Monday, March 28, 2016

Beautiful People #16: Damla


Guess what? It's time to talk about Damla from #SlavicNovel because she is possibly my favorite character from that WIP right now. I didn't realize who she was at first, or how awesome she would be.

So today, you get to meet Damla. Prepare for epicness.

damla: 1. What first inspired this character? Is there a person/actor you based them off?

A scene popped into my head that had nothing to do with the novel I was writing. I wasn't sure how it would fit into SlavicNovel, or even if it belonged in SlavicNovel at all. Maybe it was it's own story?

So the scene was of a thief-girl (Damla) running into another thief during a major heist, where they are both impressed with the other person's fighting skills. The mystery thief corners our thief-girl, rips the scarf off her face, and and is pleasantly shocked to find it's a girl because our mystery thief is a girl too (early version of Oriana!). They then have to run for their lives because their fighting has caused too much noise, and become friends.

That was what popped into my head one night, and somehow made it's way into SlavicNovel after all. It's a little different ("become friends" isn't exactly how it ends - more like "become unwilling partners"), but is just as badass-ly awesome as I envisioned it in the beginning.

2. Describe their daily routine.

Damla lives with her father, a once-rich once-famous nobleman who squandered all his money (and thus his childrens' inheritance). But what does he care? He has two daughters which basically means DOWRY. But Damla's sister Ziya (who can't walk) has gone off and married a supernice but superpoor musician (such dishonor!) named Melik, which means she's been disowned from the family. Now Damla is her father's only hope.

With that preface, Damla's (rather irregular) routine: In the daytime, she does noblewoman duties with her father, who likes to pretend he's not poor. They visit richer noblemen and go to parties and try to earn favors and Damla hates it. This is also when Damla's father tries to get various rich men interested in her without revealing their financial situation. They're mostly perverts or old or old perverts.

The only reason why she doesn't rebel is because while she chats up these rich fellows, she finds out about where they keep their precious gems and other things of that sort. She learns the layout of their houses when she goes to parties they host. And then, she and Melik plan their next burglary.

Melik and Damla meet up at his place where Damla says hi to her sister and then debriefs Melik on the plan for the night. They have a system - Melik stands guard, while Damla sneaks into the houses. The spoils of the burglary don't go to Damla's dad, obviously - they all go to Melik and Ziya.

3. If they joined your local high school, what clique would they fit into?

I'm not sure if Damla would be a part of a clique. She may be the person that's kind of able to be friends with everyone, observes from the sidelines, and is just generally liked.

She definitely wouldn't be the popular girl, though she COULD be if she wanted to.

4. Write a list of things they merely tolerate. Ex. certain people, foods, circumstances in their lives...

First off, jerk dad and creepy suitors, because right now she needs them to make a living.
But also:
  • Shoes
  • Melik's jokes
  • Oriana (Well, that comes later in the story.)
5. How do they react in awkward silences?

She'll smile pleasantly at the other people and wait for the conversation to continue. She believes silences are only awkward if you decide they are.

6. Can they swim? If so, how did they learn?

Damla lives in Karakhra, which is a port town, so she has beaches to practice on. However, most of her neighbors actually cannot swim because they've never had to. She just made it a point to learn because the water looked so beautiful and treacherous and she wanted to know she had the power to defend herself against it if she ever had to. Also creeping off to beaches at night felt super rebellious, even though her dad didn't know about it. She kind of wished he did. 

7. What is one major event that helped shape who they are?

(Technically spoiler? But I don't know if people care about me spoiling a novel that's literally in Draft 0.5.)
When the eldest prince from the neighboring country (Tania and Oriana and Baba Yaga's currently unnamed country) came as an ambassador five-ish years ago to Karakhra, Damla and he had a kind of fling. Well, at that point, neither of them thought it was a fling, but they were both young and stupid (and Damla was younger and stupider and this was her first love). Like, duh, the crown prince of the country that your country is not exactly friends with is not going to marry some foreign girl who, though a noble, isn't exactly royal, and who has a dad who's going bankrupt.

Anyway, though Damla is super sensible, she kind of went all Great Gatsby and spent five years idolizing Prince Luka and creating this perfect man in her head that maybe would come back eventually? For her? Even though by now she 99% knows he won't?

Elisabeth Wheatley: Saw this and the whole brain went "awesome." It makes me think of something I have planned for book 4.: 8. What things do they value most in life?

Her sister Ziya, no question. And, close after, her brother-in-law Melik, who's a super decent guy (and a super decent street musician and partner-in-crime). 

