Monday, October 31, 2011

Part 2 NaNo - Are you ready?

(Part 1 of this blog was posted on Wednesday - regarding NaNoWriMo) by Nancy Swanson, Editor

"If one gets used to translating into a novel one's experiences, one's ideas, what one has to say becomes a novel; one is left with no raw materials for another form of literary expression. ...when I was 28 and not at all sure that I was going to carry on writing, I began doing what came most naturally to me. Instead of making myself write the book I ought to write, the novel that was expected of me, I conjured up the book I myself would have liked to read, the sort by an unknown writer, from another age and another country, discovered in an attic." ~Italian writer Italo Calvino

P. G. Wodehouse "was writing a story [...] about two young men [...] getting into a lot of trouble, and neither of them had brains enough to get out of the trouble. I thought: Well, how can I get them out? And I thought: Suppose one of them had an omniscient valet? I wrote a short story about him, then another short story, then several more short stories and novels. That's how a character grows."
About writing, he said: "Always get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a great slab of prose at the start. I think the success of every novel — if it's a novel of action — depends on the high spots. The thing to do is to say to yourself, 'Which are my big scenes?' and then get every drop of juice out of them. The principle I always go on in writing a novel is to think of the characters in terms of actors in a play. I say to myself, if a big name were playing this part, and if he found that after a strong first act he had practically nothing to do in the second act, he would walk out. Now, then, can I twist the story so as to give him plenty to do all the way through? I believe the only way a writer can keep himself up to the mark is by examining each story quite coldly before he starts writing it and asking himself if it is all right as a story. I mean, once you go saying to yourself, 'This is a pretty weak plot as it stands, but I'm such a hell of a writer that my magic touch will make it okay,' you're sunk. If they aren't in interesting situations, characters can't be major characters, not even if you have the rest of the troop talk their heads off about them."

Fran├žois Mauriac, considered one of France’s great novelists, said: "Every novelist ought to invent his own technique, that is the fact of the matter. Every novel worthy of the name is like another planet, whether large or small, which has its own laws just as it has its own flora and fauna."
And, "If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads."

Novelist R. K. Narayan,  born in India in 1906, said: "Everyone thinks he's a writer with a mission. Myself, absolutely not. I write only because I'm interested in a type of character and I'm amused mostly by the seriousness with which each man takes himself."

Perhaps not in total agreement with the above advice is the work of Belva Plain, whose critics were not always kind — one called her books "easy, consoling works of generous spirit, fat with plot and sentiment, thin in nearly every other way and almost invisible in character development." But her readers loved her books, all best-sellers. Her first book, Evergreen, was published in 1978, by which time she was a grandmother in her 60s. She wrote longhand in spiral notebooks, and produced a novel about every year or so.  ~from The Writer’s Almanac of October 9, 2011

George Mackay Brown, a Scotsman who wrote poetry, essays, fiction, and travel books, told Contemporary Authors: "I believe in dedicated work rather than in 'inspiration' [...] I believe writing to be a craft like carpentry, plumbing, or baking [...] In 'culture circles,' there is a tendency to look upon artists as the new priesthood of some esoteric religion. Nonsense — and dangerous nonsense moreover — we are all hewers of wood and drawers of water; only let us do it as thoroughly and joyously as we can."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NaNoWriMo Time

contributed by Nancy Swanson, Editor

NaNoWriMo  is coming up, and some of you are going to try again to put together the requisite number of words per day and by the end of the month. Well, good luck to you, and here are some quotations to help and encourage you, mostly from and about famous writers..

Elmore Leonard has written more than 40 novels — as soon as he finishes one, he starts on another. He's famous for his advice for writers. In 2001, he published a piece in The New York Times called "Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle." He gave 10 rules, things like "Never open a book with weather"; "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue"; "Avoid detailed descriptions of characters"; and "Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip." He wrote: "Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking or doesn't care. I'll bet you don't skip dialogue. My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." 

