Monday, September 22, 2014

Of Central Perk and Rejection

I feel like I haven't blogged about any recent adventures in the past few months. I have no writing/life balance, so whatever I've posted in the past few weeks and months is what I've been up to. Well, my friend Jess wanted to know if I'd come with her to SoHo to the pop-up Central Perk on Lafayette Street.

Central Perk, you say? Yup. It's a small exhibition pop-up shop celebrating the 20th anniversary of the TV show Friends. 

There was a line to get in. It took a while, but Jess and I amused ourselves by taking pictures.

This building was in front of us for a good portion of our wait to get in.  It has a dome, columns, moldings, carvings, a clock, and sculptures upon it. It looks very grand--and very old New York, which doesn't really exist anymore. I Googled it. It used to be the headquarters of the New York Police. It's now luxury apartments.

While we waited, Jess was interviewed about Friends from somebody from MySpace.

And then we finally got to the front of the store.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Introducing the Ponsonby-Courtneys

I originally started this story as a few play scenes--don't remember when--probably not long after I saw The Heiress on Broadway. I put it away after three or four scenes, because it was time for another revision on the WIP. 

Between The HeiressDownton Abbey, and The Buccaneers, I've been inspired to write a story that takes place in the 1890s. It's historical fiction again, but it's women's historical fiction, maybe even New Adult historical fiction, if such a thing exists. The story only has one POV so far and that POV is Victoria Elizabeth Matilda Ponsonby-Courtney.

As you may have guessed from that list of inspirations, this story has: an English country manor (yes, again), but this time it's falling apart. I think the Ponsonby-Courtneys live in a house that looks like this:

In real life: Belton House, Lincolnshire, England

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Entering the Query Trenches

This blog started with me posting up a novella--my first finished book-length piece of writing, the first book-length thing I didn't abandon. Since then, I have done three NaNoWriMos (winning all three), wrote a supernatural contemporary (shelved), a Regency historical romance (shelved, but reshaped into something else), a Tudor historical (not quite finished/shelved), wrote a light, sweet New Adult story (last year's NaNo; finished, if not quite polished), and then four drafts of a historical fiction.

Today, I entered the query trenches with that historical fiction. I sent off five queries to various agents today and hope to find more agents to query this work to. I think I'm being fairly realistic about this; the chances of gaining representation are not high in only the first round. But then I'm reminded that, only a few years ago, the idea of actually sending a submission out to an agent was both inevitable and terrifying.

So now I've done it. I've gotten a couple of auto-responses to my query and we'll see what happens.

In the meantime, I have a new project to turn my attention to.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Top Ten Books That Affected Me

Krystal tagged me (as usual lol) to list the Top 10 books that have influenced/affected me. As y'all know, periodically, I'll post about a book that I really like on the blog. But a top ten list? First of all, I'm sorry to all the books I like that aren't going to make this list. And second, I'm not sure that this will necessarily be in order because how do you compare books like that?

My List.

10. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
If you were a historical fiction reader in the early 2000s, you'd be hard-pressed to avoid Tudor-mania, led by The Other Boleyn Girl. As a 15-year-old, I loved the intrigue, drama, politics, and, well, softcore porn contained in this book. I didn't know about Mary Boleyn before. Last time I read it (in my early 20s), I was wondering why Anne Boleyn was such a shrew, why the dialogue was getting on my nerves so much, and why it was so soap opera.

9. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A lot of people seem to think this book is a sweet, wholesome story for little girls. And then Beth dies. Then Jo rejects Laurie (still puzzled by that one) and Laurie goes off and becomes a louche in Europe for a few years. Then Amy (Amy!) marries Laurie and Jo marries some German professor twenty years too old for her. Leaving off the romantic entanglements, all through the story, Jo is furious, impulsive, a tomboy, and a writer. I wanted to be Jo. Heck, I still want to be Jo.

8. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
My aunt and uncle gave this book to me when I was 10, for Christmas (yay inscriptions!) and I devoured it. Francie Nolan was a character I related to: quiet, observant, a little odd compared to her peers, and a budding writer. It's the first book I read and re-read over and over again and I even remember trying to write multiple stories that were basically direct rip-offs.

7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell  

The same aunt and uncle gave this book to me when I turned 11 (so, like, three weeks after they gave me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) and though the size was daunting and the sophistication of the story went over my head at 11, I loved the epic scope, the historical details, how well fact and fiction were blended in, and Scarlett O'Hara is not a character one forgets about. I re-read it every few years and every time, I find something new to appreciate. To think that it took Margaret Mitchell a decade to write the book.

6.  Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

I've read far too much historical romance. If I was to choose a favorite, it would be this one because it's stayed with me the longest. I can recall vague details of other romances I still own, but Not Quite a Husband--all the details and characters flood back. I love Sherry Thomas' books (I've read everything she's written). This book takes several romance tropes and throws them on their heads. It's a late Victorian setting, but only part of the story takes place in England; the rest takes place in what we call Pakistan. Briony is a doctor (yes, a female doctor); Leo is a mathematician. Briony is the one with the deep issues. The characters have a hurtful past that needs to be dealt with in order for them to move forward.

