Wednesday, April 29, 2009

WIP Wednesday #1

Before I dive into writing about my WIP, let me give credit where credit is due. I'm starting this new category of blog posts, called Work-in-Progress Wednesdays, after seeing it on Jamie's blog, and Jamie got the idea from Kate. Thanks Jamie and Kate!

My WIP status: Rewriting/revising to create my third draft. The novel is currently at 64,000 words, but I still have some major things to move around, add, remove, etc. All that fun stuff.
But, my BIGGEST WIP-related question right now is: should Through Charlotte's Eyes be in first person or third? Currently, it's in third but as I rewrite sections that voice in my head, Bob, keeps nagging me: But imagine how much more awesome that would be in FIRST person! For the life of me, I'm having the hardest time deciding...

That's where you, my lovely readers, come in! Below are two slivers of the first chapter (which might even become the opening scene). Thoughts? Reactions? Do you like one POV over the other? Or are you indifferent? Share your thoughts, please!


3rd person:

Across the café, the man moved the newspaper from the tabletop to his lap.
Feeling the man staring at her, still, Anne sent the email to Lisa as she gulped down her coffee, despite how warm it still was. This guy had to get it through his thick skull that it was not okay to follow her.

As Anne approached him—he looked away and finally unfolded his newspaper—she realized she’d first seen him yesterday, at a bakery around the corner. Anne’s body trembled.

But the café was full of curious Parisians. She would be okay. She just had to tell him to leave her alone and that’d be that.

Qu'est-ce que c'est ce bordel? What the hell?” Anne demanded. “Just because I’m an American doesn’t mean you can stalk me.”

The man awkwardly smiled. “I am so sorry, mademoiselle,” he laughed, causing Anne’s heart to race. His accent was slightly off—but not American. “It is just, you are so striking, and now that I finally see you up close, I am sure.”

“No,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Don’t bother with the lines. I’m not interested. Got it?” She buttoned the top button of her pea coat as she turned to go.

“You misunderstand,” he called after her.

Despite the man's subdued demeanor, Anne walked away. Wind blew her hair into her eyes and mouth. She wiped at them both. She stopped an intersection, looking left, then right. He didn’t seem crazy—just odd, especially with his comment. What kind of strange pick-up line was that supposed to be? She slowly felt calmer, feeling like she’d done the right thing confronting him. He wasn’t anyone to be scared of.

“Anne Marie?” The man caught up to her.

Anne spun around. Her heart was suddenly pounding full throttle again, nervousness, like blood, surging through her veins. He knew her name. He was really stalking her. There could be no other explanation.


1st person:

Across the café, he nervously moved the newspaper from the tabletop to his lap.

I clicked send on the email to Lisa and gulped down my coffee, ignoring how warm it still was. I had to get it through this dude's thick skull that it was not okay to keep staring at me, or to follow me from one cafe to the next.

As I sauntered over, clutching my tote bag to my side, he looked away and finally unfolded his newspaper, and I almost stopped. I'd seen him before, the day before at the bakery where I bought a croissant. I trembled - but forced myself to keep walking.

The café was full of curious Parisians, staring at me, this naive, American girl, approaching some man I didn't know. Hadn't I learned this was exactly what not to do, when I grew up in Chicago? I took a deep breath. This was different. This was Paris, and I could handle my own. I would just tell him to leave me alone and that’d be that. Simple.

Qu'est-ce que c'est ce bordel? What the hell?” I demanded. “Just because I’m an American doesn’t mean you can stalk me.”

The man awkwardly smiled. “I am so sorry, mademoiselle,” he laughed, causing my heart to jump and miss a beat. His accent was slightly off—but not American. “It is just, you are so striking, and now that I finally see you up close, I am sure.”

“No,” I groaned.“Don’t bother with the lines. I’m not interested. Got it?” I buttoned the top button of my pea coat and turned to go, thinking that was it, thinking that was all he needed to hear.

But then his low voice called out to me, beseeching, “You misunderstand.”

