Friday, December 31, 2010
I was curious as to why this holiday has become so alcohol saturated. I did a little research. It seems that the pagans liked to celebrate the old year's passing with feasts, sacrifices and abundant toasts to a variety of gods and deceased family members. If you had a big family, that could be a lot of toasts!
Fortunately for them, they weren't driving high-powered vehicles at high rates of speed. If they fell while walking, they might get a nice bruise or even a broken bone or two, but it wasn't likely that they would be reduced to bits.
Every year dozens of people die in alcohol related deaths on our highways. These numbers increase on New Years Eve. In one study, "90 people had died in alcohol-related traffic crashes in the 12-hour span between 6:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and 5:59 a.m. the next morning. Four weeks later, on the same night of the week, the death toll dropped dramatically to 20". In my opinion, 20 is still too many.
Every year, families have to start a new year with the death of a loved one - whether they are the person who had been drinking, or a victim of a person who had been drinking. I have to honestly say that New Years Eve terrifies me as a parent of three young people.
I am taking this opportunity to ask all of you out there to please not drink and drive. One small toast at midnight should be sufficient to ring in a new year. Let's start the new year with health and vitality, not a hangover. And let's start it with life, not death or sorrow.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
I also admit, I do the same thing with my New Year resolutions. Goals help me toward achieving things like finishing a first draft to even starting a new project.
This year will be no different.
My writing goals for 2011 include:
Finishing my YA dystopia.
Finishing my first draft of CROSS FIRE. Then plan to do a massive, intense revision. I won’t just do the revisions piece by piece but rather do it as one major project. **This will prove very interesting!
Do the revisions, edits on NO GODDESSES ALLOWED
My reviewing goals include:
Continue to review books.
Don’t just sign up for any book. I found requesting too many books equals getting overwhelmed and not doing as much as I should.
Plan to read some books outside of my genre which is YA.
My personal goals include:
Continue to exercise
Mediate at least once a day. Need to get my blood pressure down
What are your goals for this coming year? Do you make goals? Please share!
Friday, December 24, 2010
Book Trailers are meant to be no longer than a couple of minutes and pack enough punch to get you guys interested enough to bite and take a closer look at the book. (A lot like the hook I talked about a month or more ago.)
I've procrastinated making mine but am slowly catching up. (Trolling for appropriate pictures make my eyes hurt! Looking for fodder is harder than making the darn thing!) For this latest video I started using a piece of software called Anime Studio. I think it really pumped up the quality of what I can make by a lot!
Watch the video and then I'll go through the steps I took to get it to the finished product. (Hopefully it won't be too lame and you won't cry to get your 1 minute and 13 seconds back.) :P
It's always best if you have some kind of plan before you ever start. Basically what you hope to say/show and the order.
There are several picture sites where for a fee you can download royalty free pictures (a few even have video clips) to use in the book trailer. There is one I know of that allows you to use them for free, but you have to make sure to give the photographer credit. Always need to make sure you're not infringing on someone's copyright. This includes the music and photos.
Here's a few of the ones I've been to or used:
Another option too is Deviant Art. If you find something nice there, you can email the artist and see if they'd allow you to use it in the video, giving them credit at the end. Some will and some won't.
For all these though, be prepared for your eyes to want to fall out of your head after hours and hours of scrolling through stuff! But if you end up with the perfect picture/drawing, it is well worth it. (Just give yourself time to recuperate! lol.)
Of course using photos you took does make things even better! Those are yours to use as you see fit. :P You never know what you may have hiding in an album somewhere. And with camera phone, nowadays, taking pictures is even easier. Just make sure the photo quality is high enough for what you have in mind.
I use two pieces of free software to put the video together. 1) Movie Maker, which comes standard with all computers using windows. 2) Audacity, which is a free down loadable audio recording and editing software (you will need a microphone or headset to use this to best effect).
The great thing about Audacity is that once you find your background music, you can open it up in the software then record your voice to add to the track. Even better, (make sure to save as the project) it keeps the soundtrack and the voice track separate so you can add silences in your voice parts to manipulate when they occur. This becomes very important when you're putting all pieces together in Movie Maker.
Like I said before, this year I also bought Anime Studio. The great thing about this piece of software is that you can add 'bones' to pictures to make them move. Even the Text can be manipulated. So you can make the book trailer less static. And it's even kind of fun! (You will export your project as an .avi to add to Movie Maker)
So, you have pictures, video bits, the music. Now all you need to do is put them together. Movie Maker will help you do that. Movie Maker allows you to import all the bits and then you can arrange them in any order you like, adding transition effects, scrolling text, and end titles.
