Storium And Other Stuff

Road Well. There’s news!

First, I’m now a Storium stretch goal! It’s a Kickstarter for an online storytelling game. The world I’d build for it centers on a Keymaster–someone who can open doors between here and elsewhere. The only trouble with opening a door is that things from the other side can come through, and those things might be what the Brothers Grimm kept warning everyone about. It promises to be a lot of fun.

Selene The Selene ebook is now available at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble as well as directly. I’m also happy to report the paperback is coming in June–or before, if the proof copy I receive is up to snuff, and I have every reason to expect it will be. Further bulletins as events warrant.

Last but not least, The Ripper Affair–the last Bannon & Clare book–is now available for preorder at B&N, and also at Amazon! It’s very exciting.

Regular blogging will resume next week. In the meantime, enjoy the first few days of the merry month of May.

Need That Extra Coffee

autumn falls... There’s a new Selene up–Chapter Eight. We’re almost through Part One! The site slowness we’ve been having here at Chez Saintcrow is a server issue that is being tracked down, I’m told, so soon I won’t be getting multiple 500 errors when I try to make a blog post. GRRRR.

Also, I’m over at the Deadline Dames today, talking about harmful silence in publishing. (It’s not what you think.)

Last but not least, I found out (finally) that Smashwords isn’t going to distribute SquirrelTerror through Amazon, as Amazon keeps pushing back the dates for mass distribution through them. I am puzzled by some of this, as the option is there on their list of channels with nothing saying “hahaha we don’t really mean it YET”, but the problem is easily remedied. Yes, I’m braving the chilly waters of KDP for SquirrelTerror. Because I love my Readers. (Hey, Vollzin–the ebook should be available for Amazon Brazil.) (ETA: Look! It’s live! SquirrelTerror is now on Kindle!)

There was also a slight problem with the paper edition, but that’s been fixed now too. Suffice to say I’m not surprised by the fact that wrinkles have begun cropping up everywhere now that we’re getting the book into distribution instead of editing and proofing. This is why publishing companies exist, because if I had to do this with every book I’m pretty sure I’d soon lose my mind.

Well, what little I have left, anyway.

I planted Spring Green tulips and fire-engine-red hyacinths today. We’ll see what survives the winter. If the squirrels don’t dig up the bulbs, and if Odd or Miss B don’t decide to play a game of “let’s dig up what Mum buried in the yard”, it should be pretty awesome.

And now, onward to revisions. I’m going to need that extra coffee I just made…

Act Weird, Or, Hunting The Wild Story

Great Horned OwlCrossposted to the Deadline Dames, where there are giveaways, and cake that is not a lie. Check us out!

There’s that old saw–you never learn to write a book, you only learn how to write the book you’re writing now.

What do you know, it’s true.

Some books grow in layers around a single scene–for example, Heaven’s Spite grew out of the image of Jill Kismet sitting in a flaming circle with a gun, her back to the wall and an odd look of utter calm on her face. There are the books that grow from the first line–by the time you hear the first syllable, the rest of the book is a shining path, a cut has already been made. (Dante Valentine half-whispering, My working relationship with Lucifer began on a rainy Monday…) There’s the books that won’t go away–Nameless, which has been rolling around inside my head forever–and slide out in huge jagged, painful, bloody chunks. There’s the fun galloping rides (Damnation, anyone?) and the Christ-I-Keep-Stabbing-But-It-Won’t-Die-And-The-Only-Thing-Keeping-Me-Going-Is-Sheer-Stubbornness ones, which come in an infinity of flavours.

Each one takes a different path, and takes a different sort of grit to endure. The Valentine series generally called for me to simply put my head down and endure; the Kismet books were generally angry writing sessions, a sort of clear cold clinical rage. The romances each had a different kernel, and they unfolded in pairs, his view and hers. A lot of Strange Angels (that series name was NOT my choice, I should just say that now) involved me going back to how it felt to be fourteen-fifteen, with no say in how I was disposed of and a body that was an ever-changing enemy. Bannon & Clare books are built mostly like puzzles, except for the Ripper Affair, which was a clockwork maze with sharp edges against the skin and a Goblin King who was not nearly as nice as Mr Bowie.

