Saturday, February 19, 2011

Things To Be Grateful For...

So, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, I blog most often when I'm writing, and since I'm not writing, I'm not really blogging. BUT. I just got some awesome news, and it inspired me to post. <3

And, since I love me some lists, I call this one:

Things to be Grateful For:

  • Rebecca Herbst being rehired at General Hospital! We're still waiting on final confirmation/official word, but it sounds as good as gold. WE WON, PEOPLE! The girl I grew up watching is saved! I am ecstatic. I'm practically in tears because I'm so happy.
  • Housekeepers - They came yesterday and cleaned up my apartment so now it's all sparkly and clean and beautiful. It looks gorgeous! I came home from work and I gasped. My hardwood floors gleamed. It was just stunning. They even polished my jewelry case!
  • Sam having a soul on Supernatural - Sam was never my favorite character by far, but in the first half of this latest season, he was soulless and he sucked. I wonder--often--if it was hard for the actor to literally not act for half of the season. It was terrible. But then they stuck Sam's soul back in him and the spark the show was lacking came back with an astounding force! It was beautiful. I have a new appreciation for Sam, and the Sam-and-Dean dynamic. Loves it!
  • Being able to eat - I finally got to eat McDonald's today for the first time in weeks after my ulcer. It was awesome. My stomach still hurts a bit, but nothing like it did before. I forgot how good fried food tastes!
  • Thinking you're going to get in trouble for something, and then not - I was sure I was going to get into trouble for something at work, and fretted about it for two days. Once it all came down to it, not only did I not get in trouble, I was helped instead!
  • Friends who make you laugh - I don't have a lot of friends, but the ones I do never cease to make me laugh. Hysterically. And I can trust them with anything. I love them to pieces. I'm lucky they're in my life.
  • Husbands/life partners/significant others - My husband worships the ground I walk on. That's not being conceited, he really does. And in turn, he is my whole life. I'm the luckiest woman alive! (Besides all of you who also have that!)
  • Pictures of your wedding day - My wedding pictures were terrible. I hate them. So my husband and I are searching (desperately) for a place where we can retake them. A friend I once had years ago had her wedding photos redone a year after her wedding at this place/studio/somewhere in California, where they had all these sets. It looked like the inside of a castle, but I guess it was just their backdrops. They had all these different, really scenic backgrounds. I keep trying to find the place, but I can't. What's important is that someday I WILL, and then we will have awesome wedding photos. Assuming I can still fit in my dress. ;)
  • Books - I have three bookshelves. Each has five rows, about two-three feet long and deep enough to hold two rows of books. They are almost completely filled, and I still have more boxes of books in the living room yet unpacked. And I want more books. And more bookshelves. And that makes me ridiculously happy.
  • Finding the perfect couch - I finally found the couch/living room set I want. It's going to cost us almost $10,000. I may keep looking, since that is REALLY EXPENSIVE, but it makes me happy to know I can actually find something I like after all that time I spent looking and not finding anything.
  • My smartphone - I love that thing. A handheld laptop, camera, book, and phone, all-in-one. It's a thing of beauty, isn't it?
Okay, my list is long, but I bet there are things I forgot. What's on your list?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How Fanfiction Writing Makes You Wonder What You're Doing Wrong

I'm a fanfic writer.

I'm proud of it, too, even though a lot of "real" writers shy away from admitting they are fanfic writers or have been in the past. It's not considered a "real" form of writing, and in the writing community is considered an almost taboo subject (sort of like self-publishing?).

But I am a proud fanfic writer. I've been writing fanfic since I was thirteen, possibly younger, even, and over the years attribute a lot of honing my craft to my fanfic. I will always, always thank fanfic for making me a better writer.

Lately my fanfic has been in the Vampire Diaries realm, which is fitting considering how much I love my LJ Smith and my Kevin Williamson. (I used to write Dawson's Creek fanfic back in the day--it was horrible. I was still learning back then.) But it's a nice outlet for me to explore my love of Damon and Elena and get some freedom from the grueling original writing trenches. I don't have to edit and re-edit my fanfic. I can just write it, edit it once, and go. It's a relief--a nice, easy outlet. I <3 fanfic writing. (And, of course, it helps me to show the writers, "Haha, I can totally do this better than you!")

