Wednesday, March 27, 2013


My mom, just to tease me, will tell me often that she is my "Biggest Fan."

Anyone who has never seen the movie Misery, don't. Anyone who has, you just cringed.

Basically, in the movie Misery, a woman finds her favorite author wrecked in his car on the side of the road, unconscious and with a broken leg. She takes him in and tends to him, only to keep him hostage until he promises to rewrite part of the book to her specifications, going so far as to break his ankles when he tries to escape.

All because she's his biggest fan.

I think I'll keep the lights on tonight.

This kind of devotion is something we'll all have to deal with at least in some part when we become published authors of any success. Less the whole kidnapping and torturing kind of devotion, but more the Facebook syndrome-- because you have a friend in common, or something in common, or a similar name, or a cool profile picture, you're automatically best friends.

It's called public relations and catering to your fans. And frankly, it's important. Your fans love you and pour their time and energy into you and your work. It would be bad taste to disregard them (especially the ones with huge mallets and disregard them would be fatal). But people who spend their money and their joy on you deserve a little kindness and recognition. So a hand to all the fans.

But sometimes the familiarity goes a little too far. Nichole Bernier wrote an article entitled On Fandom: I Love Your Book, I Love You, We're Soul Sisters, I Hate You about this "chumminess" as she puts it, asking authors to tell the stories of their favorite fan-stories. Fans say the darndest things, revisited. One of her stories included a fan telling her that
"based on my complicated description of motherhood, maybe I shouldn't have had children."
Well then.

Bernier goes on to wonder,
"Is there something proprietary that takes place in a reader's mind once he or she has spent hours and hours reading a writer's words? Or an unwritten contract between the writer and reader that opening one's veins onto the page makes you blood brothers? . . . There seems to be a growing chumminess, or at least expectation of chumminess, that exists between readers and writers."
Basically, the Facebook syndrome. The internet has opened up 'friendship' beyond interactions in person. You can meet people online, you can even date online, you can be friends with someone you've never met and never talked to. All because you have something in common, whether that be a fandom, a friend, or a favorite book. You can 'stalk' your favorite author and keep updates on all their movements and publishings and dates.

I still maintain that keeping a relationship with your fanbase is important. As a 'public' icon, whether you be a big or little fish in the author world, your fans are your bread and butter and their devotion is a gift that should be acknowledged and appreciated.

Read some of the stories that the authors have labeled the "Weirdest Things Fans Have Said to Authors" in Bernier's article. Some of them are really out there.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Throw Us A Bone

The dream of being a superlatively wealthy author is one that haunts many up-and-coming writers. I will admit to having dreamed about selling my books to a publishing company, of them being wildly successful, filling the shelves, getting front-store privilege, doing book signings, having a movie contract that actually caters to the book, having action figures, coloring books, tin I getting carried away?
Well maybe. The truth is, there is a small percentage of authors who actually make it 'big'. Have you ever looked at the numbers? There are buckets of people who want to write books. Less than 1% actually do, and then a tinier percentage than that actually get published, and then an even tinier percentage than that make it to the high end. In fact, Justine Tal Goldberg points out that, according to writer Joseph Epstein,

"'81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them — and should write it.' That’s approximately 200 million people who aspire to authorship. Excluding those who want and never do, and those who do but never publish, we’re still looking at millions of folks hungry for the literary limelight."
This doesn't mean we should give up trying, of course. But the reality and perspective that needs to be faced is that authorship and publishing is hard and it requires dedication, work, and a few meals made on ramen now and again.

However, there is good news on the horizon-- is now throwing a bone to authors. Publishers Weekly reports that Amazon is now going to start paying authors who self-publish through their platform in a quicker and more efficient manner:

"In a letter sent to agents from Jeff Belle, v-p of Amazon Publishing, the division said it now intends to pay its authors on a monthly basis, instead of every three months. Most publishers tend to pay their authors on a six-month cycle, which is something authors and agents have long complained about."
Sometimes life gets complicated, and we just can't wait for the money that we've earned. I get paid on a weekly basis at my part-time job, and while I don't work very many hours, that little bit of money every week can be a life-line. As busy as things have gotten and as tight as things have gotten, I've found myself having to time payments and paychecks down to the day, juggling my account so that everything is where it needs to be when it needs to be there. I couldn't imagine having to wait six months to be paid for the work I've done.

Amazon has now made the first step in remedying this time-lag. I hope to see this as the first of many publishing houses and platforms to do so, inspired by the desire to make authors happier people and bring some light and money to their day...or just by sheer competition. Let's face it, the publishing industry could be way tighter in terms of efficiency, and the digital age, if nothing else, is leading to that.

And as a little nugget for you in that frame of mind, books can now go green! Random House of Canada
"has published special collectors’ editions of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and Alice Munro’s Dear Life printed on paper made from straw rather than trees. The signed special editions are printed on paper that combines chlorine-free wheat and flax straw with post-consumer recycled content. The U.S. and Canada are two of the largest grain growing countries in the world, and the grain harvest produces enough left-over straw every year in both countries to keep more than 800 million trees standing."
I guess to be completely correct, this would be called going 'gold'. Can we now describe the query letter/rejection letter process as literally dividing the 'wheat from the chaff'? We'll have to beware of those books that employ a 'straw-man' argument in order to get published.

