Thursday, November 21, 2013

When Fiction Isn't So Fictional

My story Beautiful Medusa is set in Greece, but it's a fantastical Greece that never existed, a world filled with gods and monsters and a map of Europe that's almost unrecognizable.  I wanted to make everything grander, more magical.  I wanted readers to delight in seemingly impossible settings.    

And I did it by drawing on sites from around the world, because I quickly realized that nothing I could come up with could be as amazing as reality.  

Take this for example:

I stood upon a bare white rock. Before me was a lake made of the purest shade of blue, as if the water had captured the sky. I let my gaze sink all the way to the bottom, a school of fish swimming through the perfect azure water. At its far edge, a sliver of land hemmed the lake in, water cascading over the top and forming another pool down below.   
One lake poured into another, and another after that, in an unbroken chain that went on for miles, each pool with its own unique color palette of greens, blues, and grays.

Wow, that's so pretty, if only something like that existed in the real worl...

Oh, wait, it does.

The Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

 Or how about this:

I left my room, wandering down a corridor and becoming lost in a maze of oversized hallways, large enough to accommodate Prometheus’ more monstrous guests.  I tilted my head upwards and gaped at soaring archways decorated with the most genius scrollwork.  Sunlight streamed in through long, rectangular windows, while geometric patterns and painted tiles graced the walls.  Every so often, I stumbled upon a courtyard garden or reflecting pool I had never visited before. 

Lindaraja Window, Alhambra

Yes, Prometheus' fortress is a biggie-sized Alhambra.

This last one is my favorite though, mainly because I took the photo myself:
The house loomed before me, constructed of stucco and stone, with a red tile roof and ivy climbing up its sides. In the daytime, if you set your gaze to the south, you could spy white-capped mountains and the shimmering sea.

This is the first thing you see when you step off the bus at Delphi

So far, I've taken inspiration from Spain, Hawaii, the Himalayas, Croatia, and of course, Greece.  Who knows where my mind will wander to next? 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Little Pony, Now With 100% More Snakes

On a whim, I've decided to participate in PonyFest '13. It's a contest where you create a My Little Pony inspired by your book. How cool is that? I'm not the least bit artistic, but thanks to the magic of the Pony Creator, I can whip up a pretty mean pony despite my complete inability to draw anything but stick figures. My latest manuscript is Beautiful Medusa, a YA fantasy with Medusa as the hero and a bunch of well-known Greek monsters, so I had plenty of great characters to choose from.

The first one I did was, naturally, the Pegasus.  Ah yes, the snow white Pegasus, soaring majestically with Perseus on his back...  Except my Pegasus is kind of a jerk.  When I was jotting down notes on him, I called him a "flying kelpie war horse."

Here's his description:

Soaring on powerful wings, the Pegasus spiraled downwards, landing with an elegance that belied its massive body.  I forgot myself, gaping at the creature as it shook its wild mane, the sun gleaming off a coat so dark gray as to be almost black, a storm cloud given form.  The Pegasus returned my stare, my gaze having no effect, its eyes crackling with intelligence, rows of sharp teeth lining its mouth. 
And here's the Pegasus in My Little Pony form:

The next one I did was Medusa.  I'm not sure why her background didn't show up, but here she is:  

I couldn't do snakes, so I did my best to give her pony incarnation something that looked snake-like.  Then I added the frown because, well, she's Medusa and she's not really happy about it.  She has bracelets because despite being a monster, she still likes to wear nice clothes and jewelry.  

I hope you enjoy!  Maybe I'll do Prometheus, Athena, or the Sphinx sometime.

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Like a Basket of Puppies

Story ideas, to me, are like baskets of puppies.  You're looking down at four or five little furry faces, all adorable, every single one demanding attention, eager, and ready to go, and OMG, which one do you choose to play with first?  And then one particularly precocious pup scales the pen and climbs into your lap and settles the debate for you.     
Pick me!  No, wait, pick me!

Yeah, it's like that, except my story ideas don't chew the furniture or have accidents on the carpet.

I always have shiny ideas bouncing around in my head.  Last year, after my final revision of Knights of Avalon, there were several vying for my attention - the Medusa story, the Apocalyptic Pizza Delivery Girl story, the Shangri-La story...  but in the end, it was Medusa who won out.  Probably because she can turn people to stone.  Also, she has claws and her blood is poison.  In a cage match, she'd probably beat all my other characters, even Justine.  

I had tried to write Beautiful Medusa before, in 2009, but I couldn't do it, I wasn't a strong enough writer and I didn't know how to handle the material.  Now, the story grabbed hold of me and refused to let go.  That's how I know a story's ready to be written, when I can't stop thinking about it.  It's all consuming, both the best feeling in the universe and the worst.  There's so much joy in building a new world, in creating characters and imagining their relationships.  If I had my way, I'd lock myself in the house for three months and just create, create, create.

And at the end of three months, I'd look like Gollum.

But I'd have my precious story.

My precious.

Instead of being able to throw myself into my new world though, I had these distractions.  Bothersome things like a job and family...  Human interaction is so overrated.  How was I supposed to concentrate on spreadsheets when there were people in my head, demanding to be heard?  That's the downside of getting obsessed with a story.  Until the story's told, the thought of doing anything else becomes unbearable.  Every day I woke up wanting to lose myself in my writing, but I had to force myself to take care of responsibilities that couldn't be ignored.

