Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Discussion on Being a Hermit

Writers are a famously solitary bunch. Ever since Lord Byron, there has sort of been the stereotype of the brooding reclusive genius. And most writers I know (including myself) have at least some of those anti-social tendencies. Not all of us are up on the level of Emily Dickinson or J. D. Salinger, but writing simply isn't a social thing. It's very private, and oftentimes working on a project feels a little bit like Dr. Frankenstein in his laboratory - it's super secret, sometimes quite sensitive (especially in the case of bad first-draft style spazzes) and always MINE MINE MINE. The casual peek over the shoulder, no matter how well-intentioned, never goes well. "Whatcha doin'?" becomes a despised question. And so writers (and, I am willing to bet, artists, as my illustration major best friend is ten times the hermit I am and I am probably the only person capable of pulling her out of her house for any length of time... so we can spend time holed up in my room instead) hide in corners of dorm rooms and sit huddled protectively over laptop keyboards, diligently typing away.

But, like I said, we are not all J. D. Salinger. The writers I know are not of the type to run away to a cabin in the woods and never speak to anyone ever again. The internet seems to have basically put a stop to that, and when it comes to talking about writing (especially with other writers) we are quite the chatty bunch. (One only needs to check out the Teens Writing for Teens thread at AW to know that!)

And I'm in college. It would be basically impossible for me to completely shut myself away, not if I want to a) not fail and b) not starve. And roommates make total solitude a bit difficult too. But that's a good thing. It gives me some semblance of social activity without forcing me to poke my nose into more typical college pursuits (ie crazy weird parties) than laundry-and-movie nights.

So I think what I am (and what most writers in this day and age probably are) is a hermit with friends. Like this guy.

(Anyone with knowledge of how to imbed YouTube videos into a blogpost, please enlighten me.)

Anyway, yeah. So, we're a little odd. You would be too, if you had characters jabbering at you all day to stop doing sensible things like talking to people and start writing, for goodness' sake.

Which reminds me, I should go deal with the real reason for today's self-imposed hermitude: homework.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Blog Awards!

It is snowing like crazy outside. Ithaca almost never cancels classes because of snow, but I am sincerely hoping they will so I can crawl back into bed and try and sleep off this blasted cold. *snuffle* There's about forty minutes till my next class, so there's still hope.

And let's see if I can do this right while my brain is clogged with cold-ness.

The fantastic Bailey Clement gave me the Creative Writer Award!

Which apparently means I have to say ten things that brighten my day. They are as follows:

1. Writing. It might be cliched at this point, but there is a reason I do it all the time. It can be infuriating, but when all is well there are few things better than churning out a few pages of good writing.

2. Tea. I live off tea. I love tea. Best beverage on the planet, hands down.

3. Chocolate is up there too.

4. Email. Especially email from my family or my high school friends. That really cheers me up no matter what.

5. Even better than email is REAL mail! It is just so exciting. One of the joys of college. :)

6. Not having any homework. Because that means I can do fun things instead!

7. Singing. It might sound silly, but if I'm feeling really miserable singing to myself really does help.

8. Really good books. I wish I had more time to read them.

9. Doctor Who. I hate TV, but I LOVE that show! I am SOOOO excited for series 5. But I miss David Tennant already. :(

10. Laundry-and-movie nights. My roommates and I are cool and we do laundry on Friday or Saturday nights and watch a movie while waiting for the washer and/or dryer. Oftentimes these movies involve Colin Firth. Which is always fun.

Right. So there's that.

Then, the also awesome Kody Keplinger gave me the Sunshine Award! (Since we're both Ithacans, we need all the extra sunshine we can get!)

The rules of which award are as follows:

1. Put the logo within your post or on your sidebar.
2. Share the love and pass the award to 12 other bloggers.
3. Link the nominees inside of your post.
4. Comment on the nominees' blogs to let them know you've just given them props. :)
5. Give a shout-out to the person who nominated, and post a link to his/her blog as well.

