Lessons from My Reading

M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Discovering a New Author

The Read ...
(A fantasy book review)
Discovering a new author's fun ... from seeing an interesting cover ... to discovering an interesting blurb that promises a new twist on a familiar theme ... to reading the author bio which informs you the writer has won several awards that you've heard of before.  All in a novel that's "First in a new series!".  I sat back, eager to explore the new world of "Golgotham", a hitherto unknown section of Manhattan left over from the 18th century with operational cell phones -- Nancy A. Collins' Right Hand Magic.

What I ended up with was a nicely pedestrian read ... which wasn't quite a shrug off but is definitely heading for the trade pile.  The main characters were attractive, engaging people ... but they were upstaged by Scratch, the witchy love interest's  familiar.  The main character is a mundane human artist (female).  Problem self-centered rich parents who stomp on toes rather than caused anguish.  The punches pulled from the points of danger.  Maybe worse, boy's mommy came to the rescue ... even if her appearance was reasonably explained.

I don't know what I was expecting ... maybe a little more excitement than just a well crafted book that had checked off all the "good writing" points ... without generating much excitement.  I was left in the hallway when the MC moved to her new digs, a house with true creep potential ... only the chills never happened.

Stuff ...
I don't think I've mention any writer's trade pubs in a long time.  Have just mentioned publishing professionals' blogs or given writer's links.  So, I'll list some reasons I benefited from the January 2011 issue of The Writer.  [I also subscribe to Writer's Digest, but I couldn't find a copy in my pile.  Yeah, I  pile magazines, newspapers, and newsletters on the table at my elbow.]  

The big front page article with the big front cover promo headlined -- interviews on  "What's Hot Now", didn't wow me or even give much in the way of insights.  The blurb indicated "strong, distinctive voices", "confident, convincing writing",  "clearly defined audiences, and "works that defy categorization" were some of the interviewed editors favorite things.  While some writer's may have found a market in the interviews, I got lost in the details.  Maybe it's just sour gripes because none of the editors were particularly interested in weird fantasy.

The article I marked up all over the place and ripped out to save was:  "Writing the First-Person Mystery [Step by Step]".  You say you don't write mysteries?  You only write in omniscient viewpoint?  Sorry, you still can benefit from Brendan Dubois' article.  The sound advice pertains to all genres, ie:  if you don't do it, you won't have a publishable novel.  --  The only problem I found with the article is that the information seemed generic enough to appear in more than one writing how-to.  Don't ask me why I saved it.  Maybe because it was good summary of the basics.

What else does the issue offer?  A couple pep talks, tax info, master's degrees, how to generate sales, and a bunch of other stuff that meets the magazine's goal of offering "advice and inspiration for today's writer". 

Progress ...
I'm caught up ... except for all the things left undone ... at the moment.

Trivia ...
I don't care which ends are dangling.  I'm going to take a vacation.  The baking's done, and tomorrow, I wrap the mail-away presents.  The next day, I'll send cards and letters.  Then, I'm going to watch the second season of "Castle" [I got the DVD set for Xmas.], and I'm going to finish two more Odd Thomas books without having to think about book reviews.  

Oh, I'm going to write.  Something.  I don't know what, but I do know it'll be something old ... or maybe, something new ... but it'll be something to please myself.

So, enjoy a very, merry holiday season ... the whole twelve days!
[More power to you if you can celebrate both
the Latin and the Orthodox versions.]    

I'll see you back in the coming year
which
hopefully, will be better than the last one. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Odd Thoughts from the To-Read Pile

The Read ...
Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas books have been sitting on a dust-gathering to-read pile for months.  [I don't think it's years.]  Don't remember how it happened, but while in the first third of reading another book I liked, I picked up Forever Odd, a thriller/mystery fantasy ... or something ... and finish it instead of the first book.

Did Odd Thomas start out with a clash of action or a hooking sentence?  No.  The opening is a rather gentle description of a desert storm with some back story Koontz doesn't particularly explain.  The storm comes back later to complicate the action ... so it wasn't a useless beginning, but you don't know that when flipping through the first pages.

The story picks up speed on the second page when the ghost of a friend's murdered father appears and guides Odd to the crime scene.  The real villain, a doozy of a psychopath, doesn't appear until about a third of the way into the book ... even though Koontz hints at her existence.  Once, all the players are gathered at a ruined casino, the book creates a great cat and mouse game ... with all the pieces foreshadowed as far as I could see.

So, here's another slow-starting book that builds its world and conflicts brick by brick until the climax gets washed away in the storm.  Masterful.  I may have to read Forever Odd again to study it ... or you may just get me commenting on another book in the series.  Seems I've bought several of them after reading Brother Odd.

Web and Other Stuff ...
Writer Beware linked to a blog by Emily Steel about Marketeers Testing Ads on/in e-books.  Just another example that 1) you lease an e-book and 2) you can't escape corporate cajoling ... enticing ...  luring ... ??? 

On a happier note:  Here's a Holiday present.  Mia Theodoratus playing pieces of her wedding album on TuneCore.  Scroll down for the link if this doesn't take you directly to her.  Yes, I'm the proud mommy.  [If you don't do Facebook, you can Goggle her name and still listen to excepts of her music.]

Wondering about characterization?  Jaime Reed in her blog "Write or Die" has some pointed comments about the place of Bad Boys in our characters' lives.

Progress ...
Have my critiques caught up.  Just have to reread them to get rid of the typos.  I think I wash my hands too much and can't type a thing with them.

Have book-length revisions [Emma and Voices of Ghost Creek] to play with, but I'm dinking around with a short story which "everyone" seems to think is the start of something longer.  Darn it, I'm trying to squeeze it into a short story format ... and I have the words left to do it since additions have increased the length to 2500 words.  Someday, I might even decided on which title to use.  At the moment, I leaning towards:  "The Noticing One", a soft horror story.  Can't wait until my critique group puts me on the hot seat.

Next on my list:  revise a Renna tale.  Hope to have it up before Christmas.

Trivia ...
Everything is slowing down as I slide to the end of the year.
Am happy to retain our middle class status for another year, but see doom down the road.
 
PS...
Must mention Igor Glushkin's artwork on my website.  Why don't you follow the link and flip a few pages.  I like the dark edge he gives my Half-Elven.   

