Monday, June 27, 2011

The Music I Write To - Earth

I am the type of writer that needs music to write. Yes, if in a pinch, I can write without it, but I prefer not to. When I start a new project, I allow myself that first day to put a play list of songs together that I think will put me in the mood for that project. I see it as putting on nicer clothes to behave better. When you’re in tennis shoes and jeans you behave entirely different than in heels and stockings. Guys, you know what I’m talking about.

So I thought I would share with you what my playlist for Earth was. Mind you I would add songs as time went by; if I heard a song on the radio in the car and it got me thinking about the book I knew it needed to be added to my playlist. This works for the most part for me, but if I’m stuck and the songs just are doing it, I will turn on Pandora and set a station up to get the juices flowing again. But Earth was my first serious attempt at buckling down and getting the damn thing finished. Here’s what helped:

A Praise Chorus by Jimmy Eat World. I really love Jimmy Eat World. So many of their songs act like anthems that really get you moving. This song was the first in my playlist and is upbeat and the lyrics remind me of other songs like Crimson and Clover. There are a lot of emotions covered in the song, all of which got the rough draft of Shayna moving in my mind.

Crawl by Kings of Leon. Oh my God, Crawl. This song did not get enough play by radio stations. If you haven’t heard it, you have no idea what you’re missing. The best fucking lyric ever: “Your lips, unfold, shaken purple by the cold”. Ah-fucking-mazing. Go listen to it. Yes, it’s a political song, but goddamn it’s tasty.

Colossal by Wolfmother. Another underappreciated band. They are, and this song in particular is, very Early Days Led Zeppelin, which is of course my favorite band. And this is another anthem-like song. It speaks of magic and mother nature, obviously written for my book.

24 by Jem I actually found this song by watching an episode of So You Think You Can Dance. I know, I know. But this chick was auditioning with this song and it was just so amazing. The string orchestra mixed in with the dance beat. It was so perfect. And the lyrics, talking about only having twenty four hours to solve a problem of life or death? Yeah, this was the song that drove Shayna, running through the woods. All the questions leading up to the clarity of purpose, standing in your own way. Jem wrote this song for Shayna.

Blue Veins by The Raconteurs. Okay. Jack White rocks my socks and I am so sad The Raconteurs are no more. This song, right after 24 by Jem slowed everything way down. It brought me to the point of critical thinking. Looking around at a scene, seeing what Shayna saw, what Steven saw, what Jodi saw all in the same moment. Even the lyrics whispered the vague sweet nothings between Shayna and Jensen.

Judith by A Perfect Circle. Is there anyone more amazing than Maynard James Keenan? No. No there’s not. The fan girl inside of me will always love him and Tool, A Perfect Circle and Pucifer. I could just play all of his songs and they would all fit every single book I write. But Judith, Judith is special. You can even remove the lyrics and the melody would be enough. But Judith screamed Ian, Steven and Shayna for me. It’s a painfully beautiful song.

Serenity by Godsmack. Oh Sully. How do I love thee? And of course I had to have a song by Godsmack in here, Sully Erna being a devout Wiccan. How powerful is that? Just like Maynard, I can listen to every song Sully has ever sung over and over again, but Serenity is haunting and moving. Another song that slowed me down and made me listen to the emotions of my characters. This song gave voice to their confusion.

All Around Me by Flyleaf. Who doesn’t love a tiny chick with serious pipes on her? This is another love ballad for Shayna and Jensen and their strange, complicated relationship that hasn’t even happened yet.

I’ll Attack by 30 Seconds to Mars. Gotta love me some Jared Leto. My thirteen-year-old heart swoons thinking of Jordan Catalano. This song worked for me on the same level as 24 worked. Shayna’s confused, terrified emotions, worried she was making the wrong decision at every turn.

The Good Left Undone by Rise Against. This song spoke of magic and the earth. Its fast and frantic and puts words to so many of the character’s problems.

Swamped by Lacuna Coil. Another awesome chick with amazing pipes. I needed music from powerful women to give Shayna and Jodi a voice in my mind. Lacuna Coil is so different and original. The lead singer has such a powerful voice that she reaches inside of you and rattles your lungs. But what I liked about his song was that there were two voices, one female and one male. I loved the duality of the song. It reminded me of the duality in the Wiccan teachings. It just seemed to fit.

So those are the songs that got me through Earth. And that is the exact order they were played in, over and over and over again for about two months.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Dangers of Checking Your Sales

I’m a bad blogger. I need to write a few blogs when the inspiration hits so I can just go and pick one out and post when I go through a blogging slump.

