Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Doornail: Part 1

All I could do was stare at the approaching hoard.  I wanted to run, but I couldn't. 

No, like seriously.  I had totally stepped in something like cement or Gorilla Glue or something like that.  Anyway, yeah, it was bad, because they were all coming towards me and they stunk to high heaven and they were mad.

I told myself not to worry.  Kevin would come.


Chapter 1:  Typical

You know how it's possible to live in a town for like your whole life and never meet someone at your high school because that's the way life works?

That's my story.  I'm not a newcomer to Poketon, and it's not a small town.  I mean, it's not exactly Manhattan, but even if it were a small town, it would be pretty hard for a teenager to have met every single person in Poketon or for many of them to know me.  That's just the way stuff works. 

These sort of statistics or whatever they are meant that I didn't meet Kevin Foxe till like...11th grade.  I didn't know who he was, really, until the fateful day, through some deus ex machina or other, he conveniently and randomly sat beside me in English class.  The first thing I noticed was his scent.

Dang, it was awful. 

And it was like August too, right?  So the guy was wearing a knit cap pulled down over his ears and a long-sleeved hooded jacket, and chewing hard on some gum.  His fingers were so pale, almost like he'd been out in the cold.  His gaunt frame was awkward in the school desk, his lips looking a little chapped, and his face yellow like a fading bruise.

Yet for some odd reason, I couldn't take my eyes off him.  He turned to me.

"Hi."  That was all he needed to say.  His voice was kind, but his breath smelled strongly of...I'm not sure what, but it was bad.  I held my breath.

"Hi," I said back. 

The chemistry was electrifying.  He turned back to the front of the room, and I knew I'd found my destiny.


Okay, that's Part 1 of Doornail for now...stay tuned for more.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Here's Some Nice Pics While I Get the Next Post Ready...

Okay, so in addition to being a writer, I also make jewelry.  Because of this past week being so busy, I haven't been able to get a good post ready yet.  So what I'm going to do is let yall look at some pictures from my Etsy shop.  Maybe you'll find something you like, or a gift for someone...after all, Christmas is right around the corner.  Enjoy!

 I'm a fan of the good Doctor, so for some reason, these earrings were inspired by that show.  Not sure why, but do indeed love blue...

Another piece inspired by space and travels therein...

And who doesn't love the iconic colors of Christmas?

 A formal take on the mushroom...
 A little lava, but pearls and shells keep things cool...
 This pendant's color depends on the background it rests against...
 I like green, I like copper...and no, that's not a reference to money...
 Some more Christmas...
And more Christmas...
 And a little more!
 The original piece that inspired the mushroom lamp...
 This one feels so...like vacation.
Perfect for the little flower girl in your life. 

These are just a few of the pieces that I have available.  The shop has the same name as this blog.  Click right here to visit the shop at Etsy.com  I hope you enjoy the pieces I have and I hope you find something that you might want to get for someone else or treat yourself to.  Thanks!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coming soon...Doornail: A Tale

It came, and life as we know it went on, with more caution than before.  Now humans live in harmony with the other kind, quietly putting up with the strange odors and the blank stares as these once horrific creatures become a part of society...but no one expected the quickly growing relationship between human and...


Join me for this epic romance thingy, presented serially and wordily (Dickens would be proud.)  Expect some good times to be had here at the Marsh Lantern.

And while you're at it, check out my Etsy store, The Marsh Lantern Shop, for some one of a kind jewelry just in time for the holidays! 

Thanks for stopping by today, and I'll see you soon with the first installment of Doornail.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Characters That Got on My Nerves

You know how sometimes there's just this one person (or several persons) who just get under your skin and don't want to leave?  Well, the same thing happens in every fiction medium.  The upside?  We get more to laugh at later.  When in doubt, spoof.

So here's my list of genuinely annoying characters (in no particular order.)

1.  Padme Amidala
So I've pretty much been a Star Wars fan since I was nine.  My favorite character will always be Obi-Wan Kenobi, the perpetually classy English gentleman who can wield a lightsaber like nobody's business, but Princess Leia is somewhere at the top of the favorites list.  I mean, she's cool.  She's calm, collected, has awesome aim, is ready to tell off any Empire official that she needs to, and marries Han Solo.  After all this epic amount of awesome...you tell me that Amidala is the mother of Princess Leia?

