The Obligatory NaNo Post

In retrospect, maybe I should’ve taken a break from writing this year.

I really don’t want to have to admit this, but there’s simply not enough time in the world to make everything happen the way you want to. I’m swamped with my photography work; I have not yet unburied myself from the cruise photos – still have to go through the 70s Night and comedy show shots, and that’s the second half of the cruise…so maybe, progress? – and I have two more post-cruise shows’ photos to get through as well. Next week I have two shoots. The week after I have another shoot. It’s also concert-planning season, so if I’m going to have gigs, now is the time for me to think about where they will be and send off portfolios and samplers to make it happen.

Where does writing fit?

Oh, and I’m still toying on that translation I’ve started last year. Yes, it takes a year to translate three books by hand from one language in another, and it’s something I love doing.

It’s not something I like admitting, when I can’t do something, but this year’s NaNo may well prove to be a bad idea in the regard of my overall creative workload. I won’t say that I don’t like it – I love every minute of it – but I simply do not have as much time to contribute to it as I have before, and that’s something I’m loath to admit. I love my series. I love my storyline. I don’t love not being able to give it the time and devotion that I want to allocate to developing it and making it grow.

The reason I love NaNo so much is because it motivates me to be industrious when it comes to the series. I do the bulk of my storyline exclusively during NaNo, and the wordcount requirement makes it imperative to get as much of the storyline down as possible. It’s absolutely fantastic for when I’m trying to get a big story out, such as what was with Books 3 and 4 of the series. Most of the plot was put down during NaNo, and it made for an easy edit job and an easier publishing down the line. I chose the two most complex characters to do a background on – Rhyssius and Morrhia – and this is going to take me a lot of time. I have set up the bulk of the story, but I need to put two and two together, and bridge them from two individuals to what they had ended up. The problem is, there is a lot of back story there, and there’s also a side-story to weave in about how the quaint semi-medieval world had ended up becoming connected with the rest of the universe. A lot of continuity that I had hinted at before needs to be brought to fruition.

It’s just…time! All of this takes time! And time is something I have precious little of. Taking on an incredibly complex storyline – hell, continuing it, all considered – is not an easy endeavor when you have a job, a business, and a backlog affiliated with the business.

How I’ve ended up with a word count that’s a full day ahead of schedule, I don’t know, but it’s good insurance because I would need to be ahead. One of my shoot gigs is actually an all-day endeavor, as opposed to me just being a weekend warrior for it and writing on the go with my laptop. So if I’m not writing for an entire day, I’d at least have a good cushion that will keep me on track.

After all, in the eight years I’ve done NaNo so far, I won all eight times. I want to continue the win streak, else I’d think myself extremely remiss. My entire life as I know it had changed ever since I wrote the first book – how much will it change if I keep at it?


On Letting Someone Go (In Fiction and In Life)

Harsh truths out of the way first: there’s no such thing as forever.

We grow apart from where we started out. Whether or not we change or just better understand why we feel the way we feel, we grow, we evolve, and time is the greatest catalyst of all. We can’t escape change. We can say that there’s no way that we right now, in our late twenties and early thirties (my peers, in this case) are the same as we were when we were just starting college, or graduating it, etc.

Same can be said for relationships and friendships, whether written or real-life.

I’ve always said that blood is water-soluble. It’s true in chemistry and in life. While you can’t choose the people whom you’re born to, you have every freedom in the world to choose your association with them. Just because someone is born as your blood family member doesn’t automatically qualify them as a good person to be around. Ask the survivors of narcissistic parents, ask abuse survivors whether or not they will ever associate with their family members, and you will find that their answer will be an immediate and unequivocal no way.

Why is that? Simple: just because someone is family doesn’t mean they 1. are a good person and 2. deserve a relationship.

There’s a pretty great meme that has gone around, a meme that says, “You are the CEO of your life. Promote, demote, and terminate accordingly” – paraphrased. It’s a sentiment I wholly agree with, having done all of the above to nearly every relationship I’ve had.

