This story has a long, complicated history which makes me especially pleased to see it finally find a home in Kzine.
A couple years ago (it may even be a few years ago now) I saw an anthology that was looking for horror stories set in the land of Oz and I thought, “Hmm, zombie munchkins. How awesome would that be?” Eventually, long past that particular anthology’s deadline had passed, I finished writing a story about zombies in the land of Oz.
Around that time I won a charity auction to have Jim C. Hines critique a short story. Guess which one I sent him? 🙂 Jim’s feedback was fantastic. Not only did it help make this story better, but it taught/showed me things that have improved my writing just in general.
I revised the hell out of “…Oh My!” and submitted it to a zombie short story contest. I placed (I think I got third? It’s been a while LOL) and was offered a spot in their upcoming anthology of zombie stories. I accepted.
Then, several months later the anthology fell through. Wheee!
I set to work looking for a new home for this story. Do you know how easy it is to place a zombie story set in Oz? Um. Not very. I collected a lot of fantastic personal rejections, including one that thanked me for giving them the opportunity to write the phrase ‘zombified munchkins’, but no acceptances. And then along came KZine.
I am proud to say that “…Oh My!” is included in their 4th issue which was published this weekend.
KZine is a magazine specifically meant for Kindles, so that’s the only way you can read it. If you have a Kindle and are interested in zombified munchkins you can check out all the details here –> KZine Issue #4
I feel like I’ve been talking about myself an awful lot this month, and you’re probably more than ready for a little break from all the ‘Me, me, me’ stuff So…
See that photo? I took it while I was at a retreat for writers a while back. I flatter myself that it could be considered inspiring, which is what makes it the perfect image to go with this blog. You see, I’m going to talk about other writers. Writers I find inspiring.
In trying to decide who to include on this list I found that really it wasn’t all about what these people wrote, or even how they wrote it (though they are all super freaking talented and often inspire sparks of envy in me). The main reason I picked these people to share as the writers who inspire me was because they are good people. They inspire me to want to be a better person, not just a better writer.
In no particular order, let me share introduce you to some of the people who inspire me.
Beth Cato: She’s probably going to blush when she reads this, and that’s part of why I love her so much, she doesn’t seem to know how awesome she is. One of the things I like the most about Beth is that she sets goals and then she reaches them. It sounds so simple, until you think about it. It doesn’t matter what distractions, what obstacles, what things come up to try and make her stray from her path she doesn’t. She’s human, so I’m sure she’s missed deadlines on occasion, but it’s not for lack of trying.
I really got to know Beth after I published her story The Pacifier (which is freaking awesome, and you need to read it. Now. Go ahead, I’ll wait) and she’s become one of my dearest friends even though we’ve never met in person. Yet. I really can’t emphasize enough how inspiring and motivating it is to watch her pursuing her goals and accomplishing them, one by one.
Carrie Jones: Carrie is nice. No, she’s not nice in that that sugar-coated fake way that so many people are, she is honestly and sincerely nice. Carrie is the kind of person who will (and does) go out of her way to help a stranger. She’s got one of the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve ever *met* and also has an ability to really evoke emotion in her readers without slipping into the realm of melodrama — I suspect the two are related. She’s goofy, and fun, and, did I mention nice? One day I’m going to meet her in like, three dimensions, and that will be a good day. A very good day.
Jim Hines: Jim. What can I say about Jim? He makes me laugh and he makes me think — often both at the same time. I respect his no-nonsense straight talk about controversial issues, his ability to listen to other people’s opinions and respond thoughtfully, and his willingness to pose like women off book covers. He donates his time to charity auctions (and know from experience his critiques are incredibly valuable) and when Danica (a few years ago) sent him a piece of fan art for one of his goblin books, it made her month that he took time to send a personal reply. In my opinion he is made of win.
Kyle Kassidy: I know Kyle more for his photography than his fiction writing, but there is no question in my mind that he belongs on this list. I was introduced to Kyle through his blog on Livejournal, which is a complete adventure in itself. What I love the most about Kyle is how completely non-judgemental he is of people and the positive attitude he always seems to have. Also, he seems so. freaking. unselfish. It’s amazing. When I read his blogs or look at his pictures it almost always picks me up. When I grow up I want to be more like him. Truly. He once wrote ‘Make something beautiful’ and those words have stuck with me ever since. It’s how I’d like to live, making everyday into something special, and Kyle gave me that image, that ideal.