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fast Start, Slow Start.

The Read ...
 Fast or slow, the start of your novel and its speed off the blocks are always a problem.  A breaking point for agent, publisher, and reader.  My latest read has me puzzling this question ... because the start of next year's "novel" is breathing down my neck.   

I bought Cricket McRae's mystery, Lye in Wait, at a local author's reading.  She read such a vivid characterization of an interfering mother getting her way within the context of a brother's mysterious suicide that I thought she was worth buying a trade paperback for ... the first in the series.  Then, I read the first chapter and wondered if I'd lost my mind.

Oh, the book started great.  Opening sentence:  "That Thursday morning had been going so well until I found the local handyman dead on my workroom floor."  

A wonderfully simple opening line that'd warm the cockles of any critics heart.  But, the character turned out to be something of a dip.  In the first chapter, she committed two stupidities the likes of which'd get any teen in a horror movie killed ... or at least, lose a finger when she put it in an unknown substance by a dead body.

Since McRae didn't strike out with a third goof-up ... and then, used the protagonist's bad decisions as a point of humor in the book ... I kept reading and was rewarded with a neat, intricate plot that illustrated that having a family can be dangerous to your health.

Web and Other Stuff ...
Tamela Burhke at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer's asks a question I often ask myself:  basically Why blog?One of the first things she mentions is what a time-sink it is.  Many of her comments seem to apply to non-fiction writers more than fiction ones.  Still, you should make note of her comments.  Oh, I've followed the blog too so I can read the next installment in the discussion.

Overwhelmed by all the tweets on Twitter?  Roni Lauren over at *Fiction Groupie* has a simple way to organize your Twitter "follows"?  -- "Authors on Twitter".  You might go over and take a look.

Did you catch the Thursday (12/9) front page article on e-books in the New York Times?  Romance readers seem to be buying the most e-books.  (Link courtesy of the AW Water Cooler.)   Seems like they don't have the courage to show the semi-salacious print covers in public.  ...  Don't quite understand it, but then, I've always thought Favio something of a turn-off.  Maybe shy away for displaying erotica?

One more media networking thing.  David Wisehart is doing a promotion experiment on Twitter -- #Sample Sunday.  Visit his blog, Kindle Author, to get the details.  Published, work-in-progress, short stories -- the categories are open.  This is listed as an experiment on AW Water Cooler.

Progress ...
If cleaning is progress, I'm making it.  So far, it's only manuscripts ... but I have loads of paper piling up again that needs to be sorted and filed and recycled in the printer.  Now ... if only some of the places where I have long standing submissions would start cleaning up their files.

Guess, I just as soon have a rejection after three months as let a submission continue to hang in the nether regions.

Trivia ...
The rest of the house needs sorting and dumping and cleaning too.  Part of it gets done today and tomorrow.  A friend who's allergic to cats is coming to visit.
 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Let the Series Begin ... and the Fun

The Read ...
Series hooks can be difficult.  Picked up the Eqyptian Rick Riordan, but it didn't hook me ... even after giving the book a couple tries.  The first book of his "The Heros of Olympus" series, The Lost Hero, did ... in spite of all the personal complictions draining my time.  So, what was the difference?  Same best selling author.  Same nimble writing.  What?

I think it, for me, it was the material.  The Greek/Roman gods are so human ... and, with so many of them, they present all sorts of complications.  In this series, Riordan is going to explore the conflicts inherent in the Greek and Roman interpretations of basically the same spiritual world ... and the conflict within the good guys ... and the bad guys are beautifully set up with high stakes for the new major heros.  [The previous heros/demigods make cameo appearances which help the plot along.] 

I love conflicted characters.  Don't you?  ...  Now if only I could write them.

Web and Other Stuff, Mostly Complications ...
I'm getting back on track.  My friend's still in the hospital, my back still hurts from the baking, and I manged to delete all the work I did on my website last week.  Still, I think I've taken a couple steps forward.  I'll probably never go back and read the blogs I missed.  Sorry, but I've got to cut my losses somewhere.  [Except last night ... my writing time got cannibalized ... my friend had an over-reaction to her medication and time-consuming hell flared all over my evening.  Even was late in getting to Castle.]

To all who display their Christmas trees and decorations on their blogs.  Thanks.  I like looking at colored lights ... but we put balls and decades-old candy canes on the rosemary bush ... and call it Christmas.  I did buy my Christmas presents:  a big box of See's chocolates which reminds me of my mom every time I take one and five CDs, which I normally don't buy because they cost too much.  The old man got his presents too -- two art prints and frames.

Sorry, didn't really get to gather web links.  When in a time crunch, that's the first thing I drop.  What do you do when your plate overflows?

Progress ...
Revised a short story from my files for my critique group.  Only sent it out to two places and figured it needed expansion after I got a some personal comments.  So, it sat.  

Gave it an additional 400 words and threw it to the wolves.  Next week, I'll learn what they think.

Then, there's the )&*^$&) website.  Spent all of last week adding and polishing and started feeling real pleased with myself ... to the point I was thinking I might even be learning something about the website building thing.  

Then, I decided to reformat the Renna's Tales linking page since I had the new artwork.  --  Ta Dah.  I lost it all ... including the proper navigation links and meta tags. But, I have learned something about GoDaddy's Website builder.  I got most of it, except for the navigation links, up last night. 

Hey, I didn't want to write anyway ... did I?  Don't think I could have with all the calls about my friend's critical condition.  [Imagine trying to answer the phone with cookie dough all over your hands!]

Trivia ...
The cookie part of the Christmas operation is done ... unless I'm nice and make extras for the kids.
 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why Write?

Missed my Friday blog deadline because my life
-- and the stupid website -- 
kept getting in the way of my writing.  

I'm reading a good book, but only at two or three chapters a sit.  I gave up on the baking a couple days because  my hands and hip hurt.  I'm behind on my critiques.  I'm a good three days behind in my blog reading.  Who knows when I'll get my next critique submission revised.  The whole mess's enough to make me wonder why I even try to write.   

Then, last week, E. J. Wesley asked:   
How do you measure success?
The question has stuck with me since I read it ... maybe because I've finally sold a couple things.

I'll ask:  Why bother writing ... especially, if you collect nothing but rejections "letters"?

What makes the time writing worth while to you?

