Let's Bookfest 2017 (ft. writing insecurity)

I cannot believe that it's been almost a month since that silliness on Twitter. 

Where am I? Writing these posts feels like scribbling on a bit of paper and firing it into space. Where am I? Well, I'm still idly paddling around in the space ship. I've been asked by a few people if #Pitmad went anywhere, and the answer is a resounding no. Take that and fire it into space. I have gotten a few lovely rejections and I am patiently waiting for the last one to free up the anxiety section of my brain. 

Fortunately, I am very busy, so I can't re-fresh my email and wonder which iteration of industry subjectivity or voice I will receive in my inbox. Papers are due, and then I am going off to Japan! It's going to be wonderful. 

In the meantime, I am plugging away at the novel that I am convinced absolutely no one will want to read. How is Serango going? Well, this morning I reached the 63,000 word mark, which means I am butt-up against the third and final act of the book. I think this is the closest I've ever come to actually matching my acts and outline planning in a long time. So, that's positive. The negative is that this book is so hard to write. I like the characters, but I'm not convinced they'll be likable for anyone else. Also, there are so many characters! And this book isn't structured in a friendly, easy way like Six of Crows where the story evenly switches several main characters. I'll spend a couple chapters with one person, then move to another because it makes sense for the plot. Will a reader tolerate that? I don't know. Do I care? Also, don't know. I feel like I should care more. 

In addition, I am a little terrified that nothing happens in this book. Maybe this is an irrational fear. It feels like there's a lot of feeling, talking, and describing. I kind of dig that, but I feel like more stuff should be blowing up or something. I don't know. 

I keep having these days where I love what I've done. Where the characters are funny, or something dramatic has happened. Then, there are other mornings when I sit down to write and it's such a slog. Thank God I am not intending to query on this. What a nightmare it would be.  

Anyway, in the spirit of positivity—I hear you are supposed to only be positive on blogs—I will say that it is nice having some sexual tension between characters. And there are some truly absurd descriptions in this book, but... there it is. 

In this scene, which I wrote this morning, some guards have come to take a young woman named Nemesca away from the revolvists. She has joined the army because she wants to be a revolvist, and she wanted to escape her marriage to the prince. The General, Airfield, is trying to determine whether or not they should fight to keep her in the army. 

Anyway, the last couple weeks have seen some book festivals around Los Angeles, so I thought that I would share some snapshots. Last weekend, the University of Southern California hosted the LA Times Festival of Books, and this past Saturday, there was Yallwest. 

The unexpected highlight of the Festival of Books was the "I'm too sexy for this book" panel, which featured romance novelists. I've enjoyed a pile of Julia Quinn novels, so I decided to sneak into this sold-out panel. They talked about their work schedules, raising and supporting families, and stigmas of the profession. They had a real no nonsense approach to writing, which was frankly refreshing. "Writer's block is a disease of the privileged," or some such gem was said. Afterwards I bought a copy of Because of Miss Bridgerton and had it signed. 

Yallwest, the YA book festival in Santa Monica, was only one day this year. And because it was on the same day as Independent Bookstore Day, I had to do double duty. I woke up, wrote, went to my local bookstore to snag a copy of Rainbow Rowell's Kindred Spirits, and then went straight across the city to Santa Monica. I arrived in time for a panel on writing series (cue laughter) and then a panel on mythology in YA. At a panel on animation featuring artists from Disney, Pixar, and the Simpsons, I ran into an old friend. We re-connected over banana pudding (because there's a truck for that at Yallwest) and then I found Samantha Chaffin. It was like finding a creature in its natural habitat. Anyway, we talked, and maybe she will write another pirate book? Maybe I'm at peace with never having an agent? I'm looking forward to the pirate book! 

Let's Enter Stage

I want to talk about character descriptive intros. 

There's this really, really fun trope in Japanese warrior tales (gunkimono) where when an important warrior appears on the scene, we get a full-blown description of his wardrobe and accessaries:

That's the introduction for Atusmori, a young warrior (and courtly musician) in The Tale of the Heike. We get a description. Then, they fight. I won't spoil it for you. 

Anyway, lately I've been writing introductory passages for characters in this latest novel, and because the style is so different from Food of Magicians, which was sparsely written, I'm frankly having a lot more fun. Every story has a rhythm, a pulse. If Food of Magicians was frantic chopping by impatient teenagers, the rhythm of Serango is a slow, luxurious cadence that wouldn't be out of place in an older book. 

