Monday, February 28, 2011

My Road Traveled

Due to popular demand, we’re going to start a series where we have authors come and tell us the story of their path to publication. I'll kick it off! Since I’m still travelling that road, I’m going to tell my story to contract.

The other day I was talking to a non-writer friend. I told him the story of how Crescent Moon Press offered me a contract. I told him: I went to an online chapter party and pitched to an Editor. She requested the full, and I sent it in. She offered two weeks later. And he said… “Wow. That’s Easy.”

*HEAD TO WALL*

Please don’t throw tomatoes at me. I think we all know that nothing about this path is easy. It sounds simple when I say it like that.

Here’s what I didn’t tell him…

The first book I wrote was a YA before YA was hot. It was what I was reading, so it’s what I ended up writing. Now, I’m going to tell you about my first. His name was Ty, and he was dreamy. I was a young teen… Obviously I’m talking about my first romance hero. I started my obsession with Nora Robert’s The Villa. Unfortunately, Ty ended up with the heroine. What was her name, again? Yeah… don’t care. I eventually met my husband, who may or may not share qualities with my first romance hero. (He does… he totally does.)

Then I found adult romance again. And then… I found paranormal romance. This was perfect, since I was seriously irritated that I never got my letter from Hogwarts. Paranormal romance assured me that I still had time to develop powers. Whoo! After reading hundreds of books, I wrote the first book in my first paranormal series. Then I plotted out all nine books. Then I queried. Then everyone rejected my poor story. It wasn’t original enough.

I took my whiteboard out one day and said I’m going to be SO original they won’t know what hit them. I wrote the story in December 2009. Six months later I figured out that I had actually written a fantasy. Lol… well… people have been doing that for a while. Perhaps not so original. And then I started the revisions… I joined a crit loop, and found my CP, Sarah. And I spent two months revising that thing to death. I queried. I went to conferences. I pitched. People requested. People liked my stuff. No one wanted to try to sell a fantasy romance. It was too much romance for fantasy. But during that time, some Editors gave me some great feedback that I used to revise again, and again, and again. I sent my brand new version to Crescent Moon Press, a publisher I had heard fabulous things about, and sold in January 2011. A full year later.

There was blood, there was sweat, and there were tears. There were great, supportive people who took a very shy person and befriended her. There were also tough moments…

In October 2010, I was asked to leave a critique group of mostly unpublished authors because they said I wasn’t ready to publish. Three months later, I sold. That’s all I’ll say on that.

Except… Look for Ruined in 2011 from Crescent Moon Press.

Do you have one defining event that was a huge obstacle on your road to publication?

We're still looking for someone to post a publishing story on March 14 and March 28. If you know anyone who is interested, please let us know at castlesandguns@gmail.com

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Behind Closed Doors: The Editorial Committee

I am a huge fan of Donald Maas' Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. Even though I don't realistically dare even hope to write a breakout novel, that book is a great working tutorial on upping the ante in your manuscript. I swore, after working through the book on my last manuscript, that I'd never again say a manuscript was finished till I'd run it through the exercises in that workbook. (I've since added James Scott Bell's Revising Your Novel to that list.)

So this week I sprang for Mass' new book, The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers, and while I haven't read it yet, in flipping through I came across Chapter 20: "Publishing Myth vs. Reality." One of the first things he talks about is something I've experienced at least in a vicarious way--the editorial committee.

So, here's how it used to work. You or your agent would submit your scrubbed-and-polished manuscript to an acquisitions editor, who would read it and decide she liked it. She'd trot down the hall to her boss, the editorial director or some such title, plead her case, get an okay on how much advance she could offer you and, eventually, you (or your agent) would get The Call.

Doesn't work that way anymore, Toto.

Now, it goes something like this. Acquisitions editors are so overwhelmed that their reading of manuscripts takes place on nights and weekends, but despite fatigue and book overload, let's say an editor reads your manuscript and likes it. No, LOVES it. She has to love it. She goes back to the office and slips the manuscript to some other key people to get their feedback so she has backup. Let's say they all love it, too (because if they don't it's probably coming back to you with a rejection slip). Then she heads to the weekly meeting by The Committee. There are editors there, and marketing people, and money people. The editors take a big gulp, and armed with not only your manuscript but an idea of how it might be marketed and sold, pleads your case.

Here's how Maas describes it:

"With forty or more people in the room and many projects on the agenda, things move swiftly," Maas writes. "Editors present their projects. Everyone else looks for reasons to shoot them down. Other editors have their own projects to slot. Marketing people want a marketing plan that will work. The sales force knows that fiction is tough to sell. One grunt from the wrong person and the tide turns. The project is turned down and the meeting moves on to the next."

Of course, he goes on to write that editors today work in such a fast-paced environment that there's no time for massaging a story along -- and I haven't found that to be the case. My editor juggles more projects than a juggler has balls (hmm...no, won't go there), but she has given my book an enormous amount of TLC and invaluable guidance.

It did have to go through The Committee first, though, which was a slow process, and now that I read Mass' bits of insight into how editorial committees work, it's astounding to me that manuscripts still get bought and sold. I mean, have you sat in a meeting of forty people and EVER seen everyone in complete agreement, even on the color of the sky? Sheesh.

Anyway, I've had one project make it through a committee process and I've had another that did not. Editor loved it, but The Committee as a whole didn't. It's a tough old world out there, guys, but I still say there's nothing I'd rather be doing.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Contests

I'm currently judging in Pacific Northwest Literary Contest. I should explain that I'm the Contest Chair--the big honcho. Wish that meant I got a bunch of bennies. Nope. Just means I work hard.

We jumped the gun on a few of the entries and I grabbed ten out of Science Fiction/Fantasy, hoping that I would find a gem. I cut my baby teeth on reading these type of books, thanks to a mom who was a librarian and brought home any and everything I requested. OMG, was I wrong. I'm not sure what's missing in every single one, but so far I'm forcing myself to read/judge the entries. Some people have these really great ideas, and those I begin reading with eagerness. Unfortunately, follow through seems to be missing. In some cases, its obvious that they are beginner writers, making beginning mistakes. Through contests like PNWA those writers will learn to correct themselves.

What has surprised me is the wild spectrum of these peoples' imaginations. I'm impressed.

If you never been behind the scenes of a contest and judged in a contest, I really suggest you voluteer to do so. You'll see things you do in your writing. Things you've learned to correct. Or, maybe you'll find that gem--the story you can't put down.

I've been working on PNWA's literary contest for five years now and I haven't grown tired of it yet. That's a good sign. We're always tweaking the contest rules a bit each year, striving for improvement. The second year I started, I suggested we ask our finalists to read/critique and the response each year has been wonderful. This year two agents and an editor asked if they could read/critique. Happy dance for me.

Have you ever entered a contest? What were the results? What did you like about it? Disliked? Have you ever volunteered to judge? I'm always looking for eager, qualified readers. Any volunteers? Let me know at darcy-carson@comcast.net.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Slowly Step Away from the Social Media!

Children, the word of the day is... Platform.