The beauty here is that as you add each thing, you can preview it, and also see what time it falls on the video. This allows you to go back to Audacity and tweak your spoken parts so the timing is perfect.
Hopefully at the end you will have something to be proud of that you can share. And while it may have taken a lot of time to create, it won't be going anywhere and you can use it for years to come at your website, promo CDs, and whatever else you can think of. Make sure to upload it to Youtube. You can get code there to embed it at your webpage, or blog. Even better join Blazing Trailers where you can join a ton of authors and display your trailer with theirs.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Do you use animals in your stories, ones that are out of theordinary. In The Henge Betrayed series, there are a few. The forstcats have the ability to send pictures of places they are. The perfect spy weapon since Ky who rescued them is able to communicate with them. This story also has an imaginary animal called a war steed. This is sort of a horse but with a single horn like a unicorn. They are choosy about who will ride them and pick their rider. There are also coursers in this story that resemble horses but with longer bodies and some unhorse like qualities like their ability to travel on the desert.
I love dragons. We all know they don't exist but we wish they did. Not the mean people-eating kind but like the ones in books that we enjoy. The Cross-eyed Dragon comes to mind. and also the one Novak writes about. I also have some steeds invented for another world. Wind steeds who have long flowing hair that when rode unsaddled looks like wings. In these stories I'll write one of these days there are cats who delight in swimming, ones with an acid like poison in their fangs, sand cats and ones that can fly. I guess you can see I like cats.
What about you? Do your stories have animals other than dogs and ones that are real or imaginary?
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Hey Readers LBF Books (http://www.lbfbooks.com/products.asp) and Lachesis Publishing (http://www.lachesispublishing.com/products.asp) are having a Holiday offer. What kind of offer? 40% off all books in print and ebook. All you have to do to get the discount is use the code 2010HolidayDiscount just as you are paying for your purchase. Pass on the word!
Yes, that's right! CROSSED OUT is on sale for this month! Just in time for the holidays!
Monday, December 13, 2010
I don’t normally discuss my works-in-progress—or WIPs. I’m making an exception with this one for two reasons: a) I need blog fodder – just kidding – sort of; and b) the manuscript I’m working on is already published – sort of.
“Crazy Bitch” began two years ago as a series on my blog, From the Styx, after my dog Venus was diagnosed with Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD). Frustrated at the lack of information and/or case studies available, I decided to make Venus a case study.
I have compiled all those blog posts and I’m re-writing them into book form. A dog story. A memoir. In an interview, Julie Klam, author of “You Had Me at Woof”, used the term “dogoir”. Works for me.
When I began the blog series, I planned all along to put them into book form. To prepare, I read every dog story I could get my hands on. I researched and read countless articles on memoir writing. At the same time I was researching dog behavior, psychology, and training, plus keeping up with CCD research, and every day life with two giant dogs that didn’t always get along. No matter how well I knew the genre or my subject, nothing prepared me for the process.
My other books are fiction, which is not to say I haven’t written nonfiction. I have written articles and blog posts – just not a memoir. This is a big switch for me. At first I didn’t think it would be any big deal to take the blog posts, re-write them and put them into a book. Wrong. I am not re-writing a character’s story. I am re-writing my beloved dog’s story. And since it’s from my POV it’s also my story, which is the memoir part.
Digging up the past two years and working through it has proven to be more of challenge than I had expected. For one thing it’s a slow process. In re-telling actual events in my own life it’s easy to get bogged down in the details. I find I have to adopt a mindset before I sit down with the work. I have to practice distancing myself from myself – as in the character of me, or the “I” in the story. See what I mean? It can get confusing. Luckily I have written a couple novels in first person. With a memoir, it’s just the opposite. Instead of getting into character, I have to get out of character. Then I am better able to recognize which details are important to the story.
Truth is another big issue with memoir. For what is truth? My World Book dictionary says truth is “the fact or facts; matter or circumstance as it really is”. Let’s face it “circumstance as it really is” can often be tedious and boring. The writer-in-me wants to go all James Frey and embellish the hell out of the facts. The “I” character balks at saying words she never said or doing things she didn’t do. Yet, the writer-in-me argues, in a memoir, the truth is limited to how the “I”-character perceives it. It could be an even better story if the writer-in-me incorporates my 20/20 hindsight omniscience into the picture and stirs things up a bit. Because I am a fiction writer I suspect it will be a constant struggle through this process. But in this case, the truth is pretty well covered by my own blog posts. I’m glad I have them as a basis for the re-write. They keep the writer-in-me honest.
