Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Post About Studying English Lit.

As many of you are aware already, I am opening up the floor to blog readers for them to ask me questions for which they would like to see me blog answers. Feel free to leave any questions of your own in the comments below, and I will add them to my list.

Do keep in mind that I do not presume to call myself an expert in any given field. I know a thing or two and have picked up another thing or three. So basically you're reading my opinions on these various topics, so take those opinions for what they are worth.

Now, on to today's post, which was inspired by this reader's request: "I would like to hear about how your journey as an author was influenced by becoming an English major."

 Like any good former English major, I know to begin a report with a thesis statement and go on from there to elaborate. So this is my thesis statement on this particular topic--My experience as an English Literature major had both everything and nothing to do with my journey as a novelist.

(Do note: I'm saying English Literature major, not just English major. There is a difference. I studied English Lit. specifically.)

I went into my English Literature degree with a slightly different mindset from that of my peers. In fact I do not know of a single other English Lit. student in any of the three colleges/universities I attended who shared it. Certainly not to the same level intensity. You see, I went into this degree with the mindset of becoming a novelist. This goal was my entire focus throughout my years of study; it influenced not only my approach to literature classes but also my approach to every other class I took.

As a novelist (and as a person!) I was relatively inexperienced when I set off to school. I had written a handful of manuscripts, which varied in their degrees of badness. I wasn't arrogant enough to think they were any better than they were. But I also knew what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to write. And I knew that a good writer is always taking in every experience, every educational opportunity . . . every moment. A good writer takes it all in, stores it all up, and lets it ruminate for years. Anything can become useful material down the road, even appallingly boring studies in macro-economics or algebra. That's not to say that everything will become useful; simply that everything can.

But the English literature major provides the most opportunity for literary growth. During hours of lectures and class reading and discussion, a student is thrown head-first into the great works which have survived throughout the ages. These are the authors who made it, not simply the popular authors of their day, no indeed! Many of them would have been considered completely washouts by their peers and publishers. But these are the authors who found something far deeper than popularity--they discovered universality. They discovered what it means to write lasting material that sticks in the minds of readers year after year after year. They discovered how to layer their work, how to open up and pour out their souls through the written word.

Much of their work is crude. Much of their work is deadly dull. Much of their work is obscure and difficult to ponder.

But it is all work that has lasted.

I wanted to learn about that lasting quality. I wanted to learn about universals and archetypes and what brings readers back for more, not just today but tomorrow, and next year, and next decade.

This is in no way to imply that I discovered the secret well of all literary insight. That I figured it all out, that I grasped the whole of the truth. This is in no way to imply that I think my work has (yet) achieved that same mark of timelessness.

My point is simply this: When I studied English literature, I studied the authors themselves. I learned what they did and much of how they did it. I learned that the truly lasting authors were those who were not afraid to be vulnerable. They put themselves into their work. Their narrative voices, their archetypal themes, their character depictions . . . ultimately, all of these things reflected the authors who wrote them.

I could not have become a novelist if I had not learned this truth. If I had not learned about authorial vulnerability. If I had not learned that having something to say in a work of fiction doesn't mean preaching a moral; having something to say in fiction means being real on the page.

My English literature studies were vital to my growth and development as a novelist. That being said, those same studies had absolutely nothing to do with me becoming a professional author. No degree can ever make that happen! That road took practice and study and hard work and networking. It continues to take practice and study and hard work and networking, not to mention a constant stream of production. There isn't a degree that covers all the work that I or any of the professional novelists of my acquaintance do.

But let me tell you, neither is there a degree that could have taught me more of what I truly needed to know. I would not trade those years of English literature study for crowns or kingdoms.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Short Question - Short Answer

A little while back, I invited all of you to ask me questions so that in the process of answering them I will find inspiration for blog posts. You are all awesome and have provided me with much fodder for future posts. Do keep asking questions in the comments as you think of them, and I will keep creating post-answers. This process is a direct way for me to know what is truly interesting to all of you!

Some of the questions asked, however, are not really things I can expand into a full length blog post. So I'm going to answer them here and there in this "Short Question - Short Answer" series.

