Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter and the Holidays, aka: Why is NaNoWriMo in November exactly?

First of all, thanks to Rob and Cathi for the feedback! I tried to leave you a friendly comment but apparently me and Blogger.com are fighting, so instead you get a shoutout! Way better, right?

To answer both of you on the subject of Liana, she is indeed very protective of herself, especially at this point in the story. She is the crown princess, and has been raised to be very conscious of herself and her position. My goal is to write her as a person who, while she is very devoted to her duty, will only really go out of her way on a personal level for Liander. And what you don't know here is that she's actually quite young, so she still has much of the self-interest of youth, and the self-doubt. Being pregnant in this scene probably doesn't help her ability to engage in the sort of mental stillness and flirtation with death that to me make a good warrior. All of this would be way more apparent with some context, so I apologize for just kind of throwing you under the bus there.

In any case, moving on. The subject of my post is one near and dear to my heart. That is, of course, finding time to write for relatively extended periods of time (instead of just jotting down a few sentences in between other activities, which all too often happens to me and leads to longer rewrites). I'm sure the lovely people at the Office of Letters and Light thought they were positively clever to pick November as the month for the national writing of novels, for many reasons not least of which is the natural alliteration inherent, not to mention the sudden deepening of cold in the temperate climbs of our own northern hemisphere. However, as was so correctly pointed out to me at the beginning of my attempt at this illustrious and unctuous activity, November is an unnaturally short month for writers who aren't residents of a small hut on the edge of the Arctic Circle or somewhere else equally reclusive. Why, you may ask? Because the end of November is the start of the holidays.

For me, holidays mean going home, spending a whole lot of time sleeping, talking, and eating food, only to realize suddenly that I haven't done anything I said I was going to get done that week, including writing that chapter I was hoping to finish, or submitting that short story. Much less completing the last leg of a 50,000 unit lexicological demonstration of skill. (For entertainment this morning I am reading a thesaurus. Pardon me if I stretch the usage of some words, I like to experiment.) Ultimately, you're left having gained about twenty pounds and having written about five words, which you will probably scrap as products of food-induced dilusions. But I digress.

The worst part about holidays is that once you have hit November, you're often, whether you like it or not, on a rollercoaster ride straight through to New Year's. So how do you find time to write between all of the magical activities that surely crop up? It's a sticky situation, and I think all of us run into it at some point or another. There is a divide, after all, between who we would like to be and who we are currently that can often only be bridged by sleeplessness. But I say to you, fellow writers, that there is a silver lining in all of this madness! At least, there is one for me.

I find that my greatest inspiration for projects often comes when I am encountering something new. There is a fine line to walk, of course, but after being exposed to new ideas, scenery, and people, I often find myself better able to communicate the reality of my story in a more visceral way. It is not necessarily that I didn't know where the story was going before, but that I had lost touch with reality. After all, a good story only truly exists when you have brought it far enough into reality to be felt by the reader (though you must make sure not to bring it too far.) In essence, living life fully brings you closer to your art.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Mother of Creation" Excerpt

As per request from Rob, I will now post a portion of the sword fight bit I wrote a few days ago. This part is written from the perspective of the sort of main character Liana, who is a princess in exile following a coup organized by her uncle, and also, as per her station, the scion of their sun god, Herkun.

In any case, here goes. I will consider commenting on this later, depending on what anyone may deign to say. I am, of course, always interested in critique. Thanks in advance!

P.S. One of my friends read this and was basically like: "What the hell is going on and who are all these people?" In the book obviously there is all sorts of explanation, and you have to keep in mind as well that this scene is also about at third of the way through the as-yet-incomplete manuscript. However, brief character bios follow.

Liana is the crown princess of Herkunsland, scion of the sun god.
Liander is her twin brother, who escaped exile with her following a coup conducted by their uncle.
Jei is their half-brother, who was conceived when their father was seduced by the moon goddess Herka, who he knows as Ma'alu. He is the one who helped the twins escape Herkunsland.

At the beginning of this scene, Jei's village is being invaded by a neighboring village, the Quet'le-Ma. I would provide more information than this but it might just get confusing. This is an epic fantasy piece, and while Liana is the catalyst of all that happens, there are five viewpoint characters in total.

