Friday, March 27, 2009

I Have Returned

So, my hiatus from writing/work went ok. I am back to writing once again. However, I have decided not to do anymore editing on NoN until it gets back from being professionally evaluated. I fear I am destroying it. Eeek!

In the meantime, I am working on a comedy, probably YA, that is a contemporary. No sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc, elements are in its makeup. The lighter tone is less stressful on me while I am feeling not-so-good. And I think this book, which is a stand-alone, will be a lot easier to market than NoN.

Nightmares of Nevaeh, the Nevaeh Series really, is my magnum opus -- I don't think of it as a plural because it feels more like a project. Once the series is completed and on the shelves, I think I will be satisfied with my work in general, more or less. I'm feeling the pressure to publish. These things never move quickly, but I can't tell the anxiety that...it just won't listen. :)

Not much else to say. I have lots of health stuff going on, but that isn't unusual for me. And I am very tired. Still, I am enjoying the time I spend on this comedy. Right now, that has to be good enough.

Mel

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hiatus and I

I am going to be on a temporary hiatus from my life, such as it is, for the rest of the weekend and into the first half of next week. So if I do not respond to your e-mails, comments, posts, etc., it is not because I have an issue with you or something. And I may answer some, depending on how I feel and if I check for messages.

Basically, the deal is I need to ‘reset’ myself. I am exhausted, so annoyingly weak that my hands shake as I type, and I do not want to become burned out in the editing process. I’m going to sleep for days, try to get some fluids in me, and do my best to not think of anything that stresses me out. If I don’t take this hiatus I think my health will continue to be more of a problem. I can’t have that.

So, perhaps I will sew or read. Mostly sleep. I wonder if any other writers have to do this at some point(s) in their careers?

If you have a HIATUS story of your own, please do share in comments. I would love to read them, if not today, then in the near future. But read them, I will.

Have a great week, Peeps! :)

Mel

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Works In Progress, Works Outlined, and A Writer’s Etiquette

I currently have twenty four works that are either in progress or outlined and waiting. That isn’t counting any adaptation scripts, since I am counting the novels. There would have been more than twenty-four, but when my last laptop suddenly died I lost several pieces of work. Some I can resurrect, but others I can’t seem to recall the details beyond a word or two from the title and a piece of the idea.

More story ideas come to me each day, though I don’t always write them down because I can spot the material obviously meant only for my mind. I have an excellent imagination, which isn’t always a good thing. I can write in third person or first person. As to that, I don’t really have a preference when reading (though I avoid present tense like the plague), however I do tend to use first person with YA material and third person with everything else. In YA, it has been my experience with that age group that they prefer first person. None of them really explain why that is to me, not very well anyway. Still, it’s what I have seen.

When it comes to length, I tend to stay right around 100,000 – give or take five thousand odd words. The most novels I have written in a year’s time is five. The greatest word count I achieved in one sitting was twelve thousand. I recall those high-count days very well, as the material seemed to keep flowing and I couldn’t bring myself to stop until I was in distracting physical pain.

And the more I write, the faster I type. I have no idea what the number would be, but I can tell is absurdly higher than what it was four years ago. And I never have to look at the keys like I did in High School. :)

You know, I am my greatest enemy, my worst critic, etc. In editing I am so obsessive in wanting to achieve perfection that other people have to stop me from over-editing and thus destroying the work. Yet, I have very tough skin, so to speak, for a writer. Criticism of my work doesn’t devastate me or anywhere near that result. I’m also open minded, good at listening to the opinions of others, considering them appropriately, and deciding whether their point(s) is valid or not. For the most part, I’m competent at weeding out the good advice from the bad.

