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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Writing — Baring your Soul

I’ve been thinking about how, in order to write a good story, you have to lay bare your soul.

Currently, I am exploring envy. It’s a difficult topic. I’m writing from both male and female viewpoints, trying to explore envy in different ways. It was my frame of mind years ago, when I  was apt to become envious of another person for one reason or another.

Then, I learned something. Everyone has their own crap to deal with. You might be envious of one aspect of a person’s life, but would you really want to deal with their crap? Would YOU want to deal with MY crap?

Probably not.

That was my cure for envy, a realization that slowly came on over the years. Nowadays, no matter how attractive or talented or successful someone is, I rarely experience envy. Maybe it’s the wisdom of experience.

When I think of the Snow White story, I think of it as a story about envy. The evil queen is envious of any woman deemed more attractive than she. And so, she becomes jealous of Snow White. Her jealousy is a murderous one, so I figure she must have done this before.

But then, I am trying to explore a more constructive envy. An envy that actually makes the envious person strive to become a better person. I like where it’s headed.

All of the stories I’m really happy with are ones that lay bare my soul in one way or another. I’m not writing for therapy, But I have discovered that telling stories involves giving something of yourself to your reader. The stories I love as a reader are ones that really don’t seem to hold anything back. Those are the authors I remember.

But many successful authors don’t seem to do this. I’m reading a series now that I enjoy, but it’s mostly plot driven, with only bits of character development from book to book. They’re fun to read, but I don’t think I could ever write this way. I’ve tried, but although these stories hold my interest as a reader in an “entertain me” kind of way, they don’t hold my interest as a writer. Maybe I just don’t know how to write good plot-driven stories yet. Maybe it will come with practice.

But really, its the character-driven stories that I love, and it is the successful character-driven author that I hope to be like one day. In a non-envious kind of way. 😉

Jennifer Estep's Touch of Frost

I don’t do a lot of book promo anymore, but I wanted to tell you guys that I’m going to get this:

The incredibly prolific Jennifer Estep, who first write the Bigtime series, and who next wrote the Elemental Assassin series (which is still ongoing, has a new series out called Mythos Academy. Here’s a link to the series page at Jennifer’s website. Jennifer rocks and I’m going to be getting these just because they sound so fun. Here’s the blurb to the first book, Touch of Frost:

My name is Gwen Frost, and I go to Mythos Academy — a school of myths, magic and warrior whiz kids, where even the lowliest geek knows how to chop off somebody’s head with a sword and Logan Quinn, the hottest Spartan guy in school, also happens to be the deadliest.

But lately, things have been weird, even for Mythos. First, mean girl Jasmine Ashton was murdered in the Library of Antiquities. Then, someone stole the Bowl of Tears, a magical artifact that can be used to bring about the second Chaos War. You know, death, destruction and lots of other bad, bad things. Freaky stuff like this goes on all the time at Mythos, but I’m determined to find out who killed Jasmine and why – especially since I should have been the one who died …

I first got to know Jennifer when her first book came out, Karma Girl (here’s a slew of posts), back in my Fantasy Debut days. Jennifer is one of the most successful of the authors I featured back then. It kind of brings a tear to my eye! 🙂

I Miss Bookstores in Malls – Redux

My original post on this subject is back at my old Fantasy Debut blog. Since I put up the post back when Border’s financial woes first went public, I thought I’d revisit the topic now, three years later, as Border’s goes bankrupt.

I still think it was a mistake to take bookstores out of the malls, and to put them in bigbox stores in strip malls. I know that the rent on those mall stores was expensive, but I’m not sure the addition of coffee shops made up the difference. The coffee shops held no attraction for me. I don’t go to the bookstore to eat, or even to sip coffee while reading. I don’t drink coffee. The only time I ever went to the coffee shop is when my daughter wanted a hot cocoa, or the very occasional times I would meet someone at the bookstore. When I go to the bookstore, I go to buy a book, and then I want to leave a soon as possible so I can plop on the couch and read it.

I know, I know. I can’t judge the behavior of everyone based on my behavior. I don’t remember if bookstores were struggling like this back in the 90s, when they started disappearing from malls. I know the big killer of bookstores was most likely the Internet and Amazon. But I do know that the bookstores didn’t visibly change much since the coffee shop/bookstore first started appearing, except all the bookstores started adding their own websites, and e-readers appeared.

Again, judging from my own behavior, if bookstores would start putting the bookstores back in the malls, it would become a weekly stop when my daughter and make our weekly fun trip to the mall. And since sometimes Daddy comes along on a Friday or Saturday night, that would be up to two trips in a week. And it would be SO EASY to buy a paperback and a chapbook during every trip.

Nowadays? I visit the bookstore maybe once a month. When I want a book between trips, I either wait, or I download it to my Nook. (But not through Barnes & Noble’s website, because I find their process too buyer-unfriendly.) But maybe I’m just pining for the good old days. The extensive book sections in Wal-Mart, Target and K-Mart show that the impulse shopper will still buy books. They just need more opportunities.

What about you? Would you visit bookstores more often if they were in more convenient places like malls? Or do you just buy everything online, regardless?

