Footloose and Fancy-free Friday First December Round — December 4, 2009

Footloose and Fancy-free Friday First December Round

I can’t believe it’s December already.  How time flies.  2009 was such a better year all around than 2008 was.  I won’t go into details.  Just suffice it to say that 2008 was a flush in the porcelain throne while 2009 resided in a much better place.

I took the plunge and joined Twitter.  StephanieLMcGee is the name it comes up on over there.  I can’t figure out how to link it or I would.  If I’m quiet over there, just know it’s because I’m trying to figure out how best to utilize it.  That and I’ll be writing like mad the next few days.

I talked about my TBR and book wishlists yesterday.  Books make me happy.  I want to be able to surround myself with books someday.  Just have a nice library in which to sit and read.

Something akin to this, only a little cozier.

That’s a portion of the reading room at the British Museum.  It’s a big circular room mostly lined with bookshelves.  And those shelves are crammed with wonderful tomes that you have to have a membership to access.  (Same goes for the British Library, but the British Library’s display room is free of charge. First Folio Shakespeare, illuminated Chaucer, original Beowulf.  It’s fabulous. Oh, and Jane Austen’s writing desk.)

Yeah, someday.  I’d rather have books than clothes, as I proved to myself the other day when I got my first paycheck.  Rather than blow it on clothes, like I easily could have, I opted to go to the bookstore.  I did some Christmas shopping and spoiled myself.  Books, books, and more books.

I need more space to store them all in, though.  Alas, they’ll have to return to their boxes soon enough.

Q4U: Do you like this Friday feature?  Or should I just discontinue it and only post 3 days a week?

Break — September 24, 2009


Today is conference day and I will be gone the whole day.  Well, most of it anyways..  And my brain is running a serious dearth of post topics.  So I’m taking the day off from posting.

We’ll be back to our regular schedule tomorrow with the next installment of Fiction Friday.

So Many Books, So Little Time — September 15, 2009

So Many Books, So Little Time

We all know that as aspiring authors, novice writers, etc. we should read extensively. This reading should be done both inside and outside our preferred genre. Easier said than done, though, on so many many levels. this year I’ve tried once to break out of my comfortable reading zone of YA fantasy. It hasn’t worked. At all. Example: I tried reading Damsels in Distress by Joan Hess. It’s a murder mystery. I bought it as a publisher’s remainder at B&N for like $5 with money I got for graduation with my master’s degree. I lasted 60 pages or so before I retreated for my comfort genre. This is just one of several books I started this year but didn’t finish. But it is the only one outside my genre. The next book I read will be in that genre.

Whenever I can get to that TBR list, that is.

That said, I’ll now post said list in hopes that it will get me motivated to read through them.

The List
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
Eldest by Christopher Paolini
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
The Naming by Alison Croggon
Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Sturgeon
Dragonspell by Donita K. Paul
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev
The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need by Susan Thurman and Larry Shea
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

So many books, so little time should also read “so little means.” Here’s my wishlist:

Wings by Aprilynne Pike
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Curse my phobia of library books that won’t allow me to borrow books to read for pleasure. (Research materials are another thing entirely.) Sigh.

OK, I’ll stop rambling now. But you tell me: Did I miss a book I absolutely should have on my TBR or wishlist? Is there something there you’d absolutely recommend against? What are your strategies for breaking out of your comfort reading genre? Would you like to see a list of what I’ve read this year? If so, when? This week? In December?

I’ll stop with the 20 questions now.

Slow down that bandwagon, I want on! — August 31, 2009

Slow down that bandwagon, I want on!

OK, so there’s a whole lot of Q&A going on in the blogosphere lately.

Natalie did it. Then Lady Glamis. And Weronika.

So, I’m giving you an opportunity to ask me whatever questions you want, with one caveat:

I won’t answer questions about my real name, or where I live.

Anything else is fair game.

Post them in the comments, or e-mail them to me at

I’ll answer the questions on September 1.

To make it easy on me, I won’t answer (in this installment anyways) any questions posted after 5 PM tomorrow night. That way I can write up the post.

Added bonus: I’ll link to your blog if I answer your question, so it could be a good way to drive traffic to your site.

So have fun with it and we’ll see you on the flipside!

Critique groups in non-artsy-fartsy states/areas — July 23, 2009

Critique groups in non-artsy-fartsy states/areas

Last time I blogged about whether to enroll in an MFA program. (OK, so maybe that should be a MFA program. But I’ve never been able to figure out the correct way. It makes more sense to use “an” to me.) Today I’m going to talk about my other problem. (My other writing-related problem that is. Trust me. I’ve got lots of problems you don’t need to hear about.) I live in a very non-artsy-fartsy area of the United States. I foresee living here for the next couple of years at the very least. I’m currently looking for a job and will likely end up working at the Olive Garden. (I’m writing this before my job interview that I have lined up so that could have changed.) The only thing I could find on a recent search of the local arts council webpage was a lot of stuff promoting local art galleries. Don’t get me wrong, I love art, it’s inspired an entire chapbook of poetry, but it’s not what I need. What I need is a critique group. Not right this very minute, mind you, but I will need one soon.

I have no idea where to begin to look for one. Writing is apparently a dying art that no one but those of us trying to keep it alive care about. There’s not anything but a very outdated poetry reading listed on the local arts council website. (And even that was incredibly difficult for my not-so-computer-savvy brain to find.) I really do better in a more workshop setting, where I can see the people face-to-face when they critique my work. I think that face-to-face you’re more likely to get constructive feedback instead of someone absolutely vilifying your work if they don’t like you or it and they want to hide behind the anonymity of the internet. (I’m one to talk, right? *eyeroll*)

Am I going to be forced to relocate for my chosen craft? Or do I just bite the bullet and try to find an online group that I can work with? Like I said, I do better in person than over the internet. Decisions, decisions.

