Okay, I feel better now...

As you will recall from Wednesday, this was me this week:


But I'm out from under the bed now, and I found a much better place to sit.



(It's so dang cold here!)


Seriously, here are some of the things I read this week that made me feel better:
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What makes writing particularly rife with self-doubts is that by its very nature writing is the practice of failure. You have your vision of whatever you're writing, and the actuality of what you're able to do with words, and rarely the twain shall meet. ~ Sarah Zarr (writer), in a post on Teen Fiction Cafe.


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“No, You’re forgetting,” said the Spirit. “That was not how you began. Light itself was your first love: You loved paint only as a means of telling about light.”

"Oh that's ages ago," said the Ghost. "One grows out of that... becomes more and more interested in paint for its own sake."

"One does indeed. I also have had to recover from that. It was all a snare. Ink and catgut and paint were necessary down there, but they are also dangerous stimulants.
Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling... For it doesn’t stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower—become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations. ." ~ C.S.Lewis in The Great Divorce.

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Aside from doing everything you can to study your art and also learn the business of publishing – and there are plenty of books on all of this – I’m convinced that it starts with a decision to live the life that you were meant to live and not accept anything less. It’s important to stay focused and determined and not listen to anyone who tells you that your dreams are unrealistic. In the words of Winston Churchill: Never, ever, ever give up. ~ Jennifer DeChiara (agent) in an interview on Whole Latte Life
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Also, The first 16 lines of my book have been through the Flog-o-meter and found acceptable!!! And there were some very nice and encouraging comments as well. :-)

So the sun's out, and things are looking up. But dang, it is freezing out there...

BACK TO THE HEATER!!!!!

No one ever told me I'd need a rewards system.

Believe it or not, I've never been one of those writers who rewarded themselves on a regular basis. Not that I have anything against rewards, but I just never thought about it. However, as I get older (eek!) life throws more and more stuff in my way, and rewards start to look pretty good.

Plus, I've begun the great agent quest and need something to keep up my morale as I begin to collect rejections....

And wait for my publishing house to catch up on backlog from The Great Name Change and let me know the exact date that my book is coming out....

And deal with the rising fear that maybe this book that is coming out is actually crap and all the wonderful people who want to read it will be deeply disappointed and no one will ever buy it, and I'll have to crawl under my bed and die....

*shakes self and clears throat*

Sorry, where was I? Oh, yes. Rewards. So here is my new super-duper AgentQuest reward system.

-Form rejection on a query: I get a soda!! I love soda!!

- Rejection on a partial: Make myself an root beer float and treat myself some Zoo Tychoon. (At least the animals love me!)

- Rejection on a full: Waaaaah!!!! Umm.... I mean, pizza and a movie. And quality time with my husband, as he patiently assures me that yes, I am a good writer and no, I'm not wasting my time and my life.

- Rejection with invitation to rewrite and resubmit OR rejection with invitation to submit another project: Go out to dinner at the Olive Garden, which is my secret vice. Mmm... Alfredo dipped breadsticks...

(I just realized that all of these rewards deal with food in one form or another. I wonder if that's because I'm on a diet?)

And through all of this, I will repeat to myself the following:

"It's okay to be insecure and afraid. But you, Miriam, have finished three novels, are having one published, (eventually) and you're getting partial and full requests for another. Those are accomplishments to be proud of. Now get out from under the bed."

No one ever told me I was solar powered.*

Stupid inversion. Stupid clouds. Stupid cold. Stupid no-show sun.

I'm sitting in front of my UV light all the time, and sleeping an outrageous amount. I struggle with rewriting my current WIP because my mental energy is in the toilet. I'm managing to be peppy at work, (caffeine helps) but my house is slowly dissolving. It feels like eleven at night when it's only five. My appetite is gone and I'm pretty sure I'm getting whatever sickness my husband has.

Sigh.

My one consolation is that zoning is a great time to think about stories. I've been investing some serious dream time into the sequel to my second novel.

