31 May 2013

When Good Ideas go Bad and Then Good Again

Our theme this month has been about how the best ideas can go bad and because this month has an extra Friday, I get to go again!

I’ve had my fair share of ‘The Best Book Idea Ever!’ turning into ‘What the Hell was I thinking??’. Sometimes it’s been the plot, sometimes the characters, even extenuating circumstances (aka real life) but, in reality, it’s all me. They’re my ideas and, whoa Nellie, if they don’t turn out then who can I blame but myself? But it's not the end of the world, or even the end of the story.

Here’s a “for instance.”

In early 2012 Ellora’s Cave put out their list of sub calls, one of which was for tattoo themed books. I came up with an idea for four linked fantasy books revolving around the Midnight CafĂ©, a tattoo parlor in the world beyond the Veil, where all the characters of myth and legends reside. They were to be short novellas, and I had just over a month to get them written. I could do it. I was sure of it. I told my family I’d be pretty much unavailable for the next six weeks and hunkered down.

Then, in February our son Tom was in a horrendous auto accident* and everything, of course, got shoved aside. Thank heavens although he was terribly hurt we were assured he would eventually make a full recovery. And despite not having much time, I found writing therapeutic and actually cranked out two of the three novellas I’d planned, Fleeing Fate and Stone-Hard Passion, and they were released as part of the Pricked series.

Fast forward to June and things have settled down. I pull out the outline for book three and decide to get on with it. The plot involves a dragon shifter and Lady Luck, who’s a Fey woman. I write, hit delete, write some more, delete some more. It’s like pulling teeth. By now I think I must have been on crack when I decided this story had legs. Then it stuck me…The Fey woman actually should be a Fey man…

HA! I won’t claim the book flowed, because I struggled to get it finished—real life again—but once I got that point worked out, I knew exactly how the book was to go and Dragon's Claim, book three in my Unveiled Seductions series came to life.

So, for me I’ve found sometimes it’s a matter of finding the stumbling block and tearing through it to turn a bad idea into something I can love.

*My son Tom’s accident was caused by his Type One Diabetes, which he’s had since he was four years old. In a rush to get to work one morning, running late, he fixed himself breakfast to go and jumped into his car. Unfortunately he didn’t eat quickly enough and his blood sugar dropped. He doesn’t remember anything about what happened next, but the end result was the accident.

They don’t know what causes Type One Diabetes and there is no cure. Every year the Brenda Novak Auction raises funds for research into Type One Diabetes and it is an awesome way to help, as well as get some wicked deals on all kinds of cool stuff. By the time you read this the auction may be over for this year (May 31st is the last day) but if not, go and take a look and get a last minute deal. If it’s too late this year, make sure to check it out next year!

30 May 2013

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Photos from Balticon '13

Technically, my next blog is June 1, the start of "Some Like it Hot" month here at Beyond the Veil. Since none of the stories I'm working on fall into that category, I figured I should cogitate on the subject a bit more.

Instead, I offer a Thursday Thirteen of photos from Balticon 47, held in Hunt Valley, Maryland last weekend.  Enjoy!

It wouldn't be Balticon Friday without some Dancing in the Gears, the annual Steampunk ball featuring 19th century dances.
Author Stephanie Burke shows off her Steampunk finery.
Panel moderator Becca Davis (left) and former wrestler Nate Nelson instruct attendees in the finer points of not killing each other in the Stage Combat Workshop.  If you think it looks a lot like pro wrestling...you're right!
Two pairs of attendees at the Stage Combat Workshop learn the finer points of pretending to lead a subdued opponent around the room. In fact, the person in the head lock is doing the leading.
Meanwhile, there was belly-dancing in the halls.

And splendid costumes.  My only regret is I didn't get to this year's Masquerade.

Steampunk was definitely the style of choice. Here Hildy Silverman, the publisher of Space and Time, gives it a ninja spin.

Guest of Honor Joe Haldeman and his lovely wife Gay, one of the nicest people in the SF community.

Dark Quest Books editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail (second from left) and some of Dark Quest's more melodious authors celebrate dames at the Dark Quest Mega-Launch Party.

Filker and Dark Quest author Danny Birt tries to learn the lyrics on the fly, while playing guitar. Kids, don't try this at home.

Of course, a little thing like mental safety wouldn't stop our own Christine Norris, Dark Quest's newest acquisition editor.  And yes, folks, she's acquiring. You can see the post here.

SF erotica icon Cecilia Tan just before our Buzzy Mag interview. I think this was the only serious second in the the whole talk, which covered everything from writing for teen magazines to baseball to David Bowie--well, you knew we had to get space aliens in there somehow.

