Book signing

So the book signing in Hadley, MA took place on Sunday as per schedule.

First off, I must say a huge thank you to the Hadley Barnes & Noble folks.  They were very friendly, wonderful, and I feel did their best in the face of whatever is going on in B&N’s HQ these days.

Which brings me to the full detailed version.  Again:  local store awesome; corporate to blame.

  1. Is 1 week prior to Father’s Day a good date to have a Teen Fest thing?  I don’t know, maybe something closer to July or closer to Memorial Day or nearer to an approximation of Spring Break?  Suffice to say the teens that were there were shopping for Daddy, not for themselves.
  2. Advertisement.  You’re Barnes & Noble for crying out loud.  Did you leave all the promo up to the individual stores?  I hope not.  Especially for something you were doing across all your stores.  This is a good time to get maximum bang for your advertising dollars by running national ad campaigns to draw attention to this thing.  Sure, local stores do a little on their social media and in-store, maybe local papers to highlight just who is going to be this store’s guests, but … come on.  Then again, B&N doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on marketing.  I mean, have you ever seen them advertise much?  Never mind their stores, how about the Nook?  Their stores are their primary POS for the thing, and their website, but how many B&N banner ads have you seen on websites, or radio/tv/billboard/newspaper adverts have you seen for the Nook, the B&N website, or the physical stores?  Sorry guys, but you’re second or lower to Amazon (who is an evil evil bunch of people whose downfall I shall cheer greatly) … follow Avis car rentals’ example “We’re number 2, but we try harder” philosophy!
  3. A clearer vision and communication of what the Teen Fest would be.  Looking around online at what other stores were doing, it was rather mixed methods and mixed thinking.  Some stores had workshops that … well … someone explaining how to write a long line description – you know the dreaded Twitter Blurb!  Okay, first off, that’s hard for a lot of writers to do.  Come on, for crying out loud, we just took 400 pages and 500 000 words to say “boy meets girl, girl falls in love with boy, they date and fall in love and get married and have 65 kids, 8000 grandkids, and 14 goats, and the kingdom was saved!” we really aren’t going to squeeze it all down with ease.  I mean, a writers’ panel with Q&A for geeky fannish teens to come to, certainly, but traditional writers’ workshop kind of stuff doesn’t tend to be a crowd draw for any age demographic, targeting it to teens is going to get you maybe 3 people.

Honestly, I rather expected something like this.  I mean B&N was virtually the only bookstore around in the part of Georgia I moved from so it was the place that got people like Steve Harvey … and few people showed up because few people knew about it.  I now know why Terry Brooks‘ appearance that same day in South Hadley, was at a little place called Odyssey Bookshop.  Big name authors often are very expressive about wanting to support the small mom & pop sort of stores.  Which, I believe, is definitely a big part of it.  But it’s also that I believe the smaller stores have a better means of reaching people and bringing folks in.

A small bookshop actually is more likely to have regulars engaged both in face-to-face conversations as well as social media interactions.  Your smaller bookshop is more likely to have the customer walk in for a copy of Wintersmith and wind up staying to chit chat for 3 hours while browsing around for 2.  Watch folks at a big chain store, they walk in, pause at the display of the latest from Stephen King, then make a beeline for what they’re there for, spend a few minutes finding it on the shelf, a couple more minutes looking around that same few feet to see if there’s anything else by that author they want to grab, then back to the cash register.  If they stay, it’s to drink coffee and use the free wifi.  The small shoppe is almost always in a location with a lot of passerby foot traffic and so puts out a chalkboard sign that is colourful and attention getting so all those window shoppers and bankers-off-to-lunch pass and see it.  B&N is starting to trend itself into malls, but there’s no chalkboard signs.  B&N isn’t likely to take out an ad in the paper.  Small shoppe knows that most subscriptions doesn’t equal most readers, they know the little (usually free, so ads cost a little more, but it’s worth it) local indie paper (i.e. The Metro Spirit in the CSRA) is the way to go and put in a good sized ad there.  The little shoppe also knows that an investment in a few minutes with a desktop publishing software, a printer, and a few dozen sheets of paper taken around to the local coffee shops and other places with a bulletin board … or adhered to a few strategic lampposts …

Really; never blame the local personification of the chain store.  They’re following corporate dictates which nearly never make the slightest sense and trying to run on a very restricted and controlled budget.  It’s the folks in HQ who deserve a great big “Are you one drugs?” response.

