Friday, December 30, 2011

New year's resolution

I have a new philosophy.

I had a rough week, with people telling me I can't do things, or that I'm going about everything the wrong way. Or people in general who are trying to bring me down under their storm clouds.

So starting today, I'm not going to keep track of things going wrong, but things going right.

I have a family where everyone's healthy. Even my youngest brother, who has autism, is learning to talk (thank you Sesame Street). I have many wonderful friends who continue to amaze me every day.

So in the new year, I ask not that things be better ... but that I learn to recognize what I already have.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Win a signed copy of Flyday

The awesome S.M. Boyce is running a giveaway on her blog every day for the month of January, and Flyday's contest starts on the 1st! Contest page.

You can win a free signed copy of Flyday if you're in the US, so go enter on the 1st. And check out the many other books on there.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Writers: know your audience

I had to go to the post office sometime in the autumn, and when I dropped by early in the morning, I was surprised to see a huge line. I'm used to going in the early afternoon, and being one of the few people there. So I got in line and waited. And waited.

One of the workers was trying to explain to someone that he needed to write the send-to address on his package.

"But it has my name on it," said the customer.

"Yes," said the postal worker, "but who are you sending it to?"

Lightbulb moment. The man took out a piece of paper and copied an address onto the package. That stuck with me all day. How can a person expect to mail a package but not put the destination on it? What did he expect to happen?

Well, writers do it all the time.

I see a lot of writers trying to pitch books that really wouldn't appeal to anyone but themselves. Or they might resist making needed edits. If you try to tell them this, they'll say, "But I'm the writer! I decide what happens in the story!"

This is entirely true; however, readers can decide not to read it.

When you're writing your book, in that precious, embryonic stage, definitely write whatever you feel is necessary. But once you open that door to criticism, be ready to take it. Get advice from other writers, preferably, whose opinions you trust.

I see a lot of writers taking off now in indie publishing, and it's clear they didn't just finish a manuscript and upload it. They took time to revise, and they know what sells and can write it in a compelling, illuminating way.

You're not just keeping a journal here. You're writing to help entertain, amuse, or inspire other people. Keep your audience in mind. When you release that book, who do you want to read it?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Guest post by A. M. Belrose, author of Witch in Wolf's Clothing

Today I'm happy to share a guest post by A. M. Belrose, author of Witch in Wolf's Clothing, a paranormal romance novella. Her style is incredibly fun and humorous, so I asked her to share a little bit about herself and the book.

A. M. Belrose: I was never a particular fan of romance novels. I chalk this up to a combination of V. C. Andrews and “Clan of the Cave Bear,” both read when I was far too young to be anything but traumatized by them. What I know of the genre, roughly a decade after this rocky introduction, is what I’ve learned from reading my mother’s Kindle over her shoulder. Somewhere along the line my partner must have gotten sick of me telling her that, hey, I could do that! I was challenged to put up or shut up.

It was easy to decide on urban fantasy, since that genre holds a cozy place in my heart. Most non-romance writers assume that romance is going to be a walk in the park, that they can bang it out in a couple of days and that’s that. As a new author to the genre I underestimated how hard it would be to make sure my characters had chemistry, to balance the humor with a realistic sense of attraction and pacing, to make sure the plot and their relationship followed smooth, believable arcs. How hard it is, sometimes, to sound sexy instead of silly.

However, the most difficult part of writing a romance novel, as a lesbian, was putting myself in the lusty shoes of a straight woman. How do you describe an attractive man? What makes him attractive? What should a man smell like? What kind of flirting goes on here, what signals are sent?

I had to rely on my partner, who is bisexual, and, horrifically, my mother. It’s one thing to know that your mother has a digital library full of werewolf erotica, and another entirely to supply it to her. I refused, point blank, to discuss it with her out loud. I’m ashamed to admit that whenever she tried to mention it, or help in naming it, I resorted to plugging my ears and making hideous noises. I’m not sure how other erotica and romance authors handle dishing out the R-rated goods to their relatives, or if it’s something you’re supposed to politely avoid talking about at Christmas.

