Friday, December 30, 2011

Dipping ones toes into freelancing, or, passive income would be cool!

Earlier this month I contemplated joining Hubpages and writing silly articles about Asian pop music to see if I could make any money through AdSense. Obviously, not going to be the main source of income in my life, nor do I want it to be. I'm cool with that. It would just be kinda cool to make some passive income.

Well, yesterday I launched my first hubs, and woke up today to find most of them bahleeted for "duplicate content". Oh. That's nice. Thanks guys. I had two more waiting to be finished and published, and so far so good. These are opinion pieces, so I damn well dare them to tell me that they're not ~okay~. (Although funnily enough, one of them has been losing points. This site, I swear. I may get too frustrated to continue much longer as it is.)

Anyway, my first two "real" hubs apparently are The Top 10 Ayumi Hamasaki Songs and Top 10 J-pop Female Idols of the 70s and 80s. If you're into music and curious at all about Japanese pop music (and you are, trust me, you are) you should definitely check them out. ;)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best Reads 2011 Blog Hop

EDIT: I have no idea what happened to the formatting in this post. I've tried fixing it multiple times now and nothing's changed. Oh well~

Over at the The Bathroom Monologues, John is encouraging bloggers to write about the best books they read in 2011. Okay!

2011 was the year I kinda-sorta got back into reading. After high school and college, I just never, as in really rarely, read books for pleasure. It just kinda stopped and wasn't a priority anymore. Reading is also a huge emotional investment for me and I just didn't have the spoons to spare until about 2010. Last year I read a total of three books for pleasure - Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami. And that was more novels that I had read for pleasure in a half year than in all of college combined.

This year was much better, with the first few months languishing in unemployment and the rest doing so much travel for the job I eventually got. I had a lot of time to read. In total I read eight books this year, most of them huge fantasy tomes from one or two series. For those I just picked my favorite of the series I read this year to talk about.

1. Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey
Also read: Kushiel's Scion

It's pretty safe to say by now that the Kushiel's Legacy series is one of my favorites ever, even after a really rocky start with Kushiel's Dart, the first in the series. And although it took me over a year to get around to reading the next two novels, it was a well-worth wait. The novel here in particular is the best I've read so far, the last of the first trilogy in the series. Watching Ph├ędre's journey from love to loss again, being divinely sent into the bowels of Hell to save her nemesis's son, traveling into the heart of Africa to learn the Name of God and then off to the English Channel to save her childhood friend was thrilling and moving unlike most books I've read, in fantasy or otherwise. Even though I affectionately call this series "The BDSM Porn Novels" they really are much more than that. Setting aside Carey's inability to jump into a story, some irksome style choices, and taking way, WAY too long to explain the history and religious systems (and I'm a religion scholar, so damn yo) it's a great fantasy series that I totally recommend to those with a strong sexual kink stomach. I've started reading the next trilogy in the series, and it's okay so far. But I have a feeling this one will be my favorite out of them all.

2. A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin
Also read: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Feast For Crows

I make it no secret that I think Martin is a pretty horrible writer with incredibly problematic situations in his novels, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy them at all. I must if I've read them all up to the latest installment. I bought the first novel on a whim in a Japanese English Bookstore in Nagoya   I watched the show alongside reading the first book, and it was the merits of the show that kept me reading the series even though I raged at the crappy writing more than once, and in public, no less. (Look, I don't give a crap if people are dying all willy-nilly because you're a Badass Up In Here, but when women are getting raped every single page because LOL IT'S WAR your penis-privilege is showing.) Anyway, this novel is the best of the series thus far. So much drives the plot forward, and on more than one occasion I had a OH NO YOU DIDN'T moment. (Mostly, the epilogue. Hoshit. Red Wedding? Not so much. It was written horribly and anticlimatic.) Also it has the best cover. So yeah.

