Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Keeping the Flame Hot

No, this isn't a post about erotica.

Thanks to real life (evil bastard) I haven't been on track with TGTD. Oh, sure, I'm sitting over 60k now, but that's more to do with tuning out my relatives than any real intensity on my part. Today, however, the wheels are turning. I rediscovered my drive for the story and I think it's coming along fine.

Did I mention that I managed over 50k in 11 days? I'm a little smug, yes, but there are others who wrote more than I did.

I've noticed that my writing is a lot sharper these days. I eliminate most of my grammatical penchants before I make them. Even the comma count is down, which is a good thing. (don't crit my blog, damnit--it's where commas are allowed to roam freely without fear of molestation--and adverbs too so nyaaaaaaah.)

At any rate, it is hard sometimes to get past the first few chapters when you start a new project. I am not a compulsive planner when I write; I have an idea of where the story will end, but how I get there and most of the plot turns are accidental. Usually I stall and sputter (remember Requiem?) until I figure out how best to get the story moving along. Terella has a fairly straightforward plot intention, but the road is twisted and gnarly and oh so deliciously indecent! My heroine begins as fairly sweet and naive and morphs through the story until she takes over the page and stomps all over it.

Killing superfluous dialogue tags as she goes.

For example, this is how we meet Aleira:

Aleira liked the rain. It slanted from the thickening sky as slashes of lavender. Overall it was, particularly at this time of year, a beautiful and relaxing thing to watch. She had heard rumors that in places across the great Mneosta Sea the rain was as silvery as the clouds that brought it. She didn’t necessarily believe it. For her, it was incomprehensible that rain could be anything other than the watery purple-hued streaks she loved. She let the hood fall back from her face, glorying in the feel of the water against her skin. For a girl with many problems, the rain was a wonderful thing.

Aleira was alone. She liked being alone. For as long as she could remember,it had always been thus. No matter what town she walked through, or what inn she entered in search of food and drink, she was the lone person in her life. It wasn’t very bad; it gave her time to think. Most of that thinking time she spent asking herself the selfsame question repeatedly.

Who am I?

She knew her name. She retained that one thing from ‘before.’ “Before’ referred to the time of darkness. ‘After’ referred to now. ‘After’ began when Aleira opened her eyes a month ago and found herself standing alone in the middle of a large field. She knew absolutely nothing about her origins: where she’d come from, who her family was, what she was doing or where she was going. The only clues she had were her name and the few possessions she owned.

Later on, she's more like this:

“Tell me, Rudianos,” she began softly, as the king stiffened into renewed fury at her use of his name. “Do you think I can’t see that makings of your past? Your father was a cruel man too, was he not? Didn’t he torture you and your younger sister, to mould you into what he thought royalty should be? Wasn’t it difficult for you as a child? All you wanted to do was run to your mother and weep, but you couldn’t because then he’d beat her too.”

The words came faster now, brought up from some well of information that she’d never known she possessed. “I always wonder what the product of emotional cruelty was. I see it now, enthroned and enriched by the suffering of those who don’t even know they are your victims. Your son stands behind me. He is a good man, a patient and gentle man who you ignored when he was growing. You had two older sons; he was unimportant. This son you left alone, spared the incessant brutality you spent upon his brothers as you tried to make them in your image. When they died, you
were left with him. He’d grown up in a different fashion, left to his tutors and beneath your notice. Now you’re frustrated because he isn’t as easy to shape as your other, maltreated, bestial offspring. He has a mind of his own, and prowess that you fear. Tell me, Rudianos: when you lie in your cold bed at night, whose face do you see before you go to sleep? Is it your own face, wreathed in glory and might? Or, is it the face of your son, above a sword that whistles for your throat?”

She smiled again, a sweet, innocent smile that belied the harsh impact of her words. “I know what it is you see. I know what it is that you fear. It is the usual thing for mortals to fear their own mortality. I will say this and no more: the death you receive, King of Vegoia, will be the death you have earned.”

It took her about 75 pages to reach that point. And just afterwards, she finds herself caught up in a war that she cannot stop. It's then that her atheism is confirmed; nothing quite like a moral crisis to give a girl doubts about the gods whoever they are. Oh, yes. And Ugarit? Poor fellow. I torture him in my inimitable mean fashion, but he keeps coming up the stronger for it.


I may have to kill him to prove a point. Wouldn't that be a nice twist?

