Wednesday, August 23, 2017

If I had a Reality TV Show...

I don't watch much TV. Shows of the 'reality' variety don't have any appeal to me if they are about the relationships of people because I'm just not that voyeuristic. BUT...I do occassionally love to watch a house renovation.

Long ago I was employed as the Art Director for a realty company. Later, I was an assistant to the sales staff at a home builder, then I was in training to become their sales staff. After that, I became a Realtor. There's an appreciation for homes within that calls to me. Deciding on colors, decor, furniture, art, the whole look and feel of a room and how it blends into another room to create a cozy home...ahhh, yes...I do enjoy pondering these questions and answering them. Proof provided below...


BEFORE:
Ugly wallpaper.
Drab woodwork.
*pardon the tools*

AFTER #1:
Pale walls to match sink.
Refinished and antiqued the wood, 
added new knobs and accents.
New mirror and switchplates to match.
And yes...I did make my own stencils so 
I could do a raised stencil. Love the effect.
*have new oil rubbed bronze faucet
but that's on the honey-do list*



AFTER #2:
The closet door refinished and new knob and accents.
That fabric became the shower curtain for a pop of bold color.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Reality TV: Just The Encouraging Ones for Me

If I were to go on reality TV...entertainment would've devolved to a newer, more frightening level. Champions of Sloth wouldn't get a lot of viewers...unless there were actual fuzzy sloths involved.

I wish I had the talent and the skill to go on Face Off, Forged in Fire, or Ellen's Design Challenge. What the contestants are able to produce? The craftsmanship? The imagination? I'm in awe.

Any show that focuses on how awful humans can be, count me out. No snarky, back-stabby crap. No Masters of Emotional Manipulation. No Smile for the Sociopath. No Lord of the Flies in Paradise. No How to Ruin Your Marriage in Thirteen Episodes. No, no. No. Nope. Nu-uh. Just say no to the Art of Being Vapid and How to Out Shrew Shakespeare too.

Skill-based series, though? I'm a fan. I'm a huge fan of the shows that let us see competitors being supportive of each other, rather than tearing each other down. The Voice and So You Think You Can Dance come to mind. I enjoy the warm fuzzies of artists encouraging each other. I respect the constructive feedback of experts who want the next gen to succeed.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have The Great British Bake Off to binge-watch.

No soggy bottoms!

Monday, August 21, 2017

If I had to be on a "reality" TV show which one and why?

Well, that's actually easier than you might think. I'd be on NAKED AND AFRAID. Mostly to see how well I would do. There are no prizes, but I could easily call the time spent on the wilds research for any book I would likely write.

Also, I write horror and the idea of me naked should terrify anyone.

I seldom watch shows like that, if I'm being honest. Though when I do I'm amused. It's a matter of time spent and experiences gained for me.

This weekend I ran off to NecronomiCon in Providence, Rhode Island. it's an interesting fusion of fan convention and scholarly study of the weird fiction traditions, both old and new. I had a blast. I would recommend it to anyone who can arrange to hit the show.

I moderated a panel on Horror and Souther Gothic Fiction with panelists Ellen Datlow, Steve Rasnic Tem, Jeffrey Shaver and Michael Wehunt and had a blast, There is nothing quite as lovely as a panel with energetic and knowledgeable panelists.
Additionally I was on a panel regarding weird westerns. It's always a little unsettling when you realize that you have more knowledge than you expected about a subject. i did some work back in the day for Werewolf Wild West, the RPG from White Wolf Games, and since I did all that research--I did a LOT of research, I guess some of it stuck. Since then I've written 3/4s of a novel called BOOMTOWN that was placed on a back burner when my wife passed away. I was quite literally writing that novel when she passed.  I haven't finished the novel, but I've written several sequels to it. "Black Train Blues," "White Blank Page Songs in the Key of White)," "The Devoted," and, with Charles R. Rutledge, "What Rough Beast."  four sequels to a novel I haven't even finished yet. I suppose I should finish that novel and have pencilled it in for the end of the year. 



That's the Biltmore, where most of the programming took place. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Big Reality Show Called Life


Yesterday my car rolled over to 100,000 miles! I was happy I remembered to keep an eye on the odometer and pull over to snap the pics. She's 21 now and feeling frisky!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "If you had to be on a reality TV show, which one would you pick and why?"

Those of you who know me will immediately recognize that this is NOT my topic. I don't watch many TV shows - we don't have cable, so anything I see is what we stream - and reality shows are not my thing. My main associations with reality TV shows are ancient ones from MTV days where they stuck a bunch of bratty people into a house to fight with each other. Though I do love the character of Brock Hudson in She's All That - where he's recent reality show celeb, who can't stop mugging for the expected cameras. The rest of my ideas come from more current occasional You Tube videos of various surprising competitors on singing shows and several decades worth of cultural memes.

But I'll tell you what reality show almost all of us are a part of, whether we want to be or not: social media.

I know, I know - I've said things on this topic before, but it continually amazes me how some people seem to forget how many "viewers" they have. Social media is a big TV camera - or, rather, thousands upon thousands of smaller ones - aimed at us, recording our lives. We can control what we display for those cameras, but not who sees it afterwards.

And, as with the basic premise for all reality shows, the more drama, the more viewers tune in to watch.

Recently I've seen some authors complaining in "private groups" about reviews and contest scores. Inevitably a few others chime in, with sympathy or adding their own disgruntlement to the fire, and the conversation escalates. On one of those, I notice there are over 1,100 people subscribe to that "private" group. All other authors. In another, the group is smaller, but again it's a fairly rarified selection of other authors, colleagues in the same field of business.

Not only a lot of viewers, but targeted and invested ones.