3. All the Weyrs of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

This is especially poignant considering McCaffrey's death recently. I used to be a big fan of hers when I was a bb author in middle school, and I picked this up, one of the few early Pern novels I had yet to read, at the airport before blasting off for Japan. It's very McCaffrey. It's a good thing I had read the previous novels because there are SO MANY CHARACTERS with little to no development that, had I not known any of them, it would've been awful.  The story is kinda interesting. I had read the novels before and the couple after, but not this one in-between, so it answered a few questions I had during The Skies of Pern years ago. There isn't much to say about this novel. It was a short read, not the best one, but very nostalgic for me nonetheless. I will be damn glad to never read anything about the basic-ass Jaxom again, though. (Also, it's really weird to realize years later that F'lar is abusing Lessa, but hey who cares right. ~It's from another time*)

4. After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Another airport pickup. The premise of this seemed interesting, but Murakami is a HUGE hit or miss for me. And this was a miss. Again. I just can't get into his style, thanks. This book was just too weird even for me. I had no idea what he was doing or why and I am honestly okay with being ~left in the dark~ ohohoho. Whatever, I only read it because I'm a Japanese Studies graduate and to weeaboos he is the only author to ever happen in Japan. Actually, I really liked the Chinese prostitute/love hotel subplot, and the Denny's bickering was hilarious at times, but the whole thing with the MC's sister and..whatever...the hell...was going on with that (it was never explained) was enough to drive me away from this novel. So, this is probably the worst novel I read in 2011. But it's still on the best list because I didn't read that many different things. :(

Hopefully with my new Kindle Fire I can read more than 8 novels this year, ha. I usually read one in 2 weeks - month, so here's to 12! 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Weekly Writing Check-In: Christmas Squee Post~

All  I wanted for Christmas was a Kindle Fire and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

I got both!

First, obligatory YAAAAY about another Fairy Boy game that I will not be able to finish before I leave for Japan again. Playing so much Zelda is good for my imagination because it makes me want to write lots of fantastical stuff. Booyeah.

But nobody cares about my feelings for blonde boys in tights swinging swords and getting collagen lip injections. You care about my feelings for the Kindle Fire.

I've only played with it off and on all day - and by "played with it" I mean adding a app, syncing up my twitter and email, and buying one book, Amy Tan's novella "Rules for Virgins". But thus far it's super shiny, very bright, and OMFG I will have so much fun. Too bad you have to like, spend money for some stuff on it.

Tonight I'm ordering this fantastic sleeve and an equally fantastic bigger sleeve for it tonight. I have to order them tonight to make sure I get them in before I go back to Japan. As soon as I finish reading the two paperbacks I have with me I'll start delving more into the books on the Kindle. I figure that will be around February-ish. Until then I'll have fun with the wireless capabilities in places where my little laptop is just too much to use.

So, that all said, any good kindle recs? I'm particularly looking for writing-centered books at the moment, including grammar books and self-marketing. The freer the better.

Merry Christmas! It's certainly merry here~

Friday, December 23, 2011

Why I don't write Young Adult Fiction

I'm in the wrong business.
Wow, I made that title sound cranky.

To say that YA fiction has been growing in popularity in recent years would be an understatement. Everywhere bookshelves are expanding to include "teen titles" and a vast majority of the author blogs I follow are those of YA authors. (The others seem to mostly be writers of erotic gay fiction. Oh my.) While all of this seems to have happened behind my back, it would be disingenuous for me to say that I don't see the main reasons why this trend may be occurring. But this blog post isn't about analyzing why YA has become so popular - this is about me going BLAAAAAAAH I don't write YA~

When I was "middle grade" age, I wrote about teenagers. When I was a teenager I wrote about college students. When I was a college student I wrote about late-twenty-somethings. Now that I'm a twenty-something I tend to write about characters still older than me, all the way up to middle age. Heck, some of my favorite characters I write are elderly. But there's nary a teen and even fewer kids. (In fact, most of my characters don't even want kids or work around them.) And the themes are definitely not young adult oriented, although certainly I wouldn't mind if "young adults" read them and connected to them in their own way.