I continued walking away anyways, refusing to honor his stalkerish ways with one more word. The wind blew my hair into my eyes and mouth. I wiped at them both. I paused at an intersection, looking left, then right. He didn’t seem crazy—just odd, especially with his comment; what kind of strange line was that supposed to be? Definitely unlike anything I'd heard before. I slowly felt calmer, reassured by the feeling that I'd done the right thing in confronting him. He wasn’t anyone to be scared of.

“Anne Marie?” His voice, no longer carried by the wind, came from only a few steps behind me.

I spun around. My heart suddenly pounded full throttle again; nervousness, like blood, surged through my veins.

He knew my name. He really was stalking me. What other explanation could there be?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No, I'm Ted's Best Friend!

The Three Days Rule
How I Met Your Mother: Season 4, Episode 21

The question of 'who is Ted's best friend?' took on a whole new meaning in last night's episode. Barney and Marshall again fought about who was the leading man in Ted's life, despite (or perhaps because of ?!?) the fact that Ted had a gay dream about his best friend.


The show, as of late, has become less about discovering who the "Mother" is and more about the dynamics of the five friends. Last night, though, we got a bit of both. Ted meets someone new, Holli, played by All My Children's Rebecca Budig (aka, Greenlee) and he doesn't want to wait three days to call her, despite the "three day rule" that governs the beginning of all relationships, according to Barney. After Barney explains that Jesus instituted the three-day rule - after all, duh, it took him three days to rise from the dead - Ted promises he'll wait to call Holli.

Yet, that doesn't mean he can't text her. After two days of texting, Ted starts falling for Holli - until he receives a sexually explicit text from Holli that wasn't meant for him.

But, wait! Robin meets Barney & Marshall at the bar and discovers that it's Ted's two "best friends" who are "Holli"; Barney changed Holli's number to his work cell, and they've been pretending to be Holli ever since Ted's first "texty text." The sexually explicit text was sent by Marshall and was supposed to be sent to Lily (who was completely absent from this episode, still peeved about that guy-funny joke, apparently).

Barney and Marshall justify their joke on Ted, explaining that Ted always tends to move too fast in relationships. Cue flashbacks to his first date with Robin, when he proclaimed he loved her. They want Ted to get his "I love you" out of the way, so he won't jump into his next relationship. Makes sense? In a way, yeah.

But, of course, Ted doesn't think so, after Robin tells him the truth about "Holli." Ted gets back at them by texting a confession: lately he's been having gay dreams about his best friend. Instead of Barney and Marshall being horrified, they both believe they're the one who is the object of Ted's desires. Marshall because he's cuddly. Barney because he has an awesome body.

Ted eventually tells them the truth, that he knows they're "Holli" - but not until he subjects them to a half-hour tale about a dream he had about his architectural role models.

When Ted reams out his "best friends" for lying, he launches into one of his monologues, explaining that he's tired of rules and that he'll tell a girl how he feels when he wants to, because that's just the kind of guy he is. You tell them, Ted! Unfortunately... breaking the "three-day rule" was a bad idea with the real Holli, who, on their first date, is the epitome of someone saying things too early, like saying they should go on a trip and that they should get married... so did Ted learn anything? Was there a point to this episode?

I think so. Ted is beginning to stick up for the romantic ideals that he held in season one, which makes him much more likable now, in comparison to Ted's character in recent episodes.

As for the group's dynamics, Ted's friends clearly care about Ted having a happy and successful love life, but clearly they all have different approaches/takes on the way relationships should work. Ted believes in saying what he feels when he feels it - and, apparently, one day that will work for him. As the episode closes, Future Ted admits to his kids that when he met their mother, he called her right away.

With the season winding down, do you think we'll learn even more about the "mother"? Do you think Barney & Marshall were justified in lying to Ted? What did you think about Lily being completely absent from this episode? Share your thoughts, favorite lines/moments from last night's episode!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Keeps You Writing?

I asked the question, What keeps you writing?, in my last post, and I figured I should supply an answer of my own if I expect (and hope) other people to answer it too.

It's one of those questions that its hard to put a finger on an answer because it's so many things at once. For one, saying that I've been writing since I was a kid doesn't explain my motivation to continue writing now, when I'm 26-years-old. And saying that I hope to become a published novelist (hopefully starting with my current WIP) doesn't explain it either (although it'd be wonderful if it happens), since I know I'd continue writing for the rest of my life even if I never got published.