For me, there's a certain amount of arrogance in thinking I can keep a bunch of characters on the straight and narrow of the plot line -- when I can't even start my "whine" in the right blog. 

I know why I write.  The precedent started with an imaginary playmate who appeared before I was three years old.  By the time I was four, I can remember going on adventures with Jerome [swinging like Tarzan from the neighbor's weeping willow branches] ... but not the adventures.  

In sixth grade, my teacher revealed the secret that stories were written ... and didn't appear miraculously in bound paper.  I picked up the bad habit of writing stories in junior high and haven't stopped since.  It's an itch that needs to be scratched.

No writing ... and I spend too much time day dreaming about what would happen if maybe that "strident lady" marching down the aisle of the store met up with a demon in the parking lot.  Somewhere along the line I learned how to function at the mundane level while jumping into flights of fancy --  though I suspect doing so might prove dangerous.

Why did I keep writing fiction for some six years without any positive feedback except for a few requests for partials which ended up "not being for me"?  Again, writing is a bad habit accompanied by an itch that needs to be scratched.

More important, my stories interest me.  I care about my characters.  They surprise me.  They sometimes make me laugh ... event though I don't write humor any more. 

Why do I write?  The results amuse me more than frustrate me.

[Maybe next week, I'll have time to write a more normal blog ...
before I go on Christmas vacation.]




Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Killing Your Villains

The Read...
Villains have a bad habit of sneaking back into the story line after they have been killed, especially in series.  Patricia Briggs' Wolfbane gives us a great example of this plot element, one that greatly increased the tension about half-way through the book -- since the main characters were still seeking answers but you, the reader, had been given enough clues to know a disaster could be in the making.  About two-thirds of the way done, the characters not only knew the major villain had found a way to return from death ... but he was "haunting" the secondary semi-villain who had the power to see that the main characters were killed for "breaking the rules".

Brigg's gives a writer a lesson in introducing several possible villains to increase the tension in the story line.  After all, isn't tension the means of keeping the reader hooked?  This book is again on the NYT Best Seller List ... and deserves to be ... even if it's a relatively light read.

I think I like Briggs because of her light touch -- which goes a little ways towards explaining why I've reviewed so many of her books.  --  Also, the Mercy Thompson books are set in the eastern corner of Washington/Oregon where I've spent many a lunch time while traveling to the Cascades.

Web Links and Comments ...
Just got home from the seasonal shopping and decided to kill time before cooking dinner by reading blogs.  

Kevin Hearne's blog, "Write More" sat at the top of the blog roll.  It's a blog you need to read if you think you've got it made ... if your revisions on your novel are done ... if you got an agent ... if you've published a couple books.  --  From what I've read, I think there are fewer secure author perches than there are bird perches on our feeder.

Guess I can't run away from querying agents.  Want to clarify your thoughts on the agent-finding-thing, Kaitlen Ward at YA Highway has an untitled post giving lots of insights into the process of finding an agent.   --  Yeah, I'm ambivalent about the process ... but I also think a good agent is necessary if you want an enduring career as an author.

Christmas is chewing through my writing time, but I did want to mention something  --  in case the New York Times puts their Science News on the web.  Today's section has an article explaining why the USA gets so little health care for money spent.  You do know that US citizens spend more on health care than any of the other 200-some countries of the world?  I get mad every time I realize we have now sunk to 49th in delivery of health care on that list.  That means a fourth of the countries in the world get better health care for less money.  --  Okay.  The cheapskate's rant's done.

Progress ...
I really recommend you join a local writer's group if your area has one.  Went to the Northern Colorado Writers' coffee this morning -- another reason why I'm behind.  But it was worth it.  I put a question on the table about the parts of a writer's website they wanted to read most -- to those attending.  Several people said at once: the author's bio.  

So, if you're contemplating a writer's website ... remember that tidbit.  I've gotten it from other people as well.  --  Result?  I expanded my bio and put in a link to this blog.

As for writing, I'm critiquing more than writing.  But, I did get my Dark Solstice manuscript edited again.  Ended up making about five to ten changes a chapter ... mostly tightening verbs.  Why use flabby verbs, even if they aren't passive, when English gives you so many pin-pointing choices?

Trivia ...
The Christmas baking is upon me ... and my hips ache.  Good thing I only have two more batches of cookies and the baklava to go.  [My Christmas shopping's done ... and I managed to do it all locally!!!]

Friday, November 26, 2010

Series Character Need to Change

Happy Survival Day
Must admit we are going shopping ... even out to a restaurant for lunch.  We stuffed at my daughter's and only have pies as leftovers ... since I refused take-homes on ham since we ate it on the days preceding to the big overeating day.  Why go shopping?  We need to stock the larder for the coming week.

The Read ...
While the holidays don't change much for us, I'm thankful good series characters do change over time.  It keeps you interested, in reading ... to find out what's going on in someone's shared world.

Finally got to Karen Marie Moning's Dreamfever ... after it sat on the table for over a week in the hopes it wouldn't get lost in the dreaded to-read piles.  Moning didn't disappoint.  MacKayla was left in thrall of the Unseelie Fae as a sex slave in the last book.  

In Dreamfever, she is rescued from the Fae ... then, she had to be rescued by her nemesis who disagrees on how the Fae (Seelie and Unseelie) should be fought ... then, she had to be rescued from the nemesis ... then, she had to be rescued from her enthrallment with sex, something never having been know to happen ...  All this before the first 100 pages are read.

In short, Mac is no longer the picture of gentle Georgia womanhood ... Rainbow Mac of the long nails and groomed legs has become Black Mac.  The fight to save the crumbling world from all Fae is off and running ... before another third of the world's population is killed.  

Mac continues to make the semi-right decisions... spats with Barrons ... fights to correct her mistakes ... and Moning leaves Dreamfever hanging on a cliff as steep as the previous' book's.

Frankly, I wonder why I didn't notice the book on the New York Times Bestseller list.  If I remember right, this book has more twists than the first two. 

Web Links and Other Comments ...
Have a work you're editing rather than revising?  If you want to know how it might survive a slush pile, Roni Loren over at *Fiction Groupie* is offering a five pages or query critique to old and new readers of her blog: "Win a Critique".   The deadline is Sunday, so hopefully I'll get my blog up this afternoon.  

