Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

The wheels in brain go round-and-round

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Josh has planted the seed for another blog.

I need another blog like I need another hole in my head, but I have to say I am tempted.

I enjoy Pittsburgh’s public transportation system every weekday, and Josh is delighted every time I come home with a new Bus Adventure. I’ve been riding the public transport in Pittsburgh and Charleston, WV since I was in 7th grade… I can recount such entertaining tales as:

  • The guy that pretended to kill me every time we rode together (via fake grenades, rocket launchers and machine guns)
  • The guy that called me “Sawah” and was my best friend until I got my nose pierced and he and his religion were very disappointed in me
  • The lady that smacked me in the shins with her umbrella because I was “in her seat”
  • The multitude of people who have sat on me

I am fascinated with the how, why, and what-the-hell of people… and the bus carries every kind of person imaginable. Maybe it’s not a bad idea after all.

Also, it might not be bad practice for writing some short stories. Hm.

Of course, I could just put them here, but I have the best idea for the banner graphic…


Sunday, July 26th, 2009


How do you freak Rachel out? You make her think she has a finished marked-up manuscript –  then you let her think SHE LOST IT. Hilarity ensues… as long as you’re not Rachel, anyway.

I turned the house upside down looking for this special pile of papers before I vaguely recalled (conjured?) my mom plopping them in her carry-on before returning West a few weeks ago. A phone call cleared that up, and my heartbeat returned to a speed that wouldn’t cause me lasting anatomical harm. It wasn’t actually finished, so she took it home with her.


On a similar note: while my mom was in town, we had the following disturbing conversation.

The Mom: “Now, okay, imagine a wave, and every event in your story is building up to the crest of the wave, and then you have the climax, which is the crest of the wave.

Me: “… you mean rising and falling action?”
The Mom: “Er, yes, exactly…”

And then she promptly changed the subject. So I was left wondering if a) that comment had serious bearing and D2 lacks the plot building that would make it an exciting adventure, or b) the mom hadn’t discussed stories and writing for over 1 1/2 years and wasn’t sure how to begin.

Thankfully — at least as far as David’s concerned, anyhow — it seems Editor #1’s attentions are simply split three ways from Sunday. Her third child is in his teens and she’s working a full-time job for the first time since we were all but wee chilluns. Her foray back into an office setting has revealed that those same vindictive manipulators and jerks we all grew up with? The ones that we assumed would eventually mature into something more resembling a human being? They never evolved. They’re still around, still nasty, and someone gave them power. So she’s dancing a political tango while editing her daughter’s grammatical nightmare. Poor woman.

Currently, however, I am sitting next to pages 1 through 62, ready to dive in. I’m very excited about it.

But first, in the realm of random productivity…

I am now a member of city’s spiffy Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators, which I’m all sorts of tickled about. I expected them to stifle giggles, passing my portfolio around and poking fun at its amateur skill and the silly, cute/creepy vibe. If they did, they graciously let me in anyway. It seems populated with interesting, talented people, and I understand the have a killer Christmas party.

“Patiently crouched at the starting line…”

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

There are certain times during the year that demand contemplation on the Future. New Year’s is one of those times for many people, but I find myself also thinking about things when the seasons change. It just so happens my birthday is at that part of the year where Western PA is debating between snow and summer-like heat (it usually just settles on rain). And since there’s changes afoot in the natural world, there may as well be potential changes afoot with me, my age and my plans.

I already mentioned I’m taking the summer off to write, and it’s a good thing too — I’ve decided on a deadline for the culmination of my David trilogy. My brother graduates high school in May 2010, and I’d like to hand him a little set of the trilogy as a graduation present. I began The Sum of David in 2005 as a gift for him, so I think it appropriate to present him with a set of the finished product when he’s beginning a new chapter in his life.

I’ll even put some money in there, so he doesn’t have to pretend to be excited.

That’s almost an entire year. A year sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? You’d think so, but no: my first editor has had my 3rd draft manuscript for David 2 for going on five months now. So in order to get it through the hands of at least three editors by May 1st, when I would send away to get the one-off books made, I’m going to need a completed first draft by… next Tuesday, probably.

Surprisingly, I’m actually almost ready to get started. I need to sift through David 2 once before it goes to Editor #2 — who, by the way, agreed so quickly to edit yet another of my stories that I could have cried — and then I’m back in the races, ready to rock.

Dare I say it, @joshsager? The next six months will be very interesting.

It’s that time of year again. Magic’s in the air.


Too short

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

There’s nothing like a death in the family to make you re-evaluate your priorities.

