Archive for October, 2010
Saturday, October 30th, 2010 by Ken Scholes
So this weekend while many of my friends are off at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio, I’m in Bend, Oregon, with my wife. I’m wrapping up the last bits of my Antiphon tour with back-to-back appearances at Paulina Springs Books in Redmond and Sisters – both close to Bend. Central Oregon is beautiful if you’ve never seen it.
I thought that today, I’d celebrate the publication of my second short story collection, Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars and Other Unusual Suspects, in the usual writerly way — by shameless self promotion.
So here’s a smattering of what’s inside — some of the stories that originally appeared on the internet and are still available for you to check out. If you enjoy them, I hope you’ll consider picking up the collection.
The title comes from two longer pieces — novelettes — that bookend the collection. “A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon” (complete with art by Greg Manchess and an audio version narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal if you push the LISTEN option) first appeared on Tor.com in February 2009. It’s set in the same world as The Psalms of Isaak only much earlier in its history. And the other, “Grail-Diving in Shangrilla With The World’s Last Mime,” — my paen to chaos theory and gonzo — first appeared on Subterranean Online in late 2008.
If you’re looking for Fortean romance, you can check out my first ever collaboration (with my best pal John “J.A.” Pitts, another Tor Boy.) “There Once Was a Girl from Nantucket: A Fortean Love Story” was published in 2006 in Fortean Bureau’s last issue. Mr. Fort even makes an appearance in the tale.
“The Second Gift Given,” from Clarkesworld’s Feburary 2009 issue is an older story that loosely connects up to my series The Psalms of Isaak. And then, even older, my God-and-the-Devil-Walk -Into-a Bar-story, “On the Settling of Ancient Scores,” appeared back in 2006 at Son and Foe.
You can also check out some of my stranger stories — “The Night the Stars Sang Out My Name” (military SF, kinda) or “The Boy Who Could Bend And Fall” (what I did with the writing prompt “slinky” with a nod to Rachel Dryden for the dare.)
And, since it’s nearly that Most Wonderful Time of Year, a story that I especially love — originally written for Shimmer as a Christmas gift to subscribers, “What Child is this I Ask the Midnight Clear.”
Okay, my wife and I are having our first weekend alone together without babies since they were first born. So we’ve got some whooping it up to do and I’ve got some books to go sign.
(And I suspect I’ll throw in a song or two as well like I’ve been doing a bit more this tour.)
So check out those little snacks from my collection, and again, if you want to own them in paper, pick it up from Fairwood Press today.
Trailer Boy out!
Friday, October 29th, 2010 by Rosemary
Oh my gosh. I asked my friend and workshop-mate Jenny Martin to guest blog for me today, and she’s got some witty, practical advice for you. Is it any wonder she’s got an agent and will be taking the world by storm soon? Thanks, Jenny!
“We are un-fashioned creatures, but half made up…”
–Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
This week, my writers’ workshop held its annual Halloween gathering. I listened to several spine-chilling tales written and read by our members. It’s always a treat when a story really grabs you and compels you to listen.
Conversely, it’s not fun to dive into a dull, lifeless book. Sometimes, pages shuffle along in a zombie plod. The story reads like a dry cataloguing of events—“then this happened, then that happened, and then….”
You know what I’m talking about. Breathing life into a corpse of a novel is tough. It’s a struggle for a lot of writers, including myself. But I’ll tell you a secret—one I learned from my workshop mentors, my fellow writers, and my wonderful agent, Mary.
Interiority coupled with a close point of view can bring a story back from the dead.
Take any scene, imagine yourself as the POV character and start telling the story as he or she would tell it. Try it. Ask yourself these questions as you write:
1. What does my character notice?
2. How does my character see other people?
3. What thoughts are running through his or her head as events unfold?
4. What past events influence my character in the present? What future events does my character anticipate?
5. What does my character want? What motivates my character to act?
6. What is my character’s deepest fear?
It doesn’t matter whether you write in 1st person or 3rd. If you add a layer of interiority and begin interpreting the action through the point of view character, your scenes will come alive. Dull choreography and generic gestures will disappear. A dry list of events will become a vivid experience.
Your un-fashioned creature, your half made-up story…will become real.
So tell me, what kind of voltage do you use to bring Frankenstein to life? How do you re-animate your own pages?
Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Candace Havens
I wish I could tell you I have a set process of how I write a book, but that would be a lie. It seems like with each new project I have a different way of dealing with it. Well except for two things. I write down the draft really fast and there’s always music involved.
I believe in giving myself permission to write a crappy first draft. That takes a great deal of the pressure off and I believe it was Nora Roberts who said, “It’s impossible to fix a blank page.” I vomit out those words on to the page as fast as my fingers will type them. Well, that doesn’t mean I don’t get stumped sometimes. But I refuse to allow myself to have writer’s block. There are those who may say it isn’t, but I’m sorry, writers block is nothing but fear. It’s fear of the unknown. Fear of being stupid. It’s just fear. And we know fear isn’t real. It’s something we create. So I tell myself to get over it and I move to the next scene where I do know what happens.
The other consistency with me, is that each book has a soundtrack. The one I just finished was pretty mellow. I had a lot of Joss Stone (Body & Soul is my go-to album for just about all stages of writing), Marie Digby, Martina McBride, The Dixie Chicks and the Courtyard Hounds. There are other times when I’m writing with heavy metal or indie rock blaring. When I’m doing hard core revision, like I have been the last few weeks, that Joss Stone album helps me to focus. I think I’ve used that music so much that when it plays my brain says, “it’s time to work.”
Now, you’re thinking, Candy, you said earlier that every time you write it’s different. Well, how I come up with my ideas and how I choose to execute those drafts are what changes. Yes, I always write really fast, but there are times when I write absolutely chronologically and other times when I have to piece it together. With Dragons Prefer Blondes I had the first page and then the last chapter and I kept going from the beginning to the back of the book and eventually met myself somewhere in the middle. I’d never worked that way before.
With this last book, Truth and Dare, I had a really solid synopsis. That was different for Ms. Pantser. With that book I had the first three chapters and then I kept skipping to the next bits I knew. Then I’d write something and figure out what it was I needed back in that other chapter.
Right now I’m working on a proposal for Harlequin and while the first couple of chapters came easily, writing the synopsis has been hell. I know the story, but can’t seem to summarize it very well. Then this weekend I had an epiphany while at a class Lori Wilde was teaching about Themes. I think I’ve always done Themes quite naturally in my books, but for some reason on this new project I didn’t really have one. I had to sit down and really think about what my characters’ journeys were about. I’ve never done that before.
I just had a call from my editor and once I told her the character’s themes, she approved the books.
That’s one of the many reasons I still take classes all the time. I never know when I’m going to have one of those epiphanies. What Lori had to say really stuck with me and I finally figured out what my themes were about.
The whole point of this really long diatribe, is even if you’ve been writing the same way for 20 years, don’t be afraid to shake it up a little. Take some classes, listen to how others work and try to apply your own version of what you learn to your work. You never know what might happen!
Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 by Bob Mayer
I think the thing that makes Special Forces elite is the planning. We always wanted at least a minimum of five days to plan a mission—even if the actual mission only took a few minutes.
As a writer, frontloading your work can save you time in the long run and make your story that much stronger.
Once you have figured out your original idea, before you race off and start your story, the next step is to do research. I try to keep my mind open when I’m doing research for all sorts of possibilities for my story.
There are two types of research: primary and secondary. Both are important. Primary research is related to specifics of the story you are going to tell. Secondary goes on all the time and should be second nature to a writer (pun intended). You should be observing things about the world around you all the time. You should also be well read. Many times your ideas come out of research in the first place.
I had a demolition’s man on my Special Forces team and whenever we went anywhere he was always looking at things around him and figuring out how he would blow them up. Every dam we passed, power line, bridge, etc. he was estimating how many charges it would take and where he would place them. As a writer you should be always thinking like that– how you would write things you see, describe people you observe. How would you show what you observe without telling.
The number one thing a writer must do is write. I would say the number two thing is read. Read for information and read for style. Read for format. Every book you read, you should be taking it apart as I describe in the next chapter. When I get stalled writing, I’ll turn my seat and look at the wall behind me that is entirely filled with bookcases. I’ll look at titles of the books there, remembering the stories, and it will both inspire me and also at times, give me ways around problems I’m facing in my current manuscript. Remember, as a writer, you are not alone if you have books.
