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I still remember the first time I heard the term Writer’s Block. It was on the show Golden Girls, an 80’s sitcom about four mature ladies living as roommates. Blanche Deveraux, a southern belle and very randy senior citizen, had decided to write romance novels. After sitting fruitlessly in front of a typewriter for hours she swept out of her room in her long flowing negligée and declared she had writer’s block. Estelle, the oldest of the bunch, sat on the couch witnessing Blanche floridly describing the difficulty of her situation: the frustration, the waiting, the straining! As Blanche waxes on Estelle slyly compares Blanche’s writers block to constipation.

It was a funny scene.

At the time I thought it must be awful to suffer from writer’s block but I was young and the writing compulsion was only just beginning to surface. I had no conception of what it might actually be like to be a writer. Since then I have gained a little more experience. Certainly I’ve sat in front of a blank page but there was always some avenue to coax a story out of me; some glimmering shard of a first phrase or sentence to build on.

More difficult is when a scene stumps me. Perhaps I don’t know how a character will react or how to make the scene convey what I need it to or maybe I just don’t know what happens next but never do I feel blocked.

If I don’t know what a character will do or say next I can do character exploration exercises or write possible options and revise as necessary. If I’m having trouble making a scene say what it needs to I start by outlining those things so I have a clear picture of what I need and then explore what elements within the scene will meet that need. If I don’t know what happens next I review what happened before and what that will naturally lead to. I may get stuck in a scene but there are always ways to move forward. And if I think that I need some time away from a scene to get it right then I use the time to work on the next scene or another project. And there is always another project.

I might get scene-block or even novel-block but writer’s block? I don’t believe in it.

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“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

The Apocalypse Gene
by Suki Michelle & Carlyle Clark
Publication Date: October 17th, 2011

From Goodreads:

With Pandemic ravaging the globe, Olivya’s psychic Sight compels her to see auras riddled with the colors of despair, and now her mother is infected.

Olivya’s only hope is the mysterious Mikah, a powerful Empath who claims the Pandemic is linked to his clan, the Kindred, and their brooding, monstrous, Immortal Lord. But can she trust this boy who can manipulate her very emotions?

With Mikah’s aid, Olivya races to unearth Kindred secrets, desperate to find a cure, only to discover the Pandemic is far, far more than a mere disease . .

 


What’s got me excited?

Ever since I first got my hands of a copy of Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson at age 15 I’ve been a cyberpunk junkie. The reviews paint this book as a little bit urban fantasy and a little bit cyberpunk. Most importantly it seems to have that almost claustrophobic frenzy that a good cyberpunk, steeped in the relentlessly on-rushing future, will embody. Love it!

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Back in March I posted stories about my new apartment, mostly in regards to the toilet. If you need a recap see here and here.

Anyway, the first time boyfriend was home for the epic foaming toilet I was all “You need to come see this!” a phrase I had sworn never to utter about anything found in a toilet. But I suspected he doubted my claims of foaming toilet and I intended to prove it no matter the cost to household decorum.

Puffed up with righteous vindication I showed off the proof of my not-lunacy and agitated for confirmation of its creepiness. Boyfriend did not share my misgivings.

Apparently boys like having something to aim at.

So now when the toilet fills with foam whilst I have company I offer first dibs to my male guests who always appreciate the added entertainment value. I’m just a great hostess that way.

Also, I wonder if this has any marketability in the potty training industry…

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On Monday I added a Blog Schedule widget over there on the right. From now until the end of the year I will be posting according to this schedule with possible interruptions during November. I’ll still be posting but it might all be Nanowrimo related.

I’ve thought a lot about what I want to do with this blog and what I’ve decided is that its current incarnation will serve two purposes. 1)A place for me to write and talk about my writing journey and 2)A place for me to talk about books.

For anyone looking for a little more information here is a breakdown of what I’ll be blogging about from now until the end of the year.

Monday

Reading Challenge – I am currently committed to an A – Z Reading challenge. Every two weeks I will post my progress including books I’ve recently finished and what books I still have to read.

Anecdotes – I like to write little hyperbolic anecdotes about my life. Usually I try to be funny and entertaining. These mini slice-of-life writing exercises are great fun to write and hopefully to read. These will be posted on Mondays opposite the reading challenge updates.

Wednesday

“Waiting on” Wednesday Meme – This ia a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. in which participants talk about a book they can’t wait to come out. I follow a couple of blogs that participate and it seemed like a lot of fun so I joined up a few weeks ago.

Friday

Book Reviews – For the time being these will be short to mid-length reviews on the books I read for the A to Z challenge. Occasionally I might include a longer review if I really have a lot to say about a book. These will be posted the Friday after I do a Monday challenge update.

