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March 24, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Running is Hard

For the last few months I’ve been trying to run as part of my stay in shape/don’t stress out so darned much exercise regiment. Because it’s been winter, and cold, and we’ve gotten buckets of snow for most of that time, I’ve been running on the treadmill at my gym. Which is…okay. I listen to my music, and I watch some of the other people exercising. But it’s also boring. The scenery never changes, and without the constant succession of songs it feels like there’s no passage of time. Plus I’ve gotten a little burned out with people who choose, out of all the empty treadmills, the one next to me to slowly walk while sipping surprisingly strong-smelling coffee.

Tree_VinesOn few nice days, when the snow has been melting, and the temperature hops up a few degrees, I’ve given running outside a try. One thing I’ve found for certain, it’s more interesting than the gym. Sparrows cut you off, dogs bark in windows. Even embarrassing encounters with neighbors while you’re red-faced and wheezing are a little interesting. I stretch out my legs, I run steadily up a hill, and I feel a momentary sense of freedom.

But only momentary. The cooler air carves out my lungs, the hills burn my thighs, and there’s no handy cup holder for my water bottle, leaving no relief for a thirst that feels like someone toweled off the back of my throat and is now pinching it.

I can’t run for as long, or as far, before my lungs can’t take it, before my hammering heart screams at me to slow it down. I don’t like this bit. It feels too much like a backward step, a loss of the accomplishment I’ve felt as I worked my way up to longer and longer runs at the gym, and seeing it that way leaves me quite a bit depressed.

But maybe it’s just something new, something less safe and less easy, that gives me a new perspective, changes me, and hopefully — for my heart’s sake — makes me stronger.

March 18, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Books on My Spring To-Be-Read List

This is part of Top Ten Tuesday (yes, I know it’s Wednesday) on The Broke and the Bookish. This week: what books do I want to read this spring?

Men at Arms by Terry PratchettMen at Arms by Terry Pratchett. I’m reading Guards! Guards! right now, and I have read this book before, but I want to go through all the Watch books in order in my quest to finally read all of Sir Terry’s books.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett. Not a Discworld book! (I think?) But I’ve been meaning to grab it for a while.

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachman. I’m getting back into my middle grade story, so it’s time to read a bunch more middle grade books.

The Curse of the Blue Figurine by John Bellairs. More middle grade lit! This is an older one, but it was a favorite of my husband’s when he was a kid.

The Sculptor, graphic novel by Scott McCloudThe Copernicus Legacy: The Serpant’s Curse by Tony Abbott. I…should have read this one already, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud. I’ve got my library copy wasting away in my book basket.

Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link. Short stories! Yes! This should be good.

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis. A new adult novel that sounds really fascinating (a girl gets abandoned in a store by her mother). So long as it doesn’t get depressing at the end.

Cress and Fairest by Marissa Meyer. I’m putting them both in the same spot because I just, just started Cress.

That’s me! I might actually get to these ones? We’ll see.

What about you? What do you plan on reading?

March 13, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Goodbye, Sir Terry

I’m going to keep this short, because I’m not going to pretend I’m one of the Terry Pratchett fans who loved him for years, who owns most, if not all, of his books. I didn’t fall in love with him as a teenager, though I probably would have benefited from someone so brilliant. So, I’m surprised at how much news of his death made me hurt.

I never heard of him until about 3 1/2 years ago, when my writing mentor, Tony Abbott, suggested I read both The Wee Free Men and Men and Arms, maybe to see how a writer can seamlessly weave humor into a serious story (or seriousness into a humorous story), or maybe just to study how a master of fantasy crafts something inarguably good.

I kept meaning to read more of his books. I finished all of the Tiffany Aching series, I read The Color of Magic. The Hogfather and other Night Watch novels sit on my shelf, waiting for me to dive in. I’ve been wanting to learn more about Granny Weatherwax ever since she made her first appearance in Tiffany’s life. But I kept putting it off, because there are so many things to read, and Terry Pratchett has so many books — so many — without direct suggestions, it’s a little hard to know where to start.

