The boys and I drove by a rafter of turkeys (yup, a group of turkeys is called a “rafter”…I looked it up and everything) the other day. We like to open the windows and gobble at them to see if they will gobble back (which they often do!). Since it was so close to Thanksgiving, we decided to yell at them to be careful cause we all know what happens to turkeys on Turkey Day! Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate.
It’s no secret here on the Observation Desk that I’m a notoriously slow writer. I’ve expressed how I feel about prolific authors (see Confessions of an Author: Prolific Writers). More recently, I blogged about Why Is It Taking Me So Long To Write The Second Elixir Book. It took almost ten years from when I first started writing ELIXIR BOUND for it to become a published book. I’m not exactly winning any speed awards over here!
So I am afraid I have no business offering any kind of advice on the November #InkRipples topic of Finishing that Book! I’ve tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, where many writers try to write a complete book, i.e. 50,000 words, in the month of November). Last year I tried a modified version of it (see Gearing up for National Novel Writing Month 2016) and fell short. One year I actually won NaNoWriMo and wrote 50,000 words of a story, but that story has since become a drawer manuscript that will probably never be published.
But you’ll tell me that no words are wasted, even the unpublished ones. Or that the words will come and to take whatever time I need writing them. This is what I tell myself (and those things are both true). But that doesn’t mean it isn’t frustrating to be a slow writer. Couple that with the fact that I never feel like I have adequate time to write, and that makes for a very frustrated writer.
Nevertheless, I’m still plugging along over here at my achingly slow snail’s pace. How about you all–what do you do to get that book finished?
#InkRipples is a monthly meme created by Katie L. Carroll, Mary Waibel, and Kai Strand. We pick a topic (November is all about Finishing that Book!), drop a ripple in the inkwell (i.e. write about it on our blogs), and see where the conversation goes. We’d love to have you join in the conversation on your own blogs or on your social media page. Full details and each month’s topic can be found on my #InkRipples page.
It’s always fun when a writing friend has a new story out and I get to share it on the Observation Desk. Let’s give a big welcome to Juliana Spink Mills as she celebrates the release of her latest book, the YA urban fantasy NIGHT BLADE.
by Juliana Spink Mills
So you’ve written a novel, or novella, or short story. Well done! Now you get to the fun bit, where everyone asks you “what’s your story about?” Maybe you’ve memorized your blurb, or have a terrific ‘elevator pitch’. Hopefully you’re not like me, and don’t go red and stammer out, “uh, vampires and demons and sword stuff…?”
But what’s your story really about?
Every work of fiction has underlying themes – on purpose or accidentally – and these, to me, are the real story. Perhaps it’s tenacity, or courage, or the power of love. For instance, Harry Potter, for me, is a tale of belief. Believing in yourself, believing in your friends, trusting in the belief that your instincts are leading you in the right direction, no matter what other people say.
On the surface, my new YA urban fantasy novel Night Blade (book 2 of the Blade Hunt Chronicles) is a story of robbery and trickery, of ball gowns and politics. It has sword fights! Magic! A prophecy! Here’s the blurb:
In the aftermath of the Heart Blade’s return, Del and Rose have different roads to follow. One leads forward, the other to the distant past. Rose is on a mission to infiltrate and double-cross the ultimate heist, and retrieve a game-changing prize. Meanwhile, as the Court of the Covenant prepares to meet, Del has a quest of her own. She must untangle her lost identity or risk her entire future.
With the Blade Hunt prophecy in motion, darkness threatens to rise, and a new sword emerges from the shadows.
But halfway through writing Night Blade, I realized something. Both this book and the one before, Heart Blade, are actually about choices. Choosing your own path in life, rather than following the one you were set upon. Choosing right from wrong. Choosing your family, choosing your friends. Hard choices. Easy choices. And things that, at the end of the day, end up being no choice at all.
I didn’t set out to write a book series about choices. I wanted exciting fight scenes, some romance, cool supernatural elements, and maybe a car chase or two. But now that I’ve noticed it, I can see that the theme has been there from the start. Realizing this has given me a whole new perspective on my writing, and when my next project is done, before I begin revising, I plan to have a good hard look at it and figure out what my underlying theme is. That way, I can reinforce it when I get to the editing stage.
A writer might set out with something they want to push from the very beginning. Or, like me, that theme may emerge in a more organic way. However these themes come to permeate a work of fiction, they’re the backbone that the story builds upon.
What’s behind your stories? The ones you read or write? Why not try taking apart some of your personal favorites to figure out what’s beneath the words?