Yes, Padme did have pretty good aim, but she was annoying, partly because of the abrupt change in her nature.  She goes from being a strong teenager, and later a strong if grating grown woman, to being the almost picture perfect description of the infamous "delicate condition."  Now, it's true that pregnant women can get a little emotional, but...really?  Even as a Galactic Senator with attitude, her tendency to be a touch idealistic got old.  Fast.  Her dialogue started to sound a lot like "Make love, not war" and "Let's talk about this, we can work out something..." and "War is never the answer; Galactic hugs can solve it all!"  At least her offspring weren't afflicted in such a way.  Thank goodness.

2.  Jacob Black
Yep, I admit it.  I'm an intelligent adult who read and *gasp* liked Twilight.  Well, mostly.  There's some funny stuff in the books, some interesting characters (multi-dimensional secondary characters that are likable aren't common, especially in romance.  Nicely done.)  No, this is not an endorsement for Team Edward.  (Go old school; choose Team Barnabas.  Yay, Johnny Depp.)  Regardless of any criticism of anything else in the books, when I read them, Jacob got on my nerves the most.  From the second book onward (because he was like a cute little kid in the first book and movie; what's not to like, right?  Everyone likes the nice guy) all he does is whine and get PO'ed at, well, everything.  He's like one of those guys who just wants to pick a fight because he wants to be a big boy and hit someone.  When I read Breaking Dawn, I was a little disappointed that 1/3 of the book was spent in Jacob's point of view.  Here's a paraphrase.

"I was seething.  I just got like, really mad, man, so I brooded a while.  Then I hit something, ate a steak, and drove my car really fast, then followed that up with some more brooding, and I took my shirt off.  Then I stared at Bella some more, and got mad again 'cause she was having her husband's kid." 
One chapter, plus  1/3 of a novel, plus way too much of the above keeps this character from being likable, at least for me.

3.  Anakin Skywalker (Younger Version)
I think he married Padme because annoying people are generally attracted to each other.  Or something.  At any rate, more could have been done with this character, considering he later became Darth Vader (who was awesome.)  All Anakin does, after he grows out of his 9-year-old perkiness, is have a tortured soul.  Here's another paraphrase.

Yeah, definitely a weak beginning for the baddest dad in the galaxy.

4.  Wesley Crusher
Need I say more?

5.  Christine Daae
"There's a voice in my wall teaching me how to sing.  Huh.  Must be the ghost of my dad.  I think I'll follow him into the mirror just to make sure."  This chick gets in my nerves.  When she and the Phantom are singing the title piece as she's going down to his lair, I cringe when she sings, not because of her voice, but because she gets on my nerves.  (Mostly I laugh, though.  That song has 80s guitar riffs.  I think I'll definitely just go see Wicked on Broadway.)   It would be one thing if the Phantom was a nice guy with some dermatological issues, but he's not.  He's a controlling pervert who will kill anyone he wants to get his way, and she still takes the whole story to decide between Raoul and the Phantom.  I like most of the music in the movie, though (never seen the actual stage musical, but yes, I am aware that there are differences.)  In the end, I want to tell poor Raoul to run away, because he could have done so much better.

 6.  Arya and Company
 I am a fan of Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle.  Yeah, there are some things in there that ring a little familiar (as a fan of both Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, they're a little obvious), but I am willing to overlook this because I like the characters and the story's well written.  Arya, though, and all of the other elves, just feel vaguely like the time I got chiggers in my legs when I was 11.  This girl, and her people, are too perfect and just a little out there for my taste.  Like literally out there.  Despite being immortal and probably being witness to the events that led to the formation of the Empire, many of them don't seem to have a clue as to what's going on in the rest of the world until the second book and seem happy to just make flowers grow and craft magical dragon tattoos.  Seriously, they don't care until someone starts burning trees.

