Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Watch out for low flying attack squirrels.

Today’s blog is about letting observation of the world around you add a kick to your writing (yes, even you plotters ;)). Last night I was working on the Glass Gargoyle manuscript. I’m in the last couple of chapters and things are pulling together very nicely. One element that has been very fun has been an ongoing battle between my faeries (sidekicks of my main character) and a family of squirrels.

I’m at a point where some of that conflict is turning out to have ties to the main plot and primary conflict. I’m writing along, enjoying the ride (I’m a seat of the pants writer, so it’s new to me at this point too) when I realize those squirrels shouldn't’ even be there.

Now, while I am a “play it as it goes” writer, I do have an idea of where things will end up. I know the major characters, the main direction of the plot, and the “big bads” of the story.

But I didn’t have the squirrels.

The squirrels in this book, which have become a nice sub-plot, funny tie in, and now a link to some major plot points, started because one day I took my lap top to the park.

Yup, Balboa Park. Sat my beach chair under a tree, kicked up my feet, and started writing. And was immediately harassed by squirrels.

Just one really.

But he kept scurrying close, then running off, jumping in his tree, even chittering at me (not sure what squirrel swearing sounds like- but he was doing it!). Basically making it impossible to concentrate on my writing. So I wrote him into my book and decided my faeries were going to get in trouble for fighting with a squirrel family.

That was early in the plot. I used it a few times, worked well for “off camera” action for the faeries. Then I realized the truth behind the squirrels and the connection with the story line (I can’t tell you- hopefully one day you’ll read the book ;)).

Which brings me to now. Writing about these squirrels that weren’t supposed to be in this book at all, and now are part of pulling the plot together. My story has changed because of these little rodents. All because a squirrel took exception to me writing under his tree.

So today’s thought is always be on the lookout for the little things around you- you never know when they might be just what you need to get things moving. (Or to pick a fight with a bunch of drunken faeries and change your plot for the better ;)).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Writer’s Guide to Taking Over the World…1,000 words at a time

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my underground lair. I have gathered here before me the world's deadliest assassins, and yet each of you has failed to kill Austin Powers. That makes me angry. And when Dr. Evil gets angry, Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset. And when Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset... people DIE!” Dr. Evil

Today let’s discuss world domination. No, not the Dr. Evil kind, but the writer kind. It could be argued that one reason writers write is to control a world. Not “the” world particularly, although authors who write in more realistic genres could be doing that very thing.
I’m talking about that joy of creating a world- and being the deity of all you view.

Complete and utter world domination.

Writers, along with not being normal, (see previous blogs) are demi-god wanna-be’s. We want to have control over a domain; mark it and make it ours. Some authors have faced pissed off readers with the response of, “it’s my world. I can kill them if I want.” (Not a real quote- just used for example).

That is part of the joy, the “well in MY world apples DO come out of small purple bushes, so there!” comments an author can make to those who claim they have written a falsehood.

However, you must define what your world is. Is it ours? Past? Future? Another place completely? What kind of rules govern it? How is the place your story takes place different from the other places in that world that you don’t even see? Who are the people? What are the physics? The opportunities are endless, as long as you are consistent and stick to your own rule book. Physics for example- hard facts- right? Except that new findings happen fairly often. As science grows, so does our knowledge of our ignorance. What was thought to be impossible half a century ago is common knowledge today. Therefore, once you have established your own parameters- and are prepared to defend them to the death if need be- you can advance on today’s known truths- even physics ;).

So we can create whatever worlds we want. People them with whoever we want (just don’t let real folks be identifiable- ok?). How does a writer get their own world, or worlds, to dominate? They must be diligent in their time.

Just as the world that we live in wasn’t created in a day, neither can your own personal empire.

It boils down to writing goals and pure stubbornness not to quit. I have been trying to maintain a goal of 1,000 words a day. Today I realized that if I met that goal for 300 days (65 days being the “sick, injured, just not working days”) I could write THREE books a year.

THREE WORLDS to dominate and control.

And that is with a full time day job. Just think if I were able to leave it and write full time?