And in closing, the Motorcycle Fairy. How do you top that?
Well I guess you could check out my Flickr page for the rest of the photos.  Enjoy!
Jean Marie Ward

Ideas Are Never Wasted

"I'm still big, it's the pictures that got small." --Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard.

In Sunset Boulevard, aging film star Norma Desmond has an idea for a comeback, an idea so awesome that she's convinced it will only take tweaking by a good screenwriter to make it perfect.

The key to this classic movie is that Norma is partially right. She's still a fascinating, vital women and should still be in pictures. But she's wrong as well, refusing to accept that her one brilliant idea can never bring back the life that was.

Gloria Swanson explains it all to William Holden in Sunset Boulevard
She's so deluded that even after murdering the person who was supposed to be her savior, she retreats further into her fantasy world, becoming the part she wanted to play when the cameras show up. "I'm ready for my close-up," she declares, having permanently taken up residence in fantasy. That fantasy is so strong and so comforting and reality so harsh, that it's hard to blame her. Even Joe Gillis (William Holden), gives her a pass. He, of course, regrets it.

Sometimes I feel like Norma, hanging onto an idea so tightly that it's impossible to know whether the belief in that idea or story is an utter fantasy, a delusion so big that it allows no room for reality to intrude.

Writing has no box scores, no bottom line that defines success or failure. Publishing does, of course, and that's measured it in sales dollars, but, as with any art, sales dollars aren't always the best measure of overall success.

I choose to be positive about ideas that don't work out, as part of my 10,000 hours of practice toward getting decent as writing.

My one big idea that hasn't worked out so far is to write a paranormal with a ghost hunter and two psychics hunting a mad scientist vampire. The original concept was to pair two women and one guy, since I'd been seeing so many romantic threesomes with two girls and a girl and I thought I'd mix it up. Well, turns out the reason the reason two guys and a girl is a more popular threesome is because it's more likely to be a female fantasy.


Luckily, this revelation occurred only about 10,000 words into the book. So I swapped out Tammy for Rhys and I wrote the rest of it. In first person. For 80,000 words.

And at the end of the book, I liked the plot, the villain, and the two guys. I didn't like my narrator, my heroine, at all. And I didn't like the first person narration.

Oops again.

It turns out, unlike many authors who write in first person, that point of view distances me from my characters. When I write in third person, I feel like I'm riding with them as the story happens. When I write in first person, I feel like I'm sitting in front of a fire with my narrator and they're telling me a story, rather than me experiencing the story along with them.

So, rewrite needed. Back to third person. For all 80,000 words.

Still didn't work. ARGH.

I'd learned a lot about how to write psychic elements and how they combine with sex and a lot about writing a younger male character, and a lot about ghosts. But it was the first book that I just didn't feel I should even try to sell.

I put it aside.

I started writing something new, superheroes, and the Phoenix Institute series was born. The first book, Phoenix Rising, featured a young male hero. With psychic abilities such as telekinesis and firestarting that were not completely under his control. It also featured a heroine whose own abilities responded to the hero's.

In other words, elements from my failed idea. Younger hero. Check. Psychic abilities that needed some work. Check. Combination of psychic powers and sex. Check.

Phoenix Rising has been my biggest seller to date and it keeps selling.

So was the paranormal featuring the mad scientist vampire as the villain a failure or a bad idea? Nah. I just needed to practice first.

I've since gone back to the ghost hunter threesome story and rewritten it and it features a narrator I enjoy now. I noticed this week that a publisher was looking for a modern gothic, which is mostly what that so-called "failed book" is.

So I've concluded Norma Desmond was right. It wasn't the idea that was bad. It was the writing that got small.

And small writing?

It takes time, patience and energy but I can fix that.

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero. Most of the time. :) You can find out more about her books at www.corrina-lawson.com

29 May 2013

Dark Quest Books

I’ve been hinting around that there was to be a big announcement, that I’ve been making changes in my writing career. I couldn’t tell anyone officially until after Balticon, when we made the public announcement at the Dark Quest launch party.

There’s a whole big story behind this, but long story short.

Dark Quest Books, an independent SF/F/H publisher (yes, the website is out of date, it’s on of the things on the ever-growing to-do list.) is opening a Young Adult imprint, Palomino Press.  Here is the shiny new logo:

And I am the Acquisitions Editor. Yes, me.  I know, right?  The first release from this new imprint will come out in the Fall – The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, by L. Jagi Lamplighter, who is the author of the Prospero's Daughter series, from TOR, and an all around nice lady. This will be a multiple book series.

