Jan
31
2010
26

This Is What I’m Thinking III

I’m thinking about a lot today. I’m thinking this post is like a whole week’s worth of blogs. So if you’d rather, you can just read one part a day. Or skim fast. Or skip it altogether. I don’t know why I was so talkative.

Sunday is play day for me. I have a character I can’t find a story for. I’ve put her in three or four different worlds, but she doesn’t fit. For some odd reason, I MUST write a story about this character.

So today I searched for inspiration: I read Tales of the Golden Corpse—a book of Tibetan folk tales—the Idiot’s Guide to Astrology, the Dummies Guide to Mythology, thumbed through Jacqueline Carey’s Santa Olivia and cried because I wanted to take it home, and also through Isabel Allende’s Eva Luna for the same reason.

I also started reading Neil Gaiman’s Journal from the very first post: American Gods Blog, Post 1. At one time, I thought I’d read and finished American Gods, but it appears as if I haven’t. I’m a little confuzzled on how that happened, but am extraordinarily happy that I have a Neil Gaiman book to read. On my Kindle, of course.

the safety manager on Glenn’s boat wouldn’t let him off to go to the doctor in Seattle before they left, which meant his 2cm x 2cm spider bite (or whatever it was) grew while they were traveling at sea for two weeks, to fevers and fainting and extremely low blood pressure and nerve damage to his arm and a whopping 10cm x 7cm wound with 12cm x 17cm swelling that’s going to take two months to heal. The doctor sent him to the ER yesterday and freaked us out, telling us a week in the hospital and surgery and ambulance and don’t stop at go, but second opinion says we’re on track.

He’s got morphine and vicodin to get him through the pain. I’m a little curious as to what morphine (or vicodin) is like, but not that curious.

image So I spent my play day at Borders. The funny thing is, I can tell how old a book is by how many times I sneeze when I open it. Brand-new books are generally fine, no problems. Whole sections are better than others: I rarely sneeze in the YA section, but in the Mythology section, I had to use my inhaler. In the Literary section, I’m a goner.

Borders is better than Books A Million, and Barnes and Noble has the worst record: twelve sneezes in a row within one minute. If I walk into a library, my lungs just die upon first breath.

My love affair with the book smell, the feel of paper? So over. But I still dream of working in a book store.

So this anti-ebook/anti-reasonably-priced-ebook thing publishers seem to have going on? Freaks me out. And the only thing I have to say about this pricing brouhaha between Amazon and Macmillan is that I’ll be very sad if publishers insist upon charging more then ten dollars for an ebook. Someday, if I win the lottery, I will spend thousands and buy every book on the planet and from every single author on the planet. I’ll have a huge, wonderful, beautiful library with a state-of-the-art air system so I can breathe and read and spend all day in there.

In the meantime, I can only read on my Kindle or at Borders, and price matters to my pocketbook.

I think price matters to readers, too. If my last royalty statements are any indication, my lowest-priced stories are selling the most. Which is BIZARRE, if you take into account hook, story, subject matter, quality, quality, and quality, but… it seems price point is what sells. I mean honestly, my lowest-priced ebook is just STUPID. It’s plain. Cliché. A story told a million times. (At least as I recall it: it was written in one month, six or seven or eight years ago.) It probably ranks as my second worst story.

As an author, all my Amazon royalties should double next year, which rocks, so I’m thrilled with Amazon’s new deal with at least one of my pubs. (Haven’t asked the other if she qualifies.) One is willing to conduct a lower-price experiment, and I’m going to see if the other one is up for it, since she has my best book. I’m thinking I should actually promote it. What an idea!

It’s been doing well on the piracy sites, which sorta makes me proud, in a backwards sort of way. As long as they don’t get too far up in the Google rankings, I don’t worry too much. (At the moment, they are too far.) I’ll do what it takes to push them down so that honest people don’t “buy” them for free when they don’t know any better, but I don’t believe those that seek out the pirated book would actually PAY for my book if it were unavailable on piracy sites, so I don’t get my panties in a knot.

I do need to do more to get pseudonym higher in the Google rankings; that will also push down the pirates and torrents.

Have I rambled enough? What have you read lately? How are things for you? What do you do on a “play day?” What are you allergic to? :-)

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings,Writing Biz | Tags: , ,
Jan
28
2010
25

What’s Going On?

Glenn’s coming home! I’ve been sitting by the phone. I probably won’t know which day until he’s flown to Anchorage, given the difficulty of phoning from Dutch Harbor. It could be any day (or really, any hour) now.

Good news: Bernita has a new Lillie St. Claire story in Weirdly: Volume 3. Lillie rocks, I’m telling you, totally rocks.

