Friday, October 29, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
First published in 1990, a good portion of its content—most notably the last chapter “The Life and Business of Writing”—contains decidedly outdated information. And clocking in at just 140 pages (including the index), this is certainly no definitive tome on the art of writing science fiction and fantasy. That said, it would hardly be an Orson Scott Card book if it failed to offer some nuggets of dazzling pertinence.
This is not a perfect book by any stretch of the imagination. Card could have doubled his page count without disappointing me. But the pearls of wisdom contained herein are too good to miss.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Between the covers of this short book, Terry tells all--from surviving the fifteen-minute interview at a writers conference to writing a killer proposal. He explains what is meant by "comparables" and why they're necessary, and what a "platform" is. He gives ideas for how to promote yourself and your book. And, he takes you inside the acquisition editor's mind to give you a head's up on what to look for in your own manuscript.
A massive percentage of manuscripts are refused even before they are read because the authors didn't prepare their query correctly, they didn't follow instructions--or didn't bother to read them. Before you submit, before you attend the agent/editor interview, read Terry's Survival Guide. It'll give you a leg up in the process so you can survive to that final round of refusals--the round that actually includes reading the manuscript.
Port Yonder Press is a stickler for perfection, and I believe we have put together an exceptional product for our readers on Terry's behalf. I'm not going to say it's absolutely perfect, because no sooner than I commit that statement to print, someone will write me and say I missed a comma on page 53.
If you've written the end on your manuscript, if you've polished it until the sun reflects blinding rays into your eyes, if you're ready to hit the publication trail, you need A Writer's Survival Guide to Getting Published.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
However, a second look shows that the only reason Atwood “gets away” with it is because she’s a master storyteller who knows exactly what she’s doing. The very first thing she does in opening her story is to raise a question. In a few poetic paragraphs, she introduces a character, known to the three main characters, and then drops the bombshell: this character has reappeared on the scene years after her own funeral. How can readers not keep reading?
Monday, October 18, 2010
Johne here. I've been looking forward to this interview for a long time. I discovered Carole McDonnell through friends, through The Lost Genre Guild, and through Facebook. Her book, Wind Follower, isn't the kind of thing I'd normally go looking for, and yet so many people I respect raved about it that I finally tracked down a copy myself on Amazon. It is an amazing book.
If you haven't yet read Carole McDonnell, you will.
Key for this interview - AuthorCulture = AC: Carole McDonnell = CM
AC: I’ve gotten to know you from a variety of places. You have a unique perspective. From what I know of you, you don’t strike me as one who walks the beaten path. How would you say that you came to be the person you are? What would you consider the most important influences which have molded you?
CM: Like anyone else who walks the unbeaten path, I pretty much found myself there. I don't think I'm brave enough to have entered it willingly. I suppose being an immigrant influenced me. I arrived in the U.S. when I was eleven. That's the age kids start learning how to deal with the world outside the family. So, just when I was learning the rules of how to be a Jamaican, I suddenly had to learn how to be an American. And not only an American, but a little Black girl whose family had integrated a white Jewish building in Brooklyn. That was the home front. In school, I ended up in a white mini-school inside the larger school. I believe anyone who migrates as a kid gets interested in communication issues and in "belongingness" but somehow I ended up with a really bad case because alienation was thrown in — alienation from my own culture and from the culture I was now involved in. That gets extended to other areas and "cultures."
My friend, Nick Wood, a really great South African speculative Writer, says that I "walk the borderlands." Which is a nice way of saying it. I just tend to stand outside of all the groups I belong to. I'm Christian but am always disagreeing with Black and White Christianity. I'm Black but am generally not in the African-American or Jamaican camps when it comes to many issues. On the whole, the folks I get along with are religious oddballs. If someone really loves God, fights the oppressor, and is emotionally wounded, that person is going to become a close friend. And I like those people because they also have had to be brave as they go through the world, they understand the societal, emotional, and political alienation.
AC: What were your influences as a reader growing up? What are you reading right now?
