Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Common Cold

I hate colds.

You know that feeling -- that back of the throat, everything coated in the taste of hate, running nose, do I have a fever?, now my nose is stopped up, now it's running again but only when I lie down, dizziness, don't want to eat, or can't stop eating, brain on a perpetual "out of order" tone, eyes half open, but can't sleep, why can't I sleep?, I just took two shots of Nyquil, I should be able to sleep, nope, just lying here, dripping, I stuffed a tissue up my nose, aren't I so sexy, now I feel chilled, ok now I'm too hot, make up your mind, headache, body aches, now I'm sneezing too -- kind of feeling.

I has that feeling.

I has it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane

Well I'm hunkered down here during the passage of Irma....now a "tropical storm" for us, but the wind and the rain outside is less than soothing and more a constant reminder of potential power loss and falling trees. We've had several meaningful flickers so far, and one brief 1-second power loss, but so far we've still got light. I've seen reports in our neighborhood of downed trees, but none near us yet. Pray that stays the case.

Hard to be too concerned about myself, though, when Florida had to take so much worse from the hurricane. Still...grateful that the family and friends I have in our neighbor state have checked in as OK.

I don't know if it's the weather pressure or the anxiety, but I had an enormous migraine Saturday night that has been a persistent headache, either prominently lurking behind my eyes or murmuring at the background, resisting all efforts of hydration and ibuprophen. Probably also contributing is the fact that I need to go pick up my new eyeglasses prescription, but....not going to happen today. Today I'm staying indoors and remaining thankful that my employer decided it'd be best for everyone to telecommute today. We'll see about tomorrow. The campus has already declared closure, and I'd rather stay in and be one less body in the way of emergency responders, if possible. Yet again, we'll hurry up and wait.

Progress on the new book is slow. I haven't had the energy/chance to get back to it after finishing Chapter Two right before Hurricane Dragon Con hit. I was going to do quite a bit of work on it this weekend, as I had no plans. Then my plans became Hurricane Irma plans, plus sheltering some friends from Florida. Sorry that the reason for the visit has been so dire, but pleased nevertheless to have such good company. I can't say I'm sorry to be playing RummiCube and sipping ginger tea with friends rather than writing. But I am getting anxious to get back to it. Two chapters is better than one is better than none, but there are eight more ahead of me, all flexing their muscles or rustling their feathers, eager to get finished.

I started rereading a Tamora Pierce novel, Alanna, during the quiet of the pre-storm last night. And then to my delight discovered just this morning that a new Pierce novel is coming in the new year, about one of my favorite characters. Many excited, inarticulate noises were made at that revelation. So I think I'll keep rereading some Pierce works in preparation for the new one. I haven't had a new Pierce novel since Battle Magic came out.

The rain and wind are picking up again. I love rain, and I love wind, but I'm pensive at the potential danger this particular storm causes, rather than cozy at being indoors while the elements fret themselves outside. It only adds a layer to my anxiety, like skim on the top of coffee. I probably shouldn't have had that second cup this morning. But when your friends make second breakfast for you, including bacon and eggs, well. You can't miss that opportunity!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Problem of Passivity

It's con season.

Oy vey.

Anyone who has ever gone to a big convention or worked (my case this week) a big convention knows that there is little time for anything else until the convention has run its course. In my case, this is the of-national-fame Dragon Con, which will attract almost 100,000 attendees and volunteers and guests and employees from Thursday through Monday.

I'll be in the dealer's room, selling dragon puppets to kids and kids-at-heart, which means being on my feet from about 7 am to about 10 pm. I love it, it's exhausting and mentally draining, but it's magnificent and I'm already really excited to get this show on the road.

But oh yeah....that......book thing.

*sigh*

And when I manage to make the time to write (tonight's entertainment will include sitting my butt in front of my computer screen and attempting to finish chapter 2) I'm discovering a new issue while writing in first person:

Passivity.

I'm finding that it's very, very hard to keep the book from turning into a diary. Switching between past tense, when the narrator is remembering something or telling the reader about something that happened before...and present tense, but not active (such as describing an aspect of the country or the household)...and present tense active, when the narrator is actively living what she's talking about.

