Monday, November 7, 2011

Nanowrimo Vs. Internet

This month will probably have a lot of Nano themed posts. This one is the big reason I'm having to marathon to keep up my word count. It is the arch nemesis and greatest ally of writers and students alike, with traps to ensnare you like Facebook and Twitter and Wikipedia, yet those can be great resources of community and story ideas.

At the moment, when productivity is crucial for word count, the internet is proving to be the biggest distraction ever (I say this as I'm writing a blog post about this very subject! I feel like I'm in a Christmas Carol). Email, Facebook, Twitter, even school's website are constantly updating with assignments, comments, news. After about an hour or so of checking, it kind of feels like you're plugged into the Matrix and should be declaring you know kung-fu in a matter of minutes. And the worst (and probably best) part of it is the internet is always new! You never run out of something to see or things to do. There's so much out there that you can always find new things to do like read online serials, or webcomics. There's a point where you're just putting off the inevitable and you've already wasted precious words you could have added toward that coveted 50,000.

So, for anyone participating (or delaying anything by goofing around online), and who has this issue, I challenge you to join me and spend at least an hour a day with your wireless connection turned off, your ethernet cord unplugged, and your word processor/notebook open to catch up on any lost words and get ahead for the weeks to come!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Back in time for Candy

And the epic trend of the hiatus continues during the semester... I'm hoping to post more often in November because of Nanowrimo (the awesomeness that is National Novel Writing Month). I'm going to win this year... Granted I'm going to use the extra motivation to finish a project rather than start a new one. And day one is today! Maybe they'll have the special widgets this year that say how many words you've written so far. I'll have to figure out how to post that on the side of the blog.

Happy belated Halloween/Samhain by the way all you Pagans, Americans, and fellow Celtic Mythology nuts. There were a lot of fun activities I did leading up to the weekend, not limited to pumpkin carving (Hello Kitty!), watching an awesome pro-wrestling event with my family (one of the matches involved my boyfriend), and dressing up in 5 inch heels all of yesterday with an old Hot Topic dress and a ton of makeup (and I had class all day, I brought flats in my bag just in case). You can check out pictures below if you're interested.



Happy Me!

Pretty Dress

Heels of doom!


Meanwhile, Nanowrimo! This is an awesome thing to participate in because not only does it promote productivity (50,000 words in a month is daunting, but doable!), it also promotes community among prospective writers, seasoned writers, and readers (go to a local write-in and you'll see plenty of both). While writers of all kinds should be perfecting their craft all year round and have their own support system of fellows, it's sometimes nice to hear the stories and watch as ordinary people realize that writing a book, especially a good book, is hard. You see the high and mighty with their noses in the air humbled and you see those with their shoulders slumped in doubt uplifted!

For anyone who actually has completed a first draft all the way through (I'm not even going to touch the subject of editing), the feeling of "The End" is one of the best in the world. You haven't read over it yet, you just revel in the completeness of your work and the excitement that you've made the best thing since sliced bread!

In December I'll probably rant more about editing and those pitfalls/perils, but for now, working for that finish and feeling the rush of the muse/creativity/forced awesome is one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever felt. That I'm feeling that with every first draft of something I tackle helps reaffirm my conviction this is what I want to do. And that is why I Nano (the not so clever verb for participating in Nanowrimo).

Why do you Nano? (Cheesy I know...) If you're not participating, how was your Halloween? Even if you are participating, I'd love to hear your thoughts on both!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Slow, Busy, and Routined

Hey! I know it's been awhile, unfortunately I don't have much to give you as far as book updates goes. I'm working on a preliminary book trailer and various cover concepts I can put by my publisher once we get that far in the process, granted most of that is just me playing around. I do know that Nicole MacDonald is setting up a portion of her blog with author interviews and she graciously offered me a slot later on. That woman is the most awesome, albeit only, Kiwi I know. Her first interview is coming up soon, so watch and check her out! Her book, The Arrival, is also available for free (at least I think) for a limited time, so grab it while you can.

Now I will proceed to explain myself through varied, albeit still vague, excuses on how a combination of work, school, and social life have deprived me of time to hop on the computer and interact with you fine people. As a result of these colorful blockades, I've had a new-found revelation for how to organize the scheduled chaos and fit in the things I want/need to do.

Lists and schedules!

Making lists and schedules that is. If you grew up under my mother, these organizational tools were taught through colorful charts and magnets, then the cold black and white of printer paper and ink. Didn't everyone have a system of some kind as a kid to help you learn when to brush your teeth, brush your hair, do your chores? If you're anything like me, you developed a knack for personal hygiene and that's about it. Even as an adult, I struggle to budget my time without these methods. It was always the neat kids who cleaned their rooms on a regular basis and had a ton of extracurricular activities to work around who seemed to master the art of "life management"--either that or their overbearing mothers did all that work for them.

It is only now, as an adult, that it has finally dawned on me that these basic tools are so valuable for the organizationally incapable! And if one sticks to them, they can open up a whole world of less stress and security. Grocery lists are invaluable for the forgetful who can't remember if they needed eggs or strawberries for that special cake. Shift schedules, if written down and put on a fridge grid, can prevent a slew of lateness for the not so punctual. The art of planning can help fitness, writing productivity, and after all that someone can sit down and use the time they have left to either be spontaneous or relax.

