Thursday, July 28, 2011
We started FJ in October of 2008. None of us were published, just hoping and working hard to make it there one day. Each of us had families, jobs and other commitments, but we also had a dream to become published authors, helping others by sharing our pitfalls along the way. We said farewell to four wonderful ladies Heather, J.K. Mahal and Barbra Annino who started blogging with us, and Sandra Sookoo who joined us later and became a must-read author. And welcomed Nerine Dorman, multi-published author and editor, and authors Sonya Clark and Melissa Glisan. We've all grown as writers since beginning FJ and I can't help but think we learned alot from each other along the way.
As for my absence, well my husband is in bad health and has been since his car wreck in 2007. March of last year, he caught pneumonia and wound up in ICU for a week. Then in May he got very sick. We thought he had a virus, but he was back in the ICU with Diabetic Ketoacidosis. A month later he was put in for the same symptoms and we learned he has Gastroparesis, a complication of Diabetes. Since he was diagnosed, he has been hospitalized at least once a month, sometimes twice, for a week or more at a time. At last count he's been in ICU at least ten times. Needless to say, the stress of spending days at work, evenings at the hospital until midnight, trying to keep up with contract deadlines, edits and just for fun lets throw in the kids volleyball and cheer obligations. Things went crazy. They still are and I'm not sure if they will be "normal" again.
I'm nearing the end of my Elemental Magic Series. Miraculously, I've managed to finish four of the five books amidst the craziness. The fourth will release next month. My editor and publisher have been very understanding, moving release dates around to give me more time to compose when his illness keeps me from work. My bosses at work have done pretty much the same, allowing me to be off when I need to, etc. I am blessed to work with great people and I thank God for them everyday. Right now I'm really thanking God for my job in the lovely air conditioning. It's a heat index of 100 outside and that's mild compared to last week.
So, thank you everyone for following along with us. This doesn't mean we have given up blogging for good. You'll be able to find us on our individual blogs. I try to post every couple of days at brynnacurry.com. I hope you'll visit me there.
Nerine, Nichole, Sonya, it has been wonderful working with you ladies. I wish you all the best in everything you do. Thanks for letting me be a part of your journey.
Until we meet again, be blessed.
Monday, July 25, 2011
They say all good things must come to an end, and that seems to be true for this blog. After this week, there will be no new posts here.
We’ve had a good run, I think, but each of us Frightening Journey bloggers have decided that we can’t continue. I’m a little saddened, I won’t lie. The idea of a blog where authors of paranormal mysteries was originally my idea. It morphed, obviously, into a blog for paranormal authors. And that was a good thing.
Now we seem to have morphed once again. Or maybe we just outgrew this stage, like a child outgrowing his favorite shirt.
I will miss my fellow bloggers, but I hope I won’t have to miss you. I plan to blog at my own site (http://www.nicholerbennett.com) on a more regular basis.
Thanks for joining us on this “frightening journey” toward publication and may all your dreams be achieved.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
You know, I didn’t really want to get dragged into this whole debate because, you know what, opinions are like assholes, and everyone’s got one. But yeah, I’m going to let mine hang out now.
What sparked this off was a passing comment by an unpublished author, that small/indie publishers are somehow not real.
Now that I’ve managed to unglue myself from the ceiling and I’m not spitting fire anymore, I want to ask you what makes one form of publishing any less valid than another. Granted, we may not *like* a particular form of publishing but the point remains is that words are still disseminated to readers. Hence, a story is published.
As we say in South Africa: finish en klaar, hey?
Well, yes and no.
What is clear is that the entire publishing industry is in a massive state of flux. When you have big names heading into self-publishing or starting their own publishing companies, then something’s up. Let’s not look at the analogy of rats abandoning a ship but yeah…
Plainly put, the old model of publishing is not sustainable. I’m not saying it’s going to fail. Hell no. It’s just that the big traditional publishers are going to have to seriously relook at the way they’re doing business.
What we’ve also seen is a massive influx of small and indie presses that have grabbed an opportunity with all the new technology coming online. Authors have never had such a wide variety of publishing options available to them and, with the growth in reading gadgets, avid book fanatics are spoilt for choice.
