Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cures for Lycanthropy?

Okay, I'm a huge fan of werewolves. They're probably my top favorite of paranormal creatures. When I've looked at Wikipedia's entry Werewolf, I saw a section that said Remedies. Now, I've read books where the authors have figured out ways to cure their vampires of vampirism, but not really anything about curing a werewolf of lycanthropy, or as Wikipedia says, werewolfism. So, let's take a look at a few of these "remedies."

First one of interest is from the Ancient Greeks and Romans. They believed that to cure a person of "werewolfism," you needed to get the person to the point of exhaustion by long and hard physical activities. They thought this because of the fact that werewolves supposedly were weakened after ravaging their prey.

My thought on that is it doesn't matter about making the person exhausted if they really are a werewolf because they'll just gain back some of that strength during their shift, and then they'll be just as likely to eat whoever happens to be on the menu. I haven't really heard of werewolves supposedly being weaker after killing their prey either. From the books I've read, they usually feel satiated and content, if not exhilirated, but not weak. Hmm...

The second is grouped together ones that pretty much fall into the same category. In medieval Europe, they believed there were three ways of curing one of "werewolfism." Those ways were medicinally, surgically, or by an exorcism. The cures performed by their doctors mostly were fatal. Some Sicilians believed that you could cure the werewolf by hitting it on the forehead or scalp with a knife, while others thought you needed to pierce the werewolf's hands with nails.

A lot of those sound very painful. The fact that medieval Europe believed lycanthropy/werewolfism could be cured surgically boggles my mind. Perhaps those fatal "cures" weren't really intended to help the victim, but instead to kill the victim so that they wouldn't have to bother with him anymore. Poor wolfie. The Sicilian beliefs were a bit odd as well, especially if, oops! that wasn't really a werewolf. It was just a normal human. Ouch!

The third and final group are the less extreme ones. In lowland Germany, they believed that if you addressed the werewolf by its Christian name three times that it would be cured. And a Danish belief is that if you simply scold the werewolf that it would be cured.

These "cures" I wouldn't want to perform in front of the werewolf when he's in wolf form and about to attack. I think if the person really was a werewolf that they'd eat you just for trying them, but then again, that might just be me. It's good that some didn't go for a violent approach to curing werewolves, but these seem least likely to work. What do you think?

Let me know which group you think would be most likely to cure a werewolf, if any. If you don't think they would work, tell me ways you've heard of to cure werewolves, or let me know if you've read a novel that has dealt with trying to cure a werewolf.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Acquisitions Editor Rochelle French

Kinley: Please help me welcome Acquisitions Editor Rochelle French! She is visiting today from Crescent Moon Press to write a guest blog about what she's looking for in submissions.
Rochelle's Submission Guidelines
Thank you so much for having me visit today at Castles & Guns (great name, BTW). I’m excited to be here (um, that girl with the gun in the banner isn’t going to come after me, is she?), and am hoping to find some new talent to add to the pool of terrific writers at Crescent Moon Press. I’ll get right down to business and tell you how to capture my attention.
GENRES I LIKE:
My passions are paranormal, dystopian, urban fantasy, fantasy (historic and especially contemporary), time travel (historic and contemporary but not futuristic), contemporary gods/goddesses, contemporary mythological retellings, and all things YA. Compelling prose and strong characters will draw me in every time.
WHAT GRABS MY ATTENTION:
1. Strong execution. When looking at a submission, what an editor first sees is the writer’s technical level. Make sure your submissions are free of grammatical errors. If you aren’t confident in your technical skills, find an honest critique partner, enlist the help of a college student, or join a local writing group. Get feedback. Unfortunately, the reason I reject most manuscripts is because of weak prose and grammatical errors, something that saddens me if the writer’s presented a great hook.
2.  Engaging, identifiable characters. I want to read your first few pages and immediately connect with your heroine or hero. I want to be made to care enough about them to follow their journey through to the end (or to get me to email you quickly, saying, “Send the full!”). I want to see into their convoluted thoughts, feel their visceral reactions, and empathize with their emotional states.
3. Starting in the right place. Meaning, no prologue or backstory. Why? Because I need to become emotionally invested in your characters as they currently exist in your manuscript, not who they once were. Since CMP accepts the first ten pages of manuscripts in queries, if you’ve spent several of those pages on prologue or backstory, you’ve lost the chance to make me connect to your character. Show me who your characters are now, not who they were.
4. Proactive, not reactive character goals. A character should be going after something they want, not wanting to avoid something. Characters should have a distinct goal, should pursue that goal, should create conflict because of the decisions they make while pursuing their goal, and should obtain their goal because of some internal development—their growth arc.
5. A strong romance. Sigh. A great way to hook me in is to present a romance with a strong conflict. While you may not be able to show this to me in your first ten pages, you certainly can illustrate the romantic development and conflict in your query. Make me believe this love is both powerful and impossible!
6. A visible knowledge of the craft of writing. Too often I see an adventurous, engaging story, but one that lacks the structure, pacing, character development and world building of a true “book.” I highly suggest writers revise their manuscripts over and over again before submitting to a publisher. I also suggest that writers continue to educate themselves on the craft of writing. Some of my favorite resources (although I have many more) include the following: It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences by June Casagrande; Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain; Writing the Breakout Novel coupled with Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Mass; Goal, Motivation and Conflict, by Debra Dixon; and Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham. I also suggest classes by Margie Lawson and signing up for Writing the Perfect Scene, an on-line article by Randy Ingermanson. Local libraries often have writing classes, as do community colleges. Many writing associations offer writing classes during their conventions or through their chapters, and there are hundreds of blogs on writing techniques. Educate yourself, and then educate yourself some more.
To submit your polished, compelling romantic fiction for my consideration, email a one page query and the first ten double-spaced pages, pasted into the body of the email beneath the query to: rochelle (at) crescentmoonpress.com (make sure to remove the (at) and replace with @). I will get back to you within four to six weeks. If you don’t hear back by six weeks, feel free to email me a reminder. Best of luck to you all, and here’s to your publishing success!
Kinley: Thank you so much for joining us today, Rochelle! We appreciate that you took the time to list resources that will help us all improve our craft. I hope everyone will check out the fantastic links!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guest Blogger Traci Bell

Possibilities
Me (holding Netflix DVD in my hand):  Do you want to ‘Inception’ with me?
Husband:  What’s it about?
Me:   It’s about a man who can manipulate people’s dreams.
Husband:  No.  I don’t want to watch that. 
Me:  It has action in it.
Husband (shaking his head no):  “It’s not real.”

Well of course it isn’t real.  That’s why I want to watch it, I think to myself. 
I get tired of being in the real world, where everything is predictable; where what science has discovered casts doubt on what hasn’t been discovered; where everything is so boringly normal; and where Newton’s apple will fall to the ground every darn time you drop it. 
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of science.  I avidly read anything about the workings of the brain and quantum mechanics – but both are still fields with limitless potential in terms of what we still have to learn.
Growing up, my favorite books were No Flying in the House, A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Mists of Avalon… you get the picture.  Not real J 
My son stopped believing in Santa Claus last Christmas.  I had to fight back tears when he looked at me on Christmas morning without any trace of that special gleam of excitement and wonder in his eyes, because I knew it was a step across the bridge from the magic of childhood to the practicalities of adulthood.
I love fantasy because of the possibilities inherent in it.  Every page is a new discovery.  People can fly.  Other worlds exist.  Up is down.  Mad Hatter’s hold tea parties, and hobbits, elves, and dwarves can save mankind.   
That’s why I write fantasy – for the possibilities. 
Think about it for a minute.  How exciting would it be if you dropped an apple – and it fell up?  Wouldn’t the rush of amazement be similar to how it felt on Christmas morning when you were a kid?  When was the last time you felt that rush of wonder?