I think the easiest way for me to explain why I always write about characters older than me (or more my age, as I get older) can be best described through something I read a few months ago on another blog. I don't remember who said it or where exactly, but I do remember what this author said. They said, the paraphrase, that they wrote and read YA because "adults are jaded, cranky, and haunted by their pasts. Teens are full of potential and optimism about the lives ahead of them. That's to say, adults hang on to what 'could have been' and that's depressing." I'm the exact opposite in my thinking in this manner. I find adults way more fascinating than teens or children. I feel like I've read "first love", "first heartbreak", "first job" and "firstfirstfirst" so many times (not to mention, already lived it) that it all runs together. While these topics are certainly big in our society, and inevitably shape who we are, I feel like it really gives older adults and their experiences the epic shaft. Yes, most of my characters are on their third serious relationship, working the corporate ladder, getting a mortgage, and staying awake at night thinking about how "the world ahead of them" and optimism and potential are all utter bullshit. They are mirrors of what a lot of current adults want an escape from, but I find them fascinating.

My characters usually start their stories doing their thing, living their routines, mumbling about stuff, and then wake up one day to find that everything they had established for themselves has come into question...or has been thrown out the window entirely. In our (western, American to be more specific) society we're pretty much taught that our lives end at 30, and all growing, learning, and feeling ends with our metabolism. Only "young people" get to experience new exciting things in the world, damnit. I like to read and write stories that challenge this thinking and remind us that life is always going, always changing, and even though we may become bitter and cynical that any positive change is still possible, even if sometimes unlikely.

There's also the fact that I enjoy writing romance and erotica, and that's not as fun to write with inexperienced teens, thanks. I prefer my romantic characters to be experienced and confident in themselves. Things are still changing, but I get to skip all that first time angst.

So, what about you? Do you prefer YA or adult fiction or don't care? And if you do prefer one or the other, why is that? WHY?!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fun With Maps: Now...where do those homes go?

Yesterday I shared my floor plans for one of my novels and yeah, that was fun. Today I'm talking about another facet of setting, and that's where, well, the story actually takes place. (Or, where the houses and apartments that yesterday's floor plans represent actually go.)

The CROSS// series takes place in a fictional, alternate universe version of San Francisco. This pretty much means that I base as much as I can on the actual city (without ever calling it by name, to boot) but don't feel bad about taking creative liberties when I need to. I've never lived in the city, and I've never spent more than a few (really, really intense and exhausting) days in nor nearby it, but damn if I haven't been spending most of my research time on San Francisco and its geography and culture. I think the only thing I research more for this series is the American military. And that one's just really confusing most of the time.

One thing I've been focusing on a lot lately is figuring out where exactly in San Francisco my characters live. Now, I started writing like a dumbass before figuring all this out, and then I decided about a year ago that I actually did care. So I had all these "rules" I had for myself - so-and-so lives downtown, so-and-so lives in an affluent single-family neighborhood, so-and-so lives near the university (where is the university omg), and so-and-so lives in an abandoned warehouse on the water - and was determined to stay with while also coming up with logical neighborhoods for everyone to live in. This week I finally sat down and wrote it out on the hand-dandy map I printed out and took a picture of above. While doing this I found out that in reality my characters really can't afford the neighborhoods they live in, and hey! I don't care! In my fictional version the cost of living is slightly cheaper! Oh, and I have an entirely fictional military district in the middle of downtown. Yeah, I'm sure that's totally feasible. (That would be "M-Town" on the map.) Also, damn if Devon doesn't move a whole damn lot in the series.

I originally wanted to buy an actual to-scale map with labelled neighborhoods and streets while I was in SFO last week, but the only one I found was almost ten dollars! LOL~~ So yea, I just printed a crappy one off from the internet.

