Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pitch Wars Blog Hop: Why I Wrote My Book

This post is part of the Pitch Wars blog hop for mentors and alternates to talk about why they wrote their book. This is mine. Thanks to my mentor, Elizabeth Briggs, for picking me as her new alternate. 

In my heart, there's always been a soft spot for fantasy stories. It was easy to sit down to devour them, or take the time to dedicate myself to larger texts. The stories that I wrote were inspired by these, and maybe copycats in some ways, but it was the love that drove me. There was magic. Lots and lots of magic in those words.
One of my influences is Spirited Away from Studio Ghibli. 
It wasn't until I read more than one fairy tale retelling of Cinderella that I knew that I wanted something different. There were plenty of tales to choose from, but for some reason, I wanted something new. I thought about the cultures that interested me. This was also the time that I was really starting to fall even deeper in love with the work of Hayao Miyazaki, a well-known artist, writer, and director of Studio Ghibli movies in Japan. I sat down one night in front of the computer to find very few Japanese stories, but the ones I read sparked something in me. I also wanted a story about family, one pieced together by love and not blood. This is the type of family that I married into, and I know there are other families like it out there.

This was in 2010. I bought my first e-reader around the same time and I used Google Books to do what research I could with books from the early 1900s. I lived in North Dakota at the time and there wasn't one book in the whole state that could help me. Now, there are plenty of books that I could order. Something changed in this time. I don't know what it was, but I'm thankful.

This book was a real challenge for me since it was a culture I wasn't really familiar with. I traveled to Japan two months after the major earthquake in 2011. I researched every few months in case something new came up. It's fantasy so I could play a little bit with my own world, but I wanted authenticity. I wrote the story in first person, and decided to change to third person since I felt that gave it a fantastical voice that I wanted.

FOLLOW THE MOON exists because I love fantasy, the lovely country of Japan, the beauty of Miyazaki's work, the power of family, and my longing for a voice similar, yet unlike, my own. To give myself, and others, the excuse to look beyond the stories we all known so well and expand beyond our comfort zone. I know that this book did that for myself and I'm proud of the work I've done to get it where it is today.

A big thank you to Carleen Karnovic for putting this blog hope together. Check out the other book inspiration posts below.

Carleen Karanovic: HOPE ON A FEATHER


Tracie Martin: WILD IS THE WIND






































Monday, September 22, 2014

Traveling through the Outlander's Stones at Comic-Con

I first discovered the Outlander series when I was fifteen years old. The Drums of Autumn paperback was in a Pamida ad in 1997, and even with the simple cover, I knew I needed to read this book. Little did I know, I bought the fourth book in the series. The closest bookstore that I had growing up was two hours away, so I went to the library to borrow the first three books. I've been hooked on it ever since. So, when I found out they were making a tv series, I was totally in. 


Fast forward to San Diego Comic-Con this past July with my husband Joey and best friend Sulu. There was a huge presence there for Outlander. The booth stood out in the middle of the exhibit floor with the castle and standing stones where the men and women were dressed in period clothing. They handed out goodies like shirts and tote bags.

Here's an idea of the outside of the Outlander booth. 

And we got to see Claire's Apothecary Cabinet inside of the "castle".

One of the other fun things they gave out was the ticket to the premiere!

Here we are outside of the theater waiting to see if we can get inside. Joey and I had just gotten out of the West Coast Avengers photo shoot with our Spider-Man and Mary Jane costumes. We ditched my wig and his mask, grabbed our tickets, and headed over to the theater. 

Here's out excited faces outside of the theater. It was a huge surprise to see all the people dressed up in their very best. That's when we read the ticket more carefully and saw the "Red Carpet Gala" part. Oops!

 Let the adventure begin!

We were given balcony seats! It was hard not to feel fancy with my husband in his best suit.

 Then we found out our seats were supposed to be for the bagpipers and we were seated in the wrong place! They decided to move us, and when they did, our Jamie and Claire arrived in the theater. 

