Would you guys like another series?

I've seen a couple of posts lately from different bloggers talking about how they can't think of anything to write about. I think every blogger knows that feeling, trying to blog regularly and running out of stuff to say.



And I have to laugh because in one way I do have that problem, but in another way I completely don't.

See, I have a lot I can blog about.

Option #1: Excited contest reminder post.

HOLY CRAP GUYS, THE COVER CONTEST ENTRIES ARE AWESOME AND THERE ARE ONLY TWO MORE DAYS AND YOU SHOULD TOTALLY ENTER BECAUSE THERE ARE SIGNED BOOKS AND ARCS ON THE LINE.

Option #2: Miriam-talks-about-herself-post

Blah blah blah me blah blah my book blah add on Goodreads blah blah look how awesome I am blah blah LOOK TWO MORE AWESOME BLURBS!

And so on.


I could see going with option one, at least until the contest ends, but I am getting really tired of option two.  (Which is why I put out the call for guest posts last week.) While I know you guys are wonderful people who love to cheer with me about cool things that happen, I like it best when a blog post can relate to more than just me.

By far the posts on this blog that seem to reach the most people and get people involved are the ones where I talk about writing and editing and whatnot, especially my series posts.

And I was thinking it's time I do a new one. But I can't decide what to do it on. Here's what I've done so far:

Writing Strengths
First Draft Tips
Character
Plot
Voice
Worldbuilding
Being agented
First round edits
Second round edits

(Edit: I have done posts on all these topics, but if you like a certain topic I can certainly do more posts on it.)

I need advice! Do you guys have any ideas? What would YOU like me to write a series about?

Thoughts on being stuck.

Sometimes I get stuck.

I got stuck this week, as a matter of fact. I was on a roll with this new project and I was writing and writing...And I wrote myself right off a cliff.


The ground just dropped out from underneath me. Even though I knew how the chapter ended, I couldn't write it. I couldn't even write the end of the scene I was in. Everything just stalled. My characters refused to come out to play. I could see the shape of the events in my head, but I couldn't figure out how to get there.

Now I don't believe in writer's block, not as a thing in and of itself. The feeling of being blocked is--at least for me--generally a symptom of something deeper.

So I started asking myself a few questions. And I thought I'd share them with you, in case you ever get stuck. (Your mileage my vary, of course.)


Question #1:

Do I need to take a break?


Sometimes beings stuck is just an indicator that your brain is tired. That you need sleep or sunlight or actual interaction with real human beings. Take a walk. Watch a few episodes of really good television. Read a really good book. Hang out with family or friends. Do something fun before you go completely crazy.



Question #2:

Is my story going off the rails or in the wrong direction? 


Sometimes being stuck is your brain's reaction to your story traveling into the wrong territory. Like a dog refusing to go on thin ice, sometimes the story simply does not want to go in the direction you're trying to take it. Something is wrong over there! your brain screams. Danger, danger! Story death ahead! 

found at mamafrog.com

I've found it's generally better to listen to that voice. But in this case, I wasn't sure that was the problem. Yes, I was going in a different direction then I had originally planned, but in a way that should have had a better impact on the story, not a worse one. So I braced myself and asked the third question.


Question #3:

Is something off with what I have written already?


This is my least favorite question, because it means more work, and breaking apart things you've already written. Nevertheless, it's important to be willing to ask it. Just like your brain will refuse to go off in the wrong direction sometimes, it will also refuse to go in the right one if it doesn't have enough support. Like workers on a high-rise. As long as the beams are firmly welded, they're comfortable. If they're not, no one wants to be up there.

found at howtogeek.com

Oddly enough, this question usually has nothing to do with whether or not I've been writing crap. The quality isn't an issue. (At least not for me.) What this usually means is that something is off with the bare bones of the story. There's a problem with my main character or the worldbuilding hasn't gone far enough or the plot doesn't have enough high stakes and momentum to push me into to the next part.

