Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On Failure

My proof copy arrived on Friday after I made the post, and I've been reading through it since. Found a handful of things to fix, most of which aren't major. I'd wanted to be done with the read-through by now, but holidays and social time got in the way. Oh, well, I'm hoping to finish up in the next couple days, and upload the corrected text. And then we're live, baby!

I suppose that's an odd way to start a post titled "On Failure," but for me it's a great example of what you can do when you are willing to fail. Dean Wesley Smith wrote a fantabulous post about failure and how failure is not an option. It's just going to happen. Learn from it and move on. If you aren't failing, you aren't trying often enough.

I know a lot of people who think self-publishing is a kind of failure. For me, not self-publishing would be failure. I'm getting out there now, in what is possibly the best new-book market I'm likely to see in my lifetime. If I fail, so what? I'm going to keep putting stuff out there, and every sale is a success. How can I consider self-publishing a failure when I make money every month off of work I did two years ago?

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, December 23, 2011

Vacation!

I'm on vacation! (/happydance) No day job for me until January 4th! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

As if that weren't awesome enough, I ordered my proof copy of the print edition of Scent and Shadow, and it shipped yesterday. SQUEE! Is it here yet? Is it here yet? How about now?

While I wait (trying to remember to breathe) for the mail, The Husband and I are going to go see the new Sherlock Holmes movie, and we're going to go shopping for a new refrigerator (yeay!), and we're going to do our favorite holiday activity - getting hot drinks at the mall and walking around slowly, not buying anything and just enjoying the schadenfreude. Happy holidays, folks!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

KDP Select

(This is a comment I originally made over at Adventures in SciFi Publishing in response to episode 156--which has a fabulous interview with Dan Wells, BTW--and I thought I would post it here as well.)

I think everyone is taking Kindle Select way too seriously.

For some authors KS makes sense. These are the indie authors who, for whatever reason, already don’t have their books up at other outlets. I don’t know why authors do this, but I know there are authors out there who do. In which case, KS has no real downside.

Other authors may want to try it out for awhile, particularly if they don’t have many sales outside Amazon. It may make sense for one title, but not another. Up to the author. But no one is “forcing” them to participate.

Personally, I chose not to participate. I want my titles to have the widest possible distribution, aside from the fact that I generally don’t approve of exclusives. (Unless SciFi Book Club wants an exclusive on the hardcover edition of my book. In that case, I am totally on board. ;) Email me, please!)

I also don’t like the payment arrangement. If they want to offer up a straight royalty, it might make more sense. But I don’t like the “pot” and I won’t participate in a program that encourages that model.

And that’s my choice. No one is forcing me to do anything.

People need to keep in mind that Amazon, like all publishers, is a business. They are not in the business of making friends with authors. They are in the business of growing their market share and making money long term. (Please see Kris Rusch’s recent article on traditional publishers and their suppliers for a more detailed insight.)

Amazon is not evil, nor are they the indie author’s best friend. They’re a business. They distribute books. I supply books, as a business. End of relationship. If I don’t like their model, I can go elsewhere. Hell, I have one story that I don’t distribute through Amazon because they won’t let me sell it for free from the get-go, and I have chosen not to make any money from that story. Therefore, even though I would get more exposure via Amazon, and even though I’ve gotten two of my other stories to show up for free, I don’t “sell” that story with them.

(Note: I sell my novel for $4.99, and short stories for $0.99, and have a few freebies so people can see if they like my writing. Plus I give away a new free story every Halloween, because I like to. My novel sells. My short stories sell. There is no race to the bottom unless you choose to participate.)

Also, I disagree with the freaking-out about KS titles getting extra ranking. So what? I don’t worry about my ranking. I sell copies of my works every month, through many different channels. That’s all I care about. The ranking system is too fluid to lose sleep over. Besides, Amazon SHOULD pimp its partners. Just like a publisher can buy co-op at a bookstore, these authors are essentially buying co-op with Amazon. That’s just business, and frankly, doesn’t effect my sales one way or the other. Someone else’s success does not diminish my sales. Hell, if I’m lucky, one of those best-sellers will be an “also viewed” for my book or something.

In short: worry less, write more. That’s how an indie author will succeed in this biz.

Friday, December 16, 2011

100 Words About: Bottled Water

Talk about an answer to a problem no one had. I mean, yes, it's nice that you can buy water for those rare times when your water utility doesn't work (yes, I live in a first world nation), or to keep around in case of a natural disaster, or for when you go camping or something. But really. Buy some reusable jugs and just fill them from your tap.

I have worked in a few buildings where the tap water tasted weird, and then we had a water cooler. My favorite part of having a water cooler around is the hot water spigot. Instant tea! Yeay! But I'm thinking less of water coolers and more about the 12 or 20 or whatever ounce bottles you buy at the grocery store.

I mean, when I go to a restaurant, and they ask me what kind of water I want (tap or bottled or uber-filtered-blessed-by-the-Pope), a little part of me dies inside. It's water, people. H2O. We have the miracle of modern plumbing and water filtration. USE IT. What a freaking waste of money, not to mention all the plastic bottles.

I'll buy water when I'm on the road, but that's because I was too dumb to remember to bring a reusable bottle with me. And because if you want something to drink that isn't sweet, water is pretty much your only choice. When I'm really lucky I can find bottles of Lipton Unsweetened Black Tea. (Thank you, Lipton!) Otherwise I have to find a fast food place that has unsweetened tea. (Which, sadly enough, is usually cheaper..)

Image: Keattikorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What Makes a Romance?

This week I'm pulling a little you-tell-me.

What makes a romance?

For me (as a reader), there are two big things that a romance must have: love, and a HEA/HFN ending.

Love is the biggest part of a romance for yours truly. These characters don't just have to be attracted, they don't just have to like each other; they need to be in love. I want to see a textbook case of Consummate Love at the end of the story. We're talking selfless, nurturing, makes-you-grow-in-good-ways sort of love.

And (again, my opinion) it's not a romance if there isn't a happily-ever-after or happy-for-now ending. If the two romantic characters are not together at the end, no matter how much foreshadowing or set-up there is for the next book, to me that ain't a romance. It's something else with romantic tension.

What about you? What makes a book a romance? What do you want to see in "romance" books? Do you think a book can still be a romance even without the ending? What definition of love do you use? There's no right or wrong answer, because it's totally subjective. Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sick Pets

Oi. It's a little after 9pm and I've just gotten home. The Bulldog started acting weird, and then started acting really sick, so off to the vet we went. Fortunately, my awesome vet is open late on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so we didn't have to go to the emergency vet this time.

He may be suffering complications from some gastric misadventures he had on Sunday - in particular, a fist-sized hunk of bleu cheese that was wrapped in foil and inside a ziploc baggie, which magically disappeared. X-rays indicate it may still be in the dog, four days later. Joy. We gave him some meds tonight and we get to take him back to the vet in the morning to see if the x-rays look different. If not, we may be looking at surgery.

