Friday edition

This has just been one of those weeks. I lost two writing days and eked out a miserable few hundred words on a third day.

But School Happened (yes, even when the public school kids got two days off, which did not go unnoticed by mine). We read Shakespeare retellings, made a “blubber” glove for science, plowed on through math.

And also! I’m at two other blogs this week, answering questions about writing, life, and Rainbird:

At Forego Reality, I talk about finding time to write as a homeschooling mom, the inspiration behind the sunway, and my commitment to quality as a self-publisher.

And today, I’m at Liv Rancourt’s blog, discussing where I picked up my style, how a girl from Pakistan ended up in Northern Virginia, and the YA elements in Rainbird.

And, thirdly, I’m strongly leaning towards joining the slow blogging movement. I’m a fiction writer with limited time. I enjoy blogging, but I cannot put out three or more high-quality posts every week. I have to drop down to one longish post and (maybe) one shorter, quick-to-put-together post like this one per week. I’m still thinking about this, so if you have any opinions about this change, let me know!

a list for wednesday

1. I have a guest post on atypical fantasy protagonists up at the Turtleduck Press blog. Come check it out!

2. Also,  you might’ve noticed I’m doing interviews and guest posts recently. This is my Low-Key Sorta Blog Tour for Rainbird’s release. I’m happy to do more of these, so if you have an open spot on your blog that you want to give me, feel free to ask. I’d appreciate it. :)

3. Remember that last week I shared the Peter Hollens and Lindsey Stirling version of the Game of Thrones theme music? Well, their Skyrim rendition is even better! I am hooked on this.

 

How’s your week going?

7 favorite books of 2012

A while ago I was given the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by Ellen Gregory and Tami Clayton–thank you, ladies! I’m supposed to share seven facts about myself but, like Ellen and Tami, I’m going to talk about books instead. Here, in no particular order, are my 7 favorite reads of the year so far.

1. Goblin Moon by Teresa Edgerton

Goblins, alchemy, and strange rituals abound in this seventeenth-century-inspired fantasy. Reissued by the author in e-format for a steal, this adventure features a dashing Scarlet Pimpernel and a practical young lady determined to save her cousin from a nasty plot.

2. Dark Life by Kat Falls

I usually find post-global warming settings far too grim to enjoy, but Kat Falls has created a fascinating world in which humans live in underwater settlements. This YA novel is a great adventure from start to finish–and the sequel is out, too!

3. The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier

 

Fairy tale-like story. Magical world. Lovely prose. An independent heroine and a deep, quiet romance. I’m a sucker for all these.

4. The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells

The sequel to The Cloud Roads shows Moon growing into his role as Jade’s consort as his clan returns to their ancestral home. Loved it.

5. Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

This compelling story turned out to nothing like I expected: not quite alternate history or dystopia, not quite fantasy or contemporary YA. The book focuses more on family dynamics and societal commentary than on romance and revenge. In spite of a huge plot issue in the last third, I devoured it.

6. Herb Witch by Elizabeth McCoy

A well-written romantic fantasy, with a potions-based magical system, political intrigue and a courtship of convenience.

7. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

This book indirectly prompted my post on what the Internet is doing to my brain. A thought-provoking read. More on this topic in future posts.

 

And since I’ve already broken the rules for this award (I’m such a rebel), I’ll go ahead and break some more. If you want to play, post your seven favorite books of the year so far either on your blog or in the comments. Share the love!

this week on writer at play

Summer’s flying by.

In just over a week, we go back to school at home. Hard to believe it, but Sir I. is going into third grade, Miss M into first grade, and the Baron into pre-K. I’ve stockpiled my school supplies, got in a big box of curricula and workbooks, photocopied, printed, and hole-punched worksheets galore. Now I need to tackle the schoolroom!

This week also brings the first post in the 2012 edition of the Back To School For Writers blog series. For the next seven Wednesdays, a guest poster will share their knowledge and expertise on a subject that is too often shrouded in misconceptions or portrayed wrongly in fiction. I’m thrilled about the series and I expect to learn a lot. I hope you will enjoy it, too!

On Monday I talk about (maybe) finding my genre and on Friday I give you a sneak peek of my latest fiction project.

Stay tuned!

how the internet is changing my brain

I need to change my Internet habits.

I spend a lot of time online for both work and pleasure, and the line between the two often blurs. It’s easy for that to happen on the Internet. You get on to check reviews and samples for homeschooling curricula and, before you know it, you’re watching a video of dueling cellos while ogling pictures of steampunk-themed sand castles and it’s 1 am and five hours have gone by.

