blogging, books

The Writer’s Book Tag (Not To Be Confused With The Last Tag I Did)

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Yes, I am on a tag spree! Well, such nice people keep tagging me, and every now and then, I need to write a little bit of something that does not count towards NaNo, so, here we go.

The last post I did was The Writer’s Tag — this is The Writer’s Book Tag, meaning it’s about books that writers read.

First Draft: A book or series that you’ve never read before.

I have never read anything by Brandon Sanderson (though he seems to be big in the fantasy lovers’ camp), and I never picked up the Percy Jackson series — any of them.

Second Draft: A book or series you didn’t like as much the second time you read it.

I’d have to say Charlotte’s Web and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And I know these are both classics and very important to a lot of readers, and please don’t hurt me! Maybe there’s something about approaching some children’s tales with the innocence of a child’s perspective. While I loved Wilbur and Charlotte’s story as a youth, somehow re-reading it as an adult made me feel like, “Oh, please, spare me the bleeding heart!” (And I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool right-winger by any means.) And while I completely understand that the demise and return of Aslan is totally a metaphor for the events of the first Easter, re-reading this novel again in my adulthood absolutely broke my heart for Susan and Lucy — so young — having to witness all of that. I think if Lewis had made their characters a little older (say, 18 and 16), I wouldn’t have found it so traumatic.

Final Draft: A book or series that you’ve liked for a really long time.

Harry Potter. It’s one of the few recent series that I feel easily has the potential to become a classic, that I’ve re-read all the books and not found their impact to be diminished, and I can’t wait to share them with my own kids.

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Killing Off Your Characters: A book or series that made you cry.

Do I get to mention Harry Potter again so soon? So. Much. Crying.

Plot Holes: A book or series that disappointed you.

The sequels to Jackaby are at the top of this list. I really enjoyed the first, the second was pretty good, but seemed to have nothing to do with the whole arc, and the third totally killed my interest. A real shame.

Writer’s Block: A book or series you never finished.

Wow, there are plenty of these! I’m probably the queen of DNF (and usually have no qualms about it!). One that really digs at me is Jackaby, though — see above — I’ve decided not to even read the fourth and final novel.

Feedback: A book or series you’d recommend to anyone and everyone.

For fantasy, I’d say The Scorpio Races. For non-fantasy, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and if you need a contemporary, Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella or Girl Online by Zoe Suggs.

Per tradition, I won’t be tagging anybody else, but if you need a blog post and fancy this one, have a great time!

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blogging, writing

The Writer’s Tag

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Hello, everyone! Yes, I am still here! Still working on two projects at the same time (yes, I’ll accept those care packages now!). And apparently this also makes tonight the perfect moment to undertake a new blog post!

Luckily I have been tagged by The Orangutan Librarian with a very appropriate topic, so I don’t have to wrack my brains for what to focus said post on! And so, here we go…

What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

Mostly fantasy, though my current WIP is a contemporary. I like to focus on themes of good versus evil, how do you define evil, family, friendship, world mythologies, and plenty of geek references.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was approximately very small (well, smaller than I am now). I remember taking my first stab at an actual novel in high school, and before that I tried my hand at poetry and short stories. So, at least 20 years. (That’s the closest I’ll get to admitting my actual age on this site.)

Why do you write?

Because I can’t not write. I’ve always felt the compulsion to craft the words and have them make sense and tell a story. And the idea of others getting satisfaction out of what I’ve written is pretty darn cool.

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When is the best time to write?

Usually morning (when the children are in school and less likely to bug me; and when the plans — and brains — are still fresh).

What parts of writing do you love and hate?

Loves:

  • When it all clicks. The “a-ha” moments.
  • You get a great new idea that you’re really excited to work on.
  • You craft a sentence or paragraph and realize it’s super good, and feel pride at creating it.
  • As we are presently in NaNo, NaNo.

Hates:

  • Writer’s block.
  • Children bugging while I’m trying to work.
  • Not being able to word.
  • As we are presently in NaNo, NaNo.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Usually I just step away from the project causing the issue. Taking a break often brings new perspective. (If it’s a NaNo project — heaven forbid! — stuck in the throes of block, I try to enter at least a few hundred words that day, and then do something else, like blog or read or watch TV.)

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Are you working on something at the moment?

Oh, my, yes. Completing my final edits for Volume 2, and I’m participating in NaNoWriMo 2017.

What are your writing goals this year?

To release Volume 2 prior to the onset of the holidays. To finish NaNo (hopefully to win, but mostly just to reach 50,000 words on my new WIP without my head exploding). To feel ready to tackle my next endeavors (Volume 3 and the field guide) with zest and vigor!