The problem comes in when one discerns quality. With so many authors now getting heard, it’s not always easy telling the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s not to say that the indie-published fantasy adventure that could have used a bit more spit and polish is somehow worth less than the polished traditionally published fantasy novel that may not have such an unusual storyline.
And even that’s a broad generalization. I kinda like my reading rough around the edges where authors have cut loose and experimented a little.
At the end of the day, the reader is the final arbiter, and some books certainly have more appeal to some readers than others. Does it really matter at the end of the day who published the book or how?
With regard to quality, the onus is on the author to ensure that his or her words are as good as they can be. An editor can only make so many suggestions. Obviously traditional publishers carry more clout with their editorial suggestions but it’s still up to the author to decide whether he or she will comply. It’s also up to the author to make sure that their writing evolves and that they don’t repeat the same mistakes over, and over again.
So, how do we wade through the glut of published novels to find the author we like? My answer to this is to follow authors’ and reviewers’ blogs. Follow your favourite publishers and authors on Twitter. Goodreads is also a fantastic place to find new authors to read or to discover which ones aren’t so hot. It’s kinda like an Easter egg hunt, or at least that’s the way I’m looking at it. And I can tell you this much, I’ve discovered some fresh voices that would have been lost to the world had it not been for the shift in the industry.
You may not like the books I read but you know what? That’s okay. Really. I probably won’t like yours either. Just be glad that we now have a greater selection that is almost instantly available in a variety of formats.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
While I can't show the visuals, I had an awful lot of fun on Saturday with some of the BlackMilk crew, who offered to help me shoot some promotional visuals for my next vampire novella, What Sweet Music They Make. Now, if all goes well, my publisher will like the final results well enough to use for the front cover. Or at least that is my intention. And even if the visuals don't make the grade, I've some stunning prints to use as promotional material when release day swings round.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Speaking as a reader who doesn't have a lot of money to spend on books, I really appreciate all these sources of legal free reads. Sure, there are duds out there. Some of what I've gotten for free I never finished because I just didn't care for the book. But I've lucked into some really good stuff for free too. One of the freebies I got from Amazon introduced me to an author who is now an auto-buy for me. All these freebies are a great way to test drive authors that are new to you, authors that you might not otherwise be too sure about spending money on. But once you've tried them and know you like their work, if you're like me you probably wind up searching for their back list. Especially if that initial free read hooked you on a series.
Because I have seen myself and other readers spend money on authors first encountered as a free read, as a writer I am a big proponent of the idea. That's why I have a Free Reads page on my blog with two short stories for download that serve as prequels of a sort to my May release Mojo Queen. I think it's a great idea for any author, especially one just starting out, to give readers a free taste of what you can do as a writer. I'm hoping people might come across these stories and decide to give Mojo Queen a try. Even if it only nets a few sales, it's worth it to me. Besides, I wrote these stories out of love for the characters so it only makes sense to share them. It certainly can't hurt anything.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
I recognize that people choose to self-pub for different reasons, I just hope they do it for the right ones. Want to keep your backlist out there without having to sign a contract? That's a reason that makes sense to me, especially if you can afford good cover art and book design. You've already got a foothold in commercial publishing and want to experiment with putting out a short work by yourself - I get that one too. Especially if you can afford the cover art, book design, and editing. You've been rejected time after time by both the Big Six and small press - okay, to be honest, this is the one I don't get.
Self-publishing is not for me for a number of reasons. The top reason is money - I can't afford to hire out freelance cover art, book design, and editing. I don't spend my money on books with cover art that looks like a bad Photoshop job or the free Kindle sample is littered with editing problems. I would never even consider asking a reader for money for something like that that I released. So I have to be good enough for a publisher to offer me a contract. Sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not. When I'm not I keep working on the story and it'll either get better or it goes in the trunk. I'm a big believer in writing the next story.
That's another reason why I would not self-publish. To quote Nerine: "if a novel has been rejected countless times, even by the small presses, there’s usually a very good reason for this." I agree with this so very much. If that first book keeps getting rejected, it's okay to let it go. Put that paper in a drawer, put that file on a flash drive, raise a toast to it as a valiant effort, mourn for what could have been and will never be - then tell it goodbye. Let it go like a leaf on the wind and get busy hunting for your next book. Because the truth is, if you're a writer, there's going to be a next book. There can't not be a next book, because you are a storyteller and this is what you do. The only way there won't be a next book is if you were more interested in being published than being a writer. If that's the case, then choosing to self-publish is probably more about vanity than anything else.
