Side Projects

Some stories take longer to gel in my head than others. The cast and crew of Revenants Abroad was nearly effortless. Andrej in particular, who was of course the genesis of the story, appeared in my head fully-formed, ready for action. Anne-Marie took longer for me to get to know. Neko … what can I say. He’s the bad boy with a heart of gold. Another one who showed up ready for battle.

I’ve been toying with a contemporary romance, which I started for a certain reason that I don’t actually remember. It was to have been a satire of bubble-headed, self-absorbed popular girls, but I don’t recall what particularly pissed me off at the time I got the idea for it, so I’ve lost that momentum. Then today I found a use for someone from my past. Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for the last few years may remember a person at my previous job whom I referred to as The Princess. I think I’m about to exact my revenge on her. She’s just the foil I need in this new story.

Anyway, you know what they say:

Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.

 

Backing Away

How’s everyone doing? Boy, it’s been a tough week, hasn’t it? It’s been, at the very least, anxiety-inducing. So, in order to try to preserve what’s left of my sanity, I am beginning a new relationship with social media. I’ve been fairly active on Twitter since I joined in 2010, which has been both good and bad. On one hand, I have met some really really fantastic people, but on the other hand I’ve also seen some truly ugly stuff go down.

Lately it’s become a constant toxic stream. This is not a put-down to anyone, it’s just that it’s a constant barrage of (mostly) righteous rage, and very little else. I’ve also been dismayed  and disappointed by some I thought were a little more enlightened than they now appear.  It’s funny, the sort of back-handed tactics they employ to try to tell you what you should be tweeting, what they find acceptable. Well, you never really know people on Twitter, do you? I’ll tweet what I like, when I like. If someone doesn’t like it, they are free to unfollow me. I didn’t get on social media to argue. And as far as I can tell, arguing with people online never changed anyone’s mind.

But, that aside, Twitter has been consuming far too much of my time anyway. I’m always griping about trying to find time to write, so removing that time-suck seems the logical thing to do. Years ago I resisted joining, even though I had writer friends encouraging me to check it out. I finally caved back in 2010. So seven years later it’s sucking up my life as I feared it would. My fault, of course, for letting it. I don’t intend to vanish entirely from Twitter, but I am going on a Twitter-diet, and will be more strictly regulating my time there. I considered automating my Twitter feed, but I really hate when people do that. It’s more likely I’ll have a couple bursts of activity during the day, then shut it down again.

Additionally, I’ve been busily unsubscribing from a host of email newsletters that I signed up for in the dim past and never seem to actually read. I spend more time deleting them than reading them. I cleared out probably 1000 old emails  (I know, I know…) this morning, and it’s just a colossal waste of time. New rule: read it or delete it immediately.

I only recently joined Instagram, too, and though I really enjoy it, it too is a time-suck. All this social media may be fun, but it’s not writing. As with most of these things, you follow some people to be polite, then find you never interact with them, or even read their posts. It’s just silly.  If we’re not really interested in what someone is saying, why the pretense?  So, I unfollowed a bunch there. I expect to spend far less time on Instagram as well.

Indie authors like me are encouraged to have accounts everywhere, but it’s absurd. I have accounts on Ello, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Wattpad as well that I’ve all but forgotten about. There’s no way to keep up with it all. Even this poor blog is terribly neglected. If anything, I may try to get back to blogging on a more regular basis, but the rest will likely be very much more on the back burner.

Social media is not all bad, but it’s largely unproductive. I’ll be around, but not as much as I have been. At least, that’s the plan. Let’s see how long I can stick to it.

Indie Author News – Multnomah Co. Library Wants to Read Your Book

I was tipped off to The Library Writers Project just this morning. The Multnomah Co. Library is looking for books by local authors:

From October 11 to December 15, 2016, the library will accept submissions from local authors who would like to see their books added to the library’s e-book collection.

The book needs to be available on Smashwords.

You don’t have to live in Multnomah County to submit your book, but you do need to have a MCL card.

Live outside Multnomah County?

You can get a free library card if you are a resident of:

  • Clackamas County, Oregon – except for Johnson City
  • Hood River County, Oregon
  • Washington County, Oregon
  • Clark County, Washington
  • Klickitat County, Washington
  • Skamania County, Washington
  • Yale Precinct, Cowlitz County, Washington
  • Cities of Ariel, Cougar or Woodland, Cowlitz County, Washington

Also, October 8, 2016 is Indie Author Day.  You can check that to see if your local library is participating.

A Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter – Review

WGHP

I can’t say enough good about “A (Unauthorized) Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter.”