It's so frustrating when your pet is sick. You know they're in pain, and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it, and you can't even explain to them what's going on. You just feel so helpless.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Photoshop, Layouts, and Eyestrain

Ok, so I didn't get any of the writing done last month that I wanted to. But I did complete one Adobe Photoshop class and start another, mostly completed the print edition book cover (have to finish the logo, but the rest is done), and am about a third of the way through doing the layout of the print edition. I had hoped to finish it this weekend, but then The Bulldog got into some stuff he shouldn't have, and long story short, I didn't get ANYTHING done on Sunday.

But! I'm hoping to have the layout done soon! The logo shouldn't take me long either. My eyes are killing me though. I stare at a computer all day at my day job, and while I'm used to doing that and then writing, doing that and then staring at photo pixels or the shape of text (while trying not to read it) is a whole other level of eyestrain.

I have to tell you, it is majorly exciting to see the full cover layout. Not only is it super cool, but I get the whole "I did that!" feeling when I look at it.

I did do a little bit of editing on Demon's Asylum, a new Aether Vitalis novella which is my next release. Also, I got a start on the cover, which was great because I had no idea what I was going to do for the cover on that one. And then I was futzing around in Photoshop class and found some stock art and hey-presto, background for the novella cover. Sweet!

Long-time readers may remember me talking about project 1794 now and again. That's Demon's Asylum. I originally started it in late 2009, but then my cousin died and my writing went to hell for a little bit. I'm trying to focus really hard on getting the print edition done this month, but I'm going to try really hard to get Demon's Asylum ready for you all as well.

The story takes place in London in 1794. George Wickham has been able to see supernatural creatures for what they are since he was born, so maybe getting thrown into Bedlam asylum was inevitable. But Wickham knows better; he was set up. He finds an unexpected ally in his doctor, two-hundred-year-old vampire Thomas Thornton, but when the two men become lovers, Wickham realizes he's only traded one danger for another, with no way of knowing which is the more deadly.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Unlikely Skills, and a Great Non-Profit

I have always been a bit of a jack of all trades. I like the idea of having a wide skill base, plus I'm pretty good at it. "It" being the ability to learn and (at least somewhat) retain a lot of random stuff.

This week I had cause to be grateful to the Milton Bradly game Operation. All those hours of my youth spent carefully teasing small objects out of tight spaces came in damn handy when I had to get a stuck piece of paper out from behind the hot fuser in the office copier. (And of course the paper kept tearing into smaller and smaller pieces...) But, I managed to un-jam the copier without burning myself! See, skills you never knew you'd actually use in real like can indeed be useful.

And speaking of useful and skill, how about sending our skilled troops overseas some useful Kindles? Ebooksfortroops.org is a wonderful non-profit organization that sends Kindles to American troops! If you're getting a new ereader this holiday season, you might want to consider donating your old ereader to this awesome cause.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holidays Are Different From Vacations

I don't know if I really take vacations much. (This includes weekends.) I know there are a lot of writers out there who write lots and lots every day. I'm not one of those. I have been, for a few months at a time. But in general, no.

And yet, my weekends and vacation days tend to fill very quickly. Sure, I squeeze in time for formatting, research, cover design, and even a little writing. But a lot of my time gets taken up with caring for our animals, doing dishes and laundry, and other sundry chores.

Not to complain, exactly: everyone is like this, really. But I know lots of people who are happy to do nothing on a vacation day. I actually have to schedule myself to not do things. If I'm at home, I feel like I should be doing something productive. There are always so many little projects in the back of my mind. I would love to declutter the house at some point, for instance. I've been wanting to do that for ages. But I also don't want to do it in little chunks. Therefore, it keeps getting pushed out until I can find a nice big block of time to do it in. (Like that's going to happen.)

And Facebook! Good gods. We had a day this last long weekend where we left town and deliberately stayed disconnected. I kept wanting to make a status post. Or check my email. What the hell? I did not used to be like this. I shudder to think how twitchy I'm going to be when I finally break down and get a smartphone. I might actually tweet more than once a week.

I know no one drives me to do this to myself but me, but ugh. When else am I going to to all this stuff? If I don't do it, who will? (If not me, who? If not now, when?) And yet, when the heck am I going to relax? I just got back from Photoshop class (print covers are mostly done now, just need to do the spine) after a full day of dayjob, did the Monday chores, and still feel like I'm not getting enough done today.

Anyone have some valium I can borrow? And a Quith worker to do my chores for me?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Writing and Reading

I find lately that I have less energy for reading than I used to. My to-read list is at an all-time high, but fewer books make me excited.

I've heard other authors talk about something similar, which leads me to believe that this is a phase many of us go through: when you spend so much time on your own stories, it's harder to invest the energy into someone else's. If it is a phase, I hope it passes quickly, as reading is one of the great joys of my life.

Once I find a book that does suck me in, I'll still burn through it in my usual voracious style. But without that level of interest, even books that I normally would have finished and enjoyed languish on my to-read shelf, or have to get returned to the library before I'm even a third of the way through.

What books have you read that grabbed you by the short hairs and wouldn't let go?


Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thank Yous, Updates, Reviews, Etc

Hey all. Kinda swapping this time: did the long post on Friday and the short post on Tuesday. But I am beat. Just spent 2.5 hours redoing the cover for Scent and Shadow so it'll look right for the print version. I more or less had to start from scratch, but fortunately I've got it just about right now. A few more tweaks and I'll be ready to dive into formatting the manuscript for print as well.

I love the creative control of self-publishing, but wow, it's a lot of work!

Lots of huge thank-yous to everyone who has liked or commented or reviewed one of my stories! Some of the reviews for Scent and Shadow nearly had me in tears! I'm so happy that it seems to be coming across exactly the way I wanted it to. SQUEE! I mean, what's a book without readers, you know?

Speaking of squee, "Not Quite Casper" finally got marked down to free in the Kindle store. As of right now, it's #174 Free in the store, and #11 in the Kindle ebooks erotica category! Check it out if you haven't, it's a fun one. (And did I mention it's free?)

Hopefully they'll mark down "A Wild Hunt" soon too. C'mon, Amazon, everbody's doing it.

I hope to have another new story for y'all this month. (I know, I'm getting down to the wire here.) Next month for sure if not this month. I should also (hopefully) have a new anthology sale to share next month too.

For all my fellow Americans, have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving! See you all on Friday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Mythology of Vampires

Funny that I should decide to do this post this week; the Dead Robots just had a conversation touching on how monsters have changed over the last few decades. (Congrats on 200 episodes, guys!)

One of the fun things about writing is that you get to make your own mythology. There are so many legends and tales, and they’ve been done so many ways over the years, that yes, even sparkly vampires with skin like rock make sense after awhile. (I kinda felt they were more gargoyle-like, but hey. Once you got into it a little bit, it was an interesting take on the mythology.)

