Archive for November, 2010

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 by Sasha White
Writers Resources

As writers we’re always looking for ways to learn and improve. With that in mind I’ve put together a list of websites and blogs that I surf on a regular basis to keep my mind firing on all cylinders.

Candace Havens’ Write Workshops Yahoo Loop
Looking for s kick in the pants, and some great workshops? Check this group out.

Crime Scene Writers Yahoo Loop
A loop for those who write in the suspense/mystery/thriller genre. Or anyone who has questions about police procedure.

Erotica Readers and Writers Assoc.
A website full of everything about the erotica genre. Calls of submission, articles, and reviews.

Novelists Inc.
A fantastic Organization with seperate Critique and Chat loops so you can get what you need/want with little fuss. For non-members it’s offers a blog with daily posts that include useful information, interviews and advice.

Bob Mayers Write It Forward Blog

Romance Diva’s
The forum is closed to new members right now, but the site still offers great information in it’s articles and Blog

Monday, November 29th, 2010 by Carrie Vaughn
Author Blurbs

We’ve all seen author blurbs:  those one or two line testimonials by a well known author telling us how great and wonderful this brand-new book by a brand-new author is and why we ought to read it.

This is one of the tools a publisher uses to get attention, especially for new authors.  A great testimonial by someone like Stephen King or Neil Gaiman can really push a new book to the top of the pile, separating it from the hundreds of other new books coming out that month.  Blurbs can give readers a clue about what kind of book it is, based on the kind of authors who’ve read it.

Usually, the publisher (in the person of the editor or a publicist) will solicit established authors for blurbs.  They’ll choose authors whose work is similar to the book in question, who are well known to the audiences they’re trying to target.  (Having military SF author David Weber read a chick lit novel for a potential blurb would be kind of senseless, for example.)  The publisher sends the authors a galley or a manuscript ahead of time so that, assuming they like the book, they can offer their glowing review in time for it to appear on the cover of the finished novel.

I started getting asked to read novels for potential blurbs within about six months of my own first novel coming out.  This was a little shocking to me — another thing about being a working writer I didn’t really expect.  This is also when I realized that my glacially slow reading habits were getting me in trouble.  I wish I could read every single book I get asked to read.  I just can’t.  At least, I can’t and still get my own work done.  Often, I just say no up front.  When I say yes, I make it very clear:  the odds are pretty good I won’t be able to read the book in time.  I hate this, because I see reading books for blurbs as paying it forward.  My first novel received very nice blurbs from the likes of Charlaine Harris and Gene Wolfe.  If a publisher thinks a quote by me will help a book out, then I want to help.

The horrible truth of the matter is that because I’m a slow reader and because I don’t have a lot of time, I’m much more likely to take a look at a book if I know the author.  I’m even more likely if the author is a good friend.  It’s still not a guarantee, but they do jump to the front of the queue, right or wrong.  I try not to feel too guilty about it.  I’m not sure how other authors work this out.  (The other horrible truth is I don’t necessarily like a lot of what I read, and I won’t give a quote to a book I don’t like.  The less said about that the better. . .)

Now, onto some etiquette.  You’ve sold your first novel — one of the first things your editor will ask you is if you know of any authors who you’d like to ask to possibly blurb the book.  Be ambitious — put Neil Gaiman or Stephenie Meyer or whoever on the list.  You never know.

Ideally, your editor or publicist will do all the asking.  It’s part of their job, and they have the authority and contact information readily at hand.  This is how it worked with Kitty and The Midnight Hour.  Even with the authors I knew personally, my editor did the asking.  This removes you from any awkwardness if the author in question says no, or ends up not liking the book.  (This happens.  It’s okay.  It’s subjective, and doesn’t say anything about the book.  It’s like any other review.)  The only time I ever asked another author directly for a blurb was for Discord’s Apple, and the authors in question were friends who knew that the book was coming out and probably would have read it anyway.  Once my books started coming out, the publisher started drawing on published reviews for pull quotes and blurbs, which was a little easier on everyone.