An amazing thing about fanfic is how honest readers are. They are willing to tell you, point blank, if they dislike something. If they like something. You know, immediately, how well you're doing--or not doing--chapter-by-chapter.

I submit for your attention the latest story I posted on yesterday. It published at approximately 8:30 P.M. PST. By EOD on 2.15, it had received 1.12 thousand hits, and 172 visits. (You can think of it as page views vs. people.) Today I just checked and the story has received 1.67 thousand hits, and 275 visits.

The story has received 8 reviews.

As an author, this tells me something. Either I'm doing something wrong--i.e., people don't like my story--or people don't feel the need to comment because the story is complete.

From previous experience, I know these things:
  • The story lacks angst the fan base generally prefers. It was a nice, happy story, and written to be angst-less because I wrote it as a Christmas present.
  • The story lacks a plot. It's just a bunch of fluffy-happy-fun-times. Also not designed to engage readers and make them want more.
  • It is complete. No one feels the need to tell you it's good or to continue if it's complete. If I had posted chapter-by-chapter, would I have received more comments?
  • The most important stat is the last chapter compared to the first. On today's count, 384 people started the story today. 275 made it to chapter two. 273 have continued to the end. Most of the people starting are continuing the nine chapters to the end. (This is a good sign--it means people who made it past chapter one are sticking through it to the end. It's a 10k word story. It's not super long, but it's not super short, either.)
Things like this make me think about my original writing, and the direction it heads. A lot. Am I engaging my readers enough? Am I giving them enough of what they want? What else should I be doing differently? I think about all these things when I compare the number of readers to the number of reviews. Not because I'm so vain I feel the need to be constantly praised, but because I worry. What did I do wrong?

And so I wonder--has anyone else ever felt this way?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Open Letter to LJ Smith

Dear LJ Smith,

When I was about ten years old, you changed my life.

I had always enjoyed reading and loved books with a passion, and I had always crafted rather horribly-written short stories on my notebook paper during class. But when I was ten I was going through my sister's bookshelves (because she had all the good books) and discovered "The Vampire Diaries." I still remember the dark blue and black cover, and curiously turned the book over to take a peek at the back.

I instantly stole the entire series from her shelf and hid in my room for the rest of the day, listening to Ace of Base on my stereo as I read each and every page of the three-book series. (To this day, I still think of "The Vampire Diaries" whenever I hear any Ace of Base song, and I always remember how it felt to be sitting there curled up on my bed, caught up in the excitement and devouring every word of those books.)

I remember sobbing uncontrollably at the end of book three, when Elena dies, and cursing the author who had given me such an unhappy ending. But as soon as I stopped crying, I reopened book one and re-read my favorite parts, then moved onto book two and then book three.

I honestly can't tell you how many times I have read "The Vampire Diaries" books one through three. I lost count a long time ago. But I had memorized scenes. I pictured them so vividly in my mind I dreamed about them. Elena and Damon became ingrained in my heart and in my soul, shaping my character from that day forward.

Once I finished "The Vampire Diaries" I immediately went to my sister's room, searching for more books with the author LJ Smith on the spine. I begged my mother take me to the bookstore so I could find more. I still remember her hesitation at my "teen-book" purchases, but I was insistent. I had to read more from this magnificent author, who had made me feel a way I had never felt before. Who had opened my eyes to a world I had never dreamed existed. Who wrote in such a way I felt like I was there, living through each scene with the characters.

Over the next few years I read every book you ever published. I own every book you ever wrote, and I have read each of them at least three times. The trilogies I have read at least a dozen times. Each book, especially each trilogy, changed me. It made me see the world in a new way. It opened my mind to greater possibilities than what I had seen before. Even as I grew up, I was faithful to your books, always leaving a spot on my shelf for my "LJ Smith" collection. When my parents started making me trade in books, I never touched yours. I would never loan them to friends in fear they would not return them. And whenever I had a bad day or something was wrong, I would always go to my favorite books, find my favorite scenes, and read until I felt better. In total I have probably spent months curled up in front of my bookshelf, reading your books.

