Category Archives: Authors

Yesterday I got my signed Jim Butcher!

Yesterday I got my signed Jim Butcher prints from @lazurch’s Beyond Words calendar! It’s so gorgeous. You guys neeeeeeeeeed to buy one of these calendars omg!

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10 Authors Discuss Asexuality, Immigration, and More on December’s YA Open Mic

10 Authors Discuss Asexuality, Immigration, and More on December’s YA Open Mic:

Erica Cameron, author of Deadly Sweet Lies

I am asexual. It’s a fact of my life now, but it’s one I didn’t discover until I was 29 and trying to recover from an emotionally abusive and manipulative marriage.

I grew up in a liberal, diverse city in South Florida and the available spectrum of sexual orientations was always pretty clear: gay, bisexual, or straight. I could be attracted to anyone of any gender, and that was okay—it was something I knew both in theory and from watching my childhood best friend try to figure out her own sexuality as we grew up.

No one ever mentioned that being attracted to no one was an acceptable option.

Parents, teachers, and even friends told me over the years not to look for too much external validation. Or, at least to avoid letting that validation impact my self-worth. Sometimes, though, something has to be verified, labeled, and categorized by someone who isn’t in my head for my experiences and emotions to feel real and acceptable. That is especially true when the word I was looking for to describe myself didn’t exist in my vocabulary. Not outside the context of the short section in my freshman biology class about the asexual reproduction of amoebas, anyway.

It’s why I vacillate between the urge to laugh and cry when someone questions the need for diversity in books. I was a voracious reader as a child. How different would my life have been if I’d known at 9 or 19 what I discovered at 29 about the sexual identity spectrum? I won’t ever know the answer to that question, but I will try my hardest to be the voice that tells teen readers what I never heard. What I would absolutely love is for my asexual spectrum characters to provide the “Oh my god, that sounds like me” moment for at least one person. Not going to lie; it’s kind of a life goal.

Click here to read the rest of the stories

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Today I have a Starbucks writing date with @marnibates!…

Today I have a Starbucks writing date with @marnibates! ?

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This package arrived for my students from @summerscourtney today…

This package arrived for my students from @summerscourtney today and omg guys! She is the absolute SWEETEST. The gesture and the letter she sent with it absolutely made my day. I can’t wait to share them with my students on Monday! ?

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Guys? Meet Courtney Stevens and Faking Normal

Guys? Meet Courtney Stevens and Faking Normal.

I HAVE FEELINGS ABOUT THIS BOOK, OKAY? It’s poignant and powerful and full of purpose. I meant to post quotes while I read, but I couldn’t put it down long enough to follow through. So, go Courtney for that one.

Also, for anyone who hasn’t experienced rape/abuse and has wanted to learn about one of the quiet ways it destroys lives, read #FakingNormal. In the book, Courtney has captured the confusion and the guilt and the silence that hangs over this kind of situation brilliantly.

Last but definitely not least… Hey, Courtney? I want a Bodee. Kay? Kay. Thanks!

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Recap: BEA 2012

The first sight of the Javits Center (I’m not gonna lie) made me a little scared. How in the world was I going to see everything they stuffed inside a building this huge in only three days?! I’m telling you right now, I didn’t do it. I missed things. I missed a lot of people, books, events, talks, conferences, and I don’t even know what else. For anyone who hasn’t gone but plans on attending, it’s impossible. DO NOT go there with the hope or the expectation of seeing it all. It won’t happen and you’ll only be disappointed. Plus, you’ll end up stressing yourself out. And that’s never fun.

Technically, BEA ran from Monday-Thursday, but the main exhibition hall wasn’t open on Monday. In fact, a lot of the displays were still in pieces. I know because Lani and I walked around almost tripping on piles of plywood and rolled up carpets. We used the time to get out badges before the lines got crazy long and also to learn the layout of the floor. One thing I will say for the organizers, the exhibition hall was very well labeled. I rarely had a hard time finding my way around! Having attended more than a few large scale conventions in other industries, I know that this level of organization isn’t easy. I applaud whoever was in charge of that exhibition hall. Fabulous job!

