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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Update

Research weekend!

Well, research + back resting + football watching + reading weekend.

I did all my primary outlaw biker research when I was in college and writing fanfiction, so I haven't had to do any extensive research in a while. It feels a little like being back in school, and it's also kind of exhilarating. In so many ways, I think I've learned more - and retained more - through writing research than I ever did in school. (Not totally true; college taught me how to run a business, and how to analyze literature; research has taught me about years past)

So anyway, I'm researching my next big novel, my NaNo project, and I'm dying to talk about it...but I can't. Not yet. I tend to overshare my WIPs, and I really don't want to do that this time. Which makes me feel really bad that I won't be blogging about my current project, but I also feel free to experience it without expectation. I'm having lots of fun with it. My fam looks at me like I'm insane when I tell them about it - it's a complicated story, y'all - but they're so willing to help and throw out suggestions, which is awesome.

My Sunday advice is: take some time to learn about who and what came before you. History is fascinating, and messy, and it gives you a whole new appreciation for the world we live in today.

I also wanted to say, quickly, that though I'm not working on a Dartmoor book right now, please don't hesitate to send me any questions or Friday fic prompts! We haven't seen the last of our motley crew. They'll be back after I get done writing about this new crew. :)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

American Gods, a Non-Review

First, let me preface this by saying that I don't write book reviews. That's not my place. When I blog about a book, it's meant as a way to recommend it and express my thoughts/feelings. I only blog about books that I really enjoy and would encourage others to read. So think of this as a non-review.

"I liked myths. They weren't adult stories and they weren't children's stories. They were better than that. They just were."
~Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

American Gods is a book about a lot of things, and in my mind, it reads as a myth about myths, which is a really clever way of telling the kind of story largely lost amid modern day writing.

Mythology is fascinating. No matter the culture of origin, it always boils down to a crazy, violent, sex-filled soap opera, starring a pantheon of extreme personalities, not stingy with their lust, wrath, or greediness. I'm mostly familiar with Greek, Roman, Norse, and Egyptian mythology, and the Norse and Egyptian feature heavily in the novel. It was a lot of fun figuring out who was who as the story went along. By the end, I'm convinced - SPOILER ALERT - that our hero, Shadow, was actually Baldr, though it's never strictly stated and I haven't bothered to research whether or not this is the case. It's my head-canon, shall we say.

Shadow is not a brash character - his name is very fitting. He's quiet, thoughtful, and takes things, crazy things, in stride with an unnatural calm. That's what I mean when I say it reads like a myth: the narrative text itself unfolds in the plain poetry of old mythic tales. The supernatural is not something marveled over, merely stated. The sky is blue, the wind is cold, and Odin has magical ravens. Right. Okay. The prose is highly evocative and descriptive, without being cluttered. Clever turns of phrases mixed with melancholy observations. Gaiman is a subtle, clever, undeniably English writer (I mean this in the best way possible), while managing to capture the American road-trip aesthetic wonderfully. Mythology reads as a statement of fact, and so does this novel.

For a frame of reference, I would liken it to the American Odyssey-inspired film O Brother Where Art Thou, that episode of Supernatural where the boys ended up at a roadside rec center that Loki and co. were using as a feast hall, and one of my personal favorite guilty pleasure TV gems, the New Zealand show The Almighty Johnsons.

Neil Gaiman's going on my list of Damn Fine Writers, a favorite for sure. I'd recommend even if you aren't sure mythology's your cuppa.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dispel the Myth

I just a few moments ago finished my latest read, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which I think I'll blog about later this week, after I've better composed my thoughts on it (long story short, you should read Gaiman if you like good, slightly-dark fiction; and also Michael Chabon, who provided the little review on the front cover of my copy of the novel and who wrote my favorite read of the year).

At the end of the book is a segment of bonus material from the 10th anniversary addition, and there are questions answered by Gaiman. I liked this one:

Are there any myths you would like to dispel?

And his answer(paraphrased):

I have my journal over at www.neilgaiman,com, and one of the reasons for having it, apart from the fact that it's incredibly useful to have an immediate plug-in to your readers, is that I used to turn up at signings and people would expect me to be characters that I'd created. Particularly the Sandman...[I] like the blog because it undercuts and dispels that. I don't think you can imagine somebody as a beautiful gothic figure if they've just written about clearing up cat vomit from the floor at three o'clock in the morning.

I don't think I've ever read a statement that so perfectly sums up (at least a part of) my blogging experience as a novelist. I'm not a lifestyle blogger, or a fashion blogger, or a food blogger, or even a book blogger. I'm not in the business of promoting, recommending, or experiencing anything for readers. I like to use my blog to add appendices onto my work, share my thoughts with readers, and hopefully share a little writing wisdom along the way. Basically, it's a catch-all for my brain overload, which makes it much less pretty and interesting than other kinds of blogs, but, well, it is what it is.

