10,339 words today. AND I AM FINISHED.
That is all.
You might have noticed the number creeping up on the Secret Book progress meter. I don’t know why the status bar won’t move, but whatever. I’ve been tapping away at it–I’m determined to finish. On a much-needed six-day staycation, I decided I would do just that. Only seven more parts I need to write and then I’m done. It’s been going in dribs and drabs; two consecutive nights, I wrote over 4.000 words and then nothing, then 400, then 114. Ugh. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
Then I wrote over 2200 words of bullshit that had nothing to do with anything (just a stupid bunch of headjunk). But hey, at least I was writing. Judging by how I am at work, if I had a deadline–a REAL one–I wouldn’t have this problem. Making up my own seldom has any effect because obviously, I don’t pay any attention to them.
Instead of writing, I went shopping at Barnes & Noble (and Amazon) and bought all this–
Image: Elizabeth West
The title of that photo is Torture, fittingly enough. No one can stop raving about Joe Hill’s The Fireman, which debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. I would love for that to happen to me someday. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree there (Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son).
I’m a bad fan–I didn’t know the Clive Barker book had come out. Forgive me, Mr. Barker! I met him once, at a Fangoria magazine horror convention in L.A. in the early 1990s. He’s a very nice man.
Now that I look at it, every bit of that reading material is horror/fantasy. Wow. I went through the bookstore and bought without really thinking about it–I knew I wanted the Joe Hill novel, and I was behind on my Stephen King (I also got The Colorado Kid on Kindle, though it’s not in the picture).
The one on the tablet is Foreign Devils, by John Hornor Jacobs, a sequel to his excellent fantasy novel The Incorruptibles. He’s a really cool writer I met at VisionCon, the same day I met Brian Keene (whose Last of the Albatwitches also should be in that pile, though I didn’t get it at B&N). You need to check him out. He’s going places.
With all these lovely gems to plunder, I hope I can force my brain to get its ass in gear (brain ass? ass brain?) and just finish the damn thing. Then I can move on to something else before I go back and finish all the research. And I can hunker down and blast through all these beauties. I need something to take my mind off real-life horrors.
In the meantime, back to work!
Happy Banned Books Week, everyone!
Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association
As I’ve pointed out before, the American Library Association has designated the last week in September as Banned Books Week. During this week, they celebrate freedom of speech by raising awareness of censorship and challenges to free expression and the right to access information, no matter how controversial it may be.
Find a list of 2014’s most challenged books here. And here is a list of banned and challenged classics. You can participate in this expression of our fundamental right by reading banned books and by encouraging others to do so.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s website defines censorship as follows:
Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.
Why is it so crucial that we speak out against this? Let’s cite a historical example. On 10 May 1933, university student sympathizers of the Nazi Party burned thousands of books they felt held “anti-German” sentiments. You can read more about that event here.
Such an image would horrify not only book lovers but those who believe that everyone should have free access to ideas and information. The Nazis did not want people to read certain books or materials; they wanted to provide those people with their own ideology. They did not want any dissenters. We know what happened to the latter–they ended up in concentration camps alongside Jewish, Romany, Catholic, homosexual, disabled, and other folks who either did not fit Hitler’s Aryan ideal or who spoke out against the racism and totalitarianism of the Deutsches Reich.
Censorship like the Nazis perpetrated makes it easier to control people. Without all information, people cannot make informed decisions or choices. The person or persons controlling the information find it easier to convince them of their own rhetoric, or even brainwash them.
We can see a similar rhetoric in today’s media bias, when journalists (and I use the term loosely here) publish stories designed to capture clicks or ratings. “If it bleeds, it leads” is an old news term, meaning the more sensationalistic the headline or teaser, the more likely readers and viewers are to jump on it.
When people restrict information, we don’t get the full picture. We can’t make good decisions or spot potential problems because we remain unaware of issues.