 We were eventually seated in the perfect seats. My husband loves being in the middle of the theater, and that's where they placed us (better than our own balcony). This was especially neat since the main players were in the audience with us. Above is the author Diana Gabaldon and executive producer Ron D. Moore.

 And this is how far away we were seated from Caitriona Balfe (Claire) and Sam Heughan (Jamie)! 

I brought my copy of Outlander to the premiere. I was going to try for the ticketed signings or the official panel at Comic-Con, but didn't make it to either. This is a first edition paperback I found when I was seventeen years old. I've carried it with me through all the moves I've made since I left my hometown in North Dakota when I was eighteen, including the big move to San Diego two years ago. The people who were seated behind me were kind enough to pass the book to Diana Gabaldon to sign. I didn't realize it would actually be possible! My friend said the author looked impressed at how it was an older copy. If she only knew on what journey this book went on with me over the years and how much it meant to me that she signed it!


 The composer of the series, Bear McCreary, was also at the premiere. He was joined by singer Raya Yarbrough, who sang the opening credits. While listening to it, it was hard not to think about the time travel that this book has taken with me since I was fifteen years old. I held back tears thinking of all the things I've gone through, how much things have changed, and how it was strange that I was sitting in that theater all those years later. 

After the showing, there was a Q & A. I was very happy after talking to my friend and husband about what they thought about the pilot. Both really enjoyed it and wanted to see more, which made me thrilled. I was more worried about that than my own opinion since I wanted to share it with people I care about. I did feel the same way and had a deep longing to read the books again. Soon, I will. 

Outlander has become one of my (and Joey's!) new favorite shows. It shouldn't be a surprise since it has been one of the few book series I've kept up with after all these years. Even in college, when I had little money, I would buy a hardcover of the latest book. I'm really looking forward to enjoying the series again in a whole different way. I'm also having a lot of fun talking to people who have and haven't read the series. I think it being a tv series is a great fit for it, and they found the right talent for it. Definitely worth the wait for this fangirl!

Natasha


And if you still have the song stuck in your head, here are the actual opening titles. Be sure to check out the first episode if you haven't already!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Searching for Quality: Week 2 of #FallWritingBootCamp

There were ups and down during the week, but I've accepted this. I can only put more effort in next week. I've already set up StayFocused again on my computer. I'm now limited more to certain websites (you know which ones) so I can still do research and so many minutes for the day. My mother also sent me a new back corset so I can sit at my desk (since I lost weight and my old one doesn't fit). It's all about the small things!

Outside of my writing, I'm helping out in products forums and looking more into computer programming. I've always enjoyed being on the computer and working with software. My husband is an app developer/programmer so I think it might be fun to help him sometimes when he needs it. We'll see what I can do, but it might be a good break from words (though, I'll be writing in different languages?).

Now, onto what words and I did this week:

What did you do last week to work towards your goals?
I started on PRAIRIE DUST's (my YA contemporary) outline. I took different aspects of the story (family, friends, love, school, for example) and wrote what I wanted to see before I envisioning how they will meld together. Eventually I can then set it into a timeline to see how they can all interact with each other. 

I've been dealing a lot with working on beginnings. I did get through the first few chapters of BRIGHT WORLD, and I realized that I needed to sit down with the outline again. I mapped out the first twenty chapters so I know exactly where I want the story to go. What I had before I didn't like and I'm not going to work for the sake of working. 



Did you meet your goals?
I didn't get through all ten chapters of Bright World like I imagined. I'm a little bummed like it, but like I said, I don't want to do something only to meet a goal. I want to have quality over quantity. 

What are you goals for the coming week?
To finish up the outline/timeline for PRAIRIE DUST.

Jump back into BRIGHT WORLD's chapter rewrite and see where my envisioned ideas will take me.

Hope everyone had a good week and here's to another one full of fun challenges!

