Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bits and Pieces: A Summary of My Week

It's my birthday today and I'd hoped to hear some news on a submission, but no luck. (The site says X weeks and it's been the requisite number of weeks, hence my reason for being twitchy.)

However, another short story publication should be out soon. Hopefully, I'll be able to post something next week.

Ah, the waiting game. Authors know it well. So do actors, waiting to hear back on auditions. Best remedy is to keep busy. That's not too difficult. But like I said, it gets harder when the time has past and nothing is said. I hate to be left wondering.  

On a totally separate note, I visited a bookstore I hadn't seen in almost 20 years: Joseph-Beth in Lexington, Kentucky. I attended my first meeting of the Kentucky Indie Writers and stopped at J-B on the way home. Besides the bookstore, I also want to visit the Kentucky Horse Park again. I've always loved horses and Kentucky has a connection with horses that runs deep. So it wouldn't surprise me if I found myself writing a story about them.

Tomorrow it's back to work. Have to get ready for Fandom Fest next month. But tonight, I'm going to relax and celebrate the final hours of my birthday watching classic film noir.    

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SOUL SCREAMS Online Launch Announced!

I can now announce the plans for the SOUL SCREAMS online launch party!

This will take place on Wednesday 13 June.

I will be hanging out on Imaginary Friends and Facebook all day, and there will be prizes to win. The prizes will be one copy of the e-book version of SOUL SCREAMS, and one copy of the limited-edition SOUL SCREAMS cover image poster (which I can sign for the lucky winner). And if you've seen the SOUL SCREAMS cover, you know just how cool the poster looks!  One prize winner will be chosen at random from the people who leave comments on the blog. The other will be chosen at random from the people who respond to the question I will post on my Facebook group.

So be sure to stop by my blog on 13 June, to be in with a chance of winning.  To increase your chances, stop by the Imaginary Friends Facebook group too.  There's nothing to stop people from entering both contests!  If you are not a member of said group and want to be, be sure to send me a request (because I won't add you unless you ask me to.  I think adding people to groups without their permission is rather impolite).

So the count down is on.  It's all getting rather exciting!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Advice: The Good, the Bad, and the ?!?!

Even with the plethora of information available, there are times when a writer needs to seek advice. Maybe s/he has a scene and wants to make sure it's realistic. Or maybe s/he's looking for information about a little-known 15th century serial killer. Whatever the reason, the author may post the question on various writing-related loops. After all, there's a good chance someone knows the answer. Right?

Depends. While there are people who are helpful, there are those who seem interested only in touting their opinion. Worse, they become upset when people don't follow their advice. Some even venture to try to rewrite the author's story without even knowing all the details.

If you're one of these people who do the latter, stop. Please. The story is not yours. Unless you're the editor, a beta reader, or critique partner, it's not your place to tell the author how to write and/or revise his or her story. Even if you fervently believe you're right, you may not have all the facts necessary to make a decision.

Most of us want to be appreciated and acknowledged. Sharing advice is certainly one way we can accomplish this. It feels good when someone mentions how our advice has helped him or her.

Perhaps it's a good idea to remember YMMV.

Your mileage may vary. :-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Soul Screams Book Trailer

SOUL SCREAMS has a book trailer! 

I must confess I'm a bit flummoxed by the concept of the book trailer.  They seem to have risen with the e-book phenomenom.  They do make a lot of sense.  For the computer generation, who are accustomed to downloading and reading books on electronic devices, the concept of a multimedia presentation to entice a reader into buying a book, the same way a movie trailer is designed to entice you into the seeing the movie, or the preview at the end of the last episode of your favourite show teases you with the exciting bits of next week's show, to ensure you come back for more, makes a lot of sense.

But I wouldn't know where to begin to make a book trailer.  Fortunately, the nice chaps at Stumar Press do know, and this is their creation.

So I am proud to present the SOUL SCREAMS trailer.  I think it looks fab.  What do you think?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two Sides to an Author

How many authors have dual natures?

As creative types, we're encouraged to nurture the right brain, that part responsible for helping us create the stories we write. When I was in school, there was a divide between the "smart" students and the "creative" ones. The former excelled at math and science. The latter impressed with drawing, writing, any endeavor that required the imagination.

Since I was terrible at math, I thought this was the way it was. For years. Until I attended aviation ground school and fell in love with physics. (No, I don't fly planes. I studied aviation briefly but had to give it up. Poor depth perception.)

For the first time, I found a science (besides biology) I could relate to and understand (to a certain point). I could apply physics to daily life, even if I didn't understand the more complex aspects of it.

