Friday, November 05, 2010

You Know You're A Geek When...

Back in October I started a new story featuring a Sandman named Nocturne. But that's not what we're talking about today. You see, when I write, I write oldschool. I think I've mentioned this before, but in case you missed it, I'm not talking about typewriters. I mean oldschool, oldschool.

I write with a pencil and a notebook. That's right. A pencil. But it's not just any pencil. It's the Pentel Techniclick II. Oh yeah.

I first discovered these mechanical pencils back in college. I think. It really has been a long time. Maybe I found them in high school. Wherever it was, I quickly realized that these weren't the typical mechanical pencils. Oh no. These babies were the best mechanical pencils on the planet. 8 out of 10 times if I dropped the pencil, the lead didn't break. They were comfortable, I liked the way they wrote, and even though I always ended up snapping off part of the cap so I'd never be able to hang it on a pocket (oh wah, big deal), they were basically flawless in my eyes.

I'd even introduced them to my father who quickly came to the same realization I did. The Pentel Techniclick II was awesome. Even he noticed that the lead never seemed to break when the pencil was dropped. So it wasn't just me.

So big dea, it's a mechanical pencil. True - except then Pentel stopped making them.

*cue horror movie scream*

So what the heck am I doing talking about a pencil that you can't even buy? Well, sure, it does suck to be you, but this just goes to show that if you're like me and love to write the super oldschool way, how much of a total geek you are when something like this happens:

Out of a mix of emotions and being on a customer service contacting kick, I emailed Pentel and basically told them that I thought they'd made a huge mistake in ending their production of the Techniclick II. I explained that nothing else since has ever compared (true) and that I hadn't purchased a new pencil since my last purchase of Techniclick IIs which was during college around the 2005 mark (true). I was down to my last 0.7 pencil (the others having disappeared in some fashion and my 0.5 pencil had broken after being in my purse (my fault). I said that I didn't know what I was going to do if my 0.5 pencil went bye-bye.

So it was part complaint, part reprimand, part praise. And we all know that these people never respond.

Except in this case. I received an email from Pentel from their customer service head honcho saying that, naturally, they were sorry for not making the Techniclick II anymore but guess what? She'd found some in a warehouse just hanging out and would I like some sent to me for free?

OMGYESPLZNOW. Pretty much sums up my reaction. She'd even asked what size I preferred, 0.7 or 0.5. I like 0.7 but said I'd take whatever they had because I was beyond the point of caring about specifics at that point. As long as I got some, I would be happy as a clam.

Sure enough, a handful of days later I got six (six!) Techniclick II Pentel pencils in the mail, all bright and shiny and new. I gave three to my dad and kept three for myself. It was like Christmas came early. I think the customer service woman probably thought I had issues becuase of how many times I thanked her and how excited I was.

But honestly, when you get free stuff in the mail and you really love it, what's not to be excited about? And these pencils? I'm in writer heaven.

Photobucket My name is Nicole T. and I am a total geek.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

When It Hits You

At around 12:20am, I was moseying around online (since late at night is the only time I have to myself these days - or at least it seems like it) and checking various blogs. I saw a new post over at BookEnds, LLC and decided to read it.

It's a great post. It's all about agents (or at least in this case, Jessica Faust) being all yippy-skippy about when calling an author for representation and/or about a book deal with a publisher. The pause when the author might scream with amazement or joy. Or do the "telephone happy dance" (my favorite part of that post). Even better, she showed the agent's excitement on the other end. Actually waiting for the author to phone back with (hopefully) a yes. Then she wants to scream and do the telephone happy dance. It was a really nice look into an agent's side of things and made a lot of people smile and laugh, myself included.

I even left a comment about how one day I hoped to have an agent as excited about me as she gets about her clients.

And then I thought about it a little.

And then I got a little bummed out.

And then I just burst into tears.

I sat here in front of my computer, head in my hands, and cried. Because I don't have an agent that's excited about me or my work. Because I'm tired. Just tired. Normally I'm the one who tosses aside rejection letters and tries again. Because I know rejection is just a part of the writing life. And I'm always saying, "I don't care if I'm 90 years old - I'm getting published!"

But I got that dark, bottomless pit feeling inside me at that very moment. No one wants me. No one loves my writing. And the worst of it is, I haven't even been waiting as long as some people. I know I haven't. But I've been working my fingers to the bone, money is frighteningly tight around here, and I've barely had any time to write for myself for the past several months.

And I'm tired.

Still, it's good to get that out once and a while. I cried and sniffled for a good twenty minutes or so. I'm sure once I hit the hay and get a good rest (if possible - I never did like my mattress), I'll wake up refreshed and ready to go again and be able to look at the future with hope and eagerness.

I think I'd better do that.


Tired.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Shutting Down the Internal Editor

I'm actually writing this in October, but since the Writing Meme is going on, I figured it would be best just to program it to show up in November to avoid double-posts.

Anywho, at the time I was cruising through the Absolute Write blog update forum and found this blog entry. It's pretty hard not to relate to that letter. Internal editor getting in the way all the time, pointing out stuff that's wrong, deadlines, all sorts of annoying crap. I know, the whole internal editor thing and the way we writers react to it makes it sound like we have multiple personalities, but I'd like to point something out to you.

First of all, if you didn't think we had multiple personalities before hearing the way we talk about internal editors makes me wonder about you. We have dozens of characters bouncing around our heads all the time, and it takes an internal editor bit to make you voice such concerns? Geezo.

Second of all, most writers, when asked, will mention something about an internal editor and often include how it's a bitch. It's like there's this other little part of your brain reminding you of all this other junk while you're just trying to write and get the freakin' words on the page. Maybe it's left brain vs. right. I don't know. What I do know is that it is possible to shut it down.

While Ms. Morrigan wrote a letter, I left a comment on her blog stating that writing letters to my internal editor doesn't work. She ignores them. Likewise, talking to her and telling her to shut up doesn't work. I've had to resort to more drastic measures to put her in her place.

When working on most books, she was never a problem. I'd just breeze on through, la-de-da. But that was before I went to Seton Hill and discovered everything WRONG with my writing. Suddenly my internal editor didn't suck at her job (if she even existed in the first place) and had plenty of cool new rules and regulations to implement. So once I began to write my newest manscript, she wouldn't shut up. Let me repeat that: My internal editor would NOT SHUT UP. I rewrote the beginning at least five times. I actually lost count. I struggled with word choice, created scenes that refused to work. Could not decide upon proper names. Nothing was perfect, and that was the problem.

First drafts are crap, to be base about it. They're the ideas slapped down without everything being perfect. That's what revision is for. We all know this. Revision is for fine tuning those good ideas, tweaking scenes or cutting them, and fixing up all the spelling and grammar we goofed on the first time around. My internal editor, however, kept insisting everything be perfect the first time. There is no chance of this happening. Ever.

Finally, after asking some advice from people, I visualized my internal editor, got a little violent, and stuffed her in a cage and put a lock on it. It sounds ridiculous, but visualization helps. It worked. I was still writing junk, mind you, but at least the thoughts were getting onto the paper. I could fix everything later like I was supposed to. It was still a little tough at the beginning because I was still uncertain about the opening, but at least I'd finally jumped into it and got the story rolling.

So do what you have to in order to shut down your internal editor so you can actually get some writing done. Write a letter, do some mental pep-talking, or be like me and just shove her in a damn box and refuse to let her out until you're good and ready for her to come back out and do her job.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 30

30. Final ques­tion! Tag some­one! And tell us what you like about that per­son as a writer and/or about one of his/her characters!

I honestly don't have anyone to tag. And I know nothing about anyone's writing or characters. Unless some of my followers want to rock out and do a thirty-day meme. Here's a tip though: Do chunks of it so you finish in a few days. HA. Then just schedule the posts to pop up every day.

You don't actually think I sat down every day to do a post, did you? Yeah right. Like I have time for that. =P

Friday, October 29, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 29

29. How often do you think about writ­ing? Ever come across some­thing IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

HOLY F YES. In the book that’s being shopped to publishers as we speak, I killed off a guy by having him inhale spores from an alien fungus. The fungus attached itself to places inside his lungs and happily started growing. He died from asphyxiation and when they autopsied him, found all this purple fungus partying in his lungs.

I thought to myself, “Man, stuff like that in real life would suck.”

Then I watched Planet Earth. I am so glad I’m not an insect.