Life gets in the way of creativity and sadly blogging counts in that group. Tines are tough for everyone right now and the hubs and I are feeling the pinch so I’ve been all consumed with how we can pull out of these rough times. I feel like all I do all day long is talk about my book, try to push my book and then the rest of the time I spend checking to see if I’ve sold anymore in the last five minutes.

Whether you self-publish, like me, or go the traditional route you’re gonna find yourself obsessing over checking your sales and stats. Just the other day there was about an hour where the Kindle Direct Publishing reports were down; no one could log in and see their reports. It was only an hour, and maybe if I hadn’t tried to log in just then and found out about it, I wouldn’t have cared. But I did try to log in and for that whole hour I was in a panic because I couldn’t check my sales. So heed my words people, be careful not to let that become an obsession for you. It’s hard, believe me, but just try to distract yourself. Let your sales be happy little surprises, don’t let the lull in sales be the slow poison in your veins.
So that’s my little jewel of insight for you today kiddies. Hopefully I can take my own advice.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ten Things You Don’t Know About Me

I love it when I go to an author's blog or twitter feed and find out that we have things in common. I feel like I know that writer and I like them all the more for it. So in that spirit, here you go!

1. I swear a lot. Not as much or as creatively as Chuck Wendig, but still a lot. I find parents giving me sideways glances more often than I should. But I still feel weird swearing online, so when I do, I really mean it.

2. I actually have a zombie apocalypse survival plan. But what makes mine less crazy than yours is that mine will work in a regular apocalypse scenario as well. But I wont be surprised if it is a zombie apocalypse and I know it’ll be the government’s fault when it happens.

3. I am a Ren Faire geek. I mean for serious. We’re Rennies. I was lucky enough to convince my husband to go one year when he was just my boyfriend and when he found out he could carry weapons around, drink all day and smoke cigars, he was totally in. We have a number of privateer costumes and I have a wood fairy costume (complete with body paint and bitchin wings) and the hubs wears a woodsman costume when I wear that. I will spend all day getting pics taken with kids and passing out stickers and blowing bubbles when I’m a fairy. I love it.

4. Earth was not my fist attempt at a full length novel. I first tried to write a book about a female assassin in the American Mafia set in Los Angeles. I spent four years trying to force myself to finish it. I only ever got about 40k words done. I finally realized it was the kind of movie I would want to go see, but it wasn’t the kind of book I would ever read. Write the story you want to read.

5. I hate working out with a passion. I could punch a baby seal I hate it so much. But I work out three to four days a week. Recently I was able to squat 115 lbs for 6 reps.

6. We honeymooned in Paris. France, not Texas. We had to save up for over a year, but it was the best nine days of my life. We thought about going to Ireland, but they were still on the Pound, so really, money decided it. I do plan to make it to Ireland some day soon, hopefully to all of the British Isles.

7. I love MMA. My favorite fighter is Dan Hardy. I think it’s the hair. Or the accent. The tattoos help too.

8. Speaking of tattoos, I have ‘em. I have a full back piece of black angel wings. And I do mean "full back" not those thin little baby bullshit wings. My back is covered. They fade in and out of the middle of my back to symbolize them emerging from my back. The right tip is stained red because I have always held with the idea that angels are warriors, beautiful creatures with one wing tipped in blood. It took about 18 hours to get it done.

9. I love to cook. I make some rockin’ food. I suck at baking (for the most part, I did win my way into my husband’s heart by baking him the best pecan pie he’d ever had. The secret is light Caro syrup, not dark). I love to watch The Food Network, Top Chef, Man vs. Food, and all of that crap. I go to famous chef’s restaurants and hope and pray to meet them like normal people act around actors and musicians.

10. I have Dyslexia and Dyscalculia. I was undiagnosed for the majority of my school life, only finding out in my sophomore year in high school. I stood and argued with my math teacher that my answers weren’t wrong for nearly 20 minutes until we both realized what was going on. Get your kids tested, even if you don’t think anything is wrong.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

YA Saves - a response to the Wall Street Journal's article "Darkness Too Visible"

I’m not sure I can add much to the amazing comments that the bullshit article printed by the Wall Street Journal spurred last night. But I can tell you why, as an adult, I both read and write Young Adult books.