You see, if you are getting into this writing life, you will hear this word often.  It doesn't matter that you are not published yet.  It doesn't matter if your computer knowledge can be summed up with the words, "Where's the power button again?"  The second the thought crosses your mind that you wish to be a published author, you are immediately expected to get a website, a blog, start tweeting on twitter, friend everyone on facebook, and do three other things that were not invented when this blog post was written.

The theory is simple.  You need to have an online presence so that you can convince people to buy your stories once they are available, because the publishing houses have less time and money to market you to the readers.  Reasonable of course.  We aspiring authors do not have unlimited budgets, we can't buy commercial airtime or tons of print ads.  Being on the internet is one of the most inexpensive ways to have our name out there.

The tricky question is how well does this really work?  Hmmm.  You see, while it is true that in terms of dollars spent the above mentioned actions are very reasonable, what is the cost on your productivity?  After all, the time you spend on facebook or your website is time you are not writing your next story.  That is a cost that needs to be considered.

A study was just done (forgive me for not remembering specifics such as by who, my memory is shot these days) that looked at how the book buying public found new authors - in particular, did all these new fangled websites really help people find new books?  The answers were not in social media's favor.  Less than 20% of people who responded found a new (to them) author because of the author's facebook, twitter, blog, or webpage.

So how did people find new authors?  Over 80% found an author in one of either two ways - either a friend recommended the author, or they randomly found a book with a blurb they liked and started reading.

Yeah, it turns out people are still primarily finding authors and books in the same way they've been doing all along.

Now, by me bringing this up, am I saying that it's worthless to spend time on platform?  Let me put it this way, do you see me being a member of a group blog page?  Exactly.  Social media is by no means worthless.  It might not have been huge numbers, but spin the phrasing around, and Hey!  Almost 20% of people asked found a new author because of social media.  Wonder what percentage increase that is from five years ago?  Wonder what percentage it will be five years from now?

What I do want to do is impress upon all that the most important thing is still writing the book.  Get your pages in.  If you have to sacrifice either updating your blog or finishing your chapter, it's not even a contest.  As an author, the best thing you can do always and forever is write the next book.

Social media is both a time and creativity suck.  It has its place, but too many times I've heard authors lament that they've wasted half the day on writing these great blogs and witty tweets, and now they are creatively tapped out and just can't face their stories.  Wrong place to put your energies! 

My friends over at 1stTurningPoint put it best.  They are a site dedicated to helping authors learn the ins and outs of marketing and are a great resource, but even they put in big letters for all to see "PAGES FIRST.  Promo won't do you a bit of good if you don't have something to sell".  To all my writer friends, please keep that as your motto.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Strange Dreams

Dreams... I'm known for my wacky dreams in my household. I've had several really weird ones over the years, and I tend to remember them when I wake up, or at least parts of them. My husband sometimes raises his eyebrow at me when I talk about them.

I've had some really strange and intense dreams the last few nights. Monday night's even scared me a bit since it was very horror, survival-based. Most of Tuesday night's had to do with a story idea I've had running through my thoughts, and it helped me figure out more about that story, which was nice, but still very intense. I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a Mack truck. It took a little bit for me to get it together.

I don't really consider some of my dreams nightmares. I try to think of them as fodder for my novels. I've gotten some great ideas that I've used from them before. That was the origin of Tuesday night's dream continuation. For me, a nightmare is something that invokes sadness, pain, or fear that stays with me when I wake up. I had one of those Monday.

Anyways, one of the weirdest dreams I've had was a few years ago, but I still remember it. I was running through a graveyard and trying to fight these really large zombies. I didn't have anymore bullets in my gun in the dream, but I had a spoon, which I had to use to behead them. I did what I needed to survive, but it was odd! I got overwhelmed by trying to stay alive and climbed onto a mausoleum, but they could were still able to get to me. I have no idea what had brought that dream on.

How about you? Tell me about your strange dreams. Writers, do you use them for inspiration in stories? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Please Don’t Dislike Disliking My Dislikable Character

*Waves* I’m reporting live from my editing cave. I’m well aware I had a lot more fun writing that title than you did reading it. But I’m low on sleep, wired on caffeine, and mid a scene revision. I’ve heard people mention over and over that there aren’t enough hours in the day, but seriously, who do we talk to about adding more?
Today’s blog comes from my recent experience with edits. The topic kind of reminds me of sorting jellybeans by flavor. In a manuscript, you usually have your good guys (in my case the red jelly beans), and your heroes (I also really like the licorice jelly beans). Then you have your bad guys (I’m not a huge fan of the yellow) and your villains (possibly the orange). This doesn’t always work because I usually love villains, but you get the idea. Then there’s the green… the unlikeable characters. By the way, I should say up front, I recognize everyone has differing viewpoints in regards to favorite jellybeans, so please feel free to insert said color to support your viewpoint. I come in peace. I support all jellybean flavors. Wow, so this is what happens when I write a blog after 50 hours of editing. Good to know.
Back to what I learned… if you have an unlikeable character, it’s important to make sure that the characters the readers are suppose to like react appropriately to he or she. If we are trying to get a reader to sympathize with our heroine, then she must dislike a character if they are mean to her. Otherwise, she looks weak. This seems simple enough in theory. But I found I really have to go back and study these things in a manuscript before I notice them.
I think that the reader can’t dislike disliking your dislikeable character. They have to care about the character. For example, if a reader really wants your annoying character to end up in the dungeon, then that’s probably a good sign because they actually care what happens to that person. I think this is especially important in urban fantasy because the lines often blur between good and bad. I’ve read a lot of books lately from the paranormal genres where I think there’s no way I’m going to like a hero, and then somehow the author manages to make me empathize with him. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s truly a skill set. Sometimes there’s a thin line between a hero and an annoying character. But I love the books where the authors make me care about a jerk. Call me a sadist.
Do you agree or disagree? What’s your view on character reactions to other characters?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Guest Author Marsha A. Moore

How to make a mermaid…

There are lots of ways to make a mermaid, but in my world there are only two. A mercouple can create and give birth naturally to a baby merperson, OR a human who is heartbeats away from death can be “saved,” transforming him/her into a merperson by a mermaid/merman who is skilled in the arts of mermagic. The latter is the case for my main character, Ciel, in my book fantasy erotic romance Tears on a Tranquil Lake.

Here’s how she was turned. The first kiss Ciel receives from her merman soul mate, is a powerful mix of magic and passion…changing her life forever.

Have you read about any other ways to make a mermaid? I’d love to know!

Excerpt from Chapter 1, Tears on a Tranquil Lake, fantasy romance

The ‘gator wanted to drown me….make me an easier meal. A chill passed through my body and I shivered. Feverish heat built up inside me, spreading from my head and torso down my limbs. Eventually the wild drumbeat of my heart obliterated everything. I panicked and tried to move, but lacked control of my muscles. Immobile and helpless, I could only listen. The throbbing pulse dimmed as the lake’s waters claimed my life. I submitted…mind blank to all except the faint thump. For an immeasurably long time I heard its rhythm fading away. Seconds or dozens of minutes, I didn't know; altered perception foiled my judgment.

Then, a touch against my face—shattering my delirium.

Fear engulfed my barely conscious mind. What was it? Death seemed welcome compared to experiencing an alligator attack upon my body.

Something soft caressed my lips, not at all like hard reptilian scales.

