Learning a Valuable lesson

Probably my biggest weakness as a writer is the constant worry of originality or lack there of. Generating ideas and being swept away by characters as a story unfolds is my favorite part of writing. Of being a creative being, really. Then, the discovery of SOMETHING SIMILAR, can bring that creative ride to a jarring halt. For a long time.

In 2011 I finished a MG manuscript that I’d been writing for a few years. Hooray! After a long stint of wanting to write, talking about writing, thinking about writing, but NOT writing, I’d finally reawakened a dream that started in ninth grade.

2011.

Yes, 2011!

See!

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So, what happened to that manuscript? At first I did what a writer does with a new MS. Revised. Revised some more. Sent it out to beta readers. Searched for critique partners. Revised. Revised…

Then, SOMETHING SIMILAR happened that shook my confidence in the story. That first road block was ONCE UPON A TIME on ABC. A mash up of fairytale characters living in the same place was a similar premise to my manuscript. Here is a short pitch I’ve used for PENELOPE CHARMING: THE RELUCTANT PRINCESS:

Princess Penelope Charming should be a perfect Princess.  Her mother is Cinderella, after all, one of the most famous Princesses in all of Fablewood.  But Penelope would gladly trade her glass slippers and puffy dresses for the chance at adventure. When someone poisons Cinderella’s glass slippers, it’s up to Penelope to save her. Penny teams up with her long time best friend Red, whose great-great-great-great-grandmother is the famous Little Red Riding Hood, and a mysterious new boy named Jack, who holds the key to saving Cinderella. They embark on a quest in search of the ingredients to make the antidote to wake the slumbering Cinderella.

Fairytales and retellings bloomed in the market. Awesome! Who doesn’t love fairytales? It’s the perfect time! Then that thing called life butted in and writing took a back seat. In the basement. Under the couch collecting dust bunnies made of collie and husky fur.

Fast forward through years of wondering, worrying, and avoiding most of the fairytales, then shelving PENELOPE because I’d been away too long. Plus life changes, big ones.

Inspiration struck during Nanowrimo 2015. I wrote another book and won Nano for the first time with a YA urban-isa fantasy called MAGGIE ROSE AMONG MONSTERS. (I’m still struggling to categorize it correctly. Magical realism, maybe?) Knowing that I’d never get anywhere if I didn’t put it out there, I popped my shyness safety bubble and searched for writing buddies, got back on twitter, and stumbled upon #PITCHWARS, a twitter contest hosted by Brenda Drake. I tried my best to revise the YA novel in time to enter the contest, but alas, the last half remained a messy first draft. I was winning without entering, anyway, ’cause I had found a super supportive writing community. After a time I found the critique partner match up hosted by Megan Grimit. I posted a couple twitter pitches for the YA novel and found potential critique partners interested in both YA and MG. And guess what happened?

You’ve probably figured out that I sent pages from PENELOPE CHARMING to those interested in critiquing MG. And guess what happened?

PENELOPE CHARMING received the most positive response. Hm. I never could give up on the story, despite the influx of similarities in the market. Really, I never should have given up on the story. Similarities will always be there. My story isn’t like any of the others, it’s an intricate, one of a kind snowflake that formed in my imagination. Sure, similarities will happen. The worst one I need to address is the concept of all the Villains in my fairytale being locked away in the Isle of Exile. You may have heard about this book Isle of the Lost where, you guessed it, the villains are locked away on the Isle of the Lost.

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And this brings us to the Valuable Lesson I Learned. I tried to read this book. No offense meant to the author since it’s meant to fit a specific Disney purpose, but I couldn’t get through it. I was happy I didn’t care for it and that the only thing my manuscript shared with this book was that concept of the villains being exiled on an island. That’s it. I’d been afraid for nothing. I need to find SOME PLACE DIFFERENT to banish my villains, but you know what? I’m excited about PENELOPE CHARMING again. I don’t care if there’s a flood of fairytales in the market. I’m gonna give this book the chance it deserves. Maybe it won’t be THE ONE that helps me break into the business, but it will be the one that helps introduce me to the business.

Thanks for reading!

 

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draw then draw

Sometimes…well maybe all times…the hardest part about starting a new creative project is decided WHAT to do. At least this is true for me with illustration. I think it stems from years of being a corporate artist forced to think about art in terms of “right” and “wrong.” What “will sell” and what “won’t sell.” Sure these thoughts are valid and totally true, but they can also stymy the creative mind. It’s been two years since I left my twelve year long career as an artist/manager with a children’s apparel company to be a full time mommy. Creativity is stirring, illustratively & writerly. This year, I hope to carve out more time for myself to pursue art and writing. To make making art easier on myself, I put a bunch of themes into a hat, yes a real hat, and each day I’ll draw a theme and create based on it. Portfolio will be built, creativity sparked and honed, and hopefully before too long, I’ll be making art that sells.