Liana stepped from house to house, and at each flaming roof she reached to the answering fire within her and pulled. The energy of the flame rushed into her, flushing her with heat she sorely needed, for in her haste she had not donned nearly enough clothing, though the night was warm with burning. The strange grief that emanated from somewhere within her had left her eyes weeping since first she had struck with her blade, killing a youth with only a handful of bells in his hair. She fought to overcome it, but the best that she could manage was to shove it to one side while she continued from house to house, even as it grew stronger and stronger, threatening to drown her.

"Liana," her twin said, his hand on her shoulder as she waivered slightly before a house which was already lost, "leave this one." She stared at him for a moment through blurring eyes, blinking to clear her vision as sudden fatigue filled her. She shook it off, straightening.

"It's too dangerous," she told him, though her voice sounded thin even to her. "The fire will spread." As if to mark her words, a great ember caught on the wind, striking the dry winter grass nearby and began to smolder. Liana reached down and out, and the fire rushed into her, filling her. She turned back to Liander, and as if in a dream saw a blade rising behind him.

Without thinking, she grabbed his forearm and pivoted, pulling from her hip. Off balance, he swung behind her, and she caught the falling blade on her own, feeling her knees begin to buckle even as Liander used their mutual grip to pull her backwards. A knife blade flashed where her stomach would have been and she felt fear well up with the grief for the first time as she tumbled to the ground. A strange thought filled her in that moment of weightlessness that perhaps these feelings were not hers. Impact with the earth shook it from her, even as a shape stepped in front of her. She started backward awkwardly as Jei's form came into focus. Such was her fatigue that despite her adrenaline, she could barely force herself to stand. It was as if she had run for miles, or had not slept for days. Blackness tugged at the edges of her vision, and her head spun before she righted herself, breathing in a deep lungful of the smoke-laden air to regain her focus. Her fingers were numb about her sword, the light saber her father had given her. The women of Perlen trained in this sort of sword-work, he had told her, and her grip tightened beneath the guard. If that was the case, she had a whole line of ancestors that she could not fail now. The honor of her mother's family was at stake.

"So you're the one swallowing the fires," came an unfamiliar voice behind her, and an unfamiliar tongue as well, though it sounded somewhat like that of the villagers. Both Jei and Liander were already fighting, and she whirled, bringing her blade up against the attack she knew was coming. The strike, a slow sweep, caught on her blade and knocked her back. She staggered, blinking her eyes to clear them. It seemed that the tears had at last stopped, at least, though the fatigue of her body was now being offset by a fear that seemed somehow separate from her, returning clarity to the moment even as she fought to control it. She didn't waste energy trying to reply to him, trying to ask him anything. There wasn't any point. She simply braced herself, waiting for his next attack, and when it came she turned it aside with a smooth motion, feeling his sword slide from the guard as she stepped past his reach. He retreated sharply, and she advanced, thrusting. He knocked her blade aside, leaving her open, and she danced out of his way, feeling her movements drag. The edge of his short sword passed so close to her face that she could feel the breath of its passage, cold as death. She sliced across, her movements sloppy, and it was his turn to retreat, a grin twisting his features. His bells flickered in the last of the flames, and she wondered if she would die this time. The fear inside her grew stronger, threatening to overcome her. Unthinking, she pressed her palm to her womb, willing safety and love to the child that might soon die with her. The warrior’s eyes widened, and for the first time, he seemed to truly look at her eyes. A sudden snarl twisted his features.

“Sun-mother,” he growled, striking forward with renewed ferocity, knocking her blade from her hands. She watched it skitter away in despair as the man backed her towards the gutted frame of the building she had just put out. The clanging of swords still sounded from somewhere nearby, and she thought she heard someone shout her name. The cool, tacky-wet flat of the advancing man’s blade pressed to the side of her throat, and to her surprise he sheathed his dagger, grabbing her wrist.

“You will come with me. With you, Ma’le will accept us once more.” His words meant nothing to her, but it did not matter. A small form appeared from the smoke and shadows behind him, and he stiffened, his sword tangling in her shirt for a moment before cutting free and clattering to the ground beside him.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When your plot becomes boring and you don't know what to do...

IT'S SWORD FIGHT TIME!!! That's right, folks, yesterday/today I called upon my incredibly nerdly knowledge of these weapons (which I acumulate all of the time because swords are absolutely fabulous) and killed some random people in my book! Why? Because I was bored.