About the Author:
Traci’s fantasy romance, Entangled, debuted earlier this month from Crescent Moon Press.  It’s about a very practical-minded teacher who’s pulled to another world by her soul mate where natural disasters aren’t natural and possibilities are endless.
@traci_bell

Sunday, March 27, 2011

April Showers: It's Raining New Projects!

I'm a deadline junkie--there, I've said it. Maybe it's the journalism background but, for whatever reason, I need deadlines. When I don't have pressing deadlines, I get myself in trouble. I volunteer for things. I take on projects to fill my perceived time so that I will have deadlines. Then unexpected deadlines arrive, and--bang--trouble.

Well, April 2011, meet trouble. I will be on deadline for the day job, judging a writing contest that will involve reading three full manuscripts (gee, it sounded so doable last fall), doing my regular daily blog, doing the four regular blogs per month for my publisher highlighting new releases, beginning an off-duty job copyediting for a new startup publisher, taking on a new project that will begin in April and last more than a year. Oh, and here's the fun one--just found out that revisions on my second book for Tor? Yep, coming around April 1.

Ho-Ho-Ho. Well, I'm vowing several things as I look at the coming weeks with a combination of excitement and raw fear. First, I will keep regular hours--no all-nighters. I will eat healthy foods because quite frankly I don't have time to get sick. I'll make time each day to write something new, even if it's only one sentence. I will take at least two hours a day to relax. And, yeah, I'll probably have to do my laundry.

We'll see how all that goes.

In the meantime, I'd like to invite you to read with me. The long project I talked about above? Starting in May (my deadlines begin in  April), I will be "publicly" reading the entire seven-volume series of Stephen King's The Dark Tower. I'm a huge Stephen King fan but, somehow, I never read this series. Not sure how that happened. But I'm really excited about the chance to read it now.

Each week, I will read a chapter or two. I will post a recap of the chapter on Tor.com along with my inane ramblings, wonderings, and comments--which will give me a tremendous opportunity to humiliate myself before the legions of Stephen King fans who HAVE read The Dark Tower series. I hope you'll join me and read along. I'll post the start dates when I have them down firmly.

I'm not reading ahead, which would be cheating, so I'll be responding to things in "real time" without any knowledge of what's going to happen.

In the meantime, any other Stephen King fans out there? Have you read The Dark Tower series? Want to join the fun?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Workshops - What'd Ya Learn?

Wierd title, I know. But I'm writing this blog after participating in a day long workshop by Mary Buckham on hooks. I'm still high on the euphoria. It'd been a while since I had been to an actual workshop that made me think and work . . . and more importantly . . . show me ways to improve my own writing. Cudos to Mary.

If you haven't been to a workshop lately, I highly recommend you find one in your area that interests you and attend. Don't just sit at home and think you know everything the instructor is going to say. Are you 100% sure? What if you miss learning the one thing that'll turn your good story into a block-buster? Can you afford to miss that opportunity? I don't think so.

Competition to publish is tough right now. You know that! I know it! We need to constantly improve our stories if we want to succeed in this business.

Some of you might be saying, 'I'm only writing for myself'. Yeah, right. You want to get it publsihed, don't you? Then your work has to be better than best.

So what if you've been around the block a few times. Most of us have. You're probably thinking I've forgotten more than what most people know. I don't need to take another workshop. Wrong! Everyone can learn something, some time.

I feel like I'm on soapbox right now. Sorry. What workshops have you taken that gave you that swift kick you needed? Which one helped the most?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Trying to Write while Dealing with all the Stresses of Life

My husband was out of town at a work conference this week.  It was a great conference, he networked, learned a lot, kicked butt and took names.  I could not be happier for him.

As for me?  My life fell apart during that time.  I will never be able to tell my hubby again in the middle of an argument to go ahead and go, see if I miss you!  The thought is now laughable.  In this last week, barely any writing got done as I dealt with two kids and taking care of them by myself.

I admire people who have it together, because I sure as heck don't.  Danielle Steel has, what, five or six kids?  She wrote after they all went to bed, and still made sure to get up early enough to get them off to school.

Me?  If I try to stay up past 11pm, I'm using toothpicks to keep my eyelids open the next morning and bribing my daughter to watch just a little more TV so I can get another 10 minutes of sleep.

I want to be a good mom.  I want my kids to grow up healthy and happy and well adjusted.  I want them to have great experiences and know that their mommy loves them.

But I want to write as well.  I'm finally at a place in my life both mentally and with my external circumstances that I can write with the goal of making it a career.  I want to share stories and be excited to see my name attached to a book.  Getting paid in conjunction with those, oh such an awesome thought.

Some days it doesn't feel like those goals can co-exist.  Being a good mom means no writing gets done.  Writing means ignoring my daughters at a time in their lives where they are very dependent on me.

I'm sure things will even out in time, I just hope they even out sooner rather than later.  Considering how slowly publishing moves, the thought of any delays make my stomach twist, makes me feel like I'm losing opportunities and moving to the back of the line.

So, how did all you other mothers manage this?  Advice is welcome!  :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Interview with Author Lisa Kessler

1. Tell us a little about yourself. 
Hmmm... Well I'm a night owl and often write into the wee hours of the morning. I'm also an internet junkie, and a lover of dumb movies. I'm crazy for all things Disney especially the villains. Have you seen my power suit? LOL

2. When/how did you know you wanted to write?
My elementary school published my first book in 6th grade. It was about 9 handwritten pages long. I was an only child so stories were a great way to escape and pretend. When I grew up I started writing every night for fun until I filled up my 1 gig harddrive. (Which was a huge harddrive way back then! LOL)

I never thought about writing a novel until I met a palm reader in New Orleans. She did my reading and as she walked me out she stopped me and said, "I have to ask. Are you a writer?"

I shrugged. "Not professionally, but I do write every night for fun."

She smiled and I swear her eyes sparkled. "You're going to be a famous writer one day."

While we waited to board the plane back to San Diego, I wrote the entire plotline for Night Walker down on cocktail napkins. Six months later the book was done. Who knew? LOL
I've been writing novels and short stories ever since.

3. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned on your publishing journey?
That no book can give you the magic secret to being a good writer. You have to put in the hours and just write. You get better every time you do it. It's a craft not a recipe... LOL

4. How long does it take for you to write a book?
I work full-time and have a high school water polo player in my house so my writing time isn't as plentiful as I'd like. I can usually get a first draft done in about 6 months though...

5. Tell us about your newest release, Across the Veil.
I wrote Across the Veil for a contest called The Paranormal Fight Club. Being a huge Rocky fan, I loved the name of the contest, so strapped on my imaginary boxing gloves and jumped in. Each week the contestants wrote a new chapter of our stories and readers voted. At the end of the contest, Across the Veil was the last one standing! :)

6. What inspired Across the Veil?
For the contest we had an opening line that consisted of a woman falling and her face landing on a black leather boot. Talia popped in my head, and once I had a Faerie princess who was masquerading as a human actress the story took off. I really fell in love with the story and loved writing the dialog between Talia and her hero, Keth.

7. What are you working on next?
Right now I'm editing a new short story anthology titled, Forgotten Treasures. I hope to release it in eBook and paperback formats in April. I'm also writing Blood Moon, the next novel in my Moon Series.

