Sunday, May 26, 2013

Finally Published!

Weee! Earlier this month I FINALLY published Nenfari and Dark Moon Gates! LOL you'd think I'd have blogged about it before now, right?

Dark Moon Gates is the first installment in the Witches' Gates Saga.

Willa, high school Junior and witch-in-training has a problem. No, not the ordinary problem of being a lonely, geekish misfit, though sure, she can add that to her list. And not the problem that she's got a crush on a delicious and evasive lord of Faery, and her mom's got the hots for him too. That's the easy stuff.

Teachers at her school are disappearing. The substitutes are faery Sidhe in disguise, and they're trying to uncover the identity of the child who will, according to prophecy, open the Gates to Faery. That kid happens to be Willa's 3-year old brother Arrie.
 

Since opening the Gates means the humans will invade and ravage the realm of Faery, the Sidhe plot to sacrifice Arrie at the dark moon, two weeks away. If they manage to do it, the Gates will close forever and the human world will perish for lack of magic. They haven't discovered Arrie's identity yet. They're narrowing down fast.
 

Then there's that pesky detail in the prophecy: Willa will be struck blind if she manages to stop Arrie's sacrifice.

You can download a free sample of Dark Moon Gates.

At nineteen, assassin-in-training D'hara, is a disappointment to her parents, and especially herself.

Without the mysterious "Change" that should have come at puberty, her father the Khalji cannot make her an advantageous marriage. Nor can she follow in the path of her mother, the High Assassin. Their line has held that title for eight generations. D'hara will break the chain if she does not become fully Assassin caste.

In this city of political intrigue, cunning manipulation and betrayal, the only one D'hara can trust is her beloved born-for slave, Aldrar.

Now, Aldrar's newborn infant is in peril, chosen for ritual sacrifice as the ghostly slave of another princess. D'hara must brave the wrath of the Prophet God's priests and the hazards of the city Below to save him.

A dark Sword & Sorcery fantasy set in a violent world where poison and backstabbing prevail, Nenfari is the first story in the Assassin's Flower Series. You can download Nenfari FREE at Smashwords.


If you like my stories, I hope you'll review them on my Smashwords book pages.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

OMG Ebook Week Starts on Smashwords! Can I Get Nenfari Ready?

Ohmigosh! Smashwords announced that Read an Ebook Week starts tomorrow! I've been prepping four books for ebook publication, Nenfari (free), Bad Man (free), Dark Moon Gates and Spellcraft Secrets.

Not a one of them is done yet! Eeek!

Nenfari is mainly waiting for a cover pic before we can face the evil Meatgrinder (the Smashwords tool that converts docs to ebook). Hubby is on it, fortunately. Hopefully he can do something fantastic in the next few hours.

This is suddenly feeling scary and empowering and exciting and very real all at once.

In case you care, Nenfari is a somewhat "different" coming-of-age novella about a young assassin on a planet long, long ago and far, far away. As far as fantasy/sf stories go, it's on the dark side, considering that slavery and child murder are some of the themes.

I wrote this story about 20 years ago and because of its awkward length (too long for a magazine, too short for a novel) it sat in my computer files for all that time. Marion Zimmer Bradley herself rejected it with an amazing and kind personal rejection, saying that she loved it but it was way too long for the Sword and Sorceress series. She suggested I turn it into a full length novel.

Like seriously, and holy s***! MZB herself wrote me back! I was floored! I saved that gorgeous rejection until the fire that burned down our house. Otherwise I'd post it here just for proof. Oh, as I recall it was on teal paper too. Very nifty!

Well, Nenfari is almost ready to go...and what the heck am I doing even wasting time on blogging? And yeah, I took MZB's advice and am making it a full length novel...eventually. Soon maybe, even. It'll be part of the Assassin's Flower series.

Viva la ebook revolucion!