The first question in this series is: "Could one of your secret projects be the elusive Goblin Son you mentioned quite a while back?"

To which I reply, WHAT? Did I really already give that title away??? Whoops. So much for the exciting future Title Reveal . . . lol.

But my answer is actually "No" for the present. Of all the various secret projects I have in the works at the moment, Goblin Son is not one of them. It may quite possibly be on the table in the next year or two, but that depends on a few other things in the writely schedule . . . such as what goes on with the current Super Secret projects!

But I will tell you a few interesting tidbits . . .

1. I wrote a rough draft for Goblin Son a year before I sold the manuscript for Heartless.

2. That version of it was called The King of Arpiar. But that title no longer fits with the series' brand.

3. It was the manuscript in which I first discovered Imraldera and Eanrin might have a . . . thing . . . going on. Who knew?

4. It was written as a prequel to a novella I wrote back in high school . . . which was titled Lord Aiven's Daughter.

5. Who were the three men with the same face pictured in that enigmatic painting referenced in Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Moonblood? Well, Goblin Son might just have the answer . . .

6. Diarmid appeared on the scene for the first time in that manuscript, though I'm not sure that will be the case when I sit down to write it "for real."

7. Guta the Beater (a character referenced in Starflower) made his first appearance in that manuscript as well, though he didn't have a name at the time. Again, not sure if he'll feature in the "real" version.

8. Khud the goblin, whose name gets dropped in Moonblood and Dragonwitch, also made a brief appearance in that old manuscript. But he never seems to get more than a bit part, poor guy.

9. Anahid featured prominently in that manuscript. While I'm not certain if Diarmid will or not, I'm pretty sure Anahid will keep her role, though it might be reduced.

10. Beana doesn't feature in that manuscript at all.

Iubdan's Beard! Now I wish this story was my current Super Secret project . . .

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pre-Order Time!

Hoorah! I am pleased to announce that Golden Daughter is now officially available for pre-order in the Kindle format!

The book itself still does not release until November 10, but if you pre-order any time in the next three months, you'll be set to receive your Kindle copy right on the release date. How cool is that?

If you'd like to help me spread the word, please take a moment to share the cool little graphic above on you facebook, Twitter, blog . . . any social media you like, really! I would very much appreciate it, as always.

All right, I must off . . . Rohan and I are going out for Belgian waffles this morning. What are your fun plans for the weekend?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Books I've been Reading This Summer

I've been having some fun with my summer reading this year. A number of the books I've read aren't things I can actually recommend, per se, but they've been interesting reads.

At an imp's recommendation, I read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Wow! Talk about a fascinating tale and told with such a unique voice and approach! Yes, it's a vampire novel. And it's like no vampire novel you have ever read! Well, I suppose it's somewhat similar to Dracula. Classically vampiric, if you will. I enjoyed Dracula when I read it a few years ago, but it definitely left me feeling a bit woozy. Blood always makes me light-headed, and you can't have a proper vampire novel without plenty of blood. Just a fact.

This book harkened back to Dracula, sometimes overtly. And it was a wonderful read as a result! No romantic-anti-hero-tortured love-interest vampires to be found in these pages. Absolutely not! (I feel about my vampires much the way I feel about my dragons--I find them more interesting when they're evil.)

I also read Beauty, by Sheri S. Tepper. Another one I am NOT recommending, at least not to younger, teenage readers. Some of you older readers might find it a compelling read, however. This author is truly talented and took me on a readerly ride such as I have never before experienced. Beauty is a retelling of many different fairy tales, but her handling of those tales was so unique and well-crafted, I can honestly say I've never encountered anything quite like it before. Some of her philosophy was inspiring, some of it truly heartbreaking (but then you're unlikely to agree with any author about everything, so I'm not complaining). But whether or not I agreed with the author, I found her intelligent, thoughtful, and engaging. I expect to read this book again.

Both of these books were first person, which is unusual for me. My favorite narrative voice is the omniscient narrative, and I tend to gravitate that direction for my pleasure reading. Not that I have anything against first person or first person present tense or third person, etc. They're just not my preference. But both of these were first person, and I very much enjoyed them.

