Friday, June 28, 2013

With Apologies Computer Woes and Writing

Yesterday I spent several hours trying to figure what was going on with my computer. I am not a computer guru. After trying on my own I went to get help. Two phone calls later things were in order.
Fortunately I am able to follow directions, well, sort of. That's why it took two phone calls. Fortunately those I talked to were very patient and to those brave men I give cyber hugs. Needless to say I did very little on the computer the rest of the day.

What do you do when there are glitches in what you want to do? I spend a lot of time stewing and trying things before I ask for help.

It's rather like that when I'm writing. The story is not going well. So I stew trying this and that. Sometimes I even put what I'm working on aside. Then I discovered the fault lies in not knowing where my story is going. Mostly it's because I've chosen the wrong focus character. This is not necessarily the character whose point of view I'm working in but the character who has the most to lose. Once I force myself to look at the characters things fall into place.

That's why I had to make two phone calls. The first time solved some of the problems but not the one that I didn't see. That was the focus. Now I've mastered that problem both with the writing and the computer. Until the next one arrives.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Origin Stories

A new Superman movie has just opened in the theatres. From what I can tell from the reviews (I don’t plan to see it for various reasons), it retells the origin of that character. Again. This makes, what, the fourth movie retelling of the origin of that character? The Green Lantern movie a few years back also started with the origin of the character, as did the first of the Iron Man movies, and Thor, Hulk and Captain America. Spider-Man has also had several origin films of late. What is the attraction of these tales? Why the need to tell them over and over again?

For some stories (and movie franchises) the reason to start off with an origin story is that of explaining the character to the audience without an infodump. How did that character acquire superpowers, money, fame, etc.? What made him or her into the person they were?

The definition of "origin story" on Wikipedia mentions that origin stories are retold again and again in order to "keep the characters current". The 1950 Superman is very different from the 2013 one. Ditto the radio version of the Lone Ranger from what will be appearing in theatres soon. But with the recent retelling of stories not even a decade apart I'm more inclined to think that it's because each writer and director wants to put their own spin on the character, their own agenda.

Robin Rosenburg says an origin story shows viewers how to become heroes or how to cope with adversity. TV Tropes goes into a bigger list than the previous article (which had three) of the origin types of superheroes and their motivations. There is indeed a difference between "The Chosen One" versus "Hero by Accident" versus someone who purposefully sets out to help others. Each type of hero has their followers, as longtime comics readers can attest.

Not all bigger than life characters need an origin story. Some develop one along the way. Viewers went through two incarnations of the Doctor before learning how he left Gallifrey and even now, during the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, the complete origin story is still murky.

When the original television series of Star Trek began, viewers saw the regular shipboard adventures of "every person" crewmembers. However, with the 2009 movie makeover, an origin story appeared. Captain Kirk became "The Chosen One" rather than someone who had trained through Star Fleet Academy and risen through the ranks like everyone else.

With YA stories, you are often starting with a character at the time they are deciding to become someone, though the Harry Potter series did start with baby Harry being dropped off at his relatives. There is a reason many YA fantasy stories are labeled "Coming of Age" tales.

If you're just telling a regular story, one theory is that you're supposed to start when "things change". That way both the character and the reader can try together to make sense of what is happening in the character's life. It's up to the author, then, to decide when the story starts. How far back do you go in the character's life? With a superhero, it can be when she or he first acquired their powers, or first decided to fight evil. But with a regular person, do you begin when they first decided to change things? Or when change happened? Do you begin when he or she began school? When they were born?

It’s hard to resist wanting to explore important decisions in your characters' lives. When I wrote The Crystal Throne, my point of view characters met all these interesting people. But those characters' back stories were not important to the story. They were simply there, at that point in their lives. It was only later in short stories that I began to explore why a Fleet One would be interested in legends, or what happened in a young girl's life that would lead her to become a wizard, or even where a particular ring came from.

What origin stories interest you? When do you say "Enough about the origin? What else is happening with that character?"

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Sometimes I ask myself that question. Many people, before they become writers, think they’ll write a book, become a New York Times best seller, and make a fortune. Most of them never write a book, and the ones that do wake up to reality before very long.

So, obviously, I don’t write for the money. If I did I’d have quit years ago. Maybe someday, my stories will earn enough to buy a new car or fancy clothes or to take a vacation to Hawaii. Until that day arrives, I’ll buy a couple of books with my royalties and read.