So, what is it exactly? It's definitely no one thing, but, what I can tell you is that it's...

  • Words... discovering the right words and stringing them together to form a great sentence, paragraph, page. When I find those right words, it's an electric feeling that keeps pushing me forward to string together even more electric sentences that, as a whole, tell a story.
  • Curiosity... It's why I read and it's also why I write; this general desire to know more about the world and people around me pushes me to look deeper into the hows, whys, wheres, whats, and whens.
  • The act of writing... Obviously tied to my fascination with the way words work together, simply sitting down and getting an idea out on paper doesn't feel like work to me. Okay, sometimes it does, but I live for those days when the words fly right out onto the page, and the story comes out of me as if it never belonged to me in the first place.
  • Okay, okay, getting published keeps me writing, too... when I get frustrated with any of the above, knowing that I'm working towards my goals of publishing my stories and novels gets me back on track and focused on what I need to do next with my writing.

So, now it's your turn: what keeps you writing?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Motivation & My Process

It's been almost a week since my last post, so I've got lots to say. Prepare yourself for another long post, folks!

First: Need a kick in the butt to get some writing done? Wondering if your novel (and you) are good enough? Check out this blog post from Toni McGee Causey, which asks, "How do you know when to quit?" which I came across by way of Janet Reid's blog. It's a great reminder that luck is really opportunity and preparation meeting.

Secondly (but definitely relating to the first), as I've been plugging away at rewriting Through Charlotte's Eyes, I've been thinking a lot about the process of writing my first historical fiction novel. But first, you should know this about me: my organizational skills are lacking. I wouldn't necessarily call myself scatter-brained, because I know where everything is and consider everything to have it's place... but no one else knows where anything is because the way I "organize" looks pretty messy.

I tell you this because the way I organize also affects the way I research and, in turn, write.

When I started working on Through Charlotte's Eyes, I was a graduate student at The University of Chicago. This YA historical fiction novel was to be my thesis - that I was going to write in less than nine months. Intimidating? Of course. But I managed to research and write two drafts of the novel in this time span, which, to this day, still amazes me.

Let's back up (see? I can't even stay chronological!)

I came up with the idea for the novel back in 2006, after reading Anna Karenina. Spurred by a single footnote, I dabbled in research about Charlotte but didn't really start digging. In 2007, I started grad school, wrote a proposal for my thesis, and luckily found a thesis advisor that was willing to take on my novel project (which somehow evolved from a strictly historical fiction about Corday to a historical fiction/urban fantasy about one of Corday's ancestors, despite (or perhaps because of?) my lofty goals.

This is where it gets tricky. I set my novel in two historical time periods: the French Revolution and Paris in 2005. Yes, I consider 2005 historical, because certain 2005 events are key to understanding what's going on in my story. And 2005 isn't the present, so it must be the past, and therefore, ladies and gentlemen, it's historical.

I found book upon book, article upon article, about both these time periods... well, books about 2005 are lacking. By the Winter of 2007, I jumped head-first into the research. My biggest obstacle? I had seven more months to finish my research AND write a novel. Eek! Yeah, there was a bit of freaking out, wondering what I was doing, etc. I had a couple chapters, a rough outline, but I needed details galore. I wondered: how am I ever going to do this?

So, I started researching - yet, that doesn't mean I didn't stop writing. I needed to do both at the same time, otherwise there was no way I was going to get enough words on paper to constitute "a novel." I know a lot of writers say that they prefer to research everything completely and then start writing, but that process has it's drawbacks; for me, I would have put off writing, telling myself I needed more info before I could do anything else.

By researching AND writing at the same time, I was getting my ideas out on paper, playing with them, and, best of all, figuring of what I needed to know more about. My writing, therefore, informed the way I conducted my research.

Luckily, this process proved to be successful. I completed a second draft of my novel, successfully completed my thesis in the May of 2008, and received an 'A.' But "completed" is a funny term; I completed my thesis, but I did not complete my novel. I still saw things that I was missing, holes in my research, minute details that I still needed to really enrich the story. That's why I'm still working on my novel almost a year since I turned in my thesis.