My sense of touch heightened. Encouraged by returning consciousness, I struggled against the darkness. My eyes searched, yet still failed to see.

Soon, I understood the feeling of lips pressing upon mine. Their burning heat made me panic. I tried to jerk back, but had no muscle control, no way to resist. They forced my lips apart, and a fiery tongue thrust inside my mouth.

In short time my limbs tingled with renewed sensation. Attempting to thrash my arms, I found them both secured.

The mysterious tongue persisted, searing my own.

Strangely, the warmth moved across my entire body and I calmed, mesmerized by this unusual kiss. In some curious manner it restored my consciousness. Peacefulness spread over me, and I accepted this connection as my life force. Our kiss grew pleasurable and I slipped my tongue along the other. Waves of passion rippled through my body and I desired whatever being touched me. Wanting to know more, I opened my eyes. Light pained my limited vision.

A hazy image flashed in front of me.

I pulled back, ending the kiss and viewed a sweep of dark hair turning away, moving up toward the surface.

Blurb:

What a surprise for a young woman, to find herself suddenly transformed into a mermaid.

Ciel’s first thought – track down the merman who changed her and make him reverse his magic. Unable to find him, survival in her new world becomes paramount. She eagerly accepts help from a dashing pirate captain who takes a fancy to her, lavishing her with finery. When her merman does show up, he competes for her affection. One look into his eyes makes her life more complex -- he is her soul mate.

Which man will she choose – pirate captain or merman? Which life – human or mermaid? Caribbean adventures and dangers chase Ciel as she searches for decisions and the key to her happiness.

Warning: This book contains Haitian vodou, sultry wenches, foul-mouthed scalliwag pirates, overindulgence of fine Caribbean rum, and amorous encounters on deserted beaches.

Links to Marsha and her books:
Website
Blog
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads
Publisher: http://museithotpublishing.com/
ISBN: 978-1-926931-29-6
Purchase from:
MuseItUp Publishing
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Coffee Time Romance Bookstore
All Romance
Omnilit
Diesel

Monday, February 21, 2011

The PR/Marketing Game

I’m guessing most people in the publishing arena realize PR and marketing are part of the game. For better or worse, it’s up to us to help (mostly) sell our books. No longer can an author depend on their publisher to go to lengths to incite interest in their book and find hungry readers.

It’s up to the author to reach and network with potential customers. And that’s all good—if you have the necessary skills and savvy to pull it off. It also helps if you like marketing yourself and your work.

For me, this is the hardest part of establishing a writing career. I’m not a sales person. Nor do I want to be a sales person. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I can blissfully write, socialize with my writer friends, and pretend it doesn’t matter. Because no one is going to do it for me. And those who don’t market, don’t make it. I don’t want to be in that group.

So what to do? And this is where my difficulties arise. How many reader/writer groups can a person reasonably belong to and actually contribute to? You can’t just pop up one day and say please read my excerpt and buy my book when you haven’t participated up to that point. How many contacts and workshops does it take to actually learn how to do a good job of marketing?

The standard social networking sites are easy and my first choice for networking, but I’m not really comfortable using them as marketing tools at this point in my career. I’ve never been good at shouting for attention and then talking about my achievements or asking others to purchase something I’ve created. I’ve discovered there’s a big difference between showing your work to people who ask to read it and putting it out there for people you hope will read an excerpt and then purchase the complete work. Marketing is hard work and one of my least favorite things (right up there with the dreaded synopsis) about the writing/publishing process.

How about you? How do you prefer to market? Do you like the reader/writer sites and loops? The popular social networking sites? What has proven most effective in your campaign? When do you start your campaign for a new book?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Taming the Beast

My title may make you think that I'm talking about creatures from the Darkworld. I am in a sense, but really, I'm talking about myself. There's a beast inside me that prowls constantly. It wants to be fed. I feed it with words.

Lately, the beast has been on a very lean diet which makes it truly unhappy. And when the beast is unhappy, I am too. I've got a couple of things that I need to finish, some of which are basically contracted, like the next book in the Tales of the Darkworld series. However, life and this story conspire against me constantly and it's been slow going. The beast doesn't like that at all. What I need to do is tame it so that it's constant prowling doesn't stress me out to the point that it interferes with what little time I do have for writing.

One of the things that tames the beast is doing Six Sentence Sunday. The beast LOVES this! I don't always have time to comment on all the other authors' offerings but I am grateful for the opportunity to share my WIPs and for the comments I do get. Since this is a Sunday, I'll add the link to my SSS offering at the end of the post. Feel free to drop by. It's only six sentences and a photo of a hottie so it won't take up much of your time. ;)

Anyway, the beast is appeased by my Sunday Sixes, which lately have been snippets of my Regency WIP. I have 75K that was written long before I was published so it's in need of some tender loving rewrites and the beast loves this story. The beast also loves blog posts. So right now, I'm feeding it and it's making happy snuffles.

Taming the beast can be done easily on days like this, but during my work week, it's pretty difficult to deal with. Sometimes at lunch, I wolf down cheese and crackers and type as fast as I can to produce 750 words. The beast adores that. It's a little difficult to try to produce romance when you're in the office but I can do it once in awhile.

Now, the other thing that's been conspiring to keep the beast on a diet are my characters. The two heroes of Breathe Me In are strong willed. First, they demanded that I tell their story before delving into the sequel to Fire Season. These heroes give me their story slowly as if they are cooking it in a crock pot, the smells permeating the space inside my head and making me eager to get to them. When I lift the lid to see what's cooking, Will and Garrick only let me have a taste. I've yet to get a full meal from them. This is the only WIP I've ever had where I can't seem to sit down and knock out 1K or more. I'm writing it in snippets of 400 words here and 600 words there.

What this means is that these characters won't be rushed. When I do manage to write them the words are lush and rich. The story is evocative. The characters are finely drawn. It seems really different than my usual work and the beast inside me adores this story. Other stories are like a pallet of Big Macs to the beast while this one is like a delicate dish of roast duck, small portions of rich meat, crackling skin and a sauce that makes the tastebuds water. A feast of the senses.

Now, Breathe Me In and it's uncooperativeness isn't the only thing I have percolating in my head to write and the beast knows this. The beast wants all the immediate stories in my head to find paper and soon! I keep adding notes to my plots to help appease the beast and try to stay on task with Will and Garrick (who have a deadline to meet.)

Overall, I've kept the beast in check since mid-December, but it's truly restless and I know in my bones that today or tomorrow (which is one of the few holidays I get off at work) it will slip its leash. At that point, if Will and Garrick don't want to cooperate, the beast will whip out a different WIP and I will type my fingers to the bone feeding the monster. And I must admit, it's a rush to feed it thus...typing and typing as if I cannot stop, which of course, is the truth. I won't be able to stop. The characters and story will spill from me in a flood until I've written 6K in a day. And if it happens to be 6K of Will and Garrick my editor will probably sob with happiness because that will put me at the half-way point for that book and position me well to complete it on time.

