Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Blurb for Fifth Season

Although I didn't finish the rough draft of Summon the Seasons this month as I originally planned, I did make progress with Fifth Season, which I want to publish either in November or December. (I have an intermediate-length goal of publishing two books a year until 2020, so I'll have to push myself constantly to meet this challenge.) I've reached out to my beta readers and sent the manuscript out to a couple of them. I've also contacted Maria Zannini about the cover. Another important part of publishing is drafting the blurb. Here's my initial take on it:

Ysabel became the Goddess of Fall’s Avatar to care for animals, but her kind heart may jeopardize her loved ones.

When a pair of strange animals invade the country of Challen during a magical weather storm, Ysabel must learn if they’re ordinary creatures or if they’re connected to Salth, the Season Avatars’ sworn enemy. Distracting her from her task are the responsibility of raising her younger siblings, including her rebellious sister, and two rivals, including her husband in a previous life, competing for her hand.

When tragedy strikes the Avatars, Ysabel comes up with a desperate plan to allow all twelve of them to face Salth together as required by the Four Gods and Goddesses of Challen. Jealousy, however, tears an ally from the Avatars during their most vulnerable time as even more beasts rise against them. If Ysabel cannot control the strange animals and use justice as well as mercy, she will not only lose her position as Avatar but the people she loves. 

 Does it hook you? Does it give you too much or too little information? I have a feeling I'll be working on this some more before I start posting it elsewhere, so any constructive criticism on this blurb would be appreciated.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Indie Author Day

If dogs can have their own day (which was last week), why not indie authors?

The first annual Indie Author Day is scheduled for Saturday, October 8th. Libraries across the United States will be holding a variety of events to support local indie authors. You can learn more about Indie Author Day at their own website, This is also where authors and libraries can sign up to join the event. I think signing up puts you on the ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) mailing list, as I received an e-mail from them with an offer of a free eBook shortly after I signed up.

One caveat I would point out is that one of the sponsors of Indie Author Day is SELF-e, a service that asks indie authors to donate eBooks so SELF-e can sell them to libraries. I don't mind donating paper copies of my books to the local library or offering permafree books as a marketing strategy, but other people shouldn't profit off of my free works. Hopefully they won't pressure me to enroll with SELF-e.

My local library hasn't signed up yet to be part of Indie Author Day, so I'm not sure yet if I'll be able to do anything with them or if I'll be able to participate at another nearby library. I'll keep you updated as the time draws closer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Writing Memes, Story Layers, and Story Meaning

Anyone with an interest in books and/or writing has probably seen a lot of the writing memes in circulation on social media. For instance, the meme below prompted a response from a famous SF writer last night. I won't name him because I'm not sure if he meant for this discussion to continue off of Facebook. To paraphrase, writers who put down the first thing that comes into their head, who aren't adding a layer of symbolism or subtext to their work aren't writing stories that people will teach. He also added that you may technically be a writer, but you won't be a good one.

Well, I'm much lower on the writing chain than this author, but while I might agree with his main point, I disagree with him in two respects. First, the way his statement was worded was disrespectful to pantsers. I may not have symbols planned when I'm writing the first draft, but I have the opportunity to discover them along the way. (An example might be Yvonne's cross in Twinned Universes.) Even though I'm trying to increase my publication speed to at least two books a year, I still rewrite and revise my work before publishing. I do look for telling details that show us how the viewpoint character thinks. Symbols that are discovered during the first draft can be honed during the second draft. Pantsers do outline; it's just that our first drafts are our outlines.

I also take issue with this author's assumptions that the only way a work--and an author--can be judged good is if they're taught in schools. Symbols and subtext do deepen a story and can make a reread of the story a whole new experience. But that's not why I write stories. I write stories to explore characters' internal lives and their interactions with each other, to work out implications of creating worlds with certain characteristics, to tell a single truth behind a thousand falsehoods. To me, entertainment should be the main goal of a story; subtext is secondary. That's why I prefer this meme:

Symbols are important, but no one just writes in symbols. Without context, symbols have no meaning.

What's your take on symbols and story purpose? Please share it in the comments.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Myths and Realities of Doing What You Love

I read an article on Medium last week with the title listed above. I thought it was worth sharing because it offers a balanced, sensible solution to the age-old dilemma of doing what you love versus doing what will pay the bills. It suggests doing what you love as a side gig while having a good-paying job to support the side gig. I think this is especially important if you have a spouse and/or dependents. If you haven't read this article yet, feel free to go over there and read it before commenting. If you did read it already, what do you think?

