The Big Reveal: Metal Hands, Metal Soul

I suppose I should start off by apologizing for the unintentional hiatus I took this month?

Ahem, well, yes. About that.

Firstly, I have Excuses. Obviously this thrills your little soul to the snapping point. Alas, I have been fighting a losing war with my health and my role in a musical production of Beauty and the Beast is eating up my weekends – time formerly spent nurturing my firstborn child, Story And Dark Chocolate.

Secondly, I must admit that I don’t know when my posting schedule will get back to normal – normal being something like two posts every week? Play practices will continue to take up my free time until June… and I had been planning to tell you guys that as a General Rule I hiatus during the summer when I have no schedule and can’t be expected to use precious brain capacity trying to stick to one.

So. This is awkward.

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We’ll just… see what happens, okay? I maketh no promises.

And now that I have gotten the preliminary excuse-making and apologizing out of the way…

I’m writing a new story, guys.

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Are you excited? I’m excited.

In the beginning, it was a Beauty and the Beast retelling… which is ironic, because I had no idea that I would be participating in a musical of that story and was also relatively unaware of the existence of the live-action film coming out in March. And, not that this has anything to do with anything, but now that I am in the musical, I am going insane with excitement for the movie! I will probably die from the strain before the 17th rolls around, but whatever. Unimportant details.

Where was I?

Ah, yes.

It was a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Sort of. Now, to give you a bit of background, I don’t love this story.

Not that there is anything wrong with it… it was simply never a favorite. In fact – and prepare yourself for something dreadful – I have never, to this day, seen the Disney’s iconic animated version. Stop glaring. I had a weird childhood, okay?

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As far as fairytales go, I was always more attracted to the ones with a bit more potential. Rapunzel and the Little Mermaid and Jasmine and Mulan. Shut up, I know she’s not a Disney Princess.

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Sleeping Beauty and Belle and Cinderella… well, they were boring to me. Sweet and good and utterly unrelatable. Obviously you are welcome to disagree, as I know some of you adored these classic characters. I just… didn’t.

So you’re probably scratching your head – and I must recommend quitting, because it’s a gross habit – at this point, wondering why I would choose a fairytale I don’t even like to write a retelling of. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either, to be honest.

My only real reason is that I feel the story needs “fixing.”

The Beast, for example. What is he, exactly? It is never made clear, but Disney’s version painted him as a kind of lion-bear-sabre-toothed-tiger hybrid with ram’s horns. Disturbing, honestly. And, forgive me for being dark, but I always wondered just what we were encouraging? Belle doesn’t fall in love with the Beast knowing that he will turn into a man. She falls in love with a beast… with an animal.

And this is, apparently, considered okay, normal behavior?

Yeah. Actually no. Not where I come from, sister.

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Another thing that bothered me hugely was that he transforms into a human as soon as Belle falls in love with him. This isn’t fair. This isn’t how things work. 

Ugly people don’t get magically hot, okay? They have to come to terms with the face they see in the mirror every day and learn – slowly, painfully – that the right people love them not because of how they look but because of who they are.

Wow, that just got intense.

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It’s just not right, okay? It’s not.

Besides, how would you like it if you fell in love with one dude and then got cheated out of him because he turned into somebody else? You wouldn’t like it. Belle fell in love with an ugly guy, ugliness and all. Change the ugliness, change the whole person and end up with one sad Belle.

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Therefore. I set out to fix these glaring mistakes. Enter a disfigured man with claws instead of fingers and a French teenager with attitude, a cursing problem, sociopathy, and short blond curls.

Because we are crushing stereotypes over here, alright?

And then… the story took on a personality of it’s own – I’m still not sure whether or not to be happy about this – and things evolved from there. It’s looking a lot less like Beauty and the Beast now…

Instead of being set in 19th Century London as originally planned, my story decided it was a fantasy of the same breed as The Songless. Rest assured, the world will be 19th Century Londonesque in the extreme. It’s just set a couple thousand years in the future instead of being historical fiction. No big deal or anything.

Tessa Emily Hall wrote an awesome post on Go Teen Writers about “the story of your heart.” This post inspired me to write what I love instead of vainly struggling to force this story to be something it clearly did not want to be.

As in The Songless, my story’s primary focus is the angelic beings who populate future-Earth.

Langdon is my “beast.” His parents altered him so that he could protect himself in a world that was becoming increasingly hostile to his race – they replaced his fingers with seven-inch steel claws.

Isabella was also altered, but in a far more invasive way. Her soul was removed, leaving behind a robotic, hollow shell of a teenage girl who only knows how to follow orders. And cannot read the books she used to love. However. Perhaps her surgeons did not do as perfect of a job as they first presumed. Isabella likes food, Isabella is lefthanded, Isabella has a sense of curiosity – all things that should not be true.

I’m calling it Metal Hands, Metal Soul. Because Anna said that sounded better than Hollow Steel, the alternate option. I was planning on calling it Mechanical Heart because of it’s anthem, Shatter Me by Lindsey Stirling, but then I realized that monkeyeverything was using the same title for her serial story and I didn’t want to steal because stealing isn’t nice, kids. Learn from me.

So. In an effort to help you get to know my precious children, I am going to answer a series of questions Cait and Sky posted on their blogs for that purpose.

Shall we?

How and why did they meet?

Well, this one’s easy. Isabella is being used as a weapon against her own race. Since she has no emotions, she is uniquely suited to her job – annihilating all the others like her.

Langdon is simply one on a rather long list.

What were their first impressions of each other?

Langdon immediately noticed that something was off about Isabella.

Isabella, on the other hand, cannot form impressions of people.

So.

How would they prove their love for each other?

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That escalated quickly.

Ahem.

Who said anything about love? I mean, in just the last question I explained how the whole relationship is founded on Isabella’s mission to eliminate Langdon. As in, kill him?

Okay, fine. Isabella stays with Langdon when he has a seizure and subsequently, uh, does not murder him. Langdon breaks his promise never to hurt anyone again and kills an operative sent to kill Isabella.

What would be an ideal date?

Something involving food, undoubtedly. That was one of the ways in which this story surprised me. There is a truly shocking amount of food in it.