I think dream time one of my favorite parts of writing a book. When the ideas are flowing through your head and you can practically feel the texture of the story under your fingers. When there are no rules and no limits. Everything feels deep and true and rich.

I don't know about you, but I have a lot of times where I'm fighting for the right words and everything I write comes out as hard and unappetizing as stale bread. There are days I wonder if I'm ever going to get to where I want to go.

That's when what I saw in my dream time keeps me going. The passion and excitement I built up then comes to my rescue. The end book may never look like what I saw in my head. (There's really no may here. It won't look the same at all.) But it doesn't matter. The core is still there and I'll rewrite until it comes through.

Like the sun will. Eventually. I hope.




*Props to my husband who came up with the phrase "I'm solar powered".

No one ever told me I'd be addicted to dinosaurs.

So there's an obsession gene in my family. It crops up in odd ways: devotion to certain tv shows, uber-focus on new hobbies, addiction to Starbucks, etc. I never thought it would be a big deal. But I can't deny it anymore, I have a problem...

Hi, my name is Miriam Forster and I'm a Jurassic Park addict.

I bought the movie set on New Year's Eve. I hadn't seen the movies or read the books for years, but in the last twenty days I have:

~Seen the first movie at least seven times
~Seen the second movie at least four times
~Seen the third movie twice.

I have also:

~Read the original book twice.
~ Read the sequel once.

When I started dreaming about dinosaurs constantly last week, I figured it was time to come clean.

Now granted, when I watch movies I might be putting away laundry or cleaning the kitchen, or dinking around with my WIP. But is that any excuse for watching the same movie over and over?

No.

So I need an intervention. Or a new movie. Or something.

However, I did find this wisdom to share with you:

"First there's ooo-ing and aaa-ing. Then later there's running. And screaming."
~Ian Malcom, Jurassic Park, the Lost World


No, seriously, this was what I meant:

"Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants the power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. Whatever kind of power you want. President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you have attained it, it is your power. It can't be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline."

~ From Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.
(1942-2008)

God bless you, Michael Crichton, wherever you are. We miss you.

Apologies, books and other stuff.

Okay, so it took me two days to realize that I'd posted my last blog on Tuesday, instead of Wednesday like it was supposed to be.

Oops.

We now return you to your regular programming.

As you can see, the book log is spinning along, with some new books and one re-read one. I'll post a review blog whenever I have four or five new books to share. This might be anywhere from every two weeks to every two months depending on where my reading takes me. Also, I found a new format that I like a lot. Let me know if this works for you.

(Insert momentary yowl of frustration, as the font settings for Blogger turn evil and try to eat my post.)

This is my personal book rating system.

1 star: Didn't finish it. I would try to keep track of the books I start and don't finish, but to be honest I don't care about them enough to give them that much space.

2 stars: Finished it, and probably won't ever read it again. This is a blah-ish rating. Something, plot, character, something pulled me thorough, but not enough to make me want to repeat the experience.

3 stars: Liked it a lot. Solid writing, very enjoyable. Entirely possible I'll read it again.

4 stars: Excellent. I'll most likely read it again and recommend it to my friends. Additionally, I'll look up the author and see if he/she has any more books I want to read.

5 stars: I don't give a lot of these out. These are reserved for the ones that stand out, the ones that keep me up all night or bring me to tears. Or just those books that are so good they leave you feeling sated and better for the reading. The ones I want to read again soon and often.

So there's my rating system. And as luck would have it, we have our first new five-stars this week!