Before flying out to NYC, I went online and looked at the schedule of talks to be given during BEA. Unfortunately, I only attended one of them. The picture here is from the YA Editor’s Buzz Panel Tuesday morning and even though I got there right on time, the room was so packed I had to stand in the doorway. I take this as a very good sign for the future of YA literature! Interest is strong and only seems to be growing. I picked up all five of the books mentioned on the panel and they all look brilliant. Trying to figure out what to read first is a problem, but it’s a really great problem to have! 😀

One thing I found amusing every time I walked into the building was the ads. For example, the steps seemed to be brought to you by Cassandra Clare. The entire front entryway appeared to be sponsored by Dean Koontz (seriously–there were posters of his book on the doors, the floor, the walls, everywhere!). And I think a book trailer for one of James Patterson’s new books was practically on loop on the TVs. Honestly, it seemed like overkill for already established authors. Just a couple of signs that said, “Hey, don’t forget this author you already like has a new book coming out soon” probably would have been more than enough. I did like the steps, though. There was more to it than pictured here and I thought it ended up looking pretty cool.

As amazing as free books are, my favorite part of BEA was the people. Authors, publishers, blogger, book lovers, booksellers, and industry pros all gathering together in one place to celebrate their shared obsession is so much fun! I met authors like Shannon Hale (pictured here signing the new Princess Academy book), Diana Peterfreund, Rebecca Serle, Lauren Oliver, Yvonne Woon, Susane Colasanti, Maggie Stiefvater (who actually recognized me from a signing a YEAR AGO in Coral Gables O.O!), Ally Condie, Kody Keplinger, Elizabeth Miles, Elizabeth Eulberg, Dan Wells, Mike Mullin, Jenifer Armentrout, Jeri Smith-Ready, Angela Corbett, Myra McEntire, Jamie Manning, Tiffany Truitt, and so many more! There’s something incredibly inspiring about being around that many creative people in the same week. Inspiring and a little intimidating!  

That being said, free books were still pretty amazing. By the end of the day on Thursday, I’d collected sixty-six books. Sixty-six! And I was selective, taking only books I knew I’d actually read or that I planned on passing on to a family member. If I’d just let myself grab anything I saw, that number probably would have been in the three digit range. Because I promised I would, I added a list below the cut of the books I adopted during BEA. Overall, though, it was awesome. I definitely plan on attending next year. If everything in my plan goes right, I may be using the time to apartment hunt, too! Come hell or high water, I’m moving to that city in 2013!!