On Writing – Thoughts on writing techniques, challenges, advice and other lessons I’ve learned while trying to write. These will be short essay style posts.

Sunday

Personal Goals and Updates – These are exactly what it says. Updates on my writing journey. Specifics about word count, plot snarls, character tribulations and anything else I happen to be dealing with in my writing journey. Unlike my On Writing posts these posts will be more informal.

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Published: 1925

Time it took to read: About a week as I paused between chapters to consider the material.

Synopsis (excepted from Goodreads): A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. … Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.

Reaction: I love learning about the 20’s and Gatsby is a great source for getting a feel for the era. I enjoyed this book thoroughly. I found the story engaging and an easier read than I expected. Having read some of Fitzgerald’s earlier writings I attribute this to his easy style and massive talent.

I can see why this is an american classic and would recommend to everyone. I would also recommend spending a little time reading some analysis as well. This book is thick with symbolism and I felt as though I only caught a sliver of it.

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Published: 2010

Time it took to read: about 5 hours

Synopsis: Katarina Bishop is trying to escape the lifestyle her family has enjoyed for generations, they’re thieves. But soon, Kat’s friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. It seems Kat’s father has been accused by a dangerous criminal of a theft he actually didn’t commit. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s history–and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

Reaction: This was a quick, tightly written and incredibly fun read! The author manages to bring alive locations all over the world without weighing her narrative down with clunky descriptions and expositions.

One of my favorite aspects is the main character Kat’s family. They have been a family of cons and thieves going back generations and they have their own history and legends that give an added dimension to an already full book. I recommend it for fans of contemporary young adult books looking for some sexy globe-hopping adventure.

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“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Ashfall
by Mike Mullin
Publication Date: October 11th, 2011

From Goodreads:

Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don’t know it’s there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.

Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience that he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth. With a combination of nonstop action, a little romance, and very real science, this is a story that is difficult to stop reading and even more difficult to forget.

What’s got me excited?

The buzz is that Mike Mullin has created a chillingly realistic apocalypse and brilliant portrayal of the good and evil in people facing a harsh new reality. While that would be enough to make me want this book several review’s have mentioned Darla, the love interest, but boy does she sound like so much more! The story of Alex’s survival sounds so exciting! Add to that a strong realistically portrayed female character and you’ve got a book I can’t wait to read.

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Rules Recap

  • to read one book beginning with each letter of the alphabet (A-Z), ignoring articles like and, an and the at the beginning of the title, during the year 2011
  • To avoid re-reading books during the challenge
  • To choose books  I already own, as possible
  • To choose novels over non-fiction
  • optional: The letter X may appear anywhere in the title, not just at the beginning

Recently Read

  1. Heist Society by Ally Carter
  2. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald

Still To Be Read for Challenge

  1. Catalyst by Anne McAffrey
  2. Embracing the Wide Sky by Daniel Tammet*
  3. The Incomparable Atuk by Mordecai Richler
  4. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach*
  5. Kaimira: The Sky Village by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Leguin
  7. Neuromancer by William Gibson*
  8. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  9. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  10. Vitals by Greg Bear
  11. XVI by Julia Karr

Finished Books in Challenge

  1. Allison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux
  2. Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
  3. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  4. For The Win by Cory Doctorov
  5. Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
  6. The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman
  7. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
  8. Remedy by Heidi C. Vlach
  9. Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster
  10. This Cake is for the Party by Sarah Selecky
  11. Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks
  12. The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs
  13. Zodiac by Neal Stephenson

*re-reads or non-fiction, to be changed to previously unread novels as possible

I’ve bolded the option for the letter L because I’ve changed books. Ursula K. Leguin is a legend in science fiction and The Left Hand of Darkness is an iconic novel which I can’t believe I’ve not yet read.

While I will read Letters to a Young Poet eventually it’s the kind of book I want to go through slowly, underlining passages in pencil and fully absorbing the content. That’s why I prefer the challenge to feature novels, you can rush through a novel without guilt. In fact good novels will go quickly on their own merit because you can’t put them down. This challenge is meant to inspire me to read books I’ve neglected not cause me to rush through books like ticking off chores on a to-do list.

Coming up…

After I do an update on the A – Z challenge I’m going to attempt to do a short to mid-length response to each book I read. So next Friday I will post blurbs for The Great Gatsby and Heist Society plus one for a book I will read in the meantime. I’d tell you which one but I’m currently enjoying that delicious interval after finishing a book when I have a pile of books to choose from and they all look good.

Do you challenge yourself to read books outside of your normal reading choices? How do you decide what to read?

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Back on June 15th my writers group set goals of what we’d like to accomplish by the end of the year. Now that we’re halfway there I  thought it would be a good time to remind myself what those goals were and check in on my progress.