That said, there are certain things–guidelines, if you will (not rules, thank you, Pirate In My Head)–I’ve evolved to help me figure out the shape of the book I’m writing now, and what might help me get through it without blowing a fuse or losing most of my (physical or emotional) skin. Each book is an undiscovered country, but you can pack a kit to go exploring with. YMMV, all usual disclaimers apply, yadda yadda.

Continue reading “Act Weird, Or, Hunting The Wild Story”

The Hard Sell Doesn’t Work, Redux

Thank YouThis is a (re-edited) post from Sept 2006; one I lost when the site was hacked. Fortunately, I had a partial backup, and since Skyla Dawn Cameron mentioned this post to me in conversation lately, I thought I’d put it back out there, especially since it’s my day to crosspost to the Deadline Dames. Enjoy.

I thought for a while about even mentioning this. No, really, I did–second thoughts are rare and wonderful things for me, but I do occastionally have them. The benefit of this kind of advice to new authors is infinite, though one suspects those who need it won’t dig it until it’s too late.

The advice I have to give is this: Relax. Because the hard sell doesn’t work.

Continue reading “The Hard Sell Doesn’t Work, Redux”

Lay The Table And Let Go

Writing is a lot like feeding children.

One of the best things I ever found on the Internet was the Fat Nutritionist. While enduring the breakup of my marriage, I lost a ton of weight, and I lost even more after the divorce. (I knew why, too. I wasn’t miserable and trying to cover the misery with food anymore.) When I stumbled across Michelle’s site, it was like getting a love letter from that difficult land called Eating Stuff, and vindication in words I could understand that I really wasn’t broken about food at all.

One of the things she talked about is Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility. In short, the principle is this: I am responsible for getting a variety of healthy food on the table and teaching my kids not to fling food at each other (much) when they sit down to eat. (Well, at home that rule’s a teensy bit flexible. At a restaurant, not so much.) I do the cooking and try to get a variety of pretty healthy things to the table at regular times. The kids are in charge of whether to eat and how much. They’ll eat as much as they need, and they’ll grow into the bodies that are right for them. The best way to avoid giving them food complexes (I have a rather large one, if you haven’t guessed) is to have this division of responsibility clear.

It’s very close to things I felt but could never quite articulate about the kind of parent I want to be: loving and letting these amazing human beings find their own amazing selves while being kept safe, supported, and taught how not to get run over crossing the street. Most of all, I did not want the Princess to reach her teenage years and get a huge goddamn complex about her body and food. There’s already enough cultural/social pressure there, I didn’t want to add to it the way my own issues got started: you would be such a pretty girl if you lost some weight, now eat everything on your plate because we worked hard to get you this food! (Note: the people who repeated this over and over again may have meant well. But given their other behaviours, I don’t think so.)

And this also articulates something about writing I have felt for a long time. You have to learn to lay the table and let go.

The list of things an author doesn’t have control over is long and daunting. Covers. Reviews. Whether a reader “gets it.” Distribution patterns, plenty of marketing decisions, what people say on Twitter or on Goodreads or in hate-filled (or well-meaning but boorish) emails or letters sent right to you. Even if you self-publish, you don’t have the control you might want over covers, or marketing (time and financial constraints) or editing (again, time and financial constraints, or just sheer inexperience) or reviews, or or or…

What do you have control over?

Not much. Making the effort to meet your deadlines. Taking charge of your own career, taking the time to read and follow submissions guidelines. Deciding which hill you want to die on when an editor wants you to make a certain revision and you disagree, and putting on your big girl (or big boy) knickers and realizing that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, your editor is right. (That last time, though, that’s the hill.) Other factors can impinge on your ability to do these things, though a lot less than you think if you are rightfully determined.

The only thing that is entirely within your compass, the thing that you have 100% control over, the thing that is all yours, is writing the best story you can. Doing the work to sharpen your craft, to do your research, to consistently make your writing time a priority[*], to keep improving, to not punk out or look away when a story gets difficult, to go right for the jugular and be vulnerable on the page, is your responsibility. This is the thing you control right down to the molecular level. To the goddamn quantum level, really.