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blogging, reading

Mini-Reviews: The Taking a Break from NaNo Edition

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It’s NaNo! Who has time to read?! you may be hollering at me. Well, remember when I recently posted the guidelines to surviving NaNo, and remember how it included taking time to do something other than writing? Reading is not writing — ergo, reading during this month is important.

(By the way, some of these selections I completed before November. I am not pushing myself too hard, don’t worry.)

So, after determining that I’ve exhausted the catalog of my local library (and I pretty much have), I’m taking great advantage of inter-library loan to obtain titles by authors I have only now heard of. At the moment, this includes Charles De Lint.

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I finished Tapping the Dream Tree, which is a compilation of short stories based on his Newford series (none of which I had read, so nothing like jumping into the deep end with both feet and no water-wings). But I was able to figure out what was going on in most of the individual tales, and some of them I truly enjoyed. This author has a style that’s now rare for adult fantasy, focusing so much more on telling the story than on shock value or hitting up a current political soapbox. It was so refreshing. He has a long bibliography (he’s been publishing for many years), and I’ve already hunted down some more of his work.

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Last weekend, wanting something light and easy, I picked up Laini Taylor’s Night of Cake and Puppets. It’s pretty short (under 300 pages), and the cover is interesting.

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What was I thinking. I liked the first part of Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer, but had forgotten that NoCaP is set in the same world as her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which made me hit the ceiling with its blatant sexual references and dark-and-nefarious-goings-on. I managed to survive intact, though there were several pages in this novella I had to outright skip over (puppets are creepy, folks!!!), and I had to look at a lot of super-cute cat pictures to be able to go to bed that night.

Moving on to one of my major disappointments in October — Turtles All the Way Down by John Green.

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This is officially my last attempt at a Green novel. I didn’t enjoy Paper Towns or The Fault in Our Stars, but repeated gushing reviews of this author’s work kind of guilted/hyped me into trying his new release. ‘Tis much better to go with my gut. I had MASSIVE issues with the depiction of mental illness in this book — not only is it blindingly obvious (I’m a former psychology major) that the narrator does NOT have general anxiety, but OCD — yet the novel calls her condition “an anxiety disorder” throughout — this is also the singular thing the narrator’s entire life is about. She’s made of more cardboard than a cereal box. She has no personality, no interests, no anything other than her OCD. That simply isn’t factual when it comes to living, breathing human beings — which this MC is supposed to be. And her “best friend” is HORRIBLE to her, treating her as a burden, ignoring her serious health problems, and never trying to help her get better.

And there was a significant lack of turtles. I wasn’t the only one peeved about this. Turns out the title is a metaphor, based on some sort of astrophysics thing. I had to look it up to be “enlightened.” Some fans were saying this was great; I don’t agree (nor am I the only dissenter). It feels terribly pretentious and arrogant of an author to make his title wholly symbolic and not explain that anywhere in the text. I’m perfectly intelligent, so there’s no need to insult my intelligence because I didn’t know the reference to a completely theoretical and intangible construct, people.

Okay, onto a different category of whinge…

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was, sadly, a letdown, too. If there was an actual plot in amongst allllllll the pages of wandering the land and trying to become the Emperor’s mistress, I missed it.

Neither was Wild Beauty a fun experience…

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This cover is truly astounding, and I still like it even though I didn’t like the book underneath. I guess this author’s style — “magical realism” — just isn’t for me. It’s confusing — is there actual magic, or not? Are the characters’ “ability” to grow flowers out of thin air a metaphor for their incredible gardening skills, or do they really have powers? I couldn’t figure it out, and it bugged me the whole time. McLemore was altogether too vague for my taste — how could there be so many people in the family, and somehow they’re all female…? Supposedly their spouses or lovers always “vanished” — isn’t it much more believable that they simply left them? Or was there really some kind of curse — like, the evil witch gets her revenge on one of their ancestors who seduced the witch’s husband? Again, the un-concrete-ness of the plot induced frustration and loud grumbling noises from me.

All right, now onto brighter, happier topics!

I won a giveaway hosted by The Orangutan Librarian! I used the prize to order these two novels in a MG fantasy series that White Fang read book 1 and wants to finish.

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Please, let’s take a moment to appreciate how unselfish and lovely I was to pick something for him and not myself.

Also, if you wouldn’t mind praying for a speedy and safe delivery, that’d be ace! 🙂

And, my pre-orders of All the Crooked Saints and Warriors: Darkest Night are finally ready to ship!!! Since Darkest Night didn’t come out until yesterday, I had to wait quite a while to receive that notification (I placed the order in late September). I consider this a successful exercise in patience.