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7 x 7 x 7 x 7

Thank you Vania from VLC Photo for challenging me with this writing game. How to play:

Starting at the seventh line of the seventh page of your current WIP, post the next seven lines and tag seven more authors to join in the fun.

Title: Maggie Rose Among Monsters

Genre: YA Magical Realism

The lines:

In theory, Monsters have equal rights to Humans, but even today we live separately, or segregated as some people would say. The only Monsters I’ve been face to face with are here in this museum. I’d never been outside the gates of New York City, an all Human city.

I looked again into the Phooka’s vacant plastic eyes. Even though I’m grateful that I don’t have to worry about coexisting with these Monsters, I couldn’t help but feel wrong about standing here staring at one, free to do as I please while he had died, or been murdered more likely, in order to become a Monster on display. I wondered if Monster towns had Humans on display.

“Maggie, Mr. Jessup says we can break for lunch,” Jeremy, another art student said as he passed by.

Introducing Maggie Rose: my current WIP YA series

Maggie Rose: Monster Hunter (working title)

Back in October as Nanowrimo was approaching, I decided to put aside all of my current WIP novels, which consisted of 1 YA dystopian, 1 YA Fantasy, and 1 Middle Grade Fantasy, and focus on something completely brand new. Those other three had been plaguing me for quite some time. And I say plaguing because I couldn’t stop thinking about them but wondering at the same time if they were good enough, worth working one, blah blah blah.

Once I decided to work on a new novel, I thought about what elements always showed up in my favorite stories, regardless if they are overdone, cliche, etc.

1. Chosen One stories. I love these! From Harry Potter to Star Wars to Hunger Games to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

2. An ordinary character who finds out he or she is part of a magical world in one way or another. aka The Heroes Journey.

3. Teenage main characters

4. Elements of fantasy, mystery and danger

6.  Vivid characters/world that would inspire artist to draw the characters/world.

I decided I wanted to write a Hunter character with a destiny to fight evil. Yeah, like Buffy. In the beginning I brainstormed about what she would hunt. Aliens, Fairytale and Mythological characters, monsters, ghosts…nothing that hasn’t been done before, but my favorites nonetheless. In the end, it was an episode of Face Off that brought my world to life. In the episode titled: Teacher’s Pets, the Spot Light Challenge centered around a Fantasy High School and it’s stereotyped characters. The contestants brought to life an Emu Faun, Emu Minotaur, Nerd Minotaur, Nerd Goblin, Jock Goblin, Faun Cheerleader, and a Cyclops Cheerleader. What a fun episode. I loved the idea of a high school full of fantasy creatures. It started my creative wheels turning and Maggie Rose burst to life. I had a blast writing this novel. I know I made the right decision to just write what I love and not worry about if it’s been done before. Because in the end, a novel is so much more than it’s premise/synopsis/idea.

This is the synopsis I wrote before starting Nanowrimo:

Monsters are real. Maggie Rose knows this, but she rarely thinks about them. Why should she when she’s safe at an all Human school in an all Human city. She’s never run through a forest with a Faun, hunted with a Griffin, or even dreamed about flying on a pegasus like many Human girls do. Maybe she should have thought about the Monsters more. It might have prepared her for the day her mother and father moved her to a village full of them.

Now, forced to live in her estranged grandfather’s mysterious old mansion and enrolled in a Monster ridden High School, Maggie must face her fear and learn to coexist. Lucky for her, Library, an energetic Tree Nymph, befriends her and suddenly she has more friends than she did in the city. Aryiaya, a beautiful Unicorn girl, Timothy, an intelligent and geeky Shedu, and Kaine, the mysterious Pegasus who always carries a battered sketchbook. Her new friends at New Helena High are not really monstrous at all, just teens like Maggie.

But Monsters are not the only inhabitants of New Helena, and when Maggie’s parents are abducted by Skin Walkers and her grandfather is left indefinitely unconscious, it’s up to Maggie to unravel the mystery behind their abduction. Her only clue is the fox mask that she finds hidden in her mother’s trunk, a mask that reveals the truth about the destiny Maggie was meant for. Can she face the truth of who she really is and outfox whoever is now after her? She must, for her Mother and Father’s lives and all of New Helena depend on it.