I feel that a good rule of thumb is that if I'm am just bloody bored writing it, my reader is probably going to get tired of reading it. Admittedly, reading often goes a bit faster than writing, at least in my experience (after all, I read most books in one day if I'm really into them) but I think that this is still a good rule of thumb, especially as you get further into the book. It's important to keep good pacing in the plot, and to build up to some sort of final climax. I personally hate it when I get to the end of a book and feel that nothing has really been resolved, so I definitely wouldn't want to do that to my readers.

Don't get me wrong, sword fights aren't the only thing that you can throw into a story to liven up the plot (in fact, in some stories a sword fight might kill your whole premise, and no one wants that.) Some other things I've occasionally thrown in as added spice include: romantic encounters, murders or other similar unfortunateness, and humorous instances. My first book, being a little lighter, emphasized a lot of humorous dialogue and romantic tension - though I did dip into a fight in a back alley for fun.

Anyway, what I'm getting at here is that I wrote a sword fight, and whenever that happens life feels better. Or, in a more general and writerly context - and no, writerly is not, in fact, a word; you can, however, steal it - these are some things you could try if your story is eddying around in circles, as, unfortunately, happens from time to time. Now, assuming I've used quite enough commas in this post, I will be signing out after the following brief plug.

Anyone interested in reading a swordfight? Sorry, I'm stuck on this for right now. Let me know if so, and I'll post one!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The tentacled creature in the corner

As I wrote to a friend today, I recently realized that I haven't ever submitted my most personal work to intense exterior editing. How did I discover this? Reading Anne Mini's blog actually (surprise!) in which she listed the top 74 reasons, or something to that effect, that members of the publishing industry reject submissions on the first page of your manuscript. Depressing thing is most of them will. Reject you by the first page, that is. Unfortunately, I would not list beginnings as my forte in any writing style. Even when writing academic papers, I often end up putting a filler paragraph in the beginning and then coming back to it later, deleting the original, and rewriting. Needless to say, a handful of those 74 reasons can probably be found in my YA manuscript, perhaps contributing to my accumulation of rejection letters.

Confronted with this fact about myself and my work, I frantically began wracking my brains for instances in which I had submitted things to critique - and came up with about five. Each of which took place in a creative writing class, and consisted of my being forced to write a story along a specific set of guidelines and then turn it in to the class for dissection. Obviously that was a bit traumatic, but keep in mind these pieces were not written exactly voluntarily. As well, they were all short stories - a completely different level of attachment from that experienced with the story and characters that inhabit the space of the novel.

This then led me to the next logical thought in this sequence, which is: well, then, I guess that I should get on that.

Thus the title of this blog entry. Intense and uncomfortable terror has transformed me, I say in the interests of being overdramatic. Now to find someone to tear apart page 1.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Catering to your market

In slight deviation from previous posts, I choose to bring in some real-life experience today.

As a person involved in Customer Service, I often find myself in the unenviable position of being subject to others' whims. What I mean here is, if the customer wants something, I'm supposed to attempt to find a way to make it happen - providing it's beneficial for the company. If my boss desires an outcome, I need to try to make that happen, too - and hope that it doesn't anger my customers. Generally, the idea is that the company wants what is best for the customer and vice versa. However, in practice customer service is usually about compromises, long meetings where nothing is apparently accomplished but the stroking of egos, and, in the end, relying on yourself and your ability to straddle the divide. I am a bridge over troubled waters, which is nice and poetic and everything - but it generally means people walk over me. I could extrapolate on this metaphor further, but I think you get the picture.

"So what does this have to do with writing?" you ask. "I don't see a connection."

My response to that is, "Are you looking?"

Writing in the hopes of getting published has a lot of parallels to customer service. The differences are, of course, obvious. A writer has more creative impulse surely, and spends most of the time actually spent working alone. However, a writer is walking a fine line between competing forces. If she has an agent, she hopes to please the agent and the agent's understanding of the market. She also must pay close attention to the wishes of her publisher, who obviously provides a critical function; and to her fans, who read her work and therefore should probably be pleased by it. Theoretically, all of these visions match, but theory and practice are rarely equivalent. And if you thought that the writer was only juggling these three forces, reality check: she also must preserve the nature of her work. The writer is the vessel by which the work makes its way into the world. She breathes life into the characters, but she also has to make them readable and do her best to make the reading process possible by exposing them to the rest of the humble denizens of our planet. It's a lot to balance, and so much of it depends on not only the writer's discretion, but also her ability to keep others happy - or at least, not pissed off enough to stop representing her. And sometimes, that means getting walked on a bit - but sometimes, it means denying passage, too. Who said the bridge was powerless, after all?