Lack of sex education is a good example. Some folks believe that kids should not receive sex education in schools, because it might tempt them to have sex. Well I’ve got news for those people–a good number of those kids are going to have sex anyway, regardless of whether they’ve been told not to. Even adults have trouble controlling those drives; they’re that powerful.
So if people are going to do it anyway, they should have some education about how to do it safely. Many kids don’t get sex education at home. Their parents don’t take the time to do it, they don’t want to discuss it for religious or other reasons, or they lack knowledge themselves. Schools may choose not to teach it, but if kids don’t learn it, they aren’t prepared to make good decisions about their bodies, their health, and their futures.
Dutch schools start teaching sexuality education in kindergarten. Because they are exposed to this information as a natural part of life, Dutch kids start out with better sexual health habits than Americans do. They know about:
Besides informative material, fiction often finds itself the target of censorship. Art is subjective; what pleases one person may shock another. But does that mean no one should see a particular work? Many of the books that end up on the ALA’s challenged lists get there because they contain fictionalized accounts of sexual behavior, abuse, drug use, or something else complainants find objectionable.
People read for entertainment, but they also like to read about characters with whom they can identify. A bullied, lonely, or discouraged kid may find courage in a story about another kid in the same situation. A person who knows nothing about a subject can become fascinated with it when it pops up in a novel. Learning is almost never a bad thing.
Restricted material cannot inform. It cannot lift people out of poverty. It cannot help them better their health, or learn how to care for themselves and their loved ones. It cannot entertain them or make them think, or help them understand the viewpoints of people who are different from them. It cannot mitigate prejudice, and it cannot perpetuate tolerance and understanding.
So read a banned book this week. Better yet, recommend one to a friend or family member. Spread the word!
It is a few years after the events of Knight of Light. Lady Auriella (Aura) struggles with her duty as England’s Watcher and protector against the court’s perception of her as an eligible, powerless woman. But Auriella still misses her fiancé Lucas, reported killed in the Crusades, and she cannot fathom taking a suitor.
The threat of Erebus and the Shadow Legion hangs over the kingdom, dismissed by King Henry’s successor Edward and the rest of the nobility. Auriella knows its power, and the monstrous Shadow Lords keep trying to destroy her at every opportunity, even in her bath.
Even as the Legion draws nearer, the ignorant Edward gives Auriella an impossible assignment in Scotland. She must obey, even though it means abandoning her responsibility to the kingdom and her reunion with the newly returned Lucas, whom Edward has made his captain of the guard.
Lucas proposes to Auriella and she finally feels comfortable sharing her secret Neviahan identity with him, though he seems averse to it. Blinding herself to doubt, Auriella sets out on her quest.
Eden’s storytelling continues to thrill. An attack in Scotland by the dreaded Shadow Wolves chills the blood. Auriella meets Azrael, Scotland’s mysteriously masked Watcher, when his tiger Baby saves her from the intended assassination. Azrael and Korban and Orion, his fellow Neviahans with their own powers, puzzle Auriella. She hasn’t spent much time with her own kind, and she has much to learn.
Azrael’s bullish and forward way disconcerts Auriella, but she finds that without the gift of Starfire–his fire combined with her blood–they cannot hope to defeat Erebus. Not only that, but her link to him seems deeper than just their shared heritage and powers. Despite the sensations her fellow warrior ignites in her, Ariella clings to her vision of the future–to return to London, reunite with her beloved Lucas, and save the kingdom from the enemy’s deceit.
Will the Neviahans succeed? What will happen to the unprotected kingdom? Could King Edward be any more of a jerk? Find out yourself!
I enjoyed revisiting this world and the characters. Ruburt the Dwarf, friend to Auriella, returns with wisdom and guidance for her. No Cassi the pixie, darn it. Perhaps she will return in a later installment.
Hidden Fire is a bit rougher than the first book (lots of swallowing hard and a few editing mistakes), but the story moves just as quickly. Eden hints at a more mature romantic relationship for Auriella. Young adult readers may see themselves in her longings and her struggle to master the huge responsibilities she’s been given–she’s got a lot going on, just like they do. Growing up is hard, folks.
