Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Black Friday/Thanksgiving :)

Hope you all had a great one! Mine involved a great influx of socializing, vegetarian food, shopping (and more shopping throughout today), sleeping in, lazily browsing the interwebz, and even a little bit of writing. Woot. :)

What race is your character, and do they "act like it"?

This insults me, and probably not for the reason most people think. I side with the plastic surgeon, who explains that many of his Asian patients who opt for double eyelid surgery (i.e. Chinese/Koreans/etc who make their eyes look larger by getting a crease artificially made in their eyelid) are not trying to look Cauasian, but just better. And it insults me near the end when the white news reporter makes it sound like we get this surgery because we somehow shun our race or are trying to lose our "cultural identity". Why do Cauasians get tans? Because they want to look black or Hispanic? I don't think so--they just want to look like other Cauasians who have naturally darker skin. And while I'm sure some Asians get eyelid surgery to look more white, just as many get eyelid surgery because they want to look like Asians who have naturally large eyes.

That's right. Asians with naturally large eyes. Contrary to popular media in the States, we do not all have narrow slanted eyes and flat noses. What about Thai, Vietnamese, or Philippinos? Why can't we get eyelid surgery because, I dunno, maybe we want to look more like Zhou Xun:

Or Zhao Wei:

or Bea Alonzo (Philippino)?:

Why can't Asian girls get eyelid surgery without people claiming that she wants to look like this?:

Did you know being Asian also could mean being Mongolian, which means you might be born with Chinese features but Russian-esque blue eyes and blonde hair? (Btw, this is Day's race in Legend, a Mongolian/Russian mix):

Or that African children can also be born with blue eyes?

And what about hapas?

I'll speak a little for Asians. Asians can live in London and speak with a British accent. We can also draw (even if it's not anime!), recite 80's hits, suck at math, not be in the Triads or Yakuza mafia, rock at electric guitar, hate Chinese food, flunk out of school, have no interest in martial arts, be Muslim, or be born with naturally wavy hair. (I don't hate Chinese food, btw--my mom can attest to that. :) But I do have naturally wavy brown hair, just like my Manchurian/Mongolian grandmother.) We don't all want to look white just because of European influences throughout history. And we don't even all have last names with one syllable. My official last name might be Lu, but through my mother's side, my last name would be Aisin-Gioro. Manchurian. Thai people have some of the longest last names I've heard, and Philippinos have Spanish last names.)

Just because you're Hispanic doesn't mean you can't speak English well. Just because you're African doesn't mean you have black or brown eyes. Just because you're Native American doesn't mean you wear feathers, speak like a philosopher of nature, and have "savage beauty". These things may occur in a race, but they do not define a race. When including minorities in fiction, I think writers should try to expend more effort in researching the race in question. Add something unique that's not typified in today's media. Do some digging. It'll pay off with richer characterization and less blatant stereotyping, even if that stereotyping was done innocuously, with good intentions.

Monday, November 22, 2010

When your characters take your story hostage

(Reposted from my deviantArt blog)

Blog lapse recently is due to the fact that I'm camped out in Houston for the week (I live in Los Angeles), visiting my stepdad and mum (and her awesomesauce cooking). :) Houston is where I grew up and went to grade/middle/high school, and I still think of it as my hometown. All mosquitoes aside, it's not half bad.

In book news, I've finished my revisions on Legend, and am back at work on Legend 2--although it always takes me a few days to get back into the groove. Currently L2 wordcount is at 32,085. I think my writing goals might be sporadic at best throughout Thanksgiving week, but we'll see how it goes.

In writing L2, I've started learning a few things about my writing habits. Writers usually fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of writing obsessively to a detailed outline, or writing freestyle where you just let every chapter take you wherever the story might go with no cohesive novel plan. I am no different. With L2, I started out with a general chapter-by-chapter outline but quickly realized about 7 chapters in that it was starting to veer off my planned path. Which is no surprise, seeing as Legend did the same thing. It's because as I write, my characters develop in ways that I don't expect, and their surprising motivations and actions start to change the mold of where the story's supposed to go. If I originally planned for everyone to meet in some bordertown, for instance, one of the characters will mutiny halfway there and strike out on their own. Or some other character might deceive another out of jealousy and/or spite. This stuff all happens out of nowhere, and when they come up, I'm always blindsided by it. And then I can do nothing but listen to the characters, even though they usually leave my neatly plotted outline in an apocalyptic wreck.

This used to freak me out a bit, as it does not help me plan out an accurate schedule for when I can finish the book in question. But lately I've learned that this is simply my brain's process, that in the end all of the pieces will connect (sometimes with duct tape and string), and that the characters will still arrive at the basic ending I have chosen for them. That's one thing that hasn't changed so far--the beginnings and the ends of my stories. No matter what twists and turns my characters decide to take for me in the middles, the endings always come out the same. It's like they try to avoid their fates, in vain. Mwahaha.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Paranormal activity?