So, if you're anything like me and your brain wants to be in too many places at once and you don't have a knack for mentally compartmentalizing your life, I invite you to join me in sticking to a set routine and seeing where it takes you. I've made my lists and will post them on my mini-fridge after I finish typing.

Now, for those more seasoned at this whole "planning" business, any tips? Stories? Anyone else struggling with a chaotic life who have some other ideas? Do comment! :D

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

Man, summer is bringing the triple threat of part-time classes (Fiction and Sign Language Interpreting), part-time job (Borders!!! 4th in the company!), and part-time social life (boyfriend and best friend back in the state). I swear, my time only has two parts to it, not three! Oh well, such is life, right?

That said, my blogging is going to be more sporadic than usual. I do have plenty of books I'm reading (Hounded by Kevin Hearne, Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews, Soul Born by Kevin Breaux), so I'll have some new reviews up (and my Kobo is working again, so anything on Smashwords or in an EPUB, PDF, or non-DRM'd format you want reviewed, send them in!). Updates on FAERIE GAMES should be coming in soon, though I have to say a second pair of eyes would be appreciated on more final line-edits, if anyone is interested.

Meanwhile, finding time to write in between all this is getting to be a trial all it's own. Finding a regular writing schedule is going to be a definite asset so I can keep up my page count on my latest WIP. It hits me, that's actually a really good asset of a writing routine, whether it be daily or not. Setting aside a specific time, making time for the writing instead of waiting for inopportune inspiration actually seems to breed inspiration. A very insightful group of ladies at a blog called Let the Words Flow coined the process of BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard). It really is that simple sometimes. It takes some training, your body and muse needs to get used to the atmosphere of its work. Me, personally, my body craves routine. My muse works best in an organized atmosphere because it matches my thoughts. My characters need some order in my head so I can hear their voice properly.

So, I wish you luck in finding your writing rhythm, I'm certainly going to have fun finding mine this summer. Any tips? What works for you in your work?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bored With Your Book?

Does this happen to you, where you're working along well on a story concept and suddenly something that happens later in the story catches your interest? Or even worse, a different idea entirely catches your interest?

Personalities with short attention spans, ala mine, tend to jump around on ideas a lot. Heck, I've met a lot of artists who never finish anything because they either aren't content with it or another shiny idea distracts them. I'm surprised I can dedicate myself to one idea for so long and actually get projects finished, considering I have one of those personalities. To help temper that tendency, I have to have a very linear writing process where I can't skip ahead and write the scenes I want to. I have to write the in-between-scenes before the big confrontations. I have to write the development scenes before the action goes down. The lulls have to be the hardest part to write because of the potential for distraction.

Unfortunately this has happened and I've been plagued by the urges to rewrite, revise, skip around, deviate from my outline until the entire WIP is not salvageable. Resisting these urges is a trial in itself. When one of them proves necessary, like rewriting the opening, I can take a break from new material to fulfil it. However, the strong revision bug always inspires the same question, if this is boring me, then won't it be boring for my reader?

I've read on plenty of blogs that if a scene is boring you, you should change it to something that doesn't bore you. The writer's boredom is obvious to the reader through their writing. Of course, these train wrecks can be cut in the editing/revision stage, but getting through them is a test in itself. So, if a scene isn't interesting to me, in theory I should change it. Change it to what, though? That makes for either many hours of delightful brainstorming that renews enthusiasm, or many hours of sitting there, staring at a blank word processor and slowly killing your eyesight.

The two best solutions I've found, so far, while investigating ways of ending these creative dole drums, is rambling on for a paragraph or two about nothing until an idea hits and you roll with it, or rewriting the scene from the beginning from a few experimental angles to see what sticks. It's like spaghetti noodles! You see it's ready when it sticks to the wall. Or that's how the wives' tale goes...

What are some of your ways of breaking the infamous 'writer's block'? Do you think it even exists? Your thoughts are much appreciated! :)

On a side note, I have good news and bad news. The good, I have been searching for summer employment and finally landed a cashiering job at Borders! The bad, my Kobo screen turned all black and I can't read a thing on it. So, unfortunately I have to spend a good amount of money getting it fixed...it's going to be awhile before I can revel in portable ebooks again.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Back and Better!

Yes, after a rather forced hiatus from blogging because of end of semester crunch (thank God it's over!), I'm back and excited to get some time off to catch up on my word count and my reading.

Today is mostly about status updates.

First: If you didn't already know, I've created an author page with a spiffy domain name of its own and everything. Just this past weekend, I added a character art section where visitors can view drawings made by other people, and even a few by yours truly. If it sounds interesting, do check it out at http://www.betartaglia.com ! That's also one of the places where I'll be making big time updates as to the status of FAERIE GAMES and other developments, so keep it in mind, spread it around a little. :)

Second: I finally got an e-reader, a Kobo, but unfortunately I that means I can't get kindle formats in there. Some of them transferred over okay, so I have a few weeks I can go, but they will run out eventually. For those of you who frequent ebooks regularly, where else is a good place to find different, more open formatted ebooks? Any suggestions, promos?

That's about it for me today. I'll do my best to have a review posted by around Friday or Saturday. I hope everyone else is having a good, stress-free week!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book Trailers: Making the Suckers Part 2

Making a trailer is pretty easy in theory. First you pick your video editing software of choice (as stated above, mine is Windows Media Player, free and easy to use). Then you storyboard and script your trailer on a piece of paper (you can use any technique, whether it be elaborate sketches or stick figures). Now, unless you can draw and have the patience for it, the tricky part lies in finding material to put with your text script. Your storyboard should be a general concept of what you want, try keeping it to vague pictures, unless you have some pro bono actors and a decent video camera on hand so you can film scenes yourself.