Sorry if that sounds harsh, but there it is. Look, I really don't have anything against self-publishing. If it's something a person wants to do and they can afford it, I wish them the best of luck. Depending on your reasons I may not understand you, but I will always wish you luck.
What I do not like is when self-publishing gets lumped in under an umbrella term like digital publishing. The term digital publishing, to me, means small press commercial pubs that are digital first / digital only. Examples include Lyrical Press, Loose Id, Samhain, Carina, Noble Romance - there are quite a few. When you're pubbed with these digital presses you get editing, cover art, all the usual stuff - and authors do not pay for these things. So to me there is a huge difference between self-publishing and getting a contract with a small press that happens to be digital. Unfortunately not everyone sees this.
Now you have my thoughts on self-publishing and frankly I hope I won't be revisiting the topic. Next week I'll talk about why I think posting stories for free can be a great thing for a writer to do. Yes, really.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
But there’s so much work that still needs to happen this year I’m honestly frightened because I don’t know when I’m going to find the time. This is without considering the editing work I do. Next on my “to do” list is second-round edits on my Therése von Willegen novel, Hell’s Music, which is due for line edits at the end of April. I need to finish way before then.
I still have my next urban fantasy novella to revise so I can submit to Lyrical, more vampires in a story entitled What Sweet Music They Make. Then I must finish writing a short fantasy romance story I still don’t have the right title for, though it’s called The Slavemaster’s Daughter. Tentatively. I’m about 6 000 words in. Let’s not even think about that one going anywhere any time soon. I still have to put it through my crit group.
The Black Goat is still languishing on my hard drive. I’ve done a major revision on chapter one but the novel’s been stagnant for such a long time I suspect I’m going to roar through it with massive revisions when I do get there. But let’s place emphasis on when. Ironically, it’s Inkarna that’s going onto the submissions mill way before The Black Goat, which was written more than a year ago.
On top of all this, I still have a safari-style erotic romance to write for the Therése von Willegen brand. And I’ve tentatively started outlining my next epic fantasy. Let’s not even suggest a working title for that one. You’re going to laugh. I’m calling it The Bird Girl because I can’t think of anything else right now.
Between this madness I’m still reading submissions from my existing authors and considering cold submissions that come through Lyrical. And I have a full-time day-job.
How the hell did this happen? Please can someone tell me because I honestly didn’t see this coming. I need another cup of coffee.
Now go and like my Facebook fan page, okay: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nerine-Dorman-author/173330419365374?v=wall
Monday, March 21, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
There's a funny scene in one of my favorite movies, Almost Famous. The fifteen year old fledgling Rolling Stone music reporter is on the phone with him mom, trying to convince her he's okay and that she has no reason to worry about him being on the road with a rock band. There's a couple of groupies trying to talk to him at the same time, hydroponic pot is mentioned at alarming volume, and then one of the girls starts talking about how she can see his aura. The kid tells his mom he can't hear her and of course HydroPot Groupie thinks he's talking to her. So she starts yelling, "I CAN SEE YOUR AURA! IT'S REALLY PURPLE!" Or something like that, and the poor kid looks like he wants to crawl under a rock.
This horrifying exchange is pretty representative of the average person's view of people who claim they can see auras: hippies high on hydroponic pot, flaky new-age types with fake names like Raven Granola Moonbeam or Crystal Glitter Dragonrider. I find the idea of being able to read auras a bit disconcerting. First let's talk about what an aura is: an energy field that radiates several inches out from the body, with colors that can represent everything from emotions and personality to physical health and psychological state. I wanted to explore what it would be like for a character who could see the aura and interpret what they mean. How old was she when this "auric vision" started? Did she have any understanding as to what she was seeing, have some idea why her vision began to resemble a hazy Impressionist painting? How does she learn to interpret those colors? Does she base her interpretation on something like chakras, witchcraft color correspondences, pure intuition, or a combination of methods? Is she able to turn it off and on, so to speak? Because turning it off would become very important, not only for her peace of mind but in order to respect the privacy of those around her. Think about it - your aura could act as a giant mood ring and tell the reader what you're feeling, whether you want those feelings known publicly or not. Would you want someone to "read" you like that? Would you want such an intimate glimpse into the emotions of others, including random strangers you're in line with at the grocery store?