You should also watch as many films as possible. Although the medium is different, the dramatic concept is basically the same. As you know, I use a lot of films and TV shows when I teach as references. I think mini-series are good because they are like a novel, with each show being a chapter. My current WIP uses the HBO mini-series ROME as a template for what I’m trying to achieve.
In many cases, research helps you construct the story after you have your initial idea. Research is not just looking outward for information, it is also looking inward. A fundamental of Warrior Writer is understanding yourself before you can understand the characters in your book. How is your point of view affecting your characters.
You have to develop your storyline, your locales, and your characters. Also question why people are acting the way they are. What do they think their motivation is and what is really their motivation?
You can never have enough information. Even while writing I look for more information about the topic I am writing about. All my books have started from the original idea and then the story developed out of the research I did on that idea and related areas.
Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 by Sasha White
Over the last year or so word has spread about self-publishing with kindle and more. The most notable advocate is J.A Konrath, who has blogged openly about his journey. I’ve watched the information flow, and often wondered about doing something in that area myself. I like eBooks, and I like the idea of more options fro getting my work out to readers.
I also like to write short stories and have had a hard time finding a permanent home for some of my shorter (less than 10k) works. SO I decided to put these things together, and see what happens.
Meandros is a short story I wrote years ago. It was first published by Amber Quill Press back in 2005. I got the rights back in 2007, and put it up as a free read for a while. But for the last year or two it;s just been languishing on my hard drive. Now I’m putting it up as a Kindle/Nook release.
I did the cover art myself, and I had it re-edited, and professionally formatted. I also plan to do this with several other short stories and more that I have, and maybe even put some new releases up in the future. It will all depend on how well this little experiment goes.
Yes, Meandros was a free read before, but Amazon will only let publishers put up free reads on Kindle, not just anyone. So, I’m pricing it at 99 cents, and the profits from the Kindle sales will be donated to Cancer research. A worthy cause if you ask me, and once you read the story, you’ll see the connection.
So, I uploaded it yesterday, and it’s now available in the Kindle store for .99 cents. I’ll let you know how it goes.
As Tanya commented, the blurb hasn’t shown up on AMazon yet, so I added it below. I’m also trying to figure out how to show inside the book, so readers can read the first bit of ot he story, but haven’t found how to do that yet. LOL
After losing the love of your life, can passion be found again?
After being injured in a car accident, dancer Tammi Johnson thought her life was over. But then sexy dynamic Tom entered her life, and refused to let her curl up and die physically, or emotionally. He taught her to be strong, to find the passion of life again. With Tom she learns to live and love with her whole heart.
When tragedy strikes again Tammi is devastated. Will she give up on ever finding happiness and passion again? Or will she realize that the only way to honor the love of her life is to celebrate what he taught her?
“Count on Sasha White to deliver first-rate blistering passion and tug on your heart strings at the same time. MEANDROS is soul-grabbing, richly evocative, and unforgettable! A true keeper!” ~ Suzanne McMinn, author of The Beast Within
“MEANDROS is a story that is simultaneously poignant and uplifting. This book will pull at your heartstrings but it will also give you a glimmer of hope that there is a second chance to love again… This is an evocative tale that demonstrates the power of love and a very sensual and sizzling story between the two main characters… The reader is left with a very uplifting and positive feeling and this in turn makes MEANDROS an unforgettable book that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend for an inspiring but also romantically erotic read.” ~Aggie Tsirikas, Just Erotic Romance Reviews
“You will be pulled in when you get this book, so be aware of its emotional punch. The words hold you powerfully, making you feel all the emotions that Tammi is going through. The depth of the characters in such a short story are amazing as they make you feel elation and passion, as well as their sadness. After reading this book, you’ll want to stand right up and cheer for MEANDROS!”
Recommended Read – Wendi, Fallen Angel Reviews
“Wow! MEANDROS is a beyond doubt a remarkable read. This very short story is overflowing with such powerful emotion. Readers, I would advise keeping a few tissues handy as you read Tammi’s story for it is a real tearjerker. I truly felt Tammi’s happiness and pain as she reminisces about her life with Tom. I am honored to bestow MEANDROS 5 glorious Angels and a Recommended Read!” ~Reviewed by Contessa
Monday, October 25th, 2010 by Carrie Vaughn
I’m a little late today — still recovering from Mile Hi Con over the weekend, where I spent time talking with good writer friends about writing and meeting readers and generally having fun. Since my brain is still recovering (and I’m finishing up copy edits on Kitty’s Big Trouble before I leave on the next trip), I thought I’d do a quick write up of what I’m reading. Pretty much all my favorite writers, none of whom is usually very prolific, have books coming out over the next month. Of course, this happens when I’m on a deadline and falling behind…
Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold: Bujold’s space-operatic Vorkosigan saga are the books that taught me how to write an ongoing series. They’re brilliant, and this is the first Vorkosigan book in eight years. It’s at the top of the stack.
