Friday, August 18, 2006

Out of Thin Air

After a recent burst of creative lighting, I started thinking about the strange way ideas sometimes come to me. I've had dreams of complete scenes and occasional flashes of almost still life images. Inspiration has burst on me while watching television leaving me scrambling for paper and pen. Sometimes wondering what happened to this character or that character sets my imagination spinning a tale. And my cat inspired an entire story. Her behavior set the scene for an unusual introduction between heroes and heroine. I've found inspiration in pictures, letters and most recently in email.

So what was the strangest thing or event to have inspired you?

Posted by Rebecca Airies :: Link :: 2:29 AM :: 33 Comments


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Who doesn't like bling? Contest!

Come celebrate the opening of Liddy Midnight's newly redesigned web site!

Throughout the month of July, each time you post a comment on my new blog, you will have another chance to win one of a variety of charm bracelets, themed to my stories! You could be jingling a Blue Moon, Fire and Ice, Yellow Butterfly, Black Dragon or spectrum Elementals bracelet on your wrist. All of these will be awarded, each one to a different lucky winner. Oh, and don't forget her newest design, a Purple Passion bracelet that matches the new site design. Winners will be announced in the August issue of The Stroke, Liddy's newsletter.

Along with the redesigned site, I have a new format for her newsletter, The Stroke. One charm bracelet, winner's choice, will be given away to one lucky newsletter subscriber at the end of July! The winner will be announced in the August issue.

Good luck!

Posted by Liddy Midnight :: Link :: 10:10 PM :: 1 Comments


Friday, June 23, 2006

Popular. I'll help you be popular.

At my writers' workshop last night, one of the attendees had a question about promotion. Someone had written to him, offering to promote his book, for the modest sum of $20,000. With no guarantees that anything would come of it. And he wanted to know if I felt that was a reasonable deal.

Good grief, no! That is the deal of someone trying to sucker money out of the dreams and hopes of independently published authors. (Presumably, since one of their services is to redesign your book cover, they are marketing to independents.)

So here, for those of you unfamiliar with the basics of promotion, is some help identifying a reasonable deal.

Writer Beware offers a list of common scam services (pre-publication publicity???), as well as what questions to ask to determine if someone offering one of the other services is legitimate.

There are a number of very good publicists who specialize in promoting fiction novels. Two I know of personally, because I know authors who have hired them and been highly satisfied with their work, are Theresa Meyers of Blue Moon Communications (who has lots of do-it-yourself publicity articles for authors on a budget) and Nancy Berland (who used to have great articles about what publicists did on her website, but it appears to be down for a redesign at the moment). Working with a publicist of this caliber, you could expect to drop a few thousand dollars for each effort. Theresa lists her rates by sample project on her site. If I recall correctly from Nancy's former site, she suggested $2,000 for an initial outlay, where the author's brand, image, and message were developed, and a publicity plan created, then up to $10,000 to implement that plan, depending on scope and duration.

There are also pay-for-placement publicists. These vary from the low end, where $60 can get you into a database of radio guests (and you're likely to be doing AM talk radio programs at odd hours, unless you're already famous for some reason), up to the high end like Annie Jennings PR, who routinely gets people placed in national media. If what you want is to be interviewed on national TV, she offers media training to make sure you don't blow your opportunity, then gets you on national TV (no, she can't promise Oprah). She also has a bunch of free, downloadable publicity seminars on her website. Her tips about sound bites helped me when I was preparing my RWA speech last year, and I suspect is one of the reasons I got not one, but two!, clips of my presentation included in the CBS Sunday Morning segment about the conference. So, while you could easily end up spending $20,000 for services like hers, at least you'd be guaranteed results (or you wouldn't owe her any money).

Finally, when making any decision, consider ... if the publicist you're interested in hiring does a good job, their current stable of clients will continue hiring them for all their future publicity needs. They will be taking on very few new clients. If a publicist is actively soliciting business with mass-mailings to authors, that means their former clients are no longer using their services.

