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Showing posts from 2009

Ramifications

"Ramifications of third level gematrian permutations of the Letter B in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales" In T.K. Mouser’s methodology, the letter B is represented by 11, typed the PhD student. While this is an improvement over the simplistic Rationalist school’s approach of equating B with 2, it remains a second level permutation, which does not allow the same complexity of third level permutation. In the third level gematria advanced by the New School, however, all attempts at consistency are abandoned and the value assigned to Letter B is determined by random selection of an integer 0-9. The same methodology, of course, is applied to the other Letters, except in Scott’s system, in which Z and X are always 0, but CH is represented as a third level Letter. After a moment, the student added, “[Note to self: What about TH?]” Reading the computer screen over the student’s shoulder, the student’s room mate said, “I don’t get it. What does this have to do with Chaucer?” “The onl

Graduate School

If you've been kind enough to wonder if I've fallen off the face of the earth, I'm afraid I have, more or less: I'm in graduate school now, working on my PhD. Until the holiday break, I won't have much time to blog. For your amusement, however, I'll post a flash fiction inspired by my studies.

Where Does Your Brain Get Your Ideas?

I think writers are more familiar than anyone with the strange and unpredictable nature of inspiration. Suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, a brilliant idea strikes. You might be awake or dreaming. You have to write it down NOW or you risk losing it. I've always known the best stories arose out of primordial mental chaos. Now, science has proved it. Networks of brain cells alternate between periods of calm and periods of instability - "avalanches" of electrical activity that cascade through the neurons. Like real avalanches, exactly how these cascades occur and the resulting state of the brain are unpredictable. It might seem precarious to have a brain that plunges randomly into periods of instability, but the disorder is actually essential to the brain's ability to transmit information and solve problems. ...and write stories.

Book Sales for 2009

How are books selling in Great Depression II? Just great! As long as you take into account that "flat is the new up"! Total U.S. book publishers’ net revenues reached $40.32 billion in 2008, up 1.0% over 2007, while 2008 unit sales reached nearly 3.1 billion, down 1.5% over 2007, according to Book Industry TRENDS 2009, the Book Industry Study Group’s comprehensive annual research study.

Writing Drunk or Sober

Some thoughts on writers and internet addiction: I am coming to suspect that the internet will be to my generation of journalists, and to any younger ones, what alcohol was to our predecessors': a destroyer first of thought and then of productivity, destructive both of the capacity to reflect, and to react, blurring everything into a haze of talk and endlessly repeated variations on the same experience. Just like alcohol, and even cigarettes once were, it seems an inevitable part of the job, one of the things that distinguishes it from all others. Stories are chased and found on the net just as they once were in bars. This won't kill journalism, or thought, of course. There were always many journalists who functioned drunk, and some who could not function any other way. ...But the internet has no edges, any more than it has depth. The sudden movement of someone else's thought across a screen is something you can follow far beyond the room in which your thoughts could be

Novels vs Poems, Integrity of Language

I've found a great way to come up with ideas for new blog posts is to just steal them from The Literary Lab and I've done that again. This post of theirs on revising has been percolating through my mind for some time now: I consulted a poet friend that I have mentioned once or twice here before. His name is Craig Cotter, and over dinner I asked him why he made certain word choices or phrase constructions in several of his poems.... What I realized was that Craig had initially limited himself to what edits he was allowed to make. The source of his inspiration, the motivation that got him to write this poem in the first place, he felt, was preserved in that first draft, not in the idea of that first draft. That meant that he couldn't revise everything. He couldn't start from scratch with the same idea, because that would be a different poem--one that he could write at a different time. My gut reaction reading this was to think, "But prose is different from poetr

Uneven Writing Quality

Even though I am not going to look at it again until I have heard back from my beta readers, I already know one problem with my wip is uneven prose. The first chapters and the last chapter are colored, curled and styled to a chic finish, whereas middle chapters look like a hair-cut by an ax. Even beta readers tend to gloss more over the middle than the beginning, as they suffer from crit fatigue. Does anyone else have this problem? Any solutions or tips?