Tessa, Brenna, and Maggie signing their short story collection
The Curiosities

Four of the Pendrell authors and their publisher

Author Title Publisher Release
Accardo, Jus Touch Entangled
Adler-Olsen, Jussi The Absent One Dutton Aug-12
Albin, Gennifer Crewel PSG Oct-12
Banks, Maya Enticed by his Forgotten Lover Harlequin
Barclay, Linwood Trust Your Eyes Penguin Sep-12
Cahalan, Susannah Brain on Fire Fire Press Nov-12
Carr, Robyn Sunrise Point Mira Romance
Catmull, Katherine Summer and Bird Dutton Sep-12
Colbert, Stephen America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t  Hatchette Oct-12
Colman, Rebecca Heaven Should Fall Harlequin Oct-12
Condie, Ally Matched Speak
Cooner, Donna Skinny Point Oct-12
Diaz, Junot This is How You Lose Her Riverhead Books Sep-12
Doty, M. Surviving High School Poppy Sep-12
Edwards, Selden The Lost Prince Dutton Aug-12
Ellison, Kate The Butterfly Clues Egmont
Gidwitz, Adam In a Glass Grimmly Dutton Sep-12
Gillham, David City of Women Putnam Aug-12
Gratton, Tessa & Stiefvater, Maggie & Yovanoff, Brenna The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories Carolrhoda Lab Oct-12
Gudenkauf, Heather One Breath Away Mira Jul-12
Hale, Shannon Princess Academy: Palace of Stone Bloomsbury Aug-12
Han, Jenny & Vivian, Siobhan Burn for Burn Simon & Schuster Sep-12
Herbert, Brian & Anderson, Kevin Hellhole Tor
Hurley, Tonya The Blessed Simon & Schuster Sep-12
Jobling, Curtis Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf Viking
Keplinger, Kody A Midsummer’s Nightmare Poppy Jun-12
Khoury, Jessica Origin Razor Bill Sep-12
Kingslover, Barbara Flight Behavior Harper Nov-12
Koryta, Michael The Prophet Little Brown Aug-12
Krumwiede, Lana Freakling Candlewick Press Oct-12
Lehane, Dennis Live by Night Morrow Oct-12
Levithan, David Every Day Knopf Aug-12
Maas, Sarah J. Throne of Glass Bloomsbury Aug-12
Magnum, Lisa After Hello Shadow Mountain Sep-12
Marr, Melissa Carnival of Souls Harper Sep-12
McCoy, Shirlee Running for Cover Love Inspired
McEntire, Myra Hourglass Egmont
Meloy, Maile The Apothecary Putnam
Messenger, Shannon Keeper of the Lost Cities Aladdin Oct-12
Miles, Elizabeth Fury Simon Pulse
Miles, Elizabeth Envy Simon Pulse Sep-12
Miller, Ashley Edward & Stentz, Zack Colin Fischer Razor Bill Nov-12
Moyes, Jojo Me Before You Viking Dec-12
Mullin, Mike Ashen Winter Tanglewood Oct-12
Oliver, Lauren The Spindlers Harper Sep-12
Patterson, James Confessions of a Murder Suspect Little Brown Sep-12
Paul, Fiona Venom Philomel Oct-12
Paver, Michelle Gods and Warriors Dial Aug-12
Pearce, Jackson Fathomless Little Brown Sep-12
Perry, John The Art of Procrastination Workman Sep-12
Rhodes, Morgan Falling Kingdoms Razor Bill Dec-12
Roberts, Sheila Better Than Chocolate Harlequin Oct-12
Saintcrow, Lillith The Iron Wyrm Affair Orbit Aug-12
Serle, Rebecca When You Were Mine Simon Pulse
Sheinmel, Courtney All the Things You Are Simon & Schuster
Spooner, Meagan Skylark Carolrhoda Lab Oct-12
Stiefvater, Maggie The Raven Boys Scholastic Press Sep-12
Straub, Emma Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures Riverhead Books Sep-12
Thomson, Jamie Dark Lord *The Early Years Walker Oct-12
Tracey, Scott Demon Eyes Flux Oct-12
Truitt, Tiffany Chosen Ones Entangled
Various Authors The Atira International Book of Mysteries Atira Books
Wells, Dan The Hollow City Tor
Wiprud, Brian The Clause Midnight Ink Oct-12
Zhang, Kat What’s Left of Me Harper Sep-12

Interviews: Welcome, Courtney Vail

For the first time ever on this blog, I’m pleased to welcome author Courtney Vail! Her book Kings & Queens just released this year and the sequel, Sapphire Reign, is in the works. Courtney graciously stopped by long enough to answer some questions about her book, her writing style, and advice all would-be authors need to hear.

Thank you, Courtney!

Seventeen-year-old Majesty Alistair wants police to look further into her father’s fatal car wreck, hopes the baseball team she manages can reclaim the state crown, aches for Derek…or, no…maybe Alec…maybe. And she mostly wishes to retract the hateful words she said to her dad right before slamming the door in his face, only to never see him again.

All her desires get sidelined, though, when she overhears two fellow students planning a church massacre. She doubts cops will follow up on her tip since they’re sick of her coming around with notions of possible crimes-in-the-works. And it’s not like she cries wolf. Not really. They’d be freaked too, but they’re not the ones suffering from bloody dreams that hint at disaster like some crazy, street guy forecasting the Apocalypse.

So, she does what any habitual winner with zero cred would do…try to I.D. the nutjobs before they act. But, when their agenda turns out to be far bigger than she ever assumed, and even friends start looking suspect, the truth and her actions threaten to haunt her forever, especially since she’s left with blood on her hands, the blood of someone she loves.