Increasingly, I seem to be hearing directly from authors for requests to read their manuscripts.  Now, some authors will refuse all requests that come directly from authors, because it’s just too awkward.  It’s much easier to say no to a third party than to the person whose baby you’re rejecting.  I haven’t gotten to that point yet, mostly because the authors I hear from are very polite, often people I know personally, and seem to understand when I say I just don’t have time.

I once heard a story of some authors who were told that having a blurb in advance would help sell the book.  As in, they needed to solicit blurbs before the publisher would even buy the manuscript.  This was years ago, and I haven’t heard about this happening recently, so I’m going to chalk it up to a tale in the mists of time.

If you do find yourself approaching an author for a blurb, be professional, as you would in any other aspect of this business.  Remember that you’re asking a huge favor, and the author doesn’t owe you anything.  Don’t panic.  If the author says no, it’s like any other time you hear no:  you move on.

Do blurbs work?  Personally, I don’t pay attention to them.  I read reviews and get recommendations from friends.  But I have heard from readers who said they picked up my book because of a blurb from a favorite author.  I look at it as another one of many marketing tools.  It may help some, but in most cases it’s not going to make or break a book.  A blurb may bring attention to a book, but the book still has to stand on its own.

Saturday, November 27th, 2010 by Ken Scholes
The Care and Feeding of Leroy Larry Leroux

Howdy folks!  Happy Saturday.  Today, I’m going to talk about the care and feeding of my muse and inner redneck, Leroy Larry Leroux.

Leroy is a mullet-wearing, gap-toothed, scrawny little beer-swiller who drives a pickup truck and can be quite fussy at times when it comes to his way of getting work done.  He has a love/hate relationship with the Story Factory’s Quality Assurance Manager and frequently resorts to all sorts of hyjinx to keep the QA guy off the production line.

Leroy is good at what he does when he shows up.  He can bend stories out of just about anything he finds and when he’s really cranking, he puts out a thousand words an hour of fiction.

And Leroy is moody and lazy at his best, though if I take good care of him, he takes good care of me.  The problem is, sometimes, in the craziness of my life, I forget that. 

Over the last little while, I’ve been up against one of the worst writing blockades I’ve come across and that’s gotten me a bit cranky with my muse.  But Leroy is pretty good about digging his heels in even more when I mistreat him.  So once I figured out that I was beating the golden goose as it were, I stepped back and decided to take a more neutral position.

Something interesting happened. 

First, nostalgia.  I started remembering all of the different places where Story intersected with my life.  Story was a type of foster home for me as a child — books, TV, movies, games, comics.  And I found myself having flashbacks of sorts to those days reading in trees and under the trailer and in the woods and on rooftops.  Remembering my love affair with TV Guide, reading it each week and memorizing all the shows I hoped to watch.  Everything from westerns to martial arts to sci/fi and horror. 

And with the nostalgia, I started to realize that in addition to NOT bludgeoning the muse, I really needed to take better care of him and feed him a bit.  In order to make Story, you gotta eat Story.

So I let Leroy follow his nose this past two weeks and we’ve been at the trough.  I contemplated reading but since my writing and reading muscles don’t play well together, we opted for movies.  Something where I can disengage my writerly eye a bit more and let the Story do its work on me. 

It’s been quite the buffet.  We started with David Lynch’s Dune.  Then there was Catch Me If You Can, Bounce, Splice, Harry Brown, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallos, Stranger than Fiction, The Man from Laramie, The Shop Around the Corner, Cast Away, Tootsie, Behind Enemy Lines, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (though I missed some of it), Orange County and…well, I’m leaving some out.  A Lot of Movies.  All in the span of two weeks or so. 

And you know what?  It’s working.  I’m thinking about MY Story again and I’m realizing that at least some of what’s in my way is the starvation diet I’ve had my muse on while standing over him demanding that he give me my words.

It is easy to sometimes forget that before there were deadlines, advances and royalty statements there was simply Story and the way we felt when we sat at its table.

So what about you?  Are you feeding your muse?

Friday, November 26th, 2010 by Rosemary
Things I’m Thankful for (Writing edition)

I know Thanksgiving was yesterday–at least in the US–but I’m still enjoying the glow of family, festivities, and leftovers. So here is my list of things for which I’m grateful in my writing life.

Starbucks. I guess a writer addicted to coffee is sort of a cliché. But there it is.

