Year: 2013

A toast for 2013

This was the year everything changed. It started with a Cracked article. Yes, Cracked. Now, Cracked sometimes sneaks in life lessons with their weird history and nerd comedy, and at the beginning of 2013, David Wong of Cracked issued a challenge to his readers: make 2013 the year that you close (warning: Alec Baldwin says mean things in that clip.) No excuses, no bullshit, no tired old lines about how you couldn’t because (insert whatever excuse is your preferred reason for not getting it done here.) No trite promises quickly abandoned, no self-defeating battles with the mirror. 2013 wouldn’t be about what we are, but what we do. He left what up to the reader. Learn a language, a martial art, make a painting, write a book. Learn a tangible skill, create a tangible result, do something. CLOSE. Kick some items off the bucket list, figure out what makes life worth living and DO THAT THING. Not too hard to guess that my vow for 2013 was to finish one of the three books that had floundered …

Book Covers: Project Example

Okay, so in part 3 of this series, we’re now going to take what we’ve learned and apply it a real life example. Okay, a fictional example. A fictional example of fiction I totally made up. Even though I do in fact have a book cover on my to-do list right now (for The Culling Fields, the book I finished as part of NaNoWriMo 2013) I’m going to do evil, naughty things to the first example of such, and I don’t like the idea of doing it for a book that will actually see publication. Potentially awkward. Thus, let’s go with something invented for that purpose. “A Litany of Ashes” is a post-apocalyptic YA about a teenage girl in a small community that survives by its religious rituals, designed to keep at bay the demons of radiation and nuclear fallout. But when she begins to think the demons are literal, is she going insane or has a terrifying new threat arisen in the post-nuclear landscape? So it’s a bit A Canticle for Leibowitz meets Handmaid’s …

Book Covers: Backgrounds

In part 1 of this series, I talked about typography. Let’s talk about backgrounds. Now I don’t know about you, but it’s not type that trips me up on book covers; it’s the backgrounds. There’s so much advice out here on this, and it’s often really contradictory. For example: genre-fiction often shows the hero and love interest on the front cover while this is apparently a huge faux pas in literary fiction. Some books barely have any background art at all, while on others, the artwork is the entire focus. If it makes you scream, you’re not alone. So let’s address the elephant in the room first thing. Money. You remember that old saying about ‘you can get it good, fast, or cheap: pick two?’ Never has that saying been more true than right now for book covers. Most self-published authors aren’t really looking to pay a lot of money for this stuff. Many of us just can’t. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have the bucks to spend. And doing this …

Book Covers: Typography

Okay, so let’s talk a little bit more about book covers. Specifically, let’s talk about typography (we’ll cover background art on a different post.) Now, if you’re not a graphic designer, you may think that you don’t need to know anything about typography. Even if you’re an writer, you may not think you need to know it, either because you’re hiring another person to do the work for you or because a publisher has someone in their employ who will design the book cover for you. Please allow me to reassure you: you do need to know this stuff. Why? Because there’s some awful work being done out there, and some of it is being presented to authors who don’t know any better as ‘professional’ when it looks anything but. Some of this work is being done by publishers, so its a trap someone can fall into even if they don’t consider themselves to be an independent or hybrid author. Make no mistake: this is your brand, your marketing identity, your logo. It’s in your …

Dracula, or When Villains are Dumb

So I don’t normally post reviews here, but I’ve been watching the show Dracula recently, and I’ve got some comments I just have to get off my chest. It’s about villains, and I’ll use Dracula as an opportunity to discuss them. (There will be spoilers below.) So if I had to give the elevator pitch for the TV series, it would be: It’s the Count of Monte Cristo, but the Count is Dracula, not Edmund Dantes. Also: steampunk. It’s not a perfect show, but it’s entertaining and Johnathan Rhys Myers sure is pretty, isn’t he? Like the Count of Monte Cristo, the main story revolves around a mysterious stranger who arrives in town with a lot of money, some exotic servants, and a plan to get his revenge on the people who wronged him and his. The people who wronged him are in this case a big illuminati-like organization called the Order of Dracul (which if you’re paying attention to actual history, is the real-life ‘let’s kill all the Turks’ group to which Vlad Tepes’ …