On social networking:  Jason Pinter, author and agent at Waxman Literary Agency, writes about the "10 Commandments of Social Networking for Writers". Lots of good advice there ... now, if only I can decide what to do with my Facebook and Twitter pages.  Decisions.  Decisions.  [I made the easy one and bookmarked the page.]

As I jump around the web, I see a lot of complaints about e-publishing pricing.  Brenna Lyons, from EPIC [the Electronic Publishing Internet Coalition] has a guest blog at "The Blood Red Pencil" on the business costs of e-publishing:  "But It's Just a Reprint".  My two cents?  Time always costs something.

Progress ...
I must be making some progress on my writing journey ... after all, didn't I just make another sale?  [Night for the Gargoyles by Spectra Magazine]  ...  Thing is, the story was written in 2008.  

The same question might be asked about Taking Vengeance [WolfSinger Publications] which was written in 2004 when I had this image of Mariah standing on a cliff face looking over the eastern ocean with a gale blowing her unbraided hair.  Then, her near-death daughter mindspeaks to her from the other coast. 

Thing is -- I can't remember spending that much time revising them.  I think I just found a market that would accept them ... after normal editing.  --  Hits self up the side of the head so I remember how important knowing your markets are ... even if I want to whine about writing what I want to write.

I have a couple other flash fiction pieces written in 2008 on submissions.  The stories have always been bridesmaids: they made the first cut, but ultimately weren't bought.  Wonder what will happen with them next year.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Revisiting Old Friends: Silver on the Tree

The Read...
Picked up Susan Cooper's Silver on the Tree of the Dark is Rising series.  All part of my return to writing middle grade, I guess, but her books are intricate enough that adults can enjoy them for their own sakes ... or maybe my brain just works on a more infantile level than most.  

Will, the Drew kids, and Bran go up against the greatest evil threatening to enslave the world ... and win with surprisingly little violence and little help from the "Merlin" incarnations.  Spent about a half hour of looking for examples of where Cooper created tension ... but the passages were too long for me to feel comfortable quoting.  So, I'll cop out and say ... if you want to see how a master puts her characters in harms way without resorting to blood flying all over the place.  Buy the book, a yellow highlighter, and set too.

Hate to say this people, but I think my unconscious mind is telling me to go back and write middle grade.  Which makes me wonder how you or any writer decided what reading level to write at.

Web and Other Good Stuff...
 If I'm ever a success as an author (someone's whose fiction is published by somebody else), you can blame 1st Turning Point.  The good information just keeps pouring from the site.  This time of special note is Jolene James blog:  Free and Low Cost Promotion Websites.  Of course, I bookmarked it. 

And, Stacia Kane writes about Copyrights and stuff at "How Publishing Works".   I read her opinions and general good sense a lot at Absolute Write Water Cooler.  [Thanks to Kevin Hearne for this info.] 

Then, there's the problem that concerns me at the moment.  Is it MG or YA?  Mary Kole of the Andrea Brown Agency give us a good litmus test on her recent kidlit.com blog. 

I don't know how Patti Struble manages to blog so much about while she's NaNo-ing, but she has a great blog about wrapping up your story --  The End of the Line.  Maybe she's ready to chuck it all in and slow the pace?

So, what could be better, once you get an end on your manuscript, than selling it ... hopefully for money.  Okay, I've contracts on the mind since I spent over an hour at Office Depot trying to get a fax through to Britain with my Spectra contract.  I'm in good company.  The Writer Beware Blog has a good post on understanding what your contract means, written by Victoria Strauss.  While it focuses on packaging, it still has lots of good advice.  I liked the title:  Notes from the Underbelly of Publishing.  If that isn't a warning, I don't know what is.

Progress...
Maybe selling "Taking Vengeance" wasn't such a fluke, after all.  Just made another sale to Spectra Magazine, a British science fiction e-magazine.  I even have a printout of the contract at my right elbow, sitting on top of the dictionary.  The piece may be called "Night for the Gargoyles" and was the short story beginnings of my novel length manuscript started in 2008, "There Be Demons".  

Does that mean a change in my decision to give up on short stories?  I doubt it ... because I just much more comfortable in writing longer lengths.  

Don't know if it counts as progress, but this blog has had over 2000 readers/reads since It started in August 2009.  Has it really been that long?  I never thought I could keep this up for more than a couple months.  Guess I really do have a big mouth.

Trivia ...
Got a floor show while eating dinner the other day.  A fox trotted down the street, took a piss in a neighbor's yard, and trotted away, his white-tipped tail swishing.  Glad he refrained from our yard.  We get enough lingering dogs as it is.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Telling a Story Can be Good

The Read ...
Finished James D. Doss' The Widow's Revenge.  I took a little time getting used to the change in the Charlie Moon series when Doss turned to the omniscient story-telling mode.  Still, the book remains an intricate, fast-paced read ...  with plenty of chuckles and laughs among the gruesome events.

From:
"Suspended high in the southern sky, the silvery satellite pulls a diaphanous cloud veil over her naked, pockmarked face."

To:
"Here endeth the lurid account."

the book gives the reader plenty of chuckles and laughs as the plot unfolds.  I wonder if Doss' books are featured in the stores on the Southern Ute reservation.

I don't think I'd get away with the opening above, but I'm sure Doss' many fans read straight through the prologuey first chapter to get to the meat of the story.

Web and Other Good Stuff ...
For some reason I've always ignored the gender bias stuff.  My attitude:  So if everyone tries to shove you to the back burner, ignore them and do what you want.  So, I've been rather perplexed by the recent fuss about gender bias in the publishing world.  Jeri Westerson, a mystery writer, makes some comments on the recent bruhahah in her blog:  Female vs Male Authors.

Before you're discriminated against, you have to write something.  If you needs a push to jump start your imagination, N. R. Williams runs an improvisation blog every Wednesday.  My mind always goes blank when I read the scenario, but maybe your mind is better oiled.

Bryce Elliot also regularly gives interesting writing prompt on his blog:  One Writer's Mind.
There's another reason to visit his blog -- he usually has something interesting to say.  Truth in plug:  He gave me a writing award, but I can never figure how to transfer the pictures.  [I'm not kidding when I call myself a computer klutz.]

