Thursday, January 31, 2019

Notes on a revision

So this blog post is coming atcha late. I've been stuck in my house with my children for daaaaayz. Between random snow squalls and subzero temps, school has been canceled and I want to run screaming from my house. That's not an excuse for a fast blog draft, but maybe you can sympathize. Every time around this year, NEPA locals start planning their southern exodus. I can hear them now: We're moving to [insert southern state here].  It's tough, but we manage. Spring comes eventually. Or maybe it won't. Climate change and all.

I'm trying to revise a novel while also trying to keep my kids from killing each other. When I'm drafting, I welcome distraction because drafting is hard. But when I'm revising, I am hyper-focused and I hate to be interrupted. Because sometimes that perfect idea can slip away in the time it takes to peel a cheesestick for my kids who are starving for the 100th time that day.

One thing you should know about me is that I do not protect my work with any kind of preciousness. It is not "my baby." I am proud of my writing. I think I do my genre proud, but I don't get bent out of shape when I am critiqued. Especially before a book has been properly edited. Oftentimes, I am begging readers to be more harsh. I hate vague niceties. It's good. Blech. Tell me how bad it is. Then I can fix it.

However, I'm never quite sure what crits to apply and what to blow off. When a reader points out something that has been needling me in the back of my head, then I'm quick to make those adjustments. But when a reader points out things that I've never considered, the answer isn't quite as clear.

For example, a reader suggested I combine characters and remove another. That will certainly tighten the narrative, but will doing so also remove conflict that pushes the story along? My biggest fear is writing a boring book. Will inserting a new POV drag down the pace or ramp up the tension? Will taking out a blow to the protagonist make her job too easy or does it tighten the narrative? This is something that takes more time to consider. And, at this stage of having been working on this book for nearly a year, I'm not objective anymore. I just don't know.

So, perhaps, all this time indoors is a blessing. I need time to consider the effects of changes on an entire narrative arc. And that can't be rushed.

Thoughts? Ideas? Tips? I'll take anything.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Winter Reading

I’m coming to you from Indiana (as usual), where in some areas the temperatures will be ‘dangerously cold’ this week (not as usual). We’re talking wind chills in the -30 to -40 range. Some of you reading this may be thinking that’s just a normal January day, but for us folks in Indiana, it’s not the norm. Luckily, I live in Southern Indiana, so while we are predicted to get some very cold weather we won’t get the worst of it. So I’ve got my arm warmers on - yes, they’re a thing and since my desk has a glass top they are WONDERFUL in this kind of weather - while I think about books I’ve read that are set in bitterly cold climates. After a scan through my Goodreads bookshelf, here are some books you can read while bundled under your warmest blankets and sipping some hot chocolate.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

While some of my favorite books have been historical fiction, it’s not my preferred genre to read. I’d been seeing good things about this book for a while but was hesitant to read it because I had been reading quite a few historical fiction books. But I went ahead and took the {polar} plunge and I’m glad I did. It really is a beautiful book with characters to love.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette By Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox has vanished.

When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces--which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades. Where'd You Go Bernadette is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are and the power of a daughter's love for her mother.

This book was a pleasant surprise. I rarely laugh out loud while reading, but this book took me there a few times. Sure not much of the book is set in the blistery climate of Antarctica, but you won’t care because it’s such a fun and entertaining book. It just might help you forget that you are stuck in subzero weather for a while. 

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard: the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time - and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya's life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother's life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are. 

I often enjoy reading Kristin Hannah’s books and have read several in the past. This was another I was hesitant to read due to the historical fiction classification, but in my opinion it’s not heavy on the historical fiction side. Really, it was more about the relationship between a mother and her two daughters. The stories of the mother’s life in Russia will make you happy the Indiana windchill will only be -30/-40. It might also shed some light on the whole “gotta go and buy all the milk and bread before the storm hits” mentality. 

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart - he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone - but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. 