1)    Can you tell us how you got the idea for Kings & Queens? You mention a dream on your website, but was that the moment where it all came together or did the story fall into place in bits and pieces?
I had this idea for a love triangle of sorts but no plot to plunk it into. All I knew was this girl named Majesty was the manager for her high school’s baseball team, on which her two guy best friends played. Then one night I dreamed I overheard a plot for mass murder and escaped the conspirators in this little town. I knew as soon as I woke up that that was the seed I needed to bring my book to fruition. However, I had no idea at all that it would end up so complex, twisted and dark.
The deeper part of the conspiracy totally took me by surprise. If you haven’t read it, I’ll just say it involves Derek and leave it at that. That whole thing was not planned. It emerged as I wrote it. He’s way more than some guy who’s curt with his friends and out for a quick lay. I knew when I finished it, that the complexity would make K&Q one of those love-it or hate-it type of reads because not everyone likes that much depth and intricacy. YA tends to be more linear and straightforward and Kings & Queens is one shocking twist after another and it doesn’t let up until the epilogue.

2) What was your favorite part of writing this particular book? A character, someone you met doing research, or something else entirely?
My favorite part was meeting my characters. That’s always my favorite thing with every book I work on. And my books always have one or two characters that people absolutely love. Most people I’ve heard from say they like all my characters, but especially Warren and Derek. I get the most feedback about them. The research was fun too. Although, because I had to research explosions and gun firing skills, I’m sure I’m now on a watch list of some sort. I interviewed a Richmond cop on police procedure and learned they don’t need parental consent to interrogate a minor, which I wouldn’t have thought. I made it optional. And I spoke with a bike expert about sabotage. Fun, fun, fun trying to explain that one. Maybe when I earn enough cash, I’ll get to travel around for my research.

3) When approaching a new project, do you outline or let the story develop as it will? Why do you think that technique works for you?
I am what’s called a pantser, but  I’m not crazy about that word. Instead I call myself a Just-Wing-It Girl. I usually have an initial concept, and I create character sketches, maybe I’ll jot down some bullet points for the beginning or along the arch, but it’s loose, just an idea about direction really. This is usually done with pen and paper. And then I get on the keyboard, and just wing it and fly to wherever my characters and story take me. I love when I end up surprised and affected, where I’m shouting at the screen–yeah, I’ve done that. I’ve also cracked up at some of the things I’ve written and I’ve broken down and cried. This free-flying style works for me because my story’s always grow and expand beyond my wildest dreams, and I can never predict which way they’ll go until I’m writing, so it’s hard to plot out for that.

4) How well do you know your characters? Do you decide before you start writing every detail of their lives down to the type of snack foods they prefer or do you let the details come into play as the story develops?
It depends on the story. For Kings & Queens, yes, I knew most of this intricate stuff before I ever started. I don’t info dump at all, but backstory plays a big part in how my characters think and act within the story’s present time.
Like, Majesty is a very strong character, and she’s quick witted and likes to verbally spar, and all that was originally spawned from her having to grow up with a weird name.  Some people would cave and sink into themselves, but Majesty turned it into a positive thing and turned herself into a victor instead of a victim. She lives life as though she has a scepter in hand and always strives to win. Authors sometimes give their characters weird names, and there are no ramifications for that. But that’s not me. In my book, I take every little thing into consideration.
Another example , Derek grew up without a mom for most of his life and he has a crap relationship with his dad, so he doesn’t eat right, have any fashion sense or moral center. He’s all over the map along the debauchery path since he’s had no one to look up to and no one to live for except himself. His actions are birthed out of a need for self-preservation rather than outright rudeness. He’s not a jerk, just an insensitive, wounded, guarded teen.
All that thought that I put in to character psychology is how my characters end up feeling real, like they’re jumping off the pages.

5) What’s better, in your opinion: writing a first draft or going back and rewriting it?
Definitely writing the first draft. It’s so much fun. I’ve done a ton of editing, but I’ve never really completely rewritten anything.  I ended up blessed with great critters who helped me get my novel into publishable shape. I’m a tweaker, so the editing process can be a tedious pain.