7.  Lucy Westenra
Dracula is a great book.  As an epistolary novel, it draws the reader in because we're just as clueless as the characters as to what's going on, though there's a skillful bit of foreshadowing.  Good story, but Lucy really got to me.  She is a helpless character who I think could have been more.  (Sorry Bram.)  For crying out loud, the girl has to pick from three different potential fiances.  And she catches the eye of Vlad the Impaler.  Seriously?

I feel that she could have either been a stronger character or a nonexistent one.  Most adaptations of Dracula omit either her or Mina (or someone just falls in love with the Impaler himself.)  The latter is the better character, in my opinion.  She's smart, helpful, and strong and actually helps the guys find the offending vampire instead of sticking around her house and whining and fainting and stuff.  Granted, it's not like they know the source of Lucy's anemia in the beginning, but still.  I'm not going to re-write the book, though.  Lucy's fun to ridicule. 

8.  Estella
I can't let up on Feather.  Estella is a Mary Sue who is perfect, pretty, and, alas, a Chosen One.  She admires herself in the mirror, wonders why others aren't admitting that she's better looking, and pretty much hates on her peers because they supposedly don't like her due to her astounding good looks.  I found myself rolling my eyes at most of what she said.  She needed a lot of work that the author was not willing to put into her, and the books suffer because she's the main character.

So why this borderline hostile post?  I'm not trying to be hostile; I'm just showing you some things that you might want to keep out of your writing.  All characters deserve the work it takes to flesh them out, and your audience expects the same from you, and that's your responsibility as a writer:  to show your readers a good time.

Now just imagine a Jacob, a Wesley, an Estella, and a Lucy all in the same book.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Should I?

After all, we've got enough stuff to entertain ourselves.  Homer, Poe, Austen, Twain/Clemens, Tolkien, Lewis, King, Meyer, Rowling, Stoker, Shelley, Stevenson, Paolini, Verne...seriously, let me take a moment and just ask y'all to give a hand to all these entertainers of the page.  Seriously, guys.  You're all great.

All right, back to what I was saying.  Why should I want to even try writing a book when there's a lot out there to read?  I mean, there's tons I could entertain myself with, lots of stories and epics and tales that I have spent hours with.  Really, why bother?  I mean, come on, we've got Harry Potter to entertain us, or Percy Jackson and his buddies (I've actually never read it...).  I ask again, why bother with my stories?  Been there, done that?  Really?

No, not really.

I realized when I was younger, when my stories were first taking shape, that it didn't seem as if my part of the world had its own little epic.  Central Europe, or Scandinavia, or Britain tend to get their fair share of the settings available for the type of fiction.  And yeah, they're beautiful, Britain especially.  But, after 24 years of being here, I'm in love with the East Coast of the United States, the Southern portion especially.  (When I was quite young, my concept of the country consisted of North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and Michigan and Iowa somewhere up in the great beyond of the North.)  Where I live, we don't have bayous; we have marshes that turn into sounds and then become the Atlantic.  There's just something rough and lovely and old about where I live.  Go west, and you'll venture into the Blue Ridge and Great Smokey Mountains, a place that always feels slightly haunted by the spirits of the Cherokee that once wandered there so long ago, some of whom remain to this day, living in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

North Carolina is a different sort of place to live, and I've always known this.  That same beautiful rawness that I've seen my whole life is the thing that inspires me, literally.  At one time, I was going to set my books in West Virginia, but I've only been there once, for my senior trip.  (Snowshoe Mountain is a gorgeous place to ski, by the way.)  What a mistake that would have been.  West Virginia is a beautiful place, and I know some cool people from there, but there's nothing in the world quite like hearing someone speak and knowing within the first three words they say that they probably have the same area code as you do.

Okay, so back to why bother.  I bother because I think it's only fair that we get our own chance, we here on the East coast.  I think it's because we have marshes.  You know those old marsh lights?  I think some have called them will 'o the wisp...those little lights that lead people deep into the marsh...those are stories my friend, just waiting to happen.  I'll follow one, all right.  Oh, but I promise...good stories always lead you back out to where you wanted to go in the first place.

