May 28, 2011

Made of Awesome Blogfest

Another awesome contest from Shelley Watters

Not sure if I like this opening compared to the original =/ What do you guys think?

Removed! <3

Thanks for your thoughts ♥

May 18, 2011

Writing Wednesday and dealing with the blues

Drabble! As in, a 100-word ficlet. This is a little more than 100 words, but they're a fun practice in being concise, which I ultimately fail at lol

Removed!

I've been having this vexing roller coaster of up and down the last couple weeks, both for personal and writing reasons. When you start feeling like you're never going to get anywhere, how do you guys deal with the blues?

I like to tell myself, no matter how hopeless I feel, at least I'm not this guy:

Click to view full :) This is one of my favorite digital paintings that I've done. This is Mukuro in his watery prison. OH MUKURO ;_; Guess whose hand that is.

I didn't prepare a Friday post so next post will be Monday. I'm off to Anime Central this weekend, woo~ Pictures maybe when I get back!

ETA: Don't forget, my Followers Contest ends Sunday when I get back from ACEN! ♥

May 16, 2011

On Cultural Sensitivity

How important is it to be culturally sensitive, specifically when writing about diverse characters filtered through an MC? I would honestly like to know what your thoughts are on this.

Let's say character A, your MC, comes from a family that raises horses. She's a big horse lover and has always had them as pets. Then A meets an Italian character B, who may or may not have consumed horse meat back in (certain regions of) Italy (not picking on Italians, just randomly picked one country out of many that consume horse meat). This might seem repugnant to some, but that's because most of us were raised in a society that sees horses as companions and work animals. Lots of people eat cows, which are sacred in India. How do you think they view farms that raise cows for the sole purpose of being slaughtered?

So what do you do?

That was an extreme example, and I doubt anyone would write about horse meat, but you get the point.

How important is it to not condemn OR condone certain cultural behaviors/beliefs despite how you, personally, feel about it?

In my opinion, the answer is that the narrative should reflect the CHARACTER, and not you as the author.

Filter opinions and views through that character, good or bad, right or wrong, and the reader will decide whether or not they agree or disagree (strongly or otherwise).

But then, while A might have strong and unwavering beliefs on any given issue, as the author, is it our responsibility to at least give the other side due time and understanding in order to not alienate parts of our audience?

My answer is yes. But how do you guys feel about it?

eta: Mooderino made some great points in the comments - it should also reflect the story. While my answer is still yes, I mean it in a way that does NOT come off as trying to make a "point" or trying to "educate." I simply mean it in context with telling your story.



*Please note that cultural sensitivity is not the same as being culturally accurate. Make sure that if you do something like this, you present it accurately. Always do your research!
--
P.S. Followers contest is still open! :)

May 13, 2011

A Tourist's View of New York + a Blog Award

IF YOU HAVEN'T ENTERED MY CONTEST YET, PLEASE DO! :D
--
The super sweet and blogger extraordinaire Cherie over at Ready. Write. Go. gifted me the Cool Blogger Award:

One cool thing about myself? UM. I was born in the mountains of Laos. I think that's pretty cool? But I'm a dork so... haha.

Springing this award on Teralyn Rose Pilgrim over at A Writer's Journey

Rule is that you have to list one cool thing about yourself and then pass it on! Woo~

The rest of this originally posted here*

Last November, I visited New York for the first time. During the trip, I pulled a muscle in my foot from excessive walking (the level of pathetic in that is phenomenal), had numerous bouts of nausea, learned how to navigate the subway, and survived not just one but four taxi cab rides! Look at me, all adventurous *cough*

Things I learned about New York:

1. The people are generally very friendly. A couple times, a kind passerby noticed our vacant expressions of confusion and, noting our camera gear, asked if we needed help and pointed us in the right direction. I was our map person, and it did take me a couple times to get oriented but I always found my way eventually! Except for when we tried to find Koreatown, but I'm blaming googlemaps for that one >_>

Of course, there was the flip side as well in which some guys said, loud enough for surrounding tourists to hear: "I f*ing hate tourists."

Thanks, buddy.

2. When that traffic light turns green, those cars are coming whether you're out of the crosswalk or not. And vice versa for pedestrians when the walk signal lights up. The number of people who almost got ran over amazed me. And they weren't even fazed by it.

3. The women either can't aim on a toilet or they don't clean up after themselves. Nearly every toilet provided disposable paper toilet seat covers, which you'd think would minimize this problem but apparently not. Never in my life have I found, in every public bathroom I used (Every. Single. One.), that the toilet I happened to choose had urine on the seat. A couple times, I decided to be rebellious and thought 'NO, MADAM-WHO-USED-THIS-TOILET-BEFORE-ME, I THINK I SHALL NOT CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR INDISCRETIONS TODAY' and turned around to choose a different stall... only to find the same problem.