So I put it off, and now I have a feeling like I ran out of time. It’s silly; Terry’s gone, but his books still exist, will always wait for the probably years it will take me to make my way through them all. But I missed out on knowing him, on fully appreciating him, while he still existed on the planet, so it feels a little bit to me like that grandfather or great uncle you always meant to get to know better, and then suddenly they’re not there anymore.

I’ll stop putting it off. There’s still so much to read, but his books are moving closer to the front, where they always should have been, and I’ll hope that some of the wit and insight, which really I’ve only caught a glimpse of so far, will rub off on me.

I didn’t know you well enough, Sir Terry, but I still miss you very much.

Bonus material: Terry Pratchett Quotes

March 12, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Book (and Cartoon) Thoughts: Teen Fantasy and Crystal Gems

Some varying thoughts on things I love that have been pinging in my head.

I’ve been reading a lot of great teen fantasy lately. I loved Cinder and it’s sequel Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, and I’m just waiting to finish up a couple other half-read things before I dive into the copy of Cress sitting tantalizingly in my Nook. The other day I finished Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, and I could hardly handle how much I enjoyed that (I’ll have a mini review of it, likely next week).

I went into a Books-a-Million for the first time yesterday, realizing that’s what took over a Borders I used to go to when I was in college. It partly reminded me how much I miss Borders, but also got me thrilled by how big of a graphic novel section they have (not to mention the area of just nerdy merchandise). It was a little messy, and a little sparse, but I’m hoping that’s just because it was the middle of the week and they were organizing.

As for cartoons, there was a big reveal episode of Gravity Falls, and now I just want to know when the next episode airs.

Steven Universe, Pearl, Rose's Scabbard

I need one of these hugs.

Cartoon Network has been playing Steven Universe episodes all week, though their way-too-early airtime means I have to wait a day, putting me a day behind. They’re drawing into the end of the season, which means the plot is getting heavy, but Rebecca Sugar and her team are revealing more and more about the characters, who they really are, and how the loss of Steven’s mother a long time ago affects them all differently. And oh man, the Pearl episode, Rose’s Scabbard? I need to watch that a hundred times. Basically I end each episode in a state of extreme emotion, so I may have a heart attack before this whole thing’s done. (I might need to write another big post on this show.)

Really, what an age to be an adult who loves books and cartoons made for children.

March 10, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Updates: March 2015 (#PitMad)

I did it! I finished the rough draft of my newest novel, which I think is a supernatural (not romance) New Adult. I think.

Crocus flower buds.jpg

By 4028mdk09 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

While I let it sit, I’m going back to my older novel, which predates the one I’m currently querying. I’ve been stewing on the comments my critique partner sent me, and now I think I see how I can fix things, bringing the aspects of the story that are unique more to the forefront. I’ll have to read through what I have first, to make sure I remember it right, and maybe I’ll see where thing can be altered or amped up as I go through.

On the querying front, I decided to take part in #PitMad, a day where you send your novel pitches on Twitter, and hope for favorites from agents. The whole thing is hosted by Brenda Drake, and the entire explanation can be found here on her blog. You can post twice an hour for 12 hours, and the pitches need to be slightly different so that Twitter will let you post them. I’ve gotten them all written, tweaked, and scheduled, which has actually left me pretty exhausted. It was fun, though, to figure out how to describe my novel so concisely. There are other authors who have found their agents through #PitMad, so hopefully something works out from this.

I also found a breakdown of an actual, successful, well-done query letter on Writer’s Digest, so when this is all done I may rework my own query.

So much to do! What are you writing?

February 26, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Updates: February 2015

Even monthly, I forget to do this!

I feel a bit guilty. I’ve been doing a terrible job keeping up with reviews. But! I have what I’m going to say is a good excuse.

Amelita galli-curci.jpg

Amelita galli-curci” by Bain News Service, publisher via Wikimedia Commons.

The rough draft of my current work-in-project is going really well. I hit the climax, and now I just need to do the wrap up before this thing is all written. (I keep wanting to add on the qualifier “but I’m going to have to rewrite most of it”, which I should quit, because it’s a rough draft, if I don’t think I have to rewrite most of it then I’m not thinking right.)

