Monday, January 31, 2011

Ebooks vs. Print Books

Recently Amazon stated that they sold more Ebooks than print books last year. With the plethora of e-readers out there now, this may come as no surprise.Then, why do most people still put authors into two categories: "Real authors" and "Other".

I've heard some very uneducated people say that unless your book is published by one of the big six (Simon & Schuster, Random House, etc.) and available in print. Everyone else (especially authors with small presses and whose books are available in the ebook format only) falls under other or even "not a real author".

As an author with smaller presses and books in ebook and print, I find this offensive, but I also realize that this is the thinking that people have because they just don't understand that the world of publishing is changing.So rather than get upset or show disdain, I choose to educate and let these people know that I go through the same editing process as someone with the big six. I also show them that at the end of the day, the books all look the same with e-ink technology.

The point is, the world is changing and so are the trends, today epubbed authors may be listed in the "other" column, tomorrow we won't be. Some people are just slow to catch on.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Headlines as inspiration

I hate the phrase "ripped from the headlines" but sometimes it is appropriate. It's no surprise to me or anyone who knows me well that I finally created a character that's a reporter. I love knowing what's going on in the world, seeing the threads of where today's events originated in the past and speculating about where they might lead in the future. What writer hasn't been captivated by a headline? I always imagined crime news might be inspiring to mystery writers, especially crimes not easily solved. My husband has a subscription to Wired magazine and also checks their website often. The stories he relates to me sometimes sound like they would make great fodder for speculative fiction. If I wrote military sci-fi I would be keeping an eye on their DarpaWatch tag. The fact that they even have a DarpaWatch tag is kind of awesome. All kinds of weird little plot bunnies might be found by perusing the links collected at the Daily Grail news briefs. Sometimes it's just little odd stories that capture your imagination and insist on being filed away for future use in a story. I remember coming across one such item about a piano found in the woods. It was too far away from any homes to have been easily moved their and no one in the area had any idea how it got out in the middle of the forest like that. I had a vision of a pianist playing for Fae as they danced around the trees, and filed the thought away in case I might be able to work it into a story eventually.

Sometimes it's the big stories that fascinate me. I have conflicted feelings about the realities surrounding Wikileaks, but I have to say as a writer it fascinates me. If I wrote spy thrillers I would be all over this. There's stuff there for speculative fiction writers, though. Here's a great headline: Rumors continue that Wikileaks will release cables about "war" on UFOs. The headline alone is so great, you don't even need to click on the story before your imagination is off and running. Believe me, my imagination has galloped. But I have to build my fictional world before I soak it in gasoline and drop a match on it.

Have you ever been inspired by something you read in the paper or online news?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Are you on course?

Over the past few years I’ve encountered a number of so-called pros who offer writing advice or writers’ courses—for a fee (and a very steep one at that). While I’m certain many of these courses have much to offer aspiring writers, I can’t help but cringe when I hear some of the costs for a two-day workshop when compared to an accredited course offered by an established tertiary institution.

I chatted with a literary agent about this recently, sharing some of my misgivings, and she asked me one pertinent question: “Is the person offering the course qualified or backed up with enough industry experience to justify charging those prices?”

Because, let’s face it, there’s a lot of allure attached to attending a dedicated writers’ workshop, where those who’re industry professionals share their knowledge and offer you the keys to unlocking the future of your own publishing success.

Some writers’ workshops are worth their weight in gold, but I start getting twitchy when I see people parted from their hard-earned cash for information that is already freely available online.

I’ll be honest. I’ve never had the cash to fork out between $300 to $600 for a two-day workshop. I began my writing career by joining an online critique group and eventually started a dedicated writers’ group in my home town. I’m lucky because I’ve received in-house training at the newspaper publisher where I work as a sub-editor, and can back my knowledge up with a decade’s actual publishing experience, ranging from magazines, to print production, newspapers and electronic fiction publishing.

But, here’s the rub: the most invaluable assistance I’ve received so far has been from listening to what other authors, editors, publishers and literary agents have to say about the industry; that, but also keeping my dedicated writers’ groups on the go where authors grow together.

Most importantly, I’ve not taken critique personally, and when I do identify a problem area in my writing, I make damn sure to internalise the lesson I’ve learnt and not to repeat mistakes. It’s all about progressing. I’ve pulled myself up by my literary bootstraps. Some of the stellar authors in my stable have done the same, and their new manuscripts go from strength to strength after we’ve worked together on a debut title. Yes, you can become a successful author without shelling out thousands of clams for a writers’ course.