And if a character were able to see auric energy, what else can they see? Spectral energy? Ghosts? Deciding the answer was "yes, ghosts!" I had my main character for my upcoming release Mojo Queen. Her name is Roxanne Mathis and she is a paranormal investigator who uses her ability to see auras and spectral energy to help people who are in over their heads with supernatural problems. That's not all she uses, but we'll talk about hoodoo another time. :)
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The day started with good intentions and I actually had the snippet that would lead to me having something vaguely intelligent to relate about being an author but, as per the risks of working in the media industry, things went south fairly quickly. Suffice to say this blog post will be a quick and excited heads up that my urban fantasy novella, The Namaqualand Book of the Dead will be releasing on March 21.
Monday, March 7, 2011
I find it easier to get by if my home life is running smoothly but last week it didn’t, and it had a horrid knock-on effect on my overall mindset. Coupled with this was the nagging sense that nothing good was happening for my writing career.
Most of us who are published can attest to the fact that things seem to occur in fits and starts. We can go for weeks without any feedback then suddenly get a stunning review or be contacted by someone who’d like to feature our book on their blog. Or, it can go totally the opposite, with a spate of rejections followed by one or two bad reviews. This happens. It’s a see-saw existence and we have to take the highs with the lows.
But I've had two good things happen this past week...
A chance conversation with one of my editors at the newspapers about the pitfalls of self-publishing electronically resulted in her commissioning an article, which was published in The Star before being archived on our website: http://www.iol.co.za/tonight/books/bringing-new-writers-to-book-1.1035338
Then, an added bit of happiness came when one of my reviews also went to print in The Star: http://www.iol.co.za/tonight/books/bullet-1.1035348
I guess life isn’t all bad and, even if it is, it’s important that we, as writers, need to carry on working, blogging, writing, revising and reading. We have to understand that life rarely if ever goes smoothly, and that whatever gets thrown our way, no matter how horrid, merely prepares us for the next wave of stress. And, you know what? The next time something ugly rears its head, we’re better prepared for dealing with it.
And there will always be a few bright sparks along the way.
Oh, and you can always "like" me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nerine-Dorman-author/173330419365374?v=wall
Every little bit counts.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I hope you enjoy Mimosas at Dusk and feel free to spread the word. Blog it, Tweet it, Facebook it, even (gasp!) speak to someone face to face about it. :-) And feel free to let me know what you think - you know the only thing a writer loves more than fresh coffee is feedback!
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Not only must she now come to terms with her new existence in the body of a rather disagreeable man, and clean up the mess he made of his life, she also has to unravel the mystery of why House Adamastor’s chapter house is standing empty and find a way to protect a dangerous secret she had no idea she was supposed to keep. As if fate couldn’t deal her another blow, she has also attracted the attention of a very malicious and potentially dangerous ghost.
* * * *
Well, there you have it. My current “heart” book is complete and subbed out for its initial round of submissions. Inkarna was sparked by death. The first was that of a musician who was and is one of my heroes. I had a peculiar dream about him the week he died, before I knew he’d gone. I dreamt that I, as a woman, was walking around in this 6-foot body, shouldering past people, somehow in his frame. The disjointedness of the difference in how a woman and a man move really freaked me out. It was one of those dreams that didn’t just vanish with the dawn. I wrote it down in my journal. A few weeks later I had another dream. I was having a conversation with this man then had a point of lucidity. I told him, “You’re dead,” and he replied, “But you’re dreaming.” It was just weird. It left me rattled for days. I still get gooseflesh when I think of those two dreams and their impact on my subconscious.
Then one of my best friends died. Shaen had been sick for a while. I’d been editing his book and had always held a wild hope he’d somehow beat the cancer and we’d one day sit around a table chugging back beers again. That never happened. Shaen passed away on Halloween. Typical of him. Gotta give him points for style. I cried my heart out for him, for the guilt of being one left behind, for not having (in my mind) been a good enough friend. Because I never went to see him when he’d been in hospital. I couldn’t face the trauma of seeing a once-vital man reduced to an animated corpse on life support.
