Thursday, March 29

Growth and Accomplishment

Posted by Shelly Holder

Tonight another writing class ended. I say another, because sometimes all I do is take writing classes. But that's not really true. Thinking about it, I haven't taken a single class on the story story. Same for the novel. Nothing on many of the genre fiction courses like mystery or romance. And yet. 

Maybe right now I'm just burned out. This class was more difficult in some ways because it challenged me to define who I am as a writer. With only a few credits to my name, that's hard to pin down. Yet I raged against some assignments, beat my fist against the wall screaming "That's not who I am!" 

Defining by what one is not seems rockier than easy acceptance. 

I'm glad I took this class. But I am so thankful it's over.

Wednesday, November 23

Because I Can

Posted by Shelly Holder

1. Favourite childhood book?  
The Egyptian Game, by Zilpha Keatley Synder

2. What are you reading right now?
A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness, by Nassir Ghaemi

3. What books do you have on request at the library?  
None. I tend to be snobbish about sharing books.

4. Bad book habit?
Judging by the cover art.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
The Watchman
The Runaways, Vol 1-3

6. Do you have an e-reader?
Just the software, for Blackberry and iPad, both Kindle and Nook.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
One if it's fiction, but if it's non-fiction or for class, I read several at a time.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Every once in a while I try to impress people with an obscure title. It usually backfires.

9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far?)
I admit to reading a lot of crap around 3 am. So the list is actually too long.

10. Favourite book you’ve read this year?

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Rarely, so I am making an effort to do so more often.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Mind candy- paranormal, YA, romance, fantasy, sci-fi. I rarely read classics/ literary *shamefaced*

13. Can you read on the bus?
No- motion sickness. No cars, no trains, no boats... but planes are okay, funnily enough. But nowadays I've trained myself to sleep on planes, so any books I bring on-board are in the optomistic pile.

14. Favourite place to read?
Anywhere I am.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I hate it, because I never get them back. I used to, once. I've learned better.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
No. And I hate to highlight/underline. But I LOVE creasing the spine. I do on purpose. Nothing like that first crease, right down the middle. Then repeat, multiple times, so it looks well-read.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Only in textbooks/ things I read for class, i.e. notes for assignments. But I had to train myself that this was okay, that no book gods would strike me down with lightening bolts if I did.

18. Not even with text books? 
see above.

19. What is your favourite language to read in?
French, actually. I read Cyrano de Bergerac in French (an easy reader version, true), and loved it. Then I read a translated version (full-text) and hated the loss of tone and rhythm and fluidity, even though I knew the easy reader was nothing compared to the original. It was still so much better than the English.

20. What makes you love a book?
If I keep thinking about it long after I put it down, rewinding and rewatching the imagined scenes, re-reading for sentence structure and word choice and hidden nuance. 

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
I rarely do, so I KNOW that you are perfectly suited in interest and previous reading material to like this one.

22. Favourite genre?
Fiction. After that I pretty much read anything, although I tend to read a lot of urban fantasy.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Narrative nonfiction and/or biography.

24. Favourite biography?
Erm, I dunno that I HAVE read a biography- I keep meaning to read Queen Noor's, but never got around to it...  

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
One. I didn't finish.

26. Favourite cookbook?
Michael Symon's Live to Cook

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)? 
Inspirational? Yeah...

28. Favourite reading snack?
Anything. Usually involves cheese and/or chips.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
The short story with Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, A Scandal in Bohemia. All I heard was, Irene Adler! Irene Adler! The woman, the only one he loved, blah blah blah. And it was like, dude, of course she recognized your poorly disguised ass. Bah.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Depends on the reviewer/ blog/ firm.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
Perfectly fine. I don't tend to WRITE then, but I rant in my head a lot.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Russian, for novels, and Polish for poetry.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?  
Ayn Rand. I forgot which one, but they both scare me.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
 Moby Dick. I refuse to read it.

35. Favourite Poet? 
Wislawa Szymborska.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Heh. Usually the limit. So like 15 or so. I'm a "eyes bigger than my __________" kind of person. 