This blog post is not about knocking writers’ courses. There are some fantastic courses and workshops out there. However, do yourself a huge favour and conduct a thorough background check on the person or organisation in question. Is this an industry professional with a proven publishing track record, or is this someone who’s just offering writers’ courses and whom you wouldn’t have heard about otherwise? Compare the prices of these courses with those of established workshops. And, remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Early Mornings

Those who have been following my blog a while will be aware that in order to be disciplined about getting some writing in before work, I get up early a couple of mornings a week. This time of year it's still dark, and cold, at 6:30 when I leave the house. As I glance at the darkened windows of the homes I pass on the way to the station, I feel slightly envious that everyone else is still in bed. The train is quite busy, though, so clearly I'm not the only person awake at that time of day.

My destination is Starbucks on Regent Street, and I usually get there just after 7:30am. When it's cold out, my destination is all the more welcoming. It's warm and bright. The staff are friendly, and they know me there now. They know what I usually order. They know I'm working on a book - they sometimes ask how it's going.

I set up at a table downstairs - the same table every time, partly because I'm a creature of habit and partly because there's a power point there I can plug my NetBook into. It's quiet at that time of day, and the place is empty. I take off my coat, boot up the NetBook, and get started on the WIP over my soya latte and ginger muffin. There's free wifi too, so often, while I'm trying to get my brain into gear I'll check emails or take a peek at Facebook.

When I leave the coffee shop to go to work, about an hour later, I have to bundle up once more to face the winter air. But it's daylight by that time, there's a long queue at the counter and the streets are packed with commuters.

As I greet the day, I feel a sense of accomplishment. My working day is just beginning, but I've already got my daily word count in. Those early starts are worth the effort.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Don’t Break the Chain"

Yesterday I reached a milestone in my current work-in-progress: 70k words. Not a big deal? Probably not. But it is for me because I never thought I’d write any story over 50k. When I bemoaned this fact to an author/publisher I met at Hypericon, he suggested I add a new character. It worked. Actually, I added three characters. The trick was to integrate them into the novel so their presence was organic to the plot.

My goal is to finish the first draft of this novel by the end of the month. One inspiration keeping me on target is the “Don’t Break the Chain” calendar. According to The Writers Store, the calendar is inspired by Jerry Seinfeld. For every day you write, mark an X on the calendar. The idea is to keep the chain of Xs intact. In other words, “don’t break the chain.”  

Since January 5 there’s a continuous chain of green Xs on the calendar taped to the wall in front of me. Granted, there are 340 days left, but my goal is to keep up this level of discipline toward my writing. And anyone who knows me knows I like to challenge myself.    

If you’re interested in obtaining your own calendar, The Writers Store offers a free PDF download. And the good news? You can start any day of the year.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The art of finding truth in fiction

I recently read somewhere that "acting is the art of finding truth in even the most outlandish lie." Upon reading that, my mind immediately went to fiction. After all, fiction is just a reflection of life told in a more compelling way, right?

Some of you may be asking, how does this apply to horror or urban fantasy? I've been thinking about that too. The characters are a slice of life in a bizarre setting. So being that, some of our characters have the human element (whether they be vampire, werewolf, or space alien), they have some of our flaws as human beings, and the capability to learn or exude human-like emotion. Hell even Vulcan's are not as impervious to emotional thought as they'd like to belief. Using those subtle similarities to life, we must work to find the truth in everything our characters do, thus transforming an imaginary world into something tangible worthy of readers' attention.

What this all boils down to is character and plot. If we are asking readers to suspend their disbelief for hours on end, we must give them something they can relate to--something they can care about.As story-tellers, we must give our characters motives and characteristics, and stay true to those. We must give our plot reasons to move forward that are believable, conflicts that are worthy of our protagonists, and motivation worthy of interesting antagonists. We must also seek the truth in our own words for our worlds. If you don't believe the world you're crafting, than what makes you think readers will?

Just a little food for thought.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ace is on the case

My current work in progress has the amazingly original working title of Ace Two. (Y'all, I suck at titles.) This is the second story in my Paranormal Beat series. Ace One doesn't have a home yet but I'm working on the next one anyway. There is a lot of sound, reasonable advice about not writing a sequel until you sell the first one, but I'm doing it anyway because that's just how I roll.

