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Hitting the Wall

April 10, 2012

Trying to climb out of my writing slump after hitting the wall. I didn’t want to admit it, but I hit the wall, just like I always do. On the first three novels I wrote, it was at 20-25K words. So since I had already passes 30K, had an outline and plenty of resources, I felt pretty confident that I simply wasn’t going to hit the wall.

I was very wrong.

But at the same time, sorta right. I did hit the wall as far as lack of motivation to write, questioning why I write at all when it is so hard and no one cares. I even ate tons of junk food. But the difference between the last three books and this one is that I have not lost faith in it. I am not finishing to finish; so I can ignore the bleeding draft without any nagging guilt. I still have confidence that this is the one. The one that I will submit and that will be accepted. Once I finish.

What really crippled me on this one was the research. My characters were leaving the camp and heading into the nearest village. My main character had never seen a village before and had no idea what to expect. The problem was, neither did I. I panicked and flew into research and quick re-outlining. I wrote a bit more and then fell into despair about the hard life of a writer.

I’ve now had the time to think things through and realize that the thing must be written. I can do the research later.

What I’ve discovered while writing this book is that I write very exploratory first drafts but that I also require an outline to know where I am going. I remember someone on Writing Excuses describing this process as lamp-posting. You can see the next lamppost through the fog but you’re not quite sure about all the stuff in between. It’s working very well except for the panic attacks about research.

Just yesterday, I realized I might have to research for days or weeks for a two page scene. And the scene is so simple no one would ever realize all the work that had gone into it. Maddening.

Review: The False Prince

March 27, 2012

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Hardcover, 342 pages
Release: April 1st, 2012
Jennifer A. Nielsen’s website
Buy the book

I’ve never gotten an ARC or won a book early through a drawing. So when I won the auction for The False Prince at Writing for Charity, I was pretty excited. I had never heard of this book or the author before the conference. But you can bet I’m going to be keeping an eye on Jennifer Nielsen from now on!

Not only was her presentation at Writing for Charity the best I’ve been to this year, she is a charming person. She personalized the book for me when I won and managed to speak with me a bit, which is impressive as I was so nervous my legs were shaking beneath me. I always get nervous talking to people that I admire, even if that admiration just started.

To the book!

The False Prince is fantasy but without any magic or creatures (so far … it is part of a trilogy). But it is a world of castles and kings, sword fighting and pirates, orphans and thieves. Sage is an orphan snatched up by a scheming nobleman who plans to turn Sage into a false prince, a puppet prince he can control. However, Sage will have to compete against three other boys for the role. And when the prince is chosen, the others won’t be needed anymore …

It is a game of wits and, while I wasn’t exactly surprised by the ending, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Sage is a complex character that will frustrate you as you frantically turn pages to make sure he is going to make it through. Characterization is the star of this story. Each boy is trying so hard to prove he can be someone else, that he can live a lie. But what their actions really show is what they would be willing to do to be seen as “special” and what being special means to each of them.

So for those of you who write, pick this up and see if you can keep up with Sage. He is a wonderful scoundrel, up there with the best in that category. I can’t say much else without giving away the ending so go ahead and read it on April 1st. Happy reading!

Quick Update

March 17, 2012

My poor blog. Whenever I’m getting lots of good fiction written, the blog suffers. So it’s a good thing I haven’t posted in a while. Really.

Today is one of those days where I have been so overwhelmed with information and emotion that I can’t process anything properly. It was all very, very good but my brain is complete mush. Rest will do wonders I hope.

So stay tuned for the next few blog posts where I will reveal just why my brain hurts so very much!

Keep Calm and Carry On: The Power of Words

March 6, 2012

I love the Keep Calm and Carry On posters. They are everywhere. I currently have tissues in my car and a metal-cased notepad emblazoned with the famous phrase. Literally everywhere. And so are all the hillarious imitations and cheapened pretenders. Whether they are in poor taste is a personal matter. But what I really love about this poster is it’s power. Yes, there are a million copies floating out there in the void of the internet. But those copies are there for one reason: power. The power of words. The words on this poster are so powerful that people want to take a piece of it and make it their own.

The words Keep Calm and Carry On are a shining beacon of hope to the everyday person. To those who drag themselves out of bed everyday. To those who work themselves from dawn until dusk. For those who need that reassurance that, yes, you are not alone. So keep calm and carry on.

As much as I loved this poster, I had never heard the story of how it resurfaced into our current popular culture stream. I knew it was originally a propaganda poster from WWII but nothing more. And then, while I was procrastinating writing, naturally, I stumbled across this lovely video from Barter Books. Just from watching this three minute video, this bookshop made my traveling bucket list. It’s an old train station! It screams of magic and stories. And the power of words.

