Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Screen vs. Page

I think I'll be returning to my regular blogging schedule, with features like the writing posts and the series commentary, next week. Until then, I'm taking an extra-long Labor Day weekend, starting tomorrow.

I'm still working on translating that script into a novella, and as I do so, I'm liking the script more and more, enough so that I'm having second thoughts about this novella thing. It's iffy in that format, largely because of genre -- it's not really romantic enough to be a "romance," since it's more about the heroine's career choices, though there is a romantic subplot. There is a paranormal element, but it's pretty slight. I guess it might be classified as magical realism chick lit, but I don't know how well that would do and if it would lead readers to my other work.

On the other hand, having watched a lot of Hallmark movies lately, I think it's really perfect for them. For one thing, it is focused on the career and life choices issue, which has been the center of most of their movies I've watched lately. The paranormal element is slight and exists mostly to highlight that life choices dilemma. There's a Mr. Right vs. Mr. Wrong romantic dilemma, but the romance part is mostly friendship with a spark up to the end, which is the way they tend to play these things. One of the things the heroine does, and part of her life choices/career dilemma, is sing with an a capella group that's currently doing a lot of holiday gigs as madrigal singers or Victorian carolers but that has broader ambitions, and that's really topical with the success of groups like Pentatonix and movies like Pitch Perfect. That lead role would be good for one of those starlets who also has musical ambitions, like those who've aged out of the Disney sitcoms and Radio Disney stuff but haven't broken out in adult roles. Since most of the music involved in the story is Christmas carols, it's public domain, so the music expense would be in the arrangements. As a bonus, depending on how the movie is marketed, there's a potential for getting some singles and airplay out of it.

I just don't know where to go with it from here. I brought it up with my agent, but didn't follow through on getting anything from her about any contacts she has for selling something like that. She works more with people who rep books to be adapted, and I think that's what she thought I was talking about, that I'd written something that might sell for that kind of movie.

But I'm going to keep going on the novella because it's an interesting exercise that's teaching me a lot about what I can take from the screenwriting process and use in my novels. For one thing, the dialogue in the script really seems to zing, and that may have something to do with writing it in script form, where you can really see how it flows together without the narrative. I may try writing any big conversation scenes for books in screenplay form until I get the dialogue right, and then transfer that to prose.

For another, while being able to summarize is a great tool for a novelist, maybe I rely on it too much. By that, what I mean is that a novelist can set up a scene and bring in all the characters, then skip over the boring or repetitive parts by saying things like, "We told him about our plan" or "We told him what happened," or you can have the viewpoint character daydreaming and not listening to what's said until you get to the part you want to dramatize again. You can't do that in a script. Once you start a scene, you're stuck with the whole scene, so you find ways of working around that like starting at the point where the important stuff happens -- the reaction to the plan or the news of what happened, without showing it being told -- or creating a scene that's only about the thing you want to say. I'm bad about doing things in meetings (since I write a lot about the office), and then I rely on being able to skim past most of the meeting with a line or two of narrative. But maybe I should think as though I'm writing a script sometimes and come up with a more dynamic way of getting the outcome I want.

I should probably try writing another script or two before I look into doing more about pursuing that, just to make sure it's something I can do and want to do and so I have something else in case I get a "can we see something else?" response.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Good Guys Who Aren't Boring

It was nice to see that I'm not alone in liking the good guys in stories. Sometimes it feels that way in Internet discussions, when you see people going on and on about how these horrible people really are just misunderstood and need to be loved, and meanwhile the people trying to do good things are either boring or terrible people because if they're trying to do good, that means they think they're good, and therefore that means they're smug and conceited and judgmental. And then there are the interviews with writers who talk about how boring nice characters are, and it's more interesting to write characters with an edge.

I do have to remind myself to call these characters "good guys," though that gets confusing because that can also mean "heroes," and not all heroes are what I consider good guys. I was calling them "nice guys," but it turns out that means something different on the Internet -- that's the guys who act nice to women in hopes that these women will respond to their romantic advances, and who then react in some pretty vile ways when the women don't respond to them, doing a lot of ranting about how women don't like nice guys.

