Category Archives: Uncategorized

Linky Goodness

SeeingSomeday I’ll get to posting about the weird (for me) process of writing Breath of Stone.  In the meantime, here are some links I simply can’t keep to myself:

From M.C.A. Hogarth comes I Am an Indie Midlister (and That’s Okay) — a great post on her experience as an indie author, her sales numbers, and the perceptions of success in today’s direct-to-reader  publishing world.

Via The Passive Voice, a link to and discussion of The Bookseller’s First Independent Author Preview.  As I mentioned in the comments there, it’s still important for industry-to-industry discussions of indie-published works to be compared positively to trade-published works.  Many in the industry have little experience, exposure, or knowledge of what is happening outside their boundaries.  They don’t know or understand how readers are connecting with independent writers.  They aren’t at the forefront of the change.  They still need to be told where to look.

(Aside: Also, as a middle-aged woman, I have extensive experience with such comments.  After all, I grew up hearing, “That’s really good, for a girl!” and being told that should be taken as a great compliment.  The trade-publishing folks who using “Well done, for self-publishing!” also think they are being progressive and complimentary.  It’ll pass.)

Speaking of gender perceptions, Women You Should Know delivers a fabulous interview with the woman who, as a child, was featured in the 1981 LEGO ad with such a positive message about creativity in childhood that had nothing to do with gender.  Rachel Giordano speaks well to the issue of today’s gendered toys, and how easy it is for those toy-imposed messages to affect choices of life and career.

Back on the writing front, I offer you the blog post What Agents, Editors, and Art Directors Look For Online.  Alack and alas, I discover upon reading it that I would be a terrible prospect for an agent or editor.  I’ve written things that might be divisive!  I’ve discussed the publication process!  I’ve told people when my books are on sale!  I share some things from my personal life!  If you really want to delve into it, there is one anonymous response that goes into great detail about what the person wants to find and avoid in someone’s social media presence.  And, to add a dash of humor, there is a survey respondent who doesn’t really want to be reminded that writers might research their online presence as well because they “don’t like the feeling.”

Lastly, a quick reminder that Sand of Bone is available at NetGalley, but only until December 31!

#SFWApro

All the Writing Rules You’ll Ever Need To Know

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I spent years and years and years internalizing the do-this-not-that lists directed at writers looking to land a contract.

Then the truth about writing rules became clear.  So here they are, in order of importance:

Rule One: The story must connect with and entertain the reader so well, the reader will want to tell others about it.

Rule Two: Anything that interferes with the implementation of Rule One should be set aside.

That’s it.  All the rest — all those guidelines and do-this lists and don’t-do-that warnings — are not truly rules.  They are techniques and tools, and the best combination the writer uses might be different for every story.  But the truth is that a writer can do everything “right,” yet still not connect with readers.  That’s because readers don’t open a book hoping for better rule-following.  They want to be transported by a story.

#SFWAPro

An Article Damned Well Worth Reading

There is an article by Clay Shirky you must read.  You must read.  I’ll admit I nearly skipped it after the first paragraph (which contains the most weary of tired accusations).  I’m glad I didn’t.

Here are a few excerpts:

The traditional industry belief — if you don’t live in a big city and have a lot of money, you deserve second-class access to books — is being challenged by a company trying to say “If you have ten bucks, there’s not a book in the world you can’t read.” If the current industry can’t keep their prices high while competing with instant distribution of a vastly expanded literature — and that seems to be their only assertion worth taking at face value — then it’s time for them to figure out how to make a business out of improved access.

As a rural resident, I’ve spoken this argument in trad-writer-dense and industry-dense environments.  The level of interest is usually expressed with a nod and a moving-on to topics of greater import.

At worst, I’ve received a head-patting reminder that most small towns do indeed have libraries for their citizens.  It never seems to occur to them that small towns have small libraries, and small libraries have small budgets.  Sure, the newest bestseller will be there—which is what the industry is most hoping for—but the diversity of books will be narrow—which does not at all concern the industry.

Continue reading An Article Damned Well Worth Reading

And Now, For Something Pretty and Calming

Every now and then, I detour a couple miles out of my way when I drive to town.  It’s so worth it.

