Genre Crossover

I would like to do an informal poll this week. It’s regarding genre crossing. I’ve come across a few authors who can write both paranormal/urban fantasy and contemporary quite well. But recently, I found an author who can not only write both well, she’s managed to fully develop two series, one a contemporary and one an urban fantasy, in the same world. The characters from both series intermingle, are even related to each other in some cases. This, to me, is quite impressive.

At first I chose not to read the new series, the urban fantasy, because I was so unsure of how it would work. Now, I’m glad I did and can’t wait to read more. It takes talent to be able to meld both fantasy and contemporary into the same world and make it believable for the reader. As an author who loves to write both, I think seeing this in reality is a major win.

So my informal poll…what are your thoughts on crossing genres in the same world? Would you read the books or would you shy away from one or the other?

By the way…if you want to check out the series I’m talking about…the author is Candace Blevins. I will tell you, her contemporary series is very heavy in BDSM and the books are intense. The paranormal series isn’t quite as intense, but still very hot!

Posted in Paranormal, Publishing, Reading, Romance | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Wai-ai-ting (for Query Responses) is the Hardest Part

Hello again friends and fellow writerly type people!

Last time around, I wrote about what I thought makes a great query letter. Well now you have that great query and you’re sending it out to all the those lucky agents who are just dying to rep you and fantastically fantastic manuscript.

GO YOU *waves pom-poms*

But in the meantime, you have to wait.

And wait.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand waaaaaaaaaaait

What do you while you wait for a response? Well, I have some suggestions, my dear readers. And no, one of those suggestions is not to obsessively stalk QueryTracker to see where agents are in their slush pile and how many requests for fulls they’ve sent out and hey I sent my query out before this guy who already got a response and OMG ITS BEEN A MONTH NOW I HAVENT HEARD ANYTHING

watson_computer_stare

Ahem.

No, I don’t suggest you do that. *peeks at two tabs over*

Nope.

Here’s what you may want to do instead!

Write Another Book!

Colbert Pizza TypingI know you love book you’re querying, you wouldn’t have spent all those countless hours writing it and rewriting it and rewriting it again and again if you didn’t. But let’s be honest here, there’s always the chance this one manuscript won’t actually be The One. And if it’s not you’re going to need to try again.

You’re going to try again. You have another book in you. Don’t argue with me.

Plus, when you actually do land that oh so coveted agent, you’re going that have to write another book anyway! Might as well get cracking on it now! lt’s probably not the best idea to write the sequel to the book you’re querying right away, though. Obviously, if it doesn’t get picked up by an agent, and ultimately a publisher, you’re going to have wasted however many months on a book nobody might ever read.

So start a new story! I had this dilemma when I finished my first manuscript and I’m so happy a started a whole new one. It was a fresh start and allowed me to write a story in a different way with new characters, which I think ultimately ended up much stronger than the first.

Read More of Other People’s Books!

Cat Reading gif*Stares at bookshelves filled with beautifully unread books*

If you’re like me, you have To Read pile that stretches from here to the furthest reaches of the universe and wraps around through hole in time and space and back around again.

Try to bring that pile back down to Earth while you wait! Part of writing better is, of course, reading more. Seeing and learning from the work of those who’ve come before you is important, you might find stylistic cues you’ll want try or even stuff you’d want to avoid doing with your next work. There’s a good chance you might find inspiration for your next book while reading too. It only takes one spark to ignite the wildfire of ideas.

Go beyond your normal reading habits too! My current project is a YA Supervillain high school drama. I’ve got the supervillain part down pretty well – I’ve read about 9,795,436 comics throughout my life, but the YA part not so much. I’ve read a few YA fantasy books over the last year to better understand different tropes, development of character arcs, and most importantly how to build a good romantic triangle to thrust my MC into.

And support your fellow writer friends! If they’ve been published, buy their book! Write a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or scrawl it across the overhang of a freeway! Get the word out there! Helping them helps you. We all rise to the top together or not at all.

Do Some Non-Book Other Stuff!

Pooh Exercise Gif

I think it’s important to have other interests to turn too in case the grind of submission and rejections is taking its toll on you. Not that that’s happening with me or anything… *chitters, looks around nervously*

There’s some incredible television happening right now – Daredevil, Game of Thrones and Orphan Black to name a few. Not only excellent sources of entertainment and distraction, but also they can be beacons of inspiration too. I’ve definitely gotten ideas for book characters from TV shows and movies. And maybe it’s just me, but I always loving finding an actor who matches up to how I’ve envisioned a character or vice versa.

