Memes Upon Memes

Writing Process Tag

I'm doing something I hardly ever do here, a blog tour post–but it's an interesting twist on the concept. It's not a blog tour, per se, it's a tour of the same questions to the blogs of various writers.

So, when my former VCFA classmate Anindita Basu Sempere ("We Survived Tim Wynne-Jones"–our T-shirts would read, since we shared him as an advisor the same semester; Tim is an amazing teacher and mentor, and a tough one!) asked if I was game to be tagged, I said yes. Anindita is a wonderful writer–I think back to her graduate reading and have chills. I can't wait until we can all read her books. You can read her process post and see what delicious things she's working on here.

And now I will answer the questions, with apologies for caginess, because I can't say toooo much about the projects I'm actively working on at the moment (I don't want to spook them). But I do so love process talk, so here goes.

1.     What am I working on?

Usually I'm only working on one thing actively, with some other things either in stages that are further along and which I might be waiting to get edits or copyedits or notes on, because I've always found it difficult to shift focus from one book to another on a daily basis. When I'm working on a book, I tend to be working on it pretty much whenever my brain has downtime, even if I'm not sitting at my keyboard. I try as best I can to hold the entire book in my mind, turning it this way and that, until new things come into view–usually for the next scene(s) or chapters, but sometimes further ahead. The ability to be IN whatever project I need to be in has always been relatively easy for me, but it has also tended to be one at a time.

But at the moment I'm attempting to work on two things at once, which is going okay so far, probably because they're at different stages. One is a collaborative middle grade fantasy novel I'm writing with my husband, which features all sorts of intricate setting details and unique characters and a chef's kid with a secret even he doesn't know. We wrote the first draft last year and are now revising and rethinking and generally embiggening and embettering it, and so that's taking the most time and attention. It's also different because this is our first collaboration, and learning how to revise together is the same kind of new endeavor that learning to write together was. But we're figuring it out and it's fun even when it's hard and we're stuck on something. We surprise each other, live the "two heads are better than one" principle for thorny plot or character or worldbuilding issues, and are constantly brainstorming and talking things out. We change our larger outline as we go, shifting as it needs to be, and discuss in depth each coming chapter, then alternate who writes, with both of us adding to the revision each day. (For the real nerds: while we wrote the first draft in Google Drive, now we're using Scrivener, with Dropbox syncing–the only hassle is just one of us can have the file open at a time; my kingdom for the functionality of Scrivener with the collab-syncing capacity of Drive).

The other project I'm working on is a YA twisted take on a fairy tale (of sorts), about which I can't say much, because it's just being born and I haven't even told my agent anything much except that yet (*waves to agent*), but also because it's a big twisty dark mystery too. I'm waiting until I have enough pages to show her. Of things I can say about it–hmm, there will be a strange city, and teens who live beneath it, rumors of magic, a glimpse of the contemporary art scene, and some thievery. Best to keep its secrets for now. Process-wise, I'm refining my outline and adding words to first few chapters when I have time. Drafting is always the hardest stage for me. I much prefer revising. But you can't do one without the other.

(I am so sorry that is SO long with so little description of the what. Annoying fact of writing life is that sometimes you can't say much.)

2.     How does my work differ from others of its genre?

 This one's even tougher to answer, I think. But, if pressed, I'd say the revision of the middle grade is pushing it even more into our own personal tandem weird zone, while also trying to keep it inviting. And likewise for the new solo book of mine; it's maybe a little different because while I love *some* fairy tale retellings, I'm super-picky about them. And this one is as much an inversion or subversion as a retelling. So. And it's as much realistic as fantasy. Like my book that comes out this fall, I find myself more inclined lately to treat magic in my YA stuff in a slightly less traditional fantasy way, more as a question that may or may not exist until the characters know if it does or not.

I hope it doesn't sound like I know what I'm doing. 😉 I just try to follow what feels right for the story. And then revise, rinse, repeat.

3.     Why do I write what I do?

 I hope because these are stories that only I can tell, that come from the idiosyncratic nature of everything I  live and read and watch and listen to and am interested in and am. But also that other people can step into them too. (And for the collab, the same, but for both of us. Part of the fun of that project is trying to delight each other; the revision is mostly about doing the best we can to make sure it delights others too.) (Okay, so that probably applies to my solo stuff as well.)

4.     How does your writing process work?

Routine! If I'm not getting enough done, I fall right back on my routine. Which, for me, most days, means my best hours are right after I get up. The absolute best is if I can forgo looking at the Internet–no email, no twitter–until after I have done a couple of hours of morning writing or revising. Walks during the day are spent trying to solve story in my brain, and then dog walks at night are for talking out problems with Christopher (whether it's on our collaboration or our solo stuff). I also try to write at lunch, and more in the evening if necessary. I could revise round the clock, if it wasn't a) not workable at the moment with my schedule and b) probably unhealthy. I always try to take evenings off, but when it's my writing time, I'm writing, nothing else. So long as I'm meeting my daily goals, whatever they happen to be, I cut myself some slack.

