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Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Blitz: Laura Maisano's SCHISM

Hi everyone! I'd like to welcome author Laura Maisano, whose Book Blitz for her novel, SCHISM, starts today!

Schism (Illirin #1)
Release Date: 04/28/15
Muse It Up Publishing

Art therapy hasn’t done squat for Gabe Jones. A thousand sketches of his fiancée can’t bring his memory, or her, back to him. Nothing on Earth can. His past
lies in another dimension, a world just out of sight.

Another student on campus, Lea Huckley, unknowingly shares Gabe’s obsession with the fourth dimension. The monsters from the other side attacked her parents and fled, getting her folks locked up in the loony bin. Proving this other world exists is the only way to free them. Lea and Gabe strike a deal to help each other, and together they manage to open a door to the world of Gabe’s true origin. She’d use him for proof—if she didn’t already care too much.

While Gabe tries to reconcile his feelings for Lea and his rediscovered memories of his fiancée, a much more sinister plot unravels. He uncovers his history just in time to become the unwilling lynchpin in a conspiracy to start a war. His memory holds the secret to the final riddle the would-be conqueror needs to get the upper hand. Gabe must protect the riddle at all costs, even if that means leaving Earth, and Lea, behind forever.


Lea packed light. Other than her phone’s GPS and a flashlight, she kept a small notepad, her lucky pencil, and the thermometer in her cargo pocket. She didn’t need to find data, now she needed proof.
She led the way down the alley where skyscrapers blocked the glowing moon and the lamps from the highway. Yellowed fixtures above each back entrance threw faint cones of light onto the cement, like holes in Swiss cheese.

Lea checked the coordinates on her phone while she walked, and the little red arrow crept closer to the flag icon she placed to mark the interaction point.

Gabe spent his time surveying the area for anything that might be a danger. He kept fidgeting behind her and turning around every few seconds, a twitchy meerkat on patrol.

“We’re only between buildings. It’s not the end of the world.” Lea checked her phone again to make sure they were headed in the right direction.

He glanced over his shoulder. “I still don’t like it. It’s night, people do get mugged, you know.”

“The statistics of that are so low. We’re really not in any danger, considering the population and how many times that sorta thing happens.”

He shifted uneasily behind her. “Whatever, we’re raising the chances by being out here at night.”
Lea rolled her eyes. “I’m not missing this opportunity.”

“I know that. Neither am I.”


They came to a cross section behind two major offices where the loading docks and dumpsters sat for both of them. A stream of water trickled down the concave cement into the large sewer grate. Old garbage left a fume hanging around, and the humidity only made it worse.

Lea double- and triple-checked her coordinates, cross-checking with her notes. “This is it. Within I’d say, a fifteen foot diameter, low to the ground.” She shoved the phone in her cargo pocket. “Perfect.”

“How long?”

“Roughly ten minutes.”

Ten minutes may as well have been six hours. She paced back and forth, her sneakers scuffing the gritty pavement.

Gabe continued to keep a watchful eye out for muggers or vagrants. What a dork.

She snickered quietly. For someone who didn’t know his own experiences, he sure seemed paranoid. She watched him standing straight, darting his eyes to the entrance and even up to the windows above them. Watch out bad guys, Gabe’s on to you. She smiled and turned to see what looked like heat waves rising from the cold cement. Crap. The interaction had already started.

“Gabe…” She waved him over next to the loading dock.

This interaction provided no shining lights or obvious movement. Not much stood out visually, except maybe the air glistening like summer heat waves if she squinted hard enough, but her digital thermometer found the coldest point.

“Here,” she whispered, not wanting anyone or anything on the other side to hear. She stretched her arms forward, and Gabe did likewise.

“On the count of three.” She waited for him to nod. “One…two…three.”

They both reached through the interaction point and grabbed at the thicker air. Nothing. They tried again, pulling, grasping, and making any sort of motion to trigger a rip. Finally, Gabe leaned in and pulled out at just the right angle, because the light tore across like a jagged line. Lea grabbed the edge of it and tugged, opening the tear wider until they both fell through.

About the Author
Laura has an MA in Technical writing and is a Senior Editor at Anaiah Press for their YA/NA Christian Fiction. She’s excited to release her debut YA Urban Fantasy SCHISM April 28, 2015, and during the wait, she’s working on the sequel, UNITY.

Her gamer husband and amazing daughter give support and inspiration every day. Their cats, Talyn and Moya, provide entertainment through living room battles and phantom-dust-mote hunting. Somehow, they all manage to survive living in Texas where it is hotter than any human being should have to endure. Check out her blog at

Author Links:
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Friday, June 26, 2015

Finding the Story: Recipes for Writing Fiction (Emerald City Comic-Con 2015 Writing Panel Notes)

A square slice of vanilla cake with lemon frosting and a yellow flower sits on a plate with one bite resting on an adjacent fork. The caption reads: "Oh, this? Piece of cake."