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This has nothing to do with the fact that I was unable to eat solid foods when I was brainstorming it.

Is there something they emphatically disagree on?

Perhaps the fact that Isabella wants to kill Langdon? Maybe?

List 5 “food quirks” they know about each other. (Ex: how they take their coffee, if they’re allergic to something, etc….and feel free to mention other non-food quirks!)

My characters are, alas, not this well-developed as yet. The only food quirk I’m aware of is, well, that they love food. Especially cake…

What’s one thing they know about each other that no one else does?

The questions are getting deeper…

Isabella knows everything there is to know about Langdon because she read his file. But I suppose those are only the things that can be evaluated or measured…

Well, he tells her about his promise not to hurt anyone ever again. And Langdon is the one who discovers that Isabella’s surgery wasn’t entirely successful.

What’s one thing that they keep a secret from each other?

Langdon won’t tell Isabella what happened that made him so terrified of hurting people. Isabella’s altered mind doesn’t understand the concept of secrets, so she is completely open about her past.

How would their lives be different without each other?

Well, Langdon would be dead, so his life would, quite literally, not be. Isabella would have been killed as soon as she outlived her usefulness and she may never have discovered the remnants of her personality.

How touching.

Where do they each see this relationship going?

They want to survive. There is no relationship, to be honest. Langdon is in his thirties and Isabella is a young teenager. And I doubt either of them will make it out of the book alive, so it doesn’t especially matter.

I find myself in a quandary, though, and thought perhaps you could help me. Now that I am more familiar with the story of Beauty and the Beast, I have thought of several retellings that I think would be fantastic.

Like… what if the story was told from the perspective of one of the girls in Gaston’s entourage?

Or what if Gaston really did love Belle, but she just hated him for some reason?

Or what if Belle rejected Gaston because she was in love with LeFou?

And, lastly, am I the only who has thought of the fact that the Beast has clearly gone through this whole abduct-a-random-village-girl routine before? What are the implications of this? A story about one of the “failed Belle’s”…

Let us commence to shriek together!

What are your thoughts on my new novel? Do you like it? Hate it? How do you feel about retellings? Yes or no? On a scale of one to ten, how excited are you for the live-action version coming out? Have you seen the Disney animated version? Do you love it? Did you grow up watching the Disney Princess movies? Which Disney Princess is your favorite? Which of my newest ideas piques your interest the most – Failed Belle, Belle And LeFou, Gaston’s Girl, or Nice Gaston? 

Breaking My Silence On Homosexuality In Fiction

This is not going to be a terribly lighthearted post, I’m afraid. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here…

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been hearing a lot about this thing called “diversity in fiction.” To be perfectly honest, I’m getting just a bit sick of the term…

Unfortunately, I’ve found that most of the time, when someone says “diversity,” they are not talking about representing different races, religions, or disabilities. They are talking about homosexuality.

Essentially, “diverse” means “homosexual.”

I might as well get it out where we can all see it – I think homosexuality is wrong.

Notice my wording, please. I did not say “I’m straight.” I was going to and, as of this moment, it would have been true. But all this nonsense of “I’m straight” and “I’m gay” just furthers the notion that some people just are. That homosexuality is something you are born with, something you can’t change.

Listen up, people. That ain’t true.

I firmly believe that homosexuality is a learned behavior. Which means we all have the potential to become homosexual. Let that sink in for a minute.

One more thing. I’m going to refer to the whole group as homosexual. Because I don’t particularly feel like banging out half the alphabet in all caps just to make people happy. They are all homosexual, no matter what special name they’ve invented for their brand of it, right?

Now. Here’s the deal. I think it’s wrong. We’ve established this. But I don’t judge. I’m no better than they are. They’re all wrong, I’m all wrong. We’ve all got problems. We’re broken. We need fixing.

So I don’t hate you, okay?

The question I’m struggling to answer is, “Do I want to read books, watch movies, and watch shows with homosexual characters?”

I’ve thought long and hard. And I’m still not sure exactly where I stand. I do know that when you’re confused about where you stand on something, you go back to what you know is true and proceed carefully from there. Holding tight with both fists to the truth. Don’t let go.

So. I believe homosexuality is wrong. I believe homosexuals are human beings, worthy of respect. I believe it is a storyteller’s job to represent all people and to do it well. I know homosexuality in fiction makes me uncomfortable.

That is the truth.

Perhaps you don’t see where I’m going with this. My apologies for rambling. My point is that I read books where wrong behavior is portrayed all the time. And it doesn’t bother me.

I’ve read books about murderers and despots and serial killers and psychopaths of every variety. Occasionally, they are not even the “bad guy.”

And yet, I must guiltily admit that I have never read a book about a homosexual. Furthermore, I have only read a scanty few where homosexuals even made an appearance – and only then so that they could repent and turn into nice little heterosexuals.

I recognize that this is wrong.

I need to do something about it.

But what? Homosexuality makes me uncomfortable. Perhaps because I am more aware than most just how easily that could be me.

Should I read or watch something that I find revolting?

I did not watch or read Fifty Shades Of Gray. I refuse to. The behaviors betrayed are wrong. And no one has accused me of being prejudiced against abusive men and abused women because of that decision.

I don’t want to read or watch something that paints homosexuality as right or okay.

The problem? There are no books with homosexual main characters where their sexuality is conveyed as wrong. It simply is not done. Or if it is, I don’t know about it.

As a writer myself, things become still more complicated. More and more, I am faced with the undeniable fact that it is up to me… Up to me to do what I don’t see anyone else doing.

I should be writing homosexual characters. I should be doing it well. And I should be showing that it’s wrong.

Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised by your reaction, but I’m envisioning a recoil of horror. I don’t have a large enough following to make any homosexuals angry, but I’m not entirely sure where all of you stand on this issue? If I had to guess, I’d say most of you agree that homosexuality is wrong. But how will you feel about my stance about writing it into our stories? I simply don’t know.

Talk to me, please.

The Beautiful People Meme Is Not Dead, Thank Goodness!

I don’t know about you, but I was beginning to get scared. Not that Cait and Sky had died, exactly, but that they were now mortal enemies and would never post a Beautiful People or Beautiful Books meme again.