Coming in 2011 –
LETTERS TO JUNIPER
Advice from a Caterpillar
From the Styx
Friday, December 10, 2010
The first part of my last book, Talking to Trees, was set in our world with a 13-year-old who considered herself fashionable. I work at a university, so I'm used to what college students and recent graduates from high school think is in fashion (more on that later). But for trends among the younger set, I had to consult those more expert. That included my niece, some friends' daughters, some teachers of that age group (including my younger sister and another niece) and parents. For visual aids I could consider shows aimed at that age group, always keeping in mind when the show was filmed. Styles change quickly.
Some styles don't change quickly enough. Bare midriffs have mostly faded away from the college campus (though that could be due to the cold winter temperatures here). The pajama bottoms style is still strong, as is the 'almost falling off' jeans for males and extreme low riding ones for females. There's always the discussion in the news of the "wardrobe malfunction" for low tops but I never hear any talk (except among faculty and staff) about how uncomfortable it is to walk behind those underwear exposing practitioners (or, worse still, to see the back view seated in chairs). I guess there's a story or two there.
Another trend is whether to wear the shirt/blouse tucked in or untucked. But that decision isn't often mentioned.
One could say that for present day clothing, the writer doesn't have to go into great detail. Jeans, tee shirts, sweatshirts, suits, coats, jackets, ties, dresses, slacks, shirts, blouses, vests, sweaters, skirts, boots, high heels - all are common enough terms. It's only when you want to point out how fashionable your character is that more detail needs to be used, but then you also have to consider how quickly that will date your story. Are the jeans ripped because the character has been in a fight? Poor? Or is it a fashion statement? And then there are regional differences. Do you wear tennis shoes or trainers or tennies? Running shoes, athletic shoes, gym shoes or a brand name? Do you wear a vest or a waistcoat? What about fabric? Fleece, cashmere, or silk would all mean different things fashionwise than wool or cotton.
For fantasy there are generic terms - cloaks, tunics, smocks, boots, sandals, vests, breeches, skirts, kilts, robes, gowns - that don't require much explanation or description of the details. Unless you want to get into the embroidery. Or tassels. Or magical reflecting properties. But do you describe a kirtle? A cheton? A cotehardie? A jerkin? Or do you expect readers of fantasy or historical stories to know what you are talking about? If you do use the wrong term, however, you can be sure that there will be a reader who will notice.
For science fiction stories, there will be protective suits, pressure suits and/or space suits to mention, as well as other clothing choices. Does everyone on the space station wear overalls (or coveralls)? What type of necktie is popular in your future society - Ascot, cravat or bolo - and are bow ties still cool? What will teens wear? Will there be different casual attire for those living in rural areas on the colony planet versus those living in the city? Do merchants wear different fabrics than pilots? Are there fabrics from other planets? Would your main POV character notice?
And, what does your nonhuman characters wear? Does your dragon wear a scarf? Jewelled talon covers? Do your furred aliens wear only a harness or trousers and a vest? Does your crablike alien police wear badges? Do you mention how those are attached to the shell? (I did in one story). On ships do your alien crew members wear the same uniform (with modifications) as the humans?
For YA stories (both fantasy and science fiction), usually the most important questions are 1) is there a school uniform, 2) is it the same for both male and female (and nonhumans), and 3) what modifications are allowed for the fashion conscious?
Because Jody in Talking to Trees is fashion conscious, I had to mention what the characters wore. Jody looks down on Jeanne, who wears jeans and a plain sweatshirt, and she complains when her brother Peter choses to wear a sweatshirt and jeans with multiple pockets and loops (which he fills with food and a flattened roll of duct tape). Jeanne and Peter know they will be walking through forests and across plains and dress appropriately. Jody, on the other hand - well, Jody's denim jacket is illustrated on the cover. There is a reason why leaves are growing on it.
Do you notice fashion choices in books?
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Lastly, I'd like to mention another Grog (group blog) I have with other MG/YA Authors at Teen Word Factory. Come by for helpful postings about writing, author interviews, book reviews, and more.
I look forward to sharing more posts and hope you will find what I have to say informative and interesting.
Write Often, Write Well
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Anyway, the little dog, smaller than the cat, looks at me as if I’m supposed to do something. What? Find his owner? I wish I could. Call him by his name? I haven’t a clue. Give him a home? We can do that. However, he was here once before, a couple weeks ago, and the minute I let him in the backyard, he squeezed through the gate and was gone. He slept in the house last night because the temperature was in the 20s. He cuddled up on the sofa. He ate anything we gave him. And he’s very polite.
