Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Year’s wishes

Three days and counting. On New Year’s Eve, I intend to have a huge bonfire and ceremoniously burn each page of the 2008 calendar, sending the ashes to the high heavens and beyond, where it can never be seen or heard from again.
For a visual, imagine the giant foot coming from the sky in the Monty Python’s Flying Circus opening. But picture my family beneath the foot. That was our year. Suffice it to say I’m ready for a new year.
But really, other than changing calendars and filing a new tax form, what’s so great about a new year? What is it, really, that excites people? Granted, it’s human nature to be drawn to anything new and shiny. And there’s always the traditional resolutions, those things that we meant to do last year but somehow weren’t disciplined enough to do, or didn’t have time for. But ah, here comes a new year! A clean slate. New possibilities. An opportunity to take stock of what’s most important to you, and refocus your goals.
I like the Stoic-Based Suggestions for a New Year’s Resolution. They’re vague enough to be doable, and high-minded enough to be respectable.
My personal list is simple: not to lose my soul. I had, during the two years prior to this year. I worked at a great job with amazing people, but it left no time or energy for writing. I wrote nothing for myself. Zero novels. Nada stories. I felt soulless and empty, as if my very purpose for being had been stripped away. I felt abandoned by my muse. I didn’t even have any new ideas for stories, which was very unusual – normally I have notebooks full of story blurbs and snapshots and one-liners that I distinctly hear in my head. When my family’s luck plunged early this year, I turned back to writing like it was the only thing that could save my life. I wrote every day, all day, as if it were my job. Certainly it saved my sanity. I’m never going to sacrifice my muse again.
But I don’t want to write only for myself. Sure, I love to play with words, string them together so perfectly they sparkle more brightly than a diamond necklace. But I need to know my writing means something to other people, too. That it touches them in a profound way, maybe makes them think about something they might not have, or at least makes them realize that someone else feels the same way s/he has.
I would add to my personal list: A good year for my family, and to have three novels published. Or four, if I finally finish revisions on the last one. Because I need to be able to provide for my family, too, after all.
As T.S. Eliot said, “For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
Whatever your wishes for the coming year, I wish you all that your heart desires. Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

New short story now at Cezanne’s Carrot

Yay! My short story, Crystallized, is now online at Cezanne’s Carrot. This story is one of my favorites, not only because it pokes fun at those horrendous blow-up decoration thingies (with a really sharp stick!) but because it follows the protagonist's journey of finding herself. Yes, she has to completely transform herself in order to do so, but once done, she finds peace and acceptance, not only within herself, but in her new world.
I hope you enjoy Crystallized. Happy holidays.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Won an ARC of At Grave's End!

Woo hoo! I won an Advanced Reader Copy of Jeaniene Frost's At Grave's End from Bitten by Books! I can't wait to read it - I love urban fantasy. This is book 3 in the Night Huntress series, preceded by Halfway to the Grave and One Foot in the Grave.
Bitten by Books ran a 15 Naughty Nights of Christmas contest with great giveaways. You can still enter through Monday, Dec. 22 for a chance to win, too. If you missed this contest, don't fret - more great contests will follow. BBB is one of my favorite blogs. You can also sign up at the Blood Bank.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Link I Hope You Will Share

Bitten by Books posted a great article by Charlotte Boyette-Compo on e-piracy - it's one link I hope you'll pass on to others.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Now that NaNoWriMo’s over...

November was an intense month. Not only did I participate in NaNoWriMo, I managed to achieve the goal and complete revisions on two other stories, too. Now it’s midway into December, and what have I accomplished? Well, I did go back to a novel I’d completed in September, and reread it with fresh eyes and made some revisions, although I’m still not completely satisfied with it. And I’m going to revisit the 50k+ I wrote for the NaNoWriMo story, because it needs it. Badly.
But these past few weeks feel wasted, especially after having proved to myself that I could achieve a good head start on a novel. Organization was never my strong suit, but now it’s painfully obvious that if I can become more disciplined, the discipline will translate into productivity. Participating in NaNoWriMo was a good experience, but the fact is, any month can be as productive. Perhaps moreso, because November, frankly, has Thanksgiving and too many other distractions. I suppose one can make excuses for any month.
So the subhead of this post is: No more excuses. Stop the mental whining and just do it. Slam those words onto the page. Rework them later.
First, though, set some ground rules.
1. Do some prep work. Think about the story you want to write. Whether you’re a plotter or pantser, have at least a basic idea of the entire story. If possible, write an outline (you don’t necessarily have to stick to it – stories will veer off into interesting tangents, if you’re lucky).
2. Set a goal. If you want to complete a novel in one month, set the deadline. Mark it on your calendar. Stick to it.
3. Get organized. Complete as much research as possible before you begin writing. If you find you need to revisit a certain section, insert a marker in that section of text so you can easily find it later. For my NaNoWriMo story, I used brackets and placed questions inside. And yes, I counted that toward my word count, since later, the count will only go up from there after I write the real text.
4. Get to know your characters – and not just their physical attributes, but their personalities. What do they want? What motivates them? What are their obstacles? Assemble your cast of characters as completely as you can.
5. Set your own personal goal. November may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go for 50k on your own schedule. Make your goal realistic. If 75k is doable, go for it. Just slam those words on the page, and edit later.
6. Once you reached your goal, set the manuscript aside for a few weeks. Work on something else. Then, like me, you can go back to your story with a fresh perspective. A little distance is a good thing. While writing, authors can get a little too immersed in their stories, or their characters, and not see flaws or gaps that might be obvious to a first-time reader.
7. When you get a good first draft, hand it off to a critique partner. I have three critique partners, and each one finds something different within my stories, just as each reader will bring his/her own frame of reference to each story.
Because really, I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo for the little blog sticker (though it does make me proud to be able to post it, I admit). My real goal was to finally commit to a story that I’d had in mind for five years – yes, five long years. Why did it take me so long to get it on paper, finally? I wasn’t organized.
I’m spending the rest of December revising my NaNoWriMo story. Hopefully I can complete that by the new year, and then – come January, I begin a new novel. A new adventure. A new journey. As Rudyard Kipling said, Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.
I intend to be plenty high next year.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Books are great gifts - buy some this Christmas!