I shall now tag people. (And I feel bad because I don't know everybody's actual name... hehe)

1. Bailey! - because she is a really good writer and a really nice person. And because she gave me an award too.

2. Ink! - because she is also an amazing person and she is a STELLAR writer.

3. Choco! - because she is super nice and super funny and asks cool questions about East Coasters. And because I'm trying to lure her to Ithaca.

4. Karla! - she is another super nice person. She is so encouraging to all of us - here's some encouragement back!

5. Para! - because she is betaing for me. She is also the Voice of Reason on the twiftie thread. She is also awesome.

6. Dys! - because she is also betaing for me. And is therefore also awesome. :)

7. Sushi! - because she is also also betaing for me. And when she comes out of lurk mode, she has fantabulous things to say.

8. HR! - because she is a lovely person and most helpful when it comes to query letters.

9. Elu! - because she is terribly nice. She invented the "I love you because you're awesome and you blog" award. Pretty much sums up how cool she is.

10. Ely! - because she is also terribly nice and has funny Legolas avatars.

11. Amna! - because she is Amnamazing; need I say more? ;P

12. Race! - because she just got an agent and always has nice things to say and is great.

*pant pant* That was a lot of tagging. Wow.

Anyway, must run to class. Bye!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Teaser + Announcements

Hey guys! It is way too early, but there it is.

So, before I post my teaser, a few quick ramblings.

One: I was nominated for two blog awards! One by the brilliant Kody Keplinger and one by the lovely Bailey Clement. They are some of the nicest people ever, and there shall be more about that next blog post.

Two: After two very encouraging full-manuscript rejections based upon the same thing (anachronistic dialogue) I am taking a (BRIEF) pause from the query-go-round in order to fix that. That way I can send the agents an even shinier manuscript which they shall love. :D And so, thanks a million to Sushi, Para, and Dys, for taking on my monster of a manuscript for betaing. You guys rock.

And so, without further ado, here is Ginny, Emily's younger sister, discussing a rather unpleasant girl who has just come to town, and their younger brother's burgeoning magical abilities (which tend to run towards the explosive):



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Five YA Books That Deserve More Fan Squealing

(This post brought to you by my desire to work out how posting photos on this thing works.) (Added later: it seems I have failed at this. Anybody know how to make it work? Besides adding just the one big picture at the top, I mean.) (Added later than later: the new question becomes how do I put images in that are SMALL???)

We all know about the books (generally series of books, actually) which garner a whole lot of attention. And with attention comes fangirl (and fanboy, I suppose, but when it comes to the kind of obsessing I'm talking about it seems girls are better at that) squealing. Examples include the amazingly obvious like Harry Potter, Twilight, Percy Jackson, anything by Tamora Pierce, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

But there are also lots of books that sort of pass under the radar even though they are really good. Books that cause you to force the entire world to read them because they haven't yet and that is a sin. There are books out there that NEED MORE FANS, goshdarnit.

And so, without further ado, five books that need people to squeal about them RIGHTNOW.

(A note: outside of my immediate group of high school friends, I don't know a lot of people who read YA. So these might be terribly obvious and I just don't know it. In that case, just think of this as a plug for awesome books and leave it at that.)

1. The Cry of the Icemark by Stuart Hill: Basically no one I know has ever heard of these books, and it is hugely upsetting. The book pits the Icemark (ie Scandinavia) and its young but fierce queen Thirrin against the Polypontian Empire (ie the Roman empire). It takes the chosen-one, underdog-country-beating-up-evil-empire thing and shines it up and reminds us why stories like that are so good. The writing is absolutely stellar. However, I suggest you pretend the third book does not exist. While the first book is the epitome of brilliance and the second book is quite possibly exponentially more brilliant, the third book is a) absolutely unnecessary and b) extraordinarily disappointing.

2. The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray: This one is probably the most mainstream on the list, but I still feel these books don't get the level of recognition they deserve for such sheer wondrousness. It combines a wonderful character with wonderful voice (this is the first first-person-present pov I could deal with. There's a reason for that: these books are stellar) and Victorian England and magic. Plus book three WILL make you cry. So there.