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Alive and Well in Prague, New York (Hardcover) Alive and Well in Prague, New York

~ Okay, so I pretty much picked this up because I like the cover. And I finally read it because the author, Daphne Grab, contributes to one of my favorite blogs, The Longstockings. I was expecting a nice tale about a city girl learning to like the county. What I got was something altogether different. There is nothing cliched, standard or ordinary about this book. I teared up at least three times while reading it, (Mostly at Matisse's interactions with her dad) and can't think of any reason not to give it: 5 stars

Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe) Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe)

~So I knew going into it that this book was going to be funny. What I didn't expect was being sucked (ha!) in so much that I was actually angry when I put the book down. Not angry at the ending. (Which I know and you don't, neener neener.) I was mad because I wanted to read the sequel RIGHT THEN. And there isn't one. In fact the book just came out in 2008. If I didn't know how hard it is to write a book, I would be one of those crazed fans that sends "please write a sequel or I will curl up and die" emails to the author, Pauley Kimberly.
As it is, I'm going to grumble and give this 5 stars.

Playing For Pizza: A Novel (Hardcover) Playing For Pizza: A Novel

~This wasn't really the sort of thing I expect from John Grisham, but I liked it. With not nearly as much introspective angst as his book The Bleachers, this story of American football in Italy is full of good characters and fabulous food. Yeah, don't ever read this book while on a diet: 3 stars

Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos (A Meg Langslow Mystery, Book 3) Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos

~This is the third book in this mystery series by Donna Andrews, and if you ask me she really hits her stride with this one. It's pure fun from beginning to end as her main character navigates a Revolutionary war re-creation, solves a murder (murder by flamingo!), placates an outrageous potential mother-in-law, and tries to outwit the Achronisim Police. Definitly 4 stars.

Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star (Book 2) Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star

~Brandon Mull delivered in this sequel. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Especially the frog. Olag the Glutton, I believe he's called. A demon that bites the person that awakes it, then proceeds to eat everything it can get its hands on, growing bigger and more powerful with every meal. And he doesn't stop until he eats the person who woke him up. Not to sound like a ten-year-old boy, but that's so cool. 4 stars

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So there's the new stuff. AND I read Jurassic Park for the second time in two weeks, because I've developed a bit of a temporary dinosaur obsession. Not to mention all the cool chaos theory stuff. I'm not sure why extinct animals, needless deaths and higher math make such a good combination, but there you are.

I got these covers off of Goodreads (which I have decided I love) and if any of you want to friend me or whatever they do over there, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy reading!

No one ever told me I'd feel so lucky not to be a musician.

As mentioned before, my husband is a musician, and a fabulous one. He majored in musical performance, he can play both upright and electric bass, not to mention keyboard, guitar, etc. And he can play almost any genre of music.

Yep, he's pretty much awesome... *wipes away goofy grin and continues with blog*

Anyway, we've had a lot of conversations this year about the writing industry, and the music industry and how the two compare. And I gotta tell you, I'm feeling pretty lucky to be a writer and not a musician.

Here's what I mean:

1. To even start thinking about being a full-time musician you have know what you're doing. Which usually means lessons, practicing and doing it for years. (This is also true of writing, cough cough. But in writing, people are less likely to tell you "you suck, get out of our band")

2. Then you have to buy the gear. And musical equipment is expensive. The most expensive thing most writers will ever buy is a computer. One computer. When you get into quality instruments, not to mention amps, speaker cabinets, etc, EVERY PIECE costs as much as a computer. The last bass my husband bought was over twelve hundred dollars, and don't even ask about the upright.

3. Then you have to find a band, if you're not a solo artist, or some backup musicians if you are. You have to find people who know what they're doing, who want to put in the time commitment, and preferably who you can get along with for more than five minutes. That's not easy.

4. Now you have your band and your equipment. So now you have to play. A lot. You hire a manger to find and book you shows, and spend most of your weekends practicing and playing at them. You try to build an audience, you set up a website (not cheap) and put out a few songs on CD (also not cheap).

5. Okay, you're decent local musicians. But you want to be able to do this full time, and that means touring until some small label signs you and then touring some more. Which means you'll have to quit your job and fling yourself on the mercy of the good God and your fans. You'll be on the road for weeks to months at a time playing as often as you can manage.

6. If you're fortunate enough to get signed, you'll tour constantly throughout the year. (Provided your drummer doesn't go crazy from long hours in the van and too much fast food and kill your lead singer with a drumstick.) Which means leaving your family, or possibly taking them with you. Hope they agree...