Part of this complaining verged into criticizing major review outlets - who failed to review the authors' books or reviewed them unfavorably - with aspersions cast as to which are taking bribes to review other books with higher ratings.

And all I can think of is Brock Hudson, making an ass of himself, and thinking that he's accomplishing something. All the while everyone watching is shaking their heads, rubbernecking the drama.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Reader Appreciation!

I love my readers! Being able to tell my stories and put them out there, and have people want to read them is WONDERFUL!

But I'm kind of a 'write the book, put the book out there, write the next book' person. My newsletter is a basic "there's a new book out" kind of thing. I don't do freebies or giveaways in the NL, nor do I write special short stories for the newsletter audience. Short and sweet and to the point, just the facts as they used to say on the old "Dragnet" TV show. I'm just not a very newsletter-oriented person.

I do giveaways from time to time on Facebook, not very often, or on a blog hop, if I'm participating to support a group. I've given away signed books, coffee mugs, T shirts with various logos from my series, eBooks, free audiobook download codes, humorous plastic robots and faux Egyptian jewelry. When I go to signings I make sure to have pens with my Sectors logo and bookmarks. (Plus chocolate because everything goes better with chocolate in my opinion.) I have fun with it if there's a specific occasion going on.

I DO have two free things going on right now, both in connection with Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, which releases on October 10th. I wrote a rock star romance set in outer space for my entry - I've always had a craving to write a rock star romance because I personally LOVE to read them, but since everything I touch turns to scifi, I didn't think I ever would. But then I did!

So we have a free coloring book that you can download here and we have a free sampler of the first chapter of all twelve new stories available on Instafreebie here.

Here's the blurb: 
The pets are back! Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, featuring twelve of today’s leading Science Fiction Romance authors, brings you a dozen original stories written just for you! Join in the fun, from the Dragon Lords of Valdier to a trip aboard Award-winning author, Veronica Scott’s Nebula Zephyr, to journeying back to Luda where Grim is King, for stories that will take you out of this world! Join New York Times, USA TODAY, and Award-winning authors S.E. Smith, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michelle Howard, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Sabine Priestley, Jessica E. Subject, Carol Van Natta, and Alexis Glynn Latner as they share action-packed SFR stories and help out Hero-Dogs.org, a charity that supports our veterans!




Friday, August 18, 2017

Rewarding Readers

When we talk about rewards, I am never clear who is rewarding whom. Frankly, I'm usually pretty stunned to find I have a reader who isn't related to me by blood or marriage. When I do find that out, I have the disconcerting tendency to say "C'mon in!" And subject said reader to cat photos on Facebook. Is that a reward?

Anything I've ever tried to do - tee shirts, giveaways, silly toys at signings - have felt as much like a reward for me as for anyone who wanted to buy a book, get a book signed, or just come talk to me about books in general. I have too much fun handing those things out. And, of course, there's only so much of that one person (and one pocket book) can do. So then I do my darnedest to make my readers feel special - which they are - I started looking for ways to make them a part of the writing process. Several readers generously answered my plea for beta readers. My newsletter subscribers (you can subscribe here) voted on the new cover for the re-release of Enemy Within. And yes. The cover that won is the cover I'm going with. Never ask readers' opinions and then blow them off. They know what they want. Someone remind me of that if I ever forget it, will you? Sorry. Can't post the cover here - it's still being worked on and I don't yet own the image yet.

I've been fortunate enough to trade birthday and holiday cards with readers who've become my friends. If I travel through a reader's state/town/region, I do my darnedest to meet for coffee at the very least. But again. Buying a reader a cup of coffee and a pastry is reward for me! Who else gets to do that other than a writer? Actors have stalkers. Romance writers have amazing readers we can laugh and chat and geek out with.

And that means that to this point, I have yet to find a reward for my readers that isn't a reward for me, too. Ideas? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Rewarding the People I Do It For

Odds are, if you're reading this, you're a fan of what I do.  And I appreciate that.  I deeply, deeply do.  And I always feel I can do more for you all.  I'd love to show up to more events, for example.  Right now, I've got three more slotted for the rest of the year: FenconWorld Fantasy and OryCon.  And that will probably be it.  I'm working on having more of a presence online.  I'm leaning toward videos about writing or worldbuilding, but I'm still working on how that would work.

And, of course, I want to give you all more books.  Speaking of more books, here's two possible gifts for all of you.  As I'm sure you're aware, The Imposters of Aventil is just a few weeks away.  But you could get an ARC of it NOW.  (Well, about a week, give or take shipping times.  But still: early.)

HERE'S HOW YOU CAN GET IT.

Tweet #WhoAreTheImposters with a link to the book.  (Like this one.)  I'll pick one tweet with the hashtag at random, and that person will be the winner.  (Presuming they live in the US.  Else mailing it is a bit too much of a challenge.  Apologies to the fans in San Miguel Allende.)  IT'S THAT EASY.

BUT HOW ABOUT ANOTHER EXCERPT, MARSHALL?

Done.