6) What can you tell us about the editorial process after you turn in your first draft? Any advice for hope-to-be-debut authors?
I definitely seek out the opinions of multiple people because you can never spot the holes and glaring mistakes in your own work, beyond grammar and such. I caught two big mistakes on my own, but it was during the editing process after I’d given myself some time away from the work. For one, I had a major mistake in my timeline and ended up with 6 school days in a week. And in chapter 4 I forgot to have Derek give Majesty money before she headed off to buy flowers for him. Those issues were in there even after at least ten pairs of eyes had combed through it. So definitely, finding some distance and then going back to it helps immensely. And reading books on craft is very important. When you know your stuff and what’s best for your story, then you can have the confidence to know what advice to apply and what to discard. Writing and reading is subjective and not everyone is going to have the same opinion, not everyone is going to like your work, and not every piece of advice you get is right for your work. You need to know what’s story-enhancing and you can only do that by listening to your gut and knowing what’s correct. Listening to too many people can have you over-editing, and I made that mistake and stripped out too much voice and some of the rawness. I had to go back and reshape the narrative so it held my quirkiness again. Not everyone likes or gets quirky. So I learned to not care and to just be myself with a pen, regardless of the outcome. Voice is everything. And mine happens to be weird. And I’m proud to own that.

7) You chose a company in between self-publication and an independent press to produce Kings & Queens. Can you tell us anything about your experience with Little Prince Publishing so far?
LPP is an indie publishing company, it’s just very small right now. It does things differently than other companies though. For instance, I get all my royalties. Usually a publisher pays for everything up front, and only gives you 4-15%, maybe 20% of the royalties. A small press usually won’t pay an advance, and I really needed the flexibility of a small press in order to be able to publish my split-market series.  I knew I’d make the most money with Little Prince and have options no other publisher could give me. I paid for the Lightning Source set up fee and an LPP ISBN and did my own formatting and cover, so $152. (I am one of the book formatters and designers for LPP now as well as another small publishing company.) Because bookstores can buy directly from the Publisher’s Bookstore with a sliding-scale, short sale discount that starts at 40% off the listing price, I can set my own wholesale discount as low as 20% at Lightning Source, which I did. So I make $6.15 per book for paperback sales anywhere online or when customers order it in brick-and-mortar stores. With any other publisher, I’d earn change. I’ve long since earned back my set up fee but am just waiting for the check, since it’s paid out quarterly.
Originally, I was shopping Kings & Queens and had every intention of going traditional. I was getting some helpful feedback from agents, though no bites, but I ended up pulling myself out of the hunt because of the sequel I had written for fun. Early readers kept asking me how my characters were doing and I wanted to know too, so I opened the story ten years after the events in Kings & Queens. In Sapphire Reign I have an 11-year-old POV, a 15-year-old, and 3 people in their 20’s. It’s weird to have ages across the spectrum like that but it is what it is. However, my early readers fell in love with it and my characters, especially the young girl, Crystal. All this feedback made me fall in love with it too and see its potential, and my vision changed. I didn’t want to risk the sequel getting shut out because series just don’t do that. They don’t split markets. If you get a 2 or 3 book deal from a bigger house, it’s for one market. That’s a fan base building strategy. It makes sense. But I just don’t care about categories. It’s my series. I figure if people like my writing and my characters, they won’t care that the series has shelving confusion. Now, I can put out both books out and have them look congruent. Sapphire Reign is a twisted, weird, dark book, so not everyone will like it, but I can’t wait to hear from those who LOVE it because there’s absolutely nothing like it. It is a wild, wild ride.
The Kings & Queens paperback just came out in January, but I’ve loved my experience with LPP so far because I’ve gotten to make my own decisions. I also get to collect ALL my own royalties, not just a small portion,  the same as if I’d gone solo, but I have a group of authors and a little house to support me in my endeavors. I can even write a third book in the series, or not, it’s my call. I love the flexibility I have.

8) What’s the hardest part for you to write? Beginning, middle, or end?
I sometimes write out of sequence. For Kings & Queens, I wrote the first two chapters and then the last two so I’d have my end game.  It’s such a twisty plot and I needed to keep focus on how it would end. But all the middle guts in getting there totally surprised me. The hardest part for me was the climax, the rest of it was easy.  I really had to wrestle to get everyone to be where I wanted them to be and to act like they needed to act within the scene. I love the way it came out. But I would say endings usually give me the most trouble, just because I want everything to end on the perfect note. I not only want to give readers a satisfactory conclusion, I want to leave them with some resonation.

