Saturday, October 27, 2012

Some Light Reading

I thought I might share a few interesting pieces I stumbled upon yesterday.

I've been getting impatient when it comes to publishing and have been seriously entertaining the idea of going the e-publishing route - though I do admit a lot of that is also due to sheer curiosity.  How well might one of my books perform?  How could I boost the sales?  How good are my marketing skills?  I didn't know how exclusive Amazon was with their publishing and I'm already familiar with how PubIt, CreateSpace, and Smashwords function, so I was curious as to whether or not Amazon's system could be used at the same time as one of the others.  So I looked and found a great article with a few handy additional linked articles.

10 Questions to Ask Before Committing to Any E-Publishing Service

Second, due to my potential e-publishing future, I wondered - if I published my SF novel should I use my name or a pen name?  And if I did use a pen name, it would be a male one.  Would that help my chances of getting more sales or does it matter?  I know that I don't pay much attention to authors - if I want to read it, I read it.  But since I was curious, I started looking to see if anyone had done any articles with actual information on whether or not gender still mattered to people and found a quite interesting blog entry that also had a lot of interesting articles linked to it that I ended up reading as well.

Fantasy Book Cafe's Women in SF&F Conclusion

You may find these interesting and helpful - you may not.  But I thought I'd share either way.  Time to go write!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

It's Alive!

The Big Pink Crayon Project is now live!  I encourage everyone to take a quick gander at my madness (because if I am lucky, that's exactly what it will turn into!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Interview with Pearl North

I was lucky enough to have Pearl North (that's her pseudonym, by the way - I know the secret of her real name, bwahahahaha!) as my mentor while in my Seton Hill writing program where she dished out some indispensable advice that I still use today.  I often smirk when a particular moment in the movie Serenity shows up.  But now you get to know a little bit about her as well, and at the end of this interview she offers the kind of writing advice you can't ignore.

Pearl North is the author of a trilogy of YA science fiction novels: Libyrinth, The Boy From Ilysies (a Norton Award Finalist), and The Book of the Night. A firm believer in human decency, she loves writing and reading about characters that transcend the limits of who they think they are and what they think is possible. She mentors graduate students in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction MFA program, and writes in other genres under different names. A native and life-long resident of the Detroit area, she has never lived more than two miles from Woodward Avenue in her life.

1. Where did the idea of Libyrinth, and ultimately the trilogy, come from?

From a very early age, I was captivated by the idea of a girl who hears the voices of books. I wrote Libyrinth as a standalone, and then, at my editor's insistence, I wrote The Boy from Ilysies and The Book of the Night. He was adamant that I had more to say about that world, and it turns out he was right.

2. So – are you a plotter or a pantser?

I'd say my career trajectory is from pantser to plotter, and at the time I wrote The Book of the Night, I was about midway along that spectrum. I'd plot out the first few chapters, write them, and then plot some more. Nowadays, I'm doing a lot more planning ahead. We'll see how that goes.

3. If there was one – okay, two – great books you would give to every aspiring author, what would they be?

Ha ha! I bet you already know my answer. The first book, and only if there could only be one, would be Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. Sure his attitudes toward female characters are hopelessly sexist and dated, but what he has to say about the building blocks of story changed my whole approach to writing, and made me a better, more productive, and happier writer in the process. If I had two, I'd go with Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King. It's a great companion to the Swain book, because where he focuses on story mechanics, they focus on the mechanics of language. I don't think you have to be a slave to everything they say, but it's good solid information.

4. What are some of your favorite books?  Words?  Desserts?

One caveat: Other interviewers have also asked me what my favorite books are. Every time I get this question, I have different answers. But they are all true. So, today: Freedom and Necessity by Emma Bull and Steven Brust, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin,  Patrick O'Brien's Master and Commander books, which are really one twenty-volume novel.

5. Do you actually own all the books quoted in the trilogy or are some of those the results of perusing your local library/bookstore?

Almost all of them. I gave some thought to how I was going to handle the books mentioned in the trilogy. I knew I couldn't hope to offer a representative sample of world literature. I didn't try. I needed some sort of limiting parameter on my selections so what I went with was the books on my own shelves at home. That was my selection base. Except for a few instances where for plot purposes I needed to use a specific book that I did not own. But those are rare.

6. What were some of the *best* scenes to write in the Libyrinth trilogy?

I guess I must be a sadist because the first scenes that pop into my head are the ones where my protagonists have been captured and are being tortured by the villains. There's the scene where Haly and Clauda are tied up in the Vault, and the one where Queen Thela makes Po -- oh wait, that's in the new book, better not mention it. But I do have a tender side too. I love the interaction between Haly and Gyneth as they move from antagonists to friends and then to more than friends in Libyrinth, and in The Book of the Night, there are some scenes between Clauda and Selene that I like very much and that I hope will be satisfying for those readers who have been patiently waiting for them.