Then the searching starts. Expect this to be the longest, most boring part of the process. If you're just making it for you, Google is a great resource for everything under the sun. If you actually want to air it on Youtube, however, you have to watch the license of the pictures. If it's royalty free, creative commons, noncommercial, stock photos, then you can use it without guilt. Shutterstock.com is good if you're willing to pay a little. If, like me, you'd rather not, resources like Wikimedia Commons and Photobucket are great. If you want some quality art/photography by some really good amateur and professional artists, Deviantart is a great resource. A lot of people will let you use their pictures for free, just as long as you ask permission ahead of time or credit them somehow.

Now, good trailers have some kind of audio, whether it be voice-overs, sound effects, music, or all of the above. The same licencing rule that goes for pictures applies to music/sounds. And like the pictures, there are some really good resources out there who simply ask you cite them if you use their stuff. My favorite cite for royalty-free music is Kevin Macleod's Incompetech.com. He has some great pieces on there for just about every occasion, and it's free if you provide credits according to his site's rules. Another music resource I found recently is Danosongs.com. He has a similar scheme to Kevin Macleod, with the same requirement that you credit the song if you use it.

Once you have your music, pictures/videos (and potentially permissions) you can import your photos, arrange them with your text, slap on some good audio, play with it a bit and voila! You have yourself a book trailer. Make sure to keep it between 30 seconds and 1.5 minutes. If it drags on too long, the audience will get bored, and if it goes too short they'll be confused. Optimally, if you can get just enough info in less than 30 seconds to keep your audience interested, you're golden!

All these insights are from my own experience, so take them with a grain of salt. I don't know the ins and outs of copyright laws, but so far these techniques have worked with no repercussions, and the worst that can happen is your video is taken down by Youtube unless you claim to have drawn and made all the resources yourself when you really didn't. The end goal is to have fun, do some good marketing, and try not to step on anyone's toes.

Now it's your turn! Have you ever tried making a book trailer for yours or someone else's work? How did your experience go? Any tips you or corrections you can add to what I've already said?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Trailers and Summaries Part 1

So, this past weekend I discovered a really good writing exercise...using Windows Media Player.

The title of the post pretty much gives it away, but I'll say it anyways: Book Trailers. I'm sure we've all seen those big name, movie-like book trailers made by the major publishing houses using fancy software and video editing. It makes the book come alive on a whole new level and intrigues readers with a more visual medium. So it's pretty good for marketing.

Not only that, though, but if you've ever tried making one, you know it's frustrating. No only is it difficult compiling what exactly will go into the trailer, but organizing it to be visually appealing AND concise? Impossible! It doesn't stop people from trying, though.

Something that's also a pain in the butt is condensing entire 70,000+ word novels into 2-3 pages (double spaced at that!), or even worse, a paragraph! Making a synopsis and a query pitch/summary are both crucial if someone wants to get their work published, though. After all, agents and editors are busy people, they need to know if the overall content of the book is worth the writing, and the shorter the better. But cramming all that information into such a small space makes my brain hurt just thinking about it. First, you have to organize it into what's important and what's not, then the second guessing when every little detail goes into one subplot or another that all tie into the main story arc somehow. Everything is supposed to be important, right?

Enter the book trailer! Try making one of these babies and cram all that info into less than a minute, 30 seconds even!

My point, making a trailer makes you hone in on what exactly your story is about to the most finite detail. Make one of these, and a synopsis or query seems easy in comparison (at least it makes you grateful you have more space than a few tiny slides). On top of that, they're fun to play with, whether you go fishing for low cost, creative commons media until your eyes bleed so you can use it for marketing, or you privately Google some images and show it to all your friends for kicks. All it takes is some imagination and a few hours of hard patience as you scour the internet for resources and reevaluate everything about you're book...easy, right?

Tomorrow, a Part 2 of this mini-series on book trailers: how exactly to make the suckers.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Not Dead and Joy Jumping!

Wow, what a hiatus. Sorry for the blogcation, guys. So many things piled up at once and...well none of it was really post worthy. Now, big news! I'm so excited it's not even funny, despite all the business suddenly consuming my end of semester life.

For a few months now, I've been submitting my novel "Faerie Games" to agents and publishers alike. At first I tried TOR Fantasy...on my first letter. Yeah, a very polite rejection with some blue ink showed up in my mailbox. By then, I knew I'd shot too big. Then I tried some small presses and agents. Enter more glorious rejections (surprisingly, I actually like them). One of the publishers did ask for a partial though, then a full, then...

They made an offer!

I'm not going to give too many details until any hypothetical ink is dry, but I had to squeal something since it's my first. Eeeeee! It's my favorite email of the year so far, I swear.

In other news, I got some really nifty Half-Blood swag in the mail from J.L. Armentrout along with the book I won in one of her wonderful monthly "Got Titanium?" contests (seriously, free new release, the swag includes a guitar pick, and she's one of the nicest/funniest people you'll ever meet. You can't beat checking this lady out).

T.K. Richardson also sent me an amazing hand-made book mark because of her "Pay It Forward" post. It's all red and shiny with the cutest charms. Her blog always has great insights into the writing life and weekly resources I've used on more than one occasion. She's a joy to read every time, believe me.

