This blog, it is a’changin’

Grab a towel and don’t panic – I’m not planning any massive divergence from the stuff my 200+ readers, followers, and friends have already come to expect. This blog has been and always will be a place where I can be myself, talk about my own journey, and express my opinions.

I’ve never claimed to be a blog for “writing advice”, as I strongly believe that we all have our own writing philosophies that work for us. It would be wise of me not to imprint my methods on other people, although I do like sharing what works for me in the hope that people can try it for themselves and see if it helps. Additionally, haven’t we ALL heard about showing and not telling? Haven’t we ALL heard about adverbs and dialogue tags by now?

However, I do update kind of sporadically, my blog is the opposite of SEO optimized, the theme needs a bit of a makeover, and I want to return to the targeted and opinionated content that got me a lot more interaction when I started this blog two (!) years ago. Like “Stop Whining About Book To Movie Adaptations” and “Can You Use Real People As Vectors For Characters?” None of this is advice – they’re conversation pieces meant to get the audience thinking topics that don’t get much attention, particularly from an unusual perspective. I have an inherently contrarian personality, and a background in film. Unlike most of the reading community, I don’t smell books, scorn movie adaptations, or feel that I’m better than people because I read.

So that’s all. I’m hoping to update a bit more frequently, and to target my posts with a question or topic in mind instead of just posting updates about my productivity/progress. I’d like to invite a bit more conversation here, and write stuff that people could perhaps reblog or share or link to with a firm “what she said!” or even an outraged, “who does this person think she is?!” Haha. As always, I’m inspired by whatever creative stage I’m going through, and at the moment it’s 1) finishing the final edits on Paradisa, 2) querying for the first time, 3) a bit more about filmmaking, and 4) trying to publish short fiction/write more short fiction.

TLDR – Same Aether House you love, only MORE! :D

My Experiment With A Writing Journal

No, not a blog, my friends. Not a composition notebook by your bedside table where you jot down ideas that strike in the middle of slumber. Not a list of “Cool titles I might use one day” or “writing prompts” or “neat character names.” A writing journal can have all of those things…but what a writing journal should be is a foundation for what it means to be human. A way to store all the emotions you feel on a daily basis, reflect on them, and then summon them at will when you want to use them in a character. A place where you keep progress of your work in order to keep yourself accountable. A place where you work out the chaos in your head by simply turning it into an alphabet.

I haven’t kept up with my writing journal for very long, nor have I reached the habit where I write in it every day. But already, I see why it’s beneficial. Pouring out the bad emotions and weird thoughts and worried delusions and speculation of my future is a great way to encapsulate my humanity – a humanity that, often when I’m writing, I wonder if I really have. I’m not frequently emotional. I worry that my work is often bland and shallow and devoid of character because I don’t pull at the reader’s guts every other page. I’m a commercial writer, I admit, but I appreciate a blend between commercial plot and loveable, heart wrenching characters a la Doctor Who.

I have that journal in front of me and I can go back to a day where I felt fully in love, or inadequate, or fat, or useless, or uneasy, or lucky, or curious, I can relive what it means to be those things. I can use my prior self as a vector and fill in my character, or whatever plot thread I’m trying to twist.

On a less personal note, I can write down all the weird “what if?” thoughts I had throughout the day, thoughts that both disturbed or elated me or struck my curiosity. I can write down funny anecdotes from work, funny things Reggie said that I might use later in a character like him, or amusing people I saw at dinner. I can talk about news stories that angered me, scared me, or made me shake my head. I can log trends in the universe that I observe as a way to predict what’s next in fiction. I can write about books I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, and games I’ve played to dissect what I loved and hated about them, and why the story worked or why it didn’t. I can count my submission response letters and make note of journals who were particularly kind or helpful in their rejections. I can preserve – in ink, in something tangible – the moment when I actually get accepted to something.

When I first read about the habit of keeping a journal, I thought, “I don’t need to do that – I have a blog.” Or, “I don’t need to do that, I have a plot bunny journal.”  But after giving it a try, I see why this is different. Because the writing journal is not a place where you wax about your writing philosophy, as my blog is. It’s not a place where you simply tinker with ideas, like my plot bunny book. It’s a place where you can keep track of experiences that are so important in building authorial maturity. It’s a place where you sketch out who you are, and that identity will define what you write about.

