Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What's Up Wednesday July 9th

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme, started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, that helps readers and writers touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Join by visiting their blogs and signing in on the widget.

What I'm Reading
I just finished Scarlet by AC Gaughen and I have to say, I could not put it down. The basic premise is that of the Robin Hood tale, but from the perspective of Will Scarlet, who...wait for it... in this version is really a girl in disguise. The Merry Men know that Scarlet is a girl, but no one else does. 
What did I love about this book? I found it riveting. Lots of action as the characters climbed castle walls, jumped through the trees, and ran through the forest-- but it wasn't just an action book. There was also a lot of character development. In fact, I found the character of Scarlet to be the most amazing combination of tough and vulnerable that I have seen in a long time.  She is a complete and total knife-flinging, tree climbing badass, but she also has real heart. Then there's Robin of Loxley. Sheesh-a-reesh. Smoldering is the word. I love that the author took these characters I thought I knew and did something really unique and creative (yet still logical and true to the overarching story) with them. I read on Goodreads that some have been bogged down by the narrator's manner of speech, but once I got used to it a few pages in, I thought it was a fantastic way to develop character and voice. I could not recommend it more. 

The family read aloud this week is Arthur Slade's Hunchback Assignments. We stayed up a little past bedtime to finish it last night. I had to, because we were so close, and ALL of us were dying to learn how it would end. This is a steampunk that has been on my shelf for a while. I wanted to finish working on my own SP book before I read it. This book, like my MS, features some clockwork creatures and a clockwork guild-- but thankfully there is really nothing else similar about it. Whew! 

Like the Robin Hood book above, this story borrows some characters from literature (like Quasi Modo and Dr Hyde) but then does something really creative and amazing with them. A great deal of the story is told from the perspective of Modo, who has been raised from childhood to work for a secret organization that seeks to protect Britannia. I don't want to include any spoilers, but suffice it to say there are lots of really funky-cool creatures and inventions, mysterious organizations and dastardly double-crossers. My sons, ages 6 and 8 (soon to be 7 and 9) were SO INTO THIS BOOK. Not only did we have to read it in just three short days, they also peppered me with endless questions about how the mechanics might work, who I thought might be the real bad guys, and what might happen next. I have promised to get the next one ASAP so that we can dive right in.  

What I'm Writing
Mina is still off with the agent. No creative writing this week. Just work. And that's okay. 

What Inspires Me Right Now
These guys.

We have been having the best time reading together and hanging out this summer. 

What's up with you?

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

I'm so pleased to be tagged by my dear  friend Maryanne Fantalis in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Maryanne is one of those people who quickly went from "writing friend" to just plain "friend". Though we have yet to meet in person, I know one day our paths will cross. When we do, it is going to be one seriously memorable happy hour!

She is not only a talented writer, she gives wonderfully clear and precise feedback as a reader and critique partner. Her WIP, a retelling of the Taming of the Shrew, is fantastic. She is also a life-long Shakespeare aficionado and a self-professed history nerd. Check her blog out!

On to the writing process blog tour: All of the writers participating in the tour answer four simple questions about their writing process. You can follow a path from this post and see how other authors organize their time and produce their work.
What are you currently working on?
I've just finished edits on my sci-fi steampunk Mina Takes the Sky, based on the reign of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.  I have been getting feedback from a lovely agent for about a year on this-- I think we're in our fourth round of edits-- between the baby and tenure, I lost count. Everything this agent has sent me has been fantastic advice, and now it's back in her court. We shall see.

While taking a break from that, I've been thinking a lot about my very first novel, a mystery featuring a bug-collecting  protagonist. I can't quite let this story go, and right now I'm devoting mental energy to thinking about how I want that story to develop. Because of my busy schedule, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I want a plot to develop-- then when I sit down to write, I can plunge in without hesitation. 
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I must confess, I have been avoiding reading steampunk in the last two years because I don't want my work to be derivative. I have a stack of books that I'm eager to read, including Arthur Slade's The Hunchback Assignments, Megan Spooner's Skylark, and the rest of Westerfeld's Leviathan series (I only read the first book).

I chose steampunk because I wanted to build a world around these clockwork insects and flowers:

It feels odd to me to say that I write sci-fi or steampunk-- to me those are really just the tools I use. I think my favorite books in sci-fi have a cool concept, but don't rely on the "cool concept" to carry the book.

My goal is to create a fully realized alternative world-- but it's not about the world-- it's about the people and the choices they make. It's about adventure, mystery, and a little romance. And, it should make you laugh from time to time.

This is what a aspire to do, and I fully acknowledge that I'm a work in progress. 
Why do I write what I write?
I have always loved mysteries. From obvious Nancy Drew books (it was always the "swarthy" character, which is problematic on so many levels, Nancy) to cunning shows like Sherlock or The Bletchley Circle, which make my mind spin in the best way.

There is a mystery at the heart of all of my favorite books, and that is what I follow. I have written contemporary MG manuscripts, YA dystopian, and this YA steampunk-- but truly, they are all mysteries.

Even more than reading a mystery I love trying to craft my own. How do you leave a trail of clues that aren't too obvious? How do you make such a logical path that the reader can look up from the last page and say "a-ha! it was there all the time, and I just didn't put it together."? It's the best kind of problem, and I hope to keep grappling with it for a long time. 
How does my individual writing process work?
I spend my down time reading and thinking about plotting and characterization. When I finally get the time to sit in front of the computer, I rarely have a problem getting the words out.
That being said, I tend to spend a lot of time re-writing (and likely should spend more). I tell my students that writing IS re-writing, and it's as true for a research paper as it is for a manuscript.
At least for me.
I find my best ideas come after taking a break and coming back to a manuscript.
My biggest weakness is that my need to re-write is often at war with my perpetual impatience. 
Tag, you’re it!
I am tagging the lovely and inspiring Glenna from Blue Lipstick Samurai. She is talented, hardworking, and very very funny. She has been busy with college the last few years (and as a college professor, I fully support this!), but I have no doubt one day she will return to the world of blogging.

And I'd also like to tag, YOU, dear reader. Yes, you. If you've already done this blog tour (and I know many of you have), please leave a link to it in the comments. If you'd like to but haven't yet, consider yourself officially tagged, and leave your link in the comments, too.