Monday, June 18, 2018

Google Search: Why did my...

Hello. It’s the cat again. 

I posted for my human once before. You can find it here. Today I’m completing her Google Search segment for her. Here’s one of her recent searches with the resulting Googlebot suggestions:

First, I’ll never understand why humans are so fascinated with poop. My human even puts some of my poop in a bag a few times a year and takes it somewhere. Then she comes home and praises me for having ‘clean poop’. And she wonders why I try to escape sometimes.

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about poop. Sorry. I’m here to tell you why your cat peed on you. Or more specifically I’ll give you 5 reasons why cats pee on their human authors.

1. Lack of Dedication
As outlined in the previous post I wrote, cats do a lot for their human authors. You’d think that would earn us at least one book dedication. We cats can forgive being passed over for spouses, children, and even parents. It’s when our humans pass us up for second-cousins-twice-removed or some other insignificant relationship. A few human authors have gotten it right—and I can assure you they did not get peed on.

2.  Dogs in Books
I don’t need to explain this one. Obviously, we’re going to pee on you for this lack in judgment.

3. The Zone
All human authors fall into ‘The Zone’ during their writing process. This is when the real work gets done. Their fingers are flying across the keyboard and all else is forgotten. Including our food. This is unacceptable. The food bowl needs to be full at all times. Even if we’re not going to eat it. All cats know we will perish the moment the food line falls two kernels below the top of the bowl. Peeing is the most effective way to quickly pull a human author out of ‘The Zone.’


I changed my mind. I’m only going to give you three reasons. I’m bored with this topic and am off in search of a sunray. Really, if you don’t know why your cat peed on you then you deserved it. Now go Google something about poop.

~ The Cat

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Can you write in a genre you don't love reading?

Image credit

A Post By Jonathan

Greetings all! So, this is the second blog post in a row I've written while on a business trip. I'm starting to realize that I should probably plan these things better...

Anyways, during these business trips I usually listen to a lot of audio books. To give you an idea of just how much, I recently finished the entire Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, which is about 1,232,820 words, so "books on tape" don't usually have trouble keeping my interest. The books that I've been listening to lately have either been hard SciFi or high Fantasy, so with my next book I thought I might try out some Middle Grade, since that is the genre I write in...

I usually don't buy MG audiobooks because most of them are pretty short and if I'm going to spend $15.00 a month for Audible I'm going to get my money's worth. But I recently heard about a new up and coming MG/YA author (who is supposed to be the next JK Rowling... since both of their debuts went for crazy money at auction), so I figured I'd give the book a try. Well, I'm barely past the first five chapters and am having a heck of a time sticking with it. It's okay, but the exposition is way overdone, as is the narration. Still, what I'm really worried about is that it's not the book, but the genre I'm cooling off on.

I'll be honest, it was Harry Potter that got me excited about MG in the first place. I just love all the adventures kids can get into together and the coming of age story tropes. But since that series ended, it's been tough finding anything in my genre I'm super excited about. I liked the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games fame, mostly because of her to-the-point writing style and also the Penderwicks series. I kind of liked Percy Jackson, but not so much. I guess when I read, I want to experience more of an adult adventure (one that I can picture myself in), but when I write, I love getting my young(er) characters in and out of trouble.

Does anyone else have this "problem?" Are there times when you would rather read in an area that you don't necessarily write in? I guess since I've started writing, I feel like reading needs to be about half research and half leisure, so how can I research if I'm reading out of genre?

In short, can you write in a genre you don't love reading? Would be great to hear from other writers out there who struggle with this (if they exist!). As always thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 11, 2018

What's the Status of Your Literary Estate?

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Hey everybody!  Remember last month how I said my plate couldn't possibly get any fuller?  Well, guess what?  Yeah, that's right.  I'm now overseeing the author programming track for Shore Leave 2018, which is its own enormous undertaking.  But I agreed to that.  Last week, though, something else happened which I didn't agree to, and I wish had never happened.

