Monday, September 05, 2011

Publish or Bust

More than a little inspired by my tweeps like @goblinwriter (Lindsay Buroker) and @shaydenFL (Sean Hayden) I am planning to start self-publishing this Fall. Since my independent streak is easily more than a mile wide this isn't much of a surprise.

First up on the docket will be the novella "The Case of the Curious Ghost," which is currently being published as a serial on The Big Bowl of Morning Serial blog. It's the first case of Hawke and Johnson, Certified Necromantic Mages. Hopefully you will enjoy Theo Hawke and Em Johnson's adventure because quite a few more are planned.

Next up will be my astrology book The Starwatcher's Guide to Fashion. Technically non-fiction but still what some may call "speculative." If nothing else it's a fun ride. A small excerpt:

Chapter One: Why Does My Closet Hate Me?
    There you stand again at the doorway staring inside your closet.  We treat closets and refrigerators the same way - maybe if we keep looking something good will happen.  But today even your favorite jacket leaves you cold.  'Who bought these clothes?' you wonder.  You stand there waiting for things to turn in your favor.  Almost everybody does it.  Why does it happen?  In fact, how does it happen? 
    The truth of the matter is that we are all a bit confused about our personal image.  And why shouldn't we be?  Think of all the influences that affect your clothing decisions:  your parents, your friends, the media, your lover, current fashion, your favorite year, and monetary considerations.  Those outside influences generally crowd how you feel about your wardrobe.  This book seeks to give you clarity on this issue. 

Ultimately your personal image should speak for you before you speak for yourself.  It tells who you are and how you want the world to perceive you.

After that I will continue with a mix of short and long fiction with interspersed non-fiction. Thanks in advance for your help on my journey.

 :)  Sue

Monday, August 15, 2011

Certified Necromantic Mages?

What kind of trouble can a couple of bored necromantic mages get into? In case you missed it, I'm publishing a story about two Certified Necromantic Mages as a serial over at the "Big Bowl of Morning Serial" blog. We're at the sixth installment and you can start at this link. Thanks for reading!!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Writing Assignment Where No Man Has Gone Before

June and July flashed by me like one of those crazy high-speed movie collages. But one great thing that came out of the early part of the summer was an invitation to help write a book about one of my favorite subjects: Star Trek. I'm not even sure how I got so lucky (actually I do, it was becoming good Twitter buddies with @ThatNeilGuy who shares my Original Series/Vulcan obsession).

So, over the next year or so there will be a LOT of Star Trek watching, Star Trek reading, and Star Trek writing. It's kind of like being asked to go on vacation forever. If I could just do it all while on a sailboat int the Bahamas my life would be perfect.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Maybe I Did Make a Grave Mistake? Immortal and Vampires