This is probably the most important thing I've learned as a writer, and I know that endless or deadline crunch round-the-clock style works for some people (just not me). But I used to spend way too much time thinking I could and should be working even more, that there was always something else I could be doing to further a project, every second. Now, I do what I intend for that day, and then I feel no guilt for anything else. If I'm getting behind on email, I don't feel guilty, so long as I'm answering urgent things and getting my writing done. Etc. I have to have hours off to watch TV or read or just be lazy or I am not going to do good work or have a life that works. I need the time away, the outside stimulus–and I have a lot of other work I have to do too. So, I try to catch up on the other stuff in between projects, or once a week (or two) for email. But my operative philosophy is: following routine = check, then guilt = no. It's made all the difference.

I could talk about outlining and things, but I've already written, ahem, a book here, so I will instead tag the next victims! Who will post next Monday on their own sites. These just happen to be two authors I think you should be paying attention to. (Theirs are the only two books I've blurbed so far, actually. I did not do blurbs while I was still reviewing for Locus–it just didn't feel right.)

Jackie Dolamore (well, Jaclyn, to be precise and fancy). Jackie's next book is Dark Metropolis, which I thought was a wonderfully executed dark fantasy where society itself is hiding a terrible secret. Months later, I still think about the characters and the world.

Whitney Miller. Whitney's first novel The Violet Hour is a gripping supernatural thriller with some of my favorite things: a cult, a global conspiracy, creepiness galore, and a smart heroine. I am very much looking forward to the sequel.

I can't wait to see their answers.

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Memefied: The Next Big Thing?

Today I'm doing something I don't usually indulge in: a meme. Author of the super-fab debut novel Fair Coin and forthcoming follow-up Quantum Coin E.C. Myers tagged me to answer "Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing."

It's up to the taggee whether they want to talk about their current book, their next one, or what they're working on now. I figure everyone who reads this blog knows all about Blackwood by now and I'm not ready to talk yet about the secret book I'm currently revising, so I'm sharing a little bit about The Woken Gods. Right now, it's slated for release in July 2013 (ack! less than a year!).

Here goes. Be gentle. (And I'll be tagging some excellent authors at the end.)

What is the working title of your book?

The Woken Gods.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

There was a man with a suitcase full of them and it was the shiniest. I could tell you where he was, but then I’d have to kill you. Okay, not really. I’ve always loved mythology, but am sometimes frustrated by books where the gods feel too much like oversized humans. I also really love high stakes adventure, secret societies, family drama, libraries, and books where our world has experienced a major shift of some kind. Add into that mixture some of the concepts explored in Lewis Hyde’s brilliant nonfiction book Trickster Makes This World and the result is The Woken Gods.

What genre does your book fall under?

Urban fantasy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I am so bad at this, because I actually don’t stay that current about who are the hot young actors and actresses these days and I don’t use reference pics of actors when I’m writing. But, off the top of my head, maybe Nina Dobrev from The Vampire Diaries could play the protagonist, Kyra Locke, because I do adore Nina Dobrev.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Ten years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke, all around the world. Now, in a transformed Washington, D.C., that has become the meeting ground for a no-longer-secret society and a council made up of the seven tricksters who are the gods’ main emissaries to humanity, a 17-year-old girl must find a mysterious missing relic and navigate intrigue involving dangerous gods to save her father.

(Two sentences. I cheated. Sue me.)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About five months. But that’s a deceptive answer, because I’d previously written a couple of entire drafts I threw out before I finally managed to get the concept and story right. (At least, I hope they are.)

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Oh, I am really, really bad at this, and it's such a fraught question. So I'm going to go with American Gods meets Raiders of the Lost Ark*, but with a teen girl at the center and everyone aware of the gods and the society’s existence.

*Not a book, but go with it.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I think I already answered this one in the part about where the idea came from. Next!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Did I mention there’s intrigue? And scary gods? And smart teenagers? And flying monsters, secret passages, and a ziggurat somewhere in D.C.?

Next up: Go read E.C.'s entry, and I'm tagging: a fabulous writer I met while at the Vermont MFA program Rachel Wilson (you're going to be hearing a LOT more about her and her debut Don't Touch!), and two of my fellow Strange Chemists, Sean Cummings (Poltergeeks! Out next week!) and A.E. Rought (Broken! Out in January!).

See y'all next week.

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Elsewhere (teeny update)

Today I'm over at the Strange Chemistry blog doing the All About the Books meme. Picking just one book for anything is so hard and my answers would probably change daily. That said, I only cheated a smidge on one or two categories–which is hardly cheating at all.

How I still adore that Spellbinders in Suspense cover.

Unrelated update:  I promise I'm not going to share every positive review (double promise!), but this one by Waterstone's bookseller Jane Sharp is kind of a day-maker (and not spoilery!). Like a little pre-birthday present.