OMG eeek! Enough of a break. Time to get back to formatting.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Bitter Barista - What Not to Do If You're Writing True Story

I was pretty shocked by the BitterBarista debacle. Some guy blows off steam on Twitter. Some other blog exposes him and links to the company he works for. The guy gets fired.

Here were my first thoughts: The posts are satire, and people think he's funny. What's the big deal? Wow the blog that exposed him must be creeps! 

Based on the feedback they got, a lot of other folks thought that as well.

But I'm a writer, so I immediately looked at it from a writer's perspective.

There are plenty of funny books out there about people's exploits on the job. And many of them deal with wacky customers and many of them get written about. I recently read and loved, Pets in a Pickle (also available as an ebook)

Except it's not quite that easy. I went to Sprudge.com, the site that allegedly outed him. I say allegedly, because according to their site he had already outed himself and that his real name is available on his twitter profile and that he says where he works in some of his tweets.

Further, they state: "Rough days at work? Of course. Upsetting interactions? Absolutely. Need to vent sometimes? That’s universal. But rape jokes? References to violence and animal abuse? Endangering customers with food allergies and dietary restrictions?" They also say that the posts were not posed as satirical until after the whole debacle occurred. Here's the post on Sprudge.

I haven't independently verified their claims, so please don't send me hate mail. ;) Whether or not their claim is true isn't the point of my article here. Nor is whether or not Matt Watson should be fired.

Instead I had two questions:

In books that tell all about the author's present or past profession how is this case different?

What lessons does this case teach me as a writer? Besides not to blog about my day job.

Say What Happened...

In most of the books in the True Story genre that I've ever read, and if the author has a story that might reflect unflatteringly on the people involved, The writer is generally careful to state the facts and leave it there. Sure the writer might mention that they laughed, were sad, felt hurt, were confused and such.

...Let the Actions Speak for Themselves...

These authors also don't resort to name calling. They don't say or imply that the folks involved were rude, stupid or anything else. The facts of the story are enough for the reader to make up their own mind.

Now I'm not saying that the Bitter Barista did or did not resort to name calling. I don't subscribe to his tweets and I really don't have the time or energy to do so. So I have zero idea. However it seems likely that he may have according to what I've read elsewhere.

...Don't Indulge in Fantasy...

Obviously if your intent is satire, ignore this one. However if you're writing true stories about your life, then it's unwise to go on about how you wanted to spit in their coffee. Or suggest that you actually did spit in their coffee. (Disclaimer once again: I don't have any reason to suspect that Watson spit in anyone's coffee or even said he did, this is JUST an example. However I did know one waitress long in the past who actually did spit in someone's food, and I was horrified.) Unless you're also willing to chastise yourself in the story for being a horrible person.

...Leave Out Suggestions of Rape, Violence and Cruelty to Animals

This one should be a no brainer. (Here's that disclaimer again. I don't know what the Bitter Barista said, I only know what Sprudge said he said.) Some things are just beyond the pale. Fantasizing about giving someone the wrong coffee order is one thing. Fantasizing about rape, violence and animal cruelty are just straight out! If you do, and you say you do, then expect that you're going to lose readers, tick people off and quite possibly lose your job. Unless you're a sociopath and the purpose of your book is to write about being a sociopath. These things are not funny. At least not to me.

I may or may not ever write a book about the true story of my life. For now I'll stick to fiction. But if I ever do, I've learned how to write it without getting myself in trouble or upsetting people whose worst crime was to be human.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Spell Check is Your Friend...Sort Of (Word Usage 1)

Sorry, yes this is a rant. And no, despite the title, my rant isn't really about spelling. Not exactly.

Maybe I'm super-sensitive to the issue. I was, after all, raised by an English teacher or two. I'm not perfect either. I'm sure if you dredge the waters of my blog you might find a spelling or grammar mistake here and there that I haven't found and corrected yet.

But hey, this is a blog. In a published novel on the other hand...argh!