Right now he’s outside. Whether he’ll decide to explore the country or stay close is anybody’s guess. As I’ve been thinking about this little stray, wondering what to do with him, some of my characters in my current work in progress came to mind. When I first met the four teens, I knew nothing about them. Their backgrounds were a mystery. As we worked our way through the story, slowly they began to reveal tidbits about their lives, their families, their troubles, their hopes and their dreams. Why are they in my story? Will they stay, or will they wander off, into a world, not necessarily of their own making, but a world that they have little control over, a world that is sometimes cruel and unforgiving, but that also can be beautiful.
What is the future of each of them? Will they reach their goals, find what they’re looking for. Or will the world be too much for them?
Will the little dog that I’m trying to decide what to call him see that we will provide him with a good home (ignoring the cat’s dislike of him)? Or will he go in search of the home that he obviously loved and people that must have loved him at one time? I cannot know their circumstances, so I’m not blaming anyone for his situation. I’ll simply do what I can to take care of him.
Name suggestions would be appreciated. In case he grants us the honor of being his parents.
Happy Reading and Writing.
Monday, December 6, 2010
But books are a GREAT gift. They're usually inexpensive, so you can give more than one. They don't expire, and don't need to be fitted. You can read them over and over and share them with others. There's usually no messy return issues, unless you get duplicates. There is the issue of them cluttering up the house, but I think that's a wonderful problem to have. Unless, like me, you have a Kindle on your list (I have the PC software too), or own an ebook reader, then you can give even MORE books as gifts, because usually ebooks are cheaper, AND there's spacial issue. I have a few books I really want in hardcover, because they're continuations of series I adore, but I am happy to receive ebooks as gifts.
I don't know when I decided that books would make good gifts. It just never occurred to me before. But I got a pile last year, and LOVE it. If my son read faster, he'd get more books as gifts - at this point I think I'm going to be drowning in LEGOs come December 26. I'm hoping that as he gets older he'll want more books, because I'd love to have my sun room back, to take down the toy shelves and fill it with bookshelves and a comfy reading chair...someday. And then I'll miss the toys, because I'll miss him being little and playing with toys. You can't win, I know that.
But anyway... we here at YAAYNHO have all written books. AND those book would make GREAT gifts! (sorry for the shameless plug, but it's that season.) And if you don't generally give books, WHY NOT??? If you email me, I have some copies of all my books here at the house. IF you drop me an email, I can sell you a copy and ship it to you. It will even be autographed! Or you can buy one somewhere else, and drop me an email, and I will mail you an autographed bookplate to put inside. I'm not sure, but there's a chance some of the other YAAYNHO may have a similar setup. Wouldn't that be a nice gift - a box of autographed books?
In other news, somewhere in the hustle and bustle of the end of semester, holiday madness, and getting a new job (yay me!), my next book has gotten ready for release. It's not out QUITE yet, mostly because of some issues at the Library of Congress having to do with their software upgrade that took twice as long as it should have and shouldn't have affected my book because the publisher applied for the data weeks before they had their computer issues, but hopefully by the end of the week it will be available for purchase. I got the final cover art yesterday:
Friday, December 3, 2010
Dogs have been kept as pets for centuries. They've been found in graves, surrounded by items intended to help them in the next life. They've been pictured in drawings, following humans, feasting with humans, hunting with humans. They've protected us, loved us, been loyal to us. How could we kill them off in literature?
And, yet, it's been done dozens and dozens of times. I'm one of those readers who dislike reading of animals of any kind dying. Sure, I can see something being mentioned briefly about getting meat for food, but I don't like to focus on the life and death struggle between man and animal. And I certainly dislike having an animal die for gratuitous reasons only. Especially an animal that I have come to care about in some way.
So, I avoid using them in that capacity. I do find it odd that I can watch a show or read a book where humans die, but I get angry and upset if an animal dies. Maybe it's because I realize that humans have the intellect to understand what is happening to them, while animals don't.
I rarely put animals into my writing. Why? Several reasons, really. I get too attached. I forget they are there. And...I don't want them to die. And I'm not the only one, from what I've heard. Readers don't like to see animals die. I remember being in a critique group once and the manuscript being read had a pack of dogs. The dogs didn't perform as their owner desired and he had the entire pack put to death. It was done to illustrate the characters lack of compassion or sympathy. But you should have heard the controversy and upset over that!
Kill the dogs? Never!