And sure enough, that was the question I needed to ask.

After talking the issue out with my husband, I found the problem. The part I was having trouble writing was the set-up to the midpoint, where my two main characters officially kiss for the first time. I had to get them from strangers who are attracted to--and concerned about--each other to romantic partners.

The problem was, I discovered, that my male MC wasn't pulling his weight. He'd done all right for the first few chapters, but when it came time to Make Crap Happen, he...wasn't. Instead he was letting other people order him around. And since he was a mostly passive character at this point, I didn't have a good window into his head.

(This seems like a good time for some gratuitous Tom Hiddleston)

found at tomhiddletonruinedmylife.tumblr.com

Anyway, there are a lot of things you can do in a story with a character you don't know very well. But I submit that writing a romantic arc is not one of them. And so my story stalled because one of the crucial components was missing.

I haven't figured out quite how to fix the problem yet, but ideas are flowing again and I feel like I'm back on track. I can feel the ground again and that's very comforting.

So that's my system for dealing with being stuck. What's yours?

Also, City of a Thousand Dolls is available for preorder!

And right now it's TEN DOLLARS.

You can get it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

(EDIT: Maureen E has informed me that it's also up on The Book Depository, with free shipping!)

*looks at preorder page*

*flails*

found at justplainsomething.com

More happy things.

Seriously, you guys are awesome. I'm still giggling at all the happy things in the comments section of this post.  (If you haven't scrolled through them, go do so. Some hilarious stuff there.)

And now I'd like to share some happy things with YOU.


5 random things the Internet sent me this week

1.  21 pictures that will restore your faith in humanity

2.  Calming Manatee! 

3.  This photo:



4. Also this one: (Thank you, Charley!)



5. And finally, this:





Happy Wednesday everyone!


EDIT: I ended up posting this really late, so...um... HAPPY THURSDAY! 

A call for awesome things.

I'm having a bad week.

Heck, I'm having a bad MONTH. While lots of good things have happened (book stuff, new job), lots of stressful things have too. Like death and lay-offs and whatnot.

So I need your help.

Please send me funny things. Or happy things. Or inspiring things. Or cute things.

After all, we could all use more awesome our lives.

And possibly more goats...

baby goat found at zooborns.com

First pass pages and blurb news.

So, my first pass pages arrived this week and HOLY COW are they pretty!

For those of you who may not know (I didn't), first pass pages are basically the manuscript laid out as it's going to be in the book, with fancy headers and all the pages formatted nicely.  There are still typos and things--which is why we check them--but this is pretty much what the inside of the book is going to look like.



*swoon*

And as if that wasn't enough,  I got another blurb!

"With fantastic world building and a wonderful heroine, City of a Thousand Dolls intrigued me from the first page. Forster took me on a fascinating journey full of twists and turns--I can't wait for the sequel!" --Cindy Pon, author of Silver Phoenix.

When I saw this in my inbox, I squealed. Way back in the day, when I was still doing a lot of book reviews, I wrote a giddy review of Silver Phoenix.  I love Cindy's writing and have a huge amount of respect for her, especially the work she did with the Diversity in YA tour last year. She's one of the people I listen to when they talk about the need for diverse voices in young adult literature. And the fact that she liked City enough to blurb it meant a lot to me.

In other news, I am SERIOUSLY getting tired of talking about myself all the time. Somebody send me a guest post or something, okay?


In the meantime, how was your week? Is it summer yet where you are, or still rainy spring?

A late post on random things

Whew, I'm back!

Sorry about not posting yesterday, everyone. I had to make an unexpected trip up north to deal with some family business and I just got back last night. (That's also why I haven't commenting or updating much.)

But now I've returned and I'm looking forward to catching up with you all. I've missed my awesome blog friends!



Speaking of awesome blog friends, I'm issuing a call for guest posts! I'm tired of talking about myself all the time, and I'd love to have some of you over to chat.

