amergina: (nanowrimo)
-- I'm still querying for The Tyras Key. I should query more. Lots more. But I'm still convinced my query letter is crap.

-- Part One of Duty (Aka The-Peradon-Novel-That-Was-Supposed-To-Be-a-Short-Story-But-Is-Now-89K Long) is done. Part Two is my NaNoWriMo project. God help me.

-- Close Quarter (Aka, the naughty naughty book) is on the back burner to finish in December. I've got about 15-20 more K to go. I have the end in my head.

-- I have started jotting down notes for a novel that's probably going to turn into something along the lines of a historical fantasy (a la Guy Gavriel Kay, but not as beautifully or as mind-shatteringly written because, well, I'm no GKK!) based on the 100 Years War time period. But in another world, with some magic, because I want to play with the timing of things (like bringing in a Joan of Arc figure much earlier).

-- Hell or High Water (aka, the Pittsburgh UF that has no romance) is still on the back burner, too. I'll probably pick that up after Duty and Close Quarter are done.

I subbed a short story to an anthology. Waiting to hear back on that.

And that piece of fan fiction I wrote is still lurking there on my desktop. Lurk lurk lurk.
amergina: (reading)
Sometimes life is synchronous.

On the same day, I saw a topic over on the Absolute Write Forums about Francine Prose's Reading like a Writer and Nicole Peeler asked two questions on twitter:

Do you think it's important for readers of genre fiction to be proficient at reading, especially close reading?

Kay, do you think people who want to be WRITERS of genre fiction should be proficient readers?

During my last term in Seton Hill's MFA for Popular Fiction, I read Reading Like a Writer as part of a class I took on reading YA literature.

Prose's book is pretty much all about close reading. This got long )

I was wrong

Jun. 2nd, 2011 11:28 pm
amergina: (smackdown)
Apparently, I can write fan fiction.

*smacks forehead to keyboard*

Part of me is appalled at myself for 100 different reasons, none of which is a dislike of fan fiction (to make that clear).

But there are many good things:

I've re-learned I can write something that has no elements of the fantastic.

I've re-learned that I like history.

I've remembered that I really should read more non-fiction

I--seem to have a thing for non-modern politics. (Modern politics makes me want to break out in hives.)

Actually, I just love relationships, how people act with one another, and all the ways they are pulled by all that surrounds them.

I also have stellar avoidance techniques, because I only discovered this because I should have been working on something else.

It was not a waste of time, though. Not at all.

Now to decided if any of it will ever see the light of day, or if I'll shove it into the sock-drawer of my computer.
amergina: (Montjoy)
I love Shakespeare, have since high school.

Hamlet is my favorite play, though I desperately want to rewrite the darn thing so that Hamlet gets off his melancholy ass and offs his uncle and takes the throne. I mean, jeez!

Yeah, I know. It's called a tragedy for a reason. *cough*

I also adore, to the point of wearing my DVD out, the Kenneth Branagh 1989 movie adaption of Henry V. It is my comfort movie. No, really. Stop laughing!

And every time, I get all pissed off at Scroop, Northumberland, and Grey. And I get all Hurrah! at the Agincourt speech and angry about the boys in the baggage.

But my heart always *always* goes out to one character in particular:

Montjoy, the French Herald. Cut to spare you far too many screencaps )
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: (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.
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.

Anyway.

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: (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:

http://querytracker.net/ -- 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.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/ -- 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.

http://accrispin.blogspot.com/ -- Writers Beware Blog! (Also mirrored at SFWA) Alerts about scams and really bad choices for writers. Also some good information on publishing in general.

http://queryshark.blogspot.com/ -- 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. http://www.tor.com and http://www.orbitbooks.net/ 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: (nuts&bolts)
Most people probably haven't noticed because it's the weekend, but Amazon (in the US) pulled all of the titles published by Macmillan group off of their website.

Print and e-book.

Want the latest Wheel of Time book? Can't get it directly from Amazon anymore. Tor is part of Macmillan. Sure, you can buy it through Amazon Marketplace, from some third party seller. But not from Amazon.

Why?

long post is long )
I'm pretty much with the authors on this one. Regardless of the business struggle, Amazon chose an option of protest that screws over the authors. And I don't like that. It's the bully tactic.
amergina: (pages)
Writer's are funny. Well, I should say that people in the arts are funny, since it's not just writers that sell themselves short in a desperate bid for approval.

There's a fabulous post over at John Scalzi's Blog that talks about this:

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2009/12/03/aspiring-writer-stockholm-syndrome/

“A market like this gives me hope” — A market that thinks so little of you that it takes five words to get to a penny gives you hope? You need better hope standards, my friends.

