Friday, July 30, 2010

Visit me at Tor.com today!

I'm over at Tor.com today, talking about the importance of place in urban fantasy. Come by and comment!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We Pause for a Muscial Interlude

My day job is kicking my butt this week, so I'll share some of the music I'm listening to as I work. Reckless Kelly rocks!





Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Yes, Virginia, Fantasy Writing Does Require Research

Really, we don't just make EVERYTHING up! I'm talking about the pirate Jean Lafitte and research over at the Write in the Shadows blog today. Check it out and leave a comment about your own most involved research efforts.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Better Late Than Never

Friday was one of those good news, bad news days.

Good news? I got a release date for ROYAL STREET, my first in a paranormal urban fantasy series set in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.

Bad news? I'm not on the calendar till April 2012. GAH.

BUT-BUT-BUT, I want to say, I am not a twentysomething author with unlimited years ahead of me. I am *mumbles* years old and might be freakin' DEAD by April of 2012. Well, okay, let's hope not, but still.

So, there you have it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Overhaulin'

I'm trying to overhaul my old website and make it more user-friendly. Then I'll tackle the blog. What do you like in an author blog. Any favorites you could suggest for me to copy and steal emulate?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

WORD ECHOES word echoes echoes echoes

"You have a new favorite word," Larry said, looking at me in somber disapproval. Larry's the godfather of my local crit group, and they've been reading my recently completed vampire novel.

Uh-oh. "What's that?"

"Then."

Did I use "then" a lot? Nah, surely Larry was imagining things.

So I headed to my new favorite website, The Word Frequency Calculator, and plugged in my entire manuscript, all 92,000 words of it.

Holy word choice, Batman. I used "then" 299 times in my manuscript, and I know enough about writing to realize that, most likely, 298 of them should be axed. I also used "was" 800 times. And used the word "slipped" 26 times, which can't be good. Lucy, I think we've got some editing to do.

Are these new bad habits I've picked up? Obsessively, I went back to the Word Frequency Calculator and plugged in my first two books. "Then" appeared 100 times in one and 110 in the other, and in 95,000-word documents, that's somewhat better, so my fondness for "then" is an escalating problem, apparently.

Visit the calculator--it's an interesting way to find those pesky word echoes we can't see in our own work. THEN we can fix them.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Memorable Scenes: What Sticks With a Reader

Spoiler Alert! Spoilers ahead!

I recently finished reading Alex Bledsoe's Blood Groove, and haven't been able to get the last scene out of my mind. I'm a bit claustrophobic, and let's just say being encased in concrete for eternity is a hell I'd rather not visit. *shudders*

Writing scenes that stick with a reader is a great, amazing thing. I don't know how to do that consciously--people react personally to such different things that anticipating a reader's reaction is impossible. I guess the lesson is to make each scene as vivid as we can, hoping some poor claustrophobic (or whatever) reader will be totally creeped by it.

So I began thinking about some of my favorite authors and what scenes have stuck with me long after I read the books. Without cheating, here are some that come to mind, in no order.

* In Patricia Briggs' Iron Kissed, there is a scene where Mercy has been raped and she's freaked out and hiding in her coyote form. Her werewolf friends come looking for her, and know she's there but can't find her. It's a simple scene, but it made me cry when I read it and--let's be honest--urban fantasy isn't often a tear-inducing genre. Amazing writing.

* In Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series, there are a few scenes that have made me put the book down and guffaw, and I'm not cheating so I can't say which books these scenes appear in. (Maybe the whole point is that the scenes transcend the books.) Among them: When Harry and Murphy are in the suburban Walmart and are attacked by the plant monster; Harry animating the dinosaur skeleton from the museum and riding it like a bronco to the rescue; When Harry goes to Thomas' apartment looking for him and has to pretend he's his brother's lover in order to get into the apartment. Okay, so I have a teenage boy sense of humor. What can I say?

* In Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series, there's a scene in Narcissus in Chains (I think) where Nathaniel has been skewered to the wall with knives. Since he's a sexual submissive he doesn't have the boundaries to say stop, and since he's a wereleopard he heals so quickly that the knives have become embedded in his body as he's healed around them. Getting him off that wall was gruesome and horrifying, especially since Nathaniel is one of the "innocents" in this series.

* In Kim Harrison's Dead Witch Walking, Rachel Morgan takes a potion to infiltrate the evil Trent Kalamack's lair. It turns her into a mink. Unfortunately, Trent catches her and puts her in a cage, then takes her to the rat fights and throws her into the ring. I still giggle over that whole scenario. An outraged mink is a funny, funny thing.

* In JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood, when Bella goes through her "Needing," and Zsadist has to let go of enough of his neuroses to help her. O.M.G. Other scenes from this series--too numerous to mention. If you want a lesson in Deep POV, read these books.

I guess the whole point being, scenes that stick with us have been able to pull strong emotion from us as readers, whether it's amusement, anger, fear, lust, or sadness.