That's one of the great things about keeping the flame of your story hot--taking out your frustrations (or your joys) upon a helpless character who lives and dies by the power of your pen. Wow. What a feeling! It gives me the goosebumps just thinking about it.

I think a nice, prolonged, lovely death scene is just the ticket. Excuse me while I run to the thesaurus to find more synonyms for blood, guts, and disembowelment. This may be more fun than torturing Elves.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Goshdarn Scam Agency Rant Alert

Get ready. This is going to be evil.

So...my mother-in-law informed me yesterday that she had an agent.

After picking my jaw up from the desk, where it lay for some time in utter disbelief after hearing that she had queried one (1) agent and had been offered a contract, I started to think about it. Now, I've read some of her work and while it is good, I thought it was a bit of a stretch to find the perfect agent that quickly after one try. So I started asking questions.

Who was her agency? Although I thought she said Rider, it turns out she said Writer. Writers Literary Agency, to be precise, which has been discussed on numerous well-respected writers' sites: Absolute Write, Writers Beware, Preditors & Editors, and Making Light--among others. Although I didn't initially recognize the name, it did set off alarm bells. So, when I got home I googled it.

You've all heard me talk about the fine art of googling before. Use it. Embrace it. Revel in it. Because when you google Writer's Literary Agency, the very first thing that pops up is NOT their website. Oh no. It would be the sites listed above.

Never a good sign. More not good signs:

--Click here for a sampling of the positive emails that we receive on a regular basis. That's it? Emails? No, I want to see sales--whose books you sold, to which publisher, for how much. So let's go look there next.

--Ooooooooookay. Not a single NAME listed. Fair enough.

--Why don't we check out their marketing plan for their authors.

And that's where I get mad, because that's where my mother-in-law got snagged. What a lovely photograph of a green WL Literary sign at the 2007 Book Expo in New York. It's rather interesting though that all of the other signs are purple. And in not a single picture, which could have been taken by any casual visitor to an open event, was there ONE INSTANCE where you could see a WL Literary rep with an editor from any of the big houses....or an author....or even at the dinner...

So, she signed. She then paid sixty bucks for a 'critique' of her novel. Amazingly, in a 118k manuscript of a first-time, never previously published writer, there was only ONE misspelled word. The 'critique' was a rave, detailing how saleable the book was with a few cut and paste snippets from the manuscript.

So now I'm seeing red. I put all the pieces together and found myself in the unenviable position of informing my mother-in-law, business partner, and friend that she had been the victim of a well-tried and more successful than it should be scam. Let me just state for the record that this is NOT a comfortable place to be.

The public record on this company is long and it's discouraging. If you follow the links I've posted in this article, you'll be able to untangle it for yourself. I am posting this from Ann Crispin of Writers Beware--she added her full permission to copy and paste the alert wherever writers gather:

NEW ALERT FROM WRITER BEWARE: Writers’ Literary Agency & Marketing
Company (formerly The Literary Agency Group) The Literary Agency Group, a
business owned or controlled by Robert M. Fletcher of Boca Raton, Florida,
changed its name in February 2007 to Writers’ Literary Agency & Marketing
Company (a.k.a. WL Writers’ Literary Agency).
This umbrella group includes or has included the following agencies:
* Christian Literary Agency* New York Literary Agency* Stylus Literary Agency (formerly ST Literary Agency, formerly Sydra-Techniques)* WL Children’s Agency (a.k.a. Children’s Literary Agency)* WL Poet’s Agency (a.k.a. Poet’s Literary Agency)* WL Screenplay Agency (a.k.a. The Screenplay Agency)* Writers’ Literary & Publishing Services Company (the editing arm of the above-mentioned agencies)
Since this company began operating in 2001 under the name Sydra-Techniques, Writer Beware has received hundreds of complaints and advisories of fee-charging, editing referrals, and other questionable practices. We’re not aware that the company has a significant track record of commercial book sales under any of its names, despite its claims to the contrary. Writers who have had trouble with Robert
M. Fletcher or any of the above-named companies, and who are or were residents
of the state of Florida, please get in touch with Ann Crispin at anncrispin@aol.com (or beware@sfwa.org , if the AOL address bounces), even if you have previously contacted her. Please provide complete contact information.

