Thursday, May 31, 2012

Balancing Act

Something I have always struggled with is balance. Which is somewhat ironic since I have the kanji letters for it tattooed on my back.

My balance issues don't just stop with tree pose in yoga, I have difficulty balancing all the aspects of my life. Home, school, motherhood, writing, running... sleep.  I am notorious for picking one or two, and going gung ho and ignoring all the others. Lately that has been marathon training and writing. At least 5- 6 hours daily is devoted to the two. My poor children are orphans and my house is in shambles.

Next weekend I run my marathon. It's not an exaggeration to say I feel like I've been running myself ragged. I'm really looking forward to the change in pace. But I have been so all involved in the running and writing, that I am losing sight of all the other things in my life that need attention. I have been killing myself and stressing to finish this new book on some arbitrary deadline that I have created for myself. It's not much fun anymore, and I am getting too close to the story and I think it needs some breathing room. I need to spend some time on other things. In particular, I really want to walk through my house without tripping on toys and clothes.  Or tools... hint hint to my hubby.

So let the great house clean up begin. For the next two weeks I am dedicating a few hours everyday to cleaning the disaster formerly known as my home. Of course, when I clean, I still have trouble with balance. I tend to go with the torch it all mentality. If it's not necessary in my daily function, it gets donated to someone else. My husband almost hates to ask me to clean, because he loses so much stuff afterwards. But he's a pack rat and who really needs 5 old computer monitors anyway?

So wish me luck. Hopefully I won't fall victim to the mountain of crap in my garage, and hopefully I can still find time to get an hour a day in on the WIP. That would truly be a good sign that my balancing is improving.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

50 Shades of Ranting

One of these days I will do a little more research before I buy a book. In this case I didn't. So today this post is a rant in the guise of a review for 50 Shades of Grey.

Some of you are probably like, I think I've heard that name before. Others are probably like, Oh... that book.  Well, last week I was in the first group. I didn't pay a lot of attention to what was going on, just that I'd heard it was being made into a movie and it was Twilight Fan fiction. So when I saw it on the table at Costco, I thought I would see what the buzz was about. There's an innocuous looking gray tie on the front cover. Sheep's clothing people.

The first 3 chapters were torture. Absolute torture. It was forced, stilted, and generally made me want to run back to Costco for a refund. Terrible writing, but I persevered because millions of fans can't be wrong right? Well, I suppose that's a matter of taste.

I was expecting vampires, I was not expecting straight up S and M. I skimmed through the parts that I wouldn't show my momma. But still I was drawn in. Why? I have no clue. The writing was very basic, the character's personalities were swiped wholesale from twilight, and there were no paranormal elements at all. Just fifty shades of screwed-up soap opera-ness. This absolutely shouldn't have worked. She took the very worst parts of Twilight (whiny girl who think's she ugly even though she's hot, rich overprotective guy who thinks he unredeemable) and beat them like a dead werewolf. Yet, I kept turning the page because I still wanted to know if the power of love could transcend a messed up start.

Would I recommend this book or the series, heck no. If you choose to, be forewarned that it has mooey X rated parts. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, I wanted to move past this and on to the rant. Content aside, this series has sold 10 million copies. My jaw is on the floor right now. It boggles the mind. It's right up there with Jersey Shore being one of the most popular TV shows.

Part of me (the author part) is enraged that this... stuff... becomes bestseller material. I have friends whose work is clean, smart, and emotion evoking. Their writing craft makes this looks like a high school essay. So I'm indignant on their and quite frankly my behalf.

Other part of me, the non-judgemental part, says that this work clearly has value. Just like Twilight is not a masterpiece in the literary world, they both tapped a vein that resonated with the public. People love LOVE these books. Don't ask me why, but they do. And isn't that really what it's about? Drawing people in with you story, making people care about what happens to your characters.

I think as an author, we can get especially snobby about good writing and using pretty words. Some literary writers look down on mass market paperback writers or romance writers, thinking their style is ordinary and   unintelligent. Yet, this seems to be what the general non-english major public wants to read. To lose themselves in a story without be belabored by big words and artsy metaphors.  Quick and light.