All Clear by Connie Willis: this is the followup to Blackout, a novel of time-traveling historians in the London Blitz. Some of Willis’s best-known and award winning works are set in this world. In these novels, she appears to be breaking her world, so I can’t wait to dive in and see what happens.
Pegasus by Robin McKinley: I think I’ve mentioned that McKinley is one of my favorite writers of all time, and one of the writers who made me want to be a writer. Every new book by her is an excuse to shut off the computer, hide the phone, and curl up with my fluffiest blanket for the entire day. She writes beautiful fantasy, but what I most love are her main characters, who are usually ordinary people caught in extraordinary events, who must become reluctant heroes because no one else can.
The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia A. McKillip: McKillip writes absolutely luminous stand-alone fantasy. I love her books because they do stand alone — I’m not committing myself to a whole series. And they’re just gorgeous, simple and poetic, full of magic.
Yes indeed, we have entered the fall/winter book season. What upcoming books are you looking forward to?
Saturday, October 23rd, 2010 by Ken Scholes
When I was a kid, my dad taught me how to fish. Every year, we went to Curlew Lake up in the Okanogan of northeastern Washington. He had a cabin there on Julian Bay – well, actually, a two car garage that he’d converted into a pretty nifty vacation house — and in the mornings, we’d troll for trout. In the afternoons, we’d fish for bass. And if we caught enough, he’d whip up his infamous sweet and sour bass for dinner.
We talked a lot out on the water. And we always brought a book. I remember finishing (and not quite understanding) Dune in the bottom of his boat when I was about twelve. One of the more memorable things he told me, probably when I was complaining about the lack of fish on our stringer, was this:
“Kenneth, there’s fishing and there’s catching. If you learn to love fishing, it won’t matter if you catch.”
Early in my career, when I was chasing down that first sale, I would come back to Dad’s words and the sheer love of the game made up for the rejection and the glacially slow pace of getting published as a writer. Because I loved the fishing, the catching — or lack there of — mattered less.
Somewhere along the way, the load shifted a bit and I started needing those fish a bit more. Revenue from my writing primarily pays for the twins’ daycare so it’s actually pretty important that I stay on task. And that’s a strange adjustment, to suddenly need the fish. There’s a danger there when the catching becomes more important than it was before. It can start rubbing up against that love of fishing…and not in a friendly way.
For instance, it got really hard when I lost my parents in the midst of working on Canticle and Antiphon. I felt the need to stay on course and tried to force myself to write during a time when (in hindsight) just focusing on the grief process and letting my writing muscle come back online when my brain was ready would’ve been healthier. And yes, everyone including my editor at Tor encouraged me to take a break, read some books, grieve my losses. But Iwouldn’t let myself. And forcing it made writing a really unpleasant chore. I found myself losing that love of fishing.
And truth be told, it still happens from time to time. Writing with babies is hard. Writing with toddlers is hard. It’s easy to get caught up in the Anxiety Trap of needing to catch and forget that in the very beginning, it was all about the game.
Putting on the music and sitting down to the keyboard to open up the mind. Pulling images down from my brain and transferring them into words. Finding the the raw materials by mining life, literature, history. Grabbing hold of Story even as it grabs hold of me. Writing can be a type of play like nothing else I’ve experienced. Wordplay, even.
And on those days when I’m not feeling the love? Well, I just show up anyway. Most of the time, if I just sit down to it, I’ll eventually grow comfortable with the rod in my hand and the line in the water and I’ll relax into the rocking of the boat. The love will find me soon enough. And if it doesn’t, I can go looking for it in Story — someone else’s words, a compelling movie, an entertaining TV show. Inevitably, it’s never really very far away.
How about you? What do you do to keep the love alive in the face of not catching or needing to catch?