Small beginnings

I submitted the final draft of the manuscript of Bird on Fire to the publishing house today. Now it goes to the copy editor for a final comb through, then to the publisher for styling and other lovely appearance things, and then to print!

So, of course I called my mom to tell her the news. As we talked she asked about sales of my first book, Glitter in the Sun. I said, meh… once in a while a new sale will show up…

But then she remembered and reminded me of this verse –

small beginnings

 

Every great thing, every great movement, every great artist started somewhere.

While I don’t know if I will ever be considered “great”, it is nice to be reminded that a small start is worth rejoicing in.

Oh, it’s the antagonist’s fault!

Way back in April of 2011 (has it been that long?) I wrote this optimistic post about finding an agent for my first novel and my goal to finish the second book of the series.

plot lightbulbYeah…

About that…

So after pitching a relatively small number of potential agents, and being rejected, I let my dream of seeing The Dictator’s Daughter in print move to the back burner. Then to the pantry. And now it’s somewhere in the attic with the Christmas ornaments.

It’s not just that form rejection letters sting (’cause they do), it’s also because I was never able to finish The Printer’s Son. See, if there’s anything aspiring writers are told, it’s that we need to keep writing. But what do you do when you hit a brick wall? I was doing all the right things, writing with the end in mind yet giving my character’s room to breathe, but each time I would get to a certain point in the story –  nothing happened. I couldn’t force they protagonists forward, I couldn’t take them back. There was just nothing.

I decided to let it simmer to see if something developed.

Nothing did.

Life marched on.

Excepting the occasional nudge from friends who read the first book,  wondering how the whole thing ever wrapped up, the story just sat on my computer gathering virtual dust.

Until today.

Today Facebook friend and YA author Hope Collier Fields (who wrote the wonderful The Willows: Haven, you should read it), shared a link to Kristen Lamb’s blog – called, simply enough, Kristen Lamb’s Blog. The post, titled “The single largest cause of writer’s block – might not be what you believe” may have just set me free.

Lamb points out that most of the time the weakness is not necessarily in plot or in your hero or heroine, it’s because you have not put enough thought into your bad guy.

*bing* (The light came on.)

I have a bad guy. In fact I have bad guys – a bunch of them. But none of them have sufficient reason to create enough havoc to drive the story forward. A story’s energy is created by the friction between protagonist and antagonist. Right now all my antagonists have are grudges – not necessarily the stuff wars are made of. And for this story to get from point B to point C, trust me, we need a war.

So, for me, the next point of action is to pick up my bad guys and reexamine them. What are their problems? Are they big enough to create enough friction with my hero and heroine to drive the story to its conclusion? If not, can I modify them? Or do I need to scrap them and find a brand new bad guy to rock their world?

Oooh, the wheels are turning already!

NaNoWriMo 2011 – the countdown begins!

I was horrified to read yesterday on Rachelle Gardener’s blog that NaNoWriMo starts in just 18 days.

Gah! Where did the time go? I was supposed to have The Dictator’s Daughter all spit-shined and shimmery by now, and ready to dive into The Printer’s Son unencumbered by the weight of a story not-quite-told.

Instead I’m stalled out about half-way through the read-aloud and deciding certain characters should be blood brothers to provide another layer of motivation for their evil manipulations.

National Novel Writers Month is November

And, of course, there are a few other differences between this year and last. One would think that having both kids in school all day would open up one’s schedule, but – yeah – not so much. Since this year I have a job. A job marketing the non-fiction book I wrote the year before that, Glitter in the Sun. A job that doesn’t pay hourly and that just got more intense as I learned the official release date has been tentatively set for November 7.

That’s just over three weeks to get my radio and print quotes ready to roll of my tongue. About 21 days to pull together several go-to outfits that say “respectable author with a youthful sensibility.” Less than a month to get my game face on. Or, rather, to get used to wearing my game face every day, since I have a tendency to skip the make-up most of the time.

Maybe I need to figure out what being a “published author” means to me…

I have preconceived notions of authors. They are somehow mysterious and glamorous creatures. Always quick with the right thing to say. They might be frumpy or slightly eccentric, but always in obviously high-end tweeds and very nice leather shoes. And a trench coat. An author should have a trench coat. “Marketing” means walking with their beagles to a farmer’s produce stand.

Instead, published author is shaping up to look a lot like every other mom I know, juggling a myriad of responsibilities and hoping not to drop the really important ones. For example, remembering to stop writing the Work-In-Progress in time to pick the kids up from school. That’s a good one.

