Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Just Keep Writing (An IWSG Post)

Hello, all!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

(Assuming you're all familiar with this by now, but in case you're new, please click on the above link for more information as well as a complete list of participants...)

This month's awesome co-hosts are: Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor.

This month's (optional) question asks, "It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?"

I had every intention of skipping this question, but let me just say I believe writers should read. Not just in the genre in which they write, but multiple genres. As well as non-fiction and poetry and any other damn book they come across that piques their interest. Not reading doesn't seem like a guarantee that your ideas will be new and original so much as it means you'll be unaware of it if they're not.




But that's my opinion. We welcome yours.

Anyway, I've spent a not-insignificant amount of time this year questioning whether I have any business being in this business.

Not writing, per say. Writing is just something I've done ever since I learned to hold a writing utensil and construct complete sentences. I can't seem to not write.

Take yesterday, for example. Yesterday, I decided to play hooky from work (translation: writing and thinking deep thoughts about whether I have any business being in this business) to go play in Harry Potter World, one of the few not-terrible things about this godforsaken swamp state in which I currently reside. But what did I do when I got there?

Went to the Hogs Head Tavern, ordered myself a Hogs Head Tea (translation: the HP World's version of a Long Island Iced Tea), sat at a table, and wrote eight freaking pages for a current WIP (Book Three of my fantasy series, if you're curious).



Because I am truly terrible at not writing. (And playing hooky, apparently.)

Yet, I constantly feel like I don't belong in the writing/publishing community. Which, granted, is not a new feeling. I've pretty much always felt like that, no matter where I am or what I'm doing.

But the writing/publishing part of it seems like it's getting worse. I don't know what it is about this year, but I just can't seem to shake it or, at the very least, contain it for short periods of time. It's only a problem because writing/publishing is supposed to be my career or whatever. I'm not entirely sure what to do about it. Maybe there's nothing I can do about it. Maybe I'll just always be like this because, as I have stated in previous posts, I am entirely comprised of complexes and Dr. Pepper.

The only thing I know to do is just keep writing. (Cue the Dory memes!) Construct one sentence, then work on the next. Finish one scene, then start on the next.

Maybe I'll figure out the rest along the way.

Until then, I'll...




Thanks for stopping by today. If my current pattern holds, I will very likely disappear off the face of the blogosphere until next month's IWSG post, so I hope y'all have a wonderful month and a very happy Halloween and Thanksgiving (if you're Canadian. Or just wish you were.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Curious Case of Chapter 36 (An IWSG Post)

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group...

(I'm assuming if you're here, you're already well-versed in the IWSG, but if you're interested in additional information or just looking for a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.)

This month's awesome co-hosts are: Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner.

This month's (optional) question asks, "Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive or belated response to a submission you'd forgotten about, or an ending you never saw coming?"

I think it's been well established on this blog that I have some serious plotter qualities. If you were to see my office, you'd think I was single handedly keeping the Post-it Note industry alive because they're all over the walls (and occasionally the trim and doors and the floors and pretty much anything else that'll hold still long enough) creating a visual representation of the story I'm trying to tell.

I like having that plan. I like having that road map. It's helpful to be able to see that if my characters do A, that'll lead to B, which leads to C, and so on and so forth. I think it makes my writing life slightly simpler.

However, even with all the plotting and planning, there are still things I don't know will happen in the book, and they occasionally surprise the ever-living hell out of me when they come to light. In the third book of my fantasy series, for example, there's a character I knew was doing to die. I've known this death has been coming since the first book, but I didn't know how it would happen. Last November, I discovered how it would happen (may sound like an odd word choice, but it really was a discovery) and I was pretty devastated by it. (Not, you know, devastated enough to, you know, not kill that character in that way because it really is pretty perfect for the story, but still...I feel bad.)

I am truly awful to my characters.

Which is why I shouldn't be surprised when, every now and then, my characters look at my carefully laid-out storyboards, at all my hard work, and say, "Hey, that's a nice story map you got there. It'd be a shame if someone were to come along and...mess it up."

And then they blow that storyboard to smithereens.



The last scene in Chapter 36 of Second Nature is a prime example. I knew down to the last period how that scene was supposed to go. I had written it in a notebook—exactly the way I wanted it to play out—and all I had to do was type it into the main manuscript file-thing. Easy, right?

Wrong.

It all started with one little change to a line of dialogue. It just came out as I was typing, and there it was, on the monitor. No big deal, so I shrugged and carried on. Soon, another line of dialogue changed, then another and another. And a few more, and before I knew it, I was caught in some kind of story avalanche that just swept me away.

By the time I reached the end of that scene and typed that final period, I literally sat back in my desk chair and said...