**The Keep Calm and Carry On iPhone App is currently free. It is also fantastic.**

The Oscars and the Unsung Talent

February 27, 2012

I’m going to admit first thing that I don’t know much about The Oscars and the nomination system. This may be the first year I learned anything about the nominations (such as up to ten films can be nominated for Best Picture each year if there are enough worthy films). I am determined to do better research next year.

I watched The Oscars, starting with the red carpet all the way to the bitter end, following along with those who were commenting in the Twiterverse. While there was plenty to laugh at (Angelina Jolie’s leg anyone?), there were a few things that were missing that broke my little heart.

Winner for Best Original Song: “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets”: Music and lyrics by Bret McKenzie

First, while I’m glad the song won, why wasn’t “Life’s A Happy Song” from the same film nominated? It’s allowed and I honestly think it’s a better original song. They didn’t perform the nominated songs either. Very shabby Academy.

Second, was it just Mary Robinette Kowal and me, or did you also notice that Peter Linz (the voice of Walter) was not mentioned in Bret McKenzie’s winner speech? Maybe it was easier to remember Jason Segal as he was sitting in the audience but the song is a duet. He wrote it so he must have known that and realized there were also two singers.

I looked up the song on iTunes AND Amazon. Only the human actor was listed as a singer. Why is it that if you don’t see the actor on screen they don’t get credited for their talent? Sure, if the whole film is animated, maybe you get a nod. But if you’re the only actor who doesn’t physically appear, you get completely snubbed. This is not the only case, even this year.

Perhaps one of the most expressive actors of our time is Andy Serkis. He was brought to my attention, and I assume most of the world, for his excellent performance as Gollum/Smeagol in the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films. Since then, Andy has taken on various other roles, most notably (in my biased opinion) Little Dorrit (2008), The Adventures of Tintin (2011) and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). Thanks to his accent, it took me quite a while to recognize him in Little Dorrit and I am usually the one calling actors out for their bad french pronunciation! Again, didn’t recognize him in Tintin until I saw his name on the credits of the film. He was the most enchanting part of that film.

I don’t think I even need to tell you about his performance  as Ceasare in Planet of the Apes, as the film was nominated in the Visual Effects category. While it didn’t win (it was up against some tough competition!), Andy Serkis, the life of the character, was not nominated for his performance. He was also never nominated as an actor for his performance as Gollum, though Two Towers and Return of the King both won for Best Visual Effects.

While visual effects are responsible for Andy Serkis’s visible transformation into Gollum and Ceasare, all the movements, expressions and voice that make Gollum what we know and love/pity was all Andy.

So this is my shout out to them. To Andy Serkis and Peter Linz. Though the Academy hasn’t woken up to the times to nominate you or give you your own category, this is my personal nod to you both as actors.

LTUE & My Life, My Universe and Everything

February 17, 2012
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Isn’t it strange how tired learning can make you? I suspect this is why all high school students are tired all the time. College students too. They are learning so much. And when you’ve finished college, you forget how hard it is, how tiring it is to learn something new because you are at such a repetitive, mind-numbing job that you want to scream.

And then you go to a writing conference.

This is my pathetic excuse for not writing about the conference sooner. I have simply been too tired digesting what I learned and, well, writing. Which is a good thing for my novel but not for my friends and family that want to keep up with my writing escapades via my blog.

LTUE was a success. I drove down with some friends and we got chatting and missed the exit and ended up in Payson. For those not wanting to pull up a map, that is about five or six cities past where we wanted to end up. So I missed the first panel on Friday. Bonding with friends is more important anyway.

I won’t go into detail talking about all the panels. This is for one simple reason. I didn’t learn anything. Apart from the Keynote speaker (who was brilliant) and a few scattered bits here and there, I learned nothing. In a few notable cases, I knew more than the speaker let on. I wondered why they didn’t mention such and such resource or why they didn’t go further into such and such theory. Why are they talking to a room full of wanna-be writers, most of whom have never even finished a first draft, about line edits? Even I am not ready for line edits (yet)!

Needless to say, I was very frustrated. Yes, being around writers is inspiring but I wanted to learn something. I had always learned something in the past. Why wasn’t I learning anything this year? Was the conference just not what it used to be? Had something changed since I last went in 2010?

Later that night, while at dinner with old friends and new, I realized what it was. The reason I wasn’t learning anything was because I knew it all. Instead of learning, I needed to be doing. I needed to apply the knowledge I already had instead of seeking more. But doing is hard and I was scared.

This was especially apparent at the panel titled “So You’ve Finished Your Novel: Now What?” I had already heard everything they had to say, had more resources than they mentioned and had attended much better workshops about just this topic. Why did I bother attending then? Because I was too scared to fix up my novels and submit them already! I’ve written 3 1/2 novels. They may not be perfect but I need to get some rejections just to toughen up my skin anyway.

