September Is Coming

 Hello, hello!  August is coming to a close, bringing the beginning of September with it.  I’ve been having trouble finding the motivation to keep up with my work, despite my current novel attempt being enjoyable, so I thought I would post my main goals for the coming month right here.  I find it more difficult to avoid the things I need to do once someone else knows what my goals are.  The potential for public shame is an awesome motivator.  Plus, I know I have a few friends who will crack the whip at me if they know I should be doing things and they catch me on Facebook instead.

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Whips and pleather can be motivational too, I guess.

Goal 1: write 18,000+ words.  I know I’m capable of writing 4,500 words a week and September is about four weeks long, so I should at least be writing this much.  Only words toward the WIP, short stories/flash pieces, and the blog count towards this number.  And only words over my current written words, not revisions.  It’s the goal I’ve been struggling with the most, so if I’m slacking, feel free to break out the whip.

Goal 2: read at least 2 books.  One book will be for my review on the 27th, and the second will be for a book club I just joined.  I’m also currently reading a book with my writing group, but we’re taking it slow, so I might not finish it by the end of the month.  I admit that I don’t read nearly enough, so I’m trying to change that.  I was able to read 2 books a month at Stonecoast and keep up with my writing, so it seems like a reasonable thing to do.

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That’s what they keep telling me, anyway.

Goal 3: query 16 more agents.  I’ve been querying four a week for what seems like forever now.  No, I really have no clue how or why I settled on the number four.  But I do know that I’ve currently sent out 84 queries and have no idea how many rejections/assumed rejections (because some agencies don’t send out rejections, but give you a “if you haven’t heard back in x weeks we’re passing” instead) I’ve gathered up and I don’t feel like checking my spreadsheet right now.  It’s a numbers game, I’m told, and I’ll keep trying for a while longer.  But I’m thinking 100 sounds like a good place to take a break and regroup and wait to see what happens with the queries still in limbo.

Goal 4: submit at least one thing to my critique group.  The group seemed to go on hiatus for the past couple of months as our members used the summer for some much needed family time.  But now that school has started, critique submissions are starting to trickle in and I want to be among them.

Goal 5: make time to text/message some people besides the usual two or three.  Because I’ve been a shitty friend and I know that.  I promise I’ll try to be better, but I usually fail miserably at this type of stuff too.

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And I don’t even talk to them much.

So, those are my September goals.  It feels a little overwhelming to see them written out like this, but I can do it.  And if I can’t, you get to publicly shame me!  What about you?  What are your main goals for the month?  Feel free to share them here or on my social media pages!

See you next week!

How Short Is Too Short?

Howdy, howdy!  I’ve noticed a strange trend in the world of short stories lately: they keep getting shorter.  It kind of reminds me of cellphones.  They started out as these huge, bulky things that people wanted smaller and smaller, then all of a sudden people wanted them bigger again.  Is that what’s going to happen with short stories?  I don’t know.  But I do know that short stories are getting smaller and smaller at the moment.  When I first noticed it, there was flash fiction (1,000 words or less), then micro fiction (100 – 500 words depending on who you ask) popped up, and now I’m seeing a lot of talk about 50 word stories.  It’s not that I mind this trend, I’m just curious about what it means for the writing world in general.

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I suppose we’ve reached the early 2000s by comparison.

Personally, I enjoy writing and reading flash fiction.  It’s a challenge to write a story that feels complete and satisfying in under 1,000 words, but it’s possible.  Micro fiction, on the other hand, I tend to look at more as poetry or as excerpts.  It’s rare for me to find one that works as an actual story in my mind.  And I have a feeling I’ll be looking at these 50 word stories the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written things that were super short as an exercise in conciseness, but I never considered them to be worth submitting anywhere.  I never realized it was something people were interested in to be honest.  And why are people so interested in them?  Is it because of the time we live in?  In the day and age of Tweets and instant gratification, do we just not have the attention span to read something longer?  The cynical part of me believes that has a lot to do with it.  Another part of me thinks it started out the way I started doing it, as a personal challenge, that someone decided to share with other people who took the challenge upon themselves.  Whatever the reason, it’s apparently a thing now.

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It’s okay.  I’m a writer and I don’t entirely understand.

I’m all for conciseness, but how short is too short?  Are there going to be 10 word stories next?  Serious questions, I’m not being facetious.  I was always told that a story should have a beginning, middle, and end.  That was the golden rule when I started writing.  But nowadays, some stories start in the middle and only hint at a beginning or even start at the end and that’s all okay.  I don’t mind things breaking the rules if it works.  I’m curious though, when a reader has to build a story in their head around the 50 or 100 or however many words they get, can the author still really take credit for the story?  Yeah, the words planted the idea, but the reader had to do most of the work.  Maybe that’s the whole purpose of stories that short, to make the readers work for it.