Smarties candy. These nibbly little candies have gotten me to the end of more than one chapter. My dentist is grateful to them, too.

My writing cave.  I’m really lucky to have an actual office, with an actual door, and an actual couch. I know there are writers who’ve finished whole books in coffee shops (and I’ve done my share of coffee shop writing; see above entry). But I love having my own space–even if it’s just a corner of a bigger room. (My family is glad for my office door, too, sometimes; I’m a little territorial.)

The Internet. Do I really need to explain? If I need to know the floor plan of the Sistine Chapel or the components of dynamite, I can find out without leaving my writing cave.

Scrivener. This outliner/organizer/writing program all in one is a brain saver For someone who changes things around, writes so many versions of one scene, and reorders scenes as much as I do, it is a life saver, helping me remember what version I’m on at any given moment. (Because any given moment, it may be different.)

A lifetime of reading and exploring. Someone asked me recently “Where do you get your inspiration?” This was almost impossible to answer, because I draw inspiration from everywhere.  Not only are ideas sparked by thing I might see on the news, or the Discovery or Travel or History Channel, or National Geographic, but because my parents always encouraged me to read, travel (even if it was via a book), take classes in random things, go to museums and galleries, there is a well of stuff in my brain, accumulated over a lifetime.

My writing friends. I have–more by luck than design–managed to surround myself with a group of fellow writers who started as colleagues and have become wonderful friends. These are friends who support and encourage me, who I can call when things get rough, who let me cry at disappointment, but stop me from wallowing TOO long. And I’ll do the same for them.

I admit, not all of these are necessities. Every writer has a different list of things that make their writing life easier… or possible at all. When I assess these things, it helps me realize the things that are luxuries, and which are truly essential.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone. I’m grateful for my online community, too!

Thursday, November 25th, 2010 by Candace Havens

I did a post earlier in the month about the many things I’m thankful for in life. In America it’s Thanksgiving Day today. It’s basically a time for families to come together and do what we do best — eat. I like hanging out with the family,but there are some other things I enjoy about the day. I love the big newspaper with all the Black Friday ads. I like the zombie nap I take after eating all that food. Unhealthy, yes, but extremely pleasurable. I like listening to my boys hanging out with their little cousins. There’s a bit of hero worship by the cousins and it’s fun to watch how my boys handle it.

I like the way the house smells when all that good food is cooking. Oh, and then there’s the leftovers. That means no cooking for a few days. When everyone gets tired of turkey and roast, we usually have one nice meal out some time during the weekend. Oh, and I almost always put the Christmas tree up that Friday. And sometimes I’ll even brave the crowds to do a little shopping. I don’t mind the chaos as long as it’s not so crowded that I can’t breathe.

But the best part of Thanksgiving is that I usually get a lot of writing done. Well, not on the actually day. But the Saturday and Sunday after, for some reason, are always extremely fruitful when it comes to writing fiction. Maybe I’m more relaxed. Maybe it’s the idea that Christmas and the New Year are just around the corner and I want to finish up the old projects so I can start fresh. But I feel a sudden urge to write and write.

I’ve learned to take advantage of these times. I’m the chick who says you should write every day no matter what, and I believe that. BUT I also think you have to be tuned into your mind and body and take advantage of those times when you feel like you’re on a creative binge. Sure I should be hanging out with the family, but I think it’s the idea that I’m playing hooky from them that makes the writing so much fun. I slip on the headphones (which I’ve just noticed are missing from my desk. Kids!) and I’m in another world.

So do you guys ever do something like this? Slip away and do something fun or creative? Do the holiday inspire anything but panic? Tell me, I really want to know.

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010 by Bob Mayer
More on Front-Loading Your Work as an Author

Early in my writing career I was a big believer in outlining.  I still am.  But I’ve changed my focus on what I outline.  I used to outline plot.  Why? Because I was good at it.  We all like doing what we’re good at.  The problem with that, was I putting double-work into my strengths and winging it with my weakness, which was character development.

That’s backwards thinking.

For my current WIP, I spent an entire month developing my characters, both fictional and non-fiction.  For the non-fiction I read biographies of major players in my book like Ulysses Grant, Tecumseh Sherman, John Fremont, etc.  I also watched numerous shows and DVDs about them.  I re-watched The Civil War series by Ken Burns.  I watched a video about re-enactors at the battle of Shiloh.