Here's a little background:
 Aislinn "Ace" Jackson once dreamed of an illustrious career as a prize-winning investigative reporter but reality cut her dreams short. The Great Recession sends her to the unemployment line, forced to take the only journalism job she can get - working for a tabloid. But instead of covering starlets and scandal, Ace is stuck kicking it old-school. She used to write about political corruption and corporate crime, now she's covering alien abductions and Elvis sightings. Her career is hurtling down a dead-end road at top speed and all she wants is a way back to meaningful work. The last thing she expects is to find herself in a secret world full of fairytale monsters, conspiracies, and magic that is finally being exposed as real with modern science, medicine, and technology. But when she does she dives right in, determined to find the truth. Working the Paranormal Beat, Ace Jackson will get the story, one way or another.

Right now I'm in chapter two and Ace has left Point Sable, the fictional city that is home to both Ace herself and her tabloid employer Confidential Observer, for Sierra Fuego, the fictional city that is the focus of her latest investigation. So far I've done research on a few different things. Autopsies, for one. I found this handy guide for writers that is definitely worth bookmarking if you don't already know this stuff and think you might need it one day. I've also done a little reading on chupacabras, naguals, and habanero margaritas. Guess which one I find more frightening.

The specific scene I'm about to write is very important because it will introduce the male main character for this story, a shaman. They meet in a bar that in my imagination is reminiscent of the one at the beginning of Desperado. Not the one where Antonio Banderas plays guitar, the one where Cheech Marin was the bartender and Banderas shot the place up in spectacular fashion. Okay, maybe it won't be that bad, but it's definitely a place that doesn't roll out the welcome mat for strangers.

Writing tip: when you're writing scenes like this, don't mention the movie because that is the same as telling - show the place. Use your senses and your vocabulary to paint a picture. The reader doesn't necessarily have to recognize your inspiration.

So, it's an important scene, and I think I just figured out how to raise the stakes even higher. Maybe being attacked by chupacabras will teach that bartender not to serve something like habanero margaritas.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

You can lead an author to water...

I've come to the conclusion, over the past half-decade that I've been editing text professionally, that there are two kinds of writers: those who grasp every opportunity to improve their writing and those who think an editor can wave a magic wand and make everything better.

I've worked with both kinds. The former go on to become successful authors. The latter continuously turn in manuscripts with the same typographical and grammatical errors, and the same issues that dog their writing (this makes me look bad if anyone says I was their editor).

Unfortunately (for me) the former belong to a group from whom I see "in kind" repayment or are authors I am contracted to edit, for which I see very little financial compensation. But, you know what? I don't mind. I love what I do and am absolutely thrilled when I see proactive authors go from strength to strength. It feels like team effort and, when others sit up and take note, it's even more fantastic. Money would be nice, but it's not everything.

But the last group... People, please. Just because you throw money at me doesn't mean I alone will make your manuscript shine. You are paying me to offer you one-on-one expertise. It breaks my heart when I see you haven't absorbed anything I've taught you. I can't make your manuscript better. You must. I can show you what you're doing wrong. I can offer advice, but you must make the effort to absorb these teachings, inscribe them on your heart and mind, and grow.

And I've honestly reached the point where I'm no longer interested in taking on paying clients unless their manuscript already displays a fair degree of skill in self-editing. How do you get there? Join an online writers' group. Buy "how to" books. There are so many good resources out there. I'm going to share one that will offer you a plethora of useful information:

This site has a forum where just about everyone who's everyone hangs out. Go there. That's an excellent starting point. Work hard, learn from your mistakes. But please, learning to write is an art, not a science, and it requires hours of dedicated practice, of listening to your critique partners. The mark of a successful writer is someone who can work hard to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

All the expensive creative writing courses in the world or spiffy editors won't help you unless you take it upon yourself to take a critical look at your writing and ask, "How do I improve?"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The "Eureka" Moment

All writers have that moment. I call it the "Eureka" moment. Stephen King describes it as the moment "the muse shat on my head".

It's that moment when you're minding your own business, not thinking about writing, when suddenly, out of the blue, you know how to fix that plot problem. It's like being hit by a thunderbolt. And it's why all writers carry around a notebook and writing instrument, because when that thunderbolt hits, you want to make notes before it leaves your head as quickly as it arrived.