So this podcast by Michael Hyatt (via Jodi Lea Stewart) came at the right time for me. Navigating the Internet is like a balancing act and I fell off a long time ago

I’m not a scientist and I can’t discuss the latest research on how the Internet is changing our brains. But I do know that it’s had a negative impact on my brain in the following ways:

First, it’s turning me into a consumer rather than a creator. Guys, there is such a LOT of cool stuff on the Internet. Thoughtful and witty and entertaining blog posts. Gorgeous photos and awesome art. Funny memes, useful how-tos, amazing facts. I could spend hours immersing myself in other people’s words and images.

And quite frequently, I do.

But the thing is, if I’m consuming then I’m not giving myself the time or space or silence to create. And if I don’t create, if I don’t bring art from within me, I feel down and depressed.

Which leads me to another aspect of the Internet: it’s shortening my attention span. Ever notice how you surf the web? You read a short blog post, follow a link to a two-minute video, move on to a series of pictures with funny captions, then tweet or change  your FB status. You’re restless, constantly on the move, clicking links, opening and closing tabs.

If it doesn’t grab right away, if it’s not broken up with lots of white space and cute images, if it’s too difficult to get into, you move on.

And that’s filtering into other areas offline. Follow an argument through several pages of densely-written text? Phbbt. Reached a snag in my current story? I’ll just check my RSS feed for a few minutes. I wrote a paragraph? Hooray. Now I can go see if someone mentioned me on Twitter.

Uh. No. In order to write the kinds of stories I want to, I need to dig deep into myself. I need to burrow into my characters’ heads, wear their skins, feel the bite of the wind and the stench of sewage and the ache of muscle… and I can’t do that if I’m running off every ten minutes.

The Internet keeps me sedentary. I am my brain and my body (and my soul, but I’m not getting into that discussion right now). They feed each other. Ever notice how many ideas come to you when you’re doing a repetitive action, like washing dishes or sweeping the floor or–this is a big one for me–pacing a room? My muscles work, kickstart my brain, and boom! I unsnarl a plot point, a coy character starts talking, and I get a new story idea.

The Internet can cause unhealthy dependence on casual relationships. Online interactions are like a drug. Every comment on a blog post and every retweet can give a momentary high, leaving one craving more. My life, though, is not measured in blog subscribers, twitter followers or the opinions of perfect strangers. When those things take away from the real, important work of raising my children and investing in my close (on and offline) relationships, they’re taking a place that’s not meant for them.

And lastly, too much screen time makes me feel bad. If I spend too much time staring at the screen (and this includes TV and video games) I come away feeling jittery, anxious, sad, or down. And then it’s hard for me to reconnect with the world around me, with my family, with my own stories, with God.

And with that, it’s time for me to get off the computer and take my children outside to see what butterflies and dragonflies we can spot!

How is the Internet affecting your brain? What guidelines govern your Internet usage?

share your knowledge! call for guest posts

Done a lot of research about Victorian London? Is grading gemstones your day job? Have you worked with horses all your life and are tired of the way they’re portrayed in fiction? Come share your knowledge with the rest of us.

Starting from mid-August, I’m running a series called “Back to School For Writers” on the blog. And I need your help.

So, if you’re a firefighter, an Aztec expert, or a World War I buff, come tell us about it. What do books and movies almost always get wrong about your subject? Shed some light on an obscure field. Address the myths, pull back the curtains, and show us what a day in the life of an octopus wrangler is really like.

I have 2-4 spots left to fill, starting from mid-September. If you’re interested in doing a guest post, leave a comment below or email me at rabia [at] rabiagale [dot] com. Let’s talk!

my one-night stand with pinterest

It all started innocently enough.

I was in communication with an artist about designing a cover for Rainbird (more on that later!) and she wanted to know what my favorite book covers were.

Well, as you can tell from my book cover/artist Mondays, I was delighted to share this information. I remembered that a friend of mine had sent me a Pinterest invite (oh, so long ago). It was a minute’s work to sign up, create a board with the original title of Book Covers I Like, and start pinning!

I was hooked. Pinterest warmed my pretty-picture-loving little heart. I loved creating boards. I loved choosing images. I loved curating my collections. And it was so easy! None of this mind-numbing downloading and uploading and resizing business. Just pop in the web address, pick an image, write a catchy comment, and hit the button.

In an orgy of pinning, I added boards about fairy tales and steampunk and beautiful natural landscapes.

A day later–after that initial warm glow had faded–reality crept in and put her cold, dead fingers on my neck.

Don’t you think, said she, that you’re spending too much time on this?

It’s only the novelty of it, I told her. I’ll be fine in a day or two. It’s not like my children aren’t being fed and clothed–eventually.

Don’t you think, she pursued, that maybe you should be more careful about what you pin and repin?

It’s not like I’m downloading images onto my hard drive, I answered, defensively, starting to get rattled.

Would you, she went on, feel comfortable putting these images on you blog? Are you absolutely positively sure that you’re not violating anyone’s copyright by pinning them?

….

She had me.

