GENREALITY
November 28th, 2012 by Charlene Teglia
Feed My Frankenstein

Aren’t you glad you stopped by Genreality? Now you’re singing along with Alice Cooper so your day is already better. You’re welcome. But what does this have to do with writing? Just what the song says, you have to feed your imagination.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the grind of words, words, words, produce, produce, produce. But all of those words spring from someplace. You can argue philosophy all day long about where and how inspiration works, but there’s no arguing what happens when you forget to feed the process. For those coming to the end of the NaNoWriMo sprint, the piled up words are a mighty accomplishment. Still, it pays to think like a farmer and invest in the next crop of your imagination. Time to fertilize.

What feeds your imagination? The answers vary wildly and there are no wrong answers. A good place to start is by making a list and seeing what jumps out. A list of movies to watch, books to read, a fun coffee mug to drink from, a nifty pen for your desk, a tempting notebook you love the color or texture of. Look around you and see what catches your attention. That’s the thing calling to your imagination.

Maybe you suddenly want to read about dinosaurs or go to a natural history museum or wander through a science center playing with levers and pulleys. And before you know it, the technical story problem you’d been wrestling with has a solution. Maybe you find yourself obsessed with maps and realize a map of your world would help you write the next book in the series. Just the process of drawing your places or people can make the story’s shape gel.

Maybe you suddenly have an overwhelming urge to bury yourself in shape and color and the next day you visualize the setting for your fantasy world in vivid detail.

The words come from the recombining of multiple elements. Sensory details, historical details, geological or engineering details. Feed your imagination a varied diet of art, history, music, new flavorful foods, science journals, stellar photography. Dabble in wordless creative efforts; draw, paint, sculpt, play an instrument. Take a walk. Play with a child.

Feed your Frankenstein and the monster of a new story, poem, song, novel will be ready to catch lightning and come alive in words, words, words.

November 27th, 2012 by Sasha White
Creativity

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
― Dr. Seuss

One thing many people ask is where do your ideas come from? Or how do you do it? Meaning, how do you create/come up with/tell theses stories.

For me, the answer is always the same. I don’t really know where the ideas come from, (everywhere? nowhere?) and how do I do it? I sit down, and start writing.

It really is that simple. If you want to write, you have to sit down and do it. You can’t wait around for the lightening of inspiration, or for the perfect idea, you just sit down, and write. It’s work. The idea might not be perfect, which is why you write it out, and work on it, and make it the best it can be. But, the only way to do that is to start.

November 27th, 2012 by Sasha White
Choices

In August I attended the Authors After Dark conference in New Orleans. I admit it, I went because it was in New Orleans, but man, I have to say it was one of the best conference I’ve ever attended- and not just because of where it was. It was casual, fun, friendly, and all about the readers. I got the chance to connect with so many readers it was amazing, and very motivating. Yes, I’m very motivated when I know there are people out there who love what I put down on the page. Let’s face it, we all have egos and pride, (it’s not one of the seven deadly sins for nothing.)

Anyway, I stayed for a couple days after the conference was over just to bum around, and one of the things I did was get a tarot reading. C’mon, I had to do something supernatural while I was there. *g* Anyway, of course one of my questions was about writing, and the reading had several interesting things about it, but one that really stuck with me was that I had two career paths open to me as far as writing goes, and both were successful. One was safe, and fairly unsurprising, and the other was make a few personal sacrifices, but be paid off by a bit of a twisty road, but more satisfaction and success at the end of it.

I know which one I’m choosing, but what about you? I honestly think this is a choice every writer has to make, so which path are you taking? Straight, and safe, or sacrifice and a deeper satisfaction?

November 26th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
Books Make Great Gifts!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend.  I certainly did, starting with a holiday trip and ending with dinner at my parents, and a relaxing weekend settling back into my routine.  If you like shopping on Thanksgiving weekend, I hope you got in plenty of shopping — and if you did, that you bought books to give as gifts!  I worked in a bookstore for a few years right after college, and I loved this time of year, up to and including the holiday CDs on endless replay, the people we’d bring in to do free gift wrapping, and most of all, the recommendations I’d get to make for customers looking for that perfect gift.  There’s a book out there for everyone.  Usually several.  Novels of every shape and size, art books, travel books, science books, memoirs and history, craft books, how-to books.  There’s nothing better than curling up on the sofa on Christmas afternoon, after the presents and the dinners and the church services, and reading for hours.

