Friday, August 26, 2011

Epic Fail

Yup, in case you were wondering, I epically failed my exam. The good part about it is... it was darn hard. So I don't feel like an idiot for failing (especially since I was 0.3 points away from getting in).

What happened is this - the first half of the test went smoothly with minimal mistakes from my part. The third part was evil - stuff we did not do in school. The fourth part was also evil - I got most of that one right, only we had multiple choice, and I either had too many or too little choices. So... yup, I failed.

As you can see, I'm not exactly upset about it, because I realized that the people who organize this exams have other plans in mind (first session - really hard exam - the spots are not filled. Second session = spots filled + new entry fees = more cash for them). And it's just pathetic. I don't think I want to join a system like that. So, I'm concentrating on getting a job right now. Fortunately, a friend is helping out. :)

But enough about that. That's depressing. Let's concentrate on what I did with my free time. I cooked up my first acceptable cover for HuntersI had tried to cook something like that before, but I'm a bit of an amateur and it takes a little while to get the hang of photoshop and figure out where to go for stock photos.

So... here's what I have:
Pathetic first attempt

I did this before I had finished with the exam madness. It took little time and the main thing I learned was how to handle text. As you may see it's too simple and too... colorful. And the text in itself kinda sucks

So I went ahead, did a little research, poked my illegal copy photoshop for about an hour and came up with this:
Second attempt. Pathetic?

Now, I personally like this a lot more. I'm not sure it's the best cover to grace the Internet (okay, I know it's not), but, for one thing, it's smaller (since I made it the exact book size) and I actually put more elements except for one picture and text together (it's two pictures with some editing to both of them).

It has a good level of detail to it. For example, at the bottom of the cover, in the darkness of the chick's hair, there's a tiny village in the moonlight - which actually is part of the setting at some point.
And I made the chick's eyes green, though it's not obvious. Technically, Rachel has orange hair, but all hair looks black in the night, so I could hardly make it orange and then post it on the night background. That would've looked freaky.

So, yes, this is what I have so far. I'm practicing just in case I decide to selfpublish this. Which I'm not sure about yet. And I will attempt another 2 versions of this. I'll keep you posted.

Hope you guys are doing well :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

The art of breaking down

Have you ever thought you've had enough and don't want this crap anymore? Well, my guess is yes, since everyone's had to go through collage and/or kids - and there must be a minute when you just want the world to swallow you whole.

I'm going through my first such experience. After three months of continuous stress and studying, I'm ready to lay my sword down. I've had enough of this crap. Who the hell cares about all that stuff? Of course, I'm very aware of the fact that I've done this to myself. It was my choice to seek further training in the art of law and apply for magistrate training...

What really put me down was that it seems to make no difference - I've studied like crazy, done test after test and it is still sheer luck that will get me (and if it will get me) in that damned school. Imagine 3500 people fighting for 200 spots - it's mind-wrecking and horrible. And I'm not sure where I stand regarding this - I'm hardly capable to score within the minimum score range - and nothing I do seems to help.

So, people, I'm officially breaking down. I'm tired all the time, my head pounds and I break down into fits of crying. Then I try harder and it still doesn't help.

The up side? I only have 3 days left to go - on the 25th is the evil exam and at least that chapter of my life will close. Whatever happens next, it can't be worst that this summer, than this bitter disappointment in my life choices and the world around me.

Another plus side - this has really helped my writing experience - imagine how accurately I'll be able to portray the sense of helplessness grasping my character and holding them there, wishing all this would be over. I can't wait to be done with this and get back to writing - unfortunately, I still have the end of September to get to before I can finally lay down my stress sword - If I get into judge training - it's all fine from there on - I have a job, more studying to do and that's it. If I don't, it'll be job hunting, studying some more for a master's degree and the master's exam -> so, whatever happens, it's not happy for me.

Just felt the need to vent and let you know what's going on with me - why I might not have been so present in the writing world. I just want it to be over now, whatever happens, because I'm exhausted. I need/want/demand a vacation.

Hope to be back soon (unless I die on the 25th after suffering the first real failure in my life)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Birthday v 2.3

After many fixes and a couple of add-ons to my personality, I've finally released the latest version of myself. This is Steph version 2.3 In case all of this is confusing, what I meant to say is... today is my BIRTHDAY!! (blow trumpet, throw confetti).