I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of this from the author. This is probably the single most engaging book on writing I’ve read. It’s beautifully written, and full of clear direction to take your work further by asking the right questions. Sipal dissects and analyzes the Harry Potter series of books to illustrate writing techniques such as story and character development, plotting, world building, mythic structure, anti-heroes, POV, and more. I admit I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, so that was a large part of the attraction to the book for me, but you don’t need to be familiar with the books benefit from this, and to see there’s a lot here for any writer. Sipal gives enough detail on the various characters and events so that even those with no knowledge of the books can see how much detail there is and, more importantly, why those particular characteristics and items were included and how they influenced the story. She discusses the use of subtext and how it energizes the story, how each bit of information had a purpose, and the foreshadowing Rowling peppered throughout that readers went wild for. For those who are familiar with HP, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation of the series itself. Too much writing advice consists of vague exhortations to “create fully fleshed-out characters” and “find your character’s motivation.” Here you’ll find concrete examples of what those mean, enabling you to dig deeper into your own work. This book was just the tonic I needed right now to regain enthusiasm for my own writing projects. I’ll be going back to this book again and again for inspiration.

Releases July 26, 2016

World Dracula Day 2016

 

Bram_Stoker_1906

I didn’t know there was one! Today is the anniversary of the first publication of “Dracula” in 1897. In honor of that, here some links to fun Dracula-related things (sites, podcasts):

http://www.bramstoker.org/novels/05dracula.html

The Dracula Chronicles

The Vampire Historian – World Dracula Day Mini-sode (from 2015, don’t see anything more recent)

The 1977 “Count Dracula” from the BBC, starring Louis Jourdan. One of the more faithful adaptations. Sorry, can’t find one without the subtitles. Subtitles just annoy me.

And remember, “The dead travel fast.”

Vampire Tarot Magician

 

Do Your Research

On Twitter this morning, an author I follow retweeted another author that he follows, who spake thusly:

 

Still looking for the right publisher for my newest #book . If anyone knows of a good publisher or agent, please let me know. No selfpub plz

 

And I thought, he’s kidding, right? There is no way anyone can answer this because the author in search of a publisher gave no info about the book he’s hoping to publish. Nada. This person has apparently already self-published one book, but didn’t specify if the new book is a sequel, in the same genre, or something completely different. Maybe some of his followers know more about the book, but retweeting it to people who don’t is pretty pointless. Frankly I wasn’t interested enough to even ask. Nor do I have any info on agents, but it’s not that hard to find.

Here’s the thing: Agents and publishers are very specialized. Writers need to do their own research and find an agent that handles the kind of material they write. An agent who reps (represents) Young Adult books may or may not also rep erotica (very likely not). Some will handle a variety of genres (mystery, historical fiction, women’s fiction), whereas some may have a much narrower focus. A poetry publisher will not be interested in a memoir of a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Newbies to the writing and publishing business have to understand that it IS a business, and they need to become as informed and in-touch as any business professional who hopes to succeed in their chosen career. And here’s the biggest thing: It is no one’s responsibility to do it for you. Even if someone does have a working relationship with an agent, that doesn’t mean it would be the right agent for this particular book. I thought we were past the time when writers thought all they needed to do was sit in a coffee shop typing out their masterpiece and then turn it over to a publisher who would instantly recognize their genius and deliver it to the world. Apparently not.

Agents are like anyone else, they have their likes and dislikes. This is why it’s so important to do research, see who else the agent has published, if they seem to be interested in what you’re offering. Just because that agent likes one writer doesn’t mean they’ll like what the next writer sends along. To use a dated analogy, they’re not like phone booths – “Oh look, there’s one.” Just wastes everyone’s time.

This kind of plea makes me wonder if this author also thinks signing a contract is the end of the work for the writer. Whether self-publishing or getting a contract with a publishing house, the bulk of marketing and advertising will still fall to the writer. Unless you’re Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, your publisher is not going to be taking out full page ads in the New York Times to advertise your book. To quote Westley in The Princess Bride, “Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” Do your homework. Read up on publishers and agents. They’re all online now so it’s much easier than it used to be. Back in the dim time writers had to head down to the library to read the mastheads of magazines for editors’ names and addresses, most of which would be out-of-date by the time you read it. I honestly don’t know how people found agents in those days. Probably going through the phone book.

Nowadays agents and publishers are all online. Try a quick Google search for “literary agents on Twitter” and follow the ones who rep what you write. Read their bios on their sites. They will spell out in glorious technicolor detail what they handle, and what they’re looking for. If you’re pitching a military steampunk novel to an agent who only reps childrens’ books, don’t be shocked when they don’t even respond to your query.

Follow the hashtag #MSWL (My Secret Wish List) on Twitter to see what agents are really looking for right now.

Pick up the Writer’s Digest “Writer’s Market” or “Fiction Market” or “Poet’s Market.” They even publish a separate “Guide to Literary Agents.” Writer’s Digest site is a great place for any writer to begin. There’s a wealth of information there no matter what you write. Check here. I’m not shilling for them, but I would have been lost without their magazine when I first started writing.