You can buy Hidden Fire on Amazon. It’s available in paperback or on Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free app that will allow you to read books in that format on your computer, tablet, or mobile phone.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Quotes from the book I liked:
“Open your heart and the man you are destined to be with will naturally fill that void.” –Pearl, Hidden Fire
Let’s hope so, Pearl.
“We have to go through hell to get to heaven.” –Azrael, Hidden Fire
I am slowly crawling out from the cocoon of heartbreak and back toward my Secret Book manuscript. However, I’ve reached an impasse that has held up the story somewhat. The road has two forks, and I need to go down both of them.
My attempt to brave the first fork has shown that my research into the period and especially the English setting is sorely lacking, to the point that it’s holding me up. I’ll be in London again in two months, and I want to spend much of my time there doing research. So I’m making plans to organize where and when and who and how.
The second fork led right back to Heartbreak Hotel (I should just buy real estate on Lonely Street, seriously). I couldn’t write the lovey-dovey part of the book because it’s been so long since I’ve been happy in a new relationship that those scenes are coming off wooden and stilted. I can’t tap into those emotions right now, even in my imagination. That realization made writing them and listening to the book’s Einaudi playlist exquisitely painful.
Shit like this all over Facebook right now does not help.
So I’ll take First Fork Road for now. (And I’m listening to Einaudi again, which is a good sign, I suppose.) Meanwhile, stuffs be happening:
This past weekend, I attended VisionCon with my Whovian friends. I went dressed as Donna Noble in an outfit very similar to this one:
I clipped a small adipose plush to my jacket just in case no one realized who I was supposed to be, but everyone got it and a couple of people even wanted to snap a pic. So my first cosplay ever was a success.
While I was there, I attended a panel on traditional vs. self-publishing hosted by horror/fantasy authors Ben S. Reeder, JM Guillen, and EM Ervin. All three of them are self-pubbed; only Ben Reeder has gone through traditional publishing. EM Ervin’s book had only been out for two weeks when they had the panel–I could totally relate to her excitement.
Overall, the three writers were in favor of self-publishing. Guillen said he had never gone for the regular method. Reeder told the audience that you certainly do not get much money from traditional publishing–advances have shrunk to ridiculous amounts, especially for first novels. I knew this already, so no surprise there.
Reeder and Guillen both said that while the slush pile and queries are still a thing, agents have a new tool to find writers–they go online and see what is selling. And according to Reeder, whom I spoke with the next morning on my last pass through the dealer’s room before heading home, you can make a living this way, if your sales are decent.
I have my doubts about that last, but they definitely gave me something to think about. I’ve been avoiding self-pubbing for several reasons:
This last is why I do not want to self-publish Rose’s Hostage or Tunerville. I’m still querying the latter. I got a rejection this week that said the query sounded interesting, but that the agent in question was inundated with work and not taking on new clients. Maybe it was a form email, and maybe not. It’s difficult to tell sometimes.
You will not see any self-published books at Barnes and Noble, unless they’ve been picked up by one of the Big Five, and that is very, very rare. Still, it does happen.
I want that legitimacy. It’s like getting instant street cred. If I get it, I will have passed the initiation; industry professionals will have declared my book worthy, and I’ll become one of the club. For me, right now, self-pubbing is not going to happen with those two works.
I thought–and I keep thinking–that it might be a good way to offer something shorter than a book to you, my readers. Because I feel bad that you haven’t got anything besides this twit of a blog to read.
What do you think? If you would like me to put some stories up, let me know in the comments.
You might have noticed that the Secret Book meter hasn’t been moving much lately. In fact, at all.
Yes, I’m stuck. No, there is nobody to pull me out. I have to do it myself.
Not indefinitely; I just hit a character snag and I’m trying to work it out. I don’t think that meter is the greatest anyway; it doesn’t show progress as well as I’d hoped.