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place, things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

I actually don’t remember how long ago I read this book, but that hasn’t kept if from being one of my favorites. I loved how this book kept me on the line between reality and fantasy throughout the entire novel. It’s actually the inspiration for the character Ren in my current WIP. My hope is to have the readers wondering the entire time, “Is she real or not?” 

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult 

Fourteen-year-old Trixie Stone is in love for the first time. She's also the light of her father, Daniel's life -- a straight-A student; a pretty, popular freshman in high school; a girl who's always seen her father as a hero. That is, until her world is turned upside down with a single act of violence. Suddenly everything Trixie has believed about her family -- and herself -- seems to be a lie. Could the boyfriend who once made Trixie wild with happiness have been the one to end her childhood forever? She says that he is, and that is all it takes to make Daniel, a seemingly mild-mannered comic book artist with a secret tumultuous past he has hidden even from his family, venture to hell and back to protect his daughter.
With The Tenth Circle, Jodi Picoult offers her most powerful chronicle yet as she explores the unbreakable bond between parent and child, and questions whether you can reinvent yourself in the course of a lifetime -- or if your mistakes are carried forever.

I read this book more than 10 years ago and I’ll admit I don’t remember much about how it made me feel - other than cold. Because, you know, Alaska. {burr} I might have to give this one another read sometime. I do know it wasn’t my favorite Picoult book, but it’s Picoult so you really can’t go wrong. 

What are some of the blistering cold books on your bookshelves?

~ Carrie

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A Speculative Fiction interview with the editors of WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES

Welcome again to Emily Colin and Katie Rose Guest Pryal, editors of the Young Adult anthology, Wicked South: Secrets and Lies. Emily, Katie, and I also contributed stories to the anthology. Although it’s not specifically a collection of speculative fiction tales, we three wound up contributing stories that all included elements of fantasy.

In today’s interview, I’m hoping to focus a little more on those fantastical elements.

It should be no surprise to anyone who has read any of my stories that I chose to submit a fantastical work to this anthology. "A Handful of Seeds" re-frames the myth of Persephone and Hades in modern times with modern kids who have modern points-of-view. Fellow authors (and editors) Emily Colin and Katie Rose Guest Pryal also stretched their speculative muscles with their contributions to Wicked South. I've invited them here to talk more about their experiences in writing stories of the magical and surreal.

Along with editing, Emily Colin is also the author of several novels, including The Dream Keeper’s Daughter and New York Times bestselling The Memory Thief. She is currently working on a dystopian-fantasy YA series. Her published novels include fantastical elements such as time travel and ghostly possessions. I think those elements tend to be subtle and act more as accents rather than a foundation. However, I think fantasy elements in “An Unkindness of Ravens,” her contribution to the Wicked South anthology, are perhaps a little more overt.

Karissa: Emily, could you compare and contrast the fantastical tones and elements in your novels compared to the magic world you built in “An Unkindness of Ravens”?

Emily: Wow, what a great question! I’d say that one thing my novels as well as “An Unkindness of Ravens” have in common is that they all feature supernatural love stories. I didn’t set out to make this happen--it just seems to be what I’m drawn to in everything that I write! No matter whether it’s YA or adult, I’m not satisfied until there’s at least a hint of the paranormal and a lot of heat. ;)

More specifically, The Memory Thief is told from the point of view of a ghost who lost his life in an avalanche, the man whose body he possessed in order to keep a promise to his wife, and the wife herself--quite the trifecta! It’s also got a love triangle--or maybe I should say a love quadrangle, all things considered. The Dream Keeper’s Daughter is partially set in modern-day Charleston and 19th-century Barbados, during the Barbados slave rebellion--with time travel being the medium that connects the two eras. There’s a kickass female archaeologist, her high school sweetheart, and a hidden past that reaches out to claim them both. Oh, and a small girl who is more than what she seems . . .

I guess the big difference is that in my novels, though the supernatural elements are present, no one involved is anything but human (unless you count Aidan’s appearance as a ghost). In “Ravens,” Reuben is--as he himself would tell you--not a man. Sometimes he’s a dog. Sometimes he’s not. But whatever form he takes, he isn’t human . . . tipping “Ravens” more firmly into the realm of fantasy.