So you see, I don't really have a muse like other authors. Instead, I have a beast who is placated solely by the amount that I write. Feeding the beast is what tames it best. And feeding the beast means I finish manuscripts and get contracts and have releases. Who is going to argue with those? Contracts are awesome things to get. Releases are amazing! I can't wait to give the world Breathe Me In. Tales fans are waiting with baited breath for this story and I want to deliver. Hopefully, the beast helps me get to the mid-point this three day weekend. If it does, we'll all feel a whole helluva lot better.

If you're interested in my Six Sentence Sunday post, you'll find it HERE. In the post is a link to a list of all the participants. You should check them out. They are...amazing!

Happy pre-President's Day Sunday!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Future of Publishing - or, Should all Aspiring Writers Quit Now and Raid the Liquor Cabinet?

As I'm sure most who read this blog have heard, Borders is going into Bankruptcy.  *Que Doom and Gloom cloud*  They are filing a Chapter 11, which to my non-legal mind understanding means that they are not throwing up their hands in defeat and selling everything, never to be heard from again.  Instead they hope to emulate the phoenix, rising from the ashes stronger and surer than they were before.  However, not before a lot of pain occurs and some people will be getting burned.

Let me say first and foremost, my thoughts and prayers are with the employees who are going to lose their job during this reorginization.  May you all come through this time stronger and surer as well.

Now to how this news affects those of us in the writing community, those of us not yet published or even those published but not mega sellers, suffice to say, I'm sure many a writing desk now has a head sized dent in it.

It's flippin' scary right now to those of us who are actively trying to enter the world of publishing.  So much is in flux, so many variables are in effect, it really seems like an exercise in not just futility but in stupidity to keep trying to get published.

This is probably why there are so many "Should I quit?" posts going on right now.  Sure, it has always been hard to get published, but we are now in an age where the understanding of how publishing will actually work is changing daily.  Brave new world, indeed.

Listen my friends, please do not start raiding that liquor cabinet yet.  Maybe I am a foolish woman who is suffering from long term sleep deprivation and has no sense about her, but I am not scared of the changes.  Aware of, yes.  Concerned about, sure.  Constantly educating myself about, absolutely!  But, scared, no. 

I equate this to when the movie studio system had changed around the 60's (this is not a perfect analogy, but close enough).  Looking back, I think most of us would agree all in all this was a good thing.  Movies and actors that never would have been been around under the previous studio system came about, some of which were pretty awful (Russ Meyer anyone?  Cult status notwithstanding) but it also gave us incredible stories, movies that 50 years later still wow us with their power.

Still, I'm very sure that during the transition, the people involved were probably chugging antacids daily, wondering how it was going to shake out.

I'm excited to be around during this time.  So many opportunities are open to me that weren't even five years ago, it boggles the mind the speed of change, and the thought of what will be open to me five years from now makes me giddy.

I'm going to do what writers have always done.  I am going to keep writing my stories and keep trying to get those stories out there to the public by whatever publishing options are open.  That has never changed.  It's only the vehicle that will get my stories to the public that has changed.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Don't Give Up

One of the things needed to have a career in writing fiction is persistence. Rejections are just part of the job. Even RITA winners get rejected. I went to the PRO Retreat last year at RWA's National Conference and heard HelenKay Dimon talk about how when she had won a RITA, she wrote a new kind of book that her agent didn't really go for, and she ended up trying to find a new agent, which should've been easy for someone like her, but it really wasn't. And she received a lot of rejections before finding someone. That takes a lot of perseverance.

I try to remind myself of this topic every few weeks, especially being in the middle of the submission process. Sometimes, it's challenging to hang in there. Another example on this that springs to mind is J.K. Rowling. She received a ton of rejections before finally getting an agent, more rejections with publishing houses, and look at how well she's done. Wow! Just because an agent or editor passes on your work, doesn't mean there's necessarily anything wrong with it. It might just be a matter of taste, or they might think they couldn't sell it.

Surprisingly, at DigiCon over at SavvyAuthors.com this week, I received several full requests! I'm super excited about those. The paranormal romance novella I received requests from is something I've been trying to get published for a few years. It was exciting to get the requests on it. I'm still not contracted yet, but just having that reminder of not giving up really means something. I hadn't expected to pitch my paranormal romance novella. I'd been about to hang that one up and call it done. Pitching it was a spur of the moment decision, and one I'm happy I've made.

How about you guys? Have you ever felt like giving in? Did you, or did you keep going?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Does Book Humor Cross Genres?

My defense to my husband when he doesn’t laugh at my jokes is that he just doesn’t comprehend book humor. Beyond my jokes, even if I read him something from a book and he doesn’t laugh, I claim not only does he not understand the context of the joke, which makes it genius, but he also fails to appreciate book humor. What a shame.
Do you think there is something in readers that makes us more susceptible to laughing at situations in books? Usually, it’s not exactly a joke. It’s just two people doing something that causes mass hilarity to ensue. But I’m wondering, is it just me? Does this type of humor cross genres? Can a dark fantasy romance be funny?
When I tried to write my book, I kept the humor out at first. But it read pretty dull. I found myself adding in small details that had my personality leaking onto the page. And some of it, I find funny. Luckily, some of it, a few others found funny, too, but humor is so subjective. As romance readers, are we all on the same page? Or do we laugh at different things? Is our life perspective influential in what we laugh at and what we find lacking?
Even though my husband doesn’t always laugh, I swear he gains a type of amusement from my lack of ability to make him laugh. Awful fickle if you ask me. Sometimes, if I can actually get him to laugh, it makes it pretty special. Whenever I start talking about books I’m reading or writing, his first question is, “Is this story about people who aren’t real?” My response is… touché. What’s real to one may not be real to another. I’ll continue to talk about fictional characters as though they are real and read you passages I think are funny. You continue to watch twelve hours of football on Sundays during the season. I’m glad we came to this mutual understanding. I would prefer if you laughed at my jokes, but this will do.
Do you believe in book humor? Or am I just making things up?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Face Off

Anybody else been watching this show on the SyFy Channel? Where they pit expert make-up artists against each other in challenges… I caught it for the first time a few days ago and was fascinated!

To watch how they turn a human model into something nonhuman is really awesome. I’ve never been one to find the interaction between contestants on these real life shows terribly interesting but the processes are cool.

(You know, this one is a pig, that one is a prima dona…she likes him, he is just using her to get ahead on the competition… Blah, blah, blah. I would almost prefer to watch these shows with the sound off. I want to know how they do things! Who they are? I could care less.)

I’m like that with cooking shows, decorator shows, the designer shows. Wonderful to watch, but forget the people.

Now! This show, Face Off, could really get a writer’s brain thinking. A challenge to body paint the model to fit into a background…that is pretty similar to a writer seeing something and being inspired to try something different. See a picture and imagine…what would fit there?

A dragon? A wyvern? A man with wings, a mermaid? A woman with a big ass gun facing a griffon? A master vampire preparing to take action? A ship with sails and fins instead of an oar?

(I love to play with ships. But that is me! A sky of stars makes me think of a ship that uses the solar wind.)



Here’s a picture…you aren’t a make up artist…but what you put here? I can see a lone figure standing against that sky, a weapon raised high in defiance. Who is she/he? What does the light in the sky signify?