Between Old and New

I haven't started writing yet on my Secret Novel (research continues) and I've forbidden myself from even looking at Dindi until I finish writing my critiques for my Beta partners and receive their crits on Dindi in turn. This leaves me with nothing to write or revise and I'm starting to get antsy. I've even -- deities help me -- taken to doing house work ! (Desperate times indeed.)

Why Character Driven Fiction Can Be Subtle

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I'm still at the research stage of my Secret Novel. I'm entering new territory with this novel. Dare I say it is literary? Perhaps -- I've concluded after spying on the discussion over at The Literary Lab -- not. Although the period of my piece is fairly contemporary, I see it as historical fiction. Some historical fiction is undoubtedly literary, but some must be mainstream. A definition to distinguish the two has been put forth: "what distinguishes literary fiction is what is left unsaid. Narrators may be self-absorbed or unreliable, things are pointed to without being explained." It is what happens "between the lines." Thinking about a historical novel like The Source by James Michener, I wondered if what happens is between the lines. I decided, not really. The themes are deep and mind-blowing, almost incomprehensible, despite being stated as explicitly as possible. I think most literary stories are character-focused and the game is all about inf

Choosing a Character who Sees Deeply

I really want to reveal the nature of my secret novel, before I make it so mysterious that it becomes a let down when I finally do reveal it. That said, I'm not ready to talk details yet. As Scott Bailey mentioned in the comments on his blog post about outlining, it's not so much because I'm trying to keep it secret as that I don't feel comfortable jinxing it before I have a draft. So, for now, it's still the secret novel. That said, I'll still discuss a problem in general terms, if I may. That's choosing a character who can see deeply. I have several characters already chosen for me, as it were, by the nature of the novel. I know who my four main pov characters must be, at least in broad strokes. I still have to make sure, however, that the personality of these characters is not only sympathetic enough to justify being a protagonist, but profound enough to have insights into their own situations. This is tricky. I don't want the characters to be

Running Out Of Future

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Uh oh, is science fiction running out of future? 1984? 1999? 2001? 2010... Are all the "cool dates" taken?!

RWA vs Epublishers

An interesting confrontation between the RWA and the world of epublishing, defended here by agent and author Deidre Knight. RWA’s current stance on e-books is that a publisher must offer at least a $1,000 advance in order to qualify for legitimacy. Never mind that many digital authors far exceed that amount in royalties, or sell more than 5,000 copies of print editions of their e-published titles. The problem with RWA’s simplistic criteria is that it ignores one crucial fact. Our industry is changing radically, with traditional publishers seeking innovative models for overhauling their distribution and content. ... Meanwhile, let’s talk about RWA’s position that e-published authors who make more than $1,000 in royalties are a rare exception. As an agent, I have seen a fair number of statements for clients writing for Ellora’s Cave and Samhain. The majority of these writers have passed that $1,000 benchmark within the first few months. I’m sure some of the smaller e-publishers se

Writing and Empathy

I think the basic substance of literature is the exercise of empathy. Some stories stretch our brains more deeply, but all offer the possibility of imagining other lives, other minds, and other points of view. While I believe we humans create art for art's sake (unlike ants) that doesn't mean art doesn't also enhance our existence in other ways. We put ourselves into someone else's shoes for the duration of the story. Research has shown "that merely imagining positive contact with members of an out-group can help improve attitudes towards that group." In an initial experiment, Rhiannon Turner and Richard Crisp had half of 25 students aged between 18 and 23 spend two minutes imagining a positive encounter with an elderly person, whilst the remaining students imagined an outdoor scene. These were the specific instructions for the imagined contact group: "imagine yourself meeting an elderly stranger for the first time. Imagine that during the encount

Blending Facts Into Historical Fiction

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Back at work on my Secret Novel, I'm working in a new genre -- literary (in my case, perhaps merely psuedo-literary) and historical. By historical, however, I actually mean "1978-1998" so I'm also facing a new quadary. When I am writing a story loosely based on real people, what restrictions apply? My account is fiction and names and particulars are different, but is there a point at which historical research veers off into obnoxious intrustion into privacy, or even purgery? Is it gauche to base a fictional account on someone's real biography? How overgrown with fictional elements should a portait be before it is wholly itself? And yet, if it is too changed, does it not betray the realism needed to tell the story? [ Art by Levi Van Veluw .]