Most word processing programs come with an automatic spell check. These days, most email programs do too. Guess what? If you don't have spell check on, then you probably had to go to the trouble of figuring out how to turn it off! What's with that? When you see those nasty little red lines under your word, it's probably not spelled right. Take a moment to correct it.

Editors and agents are busy people. If they see a query letter or manuscript that's full of glaring errors, they'll think you're a sloppy writer and may even reject you out of hand. No matter how beautiful your writing might be otherwise.

As Janet Reid says on her excellent blog, the Query Shark, "when it's clear you didn't run spell check on your query, you contribute to global warming because it makes sharks weep hot salty tears." 

Spell Czech Can't Do it All

But spelling isn't the one that really gets me. And here's where spell check fails. What makes me crazy as a reader, is where the writer obviously doesn't have enough command of the English language to know when they're using the wrong word.

As writers, words are our tools. If we don't know how to use them correctly and with power, then we're like a carpenter trying to hammer a screw.

Someday they'll invent a program that checks word usage. Until then:

Those Nasty Homophones

The English language is so (not sew or sow) full of homophones that they trip folks up on a regular basis. Homophones are words that sound the same but mean different things. Below are some of the ones I come across far too often. How they came about would make an interesting history lesson. My guess would be cultural clash. Maybe the Angles had one word and the Saxons another and the Celts a third.

There/They're/Their

There is a place. They're means, "they are". Their means, "belonging to them".

Your/You're

Your means it's something you own. You're means, "you are".

When you see an apostrophe in the middle of the word (and yes, sometimes at the beginning or end of a word) it often means that two words have been squashed together. So if you come across an apostrophe, the rule of thumb is to ask yourself what two words have been stuck together. (Unless we're talking about a person's (or group/item's) name, in which case you're looking at a possessive. For example "Sheila’s" means, "belonging to Sheila.")

Just for fun, I should mention that contractions often come from the days of yore when folks spoke, it seems, in longer sentences.

To/Too

And I won't mention two. (Oops, too late!) 

In front of a noun, to is a direction. "I'm going to the store." It's called an "preposition" in that case. (Which is one of those words you learn in third grade and then promptly forget the meaning of. I had to look it up. Basically a preposition is about spatial or temporal relationships. One item might be on, under, or inside another, for instance. On the temporal side, we might say that, "SINCE you're reading this you might have had questions about what the heck a preposition was BEFORE you found my rant.")

In front of a verb, to denotes an "infinitive". That one is so complex I won't even try to define it. I'll let someone else do so. Here's the short version for our needs. If you're using it in front of a verb, such as, "is there anything to eat in the fridge?" you want "to" with just one O.

Too means either "also" or "an excess." Do grammar mistakes drive you batty too? I saw too many in the last book I was reading, which is why I'm writing this rant.

Rain/Reign/Rein

Rain falls from the sky. A queen reigns. You guide a horse with reins.

Aisle/Isle

You walk down the aisle, and get deserted on an isle.

Bare/Bear

You bare your soul or your body. You bear a burden. And if you run into a bear in the woods, you probably won't be worrying about where it poops.

Brake/Break

You brake a car. You break your arm or a vow.

Buy/By/Bye

You buy things at the store. You pass by the roses and hopefully stop to gather them (while ye may). You say, "bye" to your friend when you leave. (Incidentally, "bye" is a further reduced contraction of good bye - without an apostrophe, dang it! - for "God be with ye.")

Hole/Whole

If something has a hole in it, then it's not whole.

Stair/Stare

If you fall down the stair because you were staring at a book you were reading, you might break your arm. Or at least your concentration.

Steal/Steel

You steal glances. Or hearts. Hopefully not the silverware. Swords are made of steel. (Though bronze is also an option, but not nearly as strong. Which is why the faeries (Celts) who only had bronze swords don't like cold iron.)

