Friday, December 23, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Cline wrote a dystopic story set in the future where everyone loses themselves in a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) that doubles as online school and digital economy. The game is OASIS, and before he died, the game's developer left instructions to award ownership of the game and its massive wealth and influence to whoever uncovers and solves a series of progressively difficult 80s-influence pop culture easter eggs. READY PLAYER ONE is a first novel, and it shows in places, but it is also a passionate love letter to our collective youth, specificially focused on pop culture from the 80s and 90s.
- It's a fiction writing cliche, but write what you know.
Cline was enamored of all things 80s pop culture; video games (like Pac-Man and JOUST, which were played on big consoles in places like Aladdin's Castle in the Mall), music (Ladyhawke), movies (recreating a scene from War Games from memory and having to get every quote exactly correct), anime (big fighting robots!), and role playing games.
- Go ahead - wear your passion on your sleeve.
Passion overcomes a multitude of evils. Check out these quotes from serious genre fiction authors:
“A nerdgasm…imagine Dungeons and Dragons and an 80s video arcade made hot, sweet love, and their child was raised in Azeroth.”—John Scalzi, New York Times bestselling author of Old Man’s War
“Completely fricking awesome...This book pleased every geeky bone in my geeky body. I felt like it was written just for me.”—Patrick Rothfuss, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wise Man’s FearThe praise goes on in that vein for quite some time. The point is, if you're passionate for something, there is a very good chance someone else may be as passionate. Instead of setting that passion aside, mine it, exploit it, throw it carelessly on the floor and roll around in it while giggling like a maniac. You may find you're not alone in the rolling and the giggling. Use that shared passion to your advantage.
- Write your Big Idea right out of the gate.
In Cline's case, he took ten years to hone and rewrite his idea, and there are places where the writing could use a little extra editing. And you know what? Nobody cared. His ideas were so big and his approach so audacious that people overlooked the little nits here and there and just settled in an went along with the ride. True, it's a calculated risk, but fortune favors the bold.
If you like science fiction and anything remotely related to the 80s, read this book. If you've never tried science fiction, read this book. USA Today called READY PLAYER ONE “Enchanting…Willy Wonka meets the Matrix. This novel undoubtedly qualifies Cline as the hottest geek on the planet right now. [But] you don't have to be a geek to get it.”
I finished this book in two days (two /work/ days). I immediately proclaimed it the best Sci-Fi book I've read in 20 years. Will Lavender wrote: “I was blown away by this book…A book of ideas, a potboiler, a game-within-a-novel, a serious science-fiction epic, a comic pop culture mash-up–call this novel what you will, but READY PLAYER ONE will defy every label you try to put on it. Here, finally, is this generation’s Neuromancer.”
I had a rollicking good time reading READY PLAYER ONE. Learning something more about the art and craft of writing was just icing on the cake.
Monday, December 19, 2011
AC: You’re a writer, promoter, radio talk show host. Out of all the hats you wear, do you have a favorite?
JAV: No. To me, the different "hats" are like my choice of a favorite color…depending on the day, one may be more a favorite then the other. I call the three different roles my balance in life.
AC: How did you get into helping others promote their books?
JAV: When I was writing my first novel, I had read that marketing needs to happen even before publication date. Gosh, I was so scared to take this foreign path. In 2007, I began studying promotion and surprisingly, hit a passion in my life I had never imagined. The marketing content was so so cool that I just couldn’t keep it bottled . . . so, I began sharing the wealth of knowledge with others. With no expectations and completely unconditional in my "wants," the feedback began rolling in and I mean by the thousands! The responses fed my innate desire to help others (being a teacher for twenty years and a mother of two daughters) promote their books.
AC: What is the best, most effective marketing tool you have found?
JAV: My followers or fans are my most effective marketing tools. By myself, I could never bring so much exposure to my books. Actually, quite a rewarding and effective promotional tactic, "I’ll scratch your back, and it would be great if you could scratch mine." Simple and effective.