We gave him a great send-off, Egyptian style. He wrote his own funerary rites and we held an awe-inspiring celebration for him on the banks of the Crocodile River, hosted at a private lodge near Johannesburg. I dreamt about Shaen too, about three days after his death. We stood on a beach, and he was as I remembered him, in his better days. We spoke about his book, and my sorrow that he’d not been able to finish his work. I felt in a way I had to take up where he’d left off and he told me not to, that it was enough that his work had touched me, and that I must be true to my art and my magic and not take on the words of others.
Inkarna came into being round about the time of Shaen’s death but my entire year had been tinged with a grief, of a constant gnawing strain that eventually resulted in my own emotional breakdown. I stared death in the face and I realised I wasn’t ready to go.
What if we had a second chance, to put things right?
A week after my meltdown, a friend of ours committed suicide.
On December 28 I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to write Inkarna and I didn’t stop until the first week of February. I had to write this book. It was catharsis, a way to come to terms with my own mortality, a way to put all the pain I’ve been carrying in me, the sorrow, into words.
I can step back now. I feel relieved. Empty. Ready to go onto other projects. In many ways last year was hell. The person who’s writing these words has a clean slate. She’s colder, more in command. That other part of her has died and it’s good to have clarity of mind to continue.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Gypsy Casserole1 18oz can hearty beef or chicken soup1 cup cooked noodles1 cup cooked peas1 cup chopped onion1/2 cup sour cream1/4 teaspoon dried dill weekCombine all ingredients in a microwave-safe casserole dish. Microwave on high for 8 minutes, stopping twice to stir. (Or heat for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F in a conventional oven.) Garnish with cheese for change, parsley for protection and health, or tomatoes for love.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Granted, with the small presses, you end up looking forward to those monthly or quarterly royalty statements. With the big book deals, you worry about whether you’ll earn out that lovely advance your revenue service probably snitches about a quarter of before you get to spend it. One means working on the whiff of an oil rag; the other adds a bit of performance anxiety. What if my agent hates my next novel? That sort of thing.
Ja, hey, so I’m still languishing with the small presses. I should look back on my career at this point and feel some sort of thrill, since I’ve now published two urban fantasy novels, an erotic romance (under my Therése von Willegen brand) and an upcoming urban fantasy novella to be released in March.
But I sometimes have these days, like today, where I’m feeling the ache of burning muscles and exhaustion. And I understand that no one ever said it was easy. It’s a slow crawl forward at snail’s pace while other authors seem to live charmed existences. Hell, stabbing myself repeatedly through the hand with a ballpoint pen is less painful than being an author.
It’s not easy maintaining perspective but I need to remember where I was in 2008 before I made my first sale. I need to remember where I was: hopeful, reeling from countless rejections. A lot of people say they want to write a novel then never finish it. Some write novel after novel but then don’t bother polishing their text, putting out one title after the other in a blizzard of sub-standard schlock.
I need to remember why I write. I write because I have stories that need telling. I write because if I don’t, my life is smaller, empty and colourless. I write because words are magic, that shape my world and touch the lives of others. I write because I have to, because there are stories itching at the tips of my fingers. I must never forget that. It’s not about that PayPal deposit at the end of the month because, to be quite honest, I’d be starving pretty quickly if I had to rely on that pittance.
And, while I won’t be giving up my day-job anytime soon, I will continue to write and breathe life into my dystopian visions because, as broken as my characters are, as twisted and dark as the tales are that hit the screen, they are a small way in which I can continue to live my dreams. The best part is that I can share these dreams with my readers, and drag them into other worlds for a little while. If we lose the ability to dream then there’s no point to living, is there?
Monday, February 14, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
- Anything by Dr. Seuss: Nothing can be too wrong with the world when you can be silly and laugh.
- Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell: This story of a young girl who risks her life for her brother only to be left alone for years on an island is inspirational.
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle: Another story of a young lady who does something incredible to save those she loves.
- Animal Farm by George Orwell: Those who know me won't be surprised that I really enjoy satire and Orwell is one of the best.