Waist/Waste

If your hero is admiring your protagonist's narrow waste, then he's not looking at her sexy body. She may have more problems in regard to him than just their tumultuous relationship. And you might have a challenge selling your novel, since coprophilia http://voices.yahoo.com/what-coprophilia-1370871.html?cat=72 isn't something the average reader wants to read about.

Boarders/Borders

If you think YOU don't want to confuse these, you really don't want your large dogs to. Boarders are the people who pay for "room and board (food)" at your home. Borders are the boundaries of something. If you want your dogs to patrol the borders of your land and they instead attack your boarders, you might be looking at the end of your income, not to mention a lawsuit.

Through/Threw

Threw is the past tense of "throw" as in pitching a ball. Or a hammer. Or tossing a book across the room because the author doesn't understand simple English. Through means to pass into and beyond something. "I went through the wormhole," or "I made it through algebra."

We pass through the looking glass, and if Alice had a lick of sense she might have threw (though here the verb tense should be "have thrown") a croquet mallet at the Queen of Hearts' head.

"Through someone for a loop," is not only incorrect English, it's a cliché, and should be avoided at "all costs."

Past/Passed

I have no clue why, but I've come across this mistake in all but one of the romance novels I've read in the past few months, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to rant about it.

Past means "before now." Passed means to move by something. So your heroine doesn't cogitate on passed memories, nor can she past one door and choose another. Just to confuse things, she could walk past someone in the ballroom. Time passes, not pasts. If she's thinking of her dead uncle, he's passed, not past. Unless, of course he was married to her aunt and they got a divorce. In which case, try "former uncle" for the sake of clarity. (Ack! It's a mess, I know!) Here's an excellent article on the correct usage of past/passed.

Now you have the right to write however you desire. But if your words don't soar across the page without tripping the agent or editor's eye with incorrect usage, don't get sore when they send you a form rejection. After all, they have other books to read, and don't have time to waste (not waist).

There's more to my rant, but for now I need a break, so I'll put on the brakes and resume later.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Annoyance or Writing Opportunity?

Wisdom has it that when faced with a bad situation, you can either cry about it, or laugh. As a writer, I can go one better and write about it.

Right now I'm virtually homeless. Can't afford gas to run the generator (for heat and computer) up at my land so I'm staying at a friend's house. Unfortunately, my buddy is the Beta roommate. The Alpha roommate (the lease is in his name) sits on the couch, watches sports (screaming at the TV) and orders me and my buddy around. Mostly cleaning. Mostly cleaning we were already doing or about to do. For instance today's exchange:

"I've got to go up to my land and water the yaks. Before I go, I'm going to walk the dogs, put two of them in the car and then tend Bushi's wound," I tell my buddy CK. "Can I borrow the vacuum? I'll run it over the rug after I get the dogs in the truck.

Three minutes later, the Alpha Roommate (AR) comes out as I'm applying meds to Bushi (who got in an unfortunate incident with a yak). "You know we gotta vacuum the house."

"Yes, I was getting the dogs outside so I could do just that," I say.

Pretty much every hour he'll tell us what we're doing inadequately, give us instructions on something to do that we already planned. I could let it bug me. Or I could:

Ask How My Characters Would Handle the Situation

Hailey probably wouldn't get in that situation in the first place. She's got a host of supporters, and if she needed a place to stay, she wouldn't have trouble finding one with someone who didn't drive her batty. However assuming she did, she'd probably make a cup of tea and sit down with the AR and have a heart to heart about the fact that he was driving her bonkers.

Willa, only sixteen, would probably just let him steamroll her the way I'm doing. (What can I say, I just don't want to make waves? I desperately NEED somewhere to stay at the moment.) Being snarkier than I am, though, she might come up with some lovely comments under her breath.

Storm or Jiana, both herbalists, would probably slip something into his whiskey. He'd be in the bathroom too much to bother me.

D'hara, well she's an assassin by trade. Which brings me to my next idea for turning an annoying situation into writing fodder.