The stuck isn’t all book-related, unfortunately. I’ve been rather distracted by several stupid things lately. A writer friend posted this Salon article by Ann Bauer and now I’m even more bummed.
Read it; I’ll wait.
Done? That article hurt. I know if I work hard, I have a shot, but sometimes it seems like a longer shot than I ever anticipated. And to be totally honest, at this exact point in my life, getting a book published has not been my main goal.
I’ve tried everything to find someone like this, to no avail (yet). In my medical writing class, we were given an assignment to make up our own medical term. This was mine:
Cardiorrhexisopathy: A process where the patient persistently falls in love with the wrong damn man, causing the heart to break repeatedly.
rrhexis/o—rupture or burst
pathy—disease (negative term)
Yes, I do suffer from this condition. Apparently, the only cure is marrying the right person, but so far, the subject of this research has proved elusive. It’s almost too late for the kid thing (but not yet), so the universe better get cracking.
Three queries out, and one rejection from a publisher. Bummer.
Rose’s Hostage news:
Secret Book news (yeah, I know I talked about it earlier):
I’m not that far from the end of the first draft. Some scenes need a great deal of research, however, and they will end up lightly sketched until I can finish that. The tough part has been writing about the development of a relationship. I’ve almost forgotten what that feels like. I keep telling myself, it’s a first draft, dummy; just write down what happens, and you can rewrite it later when your heart doesn’t resemble a pigeon smashed into the pavement by a passing car.
Some of the research has been tedious, and other things fun. I signed up for the Doctor Who class at Syracuse University, where my homework is watching numerous episodes of Doctor Who online and then discussing them. I don’t get any credit, so I don’t realy have to do anything. It’s perfect!
Since the show was created during the exact period my book is set, it has helped me get into the mindset of that era. I also follow a page on Facebook called Old Photos of London and the East End. Other followers post reminisces in the comments, which often yield tiny tidbits that may be useful.
I still need to make a plan for further exploration when I return to London in April. I’d like to make the most of the time, because I’m only going for a week. You may not get a post then unless something very cool happens.
I’ll be back soon with another vocabulary post. We’re nearing the end of that series. If you have any ideas for another you’d like me to do, let me know in the comments.
I’m doing a little research for a character in Secret Book. Did you ever have feelings for someone you couldn’t have, or thought you couldn’t have?
I don’t mean a fangirl / fanboy admiration for someone, where you love their body of work and celebrate all their milestones and spend actual money for the chance to stand next to them for three seconds and take a selfie.
Photo: Elizabeth West / VisionCon 2014
I mean an honest-to-God, full on, madly in love crush, where you desperately want someone whether they know you’re alive or not. It could be Gary in Accounting or Jared Leto, Zoe in your history class or Emma Stone. Doesn’t matter.
I’ve been exploring this, as it’s come up in the book and it’s something we’ve all been through. It’s happened to me, and I want to get some insight into what other people have experienced, if possible.
First off, what I know. If you’re dealing with a crush, your feelings are what they are, and you may have some permutations of these:
Now, let’s add this unpleasantness. Have you ever had to watch that person walk away with someone else?
That brings a whole new set of feelings:
If you’ve ever had a crush and lived through it, what was it like for you? Did friends or family know about it? If so, did they tease you or patronize you?
Note: If you’re ever tempted to dismiss the feelings of someone who just got hammered by this, try to remember that feelings are what they are. They are real, and the heartbreak caused by losing a crush can be as bad as that experienced when a real-life relationship ends.
Now the flip side: have you ever been the object of a crush? If so, how did you handle the situation? This has literally never happened to me (that I know of), so I’m really curious about it.
Note: If you’re the object of the crush and you’ve just destroyed someone’s dream with your shiny new relationship, please refrain from being flippant about it—i.e. saying the equivalent of, “Oh, don’t be silly. You’ll be fine!” It’s easy to forget how shitty this whole experience is when you’re over the moon, so mind your words.
