amergina: (pages)
I don't get writer's block.

I'm pretty much always turning over stories and scenes in my head. That means I always have something to write down. But I have had long stretches where I haven't written, but I don't chalk that up to writer's block.

To me, writer's block is sitting down at the computer and staring at the screen and not having any words come out. I haven't had that happen since my undergrad years. And even then it was more like this: "Oh Carp! I have a short story due in three days! What am I going to write? Aaahh! Ahhh! Ahhhh! Oh wait..." *type* *type* *type*

Yeah, I was a fairly typical 17-21-year-old creative writing major.

Now? There are always words there. I have story ideas that have mated with other story ideas and had litters of plot bunnies.

However, sometimes I don't have the physical energy to get the words out. That's an entirely different issue. It's hard to think when you're bone weary, even if the words are there. And when I do try to write when tired, I spend much of the next session fixing the mixed up words that come out of my fingers.

So I allow myself not to write (or rather I don't feel guilty if I don't write) when I'm too tired to think straight.

There are the times when I haven't thought ahead enough and need to stop and think about what comes next. I have a whole box of little tricks for planning the next sections. Most involve either asking "Ok, so now what would the character do?" or "Ok, what would be the worst possible thing to happen right now?" And then I bullet point actions and reactions for a bit. Then dive back in.

Then there are the dreaded times when I get sucked into non-writing. That is, I get distracted. Not much I can do about that, other than to get out of the house and turn off the wifi card so that I won't get sucked into Twitter or Absolute Write or Facebook or chatting with folks...

Though, my biggest issue at the moment is that I have too many works in progress and not enough free time. I need to get some WIPs off my plate by carving out some time just to spend writing.

Oh, and if anyone is wondering what ever happened to the Thesis Novel (which actually has a title: The Tyras Key), I'm still sending it out. It's in Limbo currently, as I entered it into the Suvudu (Del Rey/Spectra) Writing Contest. They announce winners on May 18th. After that, I'll be jumping back on the query train. I've gotten several nice nibbles and complementary comments, but no great big chomps yet.

It's a long road. The trick is staying on it.

Also: Keep Writing.

New style

Apr. 17th, 2011 09:46 pm
amergina: (nuts&bolts)
I decided my old style was too dark, so I've simplified and lightened things up.

The header photo is Florence, Italy.
amergina: (lemon drip)
I collect teacups and demitasse cups. It's one of those odd facts about me that I don't really mention often.

Lately, I've been drinking quite a bit more tea. I decided that I should actually use some of the teacups in my collection, rather than just letting them collect dust.

This teacup is one that my parents bought me in Czechoslovakia, when they went back to Prague for a visit after the fall of the Iron Curtain and before that country became the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

The tea is not tea. It's a tisane: Strawberry Lemonade herbal tea from Teavana.

Na zdravie!
amergina: (reading)
So, Amanda Hocking, who became a millionaire selling 99-cent novels for the Kindle, inked a two million dollar deal with St. Martin’s Press. It's a self-publishing rags-to-riches story!

How did she do it?

She worked really damn hard at it. And wrote entertaining books. She spent years writing and rewriting. She marketed. She put out a book a month with reasonable production values. Made trailers. Marketed. Worked and worked some more. And then some more.

If you want to have easy success like Amanda Hocking, you pretty much have to work your fingers to the bone, spend years writing building your craft, put out nine books (with decent production values), and spend a lot of time marketing them.

Success is "easy" when you work really fucking hard to succeed.

There are no short cuts. There are paths that *look* like shortcuts but really aren't.

You want to be another Amanda Hocking? You're going to have to do all of what she did. And that ain't easy at all.
amergina: (thpppp)
...I sailed away to China, on a little row boat to find 'ya, and you said you had to get your laundry clean...

No wait, that wasn't it. This was it:

I dreamt I was a Disney World with a bunch of folks from SHU, and we were on this train ride that had an ice cream place like Cold Stone Creamery. I ordered this fantastic double chocolate brownie ice cream in a cone, and then watched the whole ride while other people got their ice cream, but I never got mine. At the end of the trip, the guy serving sheepishly told me that he had eaten the last of that ice cream after I ordered. Ooops. I demanded my money back, then stormed out.

Then I sat down on a bench and bawled my eyes out. I mean, soul wrenching sobs. Hard enough that there were tears on the lenses of my glasses.

A group of geeky cheerleaders came past (as in, they were geeks, but also cheerleaders) and coaxed the story from me, even after I told them a bunch of times that it was so dumb and I was overreacting. And they just listened. In the end, I told them I felt better, and they were glad, and said goodbye and wandered off.

Then I heard my family whistling for me* and I found them and got in line for a ride.