Anyway, thinking about this, I was able to come up with a lot of examples of "good guys" who are interesting and generally seem to be liked by fans, so I'm inclined to think that writers who think nice characters are boring are just unimaginative or have issues of their own to work out.

In the other Friday summer SyFy show, Killjoys, Johnny is the "nice" one of the group, in contrast to the other two, who are edgier, damaged badasses. His primary character trait is that he's the one who actually cares. He wants to help people and do the right thing. But he seems to be popular with fans, and he's one of the more interesting characters. His soft heart gets him into trouble sometimes, and sometimes it gets him out of trouble when he's able to bond with someone who can help him. Being nice doesn't keep him from having a snarky sense of humor, and he's certainly not a saint who never does anything wrong, but the writing doesn't punish him for every slight misstep.

Pretty much most of the cast of most Star Trek shows has been made up of earnest nice people. Yeah, some of them were boring, but more because they were undeveloped than because they were nice. The attempts to add "bad boys" to the Trek universe have never really gone well. They've come across more as weak attempts at acting like bad boys -- like the rich suburban white kids who try to come across as ghetto gangsters. I think one of the weaknesses of the Trek reboot movies has been the attempt to rewrite Kirk as a bad boy with a heart of gold. They keep telling us what a rebel he is, but he still acts like your basic Trek good character.

I think John Crichton on Farscape was a classic good boy. He was a clean-cut astronaut with good intentions who got thrown into a terrible situation and had to cope with it, and sometimes he was in way over his head when his ideals clashed with the world around him. I think he worked because they were just writing a character rather than being conscious of him being "nice," so he was allowed to have flaws and a sense of humor. He also grew and changed as he adapted to his surroundings, so he didn't remain wide-eyed and naive for long, but I don't think he turned into anything I'd consider a "bad boy."

Really, if you're writing a situation that's dark and edgy, the nice character should be more interesting than the bad boy just because there's more contrast between the character and the situation. A morally grey bad boy in Crichton's situation wouldn't have been as interesting. Ditto with Johnny on Killjoys. That's why I generally know that I probably won't like a show or book if I see an interview with the writer in which the writer talks about how boring nice people are. That tells me that the writer has a massive imagination failure and probably isn't very good at creating interesting characters. That writer's edgy bad boys are probably going to be pretty boring, too. They'll just skate on snark disguised as characterization.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ranting About Romance

After ranting about good guys, I got my fix over the weekend by watching Hallmark movies. Yeah, they're sappy and obviously done on the cheap, but they don't seem to be making romantic comedies for the big screen these days, so this is the only way to get my fix. Bonus: the characters are usually adults. The heroes are men, not overgrown manchild fratboys, as we've been seeing too much of in the few "romantic" comedies that have been made recently. That means the heroines can be adults without being depicted as humorless shrews who are forcing these men to grow up. Also, the heroes are almost always the "good guys," rather than jerks who need to be healed with love. The jerks are usually "Mr. Wrong," while the nice guy prevails in the end.

Ironically, this seems to be where the actors who play the good guys on science fiction shows tend to end up (probably because of the Canada filming connection). In fact, the actor who played the character I was ranting about Friday showed up as the leading man recently in one of these movies.

However, these movies don't entirely scratch the romantic comedy itch because they kind of fail in the romance part. It's sort of there, but for the most part, they forget to write the actual relationship. I don't think it's just because of how chaste these movies tend to be because you can write the romance and relationship even without the physical stuff being front and center (just look at how juicy some of the movies made during the height of the strict production code could be). There's just something missing.