Friday, November 12, 2010

On the subject of query letters

Motivation is apparently a hard thing to come by this past week, so I've decided that I will have slightly different goals this week. Writing goal for the week: achieve 65,000 words by Friday on my manuscript, and hopefully add to that over the weekend (maybe I'll even make 70,000). Publishing goal for the week: write at least one query letter.

I think the most useful advice that I have found on query letter writing has come from Anne Mini's blog, which contains information on all aspects of the writing world. Anne, I humbly tip my hat to you for your gumption, shown in assembling this abundance of information. Unfortunately or fortunately, whichever the case may be, I will likely never manage to read everything you have written - that's a lot of blog - but what I have has been encouraging and informative.

For those of you attempting to wade through the morass, here are some of the high points that I have explored. Obviously, there is the series entitled "Querypalooza" or something to that effect, which goes over the basics of constructing a successful query letter. However, Anne also provides information on such things as: "Query Fatigue," something I'm afraid I experience as a matter of course; negotiating with an agent; structuring one's manuscript and/or submissions; and synopsis writing, to name a few. All of her blogs are organized by subject or date, depending on your preference, and the links to the entries can be found on the bottom right side of the window.

However, for expedience, I will provide a brief run-through of query letters for those who are unfamiliar. I strongly suggest following up by reading through Anne's notes on the subject.

1) What are query letters and why are they important?

A query letter is what you send to a publisher or agent as a sort of cover letter for any additional materials they have requested. Much like a cover letter for a job application, the query letter highlights relevant skills or qualifications possessed by the author (have you been published before, etc.) HOWEVER, this is only one of the purposes of the query letter. The primary purpose of a query letter is to showcase your work.

2) What do you mean, showcase my work? What other materials? What?

Okay, let's take a step back. Each publishing house or literary agent that you submit your work to requires you to adhere to certain submissions guidelines. Often, they require a sort of preliminary submission, including but not limited to: a query letter, a synopsis, and/or the first chapter/few pages of the COMPLETE manuscript. And believe me, at this point your manuscript should be COMPLETE and EDITED, unless you are writing fiction. The query letter is the first thing that is read by members of the agency/publishing house (not necessarily by the person you sent it to either, they often have people whose sole occupation is to peruse query letters).

3) So what should go in my query letter, besides credentials?

Your query letter should contain the following important elements:
I. The information of the person to whome the query letter is addressed, including but not limited to their NAME, WORKPLACE, and ADDRESS.
II. The reason you picked said person to be the target of your letter (for example, you met at a convention, or you really like their previously represented works).
III. The reason they want to publish/represent your book. Be inventive - but realistic.
IV. What your book is about. This is probably the most important part.
V. Your own contact information. After all, you want to make it easy for them to get in touch.

As you can see, that's a lot of information to put in one little one page letter. That's right, one page. A query letter should be ONLY ONE PAGE. And it is important that your query letter be as well-written as you can make it. Read over it again and again to make sure you have the correct information, spelling, and grammar. Don't try to recycle letters, either. Recycling letters is bad. That's how you DON'T get published. Using PARTS of the letter over is okay, as long as you edit them carefully and make sure that that part of the letter matches the original pieces which will, inevitably, be there - if you're writing a decent query letter, that is.

As you can see, it's a lot of work to generate that tiny document. You will likely have to do it over and over. But in the end, hard work and perseverance are the loam from which success springs. Best of luck!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's okay, it's okay...

...I'm alive. Really.

So after my forced absence from the net world, many of you, oh as-yet-nonexistent and currently loyal readers, have perhaps wondered what in the world occurred. I make it my policy not to blog on weekends, for one, since I like to pretend to have a life outside of the internet (even though I spent the entirety of this weekend writing on my novel and therefore managed to pull together 11,900 words in a week, a feat which is now pretty superfluous and/or obsolete). I also was sick the past two days. Lame, I know. It was not a sickness conducive to very much computer use, and now I am behind in all things writerly. Also, making up words is good for you; so is laughing at safety regulations; no, I won't tell you what that's about.