7. When you started out in your writing career, was teen fiction on the table as something you thought you’d write?

Not really. I was all about science fiction at that time. My father and brother both read sf and they talked about it around the dinner table when I was a kid. It influenced me profoundly. When I decided I wanted to write, I just naturally though I'd write sf, because to me, that's what books were. But then I read more out of genre and I found that I like all kinds of things. So now I write in other genres under other names as well.

8. How do you crack writer’s block?

Well, deadlines are a wonderful tool for that. I find that when someone else is expecting me to turn something in at a certain time  it's amazing what I can get done. I've shocked myself a few times like that. However, if I'm writing on spec, and I don't have that external reinforcer, then sometimes I employ what I call blast drafting. I close my eyes and just type like mad, whatever comes into my head goes out my fingers. It can be nonsense at first, but after a little while I usually find that I'm working on something coherent. Well, apart from all the typos, that is.

9. Do you have any muses that really kick-start your writing power (whether or not you have writer’s block)?

I'm often inspired by performances in movies or TV shows, but it's not specific to any one actor or program, just what strikes a nerve with me at the moment. Those experiences can sometimes help me identify an emotion or a state of mind that I wanted to create in a character but had not yet defined for myself.

10.  When you’re not writing what do you like to do?

I do love to read. I also like to get outside and do things, run with my dog, or go kayaking. I live in Michigan, and we have a lot of beautiful lakes. Summer is my favorite season because I get to do all of that fun stuff. In fact, my pseudonym, Pearl North, comes from a place my husband and I visit every year. It's called Pearl Lake and it's in northern Michigan. When I got the offer from Tor for the Libyrinth books, I was up there. And my agent needed to know what pseudonym I wanted to use right away because she needed it for the contract. I came up with Pearl North on the spot.

11.  Is there anything you’re working on now that fans of the Libyrinth trilogy should be looking forward to in the future?

That's hard to say. I have no immediate plans for another Pearl North book, but I also write in other genres. At the moment, I'm working on a science fiction romance.

12.  Quick!  Dish out your last minute advice to writers!


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Want a Free Book?

Yep, it's been a while since I've done a giveaway, but this time I've got some help. I have 3 - count 'em - 3 copies of Pearl North's The Book of the Night to give away!

Now if you've read Libyrinth, then you've got to be ready to finish off this trilogy with a bang! You might want to be ready to have your mind twisted a little too because I'm about halfway through my copy and whoa-hey Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku would flip out if any of this were really out there (...then again, who's to say it's not? o_O).

If you haven't read Libyrinth...well...I recommend picking up a copy. If you think you've been to enough imaginary places, trust me, you have not been to the Libyrinth of any of its surrounding areas. So, how do you get in on the giveaway? Easy. Just go to my Bookseller Recommends blog and leave a comment and some way for me to reach you (email is best) in case you win. Sharing this blog post with others is encouraged - in fact, tell me how you've shared (Twitter? Facebook? Your blog?) and I'll throw in an additional entry for you!

The closing date for entries will be September 10 at midnight, so get your entry in and find out what's inside of The Book of the Night!

(Please note, this giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry!)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Get In Good With Booksellers

You want to sell books?  Then do what the title up there says - get in good with the booksellers.

I'm not talking about the owners of a bookstore (okay, well, if it's a mom and pop store then that probably can't hurt), I'm talking about the actual employees who are down in the trenches digging up books for people and - possibly more often than you realize - making recommendations.

I do know that you've probably heard this before, but I don't know how many people actually realize how hard some of us will work to get someone to buy a book because we love it so much.

Did you know that Barnes and Noble employees have access to something called B&N Inside?  It's available only to us, only on our network on our computers at the store.  Books pop up on it all the time.  There's a section of Bookseller Reviews where we send in some of our own favorites and they get featured so we can see what others are recommending.  To my delight, I made it on there once with one of my favorite trilogies (which was re-released into a complete volume).

But that's not all.  There's also a little something called the 100 Club.  I'm sure you can probably guess what that entails.  Yep - this is for booksellers who have sold 100 copies of a title.  While it's all on an honor system (you have to keep track of your own sales), there's no prize at the end of the road so there is no reason to cheat or lie about your numbers.  The people who do this are those who absolutely love specific books and do everything they can to get them into people's hands.  Some booksellers will even turn it into a game as well and challenge one another to see who can beat the other to the top.  But think; one single-minded bookseller can sell 100 copies of your book.  One bookseller sold so many copies of The Christmas Jar that the author actually went to the store to thank them personally.  Some of the books showcased by B&N as a company have come not from some suit sitting in an office in New York, but from a bookseller who just loved the book so much.