Because reading this narrator's diary is not what I'm going for. I've read books like that, and they're cool; but I want this to be an active, I'm right here in the middle of everything and look what is happening kind of book.

It's taking longer to keep my brain in the right active voice than I anticipated. And it's probably going to require further editing and revisions when it's all said and done. But I've got to get the first draft all said and done before I can get the editing started, don't I?

We'll get there! When I'm not making irritated or bemused faces at my Word documents, I'm very, very excited about this book. Writing is always hard. If it was easy, everybody would do it (this is what I tell myself). It also makes me think of something I heard about childbirth one time:

If we remembered how painful it was, we'd never do it.

So hurray for short-term memory when it comes to the struggle of writing, because the pay off is worth it every single time.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Struggle of "Writer's Block"

Writer's block: lazy, unmotivated, hungry, exhausted, burnt out, overworked, unrested, uninspired....whatever the underlying cause, "writer's block" is one of the most-written about topics by writers.

How ironic.

But it's because it's so danged illusive. What causes writer's block? Why am I so on fire to write my book at every other time of the day than when I'm sitting at my computer with my open document in front of me?

Why am I filled with such nervous energy at all other times of the day, but as soon as I sit in front of my work, my inspiration bleeds out of me and all I want to do is go lie in bed and watch YouTube videos? Videos of cats. Or food taste testing. I'm a sucker for taste test videos.

You argue with yourself. If I was just stricter with myself, I wouldn't have this problem. I'm just being lazy. And I've definitely had periods of laziness, where getting on a schedule of writing every single day was the only way around my "block." But sometimes strictness is the absolute worst thing you could do.

This summer has been, inexplicably, difficult for my creative self. I've been running a lot more, and it's been brutally hot and humid. And for me to admit that it's been brutally hot is saying something. I'm cold if it's less than 74 degrees in the house. I wear cardigans in summer. But it's been 90s-100s+ since May. So yeah. It's been hot. And when you throw running on top of that, I've felt more than a little metaphorically crisped.

I was feeling incredibly discouraged when I realized it was July and I hadn't started a new book yet. Giant Killer went to my agent early spring. I should have been *right on top of it* with my new project. I had the idea. I knew what I wanted to do.

But it wasn't time. That sounds vague, and it is. And I don't want to always put myself at the mercy of vague feelings. But sometimes you need to give yourself a break. Breathe. Read a book. Watch a movie. Go lie in bed and watch YouTube videos. When that becomes the rule instead of the exception, then you can worry about getting back on track. But for a week? Chill out dude. You're on no timeline but your own.

I want to write a book a year for as long as I possibly can. I've said that before. And so that does impose a certain timeline onto my creativity. I also want to stay ahead of my agent. I don't want him to be waiting around on me too much. I want the next thing in his hands as soon as he's finished working on whatever was "so last season." And that does require a kind of constant vigilance.

But we do this because it's fun, right? Because it feeds our hearts. Because there are stories waiting to spill out onto the page, and they'll bottle up and turn into something other than tears or dreams or wherever untold stories go if we don't release them. I still see vivid colors under every leaf. I still see stories hiding behind the mundane.

So if you're feeling a little crispy, chill. Literally. And figuratively, sure-- ice cream isn't always the solution, but it's certainly never a problem in my household.

I finally got over my own two-month "hump" this week. I was feeling pretty down about my writing. You start to wonder can I even do this anymore? It's not like your ability to write is going to leap up and run away and hide, goose. But then...I stumbled upon something as simple as a new song to listen to while writing. And multiple scenes started bubbling up. I got the revisions to my first chapter done. I started diving into the second chapter. I created two new book covers for my "on deck" books that my agent is working on. I wrote back-cover copy. I organized my files, and backed everything up, and did some more research.

And I'm excited about this new story. It's going to do things I've never tried before. It's going to be beautiful and light and yet dark and eerie and sad and tragic and it's already made me laugh, and I know it can make me cry if I go far enough. Do you ever see the color of the feel of a book? I know that sound lyrical and poetic. Sue me. This book is like the night sky. Or it could be. And I hope it's not just that way for me. I want it to be like the Milky Way for all of you.

So, back to chapter 2. Go eat some ice cream.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Getting Back To It

Hey There....

