Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Random Wednesday (5/30/12)

Random Wednesday is back. Once a week, I share some of my favorite sites, blogs and the like, that may more may not do with writing.  This week though, I'm going to have some writing related things to share, by highlighting some of the blogs posts I found helpful and informative during my recent long (and unplanned...) abstinence from blogging.


The World Crafter: Starting in the Right Place: Learn how my writer friend Katrina (Cat) take on an all too common problem for any writer, but especially for fantasy or non-plot centric writers.


Writer's First Aid: Quantity vs. Quality: Big Issue for Today’s Writer: If you need further convincing about what I feel is becoming a serious issue for unpublished writers today really isn't a "newbie rant thing" maybe what ICL instructor and established author Kristi Holl has to say might add more needed weight to the discussion.


Adreienn Kress, The Temp, The Actress, and The Writer: You Are Not A Fraud: One of my early mentors on the writer's path reiterates something we all struggle to embrace, but need to for our sanity if nothing else. We may not always agree, but our commitment to writing's same, it's worth checking out more on her blog, just be warned, she's more pragmatic and realist in her approach to writing than I am, and that's not a negative, just something to keep in mind.


Sometimes the best advice to the problem is presented in a "less than ideal" approach for our personality type, which in this case, is self-doubt.


Also, Here's My Wish List for Nonfiction and Reference Books I want this summer!


That's it for Random Wednesday. Next week, I'll share what's on my summer reading list this year, since I'm going to make reading more in general a high priority after a difficult start to 2012.



Musical Musings #3.5 (Cheer Up Edition #2)

While you wait for new posts later today, here's fun cheery video that hopefully will empower you to after sharing your struggles as we near the end of the first half of 2012. Enjoy-


video

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Take A Chance Tuesday - 4th Edition

After another long hiatus, Take A Chance Tuesday returns, and this week's writing challenge is to share one of the hardships from writing so far in 2012. Now before you think "Query Letters" and things that are strictly about getting published, STOP!


What I'm asking you to do instead, is to comment below about an aspect of the craft of writing that you need to improve, but it's hard for you, and no amount of being lectured about why it matters makes you any better at it, and I urge you to be really honest here.


For me, just finishing a story I start is my biggest problem this year especially, but this is an issue that's gotten worse in the last three years especially. Part of that is simply fear on my part. But it's not the only thing holding me back. 


Sometimes, it's just hard to find your next story after your last one doesn't succeed for whatever reason, and when you do find it, it's hard to keep the faith in it when it feels like no one "gets it" and no amount of being told to "analyze books in your genre" will resolve the problem, and possibly even make your inner critic run you into a despair that's hard to fight through.


As much as we writers preach about what we can and can't control, sometimes writers don't always feel  all that "in control" of what we can control, working at our craft. You can tell me how vital plotting and simplicity matter until your blue in the face, there's still a difference between understanding, and acting on that understanding, and for you more pragmatic writers out there, this is a struggle you need to understand, because while you might be spared similar frustration in a certain area, doesn't mean the writer you admire or workshop with can say the same.


So again, share a craft issue you know you have to work on this year, but don't tie it publishing, we can't force people to publish our writing, and not everyone can go the self-publishing route, this is about how to make peace with and find solace to our struggles at honing the craft of writing, sometimes solace in itself, is the solution to moving forward.


Send in your comments by Tuesday, June 5th, 2012.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Musical Musings #3 (Memorial Musings or Victoria's Playlist)






This week on Musical Musings, to honor Memorial Day in the U.S. (Or a Belated Victoria Day for you Canadian T.A.A. readers) I'll share some of my favorite songs that while not tied to any one country (or it's politics) they reflect the mixed universal feelings for this time of year.