Then, when you've written something and gotten it published, there's the problem of getting it on bookstore bookshelves.  Karen Dodd writes on 1st Turning Point above What a Bookseller Wants.  She's writing about self-published books ... but I thought her comments also applied to books published by small presses.

Progress...
Hey, I actually made some ... though not the progress I thought.  I'm giving up on writing short stories as being too much pain to bother with.  I'm comfortable writing longer pieces and that's what I'll do.  Hurray for the comfort zone!

Trivia ...
We're still laughing about a recent article on China's class problems.  The son of an official killed a girl from the country while driving drunk.  As far as we could tell.  He's still running free.  I think it's kind of nice to know that no matter how the trappings change, human beings behave in much the same ways. --  Wealth and rank have their privileges.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Humor in Writing

The Read ...
Wish I could do humor in my writing.  James D. Doss has no problem as he tells his tales of the mysteries that confront Charlie Moon, his Southern Ute part-time investigator.  [Disclosure:  Daisy Perika, his aunt, is one of my main women though I can only aspire to being so cantankerous.]  Book: The Widow's Revenge.

Doss does a good job of using humor to make the gruesome go down -- which in this case include murder, mayhem, and cannibalism in the form of barbecued "long pig".  In his recent books, he also takes on more and more the role of storyteller which also fits in well with his Southern Ute focus.

Daisey Perika doesn't disappoint either.  Imagine a scene when a dog doesn't leave a pickup when Daisey wants him to with: "No he don't, the old tick-mattress is just playing coy.  Wants me to sweet-talk him.  Daisy pointed her walking stick at the red pickup.  "Go on out there and lower that tail gate.  Me'n Lassie's ugly cousin wil be along directly."
...

"As soon as Sarah had turned her back, Daisy nudge the hound more urgently.  The precise location of her prodding was that tender orifice until the base of his tail."


Web and Other Good Stuff ...
Is it time to gather book reviews for your book yet?  K. L. Brady journals about gathering book reviews for her book [indie published The Bum Magnet] on her blog:  Indie Publishing on the Cheap.  Karla gives some good pointers on crafting letters ... which may help me some day ... if the reviewers'll review novelettes.  -- [Also, should mention she's giving a free copy to promote her book on Goodreads too ... which makes her a savvy marketer in my opinion.]

Getting an agent is a serious mile stone getting your writing published.  Of course, rejection letters strew the road.  Scott Hoffman of the Folio Literary Agency gives us wannabe authors some pointers on interpreting the kinds of rejection letters: On Making Sense of Rejection Letters.   The guest  appears on Chuck Sambucchino's "Guide to Literary Agents".  --  We won't talk about what kinds of rejection letters I get.

Progress ...
This has been a rushed week.  First, I had to finish a short story while scratching my scalp bloody.  Then, I had to get caught up on my critiques because I pushed them to the last minute.  Then, I got the finished home page illustration from my artist.  You can take a peek by going to my site:  Chronicles of the Half-Elven.        

Trivia ...
Just trying to keep things running smoothly 
&
not succeeding very well.
 

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Mystery: Why Lukewarm?

The Read ...
It bothers me when a book leaves me lukewarm ... and not just because I'm a cheapskate.  Jeri Westerson's medieval mystery Veil of Lies did just that.  Oh, the characters are well drawn, even interesting, and the closed room mystery stands up well.  But ...

I decided I'd read too much Zoe Oldenbourg ... as will as Edith Pargeter/Ellis Peters (Brother Cadfael), Michael Jenks, and many others who create richer stages for their characters.  Westerson's style strikes me as too modern for her subject matter.  What works for Reacher doesn't necessarily work for Crispon.  That said, I'll probably buy the others in the series.

Yeah, I started reading about medieval times quite early -- like in the sixth grade when I shocked the head librarian when I returned Anya Seton's Katherine about the John of Guant's (the Duke of Lancaster just prior to the War of the Roses) mistress and third wife.

Web and Other Good Stuff ...
Bet lots of writers are happy Nathan Bransford still blogs even though he stopped being an agent.  At the moment, he's writing a series of blogs on Harry Potter and the writerly world, one of which was "Five Writing Tips."

Let's take a dose of optimism and assume we got an agent who has a publisher on the hook.  If you don't and wonder if you should wait for an agent's representation before you publish, you might want to read Rachelle Gardner's blog on what an agent does.  Click here for Contract Pointers.

Author, Brigid Kemmerer has a couple blogs on "Revisions Made Easy" which struck me as helpful.  Loved it when she said "The girl was running through the park" wasn't passive voice.  Can you guess which word she said you should watch for instead of a "to be form"?

Are you dreaming of an e-Christmas?  The Consumer Reports, a service that vets various products, has a short run down on buying a e-reader.  --  Yeah.  I'm looking, but there are too many basic problems remaining for me to buy one ... including not having WiFi.

Last but not least, I'd like to extend sympathy to Kim Mullican who is in the Throes of Revision.  At least, I don't have the jaws of Janet Reid chewing up my pitiful queries.  [Mostly, because she doesn't represent what I write.  I, of course, am among the multitudes would love to have her as an agent.  --  Have you even noticed how much Janet Reid promotes her author's on her blog.

Progress ...
"What's that?" she asks.   Need I say more?  I'm behind in everything ... including critiques.

One thing ... from now on, I think I'll be talking about my Half-Elven on the Half-Elven blog.  Did send Dark Solstice out to an e-publisher after I finished the edits, but I'm still hitting my head against the next Renna tale.

Trivia ...
Between snow storms at the moment and got the cat TV installed, but the birds haven't found the feeder yet.  As for the weather, looks like the storms are going to roll across the mountains rather frequently [for the moment, at least].
Publish Post

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What if a Favorite Character Dies?

The Read ...
Snuggled down with Charlaine Harris' Grave Secret, a mystery series about Harper Connelly who is able to sense what caused someone's death.  The focus of this volume in the series is Harper and Tolliver's mixed up, dysfunctional family.  On a return to Texas to visit their younger half-sisters who have been adopted by relatives, all the pieces of back story come together to explain the disappearance of their older sister/step-sister.  

Yeah.  It was a nice enjoyable ride with well developed characters, good pacing, and bodies dropping at regular intervals.  Harris even had the gumption to kill off sympathetic characters.  What do you expect from a master author?