He said: "I feel that I learned to write Westerns by reading and rereading
 For Whom the Bells Tolls. [...] But I was not influenced by his attitude, thank God. My attitude is much less serious. I see absurdities in serious situations, influenced in this regard by Vonnegut, Richard Bissell, and Mark Harris, and this shows in my writing. It's your attitude that determines your sound, not style."

When Leonard started writing, he was also working as a copy-editor for an advertising agency. He woke up every morning at five to start writing — he wouldn't let himself turn on the coffee pot until he started to write. At work, he would stick his hand in his desk drawer and write in a blank notebook. He wrote five books and 30 short stories that way, before he quit to be a full-time writer. ~from Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac for October 11, 2011
"I would encourage you all to read, read, read. Just keep reading. And writing is another skill. It's practice. It's practice. The more you write, the better you get. Drafts--our kids are learning the first draft means nothing. You're going to do seven, ten drafts. That's writing, it's not failure, it's not the teacher not liking you because it's all marked up in red. When you get to be a good writer, you mark your own stuff in red, and you rewrite, and you rewrite, and you rewrite. That's what writing is." ~Michelle Obama in a speech on May 25, 2011

"Keep on writing, no matter what! That's the most important thing. As long as you have a job on hand that absorbs all your mental energy, you haven't much worry to spare over other things. It serves as a suit of armor." ~Playwright Eugene O’Neill

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cover Points by Angela Anderson

Everyone, yes EVERYONE, judges a book by its cover. Even when the book is written by your favorite author, you still check it out. Why? Most readers are visual and detail oriented. The cover helps complete the image in their head of what they "think" the story is about. It is then up to the written page to either fulfill or disappoint.

So what should authors be thinking about when the consider their "perfect" cover? Believe it or not, this thought process should begin as soon as you begin sketching out the storyline and your characters. If you want a cover that is not just an honest reflection of your story but also one that will help it sell, consider the following:

Scenes/locations: Can the cover artist find an acceptable representation, regardless of whether your story is set in Colonial New England, the depths of space, or contemporary Manhattan? Depending on the stock art site, this might be a challenge, offering you the choice of something that isn't "historically" accurate or a background that must be pieced together. Collages have their place in cover design, but too much is NOT a good thing and rarely looks realistic. So make it easy for your artist--stay true to your concept but offer a simplistic backdrop that can be easily replicated.

Time: Period pieces are a big draw for many readers because it puts us in a time and place we've never experienced. However, be aware that due to photo stock limitations, you may not always get an authentic representation. So, again, keep your settings general to give the artist more latitude with the images. The final product will stay truer to your vision and the reader will have an easier time buying into the idea.

Characters: Here's a challenge for you...go to your favorite stock photo site and find a voluptuous redhead with violet eyes in a white laced "pirate-style" shirt being held by a 6 foot 6 inch muscle-bound man wearing leather pants with long black hair and a shock of white just over his left eye. Nothing...yeah, I thought so. Cover artists have just as hard a time finding that "perfect" couple shot, and the job can be made even more difficult if your sexy duo is so specifically detailed. Offer good descriptions, but understand that some "people" just don't exist in the real world.

Level of heat: Asking for a barely clothed couple in an embrace so hot that it melts the screen will get you exactly that. It's vivid, eye catching, and bound to draw in the reader. For many publishers and authors, heat sells. Ensure that the cover you request can keep pace with the sensuality of the content. Otherwise, the whole package becomes a lie that the content can't live up to.

Angela Anderson
Editor/cover artist

Monday, October 17, 2011

Author / Experience Diversity

Author / Experience Diversity

I have always considered myself a very accepting person when it comes to different cultures and life choices. I try not to judge people for who they are or what they do with their life. If it works for them, and they are happy, then good for them.

Not too long ago, I attended a conference that opened my eyes to lifestyles I’d heard/read about but never really experienced firsthand. Doms and Submissives, polyamorous marriages, bondage. I realized I have led a very sheltered life. I have read about people in Dom/Sub relationships, and how some Doms will make the Sub act as their end table, or will make them eat out of dog dishes. I was fascinated at this particular conference to see a Sub being led around by a leash.