But they rarely leave you the same.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Raven: A Book Review (the last for the Feather Book Series, I promise)

Okay, I finally finished reading the very last book in the Feather Book Series. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I finished, because reading these books was seriously work. So what's my take on it?

Raven picks up right as Guardian ends. (Spoiler: Edgar's back, just so we can clear stuff up.) Edgar and Estella are happy again, for a little while, until she finds out that she's the One (italicized just like that the whole book) and has to save the world, which is being destroyed because of pollution. Edgar, it turns out, likes violence (never indicated other than his eyes get really bright when something violent is about to happen or has happened.) This dying earth thing is the only conflict in the book. So Estella gives Edgar the ice queen treatment for way too long until they make up and look for her prophecy (it's a physical, tangible thing that has a personality and pretty lights.) Soon after, Edgar and Estella are intimate for the first time (they're married.) The next morning, Estella leaves, saves the world, and washes up on the shore of a lake, no longer immortal. She meets other humans who seem to worship her, including her foster mother, and then begins a marathon of throwing up a lot and getting weak despite eating lots of nutritious foods (berries and such. Yum.) She is taken back to a shelter and tries to cut her wrist open because she's still getting sick. (I've seriously never felt suicidal during a bout of stomach flu.) She finds out from someone that she's pregnant and only has morning sickness, then the book fasts forward about 81 years. Miraculously, she's lived to 100, having had a daughter and a granddaughter. Then she gets to go to Heaven, and a small ending page potentially alludes to future series about Estella's granddaughter Samantha (tortured, pained soul with special gifts. Oh joy.)

I'll be honest, I was a little bored by this book. The only conflict was Estella being mad at Edgar for a good half of the book. The angle of "humans have messed up the earth real bad" was a little...well...done. I felt myself being more annoyed by Estella than sympathetic. Towards the end of the book, she thinks something like "obviously she wasn't as worried about me as I was about her" (regarding a complete stranger). That's a big indication of someone who is self-absorbed. Even in this last book, Estella fails to be a likable character. I think she could have been, with more work and less deus ex machina, but the character is cheated of likability. Also, the logic breaks down at the end of the book. The events of the novel take place in 2010, when Estella is at a physical age of 18. Estella's child is born in early 2011. The last few pages feature a diary entry by Estella, dated 2091, in which Estella speaks of being in her true eighties in age. Truly, she'd be about 99, and her daughter would have to be 81 years old. Estella's daughter has a 10-year old child, meaning that Margriete (Estella's daughter) had a natural child at the age of 71. However, it is never indicated that Margriete is any older than maybe her thirties. Needless to say, I was a little confused.

Overall, Raven left me unsatisfied. I kept hoping that some character would redeem himself or herself, but the characters never changed. I'm finished reading this series, and I feel a little cheated out of what could have been a good story. At least my boyfriend and I had a good laugh at the phrase "cold sugary lips" that appears in the story.

I'll be back tomorrow with more. And I'll be working on my novel. Happy National Novel Writing Month!

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Almost Totally Forgot!

November is National Novel Writing Month.  Every year, seriously, I tell myself, "hey, I'm gonna get some good work done on my book.  Shoot, maybe I'll finish a first draft."  And guess what happens every year?

Pretty much I either just work, have homework (during college), and make cookies for Thanksgiving.

Okay, so what am I going to start today?  Besides vacuuming my kitchen and living room, I'll be committing to the first novel in the sequence I'm writing, for at least an hour each day.  I'm also going to be finishing up Raven, the third book in Abra Ebner's Feather Book Series.  Also, my regular work (copywriting) is picking up quite well, so that's exciting.  With that encouragement, I am going to dive into my work.

How, you may ask?

Pen and paper, my friends.  I write with Pilot gel pens in those black and white speckled notebooks.  Why such archaic methods?  I mean, I finally got a new shiny Dell Studio.  Why use an arguably slower way of writing?

Answer:  for me, it's a whole lot faster.