In the jungle somewhere lives a fungus that likes to get into the heads of insects. Literally. The spores end up in their brains and, if it can, somehow gets them to climb up high. They showed an infected ant dragging itself up a twig with its mandibles. Eventually these insects die and the fungus grows and sprouts out of their heads and bodies to continue doing what it does. Ants will carry their ill comrades far, far away to keep the entire colony from getting infected.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 28

28. Have you ever writ­ten a char­ac­ter with phys­i­cal or men­tal dis­abil­i­ties? Describe them, and if there’s noth­ing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

No idea if this actually counts or not, but I guess in SF anything goes. Cutter Hayward was in, well, let’s say it was a little accident. Mangled as his body was, he had two options; go cyborg or integrate with the ship. He chose to go with the ship. So if you ever want to visit him, he’s behind Panel No. 5, hooked up more than someone in the Matrix.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 27

27. Along sim­i­lar lines, do appear­ances play a big role in your sto­ries? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about design­ing your char­ac­ters.

I guess I'll go with yes because they're all so different. The dragon form of a Galatac will depend upon him/her, but also how many are involved during the transformation. Once you get past two, the color of the dragon will be constant. For example, Kaiton is red and gold when trouncing around as a dragon, but if he performs the transformatin with two others, then he - and they - will be white. Four and they'll be gold. Five...well I've actually forgotten what happens when they hit five since it's yet to happen, but I do remember it's something sort of bizarre. That happens when a lot of power bounces around.

Anywho, as for appearances with regular(ish) people, they are important, but when it comes to description, I only dish out enough so the reader has a general idea. They're allowed to fill in gaps. I don't detail clothing like some people do. It's boring and a waste of time. When clothing is detailed, it's for a reason.

Character design usually just pops in there like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Yeah. They'll just stroll into my brain and wave. True, they may need some tweaking, but usually they're in pretty good shape. Other times, though, I have developed characters from scratch, but that's usually when I take someone from real life and create a character for them. Some people, I've found, are more difficult than others.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 26

26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your char­ac­ters? Do oth­ers draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite pic­ture of him!

Nope. I’ve never drawn any of my characters. One person drew one of my characters once. I think I still have it…somewhere…

What I have found though, are a few pictures that work quite nicely with things I’ve written. How about I send you to some of those? The art is amazing anyway… I friggin' love Deviant Art.

This is so ridiculously close to the incident at the end of my most recent book. The girl is a remarkable resemblance to Caroline after she was cursed. Cuts included. Yeah. She was in a bad way. Though it was a different man who would have carried her, but this guy could easily be her brother, Alex, who was nearby at the time and yes, dressed in black as well. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw this.

Yes, it's on it's side, so it's a little awkward, but that almost works considering the character. This could easily be Aether, one of my antagonists, who is truly insane. Most of my antagonists are evil and have greed and bloodlust on their minds. Aether is just way, way off the deep end.

Fihr and his mate Marianne. I use the term "mate" because Fihr (whose name is still up for debate) used to be a wolf.

At one point I have a god revive past warriors to fight an awakened evil. Jace never got a woman in his last life. This time he falls for an elf and she for him. Oh, and did I mention the god gave them wings?

Yes, Xerphin is this big. And Galatacs come pretty damn close.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 25

25. Do any of your char­ac­ters have pets? Tell us about them.

Only one of them. Gabrielle has a dog named Piccolo. He’s a Siberian husky and based on the dog I hope to have someday. Yay!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 24

24. How will­ing are you to kill your char­ac­ters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most inter­est­ing way you’ve killed some­one?

I will kill someone if the plot requires it to move forward, though I admit to not killing people when it would likely make the story more interesting. For example, in one story, my guys Cole and Jace ended up in a bad sitaution. For a long, long time, my plan was to kill Cole in a cave in. If it were to ever end up in an editor's hands and they said, "Kill him," I probably would (yes, I'm sorry Cole, but you're expendable. Your woman will be very sad). However, as I continued to write and flesh things out, I enjoyed him (yes, I know, kill your darlings or your babies or whatever, but he's a fun guy and it felt kind of empty to give him a girl and then wipe him out of the pages), and it works just as well with him not dying.

But that doesn't mean I'm afraid to kill main characters or anything. I kill a lot of people. Kings. Queens. Mothers. Brothers. In a few stories, I kill the main character (with good reason). So yeah, I'll kill people if I have to.

As for interesting ways I've killed people, that one's up in the air. How interesting is interesting? I mean, I have a mug here that says, "Inventing ways to kill characters is my specialty." I've suffocated a guy with alien fungus growing in his lungs (just wait till we get to day 29). I killed one poor guy with a bit of dragon inspiration (the dragon was toying with him and then had an "AHHA!" moment and did that thing where you slap your hand on the surface of something when you get that bit of inspiration. Guy = pancaked). I sort of killed a group of people using demons. I say "sort of" because the entity in charge didn't want their souls to go back to their creator (and potentially lead to more problems), so it encased their souls within their dead bodies.

Oh yeah. It's always a party in my stories. Haha.


Photobucket See? Told ya.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 23

23. How long does it usu­ally take you to com­plete an entire story—from plan­ning to writing to post­ing (if you post your work)?

I average about a year.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 22

22. Tell us about one scene between your char­ac­ters that you’ve never writ­ten or told any­one about before! Seri­ous or not.

There’s an alternate universe where Kaiton’s people never joined with Xerphin but often took women captive after a fight with another realm (or whomever – they’re often hired out by others). They often take these women as wives. The details change from time to time on who gets Alliah (Kaiton’s wife) first, but eventually Kaiton takes her in. He’s the strong silent type to the nth degree. Never pushes, never makes her do anything she doesn’t want to. In fact, if she were to escape, he’d let her. One night he returns to home after a particularly nasty battle and she helps dress his wounds. Eventually they begin to understand one another and get together.

It’s actually much longer than one scene I guess, like a little story that plays in my mind, but it’s never gone down on paper or anything else so it counts. It would be a fun one to write though…

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 21

21. Do any of your char­ac­ters have chil­dren? How well do you write them?

Several of them have children. I write them just like any other character (so to speak). None of them are very young though so it’s not like I’m writing toddlers or something. I mean to say I don’t have any more trouble writing them than I would when dealing with another character. Each one is his or her own person so that’s how I deal with them. *shrug*

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 20

20. What are your favorite char­ac­ter inter­ac­tions to write?

Kaiton and Akira! Father and daughter, they’re too much alike so they clash a lot. The best part (and maybe this is messed up) is that Akira’s just as strong as her father and they’ve beaten the crap out of one another before. They’ve had a very odd relationship…. I enjoy writing them because as much as they fight, and as weird as this is going to sound, they really do love each other. Kaiton ultimately feels that he’s failed her mother (this whole thing is a long story…) and Akira’s never really belonged anywhere.

Let’s just say that it’s a party whenever these two show up on the page together.

Dang. I just noticed. A lot of these questions are about characters. Is there going to be something else soon?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 19

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove him­self into the spot­light and why!

Meyers. Private Jacob Meyers. Grade A smartass with a lot of great lines. He’s the guy you’d want to hang out with at the bar once he got home from his tour overseas (or in this case, on another planet). I hated killing him, but it had to be done. Honestly, I almost didn’t do it, but knew that mattered. R.I.P. Meyers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 18

18. Favorite antag­o­nist and why!

Yeah Xerphin! He’s my black dragon and no, I do not give a crap how cliché that sounds. Being black actually has nothing to do with the fact that he’s evil. He just happened to be born that way. Anytime I picture him, he’s sitting at my side looking like that really dangerous Doberman you never want to mess with. That’s how I picture Xerphin and his right hand man Kaarn. My two guard dogs. Badasses.

But I love Xerphin because he’s just so damn mean and he gets so much pleasure out of it. It’s fun to write, as messed up as that sounds. There are bad guys that you utterly despise, bad guys that annoy the crap out of you, and bad guys that somehow manage to rock (like Darth Vader – he was NOT a nice person, but damn he was cool). Xerphin rocks. That’s why I was pleased that my critique group liked him (even though the piece featuring him needed serious work – and with good reason too).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 17

17. Favorite pro­tag­o­nist and why!

Kaiton! I love that man. In a way, he’s every girl’s dream come true. Well, at least for girls who’ve always wanted a guy to change from bad to good.

Kaiton is the ultimate bad boy. A top warrior in Xerphin’s army, he saves a woman and goes traitor (he’d been thinking about it for a while anyway). But while he plots his return, he falls in love with the woman he rescued, they marry, have a baby girl...but then he loses his wife.

AWWWWW.