CM: My mother was an Anglophile. Most educated Jamaicans her age worshiped everything English. She grew up poor in the country without money for books so she had to memorize them. Upshot, she was always repeating long passages from novels by Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens etc. She read only the great literary classics, and so did we. Even now, it takes a whole lot to make me read a contemporary fiction book. When Mama came to the US as a nurse, she went to college and so our house was filled with her studybooks, which my sister and I read because they were always in the house — as were we; Mama never let us out, because she was afraid we would end up coming home with "the belly" like all the other kids around us. She was into anthropology, Black history, medicine. So that's what we read. Plus we watched a whole lot of PBS and cartoons. On PBS, we watched the Janus film collection of great foreign films and documentaries about archeology, anthropology, history, and a ton of British period pieces.
What am I reading now: The Value of Nothing by Raj Patel; Hard as the Rock Itself: Place and Identity in the American Mining Town by David Robertson; The Bible.
AC: What is your pedigree as an author? How did you come to write novels?
CM: Pedigree? Oh my! Am not sure if I have a pedigree. I grew up reading a lot of short stories by great dead authors. I like short stories. But I am so in love with characterization and worldbuilding that my stories usually opened so many doors and brought up so many questions. It takes a great skill to write a good short story and my love of world-building and character development novels fights against my ability to write anything short. Actually, that love fights against me writing good novels as well. Honestly, I get so caught up in exploring the ramifications of a certain speculative world that if I'm not careful I would roam through the world utterly forgetting the plot. That is one of the flaws of Wind Follower. (It has quite a few flaws but I love that book dearly.) Its pacing is a bit off. If I understood my tendency to roam speculative worlds, and to be affected by the pacing of foreign art films, I probably would've written it differently. But as it is, I'm glad I didn't know all that about myself. Because as it is, it's a good little book. And I'm glad for that slow pacing and those exploratory scenes.
AC: Wind Follower is a unique novel that seems to defy easy genre identification or labeling. What was the inspiration for this story?
CM: Oh wow, so many things went into that book! It started out as a YA book. It started out as a story about a Black slave girl who escaped to Comanche territory and fell in love with a warrior. I did a ton of research on Native American tribes and decided I loved the Comanche best because they reminded me of the Yanomamo (the Fierce People of the Amazon.) I've always liked fierceness. I'm always interested in what human nature us and how culture, folklore, and religion affect so-called human nature. What are people like without the restraint put on them by religion? How do people play with the religion and spirituality they inherit?
I also love fairy tales and the Childs Elizabethan and Scottish ballads. Many of my short stories and poems are based on fairy tales. My story, Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair was based on a ballad and had just been published. So I was walking downtown humming some of my favorite ballads and I started singing, "The Trees They Grow High" (also known as He's Young but He's Daily Growing) and I realized Wind Follower was about a woman who gets betrothed to a rich man's son in order to pay off a debt.
I have also thought that Christian writers have messed up creatively. There are so many genres we could have explored or even invented, but because of denominational issues (such as a distrust of imagination) or political issues (such as American Christian identification with the American country and government) or personal issues (such as racism, ethnocentricism, distrust of sexuality, priggishness) most Christians would never write. I said to God, "Give me the ideas and I will write them." So I consider myself a Christian who writes stories other Christians would never write. Something about being alienated makes one no longer care what people think. The next thing I knew, Wind Follower had appeared in its present guise. It took a lot of courage to write it because I still worry about what people think. But I've learned to work against the fear.
AC: I was introduced to Wind Follower by strong (and diverse) word-of-mouth raves from all sides, from people I know and respect, from total strangers, and from everyone else in between. From my limited vantage, it appears to be hit across a broad spectrum of readers. When you were writing the book, did you have any idea it would be as widely embraced despite the apparent barriers?
CM: It's widely embraced??? Neat! See, I didn't know that. Knowing this will knock a chip off my shoulder. Or maybe it'll make the chip a little smaller.