I’ve taken up running in the last year, which is always a good time to clear your head – I throw on some headphones and spend most of my time out on the road brainstorming story ideas (when I’m not focused gasping desperately for breath). Started working out with a heavy bag recently too (much thanks to Shauna & her hubs on how to not wreck my hands). Wanna take out some of your frustrations with the publishing process? Unload on that bag for a half hour and you’ll feel a lot better (at least I do – there’s something uniquely cathartic about it for me)

I’ve also been replaying some old-school Zelda games alongside Kristin’s husband when I have a few free moments. As an aside, Zelda 2 has to be not only one of the most frustrating games of all time, but one of the truly baffling missteps in gaming history. I can’t even imagine the conversation at Nintendo HQ that hatched this rotten egg of gaming horribleness.

BOSS: “Okay team, you know that Zelda game we made and how innovative and genre busting it was?”

TEAM: “Of course we do, amazing game! Good job by us!”

BOSS: “Well for the sequel were going to make another brutally difficult platformer like the 564,457,812 other games already available on out platform!”

TEAM:Zelda head shake gif

Anywhoooooooo

Of course, if you’ve got a day job, that a chew up big chunks of time. Probably eleven hours of my day is spent doing stuff related to my day job or traveling to and from it. It’s good because it keeps me busy, but still kinda sucks because it leaves me with only a finite amount of time for anything else, including writing my next manuscript.

Or you could just spend a bunch of hours on Twitter. Not judging. I’m looking at TweetDeck over the edge of Chrome right now.

So what do you folk do while you’re waiting for queries, edits, submission, whatever to come back?

*Peeks over at QT tab*

Posted in Publishing, Writing | 2 Comments

Character Appearances: To Specify, or Not To Specify?

I’m a extremely visual reader and writer, which means that I picture very vividly the characters that I’m either reading or writing about. Ask me to share my vision of a specific character, and, even if I didn’t invent her, I will be able to describe her physical features in great detail, as I imagine them. If I were a better artist, I’m sure I could even draw them from my head.

Unfortunately, my idea of what a character looks like doesn’t always line up with what the author intended. Last week, I read a YA novel where the male love interest was described very early on as “tall and olive skinned, with dark hair.” Not super specific, but clear enough. However, the author doesn’t refer to his specific features at all throughout the rest of the book, describing the character only as “beautiful,” or occasionally, “gorgeous.” This lack of specificity gave my forgetful brain the leeway to imagine him quite differently than the original description. I pictured him with golden tan skin and waving chestnut hair.

I imagined him like this. SO SUE ME.

Which is fine. It’s my brain. But when I picked up the sequel and the author reiterated how the character actually looked, I was in for a shock. “He looks like what?” I said, while combing furiously through the first book for the original description.

Describing characters is something every writer does differently. Some authors go into great detail, enumerating freckles and glints of green in hazel eyes and lopsided smiles and crooked noses. Other authors choose to describe their characters very broadly, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations. Each method has its merits, but also its drawbacks.

Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, sketched her protagonist Bella’s appearance, but didn’t get into specifics. In an interview, she explained that she “left out a detailed description of Bella in the book so that the reader could more easily step into her shoes.” By leaving a character’s appearance open to interpretation, she hoped to make her more relatable to readers.

But this method can have a darker side. Many of you will remember the disturbing furor that arose when a young black actress was cast as Rue in the movie version of The Hunger Games. The author, Suzanne Collins, describes the fragile 12-year-old in the books as having “dark brown skin and eyes.” While this may seem explicit to some, the broadness of the description resulted in many readers whitewashing an ethnically diverse character. Similarly, while Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame has been universally portrayed as a young white woman, Rowling only ever described Hermione as having bushy brown hair, brown eyes, and prominent front teeth. There is nothing to say Hermione isn’t a woman of color, yet everyone assumes she must be white.

Personally, I prefer specific descriptions. When reading, every nugget of information about a character’s appearance helps me flesh out the imaginary person in my head. And when writing, I want my readers to be able to clearly see the characters I’ve invented.

To a certain extent, everyone’s vision of fictional characters will always be different than the person who authored them. But deciding to describe every feature of a character or electing instead to broadly sketch a general appearance can have ramifications on how your readers ultimately interact with your fictional world.

Do you prefer specificity in your reading/writing? Or do you prefer to imagine the characters without relying on the author’s description? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Posted in characters, Craft, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Word Volcano

CC attribution: Wolfgangbeyer

CC attribution: Wolfgangbeyer

I’m prolific.