What are some of your favorite scenes--and why are they favorites?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner, and Me

I'm blogging on a new day over at Write in the Shadows, so come on over and read about how music shapes my writing--and what "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" has to do with vampires!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Poems and Short Fiction and Essays, Oh My

I spent the weekend at the annual conference of the Alabama Writers Conclave, which is supposedly the oldest continuous writing organization in the United States. They awarded ROYAL STREET, my first book, with a "First Chapter Novel" award last year, so I thought I'd repay the favor by attending this year.

Interesting experience. First, I had a blast. I met a lot of people, heard some interesting speakers, got to lounge around in a hotel room without pets and family. But what I learned was not what I expected. I expected to get some writing insights, some new ways of approaching material, publishing tips.

But, instead, here's what I learned:
--There are a LOT of people out there, primarily women, who are trying to make careers of writing poetry. This floored me. Do people still read poetry? Who reads poetry besides other poets? I did not attend any of the poetry sessions, or I might have learned the answers to those questions. But I couldn't bring myself to do so.

--There are a LOT of people out there, primarily women, who are chasing the dream of literary short fiction. Yawn. Oops, I mean, wow. Maybe it's because I couldn't write a decent short story if it came up, introduced itself, and hopped onto my computer screen fully formed, that such a career path would ever occur to me.

--There are a LOT of people out there who write for the love of writing, and the possibility of inclusion in a small-press anthology or a quarterly journal is the end- and be-all of their aspirations.

I almost came out of this weekend experience feeling inferior. I'm crass and commercial. I love writing but I want people to read it. And I want to be paid for it, although the money isn't as importance as the having people read it part, to be honest. And I have no delusions about my work being the Great American Anything. It isn't literary, though it is literate. It isn't full of deep thoughts, although I hope parts of it can be thought-provoking.

It's popular fiction--even worse--GENRE fiction. Gasp! And I love it.

Now, for that poetry: There was was a writer from Nantuck, who hoped his flowery prose didn't suck...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Barbara Monajem takes my spot at WITS today

Author Barbara Monajem, author of SUNRISE IN A GARDEN OF LOVE & EVIL, a new vampire series through Dorchester, is guest-blogging for me and writing about series over at Write in the Shadows today. Comment to win a copy of her book!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Business Cards for Pre-Pubs: A Necessity?

So I'm heading off to a conference tomorrow--not a big one, just a two-day Alabama Writers Conclave meeting in Birmingham. And don't you love the word "conclave?" It sounds as if it's one step shy of a cabal. If I get to the Perimeter South Hilton tomorrow and find dark hooded writerly types chanting in the lobby, I shall turn and hightail it back to Auburn.

Anyway, much belatedly, I wondered if I should have business cards. I have books in the PROCESS of being published, but I have nothing to sell except my own witty personality. Worse, I have no cover art. No release date (and no one will even tell me when a release date will be set, and I keep asking). Not even a release year, for God's sake.

So, do I need a business card? Probably. But I waited too late, and figure tacky cards printed at home would be worse than nothing at all. I'll chalk this one up to experience and have something for next summer, when I might actually have something tangible to promote.

What about you guys? Do you have business cards or other collaterals before you actually have a book out?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Bashful Author: Overcoming Shyness

People who haven't known me since childhood might be surprised to learn I was my high school's class poet my senior year, the dubious honor of which was standing onstage and reading some horrible bit of overblown poetry in front of the graduates and families.

OMG. I wore some horrible pink pantsuit and my mom says I was shaking so badly she could see me trembling from the stands.

*mumble mumble* number of years later, I'm still petrified before a crowd. And a crowd constitues anything over two people. Even if it's people I know. I've ALMOST gotten used to reading to my writing group. Almost. And there's only five of us.

Members of my group were encouraging me last night to participate in "Open Mic" night at the upcoming Alabama Writers Conclave conference, which takes place Friday through Sunday in Birmingham. "Take one of the chapters from River Road," they encouraged. "People will love it."

Uh, stand in front of a group of strangers--writers no less--and read? I'd rather have my eyes shoved out with ice picks. Really. I am not exaggerating.

So, this whole writer self-promotion thing is a daunting task for me. Author signings? Sure, I do well one-on-one. Workshops where I'm on a panel? Good deal. I'm all over that. I don't have to be alone in the spotlight. Guest blogs? Online interviews? Hell yeah, I'm game.

Put me behind a microphone and make me talk? I'm SO not over that. I make myself do it. In the past few years, I've done hourlong speeches, multi-day workshops where I was the only faculty member. All kinds of stuff. I still feel the need to down a bottle of Xanax before the mic goes on, and I love to hide behind Power Point presentations.

Hmm...there's an idea. Off to do a Power Point for my novels...

I Write Like...A Schizophrenic

 This Writing Analysis Calculator by Mac is supposed to take a chapter, poem or article, analyze your sentence structure and word choices, and then tell you what famous author you most write like.

So, I plugged in the first chapter of RIVER ROAD, which I'm revising now, and it shot back: You write like Dan Brown. Gah.

Not happy with that (although I'll take his money), I plugged in the first chapter of REDEMPTION, which I just finished, and it shot back: You write like Stephen King. Much, much better.