37. How often have you returned books to the library unread? 
More times than I like to admit.

38. Favourite fictional character?
Wow, tough one.  Wow, tough one! Um, yeah, I like so many... Next question!

39. Favourite fictional villain?
Ooooooh, Frankenstein's monster, except I don't think he's really a villain. 

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation? 
The ones that I've been avoiding at home. I think that if I get myself into a hotel room with nothing else to read, I'll finally sit down to whatever I've brought. 

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
A few days? 

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
War and Peace. I think I got to page 423 and then just gave up. The names, man, the names. I couldn't keep them straight, even after four hundred pages.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Movement. There's a certain auditory point where I can tune everything out, but seeing something out of the corner of my eye is distracting. This applies to people, light, and TV.

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?
Mansfield Park. The book was surprisingly dull, but the movie had action.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Blood and Chocolate. It was a favorite YA novel, and then they completely ruined it.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Erm. I don't think I've ever gone over 200.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
It's a must. Usually I can tell in a few pages, but sometimes I'll pick random middle bits for insurance.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
I rarely do. Maybe .... twice? So, really rare. I finish, in a sort of a watching-a-train-wreck kind of way. Does it fail to get better? Can it get even worse? Can this character get any lamer? Oh my gosh it does!

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
No, it doesn't bother me. I just want them on a shelf.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
I keep books, but I'm trying to prune down. I sell some, and donate the hardbacks to the library.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Most of the classics. Most American lit. Especially Moby Dick.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
River Called, by Patricia Briggs. Seriously, a foster kid w/ abandonment issues who also happens to be a recent rape victim is happily getting married? And you didn't even write the proposal? GAHHH. Please, treat these issues consciously and not as a plot vehicle. (Both the previous rape and the marriage.)
(disclaimer: I believe that rape victims can get married. But I also think that completely forgetting said rape within a month or two is unrealistic. There are side effects. Especially with romantic relationships. Getting married should stir the pot emotionally. Briggs wrote the character as completely blase.)

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Villette, by Charlotte Bronte. It was a mind-blowing experience.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
The Language of Bees, by Laurie R King. It was fine, just ... dissatisfying afterwards. Not memorable, I guess. 

55. Favourite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Georgette Heyer, hands down.

Tuesday, November 1

A Natural Order of Things

Posted by Shelly Holder

Hello everyone! I know I haven't been updating much, but I am still alive and kicking. And actually working on stuff, despite the lack of blog dedication (or is that in spite? I never know.)

So I thought to name my projects, for my benefit and yours. Alright, more just to keep them straight in my own head, but you know. Credit me with a little bit more than self-serving posts.

First, the belovedly bemoaned D.o.C.A. This is a new genre for me, and the main focus of the last few months (since June). I have taken two writing classes (second in progress now) and have tried to work very hard on this project. It goes slow, but I am enjoying the genre and the experience. I also admit the major motivation for posting is also procrastination and avoidance of tonight's homework deadline, but let's ignore that part shall we?

And then That Damn Book, the torment over the past few YEARS that refuses to work out and refuses to die. This YA paranormal used to be my love, but I have under a thousand words and over a million headaches in relation to a few key plot problems, so I've trunked it for now.

And then The Sparkly Itch, the idea I had this morning that I might actually pursue. But more on that later.

But higher in priority is the Set Aside Spy Story (M.O.), which has a lot more planning and prep going for it. Also a new genre work, but one with potential, especially in comparison to my D.o.C.A. overexposure and slowly dying enthusiasm.

And the Really Near and Dear to My Heart project, the one I haven't even mentioned because I like to hold it close and hide it. So no more words on that.

Next, another new genre work, the Inner Scientist Idea, one with less planning but a ton of visuals. I want to pursue this one almost as bad as the Set-Aside Spy Story. It'll be a tough call, and I might sign up for a third class to help me develop it.

So now, when I say I'm starting the SD/YA novel project for NaNoWriMo as a creative break from D.o.C.A, ya'll know what I'm talkin bout right? Riiiiiiight?

What I mean by creative break is that I have focused so intently on D.o.C.A. that I have lost the sense of fun in writing it. I want it to be good, damn it, to be published, and I am constantly talking about it to others, getting feedback, revising, and then starting all over again. And it's a job. Hard, hard work, where I have to force myself to sit down, and with an over-reliance on deadlines to write at all. And that's not how it should be.

