Signed Books!

Tonight I had the pleasure of getting to attend a presentation by one of my favorite science authors (Sam Kean).  The talk was great – in person he’s just as interesting as his writing.  Afterwards, he was kind enough to sign both of his books (The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist’s Thumb) for me.

Those two books bring my small but growing collection of autographed books to ten.  Some of them are people who gave presentations I attended, and some are books that my mom had signed for me, and overall it’s an interesting collection.  Here is the remainder of the list, in case you are curious.  The first three books are the folks that I met in person.

Sundown Towns by James Loewen
From the Bottom Up by Chad Pregracke
Eye to Eye, signed by both Frans Lanting (the photographer) and Chris Eckstrom (the editor)

100 Heartbeats by Jeff Corwin
National Parks: the American Experience by Alfred Runte
Talk, Talk retold by Deborah M. Newton Chocolate (children’s)
Till Year’s Good End by W. Nikola-Lisa  (children’s)
Song of the Red Fox by Brian “Fox” Ellis  (poetry)

Pretty awesome, huh?  I was fortunate to get to meet some cool people, and I’m fortunate to have a mom who gets to meet cool people.  🙂  I’d like to continue to grow this list as opportunities arise!

The Social Side of NaNo

Tonight I got an email reminder that the local kickoff event for NaNo was happening this evening.  Even though I didn’t take advantage of the social aspect of NaNo last year, I decided to give it a try.

The group was really interesting and fairly diverse (at least as far as writing is concerned).  There were a few folks who are trying this NaNo thing for the first time, and others who have participated before.  We had a couple of fantasy authors (including yours truly), a couple of Christian fiction writers, a few doing general fiction, and a couple who haven’t quite decided what they’re writing yet.  All in all, it was fun to talk stories, swap writing techniques, and get some ideas.

And, oddly enough, there was a computer programmer named Doug in the group.  (That would be the same job and name as my main character, if you haven’t heard.)

I don’t know how active I’ll be with the local group, since I’m typically not a social writer, but after tonight’s experience I might take in a write-in or two.

Only 2 more days to NaNo 2012!

Knowledge is Power

Yesterday I wrote about making assumptions; today it’s time for the flip side of that coin.  The way we avoid assumptions is knowledge, and when it comes to books, knowledge is power.

The author/reader relationship is almost entirely one-sided.  The author is sharing a story with the reader.  The writer has all the knowledge and all the power.  The difficult trick is to find the right way of sharing the information.

In some cases, it’s fun (albeit somewhat cruel) to share the knowledge with the reader but not with the characters.  Those are the times as a reader that you yell at the book, things like “He’s married, you idiot!” and “Don’t open the door!”  It’s also helpful to keep information back, and let the reader discover it when the characters learn it.  (This is where using assumptions can prove interesting.) 

As an author you never want to share all of your knowledge.  The depth of your understanding of the characters and the world of your story is much more involed than the readers want or need.  A good author can use their “insider” knowledge to make the book more interesting and exciting for the reader without drowning them in information.

Writing Challenge Guest – Snailquake

Snailquake is a zoologist-in-training with a house and garden full of animals who once needed homes. She has a degree in English literature and spent three years running creative writing workshops for people with severe mental health conditions. Her blog, Tea Time at the Zoo, can be found at:

Barry White Likes a Fight

Some say I talk too much but that’s ridiculous because I hardly ever say anything at all, not like Colin, and I always say if you haven’t got anything interesting to talk about then you might as well not talk at all because none of us are listening and Colin goes on and on and on and on about food mostly, like it’s the only thing he can think about, whereas some of us have a bit more whatyoumacallit and can think about important stuff like fighting and trees and celery and melon rind and that bit in the middle of a pineapple that’s got exactly the right level of chewiness and pineapple is probably the best food after celery and maybe parsnip.

They call me Barry because I’m white but I don’t see what “white” has to do with “Barry” and the other white guinea pigs aren’t called Barry, they’re called Colin and Twogoose, and Twogoose has an ugly stupid face because he’s the reason I have to live on my own in one corner of the garden and I can’t sit under my tree because the tree is where Twogoose lives with Horatio, and I was living with them and I was FINE except Twogoose was hassling me and who does he think he is, so now I’ve got my own bedroom with hay and everything in this upturned dog bed thank you very much and if any of them others come in here I’ll bite their face off.

I like celery and parsnips and walks in the long grass and I like fighting as long as I’m the winner so I generally start the fights because then they’ll think I’m big even though I’m really small and there are seven of us and Orkney is the runt but I’ve never fought Orkney because what’s the point, whereas Colin has plenty to bite and he deserves it, and one of these days he’s going to get it, but then again last winter we sat under the TV table and he let me eat his bedding which was hay and I like hay, and I like carrots and did I mention celery and sometimes I like a good old sing-song because who doesn’t and I like parsley.

Some say I’m also easily distracted but that’s compl

A photo of Barry, courtesy of Snailquake

Find out more about the writing challenge here!

You’re an Author? Cool!

When people find out that I am an unpublished author, they are usually intrigued.  (I’ve switched from “aspiring” to “unpublished” because I’ve been told that aspiring authors have ideas but haven’t really written anything.  I’ve completed one novel and started another, so I can legitimately be an author – I’m just not published yet.)  Most people know someone with great ideas for stories, or even someone who has developed characters and a plot but not actually written the book.  (Dad, I’m looking at you.)  The idea that I’ve completed an entire novel and started another, unrelated one usually brings on questions.  These tend to fall into three types.

What’s your book about?

