Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Writing and Weird Dreams

Currently reading - Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand by Carrie Vaughn

I may have to skip editing AVT for a while. You see, I have this problem. A problem that leaves me very tired even after a full night's sleep.

When my conscious mind isn't engaged in creative writing, i.e. a current first draft project, for more than three weeks, my subconscious feels it needs to pick up the slack. As a result, I have had some very bizarre dreams lately. Two nights ago, I dreamed I was a Jedi trying to protect a street kid from an assassin droid while investigating why the 'droid (or its master) wanted the kid dead. The droid was an odd combination of IG-88, General Grieveous and a Terminator, not to mention my lightsabre could barely cut through it.

Have I mentioned my subconscious prefers fan fic?

Needless to say, I woke up Sunday morning absolutely freakin' exhausted.

Once I start a first draft project, the dreams go back to normal crap-like being in the middle of Sears with no clothes. And I don't feel like I've been battling assassin droids all night when I wake up.

Yep, definitely need to work on something new. It was the Borg last night. I don't know how much longer I can survive.

Suburban Momville

Currently reading - Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand by Carrie Vaughn

I don't meet the definition of suburban mom. I don't drive a minivan (GK loves going to sports practice in the 'Vette). I don't have the headband keeping my $200 perfectly colored bob out of my face (it's Revlon Colorsilk and a foot of hair comes off tomorrow to be shipped to Locks of Love). And I sure as hell don't feed my kid a macrobiotic diet (nothing like Fruity Pebbles while we're watching TMNT on Saturday mornings).

Yet sadly, my weekend dissolved into a pile of suburban momville crap. Don't get me wrong. I have no regrets over the flag football games, team pictures, my legal protege's baby shower, etc.

Except I didn't even have a minute to write a freakin' BLOG ENTRY, much less making any progress on AVT.

*sigh* New week, right?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Subjectivity, Part 2 (Or Do I Write Like a Boy?)

Currently reading - Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

What each gender finds amusing differs greatly. I'm not saying that men and women don't find the same things funny, but there are certains subjects that have definite gender splits. The Three Stoodges. Warner Bros. cartoons. The late columnist Erma Bombeck. Sex & the City.

So what do I do when the male CP's and beta readers find a scene hysterically funny and the female CP's and betas wonder why the hell I thought this scene was remotely amusing?

These things bothered me for a long time until DH pointed out with all gentleness, "Honey, have you noticed you write more like Jim Butcher than Sherrilyn Kenyon?"

I know he meant the comment at a compliment, I took it as a compliment since I LOOOVVVE the Dresden Files, but why did it leave me with an unsettled feeling? Because it made me wonder about my own identity. Am I like the lesbian in the joke who was so butch she wanted a gay relationship with a man? Have I done a complete 360 in my concept of gender?

Ironically, it was Jay Lake's call for recommendations for sf/f material for his pre-teen daughter that made me realize my early reading influences had shaped my writing. A majority of authors that I read, regardless of the author's gender, wrote about adventure. I wasn't interested in character sketches as much as fantastic voyages, buried treasure or riding a fire-breathing dragon.

So I decided to accept that this is how I write, gender be damned. Now to find an agent who loves a good adventure. . .

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Subjectivity (Or Why You Don't Get My Humor)

Currently reading - Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

I'm still toiling away on my AVT edits. It doesn't have the humor some of my other books have had, though I do have a sarcastic side-kick. In fact, there's a couple of plot points that still make me bawl, which is why I hide in an out-of-the-way table at my favorite writing cafe' while working on the manuscript.

Tragedy is often one thing every human will agree on, whether it be the Haiti earthquake or an abandoned puppy killed on the road. Pain and grief are universal conditions.

So is humor, but the odd thing is what makes one person laugh may be something that makes his companion shake her head in disbelief. The Three Stoodges come to mind. This subjectivity can make a humorous novel a hard sell.

Even if a writer evades the gauntlets of agents and editors, she has to consider how her readers will perceive her humor. Is she too quirky or too snarky? Will the heroine be perceived as mean-spirited or a kook?

Yet, another balancing act on the way to publication.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Do Reviews Matter ? (Or How to Manipulate a Market)

Currently reading - Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

One of the first things I was told by a published author when I joined RWA-Ignore your books' reviews. The bad ones only depress you, and the good ones give you a false sense of greatness. The real story lies in your books' sales numbers.

Normally, I don't read them myself. I rarely have the same tastes as the reviewer anyway.

But what happens when a bunch of people trash your book because they don't like the format? This happened to Michael Lewis on Amazon recently. His publisher opted not to produce a Kindle version of Lewis's THE BIG SHORT, and in retaliation, approximately eighty Kindle users (as of this writing) gave Lewis a one-star review.