Google + and Network Fatigue

So I was invited to Google + and I checked it out a little. The first thing I did was go through my regular commentators and add all of you to circles. I assume you were notified, G+ did not make it clear. Then, I was lucky enough to be included on a list started by RK Charron called Authors+ on Google+, which was widely linked. It led a lot of people to include me in circles that otherwise might not have done so.

Here’s a screenshot. Click to enbiggen.

But to be blunt, Google + is leaving me cold. Other than some interesting people sorting features, it looks like a Facebook clone. And it is a comfortable bet that Facebook is working even now for their own answers to that sorting feature, which is called Circles. There are also video hangouts, which don’t appeal to me. I have never used the webcam that is built into my laptop. There’s a chat feature, which resembles the chat feature in Facebook, which I have also only rarely used, and then, I only used it with family.

One much-touted aspect of G+ is the circle system. It’s sort of like following on Twitter via Twitter follow lists. You can add anyone to a circle, even a world-famous celebrity. No friending. Which was a problem that Facebook already solved via its Facebook pages. Initially, G+ presented me with a list of about 400 people that it would think I was interested in, based on what Google already knew about me. It was very accurate. It now has a list of about 180 people, mostly science fiction and fantasy authors and publishing folk. One problem with using a product in beta testing: this feature mostly disappeared for the past three days. Must have been a glitch.

Really, though–I wish Google had invented something new. I really liked Google Wave, but the problem was that no one I knew was on it, and Google couldn’t seem to handle the traffic it did have. I’ve never been nuts about the Facebook system, and I’m more of a Twitter user than a Facebook user. G+ seems to be aimed rather squarely at Facebook. I don’t see this pulling me away from Twitter. I can send a tweet via my text messaging feature on my cellphone, and you really can’t get much easier than that.

But it’s more than that. I have social networking fatigue. Here is a list of all the places that people think I should be on:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Goodreads
  • eHarlequin
  • Romance Divas
  • Amazon
  • RWA Yahoo Groups
  • Various other Yahoo  groups
  • My website
  • And now Google+

I can’t do it. I’m spread too thin. So I’ll continue to use all the automated tools I can. Facebook sucks in both my tweets and my blog posts. Goodreads sucks in my blog posts, as does Amazon. The Feedburner feature that tweets my blog posts seems to be broken, but I’ll get it fixed. Whenever Google + opens up its API and tools are developed for it, I’ll pull my blog posts into there as well. And I’ll answer comments wherever they turn up.

But other than manually reposting select posts to eHarlequin, I’ll concentrate my efforts on my site and this blog. It’s still the top result when I search for my name, after all. I’ll find a tool that will allow me to use text messages or emails to send posts, so posting is as easy as tweeting.

And I’ll stop spreading myself so thin.

Long Silence * Writing Update * Rooted Nook

Sorry about the long silence. I have been amazingly busy. I’ve been writing a lot, and reading only a little. Right now, I’m reading Sonya Bateman‘s Master and Apprentice, and Cindy Spencer Pape‘s Steam and Sorcery. I recently finished Julie Moffett‘s No One to Trust, and it was hilarious, as usual. My new day job has been really busy as well, and then Google had to throw a major distraction at me with Google Plus. I invited a bunch of you regular commenters onto Google Plus; hope you didn’t mind the invitation. If anyone else wants an invitation, leave a comment!

~*~

At this time, I am going to go ahead and admit publicly that my Cinderella story has been a real struggle. So much so, that I decided to work on the Snow White story, instead. I don’t like setting aside works, and I don’t do so easily. But I’ve been working on it far too long and it has taken too much time, and I am still  not happy with it. My main problem  is with the stakes. When comparing the Cinderella story to the Snow White story at it’s bare essentials, the Snow White story just has much better stakes. An innocent girl is victimized by another woman’s cruel jealousy. You can’t do much about another person being jealous of you, and I can do so much with that. With Cinderella, she is somewhat mistreated, to be sure, but at it’s heart, she is just pining to go to the ball. I’ve tried to find ways to make her going to the ball really matter, but it still doesn’t pass my rigorous “why should I give a damn” test.

Therefore, I will let it peculate while I turn the muse loose on Snow White. I will try to write a thousand words a night. Since I’m aiming for 25,000 words, I ought to have a first draft in a month.

~*~

I rooted my Nook! Why did I do this? Well, I was hoping to be able to install Kindle on my Nook, but it turns out that this was a bit ambitious. My other reasons was to cure my Nook of some annoyances, which the rooted version of the Nook certainly does. I also now have complete control over my own hardware. Plus, I can still use my B&N ebooks and my DRM’d ebooks. I’ve lost nothing and gained some cool new tools. Apparently, B&N is going to have a major update of the Nook firmware in the fall (they do this about once a year, which is appallingly slow), and at that time I might de-root it and try out the update. I’ll decide then.

~*~

UPDATE: I played with my website last night, but ultimately kept the same theme. I’m still looking for a theme, if you know of a good one. The basic things I want: the ability to have different sidebars on blogs and pages, comment link on the bottom, customizable header and uncluttered interface. Recommendations welcome!