So, what about you? How do you feel as a reader when animals die? Do you use animals in your writing to convey a plot point? Or do you protect them at all costs, and allow them to live long, healthy, happy lives?
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
My son asked me, “Mommy, wouldn’t it be cool to do that?”
How often do our characters speak to us? I decided last month I’d start a new project. I wanted it to be something unlike anything I’ve written so far. Well, my characters got very antsy, one in particular. I swear Carter, kept on me to write certain scenes and he couldn’t wait for me to get to act two of my story where he meets Esperanza.
We all know the rules on writing characters. To avoid stereotypes and clichés. One thing I learned from a UCI extension class I took with Louella Nelson is to sketch out my characters. I go through magazines and tear out photos of people I think would look like my characters though with my current project I went to iStock. Then I list down all their strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and a wound. For example in CROSSED OUT, Stephanie’s wound is she doesn’t trust authority.
Another big thing I learned is to flesh out the villain. Some of my favorite villains of all time include Spike from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, Damon from VAMPIRE DIARIES, and yes, Rhett Butler from GONE WITH THE WIND. I try to show some weakness from my villains. It’s like someone once told me when I was writing my memoir on my life growing up with a bipolar father, that I needed to look for vulnerability. Yes, it was tough but doable.
What are some ways you bring your characters to life?
Sunday, November 28, 2010
This past weekend, we trekked on up to PhilCon (the speculative fiction convention which has been hosted by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society for something like 60-70 years now. Over the last few years, the con is inexplicably relocated to Cherry Hill, New Jersey but it’s still called PhilCon.
“We” is myself and Demaris. Demaris and I used to work together at the Univ of Del Library until I retired. Demaris does not write but is an avid reader of both YA and speculative fiction literature. She has, I believe, five grandchildren.
Peter Beagle (“Last Unicorn) was the guest of honor, and a variety of authors and editors filled the panels. The musical (“filking”) track was organized by Roberta Rogow. Filk is the folk music of the Speculative Fiction community. For more about it, see Jordin Kare’s essay at http://www.interfilk.org/interfilk/singout.htm
Or go to Interfilk’s many links, at http://www.interfilk.org/interfilk/filk.htm .
The big focus for me was the chance of a reading Friday evening, hosted by PhilCon and by the Broad Universe professional writers group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/broaduniverse/
Demaris and I brought along 8 copies of Seabird and 4 sets of copies of Earthbow vols. 1&2, in the hopes of selling them at the reading or elsewhere during the con. The “BU Rapid Fire Reading” got off to a shaky start—when we arrived at our room (located on a standard hotel floor) we found the door locked. A quick call to the front desk did know good. Eventually—halfway through our readings right out in the hallway by the elevators—someone showed up from the ConComm at let us into our meeting room.
I read a scene from Earthbow Vol.1, in which a young fighter named Coris is trying to sneak into the keepmaster’s room to steal a medicine needed by a servant who is desperately ill. He finds the meds, but then hears someone approaching the room’s door. He hides in the room, risking his life so doing. As I approached the end of the scene, one of the people in the room approaches his hiding place in order to search for a scroll. Hopelessly, Coris prepares to fight. End of scene. J
The reading stirred up some interest in my books, and we just happened to have carried books with us. I had brought regular copies of books to sell at half price, plus a few uncorrected proof copies from 2 years ago when Seabird first came out. These we put on the freebie table—and watched them snatched up over the next few hours, practically before our eyes. I also offered one set of Seabird & the Earthbow volumes to a dealer in the vendor’s hall, for free, in the hopes that he would make a sale with them and eventually choose to buy more from my publisher. I have no idea what will come of that. Frankly, I’ve tried it in the past with a couple of bookstores, but it doesn’t seem to have worked.
After most of the book business was concluded for the con, we settled down to attending panels. Yes, I’m just old-fashioned enough to believe that con-going involves actually sitting through a variety of “industry-related” panels and occasionally trying to get a question in edgeways. To me, this is a great way to network with other writers, as well as publishers, reviewers and editors. I happen to do less well networking at con parties. I’m no wallflower, but I do have trouble trying to change subjects to something about books at those parties, so I don’t try any more.
Anyway, Demaris and I went to a variety of panels—sometimes together and sometimes splitting up. We also attended Peter Beagle’s address, which was great once he was given a microphone. Later he sang and played his own songs and others during the intermission at the masquerade.
One panel that should have particular interest here was “How Scary Can Young Adult Fiction Get? – What are the allowable limits in writing for young adults?” Moderated by J Andrew World, with panelists: Patricia M Cryan, Christine Norris, and Peter Prellwitz.