Edited to Add: One point I don't the author addressed very well is time management. Even if you "only" work a 40-hour week (technically, my job is 37.5 hours a week), there's still commuting, daily tasks, and other responsibilities that take up your free time. If you have dependents, it can be very difficult finding time for yourself, let alone a side gig. That's why I write on lunch break, during my son's tae-kwon-do class, and any time I can steal for it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Writers and Words

One of the books I'm currently reading is actually a trilogy that came out over a decade ago. I read the series when it originally came out, but I don't have the paper copies any more. When I saw the ebook version of trilogy advertised at a bargain price on Bookbub, I decided to grab it. Reading a trilogy isn't going to help me make up my book count for my Goodreads challenge, especially when it's a very long trilogy, but I'm already close to halfway done. My secret? I'm skipping or skimming the description.

In the prefaces to the first and second books, the author talks about her love of words, which started in childhood. She also loves worldbuilding, which results in pages and pages of description of even unimportant people and locations. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of reader who is more interested in the story than the setting. (I have to admit I forgot about this aspect of the series, or maybe it didn't bother me back then.) I wonder how well a new author with this amount of description would be able to sell her work to a traditional publisher today--or how well her work would fare if she self-published.

It's important for writers to develop their vocabularies so they know the proper definitions and connotations of words. There are words that are appropriate for a Victorian setting but not a futuristic one, and vice versa. As a creative writer, I acknowledge that other writers are free to experiment with language--and they should. I don't believe that writers should abstain from using adverbs and adjectives. But with my background in technical writing, I also want to keep my works easy-to-follow. I don't want to write the parts that readers are going to skip. Wordcraft is only one aspect of storytelling; story structure and character development are also important. Writers and readers may prefer different proportions of description and action. Perhaps book blurbs should do a better job of conveying style along with story. (Some do, but not all of them.)

In my opinion, Patricia McKillip is the champion of writing poetic prose that doesn't detract from the story. What other authors do you admire for their writing style? Do you think they'll still be read a hundred years from now, or will changes in our language make our current works inaccessible for future generations? Please comment below.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Newsletter Relaunch with Free Book!

Although newsletters can be an invaluable part of book promotion to authors (since subscribers are most often your fans who are most likely to buy your book), I have to admit I've neglected expanding and using my newsletter. In fact, it's been so long since I last accessed my newsletter that I can no longer log into my previous MailChimp account. So I made a new one, and I'm finally starting to put new sign-up forms here (see the sidebar) and website. (I thought about doing a popup for the website, but I didn't want to do through MailChimp and didn't want to register with yet another service. Besides, popups are annoying, even though they're effective.) I'll have to update links in my books on a rolling basis when I have time.

To pique interest in my newsletter (and more importantly, my stories), I'll be giving away free copies of Scattered Seasons to all subscribers. This is Book Two in my fantasy Season Avatars series; Book One, Seasons' Beginnings, is permafree. Hopefully readers who finish the first two books will want to complete the series or try some of my other work.

I plan to use the newsletter for announcements of books available to order, sales, convention appearances, and so on. While I'll post this information on my blog as well, I may do giveaways or provide bonus stories to newsletters subscribers later on.

Do you use an author newsletter or subscribe to one? What do you like or not like about them?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Clawfoots or Clawfeet?

A couple of months ago, I posted that I was having trouble coming up with a suitable name for some animals that will appear in Fifth Season, Book Four of the Season Avatars series. These animals are based on dinosaurs; they're smart as velociraptors and physically resemble Deinonychus. My heroine, Ysabel, initially called them "mixups" since they resemble lizards mixed with birds. Since "mixup" isn't exactly a fear-inspiring name, I struggled for a long time to come up with something better. Finally, as I was editing Fifth Season last week, I went back to the description of the beasts and came up with "clawfoot" for the long sickle-shaped claw Deinonychus had on its feet. However, that leaves me with a dilemma: do I use "clawfoots" or "clawfeet" for the plural? While "clawfeet" might be technically correct, to me, the "feet" in this term seem to refer to actual feet, not the entire animal. I prefer "clawfoots" myself, but I'll have to do some research to see if there's a preferred way to handle this plural.