When I write something on a computer, and I am able to see print in front of me, my proofreading reflexes go nuts, and I edit everything I write that instant.  I type fast, but all the "must edit now!" feelings slow me way down.  (Seriously.  I find a typo in a paper or a book, it's like finding Waldo without even trying.  At least for me.)  Writing in my messy handwriting on a blank paper with lines is nice.  I don't have to edit it, unless I want to cross something out or add in a sentence in the margins.  I can make notes to myself for future reference when I'm copying the text into my computer.  This strange attachment to the speckled notebooks means that any purse I have must be able to hold a notebook in it.  (Yes, I do try the notebook/purse combination before buying.  Thank you for asking.)  The good news?  I've started a new notebook that is designed to be tacked onto (not literally) the notebook that contains what was originally the first part of my story. 

So that's what I'll definitely be doing this month.  If I finish by the end of the month, great.  If I don't, well then, I'll keep working at the same pace because I want to finish this project soon.  (It's been about nine years in the making.)  It has begun already, in the middle of nowhere, in a tiny village, with a rather strange occurrence.

How will you be spending National Novel Writing Month?  Feel free to discuss, and thanks for stopping by today!  Coming soon:  a review of the final installment in the Feather Book Series, the novel Raven.

Update:  I did write today, for about half an hour.  My wrist cramped, so I took a break.

I'm such a wimp.  But I did write. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Niche? Goodness, I Hope Not...

One of my most recent worries is that the novels I am working on are too much of something that fits only into a niche.  My dream is to be the next J.K. Rowling (I'm really only half joking...) and her books appeal and apply to all, even adults like me, despite the very young main characters in the Harry Potter series.  Imagine my surprise that, despite the always full shelves at Books-a-Million, speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, etc.) is a niche that not everyone can get into.  Honestly, I don't like the pure fantasy genre.  Maybe it's the astounding number of chosen ones, or maybe it's the vital-organ-exposing leather bikinis that female characters wear, but all the Tolkien (or Greek epic) clones out there really bug me.

Don't get me wrong, I like fantastical elements.  One of my favorite books is The Neverending Story.  (Not the movie...the book.)  I like it because it reads like a story book, but there's a little bit of scary, a little mystery here and there ("but that's another story and shall be told another time..."), and I love the characters.  I love the Harry Potter books.  I was recently thrilled to get the first two in hardcover for my 24th birthday.  They combine fantasy with a little mystery (yes, I did wonder endlessly about R.A.B.) and some comedy, with a touch of scary on top.  Add the characters that feel real and you've got a great story.  Concerning sci-fi, the jury's still out on that one.  My favorite movie is Star Wars, but that film doesn't really count as sci-fi (space opera is the applicable term.)  I enjoyed J.J. Abrams' take on Star Trek (the man knows how to mess with your head...), but it's also that the movie was just plain entertaining.  I occasionally indulge in some Next Generation, but that was a very character driven show (and Data is just like my boyfriend.  Awesome.)  I generally don't read or watch horror, but I enjoyed Sleepy Hollow, mostly because it's a fine mystery, an early CSI: NY, quite literally.  These particular stories do well because they can appeal to so many people for different reasons.

That's what I want to do with my books.  I'm gonna need encouragement in this area.  It's a fantasy mystery that combines the amazing locale of modern Eastern North Carolina, lacks the teenage romance that seems to be the norm these days, a mystery that has to be solved, and time running out for a world that resembles colonial America (seriously, tired of the all-too-common pseudo-Germany/France) with a little interesting machinery thrown in (think the Antikythera mechanism, and little to no steam.)  Will it work?  If I'm nitpicky enough, yeah, it'll work fine as long as I make it work.  As long as I can keep two teenage characters from turning into just another Edward and Bella couple clone (they're nothing like them.  Don't worry; I can't stand blatant copies.)  I'd like for anything I write to appeal to all audiences of all ages.  Wish me well, because I'm writing for everyone's enjoyment.  In fact, I'll keep my self accountable.  I'll post my progress daily, and y'all feel free to remind me or leave comments.  I love comments.  I welcome them.

Thanks for stopping by today, and tune in tomorrow for more!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What I Put Up With: Trends, Blocks, and The South

Okay, so I'm a writer.  I've pretty much subconsciously known that this was the case since I was a 9-year-old fan of The Babysitters Club and decided that I wanted to be the author of something.  Stories and the potential for such tend to, well, erupt out of the most random things and at the (sometimes) most inopportune moments.  I carry a small notebook and pen with me for such occasions.  I am currently working on a novel and facing those nagging doubts that afflict all writers.  The honest truth?  There's a lot to put up with.