On his own once again, he believes it's safer for his daughter if she grows up in a normal family instead of running around with him (he's back on the revenge plot - did I mention he found out Xerphin slaughtered his people while he was gone?). From there, it's just one big party. You never know how far on the dark side he is (to borrow from Star Wars) or if he'll ever go back to the way he was with his wife. Especially after he meets his daughter again.

DUN DUN DUN!

He's simply a blast to write. His "fuck with me and I'll kill you" attitude, his dark/light see-sawing, his interactions with his daughter - everything is just so fun. And I torture that guy so much, mentally and physically. I've beaten him up, nearly killed him, and when he does die, he doesn't go to hell, but he's been such a bad boy, he's not allowed to be with his wife's spirit either. She's constantly being reincarnated, so his heaven isn't entirely heaven. You should see what his soul looks like.... *cue evil cackle*

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 16

16. Do you write roman­tic rela­tion­ships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you will­ing to go in your writ­ing? ;)

Ooooh yeah. I do enjoy a nice romance here and there. They’re almost as much fun to write as a fight scene. Everyone loves a nice bit of sexual tension from time to time. As for how “far” I’ll go, I used to give my characters their privacy, but in my last ms, well, let’s just say I went all the way.

(And on a totally different subject, I'm giving away 4 books on my Bookseller Recommends blog!)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 15

15. Mid­way ques­tion! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether pro­fes­sional or not!

There are a lot of them. There is no one writer I admire the most because they’re all out there, working hard, and putting their work into print while I sit here and pull my hair out and...yeah. So I'll name a few authors and say why I admire them and their work.

Karen Marie Moning - Her great stories and her dedication to her fan base. Even if she doesn't always personally answer some of her fanmail, you will get a response from someone that's not a form letter. I hope to have a fun following like that someday.

Janet Evanovich - Because she has to put up with people damanding books year after year since they don't realize it takes a while to actually craft the book to make it decent and then all the production stuff that goes after it, so she's probably been doing books in six months or so, which is why people have no reason to bitch when they don't like the story. You hear that, Stephanie Plum fans? You want a better story and better writing, quit bitching about how long it takes to get the next story. Janet also gets ponits because of the number of books with the same characters in them. I honestly don't know if I could come up with 18 books featuring the same people. It's no wonder she crafted a story revolving around Diesel...

J.R.R. Tolkien - Not just world building; universe building.

L.J. Smith - Description powerhouse. I'm pleased to say I sold another copy of The Forbidden Game a few days ago.

Pretty much any author who manages to land an agent and get their book into print. That itself is a feat.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 14

14. How do you map out loca­tions, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I’ve actually create several maps. If I need to visualize it better, I’ll do a quick sketch or something, but if I really need to see the whole thing (or I’m just feeling fun and artsy), I’ll make an entire map. I got into it for a while, so all of the ones I’ve done were made around the same time. I never used to have a scanner, but now that I do, I guess I can show you one. Mind you, these are not the best. I stopped taking art after high school.

Here are two of the five maps I've drawn. It was cool after scanning them because scanners always deliver stuff in HUGE format, so seeing my pen strokes magnified was kinda neat.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 13

13. What’s your favorite cul­ture to write, fic­tional or not?

Galatacs. I love them. Even though I killed all of them. No joke. I wiped most of them out in the early part of a story. But that just makes the ones left that much more special. I even started to make a language for them and everything. I know, it’s ridiculous. But I still love them. Superior fighters in every way, they rock at what they do. They bleed gold. Their most powerful weapon is their skill to transform into dragons (the big kind), but it’s also a weakness (the thing that allows them to change can be broken and it hurts like a mother).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 12

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world building? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?

I suppose my best so far would have to be the novel getting shopped right now. Take note that I said “so far.” And it’s only that way because of all my critique partners and their endless badgering about more/better description. There is a difference between more description and better description – I just needed both of them. So I read some books and did some practicing and busted some ass to deliver better planets.

I don’t really have any side notes though. I still need to work on my description and world building powers so I’m not exactly one to give any advice. However, Word Painting is a great book that you should take a look at if you have issues like I do.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 11

11. Who is your favorite char­ac­ter to write? Least favorite?

Tricky. Very tricky. It’s almost a toss up between Akira and Xerphin. Akira because she’s just fun as hell, a chick that doesn’t take crap from anyone and never backs down from a fight. If I could be a character, she’s it. I love Xerphin just because he’s so goddamn mean. He is, by far, my favorite bad guy. Sorry I had to kill you babe.

Least favorite, I’ll go with what my brain shouted. Chaverria. He’s fine now since his part is over, but at the time he was a pain in the ass. I didn’t know what to do with him and it was like he kept doing stuff that I wasn’t even really sure I wanted him to do. You know that one character that just starts doing shit without your permission? Like the quote at the top of this blog? Yeah, he was that guy. An older wizard that didn’t seem to have a right place anywhere. And if I remember right, I think I’m going to change him some more in the future because I realized he never uses any magic. It’s kind of stupid to have a wizard hanging out and not helping when there’s a huge effing fight going on.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 10

10. What are some really weird sit­u­a­tions your char­ac­ters have been in? Every­thing from seri­ous canon scenes to meme ques­tions counts!

Uh, they get into some pretty messed up situations, so I think I’ll do this in list format and you can see for yourself.


  • Waking up after being dead.
  • Going back in time.
  • Having Hell pretty much open up in front of you and having to fight a pack of demons right then and there.
  • Getting possessed by a dragon
  • Discovering that you’re not actually human.
  • Transforming from a mouse (normal form) into something like a human and then being face to face with a very large falcon.
  • Realizing your world actually connects to a highly advanced one and the fairy you’ve been trying to save has been hooked up to be used as a power source.
  • Partnering with a sentient plant to save a planet.
  • Stepping into a masquerade ball and discovering that those aren’t masks (and pretty much everything else that happened to Gabrielle in that book).
  • Realizing that your guide really is part wolf.
There are plenty more, I’m sure, and these barely scratch the surface of what’s really going on. But hopefully they’ve at least piqued your interest.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 9

9. How do you get ideas for your charac­ters? Describe the process of cre­at­ing them.

Ideas crop up all over. There’s not much control as to when they decide to pop in and make themselves known. It can happen when I’m watching a movie. Listening to music. At work when there’s no one checking out at the cash register and I’m just zoning out. Inspiration is everywhere.

After someone makes an appearance though and I’ve decided they’re worth taking a look at, usually a good daydreaming session will flesh them out. This often means staring out into space at some point during the day. A piece notebook (as I call it) can also be handy where I’ll put the character into a random situation and play with them to see how they’ll react. I get most of my development done while daydreaming just after waking up in the morning or before falling asleep the night before. There are times when music may be involved. Since most characters usually appear with a scene in tow, I’ll play out that scene. Sometimes the scene is worth keeping, sometimes it’ll get dumped.

Daydreaming. That’s my process. So very scientific.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 8

8. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?

Though I do have fun with SF, my true love is fantasy. Always has been. Always will be. And though I don’t do strictly romance, I do enjoy a good love scene.

Reading, however, is a whole other story. I read just about everything. No joke. Scroll through my list of books on my Bookseller Recommends blog and you’ll see what I mean. I can’t really say that I have a favorite genre to read because they’re all so much fun.

However…having said that, if I look at my bookself, I think it’s obvious that I adore the fantastic. Harry Potter. The Fever Series by Karen Moning. A leather-bound compilation of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Some urban fantasy fun from Jill Myles. So in the end, I guess fantasy wins here too. Or at least, it wins my hard earned dollars. Heh.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 7

7. Do you lis­ten to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your char­ac­ters?
Oh ho ho ho! Did this question really just get asked? *cue crazed grin* Perhaps you should read my post about killing songs.

While I don’t always listen to music as I write, there are many times when music is almost essential. Having a kick ass song rock my eardrums while I pen a blazing battle scene is simply the tops. For the most part, soundtracks offer the juiciest pieces of music ever. That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed a ton of regular songs by other artists as well. There are so many, I can’t even begin to list them. As for relating or applying songs to characters, oh you have no idea.

I have a Word document that is six pages long of nothing but soundtracks. I have soundtracks for books that aren’t even written yet. I have completed soundtracks for full manuscripts. And no, it’s not just a few songs. I mean soundtracks. I’ll have as many as 14 songs for a book. They can be character themes, songs for a fight scene, a love theme, end credits, and yes, I even have trailer music. No joke. I own a ton of trailer music and some of those little snippets work wonderfully for those fun little movie trailers many of us tend to craft in our minds. As we speak I have soundtrack music going.