I keep revising, keep researching, until the story is how I want it be. Whether this process proves to be successful, only time and more writing (and more research) will tell.

So much for telling the "story" of my writerly beginnings in a chronological way on this blog. Stories don't have to be told chronologically, in order to be interesting. In fact, I think some stories are best told by skipping around... but maybe that's just me.

Either way, thinking about where I started out (with just a speck of an idea) to where I am now (working on the third draft of my novel) not only amazes me, but keeps me moving forward. I can do this.

So, my answer to the question: how do you know when to quit? NEVER. If you're passionate about something, willing to work hard, and willing to be patient - then you should never give up. But read that other blog post if you don't believe me.

Writers - how do you go about the research and writing process, whether you write historical fiction or not? Do you prefer to finish all your research and then write? How do you decide you've done enough research? And, perhaps most importantly, what keeps you writing?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ted's Revelation!

Mosbius Designs
How I Met Your Mother: Season 4, Episode 20

Ted starts his own architectural firm, except he does everything but call potential clients, and Robin starts sleeping with Ted's assistant, P.J., who makes sure everyone - including Robin - signs out the bathroom key. Meanwhile, Marshall tries to make himself irreplaceable at GNB, with a bit of help from Barney. And, Lily, well, she disappears.

At the very beginning of the show, Lily storms out of the bar in disgust after hearing Barney tell a "boy-funny joke." According to Future Ted, after that joke, they don't see her for four weeks. While the writers most likely did this because they were unable to hide Lily's pregnancy anymore (Alyson Hannigan gave birth in March), it ended up working to the benefit of the show... we saw more of Marshall & Barney's friendship.

Finding a "Thing"
With the recent layoffs at GNB, Barney tells Marshall that he needs to find a "thing," something that will distinguish him and make him irreplaceable. The jobs of "food guy," "toy guy," "You Tube guy", the creepy "back-rub guy," and "fantasy guy" are already taken, so Marshall becomes "sports guy" and heads up the fantasy baseball league for the office. With $18,000 that he has to keep track of, he starts feeling the heat and wonders how he's going to juggle his actual work with keeping track of the league...

My current most-favorite storyline: Barney's unrequited feelings for Robin

Barney was obviously distraught upon learning about Robin sleeping with Ted's assistant.

"She's the greatest woman on the planet! I'm getting off topic. You're an idiot," Barney declares to Ted, while crushing peanuts on the table, and storms out of the booth before he admits his feelings for Robin. This plot was somewhat like the one in "Benefits," when Ted and Robin slept together, to the dismay of Barney; yet, this time Barney didn't smash TVs to vent his frustration. Instead, he needed someone to talk to, and with Lily away, he turned to Marshall.

Barney's confession to Marshall, about his love to Robin, is riddled with "wait for it"s in classic-HIMYM fashion. With Barney unable to spit out how he feels, Marshall admits that he already knows about his feelings for Robin, because Lily told him. In another cutesy moment, Marshall also admits that he and Lily try to sit on the same side of the booth, so Barney & Robin can sit together. Awww.

Ted's revelation (finally!)
With Ted going on "wisdom walks" and "corporate retreats" instead of actually working on growing his business, Robin asks Ted if he ever expected to be where he is now. She admits that she didn't expect to be where she was today, and she never imagined that she'd settle for a guy sitting in her apartment.

"I used to describe my ideal guy as funny, smart, passionate, challenging," she says. Isn't she describing Barney, really? And she just hasn't realized it yet?

Ted admits that he's worried about failing. "What if I forget about the books?" he asks, and explains that an architect once built a beautiful library - but failed to account for the weight of the books, causing the library to sink. Ted finally decides to give his dream a real shot and finally stops having a staring contest with his phone.

Ted's evolving! This episode proves that Ted doesn't have to be pretentious in order to be an interesting character. We saw a bit more of his optimistic side, of his worries but his aspirations too, and it was good.

The Wrap-Up
So, how does the relationship between Robin and the assistant ultimately end? Marshall hires P.J. as a "paralegal," who is in charge of the fantasy baseball league. Everyone ends up happy, and Barney can put off admitting his feelings for Robin to Robin for yet another day.