My latest "Eureka" moment happened the other day as I was heading home from work. I was being jostled at the top of the steps of Oxford Circus station, which is a bit of a nightmare at the moment. All entrances bar one are closed because of escalator works, so between 5pm and 6pm you have about 300 people a minute trying to get down one set of steps.

I'd been mulling over the problem of how my amateur sleuth was going to acquire a relevant mobile phone number, which was hidden away somewhere on a dead man's mobile phone. Even if she managed to illegally acquire the phone, there was still the problem of how to get round the password - particularly since the owner of the phone is dead, and it's unlikely a paranoid and egotistical rock star would not have his phone passworded.

I wasn't thinking about my plot at that particular moment. I was thinking about getting home after a crap day at work, and would I get to Victoria Station in time for the 5:30pm train? But suddenly, as I was being swept along with the crowd, the solution suddenly hit me, right out of the blue.

The main problem then was, being surrounded by hundreds of people as I was, I couldn't immediately stop and pull out my notebook. Nor could I do so on the underground, as it was nose-to-elbow full as usual.

So I had to hold onto that thunderbolt until I got onto my train on Victoria Station, where I was able to find a seat. Happily, I happened to have the NetBook with me - it was a Writing Morning Day - and able to transcribe that "Eureka!" moment straight into the notes of the WIP where it belongs. And therefore the story ends happily. Plot problem solved, my amateur sleuth is able to continue with her snooping.

My experience of "Eureka!" moments is they never hit you when you're sitting at your computer staring at your manuscript, but at some inconvenient moment when you're thinking about something else entirely.

Where do you get yours??

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Flipping the Writing Coin: Send Your Darlings to the Chopping Block

“Kill your darlings.”

We hear this advice throughout our writing careers. But it’s more than an adage bordering on the cliché. It’s a technique we need to learn if we’re to improve our manuscripts.

Don’t believe you need to edit your stories? Don’t delude yourself. Take a look at your work-in-progress. Are there scenes that bog the story down and add nothing to the plot? Get rid of them. Yes, I realize you’ve written some lovely prose and you hate to deprive your readers. Guess what? They’re not going to care how wonderful your writing is if they’re jerked out of the story.
Dialogue retelling exposition? Nothing more than idle chit chat? You know what to do. Action not moving the scene along? Let it go.

Case in point. I recently edited the first three chapters of Serpent Fire, the second book in my Angels of Death series. The first chapter had been revised a few times so it’s almost ready for critiques. But chapters two and three? Ha! Whole pages were cut. Dialogue was rewritten and at least three scenes were tossed. (Not that they won’t be used in another story. Remember, you’re only cutting what doesn’t work for this particular manuscript. The scenes left on the cutting-room floor may be salvageable in another project.)

The way I see it, chapters two and three will be combined. Brutal? Sure. Necessary? Hell, yeah.

Yes, it’s painful to chop up your hard work. Trust me, I’ve been there. But I never fall in love with my writing so much I can’t look at it with a critical eye.

I don’t just kill my darlings. I fold, spindle, mangle, and mutilate them.  

Be honest about the quality of your writing. Because if you aren’t, your critique partner or editor will be. Above all, don’t give up!     

Friday, January 14, 2011

Finding your genre

One of the first steps to getting started as a writer and taking it seriously is finding your genre. When I first began to think I might actually be able to write, and finish, stories and novels I had no real thought about genre. Even though I read widely, I had no real idea what I wanted to write or how it might be classified. The first novel I finished would be considered a Young Adult paranormal, if it were worth publishing instead of being forever hidden away in my Trunk folder. From there I gravitated to Urban Fantasy, for a number of reasons. I had loved all things paranormal and supernatural since I was a kid. As an adult I developed a fondness for noir and mystery novels. Then there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel - dissertations could be written about Joss Whedon's influence on pop culture, fiction, and storytelling. Finally, there was my first actual UF novels - Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files. In the UF genre I found so much of what I loved all rolled into one package. Writing UF seemed a no-brainer.

