Saturday, November 15, 2014

Liebster Award: 10 Questions Blog Hop

Two of my friends, Sandie and Vanessa, nominated me for the Liebster Award. I'm going to be honest, at first I wasn't sure what this award constituted. But then I thought to myself, Self, it has "award" in the title so that can only mean good things, right? In reality, the Liebster is a friendly, pay-it-forward type of award that bloggers pass around to other bloggers as a way of helping readers discover new blogs to follow. Pretty neat, huh?

Part of what's involved this time is answering 10 questions, largely related to my current WIP (or work-in-progress, in layman's terms). Right now, that also happens to be my NaNoWriMo novel. Which is the other cool thing about being tagged for this. It just so happens I love talking about the novel I'm working on. ;)

So, without further ado...

1. Where does your story take place?

A BEAR GORGED ON SORROW (or ABGOS as I fondly refer to it), takes place in tenth-century Denmark, near the end of the Viking Age, and just as Christianity is gaining entry into the country. I chose this setting for the neat interactions between the old and new religionsNorse pagans often converted without abandoning their old superstitionswhich I felt heightened the drama in the story, and has so far allowed me to explore some interesting themes related to faith.

2. What genre is your story?

Historical Fantasy. I'm trying to keep it as historically accurate as possible, but with the added fun of having runes and curses actually work, and Christians performing real miracles. Since the story is based in part off of the tales relating to Bera and Bjorn in The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, it makes sense to keep a lot of that fun pagan magic. Plus, one of my characters gets turned into a bear, sooo... there's your fantasy aspect right there.

3. What POV is your story told? First person, or third?

Third-person, past tense, alternating between two POV characters: Bera, a female runemaster, and Hvit, a lonely, embittered queen.

4. What 5 songs would best describe your WIP?

I LOVE this question. Like many writers, I keep a running playlist with songs that "fit" the book. Sometimes it's because of the lyrics; other times, I just like the way the song feels. Here are 5 that I most associate with my book (in no particular order):

A. "Glass Heart Hymn" by Paper Route
There's a ghost in the mirror / I'm afraid more than ever / My feet have led me straight into my grave / Oh Lord have you walked away? / Oh Lord have you walked away from me?
B. "Wings" by Birdy
Sunlight comes creeping in / Illuminates our skin / We watch the day go by / Stories of all we did / It made me think of you / It made me think of you
C. "Oats in the Water" by Ben Howard
And you'll find loss / And you'll fear what you found / When weather comes / Tear him down
D. "If I Had a Heart" by Fever Ray
This will never end / 'Cause I want more / More, give me more / Give me more
If I had a heart I could love you / If I had a voice I would sing / After the night when I wake up / I'll see what tomorrow brings
E.  "This Place is a Shelter" by Ólafur Arnalds
5. Are you a plotter or panster? Why?

I am a pantser, through and through. I've fought my nature, attempting to outline novels before, but oddly enough, I never end up finishing those books. I prefer following the pulse of the story, letting the characters have the freedom to do what they want. I like not knowing what's going to happen and figuring it out along the way. I'm also fortunate enough to have a natural instinct for story structure, too, which helps me avoid the usual pitfalls of pantsing.

That isn't to say I don't sometimes make eyes at outlines. Those outlines, man. They can be pretty sexy.

6. What's your favorite scene in your WIP?

Oooh, hmm. This is a tough one. It's a toss-up between Hvit making a sacrifice in the woods, or Bera and Bjorn in the cave after she first frees him from his bear-form. I'd like to post a few lines, but I'm highly protective of my WIPs in this early stage.

7. Do you find a newly discovered technique helps you with your WIP?

Yes, actually! I'm doing something in this novel that I've never done before with any other writing project: I'm jumping back and forth between scenes, following where the inspiration takes me. Typically, I am a strict chronological writer, but I kept getting hung up on scenes I didn't feel like writing. This not only solved that problem, but also revived my interest and motivated me to keep going, reminding me what aspects of the story I still loved. It was an eleventh-hour Hail-Mary (how's that for mixed metaphor?), but it worked. Whether I will repeat this habit in future WIPs, I'm not sure. Part of my OCD, perfectionist self is still annoyed that I'm writing out of order.