In two recent movies I watched, part of the problem is that the focus for the heroine is generally on something else. That's fine if you're making a movie about finding yourself, building a career, or female empowerment. It just doesn't work when you tack on an ending in which she resolves a romantic relationship that wasn't really there. It's even weirder when the story given to the man is the romance, and he's shown as being really into the woman while she's missing all the signals. She's treating him the way I treat a man I'm not interested in when he's trying to make moves and I don't want to have to outright reject him -- right up to the happy ending when suddenly they're kissing. The standard romantic plot seems to go like:

Meet cute! Sparks seem to fly!
HERO: Wow, you're like a breath of fresh air. I find you fascinating.
HEROINE: I'm really concerned about my career. This could be my big break, and I need to make it work.
Cue lots of scenes of them together, showing obvious connections, like them having the same dreams for their lives.
HERO: You're the most amazing person I've ever met. We should pursue our dreams together.
HEROINE: Oops, gotta go. I've got this big career thing I need to take care of. I'm really busy right now.
Career-related crisis ensues, heroine gets her act together and prevails.
HEROINE: Hey, let's get together and pursue our dreams! (Throws her arms around him and kisses him. There may be an epilogue showing their wedding.)

It's like there's no emotion whatsoever on her part until the end. She's not interested but torn. She's not agonizing over having to choose love or her career. She's happily pursuing her career and oblivious about the guy until she abruptly is all over the guy. It's like "Friendzone, friendzone, friendzone, LOVE!" (And, really, that's not helping by sending the signal that when we're constantly talking about being too busy or focused on other things to get together, we're eventually going to come around. Though I guess the odds are slim that the men who don't get the message in real life are watching Hallmark movies.) We don't even see the moment of realization that she does love him, after all, no fear of losing him. I don't necessarily want to see the RomCom Dash -- that last-second frantic chase across town to reach him before he sails away forever -- in every movie, but it does help if we get some sense of "hey, the right guy was with me all along, and I might lose him if I don't do something about it" rather than the abrupt switch. There's got to be a happy medium in there somewhere.

I wrote that one script for a TV Christmas movie, but I'm currently attempting to turn it into a novella or short novel because I've realized in watching more of these films that my script probably wouldn't make it. I wrote it more for the Lifetime or ABC Family model, since it had a fantasy element to it, but now Hallmark has taken over the Christmas movie thing, and they don't seem to do much of the fantasy element (aside from the "Santa is real!" stories) and they don't want much in the way of romance, even while doing a romance. With most of these movies, Christmas or otherwise, it would be so easy to fix them without changing the budget, which suggests that they're getting just what they want.

Really, what I want is a good screenwriter/filmmaker to be able to make a good big-screen romantic comedy in which the characters get to be adults. We need something along the lines of a When Harry Met Sally, and it's been a long time since anything on that level was made.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Good Boys Get No Respect

I'm on record as not being such a big fan of the "bad boy" type and loving the "good boy." That sometimes makes it difficult to find things I like because the good boy gets no respect. He's judged more harshly for any misdeeds, no matter how minor. Sometimes, just the desire to be good is considered a flaw because it's depicted as a sense of superiority or judgment against others who aren't considered to be as good. Frequently, the "good" character is marginalized because the writers fall into the "good is boring" trap and don't know how to write good people who are interesting. Quite often, the good guy will be the one killed off earlier in the story if the writers want to look like they're raising the stakes, want to milk the sympathy, and/or are tired of trying to write that character.

In war stories, it seems like the good guy or boy-next-door type always died first. That's one reason I love Band of Brothers -- it was based on a true story, and the main character was a real person who was a brilliant example of the good guy (see, living proof that the good guy isn't boring. If you think Dick Winters was boring, we need to talk).

And it's happened again. I have a kind of love/frustration relationship with the SyFy series Dark Matter. The premise is rather brilliant -- a group of people on a spaceship wake up from cryosleep with no memories of their identities and have to decide who they want to be, which gets complicated when they learn that they're actually a bunch of criminal mercenaries who've been hired to do some unseemly jobs. The actual execution is somewhat less brilliant. I think during every episode of the first season I found myself thinking that I was going to give up on the show, until they had a really intense twist or cliffhanger at the end of the episode that brought me back for the next one. I've jokingly called it Not!Firefly because the main cast can be mapped very easily to Firefly cast members. There's a Not!Jayne, Not!Simon, Not!Book, etc.