Hey! Want to know what's almost as stressful as moving? One's downstairs neighbours moving. Especially when they decide to stay up to all hours partying because they seem to realize, "Hey, we can't be evicted, so let's make as much noise as we want!"

*sigh* I miss sleep.

But rather than me coping by stress-eating (one thing I am *way* too good at) or writing delicious fictional scenarios in my head about how wonderful the new neighbours will be (that too), let's talk about a different sort of cooking. In his talk given at this year's ECCC, author Michael A. Stackpole breaks down several types of plots with simple recipes he's devised over the years.

* * *

Finding the Story
Michael A. Stackpole

It’s important for him to not suffer writer’s block, so he’s developed techniques to find stories. That allows him to stretch himself as a writer. He needs to be able to judge things and then drop a story in. This is a process panel.

Listen, write it down, retain it more.

He reasons to find a story anywhere (since being blocked is frustrating). Because the worst thing you can do for yourself is agonize over being blocked.

If you find yourself blocked, if the story isn’t working and the words aren’t humming, STOP. Do not continue to push. What it means is that you do not know the characters well enough. You made a decision within 3-5 pages before the story dies that the character does something out of character, which is why the story has died.

Technique: Interview your character.
- Ask your character the same questions asked in a celeb interview in a magazine.
- The more you know about your character will inform the character’s unconscious choices.
- (e.g. Seahawks fans wear their team-themed stuff around the city. You know them by their typical default colors, etc.)
- Having these little details, even if they never make it into the story, inform the story. You learn more about your character.
- Can also apply psychoanalytical books to this (like, 4000 things you should ask your crush).
- Write down the answer the character will give, and the answer they truly think.
- How many secrets do they have in their lives, and how far will they go to keep their secrets secret?
- When you need to write a story, there is some drama or trauma in their lives.

Writers are better than anybody else!
- A lot of stories share a lot of plotlines.
- He doesn’t like the word “formula”. He prefers the word “recipe”. Different people will produce different variants on a recipe.
- This is what drives themes for anthologies, too.

Simple Story Recipes

The Bug Hunt
- The most basic story that gets told
1) Learn that the bug exists. (problem) (eg. A wolf has been stealing sheep)
2) Learn how to kill the bug.  (solve the problem) (eg. How to destroy the wolf – the protagonist learns)
3) Develop the skills and resources to learn to kill the bug. (solve the problem) (how to kill the wolf)
4) Kill the bug. (solve the problem) (or, kill the wolf, etc)
- This same four-step engine is the engine that drives every single problem in every story.
- There isn no problem that won’t work though these four steps.
- When we reach step 4, may fail. So go back to steps 2 and 3, lather rinse repeat until 4) is achievable.
- A novel is a series of these breakdowns.
- Usually linked in parallel, dealing with more problems at the same time.
- Sometimes solving this problem gives you resources and skills to solve more problems later.
- Can break any problem down into these steps.
- You always want to challenge yourself, do the more challenging thing.
- Sometimes it’s possible to have a resolution where the bug doesn’t die, but the protagonist finds other solutions. Or it may set up a problem for later in the series.
- False success; failure to kill the bug but you wouldn’t know it. The bug re-manifests. Or the heroes are tasked with killing the dragon and then the land is overrun by the orcs that the dragon was feeding on. Whether you fail to kill the bug and you know it, or you believe you did and you didn’t, that lack of success leads to more story later.

The Romance Recipe
- You want romance in your story.
- If you have characters capable of being loved, they’re capable of being redeemed.
- Having characters go through that is something we love. We love seeing characters getting together.
- If you can fit romance into your story, do it.
1) Boy meets girl (or boy meets boy, etc). Everything seems fantastic.
2) Circumstances force them apart.
- a) either a misunderstanding or
- b) a hostile third party
separates them. (Circumstances force them apart.)
3) The two lovers overcome difficulties and solve the problem to force them back together again. (Characters go through hell to get back together again. Going through hell: finding bugs, killing bugs, etc.)
- You can play with characters’ availability, obligations, partners, misunderstandings and assumptions
- Just don’t repeat the same situation as readers will see that and get annoyed.
- This will fit into any book anywhere.
- You want your characters to have emotional lives. That makes them more real.