When I first started writing about Gabriel and Amanda, I had to decide very quickly what some of the basic tenets of my vampires were going to be. Some things changed over time, and the biology got more and more refined, but there were two basic things that I knew I wanted to define my vampires: no sunlight, and the need to kill.

Long before Twilight, there were stories about vampires that could go out in the day. Some, like My Best Friend is a Vampire (and, more recently, the Kim Harrison novels), differentiated between “living” vampires and “dead” or “undead” vampires. Other authors went for a special talisman approach (LJ Smith’s Vampire Diaries) or a special condition, such as being able to be in sunlight if the vampire had fed recently (Kindred: The Embraced).

While I enjoyed all of those versions (yes, even Kindred: the Embarrassed), I decided it made things too easy. Vampires can be hugely powerful. The thing that keeps them in check more than anything else is the problem with sunlight. It’s also instant conflict. Things getting boring? Just add sunlight! (Fortunately, I’ve never had to fall back on that one yet.)

There were also a lot of stories where vampires didn’t have to kill, or even feed on humans (again, long before Twilight). Heck, I used to roleplay a vegetarian Gangrel. (Yes, White Wolf used vegetarian for animal-only vampires long before Twilight did.) But I wanted my vampires to be monsters. Even back then (daydreamer that I am) I had intellectual property aspirations, and I wanted to make sure that no one playing in my universe later on could pussify my vampires. So not only do my vampires have to drink human blood, they have to kill. In fact, they have to kill a lot. Every night for the first ten years or so, and they usually don’t learn enough control to feed without killing the human until they’ve been a vampire for close to fifty years.

After that, it got down to the details. Hypnosis? Heck yeah, it’s too much fun to leave out. But then I decided I needed a foil for the charismatic vamps, which is where the skinshifters’ psychic immunity came from. (And then I needed to explain it, but I’ll get to that in another post.) Mirrors? Not having a reflection struck me as very silly, although it’s been done well (the Vampire Files spring to mind), and I couldn’t think of a good reason that made sense physics-wise, so my vampires have reflections. Ditto for garlic and running water, although I could certainly see a river spirit refusing to let a vampire pass, for some reason. (Running water is still good for screwing up a scent trail, and my vamps are big on scent.)

Originally, my vampires could change shape. I eventually did away with that, as it was too convenient, and I couldn’t see why, mythologically and physically speaking, they should have that ability. (Note: Empusa is not a vampire. She’s what the vampires were modeled after.)

To me, retractable fangs make sense. My vampires are supposed to be able to live among humans. This is also why they aren’t preternaturally beautiful. They have abilities which allow them to charm and attract and fascinate, but they also want to be able to not attract attention. Especially once I decided they were territorial, it made huge amounts of sense for them to blend in as much as possible, because otherwise people will start wondering why that gorgeous hunk they keep seeing around town never seems to get older.

The territorial thing was a later addition. As I started thinking beyond Gabriel to vampires in general, I had to decide whether they had communities. Was there structure, government, laws and consequences? If so, what kept the vampires from taking over Lumley-like? If not, then why not?

I eventually decided against organized vampires. I hate politics, and it was another way to put limits on creatures that were already pretty darn powerful. I took some lessons from nature: predators who marked out a territory, protected their food sources, and only allowed interlopers for reproductive purposes--in this case, keeping the young around long enough that they can learn to take care of themselves. And then I had to explain why and how, and got caught up in world-builder's disease again. (I'm going to assume no one but me cares about the cellular biology of vampires.)

What are your favorite bits of vampire lore? What conventions do you hate? Which version of vampires is your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thank You!

Wow, that was a fabulous tour! Over 150 comments! That's a heck of a lot of free books! I'm really touched and proud of the online book community. I got home from the day job and my Photoshop class Monday night to a stuffed inbox. It was great! If you haven't scanned through the comments, there were some really neat stories shared. Thank you all again for making the tour such a great success! And please check back with the Indie Book Collective next Memorial Day to see if they do another tour.

I have answered all the comments/emails as of 7am CST this morning. IF YOU HAVE NOT RECEIVED A RESPONSE, PLEASE EMAIL ME! There were a few people who didn't leave email addresses, and a few that bounced for various reasons. Your comments should still be counted, but I want to make sure you get your free book too!

A number of you commented in emails on the tagline I used in my signature: "No soulmates. No love triangles. No sparkles." Thanks for the feedback! I've added the tagline to the product descriptions on the various distributor sites.

To new followers, welcome! I normally post on Tuesdays and Fridays, and I try not to talk your ear off. (Sometimes I fail.) Please check out the list on the left for more of my work, especially the free stuff. I love free stuff.

Here's where I beg: I would be ever so grateful for any likes, ratings, comments, or reviews that you feel appropriate, at Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Smashwords or iTunes or Goodreads or whereever. (If you do a review on your blog, let me know and I'll pimp it! I'm also happy to do interviews and stuff.) PLEASE be honest! No one's writing is for everyone, and as you can see from the awesome reviews linked in my last post, there are some things in Scent and Shadow that are disturbing. Honest reviews help the readers who will enjoy the book regardless find it, and keep me from damaging the more gentle readers. :) (They should read A Wild Hunt. That one's probably as tame as I get.)

Ok, enough of that! The Bulldog needs his walk. I hope you all enjoy the book, and check back here on Friday for a little inside info on the vampires of the Aether Vitalis universe.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Stories of Service - Blog Tour de Troops

“I was in World War II.”

I don’t spend a lot of time on the phone at my day job, but sometimes it does involve some lengthy phone conversations, especially when walking people through our website or our paperwork.

This was a new one. “Really?”

He certainly sounded the right age. “Yep. I was there for the Normandy invasion.”

Goddamn, I thought. My mind immediately filled with images from documentaries, supplimented by my own rather vivid imagination. Which beach? I wanted to ask. What was it like? Did they shoot at you? Were you scared? How on Earth did you find the courage? Of course, my writer’s mind wanted the little details, the parts that make it seem real. How cold was the water? How deep was it where you had to jump in? How long was it before you got dry again? How long before you got a chance to eat? Or were you even hungry?

But I couldn’t ask any of those things. Even if I hadn’t been on the job, what if those memories were painful? Wouldn’t it be rude to ask?

All I could think to do was thank him for his service. Which is nice, I suppose, but seems hollow to me.

That man was much more than “service.” He was a story. A hero story. Even if no one ever shot at him and he never shot at anyone else. He was there. He went and served. And he managed to come home again, when so many others didn’t.

My dad was in Vietnam. When I was little, I was sort of obsessed with the idea that my daddy was a soldier. I was very proud of him. (I still am!) But he never liked to talk about it. I think the longest conversation I’ve ever heard him have about the Army was a few sentences traded with my husband regarding combat boots.

A couple years ago, my dad’s mom gave my nephew a little ivory Buddha. “Your grandpa brought me that from Vietnam,” she told my nephew, who shares my dad’s name.

“I found it in a field we were walking through,” was all Dad said about it.