Karissa: Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on now and what kind of fantasy or speculative fiction you might be including in your current project(s)?

Sure! Right now, I’m working on both adult and YA projects. My completed YA novel, “The Seven Sins,” is the first in a trilogy that blends dystopian fiction, fantasy and romance--think The Giver meets Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver. This book is the project of my heart and I adore my two main characters--flawed though they may be. It’s set in a society where people live and die by the tenets of the Seven Deadly Sins. Lust is forbidden, so of course Eva and Ari fall for each other--hard. Add in the fact that they’re both trained killers, and mayhem ensues . . .

I can’t say too much about my adult book here, except that it involves the Roaring ‘20s, a family feud, a (potentially) stolen child, and a ghost who has her own ideas about how things ought to be resolved...

Katie Rose Guest Pryal is an editor, a former professor, an essayist, and a novelist. Her nonfiction primarily deals with legal issues or matters of mental health and disability advocacy. Her Hollywood Lights novels are contemporary fiction set primarily in Los Angeles, and she is working on two forthcoming YA series, one a mature contemporary YA series set in a boarding school, and the other a supernatural series in the world of “Alex and Lora,” the story she contributed to Wicked South.

Karissa: I know from personal experience that you’re a fan of fantasy novels, particularly urban fantasy, but to my knowledge “Alex and Lora”, the story you wrote for the Wicked South anthology, is your first foray into writing fantasy. What made you want to switch genres, so to speak?

Katie: You’re right! I’ve never written speculative fiction before. But I do love reading it. All speculative fiction—fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, supernatural/paranormal—is my favorite fiction to read. I also have children who love to read, and love to read speculative fiction. They’re finally old enough to read stories that are stories that I, too, love to read. As I finished up book five in my Hollywood Lights series (there’s a sixth book coming, and that will be the last one), I turned to my husband one night and said, “I want to write books that our kids want to read.” And that night, instead of reading, we talked about the world of the Earthkeepers, the world that became the basis of the story of Alex and Lora, and the books that will follow. I did a lot of planning before writing Alex and Lora, because that book is the prequel for an entire series—one that my kids will want to read. That’s my test, my only test really.

Karissa: Can you tell us a little more about it your Alex and Lora series?

Katie: I sure can. The Earthkeepers Series is a paranormal young adult series about teens who have to save the world—what else? The series is about making hard choices, and keeping secrets, and staying true to who you are. It’s also about family, and standing by them. Alex and Lora, for example, features sisters who are best friends, and they take on a very dangerous task together. And then, at the end, they face an impossible choice. Earthkeepers are a kind of witch, tasked with taking care of the planet, and sometimes that task conflicts with other things, like homework. I can’t wait to start sharing their stories with the world.

Thanks again to Katie and Emily for joining me. Be sure to check out their writing--I've read both Katie and Emily's books and can't recommend them enough. And check out Wicked South, Secrets and Lies, available from all online retailers.


“Menacing fairy folk and locker room monsters. Forbidden love and time-traveling adventures. The nine twisty tales in WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES take readers to atmospheric corners of the American South (and beyond) filled with heartfelt characters and alluring mysteries. You won’t be able to pass a lonely roadside produce stand or dig into our native red clay soil without wondering what magic and secrets are hidden in plain sight.” -John Claude Bemis, award-winning author of THE WOODEN PRINCE and The Clockwork Dark Trilogy
“A collection blazing with seduction, trickery, conflict, and grief, WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES is a saga of bitter deceits and breathtaking victories.” -Heather Ezell, author of NOTHING LEFT TO BURN
“A captivating collection of unique and eclectic stories—poignant, twisted, adventurous, and everything in between. Tales of love, obsession, magic, and more, all with a secret simmering beneath.” -Mary Fan, award-winning author of STARSWEPT and editor of the BRAVE NEW GIRLS anthology series
“WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES is a juicy, engrossing, and always surprising read for anyone who loves that deliciously wicked feeling of being in on a secret no one else knows. Story after story, this anthology sucks you in and keeps you reading!” -Kelly Harms, author of THE OVERDUE LIFE OF AMY BYLER and THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS OF SHIPWRECK LANE

Book Information:

  • Editors: Emily Colin and Katie Rose Guest Pryal
  • Title: WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES: Stories for Young Adults
  • Publication Date: October 31, 2018
  • Paper ISBN: 978-1-947834-28-6, Ebook ISBN: 978-1-947834-29-3
  • Distributed by Ingram

Monday, January 21, 2019

Google Search: I Dreamt About...