My obsessive and hyper-focused nature tends to converge in my writing, and I end up having months where I’ll write over 100,000 words between blogging and fiction, and if there’s anything that’s earned me as many wide-eyed stares as waltzing out of the loo with my skirt tucked into my panties, it’s that.

Everyone has their own creative style. Some people are like the Colorado River, and every day the Grand Canyon gets just a little deeper. They create with a steady trickle that sculpts their work over time.

Some people are like lightning, with inspiration striking out of the clear skies and hitting them with electricity.

And then there’s me.

I wrote maybe a couple thousand words of fiction in February and March this year. I had a lot going on, to be sure, but in reality, I was dormant.

In January I wrote over 70,000 words on my epic fantasy to finish it. Most of that was within a couple weeks, and 45,000 of those words happened in a weekend. April’s going to be another one of those months. But between them? Nada.

I’ve decided that I’m a volcano.

I used to think there was something that was wrong with me, because I couldn’t be a river or lightning. So much of the conventional wisdom out there says that you should be writing every day, even if it’s a little bit. It took a really long time for me to realize that there wasn’t anything that made my way bad. It made me feel crazy when I’d write like a fiend for weeks on end and then nothing for a couple months.

But here’s the thing: I was getting stuff done.

That’s ultimately what made me give the finger to conventional wisdom — I was finishing books. Words were happening, and whole books were coming out of it, so I wasn’t failing at writering. I was just doing it differently.

In my dormant periods, I’m always absorbing. I’m melting rock into magma, compacting ideas and pressurizing them. I read a lot. I pay a lot more attention to the world around me, to people on the metro and what they look like, how they move and what they say. Everything becomes fuel. A dormant volcano is hungry, hungry, hungry.

And then it erupts.

When that happens, I will write for 20 hours a day. Obsessively wording from the moment I wake up until the moment I glue myself to the bed to make myself sleep. I’ll get up and do it again. I’ll have 5,000 word days on a low day and 20,000 word days on the high end. It’s not fun. It’s frenetic. It’s lava spewing everywhere, and smoke and pumice and obsidian forming in the aftermath.

Instead of immediately falling dormant afterward, I have aftershocks. I can’t be not busy when the first eruption ends. I’ll scribble, move quick in every direction, find something else to obsess over until a couple weeks later I can breathe, sleep, and return to quiet for a while.

It’s not particularly pleasant to work this way, but it works for me. As I said, I am obsessive and hyper-focused. When I can tune in to one thing like this and get it done, I feel better about the world.

What type of creative are you? Are you a river or a lightning bolt or a volcano like me?

 

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Querymania Is Runnin’ Wild!

Exciting news, folks – I’m back in the query trenches again! (screams internally) We’ve all been there before and some of us will be there again. It’s difficult. It’s demand. It’s downright  daunting. But in the end, we all hope it will also be rewarding. It’s taken about a month for me to get the letter for THE RADIANCE OF BLACK into something worthwhile (in my most humble of opinions, at least), and I think it’s as good as it’s going to get.

I thought, while it’s timely and topically, why not write about query letters this week?  So without further delay, I’m going to outline what I think are the essential things a powerful and engaging query letter should have AND I’M GOING TO DO SO USING WRASSLIN’ GIFS!

OOOOOOOH YEAAAAAAAH!

*snaps into Slim Jim*

THE HOOK

Bayley Dancing

The first thing you should lay out in your query is The Hook or logline. This is the so called ‘Elevator Pitch’. Basically what you want to do is show what this story about and what sets it apart from all the other hopeful manuscripts floating around in the literary purgatory that is The Slush. You want something catchy here, something that pops from the page. Something enticing that will make your would-be agent read onward. A story they NEED to know more about. I’ve read numerous articles about how some agents will just read logline and if it doesn’t hook them, that’s it. One. Two. Three. You’re out. But if it does hook, they read on. Your query lives to see another paragraph. I think The Hook is the make or break part of the query. The rest of it might be awesome, but if you don’t set the tone with something exciting, then you might find yourself already fighting a losing battle.

THE HERO

Bayley Entrance Gif

Your Main Character, who carries the weight of your story on his of her shoulders, whose journey the reader will follow throughout the course your manuscript. You basically have to boil down the very essence of his or her personality – their hopes, their dreams, their foibles, their quirks all into a single paragraph. This had always been incredibly difficult for me. I like to think I write some pretty nuanced and layered characters, so describing everything about them in like three sentences just kills me. But I’ve done it. The most important thing to emphasize here is what drives The Hero and why they’re driven. That’s seems like a lot to convey in such a small space, but you can distill his or her persona into the simplest, yet compelling terms. You can. ITS JUST THAT EASY!