Josh’s grandfather passed away on Tuesday. He was 86, a veteran of the second World War and one of the happiest, optimistic, cheeriest men I’ve ever met, even as his body slowly failed him. He is the reason Josh loves the Cubs, why Josh insists on scoring every baseball games we attend. The last time we saw him, over Thanksgiving weekend, he drove himself to lunch and we had a great couple of hours, him wheeling his little oxygen tank behind him to and from the salad bar, weeks before having a leg amputated. He will be missed greatly.

Life is too short, and I think am on a path to burn-out. I’m taking the summer off for personal projects. So there.

What’s in a name?

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

flower-rose_5xv.jpgJosh and I had a funny conversation the other day.

I have known for a while that Josh is not a particularly huge fan of the fantasy genre, and we tried to figure out exactly which parts turned him off. Is it the magic? I ask. No. Weird powers? No. The creatures? No, those are cool. The differing social structures, maybe? No.

“None of those,” he admits. “I think it’s mainly the names.”

The names?

His complaint is that you’re beebopping along in a story. You’re happy and familiar with the current characters, and then you’re being introduced to some new characters and of course none of them are named George or Bob or Roger or Amanda — they’re each an Aragorn or Akbar or Severus. I’ve heard this complaint before, and I’m somewhat guilty of the same thing. My brain’ll gloss over something if I deem it too bizarre or unpronounceable.

Actually, a group of us were all reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series in high school, and one of them asked how I pronouced one of the words. It was an important word, one I’d seen hundreds of times on the page, but even deep into the fourth book, I was at a loss — my brain had been pronouncing it something close to ‘blah’ in my head for months.

Josh read and enjoyed The Sum of David, but hated many of the names. Bear he could handle. Thor was not common, but doable. But Holder, Jameela, and Tanece? I believe his words were “Those are stupid. No one can remember that!”

And Calemadestes, a name and character of which I’m particularly proud? Totally made him want to strangle someone.

Meanwhile, if and when we get a pet in the future, we already have a name picked out: Polly. Which is short for Polamalu. Go figure.

The Problem with Fantasy

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

p-p-z.jpgI’m not a voracious reader, by any means. I usually have a magazine (design! science!) or some kind of fantasy novel in my Bag Lady bags. I’m trying to read more, however, with a focus in the genre I’d like to be published in one day.

I just finished up two classic fantasy novels and found them both underwhelming. Granted, one was published in 1970 and the other was translated from German, but one was also a Newbery Medal winner, and both were made into movies. The writing is fine, the stories are interesting, the lands fantastic. The characters? Generally Meh.

Which is a shame. The cool thing about Fantasy is you get to make everything up. The possible pitfall is that you have to make everything up. You have to set the ground rules of a world, a society, whatever.

Those bonus perimeters include the characters, and can allow for some great added drama — for instance, Pride and Prejudice would have been a different book if Elizabeth were a vampire or fairy or… zombie?

But while the unique aspect of a SF/F setting can be a roller-coaster ride, it shouldn’t be the only engaging aspect of a story, with the characters you’re supposed to care about simply being shuffled around. I’ve never connected emotionally with a mountain, coastline or swamp; but give me a character I can love or hate or root for and I’m yours. Speaking as someone who’s created some different environments, I know it’s challenging to keep that world from becoming it’s own entity, and perhaps in some cases that is appropriate, but after seeing it crash in spectacular fashion (or am I the only one who thinks so?) I have a hearty interest in making sure I did not, will not, make the same mistake.

The difference between going back and going home

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

It’s funny.

So much time and effort goes into writing a novel. I will go through the cycle of loving and hating the process over the next two years as I finish up the David trilogy. Writing affects my social life, my wallet, and I’m not published, so what’s the incentive? I’m not always sure.

A couple weeks ago, I was looking forward to the break, and possibly The End of me writing long format stories. I was just plain out of ideas and that felt… strangely okay.

So that’s it, right?

Apparently not. A little seed of a story was born Saturday morning. It’ll stew in the brain for the next 24 months until it’s ripe.  I’ll store little notes in that mental drawer and then I’ll probably do this all over again. A tiny part of me is disappointed.

“Let’s take a break!” it shouts.

“Let’s enjoy the world and not spend our life in a freakin’ cafe!” it cries.

“At least not in the summer, so we can maybe go to the pool? Please?” it begs.

It’s genuinely bummed, the poor thing. But most of me? Absolutely elated.


Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I’d do the obligatory apology for not blogging more, but after a stint several years ago of blogging every itty-bitty detail of my life, I resolved only to update when I had something other people might like to read. Otherwise, I’d be apologizing for stupid filler content. So: no sorrys*. Instead, here’s a general update on things.