So, we have six (JUST SIX) slots left to fill for the imprint for 2014-15.  Right now we’re accepting submissions. THESE ARE THE GUIDELINES:
*YA ONLY (no middle grade), we’re aiming for 15-19 year old readers (and crossover with the adult readers who read YA, of course).
*65,000-100,000 words
*Speculative Fiction ONLY (SF/F/H)
Other than those three things, pretty much anything goes!
*Contemporary, Historical, Alternate Universe, Futuristic, Dystopian, Steampunk all welcome!
*Romantic elements are certainly acceptable, but should be secondary to the plot.
*Especially looking for sharp, original YA voice (think Cassandra Claire, Kady Cross, Lauren Oliver, Jennifer Armentrout, Suzanne Collins).

I know what I want for this imprint, now I just have to find it! If you think you’ve got the perfect manuscript, please submit a query letter, the first three chapters, and a 1-2 page synopsis to me at palomino@darkquestbooks.com. Please do NOT email my personal email — it will be deleted. Snail mail queries will not be accepted.

27 May 2013

Memorial Day in the US

Today is a special, poignant day in the United States. It is the day that we honor our fallen heroes with remembrance and praise.

Strong and brave, these young men and women paid the ultimate price so that the rest of us can live. I am able to raise my children in a country that respects freedoms, dreams and happiness because of the sacrifices others have made. There are no words or feelings great enough to describe how grateful I am.

So I will simply say thank you.

Thank you to those who have died for this great land.
Thank you to the families who have lost their precious loved ones to save us all.
Thank you to those of you who are willing to fight for the rights and lives we all cherish and hold dear.

My love to you each one of you.

Kimberley Troutte


26 May 2013

When good ideas just aren't the right fit...

I'm working on a Steampunk novel and I have all the pieces in place to just go to town.  I picked my setting, location, time period, steampunk itmes. It was all ready to go and then I went to RT.  I learned two things:

1) Steampunk is a slow growing readership.

2) Your story needs to stand out.

Learning these two things changed the direction of my story.  Despite the popularity of Steampunk, the readership isn't there...WHAT?  Don't readers know I have a story they will love?  Maybe steampunk fans are a skeptical lot, and don't want to take a chance on a new auther. 

Maybe they like all the books written before they read them.  I had one book plotted not two.  Apparently Steampunk fans need series.  This changed my concept of writing the novel. I always write strong secondary characters in order to create series because I've found that readers like going back to worlds created. However, that being said I watch my sales to see which books are doing better and put books selling better on a faster timetable than those that do not. Clearly if I wrote this novel I would have to change my way of thinking.

I pitched my story and setting to an editor who was clearly confused and realized that my story wasn't unique enough.  I set it in London and it was clearly not standing out enough so I changed the location to Istanbul. I also took the time to plot out all the changes to my altered timeline and came up with a second story idea, which changed my title from "Gunns, Cleaver & Brass Pacaderms" to "The Courtesan of Constantinople"  Here's the two blurbs, tell me which one you like better:

Cleaver, Gunn’s & Brass Pacaderms

Laurel Gunn run’s one of England’s most notorious brothel’s.  Following her husband’s death on the Crimean battle field she was taken away to a desert harem.  There she learned the art of love and men’s desire.

Lt. Aaron March rescued Laurel and brought her back to London.  He never expected her undying love to get in the way of their romance.  He hoped to have her as his wife rather than his mistress.  Yet, Aaron’s love is stronger than death.

Death is around every corner as prostitutes are being killed by a maniac known as “The Cleaver”.  Laurel is drawn into the mystery as one of her girls is found dead. Scotland Yard has a suspect, Dr. Benjamin Gunn.

Ben Gunn returns from the war to find his wife in the arms of another man and accused of killing London’s working girls.  Ben has a secret – he’s no longer human and has moments where he blacks out.

The Cleaver chooses a victim both men love, Laurel.  Can Aaron save her?  Can Ben learn to control his inner beast?  Find out in “Cleaver, Gunn’s & Brass Pacaderms”.

The Courtesan of Constantinople

It has been twelve years since Britain and France lost the Crimean war.  The Holy Alliance has granted the Ottoman Empire continued rule over its lands if it shares the port of Constantinople.   Constantinople is a global city of power, politics and prostitution.

Laurel Gunn runs “All the Queen’s Women” a bordello catering to the elite members of The Embassy - a powerhouse of politicians from all over the globe.  Besides meeting a courtesan for an evening of dalliance, you can also meet fellow politicians for a drink or perhaps some espionage.

