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Life and Novel Update!

Today I sent the finished version of Roses of Ash to my agent! Hooray! It feels so good to finally get it off my chest. ROA went through four CPs and underwent some small character modification and word choice issues. Definitely the easiest draft of something I’ve ever had to edit.


Thank you Rose, for being the easiest character to work with :-)

With it went a few ideas for new stories, including the Steampunk Cinderella, but also one I haven’t told you guys about yet. So I’m going to do so now :-)

Chris and I have been playing Left 4 Dead, and one night when I had what I think is my first case of insomnia, the plot for a book just jumped into my head: It’s a YA about a girl struggling to escape from her high school after it is locked down during the Zombie Apocalypse. Sort of like The Breakfast Club with zombies :D

After ROA and Nameless, I think this might be the one I work on next, postponing Steampunk Cinderella (provided Teh Agent gives her approval, of course). The reason being that Cinderella still needs a lot of world-building I don’t have quite yet, and the plot is still a little fuzzy, whereas the Zombie novel has a complete plot and will be of a genre and POV I’m more comfortable with. Plus I’ve wanted to do a contemporary for a while, mostly because I feel disinterested in contemporary as a whole and want to test myself by seeing how well I do writing in the ‘real world’.

Side note: Here lies the reason why lots of writers don’t talk about what they’re working on until it’s finished… projects get reshuffled and cancelled all the time.

Plus, did I mention I’m MIND-BOGGLINGLY EXCITED about working on a zombie book?! I’ve had a fascination with zombies for years (you can read about my zombie issues in this article here). What I love about zombie pieces is the tension that flows through them… you never know what’s going to be around the next corner. World War Z by Max Brooks is one of my absolutely favorite books of all time… I have zombie anthologies, zombie movies… I even watch zombie short films on youtube. I’ll post a longer book summary later on this week so you guys can have knowledge of the awesomeness of this plot :-)

In other news… I’m going on a writer retreat! With the other girls from Let The Words Flow! Next week!

I’m meeting up with Kat Zhang, Susan Dennard, Sarah Maas, and Biljana Likic in Jacksonville, Florida. We’re staying in a beach house on the coast and going to Harry Potter world!

I’ve been looking forward to this for seven months. I lost 15 pounds for the summer and have collected fabulous sangria and cooking recipes to make for the girls. Can’t even contain my excitement! While I’ve never been to Jacksonville, I imagine it looks something like this:

I will definitely take tons of pictures of HP World and share them with you :-)

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Discovering Middle Grade Fiction and Fun Steampunk Pictures!

The Golden Compass, Ella Enchanted, Catherine Called Birdy, Dealing with Dragons, Wringer, and the Giver. These were some of my favorite books as I was growing up. And they’re all Middle Grade.

Until about a month ago, whenever I thought ‘Middle Grade Fiction’, I thought of dumbed-down, overly-simplistic YA. Boy was I wrong. Strange how growing up makes you forget some stuff about being a kid. Those stories I list above are the same stories that made me think, ‘I want to make stuff like this!’

In the past couple weeks I’ve read a lot of modern MG, and have become completely enamored. I’m not saying it’s my niche as a writer, but looking back now I think that writing MG is what I intended to do all along, I just wasn’t aware enough to realize it.

 

Click for more thoughts and awesome steampunk cartoon pics!

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A Theme of Dreams

I’ve been thinking a lot about themes, and their existence in novels, particularly the novels I’m trying to write. I read recently that themes cannot be planned, they must emerge. That you can only establish your theme after you finish the first draft.

As I talked about in Roses of Ash Deconstructed, the theme that emerged from ROA was resistance against secrecy for the intent to protect. I can’t stand it when someone keeps something from me because they think they’re protecting me. But I didn’t know I’d incorporated that into my novel until it was finished and editing it.

Now that I’m working on another project (which I briefly mention here), I’ve been thinking a lot about theme and what it might be for this book. I’ve also been reading a lot of MG in preparation of working on my own, and have been startled because it’s really just like YA, except pursuit of romance is replaced by pursuit of friendship and family. It’s taken me back to a more innocent time, where I was far more occupied with what I was doing and finding my place in the world than worrying about others and how they would influence me.

And now that the steampunk cinderella story is slowly coming together, I think the theme for it has already presented itself: the pursuit of your dreams even when everyone tells you that you can’t.