Why Don't Ants Have Art?

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Lady Glamis has a series on her blog on the nature of art. Questions like this tend to send my mind down different lanes. Look at the beautiful sand castle in the picture. I would call it art if humans had crafted it. In fact, however, it's a termite fortress, and I wouldn't call it art. Not because it was created by non-humans, but because it wasn't created for any of the reasons art is created. If you are like me (I hope, for your sake, you aren't), you spend an inordinate amount of your time asking yourself, "How do humans differ from the social insects? And why?" Our species has, in some ways, much more in common with ants than with other mammals. No other mammals build heated and air conditioned appartment buildings, share nursery duties on a large scale, divide labor into different roles, wage wars. Ants do. But ants do not paint, sculpt, write or dance. They clearly could, if they were moved to, just as they weave leaves into homes or build bridg

A Wasted Day

There are many days I can't work because I have other pressing activities. That's frustrating, but it's a neccessary evil. Today, however, I had time to work, and wasted it. That's beyond frustrating. It leaves me deeply depressed. Of course, I suppose I was depressed to begin with, since instead of working, I stewed the whole day long in stressful thoughts about my inability to face the future with my current resources (mental as well as physical). It was one of those days when my inadequacies pointed and laughed at my aspirations, and even at noon, the sun shone grey. I ate too much, tasted too little. I scrolled through various Word files on my screen, but typed nothing. I thought about painting, but baskets of laundary were piled between me and my art desk. I thought about doing laundary, but returned to my computer. Scrolled some more, typed nothing. Worried some more, solved nothing. Tommorrow, I am not going to worry, and I'm not going to even try to

Another Round

I finished another round of revisions in order to have a draft for my later beta readers. In this version, which is still rough around the edges and missing one scene, I strengthened the story line of the hero. One of the critiques of an early beta reader was that the story made a promise to the reader at the start which was never carried out by the end. I've revised that so that hopefully the reader will see how the story promise has been delivered. (Vague, I know, but I don't want to get too much more specific.) While working on revisions, I've simultaneously been working on the second book, but I'm now now sure. Should I keep working on book two or should I "refresh the palette" with some work on another book? I suppose I'll follow my inspiration; if I continue to go strong on book two, I will. But sometimes it does help me to take a break between projects and work on something completely different. Does anyone else do that?

In Need of Villains

I have an idea for an Urban Fantasy, but I need an idea for the Big Baddies. I'm tired of demons, werewolves, and vampires. A goverment conspiracy run by a corrupt US senator who wants to sell arms to terrorists? Uh, no. That is so done. What kind of villains would be original, badass, re-newable (can't be just one dude, I need my heroes to plow through a lot of 'em), something interesting enough you'd like to read it? Both sf (aliens, robots) and fantasy (demons, necromancers) type ideas welcome. What kind of villain hasn't been done that would be supercool?

Guest Post on The Literary Lab

The Literary Lab was kind enough to invite me to guest blog. This week they are exploring the strengths and weaknesses of different genres. I've taken the opportunity to jot down a theory I've developed on the appeal (or repulsion) of Epic Fantasy.

Passing Time in Fiction

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Following my post on middles, I reflected on what it is about the middle which is specifically giving me the most trouble. I've decided it's because the middle is where I need time to pass, without specifically showing it. The beginning runs fairly fast, over a few weeks, and the ending runs quickly as well -- over just a few days in fact. In the middle, however, nearly a year must pass. You know those sequences in movies? Where they show montages of characters doing things, intersperced with pictures of the trees losing their leaves, growing frosty, then budding into green? How does one show this in a novel? Especially because I want the reader to have a sense of being right there with the characters all along, I don't want to say, "A year later..." because that feels like we've left the characters to their own devices for a year, then returned to them. I'd like to show little bits of scene and scenery every half dozen weeks as the year goes by, then re