Then, the book came down to its last chapters.  Harris was tieing up loose ends right and left, leaving me with a feeling of dread.  Why?  Harris stopped the series of another of her characters I liked, Lucy Bard, because she had nothing more to say about her.  My summation:  Bard would be just another "detective" going through the motions of solving a crime.  

Maybe that's the difference between a so-so series and a brilliant one.  The character continues to grow.  [Comment makes me think back to 61 hours, and the shift in Reacher's attitude.]

Anyway, my dismay built up as loose end and loose end disappeared.  I was sure once Harper solved the mystery of her sister's disappearance there wouldn't be another book in the series.  Then, the ending:
    "We'll hit the road again soon.  After all, we have to make some money.
    And they're all out there waiting for me.  All they want is to be found."

I'm rubbing my hands in anticipation.

Web & Other Good Stuff ...
Rejection getting you down?  Victoria Strauss of the "Writer Beware" blog has a blog up on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America:  "Getting Published is Not a Crap Shoot".  The first comment is a hoot:  "So what is a marketable book, exactly?"

Then, Dr. Mercola, a nutritionist, wrote a article using data from Organic Authority to tell me I shouldn't be eating fast-food chicken nuggets.  Seems they're only half chicken ... the rest is breading, fat, and chemicals.  [You can check out "What Chicken Not to Eat" is you want to learn more.] --  Sometimes, being a cheapskate is healthful.  I also think there's a writing lesson in there somewhere.

Progress ...
Have all my revisions of Dark Solstice done -- manuscript, query, synopsis, etc.  I should have had it beta read, but all my people are busy ... and I really have all the critiques I can handle at the moment.  So, I'm going to wing it and submit.  Today.  

Just hope maybe I'll find someone who likes high fantasy and is willing to look at the Half-Elven struggling to survive.  Just my luck, Dark Solstice will land in a committee with different expectations of fantasy.  --  What was that about publishing being a crap shoot?

Then, I have to go over the new artwork contract from the new artist.  [Maybe the process is ending.]

Better yet, I got over the hump on my Renna Tale:  A Question of Tithes.

It's not often I get to bask. 

Trivia ...
They say winter's coming today ... or rather by tonight, and I'm enjoying the warm sunshine for the moment.  The "truth-in-weather" is peeking over the hogback so it's bright in the east and grey in the west...   And, the dumb apricot still hasn't dropped all it's leaves.    

Friday, November 5, 2010

Good Writer Links

The Read ...
Was deep into Ilona Andrews' second Edge novel Bayou Moon ... where one of the bad guys was lying in wait for the MC ... when I picked up Charlaine Harris' new Harper Connelly mystery, Grave Secret.

Granted the book is long with much more than enough description to convey character, setting, and action than needed (IMHO) ... still the book doesn't deserve to be put back in the to read pile.  The setting stands out from the run-of-the-mill paranormals.  The characters are well defined.  The creatures/inhabitants are not all Celtic fae, werewolves, and vampires -- actually they aren't in the book at all ... though magic  workers abound.  I'll be going back to it ... after I read the four or five other books I just bought.

If you are looking for a good example of how backstory and world building can be done without an info dump, the book is worth picking up.

Web and Other Stuff ...
In the process of setting up some priorities, I decided to make my second post of the week mostly about links.  These are highly selective as to what has interested me most about what I've read.  Either they have helped me with some problem I'm facing ... or they amused me.

So, I'll start out with a NaNoWriMo blog Let the Writers Begin.  This comes from Jennifer Duddy Gill at "From the Mixed-Up Files", a middle-grade writers blog where she tells us the tale of students who are writing novels for NaNo month.  Click the link to see how young the aspiring novelists are.  Maybe there's hope for the publishing world.

Then, for those who often wonder why they blog [like me], Milo James Fowler gives some encouragement in his blog Anniversary for "in medias res".  [While I don't have his publishing record (you have to submit), this blog has helped me clarify my thoughts.]

Then,  there's that idea thing:  What the heck am I going to write about?  Steve Tremp gives us an interesting take on using news items to create a novel for a guest blog on mystery author Pat Stoltey's blog:  My Journey as a Writer.

Back to Promotion of what you write.  One of my favorite sites, 1st Turning Point, has author Michael W. Davis rating promotion venues:  Comparison of Promotion Avenues.   Click to find out what worked best for him.  [I bookmarked this for future reference.  Even though I'm a grump, I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think one of my novel manuscripts might actually get published someday.] 

Then, there are the uncommon agent links.
When I first sort of got serious about writing, I bookmarked a lot of agent websites.  Some of the agents have quit blogging ... or their wisdom has been absorbed in a combined blog.  Still, I thought I'd go back as see what I have looked at since I started my blog roll for my mutterings.

If you are thinking of doing the cross-over thing with romance, the Ellora Caves [publisher] crew offers a "Romance Recipe for Success" on their Redlines and Deadlines blog.

Then, for the heck of it:  Rachel at Dystel and Goderich Literary Management gives all of us a reason to be glad we don't have to commute in New York City in "My Life Would Make a Boring Memoir".

Progress ...
My critiques are caught up.  The critiques given are sitting in folders for me to work on them later.  The problem of having four manuscripts ready for revision.

Have decided to concentrate on revising Dark Solstice yet again.  Only as soon as I made the decision my days went kafluzzie and I haven't gotten back to it.  I've also got the free short story lanquishing in the wings.  We won't talk about the dragging artwork.

Trivia ...
Spent another night ... searching for artists.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Deciding What to Write or Not-to-Write

The Read ...
Prologues seem to be out of favor.  The last two books I started off with two different characters than the main ones, both calling themselves chapter 1.  One didn't work.  The other did:  Aaron Elkin's Skull Duggery.  Elkins mysteries are more intellectual than gut-wrenching, but his characters pull you into the story for an enjoyable read while you puzzle out the connections to the clues he gives in abundance. 

He also makes your lips twitch frequently.  If you know the background, you often catch a wry little observation buried deep in the action.  For example, the setting for the story is Mexico more or less before the drug cartel mess, but Elkins several allusions to police corruption during the course of the story.

