Archive | September 2012

In Dreams…Or How Ideas Come to Me

I like to keep a file or doc for ideas–blog ideas, book ideas, short story ideas–but today’s post comes from one I’d posted on another blog a couple of years ago. I’m revamping it a little to suit today’s needs, and I do apologize for the lateness of today’s post. I’ve been kind of busy stuck in editing Hell all . . . well, for the past week or so. I have yet to escape. This is but a small reprieve.

In dreams . . .

Ideas for stories, whether short or novel-length, can come from practically anywhere for me. Life around me is what usually inspires . . . a quote, a picture, something overheard at the cafe, the sky and its multitude of stars, especially right at dusk, a drive through barren desert, or the look in my Moon’s eyes, whom I miss very much. Her eyes held an ancient wisdom at times.

I’ve never claimed to have a muse, and my friends know how much I despise the term, but if I had to say I had one, I’d say it’s my vampire Shawn. When he’s not talking, no other characters will talk. The issue is that when he is talking, he tends to talk over the others.

Sometimes, I dream part of a story, or I dream about one of the characters. I include daydreams in that because I have a hyperactive imagination and it’s like constantly watching a movie in my head. Ideas come fast and hit me hard, usually in dialog(ue), and if I don’t write them down somewhere, they’re lost forever because I certainly won’t remember them again with my horrible memory, unless something specific triggers it. That’s happened very rarely. I’m thankful my phone has a memo pad. I just have to remember that it does.

Once, about 10 years ago, I had a nightmare. When I woke up, I grabbed my beautiful Italian leather journal and wrote him down. Him is one I call Daemon, and he scared the ever-living hell out of me. It took 10 years to get past him enough to use him in a story. He is an evil bastard and he always will be . . . and he still scares the ever-living hell out of me.

Sometimes I hate my dreams. Usually I’m being chased by zombies. Apparently, I need to write a zombie book (which I am), but I don’t think I could top The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

About dialog . . . or dialogue . . .

Dialog is always the first thing I hear. Yes, I hear it. Some random new character will start monologuing as soon as my head hits the pillow. It’s happened . . . several times. It’s also annoying as hell. The clearest one I’ve ever heard was Ezriel. He’s my seraphim vamp. Yep, you read that correctly. He started talking to me somewhere around 2004/2005 and I still don’t know his full story. He’s a bit shy about why/how he became a vamp. And I haven’t felt the need to pressure him just yet, but soon, he’ll have to talk. *contemplates chains*

For me, dialog is one of my strengths. I’d just like to get better at the initial detail, and I think I’m getting there. If you ever read one of my first drafts, you’ll see mostly dialog and very little detail. Although, I am getting better at it, since some of the newest stories have more detail weaving its way into the first drafts. *happy*

The idea doc . . .

It’s like an outline for me. I may loathe outlining novels, but I outline the rest of my life. Kind of sad, I know. I’m a control freak. Maybe that’s why I can’t outline the stories. I need that freedom somewhere. I think it has to do with my fading memory, though. In my mind, I’ll walk through the steps of my day the night before if I have important things to do. Of course, that’s me trying to control everything around me, and if I’ve learned anything at all in life, it’s that I can’t control the motions set in place that will fuck up my world entirely.

But I still try to control them. It’s my fatal flaw, I guess. You know every hero/heroine needs a fatal flaw, right? *winks*

One of these days, maybe I’ll figure out how to control Shawn . . . oh, never mind. That will NEVER happen.

Gemini Rising

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Interviewing for a story: Data or Depth?

Dearest minions, please welcome Linzé Brandon, guest author of the week for my Writing/Editing Monday post. She has some great advice for you writers out there in regards to doing interviews for your research.

* * * * *

It was only recently when someone asked me during an interview where I get my inspiration for my books from, that I finally realised it: from other people. Sub-consciously, perhaps, I have been people watching for years. Noting the way they act, talk and interact with others. I am mostly a listener, or turned into one over the years, and people often feel comfortable telling you things that will not necessarily come up in normal office or social conversations. Unless you’re the greatest gossip, of course. Are all writers observers? To some extent I believe we are, and it is this behaviour that can help any writer in his or her writing.

