Category Archives: Book Two

On becoming involved and writing uncompromisingly for yourself

Yoshida
‘Sarusawa Pond’ by Yoshida Hiroshi.

Hi all! Once again, a million things have been going on; so much so that I can barely keep up. To tell y’all the truth, I don’t even know where to begin! I guess the beginning is always best, but who’s to say exactly where the beginning is? (I’ve been reading Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, can you tell?)

In the past eight months, I’ve gone out of my way to participate in as many local events as I can.  I was already struggling to juggle my writing and my day job, so the masochist in me decided I needed to add another level of intensity! It’s been tough, to say the least, but it’s brought a whole new dynamic to my author life and I can’t stress enough how game changing it’s been for me as a whole. Not only has it brought me into contact with fellow authors and people in the local community who have offered their friendship and support, but it’s brought me closer to the readers I’d hoped to connect with and reach.

If you’re wondering what I mean by becoming locally involved, here are a few examples. This weekend, I ran a Fantasy Writing Workshop at Tubby and Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop in New Orleans, with author Kimberly Richardson. Before that there was Geek Fest at the New Orleans Public Library in July, NOLA Time Fest in June, the Independent Bookstore Day events at Tubby & Coo’s in May, and contributing to New Orleans’s first Cherry Blossom Festival hosted by Kawaii NOLA in April.

The next few weeks will be even more intense. I’ll be releasing the Second Edition of The Butterfly Crest, just in time for a three week extravaganza of local (New Orleans) events! (Scroll down to the end of the post for event dates and times). For a while now, I’ve been considering making several aesthetic changes to the cover and book design of the paperback, and I figured there’s no better time than now! So, I shelved Book Two for several weeks to make the necessary updates. Fear not, there have been no substantive changes to the contents of the story (not even to those parts where I might have been somewhat overzealous with my descriptions)!

So, what’s going on with Book Two? Glad you asked! I’ve started over. I’ve ‘destroyed’ my work. What do I mean by that? Exactly as scary as it sounds! Back in April I mentioned going ‘back to basics’. Things had been paralyzed for quite some time and I kept hitting a wall. What I had no idea then was how far I would have to go to change things!

After a year of trying to force things (and denying there was a problem to begin with), I ended up having to pitch it all and start over. It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but I’m glad I did it. I honestly didn’t have any other choice. I wasn’t happy with what I had of Book Two.  I knew exactly what was wrong with it, but I was too scared to do anything about it; the problem was systematic and if I addressed it, I’d have to destroy everything I’d taken so long to create. That’s why I’d been paralyzed for so long. Destroying everything after so much blood, sweat and tears—the idea of it was terrifying. I didn’t want to accept it.

So what was the problem? It was something simple (basic) in hindsight. I wasn’t writing for me. Not a single word of it sounded like me. My voice, as an author, was nowhere to be found. Once I realized that, destroying it was my only option. The second I pitched it all, the writing started to flow. In a single month I wrote what had taken me a year to write before. I’m happy to report that we’re back on track and stronger than ever! Yes, the release of Book Two will now be delayed, but I’d rather have a product that is my own and that I’m proud of. I want to write uncompromisingly for myself, fearlessly and without apologies.

UPCOMING LOCAL (NEW ORLEANS) EVENTS:
  • September 24Paranormal Con at the Jefferson Parish Library. I will be participating in two of their panels. Specific times to follow.
  • September 30 to October  2CONtraflow VI at the New Orleans Airport Hilton. CONtraflow is a Science Fiction & Fantasy literary convention with a New Orleans flair. I will be participating in several of their panels. Times and dates to follow.
  • October 8 – Japan Fest at the New Orleans Museum of Art. I will be signing and selling books from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Kawaii NOLA, who I work with often, will also be in attendance! Come by and say hello!

 

This post’s image is  “Sarusawa Pond” by Yoshida Hiroshi, a Japanese painter and woodblock printmaker who is known for his beautiful landscape prints. I chose this image because of how serene it is and how calm it makes me feel; the perfect sentiment as I move ahead. Calm and steady.

Advertisements

On rare moments of free time

cherryblossomsbynight
“Cherry Blossom in the Night” by Katsushika Oi (1800-1866)

Very rarely these days do I get a chunk of free time to dedicate exclusively to my writing. Even rarer still is the instance when that serendipitous chunk of free time is devoid of interruption. This morning was meant to be one of those rarest of rare moments. The planets magically aligned and for at least four hours I would have the house all to myself, without any pressing issues that spilled over from the week or housework looming over my head. It was the perfect opportunity.

After seeing the hubby off, I excitedly got down to business. I cleaned up my work space. Turned on the computer. Changed into more comfortable clothes. Prepared my tea. Opened the window shades for light (but not wide enough to be a distraction). Sat down. Found the file on the computer, opened it and began to read. (I usually reread the chapter I’m on before I start writing, if I’ve left it partway through).

Three paragraphs in, I found a little something I wanted to edit; a single (arguably insignificant) word. I’d read the passage plenty of times before without ever concerning myself with it, but for some reason today my brain got stuck on that one word. I changed it back and forth several times, read it out loud once or twice, and then went ahead and committed (after all, I needed to get through another 4,952 words before I could pick up my writing where I left off).