I'd put up pictures of this awesome -- it's all so pretty!-- but my webcam is on the fritz and I still haven't figured out how to import pictures from my phone to my computer without the little cord... I hope you guys are enjoying the heck out of your weeks/weekends/days/mornings/lives! I sure am with mine right now.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rust: Good for Fae, Bad for Us

Now, I'm not talking literal rust, but the metaphorical rust of our skills. Throughout life, people of all kinds build up skills in a variety of things. Languages, writing, etc. They always wait for that wonderful day when their hard work will pay off and they can declare "I'm proficient at something!" And after that? The real work starts, sustaining that proficiency...

I remember the beautiful day when I finished my American Sign Language (ASL) 4 class with an A. I felt so proud to know I had taken every single course in my language that my University offered, I socialized with all kinds of native signers, I was involved in the Deaf community. I dared to call myself fluent! Then...a few months passed. Family happened, school happened, my lack of a car happened. I didn't socialize much anymore, my only sign exposure was homework, I forgot how to use certain signs and other grammatical techniques.

Then I met a Deaf person, they signed at me, it went 'woosh' over my head. Yeah, I felt my fingers creaking when I asked them to say it again. I got rusty.

The same thing goes for writing. Unless there's a constant stream of words or something coming out of your fingers on a daily basis, you lose track of the story, or you get bored with it. You slip into so many passives it's not even funny, your cliches pile on. And editing that bad boy? You become ashamed to show that rough draft to anything else because the dark red stains on your words are so obvious. All that time spent honing your craft to turn that out.

Now, I admit I'm not expert on sign language or writing. I'm still in school for one and I'm still learning the finer points of the other. However, to sustain the skills I actually have, I need to dedicate myself to a daily regimen of Youtube Vlogs and manuscript/story slogging. Writer's block and mental tiredness are no excuse! It's like reading your Bible everyday, for my fellow Christians out there, it's a pain in the butt keeping up that routine, but it has to be done if you're going to grow any and keep yourself and God on the same page.

What have been your struggles with sustaining your craft? Or any kinds of skills you take pride in? How do you sustain them so they don't turn red and creaky?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier

It's been another busy week on the school front. Luckily, though, I'm going to be on spring break all next week (Can I get an amen? No?). That means I can actually get time to veg out in front of my computer all day with my Kindle app and read another indie book to review for next Friday! I'm frankly excited!

In lieu of my still being at the dorm, however, this week I'm going to look at some little known traditionally published fiction, which continues to be an old favorite. These books were what got me into writing seriously. These books made me discover my niche, as it were. Upon reading them, I latched onto the Celtic backdrop and never looked back.

So here it is! The Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier!

This trilogy is made up of the books: Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows, and Child of the Prophesy. Genre-wise, it's a historic, fantasy, romance, saga of sorts. Each book follows a different daughter of the Sevenwaters line through their ultimate goal of defeating an evil fae sorceress and finding their own path through life, despite the mounting obstacles preventing them from happiness.

Since this is more of a series review, I'll be coming up with my own take on the plot summary, so here it goes!

The Sevenwaters Trilogy (as seen by B.E.T.)

In the dark ages of Ireland, when it was still called Erin and warring chieftains ruled the lands, a small province called Sevenwaters is tucked away within a forest ruled by the old gods, the Fair Folk. Based on an old pact with the Fair Folk, the chieftains of Sevenwaters prosper within a wood that defends its own. However, part of the Sevenwaters pact was that the chieftains protect the three islands between Britain and Erin that were sacred to the old faith. Those islands were taken by the British family of Northwoods, and now Sevenwaters loses resources and men year by year because of this feud. Luckily, there is a prophesy that sees an end to the conflict by a special child.

The Sevenwaters chieftain, Colum, brings disaster on his family when he takes a second wife. Oonagh is dangerous and proves that when she turns all six of Colum's sons to swans. Now it is up to the seventh child, Sorcha, to save her brothers. But the journey is not without a cost, and that cost may be the deepest desire of her heart.

Years later, the next in the line, Liadan, thinks she will care for her parents and marry for alliance with a neighboring chieftain. Fate has other plans, however, when she encounters a mercenary who will upset her to her core. Now she must choose between following the path the Fair Folk have set, or take destiny into her own hands and risk losing everything she holds dear.

More time passes and Oonagh is hard at work planning her ultimate move to bring down Sevenwaters, and the Fair Folk with it. Stuck in the middle is Fainne, a half-crippled girl of humble upbringing and mysterious origins. With her father's life in the balance, she must exploit her newfound ties to Sevenwaters and infiltrate the household. But as she grows to know her distant family, her only childhood friend follows her into jeopardy. Now she must pick a side and stick with it so she may somehow save those she loves without losing herself.

These books, what can I say? The prose is eloquent, yet genuine. The pacing is gradual, yet tense. The world is well researched and vividly convincing. The characters make you cry, laugh, and, in Oonagh's case, scratch at the pages with hate.

The thing I really love about these books though, is that they made me feel. Every time I read and reread them, I relive the struggles along with Sorcha, Liadan, and Fainne. These books left a serious impression on me, so much that I knew I wanted to become an author. I wanted to replicate that experience for someone else.

Even if you don't like fantasy, even if you cringe at romance, even if you hate history, these stories will resonate. And in my book, that's the highest compliment you can give something.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Characters Giving Writing Advice...Ha!