AC: How do you acquire these helpful friends?
JAV: It’s a toss-up between blogging and social networking. Blogging takes commitment to post regularly. The articles must supply content that is both valuable and unique, and written in a voice that rings true. The end goal is to attract huge targeted traffic or numbers of followers interested in your books.
Social Networking (my favorite social media site right now is Facebook). Again, having followers on Facebook takes a genuine and authentic voice—to gain trust in growing relationships.
AC: What is the primary mistake you see newbie authors making while marketing their books?
JAV: Hey, I can answer this one from experience…lol…The number one mistake newbies make when promoting their book is spending time bringing exposure to the wrong audience. Marketing is very time consuming so if the newbie is "barking up the wrong tree," not only are they wasting time where they could be pitching it to the "right" or targeted audience, but also they will not gain sales because no one is interested in their book.
I remember spending so much time with other writers, it just felt comfortable that I forgot to introduce myself to suspense/romance readers. Don’t get me wrong, this was not a waste of time as I learned a lot, but I did not get the sales I had hoped.
AC: Tell us about your first radio interview. Nervous?
JAV: To be honest, I wasn’t nervous, I was excited. I really missed teaching and professional speaking, so after researching blogtalkradio to death, I knew I was prepared and roaring to go.
AC: You’re changing the name of your show. What to, and why?
“Authors Articulating with Jo-Anne Vandermeulen” is now going to be called “Talk Radio Network." Change is seldom a bad move. I have been producing and hosting radio for two and a half years, seeing seventy-five archived shows, and I have over 12,000 active listeners with over 250,000 followers. I had done the show as gratis to authors and those in the writing field. It is time for me to expand my audience to include anyone who is selling products through the Internet. It matches the theme to my upcoming release Internet Marketing Made Easy (January 2nd, 2012), and it is time I receive payment for my time, effort, and experience.
AC: Internet Marketing Made Easy is coming out soon. What can we hope to find between the covers?
JAV: Lots of user-friendly and valuable tips about marketing on the Internet.
Here’s my pitch:
Now you will be able to make a difference to your sales and *conquer all obstacles* "INTERNET MARKETING MADE EASY” will give you the knowledge to make the profits you deserve.
What makes this RESOURCE BOOK, “INTERNET MARKETING MADE EASY”, unique?
Packed with tips that are proven to work
User-friendly for the beginner, average, and advanced marketer
Up-to-date attainable tips you can use right now,
Flexible in that you can use these tips for ANY product you wish to sell online, and…
Quick read - (although a costly publishing and printing costs for her, she PERSONALLY REQUESTED THIS ADDITIONAL TECHNIQUE so you will be able to flow through the entire book quickly and with complete understanding – instead of just a glossary at the back, each technical or marketing term is highlighted with a definition and/or example RIGHT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SAME PAGE! BRILLIANT!!!)
“INTERNET MARKETING MADE EASY” – What are the Topics?
Getting Started: Creating a Following
Establishing a Voice (BLOGGING)
Advancing in the Search Engines
Jo-Anne’s Favorite Tips
Guaranteeing Massive Exposure (SOCIAL NETWORKING)
Creating a Platform (ATTRACTING CLIENTS)
Targeting your Audience (SAVING ENERGY)
Balancing Online Activities (MANAGING TIME)
Reaching Your Goal (SUCCESS HERE I COME!)
AC: What else is in the works for you?
JAV: I try and live my life as one day at a time. I strive for balance—work, play, and rest (and not always in that order), feeding myself: spiritually, intellectually, mentally, and physically. I listen to my needs or inner instincts and walk through doors that are open—doing the footwork of sudden and unplanned opportunities (kinda like this interview which will provide more exposure. I’m so grateful for this opportunity). I heed to obstacles that interfere with my chosen path and abruptly turn around and go down another road. So what is next for me is a question that can change answers on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. For example, today my agenda included this interview, a workout at the pool, a walk in the park with my mini-daschound—Oscar, answering emails while hanging out at an Internet Café, and I’m looking forward to a movie tonight while curled up in front of my fireplace. I’ve dedicated the month of December to "self"—a clean-up month of websites, computer hard-drives, and year-end income tax. Oh ya, and the launching of Internet Marketing Made Easy. To be honest, I haven’t got a clue what is in store for January or the 2012 year. If it is anything like the previous, I’ll just hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
AC: Where can our readers reach you?