The Murder Mystery
- Suspense, solving crime, always some aspect that can be used.
- Modern Murder Mystery
1) Someone dies.
- In old stories you run into all the characters first, all the suspects. Nowadays you just start with a body.
- Your protagonist needs to be on screen or in the story as much as possible.
- The reader needs to make sense of what’s going on, so start with the body being splattered all over the place, crime techs giving the details, hero
- As a reader’s job it’s to predict they know the ending
- The writer’s job is to throw things off and create a surprise ending
- Whatever problem shows up on the first page of the book has to be solved on the last page.
- Can dress up characters so they look like inconsequential chars and become more important and relevant later.
- Don’t toss out insignificant clues.
2) Suspects are questioned, evidence is examined, someone lies, and we learn a new fact.
- A piece of evidence shows that someone is lying. You break down why they lied. But now they’ve told the truth, someone else has lied.
- Go through the “someone is lying, break them down” process until you
3) Detectives learn facts that expose the lie
- Go through steps 2 and 3 quite a number of times.
4) (optional) Someone else dies.
- New witnesses, new clues, new cycles of steps 2 and 3.
5) After you’ve gone through enough, the protagonist knows who did it.
6) The villain is exposed and captured. (Knowing the bad guy’s identity is not the same as exposing the bad guy.)
- Technically this recipe is a more specific type of bug hunt.

With these three storylines, you can do anything.
- Basic bug hunt: about 4K.
- Beginning novelist: Be over 80K and under 120K.
- More experienced novelists: Can write the longer books.
- Electronically self-pubbed: 50K (avg. length of mysteries and sci-fis of old)
- YA: Character should be 2 years older than target audience.
- Adjust sentence length and word length. The average reader reading for pleasure reads at an 8th grade level. Average sentence length should be about 12 words.
- The human memory handles 12 words very well. Add more, and we lose some.
- The moment you hit a comma, it acts as a new sentence.
- When doing action scenes, the average should drop to 8 words per sentence.
- Use commas and conjunctions to stretch a sentence out.
- Longer sentences make the readers work.
- Use characterization to enhance the story.

Serial Fiction (ongoing story arcs)
- Individual episodes, but an overall story arc.
1. Intro (first thousand words): who the story’s about, what the problem is that will be true for the main line of the story. The problem that will be resolved in the main line of the story.
2. Main. (second thousand words continue dealing with the main line of the story).
3. A
4. Main.
5. B
6. Main
7. Main
8. A
9. Main
10. Wrap it up.
- 70% of this story is dealing with the problem only in this individual story.
- The only parts not dealing with this are A and B.
- A: Soap opera material. Stuff about the life of the protagonist. Can use romance as an idea for example. (In the first A meets someone they might be interested in). In subsequent A, develop it a little more. Key to making the soap opera work.
- If A is a positive subplot, B has to be a negative subplot. Car stolen. Romance problem. Character is in trouble.
- The A and B lines carry on to the next story. The next story, you might have the same things, but in the next story the B fills the A slots. Or we can be dealing with a new problem in the next book.
- Doing a push-pull with the character’s life.
- B is good to be distinct from A but it doesn’t matter.
- Key: Never let the soap opera stuff to be more than 30% of the story. If there’s more main, drop in more A & B.
- Otherwise, once it gets to be more, it forces readers to have to have read all the stories. (And yes, you want that, but you don’t want the story to have to make no sense if you haven’t read the previous stories.)
- A can be negative, and B positive, but you have to have one negative and one positive.
- A and B don’t have to be isolated. They can affect each other, work off another.
- You can have bits of A and B surface in Main, but must keep

Final Thoughts
If you are in a position where you are stuck, throw more characters in, do more things, rather than killing. More characters increase the options. Make it more complicated, not less.
Everything must serve the story.

When do you do the check to make sure the story works?
When working on the next draft, set it down for a bit. Then come back. If you’re yawning, fix it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What’s an Award Worth? (ConCarolinas 2015 Writing Panel Notes)

Hi everyone! Just like last year, I spent the end of May and beginning of June at ConCarolinas, followed by a writing retreat. I had a great time at the con as usual, and then at the retreat I feel like I had a chance to deepen my craft. (That's what happens when you get a group of like-minded folks together for honest, earnest critiquing. And okay, the lake house we rented had a hot tub, so that didn't hurt.) After a spot of beta-reading for my awesome CP, I'm ready to get back to my work.

I'm actually going to keep my promise (to myself) to get on the older notes (relatively) first, because I have a lot of stuff I'd like to share from Emerald City and even (eep) a few from the last SIWC. But this topic felt important.

Please note: I know this is a sensitive subject. Yes, I have my opinions. Let's leave it at that. As with every other occasion, I'm just sharing my notes on the panel. That said, I do think that there were a few positive messages to take away from this, especially moving forward.

* * *

What’s an Award Worth?
Wendy S. Delmater, Gray Rinehart, Edmund R. Schubert, John Hartness, John Scalzi
Moderator: Misty Massey

There are a lot of different awards attached to genre fiction (Hugo, Nebulas, Stoker, etc). What’s an award worth to working writers?
WD: Abyss & Apex (which she edits) got honourable mentions, recommended reading lists, best ofs, etc.
GR: Hugo nomination for novelette.
ES: Also was nominated, and IGMS they tried but they were able to sidestep that, and they’ve won a few awards. Was once nominated for an Edgar. Years’ best anthologies, honourable mentions, etc.
JS: Hugo, Locus, Romantic Times,  Geffin (Israel), Kurzlazfitz (Germany), Scion (Japan), nominated for Nebula, Norton, award in Spain, Audie, and others.
MM: Mad Kestrel was nominated for SC young adult book award.
JH: Recenlty won best horror for 2014, was nominated for 2013, and one story from Big Bad 2 got honorable mention, and was once nominated for Pushcart prize for poetry. And Charlotte writers for poetry.

So what are they worth to you as writing professionals?
JS: Depends on the award, the context, and the time. Winning the Campbell award was significant because it was the one that put him on the map as a writer. It was useful to him because it differentiated him from other new writers out that year. Hugo was useful because with it comes outward prestige (known outside of the genre). Example: helped expediate his contract with Hollywood for a contract. The rest of the awards have been nice to have on the shelf, but in terms of moving the needle have been the Campbell and the Hugo.
GR: The awards being differentiators: awards that an author can point to for even eing a finalist or a semifinalist can becomes a differentiator because he can expect more and get more because the ahtuor has already proben themselves in that field.
WD: Does the same for short fiction. Especially new writers. They help develop new writers, and grow careers. They have people whose careers they helped start. To help, they’ve put them in for awards, and they can use that as a cover letter credit to take it to the next level. Having cover letter credits is a big deal. An award means that people notice you, but it also boosts a writer’s confidence.
ES: Challenges is that the writers grow up to move on to writing novels and are so busy writing novels that you need to bring in a new wave. Like a graduating class.
WS: Award winners get preferential reading.
JS: With the accolade comes a certain expectation. Which can be great for them because their next book gets reviewed. And that expectation doesn’t go away. It continues to be brought up. An expectation reconfiguration. The awards for later books are really awards for previous work done. But to win an award is to have criticism both positive nad negative. Which can have an effect on your
ES: MRK: The leading indicator on whether you’re likely to win a hugo is whether or not you’ve won a hugo.
JS: Neil Gaiman turned down an award for 2006 because he sincerely believed it had stopped being about the work and started being about Neil. Passed it on.
ES: It’s not always about the best players, it’s about the most popular players, being rewarded for work that came before. Not a problem, but a reality.
JS: Yes. Example: Redshirts. Is it his best? The year he was nominated, he had been nominated three times before and had never won. Aside from the quality of the book, there was everything that goes on with the aspect of the award; everyone knew he’d been nominated for before, and it was also a good year to be nominated. It’s not only about where you are in your career, but also about the year and the playing field, and you have to be okay with that. Otherwise you get bitter and defensive.
JH: And no one gave Redshirts an award for best SF novel of all time. It’s a snapshot. A moment of “this is the opinion of this voting block for this year”.
JS: When he won the Locus award, one thing he said was “I wish it had been given to Ian Banks”. Because the award represented the body of his works that year. But again, it’s a matter of what the playing field is in a given year and who people are voting for. When you get nominated, you have to be aware of all the dynamics, and it helps you to have someone whispering in your ear, “Thou art mortal”.
WD: It’s worth different things on different levels. Recognition. It pushes people to the next level.
JH: Example: Hopes that an award will push him from attending pro to guest status at DragonCon.
WD: It gets you out of the slush pile, onto the radar, and hopefully into a better situation, career-wise.
GR: It means that he (in charge of the slush pile at BAEN) won’t be the first to look at the book. (and in 7 yrs, so far only 2 of 6200 submissions have actually made it from the slush pile to the shelves). Some manuscripts have been in consideration for a long time because there may be a chance that they say yes. But then, the first book he did get out of the slush pile has gone on to be Nebula-nominated. Writers of the Future award winners have gone to the top, too.
WD: The numbers are important because having some small award will get you notice. Publishes 25 out of 2000 submissions a year.
GR: Same thing all over the place, even with venture capitalists.