Right now, this is what I'm trying to do with not just one title, but two.  The first is - you guessed it - The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith.  The second is The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.  We'll see how it goes.

But not every bookseller is going to hit the 100 Club.  After all, we have a lot of things to do.  And that's just B&N anyway.  So what else can we do for you if we like what you've got to offer?  Easy - we get your book out there in front of people.  Books are supposed to go on various promotions at specific times.  Certain books get to have face-out time (where they are faced so the covers are front and center for all to see).  But if we like what you've got?  We'll put it somewhere people can see it.  We'll craft little areas of our own and put them there.  From employee recommendation displays to extra space we need to use up, if we can get your book there so people see it, we will.  I have both of my titles up there in areas where people can't miss them.  And you know what?  Sometimes we're way ahead of corporate.

For example, in our teen section we were supposed to have either an endcap (display at the end of an isle) or a mission table (think the size of your living room side table with the lamp on it) for The Hunger Games.  Yeah, well, when you get sent over 200 copies of each book in the trilogy plus books featuring movie insider goodies, an endcap or mission just isn't going to cut it.  Our managers took a big pine table instead and filled it full of Hunger Games books.  But we didn't stop there.  Corporate also sent lists of other books to feature on those displays that people might like as well so we made sure to include them on the table.  Of course, we could fit more so we got to choose our own ideas of what people might want to try.  And because I am a Children's Lead, I have reign over the teen section, so that table has fallen into my responsibility 95% of the time.

I had read and enjoyed Veronica Rossi's book, Under the Never Sky.  It wasn't selling too well where it was, and it's got the whole dystopian thing going on that people who liked The Hunger Games could get into.  So I snatched them all up and plunked them down on the table.  Front and center right next to a James Patterson title.  I don't always get to point it out, but now because it's got a sweet location, I don't have to.  And you know what?  The next week on a title list from corporate wanted that book to be on the next Hunger Games display.  I win.  And so does Ms. Rossi.  Now that list has come and gone, but our table is still there and so is her book.  It will come down when I say so - or when a manager decides to get rid of the table (but because we still have over 100-200 Hunger Games books in stock, I think that table is going to be around for a while).

Want another reason to get in good with booksellers?  We'll keep your books and try to sell them even after we get a return download.  When these downloads happen we are supposed to send designated books back to the publishers (or in the case of 99% of mass markets, strip them).  But...if we like your book...or we like you and we think we can squeak in just one more sale...then we'll hang onto them.  Technically i don't think we're supposed to, but I have.  And you know what?  I've sold books this way.  Beth Revis's first book, Across the Universe, was on my teen recommendation shelf for far longer than it was supposed to be.  The hardcover was due out, but I refused to let it go because A.) I was selling it and B.) the paperback wasn't due to be published until several months in the future.  Heck, I ran out and ordered more in while they were still due out.  And we both know that hardcovers net you more money than paperbacks.

We'll go the extra mile for you - this can be true even if we've never had the chance to read your book but know you personally.  If you like someone you want to help them out, right?  I've had the pleasure of meeting Victoria Thompson, but I've never read her books.  But when people are looking for a recommendation or mention they've heard of her books, I'll nudge them in her direction if at all possible and speak fondly of her.  It warms people to the author and the books and can make them more interested in making a purchase.  In the case of Maria Snyder, I've met her and emailed with her a few times as well as read her first trilogy.  When a woman called wanting the first book, I told her about Ms. Snyder as a person as well as how much I'd enjoyed her books.  After that the woman expressed interest in the next two books.  At the time I couldn't find the third book, but because I was determined to get the sale for Ms. Snyder, I kept on hunting until I finally found it.  I added it to the customer's other two books on hold.  I later checked the sales numbers and saw that she did indeed buy all three.  Later when her teen book came out, I hadn't read it, but I currently have it placed on our teen table (not too far away from The Forbidden Game!).

So be cool to booksellers.  We can be your best friends.  Write a great book and that's even better because if one of us falls in love with it, we'll throw it at every customer who walks in the door.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Bad Guys We Love (for some bizarre reason)

For some reason there are bad guys that we just absolutely love. Darth Vader. Vegeta. The Joker. And when you think about it, that’s kind of weird. Why is it that we love these guys and all their badassery? Why is it awesome when Vegeta blows up a stadium or when Vader stalks around in his black cape choking out commanding officers? We argue about who made the best Joker (personally I still love the cartoon version voiced by Mark Hamill. That’s right. Luke Skywalker is the voice actor for the Joker and does a damn fine job of it too, I might add) and bitch about how the kid playing Anakin Skywalker in the last two Star Wars movies to come out was a pansy (he WAS).

