Friday, March 25, 2011

Signed copies

I'm setting up a PayPal system to process requests for signed copies of Flyday if you live outside the Western Mass area. E-mail me (kilexia at and tell me your instructions if you want a specific message. Cost is $12, including shipping. (If you want it shipped outside the U.S., e-mail me and we can figure something out.)

If you've already bought the book or you live outside the U.S. and it would cost an arm and a leg to ship it, I can e-mail you a free autographed sticker to put on the book's front page. Just e-mail me with your address and instructions.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Can't get started with your writing? Read this

A lot of people have asked me over the years, "How do I become a writer? Where do I start?" 

My answer used to be, "I don't know. Pick up a pen and write something down?" I was facing the same question myself. But now that I've actually finished a book, I can sit back and think about what was useful for me and what wasn't.

Things you need to be able to write:

1. A quiet place. I wrote most of my novel in the library when I was studying for my writing degree at my first college, and I thought about the plot while walking around the campus. I soaked up a lot of the inspiration around me, and some of the architecture there (including above-ground tunnels) made it into the book.

2. Resources. If you're one for writing guides or just need inspiration, Bird by Bird and On Writing are the books I always recommend to new authors. Bird by Bird is especially good, because it's a heartfelt book that at the same time takes a "down in the trenches" approach to coaching new writers: the author lays everything out and tells it like it is.

The Elements of Style is also a must for any writer. It's short; go grab a copy and read it. I also found Eats, Shoots & Leaves to be a hilarious grammar resource (but other people have said it's boring, so I might just be a grammar geek).

If you're looking to write an ebook, Zoe Winters' Becoming an Indie Author is a great resource as well. For news in e-publishing, J. A. Konrath's blog is a must-read.

If you're a poet, In the Palm of Your Hand is an excellent book to learn some skills and read examples of fascinating poetry.

3. Time. I did most of my writing late at night or between classes. If I had a day off, I wrote. During nursing school I could go months at a time without writing, but during the summer I jumped right back into it and worked on the draft of a new book. Nowadays I dash off notes and entire poems on my phone while waiting for the bus.

It takes some effort to find spare time, but most people have more of it than they realize. I've seen people write dozens of tweets in a single day, then type, "I never have enough time to write!" Don't be that person.

4. Good software. I once used RoughDraft, because it was a lightweight program that did a lot, especially due to its "Notepad" function (each file has a little sidebar you can use to write notes).

I had to start using Word for school, however, so now I often type in that and outline in OneNote, which I find indispensable for organizing a new book (one tab for plot outlines, one tab for character lists, etc), so I have everything in one place. If I forget what eye color a character has, or where they're supposed to be in the next scene, I can flip back and find out quickly.

5. Writing buddies. If no one you know is an aspiring writer, try finding a writing forum online; AbsoluteWrite is a really comprehensive one.

One thing that really sped up my writing was finding "betas"--essentially, people to read, and give thoughts on, my writing. My first betas were friends and siblings, and I would deliver paper copies of my chapters to them. Eventually this led to me e-mailing them, and finally using Google Docs to create files that everyone could read together and pile notes on. It's a lot of fun, and it's a good motivator to keep writing when you have instant feedback.

6. An idea. Whether you're writing poetry, a short story, a novel or anything else, you really need to find something you believe in to write about. This is the most important and yet elusive part of writing. My ideas usually come in the form of a thought that grabs me and won't let me go.

The original thoughts for my book Flyday went something like this: What if a girl had a time machine that could take her anywhere she wanted to go? And what if she encountered a man accused of murder, and found that her future actions might have caused it? I wondered where the story went, and I wrote it.

Someone once told me, "I write because the books I'd want to read aren't written yet." This is a good way to think about writing. What would you want to read if you saw it on the shelf? Write it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What's new, and thoughts on ebook pricing

I joined a collaborative writing blog, and although it's just starting up, there are several other bloggers who are fascinating to read, so check it out. I also have a few writing projects I don't want to divulge just yet--I'll wait until I have more time to give them the proper attention.

People have been asking about Flyday's sequel, and yes, I am actively writing a new draft of it, but no, I don't have any idea when it'll be done. I'll have more updates as things get more solid.