Most of this stuff ends up reviewed on Epinions too. So if you’re ever wondering about a particular CD and whether or not it might work, feel free to see if it’s on my list (there are over 70 on there last I looked).

…Do you guys want a sample soundtrack? Do you? …All right. Here’s one of them.
Trailer – “Raging Mad Drums” by X-Ray Dog
Humans vs. Taregots (The First Encounter) – Transformers, “Skorpinok”
The First Raid – “Hell Yeah” by Rev Theory
The Fourth Raid Fails – “Don’t Hold Back” by The Potbelleez, “I Don’t Care” by Apocalyptica, Man on Fire, “Man on Fire (Remix)”
Anna Is Lost – Man on Fire, “The End Music”
Acceptance of Anna’s Death – Star Wars Episode III, “Immolation Scene”
The Final Battle/World Ends – The Chronicles of Narnia Soundtrack, “The Battle”
Anna Reunites with Dominic/Everyone Together – The Chronicles of Narnia Soundtrack, “Only the Beginning of the Adventure”
Anna & Dominic’s Theme – “Savin’ Me” by Nickelback
Credits – The Chronicles of Narnia Soundtrack, “Can’t Take It In”
Overall Book Theme Album – Transformers Soundtrack

I know. It seems weird to have stuff like Transformers and Narnia together, but trust me, it works. And yes, I’ve totally killed most of these songs. I seriously cannot do the Apocalyptica one anymore.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 6

6. Where are you most com­fort­able writ­ing? At what time of day? Com­puter or good ol’ pen and paper?

Interestingly enough, I always claim that I’m not a morning person. Yet when I want to write, I find that waking up in the morning and immediately setting to work is the best time. And still in my bed. Yep. I grab a pencil (yes, a pencil. Not a pen, not a laptop, a p e n c i l) and notebook and go to town. Music may or may not be involved.

I used to be unable to think while typing away at a computer, but I’ve gotten better at it over the years. I do it from time to time, but primarily end up with a notebook and favorite pencil. Love the way it feels and if you’ve never tried it, you’re missing out. People who think authors that use typewriters are oldschool—I’m freakin’ super oldschool!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 5

5. By age, who is your youngest char­ac­ter? Old­est? How about “youngest” and “old­est” in terms of when you cre­ated them?

Oden might actually tie with Okaru. I’m reorganizing one of those stories, so I’m not sure yet. They’re both around 12 or 13 (I never gave them a definite age). As for oldest, I’ll have to go with Thule. He is, after all, a god—but even gods have to start somewhere, right?

In terms of creation, are we talking about their age when they appeared on paper or the first and last characters ever made? Hmm. Let’s do both!

Thule would have to be the youngest since he was the first being ever made in the universe. If you don’t want to go that route, then Akira because she first came onstage as a newborn baby. Oldest, ironically, would be Oden. I know, that doesn’t make sense, but throughout the book he’s young. However, he’s actually the one telling the story (you just don’t find that out until the end) and dies on the last page so he’s definitely my oldest.

In terms of first and last to appear on the page, I would have to say that Tathalia was my first creation ever, and the last…I guess that would be the Steward Dunstan. Or did I change that guy’s name…?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 4

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Eh. Do I have to? The first short story I ever wrote involved a group of animals that had been illegally smuggled out of the rainforest to be sold in a pet shop. Redfeather was the main character, a sort of bird of paradise (none of these animals had any actual rainforest counterparts) and his best pal was Mouser (a mouse of some sort). I think they were friends with a snake and something else. At one point, a pretty white and blue bird came in—female of course. Her name was White Rain (I think). Redfeather attempted to impress her.

Anywho, at one point Mouser got sold to someone and the animals of the store decided that was the last straw. They figured out where Mouser was sold to, rescued him, and hitched a ride on a bus (or something) to get back down the rainforest. Yay.

I think now that it might still make for a cute kids book (completely redone, of course), but I’m not a writer of children’s books or anything like that, so it’ll never happen. But that was my first story, written in 4th grade. I didn’t decide I wanted to be a writer 100% of the time until 6th grade though.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 3

3. How do you come up with names for char­ac­ters (and for places if you’re writ­ing about fic­tional places)?

Oh I did a whole presentation on this for my grad program. Names comes from everywhere. The book being shopped is sort of like an ode to soundtrack composers. At the time I needed some name and then *ding!* decided to look through my playlist and use composer names. I’ve also pulled made up names from thin air and often take a normal word and screw it up.

BehindtheName.com is also a super awesome site that I visit from time to time when I find myself stuck.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Writing Meme: Day 2

2. How many char­ac­ters do you have? Do you pre­fer males or females?

Uh, are we talking all books here? Red shirts and everything? Ok, hold on. I have to go count. No, really, I do. I even made an Access sheet just to keep my characters in order, and even then those were just for the 5,000 Realms books. I ended up doing another for a separate book with the included (SYCFR) in the title (which stands for “Since You Can’t Fucking Remember). Hey, I couldn’t.

Over 120. I’m not going to try and keep counting. I know there are more. In terms of numbers, I think I have more men than women, though when it comes to protagonists, women are definitely out in front. They’re usually kicking ass in the process. But don’t worry guys, I love you too, and you definitely have your ass-kicking moments.

Friday, October 01, 2010

A Writing Meme: Day 1

I find it interesting how "meme" is the new word for "chain letter," but we'll let that slide for now. I stumbled upon this while cruising a few blogs a while ago. At the time I was supposed to work on coming up with a better title and do paying freelance work, but hey, I like to procrastinate. It's what I do best.

So the meme is apparently a whole month deal. That means you'll get a little nugget o' something each day. It's all different and this is day one, so enjoy!

1. Tell us about your favorite writ­ing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

As much as I enjoyed some of my most recent projects, my favorite universe is the 5,000 Realms universe. Granted, I’m not going to write 5,000 books, but the general mythology in them is that Thule (or God if you prefer) created 5,000 realms. Earth is included, but nothing ever takes place here because Earth is too damn boring and there are too many rules to follow.

(Okay, so Earth actually does have a moment due to the portals that connect all the realms, but the people there don’t know that and neither will anyone reading the book until this universe gets into print.)

I love this universe because, sure, it was my first, but also because of all the diversity. In the real world, diversity annoys the hell out of me (mostly because the word is usually tied to someone’s agenda). But in these worlds, it means dragons and shapeshifters, humans and made up peoples. It’s a blast because it’s a mix of everything. Fights that border on epic (yes, I said it), dark magic, revenge, true love…suddenly I sound like the Grandpa in The Princess Bride…

In the end, it’s my favorite because it’s been so much fun to write.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The "Reasons to Date a Writer" Thing

Someone over on the SHU board (yeah, I graduated and I still hang out there - what can I say? I get nuggets of gold from that place and the people) posted this link, which you may have found by now. If not, no biggie. Now you can enjoy. It's quite amusing, though I am baffled at the original and wonder just what the person was smoking. I also have a few comments on some of the items in the list:

#6 - Yes. It is true. And I really, truly am trying to stop doing this while watching movies with family and friends.

#7 - Excuse me, but I am smart. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but years of school, college, and truckloads of research for various projects novel and non-novel related have filled my head with plenty of information. When people don't know something, they often come to me for answers. I may not always have it, but even if I don't, I'll often look it up later out of sheer curiosity.

#16 - I'm still trying to figure this one out.

#18 - Yup.

#19 - My older sister once asked me if it would be lame if she got me a B&N gift card as a present for Christmas one year. Not only do I write, but I work there as well. Pure headdesk moment, right there.


Chocolate. We like chocolate too. Get us some of that.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Like Porn for English Majors...Or Writers

I went to visit my library account online to see how I was faring in the queue for several books I have on hold. To my dismay, the link was down. While investigating the main library page, I started wondering who wrote the articles on there, wondered if maybe I could get in on that somehow, and then spotted this article.

At first I had a small cow. The OED? Gone? Forever? Extinct? Then I realized they would just be online. Which is fine. Except it costs money to get, right?

That was what I thought until I saw the link that allowed library card holders to access the OED Online. I had a moment of denial. "No....really? No....I can?" I went through, put in my library card number, and lo and behold, there it was. The OED Online.

I probably looked like I'd just orgasmed in my chair.

See, I loooove the OED. Looooooove it. The OED is the best thing since sliced bread, maybe better since slicing bread isn't all that hard. I had access to it while in school at Illinois State University, but after that, no dice. I was very bummed. Sure, definitions are a dime a dozen, but what I love best about the OED is that it has documented uses - as in the first time a word was used and then in subsequent years after that. I used "lexicon" as my test drive word (hey, it's what popped in there), and sure enough, there was the entry, it's origins, and it's first use ever in 1603. Pure yayness.