Read  Writer Beware, which will steer you clear of scams and shady publishers and agents.

That tweet this morning reminded me why I don’t hang out in writing chat groups online. They’re full of newbie, aspiring writers (which is fine in and of itself) who spend half the time begging other people for ideas. “I don’t know what my main character should do, can someone give me an idea?” Hand to god, I am not making this up. I feel a little bit like I’m channeling Harlan Ellison here, but if you have no ideas you should probably do something else. It’s the writer’s job to write the book, unless you plan to credit the person who supplies all your ideas as your co-author on the book.

I have no way of knowing how much info the tweeter this morning expected other people to provide since I didn’t respond, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was expecting other people to research agents for him and get back to him with the details. That could be a full time job. But I bet the pay is lousy.

UPDATE March 24: Here is a searchable database of agents  http://agentquery.com/

 

End rant. Here, have a pretty picture for reading all that.

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WellREAD and The Wonder of Witches

Last weekend I was sick with a cold, and because I was sick I turned on the tv and thereby caught this program about books, WellREAD, on OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting).  I’m always excited to find a show about books, and it was doubly exciting to come in on a show discussing books on witches with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff. She was talking about her latest, The Witches: Salem, 1692, which is another exploration of the witch trials.

Schiff clearly has a real passion for her subject. I also liked that she said she can’t seem to write a book in less than four or five years when authors now are pressured to crank out a book every few months to keep up momentum (although this likely applies solely to fiction. I can’t see any sort of respectably researched historical book being done well in less than a couple of years). As much as I’ve read over the years on the witch trials I will consider adding Ms. Schiff’s book to my TBR pile. The reviews on Amazon are split pretty evenly between those who loved it and those who thought it was a ‘tedious slog’ so my expectations are tempered.

Be that as it may, the show itself was going great until about the last five minutes when Mary Ann Gwinn, who gives further reading suggestions, excitedly talked about Alex Mar’s “Witches of America.” Mar’s book has been roundly criticized by the pagan/witchcraft community, and you can read one take on that here. It’s obvious Gwinn knows absolutely nothing about modern witchcraft, or was even aware of its existence. I got the impression neither of the show’s hosts has ever met anyone who didn’t believe exactly what they do; they both seemed amazed that there are people today who call themselves witches. Gwinn went on to mockingly describe modern witches saying, “In one way you want to make fun of these subjects: the weird tattoos, the costumes, blue hair, the free-form sex, the witches’ convention at a Doubletree Inn. Really?” Nice. She openly wants to make fun of them. Ok, I admit the Doubletree Inn is a little weird seeing as how my coven always meets in Lucifer’s penthouse. But what the hell.

Maybe she thinks we should all look as bland and asexual as she does. Finally, the show’s host Terry Tazioli gives a shudder and says “I’m done with witches.” Good for you, buddy. Very disappointing to see such a derisive dismissal of alternative spirituality in this day and age. Their way or the highway, it would seem. They might be interested to know witchcraft practitioners and practices are as varied as any segment of the population, and many hold advanced degrees, including PhDs, and careers in the sciences and academia. I, for one, look more like a Sunday school teacher. My hair is not blue (although I really like the look) because I need to fit in in Corporate America. But not everyone does, and this is not the 1950s. You can watch the show here.

I shudder to think of the judgment the two of them sit in towards other marginalized population groups.

And for your edification and enlightenment, here are some reading suggestions if you really want to learn about paganism and/or Witchcraft in the modern world:

Margot Adler, “Drawing Down the Moon”

Scott Cunningham, “The Truth About Witchcraft Today”

Scott Cunningham, “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner”

Pauline Campanelli, “The Wheel of the Year”

Starhawk, “The Spiral Dance”

For real basics, The Witches’ Voice website has “Witchcraft 101: So You Wanna Be a Witch?”

If nothing else, Mar’s book introduced people at The New York Times to the idea that there are practicing witches today. We may not fly on brooms (the old joke is we ride Hoovers now) but we have been known to dance under a full moon.

Full moon

Russia’s Open Book

Having an insomniac night, and find reading to be of no help in settling my mind, I switched on the tv at 4 o’clock in the morning. After flipping through the handful of channels I get on the antenna (I don’t have tv cable) I ran across this on OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting). It’s a 2-year-old documentary hosted by the actor Stephen Fry about a handful of contemporary Russian authors. Russia kind of fascinates me after being closed off to the West for so long. It makes me wonder what we in the West have missed. The documentary website is here. I do have a couple of books by Russian contemporary writers, one fantasy (Nightwatch, by Sergei Lukyanenko, and The Stranger, by Max Frei) but haven’t gotten to them in the TBR pile.

If it makes you curious for more, and aren’t the type to read the comments, I found this guy’s blog which has much more on Russian writing and writers.