10 Favorite Questions for Writers and Readers

Still life with pomegranrte and tea

Literature lovers, come on in and try your hand at answering any or all of these fun questions about writing and reading. Here’s a cup of tea to sip on while you consider your answers. (Your favorite kind of tea? What a coincidence.)

1. What’s your favorite book cover?

2. Do you read books more than once? Which ones?

3. What’s the scariest thing about writing?

4. What is the most amazing thing about writing?

5. Where is your favorite place to write? To read?

6. When’s your best time of day to write? Why?

7. What are some of your favorite words?

8. What’s one thing that would tell you you’ve “made it” as a writer?

9. In terms of writing or reading, what’s the best thing anyone could say to you right now?

10. Insert your own question here and then please answer it (because I couldn’t think of a tenth question).

11. Have you ever been published? Where? (I did come up with a tenth question, oh well.)

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Three Books. Which Should I Read First?

Three Books - Which One First

My first mistake was to get, not one, not two, but three delicious novels all on the same day.  Each has exactly the kind of lyrical, sweep-me-off-my-feet writing I’m in the mood for. Each features a fabulous opening passage and is highly recommended.

Now for my quandary:  Which novel do I read first? Fellow bibliophiles, you haven’t steered me wrong yet.  The nominees for first book to read are:

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater – Though I’m not usually a reader of werewolf stories, Stiefvater’s artsy tweets tipped me over the edge.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – I’ve read so many fabulous reviews of this book, just had to get it.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – Can you believe I’ve never read a Margaret Atwood book? Not even the Handmaiden’s Tale. It was time.

Blogger Recognition Award!

Must stop fanning myself with my hands and use them to type now because, my, my, (sounds more like “mah, mah” since I’m speaking Scarlett O’Hara-style) I’ve received a Blogger Recognition Award from the lovely Rae of Bookmark Chronicles. Thank you, Rae! If you enjoy bright, insightful book/TV show/movie reviews that make you feel like you’re chatting with a smart friend, check out Rae’s blog.

blogger recognition

Blogger Recognition Award Rules

  • Tell the world why you started blogging
  • Give advice/tips to new bloggers
  • Share the picture above
  • Nominate other blogs and let them know how awesome you think they are.
  • Share the link to Edge of Night for the original post.

Okay!

Why I Blog

If this makes any sense at all, my writing dream feels so much bigger than the small life I live that, for fear of diminishing the dream, I tend not to discuss my writing with friends and family. However, I DO feel comfortable sharing about my awesome, scary, exciting, joyful experiences writing for publication with folks in the blogosphere because they are safe, and they get me. 😉 Which brings me to my next point.

Advice/Tips to New Bloggers

100% be yourself. Read lots of other people’s blogs and be brave about leaving comments, even if they seem lame. Don’t worry that people will judge the crazy, silly, way-too-honest things you write. By blogging honestly, you will find the people who “get” you.

And now – drum roll, please – announcing Eve Messenger’s new Blogger Recognition Award winners!

Book Snacks – A mecca of great fantasy book reviews, plus Heidi seems like a really nice person.

The Book Minder – Happily stumbled upon this book blog and recently enjoyed a fun back-and-forth comment conversation with its author, the kind and funny Anaya De.

Writing Considered – Catherine C. Mead-Brower’s blog is a must-visit for anyone trying to making her way through the writing and publishing world.

Agnes Jasinksa – When Agnes writes about topics like enhancement and mind manipulation, it really gets you thinking. She’s so smart!

Angel-Lithium – steampunk writer and commenter extraordinaire

When a Writing Dream Becomes a Mission #amwriting

Dance leap on the beach

Two years ago, my lovely, well-read, Russian friend Irina and I were chatting over coffee, reflecting on how some people seem to soar toward their dreams while others — like us — do not. “Break through the wall,” Irina said. Somehow, those words resonated. Each night after my family settled into their beds, I held her words close as I stole upstairs and Just Wrote.

