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Jul. 6th, 2011

Shaka

Switching to Blogspot

I realize that I forgot to mention: I've switched my blog to Blogspot, mostly for functionality reasons. Please feel free to visit my new blog at http://lstaylor.blogspot.com/. I'd love to see you there!
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May. 9th, 2011

Shaka

The Power of Perspective

So I haven't been around for awhile. And with good reason: as I mentioned back in February, I've been clocking quite a bit of Butt-In-Chair time. Last night it paid off, because I finished!

Sort of.

I'm feeling a bit edgy about the word "finished" because it sounds like I'm done. I'm not; I have three double-spaced pages of things to go back and fix. But what it does mean is that I wrote the ending. I know how the story ends now, which means I can stop, look back at the path I carved, see what needs fixing, and fix it properly.

I'm reminded quite strongly of Mary Frances Zambreno's Journeyman Wizard: there's a scene where the main character, Jermyn, is learning how to craft spells and doesn't quite know what he's doing wrong. Only when he takes a step back and sees the whole spell is he able to pick out his errors. That is exactly how I feel right now.

The rewrite of this piece has taken longer than I wanted, but it's been this weird mix of tearing apart and reworking the existing prose, and rewriting new material. It was too long: the original story was too big to fit into a single novel, which meant I had to split it into three. It was also too short: in telling the original story, I was so focused on getting to the end that I glossed over important details, enriching description, and key subplot points. It had to stand alone: that meant crafting and inserting a new villain and a proper climax into this first part.

Last night I wrote the ending. Now I have that power of perspective. Now I can go back and fix things, knowing how I want the story to look. And while I am over the moon about having finally reached that milestone, I've got to get back to work. Hopefully not *too* much work, but we'll see.

Of course, that's not all I've been doing lately. I don't mean this to sound like an afterthought, but I was recently one of five winners of an SF microfiction contest held by AE: the Canadian Science Fiction Review. You can download and view the winning stories here. Yes, I've been a terrible blogger. But I have been writing.

Feb. 22nd, 2011

Shaka

Yes, you really should buy that book now

At Christmas this year, I got several copies of the one present I ALWAYS get: book store gift cards.

I'd call it a running joke, because if you've seen my current To Be Read shelf and know my current hectic schedule, you'd know that both the former and the latter are Very Full. But hey ... it's books. I like books. I *will* get to them, honest. Not coincidentally, I also get plenty of the same gift cards at my birthday, which is very conveniently spaced halfway from Christmas, in June.

This is a good thing, because between Magical Words, the SiWC, and my own Internet puttering, I've discovered many more writers whose books I want to read.

Okay. So that's where my birthday and Christmas gift card money goes: to these writers. I buy a few books from the ones new to me, and when I run out of funds, I dither about the rest. After all, growing up with my dad's shelves of fantasy to read, I became very spoiled about wanting to consume entire series at once. (Thanks, Dad. Yes, Dad, I get it now. This is why you insist I acquire a signed Jack Whyte hardcover for you every year I'm at the conference.)

My point is, that bad habit led to me waiting around to buy books at my own convenience.

But then as an aspiring author, I began to learn the ins and outs of the publishing business. (Writing aside, it's kind of an important thing to know.)

And then I learned that authors need decent sales of their current books if we want them to make more awesome books. #obvious

And then, just recently, I learned exactly why it helps authors if they sell well when their book debuts.

Publishing is a numbers game. Sales matter—not just people buying books in general, but signs that large quantities of people are buying. So when an author has enough copies preordered or bought in the first week after the book's release, it can lead to Very Good Things.

It's a scary market out there right now. Daunting enough that it makes a person stare deep into her soul and ask whether or not trying to write for publication is worth it. So what can I do to make it less terrifiying?

Well, for one, I can support the authors I care about.

Back in January, one of the authors I follow had a book released. Meh, I thought. Despite the buzz on her blog and on Facebook, etc, etc, I had *just* purchased another series she'd written a few years back. I didn't *need* to buy this new book. I mean, this current series isn't even finished.

(Don't look at me like that. I swear I'm trying to get over this "whole series" thing.)

And then I thought, "Well, hey, I've got these Christmas gift cards to spend. Why not?" So I preordered the book anyway. I didn't think much of it until the week after its release.

That was when the author learned that, for the first time in her life, she'd hit the bestseller list.

From a numbers perspective? This is a Very Good Thing.

The warm and fuzzies from being a part of this event aside, that was when it struck me just how important it is to support the authors you really want to support as soon as possible. I'm not saying that anyone should bankrupt themselves doing so. You could even request it at your library. But if you have the money and you're going to spend it on an author anyway, then buy their latest book in the week it comes out. If you can, preorder. Publishers look at these numbers, because they prove that the author is a viable breadwinner for them. And that ensures we get more books.