Obviously posts on writing or things-no-one-told-you would be grand, but I'll consider any topic as long as it's entertaining and creates conversation. If you want to write a guest post, send me an email at miriamforsterauthor (at) gmail (dot) com, with your name, the subject you want to write on, and a link to your blog if you have one.

(Also, don't forget my City of a Thousand Dolls art contest! There's only three entries so far, so your chances are super awesome.)

In other, more random news, I made a dinosaur board on Pinterest. Because DINOSAURS ARE AWESOME.

And I have this infographic I've been meaning to put up, made by a lovely gal named Jen R., who emailed me to ask if I wanted to take a look at it. It's about Wikipedia and the encyclopedia and how Wikipedia is redefining research.

Wikipedia
Via: Open-Site.org

Cool, right? I admit that while I love Wikipedia, the idea that no one is writing this information down anymore makes me a bit uneasy. Electronic information can be so easily manipulated, and while I know the staff at Wikipedia keeps a close eye on that sort of thing, it raises all kinds of distopia-ish scenarios in my mind.

Of course, I'm an over-imaginative, pessimistic person, which is why I'm a writer. What do you think?

Never Surrender Blogfest!

I'm not really the giving-up type.

Actually, that's putting it mildly. I have a REALLY hard time letting go of things, even things I should probably let go of. I hate the sound of a closing door. I hate the finality of choosing one thing over another.


So when I decided to try and take part in Elana Johnson's Never Surrender Blogfest, I was stuck. The challenge is to blog about a time in your life when you did not give up. I have a lot of times I didn't give up, but most of them aren't inspiring. Mostly they're stories of me just stumbling forward, because I didn't know what else to do.

And for every story like that, there's another story of something I should have walked away from earlier and didn't. Or times I did let something go and it turned out to be the wrong thing. So I don't really feel qualified to tell you why you should never surrender.

But.

There are a couple of exceptions to this, a couple of things in my life that are hard and wonderful and take more work and commitment than I ever expected. Those things are my writing and my marriage.

And since I've talked about my writing journey and querying and editing and all that already, I thought I'd share a little bit about my marriage.

Warning, personal-type stuff ahead!!!!

My husband and I met several years before we started dating. We hung out with the same people and did a lot of the same things. First we were friends, then less-than-friends, then a little more than friends, and then he finally asked me out.

We clicked from the start. We have similar senses of humor, including a love of British comedies. We went for long walks and talked about everything from theology and politics to movies and Internet memes. Being together stabilized us, made us calmer, happier people.

Most of the time.

Dan and I are both first-borns, late bloomers and stubborn and independent as hell. We both struggle with anxiety. And we're yellers. (You wouldn't call the police if you heard us, but you wouldn't want to be in the same room either.) If there's conflict, he wants to argue until it is resolved, whereas I reach a point really quickly where I need space to cool off.

There was a lot of arguing. Neither one of us had been in a serious relationship before and sometimes it was a battle. But we didn't think it was a serious problem. We loved each other. We were best friends. It was hard at times, but we were making it work.

Then we got married.

And all hell broke loose.

There's something about marriage that amplifies conflict. You can't just have an argument and go home and cool off and call each other later and make up. That person--who may be the last person on earth you want to see right that very second--is in your space. They are in your BED. There's nowhere to go.

(This was especially hard for me. I have a very strong flight response to conflict, and when I feel trapped, I freak out.)

Things started to fall apart almost immediately. We still loved each other, but we didn't feel close at all. We didn't trust each other. Every discussion turned into a fight. It felt like everything we'd built together was crumbling. People would make jokes about newlyweds and nudge us and I would smile because I didn't know what else to do. But inside I was dying.

It could have ended right there. We could have decided we weren't right for each other and split up. Or we could have stopped caring so much, grown cold towards each other and settled for a facsimile of the good marriage we wanted.