Some people dream of writing a novel that Hollywood will snap up and turn into a top box office movie. Interviews, spotlight, celebrities, and trips around the world, every viewer gushing over the characters, the story, and waiting for the sequel.

Ah, yes, to see one of my novels on the big screen, or the little screen for that matter, would be awesome. I could get into that scene for sure. Successful book. Successful movie. A dream come true. No one has mentioned making a movie for my work. (I think they’re passing up a marvelous opportunity.) So I’ll just enjoy watching the success of other writers and imagining what their world is like, seeing their characters come to life. I’m truly happy for each of their successes.

Authors often write to send a message to friends, family, and the world. Perhaps something happy or sad, frightening or fulfilling in his or her life demands to be told, so others might learn from his or her experience. We see many stories written about special children or a traumatic even in one’s life or a story about making choices, based on personal experiences.

I believe my personal experiences influence much of my writing. A magazine article I read about advances in medicine and science prompted the idea for Secrets I Have Kept. A twilight ghost tour of the historic district of Charleston, SC, resulted in Listen to the Ghost. Life on Hold was born from a newspaper article I read about a boy and girl that found the son they had given up for adoption eighteen years earlier. My picture book, Frankie’s Perfect Home, was born when a young armadillo made his/her home in our pasture.

So why do I write? I write to share my world, or my view of the world, with others. I write because I find people and animals, whether contemporary or make believe, fascinating. I write to satisfy a need inside me that I really can’t explain, but it’s there. I write, hoping to give readers, both young and older, an escape from every day life to another place, another time, if only for a while.

Why do you write?

Monday, June 17, 2013

State of the Christine post

I think I had a great post for this month, but then I forgot what it was. And after the last week I just don't have the heart to come up with something. It's been a long and difficult few days. But, anyway, in lieu of something fresh and upbeat, I'll repeat here what I've been doing at other blogs. I have a new hat to wear. Not literally, LOL. Here's the info:

Dark Quest Books, an independent SF/F/H publisher (yes, the website is out of date, it's on of the things on the ever-growing to-do list.) is opening a Young Adult imprint, Palomino Press.  Here is the shiny new logo:
And I am the Acquisitions Editor. Yes, me.  I know, right?  The first release from this new imprint will come out in the Fall -- The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, by L. Jagi Lamplighter, who is the author of the Prospero;s Daughter series, from TOR, and an all around nice lady. This will be a multiple book series.
So, we have six (JUST SIX) slots left to fill for the imprint for 2014-15.  Right now we're accepting submissions. THESE ARE THE GUIDELINES:
*YA ONLY (no middle grade), we're aiming for 15-19 year old readers (and crossover with the adult readers who read YA, of course).
*65,000-100,000 words
*Speculative Fiction ONLY (SF/F/H)
Other than those three things, pretty much anything goes!
*Contemporary, Historical, Alternate Universe, Futuristic, Dystopian, Steampunk all welcome!
*Romantic elements are certainly acceptable, but should be secondary to the plot.
*Especially looking for sharp, original YA voice (think Cassandra Claire, Kady Cross, Lauren Oliver, Jennifer Armentrout, Suzanne Collins).
I know what I want for this imprint, now I just have to find it! If you think you’ve got the perfect manuscript, please submit a query letter, the first three chapters, and a 1-2 page synopsis to me at . Please do NOT email my personal email -- it will be deleted. Snail mail queries will not be accepted.

We also have a Twitter: @palominopress
And a FB page: Palomino FB page

Contract Terms:
Base terms are straight royalties, no advance.
10% royalty on print books
50% royalty on ebooks
Plus 10 author copies.
50% author discount.

I believe the contract is for three years.
There is some room for negotiation on terms.

Royalties are paid twice a year.

For those of you looking for a new place to submit, this is your chance to get in on the first 'class' of Palomino authors! Oh, and if you do submit, please put the email address (see above) on your list of 'safe' emails, or else it will probably go to your spam filter.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lights, Camera, Ali -- Cover Reveal

This is one of those busy times of year, so instead of regaling you with the craziness of the schedule around here, which I'm sure matches the craziness of everyone else's schedule, I'll just take this opportunity to say how excited I am that the second Reality Ali book is coming out this summer. And just so that I know it's really real, I even have cover art. 

Get ready to read more about Ali and her never-boring Thanksgiving break in LIGHTS, CAMERA, ALI.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Pics for A-kon 24

A-kon 24 was HUGE!

