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Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Partly because it’s National Poetry Month and partly because a fan sent me some surprising poetry centered around unknown creatures, I give you a sample of the work of Jacob Gene Lenhardt of Menasha. This is not sweet or sentimental work, nor is it some sort of disguised sighting report. It is dark, a tad disturbing and I think it comes from some interior place that witnesses occasionally hint at but seldom know how to express. I found myself responding to these lines on a visceral level, and thought some of you might appreciate the chance to do so as well.

Poetry, I remind you again, is the most personal and subjective form of writing and not everyone’s cup of Starbuck’s. But if you’re game for a quick alternate look at the unknown, read on:

 Street Lantern
The snow apes that frequent our
mill-pond are losing their hair; it gets
caught in clumps when they
crawl under the barbwire
or gathers in the
basement drain during
spring floods. It’s because
of the shit I dump
in there to keep them
away or kill them off
but it only makes them
dumber and stronger
throwing up all over
and bleeding internally.
When I’m reading
my daughter a story at twilight
it gives me a stomach-ache
to see her eyes widen
over my shoulder
dancing with those
faint green lights;
I have to leave the room
to tell my mom
not to go out there
until the ship is gone.
Jacob Gene Lenhardt, by permission

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I love communicating with other authors, aspiring or established. Along with artists and Lhasa apsos they are my favorite people. But I recently received an email from a would-be author, of the kind that makes me say, “Oh, fudge,” and then go eat about a pound of said substance. The email was from a distant relative’s acquaintance who heard I’d had a few books traditionally published and wanted me to tell him how he could get his book traditionally published, too. I wish I knew!

 Well, actually I do know. Do a mountain of work and research to make sure your book is well-written, compelling and has an audience, and then do a lot more hard work and research to find agents or publishers who are looking for that type of book, and then do even more hard work and research to learn how to properly sell it to them. And don’t expect it to happen by next Tuesday. If it happens at all. 

I learned all this the hard way, and it entails far more than I could cram into one e-mail. Besides, I’m not necessarily worthy! Just having books published doesn’t make me anyone’s career expert or a fairy godmother even if I do like magic wands and pixie dust. And I’m still learning, meself.

 But luckily for him, me and everyone else, in the past three or four years many first-rate agents, writers, and publishers on the blogosphere and social media sites have created a cyber-university wherein anyone can earn a virtual doctorate in Book Authorology by absorbing all the amazing FREE advice and insights a humanoid brain can hold, plus so much more it will slop right out onto your Live to Write t-shirt! I cannot post loudly enough about what a valuable development this is for every aspiring writer. I surely wish it had been there ten years ago when I was beginning my own adventures with books. Its vastness, however, can be daunting. 

To get started, I told the emailer, mine the gemmy topics listed in the sidebar of top blog dog Nathan Bransford. Go deep. Then there are the perennially fresh and useful insights of agent Rachelle Gardner. I also subscribe to blogs like those of Victoria Mixon, Guide to Literary Agents and the crazy-useful Querytracker which puts powerful search-and-record tools at your callused fingertips. The esteemed pros at literary agencies such as Dystel and Goderich, including my own incredible agent, Jim McCarthy, also often take turns sharing their wisdom. All of these sites include favorite industry links that you may combine exponentially to create your own How to Succeed in Publishing and Subsume the Universe Manual.

What makes all of this even more helpful is the opportunity to get personal. Most

True Jedi Enlightenment

 sites have comment sections and/or community forums filled with posts from other intelligent folks. Also, search for and follow members of the huge writing community on Twitter and then interact in real time for true Jedi enlightenment. So many people are already doing this that I can’t believe everyone doesn’t know about the depth of the Web-Lit explosion, but the emails I receive – and I’m not even an agent or editor — from unaware beginners tell me they either have no clue or have failed to take full advantage. (Another came in while I was writing this!)

 I knew that this wasn’t what the nice and understandably hopeful e-mailer wanted to hear. What he – perhaps unconsciously — wanted me to say was, “Sure, even though I don’t know chickpeas about you or your book, let me set you right up!” It makes me feel bad that I haven’t the power to get anyone else’s book published, and that in turns makes me eat more fudge. And sooner or later I’ll end up on a reality show for obese writers called Pride and Fudge-udice, or The Biggest Wordsmith.

 So that I may avoid such a fate, I encouraged this potentially best-selling author to delve into all the wonderful things mentioned above, and then come back with specific questions I still might not be able to answer. I haven’t heard back, so either he is unhappy OR he has become one with the online writing world and is even now empowering his own path to publication. I do hope he chose the latter.

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Because I adore all things gnomish — especially after having spent a year writing a YA novel about a warrior gnome’s quest to follow his beloved across the US even though he is too short to drive — I’m pretty excited about Chuck Sambuchino’s new book, When Garden Gnomes Attack.

I am even more excited that it is going to be featured in the upcoming issue of Reader’s Digest. I am taking this as an implicit promise that this venerable publication will next feature  werewolves, and then perhaps (in turn) faeries, goatmen, mothmen, Bigfoot, hellhounds and ogres. Considering that these subjects are my bread and nectar, bringing gnomes to the forefront of public consciousness bodes very well for me and for other writers of Strange. Chuck Sambuchino, I salute you!