Well, we can all breathe a nice, long sigh of relief. Just maybe not all at once or we could knock over an old lady or a small building in Indonesia. Never let it be said that I do not look out for small elderly folk and their homes.

Where was I?

Ah, yes. Beautiful People is, at long last, back!

Without further ado… The Glorious Questions!

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What were your writing achievements last year?

I wrote over 50,000 words and will  never get tired of saying so. I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time in the history of the earth. I finished the novel I have been working on since I was a little girl. It is my child and I couldn’t be more in love with it.

And this may be the first time I have finished anything? Just a minor detail, of course.

What on your “writerly to-do list for 2017?

Most of my resolutions – yes, I make them – were writerly, actually.

For example, I resolved to write at least three drafts of 60,000 words or more, to write one page every day – a resolution I failed on the first day of the new year – and to bulk up at least one of my existing drafts so that it is at least 100,000 words long.

Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!

Firstly, I can’t help but point out that is not, in fact, a question? But since I have a large and generous heart, I will answer it anyway. I know, I know. My benevolence knows no bounds.

I’m currently focusing on a Beauty and the Beast retelling… though a temptingly shiny idea introduced itself to me awhile ago and I am excited to see where that may take me.

How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?

In 2016, I realized that it is wildly fun to write dialogue. Wildly. Somebody should probably stop me before I hurt someone or their pet monkey with my witty banter.

The problem? It has made me just a little bit scared of writing description.

So clearly there is some room for improvement there.

I see myself at the end of 2017, for starters. I would love to see myself on an exceptionally large throne made of pointy black stuff and dressed in new jeans and a flowy top made of silk… but, somehow, I feel in my heart that this is not to be.

Describe your general editing process.

Also not a question. Still, I shall answer.

I hide my draft and try not to think about it. And fail miserably. Then I–

I haven’t gotten past that point yet, actually. Sorry.

On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?

I don’t have much to compare it to? As I mentioned, I’ve never done this before.

Oh, well. I will impulsively say seven. Because it was not as messy as I hear other people saying theirs is, but I will probably end up rewriting the entire thing due to my unfortunate perfectionist tendencies.

What do you like most about your draft?

All of it… except for the writing.

You think I’m trying to be witty. I’m not.

It’s the truth. I adore my characters. My setting is gorgeous perfection.

But the writing? Well, it needs much work.

What are your plans for your novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?

Sending it off to beta readers would be quite an adventure, wouldn’t it? I’ve had a few people offer… but, honestly, I have no clue how the whole thing works. How much money it costs.

Money has to be taken into consideration because I don’t have any.

What’s your top piece of advice for those just finished writing a first draft?

Go sleep for a few years. When you wake up, bury that thing so deep that your great-grandchildren will never find it. Do not think about it on  penalty of death. Only think of other things. Expand your mind with activities like reading, writing any story but that one,  being knocked over by Inspirations, creating worlds, consuming chocolate…

Wonderful advice, is it not?

Let us commence to shriek together!

Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017? Where would you like to see yourself? Do you ever get knocked over by Inspirations? What should I do next in my Editing Process? Does anyone know anything about beta reading and how I can go about it without spending money? Do you have questions for my well-mannered psychopath Landric or his best friend Brand? Tell me everything! And don’t forget to include a link to your Beautiful Books!

I Wrote A Book, Mon

When I was eleven years old, an idea captured my mind and wouldn’t let it go.

Over the next six years, it slowly captured my heart as well.

I poured all my energies into that story… but those energies were not terribly concentrated. My approach to writing was incredibly relaxed – I only wrote when I felt like writing. When inspiration struck. 

The story morphed, slowly, into something new. Evolved, you might say. So much, in fact, that it was eventually unrecognizable as the same story that had hatched in my mind so many years earlier.

NaNo changed that.

The story that I had been chipping away at has been completed.

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I don’t even know what to do with myself, to be honest. The feeling of being done is so… foreign. I have never completed a full-length novel before.

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I didn’t do it alone. After week two, I was running out of ideas fast. I had moved through my story too quickly and it was dying. That was when Shay and Brandon came into the picture and helped me to push through. Brandon wrote some brilliant posts that I desperately needed. Shay and I chatted using NaNo mail and guided me through some specific steps to extending my story.

I could not have done it without them.

What now?

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Well, I move on. This is so new to me… but it would seem, that for the first time I am free to explore the world of new ideas. 

Miss March and Christine, my sweet friends, encouraged me to take a break, telling me that I had done enough. Brandon, however, relentlessly advised me to plunge right into the next story.

He said, “Yes, this story is done. So start a new one. We are writers, after all. There is always another story.” Brandon is a wise boy.

One thing I’ll say for NaNo – it effectively gets you into the writing spirit. I could not stop thinking about my story. So, for a few weeks after NaNo, I worked on the fun stuff behind writing a book that I didn’t allow myself to procrastinate writing to do during NaNo.

I made a word-aesthetic.

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I patched up my dilapidated outline.

And finally, I took a deep breath… and started something new.

But, deranged little overachiever that I am, I didn’t begin working on just one new story. I started four.

A futuristic novel about a seventeen-year-old surgeon whose patients are abducted.

A Beauty and the Beast retelling set in 19th century London.

An Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through The Looking Glass retelling about mirrors and mental hospitals.

A Peter Pan retelling without the “pan” I’m calling “Just Peter.”

Admittedly, I’ve zeroed in on the Beauty and the Beast retelling, though the others are just as intriguing.

And I’ve also started reading again, which, as you can probably imagine, is like a breath of fresh air. Of course, it is largely school-assigned reading – but when I’m assigned things like The Great Gatsby, I’m a happy girl.

My sad fingers are also happier now. Which is important to note. Because I know how much you care about my sad fingers.

So, tell me! What did you write in November? What’s next? Any exciting new projects you wanna reveal? What have you been reading lately? Got any recommendations for me?

 

How To Win NaNo In Sixteen Days

In the beginning of November, Cait wrote a post entitled “How To Win NaNo In Three Days.” Alas, I have not yet attained Cait’s superhuman writing skills. But I did finish my first NaNo in sixteen days. And that is not too bad, if I do say so myself.