My mind reels. I want to know. Was he in enemy territory, or friendly? Was the field mined? How hot was it? Was Vietnam as pretty as they say? What did he think when he found the statue? Were there lots of bugs there? Did anyone shoot at him? But I can’t ask. Look up “stoic” in the dictionary, and there’s a picture of my dad. When he doesn’t want to talk about something, he doesn’t talk about it.

But it makes me wonder – what about the vets who do want to talk about it?

I can imagine someone coming home, fresh from the field since we don’t really let the troops decompress first anymore (I agree with Lt. Col. Grossman, there was definitely something to be said for the long voyage home with the rest of your unit), and here’s this poor soldier who wants to work through all this craziness, and everyone at home is like me: too “polite” to ask.

Is it consideration, or cowardice on our parts? We don’t want to be rude. We don’t want to seem morbid or bloodthirsty or insensitive by asking all the questions that we have in our heads. And so we ignore what we feel we can’t talk about.

Everyone’s life is a story. With luck, mine won’t be very interesting. It saddens me to think of so many stories – people whose lives have been cursed (or blessed) with interesting times – going quietly into the long night, untold.

How can we get it right if we don’t ask? How else can we learn?

On Veteran's Day, in addition to saying a big Thank You to our veterans, I hope we can also take a moment to learn a story or two.

I want to welcome everyone who is stopping by today as part of the Blog Tour de Troops! You should be joining me from Brian Jeffreys's blog. The next stop on the tour will be at Dianne Venetta's blog. Please leave a comment – every comment wins a free eBook of Scent and Shadow for you and a soldier! (Make sure to include your email in your comment so I can contact you.)

In addition, we're also collecting donations toward Kindles for our troops! The Memorial Day blog tour raised enough funds for seven Kindles. If you'd like to donate money toward those Kindles for our soldiers, simply use Paypal and ibcprograms@gmail.com as the address to send money to. Please note on your payment that it's a Troops donation.

Huge thank-yous to my review sponsors! Check out the links for reviews of my novel Scent and Shadow:
The Romanceaholic
Alisha Robinson
From Me to You
Diary of a Bibliophile

Image: Damian Brandon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How Do You E-Read?

I was not a big fan of ereaders in the beginning. I love print books, like so many other bibliophiles. I hate reading books on my computer, regardless of whether it's on the laptop or the desktop or the giant TV.

I hadn't really planned on getting a dedicated ereader, but I knew if I did get one, I wanted a Nook. I wanted e-ink, and I wanted EPUB. This was because many of the books I wanted to read were ones I found from Project Gutenberg or Google Books, and most of those were available as EPUB, but not as PRC or MOBI.

The Husband bought me a Nook when I was getting ready to start self-pubbing, so I could make sure my files worked and stuff. I very quickly grew to love it. The e-ink was everything I thought it would be, and a Ziploc baggie helped allay my fears about bathtub reading. Plus I could put so many books on it! All those books! With me, whenever I wanted! Joy!

Unfortunately, my Nook doesn't display PDFs for crap. All my contributor copies were in PDF. I was very sad.

However, we already had an iPod Touch. The iPod displays PDFs just fine. Yeay!

Except the screen is, of course, very small. Page-turning is kinda a pain--for some reason, I usually have to swipe twice. Although, and I have no idea why, reading on the iPod's screen doesn't bother me like reading on the computer screens. Maybe because I can control how close to my face I hold the iPod.

My Nook and my iPod are old, technology-wise. So I have no idea what the newest models are like. I've never tried reading on a Kindle or a color tablet of any flavor.

What is your favorite way to read ebooks? What devices do you love/hate? Are you picking up a Kindle Fire or a Nook tablet?

Don't forget to stop back on Friday for free books and Blog Tour de Troops!

Image: Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, November 4, 2011

Free Books Next Friday

Make sure to check the blog next Friday. I'll be participating in Blog Tour de Troops, by the Indie Book Collective. Everyone who leaves a comment with their email address will get a free digital copy of Scent and Shadow, AND a copy will be donated to our troops! Plus there are a bunch of other authors doing the same thing all weekend long!

On top of that, one lucky commenter at this blog will receive an additional prize from me, which will be announced next week, and one really lucky commenter will win a Kindle from the Indie Book collective!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Music and Writing

I know a lot of writers who will make soundtracks for different projects, or who have particular songs or albums that inspire them as they write. For the most part, I can't have music on while I'm writing. It's too distracting. But I definitely will use music in other ways in regards to my writing.

I Burn For You is an example of music inspiring a story idea. I forget what finally prompted me to write the story down, but that was one time where I had the song playing as I wrote, trying to get the rhythm into the prose a little.

My short story "Good Neighbors" was inspired by a scene from the movie The Wicker Man. (The original version, not the remake.) There's a scene where a woman is trying to seduce the hero by singing to him through the wall of his room and tapping on the walls, and it's hot, hot, hot. (And has a catchy song too!)

Scent and Shadow took me a long time to write, so there was a lot of music that helped keep me in the mood. While I didn't listen to anything while actually writing it, I would play particular songs in the car or before I started writing to try and capture the feeling I wanted. A few favorites from the playlist are:

"Poison" by Alice Cooper
"Voodoo" by Godsmack
"Wulf" and "Slave to Evil" by :wumpscut:
"Ribbons" by Sisters of Mercy

As well as large sections of Pretty Hate Machine by NIN, Violet by The Birthday Massacre, and The Lost Boys Soundtrack.

One late addition was "Beg Steal or Borrow" by Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs. Although it was a bit of a switch-up from the rest of the playlist, the song very quickly became Amanda's theme.

Image: anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Free Story and Free Novel For a Day!

Happy Halloween!

Without further ado, I present this year's Free Halloween Fiction! Click on over to Smashwords to download the ebook in your format of choice, or read the story at my website.

Jake has never taken Kary seriously—in his mind, she’s still his little sister’s best friend. So when Jake discovers Kary’s a witch, he doesn’t take that seriously either, and dares her to put a love spell on him. But Kary’s been waiting for this opportunity, and Jake gets a firsthand lesson on why it’s dangerous to taunt a witch. Especially a sexy witch. This story contains explicit sex and is not safe for work.

Is it an Aether Vitalis story, or is it not? I leave that up to the reader.

I've always really loved the song "I Burn For You," ever since I first heard it. It's not one of The Police's better-known songs. I don't think I've ever heard it on the radio. But in the back of my head, I thought it would make a really great love spell.

If you aren't familiar with the song, I really recommend picking it up from Amazon or iTunes or wherever you get your music. You can certainly enjoy the story without having heard the song, but I personally think it works better if you kinda have the music in the back of your head as you read.

Also in honor of Halloween, for today only you can pick up a copy of my novel Scent and Shadow for free at Smashwords with the coupon code GF52N! If you like the book, I would really appreciate it if you'd leave a comment or review at Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads. Or just tell a friend! Happy reading!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Even More Stories!