Natasha

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Moving Ahead with #FallWritingBootCamp

I haven't done a lot of updating on the blog since there is so much that has been going on since the last post (more about that soon). However, I finally see autumn and winter slowing things down a bit for me. I want to focus more on my writing goals so this is a wonderful thing. I joined the YA Buccaneers Fall Writing Boot Camp to help with keeping me on track. It runs from September through NaNoWriMo (November, in writer speak), which is perfect for my goals.

My September goals are simple:

  • To complete the rewrite of the first twenty chapters (half) of BRIGHT WORLD.
  • To a draft of an outline for my NaNoWriMo YA contemporary project, PRAIRIE DUST.

Onto my weekly check-in!

What did you do last week to work towards your goals?
I decided to simplify things. Lately, I've been taking writing books and notebooks, along with my laptop, to cover my various projects. This Friday when I went to my local cafe, I packed up only my laptop and Nook (which I use as a reference). It was easier for me to focus on one thing. I wasn't able to avoid something or do the least important of the tasks first. Less distraction!

Sophie loves Wonderbook!

Did you meet your goals?
I was able to get through the rewrite of the first two chapters of BRIGHT WORLD (this week's goal), and get things rolling on Chapters 3-5. I rewrote the first part of Chapter 3 and I'll take a look at that on Monday.

What are you goals for the coming week?
I would like to get through the next ten chapters of BRIGHT WORLD. There are also things I want to get written down in PRAIRIE DUST into some type of order this week, and then the following week get that into a school year format. We'll see how this goes!

I will continue to read through Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer in my spare time and I'm finally going to pick up Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass from the library.

Here's to a great week ahead!

Natasha

Friday, April 11, 2014

Moving along in March

It was two years ago when we moved to San Diego with a sense of determination. My husband found a great programming job that was the same that he had in Fargo. I was fortunate enough to stay home and work on my dream of writing.

Two years later, a lot has happened. Joey has grown as a programmer and has his sights on developing his own Android applications. I've written three more books and have worked hard at revision. I've also grown in how I want to work on future projects.

This March, we moved into a bigger space where we originally wanted to live. One of the highlights of the place is more room-- including a patio to relax in the sunshine. There are some improvements to be made in this new place, however, this place feels more like ours. I was unpacking boxes to find things I almost forgot about like a tablecloth! We also have a ton of art that we didn't hang up, and now we have ample space. It's a different feeling, one that I missed.


Now that we're a bit more settled in, I can get back to placing stickers on my calendar. I didn't do such a bad job with a last minute move arriving out of nowhere. However, it's almost halfway through April and I need to pick up the pace!

Lately, I've been looking more at articles on productivity than actual writing. I've become more aware of the faults in my process over the past two years. I'm determined more than ever to remedy them. For example, I do need to take more time to structure my novel. I've found some great books as resources to help me sort through the ideas in my head-- and give me room to improve. It also means that I might not participate in NaNoWriMo like I have in the past. I sometimes don't give myself enough time beforehand, and then find my novel suffering. I have two of them ready for revision-- and I'm dreading it.

We'll see how it goes.

My April goal is to write the second part of a short story called The Rabbit Hole for my Stone Circle group, and to finish the revision outline for Bright World. I do see some afternoons at Barnes and Noble in my future to accomplish this. It's so easy to look at a box right now and think, "If I do this one..."

Natasha

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Problem with Short Stories (and me)

Last night I went to a launch party for Shannon Messenger's LET THE STORM BREAK. There were great conversations about writing between the three authors in attendance (Kiersten White and Kasie West joined her for the event). But there was one moment that stuck out to me. Shannon spoke about her Keeper series and how it began with a short story-- and  now she has three 100,000+ word novels because of one little exercise.

And that's what is going on with me right now.

