My First Book Festival

Don’t ask me why it took 23 years for me to attend a book festival. As an aspiring writer, it is a point of shame. 😦 But I have to say, the Baltimore Book Festival was a great introduction to the wonderful book-festival world!

First of all, the festival took place on the Inner Harbor for the first time. I don’t know if any of you have been to Baltimore, but the Inner Harbor is beautiful!

Gorgeous!
The beautiful Baltimore Inner Harbor!

Best harbor I’ve ever been to. Hands down. (I’ve only been to one harbor ever, but it’s still pretty nice, right?)

I didn’t stay very long because parking was super expensive, but it was so great to see the different types of books people were selling. It was amazing to meet actual published authors and get their opinions on starting my own writing career.

The best thing I got out of the experience was meeting the nonfiction editor for the Baltimore Review. We started talking about nonfiction pieces that I had written, and she encouraged me to submit them. She said she would look for my name in the submissions, which I thought was really nice. It’s always good to meet people who might one day publish your work. (Now I just need to figure out which piece to submit!)

The next best thing about the book festival was the discounted books! I got Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle because any book by George R.R. Martin has to be good. I also got How To Be Black by Baratunde R. Thurston. That one was an impulse buy. The title cracked me up, and I’m excited to read someone make fun of black stereotypes. I wrote a piece about it myself, so I’m interested in his take on the subject. (More about that later. I’m definitely writing a review about it.)

Overall, I call my first book festival a success! I’m excited to attend more. I think becoming a better writer means going where the other writers are. Maybe one day I’ll be invited to attend one and present my new book. Here’s hoping!

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Freelancing: TV Recaps

Yesterday I wrote a review for the new TV show How to Get Away With Murder. It was a lot of fun, and it was my first real stab at freelance writing. I love talking about TV, so I figured writing about it would come naturally to me. I found it really easy to talk about the show in a way that sounded authentically me.

The process involved one hour of watching the show and two hours of writing the recap. I hope to cut down on the writing time in the future, but there was a lot of information to include because it was the first episode. I found it helpful to take notes as I watched the show. They were mainly random reactions I had to events in the show, but it was a good way to keep track of everything that happened.

Whenever I have a word-count limit, I try to ignore it when I’m writing the first draft. First I write the review as if I have no word count, and then I work on cutting and deleting things until it’s an appropriate length. I think that’s easier that writing with a limit already in mind.

Let me know what you think, especially if you watched it!

The Riveter Recap: How to Get Away With Murder Season 1, Pilot

Self Publishing?

This post is one big question that I’m hoping people can answer for me. Here’s the question: What is so great about self publishing?

To me, it seems that it is a good way to get your work published without going through an agency or a publishing company. However, doesn’t self publishing devalue an author’s work? I don’t think I would want to read a book that has been self published because it doesn’t have the backing of a publishing company. Publishing companies add a stamp of approval to an author’s work. Without it, I would have no idea if the book is even worth reading.

I know there are cases where self-published works get really popular. Eragon comes to mind, but even then, I didn’t know about that book until it got picked up by Random House. To me, self publishing feels like posting a really long political rant on Facebook and expecting everyone to treat it like an article in the New York Times.

Maybe it’s just because of my background. As a journalism major, it was so frustrating when people wouldn’t get their news from my carefully researched articles; they would get it from Twitter or Facebook. Self publishing rubs me the wrong way because I feel like if you’re good enough to be picked up by an agent and a publishing company, then your work deserves to be read. If not, then why bother publishing in the first place?

Feel free to respond. I am a novice to all sorts of publishing, so I really would like to hear from people who have gone through the self-publishing process. I’m sure I’m only looking at one side of the story.

My Novel: The First Page

I figured I would give everyone a taste of what my novel is about, so here is the very first page! Enjoy, and feel free to leave feedback!

Arach: The Dragon Saga: “The Lost Prophecy”

Chapter 1: Chosen

Mitchel could tell winter was on its way as he sat polishing his sword outside the Emperor’s castle. It was always cold in the world of Arach these days, but there was a raw bite in the frigid air that signified a change in the season. He was thankful for his thick jacket and the wool lining inside of his black boots. He rubbed an oiled cloth over the steel blade, until the dim sun’s rays made the metal and the red in his auburn hair gleam together. But he kept polishing, lest his hands start trembling again.

There were two paths before him, and only his actions would decide which path he would take. He sighed a little, his ice blue eyes following the cloth down the blade. It would not do to obsess about it too much. He was twenty-one years old, and in those twenty-one years he had learned that fear dulled the mind. He needed to be sharp today.

“If you keep polishing that sword, it’s gonna snap in half.”

Mitchel did not look up. “You sound surprisingly calm, Danial.”

Danial sat down next to him. They were dressed exactly the same, gray jackets, white shirts, black breeches, and black boots. Danial was shorter in stature but broader in his chest and shoulders. He wore his blonde hair cut close to his head, while Mitchel’s was long enough to reveal lose curls. Danial’s eyes were black, but the sharp, battle-hardened expression in them matched Mitchel’s perfectly.

“I think it hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said smiling slightly. “I’ll panic when the time comes. He looked over his shoulder at the palace. “They’re cutting our energy rations.”

