Archive for August, 2011
Monday, August 22nd, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
By now, I know whether or not my short story “Amaryllis” won a Hugo. But since I’m posting this a week in advance, I really don’t know. I probably won’t be able to update with the news because I’ll be flying to Michigan for a signing. Whichever way it goes — went, rather — I’m incredibly happy about the nomination. It’s one of those external benchmarks that ends up meaning a lot because this is such a crazy business that doesn’t always give us concrete feedback. I think this is one of the reasons we have so many writing and book awards: it’s a way to provide concrete feedback, or to impose some kind of order on the mass of books and writing that appears every year. That may be a discussion for another time.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on my writing and the progress I’ve made in the 22 years since I sent out my first short stories. Because I think “Amaryllis” is the kind of story I tried to write in high school and college and couldn’t. A thoughtful, solid science fiction story like the kind I grew up reading. As a teenager, I didn’t have the experience — the emotional experience, the raw life experience to draw on (John Scalzi touches on this in in his advice to teenage writers). I didn’t have the ability to write about several threads and plotlines at once, which is one of the things that makes for good stories. (I could barely write one at a time then.) I didn’t have the ability to craft, to take the feedback I got on the story from a very trusted reader and use it to shape the story into something more powerful.
It’s been a startling revelation, that I actually seem to have learned something, or internalized something. I mean, of course I have, I should hope one wouldn’t work at an art or craft for twenty years and not learn something. But I felt a strange time dilation, considering that I have written something, without really realizing it, that my teenage self aspired to write.
Whichever way the award goes — or went — I got a great dress for the ceremony, which is/was co-hosted by our own Ken Scholes, and plan(ned) on making an event of it. If I get internet access I’ll try to pop in and say how it went.
Saturday, August 20th, 2011 by Ken Scholes
Yep, here I am in Reno. Happy Saturday, Folks. It actually IS Saturday this time, too. None of that sneaky writing my post well in advance sort of thing I’ve been up to. Why?
WorldCon. I’ve been here since Wednesday after road-tripping down with my pal Jerry. We left Portland to the strains of Neil Young’s Harvest and rotated through about ten CDs on our eleven hour drive. Jerry’s easy to travel with.
We hit town in the afternoon, I got fitted for my tux, and then got checked in at the Peppermill. Since then, it’s been a mad rush of people and events…to the point where when I close my eyes I see the con much the same way you see the road after a long day of driving. I’m having a great time but it’s costing me some energy. I’ve seen way to many people to list them all.
My reading was on Thursday. I read “One Small Step” and it went over well. I also went through the Hugo ceremony script with Jay and the production team. Then, Jay and I had dinner with our editor, Beth. After, I had dessert with the copyeditor who worked on Canticle and Antiphon. Then, I hit a few parties and headed back to my room. Of course, scattered throughout the day were the hundreds of people I bumped into.
Friday started with Jerry and I breakfasting at the hotel and then heading over to the convention center. I signed stock at the Fairwood Press table for Patrick, then had a small, intimate kaffeeklatsche followed by a failed nap attempt. I had my two panels back to back and had a great time with both. And of course there were more meals in there with wonderful people.
Now, I’m in bed with my laptop. The alarm’s set. Tomorrow, it’s breakfast, then an autograph session, a rehearsal and…the Big Event. Nervous? A little. Not a lot. It should be fun. Exhausting, but fun. I never, ever imagined me co-MCing the Hugo’s. But here we go! And if you’re reading this on Saturday, you can even watch Jay and I and everyone else over here.
After that, it’s the party scene for a few hours and then back to my room to get some sleep. We’re heading out pretty early on Sunday, I expect. And I’ll be ready. But I will surely have had a good time here at Worldcon.
Friday, August 19th, 2011 by Rosemary
Here were my initial ideas for today’s blog post:
What to do when fear keeps you from writing
Finally I put out a call on Twitter/Facebook for suggestions. Because yesterday was THAT kind of day. And Renee from Facebook suggested “What was the worst sentence you ever wrote?”
