Thursday, April 29, 2010

If my blog looks a little crazy lately, it's because I'm in the midst of a re-design, with tabs and everything. :p  Which brings me to today's blog... what do you like, or would like, seeing on my blog? What are your favorite (and least favorite -- you won't hurt my feelings!) posts? 

Sometimes I wonder if excerpts are exciting (although I love reading others' excerpts, so I'm biased on this one).  Is it helpful, or interesting, to read about my writing journey? Do you all like book reviews? Is it skippable when I get personal, talking about my foster cats and my bad haircuts, or is it a nice break from the book talk? Like all writing, this blog is something I do for me -- but it's something I do for you guys, too.  I'd love to know what you like!

So if you don't mind, tell me what you think about my blog and what you'd like to see here!

And also on a you note, I'm not the best at getting around to everyone's blogs -- try as I might -- so I'm making it a goal from tonight through this weekend to get around to every follower's blog and say hi. Since school is out, I expect to be a better commenter, I promise! (Now if only I could get to Blogger while I'm at work... silly firewalls).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I don't write sex scenes, and maybe that's a mistake.

Now, I write sexy scenes. I write my characters in the shower, en route to bed and post-coitus. I write them wherever I can show their sense of intimacy, something meaningful about their character, or even just a snippet of really funny dialogue.

But I don't write sex. I assume anyone reading my novels knows what sex looks like, and as I don't write romance or erotica (not for public disemination, anyway), it seems a bit unnecessary to me to write a sex scene per se.  Besides, even if I wanted to, there is no word I can use for the male organ with a straight face. Including the phrase "male organ", just so y'all know. Clinically, I can say "Penis penis penis" all day (not that this often comes up as a necessity), but when it comes to fiction, saying such a thing seems odd and medical. The slang all seems too rough. And the female side of the house -- that might be worse!

Sometimes, I read writers' worries that the lack of sex in their books makes it seem like a YA book or whatnot. This always makes me pause and try to remember how many books I've read have had sex scenes in them; honestly, there's no single trend among the great ones (or the terrible ones, for that matter).  Some have sex; some do not.  Where it furthers the story, it's a good thing, in my opinion.  I've just never had a story that required a sex scene.

But if I ever do have a sex scene to write, I'll be looking up this guy for some pointers (links only for the mature, hmm, which by the way I hope you are if you're reading this, just because I said "penis" all those times. And again. Which is not something you should do if you're writing a sex scene, it turns out -- ruins the mood).

Do you think sex scenes help delineate an adult novel from YA? I write so-called "transition" fiction (about girls in college/early 20's) that tends to fall on the line between to some extent, so I wonder if leaving sex scenes out is a mistake.  And if you write sex scenes, what are your favorite pointers?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

After debating the things W could be for (Work, Writing, Werewolves, the 5 W's and Wicked all came to mind), I decided to steal from Summer. Thanks Summer!
What am I waiting on?
  • Book 3 of the Hunger Games, Mockingjay, which I plan to purchase on August 24th.
  • My next library trip... things are getting a bit feeble in the reading department around here. I polished off Intertwined and Soulless this past week, and expect to finish I Capture The Castle on the plane tomorrow.
  • My next Borders trip. I loved Soulless, and I want to buy Changeless, which I don't expect to be immediately available at the library. I got some great books recs the other day in my reading post (thanks guys!) so I think I might go a little crazy. :)
  • Seeing M.J. tomorrow. This has been a quick three-day business trip, but I still sorta miss the husband.
  • For it to feel like summer. I think I need more laziness for it to feel like summer is here. At least I did get my grades back from this spring semester Statistics course: 99 on my final paper, 94 on my final exam, and an A in the class. Not bad given the number of times I thought I was failing! *Cue music* School's out for the summah...
  • Seeing my mom in a few weeks. I'm planning high tea, lots of Veronica Mars and The Scarlet Pimpernel, and some serious shopping. (Yes, cucumber sandwiches and Richard Grant -- we do a lot of anglophile things together. The woman did name me Guinevere, after all).
  • To finally turn the withering lemons in the fruit basket in the kitchen into a lemon meringue pie. I might actually have to buy more lemons.
  • To get back into a good writing groove. Speaking of which, I think I'll go write a novel now.
What are you waiting on?
Can I just say that coming up with posts for the last week of this blogging challenge may drive me mad? We're down to V, W, X, Y and Z. Yeesh (oh, that can be Y!).

So V is for villians.  I like villians -- I like mine at a minimum sympathetic in some respect, and ideally,  complex and funny. A witty villian greatly ups my entertainment value. I'm not sure Nemeses, the Greek Goddess of Vengeance who possess my MC Lauren's body, is quite witty. She takes her position of meting out justice and maiming people very seriously. But I like my first glimpses of her anyway.  Do you want to meet her?

Lauren knew she was dreaming, and she had every intention of having a nice time of it for once.