THE STAKES

Sasha Banks Champ

Once we’ve established who The Hero is and what their motivations are, we must next delve into what goals drives those motivations. These are The Stakes! Whether it be personal redemption for transgressions of the past, revenge for some crime committed against them, some legendary item The Hero must procure to save the world or reconciliation with a lost love. Whatever it is, big or small, there must be some goal presented The Hero is working towards. Why should the reader care about The Hero if we don’t give them a reason to? There must be some gravity here. Even if The Stakes are not something as grandiose as TOTAL GLOBAL ANNIHILATION, you need to express why they’re important to The Hero. It’s another difficult thing to do in only a sentence or two, but it can be done. You need to focus The Hero’s journey on one particular point, one singular goal that he or she must achieve or else everything they are, everything their life has led to up until That One Point has been all for naught.

THE VILLAIN 

Sasha Banks Boss

So now we have The Hero and when know what he or she must achieve in the Stakes. but we need to know what stands in the way of The Hero meeting their goals. This is, of course, my favorite part of the manuscript. The Villain. I think it’s debatable whether or not The Villain needs to be explicitly named, or if just mentioning their existence and the threat they pose to The Hero is enough. For THE RADIANCE OF BLACK, I named my Big Bad (The Ghastsire) in the query. One, because I think the name is wicked cool and Two, because it felt a little vague just mention him as some nebulous evil force lurking in the darkness. Either way, you need to make The Villain a legitimate threat, a true menace to The Hero and his or her goals. There really isn’t enough room to go into The Villain’s motivations like The Hero, but you don’t really need to. You just have to give a quick reason why they stand in opposition to The Hero and how they plan on doing it.

THE EVEN MORE STAKES

Sasha Hit Bayley

With all these pieces in place, there’s only one thing left to add – MORE STAKES. In the last paragraph you really want to drive those stakes home. What will happen if The Hero doesn’t accomplish the goals you’ve set for them? If The Villain prevails, what ruin will be wrought upon the world? This is the final sell. This is the climax of the query letter. Tie everything that came before into one perfect little plot knot. Once an agent is finished reading these last few sentences, the should want to NAY, MUST NEED TO read this book to know the outcome of these stakes. Again, it’s just that easy, right?

Maybe it is. I think if you’ve built your letter right, building each one of these blocks on top of the last, you can condense an entire book in to a few compelling paragraphs that will entice the reader and have them wanting more!

So what does everyone think? Is this a good summation of what makes stong query letter? Am I completely off base and should just tear up my own letter so that it never sees the light of day (uh oh it already has!)? Do you love these Wrasslin’ gifs as much as I do?

Let’s hear it!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All By My Big Self

BabyMeridaAdorable

There are a lot of things I’ve learned since going indie with STORM IN A TEACUP and planning to follow with the rest of my UF books for the foreseeable future. I’ve learned that just because you can check your sales every day (or erm…hour) doesn’t mean you should. I’ve learned that Amazon’s algorithm is an interesting little beast. I’ve grown a renewed appreciation for math and data that I thought died a horrible death in high school algebra class.

On Friday I enrolled myself in KDP Select, because frankly, the handful of Barnes and Noble sales I’ve gotten were just about enough to fit in both hands. Within a day, my rank had catapulted into the 5,000s and then into the 2,000s, and I was ranking in my browse categories for the first time with this book. Today I’m ranking in the main UF category around Jim Butcher and Kevin Hearne and…and….okay. O_O

And the other huge thing? I realized that Storm had passed 1000 sales.

None of those things happened with my debut.

For me, the biggest thing right now is a strange sense of pride. Not strange in that it’s weird to feel proud of selling 1000 books, but strange in that I can most liken it to accomplishing a new, difficult task for the first time as a child. Like learning how to tie your shoe, or getting your legs to cooperate in the triple jump in track practice. It’s also somehow like the way I felt living in Poland when I would be talking to a native Polish speaker in Polish and realized after an hour that all that time had passed and I was understood. We had had an exchange of ideas in a language I wasn’t born into. With Storm, it’s a sense of looking out there at readers and knowing somehow I reached them. I did this. I made a thing. I got to them myself, and they’re responding.

