Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Author Interview

I got interviewed!

Find the original blog post (and the rest of the interview) on Far-Sight Fiction here:

How exciting!

Tell us about your writing process and where the beta readers come into it.

Well, my writing process can be rather fluid. Generally, though, I come up with an idea and do all of my research at the front. A lot of brainstorming happens during this time with my editor. I’ll throw ideas around, we’ll discuss plausibility and whether or not something is too far-fetched, and eventually I’ll have between 20 and 30 pages of strict resources and randomly generated thoughts. For the most part I don’t outline extensively. I have a formula that I use for the number and size of my chapters to help me reach and then stay within my page/word counts. I jot down a paragraph or some bullet points of what needs to happen in each chapter, if I know, and then I start writing.

I have two beta-readers who read each chapter as it is finished in its full, messy, first draft goodness. They don’t edit for style, grammar, or functionality, unless there is something seriously egregious that I let slip by. Mostly they ask questions, verify that they understand the story correctly, and provide feedback, maybe a few thoughts if something isn’t very clear. They keep me honest about my goals (where’s the next chapter, eh?!) and they also help nudge me along if I seem to be straying from the path.

After the book is written, my editor will do a complete read of the raw draft. At this time the grammatical and stylistic errors will be notated and corrected, and any last tweaks to the flow of the story will be suggested. By this time, though, most of the major story flaws have already been noticed by the chapter-by-chapter beta readers. The goal is to send as clean and correct a manuscript to the editor as possible; extensive rewrites should occur during the writing process beforehand. If I did my job correctly, editing should always just be editing.

What are some concrete benefits that you have experienced by having beta readers?

No one lives in a vacuum. And even if you think it, you don’t always have the best ideas. Sometimes you can stagnate with no real resources for how to get out of this plot hole you’ve created. Sometimes you just don’t like a character, and a beta reader can tell you that character is their favorite and you’d better not touch anything—or their least favorite and yes, you do need to change it. Basically, beta readers help get you out of your own skull and to see things from a fresh perspective. Your readers are going to be forming opinions on your book anyway—what author wouldn’t want to know what some of those thoughts might be as they’re going along?

A beta reader may have a good suggestion, or they may say just the right thing, turning on that light bulb and getting you working again. Beta readers also, as I said before, keep you honest. You can’t do much dithering if you know your readers are waiting at the end of the line for that next chapter you promised them. Procrastination is a writer’s worst enemy. In my own experience, writer’s block, lack of inspiration, plot holes, anything that causes a delay in writing has nothing at all to do with the book. It’s all a hidden form of procrastination that then ends up in twenty games of lost Solitaire. Writers may not write every day; they may not write every week. What they write may not be good, it may be amazing. But writers do write, and beta readers help me get that writing on the page, good or bad. Rough drafts are allowed to stink. But you can’t finish a book if you don’t just giddy up and write it.

Another benefit is that, personally, I have the tendency to over-rewrite. If I could, I’d edit forever and end up getting nowhere. Beta readers have allowed me to throw that perfectionism to the winds—and as a result, my production timeline has gone through the roof. I wrote three books in the last two years and I have another planned to begin later this summer. And it’s the best writing I’ve ever done.

When you have a beta reader, there’s no time to agonize over perfecting the book the first time. Do your job and let them do theirs. Once that chapter is finished, don’t reread it, don’t edit it, don’t even look at it. Just send it along. They’ll let you know what’s what, and then you can go back and make tweaks. But at the same time, you have to keep pushing forward. They’re waiting for that next chapter.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Nocturne Final Review

Hello all! Here I am, finishing up the book review that I started in last week's post--

Amanda DeWees' newest book, Nocturne for a Widow, is vastly entertaining and consuming. It took me about two days to read the first half, and as such I decided to write a "pre-review". Blame moving and wedding planning and other "responsibilities" on how long it took me to get through even that much...can reading 8 hours a day be a responsibility? I will gladly take that one on.

In any case, the second half of the book took me about three hours to read, as I could not put the novel down.