Just in time for the weekend come two short stories sure to get you in the Halloween mood! Yesterday The House That Pip Built went up for sale. That was my first m/m story (as opposed to m/m/f), and it's a hot and sweet little tale of lust and loneliness. And ghosts. Or something like a ghost, anyway. Pip is available at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Today, for your reading pleasure, is The Sub Fairy. This little D/s gem is set (mostly) at a Halloween party, where the female narrator is enjoying being a costume accessory for her husband/dom. Is it exhibitionism if no one else knows you're getting worked up on it? Decide for yourself. Available at Smashwords, and soon at Amazon and B&N.

Stay safe at your Halloween parties this weekend, my lovelies, and check back on Monday for this year's Free Halloween Short Story!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More Stories!

Whew, doggie! It's been busy!

Uploaded on Friday was The Power That Dreams Have, the follow-up story to Empusa. Power was a tough one to write initially; I talk about it a bit over at my website. But once it got rolling, it was a heckuva good time. I do so love writing about uneven, unhealthy relationships. (This fact worries The Husband on occasion, but given some of his favorite movies, he has no stones to throw, hehe.) Linkage at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Yesterday saw the release of The Princess and Peony, a lesbian BDSM retelling of the Princess and the Pea. I always enjoy writing descriptions of sub-space. It's so hard to get across to non-subs... Linkage at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

And today up goes Encore! This is probably one of my most popular stories ever. The story was inspired by a concert I went to where there were two male singers, both of who were very passionate musicians. Not that those two guys were probably lovers or anything, but the energy in the room was pure electricity. I'm trying to upload to Amazon and Barnes & Noble the night before, so hopefully Encore will be available in all three channels at about the same time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Empusa Uploaded at Smashwords

And will be available at the other outlets soon, but right now you can get your fix at Smashwords for $0.99! Everyone's favorite people-eating demon is ready to seduce you...for a price.

Empusa is one of my favorite characters, and it's nice to get to share her with a wider audience. This was one of the first erotic short stories I wrote, and it is THE first menage story and the first time I wrote men having sex with each other. M/M wasn't something I expected to be writing when I dove into erotica in 2009, but damn, it's fun!

Check back tomorrow morning, when I plan to upload The Power That Dreams Have, which is the sequel to Empusa.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finally! Ebooks are Available!

Yeay! At long last, the ebooks are going up. Originally I was hoping to dump them all in at once, but since that didn't work out, instead I'm uploading a new short story each day. Check Smashwords for the latest uploads, as Amazon and Barnes & Noble take longer to verify files. (Also, for my non-American readers, the books WILL be cheaper at Smashwords or Goodreads than at Amazon, with very few exceptions.)

On Monday, up went my 2009 Free Halloween story, A Wild Hunt. This is an updated and slightly expanded version of the novella, with a fantabulous cover (if I do say so myself!). It also includes the first chapter of my new never-before-published novel, Scent and Shadow. Like all the Halloween stories, A Wild Hunt is free. At least, it is on Smashwords and Goodreads. I've submitted the lower price at Smashwords to Amazon, but I can't control if they'll actually lower the price. If there's a way to get B&N to lower the price too, let me know!

Also on Monday, Scent and Shadow was released! YEAY!!!! After so many years, it feels good to send Gabriel and Amanda out into the world. (Wait a minute. Gabriel's a monster. That should not sound right...) Scent and Shadow retails for $4.99. This novel explores Madison, Wisconsin in the Aether Vitalis universe, explaining such bizarre things as why anyone would build a major city (okay, major for Wisconsin) on an isthmus of all freaking places, and why a city with such a limited footprint has laws limiting how high the buildings can be. I just had to find an explanation for that one! Also available at Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads.

And check out this great review of Scent and Shadow from author Jesi Lea Ryan at her blog Diary of a Bibliophile! Thanks Jesi Lea, I'm glad you liked the book!

Yesterday I uploaded the 2010 Free Halloween story, Not Quite Casper. This baby is free at Smashwords and at Goodreads, and for not-free-yet at B&N and Amazon. This is a short and spicy Aether Vitalis story about a very naughty ghost. Thank you to Sir's Kitten for the unbelievably quick review! I'm glad you liked the story!

And just uploaded tonight, my BDSM erotic romance Floggers Last Longer Than Flowers, a short story which originally appeared at the now-defunct MainstreamErotica.com. It's currently only available at Smashwords, but should show up at the other websites in a day or two. This story retails for $0.99, as will most of the rest of the short stories.

Keep checking back to see which short story gets uploaded next! There will be a new short story uploaded each weekday until Halloween, when the 2011 Free Halloween short story goes up!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What is Aether Vitalis?

Aether Vitalis is the series name for my stories wherein the rules of the universe work in specific ways. You'll see the name attached to stories as the stories become available as single titles. The series does not, as a whole, follow any particular character or set of characters, although some characters will recur frequently.

A lot of my stories have paranormal elements, but not all of them do. Truthfully, any story set in the reality we're all used to could be an Aether Vitalis story, but the stories marked as Aether Vitalis are stories where the there is a definite touch of the paranormal consistent with the rules of the Aether Vitalis universe.

And just what are the rules?

When I started figuring all this stuff out, I decided I wanted a story universe that explained the real world. I tried to reason out exactly how (insert supernatural thingie here) would work in the real universe, assuming things like conservation of energy and mass, and postulating additional factors like aether (think dark matter, or neutrinos) and vitality (life). I won't go into the minutiae here, mostly because I suffer from world-builder's disease and I doubt many of you care about how quantum physics relates to my fiction. (Although eventually I will have a webpage for stuff like that.) Instead, here are some things that you can count on from an Aether Vitalis story:

Vampires kill people. A lot. In fact, they have to, especially when they're young. There are no vampires who feed on animals, or through blood banks, or on fake blood. Vampires are a very specialized predator/parasite, and need not only blood but human energy in order to survive. They are also territorial, so you don't get big bunches of them hanging out together and plotting how to take over the world, although a few can coexist in the same city if it's a very large city and the vampires are all hunting different demographics. (And for you folklore fans, they do have reflections, but the sun sets them on fire. Also, no soulmates. I promise.)

The most common type of shapeshifter (though certainly not the only kind) are the skinshifters. (Although they're called pookhas in Britain and other names in other places.) The skinshifters are a type of faerie, whose ancestors broke away from the control of the gentry, the faerie ruling class. Unfortunately, as part of the breaking away, the skinshifters became mortal. Their forms were also limited. Before, they were purely aethereal-bodied creatures and could be anything. Now, most skinshifters are born with two skins, and the rest have to be "acquired." While they still have their aethereal form, it's rare for a skinshifter to spend much time in it, as they become ridiculously susceptible to magic while out of their skins. On the upside, they handle metal and technology better than most of the other fae.