And I woke up.

The strangest thing is that I had been all angst-filled and stressed before I went to bed, but when I woke up, it was like a great weight had been lifted off me, like I'd had a catharsis, as if I had--well--bawled my eyes out.

I'll take a dream crying jag. I don't really like the real ones.

*My family has this whistle we used to use to call the cats that became the defacto method of finding each other in a crowd.
amergina: (sunset)
Last fall, as part of my MFA, I took a class taught by Dr. Nicole Peeler. It was basically a mix of "here's the stuff you should know before you get published" and "here's how to write academically about genre fiction" class. One of the topics covered was online presence. Things like uses of Twitter and blogging and Facebook.

There was some push-back, especially about Twitter. That it wasn't useful. It was a time-waster. etc. etc.

And yeah, it can be. But here's an experience for you:

I follow @torbooks, one of the many twitter feeds for Tor Books. They had a contest to give away an ARC of The Unremembered. Just re-tweet the tweet. I did.

I won.

Wait, let me back up a bit... because I also want to talk for a moment about what publishers like Tor do for authors.

So back in August of 2010, I went to Context, a SF/F/H con in Columbus Ohio. The Guest Editor of Honor was Paul Stevens of Tor Books. He gave a talk about upcoming releases. The Unremembered was one of the ones he mentioned. In fact, the cover was on the Tor Winter/Spring catalog that goes out to book buyers (not us consumers, but the people that actually decide what a bookstore stocks) was the cover of The Unremembered. That's quite a push, actually, on the marketing side of things.

I should point out here that the author, Peter Orullian, is a debuting author, not a Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson, who they pretty much know will bring readers in.

But yes, I remembered it. So when the tweet came past, I was all "Hot damn! I'd read that!"

When I tweeted about winning the book, the *author* replied to me. What does that do to me as a reader?

Make me warm and fuzzy. The author spoke to me! It makes me want to read the book and like it even more.

What does it do to me as someone who wants to be a debuting author? Make me go "Hmm. I must remember this." Because he did the right thing with social media--he followed up on a promotion his publisher was running on social media. It took, what, all of maybe a minute to say "Congrats! Hope you enjoy the book." in a reply to me. But that connection is what will make me even more likely to recommend the book to others, should I like it.

You don't need to live your life online. You just need to be *smart* about it.

(The caveat as an author is that yes, you still need to write the next book. So you need to balance your online life with your writer life and life life, and sometimes the social media periscope goes down. I've seen that happen with authors, and that's fine. I'd rather have the next book than a tweet. It's all about doing the best thing for your career.)
amergina: (seton hill)
I now have an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University!

I started the journey toward this end back in January of 2008, and back then I was aiming for a Masters of Arts. In July of 2009, the program switched from an MA to an MFA. I chose to switch to the MFA and take an additional five classes and one term writing project toward that end. It took an extra year than the MA (though the program, if you are entering now, is only 2 and a half years, rather than three.)

I wrote and polished an 107,000-word fantasy novel, which I am now querying. I also started two other novels, and am about 2/3rds of the way finished one of those projects.

I now have a writing community, critique partners, life-long friendships, and professional colleagues along with that MFA. And I am much much more confident about meeting people in the industry. I'm still shy, but I can get over it. ;-)

Monday night was my thesis defense -- I thanked folks, talked a bit about why I wrote my thesis, read two chapters (from the middle of the novel) and answered questions. People keep asking me how it went. I tell them to ask someone who was there... people say I did well, so I guess I did. :)

I don't mind reading my work out loud or even talking about it, but the thank yous nearly had me in tears when I got to thanking my family, since they were sitting in the first row.

In the end, it was well worth the time and money to do. And now my tassel goes to 11.

The numbers

Jan. 4th, 2011 04:21 pm
amergina: (seton hill)
Three days until Residency begins.

Six days until my thesis reading.

Eight days until I graduate with an MFA.

Nearly. There. After three years.
amergina: (reading)
This entry is future-dated to December 31, 2010. My 2009 book list is here, and 2008's list is here.

*Indicates that I started reading the book in 2009.
2010 book list )
amergina: (snow)
I enter my thirty-ninth year on the planet tomorrow. It's been a good ride so far.

I have passed the last of my classes for my MFA. All that's left is the thesis reading and the actual graduation ceremony. The latter happens in a month.

Because I was so very focused on finishing my classes, I had not written in a month. I spent about two days re-reading my WIP so far. You know what? I still like it. It's both different and similar to my thesis novel. It's set some 300 years before, but has some cross-over characters. It's been interesting to see how they were back then, knowing who they become. And a bit wistful, since one of the characters is very much dead by the thesis novel, and I've discovered that I like him, even if he's a bit on the broken side. And will only become more broken as the year progress. He tried so very hard to make the world right.