8. What’s one thing you’d tell an aspiring author?
Practice your craft. Time writing is never wasted. I learned more from taking up Ray Bradbury's challenge to write 52 short stories in 52 weeks than I ever learned from a how-to writing book. And most importantly, never give up! No one can steal your dreams unless you let them... :)


Blurb: Princess Talia from Summerland has been hiding across the veil in the human world for the past five years.

Starring in a hit television show as human actress, Natalie Thurmont, her charmed new life is shattered when the past comes knocking on her door.

"Across the Veil" won Romance in the Backseat book review's Paranormal Fight Club short story contest.

Kindle buy link: http://www.amazon.com/Across-the-Veil-ebook/dp/B004S7MJAK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1300319661&sr=8-2
Smashwords buy link: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/47079

Blog: http://lisakessler.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/LdyDisney
Facebook: http://facebook.com/LisaKesslerWriter

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Interview with Acquisitions Editor Sherry Soule

Please help me welcome Sherry Soule!
Sherry Soule is an Acquisitions Editor for Crescent Moon Press and a blogger, dedicated to helping writers learn the secrets of creating a page-turning novel.
Sherry is currently looking for submissions with strong romantic elements and fast-paced, character driven novels where romance is integral to the storyline. 

Romance is the wooing of a character's heart and the emotions involved in that courtship.

Interview with Sherry:
What are three things everyone should know about you? 
     1.    I’m snarky.
     2.    I have a twisted sense-of-humor.
     3.    I am very passionate about helping writers hone their craft, which includes            my own writing. Dang, does that count as four? :-)
What characteristics make a hero or heroine compelling to you in submissions?
Great question!
HEROINES: should be sassy, independent young women with an interesting profession or hobby. She can handle the stresses of today’s world and take care of herself. She should be smart, competent, passionate and likable…yet flawed. Yup, flawed. Either emotionally or physically flawed in some way. No Mary Sues.
HEROES: should be dynamic, courageous, realistic, and compassionate. Young men who treat the heroine as an equal, with respect for her intelligence and individuality, and gallantry. The hero should be a dashing character, someone the reader falls in love with along with the heroine.
If you had your wish, the perfect submission would be a story about…?
Something deliciously Gothic. I’d love a suspenseful, girl in jeopardy story with a charming hero who has a dark side. And anything with ghosts.
What is your favorite part of being an Editor for Crescent Moon Press?
I get a chance to make someone’s dreams come true. Then I get the privilege of nurturing them as writers by helping them improve and enhance their stories through edits and suggestions. CMP is publishing some very talented new artists and now expanding with young adult. I’m very honored and excited to be a part of it.
Do you check an author’s website, blog, Twitter or Facebook before deciding on a manuscript?
I have Googled a writer before. Even published authors. And I hate to admit this, but if the website looks unprofessional, I wonder if the writing is too. Your blog or website is like your “calling card” and promotes your writing to the world. It should reflect your style and look professional. If you can’t do it yourself, then hire someone.
Dark Angel’s Literature Ramblings is a great blog! Is there a trick to mastering social media?
Another good question. I have no idea. My blog started out as a book review site and morphed into an “advice on writing” site. I’ve removed all the reviews, and now I just concentrate on educating new writers and interviewing professionals in the industry. I like to think of it as a one-stop-shop full of information and resources any writer can use to further their career.
What advice do you have for writers looking to publish through Crescent Moon Press?
Be professional. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Before you submit to CMP or any agency, you should approach it as if you were applying for a job. Think of your query letter as your “cover letter” and your manuscript as your resume. Lastly, format your manuscript by using the standard guidelines even if you’re submitting via email. Basically, make sure your writing is polished, professional, and original.
Thank you so much for visiting us today, Sherry! Castles & Guns wishes you and Crescent Moon Press the best of luck!
Thank you, it was an honor and a pleasure!
Sherry's Submission Guidelines:
Full-length romance fiction, 75,000 to 100,000 words
Genres she'd like to see: Romantic/Suspense, Family Saga, Supernatural, Horror (must have a compelling romantic sub-plot), Young Adult, and Tween. All submissions must have strong romantic elements. Anything paranormal = ghosts, haunted houses, demons, werewolves, vampires, shape-shifters, witches, or magical realms--send ‘em.
Please address query letters to: Sherry @ crescentmoonpress.com
In the subject line, please include the word query, book title, and genre. In the body of your email, paste your query and the first 10 pages of your MS. Your query SHOULD look like a professional letter. (See examples on her blog)
Members of RWA and YALITCHAT will get high priority.
My Manuscript Submission Guidelines: Accepted formatting is 12-point Times Roman font, left justified, with 1" page margins all around, double-spaced, 0.5 paragraph indents for all new paragraphs, and no extra space between sentences.
Most important, the first page should contain word count, author contact information, and the title ONLY. The following page should have the header, which includes the author's last name, MS title, and the page number in the left-hand corner.
All new chapters need to start on a new page, the text beginning halfway down the page with the title of the chapter underlined and centered at the top. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Poll: What Describes You?

Hi everyone! Sorry for the lack of a guest blogger today. The author got a little busy. Check back on Thursday for an awesome interview with Lisa Kessler!

Anyways, we're wondering this week: What describes you? Are you a reader, published author (of any flavor, although please specify), a writer working toward getting published, an industry professional, or anything I may have missed? 


And for fun, what's the book you've read most recently?


Make sure to let us know in the comments. We love to hear from everyone!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Growth of Workload

I was tempted to include time management in the title of this post, but I realized that was actually misleading. This isn’t about managing time because I think I’m doing a pretty good job with that considering the amount on my plate. And anyone who knows me understands that I take on more than most people.

I want to talk about workload and how it grows over time once a little success starts creeping in.

A couple of years ago, before I became involved with some of the projects that now keep me busy, I often read posts from authors talking about working into the wee hours and sweating out the last hours of deadlines. And I would think that it really couldn’t be that bad.

I don’t think all authors follow the same path, but I think most end up in the same general vicinity. And I have learned why those authors, many who also work full time jobs, were sweating the deadlines.

When you’re balancing multiple writing and editing projects, blogs, workshops, PR, social networking, and a number of other obligations, time becomes short and the workload grows. Factor in family obligations and the little remaining time evaporates.

Another thing I’ve learned is that once a little success comes along, more seems to follow. And with it the workload increases. Again.

So I am now one of those people sweating out the last minute obligations and deadlines. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy and thankful for each little grain of success that has come my way. I’m not always happy at 1:00 a.m. when I have to get up at 4:45 to get ready for my day job, but I am thankful that I have a reason to be up working at that 1:00 a.m. hour. And I hope that success grows and takes up even more of my time. No one said being a writer would be easy. But it’s worth it.

How about you? Do you see your free time being gobbled up, little by little? Do you think it will get better or worse? Do you have any super management tips or tricks for tracking and completing projects? Have you given up activities and social events to the time suck?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Feedback

I could say this post is about that screeching you hear from speakers. We've been watching a lot of the Palladia channel at my house lately and it's mostly concerts in high-def. I could say it's about all the opinions my DH has about the houses and areas where we've been house hunting. But actually, the title of this post refers to a contest.

Awhile back I entered The Ruined Lady in the Romance Through the Ages contest. You send them the first thirty pages of your manuscript and away they go! I got seriously brave and sent them a barely cleaned up (but not revised) version of a WIP that has 75,000 words and isn't finished. That's not all. I wrote it years ago, long before I was published. Pretty brave of me, don't ya think?