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

Hey everybody!  Welcome back to another entry in Across the Board's "Google Search" recurring segment, where we the bloggers act as living, breathing versions of Knowsmore from "Wreck It Ralph II."

This year, my turn to do a Google Search also falls on MLK Day, so I thought I would write about people's dreams.  I am delighted to report that when I entered "I have a dream" the results all came back as transcripts and recordings and so forth of Dr. King's famous speech.  So I tried a couple of more iterations to see what might be interesting and finally settled on "I dreamt about..." which yielded the following results:

I suppose I was hoping that dreams about a bright, shining future might be more common, but not wanting to skew the results, it seems that most people are dreaming about more prosaic and less optimistic things.  I can hardly blame folks for not feeling particularly optimistic these days.  So let's run down the list briefly.

1.)  I dreamt about you

I wonder if this is more of a thing that people say on the internet?  Or a song or movie, perhaps?  Okay, breaking the suspense, I googled again and see that I'm right.  There is a song called "I Dreamt of You" by the artist DulceSky.

2.)  I dreamt about snakes

This makes sense to me.  Snakes are a very common fear.

3.)  I dreamt about my ex

This also makes sense.  I only occasionally dream of my ex any more.  For the first year after my divorce, it was more common and very upsetting, so I could see someone googling information to get help with that.  These days I notice (usually after the fact) that if it recurs it's on special anniversaries.  Not necessarily our anniversary, but things like "this was the week she left me" and so forth.  Does that happen to anybody else?

4.)  I dreamt about my crush

And the flip side.  Presuming the primary user of the internet is kids, I remember as a teen thinking obsessively about my various crushes and even dreaming of them.  It certainly makes sense to dream about things that are occupying great swathes of your mental bandwidth.

5.)  I dreamt about a baby

One presumes this is connected to worries about young parenthood, or excitement about it.  Or maybe just worries about having sex in general.  As a part of the human condition, I understand it being fairly universal enough to land on this list.

6.)  I dreamt about spiders

Another common fear, along with snakes.

7.)  I dreamt about fish

Honestly, I don't know about this one.  Fish don't seem like something people typically fear or desire greatly.  I mean, I love a good ahi steak now and then, but I can't say it's ever occupied my dreams.  Upon further research, I see that fish can represent subconscious thoughts in dream interpretation (assuming you subscribe to such things) and that catching one can symbolize a revelation.  So maybe this is just such a common subconscious symbol that people are looking it up.

8.)  I dreamt about the devil

Well, I guess the ultimate thing to fear for religious folks is the devil.  I suppose I'd be rather concerned about what he represented if he showed up in my dreams as well.

9.)  I dreamt about having a baby

This one is kind of the same as number 5, but I guess there's a slight difference between just dreaming about a baby and dreaming about giving birth.  I suspect just seeing a baby would be a more subtle subconscious worry, and this one would be more of a five-alarm warning sign from your unconscious mind.

