GENREALITY

Archive for August, 2010



Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 by Sasha White
Brain Drain

Laura Nutt Coen…you are commenter #6, and that means you win the $15 Amazon GC. You have one week to contact me to claim your prize.

I’m brain dead. Yes, it happens when I spend too much time thinking about a story. Does this happen to you? I know some people think and think and it helps them. They line up all the details and possabilities and character traits before they even sit down to write. Some people do it on paper and call it plotting, some do it in their mind. Me? I find there’s a perfect balance to how much I can think about a story or character before I start writing.

If I don’t think enough, everything (characters, plot, story) is flat.

If I think too much, my brain goes into overdrive and all I see are holes everywhere.

The key is knowing when it’s time to start writing. For me anyways. I missed the right time to start on an idea I love. I’ve thought about it too much and now all I see are holes and problems. So I’m shoving that idea to the back of the line and moving on to the next.

In the meantime I spent yesterday (Monday) draining my brain so I can refill it with the next idea. Draining it meant I went to see a brainless movie. (Step Up 3d..what can I say? I love Twitch!) I had dinner with the family. Then I watched another brainless movie Triple X. (Love Vin Diesel too)

The last thing I did…write a list.

I picked up a book when I was in Vancouver a couple weeks ago called My Listography; my amazing life in lists.

Each page asks you to write a list about something else, and I’ve really enjoyed it, so I’ve decide to share it with you all. Todays list was 5 people I’d like to meet. (Not counting me fellow Genreality authors, who I’d love to meet in person.)

My picks, in no particular order:

Johnny Depp (actor)
Jeremy Piven (actor)
Janet Evanovich (author)
Lynn Viehl (author)
Scott Murdoch (Photographer)

Who would be on your list?

Monday, August 30th, 2010 by Carrie Vaughn
Travel Journal

I travel quite a bit — a couple of big trips a year and several little ones.  I often get asked, do I work when I travel?  Yes and no.

I write every day, and I’m pretty religious/superstitious about it.  Good things happen when I write every day, and things have been going so well I’m really loathe to stop.  But I think I’ve mentioned before my definition of “write everyday” is pretty broad.  I don’t have a specific word count.  Intensive brainstorming and outlining counts as writing, as does extensive revising.  And journaling.

Most of the writing I do when I travel is journaling.  Especially if I’m in a particularly interesting place I’ve never been before (last summer I spent a couple of weeks in Hawaii with my family, and over Thanksgiving I went to Barcelona and the south of France with friends), keeping a journal is pretty much imperative.  I want to describe and reflect on the great things I’ve seen, the amazing meals, the little adventures that ought to be a part of every trip.

This may not seem like “work” (work being stuff that gets written for publication and earns an advance check down the line), but it actually is.  It’s practice in writing about setting, describing landscape, establishing a scene.  I love sitting with my journal at the end of the day, decompressing by reviewing everything I experienced, and then finding the right words to be able to capture what I saw and felt.  At some point in the future I’ll need a scene in a novel that uses those skills, and maybe even a similar scene that I can draw on to make the writing that much more vivid and interesting.

Here’s a bit from last fall’s journal:

November 23 2009 (Carcassonne, France)

I just stepped out on the balcony of our room for a moment.  It’s about 8:30 pm or so I’m guessing.  It occurs to me if this was a D&D adventure or a Steven Erikson book, I could watch thieves travel across the Spanish tile rooftops of the town by the light of the just past new moon.  That I could lean on the ledge and be accosted by a handsome stranger.

Had a lovely dinner in (I think) d’Ostel de Troubadours, which had a low ceiling with thick beams, was dark and atmospheric, and had a roaring open fire in a little ancient fireplace.  It turns out they cook dinner on the open fire, and it was marvelous.  I had salad, sausage and potatoes–the sausage was strong and flavorful without being too spicy.  And the potatoes.  The potatoes in Barcelona, too.  Soft, rich, buttery, perfectly cooked.  And ice cream for dessert.  And a bottle of rosé wine.

I’m leaving today for my next trip — Worldcon in Australia, then two weeks of vacation.  Charlene’s going to be subbing for me the next three weeks.  When I get back, I’m sure I’ll have some stories to tell!