Yes, you can pick your family, if you let go of the idea that family = blood. And you will find that the family you pick can sometimes be a lot better than the family you were born into.

Consider this, ladies and gents: you are under no obligation to accept someone’s bad behavior if their behavior affects your own quality of life. You’re also under no obligation to allow someone to make you feel bad just because you happen to be related to them or their friend for multiple years. You, and yourself, are the first priority in your life and livelihood, regardless of whether or not there are other people in your immediate life. If you don’t take care of yourself, and if you don’t take the time to make yourself the best you are capable of being, then who else will?

This isn’t the time to say “my husband” or “my children” or “my wife”. No. YOU are the first and sole person responsible for your well-being at the end of the day. Marriages can end. Your children can move away from you and get busy in their own lives, since they are people in their own right. Where would that leave you?

And that is the primary reason why I, once again, say: be selective with who is allowed in your life. Be selective. Be picky. Be very, very, very picky. Yes, it can be a lonely road to follow, but what you will see, some years down the line, is that you will be surrounding yourself with far better quality individuals than before. Your life and well-being are both influenced by the people you surround yourself with, and if you surround yourself with people that lift you up as opposed to bring you down – well, the possibilities become endless.

But life and living stuff aside, let’s not forget that we, as writers, create our own relationships, especially with our characters. They are our children, of sorts, regardless of whether or not we have kids; these characters have been created by us, created down to the way they take their coffee in the morning, and there is nothing quite like the relationship that we, the authors, build with them.

When it comes to Arriella in particular, my main character in The Index Series,  I feel like a mixture of friend and parent to her, even though 1. she’s not technically real outside of my books, and 2. she’s a product of my own brainpan. But that’s exactly why I feel that way about her: she’s the product of my brain. I conceived her, her abilities, her personality, her hang-ups, and put it down on paper (or screen, if you must get technical), and I also conceived her relationship, especially to the brothers Shou and Kian. In determining how they started and how they ended up, well, you can just say my own brain is a mess, but in writing Books 1 through 4, I couldn’t help but become the “parent” figure to Arriella, in a sense. Her need to protect people clashed mightily with the fact that she had very strong and obvious feelings that she didn’t know what to do with.

But when it came to Shou – and those of you who hadn’t read Book 4, you may not like me very much for this – I realized that even though I killed him off pretty quickly, I couldn’t quite let him go. Not easily. Not yet.

Sure, technically he was dead. But his cause of death in and of itself was a plotline, but moreover, I wasn’t ready to let him go. Arriella certainly wasn’t, and she had gone to some extreme lengths to try and keep her grief at losing him under wraps, including but not limited to fighting a war. But she was too close to him, and I had invested too much time entirely in writing the brothers to let Shou go so easily. He was not just Kian’s twin, but he was Arriella’s closest friend and, for a while, lover. To just yank him out of the story as a victim was just too abrupt. So yes, there will be signs of Shou to follow, but I can’t tell you what’s where as of yet. I have to edit Book 5, but before I do that, I need to spend some time and actually finish Book 8. -_- Yeaaah. The boon of multitasking and writing.

But you can see the problem and the benefit in the fact that I wasn’t able to let the character of Shou go just yet. The benefit is the storyline, obviously, but the problem is one that, in real life, has drastic consequences: holding onto something- or someone – that has long outworn its welcome creates more problems than there have been in the first place. Yeah, I got my plotline all right, but the more I think about it, the more I think that it may have broken the canon of the world I’ve spent years writing into existence, even if everything looks to be fitting well together.

There is nothing wrong with drifting away from people, whether they’re fictional or not, but I warn you, as someone who spends quite a bit of time around people and lives in one of the most densely populated places in the world: when you start to feel like the person you’re around is really  not bringing anything to the table anymore, and if you see more drawbacks than benefits to being in the friendship/relationship, it may well be time to reconsider letting it continue. And blood is water-soluble; it isn’t thicker than water in the least, and, as I have said before time and again, just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean you’re obligated to 1. like them and 2. associate with them. There’s no shame in saying no to something negative.