But I knew it was right. Even though I hadn't planned on it, even though it wasn't on a storyboard, I knew that's what had to happen. Sure, that change meant I had to go back and rewrite not-insignificant chunks of the rest of the book, and quite a few chapters in Effigy, too, but it was the right thing to do for the series. The series, I believe, is stronger for it.

I have a love/hate relationship with those moments where the characters take over the asylum or whatever. I hate them because look at my pretty, pretty storyboards and all the work I did to create them! But I love those moments because they almost always lead me to a better story.

And that's what it's all about.

(I apologize if you now have the Hokey Pokey stuck in your head.)

Your turn. Has your writing ever taken you by surprise?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Pieces of Me (an IWSG Post)

Hello, all!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group.

(I'm assuming by now that anyone coming here is well-versed in the IWSG, but in the event that you're new, or would like more information or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.)

This month's co-hosts are: Erika Beebe, Natalie Aguirre, Jennifer Lane, Lisa Buie-Collard, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, and some weirdo who calls herself M.J. Fifield.


This month's (optional) question asks, "What personal traits have you written into your characters?"

The answer is...all of them, apparently.

I am a sarcasm-based lifeform. Therefore, my characters all naturally have sarcastic tendencies built into their DNA. Some may be more sarcastic and surly than others (I'm looking at you, Cate...) but yeah. Sarcasm exists in all of them to some extent.

Nia, the main character of my terrible, horrible, no-good, bad romance novel, and Cate, Second Nature's lead, seem to be the worst offenders. They have inspired many an exchange in my critique group that goes a little something like this:

Them: I love that your character does *insert surly, sarcastic action here*. That's such a you thing to do.

Me: But it's not me.

Them: Oh, it's you. 

Which makes me feel bad for Nia and Cate because I am a complete mess. I'm an OCD-ridden, anxiety-prone, control freak who's entirely comprised of inferiority complexes and Dr. Pepper. I really didn't mean for them to be like that, too. 

So if it's true (which I suspect it is), it wasn't done intentionally (beyond the sarcasm, anyway), and all I can do is hope that it at least makes for interesting reading.

And maybe not let any of my critique partners read any sex scenes I might write. That just might be a little too weird. Even for me.

I was looking for a good gif to use here and this came up in the
search results. Don't know what it has to do with anything, but
it made me laugh, so I decided to go with it.

And on that note, I'm outta here. Thanks for stopping by today. I'll try to do better the next time. 

P.S...Happy Belated Canada Day to all my Canadian friends!




Wednesday, June 26, 2019

World Building With Tara Tyler

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Today, I'm turning My Pet Blog's keys over to awesome author Tara Tyler, who will be talking about world building as well as her brand new release!




Take it away, Tara!

***

Thank you for having me over, MJ!

Ever daydream about being somewhere else? A sunny, secluded beach with the sounds of the surf gently washing onto the shore at your feet, a salty sea breeze blowing through your hair, the warm sun tanning your skin to a deep blue...


Wait, blue? That's right, blue. You're in another world. Now, wake up. You have to get back to work! JK, finish reading my post first =)

Were you able to imagine that scene? Did the fact that you were blue change how it looked and felt?That's one of the parts of

Fantasy World-Building

Disclaimer: Most of the work you put into Fantasy World-Building is backstory that no one will know except you. The important pieces should be revealed as the story goes along--never told in a big chunk all at once (that is "telling") But building the world is severely important. Just like a skyscraper: no one sees the foundation, but the building would fall down without it! Got it? Good.

Step One: The physical. These questions can help you solidify the beginnings of your world.
  • How big is your world? A planet? A solar system? or just a village? or even a closet?
  • What does it look like? Plants/Desert? Light/Dark? Colorful/Bland? Air/Water? 
  • Who lives there? And what do they look like?
If you want to make things easier on yourself, you can choose a setting that "builds itself" - one you don't have to describe in too much detail. A reader can imagine what an underground tunnel city looks like, you just fill in details of the characters' specifics and lives. 

Emax lives with his grandmother and works at a library in an underground city. Even though his eyes take up most of his face like the other Undeez, he has to wear glasses to read, which makes him well-respected and distinguished.

Step Two: The hierarchy. Who's in charge and why? What are the rules & consequences? Magic is usually involved in fantasy, so that has to be defined, with limitations (no one is invincible or it won't be a good story) Most importantly, why are you telling the MC's story? What makes her/him special?

The library is an amazing labyrinth of knowledge. Only the most educatable are allowed to work there. It's Emax's responsibility to bestow the information in the library to the rest of the Undeez in their weekly congregations. Though he is highly respected, he feels his life is being wasted with these dullards, and that's why he started digging. Up.

