Amy Writing in the Sun

lapupazza02Wow, it’s been almost a year since I wrote anything here.  Wow.  A lot has happened, in my life, but also in my writing.

Life changes:  I’ve gotten a job as an Egyptologist in a museum.  Let me just repeat that, I’ve gotten a job in BOTH of my chosen fields.  Boom.  Life is awesome.  I’m also looking at PhD programs.  So, life is coming together.

Writing:  Lots of stuff.  I submitted Lady of Milk and Honey to Tor back in April.  I finally heard back.  A rejection, alas.  BUT they asked me to send more of my stuff to them!  So, I count that as a win.  I then submitted to Clarkesworld, and, alas, got another rejection.  But it was another “soft rejection;”  they also asked for more of my work.  Gotta be a good sign! Lady of Milk and Honey has been submitted a third time, to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, so I’m hopeful.  I am also preparing another short story for submission.  🙂

I participated in, and WON another NaNoWriMo.  This year’s novel was about two children who are transported back to Ancient Egypt (by the gods) to basically hang out with Rameses the Great and watch people get mummified.  I mean, there’s a plot and everything, but basically I just really wanted to mummify someone.  I decided to set that aside to let it rest during December, and planned to come back to it for editing in January.

Except… then I accidentally started another novel.  (At this point, I have FOUR novels actively going, and another handful planned.)  This one has been getting all of my attention lately.  It’s basically about a Home for Wayward Changelings.  I’ve got almost 5 chapters drafted, so I’m pretty excited.

I’m also trying to get an Egyptian werewolf story together for an anthology.  I thought it sounded like a lot of fun.  🙂

The only thing that is really lacking is a community.  My new city doesn’t have the same dedicated and awesome writers that my old city had.  The writer’s group I left was amazing.  Just about everyone was genuinely a good writer, and without fail every single person had amazing insights.  There were people at every stage of the process, from struggling with a first draft, to working on publishing yet AGAIN, so there was great advice everywhere.

Miss that.


{21 May, 2012}   The Shape Does Not Change

You see, the problem is that I’m not very good at writing when I have to think about it.  I started out with poetry.  Just a “hey, boom, emotion on paper” style that I pretty much refuse to show anyone ever.  Then, eventually, I got into short stories and I even finished a few.  But what I want to do is write novels.  I want to tell stories, and I want them to be kinda long.

I’m just really bad at novels.  They’re too dang long, too complicated, too much.  I have ideas enough for a novel.  The stories I want to tell are long enough, the characters are interesting enough to keep you going for a few hundred pages.  Maybe even over a series.  But how do you write a dang novel?!

Neil Gaiman, predictably, is where I think I might just have found my answer.  It was this particular section, (predictably) from American Gods, that planted the seed:

There was a girl and her her uncle sold her, wrote Mr. Ibis in his perfect copperplate handwriting.  That is the tale, the rest is detail….  There was a girl and her uncle sold her.  Put like that it seems so simple.

No man, proclaimed Donne, is an Island, and he was wrong.  If we were not islands, we would be lost, drowned in each other’s tragedies.  We are insulated…from the tragedy of others, by our island nature, and by the repetitive shape and form of the stories.  The shape does not change: there was a human being who was born, lived, and then, by some means or another, died.  There.  You may fill in the details from your own experience.

That first line gets stuck in my head sometimes.  There was a girl and her uncle sold her.  There was a girl and her uncle sold her.  There was a girl and….

And this is where the idea came from to just write down everything I know about my novel as if I were telling just the tale not the detail.  My story is no different from any other story.  It’s about a human (more or less) who lives, and then, by some means or another, (kinda) dies.  What if I just started from there and built up?  There was a girl and… this is what happened.

So I wrote down the story as if I were telling it to a friend.  “In the first sentence you find out that the main character, Reina, is dead.”  I typed up about two pages like this.  Just very basic, “she goes here, and this happens” and even a few “I have no idea what happens here, figure it out” moments.

Then I chopped those two pages into paragraphs, and every paragraph or two got chopped into chapters.  Now I’m going through those paragraphs of rough description, and I’m adding more.  From the tale to the details.  I started on Wednesday, and as you can see from my writing jars below, I already have a few thousand words.  It’s working!

I started this novel in 2008.  I wrote about 2000 words and then had NO idea what else happened.  Now I do.

Mr. Ibis would be so proud.

For every 500 words I write, I get to move a stone from one jar to another.

I don’t know where I’m going

But I know I’ll be there soon.

I swear it by the roadway.

I swear it by the moon.



Dark Blood by thienbao

Well, I finally did it.  I finally submitted a story for publication.  I have never really considered myself a serious writer.  I’ve always been a writer, don’t get me wrong.  Even as a child I was coming up with stories and poems and such.  But, selling my work?  Getting it published for people I don’t know to read?  Not really me.  Until yesterday, when I finally submitted something.