She had read an article about dreams that stated that, once one realized they were in a dream state, one could choose to do anything desired in a dream – alter the course of events, fly, invite the Queen of England to tea. After all the nightmares in which she had been dragged along, incapable of stopping to think for an instant, she felt a surge of joy. She turned in a slow circle, taking in her surroundings.

The dream world she was in now was green and lovely, a hillside with a soft golden sun and fluffy clouds above it. Lauren approved.

“Now what?” she asked aloud. “Perhaps I could order some dinner? Fly? Flying first and then dinner; that sounds like an excellent plan.”

Lauren spread her arms out, closed her eyes, tried to think of what flying would feel like. The ground remained solid beneath her feet. Lauren made a little jump, gave her arms a good flap, but found herself once more on terra firma.

“Oh, stop that.” The voice was cool, feminine, and posh. “You look positively ridiculous.”

Lauren opened her eyes up quickly. The figure in front of her wore a neat white suit, devastatingly tall white heels. Her long masses of dark hair were pushed back with what appeared to be a solid-gold headband. Lauren couldn’t imagine that was very practical as a hairpiece.

Once Lauren had finished her once-over, though, she found herself stuck on the other woman’s light blue eyes – so light, they were almost colorless, the iris a tiny black dot in the center of her nearly white eyes.

“This is my dream, thank you very much,” Lauren said peevishly. She was almost never rude in real life, but this was her own dream, after all. She could act as she pleased.

“All your dreams are mine now, my dear.”

Lauren suddenly realized who was in front of her; she wondered if the dream-state had made her thick. “Nemeses.”

“Oh!” Nemeses clapped her hands together. “We’re finally on the same page. Lovely.”

“What are you doing in my dreams?”

“Giving you a bit of a vacation,” Nemeses said. “There’s no need for it, though, if you’re going to be nasty. There are some truly horrid things going on in the city; we can go back to that, if you like. Would you like children tonight?”

Lauren blanched.

“Let’s talk, my dear,” Nemeses said. She put her arm through Lauren’s, which meant she had to take Lauren’s wrist and adjust her to form a crook. She then patted Lauren’s hand and started to drag her along on a walk. The goddess had a surprisingly iron grip and Lauren found herself trotting along.

“I certainly have some questions for you,” Lauren said.

“Don’t be tiresome,” Nemeses said. “I’m the most vengeful of the gods – I mean, it is my occupation. It’s not very wise of you to irritate me.”

Lauren didn’t see what was so irritable about questions, but she decided to wait her out and let the goddess speak.

“You have been nothing but trouble since I transferred over from Willow,” Nemeses said. “I don’t think you understand the delicate position you are in as my host, or how wise it would be to become more hospitable.”

“What should I do to be hospitable?”

“Stop fighting me. I’m the goddess; you’re the lucky mortal to act as my tangible link to the world. You have little power here.”

“Then why do you need me to be hospitable?”

Nemeses smiled, although Lauren noticed the motion did not wrinkle the perfectly smooth and white skin around the goddess’ eyes. “Because your flimsy resistance is disrespectful and annoying.”

“Perhaps you should have asked before taking my body over,” Lauren said. “There are all different types in the world. I’m sure there’s someone else who would just love being your instrument of vengeance.”

Nemeses drew her to a stop. She was still smiling the creepy Rockettes smile that did not crinkle the corners of her lips of eyes. “Because I. Chose. You.” She punctuated each word with a gentle tap of her finger on Lauren’s nose.

“And. I. Don’t. Know. Why.” Lauren said, in the same tone. She did refrain for tapping the Goddess of Vengeance’s aquiline nose, however.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I have a secret desire (well, not so secret, since I'm blogging) to get my MFA in Creative Writing.

Given that I am two classes' from a Master's in Finance, and already have a job making quite decent money, it's probably not the most logical life choice. But we'll see how the next several years shape up; if this stays a dream of mine, it might just become a reality. After changing my major three times in college and my life plan many more times since, I accept that dreams are sometimes fluid!

But man. How much fun would it be to spend two years studying nothing but the art of writing and, well, writing? Plus I love to teach, and I'd love to be able to teach writing someday!

Would you ever think of getting your MFA?

Friday, April 23, 2010

There's a phenomenon in life that I find difficult to write in my fiction, and that's The Terrible Moment After. That's how I think of it. It's the minutes, the hours even, after something awful happens, something that changes your life forever.

It's what happens after a drunk driver hits your car, and you stumble disoriented from your vehicle in a multiple car accident.

It's what happens after you find out a friend just died in Iraq, or was murdered, struck down from behind after a stupid drunken fight.

It's what happens after the slow death you've been waiting for finally comes, with its mixture of grief and relief.

Those, unfortunately, are all my own terrible moments after.  And to me, they're hard to write, because so little happens, in those moments. Those awful climactic moments, they're easy to write. But what happens next?

