go read it!  Trust me!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

WriteOnCon is Here!!!

What is free, fabulous, and has me glued to my computer for two days straight?

(HINT:  Notice the widget in our sidebar that has counted down to zero.)

WriteOnCon!




Click HERE to go straight to the source of the awesomeness!


To any new followers/visitors who've been directed here from the forums: Welcome! 

Also, for anyone who's watched Meredith Barnes' vlog on social media--what do you think about her opinion that writers should blog, but not about writing?  I'm really interested to see what my fellow writer-bloggers have to say about that one... 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake and Insanity

Writers live in fantasyland. 

We do--we live in our minds.  And unless I am utterly alone and bizarre (with...Samuel Johnson for company...) this can make us go a little crazy at times. 

But never fear, my fellow imagination-dwellers!  During a lecture on Samuel Johnson's Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, one of my favorite professors announced the key to conquering this kind of mild insanity: 

Go bake a cake. 


We were having a family birthday party anyway, so I found my sister and we made the overwhelmingly delicious Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake.  Complete with homemade oreo crust and brownies folded in to the batter!  HERE is a link to the original recipe by a better food blogger and a better food photographer than I am. 


Loaded up and ready to take to grandma's house.

We didn't even add the chocolate ganache--it doesn't need it.  And let me tell you, it is RARE that my sister and I taste something and say,

"This doesn't need the ganache." 

I'm sure it would be good...but we have been--to our own shock--perfectly content without it. 


Look how scrumptious.

Make a wish!

Now, the family we baked this for is sort of a tough crowd.  They don't usually eat the desserts I bring along.  (Which leaves my sister and I to eat them.  Alone.  And they're usually good, too!  If...sometimes experimental...but really good!) 

But they liked the Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake!  A lot!

Wow, my family liked it!

And so did I. :)


Can you identify with the "I-need-to-do-something-normal-like-baking-and-talk-to-real-people" brand of writer craziness?  Or is it just me? 

Aaaaand if you have no idea what I'm talking about--baked anything delicious lately?  I'm always up for a new recipe.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Happiness




In case you were curious, happiness is handmade chocolate and a good book.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Numerous Benefits of Beta Readers

Last night I sent out a much-revised draft of my WiP to a group of wonderful beta readers!  I got up this morning, ate breakfast, and literally didn't know what to do with myself other than come sit at my computer as usual.  My legs brought me automatically upstairs and sat me down in front of the keyboard out of habit...so here I am. 

Since I'm here, I decided I might as well write a post about the fantabulous thing that is Beta Readers, and why I attach so many positive adjectives to them...

1.  Obviously:  They are fresh eyes when you can't see straight anymore.  When your novel becomes like staring in the mirror for too long--more and more tiny flaws emerging every second and swelling to unreal proportions in your sight--they are clear, readerly heads.  They find mistakes you failed to catch, they tell you about problems you weren't quite able/ready to see on your own, and they reassure you that, yes, this IS a story, not just an overgrown blob of word-mush.  (Because honestly, you couldn't tell anymore.) 

2.  They make you accountable to people.  Suddenly deadlines become real.  <--click for cheesier version of that statement

3.  They make you accountable to READERS. After finding beta readers, part of me has written for them. I want them to enjoy it. I want them to be entertained--even if they are being saintly and reading a new draft of the same old book. It makes the fact that writing is created for an audience oh-so-deliciously-real.

4.  They simulate, in a gentle practice-environment, the suspense of querying:  the agonizing silence, the rejection, and the ego boosts. And, let's face it, the aspiring writer lives for the occasional ego boost that is dropped from the sky. 

5.  They force you to come out of that shell.  No more hiding from the fact that you're an aspiring author.  Because you told people, and you even let them see your book.  They KNOW. 

6.  They help you practice interacting professionally as a writer.  I think hard about how I compose emails to my betas.  I aim for informative, organized, friendly, and gracious--humorous if at all possible--but not annoying, controlling, or overbearing.  It's a tricky balance.  You also learn what to do when people don't respond. 

7.  They help you learn to weigh feedback.  If you found good beta readers, all of them will have opinions, and some of them will have strong opinions.  What's more, some of these opinions will perfectly contradict each other!  You have to discern which feedback you should take to heart, and which you should respectfully leave on the response sheet.  Some will teach you things indirectly: "The solution Beta3 proposes is inconsistent with my intentions for the story, but the fact that she's trying to provide a solution here points to a larger problem."  From what I understand, learning to use feedback is a valuable skill--from working with an editor to surviving those inevitable nasty reviews. 

8.  They're also great practice in showing appreciation without being creepy. 


Too creepy.
Better.

Have you experienced the benefits of beta readers?  Did I forget anything?

Friday, August 3, 2012

When Is A Writer Legitimate?

Being an intensely introverted person, I don't like to talk about my writing.  With some people, it's not a problem (*cough* Tyler-Rose), and a lot of people are tactful or uninterested enough that it's not an issue, but other times when people ask...well, I find it really awkward. 

And it's not just because novels often sound stupid when you try to explain what they're about (but THAT TOO).  I think, for me right now, it's because I don't feel legitimate. 

So I asked myself:  When will I be able to tell people I'm a writer and not feel like some uninitiated imposter who just wriggled forth from the Closet of Awkward? 


Will I be legitimate if I win a contest? 

If I get a short story published? 

If I get an agent? 

If I get a book published? 

If I write and publish 22 books, have a fabulous career, and am able to buy a small island with the royalties? 


After I thought about it, I realized:  I am legitimate RIGHT NOW.  And the only thing between me and realizing that is...me. 

I write because I love it, because it's who I am, because I have some important things to say, and because I think it's what I'm meant to do. 

And THAT is legitimate.  THAT is valid.  Even if I am, at this point, just hiding away with my laptop, chipping away at a dream.