Orson Scott Card and me…

There’s been a kerfluffle lately about Orson Scott Card being hired by DC to write a new Superman comic – In a nutshell, Card’s an outspoken opponent of gay marriage and people really aren’t happy about him doing pretty well anything, much less lending his voice to one of the great American icons. I suspect it’s probably because they’re afraid he’ll portray Superman as anti-gay, or at least intolerant of others. (like this comic here!)

Me… I’m sort of betwix and between. While I respect the fact that people are going to have opposing opinions on things that, to me, would seem darned simple, they have the right to be wrong. It’s part of that whole freedom thang…

But… I’m also leery of the warning it presents – that as an author I must be constantly aware of what I say and do in public because it CAN come back to bite me. That’s one of the reasons you really don’t find much of my personal life in these posts or the ones on other blogs or on my Facebook page – I really don’t want to put out too much of my life in case people disagree with my views and my stories become overshadowed by my personal beliefs.

Take Card, for example. I can’t re-read Ender’s Game now without knowing where he’s coming from and wondering if I’m missing some subtle subtext in here against homosexuality. Or if the money I paid for the book is going to fund some anti-gay marriage group. In the end it’s easier just to NOT buy the book than to worry about it.

I’d like to think that one’s literary works should supercede their personal lives. I don’t need to know about J.D. Robb’s life outside of her writing and I don’t need to know who’s zooming who at the Hugo Awards. What I want is my stories to be enjoyed (hopefully) for what they are, not because I’m Catholic (extremely lapsed) or Canadian (10+yrs in the US, however) or married.

So… I’m not sure what to make of this Card thang. I can see both sides but I still don’t know what the right decision is. I *do* know that it’s a reminder to keep a close eye on what I put out there about me because I don’t want my works to be judged by my values or lack thereof.

Time for tea.

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NaNoWriMo and You! #Nanowrimo

As we rush towards November again I thought I’d share a few thoughts about National Novel Writing Month and how I’ve done it – and survived!

Both “Blaze of Glory” and “Blood of the Pride” started off as NaNo projects and later on became successful series with two different publishers – so it can be done and done well!

The trick, of course, is how to do it well… so here are my tips on how to survive November!

1)      Speed is Life.

It’s very easy to look at the calendar and do the math. 50K words divided by 30 days is 1667 words a day, right?

WRONG.

Yes, in theory that’s right. 30 x 1667 will give you the right number of words… but let’s be honest – that isn’t going to work.

November is a month of pre-holiday insanity. In addition to the American Thanksgiving ripping four days out of the calendar (depending on your celebrations) there’s also Black Friday for the rabid shoppers.

You don’t really have thirty days.

You *might* have twenty days if you pull out the weekends (because most people get busy on weekends with family and oh, that turkey thing, and don’t get their word allotment for the day.

So don’t just do 1667 words a day and kick back. If you can do more, DO MORE.  Write until you drop so you have a safety cushion in case (and when) you lose a day. Don’t get caught playing catch-up because you don’t need the stress.

And you can always just go out for Thanksgiving dinner, right?

2)      No, It’s Not Ready for PrimeTime.

We all know the horror stories – come December 1st the publishers and agents find their email boxes stuffed with queries and outlines for the Best Novel Evah that’s just been completed a few hours earlier.

Do I really have to point out the obvious? Yes, “Blaze of Glory” was a NaNo project but it was nowhere near ready for submission. It took a year’s worth of editing plus a R&R to get it into shape and accepted by Samhain Publishing.

Your special snowflake of a novel is not ready. I don’t care how many character charts you filled out or how complex you drew the map of your fantasy world or how in-depth your outline is.

It’s. Not. Ready.

Put it in a drawer and enjoy the holidays. Mark down on the calendar for January 2nd to pull it out and look at it with a fresh eye and start editing.

And, really – why ruin so many peoples’ holiday? Trust me, publishers and agents are busy enough through December without having to slog through a virtual CN Tower of novels, queries and outlines from NaNo winners. They have enough from their regular authors and clients to worry about.

3)      Don’t get swallowed up with the hype.

It’s easy to get sucked into the Internet; it’s the monster under the bed grabbing at every writer’s ankles. We check the email, we check our websites, we check our rankings, we check our Facebook and Twitter, we check our email… we go back to check on the NaNo boards about who’s in our area, who’s in our city, who’s in our state and check on local write-ins and can we get there and chat and check our email…

You get the idea.