Saturday, August 28th, 2010 by Ken Scholes
Shameless Self Promotion Moment #1

I’m in Los Angeles this weekend attending the Writers of the Future award ceremony and talking to this year’s winners about how the contest and workshop impacted my writing career.   Fun stuff.

In other news, as we prepare for the mass market paperback release of Canticle (8/31) and the hardcover release of Antiphon (9/14), Tor is running a limited-time special on the e-book of first volume, Lamentation.  Hard to go wrong with a price like $2.99!

So to celebrate that and to introduce you all to a small corner of my Imagination Forest, I thought I’d post the first little bit of the book.  Here, you’ll meet Rudolfo, Lord of the Ninefold Forest Houses and General of the Wandering Army.  He’s one of four protagonists whose life is about to change….

See you on the other side! 

 

Prelude

Windwir is a city of paper and robes and stone.

It crouches near a wide and slow-moving river at the edge of the Named Lands. Named for a poet turned Pope – the first Pope in the New World. A village in the forest that became the center of the world. Home of the Androfrancine Order and their Great Library. Home of many wonders both scientific and magick.

One such wonder watches from high above.

It is a bird made of metal, a gold spark against the blue expanse that catches the afternoon sun. The bird circles and waits.

When the song begins below, the golden bird watches the melody unfold. A shadow falls across the city and the air becomes still. Tiny figures stop moving and look up. A flock of birds lift and scatter. The sky is torn and fire rains down until only utter darkness remains. Darkness and heat.

The heat catches the bird and tosses it further into the sky. A gear slips; the bird’s wings compensate but a billowing, black cloud takes an eye as it passes.

The city screams and then sighs seven times and after the seventh sigh, sunlight returns briefly to the scorched land. The plain is blackened, the spires and walls and towers all brought down into craters where basements collapsed beneath the footprint of Desolation. A forest of bones, left whole by ancient blood magick, stands on the smoking, pock-marked plain.

Darkness swallows the light again as a pillar of smoke and ash blots out the sun. Finally, the golden bird flees southwest.

It easily overtakes the other birds, their wings smoking and beating furiously against the hot winds, messages tied to their feet with threads of white or red or black.

Sparking and popping, the golden bird speeds low across the landscape and dreams of its waiting cage.

* * *

Chapter 1 

Rudolfo

Wind swept the Prairie Sea and Rudolfo chased after it, laughing and riding low in the saddle as he raced his Gypsy Scouts. The afternoon sun glinted gold on the bending grass and the horses pounded out their song.

Rudolfo savored the wide yellow ocean of grass that separated the Ninefold Forest Houses from one another and from the rest of the Named Lands—it was his freedom in the midst of duty, much as the oceans must have been for the seagoing lords of the Elder Days. He smiled and spurred his stallion.

It had been a fine time in Glimmerglam, his first Forest House. Rudolfo had arrived before dawn. He’d taken his breakfast of goat cheese, whole grain bread and chilled pear wine beneath a purple canopy that signified justice. While he ate, he heard petitions quietly as Glimmerglam’s steward brought the month’s criminals forward. Because he felt particularly benevolent, he sent two thieves into a year’s servitude to the shopkeepers they’d defiled, while sending the single murderer to his Physicians of Penitent Torture on Tormentor’s Row. He dismissed three cases of prostitution and then afterwards hired two of them onto his monthly rotation.

By lunch time, Rudolfo had proven Aetero’s Theory of Compensatory Seduction decidedly false and he celebrated with creamed pheasant served over brown rice and wild mushrooms.

Then with his belly full, he’d ridden out with a shout, his Gypsy Scouts racing to keep up with him.

A good day indeed.

“What now,” the Captain of his Gypsy Scouts asked him, shouting above the pounding hooves.

Rudolfo grinned. “What say you, Gregoric?”

Gregoric returned the smile and it made his scar all the more ruthless. His black scarf of rank trailed out behind him, ribboning on the wind. “We’ve seen to Glimmerglam, Rudoheim and Friendslip. I think Paramo is the closest.”