The areas discussed were 1) defining YA lit, (MC is “underage”); 2) How graphically do you show any violence? How do you tell it? 3) Does the child or teen become scared for the characters or do they feel personally at risk? 4) Losing souls in Golden Compass; the little girl in Poltergeist; 5) Different for each child. Decide for child but with their feedback. 6) Do the events in the story cause some children to draw from their own experiences and reinforce that it could happen to them?
I asked a question or two during the panel and was able to follow up with Patricia afterwards. Patricia and her husband have a shop in Worcester MA, which specializes in Children’s Lit and in Comics. She has other related interests in her area. We’re now friended on FB.
In another panel, I met Jay Wile, a chemist who just happens to have an interest in YA literature. He promised to come home and order my books on Amazon. (By then I was out of copies). The great thing is that Jay actually did so, and now we’re corresponding by email.
Other panels which I found interesting were: “The Roots of Steam Punk”; “The Shift Back to Small Presses”; “How to Get Rejected”; “Career Planning for Authors”; and one I didn’t attend because I felt I knew the answer: “Is the Full Time Novelist an endangered species?”.
I attended a variety of other panels that were not related to YA fiction, plus I spent several hours singing and listening to music in the filk room. I had a great but semi-exhausting time and—for a change—came home largely with books I had purchased rather than with my own copies.
If you have any questions about any of this—shoot them at me before I forget all of the details. Warning: my memory half-life isn’t what it used to be.
p.s. I hope that some of you will consider going back to my previous post, “Beginnings and Endings and Dingles”, and maybe offering advice on what I can do with my story fragment. See http://obscurekidlitauthors.blogspot.com/search/label/dingle
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Some ‘school-based’ YA novels have another division inbetween school and cliques. In the Harry Potter novels, it’s House. In the Percy Jackson series, in Camp Half-Blood (as in any summer camp story), it’s Cabin. What makes those two series a bit more interesting in the early bonding process is that people aren’t arbitrarily stuck into a house or cabin (as is done in real life) but are chosen – either by a Sorting Hat (which determines by the candidate’s temperament, psychological analysis, magical ability and the candidate’s own desire which House is best for the candidate) or by parent. What this means for the characters in those series is that they have an instant group of people with whom they have similar interests (hmm, this also fits with the recent Tinkerbell DVDs, too – the tinker fairies, the water fairies, etc.).
As a writer, it’s fascinating to observe this shortcut – you don’t need several chapters/pages explaining what drives each new character. Throw a bunch of mechanical parts in front of some tinker fairies or kids from Hephaestus’ Cabin and instantly their fingers are itching to create something. Students in Ravenclaw House are scholars. The teens in the vampire hall are bad guys (unless it’s a series where vampires are the good guys and the dryads are the ones you need to watch out for).
But, hang on, isn’t this encouraging stereotypes? Where’s the opportunity for individuality? For the equivalent of a ‘jock who writes poetry’ story or a ‘vampire who is actually a vegetarian/vegan’ story?
I say the opportunity is still there. It all depends on the writer. For every writer who locks the high school students into cliques (jock, cheerleader, smart students, bullied students) for the whole story there is a writer who starts off with the cliques and then shakes everything up.
But the community for those stories is the starting point. Will it be a community that supports the character, that stands behind him/her when there are problems, but also allows the character to grow and discover who she/he is? Will it be a community that locks the character into a role and that character spends the entire story fighting that role? Is the community just a background note that helps introduce the character but is never mentioned again?
Thanksgiving for me is a day of both family and community. I stop by my youngest sister’s house for Thanksgiving on my way to attend Chicago TARDIS, a Doctor Who convention. There’s a Doctor Who convention on that weekend because Doctor Who, the television show, first aired November 23, 1963 (the day after Kennedy was shot, but that’s something for another blog).
I’m a science fiction fan, which is one community, but within the science fiction community, I’m also a Doctor Who fan (a smaller community). I’ve been attending science fiction conventions since 1979, but the ones I most enjoy are the Doctor Who conventions. Not only because of the topic (the Doctor) and not only because these are the ones which have a greater concentration of friends I’ve known for years. But because of the combination of those factors, I also feel welcome. I know the language/jargon, I know the history, and I share a love of the program with everyone else who is attending. It's a community I've chosen to join.
In a story, the community the character chooses to join can be just as important as the family he/she was born into or where she/he grew up. What types of communities do you enjoy finding in books?