What exactly do these people think they are accomplishing? If their methods hurt anyone, it's Lewis. Have any of these people e-mailed or written to the publisher, W.W. Norton Company? I doubt it. This is a perfect example of the wrong way to protest.

On the other hand, are these one-star, pro-Kindle reviews actually hurting Lewis? He's received 62 five-star reviews, many in retaliation for the one-star review.

I think the worst part of this is the biased reviews are against Amazon's own policy. Has the company removed them? No. The most likely explanation is their financial stake in Kindle.

After this and the Macmillan fiasco, Amazon's heavy-handed tactics may end up backfiring in the long run.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Currently reading - Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

A couple of recent situations got me thinking. In both, the author in question made the difficult decision to leave their current publishing house. UF author and mother of Kitty the Werewolf DJ, Carrie Vaughn talks about her decision on her blog, Genreality. The other I can't really talk about publicly yet, but a pubbed friend hit a point similar to Carrie's.

Sometimes it's incredibly difficult doing the right thing for your career, or your life. There's no guarantees in either. Both Carrie and my friend could have ended up landing on the street on their asses, instead of finding a new home for their characters. It takes a lot of faith and a hell of a lot more bravery to say, "I'm not taking your sucky deal. I'm worth more than that."

Even worse, our society teaches girls not to stand and say "I'm worth it." (L'Oreal commericals aside.) My own mother constantly told me as a child I couldn't act smarter or run faster than the boys because they wouldn't like me. And I hear my brother-in-law make similar statements to my nieces thirty years later.

So take the bull by the dick and tell a woman you love, "You're worth it!"

Include the one in the mirror while you're at it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

How the Monday Escaped

Currently reading - Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-smith

Between homeschool restarting (I let GK have the same Spring Break week as his best buddy) and trying to complete edits on AVT, the day sort of got away from me.

Still not done with those edits. The story is taking more of a suspense/mystery turn than I originally planned, and I want to make sure all the clues are properly placed.

So, in honor of the first mysteries I read as a kid, here's a little blast from the past:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fear IS the Mind Killer

Currently reading - Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Whether or not you've read Dune (or seen the movie or watched the mini-series), take the title of today's blog to heart. If you think you have writer's block, admit to yourself what it really is.


Pure and simple fear.

The question you have to ask youself--what is it you're really afraid of?

For me, it's fear of success. Whenever I had any kind of accomplishment as a child, I would be mocked, primarily by my own mother. That success/mockery set up an ugly pattern in my life, one I've struggled to overcome.

I'm not saying dealing with fear is easy. But by acknowledging it, dragging out into the sunlight, fear loses its power. Clearing your path of the shadows lets you proceed to become the person, and writer, you were meant to be.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Writer's Block or Excuses?

Currently reading - Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

I've noticed an interesting trend. Lately, whenever a published author says "There's no such thing as writer' block," a swarm of folks start with the bashing. The pubbed author has no idea what she's talking about. She has no idea of the pressure the critic is under. Writing is art, and you can't rush art.

To date, not one of these critcs whose comments I've perused is a published author. Correlation?

As my crit partner, Christie Craig would say, "My daddy was a plumber. He got up every morning to go work. Not once did he say, 'I can't work today. I've got plumber's block.'"

And that, kids, is why some folks succeed in this crazy business and others don't.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why It Pays to Choose Wisely

Currently reading - Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow

I read Aprilynne Pike's essay at Halloween last year, and I think it bears the occasional re-reading.

But then, the scene with the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with the comment, "He chose poorly," works too.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Common Query Problems

Currently reading - Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow

Occasionally, I pop over to Rick Daley's The Public Query Slushpile.

I've been seeing two really big problems in queries lately:

1) Way, WAY too long. A query should fit on a single 8 X 11 1/2 page. With the other info you need, like your book title, writing credits, etc., that leaves 250, possibly 300, words to explain your manuscript. That's it. Rick left some wonderful advice to a recent submitter - Start with one sentence that describes your work and build from there.

2) No specificity. "This is a coming of age story about a young boy who discovers his magical destiny." What does that sound like? Harry Potter, maybe? It could also be The Once and Future King, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Perseus, Bellerophon or any other f***ing Greek myth. BE SPECIFIC! "After his super explosive toots accientally destroy his elementary school, GK is drafted by the President to become America's unstoppable weapon, FART BOY."* See the difference?

Now get back to drafting those superb queries!

*This is what I come up with after limited sleep. Don't try this at home.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Perfect Writing Environment

Currently reading - Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow

What's the perfect writing environment for you? I don't mean your living room versus Starbucks's, your balcony versus your bedroom, or even the house full of noisy children versus utter quiet.