“Then Paramo it is.” That would be fitting, Rudolfo thought. It couldn’t come close to Glimmerglam’s delights but it had held onto its quaint, logging village atmosphere for at least a thousand years and that was an accomplishment. They floated their timber down the Rajblood River just as they had in the first days, retaining what they needed to build some of the world’s most intricately crafted woodwork. The lumber for Rudolfo’s manors came from the trees of Paramo. The furniture they made rolled out by the wagonload and the very best found its way into the homes of kings and priests and nobility from all over the Named Lands.

He would dine on roast boar tonight, listen to the boasting and flatulence of his best men, and sleep on the ground with a saddle beneath his head—the life of a Gypsy King. And tomorrow, he’d sip chilled wine from the navel of a log camp dancer, listen to the frogs in the river shallows mingled with her sighs, and then sleep in the softest of beds on the summer balcony of his third forest manor.

Rudolfo smiled.

But as he rounded to the south, his smile faded. He reined in and squinted against the sunlight. The Gypsy Scouts followed his lead, whistling to their horses as they slowed, stopped and then pranced.

“Gods,” Gregoric said. “What could cause such a thing?”

Southwest of them, billowing up above the horizon of forest-line that marked Rudolfo’s furthest border, a distant pillar of black smoke rose like a fist in the sky.

Rudolfo stared and his stomach lurched. The size of the smoke cloud daunted him; it was impossible. He blinked as his mind unlocked enough for him to do the math, quickly calculating the distance and direction based on the sun and the few stars strong enough to shine by day.

“Windwir,” he said, not even aware that he was speaking.

Gregoric nodded. “Aye, General. But what could do such a thing?”

Rudolfo looked away from the cloud to study his Captain. He’d known Gregoric since they were boys and had made him the youngest Captain of the Gypsy Scouts at fifteen when Rudolfo himself was just twelve. They’d seen a lot together, but Rudolfo had never seen him pale before now.

“We’ll know soon enough,” Rudolfo said. Then he whistled his men in closer. “I want riders back to each of the houses to gather the Wandering Army. We have Kin-Clave with Windwir; their birds will be flying. We’ll meet on the Western Steps in one day; we’ll be to Windwir’s aid in three.”

“Are we to magick the scouts, General?”

Rudolfo stroked his beard. “I think not.” He thought for a moment. “But we should be ready,” he added.

Gregoric nodded and barked out the orders.

As the nine Gypsy Scouts rode off, Rudolfo slipped from the saddle, watching the dark pillar. The column of smoke, as wide as a city, disappeared into the sky.

Rudolfo, Lord of the Ninefold Forest Houses, General of the Wandering Army, felt curiosity and fear dance a shiver along his spine.

“What if it’s not there when we arrive?” he asked himself.

And he knew—but did not want to—that it wouldn’t be, and that because of this, the world had changed.

***

Well, there it is.  If you enjoyed it, I hope you’ll consider picking up this book and the others in the series.   Meanwhile, I’m going go enjoy some sun, some good company and some quiet time away from home to work a bit on Requiem.  

Next week:  Goshwowsensawunda Moments, Part 2:  Television

Friday, August 27th, 2010 by Rosemary
Anti-Networking in a Networking Age

Social Media Networking has taken all the fun out of my Internet social life.

I have been on the Internet since I had to dial up with my telephone. My BFF “from college?” Actually met her on a writing bulletin board. I told people we went to school together because before Internet dating became mainstream, it was mind boggling that I’d go visit someone I’d only interacted with at 56 Kbit/s (Look it up, kids.)

Especially because I lived in rural Texas, I relied on the Internet to connect with like minded people. This is not to say people don’t read in rural Texas, or even that they don’t read Science Fiction in rural Texas, but just… Well, the entire population of Refugio County could fit into Cowboys Stadium ten times.

What I’m saying is, I was social on the Internet LONG before Facebook or Twitter. Even before MySpace. (I also rode a dinosaur to school.)

Along comes Social Media Networking. Now there are classes and workshops on using the internet for networking, when really what we mean is publicity. How it’s not enough to have a website. Or even a blog. Now you need a platform, and Facebook and Twitter, and you need to provide Meaningful Content on a Regular Basis and Ohmygodthepressure!

I can’t just tell you that tonight I celebrated with a vanilla latte because I made it through one whole day without having to clean up dog pee from my floor. (I didn’t think anything could be harder to house train than a Papillon until I got a Pomeranian.) Now I have to be Entertaining! Informative! Profound!

