Moving Notice

I’m proud to announce that this blog has found a new home at my official author website, KathrynTanquary.com.

You will be able to see all of the old contents and comments, but all further updates will be posted to the new URL. I’d like to thank everyone who follows this blog! I’m looking forward to seeing you all at the new site.

Graduation Day

Graduation season has always been a tough time for me. Since I left high school under the cloud of a deep familial loss, it’s often gone hand-in-hand with more tragedy.

On March 11, 2011, I’d just watched my first class of junior high school students in Japan finish their graduation ceremony and go home to their families. That afternoon, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Tohoku and triggered a tsunami that claimed the lives of almost 16,000 people. My prefecture was land-locked. We were at no risk from the waves, but the images we watched on the news as the waters rose will always be etched in my memory.

In Japan, on certain occasions of celebration, a tea is served from the pickled blossoms of cherry trees. The tea is clear and has a salty taste, very unlike the more well-known green tea. The cherry blossom tea, or sakurayu,  represents new beginnings.

sakurayu

Sakura yu” by Suguri F投稿者自身による作品. Licensed under CC 表示-継承 3.0 via ウィキメディア・コモンズ.

We didn’t have sakurayu that day, but on graduation day the next year I found a cup on my desk with a single pink blossom. As I drank tea made from the previous year’s flowers, reminded of what had been happening while they bloomed, and watched the current year’s new flowers swaying on the trees outside, I remember thinking that the salt of the tea tasted something like tears.

It was a complicated feeling, one that I’ll probably have better luck unpacking in a story rather than in a blog post, but by the time I’d finished my tea I’d arrived at a decision.

I’d dreamed since I was young of writing the kind of books I grew up loving. I’d studied, practiced and planned, and yet I hadn’t summoned the courage to make that dream a reality. Reflection is easy, and action is scary. But cherry blossoms don’t only represent spring and new beginnings, they remind us that our time here is too short not to bring our dreams out into the sun.

Two years later, I sent out my first query letters on the cusp of another graduation day. After the duds I’d had in the past, a few manuscript rejections didn’t seem that dire. And if I was lucky, maybe I’d have some good memories of graduation day for a change.

By the end of the week, I spoke with my new agent on the phone for the first time. This year, I sent a signed contract to my publisher for my first novel. And by next spring, that book will be out in the world, with many more to follow.

It’s scary to take chances, especially if you’ve been burned before. Whether you find success or failure, remember that you had the courage to try. And every time you do, celebrate your own graduation day.

Second Season Renewal

Cue the dramatic movie trailer music, get ready for the gravelly voice-over, and prepare yourselves for the epic continuation of last season’s debut novelist blog series. This summer, coming soon to computers near your…

The Blog Returns

Spirited Away celebration

An Announcement

Today will be a short post because it’s mostly here to herald a more detailed post to come later. For now, I can simply say that I am thrilled and honored to announce that my work will now be represented by the incredible Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Full story to follow after I return from my Golden Week holiday in Seoul. In the meantime, always remember:

follow your dreams sloth

Winter Wrap-Up Part 2: Vacation Theme Reading

In December, I put the winter cold on hold for a little while and spent my holidays in sunny Australia. I’d never been before, and since it’s a rather out of the way sort of place, I wanted to make sure I could squeeze in as many Australian experiences as possible in only two weeks. Anticipating all of the long plane trips, airport layovers, and lazy lounging on the beach, I queued up an Australian-themed reading list on my Kindle so that I was ready to dig in the moment I left my apartment in Japan.

Gotta say, vacation theme reading was pretty awesome. My list wasn’t too ambitious, consisting of two public-domain classics and one recommendation from an Australian friend, but it was fun to get to see things I’d read about only days after I’d read about them. The bush setting in each book was a bit far removed from the city-scape that we toured, sort of like going to Manhattan and reading books set in the Appalachians, but it also gave me a window to a few of the more remote places we were only able to see from the airplane.

sevenlittleaustralianscoverSeven Little Australians (1894) by Ethel Turner

This classic children’s novel is set in Sydney the 1880s and features the misadventures of the Woolcot children, their strict army father and their young stepmother. The episodic stories are both funny and occasionally bittersweet, especially the tearful ending. The book is similar to other family-centric dramas and feels very much like a meeting of The Sound of Music with Little Women.

The book’s original manuscript is kept at the State Library of New South Wales, and though we passed the building on our walking tour of Sydney, we were there too late and it was already closed. Oh, well.

This book is in the public domain and can be found for free at Project Gutenberg.

bcareercoverMy Brilliant Career (1901) by Miles Franklin

Another classic, about a headstrong girl from a newly poor family who is sent to live with her more well-off relatives. Sybylla is intelligent and imaginative, but she spurns romantic attachments and resigns herself to a lonely life in pursuit of her “brilliant career,” though the novel ends without any indication she’ll be able to do this.