Another thing I came to like is doing interviews. And my blog is evidence of that, but doing an interview purely to gain information is something different. Of course, research can be done on the internet or from books or articles, but the human element is missing from that. I got an idea for a story about a metal working artist. I wrote down the basic plot, but had little “feel” for the metal work occupation of my male character, until I remembered that I actually know someone who does. He may not consider himself to be an artist, but he has the skills to work with metal – he makes swords and knives as a hobby, albeit a very serious one. So enters my interview opportunity. Very excited, I cornered him and asked.

Then he let air out of my bubble. This deflation, required a different strategy. He was willing to talk to me, but there were limits as to what we could discuss. This was an important lesson – talking to people to gain information is more than just about the why’s and how’s. Privacy and respect for a point of view, especially if it is different from your own, could make or break the success of the interview. How deep do you dig? Where do you draw the line? These questions have been plaguing me as I contemplated the questions that I wanted to ask. Of course I want to know about the metal, and how its worked and forged, or whatever, but can I ask about why he chose that particular hobby? Or what inspired him to do it in the first place? If you know the person, you can ask, but can you use the information? Will they want to see your interview/article/book before you make it public? In this hacked-up, public-information digital world we live in today, these are very valid concerns that you need to address when approaching someone for an interview.

How about a sensitive subject? Or something very intimate, like sex? Now you might rightly wonder where that came from. To be honest, I have no interest in any one else’s sex life, but I am reading a book about the history of the Kamasutra right now, and I happen to know a practitioner of the “art” if you want to call it that. Asking such a person to be interviewed, will need a lot of preparation, and sensitivity to his or her beliefs that may not be inline with your own. Preparation in understanding includes what it would mean to be a practitioner, and how the underlying belief system could come into play. Coming across as judgmental or prejudiced should be avoided at all cost. Rather stay away if a subject makes you uncomfortable, do impersonal research or get someone else to do the interview on your behalf. Sensitive subjects can encompass a wide variety of things, including abuse, divorce, addiction, etc. Not everyone will be comfortable in talking about their personal experiences and you need to determine that before you jump in.

Prepare your questions ahead of time and send them to your potential interviewee. Stick to those questions, unless the person opens up and allows you more information. This amounts to a lot of trust and a compliment of your skills as an interviewer. But, be careful of crossing that line at all times. Offer to show them the article/interview before publishing it, even if they don’t ask. Respect their wishes for privacy and anonymity if necessary, and keep the end result as objective as you possibly can. It will also add to your credibility.

You know many more interesting people than you think you do, and can often learn much from any one of them. You don’t need to be a professional interviewer or journalist to conduct a successful interview, but if you remember the humanity of your subject, you will go far in obtaining useful information and insight directly from the horse’s mouth.

* * * * *

Linzé Brandon is the pen name of a South African engineer and project manager who taught herself to read before she went to school. She started writing in a time period of her life when she was self-employed as an export consultant, and had much better time management skills. Focusing on writing what she loves to read, fantasy and paranormal romance, she does dabble in SF, erotica and erotic romance when writing short stories. It is her dream to write novels full time, but until then she divides her time between her writing, marketing her writing, cross-stitch, archery and painting mixed media abstracts. And believe it or not – she starts plotting for NaNoWriMo in July. “By the time November rolls around, I am ready to write and cannot wait to dig into the next installment of my fantasy series.”

* * * * *

That is some great advice, Linzé. Thank you! I have had experience with the interviewing process for one of my novels, and learned there are certain things in some cultures that cannot be divulged to outsiders.

You can find Linzé around cyberspace at the following links:

Blog (Butterfly on a Broomstick)
Facebook author page
Facebook profile page
Twitter

And here’s her book info too, for Géra’s Gift:
T’ara frowned.
Uneasy, he elected to increase the size of his barrier. She fired a high-powered redfire-strike at him, knocking him over. Calling on the skills of the ancient martial arts he had studied, he rolled over, dived to one side, and flipped on to his feet all in one continuous movement. Since Lord Aidan said there would not be any interruptions, he had to be ready in case she struck at him while he was down. She didn’t.
Electing to use high-powered strikes was a risky choice, but it would guarantee that he reciprocated in equal measure. Knowing how adaptable he could be when faced with an unusual battle strategy, she had to rely on his skills to end this quickly.
He moved silently to his right. She looked distracted, but he knew it might be another tactic, so he watched her carefully. The next moment, he was struck from behind with a shock wave that sent him sliding and rolling on the ground. He grimaced as he tried to control his fall. She used the previous attack to distract him, then hid behind an invisibility barrier so she could strike at him from behind. Before he even came to a standstill, he retaliated with a redfire-strike and two fire-balls. By the time he had his body under control and ready again to defend himself, the arena had gone deathly quiet. He only heard his own breathing.
He spun around and saw T’ara lying on her back, not moving. Lord Aidan reached her a moment before he did. He fell to his knees beside her.
‘Oh no.’

