Saturday, August 28, 2010

I'm in a group blog!

Just a quick note- I'm blogging today on the new group blog I joined, Castles & Guns. Since I have books that deal with both of those items- figured it was a good match ;).

Today is my intro day- come by and say hi!

Frelling supposedly put a link in for the blog. But it doesn't show when I post....SIGH.

You'll have to find it by cutting and pasting since it simply will NOT let me make a link!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Music to stir the savage beast

(Disclaimer: Yes, I know the original quote is "breast" not "beast" work with me folks ;))

I, like many writers, sometimes write to music. Usually it’s just something classical something I don’t think about that’s just a nice noise to block out everything else.

That is until two years ago.

I have a lovely friend name Julie with a love of trailer music (movie trailers) as well as some groups I’d never heard of before (Nightwish, Within Temptation) that I guess would be medieval metal. Two years ago, a few weeks before my first NaNoWriMo, she gave me some CD’s of trailer music and the other groups. I enjoyed them, thought they may not really be my type, but enjoyable none the less.

Enter NaNo.

For those of you who have never heard of this annual beast of madness, it’s were crazy mad writers decide to crank out 50,000 words in one month. November is the month it all shakes down. (Yes, go sign up now, it's an amazing experince

So here I am trying to consistently crank out pretty dang high word counts in a brand new mss. I mean BRAND new. I had an opening scene, the title, and my main character’s name. I did know it was Space Opera/SF and that in my mind it would have been a great graphic novel. (I STILL think that-LOL)

That was it folks.

Needing inspiration, I put on one of the movie trailer CDs. WOW. Not only was the mostly very fast based music a great type keeper (I found myself typing faster to keep up with it) the music itself is extremely visual. When you’re pulling intense scenes of fights, explosions, and general mayhem out of thin air, it really helps to have music that gets you half way there!

Then I added Nightwish and Within Temptation, also very visual and very stirring. I won’t say they made NaNo easy by any means, but the music helped me get through it and honestly influenced the book a lot. (Thanks Julie! :))

I now find myself using the trailer music particularly to jump start my writing even if I’m not blowing things up-LOL. It makes my own sound track for the sprint writing I often do. (Some great “groups” are Immediate Music; E.S. Posthumous and Corner Stone Cues among others).

I also do have my calmer, introspective, more fantasy sounding music. Richard Searles is wonderful especially Earth Quest (if you have a fantasy writer on your gift list this would be a great CD :)) Loreena Mckennitt (Thanks Chris who got me hooked on her :)) and Enya are good focusing CD’s. And a wonderful more spiritual one is the self titled CD by Anuna.

I can’t forget my steampunk connection either! At a conference last year a wonderful woman named Brenda got me hooked on Abney Park when she heard I was doing a steampunk book. Their CD’s have been crucial to my work on that project.

And it still keeps happening.

Just a few days ago, I was driving up the coast, listening to one of my collections. A full scene popped into my head. A group of people fighting for their lives (sadly- they ain’t gonna win). It was so clear I almost had to pull off the road! Sadly, it’s not for one of my current projects, but for the second book in the Warrior Wench series (The book is called The Victorious Dead and that was before this image popped into my head ;)).

Music is great for stirring the savage beast (our characters and ourselves)- how do you use music? What music do you use? As shown here, I’ve been extremely lucky to have friends turn me onto some wonderful music- maybe your faves can help another writer too!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

AAA for writers?

(No, not AA that could be valid as well, but AAA as in those Automobile Association of America folks.)

I had an enlightening experience yesterday. My car wouldn’t start. You know the lovely , “click click click” that tells you that battery of yours is no longer playing with the rest of the car? That was the sound that greeted me.

Luckily it happened in my drive-way and I have AAA. I called the scarily polite AAA folks, they got a battery expert out to me in 20 minutes. He was nice, friendly, and comforting. Yep- battery had gone bad. So he jumped my car, gave me a print out of how bad it was (battery was still under warranty) and sent me trundling off to Sears. (Who took care of it quickly- but that's not really relevant ;))

Now over all a dead car is NOT fun. But having the AAA made it pretty darn painless. And more importantly, they quickly comforted me, fixed my problem, and got me moving again. SO worth the annual fee (yes, I strongly believe all drivers need to have that lovely little card in their wallet ;)).

But what if there was a AAA for writers? How about SWA-Stranded Writers Association? (I know, not catchy enough- but we can worth on that ;)).

The point is, how cool would it be to be able to pull out a little card each time we had a problem? Got a flat character? Call SWA. Lost in your plot? Call SWA. Need a jump because your “oomph” has left the building? Call SWA. You call them and a nice soothing friendly voice would assure you it will all be ok. Then someone comes out, again tells you everything will be fine, fixes your problem and sends you merrily on your way.

Now to just find a way to make that happen ;).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Writing like an Actor

I sat in on a workshop at the SDSU writer’s conference a few years back on improv. Let me tell you, once the instructor clarified it really WAS improvisation- that room cleared out like mad.