And you?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yes, Virginia, They're Still Printing Books in New York

Funny thing, publishing.  A decade ago--heck, a couple of years ago--an author would write a book, then query like mad to find an agent. That hurdle passed, the agent would then submit one’s manuscript to a publisher, and so on and so forth until, eventually, one’s book ended up on the shelves of the local bookseller. A few mavericks would forego the agent and submit directly to the publisher.

Well, we all know that publishing model--the New York Model--has gotten a little frayed around the edges. Authors are responsible for more and more of their own marketing. Digital publishing has taken off like mad, and several top-notch small publishers are cropping up that can produce books more quickly than the Big Boys and are more willing to take a chance on a first-time author. Self-publishing and POD publishing offer even more options, with digital publishing offering much higher royalties to authors than the traditional model pays.

Authors are abandoning the traditional means of publication in droves.

I am not one of them, at least not yet, and I’ve found myself in the odd position recently of actually having to defend my willingness to stick to the slower, old-school model.  Yes, it’s been a long two years between contract and printed book. Sure, I’ll still have to do a lot of my own promotion. Yep, a lot of the decision-making in terms of production is out of my control. But to me, it has been an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Does this mean I won’t ever go with a digital publisher or even self-publish? Of course not--and maybe sooner rather than later. But I’d be lying if I said I regretted a second of the process I’ve been through so far in my own publishing journey, and I think it's still a worthy goal for any author, even in the digital age.

I’ll be at SavvyAuthors.com tomorrow (Monday) night from 8-9 p.m. Eastern, talking about working with a Big Six publisher, a process I'm still in the early-to-middle stages of. Questions? Comments? Name-calling? It’s free (you just have to register on SavvyAuthors, which you should do anyway because it’s an awesome site) and is, ironically perhaps, part of their Digicon digital publishing online conference. Also free. Check it out, and join me for a chat by registering here.



Saturday, February 12, 2011

What Keeps You Writing?

I made a mistake on my last blog . . . I totally forgot about it. Bad Darcy. I came down with a cold and was feeling sick and sorry for myself.

But, the brain fart reminded me of a workshop Nora Roberts gave once. The room was full of eager people, wanting to learn the secret to publication. People wanted to know how she wrote so many books, and I think this was about the middle of her fabulous career. I'm going to have a paraphrase as its been a while . . . but the gist of her response was that she sat down every day and wrote. Hands shot into the air. But what if she was sick? Her answer was she got out of bed and wrote until she met her daily goal. Another woman said her kids demanded her time. Nora's comeback was . . . tell the kids to leave her alone. She was writing. It was her job. Another woman said her dad had died and she just couldn't seem to concentrate. Nora told her to write down her feelings. Use the experience to become a better writer. I remember listening and thinking 'wow'. At the time, I thought that woman is hard-hearted.

As time went on I realized something else--Nora was correct. Life is always going to throw obstacles in a writer's path. You can't let it defeat you. Instead of laying down and surrendering, use those experiences to add layers to your stories.

Have I taken my own advice (via Nora Roberts)? You bet. I try to write every day. I set a page count goal--whether its new material, editing or something on the business side of writing. Some days are better than others. Them, I love. I feel like I really accomplished something. I cherish those days on ones that I don't make much headway.

And I always remember Nora saying, "Sit your ass down in your chair and write." If Nora is out there, I just want to say, "Thank you."

So, what keeps you writing? Has something inspired you? Or does your inner voice keep you plugged into the computer?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bringing the Paranormal Sex-ay Back!

Alright people, we need a break from all of these earnest, thoughtful, educational type blog posts.  Damnit, we are Romance readers and writers!  We need to get our groove shaking on.  Put a little boom-chicca-wow-wow music on in the background and let us talk of ~ nay... celebrate ~ the sex-ay of our chosen genre.

 I love writing for this blog because I know I am talking to my people, fellow lovers of romance and adventure who are just a little different from the norm.  After all, who are the love interests in the paranormal world?  Blood drinkers?  Check.  Undead?  Check.  Furry, fangy things?  Double check there.  Shapeshifters and aliens and demons, oh my!

I guarantee for most of us, Beauty and the Beast was our favorite fairy tale.

While watching me read a vampire romance, my husband goes, "That's necrophilia you know."

I sweetly reply, "Shut up.  I don't talk to you about your cat girl thing, leave my vampires alone."

Even more exciting... and yes, I will go there... is when the sex scene involves the superhuman displaying their superhuman tendencies.  When the vampire's fangs come out, the werewolf is a little hairy, the demon is a little horny (tee hee) or whatnot, this is one of the reasons I read paranormal versus, say contemporary, where no one has claws and no wings will sprout.  Boring.

Do I know why I so love my otherworldly love interests?  I do not.  I am not that self aware, and I don't want to scare any psychiatrists asking one to try to figure out my brain.  I just know I have extra enjoyment of a romance when one of the love interests is not human, and therefore not bound by human modes of conduct or subject to human frailties.  It's exciting to wonder what this being will do next, it's heartwarming to see them so humbled by their love... and yes, reading how those not-quite-human powers give them a little extra oomph in the bedroom department, it makes me glad how a paper book can be used as a makeshift fan in a pinch.

So what are your favorite extra human love interests?  And  like me, are you happy to see them display that extra human goodness when things get hot hot hot?  Share here my fellow paranormal romantics!  Let us unite!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Capturing Your Idea

I don't have a steady rhythm where I figure out my characters first or my plot first, but there's always that idea that pops into my head that makes my eyes widen and my heart race. The thing I start daydreaming about to try to see how I can build upon it. Usually it's a small clip I play in my head. It's the beginning excitement of a new journey through the sometimes overwhelming process of a new book.

It's important to capture that idea when you have it. Writing it down is great, but I don't always do that when I get the new shiny idea. Sometimes the idea doesn't feel ready enough for that. Like I mentioned in my post, The Slow Simmer, I tend to think things through first over and over. Of course, there are the exceptions when I don't think the idea is shiny enough to hold my attention like that for a manuscript, but good enough to fit into something else.

Recently, I had an idea for either an urban fantasy or paranormal romance, I'm not sure which it is yet, and I went into The Sims 3 and created a couple of characters to get a better feel for them. It helped me to solidify the people I saw in my head. Now that I know those things, I'll be able to write them down during character creation. It helped to capture the idea for me.

Now that I've done that, I'm free to delve deeper now that I've pinpointed the main aspects of the idea to further build upon. Then that allows me to figure out what in the world was going on between the characters! *grins*

Anyways, what ways do you have for capturing your ideas? How do they come to you? As characters, plot, or random scenes?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Authenticity

I’d argue that one of the hurdles to publication is shutting off the noise in the background. Everyone on the internet has an opinion on what to do, what not to do, to the point that people form lists. I’ll admit to you now that I’ve always done one of the mistakes on those lists. Don’t query before you’re ready. Done it. Don’t tell instead of show. Done it. In fact, don’t even bother with this whole thing because you’ll never get published, you’ll never make any money and everyone will point and stare at you because you’re continuing to write even though you’re a total lost cause. Done it… Dude. Will those people shut up?

No one knows half of much as they pretend. Everyone is full of advice, but would you like to know what I’ve figured out about advice? It constantly changes. Any time I’ve attempted to give my… words of wisdom *coughs*… (Yeah right)… I’ve found later on that I was wrong. I said one thing, but that’s not the truth anymore.