Buy HEART BLADE: http://hyperurl.co/HeartBlade
Buy NIGHT BLADE: http://hyperurl.co/NightBlade
Juliana Spink Mills was born in England, but grew up in Brazil. Now she lives in Connecticut, and writes science fiction and fantasy. She is the author of Heart Blade and Night Blade, the first two books in the young adult Blade Hunt Chronicles urban fantasy series. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and online publications. Besides writing, Juliana works as a Portuguese/English translator, and as a teen library assistant. She watches way too many TV shows, and loves to get lost in a good book. Her dream is to move to Narnia when she grows up. Or possibly Middle Earth, if she’s allowed a very small dragon of her own. Find her on her website or Twitter @JSpinkMills.
This month’s #Inkripples of career vs. hobby had me scratching my head. Is my writing a career or a hobby? I’m not sure. I think somewhere in between. Here’s my dilemma: I’m a stay-at-home parent who also works on the side. So family stuff is the first priority, but my main “work” (quotes because raising kids is work in and of itself, but let’s say for this post, it means something not having to do with the kiddos) right now is writing, with a little freelance editing on the side.
But I am not financially independent right now (I have a mini panic attack every time I think too hard about this fact). I depend on my husband’s job to pay the bills, for health insurance, and to make sure my kids are fed. My husband and I made the decision to become a one-income family after lots of thought and careful consideration of whether or not we could make it work financially.
The question remains whether or not writing will become my career once the kids are bigger and I go back to work. I really have no desire to go back to an office job like I had before kids (I was a puzzle magazine editor…I certainly didn’t hate the job, but after doing it for 8 years, it became tedious). And I wand to have the flexibility to be able to support my kids as they grow because even big kids will require my time. I’m not sure I want to commit full-time to a gig economy either.
Do I want to back to school? Do I want to work in a field that isn’t writing and write on the side like I did when I worked full-time? Do I want to just get a job at a bookstore or a cafe or open a tea shop and write in my free time? (Notice writing will likely always factor into the picture.)
The answers to questions definitely depend on what my situation will be when my youngest (now only 3 months old) is big enough for me to have to make a decision. So I have some time to decide. The pie-in-the-sky hope is that I end up with a string of best-selling books and I won’t have to worry about what my job will be because it will be writing. But, honestly, so few people can support themselves this way that if feels irresponsible not to at least think about what else I will do for work.
And thinking about all this right now gives me anxiety. I guess for now, I’ll just try to enjoy taking care of my little ones and being able to squeeze in the writing time when I can.
How about you? Do you have any hobbies that could potentially become a career? Or do you like that your hobbies are just that, hobbies?
#InkRipples is a monthly meme created by Katie L. Carroll, Mary Waibel, and Kai Strand. We pick a topic (October is all about Career vs. Hobby), drop a ripple in the inkwell (i.e. write about it on our blogs), and see where the conversation goes. We’d love to have you join in the conversation on your own blogs or on your social media page. Full details and each month’s topic can be found on my #InkRipples page.
It’s been a very long time since I was able to celebrate a book birthday. ELIXIR BOUND first released over five years ago (see how I celebrated that release here). So I’m very, very, very excited to say that I have a new book out today. Welcome to the world PIRATE ISLAND!!!
This is the book I wrote in the hangover period after writing my first book. I needed to write something that felt very different, so I went with a middle grade story from a boy’s point of view. It was an exercise in voice. It was a nod to the legends and stories I had heard about the little island off the coast of my own hometown that may or may not have pirate treasure buried on it (see the Charles Island wiki page for more on the real island…though I’ll be sharing more about it here as well). It was something of an homage to the complicated life of Captain William Kidd (see the blog series on #CaptainKiddHistory for more about him). When I decided to self-publish the book, it became a whole lesson on that process.
I had a lot of fun researching both the island and Kidd’s life while I wrote PIRATE ISLAND. I had a really hard time figuring out the best way to start the book, and a sort of hard time discovering the right voice for it. Even though it’s “finished” (as in it’s out there being read by people and such), I’m not sure I got either of those things right, but I know I at least got them almost right.
So here’s the nitty-gritty on my book baby PIRATE ISLAND. (Much love to anyone who shares the image above to help spread the word about it!)
Buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, or where ever you like to buy books (if your local bookstore doesn’t have it in stock, they can order it for you). You can also put in a request to your local library to order it so you can borrow it from them. I’m also running a Goodreads giveaway for a signed copy of it. And in case you haven’t read the blurb yet, here it is:
For centuries, the whereabouts of Captain William Kidd’s lost pirate treasure has remained a mystery. When Billy’s best friend, Andy, proposes they look for it on nearby Pirate Island, Billy thinks it’s just another one of their crazy adventures. It’s usually Billy who ends up in trouble as a result, but he goes along for the ride…like always. The more he delves into the life and death of Kidd, the more he thinks the treasure is real and that it might be buried on the small island in Long Island Sound. Billy—nope, call him William—becomes obsessed with the captain of the same first name. He even believes he’s possessed by Kidd’s restless soul. Now he and the spirit of a long-dead pirate are leading the crazy adventure on Pirate Island. And what they find is far bigger than the treasure they imagined.