And, put on make-up. No one really wants to picture their authors with circles under their eyes…

Why I #epicfail at Twitter

There are two basic types of successful “Tweeps”.

1) #livetoserve. These are the people who troll all the resources you don’t even know existed and post live links to useful information that you would have otherwise spent your life without. Right now my very favorite #livetoserve guys are @MikeMullen and @TonyEldrige. Mike consistently puts up random fascinating stuff and has already contributed ideas to my current and future fiction books. Tony is a touchstone of author marketing. Reading his blog or a blog he links to has never been a waste of time.

2) #ADDunleashed. @KarinaCooper and @JamieTheVWM are goddesses of this Twitter genre (are there Twitter genres? Well, there are now.) Their twitter feeds records the minutia of their lives in hysterical detail, every one eliciting a laugh, a snort, an eye roll. And somehow they are finding time to write whole books, publish them, and do extensive marketing on what has been released already.

*sigh* To be so focused…

And then there is 3) #epicfail. Unlike Facebook where I post with alarming regularity, I am a Twitter ghost. I think the character count throws me off. It’s horrifically difficult for me to pare a thought down to 140 characters. I probably need the practice. So I haunt the Twitter feed, clicking through to fantastic articles and posts I would never have found on my own and laugh out loud at the events others post from their lives

Exhibit A: Why I #epicfail at Twitter

I aspire to such service and amusement, but life keeps getting in the way. It is the dead of summer and I am home with two boys under the age of 9 (read, in need of near constant supervision). Just about the time I come up with some fantastic, pithy and succinct jewel of a tweet, someone runs out the back door naked and screaming like an ape on fire. The smart-phone gets dropped onto the counter where it immediately seeks shelter under a weeks worth of the flotsam and jetsam. And I spend the next hour muting the boy-volume, reinforcing the need for clothing in the subdivision and desperately trying to recapture that long-lost train of thought.

Mother-hood and ADD are a cataclysmic combination.

But my hope is this, school, including all-day kindergarten, begins in just over a month. Then, watch out Twitter-verse, I’m coming to take over!

Music to write to: Abney Park

I was stocking up for four weeks of “don’t talk to me.” It was October, starting November 1st I would begin the biggest professional challenge I had accepted to date – to write a novel in 30 days. I knew I needed two things: food and music.

Food so my family wouldn’t completely revolt and tear my laptop from my cramped cold hands, and music so my fingers would keep moving through the pain and whining.

I knew “The Dictator’s Daughter” would have steampunk elements so I invested in Abney Park. The lead singer, Captain Robert, portrays himself as the captain of a time traveling dirigible called Opheila. Abney Park describe themselves as from a time that never was, but that they wish had been: when steam power continued to develop and airships ruled the sky. Since I knew there would be dirigibles in my book, and they would be involved in a battle, Abney Park’s song “Under the Radar” was food for my imagination.

I think you’ll see Abney Park’s influence in this scene from The Dictator’s Daughter when my heroine, Liridona, gets her first up-close look at a dirigible.

***

Liri could barely catch her breath as the first air fish swam closer. It was illustrated with grotesque teeth on the leading edge, dripping with painted blood as vivid red as the blood in the nun’s ancient manuscript. Flames from a boiler in the fish’s belly blended in with the painted flames that ran up its sides and out the slowly creaking, flapping wings.

The air fish was close enough now that the defenders on the wall could make out the individuals on the craft, and watch what they did as they worked the massive machinery. The captain, for lack of a better word, rode at the prow of the oblong deck suspended under the massive balloon, passing commands via speaker tube to the boiler operator and to the helmsman who stood behind a wheel that looked for all the world like it came off a ship controlling the massive rudder. Ship terms seemed appropriate for this machine that somehow seemed more suited for water than air or land.

Suspended on the outside rail of the boiler deck were neat coils of ropes with small anchors attached, ‘grappling hooks’, Engel corrected. Behind the ropes were crank driven spools. Along the inside were shielded stations for archers, vertical tubes basically, with a rotating slit the arrows flew from.

“Fantastic,” muttered Engel beside her. Liri glanced at him with disbelief, fighting the urge to smack him back to the reality. “They hook onto wherever they want to land and just crank in the ropes, pulling themselves down.”

“We are UNDER ATTACK, Engel!” Liri said, feeling she had to state the obvious.