Oftentimes, names like 'inner editor' or 'inner critic' are assigned to the editing function writers use when they're picking apart their own work, in the NaNoWriMo participant circles especially. The name 'muse' is often used for the inspiration that fuels our rough draft. The editing function, in the rough draft stage, is pesky, while the muse is invaluable. It works visa versa in the revision stage. Both have their uses and one isn't necessarily better than the other, just different.

Well, my personal 'muse' and 'inner critic', I just realized, often take on the form of the protagonists of my books. My preferred style is first-person narrative, with two opposing viewpoints that alternate each chapter. The muse and inner critic are very opposing in what they want to do, so this is fitting.

Example: in Faerie Games, Melissa is my inner critic, Finn is my muse. Melissa is the nitpicky, organized one who always knows how to fix things, who likes a plan, an outline. Finn is the erratic, moody premadonna who strikes at the most inopportune time with spurts of genius and carefree creation. Polar opposites who argue constantly, yet when they work together, it's magic.

With the next pair of protagonists, I think the defining line is going to be a lot more erratic. I'm hoping to work on Fianna next, focusing on Helen (crazy, impulsive, controlling mother) and Lucy (creative, calm, worry wart daughter). Maybe I'll need to employ Yoel (negotiating, history loving, brainiac leader figure) to be the sole inner critic and oversee all of his crazy-muse women.

How about you guys? Do you have any characters that would fit these roles too perfectly or do your inner critic and muse have lives of their own?

Review: Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning

Alright, now usually I've been going the Indie route with my reviews. Unfortunately, I haven't had enough time at my computer to read through an entire e-book. School, friends, and a whopping new relationship do that to a person (of which I am extremely happy about, despite the fact I have missed the blogosphere). Between classes, however, I have plenty of time to catch up on my reading of paper books (at least until I buckle down and save up for an e-reader, probably sometime this summer). While reading through my paper books, I came across what is now my new second favorite series ever, and first favorite series in the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genre.

The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning starts with Darkfever and ends with Shadowfever, with three books in between. The premise is spelled out nicely in Darkfever:

Darkfever (as taken from Karen Marie Moning's website):

MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman.

Or so she thinks... until something extraordinary happens.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae...

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless V'lane–an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women–closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book–because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands...

The tagline for the Fever Series "Feel the heat, catch the fever." accurately describes my reaction to these books. Sure, it sounds very sexual and tense (it's a dark thriller dealing with Celtic Faeries, how can it not be?), but underneath that tagline are truly sympathetic characters, twisting plots, and edge of your seat writing. Reading this, I felt the heat of these factors and caught the fever of reading these books. I'm hooked.

The protagonist is one of the best female leads I've seen to date in genre fiction. I don't know if its my own Floridian heritage that makes me sympathize with her love for the sun or how she enjoys the slow life of the American South (not that my part of Florida really counts, but the attitude pervades everything), but this pretty-in-pink woman grabbed me from the start. She's blonde with a good body, but she comes alive on the page. She's not your Barbie stereotype, she's Mac, just Mac. Watching her go from Mac 1.0 to Mac 4.0 by the end of the series only served to latch me in further. An ordinary woman faced with these life altering choices and tragedies really makes you think and feel for this character.

The male leads: Jericho Barrons and V'lane, are not one-dimensional, sex-crazed hunks. The mysterious, tatoo-clad guardian figure is cold, sure, he's mysterious, sure, but he has some rare moments of genuine emotion that are as subtle as all his other actions. You watch parts of him peel away like a Shrek-onion (only better looking) to show how deep of a character he really is. And V'lane, the romantic, sex-crazed, heart throb faerie prince (yeah second most masculine thing in this book) shows little by little how human his true intentions are, despite the fact he's anything but human.

And the mythology! This woman's take on the folklore of the Scottish and Irish Celts is nothing short of unique. Her interpretation stays true to the character of the source material while taking on a radical life of its own. Celtic Mythology is what I want to write around, and throughout these books, I felt new inspiration to delve into my own work and make it this good.

This series will keep you guessing and invested the whole way through. You'll find yourself believing "Holy crap, the world really is in danger, Ireland really is where it's all going down, and MacKayla Lane really is our only hope."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Linear or Puzzle Pieces?

For those of you not keeping up on Twitter, two major midterms stalled my post Monday. Now, I'm all studied out and I really want to write about something that has nothing to do with ASL or Japanese!

I'm sure everyone has experienced what it's like to be inspired. That rush of ideas that suddenly strikes, or just the right mood to make you defeat your inner critic and have potential to soar above the daily word count. Sometimes it hits for something specific and sometimes it can be directed into anything, so long as it gets out.

One of the latter moods struck me after I finished watching "I am Number Four" with my dad. It was a pretty good movie, I recommend it if you want some fun entertainment. Back to the point, though. That unfocused inspiration came to me once I got home to my computer. I had one dilemma: what should I write with this opportunity? At the point I'm at in my WIP, there is relatively low action and I wanted some excitement. This led me to wonder if I should write a future scene in the plot instead.

My typical style, whether I like it or not, is very linear. I have to have all the middle details written before I get to the juicy parts. Chapter 2 has to be written after Chapter 1. When these unfocused moods strike, I'll blast music through my headphones and think through my favorite future scenes. I've only ever skipped ahead to writing those scenes twice, and both times my mood was very content with my decision.