I was intrigued by the Not!Simon character, who all along seemed to be the "one of these things doesn't belong" character. Even when we learned his identity as a killer with an extensive record, it just didn't seem to fit. SPOILERS AHEAD Then we learned out why: he wasn't really that guy, after all. We met that guy, who was mad that his identity had been stolen. Eventually, we learned that Not!Simon was actually a billionaire head of a corporation whose wife had been murdered, and he had believed that the killer was a member of this crew. He had surgery to make himself look like this other guy and stole his identity to get himself hired on the crew. Now, though, he has no memories of any of this. It's just facts. He doesn't remember his wife, and the guy he supposedly believed murdered her has no memory of doing that, if he even did it. He has the chance to kill him and decides against it. Then he starts to learn that there's maybe something shady going on, that the evidence was fake, and maybe it was his own corporation that had been doing things. So, of course, that's when the show decided to kill him, I guess because they weren't sure how to keep him on the ship, because nice guys are boring, or whatever. The killer whose identity he stole has made a few more appearances, so the actor has been around.

A lot of fans have been okay with this because, as usual, the good guy gets no respect and they find the very cliched "bad boy with a heart of gold and a sad backstory" more interesting. I find that I'm not only missing the one character whose current and past story had some serious meat to it, but I'm also missing what the contrast brought out in the other characters. There is one other "nice" character, but she's a teenager, and there's one who also turned out to be a good guy because he was an undercover cop, but he's still a hardened badass. We don't really have the earnest good guy who wants to do the right thing and who is something of a peer to the "bad" characters. That's where the good guys can be valuable. The bad boy is less interesting without someone to bounce off and contrast against. There's less true conflict among the cast, fewer philosophical differences. Maybe the good guy was boring, but without him, all the other characters are less interesting, at least to me.

Since the fact that you can make identical clones has been a plot point, I'm wondering if there's some kind of twist and we'll find out that this character wasn't really the one who died, since it seems weird to set him up with an actual story with a real mystery to it and then kill him in the same episode, but we're running out of season. It is possible that the writers really were that unimaginative and gave up on trying to write this character.

I probably need to learn to write more "bad boys" to give my good guys something to bounce against. This seems to be one of my brand elements, that I write good characters, and that's a big part of my appeal to my readers. The problem is that we seem to be in the minority. Maybe that's why I haven't hit it big yet and maybe never will have mainstream success.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Career I Want

I'm still working on all that marketing/branding stuff, in between trying to come up with a title for the book and doing edits/revisions.

I've had a few comments about how much humor might play into my author brand, but that's almost as big a minefield as the "clean" label. There will probably be some dose of humor, whimsy, or quirkiness in everything I write because I can't help myself. It may be a totally serious book with a slightly oddball premise (again, I can't help myself) or with characters who have a sense of humor. But that might not really be considered "humor." If you label something as funny and people don't laugh, then they consider the book a failure. Every time Harlequin tried to launch a romantic comedy line of books, it tanked, mostly because there are a lot of different kinds of humor, and so many of those books weren't funny at all to some people. If you don't say that something is funny and a reader laughs once, they might consider it a good book. If you say it's funny and the reader laughs once, it can lead to a much more negative reaction. So I think the "humor" aspect might fall under the "fun, feel-good" label. There will probably be something in my books to make you smile, but not everything is going to be comedy. That can be conveyed through lighter colors, the typeface, and in the way I present myself. There's usually at least some dry humor in my blog posts. I'm generally funny on convention panels. My tweets and Facebook posts present some humor.

I was reading an article on business planning for authors yesterday that suggested finding an author whose career you'd like to have and looking at what you'd need to do to have that career. I won't name the person I came up with, but in general it's someone who's pretty well respected in the genre but not necessarily famous outside the genre. Her books tend to make at least category bestseller lists and she gets award nominations. That's about where I'd like to be. I don't want to be real-world famous, but it would be nice to be famous within the genre -- to have lines at my autographings at conventions and the room packed for my panels. But because of being at the same publisher at the time this author was being launched, I know how she got to where she is, and a lot of it comes down to publisher support. She had a well-written book with a high-concept premise, and I think she already had a lot of online visibility from other activities, and the publisher had a strong launch strategy for her series. They did a lot of marketing at events like ComicCon and supported the books at the bookseller level. It's hard to build a business plan around "and then the publisher will promote the books."