The opening of chapter 8 presents a good case example of a master writer setting the scene and transitioning into the action.  The first three paragraphs take up almost a full page describing the deteriorating elegance of a regional government building.  Then, Elkins yanks you back into the story with his transition:

"All this Gideon (mc) had to take in on the fly as he and the heavily perspiring Sandoval walked rapidly --  trotted, in the smaller Sandoval's case -- over the brick-paved front plaza and up the two flights of wide, curving stone steps to the entrance."

Web and Other Stuff ...
Since promoting your book(s) is a necessity after you're published, I thought I'd mention Maria Zannini's guest blog.  You can link to it from Tales of Otherworlds.  My position is every writer needs quickie promo tips whether they are published or not.

Even more important:  Being aware of how your body is responding to the hours you spend in front of the computer screens, especially if you're participating in NaNoMo or whatever they call it.  [Writer's Living Hell?].  Whatever, Sevvy of Fictionmagoria had a blog dedicated to Writerly Injuries.

With all this e-platform building running around the web, it behooves writers to know as much as possible about e-publishing.  Eric at Pimp My Novel   has a nice blog summarizing the history of e-books and how to make the trend work for you.

Agent Suzie Townsend recently blogged on the dastardly synopsis.  Most people obsess out on queries and pitches ... but synopsizes have their place in the marketing effort too.  Actually, she boils the process down to worthwhile fine point. 

My take?  Doing a synopsis might even  help you stay focus when you revise.

There was another blog about first lines.  Started with the first line of the book ... and then continued with the first lines of each chapter.  The hooks were sharp and deep enough to draw you into the story even if it was way past your bedtime ... but when I went back, I couldn't find the blog.  Wouldn't mention it, but I've been going back to the beginnings of my chapters and cringing.

Progress ...
Okay.  Writer's have ideas.  Only problem.  You have to decide what to do with those ideas.  For the last several years, I've had a nice easy pattern.  The first six months of the year, I wrote/drafted/created.  The last six months I revised.  Seemed to work.  I had four manuscripts with actual endings, critiqued, and ready for beta reading.  It was a pattern that worked well with the Christmas baking ... and my inclination to goof off.  This presents a couple problems.

One problem is what to do with those four manuscripts.  One is adult fantasy (the Half-Elven) and the others are tween/middle grade.  Worse the drafting season will soon be upon me, and I have three, maybe four ideas nagging me to be written ... at my slow pace of about 500 words a day.

Worser still ... I'm now writing new stuff [as I build my pretend platform].  Short stories, no less, of which I'm absolutely incompetent at.  I can never seem to narrow down to the point of action.  There are all those events that happened before ... and the events that happened afterwards.

My decision?  I must change the way I set my priorities.  Bummer.  Of course, I could always go back and write to amuse myself ... but that feels defeatist.  So, here I sit stewing.

Trivia ...
I think we are the only people in the block who rake up our leaves ... rather than letting them blow to Nebraska.  We use them to blanket the carrots, daikon, and turnips over the winter.  By spring, they're almost compost and get dug into the ground to grow other vegies.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More Good Writer Web Links

The Read ...
There really isn't one this posting.  I'm caught up in reading a laugh-out-loud-sometimes, non-fiction book --  The Anglo Files by Sarah Lyall, a transplanted American who had to adjust to living without central heating among other things.  If you ever wondered about English foibles or about their Parliament, you might give this book a peak.

The book makes me glad we lived in Wales when on sabbatical and not England proper ... though I must say English folklorists are really quite pleasant and don't want to know what your paternal grandparents' did for a living.

Web and Other Stuff ...
Some promotion ideas, thanks to E. J. Wesley's blog, The Open Vein -- Trailer Talk:  Book Trailer Reviews.  Both examples appear to be relatively inexpensive to produce.  I bookmarked it for reference ... in case I ever have something to sell. 

[Come on artist.  Actually, my daughter is going to give me a promotional trailer for Christmas.   Only problem: I've got to write something to make it worthwhile.  Oh, she's also going to compose the music since she's a composer and harpist.  Yeah.  She's part of the family fantasy readers.]

After some thought, I decided to add this link from Jessica Faust, an agent (who doesn't represent what I write) on Learning from Your Reading.  Guess I'm on the right track even though I don't seem to have learned much.   She and her commentators do seem to make a bigger production of it than I do.

Then, 1st Turning Point came up with another useful promotion discussion by Rowena Cherry about "To Freebie or Not to Freebie".  If you're so inclined, she has a couple suggestions on protecting the stories you give away free.  Since I'm doing the freebie-bit with Renna's Tales, the article interested me greatly, especially the comments about freebies given out by newbie writers.  --   An after thought:  the site reviews both trailers and websites if you want to get some insight on what works and doesn't.

[Someday when I get my pictures up, I hope to have my website critiqued.  If I'm mean, I'll have the trailer critiqued too ... if they'd do two for one writer.]

Last but not least, Patti Struble at The Writer's Bump gives us a list of idea generators on her second blog about NaNoMo --  Taking Your Meds.  You might want to look and bookmark them in case your idea reservoir runs dry.
Progress ...
Trying to get my writing schedule reworked.  Thought I could write after the nightly news.  Turns out I can revise, but can't create.  My brain stutters.  Back to the drawing board with more sitting in front of the computer and ... hopefully ... some accomplishments besides winning at Solitaire.

Trivia ...
The old man assures me the zucchini is dead ... really and truly dead after three months (120 days) of the stuff.  I can't believe I actually know someone who buys the stuff in winter after growing it all summer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Writing Success x 2

The Read ...
Writing success is rewarded a second way from getting your back list re-published.  You get your short stories reprinted ... by "traditional" publishers.  Got reminded about this aspect when I dug into the pile of unread books I bought last summer.  Had great fun reading a bunch of short stories by Leigh Brackett and Mercedes Lackey.

For a writer, short story collections help you see how a writer has developed ... provided they didn't rewrite every story in the collection.  The Lackey collection, Fiddler Fair, was published in 1998 and contains some of her earlier ... maybe as far back as when she wrote on a 286 computer while holding down a full-time job with an airlines. 

A comment from Lackey's introduction in case you ever wonder about finding ideas. -- "As for finding ideas, I can only say that finding them is easy; they come all the time.  Deciding which ones are worth developing is the difficult part."