 Smart Pop Books has released excerpts of Ardeur, an essay anthology about Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. There are some great essays in there! Mine is “The Domestication of a Vampire Executioner.”

Laurell K. Hamilton guest-edited, and she wrote really awesome and heartfelt intros to each essay. Lots of times, editors write a paragraph, a couple sentences. She wrote a page or two. I have to say, her success is not surprising; the extra mile must be automatic with her.

Speaking of Smart Pop Books, if you’re a fan of Dollhouse, they’re having an essay contest for the Dollhouse anthology.

So I mentioned I’m learning Spanish. The Listen ‘n’ Learn Spanish with the Movies book assigned Eight Below first. Um, YEAH RIGHT. I sobbed the whole way through. And I’m not watching it again, no way no how. I don’t care if I haven’t learned the Spanish I’m supposed to learn from it.

I’m an emotional weakling. The whole time, I knew there was going to be a happy ending for the dogs, but that didn’t help. Nor did the actual happy ending: I sobbed through that, too.

I cry at everything in real life, too. I saw a mean sign a few days ago, and I came home and cried. I was depressed for three days. I felt like running home to a mommy and saying, “He hurt my feelings!”

I have the emotional strength of a five year old. *sigh*

*Addendum: He just called! He’s already to Anchorage; he’ll be here at 11:45 am, Friday morning!

What’s going on with you?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing,My Adventures | Tags: , , ,
Jan
27
2010
23

Judgment & Opinions

I’ve really been feeling anti-judgment, lately. I’m just astonished at how much we judge everything. Constantly. We don’t even notice. Even little, tiny things.

Someone decides to get married? We must make a judgment on it. Everyone must have an opinion, and it must be FOR or AGAINST.

Someone wants to X route in their writing career? The community must make a judgment on how that’s either DUMB or the SMARTEST THING EVER.

Someone wants to feed the birds? We must all consider the possible ramifications and MAKE A JUDGMENT. And then DECLARE OUR OPINION.

(So here I go, making a judgment.)

In Kindergarten, we have to learn right and wrong and such. We start sorting things into black and white, because that’s how we understand the world. As we grow up, we start to recognize the gray area. We mature.

I’ve been thinking that the optimum time for a human being is in their early twenties or so, when they still recognize the gray area. Because it seems that as we get older, we start forgetting about the gray area. We start filing ourselves into FOR or AGAINST with everything. We get rigid in our thinking.

We de-mature to Kindergarten.

This is a generalization, of course, so it doesn’t apply to everyone. And I’ve often thought it doesn’t completely apply to writers and actors and the like, because we so regularly step into other people’s shoes.

I want to be about understanding, not about judgment. I don’t want to choose a side: I want to find a middle ground, or at least some way where we can let people live their lives, as long as it harms none.

The little judgments we make are astounding. And to have an opinion is a judgment, too. But a blog needs opinions. And I just seem to be flat out of those, lately. They make me tired, because then everyone will have to sort themselves into FOR or AGAINST.

What think you?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags: , ,
Jan
26
2010
20

The Problem Is…

…most of what’s on my mind, I don’t want to blog about yet. So blog thoughts just aren’t coming. These snippet posts seem to be all I can do, lately.

Writing Fast

I’m a little envious of people who both write full-time AND take a year to write a book. Wow. Just think of all the research you could do, and how leisurely you could write! You could feel proud and on track for having written 400 words a day, AND take 65 days off a year! (Or use 65 days for brainstorming or research, etc.)

Or maybe I’m just upset that my novel for “real name” is going slow as freakin’ molasses. And I’m writing it amidst pounding out words for pseudonym.

Honestly, I’m just sick of the pressure to always write faster. But what can you do? Gotta pay the bills. And really, I’m not real fond of that pressure, either. They’re close to the same thing.

Learning Spanish

I’m learning Spanish. It’s hard, as I’ve never worked with a Romance language before (just the barest of Italian). I’ve been dreaming in Spanish, which is encouraging. One of the things I’m using to learn is LiveMocha, which is great. It’s a bit like Rosetta Stone, except it’s online and free.

It’s like learning a language on Facebook, because once you submit an exercise, three or four people will write and tell you that you suck and need to try again. (Okay, not really that bad, LOL!)

What’s funny is that I grade TOEFL tests now and then, since I speak English. And WOW. I’d heard they were… ridiculous, but they really are. The last one I graded was on the study of etymology throughout history, written in unreadable college textbook style. (And NOT the applicable kind of etymology. Just long terms that I’ve NEVER used in my ENTIRE life, used in thick and sludgy prose I had to read three times.)

