Friends and Heroes

I have been gently mocked—and more harshly mocked by some—for my abiding love of George R. R. Martin and his A Song of Ice and Fire series. But for better or worse, our heroes are our heroes, and we cannot shake their influence or absolve our love for them.

I picked up A Game of Thrones in (approximately) 1999. I’m guessing, here, because I really don’t recall. I was with my parents at a Barnes and Noble in Waco, Texas, visiting my older brother at Baylor University. I think it must have been 1999 because it was an early visit to Waco and because A Storm of Swords came out in 2000 and my copy is a first edition. (And now signed!)

Actually, I picked up A Clash of Kings first, because of its attractive cover. The golden cover, the woman in red, the description of the book itself pulled me in. I mean, look at it. It’s pretty.

But because I’m an OCD soul, I had to go for the first book first. I picked up A Game of Thrones, despite its less attractive cover (I own the infamous Harlequin Jon Snow version, which is, these days, hard to find: see image above), and took it home with me.

I’m not going to lie to you, readers. It was boring. I fell asleep on our couch reading it. But after a few false starts, I was intrigued. And when (SPOILER ALERT – have you been living under a rock??) Ned Stark died, I was hooked. HOOKED. Here was a writer who could create a nuanced, sympathetic, enjoyable character, and kill him off without compunction. Here was a writer I needed to know.

So I read the gorgeous A Clash of Kings, and received my copy of A Storm of Swords for Christmas the next year. I read it, enjoyed it, was shocked by it, then patiently settled in to read the next installment. How little I knew.

Fast forward eight years to a small apartment in Hayward, California. I decided the story bouncing around in my head during my commute from Hayward to Berkeley for my reporting job deserved some more attention. I said to my (now) husband that I wanted to focus on fiction, and I did just that. I began my first (trunk) novel, a huge epic about a pair of thieves who get embroiled in a political conspiracy to return magic and science to their stagnated nation. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning rereading Martin’s books, learning about point of view and narration from his chapters.

Fast forward another three years to 2011. I met the wonderful Emmie Mears through WordPress and a shared experience of familial tragedy. We discovered a mutual love of Buffy and all things fantastic, and suddenly we were fast friends who had never met in person.

Now, in 2013, I had the great privilege of flying out to Maryland and meeting Emmie in real life.

e and k

Bosom friends meet at last.

Aww.

In case you haven’t noticed ’round these parts, Emmie has been a huge part of my life in the last two years. We’ve commiserated, celebrated, even long-distance watched movies together. Though it started as an Anne of Green Gables joke, she IS a bosom friend, and one I’m so very grateful to have in my life. My sanity would have suffered much more in the last 18-months without her supportive, bosom-friendy presence.

So what does my abiding love for Emmie have to do with my abiding love for GRRM?

Well, come Capclave and our time together, we encountered guest of honor, George R. R. Martin himself. Emmie sat beside me in the front row while he did his first reading and I blushed every time he looked toward us.

Then, at nearly one a.m. after a Scotch-tasting party, when I gushingly said I wanted to tell him that I used to stay up late rereading A Game of Thrones to learn about perspective and how much that helped me, Emmie said four simple words:

“You should tell him.”

So I did. I fanned out so hard. I told him how he was a huge influence on me, how his writing gave me the courage and the inspiration to try writing a ridiculously huge novel with multiple point of view characters. And then, because there was an awkward pause, I said it must have helped, since I now have an agent.

And because he’s awesome and kind enough to hang out with his fans, George R. R. Martin asked about my agent. And our writing. And our process. And told us about his own childhood.

We got to take a photo with him, too.

Photo does not include mental squeeing.

Photo does not include mental squeeing. Also, yes, I am this short.

Lifetime achievement: unlocked.

Since this photo, people have teased me. Said I should have it framed and hung in my bedroom. Above my desk. Treasure it forever.

And you know what? I’m totally going to do it. These two writers have influenced me more than I can say. I would be honored to hang them above my workspace.

Friends and heroes. What’s the difference?

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NaNoWriMo Prep: The Survival Kit

One of my favorite threads over on the NaNoWriMo forum is entitled, “What’s in your NaNo Survival Kit?”

Oh, yes. One of the best bits about NaNoWriMo is the stuff. NaNo is like a month-long party, and you can’t throw a good party without a few basic supplies. And a writing party has very specialized supplies.

1. Caffeine. My drug of choice is tea. Take your pick, and buy lots of it.

2. Snacks. For me, this includes nuts, fruits, and, yes, the occasional piece of chocolate. I also like Celestial Seasonings’ holiday herbal teas. Not a snack, exactly, but Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride keeps me from binge eating, well, sugar cookies.

3. Music (and headphones). Start working on your novel soundtrack now. Pick one song that captures the mood of the whole novel and could serve as the background track for the movie preview, and build from there.

4. Someplace comfy to write. I generally write at my couch. Yawn, I know. But I also  haunt the Starbucks at my local Barnes & Noble, which is also somewhat comfy and has the added benefits of different scenery, different hot teas, and new books to look at when I need a break.

5. Someplace not-so-comfy to write. When you need to focus, have a place where you can concentrate without interruption. For me, it’s the silent reading room at the public library, which is so silent that I feel sheepish opening a bottle of water.

6. Ponytail holders. Okay, this only applies to some, but sometimes long hair is a distraction.

7. A treat. This can be anything that will make you happy and motivated. This year, I bought a new travel teacup and a reloadable Starbucks gift card. Last year, I bought some cute elbow-length fingerless gloves to protect my tender arms from the edge of the desk. Get yourself some treat that will remind you that this process is supposed to be fun.

8. Some way to back up your work. This is passe, I know, but if you lose your first 35,000 words, you will cry. Use a flashdisk, get a DropBox account, or just email your work to yourself a few times a week. Do it.

9. A fun distraction. I recommend a novel that’s completely different from the one you’re working on. Or The Vampire Diaries. Or Buffy. Or The Sims 3: Supernatural. Honestly, if you need a distraction, come to me and I’ll give you one.

10. Supportive friends and family. Yeah, I know, you can’t buy this from Amazon (yet). But you can warn your loved ones that you’ll be really busy next month and that it will be a LOT of fun. We’ll talk more about this next week, but you should probably go ahead and give them a heads up now.

Are you excited yet? I am! Add me as a writing buddy on the NaNoWriMo website! You know you want to! There will be more exclamation points!