There’s been a sense of relief this weekend that is hard to quantify — after fourteen years of knowing writing was the thing I wanted to do and ten of grasping my way toward publication and six of writing full time in addition to a full time job, seeing my book selling steadily feels the same of having someone confirm that they saw the lights flicker too. I’m not imagining it. It’s real. It’s happening. It’s not all in my head.

A sense of maybe, of possibility, of hoping.

None of this is to say that this happened all because of me — far from it. There are 80 people who saved me in December, and a couple hundred more who form a community that I could not have gotten through 2014 without. Those people sharing and reviewing and talking about my book is the only reason others outside that sphere are finding it. I’ll never stop being grateful for that.

The relief and the “I made dis” doesn’t come from having poofed something into existence and had people flail at it. It comes from a decade of working within a framework where if I wanted to share my stories with readers, I had to be a camel and fit through the eye of a needle, because they only existed on the other side of that little metal hole.

The relief and the “I made dis” comes (belatedly) from realizing that a needle is a narrow object, and it doesn’t take all that much to, you know, walk around it and get to the other side. That may sound like utter bollocksy common sense to you all, but…well. Let it never be said that my tenacity hasn’t ever taken skin off my back.

I’m still trying to thread that needle with other projects, but I can’t quite explain the relief I feel knowing that my books can find readers without it.

There are many roads to readers, and mine may have been a bit roundabout and still ongoing, but I found one. I feel like a big girl now.

Posted in Publishing | 2 Comments

Three Things That Are Rocking My Writing World

Since this blog is primarily about writing, for writers, I’m going to share a few things that are making my writing life easier right now:

POV1) Diving Deep into Deep Point of View – This month-long, online class, led by Rhay Christou over at Margie Lawson’s Writer’s Academy, is one of the best investments I’ve ever made in my career. (And it was relatively cheap, only $60.) I’ve read books on Deep Point of View before, but there’s nothing like breaking it down in a lesson format and actually applying it to your own work. Plus, you get to learn from Rhay’s feedback and she is obviously a master at Deep POV.

For those who don’t know, Deep POV is when you remove as much authorial interference from your writing as possible so that the end result is that the reader feels like they are in the character’s skin, experiencing everything along with them. It works in both first and third person. This was my first time writing in third person, so it’s been fun to go back and take out all the filter words and stage direction that isn’t needed. It really does make a difference.  I can’t wait to apply these same techniques to my unpublished first person MS and watch them get stronger.

This class seems to be offered twice a year (last time was in November) so if this interests you keep an eye on Margie’s site or follow Margie (@MargieLawson) or Rhay (@RhayChristou) on Twitter to find out when she’ll be teaching it again.

Me taking notes with my smart pen. The pen transmits the to receiver clamped to the top of the page.

Me taking notes with my smart pen. The pen transmits the to receiver clamped to the top of the page, which relays what you are writing to a program on your device.

2) My Smart Pen – I read an article a few months ago about a pen that converts your handwriting into text and was immediately intrigued. You see, I do a LOT of research for my historical fiction novels (approximately 12-25+ sources per novel) and that means a LOT of notes. I hand write my notes because I retain information better that way than when I type it. But when it comes time to plot, or even write a blog post about what I’ve learned, I need those notes in typewritten format. After typing up two books worth of notes but hand, I realized there had to be a better way.

Enter the Equil Smart Pen 2. It uses blue tooth technology to record your notes as you take them on your smart phone, tablet or laptop. It’s kind of freaky to write on one surface (I write in notebooks since this pen isn’t limited to special paper like some others) and watch your handwriting appear on your device. The pen uses real ink, but relies on a program called Equil Note to capture your writing. It isn’t available for Kindle and I couldn’t get it run on my Windows laptop (as soon as I can afford it, I’m switching to a Mac), but it works like a dream on my iPhone.  I haven’t tried to convert it to text yet and I do expect some blips (especially with my horrid handwriting), but anything is better than typing from scratch.

1stplace_medallion_greatexpectations_v1_20153) Gaining Recognition for My Writing – Remember that post I wrote last month about not knowing if my romantic comedy will ever get published because it isn’t easily classified as romance, women’s fiction or chick lit? Well, it may not have a book deal yet, but it did win the single title romance category of the Great Expectations contest, sponsored by the North Texas chapter of RWA. This is one of the bigger romance writing contests, so I’m hoping that having this win in my bio will help when I start querying again soon. (For those who don’t know, my former agent is no longer an agent.) Plus, I’m in several other contests.

So, what’s rocking your world, writing or otherwise? Share the happy vibes!

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments