The blogs are organized by date.
Comments will appear when we've had time to check them. Apology for the inconvenience, but it's a way to keep phishers and spammers off the page.
Whitnet Spotts, from Schuler books gave us a quick drink from a fire hose on how to promote your book.
This was aimed specifically at independantly published hardcopy books being promoted at bookstores (like Schuler's), but the advice was relevant to just about anything.
It's best to get your books distributed via Ingram or Baker & Taylor. Specify that these are to be handled as guaranteed sales. This will cost more, but the bookstores won't touch stuff that they have to hold forever whether it sells or not.
Schuler's offers a 60/40 split for consignment sales, plus a $25.00 consignment fee. We're pricing our books low, so we only see about $1.00 of profit in our 60% of the cover price (after we pay shipping, etc), so that means we've got to ...
Agent Alice Spielburg, read randomly selected first pages and gave her assessment.
She was kinder than I think she needed to be. She pointed out a few places where folks could improve their work, but didn't use the (more common in these things) "Here is where I stop reading and throw it away" response.
From a couple comments, I think she was told to be encouraging, and not as bluntly honest as she might have preferred. Rally is a very supportive conference, and the "You suck" school of critique is strongly discouraged.
The takeaways I got from the few minutes I was there was the observations that for every trope, there's an anti-trope that's just as hackneyed (unless you come up with a new way to play it) and that different societies have different tropes. You might get a clever story by becoming familiar with the "everybody does this" trope for Asian or African stories.
I've been reading various original Arabian and Armenian folk tales (the original Thousand Nights tales, for instance), and once you get beyond the Disney tales, these are not the same as the Brother's Grimm. The villains and heroes are quite so well defined for one thing. ...
There was a ton of information in this panel. Most of the folks were actively taking notes while someone else was speaking, and I finally (too late) realized I should be recording it.
I missed too much good stuff, mostly the "free" ways of marketing.
Maintaining your mailing list of readers is the top idea.
Jonathon (who writes military fiction) pushed joining Romance Writer's of America. They ...
This panel was a surprise. I expected to talk about writing folks who aren't the king, not the famous warrior, and stuff like that.
With Bard & Sigurd, (two wandering nobodies), and Petros, Parvana and Ana (three slaves), it seemed like I'd have something to say.
Instead, we talked about un-represented minorities: women, people of ...
The main thing I did on Friday was to hit the Writer's and Donuts panel.
The idea for this get-together is if you feed them, they will come.
This may not be as true as it was when I was a starving student, but close to twenty folks showed up for the session.
Unlike last year, when folks sat at cafe-style tables and awkwardly tried to chat with each other, Richard Chwedyk played host and did a round of everyone introducing themselves. Once introductions were done, he initiated conversations about writing tools (amazingly enough, there were less than twenty editors used by the twenty people - but it was close), available resources (mostly Chicago area resources, ...
Celtic Guitar is (per Phil) a catch-all term for non-standard folk tuning and clever fingerpicking. This includes solo guitar players like John Fahey, Leo Kotke, Martin Carthy and Stephen Grossman and groups like Pentangle. Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span.
Phil and Susan gave nice introduction to DADGAB tuning and provided chording diagrams and tabs for a few simple tunes.
My takeaway was that folks love to give you a short (or even medium long) answer. The more ignored folks - firemen, cops, plumbers - are even happier to discuss how the real world works.
If you want someone to read your 7,000 page novel and tell you all the places you screwed up, you should pay them.
Pay can range from small, unmarked bills, to exchange of services (virus proofing your plumber's computer), to trading reading chores.
Christian Klaver, Ferret Steinmetz and Merrie Haskell discussed the business of being a writer in the context of finding an agent.
The takeaways were:
Pizik's made the point that all literature has a theme. Sometimes you're beaten over the head with the theme (think Brave New World and 1984) and sometimes the theme is hidden behind the curtain and you don't really notice it.
The plot is what keeps you reading, but the theme is why you remember the book later. It's what grabs you and holds you.
Theme either comes first. "I'll write a novel about how a strong character can rule his own destiny despite society's expectations", or it can come later, "Hey, my main character does his own thing regardless of what people want him to do".