Hi, Jennifer Graves here, photographer and vampire hunter. Since my chronicler Sue London loved the book Immortal so much I thought I'd check it out. Having been in the supernatural hunting business for almost twenty years I was fascinated by Adam's description of vampires. Honestly, it leaves me feeling a bit guilty. One of the first things he said about vampires was "the percentage of vampires that are also evil killers is about the same as the percentage of normal people who area also evil killers." The first vampire I ever met was one of those evil killers and I haven't really revised my opinion. I guess it would be like an alien landing on Earth and the first person they meet is a psychopath. They would report back that Earth was nice but we need to exterminate all those humans. But the original incident where I met the vampire (you might remember this) has a different context based on one of Adam's recollections:
I remember a long conversation I had once with a vampire named Bordick, some time in the late seventeenth century. He was one of the oldest I’d ever met, meaning we had a good deal in common with one another, because how often does one get to compare two-hundred-year-old war stories with someone else? We got onto the subject of the somewhat unfair public perception of vampires—a perception that was actually worse in the seventeenth century than now. It was Bordick’s theory that people, in overreacting to vampires, tend to create their own monsters. He meant this rather literally.
As he told it, some time around his first century the villagers of a small Latvian hamlet figured out what he was and decided to do something about it. So one afternoon they sealed up the crypt where he was spending his daylight hours. Without elaborating on why they did this—he wasn’t bothering anybody and had restricted his nightly drinking mainly to livestock—he pointed out that this is just about the stupidest thing you can possibly do to a vampire, because they don’t starve to death like people. They just get hungrier.
Hang out with a vampire who drinks a small allotment of blood two or three times a week and you’ll swear there’s hardly any difference between him and your average human. But one who hasn’t drunk in two or three weeks isn’t the best company around. The hungry ones tend to fixate on your neck a lot, which can be very uncomfortable, and it becomes obvious somewhat quickly that they aren’t listening to what you’re saying because they’re too preoccupied listening to your heart pumping. It’s like conversing with somebody who’s wearing a Walkman, only much more disturbing.
According to Bordick, anything longer than thirty days is utter agony. Two months and this constant pain spawns dementia. Longer than that and you’ve got a vampire who is, mentally, entirely too far gone to listen to any sort of reason whatsoever. So after a full calendar year sealed up in that crypt, Bordick was utterly out of his mind.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

D is for Darn This is Hard

This A to Z writing challenge is actually a great illustration of how hard it is to fit writing into my life. But all of the stories tell us that writers have ALWAYS had these problems, right? Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Snooki - they all had busy schedules (work, being a mom, being crazy) and they had to tuck writing time in around the edges.

Give me your zaniest "...and I was writing..." story in the comments! For me it would have to be while sitting in a hospital waiting room waiting on news of a loved one. At times like that a writing project is both the weight of responsibility AND the solace of escapism into the land of words. I have also written in the car, on the beach, and on a sailboat between snorkles. (Vacationing with me is maybe a bit of a drag. Hmmm...) So where have you been caught writing?

C is for Catching Up

Ok, so... maybe committing to the A to Z challenge on three blogs was a little crazy. I do find it interesting that my lowest priority seems to be on the one that should be my HIGHEST priority. What does that say about my approach to writing. Also, this blog has the highest hit to comment ratio and for that I would like to say "THANK YOU VERY MUCH, WONDERFUL PEOPLE OF THE BLOGSPHERE!!!" It's very nice to get responses on my creative writing and contemplations about writing.

Thanks for coming by and hope everyone is having a great A to Z Challenge!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

B is for Banana Splits

I'm using the April A to Z Blog Challenge as an opportunity to come up with prompts for flash fiction.

Growing up the best thing that Cassidy shared with her father was banana splits. At least once a month, even the cold months, they would find their way to the local Dip n' Do to share a banana split and talk. Cassidy's conversational skills had advanced from purple ponies to rock bands to philosophy. Her father always peppered the conversation with anecdotes about his students but seemed happy enough to indulge his chatty, excitable daughter. She found that sitting here now, looking across at the empty booth seat, was harder than the funeral.

"Why didn't I let you talk, Papa?" she whispered. There was so much she didn't know, so much she wanted to ask now. She looked down at the ice cream, the little boat set on the table the way it had always been, the chocolate on her side and the vanilla on his, strawberry between the two. She had only managed one bite and the flavors were melting together into a cold creamy soup. Looking at it she realized she didn't know if he had even liked vanilla.

The April A to Z Blog Challenge

Well, I jumped into the April A to Z blog challenge yesterday without giving a great deal of thought about what approach I would like to use. This is my notification that I'm changing my approach from "about writing" to doing flash fiction. It should be easier on all of us.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Lights! Camera! Action!

While reading KarenG's post "A is for Action in a work of fiction" is struck me that the old Hollywood phrase "Lights! Camera! Action!" is very good shorthand to remember key elements of compelling fiction.

Lights! We need to SEE what is happening. Don't explain it to us, SHOW us.
Camera! The story needs to be told from the right perspective. Pick the right things to show from the right angle.
Action! It's all about what happens.

