Monthly Archives: May 2013

Friday Fun: Mermaid Edition

Tomorrow marks the beginning of JuNoWriMo. I don’t know if I’ll make 50,000 words, but I’ll try. If I do, I’ll have about half of Torn re-written, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. It’s a story of adventure, questions about whether love can last when it happened too quickly (seriously, why is this not addressed more in YA literature?!), kidnappings, poison, revenge… and the return of two of my favourite secondary characters from Bound, who just happen to be mer-folk. Yay! Missed those guys.

In honour of their return, I’m going to leave you guys with this song by Great Big Sea (and if you’re not familiar with them, you’re missing out). This song is perfectly Newfoundland: the accents, the music, the theme, and the fact that the whole thing is basically a set-up for the kind of off-colour joke your grandpa might tell after a few too many drinks at Thanksgiving. The mermaids in this song aren’t quite the same as mine (mine have grey skin, not blue, and legs aren’t an issue), but I think they’d love this song anyway.

I’m posting the live version because these guys are fantastic in concert, and the banter is adorable. Also, the mermaid dance. I LOVE THESE GUYS. Below it you’ll find the studio version, which sounds better but is notably lacking in both dances and banter. Take your pick and make your click. 🙂

And with that, I leave you. I’ll be around, but please yell at me if I’m posting here more than 3x a week and not making my JuNoWriMo daily goals. I do procrastinate like that, you know.


…Because I’m an Idiot, That’s Why

JuNoWriMo starts in two days. Technically less than two days. My brain has been wandering everywhere lately– that is, everywhere except where I want it to go, which is writing.  I need fewer distractions in my life, especially for the next month, when I’m going to be trying for 2,000 words a day (and hopefully most of those before the kids get up in the morning, fingers crossed, yeah right).

So what did I do today?

I WENT TO THE EFFING LIBRARY.

ImageNot only did I go and look at books, I also got out more books than I could hope to finish in a normal two-week period, never mind one when I’m supposed to be writing all of the time.

I picked up a few books I’ve heard a lot about but never went OH MY GOODNESS I HAVE TO READ THAT RIGHT NOW and a few that have been recommended to me personally. Maybe it’s not fair to the books, but here’s how this is going to go: they have maybe three chapters, depending on length, to win me over. If I’m not intrigued/excited/curious/whatever (really, I’m open to a host of possibilities) by then, I’m not wasting my time on it.

Is that unreasonable? All we hear as writers is that it’s our job to hook readers in the first pages. The first paragraphs, even, if you’re talking about querying agents. Is it my responsibility as a reader to give a book more than three chapters to win me over? Even if the story isn’t in full swing by then (and I’m not saying it needs to be; I can enjoy a slow build or a quiet beginning), it needs to have promised me something that will keep me going.

It’s no different from dating, I guess. First dates don’t have to be perfect, but you’ve got to make a good impression. I don’t need to know everything about you by the third date (and please, I don’t need to have SEEN everything by then), but there’s got to be chemistry there. If there’s not, there are other people I could be spending time with who might work out better. It’s not you, it’s not me, it’s just not working.

I guess that’s an advantage of library books, at least for readers. If I spend money on a book, I’ll probably push harder to finish it. Now, if it’s not a good book this also means I’ll hate it more by the end, but I’ll at least try to finish it. If I have no money invested, I’m much more likely to leave it and go find something I DO enjoy.

So that’s the plan for these books. I’m going to give them a fair shot when I have time (and thank goodness for library renewals!), and I hope I’ll enjoy all of them.

And no, I won’t be reviewing/talking about any that I don’t finish. 🙂

How do you approach books? Do you feel like you HAVE to finish a story once you’ve started it? I used to. Do you think books deserve a chance to get good in the middle, or do you expect to be hooked/entertained right away? What pulls you in to a book? Voice? Action? A world that you want to take up permanent residence in? Characters who are interesting, either because you love them or hate them? What turns you off right away?