For those we have lost to war, on or off the proverbial battlefield, military or otherwise, these songs are for you-


Goodbye My Friend (Linda Ronstadt featuring Aaron Neville - Cry Like a Rainstorm - Howl Like the Wind)


Melodies of Life (From FINAL FANTASY IX [Original Soundtrack])


It Was a Good Time (by Liza Minnelli - Liza With a "Z")


Your Heart Is As Black As Night (by Melody Gardot - My One and Only Thrill)


Songs for those who need hope in face of harsh reality-


Our Story So far (Preformed by Rachel York from Summer of '42 (Original Cast) [Soundtrack from the Musical])


Where Do I Go From Here? (The Carpenters - Love Songs)


It's Going To Take Some Time This Time (The Carpenters - Singles [1969-1981])


We've Only Just Begun (The Carpenters - Singles [1969-1981])


Finally, some songs to remind us of the joy in the world-


Return To Love [Jazz Version] (by Geila Zilkha from -Solty Rei Original Soundtrack Vol. 2-)


Together Again (by Janet Jackson - Together Again)


More Than Yesterday (by Mari Iijima - Gems)


That's it for Musical Musings this week. Until next time, take care, and have a safe holiday.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Birthday Tribute (A True Artist Who Taught Me A lesson I will Never Forget)

Today is my birthday, and as hard as I tried, I may not have any new posts up today, I'm trying to "Celebrate" and am still not feeling it yet, if I do update the blog further you'll be alerted via the new T.A.A. Twitter feed, which you can find here

Before I was using my Author Twitter feed, but it is more streamlined and less spammy to separate my Author Twitter feed and the one for T.A.A.

In the spirit of the "Random Acts of Kindness Blitz" that's going on other blogs today, I'd like to send special thanks to someone I've spent the last year working with on a project I wasn't ready to talk about, and while the plans for this project are delayed for various reasons (Lack of money sadly being one of them) she deserves my deepest, most sincere gratitude.

Illustrator Ellie Record

Aside from being a joy to work with, my experience with her will explain in part why T.A.A. was yet again "Going Dark" with no new posts.

Late last year I was seriously considering going the self-publishing route when lack of interest in my middle grade novel, and being unable to find my next story with agents left to try with it, it seemed my only option left, so I looked into finding ways to essentially launch my own indie press.

However, unlike some of my writer friends who took a more simple DIY approach, which can certainly work, as in their case, I personally saw the idea of going indie differently, not necessarily better, but different. I wanted my brand to look no less professional than the few, and thus hard to reach independent publishers that have survived past the early years of the recession and continue to thrive.

Unlike T.A.A.'s logo, which I've grown to love (Though not quite what I envisioned), its fine for a blog, but I need every aspect of my indie press, including the logo, to evoke three key things-


1. Professional (I don't shortchange what my best work deserves)

2. Playful (For the kinds of books I'd self-publish under this brand)

3. High Quality (Books from Candlewick Press and Dutton Children's Books is what I personally strive toward)

I spent much of last year, mostly through the summer, trying to find illustrators who could deliver the quality and style of illustration for a price I could actually afford, but even one drawing or sketch costs more money than I've ever had in my life, but then I found Ellie, and she was gracious enough to guide me through the basics of art direction, and even negotiate pricing.

Howeve
r, here's where the story take a shameful (On my part) turn...

I had agreed to a price that I felt I could pay at the time without too much difficulty, but I didn't budget like I should and delayed it for months after she delivered the art I needed for the logo, and this weighed heavy on my conscience for months, which caused me to be unfairly short with people. 

Especially the writers in my support circle, who I never told about any of this, they knew I wanted to go indie, but nothing about the mess I got myself into with commissioning art that while under $1000 USD, was something I shouldn't have done without having it at the time.

For the writers in my support network who I hurt during this time (You know who you are) I again apologize. 

 I've since resolved the payment issues, but the aftermath of my mishandling things caused tensions between my grandma (My stand-in parent) and me, to explode, and we were already on shaky ground with each other before this, but thankfully she got something out of Mother's Day, more than I can say.


After today, that's one thing I'd be okay with staying in neutral, for both our sanity's sake.