Amidst the spys, an impending rebellion looms and a man known as “The Cleaver” is killing prostitutes including the women who work in her establishment.  Laurel must learn who to trust among the men in her life: Lt. Aaron March –the man who saved her from the Sultan’s harem; Inspector Raven Lark – a man with secrets, who craves justice; or Dr. Benjamin Gunn – her husband, a man she watched die, whose arrival following the death of the first girl is suspicious.

Laurel Gunn has survived her overbearing father, The Crimean War and a Sultan’s harem.  She’s not to let “The Cleaver” get away with murder.  After all – who brings a Cleaver to a Gunn fight?

I loved the first story idea but the second one opened up more options for me.  Thank the stars,  I wasn't knee deep into the story....


17 May 2013

Ugh, did I write that?

Good ideas do go bad.

I remember the first 'review' I received regarding Camille from DREAM WALK was not so stunning. I wanted a vulnerable heroine who had been kicked around by life and still had to stand on her own two feet. That's what I thought I wrote. Apparently my first scenes were not up to par. A kind but blunt critique partner told me: "Your heroine is a wimp."

Ouch! But she was right. And luckily, it was early enough in the story that I didn't have to tweak too much to make her a more palatable character. I managed to turn my shy, scared heroine into a woman who could kick butt when needed. Oh, she was still shy. She still jumped at shadows and really did not want to talk to the dead. She wanted to run and hide. But she faced her problems -- and her demon and her hero -- head-on.

From this experience I learned that a story being good or bad is most often in the execution of the details. So from now on, we I discover a good idea seems to be falling flat, I ask myself: "Is it really bad or am I just writing it that way?" and "How can I tell?"

Simple. Ask someone I trust to read it and tell me what they think. Or put it aside for a bit, go back to it with fresh eyes. If I find myself groaning out loud, then I know it's time to either scrap it or begin again.

Ugh. Beginning again is really not fun. But that is part of what this art is about: doing it over until you get it right.

Meg Allison


16 May 2013

If You Give A Kid A Camera...

Recently, as in yesterday, I had to perform that painful authorial duty that happens to so many of us -- I had to get new headshots. Accompanying me to meet the professional photographer at our chosen outdoor locations were my sister and her 20 month old daughter.

Now my sister is a careful mom who's doing a great job with her kiddo. One thing she does so she can be that careful mom is to make a certain allowance in a certain situation in order to preserve her own sanity. By that oh so descriptive sentence, I mean she has a childproofed old iPoon she lets the baby play with in the car. The iPoon's name is Carl.

Baby has found the camera function on the iPoon. So I thought I'd share some of baby's art on the way to and from my photography appointment. Keep in mind these are merely a small sampling of the images we found on the camera.

1. Shoes!

2. Something fleshy.

3. Baby hair.

4. No more shoes!

5. A gingham toy.

6. A leg.

7. Two legs and a foot.

8. Oooh, nice foot.

9. I need a drink from the sippy cup. Hold on, Carl.
10. I lost my purple shoes somewhere....new shoes!

11. Caspar the friendly Megablox ghost.

12. Mr. Moto Monkey

13. Baby :)

What does this have to do with writing paranormal and this month's topic of finding writing ideas or when good ideas go bad? Not much, actually. My sister's idea of letting the kid play with the old iPoon isn't bad SO far! And maybe one day Baby will take some pictures that lend themselves to a story...that reveal the perpetrator of a crime...or a shapeshifting alien....except Baby isn't saying much yet, and all we'd have to solve the mystery are 208 photos of almost exactly the same thing.


Jody Wallace

Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist

http://www.jodywallace.com * http://www.meankitty.com

13 May 2013

When Old Ideas Turn Into New Books

For once, I'm able to contribute to this month's theme! The book I'm finalizing at the moment - Tales of the Were: Grif - started off as an idea way back in 2005 or so. I wrote a good portion of it - probably somewhere around 30,000 words or more - and then let it sit while I did other things.

Maybe I got "stuck". Maybe I just got busy with dragons or aliens or whatever. I can't really recall anymore. Suffice to say, the book sat. And sat. And SAT. Unloved. Unfinished. Unfortunate.

But always in the back of my mind, there were these characters and this situation. A werecougar Alpha who had just sustained terrible loss in his family, and his little sister, both seeking the solace of the mountains to try to heal. And a woman. A human who knew about shapeshifters, who had a debt of family honor to settle.