So how do you write? Are you like me where A has to come before B before C can happen? Do you like writing whatever scene that springs to mind like a series of puzzle pieces that you put together once they're all put down? Somewhere in between?

On a side note, thanks to the most recent followers for your comments (and welcome to the blog!) and to the older followers who consistently make my day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

More Eventful Weekends

For those of you keeping track of my Twitter, you'll see my weekend was pretty eventful yet again. Last week it was homework, this week it was social life and chores.

Friday: did my usual hang out with my language buddy (she signs and is learning Japanese with me, along with being an all around amazing sister in Christ, I have hit serious jackpot).

Saturday: planning and outlining a performance project for Japanese class with said language buddy and our other group member, then first ever experience clubbing! Yeah, that was fun, got gussied up in a little black dress and the most makeup I've worn since Halloween at Rocky Horror, then went out with a couple of girlfriends and danced the early morning away (I went to bed at 4 AM).

Sunday: church and a lot of accumulated laundry, as well as renewing my legs (my knees still ache).

It makes sense I wouldn't have much time for reading between those. I managed some scraps of my intended Indie Book and a published Urban Fantasy. The UF is Bloodfever, second book in the Fever series by Karen Moning. I am seriously hooked and don't want to put this series down so far...ever. Thank God I bought the next two books already.

The Indie Book intended for this week was Torc of Moonlight by Linda Acaster. So far it has old Romans, a Celtic Goddess, and one frustrated university student. I'm definitely intrigued! The writing style is a bit thick at first, but so far she puts it to good use in elegant descriptions and effective characterizations. The full review should be up sometime next week when I can find enough time to buckle down and read the rest.

Meanwhile, I hope everyone's weekends went as stupendously as mine!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Contest Thing: Pay It Forward

I found this at "A Literary Pursuit," T.K.Richardson's blog. She normally posts insightful tidbits and useful links for writers. She even has a YA book out called Return the Heart about a girl who can see into other people's hearts with plenty of Russian Folklore behind it. Feel free to check her out, it's definitely worth it.

The rules to this little shindig are as follows (and bottom line, five lucky people will get something):

~The Rules~ (as taken and modified from "A Literary Pursuit")

ME: I will create something handmade to send to the First Five People who leave a comment on this post saying they would like to participate! (In my case, this handmade something will more than likely be a hand-drawn picture of whatever you like, and samples are on my DeviantArt account.)

YOU: To play along you must be willing to repost this and do the same, offering something handmade to five other people. (At this part of The Rules, it didn't say the five people must be the first five to leave a comment on your blog, but that seems to be the thing to do.)

YOU & ME, BOTH: All handmade "gifts" will be sent sometime in 2011.

Sound good? Sure does to me! So comment at your leisure and I'll get back to you if you win about what your drawing will be. :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Padding: Yay or Nay? - Word Count

Here is a conundrum...a lot of fantasy authors have issues with their word counts being too long. That's all well and good. It's easy cutting stuff for me. If only that were my problem.

Over at Rachel Gardner's publishing blog "Rants and Ramblings," I read over her quick and dirty tutorial on what it takes to get published. I figured I would expand my education, no harm right? Well, the issue of word count came up and she pointed to a resourceful post by Colleen Lindsay of "The Swivet" that described industry standard word counts in a variety of genres. I balked because the genres my projects fell under -- Adult Contemporary Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Historical Fantasy (for one project at least) -- had 90,000 words as the standard minimum.

My current MS, Faerie Games, has a grand total of 70,000.

So here's a quandary for everyone out there: is it acceptable to pad a manuscript a bit so that it can sell?

On one hand, if an MS is too short, adding additional description is never bad. Adding entire scenes isn't even bad, just make sure they can do something for the rest of the plot. However, 20,000 words worth of padding seems a bit excessive. That might just mean I'm being stubborn, but revisions that huge would mean super charging certain minor subplots, adding entire chapters dedicated to minor events and largely unneeded development.

Then again, perhaps more is needed. Sometimes character development is lacking, sometimes extra, vivid, descriptions are needed. Sometimes certain subplots need to be intensified and minor events can lead to phenomenal moments in a work.

You tell me, how much is too much and how much is too little? What's your personal experience with the word-count system? Too much, too little?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Weary Weekends - Joys of Escapism

Yeah, slipping into the alliteration again. This weekend was somewhat chaotic, but in the good way (mostly). I signed the lease to my first apartment, my mother visited, stayed up till seven in the morning reading a manga/comic book/what-have-you (HanaKimi, I recommend it), talked a friend through serious badness, and finally had time to get homework done... Not necessarily in that order either. So yes, very busy!

Through all that, stuff piled up in my e-mail/blog-watch/Twitter/Facebook, etc. It's a delightful pain, really, checking up on everything after quite a few solid days, delightful because I love my net peeps, a pain because there's just so much. The internet, in general, seems to have this same effect. I'm on my computer for a better part of the day, either working on homework, writing or checking things. My laptop is my single most important piece of technology, I kid you not. I use this thing more than my fridge/microwave (college student's best friends). The computer itself stores my writing and homework, while the internet harbors half my social life and contact with all things not-Florida.

Honestly, after such a busy past three days, I seriously relished staying out of the dorm and finishing up a good paperback between classes (Darkfever by Karen Moning, all I can say is buy it now). This is the big reason I will remain partial to solid books and not convert to Kindle so quickly. This is the reason I want to seek more traditional means of publishing for my work. It's nice to escape from the screen for a few hours for brain rest. Good old fashioned escapism.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Signing "Saturday" (Belated)

Sorry for the delay on Signing Saturday guys! My weekend was quite busy, as my roommate and I just applied for a lease on our first apartment! Ain't that exciting?