Mush in the Middle

Why do the middles of books, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tend to get so mushy, squished and icky? I am trying to brush up my book and I think the beginning and ending are adequate, but Chapters 12 and 13 are simply undigestible. I honestly don't know what to do with them. Some of the problems are: * too many truncated scenes giving a staccato feel to the chapters * low tension sub-plots * time bridges * scenes which serve to set up later tension but are otherwise boring * merely cutting or combining scenes results in illogical sequencing

Torn

I have a major character who is going to make a decision which will turn him from a hero to a villian. (Or as my son would say, "a bad guy!") I'm torn. I want him to bear responsibility for his own fall. He makes the choice unaware of the ultimate consequences -- he doesn't become a villain all at once. But he does make the choice. At the same time, I also want the reader to retain sympathy for him as he descends into darkness, and even when he is called upon to do terrible things, understand why he is doing them (at least, how he justifies them). Should I have him make his initial choice -- which sends him down the "wrong" path -- already be for selfish reaons, or for altruistic reasons?

Bad Guys

My son recently discovered Bad Guys. Previously, all the stories we read to him and the tv shows he watched had no villains: Goodnight Moon, Barnyard Dance, Go Dog Go, Maisy Mouse, My Friend Rabbit, Theodore Tugboat. Now he's suddenly the biggest fan of Superman, Batman and Spiderman; and his favorite book is The Lorax. All stories with Bad Guys. (And he interprets the themes quite literally. Hence, he suggested sending Spiderman to stop the neighbors' tree trimmers.) By coincidence or not, he now also has the concept of friends, both "for real" and "for pretend." Superheroes help each other; bad guys "boom" each other. ("Boom" is always accompanied by an agitated finger gun motion.) With the introduction of antagonists--and allies--into his story lines, his imaginative play is much more sophisticated. It's funny, because I've always considered a story with no real bad guys to be the more sophisticated kind of story, albe

To Strive, To Seek, To Find, and Not to Yield

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The Literary Lab had a post recently about making each word, each sentence count in a novel. There was some argument in the comments about whether this was possible, or even desirable. One interesting accusation was that novelists who try to do this are secretly short story writers who haven't figured out the difference between 1000 and 100,000 thousand words. It may be even worse. It may be that novelists who try to do this are secretly poets. At times, especially if I've been off my meds for several days, I think of my novel as a ballad or epic of the ancient sort, in heroic rhyme. And why not? Much of the source material, the original epics upon which modern fantasies base their structure, were book-length poems. When I become stuck in my prose, and everything I type is ugly and repetitive, when all beauty and simplicity escapes me, I fall back on poetry. Seriously. I write a scene as a poem. Sometimes even with aliteration and rhyme, though often just with unrhym

When Do You Lose Your Voice?

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I've been on both sides of the beta read. In the following hypothetical situations, I've also been the reader making vague or specific suggestions. For simplicity's sake, I'll discuss it from the writer's side today. I've experienced what it's like to have someone tell me: "This paragraph [scene/chapter/last third of the book] doesn't work. You could probably cut about 10,000 useless words if you tighten this." My response: That's great, but how? If I knew which words were useless, I wouldn't have included them. Then again, the beta reader may rewrite the five-page scene where the hero and heroine storm the castle as, "They ate ice-cream." My response: Wtf? That isn't what I wanted to say, or how I would have said it. However, frequently I do accept a beta reader's suggested changes, especially of clunky sentences, even scenes, wholesale. Suppose what I had written was originally, "Laboriously, yet also s

The World's Worst Food

I needed a disgusting, yet believable food for a scene in my book. A previous scene already covered the dietary needs of cannibals, and I needed this to be even worse than that. Little did I know there were so many contenders. After some thought, I decided to keep the Icelandic name for the chosen dish, an indelicacy which has been declared "the world's worst food": hakurl -- putrified poison shark. So what does hakarl taste like then? It tastes like crying. It tastes like broken promises. It tastes like the Lord God Almighty ripping the Bible out of your hands and saying, "Sorry, this doesn't apply for you. I think you want "Who Moved My Cheese?" It tastes like the Predator wading into a Care Bears movie and opening fire. Sadly, I won't be able to use this description of it, much as I would love to.