A jaunt to the bookstore or a celebrity news column usually lets me know the trends in writing.  People like to hear a smart commentary on the days events, but they like to escape every so often.  Here's where the popular group comes in.  Vampires have been hot for a couple of years, for example.  Popular books often get made into popular movies or TV shows, which leads to more fans and higher book sales (principle of publishing:  subsidiary stuff sells books quite well.)  Okay, so what?  Well, that's where the doubt comes in.  I find myself wondering sometimes "Do I need to write the next Twilight or Southern Vampire Mysteries to get noticed?"  How do you get successful (which, be honest, all writers want) and still remain true to ourselves when the temptation is so great to sell out?

Oh yes, I've run into this problem.  See, my main character is female (like me.)  The main supporting character is male.  When I was writing him initially, he was not entirely human and had hazel gold eyes.  This character came about in the fall of 2002, so no, I did not copy Stephanie Meyer, nor would I because that would show a lack of integrity on my part.  No one besides myself and my boyfriend has read any of these early copies, and his eye color is not mentioned much at all.  Imagine my frustration when, even as my own work was unfinished, I find a published work that was the big thing and the male lead has golden eyes.  Is that anyone's fault?  Not really.  That eye color is common among nice fictional vampires (along with blue.  Yay blue and gold, my high school's colors.)  My frustration arose from the fact that a defining feature of a beloved character was now something that could bring about a charge of "you copied Twilight!" from anywhere.  I've learned that no character should be defined by looks, but still.  I mean, I have this character with this cool dynamic, and he's fleshed out and complex (and still not fully human) and oh. *sigh*  Really?  Fine. Then there's the "male and female best friend pair" thing.  Always liked it.  Can I use it?  Sure, but I have to watch the "teenage romance" issue as well.  It's been done over and over again, and it's nice, but not my favorite subject, at all.  Oh yeah, tortured good guy angels.  They're getting big in fiction, more I think than vampires and werewolves.  I'm not even gonna touch on that one, and I stay away from it when I write.

Writer's block is real, and it does happen to me.  There are times where I stare at a blank page, mentally saying either "Uhhhhhhhhhh..." or "Hmm, maybe I should read this book first, oh here's a spelling error, lemme change this, I should wash dishes, oops, I need to check my email, time to feed the dogs."  It honestly does help to write some stuff down, to think in text so to speak.  I also tend to use my boyfriend as a sounding board for ideas I'm not sure about, since he's technically a part of my audience.  If you're having issues with wondering "what happens next" then you're not alone, and eventually ideas will come to you if you're willing to think or not get distracted.

The South.  Oh boy, no pressure there.  I'm faced with the fictional counterpart of my home region all the time, and I wonder often how I can do it justice.  There are big differences geographically between even North and South Carolina.  My fiction, which is set in rural, Eastern North Carolina (born and raised, but not exactly West Philadelphia...) has to measure up to visions of magnolia trees, cotton, and that backwoods charm where everyone's a friend and every town's a speed trap.  Yeah, we have magnolias and cotton and definitely our fair share of speed traps, but we don't really live up to a stereotype here.  It's hard to know what to say, because the South is the fictional haven for vampires and other types of beings, and I feel some pressure, because people don't want to think of this region of the country as anything but nostalgically stagnant.  Do I want to change my work?  Of course not.  Regardless of where you're from, my upbringing was as normal as yours.  (Also, if you ever meet me, avoid trying to copy my accent in the middle of a sentence that I am speaking.  A)  You can't.  B)  It's rude to interrupt.  Yes, I have had this happen.)  Add all these different pressures together and try to have convincing characters with realistic actions and dialogue.  It's not easy, but you're not alone either. 

Oh yeah, and when my novel is famous, I'm totally making it a requirement that the producers of the movie provide someone who can coach a correct Eastern North Carolina accent.  Just sayin'.