My NaNoWriMo project, DEATH NOTICE, started out with one character with a bigger story than I imagined. My Stone Circle critique partner told me there were two many open questions for a short story. I was developing another world. And he was right. I had two main characters with so much complexity, plus a side character full of mystery, how did I not see it?

That's when I knew there was too much. Now I have a novel written from both perspectives (that's in desperate need of repair).

Flash forward a few months. I promised my husband the story of a prominent character in KIN. Again, I sent a snippet to my Stone Circle group. After they read a page and a half, I asked them, "Seriously, how do I write a short story?" I knew, again, that there was too much going on. And they both told me you need a single, simple focus when writing on a shorter scale.

This is not how my brain works (and thank goodness for their divine wisdom).

After doing research, and thinking long and hard, I now have enough ideas for TWO novels in the same universe as my dear KIN. My lovely and clever husband, I believe, tricked me.

This is not what I expected from myself this year. I want to write a witch story. To revise the novels on the back burner. Now, I have two more novels with their gnarled fingers clutched around my heart.

They won't let go. Inspiration is around me and my brain is bursting.

And is this a reason to complain? Maybe a smidgen? What I do know is if I need a novel idea, writing a short story first might be the way to go. Sometimes, detours are part of a journey.

Natasha

Monday, March 3, 2014

Productivity Review

I've discovered something new to figure out this year with my writing: increasing productivity. In my previous post, I spoke about how I recognized how things needed to change. I've always prided myself on getting a lot done and people seem impressed by what I do. However, I feel like I squint back at them like they're seeing something I'm not.

The first thing I did in January was put myself on a social media retreat after I saw two Twitter friends doing one together to boost their writing. During that time, it really helped me not rely so much on social media and focus on my to-do list.

The retreat also made me realize that I needed to work on my social media habits. I started using an extension in Chrome called StayFocused where I could set a limited amount of time for social media websites on my computer during the day. I can also shut everything down for an hour if I really need to focus. (They do have a list of "allowed websites" if you want to listen to your music or have the thesaurus open.)

WriteOrDie is also a savior when it comes to making myself sit down and work. Coupling it with StayFocused really pushes me when I need it most. It gives you warnings if you're going too slow. I rewards you with cat pictures if you reach your goal. I've found that writing sprints, or being timed, is a great way for me to dive into my work.

Lists are also great for me. I went back to using my whiteboard above my desk. The way I have a visual of everything I've done over the past week and it makes me sit down to get the bigger picture (more on that in the previous blog post).

On days where I need to keep an eye on how long I work on other things, the Pomodoro technique really comes in handy since it allows me to split up my time in chunks. There's an app on my phone that I use for it on my Android phone. I also have a bad back so it reminds me to get up to stretch, as well as rest my eyes. You get a longer break after two hours so I then go out for a walk. I allow myself to take my time since it's an easy way for me to get in my daily exercise. 


And, lastly, the Sticker Method that I've written before. Here are my stickers from January and February. Not too bad! They're not all for writing, but what little writing related goals I set out. For example, doing so many chapters in an outline.

Nothing is more fun than picking out that sticker I've earned at the end of the day. At the end of the month, sitting back in my desk chair, I can really see what I've done for my work and for myself.

And I love this calendar of fantasy authors. There's something about having their eyes fixed on me while I work or place the stickers in the little square that helps keep me moving along.

I think I've finally found some ways to really help me keep on top of my work and feel proud of myself, and not as full of dread. It's wonderful to have people cheer me on or say wonderful things about how I'm doing. However, I really needed to feel it more within myself. There is probably some more tinkering in the future in how I manage my time and writing, but this is a great start.

One of the last things I need to work on a bit is flexibility. Does it really matter what order I do things? Guilt has a way of finding its way through the cracks, and this is where learning to breathe (or meditate) might come in handy. Life is always in flux and I can't beat myself over things I can't control. 

If you're interested in more tips on increasing productivity, I definitely recommend checking out this article by Susan Dennard over at Publishing Crawl. The author also has some wonderful resources if you want to read more, as well.