Now for those of you who might deservedly think, "Why go through with something you didn't have the money for right then?" and this is the only honest answer I can give-

I believe in my writing. 


As much as I still agonize over the process, nothing I've done up to now has been fake, and every time I come to the computer, I push myself hard, maybe too hard sometimes.


However, the more ambitious your goals, the more I feel you have to surpass your limits to achieve your dreams. 


Sometimes this turns me into a jerky tyrant, and I'm not proud of that, and what it did to my writer friends, but thankfully they know any rage is rarely ever about them.


Only the effort from sharpening my skills and not letting harshly conflicting critiques (However valid) stop me.


I didn't do this to get rich (But I do need/want to make some money, and there's a happy medium between earning pennies versus millions, that's all I say about that), I did this as a proactive declaration of what I'm able and willing to do, so I can finally open some doors, after years of being blocked by closed ones. 


But that blinded me to the logistics of my situation.

While for some of you, spending over $400 is not a big investment (Medical bills, home mortgages and car and student loans can go well beyond that), I took what for me, and my life at this point time, is a BIG risk. Not just in money or time, but putting absolute faith in reaching the readers who will give my way of storytelling a chance, and prove to myself that there are still readers who connect with what I write, and by building a large and vocal enough following, I might open doors that otherwise remained closed to me.

Long shot, I know, but it DOES happen.



Despite how negative I can unintentionally come across, I'm really an optimist, even when it looks naive, it's how I maintain even an ounce of sanity on the worst days. Today is thankfully not of those days. 

Generally speaking, despite some of the angst and touchiness about self-publishing going away, it's still not easy or affordable to do it right, especially if you want to achieve professional results. 


I honestly feel it's the only way to logically reach readers who might still be wary of books outside the big 6, or small publishers like Candlewick or Holiday House, who have proven their mettle from many years and successful authors in the business, and I'm not just theorizing here.


As a reader myself, with little money to my name, I too have to be selective, since many of the books I'm interested in are never available in my library network where I live, and I often have to buy much of what I read, including the market guides, my local library, even through inter-library loan only has editions of CWIM (Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market) that are two to five years old. That won't do in finding markets THIS YEAR, and for those of you T.A.A. readers who are writers like myself, know what I'm talking about. 


It's why I get a bit testy when people tell me to utalize my library more, but aside from working out ways to get to the library, they rarely have the books I want to check out, and with the slow pace I read and retain information, I'm better off buying the book myself, so I can take my time, especially in the case of craft books or market/reference guides.

Maybe if I lived in a more book-friendly city, with far less debt, this wouldn't be as hard a problem.

Anyway, I sadly have been tempted to pack it in the past three years especially. As much as I take no one's gratitude and support for granted, there's still a difference between what my writer friends like about my writing, and finding either agents or editors who feel the same way, not to mention the readers I'm trying to reach in the first place. 

Back to the main point, in short I finally paid her for the initial sketches, but asked her to hold off coloring the art until the summer when I can pay that upfront a lot sooner, and hopefully that'll be cheaper than the initial sketches were, but they were worth the money I paid, and once the coloring's done you can the results when my indie press launches later this or next year. 

Originally, I planned to launch my indie press this month. 
But delays with the aforementioned logo art; limited funds to aid in book covers and other needed art, and the editorial process needed to weed out sloppy writing, not to mention the books I'm working on are either not emotionally, or technically ready to bring out--I had to delay the launch until things improve.

Ellie, thanks for being so patient and understanding of me the past year. I never intended or meant for things drag out this long. This has more to do with my lack of self-discipline and desperation on my part. I promise things will be different from this point on. 

As someone who can't create art visually the way you can, you deserved more than we agreed on, and I'm truly sorry for any inconvenience my delays of payment caused you.

Writers, there are two lessons I hope you can learn from this story-
1. Patience (Duh!)

2, Just as important, be willing to take (reasonable for your life and finances) risks.

Until Next Time, this your literary rat signing off for today.