Lay the table with the meal that is your best effort. And then let go of it. Someone loves it? Cool. Walk away. Someone hates it? Cool. Walk away. Someone markets it wrong? Walk away. It doesn’t get distributed as much as it could due to outside factors? Walk away. Cover is horrid? Walk away. Any one of a million other goddamn things? Walk the fuck away.

Walk yourself right back to the words, honey. To the keyboard, typewriter, journal, pad of paper, whatever. Get started on the next one. Get started on learning more, crafting better, not punking out. Leave the meal on the table for them to throw at each other, and get back to work. This is the thing you’ve got the control over, let it take up the majority of your time and don’t eat your stomach lining up with the things that you can’t control as much as you’d like.

This will not only help save your stomach lining (and quite possibly what little sanity you have, which I make no estimation of since I am of the opinion that it’s always questionable when one is making a living from writing anyway) but it will free up your energies for getting the next meal on the table. In more ways than one.

Over and out.

[*] Yes, this is code for “do it every day.” But my Faithful Readers know that.

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, where there is a ton of other useful advice. And sneaky peeks!

Crazy Monkeybrain Crack Dust, AKA, Writer’s Ideas

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, where there are new releases, contests, and all sorts of other fun and no-bullshit writing advice. Check us out!

Well, hello. It’s Wednesday again. First, two announcements!

Yes, this is espresso and Bailey’s in a mug that says “I am going to hex your face off.” After I Tweeted that picture, I was snowed-under with queries about where to buy said mug. I got mine in 2006 from a CafePress shop (the shop’s owner was “lalejandra2″) that has now gone under. At least, I can’t find it. Which led to me putting a version of the mug up in my own shop, with no markup. (Because I feel incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of a profit, however tiny, from it.) It goes without saying that if I find the original seller, I’ll change the links and direct everyone there. But I’ve dug and dug, and can’t find her.

Announcement #2 is kind of vague. Remember that zombie-hunting cowboy trunk novel I was working on? The one I was just delighted with, and was sure would never sell? Well…paint me lilac and call me Conrad, it sold. I can’t give any details, but I can say that I’m sort of…bowled over.

Now that’s taken care of, let’s talk about ideas. (WARNING: I am foulmouthed today. Read at your own risk.)

Continue reading “Crazy Monkeybrain Crack Dust, AKA, Writer’s Ideas”

From Kickass Un-PreRequisite to Rippling Tweakage

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, who you should really be reading. Because we’re awesome.

Instead of the Snowpocalypse we feared (and that Seattle is currently suffering under the spike heel of) we’ve got rain. Lots of rain. Well, this is the Pacific Northwest, and I happen to like rain, but I wish the weather would make up its mind. Heavy wet snow yesterday, melt and easily an inch of rain today, branches down everywhere and my morning run more like a swim–oh, I know I could have used the treadmill, but Miss B was inside all day yesterday, which meant it was either get her out for a run or go to the dog park and stand in mud up to my knees. An appetizing choice, indeed.

Plus, the Little Prince became, once more, Sir Pewksalot last night. All of which is a roundabout way of saying my temper and nerves are equally frayed, and I decided on a Three Things post because if I start on a rant or two now there will be nothing but a smoking crater left where my computer used to be. (Expensive.) Not to mention with all the biting and snarling going on all over the Internet about Authors Daring To Speak, so to speak, and a rant doesn’t seem like a good idea. For lo, if I strap on my armor now and go all Don Quixote after Idiot Entitled Jerks On The Internet, I may never stop. And I’ve writing to do, so…yeah. Three things. Let’s see.

* Kickass is not a prerequisite. It’s not even a requisite. I swear to God, someday I am going to write about Milquetoast von Constipated, a potbellied, balding vampire with bowel issues who lives in Minnesota and, whenever there is an incident of violence, he *gasp* alerts the authorities! Together with his werecow buddy, Milton Morton (who is not only vegan but gets tipped every full moon), they do not fight crime willingly. Rather, they sort of bumble through and the police take care of things on their own. (As to why he has bowel issues when he’s on a liquid diet, I’ll just say, have you ever tried to live on protein shakes? HAVE YOU?)

