Showing posts from September, 2012

When Should You Read Literary Novels?

Puddlepaws, the Gratuitously Adorable Kitten, from The Initiate None of this post will apply if you regularly read (or write) in the literary genre. I love literary small dribbles. There are are certain gorgeous books, with such exquisite sentences and turns of phrase that they seduce my inner logophile into rapturous sighs of bliss. I can usually make it half-way through such a book before I realize I'm...bored. The rest of the journey is a slog. Often, I'll find that the true power of the story doesn't hit until the end. So it's worth it to push through that boring part. It's not like the boring part of a badly written story, which you'd be better off without. It's drawing you in to the character's world or mind, making you love this person against all logic and expectation. Literary novels revolve around people who aren't admirable doing things that aren't interesting. The literary writer's job is to write so beauti

Countdown to the Release of Wing, Book 5 of The Unfinished Song

You've been waiting. You've been asking. You deserve to know... When is Wing coming out?! And the answer is: Oct 12, Friday, 2012. If you aren't on the list to receive a free copy , go sign up now and I'll squeeze you in!

The Hobbit And the Lego Hobbit Trailer

And at last you can build your own Lego hobbit habitats ... I know you've been waiting for that as long as I have! You can also  play Lego Lord of the Rings . Lego games, by the way, are awesome. I don't have this one yet, but I've played Lego Raiders of the Last Ark and Lego Star Wars , and they were really fun. It's strange that watching videos of toys should be that enjoyable...really strange, now that I think about it...but it is.

That Dread Brought On By The Middle Of A Book

Over at Six Words for a Hat, Scott, who writes both fast and well (damn him) is in the middle of a manuscript : Thirty-thousand words puts me somewhere in the middle of the novel, or somewhere toward the sixty percent mark if I stick with the plan of making it a 50,000-word novella. In either case, I’m now in the middle of the middle. I discovered this project middleness not by figuring the word count of the draft, but rather by noticing that I have been feeling a powerful sense of disquiet about writing. The feeling that this novel is an empty, pointless thing and that indeed every novel I’ve written is an empty, pointless and likely embarrassing book is a sure sign that I’ve arrived at that stage in the drafting process where I’ve got to just brass my way forward through the writing and work toward the final act, which I recall once thinking was a good idea to write. This feeling is so familiar and so predictable that I am almost bored by it. Yes of course, I say. Right on schedule

Introducing New Assistant

Hey everyone! My name is Katie Earley and I’m Tara’s shiny new assistant. I’m here to help launch Book 5 of The Unfinished Song series and take some other pesky tasks off of Tara’s plate so she can focus on what she does best: writing. A little about me… I live in Louisville, KY with a sweet husband, cutest 1-year-old ever, anxious mutt, fluffy cat, and quiet fish. I have a BA in English from Centre College and a Creative Writing minor. I lovelovelove Jane Austen, Harry Potter, Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation and When Harry Met Sally. The Big Bang Theory is about the only sitcom my husband will watch me. (Would you count The Guild as a sitcom? We like that too.) In the free time I fantasize about having, I would sew more and maintain a full cookie jar. If you have any great ideas for us, including but not limited to guest posts, fan art, or cupcake recipes, please email them to me at . Be sure you’re following Tara on Twitter and

How To Write A Series - 01 - Introduction

The most successful books -- and movies -- are part of a larger whole. A series. I'm writing one myself, twelve volumes long. (Secretly, I'm hoping you knew that.) I happen to be right in the middle of the series, which is a tough place to be. For one thing, it means I'm working on more than one book at a time. Book 5 is in revisions, being "polished"; I've completed the rich outline for Book 6; and I'm blocking out the outline for books further out... all at the same time. My heart is with the book I'm writing, and it's hard to make myself return to the previous work for editing. When I do get into it, there's a danger I'll re-write too much. The purpose of polish is just to polish the gemstone, not change from a square cut to an oval. The lure of outlining future books is dangerous too; there's a temptation to jump ahead and start writing those scenes instead of keeping my focus on the book in front of me. Then there are the p

Space Shuttle Flying Over Hollywood Sign

The space shuttle flies over Hollywood. Time for my Close-up! On its way to a second career at the California Science Center.

Putting the 'Epic' in Epic of Gilgamesh

Tolkien is usually credited with kicking off the fantasy genre, but if Ancient Summaria had had a higher literacy rate than 0.000001% back in the 18th Century (we're talkin' BC here), it might have been the Epic of Gilgamesh. This epic has all the qualities we now consider epic fantasy. Behold and marvel: 1. The mighty hero. You can't deny Gilgamesh is a badass. He's not a perfect man, which makes him a perfect hero. Like many a fantasy hero, he's a king but one who, inexplicably, leaves the boring work of debating about health care tax reforms to his minions and spends his time traveling the world in search of adventure and immortality. He's also an antihero. What--you thought that was a recent development? When we first meet Gilgamesh, he's a brutal tyrant and a womanizer, sleeping with all the new brides on their wedding nights. Shame on you, Gil.  2. The mighty sidekick. A hero is only as good as his sidekick. Gilgamesh has this in Enkidu.