Hearing Back From Beta Readers

Another of my fine beta readers sent comments back to me on The Corn Maiden. This is for the version prior to my current revisions, so I expected to hear about problems. It's funny, isn't it? Your head can tell you that you want hear what the problems are, you need this information; your heart, however, just wants to hear affirmations. So I opened the email and attached file with rumble-belly dread. How bad is it? Actually, the criticisms were extremely consistent with what other beta readers said. (1) To paraphrase: Why is every single character, including your MC, unable to see the Completely Obvious Plot Point? Is everyone in your story world really Too Stupid To Live? (Answer: Er... not really, no. Just the author!) (2) The pacing drags in places. (I hope to find out more about which scenes were boring when I read the line-edit comments). This beta reader also pointed out two new things: (3) The hero is too perfect; he hasn't enough flaws to seem human. (4)

Hand, Heart, Mind and Soul

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Why do we have genres? Some writers hate genre labels. They believe genres were invented by book stores to shove novels onto the narrow shelves of commercialism. This is probably true. But it's not the whole truth. I think genres exist because they recognize deep and important differences in novels. It's easy to stop thinking deeply about genre, so here's a different way to look at it. Is your story a tale of the Hand, Heart, Mind or Soul? What kind of power does you protagonist need solve his or her problem? * * * Hand - Tales of the Hand are action stories. (Perhaps these would be better called Tales of the Foot, but that sounds funny.)  To succeed, the hero needs to run for his life -- or kick ass. Usually a combination of both. The energy in this kind of story is kinetic. Non-stop action. Ticking bombs. Countdowns. Explosions. The hero of a Hand Tale might not be a brainiac, but he shouldn't be a meathead. Though the problems in this kind of story might come

Baby Steps

My second son is learning to walk. (I wish he would learn to crawl first, but he's stubborn. Clearly, this is something he gets from his father!) There's nothing more humbling than watching the determination of a child learning to walk. He wobbles and falls. He steps and falls. He falls forward on his belly, he falls backward on his butt. He tips over to one side. No matter how or how many times he falls, though, he just giggles and grins and tries to take another step. Who am I to complain about how hard it is to learn to do something right? I also should keep in mind, when I am beta reading, that it wouldn't occur to me to chide my son for screwing up at this walking business. Beyond the occasional, "Whoops! Down you go!" I don't sit there pointing out all the things he's doing wrong. I just cheer him on when he gets it right. I know the most powerful feedback is specific, positive feedback; this is something I need to remember when I give critiques.

The Next Mountain

This time the revisions are going to do the trick. This time, I'll get the book right. This mountain is the last in the range I have to climb. Then I'll be there. Or so I tell myself. I've told myself this before. On the last mountain. In fact, I've been telling myself since the first mountain. Just one more step. That will be enough. Only, it's never enough. It's still not right. There's a mountain after this one. And another mountain. And another. The truth is, I have no idea how many more mountains I have to cross till I'm over the range. I thought the journey would be so much easier when I started out. If I had known how far I had to go, what a truly awful writer I was and how hard it was to become a good writer, would I have been able to start out on that journey? Learning to write has taken me the same amount of time -- and effort -- and possibly even money -- as going to med school. For no degree and a lot less profit. If I had known that, m

The Spandrals of Literature

It goes to show how out of touch with blogging I've been lately that three favorite literary bloggers are collaborating over at the Literary Lab and I completely failed to notice until now. Truly pathetic. However, I believe my round of close edits is strengthening the book, and I'm only about a third of the way through. There's still a few extremely hard scenes left to tackle; the very last conversation between my hero and my heroine before the end of the book, for one. Meanwhile, I am ferreting out all the spandrels in my book. These are scenes which I originally included because I had to. You know, I had to logically explain how Person A arrived at Place B and how it connected to Plotline C, but beyond that, it wasn't much fun. The scene was boring but functional. Beta readers didn't always complain about these dull scenes, because it was obviously necessary to keep the roof from falling down on the plot, but no one danced the jitterbug of Oh-Wow-I-Love-This

Technomagic

In the show Babylon 5, there was an order of technomages, who used technology to simulate magic. Not surprisingly, there really are technomagicians like this one. His tricks in this video, according to my friend, were "done in real-time, no post-production graphics."