So I thought: White Christians will be offended at it because they believe the USA was given to them by God; Many Black Speculative Fiction writers will be offended because they dislike Christianity (the religion of the white oppressor etc) and would rather a book be about African Spirituality or totally atheistic or agnostic; Fantasy lovers are accustomed to Wicca, elves, Norse religion, etc but not Christianity; Christian fantasy lovers are used to apocalyptic stuff like Left Behind, Narnia, or Lord of the Rings. I was putting some new world before them that they would have to accept-- something they would probably be challenged by.
But I also felt that it wasn't typical and if people gave it a chance it would do well. Some White folks don't want to read Black Fantasy or Sword and Soul because the world is strange to them. They're used to vampires, shape-shifters, elves and the like. But they're also afraid they'll be stuck with accusatory or "meaningful" literature — a burden from college and high school when Black stories were read to enlighten the white student about oppression and not really for fun. And few secular fantasy readers won't pick up fantasy about Christ unless it's something like Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ. They're afraid of being preached at. But I thought. . . well, Wind Follower is a little different and one day Chupacabras from Mexican folklore, Asian spirits, and Arabian djinns will make fantasy more multicultural. And one day having a Christian worldview in a fantasy story (written by someone who actually believes in the Bible and Jesus) might be acceptable.
AC: Writing a daring novel is one thing. Selling it is another. Wind Follower strikes me as Fantasy but almost seems to be a genre unto itself. How did you find a home for Wind Follower?
CM: Total grace of God kinda thing. I network with a lot of people so I was told there was a new publisher — Juno Books — looking for manuscripts. Since it was a new publisher, Juno hadn't quite decided what kind of fantasy it would do. They've since decided to do urban fantasy so shape-shifters, demons, vampires now abound. I sent another WIP, The Daughters of Men, because I thought Wind Follower was too religious and they wouldn't accept it. The editor, Paula Guran, said it needed a lot of work. I had been working on Daughters of Men for ages and I hadn't touched it in two years or so. Then I said in passing, well I have this other WIP that I just started. It's called Wind Follower. She looked at it and immediately accepted it (much to my surprise). She later said she wouldn't have accepted it at another time, but it came in at the right time.
AC: You’ve said strange things happen if you’re a writer who happens to be cross-genre. I presume some of those things are negative or challenging, but have there also been unexpected or wonderful things as well?
CM: True. The first review was from a reviewer in Malaysia. She was a reviewer of romances and didn't usually review speculative fiction. She loved Wind Follower. I took that as a sign from God that the book would be loved in the rest of the world, possibly receiving more honor in other countries than in the US. I also got a great compliment from someone from Africa. And have gotten fans from The Philippines and Taiwan. The book speaks to people and Christians who understand the kind of folkloric spirituality that deals with demons, dreams, and the like. So it turns out all that anthropology reading has helped me write a book that really speaks to folks in Asia, Indonesia, India, Africa, and Latin America.
AC: I’ve enjoyed following you on Facebook where it appears that your day-to-day life is an adventure. How do you navigate a full personal life with the realities of life as an author?
CM: With God's help. I am not too happy about the adventure at times and I'm a bit of a whiner, as you know. On the practical level, I can navigate because I have a sweet husband who treats me like a queen. So I get away with a lot. And I have learned to take advantage of his sweetness. On a creative level, having a son labeled disabled and dealing with my own health issues affect my stories. I can't imagine what kinds of stories I would write if I were well with a well child. As it is, all my stories deal with illnesses, have disabled or ill characters (usually young boys), and have characters at war with the clans to which they belong.
AC: What are you working on currently? How are those projects going?