Plot His Murder

Well I obviously don't want to kill AR. Not for real. He hasn't done me any real harm, and he's actually a decent guy. Plus I have the benefit of knowing that I can actually get out of here eventually. But thinking on the many methods of his potential death isn't just therapeutic, it might even lead to a story down the road.

Can I see a roommate being driven so buggy that they eventually commit murder? Well it might be called "justifiable homicide".

So let me count the ways...

He chews snuff. Hellebore is about the same color. My character would need to shred the stuff up pretty fine to match the consistency.

He drinks a lot of whiskey. Hellebore tea mixed in with? Is there another plant that'd be less likely for him to taste or less likely to show up on an autopsy? Darn, I used to have a copy of Deadly Doses: A Writer's Guide to Poisons. Drat, it burned in the house fire. I'll need to get a new copy.

AR has a touchy stomach and doesn't eat much or consistently, so poisoning the food is out. Besides, there's a steady stream of buddies coming over to hang out and watch sports and they might get poisoned by mistake. Or worse, he might feed some of it to his dog, and then my character would feel guilty for the rest of her natural life.

He takes regular baths to relieve his gout, so there might be some potential there. My character could just enter the bathroom while he's bathing and drown his butt. However though he's small and wiry, she probably wouldn't be able to overpower him. But maybe gift him with a radio so that he can catch his the scores then knock that sucker into the tub?

Or just rig his TV to explode the moment the Patriots came on screen? That just might work. Okay it'd take more technical knowledge than I have but it must be doable! Back to researching!

Invent a Character Who Contemplates Murder

Maybe as part of another plot, I don't need to actually kill off the roommate. Just have a character who spends her spare time contemplating murdering her roommate. I can start with the above list and build from there.

It's probably been done before but...don't you dare steal this one, I might actually use it!

View It From His Side

Much as it spoils the fun of contemplating murder most foul, I could write a scene, or even a whole story based on what he's potentially dealing with. First I could start with his personality - Monk on steroids. Maybe he grew up in a messy house. Or maybe it's his ex wife's fault. Perhaps he's been in prison, or the navy, and the only time he felt safe was when he was spit-shining his shoes. Now the only thing that make my OCD Control Freak character happy is a clean house.

Roommate's crazy friend moves into his spare bedroom, toting three pit bulls and two cats. Landlady's coming and the house needs to be spotless. But there's Thunder Puppy banging at the door and scraping the wood to kindling. The cat's are howling in the middle of the night to their lady-loves outside. The other dog's leaking blood across the carpet. And my character's useless roommate won't toss the chick out on her ass. (Is it really that bad? No. But this is fiction, right?)

So next time you're in a situation that's driving you up a wall, don't let it get to you. Slam the door on your annoying roommate, tell your hubby to take a chill-pill, give your mom some Valium and pull out your trusty best-friend-and-therapist the computer, and turn your troubles into fodder for your stories.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Other Writers Aren't Your Rivals

 Nothing like an excuse to rant! Today I found An Open Letter AboutAuthor Behavior

In short, one particular author has been going around using pseudonyms to 1) give himself glowing reviews and 2) give his "rivals" bad reviews.

While giving your own writing glorious reviews under a false name is clearly unethical, I was really surprised with the second half of that equation, and that's what I want to address:

Say it with me folks..."other writers aren't your rivals."

Like a snowflake, your book is unique and special, something that you, and only you with your singular past, perspective on life and style could write. (Oh they SAY that a few million monkeys typing for a few million years could eventually churn out the Bible or the works of Shakespeare, but I personally don't buy it.)

That other writer couldn't have written your book and you couldn't have written theirs.

Now granted it's possible that a particular reader might not, on a particular given day be able to afford both your book and your "rival's" book.

Funny thing, though, books are consumable. Even though there are plenty of books that we've read more than once, sooner or later you're going to want to read something new. And even the most prolific writer is probably not going to crank out enough novels where the reader won't eventually run out of published works to read.