Ms. DeWees has a tendency to do this to me. Her first book I purchased when I read the intro that was available on the webpage, finished, and thought "Wait! What? That's it!? No! I need more!!!" And so my readership of gothic romance novels began.

Ms. DeWees certainly hasn't disappointed with her newest book. The two main characters are witty, sharp-tongued, and intricately likable. Although the main hero is not without his punch-able moments.

I guess that was the thing that attracted and intrigued me most about Nocturne. Sybil Ingram, the heroine, is vastly engaging, unique, and funny throughout the story. Her struggles and yet indomitable will to put up with all that life throws her is appealing. Roderick Brooke, the hero, is included in that list of struggles. He is proud, loud, and infinitely determined to get this actress woman out of his life. He's so frustrating that there were several moments I wanted to throttle him. And even more, I couldn't put the book down. How was Ms. DeWees going to bring these two together?

In most stories of this nature, the head-butting couple end up being thrown together in their love for each other all in one moment. In Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice and Benedick are caught when letters declaiming their potential love for each other are read aloud-- even when not five seconds previously they were declaiming the exact opposite. It's very quick and sudden. While effective, I've always found such a method rather unconvincing (and don't understand me: in my mind, Shakespeare is the highest of all theater). If ever someone annoyed me that much, you can be sure I wouldn't spend enough time with them to fall in love in the first place.

But Ms. DeWees captured a believable, seamless, and absolutely convincing progression of romance between the hero and the heroine. Their repartee turns from pointed and biting-- to sardonic and understanding-- to finally even a bit playful. Throughout the book, their level of understanding of each other as one and the same species is not only amusing but also new weight and also new gentleness to their teasing. In the end it is absolutely clear that there is no other way their relationship could be...and Ms. DeWees depicted it splendidly.

I am already anticipating the next novel in the DeWees repertoire, and I know it won't disappoint. For now, I suppose I will have to be patient.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Coming Up...

Hey Guys!

So I was going to write a book review this week, but the business of going to press at work in combination with a birthday and the long process of moving made it so that I only got about halfway done with the book in question. Still, I figured I'd give you a bit of an "in-progress" preview before completing the full book review next week.

The newest from author Amanda DeWees (the first writer to teach me that "gothic romance" was not the overly dramatic spook stories I had previously supposed but a genre that I could enjoy), Nocturne for a Widow is a tie-in book to her earlier With this Curse -- although the two books can be read completely separately as stand-alone. Nocturne picks up with a character who was introduced on the side in Cuse (which I devoured in a matter of two was one of those moments where I read the few pages available online and, as I reached the end, realized I could not wait a minute more without reading on):

Ms. Sybil Ingram, actress extraordinaire, is now a newly engaged retiree. However, her nuptials are not as purely happy as one would wish them to be. She leaves England for America trailed by rumor, only to find upon her arrival that her husband and her new home are not what she had thought or hoped. Alcott Lammle, the wealthy hotel magnate to whom she was promised, has fallen into financial ruin and declining health during their engagement and Sybil's journey across the sea -- and dies on their wedding night.
Widowed, nearly penniless, and unable to return to England, the determined diva sets out to stake a claim on Brooke House, an eccentric neo-Gothic manor in the wilds of the Hudson River Valley. She soon finds, however, that a ghostly presence wants her gone. Even worse, her claim is challenged by the most insolent, temperamental, maddeningly gorgeous man she's ever met: Roderick Brooke, a once-famous former violinist whose career ended in a dark scandal.
What follows is a battle of wits and steel between Sybil and Roderick as both attempt to retain their claims upon the house, made tenuous by the presence of the other. Their chemistry can easily be described as Shakespearean, darting barbs and pertness back and forth under a guise (sometimes not) of politeness. They are the Gothic Petruchio and Kate, or Benedick and Beatrice.

I haven't yet seen how this battle will unfold, nor how this ghostly presence will resolve itself. Some very spooky action at a distance occurred with a valise and a staircase. Being alone at night while reading some of Ms. DeWees' work -- although not graphic, overt, or gratuitous in any way -- can be a tad hair raising, and I found myself sinking a bit further beneath the blanket under which I was huddled. Ms. DeWees does follow, of course, with just the right amount of recovery for the reader, without dampening that ghostly mood, and I cannot wait to continue the exploration of the haunted Brooke House and the fiesty Roderick and Sybil.