And while NaNoWriMo offers a GREAT amount of support both in the forums and through local writing groups it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the chitchat and forget the main reason for being here.

Writing.

When I was in Second Life there were active groups who would invite writers to put their virtual avatars in a spot and plonk away at a virtual typewriter with others. With a scoreboard to put your word count into it was a great support group and let you go into another world to do your writing.

But as with all things it was easy to get distracted and away from the word count. And as we all know, getting those words down is the one single important thing about this entire writing exercise.

So keep visiting the boards, keep hanging out on the virtual caravan – but don’t forget that they’re all there to support you FINISHING THAT NOVEL. Not to let you make new friends and recruit possible beta readers or clients or readers.

4)      Don’t Panic.

It’s very easy to fall behind the first few days or weeks and begin panicking, tossing your arms up in the air and declaring the month a write-off and a waste and you’re a failure as a writer and…

Stop.

Just. Stop.

Panicking, that is. Not writing.

Keep. Writing.

Say you get sidetracked and only manage 200 words a day instead of over a thousand. Say it takes you three months instead of one to finish that first draft.

It’s Okay.

It’s OKAY to take longer than thirty days to do your first draft. Life has a way of tossing crap our way that can get in the way of getting 50K in 30 days.

But that doesn’t mean you stop writing. That means you keep writing into December and into January and as long as it takes to finish the book. You’ve done the work, created the world and written the outline and given birth to the characters – and now you’re going to leave them because of a lousy word count.

Don’t.

NaNo is a great way to give your writing a kick in the pants but it’s all about the long run – the editing, the rewriting and then the query letter, the submission and then more rewriting and editing. Don’t lose sight of the goal because you tripped over a hard word count and can’t finish it by December 1st.

Go forth and write, peeps.

And keep on writing!

Let’s be careful out there…

It used to be that the only thing a writer had to worry about was getting the butt-in-chair and writing the darned story – yes, we worried about selling it to the publisher but that was secondary, to my eyes, to getting the story done.

And, of course, as soon as you finished it the hunt began for a publisher. Unfortunately within the last few decades a new industry arose, the idea of vanity publishing and the less-than-honest publishers who would try and sell you the idea that they would publish your epic work and pay you a whole dollar, letting you skip over that whole “traditional” publishing system that just didn’t like new authors, yatta yatta yatta.

Vanity publishers were at least honest. You pay them and they print your work. No editing, no promotion unless you paid for it – it was in its time the precursor to self-publishing to a degree. But there were plenty of vanity houses that would demand up to $5K from the author before printing up crappy copies and handing them off to the author who would then try to resell them and break even, much less make a profit.

With the rise of self-publishing there seems to be a growing wave of scoundrels out to get money from authors without delivering a product. Instead of promising to publish their books and make the author rich they offer cheap book covers and editing and promotion only to disappear when the author asks for the final product.

The Kindleboards are full of sob stories about people paying for cover art and never hearing from the artist again or editing or other resources. It seems that scam artists have moved away from running their own publishing houses and now lurk on self-publishing boards to pull in authors looking for help to make their self-publishing books look as good as possible.

I’ve already written about when small publishers go bad – I’ll admit that I got taken in by one of these small pubs many, many years ago. I leapt at the idea of being published and while I didn’t pay for anything I got little to no editing and no distibution other than what I hawked myself. And not being a super salesman I didn’t sell much. In fact when I wrangled the rights away the publisher whined because they hadn’t included a clause holding back a reserve against returns and in fact they were actually *out* money. I pointed out it was their problem, not mine, and thought nothing of it until a year later when I received notice they’d sold an ebook copy of a book that I thought had disappeared. I squawked, they threatened legal action over the money they’d lost on my returns, I shot back that I’d love to go to court over the crappy contract and the fact they were selling my book illegally. Silence ensued. But that publisher is still out there among others appealing to new authors to come and submit their books – and some still do.

If you’re self-publishing or if you’re looking for a trade publisher I can’t recommend the Absolute Write boards enough, especially the Bewares forum. Here you can ask for help to find out who’s good, who’s bad and who’s an author’s worst nightmare. The Kindleboards are also an excellent resource for the self-publisher looking for references and resources to find good and reliable help to put their work looking as good as possible.