10.)  I dreamt about a school shooting

And, in perhaps the grimmest reminder of the world we live in, school shootings are apparently in the top ten of things people (kids, I'm guessing, mostly) dream about on this admittedly unscientific Google Search.  Which brings us back, I suppose, to the original inspiration for this post.  I don't begrudge anyone their fears, and as awful as this particular one is, I think that Dr. King would remind us that fear and worry is healthy, as long as it reminds us to take action and work toward a better world - in this instance, one where there are no more school shootings.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

By Cheryl Oreglia

The title alone sends shivers up ones spine, but diving into this sort of work is essential, and the outcome can be quite liberating. I refer to it as a life edit. We do this when writing, weeding through our manuscripts, discarding extraneous words, unnecessary characters, why not dabble into these practices with our physical spaces? 
All you need to do is look at each item, one at a time, and decide whether or not to keep it and where to put it. Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo has her own Netflix show, she's trending on twitter, and her theory on stockpiling beloved books is causing quite a stir on social media. Why are we so attached to our possessions? Especially our stash of unread novels? Kondo claims hanging onto the past only serves to imprison your future. Time to wake-up and move boldly into your best possible life. 
"We are the products of editing, rather than of authorship." George Wald
She claims, "tidying is a dialogue with oneself." The work of carefully considering each object you own to see if it "sparks joy inside of you" is like conversing with oneself through the medium of our possessions," claim Kondo. This includes deciding what you want to bring with you into the future and what should be left behind? 
“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.” ― Patricia Fuller
Kondo claims the best time for decluttering is early morning, "the fresh morning air keeps your mind clear and your power of the discernment sharp." You sort by category, not location. For example, you individually tackle clothing, books, papers, sentimental items, and so on. Begin with the easier decisions and then move on to the more difficult ones, as if editing a book, drop extraneous words, before deleting characters, and important scenes. 
I have an adult emotional life and an editing system inside me which prevents me from being preposterously stupid. Stephen Hopkins
The idea is to pile all like items in the middle of a room, holding each one accountable, before deciding if "it sparks joy in your heart," if not, it must be discarded. This is not only simple but an accurate way to pass judgement on all your possessions. Harsh I know but an extraordinarily emancipation. 

"Items that we can't bring ourselves to discard even when they don't inspire joy are a real problem." But if they are not something you want to bring into your future, something that will favorably forward your plot, then it's time to let them go. 
Bling is passe, and I like my style to reflect just that. Ruthless editing defines true style perfectly. Leila Janah
Books! She says, "like clothes or any other belongings, books that have been left untouched on the shelf for a long time are dormant." She claims, "to truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived there purpose."

She says the true purpose of books is to convey information, the content of the books you have already read is inside you, keep only books that make you happy just to see them on your shelves, the ones you really love. She recommends 30 volumes or less! Oh my. This is an extremely difficult for writers, if you're anything like me, you return to meaningful works of inspiration over and over again.

"For books timing is everything." If you have a stack of books you haven't read in six months, they no longer have a purpose in your life, pass them along.

"To put your things in order means to put your past in order, too. It's like resetting your life and settling your accounts so that you can take the next step forward." Kondo says we have to move beyond the idea that more is better. Our possessions weigh us down both mentally and physically.
My goal is to strip things down so that you need just the right amount of words or shape to convey what you need to convey. I like editing. I like it very tight. Maya Lin
I remember reading in one of my "how to write" books that the reader must lug everything you write around in a backpack, up the steep mountain of your story, and it's important to avoid forcing your reader to carry a Volkswagen to the mountain top, only to find out it has nothing to do with the plot. This is what we do in when we harbor unnecessary junk in the closets our lives.
“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” ― Dr. Seuss
As in writing, fewer words demand more action, letting go of cumbersome baggage allows our characters to flourish. She claims if we are satisfied that the past has contributed to the person we have become, thank the experience, and move on. It's all about trusting you intuition.

This is especially relevant to writers who consistently weed through a work in progress, letting go of the extraneous, and holding on to that which progresses the story. I recommend picking up a copy of Kondo's book, it's liberating, a life changing challenge to let go of the past, live in the present, bravely molding our future on the basis of relevant, essential, indispensable material. 

How many books do you harbor in your shelves? What do you think about weeding your life down to the essentials? Is it possible that things can limit or obstruct the future?

When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, drop by anytime.