Edits Continue

I continue revivsions. I'm trying to follow Maass's suggestion of making certain each scene has microtension -- mini-mysteries and conflicts embedded at the sentence and paragraph level. Also, I was stunned to discover Dindi Book 1 lacked cannibals. I've rectified that.

Blog Lite and Notebook Computer

It's not a notebook computer, it's a notebook which thinks it's a computer. Blog Lite continues, I'm afraid, as I focus intensively on using the Maass book to strengthen The Corn Maiden. I'm finding book books to be extremely useful at this stage of my editing. I hope the changes I'm making will really help the book.

The Fire in Fiction

I'm on a Maass kick. I'm now reading The Fire in Fiction. The priciples reprise Writing a Breakout Novel and the Workbook -- this one also has "homework" at the end of each chapter -- but the examples he uses to illustrate the point are all new, so it's worth reading. You can never read too many samples of something done right.

Submissions Hollywood Style

All creative people eventually have to sell their work, usually through intermediaries. For writers its agents and editors, for actors its agents and casting directors. For your consideration, here's a peek into the submission process for actors and actresses. Ivy Isenberg is a Casting Director with a cool webshow which views actors' demo tapes and then critques them, sort of the Hollywood equivilant of Query Shark.

Writing the Breakout Novel

I'm going light on blogging while I: A) Catch up on beta reading -- which is in itself quite illuminating. So often I'll catch some problem, say, overwriting, and realize, damn, I do this too. B) At the same time, I'm using responses from my beta readers and the Donald Maass Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook to edit my Dindi story. (Yes, again. It still has not compelled five agents to scramble over themselves to represent it, so clearly it still needs work.) I've read the Maass book by the same name, but never read the workbook before. Has anyone else gone through it? C) Beyond mere editing, I'm still brainstorming like mad to figure out how to fig-leaf the ginormous plot hole in the middle of my series. This is not even something caught by my beta readers, because they wouldn't be able to see it until a few more books into the series. But I believe that through the mystical power of the Great Unconscious, they can already sense the Black Plothole sucking

New York Times Bestseller Bares All

Lynn Viehl reached covetted New York Bestseller list with her latest book Twilight Fall. And she's kind enough to give us the down and dirty on what this means to one's pocketbook. My advance for Twilight Fall was $50,000.00, a third of which I did not get paid until the book physically hit the shelf — this is now a common practice by publishers, to withhold a portion of the advance until date of publication. Of that $50K, my agent received $7,500.00 as her 15% (which she earns, believe me) the goverment received roughly $15,000.00, and $1594.27 went to cover my expenses (office supplies, blog giveaways, shipping, promotion, etc.) After expenses and everyone else was paid, I netted about $26K of my $50K advance for this book, which is believe it or not very good — most authors are lucky if they can make 10% profit on any book. This should also shut up everyone who says all bestselling authors make millions — most of us don’t. She also recieved her first royalty statment (l

Two Minds

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A quote from a book I'm beta reading struck me with particular force. "Of all the conflicts of the world, nothing can surpass the conflict between two minds wanting sole possession of the same body." Lady Glamis, struggling with some of the same issues I am in rewrites, said, "I have a feeling that the fabric full of holes might be heavier than I think." "Write what you know," we are told, as writers. "I'm sick of that phrase," she said. Me too. As if we need only to know a thing, and then expressing it will be easy. Ha. We don't write to express ourselves. We write to know ourselves. (Art by thadeoradicarlous. )

Are You Dancing Or Just Swaying Back and Forth?