Step Three: Language. I respect anyone who can develop a new language that needs translation--that is intense and takes a ton of time and effort--not for me. BUT! You must have special words for things. Modern things we have that they might use need new names. You wouldn't say: a phone, a computer, a toilet, a baseball bat, etc. You'd use unique-to-your-world things like: a vine-line, a pulse-wave decoder, going to the hole, and a whacker stick... plus whatever special items that only your world has. Words are ultra-important to making your world real. You also need to come up with:
  • slang terms
  • hand gestures/body language
  • magic terms and uses
  • habits and rituals
His wrist vibrates, making Emax fumble the high stack of books he was carrying. From under the pile, he glances at the glowing clepsydrator and taps it off. He's going to be late. Again.

Step Four: Incorporate your world into your story. Sounds easy enough. Don't bring up the past, don't tell how things work, don't explain the magic. You have to weave the backstory and details into the story. It's a normal day, and this is what happens... slip your special words, backstory info, and magic pieces in as you go!

After divulging a very important lesson at the congregation, Emax sighs. The brainless Undeez laugh as if it's the funniest joke ever told, when in reality it's a historical catastrophe where their ancestors were destroyed by the Great Flood.

On his way home, he walks past the Sludge Room and feels a tingle making his hair stand on end. He wonders if it's a sign, reminding him of his dreams of another disaster that have been haunting his sleep. He's afraid to tell anyone about his portends, even his grandmother. If the Grays find out, they'll lock him in a zap station to share his foretelling dreams with the rest of the clan's minds and he'll be trapped until it comes true. He quickens his pace to work on his digging. He must to find a way out!

That was fun! Hope you enjoyed my little demo.

Knowing your new world inside and out will also help you answer curious questions from readers--like J.K. Rowling gets bombarded with all the time. That could be you!

Side note: MJ's Coilean Chronicles are a fabulous perfection of fantasy world-building. I'm reading SECOND NATURE right now and loving every fantastic, dramatic minute of it!

Thanks again, MJ, for letting me come over and babble. And especially for all your support and help with my WINDY HOLLOW release! I had fun writing this post with a story-on-the-fly example.

In Beast World, fantasy creatures can barely get along with each other, nevermind admitting humans might exist. It's the young beasts who have the courage to take charge and open the adults' minds!

WINDY HOLLOW
Beast World MG Fantasy Series, book #3
by Tara Tyler
Available NOW!

This summer, Gabe and his friends fly over the Great Sea for the wedding of the century: a dragon prince and a beautiful harpy. But Gabe can't relax on this vacation. Besides competing in rigorous wedding events, he overhears the nearby human village WINDY HOLLOW is in danger from an evil human scientist and a vengeful were-ogre experimenting on beasts. Gabe and his friends risk crossing the mountains to help, despite several warnings. 

Maybe he's going too far this time, but he's in too deep to quit. It's do or die, hopefully not die!



Tara Tyler has had a hand in everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After moving all over the US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her husband and one boy left in the nest. She has two series, Pop Travel (sci-fi detective thrillers) and Beast World (fantasy adventures), plus her UnPrincess novella series where the maidens save themselves. She's a commended blogger, contributed to several anthologies, and to fit in all these projects, she economizes her time, aka the Lazy Housewife—someday she might write a book on that... Make every day an adventure!

twitter: @taratylertalks
Instagram: taratylertalks
newsletter: tara tyler news

Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Halfway Point

It's around that time of year when I check in with the goals I set for myself way back in January, just to see how I'm doing with them (Spoiler alert: not great).




1. Publish the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Romance Novel

In January, I was three months behind where I had wanted to be with this manuscript. Now I'm pleased to announce that I am currently seven months behind. So yeah, that could be going better. But I am making progress. Just...really slow progress. In the first two rounds of my edits, I managed to cut nearly 5000 words. I'm now in Round Three of my edits, otherwise known as the last round before I send this book to the beta readers. It is the most labor-intensive of the editing rounds, as it requires me to tackle a list of changes literally called "Editing Shit Deemed Too Difficult To Deal With Before Now." I always save the hardest for last. Because why make something easier when you can make it harder?

But what all this really means is that there's still time to enter my very exciting giveaway...

2. Publish Retail Rhapsody

While this project hasn't exactly fallen completely by the wayside, it is flirting dangerously with that line. I'm just so far behind with certain other projects. But progress has been made (I've seen a couple of the illustrations for it, and they are sooooo freaking awesome), and this book will eventually see the light of day.

3. Complete the first draft of Full Circle

I do occasionally work on this WIP, but it's supposed to be my third priority these days, so I'm not making a ton of progress. It's more like, "Oh, I have this idea so I want to scribble it down somewhere before I forget." Back in January, it felt like this WIP was in a state of limbo because the original plan was no longer working for either me or the story, so I set out to cobble together a new plan. Not sure how successful that has been, honestly, as there's still a big, gaping hole in the middle of the storyboard where I apparently have NO IDEA what will happen at all (darkness, and possibly some dragons, probably), but at least it exists?