And so now you know. I cannot stress enough how important it is to thoroughly research ANY agent or publishing company before you submit. Love your Google button and use it. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to compose a lovely registered letter on behalf of my mother-in-law. It is a painful lesson for anyone to learn. Try not to let this happen to you.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Insomnia and Market Research

So, it was a bad day yesterday. Family situations abounded...never a good thing...and I'll be away from my computer pretty consistently over the next couple of weeks. *sigh* Unfortunately, whenever crap happens to me or mine, I stay awake and stew about it.

And stew.

Unless I distract myself. I made some LOLCatz earlier; that was fun. I also started doing market research. It's been a while since I have done so, and I thought I'd see what's up.

What's up is I found a whole slew of new places to think about sending my stuff to so that it can be rejected. I also found some great blog posts, new information, and a growing certainty within the market that 'things they are a changin' ...

My question is simple: where?

Where is the market changing? What is the next big trend? Who knows what it is, and how much do I have to pay them to get in on the secret?

Okay, let's say that it's a minimum of two years from contract signing to pulbication with a major house. That means that to be the 'next big thing' you have to be TWO YEARS beyond the other people writing in your genre. Otherwise, if it's too similar, you might be pegged as derivative.

The world might be different today if Harry Potter had come out six months after a wizards' school book from another author. Think about it. Remember the post-DaVinci Code swarm of lookalikes? What if...and it's a big what if...a publisher thinks Darkshifters is the next big thing? Unbeknowst to them, or me, another writer publishes something similar a few months before. Does that negate Darkshifters' chances? Perhaps not entirely, but still.

Speculating on the nature of public taste is hard. When you write stories that are out-of-date does that make them any less viable? And who decides that? Publishers? Editors? Agents? Or is it the intern stuck on slush pile detail....a scary thought indeed.

Unfortunately, I have no answers. I only have questions. And even after a long night of LOLCatz and NaNo writing and market research, I can't find the place TO get the answers. So for the time being, I'll just have to assume that what I'm doing can be the next big thing.

And hope for the best.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Making a word count...er...count

Okay--as requested by Pete at CarrPeeDiem:

Jeanne, Ava, Celina: As the highest-number rollers this week, I’d love it
if — either here, or on your blogs — you took a few minutes to talk about how
you write, what you do, what produces the high numbers. You don’t HAVE to,
but I know I’d find it interesting, even if no one else does…

I'm an odd bird. For one thing, I can sit down and read Gone With The Wind in an afternoon. I've always been able to read quickly and to comprehend what I read. And, to answer the inevitable next question: NO, I do NOT speed read. I've been reading since before the age of two, and my parents used to invite people over so that I'd read the TV Guide to them. I actually hurt myself crawling out of my crib in the middle of the night trying to get a book.

That translated fairly quickly into writing. I've mentioned on here before that I wrote my first novel-length story in my late teens. I got out of the daily writing grind when I left college, and only got back into it when a car wreck left me unable to work and with very few sources of entertainment. Try affording my book habit--I dare you.

So when I DID start writing, I was writing in order to be entertained. As an impatient person, I learned to type quickly. I always wanted to know what happened next. Every morning, I got up and armed with heating pads and medication, settled myself in the recliner in front of the very very old Dell desktop with no internet connection and sank myself into my story. Asphodel took me three months to write, Gift of Redemption about two. Tempation and Apostolate took about a month each. Darkshifters and Coils took about the same. Each book was over 100k, the largest hitting at 165 in its first draft mode.

Terella is on pace at the moment to be a five or six week project. I expect it to top out at about 135k, mostly because I've allowed myself to get sidetracked on a subplot. Once edited, it will be right at 105-110k.

So how do I do it? My recipe is simple. I have a room where I can shut the door. That's vital. I have music playlists created by me for specific types of scenes: fight music, love music, grief music, fun music--and none of those songs have words. I'm a huge classical music fan and I don't think I can write a war without Star Wars music. Period. On average, I write about 2000 words an hour. Sometimes, I can hit closer to three. Usually, I work for five hours a day on writing, while spending another two or three on rewrites or (God forbid they show up now) edits. By the way, I hard edit: red pencil on paper. It takes longer, I have to actually read what I've written, and I get a better feel for the flow of the piece.

In other words, writing is my full time job. It doesn't pay much yet, but I have hopes that it will. I write something every day, even if it's just in my journal because I'm too tired to sit up with my laptop. If I'm on pace, and the house stays relatively clean and there is no teenaged angst screeching up and down the stairs, I can write up to about 12k a day. I average between 7 and 9k, at least until after November 17th. My internal editor tends to catch most of my errors, although some of the typos I catch when I reread are amusing. And, unless something in 'real' life interferes, I stick to that schedule like glue. I tend to work on only one writing project at a time, using my rewrite time for whatever project is next up for release or submission. That allows me to concentrate solely on one plot, one set of characters, one world.