7. Okay, you're signed and you've made an actual official album to sell. (The making of this is also fraught with sleeplessness and drama, so we'll skip over it.) The album sells okay, then drops like every CD is doing these days. So back on the road you go.

8. You tour and play and tour and play and tour some more. Then you make another album and that does well. Does that mean your first album will sell more too? NO!! Your first album will stay in its hole, weeping.

Here's the kicker. Even after all of this, even after beating the odds time and time again and being phenomenally lucky, your chances of being signed by someone really huge, and making lots of money are still minuscule.

AND your chances of being the next U2 or Rolling Stones--heard into the next generation--are practically nothing. This is because the music business, unlike the publishing business, has no real backlist. You have to continually make music, make it fresh, yet consistent with what's going on in music. You have to keep up with trends, yet transcend them. You have to be amazingly good, incredibly stubborn, and have tiny green wishing elves on your shoulders at all times.


Just reciting all of that was tiring!

This sequence of events can take ten years to play out. And at the end of it, you might be just what you were when you started: a small band on an independent label working your butts off to earn enough money for gas for the van.

I'm so glad I'm a writer....

No one ever told me that some writers don't consider the reader.

*Warning, rant ahead*

As I wander and blurk around the blogosphere, I've seen many places where people complain that publishing houses are more interested in money than good writing, that most books out today are crap and that popularity is more important than quality.

Now, to a certain extent I can understand this frustration. Many of us went to college where we dissected the masterpieces of literature, discussing theme and symbolism. Then as writers we serve a long apprenticeship in which we learn the rules for writing, and querying and plotting, etc. Rules like "show, don't tell," and "cut back on the adverbs." We research and practice and collect rejections and then we go to the bookstore and see the latest bestseller, rife with adverbs and thematically as deep as a mud puddle. And we stand there and think:

"This is terrible. Why is it that this person has so much success? More importantly, if this is the standard, why can't I sell my work?

These are painful questions for any writer, especially a new one. And for a lot of people, the tendency at this point is to blame the publishing industry for just caring about money, and blame the readers for having no taste.

This was brought home to me when I stumbled across an old blog post by the ever-helpful Nathan Bransford, in which he asked people to weigh in on this question:

"You go down to the crossroads and make a pact to have your novel and future novels published. You are given a conditional choice. Either you can receive the highest literary acclaim for your work, but a guarantee that you will never earn enough to give up your day job. Or you can always be considered a terrible hack, but make bucketloads of cash. Which do you choose?"

Here were my observations. (There were many good points made in this discussion, but these are just the ones that stuck out to me):

~Most people went for the money, but there were many passionate posts about acclaim.

~Several people made comments to the effect that they wouldn't have any self respect if they were hacks.

~Many of the people who voted for literary acclaim made statements to the effect that they would never write "just for the money".

~Being considered a hack was often equated with not writing the best stuff that they could write, even by people who wanted the money. In fact, one anonymous person (who voted for acclaim) said. "I hate it when things that aren't worth crap are popular, it really frustrates me".


Hmmm.... What ran through my mind, and as some posters pointed out, was that to be making lots of money doing this, you have to have a lot of readers. What you write has to resonate with many, many people in order to bring in that kind of money. And yet the majority of people in this discussion didn't even mentioned the readers.

Writers do this a lot. We talk about writing for ourselves, writing for the market, writing "commercial fiction, writing "literary fiction", writing for money, writing for editors, writing for critics, etc. We rarely talk about the readers, except in broad financial terms, as if readers were a kind of stock market that we play.

And when we do talk about them, the idea keeps popping up that the average American reader is a poor judge of books, and therefore can be dismissed or ignored because they don't know what's good anyway.

I find this very odd.


Mainly because this is hugely different from the way that many long-time writers view readers. If you read Stephan King's On Writing, or Terry Brook's Sometimes the Magic Works, both those men are hugely respectful of the reader. Without ever saying you should pander to people (It's quite funny to hear Stephan King's take on his hate mail), they make it very clear that they consider the reader in what they write.