The Sum of David (1): I’ve been having problems getting myself to write the necessary query letters needed to find an agent for this series. After an exhausting week of personal drama, I find myself with a renewed fire in my belly to get this done. We’ll see how long those embers burn.

The Sum of David’s currently untitled sequel: The third draft is now with it’s first editor (aka “Mom”). This year said editor has a full-time job, however, so she can’t go through it with her usual speed. I jeeringly requested sometime in 2009, but now I’m beginning to wonder how seriously she took that. The good thing about it being out of my hands is that I can concentrate on those query letters. Well, except for…

The Sum of David’s third and FINAL installment: I made my first notes for this series-ender last weekend after a lot of time on the road. Since then, I have post-its in my jacket pocket, doodled napkins in my purse and scribbles on my notepad at work. I think it might be time to start carrying the D3 Notebook around full-time. Considering I was feeling lost and uninspired about this not long ago, I am very excited about this change in motivation. I had feared the spark/gestation period I usually experience wasn’t going to happen. It turns out David’s story won’t be determined by whether I get picked up or not. I’ll write as long as it takes to tell his tale. It’s more honest that way anyway. And hot dang, there’ll even be romance.

Illustration: The long road trip last weekend also solidified the idea that I would like to do at least as much work for myself as for other people in the near future. There’s a screen printing play-date scheduled — what I hope to be one of many this year — and I’ve undertaken a personal growth project I will probably hate myself for once we hit, oh, about May. More on that later.

*Yes, that’s right: my “A” game. I’m giving you guys my best stuff. ..I know. It’s sad.

To be or not to be?

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

My muse has finally caught up with me. It’s time to refine some stuff and to make some new stuff. There’s a curious fork in the road, however.

See, I wrote this book about a boy named David. I edited the crap out of it, and then I needed to shop it around to see if I could get an agent so others could read my creation.  Instead of doing that, however, I wrote another book about David.

I’m now editing the stuffin’ out of the second book. All my instincts shrink from the agent stuff — I want to write, after all, not go around declaring how awesome my material is — but I am quickly realizing that I need a representative to help answer an increasingly important question:

How long am I going to do this?

I want to write for an audience. Not for fame, not for wealth (does that even really happen?). Just for people. The way I see it, the best way to do that is for it to be published. And since I’m not a good person for championing my own cause, or knowing where to champion it… I need someone else to do it for me. Ergo*, the agent.

I’ve known this for a while, but the issue is more tangible now. I have to decide what my next step is going to be after I ship the current manuscript to an editor that isn’t me. I planned three books for David, but as I’m looking toward the end of his story, there could be four. There could be five.

But again, how long am I going to do this?

I want to write for other people. I think that’s when I do my best work. Writing these things is a wonderful labor of love, and I don’t want it to be just for me. And since I can’t outline David 3 without knowing if there should be a David 4, now I have to try and find an agent that will have me. This is a much-needed kick in the gullet, and something that will hopefully put an end to my always-on-the-verge-of-sending-queries waffling.

But still… poopcockles.

*I have always wanted to use the word “ergo”. Score!

SPX 2008

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

I headed to Bethesda, MD last weekend to check out this year’s Small Press Expo (SPX). It was my first one, but it’s been around since 1997. The obvious focus of the show was comics and graphic novels (and that blurry line  line between the difference of the two being a subject of debate), but there were also illustrators, inkers, writers, publishers, etc there as well.

I attended three panels. One on comic criticism, which I’ll spare you my opinion on (I left halfway through). The second was on publishing comics for YA and children. While my manuscripts are prose, as opposed to graphic, the panel was nonetheless interesting and full of a valuable insight. The third was on Herge, a popular French comic artist that did a lot of work in the years surrounding WWII. It was during this third session that I discovered I am not sophisticated. Seriously, there is only so much you can say about how he pioneered the line.

There was contraband Diet Pepsi/Rum at the afterparty Saturday Night ($6 beer?!, you’re out of your mind!), a bodacious breakfast at Silver Diner, and a general good time with some friends I don’t see nearly enough.

The atmosphere of SPX was, for the most part, open and accepting, and there was a wide range of work in show — which is comforting to those of us aspiring to do anything in the art/story vein. There are rumors that Joe and Josh might get a table next year (and that there will be beards), in which case I would totally love to commandeer some real estate on that half table. Of course, that means I’ll have to execute the sketches I’ve got hidden in my sketchbook…

What the experience did, first and foremost, was spark the creative engine and get those gears turning. We bought tons of good stuff, which I’m sure I’ll review here once I’ve been able to devour it all. All and all - it was a wonderful way to spend the weekend.