I know that ghostwriters exist. Nobody believes that famous people's memoirs were written by the famous people who are too busy to sit down and write a thousand pages.
It turns out that there is also a thriving business in writing stuff for the everyman. Theres a market in writing for folks who want their memoir for their grandkids, but don't have the skill to write it, or people with a grand idea for a novel, but without the time or skill to put it to press.
These jobs are either handled on an ad-hoc manner by someone who just happens to know someone, or by commercial outfits that link writers to folks who need them. ...
The session on Writing Great Young Adult and Middle Grade was presented by Madeline Smoot of CBAY Books
She discussed what makes a kid's book salable:
This was the official release of checkIt under a new name: Editomat.
It's no longer a freebie I share with a few friends, it's now got a for-real website, paypal, documentation and everything.
Sean and I are in agreement that Editomat is not the last word in editing - the final judge is a human being. But he thinks Editomat is cool and likes how it highlights the things a human should look at.
That's the purpose for Editomat.
Proud as I am of the tool, and as much as I use it, it's not an AI (it ...
The obvious conclusions are that you need to be kind, but also honest.
You do your friend no favors by saying their drek is really pretty good, but if you can find a good thing in it, that's something you should point out. "I really like the kitten." might not help, but "The dialog works well, and the villian is cool". is good.
It's also not helpful (to anyone) to point out flaws without some suggestion for how to fix them. Again, "The dialog sucks" doesn't help much, but "Your dialog is too stilted. Try reading it out loud and see what you'd say instead."
Being young men, Bard and Sigurd have appetites. They pay attention to food, so there is a fair amount of food mentioned in the book.
Their meals range from dried fish to banquets. Early in the story they visit a monastery and are honored with sweets.
I found a recipe for a Saxon style Apple Walnut cookie on the net and adopted it a bit.
1 cup dried apples 2 cups walnuts 2 tbs honey 4 eggs ...
Around here, that means that all life stops, except where it concerns this year's project.
That's true for Carol.
For Clif, November is a week-long meeting with his consulting client, running a technical conference, finishing Christmas presents and a little bit of help with plotting and technical details.
This year's project is In Transit, the sequel to Misrouted.
At the end of Misrouted we left our heroes needing to make the Luna colony profitable.
Carnival Charlatan is an urban fantasy with a bunch of twists.
I was enthralled by Emma Bull's War For the Oaks when it came out in the 1980s, but I got tired of the genre by the mid-90s when it seemed like everyone was writing about edgy elves living in the alleys on the seedy side of town.
Skeeter breathed some new life into the genre.
For starters, her heroine, Ariel, isn't an elf living on the edge in a city. She's a witch in a travelling carnival where she disguises the ...
Carol was a panelist for Publishing: Traditional or Independent.
At Detcon she met some folks from Baen and was encouraged to submit MisRouted to them.
At the panel, she discussed why she chose to submit to a traditional publisher rather than going with indie publishing.
For her it comes down to wanting more time to write. Creating book covers, finding editors for development and copy editing, learning layout--it's all complicated with a large learning curve, and she decided she'd be rather be writing the next book. ...
Sisyphus I fear that I shall never see A story written easily. I think and plot with all my might, Then tear it up. It's just not right. I work and toil and write again. It's almost done. I read it, then It's thrown away. It's just too bad For you to read. And now I'm mad! I force myself to find a way To say the things I want to say:...
Write every day.
The authors all give excellent reasons why writing every day is a Good Thing. It builds habit. It ensures you have some time writing. The skill of writing comes from practice, like any other skill. (Of course, I don't practice my guitar, either.) Especially for busy people, carving out a little time each day means you can make progress towards a work-in-progress even during crunch times.
It sounds so simple. Yet, like too many striving writers, I didn't do it.
There's always a reason. I work for a living. My clients tend to want ...
It's generally easy to find the big facts like how far from here to the moon, but it's harder to find the little things you need to make a world real.
For instance, how many people would it take to run a lunar colony? How many cooks, cleaners, admin, etc are needed to keep three shifts of miners in the mines?