*cue Dr. Evil laugh here*

It’s more than just writing; it’s creating YOUR worlds, polishing YOUR worlds, presenting YOUR worlds to the publishing world.

The question for today is, are you doing enough to ensure your own world domination?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Gift from agent Laura Bradford:

I’m lucky enough to have recently joined the San Diego RWA (thank you Lisa!). This week-end we had two wonderful ladies come down and talk- agent Laura Bradford and author extraordinaire, Nancy Holder. Both were amazing, warm, funny, and really reminded me why I’m in the RWA (For those of you not paying attention- I am a fantasy/SF novelist- if you write YOU should be in the RWA too- just sayin’).

First, the gift of Laura Bradford. Laura came in to really let us know what it’s like being an agent, who they are, why they do what they do. She gave us a lot of inside secrets that you rarely, if ever, hear from agents. But I’m not going to post them here; they aren’t my tale to tell.

Today I’m using Laura’s talk to springboard into how we as writers view agents. Laura’s workshop was eye opening in the sense that it pointed out agents are human.

Yes, I hear the gasp of shock coming through time and the computer even as I write these words. So shocking, I will say it again- agents are people. (and no, not in the way Soylent Green was people…).

What Laura gave me (and probably everyone lucky enough to be in that room) was an ability to see her and her fellow agents as business people. Business people with hearts and a serious hardcore addiction to books. They all got into their business because they love books. They love authors. They love being part of that world. I can’t think of anyone in their right mind, saying, “I hate books and I hate writers. I think I’ll be an agent.” Yet many times on the submissions boards and various writers groups, that what it sounds like authors believe.

Ok, you writer folks- how many of you are in this for the money? (If so, I’m sure I can find some lovely swamp land to sell you.) Writers write because we love it. We love telling stories, creating people and new worlds. Would the vast majority like to get paid? Heck yeah! Getting paid to do your dream job is the dream for everyone.

Agents are doing their dream job.

And, if successful, making a living at it.

Also, if successful, they are helping their clients make a living (eventually ;)) at it.

But let’s face it, agents are slammed. There are lots of folks who “think they have a book in them”. Some do, some don’t. Some don’t yet, but will at some point.

Agents have to deal with all of these folks, finding the gems, pulling them out, and trying to find the right setting for them. At the same time they are looking for the gems in raw piles of slushy goodness, they are dealing with their clients. Some are still awaiting a sale, some are coping with contract issues, some are editing books, others have blipped off the radar. The agent is multitasking so quickly it’s amazing we don’t hear of more of them spontaneously combusting.

And for all this effort, agents often get bad mouthed by writers.

Think of your job (that mundane day job), how would you feel if instead of a 40 hour week, you now had a 70,80, or 90 hour week. And a bunch of that time was spent doing things you directly aren’t getting paid for. How would you feel about that? Knowing that all of that unpaid work adds to your already long day?

It’s not that agents don’t like authors; it’s that they are running a business. We want to be part of that business. Therefore, we’d best do our best to act professional, make sure our “gems” our sparkling when we send them, and don’t get pissy when the gem gets a pass. We buck up and send that gem to the next agent on our list.

I guess the points are that 1)writers need to think of ourselves as creative business people and treat our work as such. 2) Agents are very human. 3)And that I’d go see Laura Bradford or Nancy Holder speak any day. If you get a chance sometime- take it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sometimes being the lamppost is where you need to be

“Asking a writer what he thinks about criticism is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs.”

John Osborne

Now this will be a very interesting topic to blog about considering that I’m not out there in the big trenches of submission gloom waiting for the slings and arrows of agents to come whistling my way.

For those of you who have missed it- I’m taking a year off from seeking representation or publication. This wild and crazy idea came to me when I realized my first attempt at publication needed a lot of work- as in I had no right to be out there. But I never would have known I was out there too soon unless I had tried so therefore I HAD to have been submitting- and being rejected.(Really, it makes sense eventually. ;))

Since rejection is really the ultimate criticism and since I have currently removed that aspect from my life, I’ve cut down on the amount of criticism I’m being faced with.