So I’ve identified six keys to NaNo success.

Step 1: Add Cait, Mary, and Christine as buddies on the NaNo site

This is clearly a crucial step.

I blame these three lovely ladies with my sixteen-day NaNo victory. Wholeheartedly.

Without their motivating presence, I would have been content to chip away slowly at my wordcount. My original plan was to write about two thousand words a day.

But when I saw their wordcount tubes filling up at around one week, my competitive side kicked in. At this point you are probably thinking, “Your competitive spirit must not be too strong,” because, indeed, all three ladies hit fifty thousand long before I did.

As much as I would’ve loved attempting to beat them at their own game – actually Mary was a first-timer like me – I resigned myself to the fact that I had to make school a priority. I simply couldn’t fall behind… I agreed to do NaNo with the understanding that it had to come after other things, not before. If I had thought my schoolwork would suffer, I wouldn’t have agreed to do it all.

So yes, they beat me.

But they also motivated me.

Step 2: Clear Your Schedule

Perhaps the biggest key to my NaNo victory was how much time I had one my hands.

I did not clear my schedule for NaNo. Not a bit.

However, I have a clearer schedule than most people. I have exactly three outside-the-home activities. I go to church on Sundays, volunteer with local children on Wednesdays, and play volleyball on Thursdays.

I’m sure that most of you have busier schedules than that. So you have to clear it. Cut down on your social life just a bit. I know it’s painful. But I believe in you. You can do it.

 

Step 3: Make A Daily Goal

As I said, my original goal was to write two thousand words each day. This seemed reasonable, though difficult, and was even a bit over the suggested daily goal. I assumed I’d have to skip a couple of days… If I got sick, and obviously I anticipated getting nothing done on Thanksgiving.

Goals are important to me. I am excessively goal-oriented. So I can’t say with utter certainty that this will work for you. All I know is that having something to aim for was one of the reasons I won NaNo.

Step 4: Never Skip A Day

I never skipped one day. Not one.

I wouldn’t let myself.

Of course… I did skip all those days after the 16th of November? But I was kinda done at that point, so…

The point is that you can’t let yourself slide. You can’t say, “I’m too busy today,” or “I’m too tired today.” You can’t.

Even if you don’t meet your goal, you must write something. Chances are, once you start writing, you’ll knock out a decent portion of your goal anyway.

Step 5: Keep Raising The Goal

If you find that you can reasonably meet a certain goal, raise it and try to meet that one. For example, I knew that in order to finish on time, one would have to write 1,667 words each day. So I set out to write a nice, even 2,000. But as soon as I realized that I was able to meet that goal with ease, I raised it to 3,000. I hovered there, but on weekends I pushed myself to write 4 or 5 thousand words. I accomplished this at least three times.

Step 6: Slow And Steady

Don’t go crazy with trying to knock out a huge portion of your novel on the first day. I know some people recommend this – apparently it works for them – but I don’t. You don’t want to get tired of writing before you’ve quite begun.

And that’s it.

You are befuddled. Don’t try to deny it. I can see the befuddlement written all over your lovely face.

“Where is step about doing wordwars with friends? The step about doing word sprints until you drop? The step about doing every word crawl ever created?”

I didn’t do any of that stuff.

It’s true.

I didn’t even try any of it. And while I am fairly convinced that they wouldn’t have worked for me anyway, I can’t say they are no good if I haven’t put forth the effort to at least attempt them.

Perhaps another year…

You see, I knew that I couldn’t allot a certain block of time to writing and know one hundred percent that I wouldn’t be interrupted, called away to do something else. Like dishes. Or school. Or helping my little brother with his homework. These things happen.

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And so I thought it would be more awkward to start a wordwar and then come back three days later to my bewildered friend to explain that I had quit about two minutes in to attend to an urgent matter. Called “family.”

Or to start a word sprint that I would have to walk away from right when I was getting into a groove.

Or to begin a word crawl I probably wouldn’t finish. Even though that Hamilton one was tempting in the highest degree.

You might consider these excuses.

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They probably are. After all, even word sprinting for five minutes would have been better than nothing, right? Definitely. You are wise, my friend. Go heed your own advice and ignore mine and proceed to be an excellent writer. I admire you.

The truth is that I am just a smol baby writer and I don’t have it all together just yet.

I probably should’ve tried out some of these lovely tools. But I was too lazy.

I tried word sprinting informally a few times… And found that I was writing drivel, scenes I will almost certainly scrap when it comes time to edit this ugly beast.

So I just plodded along at my own weird pace and followed my own made-up rules… and, heck, it must have worked, because I wrote a book, friends. And I’m happy with how my NaNo went.

Alright, spill it! What sneaky tricks got you writing back in November? Did you do the word crawls? How did they go? Did you like them? Hate them? What tool on the NaNo site did you find most helpful? Are you a word sprinter? Did you do any wordwars? Any tips you’d like to share? 

In The Interviewer’s Chair: Please Welcome Endelyn And Makovu!

This is the first character interview I have ever done, and after much deliberation I decided to interview Makovu and Endelyn together. I think it will be fun to watch them interact.

I’m going to bring them in here in just a moment, but first allow me to set the stage.

We’re in a film studio, surrounded by cameras and mics and lighting equipment, but the cameras aren’t rolling, the mics are turned off, only one of the lights is on. The studio is shut down for the night.

I sit regally in my interviewer’s armchair, facing an empty couch. The equipment is directly behind me.

Off to either side, other couches with end tables next to them are scattered about giving the room the feel of a lounge.

The single spotlight draws your attention to that empty couch.

The wall behind the couch and the two walls on each side are floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

We are in a skyscraper.

I am wearing a black knee-length pencil skirt with a navy blue blouse, my hair piled on top of my head in a professional-looking bun that adds two inches to my diminutive five-foot-two stature.

My feet are bare.

Behind me, the door clicks open and I get out of my chair and navigate carefully through the clutter to welcome my guests.

Endelyn emerges first, followed closely by Makovu.