At about 3:00 pm Thursday I was working at my day job, when my phone rang.  It was my friend and mentor Brian Keene, whom I've written about here on the group blog once or twice.  The funny thing is, Brian never calls me at work.  I told him jokingly one time that one of his prank calls nearly got me fired, and he either took that seriously or still thinks it's true, so I'll usually just get a text that says "is it okay to call" if it's during the work day. 

So I was a little surprised to see the call.  In the space of about thirty seconds he said he'd been badly burned in a landscaping accident and that I should get in touch with Scares That Care founder Joe Ripple and see about starting a GoFundMe fundraiser now.  See, like many freelance authors Brian has no health insurance, a problem that is only compounded when a freelancer is unable to work.  So an accident like this is like a double blow.

I could spend this entire blogpost outlining why I hope you'll contribute to the fundraiser, which you can find here.  And I hope you do.  But I've already done that elsewhere, and I also think that Brian would want this to be an instructive experience for young and aspiring writers.  So let's do that instead.

The reason why Brian called me (after his immediate family and the ambulance, of course) is because I'm the executor of his literary estate.  So what does that mean?  Well, it means that when Brian does finally shuffle off this mortal coil, many, many decades from now after getting to see his sons grow up into fine young men, I will be in charge of overseeing his body of work. 

You're probably more familiar with the executor of someone's will.  The executor is a lawyer or trusted friend who ensures that the kids divide the money evenly, the house stays in the family, and Aunt Ginny gets that cuckoo clock she always had her eye on.  Well, a literary estate is similar to a financial estate, except that it only applies to the art you've produced.

For instance, two of my novels were released by their original publisher this year.  It was my decision, then, to seek a new publisher, let them remain unpublished, or self-publish them.  I elected to self-publish them. 

Now if, Cthulhu forbid, I had gotten into a car accident and been left in a vegetative state, what would have happened to my books?  Well, basically they would have been in limbo.  I have no heirs and I'm recently divorced.  I suppose my father, or possibly my estranged mother, would be considered my next of kin.  Now my parents have no idea what I would want done with those books.  And even if they took their best guess, they likely have zero wherewithal to accomplish it.  If I told you to self-publish something tomorrow, and you didn't know anything about self-publishing, how long would it take you to figure it out?  Not to mention, would they have known what edits I wanted?  What forewords, what blurbs?  What kind of cover I would have approved of?  That stuff would be difficult for someone who knows me very well to figure out.  For my parents it likely would be impossible.

Oh, and by the way, they'd be doing all this while mourning me and trying to figure out my funeral arrangements.  Yeah, right.  I'd probably prefer for my sister to run my literary estate.  But she's not my next of kin, so in the absence of anything written down, she wouldn't have any claim to it.  Any publisher that attempted to reach out to me?  Well, she wouldn't have the passwords to my email account.  Amazon tries to pay me?  Well, they can't pay a dead person, and how is someone else going to claim that money?  What about my unfinished work?  Will that be published, unfinished, as with Douglas Adams's SALMON OF DOUBT?  Or will she be able to find someone I trust as an author to finish my work and publish it?

The truth is, though, that I wouldn't really want my sister to run my literary estate, either.  She's a more-than-capable nurse, social worker, and anything else she puts her mind to.  But realistically I wouldn't want her to have to spend the next ten years learning the publishing industry the way I have.  So it would make more sense for me to name, say, Mary or Kimberly or as my executor.  They know me, I trust their judgment, and while they'll probably miss me, they won't exactly be overcome with debilitating grief and unable to function when I die.

Which brings me back to Brian.  You might wonder why Brian, who's been in the industry for twenty years, and has scads of friends all over the field, would name somebody he's only known for three years, close though we may have become in that time.  Well, basically I just laid out the whys and wherefores for you.  Brian knows that I'm eager, young, organized, and ambitious.  I also have a day job, so I wouldn't be put in the position of being a full-time author neglecting his own writing in order to manage a literary estate.  We're close enough that he trusts me, but not so close that I'll be despondent and unable to actually do my duties for months or even years. 