JAV: The simple answer is to Google my name. I’m all over the place and love to interact with my readers.
AC: What services do you offer?
JAV: “Premium Promotional Services” *You Create – We Promote* offers these services:
Facebook Business Page
Talk Radio Network
Jo-Anne Vandermeulen is a Canadian author, expert blogger (offering free Internet marketing tips), producer and hostess of “Authors Articulating” on Blogtalkradio, founder and marketer of the online marketing business—“Premium Promotional Services”, appears on many major social media sites (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.)...as a professional support network for writers, and donates to the registered charity 'Spirit Pet Sanctuary'. With two books out (including a suspense/romance novel) called “CONQUER ALL OBSTACLES”, Jo-Anne has overcome her own obstacles to follow her dreams. An English major, graduated from the University of Saskatchewan (Canada), in 2006 she had to give up teaching when she was diagnosed with an illness that forced her to get out of the classroom. Now, with the novel “Conquer All Obstacles”, and the non-fiction resource books “Premium Promotional Tips for Writers” and Internet Marketing Made Easy”, Jo-Anne Vandermeulen is an inspiration for many.
Friday, December 16, 2011
First, we all know the (supposed) benefits of a healthy diet, a diet that's high in fiber, low in cholesterol, and with a paucity of polyunsaturated (why does that put me in mind of a parrot beneath an umbrella?) fats. I'm told such a diet will make one virile and handsome and able to lift a Chrysler one-handed. Yippee. Let us leave such people to their grazing.
No, what I'm talking about is a bit more ... elemental. Earthy. Sensual. In a word, tasty. Specifically, junk food.
What constitutes junk food? Is it food that's by definition terrible for your health? Sure, that helps, but not necessarily. For instance, I grew up in the South. For years I daily ate such fare as country ham (containing salt content on par with the Dead Sea), green beans with fatback, cathead biscuits, fried corn, spoonbread, chocolate pie, iced tea so strong and sweet a guy could chop a cord of wood after just a glass ... all manner of things that I'm sure would cause Richard Simmons to roll over in his grave (he is dead, isn't he?).
In my college days my standard favorite dish, owing to extreme poverty (not to mention congenital bad taste) was cheap Winn-Dixie chili mounded on top of cooked Minute Rice, all heated in a Mirro popcorn popper, and washed down with grape Tang. Even now, my mouth waters.
Today my favorites include such varied fare as chili dogs, Vienna sausage out of a can (don't wipe the jelly off; it's good), bags of beef jerky (or if I'm flush, kippered beef strips), salted peanuts in the shell, boiled eggs, and Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. Yowza. As the thread title says, darn fine eatin'.
So what say you all? Anybody like to tell what your secret ba-a-a-d foods are? Come on, spill. We're all friends here.