Besides, speaking as someone who'd really like to get published, it never hurts to send some positive energy out into the universe if I ever want to hope for anything back.

As for my To-Be-Read shelf ...

*whimpers*
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Feb. 9th, 2011

Shaka

Butt In Chair

It's been more than a month since that little pen-name issue. It was painful at first, life-changing and empowering second, and now? Well, it's more like that Simpsons Monorail Episode. I'd like to just never think of it again.

Of course, that's not going to happen. It was a part of my life. I have to acknowledge it. But I've also happily moved on.

However, unlike the moirayoung blog, I haven't been posting a lot.

I wouldn't say that I'm avoiding blogging, per se, just that I'm trying to prioritize:

  • I would really like to be published.

  • If want to be published in the traditional way, I need an agent.

  • If I want an agent, I need to write a sellable book.

  • If I want to sell my book, I have to finish it.

    More than a year after completing the first draft of my WIP, SIGN OF THE STAR, I am still working on rewrites. I am so very close right now, despite things like the terrible MS episode I suffered this past summer. Among other things ... but I'll spare you the laundry list.

    Thankfully, this year hasn't been all high drama and health issues. One shining light through everything has been a writing website I frequent: Magical Words.

    It's a group blog of published fantasy authors who write about everything under the sun that has to do with the craft — from a fantasy angle, of course. Here every day but Sundays (for now), an author posts. Every day, I learn something new, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

    The best part? The authors interact with commenters and further the learning process.

    I've said it elsewhere, but I'll say it again: visiting this website feels like I'm taking an advanced, ongoing course in how to write better. The authors at MW are the writing professors I wish I'd had.

    In late December (well, early January, because once you factor in shipping to Canada, that's when I got my copy), they took their work a step farther and released a book: How To Write Magical Words. It chronicles a selection of all of the blog posts written over the last three years.

    This book is awesome. I've been studying it like a textbook, and having fun throughout. I'm learning even more.

    But one of the best sections of the book, and a running theme of the blog in general, is this: Butt In Chair.

    Which gets me to my final bullet point:

  • If I am going to finish this book, I need to plunk my butt in front of the computer and actually write it.

    So that's where I've been this past month and a half: writing.

    Well, and hanging out at Magical Words, of course.
  • Dec. 31st, 2010

    Shaka

    The Fear

    There is no easy way to begin.

    I'm still sore, but it's faded from OH MY @#$% THE PAIN to a dull ache, the way muscles feel three days after an intense workout. It hurts, but it's the kind of pain that afterwards, you feel better overall. And maybe it sounds silly that I was hurting that much, but I was. I felt a bit sick, more than a little angry (at the situation, not the people involved), and something akin to grief.

    Before I continue, I should probably explain ...

    Back in 2008, I became afraid. I had a new manuscript I'd started working on, and a new job. In many ways, it was a new life. And so even though I had this blog, I realized how much safer I would feel writing under a pen name. So I abandoned this journal, bought a domain name, and set up a fresh Livejournal. Friends were encouraging. They all agreed that Moira Young sounded like an awesome name to use.

    How did I come up with the name in the first place? Simple: because, upon giving my name, on several occasions people heard "Moira" instead of Laura. "Young" was just at random; I realize now that I had a teacher in high school with the last name, but it was a nice, clean, single syllable that seemed to fit.

    The whole idea of using a pen name was reaffirmed when I was at at the PAX 2009 Q&A. Gabe and Tycho were asked how they felt about being known for their nicknames, rather than their real names. They both said it was fantastic. Recently, when I asked him, a bestselling published author agreed: he writes under a pen name and it helps him separate his personal life from his professional life.

    So I was in a pretty happy place. Last year, I even began actively blogging under Moira Young, after being encouraged to do so. I started tweeting under the name and using it actively. There's even a fantasy writing book coming out where I contributed "one or more comments or questions" (more on that later) and I'm credited under that name. I was enjoying myself. I was happy, working away at my YA fantsy novel.

    Fast forward to about five days ago. I got a message from an author I respect, asking if I was the author of BLOOD RED ROAD.

    ... wait, what?

    Turns out there is another Moira Young. Whose YA dystopian novel is coming out in June.

    *swallows*

    As more than a few people have said, what are the chances?

    I've said this elsewhere, but at this point, I need to make myself clear: I mean this "real" Moira Young absolutely no ill will, and I wish her the best. It is in no way her fault, nor could I possibly think to blame her. But it would be unfair and dishonest to myself if I said I wasn't feeling hurt by the situation. I'd devoted so much time and energy to Moira Young, and then I felt like everything had been taken away from me.

    If you've been following my moirayoung blog, you'll know that this is how I react to bad news, whether it's a bad critique, or something like this. Give me a moment to get over it (and rage and curse and maybe even cry a little), and then I'll try to make it work.