Speaking of magic, there are a lot of different kinds of magic. (Magic being the generic term for the act of using purely energical means to influence matter, energy, vitality, or probability, regardless of method.) The generic term for a magic-user is mage. Beyond that, it depends on where you get the energy from, and what you do with it, and how you do it: sorcery, necromancy, theurgy, witchery, demonology, voodoo, shamanism...

Separate from magic (especially if you ask the mages) is psionics. Psionics are human psychic gifts, and they come in three main flavors: Extrapathy – energy influencing other energy or vitality (ie the mind or the soul); Extracognition – energy gathering information (not from vitality); and Extrakinesis – energy influencing matter or probability. Of course, I have the lexicon; the characters don't, so they are often less precise with their terminology. Extrapathic gifts are the most common, and extrakinetic gifts the most rare, based purely on genetics.

And there are gods. There are the gods that we would call gods, and then there are the gods that our gods call gods.

Of course, there's lots that I haven't touched on yet (especially in Faerie!) but this should give you some idea of the kinds of creatures and forces you might encounter in an Aether Vitalis story.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just a Brief Note

I've been attempting to stay sane and stay in touch with people outside of my own head, which means that I'm not quite done with all the formatting and covers yet. Go figure. But Scent and Shadow and A Wild Hunt are pretty much done, so we'll see. I may upload those first and then upload the shorts as I finish them, or I may wait and just do it all on Monday. Of course, just because it's uploaded doesn't mean it'll be available right away, but I'll let you all know as soon as I know, of course. Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Close to Launch

Edits are all done. Most of the formatting is done. I still need to convert everything to HTML and then clean up the code, and I still need to finish the covers. I have keywords for everything, but not back cover copy (although the descriptions I have on my website already will do in a pinch for most of the short stories).

I'm shooting to upload Friday night or Saturday morning.

Am I insane? Maybe. But I want to be done. I have other things I need to move on to.

I'm really excited about getting Scent and Shadow out there. Not just because I've been working on it for a long time, but because it's a book I would want to read, if I hadn't written it. (I'm hoping I'll want to read it myself in a year or two, but right now I've read it a bit too much. I'm weird, I re-read my own fiction the same as I re-read other people's fiction.)

For those of you who've read "A Wild Hunt," you'll recognize Madison's resident vampire, Gabriel Chapel. He's not your daughter's vampire heartthrob; he's a ruthless killer and he likes it that way.

Scent and Shadow takes place about ten years before "A Wild Hunt." You also get to meet Ariane's dad, Martin Conant, as well as other members of Madison's supernatural community.

If you haven't read "A Wild Hunt," don't worry! It'll be available, expanded and updated, as a free ebook with a really cool cover, and will also have the first chapter of Scent and Shadow as a sneak peek! Plus last year's Halloween story, "Not Quite Casper," and this year's Halloween story will both available as free ebooks as well.

Friday, October 7, 2011

100 Words About: Football

(And yes, I mean American Football.)

I only got into football last year, which I totally blame on Scott Sigler's GFL series. Despite living amidst some of the most fanatic football fans in the nation (Badger fans and Packer fans), I had never pursued the sport. I enjoyed it when it happened to be on, but (like all other sports, except local roller derby) I never sought it out.

And, of course, now that I have the NFL Rewind and the Krakens jersey and the fantasy football team, I'm too busy to watch it. Even though I can watch it darn near whenever I want.

Ahh, the things we sacrifice for art.

I take comfort in the fact that the season runs for longer than this current flurry of activity will. I've got edits done on all the short stories, and now I need to do blurbs for all of them and finish the covers, but I'm still on track.

Which is good, 'cause roller derby starts up in December!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Covers Covers Covers

I'm having a lot of fun going through photo sites and figuring out what I want to do for book covers. Short stories don't take too long to format, but covers take more time. I like piecing together several photos into something new. Granted, it's more time-consuming than just finding one picture, but given the fact that I've had good luck finding a mix of free and very cheap photos, it's a lot less expensive than buying something more ready-made.

I just started looking at fonts last night. Wow. I don't know why it's so fascinating, but I get the same giddy feeling looking through the font websites that I do when I walk into a used book store. Oh, the possibilities! Pathetic, no?

I start a class on Photoshop on Friday, which I'm pretty excited about. One of my friends helped me out with a couple of the covers I'd already started, and wow! Some of those tools are just awesome! I can't wait to get into the nuts and bolts of things.

Here's hoping I can not get so caught up in covers that I don't get any writing done...

Friday, September 30, 2011

100 Words About: Wind

It was really windy last night. The kind of windy where tree limbs fall off. I love that kind of weather, especially in the fall. It's hard to describe exactly how it makes me feel; I guess wild is the best word. If the Wild Hunt were sweeping around you, and you couldn't see them ('cause it's not Halloween or Walpurgisnacht), I imagine it might feel something like that. Unfettered and insidious, tempting you to follow.

The next day after a fall wind storm is almost like a hangover. There's trash blown everywhere because the bins have all blown over, and tree limbs and twigs all around, and what pretty fall leaves there were have all been ripped from the trees, so the foliage that's left is bare and patchy like a two-day beard. I hope there's some color left up by the apple orchard when we go.

Image: Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Novel Updates

The novel is off to the copy editor, yeay!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm trying really hard not to start a new project, because I still have a ton of work to do. I'm working on the cover for Scent and Shadow when I'm at home, and after work I'm formatting short stories on my laptop in preparation for ebook conversion.

Of course, I still have to do covers for all those stories. I haven't even started looking at fonts yet. Fortunately I've taken some artsy classes before, including one on typesetting. (This jack-of-all-trades thing comes in such handy!) I've got an idea of what I want my fonts to look like, so hopefully I won't go completely ga-ga when I start going through the font sites.

That could be wishful thinking though. I've spent hours already just looking at stock photos...

So anyway, I'm trying to get the art part done first, and then I'll add the text once I figure out what fonts I want. For formatting I'm going clean and basic, nothing fancy, so it'll work the best on the most ereaders. I've seen a number of ebooks where they tried to get funky with the font size or the spacing and it ended up all wrong. My story should be what the readers are focusing on - I think most people only notice the formatting when there's something wrong with it. Then it becomes distracting. But when it's fine, only formatting or font buffs notice, I assume (I could be wrong).

All in all, I hope to have a whole bunch of stuff available next month. Some old, some new, and some of it free to download! Including this year's brand-new free Halloween story. Muahahahaha!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Commoditites

Not much to say today, my time is being sucked up by going through my Facebook friends list and making sure I'm subscribed to everyone and All Updates is checked. Stupid Facebook. (Although being able to uncheck Games is nice.) If you make a List and add all of your friends to it, and add it to your Favorites, it's almost like your old news feed - just without all the fan pages. :( Haven't figured that part out yet. Hopefully Facebook Purity has a fix soon.

In the meantime, here's a funny-but-true demotivator someone sent me. I don't know where it originated.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Empty Brain

The line edits are done, the scenes are rewritten, and I've searched out my adverbs and words I use too much. Now I'm going over one last time, finding places where I can tighten up phrasing and break up long paragraphs to help with pacing.