This is a dangerous one.  The quick answer of “it’s a fantasy novel” is enough for some, but if you get me started, be prepared.  I am very passionate about my stories and my characters, and you may have to tell me to shut up when you’ve heard enough.

How do you write your novel?

I get a lot of technique questions, because for a lot of my friends the concept of composing a document that is 200 pages (single spaced) is quite intimidating.  These are sometimes specific (“Do you use an outline?  Do you already know how it ends?”) and sometimes they are general (“Where do you get your ideas?”).  Often I’ll answer the questions and end with “This is what I blog about.  You should check it out!”

What are you doing to try to get published?

These are the questions I have fewer answers for.  If it’s about my personal process, or why I chose the route I did, I can answer those.  Specifics about the publishing industry are challenging, seeing as I only know about it from my side (as an unpublished author trying to break in).  If this is merely a case of curiosity, an “I don’t really know” will suffice.  For those who are truly interested in the process, they’ll have to get a better source than me.

Writing Challenge – Leigh Townsend

It’s only fair for me to participate in my own writing challenge!  If you want to participate, find out more here.  This is a side character from the new novel I am writing, Dragon Pendant.

My name is Nicolette, but all my friends call me Cola.  For most of my life I’ve been mistaken for an elf.  You see, I’m tall and skinny, with no curves to speak of, so I superficially look like one of them.  My eyes, also elfin, are ice blue, pale enough to be almost white.  Still, my dark hair should be a giveaway, since everyone knows elves are almost always blonde or silver-haired.  It bothered me at first, especially when it provided fodder for bullies in school, but I’ve come to accept it.  I live in a gate city, after all, where people expect to see elves.  It might be different if I lived in a community farther distant from Erova, but this is my home and where I choose to stay.

This is a good place to live for someone in my career.  I’m an artist, a painter to be exact, and my art is primarily abstract.  Recently my work has been getting some recognition; many paintings have sold, and I had my first solo show six months ago.  That’s where I met my boyfriend Eli, which in itself is a funny story.  He is an elf, although his intense purple eyes are very unusual for his people.  He came to my show and mistook me for another elf.  Like I said, it happens frequently.  Imagine my surprise when someone started explaining my own work to me!  His embarrassment was endearing, and the vivid color of his eyes took my breath away.  We’ve been together ever since, and he’s even taken me to Erova a few times.  His mother terrifies me, but his sister and I have become good friends.

It’s nice to be included in his family, as I don’t have much immediate family of my own to speak of.  I am an only child, and both of my parents are gone.  My father died when I was in junior high, and my mother passed away a few years ago from cancer.  She nurtured my love of art and encouraged me to pursue my dreams.  I was so pleased that she lived long enough to see my first paintings sold.

Writing Challenge Guest – Nicole

Hi, my name is Nicole and this post is my response to Leigh’s challenge.  I live in Illinois, in the Peoria/Bloomington area.  I have been writing on and off since high school.   I am an avid book reader, my favorite genres being fantasy, science fiction and murder mystery. I am also one of Leigh’s friends from college.

My name is Stella.  I live in the country of Markelli, in the royal city of Amshala. I am fifteen and I am a mage.  With my friends, Joselyn and Olyvia, I help keep the streets of Amshala safe from rogue mages and supernatural beings, as well as your average thieves and slitthroats.  There is one man in particular that I wish to catch. He is a rogue mage that targets young girls. The man is known only as the Shadow Hunter. I was almost one of his victims. I bear a scar on my right wrist as the result of our first encounter.  It was also the first time that I used my powers on a large scale.  At the time I had no control over what I was doing and I nearly burned down the warehouse that we were fighting in.

Catching this man is no easy task, since Markelli is primarily an anti mage country. To keep a low profile, we do our work in the evenings. Of course this is when most miscreants are up to no good. During the day, the three of us work in different stations of the palace. Joselyn works as a maid, Olyvia works in the stables, and I work in the kitchen as well as in the laundry station.

Olyvia has a gift for seeing magical residues. We met after my first encounter with the Shadow Hunter, about five years ago. She noticed a residue on the warehouse and found me hiding nearby. She also helped me get the job at the palace.   Olyvia also got Joselyn a job in the kitchen a few months later.  Joselyn and I did not get along well after we first met. Joselyn has a rather bossy and opinionated personality, while I tend to be the confrontational type.  Upon our first meeting, I was so angry with her that I ended up pushing her into to the wash water. She later retaliated by having all but one of my dresses and shifts cut to shreds and had the remaining ones washed in itch weed and peppery spices.  Olyvia, being the peace keeper that she is, got us to call a truce before things got too out of hand.  Joselyn and I decided, however, that in the event that one of us should be apprehended for using magic, it would be best if people still thought that we were not friends. So now whenever we are in public it is said that we fight like two rival alley cats.  Joselyn started working as a maid because the head cook was convinced that we would end up killing each other if we continued to work in the same area.

All three of us are orphans. As for myself, I was found as an infant on the door steps of the church orphanage. The only thing I had with me was a necklace that has a small pink multifaceted gem stone in the shape of a heart.  My powers were locked inside this stone. I can only use them when I am wearing the necklace. Though it can be troublesome if the necklace is not there when I need it, I find that it gives me the opportunity to fell normal during the times when I don’t need it.

If I had to describe myself, I would say that I am average.  I am not too short or tall.  I am definitely not a buxom beauty, but on the other hand I do not have the looks of something you would find living under bridge in the darkness. I am slender of build and I have long dark blond hair, hazel eyes and a slight olive complexion.  My friends say that I never think before I act, but I believe that it is better to not let an opportunity pass me by.

Find out more about the writing challenge here!

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