Until I do finish, here are some other reviews by avid readers of Nocturne for a Widow:

"[DeWees brings] delicious humor to the forefront, creating characters and a plot that balance classic Gothic suspense and lighthearted humor so deftly that she nearly creates an entirely new genre -- the cozy Gothic romance." --Sweet Rocket
"Amanda DeWees is a gothic romance gem. In many ways -- the suspense, the humor, and the light, sweet romance -- DeWees reminds me of classic Mary Stewart and Barbara Michaels that just isn't written anymore. The writing is elegant but doesn't detract from the atmosphere and characters it builds, who (aside from the totally evil single-minded villain in classical Gothic fashion) are very believable and multi-faceted." --Volatilisanguis

And a sample of the wonderful, witty, and winsome writing of Ms. Dewees? I thought you'd never ask:
No longer was I confined to the purgatory of solitude waiting. She who has an enemy, after all, is never lonely.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Longest Hiatus Of All


So hey guys -- it's been a minute since I've posted. I'm almost ashamed to look at the date of my last letter to you all. Er, that. Yeah. You have a blog, remember? A blog? That thing you write in about books and publishing and editing and the imaginative world? I could get a dictionary for you. I'm sure Merriam Webster has it these days.

The things that have happened in the past 6 months (gah! Really?!). Well there have been holidays, and Saturdays, and other days that end with the word "day". There has been sunshine and storm, and many plates spinning to keep it all together. To my credit, there have been some very hectic, very amazing, very time-consuming things.

For one, I got engaged. Let me tell you, planning a wedding and a life is pretty intensely involved. But wonderful and incredible and the most exciting journey I've ever set out on! He loves books, he loves music, he loves The Lord of the Rings -- a match made in heaven. And I thank God every day.

The conclusion in The Hobbit trilogy of films came out in the last 6 months. I saw it in theaters at least 5 times with my fiance, and I have to say it's the best of the three. Yes, there are things I could and do and have criticized heavily about the films, being such a strong fan of the first LOTR trilogy and of all of Tolkien's works in general. And yet, watching them again and again (and back to back, which also happened in the past 6 months!) I can really appreciate just how good they are, despite and indeed because of all their foibles. I want Peter Jackson to do The Silmarillion next, or Unfinished Tales. How about Turin Turambar and Morgoth (you know, only the guy that Sauron, the dark lord, the master of the rings, worked for...!) and the beginning of the world?

For two, I wrote another book. You all know about Shifted and Roaring Boys, which I finished before I went dark on this blog. Old Blood, a 13th-century retelling of Red Riding Hood, is in what I would call "post-production" right now. Final edits, final tweaks, all in all polishing and grooving. I really went to town on this one, and its the darkest of the three, really exploring the line between good and evil and the nature of a sympathetic villain-- while still remaining undeniably a villain. You know when you see a person going towards a closet or a basement in a horror movie, and you're just yelling and throwing popcorn at the screen "DON'T DO IT!!!"? Well what if you could do that while watching a villain make each wrong move that leads them inexorably to their own villain-ness and ultimate destruction?

The word "literally" also officially became defined as "figuratively" in the past 6 months...which means that it's a meaningless word, all in all, and so that's pretty note-worthy. Literally (or do I mean figuratively?).

For three, I got a literary agent. So many posts of mine are about searching for, preparing for, and contacting a literary agent, how to deal with acceptance and rejection, and yet I didn't have the time to make myself write the one post -- of my own "yes"! As of October 2014, I am represented by a literary agent of my own, and we are working on getting some books in the world. How amazing is that?

Only my life dream made real. You know. No biggee.

I still have to 1) get married 2) move 3) finish my latest book, officially 4) plan my next book 5) start my next book 6) keep breathing...but I've missed you all and I've missed keeping up with this blog. So from here on I'm turning over a new page (again) and will be back with you all on a regular basis.

Weekly barefoot news, coming right back up!