8. Who is your favorite writer?

No! Bad question! I love too many writers! But if I had to pick... hrm... Shannon Hale or Margaret Atwood, probably. Atwood when I want poetry or prose that will cut me, and Hale when I want to just enjoy a story and feel generally hopeful about life and love. Liane Moriarty also gets an honorable mention, as do George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien.

9. Which actors would you pick if your book was optioned for film?

Another easy question! I actually headcast my characters before even beginning the book. (Yes, I'm one of THOSE writers. I have a secret pinterest board and everything.) I find choosing a PB (or play-by) helps me visualize the character, and sometimes watching the actor/actress speak/behave in a role also helps me get a sense of voice, movement, and behavior.

Here's my cast:

Birgitte Hjort Sørensen as Bera
Norman Reedus as Bjorn
Jessica Grabowsky as Hvit
10. What advice to you have for writers?

Can I just post a link to Chuck Wendig's blog? No? Fine, fine...

Shoot from the hip. I don't mean that in a macho, cowboy-struttin' way (though I do love me a cowboy who can shoot from the hip). I'm talking about lightning quick instinct. 

Trust yourself; trust what aspects of the story you're being drawn towards and go there. Even if it scares you. Especially if it scares you. Yes, "shooting from the hip" will sometimes result in your aim being off, and the story or characters going in the wrong direction for a time. That's okay. Sometimes you will hit upon something you didn't mean to. That's okay, too. In fact, that's great! That might be exactly what your story needs. 

Maybe you're like me, and at the end of the day, you realize you're telling a different story than you thought you were. The only way to find out for sure is to press ahead. Even if you miss your target ninety percent of the time, that ten percent will always be worth the effort you spent trying. 

So endeth the metaphor.

And now, here are the wonderful folks I would like to nominate for the award! (If you've already been tagged for this, I apologize. You don't have to do it again, unless you'd like to.)

Laura Heffernan
K. Kazul Wolf
Lisa Houghton
Rosalyn Eves
Sara Jo Cluff

Here are your questions:
1. What most inspired your current WIP?
2. How do you best get "in the zone" for writing?
3. Do you have a certain time of day/place where you find you're most productive?
4. If you could sit down and pick the brain of one author, living or dead, who would it be? What would you ask them?
5. Your WIP has just become sentient. On a scale of 1-10, how much trouble are you in?
6. If money was no issue, where would your ideal writing vacation take place?
7. How did you come up with the title for your current WIP?
8. Who would you want to direct the movie adaptation of your WIP?
9. What advice would you give to another writer?
10. Hypothetical: You have a time machine and a nefarious mind. You can travel back in time with one book and take credit for writing it. Which book would it be?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Seven Sins Blog Hop

My dear friend, Sandie Docker (whose blog is here, click click!), tagged me in this Seven Sins blog hop because she knows I love talking about books almost as much as I love reading them. So, without further ado...

Greed – What is your most inexpensive book?

Well, since acquiring a Kindle, I tend to get quite a few books for free every month. (I am a glutton for free books, y'all). But if we're talking about physical copy, it would have to be the most recent book I got for about $2 from a book sale in the basement of CSUS's library. The book in question: That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba. I picked it up because I love strong women in unique circumstances, especially where issues of royalty come into play, and because the cover is super pretty.

Wrath – Who’s the author with whom you have a love/hate relationship with?

Hmmm. Generally, I either like an author or I don't, but if I have to choose... Off the top of my head, I'd have to say Lauren Oliver. I loathed her YA dystopian, Delirium, and wanted to throw it at the wall when I finished it. Yet, her YA contemporary, Before I Fall, has to be one of the best, most emotionally authentic books I've ever read. Seriously. I loved it, and feel it's extremely relevant to high school culture. So much so that I wish it was required reading in high school.

Gluttony – What book have you devoured over and over again with no shame?