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I know I’m overthinking it.  It’s what I do.

I don’t have the answers, but these are the kind of things I think about.  What about you?  What are your thoughts on 50 word stories and this trend of short stories becoming shorter in general?  Feel free to post your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts On THE SCORPIO RACES

Hello, hello!  Since I’ve been struggling to come up with ideas for blog post topics, I’ve been thinking about doing a monthly book review to ease my blog load a bit (I’d still be my usual random self the rest of the time).  Maybe the last Wednesday of every month starting in September.  Would that be something people are interested in?  Of course, I would review more recent books or even ARCs (advanced reader copies of things soon to be released) when I can get my hands on them, because I realize that I’m totally reading older stuff right now.  Anyway, feel free to let me know if it’s a completely stupid idea or if a different day would be better or whatever.  You can do that here or on my social media pages!  Let’s get on with today’s actual topic.

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On Sunday, I finished reading The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, which came out in 2011, so I’m late to the party.  Anyway, my initial reaction, posted on my personal Facebook, consisted of: Might’ve spent three hours finishing reading a book today. There were probably tears. Strong, manly tears. Definitely not an ugly cry. Okay, maybe a little ugly.  To which a friend inquired about what book could inspire such a “glowing recommendation.”  I’m so glad I have friends who understand me, even when I ramble about things making me cry.  Because I loved this book.  Yeah, there were things left loose at the end and stuff I wasn’t entirely sure about, but it’s still one of the best books I’ve read lately.

It’s a YA fantasy, so there’s a lot going on in the background from romance (okay, that’s technically one of the major plot points) to family drama to life on a small island.  But the whole reason we get introduced to this world is because Puck’s (the female protagonist’s) brother says “I’m going to do this thing!” and Puck responds with “Well, you can’t because I’m doing this other thing!” without thinking about the consequences.  And everyone one the island tries to talk her out of it because she’ll probably wind up dead or they try to intimidate her into not doing it because it’s a man’s sport, but she keeps insisting that she has to do the thing even before it becomes a necessary thing for her to do.  Meanwhile, in her head, she’s thinking “Why did I say I was doing the thing?  How stupid can I be?” which is really relateable and endearing, especially when the majority of YA protagonists refuse to admit they’re being stubborn idiots.  Puck acknowledges it and does the thing anyway.

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How pretty much every YA novel starts.

At the end, I admit that I was left with a lot of questions.  What was the point of the subplot between George Holly and Annie?  Who was dressed as Epona?  What happened to Brian?  Because it was looking like there was going to be a little love triangle for a minute there, and then he just disappears.  But all of my questions were little things that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme, so I can get past them.  Otherwise, the ending was satisfying.  You get the feeling that life on the island still goes on, even though it’s a standalone novel, which has kept my thoughts traveling back to Thisby the past few days.  But there’s still this sense of closure, like this part of their lives is done and they’re moving forward.

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It’s a little like we get to see one of those moments and then life goes on without us.

Also, I wanted to mention the writing style.  The Scorpio Races was one of those books that feels poetic without using a bunch of words no one knows and without using an excessive amount of words in general.  It flows, kind of like the sea.  Sometimes, it’s smooth and relaxing while other times it’s short and choppy.  In other words, not only was the story itself fun and engaging, but it was easy to read.

Ultimately, I’d rate it a 4.5 out of 5 and recommend it to anyone who likes YA or love stories or horses or good books in general.

Until next time!

Five Things I Couldn’t Live Without As A Writer

Howdy, howdy!  Lately, I’ve gotten back into a pretty steady writing and reading rhythm with this new book.  My current novel-in-progress is something I’m still excited about, even after the “new” has worn off.  I’ve also found a book that I’m enjoying reading, so that helps a lot.  But even though my writing rhythm has changed during this new process, there are still a few things that I couldn’t do without during my writerly time, things that have stuck with me through all of my writing processes.  I thought I would take a minute to share them with you.

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1.  Writing stints.  Most writers call them sprints, but that implies a race and I’m not comfortable with that since I type fairly slow.  Anyway, these are when I get together with a friend or two, we set word count goals for ourselves, then write for an hour, check in with each other, and start all over again for a second hour.  It’s not a regular thing anymore, but it really helps on those days when writing is hard.  And we don’t have to do it at the same time (though it’s more fun when we do), as long as we check in at some point.