A better statement might be, “I’m really sorry that you’re feeling bad over this; I hope you can be happy for me.” It acknowledges the person’s feelings and is much less patronizing. And he / she may not be happy for you, so be prepared for that.
Was the person crushing on you someone you knew, or not? What did you think when you found out?
If you have a story you want to share that you think would be relevant, please feel free to comment. You can do so without registering. If you want to share a story but don’t want to post it, you can email me at aelizabethwest at gmail.com.
I will not use any quotes or scenarios without your permission, so make sure you enter a legitimate email address when you post a comment so I can contact you.
UPDATED TO ADD: It doesn’t matter what orientation you are or if the crush took place in high school. Anything before that, however, is probably not relevant because I’m writing about adults, and while a crush can be crushing for a child, it typically doesn’t involve sexual jealousy. Puberty or post-puberty is fine.
It’s been a week since I returned from invading the U.K. I finally took the British money out of my purse, but I left my Oyster card and tube map in it. I’m not removing them. Nope, not gonna do it. You see, I’m planning to go back in April for a London meetup of my online community, so I will need these things. Plus, I like to take them out and look at them from time to time; makes me feel less angsty about leaving.
I miss it. :(
Photo: Elizabeth West
I still hear the tube announcements in my head. “The next station is…Turnham Green. Change here for the District line train to Richmond.” “The next station is…Earl’s Court. Change for the Piccadilly line train to Cockfosters.” (That will always and forever be funny.)
Now that I’m back, I have three things to do:
In fact, to finish it, I’m planning to use the NaNoWriMo concept again, just as I did with Tunerville. I won’t formally join in, since I’ve already started it (and that is against the rules), but doing it got me through the book last time. I’ve completely outlined Secret Book and I think what I have is workable, so there won’t be any plot deconstruction.
As for the research, I can finish it later. The main thing I want to do now is get the story down. There will doubtless be tons of rewriting anyway, so it can wait. I’d like to build in a few days for more scouting around in London anyway.
If I don’t post much, don’t be surprised–I might blog intermittently during this book, because it will take more concentration than Tunerville. I had that one in my head so long that it just kind of fell out. This one is different.
I can’t talk about it yet, but bear with me. You know I will, when the time is right.
I wrote a chapter on Secret Book at lunch last week that was so good I made myself giddy.
I posted about it on Google+, and a friend said, “It is the most elegant drug.” She’s right; I really did almost feel high.
Now if only I can get the rest of the book to that caliber. I’m challenging myself with this one–not only is the scope and research more wide-ranging than anything else I’ve attempted, but it’s far more character-driven, and despite a rather difficult and speculative quirk, more literary.
Plus, I have two worlds colliding with these characters. However, by a stroke of good timing, I’ll be able to cram some research into my holiday, both geographical and cultural.
On the bad side, by several horrible folds and stains in the fabric of time, I will miss the following:
I will be asleep on a train coming back from Scotland.
This would have been my program:
If you haven’t seen the original 1985 Fright Night, I highly recommend it. It’s great fun.
I’ll keep working on it. Perhaps I’ll get another shot. Or maybe the Universe is trying to tell me it doesn’t want me to skate any more—this is the second time it’s skunked me on a club exhibition. A trip to Loch Ness trumps an amateur ice show, of course, but it still sucks. You’ll have to give me a better reason than that, Universe, if you want me to quit.
Just to drive you crazy (heh heh), listed below are some of the things I’m trying to research for Secret Book.
If anyone has any specialized knowledge of these things, or knows someone who does, I would appreciate any input you think might enhance the story.
In case you’re wondering, I’ve put the Rose’s Hostage sequel on the back burner for now, until Brian sends my manuscript back. I can’t write anything until I know what he thinks I should change in the first book. Well, I could, but I don’t want to.
Besides, if you knew what was going on inside my head right now, you’d be all over me until I finish Secret Book. Only ONE person knows what happens, and that is someone with whom I had to discuss the psychology issues.