***
Do you have songs that feed your imagination?

NaNoWriMo, meet PerNoWriMo…

As a child, Liridona of Illyria, the dictator’s daughter, watched the sacred prophesies burn in the city square. Now as she finishes her education preparing to take her place in her father’s ruling cabinet she learns the terrible truth behind the destruction, a prophesy indicating her father’s rule would be destroyed by a man with mystical abilities. Adding to her stress are her mother’s attempts at arranging a marriage on her behalf. When a neighboring nation invades Illyria with huge mechanical tortoises and dirigibles painted like sharks Liridona’s once secure future is thrown into jeopardy. Will her military advice be observed or dismissed because of her youth? Will her mother succeed in brokering peace by marrying her to the enemy? Or will Liridona admit her love for Max, a printer’s son, who alone can see the intentions of everyone around him?

Waaaaaaaay back in November I did the impossible – or at least highly improbable – I wrote a whole book in 30 days. I called it The Dictator’s Daughter. That first paragraph is the “pitch” to let you know what it’s about.

NaNoWriMo(National Novel Writer’s Month) is an amazing organization, not only to they make the challenge of writing a book fun, they provide some very nice “prizes” for the winners. Winners, a.k.a. “WriMos”, being loosely defined as anyone who completes the challenge of writing 50,000 words in November. One of the prizes was a 20 minute consultation for WriMos with The Book Doctors Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry with the purchase of their book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. After doing the math ($150 consultation for $15 book I would have bought anyway) I took the prize.

David was so gracious. I read a rough draft of my pitch to him and he kept me on the phone for 30 minutes. At the 20 minute mark he noted that my time was officially up, but that he still had stuff he wanted to talk to me about – and for the next 10 minutes I scribbled furiously while he poured on fantastic advice and information.

His parting advice was to re-write the pitch and send it to him again. Then, once my book was complete (I had only just begun re-writes based on my first readers’ advice) send the pitch and the book.

Of course I was all over the first part, it didn’t take long to re-write the pitch at all and I sent it out a few days later. The return e-mail was encouraging, “thanks so much, did u attach the manuscript?”

*Gasp* He wants it now? It’s not done yet! I wrote back saying I’d sen it as soon as I was done. On Tuesday Arielle e-mailed, asking if I’d sent the book yet. That was enough to move The Dictator’s Daughter to the top of the To Do pile, above Glitter in the Sun edits, paid-by-the-hour web-writing for Read The Spirit and even laundry.

Yesterday morning The Dictator’s Daughter was sent out into the great big world and now rests in the hands of Industry Professionals. My fervent prayer and fondest dream is they will love it SO MUCH Arielle will opt to agent it and David will pour his wealth of publishing knowledge into me.

Because what’s a dream if you’re not going to dream big, right?

So, now, stepping out in faith, I declare the next four weeks my very own personal NaNoWriMo – PerNoWriMo, if you will. Because The Book Doctors (along with my mom my beta readers) will want to know what happens to Liridona next. 

The Printer’s Son, Book 2 of the Illyrian Saga, coming soon!

The Irresistible Urge vs The Unavoidable Laundry

The urge to write is a funny thing. It’s not irresistible, but it’s enough to create a low-level buzz of dissatisfaction when it is ignored. It is the fly inside the lampshade you can’t seem to reach, a noise that becomes more noticeable the more you try to ignore it.

Yesterday was like that for me. I had a laundry list of domestic duties to attend to, a list that included laundry of course. Things that needed to be done if children are to appear presentable and the cogs of family life are to turn smoothly. Yet every time I walked past my computer I could hear the words yet to be written calling me, seducing me to rewrite Glitter in the Sun until the prose glowed and the copyright issues were resolved – or join my fictional protagonist Liridona in her fantastic steam punk world.

My primary problem with chosing household maintenance over writing is this: words do not unwrite themselves at the end of the day – the way laundry is worn, floors are dirtied and dishes are used. I have yet to find a place in my head where housework does not feel fundamentally futile. So, no matter how hard I fight it or ignore the call of the keypad, a day in which I have not written feels like a day in which all evidence of my efforts evaporates.

Yes, there is satisfaction in seeing my husband and children in clean, freshly pressed clothes. Yes, I enjoy walking through a house that does not wear a second coat of golden retriever hair. And yes, clean dishes are fantastic. But not like the satisfaction of leaving behind words that may inspire someone to seek God.

My comfort is in the secure knowledge that writing is my calling, and that God is making a way for Glitter in the Sun to reach publication and distribution, as well as projects not yet complete or even conceived.

So I continue to chose to honor God in every aspect of my life. I will honor Him for calling me to write by writing words that bring honor to Him. And I will honor him for the most precious and irreplaceable gifts of all, my family, by taking care of them too.