That is not surprising, but it was sad for those writer’s who fled. It was really a great workshop and made me think differently about how I write my characters and their reactions.

The instructor was using acting techniques to show writers how to think like an actor. Our characters are like actors, only they all have the same brain- ours. However, if they all sound and think like us they’ll fail to grab any reader’s attention for long.

So how do we deal with that? We act. Now some writers are probably more prone than others to act out their characters. I have found myself pantomiming actions some times while writing. Sometimes it helps me feel the scene, other times it just happens. Frowning, grimacing, waving ones arms about when there is no external stimuli is either the sign of a writer, or someone with a few psychological issues (or both- I know some of you were thinking it ;)). But sometimes we have to act out what goes on (physically or internally).

I’ve found I’ll use external stimuli as well to get me in a frame of mine- both for character development and what I think of as “book character development”.

Since I’ve been working on three very different series this year, I’m finding out that each story has its own personality, its own “character” if you will.

This means that my fast moving SF uses different word choices, different scene breaks, different writing music (movie trailers are the BEST if you have a fast action book) than the other two.

The fantasy-mystery book has a different sensibility completely. It’s a takeoff of a short story I did about ten years ago. Since that story was in first person, so is this book. The tone, feeling, words, and yes writing music are different. Everything is lighter, funnier, and mystery driven. It’s got drunken faeries and homicidal squirrels- nuff said.

The youngest- my steampunk- has driven me a different direction. I’m reading Victorian mysteries (ok – sort of- Elizabeth Peters actually), I’m using different music, I’m finding I turn to tea when I get stressed (ok, I have always been a serious tea drinker- but lately it’s been waaaay more noticeable. Direct correlation to how much time I’ve been spending with my steampunk book ;)).

So I do “act” my characters, but I also “act” my book. I’m not sure how much of this would have been so noticeable if I hadn’t taken on three projects in one year.
How about any of you? Do you act your book? Your characters?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

California Conferences 2010- 2011

Every once in a while it seems I come across a GREAT looking conference. But I usually find it too close to the date and don’t have time to be able to go. So, I’ve decided to create my own list of writer’s conferences! I’m doing it by state (I’ll combine some into “areas”) and will start with my home state- California (no, you non-Californians, we don’t call it “Cali”…shakes head).

One thing I noticed while perusing the CA RWA chapters- there are NO CA RWA conferences! Closest was LARA’s annual workshop. What gives? We’re pretty dang big- why not have something worthy of our state? Ah well- here’s the list:

California conferences- date order starting next month.

I have no idea how good any of these are except for the ones I personally have attended. I’m just listing whatever I find- do the research to make sure it’s a good conference for YOU! If you have questions about the ones I’ve marked as “been to” please ask :). Also please feel free to list any other California ones I missed.

*North Coast Redwoods Writer’s Conference Sept 17-18 2010 Crescent City

*Central Coast Writer’s Conference Sept 17-18 2010 San Luis Obsipo

* Southern California Writer’s Conference: Los Angeles Sept. 24-26 2010

*La Jolla Writer’s Conference Nov 5-7 2010 San Diego-been to

*SDSU Writer’s Conference. Jan 29-31 2011 San Diego—been to

*Southern California Writer’s Conference- Feb 18-20 2011 San Diego-been to

* San Francisco Writers Conference Feb 18-20 2011

*Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention. April 6-10 2011 Bonventure Hotel Los Angeles-been to

* Los Angeles Romance Authors- Annual Workshop- May 2011

*Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Workshop no 2011 dates, usually June- August San Diego

*Santa Barbara Writers Conference June 18-24 2011

*Napa Valley Writer’s Conference No date for 2011- last week in July for 201

*Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conf. No date for 2011- usually late July/early August

*Comic Con International San Diego- July 21-24,2011-been to
**many writers attend as speakers, some writing centric panels

*World Fantasy Convention- San Diego- Oct 27-30 2011

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Missing the story for the words.

Missing the story for the words.

Today I’m babbling –e r blogging – about something that has hit me many times while stuck in traffic going through LA (no offence you LA folks- but I usually go through LA, not TO it ;)).

There are a lot of things on the freeways we normally never see. You see them in LA because of the handy dandy "you ain’t going nowhere fast" reality there. You see the art work, planned and spontaneous. You see plants fighting through the concrete to live. We’ll ignore the trash you also get to see.

My point is that when the freeway is working as intended- we don’t notice this stuff. If you’re wiping by at 70 MPH you aren’t going to see the tiny weed blooming a flower. It’s only when the freeway isn’t working right, when it is being held to in-depth inspection, that the details are clear.

I know, I know what has this to do with writing?

Are we as writers doing something similar with our hyper-vigilance on the tiny details? When we edit our work, or edit someone else’s, we are looking at it in what could be construed as an “unnatural” manner.