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Rant over modern series writing

(Sarah is a cuckoo—a breed of human-looking cryptid that’s biologically more like a giant wasp than any sort of primate, and telepathic to boot. Evolution is funky sometimes.)

Excerpt From: Seanan McGuire. “Midnight Blue-Light Special.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/midnight-blue-light-special/id592216584?mt=11

So, at the moment, I’m rereading Midnight Blue-Light Special.  And it made me have to say something about why I don’t read a lot of newer series.

There are 3 fundamental approaches to series.

The Discworld Model:

This is for series like Bernie Rhodenbarr, the Rita Mae Brown & Sneakie Pie Brown mysteries, Discworld, Mithgar, and similar.  In these (and Mithgar is, quite possibly, the most amazingly perfect example) the books stand alone.  There’s little reference to the prior events, or they’re referenced in off-hand manner if relevant to the moment in the same way you or I will make off-hand references to our own pasts.  Other than that the book of the moment is pretty thoroughly divorced from the books before and after.  You can literally pick up at any point in the series and not be missing anything besides the fun of the other books … which you can just pick up and enjoy as you go.

The Serial Model:

This is the classic Book 1, Book 2, etc model.  This is Now & Forever, this is Harry Potter, this is – frankly – most series.  This is “To Be Continued” through to “The End”.  Sometimes you can muddle through if you pick up part way in.  Harry PotterLittle House, and others aren’t nonsense if you pick up later than the beginning, but it helps.  Well … Little House might be more of a Discworld Model, now I think of it, but humour me.

The thing with these is that you write them assuming that the person reading book 2 read book 1.  If you write something that was explained in book 1 you don’t explain it again, you move on because you’re not worried about confusing anyone because they read book 1 or bloody well best have done.

The Modern Model:

This is one I really don’t like.  I’ve read things, namely InCryptid, that use it.  But it annoys the hell out of me and the stories have to be very good for me to let it slide and keep going … or you have to not do a very good job of it, thus begging the question of why the author bothered instead of sticking with the Serial Model (possibly the actual case with InCryptid … I’m not actually 100% certain).

In this you try to do the bastardisation of the Discworld Model and the Serial Model.  Your books are very “to be continued”, and rely heavily on what came before, but you try to accommodate the ones who are coming in a bit late.  Now, some series are a blending of these. Mithgar has Serials (duologies, trilogies, etc) tossed in amongst the larger tapestry of things.  Shannara too.  But series of Serials is a whole other kettle of popcorn.

I don’t like this one as a reader, nor as a writer.  It’s this philosophy that your Serial should be accessible to any and sundry who walk in 5min before the closing credits.  That really doesn’t work.  You have to insert little obnoxious infodumps that irritate those who have been there since the curtain went up, and unless you want to make your books exponentially thicker by basically reprinting the prior book into the following books –building them into an omnibus edition as you go – you’re going to annoy the mid-streamer who is like “well, she explained this, but why doesn’t she explain that?!”

There.  Was I going anywhere with this?

No, not especially.  Just saying that I don’t grok the modern method of serialising and it irritates me when I encounter it.  All the other crap about the other 2 methods was to illustrate what I meant.  Now, back to the book; it has Aeslin Mice in 😍

Writing advice

Yeah, I’m back on this.  But it’s important.

So, when I tell people I’ve published a book I get some very odd questions, but one that comes up often is “so how did that happen?”

How does one answer that?  I usually go with “I went through most of a pack of paper and several ink cartridges.”

Thing is, that is how it happens.  I know a lot of writers, but I don’t know many authors.  The difference?  The former have ideas, and they write … a lot … but they never finish anything, or never put it out there when they’re done.

Some don’t want to publish, they write for their own pleasure.  This is well and good.  Just as there are plenty of people, some of them brilliantly talented, who paint or draw just for the pleasure of it and others who sell their work so the same should be with any art or craft; writing is no exception.