On a night like this, Colin Tyson didn’t care that he had been effectively exiled to Orchid Street.
Sure, he was still a captain in the Rose Street Princes, in charge of holding their territory against the Red Rabbits, but that didn’t mean a thing to him. Ain’t no one seen much of the Red Rabbits since Vee—since the Thorn—demolished the Trusted Friend, as well as the brewery where they were cooking their version of effitte. Old Man Jensett was dead—everyone presumed by the Thorn’s hand, though Colin knew better—and most of the Rabbits ended up in Quarrygate. Whoever was still left out there was staying out of sight. The Waterpath Orphans moved in on their blocks without even a scuffle, from what Colin heard.
Orchid Street—at least his block between Bush and Waterpath—had nothing worth his time. Sure, the cheese shop was nice, and The Old Canal was a decent enough place to sit with a cider and plate of sausages, but it wasn’t right. There wasn’t any business worth hustling here, nothing to draw Uni kids over to drop some coin.
The only thing this block really had that was worth taking from the Rabbits was the sew-up and his offices, but he was so damn annoying that Colin wanting to crack him across the skull. He gave them no trouble, so long as there was some bird servicing his pisswhistle, but Colin didn’t have any interest in feeding that vice. He certainly wasn’t going to turn out any of the birds in the Princes to that end.
And, of course, there was his new crew, the dullest bunch of bonecrushers he had ever met. Ment, Kiggy, Vandy, and Sella. The first three were the kind you wanted around if you had to crack some skulls, but nothing else. Not an ounce of thought or charm in the lot of them. Sella, she could scrap well enough and muster up some charm if she wanted, but most of the time she laid about the flop, dosed on the sew-up’s doph supply.
None of that mattered on a night like tonight. The streets were filled with folks from every part of Druthal, all looking to have a good time and drop plenty of coin. Every inch of wall and lamppost was plastered with paper jobs, promising food, drink, and companionship at affordable prices. The Old Canal was bustling. People stood around gawking. They were eager to experience “the real Maradaine”, whatever the blazes that meant to them.
What that meant to Colin was full pockets all around. He dropped a crate on the walkway right between the cheese shop and the sew-up and started running a five-card switch game with anyone and everyone who would dare to get close to him. He hadn’t done that in ages—wasn’t a soul living in Aventil who would fall for a five-card switch—but tonight it seemed like just the sort of classic swindle that these wander-throughs wanted.
Saints, it was like being fleeced was part of some show, and they loved it.
The two Uni girls from some southern school were eating it up.
“Come on, ladies, come on. You find the Duchess, you walk with five crowns.”
“It’s that one!” the fair-haired girl told her tall friend, pointing to the card that was torn and bent in the corner—just like the Duchess card they had seen earlier.
That one was not the Duchess.
“No, no!” the tall girl said. “You said it was that one last time and we lost!”
“I’m telling you—”
“I don’t know!”
“Ladies, tell you what,” Colin said. “I’ll take these two cards off the table.” He flipped over the two—Two Moons and The Soldier. “Now you’ve only got three cards to choose from. Surely you can find the Duchess with only three cards.”
“It’s got to be a trick,” the tall girl said.
“No trick, no trick,” Colin said. He held up his hands, flipping them back and forth. “Ain’t got nothing palmed, and nothing up my sleeves. Blazes, ladies, my sleeves are rolled up!”
They both laughed as he showed them his arms.
This was the most fun he had had in months.
“Wait,” the fair-haired girl said, her accent getting even thicker. She pointed to his tattoo. “So you’re a Rose Street Lad, right?”
“Rose Street Prince, ma’am.”
“Aren’t we on Orchid?”
“That we are. If you’re lost, though, I can see what I can do about getting you a guide through the neighborhood.”
The tall girl flipped the card with the torn corner. Man of the People.
“Not the Duchess!” Colin said. “’Fraid I keep your coin, ladies.”
The tall one was reaching into her pocket for another half-crown. She was ready for another round.
The fair-haired one grabbed her arm. “Ketara, we need to stop. Opening ceremonies are starting any moment now.”
“One more,” Ketara said. “I think I figured—saints, look at that!”
She pointed up to the top of the building behind them. The fair-haired girl gasped, and Colin glanced up—making sure to sweep up all the cards before he did. He wasn’t about to take his eyes off them, if she was trying that old shift.
“Is that the whoever we heard about?” the fair-haired girl asked. “The Thorn?”
Colin couldn’t believe it. There he was, just crouched on the roof of the sew-up’s building with a bow and a crimson cloak. Just up there, in plain view.
Colin wondered what the blazes Veranix was thinking, because it was the stupidest thing he had ever seen the boy do.
Ketara and her friend both cupped their mouths and shouted. “Woo! Thorn! Woo!”
That got his attention. He dashed out of sight. Maybe he realized how dumb it was.
“Is it true what they say about him?” Ketara asked.
“I don’t know,” Colin said. “They say a lot of crazy stuff, though.”
The girls went on for a bit, but Colin was only half listening. He was still in shock. Since the Trusted Friend, Veranix had been cautious, even prudent. The Thorn was still hitting the effitte dealers in Dentonhill, but he wasn’t making a point of being noticed. Colin had thought he had learned to lay low.
If he was getting careless again, Colin wasn’t sure what to do. He had already risked everything he had keeping his cousin safe, and now he was out here on Orchid. More than that, he was indebted in more than one way to the reverend over at Saint Julian’s.
Colin found himself saying a silent prayer that this was just a slip, and not an sign of terrible things in store for Veranix.


THE IMPOSTERS OF AVENTIL
Forthcoming October 2017
Summer and the Grand Tournament of High Colleges have come to the University of Maradaine. If the heat and the crowds weren't enough to bring the campus and the neighborhood of Aventil to a boiling point, rumors that The Thorn is on the warpath—killing the last of the Red Rabbits—is enough to tip all of Maradaine into the fire.

Except Veranix Calbert, magic student at the University, is The Thorn, and he's not the one viciously hunting the Red Rabbits. Veranix has his hands full with his share of responsibilities for the Tournament, and as The Thorn he’s been trying to find the source of the mind-destroying effitte being sold on campus. He’s as confused as anyone about the rumors.

When The Thorn imposter publicly attacks the local Aventil constables, the Constabulary bring in their own special investigators: Inspectors Minox Welling and Satrine Rainey from the Maradaine Grand Inspectors Unit. Can Veranix find out who the imposter is and stop him before Welling and Rainey arrest him for the imposter’s crimes?