I never expected to be shunned for being straight and monogamous. I consider myself to be friendly. When I come out of my shell, I will talk to anyone. And more often than not, people respond to my smile and the gesture. However, at this conference, I had two people shun me when they found out I was straight and married to my high school sweetheart. I couldn’t understand why that would bother anyone.

There are so many different cultures, races, and lifestyles out there…so many I am ashamed to admit I know nothing about. Though my parents raised me to be accepting of everything, to never judge a person simply by the color of their skin, I remained ignorant to how they lived.

I still choose to accept that everyone makes their own choices in life, that just because they are different than me doesn’t make me better than them. It’s a lesson I think everyone needs to remember. No one will love everything that you do, or believe the same way you do. If that were the case, this world would be a boring place.

The next time you find yourself crinkling your nose at the oddness of the person you see wearing a fuzzy bunny costume hitting on the 6’6” cross dresser on the corner, take a breath and remember: they probably think you are just as odd.

Love yourself for who you are, and everything else will fall in line.

Johanna Melaragno- Editor

Crimson Rose

Monday, October 10, 2011

Did I do that?!

Hi! Callie Lynn here. First I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain!

I'd like to talk about something I've come across quite a lot recently in Black Rose submissions. I believe that for the most part this is done unintentionally and not in anyway meant to copy another author's work, but it may be construed as plagiarism or at the very least a copyright issue. So with that said, let me move on to the point.

I have noticed several story submissions on my own desk recently that have mirrored other works dangerously.

With a lot of emphasis and I might add a good amount of very good books, movies, and shows out there in the last several years on the subject of vamps and shifters, I notice more and more submissions are coming in with all too familiar themes, storylines, and even down to character and setting. While watching everything you, as an author, can in the genre you enjoy writing in the name of research, which by the way I do myself, we must keep in mind that NEVER and I do mean NEVER are we able to adopt any piece of that original work for our own. Nor may we borrow characters from those works. Characters are part of copyrighted creative works and may not be used unless express permission is given by said creator.

For instance, I have recently delved into several older vamp series which many have perhaps forgotten about and noticed similarities on some of the mythology of the creatures who we adore. "Moonlight" depicts Nick St. John as a PI gumshoe-type vamp who sleeps in a freezer and is able to move around in daylight as long as it is overcast much like those in "Twilight." "Blood Ties" goes the opposite direction with the human, Vickie Nelson, a police detective turned PI due a progressive eye disease and who partners with 450 year old vamp, Henry, a descendant of royalty who sniff out nothing but otherworldly evil-doings. These are great stories and unique in their own way. But though some of the finer points may mirror other stories you can not borrow the obvious.

Things such a daywalking, no heartbeat or pulse, changing to counterpart animal on the full moon or whenever the mood urges you is fine. No reflection or having a reflection, all fine. Needing to feed every day or once in awhile due to age, again fine. The thing is to beware of having a group of teens or adults who live in Forks that are vamps. That is Twilight to millions of people and especially Stephanie Myers who owns rights to her story and her characters.

More recently the infamous "True Blood" has give us even more unique twist to vampirism, as well, wolf/shape shifters, demons and so much more. We eat all these shows up as well the many authors such as Laurell K. Hamilton, J. R. Ward, Anne Rice, Christine Feehan, and so many others who have created such lustfully attractive monsters with hearts and hot bods. But as writers, we need to figure out a way to create unique storylines and different themes with a risk that no one has thought up yet. How do we do that while our minds are wrapped around the awesome books, TV series, or movies we have rolling around in our heads? Well, my friends, there in lies the question. Only you can answer through your own means of filtering out what's already been done.

The moral of this post is to be aware of what you write. Be careful not to weave a wonderful tale that comes too close to something that has already been done and by all means, NEVER borrow characters from other's work. You do not want to find somewhere down the line that you have stepped on someone toes or copyright.

Callie Lynn Wolfe

Senior Managing Editor

Black Rose Imprint

The Wild Rose Press