Perhaps most importantly, I know how to conduct myself as a writer. I don’t ever react overtly defensive (hinting at a closed mind), with vengeance, or with any other behavior unbecoming of a writer around my peers, reviewers, agents, editors, etc. As well, I remember my ‘please and thank you’ routine. I know how to properly address someone, and do so with respect. I don’t whine about rejections on message boards and I don’t anonymously slam reviewers, etc. I’ve never reviewed a book on Amazon for spite, which seems to be a common occurrence. My Mother taught me that I should treat people the way I want to be treated. Thus, that is how I conduct myself. There are many other etiquette mistakes writers make these days and it makes me sad. Sometimes I wish some professional with a lot of clout could give a free lecture on YouTube or something. Sure, maybe only a small portion of writers will change, but isn’t a small portion worth the effort? I wonder if that makes me an idealist. Funny, I had always thought I leaned toward pessimism.

In writing this blog post, I don’t mean to sound like I think I am better than anyone else. I only intend to give my perspective on the subject. It occurred to me that this could all be perceived differently and I wanted to make that known, clear.

Anyhow, so I have the twenty-four works. Some of them are spec scripts (3) and six of the number include the first in a series (so six series in the works). In other words, I have an awful lot on my plate. I have to force myself to keep to one or two projects at a time; Otherwise progress is slow or practically nonexistent. Writing is my primary job and I have my own pile to work through/on.

Currently I am working on the first in the Nevaeh Series, Nightmares of Nevaeh’; I’m editing it. The second is a script for the Academy’s competition. However, I have not decided for sure if I will be entering. If it isn’t polished enough by the deadline I refuse to put it out there.

Speaking of contests, I apparently am not moving forward in the ABNA, as I suspected and noted in an earlier blog. On the other hand, I did make it past the first cut. Two reviewers reviewed my excerpt (and it was so bad when I turned it in that I dread to read, yet am eager to learn, the two being given to me). Since no one has any idea about the numbers in the competition, I would have to base this percentage on the projected numbers in the rules. In that case, I made it into the top 20%, perhaps even the top 10%. Either way, it isn’t bad. And they liked my pitch (which I didn’t, so who knows?). Congrats to those who made this latest cut though! :)

I think I will send NoN for a professional evaluation soon. Since I am doing that, I may work on one of my lighter novels, a comedy maybe. Everything has been so stressful and serious for years. I also have a funny non-fiction I could work on. We’ll see.

Among the twenty four on my list is a really controversial novel. It’s very clear in my head and exceptionally powerful. However, I do not like to write controversy. I also think that each book has it’s time. Unfortunately, I think this book’s peak time is fast approaching. I probably should put it higher on my work list. Yet, I do not want to be tossed back and forth violently amid public opinion and possibly targeted for physical harm or murder. No, I am not being dramatic. The book is that controversial. So you see, it may never be seen by anyone but me and those closest to me. On the other hand, I wonder if I am wrong to keep the underlying message of the novel from being communicated with readers. I write to entertain, not with agendas. If there are any messages in my novels they are positive ones. And this controversial book makes me question a lot of things. Maybe I would be lucky and it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe it will be worse. The point is I need to write the novel soon if I am going to do it and I can’t decide if I should. Ugh.

I believe I will start posting book reviews regularly in my blog. Sure I know that hardly anyone will care to read them. It is just that I read SO MANY books that I think I should do something for the ones that really catch my attention. Primarily I will review romance novels and YA novels.

Well, that’s enough for one day.

Mel

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The New Cover Illustration for 'Nightmares of Nevaeh'



Cover Illustration: Marenoc/concept © Mel Skinner ("Nightmares of Nevaeh") Artwork © Jen Philpot



This is the new Cover Illustration for my book, 'Nightmares of Nevaeh'. After the artist (Jocarra) kindly took on the second project with great results, well, I'm very happy with it. :D

Please let me know what you think of the cover. You can be honest.

Mel

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What Music Defines You and How Does Music Affect Your Writing?

I meant to post this yesterday, but I didn't get a chance. Just in case you are wondering why there are two posts on one day. :)
___

If I had an album to define me and my life it would Within Temptation’s ‘The Silent Force’. I think everyone interprets lyrics somewhat differently from the next person, so what the band intended may not be what I see. Yet, based on the lyrics, the sound, and the general ‘feel’ of the album, ‘The Silent Force’ would be it for me.