Goodreads Page for THE IMPOSTERS OF AVENTIL
Available for Pre-order at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and more!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Value of First Readers *Guest Post by Lucy Snyder*

Hey! Look! Lucy Snyder is guest-posting for me this week. She is an amazing, award-winning (five Bram Stoker awards...FIVE!!!) author - you may know her Urban Fantasy novels (the Shotgun Sorceress series) or for Installing Linux on a Dead Badger, or maybe her collection of short stories, While the Black Stars Burn. She's a Clarion grad, a writing coach/instructor, and she's also a damn fine human being I am glad to call friend. Please give her work a look, you will not be disappointed. *More links at the bottom.* -Linda

The Value of First Readers
By Lucy A. Snyder


Very few writers are at a place in their craft and career where they can write in complete isolation, finish a story, send it off to an editor, and have that work see print. Most of us need feedback on our work before it's ready for an editor's eyes.

When you're just starting out as a writer, a good critique group is enormously helpful. But if the group is really good, your workshop partners will also be busy writing and submitting their stories ... and once you start seriously working as a writer, keeping up with everyone else's creative output can become a challenge. I've known a lot of pros who've had to drop out of productive critique groups simply due to time pressures.

Consequently, some pros who are in the middle of working on sold-on-proposal books under contracts with big publishers come to rely mainly on their editors for feedback. Which by some lights is entirely sensible: your editor is the most important person you need to please before the book or story goes to press.

But in the grand scheme, your editor may not be enough. Any good editor can give you excellent advice about fiction basics: plot tension, characterization, dialog. All hugely important. But at large houses you may find yourself assigned to an editor who may not have read widely in the particular genre you're writing in, and that otherwise excellent editor just won't realize when elements of your story veer too closely to works by other authors in the genre. That excellent editor won't be able to say "Hey, Author X did something like this in That Book I Just Read ... why don't you try this other thing instead?"

So, it's always a good idea to have other people read your works in progress. But what do you do when you're just too busy making a living as a writer to participate in a critique group?

You cultivate a group of first readers (or beta readers, if you prefer terminology borrowed from the bustling world of fan fiction).

Critique partners are always peers: fellow writers. They'll have opinions about the mechanics of your story or novel, and they may not be fans of the genre you're writing in. Critique partners are expected to be tough and honest, and they'll be coming at you from the perspective that your work ... well, it needs more work.

Your first readers, on the other hand, need not be fellow writers. They don't need to have strong opinions about the mechanics of a story or chapter -- you're a working professional writer, remember? You know how to fix this stuff on your own -- but you do need to be able to rely on them to tell you honestly when something isn't working. Their job doesn't have to be to tell you how to fix things, but you need to know that they will unfailingly draw your attention to problems. Therefore, your first readers need to be well-read in the genres you're writing in, and they need to have excellent instincts about what makes for a good story or novel.

Furthermore, they need to be fans of your work. Not in terms of thinking you're infallible as a writer, but in terms of them fundamentally getting what it is you're trying to accomplish creatively and being excited at the prospect of helping you get there. This is crucial. You're done with critique partners who can hardly hide their boredom at reading horror when they'd rather be reading literature, but with a heavy sigh they'll read your stuff because you read theirs. You have a deadline, and you need people who are enthusiastic about what you're doing, and who are willing to read your pages and give you feedback when you need it, not when the next meeting is scheduled.

Where do you find good first readers? Sometimes you'll find enthusiastic peers in the critique groups you've been involved with; it's simple courtesy to return the favor and critique their work, but typically they'll understand the whole deadline thing and they'll ask for your help when you're better able to give it. Other times, you can run into good potential first readers at conventions, or recruit well-read acquaintances.

But whatever you do, once you've recruited good first readers, treat them right. They're the best friends your fiction will have. Acknowledge them in your books, and make sure they get first dibs on your authors' copies. Gift certificates and other more substantial thank-yous don't hurt, either.


Lucy A. Snyder is the five-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author of a dozen books and 100 published short stories. Her writing has been translated into French, Russian, Italian, Czech, Spanish, and Japanese editions and has appeared in a wide range of publications. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College and is faculty in Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. You can learn more about her at www.lucysnyder.com.


LINKS:
WEBSITE: www.lucysnyder.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lucy.snyder1
Twitter: @LucyASnyder
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/LucyASnyder

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dear Readers: A Short Thank You

A few weeks ago, we talked about newsletters and expanding subscriber lists. I mentioned including flash/short stories in those newsletters. Since readers sign up to read my works, I figure one-off shorts are a great way to thank the readers for supporting me. The short is most likely from a POV of a character who didn't have that honor in the main book--say a side-kick or an unnamed character the main book's protag noted in passing. It captures just a moment, a scene, a different perspective that hopefully entices readers who haven't yet purchased the latest book and rewards those who have.

Until retailers allow self-pubbers to create coupon/promo-code campaigns, short stories are the best way I can think of to thank my readers.

And to those of you reading this blog, THANK YOU.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Reader rewards

I've got to say I've never really given much thought to the idea of reader rewards. I'd hope the story was reward enough. The only real answer I can give here is that I am guilty of many promotional stories. I write them regularly. There have been at least six stories told in the Seven Forges world, a short story that precluded BLOOD RED, and a few stories both posted and given away as promotional limited editions over the years. And by short story I normally mean 6-10,000 words or so.

I like giving away stories. They let me cover things that can't be covered in the novels and for me they're like extra seasoning packs to go with the story. They may not add to the main narrative flow, but they certainly add flavor.


here are four examples you can look over at your leisure, if you are so inclined, all related to my SEVEN FORGES series.