Crista has been bugging me to get this story submitted for months now.  It’s long been one of my personal favorite of my own stories.  Mostly because I, you know, actually finished it.  😛  So much of my work gets caught in the dreaming stages, and never finds its way to the page.  This story refused to let that happen, and skipped the dreaming stage, and went straight for the page.

I was supposed to be writing an essay(something about palanquin scenes in the mastaba tombs of 5th dynasty officials) so I had hidden myself away in my little town’s public library.  I was living in the Netherlands at the time, and the public library was the only place I could get the essential combo of caffeine and sunlight.  I sat down with my favorite coffee (mocha, with almond syrup and honey, useless detail, but it still makes me happy to think about) in the sunniest spot and prepared myself to write an essay.

This is what came out instead:  

I know there are stories that flow with the wine in the taverns, and fly with the sparks at travelers’ firesides, and I know they are all about me. 

 The story just sort of flowed from there.  I’ve never had more fun writing anything.  It was like the character telling the story was speaking it directly to my fingers.  My heart was pounding because I seriously did not know what was going to happen until it appeared on the screen.  By the end of the tale, I was kind of exhausted, though it only took about 30 min to write.  

If all writing were like this, I’d have hundreds of books published.  Stories don’t usually flow quite so easily, so naturally, so excitingly.  This experience is what writers LIVE for.

Crista told me if I didn’t submit she’d do it for me, whether I wanted it or not.  So I did.  The publisher is a super popular, super well-paying one, so I have 6-8 months of waiting to find out what happens.  If (when? when!) I’m published, I’ll link to it, so all might read.  🙂

{12 January, 2012}  

It has been a distressingly long time since I updated.  This has not meant, however, that I’ve been completely idle.  Mostly idle, really, but not entirely.  I’ve managed to land a part-time waitressing job, which does nothing to further my career as a novelist, (nor does it help my alter-ego with her Egyptology career.)  But it definitely makes my wallet feel better.

Mostly, however, I’ve been hanging out with amazing writers and getting a LOT of ideas.  For the past year I’ve been going to meetings with local writers.  Everyone brings in their work, and we edit it, and chat about it.  Really quite a lot of fun.  I’ve managed to befriend a number of these amazing writers, and have been hanging out with them A LOT.

Crista is currently my main running buddy.  We’ve been on a mission to make Victorian inspired, Steampunk style costumes for an upcoming masquerade party.  This one for me.  This one for her.  (Well, ok, I’m going to use the jacket from her pattern, cause it’s clearly infinitely cooler than the jacket in my pattern.)  The past few weeks have mostly consisted of her stealing me away to Jo-Ann for fabric and bits.  We’ve been expertly couponing, too, I must add, and have gotten nearly everything for 50% off.  Which pleases me deeply.  I’m sure many pictures of the finished products will appear.  Many.

After our sewing notions runs, Crista and I have generally been snuggling in at a local café with fellow authors Teal and Alan for writing sessions.  (You should definitely click on their names there.  They’re both published, and both quite awesome people.  Alan’s gloriously quirky book is already out, and Teal’s will be out next year.)  It’s been entirely too much fun.  We’ve all got novels going now, and the ideas have been flying.  We’re all trying to work a Steampunk kitten into something. 😛

Teal is forcing me to write a YA paranormal murder mystery, and I’m having WAY too much fun with it.  I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener and I’m loving it.  My goal is to write at least 500 words a day, and to try to enter this little guy into a local mystery contest.  Not sure it’ll come together in time, but it’ll sure be fun to try!  And there’s always next year!

Crista has also told me that I MUST start submitting my short stories for publication, so I’m in the process of polishing a few for that as well.  Who knows, by the end of the year I might actually be making money off of my writing!

Suddenly seems completely possible!

{19 December, 2011}   Chaos with Better Lighting

"Freedom is just Chaos with better lighting." --Alan Dean Foster

I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration and creative energy.  Mostly this has come about because I’ve been absolutely overflowing with the desire to create.  Basically, if you name a genre of art, I’ve had the urge to do it.  Story ideas have been swirling like a hurricane, I’ve taken up sewing, and played assistant/model/artistic companion to a photographer of friend of mine.  This storm of energy has stirred up some mud.

There is nothing more infuriating than frustrated artistic impulses.

Artistic Frustration: Feels Kind of Like This

It’s a certain kind of longing that just eats away at you.  To have worlds growing in your head that crash into your fingers and stop.  Empty page.  To have color and sound banging around behind your eyes and to have silence and darkness to show for it.  Ugh.  Awful.  Artist’s block.  My mind ground itself into a rut, and just couldn’t get out of it, though it wanted to more than anything.  Then it sat down in that little rut and planted a garden that stubbornly refused to grow.