Weird, but I'm still one of those people who are glad for a birthday. As a kid, I never celebrated them in style, and as a teenager, I was mostly away from home on this blessed day of August 13th. I mean, what can be cooler than being born on the 13th? : p

This is my first birthday as a blogger and my second as a serious writer (as in my second since I started contributing heavily to CritiqueCircle.)

I'm turning 23. I'm not afraid to share my age (yet) because I'm still fairly a kid. Mind you, I think I'm mentally stuck at 19, so there's no reason to worry much. Especially since my maturity level has remained somewhere on this level:
No, I didn't buy the hat     
Anyway, this year has been a busy one for me - what with finishing college, winning my first NaNoWriMo, learning a lot more about the craft of writing and made some new friends (which I'm probably most thankful for). I've also lost some friends, but that's not a biggie. It's better to find out how people are before you invest too much in a relationship.

Unfortunately, I don't have a published book (YET!) or anything else to give away, though I'd love to. So instead of giving stuff away, I will give info away. As a present to all the people out there, I will answer any question and curiosity you might have regarding me, my work and everything related.
So, if you want to know what's my favorite food, or how I plan to end a pesky piece of writing work, this is when I'm going to answer O:) I know it's not better than a free book, but I hope that next year I'll be able to do that.

Here are my plans for this new year: Get into judge training, and if not, at least get a paid job, get published (I'm trying to pull that off by the end of this year), get engaged (that's more up to my boyfriend than me :p), write another very fast and readable book in November (have an idea cooking).

I hope I'll be able to tell you next year that all that stuff has come true. Fingers crossed!

So, this is it! Happy Birthday to me. And I hope that this year will be at least as good as the last one and maybe a little easier (being 22 was really hard!)

I'll just leave you with a few of my mishaps around the years. So you can laugh at me mostly.

Trying to kill my cousin - needless to say, I failed

Yup, I like to climb on stuff - maturity level questionable

Fortunately, I didn't get mauled by that bear

Apparently, I have a thing for trying hats on

No comment - I had just turned 18 here
And this is me - balance challenged
 See you guys around!


PS: don't ask things that are too embarrassing O :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How much is too much? Part 2

Following up my genius musings of the previous post (I'm only kidding - I'm terrible and my brain has maybe never been fuzzier), I'm going to ask how much is too much when referring to... description?

Okay, you all know by now that description and I are mortal enemies. I try, I really try, but it's hard. Because the only way I read description in a book is if it's ingeniously stripped to the action/character (parts of a book which I eat whole). So, until I perfect that, I'm sticking to minimal description.

But, in general (ignoring my inability to cope with large chunks of text), where do you draw the line with description?

Personally, I'll let you do the surroundings - you're doing the whole place description in vain, since after I read the first 2 or so traits of your scenery/character/object, I immediately picture it inside my head and ignore the rest of the words. Sometimes, not even the main things stick. And when I find out I'm wrong, I get really pissed that my imagination got ruined.

I don't do it on purpose - I just imagine things the way I want them without being able to control them. I was so pissed at the Harry Potter movies for the layout of the school grounds because I imagined them in a completely different (less emo) way.

I think I just sidetracked. So, yes, I buy description in scifi and fantasy, since you need it. But I have some really good writing friends who managed to do that without boring the crap out of me. The key (In my opinion) is making it all sound natural. If the character feels at home in that universe, he won't spend hours watching the walls and buildings and aliens and elves and stuff. And that helps me immerse in the story and swallow it all up.

Regarding character description - here I think that too much is waaaay too much. Here's how my brain works - you give me hair color, eye color, approximate height and built, any distinctive traits (he has a scar/beard/warts/ is ugly as hell) and I don't need more. My head does the rest before I even manage to get to the person's square jaw and high cheekbones - I don't care that much. Maybe my ideal of your hunk man is different, so let me imagine him the way I want, please. And, even if you don't, I still will.

I realized it's much easier for me to read women's descriptions. I still ignore whatever I don't subconsciously agree with, but I have the patience (and don't roll my eyes) to read them to the end. If you're character talks and acts like a feisty brunette, I'm not going to picture her as a blonde, no matter how many times you tell me about her golden locks and sparkling blue eyes.

