Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fiction, really?

Here's my recent experience that makes the Hunger Games trilogy a lot more poignant. My husband works in the tire industry and this past weekend we went to the MotoGP races in Indianapolis. I've never been to a car/motorcycle race before, so I looked at the experience as a research opportunity. We were able to meet two of the racers at a company dinner and also go inside one of the garages on pit row and learn some cool stuff- for instance, the bikes cost in the neighborhood of 1.5 million dollars, and the riders (not drivers, they're particular about that) can make anything from a decent living to 35 million Euros. Holy. Crap.

So we went to the race, were amazed by the unbelievable, eye-blurring speed that these 800 horsepower bikes can reach (over 200 mph) and saw some very skilled people doing what they love.

This morning, Nathan called me to let me know what we hadn't heard at the race: in one of the exhibition races for up-and-coming stars, a 13 year old boy, Peter Lenz, crashed and was run over by another rider. He was pronounced dead a few hours later.

Peter Lenz in a race two years ago. These bikes are much smaller than
the MotoGP bikes, 125 HP instead of 800. AP photo from OregonLive.com

He was a skilled rider and was leading his circuit in points, according to the NYT. His father expressed that Peter had died doing something he loved. No one stuck a gun to his head and forced him to pull out on that track, but he's dead and I am left wondering how different we are than the spectators in ancient Rome. How different is the audience on race day than the spectators in the Hunger Games? Is attraction to risk just human nature? 

People die all the time. A child at my kids' school died a few days before school started as a result of a short illness. Death happens. I understand that. But I can't help feeling a bit responsible. I don't think the riders look at it that way, though.

Collin Edwards, whom I met briefly at a dinner on the Friday before the race, said this about the death of his young friend, "It's a normal racetrack and racing incidents happen. From what I understand, it was a pure racing accident.
"The fact is, it's going to happen again at some point to somebody and we hate it, but we know what's going on when we put a helmet on. We know what can happen." (Quote taken from Sky Sports)

My thoughts and prayers are with Peter's family and those who are grieving in our community.

What do you think? Can things change or are we human, always have been, always will be?

Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Uber Rich

We visited my 89 year old great aunt a few weeks ago, and right before we left, she opened her wallet and passed out dollar bills to all the kids and myself. She gave me a quarter to pass on to hubby, too, and apologized that she'd run out of dollars. It took me right back to being seven and my grandma occassionally handing out some money. The kids felt rich, rich I tell you! I could hear them folding and unfolding their money all the way home- all four hours of the drive.

With that context, I want to introduce the newest member of the uber-rich elite caption writer club, winner of the impromptu contest and one dollar prize- Charity Bradford. [applause]

Charity, send me your address at kellybryson02(at)hotmail(dot)com and I'll send that right out to you.

Happy Writing!

"I wish I sparkled like Edward Cullen."
I feel that from him, don't you?

Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Meeting Reader Expectations

I've read a few followup books recently- Mistborn after reading Elantris by Brandon Sanderson and Gathering Blue after reading several books by Lois Lowry over the years, including The Giver.

I loved Elantris and after a few months, I got around to reading another book by Sanderson. I noticed several things he kept consistent- both books are about a magic that affects not only people, but the world around them. He also has very strong characters, both male and female. Heroes, if you will. The point of views were the same. The tone was similar.

The characters, the magic system, the goals of each, the societal structure were all different, but because of the similarities, I was immediately comfortable.

Same idea with Gathering Blue. A child is stuck in a comunity that is unfair. That could describe The Giver, too. The conflicts are a little different, the plot and details differ, but the voice is the same.

To be a successful writer, a person has to sell books. And that means readers picking up/clicking on your book and paying for it. It's a lot easier to keep a customer than to find a new one. I think this is why writers are encouraged to find a genre they love and stay put!

I think you can switch things up quite a bit, and still have a followup book that feels familiar. I'm pondering POV for my second novel- is it neccesary to write again in first person? Would a switch from first to third cause me to lose readers that love the intimacy of first person? I'm not sure.

Brandon Sanderson does have a midgrade book out, 'Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians'. We haven't picked it up yet. In fact, I hadn't realized he had written anything but adult fantasy until writing this post. The point being, nobody has to swear off writing for other audiences, but you might want to establish yourself firmly in one, develop a fanbase, and then branch out.

One thing I don't like is when an author switches genres and there's nothing on the cover that tells me that this new book is going to be quasi erotica. I can look at the 'Alcatraz' cover and know immediately it's written for kids. Or a certain book my son was reading yesterday. We'd read another book by that author and so I assumed it was fine. But he said he didn't think he should be reading it because it had some bad words in it, and I asked him, "What words?" and he told me, and I agreed that I'd rather he not read it. Then he chastised ME for telling him to read it! This cover looks midgrade to me, but is actually YA.

We're reading another of MT Anderson's books right now- a midgrade novel-
'Jasper Dash and the Flame-pits of Delaware' and love it.

Anybody have any thoughts on this? How much can you vary and still build a fanbase, theoretically?
Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Plan and an Impromptu Contest

Here's my philosophy about planning: Dream Big. Bigger than that. BIG, I say.