9. Do they believe in giving other people second chances? Do they have any trust issues?

Yes, Damla definitely believes in second chances. Maybe third? But definitely not more. (Ahem, looking at you, dad.) Damla has some trust issues (mostly when it comes to romance? See the spoiler bit about Prince Luka above), but not enough to affect her a lot. She's at a nice balance between naive and suspicious - she's cautious and has street smarts.

10. Your character is having a rough day... What things to they do to make them happy again? Is there anyone they talk/interact with to get in a better mood?

She would never admit it, but Damla sometimes retreats into Luka-memories. It doesn't necessarily make her happy, but it does make her forget the present.

More effectively, she visits Ziya and Melik and always leaves full of tea and crackers and smiles and bad jokes.

That's Damla! Tell me about your writing projects. Are you doing Camp NaNo in April? (I'm not, because #SlavicNovel requires my attention.)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Guest Post: Yes and No

I'm always interested to hear about other fledgling writers' experiences with pre-agent adventures, especially with what got them writing in the first place. Today, I have  TM Hayes sharing her story.

While listening to Year of Yes of by Shonda Rhimes, I’ve been struck by the fact that a string of cathartic moments in her life in 2014 led her to say yes more, while the ones in my life the same year caused the exact opposite reaction. I said no, and I said it a lot. I’ve always been a yes person, a die-hard people pleaser, even when it meant taking less care of myself and spending less time with family and friends. Unsurprisingly, all the yeses left me feeling empty and alone. I couldn’t feel joy even though I was succeeding professionally and raising three healthy girls with my husband.

Miserable and lethargic, I felt guilty for feeling so disconnected from my life. I hit rock bottom at the end of 2013. I promised myself that 2014 would be my Year of No, and yes I called it that before I ever heard the title of Shonda Rhimes’ memoir. It was my mantra, my guiding principle. It was terrifying. Initially my noes were timid and uttered question-like. But like anything else with practice it became easier. And I didn’t only say no at work. I said it at home. I even said it to my kids.

It was excruciating but I intuitively knew what was on the line—me. It felt alien to be self-indulgent, but I learned to speak to myself kindly. It was okay to protect time for myself sometimes. It seems so obvious, but it still sends a shiver of guilt through me. Taking care of myself emotionally and physically resulted in immediate rewards—more energy, more engagement both at home and at work.

Something was still lacking. I knew what it was, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself at that point. I was afraid—afraid of failure, afraid of rejection, and just plain afraid of trying. The turning point came in July 2014 when we received the devastating news that my cousin, who was only 6 months my elder, died of a massive heart attack. She was healthy one day, raising two beautiful children with her loving husband, and then gone within hours. Her loss fractured our family both immediate and distant. It was a shockwave that reverberated through us all, and not one of us has emerged the same.

In the midst of grief and shock, I finally woke up. How often do we hear it said that life is short? I assist surgeons on cancer operations, I literally face death on a daily basis. But it finally sank in. None of us knows how much time we’ll be given in these precious lives of ours. Time isn’t on any of our sides. But it’s never too late to start. Yup, some clichés exist for a reason.

It was time to put the story that had been swirling in my head on paper. I started writing my first novel at the end of July 2014. I had a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, but aside from that, zero experience writing. I wrote anyway. No outline, no character sketches, other than the ones that had flitted in and out of mind for the months preceding. I’d newly joined Twitter (yes, I’m old and late to the party), and found that I could follow and interact with many of my favorite writers. These writers often doled out pearls of writing wisdom.

At exactly this time, one of the authors I greatly admired, E. Lockhart, tweeted along the lines of “Sit down and write a little every day, 135 words a day will equal a 50,000 word novel in a year”—an easily achievable goal. I downloaded Scrivener, set my target to 135 words, and promised to write daily. I did for a couple of weeks, but then life got in the way. Still, I didn’t stop. I adjusted course. If I worked a twelve-plus-hour day at work, I would aim for 300 words the next day. I made the commitment, allowing myself to make the time to write.

I stumbled, I wrote garbage, but I kept going. As I wrote more, it became easier. I even surprised myself with a couple of 4,000 word days. I finished draft one in less than a year. Rewrites ensued. Then I did what most impatient, naïve new writers do, I submitted to contests. The feedback after the first contest was pretty harsh. I gave myself ten minutes to cry it out, and then hit the keyboard again. I took the advice and rewrote the first five pages. I rewrote those five pages dozens of times. I submitted to another contest. I cringe at the thought of it, but this time something good came of my inexperience.