This week's sentence is brought to you by Summer Ross, one of the most regular commenters on the blog (and for that I thank her a ton!). She requested that I sign "I believe in fairies."


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Now for the dissection. For the first three or four signs of the sentence, notice how my eyebrows are up. That's some of that facial grammar in American Sign Language. Basically, your eyebrows are up for the 'topic' or subject of the sentence, and they go down and you nod for the 'comment' or information about that topic. This sentence, I sign literally: "I BELIEVE FAIRIES-fs FAIRIES LIVE." The "I BELIEVE" is pretty simple: "I believe in." The last part is a bit more tricky. Now, just to say fairies isn't enough, since believe is used for "I believe in God", so there might be some ambiguity. I added "LIVE" or, exist at the end to clarify the context. In the gloss (the literal word for word, grammatical writing of the sentence) I spelled "fairies" using the manual alphabet (fingerspelling), then did my sign for it. The reason I reinforced the idea that the little flapping sign was "fairies" is also for clarity, since that sign could also mean "angel(s)" or just be me flapping my hands to someone who doesn't know the context of the sign.

So there! Feel free to send in your sentences to cheesysigning @ gmail.com. I don't have anything for next week (after this week's book review), so don't be shy. If you're curious, send me in anything: long, short, simple, complicated, etc. And if Elena and Summer want to send in something else, feel free. :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Determining Distance

I got an idea for this post when I saw a status update on Facebook of all things. It seems like a valid issue and so today is getting two posts rather than one.

There is an author I watch on Facebook who is very passionate about her writing. It acts as a catharsis for her personal issues, a therapeutic push through her past and the present of her imaginary friends. I can attest that my characters gain virtual lives of their own the more I write with them, their experiences become close to me and all that. I think every writer who works through a particular story, especially a series, becomes attached to their 'baby(ies)' and knows what this is like.

However, how much attachment is too much?

In my Consecutive Interpreting class today (more sign language) we talked about the proper way of addressing an interpretation. We talked about separating it from the signer and referring to it in neutral terms (talking about the product not the performer). In a way, we were talking about keeping professional distance. Through my writing classes, they talk about writing as a process, a technical art form. Characters are tools to achieve a thematic end. Fiction remains fiction and the creation doesn't take on a life of its own apart from what the reader feels.

With either of these approaches to writing fiction, no matter the genre, there is a risk of either losing your own identity in the work or the work losing its identity because you're not in it. I agree that passion is an integral part of writing, or else why would you write? It certainly isn't the easiest job on earth, and never the most lucrative unless you're extremely lucky. If the characters are alive on the page, if their struggles are a visceral experience, then the story is a success. Everybody knows that. But keeping that professional distance is key to not letting the lines between them and you blur.

When I was younger (yes, middle and high school where hormones are high and everything is big) I lost myself in my characters, used them to cope with my melodrama. Unfortunately, that stunted my growth as an independent entity, that prevented me from being the real, flesh and blood me. Now I know a little better and developing my own voice apart from theirs. I can relate to them all I want, but vicariously living through them just isn't healthy. I had to learn to separate myself and become a "god," guiding the lives of my creations through their trials and tribulations until they come to their natural end. I learn to delight in their hardships, find entertainment in their struggles, knowing in the back of my mind I have absolute control of the outcome. I'm the one with the control, not them.

So, letting the characters lead the story is all well and good, but as Authors/Writers we can't forget we have absolute control of our creations and ourselves. We can delight in torturing our friends for our own entertainment and nothing will happen. They are words on a page, thoughts in a mind, fiction! That is so empowering to me, that I can let my imagination play and let it create all it likes. In the end, the identity of 'maker' is the strongest thing protecting me from my characters and myself. Face it, if something out of Inkheart ever happens, writers/storytellers/authors are the first on the chopping block. So don't give the characters a chance to possess you and get their payback!

If you have had any experiences where it feels like characters are more real than they actually are, please share! What's your perfect balance of distance and vicarious living? Are characters more friends or tools to you? Are stories more art or product?

Wikipedia: The Muse

School is off to a roaring start. I had some webcam troubles (new fancy-fangled thing it is) for homework, but finally I can record and finish homework! Can't wait to use it for Signing Saturday.

Regardless, today's topic revolves around the ever controversial and useful Wikipedia. Being any kind of school, Elementary and up, you have to do research for things. Ever since the internet popped up, there have been warnings to take the information there with a grain of salt. I, honestly, love this tool. In my writing, I use a ton of mythology. I have to say, my biggest tool in doing my research is Wikipedia.

Now, tons of critics call Wikipedia unreliable, a good information source for casual browsing. I'm not saying I'll site the thing in my acknowledgements. It does work as a beautiful springboard, however. A lot of times, mythology books are expensive, offer broad stories rather than specific information, and go with conventional or popular things. With Celtic mythology or fairy lore, much of the resources I've come across aren't culture specific (either that or they're nothing but Greek stuff). Wikipedia, I can type in what specifically I'm looking for and get an entire profile of it. Their articles are really well informed too, especially if I click off from the resources. I've spent hours just going on Wiki-hunts, researching, soaking up all the info so I can shape my own ideas around it. The best thing about fantasy, also, is it's so flexible. I can tweak the myths however I like.