Fortunately for Serango, it's not YA, so I can count on a longer attention span that might indulge its style. I had a lot of fun introducing two characters recently, a secretary and a dancer who both play major roles in the story. Because their storylines cross, I wanted to play off themes and metaphor (or simile) in both. Every other day or so, I come back to tinker with these, but here is Mercon and Yama's descriptions at the end of March. They appear in different chapters. 

And then Yama's...

Yama's description has been much harder, and no doubt, it will undergo even more editing. It's been hard balancing her sex appeal, her strength, and this essence that defines her throughout the book. I was originally going to compare her to both "a ship in a city square or a carving on the front of a great ship," both ideas that came to me at 2AM, but they got cut down and changed to a "palace statue." Who knows what changes will come? 

My darling count has undergone various descriptive introductions, but I do not like any of them yet. He is too important not to be described properly. He is frustrating because I want him to have some appeal, some fear, some affection... He's very circumstantial, my difficult count. And I don't know if he's handsome! That word keeps being removed from this passage. 

Sometimes I end up breaking up descriptions throughout story, but it can harder to keep track of (for readers). I might have to do that for him. 

This next one is probably the most recent lengthy introductory description. It's Nemesca, a teenage girl who wants to leave her family for the army:

I would probably be amiss if I did not include the only other introductory description, which is of General Airfield. 

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That's all so far! This book is very hard to write, but when it works, I swoon. I'm sure when I hand it off to readers, I'll have more reservations and less swooning. 

Let's Twitter

Well, that was a very strange morning. 

After a couple PitMads that went absolutely nowhere, I cannot begin to tell you how ridiculous this was. I hate comp titles. I'm burnt out on the metaphorical fumes of agents' cars as they drive away. I wrote that pitch and checked out, until I was told that I probably ought to check Twitter. 

Let's check-in

The world never ceases to amaze me. 

I have been hard at work the last two months, writing, studying, working, and making time to escape. First things first, before I dive into the pictures: Writing on Serango continues. Because of back-to-back conferences and school work, I could not meet my goal of 40,000 words for February. But I did break thirty. I have officially reached that point in the book where every other day I seriously doubt that this story will be entertaining for anyone. Sometimes I re-read what I have written and I am pleased, but mostly there is chronic doubt. I am clinging to my notes and outlines for dear life. In those moments when I'm sure this book is going to go nowhere, I just tell myself that it doesn't matter. And truthfully, seeing as how I get no money from this, it does not matter. So long as I am happy with the draft, that is what matters most. Now, let me say that to myself five times under my breath, and then I'll write the next paragraph. 

I originally started this blog post intending to share excerpts from the last couple weeks, but I find I do not have the heart to do so. So, onto the photos. 

One of my favorite movies of 2016 was Kubo and the Two Strings, and I was fortunate enough to make the trip to Universal Studios to see the exhibition there, which featured puppets from the film. This skeleton is the largest stop motion puppet ever used in a film. 

There was also the stage of the boat made from leaves and the Japanese style castle, complete with tiny decorated screens and itty bitty props. In other rooms were the shoebox-sized puppets, sets, and props—all the tiny belongings from Coraline, Paranorman, and Boxtrolls

Stop motion has really come to amaze me in the last year. I had never fallen in love with The Nightmare Before Christmas as a child, so I suppose that led me to overlook Laika as well. Kubo definitely changed that! 

A week later, I went birding for the first time at a large park just outside Los Angeles. Then I went to the Pasadena Arboretum, which was full of peacocks roaming around, as well as a show dedicated to camellias—a literal flower contest. The fresh flowers had been carefully placed in little dishes of water and judged in categories based around their type and how they were raised. The flower's size, how soon it was picked, and other factors... I did not know about such things until I stumbled on this contest. I had been rolling around on the ground taking pictures of peacocks strutting outside the building. 

This past week, I was able to enjoy an escape weekend in San Pedro, a city south of Los Angeles. Staying in an apartment overlooking the ocean, I was able to cook, walk around the coast and parks. I even got to take a tour of the lighthouse there, which had survived from the 1870s. Two sisters were the first keepers of the lighthouse, which in those days, was the only building along the coast. San Pedro would go on to become the major lumber port for Los Angeles, growing as construction continued in the area. 

The view from the lighthouse tower.

The view from the lighthouse tower.

Finally, I would be amiss if I did not share a picture from this weekend. I visited the Santa Monica Pier, where I accidentally ended up in some lady's sexy swimsuit photo shoot. That's very Los Angeles somehow...

It was actually a very serious sexy swimsuit photoshoot, but we got here first. 

It was actually a very serious sexy swimsuit photoshoot, but we got here first. 

Oh my. Well. Don't zoom in too much. 

Oh my. Well. Don't zoom in too much. 

Anyway, back to writing!