Monday, January 14, 2019

How to Act Like a Professional on Twitter

I've written about the benefits of Twitter before. It's free. It's fun. It has the potential for a lot of organic growth. It helps with sales when used correctly. In short, it's an integral part of a solid platform. However, using it the wrong can be detrimental to your career. I have recently witnessed a lot of behavior on Twitter that has landed writers on my "never read this asshole" list. And I'm not even talking about racists! You see, at the end of 2018/start of 2019, my latest novel landed on a few best of 2018 lists. That is always an honor. Most reactions, both from readers and writers alike, were supportive. However, there were a few that broke with that behavior. One author complained that his book wasn't on the list. The kicker? The book he was talking about had been published in 2013. Another writer "corrected" one of the lists and told the woman who had shared it that she was missing Stephen King. As recently as yesterday I saw a reaction to a tweet about a famous author's book that was on sale on Kindle. An author decided to correct the author's tweet. Yeah. In any case, here is a list of things you shouldn't do on Twitter if you want to look like a professional.

1. Never say a list is missing your book/a book on your list  

Hustle as hard as you can to sell you book and win new readers. That's it. If someone didn't read your book and made a list of their favorite books, shut the hell up and congratulate those that made the list. Also, never tell anyone who is missing from their list. Lists are based on taste, and taste is a subjective thing. Maybe you think Stephen King is the best horror author in the history of literature. Maybe you think his best work is behind him. Hell, maybe you think he sucks. All of those opinions are fine. However, when you decide your opinions are better than someone else's, you start looking like an ass.

2. Stop correcting obvious typos

When someone is trying to sell a book and accidentally send out a tweet with a typo, try to remember they're human. "Hey, my bok is $1.99 for the next 24 hours!" Yeah, we all know it's book and not bok. Ignore the tweet or retweet it. Move on or but the book. All of those are solid option. Taking the time to tweet at them "I think you meant "book"?" makes you look like the rear end of a donkey. Don't do that.

3. Don't engage with assholes unless you simply have to

Listen, I've been called a spic and a beaner more than once on Twitter. I usually move on. Let racists yell nonsense to their fifty followers. Stay calm, block them, and move on. You have things to do. You have books to sell. You have entertaining tweets to write. Insulting someone who doesn't deserve your time is a waste of your words and your time. If it gets too bad or they threaten you or your friends, then get on it and destroy them like all bullies deserve to be destroyed, but an asshole with thirty followers sending out misspelled tweets about you doesn't deserve a second of your time, especially when they wouldn't say that if you were in front of them. Trolls only thrive if you feed them. Don't feed them and they'll die in oblivion.

4. Be thankful and approachable

I know you're busy, but if you want to make Twitter work for you, show how grateful you are. I have two jobs, a life, and a writing career, and I work my ass off to make sure I reply to everything I see. I show my readers I'd be nothing without them. I let them know I appreciate what they do. I let them know that word of mouth is a very powerful thing and I'm truly grateful for their time and kind words. It's not even about being a professional; it's about being a decent human.

5. Let people enjoy things 

This one also goes out to everyone, but especially to those who want to, in one way or another, be public figures. And listen, there is a fine line between letting people enjoy things and not having an opinion. I think X is awful. That is my opinion. If you love X, good for you. I won't "explain" to you why you're wrong. I won't tell you that you suck for liking X so much. I hate liver and eggplant. Maybe those are your two favorite dishes. That's fine. When it comes to things like books and movies, opinions vary. Learn to deal with that.

There are more, but these tips should be enough to give you a general idea of how to act. Or not. It's your career, so feel free to do whatever you please. ;-)


Gabino Iglesias is a writer, professor, book reviewer, and journalist living in Austin, TX. He is the author of ZERO SAINTS and COYOTE SONGS. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Writing a Book with 10 Other Authors

Load the confetti canons - I have a new release this week!

HAPPY NEW YOU is out in the world and readers are LOVING it. If you like a smart rom com, I daresay you'll like it, too. I'll post the blurb at the end, but first let's talk about the fact that this book was written by 11 authors.

Yep. You read that right. 11 authors. 1 book. It's not an anthology, but one cohesive story, told in alternating POVs between the hero and the heroine.