For example, Stephan King says repeatedly that while you should write the first draft with the door closed, (for yourself), you should write the second with the door open. This means letting the world in, revising with the reader in mind. He also refers the the connection between the writer and the reader as a powerful form of telepathy, and because of that writing is not something to be taken lightly.

Terry Brooks has a set of principles for good writing and one of them is DON'T BORE THE READER. He puts it like this:

"You can get away with breaking all of the other rules, at least once in a while, but you can't get away with breaking this one.... (Cliches and poor writing) are always a clear indication that the writer doesn't have enough respect for the reader. Readers may not be savvy enough to figure out what it is about a book that doesn't work, but they are plenty sharp enough to know when they are being dissed."

It makes me wonder, are we newer writers losing our respect for the reader? With all our struggling and agonizing and trying to get this publisher or that agent, have we lost the sense of connection between the storyteller and the listener?

What do you think?

Some Housekeeping...

Hey everyone, my December post is up in my Life of Books blog!



*sounds of general confusion*


I know, I know, it's January, but I had the dumb thing done, I just kept forgetting to post it. Silly me.

For those of you who don't know, my Life of Books blog is an experiment where I pick a book for every year I've lived. The book has to be published that year, has to be something I've actually read, and has to be meaningful for me in some way. So far I've got nine years up, and plan to update during the last week of every month.

Also, I've put a permanent Book Log post at the top of this page so I can track my books for the year. As you can see, I read four new books this week! And here are some short reviews:

Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce~ I devour all Tamora Pierce, but I must say I had a harder time with this one. Most of the characters seemed unpleasant or grumpy, and I had the weird feeling that I liked the main character more than I was supposed to. There was a lot of emphasis on her flaws, which came closer to telling than most of Ms. Pierce's work.

Still solid work though: 3 stars

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow~ Wow. Just wow. Totally believable characters and a scarily realistic plotline. The book dragged a bit for me in the middle, but every time I put it down, I found myself thinking deep thoughts about people, and how the very things that make us humans, such as our emotions and our ability to solve problems, can be the things that drive us away from humanity. Also how essential compassion and empathy are in order to prevent injustice.

For me, that's the sign of a good book: 4 stars

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock~ I liked this a lot, very well written. It was hard for me to get into the football thing since it came so late in the book, but the relationship with the two main characters was fabulous.

A thoroughly pleasant read: 3 stars

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull~ This has been on my reading list for forever, and when I put it down all I could think was "thank goodness he wrote more". I found myself skimming over some of the description, but the storytelling was amazing.

Definitely 4 stars.

I think that's it. I'll be back with NETM on Saturday. See you then!

No one ever told me there were people like this....

Transcript of an actual conversation between my husband and I while we were dating...

ME: Hey, you should read (insert name of book here)

DAN: Oh, yeah. I read that one a long time ago, and I don't like to reread books.

ME: So you didn't like it, huh?

DAN: No, I liked it fine, I just don't read books over again

ME: I'm sorry, what?


See, I knew there were people who didn't read. (Those sad, sad people.) But I couldn't wrap my head around someone who likes to read, likes the book, but never wants to read it again.

How shocking!!!!



Well, that's not me. In fact I can think of at least a couple of books I've read at least twice just in the past year. So when I decided to keep track of how many books I read in 2009, I had to think long and hard about the rules. Here they are:

1. I will keep track of every book I read this year via Goodreads. Since I just opened an account, this week, I can start '09 with a fresh slate.

2. I will note how many books I read more than once and give you an occasional running total.

3. I will try to give short reviews of any new books I read, or at least tell you that I read them.

I was hesitant to do this because I cannot fathom why anyone would care about my compulsive reading, and if I bore you, let me know. But I was also curious. I've never kept track of my book intake in a single year, and though I know I read a lot, (as evidenced by my library fines) I can't quantify it.

Let the experiment begin!!
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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.