Okay, now that I've failed at humor and overused punctuation: on to THE READING SUMMARY!!!

Since I was mad ill I resorted to the one thing I do best (which was also on my list of things I probably shouldn't have been doing): reading! Over the past four days, I have read three books. They are:

Greywalker by Kat Richardson
Black Dust Mambo by Adrian Phoenix
Flesh Circus by Lilith Saintcrow

Let us begin.

The first book I read, Greywalker, was actually read over the weekend. This is an urban fantasy book, and tells the story of a PI by the name of Harper Blaine who is assaulted while working a case and loses consciousness - technically dying for almost two full minutes. As Harper begins to get well, she realizes that something has changed. She begins seeing people and things that aren't there, and not just seeing them. Harper can touch them, interact with them, and, more importantly, they can touch her. After a couple of times falling through walls and being attacked by spirit beings, Harper decides to get help, winds up in a mess of vampire trouble, and attracts the attention of a vengeful ghost on a murder spree. Obviously, the story behind the book is definitely good. However, this is one of those manuscripts you often come across in the urban fantasy genre these days that could most definitely use some editing. The characters are sort of flat, and the plot jumps around, leaving the reader behind from time to time. The writer also falls prey to the allure of the dreaded info dump. Great potential, but the book gets a C on Amanda's Grading Scale for Urban Fantasy Novels.

Black Dust Mambo is delightfully set in New Orleans. The main character, Kallie Riviere, is a hoodoo from the swamps with a bit of an ugly past. Taken in by her aunt after her mother shot her father and tried to kill her, Kallie has nonetheless grown into a voluptuous, talented girl often described through the eyes of the male characters in the novel as a "violet-eyed temptress". The book itself begins when this aforementioned temptress finds her one-night gypsy lover dead in her hotel bed after she awakens passed out on the bathroom floor. From there it never slows down, jumping from one conflict to the next like a leprechaun on speed, which can be a good thing, and in this case was pretty entertaining. Adrian Phoenix, the author, did a good job of balancing character development with her break-neck pace, though that aspect could have been fleshed out a bit more. There was also a question of completeness of the story - while there were only a few scenes that seemed to step outside of the plot in any way, the book definitely ends on a cliffhanger, and not one of those tantalizingly smooth ones either. All in all, this book gets a B-.

And, last but not least, I returned to the writing of Lilith Saintcrow, whose love of violence is still insurmountable. The rising tide of bodies, human and otherwise, in Flesh Circus did not disappoint my expectations in the slightest, of course, as the main character, demon-enhanced demon-hunter Jill Kismet, scoured the breadth and depth of Saint City tackling zombies and voodoo andorgynes, with the hunt culminating in a sweet magical chicken sacrifice and the slaying of a demon. All in a day's work for our Jillybean. But lest you think the girl's just about exorcising demons and slaying the wicked, Saintcrow has added a lovely lover's quarrel with Saul Dustcircle, her werecat, Native American hunk. Though sometimes she drives me crazy, Jill is a well-developed character four books in, and the host of side characters that surround her remain amusing and well-written. And of course, the plot always twists just slightly at the end, taking you smoothly into the unforeseen conclusion. My only wish is that Jill would grow a bit more with what she experiences, instead of staying essentially stagnant throughout the books. All in all, I give this book a B+.

Well, that's the urban fantasy gamut for today. I hope that you'll take the time to read the books I've mentioned, as they were all fun reads regardless of what foibles they might be working through. Hopefully next time I get a chance to do a rundown like this, I'll have a little more variety for you to choose from. I'm sure not all of you like urban fantasy.

Over and out.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Of wine and honey...

Someone asked me the other day what I wrote (actually, I got asked that a lot this past weekend) and this prompted in me a chain reaction of thoughts which I think all writers, at some point, have. It goes something like this: well, I write that...oh and that....and I really like this and I have a story that I would like to incorporate this into but I haven't gotten to it yet....I guess I just write a little bit of everything.

The truth is, I think no writer can truly say that she only writes one particular type or genre of literature. Take, for instance, Haruki Murakami, whose voice is distinctive and whom I love dearly (well, I love his work - I've never met the man himself). Murakami's writings could be classified in a variety of ways. There is definitely a strong element of the supernatural in some of his pieces, though certainly not all of them. There can also be elements of science fiction or horror. I would say that, when it comes to creating short stories, Murakami has been one of the most formative writers upon my own work that I have thus far been exposed to, along with Ruben Dario, who wrote a truly magical collection in Azul... Ruben Dario, by virtue of his being Latin American, could possibly fall into the magical realism school of writing, but the rest of us are denied entry into said school or genre by the fact that we are not, in fact, Latin American. Which brings me to today's discovery.