A good chunk of this episode appeared to be set-up for the last few episodes of the season. Robin is, officially, the only one who doesn't know about Barney's feelings. Ted is making progress with his career - perhaps he'll make some progress in his love life next?

Other Favorite Parts:

  • Barney, thinking P.J. is a chick, sends him a "very confusing card" and a "garment."
  • Barney explaining why he needs Lily's help: "Lily is a diabolical puppet-master, subtly manipulating every situation to get exactly what she wants. She's pure evil, Marshall. You've got a good one there; hang on to her."
  • When P.J. calls in late to work, claiming he's on top of the Empire State building, Ted realizes the call came from inside the apartment; cue the "scary" music.
  • When Marshall is walking down a NYC sidewalk with $18,000 cash (from the fantasy league) in his pockets, he thinks, "Oh no, the baby is on to me. Babies can smell money; everyone knows that!"
  • The montage of guys that Robin meets after getting off work at 5:30am: newspaper delivery guy, guy who not only lives with his mom but cuddles with her, and fantasy guy from GNB.
  • Robin's terrible attempt at a breakup with P.J. "It's just not... really... x-nay..."
  • The tag, with the ninja roaming the halls, his sword drawn. "He doesn't work here," Barney says. "I think we should leave the building... this has happened before." Marshall and Barney bolt out of the conference room.

Did you like the way they got "rid" of Lily for a couple weeks? Is Marshall Barney's new wingman? How do you think Mosbius Designs will fare? Will Ted find a new "office" other than the one in his apartment? Do people in your office have "things"? How will Robin find out about Barney's love for her? Share your thoughts!

Photo source:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Asking Why: Character Development

So, I've been working on some short stories about my two main characters - Anne and Charlotte - and I'm already reaping the benefits of these "background" stories. These stories help me rethink my characters actions, both why they act and react in the ways they do in the novel. Motivation is clearly a huge part of this, and, as usual, a useful writing exercise can come out of this sort of thinking: asking "why" questions about your characters.

Here are some questions I've been thinking about lately, as I revise my WIP novel...

Why does Anne have a difficult time talking to her best friend about her mother?

Why is Anne intent on "finding" her mother? This one seems obvious, in ways, but then...

Why does Anne have difficulty talking to her grand-mother about her mother's past, if she's so desperate to "know" her mother?

Why is Anne experiencing Charlotte's life? Why does Anne think she's experiencing Charlotte's life?

Why can't Anne grasp what's going on with the riots or with Pierre?

Why can't Charlotte live with her father?

Why does Charlotte refuse to share her true opinions about the revolution with her family (except for her father)?

Why does Charlotte believe that France should be a republic, rather than a monarchy?

Why does Charlotte believe she has the destiny she does?

Why does Charlotte decide to go to Paris and commit...

I'll stop there; I don't want to give too much away =). Although, hopefully my questions - all of which I answer in the novel, both in subtle and non-subtle ways - intrigue you. For me, at the very least, these questions have been useful as I revise my novel, making sure that how my characters act lines up with their past actions.

Try this yourself; ask 'why' questions of your characters and delve more into their motivations, goals, etc.

Friday, April 3, 2009

2009 Creative Chicago Expo

Are you an artist, writer - or both? Do you live in Chicago? Then, check out the 2009 Creative Chicago Expo.

I've never been to this event before, but I plan on being there tomorrow. There's workshops, vendors, and consultations (although, most of them are filled up; I wish I'd heard of this earlier!).

The low-down:
Where: Chicago Cultural Center (corner of Randolph & Michigan)
When: Saturday, 4/4, from 10am to 4pm
Admission: FREE

You can find more details about the event by clicking here.

Most of you know me as a writer, but I'm also an artist. Check out my portrait business here.

See you there!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

My Love Affair...

with bookstores.

I walked into Borders today, the first time I've been in a bookstore in awhile, and it was WONDERFUL. There's something about being surrounded by all kinds of stories and books that I just love.

I try to stay away from bookstores - because I tend to be an impulse book-buyer - but I was buying some children's books for a baby shower gift, and I couldn't just walk in, get the books, and leave. Never!