The world is full of don’ts, which doesn’t make sense to me. Sure there will be those select few who join writer’s circles from the very beginning and will NEVER make the mistake of querying before they are ready. But how do you know you’re not ready unless you query and get no requests? Some people will get lucky and stumble across writers who know what they are doing. The majority will read nine hundred blog posts about queries, spend months perfecting it, and still query before they are ready. Because without the feedback, they will never know the meaning of ready. And then once they get a query that works, they’ll figure out their book is nowhere near ready for publication.

I’ve been struggling lately with social media and figuring out how to keep a consistent blog. The idea is nice in theory, but everything I’ve attempted to write has fallen flat. There’s one piece of advice about writing fiction that I've heard from the beginning and has yet to change. Voice is everything. I think the same applies to blogs. I read posts with authentic voices. So what happens when I continue to write blogs, and they do nothing to show my voice? Not only are they not engaging, but they are probably projecting a negative image. I can’t even define why it would do so, just that I can see people reading them and thinking… huh? Who is this person and why should I like her? Or better yet, why should I read her book?

In January, I sold my fantasy romance, Ruined, to Crescent Moon Press. The experience has been fantastic. I’m so excited. But on the other hand, I’m anxious, paranoid, stressed out and relieved all at the same time. There are all these things you need to know to query, to the point where I figured once I had an offer, I’d figure the other stuff out. But it’s not quite so cut and dry. I should have been thinking about marketing from the beginning, but I think everyone goes through that phrase when they wonder if they will actually sell a book. Do you really want to spend 500 hours researching contracts when you never know if you’ll receive one? Because the 800 people over in the corner all tell you not to bother. So don’t bother.

Until a miracle happens. Someone wants to buy your book! Then what? Well, first off those 800 people in the corner were wrong, so just ignore them indefinitely. I’m sure they have great things to say, many friends and lots to add to the world. But you don’t have to listen, YOU don’t have to be their friend, and I’m pretty sure you’ll survive without their… “advice”. Then you need to take a good hard look at yourself. I had all these plans to launch a new blog with my website. I had a blog series planned about Fantasy vs. Reality. I had ideas, plans and goals. But I spent a full day working on that stupid blog series. And I read the first post and thought to myself… I can’t post this. This is horrible. There’s no point in blogging if you’re going to write something horrible. Something that will make people dislike you or not read your writing. And maybe I’m exaggerating because that’s what I tend to do. But you want to draw in readers. I wasn’t drawing in anyone.

I attended my writers group last night. Shout out to Eastside RWA. Marcella Burnard gave a great presentation. But one thing she said especially stuck with me. She was talking about being authentic. The whole way home in the car, I thought about how my blogs have been lacking authenticity. They’ve been lacking voice. And without that, what’s the point?

I think blogging is interesting because they assume it’s for all authors now. They assume that you can post weekly, even daily and remain authentic to your voice. In actuality, this is exhausting! Sure, sometimes I feel I might have something of value to add, but every day? Do they not know how long it takes me to be authentic in my work? It’s kind of like when people find out I’m an author and automatically assume I’m clever. You meet people and it’s almost like they announce “Say something clever for me!” And I wonder… do they have any idea how long it takes me to write a clever character? Forever…

So what is this post about? I think we’ve figured out it’s not about fantasy. Sorry. It’s not advice. Thank goodness. It’s just reaching the point where I realize that if blogging doesn’t make you happy, you shouldn’t be doing it. Because your blogs will read forced and no one will be interested in them, which means you just officially destroyed the whole point of blogging.

And while I say “you”… I mean me. It’s me that needs to figure out how to maneuver this new world. But I don’t think I can attempt to appease others anymore. Perhaps I’m not the brilliant blogger like some. My new goal is to look inside myself, gauge my emotions, and stay authentic to what I’m feeling. You’re not supposed to be able to go wrong with that, but I have the feeling you can. Still, it has to be better than spending a full day on a blog and not posting it. That was a full day I could have spent writing. There’s only so much time in the day, and we have to figure out where we want to apply that energy. I’m still learning, adjusting and trying to organize my life. One thing will always remain true. I love to write and read. This other stuff that savvy folks have deemed necessary is just icing on the cake. Without the book, an author has nothing.

What have you learned about staying authentic and blogging?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Guest Blogger Maeve Greyson

A little magic is good for what ails you

Do you believe in magic? In the supernatural? Or the unexplainable? Since I’m a writer AND a reader of paranormal romances, all these topics intrigue me.

As a child, I had an Ouija board. I scared the living daylights out of myself with that thing. I had myself so convinced that I’d contacted the “other” side, my parents promptly burned it. I guess I scared them too.

But that little incident didn’t deter me –just delayed me for a bit. While writing my upcoming release, BEYOND A HIGHLAND WHISPER, I discovered my hero needed some way to find the answer to a very critical question. I couldn’t use an Ouija board. It didn’t quite fit in with my Scottish theme. Time for research. I discovered a delightful thing called scrying.

Wikipedia defines scrying as:

Scrying (also called crystal gazing, crystal seeing, seeing, or peeping) is a magic practice that involves seeing things psychically in a medium, usually for purposes of obtaining spiritual visions and less often for purposes of divination or fortune telling. The most common media used are reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals, stones, glass, mirrors, water, fire, or smoke. Scrying has been used in many cultures as a means of divining the past, present, or future. Depending on the culture and practice, the visions that come when one stares into the media are thought to come from God, spirits, the psychic mind, the devil, or the subconscious.

Doesn’t that sound fraught with possibilities? I thought so too. So I had my hero, Latharn MacKay fill a treasured family scrying bowl with holy water from the chapel on the family’s grounds. He exposes the water to the glowing white light of the full moon to charge it with mystical energy. Latharn finds the answers he seeks when he focuses his energy on the shimmering surface. The survival of the love of his life depends on his ability to concentrate.

Do you think a scrying bowl would really work? Or is it just a trick of the mind triggered by focused concentration? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you’d like to read more about my upcoming release or find out a bit more about me, I’d love it if you popped by one of the links below and gave me a shout:

Website: http://www.maevegreyson.com/
Blog: http://maevegreyson.blogspot.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/maeve.greyson or http://www.facebook.com/maeve.greyson#!/maeve.greyson.page
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/maevegreyson
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/2816642
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/maevegreyson

And most of all, I’d like to thank the wonderful ladies here at Castles and Guns for allowing me to visit their awesome blog. It’s been a blast and I really appreciate this opportunity.

Monday, February 7, 2011

When You Learn The Game Is No Longer What You Thought It Was

Sometimes life yanks the rug out from under you. I’m at that place where I’m sitting on the floor wondering how I got there and wondering in which direction I should walk once I get back up.

I’m not talking about a situation when you are beaten down and don’t know how to go on. Not at all. I’m talking about when you learn that something no longer holds true. That everything you believed about something no longer fits your idea of its former truth.

When I first started writing with the intent to publish I made a solemn vow. I swore to myself and everyone who would listen that my work would sit on my hard drive until hell froze solid before I would self-publish anything. That was back in the days of paying vanity publishers and then paying for your books in the hope that you might be able to sell them on your own. And to that model I still say, no thank you. That was a mere five and a half years ago.