Descriptions of actions can get tedious, too. Sometimes, I just feel like yelling 'Get to the point!' We all know what pulling out cutlery looks like - I personally don't need to be shown how they pull the drawer open, reach out their hand, clasp their fingers around the cold stainless steel, tighten the grip, pull it out, then, using the free hand, push the drawer closed. Save the kick-ass description of actions and hand gestures for where it matters (like punching someone in the face or doing something unusual).

What kind of description bothers me? I'll just give you an example. Am currently reading the Song of Ice and Fire series. The description is usually done really well and tied to the action and everything, but here's where I draw the line. I don't really care how each and every armor of each and every lord looks like. I don't even care about their house banner, since I'll forget all the non important ones as soon as I've read them. That's a lot more information than I care to know.

Also, going over two pages describing each and every sense related thing in a place is a bit much. I get it if you go for sound/sight/smell - the 3 S es - but everything beyond that is just an exaggeration. Anything actually that exceeds three senses if over-described IMO. If you give me 3, I'll deduce the others myself.

Of course, all of the above applies to ordinary stuff - if something smells like crap, looks like a piece of auto-motor, feels like sand, but tastes like candy - I wanna know all that stuff :p But not with the things that I can deduce on my own. Cuz then, I'll just think you're trying too hard.

I think us writers should consider a very important point. We are masters (or at least are trying to be) of putting feelings and attitude across through words. I personally believe we put our own attitude in our work, too. It's a lot more subtle than what happens with the plot and characters, but it's there, very well hidden. So we should be a little concerned that the reader WILL realize that we're: trying too hard, not comfortable with that one para that everyone said was genius, consider them too stupid to pick up on some minor plot hole, wanna prove that we swallowed a dictionary.... and so on.

I did actually pick up on some writer attitude in some of the books I've read. Made me not like the book much anymore.

Well, enough rambling from me. So, where do you draw the line regarding description?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How much is too much? Part 1

I can give you a few answers to that. But I didn't mean it as a general dilemma regarding every aspect of your life. I meant it as a general dilemma regarding characters. So... when getting to know a character, how much is too much for you?

I personally love characters - they're my favorite part in a book, and I love to know loads of things about them: their habits, their preferences, how they grew up. When writing a book series, a lot of this stuff sorta comes with the territory. But when does the writer go overboard?

In Hunters, seeing as it was a one-volume thing, I didn't dwell a lot on my MCs background. Some people wanted to know who Rachel was before she was turned - I gave a few clues, but I honestly didn't bother thinking up her entire life since before she turned 24. In the new version which is now up for review, I cleverly inserted that she used to be a med-student before becoming a full-time vampire hunter.

I have no such backstory for Daniel, though his story is a lot more interesting than Rachel's. People strangely never asked me about what he got on with before he stopped aging. I do have his backstory in my head, but it's too long and too complicated to squeeze in the original story. I do give some hints, pointers and it's gradually revealed that he suffered from memory loss.
I'm just wondering how many actually wondered what Daniel was doing before he started hunting vampires. Just so you know, he was a cop :-p

In my series, I get a lot more of my characters across, though there's a lot of them. Tom and Jimmy's past never comes into full focus though there are pointers of how they struggled to make a living and some ouchy relationships. But, other than that, it's full speed ahead.

Kyle's childhood is even more draped in darkness, at least until volumes 4, 5 and 7. The 7 part is important to the plot, but the info I give in 4 and 5 are more likely get-to-know-the-character than anything else - how he grew up, how he met Kay and so on. Short stuff anyway. I wonder if anyone will care...

Which leads me back to the initial question: How much info can you give about a character without it becoming annoying? I don't think there's a right or a wrong here - you can't give ALL the info in your book for plot purposes, or characters wouldn't be well-rounded. I mean, what importance does favorite food, color or type of music have? BUT, do those things help you identify with the character better? Do you like them more if they have the same tastes as you, the reader?

I have my character's entire life in my head - I know their nightmares, their dreams, their favorite outfit, the fact that they don't like peanut butter, their signs and birthdays... who cares except for me? Because if it helps in the least make a connection, I'm dripping that s#!t in. ;)

How much is too much?