Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Life Post (or: Babies are hard work, yo)

I have nothing to tell you this week. Nada. Zilch.

Okay, so I actually do have some ideas for blog posts, but one of them I promised not to post yet (long story, not really, but it's boring) and the other is just a vague idea until probably next week. Hopefully next week.

Which leaves me with nothing, which isn't all that horrible because I have everyday life to talk about, and this week I've been salivating for opportunities to talk about it, if only because misery (that's me) has a voracious appetite for company.

And all because I had a little cold.

No really, I had a 48-hour bug, and for, like, the first 24 of those hours I thought I was going to die. There I would be, curled up in a little ball, unmedicated (except for Tylenol--because baby--which wasn't really helping) and exhausted (because baby) and with a monster headache (oooh, can you guess why? oh that's right, because baby). Kind of like a little bug that curls in on itself as it's dying and dries out with its body in what appears to be a convulsion of pain. That's what I was feeling like.

Yes, I am a big baby.

In my defense, past history has convinced me that when I get sick I succumb to a week-long nightmare of fevers and gloom, which maybe means I only used to get sick if I got the flu, I don't know. Turns out I am capable of getting the only-2-day kind of sick as well. Whether that's because I'm more susceptible now that I am not sleeping any more or because somehow my immune system is better at eradicating colds once they show up now, who can say. I'm just happy that it didn't last long.

But I didn't know this on Monday in the middle of feeling like the whole world was swimming glassily in front of my eyes. Maybe I just get colds worse than other people do, or maybe I'm really that much of a wuss about illness. (Though to balance out, I'm a beast when it comes to pain.)

Anyway, here was where I faced what is probably a defining moment for all mothers. And this isn't the first time I've faced this sort of moment, but it was the most extreme. It was that moment when every single cell in my body wanted only one thing--to be completely and exclusively selfish. And instead I got up, picked up my son, and took care of him.

And I didn't even ask for a superhero cape.

Seriously though, rock on, moms. All babies have highs and lows. Some are harder than others, but I'm going to make a guess that at some point or another every baby is needy at the worst possible moment. And even though it's the last thing you want to do, you get up and do what's necessary.

And hey, on the flip side, sometimes the babies turn the cute factor up way high, and then it all kind of balances. Like just now. Just now my baby started singing and dancing to the beat of me shaking his rattle, and it was about the most adorable thing ever (until next week when he will do something even cuter and shatter all previous cuteness records).

So yeah, next time I'm sick and miserable, remind me that there is cuteness on its way.

Only don't do that, because I really am a big baby when it comes to being sick and I will probably just want to punch your face.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Voice and Tone

I'm working on a new project right now (unrelated to The Never Silent) and seeing how I feel about it. Unlike my most recent novels, it's got a dual POV. This isn't the first time I've written two main characters, but it's been long enough that I'm more aware of the individual voices.

Voice. Such a nebulous thing, but so important. A lot of people say they read for the voice. Or, in some cases, not read. An annoying voice can really get under the skin.

Voice is supposed to be unique to a character. It encompasses so much about that person--how they think, how they speak, how they look at the world.

And yet I keep noticing in some of the books I've read a lack of distinction between the individual voices. Surely the characters aren't identical in thought, speech and perspective. But they sound the same.

As I'm discovering, though, it's really hard not to make them sound the same.

For me voice is really easy to change from book to book. In The Never Silent, my main character Henry is a boy from the 1840s. He absolutely does not sound like a boy from today would sound. In my previous novel, the character was a girl from a post-apocalyptic future. Very different.

But I've realized that the voices I write depend not only on setting, but also very much on tone. Is the tone serious? Playful? Wry? Spooky? I don't know about other writers, but I'm finding that I have a specific default voice for each of those tones.

Well, that's great, right? Different tones means different voices.

Only in most cases the tone of a book should remain the same even when the voices change. And here's where I'm running into trouble. The tone of the new project is fun and lighthearted (which, by the way, is a huge departure from most of my other writing). I'm so very tempted to put both voices into my default for that tone.

But that's lazy. I have to concentrate on separating the two.

Will it work? We'll see. Personally I can tell the difference between them, but whether anyone else can remains to be seen.

How do you feel about voice and tone? Do they come naturally, or do you have to work on them?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday

It's Thursday, and in honor of "Throwback Thursday" I thought I might try out a new #tbt: an old writing sample instead of a picture.

Unfortunately it seems I have lost the very first story I ever wrote. (Or rather, attempted--it was never completed.) But I do have everything I wrote from my college Creative Writing class onward. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs from one of the short stories I wrote for that class:

She had flowers in her hair. I remember the first day I saw her--the flowers were what caught my eye. I wondered then as I do now where she might have gotten them. I’ve never seen flowers in this town, not even wildflowers. She could not have afforded to buy them, and I remember that they weren’t nice store flowers anyway. They were handpicked from the ground, and they were starting to fade...

She had flowers in her hair. I remember them. They were pale blue wildflowers, and I wondered where she had gotten them. They were starting to fade. I think that’s what I’ll always remember about them. They were pale blue, and they were starting to fade.

It's actually not as terrible as I was expecting considering how long ago I wrote it... seems like ages. I was a different person then (who wasn't somebody else ten years ago?), but I still recognize some of myself in the sentences, if not in the story itself.

Do any of you have early writing hiding in a drawer somewhere to pull out for #tbt?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Catch Up, Part 2

So in the last catch up post, I casually mentioned that there was more to tell regarding my writing. Today I finally get to share...

I HAVE AN AGENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D :D :D :D :D

It happened, you guys! It really happened!

I am officially represented by Marlene Stringer of Stringer Lit.

Ahem. Let me just repeat that since it's still sinking in for me. I have an agent!!!

Seriously, I keep grinning at odd moments throughout the day. I'm so so thrilled. Marlene is wonderful, and I'm really happy to join the Stringer Lit family.

So how did it happen? Well, recently I swapped query lists with my awesome CP Ico. Marlene was on Ico's list, so I decided to check her out. I liked everything I saw about her, so a few weeks ago, on a Thursday, I filled out her online query submission form. Within an hour or two she emailed me, asking for the whole manuscript of The Never Silent. That Sunday morning I woke up to a request for The Call, and let me tell you, I have never in my life been so happy to get an email! (Also, I was super impressed with her response time!)

We talked a couple days later on Tuesday. It was a lovely conversation--everything I had been hoping for, including the offer of rep at the end. I wanted to jump up and down and say yes right away, but I composed myself, took a few days to consider and then said yes to her that Thursday!

Now, my writing friends probably all know what having an agent means, but I know a lot of my other friends don't, so here's a little more on why this is a big deal:

In the "traditional publishing" model (often contrasted these days with the "self publishing" model, which for various reasons I didn't feel was right for me), many publishers require an author to approach them through an agent instead of submitting directly to their editors. The process of finding an agent can be long and difficult. It usually means sending agents a brief letter (called a query) telling them what your book is about in just a few paragraphs. Sometimes agents also ask for the first few pages (occasionally even the first few chapters) when considering whether they would like to read the whole book. And then often they will read the book but still say no to representing the author.

It's tough, but that's the business. Now I have an agent, though, and I get to move on to the next part of the process--a brief round of revisions and then submission to publishing houses.

So, in simple terms, having an agent does not mean:
-automatically having my book published
-automatically working with any particular publishing house

But it does mean:
-moving one step closer to publishing my book
-having someone who knows the business to approach editors on my behalf

So yes, it's a pretty huge thing for me!

And so my writing journey continues. Thank you to all of you who have been part of it so far. Now I'm so excited to discover what happens next!