CM: I'm working on Constant Tower, a novel. This was hard going because I couldn't quite get the narrative voice right. I always have trouble with that. If I'm not careful, I end up with a kind of knee-jerk highfalutin' pseudo King James Version speak. I have to be careful of that. It's uneven right now. Some parts have a contemporary modern sound and some parts are high fantasy. So I have to work on that. In addition, my two beta readers told me they loved it more than Wind Follower and that it's better written but that it is too bleak. They especially objected to the killing off of a character. So I had to remove the last 100 or so pages and find a new ending. This revision put me off schedule but it feels as if I've found the right path. Although this one is not as religious as Wind Follower, there's a bit of courage involved in writing it as well. My young male warriors are so touchy-feely wounded types in a world of machismo that I'm afraid readers will want to slap some manhood into them. Takes a lot to write such easygoing almost feminine male heterosexual characters in fantasy. There's also the way marriage is done. Two men and a woman form a marriage bond. So that will bother a few folks.
There's also a YA novel called My Life as an Onion. Another novel where I have a voice issue and which is also religious. It's about a girl with the gifts of discerning of spirits. So yeah, she sees demons and generational curses on families. Plus she's in love with a rich guy and she's quite mercenary because this guy and his money is the key to her future happiness. Hard to write because I believe in her cause, and I know feminists will utterly want to slap her . . . and me. But it's a book I want to write. And I truly believe one should write for one's self.
Am also working on a Christian demonic succubus erotic story called The Night Wife. I always laugh whenever I see folks romanticize demons and demon lovers. I figured I'd write an urban fantasy story from a Christian viewpoint. Erotic and utterly religious in one book, something to make folks who think they know demons see the truth of the way-too-romanticized situation.
AC: What advice would you give to up-and-coming authors about making it as a novelist?
CM: I'd say to join one or two critique groups. They should also buy a lot of books about writing or study from the internet. So many new writers aren't humble and simply won't take advice. Humility brings you a long way. They should network and always be ready to learn. They should also choose if they want to write for fame and simply want to be published, or if they want to write the book they want to read.
Thanks so much for interviewing me.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I realize I should be charging big, big bucks for this. But I’m feeling kind of charitable today. So here goes…
#1 You must love to read. Every minute that you’re not reading something should include at least fifteen seconds (or more) of wishing you could be reading. (Listening to audio books counts.)
#2 You must want to write more than you want to be a writer (or want to have written).
#3 You must write. A lot. More than you think you need to. A million words is a good starting point.
#4 You must find time to read more and write more…and then find time to do even more of both.
#5 You must learn to juggle total confidence with abject humility. (It helps to be both fearless and terrified too.)
#6 If publishing is your goal, get a new goal. Writing better is the only goal. Don’t write for markets or toward trends. Don’t write for your spouse or your enemies or your mother. Write for the page; that’s it.
#7 You must actually care…care enough to read and to write while everyone else is watching TV…care enough to change your schedule and get your work done…care enough to fake confidence when you need it and stare down fear when you can’t…and you must care more about the words on the page than what other people think about them. If you don’t care, no one lese will. And if you do care, most people still won’t. You have to care enough to overcome all that nonsense.
#7.5 Do NOT take my word for it.
Extra credit: Learn the art of napping. Unless you sell a million copies…and you probably won’t…you’re going to need it. And if it bums you out that you probably won’t sell a million copies, go back to step one and start over.
Extra extra credit: Despite that last sentence, be prepared to have to go back and start over every single day. I certainly do.
Michael Snyder resides in Tennessee, works for a living, plays the guitar, and writes some of the most unique books on the market today. If you're a genre-locked reader, you may not see the appeal in Mike's novels. But if your mind is open to the heroism of the average Joe and the beauty of the plain Jane, if quirky, flawed characters steal your heart faster than Harlequin hunks and biker babes, you're in for a treat.
My Name is Russell Fink and Return Policy, Mike's first two masterpieces. The third is in edit.
Monday, October 11, 2010
We are daily bombarded with stimuli that affect our senses. These are what help us interact in tactile ways with the environment around us. We move throughout our day, touching, tasting, smelling, seeing and hearing all sorts of things.
When we sit down to read a book, we want to experience those same sensations but with the mundane removed and a dash of excitement sprinkled in.