Endelyn is wearing a loose-fitting gray sweater made of a soft-looking material and dark skinny jeans that accentuate her long legs. Her black high-healed boots boost her already six-foot frame by four inches so that she is nearly as tall as Mako. She is wearing her waist-length black hair down, and it falls down her back in glossy waves.

Makovu wears ripped, faded jeans and black biker boots with a snug white T-shirt. His long dark brown-and-caramel hair is falling in his eyes. As usual.

Me: (quietly) Hi, guys. (nods in Endelyn’s direction) Endelyn.

Endelyn: (takes an involuntary step backward)

Me: (cringes) Sorry. (nods at Makovu) Mako.

Makovu: (to Endelyn) She’s staring at me again. (to me) Is something wrong?

Me: Huh? Oh! No, nothing. Come on. You guys can sit right over here. (leads way to interview area)

Both: (immediately head for opposite couches off to the side)

Me: Whoa! Where do you think you’re going?

Both: (turn around grudgingly)

Me: You have to sit right there (points to couch facing the interviewer’s chair)

Both: (look at tiny couch in disgust) (drag themselves over to couch and sit down, careful to avoid touching each other in the process)

Endelyn: (sits bolt upright)

Makovu: (leans back casually, draping his arms over the back of the couch, crosses legs)

Me: Cool. So Anna and Christine have some questions for you… But you should know that I reserve the right to jump in with my own questions whenever I want.

Makovu: (raises one eyebrow and smirks) This oughta be fun.

Endelyn: Who are…?

Me: Anna and Christine are friends of mine. Let’s get started, shall we? (arranges self in armchair, flips through notes) Here we go. First question. What is your best memory? Endelyn?

Endelyn: (haltingly) That day in the desert… When I woke up…

Me: (softly) Yeah. I remember that day. What about you, Mako?

Makovu: (getting a faraway look in his eyes) When I went swimming for the first time.

Me: When was that?

Makovu: I was about two human years old… I stumbled across a pond. Nobody else was around…

Me: Water is very special to you.

Makovu: Yes.

Me: What is your worst memory?

Makovu: (shrugs) The day I left Haraka or… the day my family died…

Me: Endelyn? Your worst memory?

Endelyn: The same day. The day I woke up.

Me: Why?

Endelyn: Because I killed them. And because it hurt.

Me: Killed who?

Endelyn: My escorts. Nomad soldiers.

Me: And what do you mean, it hurt?

Endelyn: My senses had been deadened most of my life. Finally being able to feel… the pain was intense, excruciating. I had never experienced anything like it.

Me: Okay. The next question… do you have any siblings?

Endelyn: No.

Me: What about Landric? You are close to him, right?

Endelyn: Yes…

Me: But you don’t view him as family.

Endelyn: (blankly) I have no family.

Me: (nods slowly) (shifts in chair) (to Makovu) Do you have any siblings?

Makovu: I had a younger sister. She died when the rest of my family did.

Me: Tell us about your family.

Makovu: My father raised me in the jungle with the Kwanza until I was four human years old. He was… angry. Too young to be good father. After that I lived with my mother and the pack.

Me: Who was in your pack?

Makovu: (runs a hand through his hair and looks up at the ceiling, trying to remember) Itale was alphamale and Kupwa was his lieutenant… The girls were the hunters. Their brother was Itale’s rival for alphamale position. My mother was alphafemale. My sister and I were too young to have an official rank.

Me: Complicated.

Makovu: (grins) You could say that.

Me: How did you and your little sister get along?

Makovu: I was spoiled. She was… well, she was an outcast, really. I never understood why. We were inseparable, though. Partly because my mother always told me to look out for her, partly because I enjoyed playing big brother.

Me: Kind of like you do with Endelyn now?

Makovu: (looks at me sharply) What? No.

Me: (looks at Endelyn) How do you and Landric get along?

Endelyn: (shrugs) (twists hair around index finger)

Me: What is that supposed to mean?

Endelyn: We understand each other.

Makovu: (raises eyebrows)

Me: I see. (shuffles through notecards) Who has had the most influence in your life?

Endelyn: Landric.

Me: Mako?

Makovu: Haraka. I guess.

Me: Haraka is a cool guy.

Saint: Was. Was a… ‘cool guy.’

Me: You don’t know that he’s dead.

Makovu: He’s dead.

Me: You don’t-

Makovu: I know.

Me: Fine. Was a cool guy. (clears throat) Let’s move on. What is one thing you would give up your life for?

Makovu: Endelyn.

Endelyn: (calmly) He’s under orders.

Me: What did you say?

Endelyn: He told me once that those were his orders. To save me. Protect me.

Me: Does that bother you?

Endelyn: Should it?

Me: (rolls eyes) Endelyn and her rhetoric questions… It’s just that most girls would be insulted by him admitting that you were kind of a… project.

Endelyn: (shrugs)

Makovu: (raises eyebrows at me)

Me: (laughs softly) Is there anything you’d give your life for, Endelyn?

Endelyn: Aleks. I would have given my life for Aleks.

Makovu: (gives me a bewildered sidelong glance)

Me: (bites lip) I’m sorry.

Endelyn: Yes. Well. There’s nothing any of us can do about that, is there?

Me: (softly) No. I guess not.

Makovu: Aren’t you supposed to be asking us questions or something?

Me: (clears throat) Um, yeah. Something like that. (looks at notes) Here we go. Mako, what do you fear more – grief, torture, or death?

Makovu: (laughs flatly) Grief.

Me: Do you agree, Endelyn?

Endelyn: (softly) Yes. Grief.

Me: What do you think of authority in your life?

Makovu: What’s that supposed to mean?

Me: Do you believe in authority?

Both: Yes.

Me: Okay. Do you like it? Are you okay with it?

Endelyn: I respect those who force me to respect them.

Me: Mako?

Makovu: (haltingly) I think… we will always chafe against authority… unless love is factor.

Me: (under my breath) How oddly insightful of you. (to Mako) Is there any authority you respect?

Makovu: I don’t think I understand what you mean. There is no authority in our world. We answer to no one.

Me: So there is nothing or no one to whom you swear allegiance? You obey nothing?