The answers come from strange places. I found the answer to how much support staff it takes in an Army Correspondence Course that describes how many folks it takes to run a field kitchen, which can feed 300 soldiers in a pinch (T rations) or 125 if you are serving cooked meals (A or B rations). ...
This was one of the most enjoyable and busiest conventions I've attended in almost forty years of conventioning. Tammy Coxen, ConChair and Kim Kofmel, Programming Division Head and Literature Track Head, both did a grand job. I've never attended so many panels and enjoyed all of them.
This was my first time going to a Con as a fiction author, instead of as a Joe Phan or filker. Mind you, my (current and first) novel is self-pubbed and I just put my grubby paws on real hardcopy the day before the con, but it made a big change in how I viewed the con.
I didn't hit the "Meet-The-Pros" party, or SFWA or anything like that, ...
With his years of blogging (since 1998), his book sales and his twitter activity, John Scalzi is an expert on branding yourself in the modern age. As such, he dominated the panel, but was well worth listening to.
The takeaway points from this panel were:
Neil Clarke (Clarke's World) accepts short stories 1-8K in length. Pays $0.10 per word up to 4K, $0.07 per word after.
Richard Flores encouraged those who receive rejections from the prozines but think they have a good story to submit to Plasma Frequency and other semi-pro magazines. Sometimes acceptance/rejection is a matter of editor taste; what one editor likes another may not. Looking for Flash (up to 3K) fiction, SF, humor, some Fantasy. ...
In the earlier panel, Beverly was very energetic and enthused. It turned out that this was before she'd had any coffee. By the time the Kaffeeklatsch came around she was fully caffeinated. Think of the squirrel in the Over the Hedge movie, and you have an idea.
I'm really glad I hit this session. Beverly has lots of information and knowledge and is generous in sharing it. Given that this is her bread and butter, her willingness to give so much away for free is both refreshing and appreciated.
Her big point is that when you publicize yourself you have to be yourself. Don't try to publicize a fake persona that's not you. Folks ...
This panel was one of the ones I wanted to hit. My Bard & Sigurd stories aren't Science Fiction in any sense of the word and aren't really Fantasy (no magic, elves or dwarves, but plenty of Vikings and the occasional snowstorm.)
The first few passes of comments were the obvious observations:
This was the 31'st Rally of Writer's conference in Lansing, and the second we attended.
This event is worth the time and then some. There are 16 talks spread over four sessions ranging from craft talks like sentence construction and world building to business talks like how to pitch stories and promote your book.
The attendees range from award winners like Karen Dionne and Lori Nelson Spielman to folks who intend to write something Real Soon Now. Most have one or two pieces that they are either self-pubbing, or are shopping around.
There's plenty of time between sessions for schmoozing, and an ...
Linda Peckham explained how to look at a sentence as word clumps, rather than the more formal grammar rules.
The basis is that you have Left-hand clumps and Right-hand clumps.
|A subject word||An action word|
|Words or clauses to modify the subject|
The panelists ranged from me, who never did NaNoWriMo (but helped Carol) to folks who reworked their novel and got it trad pubbed.
There are as many things to do after you've finished NaNo as there are people who finish. Some like to keep on going while the idea is hot (particularly if you didn't completely finish your story). Others prefer to let the story sit and then start reworking it, when they aren't so full of "oh, I'm so Great!".
As expected, we all use different tools to write and rework the novels after we're done. ...
This was a lively panel with a bunch of takeaways.
There are three "standard" character types in a story:
This year's Literary/Writing track was particularly strong. There was frequently more than one panel I was interested in going to running at the same time.
The ego-boo for me was my reading on Sunday.
I read a "love" story from the upcoming "Unintended Consequences" collection to a trio of 12 and 13 year olds in the KookieKlatch session. The kids were strongly opposed to hearing a "love" story, until I mentioned that it had two witches trying to make people fall in love, then they were grudgingly willing to listen. In the end, it took an hour to read a story that normally takes about 20 minutes. We stopped to talk about who liked who, why Mother Nona made believe she had a limp, what a ferrule was, whether New York or Philadelphia was a ...
There were more people in the audience than on the panel. That this happened at 10:00 on a Sunday for a poetry panel beggars the imagination.