When I started trying to write real stories, not just the few pages on notebook paper, it was your books I looked to for inspiration. I had read your writing for so long and found it so ingrained in me as a person the words that flowed from my fingertips were all in your style. In your terms. My first stories were horrible, shameless rip offs of yours. I even fanfic'd a few of them, before fanfic was even a real thing on the internet. I was desperate for the stories of these characters I loved to continue on, even if I was the only one reading them.

Your writing was always something I tried to emulate--something I strove desperately to learn from and duplicate and make my own. I could never do it; I'm not as good as you. But your stories made me want to try. You made me want to be a better writer. To be a writer.

Even now, almost twenty years later, I still hold all those strains of your writing in my heart. I still think about Cassie and Adam's connection--their silver cord. I still love the bad boys like Gabriel and Damon and still prefer their character type over any other. I still tend to write (and read) books laced with fantasy. Because of you. Because your writing changed my life.

I am no longer at the age where a book can change my life or my personality the way it did back when I was reading your books--and I'm glad. I'm glad you were the one who was there when I was at that age. I'm glad it was your books I found. I'm glad I was able to experience your books at a time when I was learning to become a person, and incorporated pieces from all of your characters into who I am today.

I will never be able to express how much I appreciate you as an author, a mentor, or as a person. I'm just not as good of a writer as you. But someday I hope to meet you, and give you a hug, and tell you that you are as important to me and helped shape my life as much as my parents did.

I look forward to the next piece you unveil to share with the world. I know I'll be right there holding your book in my hand, ready to experience the next journey you take us on.

All my love and appreciation,


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review: The Guardian - Katie Klein

Yep, I finally did it! I FINALLY hit that TBR pile and read The Guardian! HA-HA! I posted the review on Amazon, so you can check it out there, too! But here, I present to you my review of "The Guardian" by Miss Katie Klein!

Title: The Guardian
Author: Katie Klein
Amazon Purchase Link:

About the writing:
Normally I don't love first person present tense writing, but I knew within the first few sentences I was going to love this story. Katie Klein has a knack for descriptions--for using the perfect word to describe what she's trying to convey without being overly wordy and still allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks.

About the characters:
Genesis is an amazingly strong heroine. She's sharp, smart, witty, and down-to-earth... no whiny "save me" girl here! She figures out quickly who Seth is and as the plot unfolds she's the one taking action and making decisions and figuring out what's happening to her. And Seth is a fun, protective, slightly jealous, perfect hero--and he's got a little bit of a wicked sense of humor that makes him even more enjoyable. I also particularly enjoyed Carter, Genesis' on-again, off-again boyfriend, who you can't help but love for his complete and utter devotion to Genesis. He's just an all-around nice guy. And Stu! How I loved the short-order cook who was always there with a cheerful smile and reassuring word. They're real characters with real problems, the type of people you'd want to call up on the phone and hang out with.

About the story (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)
Genesis lives a tough life with her mom. She's a hard-working girl holding a steady job just to help ends meet. After a car accident with her boyfriend Carter, she starts seeing this boy Seth everywhere--but Seth spontaneously appears and disappears. After Genesis connects the dots about the mysterious Seth (which she does rather quickly, because she's a smart one!), she quickly grows accustomed to his presence. And then Genesis starts having mysterious visions. Soon she's right in the middle of a war that has been going on since the dawn of time--a war Seth is desperate to keep her out of. Genesis continues putting her life at risk by willingly helping the Guardians, resulting in the explosive (literally) finale that will definitely leave you wanting more. I know I did...

My thoughts (which I did NOT post on Amazon, because I thought they were too spoilery):
Number one--loved it. Seriously loved that Genesis was not a whiny "save me" heroine. She was strong, determined, and very take-charge. She didn't sit there and stew for eight chapters about, "What is Seth? Why does he mysteriously disappear and reappear?" She was like, "You keep showing up when I'm in trouble... Other people can't see you... Are you my guardian angel?" And she has her moment of, "This can't be real." But she also accepts it, too. And not in a super fast way, in a realistic way. I mean, other people can't see the guy. It made sense.