Moving along, I read paragraph four without a problem (cue false sense of security here). In paragraph five, my brain got stuck on comma placement; I decided to leave it alone. In paragraph seven, my sentences started to sound too wordy (a sure sign I was not in my right mind). In paragraph eight, I questioned a descriptor I had painstakingly considered and chosen before for the sake of my narrative voice. By the time I got halfway through paragraph nine (and my brain got stuck again, this time on using the proper name for an important place), I realized something was off (me) and decided it would be best to walk away.

In less than a half hour, my perfect opportunity had been squandered away.

Suffice to say, I’m just a little bit frustrated. Four hours of ideal solitude and I can’t write (I can’t even get past re-reading). Normally, I would advise sitting in front of the blank screen until the words come, but there are times when you can’t do that. I know that if I continue today, I’ll massacre the progress I’ve already made. So I decided to use the free time to write this post instead. Now that it’s done, I think I’m going to do a little gardening. The weather is cooperating (somewhat), and it’ll help clear my mind.

I might not have a rare chunk of free time later, but I’ll be fine with a little inspiration.

On the image for the post, it’s by Katsushika Oi, one of the few female woodblock ukiyo-e painters of the Edo Period. She was the daughter of the artist Katsushika Hokusai. Her identity, of course, is inspiring, but so is the image itself.  A large part of Book One takes place in Japan, and the feeling invoked by the painting reminds me of the setting.

On allotted time slots, unexpected attachments and disgruntled writing elves

H0027-L16038734
Jigoku dayū, Hell Courtesan, ukiyo-e print by Kawanabe Kyosai.

It’s been over two and a half years since the first time I sat down to write The Butterfly Crest. It took me five months to complete the manuscript, before I handed it off to my husband for slaughter editing (trust me, that first round of editing, while invaluable, was a thoroughly torturous experience).

Back then, I wasn’t keeping track of my daily word count or writing on strictly allotted slivers of time. I would prepare my tea (in three cup batches), settle into my comfortable little nook, and spend a minimum of eight hours letting the story tell itself. While hardly leisurely, the overall experience lacked any real element of stress (relatively speaking).

Not so, this time around.

Never mind the obsession with meeting my daily word count goals, the stress of having to stop mid-scene because my allotted writing time has ominously arrived, or conveniently forgetting that writing at night makes it absolutely impossible for me to fall asleep at a decent hour in order to be able to wake up the next morning for work. What surprised me today, a day I’m finally able to sit down and dedicate a full day of writing to, is my unexpected attachment to ritual.

Having happily decided this morning to be free of my usual two-hour, heavily constricted time slot, I started to set up shop for a fun-filled day of writing. That’s about the time my brain got in the way.

First, I couldn’t find my tea kettle (it took me a second to remember that it’s at the office), and apparently my mind can’t switch to ‘full-day writing mode’ unless I have three cups of hot tea waiting for me on the sidelines. Next, the writing elves in my brain went on strike because the chair I’m sitting in isn’t very comfortable (looks like they really liked my old writing nook, one I no longer have access to since I’ve moved). My old reference books are nowhere to be found (mind you, I don’t need them for today’s scene, and probably not for this book at all). The dining room table (which has taken the place of my old writing nook) has been deemed too empty and sub-par. The phone rings and I am compelled to answer it; even though I know it’s most likely going to be work related and will destroy any inspiration I might still have at this point. By the time I handle the phone call, Mr. Muse has officially left the building and the two-hour, heavily constricted time slots are beginning to look like pure gold.

That’s when I decided it would be best for everyone involved (disgruntled writing elves included) to switch gears and write this post. Now that reflection time is over (and trust me, seeing in black and white just how ridiculous I was being really helped), I can finally go back to today’s intended purpose (and preparing more tea).

If you’re wondering what the ukiyo-e print above has to do with this post, it’s the image I’ve had up on my browser for several days now, as I write the scene I’m working on.

On flights of fancy

Portrait_of_chino_Hyogo_seated_at_his_writing_desk
Portrait of chino Hyogo seated at his writing desk, by Katsushika Hokusai.

There are days when 700+ words come clearly and definitively, all within an hour. Then there are days when 140 words can take me a lifetime. Today belongs to the latter, but for the first time in a year and a half I find myself completely and happily immersed, once again, in the world of my own making.

The writing process has been a little different for me this time around. There isn’t as much structure as there was before. My outlines are looser, as are my ideas. I know where I need to start and where those pivotal stops in the journey must be, but I’m not as fixed on pre-planning as I used to be. That’s probably because Book One set the proper foundation and tone, and I simply find myself easing back into a familiar rhythm filled with friends I haven’t seen or spoken to in many, many months, but that doesn’t take away from the wonder of it.

And it’s those moments of wonder that makes me want to keep writing; that brings me back time and again to the arduous process of trying to give shape and meaning to the abstract. In the end, that’s what writing is—a way to explain, in finite terms, living, breathing ideas that are by definition infinite and intangible.

Neatly tucked within Chapter Ten of The Butterfly Crest you will find a flight of writer’s fancy, added on a whim without innuendo or forethought. A character spoke, the intangible took shape, and then the words made their way onto paper. I would have never guessed that those few words, which were not a part of any grand plan or carefully crafted scenario, would provide the key for the perfect beginning.

That, for me, is the wonder of writing.