Real useful. *eye roll*

I’m also using Fluenz and a wonderful book called Listen ‘n’ Learn Spanish with Your Favorite Movies. The last one is definitely my favorite, and my Netflix account is getting a good workout, too. :-) I also dabble with the free courses written by the Foreign Services Institute. Useful, but “hard” learning.

My goal is to be conversing at Intermediate level by the end of February.

Contact Form

Lastly, I’m getting a lot of blank contact forms. Could a couple of you contact me, just so I can see whether spammers are blanking me, or if my contact form isn’t working? Thanks so much!

So what’s up in your world? Any blog ideas for me, LOL?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing,Musings | Tags: , ,
Jan
21
2010
38

This is What I’m Thinking II.

I seem to have no new thoughts. Or if I do, they are merely snippets.

I proof-read a bit of non-fiction today, and I was thinking that although non-fiction is a struggle, chore, and difficulty for me, the one fun thing about writing non-fiction is that you get to use colons and semi-colons.

I spent the afternoon basking in them. Punctuation is beautiful. (But I already said that.)

I also edited an old, old work for ebook release. I’ve been dragging feet on this one. The first chapter is unfixable, but really, aside from some word pruning, the story is a lot better than I thought it was. I thought it would scare away readers, but I think it’s fine. Actually, it’s got a lot of heart.

Lesson in that, I suppose.

You can get the word count from Amazon on lots of books, using this method from Alexis Grant. Isn’t that AWESOME? I love it!

“Every word wasted writing a blog post is a word that could have been spent on your novel.” That was updated around Facebook, and while it’s funny, I disagree. There’s a long line of writers throughout history who regularly wrote letters, journals and essays. So much so that I’d sooner believe these exercise are necessary.

For me, constructing sentences, organizing my thoughts, and finishing things helps me. Particularly the “finishing things” part. It takes forever to finish a novel. It feels good to finish something every day, even if it’s a blog post or an essay or a piece of flash fiction.

/start rant

And finally, do we need to have an opinion on everything? I just see so much invested, particularly as writers, in predicting the future and saying what’s right and what’s wrong. No one knows for sure what the future holds, and people get so worked up opinionating about ebooks and the dire state of publishing.

Really, are you in a position to fix the publishing industry? To change the future of publishing? Well, then why not look at things now, and see how you can position yourself now to make money or meet your objectives? Why not see what works for you now?

And does everyone need to follow your path, too?

Because that seems to be the gist of these opinion pieces. Everyone must self-publish, or everyone must delay ebook releases, or everyone must install DRM, or everyone must not install DRM.

I’m so over those articles/essays/blog posts. I don’t know where the future of publishing lies. I’m placing my bets on certain horses, and I could care less where other people place theirs.

/end rant

Anyway, what are you thinking today?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |
Jan
15
2010
28

Large Casts & Writer’s High

I worked all day yesterday, and got nothing done. Well, not nothing, but it sure feels like it. I was making up names. Trying to organize all my characters in charts (thank you, Mind Mapper) so I could keep track of them.

I have seven big characters in this story. It’s mind-boggling, as they all achieve a main character status at some point. I’m juggling their arcs and trying to get it to piece together just so.

Then you add in all the secondary characters, and this is just difficult. I make charts and lists. I have tons of research to do, research that can’t be skipped or saved until later.

But this part of writing makes me feel so unproductive. I like words written. Laurell K. Hamilton has sometimes mentioned that she gets a “writer’s high” much like runners get a runner’s high.

While I sometimes get a research high that’s quickly drowned in guilt, I only get a writer’s high if I actually write prose, about 3,000-5,000 words. Or if I finish something.

So I’m missing writer’s high.

How do you achieve writer’s high? How do you feel productive when you’re mostly thinking and planning and researching instead of writing?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags: ,
Jan
14
2010
25

Desert Fun + New Story

It’s been a busy week. And I have a new flash story up at A Million Monkeys: Lost and Found. Monday I hiked the desert, picked up some trash under a bush, and crumbs from the bush slipped down my pants. I’m still itching on my lower back.

image Tuesday, the day disappeared. How does that happen? I think I was gone all morning, but I can’t remember where. Then I taught water aerobics, went to a meeting, and saw The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I really wanted to love it. It had the whimsy, the great acting, but… well, in the end, it didn’t make sense. There was no point to me. Or if there was, I didn’t get it, which was equally annoying. I was very disappointed.

And Wednesday I went to the coolest museum ever: The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Totally awesome. It’s an outdoor museum, mostly, that’s more zoo than museum. I kept thinking that I can’t wait until my niece can see it, maybe when she’s a year or two older. She loves nature, and I wonder how she’d react to a completely different environment.

image The best museum I’ve ever been to, for sure. I even got a behind-the-scenes tour, and I TOUCHED A SNAKE! I did! I really did! A very pretty one, too. :-) And heard a rattlesnake’s rattle for the first time. We went into a room where they keep all the snakes they’re breeding and stuff, and a couple started rattling like crazy. Way cool.