Makovu: (dips his head slightly) My allegiance lies with no one but Mbaji.

Me: Endelyn, you’re being pretty quiet.

Endelyn: I answer to no one.

Me: (unconvinced) No one?

Endelyn: I look out for myself.

Me: Okay then. Next question. What’s your biggest life dream?

Endelyn: Aleks.

Me: (closes eyes and nods) (opens eyes) Maks?

Makovu: I have told you again and again-

Me: But it’s so cute…

Makovu: No. No “Maks.”

Me: (makes pouty lips) Fine. Your dream?

Makovu: (sighs) To belong somewhere, I suppose. (looks over at Endelyn)

Me: (raises eyebrows and clears throat) Do you have any pets?

Both: (blank stares)

Me: (sighs) A pet is an animal that belongs exclusively to you? Um, to be your friend? Like you take care of it and… stuff?

Endelyn: (to Mako) She is not very good at this.

Makovu: (laughs) No, she’s not.

Me: Would you answer the question?

Endelyn: (looks at Makovu) Tell her about Jota.

Makovu: I care for a young dragon.

Me: (skeptically) A dragon?

Makovu: (nods smugly)

Me: Whatever. What are some of your best memories living Nomad? Endelyn, that’s for you.

Endelyn: The food.

Makovu: (laughs)

Me: That’s not really a memory…

Endelyn: Traveling with the caravan… And eating the food.

Me: (sighs) That will have to do… Sorry, Christine. I tried. What about worst memory with the Nomad?

Endelyn: (clenches jaw)

Makovu: (to me, in an undertone) Ooh, you made her mad…

Me: (confused) What was wrong with what I said?

Makovu: (shrugs)

Me: Okay… While Endelyn is, ah, recovering, Makovu can answer this one…

Makovu: Who are you talking to?

Me: Um. The audience?

Makovu: You’re a strange girl.

Me: Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Makovu: Glad I could help.

Me: (grins) You’re adorable.

Makovu: Stay away from me.

Me: (winks) If you had to give up one of your personality traits, what would it be?

Makovu: What kind of-

Me: Don’t be mean.

Makovu: (glares at me)

Me: You still have to answer the question.

Makovu: I obey without asking questions.

Me: And you don’t think that’s a good thing?

Makovu: It would’ve spared me a lot of pain, that’s all I’m saying.

Me: Endelyn, you have to answer this one too.

Endelyn: My stubbornness.

Me: Why?

Endelyn: Like Makovu said… It would’ve spared me a lot of pain.

Me: Thank you both for you honesty. You may go now.

Thank you, Anna and Christine for your questions! 

Which was your favorite question? Which was your favorite answer? Who did you like better – Makovu or Endelyn? Who would you like me to interview next – one of the villains, Landric and his best friend? Hatari, a side character? Aleks?

The NaNo Diaries: What I Learned

My NaNo is long over.

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And you are probably sick to death of hearing about it. But it would seem that I can’t shut up.

For the last two Novembers, that was me as well. And even when I plunged into this NaNo adventure, I didn’t expect to turn into such a hardcore believer. Oops.

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NaNo was one of the most fun things I have ever done, but perhaps the best thing about it was how much I learned from the experience.

Things about myself and my novel that I had no idea about.

1. It’s hard to kill a character.

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So much harder than I expected.

One of the first scenes I wrote during NaNo was a death scene involving a teenage girl. Not a main character, exactly, but an innocent one.

And it wasn’t one of those implied deaths – you “see” it happen through the eyes of a main character.

I found that it was oddly emotional for me. I guess I kind of assumed that my dark writer’s soul could handle it, especially since the death wasn’t coming to me as a surprise; I had been planning to do this scene for a while. And yet… it was difficult.

Who’da thunk?

2. My outline was not specific enough.

As aforesaid, I have been working on this story for six years.

That’s a long time. In case you were wondering.

So I thought there was essentially nothing I did not know about my novel. I thought I had it all figured out.

I didn’t.

There is a world of difference between having an idea in your head and trying to translate that idea into coherent sentences in strings that becomes paragraphs and chapters.

And so – within the parameters of the existing outline – I did a lot of what is formally called “pantsing.”

It was fun, but admittedly scary. As a perfectionist, I like to put everything in little boxes and label them neatly. Pantsing does not allow for that. An idea pops into your head and you just go with it, allowing it to lead you where it will.

Ultimately, I narrowed down what genre it was that I was writing, killed characters I never planned on killing, and threw in a few natural disasters and injuries that weren’t in my original outline.

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3. I can be funny.

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A while ago I realized for the first time that while I am funny in person, I was not all that funny on paper – or on screen – and thought that may have been part of the reason why my following did not seem to be growing.

Needless to say, I have been trying to improve my skills in that department. To lecture less and use my natural sarcasm more.

Well. It must have paid off, because as I was writing for NaNo, I found myself snickering at my own wit every now and then.

4. I write faster on lined paper.

As some of you know, I wrote my novel by hand. This is mostly because I don’t have access to a PC on a regular basis. I will admit, however, that writing by hand has grown on me over the years. But that’s a discussion for another post.

I knew that I would be writing my novel by hand, so I gathered a stash of “scrap paper” – paper that has been used on one side but still has one side free.

This, of course, means that the paper is printer paper, unlined.

I didn’t make it even halfway through the stack that I had gathered. Writing on unlined paper was… less-than-motivating. For one thing, unlined sheets of paper somehow look larger than sheets from a notebook.

Don’t ask why. Maybe they actually are? Who knows.

All I know is that I started allowing myself to write in a notebook – and the carefully hoarded pile of scrap paper was left to sit on my bedroom floor in a sad bundle. Oops.

5. Writing a book is hard work.

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For those of you who didn’t already know.

When you write a book slowly over the period of six years, it doesn’t seem too hard. Only boring perhaps.

NaNo made me realize that writing a book – actually writing a book – is anything but boring. And far more difficult than I had previously thought.

As I mentioned before, I got about the same amount of sleep as I normally do. So it wasn’t as much physical exhaustion as mental.

After a while, I couldn’t seem to think about anything besides my novel. Couldn’t focus or make any kind of progress on other hobbies or pursuits.