As I always do, I wandered around the aisles, thumbing through books, reading back covers and inside flaps. And, again, as I always do, I went to the "S" literature section and opened a space for where my book will one day be. Yeah, dorky. But it's visualization! And definitely motivational.

Do you still shop in bookstores, or just to stick to online book-buying? Are you an impulse book-buyer like me? (Granted, today, I majorly restrained myself and only bought what I came for!) What do you love about bookstores?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I'm Too Old For This Sh... Stuff

How I Met Your Mother: Season 4, Episode 19

My DVR suffered a mishap on Monday. It failed to record the newest episode of HIMYM; luckily (or unluckily?!?) I realized the problem and was able to record the last half of the show.

Not wanting to wait for the full-video to come online late that night, I watched the last 15 or so minutes of the show on Monday, and then the whole episode on Tuesday - which means that my viewing of the show was a bit backwards.

First and foremost, as I sat watching the last half, I wondered: what the hell happened to Barney's ear?!? And what happened to his back that he couldn't sit or stand up straight?! And, why is he recording a voicemail message with Robin?!?

Ted has been compiling a Murtaugh list - named after Danny Glover's character in Lethal Weapon - full of things the gang is too old to do. Barney, of course, sees the list as a challenge, and he makes a "Gentleman's Agreement" with Ted. Huzzah!

With the help of Robin, Barney keeps checking things off the list, like piercing his ear (on his own), sleeping on a futon at a Ted & Robin's place, thereby hurting his back, (Ah! Everything begins to make more sense!), dying his hair, and going to a rave. Even though Barney kept getting hurt, working on the Murtaugh list meant quality time with Robin. This definitely wasn't anything more than "friendly," but it was good to see the two of them interact. Both of them want to stay young!

Meanwhile, Marshall is the new coach of Lily's Kindergarten basketball team. His coaching techniques are loud and mean - but, as he points out, kids can't grow up expecting that everything will be given to them, like jobs, money, etc., or happen solely for the benefit of their happiness. That's all lost on Lily; she's dismayed that Marshall yells, because she prefers to inspire kids by playing her guitar and singing. Of course, she explains that Marshall is wrong to yell at the kids by yelling at Marshall.

The Marshall/Lily storyline was definitely amusing - especially with the appearance of Teen Wolf! - but it also hinted at Lily & Marshall preparing to be parents.

Back at the bar, Robin & Barney leave a two-person voicemail message, completing another part of the Murtaugh list, and then hand over, to Ted, a list of their own, which consists of things they're too young to do. Ted takes the challenge! Another Gentleman's Agreement is reached! Huzzah!

Since Ted already acts like an old man, he has no trouble completing anything on the list (like having dinner at 4), except for one thing: going to bed at 8pm. After watching four Lethal Weapon movies, since he can't fall asleep, he realizes that Murtaugh always say he's "too old" but then he goes right ahead and does it anyway. Lesson learned!

Overall, hilarious episode. Even though it didn't move any of the larger story lines forward, like Ted on his quest for "the mother," it showed more dynamics between all of the couples - and, yes, I'm including Barney and Robin under the "couple" category. It WILL happen!

Other Favorite Parts:
  • Robin calling Barney from across the apartment, just to see him put his cell up to his ear and hear him yelp in pain.
  • Teen Wolf on the basketball court!! (yes, this deserves a second mention)
  • Marshall trying to tell Lily how ironic it is that she won't let him yell at the kids, even though she yells at him - and then she throws a chair at him from across the gym.
  • Everything about Barney playing laser tag, including him getting banned, then getting one more chance - only to ruin it within 30 seconds by holding down a kid with his foot as he shoots at him - and then, of course, when Barney, Ted, & Robin TP the place.
  • The fact that Barney gave up on the Murtaugh list when Ted tried giving him the beer bong with warm Russian beer found in the basement.
  • Barney with pink hair.

Did you see any sparks between Robin and Barney? Whose coaching method was best - Lily or Marshall's? What was the best thing on the Murtaugh list? Have you or your friends ever had a list, similar to either the Murtaugh list or Barney's? What did you think of this episode?

Photo source: