Friday, June 29, 2012

Busy Weekend Ahead

As you know, I'm going on vacation next week, so I have a LOT to do for this blog over the weekend.  Of course, I'm working at the Day Job tomorrow, and I have a show to pick up on Sunday, and I have to pack, put together the road-trip playlist, print up maps, and make sure I have my itinerary paperwork.

But I WILL have a full schedule of blogs ready to go by Monday morning.  Here's what you can look forward to:

Monday, July 2: The Official Charity of the Month post.  As I mentioned yesterday, my home state is burning to the ground.  I'm doing just fine, but many, many people are not.  So there will be an official post (as an echo of Wednesday) to support the Salvation Army working to provide relieve some pain and stress of the fires.

Wednesday, July 4: Happy Independence Day! We'll celebrate our great nation's along with Angela Brown.  She's going to share with us her motivation to write!

Friday, July 6: Part 1 of The Senator's Daughter!!  This is the first installment of the long-anticipated Science Fiction short story by Yours Truly!

Monday, July 9: 5 Movies EVERY writer should see at least once in their life, but should probably own.

Wednesday, July 11: Guest post by The Talented Hanna C. Howard.  She's going to walk us through her writing process.

Friday, July 13: Part 2 of The Senator's Daughter.

So stay tuned!  I'll try to pop in as often as I can, and I'll see you when I get home.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Emergency: Colorado is Burning

As many of you may have seen in the news (if you don't live here), my home state is burning.  Over 17 wildfires rage across the state today, and hundreds of people have been forced out of their homes.  Many people have lost their homes, too.  So I'm introducing July's Charity of the Month early.  I'll do an official post on Monday, but right now, I'm asking all of you to donate at least $10 to the Salvation Army for immediate aid to those who are suffering because of these wildfires.  That link will take you directly to the division of the Salvation Army that's helping the victims.

Please help.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Excited update!

I discovered an agent who is interested in books for YA boys!  That's AWESOME and is driving my motivation to a new high.  I can't express how excited I am by the revelation.  I LOVE that there are agents out there who believe that boys read, too.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Caving In

Home-ownership is a pain sometimes.  The woman who owns the condo upstairs from us is remodeling.  Something happened when the contractors installed the new toilet in the guest bathroom, and Friday night found me scrambling to get someone on the phone to stop the water from leaking down through our ceiling.  We got a hold of the condo's owner, she called her contractor, and he came out to fix the problem lickety-split.

I THOUGHT the problem was solved, but then Sunday rolled around and the leak was back.  Worse than two days earlier.  So now I feel like my ceiling is falling in (which is me being melodramatic), and I'm starting to have some home-owner regrets.

I love my home, and I'm glad I live there, but with leaks and the parking permits being forced on us by the HOA, sometimes I wish we'd saved up for a real house.  But, as most of you know, that comes with its OWN set of problems.

So today is VENT day.  Just let it all out.  Tell me what annoys the crap out of you, why you're irritated with life in general.  We'll hold a pity-party and then move on :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thoughts on Self Publishing

There have always been projects that I want to put out into the world through traditional publication.  But this sci-fi short that will be premiering two weeks from today (that's right, the first installment of the story will be up in 14 days!) almost turned into a novella.  I have a few pages toward the end that I need to do some small edits on (which is fine because the edits won't affect the first few installments), and that may push it over the edge into novella territory (based on word count).

Now, I'm going to limit the size of each post to approximately 500-1000 words per installment because I know huge chunks of text are annoying to read on a computer screen.  But once the entire story is published on the blog, I'm considering putting it out on Amazon as an e-book.

This is a fresh thought in my mind, and depending on where the story, universe, and characters go, I might consider the traditional rout, but I'm having fun with these stories, and I'd love to be able to give you (my WONDERFUL companions) the opportunity to take this story to the beach, DMV, coffee shop, etc..  And I think I might want to put together some companion pieces for the published product.

What do all of you think?  My Critique Group is very disappointed that I'm not turning this story into a full-length novel, and they don't quite understand why I'm writing it.  I know that once I put this story up on this site it makes it a "previously published" story, and that takes away incentive for many agents and editors to even consider it.  But I'm writing this for YOU!  So is there interest in an e-book, complete with a real cover, a few companion pieces (much like Cabbages and Kings... a book you MUST read)?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Setbacks

In writing, setbacks aren't always a bad thing.  Especially when those setbacks create opportunities or teach some kind of lesson.

Yesterday, while working on my outline, I realized that one of the plots in this book isn't playing a big part in the story.  In fact, it's making me focus on something other than the characters and their arcs, so it's getting in the way of the story.  I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I created a game and a league for this universe, and the two protagonists are competitors in this league.  But in this setting the nation is in the middle of a political transition (the monarch is helping to transition the system from a monarchical government to a democratic republic).  But some of the inhabitants (mostly non-human races) have a problem with the way the new government is structured.

That doesn't really seem like the type of plot that deserves a lot of attention in a YA Fantasy that focuses on a brand new league that was invented to boost national moral, does it?  You see, I'm trying to suck my characters into a political plot, when they have their own problems to deal with.  I'm not sure how I'm going to change my outline, but this setback reminds me why I write outlines!

I've mentioned before (though I can't remember where) that outlines are a great place to hit these setbacks.  All I have to do right now is rewrite a page-worth of paragraphs rather than two or three (or five or ten) chapters!

More than that, it's making me re-examine the overall structure of my plot, my characters and their motivations, and where I want to go with this book.  It's keeping me invested.

How about you?  Have you encountered setbacks lately that you found helpful despite their annoying tendency to ruin your schedule?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Edit, Edit, EDIT!

Over the weekend I had a nightmare.  A really odd nightmare.  You see, I'm not one of those guys who believes that agents are elitist gatekeepers who want to shut out the young "upstarts" who aren't close, personal friends of the industry.  In fact, the three agents I've met (because I haven't had a chance to meet very many of them face to face) are VERY nice, friendly, and genuinely excited to meet new, interesting voices who AREN'T currently insiders.

But over the weekend I had a nightmare about agents.  What it boiled down to was a stream of chastisements from every agent I've ever queried telling me that I should have taken the time to edit a manuscript that I sent out to them.  This manuscript they were speaking of wasn't actually a project I ever worked on.  In fact, I think it was an idea that I stored in my subconscious because I never wanted to put it down on paper.  But in my dream I finished the first draft and immediately queried over fifty agents.  All of whom wrote back on the same day to tell me that I should have done a better job editing.

What's the moral of the story?  Edit!  Edit, edit, EDIT!!  If any agent ever chastises you in an e-mail (rather than sending a simple rejection or genuine critiques), then chances are you don't want to work with them.  These letters that I received in my dream were downright rude.  And while I wouldn't be surprised to find that there are agents like that, I've never actually heard of any of them by name.  But the point still stands: NEVER send out your manuscript until you've edited it!

In fact, make sure someone else READS it before you send it out.  Why?  Because it needs to be the best you can possibly make it before you send it to the very kind yet very busy agents who DO want to work with you, but not do all of the work for you.

Now I'm off to edit (as far as you know.  I might just finish my lunch and get back to the Day Job, but depending on when you read this, I COULD be editing).

Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Review: Timeless by Gail Carriger

Here comes the long-awaited review of the long-awaited finale to Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate.  It was awesome!

You want more?  Okay, it was REALLY awesome!  In my opinion, Carriger knocked it out of the park.  As with my other reviews, I don't want to put out any spoilers, but here's the spoiler alert for any of you who have not read books one and two.  I'm going to spoil those books for you.

Alexia Maccon has to solve a murder.  And keep her toddler under control.  It's a task that's made difficult by her husband being the blustering, sometimes blundering, giant-of-a-Scott that he is.  And it's more difficult because Alexia, her husband, toddler, and a VERY silly acting troupe, must all go to Egypt to discover the why of the murder.

Meanwhile, the young dandy(Carriger's word, not mine)-of-a-new-guy in the pack is left behind to solve the who of the murder.  But he also has to deal with the pack's secretive Beta and the Alpha of a brusque, uncouth pack in the north of Scotland.

Carriger's characteristic wit is woven throughout this story, and she's ratcheted up the action and thrills several notches.  The transitions between characters is flawless as ever, and the plot is engaging and satisfactorily executed.

All in all, this series is one of the best sets of books I have ever read.  If you were waiting for her to complete the series to read it, you're out of excuses.  Go buy all five books and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why You Need to Blog

A lot of people may say that it's important for writers to blog so they can get their message out and start building a platform and an audience.  While those are great (and important) reasons to blog, I submit that there is a much more basic and far more important reason: you, as a writer, need to write EVERY DAY!

This is something that's drilled into us early on in our writing education.  I've heard different minimum word-counts, but it's always been at least 200 words a day.  Some have gone as high as 1000 words per day, but that's not always possible for some people.

As you can see (if you're a regular), I don't blog every day.  I just don't have THAT much to say.  And, to be honest, I have other writing to work on.  But this helps me keep my craft fresh.  It improves my vocabulary, sentence structure, and cognitive processing.  It may not show up in the posts, but it does show up in my manuscripts.

So if you don't blog regularly, I recommend you do so.  Not to build an audience, but to improve your craft!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Making Time

Time is in short supply.  I've mentioned this before.  But since the last time I discussed time, the day has stayed the exact same length.  Go figure!  So many people are trying to fit more hours into their day, but it's not happening.  Which kinda sucks when you have a lot to do.

I'm fortunate enough that I've been able to make time, which is why so many projects will be coming out on this blog in the next few months.  Sure, it's not as much time as I would like, but I am getting things done.

My advice to you? Take thirty minutes to one hour each day to focus on one project.  Set that time aside every day, and stick with it.  If you have more time, use it, but if you don't then don't get discouraged.  You'd be surprised what you can accomplish in 60 short minutes.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Linky-Dinks for Writers to Think

Today, I have three blog posts for you to read.  You should read ALL of them.

My good friend, Todd Newton, has an interview and a book he thinks you should read.  Check it out here.

Kiersten White has a post that EVERY writer should read, especially if you want to get more than entertainment out of your TV.  Seriously, this post changed how I look at my own writing.

And Chiseled in Rock, the RMFW blog, has a great post about e-readers.

Have a great weekend.  I'll see you Monday!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Being Prepared

Or: how to beat writer's block 90% of the time.

Now, I know there are plenty of people who don't use outlines to write, but I assure you, this method works as well for "panststers" as it does for outliners.

You wanna beat writer's block?  Go back to your character profiles.  It's as simple as that.  Everyone's book has a theme, whether overt or subtextually.  And those themes, especially the subtextual themes, come about as a result of character motivation.  So when you hit writer's block, just ask one simple question: what can I do to either fulfill or block my character(s)'s motivation?

Remember, your protagonist(s) AND antagonist(s) have motivations, and one of those should rule your narrative.  That's what drives the plot forward.  What would they do to further their goals?  And more importantly, what can you (or the antagonist, or universe) do to make that difficult?  Or impossible?

I reached a blockage point yesterday while outlining (and this is one reason I advocate for at the very least a small amount of outlining), and I thought, "What does my character want, and how can I make this scene matter?"

All I did was return to a protagonist's profile, look through her motivations, and pick which one I can exploit to increase tension for the story.  Turns out, I managed to plan a scene that will work around three of her motivations.  AND it moves the plot forward.

And for those of you screaming at me, "Giles, you just got stuck on an outline.  What if this was the actual novel?"  My response is, "I'd do the EXACT same thing.  And I WILL.  Because I know I'll get stuck when I sit down to write the actual manuscript.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Great Stuff Scheduled!

So I can FINALLY give you some schedule announcements!  Unfortunately, the contest isn't included, but I WILL begin posting that sci-fi short story I've been working on.  There's quite a bit in the works for the next two months, actually.  Sure, there will be the standard updates, and I'll probably put together a post on editing or something, but I have at least one (possibly two) book reviews that WILL be up by the end of July.  That sci-fi short will start posting near the end of June (if delayed, it'll be the beginning of July, but I don't foresee any reason to delay beyond June).  And two VERY awesome writers are going to join me in the beginning of July for some guest posts!

Some time by the end of this year, I also hope to start a regular Thursday feature, too.  It may have its own site, it may be sporadic, but it WILL be all about nerd and geek culture!  I'll keep you posted as more developments arise.

For now, I hope you had a great weekend.  I'll see you Wednesday.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Charity of the Month: Fisher House

It's June.  In the last few months there have been far too many attacks on our men and women in Afghanistan.  They're going to need help, and Fisher House provides a good deal of that help.  I featured this charity last year, so you can see what I wrote by clicking here.  But I strongly recommend going to their website, reading about what they do, and then donating.  It's just ten bucks, and that can go a long way toward helping a wounded soldier and his/her family cope with the types of changes that come from getting wounded in action.

So please go donate, and I'll see you Monday!