A literary estate is a burden to manage.  Frankly, I'll be fielding phone calls from every idiot who thinks they can make a buck riding the back of Brian's corpse.  So I don't want you to misunderstand how laborious an undertaking this is.  Nevertheless, whoever you are, wherever you are in your career, you need to have a literary estate.  No one wants to think about their own death, but in the same sense that you can't just ignore life insurance or your will because it's icky to think about death, you can't ignore establishing your literary estate, either.

The good news is, you don't have to shell out a single dime to a lawyer to set up your literary estate today.  Just go to Neil Gaiman's blog and follow the instructions in this blogpost.  At least have that on file.  If you do have the means to speak to a lawyer, that's always preferable, but this is a fair enough stopgap measure.  Don't leave your work in pieces for your loved ones to try to pick up.

What about you?  Have you thought about what will happen to your work when you pass on?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

What Are Your Core Projects

By Cheryl Oreglia

I have the privilege of a rather unique perch for observing personalities. Unobserved, or at least tolerated, I eavesdrop on private conversations, and interpersonal interactions. It's my work and I'm paid to do it. I teach high school and from my podium the view is spectacular. Through a sea of human subjects I've learned to appreciate the amazing variety of operating systems we lug around with us ~ ones that prosper, ones that get us by, and ones that fail.

It's not surprising that my favorite types have remained consistent through the years. Teacher's pet is a real thing. I'm enamored with well grounded people, someone who is present, confident, and reliable but does not lack kindness or empathy. That's a deal breaker. There are also appealing types who are shy, still developing a sense of self, who after four years of high school emerge as confident empowered women. I throughly enjoy the enthusiastic types who serge with energy, are lively, and although hard to contain, they are a joy to be around after a few cups of coffee.

The displaced, depressed, angry types don't scare me as much as the apathetic, judgemental, rude ones, who absolutely could give a damn about anything but their cell phones, and deplore you for giving them a poor grade? But even these types have hope because we are not glued to one phase, one roll, one way of being in the world.

It is rare for a student to surprise me. They stay pretty true to form throughout the high school years. I've discovered again and again how early childhood experiences are the dominating factors in developing a strategy for coping with life. Children emulate the adults who care for them, if the adults don't have it together, neither will the children but when they do, it's magic.

Experience is powerful, it shapes the lens with which we view life, the more poignant the experience, the more efficacious it is to our foundation. Some things can not be undone and that can be good especially when it comes to a loving family, strong values, constructive guidance, laughter, and loyalty. Violence, ridicule, neglect, and bullying can sentence a person to hell on earth. Anyone can survive in life but to thrive is a gift. 
"I'm a big personality. I walk into a room, big and tall and loud." Adele
So of course this got me thinking about free-will and our ability to choose right from wrong, healthy vs insalubrious, apathy or engagement, patience over temper. Is it possible to ignore formational experiences, break free from engrained patterns of behavior, and choose the attitude we would like to adopt on any given day? Most people would prefer to stay in the rut they dug for themselves then opt for change. I'm one of them. 
Henry Morgan "people with insufficient personalities are fond of cats. These people adore being ignored."
Of course there is the case of the introvert vs the extrovert, from my laboratory I started observing and storing information, this is what I found. Regardless of the machine that drives you (intro or extro) when a student has a core project they will employ most any strategy to get the work done. Engagement is critical. The introvert can give a polished presentation in front of thirty students if need be, the extrovert can dim themselves in order for peers to shine, and I realized together the possibilities are endless. 