Talk about performance anxiety.

Twitter is easier, because it’s a smaller investment. At 140 characters, I angst less over whether my readers will consider my love of caramel frappuchinos a waste of pixels. But a whole blog on my frustration with the running toilet right next to my office? (No, really. I’ve changed the flapper like five times.) It just doesn’t seem worth the click through on Google Reader.  (Um, it is, I promise. I’m hysterically funny when it comes to ranting about my plumbing. Uh, wait. That didn’t come out right… Oh heck. You see why blogging is so stressful for me?)

Here’s my point (because I have to have one, according to the class I took): The Internet allows unprecedented interaction between authors and readers. I want to give my readers glimpses into my life. I want to share information with them. And yes, I really really want to stay in their minds between books. But to keep them coming back, I can’t just be a platform. I have to be the person behind the book.

This is particularly important when your audience is teens.  A survey conducted recently said that marketing through Facebook not very effective on teens. They don’t like being marketed to. However, if your content makes the connection–for instance, a funny or cool viral video, or a blog where they feel like they’re getting insight into the author’s world–then when it comes to buying whatever it is (like, say, your book) they’ll remember your name.

No pressure or anything.

That’s all too much for me. I’ve decided to quit Social Media Networking. Instead I’m just going to go back to blogging and tweeting with my friends, colleagues, and most of all, readers. I think I’ll blog about movies and books and MY books and writing and my dogs and coffee and my diet and how I hate to go to the gym but I have to because I love cheesecake. I might also mention Russell Crowe occasionally.

And mixed in with that, I’ll tell folks about whatever book I’ve got in the works. So that when they go to the bookstore, they remember my name.

In honor of my new resolution, here’s a picture of my dogs:

P.S. If you want to see more of them, you can read my blog or follow me on Twitter @rclementmoore. (But don’t bother to friend me on Facebook, because I’m not doing Social Media Networking anymore.)

P.P.S. In case you couldn’t tell, this post was sort of ironic. Except for the part where we authors shouldn’t get so worked up about Social Media Networking that we forget to be a person–a nice, or at least polite person, if you can manage it–and not merely a Tweeting machine.

Thursday, August 26th, 2010 by Candace Havens
Show and Tell

I want to begin with a disclaimer. This is a blog about breaking rules – sometimes. But you can only break those rules if you know what they are. Please do not take what I’m about to say as something you should “always” do. Use only when necessary.

I’ve been judging a great many contests lately. Most of these are for new writers and the No. 1, problem I see is their stories are full of telling instead of showing. That and they almost always load up those first chapters with backstory they don’t need. But backstory is a topic for another day.

As you know, it is always better to show, rather than tell a story. Showing gives the author an opportunity to bring the reader in by showing the characters in action. Henry James called this dramatizing. According to Wikipedia Janet Evanovich says, “It is the difference between actors acting out an event and the lone playwright standing on a bare stage recounting the event to the audience.”

All of this is true. It’s difficult to engage the reader and get them invested in your characters if you don’t show the action. We need to feel like we are there and showing us through the actions and dialogue is the way to do it.

BUT there are times when telling is necessary. If you always “Show” your story, first you will have a tremendously long book. Second you’re going to have a lot of problems with pacing. When you show a story, it takes many more words to do so. When you do that all the time, it can bog down the prose and create a snail’s pace.

How many times have you read a book and thought, “Just get on with it.” You know those pages you skip and skip to get to the heart of what the author is trying to say? That’s where a little telling would come in handy.

In that same Wikipedia article it has a quote from James Scott Bell that says a writer “tells” as a shortcut in order to get to the meaty part of the scene. “Showing is essentially about making scenes vivid,” says Bell. “If you try to do it constantly, the parts that are supposed to stand out won’t, and your readers will get exhausted.”

If you’re writing literary fiction, show all you want. But if you want to be successful with commercial fiction you need to find the right balance of showing and telling. People tell me all the time my books are fast reads. I honestly do more telling than I should, but I like books that have a fast pace. I’m also not a big fan of using a great deal of description, which is required with showing.