Gives you a new appreciation for the people who do this for a living, doesn’t it?

6. Journaling is helpful.

I stole this from one of the pep talks on the NaNo site. Just so you know.

Journaling before and after writing helped me to ease into writing and to process what I have just written.

I found that I needed a place where I was allowed to scribble and be messy, where I could think out loud, ask questions, explore ideas.

And, I think my favorite part of this idea is something the writer of the pep talk said – you are writing the “story of the story.”

7. Black pen is better than blue.

I already knew this, to be perfectly honest.

As someone who uses pen on a daily basis, take it from me – black pen is the only way to go. Red, of course, is horrifying. Blue is more like… annoying.

Can we all just agree to only use black pen? Please?

8. Writing crazy people is fun.

Which is scary. Perhaps I should be concerned about my own mental health?

But, let’s be honest. I’ve always been a little crazy.

Maybe that’s why I’m so good at writing crazies…

9. Music is hugely unhelpful, silence is awesome… and hard to come by.

When NaNo was looming, everyone began talking about the playlist they had designed to write to.

I tried it. I did.

It didn’t work.

I love music. That’s not the problem. Or is it? I l think I love it too much.. and that’s why I can’t listen to it and write at the same time.

So while Lindsey Stirling and Dia Frampton’s We Are Giants and Pentatonix’s Na Na Na make the best NaNo anthems you can imagine, I See Fire by Ed Sheeran could be the theme song for one of my villains, and Christine‘s recommendation of the soundtrack for The Elder Scrolls and the Game of Thrones soundtrack should have been fantastic writing music for the type of novel I was writing, I found that nothing was as good as silence.

Or as hard to get ahold of…

10. I am a pantser.

It never even occurred to me that I could be a pantser. I just assumed that I was a plotter. It made more sense for my personality – I like to have things all planned out ahead of time.

I surprised myself.

But you know what? I’m okay with that. We’re all bundles of contradictions, yes?

So I’m a pantser!

What did NaNo teach you about yourself and your novel? What color pen do you like best? Do you ever write by hand? Are sheets of unlined paper bigger than sheets of notebook paper? Are you a plotter or a pantser? What did you listen to as you wrote? Do you journal?

I Got Time… I Don’t Got Time

I don’t know what is going on with my schedule right now, honestly.

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It’s been a weird couple of months.

I’m blaming it on my tablet. Ever since I got it, I have no time.

Or perhaps I should say I only have time for certain things.

Like reading blog posts. And writing blog posts. And commenting on blog posts. And responding to comments. And finding new blogs to follow and comment upon. And deciding to jump onto the bandwagon called National Novel Writing Month. Things like that.

On the other hand, I don’t have time for…

1. Spanish

No. Definitely don’t have time for Spanish. How do you say hello again? Hoala?

2. Anatomy

Who even needs to know all that stuff anyway? I call this piece an arm and this one a leg and this is my eye. Clearly I know everything there is to know.

3. Geometry

Ugh. Math. I hate math.

4. Reading books

This makes me sad.

There is something wrong with life when you don’t have time to read books.

But I haven’t read anything in… forever. I haven’t visited a library in… forever. I haven’t checked anything out of a library in… longer than forever.

5. Interacting with humans

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Let’s not be coy. I rarely interact with humans even on the best of days.

6. Brushing my teeth

This may seem random to you, but there was actually a night not too long ago where I thought to myself, “Eh, I don’t feel like it. I’m too tired. I have other things to do – I don’ have time to brush my teeth.”

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7. Cleaning my room

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Ew. Do not look at my room right now. It is not a happy place.

8. Writing my book

Which is ironic, since I joined that lovely bandwagon called National Novel Writing Month.

Oh well.

I enjoy contradicting myself. Apparently.

What’s up, people? Time flying? Do you have enough time? Or is time precious and hard to come by these days for you as well? This one’s important: are you brushing your teeth regularly? What is being pushed aside? What do you still find time for, somehow?

 

 

The NaNo Diaries: What I Did This Month

November, for me, is typically a slower month, with the exception of the usual Thanksgiving craziness.

This month was a little different.

I decided, at the last minute, to participate in National Novel Writing Month. Which meant that this November was going to be unlike any other November I had ever had.

As I expected, there were crazy moments of stress and pressure. There were also beautiful moments of inspiration and pride and laughing my head off. 

See that there on the floor? That’s my head.

Anyway. Here are just a few things I did this November…

1. Scared myself with creepy characters.

Yes, I did. I actually broke into gooseflesh at one point.

Some of my characters are scary, mon…

2. Got so excited when I introduced my favorite character. Who may or may not be Makovu.

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Okay, fine, who am I kidding? It was Makovu.

3. Ate an unhealthy amount of tortilla chips and salsa.

Because tortilla chips and salsa are an delicious… And one of the only ones we keep in the house all the time.

4. Scrubbed every surface of my house.

Random, right?

Oh, well. It was refreshing to get a break from thinking about plot holes and timelines and character arcs.

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5. Made an “Inspiration Binder” which I ended up being quite proud of.

At first, I felt guilty because it seemed like just another way to procrastinate.

In the end, though, I was glad that I made it. The snippets and drawings and writing rules and tips became an instant inspiration when I was running low on excitement about writing.

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6. Memorized most of Hamilton.

What can I say? I love musicals.

Many of you may not know this about me but my love for writing pales in comparison to my love for acting.

So I blame my inner actor when my first reaction to watching a musical is “I must memorize the entire thing immediately!”

Needless to say, my brothers are less-than-pleased with this unexpected turn of events.

But I don’t care. I love it.

 

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My favorites so far are Nonstop, Wait For It, That Would Be Enough, Guns And Ships, Room Where It Happens, and Helpless. Check them out.

7. Played football on breaks.

Not the tackle kind.

In case you were wondering.

Just the throw-and-catch variety. If you must know, my skills have improved drastically in recent months.

As in, I no longer run away shrieking when the football is thrown in my direction.

It’s an improvement, believe me.

8. Maintained the appearance of doing school.

Notice that all-important word “appearance.”

Because, honestly, I got a digustingly little amount of schoolwork done.