I wrote about them in other books. I used members of the werecougar family in other stories, all the while knowing there was this older brother out there and all this tragedy in the family's past. I knew these people. I wanted so badly to finish their story, but after so much time had passed, I really wasn't sure how to go about it.

Then, last Christmas, I started self-publishing some of my paranormal stories. The first was Tales of the Were: Rocky, a novella I had written for an anthology call years before. The story was ultimately turned down and my editor at the time wanted me to expand it into a novel. I never quite got around to it before that editor left and I had this great story sitting on my hard drive for years.

I finally polished it up and added to it. I turned it into the story I had really wanted to write originally, but was constrained by the terms of the anthology call to change. I gave Rocky new life and sent him out there, into the world, to see what people might think of my werebear creation.

The response was like nothing I ever expected.

I had figured on just self-publishing the story for my own enjoyment. And maybe for those few, die-hard fans who might like to know where Rocky - a character who had a bit of a cameo role in my book Lords of the Were - had come from and what had happened to him after we first meet him in Lords.

Rocky's book led to a new character. A mysterious shifter named Slade. I was enchanted by him and wanted to know more about him. I sat down and wrote his story in January and February, then published it in March of this year as Tales of the Were: Slade. He was an entirely new character who had come from that "old" book about Rocky.

And then I started to realize how I might circle back around to Griffon Redstone - the werecougar Alpha I had started to write about so many years ago. I finally understood how and where his story fit in among the others I had been writing all this time. Not only that, but I realized where his brothers' stories fit as well.

And now I've started work on a 5-book sub-series of werecougar tales revolving around the Redstone Clan of cougar shifters. The first story - the one I started work on all those years ago - will be out later this month and is called Tales of the Were: Grif (Redstone Clan #1). I know that's a bit of a mouthful, but I'm not sure how else to clarify that this story fits firmly under the Tales of the Were series, but is part of its own little sub-series of 5 stories - one for each brother in the Redstone family.

The first book is, of course, about Grif, the eldest of the five brothers. It is the same story I began so long ago, but I finally know how to end it! There will be other books, later this year, for Mag and his vampire mate, Steve, Bobcat, and the ever-popular Matt, who was also featured in my book Sweeter Than Wine.

It's been a long time coming, but I feel like I'm finally on the track to fulfilling the promise of that story I began writing so long ago. The old idea is new and the "new" ideas that helped me finally finish this story have made it blossom into something I never really expected. I hope you'll enjoy the ride as much as I will!

Tales of the Were: Grif will be releasing in ebook in late May on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. It will release in print in June. Look for it to arrive on iTunes, Kobo, and other fine ebook and print retail sites mid-June. For more information, please visit www.biancadarc.com.

12 May 2013

Pretty, pretty

I know this month's theme is when good ideas go bad, but since meeting deadline at the end of April I'm afraid my brain is a useless pile of goo.

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to pull SO many all nighters and early mornings.

I'm so distracted. Easily distracted lately as my brain re-gels into whatever state it was in prior to meeting the Harlequin deadline, so I thought I'd share this pretty, pretty with you! Another bear shifter book!

Oh, so very pretty.

It's the sequel to Mounted Release and it's coming out June 7, 2013. YAY!

Here's a blurb:

Jared Stevens hasn’t been the same since he was shot. His duty is to marry a
Mukswa woman and be a strong leader. He lets the elders of his clan choose his bride,
because the woman he wants is only in his fantasies, the only woman who brings him to
exquisite release.

Adele Banks loved being a Mountie, but one shot ended her career and altered
her world forever. Adele is determined to make a life for herself. She’s hired to recover
Beare Enterprises embezzled funds, but what she didn’t count on is being extremely
attracted to her client when meeting him for the first time as he’s naked in his shower.

Adele is Jared’s mystery woman, but she’s taboo. He bonds to her, but has to keep
his society secret, as much as he wants to mark her as his own.

As Jared fights his own inner beast, remnants of the prior chief’s wrath is affecting
the clan and Adele. To save Adele’s life, Jared may just have to betray his clan’s secret
and risk his heart.

A Romantica® paranormal erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

09 May 2013

When Good Ideas Go Bad

It's relaxing.

Art is therapeutic.

Knitting is easy.

I tried learning to knit many times throughout the years, since I've wanted to knit since I was a child.  My first experience with knitting was with a K-Tel Knitter, something you can't even find anymore and, oddly, the company won't allow any instructions to be posted - so if you do still have a K-Tel Knitter, good luck figuring out how to use the blasted thing!

Thankfully, crafters are a little obsessed and I noticed many more resources this time when I went looking than the last time, which was when I actually wanted to use my K-Tel Knitter.  Irony, thy name is craft.