Should I stop while I'm ahead? I guess that's the last straw.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fiction vs Non-Fiction

For all you fiction writers out there-- like me-- I have a challenge for you.

My favorite genre of book is fiction: fantasy, science fiction, sometime the occasional historical fiction, young adult, adult, even children's books. I love going to new places and incredible worlds, reading about adventures and romances and dramas and magic. There's a great quote that sums it up for me utterly, by Mason Cooley:
"Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are."

As such, I love to write what I read. My personal genre is young adult fiction. I also love high fantasy. Tolkien is my hero. Science fiction is great. Don't get me started on Ursula K. Le Guin or Isaac Asimov or Lois McMaster Bujold. If you've never read anything by those authors, stop what you're doing right now and get a book. Your world will be changed.

But today's blog post isn't about what kind of genre you like. It's about what genre you should write. And the answer is: both.

If you're a fiction writer, you should take some time to write nonfiction. If you're a nonfiction writer, you should take some time to write fiction.

Why is this? Well, as a fiction writer, I can tell you that I don't particularly jump over the moon at the chance to read nonfiction. Memoirs, biographies, ok-- if they're about a person I'm really interested in. Like Tolkien (noticing a theme, here?). But on the whole you won't find me in the nonfiction section at the book store or the library. I definitely prefer Narnia to World War II.

But writing against your genre is a great way to expand your own writing style. For instance, in nonfiction you can really get characterization and details down strong. You can work on description, on dialogue, and on setting as well as inner constructs. Why is that so much better practice than doing the same thing in fiction? Because with nonfiction it's real. And being honest with yourself or with others is very hard. If you can do that, you can create fiction characters and fiction places. It's like taking a figure drawing class. If you can draw the model or the still-life, you can use that knowledge to later draw from your own mind.

You learn to be real. You learn to pay attention to what you can see around you, to the concrete details that are more than fairy dust and dragons' wings.

At the same time, all you nonfiction writers-- you need to practice writing fiction. Stretch your imagination. Just because it isn't real or isn't yet feasible doesn't mean it couldn't be. Use the knowledge you have of the real world to create a world that is unreal. That's how the original masters of hard science fiction did it. They were scientists, physicists, astrophysicists, engineers, etc. They knew what was possible and therefore stretched the limits of what could be possible. And if you read some of the very early science fiction, many of them were even prophetic in nature.

Nonfiction teaches you how to look. Fiction teaches you how to look beyond. Both, I think, are important.

I have taken many writing classes in my collegiate time, and dabbled in many different stories and writing styles for over a decade. I took a fiction writing class early on; now I am taking a nonfiction writing class. It is helping my writing substantially. I am learning how to express the real in conjunction with the fantastical way I view the world. It is forcing me to be concrete and literal rather than enthusiastic with the fiction glitter, which isn't becoming in any story.

Now I am working on what I believe will be the novel to get published, for me. It's a rewritten fairy tale, done historical fiction style. The historical aspect is slight, because that's not my favorite genre, but it fits into the category of urban fantasy, which is the big craze these days. My original trilogy was high fantasy, which is an overloaded genre. Hence my venture into urban fantasy. Here I am connecting fiction and nonfiction.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sorry my friends...

At the moment it is nearly 9 pm, I have a cup of coffee to my right, and further to my right is an agenda, scribbled to near opacity, a phone somewhere, a stack of scattered and disorganized papers-- directions, blank sheet of paper, a history of a company, a sample of my copy-editing work, a chart, a book mark, a notepad, my wallet, and somewhere also an unwrapped 16 gigabyte flashdrive...

I had a great time at the Divas in Defense self-defense workshop, but now I am a bit behind. I have a paper to write, a proposal to form, The Merchant of Venice to read, a charcoal drawing to complete, the research on this company to finish, and sleep in there somewhere I'm sure. Hence the coffee.

As such, I'm going to leave you with some glowing encouragement and then sign off.

I'm so busy because I have an interview tomorrow-- yes, a whole, real, official interview for a full-time job! I'm so busy and so excited about it because this interview is with a publishing company, something I had given up on because of the small number of them in the city. I have been almost exclusively (but not quite) concentrating my job search efforts elsewhere-- but not quite. My Scotch-Irish-German stubbornness does factor in there of course.

Then out of the blue, my career services counsellor sends me a job opportunity-- 8 minutes down the road from me, at a publishing company for a full-time, entry level copy-editing job. And I got the interview.

Breathe. Just breathe.

As you can imagine, I'm wild with excitement. It's not a job until it's a job, but it's a chance. This is my dream, right here. I've been wanting to go into publishing since I was in high school. I've been an obsessed writer since the 6th grade. And I've been a ravenous reader since I could,

So, cup of coffee in hand, let's get to work! Wish me luck, prayers and good vibes and all that-- I'll see you on the other side.