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: Anyone surprised that I selected a series where children are empowered to save their world? I didn't think so.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Without a doubt the best villains are the ones that are such fully-formed complex characters, it's not hard to imagine them as the protagonist in their own story. Motivation is a big factor in this: is the villain evil just for the sake of being evil, or is there something more interesting going on underneath the surface? Something that makes you understand why the villain is doing all these villainous things, even if you don't agree with their actions.
Here's a kind of sideways example:
Laertes is a young man who sees his family destroyed. His sister Ophelia is treated horribly by her suitor, a man who seems to toy with her affections before ultimately rejecting her. Then that same man murders their father Polonius. It's a case of mistaken identity, but the killer shows no remorse. Worst of all, Ophelia is driven mad by grief and heartbreak from these events, taking her own life. When offered a chance at revenge, Laertes of course accepts. In the end, though, both Laertes and the man who destroyed his family, a prince named Hamlet, die by a poisoned sword.
But the play's not called Laertes, is it? I called this a sideways example because while Laertes wasn’t a villain in Shakespeare's play, I do think it's a good example of how one person's protagonist is another person's villain. Meaning Hamlet, of course. I used to have kind of a thing for Hamlet. Not a literary crush, exactly, more like a mild obsession. I saw him as this punk slacker who couldn’t live up to his destiny, and consequently was relieved to greet death. This eventually transformed into a mild obsession with Kurt Cobain, but that's a different topic. It's been a number of years since I read the entire play instead of leafing through the pages that mark my favorite quotes. My favorite line will always be this:
There's another one that I have found myself looking at frequently. It fits with the sideways view of the melancholy prince as a mad villain.
Dare I say it - Vampire Hamlet?
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Last week a friend of mine in Oz told me she had a spare Kindle floating around, which she kindly donated to my cause until we discovered that the thing’s lithium batteries create a bit of a tizz with the postal services. Hence, I told her not to bother…only to have another friend drop down from upcountry for a visit, and give me his old Sony Reader, which he isn’t using anymore.
It’s taken me less than a week to fall irrevocably in love with my new Reader. No more getting my nice books munched at the bottom of my bag. No more having to haul out the laptop to read ebooks. I can read in bright sunlight. I can make the text bigger. The document opens on the same page where I left off.
The Reader is compact, it’s slim and it doesn’t weigh as much as a book (or at least the doorstoppers I'm accustomed to reading). I’ve now got almost 90 books stored on it, with plenty of space for more. There are two SD card slots as well, so I can expand with further memory, should I need to. And, after hearing some of the frightening capacities of the memory cards coming onto the market nowadays…
I’m a happy puppy. A really happy puppy.
Because, to be quite honest, I’ve run out of shelf space at home. It’s chronic. I have to start making some hard decisions about letting some books go. And, while I’ll always have a bit of a book problem **laughs** I’m so chuffed I’m now fully into this ebook thing. It feels more “real” now that I’ve a reading device in hand.
I’ve been keeping pace with some of the changes the publishing industry is undergoing, and I’m glad I got my toe in the door about two years ago because I’ve a feeling this whole electronic publishing shindig is still going to do some amazing things for a lot of authors who wouldn’t ordinarily have had an opportunity.
I don’t care much for the attitude that “ebooks” aren’t real books. To me it’s the words that count, how the content of what I’m reading makes me feel. It’s not about holding paper in my hand. New forms of media are changing the way we exchange information, and I embrace this change with open arms.
Gone are the days with me stressing about a package in the mail, of waiting sometimes more than a month for my precious book to arrive from the US or UK. What I’m getting now is instant gratification to feed my reading weevil.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I’ve a scene in my current work in progress, an urban fantasy novel entitled Incarna, where my main character climbs the same route late at night during a storm to go hide an artefact.
When I wrote the initial scene, I’d envisioned the route, based on a vague knowledge of the area and a contour map I downloaded off the internet. Not happy with the results, I decided some practical experience was necessary so, on Sunday, myself and my long-suffering husband put on our walking shoes and embarked on our little jaunt.
While my idea of timing was pretty spot-on, the route wasn’t. I’d chosen the wrong route in my novel because the quicker route proved to be the one I’d considered more difficult by looking at the map.