FROM THE MOUNDS
THE WOUNDED
SCARS
WHEN KORWA FELL





Keep smiling,

James A. Moore




Sunday, August 13, 2017

Reader Rewards - What's the Good Stuff?

THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE is done except for the dotting of i's and crossing of t's - and the endless adding and deleting of commas. I don't know about you all, but I never did get the comma rules into my brain. I just accept whatever my copy editor does on those. If only Track Changes had an "accept all comma changes" setting!

Anyway, THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE is the third in The Uncharted Realms and - as some who've already read the ARC (man, some of you are *fast*!) have noted - it's not the last. Too much story yet to tell! I'm tentatively titling book #4 THE ARROWS OF THE HEART and have it planned for next May or thereabouts.

If you wanted an ARC and didn't get one, use the comment form on the website and Assistant Carien will be in touch.

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven regards Reader Rewards: What Do You Do To Reward Your Fans (newsletter free-short stories, discounts, special appearances, etc.)?

I have a newsletter and I'd be remiss if I didn't say that you can Sign Up For It Here. I don't do a ton of free stuff for the most part. My loyal readers and reviewers get early ARCs, of course, as evidenced above. And I do the occasional contest or giveaway - usually to get ideas for naming something!

There's also a private Facebook group for the readers who want to be able to chat with me about the books and I sometimes do fun things there.

The funny thing is, all of my readers are so amazing that they tell me they buy the books, too, even if they've read the ARCs. And they send ME stuff, like chocolate and toys and other fun things. Or take me out for high tea and lunch!

I think I probably have the best readers in the world, because they reward me all the time with their support and letting me know what they love about the books.

But hey - what would you all want for rewards???




Saturday, August 12, 2017

Third Rail?

I write science fiction action and adventure with romance.

I touch no third rails.

I have utterly no desire to import third rail topics into my books.

I don't read third rail stuff...unless I'm reading something nonfiction for a reason.

I guess the whole third rail topic is my third rail.

Kudos to my fellow SFF7 authors for their thoughtful posts this past week.

Luckily there's room for all of us in the author world!

And I'm done for this topic.







Friday, August 11, 2017

Third Rail or Manipulation?

If you're old enough to remember seeing Jaws for the first time (while the CGI and special effects still held up) do you recall whether or not you were traumatized by watching blood spread in the water as people were ripped to shreds by a pissed off shark? I know it's hard to take seriously after nearly a half dozen Sharknado movies, but Jaws was pretty damned trigger-y for its day. Lots of people DID NOT go back in the water after watching that film. Because the movie touched what was a hot button at the time: killing innocent little kids in brutal fashion and showing it on screen. Well. And maybe because our animal brains have a thing about being snuck up on and messily devoured. The thing is that you can look at the film today and see how manipulative the scene with the boy is. It didn't really further plot. It was included solely to illicit horror from an audience and maybe to erase any sneaking sympathy you might have had for the shark. You can dissect the visuals from the John Williams score and neither works quite as well. Combined they are a masterstroke of manipulation.

You see where I'm going with this. Third rails topics generally feel manipulative to me - as if they're being brought into a piece of fiction, not because it's the only way to move the plot, but because it's shock value trying to dress in the grown up clothes of 'but this issue is important!'  That's not always the case, but I do find well done hot button topics are rare. Ursula K. Le Guin is a master at third rail topics. So is Margaret Atwood. Both, I think, are masters because the hot button issues are understated. Almost hidden. They underpin the world and the story, they're sort of the skeleton the stories hang on, but the stories being told aren't necessarily about religion specifically or what constitutes sexual deviancy. They're more about what become of humanity under the influence of those things.

On my more egotistical days, I say I want to be like the aforementioned ladies when I grow up as an author. The rest of the time, I acknowledge that might not be in this lifetime. :D IF there's a topic that gets a lot of knee jerk reaction and I want to pin a story on those bones, I do it. But not so I can trot out some bleeding edge attempt to be literarily relevant. It's because some tiny aspect of that hot button topic fires my imagination and infuses a set of characters with wild, weird life.

Certainly, it's my job to as respectful and careful as possible when I create a character who'd been adopted into the Navajo Nation but who was not, herself, Navajo. It wasn't done with an intent to be culturally insensitive - but I am not Navajo either, and an argument could be made that - because I'd written about certain traditions and beliefs unique to the Navajo as a means of heightening my heroine's identity crisis - I am touching the fiery hot third rail of cultural appropriation. Does that sentence even scan? It makes sense in my head. That may not be a good thing. In any case. I did my utmost to not be appropriative and to respect the beliefs and taboos that informed the culture my heroine grew up in but couldn't be a part of. I still had a massive case of nerves when the book came out, wondering if I'd get myself electrocuted or not.  (This is Isa from Nightmare Ink.)

And you know, what scares the crap out of me to write, may be totally mundane to some other author. I do suspect that third rail topics are subjective. Unless an editor stands up at a panel and says, "Incest. Brothers in bed in bed together? You guys have GOT to stop sending me that shit." Then yeah. That's for real third rail and that rail is electrified.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Touching the Third Rail

Some moments at ArmadilloCon, at the panels and in the writers' workshop, reminded me how there are a handful of... let's say challenging topics to handle when writing SFF Fiction.

Now, I wouldn't necessarily say these topics are Third Rails, in that you DEFINITELY SHOULD NOT TOUCH THEM.  Rather, it's more like an Beach Full Of Jellyfish.  With a big sign that says SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Here's the thing.  Sometimes you've got a story that, in your gut, you know the right choice is something that will get people riled up.  This is, in and of itself, OK.  Go ahead, write that story.  I mean, think it through, do the research, and batten down your hatches.  But write it.