If you've never experienced the OED, you should. It's a grand thing. Heck, see if your library supports it and allows you access the way mine does. I've been here a year and never knew they did that. I've been contemplating breaking into my dad's UMKC account to see if he had access to it.

I am just so thrilled. I just had to share my joy. Long live the OED indeed!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Bookseller Terminology

I was never quite sure whether or not people knew some of the terminology used in bookselling. I've seen writers throw out "backlist" and "frontlist" whereas I never had any idea of what they were until working for Barnes & Noble. I'd like to add that working for a bookstore has infinitely improved my knowledge of the selling aspect of the book. The far end, if you will, of the writing business. So if you ever get the chance to work at a bookstore for a while, do it. If anything, the clientele is much better than at that clothing store you've been stuck in (I would know).

So I've thrown out terms here and there sort of half-assuming that people would know what I was talking about, occasionally clarifying, yadda yadda yadda, until recently an author asked what one of them meant. I decided it's time you get a little extra knowledge in your brains, even if Borders or your local mom & pop bookstore down the street don't use the same terms. But B&N is a big freakin' bookseller, so hey, it doesn't hurt to know some of these, right? And if anything, you'll know what some of your fellow authors (or just me) are talking about from time to time.

Promo: Not a real big deal to know, but in case you hear one of us muttering about promos while looking for your book, it means it's in some sort of promotion area. A table. An endcap (see all those books sitting on little clear shelves at the end of a row of shelves? That's an endcap). Faced out somewhere. Promos do not necessarily the book is on sale. It's simply being promoted in some way. Think of it as a form of marketing. If your book is on promo, then it gets more notice, more publicity, and can mean more sales.

Face Out: A faced out book is pretty self explanatory. It's faced out. You can see the front of the cover instead of the spine. Whether you want to believe it or not, people do tend to judge books on their covers, so pray you have a good one if your book is faced out. Typically faced out books include: new titles, promo titles, titles that we have 3 or more of, we're using it as a bookend, we're trying to fill gaps on the shelf, we know you, or we like your work. No, those last four aren't actually regulation, but we all do it.

Backlist: These are books that we pretty much have in the store all the time. They're not new, they've been around for a while, and they're not necessarily a major priority unless they're on a promo. If we have oodles of backlist, then the extras are put in the backstock area until we have room. These are modeled titles.

Frontlist: These books are put out as soon as possible because they're fresh off the press and not modeled. We usually get in 3 or more of these types of titles. Usually they go out right away either in section or on promo. If you see us at the Info desk putting away a cart full of books, there's a good chance they're frontlist. Frontlist are typically faced out.

Modeled: This is what you want to be if you're an author. Selling a ton of books is fantastic, yes, but it really helps in the long run to be modeled. I know authors with good books under their belts and still aren't modeled for any. Modeled books are books that we are required to have in the store. A title can be modeled for anywhere from 1 to more books (large numbers do not happen often, but I've seen it. Tucker Max is a good example with his staggering 10). Once we sell a book, the system automatically orders another to replace it. Being modeled ensures you have a place in the store at almost all times. You are now backlist. If you're a new author, I consider you damn lucky to get your book modeled.

Non-modeled: Obviously the opposite of modeled. If you have 3 books sent to the store and they all eventually sell, the system does not automatically order more. If it's in our warehouse, we can order it for people, but customers browsing are not going to see your book. It sucks to be non-modeled. It can also mean that even if we got your book in hardcover, we may not get it when it comes out in paperback or mass market. I don't know who the man behind the curtain is when it comes to getting books modeled, but my advice? Make sure your book f$#!%ing sells.

Mass Market: I decided to throw this in here at the last moment, although if you're a writer and you don't know what a mass market is, you need to do your damn homework. Hardcover and paperback are pretty self-explanatory. Mass market books are paperback, true, but they're the smallest version. That $5.99-$9.99 book you bought because it was the cheapest. Hardcover sales are nice, but most of your sales are going to be made in mass market. Important to note is that if a MM doesn't sell and ends up on the returns list, 99.99% of the time it will be stripped (the cover ripped off) and recycled. Covers are sent to publishers for credit. Yeah. We just threw your book away so it can be made into someone else's book.

**Note: Stripping books is traumatizing the first time you do it. It feels sacrilegious, and I actually winced the first time. Eventually there are so many you get desensitized. I can now strip books like a machine and only give the occasional, "Aw, bummer" thought to a few books before doing them in.

So there you have it. A quick compendium of bookselling terms. Enjoy the knowledge because it's time for me to go to bed.

And high-five for Banjo-Kazooie music on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Joy of Seeing AW Authors

AW is a beautiful thing. No, not the root beer (though that's pretty nice too), but Absolute Write. More specifically, the forums. I joined those forums back in 2009 and have had a grand time in them, learning things, helping other authors, and screwing around when I should be working.

But one of the coolest things is seeing those books "In the Wild" (as Medievalist put it). All these people, these authors, put in time at AW, but they really do know what they're talking about because they've been published. They're out there. On the shelves. And while some other AW members may never get the chance to spot them (which is kind of hard considering the number of books we get in for some of these guys for promotions and frontlist), they do exist.

But it's one thing to be strolling in the store and seeing a title at random. It's another to work in the store and see these titles on a daily basis. I've seen books slid across the cash counter at me for purchase. I've been unpacking titles to see a fresh stack of frontlist ready to go out and be faced out. It's just plain fun, and here are some of the titles I've sold, unpacked, put away, or even bought myself while at work.




Jill Myles. I first discovered her at AW, got very intrigued by the cover of Gentlemen Prefer Succubi (and honestly, it's not often a hot guy on a cover gets me interested, mostly because there are so many of them), went to her website, and read the first chapter. Aaand hooked. I promptly went out and bought it. Then I later went back and bought Succubi Like It Hot. I fully intend to buy her next one. But it's good to know that since I took both of those out of the store, a few more would be ordered to come in to replace them in the hopes of more sales. Win-win for everyone involved.



Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch. I see this one all the time. Or at least, it seems like it. All our SF, mystery, and romance titles that are frontlist are faced out. People get to go ahead and judge books by their covers this way. But hey, it's more exposure (at least until we run out of room. Sorry). But this one has been on our frontlist shelf for a while, and I smirk a little smirk every time I see it, hoping that Gini's going to get some royalty checks off this one. I'll be keeping an eye out for her next book in December. The fact that there's an alligator on the cover makes it automatically awesome.




Red Hot Fury by Kasey Mackenzie had her very own display for a while. And I do mean display. She's not sitting among all the other frontlist books. Instead, her Fury rested in a cardboard dump (ok, the official name is "corrugated display" but don't worry, "dump" isn't derogatory) with a big sign above it and those green eyes staring out at every customer that walked past. I've walked past one day and seen several books in the notches, another day and a few are missing. I've been checking people out and had this one come at me from the other side of the counter to ring up. She's out in front, and it looks like it's working. Hey, read the back of the book and tell me it doesn't sound intriging.




Unholy Magic and Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane. But for some reason, I keep thinking it's Stacey or Stacy Kane. No idea why. But forget about my lapse in brain power. She's been sitting pretty with both books on the frontlist shelves, faced out so everyone can see her. In fact. I kept seeing Unholy Ghosts so many times I finally had to pick it up and see just what it was about. Then I did the same with Unholy Magic. The last time I looked, she made it to what we call the "Triangle." Basically, a triangle-shaped tower o'mass market books. High five for promotions.




Lottery by Patricia Wood. I cannot for the life of me remember if she made it to the backlist area or not, but I'm leaning toward yes. Backlist, for those that don't know, means that we're pretty much supposed to have your book in the store. We may be required to have 1, or we may be required to have 10 (rare, but ohyeah, it happens). I know she's out there in my store though. That's because I unpacked her just the other day. Filling in for our receiving manager, I get to unload boxes and then set books in the proper places in the back so they can go out the next day (or that same day, depending). And I remember seeing this in the box, pulling it out, and laughing to myself as I thought, "Way to go Patricia, you made it."



Dark and Stormy Knights edited by P.N. Elrod. Multiple authors here since it's an anthology, so I'm honestly not sure which one is the AW writer. What I do know is that we have a whole truckload of these sitting on a cart in the back, waiting to go out for a promotion. I'm guessing the "New Arrivals" table. I haven't been in the last two days, but I'm sure it's out there now and people are plucking it off the table left and right. Urban fantasy is hot right now, in case you haven't heard.