That you’re not allowed. That you’re the wrong age, or gender. That you come from the wrong family.

When I was growing up, there were things I was ‘supposed’ to do. Get a basketball scholarship. Get a 4.0. Go to college. Certain religious/social expectations. Get a career and make money. Have children.

Well, I don’t like sports. I did college for a while but having a typical experience wasn’t something that either worked out for me or was what I really wanted to do. I love kids, but they’re not for me at this point, perhaps ever. But worst of all, I didn’t want to get a ‘career’. I wanted to be a writer.

I was lucky. My family was supportive, but realistic. But I’ve had so many friends whose parents not only could not understand their dreams, but expressly forbade it. Wouldn’t let their children have friends. Wouldn’t let them have access to the internet. Wouldn’t let them go anywhere. Wouldn’t let them join extracurricular activities. It used to make me so mad and sad at the same time.

When you rip up your child’s sketchbooks, when you break their CDs, when you delete their accounts, when you make them transfer schools, and throw away things they’ve purchased, you kill your child’s spirit. You kill their dreams.

The main character of my steampunk retelling is a girl from a wealthy family who wants to be a Tinkerer. Her gender, age, and status make this nearly unthinkable. But she works in secret, sometimes taking on disguises and secret identities, just to be able to pursue her dream, despite her family trying to stop her at every turn. The secondary character is a boy from a high-status family who wants nothing more than to be a magician. He sneaks out and learns magic despite other Magicians pushing him away because of his age and the tattered Magician’s cloak he wears.

Internalizing the theme and remembering those feelings I had when I was a kid listening to my friends face the panic and depression of a life without the dreams they craved most, I feel compelled to write this story for future MG readers out there. Maybe for girls who want to grow up and enter ‘boy’ fields like science and math. Maybe for boys who want to abandon family tradition and pursue something silly, like magic, that makes them happy.

Mostly for anybody who ever had to hide their passion for fear of having it torn out of their hands.

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After Roses, with a Birthday Vlog!

Firstly, thank you to everyone who commented with love and support on the posts about finishing ROSES OF ASH. You have no idea what kind of confidence that gives me to keep moving forward. <3

Savannah and Heart
This is me trying to make a hand heart. But I’m bad at it because my thumb skin is naturally really curved…

Since it’s been a couple days I thought I’d update and let you know what’s been happening since the official finish:

I sent ROA to my first CP, and finished her edits last night. Thankfully the book seems to be in pretty good shape, and her comments had more to do with specific scene modifications than huge plot errors. Among her comments: “I love the fairytale tone of this. It really reminds me of the legends of old.” That sentence has pretty much carried me through the last week.

After a brief mishap where I lost a night’s work (thanks Open Office), ROA is now in the hands of my second CP. After her notes (and potential revisions), I will send it to my agent.

Now that ROA is off my plate (again), it’s time to return to NAMELESS revisions. I’m a little more than halfway through the book, and frankly feeling a little burnt out. Have you ever worked on a project so long you just get sick of it? The analogy I’ve been using is that NAMELESS is like a new adult who won’t move out of the house. I’m so ready for it to be out on the world and living on its own, but it still needs just a little more time and attention.

When I’m not working on NAMELESS (or ROA), I’m plotting and sketching out a brand new story, the pitch of with I’m excited to share with you today!

Here’s the one line pitch: It’s a Middle Grade magical steampunk Cinderella retelling, where instead of a slipper there’s an invention everyone is desperate to find the creator of, and instead of a Prince the goal is a scholarship to a Tinkering school.

I’ll share the full pitch soon (SOON!) in a later post once I hash out some of the later plot details. I already have the first chapter written and it’s adorable. But, I’ve never written a Middle Grade before, and this requires some research. If you guys could let me know your favorite MG books, particularly if they have magic in them, I would super appreciate it. I have some gift cards to B&N from my birthday I’m planning on using for research. I’ve already purchased a book called Creating Characters Kids Will Love.

Oh, did I not mention I had a birthday? Yeah, that happened on May 25th. Totally forgot to tell you guys. It was pretty neat. I even made you a vlog I planned to share, but then I forgot, and then it was out of date (it talked about me finishing up ROA and the plans for that, which you already know). However, I will share with you the intro I made for the vlog, where I sing and dance. Eep!

 

<3, Savannah