I’m totally in love with where I’m living now. I’ve never been in love with a place, like a place to live. Could live here forever, not a single drop of restlessness. Which was not the point of me leaving. At the very least, I think this will be my home for at least six months of the year.

How’s your week been?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: My Adventures | Tags: , ,
Jan
10
2010
24

It Which Must Not Be Named

You know what I’m talking about, right? We don’t say those words. We don’t want to give it power by believing in its existence. We wouldn’t want to… summon it by accident.

For WIP #2, all I have is my main character’s name. Yes, that’s the sum total of my NaNo novel, of which the rest I have completely scrapped. What I wrote didn’t work. I don’t know what. Maybe it was the world, the other characters, the tone, the genre… I have no idea.

All that junk was cluttering up this novel’s room, and it needed a blank slate. So today I deleted it for good. Trash can and everything.

Yes, sometimes we crave the blank page again.

She’s special, I can tell. I keep trying on different clothes, different settings, different plots. Nothing is fitting.

This morning, I got a sentence. It’s a sentence that says everything about who she is:

“I’m not going to fill your fuckin’ mold,” she said.

A sentence! Woo-hoo!

Phew. I’m so relieved I could celebrate a day’s hard work because I got a sentence.

But I need to get back on my 5K a day program. I know that was years ago, but I need it back.

So I’m sitting here. I sometimes force myself in a chair for three hours, internet off, WIP open, and tell myself I’m not allowed to move for three hours. And I’m trying jobs on her, trying cities, trying genres, trying ages, trying situations.

A little niggle suddenly makes me wonder if she was talking to me when she said she wasn’t filling any molds.

Er.

I can see the appeal of stepping back and pretending our characters are fully-realized humans before we met them, that we’re just conduits or whatnot. Maybe I should try it: Hi, nice to meet you.

Both my WIPs are in the “sputtering” stage, where I can’t even write complete sentences yet. No whole pages polished, no chapters finished, nothing. Just a bunch of stutters.

Glenn is sick. If they send him home, then I really must write faster. Amazing how desperation helps you write faster. Needing the money has always pulled me through, except when it paralyzes me, LOL. I was sorta looking forward to my three months of no pressure. It’s life, I guess!

Universe, remember what I requested for this year?

So what do you do about it which must not be named?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags: ,
Jan
10
2010
18

3:24 A.M.

And my new website is live. Will you go and have a looksee at natashafondren.com? Let me know what needs fixing?

That’s all. I’m wiped. I did it all in a day.

Tomorrow’s for writing. I mean, today.

What was your weekend like?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |
Jan
09
2010
18

A Time To Every Purpose

I’m weary of devices. They’re everywhere. It gets to the point where you read a novel, and you’re thinking, “Ah, yes, foreshadowing. Interesting choice of symbol. Oh, drop a bit of suspense there, huh? Red herring, that. Uh-oh, theme alert: INCOMING!”

There is sort of an image authors like to maintain, that these things—these themes and symbols and the like—are all mystical happenstance. Like Isabel Allende writes:

“But there is something magic in the storytelling. You tap into another world… I have a feeling that I don’t invent anything. That somehow I discover things that are in another dimension.”

Okay, I concede: sometimes things just show up in the book. Themes emerge. Symbols happen. John Irving likes to laugh and shrug and say the bears in all his novels are just coincidence.

Seriously, LIKE HE DIDN’T NOTICE. Once they were there, he made the conscious decision to keep or delete.

Sure, there are writers who end up with that stuff in their novel and don’t realize the technique they’d used. You think their editor didn’t notice? Didn’t consider the keep-or-delete question? Didn’t bring it to their attention?

Yeah, NO.

Which brings me to what I wrote today. I spent an hour writing it, and three hours desperately trying to cover my symbolism and delete all but the essence of my theme.

I spent more time unwriting than writing.

And it still seems to me that all the devices are there in blinking neon lights. Yes, I’m weary of it. Yet these are the elements of fiction; these are the tools of our craft.

I’ll admit that I’m pretty adamant that pseudonym speak nothing of craft. It spoils the magic. No one wants to see the cameras or the supports behind the props.

But there’s not a period in my work that’s not crafted.

So that’s where I am today: frowning at my work and trying to figure out how I can hide all the craft. That’s the challenge. Make it all too blatant, and I irritate readers. Heck, I irritate myself.

More unwriting tomorrow.

What think you?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Craft | Tags: , ,

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