You know. It's been a while. More than two years. It's August in 2017, and what a doozy of a year it's been.

I can't say I'm too sorry, though I am sorry I left you alone for so long. To my credit I've been busy writing. And, you know, adulting. I got married right before I took my latest leave. I got a new job. I started running to relieve stress and help work off the quantities of Doritos that I devour. Life in this big world continues on, but I need to get back to all of you, and to this blog.

I just started the first draft for my fifth book running (not counting my shelved fantasy trilogy that I may get back to someday, possibly...sorry Jennifer [i.e. one of my first fans of that very fantasy trilogy who patiently reminds me of its incomplete state every year or so]).

Shifted and Roaring Boys are both available on Amazon.com, as fully self-published novels. Kindle and Paperback. Yeah, that's an achievement.

Shifted by Caitlyn e. Mitchell
Roaring Boys by Caitlyn e. Mitchell

























And my agent has two books in hand: my 13th-century Russian "Red Riding Hood" story, Old Blood, and my latest "Jack and the Beanstalk" tale, Giant Killer. Perhaps if they don't make it into some esteemed publisher's stable, you'll see them on Amazon.com in 2018.

The story I'm working on now is a German Snow White. It's my first foray into the world of "1st-person writing" and I have to say, I like it. Though I do like 3rd-person better. Probably just because I'm used to it. Don't have to worry so much about what tense I'm in. But many of my favorite fairy tales are written in 1st person, and many of my favorite authors write almost exclusively in 1st. So I'm giving it a go. We'll see how it turns out. The story is building up inside me and clamoring to get out. I only wish I had the ability to write faster.

I've got the idea for book #6 too-- typical, when I'm only on the second chapter of the book I'm currently working on. It'll be a futuristic, urban-fantasy "Sleeping Beauty." Assuming I don't think of something I want to do even more between now and then.

The creative mind is a whirling thing. It can be so hard to rein it in. I find myself pacing at the gate to write when I'm not at my computer, or when I can't get to it for whatever reason. And then when I sit down to write, in front of my blank document, or my quantities of notes, I go blank. And all I want to do is watch funny videos of cats. Maybe my creative self is a cat. It wants attention just as soon as I can't give it, but when I settle down with treats and a feathery toy, it plays coy.

But I wouldn't have it any other way. I want to write a book a year (or so) for the rest of my life. And I plan to live to at least 150. So let's get cracking.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Author Interview

I got interviewed!

Find the original blog post (and the rest of the interview) on Far-Sight Fiction here:

How exciting!

Tell us about your writing process and where the beta readers come into it.

Well, my writing process can be rather fluid. Generally, though, I come up with an idea and do all of my research at the front. A lot of brainstorming happens during this time with my editor. I’ll throw ideas around, we’ll discuss plausibility and whether or not something is too far-fetched, and eventually I’ll have between 20 and 30 pages of strict resources and randomly generated thoughts. For the most part I don’t outline extensively. I have a formula that I use for the number and size of my chapters to help me reach and then stay within my page/word counts. I jot down a paragraph or some bullet points of what needs to happen in each chapter, if I know, and then I start writing.

I have two beta-readers who read each chapter as it is finished in its full, messy, first draft goodness. They don’t edit for style, grammar, or functionality, unless there is something seriously egregious that I let slip by. Mostly they ask questions, verify that they understand the story correctly, and provide feedback, maybe a few thoughts if something isn’t very clear. They keep me honest about my goals (where’s the next chapter, eh?!) and they also help nudge me along if I seem to be straying from the path.

After the book is written, my editor will do a complete read of the raw draft. At this time the grammatical and stylistic errors will be notated and corrected, and any last tweaks to the flow of the story will be suggested. By this time, though, most of the major story flaws have already been noticed by the chapter-by-chapter beta readers. The goal is to send as clean and correct a manuscript to the editor as possible; extensive rewrites should occur during the writing process beforehand. If I did my job correctly, editing should always just be editing.

What are some concrete benefits that you have experienced by having beta readers?