That’s a little old house in the distance, now used by a group of trail riders as a meeting house in the warm-weather season. Wind-blown soybeans are in the foreground.

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Just a couple days ago, huge hay rounds dotted this field. I missed them, but the pic is still pretty, especially with the stormclouds moving in.

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The yellow sign in this one says “NARROW BRIDGE.” They aren’t kidding. It’s one of those almost 1.5 lane bridges, all stone, and should have probably been replaced twenty years ago. And that shallow valley and all its fields was completely under water during the last flood.

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And on the way home after dinner, the sunset.

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Effective Advocacy Must Choose Targets Carefully

lionOn my one month anniversary as a member of SFWA, I discovered the board had determined the letter mentioned in this blog post was a correct summation of the situation and remedies involved in the Amazon/Hachette dispute, an accurate representation of SFWA member beliefs, and must be SFWA-endorsed without member input the day before a long holiday weekend over which so many people would be out of touch and unable to respond.

Do read the comments at that link. Frankly, they’re quite tame as most folks are simply tired of it all.

Let me say this from the start: even if I agreed that Amazon should be told how best to handle its negotiations, I would never have endorsed this letter for the simple fact it contains glaring factual errors.

Continue reading Effective Advocacy Must Choose Targets Carefully

Writer’s Blog Tour In Four Questions

I was tagged by the smart, talented, and generous writer Janice Smith to answer questions about my projects and process. If you haven’t already, go read her answers first!

What am I working on?
Right this moment, I’m finishing revisions for Sand of Bone. It’s the first in a desert fantasy series centered around a woman seeking to escape her wasteland prison, destroy her brother’s conspiracies, and reclaim the elemental mastery the gods took from her bloodkin three generations ago. It’s also about civil unrest, savage rivalries, and a dynasty clutching after the power of their ancestors. Some characters fight because honor won’t permit them to ignore wrongdoing; others pitch in because they’re bored with everything else. And there are caverns with lava tubes, people with eyes that glow and shimmer in the dark, and souls wandering the sands in search of redemption.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?
Umm… Actually, I think the search for novelty within the genre is highly overrated. I’ve never put down a book I loved reading with the thought of finding something completely different. I’ve never loved a story because of its niftiness alone. Novelty of technique or topic is a one-off, and the genre now too wide and deep for anyone to even know if what they’re doing is totally unique. So rather than seek ways to be different for the sake of being different, I’d rather develop skills that – when used over and over again – make readers want more of what I do.

(Consistency is all I ask. Immortality is all I seek.)

So what do I strive to do well? Characters – strong, weak, whatever – who have presence on the page regardless of the size of their part or their role in the story. Dialog readers can hear as they read. Pacing that moves rather than dallies, that holds tension behind even the quietest of moments, punctuated with a touch of humor. Prose that flows rather than clunks. Fight scenes compelling enough I can include the details I want. Worlds in which a person’s competence and integrity – not gender – determine how the person is viewed.

Why do I write what I do?
I write the stories I’d like read.
I write to explore ideas that trouble me. My stories are, in a way, conversations with my own conflicting views.
I write to entertain myself, and love it when I’m also able to entertain others.

How does my writing process work?
Every project is different, but most incorporate plotting and pantsing. A huge amount of writing takes place in my imagination long before words arrive on the page, and I tend to envision them as if I’m a director rather than a writer. I’ll run key scenes through my mind – adjusting dialog and tone, blocking, backdrops, and so forth – then remember I need to remove some of those details when committing the scene to paper.

Most of my process has evolved to include Magic Index Cards. I make one card for each scene (NOT chapter). Each card includes the following: POV character, setting, date scene occurs, the number of days since the story started*, primary events, primary character interactions, dialog, realizations or discoveries (if any), key symbolism and/or foreshadowing, and anything else I want to make sure appears in that chapter. Eventually I’ll set all the cards in their proper order and number them. When it’s revision time, I use the backs of the cards for notes. Yes, it’s messy and manual, and I’m sure folks do indeed find the Scrivener option to be awesome, but I get something intangible out of the kinetic process so I’ll stick with it.

I rarely go back to revise before finishing a project, though I will toss notes onto the index cards at any time. I’d rather remodel a finished project than rebuild. It’s a preference requires me to really think through my choices before putting them down. (That, and the fact I once killed off a character early in a story that could have really used him later on.)