Writing “Witch in Wolf’s Clothing” was a good exercise for me. It taught me how to condense character and plot down into a novella, while maintaining appeal. More than anything, I learned the appeal of romance and all its fantasies. I’m eager to turn my hand to LGBTQ romance and urban fantasy. It’s not as much of a market, but it’s one that I think is worth expanding and providing for. Everybody deserves a little escapism and some buff werewolves.

Quite frankly, what I’ve learned from browsing the lesbian fiction section of the kindle store is that us lesbians are a snooty folk who seem uniformly convinced that our books are worth at least ten bucks. It’ll be nice to throw some 99 cent feel good romance up there, if I can swing it.

One person I really owe, beyond those subjected to editing for me, is my illustrator. She’s a fabulous person, and even if she weren’t she’d be a wonderful artist. I’m damn lucky to have her.

Thanks A. M.! The novella is available for 99 cents on Amazon.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Amazon Kindle's new lending library, and what it means for writers

If you've been on Amazon recently, you may have noticed that some ebooks are free to borrow, as long as you have a Prime account and a Kindle. I received an e-mail today inviting me to the program, saying that if readers borrow my book, I'll be compensated a certain amount based on how many books total are borrowed during the month.

However, when I went to enroll, a notice popped up saying my books "must not be available in digital format on any other platform during their enrollment." I guess this means no Smashwords and no Barnes & Noble.

Smashwords has been a huge promotional tool for me, especially with its free coupons I send to book reviewers, so I don't want to take my book down there. And Barnes & Noble has netted me sales for readers with the Nook. I could make my next novel an Amazon exclusive for a few months, especially since my books are now available for sale in other countries there, but I don't want to shut out readers with the Nook, or keep it out of book reviewers' hands.

I know Amazon is trying to sell Kindles, and the majority of my sales are from their site, but I don't like how they're trying to monopolize the market. I'd apply for enrollment for a reduced payout if I could keep my book on other platforms. Writers, what do you think about this new program?

Update: Smashwords has responded here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Update on my next book


That's a great word to type. The current draft of my newest book is finally written, and now I'm gearing up for a round of edits, proofreading, and then marketing and release.

I finished it sooner than expected, so the release date is up in the air. Watch this blog for updates.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Outlining and story structuring: how do you do it?

I just did a guest post on Pat Thunstrom's blog on marketing, so check it out.

This week, I wanted to talk about story structure. Pat recommended I read Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. The author comes from a screenwriting perspective, where certain things must happen to the protagonist by a certain point, and the story must have a satisfying conclusion (otherwise, the audience throws their popcorn at the screen and walks out.). He defined a book as effective or ineffective depending on whether or not the protagonist reached certain goals within a certain amount of pages.

Most of what he says is true, but novels can be very fluid, and the methods struck me as a little constricting. By his rules, many classic novels are not properly structured. But the book got me thinking, and I ended up writing a new outline with the general rules in mind. If you have a book and you're not sure why the plot isn't working, it might be a good read.

Another structure tool he showed me (but I've seen before) is the Snowflake method of ourlining. That says you start with a summary, and expand from there.

It has some good points, but if you take those directions literally you will spend weeks on what amounts to a summary or outline. My way of writing is more spark-to-fire. I think of a scene, which spreads out to a conflict, and write until I have a clear image, then back off and write the summary.

For my upcoming novel Saturnine, the image that came to mind was that someone knocks on the protagonist's door, hoping to visit him and his new baby. The man's wife opens the door and says her husband's not at home. Not at home? Why would he leave his newborn daughter? A story emerged.

I think it's a good idea to have a summary before you write. Do I always have one? No. I always have at least a rough idea of the ending in mind, so I know what to write toward. But as I write, some subplots change, characters disappear or get invented, and the book's focus shifts as I experiment with scenes. Part of the fun in writing, then, is in the discovery. What's your process for writing?