New hotel, new bigger rooms, and with it being the first year at the Hilton Anatole, new chaos! And we were able to make it back in this year. These are only a tiny fraction of all the costumes you could see there.

So dark and mysterious!

Tons of awesome detail!

The lady with the Grrr suit even had a piggy backpack! Hee!

You'd not believe the amount of detail on her dress. Amazing!

Lucius Malfoy.

I don't think he he has my best interest at heart here. Heh heh

Black Butler!

Costumes from all over the place.

Just amazing!

Mouths, teeth, and eek!

Bird lady

Like an evil Chinese sorcerer straight out of a Kung Fu film. Yeah!

Ninjas for the win!

New earrings my daughter created at the con - Chibi Chains!

I especially liked these! Look like an insignia for an anime or something. :P

Princess Tutu!

I love the inflatable unicorn! They all looked great too. Loved the long horned weapon thing.

Gargoyles! (She looked fantastic!)

Mustaches for everyone!

She was so adorable! She even had deer freckles!

Merida from Brave!

Nooooo! A Creeper! Hissssss

So bright!

Is this awesome or what? 

My second attempt at a plushie. heh (Dragged him along for fun)

There were a lot of awesome statues and art at the hotel. Didn't get to go looking around though. :(

Pagoda by the front desk.

Pre-reg line on Thursday night. This is but a small section of the humongous line. Hopefully they will figure out a better set up for registration next year. Eek!

Across the isle artist neighbors before the halls filled up. :)

Horse head!

I fell in love! This dragon is MINE! Mine mine mine!

Got us an Alain Viesca print this year. YES!

Bronys were in attendance. The backpack was so cute!

Steampunk Megaman!

Awesome figures and toys were available for sale.

Hawkeye, Thor, and Loki. They looked great!

More Black Butler peeps!

Totally loved her android costume! 

Unexpected battle - Rafael vs. the Foot Ninjas! Woot!

More hotel art!

He even had shells sewn into the costume!

Lee Martindale and other author/editors at A-kon.

Love his pipe gun! It just looked awesome! :)

Ursula from the Little Mermaid. Totally rad!

As you can see, there was a ton of costumes and stuff going on. And I probably saw but a small fraction of it all. Mind boggling!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Writing, Non-Production, GUILT, and Trust

I have been stymied in my writing for some time now, and I realized recently that constantly chastising myself for being lazy and undisciplined, beating myself for not being more productive, and downright, well, disliking myself enormously for being such a slacker, was actually more damaging than helpful. Duh.

I come from a background that included a religion that is very big on guilt. GUILT. In caps. So when I don't do what that nagging little voice in me says I should be doing, I feel GUILT rolling down on top of me in granite boulder form. Or building up inside of me in energy-draining, soul-sucking cinderblock form. Or maybe even just a quick little stabbing pain somewhere in my innards, the old knife-in-the-gut form.. No matter what form it takes, I can't ignore it.  And it drives the writer inside me deeper into the cave.

After weeks and weeks of this, I decided to take a break. Not only that, I gave myself permission to do so. In the time that I have not been actively writing, I have cataloged information from my budding series into my own hard copy file (index cards in an index card box: can we say "old school"?), written out summaries of the chapters I've composed so far, and taken time to read a couple of wonderful books that my husband shared with me. Bliss.

I learned that in my desperate drive to get something done and to be all the writer I can be, I somehow lost sight of the fun I used to have doing this. I forgot how much I used to laugh, literally, while I was pecking away at the keyboard, because I couldn't wait to share my stuff with someone else. Sharing stories, I truly believe, is the only way that they can begin to breathe on their own. And they were meant to breathe on their own.

Sigh. So. Negative reviews, self flagellation, and GUILT aside, I am slowly coming back to my starting point and remembering how to integrate the writer back into the rest of me. Sort of like Peter Pan needing to get his shadow back and finding Wendy to sew it onto the soles of his feet. I needed to find my way back to the little kid with the pen and the notebook paper, composing little ghost stories and poems, and having the best time doing it. She would not have been blocked by negative reviews, and she would not have felt guilty about not writing all the time. Why? Well, because she always had a story going somewhere in her head, and she knew she wanted to write it down to share with her friends. And so she would.

Trusting myself to get the writing done and share it with others is probably the true foundation of my writing. And while I'm struggling to relearn that trust, I have also realized - the struggle for that feels much better than bearing the weight of guilt.