June 15th Goals for Year End

1. Finish Nano 2010 first draft

Done!  I finished the first draft on June 30th and it felt great! This kind of concrete progress is really good for the old self-esteem.

2. Finish first edit of Nano 2010 first draft in time for Nano 2011

Perhaps I ought to have checked those goals back in early July. Instead of taking a short time away from the big project and returning to edit as planned I’ve started on a whole new project. I don’t have any regrets on this decision; I’ve learned too much from my chosen course of action. What this calls for is a revised set of goals for year-end.

Instead of finishing a first edit of a draft I will work to finish the first draft of the July Novel in time for Nano 2011. That’s about six weeks to write what I estimate will be about 60 to 70K.

This leaves a question hanging. When Nanowrimo begins this year I will possess two first drafts waiting for revision. Will I want to put them both aside to pump out yet another one? I have three novel length story ideas waiting to be written but at some point I need to take the next step.

I have enough to do now that a decision can wait. Come October 31st I trust I’ll know which path is right.

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I have always been a pantser. When I get an idea it generally has an opening scene and one or more great characters. The story flows naturally from there. At most I would jot down the major points and a few scenes ahead but I figured the story might shift drastically so I thought that loose was better. It worked for me and the drafts that resulted seemed pretty solid.

Back in June I finished a first draft that I considered worthy of editing. It was wonderful, it was awesome and it was also an unholy mess that would need pain and blood and tears to turn into a “real book”. In other words it was a first draft and much as I loved it I needed a break. I backed it up in triplicate, closed the file and put it from my mind.

What to do in the meantime? All through writing that other draft I’d had a few stories try to tempt me away. I had been good, giving them no more than a few pages each just to make sure I recorded the idea completely. Now I was free to do more.

I decided to experiment with an outline. I figured, this isn’t my REAL book so I’m free to use it to learn new things. The outline took ages longer than the time I allotted it. Then just as I was ready to begin writing I realized I had pages of character outlining to do as well. It took as long to get to the writing as I had allotted for the entire project!

Once I began writing the going was slower than I anticipated. Slower than my last project in fact. And yet it was steady progress. Most importantly I was producing a cleaner draft than I ever thought possible. There might even be passages that could make into a final draft with little or no revision. Whoa.

What I have learned from this is the value of an outline in ensuring that my first draft is a clean and concise vision of what my eventual novel should look like and I guarantee that the amount of editing that will be necessary on this book is far less than that REAL novel I wrote (and still plan to return to). I have a new tool that saves me time and is making me a better writer. Shiny! I won’t be going back. I’m just too lazy not to put in that extra work in the beginning.

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“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I follow the “Waiting on” Wednesday meme at several blogs on my Reader feed. Having noticed much of my Goodreads wishlist shelf are upcoming releases I decided it was time to join in the fun! I’ll be featuring books from many genres with an emphasis in YA. If you’d like to see some really stellar YA picks go check out the blog of my awesome writer peep PiscesMuse.

My “Waiting on” Wednesday banner is of my own creation.  That’s me in the picture standing in the waters of Providence Bay on Manitoulin Island. Having busted out my rusty Photoshop skills I’m pretty proud of the result.

Now without further ado, here is a book I can’t wait to get my hands on!

Ganymede by Cherie Priest

Ganymede
by Cherie Priest
Publication Date: Sept 27th, 2011

From Goodreads:

The air pirate Andan Cly is going straight. Well, straighter. Although he’s happy to run alcohol and guns wherever the money’s good, he doesn’t think the world needs more sap, or its increasingly ugly side-effects. But becoming legit is easier said than done, and Cly’s first legal gig—a supply run for the Seattle Underground—will be paid for by sap money.

New Orleans is not Cly’s first pick for a shopping run. He loved the Big Easy once, back when he also loved a beautiful mixed-race prostitute named Josephine Early—but that was a decade ago, and he hasn’t looked back since. Jo’s still thinking about him, though, or so he learns when he gets a telegram about a peculiar piloting job. It’s a chance to complete two lucrative jobs at once, one he can’t refuse. He sends his old paramour a note and heads for New Orleans, with no idea of what he’s in for—or what she wants him to fly.

But he won’t be flying. Not exactly. Hidden at the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain lurks an astonishing war machine, an immense submersible called the Ganymede. This prototype could end the war, if only anyone had the faintest idea of how to operate it…. If only they could sneak it past the Southern forces at the mouth of the Mississippi River… If only it hadn’t killed most of the men who’d ever set foot inside it.

But it’s those “if onlys” that will decide whether Cly and his crew will end up in the history books, or at the bottom of the ocean.

What’s got me excited?

I absolutely adored Boneshaker, the first book in this series. And now Ms. Priest is giving us top-notch steampunk in the Big Easy? Oh yes.

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