Category Archives: fiction

You’re an abomination of God… or not

Exciting news! My short story ‘Alba’s Tree’ was published on Commuterlit this morning. 🙂

alba's tree comment

For this short story I took the advice, “put your hero in a tree, throw rocks at them, and then get them down,” quite literally.

Why would someone throw rocks at Alba? Find out here, and be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the story.

albastree

Original image Photo credit: mripp / Foter / CC BY

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Filed under fiction, on writing

Kelley Armstrong’s advice on how to write a bestseller

This summer I attended a writing workshop hosted by the brilliant book editor, Brian Henry, on how to write a bestseller. I was excited to attend the workshop and be able to rub shoulders with the likes of Kelley Armstrong (author of the Otherworld Series) and, as usual, my imagination got away from me in the days leading up to it.

You know what I’m talking about.

While instructing us in the do’s and don’ts of making it to the big times, our eyes would meet. She would feel compelled to ask me what my current novel was about, and then, after I ever-so-eloquently pitched my story, she would request we become BFFs immediately and later that day we would be discussing the movie rights of my yet-to-be published novel as we sipped latte’s under a patio umbrella.

me-and-kelley

Yeah, so that didn’t happen. But I did shake her hand.

The workshop, itself, was pretty great. Kelley spoke in detail about characters, central goals, minor goals, conflict, POV and the emotion in our fiction. She was easy to understand, and there was a simplicity to what she was saying that helped me re-align my story in order to provide complexity, depth, and of course, action, action, action.

There was also a lot of obvious stuff thrown around. Things like, “you need to write a good story,” and you need to “stand out,” and have a “fresh voice,” that is different and compelling. We’ve all heard that before, right? But instead of wanting to slap her, I found that Kelley made it work. She backed up those statements with the “how” that most people leave out.

The most important piece of advice that I took home was that success has to be hard-fought. Another obvious humdinger. But the not so obvious part was that the fight of my characters for success needed to mirror my own. I had to work hard to bring my novel to the publishing market, and my characters had to work just as hard to bring success to the story. It was an inspired epiphany of layers that made me drive home in a mind-blown daze. If I want readers to spend their time in my world, I need to fight to give them something worthy of their time.

Somewhere about half-way during the workshop, we stopped for a short writing prompt. We got our notebooks out and had 20 minutes to crank out a short story based on a collaboration of prompts. Quite honestly, I’d never written a short story under pressure before and I was a bit panicked at the prospect. Everyone else seemed to be scribbling away and I was just sitting there like some gloss-eyed fool. But I persevered, and a couple of months later, that short story went on to win the Eden Mills Fringe contest. A short story that I’ve been invited to read at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival next weekend on September 13th. That never would have happened without Brian Henry, that workshop, or the inspiration from Kelley.

Keep writing, keep editing, and think about taking a workshop or two. It’s worth the investment.

 

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I weep for the souls of the trees that died to make this book

…but not everyone is going to think so.

I’m strangely attracted to the petulance of the classic author I-can’t-believe-I-got-a-bad-review meltdown.  I’ve been watching my first novel rating fall away daily with a slew of recent lukewarm reviews, but I can’t even imagine a review that would tempt me to go all Alice Hoffman on a critic.  I wouldn’t be human if it didn’t affect me.  I’m a story animal after all.   When your story is rejected, it hits you right where it counts—squarely in the who you are.

I mean, here are these characters that have sprung forth from the bosom of your imagination.  They’ve been born into a world that you’ve laid out for them, taking shape on the page, tentatively exploring their first steps into the unknown.  You guide them and love them with the patience of a new parent.  These are your precious children who need to be protected from the cruel, harsh realities of the world.

But, much like our children, at some point—you have to let go.

There’s always going to be somebody who doesn’t like what you do, always, no matter what.  There’s no such thing as a book that every reader will like.  You’ve told the story.  It’s out there.  It’s a gift to the world.  Now you have to let go.

I’ve opted to practice a passionate detachment to reviews.  I am acutely aware of how lucky I am to be in this position at all.

In the indie market, I don’t believe it’s realistic to ignore all reviews—positive or negative.  Although, I do have a hard time taking anonymous snark very seriously.  There is something about the internet that some people feel gives them license to be anonymously mean—and that’s not cool.  Don’t subscribe to their snark.  You’re a writer, not a troll whisperer.

Bad or lukewarm reviews can actually give you great insights.  After the 5 minute mumbled cussing and pillow-throwing-pity-party, I remind myself that bad reviews are usually about expectations.