I went to junior high and high school at schools where the Caucasian population was literally less than three percent. Now, I will not take away anything from what the US considers minorities, but believe me, that was a terrifying six years of my life. My friends and I were picked on, bullied and threatened relentlessly because we were white in predominately nonwhite schools. And we were all nerds. So even my friends who were of color were not immune to the bullying because they made the fatal mistake of caring about their grades and joining extracurricular activities.

I graduated high school in 2000, Barnes and Noble and Borders did not have a Young Adult section. And obviously teens would not be caught dead in the Children’s section, so if books that would’ve helped us get through the threats on our lives – no I am not exaggerating – existed, we didn’t know about them. I had gay friends, both female and male, dealing with their sexuality. Dealing with their rejection. Dealing with thoughts of suicide.

I had one friend who had been raped more than once by boys she knew and was dealing with the concept that maybe she was a lesbian. She too nearly killed herself just to escape the nightmares.

I cannot even begin to tell you how many students at my high school had children. How many girls tried to get pregnant because they were afraid their boyfriends were planning to break up with them. How many got pregnant because their home life was such shit they wanted someone they could love and be loved by unconditionally. I am sad to tell you that some got pregnant because it was part of their culture and expected of them by the time they were sixteen. This shit is real.

I had friends with older and younger siblings doing better than they were, getting praise from their parents. My friends being belittled and criticized by their parents, hating their brothers and sisters with a rage unmeasured by books assigned to us by our teachers.

I had emotionally abusive boyfriends and was cheated on and pressured. And sadly I wasn’t the exception.

I was a cutter. My best friend was a cutter and anorexic. Many of my friends flirted with cutting. I personally saved the lives of three of my friends. Sadly, I even knew kids that hurt themselves because so many of their peers were doing it and they didn’t want to be left out. The pressures we faced, leveled on us by parents, friends, school, ourselves is all so overwhelming and we are in no way mature enough to understand that, given time, we may be able to get through it all and have a better life away from all this darkness. Hopefully. I am sad to say that not everyone made it out of my high school. Some murdered, some killed themselves. Tragic.

Even something as small and insignificant as being the first girl in my class to develop can crush a girl’s spirit. Even today, at the age of 28, I still have bitter angry women try to belittle and hurt me because of my bust size.

The books that are around today that address all of these issues and so many more are a lifeline to girls like I was and the kids that were my friends. I am sad that they weren’t around when I could’ve used them, the closest we had was Catcher in the Rye and believe me that was one of my favorite books in high school. To try and say books that deal with these issues are depraved is a slap in the face. The kids that need these books are not depraved. Even as an adult these books give us a chance to heal old wounds.

I did not write my books to be life changing or profound, after all they are “Fantasy” but I did not shy away from the issues kids face. I write books that are an escape from reality because sometimes that’s what you need. I want to remind everyone it is okay to still believe in magic and Santa and fairies and the monsters that live under our beds. But in my books there is a girl, abused by her boyfriend, there is a sweet-faced boy dealing with his homosexuality, there is a boy wanting to kill his brother, because these kids exist in real life and deserve a voice on the page.

You don’t get to decide what TV shows I watch or what movies I go to see and you sure as fuck don’t get to decide what books I read.

As for the mother quoted in that article, I am terrified for her 13-year-old daughter. Books give you the opportunity to open a dialogue for uncomfortable conversations, and can even address issues you are too scared to address yourself. You are only damaging your potential relationship with your daughter by shielding her from the real world. Making her feel even more ashamed or embarrassed by her own issues. I feel sorry for you and your children. I hope they choose to read as a form of rebellion rather than turn to blades, drugs or abusive relationships because they don’t know better and you didn’t give them a chance.

And even all of that doesn't begin to scratch the surface of my adolescence. So I will simply close with the comment I made on Twitter last night: Are you seriously saying that all the YA books out there are depraved because they help kids deal, WSJ? Well here’s depravity for you, fuck you.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Flash Fiction: The Unexpected Guest

Another flash fiction challenge offered by Chuck Wendig. What is awesome about this is that I am developing backstory on a character that I'm excited to start writing with once done with book 4 of my Elemental Series, Fire. This insallment is a prequel to this blog, and this one. Its based on the concept of "The Unexpected Guest." Enjoy!

I was almost out of vervain; I was almost out of a lot of my stores. I’d have to go visit Ronnie soon. I closed the cupboard, deciding against the potion I was going to make; if I didn’t do it right it would blow up in my face.

“Gonna have to find work soon, Artie,” I reached to scratch him behind the ears as he purred on the kitchen table. “We’ll both be eating canned tuna if I’m not careful.” Artemis rolled on his back, four black paws stretching in opposite directions before he became boneless.