Did you find the award gave you a confidene boost in terms of the work and how you presented yourself?
JH: A confidence boost in his work, and in the way he presents. Doesn’t often mention to other writers that he’s won an award because he doesn’t want to be tacky, but looks at it as a tool when talking to someone outside of the industry, or someone who doesn’t know him, or . When it’s effective. (BK 4 won an Epic award). But it gives him a personal confidence boost that people he didn’t know liked it enough to give him an award.
JS: Confidence not so much, but looks at the awards dispassionately: as tools, as shorthand used strategically to introduce yourself to other folks. With his unusual career, he didn’t have to struggle to get published. Name recognition and awareness in the genre hasn’t really been a problem. He used to be a newspaper columnist, so he came in with a built-in audience. That said, he uses those things strategically. When trying to get attention of people outside of the genre. When Tor was looking at his first book, aware that he came with that audience. When he won the hugo, the main feeling he had was “Yes!” but it was a relief to have won that and to be done with that. He’s already won, so he doesn’t have to think about this anymore. The sense of palpable relief. The awards come with their own dynamics nad pressures and they can loom artificially large in the minds of writers. Hard to explain to some writers on the other side of the fence. It’s great, but then you go home and now there’s the expectation that the next book better be great. He got the deal last week because he has a track record for sales, not because of the award. Terry Pratchett even turned a nomination down in 2005 because it did nothing for him.
WD: Connie Willis  was like an early lifetime achievement award. Not so much about the book. And that’s okay.

ES: Yes, but if you say, “Who gives a shit?”, then why are there wars?
JS: He felt relief when he won the Hugo, because he’d been nominated 3 times before, and went through the pressure, and there’s not necessarily a finite number of times you’ll be nominated, but fashions change, tastes change, and this time that he won it was ripe. Eventually that window closes.
JH: Award winners from the 70s are very different from award winners in the 80s and 90s, and Redshirts might not have even been published in an earlier decade because it was a style that wouldn’t have been published back then.
JS: If he hadn’t won, there’s a chance he might have been upset. It’s a mark of distinction and acceptance in the community. Desire makes us do lots of things, positively and negatively. A lot of the wars come down to desire. “Why aren’t I and the things I love properly appreciated?” And the one thing he agrees with is that there is nothing in any type of science fiction or fantasy that should not be considered for awards, or good writing.
Awards are not what the field is about. They are a signatory, a snapshot of what the field is, but that snapshot is incomplete. There’s so much going on outside of that snapshot that it’s hard for someone not in the window or the snapshot that this isn’t necessarily a criticism of what they love. Some people can handle that, and some feel differently. You cannot tell people that the way they feel is invalid. They are who they are. But remind people that there’s more to life. There’s sales. And fans. People who say “That speaks to me, and you have changed my life by writing that thing.” Focus on those moments, not just on the award, as validation. He can’t say that what any of the Puppies feel is invalid.
WD: And you’ve been reasonable.
JS: No, I’ve been snarky as shit.
JH: But that’s what we refer to as a given circumstance.
JS: That’s why you’ll never hear me say anything bad about the people who are nominated. The question is not whether they can or should be nominated; it’s a question of whether in this particular instance  was the reason they got onto the ballot without controversy. This year, no.
JH: People want to write what they have written. Wants a Stoker so he can get a better deal, and if he gets those things without the statue, okay, fine, but if he gets the statue that’s even better.

About the Sad and Rabid Puppies and the Hugo awards …
WD: She was there on the inside of that. 15 of the 18 nominees were Rabid Puppies.
GR: Was also a Puppies nomination. After much thought, he has arrived at the metaphor that he was offered a ticket on an airplane, said he’d take that ride, and then the plane got hijacked. And the plane landed and took off again, and there’s people on the plane who want it to crash, and people on the ground who want to shoot it down, and he just wants to get off.
JS: Is reading everything. Will rank his reading appropriately. Regardless of the dynamics, there are people on the ballot this year who could and should be on the ballot. People who got on the plane and were surpreised what happened from there. Ultimately, for the same reason he doesn’t go out of his way to criticize other writers’ writing, he’s going to give the writers the same consideration he hopes others would give to his writing.
GR: Other people voting, they’re very wound up over this, and not sure about voting. Lately, he’s told people that if the situation has poisoned it for them, then don’t read his story. Reading should be a pleasure. If there’s some outside force making it displeasurable, then go find something that will give you pleasure.
ES: Decided to get out because they didn’t nominate him for an award because of his work; they were making a political statement. Felt like there was too much going on.
JS: The one thing he thinks about regarding this whole matter is that we do get wrapped up in awards. Yes, it’s the tail that wags the dog, but regardless, it has made us as a community think, what are these awards about, and why do they matter? The one silver lining is that it’s led to a new discussion, appreciation and understanding of what awards are, can be, and should be, and he cannot argue that this was not a discussion that was not necessary for science fiction and fantasy. It wasn’t the way he’d have had it, but at least now it’s happening.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Myths about the Writing Life (ConCarolinas 2014 Writing Panel Notes)