PS- if you’re a blogger friend and I have your book, I promise it’s still on my TBR list, but I’m waiting until I have time to really enjoy it. Yours get more than 3 chapters. 😉


Pen Names (and also tangents)

nom de plume

I’ve never really thought about using a pen name.  I can see the benefit if you want to keep your personal and writing life separate (I know I wouldn’t want my grandparents to know I wrote smut, if I did that. NEVER happens. *cough*), but I want my own name on my work when it goes out into the world.

Well, kind of my real name… in real life, I’m not Kate. I’m Kathleen. I know, SHOCKING. The weird thing is, I spend so much time on this blog and commenting on others, with critique partners and at write-ins on Twitter that I now think of myself as “Kate” and have to stop to think when I introduce myself to people in real life. Do you know how awkward it is when someone asks your name and you have to stop to think about it? So much worse than forgetting your own phone number…

Anyway. I’ve wanted my own name on my books for a long time. Definitely since I started thinking about publishing anything. There’s just one teeny-tiny problem.

Quick, how do you spell my last name?

Did you have to look? That’s OK, everyone does. Please don’t feel badly if you’re someone who does/has done it in the past, because it’s not just you. Everyone writes my name as “Kate Sparks.”

It’s a fine name, if you ignore the fact that the name “Sparks” in writing leads you to thinking of sappy, tear-jerker romances. But it’s not my name. I’m Sparkes with an “ES,” and  like it. It’s not the name I was born with, but it’s actually a pretty cool name. It’s a shortened form of the word “Sparrowhawk,” for one thing, which is a tiny little badass bird. Fine by me!

So what’s the problem? If readers can’t remember how to spell my name, they can’t find me. If someone tells a friend, “I read this amazing book by Kate Sparkes” and their friend is all “AWESOME, I’m gonna look for that” and they search for “Kate Sparks”…

nope

See the problem? Especially for someone just starting out, I mean. If Stephen King changed the spelling of his last name to “Kyngge,” we’d still find him. For me, someone not finding my work on their first Amazon search could equal them saying “screw it, I’m reading the Hunger Games again.” And who could blame them? Fantastic book.

I’m getting off track again, aren’t I?

I’m not changing the spelling of my name to make it more searchable. I’m not changing it to Tallulah Fandongola, even if that is the name I give when I call the pizza place and it might be more recognizable (and is spelled phonetically). Most people probably search for books by title, so I’ll be OK as long as those are easy to remember (not like these ones), but still…

Questions! Will you publish/are you published under your own name? If not, why not? Do you recommend authors to people, or just books? Do you think Kate Sparrowhawk would be a good pen name HOLY CRAP THAT WOULD BE THE BEST PEN NAME EVER! What was I saying? Oh, any other thoughts on pen names, weird spellings, searchability on Google or Amazon? Anything, really. Tell me all of the things. ALL OF THEM! I’m not so much looking for advice or reassurances, since I already know what I’m doing. I just want know what you think.

(Also, if the day ever comes when someone searches on Google for “Kate Sparks” and it says, “Did you mean Kate Sparkes?” I will throw a huge party. Just saying.)

(Also also, have you ever read your own name so many times that it stops making sense and you begin to wonder whether you’re spelling it right? That’s me, right now, editing this post.)


WIPpet Wednesday: Back at it

*scrambles for something to post*

Yep, this one sneaked up on me, mostly because I fail at writing right now. Since I can’t handle that, I’m reading over Bound and making more notes (the never-ending cycle), which makes that my active work in progress, which makes that the one I’m posting from this week. Apologies to anyone who wanted more vampires, I’ll get back to them after JuNoWriMo. Probably.