When I’m pretty happy with the novel, I’ll send it off to beta readers. I have the most awesome of beta readers, truly. They’re smart, talented, creative, open to possibilities, and damn fine writers. And I never forget how lucky I am that they share those things with me. That’s not to say I use every piece of their feedback (for one thing, they rarely agree on everything!). But they always give me things to think about and consider. It makes for a novel written with awareness of choices rather than plain “instinct” or whatever.

Once revisions are done, off it goes to a copyeditor. I strive to submit as clean a copy as possible to my editor who is, for the duration of the project, my contract employee. And making life easier for my employees is, in my opinion, a matter of good ethics. (Now that I think about it, I’d likely put greater effort into keeping my house tidy all the time if I’d hire a housekeeper. Hmm.) Besides, producing a clean manuscript is just as much a skill as storytelling. It’s worth doing well.

And there you have it – my answers to the questions.

I’ve tagged three marvelous women to pick it up from here: Casey Blair, Tam MacNeil, and Alena McNamara.

*Remember when I mentioned wanting to do pacing well? Tracking the number of story-days is critical to my ability to do that as I tend to write multiple viewpoint, multiple location, multiple storyline novels, and I tend to cram a great deal into a small amount of time. Sand of Bone covers a long time, by my usual habits (four entire months!). Sword and Chant, on the other hand, all took place in less than a single month’s time.

What Causes Success?

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Some will say it’s talent.  Others will say it’s marketing.  But the research done by Matthew Salganik points to something else as a the final step from obscurity to success.  It’s something we don’t yet understand, and so we call it… luck.

Salganik wanted to know why some things—a painting, a song, other artistic works — become the Most Greatest Super Things while others of seemingly equal artistic quality plummeted into nothingness with scarcely a whisper.  So he created a bunch of online worlds — parallel universes, if you will, to study alternate histories — and introduced the same new songs into each world.  Then the teenagers assigned to each world got to choose, independently of the other worlds, the songs they most liked.

Guess what?  There was no consistency whatsoever.  Once a baseline of quality was achieved, whether a song hit the top or sank to the bottom was a matter of luck.

For writers, this is both heartening and heartbreaking.  It’s somewhat nice to know a rejection or drop in sales isn’t necessarily a reflection of the work’s quality.  But it’s frustrating, even maddening, to know our stories will be found or ignored for reasons beyond our control.

So we writers must continue to do what we can to influence the odds: write more, ensure the work remains available on a variety of platforms, and plug away at lettings folks know where the work can be found.  Each of those steps increases the opportunity for luck to meet our preparation.  After all, I’ve just now discovered Martha Wells’ Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy—a decade after its original publication—because of a recommendation Kate Elliott made on Twitter and on her blog.

How do you make that happen on purpose?  As soon as someone figures that out, we’ll have a new word for luck.

Free Short Story

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In 2005, I spent over a week at the Writers of the Future workshop in Los Angeles.  It was the first time I’d been away from my young son for any length of time.

One of the workshop assignments was to write a story in 24 hours, and the story had to contain certain elements we didn’t know about until the clock started ticking.  So I tapped into a version of “write what you know,” and started a story about a mother who missed her child.

And now I’ve put that story up for free.

 

If You Have Kids, Know Kids, Teach Kids–

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Y’all know that, in addition to writing, I teach karate. I teach seminars on other topics as well—wellness, nutrition, failure, resilience, and so forth. I even teach other people how to be better teachers. The one thing I can do with relative ease is stand in front of a bunch of people and tell them how to do stuff in clear and entertaining ways.

But regardless of the teaching I’ve done for more than two decades, I have never seen a presentation that so clearly and simply demonstrates how often, and in how many ways, we teachers fail those with learning challenges as this one by Richard Lavoie.

It isn’t a lecture. It’s an opportunity to see how a collection of kind and supportive teachers and parents cope with suddenly becoming “learning disabled.”  Even if you don’t teach, even if you’re not a parent, viewing the presentation will give enlightenment and understanding.

Clear an hour of your time. The video is worth that small investment.

If you don’t believe me, try the first ten minutes. My guess is you’ll find a way to clear that hour.