For my books, please visit this link:


Who’s Your Audience?

When we the writers do our job and write our story, we focus more on plot nuances, grammar, spelling – all important things, and all essential in creating a good book. But we cannot discount than, when we endeavor to write a book, we have to keep our audience in mind and market to it.

Think about it. Let’s say you’re writing a hard-nose detective story. People who are in their early teens may not be as likely to read it unless it’s their thing. People with an eye for mystery likely would, regardless of age. YA stories are also read by people far older than the typical YA range of 13-19, but you would not market a YA story to forty-year-olds. Primarily, it’s marketing. If you feel that anyone can enjoy your story, great – but your marketing would need a slant.

To change gears just a little, let’s talk about gearing towards YA. I’ve been reading The Hunger Games lately, and I love the way it’s written. Sure, it’s out of my age range, so to speak, me being newly twenty-seven. However, the plot is brilliant, and I find myself getting into the story the same way I got into Caroline B. Cooney when I was in the YA age range. However, if I had to really analyze the plot of The Hunger Games, I have to ask myself: how did this classify as YA? Is it suitable for a fourteen-year-old to read about a battle-royale played out between poverty-stricken kids for people’s entertainment? Because that’s what The Hunger Games boil down toward. But teens are reading it, they’re liking it, and they’re asking The Tough Questions that Collins raises in the Games. And of course, Suzanne Collins’s publisher is well aware of it and models the marketing towards the audience best suited towards it: teens who are wanting to read and think.

That is the key: best suited. And that matters a great bit as to what happens with the book’s success.

I’ll be the first to admit, I had no idea how to market when I published Mages. First books for a self-pub author are usually trial-and-error; unless you study your marketing beforehand, you find yourself learning on the fly. What I knew about my audience was this:

– They’re artistic, eclectic people who ask questions

– They’re older than 15

– They’re younger than 50

– They like to follow the characters.

Theoretically, I should’ve gone to my campus and pushed this book to people in the theater major programs. The Pace University theater people were a cool, varied, hippie bunch who never hesitated to follow along with a great character. I got some interesting book recommendations from them. But I published this after I graduated, and considering that my knowledge of marketing back then was next to nonexistent, I never thought to actually use the Pace campus as a marketing platform.

Big mistake. I will admit: it cost me sales in the long run. But know what? You live, you learn, and you try again.

However, now that the first arc of the story is wrapped up, I can definitely go ahead and go back on campus and say, “Hey. You like The Hunger Games. You like sci-fi and adventure. You will like this.” Why? Because as dystopian fiction such as The Hunger Games is getting more acclaim, paranormal-fic series as a whole are gaining a steady audience, one that isn’t necessarily constrained to an age group. Major caveat: the younger people do gravitate more towards this brand of fiction. 8 our of 10 of my readers are under 30.

Therefore, I will have to gear my efforts towards YA. I also have to market in a magazine, possibly, if I want it to reach my target audience. Which means my marketing budget needs an overhaul.

This sort of knowledge, however you come to acquire it, is possibly the most valuable knowledge that you can acquire in your publication journey, whether you’re already published, or stepping into the pool for the first time.


When Characters Surprise You: Getting Re-Acquainted With Arriella

In spite of the overwhelming amount of stress at work, and despite the fact that I’ve been working ten-hour days for the past two weeks, with barely a half a day off, I began toying around with Book 4 again.

You know when you come back to someone whom you’ve not seen for a while, and suddenly you find yourself surprised by how much that person had changed? It could be an old friend, a relative whom you’ve not seen for some years, and suddenly, they re-enter your life, and you are surprised by their level of personal growth.

I am starting to realize that, especially as you write a series, it’s much the same with the characters in your writing.

Now, I will proceed to wax literary reminiscence about one of my main characters. Get to know her. She’s a cool chick. But I’m putting it behind a Read More link, just in case. :)

Continue reading “When Characters Surprise You: Getting Re-Acquainted With Arriella”