Since I haven’t revised chapter 29 yet (and I’m fiddling with chapter divisions, anyway), let’s go with the 29th scene, which also happens to be the one I was revising when I decided to take a little break. Coincidence? Absolutely. 🙂

Just a few things you need to know: Rowan and Aren are on the road, trying to find a cure for her *mumble mumble* and headaches before Aren’s brother finds them, and he wants them because of all of THE EVIL REASONS (I swear it’s explained better in the story). They were stuck out in a rainstorm with a lame horse and with people chasing them, so when the opportunity to spend the night with a group of semi-nomadic performers presented itself, Rowan decided they should take it, in spite of Aren not wanting help from anyone he doesn’t know and trust. They were welcomed by a man named Bartilae, who is the community’s leader, and Rowan gave him fake names when she introduced herself and Aren. We already know that Bartilae’s daughter is named Patience… and I think that’s all you need to know. Oh, and this chapter is told by Aren.

A thin-faced girl with bright ribbons braided into her hair stumbled out of the crowd of running children and dropped onto the cushion between me and Bartilae. “Will we have a show, Father?”

“I think not tonight, my love. We haven’t unpacked here, an our guests are weary from their travels. Another day.” The girl pouted, and when the children passed by again she flounced off to join them. Bartilae sighed. “Sometimes I wonder why we name our children before we know them well. I’m not holding much hope of that one growing into hers.”

When the meal was finished, many of the adults bundled into their shawls, capes, or jackets and headed out into the storm. Two white-haired old women stayed behind, huddled close to a cluster of burning torches, and half a dozen other adults sat talking, occasionally sending curious glances our way. The tent smelled of damp wool and burnt wood, but it was far more pleasant than being outside.

Rowan scooted closer to me. “How was your meal, dear?”

“Just wonderful, Penelope, oh light of my life,” I replied dryly, and she stifled a giggle behind her hand. “Nice names. Where did those come from?”

“I once had a goat named Penelope.”

“And Doug?”

“I have no idea.”

I didn’t want to talk too much about what we were doing, not with other people possibly listening, but it couldn’t be avoided completely. “We can’t stay here. We know nothing about these people.”

She rolled her eyes. “Do you think everyone is after us? They’re Wanderers. I really doubt they’re working for Severn; they barely acknowledge a king on either side of the mountains. If anything, they’re staying out of it. They don’t know who we are, anyway. You’re too suspicious.”

“And you’re too trusting!”

“Well, I guess that evens it out then, doesn’t it?”

I didn’t know how to answer that. There wasn’t time to, anyway; a woman we hadn’t met yet was coming toward us with clothing folded over both arms. “Hello, my dears. I’m Alys. Jein thought you might like to borrow some dry things while your own are drying.” I reached into my pack. Everything was damp.

“Thank you,” I said, and she nodded.

“If you go through the door over there you can get changed in the storage space. It’s small, but I don’t suppose that will be a problem.” She winked, then walked toward the old women. Rowan flashed me a smug smile and carried both piles of clothing toward the storage room.

We took turns changing in a small space that was packed with piles of boxes and burlap sacks, and that smelled of onions and spices. Alys took our wet things and disappeared through another flap in the side of the tent, returning moments later. “How big is this place, anyway?” Rowan asked me, stretching to try to look through the doorway.

“It’s probably a few interconnected tents. I’m sure when you spend most of your time traveling, you figure these things out.”

“I guess. Bartilae was right, though. Odd time of year for them to be out. Wanderers only ever visited in the summer, back home.”

Patience dashed in out of the rain wearing a pink dress that she had to hold up to keep out of the mud, and a floppy red hat that dripped rainwater everywhere. She was followed by a motley band of seven other children, the youngest just a few years old, all dressed in odd and colorful clothes. “Ladies and gentlemen and extinguished guests!” she bellowed, and Alys chuckled. “Preeeeeesenting the finest show in the entire world!”

“Oh, I love the theatre,” Rowan said, and joined in the scattered applause that was nearly drowned out by the rain. Patience’s voice had no such problem. She bellowed out a rough program that sounded like it would drag on for hours. When she finished, Rowan clapped again, then stood. “Come on,” she said. “We should get better seats.”

“You’re joking.”

She frowned down at me. “Douglas Anderson, are you telling me that you’re too important and busy right now to enjoy a show performed by the great actors of the future?” Once again I didn’t know how to argue with her, and we took seats close to the area the children were clearing for their show.