From December to July, I balanced my need to create with my need to pay the bills as best I could.  I fought for time to write and bit by bit, the story in my head became words on the page, until Beautiful Medusa was a real, actual book, a book that I love.

Then again, I love all my books.  Still, I've been working on my writing and I like to think that maybe I've actually learned something and improved after all these years.  I suppose we'll see.        

If you're curious, here's the query:

In a land wasted and wrung dry, where happiness is as rare as any jewel, sixteen-year-old Alessia considers herself blessed to be a Priestess of Athena. But when the girl’s extraordinary beauty draws the unwanted attention of Poseidon, her life becomes a nightmare. Cursed for defying an immortal and cast out of her home, the gods transform Alessia into the legendary Medusa and condemn her to live life as a monster.

Snakes for hair. A gaze that can turn a man to stone. Razor sharp talons at the end of each finger. All Alessia wants is to hide herself away from the world before she hurts someone, or worse. Yet to the kings of ancient
Greece, Alessia's petrifying gaze makes her a weapon to be won at any cost. With the kings offering unimaginable riches to anyone who can bring them the head of the Medusa, the scared girl soon finds herself hunted by the all too clever hero Perseus and many others.

Struggling to hold onto both her life and her humanity, Alessia flees westward and finds the impossible: Sanctuary and a chance at love with a fallen god preparing to wage war on
Olympus. But are his feelings sincere or is he merely using her? And when the war comes, will Alessia, the once loyal priestess, exact revenge on the gods who turned her into Medusa?

Based on the legend according to Ovid's Metamorphoses, Beautiful Medusa is a YA Fantasy complete at 92,000 words. Though the story can stand alone, there is potential for a sequel. Thank you for your consideration!

I don't know what's going to happen with this story.  I'm sure I'll get rundown with rejections soon enough, but right now, I'm excited and it just feels good to be done.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Rhymes with D'oh Llama

This is me.

A dear aunt of mine recently called me "meek and mild."  I kind of laughed, because that's definitely not how I see myself.  Some time later, I asked my brother if the description fit and he said, "Yeah, that sounds about right.  Except when you get all opinionated about stuff, like politics."

Anybody who follows my twitter feed knows that asides from Chop't salad, cats, cephalopods, Pride and Prejudice, Coke Slurpees, and writing, the big love of my life is politics.  So in September, I showed up like a stray cat on the doorstep of a local campaign office and
This is me on politics.
unlike a stray cat, asked to be put to work.

I believe I said something along the lines of, "People are scary!  I spend my days living in a cave, throwing rocks at passerbys.  Can I do data entry?"  And the very kind lady who greeted me at the door responded, "What luck!  We have a Data Coordinator who thinks people are scary too, and she desperately needs someone to help her with her work.  Please, come in and have a bagel."

The kind lady introduced me to the Data Coordinator and we immediately hit it off, bonding over our mutual dislike of human interaction and discussing the best strategy for rock-throwing.  After finding out I had volunteered for this certain campaign in 2008 and that I was familiar with this certain campaign's software, she asked if I wanted to be a Data Coordinator too.  I said 'yes!' without hesitation, because I am an idiot.

The next two months went by in a blur of call sheets, Google docs, caffeine, and bagels.  We were simply one tiny cog in a very large caffeinated and bagel-fed machine.  I would walk into the 'campaign office,' no more than a borrowed conference room in somebody's engineering firm, and find rows upon rows of volunteers squeezed around tables, calling people, urging them to vote and maybe, just maybe, pretty please, vote for our guy.  Or if nothing else, to not yell at us while voting for the other guy.

We got yelled at a lot.

I met some extraordinary people, because no matter whose side you're on, campaign volunteers are some of the most crazy, talented, hard-working people out there.  Many of us were involved in animal rescue, others did Christian ministry and charity work, all while holding down a job or two and taking care of families or running businesses.  And we all looked out for one another.  I remember once, when it was dark, I had forgotten something in my car and dashed out to get it.  When I turned around, two volunteers were standing by the door, making sure nothing happened to me in the poorly lit parking lot.

For the first time in years, I took a break from writing.  It killed me to do that, absolutely killed me, but I figured two months without writing was worth it for four years of having my guy in the White House.   

Besides, in a strange way, working on a campaign is a lot like writing a book.  If you've ever worked for a campaign before, and I highly recommend that you try it at least once, it's an incredibly frustrating experience sometimes.  You can spend hours making calls and if you're lucky, flip one or two voters.  You spend a lot of time wondering if you're really making a difference, if you'll ever see a payoff for all the work you're doing. 

Writing is like that too.  You can spend hours working on a single paragraph, feeling like there's no way you'll ever get the book done, much less find an agent and get published.  But even if you can't see it right away, all those hours of hard work add up.  They build into something powerful.              

That's what I've been up to while away from the blog.  I spent most of November recovering from the election, then in December, returned to my beloved writing and dove head first (more like belly flopped) into my WIP, Beautiful Medusa.  More on that in another post!