For my fictional character, I invented two families.  One in Natchez, MS and the other in Norfolk, VA.  I sat down and talked about every member of the family.  And, of course, the ancillary fictional characters, such as the slave family at the plantation in Natchez and the proxy of the antagonist, who is the overseer at that plantation.  I made sure I knew their backstory.  Why they were doing what they were doing and what their goals were.

I also bookended the story:  the inciting incident was finding out a woman was pregnant and the book covers from 1840 to the battle of Shiloh in 1862 where the child she is pregnant with is killed.  That character is the core thread of the book.  You must have a core thread.

A key part of this was I also knew what everyone’s secrets were.  What each knew about each other and what they didn’t know.  This is where a lot of conflict can be developed in your manuscript.

What I spent that month doing was front-loading the weakest part of my writing.  I was reading my manuscript last night and it suddenly occurred to me that all these people felt real to me.  I knew who they were.  Knew how they would act.

Here is a key point though.  I could do the character front-loading because I picked a genre where doing that was conducive to filling out a story that was already written:  I’m writing historical fiction.  I can’t change the dates or major actions of history.  I can change why these events happened via my fictional character.  But I didn’t have to sit down and invent a plot from scratch.

Something to consider is take a hard look at the genre you’re writing in.  How does it support your strengths as a writer, your passion, but also, how does it help you shore up your weaknesses as a writer and allow you to focus on them.

My outline always starts with my one sentence original idea.  I focus on this in my Novel Writers Toolkit.

That one sentence goes on a blank word document.

Then I break out sections:





Misc Research.

Then I research.  I fill in each section.  I don’t worry about having the whole story yet.  I focus on one thing at a time.  This document grows quickly.  You put in a lot of stuff that ends up not being used, but you never know.

I focus on things that strike my interest.

About half your outline will be backstory that you need to know but the reader doesn’t necessarily need to know.  With the other parts, you begin to see your story grow.  You find turning points.  Major parts of the plot.  Then you tentpole them.  Then fill in the gaps between the tent poles.

An outline is a living thing.  You update it as you write.

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 by Sasha White
Emotions make the story.

Last week I blogged about how to write hot…and what NOT to do when trying to heat up your stories. I admit it, I’ve been reading a lot lately, and too often the stories have disappointed me because of flat characters, cliched storylines and over-the-top sex scenes. With that in mind when I found out one of my go-to authors had anew release, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on it. And I was so not disappointed.

With that in mind I thought I’d share some thoughts on the story, and why I thought it worked so well.

Full of raw emotions that tug at your heartstrings Beg Me is an incredible story.

Erotic at times and heartbreaking at others this short story will grab hold of you and not let you go until it’s all said and done.  Beg Me is certainly not going to be for everyone. The heroine enjoys rough sex, and rape fantasies – until she’s actually raped. This information is in the story blurb, so I’m not ruining anything for you, but what I want to point out is that it’s hard for most people to think erotic thoughts about a story where rape – real and fantasy- are the basis for the story. There’s no denying it has some rough scenes that some people will be both shocked and angry about, but it’s all part of the story. Not once did I feel any of it was there for shock value, or simply to push the envelope. The characters were real, and human and flawed. The hero and the heroine were also courageous and strong and sexual beings. They were full of emotion, all sorts of emotions, not just love and lust and happily ever after type fantasy romance feelings. This fact made all of their emotions feel real to me as I read the story-the fear, the anger, the desire and the love.

It takes a lot to make me uncomfortable, and I admit there was a time when I had to force myself not to skim ahead, but it was worth it. The most amazing thing for me was that during that scene my heart wasn’t breaking for the heroin, but for the hero.  I’m not gong not say more on that that because I feel this is a story you need to read completely to form your own opinions on.   The emotional connection between the characters, and between me the reader, and them, is what made the story erotic.

I highly recommend BEG ME to those who understand that it’s fiction, and everything that happens in the story is between consenting adults- and to anyone who wants to see an example of how any story can be erotic, when you focus on the characters and emotions, and not the number of sex scenes.