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

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Infinite Tiny Monopolies

On Friday I talked about book buying and a purchasing-eye-view of what's up in publishing, in which I emphasized the importance of immediate gratification in our cultural buying habits. If the book's not on the shelf, you risk the reader picking up something else instead.

Now for the other side of that coin: Every book is a tiny monopoly.

This is the same in the gaming industry as it is in books. Someone who goes to the store to purchase "a game" or "a book" is likely to leave with "a game" or "a book" regardless of whether they had a specific item in mind. But people who are looking for a specific book or game that is out of stock are much more likely to leave without buying anything.

An example:

Bob goes to his local game store to buy a game because he's having some friends over on Friday. He was sorta thinking about getting Uno, but the store doesn't have it, so he gets a copy of Fluxx instead. He might also pick up another game or two, just in case the first one sucks, or maybe a few packs of Magic cards, or some shiny thing that catches his eye that he didn't know was available. (We gamers like shiny things.)

The Settlers of Catan is one of the most successful board games of all time. If Bob goes to his local gaming store specifically to buy Settlers and the store has it in stock, Bob is going to buy that copy of Settlers, and maybe an expansion for the game or something shiny as well (see above). Whereas if the store is out of Settlers, then Bob is most likely going to leave and try somewhere else without buying anything.

Why? Because he doesn't just want "a" game. He wants "that" game. Settlers is its own tiny monopoly.

The same is true for books. If Bill goes to Barnes & Noble just to browse, he's probably leaving with at least one book even if the specific book he was kinda thinking of buying is out of stock. But if Bill goes to Barnes & Noble looking for a copy of Chalice by Robin McKinley, and the store doesn't have it, it's off to the next store, or off to order it online. (If you have to order it, you might as well order it online where it's going to be cheaper, arrive faster, and probably won't cost you shipping if you combine it with those impulse buys you would've made anyway.)

What all this boils down to is that, as an author, I need my book to be on the shelf. If it's not on the shelf, that big distribution channel is kinda useless. If my book isn't big enough to warrant a chunk of that shrinking shelf space, then I'm probably not going to lose many sales by not being in Barnes & Noble at all versus being in as a special order item.