  5. Soulless by Gail Carriger
As you can see, the bulk of my faves are hist. fic. Soulless takes place in the Victorian era, but it's steampunk, supernatural, and fantasy--the type of book that a lot of my writing friends might read, but a book that's atypical for me. And I loved it. Alexia is a badass.

4. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien 
Read the books after I saw the movie--and seeing the movie was all Orlando Bloom's fault. It took me a few attempts to get through the beginning, but once I did, I was able to go along on the quest with all the characters and truly see and hear Middle-earth because of the incredible level of detail in the books. I didn't know books could be like that.

3. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

This book made me cry. It's rare that a book does that, but Hotel is such an emotional, beautifully-written book and Henry and Keiko are so sweet...and then the residents of Japantown are burning all their Japanese belongings--photos, dolls, kimonos--just before they get rounded up and taken to the internment camps and...I blubbered. Being half-Japanese, it was easy to put myself in Keiko's shoes. And what's discovered in the title hotel (a true story) is both sad and fascinating.

 2. Persuasion by Jane Austen
Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel. I think it was the third Austen I read; I decided at some point to stop reading only Regency romance inspired by Austen and actually read Austen. And wow, was I rewarded with this one. All the anguish, regret, and emotion build up to the end beautifully and it's so moving.


1. Atonement by Ian McEwan
Yeah, Krystal, you got me. I blogged about how this is my favorite book ever. Historical setting? Check. Awesome, haunting characters? Check. Prose I would kill to write? Check. Tragic love story? Check. Budding writer girl? Check. Little bit of darkness? Heaps of checks. Huge twist that changes the way you look at the rest of the book? Resounding check.

And I think I'm going to tag Michelle Tran and Karla Gomez.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Editing Is Done

I just finished my edit of The Keegans of Banner's Edge. I'm actually, for now, kind of at peace with this story. I'm ready to attack my query, figure out a synopsis, and get cracking on the queries! Maybe, if all works out, by next week!

The edit has come out to:

365 pages
50 Chapters
96,551 words

The unedited finished fourth draft was:

358 pages (but those pages weren't formatted correctly...i.e, when I write, I tend to let the chapters run together instead of separating them onto new pages kind of thing)
55 chapters (I combined several chapters in the edit. Getting rid of a character will allow you to do that.)
100,173 words.

100,173-96, 551=3,622 words gone.

Here's an excerpt below.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Protagonist, Antagonist, Plot

I think that this is actually true of real people too! Understanding why they think they are doing the right thing makes all of the difference! #writing #characters #protagonist

I don't naturally spring forth with plots.

And because I don't naturally spring forth with a plot, there has been a sad lack of antagonists in my stories. I don't know if it's a literary fiction leaning or just that I find antagonists hard to write, but...I don't know that I've ever really written one.

Although The Keegans of Banner's Edge has three antagonists; well, maybe four. They're not antagonists in a Voldemort/Sauron/Henry VIII/Wicked Witch of the West kind of way. The Keegans are definitely a Man vs. Himself or Man vs. Society kind of conflict.

Basic story structure is like this:

Protagonist wants something. Protagonist strives to get that something. Antagonist(s) stands in Protag's way. Protag maneuvers to either get or not get the goal.

Why my brain doesn't spout Protag vs. Antag plots is beyond me. It's a lot easier than illustrating an entire society being against one's main character!

Antagonists aren't merely enemies of the protagonist. They're opponents. They help create conflict and conflict is what stories are made of. I don't think I've shied away from conflict in my stories, but in reading more and learning more about writing, I'm seeing where and how I can use an antagonist more effectively.

But as with all things writing-related, I think this might change. My next story has a clear antagonist! I don't have a full plot yet, but I have some people and events to look into that I know will help me shape the world of the story.

Looking forward to writing the antagonist in the next book, actually. He's a slimy skeeze, basically. He should be fun to write.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

IWSG: Editing and Writing Friends

This post is for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, which posts every first Wednesday of the month!

I have finished the fourth and last draft of my WIP, The Keegans of Banner's Edge. I have a query draft that was read by my writing group and is now ripe for a revision. I have several literary agents in mind and am putting my list together.

But first, I am editing up my manuscript. Making sure things are as tight as I want them to be. Making sure things make sense (see Translating from the Rei for the truly wacko things I found in a past revision). Formatting so that each chapter begins on a new page.

Also, I'm cutting out a character. It probably seems like I'm cutting out this darling awfully late in the process, but--well--I mean, it's not gone out into the world yet, so it's not late at all. He's a minor character who has been in the story since at least draft two and he's one of my MC's few true friends, which seemed like a reason to keep him, but actually, between nailing down his American Quaker "plain speech" and figuring out that I couldn't find an effective way to use him in the later parts of the story, he had to go. I have too many characters whose time in the story effectively ends when the family moves to England already.

Editing might be one of my favorite parts of the writing process, making everything read nicely. It's kind of like the calm after the storm of getting the draft done and calm before the storm of sending the thing out.

I was in chat with a few members of my writing group. One of them is in the query trenches already, the other two sent in applications for PitchWars and are preparing to query as well. I feel like it's good peer pressure to be in their company. They even read my query and chapter one, which got the ball rolling on my editing process. There is really nothing like a great group of writers to make a writer feel more secure.

I want to thank Karla for sending me Daily Life in a Victorian House for the next story.