9) Do you listen to music as you write? Have TV on in the background? Require absolute silence and solitude?
I like music in the beginning stages, when I’m constructing my ideas, I find it inspirational actually. The song Field of Innocence by Evanescence, for instance, really captures the story, feel and tone of Sapphire Reign. I wish I could use it for my book trailer, but since it was on a limited release album and the band is split, it would likely be impossible to pay for the rights, which I would because it is just that awesome. I’m not even sure if the publisher/producer is in existence anymore.
But I don’t like music or any major noise once I get deeply into my story. I used to, but I’m easily distracted, so this has changed. And I definitely prefer to be alone. I can’t write at all if someone is too close or staring over my shoulder.

10) Last, but definitely not least, what advice do you believe is crucial for anyone who wants to have a career as a writer to hear?
To take the time to develop your characters fully, to know the different narrative options backwards and forwards so that you can just fly with your plot idea and know how to execute it properly, to understand the importance of a story question and to always write with passion, putting forth your best effort. If you take care in all these areas, you will be on the path to success. Someone, somewhere, is going to be moved and hooked by what you’ve written.

COURTNEY VAIL writes totally twisted YA and adult suspense. She enjoys braiding mystery, suspense & romance with some kind of weirdness. Her addictions to crazy coffee concoctions, Funny Bones, Ben & Jerry’s, and bacon keep her running and writing. She currently lives in New England with a comedian stud and a wild gang of kidlets.

If you like weird books, you can follow Courtney Vail at:
Twitter @cvwriter

Interested in reading more? Find the book on: 
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

Quotes: Wisdom From The Greats

Like historians, it is important for writers to study the past. We need to look back on the successes and failures of those who came before us and try our best to move forward. Don’t get trapped trying to mimic the style or career of a particular writer, but take to heart the advice they doled out over the years. 
Recently, Writer’s Digest collected their 23 favorite quotes from famous writers. These quotes are taken from articles, interviews, and essays that span the 91 years of WD’s history. Read them, let them soak in, and then go forth and write!