The last two classes were Writing about Popular Fiction and Readings in the Genre: YA. I specifically took the YA class because I am woefully under-read in YA. It was a good class and a nice survey of current YA fiction. We also read Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, which is a nice book about studying fiction from a writer's perspective, rather than a literary or cultural studies point of view.

Writing about Popular Fiction was a hard, but very useful class. We explored author platforms (online presence, bios, and the like) and the pros and cons of being a very internet-available author. We also looked at para-academic writing, book reviewing, and the like. In the end, I produced quite a lot of writing for the class, much of which will serve me well in the future. It also made me think about how I want to handle online things, should I be published. I also produced two pieces I'm rather fond of--one is a review of Ellen Kushner's Thomas the Rhymer, and the other is an essay that explains the place of my thesis novel in my genre. There's something rather geeky about analyzing your own work... but I had fun with it, since my thesis statement was that I rammed a high fantasy into the body of an urban fantasy. Only time will tell if it worked...

Speaking of the novel... I have submissions out. I do need to query more. The actual number of queries I've sent is on the low side, really.

The other parts of my life continue. Work was somewhat stressful around Thanksgiving. The sun-room addition is complete and wonderful. I am slowly unpacking the stuff I inherited from my grandmother's place. And I am slowly getting rid of things I don't need.

I am also starting to dig into my TBR pile. There's nothing quite so humbling as reading someone else's work and thinking "Oh my. I am such a beginner." It also makes me work harder, because I want to be better than I am.

I am hoping for an excuse to take off of work tomorrow. Like snow. I have a white almond cake to eat, and hot coco to drink. And a novel to write. That sounds like a perfect birthday to me.
amergina: (autumn trees border)
I hosted Thanksgiving in my house this year. First time I've ever done that. Since my family is notoriously small, it was just my parents and me, but it was lovely, lovely, lovely.

We ate out in my new sun room on a table that was in the kitchen of the first house my father remembers living in. We used my paternal grandmother's dishes, my maternal grandmother's flatware, and cooked the turkey in my mother's roasting pan.

So, while there were only three of us, there were many more in spirit and memory.

Now, I must go make soup. And finish up the last assignments I'll ever have for my MFA.
amergina: (autumn path)
Two years ago, I planted Johnny Jump Ups (Viola tricolor) in my front garden bed. They're wild pansies (from whence the cultivated varieties hail).

They're annuals or short-lived perennials. The ones in my front garden seeded themselves into my front lawn. And they keep seeding themselves.

They're also very tough little plants. Lo, what I found in my lawn today. I will survive! )

I should mention that we've had a hard frost. Several. And yet, the pansy blooms.

It's a good reminder for me--this little plant that most people associate with being weak--is not. At all. It's a survivor and it spreads. May I still bloom after the hard frosts of my life!
amergina: (autumn path)
I'm still alive!

I'm in the final months of grad school, which means I'm up to my armpits in work. Oh, and I signed up for nanowrimo, because I'm a glutton for punishment.

I just got back from the World Fantasy convention, where I had a wonderful, wonderful time. Many of my fellow classmates, alumni, and instructors from Seton Hill went, which was fabulous.

I also got to hang out with the wonderful [ profile] msagara and her husband, which was very fun, though I didn't get to say goodbye to them on Sat night or Sunday (which is somewhat my fault, because I went chasing down someone I had been looking for when I could have said goodbye). :(

I did have a fan-girl moment when I met Guy Gavriel Kay, who is one of the authors who inspired me to write. I had another one when I met Carol Berg.

All in all, it was amazing. I don't know about San Diego, but I will be at WFC in Toronto in 2012. I think I got about 8 hours of sleep the entire weekend, so I am quite pooped. Next time, more sleeping. (Who am I kidding?)
amergina: (flag)
Today, I am doing housework in my own home, and homework for my MFA and listening to the occasional sounds of jet planes from the air show that's happening down by the Pittsburgh airport.

Nine years ago, I was living in someone else's house and I was heartsick and glued to the TV as we watched the news.

I still have the same job in the same office, close to the airport.

In the days that followed, nine years ago, I did not hear any airplane noises. There were no contrails. Only birds graced the air.

Part of my was utterly fascinated to look into that fall sky and see and hear what had not been seen nor heard in my lifetime--a sky without planes. It was a beautiful sight, for a horrible, horrible reason.

Today, there's an airshow in those skies, and I am grateful for it.