Well, of course it didn't final. I truly didn't expect it to. Historical authors tend to really have their ducks in a row, you know? Even the un-pubbed ones. And I would think the un-pubbed ones, subbing to an RWA contest would know better than to head hop and write in the passive voice. I didn't know any better until I was published. Although, I should have because I knew that in business you never write a letter in passive voice.

At any rate, even though The Ruined Lady didn't final, it got feedback! Which makes me happy! Cause yanno, I'm just too close to this story to know what to cut and what to keep. I needed someone to show me the way and say what was bad about the manuscript to prompt me to ruthlessly self-edit the darn thing. And now I have it.

The story has some issues. I've always known that. And then there's the head hopping that has to be removed and all the telling instead of showing (passive voice.) And I need to make sure I've not peppered the darn thing with modern phrases and words. The feedback from this contest is my first step toward working through things with this book.

My reasons for wanting solid feedback are simple. I'm not about to toss 75,000 words into the garbage disposal. There has to be something salvageable here and I wanted someone with some experience to tell me that. The judges did. Even the judge that gave me the lowest score mentioned that it was worth fixing.

Now that I have my validation, I can go about rewriting the book and giving it an ending and setting up for the second book in the trilogy. And then I get someone to beta read it and I clean it up some more, and...I shop it to an agent. I truly think it is my agent vehicle despite the fact that I wrote it ages ago.

I think erotic Regencies are still selling. I don't think the paranormal romance market has crowded it out. I think there's room for more authors writing erotic historicals. They are still my favorite thing to read even if I'm not actively writing it myself at the moment. I seriously love a good erotic Regency. And yanno, I always write what I like to read.

So I've got my feedback and validation. I just need to get to work on the manuscript. Not that I have time for it at the moment. I'm just starting a novella for EC to be followed by one for MLR Press to be followed by another for Pink Petal Books. And so on, and so on...I'll get to The Ruined Lady. You'll see. Meanwhile, if you're interested in the story, I've been posting from it on Six Sentence Sunday for several weeks now. Today is no exception. Click HERE and you can see a naughty bit from the manuscript.

Now that you know why my post title is Feedback, tell me what you think. Do you like feedback from contests? Or would you rather not know the judges scoring and comments? If you don't want to know, why don't you? I'm curious. It's the reason I want to see the feedback and why I'd like to see your take on it.

Wishing you a happy Sunday!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Aspiring Writer?

Today’s blog is a bit of a rant, so bear with me.

I just recently signed up for the RT (Romantic Times Convention) in LA this April. Now this convention is for all sorts of folks, readers. Writers, industry pros, male cover models ;).

My bone of contention- and the focus of this blog- is the status for the writers. We get two options-Published or Aspiring.

Aspiring…as in : “to seek to attain or accomplish a particular goal

Now if it said, “Aspiring to be a published Writer”, I’d have no problem with it. But as it stands, and as the word aspiring is defined by most folks, it’s just wrong for most of us un- and under published writers.

I’m not aspiring to be a writer- I AM a writer. I aspire to be a PUBLISHED writer (ok, technically I’m that too- but you know what I mean). Maybe I am aspiring to be a published NOVELIST would be better ;))

The reason I’m annoyed with this is that it’s hard enough for us writers to be taken seriously, and having a huge convention not do so just adds to the problem.

If someone was an artist, painted every day, would they be an aspiring artist? No, they are an ARTIST. They may be aspiring to obtain a gallery showing of their work, but they are already an artist.

When people say, “she was an aspiring actor” it usually implies someone who wants to be an actor, but has no training. Just because an actor may not have obtained a paying gig yet wouldn’t discount them from being an actor (they just wouldn’t need a SAG card yet ;)).

Now to be fair, there are going to be aspiring writers there- REAL ONES. Folks who are just dipping their toes into the writing world and learning their craft. These folks are still working on the first novel, still finding out whether this is for them or not.

My argument is that those of us who have been writing for a while, who have been building our craft (and still building ;)), taken time to understand the industry, and have a body of work to show for it are not aspiring to be writers. We ARE writers. We are aspiring to be published.

Ok, off my soap box now ;).

Friday, March 18, 2011

Contests: Love or Loathe?

I feel the need to apologize for the timing of my blog on Japanese mythology last week.  It wasn't until the day after I posted last week's blog that I became aware of the earthquake in Japan.  I in no way want anyone to think I was trying to capitalize on the tragedy, that post had been in the works for a couple weeks.

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy.

Because of this, I am postponing finishing up the series for a little while.  I wish to be respectful and sensitive to this ongoing situation, and want to err on the side of caution.

Instead, I shall briefly speak to another issue that has been on my mind lately.  My book is not done yet, but I am trying to be business savvy and figure out what I want to do once it's completed.  I need to figure out what is going to give me the best chance of getting that sucker published (outside of writing the best book I can, of course).

One tried and true venue is entering in contests.  It seems almost every RWA chapter has some sort of contest going on ~ first 3 pages, first 30 pages, last 30 pages, sex scenes, dark moments, etc ~ and usually the prize is the finalists are read by an editor or agent.

So it sounds good up front.  However, one place I can see it going wrong for me is people tend to either like my writing, or go, "Yeah, not for me."  I've been assured that this is a good thing, that it means I have a unique 'voice', but I can just envision getting 3 judges to give me across the board thumbs down.  So great, I paid money to get depressed.  Yay me!

I'd like some feedback from people who have done the contest thing.  What are your thoughts on it?  Did you find it helpful at all, even if in the end, you didn't sell from a contest win?  Would you only recommend entering a contest to your worst enemy?

Please, help the newbie out here.  Give me your $.02 here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Luck of the Irish...?

First of all, I hope everyone has a Happy St. Patrick's Day! Drink plenty of green beer, go to a parade, or do whatever you do to have some fun!

I didn't realize that this week's post would be on St. Patrick's Day, or I might've come up with something to fit the occasion. Instead, I'll opt for luck. I actually believe that everything happens for a reason. It's not necessarily luck, but I think people can call it that if they want to. With writing, sometimes things fall into place and you meet someone you might not have because you decide to go to RT or a local group that you wouldn't otherwise. An editor could need exactly what you have when you've completed your manuscript. A genre you love could become super popular helping to give you the chance to break in. It's hard to tell when luck will strike, which is why persistence is probably the better trait to rely on. If you aren't persistent, then chances are, you're not going to find your lucky break.

My critique partner, Kinley, is a perfect example of that. She almost gave up on writing a few times in December, but she kept going and sent out her manuscript to another publisher that had requested it previously and boom, now she's on the way to having a published novel. If she hadn't had persistence, then she wouldn't have what she does now.