Someone else has probably already made this observation. Feel free to tell me in the comments which book, blogger, cousin has already pointed this out.

A is for Alternate Realities

My development as a writer was definitely informed by my environment. In particular, the hobbies and interests of my family since as the youngest I was a sponge observing some very headstrong, peculiar, and intriguing people (imagine You Can't Take it With You but in a 70s suburban setting). We are all readers and entertainment hogs for television, movies, and...anything else you can think of that is at least mildly entertaining. Everything from crossword puzzles to Walt Disney World.

As such, my interest in speculative fiction has very deep roots. Dad loves science fiction. Mom loves the fae. And my brother has been a real Bigfoot hunter. Our dinnertime conversation would range into topics such as ghosts, reincarnation, and debates about what the future might hold. So no one was particularly surprised when I started writing science fiction in my teens. While other girls were most likely dreaming about the perfect prom or the perfect wedding, I was contemplating the distant future, other worlds, and the implications of human behavior carried out to its logical extreme.

Granted, those early novels were barely disguised Star Trek and Dune fan fiction, but they set the stage for the type of writing that I would be interested in pursuing for years. And all those dinner conversations set me up with creative alternate realities to pepper my fiction.

Blog post for the April A to Z blogging challenge.

My New Life as a Blogger and Book Reviewer

Growing up my intention was to be a novelist, screenwriter, and veterinarian. Yes, one of those things is not like the other, but those were my goals. Reality intruded, mostly in the form of parents, but also in the discovery that sick animals are icky (and I'm not all that good at hard science). As for the first two items, writing was given up for a new dream in advertising copywriting and graphic design because business was a "safer" major. Parental pressures continued and advertising was given up for accounting. This is the point in the board game where you've gone back so many spaces you know that you have no hope of winning without a magnificent stroke of luck.

In many ways my magnificent stroke of luck has been the advent of the world wide web. Without it I would still be writing all this stuff, but in notebooks that were tucked into my purse and under the bed. Being able to share my thoughts and creativity online has spurred my own productivity, and being able to learn from and "hang out with" all my online writing friends has been invaluable.

But a funny things happened on the way to the market.

For the longest time I've been receiving free books. Even before setting up this website for my own writing or talking much online about being a writer or what I was reading, somehow my online friends identified me as an avid, enthusiastic reader with whom they wanted to share their work. I was honored but also confused. I wasn't a reviewer and wasn't precisely sure what I should do with these books other than read and enjoy them. Slowly but surely I began to work reviews into my posts on my blog Thoughts That Get Stuck in My Head. And I began to meet more and more writers online.

It struck me that it would be cool to have a forum where we could read interviews with unpublished authors, both to support and validate their dreams and to connect with each other. Then some of my contacts got their first publishing contracts. Then I started making contact with "bigger" names in the industry. Out of all this grew the website Writing Insight where you can discover writers at all stages in their careers.

Then today I rebooted an old idea for an entertaining blog about occult topics called The Arcane Hour, this time being joined by a great list of Contributors. I took the day off from work so that I can finish two articles and an interview with the science fiction living legend Frederick Pohl. It was at this point that I thought, holy mackerels, things sure have changed since I set up Thoughts That Get Stuck in My Head back in 2003 with the slogan "My Virtual Frontier Cabin."

So I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you. Although not having arrived yet at the square on the board labeled "novelist and screenwriter," being a blogger and book reviewer is a heck of a lot closer than accountant. And it's because of your interest, sharing, and caring that I'm here in the first place.

Monday, March 14, 2011

And Then What Happens?

T-shirt: Practitioner of the world's oldest profession... Storytelling.

As a writer the moment that is most thrilling and dreadful is when a reader says, "And then what happens?" Thrilling because it means they are engaged enough to want to know what happens next. Dreadful because, as Thomas Mann said, "A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than for other people." I don't know about you, but I am definitely a writer of the Mann persuasion in that respect.