Some of you may have already seen one of these links on Janet Reid's blog. More inspiration from Britain's Got Talent. It made wonder. How can you tell if you should keep holding onto a creative dream? Here are two people who are well into their lives -- one 49 one 60 -- who haven't given up. But how do you know if the world is crazy for overlooking you or if you are crazy to keep trying? How do you know if you're dancing or just swaying back and forth? * * * Here's what Paul Potts , another Britain's Got Talent discovery had to say: “I feel like I’m living on gifted time as an artist. You don’t own the time, it is given to you by your fans and public who buy your music and support you. For that I will never stop being grateful and I appreciate the journey I am on even more. In life you sometimes take a turn you weren’t expecting, you don’t know where it leads but you have to take that path. This is what happened with me and Britain’s Got Talent. I still

Show Me the Money

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I always find it interesting to see how much money authors actually make. We all know that J.K. Rowlings is the exception, not the rule; but real dollars-and-cents figures are guarded more closely than goblin's gold. I found this breakdown from one helpful e-publisher, New Concepts Publishing, about the average payout over three years for various Romance sub-genres: Average payout over three years (contract period) $450.00 Science Fiction/Futuristic range: $127.89--$8455.46 Paranormal range: $78.00--$5673.50 Contemporary range: $55.18--$7913.78 Historical range: $75.16--$3863.12 Romantic Suspense range: $124.24--$1977.20 Fantasy range: $44.00--$4774.80 Remember, all of these are actually in the Romance genre, so you sf freaks, contain your jubliation unless your aliens have their sexy on. I suspect mainstream fantasy and sf sell in much lower numbers. If anyone has any real figures, ballpark or specific, I'd be interested. * * * Small e-presses are probably the fi

twitter odyssey

So the skeptics were right!

First Person Retrospective

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Since I decided to write my Secret Novel in first person, I've been rereading some of my favorite first person novels. There are two major approaches to first person: Immediate First Person: Sometimes this means first person present tense, which is as intimate and immediate as it gets. However, even first person past tense can feel very much "in the now"; the narrator tells what she felt at the moment she is describing, nothing more. She doesn't "cheat" by implying she knows more about what happens next any more than the reader. If she misjudges someone, this is revealed only when she herself discovers it. I turned around when I heard the shot, crying, "Edwin, don't!" My eyes fell on the smoking gun first, then the body, and in my shock it took me a dozen heartbeats to make sense of the French manicure on the hand holding the gun, or the fedora hat soaking in a pool of blood. Gloria met my eyes. "That's right. I was the one who w

Death's Gift

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My adored beta readers are starting to return crits to me on my extremely long manuscript for the story formerly known as The Corn Maiden. At first, the discovery of fatal flaws in my baby drove me to despair. I planned to hack the whole thing in pieces and start all over. Further thought -- and sobriety -- offered an alternative solution, involving changes to key scenes. Hopefully this will save the whole thing from the scrape heap. I'm impatient to gnaw on to fresh meat, so I want to get this book cooked and out of the oven. In honor of the revisions, I toyed with a new title -- which, of course, required new cover art. Whatdaya all think of the latest title? Is it intriguing? Think it stinks? Prefer the other one? Like the title in theory, but for some completely other book besides the one I've written? I have two variations: Death's Gift Lady Death's Gift I like the starkness of the first one, but the second sounds more like a fantasy to me. Any tho

The Secret Nature of Things

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Everything looked beautiful, in the freshness of early spring. From a thicket close by came three beautiful white swans, rustling their feathers, and swimming lightly over the smooth water. The duckling remembered the lovely birds, and felt more strangely unhappy than ever. “I will fly to those royal birds,” he exclaimed, “and they will kill me, because I am so ugly, and dare to approach them; but it does not matter: better be killed by them than pecked by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed about by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter.” Then he flew to the water, and swam towards the beautiful swans. The moment they espied the stranger, they rushed to meet him with outstretched wings. “Kill me,” said the poor bird; and he bent his head down to the surface of the water, and awaited death. But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swa