 

Characters and Characterization

Characterisation or characterization is the process of conveying information about characters in narrative or dramatic works of art or everyday conversation. Characters may be presented by means of description, through their actions, speech, or thoughts.” – Wikipedia (link at the bottom of this post)

Characters

On rare occasion, a character will develop completely within my imagination—everything about them from looks, personality, and morals to attitudes and actions—all manufactured in my mind. They just appear out of the blue, sometimes with a smile and a nod, other times by talking, telling me their tale. I call that monologuing, and it’s hysterical, but not at 3AM when I have to be awake at a respectable hour.

But, I find more often than not that reality truly is stranger than fiction and people in my reality or real life become the basis for my characters. Better watch out if you actually know me. =)

Sometimes, I combine two or three people into one character, pulling only those traits I need to make the character whole, providing I intend to go that in depth with them. Sometimes, all I need is just how the person looks. My friend Grant will deny this and tell you that it’s him in The Vampyre Prophecy. In all honesty, I just really liked his name—Grantlund. Cool name, huh?

Other times, the trait is a tic the person has or their thought processes:

  • Did he really just jerk his head to the side three times while talking to me? This actually happened to me. I ignored it, but I remembered it. It’s a good character tic.
  • Is the man a man-whore, sleeping with anything and everything that crosses his path, and why does he do that? How many of you know this man?
  • Does the woman have a propensity to jump from one relationship to another without taking time for herself, perhaps because she’s afraid of being alone? How many of you know this woman?
  • Does this person know when to stop pushing buttons, even when joking, or does common sense fail them? Um, yeah, these people drive me insane.
  • Is this person bi-polar, or do they have borderline personality disorder? There’s a vast difference between the two and they should be researched if you’re going to use either one. I, unfortunately, can pull either of these from experiences in reality.
  • Is this person always so damn bubbly? I can’t stand bubbly people most of the time. If there’s a high-pitched voice attached to it, I have to walk away.
  • What about the melancholy one? What’s their deal? Never happy? I mean, NEVER?
  • Does the man have an amazing ability to calm people down with mere words, regardless of his size?
  • Is the woman a drama queen? Oh, come on, you ALL know at least ONE of these. I’ve known more than a few, so let’s discuss this one.

Sometimes, the drama queen is coupled with the previously mentioned bi-polar or BPD. Have you ever witnessed a bi-polar switch? Very creepy and totally throws you for a loop. But in fiction, it’s, well, drama. We need drama in fiction, and because people tend to believe fiction is reality after hearing stories and watching television and movies, drama becomes reality because they feel the need to emulate fiction. I mean, let’s face it, reality is actually quite mundane compared to fiction, and this is why we have stories.

So all those people you know with a flair for the dramatic and exaggerate the hell out of life? Good writing fodder for your characters. It doesn’t matter if they believe you’re using them or not. There’s this wonderful little disclaimer at the front of your book that states otherwise.

With exception to the epic fantasy I’m working on, nearly everything I’ve written to date has a character based on someone I know or have met briefly. Eventually, some of the characters grow and become something greater than what I’ve started with, but there’s always been that base in reality.

Characterization

Nemy, from my book Nemesis, is a strong character who sticks to her beliefs and values regardless of her family upbringing. She essentially took over the story, which was exactly what I wanted her to do because it’s written in first person point-of-view (POV), present tense. I kept her in line a bit, but it’s all her voice so I had to let her go some. Here’s a snippet of the first three paragraphs to show you a bit of characterization:

Tall, dark, and damn scary walks into The Fox Den. I wish it were a joke. He steps right up to my bar and leans forward, resting his thick arms on the hard black laminate surface. I haven’t wiped that down yet, so I hope it’s sticky because he leers at me until I make my way down to him. There are plenty of nearly naked women around the central Phoenix gentleman’s club, so just for the leer, I take my sweet time. This only makes him stare harder until I get there, his piercing eyes boring into me, which has my skin crawling. My natural stubbornness to demanding men takes a hit. Time to get him away from my bar as quickly as possible.