However, since this is a year of writer growth for me, there will be and has been, some criticism. I’ve had the privilege to have been critiqued by some very smart women in the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal RWA chapter. Funny thing, the best ones were the ones who nailed me to the wall. Not cruelly mind you, but the, “here’s what’s not working…and where you need to go” type of crits.

I’ve also gotten great feedback one on one with a few fellow writers- some doing a beta read, some doing more line edits. Even when I don’t agree with everything (and it would be weird for two folks to agree with everything in a MSS don’t you think?), it’s still vital.

Also had some professional crits - two different professional editors critiquing two different works- more information, more things to think about. Again, some stuff worked, some didn’t.

I have also had the privilege of working with a very admired (and tough as heck) award winning, bestselling author. She’s caused me some pain- but in the end, she’s right (about most things- I’m keeping my interior window-don’t ask ;)). Her unwavering dedication to getting things right- even little things most writer’s would ignore- has changed the way I view my own writing completely.

And now I’m working with two other local writers to form our own little writing group. I haven’t gotten feedback yet per say, but knowing what I know of them- it will be very useful.

The point is, without criticism, I would argue that a writer cannot grow. Even a published author, if all they hear is how wonderful their work is, will eventually stagnate. First their work won’t be edited, then readers become disenfranchised, then their publisher drops them. All because perhaps they DIDN’T have more criticism in their lives.

As I intend to be a writer for the rest of my life, I don’t see me ever outgrowing the need for criticism.

So maybe instead of a lamppost being pee’d on, the image should be of a plant being watered.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Killing the monster

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.”

Winston Churchill

This is a fabulous quote, and far far too true. In the first stage of writing stories can go anywhere-especially if you are a more “organic” or seat of the pants type writer like me ;). My stories can and do go many places that I really wasn’t expecting. But luckily they are usually very interesting places so it’s all good.

The joy of doing multiple projects at the same time (a step into madness I’m sure) is that I’m in various stages of Churchill’s quote- all at the same time.

1) A Curious Invasion- my homage to steampunk, Torchwood, and spy stories everywhere is crossing into the mistress stage. Long enough to have moved out of the toy and amusement stage, it’s now becoming a bit bossy.

2)Glass Gargoyle (full title is very long…it fits the style of that book, but is hard on the fingers) has crossed into the master stage. BUT, my mistress in the paragraph above is making it less stressful. However I do feel a bit like I’m cheating on the faeries , dancing minkies, and general mayhem of the Glass Gargoyle. The end is in sight- I can almost see it…but for a challenge in my local RWA chapter I need to concentrate on the little tart up above.

3)Warrior Wench- ahh the tyrant rears her gun toting, explosive loving head- and she is really ready to make my life hell if I don’t finish editing her and inflict her on the agents and whatnot in the literary world. She lives up to her name, and will take down any that get in her way. Currently, I’m hiding from her behind the other two projects. But I have high hopes that in the not too distant future, others will enjoy a bit o’snark with their SF explosions as she is unleashed.

Ok, enough longing around- there are beings in charge of my life- and they demand to be written.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Writers ain’t normal!

Today, class, we will explore the concept of normalcy and how it does or doesn’t pertain to some members of society currently known as “writers”. In true scientific procedure (my degrees are in Psychology you know) we must first define our terms:

Normal: The Oxford English Dictionary defines "normal" as 'conforming to a standard'. Another possible definition is that "a normal" is someone who conforms to the predominant behavior in a society. This can be for any number of reasons such as simple imitative behavior, deliberate or inconsistent acceptance of society's standards, fear of humiliation or rejection etc.
The French sociologist Émile Durkheim indicated in his Rules of the Sociological Method that the most common behavior in a society is considered normal. People who do not go along are violating social norms and will invite a sanction, which may be positive or negative, from others in the society.

Writer: Main Entry: 1au·thor (since the search for writer revealed…one who writes.)
Pronunciation: \ˈȯ-thər\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English auctour, from Anglo-French auctor, autor, from Latin auctor promoter, originator, author, from augēre to increase — more at eke
Date: 14th century
1 a : one that originates or creates : source b capitalized : god 12 : the writer of a literary work (as a book)
— au·tho·ri·al \ȯ-ˈthȯr-ē-əl\ adjective

So we have normal, such as it is, and the most we can say is a writer is one who writes. Emile’s definition is the most telling for today’s blog- those who engage in the most common behavior are normal- indicating all others are in varying stages of abnormality.