Currently I am reading Jonathan Stroud's Buried Fire out loud to my Rohan. I had read it myself last spring and loved it, and it's just as good the second time around. It may be technically a children's book . . . but really, it's not. I would have been TERRIFIED by this book as a child! Also, there is a rather shocking amount of language, particularly in a book marketed for children. Nevertheless, it's a great read for YA . . . and for my husband and me. Stroud's take on dragons is totally unique.

I had read Stroud's Bartimaeous Trilogy several years ago . . . or rather the first book and a half in the Bartimaeous Trilogy. But I really wasn't a fan and thought, therefore, that I wasn't a Stroud fan. Turns out I was wrong. Not long ago I read Stroud's Heroes of the Valley, and it was SO GOOD. Probably my favorite of Stroud's work, and a book I do actually recommend to you. This one and Buried Fire are both omniscient narrative, and Stroud handles that narrative so beautifully! He really is a delight to read.

The Curse of Chalion is another book I have recently devoured . . . and another one, sadly, which I cannot officially recommend here, at least not to younger readers. Older (as in my age and up) women and men, however, might find it quite a fascinating read. My best friend recommend it to me, and while I wasn't certain I would like it based on the back cover write-up, I should not have doubted Erin. And, believe it or not, it's a third person narrative! I honestly do not tend to like the third person narrative and will often avoid a book written in that voice. (Again, nothing against it . . . just not suited to my palette.) But this one . . . well, I had read some Bujold before, and I knew she was good. I just hadn't realized how good until this book. Brilliant. I went out at once and bought my own copy, along with the sequel, Paladin of Souls (which is also a great read but not as great, in my opinion).

Would you believe that I write dragon books and yet I had, until recently, never read any Anne McCaffrey? Doesn't seem possible, does it? But my sister-in-law, Kristen, took that problem in hand and sent me her copy of Dragonsong, book 1 in the Harper Hall Trilogy. And I had to ask myself . . . why did it take me so long to get around to reading this??? It's a quick read, but full of dense and elegant world-building and a delightful take on dragons. Definitely a story I recommend to all of you, a timeless tale of young woman coming of age. Not an action-packed sort of story . . . but compelling in its own way. I think you all might really enjoy it.

Currently on my bedside table is an old, battered, paperback copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. I haven't read The Lord of the Rings since high school, and it has been quite an experience going back to it now--four years of English lit studies and seven novels later. My perspective on Tolkien and his work is very different from what it was at sixteen and seventeen. I think I was more awed by him then. I think I might appreciate him more now.

Rohan is reading The Two Towers. We decided to revisit Tolkien's work kind-of-together so we can talk about it along the way. He also hasn't read The Lord of the Rings since high school, and I can tell he is enjoying it tremendously! Last night we were discussing how every few pages the characters have to stop and sing a song or recite a poem. Rohan thought he might add some lines of his own . . . and this is what he invented on the spot:

There was a young man from Bath
Who strayed from the Mirkwood Path
He fell in with a spider
and attempted to fight her
But ended wrapped up in her wrath.

Probably not something Aragorn would quote. But Sam or Pippin might enjoy it! Either way, I think my husband is monstrously clever.

There have been other books this summer, but these were the fictional highlights . . . so far. We'll see what the rest of the summer might bring!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Another Doings at Rooglewood

Dear imps, I know I have neglected you (and this blog) rather terribly of late. It's been an even busier summer than I expected, and I just haven't had much of a brain left over for blogging, though I definitely think about blogging quite often! I need to get myself back into a regular blogging routine of some sort . . . probably should start thinking about that.

But rest assured, there are plenty of fun blogging events coming up, most exciting of which is the third annual Fan Fiction contest! Submissions are flowing in these days, and I am finding myself rather often distracted from work as I stop to read these stories. Wow, imps . . . your imaginations are so fantastic, I can hardly stand it! Really, these tales are just too much fun and often very inspiring to me. It's always interesting to see which themes and Goldstone Woodish elements appear most often in the Fanfic. Gives me an insight into what is most compelling and curious to all of you.

I'm looking forward to sharing these entries when the contest launches on September 1. Don't forget to send yours in!