In the wake of the publishing industry’s Black Wednesday, execs at Thomas Nelson and literary agent Janet Reid are among those keeping their candles of hope lit for better days.
Mine is lit, too. I’m counting on the industry not tanking, just when I have a great urban fantasy that could be a bestseller, if such a thing exists any more. But how to prove it won’t be one of the dreaded middle marked for early death? Publishing is such a subjective business as it is, based on the yay or nay of a mere few. Even they could not have predicted the success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, I bet.
According to Richard Curtis, trade book publishing has been hurting for more than ten years, and returnables are to blame. As an author who has basically worked for nothing this past year, I can’t condone holding back advances to an author, who depends on an income to survive. I have no experience in this arena – yet – so have no first-hand frame of reference in the print world. I wish I had a helpful suggestion to keep the industry afloat, believe me. I’ve had contracts for epubs, but again, none have yet seen release, so I’m woefully inexperienced in all arenas. According to TeleRead, ebooks have seen gains where print pubs have seen declines. Writer’s Digest’s article E-books: Take 2 concurs. Good news for authors, though I still want to know the feel of my own printed book in my hands. Not to mention the fact that e-piracy is a huge issue that begs to be resolved (by me and most e-pubbed authors).
My experience with The Wild Rose Press is similar to that of Candace Morehouse, who lists The Top 10 Benefits of E-Publishing. The editors have been tough yet caring, the cover artists outstanding, and the standards of quality are high – maybe tougher than print. Wild Rose authors are award winning, and five are currently EPPIE finalists.
No matter what the format, books will endure. To help the effort, Jon Stewart is promoting the Association of American Publishers’ campaign, Books Are Great Gifts.
I couldn’t agree more. Why not fill those stockings with books this year? While you're at it, buy a few for yourself. You know you want to.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What's on your wish list this year?

Visit Miss Make A Movie for my somewhat fantastical second childhood wish list.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Wrapping Up POV

So you have a story idea, and have a basic idea of how it should progress. Great. But whose story is it, really? Which point of view (POV) will best bring the reader into the scope of conflict? While first person brings readers into parallel view with the protagonist, the same can be accomplished, as Steve Almond writes in Fiction: Point of View, using the perspective of close third. Almond posits that POV is not nearly as important as the “emotional posture the author has taken toward his characters.”
Ginny Wiehardt suggests in How to Choose a Point of View that falling into the habit of using first person POV may skew your own perspective on the story. Writing as the protagonist may limit your ability to tell the story dispassionately, she states.
She also brings up an interesting POV – the unreliable narrator. If done well, the reader will be enriched by the POV of a character unwilling to admit the truth to him/herself, and by the experience of reaching that realization. If done poorly, however, the reader will feel cheated.
If you’re uncertain which POV to use, Ms. Wiehardt provides a writing exercise for third person.
As Randy Ingermanson says in his Advanced Fiction Writing eZine, POV creates an emotive context for your reader.
Margaret Atwood says: “A word after a word/after a word is power.” Randy takes this a step further by saying, “If you can write a great scene, over and over again, then you can write a pretty good novel.” Writing from the viewpoint of the character with whom the reader will best identify is the first step in the process.
As I said before, POV is a very complex issue, but I caution against overanalyzing it. I have always been a great believer in the “go with your gut” approach. You, as the writer, have the best insight into your story. You know what you want your story to say to the reader, what you want your reader to come away with after having read your story. Write that story, as you want to tell it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Keep It Clean (Your POV, That Is)

After you finish the first draft and begin revising to clean up your adjectives, be sure to clean up your POV, too. Too often, writers muddy up the POV waters by adding layers of perspective. Kristen Johnson Ingram explains in The Intruder.
This article was especially helpful within my critique group, and now we all use it as shorthand to point out the extra layer that the author should shave away. “Intruder!” we scribble next to the offensive words. An “intruder” positions the reader behind the protagonist, rather than in the protag’s head. Not so confusing when you analyze it, and Ms. Ingram provides helpful examples. Phrases such as “she could see” or “he noticed” and even “I remember” add that additional layer that keeps your readers an additional layer from the point of view. Instead, describe the scene from the protagonist’s perspective, rather than having the reader watch the protagonist from a distance.
Revision's all about cutting to the bone of your story, making every word count so your story keeps moving forward. Keeping your POV clean helps.

Monday, December 1, 2008

My Short Story's Online!

The Battered Suitcase published my short, All is Calm, All is Bright today!
I actually wrote this years ago, and submitted it to the Pennwriters 2005 annual contest. It was awarded second place.
T.C. Boyle, one of my favorite authors, said: Each of us must create art in order to address the central questions of human existence—for our own sanity, and, we hope, for the sanity of our readers.
'Nuff said.