The thing to watch out for when you use  “telling” is that you don’t end up with: and then this happened, and then that happened and then…

As Bell says, you want those big dramatic scenes to mean something and that can’t happen if you are telling the reader about the event, rather than showing.

My point, and I really do have one, is that you have to find out what works best for the book/scene you are writing. I’m working on a scene where a character has to travel from one place to another. The journey isn’t what is important, it’s the confrontation when she gets there. If I show that journey, it’s going to take forever to get to the heart of the scene. We need to know that she’s gone from point A to point B, and that’s she’s nervous, but I can tell the point A to point B part, and show just a bit that she’s nervous. Then Pow! I hit you with the confrontation.

I’ve seen some really talented writers use too much showing, which bogged down their books to the point where I wanted to throw it across the room. I can be on page 75 and still not know what the hell kind of story I’m reading. It’s frustrating. But as I said before, I prefer books with a good, brisk pace.

I remember years ago I was in a class at a conference where an author was teaching the difference between showing and telling. He read one scene where he used “telling” and then he read it again where he used “showing.” He insisted the second one was better, but it wasn’t. It was a transition from one scene to the next, and it didn’t need all the showing.

I only want new writers to know, that yes, showing is important. But it isn’t always the best way to write a story. There are times when a little telling comes in handy.

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 by Bob Mayer
The “Good Old Days” of Publishing

Many people are expressing dismay at the rapidly changing landscape of publishing.  As writers, we just want to write.

My first book came out in 1991 in hardcover.  I was clueless.  Most writers were and still are.  I’m not even sure there was an internet then.  Joking.  There was, but not like today, and I didn’t get on it until around 1997 or so.  No social media.  There were writers conferences.  If you knew there were writers conferences, which I didn’t.  I did my first conference in 1995 and only found out about it because I was in grad school and someone I knew in the English department knew I had been published and suggested I might present.

I had naïve thoughts my book would immediately make the bestseller list and I’d be famous.  Wrong.  If I’d have known, simply the print run number would had told me there was no way I could make any bestseller list.

For several years I thought I was making royalty off cover price, only to find out it was off what the publisher received which was 50% of cover price.  I also didn’t know royalty should be off cover price, but with this publisher my agent had settled for the other without telling me the difference.

My title was Eyes of the Hammer.  Incredibly dumb.  Meant nothing.  My agent and editor didn’t say a word about it.

I didn’t do a single book-signing.  Since the publisher wasn’t sending me on book tour, why should I do one myself?  Plus, I didn’t want to do booksignings.  I didn’t want to talk to people.

The print run was 10,000 copies hardcover.  Which, actually, was pretty decent.  I had no idea if it was good or bad.  It sold around 7,500.  Which is very good sell-through.  But the publisher switched distributors and I went to the bottom of their list for the sales force.  Over the course of six books I died the slow, agonizing death most mid-list authors do.

Except, of course, I was always a manuscript and a publisher ahead.  That was one thing I did do right.  (Because of all this I eventually wrote Warrior Writer, to educate writers how to be successful authors, along with many other reasons).

My point?  In the good old days, promotion and marketing was as important as they are now.  In fact, I submit, things are better today, because you actually can promote and market as an author much more easily than back than.  You have social media now, which we didn’t have then.

Once I woke up and realized my publishers were doing no promoting or marketing, but were just distributors, I tried just about everything.  Direct mailings, media, articles, contacting every independent bookstore in the country, driving 40,000 miles a year to do booksignings, doing conferences, teaching, etc. etc.  Did any of it work?  No idea.  I’m still making a living writing.

Does social media work?  We’ve switched web site providers over the past few days and updated the site.  Because of that, I couldn’t tweet about our books because the URLs for the pages were changing.  Our Kindle sales dropped 50% during those few days.  Consistently for 3 straight days.  I’m back to tweeting those key hashtags (#Lost, #SDCC for San Diego Comic Con, and other TV shows.)  I anticipate our sales will get back up to where they were.  Our new book, We Are Not Alone: The Writers’ Guide to Social Media is a good resource to learn content and procedure and an example of how publishing is changing.  It would have taken a traditional publisher a year to produce the book.  We did it in two weeks after delivery.