So, readers, you ever go to this extreme before? Tell me about your fictional Detroit. Even better, tell me about your fictional Portland, because even though I've lived in Oregon my whole life (minus this past year) I know like, nothing about it. You could totally fool me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fun With Maps: Homegrown Homes

 I'm the type of person who cares a lot about logical placement. Even when I was a kid watching sitcoms on TV I always wondered how those bedrooms managed to logically fit in those house facades...then I learned that they were all TV sets, and oh. I spend hours planning out my action scenes to make sure that they make logical sense.

Thus it's no surprise that I draw floor plans of my characters' houses / apartments / businesses / general hang out spots.

I have a pretty good memory, but even I struggle with figuring out how exactly one hallway flows into the next or if there's a door between the bedroom and the bathroom. And I care a lot that it makes sense. I doubt any reader would ever pay attention, but I do. I care a looooot.

Two years ago I bought a graph notebook to draw me up some floor plans. The first couple of apartments I laid out were super basic and simple and, well, easy to do. Then I attempted houses and spent anywhere between 2 - 3 hours realizing that the format I had in my head made no sense logically. Not a fun moment. But I persevered, and with minor changes I managed to come up with logical floor plans that still matched what I had already written in my scenes.

I totally recommend trying this out to authors who have lots of scenes that take place in the same locations over and over again. It helps a lot with choreographing characters and offers just a general sense of direction when writing scenes. Plus, it's fun! Then again, I play Sims 3 all day and enjoy decorating homes more than anything else. Sooo there you go.

I've included a couple of sketches here for you to get a sense of what I'm talking about. I usually include some notes about the location in the negative space if I have any. Also, the ones I have here are new versions transplanted from older notebooks. The "originals" have coloring so I also know what color the furniture is.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Self-publishing? Please don't do this...

(NOTE: Leaving the 2 Truths & a Lie Game open for another day or so! Go check it out~)

Yesterday I went to the local independent bookstore in my...county...(sigh) and, of course, they have a "Local Authors" section. Since I come from a pretty small area, most of the books were self-published and contained mostly of poetry, guidebooks, and the occasional original novel. Seeing as how I am going into self-publishing myself,  I decided to see how stereotypical any of these books were.

Each book I opened was riddled with errors, awkward sentences, and in the case of one guidebook on nature trails, had mismatched captions. Oops.

If you've been following me for any number of months now, then you know that I'm a huge supporter of self-publishing. That said, a lot of the stereotypes that show self-published authors as being inexperienced, naive, and quick to jump the gun are not completely far-fetched. Aside from all the face-palm worthy errors I saw yesterday, there was also the horrible clipart + Comic Sans covers and spiral-bound novels - all costing at least fifteen dollars. The whole table was, while very encouraging to local authors, also a big flag of what probably not to do while self-publishing.

1) EDIT. Hello! Personal editing, betas, hiring professionals...all of this comes back to who you are and your brand. Yes, you as an author offering your books up for purchase, are a brand. Without a house to oversee your project every step of the way it's doubly up to you to do your own editing (including constantly studying grammar and writing trends) and to get others to help you.

2) Design. We're not supposed to judge books by their covers, but we do. While getting the perfect picture may not be feasible, it's still in your power, if you're overseeing the design and giving the okay of your jacket, to make sure the font is readable and placed in an appropriate place. If you just suck at design, then it may be time to bring in a professional or even a friend with a background in design.

3) Pricing. This is a lot harder to mediate when it comes to print, because you have to pay for your own costs incurred, but I saw a couple of original fiction books yesterday, less than 300 pages, selling for over $20 - paperback. I wouldn't pay that much for an author I love in paperback, let alone a total unknown that didn't even edit.

I want to see other self-published authors succeed just as much as I want to succeed at it myself...which is why all the tough love today. There definitely is a stigma against self-publishing out there and these are a lot of the main reasons why. Obviously I do not know these authors, but I get the sinking feeling that a lot of these errors and issues are a result of jumping the gun to get published as quickly as possible. I love you, authors, but no story is awesome enough that it doesn't need some good editing and further attention paid to it - and no story anymore deserves the horror that is Comic Sans.