Below are five pieces of evidence to support our aforementioned hypothesis:

1)Writers often spend hundreds of hours on projects that will never garner them pay or accolades.
Normal people work for money.

2)Writers often talk to or interact with people who do not exist.
For normal people that’s a mental disorder and can be looked up in any Psychological manual.

3) Writers will spend their hard earned money and vacation time flying across the globe to find others of their kind to mingle with and learn from. In other words- they go on vacation for educational purposes.
Normal people go on vacation for fun, and would think discussing the ramifications of showing verses telling on a vacation to be cruel and unusual punishment.

4) Writers think that having a few quiet hours to write is priceless.
Normal people think having to spend a few hours writing is yet another form of torture of which the Geneva Convention would not approve.

5) For writers a sagging middle is concern that the middle of their book has suddenly developed black hole like dimensions.
For normal people a sagging middle is the result of too much fast food and an uncontrolled addiction to the remote control.

There are many more examples. The evidence is startling in its scope. The fact is, even without doing a scientific study, the evidence alarmingly points to the conclusion that writers are simply not normal.

We do not behave within the confines of acceptable, common behavior. We think and dream about worlds that don’t exist outside our heads. We jot notes on napkins in the middle of conversations. We get excited about workshops that will teach us how to create a better villain.

This could indicate that being a writer is not really a calling so much as a disease. A group of misfits (within the realm of defined normalcy mind you) who have learned to cope with our disorder by inflicting it on others.

We simply ain’t normal.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

About becoming an idea hording concept grabbing word pimp

Ahhh- trying saying THAT five times fast! Too easy? Put five marshmallows in your mouth and try again...difficult wasn't it? (Don't ask how I know.)

Today's blog is about the magic of stealing from the world around us- and the best source around- ourselves.

Writers steal.

It's what we do. And any writer who says they have never stolen, borrowed, liberated, absconded with, or snurched an idea, concept, name-- is lying. Or has been living in a cave raised by wolves. Of course then they'd probably start writing about wolves in caves- bada boom they're stealing from the wolf that raised them. And lying since they already made the claim they don't steal.

Thing is we are making up worlds. We're making up people, places, galaxies, etc (ok mainstream fiction writers make up a lot less than us fantasy/SF folks- but still...)
Those worlds have to come from the fluffy particles bouncing in our heads. And what influences those mini masses of idea goodness? The world around us. The movies we read, the books (hopefully not too much- there's a word for that ya know ;)) we read, the people we see, songs, whatever.

Some of it is subconscious, we're not aware of the generating kernel, but then it gets large enough to notice and BOOM! There's a full grown idea.

The rest is stolen property. But today I'm going to ramble on about stealing from yourself. Any writer worth their salt has crap they don't like. (If they say they don't see my earlier comment about lying.) Sometimes this is really awful stuff- hideous. The words have to be printed out and carried out to the incinerator. The hard drive must be purged. Women, children, and small fuzzy animals are warned to stay away.

Sometimes it's just stuff that never grew. Ideas stunted in their growth, left alone until they find a corner to hide in. Or projects we've finished, but just lost interest in.

I won't lie- I have a bunch of all of the above.

I wrote my first story when I was 13 or 14. I don't recall much, but I do remember that I used names from Star Wars (yes, I'm that old- do the math folks).
Did nothing with it. Have NOOO idea where it is.

Fast forward to my late teens or early 20's.
Tried another book. Got further this time, I think about 160 or so pages. Not sure where that thing is, but parts of it are rooted in my head, so I can steal from it at will. For example- the main character was named Vaslisha Tor Dain. I stole that name for my main character in Warrior Wench. (A book that was born as a graphic novel concept stolen from a bunch of comics). The two Vas's even look sort of alike. However, the original Vas was a scientist, very bookish. The new one is very very NOT bookish. In the world of Stargate, the original Vas was Daniel Jackson, the new one is Jack O’Neil.