I mean, where do you like to be geographically?

Caribbean-born SF author Tobias Buckell choose to attend Bluffton College in NW Ohio exactly for its isolation so he could focus on his writing. In fact, I believe he referred to the area as "near-monastic." Of course, the first commenter asked if he was nucking futz. C'mon! Ohio versus the Caribbean?

I can understand Tobias's decision. In fact, I applied for a writing fellowship located twenty miles from the nearest metropolis for that very reason. If I'm accepted for this particular fellowship, I'll need a pick-up or a four-wheel drive to reach the ranch house.

Ironically, DH and I are planning to move back to NW Ohio. He grew up not far from Bluffton, so maybe I can cash in on that near-monastic environment after all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Writing Contests

Currently reading - Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow

How many of you have entered a writing contest? C'mon, don't be bashful. Speak up. I know I have lurkers out there.

One of my critique partners, CC, and I have an ongoing debate concerning the effectiveness of writing contests. And yes, it has become violent at times. (But not so violent, we'd waste perfectly good chocolate martinis by throwing them in each others faces.)

CC actually found her agent and editor through RWA chapter writing contests. Personally, I say good for her, even if she is a contest slut and paid more money for entrance fees than I did on my Hawaiian honeymoon.

CC's POV (and I don't necessarily disagree with her): Yes, getting good feedback is necessary for a newbie. Yes, it put her in front of the house that bought her first single title. Yes, she owes her fabulous career to a multitude of contest wins.

Seriously, one time she took first, second, third and honorable mention in same contest at the same time.

My POV: Contest entries work if you have the time and money. If the agents and editors most suited to work are judging these contests. If your style/voice meets the rigid criteria of a particular contest.

That last one is MY problem with contests. My writing doesn't fit into the nice little romance subgenre niche CC's does. My heroines are more likely to shoot, stab or incinerate the bad guys than to wait to be rescued. So for me, there's no sense wasting my time and money sending entries to be judged by folks who'd be the last ones on the face of the planet to represent me or buy my books.

And that's fine.

Until CC starts nagging me about entering another damn contest. . .

Monday, March 15, 2010

Speed Reading

Currently reading - Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow

If you read my blog on a regular (or semi-regular) basis, it may seem like it takes me forever to read a book. My normal reading speed is around 300 words per minute, roughly a page, which means I can finish the average novel in five hours or less. This assumes no interruptions from dogs having to go outside, family wanting dinner, phone calls from friends and relatives, etc.

Lately, I've been restricted to fifteen minutes a day during my break at work. Maybe an hour after I get home, assuming there aren't magazine deadlines to meet or football uniforms needing washed.

Since this week is Spring Break, maybe I can par down the TBR pile. Too many of my favorite authors are just waiting to be devoured.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Currently reading - Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow

The number of people who refuse to do any research about the publishing business amazes me. Internet access is at an all-time high. Libraries have free electronic searches and knowledgable staff. Same for most bookstores. And yet, people fail to use any of these resources. A simple search on "publishing a book" pulls up over 57 MILLION websites on Bing.

That's just Bing.

Google will pull over twice as many.

Granted you have to weed out some of the crap, but you have no excuses for not finding the necessary information.

My local Barnes & Noble? Seven four-foot shelves packed with books on how to write (ranging from chidren's picture books to erotic romance), how to find an agent, and how to get published.

Quite simply, no one has an excuse for not learning how the publishing industry works.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Editing Fun on a Friday

Currently reading - Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow

I managed a solid five hours of editing time at my favorite non-home spot after running errands yesterday. Went through two laptop batteries in the process. *sigh* My little 710m Inspiron's battery has been used and abused in the last four years so it's life is about half of what it was when I bought it. Luckily, DH also has 700 series for work, so he let me borrow his battery. A new battery is on my wish list, but then so is 2011's RWA National Covention in New York.

Anyway. . .

The editing process is fun and painful at the same time. Fun because the basic story is there. You don't have to worry about getting stuck or making a wrong turn and backtracking. Painful because you need to track down every little problem.

It's not the spelling and grammar errors I have problems with. It's the little continuity crap that kills me. Example: Love Interest mentions Past Incident involving Heroine and Best Friend. The purpose of scene is to show Love Interest's desire to know Heroine and Heroine's greater trust of Love Interest and how she starts to open up to him emotionally. Then I realize there's no way Love Interest could know about Past Incident because when I wrote the previous scene, Love Interest wasn't in a position to overhear or be involved in the discussion about Past Incident. Ack!

So I rewrote both scenes to make more sense.