Or, cat.  Depends on your point of view, especially if you craft in a house with cats.

Needless to say, I could not figure out knitting from a book.  It took me a lot of years of frustration before I learned I have a learning style where I don't translate 3-D to 2-D and vice versa.  I am a kinesthetic learner, which means I learn by doing, and I need to have someone show me things.  I took my first knitting class in 2000 and POOF!  INSTANT YARN ADDICT!

I started Knoontime Knitting in March of 2008, just after I started my main blog.  I wanted to explore this thing called "three dimensions" since apparently, I live there.  An amazing thing started to happen - I wanted to knit everything!  I wasn't alone, either.  There's even a style of graffiti called "yarn bombing", where people put knitting in public places in unexpected ways.

d00d.  How can you resist the pom-pom?  BWAHAHAHAHAHA.

I started taking weaving classes a couple years ago and haven't looked back, with the exception of a sad year where I couldn't afford to go because I was between jobs.  (Don't recommend doing that, it's not very fun.)  But I love weaving and have made some amazing things.

The biggest thing crafts have taught me, though, is that anyone that says they're easy and relaxing and anyone can do it...

Yeah, they're totally right.  It's a ball.  On a stick.  You should try it.

Who knows?  You might end up with the ranks of us fiber addicts.  "Hello, my name is A. Catherine Noon and I'm a knitter."

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora 
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter
Team Blogs: Nightlight | Nightlight FB Page |  Beyond the Veil | BtV FB Page | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers | LGBTFFW FB Page
Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Check out "Taking a Chance", part of the Charity Sips 2012 to benefit NOH8, available from Torquere Books.
Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July, 2013, from Samhain Publishing.

05 May 2013

Calling all Gamers! And Writers! And Readers!

Calling all Gamers! And Writers! And Readers!
For over a decade the Wookie and I have been attending the Origins Game Fair in Columbus OH in the summer. The date usually coincides with our wedding anniversary so it's a great way for us to celebrate both our love for each other and have a faboo time with other people who enjoy the same things we do - mostly games!
Recently the convention expanded to include a literary track (The Library)  with some great authors not only offering panels and seminars, but also available in the Dealers' Room to sell and autograph their books!
... and yes, I iz one! I'll be there with signed copies of "Blaze of Glory", "Heroes Without, Monsters Within" and LIMITED edition copies of "Blood of the Pride" along with discount coupons for ebooks!
This year the theme is Superheroes! And not only are there going to be panels dedicated to discussing superheroes but there's also going to be a limited-run short story anthology with such great authors as Michael Stackpole and Timothy Zahn adding their short stories to the rest of ours.
Me? I've contributed "By The Seat of Your Pants", a pre-"Blaze of Glory" story dealing with Jo Tanis before the disaster that changed her life forever.
Here's a short excerpt:
The rules said that all civilians had to be evacuated from the performance area. The police swept it clean, based on a tip that there'd be some sort of superhero face-off happening in the area. There wasn't supposed to be anyone around to get caught in the brawl, letting us grind out the routine without any distractions or worrying about collateral damage.
All of which did nothing to explain the eight-year old boy staring up at me as I hovered a few feet above the ground, waiting for my cue. He wore a light blue dress shirt and black pants, obviously on his way to or from some event with his family. How he'd gotten away from them and slipped through the police barricade was a mystery and one I really didn't have the time to solve.
"Damn," I whispered into my link.
"What's up?" Mike, my Guardian/sidekick/captor replied, sounding like he was standing next to me and not a half-block away. The choreography set-up had Mike coming in for backup after our first confrontation with the super villain. After all, he wasn't the main draw.
I was. Surf, the fabulous flying super who could warp electromagnetic fields to her will.
I’m also the one who made a darned hot pinup poster babe, despite my constant complaining that I didn't want to be portrayed like that. The Agency called the shots and they loved the income from the posters.
"Hi there," I said to the youngster. "Where's your mom and dad?" I tried to ignore the blinking red light on a camera sitting atop the light post. In two minutes we’d be live and on the air, broadcasting around the world. Right on cue I'd flown in expecting to be confronting a super villain in a few minutes and brawling in the streets for millions of eager viewers who loved to see the good guys win.
Instead I was playing babysitter to a wide-eyed kid who didn't know he'd stolen the scene and we were running out of time.
The dark-haired boy clutched a Metal Mike action figure to his chest, sizing me up. The battered robot had been well-loved, the metallic paint worn off his arms and legs. He scowled at me, the tiny face scrunching up into an annoyed glare.
I obviously wasn't his super of choice.
"Where are your parents?" I asked again.
"Away." His eyes were wide as he watched me.
"Woman, we're going to be active in two minutes," Mike said over the link. "Get rid of the kid—can't be putting him in the line of fire."
"You need to go into there." I pointed at a nearby store. "I'll go find someone to come and take care of you."
I couldn't tell the kid we were about to play out a choreographed fight; villain on hero with the outcome already decided. We were the good guys and we always won.
The moppet looked at the empty grocery store with a puzzled expression before turning back to me. "I can't go in there."
"Why?" I could hear the imaginary clock ticking away. In a minute Wild Billy Bully was coming around that corner tossing cars left and right as he came at me. The Agency could call him off but it'd be problematic. We'd already trained for two weeks for this televised brawl and rescheduling it would be a hassle.
"My mom told me to never go anywhere without an a-adult." He stuttered on the last word. "She'll be mad at me."
I bit back the obvious question—how had he gotten here without an adult in the first place?
"Jo—do something," Mike growled in my ear. I imagined him on the other line with the Agency reps, running through possible scenarios to get the kid out of the way without making it too obvious. Calling the show off wasn't an option. I didn't have the authority; neither did Mike. The Agency could but it was pretty plain with every passing minute they weren't about to exercise that right.
Even so, the Agency prided itself on never having a civilian die at one of their fights.
Right now that record weighed heavy on my shoulders.