So I ran away from home.  I spent a few days hiding away in a photographer friend’s house-studio.  I helped him channel his artistic energies and it broke a hole in my own, if only just a little.  Then I started working at a museum helping prepare the dresses of former First Lady Sarah Polk (1803-1891) for a photo session and an exhibit.  Breaking out of my preferred genre of writing and exploring photography and sewing (I built a bustle out of nothing but string and foam, I feel like a GENIUS) made me realize one thing that I hadn’t before.

Chaos is vital to the artistic process.

Every writer’s desk tends to be a pile of papers and pens and hastily scribbled notes.  Every photographer’s studio ends up a jumble of cords and backgrounds and lights.  Every seamstress probably has a massive tangle of string, and scissors and needles somewhere.  Painters drip, and dancers have too many shoes.  I used to think it was because we artistic-y types are just too absorbed in our work to pay attention to the chaos building up around us.

Now, I wonder.

Today I stood in the museum, surrounded by controlled chaos.  There were lights and cords, boxes and tissue paper, priceless objects and armless mannequins.  And four people having to dance around each other to avoid knocking over the $30,000 camera, or stepping on the artifacts.  It was perfect.

A few days ago I was with my photographer friend, and he and I were in a dance too, lights and props and fixing the model’s hair, and clothes, and poses.  Perfection draped over a cluttered room.

I’m beginning to wonder if maybe it isn’t so much that we work to create in order to push away the chaos of life.  It seems to me that the more we work, the more we embrace chaos, and the more cluttered our studios (desks) get, the more the energy can really flow.

In order to create something truly worth creating, I think we have to separate ourselves from the work a little, and it seems the best way of doing this is to lose ourselves in the jumble of our tools.  I don’t think I’ll think of it as controlled chaos anymore.  It’s controlling chaos.

Out of chaos comes order, I don’t know.  Art isn’t order, not really.  It’s a snapshot of a moment of disorder, that is designed to stir the waters inside.  It’s an illusion, that makes the world seem to make sense, and maybe only the artist and the connoisseur know the chaos underneath.


WHEN the flush of a newborn sun fell first on Eden’s green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mold;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it Art?”

— From “The Conundrum of the Workshops” by Rudyard Kipling

A few years back my mom read a pop psychology book called The Sociopath Next Door.  The book makes the claim that 1 in 25 Americans is actually a sociopath, and therefore has no conscience and no true emotions.  The sociopath must, therefore, learn to hide their emptiness and how to pretend to experience life the way normal people do.

I’m sure this book was quite instructive or something.  Mostly, it just got my family trying to decide who was the family sociopath.  The book says that 1 in 25 people is a sociopath, but we didn’t feel like that was an impressive enough statistic.  I distinctly remember the book telling me that the number is actually 1 in 4 people.  That’s completely not true, the book makes no such claim.  But 1 in 4 is just a way cooler sounding statistic than 1 in 25.  So my mother and I remembered it as we saw fit.

Naturally, in a family of three adults and a cat, the cat was the obvious first choice for the 1 out of the 4 of us who had to be the sociopath.  Unfortunately, the cat recently passed on into the kitty afterlife.  And that left me as the family sociopath.

So now I have to make a confession.  A damning one, that decidedly, at least in my mother’s eyes, labels me without a doubt the family sociopath.  Here it is: I hate Christmas music.  Yes, I said it.  I hate Christmas music.  In fact, I’m even willing to expand this horrific confession and state that I’m just really not a fan of the iconography of the entire season!  So there!  I dislike Christmas iconography!

Are you shocked?  Let me temper the blow a little.  I actually quite enjoy the holiday itself.  I’m all about the various “true meanings” of Christmas.  Doesn’t matter to me if you’re in it for the Jesus, or the ancient pagan roots of it all, Christmas is a wicked cool celebration of life triumphing over death.  I say bring on the lights in the darkness.  They remind me of the returning of the sun.  I’m even cool with the evergreen tree and wreaths.  Very nice symbolism of life in the midst of death there.

I very simply do not like the aesthetic of fat men with white beards, mittens, stockings, snowflakes, candy canes, and other such cheerful nonsense.  Don’t even get me started on how annoying your average Christmas song is, either.  So that’s it, really.  That’s why I’m a sociopath to my mother: I don’t like Christmas.

Except, I do.  I’d just prefer a nice sunny holiday with palm trees and margaritas to celebrations of snowflakes and candy canes.

I know that when it comes right down to it, my mother has never really thought I was a sociopath for my strange holiday preferences.  She does think I’m absolutely no fun, though, and I doubt that will change anytime soon.  Unless I can convince her to make some Yuletide margaritas instead of hot chocolate….