Myths About the Writing Life
Tamsin L. Silver, Misty Massey, Claudette Marco, Jim Bernheimer, A.J. Hartley, Roy Mauritsen, James R. Tuck
Moderator: Faith Hunter

Myths of the writer’s life (read aloud)
1. My solid gold hummer doesn’t spit money
2. Royalty checks are big
3. People always want to write your books
4. No revisions
5. No day job
6. You need a big publisher
7. Once you write in one genre you can only write in that genre
8. All you need is an agent
9. A book deal equals fame
10. You need to write chapters in linear sequence
11. A great-selling novel equals an automatic movie deal
12. Just about getting your first book out, and it’s all gravy after book 1
13. Publicity and marketing people at your publishers ensure your book gets read
14. Book sales are counted in hundreds of thousands

Myth: Publicity and marketing people at your publisher ensure your book gets read.
AJ: People assume that if you’re with a major publisher that marketing budgets are divided equally between authors. The person with the higher advance gets the higher budget. Unless you’re one of a very small percentage within that house, there is virtually no publicity or support.
TS: Her publisher told her promotion was her job, and didn’t help after a year, so she pulled her book.
RM: Went for a smaller press because he wanted more control.
MM: Not only did the PR people not do anything, they weren’t clear on what she should do.
FH: PR is the lowest position in publishing. New authors are often taken care of by inexperienced PR staff. Best to get a PR firm to help you learn. Online ads and referrals are best. If you don’t know how to do your own PR then you lose out.
JB: (mostly self published) Marketing time will eat into your writing time if you’re not careful. Be prepared to part with money to get noticed.
CM: (self published) Successful at conventions. Blog tours didn’t help much. Being at conventions, especially speaking on panels, helped her make connections.
AJ: Twitter blew up when Richard Armitage read his Hamlet book. Made it hard to keep up, have a dayjob, and write.

Myth: You need a big publisher to sell your work.
TS: Self-published, at book 5, and someone who works at Vampire loved her books and asked her to write a new online vampire show, so began work on Skye of the Damned, learned how to produce a show, and as  a result the cross promotion led to more book sales. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. If you don’t know it, you can learn it.
FH: The learning curve never stops.
MM: Releasing a book of short stories on her own featuring Mad Kestrel because there has been a long gap in releasing books 1 and 2.
CM: All the marketing is on you if you are self-published. Used CreateSpace as publishing venue so that she could put more money into editing, cover art, etc.
JB: You don’t even need the brick and mortar stores, either. Self-publishing – Create Space, Lightning Source. Create Space is more print on demand. Lightning Source will send you the bill for returned books put in brick and mortar stores.
RM: Brick and mortar stores are fighting, competing with other books. Prefers to take books to convention regardless of small press or large. Works in graphic design and now designs covers for other writers. Likes having more control with a smaller press.
FH: Brick and mortar stores are going away is what we’re hearing. But?
AJ: There’s a myth going around that b and m stores are going away. It’s hard to make a real living without a big pub and books in physical stores. Doesn’t have the skills or time for publicity and marketing his books, so he wants the big press to promote him. It comes down to what you want to achieve. Grocery money? Being out there, sharing stories? Self pub. Consistently 50K a year or more, very difficult to do that as a self-published author. Traditional publishing is not dying. Some of those who self pub should not be putting their work out. The initial myth that you need a traditional pub to get your book out is not true. The new myth that we can also load up to Amazon and make a fortune is also untrue.
FH: The myth that you can quit your dayjob is also untrue. She just quit her dayjob, decades in. Hit bestseller list, hired a PR firm, and the firm let her down, didn’t get much attention from publisher until they noticed her books stayed on the extended list. Hired her own PR firm.
AJ: The NYT list is calculated based on numbers of copies shipped from warehouses to stores, while the USA Today list is based on number of sales. Also, Booklist and many others have their own lists.
FH: Making the bestseller list did not translate to more PR when she hit the bestseller list the first time, but then eventually did.

Audience Question: What’s more important, print and e-book sales or hardcover?
FH: Mass markets don’t make much per book. Print and e-book sales
JB: Has been self-publishing, and the most he’s ever made in one year is 22K. Nice supplemental money is great, but don’t quit your dayjob.
FH: But until you hit a bestseller list, you’ll be lucky to make even 20K in traditional publishing. The first book selling for a million to a pub is very rare.
JT: There’s no money in publishing. This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Don’t do this for the money, do it for yourself.
AJ: Those who make the most money are hybrids, selling out of print backlist via self-publishing, and also selling traditional work.
FH: Publishers aren’t letting go of the print rights like they used to. An agent helps to keep it. If you go for a traditional press, have an agent.
JT: If you don’t have an agent, demand things out of your contract. Have a lawyer look after it. A contract lawyer can help too.