What do you think of Wikipedia, or even the internet in general to do your research? Is a quick Google search all you need or do you need research journals up the wazoo?

Monday, January 17, 2011

I am Twitterpated

For those of you who have seen Disney's classic matricide film, Bambi -- I know people who haven't -- we all remember the scene where Spring is in bloom and the owl talks about how everyone is "twitterpated."

"For example, you're walkin' along, minding your own business. You're neither looking to the left, or to the right. Then all of the sudden, you walk smack into a pretty face! Woowoo!" ~Owl from Bambi

This described my first relationship with Twitter. I always thought it was strange that people would give a random internet audience updates on their daily lives. It's like asking for e-stalkers. Then I read that it was actually a good way to...get ready for this...connect with people! So, I decided to give it a try. At first it was okay, I minded my business, followed a few of my friends. I had a few freak-outs over Glee episodes, informed people about my blog, and everything was swell. Then smack into the pretty face, I found people whose blogs I follow and followed them. I commented on their tweets, they commented on mine. Woowoo! It was a mystifying experience, really.

"You begin to get weak in the knees. Your head's in a whirl! And then you feel liiiiight as a feather and before you know it, you're walkin' on air." ~Owl from Bambi

I continue to tweet myself and reply, and retweet anything I find interesting. Then strangely enough, people continue to follow me. I even get a few direct messages. I check it on a once-daily basis, read a few more tips about how exactly to twitter well, then just decide to go with it. If this is what "e-stalkers" do, then I like connecting with other people's life updates.

"And then y'know what? You're knocked for a loop! And you completely lose your head!" ~ Owl from Bambi

The more fellow writers I follow, and helpful bloggers and everything, the more resources I'm finding. It was just like when I first started blogging and found so many wonderful people through that avenue. Not only has Twitter helped me feel encouraged as a writer, but it's also shown me some good tips to improving my craft.

"And that ain't all...It can happen to anybody. So you'd better be caaareful. It can happen to you, and you and...yes, it can even happen to you." ~Owl from Bambi

So, if you aren't on Twitter at the moment, I would love for you to join me in being twitterpated for Twitter. I'm BETartaglia if you feel like following me, and even if you don't, feel free to leave your name in the comments so I can e-stalk you in your writerly, interpreterly, regular personly journeys.

If you are already tweeting away, what's your experience with the site been like? Am I still riding the beginning high of the relationship or does it just get better from here?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Signing Saturday!

As per my New Year's resolution for the blog, since last week was Review Friday, this week is Signing Saturday!

This year's first phrase was submitted by Elena Solodow: "She was a writer."


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A little breakdown: The first sign is "BEFORE" usually meaning "in the past" or denoting the past tense of something. The pointing, or "SHE" is the generic pronoun of American Sign Language. Gender and location are entirely based on context, you just point to who you're referencing and you have "she/he/him/her" etc. The last two signs were a compound of the verb "WRITE" and a person marker of sorts. Combined they make "WRITER."

For basic sentences I can do breakdowns like that pretty easily. For longer ones, well you'll have to take my word for it.

The original concept was to translate chunks of English text people sent me into American Sign Language. I've decided to expand a bit on that idea to include little tidbits about Sign Language Interpreting. You may see these interpreters at Church if it has a Deaf Ministry, perhaps at school in a class, perhaps at a lecture or a conference, even at a play. They are nearly everywhere you could imagine! So, today's tidbit of information: a little bit about how Interpreters dress and why.


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So, I hope you enjoyed Signing Sunday! If you want to take part in the Translation portion, send your statement/text to btartaglia29 @ gmail.com.

Monday, January 10, 2011

All About the Voices in Our Heads: Characters

I recently read an interview with Nicole Macdonald, the author of the book I reviewed on Friday. There was a question in there about how her main characters were inspired by her real life best friends. Then the author, herself, commented on that in her latest blog post:

"If you read the interview I did with Kerrin (the one on her blog not mine) you'll see that some of the characters were inspired by people I know. This is very common for me to do and I have a character in mind based on a friend but I have realized that she will very possibly be killed off in book three (nothing set in stone yet, but I'm processing the possibility). It is a weird thing to say to a friend 'yeah I had an idea for a character that's rather you… but I think she dies in book three…' *hee*"

This got me thinking about what 'makes' a writer's characters. I've read plenty on a frustrating muse, plenty on how to get to know your characters and flesh them out, and plenty on how they lead your story. Laurell K. Hamilton, an author I've been reading more of recently, talks about how her characters almost literally tell her the story she writes down as she's writing it and derail her best laid plans constantly. I've personally experienced that once I have a picture of someone, they suddenly take on lives of their own. Other people, like Miss MacDonald, base their characters off people in their lives.

In a sense, I can see how this applies to some of mine. For instance, in the manuscript I'm serializing right now on The Fianna blog, there's a character named Helen Harper who loosely resembles the overbearing nature of my mom I experienced growing up and the devil-may-care, eternal teenager attitude of another mom I knew. Helen's daughter Lucy's family situation loosely resembles my own. Of course, nothing in my life involves hunting magical nymphomaniacs or homicidal ex-gods.

What would you say? Are your characters more along the lines of people in your every day life or are they a contrived mesh of seemingly random traits compiled into a single entity? Do you work with subjects you already have or play God and make up something completely different? Perhaps something in between?