I'm also considering raising Flyday's ebook price, especially since I see people charging that for novellas and Flyday is nearly 300 pages. Mainly I was inspired by the recent interview with Zoe Winters in which she explains her pricing strategy. For a reader, 99 cents may be an appealing price, but only 35 cents of that will go to the author. 35 cents, for a book they probably spent years writing. That doesn't seem fair.

I think if people are interested enough in the book, they'll buy it at any reasonable price. I've seen people pay $4.50 for a coffee that will be gone in twenty minutes. An ebook would provide hours of reading, and you can enjoy it for years. Is Flyday worth $3.95 or even $4.95 for that? Definitely.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In which I interview Jeff van Booven on Flyday

My writer friend Jeff van Booven has been my sounding board for many years when I was writing Flyday, so it was only natural that I interview him afterward about his opinions on how I did. I managed to tear him away from 19th century literature for a few minutes, and somehow we got to talking about missed chances for feminism and the roles of robots in science fiction.

LB: So Jeff, what did you think of my book?

JVB: Well Laura, I thought it was a book. All the classic trappings were there. Pages. Words on those pages. Why, there was even plot and characters.

You're mentioned in the dedication. What would you say your role was when I was writing Flyday? 

Unmorale support. I provided lots of distraction. Essentially, it was my goal to make sure that you had a metric by which to judge your productivity and then chastise you for not doing better. I had a whip and nothing better to do. Think of it as author slavery.

That's an incredibly pessimistic view. [Note: We had previously discussed Flyday's risk for being censored.] Do you think the characters are good role models, or do you think that the book should be banned? 

Banned, why hell yes it should be banned. It's the classic think of the children line! Good role models you ask? Why, they're absolutely terrible. Being gay, sure, fine, kids need to learn tolerance and to treat one another with respect. But, to think that you can just pop off into the future because you're bored and without telling anyone! What kind of message is that supposed to send to the youth of today? That it's okay to just tally off before supper and mess with other peoples' timelines. A bit rude I say and our children shouldn't be exposed to such irresponsible garbage!

I never really thought about it that way. So you think Ariel is the most irresponsible character in the book? 

Certainly. I mean, she doesn't even bother to travel back in time to the 19th century to provide some professional editorial experience in the form of cutting out the extensive overuse of description and breaking of the fourth wall by the narrative voice. She doesn't even really need any sort of real editing experience to do so. The least she could do is team up with Margaret Fuller and get some real feminism going. So yes, she, the keeper of the time machine, has doomed society to excessive years of backwards thinking that could have been avoided. Most irresponsible character in the book, yes, and off all literary history; even more irresponsible than Jane Eyre.

She could still go back in time and promote feminism though, couldn't she? But if she did something crazy radical like tell someone about antibiotics in the year 1400, would that change too much and cause new and unexpected problems? 

Well, yeah, it'd certainly increase the chance of resistance to anti-biotics, but this is a literary blog--medical knowledge isn't something I care too much about. Sure, it'd be nice to have a cure for cancer, but I'd rather not have to slog through a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It's all about perspective. You want somebody to complain about her not advancing medicine, interview a nurse about your novel.

Fair enough. Taken by itself, could Flyday be considered a feminist book? There are a lot of strong female characters. 

Well, yes, I suppose it would be; however, I think it will more likely be remembered for its sympathetic portrayals of robot-kind. Far from often do our silicon brethren get a fair shake in literature. Even the most pro-robot authors like Isaac Asimov had a tendency to produce slightly anti-robot texts. That's the real strength of Flyday, it goes beyond the cultural constructions and societal prejudices of robots to produce a wholly sympathetic character that gives robots the agency they deserve.

Readers do seem to really like that robot. Well, I think we've covered almost everything. Just one final question: if you had any advice for Thomas Huxley, what would it be? 

Same as I do for anybody else in a trying situation: don't fuck this up.

Jeff van Booven is a grad student at Missouri State University and runs a blog called the One Hour Parking Show. Laura E. Bradford the author of Flyday, and she is reconsidering her choice to put Jeff in the book's dedication.