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Page 77 Tease & A Giveaway

There's a w-i-p meme going around, and so far I've seen it from Steph Burgis, Nora Jemisin, and Martha Wells, so hey, why not? The rules are:

1. Go to page 77 (or 7th) of your current ms
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written. No cheating.

So, herewith, a little unedited taste of the gods book:

The tails of his suit jacket flapped in a gusty wind that ruffled the brown leaves above him. He swung his metal and bone cane in a slow circle, like he was out for a jaunt. But the casual air was fleeting. Gone entirely when he shook his head at her with forbidding disapproval, and stepped over so he stood in the center of the path, directly below the tip of the not-so-distant pyramid. His red eyes glimmered in the sun. He was blocking the way to Egypt House.

Kyra blinked, opening her mouth to alert Bree and Tam—

Oh, how I want to cheat and include the next line (and start rewriting!), but rules are rules.

I've also been remiss in not pointing out here that there's a supercool giveaway of a Blackwood pre-order being run by Candace at Lovey Dovey Books (who also did this great review of the book that made me grin like an idiot). If it gets up to 2,000 entries (!!!) she's going to throw in something extra special, so spread the word.

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Living Literary

My life in the books I've read so far in 2009. (Via Monica and Jenny.)

Describe yourself:
How do you feel?
Going Bovine
Describe where you currently live:
City of Glass
If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
Sea of Poppies
Your favorite form of transport:
Boneshaker (!)
Your best friend is . . . ?
The Demon's Lexicon
You and your friends are . . .?
The Reformed Vampire Support Group
What’s the weather like?
Catching Fire
Favourite time of day?
The Awakening
What is life to you?
Your fear?
What is the best advice you have to give?
What I Saw and How I Lied
Thought for the Day?
Magic Strikes
How I would like to die:
Traitor to the Crown: The Patriot Witch
My soul’s present condition?
The Wordy Shipmates

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Girl With Yellow Hair

That iTunes meme via Holly. I always use shuffle, because I'm lazy about such things–I also hit skip frequently, though not now because the rules are:

My Life in Itunes


1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.

2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.


4&5. Deleted the part about tagging people, so just do it if you like.

6. Have Fun!

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Like the Very First Line

And now It's time for the end of the year meme that always makes me vow to have more interesting first sentences for the first post of each month. (Via Dave.) I'm guessing this year will be no different:

Well, that was fun. Settling in for a weekend of critical thesis work, reading, and scribbling, with a possible break in there to go see a movie or something fun. Spring is here! Yay! Locus is up to its usual April first hijincks, including teasers from America's Next Top Writer. I already love my Neo. Frey has officially dipped a toe into the waters of simultaneously banal and TMI blogging. The NYT has an interesting story about archeologists digging into the work-a-day world of ancient Egypt, as opposed to the traditional big money pyramids and the like. If you happen to be radio-friendly, I'll be on NPR's Weekend Edition tomorrow morning (about 40 minutes into the first hour of the broadcast) discussing the new Modern Library edition of Anne of Green Gables. I'm a klutz and so this means that many activities are fraught with peril, sometimes even common ones. I've been remiss in not posting a link to Vermont Public Radio's excellently creepy story about Anna, the ghost who reportedly resides in the College Hall tower at my grad school's campus. First ever Firefox extension hidden anthology?

And that concludes another year of first sentences of the month. I'd actually call it a slight improvement over last year.

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Your result for Howard Gardner’s Eight Types of Intelligence Test…



"Verbal-linguistic intelligence has to do with words, spoken or written. People with verbal-linguistic intelligence display a facility with words and languages. They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words and dates. They tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and via discussion and debate. They are also frequently skilled at explaining, teaching and oration or persuasive speaking. Those with verbal-linguistic intelligence learn foreign languages very easily as they have high verbal memory and recall, and an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include writers, lawyers, philosophers, journalists, politicians and teachers." (Wikipedia)

Take Howard Gardner’s Eight Types of Intelligence Test at HelloQuizzy

(Via Rachel.)

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2 busy 2 entry, so:

Your result for What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test…

Extroverted, Progressive, and Intelligent


Cubism was a 20th century avant-garde movement, pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.  It revolutionized European art and inspired changes in music and literature.  The first branch of cubism, known as Analytic Cubism.  It was both radical and influential as a short but highly significant art movement between 1908 and 1911 mainly in France.  In its second phase, Synthetic Cubism, (using synthetic materials in the art) the movement spread and remained vital until around 1919.

People that chose Cubist paintings as their favorite art form tend to be very individualized people.  They are more extroverted and less afraid of speaking their opinions then other people.  They tend to be progressive and are very forward thinking.  As the cubist painting is like looking into a shattered mirror where you can see different angles of the images, the people that prefer these paintings like looking at all angles of a problem.  These people are intelligent and they are the transformers of our generation.  They look beyond what is seen into what things could become.  They are ready to leave the ideas of the past behind and look at what the future has to offer.

Take What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test at HelloQuizzy


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