The second round of galleys for Golden Daughter are now complete. That was a much more consuming task than I had even imagined (and I'd imagined it pretty consuming!). But I'm super-pleased with how the book is looking these days! A great deal of this galley-round was spent trimming out the excess fat--pet words and phrases, superfluous descriptions, etc. I discovered that, for some reason, I was fixated on the phrase "a little" in this book. EVERYTHING was described as "a little" this or "a little that." They smiled a little or startled a little or stepped forward a little or . . . you get the picture. Sometimes I used "a little" twice in the same sentence! Crazy how these kinds of writerly fixations will slip through even to this late stage in the editing process. But thank heaven it was caught, and the story should read "a little" more smoothly now . . .

Even with a firm hand and lots of trimming, the book is quite enormous, as you can see in the promotional image above. And it's very beautiful! I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love Julia Popova's work on this cover image. I expect the ARCS to arrive on my doorstep any day, which means I'll have the first place prize for the Fan Fiction contest all ready to go as soon as the winner is selected!

My Super Secret project is now complete, rewritten, relatively polished, and running through a light copy edit. Then it's off to my agent to see what she thinks of it! It's a great feeling to have it so far along, though I won't feel totally easy until I have it on Rachel's desk. My goal was to get it to her well before the end of August, and it's already August 13 . . . so we'll see what happens with that.

Now that those two major projects are out of the way--the galleys for Golden Daughter and the polished draft of Super Secret Project--I am, naturally, diving into a new novel. This is the novel I hope to release one year after Golden Daughter, though that might be a bit of a crunch. We'll see!

It's strange to me, beginning to develop and solidify the ideas for this project. This particular story is one I've been thinking on and mentally developing since (I think) my sophomore year of college. So not quite as old as the Starflower and Dragonwitch storylines, but still! As I'm putting it together, however, the shape of it is very different from what I had first imagined. Which is really no surprise--I've grown so much as a novelist since the days of this story's conception. Not to mention there are seven full novels plus two novellas already written in the series, all of which have to be taken into consideration.

So the solidifying version of the idea, as it is currently taking shape, is not really what I'd expected. And this was worrying me. But when my handsome husband got home from work, we had our after-work-tea together (as per tradition), and he asked me to tell him about it. Suddenly my tongue was pouring out all of these fantastic concepts, concepts which have been floating around formlessly in my head for so long, but which now have a foundation of plot and climax to rest upon. And I could see . . . it's good. I think it really is good. There is still a lot of development to pull it together, but I am starting to see the shape of it. And it's an exciting shape. Not what I expected, but good.

I always try to make my newest work significantly better than my last, at least in my mind. But it's always difficult when comparing the new wisps of a story outline to a polished manuscript to see how this will ever be possible! So we'll see.

Anyway, I'm rambling. All this to say, I'm excited to get started. I'm nervous and I'm dreading it as well. Beginning are always THE WORST for me. Not this stage of outlining and tying threads together. The actual OPENING CHAPTERS. So prayers are, as always, appreciated!

I cut my hair.

There, I said it.

Okay, this shouldn't be a doing, but it feels like a doing to me! I always have loooooong hair. Well, not like waist-length or anything. Definitely middle-of-the-back long, though. I've only ever cut it short once, and that was the year after Rohan and I got married. Even then, it wasn't really short, just a little longer than shoulder-length.

But I've done it again now, a little shorter than last time, with lots of layers. Don't get me wrong--I love long hair, and I totally intend to grow mine out again! I have very nice hair too, if I do say it myself. Not too thick, not too thin, with a nice amount of wave and body. When I'm soooooo busy like this, though, I just don't have the time I need to care for it and style it. And when it's shorter, like it is now, a bunch of natural curl shows itself, making it remarkably easy to style with a little scrunching gel! So I cut it. And give myself a start every time I catch a glimpse of myself in a reflection.

I've decided that I need a little push and impetus to keep myself blogging the way I really should. Thus, I am going to open up the floor to all of you. To provide me with interesting blog post topics, do please ask me questions in the comments below! Questions about writing, kitties, books, reading, or whatever you like. My tentative plan is to answer at least one question a week in a blog post for the next several weeks. Depending on how many questions you leave me, we might have to take a break during the two weeks the Fan Fiction contest is running, but then we'll pick back up again!