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Now get back to your NaNo-ing! Good luck, everyone!

 

community, writing

How to Survive NaNoWriMo

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Hello! Yes, I am alive! Since NaNoWriMo started 5 days ago, I have been utterly immersed in getting my word count up — while throwing in some edits for Volume 2, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about that — and therefore I am flailing (in a bad way) over here.

Well, not all bad. I’ve made it to 8,000 words so far, which is pretty good for this early in the month. My goal is to finish NaNo early, so that I can then attend more than wholeheartedly to the release of Volume 2. (Title and cover reveal coming soon!)

In the meantime, I thought I’d swing by here and give you a few more recent pictures by White Fang, and the following Guide to Surviving NaNoWriMo.

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1. Eat. Sleep. Don’t over-coffee yourself. Remember that veggies are still important this month. And protein. And water. And don’t knock 2 hours off your sleep schedule on a work/school night simply in the interest of another 500 words. You can make it up another time. Trust me.

2. If you aren’t happy with the way your current project is going, change the rules. There are lots of suggestions for how to win NaNo in less than 2 weeks and be the next rock star of the writing world. GET OVER IT. If you do manage to do this, you ARE awesome and we will recognize your achievement. If you don’t, you are STILL awesome and will be appreciated for what you did complete.

If you’re “behind” on your word count goal, don’t sweat it. Seriously. Just do what you can, when you can.

If you’re really not feeling excited about the idea you originally chose, opt out. Either start a new novel/project as soon as you can (for example, within the first few days), or alter your outline. Maybe breaking your would-be novel up into a series of short stories works better to obtain 50,000 words by the end of November?

Don’t be afraid to get creative, think outside the box, push the limits.

3. The rest of the world still exists. Remember to cut your family a little slack. Yes, make it clear to them this is a very important thing for you to do, and they need to give you time and space to at least tackle the anticipated word count for the day. But don’t totally lock yourself away from now until Thanksgiving and never engage in human contact in between.

4. Don’t stay off social media. Some NaNo participants swear by refusing to log on to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. so that they don’t get distracted from their ultimate goal. Well, I’m not one of them. While I certainly won’t spend a random 3 hours scrolling aimlessly through my feeds at the moment, I will be touching base with my community. They’re my biggest supporters! We can cheer each other on, or commiserate, share advice, let out the vague whimpers or intense screams that each day of NaNo-ing produces. We are one another’s lifeline!

5. Love yourself as a writer, no matter the outcome. If you win NaNo, you rock. If November 30th comes and you’re at 16,000 words, you rock. If your finished draft is a hot mess of epic proportions, no problem. You still have what it takes to become a polished writer who creates stories and worlds that thrill readers and make them laugh and cry and think.

When December 1st arrives, write on.

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reading, Young Adult fiction

The First Book Club Meeting!

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Good morning! Today is the day! We’re discussing Masters and Beginners (Volume 1 of The Order of the Twelve Tribes). As previously mentioned, all you have to do to participate is have read the book, and be willing to answer the following questions in the comments!

What were your favorite parts of the story?

Which characters were you drawn to the most, and why?

Did you identify any particular themes?

Who would you like to see cast as who in the movie version?

The Order is a secret organization stretching back about 3,000 years. What historical figures do you think could have belonged to the Order?

All right, that’s all from my end for now! Looking forward to seeing what you all share! Have a great day, moths!

blogging, writing

How Not To Calendar: Or, Release Date Announcement (And, No One Throw Things)

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One day…I shall learn how to create less wordy titles for blog posts… But it is not this day.

So, here’s what has happened to my schedule: I forgot to let myself be aware of its existence.

Hence, I was genuinely surprised to realize I cannot be writing/editing next Monday, as Muffin has a specialist appointment out of town. Which I knew about a month ago.

And then NaNo is starting…

And here is me, with my editing: Currently only 75% done. With the formatting yet to go.

And here is Time, to me: HAHAHAHA, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Leading to the following announcement — the projected release date of November 1st for Volume 2 will very most likely not occur. My new (more realistic) goal is to have it ready for sale around November 15th.

For those of you eagerly awaiting the next installment of The Order of the Twelve Tribes, first know that I am immensely grateful for your dedication to my little series. Believe me that I really had hoped to be moving a bit quicker on this process, but there’s just no way around it. And I want to make Volume 2 the best it can be, rather than release a manuscript I’m not completely sure about. And that takes time.