Once that’s done, and typed up, I’m going to set it aside for a couple of months, to let some of the preciousness wear off, before I do a reread and figure out what needs complete rehashing, or has to go entirely. While that’s fermenting, I’m going to go back to the old middle grade fantasy manuscript I started doctoring up last year. I gave it out to some friends, and their criticism is trickling back in, so maybe with some other perspectives sitting at my shoulders I can really amp up this story.

I am running into another problem of wanting to do too much at once, though. I had written a middle grade contemporary also, which I liked, but I couldn’t figure out how to make the emotion, which I felt sat super flat through the whole thing, to come to the surface. (Also, it was way, way too long.) I have been reading some novels in verse recently, a format I really, really love, and I started wondering if that would be a better fit for this story. I’d like to give it a try, at least.

So now to decide…what the heck do I work on?

That’s me–writers, what are you working on right now?

February 24, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Problems: Doing SOMETHING

As a writer, I know I’m not unique in having this issue. I sit down, and try to hack out a book or a review or something of that sort, and I feel like I’m doing little more than shuffling forward at hundred-year-old tortoise speed. This first draft is taking forever, I take ages between querying new agents, augh, I have to come up with another blog post.

This morning I decided to flip through a writer/artist book I haven’t skimmed in a while, The Artist in the Office by Summer Pierre. And I landed on this quote in the book:

How perfect. A reminder that writing, or any kind of creating, is a laying of bricks. You do these things one at a time, and it doesn’t seem like much, but you look back and you realize you’ve built a wall, a house, a skyscraper with each little addition.

It doesn’t matter that I only wrote a page this morning. I have one more page than yesterday. I entered a contest yesterday — one more contest. I’ll query an agent this week — one more agent. I’ll run today, and that’s one more mile. I’ll hit the Publish button, and there’s one more blog post.

It all adds up eventually, hopefully to something.

The Artist in the Office by Summer Pierre

Might be time to reread this book.

 

What’s one thing that you’ve done today? Did you read a book? Draw a picture? Outline a chapter?

February 19, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Problems: And Then…And Then…

The above is one of my favorite writing quotes, because it applies almost directly to the way I write my stories. I outline only just enough to keep track of things that I’ve thought up that I think I want to get to at one point, though any scribblings I do is more brainstorming than laying down any sort of a map for the story. I think this is a great way to write, for me at least: it keeps me excited the whole way through, as I figure out what will happen in the next few scenes, and I discover things about my characters and their world as I go.

Of course, writing this way comes with some problems. Much of the world building and back story has to be put in after I’ve done the first draft, simply because I wasn’t aware of most of that stuff before I first started scratching away in my notebook. My “research” is done concurrently, or after the fact, since I didn’t know what I needed to read up on until halfway through the story, when the plot and theme became apparent to me.

Still, I love to write my novels this way — but sometimes it can put me into a bit of a panic. Such as, when I’m approaching the end of the story, and I have sort of an idea of what the conclusion should be, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how the heroine will actually achieve that goal. All the solutions I come up with are cheesy, or weak, or simply don’t fit with the character I’ve come to understand. And of course, I begin to worry: that I’m not going to figure it out, that I’m going to slam face first into a wall, and as I hobble away to tend to my battered self I leave the almost-finished-but-not-quite story behind never to be touched again…

Then, as I’m doing my as-I-go “research”, I come across one idea, a single word really, that sparks an idea, that blooms into a bigger idea, and suddenly…I know what my heroine does. I know how everything gets fixed, and how the story slides into its conclusion. I might change it (I’m certainly changing most of what happened before, this is a gross-messy rough draft), but now it feels solid, like something I can work on without having to worry about the whole thing collapsing.

It worked out. Just like it always seems to do.

How do you write? Do you just pay attention to what’s in your headlights and review the trip when you’re done, or do you need to map out the whole road before you can even get in the car? Let me know!

February 17, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Bookish Problems I Have

Though there are not ten listed here, this post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme: what are some bookish problems you have? Some of these are goofy, some have to do with space, and some are just weird ways I read.