So when Saturday came, I criticized the panelists less, realizing that what they shared was good and knowledgable. I’d already heard it too many times to count from multiple sources. It was me, not them. And with this attitude, the second day was better. I also attended some really great panels that did teach me something.

And then fate took a hand and helped me along the way to take that next step. I applied what I knew and took the plunge.
I won’t post specifics as I want to be professional, but needless to say, I now have strong motivation to finish and polish up my current novel in the next six months.

So what I leave with you is this: if you know what you need to do, DO IT. Find your courage and act. Walk out on that stage, even if it feels like you’re being asked to walk on water. Have faith in yourself. You can do it.

Life, the Universe and Everything Happens This Weekend

February 7, 2012

Yes, it’s true. Life, the Universe and Everything (lovingly known as LTUE) is happening again this weekend in Orem, Utah. I’m so excited because for the first time I have a gaggle of friends coming with me. If we were going to solve a mystery, they would be my Scooby gang. I really like that idea.

I have a soft spot for LTUE because it is the first writing conference of any kind that I attended. Mostly because it was free to students and my sister attended BYU so I could stay at her place while it was going on. The conference is still free to students and the tiny fee I have to pay is well worth every penny. I got to meet Gail Carson Levine, Orson Scott Card and Shannon Hale for the first time there, years ago. And this year features the Writing Excuses Podcast Team. Yeah!

Living in Utah is actually a great place to be for a writer. It may not be as glamorous as New York or Seattle but we have so many writers. Good writers too. #1 New York Times bestselling writers. We have 3/4 of the Writing Excuses Team. We also have many writing conferences that range from genre to literary, free to highly expensive. All of the ones I have attended are wonderful.

Which is why I probably won’t be blogging much this week. I hope to write a summary post by Sunday but we’ll see what happens.  I may be so overly inspired I write a novel in a weekend.* In the meantime, here are a few quotes and links to amuse, enlighten and astound you:

The Inside Secrets to Pixar’s Success: I love Pixar and I recently watched a documentary about the company. This article explains their work ethics and values that lead to their success. I agree with everything they say and think it is worth considering.

The 265 Word Sentence or How a Writer Avoids a Problematic Scene: This puts my 250 words per day to shame. But highly amusing and oh so clever, as Mary Robinette Kowal always is.

Video: The Difference Between Middle Grade and Young Adult: You’re welcome wondering writer.

“The king died and then the queen died” is a story. “The king died, and then the queen died of grief” is a plot….”The queen died, no one knew why, until it was discovered that it was through grief at the death of the king.” This is a plot with a mystery in it, a form capable of high development.

E. M. FORSTER

* Those who know me are laughing right now. So am I :)

Sundance 2012

January 30, 2012

January is an exciting month in Salt Lake City. The Sundance Film Festival is here again. This is my third year attending and I don’t think I’ll ever stop going. No matter what movie I see (documentary, foreign, claymation, comedy, you name it) I always walk away with a love for humanity and the creative life.

On Thursday I saw two films: The Movement: One Man Joins An Uprising and The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia.

The Movement is all about various handicapped individuals who all have a love for skiing. Most were paralyzed or paraplegics. But one man was blind. I had no idea that blind people could ski! It was amazing how he followed a guide down the mountain! But something they said in that movie made me think. The title of the movie is Movement because that’s what they want people to do. They want them to move physically, as well as take part in the movement or community and volunteerism.

It got me thinking. People always say about literacy that someone who can read but doesn’t has no advantage over someone who can’t read at all. I believe this and feel very strongly about it. I read every day for pleasure as well as for information. I am a part of that movement.

But exercise? Sports? Forget it. I’m not very coordinated. I learned to ride a bike only a few years ago. I’ve been asked not to play in Ultimate Frisbee games. For the longest time I actually thought I wouldn’t mind being in a wheelchair because all I want to do is sit around and read anyway. My mind has been slowly changing on this topic since I had an emergency surgery in 2008 and this film has changed it for good. Those who don’t move have no advantage over those can’t move. I live a fairly sedentary lifestyle, like many other Americans. I eat semi-healthy and I like to take a walk now and then. I even snowboard once or twice a season. But every day? I have not embraced movement.

Too many people emphasis exercise as something you do to lose weight and then you stop. I want to chose movement for life. It’s going to be awkward, for me and for those who witness my unpracticed movements. But I don’t want to take my body for granted. I want to use it.

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In The D Word, they talk about dyslexia and share a few experiences from a variety of people. The best way I can describe trying to read when you are dyslexic is to compare it to breathing when you have asthma. It’s not that you can’t breath, it’s just very hard. You can’t get as much air as every one else so it takes you longer to get what your body needs. You need to concentrate and it never goes away. Not a perfect metaphor but I’m writing this rather late at night so forgive me.