Like I said before, I'm one of the strange writers who ends up adding words, not just taking them out.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Break's Here!

Currently reading - Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow

Happy Dance! Spring Break starts today as soon as GK finishes his test on the Texas Revolution and his language exercises. He busted his little butt to finish his lessons before this morning but didn't quite make it.

In the meantime, I've got a week and a half where I can focus on editing AVT instead of homeschooling lessons. Woo-ho!

Here's a little Spring Break fun courtesy of Tullycraft!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Trust In Yourself

Currently reading - Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow

Back in my college days, I taught archery at a summer camp. During a church camp, the minister asked to accompany me and the children. It's always nice to have an extra adult with a group of rowdy 9-11 year-olds, so I said, "No problem."

On the walk to the archery range, the minister made some remarks to the boys of group. Something to the effect of they need to listen to the instructor but then he'd teach them how to really shoot.

Yeah, I was miffed, but I showed the kids how to set up the targets, how to string the bows, and how safety was paramount to everything else. I selected and nocked an arrow, raised the bow, and drew the string back to my ear.

The arrow buried itself dead center of the target. A collective gasp, then excited shouting rose behind me. I looked skyward and whispered, "Thanks," before helping the kids get started. And the minister never moved from the bench in the lean-to behind the safety line.

Quite frankly, I've never hit a bull's eye without warming up, so part of that day was luck and part of it was confidence in the face of adversity.

It's no different with writing. Part of your success is the willingness to learn, to practice, to go on no matter what anyone says about your skill or ability. Part of that same success is having the right product at the right time--in other words, luck.

If you want to be a writer, put in your time at the keyboard. And a little good fortune never hurts either.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why You Never Know. . .

Twenty-five years ago, I met a girl in my sorority who refused to tell anyone her birthday. Her peers consistantly voted her most popular; she was always invited to parties, always had dates for the weekends. But during her junior year in high school, her parents threw a gigantic birthday bash. They rented a hall and had the affair catered. She invited all two hundred kids from her class.

No one showed up.

Fast forward two years and a half years later. The perennial nerd, I learned the local independent station would air the premiere of the new and long-awaited Star Trek series, The Next Generation, as their Friday night movie, a day earlier than they originally announced. Knowing all my sisters would be out of the suite for parties, dates, etc., I planned my geek evening.

Until two friends nagged the truth from me of why I will not go out with them that night. Well, Anne-Marie was dating Martin, who was not only a sports god on campus, but only other physics major in our class besides me and a fellow Trekkie to boot. He stalked up to me in the cafeteria during supper. "Why the hell didn't you tell me WAUB was airing the new Star Trek early?"

I had no illusions about my popularity. Anne-Marie and Martin were the ones everyone followed. But Martin wanted to watch Star Trek, so the next thing I knew my lovely evening alone had turned into a sorority/fraternity mixer. Before air time, I stood before the crowd in our suite and threatened the lives of anyone who spoke at any time other than commericals.

And surprisingly, the crowd of normally rowdy Greeks was absolutely quiet during the entire two hours.

The point of these two stories is simple. You can make all the plans in the world, but the universe has her own rules. And she has a wicked sense of humor.

So don't fret because your writing career isn't proceeding according to your outline. Keep your head and keep working. You don't know what's coming around the corner.

Oh, and about the universe's sense of humor-

I was teased incessantly over my preference for tea instead of coffee by my friends. So when Capt. Picard ordered, "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot," on that first October evening in 1987, every head in the room turned to stare at me. In my hands? You guessed it--a cup of Earl Grey.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rejections Don'ts

A long time ago, I called a writing buddy for a rejection analysis session. You know, the "what-do-you-think-the-agent-really-means" talk. At the end, she laughs and says, "Whatever you do, don't send a nasty e-mail."

"Um, wasn't planning on it."

Yet, some folks do. Or they rant on their blog.

Which is almost as bad as the published author that trash talks (or trash tweets) the person who gave her a bad review.

First of all, can you say, "Unprofessional?" I knew you could.

Exactly what does the rant, no matter the form, actually accomplish? Besides giving the appearance that you haven't been taking your psych meds?

Nothing, that's what. Absolutely, positively nothing. A rejection is just one person's opinion of your work. ONE person. Your WORK. NOT YOU.

And performing the electronic equivalent of screaming at the agent or editor isn't among Carnegie's methods of winning friends and influencing people.

Did the agent or editor give you some feedback? If you harass him or her, they won't do it again. I'm not making any comments on the respective merits, or lack thereof, on the feedback. That's for you to absorb and evaluate.