I immerse myself in it. I breathe it. Sometimes I dream plot resolutions. Sometimes, I dream scenes and have to get up and write them THEN. I just let it take over, and when it does lots and lots of words result. I'm not special; I'm just obsessed. If you factor in a few stops to blog, or to make a few posts, or to answer emails (I'm an addict!) or even just to stretch or fire up the heating pad again, I get rejuvenated and go right back to work. I stop and worry about the finer aspects of writing once the story is on the page.

In the end, it doesn't matter if I get the tea. In the end, it matters that I have a story I can work with. Once Terella reaches the horror which is the first rewrite, I may feel differently about the project. But, for right now, I can just let the story explode and hope that I type quickly enough to keep up with it.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Thanks A Lot, NaNo Gods

So here was my plan--and it was brilliant. I purposely went short of sleep last night. I worked until 7:30 a.m. this morning, then got up at noon and worked all day. My reasoning: Since i have to work all day tomorrow at the bar, I wanted to have a nice comfy cushion on my word count. So tonight I knocked off early and went to bed.

Apparently some divine being NOT from Terella decided that wasn't good enough. So, they arranged a small disruption of my well-laid plans.

Picture this: I'm in bed, dozing off, preparing for a good seven hours of sleep before the Ohio State football game frenzy tomorrow. When all of a sudden--

Let me back up. I live on a fairly well-traveled street on the outskirts of town. About a mile from my house, my street turns into highway. It's the last gasp of civilization before endless stretches of Ohio farmlands. Back to the story.

----screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech! Pow! Boom! Crash!

In that order.

As best as I can figure, an SUV was traveling at a reasonably high rate of speed up the hill I live on. Somehow (and I hesitate to mention the word drunk) she slammed on her brakes, did a 180, knocked a telephone pole over, and crashed into the front porch of the house across the street. In the process of which, she managed to miss ALL three of our cars parked like dominoes at the end of our walk.

I do not like being awakened by crashes. I equally despise having to call 911 at two a.m. After placing the call, which seemed important since no people emerged from said vehicle although lots of smoke was, we went to check if the passengers were okay. Before we could get there, the guy who lives in the crashed-into house came out and yelled, "Thanks a fucking lot for crashing into my porch!* then went back inside and shut the door.


Needless to say, I am now wide-awake. With the five police cars, two ambulances, two fire trucks, and the rescue squad parked right outside my house *oh the lights! it hurts us!* sleep is an unlikely commodity for quite some time. Before long, the glorious sounds of chain saws and wreckers will add to the noise. Lovely.

Everyone in the car appears to be okay. More than I can say for the car, the pole, and the house.

Which brings me back to the purpose of my post. For some reason, the NaNo gods apparently want me to keep writing. They don't seem to think that I might need some sleep. I just wanted to take this opportunity to offer up my gratitude for making me stick to my guns and keep on writing--real life be damned!

Thanks a lot. You bastards.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Break time

Wow, have I written a lot in the last twenty-eight hours or so. My word count for TGTD is standing a little over 12k at the moment. Granted, I'm hyper-writing because I know that my word count of Saturday will be....drumroll please!

...zero. Football, you know. *sigh*

So anyway, at the moment I'm switching gears from work to work. Booze to tea, as it were. I'm flexing my mental muscles before I try to squeeze in another few hundred words.

Or maybe I'll just go to sleep and wake up early.

At any rate, the whole concept behind Terella is pretty intense. I've brainstormed it with a few friends of mine at the bar. In a nutshell, the concept is this: What would happen if God were an atheist?

Yeah. Gave me pause too.

Basically, Terella was created by a goddess in her infancy. She played with it like a girl with dolls and a dollhouse. She created her own little dreamworld, populated it, gave each little doll a history...and then, she was 'born.' She ends up on her own dreamworld without any recollection of who she is. She travels through Terella and as she interacts with the people, she develops a dislike for the organized religion of the world--a religion that worships her. She becomes an atheist, gathering followers to her as she goes, and before long--

Yeah. That's where I get stuck too. I'll figure it out eventually. *grin* If nothing else, it should be an interesting trip.