And let’s face it – it would make a mighty fine auction item if you ever became famous one day ;)

Would You Rather – Writer and Reader Addition (from aspiringwriter22)

Questions taken from asipiringwriter22‘s blog this week. Check her out to see what she said, and feel free to answer these questions on your own blog! These were taken from both her “for writers” and “for readers” posts.

Would you rather only write standalones or trilogies?

Trilogies, probably. I have a few standalones in me, but I’m just more passionate about my  universes that have series potential.

Would you rather be a professional writer or a professional blogger?

I said “pro writer” at first, but I think pro blogger would be more fun because it would allow me to work from home and do something interesting without interfering with my passion projects. Never do a passion project for money, unless you want to ruin it for yourself.

Would you rather hand write or have to type for the rest of your life?

Type! No question.

Would you rather be forced to write everything in uppercase or lowercase letters?

Lowercase. I’ve known a few people who only wrote in lowercase, actually.

Would you rather only write 2 pages per day or 250 pages per week?

250 would certainly make me more productive.

Would you rather be traditionally published or self published?

It depends on the project, honestly. I’ve been doing a lot of research on starting a self-published erotica and nonfiction business. I think self-publishing benefits those markets and will yield the biggest returns. But for novel-lengthed fiction, traditional publishing is still king. The audience is just not there for it in the self-published market right now. Even in the self-publishing manual I was reading this weekend, the guy admits that his methodologies would probably not work well with novels.

Would you rather only write in pen or pencil?

I adore pens. Especially colored pens.

Would you rather only be allowed to write at your desk or anywhere else in the world?

I could happily spend the rest of my life writing exclusively at my desk.

Would you rather only read trilogies or only read standalones?

When it comes to reading, I’m fine with both, although most trilogies/series these days are overbloated stories that could have been accomplished in one or two books. I find that standalone books usually leave me wanting more, and series books leave me wishing the author would just get to the point.

Would you rather only read male or female authors?

I don’t really have a preference, although I think supporting female authors is important.

Would you rather shop at Barnes and Noble or Amazon?

Amazon is where I buy pretty much everything. I love browsing in B&N, but everything is way too expensive to buy. I get most of my books from the local used book store.

Would you rather books were made into TV shows or movies?

Movies. Again, I find TV shows often have bloat. Most books don’t translate well to a serial format either. Unless you’ve got a series the length of A Song of Ice and Fire to work with, I don’t see how long a TV Show could last with much things. However, I am super excited about the A Series of Unfortunate Events series that Netflix released a trailer for today. I wonder if they’re going to simply cover the relatively short series, or expand beyond the books and come up with new stories to tell post-“The End.”

Would you rather read only 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?

5 books a week would definitely be more productive.

Would you rather be a professional author or reviewer?

Professional author. My opinions are probably too unpopular to be a good reviewer.

Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?

Hmm. A librarian probably has better pay/benefits.

Would you rather read only your favorite genre, or every other genre but your favorite?

I think it’s important to have variety, so every other genre. I’ve also found that I’m really picky when it comes to my favorite genre (fantasy), and I’m more in tuned to the tropes, clichés, etc. of it. It’s actually more difficult for me to enjoy fantasy novels, despite it being my favorite thing to write.

Would you rather only read ebooks or physical books?

I could give up ebooks.

Dear Teenage Me – Writing Advice

Dear Michelle at 16,

Congrats on those half a million words you’ll have by the time you finish high school. I wish I could say that you’ll keep it up that pace in adulthood, but you’ll never have more free time than you do as a teenager. Either way, it’s cool that you spend it writing every day, pumping out a novel, one or two novellas (20-30k words) and multiple short stories (<10k words) a year.

Here’s some advice to you, and all the other teen writers out there, that might make the road a little easier –

1. Don’t feel bad about writing fanfiction. Fanfic teaches you about the basic elements of storytelling – the three act structure, plotting, conflict, dialogue, character motivations, tenses, POV, building suspense. Yes, a lot of that sandbox is built and there’s no world-building or character creation. But world-building and character creation are two of the hardest parts about being a writer. I don’t see any issue in discovering your voice, and how to tell a decent story, with fanfiction first.