And then be ready that someone will smack you across the nose with the newspaper and say, "No, bad.  You did this bad."

(Yes, my metaphors are all over the place.  Cope.)

And you have to take it.  I'm sorry, but that's part of the deal: you take the risk, you accept that stings are part of the business.  Embrace it with grace.  Say, "Yeah, I could have done that better" and listen to the criticisms.  Take them, and integrate them into the next thing.  Use it to grow.  Use it to improve.

Because you're going to get right back into that ocean.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Writing a Scene of that 'R' word

Hello. I'm going to say the R word. And then I'm going to discuss a certain scene in my latest book where that R word was attempted. You know the word I mean. 

Rape.

Why? Our topic this week is: 

Third Rails in Genre Fiction
What topics are too dangerous for you to touch? 
Or do you touch them anyway?

Let me start with this...I googled Rape Statistics and these were the top two links:

1.) Rape Statistics - Wikipedia
Statistics on rape and other sexual assaults are commonly available in industrialized countries, and are becoming more common throughout the world. ... Rape is a severely under-reported crime with surveys showing dark figures of up to 91.6%.

2.) Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics / RAINN
On average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. ... As of 1998, an estimated 17.7 million American women had been victims of attempted or completed rape. ... Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population...

In just those short snippets, the numbers cited are ...terrifying. It is no wonder that that particularly heinous, disgusting, and violent crime is an emotionally charged topic for so many--all of us either have been a victim or know someone(s) who have been. 


So why write about it? 

I mean, GoT got so much flack for all those episodes...right? 

The way I feel about GoT is complicated... and I realize I'm a minority in my take on 'that' season, but I didn't get /upset/.  I believed that in that world and time period considering the cultures as they had been presented, those kinds of crimes were believable to have happened to those characters in the way they were portrayed. Screen time of the act could have been shortened or alluded to without the visual, but the dramatic impact was, I think, as they intended it to be.

My sons watched the show as well, and they are on social media, and they were well aware of the hubbub about those scenes/that season as a whole. Because of that show and the outcry, I had conversations with my sons that I might not have otherwise had, and I think that was a VERY good thing.

But in saying that, I'm not trying to gloss over the truth that so many were triggered by these plotlines -- whether or not they personally victims. Even after the immediate physical injuries of a rape have healed, the psychological effects linger.

So answer already! Why write about it? Why add the layer of 'incest' to it?

It wasn't shock value. My writing has never been meant to come across as some wordy version of a shock-horror concert like Marilyn Manson or Rob Zombie. 

When I wrote Jovienne it was not a story I had plotted out. There was no 'I'm going to have bad things A, B, and C happen cumulatively, and then she's going to escape and/or deal this way.' 

I put her into a situation of having her skills tested. She had been trained to kill demons for God. A graduation ceremony wouldn't have made any sense. But a death match with a demon...yeah. That was the highest level of testing with the highest level of risk. 

It had already established these four things in the text: 

1.) all demons needed to feed on energy soon after they arrived in this world

2.) they fed two ways:
       a.) by killing something/someone and partaking of the death energy, or 
       b.) by a sexual exchange 

3.) if a demon physically touched a human for an extended time, they could pull images and thoughts from that person's mind

4.) some demons could shape shift

When I wrote Jovienne's test, I didn't have a plan for getting her out of it alive. It wasn't a planned novel, but more of a short story exercise. I wasn't invested in making her live through it, just seeing what would happen if I tried to kill her. 

How hard would this character fight to finish her story?

I'd also established that her family was dead and that her father was a hostile, brooding, bullying, belittling, tantrum of a man. She hated him. He gave her no kindness and allowed her no happiness. 

As an author, having her face him --or rather a demon wearing his face-- was the worst I could do to her. But that demon gained a position of power over her. Having the demon attempt what evil was established as it's prerogative as her father... it certainly seemed a demonic act to me.

Her reaction and subsequent actions establish her character so strongly, so unrepentantly, that I could not do her the disservice of removing that scene. Hers is not a journey everyone will want to read. But it has been an inspiration for me to write.

I welcome your thoughts and a civil discussion in the comments, if you like.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Don't Touch That: The 3rd Rail in Fiction

This is not THE cottage.
It's a random picture off Pinterest.
Once upon a time, I went hunting for my first house. The neighborhood was a mid-city mix of '50s brick army housing and '80s vinyl townhouses. What you got depended on the block. But there was one house, one oddball house straight out of a French fairy tale. No, no, not the castle. The cobbler's cottage. Oh, how I loved that cottage. I'd ogled it for years, and when finally came on the market, I rushed to see it. It was at the tippy top of my budget, but that meant it was in reach. Any improvements could be made over time as I rebuilt my coffers, right? Sure.

The inside...needed love. A lot of love. And a pry bar. A jackhammer. A plumber. Okay, it was full gut on the inside. Faux wood beams were shedding their foam. The green shag carpet had known many a cat. The windows whistled their own tunes. The kitchen listed toward the backyard. The wiring was older than I was, so were the appliances. Then there were the walls.

Asbestos walls.

I was crushed. You can't remodel a house while you're living it if it has asbestos walls. And I knew if it was loud and proud on the walls, well, it'd be hidden in all the nooks and crannies of the home too. It'd have to be a full-gut and abatement all at once. Alas, that would be well beyond my budget for a quite a few years.

My friend laid his hand upon my shoulder and said, "Hey. Don't look so sad. You can still live here. Just don't lick the walls."