I finally started working on a novel idea that had been kicking around in my head for years– through countless short stories, writer’s workshops (in one of which I met my future husband), a writing conference or two, a local writers’ network I founded that lived on long after I left it. After that one conversation with Irina, I started my novel, one character, one plot idea at a time.

And then abandoned it.

A few months later, I participated in my first National Novel Writing Month, jumped in with both feet, attended write-ins, checked off goals. And I completed the novel. Or a semblance of one. A rambling, complicated mess, actually. But alone in a Starbucks just before closing time I typed these words: “The End.” And I cried. I collected myself, went to the counter to buy a green tea, and when the Starbucks employee gave it to me for free he was joining my celebration and didn’t even know it.

I printed out the manuscript of my first novel, wrote out the scenes on flash cards, tried reordering them all into a semblance of a logical narrative. Then gave up.  I put the manuscript in a drawer, tossed the pile of scene cards on top, and left it.

But I kept writing.

Short stories, more novel ideas, observations on my fresh return to writing, my fear and excitement over witnessing what had always been a DREAM turning into a GOAL.  About the possibility that maybe it really is Never Too Late.

Then one day a character stepped out onto my page in all her feisty, loyal, kick-ass glory. Her magical world, her concept, all right there. And now I’m completing the third, much improved, 80,000-word draft of her YA fantasy story.

I wish I could explain how I finally broke through the wall. I think part of it is that, for so many years, I limited myself to only writing short stories because that seemed more attainable. But now I was finally allowing myself to write novels. As daunting as that had always seemed, I realized for the first time in my life that writing a novel was possible. And I loved it. Novels made sense to me because they are what I have always read. To be sure, writing a novel is as bloody difficult as everyone says, but I haven’t given up (well, not for more than a couple of days), and ideas for new novels are springing up all over the place.

As a writer, I still battle deep insecurities, but I breathe deep and jump back in to tackle those weak plot points, underdeveloped characters, and bad prose. The answers come. And I feel the shift.

My DREAM has become a MISSION.

–Eve Messenger

YA Reader, I Could Really Use Your Suggestions

wordle 2

I’m planning a YA book that I’m REALLY looking forward to writing, but I’m having a hard time classifying the genre. It’s about a modern girl fantasizing her way through major life changes and social awkwardness. There’s an integral paranormal aspect, but it’s subtle – no werewolves, witches, vampires — and a sprinkling of chapters set in an earlier period of history.  There’s a little romance, but I’d say it’s more about family and relationships.

What would you call that genre?

Josie’s Book Corner, I’m looking at you.

I Want to Sell Books, but I Won’t Sell My Soul

dollar sign eyes

Something unusual happened when I served jury duty a while back, not just that I was excited about it. I struck up a sort of friendship with a fellow juror — I don’t recall her name, so we’ll call her Ann.  She was very different from me, worked as an accountant, was years older, married, with children, while I was still years from all that.

Despite the differences, Ann and I were conversational, conspiratorial.  She was friendly, albeit a little aloof. I was flattered, I guess, that she seemed interested in what I had to say. She was smart, well-spoken, dressed in expensive clothing and nice shoes – I didn’t recognize the brands, just that they weren’t from Payless or Target. When the trial was over, Ann invited me to a gathering at her house. Vague, just a “gathering.” I didn’t want to be rude and ask what kind of gathering, opting to chalk it up to that’s how rich, white working moms invite people over.

So I drove to Ann’s house, which was lovely.  And large. At 4, 000 square feet her home was nearly 10 times larger than the apartment I lived in. Clean, new, not-thrift-store-bought furniture, a sunken living room. Ann met me at the door wearing only a smile.

Just kidding.  Wanted to see if you were still paying attention.

Actually, Ann was dressed fine, sort of business casual. She led me from the foyer, through the sunken living room, back to a large den where twenty or so people of all ages milled about. A few light snacks were laid out on a dining table, and there were – I don’t know – packages of things, boxes, pamphlets. The event had an unusual vibe. The other guests weren’t unfriendly, but it all sort of reminded me of when I was nine years old in small-town Virginia and had just started Majorettes (remember baton twirling?).  The girls and our moms had all gathered at the coach’s house for our first meeting.  None of us really knew each other yet. Ann’s “gathering” kind of felt like that.