Sybylla was an intriguing character, but very hard to like at certain points. For its time, the unconventional fate of the heroine would have been a shock and the early feminist breadcrumbs in the story are certainly present. That was one thing that was refreshing, in spite of my personal distaste for the narrator; I didn’t always like the choices she made, but she was usually the one making those choices. It was also a treat to see this book referenced as a school assignment by a character in the next novel I read…

This book is in the public domain and can be found for free at Project Gutenberg.

tomorrowwhenthewarcoverTomorrow, When the War Began (1993) by John Marsden

Ellie and her friends leave their homes for a camping trip and come back to find their country invaded by a foreign power. Every resident of their small town has been gathered up by the invasion force, so Ellie and her friends must not only survive on their own, but stay undetected if they want to stay free. Yet with their families gone and no way to reach them, the group quickly comes to a decision that they need to be doing more. With only their wits and the things left behind in the aftermath of the invasion, Ellie and the others begin small-scale guerrilla sabotage against their invaders, in hope of someday returning to the normal life they’d taken for granted.

Since it’s publication, the Tomorrow series has been a perpetual favorite among young Australians. I was recommended this book by a good friend, who read it in school, and it’s easy to see why the book is so popular. The narrator has a voice that draws you in and makes you care about the characters so much that by the twist at the end, you’ll be on the edge of your seat. While the distopia trend is running its course in YA literature, I found this book a refreshing departure in that it focuses on the beginning of the change from normal, as we and Ellie understand it, to something so beyond our everyday experiences.

So, there you have it! I enjoyed this so much that I’ll probably try to do it for every longer vacation I take. Have you ever done something similar?

Winter Wrap-Up Part 1: NaNoWriMo

writing with pancakes

Writing longhand in Osaka

This was my first NaNoWriMo and I was TERRIFIED. With a daunting 50k monthly word goal and the whole first weekend of the month earmarked for a friend’s wedding in far-off Osaka, come November I knew I had to hit the ground running. I forced myself to wakeup at stupid o’clock on the morning of the 1st and pushed out nearly 1k before work, which set a good (if not sleepy) tone for the rest of the day. Thanks to the Wi-Fi desert that is the Tokyo Metropolitan Area transit system, I managed to make over 3k on my furious train-hopping to Kansai, twice the daily goal, but since I basically spent the rest of my weekend eating and catching up with friends, the head-start definitely helped keep me from panicking later on.

Being so singularly focused allowed me to break quite a few personal bests, amass a great 2k+ average daily total and eventually finish November off with an unbelievable 70,131 words. The best part was that the story was so close to being finished that I could see the light at the end of the tunnel! Even while planning for my winter break, in the first two weeks of the December I polished off the story with one whole day to spare before a hard-earned vacation. Aw yeaaah.

VICTORY DANCE!

So, long story short, NaNoWriMo was a ton of fun and I can’t wait to try again next year. There’s something about watching that little graph bar go up and up and up that sparks something primal in the monkey-brain. Having a whole bunch of other people all going through the same stress, sorrows and triumphs helps immensely and my only regret is that I didn’t give it a try earlier.

See you again next year, Wrimos!

Winter Wrap-Up Coming Soon!

So, I did it. Or rather, I didn’t do it. “It” being updating for a while, even though I’d planned the entries out in my head while doing something else, they never seemed to make the jump from my brain to the keyboard when I actually sat back down to my computer. This is both good and bad.

THE GOOD: Instead of writing blog posts, I was writing novelly things. A whole big novelly thing, in fact. My NaNoWriMo project that I was furiously outlining as of my last entry has stumbled out into the world as a first draft, awaiting the appropriate amount of time to pass before there’s enough mental distance to begin editing. Also started on yet another project, because there’s no rest for the wicked and as of current calculations, it’ll still take me 20 years to give page space to all the ideas I have jotted down in my “Writing Ideas” file.

THE BAD: I am a completionist at heart and I feel like I need to actually finish all of those posts I began in my head.

To answer this conundrum I will be walking myself through all of my winter accomplishments, in sequence. Maybe it’ll be boring. Maybe there will be pointless .gifs. Maybe that’s okay because, hey, it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want.

3 Things I’ll Never Do Again

October comes to a close, All the Eves Hallowed and the trees turning bare. With NaNoWriMo on the horizon and the cold weather keeping me in bed longer and longer, I’ve started to reflect on the last two months since completing my latest project. I’ve come to the realization that through September and October I have simultaneously:

  1. Edited a 70k project with structural tweaks, all new scenes, rewritten scenes and page-by-page line edits. Final line edits completed last weekend.
  2. Started a new project, completed yesterday(!), the first draft now roughly 75k but I expect it to be around 85-90 upon redrafting next year.
  3. Laid plans for a NaNoWriMo novel with first drafting to begin TOMORROW. (My NaNo username is dinosaurlace and I need writing buddies!)