I wish I could keep going; this leads into one of my favourite scenes in the whole book, an odd little semi-tangent with an entertaining and disorganized play, a bit of character development and OH THE FEELINGS, but I haven’t finished revising that yet.  It would be too long to post here, anyway.

So that’s it for this WIPpet Wednesday. This little party is hosted by K.L. Schwengel over at My Random Muse; stop by to say hi, and click on the linkie to see the other WIPpeteers’ posts and to add your own if you’d like to join in. The only rules are that you post a bit from a work in progress, and that it relates to today’s date on some way (29 lines, chapter 29, something to do with a 5 for the the month… WIPpet math is very flexible!)

For today’s #ROW80 update… sadly, I’ve got nothing. I’m taking this week to do a bit more reading and revising on Bound (maybe… this is not a good time for me to be judging my own work) and to get my notes in order for working on Torn next month. I’m hoping I’ll get my writing mojo back so I can do my 2,000 words a day for JuNoWriMo (and OK, am I the only one who says that and hears Agador from The Birdcage asking why I’m not writing more? “Why ju no wri’ mo? When ju gonna let me be in your cho’, huh? Wait, dere’s CHRIMPS!”)

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Something Different

I usually post something writing-related on Tuesdays. This week, I’ve pretty much got nuthin’. So what I’m offering is a picture, and a question.

I’ve been enjoying everyone’s comments on my first-draft-ish vampire… stuff… the past few weeks. I know it’s not perfect, and I know that you all know that (and you know that I know that you know that, etc), but it’s very encouraging, especially when I usually show that kind of stuff to NOBODY. That’s how special you all are to me. One pass for typos-and-grammatical-faux-pas special.

So here’s a picture of something different. This is a printed page of my third (fourth? Fourth-and-a-half? Seventeenth? I don’t know anymore) draft of Bound. Not every page gets this many notes, but I think it gives a pretty good idea of how I usually struggle through revisions. That is, with a lack of focus, a lot of questions, some music, a few notebooks (and a pirate hook, apparently) and a whole lot of doodling in the margins. Don’t bother trying to blow it up to see what I’m changing, it doesn’t matter. The point is, DEAR LORD THE RED PEN.

IMG_1955

Ugh. The wases. The missteps. The questions that could have been better answered elsewhere, the too-much-backstory, the could-I-cut-this. *sobs*

So here’s the question: how do you do it? Do you print out your work and mark it up like a high school teacher (with significantly more funky flowers and birds, in my case), or do you revise electronically? Are you still changing this much after numerous drafts, or do your stories come out pretty much the way you wanted them to in early drafts, and you’re just changing a phrase here and there? Do you prefer to doodle spiderwebs, cats, car chases or perhaps sharks on your work? What’s your process?


Smile, It’s Monday!

20130524-160709.jpg


An Open Letter To The New York Times Magazine

“It’s a cage that tells you that if your sexuality is too big, then you’re a slut. It’s a cage that tells you that if your sexuality is too small, then you’re a prude. It’s a cage that tells you that if you step inside or outside of that box, then your value as a human being has disappeared.”

Really interesting thoughts on this topic, and a beautifully expressed argument.

The Z-Axis

To the New York Times Magazine Editorial Staff – 

Today you published an article with a deceptively casual title: “Unexcited? There May Be A Pill For That”. On its face, the article bears a simple enough premise: Studies have shown that levels of sexual arousal for women drop off after about one to four years of being in a committed relationship, whereas for men they tend to plateau but remain largely the same. This leads to all sorts of tension, anxiety, and lack of connection between partners. So a few researchers are doing clinical studies to find out whether there is a pharmaceutical compound that could boost these poor women’s libidos and make them desire their partners more, so that their marriages and relationships are happier and no longer in jeopardy. 

At first, it seems innocuous enough: Women want better sex lives. What’s wrong with that? Why not, then, create…

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