This picture came up in the fotosearch under 'thoughts'. Any ideas on what he's thinking? I think I'll mail a dollar to the person who comes up with the best caption. Yes. Let's do it. Impromptu contest, starting now. You have until Sunday midnight, eastern time zone to enter. Winner gets a dollar.

I over-schedule, run run run until I drop, then rest and do nothing but read for a few days, then run run run all over again. It might sound a little manic, but I like having busy times and slow times much more than having all medium times.

When I write, this means I write in spurts, though I write some almost every day. My goals are always impossible, though they sound reasonable to me when I set them, but they don't account for this circadian rhythm in my energy levels. So, keep that in mind and recognize that behind these grand ideas lurks a procrasinating bum.

My plan is to write a thousand words a day for the next 80-90 days and get my rough draft for book 2 knocked out by the end of October, or thereabouts. Next phase- brainstorming and the outline for book 3 Nov/Dec with some editing of book 2 mixed in. Then maybe a rough draft for book 3 in Jan-Mar, another edit on book 2, some brainstorming for book 4... repeated to infinity. I'd like to get two book written by the end of 2011 and have another in the works.

Don't forget, I am still a procrasinating bum.

That's why it's lucky that it doesn't bother me at all to miss my own deadlines. I've got three kiddoes in elementary school and one in preschool, and I'm a fairly laidback person anyway, so I go with the flow. I mainly use schedules to motivate myself- as a reminder of what might be accomplished if I were to be totally gung ho. I'm usually quite happy to hit my goal in twice the alloted time. It's still progress.

Some people use goals as absolute measures of success, and I can see how that would be motivating, if you were able to accomplish your goals. But then you have to have reasonable goals, and where's the fun in that?

When (note the positive self-talk!) I get an agent, I don't think this self-deception will be a problem because I like to work under pressure. I've never had a problem getting papers in on time, so I think my brain files other people's deadlines are in a different, inviolable category.

I also set my clocks ahead an undetermined number of minutes ahead, so I'm constantly having to add subtract minutes to figure out when we really have to leave, and we'll still late quite a bit.

Which reminds me- I got the kids to school on time today for their first day back. I miss those noisy kids, but their teachers seem fantastic and they have gotten tired of hanging out with each other all the time.

And my son kind of embarrassed me at the meet-your-teacher event earlier in the week. He intro'd me to his teacher and told her I was a writer, and she promptly invited me to come teach the kids about where to get ideas and how to write. I told her I wasn't published, but she was extremely enthusiastic anyway. I could be a total hack!

I went to bed thinking about what basics fourth graders can use to improve their writing. I'm not even sure if Teacher was serious, but I think it would be so fun to brainstorm with a group of kids and write an outline on the board, talk to them about how to choose words to reveal character, etc. I was thinking about how many different forms of 'walked' there are, and what skulked would say vs pranced. Anyone have any great ideas?

Okay, done rambling. Back to the point-
Do you get crazy with your goals, or are you ever-so-realistic?
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer is Over, People!

The trips are over, the lazy days at the pool are done, because school starts on Thursday for us. Just one last trip up to Mama's house today, and that's it.

This is First Day of School from a couple of years ago, but they're still about that cute.

I'm practicing commonly used phrases-
  • Your breath still stinks. Go brush again.
  • I don't know where your shoes are, but they're whereever you left them.
  • Five more minutes and this bus is leaving!
  • Walk fast! The bell rings in two minutes!
  • Sit down and finish your homework.
  • Why are you up? Finish your homework.
  • Finish your homework. You're not allowed to jump on the couches until AFTER your homework is done.
I'm missing some, but you get it.

I've come up with a writing time plan to help me stay accountable, and to help me realize that there are really only so many hours in the day, so if I blow an hour watching Youtube, I won't get it back unless I allow my kids' brains to atrophy by letting them veg in front of the tv, which I don't like to do. They fight a lot more and are way more whiny when I've gone that route.

So- my plan-
M-F 5-7am=    10 hours
M-F 8:30-10=  7.5 hours
Sat 7-10=          3 hours
Preschool 2x/week = 5 hours
Total=25.5 hours of potential writing time

25 seems like a lot of time, and it is, but I don't actually use all of that time wisely. I'm going to keep a log for a few weeks and see how I do. I lose time by sleeping in, which gets me off sinc with my hubby, who is trying to maximize his triathlon training time by getting up at 5 also. And I lose writing time by still not having much self control with books- I have a compulsion to read books all in one sitting.

I've actually gotten up at 5 a few times this Summer, only to be so haunted by the book I was forced to put down the night before (thanks, honey. I do hate book hangover) that I got up ridiculously early and finished a book. It's so dumb, but my brain won't let me slip back out of stories. So I read Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson basically ALL Saturday (great book, by the way. He has very strong male and female characters, and has made up some really cool magic). The kids can't distract me when I'm in my reading zone. Nothing can.