We didn't do either of those things. We wanted to stay together, but more than that, we wanted to be close again. We missed each other.

So we started yelling for help. We talked to mentors, pastors, people we trusted. We read books on good communication and had long conversations about the differences between our styles. I learned to be more selfish and ask for what I needed. He grew more gentle. We both got honest. It was scary and it was hard and it was messy and it didn't happen overnight, but slowly, we started to rebuild the broken parts of our relationship.

The second year was easier, and the third. We just celebrated our fourth anniversary at the end of February, so we're still pretty new at this. We still fight. We still ask for help sometimes. But we're a team now. With a lot of work and a lot of grace and a lot of support, we got the best part of us back.

And I wouldn't trade it for anything.



Want to join the Never Surrender blogfest? Details are here. 

Interview with Becca Puglisi of The Bookshelf Muse!

As I'm sure many of you know, Becca Puglisi and her partner-in-crime Angela Ackerman are the genius minds behind The Bookshelf Muse blog. As if that wasn't awesome enough, they recently released their new writer guide, The Emotion Thesaurus.



In honor of the book launch, I managed to catch Becca in my interview net and brought her over here to answer a few questions!


Becca, you and Angela have compiled a wonderful collection of resources for writers on your site: emotional indicators, settings, character traits, and even color and weather descriptors! How did such a cool idea get started? 

Back in 2004, I had just joined Critique Circle and my first critique group, not knowing at the time that one of the members, Angela Ackerman, was a complete and utter genius. One of the few things I knew for sure was that my characters were always shifting their feet, narrowing their eyes, and fidgeting. Very repetitive. Super annoying. But I didn’t know how else to show their feelings. So I started a list of physical cues for some of the more common emotions.

 Right about then, Angela opined that her characters were always biting their lips, nodding, and smiling or frowning. When everyone else in the group responded that they struggled with the same thing, I shared my bare-bones list of emotional indicators. We agreed to contribute to the list and Angela kept a master copy. 

When it came time to start the The Bookshelf Muse, we discussed at length what kind of blog we'd like to have. We decided that we wanted to offer resources to other writers in a format that would keep people coming back for more. So we started with that list of cues (back then, called the Please Beat Me over the Head Beat List). (Miriam: I LOVE that name!) When writers responded so enthusiastically to The Emotion Thesaurus, we started looking for other descriptive areas to highlight, and the rest of the resources followed.


Related to the first question, how did you find all the different movements and indicators that you use in The Emotion Thesaurus? Was there a specific place you went to research them? A specific person you asked? 

I did consult some professional websites for information on the stronger emotions (panic, grief, rage, etc.), but for my part, my research almost exclusively involved observation. I started making notes while watching movies--seeing what the actors’ bodies were doing when they experienced certain emotions. I did the same thing while observing real people, though that felt a little creepy. Because Angela and I collaborated on all of the entries in The Emotion Thesaurus, our combined observations led to some pretty lengthy lists of cues.


The Emotion Thesaurus is such a great tool. (And as someone whose characters clench their hands together ALL THE TIME, I'm not just saying that.) What's next for you and The Bookshelf Muse? 

Gosh, that’s a question Angela and I are always asking. The Emotion Thesaurus has been so well received, we like the idea of publishing more thesauri down the road and making expanded versions available. But for now, we’re just trying to make this first launch successful and learn as much as we can about marketing and promo along the way.


 And the last and most important question: who is your favorite Avenger and why? 

 Well, I must admit that I haven’t seen the movie. My husband, who has many wonderful qualities, has an inexplicable distaste for movies based on comic books, so I don’t get to see many of them. What I HAVE seen is Snow White and the Huntsmen, or as I like to call it, Snow White and that Totally Tasty Guy From The Avengers Poster. So I guess I’d have to say that Thor takes the cake, hands down.


(Hard to argue with that.)