The sense of sight is probably the easiest to incorporate in fiction, because we are constantly conveying what our characters see. Touching is probably also not too hard to remember to bring in. But revealing what our characters are tasting, smelling and hearing can be overlooked - especially if you, as the author, have never personally experienced what your character is experiencing.
As with anything, you have to be careful that you don't overdo it, but it is important to dust your writing with these sensory stimuli.
Let's take a scenario and examine it to see how incorporating the senses can enhance description.
John and Mary are police officers. They've just received a call that the missing child they've been searching for might be in the basement of a house on 2nd Street. We are in Mary's POV. Our scene might go something like this....
Now, let's look at the same scene and try to insert some sound, smell and touch and taste into it.
A surge of adrenaline threatened to close off Mary's throat and she concentrated on breathing slowly, methodically, as she leapt from the car and dashed around it to follow through the groaning gate and up the path.
The butt of her Beretta firm and familiar against the palm of her hand, she scanned the small yard. Knee-high grass poked out from between corpulent bags of trash and brown beer bottles. The rusty corpse of what had once been a ford pick-up rested on cinder blocks in the corner, the sagging fence leaning against it.
Around the corner and there should be a set of steps leading down to the basement, the caller had said.
John took the stairs three at a time yelling, "Police! Open up!" just before his feet crashed against the door and the lock gave way with a splintered groan.
Musky air draped over her arms, damp and sticky, and the stench of human waste triggered her gag reflex. John's light stabbed into a dark corner illuminating a tottering stack of cardboard boxes intermixed with garbage bags and an old desk that appeared to be missing a leg. She clicked on her own light and shone it into the opposite corner.
There, wide-eyed, hands tied behind her back and duct-tape over her mouth, lay AnnaMarie. She was breathing wildly, but alive. Definitely alive. The girl whimpered and flinched away from the bright light and Mary quickly averted the beam.
"Oh thank-you, God!" she exclaimed.
Okay, so in order to keep this post short I've sort of rushed this scene and left out some things that I might ordinarily put in, like a little dialog. And in reality there would need to be more characters, because John and Mary wouldn't go into a situation like this without lots of back-up. But I think you can get the gist of what I'm trying to say from this. Notice I didn't insert too much extra information. Nor did I add any taste into this scene. But you could talk about the taste of adrenaline, or she could chew her lip as she's scanning the yard and taste blood, etc.
You tell me what you think. Does the addition of sensory input into the second version liven it up? Make it more interesting? How have you incorporated the senses into your current project. Give us examples.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Inspiration is a slippery thing at the best of times. But, as writers, we can’t afford to wait around on Madame Muse’s good will. In this 60-minute audio presentation, I show you how to nurture creativity and put it at your summons, rather than the other way around. After listening to this CD, you will be able to:
- Build a lifestyle that encourages inspiration
- Say goodbye to destructive guilt over “wasting” time on creative endeavors
- Discover why inspiration isn’t so much a feeling as an act of will
- Understand what to do when your best-laid plans go awry
- Use your non-writing time to boost your creative energy
- Apply specific tips to prevent and combat writer’s block
- Instill habits for improving your efficiency and commitment as an author
I’ve also recently updated my main site and added some exciting new projects, including First Chapter Story Consultation and the Helping Writers Become Authors Network. So be sure to swing by and take a look around!
Monday, October 4, 2010
According to Aggie Villanueva, it's: When do I start promoting it?
And her answer is: Get busy promoting it now.
And one of the first and simplest ways is contacting all the interviewers and reviewers you know of with a submission letter. Most of them work three to six months ahead, or more, so contact them now.
Land Interviews and Reviews
Over the years I’ve compiled a list of over 200 interviewers and reviewers who specialize in just about every genre, to be used for just this occasion.Never let a contact you make go unrecorded in your little black book.
I’m awaiting my own publication date for my new how-to-write book that actually has nothing to do with writing, The Rewritten Word: How to Sculpt Literary Art no Matter the Genre. I’ve already landed twenty people.
I count it as “people” rather than interviews and reviews because half of them do both for you, and many reviewers post it to several sites, giving you so much more publicity from their one review. One of my reviewers posts hers to forty-four different sites.