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I'm LDS but no longer live in Utah. (Well, I haven't for the past twenty years.) There's a lot of us who are writers but people don't know this.
Here's the link:
The difference is immense.
Knowledge of a subject can help flesh out details and create a beleivable world. On the other hand, PASSSION for a subject will pop on the page. It will glitter and spark and touch the reader. Any book, play or film created by an artist with a deep love for the subject will rise far above others of similar theme.
Say, for instance, you work as a bee keeper and you know everything there is to know about bee mating rituals and honey and combs and buzzing? BUT it does not set your heart aglow. Then consider a passion of this bee loving person- perhaps wine. They can wax poetic on the memories of certain bottles or the moments when they sipped a special bottle whiles kissing their love one. Or celebrating a special date. There are deep emotional connections to aspects of this passion. This is the writing that will resonate. It is guided by a muse. The words are not written or type to the page as much as they are poured upon with tears or laughter.
It is the felt aspect of the writer that will pulse on the page. Write what you feel. Always and forever.
Monday, November 22, 2010
and a Fan Page
and My Space
So – please – follow me, friend me, like me, and link me. We are all judged now by our Facebook numbers.
How many of you find all this social networking overwhelming?
I see a lot of nodding heads and raised hands out there.
Oh, I’m not complaining. Or maybe I am.
I do remember the old days, before the internet, when writing was a truly lonely life. I would never want to go back to that. Not in a million years. As the popularity and presence of the internet expanded through the 90s, my career expanded, too. Through listservs, ezines, Inkspot, and Writing World, I connected with a world of writers. It was an exhilarating time – and still is. Although the internet has evolved.
Social networking is a whole different beast. A fast-paced time-eater. I do discipline myself with rules. Absolutely no games. Then I worry friends think I’m stuck up when I don’t respond to their game invitations. But it’s easy to see how I could become obsessed with Farmville, like a drug.
I keep my personal life out of it. Then I worry I might seem too aloof. But I have a stalker – and he lives in my neighborhood. So it’s complicated. I got a permanent restraining order to keep him away from me physically. I know he still stalks me online which has forced me to re-think my whole approach to blogging and social networking. I am much more cautious about sharing my personal activities. I’d have to be insane to do foursquare.
My biggest worry is that I don’t tweet or update my status daily. Does that mean I’m falling behind somehow? But I set aside a certain number of hours each day to write and I won’t give that up. Social networking is still pretty low on my priorities list. To come to terms with my conflicted feelings I’ve decided it’s a whole comfort zone thing. I do what feels comfortable for me.
I enjoy blogging. Social networking is fun. Writing is my true love. Everything else has to fall in line behind that.
Oh wait … someone just sent me a message on Facebook. Did you see that funny video? I should tweet that. And I better check and see how many fans I have today …
Advice from a Caterpillar
From the Styx
Sunday, November 21, 2010
I know writers who can actually work on a new story while calling their main characters "A" and "B" or merely leaving blanks where the names should be. I have never been able to do that, so I don't understand that ability at all. I envy it and at the same time, I can't help being mildly shocked by it at the same time.
My stories always start with a named character. When I write a novel or a story, I usually have a pretty good sense of where it's going, what's going to happen, and whether my protagonist is male or female. But until I have that character's name, I'm in a bit of a bind. And not much gets written.
For me, meeting a character for the first time requires a proper introduction. And the introduction by definition requires a name. When I wrote Saving Jake, I already had the name "Jake" in my head. The rest of the characterization was so easy once I had the name that I usually tell people that Jake rang my doorbell as a fully developed person. I know exactly how he looked (long hair, sad brown eyes), exactly how he dressed (bottle-green trench coat from a second-hand shop and a pair of red high tops), and exactly who he was (sensitive, artistic, and rebellious). Until I had his name, though, the rest of those details were nonexistent.
In the manuscript I am currently sending out, Daniel Rhode appeared on my doorstep, told me I couldn't write the book without him, and proceeded to take over an entire subplot that I didn't know existed until he turned up. Like Jake, Daniel's personality came intact with his name and there was very little I didn't know about him.
I find that when I'm really struggling with a story, there's a pretty good chance I don't have the right name for my main character! As goofy as that sounds, I need to know who it is I'm writing about and until they come up and whisper their names into my ear, I haven't got a clue.
A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but a character with the wrong name will never share his or her story with me no matter how I work at it. And having no name? That's just love's labors lost.
Friday, November 19, 2010
You have the power to help make them famous, but also the power to let the book go nowhere.
No, you heard right. You have the power to make or break a book or author.