2. Don’t feel bad that what you’re writing isn’t and/or won’t be published. Even if you wrote original stuff, it wouldn’t have been the Great American Novel. Sorry.

In fact, you’re going to look back on 90% of your current stuff with disdain. But if you write enough, and make the most of your time, that last 10% will stand the test of time. The first 30% is almost unreadable, the middle 30% has redeeming traits, the third 30% is enjoyable even if it’s dated or not publishable, and that last 10% is where you’ll say “dang. I was good. What happened?”

3. Once you get to that 10% area of good writing, the worst thing you can do is stop. That’s what I did, and now I’m back to that 55%-65% area. You’ll lose your skills if you don’t read or write for a few years. It’ll be hard to keep up with your talent in college, but make it a priority.

4. It’s not just about writing quality though. You don’t know this yet, but a lot of your work is ignorant to how the real world operates. That isn’t your fault. It’s just part of living in a manufactured bubble of public school and no bills. A lot of your opinions are just regurgitated from peers and elders, and a lot of your understanding of how the world works is rather elementary. No, the economy cannot be fixed by simply printing more money – and so on.

5. It’s not all bad – you can still write what you know and you do know a lot. You know one thing in particular that adults always seem to forget: how teenagers think, write, and behave. Really, your piece of work, pre age-18, that has held up the best is  The Outcasts. The one about teenagers doing teenager things. Not the political thriller or the high fantasy or the surrealist comedy. You weren’t ready for any of those others yet, so not much can be done with them now. Ignorance of politics makes thrillers nearly impossible and I think a good sense of humor needs some age on it too.

6. Tumblr and WordPress don’t exist for you yet, and you know you’re writing about copyrighted properties anyway. So you’ll never have to hear “teens can’t write anything worth publishing.” I see a lot of teen writers hear this now though, in 2015. I think it sucks. I get where the critique comes from, and I can offer my own interpretation of it – but the last thing you should tell a writer is “what you’re writing doesn’t matter.”

7. Publishing at 22 or 52 is just as impressive as publishing at 18 or 15. Don’t bother chasing an arbitrary deadline to publication just because Christopher Paolini did it. People can hardly believe Veronica Roth is 24, so you still have plenty of years left to impress people. Even still, no one cares how old you are when you do it. Age is kind of gimmick in that way. Just write a good book, no matter what age you are, and publish it when you know it is finished.

8. It was a good idea to graduate early from high school and major in chemistry. To this day, that choice  I made at 16 is probably the best I’ve ever made. You won’t end up a pharmacist like you intend, but you’ll still have a solid career that allows you freedom, money, and time to pursue all your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you that majoring in creative writing or film is the only way to follow your heart. No one ever did amazing things by following the expected path – think outside the box and make your own fate.

New Year Updates To Aether House

I’m baaaaaaack! I don’t have a shiny new header or layout, but I have some new features and plans for Aether House in 2015 ;)

+ See that countdown on the sidebar? That’s how many scenes I have left to finish in Draft Five of Paradisa. I’m nearing the end, folks! Hopefully by the end of January, that number will be 0. I feel like displaying progress for all to see will be a good motivator. Give me a shove if you don’t see it descend every few days ;)

+ Check out my 2015 Reading List! I’m not setting a numerical goal, as I feel that’s a bit…strange, for me. I want quality over quantity. So I’ve picked out a dozen or so books that I truly feel I should read ASAP. Infinite Jest and the H.P. Lovecraft book are both over 1000 pages, so it’s plenty to keep me busy this year. I’ve scheduled time to read 30 min-1 hr each day, but I also have to clean, write, edit, cook dinner, exercise, budget, and practice the drums too (not to mention that 40 hr a week job and, heh, sleep!). There are only so many hours in a day.

+ I’ve also made a “favorites” list for my WordPress Reader, where I can easily find the blogs I interact with the most. I think this will help make me a better blog friend. ;) Instead of backtracking through several days and dozens of newsy posts, I can quickly see your recent updates.