Writers are ultimately adventurers. We strike out into unknown territory and leave a trail for others. By exploring the realm of ideas we create and share new insights about people, places, and things. As with most exploration it is in turn exhilarating and exhausting. But we're adventure junkies who enjoy the high of discovery and just can't stop (safer than bungee jumping, I suppose). You want to know "and then what happens?" So do we. We're excited when someone wants to join us on the journey.

As a writer, how do you react to the never-ending question, "And then what happens?" As a reader what have been your favorite answers to "And then what happens?" And which writers have driven you crazy with waiting? Being fans of Glen Cook's Black Company series we were driven crazy with waiting in the 90s.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

To Betelgeuse, With Love

Even though I've read Sherrilyn Kenyon's "The League" series it hadn't occurred to me that Science Fiction Romance was a defined cross-over sub-genre between the two genres. Diane Dooley did a nice write up today about it in her post What the Heck is Science Fiction Romance?

Assuming not all aliens look like Orion slave babes does make me think of the scene is Galaxy Quest where Guy Fleegman is saying, "Oh, that's not right!" Is there some sort of warning on the cover telling me "Beware, alien sex scenes included"? I would hope so.

Have you read any Science Fiction Romance? What do you see as the dividing line (however blurry it may be) between a science fiction book that includes a romantic element and a romance that has a science fiction setting? Many science fiction books have a romantic and/or sex element where I wouldn't classify them as romance in a million years (Stranger in a Strange Land comes to mind). One of the key differences for me is that I consider science fiction to be idea driven (what if?) and romance to be relationship driven (all the way to 'happily ever after'). So that would be the difference between a book about a spaceship (with the human relationships and interactions being used to reveal and explore the idea of space travel) and a book about two lovers on a spaceship (where the ship is used as a setting).

3/15/11 Update:
Check out Lindsay Buroker's interview with Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express about her new book and this genre. Then check out The Galaxy Express!

*Yes, I realize with the blog post title I just did a Science Fiction Romance/Spy Thriller crossover idea. But I totally call that title - now I just need to write the book.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Synopsis Writing (or Keeping Yourself and Your Editor Sane)

Adri (@smoulderingsea) from Lyrical Press has such a perfect way with words that I had to preserve this for all time:
Synopses are fruit of the devil’s loins. Editors hate reading ‘em as much as you hate writing ‘em. Doesn’t mean you can halfass. #editortips

That said, yes, please include the ending in the synopsis. I don’t want to read 300 pages just to find out you jumped the shark. #editortips

Well, I didn't think that writing a synopis was *THAT* bad. But I know better than to argue with Adri.

For me, whenever I get lost writing my story it's time to go back to the synopsis. If the problem is that I haven't written one yet then it's time to write it. In fact, once I'm serious about writing a longer piece of fiction there are three things I need to have to keep me focused: a short teaser description (the classic elevator sales pitch or "back of the book"), a synopsis, and a chapter by chapter outline.

The teaser makes me remember, "What makes this book pop? What are it's essential elements?" The synopsis keeps clear, "How is this supposed to work? What are the basic elements of my plot?" And the chapter by chapter outline keeps me on the right track (and is also a handy place to keep notes on future scenes that popped into my head).

The good/bad news is that when the work is done I get to revisit all those write-ups because now someone like Adri wants to read them. And invariably along the way of turning an idea into a finished work a lot of things have changed. But they still serve the same function of keeping everything clear.

How do you keep your writing focused? Do you use a synopsis?

(And while we're talking about Adri, in case you missed it, Lyrical Press has a call out right now for Irish-themed novels/novellas. Gather up your shamrocks and try submitting.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Case of the Missing Colon

Do you remember what you were doing when you were 15 years old? For me it included writing this story, which has always been one of my favorites. Check out the page for The Case of the Missing Colon, a noir mystery about punctuation.