And then, copy editing.

My brain feels empty.

I've had this feeling before. The first time I finished the novel - by which I mean the first time that I wrote the ending - my brain was quiet for almost a week. It was so peaceful. No characters poking at me, no scenes to figure out. Just...quiet.

This time it's less peaceful. It's more like being numb, like I've powered down. I write a lot more than I did back then, so I've gotten used to all the action in my head. Sort of like when you go to the dentist. Even when you aren't using your lip for anything, you know it's there; you miss it when it's numb. You can't help noticing it, even though when you can actually feel it, you don't notice it at all.

Of course, as soon as I start taking notes for Ashes of Empire (the Constantinople storyline), I know my brain will tingle painfully back to life. I'm just putting that off for a few days while I finish the read-through, to keep my head in the game.

Man, I'm looking forward to that though. I'm dying to do something totally new. I think I'm more excited about starting a new project than I am about finally putting Scent and Shadow to bed after over thirteen years.

I love this job.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, September 16, 2011

Closer and Closer!

The line edits that I got from my Write By The Lake instructor are done, yeay! So with that and the rewrite of the big battle at the end, all I have left to do are:

Finish the rewrite of the hunters' introduction
Rewrite/touch up the other hunter scenes to match (six scenes or so)
Make another pass for adverbs and words I use too much
Reread the whole thing and look for things I broke during the fixes

And then it's off for copyediting!

That may look like a lot, but I'm hoping I can get it all done this week. Next week at most.

I'm less scared and more excited at this point as I get closer to being done with the writing side of things. Also, this great post by Dean Wesley Smith helped too. I love Dean and Kris. They've always got great advice.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

One Step Closer

I finished one of the rewrites on the novel, the biggest single thing I had to do to it. It feels good; I feel close to being done.

It's hard not to freak out.

I'm going to be putting my stuff out there soon. Without the gatekeepers.

It's scary. And exciting.

It's a risk. I know the novel is good. It might be really good. It might well be good enough for a big agent, a big contract. I think it is. But without submitting it to the gatekeepers, how do you know?

And yet, I'm not going to.

For years I dreamed of getting published by a big publisher. I dreamed of the big advance, the contract, of seeing my book on a bookstore shelf. And now I'm turning my back on all that, and taking a book that might well be worth a five-figure advance and publishing it online for roughly $3.50 gross, each. Doing my own marketing. Investing in editing and cover art and classes on how to format. I could easily lose money on the deal.

But I'm still going to do it myself.

I believe in my work. I believe the audience is out there. I believe I can find them.

Maybe I'm wrong. But at least, if my venture fails, it won't be anyone's fault but mine. And I'll be free to try again, and again, and again.

And I will. No one can stop me but me.

Friday, September 9, 2011

100 Words About: Actually Honoring 9/11

Yeah, it's been ten years, and I can kinda see maybe wanting to do something in remembrance of that fateful day. I don't know if we did anything for the ten year anniversary of Pearl Harbor. But we sure as hell weren't selling commemorative coins or bits of blasted boats back then. Back in those days, if you wanted to spend money related to the attack, you bought a freaking war bond.

What the hell changed?

Every year around this time I have to start filtering my media consumption. I wish it was just because listening to sad stories makes me cry, but mostly it's because all the 9/11 "coverage" just pisses me off. Most of it is selling something, whether it's a trinket that won't help either the survivors or the families or the war or the first responders (I won't get started on that one right now, Congress) or selling an idea: racial or religious hatred; fear, uncertainty, and doubt; or "vote for me."

You want to honor the fallen? How about you get something done with that big empty hole that's been sitting there for ten years now? Our grandparents' generation would've had the twin towers rebuilt in six months just as a giant "fuck you."

Right after the attack, this country came together, neighbor united with neighbor in a way that made me proud to be an American. Since then, people have done nothing but use its memory to tear us apart from each other and take away our liberties.

So have one last three-ring circus. But then, let's put this thing to bed and move on to something relevant.

Image: Paul Martin Eldridge / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day!

Posting a little early this week. I hope you all had a lovely weekend! I ransomed The Husband back from Vegas (cost: gasoline and a couple hours of driving) and got a computer virus. Good thing they happened in that order, as The Husband is the technologically-savvy person in this household. All I can say is I LOVE CrashPlan. :)

Do you have a backup plan? Huh, do ya, punk?

I did not get nearly as much work done on the novel this holiday weekend as I would have liked, but I'm making progress. Speaking of which, I need to get back to the grind before The Husband gets back from his guy night.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Outta My Way, Me

The Husband is out of town until Friday. I should have the whole week to get my edits done, right?

Except I have friends who want to make plans every night this week.

I like my friends. Normally I wouldn't have a problem being that social. (Ok, I would, but I'd still do it. I find groups of any real size to be very tiring.)

Problem is, I haven't worked on the novel in days. I have no real excuses except wanting to spend more time with The Husband before he had to go out of town. (Noble excuse, in my own mind.)

I'm back to being sick of the novel. Not because I think it's bad, but because I'm pretty happy with it. And I'm tired of working on it. Isn't this close enough???

No. I want this novel done. Done done done. Outta my hair and out into the ether for good or ill. But it still needs to be done right.

And the only thing standing in my way is...me.

So Monday I went out and was social. Tonight is my writing group, and while that isn't writing, it is useful. So I hereby pledge that I will work hard Wednesday night and Thursday night, and quite possibly Friday if The Husband crashes out when he gets home. (He'll either be a walking zombie or totally wired, I give it 50/50 odds.)

So outta my way, me. I want this thing done this week if I can at all humanly do it. Then it's off for copy editing while I (gulp!) try to find a cover.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Just Had to Share


Sometimes you just find a picture that resonates with you. The drawing is by begemott.

While the monster is awesome, it's the teddy bear that really holds my attention. The posture and attitude are just perfect, and I love the use of color.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Online Resources for Writers: An Example

I'm adding a new scene to the novel, and I decided I wanted it to be somewhere on the eastern seaboard, eventually settling (rather randomly) on the Carolinas. Since my vampires need fairly sizable populations to sustain them while they're young, I had been thinking Charleston. However, a young vampire would be too weak to hold territory in a bigger city, so I needed a suburb.

A Google search for "charleston sc suburbs" netted (ha, pun!) me an article that mentioned Huntersville, NC as one of the fastest-growing and most affordable suburbs to live in. A local real estate website showed that yes, the kind of house I wanted to describe did exist there, and furthermore, the real estate site also listed what year the houses were built. This was very important as my story takes place in 1999. The first subdivision I looked at had houses built in 2006. About 15 minutes of looking at listings got me a subdivision built in 1996.

Then it was on to Google Maps! God, I love street view. I wanted something out of Patio Man and the Sprawl People, and this place fit the bill. Perfect.