Anyways, how is everyone celebrating St. Patrick's Day? I'm not going to do much, maybe eat some take-out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Interview with Acquisitions Editor Lin Browne

Today we have a special guest! Lin Browne is an Acquisitions Editor for Crescent Moon Press. She is kind enough to join us for an interview. This is a great opportunity for us to gain an understanding of what she’s looking for in submissions. Welcome, Lin!
Thanks for the welcome! I’m happy to be here.
What are three things everyone should know about you?
1) I love outside-the-box books as well as traditional stories, and nothing makes me happier than a good romance.
2) I’m a fantasy/science fiction geek from way back.
3) I am a picky editor and edit my authors thoroughly, but I’m not fussy about things like commas and punctuation in submissions. Try to get those things correct but if you miss a comma here and there, I’m not going to reject you.
What genres are you looking to acquire at Crescent Moon Press?
Everything CMP looks at—fantasy, science fiction, paranormals and any variation on those themes with some degree of romance. I like it all. I am particularly excited to see science fiction and high fantasy romances. I do read YA, and like it, but I prefer adult-focused books. However, if you have a great YA story, feel free to send it to me—especially if it’s science fiction. I’m also comfortable editing any heat level. CMP doesn’t accept erotica or erotic romance, but if you write toward the hotter end of the spectrum, I’ll look at it. Oh and if you happen to write funny, PLEASE send it my way. I love funny. Dark is good too, but I find funny is much harder to pull off so if you manage it, I want to see it.
If you had your wish, the perfect submission would be a story about…
A strong heroine with her equally strong hero doing exciting things and finding love. LOL, that sounds very generic. Actually, I’m really open to a lot of different story ideas. Hit me with your best! As I said, I’m particularly interested in good science fiction and high fantasy romance, so I’d love to see more of those. But the perfect submission will be a book I can’t stop reading, no matter the specific details of that story.
What characteristics make a hero or heroine compelling to you in submissions?
I like straight talking characters a lot. In fact, I don’t see near enough of them for my taste. So give me a hero and heroine who are willing to come right out with it and I’ll keep reading. Of course, they should both be strong in their own ways. And if they happen to have a sense of humor, that’d be great. Wounded is always good for drama, but I’m not stuck on characters having to have a brutal background. Sometimes ordinary people thrown into extraordinary circumstances is just as compelling as damaged characters in search of redemption.
How important is an author’s voice?
Very. It’s what makes readers continue reading book after book. But don’t work too hard at trying to “create” your voice. It comes from an author naturally and while it can be developed to reach its fullest potential, voice isn’t something you can force. It’ll simply arise out of your worldview and storytelling style. Give me your distinct voice and that’s what matters.
Do you check an author’s website, blog, twitter or facebook before deciding on a manuscript?
I’ll only check into an author’s social media and web presence if I have some reason to suspect they might be difficult to work with—and being difficult to work with will definitely influence my decision on whether or not to buy your book. Since I look at pre-published authors as well as published, an author might not have much of an Internet presence yet and that’s not really a reflection on their skill. The book I’m sent to read is the only real indicator I have of what an author can do, so that’s the most important thing to me.
What is your favorite part of being an Editor for Crescent Moon Press?
I love the close-knit supportiveness of the company as well as their willingness to take risks on non-traditional story ideas. Sometimes a book just won’t fit into traditional marketing categories but is still a really compelling read. We want those books. And I love that, as an editor, I can make those odd and hard to place novels sparkle and find their audience.
Is there a quick tip you have for writers that we can apply before submission that will automatically make our manuscripts stronger?
I guess the simplest thing I can suggest is to cut as many “it”s, “that”s and –ly words as you possibly can. Doing this will force you to create more powerful sentences with stronger verbs, and that automatically makes your writing more compelling. (And yes, I realize I’ve used a lot of its and thats in this interview. <g>)
Is there anything else an author should know before submitting?
Give your book a thorough read through and edit before even contacting me. I know writers get excited when they have a finished book to submit but don’t rush the process. If there’s too much work to be done on a manuscript, I will have to reject it. I may send a rewrite and resubmit if I can see the potential. But you stand a better chance of avoiding either of these outcomes if you take the time to make sure the book is as clean as you can possibly get it. If I’m not worried about the writing, I can concentrate on the story.
Now everyone is curious! How do we submit?
If you think you’ve got something particularly suited for me and want to submit directly, send an email query to lin @ crescentmoonpress.com (without the spaces). Include in the body of the email a brief synopsis of your book and any writing credits you have. Also include the first ten (10) pages of your manuscript pasted into the body of the email. Be sure to put QUERY: TITLE OF BOOK into the subject line. If I’m interested, I’ll ask for the full manuscript rather than a partial. I like to be able to keep reading if I’m enjoying the story. (So make sure your manuscript is ready to go before sending your query!)
If you’re not sure I’m the right editor for you but you still want to submit to CMP, follow the submission guidelines at the site and send the above information to query@crescentmoonpress.com
Thank you, Lin! We wish you and Crescent Moon Press many future successes! We’re so happy you could visit us today and sincerely appreciate your time.
Thanks, Kinley! I’m excited to be here and answer any questions your readers have. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Lift

Magic is often where you don’t expect it. I’ve always thought that writing was magic, was convinced that writing was magic, even included writing in my book as a magical device. (I actually have a ship with a writer’s curse on it. Mess with the Cursed Quill and somewhere/someplace a writer will draft something dastardly to pay you back. Do drastic and you get drastic. Be a PITA and you’ll get a PITA development. Very fun to create!)

But it wasn’t until I suffered a dry spell – and no, I don’t call it writer’s block, I call it a dry spell – and then the heaven’s opened and pages poured from me, that I really was back in the groove of writing magic.

It’s been nearly a month of doing so many things that I would almost say I forgot to write. And I suffered for it. My life was terribly drab. Daily hum drum things – granted, they were things I needed to get done for RT and some of it was fun. Like my bookmark? My pin?

Fun, but not really magical.

Then, a day where I pushed the rest of the mundane stuff away…and I doubled the pages I’d managed to painstakingly peck on my laptop the week before. And I’m not going to say it was good, or great, but it was magic. Because I suddenly saw where I wanted to take this little bit of erotic alien first contact and it was magic.

Sometimes it’s like that. And as per my normal way of doing things, I’ll find a way to include something about the magic of words, storytelling in general and pull it into the plot…

Life is good. I’m writing again!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Calling for YOUR Stories!

Thank you for a record breaking turn out so far this month at Castles & Guns. We have an amazing Editor interview on Wednesday with Lin Browne. You won't want to miss it!

We're also looking for your publishing stories! Send your success stories to castlesandguns@gmail.com. 400-800 words on a positive experience in the industry. We'll be starting the blog series on March 28th.

Hope to hear from you soon!
Castles & Guns

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Entangled in Publishing's Brave New World

Below you'll find a "Call for Submissions" for a new publisher, Entangled Publishing, which will launch its first new titles in August 2011 and each month thereafter.

[Just so it's clear I'm not an "innocent party" in this endeavor, I'll confess up front that I will be copyediting Entangled's releases, unleashing my Inner Grammar Geek and letting her roam free. I do not have any input into acquisitions or content editing because, well, I have Ye Olde Day Jobbe plus my own writing career to manage. But I wanted to talk about Entangled today, and why I think it's exciting.]

So, what is Entangled and how is it different from small presses and indie publishing?

The short answer is: it fills a niche in today's publishing market that I think is only going to grow in the coming years, offering a middle ground between the traditional publishing model (including the small digital presses as well as the Big Boys in New York) and the indie options.

Don't get me wrong. I'm working with a large New York house right now and it's fabulous. I think most of us still see this as our "first choice,” and I feel blessed to have had the right idea at the right time and (through sheer luck) to have gotten it in front of the right people.

But it's hard to get a foot in the door in New York, especially in this economy and with the big publishers scrambling to figure out how to wrap their corporate models around the fast-changing digital environment. Not impossible, but hard and getting harder. The small publishers are going gangbusters, but their royalty rates aren't all that much better than those being offered by New York.

At the other end of the size scale are the independently published authors, understandably attracted by the 60-70 percent royalties as opposed to the 8-15 percent average royalty rate from traditional publishers. The downside to those big royalties? The author has to take on a lot of other duties that don’t leave much time for writing--editing, cover design, production, distribution, and marketing. And that’s assuming the author has the skills to do all of those tasks successfully and still find time to write.