Leigh Brackett has been one of my favorite authors since I discovered her John Stark novels -- written long before the space program destroyed our fantasies about the solar system being habitable without massive technological intervention.  Whatever, I still enjoy the stories even though the space program proved them impossible.

The introduction to The Best of Leigh Brackett written by her husband, Edmond Hamilton, gives an insight on how writing hasn't changed.  "We found, when we first began working together, that we had quite different ways of doing a story.  I was used to writing a synopsis of the plot first, and then working from that.  To my astonishment, when Leigh was working on a story and I asked her, 'Where is your plot?' she answered, 'There isn't any ... I just start writing the first page and let it grow.'"

And that was in the days of typewriters!  I wonder what her revisions looked like. 

[I wrote then too (... and published some non-fiction).  I can remember the stapled re-write  pages, some 5 inches long and other 24+ inches long ... and some typewritten and other pieces in pen on binder paper.  For variety, I taped pieces together into a similar mess.] 

Web and Other Stuff ...
Okay, the distinction over MG (tween) and YA has my head swiveling because of There Be Demons falling through the gap.  Michael Stearn at the Upstart Crow Agency has come to my rescue (sort of) in his blog:  Middle Grade?  Teen?  Where Do You Draw the Line?.

[I'm still confused about my writing.  I think my stuff is too old for kids but too young for teens.  Maybe that's why I'm playing with the Half-Elven again.]

Curious about what happens when you get The Call (from an agent) or any call for that matter.  Roni Loren at Fiction Groupie shares her experience here.

Perhaps a great idea?  Via Coleen Lindsay on Twitter, an article on a British site that's linking individual writers into support/critique groups --  Quilliant.com.  If you're a loner, you might want to check them out.   I think it's interesting if you want a brilliant quill ... or computer.

[I'm fortunate.  The Northern Colorado Writers and AW Water Cooler mostly meet my needs here.]

Progress ...
Well, I did get my one lonely picture up.  Felt like getting trapped in a black hole.  And, I've got promises of more artwork to come.  Maybe, I won't spend forever getting the next batches up.  Glad I didn't have to pay someone else to do it.

Also, have my outline for the new Mariah novellette/novella/whatever as done as it's going to get. Tonight I start writing.  :-)  *heh*,  *heh* 

Next, now that my critiquing is almost done ... I need to decide what I'm going to revise.  The decision?  Probably, give Dark Solstice  a once over since it was rejected ... again.  I'm trying for e-publishers but can't quite separate out whether or not they want romance with their fantasy.  DS comes after the HEA has disintegrated and in need of reconciliation. 

[Oh, there are other real hurdles to jump over ... but one of them is that the kind of book I wrote would fit into the 1970s easier than it would now.

Trivia ...
One of my favorite fantasies is finding a new C. L. Moore or Leigh Brackett book/story that I haven't read before -- while standing around in dusty used bookstores waiting for the old man to check out the folklore etc. sections.  If I'm lucky, the stores have chairs for spouses to sit in.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Publishing, Better the Second Time Around?

The Read ...
Mid-list authors get no respect.  At least, that's the impression you get from many of the writing blogs and forums -- but there are exceptions.  Writers who persevere and end up writing a popular series.  Their publishers reward them by reprinting their back list.

Okay.  A second chance happens to best-selling authors and people who get back their e-rights all the time.  [But, that's another story.]  

Today, the read's about Masques, Patricia Brigg's first published novel which had gone out of print.  Her introduction is well worth a trip to a mortar-and-brick store to read the introduction where she discusses the process.  Her Mercy Thompson series [about a coyote shapeshifter caught in a world of European werewolves, vampires, and fae] opened the republishing doors for Briggs. She revised Masques and was rewarded with a pop onto the New York Times best seller list.

Oh, the book.  Imagine the damaged son of a power-mad mage finding a magic-wielding mercenary who helps him defeat his father before he destroys their world.  Actually, the book is written from the mercenary's viewpoint and was a good read deserving of being on the best seller list.

Problem:  She gave me an excuse not to market.  I need to revise.  Yeah, I do.  See "progress" below.

Web and Other Stuff ...
Promotion has been pushing to the top of my mind for a while, so all the articles about book promotion ... and other writing too.  Arielle Ford, a publicist and writer, recently did an article on "The Rule of 5 for Book Promotion." in the Huffington Post.   Bottom line: she likens promoting your writing to a marathon rather than a sprint.  --  This is courtesy of Writer's Beware who listed it on Facebook.

If you think an agent will solve all your post-writing problems, think again.  Rachelle Gardner (agent blog Rants & Ramblings) ... talks about what happens when an agent fails.   Actually, the blog links to a series of blogs by Wendy Lawton, another agent, in Books & Such who had the courage to tackle the ticklish subject.

More on promotion:  Author K. C. May give a nice idea for using Kindle to promote your book in her blog:  Writer in Training.

Progress ...
Write?  Market?  Promote?  All three at the same time?  
After realizing my first attempt at fiction -- written to amuse myself --  was over 400,000 words that could be cut into three books [the Far Isle Half-Elven] plus leftovers, I went on to write three more self-contained book manuscripts.  The YA/MG stuff which is laying around in various stages of revision.  

Even developed a nice writing pattern.  Draft a manuscript in the first half of the year.  Revise the manuscript in the year.  Then, I discovered the usefulness of critiquing and beta-reading, where I played with the manuscripts, changing them over time.

Problem:  My writing skills for long stuff kept improving.  Now, I'm staring at four manuscripts wondering how I'm going to retool.  [Plus, I have all that draft material lurking in the computer files.] --  I think I've found my excuse to a void marketing.  *heh.  heh.  heh.*

What makes me think I'm not procrastinating?  Well, There Be Demons was very nicely beta-read, thank you.  Lots of revision done.  Thought it really was ready to market.  Even have been compiling a list of fantasy-liking agents who might like the kind of fantasy I write.  Then, I happened to revise the first 300 pages of the Prologue.  After it was reduced to 250 words, I read so much better.  --  I think I've found a wondrous Mobius strip to play on.

Trivia ...
Something's wrong ... major big time wrong.  The last three books I've read showed up on the New York Times best seller list on Sunday.   [Dark Slayer (Feehan), 61 Hours (Child), and Masques (Briggs)Things I like usually don't become main stream popular.


Oh, I've made it to 300 Tweets.  [@kaytheod]