It seems that there is a genre, in fact, for those of use whose stories have fantastical, surreal, or supernatural elements, but who don't neatly fall into any of the current commercial labels, such as urban fantasy, science fiction, or epic fantasy, to name a few. This genre is called slipstream. According to Bruce Sterling, courtesy of Wikipedia, slipstream is: "...a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility." Other definitions include the less artistic "fantastic fiction that transcends sci-fi, mainstream fiction, or fantasy." (The last quote was courtesy of GoodReads.com. Whatever definition you prefer, slipstream seems to be dependent on a sense of dislocation felt not only by the characters, but also by the reader. To me, there is an almost fairytale-like quality, in that one is never really sure what will happen next: the universe is governed by a set of inexplicable and intuitive laws, and rational thought is often abandoned at some point, almost without you realizing.

And that brings me, finally, to the title of this particular entry.

Any art form is dependent on two things, mixed together in odd doses, depending on the artist and the nature of the work. These two things are the creative impulse - or the wine, taken from the Greek god Bacchus, a dark and earthy creator; and the skill which is acquired through experience of the craft - the honey, the carefully constructed and lightly sweet framework which allows the story to be communicated, an aspect of the sun god Apollo who shines light upon the world. Each is, of course, its own type of passion, both the methodical and the impulsive. Only with both can we carry the audience of any art form into a new landscape, suspending their hold on the real and the concrete. Once the mind lets go of what is real, it can begin to better appreciate reality. Or something like that.

Obviously, my theories on the subject are still works in progress. But I am very excited to learn a new term.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Now where was I....

Oh yeah.

Speaking of fun writing communities, it's National Novel Writing Month! I'm going to take a break from publishing advice that I'm probably too young to dispense today and talk about the trauma of the NaNoWriMo novel!

I once read on the NaNo site that the best way to complete a novel is to tell absolutely everyone about it. Similar advice was given to me when I was writing my senior thesis: talking about a work lets you not only figure out where you're going with it next, but also gives you motivation to finish. After all, if you've spent weeks telling everyone about how you're going to write a book and then you don't do it it can be sort of embarassing. I would argue, however, that the difference between the thesis and the novel as forms of communication is that with a thesis, working through it is absolutely necessary. With a novel, it can sometimes take out some of the spunk of the piece, especially if you're editing in process. Thus the value of intensive writing, as I like to call it, or, in other words, experiences like NaNo.

The most important part of being a writer is writing every day. The more writing becomes a part of you, and of your routine, the better you'll get. That's because practice really does make perfect. I know when I have gone for a week or so without writing (horror of horrors) I often find that the words come slower and seem less lyrical. Luckily, that rarely ever happens. But in order to avoid such a terrible fate, keep the gears spinning. Write a little bit, even if it's only a handful of sentences, every day. Just like they force you to do during National Novel Writing Month, when the daily goal is 1,667 words, approximately. Personally I'm not a fan of writing that many words a day, and I often fall short by about 500. HOWEVER, it's more about finishing the story, isn't it? Which involves writing every day, or at least most days.

In order to write every day, I often end up writing from work (yes, I know, this is a bad habit, but I also happen to be blogging from work) and today, I managed to thoroughly freak myself out. See, my current NaNo project is to finish a book I conceived of about a year ago. I knew at the beginning it was going to be a rather dark book, but today I discovered just how dark it's going to go. I thoroughly freaked myself out, like I said. I'm now terrified that one of my characters is hiding in my closet waiting to dismember me. It's even worse in the light of the fact that he was originally a really cool guy. Generally, I'm really worried about what this story says about me as a person - which, one can argue, is a part of writing. At the World Fantasy Convention, I sat in on a panel which was discussing modern trends in horror. In that panel, one of the speakers argued that a writer of horror is in some ways one step away from a serial killer, the difference being that we don't actually enact our fantasies on real people. I would argue that the difference is two-fold, because the writer isn't only the killer, but also the victim. So even as I'm inflicting these horrible fates on my characters, I'm also living them. Making me a particularly masochistic soul, among other things.