Now, since my story takes place on a specific day, it was off to Weather Underground. The archives for Huntersville only go back to 2001, but nearby Charlotte, NC goes back to 1941. So picking the date I needed in the History & Almanac section showed me what time sunrise was (very important) as well as hourly temperature, wind speed, and weather condition information. While that may seem a bit obsessive, it's great for describing what it's like for my characters as they stand outside on this quintessentially suburban street. (The weather is really the only thing that distinguishes one suburb from another...)

And there you are. A little bit of time on the web and I have all the resources I need to recreate in writing a real place I've never been to.

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Distractions and Some Cool Links

Yeah, I'm late. Sorry about that. Not only did I get my novel edits in the mail this week, but we signed up for NFL Game Rewind. All the football I can watch, whenever I want (mostly), no commercials. Dear God, when am I going to have time to write???

Anyway, here are two links, somewhat related, to get you thinking.

First, the ever-entertaining Blue sent me this link on 25 Ways To Fuck With Your Characters. Not only amusing, but good advice too. (I liked this so much I had to buy Chuck's books.) Remember, author, you are the puppetmaster. And not only are you the puppetmaster, but you're a sadistic puppetmaster at that. Revel in it.

Second, the ever-insightful Lori Devoti has a post over at the Writer's Salon about how to create conflict and shift power between characters using dialogue. What, me play with power dynamics? Never!

Have fun kids, I'm off to try to get some edits done on 1794 before The Husband gets home. 'Cause after that it's gonna be nothin' but pigskin.

Image: Marcus74id / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Post-Activity Slump

I've written about patience many times, as I truly believe that patience is one of the most important skills a writer can nurture. But right now I'm kinda caught up in the insidious flip-side of patience: the post-activity slump.

I have a novel and four short stories out to editors, as well as two short stories out on submission. It's hard not to check the email every five minutes, but I have to have patience.

The problem I'm having right now is that I have a ton of stuff to do - a novella to finish, rewrites on another, six covers to make, blurbs to write, and I still haven't come up with a good title for the novel - but it's really hard to get motivated. I've gotten so much done in the last couple months, and I'm waiting waiting waiting to hear back from the editors so I know how much more work I have to do and can start planning a more firm timeline...and all I want to do is chill out for a couple weeks while I wait.

It almost even makes sense. Once I know my timeline, it'll be easier to prioritize, right? And I've spent so much time recently writing and doing business stuff, surely it would be good to take some time off for research and catching up on other authors. (Especially since my one research book is due back at the library any day now and I've used up all my renewals.)

Granted, I did spend a lot of hours last week learning Paint.NET and getting two covers mostly done, but I still sorta feel like I'm slacking, because I'm not writing. I haven't written anything new in months. It's all been edits and rewrites. And I keep looking forward to when all these stories are up and epubbed, because then things should slow down. I can get back to writing. I just want to know when. And until I know when, it's hard to concentrate.

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, August 12, 2011

100 Words About: Talent

Dean Wesley Smith had an interesting post over at his blog, talking about "The Myth of Talent." I agree with a lot of it. I think labeling someone as "talented" or "untalented" (especially at an early age) can be incredibly damaging and counterproductive.

However, I do believe in talent, which Dean doesn't.

The Husband and I had a great discussion about this topic last night, which led me to post a comment over at Dean's blog. Here are my thoughts on the subject:

My husband did bring up a good point after I showed him this post. You can say that talent doesn't matter up to a point, but you also have to take into account certain limiting factors. Just as there are physical limitations, like my poor eyesight making it so I will never be a fighter pilot, there are also mental limitations. He reminded me of a couple friends in high school who worked their butts off trying to learn stuff, and could just never wrap their heads around it. Certain maths just didn't make sense to them, no matter how it was explained. And it's not that they weren't trying, but they just couldn't grasp the fundamental concepts needed to improve their skills.

I think hard work can improve anyone. Those friends of mine certainly understood more than they would have without the hard work. But there is a limit, and that limit is different for different people on different subjects, and I think that is what true "talent" is. Talent without hard work will only get you so far, and hard work without talent will only get you so far (although I'd wager that hard work will get you farther than raw talent 99 times out of 100). In the cases where you hit a limit, though, telling those folks that they just aren't trying hard enough is cruel. They haven't discovered a surgery yet that would make my eyesight good enough for me to be a fighter pilot, no matter how hard I worked at learning to fly planes.

Ultimately, I think talent is anything you can't take credit for. I learn things very quickly, much more quickly than most of my peers in school. That's not something I did, and I can't take credit for it. It's a talent, and one I am grateful to have. I exercise and make use of it by always learning about new things, but ultimately, I can't take credit for it. And I think recognizing the talents we do have helps keep us humble. Be grateful for the talents you have, and work your butt off in appreciation to make the most of them. I bristle when people say "well, you can be a published writer because you have talent," because writing IS something I can take credit for. I've worked hard for years to get to the level I'm at now, and I'm going to continue to work hard, hopefully for the rest of my life. There may be some talent there, but it's mostly hours and hours and hours of hard work.

If someone tells me I'm "just talented" at something and it makes me uncomfortable, it's usually because it's something I can't take credit for. That's a talent. If someone tells me I'm "just talented" at something and it pisses me off, that's not talent, that's hard work. And that's how I tell the difference.

Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Short Story Release!

My newest short story is now available from Burning Bulb Press. The anthology is The Big Book of Bizarro, and my story is called "Succor the Child."

I love weird fiction, and Lovecraft in particular, and this anthology let me range in different directions from my more romantic works. While "Succor" isn't specifically a Mythos story, it might as well be. I sure as heck lost sanity writing it. Fortunately it was only temporary. (Or at least, that's what they tell me.)

Seriously though, the story is based on a dream I had. I woke up, got the dream fixed in my head, and then ran to my computer. Six or so hours later I had a first draft, and my world-view was pretty skewed for about 18 hours before it finally got back to normal. Channeling this baby messed with me hard, but reactions have all pretty much been "creepy!" so I'll take that as a win.

Stop by my website to read a excerpt!

Friday, August 5, 2011

100 Words About: Progress Update

My novel is off to my Write by the Lake instructor for final polishing and tweaking. Of course, I've already thought of a couple more things to fix, but such is life. (Must make a note somewhere...) I still have to come up with a better name. Names are usually not too bad for me, but this one has never really suggested a good name to me so I'm still kicking it around. And of course, no idea what to do for a cover. I want to get a professional cover for the novel, but I need to come up with a name first.

I have 2-3 short stories that I can do a little extra polishing on, but which are pretty much good to go. I just need to format them and make covers. I have some software to learn so I can make the covers myself (hiring out for short stories doesn't seem very cost effective), but I'm not sure when I'll have time to go through the tutorials. Summer is so busy! Maybe I'll take another vacation day.

I have two novellas that are close to being ready also. My hope is to have 5-6 items at varying prices (free to $4.99) available all at once initially, and just keep adding more. Timing is going to depend on how long my novel edits take. It's all a ton of work and planning, but very exciting!

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net