I remember all the little details of what happened right before my father died. I was home, hadn't gone to the hospital yet and had given up on school (I was 17). I was doing the dishes.  I heard the front door open, the first time my mom had been home in days, and I knew he was gone. I remember the open kitchen window over the sink, the view of our green May yard and the scent of lilacs drifting in. I remember dropping the dish towel on the floor. My mother was trembling, her arms wrapped around the flowers from my father's hospital room, and her blue eyes were full of unreleased tears.

But what came next? I remember going to the funeral home, but that wasn't until later; cleaning the house for the wake; finally crying for the first time weeks after, lying alone in the grass of an open field.  Did I curl up on the couch with my dogs and watch TV?  Take comfort in my books, as I often did?  I don't remember.

And that seems like so little to show, in a novel; Then she laid down on the couch, and her rottweiler laid her head in her lap, and they watched the MTV Real World marathon. There's so much going on in the midst of so little.

I remember, too, the next year, getting the phone call about my friend being murdered.   I remember pacing the house, but not what happened next; what do you do when there's nothing you can do?  Clean the house? Go for a run to try and burn off some rage?

I think it's a powerful moment to write, don't get me wrong. We don't live our lives in the world-changing moments; we live in what comes after, including the terrible moments after. But there's so little to show, in these moments. And in some ways, there's so little going on -- we process these things so slowly.

But I think that just as much as we write the climaxes, we need to at least cover the aftermath. Even if it's just a few sentences about how the character survives that time, what they do to keep moving and keep the distance, and what happens when they stop.

Hopefully this post makes sense, about writing the aftermaths. Sorry about the dark (and personal) nature of the post -- there are beautiful moments after, too. Even, especially, after you've come through the terrible ones.

What does your MC live through? And how? How have you dealt with your terrible moments after?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hai guys, please see below for my real post, which is about reading. This is my frivolous catch-up post. Please feel free to skip.

I need a haircut. My last haircut was a terrible one that left me scared to darken the door of a hairdresser ever again. Even MJ noticed that it was lopsided. This is what it looked like:
Ugh. But anyway, that's my hair color and face shape. Now let's play the "Pick My New Hair Cut Because I'll Never Get Up The Courage To Go Back To A Salon If It's Not On My Blog" game. If you have an alternate suggestion, I am open to the possibilities. But here are my front runners:


Short and sassy! I'd keep my natural reddish blond, but I think I might even go with a few chunky blond streaks for fun...


Simple and straight.  Although I know I won't look like Gwyneth even with her hair. :p


Straight with some layering and long bangs...


Another cute bangs options, although I'm less likely to end up pushing this version out of my eyes 800 times a day...

Please help! My hair is now long (and full of charming split ends, I'm sure... it's been about eight months!).  Vote from now until next weekend, when I'll hit up the salon. :)
I posted at the start of the year about how important it is for us writers to read, and how easy it is to forget to read in our busy grown-up worlds (at least for me). That's why I signed up for a couple of reading challenges: 100 Books in 2010, 50 library books in 2010, 12 Debut YA authors.  Since I've been missing out on my usual weekly update posts, I thought I'd talk about reading so far in 2010!

This is what I've read so far this year:
Books read from the library:
Everyone Is Beautiful: A Novel  Reviewed here
The Life You Longed For: A Novel  Reviewed here
Exclusive: Reporters in Love...and War: A Novel Reviewed here
Liar Reviewed here
Going Too Far Review coming soon
Jacob Have I Loved Review coming soon
Some Girls Are Review coming someday
Shiver Review coming someday
The Fiction Class Reviewed here
Impossible  Review coming
Chasing Brooklyn  by Lisa Schroeder, Review coming soon
Switch by Carol Snow, Review coming soon
Story of a Girl  by Sara Zarr
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet  by Jamie Ford
The Dark Divine  by Bree Despain
Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials  by Rosalind Wiseman
The Hunger Games  by Suzanne Collins
See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit by Sarah Mylnowski, Farrin Jacobs
Lady Vernon and Her Daughter: A Novel of Jane Austen's Lady Susan  by Jane Rubino, Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
The Good Nanny: A Novel  by Benjamin Cheever
Hush, Hush  by Becca Fitzpatrick
Beautiful Creatures  by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland
All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)  by Suzanne Collins
Girl, Hero by Carrie Jones
House Rules: A Novel  by Jodi Picoult
Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
The Everafter by Amy Huntley
Candor by Pam Bachorz
The Body Finder  by Kimberly Derting

Books read from other sources:
Plot & Structure: (Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish) (Write Great Fiction)
The Lightning Thief by Rich Riordan

It's been amazing to me what a difference it makes to have the challenge of reading a hundred books this year -- I'm making just a slightly more concerted effort to read, and I feel like I've gotten to read much more than usual! Of course, I've also read differently -- so far this year I haven't read any of the fun but thick non-fiction tomes I tend to pick up, like Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw and The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (the first is a great book about the Warsaw Uprising, when the Poles tried to overthrow the German occupation -- highly recommended for history geeks like myself).   I'm hoping to get ahead of my count a  bit and then I can pick up some non-fiction to round out my reading.

So talk to me, fellow readers -- what should be up next on my list, in any genre?