Entangled Publishing aims to fall in between, offering royalty rates comparable to indie publishing (40 percent of cover price) while providing a full range of professional editorial services, design, distribution and marketing. Their business model matches up well with previously published authors who are interested in independently publishing subsequent books once they've built their brand and debut authors who would typically only consider NY publishers.

I'm strictly the Grammar Geek, but I think the folks behind Entangled have a good business model and a solid plan.

So, with that, here's the official announcement. You can also find more information at their website.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Entangled is an exclusive, boutique publisher of romantic fiction. Because we invest a considerable amount of time and money in every book we acquire, we are highly selective with our acquisitions. If you have a compelling premise, a compulsively readable voice, and the drive to succeed, we want to hear from you.
We are seeking novels and novellas in the following subgenres of romantic fiction for publication in August 2011 and beyond:
  • Paranormal and Urban Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Contemporary and Romantic Suspense
  • Upper “YA” (17-22 yo protags) that will appeal to older teens and young 20-somethings
Guidelines:
  • All submissions must have strong romantic elements.
  • Novels should be 70k to 120k words in length, novellas should be 20k to 40k words in length
  • We consider all heat levels, however erotic elements should not be the focus of the story.
  • Revised backlist titles will be considered on a case by case basis.
To submit a manuscript for consideration, please paste the following into an email:
  • A one-page query letter containing your genre, title, wordcount, a brief blurb about the book, and any pertinent writing credentials
  • The first five (5) double-spaced pages
  • Where we can find you on the web (links will do)
  • Established authors are welcome to query with a standard proposal package.
Send your email to submissions@entangledpublishing.com.
Please allow up to four weeks for a response. We look forward to hearing from you!

Go forth and write!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where Do Ideas Comes From?

I used to do a talk show called Romance Review. I interviewed romance authors on the internet. It was a blast. I talked to people all over the country, listened to their success stories, etc. But I remember my very first interview with Stella Cameron and one particular question that she told me NOT to ask.

Of course, being me, that meant I did. It was 'Where Do Your Ideas Come From?'. Poor Stella. She groaned and tried to feign answering. But since I'd known her for many years and am a Pitbull in disguise, I gave her a chance to catch her breath and asked the same question, slightly altered. More groans. But she relented and went on to explain that it was one of the most often asked questions her readers wanted to know.

Personally, I think readers are intrigued about something we take for granted--our creativity.

Stella finally told me her ideas came from everywhere--the newspaper, television, talking to friends. She'd hear something and twist it into a story. As a best-selling author, she's doing something right.

My own story about ideas came out of workshop that Stella was giving. I can't remember what she said, but like a bolt of lightning I got this idea. It took my breath away. I scribbled down the idea and then it stew for a while. Eventually I wrote the story. Actually got an agent when she read it. She sent it out to ten publishers, mostly rejections, but a couple of times it made it all the way to marketing. Eventually it got nixed.

The important thing here is that the idea came out-of-the-blue and I played the what if game to create something worthwhile.

What about you? Where do your ideas come from? What's your story?

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Creation Myth... or In the Beginning, the Gods Got it On!

And thus begins my series on Japanese mythology!  I know you are all excited here!

A couple caveats before I begin.  If anyone has seen the pictures on the internet of the big ole redheaded white girl which is I, it becomes obvious these posts are not coming from me speaking to my own personal cultural heritage.  Everything I know is from self study, Japanese pop culture media, and speaking to people much smarter than myself. 

Also, by their very nature, blogs are meant to be quick snippets of shared information.  This is not the place to write the volumes such a complex mythology truly demands.  If anything I write sparks some interest, I encourage and recommend going out and reading up on your own.  One book which may be a good starting point would be Myths and Legends of Japan by F. Hadland Davis.  It's an older book and a slightly fussy read, but it gives an impressive overview.

So if you want to know how special Japan is, let's put it this way... according to the myth, the islands themselves are children of the gods.  Originally, the earth was only water, but the god Izanagi and goddess Izanami were charged with bringing life to the earth.  They stirred the water with a celestial halberd, and from that arose an island.  Izanagi and Izanami decided to get married and live on that island, bringing forth all the other elements that the earth required to sustain life.

Beyond giving birth to the islands, Izanami gave birth to the sun (the goddess the Japanese Emporers claimed descendency from) the moon, the god of the storms (who had a terrible temper and tried to kill his sister the sun) and many others. 

Izanami eventually died from injuries sustained giving birth to the god of fire and went to the land of gloom and death.  Missing his wife, Izanagi went to retrieve her, but after he arrived he realized that the dead were not supposed to return.  Izanami was angry with him and chased after him, but Izanagi escaped, putting a boulder at the entryway to the land of gloom.  With this, he forever separated the worlds of life and death.

One of the most interesting facets of the Japanese myths is that the gods did not just create the world, they gave birth to it.  Mountains, trees, rocks, streams, you name it.  Nature is offspring to the gods, so it stands to reason that they are gods themselves.  This brings us to the Kami - the gods or spirits that inhabit these items, and led to Japan's Shinto religion, which uses ritual to bring harmony between people and Kami.

Next week:  a little more in-depth on a few of the more important of these first children, and the story of how the royal family was descended from the gods.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Naming of Characters

Recently, I've been thinking about new characters, and one of the joys of that is the naming process. It's one of my favorite parts of writing. I love using baby name websites to help me with this task. Some of the best are: 20000-names.com, behindthename.com (as well as surname.behindthename.com), and babynames.com.

When I set out to name my characters, I try to first identify my character's genealogical origin (or ancestor's country of origin). Where their great grandparents from Ireland? Are they a really old vampire from Victorian England? If so, I like to know that so I can be fairly authentic with the name. If their great grandparents are from Ireland, and that's who they are, then I wouldn't want to go with something Scottish just because it's "close enough."

After I have the country of origin figured out, I like to think of traits or qualities about the characters that really sums them up. I do that since I really enjoy finding a name that matches the character. For instance, if I had a character that was very protecting of others, I would go with something like Alexander/Alexandra, which means "defender of mankind." I honestly think that names are very important since I think they define people in some ways. I've met people with the same name over the years, and it's interesting that they tend to share some of the same qualities.

Anyways, above is the method I enjoy using... yep, I don't care if it's geeky. Although, I do admit that characters sometimes emerge in my head with their own names. In some ways, it takes the pressure off of having to pick out the right name, but I enjoy the opportunity to scroll through the lists of names. A lot of the time, it gives me ideas for secondary characters, or even creates new ones not related to that story.