That's pretty much my stance on dealing with third-rail topics in my writing. Yes, of course, there's risk involved. However, I can and will still have the dangerous oogey-boogey topics in my writing as long they're pertinent to the story and advance the plot. If I let go of the third rail, and the story still flows without that to power it, then I didn't need that shock, that jolt, that trigger. Including certain topics purely for the sake of being "edgy" breaks the unspoken contract between author and reader. It's careless and sloppy craft. It's like face-planting in the trail of cat turds embedded in the shag carpet.

Remember, you can still live the house of your fantasies.

Just don't lick the walls.






Monday, August 7, 2017

Third rails in fiction

Surely you're familiar with the concept of thew third rail? that's the one that carries a lethal charge on subway rails. Hit that puppy and you'r4 cooked.

Applied in this case it means what subjects are too dangerous for you, the author to touch? Are there any? Do you touch them anyways?

That's going to differ for everyone but trust me on this, the third rail is a very dangerous rail. It might seem innocent as it lies there doing nothing but humming softly, but it's a damned killer.

Let's look at a recent incident on social media, shall we?

A writer posted that he was fairly certain he wrote dark fantasy, but several people had disagreed with him. To find an answer from a group that follows dark fantasy fairly well, he gave a brief synopsis, explaining that several of the characters at the beginning are enslaved. degraded, forced to remain naked at all times and some are raped.

Now, kids, what is YOUR first reaction to those words? In a few cases the first reaction was outrage, a promise to never read the author and disgust that said author would use child/adolescent rape as a method of tittilating the readers. All of which would be perfectly understandable if the author had posted a scene from the book which, in fact, used the violent rape of minors as a method of generating arousal in the readers. Which might actually have be4en the plan. But the responses were to a sentence that mentioned that characters are forced to be naked and some of them are raped.

It's a completely knee-jerk reaction to a scene that was mentioned, but never posted.  Another response was simply that the reader was sick to death of rape scenes in fantasy novels being justified by the historical accuracy of what likely happened in the past and would no read any novels that dealt with the subject matter.

Again, I can understand that. The need to mention it in that post is a personal choice. For me, I don't much like dealing with rape in books. The closest I've come in years was one female character killing the four men who thought she would be easily attacked. That said, sadly, there is a historical precedent for these mattes and a lot of fantasy authors like to add a certain level of reality to their fantasy.

That's one example. Here's another: HBO is coming out with a new series by the same folks who produced GAME OF THRONES. The series is called CONFEDERATE and the premise is an alternate history where the south won the Civil War and how different the world might look. Judging by the one trailer I saw it looks like a second civil war is on the buildup, but that's purely conjecture on my part.

I have seen several people posting that this show needs to not be made.that it will be nothing but an excuse to show rape scenes against African American women and that it will glorify slavery and degrade African Americans as much as possible, despite that fact that at least two of the screenwriters are, in fact, African American. Again, there have been no previous and to my knowledge there has only been one teaser trailer revealed so far.  The articles I've read protesting the notion seem sound enough, but the assumption, automatic in this case, is that the show will be all about glorifying white supremacy.

That's like saying GAME OF THRONES glorifies necromancy and the genocide of giants without ever having seen an episode. Unless the author of the article in question has seen the show (and no claim was made to have seen the show or a script or anything else) I don't understand the assumptions being made.

Rest assured, if I wrote a story in which Hitler had won WWII I would not be writing a tale in which the white lifestyle was the best and condemning all others as fools.  I'd be showing how demented and broken the Third Reich was at the end and telling stories of the underground intending to end the regime.

There are endless variations of this theme. Endless groups who will gleefully shoot down anything that is different or steps on their flavor of the month. "How DARE you write about a 40 year old man and his 18year old lover?" First, Ew. Second, if I decided to write about it i would. I would also aim for realism in  the piece.

Look, forget the commercial aspects for a second. I write the stories I want to read. I am unabashedly glad to write about the weird and the wonky. IO have no despite at all to write about the love between a man and his mule, but if I did decide to write about it, I can promise you there would be no sex scenes revolving around the issue. That's my personal taste.

But I write HORROR, and I have written some rather dark stuff in my time that involved torture, rape and violence against children. All of those scenes took place "off screen," because that's my preference. Horror is all about the taboo. I am not all about the gross out. If a writer is, if you are, more power to you, but don't expect me to join in on that particular "fun."

Write what you want to write, but understand that there are often consequences to your actions. Sometimes those consequences come in the form of publishers or distributors banning you.

In one case, while writing for White Wolf's "Book of the Wyrm," I added several scenes in which trinket were designed that could corrupt small children. One distributor refused to carry the book because of the scenes I'd written.  Personally, I took it as a compliment.

Being banned did not hurt my sales that month, but sometimes that changes.

The only sort of censorship I firmly believe in is self censorship. There are plenty of subjects I simply will not write about, but that's up  to the individual.

My latest sale is mentioned below. It is very violent. I am nod the least bit upset about that fact. Your mileage may vary.


I wrote PULPED for this anthology:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

What Dangerous Topic Jeffe Longs to Write

Marcella, sister SFF Seven bordello mate and longtime crit partner, sent me this amazing glitter card. She's been reading - and giving excellent insight on - this series from the very beginning. If I'd had more time, she would have been top in my thank you's in the acceptance speech. I remember hitting midpoint on that book, The Pages of the Mind, panicking and sending it to Marcella. Braced for her to tell me I'd gone horribly wrong, down some twisted path of no return, I opened her email reply. In which she scolded me for stopping where I did and to keep going, dammit.

I tell you, folks, there's nothing better to keep you sane than good writing friends.

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven regards Third Rails in Genre Fiction: What subjects are too dangerous for you to touch? Or do you touch them anyway?

I love that whoever suggested this topic used the metaphor of the third rail - the electrified rail that provides current to the train. Touch it at your grave peril. Without it, there's no power.