No one lives in a vacuum. And even if you think it, you don’t always have the best ideas. Sometimes you can stagnate with no real resources for how to get out of this plot hole you’ve created. Sometimes you just don’t like a character, and a beta reader can tell you that character is their favorite and you’d better not touch anything—or their least favorite and yes, you do need to change it. Basically, beta readers help get you out of your own skull and to see things from a fresh perspective. Your readers are going to be forming opinions on your book anyway—what author wouldn’t want to know what some of those thoughts might be as they’re going along?

A beta reader may have a good suggestion, or they may say just the right thing, turning on that light bulb and getting you working again. Beta readers also, as I said before, keep you honest. You can’t do much dithering if you know your readers are waiting at the end of the line for that next chapter you promised them. Procrastination is a writer’s worst enemy. In my own experience, writer’s block, lack of inspiration, plot holes, anything that causes a delay in writing has nothing at all to do with the book. It’s all a hidden form of procrastination that then ends up in twenty games of lost Solitaire. Writers may not write every day; they may not write every week. What they write may not be good, it may be amazing. But writers do write, and beta readers help me get that writing on the page, good or bad. Rough drafts are allowed to stink. But you can’t finish a book if you don’t just giddy up and write it.

Another benefit is that, personally, I have the tendency to over-rewrite. If I could, I’d edit forever and end up getting nowhere. Beta readers have allowed me to throw that perfectionism to the winds—and as a result, my production timeline has gone through the roof. I wrote three books in the last two years and I have another planned to begin later this summer. And it’s the best writing I’ve ever done.

When you have a beta reader, there’s no time to agonize over perfecting the book the first time. Do your job and let them do theirs. Once that chapter is finished, don’t reread it, don’t edit it, don’t even look at it. Just send it along. They’ll let you know what’s what, and then you can go back and make tweaks. But at the same time, you have to keep pushing forward. They’re waiting for that next chapter.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Nocturne Final Review

Hello all! Here I am, finishing up the book review that I started in last week's post--


Amanda DeWees' newest book, Nocturne for a Widow, is vastly entertaining and consuming. It took me about two days to read the first half, and as such I decided to write a "pre-review". Blame moving and wedding planning and other "responsibilities" on how long it took me to get through even that much...can reading 8 hours a day be a responsibility? I will gladly take that one on.

In any case, the second half of the book took me about three hours to read, as I could not put the novel down.

Ms. DeWees has a tendency to do this to me. Her first book I purchased when I read the intro that was available on the Amazon.com webpage, finished, and thought "Wait! What? That's it!? No! I need more!!!" And so my readership of gothic romance novels began.

Ms. DeWees certainly hasn't disappointed with her newest book. The two main characters are witty, sharp-tongued, and intricately likable. Although the main hero is not without his punch-able moments.

I guess that was the thing that attracted and intrigued me most about Nocturne. Sybil Ingram, the heroine, is vastly engaging, unique, and funny throughout the story. Her struggles and yet indomitable will to put up with all that life throws her is appealing. Roderick Brooke, the hero, is included in that list of struggles. He is proud, loud, and infinitely determined to get this actress woman out of his life. He's so frustrating that there were several moments I wanted to throttle him. And even more, I couldn't put the book down. How was Ms. DeWees going to bring these two together?

In most stories of this nature, the head-butting couple end up being thrown together in their love for each other all in one moment. In Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice and Benedick are caught when letters declaiming their potential love for each other are read aloud-- even when not five seconds previously they were declaiming the exact opposite. It's very quick and sudden. While effective, I've always found such a method rather unconvincing (and don't understand me: in my mind, Shakespeare is the highest of all theater). If ever someone annoyed me that much, you can be sure I wouldn't spend enough time with them to fall in love in the first place.

But Ms. DeWees captured a believable, seamless, and absolutely convincing progression of romance between the hero and the heroine. Their repartee turns from pointed and biting-- to sardonic and understanding-- to finally even a bit playful. Throughout the book, their level of understanding of each other as one and the same species is not only amusing but also revelatory...giving new weight and also new gentleness to their teasing. In the end it is absolutely clear that there is no other way their relationship could be...and Ms. DeWees depicted it splendidly.

I am already anticipating the next novel in the DeWees repertoire, and I know it won't disappoint. For now, I suppose I will have to be patient.