And Seth?! GET ME ONE. Don't tell my husband. But he can hang out with me anytime. Loved his jealousy. SO CUTE. He was adorably jealous, in that perfect, "melt-your-heart" kind of way. Loved Seth. Really loved Seth. He was just awesome. He's kind of tongue-in-cheek humorous, and he's a romantic, too. There's a scene where they're laying in bed (and it's totally innocent, which I appreciate) and he sits up on his elbows when she sits up straight. Katie wrote that part so well, I could totally picture it, and it was damn adorable. DAMN. ADORABLE. I kind of hate you for how adorable that was, Katie.

Okay, but, I have to admit... I kind of kept expecting Seth to be evil, too. Not because he ever ACTED evil, but just because it was all so perfect. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. "It's gonna get bad... HERE." But then it didn't. So I was pretty relieved at the end of the day when Seth was NOT evil. PHEW.

And. Katie. Stu?!? HOW COULD YOU? /sob I seriously kept waiting for Seth to go back for him. They were supposed to open a restaurant together. HOW WILL THEY LIVE THE DREAM NOW, KATIE?! HOW?!?

There's this scene where Seth and Genesis dance (am I jumping too much? Sorry...) and it's so picture-perfect I wanted it to last forever. But it didn't, and I was sad. I was like, "ROMANCE! ACTION! GO, KATIE, GO!" But it ended, and it just left me agonizingly flipping the pages for more.

I did like Carter, though. I wanted Carter to get something in the end. I felt bad for him. He was good people. I hope he has a good life.

That was the thing about these characters. They were SO realistic I really felt like I could call them up on the phone and talk to them. I want to call them up on the phone and talk to them. I'm a little bummed I can't. They really felt like real people. A testament of Katie's awesome writing? I think so.

So--if you haven't already bought the book (and WHY NOT?) go get it. It's a light, easy read, a nice, sweet romance, and it's well done. You won't be sorry.

Ran Out of Steam...

So, after about a month of solid writing--and I mean, doing pretty much nothing but write--I think I've finally run out of steam.

I've gotten 2.5 books out of the deal (and 2 of them aren't bad!) so I'm not super unhappy about it. :) I'm a little bummed I'm worn out in the middle of a good part in the ".5" of the equation, but I've still got lots of time. (It's book three in The Quest of Dai series... and I still have to republish book one! I was just on a roll and wanted to keep it going.)

Now, I think, it's finally time to tackle that TBR list. Play WoW again. Possibly do a few chores. <3 After I sleep. I have LOADS of sleep to catch up on.

I just think it's finally time to recharge that "creative battery." Has anyone else ever felt that way? It's like, "FULL STEAM AHEAD!" and then it's like, "...and the battery just ran out." It's like watching your laptop's life slowly dwindle from 5% down to 4% down to 3% and finally it goes into sleep mode. The creative juices are in sleep mode now.

Ahhh... It was a good, good run. :) I got 40k words out of book three, anyway. It's just a horribly-written (and I do mean HORRIBLY WRITTEN) first draft, but what do you expect after working endlessly on two books start-to-finish? Nothing else is going to be great, right? I thought about taking a break, but when I take breaks, I destroy the creative rhythm.

Oh! And for all those wondering, my medicine is working beautifully on my ulcer. :) I'm feeling loads better. Still on a strictly milk-drinking diet, but feeling better nonetheless. And if you're looking to drop a few pounds, just Advil-overdose yourself into an ulcer. You'll drop five pounds LIKE THAT. ;)

Now, since it's only 8:30, I think it's time to hit that TBR pile... KATIE!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What I Would Do With More Hours in a Day...

Earlier today I was thinking, "Man. I wish I had more hours in the day."

A typical day for me starts at 6:00 A.M. I hit the "stop" button on my phone-alarm, then go back to sleep until 7:00 A.M. Then I wake up, force myself out of bed, hit the lights and grumble about how tired I am, and stumble into the bathroom to shower. (Yes, literally. Every morning. Unless I'm late. And then there's a lot of swearing and adrenaline pumping and running replacing the stumbling.)