More importantly, while I’ve explored caves in the Table Mountain range before, I’d not gone as deep into a cave in this region before. I’d imagined the floor to be sandy, the rocks dry. In real life they weren’t. They were quite damp and, inside the mountain it was cold, and almost frigid, with the constant drip of moisture in some areas.
When my hands came in contact with the stone, my skin came away with a layer of sludge. There was no convenient sandy floor but uneven rocks. Footing was quite treacherous.
The only happy coincidence was that in my story, I’d written in a small chamber with a narrow lateral passage where my main character squeezes in to hide his artefact. Imagine my surprise when I encountered almost the exact same kind of passage in real life.
Most of what I write is based on some sort of practical experience. I feel this gives a nice ring of authenticity to my stories. While the internet may provide a good starting point, I encourage authors to go out there and try things for themselves.
Are you writing about a mortician? Approach a funeral home in your area and talk to an actual mortician. If you’re not squeamish, go and shadow them for a day or two. Are you writing about someone who’s into fashion design? Do the same. Go out, talk them, see what their day-to-day work is like.
Authors are, by their very natures, Jacks of all trades. We know a little about everything. Make it your mission to engage in novelty at least once a month. Do something out of your usual routine. You’ll be surprised at what you may discover and how this can enrich your writing.
* * * *
My next urban fantasy tale, The Namaqualand Book of the Dead, releases on March 21. Read an excerpt here: http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_22&products_id=313
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
So if I don't have the standard place or environment that most people think of as home, is it possible that has had some influence over my writing? A brief exchange with a friend on Facebook got me thinking about that. Okay, yes, it was either figure this out or switch to another topic. The more I thought about this question, the more I wanted an answer, even if it was one I didn't want to publish in a blog post. My friend asked me about other writers that grew up as military brats and I couldn't think of any at that moment, but I did a Google search later. Turns out I'd forgotten all about Pat Conroy, mostly because I've never been brave enough to read The Great Santini. My search also led me to this fascinating Wiki page about military brat subculture. I found myself nodding in agreement with quite a bit of it, recognizing some of both the positive and negative patterns in myself and my life. This passage especially struck a chord: a pattern (for those military brats who do not choose military service) of work that is more independent (self-employment / avoidance of direct subservience to authority figures) and along those lines also favoring creative and artistic professions that offer more independence. That made me think of Kris Kristofferson because he is my favorite famous brat, and then surprisingly, my own characters.
So far my main characters have had certain things in common. They are all outsiders to some extent, usually a great extent. They are all independent, and if they answer to any authority figure it's out of personal loyalty and not some kind of corporate loyalty. They are all either other themselves or unusually accepting of anyone other. (See the anti-racism section of the Wiki article. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, makes my blood boil more than the small-minded cowardice of bigotry.)
Let me break this down a little more with specific characters. Both Jessie of Bring on the Night and Roxanne of Mojo Queen believe in using their supernatural gifts to help people. I grew up around people in uniform who believed in something greater than themselves, and I believe that is a huge part of why I love hero stories. Putting yourself on the line for someone else's benefit is an amazing thing to do. Jessie has a boss but is mostly autonomous. Roxie runs her own business as a paranormal investigator and root worker. Aislinn, the main character of my Paranormal Beat series, has an editor in chief but she's her own managing editor and pretty much does as she pleases. And I recognized very early on in the writing of the first Paranormal Beat novella that standing up against bigotry and for treating all people with kindness and basic decency was a deep underlying theme. I think that's a pretty common theme in a lot of paranormal fiction, though. Right on the first page of the first Sookie Stackhouse novel vampires are referred to as having come out of the coffin, and there is nothing subtle about the "God Hates Fangs" sign briefly glimpsed in the opening credits of True Blood. Having grown up with people of different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, it is so hard for me to understand the deliberate demonization of people who are just, well, people. The monster metaphors help me to write about this without dissolving into tears and rage at what feels like a betrayal by some of everything good I was raised to believe. They also help me to accept my status as an outsider. That's something I thought would surely eventually change, but it hasn't and I guess it never will. So I write about outsiders, and they do the best they can with what they've got to help people, to stand up for what's right, and to keep their souls and their integrity intact.
I guess that was some pretty powerful inspiration after all.