Curious now, I plugged in the first chapter of ROYAL STREET, my first book, thinking that since it was the precursor to RR, it would also be Dan Brown. But no. You write like Leo Tolstoy.

Damn. Finally, I plugged in my latest longform feature article, a playful piece talking about how Auburn University chose its orange and navy school colors. You write like James Joyce.

Uh, okay. Try it anyway, although I realize it has no validity unless I have yet to develop any narrative voice whatsoever. It's kinda fun!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Age-Old Questions for Series Characters

I'm starting revisions on the second book of my New Orleans series, and am having trouble figuring out how old my characters are. Well, duh, they're just a bit older than in the first book, right?

Not that simple. The first book, ROYAL STREET, takes place in September 2005, in the days immediately following the levee failures in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The second, RIVER ROAD, jolts everything to present-day because, really, who wants to read a series perpetually set five years ago? It's too recent to qualify as historical and just old enough to seem dated without a specific event like a hurricane to work around.

So, do my characters age five or six years? Or do they stay perpetually young?

Finally, I had to take my answer from the first book. By grounding the series not only in the real world but in a real time, I think I forced myself to age my characters. My primary character, DJ, was 25 in the first book, so in RIVER ROAD, she has to be knocking 30, Alex is 32, and Jake is almost 35. 

It follows, then, that their issues should be darker, their skills sharper. Which I guess is okay. They're not all human, after all, so they'll age really well.

Ever run into this problem? What about the characters in your favorite series? Do they age?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Where I Write: Welcome to the Bat Cave

I'm writing over at the Write in the Shadows blog today, and all week we've been talking about our writing spaces. Come on over and check out where I write! Comment this and next week at WITS for a chance at a $25 Target gift card to jazz up your own writing space. Click HERE to check it out.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

First and Third: Point of View

Preface this by saying I love reading first-person POV books, probably because most of my favorite urban fantasy/PNR series are written in first.

So when I sat down to write ROYAL STREETl, I automatically began writing in first-person. And I still loved it, even into a second book, RIVER ROAD.

Then I sat down and wrote an unrelated novel in third person with shifting POV characters (but not head-hopping, thank you=Pet Peeve). REDEMPTION started out as an experiment and OMG. The freedom! The flexibility! The potential to move the stories in different ways.

Now, I'm flipping back to my first-person series for ELYSIAN FIELDS and realizing how many authorial gymnastics (love that phrase) one has to do in order to present a fully rounded first-person POV story. Worth the effort? Of course! But it has made me look harder at first-person limitations.

Which do you prefer? Pros and cons? Let's talk!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Out of the Doldrums, Into Elysian Fields

My post-manuscript malaise officially lasted a week. All my existing manuscripts have disappeared into various black holes, I finally got caught up with the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, got some sleep...and now I'm trolling for a new project.

I toyed with the idea of a short story based on one of my existing worlds, but then a couple of lines came to me:

Who knew it would be so hard to divorce an elf? After all, I hadn't consented to the nuptials. Hell, I hadn't even been conscious for part of them.  And I sure hadn't consummated the deal.


And ELYSIAN FIELDS, the third in my New Orleans and Beyond urban fantasy series (which doesn't really have a series name yet), is off and running. Hey, it has 275 words so far. It counts.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Emotional Rescue: How to Write Emotion

Not giving advice here, folks--asking for it!

I suck at the emotional stuff. There, I've said it. I blame my upbringing (not from a touchy-feeling kinda family), my personality (reserved, shy-bordering-on-reclusive), and my occupation (in journalism and public relations, one's lack of visible emotion is something to be praised). In writing fiction? Not so praiseworthy.

Here's my problem. I can show emotion via physical response--hearts pounding, nerves on edge, blah, blah, blah--but that really only gets you so far. When I get inside my characters' heads and start probing around for their emotions and letting them spill onto the page, I feel--hell, I feel all melodrama and soap opera. Hate that. Purple ink.

So I'm trying to find the fine line between death-by-emo and emotional void.  Suggestons? Tips? Tricks? Anyone else have this problem?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Help! I Can't Say No!

It's Friday, so I'm blogging over at Write in the Shadows today. All week, we've been talking about what frustrates us most as writers, from S.O.S. (shiny object syndrome) to downright fatigue. Me? I'm a victim of my own urge to please. Check it out: HERE.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Good Housekeeping, Novel Style

While in my creative stupor (see yesterday's post), I've been doing a lot of little--and not-so-little--novelista-type things and learning new vocabulary words.

For example, who knew that ABM didn't stand for "anti-ballistic missile?" Nope, that would be "advance bound manuscript." (In the old days in the magazine biz we used to call them bluelines. Now they're laser proofs.)

Did some promo/cover blurb copy. And the most brilliant editor ever made it better.

Did a quick author bio.

Newest challenge: A name for the series. Now, I should have already come up with that, shouldn't I? What kind of series names do you like?  Character-driven, like "A Sookie Stackhouse Novel" or "The Dresden Files" or "A Mercy Thompson Novel?" Or topical, such as "A Novel of the Hollows" or "A Novel of the Nightside?" Decisions, decisions.