I reached for the fridge door, poking through left over take out containers. Just as I grabbed a cold eggroll someone banged at my front door. A glance at the clock told me it was well after midnight. It wasn’t odd for someone to come by so late, but I wasn’t expecting anyone. I bit off a bite of eggroll and nudged the fridge closed with my hip. I grabbed my baseball bat on my way to the door. Sure, I could hex whoever it was or use my knock out powder, but if it was a friend they wouldn’t thank me for it in the morning.

I rose up on my toes to check the peephole just as my impatient caller banged again. I couldn’t see his face, but I saw the curly tuft of light red hair. I drew in a deep breath and caught a whiff of alcohol and sour garbage. Through the door I heard the distinct sound of a nose being blown, I prayed he had a handkerchief, but I doubted it.

“What do you want, troll?” I demanded through the closed door. I hefted my bat in one hand, munching the last bite of eggroll.

“Whot? Through the door now?” he whined.

“Why should I let you in?” I asked around a mouthful.

“I’ll pay!”

“For what?” I opened the door as far as the security chain would allow.

“For work,” he pressed. I did not work for trolls; even he was only half troll. Artemis mrrowed loudly, reminding me of the thought of sharing food with him.

“For the love of frogs,” I cursed, “Fine!” I snapped, slamming the door to release the chain. I stormed back into my living room. I kept the bat in hand.

“Thanks, Mattie,” he breathed, shutting the door behind him.

“Matilda,” I corrected, “only my friends call me Mattie.” I sat on the couch, leaving him the uncomfortable straight-backed chair. “What do you want?”

“I need to catch a fairy,” he said. He sat on the edge of the chair, knee bouncing and clutching a worn porkpie hat in his knobby fingers. The tuft of hair on top of his head didn’t hide his batwing-like ears; he might’ve passed for any other fae – maybe even human – if it weren’t for those ears.

“You’re serious?” I blinked at him.

“Yeah, whot of it?”

“Well, it’s dangerous for one thing. And I do mean fatal,” I paused to lick the oil from my fingers, watching his reaction. He seemed excited at my warning, maybe because I hadn’t dismissed him. “And it’s expensive.”

“I have money,” he rushed, jamming a hand in his pocket, pulling out a pouch. He pulled the thing open, spilling a small mound of jewels on my coffee table. They gleamed ruby red, emerald green and sapphire blue.

“That’s a start,” I kept my face schooled.

“Fine!” he threw a wad of human currency on the table. I didn’t want to need his money, but rent was up next week.

“What are you gonna do with the fairy once you’ve got it?”

“Never you mind!” he growled, finding some confidence.

“Well if that’s how you want it, then no,” I said firmly, waving at the door.

“Whot?” his jaw dropped.

“Look, I don’t aid and abet criminals, if I don’t know what you’re going to do with it, I won’t help you.” I crossed my arms over my chest and waited.

“Money,” he said.


“I want money!”

“You have money!” I waved at the pile on my table.

“Phsst,” he shook his head, “that’s nothing compared to whot a fairy can give me.” He was practically drooling. He was an idiot if he thought he could get a fortune out of a fairy, but if that’s all he wanted then I could sleep at night.

“Alright fine,” I sighed, “but you don’t catch a fairy, you know.”

“How’s that?”

“You steal their token,” I said, walking into the kitchen and pulling out a wooden disk, some oil and herbs. I was careful to make sure he couldn’t see what I was adding to the mortar. I ground the mixture and applied it to the wooden disk. The grain stained a darker color. I whispered a spell over the talisman so he couldn’t catch the words. It was all done in less than five minutes.

“That’s it?” he asked skeptically, taking the talisman from me.

“You just have to find the field where their token is, it’ll lead you to it. Once you have it, they have to answer your call and grant you one wish.” I said.

“Whot’s the token?”

“A four leaf clover.”

“Whot’s so hard about finding that?” I couldn’t help but laugh.

“They’ll have hidden it in a field of clover. For every ten thousand three leaf clovers there’ll be one four leaf clover. That’ll find it,” I nodded at the disk in his hand. “Once you get your wish, you’ll have to give it back though, otherwise you’ll risk the wrath of the Sidhe.” I saw the flicker of fear cross his face before he clutched the disk to his chest, turned and was out the door with a slam.

I shook my head at him as I gathered up the money that would see me through the next six months easily.

“Careful what you wish for, troll,” I sang, counting the bills.