Anything for art, right?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Conference going part II or Why the hell did I go to Ohio?

Because Ohio is awesome, of course.

In all seriousness, however, some of you may be wondering why in the world one would pay all that money to voyage across half of the United States and sit, as I mentioned before, in a bar. Not that I spent a whole lot of my time in the bar, of course. I was not so worldly. But that aside, what are the advantages of going to a conference?

Let's rephrase that question: what are the advantages of going to a mecca of authors, publishers, and literary agents? Clarified a bit, didn't we?

So, putting aside all of the useful information that can be garnered on the actual craft of writing and terminology used in your genre by the professionals (and talking the talk is indeed part of walking the walk, so I wouldn't look down my nose at this) one can also meet a lot of very cool people. Or, alternatively, very useful people to know. Essentially, it's good business. And one of the best places to meet people happens to be at the bar or in room parties.

So choose carefully where you go to get the biggest bang for your buck, and remember not to forget the local events in your area. Once I started searching, I discovered tons of writer's groups, workshops, and conferences on the east coast, including but not limited to:

Writer House in Charlottesville (not to be confused with the publishing house in NYC)
- This place is conveniently doing a fantasy writing workshop on January 15th
James River Writers in Richmond
- Currently preparing for a best unpublished novel competition or some such.
Valley Writers in Roanoke
- Meets the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month in the Universalist Unitarian Church, Raleigh Court area
Bay to Ocean Writer's Conference
- Writer's conference on February 26th in Easton, MD
AWP Writing Conference
- This year this is in DC on February 2-5 (I'm not sure if it's always in DC, since I'm not done with my research)

Basically, until you look around you never know what you'll find. So hit up Google, work on your pitch, and away we go! Maybe I'll see you there?

Waking Up

Hello again,

As usual, I've decided to create something new. This time, we're going for a bit more professional. Since professional is not one of the things I do best, this should be an adventure.

My name is Amanda McGee, and I am a writer.

Many writers keep blogs (I suppose it kind of goes with the territory) and not just blogs about their lives. After all, who really wants to read about the dramas of someone who is relatively nameless in the industry, and what person well-known in the writing business really wants their fans to know every little aspect of their lives?

In order to educate myself on what writers really blog about - I am rather new to this experience, unpublished kid that I am - I set about on a grand search for the blogs of those participating in the publishing industry. Of course, I was also motivated by more practical purposes, such as my intense desire to publish my young adult fantasy novel, currently titled The Last Disciple. That plug would be far more shameless if I was indeed published and you could buy that. Hopefully someday it will be available for purchase.

In any case, on this epic quest I discovered that writers blog about one of three things:

1) How to get published.
Unfortunately, I have relatively little experience in this subject, but I will be able to give some pretty awesome recommendations as I continue my research. Obviously, this is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about. Maybe someone will read this and benefit accordingly.

2) The writing process.
Basically, this refers to everything from conferences and workshops to updates on current projects. Pretty self-explanatory, in all honesty.

3) Books.
A good writer is a good reader. Blogging about books and their respective authors/styles lets the writer explore what works for them and what doesn't, and is entertaining for the reader as well.

So, to kick off my inaugural step into the new world of attempted professionalism, I provide the following WRITING UPDATE.

This week's writing update has to do with the World Fantasy Convention. This most illustrious of gatherings was held this past weekend in Columbus, OH. Basically, it was fantastic. I definitely suggest going if you get a chance and are serious about writing, as it's a great place to meet like-minded people as well as publishers. It was, however, a little low on agents, so if that is your goal for attending your next convention/conference/workshop you may desire to look elsewhere.

Since this was my first conference, I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly everyone was, and by the dedication of those I met to their craft. Obviously, the conference is geared primarily towards fantasy writers, but there is also some science fiction and horror emphasis. Essentially, if you want to make friends in the business, this is the place to go. There are also great chances to meet established writers and publishers, including but not limited to Dennis McKiernan, L. E. Modesitt and Tom Doherty in this particular meeting of the convention. Next year, you might even get to meet Neil Gaiman. If you happen to be able to make in to San Diego, of course.

Anyways, it was highly educational. Most useful piece of information gleaned this weekend?

Hang out in the bar.

More explanation of that cryptic piece of advice to follow in the next post.