But I wasn't a scientist. I didn't have the propensity for analytical thought. Or did I?

I don't know if it's still done, but when I was in school, our English assignments often included essays on argument and persuasion. In other words, we needed to convince an audience over to our side. We presented the argument (premise) then backed up our POV with facts, quotes, anything that would help our cause.

This may have been the reason I initially considered going into journalism. And I was a freelance magazine writer for a couple of local publications for a short time. Then I decided to return to creative writing.

I've also learned something over these last few years. Science and technology aren't to be feared. I love technology and would rather spend more time in a computer store than shop for clothes. (Okay, I'm still not a big fan of math.) Since a lot of my writing requires research, I use the analytical part of my mind to focus on that aspect then switch to my right brain to write the story. Not saying I use both sides of my brain successfully, but I have found a pretty good compromise.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I was inspired to write this post by a friend who mentioned she has trouble finishing the stories she starts.

There are probably many reasons why many novels are started and not finished.  My experience has led me to suspect there are two main suspects, which are the ones I'm going to deal with here.

1.  You don't know how it ends.
2.  You spend so much time going back and editing the first draft, you never get to the second draft.

It took me 10 years to write SUFFER THE CHILDREN.  I was citing life stuff getting in the way, but that was just an excuse, since I found time to write plenty of short stories during that 10 years.  The real reason was the fact I got halfway through the book and didn't know what was going to happen next, so I shoved it into a drawer.  When I finally decided I wanted to finish this book, I knew I had to have a plan.  I started by making a chapter-by-chapter outline of what I had so far.  From there I worked on an outline of the whole story arc, all the way to the end.  I ended up with three pages.  I was then able to finish my chapter-by-chapter plan, because the story outline guided me as to what was going to happen in the chapters I hadn't written yet.  And from there, I was able to finish the novel.

It took me a while longer to learn this lesson fully.  I've got a couple of other novels that were started and never finished, simply because I didn't know how they were going to end.  So now I don't start a new novel without meticulous planning.  I start with my three-page story summary.  From there I do a chapter-by-chapter breakdown.  This isn't set in stone, and it might deviate a bit - I might, as I write, realise there's another crucial event that has to happen between the events of chapter 11 and chapter 12, for instance, which might add a couple of extra chapters.  But that's OK.  The system works for me, because every time I sit down to write, I know what's going to happen next.  My chapter plan is my guide.

Some writers are averse to too much planning, and swear by the 'seat of the pants' method.  If this works for you, then I'm not criticising it.  However, sometimes you can tell when a book has been written this way.  If a novel starts off a certain way, and then suddenly, without notice, veers off in a completely different direction halfway through, it's likely to have been written without a lot of forward planning.

If you are the sort of writer that has half-finished manuscripts gathering dust in your desk drawers, then maybe you should give the 'planning' method a try.  It might help you finish one of them.

The second reason for not finishing, as cited above, is 'over-editing' the first draft.  Again, this is largely down to writing technique.  Some writers say they prefer to edit as they go, so by the time they get to the end of the first draft, there isn't a need for a second draft.  The problem with this method is, if you keep insisting on going over and polishing chapter 1 until it shines, you may never actually get to chapter 2.

Remember that old adage:  Fix it in the rewrite.  Remember also the words of Ernest Hemingway: the first draft is always shit ( well, I think it was Hemingway).

The point of the first draft is to erect the scaffolding on which the story is built.  Who cares if it's rubbish?  No one's going to read it.  In fact, another successful writer, Stephen King, positively discourages writers from letting anyone see the first draft.  In his marvellous how-to book ON WRITING (in my opinion the best 'how to write' book ever), he calls it 'the closed door draft'.  You write it without letting anyone in.  When you get to draft 2 or 3, that's when you can open the door and invite people to view it.

The first draft lets you get a feel for your characters and your plot.  It lets you see where you still need to do the most work.  But it should and will be flawed.  Allow it to be so.  Your secondary character Sue, petite and brunette, becomes blonde Alison halfway through?  Don't worry.  Fix it in draft 2.  You decide at chapter 20 there needs to be another character, but they ought to have been introduced in chapter 5?  That's OK.  Just dump them in the story, and when you work on the next draft you can make a point of introducing this character earlier.

Of course, sometimes it's hard to turn off the internal editor and just write, which is what I'm suggesting you do.  I get up at 5:30am twice a week for my early-morning writing sessions, before work.  I am not an early riser by nature.  I find it a struggle to get up that early, and I stagger into London and sit in Starbucks for an hour, before going to the office.  But that hour is very productive.  I don't think much about what I write.  I just write.  Maybe what I'm writing is rubbish, but it is first draft.  And crucially, at that time in the morning, the part of my brain where my internal editor resides is still asleep, so she doesn't interfere.  And I think perhaps that's why my early-morning writing sessions are so successful.  It might be a different story if I was editing, but at the moment I'm just writing draft 1, and it's working.