But I find it very disturbing that the same people complaining about lack of response from agents and editors are, in many cases, abusing those same agents and editors.

So, to the agents and editors who took the time to offer me their opinon, thank you.

For the rest of you bitching, please kindly shut the fuck up if you can't say something intelligent.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Holy S***! Kathryn Bigelow Won!

History has been made!

Heck, even DH was cheering her on, mainly because he despised AVATAR but that's another story.

Thanks, Kathryn, for proving what we've always known--you don't need a penis to be a great director or a great storyteller.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

To Self-Publish Or Not To Self-Publish

Self-publishing is either the way for decent authors to avoid the soul-crushing machine of New York or the surest sign of unprofessionality and arrogance known to mankind.

Depending on who you ask.

DH surprised me the other day when he asked if I'd considered it. For every argument against it I mustered, he had a counter-argument. I'll give DH credit. He'd been doing his research, citing the fragmentation of audiences cutting into book sales, the problems with NY publishers taking e-books seriously, and the ease of setting up a cyber-business.

I pointed out I still had fulls sitting with agents, which I'd like to follow, and we really couldn't afford to do it right now between house repairs, car repairs and braces.

So the discussion has been shelved for now, but a little part of my brain is wondering just how long NY will survive if the houses don't start adapting to the shifting publishing scene.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

I was in the target age-range, if not the target gender, when Laird and Eastman introduced the TMNT to an unsuspecting world. And I still kick myself for not picking up a copy of one of the original issues. Ahh, the turmoil of a young adult with insufficient funds.

The guys had a wonderfully warped sense of humor, which extends twenty-five years later. The swan song of Laird and Eastman's Mirage Studios was this video from last fall. Can Nickelodeon keep the same perverse irony now that they've taken over the property?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

You Gotta Have Friends

Currently reading - Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

I'm blessed to have published friends looking out for me. Before I continue, please remember two things:

a) Don't EVER expect people to do things for you.
b) I knew most of these gals before they got famous.

Back in 2004 at the first RWA chapter meeting I attended, I met two interesting ladies. The first one was short, wore a funky hat, and had an accent more southern-fried deep than my Aunt Des's. The other was such a cute pixie I swear I expected to see wings pop out of her back at any minute. Through these two, I met a quiet, demure, pearl-wearing lady who has a wicked talent for practical jokes (yeah, looks ARE deceiving) and another gal who is a unusual combination of Southern friendliness and NY f*** you attitude.

At first glance, you'd wonder how this motley crew functions as a crit group (especially after we've had one too many celebratory chocolate martinis), but we do.

Christie and Faye had some publishing success in the '90's before hitting a little dry spell. This is not an easy industry to find success, and both ladies are perfect examples of the moxy needed to forge ahead when you smack head-first into a roadblock. Teri leads the pack in e-book frontier, willing to take chances in what was a very new medium just a few short years ago. Jody and I have magazine credits but are forging up that full-length published novel mountain.

When I hit what appears to the casual observer to be a set-back recently, these gals jumped in with support: analytical phone calls, suggesting alternative markets, and "screw the man" e-mails. (Mind you, Jody's typing these e-mails with a broken arm while her husband's still in the CCU with encephalitis.) You can't beat this type of support system.

So here's my advice: if you're looking for a critique group, don't look for someone published to pull you up. It doesn't quite work that way.

Instead, find folks with similar goals who'll give you chocolate to soothe those rejection, martinis for the successes, and a kick in the pants when you need it. And you do the same for them because that's what friends are for.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Shows How Much I Pay Attention

Cyber wave goes out to Lisa Amowitz, who join my blog followers while I was adding all the 'the's I left out of AVT the last couple of days.

(Told ya I have to add words to my ms.)

It makes me feel good that people find my twiddlings interesting and worthwhile.

Or am I an example of what not to do? (Don't say it, Faye!)

That's the Way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I Edit

Currently reading - Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

I haven't posted for the last couple of days due to deep immersion in my first editing pass of AVT. Overall, I was rather pleased with this first draft. It flowed, had consistancy for the most part, and just needs a little tweaking. I amazed myself by only having two pages of notes, most of which consist of clarifying some plot points.

Using National Novel Writing Month as a jump start, I cranked out the 56.5K draft in forty-five days, a record for me. The most surpising thing was the amount of emotion I conveyed. I freely admit emotional nuance is one of my weak points as a novelist, second only to POV f***-ups.

Before anyone starts hollering that my manuscript is too short, please note--I am one of those rare people who has to ADD words to her manuscript. The first draft of ZL came in at 65K. The latest version I've been sending to agents is 95.5K.

Hmmm, I wonder how many novels I could crank out if I get that six-month writing fellowship?