Ha! Like I would post that in public.
Okay, I totally would, if I could (A) remember one of the infinite number of stinker sentences I’ve written in five and three-fourths books, not to mention a bazillion pages of unfinished manuscripts. And (B) if I had kept any of them.
(Please don’t take this as a challenge to go through my books and find terrible sentences.)
I’m pretty much convinced that most of my sentences are terrible until I tinker with them. Or at least, there are very few sentences I don’t think could be better.
But one of the most memorable ones was this:
From the dark margins of the lamplight, someone spoke, his voice like something something ominous badass.
I tweeted that after I wrote it, and it’s become an inside joke with my friend Jenny and I. Any time we’re looking for an ineffably perfect word that keeps eluding us, we’ll say we need a something something ominous badass.
So I can’t technically call this the worst sentence I ever wrote, and here’s why:
- It’s unfinished so it doesn’t really qualify as a sentence.
- If those were actual words, it would be a decent sentence (IMHO), with a nice rhythm and (at least) one evocative prepositional phrase in it.
- I knew what I needed and I didn’t fall back on a (shudder!) cliche.
- I wrote it and moved on to finish the scene.
In fact, that last point may make this the BEST sentence I ever wrote.
See, I’m a tinkerer. I will tinker over a sentence for an hour. And on a bad writing day (see my initial ideas for today’s blog topic), something like this could stop me cold, and give me a reason– Well, a “reason” –to walk away from the computer while I think. I mean, “think,” by which I mean play some Rock Band or eat some chips.
So, really, the worst sentence ever written? Is the sentence you don’t write.
Keep at it. Whatever you have to do… Write. Whether it’s slapping down a placeholder so you can move on, or calling for help on Facebook, just write. You can always go back and fill in the something something is later. But you can’t edit with what hasn’t been written.
Okay, so, what’s the worst (or best) sentence YOU’VE ever written?
Thursday, August 18th, 2011 by Sasha White
Eve Berlin aka Eden Bradley On Research & Writing Sex (With a Little Discussion About the Kinky Stuff)
We’ve all heard the saying ‘write what you know’—or at least, we writers have. Over and over. I believe this is mostly true. Of course, none of us can actually ask anyone what it’s like to turn into a werewolf, so it’s impossible for this to apply in every circumstance. But I do think our work is more believable if we’ve done our homework, and sometimes that means actually doing something ourselves rather than reading about it.
I’m very open about my real life experiences with some of the topics I write about. I’ve been on Playboy Radio talking about sex, have done a number of writer’s workshops on writing sex, and about kink in particular, so it’s no secret that I’ve been involved in BDSM off and on for most of my adult life. And I think it makes a difference in my writing. There are some people who are very good at writing BDSM who’ve never made that foray into extreme sexual practices, but I can (almost) always tell when an author is writing from experience. I think it’s something many readers will pick up on, even if it’s on some subtle level they don’t quite recognize.
Before I continue, perhaps I should define what BDSM means: bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism. That can cover a lot of territory, but basically it addresses a power exchange between partners, where one—or more—person is in a position or role of domination, and the other—and yes, this can be more than one at a time, too!—is in a position or role of submission. This can include pain or sensation play, or simply the roles themselves—because BDSM is, at its most basic, about symbols and how we respond to them. It’s all about the psychology. And that’s something that can be difficult to research. You have to ‘get’ what the power exchange is all about in order to write about it effectively and realistically.
As I mentioned before, there are some people who get this on a very deep level without having experienced it themselves, but my real life experience is one reason why I write about it. The psychology of my characters is always what fascinates me most, and putting them into extreme situations naturally elicits a more complex psychological dynamic. And since I’m drawn to BDSM in real life, those more complex dynamics are more interesting to write about. For me, it’s a sort of kinky ‘the chicken or the egg’ question.