Then last fall I became involved with a talented group of writers on the Everything Erotic blog project. We contribute stories and articles each month and then the work is compiled into an ebook and suddenly I have come to understand the power of the market for ereaders.

Now I am involved with a second project with some of the same writers and a few others. Once a week, we submit a chapter or part of a chapter on the Free Fantastical Fiction blog. Once we post half of the work, the rest will be self published and then we see what happens. I’m having fun with this. I can’t wait to see what happens when I cut the book off and put it out to let the market decide its fate.

Yes, I am doing what I said I never would. And based on our group project sales numbers, I feel very good about this little experiment. I’ve heard this kind of publishing called going rogue. I like that. I like the sound of it and the feel of it. Do I expect to make a fortune off this one book? Of course not. But I expect to test the water. Perhaps the traditional way isn’t the only way to success these days. I’m willing to find out.

What about you? Does going rogue sound appealing? Frightening? Like the flash of an eye opening lightening strike? Have you tried it yet? If you have, will you do it again? For me it’s the lightening strike. And I may never walk the same path again.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Spinning

My head is spinning with a plethora of lists. You see, I scraped together my courage and some royalties and I registered for the Romantic Times Convention. It's fairly local for me so I don't have to fly, something I really don't do any longer because of arthritis in my hip. Still, it's an expensive undertaking for me despite being a tax write off.

I'd almost decided not to go when it dawned on me that this was my best opportunity to press the flesh. I'd heard on some of the RWA loops that conventions were among the best chances to promote yourself and your books. A lot of authors have given up on the loop promo route and don't blog regularly in things like blog tours and guest blog spots and such. Since I've lately found myself falling into that same pattern and eschewing the frenetic round of promo that so many indulge in, I realized I needed to take myself to another level as an author. I needed to take myself seriously.

Romantic Times offers authors the opportunity to network with other authors, publishers, editors and agents. It also gives us the chance to meet readers and talk about books and writing. Signing print books (Fire Season, Ride the Lightning, and Honorable Silence) at the Book Fair and cover flats (for Insolence, Sunstroked, and Rock My World) at the Book Expo is good exposure. People who don't know you will come up and check out your stuff if only to get a signed cover flat or bookmark. And that is an opportunity to win a new reader.

These days, I'm all about opportunities. I'd rather take those and run with them than do another blog tour or guest blog post. Not having to pay for travel other than the gas up to Los Angeles is an opportunity for me. It seriously cuts down on the cost of the convention for me so despite the fact that the hotel is a chunk of change and so is the registration, it still represents a chance to gain readers that I would not normally have. And being part of the signing at the Book Fair, even if no one actually buys one of my books, is part of what I need to do to take this career seriously.

This is an investment in myself and my writing. I have a sneaky suspicion I'll walk away from it feeling more like an author than ever before. And it gives me the chance to meet some of my publishers and some of the friends I've made online. I'm really looking forward to that.

So this investment in my career as an author has led me to lists. I cannot travel without making lists of all the stuff I need to take and all the stuff I need to do beforehand. My list got so long today that it left me reeling. I had to close the doc before I gave myself a headache. The biggest list was the stuff I needed to buy that I didn't have on hand here at home. Like a suitcase. I don't really go anywhere any more so I don't have one! Eeek! There went an hour on Amazon and Walmart.com. (Yes, I got one at Amazon. It's giraffe print and if you know me, you are now laughing your booty off.)

I'm feeling good about this regardless of every wince I make as I buy something else I need for this excursion. Luckily, Dee Carney found me a roomie so I've now halved my room costs. That means more money for promo items. And I'm determined to take some nice promo stuff with me. None of the cheapie cover flats from Vista that look kinda meh. Nice ones from Next Day Flyers which is local for me and does a simply scrumptious job! Having my flats look outstanding is part of my campaign to make a good first impression. You only get one chance at those yanno.

So what do you think? Do you think this endeavor will be worthwhile? Do you think conventions are helpful to authors? A a convention newbie, I've no clue, but come the second week in April, I think I'll know. Whether it leaves my head still spinning is anyone's guess!

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Giving up

Ok, I’ve recently seen a number of writer’s blogs talking about giving up…as in “when should I”? I read them, and think, “hmmmm, interesting, weird idea, but interesting”. In many cases, some of the folks responding have given up and site their painful reasons why.

My question is how can you?

On one hand I can understand, in an intellectual way, the people who were forced to give it up- the "your writing or your family/spouse/significant other scenario". However, emotionally? I don’t get that at all- if someone loves me and I love them, how can our relationship be a healthy one if that other person demands that I stop what I love? From a mental health standpoint- it can’t- but we won’t go there right now. (But if you know someone in that boat, send them to a relationship counselor STAT.)

Now, I can see a problem with the writer declaring they are going to quit their day job to follow their dream. That’s great if you can do it without impacting, damaging, or seriously mooching off others- but a fair number of books you see in the bookstore were written by someone who still has a day job. (And it’s not because they love their day job either ;)). So suck it up buttercup- if you need to put bread on the table- keep the evil day job and find a way to write- thousands of others have done it.

I can also understand if a SO chooses to spend every hour home working on a project- ALL the time. But an hour or so a day? Anyone who would begrudge that has deeper issues.

So that leaves the folks who give up because the writing world is just too cruel. It’s true; we’re, for the most part, artistic folks who deliberately fling ourselves into a world of rejection and psychological pain. So it makes sense that some writers do the “farewell cruel world” and flush their writing dreams down the toilet. But does that mean writing itself should be given up? It’s not the writing that is cruel to us (well….ok, when you’re stuck then yeah, it could be cruel ;))- but it’s the quest for publication that causes the bruises.

So, why do you need a timeline to give up? Here’s my logic on questioning these folks who ask “when do I give up?”. Hopefully, you are writing for the right reason- ie you love to tell stories. If you are writing for the wrong reasons- getting rich and famous- go talk to all those multi-pubbed authors who still have their day job-writing ain’t for you, so asking when to quit is moot.

If you are writing for the right reason then you really would only give up when you no longer love telling your stories. If you’re writing for the right reason- NO number of rejections, or tons of sand kicked into your face, are going to make you quit. Or even wonder when you should. If the story telling is still fun, still in your blood- then what’s to quit about? You can chose if you want to seek publication or not, not seeking publication doesn't make you any less of a writer.

I’m not trying to be mean to those folks who ask ‘when should I give up’- I guess I just don’t understand them. And I’m not talking about the horrific, kicked gut feeling a truly awful rejection can cause- THAT brief, “what am I doing?!” reaction I get ;).

What about any of you- do any of you have these ‘when should I give up’ issues?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Learning the Craft

So, my apologies first off for no blog last week.  I am a new mom, and as such, am experiencing the type of delirious exhaustion usually only found during basic training or medical residency.  I'm not quite on top of my online/writer life like I should be.  Thank heavens this is only lasts a short period of time.

While I still plan on writing a series of blogs related to Japanese history and mythology, for the moment it would take a lot more time with research than I am able to give to really do right by such a fascinating and rich mythos, so that is on hold for a few weeks.