(Reposted from my deviantArt blog)

There have been some strange occurrences in my home lately.

Two days ago, I was feeding the dogs. I keep all their kibble in this big plastic jug, so I unscrewed the jug's plastic cap and put it face up on the counter. Then I turned away to pour the kibble into their bowls, and put it on the ground. When I went back to the counter, there was a chapstick sitting inside the face-up plastic cap. How could that possibly happen naturally? I mean, the cap has sides--it's not like a chapstick could just roll in there. And there was no one around who could've done that. Weird.

Then, yesterday night, I walked into my bathroom and there was a pair of my fake eyelashes sitting on the sink counter, out in plain sight. Now, I haven't used fake lashes in, like, 6 months. They are stored away under the sink cabinet.

Now I'm keeping a wary eye on things in the house....I'm sure there's a logical explanation for all this. Like a ghost. :) (Who, apparently, is into girly things.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Switching gears

Stopping NanoLite for at least the next week to work on a round of Book 1 revisions. :) It's fun revisiting my first manuscript and seeing it in a new light after suggestions from Editor Jen. Of course, this also means parts of Book 2 are also going to change--so I've gone back to scribbling notes on both and re-planning my strategy for some characters.

In other news, I've started coding a standalone social game site for Legend. Woot! Right now it's chock full of bugs, but eventually when I iron it out, it'll be like Fuzz Academy. Sort of like a cleaner, more accessible version of the Legend Facebook app. :)

Back to revisionizing!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Still hanging on

I'm hanging on to NanoLite (i.e. my lite version of NaNoWriMo = at least 1,000 words a day in November, as opposed to NanoFat, which is the full 1,600-1,700 words a day). Barely. I missed it on one day, but my day of 2,000 words managed to make up for that one. Today I just squeaked by with 1,075 words, although I'm pretty sure that last paragraph I wrote is crap that will need to be deleted first thing in the morning. So my total word count for Legend 2 is 30,271. I finally crossed the 100-page/30k mark! Woot.

I think I'm finally hitting my groove for this book, and am still excited by a revelation I had last night about the plot. Currently I'm knee-deep in a fun chapter narrated by June. I always like writing her chapters because I get to do research on all sorts of random facts. Like how many square feet a railway car's floor is. Or how far a XM-25, the supposed deadliest U.S. military rifle, can shoot. (Answer = 700 m) Stuff that's pretty useless to know for everyday life, but fun for novel-writing. :) Also, if the U.S. government actually does keep track of what its citizens search for on the net, they probably have a surveillance camera on me due to the bizarre searches I do. (Russian fighter jets, spy planes, deadly biological weapons, and whether it's possible to make a bomb out of twigs and chewing gum? Not average civilian searches....)

Questions about writing/publishing industry

(Reposted from my deviantArt blog)

Legend 2 progress: Finally had some decent writing yesterday and today after about a week of false starts and crappy chapters. I'm officially at 27,759 words. Hoping to get in at least 1,000 today, without having to go back and delete all of it like I've been doing. :) Day just got whacked in the face by someone. Poor boy.


A commenter on my last entry suggested I should post some of the questions and my answers about writing/publishing in a new journal entry to make it easier to follow, so here I go!

Q: How did you go about deciding on what you wanted your story to accomplish, and figure out your basic plotline? Do you have any kind of suggestions about how to actually get through a first draft?

A: Plotting is extremely hard, much harder than I thought it would be before I started writing. I still have trouble coming up with good "what happens next?" plot points as I'm working on Legend 2. I think it helps to start with a catalyst event. What happens to set off a chain reaction of events in your story? That's the beginning. For example, in Legend, I came up with the characters first and I knew that I wanted it to be Day-the-boy-criminal vs. June-the-girl-detective. Then I thought about how I would get the two of them to cross paths. And from there, I created an event where Day would commit a crime that would force June into investigating it and hunting him down. What does one character want that another character doesn't want them to have? It helps to look into the relationships (and especially conflicts) between your main characters, and use that conflict between them to think of physical events that have to set off your story in motion.

Q: Do you think marketability is something that aspiring authors should keep in mind for their first novels; whether or not it will be easy to get onto the market?

A: It does help to keep a story's marketability in mind, to a certain extent. You still need to love the story you're writing. For example, I don't read a lot of vampire/paranormal novels (although I occasionally dabble). Even though they're really hot right now, I don't think I could write a good vampire novel because I'm just not as interested in it. And that will show.