What makes a subject "too dangerous to touch" has everything to do with reader response. We might cavalierly chant that rules are made to be broken, but in truth the rules are there to keep us from touching something lethal that might get our fool selves killed. At the same time, art is a way of communicating - and sometimes that means shocking people and touching a nerve. 

The third rail I haven't touched yet but really want to? Bestiality.

Did you flinch? Yeah. It's a dicey thing.

Bestiality is sexual contact between humans and animals. All other squick considerations aside, bestiality violates the Golden Rule of Consent. An animal is unable to consent, thus is strictly off limits for sexual contact. 

BUT...

See, I write about people who can shift into animal form. And the blurring of lines between human and animal natures is a theme with me. If a shifter retains human awareness in animal form, then they can consent. And it seems natural to me that, in a relationship between shifters, sex in animal form would be part of that.

I haven't gone there yet, but that third rail is right there, humming with power. I'm just gonna have to touch it... 

It's gonna burn SO good. 


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Like 'Aliens' with More Romance and Less Gore


The title of my post says it all for me. This is what I tell people when they ask me what I write.

I have two tropes or overriding recurring themes and have ever since I started writing at the age of 7.

1. True love with a Happy Ever After ending.
2. Science fiction. A strong man and a strong woman battling the usually life or death odds and surviving together. See Rule #1.

My first ever story featured a strong willed princess (with flying cats and flying horses) and a riverboat captain. Alas I can't recall what they were battling, although I strongly suspect something like the Id Monster from "Forbidden Planet" because that movie was imprinted on my brain at an early age. (On late night TV, folks.)

"Ever After" is my favorite version of the Cinderella fairy tale.

Every single one of my books revolves around a strong hero and heroine in  a tight situation, who grow to respect each other and then fall in love and have an HEA after the last alien is vanquished (or in the case of my ancient Egyptian novels, the last demon falls.)

Including my newest scifi romance, TWO AGAINST THE STARS.

It's what I want to read. it's what I want to watch on TV or at the movies...I had basically that situation in my real life for many years, until my husband was killed in an accident...well, not the aliens or the demons, but true love from high school onward, and us getting through all the life challenges together.  A team.

So, there you have it.


Friday, August 4, 2017

The Little Matchsitck Girl Theme

Remember the story of the little matchstick girl? The cheery tail of a child peering into the windows of the houses she's sold matches to - all of them golden, warm and inviting - and then (SPOILER!) she freezes to death. If you were like me, you grew up wondering why the hell an adult would read that damned story to you.

Then you started middle school or junior high. Awkward preteen that you were, aching to find where you belonged - and possibly secretly hoping you could make yourself into one of the cool, popular kids - did you came to comprehend the story? Did you stand on the outside looking in they way most of us did? Maybe everyone does that at some point in their lives.

Was it that sports team you desperately wanted to make but didn't? Or the prom you so badly wanted to attend but no one asked or those you asked said no, so you pretended you didn't really want to go anyway? It could have been being skipped over for promotion, a longing to end up on a best seller list, or maybe (mission accomplished for Jeffe!) a golden statuette of your very own.

Why am I reminding you of the ache that accompanies wanting but not yet having? Because that pain point is where my stories happen. Every single one is, on some level, about wanting, not having, and either coming to terms with that, or becoming the person who is worthy of winning the wanted thing. Whatever it may be. Of course, I'm perverse enough that getting what you wanted is never, ever the end of the story. It usually comes just prior to the black moment, because I'm a terrible human being that way.

In any case, my characters start a story suffer various types and stages of alienation. They're all of them searching for a place to belong. A few require a bit of redemption before they're fit to belong anywhere. But without fail, they all start out as that little matchstick girl, nose pressed against the frosty glass while killing cold and isolation gnaw at their hearts.

Did your family read The Little Match Girl when you were a kid? Do you remember how you reacted? Is it healthy for a kid's story to haunt someone into adulthood? Asking for a friend.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Recurrent Theme/Trope: The Chosen One


All the stories I
love love love 
are tales of good-versus-evil. 

http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/photos/stylus//1155159-Harry-Potter-7i.jpg

I know, 
from a certain point of view, 
perhaps every story 
is good-versus-evil, 
so to put a finer point 
on my thought, 
I'll say that whether 
it's the everyday Joe 
opposing evil, 
or some mystical savior 
sent from on high, 
those Chosen Ones 
appeal to me.

  
http://www.therobotsvoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Frodo_Aragorn.jpg


But too often 
those Chosen One's 
have been male.
It's a big part of
WHY 
I write. 

https://vardenfell.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/5th_element-leeloo.jpg

In the last 20 years 
we've had a few women 
in that role filmwise 
either directly 
{Leeloo in 5th Element, c.1997} 
or arguably 
{Alice in Resident Evil franchise, 
Katniss of Hunger Games, 
Selene of the Underworld franchise}. 

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/92/64/1a/92641ae2c630310f4d8b835ce9a06ff6--underworld-selene-underworld-film.jpg

Most recently, 
Diana of Themyscira 
has rooted herself 
as a badass, 
legit, female 
Chosen One 
to be Reckoned With.

https://am22.akamaized.net/tms/cnt/uploads/2017/06/Wonder-Woman-with-shield-650x336.jpg

I've been writing female 
Chosen Ones since 2009 
when Persephone Alcemdi 
-- "the Witches Messiah" -- 
first hit the shelves with 
VICIOUS CIRCLE



I've continued that trend with 
Jovienne 
released earlier this year.



It manifests in writing a
strong female character
who has a big destiny,
and showing her
facing her fears,
stepping up and
confronting evil
in addition
to the day-to-day 
struggles of her life.