+ I want to get back to posting at least 2 times a week. When I started my blog, I wrote a post every day. I had a lot to say ;) Recently, as my writing has lulled into casual editing, I’m at a loss for quality topics. I do not blog just to blog. I only blog when I have something thoughtful to talk about, something different from typical writing blogs. Luckily I have a decent idea list to go by until Draft Five is complete (and I start finishing books on the To Read list), at which point my brain should get interesting again.

Thanks for sticking it out with me. Hope everyone has a great start to 2015!

Writing To Blog?

We have not had electricity at work this week because our plant is going through a shutdown. So, I haven’t had much focus or ability to post new entries on my blog. At home, I’ve been focused on my Gamora cosplay, which is actually turning out pretty well (I might devote one day a week, probably Fridays, to posting progress for anyone following the Gamora cosplay tag. Might help them build their own). I’ve been outlining the NaNoWriMo novel some too, which I have to ask myself some hard questions in order to finish. Like yesterday, I made a brainstormed list of “Why Are People Afraid of Death?” just to keep my themes straight and my plot propelled. Tough stuff, yo.

Anyway, today I propose a simple observation that’s cropped up in the past few weeks: when I don’t write, I don’t feel like blogging. Most of my blog entries spring from thoughts I’ve had on my writing journey – thoughts about the editing of my book, the beta process, the character development, outlining, marketing, etc. Every day I work on my book, I walk away with more questions. And even better, I walk away with more concrete awareness of my Personal Writing Philosophy, which I enjoy sharing.

I like to think that my blog covers topics that you don’t see much on writing blogs. For instance, I am not going to write entries about “How To Write A Hook” or “The Three Act Structure.” Not only have such topics been beaten into the ground by hundreds of bloggers before me, they’re also common knowledge. Or, at least, very accessible knowledge. Even more, it’s knowledge given by people with credibility, whereas I am still unpublished. The best I can give are my opinions and philosophy.

Instead, I cover topics like why writing full-time isn’t that obtainable, why I write with my mind instead of my emotions, why I never delete my work, and defending unpopular topics like present tense and book-to-film adaptations. None of this comes out of the blue. A lot of it comes from other people’s posts that spark ideas in me, and a great deal of it comes from working on my book.

I’ve been lax on Paradisa lately. It’s just such a massive revision, and it’s one that I have faith in, but that doesn’t make it easy. I have other artistic priorities tugging at me this month. I have another book I’m outlining. But I’ve noticed that the more I put off Paradisa, the more my blogging suffers. The less I have to say on here, because the less experience I’m having as a writer.

Do you feel the same way? Is your blogging interest directly proportional to your writing strides?

The One Lovely Blog Award

Wow, I am getting a lot of these lately! Thanks to A.D. Martin, a blogger with much wit and entertainment value, for sacrificing me to the WordPress gods.

Seven facts about Michelle –

1. No matter how many times I try PopTarts, sweet potatoes, and Twizzlers, I still hate them all. I have tried, you guys. I have tried so many times. But my taste buds are like “nope.”

2. I have irrational loathing for people who leave their turn signal on after they’ve completed the turn. You know, those people who drive down the road with the thing still flashing, totally oblivious, and I’m in the next lane like “Get over! get overrrr! Oh wait, you just left the thing on? Maybe? Whatever dude. *zoom*” Equally, I loathe people who don’t use their turn signal at all, which seems to be pretty common in South Carolina.

(No one drives as poorly as people in Huntsville, Alabama though. They must not teach “yielding” in Huntsville Drivers Ed.)

3. I’m not really into pumpkin spice stuff.

4. I’m a film festival director/programming director/general cofounder of AtomaCon, which is Charleston’s first three-day sci-fi, pop culture, and gaming convention. My mom is the main founder/head honcho/one woman show. It’s in November, which is a great time to visit The Chuck! Buy tickets here.

5. I have a collection of Mickey Mouse plushies. I get one every time I go to Disney World. My collection is so big that it’s hard to find unique Mickeys when I go now.

6. I don’t eat ground beef. Hamburgers, tacos,  meatballs, meat sauces – nope. I’m a bad Italian, I guess. But the thought of it just makes me shudder. I think I had a really bad experience with puking ground beef as a child that may have subconsciously scarred me, although I’m surprised it didn’t scar my mother more.