Hero vs Everyman

Let's say you have a character, Jane, who is having some problems in her marriage. You might have Jane sitting at a cafe, sipping her latte and ruminating over her divorce. At the next table, she overhears a bickering couple. What happens next? Jane's reaction to the bickering couple will depend on where her character stands on the Hero/Everyman spectrum. Orson Scott Card discusses this in his book on Characters. As readers, we want to identify with a protagonist. The protagonist has to be human enough, ordinary enough, that we can relate to him and his hurdles. At the same time, we want the protagonist to be someone whom we admire, and to whom we can aspire: someone like us but a little bit better than us. A hero. If Jane is living in a literary novel, she's likely to be as "ordinary" and "real" as possible, which means she probably won't even remark on the couple's conversation. The author will slyly allow the reader to make the conne

WiP Wednesday and Call for Beta Readers for Wing

Wing, Book 5 of the Unfinished Song, is finished. I'll be announcing the release date next week. The manuscript is with the editor and the alpha readers. It's about 90,000 words. If anyone would like to be a Beta reader to proofread and help us hunt down typos, email me and let me know. Ideally, you'd receive a copy sometime be able to read it and get it back to me within a week.  I might not be able to take everyone who asks, but it's worth a try if you are interested. I already have a few people on the list. I can't post too long an excerpt from Blood, The Unfinished Song, Book 6, without giving away spoilers for both Wing and Blood, but here's a scene from the Prologue in which we see Vessia back in the days when she was War Leader of the Aelfae. For the first time, we meet some Aelfae and see things from their point of view during the last stages of the generations-long War with humans. Remember, there is still time to sign up for the Newsletter

How To Raise The Stakes In Your Novel

In an earlier post , I mentioned that to improve a scene or entire novel, one question to ask is, Can I raise the stakes? Maybe the answer is Yes. Great! How? The principle is simple--any activity that differentiates a living being from a rock raises the stakes. Yes, yes, rocks don't have midlife crisis about whether their spouse is leaving them or whether their Art is Truly Great, but that's not what I'm talking about. High stakes have to touch a basic need of living things. Put yourself in the shoes of your main character and imagine one of these needs is at risk: 1. Your life. The most obvious thing to put at risk is the character's life. Escape a predator, a hired killer, a band of orcs. Don't crash the plane, survive on the island, be the winner in the televised fight to the death against other human contestants. 2. The life of someone you love. Humans are social so there may be goals even more important than our own lives. The lives of our

Is Harper Voyager's Deal Worth Taking?

I think we'll be seeing a lot more of this : Harper Voyager has launched an international talent search, with aspiring writers invited to submit their un-agented manuscripts directly to the publisher. The HarperCollins sci-fi and fantasy imprint will be opening a two week window in October where writers can submit their novels, with plans to publish selected titles digitally. Writers are wondering if this is a good deal . Obviously before the digital revolution and the possibility of cutting out an extra layer of middlemen, this would have been a great opportunity. But is it now? I have a couple of thoughts: 1. The only possible reason to go with a traditional publisher at this point would be to get your books into a bookstore, hopefully in hardcover. So why on earth would you sell ebook rights only? 2. There's no such thing as "free" editing, cover, proofreading and promotion. You are paying for these services by forking over a huge percentage of your roy

Seven Questions To Ask To Improve a Scene (or an Entire Novel)

Or you could just add Taylor Kinney. There are seven questions you can ask your about your book before you begin to write it, which will make it a stronger book. Those questions work best if you ask them before you actually sit down to write. Now, if you're like me, and sitting in front of a computer with a finished or progressing manuscript, these questions might frustrate you--it's a little too late to change the stakes of your entire novel. It's not too late to help strengthen the novel scene by scene , however. As you know, I'm a strong proponent of the idea that strong scenes make a stronger book . I've blogged on this before. (I label each draft of my novel with a letter of the alphabet, and I usually get to those squiggly ones near the end. This is undoubtedly excessive. But as you can see, I obsess over making my scenes awesome.) So look at each scene individually and ask yourself these seven questions: 1. How can I raise the stakes? There are

Three Tips On How To Show Theme in Your Novel

I discuss my series The Unfinished Song, though I have tried to avoid details or reveals, I do discuss themes, characters and events in the books which might be spoilers. If you haven't read it yet, you can start the series here for free: The Unfinished Song: Initiate (kindle or kindle app) . Or, if you want a different format, email me here: . Every story which is true and beautiful and worthwhile coalesces around a solid core. It's like the compact iron ball at the core of the earth. All the other geological layers of story rest on top of it. Without a solid core, the story is hollow, 2-dimensional, and readers can sense that. The story will be boring and forgettable. What constitutes that core may be differ from author to author, and story to story. For me, I have found that the best core is theme . I  know the theme of my story before I even begin it. Other writers may have a different style; they let the theme emerge organically from the w

9-11 Will Be Forgotten

It will be forgotten. One day. We all will be, as the universe grinds on to its slow heat death over trillions and trillions of unimaginable years. It will be forgotten, as other human tragedies have been forgotten. And denied. And belittled. And shrugged away. Because we are human. Because we have to go on living. Because new generations are born who weren't there and don't know or don't care; or can bring themselves to care only if they stretch their empathy and their imagination and compassion--as we must stretch ourselves to remember and learn from and feel for the tragedies of the generations before us. It will be forgotten. But not by me. * * * You can see photos of the day here. You can also read my 9-11 ruminations from a previous year.

What Are The Genres In Children's Literature? - Kid's Corner

  Once a week, I'm going to do a Kid's Corner post, devoted to children's literature. Today's question is about how to define genre in Children's Literature. Some people would place Young Adult lit here too, but I think it makes more sense to discuss that with adult fiction, since the crossover in readership and material is profound. When I discuss Children's Lit, I'm talking about books for young children up to Middle Grade.  Children's Lit encompasses the full range of genres that you find in Young Adult and Adult fiction. But the books are shelved by age, not the type of story. That makes sense. These are books for kids at widely divergent stages of reading ability, and catering to the vocabulary and sophistication of the reader is far more important than narrowing selection by interest. Kids are also more open to different genres than older readers. They aren't as quickly bored as teens and aren't as hardened in their tastes as