Monday, December 19, 2011

2 Truths & A Lie: Writer's Edition

Damn straight the Truths are orange.
Meme time! Well, maybe it's a meme. I think things only turn into memes for real if people actually repeat them...or something.

Anyway, the other night I was watching a movie in which the characters were playing Two Truths And a Lie. And after years and years of playing that game as an icebreaker, most people are able to tell what my lie is. So I thought today, for the first of five blog posts this week, I would play Two Truths And a Lie - Writer's Edition!

The rules are simple. I'll post three "facts" about my writing life. Two of them are true, and one of them is a lie. I'm asking ~you~ to comment which one you think is the lie. First person to get it right will get a fun shout-out in the next entry!

1) I have one of "those" drawers. You know, the drawer where all the crap I wrote years ago went. I don't just mean stories from when I was a kid that was never meant for publication, but stories that were...meant for publication. The total amount of stories in there? 12 full novels I can't bring myself to look at again.

2) I'm not really a notebook person. I know most authors are totally into notebooks upon notebooks of, well, notes, but that's never been me. I'm purely digital. And notes? I only write them down if I think I'm likely to forget, which isn't often.

3) I think I'm the one author with a cat who DOESN'T get "help" from the cat. She's totally disinterested in my laptop. It actually makes me kind of sad. I want my kitty to help me write. :(

Dare you :P

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Weekend Writing Check-In: Who am I and why am I still awake.

I'm back in America for the holidays. I also have laryngitis.

Coupled with intense jet-lag, it's been a rough weekend. I have managed to get some writing done, however. Only a little bit though. Tried to get more writing done before this blog post, but I've spent the past hour sitting here nodding off to sleep and driving myself nuts.

I'm hoping to do a bit of fun and do a post every day this week. Part of the reason I want to do this is because here in America I've found a bunch of my old notebooks I'm transferring and would maaaaybe like to share. The trick is finding the damn energy to do it right now. Because this post as it is took me about one hour to type up because I. Am. So. Sleepy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Weekly Writing Check-In: Yeaaaah sure.

I feel like I got a lot accomplished this week, but in reality I don't think I got much done at all. I think I feel as such because I opened up my programs a lot - and I got a lot of preparations done...and I was very productive in other, non-writing areas. But I didn't get much actually accomplished.

I'm really trying to push myself to finish this chapter in Revenge, but even though it's a scene I was looking forward to writing I feel like I'm forcing myself...which is never a good sign, so I'm taking it easy. I've also started my Hubpages project, and although not published yet it's coming together great. I also bought a license for Scrivener today using my Nanowrimo promo code and am looking forward to using it.

So I did get a lot done. But I just don't have much to show for it yet. Plus this Friday I'm going to America for Christmas so there are all those preparations as well. Next time I write this update I'll be in my cozy log cabin in the Oregon woods with a big fluffy cat merfin' about crap next to me.

But first I gotta make it through this week. I hope to have the first installment of my Hubpages finished before I leave and publish them by the end of the weekend. I also better have this chapter finished as well. Blah. I  need more time in my day. Or more energy. It doesn't help I do all my writing late at night before bed, so when I need to sleep...well, I gotta sleep.

Which is what I'm off to do now. Good night, Blogosphere!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I can't believe it's time to think about this ALREADY.

(no picture today because I'm on the little netbook and it can't handle that shiznit.)

They've just announced over on the Nanowrimo forums the coming of Camp Nanowrimo in 2012, for the months of June and August.

1) Yay! I was hoping it was happening again thsi year!
2) Hm. No July. (because of too many tech difficulties this year, apparently.)

Actually, this works for me. Well, August will again anyway. And I'm sure to continue writing CROSS//Process like I started writing last Camp (and had a lot of fun doing because it was different while being the same familiar territory of past Nano ventures.) June will, however, be totally up in the air cause I have no idea if I'll be settled back into my American life already since I'm moving at the very beginning of May. If I'm still at home I'm sure I can do it, if I'm in the midst of moving and trying to find a job...I may have to pass this next year. But I waaaant to.