7. I’ve been vocally childfree since I was 12 years old. I have never fathomed a desire to want kids, either by adoption, fostering, or natural birth. I don’t talk about this much on here, since I keep the focus on writing, but this really is an integral part of my identity. In the way that some people really enjoy investment banking or skydiving or joining the military, parenting can be life-changing and wonderful and fulfilling for some people – just not for me. First, I’m phobic of pregnancy to a visceral degree. Secondly, among a variety of mental illnesses, autoimmune disorders, and phenylketonuria – which I am a carrier for – that I’d be passing down, I’ve also talked before about how I kind of lack empathy.  My resentment for the life I’d lose would outweigh any love I could have for that kid, and that just….would not be good. So, I’m voluntarily removing myself from the gene pool, ha!

The rules of the One Lovely Blog Award:

  • You must thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog
  • You must list the rules and display the award (as usual, Internet Explorer at work does not like me posting images. I would switch to another browser, but they won’t let us have any others. *EYEROLL*)
  • You must add 7 facts about yourself
  • You must nominate 15 other bloggers and comment on one of their posts to let them know they’ve been nominated
  • You must display the award logo and follow the blogger who nominated you

My Nominees

How about everyone I nominated last week for the Liebster Award? Or anyone who wishes to do it? Fifteen seems rather excessive, after all.


The Liebster Award

Thanks to Jess at Like Star Filled Skies for nominating me for The Liebster Award! This is a fun one because the questions are different every time. This is the first time I’ve been nominated for it. Here are her questions to me –

1) What is your favorite fruit?

I’m down with most fruits. I like cherry flavored candy the most, but apples are the best fruit to eat. They’re simple and they keep in the fridge for weeks.

2) If you could be any superhero you wanted, who would it be?

Wonder Woman. Although, my ideal super power is telekinesis.

3) What one book could you read over and over again?

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox. It’s so dark and sad and beautiful and Holly and Artemis finally acknowledge their feelings and…gah. Every bit of it is wonderful. Colfer’s writing is at the acme. I love it so much. I never get tired of reading it.

4) If you could own any exotic animal you wanted, what would it be?

I love iguanas but they require too much care. Chameleons are adorable, but they’re too shy and delicate. So, my ideal exotic pet would be a bearded dragon. Rather short life span and a lot of personality.

Oh wait, did it say ANY animal I wanted? WHY, A KOALA OF COURSE.

5) Favorite sport to watch on television?

I hate all sports except for the Olympics. So probably Olympic track or Olympic gymnastics.

6) How would you describe your style?

I’m trying to wear all black at work because I’m a dye chemist. Many of my clothes have been ruined by dye stains. Outside of that, I’d love to have the rockabilly style  – punk meets Mad Men. But in reality, I settle for dressing like most 20-year-old skinny white girls at Starbucks. It’s hard to find unique clothes. Everything at the mall is the same.

7) What 3 things would you like to do before you die?

1. Win a Nobel Prize.

2. Publish a bestseller.

3. Win an Oscar.

8) If you could move anywhere other than where you live now, where would that place be?

I enjoy Charleston, actually. It’s got the right balance of weather, good food, easy traffic, decent amount of activities. If I was to move anywhere else, it would probably be Switzerland or Italy. Sometimes I think I want to get out of this country, and Italy’s got the pretty setting while Switzerland has a good economy.

9) Favorite book? Why?

I dunno. It used to be The Time Traveler’s Wife, because the writing is so lovely, but the characters are so pretentious. I really do adore the Artemis Fowl series, but I feel weird calling one of those my favorite. I sorta think I haven’t read my favorite book yet.

10) As a kid, what did you always want to be when you grew up?

Oh, the usual. Dentist, ballerina, pop star, actress….but my desire to be a writer and film director stuck with me til the end.

My Nominees:

H.K. Rowe, Kate Turville, Home of the Little Known Blogger, Dena Rogers, Prolix Me, Joyce H. Ackley, Raven Apotheosis , Nanna Writes, Marcia Colette, and Leona Wisoker

Click the cut to see  the rules and my questions to the lovely ten bloggers above!

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