One very important exception:  don’t give self-help books as gifts.  As well meaning as your intentions may be, as much as you may think you’re trying to help your loved one, it’s just about impossible for the recipient to view a self-help book as anything but criticism and judgment, and what should be a happy day will suddenly be filled with resentment and frustration.  Do I know this from personal experience?  Why, yes.  Yes I do.

What books do you have on your shopping list to give as gifts this year?  What books are you asking for?

Me, I’m probably going to stop by the Tattered Cover in Denver for a few hours sometime in the next couple of weeks, and just wander to see what jumps out at me.  That’s one of the things I miss about working in the bookstore:  while hunting for books for customers, I could also browse the entire store for myself, and pick out the perfect books for my whole family (and a few for myself as well — oh, that employee discount could be deadly. . .).  A bit of wandering is as close as I can get to that these days.  But it’s usually enough.

November 24th, 2012 by Ken Scholes
Gratitude

Happy Saturday and Howdy Folks.  Sorry I’m a little late with this morning’s post.  And Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are of the long drive to Lewiston, Idaho, to feast with my father’s side of the family.  It was time away from the darkness of my trailer boy existence that I welcomed and it gave me some of the more pleasant childhood memories I hang onto.  When we were younger it was nearly always a two or three or even four day adventure.  But as we got older, the trips became one or two day turnarounds.  I read a lot of books in the back of their car on the way to and fro.

And the gathering was always immense.  A vast crowd would gather, usually at my aunt’s house, and we would spend the day eating and catching up and playing pool.  Grandma was always up to her neck in the cooking and would make several components of the feast that to this day continue in my family.  Her “out of this world” rolls were one of those components.  And what was called vermicelli salad (though made with spaghetti).

As we got older, after my grandparents passed, Thanksgiving became larger a gathering hosted by my dad.  It was one of two times a year that we all gathered together.  Our last Thanksgiving together with Dad was was four years ago.  And oddly, I knew it was going to be our last.  He passed just three months later.

Now, Thanksgiving is largely split between my family and Jen’s family.  This year, we started with my stepbrother’s house and wrapped up at Jen’s mom’s house.  It was a good time.  Jen made Grandma’s rolls and I made Grandma’s salad.  Then, the day after, I cooked up a turkey of our own.

Of course, that just describes the traditions around the feast and who we spend it with.  At the heart of the day for me, it’s about being grateful.  For everything.  Not just the things we think of as good but also the things we think of as bad or hard.  ”Gratitude,” Cicero said, “is not only the highest of virtues but the parent of all others.”  I  believe that.  I think being grateful requires us to take an inventory of of our lives to see everything that’s there, how it’s interconnected, what we or others have gained or lost, and how we will respond to it.

So this year, I’m grateful for a lot.  I’m grateful for all of the love in my life — it sustains me and carries me.  Not just the love I receive but also the love I extend to others.  I’m grateful for all the people who’ve come and gone, everything I’ve learned from them.  I’m also grateful for being able to do what I want to do with my life — in so many ways — because of the freedom inherit in how and where and who I was born.  I’m grateful for my writing career and all the people who make that fly.  Those close to me who keep me at the keyboard.  Those in the biz who buy my work, prepare it and launch it into the world.  Those out there who buy and read my work.  And I’m grateful for my health and relative happiness.  But I’m also grateful for the things I learn from those times of unhealth and unhappiness.  Those times are just as important.

Of course, this holiday, for me, is the one to be kept each day.  I find that being grateful keeps me focused and balanced.

So how about you?  What are you grateful for today?  How did you spend your day?

 

November 23rd, 2012 by Diana Peterfreund
“The Competition”

A few weeks ago, while flying to YALLFest, I found myself seated next to a gentleman in the real estate business. What started as a conversation about our smartphones morphed into a longer discussion of my business. He was fascinated that I was close friends with so many other writers, or that such an event as a book festival would be organized by writers. “Aren’t you just helping your competition?”

It had been a long time since I thought of any other writers as “my competition.” On one level, I suppose, it’s true. If a publisher picks X many titles for a particular promotion, your title is only chosen at the expense of another. I’ve certainly received rejection in foreign markets from publishers who say they have too many books like mine on their list. But this situation doesn’t hold a candle to the many publishing opportunities writers get because of their “competition.”