3. East by Edith Pattou: All right. You guys all know how much of a sap I am for any retelling of Beauty and the Beast. And since West of the Sun, East of the Moon is another version of Beauty and the Beast, and East is a retelling of THAT, well, it's an instant win in my book. Add to that an amazing premise, beautiful writing, and terribly endearing characters and there's no way you can go wrong.

4. Sorcery and Cecelia by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede: I will not write out the full titles of these books in order to save space, but they are hilarious. The wit and vivacity of these books is so perfect, as is the historical accuracy and the clever additions of magic into everyday life. Plus, it's an epistolary novel. After reading a really wonderful adult novel called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society I have devoured epistolary novels like there's no tomorrow. These books are definitely up there on the "epic epistolary" list.

5. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel: Steampunk meets brilliant characters (Matt and Kate are just SO well written) meets amazing premise meets sky pirates? Yes please! I have yet to read the third book in this series, but the second one was just as good. I love the way all the characters interact - sooo good!

So, there is my fangirl squeal for all of the books mentioned above. Please, add your own squealing about them and tell me what books I need to add to my terribly long "to be read" list.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Tuesday!

In celebration of my first full request, I give you a teaser from A Bridge to War! This is towards the very beginning, after Rosie first runs away from home and first meets Avar-the-ever-sarcastic.



Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Naming

*will not make a cheesy reference to Children of Eden*

Okay. So, I believe I mentioned before how important naming characters is to me. Naming them is practically an act of creation - before they have a name, they're just a vague presence in my mind, an idea floating around up there but not being utilized. Once I give them a name, however, my characters solidify into something real (which my roommate might tell you marks me as a crazy person, but don't listen to her ;P). For my minor characters especially, their personalities are shaped around their names. One of these days I might have to take the idea of someone not looking like or acting like the way their name sounds and run with it, but that would be about seventeen potential projects down the road, so never mind. (And also, Amna the Amazing is doing that at the moment, so no stealing of ideas, of course.)

Names are important, both in real life and for characters. Often people ask each other "if you could change your name, what would you change it to?" and invariably people seem to come up with wild answers like Eowyn or Jewel or Tobias. I never know what to say. I mean, I have tons of favorite names (ranging from the simple like Anna and Emma and Julie to the complex, like Tristan and Mairead and Eoin) but I wouldn't ever want one of those to be MY name. I am not a Mairead. I am a Caitlin - still very Irish, of course, but Caitlin is who I am and I wouldn't ever want to change that. A name is (uh-oh, here comes the English geek) a symbol of a character - or a person - and in literature, it *is* that character.

Think about it - you're reading a story about a person named Bob. Obviously Bob has character traits as shown in the story, but unless there are really good descriptors (or if this thing I'm going to talk about is exactly what the author intended), Bob can be anyone. The name doesn't specifically connote a type of personality or a career or an appearance. Bob could be tall, short, thin, fat, balding, dark haired, blond, angry, caring, callous, funny, and/or nervous. Anything, really.

Whereas if you pick a name like... er... Vartan, say. What does that sound like to you? It's unusual, to be sure. And the hard sounds of the v and the r and the t make it sound sort of harsh to me. Maybe you might not picture him right off the bat as I have described him in A Bridge to War and A Tangled Web (which is as Avar's blind, powerfully magical, self-righteous and slightly psychotic elder brother) but I'm guessing you can at least get a bad-guy vibe off of it.

Names can also be used for characterization purposes. For example, my main character's name is Roslyn Elberrele, but she can probably count on one finger the number of people who actually *call* her Roslyn. Her family calls her Rosie - one of those childhood nicknames that just stuck, you know? - and once Avar gets over his irritation with and anger at her, he nicknames her Rose, because he thinks Rosie is silly and Roslyn is too formal. By book two, Rose is the name she goes by. And I will not ramble on about the symbolism behind that one.

Names are terribly important to me. I'm not sure if I'm jealous or horrified when I hear about people just giving their characters stand-in names and they'll change them later when they get around to thinking up a good one. I could never do that. I hate changing names even if it's for the best reason imaginable. Because to me, that signifies changing the character in some way.