So I am starting SD/YA for a bit of creative relief- a fun project, with no objectives, no deadlines, no revision, and most of all, no expectations. I write it in a month? Fantastic. I don't- well I have the 5,000 or 3,000 or whatever I've managed to accomplish and that's enough. It's just FOR FUN.

So this list of projects is more to remind myself that my career is not make or break on D.o.C.A. I have a lot more options than one storyline, and that means a lot of opportunities to reach different people. I am not a one book wonder, and even if this particular project never makes it past the course final in a few weeks, that is not the end.

I define the story. Not the other way around. 

Something to remember.

Write Now:
What I'm listening to: a rarely heard Southern Californian rainfall
What I want most: aspirin

Wednesday, October 26

Curious Phenomenon

Posted by Shelly Holder

All writers want publication right?

We dream about it, cry about not getting it, work our butts off in achieving it, all for the opportunity to see our words on someone else's page. Our name in a byline. Just one re-Tweet on Twitter.

And it never gets old, does it?


I recently read a blog post (sorry can't find link anymore) which said that every publication is as thrilling as that first one. The cheek flush, the beating heart, the in-the-seat wiggles and surreptitious in-public squealing. But today I got an email that should've given me an endorphin rush like no other, and I. felt. nothing.

Nada. Not a single zip. My eyebrow arched and my mouth twisted, but I don't think it was in the right sort of way.

The email itself was lovely, perky and congratulatory, and it made me happy for about one nano-second in its innocence. I, on the other hand, felt old and jaded and a little like a long-time whore who just sold herself to the john that never says no. My reaction was "Of course you published me."

But I didn't feel like I deserved that cheerful email, and I knew from the greeting that I wouldn't find my substitute high. I was immune.

So what's the solution? More publication is just going to be a higher dose- chasing after that first experience without hope of repeating it. So do I go to a higher quality of goods- looking for the "perfect" publication, the elite lit mag or the exclusive publishing house? I just don't know. I never thought I would reach this place, where my dream fails to satisfy me.

It's kinda sad and lonely here. I want to leave.

I want to be happy writing. And maybe that means no more publishing for a while.

Write Now:
What I'm listening to: Pandora "Zero 7"
What I want most: a massage

Saturday, October 22

Ghengis Khan, Editor in Chief

Posted by Shelly Holder

Before I delve into the really meaty angst of my story, I need to set up a little bit of backstory.

I started out writing novels. Then a brief flirtation with short stories, followed by a solid relationship with poetry that lasted several years. Not unhappy but feeling a distinct lack of spark, I broke it off with poetry to start up with flash fiction. Here, I feel that I finally found a supportive and mutually beneficial interaction- if I believed in the word, I would use "soulmates." This, this was the one that completed me.

But now, I'm taking a class in sequential art - comics, graphic novels, and manga- and I am writing CHAPTERS! A series of 3,000 to 4,000 words STRUNG TOGETHER to create a coherent whole, and then strung together AGAIN to create a coherent PLOT ARC!



It's actually really, really hard. I no longer "think long." In fact, my most frequent critique is "add detail." *Laughs* I never thought I would hear that one.

I feel like a little primordial switch in the back of my head is permanently snapped- I can't get back to flash, but I'm not functioning in long form either. I'm stuck in some hell-hole in between where the ante-up is constant revisions, just to keep playing.

Sometimes, I don't wanna play anymore.


Anyways, that's where I've been lately. I haven't died, my will-power just loses steam long, LONG before the blog comes up on the to-do list. Actually, I admit, I haven't even WRITTEN it on the to-do for quite a while.

I would make promises to do better, but I don't believe myself. :p

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: Abney Park "Building Steam"
What I want most: to read the rest of Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me, but the preview is over and the book isn't publish yet *cries*

Thursday, October 13


Posted by Shelly Holder

Quick updates!

I've had two twitter stories published, one with trapeze magazine, today; and another with Cuento Magazine, on the 29th of September. I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, October 6

A Brief Letter

Posted by Shelly Holder

Dear Specific Writing Genre,

I don't sure what you were expecting, but I think you've made a mistake. I'm not looking to settle down here. I'm not really into a "committed" relationship, and I thought I made that pretty clear at the beginning. I'm sorry you got your feelings hurt, but I never promised you anything. Exclusivity just isn't my thing. What can I say, I just like to flirt.

It was great while it lasted but I think its time to move on.