Posted by Jennifer Dunne :: Link :: 1:34 PM :: 3 Comments


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Overcoming the inner procrastinator

I'm a procrastinator at times. While slogging through a tough scene, it's too easy to allow myself to be distracted by the TV or even housework. I've learned a few things that help me combat the tendency to wander around the house looking for something to do.

Set reasonable goals. For me, these are daily goals. Today's goals--Go over one chapter of rewrites of my Zarain shapeshifter novel, otherwise known as The Book without a Title. Work on Dragon-Vamp book, get voyeur scene written. If time, work on Reunion.

Be flexible. Life is going to interfere with writing--anything from emergency calls to the delivery man will arrive while you're writing. Remind yourself of that when you don't make your personal goals.

Neglect favorite TV dramas. Hard, very hard, I'm addicted to a couple shows and after two weeks, withdrawal symptoms set in.

Notebooks at hand. I keep either a spiral or a small notebook handy to jot down scene ideas, dialogue or the solution to a problem I've been having.

Keep it fun. Enjoy writing. If I'm frustrated, I'll sometimes switch to something else, maybe fleshing out an idea or work on another WIP.

Reward hard work. Take a day for yourself occasionally. Let yourself relax.

Posted by Rebecca Airies :: Link :: 10:51 PM :: 3 Comments


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ten Things I've Learned About Writing

This originally appeared in my personal blog, but response was so strong to it that I thought I'd post it over here as well. It's not so much about craft, technique or business, as it is about psychology and philosophy. But then, again, do you really need the eleventy-millionth person to tell you a bad agent is worse than no agent at all?

Ten Things I've Learned About Writing

1. You can't wait for your muse. Your muse will peek in on you, notice you're doing laundry/re-ordering your spice drawer/vacuuming the cat and decide not to bother you. You have to plant yourself in the chair (or the shower, or the cafe, or wherever you normally do your planning) and summon her.

2. A good idea isn't good enough. Ideas are a dime a dozen. You have to put the effort in to turn the idea into a story, which can only happen by writing.

3. Your idea probably isn't as good as you think it is. Generally, your first instinct will be for something that's exactly like something else you read/saw/wrote. The human brain is designed for pattern recognition. Give it the first few hints -- dark, menacing aristocratic hero; heroine of good family fallen on hard times needing to make a marriage -- and the brain is going, "I know this one!" and trotting out the plot to a Jane Austen novel or a '70s gothic.

4. Sometimes, your idea is as good as you think it is. This is usually when you've matched patterns with underlying mythic structures, like Hades and Persephone or Beauty and the Beast, but the covering is new and different. So you resonate with the older story, but you tell a new story. Learn to recognize when this is the case, and then don't mess with it.

5. Story creation is a higher-order brain function. If you're tired, sick, or in pain, it's not going to happen. (At least, it doesn't happen for me -- YMMV.) You can edit, revise, or promote existing work, but you can't create, not until you're well again. So if you want to be a writer, you're obligated to get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, and otherwise do all the health-maintenance stuff required to keep your brain performing.

6. Sometimes, you have to write anyway. If you can prop up enough of those previously mentioned pattern recognition bits, you can cobble together a story from what you already know, and then revise the heck out of it, rather than create it from scratch. But it takes about twice as long, and is three times as hard. The important thing is to get the job done.

7. Know what motivates you as a writer. Are you motivated by the shiny joys of starting a story and creating a world, or the sigh of relief when you can finally type "The End"? Do you want to do in-depth character analysis, lush and evocative worldbuilding, or intricate and complex plotting? Find the genre and format that fits what you want out of writing, and start there.

8. Play to your strengths, and learn to compensate for your weaknesses. It's been said that there are five skills that the perfect writer masters, and to be a success, you only need to perfect one and not completely stink at the other four. Of course, what those skills are, and what it takes to perfect them, are another discourse entirely. *grin* But get great at what you're good at, and get good at what you're bad at, and you'll do okay.