The Raging Debate: MFA: Yes or No? — July 21, 2009

The Raging Debate: MFA: Yes or No?

I posted before about my dilemma regarding the MFA. I’m going to revisit this debate today. As I said before, I was told once by someone who I had never met in person and who had only read a paragraph or two of my writing (Yes, I know agents read about the same amount before deciding.) that I needed to take classes on fiction writing. What I was showing that person was something that was not the finished product, that was an example of something I wanted to work on as part of my graduate school studies. Not something that would ever get published and see the light of day. Now, I know that there are perhaps some things that I could work on in my writing, but is it really fair to essentially imply to someone that the only way to ever be a really good writer worth their salt they have to dole out thousands of dollars to take officially sanctioned classes? Shouldn’t we be learning to write by example, by trial and error, by blood sweat, and tears? One of this year’s issues of Poets and Writers had a letter to the editor which said something along the lines of how nice it was to see an author getting recognition and publication who didn’t come from the “MFA machine.” That’s really stuck with me.

The recent issue of Writers’ Digest had an article about the debate between whether the MFA in creative writing or the PhD in creative writing is the terminal degree for poets and writers of any genre. That’s really prompting this post here. It’s always been something that’s bothered me. (By always, I mean in the last couple of years since I started actually thinking of myself as a writer and poet.)

So my dilemma has been and perhaps ever will be this: Do I try to get into an MFA program? Or do I simply work with the resources I have around me and work to improve my craft that way? I mean, I live in a totally non-artsy-fartsy region of the United States. It’s not really likely that there’s an MFA program here nearby. And it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to find other things that a writer would need, like writing conferences or critique groups, here in my area. But more on that next time.

I really want to prove this guy wrong so I can put a really snappy, biting dedication that only I’ll ever know who the target of it was. I’ve already got that dedication in mind and was planning on putting it on the project I was planning, but will likely never get off the ground, so I’ll put it on a different one. But is the MFA the better way to go?

Is my blog turning boring? — July 14, 2009
Platform: Reaching the audience, be it YA or otherwise —

Platform: Reaching the audience, be it YA or otherwise

I’ve said before that my principle genre is Young Adult or mid-grade fantasy. This is all tentative of course given that my book isn’t complete, most of what I’ve already written will have to be scrapped, and I’ve yet to hammer out the finer details of the plot. Now it’s on to the platforming choices that will lie ahead in my future. (Or should that be lay?)

I have my blog. It’s important to me. I’ve gloried in the physical signs of audience growth and outreach over the last couple of months since I started blogging regularly. I’m not letting it get to my head that you, my readers, have found something I have to say worthy of your time and attention. I am humbly grateful for this and know that my blog would not be continuing today without the continued support of my readers. I thank you for this.

I know eventually, however, I will have to expand my platform. While having a platform in place prior to that first publication is not as critical to getting published in fiction as it is in non-fiction, we have to reach our readers somehow. I will down the road create a website. (Or have one professionally made for me since I’m really not computer-savvy and I should do better than the free website hosts with their standard, bland templates.) But are blogs and websites the best ways to reach the YA audience? Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and others that I’ve never heard of all pull on the teen’s time. Are these the better places to reach my intended audience? Or should I keep my platform broad in order to reach all of my potential audience since I do intend to write and publish poetry, perhaps some short stories, maybe even branch off into Christian romance. I’m not sure at this point that the smartest move would be to create multiple blogs/websites/Facebook pages, etc. for each of these different aspects.

For one thing it would take precious time away from the writing itself. I know that well-known authors spend oodles and oodles of time on platforming and networking in addition to their writing and it’s important to do so, but when does it become too much? When does your platform become so specific that you have to start from scratch to build a separate one for a different facet of your writing life? Down the road, if the dream came true and I was a successful poet and novelist and I wanted to write a memoir am I going to have to create a whole new and discrete platform for that?

When is it going overboard?

Related in the blogosphere: See Rachelle Gardner’s post on social networking

Making names sound consistent and believable — July 9, 2009

Making names sound consistent and believable

Even in fantasy, names of people and places should sound consistent and believable. While this may come easy to someone like J.R.R. Tolkien who was a linguist and knew dozens of languages, to use mere mortals it’s a far more daunting task.

In my contemporary fiction that I’ve written, the names have generally come easy. First names that is. If I ever needed a last name, I’d simply flip open to a random page of The Dictionary of Surnames, and scan for a name that appealed.

Fantasy becomes a much uglier beast. I have a spreadsheet on my computer to keep track of the significant name changes to either person or place. In one fell swoop, one day, I re-named several of the important side characters and every major location name for the country it all takes place in. Including the country’s name!

My general strategy for coming up with names is to either get on baby naming websites and go through the database willy-nilly or to open baby name books to random pages and look for a name to jump out. On occasion I do go to fantasy name generator sites and look for names that way.

So what are your strategies?

You tell me… — July 3, 2009

You tell me…

I’m always contemplating ways to improve this blog. So I thought I’d open it up to you, my readers (few as you may be, but know I appreciate you all) and ask if there’s something you’d like to see coming from this blog. A new regular feature? Something you want done away with? A discussion of a certain topic? Let me know in the comments section below!