I had hoped to tackle this WIP as part of July's Camp NaNoWriMo session, but I imagine I'll still be working on the romance novel edits. I don't think I should attempt to do both.

Or should I? What do you think?

4. Read 52 books

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha. Yeah, I'm not even close. I don't know what's wrong with me, but I struggle mightily to make myself read anything these days. According to Goodreads, I've only managed 20 books.

5. Log 1500 miles

The only goal on which I am doing well. I'm ahead by a good 50 miles. Apparently, I will do anything to avoid work. And that includes walk outside in Florida.



That's gonna do it for me today. How are you doing with your goals? Have you signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo? Have big summer plans that don't include writing and/or editing?

Thanks for stopping by...Be sure to tune in on Wednesday when Tara Tyler drops by to talk about worldbuilding!

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Legend of Windy Hollow


Hey, everyone! Happy Monday!

Today, My Pet Blog is celebrating the release of author extraordinaire Tara Tyler's latest novel, Windy Hollow, the third book in her Beast World MG fantasy series.
Tara had a long journey to get this book published, and I admire the hell out of her grit and determination.

Congratulations, Tara! You ROCK, and we applaud you!









In BROKEN BRANCH FALLS, Gabe and his friends go on a quest to save their school, blowing up all the rules, and discover their origins.

Then they go to 
CRADLE ROCK and meet some real live humans, scaring them into attack mode. The Beasts realize they have to spread the truth ASAP.

Now, school's out, and Gabe is ready for a break from all the drama...

Gabe and his friends fly over the Great Sea for the wedding of the century: a dragon prince and a beautiful harpy. But Gabe can't relax on this vacation. Besides competing in rigorous wedding events, he overhears the nearby human village 
WINDY HOLLOW is in danger from an evil human scientist and a vengeful were-ogre experimenting on beasts. Gabe and his friends risk crossing the mountains to help, despite several warnings. 

Maybe he's going too far this time, but he's in too deep to quit. It's do or die, hopefully not die!



AVAILABLE NOW!



About The Author 

Tara Tyler has had a hand in everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After moving all over the US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her husband and one boy left in the nest. She has two novel series, Pop Travel (sci-fi detective thrillers) and Beast World (fantasy adventures), plus her UnPrincess novella series where the maidens save themselves. She's a commended blogger, contributed to several anthologies, and to fit in all these projects, she economizes her time, aka the Lazy Housewife—someday she might write a book on that... Make every day an adventure!

Find Tara online:


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming (An IWSG Post)

Hello, all!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group!

I'm assuming that everyone coming here is already well-versed in this group/bloghop, but in the event that you're new and/or looking for a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.

This month's awesome co-hosts are: Diane Burton, Kim Lajevardi, Sylvia Ney, Sarah Foster, Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte.

This month's (optional) question asks, "Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?"

But I'm going to pass on that question today because I am.

But I'm also not going to bore you with my insecurities. Which is not me saying I'm not insecure because I am. All the time. How could I not be when it takes me for-freaking-ever to write a story and then I hate everything I do manage to produce? I am in awe of authors who can not only finish a project before a decade or more has gone by and somehow find it in themselves to actually like what they've done. If you are one of those authors, how do you do it? I'm just so curious.

But again, I'm not going to talk about that (anymore) today. Because while I am hopelessly insecure and...well, just plain hopeless, I am also back in New England—this time to celebrate the high school graduations of my brilliant and talented goddaughter and niece. These two kick-ass young women are going to do some seriously amazing things with their lives, and they inspire me every day. I love them to death, and I hope they know how freaking proud of them I am.

And because I am back in New England, I get to do things like walk outside my house and not instantly dissolve in a puddle of sweat and more sweat (Y'all, I really can't stress enough how much I truly despise living in Florida) and climb mountains.

That's right. Yesterday, I climbed a mountain. It was glorious. My legs were a little "What the hell, man?" because there are very few mountains in Florida, and I am out of mountain-climbing practice (and shape...) but I reach the summit anyway and took this picture (which you may have already seen because I posted it all over social media yesterday. I mean, look at the sidebar. It's the same damn picture in my twitter feed. But I love it and I can't help myself):



I had a moment yesterday (not for the first time, either) where I was just so damn appreciative to be a writer who can really work wherever she happens to be—a mountain top, a beach, her living room, her mother's living room, an airplane, whatever. And even if it does take me a million years (sadly, only a slight exaggeration...) to finish a novel, at least parts of it were written someplace pretty?

Then, of course, I left the mountains and the soul-crushing insecurities came rushing back. But that's another post for another day...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Hope you're having a fantastic week!

(Also, I may be slow to visit blogs and respond to any comments you may leave on this post. The Internet at my mom's house is really kind of an unreliable pain-in-the-butt. However, I shall endeavor to do my best. Just don't think I'm ignoring you. Thanks!)