Of course, I also have the editing to do. Since I have a publishing date goal of 2013 then I really need to get this thing edited and off to betas. Sigh. Such is the writing life. Maybe I can get this edited and off by the time camp comes so I can do that while I wait. Yay!

Monday, December 5, 2011

"One-Pass Manuscript Revision", or, something cool I found on the internetz.

Whilst surfing the great Nano divide of "omg why are you posting" and "omg why am I reading this" on the forums I stumbled upon a link that somebody posted called "One-Pass Manuscript Revision". In it the author, Holly Lisle, shares her process of revising her entire first draft in one go. Well, it's quite the promise, so of course I decided to check it out!

Her process is very "physical", meaning it requires notebooks, binders, and completely decimated forests from printing out your manuscript. Since this is completely infeasible for me, especially here abroad where I don't have the room for such things, let alone access to any printers (let's talk about what a pain in the arse that is sometimes), I decided to focus on Part 2 of her process, which lists all of the things to check for in any given scene. Since during my recent edits I often sit here going "uuuuh now what should I check for" I find most of these suggestions pretty invaluable. Some things, like timing and placement, I already keep meticulous track of, but others such as listing what the conflict in each scene is and how it contributes to your themes is a good reminder.  Of course, there are some things towards the end that kinda make me roll my eyes, such as GETTING RID OF EVERY INSTANCE OF "TO BE" EVER and essentially replacing every "was", "were", and "is" with either purple prose or...I don't even know...but overall I think there's a lot of good advice. I would still suggest that inexperienced authors, especially those who are not as familiar with editing yet, try not to do their entire revisions in one sitting, however.

Also, re-reading once again how most mainstream novels are expected to be between 90-125k words long reminds me that I am writing the right genre. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I had to tell one of my epic fantasies in only 125k words, man. Also, today I began reading "Kushiel's Scion" by Jacqueline Carey (yay birthday presents!) and it's nearly 1000 pages long - I wouldn't have it any other way~

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekly Writing Check-In: Wow, it's been a while since I did one of these!

These gals have the right idea.
And thus here we are, staring down yet another December.

I actually like December. It's finally decently cold sometimes, Christmas!, vacations (I leave for America in less than two weeks! Wee!), and Nano is over so I can stop obsessing over making my daily goals. Which means I totally lose track of my daily goals. Whooooops.

I took the past couple of days off but went back into writing today. Finally finished another scene! As for the editing, it has to be put off another week anyway because this week is my monthly business trip and I can't do any adequate editing on my little laptop. Writing? Okay. Editing? Good luck. And to top it off I'm starting another (reading) book this week so there goes even more time.

Also doesn't "help" (and yet totally does) that I've started playing Sims 3 again. Like any game/computer game, it's something that comes in phases before going away again. And right now I'm in a Sims 3 phase. I'm not even a normal Sims 3 player,  I guess. I don't make random Sims to play with, nope, I have to make all my novel sims. And take lots of screenshots. Some that don't even make sense, or some that are events that haven't happened yet that I use for inspiration and reference later on. It's basically a big, expensive storyboard.

And plus it's fun to see characters that will never hook up just kinda fall all over each other because the game mechanics think that's what supposed to happen.

But writing in general has been slow today. I got a scene that I was dragging with done at dinner tonight. As some of you may recall,  I write all my scenes in order. And I'm really trying to finish this chapter so I can get on to the next one which is SUPER FUN and I am SOOOO looking forward to it, seriously. It's got a couple of scenes I've been hankering to write for years now. And it's coming. Oh god it's coming.

Here, have another screenshot of Japanese Catholic high school girls being utterly ridiculous.

Five minutes later, I discovered custom posing. NICE KNOWIN' U ALL.