What about you? What album defines you and your life?

On a similar topic, I know that my writing is almost symbiotic with music. If I can’t listen to music while I am writing there is no flow to the work. I also work much more slowly without music.

A couple of years ago I took up the formal practice of having a playlist for each of my books. With rewrites it tends to change, often dramatically so. But the thing about my playlists is I design them so that the novel can be read practically in time to the music meant for each chapter. This, of course, would not be exact as everyone reads at a different speed, more or less.

Still, it takes me a long time to compile the right music, usually based on what I was actually listening to when I wrote that scene/chapter or a song that fits perfectly in sound and lyrical composition. I don’t mind creating the playlists because they are, to some degree, self gratifying. As well, the readers seem to enjoy the lists. I don’t know if they actually listen as they read, but they at least like to know what I was listening to when I wrote the book. So yeah, I think playlists are a very good thing for an author/writer to have available. Well, unless your taste in music tends to be a bit too extreme for your target reader group. :)

So, how does music influence your writing? Do you adhere to the playlist principle?

I would love to hear other writers’ thoughts on these subjects.


Mel

The Story Behind the Creation of My ‘Nightmares of Nevaeh’

There is what amounts to a year of my life that I cannot remember at all. A dark space of missing time remains in the wake of my choices over roughly the last seven years. The worst of the traumas occurred between September of 2001 and the spring of 2004. But I believe the majority of my lost time comes from 2003. I’m not sure if that is subconsciously repressed or simply gone forever.

I never really talk about the traumas. The experience is always painful, no matter which incident I attempt to divulge -- something like coming very close to having a catharsis, yet being unable to find the release and healing. Sometimes I think of myself as damaged. I wonder if the decline in my physical health doesn’t somehow correlate to the remains of mental trauma. Perhaps being unable to let these things pass is gradually breaking me down.

You know, I was always an odd child. I had an overactive imagination when I was small. Since I turned thirteen I have had nightmares (since 2004, night terrors occasionally, too) every time I would sleep. I used to hate that. Even on the exceptionally rare occasions when my nightmares weren’t horrific, they always ended tragically. I almost wished they had been horrific when I woke up. Due to this ‘nightmare condition’ and the traumas in my life, I think I covet peace more than any other miserable soul I know. Yet, that is one thing I am continually denied. But I say ‘used to hate’ because my writing draws primarily from them, and writing gives me a purpose as well as a distraction from living on the darker side of the hill.

Who is to say what feeds nightmares? Is it what you eat before bed? What you watch? The collective remains of your day? The traumas you can’t let go of? Perhaps something you’ve heard? Science has a lot of explanations for nightmares.


My ‘Nevaeh Series’ was inspired or guided by nightmares. In a way, I created the entire storyline from the subconscious. I believe that, at least in my case, nightmares are part science and part spirituality. ‘Nightmares of Nevaeh’ was inspired by one, yes, but I cannot recall anything scientific from the days preceding that particular nightmare to explain it. I think the nightmare was actual a spiritual one, if it can be termed that way. And every time I became stuck on where to take the story next, another nightmare fed me information…like pieces of a puzzle I had to put together when I woke up. Maybe those nightmares were more subconsciously pushed by scientific factors than the initial nightmare. All the same, my protagonist has the same nightmare I had originally in the first chapter of the book.

The title of the book is rather obvious in this way. :)

I could speak metaphorically… If my writing were a living entity, then my nightmares would compose the skeleton. Every trauma as well as each small joy would create and shape the flesh. Except for the heart, this would be the sickness, Guilt. Blood would be the essence of Grief. Seen this way, my writing is perhaps a strange creature, darkly beautiful, tragic, yet not entirely without hope.

No matter my circumstances or experiences, I have yet to lose that last essential message. Even in nightmares, hope exists. Surrendering to fears merely blinds us that perpetual flicker of light in the darkness. I believe that is one of the main philosophical points I wished to make in ‘Nightmares of Nevaeh’.