“If you have a story that seems worth telling, and you think you can tell it worthily, then the thing for you to do is to tell it, regardless of whether it has to do with sex, sailors or mounted policemen.”
—Dashiell Hammett, June 1924
“The writing of a novel is taking life as it already exists, not to report it but to make an object, toward the end that the finished work might contain this life inside it and offer it to the reader. The essence will not be, of course, the same thing as the raw material; it is not even of the same family of things. The novel is something that never was before and will not be again.”
—Eudora Welty, February 1970
“You yearn to turn out a book-length, your typewriter is silently shrieking abuse, you are itching to go. First read! Read the work of top-notch writers in your field. They know how! Read first for entertainment, then reread for analysis. Soak yourself in their stuff—for atmosphere, color, technique.”
—Fred East, June 1944
“One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”
—Lawrence Block, June 1981
“The trap into which all writers have, will, or should fall into, of writing The Great American Watchamacallit, is such an uncluttered and inviting one that from time to time I’m sure even the greatest have to pull themselves up short by the Shift key to remind themselves that it is story first that they should write.”
—Harlan Ellison, January 1963
“It’s like making a movie: All sorts of accidental things will happen after you’ve set up the cameras. So you get lucky. Something will happen at the edge of the set and perhaps you start to go with that; you get some footage of that. You come into it accidentally. You set the story in motion and as you’re watching this thing begin, all these opportunities will show up. So, in order to exploit one thing or another, you may have to do research. You may have to find out more about Chinese immigrants, or you may have to find out about Halley’s Comet, or whatever, where you didn’t realize that you were going to have Chinese or Halley’s Comet in the story. So you do research on that, and it implies more, and the deeper you get into the story, the more it implies, the more suggestions it makes on the plot. Toward the end, the ending becomes inevitable.”
—Kurt Vonnegut, November 1985
“Don’t expect the puppets of your mind to become the people of your story. If they are not realities in your own mind, there is no mysterious alchemy in ink and paper that will turn wooden figures into flesh and blood.”
—Leslie Gordon Barnard, May 1923
“If you tell the reader that Bull Beezley is a brutal-faced, loose-lipped bully, with snake’s blood in his veins, the reader’s reaction may be, ‘Oh, yeah!’ But if you show the reader Bull Beezley raking the bloodied flanks of his weary, sweat-encrusted pony, and flogging the tottering, red-eyed animal with a quirt, or have him booting in the protruding ribs of a starved mongrel and, boy, the reader believes!”
—Fred East, June 1944
“We writers are apt to forget that, as the gunsmoke fogs and the hero rides wildly to the rescue, although the background of this furious action is fixed indelibly in our own minds, it is not fixed in the mind of the reader. He won’t see or feel it unless you make him—bearing always in mind that you can’t stop the gunfight or the racing horse to do the job.”
—Gunnison Steele, March 1944
“Plot, or evolution, is life responding to environment; and not only is this response always in terms of conflict, but the really great struggle, the epic struggle of creation, is the inner fight of the individual whereby the soul builds up character.”
—William Wallace Cook, July 1923
“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.”
—Leigh Brackett, July 1943
“You can’t write a novel all at once, any more than you can swallow a whale in one gulp. You do have to break it up into smaller chunks. But those smaller chunks aren’t good old familiar short stories. Novels aren’t built out of short stories. They are built out of scenes.”
—Orson Scott Card, September 1980
“Don’t leave your hero alone very long. Have at least two characters on stage whenever possible and let the conflict spark between them. There can be conflict with nature and your hero can struggle against storm or flood, but use discretion. … You could write a gripping story about a struggle between a lone trapper and a huge, clever wolf. But the wolf is practically humanized in such a story and fills every role of villain. The wolf too wants something and does something about it. A storm doesn’t want anything and that’s why its conflict with man is generally unsatisfactory. It doesn’t produce the rivalry which is the basis of good conflict.”
—Samuel Mines, March 1944
“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”
—Joyce Carol Oates, April 1986
“The writing of a mystery story is more of a sport than a fine art. It is a game between the writer and the reader. If, once in a while, a really fine book comes out of this contest, that is good; but the game’s the thing. If, on Page 4, the reader knows that the soda cracker is spread with butter mixed with arsenic, and later on this is proven to be true, then the reader has won the game. If, however, when the reader finishes the book, he says, ‘I didn’t get it—all the clues were there, plain as who killed Cock-Robin, but I didn’t get it,’ then the author has won the game. The author has to play fair, though. He has to arrange his clues in an orderly manner, so that the reader can see them if he looks hard enough.”
—Polly Simpson Macmanus, January 1962
“Authors of so-called ‘literary’ fiction insist that action, like plot, is vulgar and unworthy of a true artist. Don’t pay any attention to misguided advice of that sort. If you do, you will very likely starve trying to live on your writing income. Besides, the only writers who survive the ages are those who understand the need for action in a novel.”
—Dean R. Koontz, August 1981
“What the young writer is looking for is not a critic who will slap him on the back and say, ‘Greatest thing since O. Henry,’ but rather the one who will toss the manuscript down in disgust, with ‘You know better than that! It’s rotten! Do it all over again!’”
—Henry Sydnor Harrison, March 1923
“Make your novel readable. Make it easy to read, pleasant to read. This doesn’t mean flowery passages, ambitious flights of pyrotechnic verbiage; it means strong, simple, natural sentences.”
—Laurence D’Orsay, October 1929
“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”
—Stephen King, November 1973
“Loving your subject, you will write about it with the spontaneity and enthusiasm that will transmit itself to your reader. Loving your reader, you will respect him and want to please him. You will not write down to him. You will take infinite pains with your work. You will write well. And if you write well, you will get published.”
—Lee Wyndham, November 1962
“Genius gives birth, talent delivers.”
—Jack Kerouac, January 1962
“Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.”
—Jim Tully, October 1923

Publishing: Since We’re Kind Of On The Subject…

I jumped onto the subject of self-publishing yesterday and this morning found another related post. This one, written by author and blogger J.A. Konrath, specifically talks about how legacy houses (the big names people normally think of) treat non-blockbuster level authors. Konrath has experience on both sides of the fence and is a strident, vocal, and sometimes angry proponent of self-publishing. His love of DIY publishing has some pretty strong support, like the $500,000 he’s made off a book the publishing houses didn’t want to print.