“But isn’t just buying the darn thing and reading it enough?”
Unfortunately…not anymore. Not if you want to keep seeing more books by that same author. Buying and reading the novel definitely rank supreme in things a reader can do to support an author or book. Except nowadays things have become so much harder, authors pushed to do so much more to get readers, and with less support from the publishers, that they need all the help they can get more than ever before.
This is where you come in.
“But what can I do? I like to read, sure, but I’m not a marketer.”
Honestly, it’s all pretty easy. The real trick is that the more people that do it, the more it works. And most of these take little to no time at all. (But only do whatever you feel comfortable with, if anything! Of course! You have the POWER!)
1. Tell others! Aka – Word of Mouth. (Super easy. You liked the book or the style the author uses, tell people – like family, friends, enemies, everyone. BAM!)
2. Post a quick one liner on Twitter and/or Facebook if you’ve an account there. (Extra points if you also put in the url to the author’s website or to the book at Amazon or elsewhere!) BAM!
3. A quick liner on “What are you doing/feeling today?” on My Space, Yahoo, Linked-In, other. BAM!
4. If you super loved the book, you can add it to your profile on Facebook. This actually creates a page for the book and shows other people who’ve also added it to their profile. (Probably can add it to other profiles of other online places you have as well.) Here’s one that FB auto created for In the Service of Samurai. BAM!
5. Go to Amazon and give it a star rating. You don’t have to have bought it from there, if you have an account you can rate all the books you own. BAM!
6. If you have an account at Goodreads.com or Librarything.com, add the book to your bookshelf. They give you a chance to give it a star rating too! Double BAM!
7. Have a website? Have a page of links? Add your fave authors on there! Most have a webpage with info and sample chapters, but if they don’t, they surely have a blog or LJ. (I have a large link page on my site with a ton of authors and other fun bits if you want to see what I’m talking about. www.gloriaoliver.com/links.html)
8. Some authors have banners you can use on your different web places if you want. Same thing a lot of shows and movies do. (Haven’t figured out how to do a widget yet!) If the author or book doesn’t have a banner and you’re feeling artistic, make one! Let the author know, too! They might feature you on their website or blog! (I definitely would. Though lately I’ve been on a kick and have been making my own. Check ‘em out! www.gloriaoliver.com/banners.html ) But yours might still be better. Show me! BAM!
9. Are you an artist? Make drawings based on the book. Sell yourself by putting them up at Deviant Art then let the author know! BAM! (More of your stuff the author will flaunt at their website. Seriously!)
10. Want to go the extra mile? Write a review on your blog, Amazon, Goodreads, Librarything, My Space, LiveJournal, wherever! (If you do it at your blog/LJ/MS, make sure to send a quick email to the author with a link. You might get added to their reviews page! (You definitely would on mine!)) And since you went through the trouble, remember to Tweet/Facebook/etc the fact you did a write up and give people the url so they can read your thoughts! BAM! BAM! BAM!
Remember, YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANY OF THIS! Totally up to you. But you won’t be exercising your POWER positively if you don't! :P Honestly though, we’re just happy you’re reading! Like I said before, that is the SUPREME item on things you can do to help authors out. And that’s why you have the power. Make it VIRAL!
If you have any suggestions on other ways to help get the word out about your favorite books or authors, please share! I’m a reader too and try to share the love however I can. :)
Unveiling the Fantastic
P.S. Bonus BAM! Let your reader friends know how they can help by sending them a link to this post! BAM! :P
Thursday, November 18, 2010
When I began the Jewels stories, there were really only to be four main characters but then there were things that needed to be said or learned by the reader that the four main characters didn't know. Thus another character had to have a viewpoint. Never again I told myself. In the Jewels series I think there are finally a total of twelve characters who have a say. Never again I told myself.
Then I began the Henge Betrayed series and needed five viewpoint characters. I thought I could handle this and so I did. The second book began and suddenly I needed a sixth viewpoint. That one crept in. Not so bad. Book 3 was begun and suddenly a seventh character raised her head and screamed, let me in. There are things I have to say and things the readers will need to know before the series ends. No one else can do this. I am now on the fourth and final book of the series and there are nine viewpoint characters. I managed to head several -- somewhere between three and five others who thought they could add to the story. Several of these were removed because some of my characters can read the winds and thus hear the voices of other characters.
Will I ever do this again. I can't promise that since there are several ideas rolling around in my head that might mean another book, not with casts of thousands but probably more than I can imagine at this time.
How about you? Do you find characters creeping into your story and refusing to leave?