I’ve stolen other character names, ideas, snippets from that book even though I haven’t seen it in a long time.

Concepts get snagged too. I have a few short stories (written years ago for a class- just sold one last fall). One I really liked had a kick ass character in a fantasy world. I didn’t steal her, nor the other main character- but if you look not too hard at the two main characters in the Glass Gargoyle book I’m working on- you’ll see them. I took the “feel” for that book from Glen Cook’s Garret files books. Most likely no one else will notice any similarity (aside from snark ;))- but in my head that’s the type of world for that book.

So I guess my point is HOARD everything you write. Be on the constant look out for cool words, names, ideas and squirrel them away like gold.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Can't stop writing, the words will eat me.

The title of this piece is taken from a very cute t-shirt "Can't sleep, the clowns will eat me" as well as from today's quote:

"I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die."
Isaac Asimov

But it's true-the title not the clowns...although the clown fear may have merit as well.

I speak of needing to write- desperately needing to write. Even when you really don't want to write at that moment, you desperately need to have written.

It's not that I can't turn off my creative side to work my normal mundane job, sadly, like most people I'm able to turn off my creative self far too easily. The trick is to not let it stay off for too long. I think creativity can be pushed aside easily in our culture. We're almost trained to do so as we work our way through the educational system.

But if we do it too long, we die. We forget how to paint, or sing, or write. Our normal state becomes one of non-creation. Stagnation. Watching the creations of others, but not engaging in it ourselves.

The words, the magic we had to create, to explore our reality in a manner to which we see fit- get taken away.

The flip side of this is that if we DO stay in touch with our creative side- we have to let it out for a good run fairly often for our own sanity.

Or the words- like the clowns- will eat us.

Eh, a rambling blog, but I've done my 1000 words on my WIP and have a need for sleep.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sometimes things need to sit in the dark

The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home.
- John Campbell

I do like that quote. It reminds me that as someone who is aiming for a life in the world of book publishing-on the author end mind you- I need to be submitting.

I don't have a problem with submitting, I've got a stack of rejections from my first completed novel that I could share. That novel is currently sitting in a corner, or as I like to call it "dry dock" waiting until next year when it gets to go on a diet and hard core edit. It (technically two completed books) is the first in a fantasy trilogy. Now unlike some authors, I don't think it's awful. But it does need work and it needs to lose some pages. It sort of resembles a brick. Maybe it's my six million dollar man book- we can rebuild it- later.

This year I'm not submitting anything and it's been hard.

Along with the dry-docked Essence of Chaos, I also have a completed SF, Warrior Wench (in edits), a nearly finished humorous fantasy-mystery (and being tracked here) : The Glass Gargoyle of the Last Elven King, and a fledgling Victorian-steampunkish-SF adventure, (also tracked here) A Curious Invasion.

All those books in the works, it does seem as if I may have avoidance or commitment issues. But there is a method to my madness. Last year I began to realize that even when one thinks ones work is ready to go out- it most likely isn't. I actually made that realization with other folks writing first. I'd see things go out that maybe weren't quite ready. Then I took a long hard look at my own work and pulled things back a notch. A BIG notch. I need to build my writing legs, get the skills under me that will allow me to write the books that are in my head, but in such a way that others will want them in their heads too.

My long rambling point of today's blog is that sometimes it's best to take a step or two or five backwards. Build up your legs so that you can really make a good jump of it when you charge back into the fray. My goal is to have all of the books (except EoC) ready for submission by Jan 2011. Then I'll use the skills from them and this year to edit Essence of Chaos into a serious contender as well.

It's hard to see friends charging forth, putting their books out there, and in many cases succeeding beautifully. But for me 2010 needs to be a time of growth for my writing.

Just wait until 2011 though ;).

Brenda Novak's Auction now open!

Today it's a blog for a cause near and dear to my heart.

The talented Brenda Novak has opened her Diabetes Auction. This is a great chance for both readers and writers to get some great stuff and support a wonderful cause. Last year I won a great deal for a local writing conference.

The auction runs through the month- so check it often!