{23 November, 2011}   My NaNo Novel in 5 Paragraphs

Here for your reading pleasure, my NaNo novel in five paragraphs.  These paragraphs are carefully chosen, of course.  The first one contains the 10 thousandth word,  the second paragraph is where I hit 20 thousand, and so on up to 50 thousand.  The greatest part is that it almost makes sense (but not quite.)  Enjoy:

Janie smiled and opened her eyes.  The Librarian’s study was exactly as she had imagined it.  The Librarian stood in front of his desk, the ginger kitten in his hands.  “Well done, Janie, my dear.  Well done.  You made it.  Nothing to it, is there now?”

“Nameless One,” Raven said, turning to Janie.  “Soon you will Sleep and then you will die.  This house is now your home and you may enter it whenever you please.  Sleep will take you soon, Nameless One, and Death will not be far behind.

Janie nodded again.  “I get it,” she said, hoping the disappointment didn’t come through in her voice. “No, I don’t think you do,” Darkness said.  “I think you might be something different from me and even from Raven.  I think,” he hesitated, “I’m afraid you might be even more powerful than Raven.  That scares me. I’ve never seen anything more powerful than her that wasn’t a god.”

“They’ve hurt me more than I ever hurt them!  I cut their throats, and held them as they died.  That’s all.  Not so bad.  Not so bad.  They didn’t die alone.  Not like me.  Not like me.  And what thanks did I get from them?  They’ve haunted me.  They’ve hunted me.  I see them at night, peering in the windows.  I hear them calling my name.  Ah, they’ve tortured me!  And I held them while they died! Ungrateful bitches!”

In an instant Janie was on her feet.  She strode over to Sara, who stood dripping wet and covered in mud amongst the broken corn stalks.  Janie drew back her hand and slapped Sara as hard as she could.  The thin girl hissed at her, baring her teeth. “If I hear you laughing again, Demon” Janie snarled back at her, “I will kill this girl whose body you wear.  Then where will you go but back to Hell?”

(Excerpt of The Book of Two Ways by Amy Sun)

{19 November, 2011}   Upon Completing an Impossible Task

I just won my first NaNoWriMo.  For those of you not yet in the loop, that’s National Novel Writing Month.  The challenge is simple: write a 50 thousand word novel during the month of November.  I’ve heard a lot of people scoff at this.  I can’t say I entirely blame them.  The challenge does prize quantity over quality, pushing writers to throw whatever they can at the page, regardless of form or style.  Or grammar.

However, I think it’s just about the best thing since sliced bread.  I’ve always been that girl, who wanted to write a novel, and even sometimes actually worked on writing one.  I made outlines and note cards and character sheets.  I plotted and I planned, and I thought about it.  Like, a lot.  And sometimes I’d even write! But I never once got more than 5,000 words on any single story.  Ever.  I’d write a bit and then I’d spend 30 min trying to find the exact right metaphor for the sound of the wind in the trees or something, and then I’d just get bored.  And then I  would stop writing.

Enter NaNoWriMo.  I truly thought that if I pushed myself I might, maybe possibly, be able to get about 10 thousand words in a month.  That seemed like the biggest number I would ever possibly reach.  I had finally come to the conclusion that I was really only capable of short stories and should just give up on ever getting a novel on the page.  Then I started writing.  And I haven’t stopped yet.

See, NaNo gave me the excuse to just push through tricksy details.  Instead of spending excruciating hours trying to come up with the exact perfect words, I just let myself write.  Sure, I got sentences like: “The house loomed above them like a thing that looms poetically.”  Obviously, that is a really stupid sentence.  But the point gets across.  That house is looming.  Now, to move on with the plot!  Cause, let’s face it, how that house looms is not actually that important.  Not right now.

Later, I will go back and I will find the perfect poetic phrase to make that house loom properly.  Then again, you know what, maybe I won’t.  Maybe I will never look at this work again.  Maybe, like countless other writers I will rest on the laurels of having a draft and forget about it completely.  Turns out, I don’t really care.

The damage, so to speak, is done.  I wrote 50 thousand words in LESS than a month, and I’m still going.  Say what you will about the challenge, I am proud of myself.  I did what I genuinely thought was impossible for me!  I succeeded where I thought I’d almost certainly fall flat on my face!  This resonates through more than just my creative writing.

Turns out I CAN PERFORM MIRACLES.  Who cares if they’re tiny and insignificant?!  What did you do that made you go “wow, I amaze myself!” today?!  You can’t impress the world, if you never do anything to impress yourself.

Roll your eyes at the marathon runner who runs 26 miles in a big circle in a city.  Sneer at the Buddhist monk sitting on his cushion not thinking about thinking if you must.  Yawn at the prospect of climbing tall mountains, just to have to climb back down again.   But back off my novel writing.

Cause I perform miracles.

et cetera