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Colorful

Colorful

      I sort of hate the term “people of color”.
      It makes me feel like I’m segregating people, and I’m all about integration.
      Also, since I don’t “qualify” as a “person of color”, I’m left out and damn it, I’m a whole conglomeration of pale, pink, yellow, red, brown (freckles)… tee-hee. Okay, that’s petty, but sort of true.
      Its occasionally difficult, as a fantasy writer, to find that perfect phrase to describe a character’s complexion or outward appearance without coming off as cliché or politically correct or worse, racist. At least, I have come across it and found it to be troubling.
      “Incandescence” features a pretty big and diverse cast, but the three “mains” are all related and all “white”. Hannah is pale with gorgeous reddish hair and weird eyes. Michael has his grandmother’s coloring – exotically tan with big dark eyes and brown hair – but he’s still considered
Caucasian. I picture a sort of Italian/Grecian type. Like my own mother – you’d never guess we’re related since I’m all pale Irish with reddish-brown hair and she’s black hair, dark eyes, olive skin. And their great-great-grandmother, who has gone grey/white, was dark-haired, dark-eyed, and olive skinned in her youth.
      Many of the other characters at the Freehold are white. But some are biracial, or Hispanic, or Black, or Asian, or Native American, or Middle Eastern. Because this is a “real world” novel, its pretty clear that a fellow named Sreejith is likely of Indian heritage. I don’t have to beat his skin color and appearance into their heads.
      But what about Luke and Beth? Their skin color is mentioned when they’re introduced, I believe, but not again afterward. Because it doesn’t matter to the story – they are important for who they are, and what they do, not for being black.
      It makes me think of the controversy that popped up (especially from young people on Twitter) after “The Hunger Games” movie came out. No one was upset that Thresh was a “big, black dude” (semi-barbarian, and compared to an ox by Katniss). But dear Lord, when they saw that a character that they liked and empathized with was black (sweet little Rue) – they flipped out.
      And I’m not sure why – it was made very clear in the book that Rue had dark skin. Without coming out and saying it in modern US-slang (calling her black or saying outright that she was likely of some African descent)… it was apparent to Jack & I when we first read it.
      Whitewashing. That’s what they call it when we (globally a minority) privileged Americans assume all characters are “like us”. Most of my fantasy worlds include a vast variety of skin colors. Frequently, people are what I would call “shades of brown”.
      But how to get that across without repetition of “chocolate” “teak” “mahogany” “brown” “tan”… and is it offensive to use things like “white as milk” or “dark as fine chocolate”? It wouldn’t bother me if someone said I was the color of vanilla ice cream, but maybe someone who has been marginalized for their skin color would object to being compared to food?
      Its a pretty complex subject, when it comes down to it, and I’m not qualified to give advice or anything. But I think it is important to think about these things; not to get mired in them, but to really consider things like this.
      Or not.
      I mean, who am I to say?
      …aaaaand now I’ll be singing that Leah Andreone song all damn evening.

Love & Rainbows (hah!),
P.P.

Disco Inferno

Disco Inferno

      At last, weeks of procrastination have finally come to an end.
      I’m officially back to work on “Inferno”. For better or worse, I’m going to finish this modern-day mageborn story and move on to something else. I cannot keep splitting my focus like this – I end up getting nothing done (unless you count many hours wasted on Facebook, playing Draw Something! on my phone, or watching entire seasons of TV shows on Netflix in binge sessions… which I do not).
      I did not update the word count in the right-hand column because I have removed more than I’ve added in the past few hours, but still – progress!
      I’ve run into a few continuity problems – nothing major, but it is slightly annoying that I did not catch them in the first draft.

((ARGH! The remaining 500 words of this post was lost in a connection issue – my host is experiencing all sorts of trouble today. Darn it… I’m not rewriting it, but suffice it to say: Jack is starting a new project we’re excited about, Camp NaNo in July is going to be fun, and Inferno is well on its way.))

Love & Rainbows,
P.P.

Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory

This post was originally featured at Dominique Goodall’s blog as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
———————
      I do not believe in Writer’s Block. Not really.
      Maybe I should say, its not that I do not believe in it, just that I refuse to let it grab hold of my pen and prevent me from doing what I love. Sometimes, I admit it, I get bogged down in details and feel like I might be “blocked”. When that gross, constipated-brain feeling gets me down, I close my WIP (or whatever I am working on) and take a little break.
      If a short break does not get the juices flowing again (ew… I’m really regretting that constipation comparison above right now), I turn to Free Writing. One of my favorite things to do is to sort through my Portraits folder, choose an interesting face, and just let the ink fly. Sometimes, however, even that will not loosen the bowels of my brain and I have to dig deeper.
      That is why I have about a hundred thousand (this is a slight exaggeration) text files in my possession with anywhere from a single line to a few pages of work that never really went anywhere. I love the random and chaotic. I love to shake things up and just plop out strange ideas.
      It never fails to get me unclogged and writing again.
      This exercise is the Maximum Strength Ex-Lax of the mind.
      Again, ew.
      But seriously, I definitely recommend trying it the next time you are burned out on editing or feeling as if you have Writer’s Block. Try this:

Completely free of the obligation to continue beyond the starting sentence, just start writing out a bunch of ‘first lines’. Do as many as it takes for your mental wall to crumble and you feel like returning to your project.

Usually, when I have done it in the past, I was not concerned with it being just one sentence and I freely inserted dialogue as well. The version of this exercise I found on (this website) is great. His directions are:

Free of the obligation to complete a poem or story, simply write out a bunch of first lines that are catchy and non-sensical. Aim for ten to twenty[Philip Dacey]. See examples from past students. A million butterflies rose up from South America.

      Anyway – whether you adhere to the 1 sentence limit or just go wild with micro-scenes, dialogue, whatever, I guarantee you will have tremendous fun (and likely, a hearty brainbowel movement!) with this exercise. To prove it, I’ve scribbled a bunch of my own sample starts below. Who knows? Maybe one day one of these will feature in one of my novels. Chaos for the win!
* * * * * * * * *

  1. Hoakes turned to me and belched; the malodorous cloud was so thick, so nasty, so vile, it was all but tangible.
  2. “Hello, my name is Jimmy Mac-Johnson from Mississip and I’m calling to get my horoscope read.”
  3. The ice-sheathed grass gleamed sharp and hard and crystalline, like a thousand shattered Rolling Rock bottles in the sunlight.
  4. “I never was much for offal,” she said loftily, “Though my Mee-maw made me eat rabbit eyes so that I could see better in the dark.”
  5. Bacon-flavored edible panties? I couldn’t decide to be flattered that he bought me something sexy, disgusted that he thought bacon-anything was sexy, or worried by the notion that somehow he associated me and my ladybits with fried pig parts.
  6. Sue me. Sue McDonald’s! Sue the bitch in Apartment 3A and her yappy little dog! Sue the President! Sue the world! Sue God!
  7. He was named by his mother after a week-long acid binge.
  8. Stealthily, Bandit stretched his neck as far as he could, took the cookie delicately in his teeth and then stole away into the night with his prize.
  9. Why do they call them foothills, Daddy?
  10. In Santiago, in the smallest basement cell of the largest, poorest orphanage in the city, a tiny spark changed the world.
  11. Autumn came late in Winter.
  12. Sundered shield, severed sword; ask ye not why they are broken, but why they must exist at all.
  13. She licked the spoon slowly, meeting his gaze with a startling directness. The seductive look was somehow all the sexier when she lifted a pink and orange, kitten-bedecked coffee mug to her lips.
  14. Sputtering to a stop, its inertia utterly gone, Earth hung impotently in space – its inhabitants long dead – until it was torn apart by the invisible pressures of the universe.
  15. I always liked to write death scenes for people who wronged me, annoyed me, or pissed me off.
  16. Naked, save for brightly lacquered nails and a tiny golden cross around her neck, she threw her thong at me; the other was held at the ready.

      That was weird. But fun. Right? Right…?!
      Now go forth, yon brilliant minds! Go forth into the unknown and write your own random starting lines. And who knows – maybe one of them will end up being tweaked and twisted into your next brilliant story!

Love & Rainbows,
P.P.

P.S. Leave a random starting line in the comments, I totally want to read them!

Technically…

Technically...

      …a win.
      I counted up all the hand-written bits and pieces I’d done, feeling super sad about bailing on Camp NaNo this session and found my mind BLOWN when it turned out that I squeaked by and got a win.
      Somehow, some way, despite having a really terrible month as far as finding writing time and concentration went, I eked out 30,661 words. Yes, I lowered my goal to 30k early in the month because between the two blogs, regular correspondence, gaming RPs, and work – I knew 50k was going to be a rough goal.
      Anyway – by some miracle I “won” but it doesn’t feel like much of a win. Most of this draft of “Going Home” is going to need serious re-working, I didn’t hit 50k (the real goal), I’m going back to “Incandescence” and “Inferno” and a little depressed by that, and its nearly MAY already. Eeek!
      But, May will be a busy month. I’ve got lots of RPs and stuff to work on in addition to “Inferno”. I’m so excited to get that one finished.
      Still, for all the April felt like a lost cause, I came away with a “win”.
      …woo.

Love & Rainbows,
P.P.

Re-read, Re-Write, Revision

Re-read, Re-Write, Revision

      Guess what time it is?
      Time to abandon my Camp NaNo project at ±17k to get back to work on “Inferno”. Time for re-reading “Incandescence” and opening up Scrivener to re-work “Inferno” from scratch. Time to get that last edit on Book One, then edit Book Two. Time for moving toward publication.
      I’m inspired by a colleague who is making her writing goals come true – who just commissioned two great covers (sincerely, like… I was a fan of the first one, but the second one really blew my skirt up!) for her novel and who is getting ready for the release of that one all the while, preparing a whole slew of other projects for publication. Have I ever mentioned how much I admire her work ethic? She’s a freakin’ MACHINE, man. In the best way, that is. Hardly misses a day of word count, punching out quality work and an excellent blog day after day. All of that while
      I strive to be more like her.
      Anyway – why am I giving up on “Going Home”? I’m not. Just… I can’t get “Inferno” out of my head. I keep thinking about how its going to end. And then wondering if it still ends the way I originally planned. My first draft is incomplete, so I have not yet “discovered” the ending.
      Unfortunately, I’ve just started another read-through of “Incandescence” and I keep finding things that seem asinine and which I want to change.
     *le sigh*
      I know, I know. A writer is really never satisfied and at some point, we just have to relinquish control and call it “done”. So, I shall finish this read-through (making notes as necessary as I go), then I shall re-work my first draft of “Inferno”. Then I shall probably give “Incandescence” one last edit before starting my final draft of “Inferno”. And in the end, I will (assuming I don’t find a publisher) commission two covers and release these babies out into the world!
      Yep.
      That’s the goal. By the end of 2013, one way or another, Hannah, Mike & their 102-year-old great-great-grandmother will be published. Boo-yah.
      Plus, I want to finish “Going Home” and get back to “Rudabet” and I’ve got several shorts.

Love & Rainbows,
P.P.

Missing In Action

Missing In Action

      Hello again folks!
      So, I haven’t had a “new” post since January 1st. I’d like to say it is because I have completed six novels and am getting published with a big fat contract… but mostly its just that life has interfered with me for the first quarter of 2013. Which is not to say that I haven’t been writing – I have – but that I haven’t been as productive as I might wish.
      That said, life as a newlywed is pretty sweet. Jack & I are the happy new “parents” of a fluffy, floppy, funny puppy and we’re just hanging out, living the life. You know. That’s how we roll *chuckle*
      I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this April, working on a new piece – notice “Going Home” on the sidebar? – but I haven’t made nearly as much progress as I’d like. Worse still, I keep wanting to go back to “Inferno”. Which is silly because I started on “Going Home” to take a break from “Inferno”. I was getting really uptight about getting it “right” instead of getting it out. I’m a firm believer in getting it on the page and worrying about “right” or “good” in the subsequent drafts.
      I pressured myself SO hard and then got SO frustrated…
      Anyway – as April Springs into life and the year really starts to warm up, I’m back on track with writing and blogging and all is well.
      Now, if only I’d get one of those previously mentioned big, fat contracts ;D Tee-hee.
      Oof! We’re getting some heavy thunder tonight and the puppy has never experienced that before. Time to pretend nothing strange is happening and hope she stays calm.

Love & Rainbows,
P.P.

P.S. I promise it won’t be four months between new content!

With a Web on her Face

With a Web on her Face

This post was originally featured at Debra Jayne East’s blog as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
———————
      When I first started writing stories I went to the library and checked out Baby Name Books. I was eleven or so and the librarians gave me strange looks when I came back for different ones and to renew the ones I liked best. Eventually, I found some at yard sales (and much later, bought them from Amazon) so I could have my own copies on the shelf next to my poison-guide, police procedural walk-throughs, and various other reference books.
      At the time, I liked to give distinctly ‘appropriate’ names for characters. I named the clumsy friend of my main character, Claudia, which means lame. She was a clod and thus the name worked. The haunted beauty with the mysterically green eyes? I named her Jade. Also, I liked mythical and biblical or literary names. Someone meant to evoke thoughts of the ever-faithful wife might be named Penelope (Jack, take note!) or if I wanted to conjure up images of a guy who would face unsurmountable odds and win – David. Things like that. Those names have their uses and places. But really, when I was using them, they were totally…lacking in subtlty.
      These days, whether its creating names in some fantasy realm – Sarios, Damaiar, Lourdan, and Safyr – or in my modern day fantasy novel, “Incandescence”, I really do not go looking for names. At least not for the main characters. They generally just organically appear on the page as I write. Hannah and Michael Brighton. Granmama Adina. Alexander. Summit. Shalisa. Evander. Jonas. Gideon.
      Other names, I am not ashamed to admit, come to mind as homages to folks who exist in my real world. Hopefully they will be honored, not vexed, to find that characters such as Isaac, Professor McCormick, Jeremy, Zebulon, Rote, Nguyet, Emily and so on were named after them.
      For important characters – names just seem to happen. For secondary, tertiary, one-offs, and other back ground types, I rely on… whatever is around. Phone books are great for surnames and placenames. Business cards, advertisements, tv, the interwebs… Anything goes. If it suits the situation and setting, it stays. If not – I just keep looking.
      I guess what I am trying to say is that I do not have a real strong “process” for naming my characters, not anymore. If a character doesn’t name herself, or come pre-equipped with a name, I have to go in search of it. Which is why my first drafts are often littered with OLDGUYNAMEHERE and ANGRYKIDNAMEHERE… and when it comes time to fill-in the blanks, well… I’ll let you know. I’m still working on “Incandescence” and there several INSERTNAMEHEREs to fix.
      How do you name your characters? Does inspiration flash while you’re making up outlines? Do the names come first and the characters come later?
      And while we’re on the naming kick – how do you come up with your titles? Because WOW – I have trouble with titles. If you ever happen upon the WIP page of my website, you will notice that every single title is a Working Title. Because I have no idea how to name books, I simply refer to them all by a characters name (for example: Rudabet), a theme, a phrase that relates to the plot (ex: The Light of Lun), or even acronyms (ex: PASaRN).
      So – I’m going to change my question. How do you come up with solid titles for your poems, novels, shorts, papers, series, et cetera?! Because that is what this writer needs to know. *grin*

Love & Rainbows,
P.P

I Can Haz Pinterest, Plz?

I Can Haz Pinterest, Plz?

This post was originally featured at Crimson Flower Reviews & Randomness as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
———————
      To Pin, or Not to Pin, that is the question.
      Pinterest hit the web hard and fast last year. It just sort of EXPLODED all over the place – suddenly everyone was pinning funny quotes, cute cats, recipes, fashion (oh my gosh, the SHOES!), gossip… everything on the web with a photo or video!
      I came late to the party — odd, since I am typically so punctual — but I immediately began creating boards and adding items to them. I decided to use it less as a marketing tool (the way other authors were talking about it) and more as a way to bookmark things I liked and wanted to remember. Yes, I made a PenelopePrice.net board and I pin my blog posts to that board, but mostly on my Pinterest page (shameless plug) I pin things I “like”… things to help my readers get to know me.
      Maybe its just silly and naive, but I prefer my social media to be social instead of sales-focused. People may or may not buy my books, but this way I get to interact with people from around the world, see the things that make them tick, and just… people watch by proxy.
      One controversy (of many) which has been shaking up the blogosphere recently is about copyright protection, intellectual property, and inadvertantly stealing another artist’s work while posting photos on your blog, your Facebook wall, and your Pinterest page. A great post on the subject, and one which, if I recall correctly, kicked off the most recent swirl of debate in writing circles, can be found here.
      There are lots of great blog posts about how to find stock photos to use on your blog (for instance: http://www.dailyblogtips.com/how-to-find-free-pictures-for-your-blog/) so please, make use of them to protect yourself. On your blogs.
      But Pinterest… well…
      I am no expert, nor am I a lawyer, so I will not deign to give advice about the legalities of the whole situation. I can only say this – err on the side of caution. When you find an article you want the ‘pin’ – check the site for ‘Pin This’ buttons or check the ‘Contact’ or ‘About’ sections to see if they allow pinning. Use your common sense. And for the love of all that is sacred and holy, NEVER claim something is yours if it is not.
      Stealing is bad.
      Don’t do it.
      But pinning, well… pinning is fun! So until the lords of the interwebs declare it wrong, I for one, will continue to add recipes, nail art, books, and inspiring places to my Pinterest boards. I’ll just be a little more cautious when seeking art for my blog.

Love & Rainbows,
Prudently P.P.

Testing with Myself

Testing with Myself

This post was originally featured at Scott Seldon’s Blog as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
———————
      People always ask a writer where he gets his ideas and inspiration from. Neil Gaiman says, “I make them up. Out of my head” *. Stephen King’s answer is longer, but boils down to the same thing, “I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it’s seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question ‘What if?’ ‘What if’ is always the key question.” *. One of my favorite answers is from Lemony Snicket (whose NaNoWriMo PepTalk was one of the best ever). He said, “From eavesdropping and from reading other books. Writers are, pretty much thieves, stealing ideas from other people who didn’t have the foresight to write them down, and then from the people who did have the foresight to write them down.” *.
      Were you to ask me, I would probably say something similar. Where do you get your ideas, Penelope Price? Where?! From the world, from what I see or watch or read, from thin air. I get flashes of inspiration from random sensory input all the time. Most of them won’t go anywhere, but they pop up all the time and its just a matter of capturing that ephemeral spark in a jar so I can mull it over at length. Well then how do you capture the spark, Penelope Price? How?!
      Funny you should ask.
      I text myself. When an idea pops into my head, even if I have a notebook and pen close to hand (which I always do – always), I usually reach for my cellphone and get my thumbs to typing as fast as they can… which is not very fast and is usually filled with typos. Still – that little 160 character SMS gets sent to my email account where I automatically file it away under a specific tag and without much work on my part, its recorded for posterity.
      That’s how I recorded the spark that started “Incandescence” and “Inferno”.
      It was October 3rd, 2011, a Monday, and I was at work. NaNoWriMo – one of my favorite yearly events – was looming and I did not yet have an idea. I remember being worried that I would not have a plot ready to go and would fail miserably… again. Out of nine years doing NaNo, I had only “won” three times. Well, thanks to those fateful text messages – I am now four for ten.
      I had been talking to a co-worker, telling him that I wrote fantasy novels. The kind with magic and wars and intrigue and romance and armored warriors and- He interrupted me to ask if I wrote about elves and dwarves. “No, not usually”, I said pleasantly, though I was annoyed that yet another person seemed to think there were only two kinds of fantasy – Tolkien or Harry Potter.
      “Well maybe you should,” he said. “Or wait, write about elves and dwarves walking around in the modern day.”
      And I experienced one of those ephemeral sparks I mentioned earlier. I immediately tuned him out and started to texting myself. I think it took four or five texts to get the ‘idea’ out, but there it was – beautiful. Modern day mageborn siblings, the last of their kind so far as they know, struggling for survival against the end of the world.
      To thank my co-worker, I named a character after him. And then murdered it. It was epic.
      So yes, like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket and a whole host of other writers, I would say that my ideas and inspiration come from everywhere and nowhere, from the world at large. My job is just to snatch the good ones and develop them. To do that – I text myself. Its as simple as that.
      If someone asked you, dear friend, where do you get your ideas? What would be your response? How do you capture them? Do you have a muse who feeds you delicious tidbits of plot and character, or do you sit down and think until something awesome comes out? Or something else entirely? Comment below and let us know!

Love & Rainbows,
P.P.

By the Seat of my Custom-Ordered Bloomers

By the Seat of my Custom-Ordered Bloomers

This post was originally featured at BookBabe as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
———————
      Its a question every writer (okay, maybe just those who have ever participated in NaNoWriMo) must face at some point.
      Are you a pantser or a plotter?
      Which is to say, do you write by the seat of your pants (a ‘pantser’) or do you write with meticulously constructed notes and plot points (a ‘plotter’)?
      This would make a great poll – in fact, I’m posting one on my Facebook page today to coincide with this post? I wonder which is more common amongst my fellow writers and whether or not there are others like me.
      Because I go both ways.
      *ahem*
      During the best, most organic moments of writing — I am a pantser. I fly by the seat of my bloomers! I clamp on my chunky magenta headphones, crank up the playlist, and let my fingers do the work. It has been that way since I started writing books twenty years ago. Perhaps that is why I enjoy sprinting/word wars so much during NaNo; sprints are a license to just let loose and allow whatever comes out to just be.
      Yet I write a lot of fantasy, and with fantasy worlds comes world-building, history-writing, research-gathering. And I have been told that I do world-building to excess. I don’t believe that – you never know when some small nugget of information may end up being crucial to a plot! Plus, its fun. For me at least. I adore creating timelines, maps, intricate relationships between Ancestral Houses or religious institutions, webs of intrigue stretching across time and space. I have reams of pages filled with brief character sketches, key exports from certain regions, weather patterns, historical changes in geography/topography/political boundaries, lists, maps, details about the style of dress, notes from books or websites about various topics that may come up in the plot, real world mythology and legends… I could go on, but I think that gets the point across.
      I am a meticulous planner. To the point that, yes, sometimes I bog myself down in detail. But I like to err on the side of caution and have too much information than to end up stuck on some niggling detail in the midst of a hot and heavy writing session.
      But I have a shameful secret to share. Despite all my world-building, all the information I’ve put together for various projects — several of those, my dearest and most beloved projects, remain unfinished and incomplete. Probably because despite all the planning, I wrote them as a pantser and tripped myself up in the actual plot.
      Which is why, when I began my current WIP, “Incandescence” and its sequel, “Inferno”, I made a conscious decision to go against my usual modus operandi and outline the plot BEFORE I started writing. I spent a couple days before last November scribbling out first a general ‘this happens, then this, and then this, then the end’ before fleshing it out into scenes and chapters. This process has been super stream-lined thanks to Scrivener, which I purchased after winning NaNo last November.
      In the future, I am going to continue to work on my process. I think I work best with a good combination of both plotting and pantsing. Of course, the beta readers’ verdicts are still out, so…
      Anyway, my answer to the question above is muddled. I guess I would have to say that I swing both ways, and I’m comfortable that way. What about you, friends? Are you pantsers, plotters, or both? Would you consider yourself something else entirely?
      Comment below and then check out my poll on Facebook to vote and see how other people are answering!

Love & Rainbows,
P.P.