There's only going to be a few hundred copies of this anthology printed so if you're not going to Origins you'll be able to purchase it online after the convention - but not for long!
If you're going to be in the Columbus area from June 12-16th consider dropping by the Convention Center and meeting some fabulous gamer folk - and some faboo authors as well! The seminars are going to be great - including mine listed below!

2013 Seminar Descriptions


11am – Crafting the Love Scene: Regardless of the genre you write in, chances are you’ll put a love-interest in it. How do you blend a touch of romance into your story, and how explicit should you be? Learn how romance can strengthen your story and make your characters more real and interesting.
Noon – Superheroes and Sidekicks: Superheroes, sidekicks, and villians--their stories have been told for years. How can you use these tropes in your fiction, make them fresh, and oh, yeah, make them fun?


11am – Writing the Trilogy: Is there more to your story than can fit into one book? Or is it the other way around—do you have too much material for your tale and need to cut a few hundred pages? Our panelists will tackle trilogies and open-ended series, including how to approach writing the multi-part saga and how to market it.


11am – To Market, To Market: You've written either a short story or a novel. You've run it through your writing group and you've polished it. Now what? We tell you how to find the markets to sell your work.
As you can see, there's something for everyone - along with great artwork, games and costumes that'll knock your socks off! So if you're looking for something to do in June that'll stir your creative juices bigtime or just looking for something different why not consider dropping by the Origins Game Fair and visiting?

04 May 2013

It's all in the way that you handle it

In terms of writing, there's no such thing as a bad idea.
Seriously. If you can marry Jane Austen and zombies, and give birth to a movie deal, and make international bestseller lists--twice!--with Twilight fan fiction, there is no possible way to screw up on the idea front.
Execution, on the other hand, will kill you every time.
(Yes, I intended the pun.  I get an o-pun-ing so rarely, I have to take them as they come.  Deal.)
It is, as Chuck Berry once said about sex, all in the way you handle it.  Experience and technique play a role.  (Don't they always... Geez, when did this turn into THAT kind of a blog?)
I mean, WRITING experience and technique play a role.  Seth Grahame-Smith of PP&Z had writing credits to spare before he penned his first mash-up.  E L James of 50 Shades of Gray had spent her time behind the keyboard, too--though in different areas.  But luck is a key factor, too.  For example, people have been writing fan fiction since forever.  And I don't just mean Kirk/Spock.  There's a distinct possibility that some of the more out there Arthurian stories, especially those with overheated bro-mances, were fan fictions written by educated ladies for the amusement of their friends. 
Why was James the first to go mainstream?  In part, because she lucked into the historical instant when a host of factors--the Internet, the popularity of her inspiration, popular awareness and access to fan fiction, etc.--her books were there when the public was looking for exactly that sort of story.
The flip is also true.  If she hadn't happened on that historical instant, she would've been dismissed by the arbiters of taste as having wasted a lot of time writing a BAD IDEA.
There are, however, perfectly good ideas whose sole purpose in life is to drive the poor writer into a state of gibbering incoherency--or in the case of those of us for whom gibbering is a way of life, greater blithering idiocy than usual.
For example, about two years ago a new fiction magazine (paying professional rates of five cents a word!) invited me to submit a story to one of their first issues.  We talked about the kind of story they wanted (contemporary urban fantasy featuring magicians and mundanes set in Washington, DC) and the specifications (under ten thousand words).  I did a proposal and a plot outline.  They loved the idea and sent me a contract.  Before it was even written!
Then I sat down to the keyboard.  By the time I reached my due date, the story (which had already been outlined, remember that) was seventeen thousand words and still growing.
I returned the contract with groveling apologies.  Fortunately, it was a "payment upon delivery" deal, so I didn't have to worry about the money.  But still, nobody wants a reputation as someone who fails to live up to their obligations.  In addition, I'd always been a reliable producer of nonfiction for the publication.  So the publishers and I are still friends, and the market remains open.
But without a deadline and the lure of ready cash at the other side, I stalled on the story.  For two. Whole. Years.
Then, about a month ago, I decided to open the file and see how bad a mess I'd made of things.  To my shock, the story was ready for the next word.  Over the next forty-eight hours, I blazed through the nearly three thousand words needed to complete it. 
I had a draft.  It was good.  But it was good at twenty thousand words, not my original market's ten thousand word limit.
Oh well, so now it's a novella.  There are markets for that.
It's all in the way that you handle it.
Happy writing!