Far be it from me to tell your wife.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
On the plus side, this is one of the most varied and complete offerings I’ve seen on the subject (and this is just volume one). Subjects include Roots of Fantasy, Characterization, Race Creation, World Building, Clichés, Plot, Medieval Clothing and Food, Health and Medicine, Magic, Mythology, Religion, and Arms and Armor. Although a few chapters skim by with only basic info, many of them include insightful and detailed explanations of aspects of the genre that every author would be wise to heed. Of course, with only a chapter devoted to each subject, the book can’t be considered definitive. But it offers an excellent jumping-off point into further research.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Memory and imagination are inherently linked: everything we build in our imagination is the product of the raw materials supplied to us by our previous life experience—i.e., our memory. Because all of our memories are faulty, to one degree or another, empty spaces open up in our minds, which our imaginations can then take advantage of and fill. In his article “Let your imagination play” (The Writer, February 2011), Bob Blaisdell expounds on South American author Jorge Luis Borges’ thoughts on memory and imagination:
|Image by peet-astn|
When our everyday memory dissolves, as it will, it leaves a blank canvas for us to fill with imagination. “Although reality is exact,” Borges reflected, “memory is not.” … Compared to an inability to imagine, the tangible effects of imagining (producing artwork, books, music) are scarcely important. We can imagine, whatever our artistic limitations…. To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract.In a sense, authors have to forget in order to imagine. As Polish literary critic and Pulitzer nominee Francine du Plessix Gray puts it:
Purify your mind of toxins of memory. … Writers have to have this kind of digestive process for the psyche.If we’re writing strictly from memory—whether that be in the construction of fact-based non-fiction, or the reconstruction of real-life settings for our novels—we’re not imagining. We’re not creating. We’re just recording. Nothing wrong with this, of course. The facts are the vital ingredient in convincing readers to suspend their disbelief. But few of us will argue that the true joy of writing comes in the raw, primal act of creation. When we forget the facts, deliberately or not, a vast, unpainted plane opens up in front of us, like an artist’s blank canvas, just begging to be filled with wild splashes and combinations of color.
So, although my wonky memory forces me to buy day planners and filing systems and expend extra energy on research and fact checking, I’m thankful for the opportunity to be released from the confines of memory’s exactitude—if only for those hours of beautiful, unchained creativity while I sit at my desk creating new realities.
Friday, December 9, 2011
John Scalzi has he's imagined a number of similarly terrifying holiday traditions. Here's a taste.
An Iron Man Christmas CarolYes, Tony Stark is a superhero -- but he's also part of the 1%. This Christmas Eve, his cynical side has gotten the better of him and his view of the world, and all the little people in it. Seeing him wallow in his own bitterness, three of his fellow Avengers take it upon themselves to help Stark reconnect with the joy of the holiday season. Captain America is the Superhero of Christmas Past, the Black Widow is the Superhero of Christmas Present, and the Hulk is the Superhero of Christmas Smash. Paul Bettany makes a cameo as Jarvis Cratchett, Stark's impoverished computer technician. Samuel L. Jackson shows up at the end, because, well, that's what he does, isn't it.
It's a Wonderful Life, George LucasThe year is 1986, and George Lucas, despondent at the failure of Howard the Duck, considers throwing himself off the Golden Gate Bridge. But then an angel, played by Bill Moyers, shows him what life would be like if he never lived at all. Lucas, horrified at a world in which Han always shot first, throws himself back into life and plans the prequel trilogy. Meanwhile, the angel is revealed to be the devil himself. His dark, maniacal laughter goes on endlessly as the screen fades to black.
I am almost certain I am not the first to suggest that last one.If you aren't reading Scalzi's column at filmcritic.com, John Scalzi on SciFi, I highly recommend it. It's a weekly column that covers some of my favorite things; SciFi, film, and geek culture. Also, this week the internet discovered the fantastic Cello Wars: The Phantom Cellist by ThePianoGuys, which is also highly recommended.
Update: It could be worse. At least George Lucas didn't have his knighthood revoked...
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
I had several thoughts about this, not the least of which was; there are only a few Christian fiction publishers - learn who they are and don't download their books if they are so offensive to you. My second thought was about how many of the books being complained about have been tagged multiple times as "Christian." So I disagreed with the original poster who seemed to think this was something along the lines of spam that was being sneakily foisted on them by Christian publishers.
Still there is that little concept of not casting pearls, mentioned in the Bible. If people are not ready to hear a message, it does no good to speak to them about it because they will just stop up their ears. On the other hand, someone who is ready to hear might read a Christian story and be blessed, even changed, by it. Would labeling books mean that everyone who didn't want to read that particular book would be prevented from reading it? Doubtful. Would labeling books mean that someone who might be blessed by a book, wouldn't purchase it because of the label? Perhaps.