I saw authors 20 years ago who felt all they had to do was write.  While a few of them might have broken out and become huge successes, there are none I met.  Every single author I met in my first 10 years as an author who

a)    Thought they had it made because they were published.

b)   Didn’t think they had to promote.

Is now not published.

eBooks, Social Media, etc. has not changed being an author other than to actually make it easier in some ways, which means it’s still incredibly difficult.

Way back in the days of Faulkner, Hemmingway, the Algonquin Round Table, etc. it was just as hard, but different.  Then you had to schmooze, make contacts, get known.  Gee.  It’s kind of the same now too.

In all these eras you still needed a good book at the base of it all, but on top, all that has changed is the medium.  It’s still an integral part of an author’s job to promote and market.

There were no good old days for authors.  There’s just now.

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 by Sasha White
What I learned while on Retreat

*sorry I’m late…I made the mistake of trying to upload over 400 photos to my online backup server last night, at once, and while it worked, it pretty much froze my internet for anything else, so at 330 AM I decided I’d post this when I woke up and went to bed*

What I learned on retreat…or should I say in retreat?

IMG_2595A few weeks ago I posted about going on a roadtrip/writing retreat with a buddy. It was something I’d been looking forward too for a long while. You see, my plan was to spend June and July focussing on other aspects of my life so that in August I’d be ready to re-focus on writing with much intensity. (I’ve come to accept that unless I’m intense/passionate about something, there is really no point in me even attempting to do it. ) As with most things in life, plans go awry.

June and July were full of stress and drama for me. So much so that I realized that if I was going to get serious about my writing again, I needed to leave the night job. Most people have Day Jobs, but mine is a night job for 2 reasons.
1) I work nights at it, not days. (Waitress/bartender)

2) Writing is my day job.

Yes, I claim writing as my day job even though I haven’t been doing a whole hell of a lot of it lately. See Carrie post yesterday about Time management to get an idea of what I might’ve been doing.

As you know, there is more to being a writer than the actual writing, so I’ve been keeping busy with plenty of things. Writing a bit here and there, promotions, planning, and researching for new projects. PLus, I’ve been trying to organize some of my previously published stuff to make available electronically. I mean, if it’s just sitting on my computer, why not give it a try and see what happens, right?

So, the plan was to get that stuff done, and focus on some other things in June and July, then in AUgust, starting with the retreat, I could work on my new project. Well, the night job sort of ended up taking over my life for the summer, and I spent the first five days of the roadtrip/retreat simply decompressing because I had to work 13 of the 14 days before we left. The first days of our trip were on the road and even though Delilah maintained a three page a day quota, I simply drove, listened to music and thought about writing. (Okay, and spent time talking visiting family and shopping on Granville Island in Vancouver). Once we got hunkered down at the lake to write, I still couldn’t make myself do it. I walked the lake and played with my camera and thought about writing some more. By the time I finally got into work mode at the lake, it was time to leave, so I didn’t get much actual work done.
One of the things that relaxed me the most was that I’d given notice at the night job. It’s time to make writing the #2 priority in my life (#1 being my health).

So, I’m happy because I have one week left on the night job, then I’ll be able to focus more on writing! YAY!

So, lessons learned, again. Just because you’re not at work, doesn’t mean your not working. You need to be sure you’re taking a day off from all work every now and then, or your passion for, well, everything, will dry up fast. And the passion must be maintained. I say this because what Carrie said yesterday about being productive when she was still working was also true of me-before I quit to write full time. When I first started out, and I was driven to succeed I worked fulltime, and wrote every spare moment. Then I quit work to write full-time, and my writing productivity slowed so I could concentrate not on writing, but on career. One of the reasons I went back to the night job was because I thought it would help me find that passion to be super productive again. It didn’t. The only place to find that passion is deep within, and if you lose it, then nothing will get it back but time spent refilling the well. At least that’s true for me.

So, my promise to myself after being on retreat…I will never let my well get so dried up again. I will remember that in order to be productive and passionate. I must relax and take time off and away from the computer on a regular basis, to maintain my passion and drive.

One thing I know I’ll be using to refill my creative well from now on is more photography. In the comments tell me what you do to refill the well and be entered to win a $15 Amazon gift certificate. I’ll post the winner of the draw next week.

Peace