Do please ask away. Writing-related questions in particular would be welcome, but I am game for other sorts as well! And we'll see if we can galvanize some life back into this blog.

Oh, and I'm posting about my summer reading on Friday, so don't miss that one! I also hope to get back into author features soon, though that may not happen until October . . .

What have your doings been lately? I'm sure many of you are getting ready to head back to school. Anything you're excited about for the end of summer?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Doings at Rooglewood at Last

Yes, this is a rather belated edition of the monthly Doings at Rooglewood blog post, but I do have a good excuse for my tardiness. Namely, I've been writing. Lots and lots of writing, which is bound to turn into lots and lots more.

"Of course," you'll say, "you are a novelist, so writing happens all the time, right?"

One would think. But looking back over this year's Doings at Rooglewood, how many months do you see me saying that I am doing almost nothing but writing? A few years ago, that would be the case, but life is just busier since starting Rooglewood Press.

Still, I have finally completed the major drafting what has turned into a much larger writing project than I first anticipated. And it's super secret still, so I can't talk about it much. But I will say I am thrilled with how it's coming together. It still needs a tweaking revision (as opposed to a full revision), and a copy edit (oh my! does it ever need a copy edit), but the book is pretty much itself now (if that makes sense to you).

It's a secret though. So I can't say much. Sorry! As soon as I can say more, I will. For now, however, all you need to know is that this has been my major doing.

This week, however, I am shifting gears had heading back into Golden Daughter work for a little while. It's galleys week (possibly two weeks). Which means I am reading over the typeset manuscript several times, searching for glitches, pet words, dropped words, typos, inconsistencies, and anything else potentially problematic that might catch my eye. Galleys are always a wee bit intimidating, but I must admit, this is probably the most intimidating one I have ever tackled . . . based entirely on sheer SIZE. This book is just so dragon-eaten big compared to my previous publications! Which means the potential for problems is increased by that much as well.

So I am reading the galleys backwards and forwards. Seriously, I am! I am reading it out loud to Rohan (with a pencil in hand to mark mistakes), and I am reading it silently and backwards to myself (also with a pencil). When I say backwards, I do mean I'm reading it last-chapter-first, second-to-last-chapter-second, etc. I'm not reading it literally backwards.

Thank the Lights Above, I also have two awesome proof readers and my copy editor checking for errors, so it's not as though the entire burden falls on my shoulders. Still, I'll be very glad when this stage is over!

 I'm getting excited for the Fan Fiction Contest these days! The first several submissions have already arrived in my inbox, and let me tell you, they are epic, dramatic, and tremendously fun. This year's contest may not be the biggest (though that remains to be seen!), but it will certainly contain the most fantastic submissions yet. I've had some fun designing the Title Banners to go along with each story as well. This year's banners are, I think, much prettier than last year's, and should compliment each story very well. Looking forward to showing you in September!

If you are interested in participating in this year's fan fiction contest, the rules (and prizes!) are detailed here. It is a totally fun and friendly contest, so don't feel shy! If you have a story to share, we are eager to read it.

The Five Enchanted Roses contest is definitely a subject of interest around Rooglewood these days. Submission forms are starting to arrive, containing intriguing titles which leave me eagerly guessing as to what the stories themselves might be about. I don't anticipate the stories themselves will start showing up until next month or the month after (authors do have to find the time to actually write, after all), but in the meanwhile, I sometimes will catch a snippet, excerpt, or hint on Facebook or the various blogs I (sporadically) read.

Are YOU planning on participating? Want to share your working title and a one-or-two sentence plot notion? We would all be delighted to hear!

Draven's Light, my 2015 novella, is also moving along in its various stages of development. Well, actually, no . . . It's kind of just sitting at the moment, waiting for me to have a chance to look it over again, poor story. But Rohan read it over this last week! Actually, he painted two bathrooms and part of our living room over this last week, but during the evenings, he read Draven's Light, staying up until 2 morning three nights running because he wanted to see how it would turn out--which, while not a smart move health-wise, was completely flattering!