I pride myself on being calm and kind in most situations (Larry has his own perspective but he's wrong) but when my mother was sick and I needed an approval for treatment, a key to the front gate, or an emergency appointment I was ruthless, determined, downright rude if need be. My core project was mom and I was able to pull up aspects of myself (the bitch was a favorite) that I did not know existed in order to serve her needs. This is who we really are (not bitches, you know what I mean), our personalities are in service of our core projects, and even when it is not comfortable we are able to meticulously resurrect a variety of characteristics when needed.
"If you have anything really valuable to contribute to the world it will come through the expression of your own personality, that single spark of divinity that sets you off and makes you different from every other living creature." Bruce Barton
Does awareness matter? If your entire adult life is tethered to formational experiences, patterns we continually recreate, where is the space for improvement? Is there space? Or are we "predestined" so to speak to be enslaved to our histories? This is what keeps me up at night. You? 

We're not always what we seem. What are your core projects? 

I'm Living in the Gap when I'm not Across the Board

Monday, June 4, 2018

I Hate Introductions

Introductions suck. The whole thing starts with a teacher telling you to stand up the first day of a new school year and asking you to tell the class a bit about yourself. You're uncomfortable and have no idea what to say. As years go by, you get better at it. You do it in school, college, parties, office meetings, and other places. You start to develop go-to answers and short spiels, but the core of the thing never changes: you're always asking yourself "What the hell should I say?" Anyway, here we are again. Hi, my name is Gabino Iglesias and I do a lot of stuff. I will tell you about that stuff now and hopefully it'll work and we can all walk away from here with genuine smiles on our faces.

Okay, so here we go. Author Garrett Cook once called me "an inveterate blogger." That has changed  a bit because venues use different names, but the idea at the center of that still applies. I write books and short stories that are crime, horror, bizarro, or all three at once. My last novel, ZERO SAINTS, was translated into Spanish, optioned for film, and nominated to the Wonderland Book Award. I review book regularly for venues such as Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HorrorTalk, Criminal Element, PANK Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Crimespree Magazine, The Collagist, Heavy Feather Review, and many other places. I am a columnist for LitReactor and CLASH Media. I am the books reviews editor for PANK Magazine and the TV/film editor for Entropy Magazine. get the point: I try to stay busy. Oh, and I'm finishing two novels and working on a third book that is a posthumous collaboration with the great J.F. Gonzalez. Hopefully that covers the professional part.

Now comes the important part. As a blogger/writer/columnist, I love to take on topics I feel strongly about, even when they are touchy or regularly get me hateful emails and tweets. I'm talking about things like diversity in fiction, waging war on submission fees, and destroying unconscionable publishers and editors. In other words, my main goal as a writer and reviewer is to stand up for equality, support indie writers in any way I can, and be a voice for POC, women, and LGBTQ authors. That sounds nice, but I don't always go about in a nice way because we live in dark times and a lot of people are trash. Yeah, maybe I wouldn't share that in an office meeting, but it's okay to do so here so you have an idea of what to expect.

Well, that's it. We survived another introduction together and it wasn't too bad. I'm stoked to be joining the fine folks who already make Across the Board an awesome place and look forward to adding my bits of sugar and salt to the mix. Stay tuned. If you need me or want to chat in the meantime, you can find me on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias. Thanks for having me. Cheers.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

I was walking my dogs the other day and the neighbor kid came out to tell me he was burning his English papers.

I think he told me this to shock me (I wasn't shocked) but he was also pretty keyed up because HE WAS BURNING HIS ENGLISH PAPERS. According to other friends' posts on Facebook, this is A THING.

Over the top? A little. But what's more alarming is the fact that these students think that just because their English GCSE is behind them that they're never going to have to write a paper again. Should I be the one to tell them? Can I?

(Some background for any non-Brits reading here. Basically, GCSEs are standardized tests that students in Years 10-11 (mostly Year 11) take across several subjects of their choosing in core subjects like maths, English (both English language and English literature), Science (a minimum of 2 exams), at least one language, History and Geography. Students may also opt to take additional exams in PE, ICT, Art, Design Technology, etc. Depending on GCSE results - and interest - students can then pick subjects to study for A levels, which then determine what they're going to study in university.)