How I learned to stop worrying and love Nanowrimo

Two years ago, I watched my husband do Nanowrimo. I mostly lounged around, chatted with other people, drank red wine, and was probably, in hindsight, entirely obnoxious and distracting. I certainly didn’t track any progress. Mike didn’t seem to enjoy doing the write-ins and didn’t think they were helpful. We stopped. This year I’m trying out Nanowrimo myself, although I admit I’m kind of cheating. I would have been writing anyway — I have two novels whose first drafts I was planning to finish this month, so I thought ‘why not combine these goals?’ This probably not quite playing by kosher rules, I’m sure, even if I’m not ‘counting’ any words that I didn’t write during this month (my total on Nanowrimo’s site, for example, is far lower than the count that I’m listing here on my blog.)  But now that I’ve actually been to a write-in with the intent to write — now I understand why my husband didn’t really like them as other than social circles. Not much writing seems to get done there, …

The Bonehead Writing Society

(Note: this post is a reprint of an earlier post that appeared on a shared blog, There By Candlelight. Since that site is now being repurposed, I’m slowly moving my articles over here.) Blank paper is God’s way of telling us it’s not so easy to be God. – Craig Vetter Some years ago (I really don’t want to think of how many years ago it’s been) I decided to take an English 101 night class at the local community college. Everyone else in the city of Santa Monica had evidently had the same idea, because when I walked in the door I found there were easily over 60 people crammed into a small airport building with 30 seats. Many of us were working adults, but there were clearly some collect students in their late teens who believed that a night class would have less homework and would thus be an easy A. We stood and fidgeted and gave each other anxious looks, and at five minutes past the hour, our teacher arrived, one Bob …

Tall Poppies

I hate Mary Sues. It’s not, however, for the reason that you might think. We’ve all encountered Mary Sue characters — a product of fan fiction (typically an author insert) who can do everything, fix all problems, knows everything and knows exactly how to solve any given mystery. In my experience, Mary Sues are often not perfect, but charmingly flawed (so clumsy!) and very often that flaw ensures she is always the center of attention. Everyone loves her because the author wants it that way rather than because she is, in fact, lovable. But at some point (I’m honestly not sure when) the Mary Sue shifted away from wish-fulfilling author insert to a woman who was good at too much. Quelle horreur! I had a sneaking suspicion when I wrote Marduk’s Rebellion that I was going to hear that accusation leveled against the main character, Mallory MacLain. She is, by her nature, a highly skilled, badass kind of character: a super agent who neither wants nor arguably needs much support. She’s a loner, and she …

Book Reveal: Marduk’s Rebellion

So hot on the heels of the contract with World Weaver Press to publish Blood Chimera in 2014, I’ve decided I’m going to bring my other finished novel, Marduk’s Rebellion, to market myself. Now. (Well, ‘now’ being as soon as I get approval from Smashwords and CreateSpace and finish uploading it to all the other sites out there. By the end of the week, probably.) There were a few reasons for this decision, and it’s in no way a slam against World Weaver Press (who are wonderful people.) I simply looked at the market and my situation and decided that it wasn’t in my personal best interest to keep Marduk’s in a drawer when I could self-publish the book myself and have it out to readers before Christmas. Especially since I had so much of it ready to go, including cover art. Marduk’s Rebellion was the first book I ever wrote, and also the first book I ever tore up, scrapped and ‘redrafted’ — meaning I threw the original novel in a drawer and started …

Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Me

(Or anyone) Okay, so like many writers out there, I have a lot of opinions about how the process of writing should go, what constitutes poor writing, and what works. I also see a lot of advice handed out by writers to other writers. Should you have an agent? Should you self-publish? Should you write in the morning before work or should you quit your job and devote yourself totally to writing, make or break. Should you write seat of your pants (a pantser) or use an intricate outline (a plotter)? Write anything just to get it down on the page or try to make sure your first draft is a jewel? Should you focus on characters, plot, what’s new, what’s original? Blah, blah, blah… Okay, so let’s lay a few things out there… First, when you read about a writer’s methods, you’re only reading about what works for them, in their situation, for the kind of books they write. Nobody has a lock on a mythical right answer or process that will transform you …