Monday, May 26, 2014

A Study of My Fanfiction

For the past few days, I haven't written a word of my WIP--but that doesn't mean that I haven't been writing. I'm still unsure as to whether or not I should go ahead with the scene I was in the middle of or to skip ahead to when the Keegans reach Bristol. I'm really not sure what to do. On the one hand, the scene would show my MC teaching his daughters something, thereby building their relationship. On the other, skipping ahead to Bristol would move the action along.

In the meantime, I've updated both of the stories I'm currently working on on

They're both in the same fandom, Downton Abbey, but are very different stories. The first one, Her Old Determination, is sort-of canon compliant. To explain, I need to SPOIL, so if you don't want to know, don't read:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Basic Message to Writers

Dear Fellow Writers,

Just a quick little message for you all.


I wasn't even going to write this or was planning on it, BUT there was the dismaying thread, which is how I've been referring to this on my Twitter. It's on AbsoluteWrite, the writing forum I hang out on.

It's entitled Beta Readers or Professional Editor? Prepared to be aggravated and entertained. You see, the innocent poster simply asked whether he should have beta readers or a professional editor look at his work first. Which one should he go with?

Clearly, the answer is beta readers. They're cheaper :-)

Then someone chimed in with "why do you even need a beta reader? And why would you hire a professional editor at all?!!!"

(Because some of us like to have new eyes on our work before we send it out to the world, in whatever form sending it out into the world is for us)

The poster came back, said thank you, and replied that he wanted to know which ones he should go with because he wants to self-publish.

In which case, have both betas and a professional editor look at it is the correct answer.

And then, of course, it became a thread of self pubbing. vs. traditional publishing.

Now, this isn't a topic I've blogged about--the differences between self publishing and traditional publishing because....well, I'm not up to that stage yet. I think self-publishing is exciting, I think it'll continue to grow, and I think it's awesome for those who are up for the challenge of writing, pubbing, formatting, editing, marketing and keeping track of their own numbers. Trad pub is often slow and a lot of it is out of an author's hands, after all. So like an indie band, indie authors are doing it their way.

I'm not, as yet, one of those people. I studied the traditional model of publishing in graduate school and my dream was to always have a hard copy of my novel sitting on the shelf in Barnes And Noble near Jane Austen's books. (Holla, alphabetical order!) So whenever the heck I finish this dang book, I will be sweating out queries, researching agents, and praying that I get published that a-way. But that's me. And having interned in publishing houses and for a literary agent, I know how I need my book to read when it goes out. I also know the percentages of how many manuscripts get rejected. It's daunting.

(Hell, at one of my internships, I had to fact-check a book that was indie published and it was godawful.)

But then, so is the prospect of figuring out how to self-publish and market a book that won't get the exposure that a traditionally published book may get, depending. Whatever you invest in your book--and please, please, God, get your self-published novel looked at by an editor--don't let the self pub stigma hit you in the may never make that investment back.

Writing ain't easy and neither is publishing or any other kind of art and business mix. So, you know, respect, props, whatever.

Or as we used to say at Emerson College:

"Don't be a pretentious douche."

And really, Emersonians know about pretentious douches.

(Or as Krystal calls me, Sunflower Michelle)

Monday, May 19, 2014

What is My Writing Style?


This is a thought that occurred to me in the last week or so.

Do I have a particular writing style? Do I even have a particular writing voice? I think I have a particular blogging writing voice, which is really just a more literate and voluminous version of the way I speak. Or at least the way the continual monologue in my head goes.

Ugh, writing brain, I tell ya.

But I'm less sure about my fiction. Some of it, I concede, depends on what I'm writing about. I'm thinking about some of my favorite authors---Ian McEwan, with his very literary style; Jane Austen, with her eighteenth century English, sparse description and sly and sarcastic narrative; Elizabeth Chadwick, with her immersive, personal style of writing historicals; Sherry Thomas: lush, crafted sentences with interesting words and characters; Jamie Ford, lush, descriptive, literary yet simple...

So what's my style, I wonder?

Well, it changes from story to story. But is it still me, my voice? I've been told that I have a writing voice, which, you know, is kind of important. This is what the almighty Wikipedia has to say on writing voice. I know I have a voice--I'm just not entirely sure what kind of voice it is.

Now, off the top of my head, I can say that my writing style tends to be on the sparser side, I think. It generally comes out as sarcasm and then gets crafted into not-quite-so-sarcasm; I have a pretty dry sense of humor. I strive for honesty. I think my style tends to be on the conversational side of things, maybe?  I think I write interesting characters. I know I write good dialogue. If anything, my damn characters talk too much.

All I can say is that, along with my particular perspective and whacked-out thought process, a writer's voice is unique, too. I know I have one. I'm just not sure what the characteristics are. I don't think I'm particularly literary and my vocab needs work and I still think my descriptions could be more, well, descriptive...

What do you think gives a writer's voice their voice, their style? How would you describe yours?