" the heck did you do that?" you ask?

The honest answer? Via Facebook and Google Docs. The 11 of us "met" in Alessandra Torre's Inker's Facebook Group (which is an amazing author info group if you're not already part of it). Cassie-Ann L. Miller posted something along the lines of, "Hey, would anyone be interested in doing a collaboration to release around the New Year about New Year's Resolutions?" I've always wanted to do a collaboration so I jumped at the opportunity, as did the other nine authors. We had a long discussion thread going for awhile before taking it to our own private FB group.

Where we then moved pretty quickly. Working from the Romancing the Beat" outline, we had 2 planning calls (I'm still envious that Marika Ray could take her call on the beach!) and then we got down to it. Everyone volunteered for parts of the story they felt drawn to, with the aim that each author would write about 6K total. Some of us wrote a little more, some a little less, but I think it ended up pretty even. Each of us would post in the private FB group when our chapters were live, indicating they were ready for comment and critique - and the next person could start writing.

It meant that we essentially had 11 developmental editors per chapter, although it was up to the author of that chapter what to accept and/or reject. We had an early December deadline for the first draft to be done and then the real work began - cleaning up all of our chapters so we had a story to send to the copyeditor a week later. 

If I had to point to a difficult part for me, this was probably it. It's hard enough to go back and correct the inconsistencies in my manuscripts when I'VE written them, but remembering what someone else has written meant A LOT of back and forth for all of us. But, silver lining, there were 10 other authors there to say, "Hey, didn't we say the hero had blue eyes? You've made them brown here." As co-author Marika Ray said, "Having a handful of beta readers is one thing. Having 10 authors in your genre collaborate with you throughout the entire process of writing a book is amazing!" 

Fast forward to release day. I confess, I approach my release days with trepidation. Kind of like watching a movie with your hands over your eyes because you're not sure how it's going to go. But for yesterday's release, I was so excited! Our private Facebook page was buzzing all day and we had a group party in The Do Not Disturb Facebook group to top it all off.

Now we're coming down off the high that always comes with the final push in getting a book fit for publication, getting stuck into Facebook and Bookbub ads and going back to focusing on our solo books. It feels...weird. But, as Cassie-Ann said when I asked her if she had a quotable quote I could use, "This was a crazy project and I'm so proud that we poured our all into it and saw it through to the end. And that's the moral of the story, too. In life and in love, pour your all into it and stick it through to the end."

Monday, January 7, 2019

Get Thee A Hobby

A post by Mary Fan
Happy 2019, everyone! Mary here, and I hope you're having a more productive start to the year than I am. Because goodness knows, I haven't gotten much of anything done lately. Maybe it's the winter blues. Maybe it's a writing funk. Who knows. Whatever the cause, the fact is, I just haven't felt like writing lately. And while I know I could beat the words out of me if I had to, what emerged wouldn't be all that great (I've been through this particular cycle before).

It's easy for writing to swallow up one's life. When you're really, really into a project, it's easy to let it swallow you completely... in fact, in that moment, it's all you want to do. You live and breathe your stories, feel as if you are your characters and you live in your world, and itch for the keyboard or pen every moment you're way from it. It's an amazing feeling, it's so, so easy to embrace it at the cost of everything else. Things you were once into suddenly seem like a waste of time because The Book is all that matters.

And then comes the work that goes with The Book. The revising, the querying/submitting, the marketing... Being an author really is a full-time job, and for most of us, we're trying to do that on top of a day job (not to mention family and social commitments, for those who have them). Again, anything else seems like a waste of time.

But the problem is, when The Book becomes everything and all things, it's easy to start feeling like one's worth is tied to The Book and how it does. And unfortunately, that's not something we can control. Oh, we can write beautiful words and even pay professionals to make them beautiful-er. But that doesn't mean The Powers That Be will want to buy the beautiful-ness. And even if they do, that doesn't mean the readers will appreciate and spend money on the thing-of-true-beauty. Even if you spend all your time and energy (and maybe money) on getting it front of your faces. Publishing often feels like a lottery, one in which more time/effort/money/talent/connections can buy you extra entries, but can't guarantee a win.