Maybe I'm just unlucky?

4. The subways are a must. And a godsend when your feet hurt so much you feel like you're walking on a bed of needles. Just remember to take the right train going in the right direction. Lesson learned. Do not want to end up in the Bronx when your destination is Battery Park.

5. The taxi drivers are insane. Maybe all the drivers in general are? IDK but from our hotel in Manhattan to LaGuardia airport, I swear our cab straddled two lanes the entire time. And it was 4 a.m. and raining. I may have feared for my life.

6. New York is truly the city that never sleeps. Monday evening in Times Square was just as busy as Saturday evening although the obvious tourists were fewer in number. And the traffic was just as crazy at 4 a.m. as it was at 4 p.m.

7 - infinity. Central Park was amazing. And the met. I could have spent the entire trip there. Grand Central Station was stunning. All the architecture was beautiful. Times Square was exciting. The Statue of Liberty was breathtaking. I'm running out of adjectives, but you get the idea.

This was my favorite display in the Met.


At Grand Central Station, which was only a block from our hotel!


View of Manhattan from the ferry that took us to Liberty Island:


There was this stunning courtyard on Liberty Island filled with white iron-wrought chairs and tables. They were completely empty, and gold leaves littered the ground. I imagined invisible faeries holding court around me. I dubbed it The Lonely Court:


The Statue of Liberty from the ferry as we left Liberty Island:


Without dramamine, I would have been sick all over the ferry. And even with the pills, I was still kind of nauseous. The ground felt like it was rocking beneath me for almost a day afterward.

There may have also been an attractive Japanese man standing on the deck across from me, and I really didn't want to horrify him (and the other passengers) by retching over the rails.

Public decency. I has it sometimes.

Picture galleries:
» New York trip part 1: Metropolitan Museum of Art
» New York trip part 2: Central Park
» New York trip 3: Statue of Liberty

Have an awesome weekend, guys! ♥

May 11, 2011

Followers Contest

CONTEST NOW CLOSED! Thanks for entering!

This should be nice and painless! To enter, fill out the form below.

Rules
*Since this is a followers contest, you must be a follower.

That's it! =P Tweeting, reblogging, facebooking would be awesome, but not required to enter.

Deadline is MAY 22

Prizes
First place (first name drawn)

Choice of:
• bust sketch (see below for examples)
• 10-page critique
• $30 Borders gift card

Second place (second name drawn)

Choice of:
• 5-page critique
• $15 Borders gift card

Examples of a bust sketch
*click to view larger
**your bust sketch will be black and white, no colored shading


As far as critiquing qualifications go, I graduated from college with a degree in Creative Writing, and my current critique partners seem to like me so I think that's a good thing?! lol Honestly, you may just have to surf around my Writing Wednesday posts and determine for yourself whether I might suit your critiquing needs :D



Like I said, it'd be awesome if you spread the word, but it's not necessary in order to enter the contest.

Good luck, and thanks for making this blogging thing such a great experience ♥

P.S. Cherie, I will get to your awesome award Friday :)

May 9, 2011

On Etiquette and Honesty

On Agent Interaction

The internet opens up this amazing space to interact with industry professionals that older generations didn't get. With blogs, twitter, facebook, tumblr, etc, writers have the ability to reach out and actually talk to the people capable of making their careers--or, at least, opening the door to them.

Don't abuse this. Don't get me wrong, I totally support doing your research, finding all interviews by that agent, stalking their blog/twitter/tumblr and their clients' blogs/twitters/tubmlrs. The more you know, and all that.

But don't be a nuisance. Don't pitch to them via twitter when they're just trying to have a helpful #askagent chat. Don't message them on Facebook asking them to look at your manuscript. Don't schmooze with an agent with the intention of sneaking your query to the top of the slushpile.

Agents will remember your name if your comments are thoughtful and engaging and honest. They will also remember your name for less favorable reasons, and b/c they won't want to work with someone they know is either difficult or a brown-noser, they won't even bother reading your query.

Agents can be intimidating, but they are only people (people with magical door-opening abilities, possibly like Door from Neverwhere), but still just people looking for genuine human interaction. If you make an honest mistake, they'll forgive you. But don't shoot yourself in the foot by committing those mistakes again and again.