One of the judges gave me some encouraging feedback, and offered her editing services. We exchanged emails, and I knew I’d found a kindred spirit. I sent her an early draft of my novel, and she gave me my first overall manuscript critique. She perfectly balanced constructive criticism with encouragement, and I agreed with most of the changes she recommended. I rewrote again. I lost chapters, panicked at the dip in word count, but it cleared the path for a better story to emerge. Now fevered with writing, I watched the clock impatiently at work, eager to return to my laptop. My children and husband have been remarkably supportive of my writing time, and I could never thank them enough.

My editor fielded my concerned emails whenever I hit an impasse. She helped reason through the best next step. It was such a great experience working with her. I highly recommend investing in a professional editor. When the revision was finally completed, I sent it to her, and held my breath. Once again her fixes were fair and helped the heart of my story shine through. By October 2015, I officially had a final draft of my first novel. I did what I always do at the achievement of a major milestone in my life, I cried.

I closed the file, and took a two weeks off. In November 2015, I started my second novel for NaNoWriMo. I’d learned a lot, but was still a novice. I completed 50,000 words on November 29th, 2015. I had a very rough draft of a second novel, and again I cried.

Through the process of writing both novels, I have made incredible connections online. There is a vibrant, supportive network of writers of all stages on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. I consider these people I’ve never met in person my closest friends in some regards. I share the highs and lows of writing with them. They understand this crazy journey in a different way than family and friends do. They offer invaluable advice. And I try to return the favor, whatever I learn, I share.

In December 2015, I forayed into querying my first novel—a frightening and overwhelming experience. Writing a query letter, synopsis, or any number of shorthand forms of your novel that an agent may request is like learning a new language. Thankfully agents also abound on Twitter, and they’re always offering advice. I take it all to heart, and try to implement the common principles. I’ve had some positive responses, many negative responses, and some non-responses as well. I’m trying not to let the process dishearten me. Writing is an exercise in perseverance, and now that I’ve said no to everyone else, I have nothing but time.

Displaying avatar_1451694137083.jpgTM Hayes works as a Surgical Physician Assistant in Robotic Surgery when she isn't busy writing or s-mothering her three daughters and husband. An avid reader of many genres, she can almost always be found with her nose buried deeply in a book with tears streaming down her face. Follow her on twitter @hayes_tm or on her blog

What about you? What got you writing? What have been your experiences in the querying world? Share it all in the comments!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

February // Travels + Birthdays + Blog Buttons

What a month! And March is promising to be even busier! I've officially been in Denmark for a month and a half, and I've explored SO MUCH. I love the program, the city, the people, I LOVE IT ALL.

This means I haven't had lots of time to read or write because I've been traveling so much. This past week I went to Berlin and Poznan (Poland) and earlier this month I went to two smaller towns in western Denmark (Odense and Kolding). As always, if you want to hear more about my adventures, you can check out my other blog, seeking souls.

I did go on a fine little trip to the bookstore to find Illuminae since I put it to a twitter vote which book to buy and that one won. And then - THEY WERE OUT OF COPIES. These are the problems of living in a country where the main language isn't English. The guy at the counter said they'd have a new shipment in TWO WEEKS. I'm going back on Monday because that is two weeks and the BETTER HAVE IT.

Thanks to my Scandinavian Crime Fiction class, I haven't been entirely deprived of literature. Jar City, which I'm currently reading, is super good, and we'll be watching the movie adaptation soon.

And how could I have forgotten? I turned 20 years old on the 5th, which means... I am no longer a teenager. But in honor of this I ate Thai food and wrote a post about 20 things you (possibly) may not know about me. 

OH ALSO IN BLOG NEWS - I updated my blog design (squeeee I'm so proud of it) and made myself a SHINY OFFICIAL BUTTON

Go ahead. Take it. I know you want to.

Grab button for Ravens and Writing Desks
<div class="Ravens-and-Writing-Desks-button" style="width: 250px; margin: 0;"> <a href="" rel="nofollow"> <img src="" alt="Ravens and Writing Desks" width="250" height="250" /> </a> </div>

(photos link to instagram)

Jess @ Jess Hearts Books asks why it's so hard to find a YA book where the heroine has no love interest.

Cait @ Paper Fury explains with convincing logic (like I ever needed convincing) why all books need maps.

{I reread ALWAYS. Why would people not reread? Wren explains.)

Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones // superpowers! spies! slight dissappointment!
{The heists were good - the characters were not}

Beautiful People #15: Oriana and Misha
{In honor of Valentine's Day, I present a couple who would scorn it.}

How was your February? Read anything exciting?