    Just ... y'know, let me process it first.

    This makes me realize some truths: that in a lot of ways, I was hiding. I was too scared to be myself on the Internet. As someone who spent her formative adult decade (ages 16 to 25, a.k.a. "the emo years") growing up on the web, I'd been through all of the hurtful Internet melodrama countless times. I wanted that fresh start.

    I didn't want to be Laura Taylor anymore.

    This past week, I was agonizing over what to do with my name. What should I do? Something I'd spent the last few years working on, pouring my heart into, was lost in an instant. How could I even complain? The "real" Moira Young is the published one, and I'm still working on it. Do I even deserve to feel hurt by this?

    Every single person I spoke to said that L.S. Taylor seemed to be the best choice. What's hilarious is that I already had the domain (lstaylor.ca) and this old blog already set up.

    So, here I am.

    I can't say for certain whether or not this will be my "official" pen name; I'm beyond making a decision until I finish editing my WIP and getting an agent. That's kinda the most importaint part here. But to keep blogging and posting as Moira Young would just feel false, and I'm too Canadian to want to step on anyone's toes. And since this was already here ...

    Well, who knows? Maybe this was meant to be.

    Sep. 13th, 2009

    Shaka

    Optimism

    Arrgh! I wrote the following several months back. I had planned to enter it in a contest ... only to completely forget and miss the deadline. So instead, I will share it here:


    Optimism

    I honour those who have hurt me.
    for you have taught
    that I must transform my pain into the creative.

    I honour those who have forgotten me.
    for you have taught
    that I must do what I love best for no one but myself.

    I honour those who have rejected me.
    for you have taught
    that I must step back, examine myself, and strive for improvement.

    I honour those who have neglected me.
    for you have taught
    that I must be the source of my own salvation.

    I honour those who have indulged me.
    for you have taught
    that I must never be complacent.

    I honour the lost roads, denied paths, and missed opportunities,
    for without you, I would not be where I am.

    Apr. 3rd, 2009

    Shaka

    The Argument

    A thought has been bouncing through my head lately, and for the life of me I can't remember if I heard this somewhere a long time ago, or if it's something I came up with on my own and then promptly forgot. It probably needs further development, but I might as well jot it while it's hot.

    As I finished reading another Harlequin romance a few nights ago, one that was, in my opinion, successful, I caught myself wondering about what made it so.

    That's when I realized (or maybe remembered) that it reminded me of writing essays in college and university. Why? Because that's what it is: an argument put forth by the writer. Like an essay, if the story is convincing enough, I'll agree with the argument and maybe even take it to heart.

    A Harlequin romance is perhaps the simplest example: the author presents us with two characters, puts them in situations that cause them to fall in love, presents the counter-arguments of why they could not possibly be together, and then proves to us why they should be. When done well, the story satisfies, and I walk away happy.

    And it's true in any story: a convincing argument keeps me reading. I want credible characters. I need a plot strong enough to hold me in the argument's sway, and a setting vivid enough to make me imagine it as if it were real.

    In fantasy, this is taken one step further: the author not only has to present a powerful story, but a believable world. Even when the plot is set on Earth, the magic must make sense.

    The goal is to sell your argument.
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    Sep. 29th, 2008

    Shaka

    Deliciously Demented

    Recently, I've been involved in a project for a friend. Nicholas Killewald writes and draws the webcomic The Dementia of Magic, an amusing graphic novel about a thief and his sorceress sister. After he completes each chapter of story, Nick holds "Break Time", which is when he posts guest comics, sketches, and other random bits and pieces. This week, he'll be featuring a "Brief Plot Summary", written by yours truly, with his sketches in the margins. To write this, I went back and read through the entire archives.

    This is the second re-read-through for me, given that I combed the archives back when I made a map for the comic, too. I still enjoyed it just as much as the first time.

    The comic is fun. I've been reading it for years, after stumbling upon it sometime early in 2004. The art will not blow you away, but the story certainly should. You can even subscribe to a friends' list feed if you're on Livejournal. The Dementia of Magic has a great plot that keeps you reading — and laughing. I heartily recommend it, and I would do so even if I hadn't contributed this week.
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    Aug. 13th, 2008

    Shaka

    Belated: Comic Story

    Oh, jeez. I think I forgot to link this when it went up over a month ago, but here it is: the second Jack Garcia story at Scandal Sheet.

    A Ghost In The Machine

    (To read the first one, click here: A Likely Story)

    Scandal Sheet is a webcomic I've adored for years now. You should go check it out. The stories are designed to be read as stand-alone, but once you've read the comic archives, you'll get a few more of the in-jokes. I was honoured to write these stories. Yes, technically they're "fanfic", but I approached these pieces seriously, as if I were writing to be paid. They are creator-approved. And most importantly, I wrote them with respect to the character and plot structure already in place.

    Enjoy!