Jean Marie Ward

03 May 2013

A Little Learning is a Dangerous Thing

While I was still an unpublished author, but with two novels already completed and gathering dust under the bed, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. I wanted to see if I could write under pressure, because although I knew I could write quickly I was looking ahead to when I may find myself under deadline. Pretty cheeky, for a woman who had only, to that point, received a drawer full of FOAD* letters from publishers, editors and agents. Yet, I wasn’t at all sure that if an agent said to me, “I love your premise and I want to see it. How soon can you get it to me?” I’d be able to produce.

I’d also done a lot of learning since I wrote the first two novels—taking courses, discovering just how much I didn’t know, figuring out what the market wanted, finding out all the stuff I was doing that shouldn’t ever be done. I felt ready to move on to the next level, to write a book I could actually have a chance of getting published with. So NaNoWriMo was my personal test, my big push toward success.

For anyone not familiar with National Novel Writing Month, you’re asked to commit to writing fifty thousand words during November. At the end you’re expected to have a first draft, not a book all polished and ready to be subbed. You’re also encouraged to have some kind of plan so you’re not stumbling around writing yourself into corners and wasting time.

Even as a pantser I knew my chances of writing a novel of that size without some kind of outline were slim, so I came up with everything I thought I needed—a plot, character outlines, research notes. I was ready!

I started on November 1st and cranked out three thousand words the first night. The second night I cranked out a thousand, but it was hard going. You have to understand, I didn’t doubt I could get the word-count. I’d done almost one and a half that much in the past. I was aiming for a good first draft, something that didn’t need much work at the end, so I was paying attention to all those rules I’d learned, trying to follow my plan, pushing, forcing, biting and clawing toward the end.

I didn’t finish writing the book.

It bored the crap out of me.

Hatred isn’t a strong enough word for how I felt about my heroine, hero, the plot, my writing. I had a moment where I thought I was done for. I’d failed the test and had about ten thousand words of unadulterated effluvia to show for it.

I won’t bore you with the details of my depression, hair-tearing etc. I can tell you what I learned from that experience was invaluable. I can’t force a plot or ignore the direction my characters want to go in. I can produce quickly, but there has to be a certain level of freedom to the writing, so I can stay engaged and let my imagination really be in control. But most importantly I learned that slavishly following all the writing rules, trying to conform to every little thing people say you MUST or absolutely SHOULDN’T do is the fast road to boring, stagnant writing and an unfinished book. It’s like I learned in art class…the best abstract artists are those who know exactly how to draw and paint in a realistic fashion, but choose not to.

There was other good news too. On November 12th I had an idea—a vague, “suppose” kind of idea—started writing it to get the bad taste of defeat out of my mouth, and got the entire 50K first draft finished in time to receive my NaNoWriMo certificate. I still had a lot of work to do to find my voice, to discover which rules I was able to break effectively, and I re-wrote that book a couple of times before it became Breaking Free, my first erotic historical novel.

I’ve had other unfinished books since then, but now I tend to know fairly early when to let go and not waste my time on a thread-bare plot or an untenable character. And I’m still learning when and how to break the rules… Sometimes we're better off not knowing them at all, I think!

*For anyone not familiar with FOADs, that’d be F*** Off And Die.