So, how about you? What are your methods of naming characters? Any websites you like visiting that I haven't listed? I'd love to hear them. =)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Interview with Acquisitions Editor Donna O'Brien

Today we have a special guest! Please help me welcome Donna O’Brien, a new Acquisitions Editor for my fabulous publisher, Crescent Moon Press. She is currently actively seeking submissions, so I’m interviewing her today to get the inside scoop on what she’s looking for.
What are three things everyone should know about you?
I am very persistent; very approachable, and you want me in your corner! Basically, I’m a down-to-earth, normal person and when I want to accomplish something, I will go after it until I get it done.
What genres are you looking to acquire at Crescent Moon Press?
Crescent Moon Press as a whole publishes high quality fantasy, futuristic and paranormal romantic fiction. Me personally? I like the dark stuff! LOL Give me a dark hero that needs to be saved by the heroine or some epic dark drama that they both have to navigate and survive. I also like stories with lots of magic and then I grew up watching sci-fi with my Dad, so that always has a special place in my heart. So…I guess, what…that’s everything! LOL   And of course, there must always be the romance.
What type of story grabs your attention?
I want something that draws me into the action or the drama immediately. Don’t give me four opening paragraphs of description. But there also has to be emotional interaction. I need to connect with the stories.
Who is an example of a character you love from the genres you’re acquiring?
I just acquired a new story by a debut author and her hero is so great, I LOVE him. BUT it is one of the secondary characters that I can’t wait to find out more about, the brother. He’s going to be her second book and I’m dying to read it! The first one was awesome, but you just know there’s so much going on with this guy. There’s a reason for the distrust and hurt in his actions and looks.
If you had your wish, the perfect submission would be a story about…
Hmmm…something I haven’t seen before.
What advice do you have for writers looking to be published through Crescent Moon Press?
Have your full manuscript polished and ready to go, with minimal errors. Submit a query through our website that’s intelligent and representative of your work and if we ask for more, don’t wait forever to submit it! Send it in! J
Do you check an author’s website, blog, twitter or facebook before deciding on a manuscript?
I actually do check it. Not necessarily to see if they have one. But sometimes to make sure there’s nothing crazy out there. LOL If they don’t have one, it’s not a huge drawback. If they do, and they’ve already started marketing themselves, have a fan base, and a website, that can be a huge headstart. But it doesn’t play a huge part in the decision process.
What do you like best about being an Editor at Crescent Moon Press?
I like that the co-founders believe in me and my judgment and that it’s like this huge team. Everyone working together to make each book the best it can be. Authors helping each other with tips and hints and supporting each other whenever possible. It’s just really been a great experience.
Is there a quick tip you have for writers that we can apply before submission that will automatically make our manuscripts stronger?
Check your grammar!! Fiction writing is unique. I’m not saying you should NEVER have a fragment. There’s a time and place for everything. But if you don’t have a command of the English language, then maybe writing isn’t your thing, or you definitely need some big time help editing BEFORE you submit. Because we don’t have the time to line edit every word of your manuscript. However, that said, I would also caution writers to not over edit their manuscripts so that they look like a boilerplate of every other story that’s out there. Make sure you keep your original story in tact! Just make sure it’s in a cohesive form! J
Now we know what you’re looking for! How do we submit?
Super easy! Go to www.crescentmoonpress.com and click on the Submissions page and you can submit a query after reading all of the guidelines through that page or IF you read today’s blog here Castle’s and Gun’s, you can submit a query to me directly at donna@crescentmoonpress.com and reference this blog interview in the subject line!
Thank you, Donna, for taking the time to visit us today! It’s great to have an understanding of what you’re looking for before we submit. We wish you and Crescent Moon Press well!
Thank you for having me and I thank our Crescent Moon Press author, Kinley Baker for inviting me and setting all of this up! She totally rocks. Of course, I’m not biased at all. ;)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Guest Author Darcy Drake

Darcy's Little Guide to Misbehavin' Space Cowboys
By Darcy Drake

“I aim to misbehave.” - Malcolm Reynolds, Serenity

When considering what to blog about for my guest space at Castles & Guns, I quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to share any writing craft wisdom. Who am I and what do I know? Even if I did have some kind of delicious knowledge hiding in my brain from years of experience, I knew my enthusiasm for Science Fiction would still win out.

I was reminded of all of this when I read the news that The Science Channel had picked up the rights to air the cult-hit Firefly, with tons of extra goodies to boot! Then in an EW interview, Nathan Fillion admitted he'd buy the franchise if he could. Cut away to the many nerds rejoicing at any sign of hope of life for their beloved series. But what exactly has them so excited? What is it about Firefly (and its film sequel, Serenity) that incites this kind of fandom?

Three things! 1) Tight pants. 2) Tight pants. 3) Space Cowboys.

'Space Cowboys'? What are those?! As Richard Castle's daughter Alexis put it so bluntly: 'There are no cows in space.'

Space cows aside – the words ‘Space Cowboy’ summon so many thrilling images! If you grew up watching old westerns with your parents and the names 'John Wayne' and 'Clint Eastwood' were holy in your house, then you know what I mean. Dilapidated spacecrafts roving across the plains of an asteroid belt, while the mercenary pilots eat their last can of beans before their big payday. Men with good hearts and rough hands, just passing through a settlement on Planet K11P9, and falling for the local saloon singer with a shady past. Gun fights! Laser battles! Gold rushes! It simultaneously takes us back to a time when survival was harsh, but then propels us forward into worlds and peoples beyond our own.

Space Cowboys, or Space Western, is a sub-genre of Science Fiction. It blends the themes of American Westerns with the setting of futuristic space frontiers. It’s most prevalent in film and television. Many of the beloved franchises have a bit of Space Western flair! Series such as Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica. Even Star Wars, with its Mos Eisley Cantina and cowboy-esque Han Solo, has flavors of Space Western. Much fan-adored Star Trek was marketed to studio executives as a 'western in space' because cowboy shows dominated the television ratings.

Not just for films and television, the genre as a whole has found life in other formats, such as in anime and manga. In the popular Cowboy Bebop series, an unusual group of bounty hunters scratch a living from rustling criminals and sometimes end up as reluctant heroes. The gaming industry also loves some Space Cowboys, with tabletop MMORPGs, Borderlands, and Mass Effect.

Tales in this genre touch on raw human instincts of preservation and discovery. While stories don't necessarily have to be set elsewhere, commonly they don't take place on Earth, but may have ties back to the home planet. Think of key sayings and labels like 'The Final Frontier,' 'The Undiscovered Country,' and 'Where no man has gone before!' when considering themes. Genre-blending is possible as well, with mixed in elements such as Steampunk, Romance, Humor, and many more. You're only limited by how far and fast your spacecraft can go!

Being outraged over the premature cancellation of Firefly is a thing now. Even if you didn't catch the handful of original episodes aired, you could still buy the dvds and join the ranks of furious Browncoats. Mainstream media featuring 'nerd' characters love to throw in a Firefly quip now and then. My favorite of these was the recent revelation on Community's episode Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking. If either Troy or Abed die, the other will frame it to look like a suicide caused by the show's cancellation. (If haven't seen it, check it out!)

Alas, series can't live on outrage alone! While I may have exaggerated the importance of tight pants, fans have rallied to show their support in getting Firefly back on the air. What does this say about the appetite for the cow-less space rodeo and crowded alien cantinas?

Space Cowboys may be a niche market, but one accelerating in demand. Space Westerns have a small, but delightfully seductive presence in the Science Fiction Romance world. Publishers with ePub availability can take chances in niche genres. I want to read about space pirates, bounty hunters, and embracing lovers! Is the future of Space Westerns in Science Fiction Romance bright and shiny? From me to you and all the nerds in between, I do hope the answer is 'yes' and we'll see more releases to satisfy the cravings.

“See you Space Cowboy…” - Cowboy Bebop

Suggested Links:
http://www.spacewesterns.com/spacewesternlist/
http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/

When she isn’t daydreaming about being a Vulcan or building the greatest robot ever, Darcy is writing stories about people falling in love in fast spaceships, steamy workshops, and the sweaty South. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her menagerie of wild books, rampaging clothing collection, and the craziest clan this side of the Atlantic. Visit her at darcydrake.com!

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Have a Dream. Still. Or That’s What I Keep Telling Myself

I think by now everyone realizes the Border’s bankruptcy has long reaching effects that are going to touch all of us who still cling to the dream of print publishing with a big NY house. And I admit it. I want to sell my Judgment series to one of those holy-grail publishers.