No matter which route you choose, be it self-publishing or trade, there’s unscrupulous people out there who will want your money and not want to give anything back. Let’s be careful out there, folks – do your research and stay safe!

On buying reviews…

It’s been an interesting weekend thanks to this article in the NYT – in a nutshell it details how people, usually self-published authors, can and do purchase reviews so that they end up with a stack of glowing five-star reviews on Amazon.com. The biggest revelation is that John Locke, long considered to be one of the biggest self-pub successes, not only admits to using this service to obtain over 300+ positive reviews but shows no alarm or concern that he did.

Frankly I’m not sure what to make of this. I was raised in what I think was a pretty ethical home and while I’ve done and said things that I regret later (it’s a Catholic thang) I can’t say I’ve ever entertained the idea of paying someone to review my books. It’s just not on my moral compass to do so. I’ve given books away on Goodreads and know that they’re expected to give a review back but that doesn’t guarantee a good review, just a review.

At the moment I have five books on Amazon – the three Blaze of Glory superhero books, my steampunk romance Wild Cards and the first in the Blood of the Pride series along with a few self-pubbed short stories. Most of them have reviews but not all – and while it’d be nice to have *more* reviews I can’t bring myself to consider paying out money for an unknown person to vomit five stars on my books to encourage others to buy it – because to me it’s under false pretenses. If you like my books you’ll hopefully leave a review – but if you buy my books based on a paid reviewer leaving glowing praise because he/she was paid to say it…

And I’m seeing plenty of denouncements of Locke’s methods I see almost as many writers pointing out that, well, the Big Six do it and why can’t *they* do it? After all, if we’re all breaking the rules then it’s all okay, right?

*shakes head*

I don’t get it.

Maybe I’m just too naive to be a writer in this Brave New World where everyone’s expected to break the rules in order to sell their books. I’d much rather have only a few reviews from honest people who liked my books than pay money for drumming up false reviews and thus generating sales that may be putting money in my pocket but selling snake-oil stories to unsuspecting readers who might not even consider my books if it weren’t for the glowing reviews.

But that’s just me. And if you’ve left a review of one of my works on Amazon or on GR I thank you. Because I know they’re legitimate and honest and while I may not be making millions like John Locke at least I can sleep at night.

Although I wouldn’t mind having my pillowcase stuffed with ones…

😉

 

DC Comics -You don’t get it…

I woke up this morning to find this in my news – seems that DC Comics has decided to dump Lois Lane from Superman’s life and pair him up with Wonder Woman because, doncha know, it’s just the Right Thing To Do.

Again I find myself weeping at the total lack of intelligence among the men who run DC.

Let me explain it for these man-boys in simple terms so they can get it – while their attempts to get more female customers keep crashing and failing.

First – they destroyed the marriage between Superman and Lois Lane because it was just too hard to write a happy married couple. Yeah, right. Too hard to show people in domestic bliss. Because there’s no examples in real life of this ever happening – and anyone who’s ever BEEN in a happy marriage can tell you that it’s not all roses and fine dining.

Now they’re tossing Lois Lane to the side because, well… I guess she’s just boring. Being human and all.

News flash – that’s what brought women readers TO your comic. Lois Lane personified the tough go-get-‘er-done gal who managed to balance work and her love for a certain clumsy reporter, something many women can relate to. We see ourselves in Lois’s trying to love a man who is definitely impossible to read at times, being an alien and all that. We love the idea of having a strong, tough man who could have ANY woman in the universe but settles for a woman reporter who keeps getting into danger trying to do the right thing and tell the truth – even if it might kill her.

THAT is why we need Lois Lane to be with Superman.

Nothing against Diana – she’s a great gal but, as usual, DC Comics seems to be made up of fanboys all still living in their parents’ basement and drawing their fantasy women when they’re not playing video games.

Between this and the Starfire debacle it’s no wonder that DC is losing readers. Especially women.

I love to read comics. I’ve loved to read comics since I was a few years old and learning how to read by lying on the floor with the Sunday comics and spelling out words. But once again I feel there’s no place in this brand new fanboy world for women looking for something to buy and enjoy.

DC – you done us wrong. Again.