In other words, if you don't choose to study English at A-level, you may (mistakenly) think your essay-writing days are behind you. MY OWN KID THOUGHT THIS. Granted, he's only finishing Year 8 and his GCSE's are still a couple of years away, but he was already gleefully looking forward to the day when he won't have to write another essay. Spoiler: he's not anymore.

"I'm going to burn my English papers when I'm done with GCSEs too," he said.

"That's fine. But you like history and you know that if you study history for A-level, you'll still have to write essays?" I asked.

"It's still not an English essay." He smirked a little.

"And science. All of those lab reports. Guess what they are? Essays." My turn to smirk a little.

"Still not English essays." Smirk faded because he really likes science.

"And university applications all require essays."

Smirk turned into a grimace. "Next you're going to tell me I'll be writing essays even if I go into technology."

"You'll be writing emails, which are often a person's first impression of you." I shrugged. "But, you know, they're not English essays."

"Will you stop if I promise not to burn my English papers?" he asked.

"No, you can burn them. It won't make any difference." I laughed because actually, the kid is pretty good at English. "Writing is the gift that keeps on giving, really. Once you learn the core skills, you can carry them over to anything!"

"Yay." The Boy rolled his eyes and left the room. I let him because he's thirteen and eye-rolling is as natural as breathing at the minute. And my point was made.

I'm still waiting to see the neighbor kid again. Rumor has it he's going for science at A-level. I can't wait to talk to him about his lab reports. :)

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Real Rushed Post from a Real Rushed Mary

A post by Mary Fan
Hey everyone! Happy Memorial Day! My apologies for totally spacing on this week's post... I'm
afraid I have nothing Memorial Day appropriate to say, so I'll just ramble about writing stuff instead.

Last time I was on here, I blogged about how I'd committed to so many writing projects that I had to resort to using a spreadsheet to keep track of it all. Since then, I've decided that even if I can keep up (which I'm starting to wonder about), it might behoove me to step back and breathe a little. So I've decided that after I finish my next manuscript (which is due to my novel critique group in August... and I have exactly 1000 words so far), I'm going to build in at least one day a week where I do absolutely nothing writing related. No drafting, no editing, no formatting... nothin'. Sounds like it shouldn't be hard, but weirdly it's hard to commit to... Have you ever had to slow yourself down and say "whoa whoa, hold your horses"?

On a separate topic, I've noticed lately that my writing style has been evolving. I used to think that I had My Method and that it would apply to everything I ever wrote. The Method was: come up with plot concept. Populate plot with characters. Create encyclopedia-type notes document for world-building. Then proceed to obsessively outline the book until I have a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline (some of which have been over 10,000 words long).

The last book I wrote, I tried to do an outline and kept getting stuck at the halfway point, so I pantsed it. Just sat down and wrote with no idea what would happen in each chapter until after I'd written it. The book before that, I had a skeletal outline, but I barely followed it (so in my view, I pantsed the whole thing). Now the latest book I'm working on is a mystery with lots of suspects and twists, so I felt like I had to have detailed notes on what was what. But still, I got stuck at a certain point. So I've just started writing, and I guess when I get to the point where I got stuck, I'll pants it again.

I have no idea why my writing style changed so drastically. Maybe it's because before, I was more afraid of blank pages and needed as many pre-writing-type docs as I could summon to metaphorically hold my hand. Or maybe it's because experience has showed me how often I deviate from the outlines anyway. I've no clue.

So next time someone says or tweets something like "THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO DO WRITING", stick two middle fingers in the air and walk away, because clearly that's not true. Writing methods can vary person to person, and apparently sometimes within a person.

Have you ever found that your writing method changed?
Blogger Template by Designer Blogs