Between 8:00 and 8:30 A.M. I leave for work. Arrive between 8:30 and 9:00 A.M. depending on the morning and how much sleep I got the night before. Then I turn on my computer and begin my day. For those curious, I'm a project manager.

Between 4:30 and 5:00 P.M. I leave work. I don't take a lunch break because I only eat once/day on weekdays, sometimes on weekends, so I leave after eight hours. Then I spend about 30-60 minutes on the freeway and finally get through the 17 miles of traffic.

I arrive home, and usually spend about 60 minutes catching up with my husband on our days. We exchange frequent text messages through the day, so we fill each other in on the outlines of the day we've notified each other about. For those keeping track, that puts the clock around 5:30 to 6:30. (Sometimes 7:00 if it's been a long day.)

Then we both pad into the computer room and sit down at our computers and begin our respective hobbies. Usually this means WoW (World of Warcraft) if we're playing together, and when I'm on a writing kick like I have been lately, for me it means writing and my husband it means programming and playing another one of his games with his friends. I also check my e-mail, my blog, my Livejournal, sometimes my Twitter, and often times Kindleboards just to see if there's a conversation I want to join in on. All the checking takes around another 30-45 minutes.

Time check? Around 7:00 to 7:30.

Then it's FINALLY time to open the Word document. To begin writing. To open that elusive portal into another world only inside my head.

But. I'm thinking about some e-mail I forgot to send at work. A project I'm working on. Some stupid comment I made that made me look like an idiot in front of a room full of people. So I can't really concentrate. The flow is wrong. (I still write anyway--you get into the groove eventually.)

Eventually around 10:00 P.M., sometimes midnight if we're really going, and sometimes 1:00 - 2:00 if we're REALLY on a roll, we'll stop to go to bed and watch TV and eat some food. Yes, you'll note I never mentioned eating anywhere in there. We have horrible eating habits. Then we fall asleep to start the daily grind all over again.

So today I was thinking to myself--what would I do if I had more time in the day? What would I do with extra hours? If I didn't work? And I actually Tweeted about it, but I thought I would post this and see if anyone else wanted to share their lists, too. <3

And so, I lovingly call this list...

What I Would Do With More Hours in a Day

  • Actually USE the Fluidity bar I wanted for over a year and finally purchased, because I seriously love ballet and miss it.
  • Make awesome, gourmet meals, because I actually really like to cook, and I'm sure my husband is tired of eating food from a can or a frozen pizza.
  • Play more WoW--I miss playing WoW. But when you have to choose between the creative streak and a video game, you have to choose the creative streak while you still have it.
  • Clean the apartment--it would be nice to actually clean the place myself instead of hiring a housekeeper. I think I'd get a lot more satisfaction in it.
  • Buy a couch, so we could actually have people over. (Okay, maybe this is a one-time thing, but man, we SERIOUSLY need a couch...)
  • Read more. I miss reading. I do. But there's never time for it.
  • Write more. I always have to stop, and I abhor stopping. It breaks the flow, and when you're going back to edit, you can totally tell where you started and stopped.
  • Stop by my husband's work--just to say hi and bring him lunch occasionally. Because I love him.
  • Organize my DVD collection. I have HUNDREDS of DVDs, and they're just in a mess on the shelves because I don't want to take the time to sort them together. Season Two Dawson's Creek is next to Season Five of the X-Files, squished between Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Castle: Season One.
  • Back up my computer files. 'cause you never know when that virus is gonna hit and wipe everything out... Just saying.
  • Study literature. Really study it, not just enjoy it.
  • Learn how to ride a horse. Because I think it would be cool. My husband warns me it would be painful.
  • Attempt to write like Rafael Sebatini. Then laugh at myself for failing so miserably. (Hey, at least I'm practical, right?)
  • Get my PMP (Project Manager's Certification) and MBA (Masters of Business). Not normal degrees for a writer, but I still want to be able to show them off to my kids some day and be like, "See? Mommy pursued her dream AND held a steady career. You will do the same."

So, it's not a comprehensive list by any means, but those were just things that popped into my head when I thought about it.

How about you? What would you do with more hours in the day?