Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pointing at Harry Potter

This month away from writing has given me time to let my mind float a bit. Instead of me thinking about writing and editing and marketing in a purposeful way, my thoughts have just sort of flitted over to those things now and then between scrubbing baseboards and cleaning windows.

I received a few new reviews during this past month, for both Finding Angel and Seeking Unseen, and during those flitting moments I've given thought to some of the common concepts in them. The main one being the fact that several readers looked at the premise of Finding Angel and assumed it would be just another Harry Potter rip-off. But they all agree that my story does stand on its own.

I will admit, I was worried when I was writing it. I did NOT want Finding Angel to feel like Harry Potter in any way. (And it drove me NUTS that I would tell people I was writing YA fantasy and their response always seemed to be, "The next J.K. Rowling, eh?") But the HP books have all the elements I already loved in fantasy, which is why I fell for them so hard. It's not like J.K. Rowling was the first person to think up all those things--she was just the first to put them into a story the exact way she did so and make it into a blockbuster. (And to do so with killer writing skills).

Finding out I had magic or came from some amazing secret place was a common fantasy of mine as a kid. My back yard was an "enchanted forest" and there was a "secret passage" in my closet... I watched all kinds of shows with magic, like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, and wanted so badly to find out I was like little Tabitha, with my mom just waiting to see if I developed powers. And anyone remember H.R. Pufnstuf? Magic flutes and talking dragons on an enchanted island! Not to mention books like A Wrinkle in Time, or The Phantom Tollbooth.

The point is, while I certainly am not saying "I thought of it first," there is nothing that says "young teen finds out he/she's magic" or "main character discovers secret magical world" are original ideas owned exclusively by J.K. Rowling. It's just a cultural thing, a result of her being the big name in that arena, that makes anything along those lines point to her work.

And while Finding Angel has been assumed to follow suit with the HP novels, it's actually been compared to many others, such as A Wrinkle in Time, Fablehaven, and The Spiderwick Chronicles--all three of which are favorites of mine. The fact is, writers draw from what they read, whether it's intentional or not. The stories that capture our hearts make a home there, and they influence us. We just have to make sure that influence stays at a reasonable level, and find our own voice. Which, judging by reviews, I've managed to do.

(And, just as an update--there is one day left in my month off from writing. And I have one more room to super-clean. Funny how that just worked out, eh? Here's to diving back into writing with a clean house around me!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Proliferation of Projects

So you know I'm taking a writing hiatus to get some household projects done. I've been cleaning and organizing like a madwoman. But I'm nearly done--only the bedrooms left to finish--which means most of my house is clean and dust-free into the deepest corners. (You are now what? Laughing? Rolling your eyes? Glaring at me? :P)

Of course, getting all this work done has created even more projects!

I've discovered the bar stools need their seats reupholstered. That's an easy one at least. I even already have fabric left over from last time :).

The curtains in my kitchen basically fell off the walls when I was vacuuming the dust off the tops, so I decided to replace them with cornices. Which, of course, means building cornices. 

I removed a desk from our back porch, which matches the dresser set in Beastie 2's room, so we're moving it in there. All three pieces need to be refinished. And Beastie 2 wants a new wallpaper border hung--zebra stripes to replace the "baby" butterfly border she has now. (Wah! My Beastie is growing up!)

Speaking of Beasties growing up: Beastie 1 has a pillowcase I made him when he was about 18 months old. That would be over 11 years ago, sigh.... It's...well, let's say, you see more pillow peeking through these days than case :P. (It's not the pillow he sleeps on, btw, it's a little one he just sets on his bed.) We picked out a really cool dragon fabric, and I'll have to borrow my mom's sewing machine and make a new case.

Oh, check it out--I found an image of the fabric!

The coffee table. (*groans*) We bought a sturdy oak coffee table when we first got married (19 years!) and it's really starting to show its age. I have tried so many times to find a new one I like, but no luck. Despite Jeff's warning against it, I believe I shall try to refinish it. Or touch it up. Or something. But I can't just let it go. (Don't tell him! Hopefully I can surprise him by actually making the table better instead of worse....)

And speaking of Jeff: They say opposites attract. This is most true for us. Jeff is a pack-rat and a set-it-where-he-uses-it kind of organizer. I'm an anti-pack-rat, and an obsessively put-it-away-or-throw-it-away organizer. Long story short, we bought a cabinet to put in the kitchen next to the bar area where his laptop and mass-of-junk-that-makes-my-eyes-roll-back-in-my-head lies spread across the counter. Wish us luck. Pray for us. This has to work or I may one day douse the whole mess with the kitchen sprayer.