In any case, the names database I use most frequently is the baby names section of That site will bombard you with popups, and it's crashed my Firefox several times so I have to use Internet Explorer, which I hate. But that database has EVERYTHING, so it's worth it.

Also, on a random site note, don't forget to enter the GLA's Dear Lucky Agent contest!

Happy weekend, everyone! And don't be like me and spend Valentine's Day studying for an Italian test, all right?

Friday, February 12, 2010


Greetings, blogsphere! I have just had my day made by listening to Andrea Bocelli's Con Te Partiro in my Italian class this morning. I am such a dork, but it it such a beautiful song!

Also, Guide to Literary Agents is having a Dear Lucky Agent contest! You can win the chance to be critiqued by an awesome agent!

Also also, happy Friday! I love Fridays. Today (at least until the Olympic Opening Ceremony comes on - I hate watching sports but c'mon, it's the Olympics! And the Opening Ceremonies are always fantastic) I am going to write as much as I possibly can. Because now, about two weeks after my insane writer's block, I'm at exactly the opposite end of the stick where all I want to do is writewritewritewrite! Emily, Ginny, and Oliver have been quite talkative (in fact, I've taken down the character web for A Tangled Web I had on my wall and stuck up a family tree for Letters to Oliver instead) and the random stuff Rose and Avar have been telling me of late seems to finally be falling into place.

But, it is off to workshop more prose poems in Creative Writing (have I mentioned I hate writing poetry? Well, I do) and then work and then nothing stands between me and a writing frenzy!

Except perhaps Disney movies. My one roommate put on Aladdin last night and I was completely distracted by that for entirely too long. A note to procrastinators: no matter how fantastic your roommates are, or how much you love Aladdin, plug in some headphones and just WRITE!

Off to class. Ta!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yay Teaser Tuesday!

For this Teaser Tuesday I give you - more fluff! This time it is Letters to Oliver fluff. :D

Emily (the MC) is at a college of magic and is writing to her sister, Ginny. She and Oliver, an older boy at the adjacent boy's college of magic who she is quite in love with, have gone on a ride together and are discussing what Oliver will do after his exams, as he is a younger son. The reference to the fish is to Oliver's brother, Elijah, who is in the navy.



Monday, February 8, 2010

Incoherent Rambling Monday

Hello, all. Happy Monday! That day when staying in bed really seems like a brilliant idea (especially since last night I had decided to ignore the fact that it was Sunday night and stayed up rather late). When the first class of the morning (read: 10 am) goes by in a bit of a blur (an Italian blur, in my case). When all you REALLY want to do is take a nap, but then you know you'll never get to sleep at a normal time, so never mind. The kind of day when yet another rejection letter seems so very fitting, you know?

This weekend was spent writing, discovering that A Very Potter Musical is really quite funny, procrastinating, and ranting about the Phantom of the Opera sequel, called Love Never Dies, that Andrew Lloyd Webber has come up with in order to relive his glory days. It makes the phan in me curl up and weep in utter horror and disgust. Seriously, Lord Andy, how many bad fanfictions did you read in order to churn out a plot as twisted, disturbing, and completely out-of-character as that?!? (And seriously, couldn't you pay somebody to check that your dates lined up, at the very least? Come on, now.)

It was also spent juggling some very bizarre plot shifting for A Tangled Web (which is becoming more and more tangled by the second, let me tell you). First, I had a minor panic attack whilst attempting to restructure the romantic subplot in it to go along with the revisions (read: cutting out romantic subplot entirely) in A Bridge to War. I think that got worked out. Then, yesterday, I felt like I'd backed myself into a corner with a problem my characters are currently dealing with.

Today, at work, while I was sweeping the second floor landing in Hilliard (maintenance jobs are such fun, but they do let me do lots of plotting; this particular corner of the second floor landing of Hilliard Hall also gave me the larger plot for Letters to Oliver, so I'm not complaining. Plus, the side staircases have fantastic acoustics, so singing in them is fun too) I had a bit of a revelation. As soon as I finished work and got back to the dorm from my voice lesson, I called my beta to run it past her, just to make sure it made logical sense instead of just Caitlin-sense. She wasn't home, but I hope she'll call me back soon.