Look, this is pretty simple: Black Matrix Publishing pays crap rates because it can. The people running it appear to be running it on a shoe string, if the proprietor’s lament about paying a few thousand dollars to date into it is correct, and they’re likely well aware that none of the other vendors providing elements for their little operation are so fungible in their costs as writers. The people who print their magazines will not be pleased to make 4% of their generally accepted “pro rates” for their printing services; the Staples down the street is not going to give them a 96% discount on pens and printer cartridges. The only group of people so willing to offer such a steep discount on services rendered are writers. Why? “Because at least they pay something.” “Because I’m working my way up.” “Because no one writes this stuff to make money.” “Because it gives me hope.”

Bullshit. Someone intending to make a profit off your words offering you a fifth of a penny per word isn’t giving you hope, he’s giving you the shaft — and he’s banking on your psychological need for approval and recognition in a field you want to be a part of to make you grab your ankles and sings his praises while he reams you. This isn’t hope, it’s Aspiring Writer Stockholm Syndrome. Snap out of it.
amergina: (pages)
I've been thinking about my writing process lately.

I've always identified as a Pantser (write by the seat of my pants) rather than a Plotter (really, an outliner-- someone who outlines the manuscript before starting).

I may be wrong about that.

Here's how I go about creating a story:
The creation process )
amergina: (pages)
I lurk on several writing communities on LJ that offer critiques to those who post their work. For the most part, the critiques are reasonable. They offer criticism and point out mistakes or habitual flaws in grammar in a neutral to kind manner. Fair, but not harsh.

But on occasion, I see the super harsh "this is shit" or "this is cliched tripe" comments. Which are depressing to the author... and meaningless as a critique. How is it shit? What about it is cliched tripe? How can it be improved to be less cliche? Oh, you don't like vampire stories, oh *ok*. You don't like that at the age of 14, the author might not know exactly how to properly punctuate dialogue. *fine*. You could just say that, you know.

Now, it *is* important to develop a thick skin about critiques. You *do* have to have passion for your writing and be willing to put up with someone telling you to improve it--if you desire to be published. If you could care less, then it doesn't matter. And yes, some crits will seem harsh. Some will be harsh... but also useful. Some will be full of snark... and useful. If you're lucky, you may be critiqued by a professional satirist and the comments will be snarky, funny, and useful and you'll end up giggling at your own foibles.

But some critiques will be flaming piles of garbage that do nothing other than put your writing (or worse, you) down. Try as you might, you won't be able to distill anything meaningful from what the person says.

So what should you do when you get a critique that cross-shreds your baby and suggests you stop writing now before you do more damage to the English language?

Thank them for their time.

That's it. Don't engage, don't ask for amplification on their comments. Work with the people who offer criticism that isn't *just* a pile a razorblades with some blood and rust on them.

Do try to distill what they are saying out of the words they use, if you can.

Cliche usually means that you're either using the same themes that everyone uses and not being original about it (a halfling finds a magic ring that seems to be evil), or you've hit on something the critique-giver does not like (elves?! dragons?! EWWWWW)

If they comment on your grammar or semi-colon usage, go find someone nice to review your grammar. Or pick up a grammar reference. But for goodness sake, back away from the vitriol. Your blood pressure will thank you.

You don't have to respond to any (online) critique with anything but "Thanks for reading this and commenting!"
amergina: (seton hill)
First things: I'm 166/596 on my thesis revision. I've hacked off about 5000 words. It feels great. I'm really liking the process of uncovering the story nearly as much as I liked discovering it.

Second: Been thinking of a sequel or sequels. Need to ponder more.

Third: Desperately need to work on my 12 and 25 word pitches. People at Pennsic kept asking me what my book was about and I could not tell them. Because Lo! I am Lame. And not gold and glittery.

Fourth: Read Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. As part of the Genre Reading course I'm taking, I had to write up two journal essays about it. I'm going to stick them here under cuts.

Without a doubt, spoilers.

Story framing: Seducing the reader via two narrative angles )

Of MICE and Moths )

My "did I like it or not" review of PSS is over here at Goodreads.

Fifth: I had had had to read Cast in Silence by Michelle Sagara before I started the next genre read book. Swallowed it whole in two days. Loved it. Except for the grimaces. My fangirl review is here at Goodreads, too. I CANNOT wait for the next book. Well, I can, because I know (now) how hard it is to churn one out.

Sixth: Started reading Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. Great book so far. But I'm way behind on posting about it. I need to do that tomorrow.