Some of those expectations are outside your control.  They come from the reader and their circle of influence.  However, some of those expectations came from you—the author. What does the blurb on the back cover tell them? Did you promise tales of sparkling vampires and then give them a bat with a glow stick? Are you appealing to the right genre and audience?

I know it’s only a matter of time until I receive that really, REALLY bad review. Something so negative and viciously soul-crushing that it will suck the air from my lungs and threaten the collapse of the universe as I know it. It’s out there—waiting to be written.

I’m looking forward to it in a cautiously optimistic sort of way.  Negativity draws public interest in the same way that blood in the water draws sharks.  Like flies to the poop—everyone wants to watch the train wreck.  You’ll find new readers who’ve come in to find out what all the hubbub is about.  That can’t be all bad, can it?

I sincerely appreciate all the readers and honest reviewers of my work—regardless of the review outcome.  A reader is a reader.  It is someone who set aside their personal time to curl up with a story of mine.  Let them take their swipes.   Absorb what’s useful and shrug off the rest.  Take the opportunity to grow as a writer.  Learn from the criticisms.  Evolve.  Live another day to write.

Get them with the next story.

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Filed under book reviews, fiction, Indie author

the artist formerly known as author L. J Smith…

I just caught wind of this in the Lulu Blog:

If you think writing a series of acclaimed supernatural thrillers, which get made into a successful television show and sell thousands of books, would be considered a job well done, think again.

Publisher HarperCollins removed LJ Smith, author of The Vampire Diaries, from the project after friction during the editing process. Smith said she was pushed out after arguing against cutting characters, scenes, and other creative decisions that she felt were important to her vision of the story.

Smith, who began writing the novels on a “for hire” contract back in 1990, was shocked to find out that she had no rights to any of the characters or stories she created. In an e-mail, Smith reflected, “Even though I have written the entire series, I don’t own anything about The Vampire Diaries.”

This is an all-too-common story among writers of genre-fiction. Authors desperate enough to sign anything end up losing any creative or financial control of the characters, and the ensuing sensations, they create. Where a publishing house offers a vast marketing and distribution network, it also tends to dilute and altogether alter a writer’s creative vision. To some writers, like LJ Smith, this becomes too much to bear. They fight to keep their work intact, only to find “a letter addressed to the ghostwriter by name, telling her to completely rewrite my book.”

We’re neither arguing against the need for a good editor, nor against some self discipline and revision on the part of the author, however, we think this example demonstrates an important benefit of self-publishing: complete creative control and financial ownership of your work. Even after writing several successful novels, LJ Smith was removed from her series with little to no warning whatsoever, and absolutely no recourse.

So, what does “for hire” mean in this case?  The Vampire Diaries series belongs to Alloy Entertainment—it always has.  They hired L.J. Smith back in 1990 to write the series for them—based on their premise.  She signed a contract upfront to say that the Vampire Diaries belonged to them, and everything the writer created (characters, events, etc.) throughout the course of the series belongs to Alloy.  L.J. Smith has no say in what they do with the series.

I imagine that 10 years is long enough to forget that you’re writing for someone else.

 

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Filed under fiction, on writing, Uncategorized, world news

The Uber-friend Buzz: Candace Bowen Early

When I think romance novelist, I imagine a dazzling woman in a satin gown and white gloves who delicately weaves tales of delicious emotional justice and unconditional love through a ruby-encrusted laptop while sipping champagne and eating bon-bon’s.   Glamorous, right?  Right, Candace?

I tried to find such photos as proof on Candace Bowen Early’s FB page, but there were none to be had.  If glam and glitz go hand-in-hand with romance writing, Candace is hiding it from the world.  What I did find was a down-to-earth woman plucked from the streets of Chicago who wipes noses, attends monster jams and plans to live forever—or at least until the Cubs take a World Series.   

Candace catapulted into a writing career on March 17, 2008—precisely—when she was struck with the idea for her first novel, A Knight of Silence.  Since publishing that novel, she went on to write, Spur of the Moment, (to be published spring 2012), and has finished, Jack of Hearts, which she currently has out for representation.  But she’s not stopping there, oh no.  Take a look for yourself.  http://www.knightseries.com/

I’ve read an interview or two that tells me Candace is the ‘voice’ of historical romance.  Her writing can transport you to another time—leaving the grit of the castle walls on your skin when you’ve put her book down.  Sweet!  Sign me up for castle grit—I’ll take mine to go please.

When she’s not stalking the medieval or hobnobbing with publishers and editors, you might find Candace loitering on a sunny Florida beach with a bag of M&M’s.

Thanks for your friendship Candace!

~uberscribbler

Click the image above to find out how to have your “buzz” posted on the uberscribbler.

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