For the rest, just get to work.

Now, some myths:

You must write every day, no exceptions and no excuses!

Bullshit.  This is so very much not true.  This seems to be more prominent among Americans.  For those in other countries, America is a barbarism where paid sick leave (or even unpaid!) isn’t always available and rather than rise up in revolution against it we developed “the American work ethic” and it’s as perverse as it sounds.

No, art suffers if you do it when you’re not up to it.  Now, you must be self aware enough to know the difference between “I’m just not feeling it today” and “I really don’t want to write this scene”.  The former is fine.  There is no point spending an hour staring at the paper writing nothing, or in writing for an hour a few thousand words that you’ll throw away tomorrow.  The latter … get it over with and move on.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block; it’s all in your mind!

Mmmm … yes and no.  There can be a number of things that are preventing you from moving forward in your story.  Maybe it turns out you need to backtrack and rewrite something, but until you discover that you’re stuck and you can’t move on.  Maybe your dog died and you just can’t concentrate.  Maybe you’re a chronic depressive and you’re having a low day, week, month, year … and you can’t seem to write anything or write anything you want to keep.

Writer’s block is no superstitious concept.  It’s a simple lack of inspiration.  It can have a billion and one causes and reasons, and it can have two billion and five solutions.

Find your solutions, but don’t let anyone tell you that all you have to do is plant your arse in the chair and write (unless, you know, that actually works for you).

You should write like … / Never use …

Just … no.  No, definitely not.  Proof?  Look at the criticisms of any wildly popular work.  I mean the stuff that lasts, like Harry PotterThe HobbitAlice in Wonderland, and so many many more.  They break rules, some break every modern rule.  Bill Shakespeare broke the rules, his contemporaries did not; who do we remember?  Ms Rowling was writing in a “dead genre”, among other “writing faux pas”; who is the best selling author of all time (no Bible comments, please)?

Don’t take thou shalt and thou shalt not from any author, even the most successful ones.  First off, Stephen King said to avoid adverbs, not to never use them; he uses them.  Thing is, it makes a kind of sense for the pacing and tone of his books, but that’d be horrid advice for Lawrence Block to follow.

I mean “thou shalt write thine own damned book” and “thou shalt finish what thou starts” and “once it’s bloody finished, bloody publish it” and so forth, those are fine.  “Thou shalt find thine own voice/style”, etc. this is good.  Absolutes suck, but “absolutes” are good reminders that we’re creating art.  We’re not building and designing nuclear reactors here, there is no precise science to follow; this is art, it’s all about imperfections, experimentation, creativity, and doing whatever.  Well, unless you’re trying to put out a cheap dime pulp in a hurry that’s deliberately formulaic and such … but that’s a complete other kettle of popcorn.

You must do X, Y, Z before you can write your novel / [blah blah blah] pay your dues …

I don’t know where to begin with this one.  It’s just not true on many levels.

  1. Some people just don’t write short fiction
  2. The “examples” usually given weren’t people following a deliberate career path, they were coincidences (and if you’ll notice it’s generally the same list of specific, mostly, old scifi authors.) and leaves out the numerous examples of people who are just as famous or more-so who didn’t go this route.
  3. There’s not really a short fiction market anymore.  Well, self-published, but not a “professional” short market.
  4. That “gotta write a million words” or whatever it was, wasn’t meant to be literal gospel truth and it certainly wasn’t thinking just write a million words of pure drivel.  You must always be aiming for quality and somewhere in there will be mistakes and pitfalls from which we learn and grow.  Read all of Sir Terry Pratchett‘s work from earliest to final (moment of sadness) and you’ll see it.  Heinlein, Asimov, Dickens … you see it if you look at someone with a long enough career.  Some start to lose their touch and so the opposite can become true as well.

In simple, and as always, to be blunt:  go ye forth and write, finish what you write (unless it really is garbage, but get at least a second if not twenty-fifth opinion on that subject before genuinely trashing it), find a means to get it to the world.  That’s the only sure-fire formula for success.  Everything else is superstition.

Ready or Not on sale now

Ready or Not (concept only)Ready or Not is now on sale!

This does not include the print edition, sadly.  I’m having arguments with the layout for no reason that makes logical sense.  It should only be another few hours to couple of days.

Too the various ebook retailers take their own variable time-frames to put the book on their virtual shelves.  If your favourite doesn’t have it yet — give it a few more hours.  If it isn’t there by 6pm US/Eastern then please contact me.  Odds are I already know about it, but can’t hurt to make sure.

 

Available now for us$3.99 (and various proportionate prices in various other countries and currencies) from:

smashwordsibooks-button-graphicallromanceebooksdt-fiction3dwebnookkindle-logo

 

 

 

A WIP thing

So a friend of mine, Shannon, did this and talked me into it.  I’m not really sure how applicable it is to my only concrete work in progress, since Færie Patrol is so very much a “I’ll jot down a few words if I suddenly get a bug” status right now.

Still, it’s cute, it can’t hurt, so what the hell, right?

Continue reading

An idea for anyone interested …

I love to hear about new books as much as the next person.  And I’ve noticed that some of my readership is comprised of writers.  And a simple fact of life is that some have more and others less readership than I do.  Certainly it’s a given that we all have different readership.

I’ve heard of blog tours, guest bloggers, etc.  And this isn’t so different as that; but a little bit, yes. Continue reading

And the month comes to a close

So ends another November, and with it another National Novel Writing Month.

Those who participated, I hope the experience went well for you.  You’ve now got pages of text — or one hopes as much, at least.

Just because the month is over, doesn’t mean you’re done.  Is the novel finished?  Excellent!  Time to get hard at work proofreading and editing.  Before you ever hand it to another, sit down and read it with your read pen in hand and fix it.  Make it say what it ought to say.  You got the idea on the page, now polish it, sand it, take off the rough edges.

Maybe it’s only half done.  50,000 words sounds a lot, but it’s maybe around 200 pages, give or take — many’s the novel that’s 100k or larger.  Is your’s one of them?  Don’t give up.  You may not have the cute graphs and such to guide you, but the practices you started to get this far, keep them up!  If you’re stuck, my deepest sympathies, I’ve been there and it’s Hell, but those who aren’t keep going!

The world waits with bated breath to see the prose you so diligently stamped upon the page.  Okay, possibly not.  Odds are, we don’t know yet who you even are; change that!  You believed in yourselves enough that you have 10,000, 25,000, 80,000 or an even million words … buff them and polish them, turn them over to a good editor and let her polish them further, check her work and watch for places that just don’t quite jive as yet … there is such a thing as over-editing, but do try to make sure it gets a good few proofreads for mistakes and 2 good hard reads from yourself for clarity.

When you’re done sweating, and crying, and tearing out your hair — editing is truly the hardest part of writing, in my experience — unleash your masterpiece upon the world.  Be warned, you’ll not please everyone.  Maybe I’ll love, maybe I’ll hate it, but the man standing next to you on the train may have the opposite opinion.  Someone will read your words, place their emotions in the hands of your narrative and your characters, bare their emotional heart and hand you a proverbial sword … they’re who you’re writing for.  Someone will love you, so give them this story they didn’t even know they were looking for.

Just remember:  the story will no more edit nor publish itself than it will write itself.  Don’t give up.  I’d add not to despair, but perhaps a little despair wouldn’t go amiss — means you’ll be carefuller in your editing — and it’s not like many artists have sufficient ego to listen to such advice as “don’t despair” in any event.  Regardless, good luck.

How embarrassing

Ever do something, then look back over it later and go “what in God’s name was I thinking?!

Yeah, I had one of those moments.

Maybe you recall the end of this summer where I did my Now & Forever A-B-Cs series?  If not, I think I might be grateful …

By and large it’s fine.  Not always exceptionally well written, but it was just a bit of fun, so who cares?  Still, it was meant to be accurate, and that … not always so much.  More than not, if I want to be honest with myself, but still enough to bother me and my perfectionist nature (just as I cringe every time I re-read Love or Lust and discover a new typo or mistake I missed, not to worry, as soon as my editor and I have  a chance those will be fixed, and by the magic of ebooks you will all have a corrected copy).  I get a few people’s birthdays terribly wrong, mostly.

I know it isn’t important.  I know it shouldn’t matter.  Certainly I understand this well enough I’m not bothering to delete those posts.  I should, eventually, go back and edit them … but I’ve more pressing things to do, like the continuing work on Ready or Not.  Suffice to say, blogposts probably are not a good source of solid cannon — I may be making them at 2AM and off the cuff;  blog pages and the books should be safe, those I’m wont to take more time with.

Speaking of Ready or Not, my editor thinks we may be able to have it ready to ship as early as Easter!  Worst case, she says, it ought to be around the first anniversary of Love or Lust‘s release.  We wait and see.  I’m still terribly nervous, especially of the bits I wrote during NaNoWriMo and CampWriMo.  I will say this, however, while I would rather release one or more of the Now & Forever books each year (I’d have put the entire series out at one time if I’d had it all written!), but if a book isn’t ready it isn’t ready and I won’t release it.  I hope my readers will understand.

And thus a story is born … maybe

<Begin rambling contemplations>

Typically, in my experience, a story is born by that which we want to write. I mean maybe a story we don’t want to write just now doesn’t let you be until it’s been written, but still it was something you wanted to do.

Every now and again we find ourselves, unbidden, composing a tale we feel needs to be told.

I find myself tonight contemplating just such a story.

I generally take the approach: if I don’t want to read it, I shouldn’t think about writing it. But sometimes our subconscious can make compelling arguments for certain ideas and makes these stories hard to lay aside and forget about.

In my case, I love happy stories. Not just a happy ending, but a generally light-hearted tale. Some exceptions exist in my fantasy collection … and thus is the first compelling argument of my subconscious.

Whatever could I be considering writing?! What could be so terrible? Well, rest assured I’ve not decided to become the next Laurel K Hamilton, Anne Rice, nor Stephenie Meyer. No, I’m wondering over the plot and characters for a story that contrasts Now & Forever.

I don’t know that I could have the stomach and patience to write such a story, nor that I could make it a comparable length series. And by contrasting I don’t think it would be a tragedy, per se. I think, as a Romance, it ought to have an ending that is happier, but then again I have lost count of the times I’ve read Dragondoom despite its ending always leaving me in tears. Same with more than a few of Mr McKiernan’s books.

By contrast I primarily mean in the sense that, where Now & Forever paints the positive side of being a homosexual teen; showing what life can be like for those who have understanding parents, loving and supportive friends, etc. This hypothetical opposite would be the darker side. Both paint a reality. For some, being gay is no bigger a deal to their true friends and their family than being blonde, but for others it can be a nightmare. I never wanted to portray the nightmare. I felt more than enough of the other gay teen fiction out there did a phenomenal job of it, and I should stay out of it; I can’t stand to read it, so let others write it. As I said, I like happy stories, there’s darkness and tragedy aplenty if I read the news should I crave any.

Perhaps I should write this idea. Perhaps, then, I could show … what? What do I gain putting one more dark, teen gay novel on the shelf? What is benefitted by showing the reality of the unfortunate in contrast to the reality of those who fate chose to bless? Ah, but stories needn’t make a point. Nothing need be gained. There’s the crux of it. I have neither reason to write it, nor reason not to. Not according to Logic, but I’ve never cared for logic – I always thought poorly of Vulcans.

So, then, what does my passion, my soul, my heart say? It could be a powerful and emotional story, one that could be an interesting experience. It could be something that really moves people, one that could be a very positive thing in the end – by example of what not to do, I suppose. A very moral tale, something like a fable. I also feel depressed and slightly ill at the thought.

I’ve discussed characters and ideas that won’t go away until you pay them attention, this isn’t one … yet. It threatens to be.

Perhaps an informal poll. Just post a comment. Do you think there’s any call, happy end or sad, to put one more story – fictional or truth – about gay teens whose parents are not supportive, whose “friends” are not understanding, who are bullied and harassed, whose lives are – externally – better if they hide who they are and how they feel, who are found out or who try to be honest … you get the picture? Bleak. Dark. Sad. Tragic. Angst, woe, drama. I could get endorsement deals with Kleenex®.

<end rambling contemplations>

Great stories

It’s funny really.  A lot of literature can be useful.  It gives us a language for discussing what it is we like about a story, or a poem.  It gives us a language for discussing the differences between two works.  But that’s all it is, a language.

Literature geeks, lit majors, professional and armchair critics alike try to use that language as ammunition for trying to set up definitions for what is or isn’t good art.

Thing is, no art is truly bad or good.  It’s what is made of it.  Frankly, I think if an artist made no effort — put nothing of herself into a work — then perhaps there is some room to argue a work is bad, mostly because is it still art at that point?  A painter who really is only making goopy pain swirls, or a writer who really is only stitching clichés together into some insane travesty of a plot …

Neverminding that, though.  Anne Rice and Stephenie Meyer, J K Rowling and Professor Tolkein, Yoko Ono and Leonardo DaVinci, Mozard and John Prine … these are artist.  Maybe you think they’re fantastic, maybe you think them mad, maybe you think them crap — but they are artists.

People may laugh at Rice and Meyer — their stories, from a technical stand point, can be pretty hard to take.  Still, there are those to whom those characters spark.  The stories, the plots … they speak to these people and the technical failings become ignorable.  Certainly those women feel they have put something of themselves into those works — a spiritual, metaphoric, blood sacrifice was made in the construction of those texts and some people feel that and are moved.  This is why they are successful.

Rowling and Tolkien are beloved by many, though there are those who, again, using the language of Literature, call them poor and silly.  They had the audacity not to follow The Rules.  Their books, however, change people’s lives — clearly, they are artists (or were, in the late professor’s case).

Yoko and DaVinci inspire some, bore others.  Still, they are artists — they believe in their work.  A pile of rocks to one person, is a brilliant statement to the next.  Does this make it bad?

Mozart and Prine … ah, music.  The very language of the soul.  Apparently souls have dialects.  To some the beat is most essential, to others it must be everything that comes together to make it jazz, and yet others believe that music must sound angry and loud and screeching — thus is born metal.  Still, they aren’t canned nonsense — they are art.

Some things are all technique — maybe they’re good, and maybe that was the point.  In that case, perhaps this too is art, though pure technical expertise without any spirit, soul, passion … you border on the mechanical, and it’s been shown that machines cannot make art, “perfect” music played by a machine without so much as a nanosecond mistake in a beat or a note, not one subtle mistuning is actually unpleasant to the human ear.  So too can be said of too perfect a story or painting to the eye, or the imagination.  Machines have never spoken to anyone (Siri notwithstanding).

This, I think, is why I tend to dislike literary discussions and a lot of literary criticism in general.  What makes a story great or not isn’t if they do or don’t use too many adverbs or clichés; it’s not about the three act structure; it’s not about character arcs.  What makes a story great is when it speaks to someone’s soul, or sparks their imagination, tugs at their emotions, or makes them happy and bubble with laughter.  That is a great story.

In that way, Twilight and Interview With a Vampire are terrific stories.  Maybe they’re not as good as others — something about them doesn’t as often speak to people twice.  You will find people saying “God, why did I like this, again?”  That doesn’t mean they’re bad, just less great, because they did speak to them in the first place … just not anymore.

We can discuss books, we can use Literature — as a language — to meaningfully say how a story makes us feel and what elements really inspire us.  Why should we use it to try to quantify art, though?  One man’s pornography is another man’s beautiful play of light on the human form and, even if it is hardcore fetish erotica, perhaps a statement of something — true, it certainly helps if there was any intention that the shot be any such thing, but still.  If we mean to make art, then we do, full stop.  If we mean to make a buck, then we do — but it’s a formula and nothing a clever enough machine couldn’t do one day in the future; there’s no art.

We can use the language to say, too, what we don’t like about a story.  Thus, through the fun quirks of English — we can discuss how “bad” Harry Potter or Motzart’s Fifth are, because we can now say what it is that we don’t like.  This is okay too, but we shouldn’t exactly say they’re bad stories — bad stories and bad music do not have the notoriety that those two have.

Some people like coffee, some like tea.  Just because two people don’t agree doesn’t mean that one is right and one is wrong, just that they’re human and no two humans are exactly the same (well, arguments regarding identical twins aside).