Instead today, I will focus a little more on the writer side of things, and talk about craft, specifically improving it.

Like almost every other writer, I had no idea how much there was to learn about how to write.  After all, all my life people told me how much they like my writing and stories.  Isn't that all there is to writing?  Sit down, put words on paper, and stand back as people give you accolades?

Umm, not so much.  It was rather humbling but necessary when someone told me that while I did indeed have talent, if I wanted to get published I really needed to study my craft.

Deep POV, Scene and Sequel, Show not Tell, World Building, the W Plot.  Good grief!  I guess there is a reason to study writing in college after all.

Since I did not, I've resorted to the next best thing - online courses.  These have exploded in the last few years, and I find them to be a reasonably priced way to learn some of these areas I'm lacking.  I encourage anyone who is weak in a particular area of writing (and who isn't!) to explore the online class option.

While I don't want to make this blog post a commercial for anyone, I do want to mention a few of my favorite instructors.  After all, if you have never taken a online class before but are interested, how are you going to know who to pick out of the hundreds of teachers out there?  These following are the instructors I felt were well worth both the time and money invested in their classes.

Mary Buckham and Laurie Schnebly Campbell started http://www.writeruniv.com/, one of the best places to begin.  Both these ladies are amazing teachers and will go above and beyond to make sure you understand the lessons.

Also included in my list of go-to instructors:  CJ Lyons, Bob Mayer, Christine Fairchild, and Margie Lawson.

What about you?  If anyone has any teachers they really enjoy, share them here!  Hey, I'm always on the lookout for a great teacher  :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Guest Blogger Kari Gregg

Story World and the magic of "What if…" & "How"

For me, it always starts with story world. Whether the book is fantasy, contemporary or paranormal, the world takes center stage. How it works. How it doesn't. Why. What makes this world extraordinary? And just between you and me, compadres, that's my favorite part because it starts with a game of "What if…"

What if…the hero was born and raised in the trailer park I drive past on my way to work every day? And my heroine? (Lovely Wicked)

What if…a captured prince became so institutionalized by his slavery he couldn’t accept his freedom once he escaped? (Spoils of War)

What if…vampires were biological creatures--and slaves? (What Rough Beast)

"What if…" are magical words. True-life magic. "What if…" transports us to a land where anything is possible. Shape-shifters live, breathe and sweat. Vampyr fight in a bloody rebellion with swords and…

Hey.

Wait a second.

Swords?

Wouldn't somebody…uh…notice that? For that matter, how do they even obtain real swords? You're not going to pick that item up at Walmart gua-RAN-teed. And what about an entire species getting furry when the moon's full? Like you *wouldn't* see that prominently featured on youtube?

"What if…" is followed by "how" and "how" is where the work starts. Wikipedia becomes your best friend and net-friendly launch point. You read medical journals and googlemap locations. "How" makes your husband nervous because "how" means finding out how many rounds a 9MM clip holds and what the antidote to Aconitum (wolfsbane) is.

But "how" is also magical because in the middle of those answers, the characters show up to say hi. Turns out my hero Garrick (What Rough Beast) knew the treatment for wolfsbane poisoning: deadly nightshade. He'd have to know since he offered his protection to a pack of shifters and oddly enough, the man (er…vampyr) is an avid gardener as well as a cold-blooded warrior in the rebellion. *shrug* Go figure.

If you're not relying on traditional mythos and common tropes (and I'd argue *especially* then), building our story worlds takes time and creative energy. The answers to "what if" and "how" may be a long time in coming--or they may never come at all. That's the beauty of fiction. Before we ever see the sagging middle or agonize over our heroine's GMC, before we write (and rewrite) chapter five (again), that story needs its own unique world. Your characters are the paint, the plot is pure brush work and technique, but your world? Your story world is the canvas. Have fun with it. Make your world extraordinary. A whole new realm of magic awaits you and your characters in two little words: "what if…"

www.karigregg.com

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why Television Doesn’t Feed My Romance Bleeding Heart

I’ve been thinking a lot the past week about why I write fantasy romance. Mostly because people have asked me why I write it, and I realized I didn’t have a very clever answer. I always feel compelled to throw in a little wit when someone brings up my writing. When I can’t measure up to my own expectations, I’m very disappointed. But why I write fantasy romance isn’t a short, pithy comment. The more I think about it, the more complex it becomes.

I write romance because I believe in it. I absolutely, one-hundred percent believe that you can find your soul mate. I think your life will be better with that person in it, and even if you can’t spend the rest of your lives together, or something happens to tear you apart, I believe that you will remember the days, weeks, months or years that you were together. My heart bleeds romance. So that part of it is actually kind of simple.

But why fantasy? This is the cool part. Because the industry and the evolution of reader demand made it so we can write about anything we want. Through various publishers, if we want to write about a remote interest, as long as the writing is well done, you can probably find a place who would like to show it to the world with you. Or, hello, Amazon! So now our imaginations are free to fly.

It’s interesting because I recently read a paranormal romance from 2000. The entire feel of the novel is different. I liked it. But I could see that there were still restraints on the writing. The author couldn’t quite go all the way weird. It’s much more based in reality. I have no desire to write about reality. I have to deal with that every day. But I can make a Kingdom that runs on magic and everyone in town has to do exactly as I say! And the best part of all is that I don’t actually have to interact with anyone, because I am the puppet master and my characters are my puppets. I can tell my characters to dance and they must obey! The double-edged sword is that I have to write about it well enough so that other people will want to read about my characters dancing. That’s the tricky part that will always tread water on the surface of our reality.

Sometimes the words are torn from my heart, but I can only hope that the story might touch another person. That’s why I love to write. I write fantasy romance because the possibilities are endless and the challenge of making readers take the journey with you is vital.

I think it’s easy to become addicted to romance novels if you’re a romantic person. This is because television is a romantic’s worst enemy. What the rest of the world wants to watch on television is horror for a true romantic! Think of those couples who just can’t work it out. For years... I just want to pull the characters aside and tell them that they were obviously meant to be together! Why can’t they see it? So I discovered early on that I should not look to television to feed my romance desires. I enjoy many shows on television, but that is not where I look for love.

Can you find satisfaction through television shows? Or are you like me? Once I read a great romance novel, television and movies just weren’t quite the same. This is purely for romances. I love other kinds of television shows and movies. But for romance… what do you think?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Evocative Lyrics = Book Titles

Morning everyone! I had a wonderful release day yesterday, so I’m starting off by saying, my book is now available!

Wee!

Now, today’s topic? Ever heard a bit of a song lyric and you think to yourself… “Self, that would be a great title for a book!”

No?

Well, happens to me all the time.

First one that comes to mind is a song by October Project, called “Something More Than This”. I want to write that book someday.

Another that recently hit me was from Emily Barker, it’s a little long but I think it could work. “Learnt How to Disappear Without Going Anywhere”

How about “Victim of a Great Compromise” …? John Mellencamp who also wrote, in the same song, “Your Life is Now.” Another one I want to write someday.

Music is inspirational for me. And good lyrics? Oh! They just make me curl my toes and set my brain off on a path to an idea to a story and someday…to a book.

How about you? Even if you’ve never actually written the book, ever had a title appear out of music and want to see that on a book cover?