There's really only one book that I reread over and over again. Those who know me and my love of Lord of the Rings/Boromir will already be able to guess, but it's definitely The Fellowship of the Ring. I mean, to give you some context of how often I return to this book, if you were to drop it, it automatically opens to the Council of Elrond--specifically, the page in which Boromir is introduced. Because, let's be honest, that's where the story starts getting good anyway, right? GONDOR 4 LYFE

Sloth – Which book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

So, so many. To be fair, I'm finishing up my Bachelor's degree in History right now, so I'm swamped with reading as is, but there are a couple books I've been putting off because of their length. The biggest one is Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This thing is a monster. Like, if it were a hardcover, I'm pretty sure it could be used as a weapon of opportunity. One day, I will read it! But probably not today. Tomorrow's not looking good either...

Pride – What books do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

You know, I feel like I probably do this a lot, but I can't really think of anything off the top of my head. Probably Shakespeare. To people who don't read a lot, or read only modern stuff, Shakespeare's plays seems to be the epitome of intellect and high-brow education. Which... it isn't, obviously. Oh, but that reminds me of a hilarious story I can share with you about that time in high school when I read Othello and thought a Moor was someone who lived near water and not, you know, Muslim. Missed the whole racism issue by miles.

Lust – What attributes do you find attractive in a male or female character?

Oh! This is an easy one. Ambition. Male or female, if they have some sort of ambition, and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it, I'm on board. Good, evil, doesn't matter. Admittedly, this quality often goes hand-in-hand with villainy, so I tend to be attracted to the antagonists, or "villainous" characters. (Do you like my air quotes there? It's because these poor characters are just misunderstood. Isn't that right, Loki? Don't let the big, bad world label youuuu.)

I mean, look at that face.
Envy – What book would you like to receive most as a gift?

ALL OF THEM. ALL OF THE BOOKS. Kidding aside, probably Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thorton, at the moment. Or The Winds of Winter by the one, the only George R.R. Martin. Boy, would I love to have that book ahead of everyone else. ;)

And now I tag Kacy Kish, Missy Shelton Belote, and Susan Bickford. Confess your bookish sins!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

As most of you know, today is my birthday...

Wait, no, I was going to talk about NaNoWriMo, but how KIND of you to remember that it's my birthday!

Why, yes, that's the second time I've used this gif today. Never gets old.
A lot's been going on in my life since my last update, and I don't have time to get into all of it (short version: I got into PitchWars after all as an alternate (!!!) and it's been wonderful and I have been busily revising and putting off school work like a responsible adult, and now I'm writing a new novel for NaNo!).

But this post isn't about ME. This post is about YOU, dear NaNoWriMo writer, if you are still reading this and have not been put off by my off-topic opening. *ahem*

My friend, Emily, sent me some NaNoMail this morning with the idea of sharing encouraging writerly quotes with one another. I loved the idea and wrote back, but I couldn't just provide my quote. Oh, no. I am much too verbose for that. So, in the process of explaining why I chose the quote I did, I accidentally ended up writing a mini-pep talk. A pep talkette, if you like. And I figured, why not post it here as well? If it helps inspire or bolster the morale of some of my fellow NaNo soldiers while y'all are in the trenches, then good! If it doesn't, well. Read it again, and lie to me.* (kidding, kidding)

Without further ado... my pep talk:

"It's a first draft, not a bomb."
I don't know who said it, but this quote's really resonated with me over the past year. Often when writing a first draft, I feel an anxiety about putting the words down. Will they be the right ones? What if they're the wrong ones? OH GOOD HEAVENS WHY DID I EVER THINK I COULD DO THIS.

But the truth is, there ARE no wrong words in a first draft. And an imperfect sentence will not make or break your book. We are not disarming bombs. The wrong dialogue/character/plot is not the end of the world. You will not self-destruct if you clip the blue wire. We are creating something new, and new things have flaws. I repeat: It's a first draft, not a bomb. So roll up your sleeves, get in there, mess around, and handle the story as rough as you want!

Good luck!


*In all seriousness, if you liked this pep talk, or if it helped any, do let me know! Provided there's interest, I may write more over the course of the month. :)