Sleepless by Cyn Balog. I honestly don't remember what I was doing to discover Ms. Balog. All I know is that I ended up on her site, read the blurb for this book, and decided I had to read it. That was at least 4 months (maybe more?) before it was finally available. Now that it is, I mean to read it since it's there...sitting in our store...right there in the teens section where I can see it. And now that I think about it, why on earth isn't this book in our frontlist section? I'll have to remedy that the next time I'm in the store... (Edit: I scanned this today - 11th - and discovered it was supposed to be on an endcap. The endcap doesn't exist, but a table did. These are now on the table. :D)



Four World Film Reviews by Benj Clews and Michael Onesi. Not sure if one or both are involved in AW, but hey, I've seen their book in the store and that's what counts. I finally spotted this one in section while putting away some other film review books, and then spotted it again on an endcap (display at the end of an isle) on my way back to Info. Lucky, lucky. Seems like everyone's on promotion these days.



Kelly Meding. I think these recently popped into the triangle. In fact, I just walked past them the other day and thought, "There it is!" since I knew these books were out in the store somewhere. They were right underneath Stacia Kane's books. It's great when you get one book in a triangle or tower; it's better when they both make it there.

It doesn't matter that I don't know any of these authors personally. The only interaction I've ever had was with Jill and on a teeny-tiny scale. Still, I've seen them commenting on AW, even in threads I've commented in, so they're not just far off authors the way others like Stephen King and James Patterson seem. They're regular Joes and Janes, still working hard at perfecting their craft, and some of the few that can happily help others and revel in their published status.

Here's hoping I can join them someday.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Death of Music

I love killing a song.

Ok. That sounded a little overly dramatic. The title is a little overly dramatic, for that matter. But here's what I'm talking about.

I'm one of those people who loves to write with music. Not all the time, mind you, but often enough. I'm particularly fond of soundtracks (trust me, I've reviewed over 70 of them and can name a composer within a few minutes of listening to his/her style). But there are times when you hit that one scene, that one sweet scene where a song goes perfectly and the only way to keep that delicious writing vibe going is to play that song.

Over.

And over.

And over. Andoverandoverandoverandover.

Until finally you've reached the end of that sweeet scene and WHEW! You're done. You sit back and finally hit the stop button on your CD/MP3 player. And you have effectively killed that song.
You've killed it because you've just listened to it about 20 (maybe more) times in a row. Songs can be killed on the radio too. You've probably had it happen before. Everyone and their grandma thinks that "Super Awesome Song" is so great the radio plays it every hour, on the hour, until you want to tear your hair out or go on a bloody rampage down at the radio station. They did it with "One Sweet Day." They did it with "Lady Marmalade."

But you, ah, you've killed it for a purpose, like a caveman skinning a wooly mammoth, you used it's inspiration and sucked it dry. Yum-o.

And it is a beautiful thing. Completely indulging in that song as you write, one with your muse, swimming in those golden notes like it'll never end. Except it does.

The problem with killing a song is that, well, you've killed it. Listening to it again, it doesn't have that same punch it had the first time around. It's not as magical, not as strong, and - let's face it - you've already heard it a gazillion times.

I love those moments of pure inspirational writing bliss with Hans Zimmer blaring in my ears or the pure beauty of Lifescapes floating around the room. I bless the person who came up with the one song repeat button. I rock out to a chunk of soundtrack or a handful of really wicked melodies. I've taken out entire CDs this way. I've done love scenes, fight scenes, flight scenes, character themes, chase scenes, travel scenes, and credits. I've killed songs and not listened to them for years until randomly one day I hear one and it reanimates itself for a brief moment while I relive the joy of that particular scene before it goes away again.

I would now like to take the time to dedicate a moment of silence and respect to those songs I have totally killed:

R.I.P.
  • Hybrid Theory Album (a few survived, but not many), and most of Meteora Album by Linkin Park

  • "The Battle" and "Barbarian Horde" by Hans Zimmer, Gladiator Soundtrack

  • "Rollin'" (both versions) by Limp Bizkit, Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water Album

  • Braveheart Album by James Horner (particularly "The Princess Pleads for Wallace's Life")

  • "Haunted" by Poe, Haunted Album

  • "Kryptonite" by Three Doors Down, The Better Life Album

  • "Backwards" by Apartment 26, Mission Impossible II Soundtrack

  • Most of the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack by Howard Shore (particularly "The Bridge of Khazad Dûm")

  • Most of the Transformers score by Steve Jablonsky (though it's still got some heartbeats left)

  • "Don't Hold Back" by The Potbelleez

  • "I Don't Care" by Apocalyptica

  • "Man on Fire (remix)," "The End Music" by Harry Gregson-Williams, Man on Fire soundtrack

  • "Savin' Me" by Nickelback, All the Right Reasons Album

  • "Angels," "Stand My Ground" by Within Temptation, Silent Force Album

  • "The Cross," "What Have You Done" by Within Temptation, The Heart of Everything Album

There are more songs on their way, it's just a matter of time:

  • "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster Album

  • "Black Roses Red" by Alana Grace

  • "Invincible" by Adelita's Way, Adelita's Way Album

  • "Follow Me Down" by 3OH! and Neon Hitch, Alice in Wonderland Soundtrack

  • and many more!

So if you're with me, rejoice in killing songs because hey, you sure do get a lot out of it, don't you? And it is fun hearing them in almost their full glory, an echo of what they used to be, years on down the road.

One day, the music just...stops.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Query Letter Hell

I am indeed in query letter hell.

In both senses of the word.

Several times now, my query letter has floated around in the forums at Absolute Write. Several times now, it's been dissected into small pieces. Which is what I want, obviously, otherwise I wouldn't post it there.

Except I can't seem to make it better.

For some bizarre reason, I'm fighting an uphill battle with this particular query letter. I've written at least one query letter before, and while that doesn't make me an expert on writing them, that one got me several agent nibbles at least - one of them was the third agent I queried and would love nothing more than to work with.

So what the heck is going on with this one?

I can't seem to hit the nail on the head when it comes to voice. I'm incapacitated in some way when it comes to conveying the ideas I want to convey (or think I need to convey). Maybe I should go shorter. I don't know. I've written, rewritten, rearranged and added, reorganized and changed, rewritten, and more.

When I thought perhaps I'd reached a happy(ish) place, I sent the query to a very small number of agents. As if the cosmic universe were paying attention, one agent responded - and actually commented on the letter, stating that perhaps if it were just a bit stronger, she might have asked for material.

Well hot diggity dog - a real live agent response with advice! I promptly thanked her. I mean really, you can't ask for much more than that when all you've sent off to an agent is your query. Unless, of course, the agent puts that in all the form e-rejections...but I doubt it. That doesn't make much sense since some queries (as we all know) can be downright frightening.

Whatever the case, I took it as a sign that I need to work harder. Which sucks since I'm ready to tear this (and every) query into tiny little pieces while horns pop out of my head and flames appear in my eyes. Despite said demonic feeling, instead of doing freelance work like I'd ordered myself to do earlier, I ended up working on yet another query. One completely different from any of the others I'd written. I'll see how that flies over in Query Letter Hell.

And until I get one that functions, I'll continue to stew in Query Letter Hell.

But I'm getting to the point where I really, really hate queries and their whole existence.


Photobucket DAMN YOU, QUERY!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Let's Talk About Love

Normally I don't put this sort of thing out there, but I was thinking about it last night and found it rather interesting. I often leave my characters behind their closed doors, and hardly ever put them in a blog, but once I get something in my brain, I think about it until I can get it out somewhere (which is why I wish Pensieves were real).

I have several different books and several different couples in them. It's interesting to see when those couples finally get together. Each one is, well, different. Whether they're hooking up for the first time or just lying together in bed, no one is the same. I'd thought long ago about how they would sleep together (spooning, separate, etc.) but it was just last night when I realized how different their first sexual encounters are. Ok, let me add that this is a really weird thing for me to talk about. Haha. Normally my characters hook up off screen, but the last two stories I've worked on, it's going to be on screen. And after all, they're characters, so who the hell cares?

So I thought I'd sort of map it out. Put my couples here and list their, er, style and then sleeping preference. Don't freak out, there's not going to be any detail. In fact, I'm not even going to bother with full names and just use first initials. Think of it like an anthropological study.

K♀ & A♂: Sex: Missionary. K is a very dominant guy and prefers dominant positions. Besides, they allow him to watch his and A's backs for danger. He's kind of paranoid like that. Sleep: K likes to sleep with his head on A's tummy, his arms wrapped around her.