Myth: Once you get that first book published, you’re set.
FH: This is more for the traditionally-published folk, but how hard is it if you haven’t been traditionally published to keep publishing?
CM: It is difficult, and conventions take money, but does get the satisfaction of putting book out there and interest in writing to work. Tried to find an agent, and some were interested, but eventually it didn’t work out. Liked finding her own editor, connecting that with story, finding own cover artist, etc. Not much money, but she has the satisfaction of living out her dream.
FH: Even for traditionally published it can take a lot. Hotel rooms at a con, meals, flights, etc, are not typically comped.
MM: Eight years after Mad Kestrel, finally got invited to a con that comped a hotel room.
RM: Being able to share a story, create something, that’s the satisfying aspect for him.
FH: We all do this because we love to do this.
TS: I can’t not write. As an artist, this is extremely fulfilling. Remembers that she is not writing for anyone but herself.  It’s always better to write for you, not for the people around her
FH: It sucks having to write something just to pay the bills.
AJ: there is a downside to quitting your dayjob. You become a slave to the market. There’s a freedom to knowing that the sales of your next novel don’t determine whether you get to keep your house.
MM: Most people do not have the discipline to treat it as a job in your own home. Most people are writing in their home and when you’re in your home the brain is telling you to do all the things, the chores, the laundry, and Facebook, etc. You have to be super disciplined to not have a day job and write in your home.
Me: Three times I’ve taken a week off just to focus on writing, and three times the week has been filled.
FH: There are no benefits for those who quit their dayjobs.

Myth: You’ll be able to write at conventions.
JT: I’m too busy drinking with friends.
TS: I go out to eat and drink with friends.
JB: Maybe a bit but cons are an opportunity pit.
AJ: Used to bring his laptop. *snort*
RM: Cons are an opportunity to not write, to make connections.
TS: It’s important to talk about writing, so you have so much more energy when you get back to that
FH: The networking that happens at cons happens at the bar. You can do this even as a recovering alcoholic.

Audience Question: How do you write at home without social media?
FH: Rewards herself: she can only check FB after she finishes every page, if she wants.
JT: No internet in his office. Researches things later. “Research” turns into time spent on FB.
CM: Sets goals, takes breaks.
TS: Easy to sit and write.

Audience Question: Advice on finding cover artist if you’ve self-publised a book?
RM: You can find a lot of great artists through Deviant Art.
JT: If you buy a sketch from a cover artist, you can’t use it for a book cover. There’s a big contract involved first.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Stealing the Spotlight: When Sidekicks Take Over (ConCarolinas 2014 Writing Panel Notes)

Stealing the Spotlight: When Sidekicks Take Over
Chris A. Jackson, James R. Tuck, Michael G. Williams, Thomas Monaghan
Moderator: Edward McKeown
Thoughts about sidekicks:
- TM: Side characters that become pivotal, going from a name drop to a character that orchestrates the story’s end; it’s surprising how the small characters can change the story
- EM: The person who changes the most is often the secondary character (e.g. Spock from Star Trek, Watson)
- CJ: You can have more than one protagonist!
- MW: The moment the secondary character starts to take over: When they start behaving like the main characters of their own stories.
- TM: We’re more risky with our secondary and tertiary characters and we get to explore more of their dark side, and that makes them lively and brings them to the forefront.
- CJ: Also, if they’re secondary characters, they can more easily be killed, which adds tension.
- TM: The characters can take you for a ride. Backstory can be added for colour, then revisited as a critical issue later in the story.
- JT: It’s easy to overdo secondary characters.
- CJ: But you can add depth to the character without overwhelming.
- JT: Then it’s not backstory, it’s what’s happened in the past that has made that character become the person they are.
- CJ: It can be hard when the side story enrichens the story, but at the cost of way too much wordcount.
- EM: Secondary characters can go on to other adventures that are fairly incredible.
- MW: Secondary characters can be waiting to be used, in their own stories.
- TM: One incredible example is Vir from Babylon 5, going from a buffoon to the emperor of the Centauri republic.
- EM: Delenn also moved the entire series.
- JT: By the end of Buffy, everyone else is more important than her. She doesn’t change much.
- EM: Spike’s change on Buffy.
- CJ: Sec characters enrich the story. Take that. Ride that pony all the way to the barn. Just be aware of word count.
- MW: If a character entertains him, then he’ll go with it because he’s enjoying it.
- Audience comment: Monroe on Grimm, Regina from Once Upon a Time.