When a genre or a topic has a hit, it forges a path for every book remotely like it. Unlike the Highlander, there are many many more than one. Readers don’t read one book, and htey can read way faster than writers can write. Fans who flocked to Twilight couldn’t wait for Stephenie Meyer to finish her next opus, and a ton of other paranormal romance and vampire YAs hit the big time in its wake. There wouldn’t be a “dystopian” trend right now were it not for trailblazers like Suzanne Collins and Scott Westerfeld. You see the same effect in adult genres — Fifty Shades of every kind of erotica you want, all selling like hotcakes now, thanks to E.L. James.

And it’s not just the blockbusters that drive “readalike” sales. The reason events like book festivals, group tours, and group signings work is because fans that come for one writer’s work is likely to discover another whose style will appeal to them just as much. It’s the same idea that drives “author blurbs” on books. Additionally, the thing about writers is, we’re all voracious readers. When we discover a writer we love, we want to scream it from the rooftops. Authors are amazing book pushers.

At YALLFest, the keynote speakers were Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, who spoke on the topic of literary friendship. And as it turns out, this whole world of writers propping up other writers — “the competition” — this is not a new development. Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens were so close that they often collaborated and Dickens even offered to finish one of Collins’s novels when he fell ill. The friendship between Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and the other Inklings is also a famous one.

My weekend in Charleston was filled with conversations about writing, conversations about publishing, conversations about life with fellow writers. And in the weeks since, as I have sought advice from my writer friends on such varied topics from plotting to contracts, there is no denying that my career would not be where it is were it not for the help and support of these folks.

I feel so lucky to have these people in my life. They aren’t competition — they are fellows.

November 21st, 2012 by J.A. Pitts
Thanksgiving, novel progress, and days of rest

Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States. My house is going to be full-up with friends and good food. And as a bonus I get four days off my day job. I love my job, honestly and for true. But it’s very intense and uses a significant amount of my overall energy. Total brain drain. And when I’m on a huge project (or three) I find that I’m too exhausted to write as much as I need to. Some weeks I look around and realize I haven’t done any creative work because I’ve spent my limited free time recovering.

But with a four day weekend, I am hopeful that I’ll be able to get back to some major book surgery and meet a few milestones. I’m intrigued with where this novel has gone. I’m 70K into the next Sarah Beauhall book when I realized I have 35 scenes to go. Since my scenes average 1500 words the math is not in my favor. Another 52K will break my editors brain.

I spent a few weeks looking at what I should pull out and realized that the real issue was that I am writing two different books. This is not as easy to see as you might think. I’ve got a fairly extensive outline that ties most of this together fairly neatly, but by the time I’ve added in the new stuff that pops into my brain, and flesh out certain story lines, character arcs and plot points, I came to realize there was a divergence that was easy to define, and hopefully, easy to separate. I just need to make damn sure that both books stand alone and are capable of keeping the readers engaged.

Now I have a book that’s half way done with a need for more outline and a book that’s a third done with a nearly completed outline.

This type of epiphany is new to me. For a while I thought I was failing, that I was just stuck on this book because it didn’t work, because I’d lost my touch, you know… head monkeys.

With the realization that this is two books, I’m back doing some outline work and peeling apart what’s been written so far.

This is awesome. Like my buddy Ken Scholes told me this week, “Dude, you just had twins.”

Twins, two books when I thought I was writing one. When I get these teased apart and the parts synched properly, the right polish and a good, solid plot excursion, I’ll be ahead of the game.

That, my friends, is a mighty thing, and I am very thankful for that understanding.

The trick is finding the positive when all you see is negative.

Thanksgiving… a time of year where I get to concentrate on family and friends with more leisure than normal. I am so looking forward to waking up without an alarm, and a commute that is down stairs. I can’t wait to make tea when I want, grab a sandwich on a break and listen to music as loud as I want while I create the next adventure for my most excellent Sarah.

I’m thankful for family and friends, good jobs and good health. I’m thankful for wonderful editors, a killer agent and a cover artist that rocks. And I’m thankful for fans who let me know how much my stories impact their lives. What are you thankful for?