There are a great many other people I could have included, though, but this is only one blog post and I had to stop at some point. Maybe I’ll continue to expand on this list over the coming months as time allows.
Who would you have included that I missed? Why? Do they have a blog, or a book out, I’d like to get to know them if I don’t already 🙂
This blog post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge over the month of April and was brought to you by the letter O. If you come back tomorrow I’ll be talking a bit about Poetry. Also, don’t forget to check out Niteblade’s Fundraiser. We really do need your help, and we want to give you goodies for offering it 🙂
So, I just got back from a writing retreat at the Strawberry Creek Lodge. It was an interesting expirience, one I’m still processing. I’m not sure what the take home message is yet. I think it will either be ‘I need to ease up on myself a bit’ or else ‘I am not really a retreat person’. It might even be a combination of those two things.
This picture? I took it while I was there, as well as all the other pictures included in this post. The retreat was good for pictures, it was also good for birds. I love watching birds, listening to birds, photographing them, and I got to do all those things on the retreat as well. The pictures didn’t turn out so well for the most part, but like I told a friend what I expirience trumps what I capture on film. So yes, the birds were good.
The writing? Less good.
Well, perhaps that’s not fair. It wasn’t what I’d wanted though.
The retreat ran from Wednesday afternoon through to Sunday afternoon. That gave me three full days and two half days of writing. There is no television, no internet, no distractions. I thought this would be the perfect chance to pen the new first draft of SHADOWS. My plan was 5k words on the two half days and 10k words on each of the three full days. That’s a lot of writing but, I told myself, I know the story so it’s not like I will get blocked or anything. I’m mostly transcribing from my brain more than writing in any sort of creative way…
Um. Yeah. It’s funny the lies I can convince myself are true.
So I arrived at the cabin, all ready to go. Sure I was going to get the first 40,000 words on this draft done and then be able to finish writing the story in no time when I got home. I’m hoping for about 90,000 words on this draft, so in essence I was hoping to get half of it done while I was writing. Oh yes! A few days of intense writing and I’d be good to go!
The problems with this, as I’m sure you see even though I didn’t until I was right in the middle of everything, are many. One of the biggest ones I ran into right off the bat was that apparently some switch got flipped in my brain, and I suspect it came directly from the ‘I’m transcribing more than writing’ thought process. You see, pretty much everything I wrote while I was on retreat is remarkably dry and lacking any sort of personality or emotion. The current draft of Shadows (the one written pre-retreat) has loads and loads of personality, it needs to be re-drafted to fix plot problems and because if I just revised it to fix them I feel like the whole thing would begin to feel over-revised. Now, the draft I’m in the midst of has a stronger plot but lacks personality.
This is going to be a freaking nightmare to revise. I’m going to have to sort of try to merge the two drafts first and then revise. Wheee! Fun fun. In order to save my own sanity I am sorely tempted to start pulling descriptive passages from the pre-retreat draft and write them out in my new first draft. It will no longer be a ‘fresh’ draft if I do that, but it will have some flavor and since it seems that’s something I’ll end up doing in the first round of revision/merging, might be a timesaver. We’ll see, I guess.
Sadly, that problem wasn’t the biggest one I encountered on retreat. The biggest problem was my own brain.
As I write a novel I go through lots of stages, and I know I’m not alone. In fact, Jim Hines summed it up pretty much perfectly here. Usually while difficult it’s not impossible to work through those things, largely because they are spread out over time. However, I learned last weekend that if you compress the time you are taking to write the novel you also compress all the emotions that go with it. They don’t get weakened either, quite the contrary. By Friday night I was pretty sure I was wasting my time and money by going on retreat to write and by Saturday I was paralyzed. Certain I was a hack who didn’t have an original idea in her head and couldn’t write her way out of…well, take that cliche where ever you want. The point is, I was not writing. I was laying in my room staring at the ceiling, or calling home on the cell phone with the dying battery (no charger, whee!) just to hear Jo and Danica’s voice.