9. Read. A lot. In all different genres, as well as the one(s) you're writing in, and even some non-fiction. Remember what I said about pattern recognition? Well, this feeds your brain with all sorts of new and interesting patterns, and keeps you from becoming stale and derivative. Plus, you know, it's reading. And if you didn't like to read, why the heck did you want to become a writer?

10. Make friends with other writers. They're the only ones who are going to understand what you do and why you do it. If you don't want to spend your entire life being lonely and misunderstood, you need likeminded people to talk to, even if it's only electronically.

Posted by Jennifer Dunne :: Link :: 2:15 PM :: 5 Comments


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tomorrow is Release Day

I don't think I've ever been so nervous!

As a result of what I do for a living, tomorrow is my big day and it's giving me a headache, butterflies and nervous tremors. I'm a raving wreck! My husband has given up trying to talk to me, I keep zoning out while he's talking, wondering if everything is really all right. Will my work be there tomorrow when I sign on?

What is it? It's release day. A book I've worked hard with and fought for over the past three years will be available to the general public tomorrow morning. For better or for worse, my baby is out there.

This story, BLIND JUSTICE, one that's had it's ups and downs, got sidetracked a couple of times, has been contracted twice and is only now making it to public sale, has been the book of my heart. At least I think it is. There are others that are important to me, books I'll treat as if they were my children, but BLIND JUSTICE is the book that waited while: I recovered from a heart attack; was rewritten to something it shouldn't have been in a misdirection caused by signing with an agent I liked but who wasn't right for the story, and that I agreed to a contract for only to find out it would be 3 years before it saw the light of day. When given the out because of the wait, I took it--then went back to Cerridwen Press who'd offered a contract the same day as the other company - just a couple of hours too late. They still wanted it, thank goodness!

And now, tomorrow, I'll have done everything there is to do. I can't revise another word. I can't change my plot because it might be off a tad in one chapter. I can't go back and make any character better than they are now.

It's too late.

Tomorrow is Release Day.

Cross your fingers and wish me luck!

Posted by Kelsy George :: Link :: 3:30 PM :: 5 Comments


Friday, March 03, 2006

Purple Prose or Personal Preference?

Recently, I read an online article about the use of Purple Prose in romance. The author of the article included opinions from other writers on what they thought constitutes Purple Prose, complete with samples. I wholeheartedly agreed with some of the examples given, but some of them I liked and have used variations of in my writing. Although a few turns of phrase are universally accepted as being of the violet variety, some are questionable and it comes down to the writer's--and ultimately the reader's--personal preference.

As I finished the article, I realized the combined list of examples didn't leave many "acceptable" words or phrases for a writer to use. We can only employ the words cock, pussy, and the like so many times before they lose their effectiveness or turn into porn. I've read books where those words were copiously overused and I started rolling my eyes before I was halfway through the story. I'm reminded of the adolescent who just discovered dirty talk and every other word is a vulgar variant. Done for shock value, it quickly becomes tedious at best, redundant at worst. In my opinion, redundancy should be a writer's greatest fear, not the color of her prose. Shifting shades of lilac and lavender, orchid and plum would serve better than the dull repetition of certain words.

The English language is rich with an abundance of descriptive words from its own Anglo-Saxon roots as well as the many, many languages from which it has borrowed. A writer shouldn't feel limited to use only a few choice words because it's the latest fad in writing romance. Explore the language and give them all a try. Even a cliché can sound fresh from a clever writer's pen or keyboard.

I've seen erotic romance writers sneer at the mere mention of any and all euphemisms and disparage those writers who do use them. Just a reminder that cock and pussy are euphemisms, too!

Lani Aames

Posted by Lani Aames :: Link :: 5:26 AM :: 9 Comments