Saturday, May 17, 2014


I feel like I invented a new term the other day in an email--"workshop-itis."

Defined as: what happens to a budding writer when one is continually in workshop-focused writing classes and one does not react, um, well to such settings.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

When You Have a New Favorite Author

As you lovely people know, I've been reading a lot--but I've also been writing quite a bit. I'm still in the middle of "part two," so no updates on that front, but I found myself at an instance where I was thinking about what I'd been reading in relation to the way my novel is structured.

If that makes any sense, lol.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

20 Books Read

I've reached the halfway point in my utterly arbitrary 40-book reading challenge on Goodreads. This means that a) I'm halfway through and b) I'm 7 books ahead of where I should be.

Anyway, I finished Book 20 a few hours ago. Here is the lineup:

11. The Secret Daughter of the Tsar by Jennifer Laam---4 stars---Alternate Historical Fiction--Review

12. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen--4 stars--Classics

13. The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust by Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Dworkin--4 stars--Non-fiction/Memoir/WWII

14. A Shocking Delight by Jo Beverley--3 stars--Regency Historical Romance

15. Hazard by Jo Beverley--3 stars--Regency Historical Romance

16. Zero Sum Game by SL Huang--5 stars--Thriller/ Fantasy/Sci-fi--Review

17. Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose--Non-fiction/History/ Revolutionary War/TV tie-in--5 stars

18. The Turning of Anne Merrick by Christine Blevins--Historical Fiction/Romance/Revolutionary War--4 stars

19. Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris--Historical Fiction/WWII/Japanese internment--4 stars--Review

20. The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman--History/WWI--3 stars

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Real Life Inspirations: Jane Harry

My historical fiction is not about real people; that is, I'm not telling the story of a famous, infamous, or obscure historical figure, much as I love novels like that. Still, as I've gone through this long process of a serious attempt at historical fiction, I've read about some really interesting figures. I thought I'd share a little about them.

Last time, I wrote about Dido Belle, the inspiration behind Madeline Keegan. Today, I want to tell you about Jane Harry, who I read about in Daniel Livesay's dissertation Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Migration from the West Indies to Britain, 1750-1820, which I read for research.

Jane Harry was the daughter of Thomas Hibbert, who was a judge and a member of Assembly in Jamaica. He was from Manchester, England, and arrived in Jamaica in 1734. He had a relationship with a free mulatto woman named Charity Harry, who in 1775, applied to the Assembly to have privileged rights, meaning all the rights whites enjoyed, except for holding office and voting. She was granted these rights, along with land and wealth from Hibbert, putting her at the top of Jamaica's free colored society.

Hibbert built Hibbert House in Kingston, which still stands. Today, it is the Headquarters of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.
Hibbert House, Kingston, Jamaica. Photo by Dan Livesay.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The We Need Diverse Books Campaign

I don't know how many of you have been following the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag on Twitter, but I have been and the stories and pictures attached--and the sheer diversity of people wanting to read more books about different races, religions, cultures, abilities, sexual orientation...

It's insanely inspiring. From what I understand, the campaign began as an effort among YA authors after a panel at BookCon was announced--all Caucasian authors--and a cat. 

No, really. 

Diversity in life--and in books--is one of those topics that gets me fired up, simply because of my own background (Irish and Japanese) and where I grew up (New York City, land of Every Language Ever Spoken). My best friends are, in no particular order: black, Puerto Rican, Indian (from India), Jewish, white, Irish, Hispanic...

I read one book as a kid that reflected my background--I'll post the link later--called How My Parents Learned to Eat. The ONLY book I read where the mother was Japanese and the father white American. 

I'm writing a book where a white man has two daughters: one of them is white (but illegitimate, which is a problem in their time period) and the other is half black and half white. Surrounding them are a cast of whites, blacks, rich, middle class, slaves, free, Quakers, Anglicans...It's not exactly New York-diverse and yes, there are a lot of white English people in it. I don't believe this means don't write about white people ever, by the way, but be mindful--and white, blond, straight, Christian shouldn't be a default. They aren't any more "normal" than the rest of us are "the others."

My older cousins have young kids: my "nieces" are Filipino-Japanese, my "nephews" are Japanese-Irish (on the Japanese side of my family, if you're curious). I don't want them to not see characters like them in books and other media. I don't want biracial kids to not exist in the world of stories. I want them to have their superheroes and princesses and others characters who also meld cultures and races and other differences just as much as my white cousins have had their princesses, superheroes, military heroes, girl detectives and vampires. I don't want to hear people say that they find dealing with diversity challenging.

Tomorrow, the We Need Diverse Books campaign asks readers to buy a book written by a PoC author or with diverse characters. Show them we want it and we'll read it. 

Check out We Need Diverse Books here. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What Should I Blog About?

Every couple of weeks, I see a post on the AW Boards with a variation on the subject of, "What should I blog about?"

What should I blog about?
I want to start a blog. What can it be about?
Do I have to start a blog?
How to keep a blog going?