My brother has dyslexia. Yet he is one of the most glib people I know. Creative too. Yet people see dyslexia as a learning disability, a handicap, if they accept it as being real at all. Unfortunately, I’m finding more and more that if what makes you different is invisible, people just think you’re lazy, stupid or crazy. I’ve been told that depression doesn’t exist, that I should just buck up and get over it. But I know it does exist and I fight it in my own way. However, you can’t see depression or dyslexia the way you can see that someone is an amputee or blind. And some people have the empathy and understanding of a teaspoon. These same people also probably don’t read even though they can.

What I found most intriguing is that almost every dyslexic person interviewed in the film worked hard, harder than anyone else they knew. And yet, because it takes them longer to read, they are called lazy. This paradox annoys me. And many of these hard working people have gone on to do great things such as become a lawyer, a surgeon or the head of the Virgin empire.

Dyslexia can’t be cured and it doesn’t ever go away. My brother will always be a slow reader. He will probably always have terrible handwriting too. But I know that he will do amazing things because he has learned to work hard as well as cultivate his creativity to find new ways to overcome the problems he faces. He’s like a knight battling a dragon without a shield and only a butter knife. He has to improvise.

Showing these two films together was a perfect blend. The mental and the physical. My strength and my weakness. I want to live a more balanced life. I want to use all the talent I’ve been given, even if I don’t know I have it yet. It will be hard. Because anything worth doing is hard work. I can do hard things. And so can you.

The Confession Chronicles, III

January 23, 2012

I confess. So remember that oh-so-do-able resolution to write 250 words every day? Yeah. In a moment of weakness I broke my streak. I had made it for two weeks. Then I got sick. Like really sick. I slept for 16 hours in one day that’s how sick I was. So I only wrote two days last week and missed four.

On the one hand, I want to be so upset about this. I want to cry and scream and blame someone else for my problems. I started a new job and my sleep schedule is out of whack! I’m reading Utopia! I’m sick and I don’t wanna! I need to finish watching Boy Meets World! But the fact is, I’m the one who didn’t write. I probably could have eeked out something. It would have probably been gibberish as I had a fever but it would have been a habit. *sigh*

But luckily the better part of me has decided not to beat my lesser-self up. I have decided to forgive myself and move on. The only way to overcome is to keep writing. And even though I am super busy this week, what with Sundance, learning new stuff at work and changing my hair, I am committed to do this.

The one advantage of being sick? I finally have gotten into the habit of getting up early (albeit to cough up half a lung but that is beside the point. The point is, I can get up early enough to write in the morning now. I can also write on my fifteen minute breaks and my lunch break. I have the time. I just need to learn to use it.

Also, I need a planning day. I’m finding that even if I have enough material to write for a week, I then forget that I need time to plan for the next week of writing. Planning is half the battle with me. I need the time to daydream about it before it can find a way to the page.

And now that I’ve written more than my daily quote, it’s time to write some more!

Bookmarkaholic

January 18, 2012

Hello. My name is Heather and I am a Bookmarkaholic.

 

You’re one too? Marvelous. Then you know my shame.

Let me start off by saying that I love to learn new things. I have various lists of all the things I want to do in many different places. These are the little things, not resolutions. Those are filed and cataloged for future historians and family history buffs to find.

Because I have so many interests, I subscribe to many, many blogs. Blogs about writing of course but also craft blogs, knitting blogs, movie blogs, funny blogs, blogs with awesome quotes, fashion blogs, lifestyle blogs, bookshelf love blogs, cooking blogs, Harry Potter blogs, writer blogs, etc. And when I find an article I like or a craft I want to do later, I bookmark it. Yes, I have quite a few folders to sort things. But where do I put the link to the awesome Cello Wars video so that I can find it again later? Where do I put the link with directions for an origami  kitten? Where do I put them?

Honestly, I don’t know if I’m ever going to make the perfect “filing” system. More than likely, I’m going to end up with The Very Mixed Up Files of Ms. Heather M. Muir (high five if you got that reference), with things stuffed in virtual folders that they don’t appear to belong in except for very cryptic reasons known only to me. And while most of the folders are full, as well as some of their own sub folders, I keep adding. And adding. And adding.

This is why I haven’t logged onto Pinterest more than three times.

It is far too addicting.

However, bringing this back to writing (and you were hoping I wouldn’t *tsktsk*), my bookmarkaholicism (say that three times fast) actually fuels my creativity. More often than not, I am inspired by something I have read, be it a review for Cinderella Ate My Daughter or a Post Secret postcard, I always have something to write about. I may not write about it for years. Maybe never. But all these ideas are filed away in the mixed up files of my mind. And eventually, they come to surface in strange combinations because brains are just awesome in that way.

Because to be a writer you need something to write about. This is why I do not recommend majoring in English if all you want to do is write. Must write a post on that. Later.

So here is my confession to you all. My name is Heather and I am a Bookmarkaholic. And proud. Because while it is very mixed up, it is very fun.