We aren’t reading it as intended. We read like writers not readers. We focus on “show don’t tell”, “watch those commas”, “don’t start with the word “as”, “don’t for the love of god, use semi-colons!”.

Those aren’t things a reader would see. Those are the little bits of detail that are part of making the book (or freeway) work, but a reader isn’t going to be asking themselves why you have used the word “as” when EVERYONE knows it should never be used. A reader is there for the ride. They want the story. Now obviously if the details (aka bad craft) are so glaring that they interfere with the story, and pull that reader into an unintended off ramp or freeway (yes, I’m talking about LA again ;)) then there’s a problem.

But many times those details, the ones we as writers fret over, crit each other to death over….aren’t critical. I just finished reading a very fun book. The author had serious comma issues (and as a comma whore myself I know of what I speak :)). It bugged me for about a page. Then I was sucked into the story (the freeway started moving ;)) and I didn’t notice.
I think as writers we need to ask ourselves, are we obsessing over the wrong thing? Agents and editors all over agree on one thing- they want a great story. Are we thinking about the big picture when we read?

Now that doesn’t mean that we can forgo things like grammar, punctuation, strong word usage, however we can’t obsesses over those details at the expense of the BIG detail- the story.

Lets not miss the story for the words ;).

Monday, August 9, 2010


No, I'm not holding a contest, but rather entering them.

I'd planned on not submitting to anything this year to get my craft up and books finished. But then something over the week-end dragged my psyche into contestland.

Actually, it was a post on the FF&P group about entering contests. The item in question was having a completed a polished mss.

Got me thinking as more than one person mentioned that having a hard goal (such as the contest judging time) can act as a prod for us yet to be pubbed folks who are really working without deadlines in this stage of our lives. I'm doing this to give me some hard deadlines ;)

Sooooooooooo- I'm entering! I'm looking for ones that do seem to have folks who understand SF/'s scary and depressing how many contests have a "Paranormal/F/SF" category then have a final judge THAT ONLY TAKES PARANORMAL! Now that is annoying. If you have a category for it, you need to have a final judge who takes it. *grumble*

Needless to say- I won't be entering those most likely-LOL. That's not so much that I feel I WILL final (hope springs eternal ;)) it's just that the final judge does to me at least indicate the mindset of the contest. Why bother if folks don't like/get your genre? The whole reason is feedback and they can't give it if they don't get it. Nuff said.

As for who I am entering- not tellin'. But I'm running around looking for good contests! Each one I send is another, "Crap- I'd better get things moving" prod.

So what of you folks- what has been your experience with contests? Know any great ones coming up?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's all about the prizzies!

Let’s face it, the first thing most fledging writers think (waaaay back when they had that first “I wanna be a writer” thought) is that published authors are rich. Stop laughing folks, you know we all had that thought at some point. And most all of us know that’s not the truth. A very small percentage of published authors make the bulk of the money. I know many many MANY excellent multi pubbed authors who still have their day jobs.

So money isn’t the prize.

It can be argued the writing, and that finished book itself, is the prize. And that’s very very true as well. But to keep going through the long haul, it’s important we give ourselves rewards along the way. Prizes if you will.

Now 2010 has been my “year of all writing, no submitting”. I decided to take myself out of the submitting game and tighten my craft. Also I have somehow found myself the mother to not one, not two, but three baby books who need to finish growing up. (Promise to myself- no more three books at a time- it’s confuses the voices in my head.)

Which of course means that 2011 I need to hit the ground running. Not only running, but doing a five minute mile. I haven’t decided which book will be the first to fly out the door, it will depend on who is the strongest market-wise at the end of Jan 2011. I’m excited, nervous, ready to go, etc. I have been down the rejection circuit before, but I’d like to think an older, wiser me will be the one hitting the cyber pavement in 2011.

Even though I’m excited about my plan, I still need motivation. There’s a lot of writing and editing I need to get done between now and Feb 1, 2011 (launch date ;)).
Yes, I could speed things up by leaving one of the darlings behind, but I don’t want to do that. One major reason is that the market is changing. Authors can’t rely on putting out only one book a year. More and more publishers expect the contracts to be a mite faster than that.

So I need to find a way to make it work (props to Tim Gunn ;)). A major way for me is prizes, nice rewards. I like to start big, then work my way down to smaller, closer prizes.

I just set up a huge reward/final editing retreat for myself. I booked a wonderful Ocean cliff room (with Jacuzzi and fireplace) in Santa Cruz towards the end of Jan 2011. Now my plan is my own creativity retreat. Some friends may be joining as well and are welcome as long as they book their own rooms and are self-entertaining. Most are folks who want to work on their own creative projects as well. We’ll meet for meals, maybe walks in the morning, but most of my time will be working.

And I am so excited!

This prize, along with smaller ones I’ll set up along the way, will get me to my goal. And reward me for doing it at the same time.

So what prizes do YOU give yourself?