Mel

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Characters In Relation To the Author

My protagonist, Mary/Nevaeh, doesn’t have a lot of me in her. We share the same favorite book, and the same position in our family, more or less. That is pretty much where the comparison ends. Though I think every character of mine, even the antagonists, have something of me in them. The important factor to note is that the percentage of ‘me’ in each character varies greatly. Sometimes my characters are based on people I know or knew. Still, there is a percentage of ‘me’, which I think is unavoidable for a good author. It’s something like an actor’s position.

To understand, we must become. In becoming, we see. And in seeing we can give a part of ourselves, leave our mark on that which we set apart. So in creating we are dually character and creator for scattered moments in time. Even when we are separated, no matter how great or small the mark we have left behind, the ultimate connection stands. And it is that connection that serves as the beginning for every reader’s relationship with our characters and their stories. The plot may compel, but the characters leave OUR marks on them.

That’s just my thoughts on the subject.

The subject brings to mind another issue. I sometimes wonder how people used to (maybe some still do) believe that if no one forgets about you it means you still live, that you are immortal. This is said when someone important dies, usually. I wonder if creating a memorable character, one that stays with generations, means that creator and creation will live beyond death. Just a random thought.


Mel

Monday, March 9, 2009

Editing, Scripts, Research, Blogging....yeah.

I updated the blog with a new Featured YA Author of the Month, which can always be found at the bottom of the page above the Astronomy Picture of the Day and some of my favorite quotes from other Authors. There is also a poll for next month’s featured YA Author of the Month to the side. Whichever Author gets the highest number of votes, I will feature in April.

As for ‘Nightmares of Nevaeh’, I am returning to yet another editing stage. I received some good responses from the few agents I queried, had requests, but they all seemed hesitant on one point. I’m going to see if I can work on that. I might have it professionally evaluated, too. At any rate, it slows the publication process down.

I entered NoN in the ABNA contest, but I seriously doubt I will make the cut on the 16th. My pitch was awful. And my first chapter has since been tightened. So yeah, I am not expecting anything on that count. Anyways, I don’t think they are looking for what I’m selling. They seem to want strong literary or thriller/mystery manuscripts. Mine is a Sci-fi Romance for young adults.

I have been doing some research for a new spec script. If it is in good enough shape before the deadline in May, I will enter it in the Academy’s Nicholl’s Fellowship. Skip Press (www.SkipPress.com) brought that to my attention not too long ago. But the research is very difficult to attain without traveling to specific locations to interview people. I am trying to do that via the internet, but I don’t know how that will work out.

The idea for the script came to me as a combination of an experience I had when I was in middle school and a short story I wrote last year. Together they formed a pretty neat plot. So, I outlined it thoroughly, began my research, and started working on the script. I believe I am twelve pages in, so far.

There is a high probability that I will adapt the screenplay into a novel, regardless of the Nicholl’s Fellowship. I can’t get too far off schedule with NoN, so the adaptation is a back burner sort of thing. The script, while not easy, is fairly quick work though. So while I am waiting to hear from one more agent, concentrating on editing, and scheduling related activities, I can also work on ‘Ryder’. Yes, it’s a working title for the script. When it is finished I will know what to call it, I think.

What is fairly unusual about this script is it is not a fantasy, horror, sci-fi, etc. In other words, it is a low budget script, and it could be filmed in states with tax breaks. I normally can’t help but write high budget because of my ‘imagination’. But this time is very different. I think it could be classified as a Romantic Drama. The target audience would be the middle school to young adult range. Yes, very different for me. Maybe different will turn out to be a good thing.

Other than all of that, my health hasn’t been great. I’ve been in and out of the hospital in the last couple of weeks. Thought I was going to have to go back in today, but I think I managed to convince everyone I’m ok. My health has never been great. In the last six years or so it has been particularly bad. But I do have long periods where I am fine. I’m going to live much longer than I want to, I’m sure. ;)

So, enough said for one day. I hope everything is going well for you guys and girls!


Mel