 Over this weekend, I received a couple of exciting concept sketches from animator M. J. Morgan, who is creating a musical animatic based on Heartless and this song from the Goldstone Wood music contest. And Iubdan's Beard, are these sketches ever darling! I absolutely love all of them, particularly her character sketch for Princess Una, which is, in my opinion, completely perfect. I look forward to sharing this wonderful project with all of you . . . 

And the last doing of note . . . I am gearing up to start writing my next major novel in another few weeks. This will be my official 2015 novel, the book that follows chronologically after Golden Daughter. I am both very eager and tremendously nervous about this one. Technically, this is a story I've been planning to write for a good six years or more. But really, so many of the ideas (and my own writing abilities) have changed since its conception, I don't quite know what to expect from it. Also, conception is not the same as plot, and the plot itself is still a bit hazy in my head, I won't lie. So we'll see what happens! Once I get it well and truly started, I'll let you imps know the title, but for now, I'm keeping it all pretty hush-hush.

Here's some fluffiness to delight your heart:
Herein you see pictured Minerva, Marmaduke, Monster, Magrat, and Mutti. The only one of our kitty kindle not pictured is Makoose, who was grooming my elbow at the moment I knelt to take this picture, and therefore was unable to model himself. And isn't Mutti looking so relaxed these days? Every day, I see her making greater strides toward honest-to-goodness housecat-dom. She used to hide behind the piano most of the day and evening, but now she spends most of her day on the ottoman, and most of her evenings (after Rohan comes home . . . everyone loves Rohan) out in the living room with us. She even kept Rohan company while he painted!

It was just a year ago that I started seriously working with this feral kitty, wondering if I'd ever get her to let me touch her. How far she's come along!

All right, I can procrastinate no longer. The Golden Daughter galleys are waiting . . .

Tell me, what are your doings these days? Any great projects you're particularly excited about? Or summer trips, perhaps?

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Random Post About Chocolate

So my husband has quite a number of random little habits and quirks--as most people do, to be sure. But one of his randomest habits and quirks is (I kid you not) buying me chocolate.

He really loves to buy me chocolate. And not just any chocolate. I'm talking fancy gourmet chocolates from all over the world, all different flavors. Last week, we had some sort of Aztec chili-chocolate in the cupboard, along with a big bar of 70% cocoa Belgian chocolate, an almond-something from I don't remember where, an assortment of Ghiardelli sampler chocolates, and some great big bars from Trader Joes. And usually there are French truffles of some kind, which he keeps in the refrigerator because, according to him, cold French truffles make the best palate prep before . . . pizza. And curry too, I believe.

And let me clarify--while the French truffles are for all of us (everyone needs a proper palate prep before pizza and curry, right?), the rest of the chocolates are, by and large, for me. Oh, he'll snack on them a little here and there (and the bacon chocolate he bought a few months back were definitely his, though he kindly kept offering me bites). But most of them are mine.

Is he not every woman's dream?

But here comes the tragic part of this tale. You see . . . I'm not much a chocolate fiend. I mean, I like a little chocolate now and then (and some of you will remember a year ago when I went on a craze for Lindt's sea salt and caramel chocolate bars). But I really don't tend to crave chocolate that much or that often. Certainly not enough to keep up with his desire to buy it for me!

So we end up with stacks of chocolates in the cupboard. And my poor sweet husband will find a great deal or an awesome-looking flavor, purchase it, and come home only to find the last three bars he bought for me still stacked up and waiting. Which is always a little crushing to his kind and nurturing heart, I think.

Anyway, the point of this post is simply this: I adore that man. And this week was a rough writing week. And I found myself, in the midst of creative brainstorming and stress craving one thing . . .

You guessed it.

And we just happened to have PLENTY of it on hand, in all different flavors! As I am typing this post, I am happily munching on the last half of the 70% cocoa Belgian chocolate bar. I have successfully made it through a tough week, by the grace of God and the loving generosity of my handsome chocolatier in shining armor.

Life is lovely. And rather tasty right now.

(And I think we're having homemade pizza tonight--courtesy of Rohan, of course. I hope there are some French truffles still in the refrigerator so our palates will be properly prepped!)