There are the bad guys we love and then there’s that phrase, “Bad guys you love to hate.” I’m not really sure about that last one because I can’t really think of any bad guys I enjoyed hating, unless that phrase refers to bad guys that you simply can’t wait to see die a horrible death because they deserve it. But what is it that separates out those bad guys from the ones we love? Is it like the difference between two dogs – like an ugly dog that’s just plain mean and bites everyone and that kickass black Doberman pinscher that stands there eyeballing you, letting you know it could totally mess you up but won’t until it either decides it wants to or its master says so.

I have a black dragon in one of my books that I love. He’s not nice. He’s literally destroyed entire civilizations. He steps on people. He eats people. He burns them alive and submits them to torture. I had a piece of work involving him get critiqued. The piece was basically picked apart (rightfully so), but everyone said that they loved my dragon. And that was excellent. As long as everyone loved him, I didn’t care how shredded the rest of the work was. They loved my baddest bad guy. Kick ass.

But again, it all comes back down to just why the heck do we get so excited over certain bad guys? Vegeta, for those of you who don’t know, comes from an anime called Dragon Ball Z. He is not a nice person. He’s killed millions, has actually destroyed a planet (probably more than one in his lifetime), tried to destroy the Earth, and yes, blew up a stadium full of people after he sort of shifted back to the dark side (he was good for a while, though I use that term loosely). And yet I think he has more fans than Goku, the actual protagonist who’s a little bit like Superman. I even have the royal crest of Vegeta’s house tattooed on my shoulder.

It seems to have something to do with just how badass these guys are, and there really isn’t a better word I can come up with to describe it. But how is their badassness any different from, say, Hitler’s? Everyone listed here has killed a horrifying number of people. Maybe because these guys do the dirty work themselves? Maybe it’s because they do it in style. Vader in his black getup. Vegeta in all his power. One could argue that the Joker is straight up insane, but I would differ with that stance. He simply has no qualms with killing others and happens to enjoy doing so with flare. The fact remains that pretty much all these bad guys (and others) are stone cold killers, but when they walk on the screen or the pages of a book, we sit up and think, “F*ck yeah!”

I don’t mean to ruin any of your bad boy enjoyment. Far from it. I will love Vegeta until the day I die and Vader will always be cool (movies I, II, and III not included). Perhaps it’s because without the chaos, we wouldn’t have a good story. And because it’s fiction, it’s okay to revel in said chaos. You can’t do that sort of thing here in the real world. It poses interesting philosophical questions. Perhaps it’s reading or watching that lure of the dark that gets us interested. Performing epic feats of chaos and not giving a crap about the consequences. At the end of the Green Lantern movie, plenty of people got all giddy when Sinestro put on that yellow ring because it meant future epicness.

But not all bad guys get this kind of reaction, even if they are wholly fictional. Maybe the epic part is what makes a difference. Nazis will always suck. Serial killers aren’t likely to ever get any love (though some do come close like Hannibal Lecter or Gretchen Lowell). Maybe it’s the further out in left field the bad guys are the easier it is to get into them. The others hit too close to home.

I don’t think we’ll ever understand it. It certainly won’t stop us from crafting characters that kill, rape, and pillage. And it won’t stop us from being totally pleased to learn that people love our bad guys. After all, I know we sure as hell do.

Oh crazy, evil bastard you.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Hate All of You.


One of the many reasons I hate celebrities.

Originally found at RageComics.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Pimp This Novel

Righto. I haven't read this yet, but that's only because I *just* saw it on a V-cart yesterday at work. I was on my way out to go clock out and go home, and walked past in the back room, glanced down because the vivid colors in the cover caught my eye, and literally let out a gasp that would leave other people to think (if anyone else had been in the room) that I'd seen a mouse or something. But how can one not get excited when seeing a book by someone they know? That's right, I know the author. Remember that place I keep talking about? Seton Hill University? The author was in her second year there. She wasn't Sabrina Benulis then (so I supposed she'd gotten herself hitched in the meantime), but I'd been stalking certain writers from the program and she's the first one to land herself on the shelves where I can get all stupid and grab it the day it comes out and skip home with it.

I went to her reading (we all had to do a reading from our book as a part of our graduation assignment - and I've got to add that my reading was SO much freaking fun to do) and had a great time. That's how I know this book should be a good time too. The part I remember the most (as this was back in 2007 I think) was the battle. The violent battle. With some mean metal weapons. I remember making a mental note of certain things - "Be sure to use words like 'gristle' and 'sinew' in the future."

So yes, to get back on point, I'm totally pimping her book. Go check it out. If you like the whole angels battling, humanity's souls hanging in the balance, wtf happened to God? kind of stuff, then it's time you jumped on the Archon wagon. I, for one, look forward to where it takes me.

OH! And P.S. - Tell me that cover isn't absolutely gorgeous. Some authors get the shaft when it comes to covers, but it looks to me like Sabrina got to have her cake and eat it too. Awesome.