So it's important to be able to step back now and then and enjoy things that have nothing whatsoever to do with The Book. Things that are utterly unproductive in a professional sense, and that ideally have nothing whatsoever to do with your sense of self worth. In other words, hobbies.

Now, I don't mean those X-TREME hobbies that seem to have taken over the world lately. Where it's not enough to just like running; you have to be training for a marathon. Or where it's not enough to be good at make-up; you have to run a beauty blog with an accompanying YouTube account. No, I mean hobbies you engage in just for the hell of it. That you know you'll never be "good" at, that you don't want to be "good" at. Baking because you like making sweet treats, not because you want to go on the Great British Baking Show. Doing yoga because it relaxes you, not because you want to become famous on Instagram because of how fabulous you look.

In other words, hobbies you're totally mediocre at, and that you're okay with being mediocre at.

Me? I've had a lot of hobbies over the years, and I dropped them all for a period of time because I wanted to live and breathe books all day. Now, I'm back into it, and it's much easier to accept a writing funk when you've got other things to fill your time (I still spend way too much time watching TV and napping, but at least it isn't *all* the time). Currently, my hobbies of choice are choir (I'm an ensemble singer through and through and have zero desire for a solo), kickboxing (for workout purposes only right now; don't care about being competitive), and aerial silks (I really, really suck, and it's not like I was ever going to join Cirque du Soleil or anything). The nice thing about all of these is that they all force my brain way from whatever worries I have--about writing or otherwise (it's really hard to let your mind wander when you're dangling by your arms trying to loop a piece of fabric around your foot so you can stand up mid-air).

(I'm that tiny blur in the back row about six from the left)

What about you? What do you do to get away from the world of writing?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

It's 2019: set your expectations optimistically low

Happy New Year, folks!

How are you feeling? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Ready for your bunker?

2018 was rough. So was 2017, and 2016 (that end bit there). But I'm cautiously optimistic about 2019. I'm turning 4-0 this year. That's right. True middle age. My favorite genre of music is now considered classic alternative rock. When I was a teen, it was just called alternative. Anyway, I can't say I'm going to turn 40 with dignity and grace, more like with margaritas and self-loathing, but it will be fun. I never feel my age until I talk to a 23-year-old and realize I sound just like my parents.

Anyhoo, I've started off this new year feeling mentally strong (thank science for anti-anxiety meds). I've been able to focus. My brain doesn't feel like the television is constantly on in the background, and my memory is sharper than it was before kids. Now that's something to toast.

Also, I'm putting the finishing revisions on a brand new adult hardboiled suspense that I plan to....yup, query in 2019.

I hate querying. In my defense, I don't think any writer likes it. It's a form of masochism. You write and write and write. Your brain is swarming with characters and plot and theme and tension. Is this book tense? Is it boring? You bleed on that laptop. You make others read your mess. You try to make it better. After 90,000 words, you then struggle to write a one-page query letter and synopsis. You freak out. What the hell is my book about?! Then you send it to a bunch of agents, hoping one of them will want to read it. Then you wait, refresh your email every ten seconds. Maybe you get some full requests. You definitely get a ton of rejections. You send it off. You wait and wait some more. It just sucks.

This isn't my first rodeo. I queried Grunge Gods and Graveyards in 2012 and 2013. It got picked up by a small press. In 2016, I queried School Lies. It was agented, went on a brief submission until that partnership fizzled. In the meantime, I've self-published. That typically alleviates the querying blues.

With each book, I become less naive. And more realistic. Just like with hitting a milestone birthday, one becomes more seasoned. With querying and rejection, comes wisdom.

Whenever I query a novel, I am hopeful because I believe in my work. I know I am a strong writer.  However this business is hard, and there are variables I cannot control. An agent's taste. The trends. The economy. So while I try to remain optimistic, I also try to keep my expectations real low.

When sitting on the ground, one can only go up.

Anyway, wish me luck.

What's on your agenda for 2019?
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