A note on betas - they are wonderful. Erin, my beta, is also my down-the-street neighbor, one of my closest friends, and (apparently) my lookalike (don't get me started). She's awesome, and terribly logical when I come to her in a gibbering panic about this idea that I've had but where does it fit in and how the hell do I get from point a to point b and what is this character doing now and hey, if I did this, then I could - no, that wouldn't make sense, would it?s. She is wonderful at taking my rambling and pointing out the sense hidden under all my ums and what ifs? and general confusedness.

So, even if you don't know your beta face-to-face and can call them at a moment's notice, they are your saviors and should be treated as such (and I'm not just saying this because I'm waiting for you to call me back, Erin). Be nice to your betas. They're funtastic.

(A side note: all those people who are currently making my lovely beta's life a confusing, hellish mess, cease and desist, or I shall have to hurt you the next time I'm home from college.)

Right. Off to make a PowerPoint about vampires. :)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Get Thee to a Library!

Happy Friday, all! Now that I'm back from work, beginning to calm down from the loss of the coolest tree on the planet, taking a pause from watching my sister's dance troupe compete, and forcibly stopping my panic attack after I realized that my "magic way to rearrange my subplot and make everything perfect" is not going to work, I will talk about one of the most fantabulous things ever to exist.


Research, my friends, is good. It is fun. It is your FRIEND. It wants to make your writing better!

In all seriousness, though, research is good, and it can help anyone, writing any story. Take my work, for example.

The things(or places)my characters are involved in:
1. 18th century France
2. 19th century England
3. Several made up universes
4. Magic
5. Run around in the woods with werewolves
6. Fall in love (take that as far as you want, or not)
7. Swordfights
8. Battles (involving everything from swords, bows, and trebuchets to cannons and muskets)
9. Terrible disasters involving the potential loss of life, family, and world-as-they-know-it
10. Horseback riding, sometimes cross-country

Things from that list I have actually done:
1. Horseback riding (though never cross-country)

That's it. Just one. ONE thing, out of everything that my characters have ever done, just one shared experience. That's not a lot. Some people tend to stick to what I call the "Jane Austen method;" that is, "write what you know." Not to say anything against Jane Austen, as I love her work, but where's the fun in that? Writing is supposed to take you to places and times you'll never be, and allow you to do things you might never do or be able to do in real life. But research allows you to do it as accurately as possible.

My research has taken many forms - from several books on Victorian society/etiquette/etc., to a book by a French university professor on commodities in France from 1600-1800 to sending Patricia C. Wrede a frantic email asking about Victorian slang to the wonder that is Wikipedia to asking my mom if French people would've eaten toast for breakfast. On AW, the lovely and talented Choco has taken to rounding up all the East Coasters on the board and asking them questions about when leaves start to turn colors in fall and such. Other writers on AW have spoken about Google Earth stalking the towns they've decided to write about.

Research is so important. I have been known to stall a story for days if I cannot properly research a scene. Everything matters, especially in a historical work, but in a contemporary one as well, since continuity issues can really jar a reader out of the fluidity of your narrative. From picking the right names for your setting and time period, to making sure the characters know what fork to use if they're that type, to researching what's actually on TV; it all helps to make your story more cohesive and more enjoyable.

Okay. Time to go watch some more dance competition numbers... and worry about the girls playing lacrosse in the hallway right outside my open door.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Teaser Tuesday the Third

Since my last two teasers have been of a rather fluffy nature, I decided to shake things up a bit. I mean, I like fluff as much as anybody (aka I am a hopeless romantic and can hardly help myself) but fluff makes up very little of A Bridge to War. So, instead, here is a lovely argument between Bad Guy #2 (at least, he's the second one introduced) and Rosie. Said villain's name is Marcellus Durand, and he's a military captain, though not by choice.

They're in my own AU version of Paris, if anyone was puzzled.