Wow, so productive! Great idea, right? No. A hundred times, no. Dear future self, NEVER DO THIS AGAIN. At least not only in two months and not all at once. Give yourself three, I promise you’ll be happier.

What is life? What is sleep? Don’t ask me, I’m a writer.

Calcifer falls into pot.

Bathroom Centipede Distraction! and Other Random Instant Inspirations

note reads: "bathroom centipede distraction"

I could say this makes sense in context, but that would be a lie.

You know you’re a writer when you wake up in the middle of the night with a the perfect idea for your story. It fixes the plot hole in chapter 3, it gives character X the right motivation to get involved with character Y, it’s the hidden gem that expounds the theme, raises the stakes and incites the conflict all in one beautiful swoop. Or maybe it isn’t really the panacea you want it to be, but it’s a damned good idea and you will definitely remember it tomorrow morning.

Hahaha! If only. Nine times out of ten*, you won’t.

The only way to be 100% sure that brilliant, unconscious breakthrough manages to last through your next REM cycle is to jot that sucker down. This is how the memo above came to be. (And if you aren’t sure about the 1AM scrawl, yes, it does say “bathroom centipede distraction”)

According to literary legend, Truman Capote could only write lying down, and even Jack Kerouac believed the best time for writing was in the middle of the night.  Maybe something about night, sleep and our proximity to unconscious helps break down those creative walls we build with our own self-doubts. Keep paper and pens by your bed when you sleep. You never know when and how they’ll come in handy. Even if you wake up with no recollection of the weird instructions you wrote yourself when sleep-plotting, that idea might still be funny enough to post on your blog. (Centipedes? Really, 1AM me? Well, if you insist…)

* Disclaimer: Welcome to my blog, where the statistics are made up and the math doesn’t matter.

Sound off on your own experiences in the comments! What’s the oddest note you’ve written for a story?

NaNoWriMo Stretch Report

Previously on Kate’s Blog: A week-long experiment to get a taste for the challenges of NaNoWriMo before November hits. Will our hero succeed, or will she get distracted by cat .gifs on the internet? Tune in this week on Kate’s Blog for the shocking conclusion!

tortoise beats hare

If you read that in movie announcer voice, good for you.

10/01

This proved to be a great day for starting. Hooray for downtime! I managed 500+ words before heading to work, then chipped away on the rest during breaks.  Success! I even finished before lunch, so I was able to spend the afternoon working on edits for a separate story.

Day 1: 1726/1667 words

10/02

My second day was smooth sailing as well. I had a ton of free time in between tasks, but I think that led me to procrastinate a bit more because I knew I had wiggle room.

Day 2: 1737/1667 words

Total: 3463 words

10/3

Typically Thursdays are my busiest days, so I was afraid of slipping on my count. But given that I didn’t have a lot, I was more determined to make the best use of my time than I was with most of my other days. Between that and having a ton of fun with the scene I was writing, I actually managed to get more work done this day than any of the others during my stretch.

Day 3: 1955/1667

Total: 5418 words

10/4

I didn’t have as much time as I thought I would and I ended up being pretty worn down by work by the end of the day. It was a struggle to make the count before bed, but I squeaked by with a few words in change.

Day 4: 1727/1667

Total: 7145 words

10/5

Ah, the weekend! I wasted too much time watching the sky to see if it would rain to get in a heavy session before I headed out for the day, then wasted time again in my few hours at home before going out to a birthday dinner. I came back home and forced myself to finish the word count before I could sleep, which lost me an hour and a half or so of nice REM-cycle rest. Well, it ain’t NaNoWriMo without an (un)healthy dose of sleep deprivation, right?

Day 5: 1829/1667

Total: 8974

10/6

Library day! I went and parked myself in the public library with no other plan but to write. Since I’d been going over word count every day since the stretch began, I calculated that I wouldn’t need much more padding to make my personal goal (getting to 50k on my WIP before the end of the challenge) and I managed to hit the mark in about 2 hours. The rest of the time I spent focusing on editing another manuscript, which had been sorely neglected since my stretch began.

Day 6: 1690/1667

Total: 10664

10/7

LAST DAY WOOO! Morning writing went great, but lack of breaks and a lot of great TV to catch up on meant that I ended up staying up half an hour later than usual to hit the mark. But hit the mark I did. And you know how that feels?

bunny falls asleep at computer

Feels like it’s time for bed.

In conclusion: Experiment was a resounding success. Tough in parts, but I won’t have to run myself ragged the entire month of November. You hear that, NaNoWriMo? BRING IT.