Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pulp Cover for SKY MAHAL

Just for fun, here's a fake pulp science fiction cover for SKY MAHAL using the Pulp-O-Mizer.  I saw Nathan Bransford's post on this and I had to try it for myself!  Too bad they didn't have any Indian characters to choose from, but this girl looks feisty.  She'll do as a stand-in blonde Lona for the time being.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Internet Detox Day: 2/14/13

Hi, my name is Maya, and I suffer from click addiction. When my twitter feed says there are triple digit new tweets, I must click. This happens approximately every 45 seconds. Therefore, last Thursday I decided to try a day completely free of not just internet but my laptop, inspired in part by this blog post: An Ode to Pen and Paper on YA Misfits.

Here's how it went.

Rules: No laptop, no phone internet from morning till I wake up the next day. Texts and calls are okay.

9:00am: I am having my morning tea. With no blogs to read. Wha???? I have to make chitchat with my husband instead? I suppose it is Valentine's Day.

9:30am: Severe email withdrawal. What if someone sent me some really exciting news? What if my sisters responded to my note about the 15th anniversary Harry Potter covers? I have to know what they think!

9:32am: Mom sent me a happy Valentine's Day text. And my phone of course informed me with a large red icon that I have unread email. Will not click. Will not click.

9:35am: I'm bored. Maybe I should do some work. Up for today: some reading , research, and outlining a new book. I wish I'd printed out the plotting spreadsheet I have already started. But it's probably fine since so far I basically had “main character wins at the end!”

9:40am: I'm cold. Must get a sweater.

10am: How is it 10am already? Okay, I have to get to work, for reals!

11:15am: Stretch break. I've only thought about checking my email 6 times in the past hour. That's not too bad, right? I wonder what's happening on Facebook?

12:15pm: Totally got in the groove. I have so much focus, and I don't even care about my unread emails. They're probably just updates from Goodreads and my college newsletter. My mind feels so calm...maybe this is what post-meditation feels like.

12:16pm: Aum shanti shanti...Ooh, I'm hungry. Lunchtime!

12:50pm: Back to work. No tweets to distract me, so I guess I'd better dive right in.

2:20pm: I've been working diligently, but now I have a strong urge to reach for my laptop. There are so many things I want to look up. For research, you know? But I must resist, or I might accidentally spend 4 hours researching cloth diaper brands again.

2:25pm: Realized I've been staring out the window for the past 5 minutes. Methinks I need a stretch break. I have a crick in my neck.

2:40pm: Oooh, those stretches felt so good, and now I'm ready to get back to work. So different from an internet break, where I get so obsessed with reading something that I form three blood clots in an hour, and then need to take a stretch break from my internet break.

3:40-3:50: Snack and stretch break.

5pm: Is it 5pm already? Better really focus now so I can finish this up before the husband gets home.

6pm: Done for the day! I accomplished stuff! Yay! Now I want to check email, but my rules said detox for the entire day. A quiet mind is essential for creativity. Tomorrow I'll kick all sorts of butt.

Friday 8:15am: As I suspected, none of emails were vitally important. Nothing terribly exciting happening on Facebook, and I now have a few more followers in Twitter. The internet didn't miss me at all. Good to know. Maybe I should do this once a week!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The World's Best and Least Tactful Critiquer: My Husband

“You do realize...” my husband says after finishing the chapter I've hounded him into reading.

GRRRRR. I feel like strangling him whenever he utters that most condescending of phrases: “you do realize.” Obviously, I haven't realized whatever he is referring to, or the problem would have been fixed.

My husband has never heard of the Sandwich Rule of criticism. You know, the one where you sandwich the harsh stuff with praise. Instead, he goes by the Cut to the Chase brand of criticism. The Straight for the Throat brand. After reading a piece, he might say any of the following:
  • “This makes no sense.”
  • “What exactly is the point of this scene?”
  • “This isn't very [insert one of: funny, romantic, exciting].”
  • “I thought you were writing about [X other topic that I'm clearly not writing about].”
  • “I thought you were writing about [X topic that is clearly the exact thing I am writing about].”

I'll be honest. Sometimes, I cry.

My husband pauses. “Maybe I shouldn't critique your work anymore.”

“Nooooooooooooooooooo! You have to.”

“I don't know...”

This can go on for a while.

But eventually, I suck it up, wipe off my tears, and start asking him as many questions as I can think of. Wasn't this line funny? Didn't I make this point with this sentence? Did the significance of this paragraph come across?

It's like digging for buried treasure. But eventually, I figure out which parts aren't working. And then my husband helps me brainstorm how to fix them. This is where the magic happens.

There might be some arguing and raised voices. Some artistic indignation on my part: “No, no, no. You don't understand my character at all!” And possibly a few more tears.

But we will inevitably reach a point where I say, “You're a genius, dear husband!”

My husband gets stories. Really. He:
  • achieved a small degree of fame with over 1000 oh-so-clever Yelp reviews. He had serious fans!
  • has been watching every movie of note in chronological order, starting with silent films. He's made it up to the 1960's now. When his company gave him a week of furlough, he spent his precious alone time watching the movies I had previously vetoed (including far too many hours of silent Russian cinema).
  • practically snatched Story by Robert McKee out of my hands because he was so excited by all the diagrams

There was a point when I thought I was finished with SKY MAHAL. Absolutely giddy with my own genius, I handed the last few chapters to my husband. I waited patiently for him to tell me how awesome I was.

Yeah, that didn't happen.

He came back with so many problems, I wanted to lie down in defeat. But one comment in particular really stuck with me. He pointed out that my main character's big moment was reactive, not proactive.

Suddenly, I knew exactly how to bring everything together in one elegant swoop. I rewrote my previously choppy, rushed ending in a matter of days. And it was approximately a gazillion times better than it had originally been.

Thus, I refute all tenderly given peer advice to not mix family and writing. Nobody else would be this honest with me. It's personal. It's painful. It's absolutely essential.

Note 1: I have another Awesome and Far More Tactful Critique Partner: Priya Ardis. My sister!

Note 2: I did in fact have my husband read over this blog post. He had surprisingly few complaints, except that I should spend more time establishing the handsomeness of his character.