The Rise and Fall of Literate Civilization

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Another typical screed bemoaning the loss of literary refinement in human civilization. The odd thing about this decline in general literacy is that people are probably reading more than ever. Beyond the obvious ramifications of a much more highly educated populace, the rise of the Internet has upped the amount of time a person spends reading every day. But they’re not reading Sophocles, to be sure: it’s likely that blog posts and Wikipedia, despite the fact that they put more text before more eyes, have actually hurt our cultural sensibilities. Readers accustomed to short Perez Hilton paragraphs have difficulty turning to, say, the long-winded eloquence of Faulkner, and so the good stuff gets pushed aside. It’s not even that books have been abandoned altogether. In fact, there have been some astonishing literary phenomena in recent years that probably represent the largest shared experiences of reading in history. The obvious example is the Harry Potter series, which has sold over

Amazon Sales Rankings

Dave Fortier provided some links to explain the Mystery That Is Amazon Sales Ranking. Amazon's algorithm for sales ranking is complicated and some recent attempts to extrapolate the data have yielded some basic guidelines. Discusses approximate sales from sales ranking. Here he mentions that a book needs to sell a copy a year on Amazon, through Amazon direct or a marketplace merchant, to have an approximate sales rank of 2,000,000. Less than a sale a year results in a larger number, or a worse ranking. A book without a sales ranking has yet to make a sale. Similarly, Brent Sampson yields this list: 2,000,000+ Perhaps a single inventory/consignment copy has been ordered 1,000,000+ Current trends indicate total sales will most likely be under 40 100,000+ Current trends indicate total sales will most likely be under 200 10,000+ Estimate between 1 - 10 copies being sold per week. 1,000+ Estimate between 10 - 100 copies being sold per week. 100+ Estimate between 100 - 20

Internal vs External Motivation

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As I struggle with finding the beginning, ending, voice and person, for my Secret Novel, I return each time to the characters themselves. Many of you have given me the advice, "Listen to what the characters tell you." I pondered this wisdom deeply and realized something profound. I have no frickin' idea what my characters are telling me. Here's the problem. I know the shape of my story well... but only from the outside. I know what happens to my characters. But I don't know what happens within my characters. I realize this is odd. Usually, I know what my characters want before I know what will stop them from getting it. For various reasons, mostly because my secret novel is inspired by real events, I know all the obstacles but none of the aspirations. My characters have external motivation. Bad things happen to them. But what is their internal motivation? What keeps them going despite the bad things? This is what I have to discover. I usuall

Blind Picket Author's Guild

Here's another view of the Author's Guild dispute with the Kindle. The National Federation of the Blind's Imbroglio with the Author's Guild and their distaste for the Kindle 2's text-to-speech function is heating up. Today they took it to the Guild's own doorstep here in NYC. Basically the story is this: the Author's Guild raised issue with the Kindle 2's new robotic text-to-speech feature, which can read any Kindle book aloud in a synthesized voice—naturally, a feature that would be an absolute delight for the vision impaired. The Author's Guild, however, saw things differently, stating that eBooks are not sold with "performance" rights and that the Kindle's read-aloud feature would cut into the sales of audio books. And last month, Amazon caved to the Guild, giving individual publishers the ability to disable the text-to-speech reader for specific books. ...We're all about getting people paid for their work, but to cite lost r

Ending - Twist or Plunge

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The End. I always type those words at the end of my first draft. (Sometimes, if I'm trying to be sophisticated, I type "Fin" instead.) Fins are considered fishy these days, but I still like the taste of them. There's a lot to say about endings, and Natalie the Ninja has some good advice on writing endings, especially for those who are nearing the completion of a manuscript right now. My concern at the moment is a little different. My Secret Novel is not yet begun, never mind near complete. As I've mentioned before, I seldom begin a book without knowing how things will end. So, in a sense, this post is actually the counterpart of my discussion of beginnings. Just as beginnings can be marathons or relays, so endings can be likened to the final run on a roller coaster: the Plunge or the Twist. The plot of a book is like a roller coaster, full of of ups and downs, twists and curves. At the climax of the ride, you have to decide -- how will the ride end? Some r