Thanks for such a great interview, Becca! And if any of you lovely readers would like to check out The Emotion Thesaurus (which I highly recommend) here are some links!

  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble
  • iTunes
  • Kobo
  • Smashwords
  • Goodreads


  • How about you? Do your characters have any annoying tics? And who IS the best Avenger of them all?

    MY FIRST BLURB!!!

    Guys, I'm so excited, SO excited to share this with you. It's the first blurb I've ever gotten and it's amazing and wonderful and it made me tear up. Especially since I have so much respect for this person. She's an awesome writer, and a huge contributor to the writing community.

    And her second book Surrender just launched yesterday!

    That's right, my first blurb is from the awesome and talented Elana Johnson.

    “A truly unique treasure, Forster's debut is storytelling at its best. With a chilling mystery, a forbidden romance, and delightful characters I fell in love with, I wanted to spend more time in the City of a Thousand Dolls.” —Elana Johnson, author of Possession 

     EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!

    I keep staring at it and staring at it. Then squealing.

    * squeals*

     I can't tell you how much it means to have a blurb from someone I admire, especially someone who's writing I enjoy so much. Possession kept me up way past my bedtime and I can't wait to get to Surrender.  (If you want to try them both, Elana has the first chapters here.)

    Now if you'll excuse me I have to go do a dance of happiness.


    Release date!!!!! (and contest update)

    Happy Monday all!

    Just wanted to let you know that City of a Thousand Dolls has an official release date!

    *flails*

    (This seems like a good excuse to put the cover up again)



    Coming February 5th, 2013 to a bookstore near you!

    YAYYYYY!!

    Also, I have a contest update. There's been some confusion about the final date to turn in your entries, so in the interest of clarity and giving you more time, I'm extending the contest to the end of June. And I've put up a tab with the contest rules at the top of the blog. Hopefully that helps.

    Also, I have some amazing entries so far that I'm going to be putting up in a page on the blog, and also on Facebook. So far we have fabric art, digital design, and photography with tiny models. (Seriously, they are AWESOME, guys.) So be looking for that later today or tomorrow.

    And here's a kitten from Cute Overload to get your week started off right.


    What's your favorite art form?

    ARCs I've read this week

    It's time to put on my bookseller hat and talk about books!



    So one of the fabulous things about working at a bookstore is I have access to a WHOLE SHELF BOOKSHELF of ARCs. Since Monday, I've read three books and I'm getting into my fourth, which makes me super happy.

    Anyway, since the books I've read are all pretty good so far, I thought I'd let you know what they were.


    "Pretty good" does not even begin to cover this book. OMG HOLY CRAP DID THAT JUST HAPPEN AMAZINGNESS is a much better way to describe it. And I can't tell you much about it without including spoilers. Let's just say, you should read it. RIGHT NOW.

    Status: Released

    Good for: WWII buffs and people who like adventures, spies, friendship and amazing writing. Also good for writers to study the amazing twists and narrative flow.




    I've read SRB's The Demon's Lexicon and have the rest of that series in my to-read pile, and I love her sense of humor. So when I saw this piece of Gothic awesomeness on the shelf, I snagged it. It was HILARIOUS. She plays with the conventions of the genre very well, and her characters were the kind of people I'd love to hang out with.

    Status: Out September 11th, 2012

    Good for: Anyone who loves Gothic stories, brave heroines and sassy one-liners.


    As someone who has a tendency towards anxiety, this book was a really interesting, if somewhat intense read. It starts out a bit dark (and with more adult material) but ends up as a hopeful and honest exploration of what brings about anxiety for this particular person, what anxiety is in general and how one goes about living with it.

    Status: Out July 3rd, 2012

    Good for: People who have anxiety or want to understand it better.



    I'm only part-way into this one, but it is an intensely lush and amazing world and the story is compelling. I'm excited to read the rest.

    Status: Out June 5th, 2012


    Read any good books lately?
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    Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.