There was more do discuss than anyone expected, and more opinions and just information. Amal is getting her PhD in this area, and is a font of knowledge.
Clif is opinionated.
As ever, the convention was a lot of fun. I spent time with a lot of friends who live within lunch distance, but I never see outside a hotel, total strangers, and friends from faraway. I didn't leave the Saturday Filk until 1:30. I might have stayed longer if I wasn't on a 10:00 AM panel on Sunday.
Confusion is developing a really strong writing track. I attended more than a half dozen sessions, and all were excellent.
My highlights included:
As usual, this was a multi-faceted experience. Clif attended techie talks on robotics and Clif and Carol each hit business-of-writing talks on finding agents and promoting yourself and craft-of-writing talks about editing and killing your characters.
High points included:
Julie Timmer led off with discussing characters and character arcs. She provided a worksheet like this:
Wells made the point that the setting controls what characters can see or do and lets you control the flow of action as well as setting the mood or just being there.
Taverns, town wells, Rotary meeting, coffee shops, etc are places where people meet and exchange information. Bridges, gates, mountain passes, and intermittent wormholes control when and how people can get from one location to another.
The servants who travel the back corridors in the castle are likely to know more than the courtier who stays in the main hall. The traders who know the secret passes can reach our hero faster than the Army. The guard at the city gate knows who comes and goes.
I attended four discussions:
Each of these was presented as an interactive workshop with exercises to explain the concepts and bring the points home.
The keynote was delivered by Lori Nelson Spielman on "The (Elusive) ...
Attendence was next to nothing. Three folks showed up and none of them had actually written anything to edit.
A Friday evening panel is always lightly attended - folks are just arriving, getting dinner, etc. To add frosting to the cake, my panel was opposite Talis Kimberly's concert and Bill Higgins talking about the latest NASA news.
I did find a few folks to talk to about my project, and spent time chatting with friends, so the con wasn't a total loss, but it wasn't the splash I'd hoped to make with Editomat's second big publicity push.
Obviously, you can't go into details about how and why the history of the time happens. Not unless you're writing a book that will replace Sominex for insomniacs.
But, how much history do you need? Is it enough to say your hero is marching into Manassas, serving under Longstreet, ready to send the BlueBellies scampering back to Washington, and assume you reader will know this must be the first battle of Bull Run in the US Civil War? Or do you need to explain that this is the first battle of the war, both sides are ill-prepared, overconfident and flat out stupid?
Well, any story about that battle will prove the stupid part, but that's not my point. ...
One of the panels I was on covered self-editing tools.
Basicly, these are automated tools that will not fix your writing, but will point out areas you should examine more closely (and maybe rework. ...
It is rumored that the mad arab Abdul Alhazarad was encrypting a secret recipe for a true devil's food when he slipped into the realms from which none return.
I should have realized where my explorations would lead. Today I discovered Godiva's Fudge Brownie mix. (Avaialble in 6 packs at Costco.)
No longer content to traverse the paths that others have mapped out, I gave only casual heed to the instructions on the box.
I attended the event mostly to listen to Kirbi Fagan talk about being a fantasy cover artist and how she works.
This was more than worth my time. Kirbi is a talented artist and a very dynamic speaker. The fact that she's excited about her art shines through with every word.
You can't have a discussion about art without examples of art. Waving your hands just doesn't work. Kirbi brought a wide collection of book cover images, both hers and others. ...
Some of our highpoints were:
Finding the Right Publisher with Adrian and Cynthianna Matthews.
I was a little late following the concert, and missed any advice on the actual search for a publisher. The discussion when I entered centered around the publisher-author relationship and the characteristics of a good one. Both speakers agreed the relationship was similar to a marriage. When each side respects the other, each wants the best for the relationship and there is an even give-and-take between the partners, the relationship flourishes. The main advice was for authors to present themselves and behave as professionally as possible, and expect the same from the publisher. If the mutual respect is not there, ...
The Guest of Honor was Kelly McCullough . Kelly was visible throughout the con and participated on nine panels. Jody Harrow chaired the convention, Sue Stahl did the programming and Susan Harris and Patricia Altergott handled the con suite.