E♀ & M♂: Sex: Probably missionary. I say probably because these two started out married, and any intimate stuff is off stage. However, E's a versatile guy and always happy to please, so if M ever asked for something different, he'd give over in a second. Sleep: These two tend to spoon with E's arms around M since he's just as protective as K up there and cut from the same cloth.

W♀ & T♂: Sex: Lap dance. Actually, these two don't do this until after the book, and I haven't thought about them in a long time. Yet somehow this seems like the right position for them to be in. Expect serious eye contact. Sleep: W sleeps on his back while T snuggles up next to him, almost on his chest.

V♀ & A♂: Sex: Woman-on-Top. As K's daughter, she has a dominant streak, not that this is anything creepy. And she's more than willing to switch from time to time. Sleep: These two totally snuggle together, all tangled up.

D♀ & A♂: Sex: Missionary. These two really wanted to hook up and this was the easiest and fastest position. Sleep: Close, facing each other, hands together. D likes A to be the first thing he sees when he wakes up. It helps remind him that she's still there with him.

L♀ & G♂: Sex: Missionary to Woman-on-Top. These two have a 2-round session their first time together since they're making up for lost time. The first part is tender while the second is G wanting her have her way just right with L. Sleep: I haven't actually thought of this because they pretty much went straight from sex to continuing their journey and don't get a normal sleep together until the book is done...

W♀ & C♂: Sex: Sort of halfway between Doggie Style and Reverse Cowgirl. Both of them were kneeling and W had his arms around C the entire time. This, actually, was my first on screen sex scene. It might also make you snicker if you knew W's origins. Sleep: Any number of ways, though W usually has at least one arm around her at all times.

I do have a few other couples, but I've never thought about their specific hookup moments or after-the-moment sleep. However, seeing all this variety makes me happy because it shows I don't have the same thing going on all the time. I feel that's important -especially if it's going to be on screen. That way your readers don't get bored. And we all know a great way to keep a marriage going is to keep the sex life spicy! Funny though, since I'm not married. Haha.


Oh, and in case you haven't heard, e-reader prices are down significantly, Kindle to $189 and Nook to $149 (unless you want 3G service included, then it's $199).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Starving Artist (Ur Doin It Right)

I never expected to have even as many followers as I do, though now that it's happened I feel rather like I ought to post more. The problem is that I don't always have something of value to post. But ironically, as I was thinking that I had a thought pop into my head from something I'd just read off Nathan Bransford's latest post and thought perhaps it might be time for a rant directed at the people who purchase books. True, those who follow this blog are pretty much all writers or at the very least interested in the writing business (I assume anyway), but who knows, maybe this post will escape and ring in a few people's heads.

The issue today is a simple one; money.

Though I guess technically money isn't very simple, what with all the channels and contracts, and middlemen it has to travel through in order to get from anyone's hands to someone else's hands. But setting that aside for a moment, this post is directed at readers who constantly complain about the price of a book.

I think this is due in large part to the fact that they completely forget (if they ever realized) how much of a process and how (often) writing a book can be a pain in the ass. Yes, we do it because we love it and yes, we do it because we want to give you a bit of joy and entertainment and God yes, we want you to come back clamoring for more, but let's say on average (and that's stretching it I think), it takes an author a year to crank out a book. Have you ever taken the time to look at a book? And I mean really look. Look at those 318 pages of words, thoughts, people talking, description, action, stuff that makes you sit on the edge of your seat, stuff that makes you laugh out loud, stuff that in rare cases may even make you cry.

One person is doing all that. And it's not easy.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "Writers aren't exactly people...they're a whole lot of people trying to be one person." In a way, we're almost like people who have personality disorders kept in serious check. We're crazy under control. We have hundreds of people running around in our heads, but we know how to handle them. All right, I'm exaggerating, but you get the point. It's a lot of work to write a book. And the thing that gets me is that people are always amazed when they hear you write. It's always a comment akin to, "Wow, I could never do that!"

And yet many of these same people will balk at spending $27 a newly released hardcover. Or they want a discount on a mass market paperback that's already $6.99. I know you want to save money. I do, I really do. Heck, I'll even wait until my employee discount at B&N kicks in before going on a crazy buying spree (ok, most of the time). But why are you complaining in the first place? Because you forgot all the work that went into the book, that's why. Because you're holding the finished product in your hands. You never see the two, three, sometimes more drafts that a writer goes through. All the ink, all the paper, all the time with their butt stuck to a chair while the sun shines outside and the dog wants to play ball but they can't because they've got a deadline to finish working on a book so the editor can go through it and it can get printed and you can read it.

And we get paid bunk. I don't know what people think - I don't know if they're under the assumption that the writer gets all $27 or what, but if that's what you think then you need to adjust you brain right now. We get paid a percentage of each book, and it's not even 50%. It's far from that. Heck, you're lucky if you can get 10%. That $6.99 paperback (or ebook now) has to get diviied up into a lot of smaller pie pieces. Why do you think writers have to keep writing? For the longest time, the average writer got 6% of the pie. Now here's some simple math for you:

Book cost $6.99 x 6% = $0.4194 earned per book
Say 20,000 copies sell = $8,388

And that's just royalties talking. And authors don't get royalties right away either. We have to make back our advance first. So the authors gets nothing on that $27 hardcover until the publisher gets all the advance money back. And if you think authors are getting $50,000 advances or even $25,000 advances every time, you are seriously mistaken and ought to do some research of your own.

In short, when you purchase a little paperback, you are paying that author maybe $0.50 for his or her year-long work. That's why I can't justify spending a ton of money on clothes when I know for a fact that $50 pair of jeans is put together on a big factory machine that takes a handful of minutes to spit out dozens of pairs. Put things in perspective for a moment, will you? Look at half the junk you own and tell yourself; did it take a year (or more) for this item to be created? A couch can cost $1,000 or more and put together in a factory where they crank out who knows how many similar couches a day? But people just think that because a book is smaller (or whatever it is in their mind) it deserves less worth.

While we all care about money (kinda need it to survive), the clothing maker doesn't give a crap about you. The couchmaker just hopes to sell more couches. The author created that story not just for him/herself, but for you. Because they knew (or at least hoped) that you would enjoy such a tale with unique characters and a story that gets your adrenaline going.

So the next time you start fussing about book prices, how about you take a moment and think about the author for once, hmm?

End rant.


This only happens in the fantasy (and maybe SF) genre.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Deluge

Granted, you have probably already read this over at Nathan Bransford's blog, or either straight from the Huffington Post, and I kind of hate to be a schmuck and just repost other people's stuff - but dangitall if it isn't a really good article that squelched even some of my fussing when it comes to ereaders. He makes several points, all of them good.

While I still maintain that people are going to think we're the techs that can fix their gadget problems or something else - at least for now (just yesterday I had a guy literally yelling in my ear over the phone about the audacity that he register his credit card to get an ebook), that's a different concept altogether.

Indeed, when we worry about all the "bad books" that can get into the book world, who hasn't read a craptastic book as it is? One of those books where you sit there with a horror-stricken look and say, "How the hell did this ever get published?" But Mr. Bransford is correct. There are so many out there now, how the heck will we ever truly know the difference?

(Still though, if silence is going to be the rejection, please let us know on your website beforehand so we don't bother you with follow-ups. =D)


Well, if you're going to get on board, choose your poison.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pitching (Not the Baseball Kind)

Luckily for writers, three strikes when pitching does not mean that we're out. It just means we need to seriously work on our pitching skills. And we're not throwing baseballs either. We're hurling a bunch of words at an agent or editor and hoping that we don't sound like total morons or end up blathering on and on or, on the other end of the spectrum, freezing up and forgetting what we wanted to say in the first place. So let's face it; we need help. Many of us don't really know what we're doing when we find ourselves face to face with people that can make our book a reality (as in bound pages and people paying to read it). We've heard plenty of "Don't do this" and "Don't do that" but has anyone written about what we should do?

Well, yeah. But you know what? Here's another post by Rachelle Gardner (an actual agent) about pitching that might help you the next time you find yourself at a conference with agents and editors all around you: Secrets of a Great Pitch.

While on the subject, I'd like to add a little something else. At the end of her post, Ms. Gardner informs us to remember that agents and editors are just regular people. I think one of the problems is that we already know this. Writers are fully aware that agents cook their own dinners and deal with crazy 5-year-olds and hate that gas prices are always going up. Just like the rest of us.