His posts always send me straight into the whirlpool of doubt and indecision about whether or not self-publishing is for me. There’s no doubt about its viability or the possibility of creating a huge following, the doubt is whether or not it’s a good fit for me.

Like most fields, there’s no clear path to success with self-publishing. There are some ways to make things work for you, but it’s a trial and error process. There’s also no filter between what people are writing and what they’re selling. No editorial reviews, no slush pile. I’ve read some books off Amazon that had the promise of a good story, but the writing just didn’t deliver. They didn’t invest in an editor, or maybe hired one who isn’t worth their salt, and put out a final product that won’t carry them as far as it could have. I don’t want to be one of those authors. I’m not looking for perfection in my story because, really, there’s no such thing, but I want my debut novel to be the best I can make it before I release it to the world. For that I need editing. And editing services without an agent and publishing team to provide them are EXPENSIVE. At least, the good ones are and why would you spend less money on something this important?

So, yes, Konrath, I get your point. I agree and can even honestly say that I would like to have some of the creative control self-publishing offers, so I’m thinking of the middle ground. Anyone know of an indie house that publishes young adult paranormal novels and is taking submissions?

Self-Publishing: The New Dream Or Just A Stepping Stone?

Once upon a time, self-publishing held a certain stigma. Self-published authors were looked down on by the world at large and laughed at behind fake smiles as people sneered “Guess they couldn’t hack it in the real publishing industry.” Those authors were usually doomed to low sales and obscurity unless they happened upon the right person at the right time or the right marketing tool at the right price. And, historically, self-publishing was expensive and entirely out of the author’s pocket. This all adds up to one big black cloud hanging over the definition of “self-published” even though the climate of the industry has changed completely.

With the technology boom and the rise of the all-powerful internet, self-publishing has become a possible platform from which to launch yourself on the world and a handful of authors have done this successfully. One of the privileged few? Debut author Darcie Chan and her book The Mill River Recluse

I found this article online about Darcie’s rise to fame and fortune. While, today, her story isn’t exactly unique, what struck me was this section of the article:

While she would love to write full time, for now, she still sees writing as more of a hobby. When people ask her what she does for a living, she says she’s a lawyer. But she’s still holding out hope that a publisher will buy “The Mill River Recluse,” edit it and sell it in brick-and-mortar stores.

A little surprising, isn’t it? But maybe I shouldn’t be so shocked. After all, one of the main draws toward traditional publishing for me is the dream of finding a talented, devoted, invested editor who will help my writing grow and become better than I ever could have made it on my own. However, I have to say that if I’d made over $130,000 before taxes I’d probably hire an editor and invest in printing physical copies of the book. Or maybe find a smaller independent press to partner with on the physical printing and distribution. But that is beside the point.

Authors can obviously find major success with self-publishing, especially digital self-publishing, but is this the new dream or do most simply see it as a stepping stone to what they really want: the validation of publication by a recognizable brand like Little Brown, HarperCollins, et al.? According to the article,

A few major publishers made offers, but none matched the digital royalty rates of 35% to 40% that Ms. Chan makes on her own through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Typically, most publishers offer print royalties of 10% to 15% and digital royalties of 25%. Simon & Schuster offered to act as a distributor, but Ms. Chan wants the book to be professionally edited and marketed…. Ms. Liss [Darcie’s agent] says that the offers from U.S. publishers so far don’t improve much on what Ms. Chan is making on her own…. “I told Darcie, at this point you’re printing money. They’re not. Go with God, we’ll sell the second book,” Ms. Liss says.

It’s an interesting issue and I don’t think anyone can see the big picture yet, not until the landscape stops shifting. By the time we emerge from this major transition period, my guess is that the publishing industry will be completely transformed. At least, I kind of hope it will be because otherwise it might be doomed to go down in flames as the next generation of blockbuster authors gives up on the NY houses entirely and shoots straight for the digital market. However, I have been wrong in the past. What do you think might happen? Is self-publishing going to continue to be a stepping stone into the more traditional publishing world or will it become the new dream?