Lifehacker is another great resource that I love to follow on social media. Their articles are sometimes just what I need on a bad day.

What methods do you like to use to increase productivity?

Natasha

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Positive Reinforcement of Checkmarks

It's been almost two months since we've cracked open this new year of 2014. In these two months, I've had to re-think how I do things and what I want to do now.

I don't have everything figured out.

I have to tell myself that isn't the point.

NaNoWriMo was a great month for me. I bonded with fellow writers and I wrote many words. Words that I actually liked. Then, when December hit, something changed inside of me. This went into January-- and it wasn't all good.

I didn't finish my draft when my January 15th deadline rolled around. The novel changed and morphed with my mood, and I finally finished it with a question mark at the end.

I told myself the story is there-- I can go back.



This was the red flag-- I somehow gathered bad habits. I was only seeing what I needed to do rather than rewarding myself for what I have done. My lists were on my computer/phone, so once I checked things off, they weren't visible to me. All that was left was everything that wasn't getting done. At the end of each day, when I closed my eyes, this was all I could see. It was what I woke up to each morning.

I'm a fan of lists and goals. It's one of the reasons why I'm dependable. Except, there's something about seeing the checkmarks, the scribbles, the exclamation points, that soothes me. Handwriting them out, to me, makes a world of difference. I can sit back in  my chair and take a deep breath. It's the equivalent of giving myself a thumbs up.

Granted, the sticker method helped. I could see my writing progress, but there's all those other things. Writing articles for YA Interrobang. Critiques for my writing buddies. Cleaning.

That's when I brought out the markers and erasers, and started again with my whiteboard. Each Sunday or Monday morning, I sit down to write all the things I want to do that week. I check everything off while I do it. My goals and accomplishments are plain sight each night above my computer. I also share them with one of my writing groups so they can see what I'm doing. It's a way to keep myself accountable.

I sleep better at night. I do my work without even thinking about it. I just do it. I'm excited to look at my list since I can see what I can accomplish when I use the whiteboard and place my stickers on my calendar. I don't use the every day to lose what I've done and pile on more items on my list. Instead, I do this each week with not just the thoughts I can do this, but I have done this.

Natasha

Note: Look for my upcoming blog post of other ways I helped improve my every day habits. I'll include links to some of the articles that proved helpful during this process.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Heroine's Favorite Books of 2013 and onto 2014!

It's been two weeks since the 2014 has broken into the scene. However, my reads from 2013 haven't been that long forgotten. Here are my fave picks for 2013, along with my hopefuls for the new year.

Contemporary
Just One Day
Just One Year by Gayle Forman
This series is similar to Forman's first series by having one book cover one point of view of the romance. And it really works. The characters are so different from eac
h other, and their encounter something straight out of a--- wait, these are novels! What's different about these is I love that they don't take place mostly in America. There is a different feel to them, which adds a million points to the romance of it all.

Biggest Surprise
Pivot Point by Kasie West
I really loved the use of the character's ability, which affects the story timeline. It was well-balanced and I couldn't put this down. I'm ready for the second book, Split Second, that comes out this year.

Sequel
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
The writing in this book was a lot stronger than the first, and I'm completely sold on the series. If you're missing some fantasy from your life, you need to pick these up. I also recommend novellas to everyone because it adds layers to the books!

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan
This series speaks to me so much. I think it's because I feel like Kami is Lois Lane, one of my favorite comic book characters of all time. It also helps that the romantic tension in this series is a thousand fold. Also, WITCHES!

Best End to a Series
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
I read this series the week after this book came out. I enjoyed it even more than The Mortal Instruments. I'm not a huge fan of steampunk, but you don't need to like it. This series has it all--- including stunning covers.

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
The end of this series was painful for me because I want it to keep going! Each book was better than the last and I was on the edge of my seat. This is a fantasy series that I can see myself reading over and over again.