Write what you know may be an important guideline, albeit one that could be interpreted any number of ways. I think write what you love is equally important. If there's no passion, it's going to be a short relationship between you and that book you're trying to write. Here's my favorite quote from Stephen King's On Writing: "I was built with a love of the night and the unquiet coffin." I couldn't say it better myself. While it's true I love to read many genres, paranormal is where my heart's at and the first place my writing instincts lead me. When you first start out and are still learning how to write, don't handicap yourself by trying to write what you think you should write. Write what you feel you should write. And keep doing that, possibly for years. Maybe forever. It's good to challenge yourself and try your hand at other genres. I did that several times last year, and failed each and every time. ;-) I'll probably keep trying, and maybe keep failing. But the bulk of my writing is in the Urban Fantasy genre and most likely will be for some time. It's what I love, and I think I'm even getting kind of good at it. It suits me, too, with my love of moonlight and all things that go bump in the night.

What draws you to the genre in which you write?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Links and stuff...

Sorry, I have to brag a little. My cover art for The Namaqualand Book of the Dead is complete and the stunning artist, Lyn Taylor, made me some wallpaper, which I'm sharing with you today. You can follow her blog here:

But, not only has she outdone herself, she's used the amazing Jimmy Thomas as cover art model. This man has appeared on more than 900 romance covers and, when you go look at his bio, he's so multifaceted he makes me hurt (model, martial artist, architect and more). See:

So, I've also been getting organised. I've finally put up my Facebook author page here: and you can go check out my other Lyrical press releases here:

I'm a happy puppy right now. **grins**

A Writer's Prayer

One of my writing group friends posted this link on the group forum recently, and I had to share it with you.

** Disclaimer: Contains language that might be offensive to some **

I am going to print off this writer's prayer and post it on the bulletin board in my writing corner. Then, next time I am discouraged, thinking what I am writing is complete rubbish, I will read it and it might inspire me to keep going. I think it's worth reminding ourselves occasionally why it's worth plugging away at this writing gig. We certainly don't do it for fun.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Flipping the Writing Coin: Talent is a Four-Letter Word

Years ago, while taking painting lessons through the Louisville Visual Arts Association, I made the mistake of asking my instructor if I had talent. She gave me a pained look. While I don’t remember her exact words, the gist was she didn’t want to go there.

At first I was hurt and even a bit upset. I wanted to know if I had “the right stuff” to pursue an artistic career. But over the years I’ve come to realize she was right.

“Talent” is a four-letter word.

The problem with talent is it’s meaningless unless accompanied by a desire to succeed and a willingness to work toward that success. I could be the next Koontz or Bradbury (which I’m not) but unless I devote time to learning and improving my craft, it doesn’t matter one iota how much talent I have.

My high school teachers (and some students) raved about my writing. They insisted I had talent and should pursue publication. I went on to major in English and minor in creative writing with every intention of getting my masters in journalism. Graduation came and guess what?

My writing career spiraled down that long slide into oblivion. I never attended graduate school. And it was nearly a decade before I started freelance writing for two local magazines. Worse still? Even though I’d written stories in high school and college, I’d stopped writing fiction until a few years ago.

I may have had the talent but I didn’t have the drive. And even someone without talent can learn to write, paint, etc. without the need for any special aptitudes.

So if you fear lack of natural gifts is keeping you from being a successful writer, just remember: Talent is not a prerequisite to success.

Determination, perseverance, and persistence are.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Published what?

This week, I've decided to write on the realities of being published, versus the romantic connotations of what it means to be an author.

When I was simply called a writer, I thought that was difficult. My life at the time consisted of writing, revising and editing my manuscript so that I could send it off to a publisher, agent, etc. The waiting at this point was excruciating, I would submit and wait with baited breath for a letter with the golden words:

Dear Ms Christman,

We’re happy to inform you that after reviewing your submission, we’d like to extend a contract for (INSERT MANUSCRIPT TITLE HERE)....

I thought once this happens, my life is going to be different. But more often than not, it didn't happen that way. I got the form rejection letters (although when I was subbing The Witching Hour, I did get a couple that were personalized and said something along the lines of: I really enjoyed your manuscript, however.... but I wouldn't recommend any changes) and felt the momentary disappointment at the setbacks. I believe I subbed five manuscripts before I had even written The Witching Hour, all to unanimous no's.

But enough dwelling on the no's. The purpose of this blog is not to give rejection stories.

When I finally got my letter with the magic words that my manuscript had been accepted for publication, I was elated and ecstatic. I was ready for the long road ahead of me. I finally had a foot in the door somewhere and my book would be distributed for the consumption of the masses.