My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones that day, to all who were affected by its events.
amergina: (reading)
So here's what I got for free:

The Last Page by Anthony Huso
Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll (which is a pen name for wife/husband team Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimsky)
Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell, who was the writer GoH
The Reckoners by Doranna Durgin
Thirteen Orphans by Jane Lindskold
Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez

They're all published by TOR books. The Editor GoH was from TOR. :)

Here's what I bought:

Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder
A Matter of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede (It's a reissue of Mairelon the Magician and The Magician's Ward in a trade omnibus)
The Shifter by Janice Hardy
Phoenix Rising by Jo Lynne Valerie (Self published. Met the author.)
Vipers by Lawrence C. Connolly
Highland Heat by Tilly Greene
The Theory of Cat Gravity by Robin Wood (It's cute!)
amergina: (nuts&bolts)
I went to Context 23 in Columbus this past weekend and had a good time. It's a small convention, generally geared toward the literary, which means there are many panels on writing and a slew of workshops. Tobias Buckell was the GoH and his editor Paul Stevens from TOR was the editor GoH.

I helped out with Paul Stevens's presentation of upcoming TOR releases because the computer cart ended up next to where I was sitting (as in, it was set up after I sat down) so I pressed the forward button. :) I got first pick of the books he brought, and chose a hardback copy of The Last Page by Anthony Huso. Score. I've been eying that book since I saw it, as it has a stunning cover.

Now one of the nice things about small conventions is that you can talk to people... really talk to them. So after the presentation, I helped him carry some book catalogs and chatted. And, you know, having a real conversation is so much nicer than the 5-minute speed-dating version of talking to editors and agents.

I went to several panels that were focused on the business end of writing and, as always, the take-home message was this:

--Be professional.

I don't think that can be said enough, especially in the Internet Age.

The secondary take-home message, which I think is important, was this:

--It is not the job of an agent/editor to make your dreams come true.

That may seem a bit harsh, but it *is* true. They end up with so many people's expectations piled onto them, and it's not really fair. They are *not* in the business of gleefuly crushing dreams. They honestly want to see you succeed. They just can't accept everything.

The other panel I went to was on paranormal romance, which was just a stitch to be at. Very funny and nice folks.

I also took a workshop by Lucy Snyder on writing Urban Fantasy, which was good. She had a nice exercise that got me thinking about idea generation... and also how to pitch my UF once it's done.

One of the best parts of Context is catching up with all the fellow students, alumni, and mentors/instructors from Seton Hill. It makes the six months between residencies more bearable. :)

I'll be back next year.
amergina: (bluemoon)
Specifically, I am querying literary agents to represent my work to (hopefully) a NYC publishing house.

No, I don't want to self-publish at this time, mostly because I don't have a platform to make it work and I'd rather not spend time and money trying to sell my book out of the (metaphorical) trunk of my car. More power to the people who do this and make it *work*. So many don't though and I do not have a natural 20 in charisma (which you pretty much need).

The widest availability is best, and for now, having a physical book on a physical bookshelf in a physical store still has quite an impact.

The gatekeepers will never vanish. And you really don't want them to. Honest.

So, yes. NYC publishing house. Or small/mid well-respected press. That's my goal.

Sites I've found extraordinarily useful: -- Search for literary agents by genre and whether they're open to unsolicited submissions. Also has a wealth of information about individual agents. Updated all the time. -- AbsoluteWrite forums. Also has a plethora of info about agents and publishing companies. Helps alert new writers to scams and new-but-clueless publishing companies. Has a section of the forum dedicated to improving your query letter. -- Writers Beware Blog! (Also mirrored at SFWA) Alerts about scams and really bad choices for writers. Also some good information on publishing in general. -- Janet Reid's Query Shark will eat your queries for lunch. But you'll learn quite a bit about how to query.

I also follow many agents on twitter. It's a good way to learn agent temperament, though not all agents bolg/twitter. But those that do often post the latest industry news. Or what they're looking for. Or about the queries they receive... it's all interesting info.

Also, dude. and for all your SF/F needs.

In addition, I'm still writing. Because one does not put all of ones hopes on the first book.
amergina: (vorlons)
So I was watching Gladiator on TNT tonight, and during the scene toward the end where the Gladiators are fighting the soldiers and Maximus is escaping (only to be caught), I noticed that a certain rift of music sounded... familiar. Very familiar. It took me a bit, but then I realized where I had heard it before: Pirates of the Caribbean II (specifically, in the scene where they are fighting on the waterwheel).

Both soundtracks are by Hans Zimmer. I suppose it's ok to rip your own rifts off...

It was just one of those "Hey! Waitaminute!" moments.
amergina: (reading)
Though I am chained to my homework, I keep buying books. I can't help it. Interesting, my post title describes both the authors and the cover subjects.

Tell me More! )