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So — and trust me, this is going to work — I will finish Volume 2 as soon as I can, complete what I can each day for NaNo, and not care if I finish NaNo or not. Depending on how well everything goes, I may decide to toss off the shackles of NaNo’s strict deadline and just conclude my draft for “How To Be A Savage” via my own reckoning of writing time.

The outcome has yet to be determined…

There will still be the Masters and Beginners book club meeting on Monday (though I may actually be a little late getting to the comments!). Please do visit this space when you’re notified of the post going up to share your thoughts with me and other readers.

And I will be at least somewhat keeping up on Twitter and Goodreads in November.

Somewhat. I’m putting my foot down about not overcommitting.

NaNoWriMo is a challenge and a joy when we conquer it. It’s a special and important thing for writers to participate in. I am proud of winning my first year (last year), but am not holding myself to that expectation again.

And I’ll admit, this is a little hard for me — because I like to push myself (yes, really, me, the autist) — the thrill of seeing the finish line come onto the horizon (not that I run, but it’s a good metaphor) is fulfilling.

But keeping my sanity is really fulfilling, too.

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Therefore, in the interest of looking more like the cat below rather than the poor cat above, this is the new plan.

And you can take it from me — knowing what’s on your calendar and sticking to it is also an ace move.

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Autism, writing

NaNo Update: Changes, Plotting, and Some Pantser-ing

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Okay, so I have decided to become a magical unicorn — with 11 days to go before NaNoWriMo begins, I changed my project.

Prior to this move, I had been suggesting to myself that I really should start on Volume 3, since my intention is to have the revisions of Volume 2 complete before November 1st.

However, we are rapidly approaching the wire, and I was not feeling it.

In the last couple of months, I have worked so hard on Volume 2 that I just didn’t want to turn into a melted puddle of disgruntled, worn out, second-guessing sequel-writing author.

This would be a very bad thing to have happen during NaNo.

My brain needs a break from focusing on a “pretty serious” novel. So I’m going to give it said break.

Instead of Volume 3, my NaNo project will be a more fun (in theory), more easygoing (hopefully), less-this-could-make-or-break-my-career novel.

I’ll be attempting a contemporary that’s part autobiography, part fiction, all about living with autism.

My working title is “How To Be A Savage.”

This comes from the fact that White Fang says hilarious things at least 17 times a week, and one of his favorite remarks lately (when he does something like eat fork food with his fingers, or kills another player in a PvP video game) is, “I’m being a savage.”

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The other major reasons I’m trying this out are as follows:

There is not enough accurate and realistic — and simultaneously compassionate — representation of autism in current fiction. It took the medical community itself long enough to understand ASD better, and now the public is taking too damn long (in my view) to catch up. We’re still too often seen as a textbook of socially dangerous symptoms, rather than as real people with a neurological condition that simply makes us different from the norm.

None of this is good. I’ve been marginalized my whole life, and I want so much better for my son. In writing a novel from a first person ASD POV, my hope is to raise not only understanding but also tolerance.

So, what does this mean for my usual style of writing? Well, setting the story in the real world — super scary, by the way — will certainly be a departure from what I’ve been concentrating on for years. No magic, no fantasy-is-actually-fact. (Though there will still be plenty of geek references; that’s never changing.)

Despite having a general premise and the bare bones of a basic outline, most of it will be coming to fruition on the page, at the moment that I sit down to type it out.

This is rather different, as I like to plot ahead of time. Does this give me nightmares? No…but I am a little nervous. Winging it is not something I usually do.

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It will also feel very memoir-ish, and may be pretty damn hard for me to write at times. In relating what it’s like to live with autism to people who may have absolutely no idea what this entails, I’ll have to be brutally honest and forthcoming. Trying to explain neurodiverse pathways, physical issues, emotional difficulties, social challenges, and the choice whether to take meds or not — all in a first person narrative — will be extremely personal.

While I don’t believe writers should always write what they know, there are instances where firsthand experience is the best for showing the perspective an outsider probably would (not even intentionally) get wrong.

So, while I am nervous, I am also excited.

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For those of you who may be unused to the idea of me writing something other than fantasy — relax, I’m sure it’s a passing phase.

For those of you who like to see authors try an idea outside of their norm — I hope this hits all the right notes.

There has been a lot of support for this announcement on Twitter, and I greatly appreciate that.

We’ll see what the next few weeks bring!

If you’d like to follow my updates on Twitter, check out my account referenced in the sidebar.

You can also follow my book reviews or the blog on Goodreads! If you look up “Daley Downing” as an author, or search for “Masters and Beginners,” you should come across me!

And if you’re also participating in NaNo and would like to add me to your buddy list, I am found there as The Invisible Moth (imagine that).

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