Alright--back to it! Gotta get this all finished so I can end this hiatus. (Yep, the itch to write again is starting...)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Do I Have To?

I started writing a post last week and never finished. Maybe from being sick with this stomach flu (food poisoning?) for so long, I've been drained of ideas. But there's been a lot of discussion in my particular writing circles about the importance--or non-importance--of blogging for fiction writers.

I'm not going to post about that now, though. It'd get rather boring and boils down to this: blogging is something you do because you like it, or because you think you have to. I happen to like it most of the time. Blogging is also something that is either the product itself--in other words, people aren't going to buy your books because of your blog, but they will read your blog because it's got great content--or your blog is for your own personal outlet. Mine is the latter. As you can see today. I'm just posting this to express my opinion, and most of my followers probably don't even read my blog anymore to be honest.


The other thing that was discussed a lot while I was sick was whether or not you should write for publication. Not that it should never be a goal, but whether or not you actually putting words on paper or not should depend on reaching that goal.

Some believe that you write because you love it, period. If you get published, great, but that shouldn't be what motivates you to actually write. Others find the two go hand-in-hand, that if writing is not getting you published, or being published is not resulting in sales (or sufficient sales), then it's not worth the work.

I believe that most writers write for the love of it. But it can become very discouraging to write and write and write and either not get published for years and years or to get published and not sell well. Does this mean you ought to give up, though?

It's perfectly acceptable in any other field to expect to get paid for doing what you love. If you love teaching, become a teacher. But if you can't find a job teaching no one is going to say, "If you really love it and are called to teach, you'll do it for FREE!"

Maybe you'll get a job working at an office and then teach Sunday School once a week, or do some tutoring as a favor for a friend, or decide to offer a free class at the library now and then, but you're not going to teach full-time for free. When someone is hoping for writing as a career, they make it a priority, but if they're not succeeding in meeting that goal, then what's wrong with ratcheting back to hobby level? Or even saying it's just not worth the stress and simply refocusing on other aspects of your life?

There is also something that occurred to me just a couple of days ago. You see, while I was sick, I spent a lot of time lying in bed, watching HGTV. It's been years since I've really watched that channel, partly because I know I get addicted to it and then start wanting to redecorate and fix stuff up, and those things take time and money.

Well, watching all those shows kicked in that addiction again, and I've decided to take a break from writing for a little while to focus on deep-cleaning my house and finishing up some unfinished (or un-started) projects that have been bugging me.

In doing this, I realized that writing is just one of my many creative outlets. That if I stop writing, I just shift to being creative in other ways. In the past, before I ever started writing, I drew a lot, I painted figurines, and I scrapbooked. And of course the house-decorating stuff. For a while I even got on a sewing kick, although pretty much everything was rectangular--curtains, pillow cases, and even slings for carrying my kids when they were babies.

The point is, with those other things I got to be creative AND end up with something personally useful and/or something we needed that would have cost significantly more had I not done the work myself. Writing is the ONLY creative outlet I've ever focused on where the goal was to create something for someone else.

Yes, I said that. The writing part, the creative outlet part, is for me. Of course. But the product--the short story, the novel, whatever--is for the reader. If there are no readers, the story is just sort of dangling there in space, unused.

I guess I'm simply too practical. I can "write" a story in my head. I can imagine the characters and the plot and the story world and never put the words to paper, and I'm still being creative. I'm still creating a story, it's just not being physically recorded such that a reader can access it--and if readers aren't going to access it if I put the work into writing the story down, then, truly, why bother? I mean, I'm getting the part that's for me, right? And I can be plotting and characterizing while building cornices for my kitchen windows and redecorating the Beasties' rooms and cleaning out my closets, which are things that will benefit my family.

No, I'm not saying I'm giving up writing. I'm just saying that not writing doesn't take away my creativity. And the creativity part is what I do for me, for the pure love of it. The putting it on paper to sell it to someone else--that's for publication and for profit, and if it's not gleaning those things, should I have to do it?

Monday, January 7, 2013

I'm Back. Sorta.

Yep, been a while since I posted. It's a whole new year even! But I've been down for the count with stomach flu? Food poisoning? I dunno. Rotten, though. Not a fun way to spent New Year's Day, I assure you. But I got well caught up on the latest HGTV episodes :P.

Anyway, I'm back in the land of the living. And today I'm guest posting on Mike Duran's blog about the prices of ebooks. Take a trip over and check it out.