Kink is also fun to write about, and one of my intentions in becoming a writer was to enjoy what I do. But I also feel a sort of responsibility to write about kink in a realistic way, to present it to readers in such a way that they can perhaps accept something they might usually shy away from. And I’ve read too many BDSM stories where the dominant is just a jerk with a riding crop, which can happen in real life, of course, but that is absolutely not the ‘norm’ for those people who practice their kink under the ‘Safe, Sane and Consensual’ credo.
When I’m writing kinky characters I always ask myself what might be behind their need to express themselves in this way. For a dominant, it may be some trauma that left them with a sense of hyper-responsibility. For a submissive, it might be that in their everyday lives they are always in control, and letting go, turning that control over to someone else, is an enormous relief. These are actually very common themes in my writing and in real life. And understanding what fuels these desires is half the battle when formulating a realistic character. As a writer, I have to ask myself not only what a character is feeling, but why—and that’s in every instance, not just my kinky characters.
I’ve been asked a number of times why I’ve chosen to write erotica and erotic romance. The answer takes me back to my fascination with psychology. I believe we as humans are at our most primal, our most raw and vulnerable, when it comes to sex. And that’s when our deepest fears, needs and desires come out. Exploring our sexual selves can be incredibly revealing. And I think that’s a necessary part in writing a good romance. I can’t see writing a romance without addressing the sexual relationship, because for me, anyway, there will always be something crucial missing in the character and relationship arc. I think it’s important to do that in any romance, if even in some small way, where the character’s response to a sexual situation is the only thing that makes it onto the page, rather than the act itself. Sometimes this may be simply the tension between two people who haven’t actually had sex yet. But writing about it on some level, and especially in a realistic way, is crucial in developing a believable relationship.
I’m not saying don’t write about your heroine being spanked unless you’ve tried it yourself—although I definitely recommend you do try it if it’s something that captures your interest. But if you’re not going to try it, then do your reading, and that means more than basing your spanking scene on another author’s fiction. The Internet has opened the entire world to us, so start clicking. Of course, if you want to buy your own riding crop, I’m totally behind you…*G*
CONTEST! To help you get started on your road to literary kink, I’ll give away a signed copy of my first Eve Berlin BDSM novel, PLEASURE’S EDGE, to one commenter (this is for US residents only), ~and~ I’ll also give away a copy of my Eden Bradley erotic contemporary ménage e-book (a different brand of kink!) SUMMER SOLSTICE to any commenter (US or International). I’ll announce the winner in the comments section tonight, so be sure to check back!
* * * * * * * *
Award-winning and best-selling author Eve Berlin aka Eden Bradley writes dark, edgy erotica and erotic romance for Berkley Heat, Harlequin Spice, Bantam/Delta, Samhain Publishing, and soon for HQN. You can find Eve Berlin aka Eden Bradley online:
**You can find Eve’s latest release DESIRE’S EDGE now on Amazon, at your local bookstore, or other online retailers!
Wednesday, August 17th, 2011 by Bob Mayer
Know Your Why (Intent) Excerpt from Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author
The first thing we do in Write It Forward is set goals, from the single strategic writing goal to all supporting tactical goal.
For every WHAT (goal) you have, you need to know and understand its corresponding WHY (your intent). A goal is usually factual and external, while your Why’s are emotional, internal things.
When you want to change something, there is always a reason WHY you want to change. For many writers, the WHY remains buried in their subconscious and does them little good. It’s critical to not only bring your WHY to your conscious mind, but to write it down to make it real. You also have a WHY for every book you write. Consider the WHY your motivation.
The intent (WHY) and goal (WHAT) should be mutually supportive. Like the goal, the intent should be a positive statement, because we want positive emotions.
When You State Your Goal’s Intent, Follow This Format
I am doing X (goal) for reason Y (intent).
When I first entered the army, the key portion of the operations order was the mission statement, which detailed WHAT the unit and members were to accomplish. About five years later, someone came up with the idea of adding the Commander’s Intent to the mission statement. This considerably improved the effectiveness of an operations order. Since you are the commander of your life (TOOL EIGHT—COMMAND), you must know your intent.
Like the goal, the intent should be stated positively. Remember, you will respond better to positive emotions than negative.