The worst advice I've ever gotten was to lie to an agent. And it was from a published author. Having had previous email exchanges with this author, I went to her for advice on how to resubmit a newer version of a manuscript to an agent in possession of a full. Her advice was to shoot an email to the agent under the guise of checking in to see if she'd read my full yet and if not, hey, attach the newer version of the manuscript so the agent wouldn't have to go back and dig through emails and would think I was being considerate.

Ummm. Okay, while it isn't ill-intentioned, it is deceptive, and that didn't sit well with me. So I ignored her advice and just asked the agent if I could submit a newer version, to which the agent graciously accepted.

Do not lie to an agent EVER.

(BTW, said agent later sent me the nicest rejection I have ever received lol. And also welcomed me to send her the manuscript again after I finished editing. That's another thing you shouldn't do--send continually newer versions. Fortunately, like I said above, agents are human and will forgive your mistakes as long as they don't keep happening.)

On Feedback to Other Writers

Whether you're a beta reader or a critique partner, always be honest in your feedback and your reactions. If there was a sentence that made you pause and go 'wow,' let the writer know. If there was a passage that made you pause and go 'wth?' let the writer know.

You aren't responsible for quality control, but--if you're a beta reader/CP--you're someone the writer allowed to read their work for the purpose of giving them a truthful and thoughtful reaction. Don't tell her the book is awesome if it isn't. That writer might end up shopping a book that isn't ready, and potentially ruin her chances with agents she shouldn't yet be querying.

But also be balanced. If you loved the book, say so, but try to pinpoint a few areas the writer might be able to improve. Likewise, if you hated the book, then you should also say so. But explain why, and try to do it in a way that isn't insulting or inflammatory. Honesty is important, but so is common decency.

On Book Reviews and Differing Opinions Among Friends

I'm okay with writers who review books by their peers. I know a lot of people find fault with this, but as long as negative reviews are done so with tact, then I don't see the problem. We're all adults, and we're capable of playing in the same sandbox without someone stomping on another person's sand castle and throwing a tantrum--and if we're not, then we need a long time out to chillax.

Look, guys. We are capable of having different opinions and still being friends. I know, CRAZY, RIGHT? We can even argue about whether or not we liked a book, and still be friends. My friend can dislike my book and still be my friend. Our friendship is not contingent upon her liking my book, or her having all the same opinions as me.

But there's a line to walk between honesty and being a jerk. A book review ripping apart a book and shouting 'DON'T BUY IT' isn't one I'd consider seriously. And if you're going to have to tell your friend you didn't like her book, then try cushioning it with some positives instead of telling her her book stinks, the characters are flat, and the conflict was unrealistic. Because honesty might hurt, but the way you deliver it will determine whether or not you still have a friend afterward.

Treat a book the same way you'd want your book to be treated--with honesty and fairness.

On Social Media

Blogging is awesome. It connects you with other bloggers and aspiring writers who share mutual interests and passions. But, as with everything else, you should be honest in who you present to your readers. For a lot of people, blogging is a part of establishing your brand (unless you blog anonymously), and you want to present the best part of yourself. Who you are on your blog/twitter/etc won't reflect who you are completely, but it should be a facet of you, and not just a guise.

So, be honest about who you are, but also keep etiquette in mind. Don't turn your blog into a personal diary in which you publicly complain about the publishing industry and/or lambast agents who have rejected you.
---
In almost any situation, when in doubt, choose honesty and tact.

For today's bit of art, here's a crop of another pencil sketch commission:

Keep an eye out Wednesday for my Followers Contest post! :D

Happy Monday, everyone! ♥

May 6, 2011

Eight Question Meme!

I was tagged by Artemis Grey in a meme! And if you're not sure what a meme is, you can read about it here :D

Now for the questions...

If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would it be?

I'd probably go back to third grade. Definitely my favorite time as a kid.

If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

There were two periods in my life when I stopped writing completely. The first was after my brother passed away. The second was in high school because I discovered boys... *hangs head* Which then led to me meeting my husband and getting married in college and having a child right off the bat. I guess all things happen for a reason, but I would definitely go back and fix my teenage priorities!

What movie/TV character do you most resemble in personality?

Someone clumsy who writes and reads and games and draws and thinks all questions can be answered with enough research! In other words, I have no idea. However, many friends have said Dory from Finding Nemo b/c I have the memory of a fish.

If you could push one person off a cliff and get away with it, who would it be?

Pretty sure there's no one I hate enough to push them off a cliff o_o Maybe an evil murderer or something? But I'm pretty sure I still wouldn't be able to do it.

Name one habit you want to change in yourself.

My tendency to procrastinate and be easily distracted? I opened this new blog entry two hours ago and have wandered off a dozen times since. *cough*

Describe yourself in one word.