2.  Eye candy or regular candy, I’m not picky.  Writing is surprisingly draining, so it’s important to refuel and relax occasionally.  For me, that includes music videos with my favorite pretty males.  Chocolate also helps.  And yes, I totally use the post-writing haze as a rationalization to objectify people (males and females alike) and indulge in sweets.

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3.  Specific t-shirts.  I swear I’m not one of those people who have a writing outfit or something like that, but I do have a few shirts that seem to improve my writing mood.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to write when they have Cthulhu on their chest?  I tend to be more productive when I’m wearing either of my Cthulhu shirts.  My Little Mermaid shirt is also showing promise given how much I achieved the last time I wore it.  Some shirts just seem more energizing than others.  Don’t judge me until you try it.

4.  Mirrors.  This is probably just a weird quirk of mine, but I have trouble focusing when I can’t see what’s going on around me.  The easiest way for me to do that is with mirrors.  If I hear a funny noise behind me, I only have to glance to either side to see what it is.  It cuts down on excuses for me to turn away from my computer when I’m working, which helps when I’m looking for a reason to avoid writing.

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5.  A severe dislike of phone calls.  Focusing on writing is so much easier when you have zero desire to make a call or answer a ringing phone.  I don’t mind texting, but admit that I don’t answer them right away when I’m writing or reading or eating or unless it’s some kind of emergency… no wonder people rarely text me.  Anyway, being an introvert helps with writing time.

What about you?  What are five things your writerly or artistic side couldn’t live without?  Feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

See you next week!

Thoughts On KUSHIEL’S DART

Hello, hello!  Welcome to August.  Where has the year gone?  Recently, I’ve been trying to read Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, which was on my short summer reading list.  While it’s a relatively long book (900ish pages), the fact that I’m still stuck around page 100 doesn’t bode well for me finishing it.  In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t be reading the rest of it.  I feel bad, because a good friend recommended the book, but I just can’t get into it.  So, I thought I would give my thoughts on it thus far before I stash it away, deep in my bookcase, and grab something else to read.

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“Sophisticated” = too mature for me, I guess.

First, I want to say that I had high hopes for this novel.  The plot sounds really interesting and the way the main character, Phedre, was described to me made her sound amazing.  I’m sure when she grows up (she’s currently 16 where I stopped), she’ll be a badass.  But there’re a lot of things that I just can’t get past about this world.

For starters, the Court of Night Blooming Flowers.  It’s basically a bunch of high-end brothels, which I am totally fine with and was intrigued by.  At least until it started getting into the details where the children that the houses take in, either because the parents can’t care for them or they’re born into the house, are coerced (they make it sound like it’s a choice, but the kids are groomed for it from day one) into learning the “ways of Naamah” (sex) when they hit the age of 14 in order to pay back the debt they incurred by being raised in the specific houses.  Granted, Phedre escapes this by being purchased by someone who puts off her actual training until she’s older (she’s 16 and still a virgin when I stopped reading).  If it were a normal bodily exploration thing, I wouldn’t think twice about it, but these are kids being used to make money. I can’t get over the icky feeling I get from it, even though I understand that this is the norm in that world.

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This is me trying to read this book.

There’s also the background story about how an angel, Elua, decided to go on a walkabout to find people who would accept him and was followed around by some companions because even other angels worshipped him.  While on this walkabout, Naamah prostitutes herself to get the stuff Elua needs (from his freedom when he’s imprisoned to his food).  Because that’s what women do, apparently: they sell themselves to take care of a perfectly able man.  Thus, prostitution became a holy act and that’s why the Night Court exists.  Which is actually a pretty cool story (except the whole doing it for a guy part).  And no one is supposed to be forced into prostitution lest it sully the act.  But, like I said, when a kid is groomed for it their entire life, it certainly feels like coercion to me.

Despite all of that, I would probably keep reading for the main storyline, but the writing style is what’s really stopping me.  There’s a lot of flowery, purple prose.  It seems like every sentence contains at least one adverb.  Most of the time, I feel like the author is just trying to show off how big her vocabulary is.  And that’s a huge turn off for me.

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It’s true.

I apologize to my friend and anyone else who loves this book, but it’s not for me.  Maybe it gets better.  Perhaps in a few years, I’ll be mature enough to appreciate it for the “sophisticated fantasy” it’s claimed to be.  But for now, I’m putting it away and turning my attention elsewhere.