Monday, January 17, 2011
I started writing Incarna on December 28 and I'm now just shy of 60 000 words. How do I do it, you may ask? I've been writing almost 3 000 words every day, though I don't beat myself over the head if I don't quite make it, for whatever reason. This is on top of my day-job and editing obligations for my publisher.
To be quite honest, I don't know how, save that I'm very disciplined in my approach to working. While I do spend a bit of time involved in social networking (reading blogs, Facebooking and Twitter), when I work, I unplug myself from cyberspace and go hide either in the lounge, sprawled on the couch, or in my bedroom.
I work in bursts, which means I'll start by reading 10 pages of a submission, edit 10 pages of a novel then reward myself by writing a page of my own work. This kind of round usually takes about 3/4 of an hour. Then I get up, fold some laundry, water plants or feed the animals, check my mail, and go back to the couch.
Granted, this works when I'm home all day. But on an ordinary work day? I get up at 5.30am, feed animals, have coffee, check mail for 15 minutes, get ready and catch the 7.20am train to town. I then work for 3/4 on the train, usually handling 10 pages of edits for my publisher then treating myself to my own writing until we arrive in the CBD. During lunch I usually do the same kind of editing cycle as I would on the train. The only time I have to read for pleasure is an hour on the train going home during the afternoon. This is my chill-out time, because when I get home, I wash dishes, feed the animals (including the husband), allow myself half an hour to reply to emails... and start with an hour or three of reading subs, editing and writing.
I don't watch TV anymore. Personally, it bores me to death. I have what I fondly refer to as a YouTube attention span. Anything over six minutes and I lose interest.
Also, another thing, I divide my writing time into two phases: writing and revising. I don't write new words while I'm revising. I simply can't give my revisions the kind of attention they deserve if I'm emotionally invested in laying down a first draft.
I guess what I'm trying to say is you too can write a novel in a month or two. Do so by giving yourself a deadline, and make it your goal to write the required word count every day. Identify times of the day you can use for this, even if it means getting up an hour earlier every day. If you really want to do this thing, you can. Then get your butt on the chair and write. You'll find it becomes easier the more you get used to the routine. But do remember to allow yourself to do some of the fun things between, without them becoming distractions.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Pretty please, with sugar on top. ;-)
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Granted, my day-job isn't the most inspiring, but it has opened doors for me to write lifestyle and travel-orientated editorial, which is published nationally. I've turned what could have been a very boring day-job into something fun and challenging, but it does require going beyond the call of duty and putting in a lot of extra hard work I don't get paid for.
What I realised this past week or so while I was on leave, is that I really enjoy my freelance work as a content editor. I've also realised that if this job were to ever pay the right kind of money, I possess the discipline to turn this into a full-time profession.
And I've really revelled in a fortnight of hiding in my Treehaus in the far south of the Cape Peninsula. After the year I've had, this time of isolation was so necessary, just to catch my breath and establish fresh current for 2011. I'm cautiously optimistic about what this year will bring and have managed to get some quiet time.
What struck me as well during my leave was that I really enjoyed working from home, on my content editing. Not only do I have the satisfaction of seeing an author's work go out into the world, but there's the quiet joy of giving authors that toehold in the publishing industry.
When I see how authors bloom and gain confidence, it's a source of joy and wonder. With each first contract offered, I recapture some of the excitement when a letter that said, "Dear author, thank you for querying, but..." reads "Dear author, we are pleased to offer you a contract..."
And when those first good reviews come in, I recall the hours of hard work and I feel that warm fuzzy glow knowing I was partially responsible for shaping these words that have pleased readers.
There's something subtle and satisfying in seeing new cover art for the first time, remembering the sometimes hesitant query letters I read when I reviewed a submission of a previously unpublished author, how a manuscript has gone from a MS Word document to a final .pdf with lush cover art.
And, while some of my charges are going on to bigger, more ambitious projects, this gives me a sense of accomplishment for having been there to give them that much-needed boost so they can go out there and realise their dreams.
Yes, I'm a facilitator of dreams, and I love it. And, while it sometimes stings that I can't do this full-time, I'm doing it because it's something that adds quality not only to my own creativity, but to those of others who are also prone to dreaming.