So these, in summary, are my two tips to get to the end.  More planning, less editing.  You can always fix it in the rewrite.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Writing Lessons From the Kentucky Derby

This past Saturday saw the 138th "Run for the Roses", also known as the Kentucky Derby. What can the first leg in the Triple Crown teach us about writing?

First, it's a crowded field. Each author brings his or her talents, just as each Derby contender brings his or her strengths to the starting gate. Unlike the "Greatest Two Minutes in Sports", however, writers are in an endurance race. How well you do depends on how well you've "trained".

For authors, this means learning your craft. You wouldn't expect to write a novel without first learning the basics of storytelling. Otherwise, your book would be a jumbled mess. Even if someone says you have a "natural" talent, that skill needs to be honed. Trainers know it's not just enough to have a horse who can run fast. They need a horse who can take commands. Publishers want someone they can work with, an author who will listen to suggestions and not act like a diva.   

Horse trainers also understand they can't expect their horses to win if they don't work with them as well as the jockeys, grooms, and other people involved in the horse racing industry. Authors may write alone but publishing involves working with critique partners, editors, publishers, cover artists, etc. Just as the cameras show the glamorous side of the Derby, there are those in the background who keep things running smoothly. It may be your name on the cover, but there are many behind you who helped you reach your goal.

I've loved horses from an early age when one cousin had a statue of Secretariat and another raised horses on her farm. Living here in Kentucky, one develops a whole new appreciation for them.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I've talked a lot on this blog recently about negative feelings writers endure. Fear. Jealousy. Mood swings. It's time to talk about something more positive. Today I want to talk about faith. Faith in yourself. Self-belief in your work as a writer.

It's quite a difficult one, this, because there's a fine balance between self-deprecation and arrogance. I've encountered both over the years. The first is that very promising and inherently talented writer who suffers from such low self-esteem that they believe everything they write is rubbish. They might have a literary masterpiece tucked away in their desk drawer, but no one will ever know because they never let anyone read any of their work, for fear of rejection.

Then there is the type of person who believes themselves to have talent that surpasses everyone else out there. They are the best writer that ever lived - if only someone would recognise their genius. Such people tend to be deluded as well as arrogant, as generally their writing is average at best, but they won't hear any kind of criticism and often write angry letters to the agents and editors who have the audacity to reject them.

These are two extreme examples, of course. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Maybe not literary geniuses, but not bad writers at all, and we lurch between feeling pretty good about what we've written and believing it to be a big steaming pile of poo.

But this is where faith comes in. Believe in yourself. Believe in your writing. Maybe you're a beginner writer and you feel you've got a lot to learn. That is probably true. But keep reading, and keep writing. Talk to other writers. Go to conventions and conferences. Let more experienced writers crit your work, and take on board what they tell you. Your writing will improve all the time. And one day you will get published. Have faith.

Maybe you're already a published author but you have lost your way in your latest work. Maybe you think you've lost the muse, and you worry that you'll never write anything of publishable quality again. Have faith. Somebody thought your writing good enough to publish. Why would that go away? Nobody becomes a great writer overnight, but nobody becomes a rubbish one, either.

Keep the faith, my writer friends. And believe in yourself.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

So Long, Farewell...

Oh, sorry! I didn't mean I was leaving. <g> Rather, I'm saying goodbye to the whirlwind that was April. I'm always a bit sad when BIAM_Writathon ends. Happily, there's another writing challenge in October (not counting November's NaNoWriMo).

I didn't achieve my goals of finishing revisions for The Ripper's Daughter or the Zaphkiel Project. I have faced my fears and returned to Serpent Fire, the second book in my Angels of Death series. Still awaiting word on two horror short stories.

Sadly, Script Frenzy was a failure. Never came up with a screenplay idea but I might return to the one about demons in the courthouse. A screenwriter friend is looking at my ghost screenplay but I don't know the status of that. Either he's really busy or the screenplay is really awful. LOL

Oh, and I finally got around to watching the anime Black Butler. Hello! Love this series. Can't remember who introduced me to it, but thank you! Now, as long as Netflix doesn't remove it from their streaming category.

But that's that. April's over and it's time to set the writing goals for May. Hopefully, I'll have some news regarding those submissions. Keeping fingers crossed.