What it also is, at least in part, is a way to hopefully differentiate myself from my work a little. Shine a light on the not-so-glamorous writing life.

I'm often asked which of my characters is me. The answer: none of them. None of my books tell my own life story. I'm incredibly passionate about fiction, about its power and its proper application, but writing has never been about personal wish fulfillment. It's always been something I've felt called to do. What can I say: I like stories. I like reading them, and I like telling them, and I like to think I'm an empathetic writer who enjoys exploring alternating viewpoints and ideologies.  

One of the common misnomers, I think, is the idea that writing is somehow not work. Even though I love writing, and being a working writer is quite literally THE dream come true, it doesn't mean that it isn't also a whole heck of a lot of work. Think about that 20 page research paper due at the end of college course? Now make that a 400+ page essay, and do it over and over and over again. It's still the's just that, like all dreams, it's a lot of work. Somewhere between your early dreamer days and your day-to-day auther grind, you realize that it's so not the artistic awakening you anticipated, and is instead an office job, like so many others. Plus more sex and swearing. And I'm guilty of using my blog to say, "Hey, guys, I know you want the next book, and please bear with me, because I'm working really hard on it!" Ha - I do that a lot.

So, I'm feeling thankful for Gaiman's words on a day when my brain's felt sticky and progress has been slow. Sometimes reminding myself of the hard work part makes me feel less insufficient.

I mean, I love those Pinterest writing photos, but let's be real. Currently on my desk: Ibuprofen, three water bottles, sticky notepad, regular notepad, day planner, handful of Hershey's Kisses, pen/paper/junk holder, three bottles of nail polish, carbon monoxide detector (what??), and a tiny Captain America action figure. Not so glamourous, huh? And the thing is...that's OKAY. I never claim to be interesting; I only hope my books are.

Monday, September 19, 2016

#MusicMonday - 9/19

I'm sad to say that I didn't get any real writing done this weekend. My "allergies" of last week turned out to be some sort of cold/flu/who knows what, so I was pretty puny the last few days. I'm all medicated up and hoping to get some work done on Dear Heart today.

In any event, I managed to get some research and story-mapping done for my NaNo project, and I am just so excited about that one. Today, I'm listening to the album that has been such an inspiration and is more or less a soundtrack for the book...but I don't want to share it just yet. Not until we're somewhere close to release for this one.

So instead, you should totally check out these other two songs I've been listening to on repeat:

"Cool Girl" - Tove Lo

*Also, 'Bama is 3-0, so Roll Tide!!!

Monday, September 12, 2016

#MusicMonday - 9/12

You've probably heard this song - it's the one they're using in that Star Wars-heavy Starz promo. I heard it a few weeks ago and immediately had to go search the lyrics and download it. It's now a part of my general writing playlist. The video's kinda cool too.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Hangover Cure

My usual writing practice involves near-constant activity. The day after I release a book, I'm already a few thousand words into the next one, with plans for others waiting off to the side. Pushed by that sense that I'll never have time to write all the things I want to write. And not wanting to make readers wait longer than they have to.

But this time, with this book, I'm nursing a serious writing hangover. Part mental exhaustion, part physical exhaustion, part burnout. It's a lot of things. But after I released this one, the tank was on E, and I've got to take a second to decompress. My hangover cure is always: read a lot of killer books, listen to lots of music, go driving, watch movies, spend extra hours at the barn, set aside all thoughts of work and wait until the spark comes back.

It's actually good timing, because it gives me a chance to do all the in-depth research I need for my NaNoWriMo project. Back in the early spring I started working on something new, but didn't have time to really take it anywhere what with TLC and Loverboy in the works. I've got a little over 20k words done and a ton of notes on my tablet, lines, plot points, and alternate ideas stored up and waiting. In the last week, I've realized what started as a stray idea has worked itself into this expansive, century-spanning beast of a book. And I'm a little bit in love with it. And it's so different, and so sweet, and I'm just going, "Please write worth a damn and don't screw this up." A big cast, and big topics, and just...ugh. Why would I jump from one challenge to another? Glutton for punishment. But that's where my heart is right now, so I have to see it through, and just hope what I put on the page measures up to the mental image kicking around in my head. That's the most frustrating part of writing, you know: never measuring up to your own standards.

So that's what I'll be doing the rest of this year: going deep into lit fic territory and working on bettering my writing. To answer all the questions about Dartmoor: no, the series isn't over. There's more to come. I just need to feed my creative side for a little while. I'll still post related snippets for #FicPromptFridays and there are a few left-out moments from Loverboy I might eventually write. So no worries. And I think a lot of my readers will really enjoy what's coming up next :)

Happy Friday, all.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Playlist Part III - Final Set

The final set! Some that were always part of the lineup, and a few recent additions due to being perfect. (To the Anonymous commenter on the last post, "Masterpiece Theatre III" is THE song for this book. I love when a real-life favorite song can factor into a story...or perhaps it's the other way around.)