Everyone did a great job--We've seldom seen a convention run so smoothly, but special thanks go to Susan and Patricia for always having real food in the Con Suite. Maybe not a full meal's worth, but always something other than sugar or salt to tide us over until we got a real meal. There was plenty of sugary and salty snacks as well, and very tasty ones. (Where did that delicious pumpkin bread come from? Carol wants the recipe!) ...
The Church scribes who recorded births and deaths replaced the scalds who would memorize lineages and a few years later Gutenberg's movable type brought Bibles and literacy to the common man, replacing the need for a Church official to recite biblical passages.
The middle-1800s saw the invention of the Linotype machine, Rotary Web-Fed Presses and Double-Sided printing. The Dime Novels followed shortly thereafter, providing mindless entertainment to the masses.
The way literature is produced is changing drastically these days.
She's an author to watch.
There Is No Lovely End is a very strong first novel. It's complex, engaging, has incredibly diverse characters and a marvelous author's voice.
It's not perfect, but it's damn good.
The starting point for the novel is that one of the legends about Sarah Winchester, of Winchester Mansion fame, is that she was told to "Go West" not by Horace Greeley, but ...
But, for the Bard and Sigurd stories, I needed to know what are they ate in medieval northern England? Lots of steak & potatoes? Not even close. Potatoes are a New World vegetable and cows were more valuable for milk.
And clothing? Doublet and Hose? (Nope, that's more rennaissance), tunic and leggings (probably), robes (for the upper classes).
Two of the more useful sites I found were unexpected.
Would you believe out-of-copyright comic books? In particular, the Robin Hood ...
Science Fiction stories often have a magic technology - something that's new enough that even the scientists working in the field don't really know where it will lead. In the 1920s, the electromagnetic spectrum was new, and E.E. "Doc" Smith used rays to heat, cool, push and pull objects whenever he needed something done. In the 1940s and '50s, Atomic Energy would power everything from Isher's energy weapons to Heinlein's spacecraft, not to mention creating the occaisional big green monster. In the 1970s and 1980s, an Artificial Intelligence would be a man's best friend or worst enemy.
Today, Nanobots are the magic technology that can eat cities, repair and enhance your body, let you ooze through keyholes and ...
I'm afraid I didn't get much out of this panel. This was partly because the panel was at 7:00 PM, just after I finished a large dinner and was deep in a postprandial stupor, and partly because the panelists had similar backgrounds and group experience, and thus didn't present many differing ideas.
Even so, there were some gems:
Tony was suffering from allergies that hit him at the hotel (there was a lot of that going around) and finally broke down and took an antihistamine, which made him groggy. So it was a very low-key kaffeeklatsch. There were only three attendees, so conversation was laid-back and drifted from general topic to general topic.
However, this is the session I remember the best, because during it, I made my first-ever pitch to an editor. Go me! I stumbled through it, botched most of it, but managed to say enough to get two reactions from Tony. The first was a criticism of my basic premise, a hole Tony suggested I close. The second was the name of the slushreader I should address my submission to, once I finished my edit. He told me to mention him at Detcon1 on my query. At the end of the session, he asked me what I was going to do with my story. I'm going to close the hole ...
Sam is gifted with wry humor, which balanced the air of cynicism permeating everything he had to say. On the other hand, it was 10:00 in the morning and there was no coffee, despite the nature of the gathering, one of the few mistakes at the con. So none of us were necessarily at our best.
Jabberwocky represents Tanya Huff, Charlaine Harris and Elizabeth Moon, among others. Sam is not seeking new clients, but others from the agency are open. He mentioned Lisa Rogers takes romance stories. Their rate is 15% for US/20% foreign. Usual length 80 to 120K words.
The main thing I learned from the session was how to pitch a story. Sam invited pitches, and I listened carefully to how others presented their stories. Brief, punchy, stressing what is unique to the story. ...
Patty said the big take-away in this session: Make it easy to catalog your book. Add the publication and catalog info to the copyright page. Librarians and book dealers will love you for this and those are the last people you want to *not* love you. I looked at her book; she practices what she preaches.