Most writers I know want to make money writing so that they can keep writing. So sometimes you can come up with goals by reversing WHAT and WHY. If your goal is to make a living as a self-published writer, how much money do you need to make a month? Let’s say it’s $5,000. You have one book. You price it at $2.99. This means you must sell 2,500 eBooks a month to hit your income goal.
Thus your goal becomes: I will sell 2,500 eBooks a month. Why? So I can make a living writing. Why? So I can continue writing.
Intent helps you innovate and motivate. Because intent gives direction but not specific instructions, it allows a large degree of latitude as you further develop your goals and decide how you are going to achieve them.
But how do you innovate?
Try the following processes:
Ask yourself—What if?
Project out courses of actions, much like a chess master, trying to see how they will play out. Enlist the aid of others in doing this. Particularly focus on suggestions that you have a strong initial negative reaction to. Our greatest weaknesses have our greatest emotional defenses built around them and that extends to WHAT and WHY.
Study and Research
You are not the first one to face whatever challenges, that are ahead of you. Study how others did it. We’ll discuss this more in the next TOOL when we cover the Special Forces Area Study.
Take It One Step Further
Yes, maybe you can achieve your goal by doing A. But what about if you go beyond A? What if what appears to be isn’t what is really there? For example, I’m selling quite well on US and UK Kindle. But, taking it one step further, I’m starting to have my books translated into German of DE Amazon and also into Spanish as that’s a world wide market. I’m trying to stay ahead of what’s happening and constantly look to the future for the next way to succeed.
Reverse Your Thinking
Stop beating your head against the wall. Back off, and walk around the wall and look at it from the other side. Change your perspective and stop having tunnel vision.
What If You’re Wrong?
What if your blind spot is controlling you (something we’ll cover in TOOL FOUR: CHARACTER)? Sometimes, if things don’t feel right, you need to stop and pay attention to those feelings. As a writer, I’m not a big fan of the concept of writer’s block—I usually call it laziness. However, if for several days in a row I feel disquiet inside about what I’m writing, I take that as a warning that I’m going in the wrong direction. At times like that I put the brakes on and step back from what I’m working on. Drop my preconceived notions.
Keep It Simple
This seems to contradict some of the earlier techniques such as take it one-step further. However, when you are doing something completely new to you, it’s often best to keep things as simple as possible so that you can focus on the goal and not get bogged down in the process. For the first book I sold, the only advice my agent gave me on rewriting before he marketed it was to simplify it. He said I had too much going on. He mentioned Hunt For Red October. He said that was a rather simple story if you really look at it. I simplified the book and we sold it.
Clear intent helps you stay consistently motivated. When you use your initiative, your morale inevitably goes up. For example, if your WHY for writing is to make a living, knowing you have to pay the mortgage via your writing can be rather motivating.
Sometimes you can use negative emotions as motivations. Many successful people have become successful to prove something to their families. But I think it can be stated in a positive way.
I will become a USA Today best-selling author of cat mysteries, because I want to prove to my family that I am a smart, talented and driven person. Is a positive way of saying I want to do that so I prove to them I’m not a loser, incompetent, pathetic slug.
But you know what? They aren’t going to change their opinion of you. But you will change your opinion of yourself and that’s all that matters. And when you do that, then, surprisingly, their opinion will slowly begin to change. A tenet of Write It Forward is that we teach people how to treat us.
Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 by Sasha White
Promoting your stories is part of the business, and a constant topic of conversation among authors. What works and what doesn’t is the driving question. The one thing we all agree on works, is word of mouth. The question is, aside from writing a kick- ass story, how do you get people talking?
If you’re lucky your publisher will put some oomph behind your release and get you some co-op space in bookstores, some magazine ads, ARC’s sent out to big reviewers. The thing is, it’s hard, especially in these times, for an author to get all that from their publishers. This means we need to do some book pimping ourselves.
There’s always the standard of placing ads in genre magazines like Romantic Times or Fantasy & Science Fiction, but with the rise of Social media like twitter and facebook readers are not only finding about books and release, but about authors too. Not just what they write, but who they are, what food they like, what movies they see, and even who they talk to.