The manuscript I wrote before Legend was a quieter historical novel about Mozart and his sister when they were children. I loved the story, but I also knew that it just wasn't a topic/genre that would spark heavy interest in the industry, and that even if it did sell, it probably wouldn't sell for a lot. It was purely a labor of love. With Legend, which was also a labor of love starring characters I'd had for years (any story of mine starring my character Day is a labor of love :) ), I remember thinking to myself, "Ok, this should also be considered commercial. If THIS one doesn't get published, then it's never going to happen for me. This is as good of a story as I can write, and I don't think I can make anything else better."

Q: How would you recommend going through the drafting process? For example, do you pause to proof-read as you go or just keep going to the end then look back?

A: Ah, I do actually have a very set opinion on this! I always pause to proof-read before I continue, even in a novel's first draft. I know a lot of writers who don't do this and can continue on just fine, but it never works for me. I have to proof-read. I tried not proofreading once, and by the time I finished the first draft there were so many problems with the story that I just got discouraged and gave up on it. I think it helps to jump backward and edit so that the next chapters can go smoothly, because details you change early on can have a big effect on later plot points. I think it's best to get that down when the things you want to change are fresh in your mind.

If I'm having a really hard time with one particular chapter, though, sometimes I do just skip ahead to the next chapter. (I just did this last week, actually) I'll make a note to myself of what's supposed to be happening in the chapter that I skip, so that I don't forget. Then I go back later when I'm not so brain dead, and fill it in.

Q: How does the process of getting an agent work? Do you send your manuscript to them and then they decide whether or not they want to represent you? Does this part come before or after contacting publishers or does the agent like, help you with that? And maybe the most importantly, how much does it cost to do all this?

A: FIRST AND FOREMOST. None of this should cost you anything except your time (and occasionally stamps, if you have to snail mail query letters/manuscripts). If an agent wants you to pay them for representing you, RUN. That is a scam agent. Legit agents only take a 15% commission from the actual sale of your book to a publisher, and never before. Also, real publishers pay YOU, not the other way around. Any publisher that says you need to pay to have your book published is a vanity publisher, not a real publisher. (And in this day and age of e-books, you really shouldn't need to go to them....just head over to Amazon if you want to self-publish. :) )

Remember, you are selling your work to a company. Not buying. So they pay you.


Hope this is helpful!

More good news about Legend :)

(Reposted from my deviantArt blog)

I just got permission from my editor to post this good news about Legend (my dystopian novel about my boy criminal Day coming out from Penguin in December 2011). This is for my international deviantArt watchers!

It's now official--Legend will be published in Germany (by the amazing publisher Loewe) and the UK (from Penguin UK)! For my UK/Australia/New Zealand folks, it will be released at the same time it's being released in the U.S. (Dec. 2011). For any German folks, it will be released in Fall 2012. So you'll be able to find it on bookshelves there! Woot! :)

More news about international deals to follow....

In other news, I'm currently working on Legend 2 (er, I have no idea what its title is going to be). For the Legend app, I'm working on a standalone site for you guys similar to the Fuzz Academy site, but one that's hopefully going to be run better from the start so it doesn't fall apart under heavy traffic. There will be more hairstyles, more clothes, and so on to choose from. I'm hoping to open that site to beta starting in January 2011. (I'm also trying to figure out a good way to connect it to the app so that previous app users can transfer all their goodies over to the standalone version) And lastly, I'm planning on writing a series of short stories set in the Legend world to post online for everyone, starring Day before the events in Legend.

I'm almost 30,000 words into Legend 2. Gah. Tough sloggin', especially now that I'm hitting the dreaded middle. Writing a sequel is much, much harder than I thought--and a completely different experience from writing Book 1. But I think (I hope!) it'll turn out well.

And lastly, I noticed in the last post about Legend that a lot of you are also writers! Wootness. Do you have any questions about writing/publishing you'd like me to answer? Feel free to post any if you have them and I'll do my best.

Off to eat some chocolate....

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Made it (for now)

2,003 words today. Whew! I'm still (sort of) on track for NanoWrimo. This year I decided that I'd participate loosely in Nano, but that I won't beat myself up if I don't get my 1,700+ daily word count. So far I've been doing well for the last 3 days, but that'll change once Thanksgiving week rolls around. I made a deal with myself that my required daily words are 1,000, but that if I can, I'll shoot for more. Let's see how long I can go like this.

Anyway, tonight's chapter starred my boy criminal protag Day and his young friend Tess. Poor Tess. I make her go through so much crap. :) Also, I realized after working on a bit of exposition that I had left an entire state out of the Republic (in other words, the dystopic western U.S. in LEGEND): Wyoming. Whatever happened to Wyoming? It's like Nevada and South Dakota just swallowed it up in my brain and I completely forgot about it. Sorry, Wyoming-ans out there. You're back in. :)