Then Ann started pitching Amway products.

Amway, the pyramid scheme multi-level marketing company in which sellers at the top get a cut of everything sold by people under them. The more sellers you recruit the more money you make. Simple as that.

I was a mark.

I’m slow sometimes, but I get there eventually, as my friend Marcia would say. I now saw the gleam in Ann’s eyes, the dollar signs. Her invitation had nothing to do with friendship or a desire to chat about our shared jury duty experience. Ann had seen nothing special in me. Feeling foolish and betrayed, I left.

A couple of months later, would you believe, this super cute guy asked me out to a “friendly gathering.” “What kind of gathering?” Vague response. I pressed. “I’m doing well with this business networking thing (or whatever euphemism the cult members employees had for it at the time).  Maybe you’d like to check it out with me.” Sorry, cute guy, Amway is not my idea of a good first date. Next.

It’s easy to recall those memories when now, as an aspiring author, waves of advice crash all around me to promote, promote, promote. Start even before your book is sold, the blogs and tweets and writers’ magazines say. Show agents and publishers you know how to work the ‘net, that you’re the queen of social media, that you’ll be able to promote your book when it’s published. I get it;  if you have no audience then you may as well not have a book.  But what the advice-givers don’t mention is that this whole networking, community-building process could easily turn us into a bunch of Anns.

The artist’s lament? Sure.  I want to sell books, but I won’t sell my soul.  I love communicating with people in the online writing and reading community, sharing insights, fears, successes, and passion for literature.  I don’t ever want to lose that.  If, in this blog of mine, you ever see me mutating into an Ann, please, dear reader, slap me upside the head (in writing, please). Thank you.

EBM

P.S. If your name is Ann, I’m sorry I just tarnished it.  I actually really like the name.

My Name is Eve, and I am a Recovering ‘Pantser’

pantsing

I’m one of those writers you might call a ‘pantser,’ you know, the kind who writes a novel with reckless abandon — sans plot outline — until I reach the semblance of an ending.

It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s FRESH.  And I’m afraid if I don’t write like that I’ll overcensor myself , or worse, get bored because I already know what’s going to happen.

But.

Revising a pants-style, mutant pit first draft of a novel takes a really, really, really, really long time.  I’m not saying I’ll never pants a novel again, but I’ve done it twice now, and the first novel was such a complicated mess I had to stick it in a drawer until I became “a good enough writer to tackle such a complicated plot.”

This second full-length novel, a YA fantasy, I’ve been revising for dozens and dozens and dozens of hours…reordering scenes, consolidating bits I had epiphanies about later in the writing, just, you know … Clean-up on aisle seven…and twelve…and one…and fourteen.  Clean up the whole damn store.

But hey, writing and revising a novel should take as long as it needs to, right?  And who’s to say I would ever have been able to come up with the cool, out-there things that happen in this story (don’t mean to brag, just sayin’) if I had NOT let my imagination flow 100% unhindered, not even by a plot outline?

But.

I’m not as young as I used to be (I’ll admit) and have a lot of stories I want to write. So many.

Yet here I am, dozens and dozens and dozens of hours into revising and fleshing out this first draft into a flow, a scene order, that tells a cohesive story.  Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel — I’m three-quarters of the way through — but I’m not even talking about all the fun edit-y things like crisping up dialogue, bringing out sensory details, polishing prose.  I’m talking about just getting the first draft into an order that makes sense.

Outlining would have been so much easier.  More importantly, it would have been FASTER.

Then this morning a lovely thing happened.  A brand new character, with a brand new story, in a brand new genre (still YA), danced herself right onto my computer screen.  And she brought a LOT of her story’s plot with her.  God bless her.  When I’m done with this YA fantasy, I might just be able to write a novel using a proper outline.

HALLELULAH.

Now if I just knew the best way to outline a novel.  Any suggestions?

–Eve Messenger