Social Media has made spreading the word about, well, about pretty much anything, easy, but me, I still like the old standby of blog tours and giveaways, and some of my friends feel this way too. Which works well, so we help each other out.
Now me, I tend to only host/pimp people who’s stories I like. The reason I do this is because I like it when my readers trust me, and I want to keep that trust. I also like to make sure that while I’m promoting either my own work, or someone I’m a fan of, that whatever I’m doing isn’t ALL about promoting a product. It’s about getting to know the author, their work, and possible getting a free sample that will hook you. Sort of like the interview with author Eden Bradley that’s on my personal blog today. 😉
Check out the interview, and the giveaway she’s doing for an example of a smart way to promote. Oh, and if you want a sample of Eden’s fantastic steamy vampire stories,THE SEEKING KISS, it’s FREE right now on Amazon and B&N! If you haven’t read her Midnight Playground vampire books, this is a great way to get a free taste of this four book series!
Oh, and she’ll be guest blogging here at Genreality on Thursday, talking about Writing Sex, so there’ll be another example to check out.
Monday, August 15th, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
Tomorrow, my first short story collection is out! I’ve been publishing short stories for over ten years now, so this has been a long time coming. I want to talk a little bit about what went into putting this one together.
First question: How do you whittle my list of over fifty published stories into the dozen that show up in the collection? In this case, I started with a theme: Kitty stories, or stories that might be considered part of Kitty’s world. So the initial pick of stories was easy. I had some technical considerations. A couple of the stories that came out over the last year are still under contract — the anthologies they had originally appeared in asked for exclusivity for a period of time that overlapped with the collection’s release date, so I couldn’t include them.
I thought it was important to include new material. I’m asking people to buy a whole book here, I don’t want it to be all stories they’ve possibly read before. I wrote two new stories for the collection, one of which is a novella about Cormac. The collection seemed the perfect way to showcase this novella, rather than trying to publish it on its own. (It runs about 22,000 words, which is an awkward length — far too short for a novel, but too long for most short fiction markets. Alternatives would have been to publish it as an e-book, or a stand-alone chapbook. But bundling it with the short stories made a lot more sense.)
One big question: how much editing/revising to do on stories that had already been published? I will confess, I gave into the urge to polish older stories. In a couple of cases, based on editorial suggestion, I made further changes. I’m still waffling on some of them, but when you write for publication you sometimes just have to make a decision and go with it.
One of the hardest steps was figuring out what order to arrange the stories in. I had a few options: strict chronological order based on when the stories were written, chronological order based on when the stories take place, or a more arbitrary order based on what stories will hook readers early. This is a guideline many anthology editors use — start with a strong story, end with a strong story. Draw the readers in, and leave them with a good impression. Chronological order based on when they were written would make sense for a retrospective collection, but not this one. Chronological order based on when the stories take place made a lot more sense. I discussed this quite a bit with my editor, who preferred the “anthology” guideline rather than a chronological arrangement. The end result was a little of both. I could have shuffled the table of contents around for ages, so again, I just had to make some decisions.
Another choice I had to make: whether or not to include author notes about the stories. I decided to include them. Because the Kitty books are a series, readers have a lot of questions about how the stories and books all fit together, and this was a chance to answer those questions and talk about the evolution of the series as a whole. I put all the notes in the back of the book, so readers who don’t care about them could skip them easily.
In my own mind, I’d been calling the collection Tales from the Midnight Hour. Then Kelley Armstrong’s collection, Tales of the Otherworld, came out. Too similar, I thought, so I nixed that idea. On the other hand, that gave me a chance to come up with a much better title more suited to Kitty and her world: Kitty’s Greatest Hits.
I’m very happy to finally have the collection done and out in the wild. This was one of the sticking points I had with my old publisher, who refused to do a collection at all, Kitty stories or no. When I shopped the series to a new publisher, I made a collection part of the deal. Tor was happy to take the collection along with new novels. So here we are!