  • Not Enough Shelves. Though I’ve done some culling in my book collection, I still deal with double-stacked shelves and books piled under desks (I’m kicking some right now). I’ve gotten my collection down almost to it’s purest form, so the next solution is more shelving! …Except that there are no more walls.
  • Too Many Books to Read. Sometimes, when I’m shelving books at the library, I look at all the new books and think, “Wow, I want to read a dozen of these.” Then I remember all the books on the graphic novel shelf, in the fantasy section, the classics, those children’s books, and then all the unread books back home…I have to stop touching the books then before I slide into a tear-soaked panic.
  • TSUNDOKU. I know I have books to read at home. And I have library books I’ve been renewing for weeks. But then I go to the store and suddenly I have five more books. It is a very real problem.
  • My Dog. Sometimes when I’m reading she starts licking the corner of my book, trying to figure out what’s more fascinating than she is. Or I’ll be dutifully rubbing her ears, but god forbid I stop for 1.5 seconds so I can turn the page, causing her to nudge my arm or whap me with her paws until I start again. (Yeah, much worse problems to have. And I realize, I made her this way, but she’s so dang cute.)
  • Can’t Always Visualize Characters. I feel like this sounds bad, but I don’t always manage to fully visualize people when I’m reading. If I slow down in my reading to think about it, I realize that most of the time people are like fuzzy outlines in my head, and unless I put a considerable amount of conscious effort into imagining them — THIS is what their hair looks like, THIS is what the dress looks like — they stay that way the whole time. Maybe that’s why I like comics so much…?
  • Flipping Ahead. I flip ahead through pages to see how much longer a chapter or an entire book is, so I can measure how many pages I have to go. Sometimes this is good — I don’t want to start 20 pages of unbroken text when I want to go to sleep in 10 minutes — but it makes me feel impatient about finishing a book, and I’ve even accidentally spoiled things for myself in the past, and I hate spoilers with a fiery rage. Reading on my Nook helps with this, since I can’t easily flip ahead, but then I find myself overcome by WANT to flip forward.

There’s my list — do you have any bookish problems? Let me know, or make your own list!

February 12, 2015 / Angela Sylvia

Response: You Will Be Forgotten

Last week, Hank Green posted a vlogbrothers video titled “You Will Be Forgotten…And That’s OK.” This was in response to a popular Tumblr post where the original poster revealed a fear of living an average life and never doing something to be remembered by, and he was concerned about the fact that so many people seemed to share this anxiety.

Watch the video, definitely, it’s less than 4 minutes long, but here’s a gist of what he said: oblivion is inevitable, and it’s impossible to be actually remembered for forever. Besides that, the idea of being permanently successful is a myth; as he points out from his stance as a “successful” person, you can have many successes, but being successful and satisfied one hundred percent of the time just isn’t a thing.
Hank Green None of it exists

This struck me, because, I think, that’s something that bothers me, too. I want to be remembered, I want to be known. But…why?

It’s a hard thing to grasp, but I believe this feeling comes from not quite understanding my own motivations. I want to be a writer. Being a writer makes you sort of famous, so that seems like a “why”. But is it?

If I can be a famous enough writer, I’ll make enough money off of writing to be able to make that my vocation. I’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve done something well when other people like what I’ve done. When other people know that I’ve done this thing, and like it enough to pay me money for it, I will feel “successful” and “remembered.” With that as the seeming goal, having not reached that point yet is, well, kind of depressing.

Hank Green’s video helped remind me to not get caught up in this. Becoming known for my writing is a byproduct of what I want, writing for a living. It’s not what I’m actually aiming for. If I don’t ever become “famous”, or whatever, that’s not a problem, because that’s not what I’m trying to do.

Hank ends the video emphasizing that what’s important is the good things you have done, and the good things you will do, “…things that you’re gonna make and have already helped make.” Who cares if I won’t be remembered. I’m WRITING now, and I’m going to keep writing, and creating, and just doing things that hopeful add an ounce of happiness to the world (even it’s just my own world). That’s the thing that matters.

Here’s Hank’s video, embedded below. But check out the whole vlogbrothers channel; they’re really smart, sensitive dudes.

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