I relaxed my writing goals on Friday morning because I am writing this draft long hand and I didn’t want to cripple my hand. Plus, I was beginning to see the emotional price I was going to be paying for my ‘intensive writing’. Maybe I shouldn’t have, then I might have been able to push through the slump and start climbing back in love with the book, but maybe I also would have made myself feel even worse.
The end result is that I’m at about 20,000 words and I haven’t written a single word of fiction on that draft or anything else since I got home on Sunday. I’ve not even looked at it…though I have considered pros and cons of beginning the merge sooner rather than later. That has to count for something and I’ll take my victories where I can find them.
Despite how bad I made it sound, it wasn’t all bad, certainly. I met some new people, got some pretty nice photographs, ate a lot of fantastic food and had some wonderful non-writing expiriences. I listened to some great audio-stories (The Classic Tales Podcast) because though I made a point of not bringing any books with me in the midst of my writing paralysis I remembered I had some unlistened to ones on my ipod. I got 20,000 words done on my new first draft, and even if I think they are going to need a ridiculous amount of revision, those are 20,000 words I didn’t have before. So it wasn’t all bad and perhaps with this improved insight into myself future retreats would be better, but right now I’m left wondering if I’m really a retreat kind of person. I guess only time will tell…
Being a writer changes a lot of things in my life, including how I read a book. I can’t read the same way I could before I started writing ‘in earnest’ for lack of a better phrase. I judge books differently too. These days when I’m finished a book and it’s time for me to assess what I thought of it I tend to ask myself questions beyond ‘Did I like it?’. Did I enjoy my time spend within its pages? Was I able to suspend my disbelief throughout its entirety? Did it make me think? Was it well-written? Were the characters real? Did they grow?
In the case of The Mermaid’s Madness the answer to those questions, for the most part, was yes.
Okay, biases out on the table, I adore Jim C. Hines. I like him as a person, a blogger and a writer. Thus far I’ve enjoyed every novel of his that I’ve read and I’ve paid (via charity auction) for him to critique my work. That’s a double-edged thing though, really, because while it means while I was pre-disposed to like The Mermaid’s Madness, I also had high expectations that could easily have been disappointed.
They weren’t though. Yay!
The Mermaid’s Madness is the second in Jim’s princess books, the first being The Stepsister Scheme. I thought this was a great book and enjoyed it more than I did the first. It had a darker feeling to it than The Stepsister Scheme, which could well be one reason I liked it better, but I think there’s more to it than that.
The characters were very real, three dimensional beings who grew and developed over the course of the story. Jim built on what he’d started in the first book and made it even better. This is where I find it difficult to really make points without giving things away…so forgive my vagueness.
One of my favorite things about this novel is that actions had consequences. The consequences from the first book weren’t simply forgotten, they carried over and touched this one. Not heavily really (except in one case…man I suck at vagueness), but they were there — just like in real life. I can’t abide stories where everything works out well in the end and everyone lives happily ever with nothing changing except for the better, blah blah blah. That is great for children’s tales…I suppose…maybe…in pre-school…occasionally… /digression . Happily, Jim doesn’t do that. Bad things happen, and they can’t just be made better by waving a magic wand or kissing the prince. I like that.
That’s not to say I think this book was perfect. In a couple places in action scenes I got a little bit lost and had to read back to re-imagine the scene and exactly what was happening, and I struggled a bit with suspending my disbelief at how quickly some people recovered from…things (stupid vagueness). Occasionally people seemed to have supernatural endurance/recovery powers that didn’t fit with what I thought probable, that sort of thing. But I wasn’t bothered enough by those things to set down the book or even slow my reading.
On a pseudo-related note, no matter how hard I’ve tried (and I have tried) the Danielle in my mind doesn’t even come close to matching the Danielle on the cover. Not. Even. Close. I’ve given up on making the two match and I’m just going to enjoy how Danielle looks in my imagination.
Right, back on track.
The Mermaid’s Madness made me think, about lots of things. Stuff like reprecussions, character growth, real emotion and magic. Quite specifically about magic, magic systems and mechanics. I had a few revelations related to my own writing that was sparked by thoughts about The Mermaid’s Madness. This, as you can imagine, makes me happy.