It’s not too big of a deal, though. I was ahead anyway.

9. Read absolutely nothing, which is… shocking.

A whole month – or, you know, sixteen days, which is almost the same thing – without reading?

Scary.

10. Wrote 2,000 words each day at first.

I figured that this would fulfill my quota and get me ahead by a little bit each day.

After a few days, I realized that 3,000 words wasn’t that difficult for me to squeeze in.

So I picked up my pace.

On days when I had more time, I shot for 4- or 5,000 words.

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My sudden sense of urgency may or may not have been due to superhumans Cait, Mary, and Christine.

11. Ate meals with the family.

Shocking, isn’t it?

Based on what everyone else was saying, NaNo meant sacrificing leaving the house, eating regular meals, sleep, and communicating with family members.

Don’t ask me how I managed it, but my life looked exactly the same as it always does. I left the house on Wednesdays and Thurdays to interact with humans, just like I always do. I ate three meals a day, just like I normally do. I spent all day trying to concentrate on school and failing, just like I always do. I got, on average, eight hours of sleep each night, just like I always do.

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12. Celebrated Thanksgiving just like I always do.

Thanksgiving is my second-favorite holiday.

Christmas is my favorite. But Thanksgiving comes close.

All that cooking. All that food. My nieces and nephews. Fall colors. Leftovers.

Thanksgiving rocks, mon.

12. Wrote 50,000 words.

I have been made aware of the fact that this is indeed the point of NaNo.

I may have forgotten why it was that I was slaving away so tirelessly while I was in the thick of things.

14. Hung out with my nieces and nephews because they are my favorite humans on the planet.

Family is everything.

Feel free to break out the tissues.

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15. Found time to write blog posts.

I find it ironic that the same month I participated in National Novel Writing Month was the same month I wrote double the amount of blog posts I normally do.

Weird.

16. Stayed up late.

I said I got about the same amount of sleep as I normally do. I never said that I got enough.

I love sleep.

In my humble opinion, you can never get enough sleep.

Most people survive on four or five hours.

I like to get ten, though I typically get closer to eight.

17. Got up early. So early.

Too early.

Ugh.

18. Was thankful for the schedule button that saved my blog.

November is the month of thankfulness, yes?

I am thankful for that lovely little “schedule” button.

My blog lives because of that button right there.

So. What did you do this month? What are you thankful for? Did you participate in National Novel Writing Month? How goes the writing? Are you done? Are you close? And, most importantly, have you listened to the Hamilton soundtrack? Which are your favorite tracks?

The NaNo Diaries: I Broke The Rules

It’s time I made a confession.

Prepare yourself for something despicable. Because we all know how despicable I can be.

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I broke the rules of NaNo. Not just once. Many times.

I am a truly despicable human, I know.

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1. I rewrote the same scenes over and over. Some might call this editing, but that’s not what I mean.

I mean that if I didn’t like how a scene turned out the first time, I just wrote it all over again.

And counted both toward my wordcounts.

I do feel guilty about this.

2. I jumped around in the story instead of writing it in chronological order.

Not that this is an official rule or anything? I’m just assuming that this is what the rest of you did because it sounded like it based off of blog posts that I read.

Maybe I’m weird – let’s not be delusional; I am weird – but I get bored easily.

I did try to write chronologically, for the record. For the first week or two.

After that, I decided finishing was more important than proving to myself that I had an attention span slightly superior to that of the common squirrel.

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4. My daily wordcounts were just estimates because, as some of you know, I did NaNo by hand.

I have been accused of being an alien form of life. This may or may not be true. Let’s leave such things to the experts, shall we?

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A common estimate for how many handwritten words fit on a single sheet of paper is 300. And even though I think I can write closer to 400 words a page, I stuck with that because there were scenes when I was writing dialogue that ended up being less, or I wrote big, or I got sloppy. It happens.

Hopefully my wordcount was not too far off. And if it was inaccurate, I hope it was on the side of having written more than 50,000 words, not less.

5. I didn’t enter my whole book to officially win.

As aforementioned, I wrote it by hand.

So, needless to say, my poor little right ring finger was screaming in agony at the end of each day. My wrists were cramped. My hand ached.
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There was no way I was going to attempt to get all those 50,000 words typed up into my computer just to make sure everything was legal.

6. I may have switched genres halfway through?

If it comforts you at all, this was as much of a surprise to me as to anyone.

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I’d known for a while that I was writing about the end of the world. It’s actually rather shocking how long it took for me to realize that…

Then it hit me – apocalytic fantasy falls under the category of urban fantasy. And here I’d been writing medieval!

See, I’ve had this picture in my head for the longest time. It’s of a barefoot, skinny-jean clad girl walking down slick shallow steps in darkness lit only by torchlight.

And no matter how hard I tried, this picture wouldn’t let me go. I had to write it.

But people don’t wear skinny jeans in the medieval ages.

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It was, indeed, a problem.

Now I can have both. My creepy tunnels and torchlight and candles and swords and horses and ruins and elegant dinner parties… And my machine guns and sniper rifles and skinny jeans and bombs and abandoned subway stations and rusting cars and wrecked trains.

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I am in love.

7. I wrote in a notebook instead of using my stack of recycled paper.

You are confused.

Allow me to explain.

I try to recycle paper whenever possible. Because I use a crazy amount of paper and paper ain’t cheap, my friends.

And, obviously, because when the Tree Apocalypse happens, I don’t want them coming after me. I am a sweet bean at heart and I do love the trees. I just also need them to write on.

The Tree Apocalypse is a real thing, in case you were wondering. It’s gonna happen.

Where was I going with this?

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Ah, yes. I wanted to recycle paper. But I found that I could write much faster and easier on nice, lined notebook paper. And so the stack of paper-to-be-reused sat in a sad heap shaking its fist and weeping and shouting things like, “You will regret this decision!”

It preyed upon my mind. It did.

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So, tell me – did you break any NaNo rules? Do you ever write by hand? Or do you, too, think I am an alien? Do you fear the Tree Apocalypse? Did you switch genres? Even a little bit? Did you write your novel in chronological order or did you jump around?