Some of these wonderful-world-of-author-promotion people go even further. Some asked for feature articles, guest posts, and interviews about other aspects of your writing, inclusion in their newsletters, etc.
Because of my prepublication efforts just with interviewers and reviewers, in three days I have a minimum of 124 separate places on our World Wide Web that will be talking about my book for the next six months--so far. Not everyone has responded.
Social Media Contests & Announcements
And of course you and I will make announcements to our social media following and our precious email subscribers, offering give-aways, contests, Facebook Event Parties, contests at your Facebook Page, retweeting contests etc. We’ll have so many different things going on that our daily posts will overflow with freebie offerings galore.
I consider all these basic and first and on-going steps. Once I’ve fielded all the responses for interviews and reviews and hosted several social media give-away contests, it’s time to start thinking about my next “event.”
Conduct On-line Events
Events are a lot of work but so much fun for everyone involved. Because these are the events I throw for myself, they are also the events I offer as an author publicist at Promotion a la Carte (you can find the full details about each at my company site).
I’ve already begun planning for a huge three-day Book Party in January of 2011. (Read about how I conduct one). This is one of my clients’ favorite events, and mine too. It’s a lot of work but you get to work with the great sponsors you acquire and lots of readers who will buy the book to be eligible to participate. Study how I do it at Promotion a la Carte and see what you can come up with specifically for your own book.
Readers love this kind of event because there is a windfall of wonderful prizes and lots of interaction, like the Author Confessions, Treasure Hunt, and Retweet Contest which affords three winners a spectacular grand prize.
During events like this three-day Book Party, or the equivalent that you dream up on your own, you and your sponsors get great amounts of publicity and site traffic, readers get the best value imaginable just for buying a book and subscribing, and you often make life-long friends. It’s a win-win-win.
Virtual Book Tour
Just when the work and fun of these events begin to die down it’s time for a virtual book tour. This aspect takes a whole lot of work too. You thought you were done writing for a few months?
Don’t even think about it.
Now you start writing dozens of guest posts, articles, interview questions, and more. Write everything you can think of for blog tour hosts to pick from when they agree to be a stop on your tour. You need dozens of them if you want dozens of tour stops.
Your tour should last at least two months with about three stops per week. Hopefully your response will take you another few months more. Plan to give away a book at each stop, and then a super cool grand prize for someone who has followed the entire tour (made a comment at each stop and at your own blog site).
See our Virtual Book Tour product page for a link to purchase a great practical ebook on conducting your own book tour by Cherie Burback, Virtual Blog Tours.
Spend a Full Year on Huge Promotional Pushes
There is nothing new or innovating here. There are expected and tried and true promotional methods every author who wants to succeed takes. And you should dedicate a full year to huge publicity pushes, one after the other.
As your creative juices get flowing you will come up with ideas and prizes and sponsor prizes specific to your own book’s theme. And the fun will snowball.
Surrounding yourself with promotional efforts was never so easy. And your book might even make many of the various best seller list because of your efforts.
Bio: Aggie Villanueva is a critically acclaimed photographic artist, bestselling novelist and non- fiction writer, a marketing expert whose marketing blog, Visual Arts Junction, was voted #5 at Predators & Editors in the category “Writers’ Resources, Information & News Source” for 2009, less than a year after founding it. She is the owner of Promotion a la Carte author promotions, and regular contributor at the prestigieous marketing blogs BookBuzzr, and Orange Soda, an SEO marketing company.
Friday, October 1, 2010
“Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.”
“Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure.”
“People do not deserve good writing, they are so pleased with bad.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Television has raised writing to a new low.”
“Only a mediocre writer is always at his best.”
—W. Somerset Maugham
“With sixty staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and definite hardening of the paragraphs.”
“A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.”
“I just wrote a book, but don’t go out and buy it yet, because I don’t think it's finished yet.”
”Writing is learning to say nothing, more cleverly every day.”