While I can see both sides of this issue, if Amazon does start labeling books, at what genre-differentiation do they stop? What if a Catholic wants Christian books but only those with a Catholic slant? Or what if a Baptist doesn't want any books that mention speaking in tongues? What of Muslim literature? Or Buddhist? Or republican or democratic?
It is a muddle... So I thought I would ask you all. What do you think?
Monday, December 5, 2011
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Friday, December 2, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Since getting published, I've been on the look-out for things that will help increase traffic at my different sites and pages. So I was excited to find Pagemodo. This site is for the sole purpose of creating exciting fan pages on Facebook. And it has free templates!
Along the same lines, Simply Amusing Design Studio does the same thing, but for a fee. This company provides several other services as well, such as:
Friday, November 25, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Perhaps the most used catchphrase today is edgy. The tide has been turning against classic, solid timeless storytelling to edgy. But what exactly does edgy mean? Edgy is different for adults than young adults, though some are heavily pushing more adult material into young adult, juvenile and even little children's books. Certainly edgy in secular fiction is quite different than in Christian novels. Or is it? Have the lines blurred so greatly between secular and Christian fiction that the distinction is barely visible?
To an editor, edgy means to push the envelope, to take people just to edge of improper and pull back. In short whet their appetite and go a little further next time. Is that really what we’re called as Christians- or even authors - to do? Bring people the edge of sin and pull back? To entice them into wanting more darkness and then satisfy induced curiosity with further edginess? Where does the author’s responsibility come into this trend? All publishers are in the business of making money and will follow current trends to help their bottom line – profit.
Fortunately, in my experience, despite the push toward edgy, people aren’t biting. I’ve encountered many who are rebelling against the trend. Parents seek suitable substitutes for these edgy books on school reading lists in favor of what they feel is more appropriate for their children. Even kids want fun stories. In the Christian market the Amish books dominate. Some of the most popular secular kids books are Narnia, Percy Jackson, and oh, yes, the ultimate of edgy - Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
So when an editor, publisher or agent throws the term edgy at you concerning your manuscript, ask them what exactly do they mean? How will it help your book? Does their suggestion compromise what you want to say in your story? Don't go edgy for the sake of publication. Just like trendy fashion fads come and go but classic styles remain, so fiction styles change, but timeless, well-told stories live on. Do what you feel is right for your story, your peace of mind, your readers and ultimately, the impact and legacy your books will someday leave behind.
Shawn Lamb is the author of the epic Christian YA fantasy series Allon, along with The Huguenot Sword, and once wrote for the animated series BraveStarr, produced by the same studio that did He-Man and She-Ra. She has won several screenwriting awards including a Certificate of Merit from the American Screenwriters Association. This year she is among The Authors Show - 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading 2011.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Diminished Media Group picked up Bryan's first novel for publication. This has been a whirlwind year for Bryan, and I wanted to give our readers a peek behind the curtain. Without further ado, I present the AuthorCulture interview with Bryan Thomas Schmidt.
AC: Genre fans used to be the nerds, the outsiders. What prompted you to write in the genre form for your debut novel, The Worker Prince?
BTS: Is this a therapy session or an interview? Yeah, okay, I have issues. I’m an outcast, outsider. That’s right. I need to be loved. Please love my book. Give me a good review. I am an adopted child. I have ADHD. I have always been socially awkward and a bit of a loner. And, as a result, I have always felt on the outside looking in. That shows in my writing work which often have similar themes or certainly themes of characters finding themselves, coming into their own, finding their place in this world. That said, my first attempt at a novel was not Science Fiction (SF). It was love story. I love Nicholas Sparks books. I have a great story I want to tell. But my prose level was not there yet. Then I remembered this idea I’d been carrying around since my teenage years of Moses in space. It just seemed like a great epic story which would fit well told as space opera with all the tropes I loved from my youth reading Golden Age SF and watching movies and shows like Star Wars and Star Trek and Battlestar Galatica. So one day, I just sat down and started writing. Four months later, I had a completed novel. Of course, that was just the beginning.