So can I really condemn this book and others like it as being subpar horrible pieces that should be burned? No, it may not be to my taste, but clearly others love it, so the authors must be doing something right.
And as much as I want to shake my head at it, E.L James is laughing all the way to the bank with her million dollar paychecks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Review: Variant

So this is my first book review. It's something I have generally avoided, because I'm a great big chicken. When you have author friends, they all have books. Duh. And they want you to review said book. But what if you don't like it? Do you stick to what you're momma taught you- If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all or do you lie through your teeth?  I'm going with neither. Honest and unbiased reviews. For good or bad. It's the truth, but it's only my truth
So why did I choose Variant by Robison Wells? For a few reasons. One, I don't know the guy personally. I know a few of his friends, but feel no pressure to stroke any egos. Secondly, because I had been put off reading this because of a friends bad review. 

Her reasoning to steer me clear? In her opinion, this was a less inventive version of Maze Runner, by James Dashner. So I went into reading this book already worried about that. I know that the James and Robison are friends. I believe they may have even been in the same critique group at one time. I have precious little reading time and didn't want to spend it on Maze Runner lite.

My friend warned me not to read this. 
I'm glad that I rarely do what I'm told.

This is probably one of the most expensive books I've ever read. Because after I cracked it open, I couldn't put it down. Meaning I missed my doctor's appointment and had to pay the $45 missed appt. fee.  Robison draws you in right at the get go. Because I was already on the Maze Runner wavelength, I immediately saw some thematic similarities. New kid is thrown into already completely jacked up civilization run by kids that have no idea what the hell they are doing. New kid bucks at establishment, yet finds a little bit of comfortable life. Then that gets tossed on its head and we have the great escape where not everything is as it seems. 

How many times have we heard this basic story? Not just in Maze Runner. But how many times have we heard Romeo and Juliet? Titanic anyone? Or a little book called Twilight? Great books often share common thematic elements. Or aspects of the heroes journey. It's what the author does with those themes that make a book really special. And this book is really special.

I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty, because I don't want to have any spoilers. But you should read this book if you like suspense, trying to figure what's going on, then kicking yourself because you didn't see that coming. You should also read this book if you like to think about the societal commentary long after the last page. How much do we turn a blind eye to because its convenient or easier? What is the cost to do the right thing? You should read this book for no other reason than it's a damned fine book.

My only regret in reading it was that I didn't wait until the sequel was in my hand. Now I have to wait and see what happens. Grrrrr..

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Having fun on the page - Not

When a friend told me I needed a tagline, I came up with "Having fun on the page". Because that's what I like to do. Be playful, light, maybe a little snarky. If I'm having fun writing , hopefully it means that the reader can have fun reading.

Lately, I have not been having fun. And it shows. My writing feels labored and forced. I'm just trying to get my character from point a to point b. Nobody has fun walking in a straight line.

My shoulders and my brain are weighed down, wondering- Is this sentence good enough? I used to able to just crank scenes out. Now I find myself second guessing whether something is worth reading.

Recently I went to LDS Storymakers conference. There were so many of my author idols in one room, it was sweat inducing. I met so many new friends, both published and published. I also went to a lot of great classes and learned things that I wouldn't have thought of before.

But now I find myself thinking too much. I'm having trouble constructing sentences for fear that Darth Editous (yes I'm looking at you Tristi) would make my paper bleed red.

I think one of my biggest problems is that I am trying to edit before I even write it. I am worried that I don't have enough character development, or that the plot is too simple.

Plain and simple, I am squishing my own creativity. I need to find the fun parts of the story again. After its on the page, I can worry about grammar, or whether I say was too often. I need to overcome the fear that it won't be enough. If it's not enough the first time, I will just have to tweak it until it is.

But I guarantee it will never be enough if I can't even get it on the page.

And where's the fun in that?