“What can I do for you?” I note the rugged lines of his face with a scar down the right side, the short dark crew cut riddled with grey, and the muscles that look like they’re about to rip apart the seams of his short-sleeved shirt. Normally, these attributes wouldn’t bother me—rougher-looking men have worked for my dear old dad. But there’s something in his eyes that makes me want to take a step back, which of course, I don’t.

“Is Clancy ’round?” His voice is damn near Barry White deep and scarier with the Irish brogue laced through it. Eyes check me out thoroughly, running up and down my arms as he takes in my tattoos, and of course, lingering on my chest for far too long.

With these first paragraphs, you get a clear idea of the type of person Nemy is. At least, that’s my hope. You also get an idea of tall, dark, and scary through her voice and her telling of his actions. That’s the original photo, by the way, the one that every time I look at it, I see Nemy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the owner for copyright info.

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson is a great example of what can be done with characterization. Everything we know about Mercy we learn through her actions, speech and thoughts (especially since the books are in first person POV). She’s a strong character, just like Nemy. THIS is why I adore her.

     

To the contrary, I’ll attempt to give you an example of characterization failure from one of my own stories because I’m not going to bash an author publicly. I feel that’s extremely unprofessional. Hell, let’s even pull Grant from TVP.

Grantlund Conor MacNessa, named after the very first of his line, King Conchobar, was in a state of obscurity.  His mind was overrun by the darkness, the blackness being so substantial that he had difficulty returning to the light.  It would occur from time to time and when he would awaken, he could not recall what had transpired.

He thought perhaps that he was unconscious during this lapse in time, yet he always returned home satisfied.  His yearning, his hunger had been mollified… for the time being.  This extraordinarily deep level of his subconscious was subversive.  He knows not what he is like in this state, but it frightens him to think of it, to speak its very nature.

It happens in the blink of an eye.

He cannot tell his Master.

He cannot tell anyone.

He has become something else now…

Okay, first let’s just ignore the passive voice and the formal speech and the adverbs, and focus on the characterization. Who in the hell is this guy, aside from an heir to a noble line? We don’t know, do we? This is his introduction in the book that has since been removed. It’s horrible. I failed on so many levels with this book that I can’t even go into them, but not only does this example give you a good idea of where characterization failed, it also shows you the inexperience of a writer because I wrote that book in 1999, which is why it’s in full rewrite. Can we tell he’s a vampire? Maybe. The words “hunger” and “Master” might give you that impression.

Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game, in my opinion, is a fairly decent example of characterization failure. The story is flat, the character bored me (I don’t even recall much about her), and I couldn’t even finish the book because I didn’t care enough about the character’s predicament to move forward. Sorry Stephen, but I loved The Eye of the Dragon and The Stand! And to give you another good example, there’s a little snippet of character in The Stand, where a woman is sitting on her porch with a gun as all hell is breaking loose in the beginning. The bullets she has for the gun are moldy or tarnished. We don’t see her die exactly, but we know the cause of her death has to do with her lack of gun knowledge and not cleaning everything properly before using the weapon. The gun misfires. I read this book once, over 20 years ago, and I still remember the character that had a very small part in the book. THAT is good writing and good characterization.

I rarely read a book more than once. The stories just stay with me, especially if they’re written well, and hooking me as a reader is a whole other post.

Usually, I write by the seat of my pants rather than outline a story. I can only outline research papers. Stories change too much when I attempt to outline them. The problem with pantsing is that I don’t really get to know the character well enough in the beginning of the book to develop them (like Grantlund), and I have to go back and fix that. My only excuse here is that the real writing is during revisions.

With the epic fantasy, I’ll have to build the world before I can write the story. I’ve written about three parts to it, but I’ve realized that the Dragonfire piece I wrote about two years ago is not the beginning of the book, nor is Aidan the main character (MC) of the story. He’s one of a few main characters, yes, but not the MC. And guess what? My MC is a bit shy. Go figure. I have to delve into the world and interact with other characters in order to learn more about him. Sounds insane, doesn’t it? Yes. But that is the mind and world of a writer.

I hope I’ve given you some decent examples of characterization and why it’s important.