Debut
Transparent by Natalie Whipple
I've been following the author's blog for a few years and I'm so thrilled to read her first book. I loved how she handled the character--- who just so happens is an invisible girl. She found a way to give her an identity and lots of conflict that kept me flipping through the pages. I look forward to reading Blindsided, as well as her other two releases this year.

New Favorite Authors
Rainbow Rowell, author of Fangirl, Eleanor and Park
I met Rainbow Rowell at Comic Con this year and I was so impressed by her! Eleanor and Park is one of those books I wish I read as a teenager, an
d Fangirl spoke to the Midwestern geek girl in me. I'm ready to stand in line for whatever she writes!

Victoria Schwab, author of The Near Witch,Vicious
It wasn't that hard for Victoria Schwab's witch book to win me over since I dearly love witches. Then there is Vicious-- which is pretty much a "hero" and "villain" story. Even with concepts we're used to reading, her writing kept me turning the pages and planning on giving her books away as gifts.

Favorite Book of 2014
Starglass by Phoebe North
What can I say about this book? I've read a few books about being trapped in a ship in space in the past few years. I admit, it made me a bit hard to win over in reading this one until I kept reading about people enjoying it on Twitter. I'm so glad I listened to them! I love the use of culture on the ship, and how it feels like a real home. It isn't written by an outsider-- but by someone who grew up on the ship. This actually developed a stronger story to me since it showed the character growing up by looking at her surroundings in a different light.

2014 Hopefuls
There are so many great books coming out this year! Here's some of my top picks that I can't wait to get my hands on!
Avalon by Mindee Arnett
Extraction By Stephanie Diaz
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
Written in My Heart's Own Blood by Diana Gabaldon
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple
Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I do hope to re-read some books and add in some older ones, as well. I want to throw in a bit classics because I want to expand my reading list.

Is there anything you can't wait to read this year?
Natasha

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Sticker Method and the Guilt-Free Jar

I wrote this as one of statuses online and thought it was worth sharing:

The first week of 2014 is off to a whirlwind start: New Year's Party with friends, anniversary at Disneyland, hangout at Google Los Angeles, discovered more amazing vegan food, rejections, requests, preparing for contests and queries, finished reading a book, edited my column, catching up with friends online, found a dietitian, morning walks in the park, watched Sherlock, snuggling with kitties, wrote a poem, cried my eyes out after Saving Mr.Banks, lunch with a friend, singing "Let It Go" from Frozen over and over, writing at Barnes and Noble, watching Joey create a new app, and talking about moving. This is my life.


Now onto week two.


One of things that has kept me going during NaNoWriMo in November was not just the people--- it was the sticker method. I've mentioned in past posts, but here it is again today! 


I have my calendar and kitty stickers all ready to finish Death Notice this month. I want as many kitties, clouds, and hearts littering the month of January. I'm excited-- and nervous! For some reason, this novel is really hitting me in the gut so I'm trying to use whatever tools that will get me to the finish line.


This year is also one where I need to work harder with my health. I found out I have a condition that requires me to adjust how I eat and exercise. It's so easy to let myself browse on the computer and remained cooped up in the house. I must work harder! I was thinking today, what kind of sticker method could I use for exercise?


I've seen a variety of blog posts where they use jars for different purposes for goal setting. I found a jar, grabbed my pen, and scribbled little "rewards" for myself. I can give myself between a half hour and an hour doing whatever the paper says-- with no guilt



My calendar with its first sticker! Kitty stickers and my jar. Happy dance!
What's great about this are these are things that I put off, or won't "let" myself do because I need to this or that instead. I have two weeks worth of them to rotate through of different things from drawing, browsing Tumblr, a cheat day, write a poem, and, my favorite, "Treat Yo Self".  

We'll see how long this experiment lasts, but so far, I'm pretty excited about what I will pick tomorrow!


Here's to a productive New Year!


Natasha