AC: The Worker Prince uses a famous Biblical character for some of its source material. Did that impetus make the writing easier or harder?
BTS: Easier in borrowing plotline and story structure for part of it. Harder in dealing with a story people already know so well. How do you keep it interesting and unpredictable? So I made the characters Christian and chose to have the Moses story as part of their prehistory. In parts, the story echoes that biblical story, but it also allowed me to depart from it and take it new directions, while still utilizing the themes from the biblical story and key scenes.
AC: Blogger and uber SF fan Steve Davidson argues there can't be a reconciliation of religion and SF while blogger / author Mike Duran counters it is a logical topic for SF. What say you? Is there room in SF for discussions of religion without the fiction becoming a tract for proselytizing? How might that work?
BTS: Well, Davidson's post is one of the most opinionated, badly written posts I’ve seen. The guy was criticized by people who agree with him, so in the end, I don’t think he made his points well. He had an agenda and that was all that was about. Of course I think religion and SF go together. I did a post for SF Signal which was quite popular about SF classics with religious themes. And it includes some big name books like Dune, Asimov’s Foundation series and Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as Ender’s Game and more. I think religion is something that is a part of every society in some form, so one has to deal with it in worldbuilding somehow for people to find your work believable. So Davidson’s suggestion was ludicrous just based on that. But at the same time, I think the greatest witness we have is our lifestyle and how we live. Shoving our beliefs down people’s throats is offensive. Who likes it when the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses come to the door? Not very many people. And all too often, Christian fiction is guilty of shoving beliefs in people’s faces. Why can’t we just show through our themes, our characters’ lives, etc. and let people ask questions which give us an opening? To me, that’s much more effective. With Worker Prince I worked it into my worldbuilding. I explain it briefly to be clear what these people believe. They are not fundamentalist. They are Evangelical and since so often people confuse that, I wanted to be clear. But even those who wish I hadn’t included those themes all tell me it’s not preachy. So how can it be done? With great care and deliberate intention to reach people well, not preach at them, but tell stories.
AC: In addition to writing, you're also editor of an upcoming Anthology. What have you learned about the writing game when you donned the editor's hat?
BTS: Rejection sucks from both ends. Who likes to tell someone their story isn’t good enough? Not me. But there are also lots of reasons for rejections that have nothing to do with that. I rejected stories from Jay Lake, Kevin J. Anderson and Chuck Gannon which were fantastic but just didn’t fit the theme. So it certainly gives you perspective in facing rejections yourself.
AC: You've become a successful marketing machine promoting your new book. Can you give our readers an overview of what you've done to market The Worker Prince? What's has been most and least effective?
BTS: Boy, this could be a long answer. First, I started building a blog, website, and social media presence long before my book came out. I worked really hard to just network and build friendships and support people. I listened to them and learned what they’re doing, what they like, and tried to identify who might be interested in my work. I started blogging and tweeting valuable content, content which would help people. It took some time to sort out the kinds of things that people responded to, but once I did, things really took off. I also built relationships with fellow bloggers and writers by encouraging them, spreading their posts, etc. Those paid off when I needed help spreading the word about my stuff. Some retweeted or posted my stuff without asking, some I requested. A publicist for Random House included my book release on the Suvudu releases list with all the major releases just because I’d helped him so much in the past. That got me huge notice and legitimized my book as a major release. Second, I planned a blog tour. I went out of my way to plan a blog tour in advance and write meaningful, valuable, quality posts. I worked hard to make sure they fit the themes of the blogs I would appear on and to schedule a variety so that I had reviews, interviews, guest posts, excerpts, etc. scattered rather than the same thing day after day. I also experimented creatively, using dialogues, character interviews and more. This also included podcast appearances and a prequel short story being published. Many linked to each other so people just followed it daily and it kept the interest up. Certainly my presence daily out there made a difference. Third, press releases to local media. I didn’t wait on my publisher. I did them myself. Still doing this, in fact. Fourth, plan appearances. Contact conventions, bookstores, libraries, etc. but know how to do it. Do your research. Fifth, get books out to reviewers and keep doing it. Reviews are the single best selling tool. The more good reviews, the higher the listing on sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And the more impulse buys you get as well. Sixth, contests. Goodreads, Facebook, etc. Giveaway copies and get it out there. More reviews, more word of mouth. Two essentials to success. So far what’s worked best? Doing everything you can. It’s not just a one-track thing. You have to do everything you can.
AC: Speaking of social networking, you're also the host of an innovative weekly Twitter interview column called SFFWRTCHT. How did that come about?
BTS: I went to some conventions and met so many successful authors and learned so much. Then I was unemployed and knew I wouldn’t get the chance again for a while. I had met so many people in the business from Twitter and knew of some chats, I thought, why couldn’t I utilize this to create content which provides opportunities to learn from successful writers, helps them promote their books, and builds networking and my brand all at the same time? So I did it. And it just took off.
AC: Who's been your favorite interview? What's been your greatest surprise about SFFWRTCHT?
BTS: Wow. Tough call. AC Crispin was pretty awesome because she’s a writing hero. Also, Mike Resnick. I loved having Ken Scholes too. But for sheer fun, Maurice Broaddus was a real blast. Greatest surprise is how influential and popular it became so quickly. Most major publishers send me books without even asking now. They contact me to book their authors. It used to be all on me and my wallet. It’s really made me a known presence in the industry too. And I’ve made a lot of friends who have helped me and advised me, etc. It’s been great on so many levels. I didn’t have any idea all of this could happen so fast. Less than a year. It’s pretty amazing. Our one year anniversary is December 7th.
AC: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
BTS: Write. And remember, concert musicians practice daily. So why shouldn’t you? It’s easy to think up ideas. It’s easy to dream. It’s hard to write. You are not a writer until you actually write. And that means writing a lot of crap along the way. Get over it. It’s part of the journey and process. We all do it. Robert Silverberg still throws stuff away. So does Orson Scott Card. So does Stephen King. That’s the way it goes. I offer regular tips posts on my blog every Thursday on various topics. Those might be useful as well. There are lots of people giving advice out there though. Find them. Learn from them. Use what you can. Discard the rest. Most of all, do it because you love it and can’t help it. It’s not to make money. It’s a passion.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Ice Palace takes place in pre-statehood Alaska in the 1950s. The real-life Alaskan setting is vital to the story’s plot. The book couldn’t conceivably have taken place anywhere else, and it’s very obvious that Ferber did her research and layered her setting with a wealth of realistic details. However, within this real-life setting, she chose to use the made-up sub-setting of the supposedly prominent city of Baranof, which she created entirely out of thin air for her own purposes.
So why did she do this—and how did she pull it off? I suspect Ferber chose to create Baranof for the same reason I created the town of Hangtree in my historical western A Man Called Outlaw. Namely, she wanted the freedom to depart from the facts wherever it would benefit her story. Had she set the story in Juneau or Sitka, she would have been bound to historical fact. However, she obviously understood that for the make-believe setting to work, she had to make it just as convincing and realistic as any real-life town. She researched real Alaskan cities and composited them into her make-believe one to keep readers from ever having a reason to suspend their disbelief.
Monday, November 14, 2011
To that end, we want our writing to be gripping, easy to follow, and emotion inducing.
One very simple tool in our "easy-to-follow" tool box is to keep the actions of your characters and your descriptions happening in the correct order. It is subtly jarring to your reader when things are stated out of order.
Let's look at a couple examples to clarify what I mean by this.
"Taylor walked down the hallway toward her office. She smiled when the scent of new carpet and fresh paint assailed her as she paused to absorb the peace of her little domain after opening her door."What is wrong with this little bit of description? It's a bit jarring, isn't it? The reason is, we've stated the characters actions out of order. She can't smell the new carpet and fresh paint until she opens the office door. So as readers, with the way this little paragraph is written, we jump ahead to the scent of new paint and then are thrust backward to see the door opening. Instead try wording it like this:
"Pushing open her office door, she paused to absorb the peace of her little domain. The scent of new carpet and fresh paint assailed her and brought a smile to her face."The second way is nice and smooth and easy to follow because we do everything in the correct order. First we open the door, then we pause, then we are assailed by the scents and respond to them.
This might seem like a fairly obvious technique, but if you look over your manuscript, I'll bet you'd be surprised at the number of times character actions and responses happen out of order. It is a very easy little glitch to miss.
I'll give you one more "before" example here. How would you correct the order of the paragraph below to smooth it out?
"She reached into her top drawer and snatched up the bottle of pain killers to alleviate the headache that had been pressing at the back of her head all morning. Lifting her ever-present Dasani water bottle she swallowed down the three pills she tapped into her palm."
Friday, November 11, 2011
It seems every politician, known and unknown, from both sides of the aisle, is throwing his (or her; hi Hillary!) hat into the ring. Or since hats are passe, "forming exploratory committees." You know. Like a colonoscopy.
The runup to the Presidential choosing is policial Darwinism at its most elemental. "Dog eat dog" is too bland a phrase for what we're about to witness; "slash and burn" says it more plainly. And brother, does it seem to take forever, this time we're entering. If farming season lasted as long, we'd be harvesting green beans the size of dugout canoes. This Chinese water torture we Americans put ourselves through every four years puts me in mind of a childhood memory.
When I was a boy, my family would sometimes take Sunday drives. Long Sunday drives. Endless, bleak, soul-killing, waiting-for-Godot Sunday drives. There we'd be, my dad behind the wheel of our Ford Galaxy (Clark Kent hat tilted at a rakish angle), my mom beside him. In the back seat were my little brother, and yours truly.
Along about the eighteenth hour (or so it seemed) of the drive, my brother and I would grow bored, although "bored" doesn't really say it; that's like calling the firebombing of Dresden a "warmish day." Anyway, Scott would casually throw his leg over mine. I'd toss it back. He'd do it again, with a bit more force. I'd toss it back. He'd stick his tongue out at me. I'd look back and pretend to eat boogers. He'd pinch me. I'd slug him. And so on.
The only thing that could end the fun was my dad, eyes still on the road, screaming obscenities while flailing his arm over the back of the seat, hoping to nail one of us, or both. While this occurred my mom would laugh behind her hand, but I still saw it.
That's kind of like what election season is reminiscent of. Yeah.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
The first half of the book was easily my favorite section, surpassing even the treasure trove of advice offered in her first book. Sections on character and narrative arc, exercises in utilizing our pleasure reading to learn major plot points and structural efficiency (some of those exercises can be found in a guest post on my blog Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors), developing rounded characters who fuel the plot, and, especially, several delightful sections on the differences and similarities found within the broad scope of genre.
In short, this is a heavier book than the first one, but just as worthy of a place on the serious author’s shelf of writing craft books.
Monday, November 7, 2011
The sites I'm talking about in particular are ones you may not be familiar with, AbsoluteWrite dot com, and, for those of you writing for the Christian market, ChristianWriters dot com.
The former is the largest online writing community if, in not the world, at least the United States. There are a lot of forums there devoted solely to craft, but there's also one strictly for posting info about your works. Free publicity: you gotta love it. These forums get thousands of visitors a week, and to me, becoming a member there is a given.
The latter also has a sub-forum for posting your book news, with the added benefits of fellowship.
Hope these help!
Friday, November 4, 2011
(Sorry, CAPSLOCK error.) ;)
This observation into how dependent we've grown on the internet for our knowledge from the always-observant Randall Munroe over at xkcd:
See also Let me google that for you.