Because I wouldn’t have put all those images on my blog. Some of them certainly, like the book covers. But interior illustrations? Photographs taken by who-knows-who? Artwork by people who didn’t have a prominent Pin It button displayed next to it?

I deleted all my boards save the book covers one. I had let my weakness for lovely art and pretty pictures run away with my good sense. If I couldn’t post an image on my blog in good conscience, I shouldn’t be pinning it.

This was about the time that author Roni Loren posted her nightmarish story, Bloggers Beware–You Can Get Sued For Using Pics On Your Blog, which only deepened my conviction that deleting my boards was the right thing to do. It also sent me scurrying back to check the few images on my blog that aren’t book covers or pictures I took to make sure they’re legit for me to use.

I probably will go back to Pinterest one day, a wiser, more circumspect, and more respectful pinner. But not soon, and not without a lot of care.

Do you pin or post lots of pictures on your blog? Where do you find images are okay for you to use? If you’re on Pinterest, how do you protect yourself?

readers, what can I do for you?

Readers,

I know who you are. Or at least I think I do.

You are dear family and real-life friends who support me by subscribing to my blog and buying my books–thank you!

Or, you are other writers I’ve met online, through the Online Writing Workshop (we go way back, you and I!), or Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways and How to Revise Your Novel courses, or Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone class. You support and encourage me.

Perhaps you read my fiction, came to check out my Internet home, and stayed.

Maybe you don’t fit in any of these categories at all. Maybe you followed the trail here from a tweet, a comment on another blog, or a search (perhaps you were looking for information about Toph, or tutorials on making Japanese paper dolls and zebra templates, or pictures of small purple flowers–all popular keywords!).

But for some reason, however you came here, you decided to keep checking back. Thank you.

Over the years, my blog has changed a lot. I used to post about my writing process, but now I rarely do. Occasionally, I post a snippet from my work, and once in a very great while, an entire story. I post about my genre–the books I like, the trends I see, the covers I adore, the movies I enjoy, the 80s cartoons I loved. Sometimes I put up something funny, or beautiful, or inspiring. Sometimes I talk about one of my other great passions–learning alongside my children.

Yes, I’m all over the place.

I’ve never asked my readers for their input on my content before. I’m rectifying that now. Which posts have you particularly enjoyed? What do you want to see more of? Do you have any questions for me?

7 things about me

I received a Versatile Blogger Award from several members of my WANA class: Julie Kenner, Cindy Bell, and Liv Rancourt. Thanks, gals! You’re sweet!

So, according to the rules, I need to post this cute little icon (happily grabs), link to the person(s) who nominated me (done! see above), tell people seven things about myself (see below) and pass on the award to 5/7/14 other people (er…how about three?).

Seven things about me:

1. I’m bilingual. I speak English and Urdu–the language of Pakistan, the country where I grew up. Hands up if you’d heard of the language before reading this post.

2. My husband and I got engaged in Hong Kong. We spent a month there and I loved it. Would love to go back there someday and take the kids.

3. Currently, I have a 2-liter bottle full of soil and grass seeds on the window sill, and steelwool rusting in a small bowl of water on the kitchen counter. These are otherwise known as the “What is a Biosphere?” and “Why is Mars Red?” experiments. Why yes, I am a homeschooling mom! Why do you ask?

4. Apparently, when I was a wee little tot, I had a pet lamb (Rabia had a little lamb, little lamb… no, it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, does it?). I used to ride it, and it would butt me affectionately in the tummy. It was scared of my mom’s high heels and would run and hide if it heard her coming. It would also eat clothes off the line. But the little lamb grew into a great big sheep and it was given away (or turned into dinner, I suppose).

Or so they say.

I have no recollection of such a pet, and I still wonder, to this day, if it is not a hoax perpetrated upon my gullible younger self.

5. Speaking of perpetrating hoaxes: When I was a preteen, I convinced my 5-years-younger brother that we were all a family of witches who’d been sent to earth to study humans. However, since he was born without magic, we’d have to leave him behind when we returned to Witch Land.

He was most upset.

Oh, I was a horrible sister. I’m better now.

6. I have this weird squicked-out can’t-look-away fascination with giant squids. And titanic battles between sperm whales and giant squids in the black depths of the ocean.

7. I take my tea the British way– black tea with two spoonfuls of sugar and a splash of milk. And biscuits to dunk into the tea are mandatory (I use Ritz crackers, since I can’t find any of the brands I grew up with here in the US, boo).

I pass along this award to:

irregular posting in december

December always creeps up on me, and this year it’s no different. Add in a healthy dose of Real Life Happens, and I’ve decided I’d rather commit my limited writing time to Rainbird than to this blog. That’s not to say I won’t post at all, but it will be erratic, not the neat M-W-F schedule I’ve tried to follow.

Regular posting will resume (some time) in the new year.

How’s December treating you all?