Would you use "clawfoots" or "clawfeet" as the plural? Or should I come up with a new name that avoids these issues?

Monday, August 08, 2016

Happy Birthday, Eugene!

Today is my husband's birthday. With it falling on a Monday, there isn't much we can do to celebrate. We did go out for dinner over the weekend and plan to go out for dessert tonight after Alex's tae-kwon-do class. Please join me in wishing Eugene a Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

IWSG: Skill and Grit

This month's Insecure Writer's Support Group Day is brought to you by Tamara Narayan, Tonja Drecker, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Lauren @ Pensuasion, Stephen Tremp, and Julie Flanders. You can learn more about the IWSG on their website.

For August, we've been posed the following question: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

The first story I wrote as an aspiring writer was a fantasy novel called Let Silences Be Broken. The story was about a group of magicians who get their magic by voluntarily giving up speech. One of the main characters was an albino woman pursuing a renegade magician. Their minds are blown when they encounter people who speak a different language. I may still have a paper copy somewhere, but otherwise, it's on a floppy disk somewhere in what I hope is an unreadable format.

A few days ago, an article was published on Medium with the click-bait title "You're Not Meant to Do What You Love. You're Meant to Do What You're Good At." The author of that piece apparently thinks skills are fixed and that loving to do something isn't enough to make you good at it. She says that "If everybody did what they thought they loved, the important things wouldn’t get done. To function as a society, there are labors that are necessary. Someone has to do them. Is that person robbed of a life of passion, because they had to choose a life of skill and purpose?...There is only finding a job that suits you enough that the work doesn’t feel excruciating. There is only finding what you are skilled at, and then learning to be thankful."

While I agree that there are jobs that may not inspire passion but are still necessary for society, and I also like her later idea that we should focus on giving to others with our skills, I think settling for work that doesn't feel excruciating can still drain the life out of you. (I've had jobs like that.) None of us came into this world with skills; we had to develop them. I may have been born with an aptitude for words, but I still had to read thousands of books; study writing craft; critique other writer's work; and write, write, and rewrite some more to get to my current level of writing. I had to learn the skills for my current job when I transferred into the position as well.

How does one develop a skill? By practice and perseverance. Angela Duckworth's Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success not only discusses how to develop a skill, but how to develop the grit needed to follow a passion despite setbacks. Toward the end of the book, she quotes a poem about writing. I don't have time to type it out, but it talks about how when you first write something, it isn't very good, but the more you work on it the better it gets.

If you love writing, not just the idea of being an author, but the actual thinking of stories and characters, sitting in front of a computer for hours on end to bring them to life, and sharing your work with others, don't let anyone tell you you shouldn't write. Even if your first efforts aren't very good, that doesn't mean you can't improve with dedicated practice. We may not evolve into Shakespeare, we may not be able to make it our day jobs, but it's still worth doing. So persevere with what you love, no matter what anyone else tells you to do.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Back from Break

I have to admit it was nice not having to prepare blog posts for a week, especially since it gave me some more time to focus on my writing. The bad news is that I'm slightly behind where I wanted to be with Summon the Seasons: I'm only at 55,000 words instead of 60,000. However, after looking at my schedule and thinking about my goals, I decided I needed to make revising Fifth Season a priority if I want to publish it by the end of the year. I spent most of last Sunday outlining the current draft to figure out what scenes I need to add. I've also started editing/revising Fifth Season and got about three chapters into it. (Most of the changes so far as minor; I'll have to add some scenes for a subplot as the story progresses.) While I really want to finish the rough draft of Scatter the Seasons, it may take a little longer than originally planned. If I don't finish it this month, I should be able to do it by the end of September.

As for what else I've been doing, I confess I've been playing Pokemon Go. Visiting local Pokestops and gyms has been great for getting me out in the morning, but not so good for my plantar fasciitis. My son participated in his first tae-kwon-do tournament and came in third in his division for sparring, which was quite good considering he was facing bigger and more experienced students. (They were grouped by age and rank, so it wasn't a complete mismatch. Alex just happens to be on the low end for rank and middle for age.) We made our annual trip to the Bristol Renaissance Faire yesterday and met up with some friends there. Although we stayed there fairly late and shopped, watched jousting and other showed, and learned about weapons and dueling,  there was still so much we didn't get to see. It would be nice if we could make more than one trip per season.

So, what have you been up to lately? Ready to enjoy the last month of summer?

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