Now how would you even imagine that a particular author was a rival? Well they probably write a similar type of book to yours, and maybe have a similar style to yours. Which means the people who read your books might read theirs, and vice versa.

That doesn't make that author your rival - it makes them your POTENTIAL MARKETING PARTNER.

Rather than focus on negativity and a sense of lack, focus on positive possibilities. Their happy customers might be your happy customers as well.

So:
  • Give them an honest and positive (assuming you actually like their work) review. Then consider saying something like "and if you loved their book, you might also like (insert your own title). Is it legit to do this on Amazon.com? I don't know, but I can't imagine it's not.

  • Again, assuming you liked their book, write a nice review on your own blog or other website. Let the author know. They'll probably be so happy that they'll link to your site. And what does that do? It sends their readers to you as well as to them.

  • Contact the other author and suggest you do some mutual blogging/reviews of each others work. They might say no, but they might be flattered and say yes.
My hypnosis teacher used to say, "What you focus on is what you create." 

If you believe in a world of lack (not enough sales, not enough customers, not enough good reviews, too many "rivals") you'll create that. In fact consider the author who originally wrote all those negative reviews and how many potential readers he may have lost because of that.

However if you believe in a world where there's plenty for all, you create that instead.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Query Nightmare (Humor)

What happens when you've spent the last couple weeks reading Query Shark and a few dozen other query letter websites? You wake up from weird dreams about the worst queries someone could possibly write. Here's the one I came up with, and the really scary part is that I can imagine it might not be the worst one some of these agents might have to read. (Or have to delete.)

As someone who was originally headed towards the path of editor/agent until life made a wacky turn, I've got a lot of sympathy for the folks who do this for a living. Man O man, the patience it must take! Yes I'm sure it may be worth it, but hot damn, if I had to crawl through the slush pile like these folks do, I might be in a fetal position right now.


Dear Agent:


Since email queries are boring, and don't give the true gist of the work, I, Fabulous Unpublished Author am offering you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear my novel in person.
I'll be reading my novel at Starbucks tomorrow night, and I know you'll want to be there. Every decent agent in New York will be there. I know because no one will want to miss out on this. And only one of you will get to represent me!
My wonderful sexy, stimulating novel titled THE AUTHOR NEEDS A CLUE combines the magic of Harry Potter, the suspense of Elmore Leonard and the joy and heartbreak of My Sister's Keeper. It's a YA fantasy true crime thriller romantic suspense about a dog and a horse (everybody wants to read about horses, right?) and a narcoleptic cop with flashing emerald eyes and raven-black hair, and I know you'll LOVE it!
Everybody who's read it thinks it's going to be on the Best Seller List. My mother said, "Umm...nice honey". My optometrist said, "Wow." And my writing buddies said it was, "Unbelieveable." It was also entered in a contest sponsered by Romance Writers Who Fondle Rabbits. There were 20 entries and mine came in 19th!
So be there at Starbucks tomorrow night at 8pm on 555 Delusion Street, or you'll miss out on the chance to represent me. Don't be late because I'm going to start reading promptly at 8:05. I know you don't want to miss my opening scene where the dog eats the cat's hairball--it's so funny! Also it's important that you bring a pre-prepared contract and a pen (cause I can never find mine) for me to sign it.
My 347,821 (approx) fiction novel is absolutely perfect for your line and needs no editing. The last person who suggested edits isn't very happy right now. I know that YOU are my perfect agent, and that's why I'm extending a special invitation to you to be there. Of course if you say you can't make it, I only live three blocks away from your office, so I'll be happy to stop in tomorrow morning to let you have an exclusive reading before my gig at Starbucks.
But you should really want to come to the reading I called CNN and Fox News and told them to be there, and it should be real fun.
I look forward to hearing from you right away.
Fabulous Unpublished Author
Number_1@stalker.com
9876 Wacko Blvd.
Room 101
NY, NY 12345