And just remember . . . I’ll put someone in a book or story to kill them off just for fun, unless their character is too flat and I have too much to fix. Never piss off a writer. They have a penchant for eviscerating you in fiction, and they wield that power with great clarity and wit.

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” –Bilbo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, birthday speech.

For more on Characterization, take a look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Characterisation

Leaving Running Ink Press

Dear Friends,

It is my sad duty to report my resignation from Running Ink Press, LLC as both partner and author. I feel it is best for both RIP and myself if I were no longer a part of the day-to-day operations, etc.

I wish Sharon the best of luck and success. She is a very talented writer and editor, and a good person.

My book Nemesis will be unavailable for a short amount of time in all formats. I’ll let you know when they’re available again.

Stay tuned for other important news coming soon.

Thank you,

Jinxie G

Guest Blogger – 4 September 2012

Darling minions, it is my pleasure to introduce author S. E. Myers today. She is one of the many authors you will see me tweeting about at least once per week, and since I’ve been backlogged on my gi-normous pile of work, she’s stepping up to the plate to help me out.

Also, since Monday was a holiday in the U.S., this will be your Writing/Editing post for this week. If I have time–God willing–to write up another post this week for my traditional Tuesday post, I will. If not, I’ll see you again next week because BIG things are happening in Jinxie’s World!

The thing about publishing platforms…

As my re-enrollment date for KDP select drew closer, I was faced with the decision to continue my enrollment for the next 90 days, or, attempt other platforms for self-publishing.  I decided that I would try other platforms for eBook self-publishing during the month of August.  Just to test the waters.  I’d read on Facebook indie writing groups and author’s blogs about their successes with Smashwords, Barnes and Nobles Pubit!, Lulu, and Kobo, just to name a few.

For my first upload, I used Pubit!.  Prior to signing up with amazon.com for my first eBook Dark Revelation, I originally considered B&N.com.  I have to say I am glad I chose amazon.com as my original platform.  Sad to say that in one month, I sold four, yes FOUR, eBooks.   I made an awesome $1.20 royalty during the month of August.  I honestly think those four purchases were made by friends and I graciously thank them for purchasing my book.

I then tried Kobo.  No downloads, at all.  No sales.  Nothing.  Delisting my book has been an issue.  It is going on five days and my book is still listed under kobo.com.  It took three days to publish it and now longer than that to unpublish.

Smashwords, I had twenty downloads with no purchases.

Now, one month may not be a fair assessment for a self-publishing instrument, but, it gives me a snapshot of what to expect over the next few months.

I’ve decided that amazon is BOSS.  I am sticking with amazon.com and KDP.  As soon as Kobo delists my book, I will be re-enrolling in the select program.  In the meantime I emailed Kobo instructing them to delist my book post-haste.  I have had more sales, more downloads, and more purchases through KDP than any of these other platforms.

I also use CreateSpace for my printed books.  EBooks seem to be more successful for me when it comes to selling online and my printed books allow me the flexibility to consign them to local book stores and donate copies to my local library.

The story might be different for other authors when it comes to what platform they use; as for me, I am now a firm advocate for amazon.com.  And who knows, maybe down the road I will use their self-publishing services to submit one of the screenplays I’ve written.  In December, I plan for book 2 in The Revelation Series to be released using the services provided by the KDP program.  Good luck!

What say you, dearest minions? If you’re an author, what experiences have you had regarding the different platforms? If you’re a newbie to all of this, do you have an opinion or how did this help you? I’m certain Stephie AND myself would LOVE to read your comments. *points to comment prompt below*

Book blurb-y thing:

Ryleigh Simmons just turned seventeen. After losing her parents in a fatal accident, Ryleigh moves in with an aunt she was unaware of and is introduced to family she never knew existed. After finding out she is a descendant of the Fae, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery with the assistance of Tristan – a long lost cousin. Ryleigh’s Uncle Finar wants nothing more than to consume her and those like her to become the most powerful Fae in existence and Ryleigh is the only one who can stop him.

You can find S. E. Myers around the web at the following links:

And thanks to Stephie, I had to add a new category. LOL
Stephie has sold over 6,000 eBooks to date since the release of Dark Revelation in May.
I’d like to thank S.E. Myers for writing this post so I didn’t have to because it was a HUGE help! Comment below, minions! Don’t make me withhold things from you, like free copies of books!!!