With the number of physical books being sold decreasing (Borders is buying less and closing stores) this can only have a negative trickle-down effect on those of us trying for that NY break.

Do I think I could sell Blood Judgment to an e-publisher? You bet your hind-quarters on it, though I haven’t submitted it to a single publisher. It tears me apart to face reality and acknowledge that it doesn’t matter how much blood and sweat I’ve poured into this story. It doesn’t matter how many people have read it and were knocked over. The number of unknowns vying for one of the shrinking number of openings is growing, making it harder and harder to get a break.

While I have short work published in anthologies and a couple shorts with another publisher I don’t think this is going to buy me what I need to get through a door that is swinging closed right before my eyes.

So what’s a writer to do? I have three options. Try New York, first through the agent hunt, and we all know what fun that is, and see what happens. Other than receiving a slew of rejections, I’m looking at a lot of lost time in which I could pursue option two or option three.

Option two would be to pursue an e-publisher. And I have no doubt I could sell to one of several of them. I’ve had enough feedback on the work to feel confident about that.

Option three, self publish through Kindle and the other distribution sources after investing in a professional editor to go over the manuscript.

Each option has positives and negatives. Regardless of my decision, I will have to improve my PR game. No author is spared this responsibility (okay, Stephen King and Nora aren’t having to kill themselves with PR but we mere mortals have to man or woman up and tackle PR with a vengeance).

Publishing was so different just five and a half years ago when I decided that this was for me. Five years ago there were no options, it was NY or bust. This is how I want to make my living, not rotting in a cubicle doing a full time job I don’t like. That means I will pick one of those options and I will market myself and my series. No one made any promises about this journey and no one said it would be easy. But if you love writing the way I do then there is no choice.

How about you? Are you facing those options? What do you see as the future of the print book? Is it as doomed as the dodo bird? I have a sinking feeling that print books and the dodo have much in common. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Reading Habits

Last night I started a blog post for my Lex Valentine blog. It was a review of a book I loved. The post is sort of a love letter to my old man. Most of my friends know him as "Rott" which is his nickname. For years, he wouldn't let me ever say his name online. A veteran of the "chat wars" of the 90's, he disliked people knowing his real name, where he lived (even just the city) or what he did for a living. These days, he rarely goes online and he prefers that I not use the name Rott anymore. So this post begins, "Dear Ken."

You see, my review revealed some of my unconscious reading habits and this blog post should probably be titled "The Reading Habits of the Domesticated Author." That's too long for me though. I hate long blog post titles. And I'm probably not someone you'd consider very domesticated either.

The reason the review post starts out as a letter to my DH is because I discovered that for years, I've avoided books with heroes named Ken. I acknowledge it now. I'm not sure I ever did before. But I sure as hell did it. I can only remember reading three books with heroes named Ken in the last few years. And really I don't count it as three because two of the books have the same characters (Jaime Samms' futuristic series The Ageless with heroes Ken and Mikko.) The other book, the one I'm writing a review of, is another gay romance, contemporary this time, and written by ZA Maxfield who, like Jaime, is pretty much a must read for me. The problem is that I don't get to stuff very quickly so I'm way behind on reading my favorite authors. And in this case, I also set it aside because one of the heroes was Ken.

I don't read heroes named Ken because of my Ken. It feels odd. And in many ways my Ken for all his issues, is my hero. He's imperfect. He's annoying. He has anger management issues. But he's still - and has been for a dozen years - MY Ken. And apparently, I don't like my love stories to feature heroes named Ken who kiss someone else and love someone else. Male or female. Doesn't matter. I don't care for it. I can't wrap my head around it at all. And yet, I love Jaime's series. And I loved ZAM's Physical Therapy.

Now that I've uncovered this reading habit, I started to wonder what other little habits I have that I've not really acknowledged. I know that when I first starting Ann Rice books at age 17, I devoured them. The older I got and the more prosey she got, I started skimming for the most important bits. I bypassed whole chapters full of descriptions that did nothing to further the plot. And now, to this day, any book that starts to give me page after page of stuff that isn't really integral to the plot is a book I skim. And if I have to skim more than one of your books, chances are, I won't buy a third. If I do that as a reader, you can pretty much figure that other readers may do it too. And where does that leave you as an author?

It leaves me looking at my reading habits more and more closely. I have auto buy authors. I pick up their stuff automatically on release day or soon after. The problem is that with authors I love, I often set their stuff aside because I don't have much time to read. I save them so I can relax and enjoy them. That means I end up with a never ending TBR pile of stuff I should have read because the authors are my pals! They say, "Did you read...?" and I'm just embarrassed that I haven't.

I end up reading stuff on the fly. Short stuff. Novellas mostly. Something that caught my eye and made me impulse buy. If I really like it, I'll start reading more of the author's work. If I don't like it, I'll more than likely bypass that author even if they catch my eye and the new work seems really interesting. Because I don't have a lot of time to read, an author only has one real shot at capturing me as a reader. If you blow it...you'll only get a second chance if an author pal or a reader friend really goes to bat for you with me.

Publishers who have behaved badly or who have a stable of authors who behave badly or who put out books that are poorly edited or unedited...go directly to my do not buy list. Yes, if I see you making a total schmuck of yourself on the loops, I won't buy your books. Pubs with a rep for poorly done stuff just are a waste of my time. Yeah, maybe there are some gems in there, but I don't have time to hunt for them so I just X out those pubs and never darken their door as a buyer. Same for authors where I've seen excerpts posted and the excerpts show the book to be poorly written. Could be posted on the loops, on a blog, on a review site...anywhere. If it's not polished, I won't buy it.

I've noticed too that I'm a series freak. Josh Lanyon's Dangerous Ground series? *pant, pant* I adore it. To the point that the way he left the third one hanging pissed me off! I almost emailed him to say, "What are you thinking? You can't split them up now! In the second book Will says Taylor means more to him than the job and now you're having him choose the job posting to Paris over Taylor? NOOOOOOO!!!!!" I'm seriously afraid of what book four contains. I'm afraid to email Josh. I'm afraid he's going to tell me he's ending the series by ending Will and Taylor and I don't want to hear that. *puts hands over ears and chants "I can't hear you!"* Josh's series aren't the only ones I read. I'm like that with all the different series I'm stuck on.

Rock star books. I'm addicted to those. Erotic Regencies. Addicted to those. Friends to lovers. Addicted to those. Gay for you. Addicted to those. AR Moler's little serial stories. Addicted to those. Stories told in third person solely from the male POV. Addicted. I admit it.

Not crazy about: books where someone cheats, secret babies, menages (although this has to do with the fact that most menages have poor motivation and also have unrealistic behaviors from those involved), books with heroines who were battered (actually, I'm just kind of tired of that theme for now), books with made up unpronounceable words and titles, Christmas stories that don't have a HEA, actually, most books that don't have a HEA. The HEA is key for me.

At any rate, those are some of my reading habits. No Kens, unless I know your work and can manage to read it without it messing with my head. LOL So tell me your thoughts on your reading habits. Do you have any odd ones like no books where the hero has the same name as your spouse? What do you consider an odd reading habit? I'm really curious to see if I'm an odd duck or not.

If you're a fan of Six Sentence Sunday, I'm at it again with more from my erotic Regency that isn't finished. You can read it by clicking HERE. If you want to see the other Sunday Six participants click HERE.

Wishing you a great Sunday!