So until I’m finished and start querying, it will have to stay a secret. I was hoping to get a large portion of it written before I go on holiday, but that probably won’t happen. Looks like it will be a working holiday.
That’s all for now on the book. I’m counting down the days now until I can get the hell out of here. If I can post between now and then, I will, but there’s a lot to do, so don’t count on it. I still have to try on clothes, mock pack, get my hair done, work, clean the shit out of my house, and of course, write.
Look for pictures and commentary on all I’ll be seeing and experiencing. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!
I’ve been given a book to review!
For an upcoming blog tour, I am reviewing The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light, by Deirdre Eden. It is the debut novel of a fantasy series set in medieval England.
Ms. Eden is a writer and speaker who runs Eden Literary, a company that provides services to writers such as editing, critiquing, promotion, book trailers, and others. I feel honored that I was chosen for a Powerful Woman Writer Award by her blog, A Storybook World. You can see it at the bottom of my page and find the link to the site in my blogroll.
Eden’s Amazon biography says:
My goal in writing is to saturate my books with intrigue, mystery, romance, and plot twists that will keep my readers in suspense. I want to see fingerprints on the front and back covers where readers have gripped the novel with white knuckles!
Aside from writing, I enjoy jousting in arenas, planning invasions, horseback riding through open meadows, swimming in the ocean, hiking up mountains, camping in cool shady woods, climbing trees barefoot, and going on adventures.
She’s well qualified to write the action scenes in this book. And looks the part as well. This picture is super cool.
Photo: Zion’s Studio Photography at Amazon.com
In The Watchers: Book One, we meet fiery haired orphan Auriella, who has discovered a strange new power within her. Charged with witchcraft, soon she is on the run, pursued by wolves and the dreaded Shadow Legion. They are the nemeses of the mysterious and legendary Lady of Neviah, whose identity soon becomes apparent.
Auriella and a fellow captive, a chirpy pixie named Cassi, are rescued from the clutches of an evil hag by Ruburt the dwarf. The three friends travel through a dangerous world, until they reach the patronage of Lady Hannah, who adopts Auriella.
Enchanted by her new life and a burgeoning first love affair, Auriella begins to turn away from her destiny. But she cannot escape it for long, and soon, her comfort and safety is threatened, along with everything and everyone she has grown to love.
Through heartbreak and loss and with newfound skills and experience, Auriella must face her enemy and fight for her chance to become not only a legend but a knighted protector of the kingdom.
Though I’m not a reader of high fantasy, I enjoyed this book. Tiny pixie Cassi in particular was an amusing character. She and Ruburt the dwarf provide comic relief, and they stick loyally by Auriella through thick and thin, as real friends do.
Eden is a Mormon writer, and the theological research she draws on in her writing supports the story beautifully without being intrusive. Not being Mormon myself, I don’t know a lot of it, but the whole Watchers thing (see the Books of Enoch) doesn’t come across as preachy or even particularly religious.
I would have liked the author to take me through some of the transitions a bit more slowly–some of them seemed rushed. But I’ve just read The Lord of the Rings again and recently finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63, so the slow tempo of both those books (especially Tolkien’s) may be coloring my perception.
This story would be fine for younger readers who can handle chapter books. It’s fast-paced and the language isn’t too hard for them. Young adults and even grown-ups who like a quick read and a good adventure will enjoy it too. While reading, I found myself wishing I had a nerdy bookworm kid with whom to share it. This blog post will appear on my Facebook page, and I’ll make sure my parent friends see it.
It looks as though Eden has at least six books planned in the series. I’m anxious to see what happens next, and how Auriella’s adventures play out. I think it would make a neat animated film (or a series of them).
Find The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light on Amazon. Watch this cool book trailer here:
Thanks to Laura Watkins and Theresa Sneed, Book Manager and Blog Tour Assistant of Eden Literary for providing a review copy to me. Now go read!