I also enjoyed the ending, and the way Jim has started subtle mysteries in this novel I look forward to seeing how they develop in the next book…though waiting for it to come out may be painful. What do you suppose the chances are of my picking up an ARC of it before its release date?
After posting my last blog entry I sent an email to Ms. Fisher to make sure she’d actually received my story to critique. She hadn’t. I swear there are gremlins living in my email server. Seriously. *sigh* Anyway, the good news is I’ve sent her the first 100 pages and she says she’ll have it critiqued in good time for me to do rewrite Shadows on my retreat. Yay! This makes me very happy because I’m anxious to get it rewritten and in reader’s hands.
In other good news, my ARC of Jim C. Hines’ book The Mermaid’s Madness arrived today. *squee* I can’t wait to read it.
The only bad news I have is that I will have to wait to start reading it…because I need to write something for my critique group to, well, critique, on Monday. I’m out of un-critiqued stuff…seriously. That like, never happens to me. I’m thinking about doing the first chapter of See The Sky Again and sending that…just as soon as I figure out if my love interest is a man or a woman. Hmm…
S.G. Browne’s novel Breathers is about sentient zombies. Can you imagine being trapped in your body while it slowly rotted around you? That’s the reality for these creatures. It’s been described as a zom-rom-com (zombie romantic comedy) and is going to be made into a movie with Fox Searchlight. Pretty sweet. Intrigued? You can win an autographed copy just by leaving a comment on/in the Of Warmth, Of Dragons issue of Niteblade. Each comment will be considered an entry into the draw, and if you buy a .pdf copy that’s 5 entries. I’m making the draw on July 1st so you’ve plenty of time to wrack up (rack up?) some entries if you’re interested.
I’d also like to say a huge thank you to anyone who bought Sister Margaret through Fictionwise and rated it there. Sister Margaret is currently the highest rated title for my publisher at Fictionwise. That is very flattering and makes me incredibly happy. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Still working on the psuedo-secret project, though it’s reached the waiting stage. I’m hopeful there won’t be too much waiting involved, but I guess time will tell. The collaborative projects I’m working on are still a going concern – one more than the other. Soon I’ll be able to share a little bit about it, but not quite yet. Sorry LOL Also working on a fun horror short story that I think has a lot of potential…more about that when it’s done 🙂
In my non-writing life things are a bit crazy this week. It’s the last week of my daughter’s dance stuff leading up to her year-end recital. That combined with things like vet appointments (for the dog, not me :-p), hair appointments (grey roots just keep on coming back…) and an upcoming visit from my parents have been keeping me busy. Once this weekend is over though, so is dance for the year. That will be a huge relief and cause a large increase in writing time. Time I’ll have to use to finish up this Women in Literature course I’m struggling through for school. Whee!
I won an auction through Brenda Novak’s auction for diabetes reseach this year for a critique by Jim C. Hines. The critique is of one short story or the first chapter of a novel. I -adore- Jim’s work and think he’s just a pretty awesome guy all round so I’m really looking forward to this critique…the problem is, I can’t decide what to send him. His usual genre is fantasy so I could send him the first chapter of Shadows, which is about as polished as I can make it at this point. His feedback would possibly help me polish it further and hopefully help me place it with an agent, or I could send him the first draft of the aforementioned fun horror short story so his critique could help guide my revisions on it and help it get placed. But it’s horror, which isn’t his primary genre.
I have a new interview up at Niteblade. This one is with Jim C. Hines. He’s got a brand new book out today called “The Stepsister Scheme” that I think is going to be awesome. I’ve got my copy pre-ordered from Amazon and I can’t wait for it to arrive.
Anywho, you should head on over to the Niteblade News blog and check out the interview. Please? 🙂
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim C. Hines for Niteblade. We talked a bit about goblins and a lot about princesses. Why? Well, because his brand new novel The Stepsister Scheme just got released today 🙂 My copy was pre-ordered so I’m expecting it to arrive today with the mail 🙂
Please pop over to Niteblade News and take a look at the interview. Leave a comment in your wake, Jim and I would love to know you’ve been there and what you think.