Do you have a plan? Do you have a goal? Haven't you read '7 Habits of Highly Effective People'? lol
I'll share my goal on Thursday. Happy Writing!
Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Good News for a Friend

My good writing friend Teresa Frohock has just signed with Weronika Janczuk at D4EO Literary Agency. This calls for exclamation points!!!!!!!
Stop by and wish her luck on her blog. Teresa's a great lady and has been my faithful crit partner since I first posted on Online Writer's Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, scared to death and clueless about so many things, commas included. I just love her and am so excited for her success.

It's been a privilege to watch 'An Autumn Tale' change from a promising idea to a fully-realized story of redemption and love. If you like your fantasy a little darker, then you'll want to keep an eye on Teresa.
Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Book Envy: The King of Attolia

I'm in love. With a thief. How unlike me!

So, I read 'The Thief' a month ago, loved it, and picked up 'The King of Attolia' from the library a few days ago. I'd liked 'The Thief' enough that I requested the rest of the series, and yes, I know I skipped 'The Queen of Attolia'. I thought 'The King of Attolia' was next, but soon realized I had missed at least one book's worth of events. But it didn't matter. I have a hard time (nearly impossible?) putting down a good book once I get past the first page. A so-so book is hard to stop, even when my kiddoes want dinner and are dancing around me, jumping on the bed, saying things like, "Mom, are you going to read ALL DAY?" But a good book? I'm hopelessly addicted.

But I didn't neglect my kids yesterday. I started it after dinner and then stayed up until 1 am. And this morning I want to read it again, to get all the details that I missed the first time, but I have to go to the library and pick up 'The Queen of Attolia'. I have this idea that I should wait to open it until tonight, but what I'd really like to do is take the kids to the Y splashpad- it's a concrete pad with sprinklers and sprayers and nozzles that no one could possibly drown in, even if I didn't look up for two hours. Yes, I may just do that.

Eugenides is my new favorite literary character, more than Katniss, more than Tally, more than Ender. He is so very funny and tricky and reminds me a lot of Capt Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Carribean, except you can tell a little sooner that he actually cares about the people around him.

I love these books so much that I wish I had written them. Sigh. Will I ever be that good? No, will I ever be half that good? I don't know, but I intend to read and reread and basically take Megan Whalen Turner's brain apart and examine it until I can put it back together in 3.5 seconds while blindfolded.

Read these books. They are AMAZING! This book made me realize that it could be fun to write about castles and kings and assasins. Happy reading!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Winner of 'Inside Out' and Starting All Over Again

Thanks for stopping by and saying hello to Maria Snyder, blog friends. After a lengthy selection process (you know, writing names on pieces of paper and drawing one out of a hat) Myrna has been declared winner!
So Myrna, email me your address at kellybryson02(at)hotmail(dot)com. Thanks again to Maria for being so generous with her time and for providing such an awesome prize!

So, I've essentially finished Pulse. It's in the hands of some trusted beta readers, and though I will likely have to tweak a few things, I think it's in good shape. I have two query letters out to the agents that Mr. Agent suggested I contact, and a letter to Mr. Agent explaining what changes I've made in response to his feedback and thanking him for the feedback and for the referrals. That was a tricky letter to write, because I wanted to say, "Hey, I got what you were saying and I made some changes' without saying 'You were nice to me and now I shall never leave you alone!'

So. I wait. I check email. I recheck. I check the mailbox, but just once a day. I don't expect a response for another month at least, but that doesn't stop me from feeling like the phone is going to ring any second. Even though I KNOW noone is going to call me to ask for a partial. It's just how it is.

I like to change my phone ringer every once in a while because after a while, the sound of the phone ringing gets me stressed out. But what do you do with your email? Get a new account? Do you paint your mailbox? Fire your mailcarrier? There's nothing.

I was a little mopey on Saturday, and Nathan called me on it.

"You're upset because you finished your book! That's what's wrong with you!"

*crying* "That's *sniff* ridiculous! I'm FINE!"

It's been a little hard to let go. It's a lot like the feeling I've had a week before my babies were born. Just waiting. Empty. There's nothing to DO around here!

Of course, every room in our house needs to be gone through and roughly half our stuff will be going to Goodwill, but that's not what I want. I want the next project. So, I've started brainstorming. I was having trouble being freewheeling enough, so I changed the brainstorming title from 'Story Ideas' to 'Things That Interest Me'. There's a lot less pressure that way.

This is not that impressive visually, but this is where the Santa Fe River in FL disappears underground into caverns in the aquifer. Some crazy insane people scuba dive in there, but they're crazy insane and several of them have died. It resurfaces three miles down stream. My dad has been there after heavy rains and it was a churning whirlpool with logs beating against each other in a terrifying vortex. That's how he explained it to me, anyway;) It reminds me of brainstorming, of trying to get below the surface of the story,
 into the murky heart of the story.

I tried to get Nathan to brainstorm with me, but he was not interested since he had to give me the 'Your book is great and you're a good writer and everything is going to be fine' talk twice this weekend already. He actually threw a fake book idea out there that sparked off something else I was already thinking about, so I'm happy. I've got something to think about, at least.

How do you come up with new ideas? Do you wait for inspiration to hit you or do you think your way into inspiration?

Glutton for Punishment?