Besides, I own a few garden gnomes myself (although Oskar, hero of my novel The Kobold finds them ghoulish) and several times I swear I have seen the one holding the sharp spade twitch a bit when the dog or I walked past.

For the record and for comparison between the garden variety gnome and the real thing, my reference drawing of Oskar the Kobold is below. His story is complete and available, in case anyone wonders.

Oskar, the Kobold, a warrior gnome in America

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Whee, win prizes! Get critiques, free books and maybe an agent who will fall in love with your 50-word Best Last Sentence Ever! What’s not to love ? Contests are generally good for all involved, but before I will spend my valuable writing time to come up with a decent entry, I think hard about certain criteria.

For instace, this blog post will help qualify me to  enter Guide to Literary Agents Fourth Dear Lucky Agent Contest for Middle Grade and YA books http://bit.ly/99cnKG

What made me decide this particular contest was worthy? Here are those aforementioned criteria:
1. It is run by a reputable website (love GLA)
2. The prize, a ten-page agent crit, is worth my time and effort
3. I have a finished product (MG fantasy novel) that is ready for some professional feedback
4. Entry requirements – 2 links and 150-200 words – are not too onerous
5. It has been a while since the last one I entered
6. My entry suits the guidelines – in this case, must be a completed MG or YA novel.

There is also an element of networking in any well-structured contest that attracts me, as well, and I am glad to help promote a blog that I use and enjoy.

There. I’m now officially entered, and may the best teen protagonist prevail!

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As an artist and recovering overachiever, I always try to offer something original in the Christmas cards I send every year. And since becoming embroiled in the mystery of unknown animal sightings — especially the canine and lupine variety — cryptid forms often sneak into my yearly greetings. I am still working on this year’s, but here are a few ghost cards of Christmases past:

My fave so far; sort of a Native American influence wedded to the Noel carol:

Then there is the photographic approach, requiring cooperative family. This was taken about three years ago and my hair is weirder than the beast…

And finally, crossing the species divide, I had to use a drawing to depict this guy as he will NOT stand still for a photo

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Unintentional Writing Tips

If your gift is crochet, better to make a great doily than a lousy parachute.

You know you are obsessed with the craft of writing when random quotes all seem to apply to your work-in-progress. Here’s a baker’s dozen from one crazed, revelatory evening with my thesaurus of quotations:

1. “By labor fire is got out of a stone” – Dutch proverb: Exactly describes the process of my novel revision.

2. “To really know someone is to have loved and hated him in turn” – Marcel Jouhandeau: = recipe for a believable character?

3. “The mind of man is more intuitive than logical, and comprehends more than it can coordinate.” – Vauvenargues: So THAT’S why my plot structure sucks!

4. “Pour not water on a drowning mouse.” – T. Fuller: Dear agent, I know you meant well with that query rejection, but…

5. “Little by little does the trick.” Aesop: 500 words/day WILL a novel make, given enough days.

6. “Alternatives, & particularly desirable alternatives, grow only on imaginary trees.” – S. Bellow: And thus, I write fantasy.

7. “It’s absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.” O. Wilde: Substitute “books” for “people.”

8. “Men perish because they cannot join the beginning with the end.” – Alcmaeon: Substitute “books” for “men.”

9. “The man who suspects his own tediousness is yet to be born.” – T.B.Aldrich: I definitely need more beta readers.

10. “By the husk you may guess at the nut.” T. Fuller: Truly, let the pros do your cover.

11. “He that is everywhere is nowhere.” T. Fuller: FOCUS!

12. “Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death.” – Pascal: Let the protagonist lounge, and the Story Mortician will come a-knocking.

13. “Never fall out with  your bread and butter.” – English Proverb: This either means don’t eat toast over your laptop, or take care switching genres. Equally useful!

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My Evening Adventuress costume

Me as "Evening Adventuress"

Steampunk costumes are glorious things. My own effort was not contest-worthy (though I still had fun wearing it), but I was blown-like-a-zeppelin-in-a-hurricane away by the grand prize winners; a wheelchair tricked out  with everything from a dangling faux gaslight to a metal-tubing cupholder, and a man with a wooden cabinet backpack that had moving gears, Tesla lights, and an array of other steamish objects too vast to describe here.

My quick take-aways from the weekend:

Victorian-era clothing looks great on every age group, with the possible exception of corsets worn as sole top. A corset-fail pictorial would have been horrendously easy to document.

Most SF/F fans believe Bigfoot is also SF/F, judging by the Mystery Animal Panel.

Autographing tables really should be located someplace near the attendees.

Girl Genius is a funny and top class comic.

Panelists in the know mentioned Tobias Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi and Catherynne M. Valente  as some of their fave, upcoming novelists. My Amazon wishlist runneth over.

Concensus from the 2012 Apocalypse panel I sat on was that the big change will be a spiritual transformation rather than an all out Armageddon as in the movie. Whew! I can drive again without checking for yawning sinkholes to Hell every two minutes. And does this mean anyone can be Pope in 2012?

It is possible to go an entire weekend eating nothing but Con Suite and Green Room food. And those who do, really appreciate it.

With the exception of one argumentative dealer, SF/F people are the nicest and most mannerly of crowds. Maybe it’s because we have so much practice at keeping our monsters in our heads where they belong.

windycon 007

WindyCon36 attendees

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