Now I don't know about anyone else, but for me, that's not why I'm nervous. I know you're a person. The deal is that you are a person who has the power to change my life. That's right. Like He-Man, You Have the POWER! *cue lightning and thunder* That's why agents and editors turn into, or are, such a big deal for us. They're the most important stepping stone (if you don't mind the comparison) toward getting on the bookstore shelves. We want to impress you. That's why we're terrified of screwing up. And the fact that you're a person means that you have your own tastes as well as professional ideas of what will and what won't sell. We worry you won't like what we've written even if we think it's the best dang thing since sliced bread. We worry you'll look at us like we're stupid for writing such a thing, and we've worked so hard to make the best manuscript possible, yet suddenly it's like we're in fifth grade again and have just done something to make the whole class laugh at us.

I might be getting a little over the top, but you get the idea. That's what freaks us out. It doesn't matter that you have to fix your sink like I do - it's the fact that you can either help make my dreams come true or tell me to shove off.

Now for the record, most agents aren't going to tell you to shove off. Horror stories aside, many agents totally understand how freaked we are and are willing to help us along when we spaz out. I once pitched to the editor of Del Rey, Betsy Mitchell, and was a total wreck. But she knew it. In fact, she knew we were all likely to be total wrecks, having never pitched before. But she was patient, understanding, and not at all rude (though I'm sure she had other things on her mind at the time).

In the end, we're going to have to ignore the gatekeeper/power thing and just focus on crafting a pitch that doesn't suck. Remembering that agents and editors are people can help, but you should also remember a few things about yourself as well; you've just written a book. An entire book. We, the authors, are the reasons that agents and editors exist. They know it - why else do you think they're looking for books to represent? They love books as much as we do, and thus have made it their livelihood (though in a different way). It's a symbiotic relationship - without one, the other cannot be. So buck up, stand tall, and pitch your little heart out. Even if the agent or editor isn't interested in your book, they'll at least appreciate your enthusiasm and confidence.


There's a story behind this, I just know it...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Danger of Being a Writer

I currently have 6 books in finished form (that is, at the very least I have their first draft done). Count 'em. 6. Out of those, only one book is revised and polished enough for me to query (which I am). The others all need to be revised, beta read, and revised some more.

It's quite pathetic, when you think about it.

Granted, not every would-be author can claim they've done 6 books, but I tend to finish a book and then get an idea and keep plowing right on into the next one. Sometimes I'll even interrupt a book in progress to write something else, which I have done. Twice. I often get ideas mid-book and want to go tackle them lest they get away. I know there are other authors out there with this particular little tweak. It's funny because people ask where we get our ideas. Sometimes we know, sometimes we don't, but in many ways it doesn't matter because the fact is that they just keep coming.

I have two books I really should be revising, one of them with a higher priority than the other. But I have yet to do so. I procrastinate, telling myself, "Oh, I don't have time" when I know that's a load of bull. I have the time. I just don't want to do it. I hate revising. I hate going through and fixing things. I think it's because I hate making mistakes. I hate seeing my screw-ups pointed out and all the places where people tell me I've got it wrong. I do appreciate the effort taken by my partners to look at my manuscript, to go through and edit it in order to help me become a better writer. I just hate having to revise my stuff once they're done.

So here I am, one book just a day or two of time shy of moving into query letter process, and I'm already considering new ideas. 1.) I shouldn't because I still have a book on hold (though admittedly, it's pissing me off). 2.) I can't help it because as many of you know, once an idea gets into your brain, muses like to prod and poke you about it until you get it down on paper or work it out or something.

I guess I shouldn't have gone to see Alice in Wonderland. But I did, and I loved it, and I loved the Hatter (who didn't?). And, all thanks to that movie and a great deal to the Hatter, I now have another idea niggling at the back of my mind. I've scribbled down some of it, but it's one of those ideas that wants to get bigger and bigger.

So I guess the real danger of being a writer is having too many ideas at once, or several books jostling for attention. Kind of a strange problem to have - even harder to imagine for non-writers - but still a problem nonetheless. In the end I'll just have to deal with it and roll the idea around in my head while forcing myself to make time for my other books.

I really wish pensieves were real...


Will you, won't you?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Post 100 - The Nook

Originally for my 100th post I was going to do a nice long piece about Seton Hill University where I got my MA. After all, I'm forever referring to it, the mentors there, and have lists along the side of links to Seton Hill people.

But I decided that might take some time and instead have opted for a different route, one involving e-readers in a post that I haven't seen anywhere else, regarding a matter that I'm not sure anyone has considered yet.

Selling an e-reader in a bookstore and how that changes things (in a not-so-good way).

I wanted to work for Barnes & Noble because I love books. I love to play with them. I even love the smell of the store when I walk in, working day or no. And one of the things I knew I could count on was catering to a better clientele than in other retail locations like sporting goods or clothing (trust me, I've done both). Sure, on occasion you get a fussy customer or even a really unhappy one, but they're few and far between when compared to the rest of the retail world. Why do you think every B&N store has a huge backlog of applications?

But getting to the point. Just yesterday a woman comes in. Her Nook (the B&N e-reader to rival the Kindle, in case you didn't know) won't turn on. Now, I'm not a total idiot when it comes to gadgets. I'm fact, I'm pretty friggin' tech savvy. But I don't own a Nook. I work part-time and freelance wherever possible and barely make enough to cover my expenses - you think I'm going to shell out $259 for any e-reader? Especially when, even with my discount, I only buy maybe a total of 5 books a year? The company certainly isn't going to give out Nooks to all its employees (just the district managers...or store managers? I don't remember). The simple fact is that I know perhaps 1% about the Nook. We haven't been schooled in Nook technology yet. This may not be true for all B&N stores, but it is for us. We only recently got our little front store Nook nook set up.

Basically what happened was this: The woman's Nook refused to turn on. She maintained that it was charged. None of us knew what its deal was. So we told her to call the help hotline on the Nook package. Of course this is too much for her. She hemmed and hawed about how if it was a quality product we should stand behind it and be able to take care of such things in the store. As always, we were polite and explained that we weren't tech savvy just yet on the Nook (as evidenced by our not-yet-functioning Nook nook) since it's still relatively new, etc. Naturally she wasn't satisfied and left all huffy.

Fine, we get people like that all the time even on books. My complaint isn't about her. My worry is that we'll get more people like her. The issue is that we'll go from booksellers to tech people. And we're not tech people. None of us (save the store manager) owns a Nook. We don't know what all their potential problems are. We can't fix them for you. We don't have the know-how and we certainly don't have all the tools and toys to open it up and check it out. People, as a whole, get a lot more frustrated and - in a word - bitchy about electronics than they do about books. Myself included (just not to any employees because I know better). Even after the woman left, I later had a man come up and ask me all sorts of questions about the Nook and I could only answer a handful of them, which was also frustrating to me because I like helping people.

True, I'm sure they'll school us employees on Nook functions soon, but the fact remains: We are still going to be booksellers. We are not going to be tech support. Yet I am willing to put money down that all sorts of people who own Nooks will mosey into the store and expect us to fix it. In fact, I don't even think our Nook nook is meant to fix things; I think it's just a kiosk to help push the product. In which case people coming up to the desk expecting the poor soul behind it to fix their jacked up Nook will get all pissy when the person can't. People are impatient. They don't want to call a help hotline and tinker with their own product. They don't want to have to send it anywhere and then wait for it to get sent back. They want it fixed now.

They'll want us to be the Geek Squad of the Nook. And we're not.

Will the clientele for the Nook be different than typical book shoppers you might ask? Yes. E-reader owners don't have to go to bookstores to get their books. They won't be browsers who mosey through the store and ask or give book suggestions. They'll just come in when they want us to fix something. Granted, that won't be every e-reader owner, so I'm not assuming that just because you own an e-reader you suck at life. But anyone with a brain knows there's a difference between the atmosphere in B&N (or even Borders) and the atmosphere at the Geek Squad table at Best Buy (no offense Best Buy - I like your tech guys and applaud them for their skills. I've even used them a few times when my computer has gone beyond me).

Maybe someday in the future all new hires will be required to understand the Nook inside and out. But I think that day is far ahead. For now, if you have a Nook and it's broken, we can't fix it. Don't be a jerk about it. Going on a tirade won't help. I work at a bookstore because I love books and I love the people that love books. If I wanted to work in tech support I'd be at Best Buy or somewhere else. Amazon is lucky they're online only - people with Kindles have no choice but to call or email. Even then, guess who they talk to? Someone specifically trained to handle fixes for the Kindle.


Here we go...

P.S. I don't actually think it's called a Nook "nook," but I just found it amusing.