Audience Question: Spike’s arc was supposed to be static in the second season. What do you do when a character gets such overwhelming support that you keep him on?
- EM: That’s called Conan Doyle syndrome.
- TM: The characters tell him when he’s done.
- CJ: If his fanbase will pay him for more of that sec character, then he’ll write it, if that story is worthy of telling.
- TM: That’s the secret: the story has to be worth telling.
- CJ: Has a respect for his fans: he wouldn’t tell it if they didn’t think it was worth telling.
- MW: When a few say they want more, he doesn’t put much stock in it, but when lots say they do, then he puts way more.

Other examples and discussion:
- CJ: Characters who keep getting their asses kicked and still win.
- TM: That’s what tertiary and secondary characters are for.
- JT: Works for Dresden because the effects carry over into the next book. Bad writing is when the hero/protagonist is completely unaffected in the next book.
- Audience comment: Hannibal Lecter – was originally a side character in Manhunter.
- MW: People willing to completely say their motivations out loud.
- JT: I normally have filters, but they go way down. (And boy do they come off at the con.)
- TM: A villain doing what is necessary, what he sees as necessary for his people, but is he genuinely evil, or just going to extreme measures to have a positive outcome?
- EM: Are the rebels always the good guys?
- JT: Lex Luthor sees Superman if anything goes wrong, if Superman decided to take over the world he could. Black Panther and Dr. Doom are the same but one is good and one is evil.
- MW: Sometimes the hero and villain are each other’s heroes and villains.  
- JT: All of the Firefly crew is their own protagonist.
- CJ: Fallible protagonist: Any time Mal screws up is when the side characters can step in
- MW: Each character in Firefly stands out and it works.
- MW: When a side character goes off and comes back changed or even damaged, and it affects a later story.
- EM: There’s a synergy – some characters who don’t seem to exist without the hero, the whole is greater than the parts (Kirk/Spock/McCoy, Sherlock/Watson, etc)
- TM: Characters pair up, work together as a team, and it helps develop them further. This helps to advance the story better.
- EM: When the main POV character teamed with extraordinary character, and the extraordinary character is more than main character, and the POV character is more normal.
- TM: Like the Dr. Who companion. Gives him a chance to explain, not just for the companion but for the audience.
- TM: Often the side character comes up with solutions to problems.

Audience Question: Are secondary/tertiary characters the ones making the world, or does the protagonist make the world?
- TM, CJ: Both
- JT: Secondary characters can show parts of the world to broaden the world and bring more perspective without going into too much detail.
- MW: In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, DS9 is a station, so there are a lot of walk-ons, which help make the world.

Audience Question: How do you prevent characters from other races/species from being token?
- EM: To some extent these characters are tokens. They are what they do. You could put in some characteristics that
- TM: Try to provide other characters from that same race, to give alternative views. Helps you paint a broader picture from both sides.
- CJ: Tertiary characters *are* setting. Keep them as real as you can without letting them take the story places you don’t want them to go. No one cares what colour the carpet is unless someone’s bleeding on it. No one cares about backstory unless it affects the story.
- TM: If they’re just that once
- EM: Cultures are easier to stereotype.
- JT: Write well. But also, these characters are not in their culture so they will react differently to what’s going on because it’s not where they’re form.
- MW: Cheesy trick: Have someone treat them like a token and see how they react.

Are sidekicks and main characters sometimes impossible without each other?
- EM: Xena and Gabrielle – better characters together than on their own.
- MW: Quark and Odo from Deep Space Nine. DS9 is the messy show.
- TM: Londo and Jakar in Babylon 5. Jakar’s journey through the show.
- JT: Captain America: The Winter Soldier is Black Widow’s movie just as much as Cap’s.

Audience Question: Ever had a beta reader or editor ask you to add or take away from a secondary character?
- CJ: Just kills the character who needs to go, has them die gloriously.
- EM: If they’re not worth the words, then demote the tertiary character who was secondary back to tertiary.

TM: What’s been your most disturbing experience with a character?
- (For him, flinching with a villain that revolted him. Had to kill that villain, go through the experience of killing him off, to be able to deal with him, the brothel breeding system the villain was involved in, and the dark things that happen that the society condones)
- EM: No one should extrapolate from writing to writer. But you have to identify with the bad guy to write the bad guy.
- CJ: Having to put yourself in the bad guy’s head. It’s clear what he’s doing and why he’s doing, but the means to the end that he has envisioned, getting into his head is hard but it needed to happen.
- MW: One villain had power to delete people from existence, and made for an unreliable narrator

- JT: When a side character goes off after the bad guy and gets hurt.