What?

Describe the person who named you in this meme in one word.

Determined! From her blog posts, it sounds like she's got so many projects that I can only sit back and gawk and hope to be be that productive!

Why do you blog? Answer in one sentence.

Because it's a way to connect with other people over things we mutually enjoy and love. It was the same when I blogged for fandom :)

Name at least 3 people to send this meme to, and then inform them.

My three very awesome critique partners:

1. Bluestocking
2. Mindee
3. Ani

Have an awesome weekend, guys!

Here's a crop of one of my favorite pencil sketch commissions. He's an original character named Isas (not my character):

May 4, 2011

Writing Wednesday + Artistic Blogger Award

Today's excerpt is from something I wrote a few years ago:

That first stroll through Tsuna's subconscious had been unintentional. Tsuna had been sitting at the center of an otherwise unremarkable field. Mukuro had paused at its perimeter and imagined the narrow shoulders of the Sawada Tsunayoshi he had known superimposed on the broad back of the young Vongola boss before him. He had glanced down at his empty hand and flexed his fingers as if testing the phantom weight of a memory.

"I've been waiting for you."

Mukuro smiled because it was the easiest thing to do given the circumstances. "Have you?"

"Yes," Tsuna said, scooting around to face him. There was a line of concern between his brows, discernible through the fall of his hair. "I needed to know if you were... okay."

His hesitation was amusing. Mukuro's feet whispered through the tall grass. There was the distinct absence of apprehension in Tsuna's face. Such reckless inexperience, Mukuro thought, to feel secure in so tumultuous a place.

"What makes you think I'm anything more than a product of your dreams?"

Tsuna's lips quirked and his eyes shifted away for a moment, just enough to convey his uncertainty. "You could be... but I don't think you are."

Mukuro was close enough now to reach out and touch him. So because he could, he did. Tsuna's hair was coarse against his palm.

Tsuna smiled, reading more in the small gesture than Mukuro intended. Mukuro moved his hand lower, fingers pressing into the skin of his neck. "Still so naïve, Sawada Tsunayoshi."

The incredibly sweet Anita over at A Still and Quiet Madness gave me this beautiful award:

Thanks so much, Anita! You're awesome ♥

Speaking of art, I'm contemplating a contest to celebrate hitting the 100 followers mark. But the prizes would be modest--a bust sketch by me (all the artwork on this blog and my website is by me, so you know what my style is), a possible writing critique, and a Borders gift card.

Can I have a show of hands for who'd be interested? Just for me to know, really. I will likely do this contest regardless of whether two or twenty people enter =P

Today's excerpt brought to you, again, by Mukuro, my favorite morally ambiguous psychopath, and Tsuna, his reluctant mafia boss:

May 2, 2011

On Description and Senses and Distancing Point of View

I love writing that evokes all five senses. But one of two things usually happen in rough drafts:

1. Writing feels too heavy--too many descriptions and observations slow down the pace.
2. Writing uses language that distances the reader and results in the opposite desired effect.


I am particularly guilty of the first one. Fortunately, fixing it is easy.

Just cut words. Sentences. Entire paragraphs if you must. It's great when a characters sees and hears and smells new surroundings, but these details must hit hard and fast, and then retreat to let the action continue. If the description is either too long or only there to look pretty, delete it. It must serve a purpose.

My first few drafts of Soul had paragraphs of setting description because it was new to London, my MC. Several awesome critiques later, 90% of those descriptions were axed because they were only, I sheepishly admit, indulgent writing.

Fixing the second issue is also easy, although it requires a little bit of tweaking as well.

Distanced point of view happens any time you approach a description as sensed through the character: I saw, I heard, I smelled, I felt.

Remove and reword to make the reader feel more present:

I saw a temple at the top of the hill.
vs.
A temple sat on top of the hill.

I heard the church bells toll the hour.
vs.
The church bells tolled the hour.

I could smell the smoke.
vs.
Smoke burned my nostrils.

I felt the rough bark against my fingertips.
vs.
The rough bark scraped my fingertips.


You can see that, while the first sentence uses the 'sense' word (saw, heard, smell), the second feels more sensory.

Another way you distance your reader is when you include unnecessary thought tags.

Thought tags that distance point of view: wondered, thought, mused, realized, etc...

Dad probably wasn't home yet, I thought.
Mom must have left the car in the garage, she mused.
The cows were aliens, I realized.

Sometimes those phrases are necessary to understand what you want to get across so don't eliminate them all--just the ones you can reword to strengthen the manuscript. There is no right or wrong, really. When in doubt, use your best judgment!

Happy editing ♥
 

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