Sounds amusing, doesn’t it? But it’s sparked by a frustration of mine: where is it written that I can’t write anything other than kickass leather-clad wiseacres? I mean, I’m very glad people connect with my kickass heroes and heroines, but that isn’t all I write, it isn’t all I am. It isn’t all the world consists of. I dislike it intensely when I write a character whose strength is internal and am immediately subjected to a “but your fans won’t recognize…” Screw that. They will recognize, and those who send me venomous screeds about how I should just stick to writing kickass chicks even though I don’t do so very well (seriously, it’s like the writers of these things all got together in a room somewhere) can just go…fly kites. Yes. fly kites.

The point of this is: If you’re used to writing one thing, and you want to write another thing, go ahead and do it. You may have to attempt a couple times before you get a salable piece, but it will teach you things about writing that staying in your comfort zone will not. I’m fairly okay at writing angst and violence, but you know what I would really love? I would love to be talented at writing comedy. Comedy is hard effing work, it doesn’t come naturally to me. (Unless it’s bleak black macabre humor. Heh.) It doesn’t stop me from wanting and trying, and from seeking other types of characters and stories to play with. What you’re good at writing and what you want to write may be two different things, but you should try them both.

* The Levenger catalog is pure crack. I mean, their 3X5 cards are incredibly useful while revising or making grocery lists, both things I do at my computer. My bag lust is inflamed every time I see their briefcases. And, oh my God, the desk sets. The desk sets. It’s nice to reward myself with some lovely tools after slogging through a zero draft. I nerd all over their paper, and one day, one day, I will have a Levenger desk. I’ll save my pennies, by God, and I will have it.

Other things I keep within easy reaching distance while I’m writing: a statue of Ganesh writing, some Climb On creme, cell phone, tarot cards (Rider-Waites, for those curious), Moleskine notebook, a couple pads of paper both legal and Levenger, scissors, pens and sharpened pencils, rubber bands, a Keep Calm and Carry On paperweight, two pink plastic flamingos, six dictionaries, two thesauri, two visual dictionaries, assorted other reference works from encyclopedias of military arms to herbals and Jack the Ripper books. Also, two copies of Jane Eyre, plus six or seven DVDs of different treatments of Jane Eyre, and a few Wuthering Heights. (Don’t ask.) Also, tissues, ibuprofen, and Carmex. Because you never can tell.

The flamingos are for practicing dialogue with. (But that’s another blog post.)

* Beware of great ideas. “A million cat clocks! That’s a GREAT idea!” Then some of them started looking a little odd because their tails weren’t moving. And I had to find more batteries. This just goes to show you, great ideas are only great until one gets to the care, feeding, and administrivia involved. (Note: I have six cat clocks, all on my living-room wall. And I want more.)

What does this have to do with writing? Simple. Beware of great ideas. Sometimes they happen halfway through a zero draft, and you either have to go back and alter what you’ve already written to account for the Great Idea, or you just go ahead and write as if the Great Idea has been there all the time, which means the first half of revising the zero draft is likely to send you to the booze cabinet sooner rather than later. Sometimes the Great Ideas happen during revision, and one should be careful because they are like pebbles thrown into a quiet pond. (BOOT TO THE HEAD!) The ripples spread throughout the entire book, which may mean you have to go back and deal with tweaking everything before and after in subtle and overt ways. Rippling tweakage is another thing that will send you to the booze cabinet during revisions. Or to banging your head against a brick wall, whichever is handier. (Also, Rippling Tweakage is my new indie band name.)

Great ideas are great, but there is no Great Idea that fixes everything without a lot of work. If the Idea is Great Enough, the work, while frustrating, is also a process of simplification. If it’s a Mediocre Idea masquerading as Great, or even just a Garden-Variety Idea Of Some Magnitude But Hardly Greatness, well, booze cabinets and brick walls, or whatever coping mechanism works for you, STAT. It doesn’t make the Rippling Tweakage any easier, but it can dull the gnawing pain between your temples somewhat.

…I just looked at that last sentence and cannot believe I typed that. Some days, I really love my job.

Over and out!

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