Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Inability To Understand Human Nature

Human nature is a copout. I've been hearing about human nature my whole life. People excuse all sorts of behavior with that little phrase. "Oh, it's no big deal. It's just human nature--"

As if it's 'human nature' to lie or cheat or steal. As if, by token of being born into this species at this stage of evolution we are justified somehow to behave as we please. Unfortunately, I'm no good at deciphering 'human nature.' I find myself, frequently, wondering why it is people act the way they do.

What makes this even more disturbing is that as a writer, my job is to understand human nature. After all, it's that indefinable quality that makes characters have the quirks they do. We create these imaginary people and then we give them personalities and inside those personalities, human nature comes into play. BUT as writers, we have to rely on more than human nature to make a character work. For example, if a character lies we can't just expect the reader to chuck it off as 'human nature.' We have to have a reason for the character to lie, a plausible motivation for that person's behavior in that specific situation or else the reader won't buy into it. But in our everyday lives, we don't look for motivations. We just say it's 'human nature.'

So why do we expect less from reality than we do from our fiction?

A question I've been pondering a lot lately. If I come up with an answer, I'll let you know.

Oh, and by the way--Breaking the Covenants is now available at Amazon! Stay tuned for more information on the Covenants series but first: we're getting back into the realm of Asphodel. I'll have a lot of information on the final Asphodel book over the next few weeks. Let's all get ready for the release of Apostle of Asphodel next month!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Some More News

Just a brief blog post today with some news for you:

Breaking the Covenants is now available on Mobipocket. You can check it out here. It will soon be available on Amazon, Fictionwise and other major online retailers. So far, the feedback has been excellent and Rob and I are working busily on the second Covenants novel, Warding the Covenants, which will be released this summer by Aspen Mountain Press.

BUT, even more importantly--notice the new countdown clock? That's right! The Asphodel Cycle 4: Apostle of Asphodel will be released on June 19, 2009! I'm really excited. There's nothing more fun than releasing the last book in a series. Ready to find out the end of Tamsen's story? It's only thirty seven days away!

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Writer's Four Most Basic Tools

Okay, let's have a frank discussion about what you, the writer, must have in order to be successful.

Before anything--before a great story or vivid characters or a knockout plot or an original voice--a writer must have the basic subset of tools that permit you to practice this craft adequately. You cannot be a good writer until you have mastered this list. Period. Before you even think about hitting 'send' on that next submission, step back, take a good, hard look at your work and make certain that you meet this criteria.

1. Correct spelling. I cannot emphasize this enough. Writers use words. You will lose all credibility right from the get-go if you don't spell those words correctly. If spelling is an issue for you, you need to work on it. The basic rules of spelling like "i before except after c" or knowing the difference between homonyms need to be second nature for you. If you get hung up on they're/there/their, then work on the rule until you memorize it. I'm not talking about typos--typos happen to everyone and should be found when you edit your story--but good, old-fashioned spelling. Learn it. Love it.

2. Basic grammar. Sure, everyone is going to get hung up on some aspects of grammar. I'm an editor and I still have to look things up occasionally. However, there's no excuse for any writer not to make the effort to follow the rules of grammar. Here again--words are your tools. You can't use those tools effectively unless you know how to use them correctly. It doesn't matter what experience you have as a writer, it is necessary for you to have a good, current grammatical stylebook or manual--I use the Chicago Manual of Style, personally--and refer to it frequently.

3. The ability to take criticism. This is so important and so often overlooked. Let me pass on a bit of advice that will serve you as you write: artistic license is no excuse for a poor, sloppy story. *editor's hat on* I don't care how artistic you think you are, if you bore me I'm going to red ink the section. Editors, publishers, agents and beta readers don't criticize your work because they hate you/are jealous/think you need criticism whether it's warranted or not--we criticize your work because something isn't effective. Park your artistic sensibilities at the door. Creating a storyline is art. Telling the story is a craft--and as such, you need to be prepared to hear what works, what doesn't and what flat-out fails without whining or getting angry about it.

4. The ability to edit. You need to be your own harshest critic. You need to be prepared to writer your manuscript four, five, ten times if necessary to make it the best it can be. There is no such thing as a perfect first draft. Or second. Or third. There's always room to improve and just because you've typed "The End" doesn't mean the process is over.

Okay, got it? Print this list out. hang it over your desk. Every day when you sit down to write, read this list again. If you don't have these four basic tools, then your manuscript is doomed to fail. There are thousands of writers out there submitting materials and a healthy proportion of them have mastered these basic elements of their tool box. In the end, it doesn't matter how great your story is or how original it has to be spelled correctly, have correct grammar, have been edited stringently before anyone will consider it. And then? Then, you'll have to submit to the publication process and criticism is inherently a part of that. If you can't take criticism with good grace and implement those changes then you're doomed to failure on a bigger and more hurtful level.

And just remember--as with any craft, the more you practice the better you'll get. Writing is a developed skill, one that takes years of work to perfect. Once you've got these four tools in your back pocket, writing itself becomes much easier.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Chat Debacles and Book Release Day!

Nothing like a book release day to get your spirits up...

Which I sorely needed after the debacle of last night. I was all set to do an author's chat at Absolute Write (every Thursday, the chat room there is devoted to SFF). I'd even made notes. My chat was going to be about world building, new mythology and fantasy archetypes. So I'm cruising about Absolute Write about half an hour beforehand, being my usual smarmy self, and the bleeping power went out!

We had some pretty high winds yesterday and the substation down the street blew. So here I am, frantically emailing people on my cell phone, trying to get word to the AW chatmasters that I was having a little problem. I felt like a colossal heel (and a warm one since I didn't get my power back until about six am this morning) because now that's two scheduled events I've missed in the last two weeks--and neither one of them was my fault.


Hopefully we can get it rescheduled. I'll let you know. However, as I'm not one to miss obligations and am one of those annoying people who always turns up early, it really bothered me to not be there. Hopefully, I can rectify that tomorrow: Rob and I are chatting from 12 noon EST to 9 pm at Coffee Time Romance and More e-readers loop. Join us and find out about the world of the Vampire Covenants, the release of Breaking the Covenants, excerpts, fun, jokes, recipes, contests and whatever else nonsensical we come up with to entertain for nine hours straight. Ever see me in a chat marathon before? *rolls eyes* It's nothing if not silly.

So! Breaking The Covenants is now available from Aspen Mountain Press. As always, it will soon be available at Amazon, Fictionwise, ARE E-Books, Kindle, Mobipocket and all sorts of online retailers--I'll keep you posted. So shoot over to AMP and pick up your copy today--it's definitely a departure from Elf-killing.


Now I'm killing mortals and immortals alike. What bliss!