Mitchel kept his face expressionless. “Oh?”

“Yep. We can’t use any lights until 8, and from now on, we have to rely on open windows to cool our rooms.”

“We don’t really need air conditioning anyway,” Mitchel said flippantly. “It’s never hot enough for that anymore.”

“True. I’m just glad we still have heat.”

The Emperor had been ordering cutbacks on energy stones even though the winter was probably was going to be the coldest one yet. Mitchel felt bad for the towns on the fringes of the regions. Some of them had not had power for a year. He wondered if they would freeze to death without energy stones to keep them warm.

Pretty soon none of us will have power, Mitchel thought. He looked to his left and saw dark smoke from the nearest energy mine billowing up into the sky. Every month the workers dug deeper and deeper into the earth as they searched for the glowing stones that powered the entire world’s technology. They were running out of stones, and the new ones they found were smaller and held less and less power. For centuries, people had taken the energy stones for granted as a renewable resource, but they had been wrong.

“Oh well,” Danial said with a shrug. “I’m sure the Emperor will come up with something. The Firsts can’t let this continue forever.”

“Of course,” Mitchel said quickly. It was dangerous to discuss the world’s problems for too long without mentioning that the Emperor or the Firsts would eventually find a solution. One never knew who could be listening. A thought occurred to him suddenly. “What do you think we’ll do if the power runs out for good?” he asked.

Danial shrugged again. He had a habit of doing that when something bothered him. “I guess we’ll have to find something else to use for fuel. Either that or we’ll raid the Dragon Realm for energy stones. I hear those lizards are hoarding them.” He snorted. “I hear they eat them.”

 

(Feel free to leave comments! Don’t be afraid to be mean…I’ll only cry on the inside.)

Publishing Update: My Novel

When I wrote my blog post about literary agents, I was planning to have my fantasy novel submitted to agents by the end of September. However, I’ve realized that my novel needs a lot more work.

The problem? It’s 250,000 words. I read on Writer’s Digest a few weeks ago that beginning writers usually get between 80,000 to 100,000 words for their first novel. Just think about the difference in sizes between Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I have to earn the right for more words per book.

Luckily, my book is already broken up into sections. However, the first section is pretty heavy on exposition, so I’ve been editing it down to make it function more as its own work. I was never really big on the idea of writing a trilogy, mainly because I wanted to option to write more novels about the world I created in the future. But in this case, I don’t really have a choice.

My goal is to have this book ready by the end of October at the latest. Fingers crossed!

My Favorite Book: Swan Song

Good writers have to be well-read. I love reading authors with different styles who can help me with my own writing style. So, periodically, I’ll be highlighting a book that has really influenced how I write.

Of course, I have to start out by writing about my favorite book of all time! That prestigious honor goes to Swan Song by Robert McCammon. Lemme tell ya, that man can write! I have read it four times so far, and I think it’s going to be one of those books that I have to read every couple years.

Best. Book. Ever. (Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com)
Best. Book. Ever. (Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com)

The summary in a nutshell is this: There’s a nuclear disaster that basically wipes out the entire world. The survivors face the dangers of radiation poisoning, starvation, and dehydration. Oh, and the very incarnation of evil is walking around trying to f— things up! The story focuses on Swan, a little girl with restorative powers, whose mission is to heal the war-ravaged world.

That summary doesn’t do the book justice at all, but I can at least explain why I love it so much. Robert McCammon is the BEST as making you experience what he’s writing. When someone is in pain, you feel that pain. When someone is scared, you feel that fear. When someone is turning into a werewolf (The Wolf’s Hour, another one of his awesome books), you feel every change in that person’s body.

Check out this excerpt from Swan Song:

“This was a dank, sinister chill: the chill of shadows where poison toadstools grown, their ruddy colors beckoning a child to come, come take a taste of candy.”

I don’t know about you, but that gives me chills! Robert McCammon is my inspiration for writing good descriptions. He’s a master at creating moods with details alone, and that’s something that I want people to say about my writing one day.

Why Grammar Matters

As an editor, I am an extreme grammar Nazi. I have to be to do a good job! My family and friends absolutely hate it when I start correcting their grammar whether in person or when they text me. Writers mainly get their work edited by someone else, but I think it helps to know grammar rules even if you aren’t a professional editor.

1. Your manuscripts look more polished.

-I’m not an agent, but it seems like every literary agent I’ve researched wants manuscripts to be error free. Your grammatically correct manuscript might impress an agent so much that he or she will want to publish your book!

2. Your sentences can be more versatile.

-When you know how dependent clauses, independent clauses, and punctuation work, your sentences can have more variety. You can construct beautifully complicated sentences that will definitely impress a reader.

3. Your work won’t take as long to edit.

-I’m a little biased about this part, but there is nothing worse than getting a manuscript from a writer and having to take a ridiculous amount of time to edit it. However, if you have a tight deadline to submit your work, making less grammar mistakes can help shorten the process of writing, editing, and submitting.

I would encourage everyone to brush up on grammar knowledge. My favorite resource is Purdue OWL because it’s easy to navigate, but sometimes when I’m writing I just rely on Google for any odd grammar questions.