Although I didn't feel any different, I had moved into a new category of writer. I had moved into author and from now on, the craft that I was so dedicated to was my business.

I was prepared for the long rounds of editing that I had heard some of my favorite authors talk about. The going back and forth with an editor who would work with me to polish and produce the best possible version of my book.

I was even prepared for the long arduous road of self promotion. Because let's face it, no one is going to buy your book if they have no idea who the hell you are. I hate self-promotion, but marketing was something that I was reasonably knowledgeable about thanks to my jobs in corporate America. I had learned the importance of branding and building a brand. Things that helped me as I moved forward. But in the meantime, while I waited for my first round edits to come from my editor, I read absolutely everything I could find about promotion and marketing even coming up with a plan.

The essential difference between a writer and an author is an author realizes that publishing is a business. An author wants to write as a career. A writer can write one book and be done with it all.

As any business owner will tell you, the only way to succeed is to have plenty of product and plenty of effective advertising. This is where my life became different.

When I was a writer, all I had to worry about was writing and I did that when the mood struck. As an author, I now had a business to consider. It is my desire to be very successful (we're not talking millions here, just a healthy royalty check); my ultimate goal is to be able to make enough to write full time. And it happens, but not without a considerable amount of work.

This point of my career consists of making sure that I continue to build my brand, promotion, writing, and revising according to my editor's suggestions. And while it seems that this is not a lot let me assure you, promotion and brand building take up about 75% of your time. Of course all the interviews, signings, etc in the world aren't going to help you if you don't have a healthy backlist, which is why I no longer write when the mood strikes me. I literally schedule time to work on my WIP. And because I am just starting out and have no assistant, I also have to make time to update my website (which can take some time depending on what I am doing);updating my blog, twitter, and facebook. I also have to make sure I tackle any and all revisions on time (so my release dates don't get pushed).

Then there is scheduling time to spend with my poor neglected BF and pooch, both of whom put up with it all so well.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change a thing. I love the new challenges of this phase of my writing career. But I work harder now, then when I just worked a regular cubicle job. And I am more willing to do this because its my passion.

I am not advocating throwing in your pen. I'm just saying that if you want to just write, then being a professional author is not really for you. Similarly, if you expect to just write a book and get rich all of a sudden, it doesn't happen that way (there are a few exceptions--very few). There's a lot of work involved to just be able to make a decent living at it and like anything in life, you have to be willing to work incredibly hard to achieve your dreams. So my advice to anyone who wanted to get into this line of work would be: Be able to take rejection--its par for the course. Be prepared to work extremely hard, with long hours, and a flexible schedule. You have to really have a passion for your job if you want to be successful. Don't get into writing if you want to be rich.

I have a passion and I don't do this for the money. I do it, because for me, there is no better job in the world.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Reading outside your chosen genre

Write a lot and read a lot are two of the most important things a writer can do to help improve their craft. In a perfect world, having perfect discipline, that would mean writing a certain amount each and every day, as well as devoting time to reading every day. Or you could do like I do and write a lot for a while, then read a lot for a while. Right now I'm in the "read a lot" phase.

Urban fantasy is my favorite genre, and I also love books that have a strong blend of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I have found, though, that it is entirely possible to overdose on your favorite genre. I've been reading more and more in other genres lately, and I think it's a good idea for a writer to read outside their chosen genre. It's a good way to remind yourself of your love of reading and good stories, and to learn new tricks. You might even find yourself inspired to branch out a little in your own writing.

So what have I been reading, other than the usual UF and PNR? In recent weeks it's been various sub-genres of romance. Contemporary romance, which I had quit reading for years but recently came back to. Historical romance, another one I had quit reading for years. I've even found a couple of Regency romances I liked after years of avoiding them. What I've enjoyed the most is two sub-genres that are new to me, sci-fi romance and steampunk romance. Steampunk is a fun, fascinating genre that is rapidly gaining in popularity, so get used to seeing it on both virtual and brick-and-mortar shelves. As for sci-fi romance, I don't know the origins of this as a sub-genre of romance but I'm betting its popularity is helped by fans of Firefly. I know my love for Joss Whedon's short-lived space western has guided a reading choice or two for me.

Reading in different genres has inspired some stories ideas for me but so far nothing I've been able to get much farther past the "idea" stage. I'll probably keep trying, especially when I'm at a lull with my usual UF projects. One of my goals is to write something out of my comfort zone. Hopefully continuing to read outside my chosen genre will one day help me do just that. It might be romance, it might be some cyberpunk flavored sci-fi, who knows. Maybe I will succeed and write a good story but even if I don't and it winds up in the Trunk folder, it will still be a learning experience that can only help me improve my craft as a writer.

What kind of books do you like to read that are outside your chosen genre as a writer?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why I edit

If you'd tapped me on the shoulder about six year ago and told me I'd be making a complete career change and getting back into publishing after a stint in marketing communications, I'd probably have laughed at you.

But here I am. I've been a sub-editor at a newspaper publisher for half a decade and, about two years ago, I started editing fiction. Why?

I'll be honest. I'm OCD. I'm the kind of person who, if she were to carry around a black marker, would be correcting spelling errors and bad grammar on signs in public places.

No. Really.

I'm going to let you into another secret, however. One of the biggest reasons why I edit fiction is because I love stories. I'm one of these folks who loves getting a manuscript in that needs a bit of polishing, when an author has that mystic X-factor. It's really that love of discovering the diamond in the rough.

It's not easy writing a novel. It's difficult getting published with a reputable publisher. And it's hard work getting your manuscript polished to become the best it can be.

This is where I step in. I see myself as someone who facilitates dreams and turns them into something concrete, something that you can put your name on and send out into the world. Yes, your little stab at immortality.

Yes, I may end up doing horrible things to your darlings, make you cut out whole chapters and rearrange scenes but, you know what? I'm doing it because I love your writing, and I wouldn't have asked to work with your novel unless I saw something there that has the stuff of dreams.

So, do you have a manuscript? Go check out my profile on the Lyrical Press website. Who knows, maybe I can offer your dream a breath of life:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What I Learned From My Editor #1 - "TMI"

I started keeping a diary when I was nine years old. In the early days, the entries read something like this: "Went to school. Came home. Went to Brownies. Came home. Went to grandma's. Came home". When my mother, viewing this over my shoulder, asked me why I always put "came home" after every outing, I explained it was so anyone who might read it in future years wouldn't be misled into thinking I might have stayed at school all night. It made perfect sense to me at the time.

Working with my editor on what is to be my second published e-book, I am realising that some of that need to describe every detail is still with me. When my character gets in a car and drives, that's not what she does. She unlocks the car, opens the door, gets in, closes the door, puts on her seatbelt, puts the key in the ignition, turns it, puts her foot on the clutch and the brake, puts the car in first gear, takes foot off brake and onto accelerator... and so it goes.

What I have learned from my editor is that if my character gets into the car and drives away, all of the other details are already implied in that action. It seems that OCD part of me that felt the need to record the fact I came home from school every day when I was nine years old is still sometimes feeling the urge to list every action.

I am working with my editor on copy edits for DEATH SCENE. Many of her comments in the margin start with 'TMI' (or 'too much information').

I hope, despite appearances, it will eventually become evident I am taking her advice on board. One day there might be an occasion when she is editing a novel I have written since I have been working with her, and perhaps then she'll find fewer occasions to have to add 'TMI - condense' or 'can cut' in the margin.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Flipping the Writing Coin: Debut

Hi, everyone, and welcome to my inaugural post. My name’s Pamela Turner (Pam) and I’m addicted to writing challenges.

(Looks around.) Whoops. Okay. Wrong venue. Where was I?

Oh, right...

Break out the champagne! My first book, Death Sword, a paranormal/urban fantasy short novel is officially available for sale. And yes, I’m stoked.

Also as nervous as a kitten in a rocking chair factory.

You see, first releases are special. There will never be another debut novel. It’s that moment when the writer crosses the line between unpublished to published and is granted all the honors and responsibilities that accompany such an achievement.

One of those responsibilities is respecting other people’s opinions about your story, even if they don’t like it. You’ve probably heard of authors encouraging their readers to post negative reviews on their rival’s Amazon page or ranting against reviewers if they don’t agree with their opinions, etc.

I’m not saying all writers are egotistical but you have to have some chutzpah to survive the world of publishing. Not only the aforementioned negative reviews but the impersonal rejection letters dashed off by harried editors and agents.

The sooner you accept that these situations can and probably will happen to you, dear writer, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with them.

See you next Tuesday for another flip of the writing coin.