So what it comes back around to is a well-written book with a high-concept hook that publishers will get excited about enough to push it. Coming from where I am, I'd probably have to boost what I'm doing now to use that as my pre-established visibility so that my existing sales don't count against me. I really want to avoid having to take a pen name to start over. I don't deal well with alter egos. I think I have a big enough following that my existing readership should be an asset rather than a liability, but when you're dealing with bookstore buyers, there's a risk that they'd look at the raw numbers and refuse to buy in a new book in greater quantities than have sold with previous books.

I should probably look more at authors who eventually broke through after a long slog rather than at those who had a big hit right out of the gate. That might give me more lessons to work with.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Branding Myself

One of the panels I went to at WorldCon was about author branding -- the marketing kind, not the kind involving hot iron. I'm from Texas, so this needs to be clarified. That's something I've been wrestling with lately, and something I need to clarify before I can do some other stuff, like get a new web site done.

The "brand" is really everything involved in communicating with the public -- the tone of the communication, the messages that are conveyed, the look and feel of things, etc. It's not just a tag line, but the tag line is part of it. Something mentioned in the panel was looking at what your work has in common. This goes deeper than genre. Even someone who writes in multiple genres can have a single brand identity.

I might say that magic is still at the core of my brand because I can't imagine writing something without it. Every single story idea I have involves magic of some sort. However, it might not be a great idea to hinge my author brand on that in case I do come up with an idea that doesn't have it. I already had to scrap my "fairy tales for modern times" tag line when I started writing steampunk, and I have ideas for more traditional fantasy. I suspect I'm fairly safe with magic, though, since that can be defined broadly.

Something that came up when I raised this topic on Facebook was the fact that my books are "clean" or "sweet" -- no gory violence, not a lot of bad language, no graphic sex. This is a pretty good differentiator for me, something that sets me apart, and I don't imagine I'm likely to veer from it because I just don't like writing that kind of thing. It's tricky to incorporate into a brand, though. There's been some backlash against authors who promote themselves as "clean and wholesome" because on the one hand there are people who are offended that some things aren't considered "clean and wholesome" and on the other hand, there are people who have a different definition or different standards and who take offense at things they don't consider to be "clean" that are included in books labeled that way. I'm not sure I'd make this an explicit message that's directly stated in a tagline or in any marketing materials. That's something best communicated indirectly by being consistent in keeping my communication and marketing within a range similar to what I write. So I'm not going to be posting pictures of nearly naked hunks on my Facebook page, I don't use a lot of cursing in my posts, I talk openly about being a Christian and my involvement in my church. You can read between the lines and imagine I'm not writing grimdark fantasy with lots of erotic content.

The other thing that came up a lot in the Facebook discussion was that my books are fun reads. They're escapism. There's going to be a reasonably happy ending, or at least hopeful (if it's in the middle of a series). You're probably going to like the main characters, who are decent people. I don't dwell a lot on villains. I get a lot of reader mail that talks about reading my books while undergoing chemo, on bed rest during difficult pregnancies, while sitting with a loved one in the ICU. My books are feel-good reads. I think this is something to focus on and work with in my branding. "Feel-Good Fantasy"?

Most of my reader mail/comments/feedback focuses on the romantic elements, even though I wouldn't classify most of what I write as "romance." I think that's pretty common across the board, though. If you look at Internet discussion about just about anything, the 'shipping tends to predominate, even if there's not really any romance there. Romance or even the possibility of romance seems to be what makes the emotional connection with a lot of the audience. So I don't know if this is actually something I do well that I should incorporate into my brand or if it's just a general thing that the romance is going to get the response. If I market as romance, people who are really looking for romance are going to be disappointed. I think what I do best is more the hope, the yearning, the possibility. I love the slow build.

A lot of this stuff is more indirect. I'm not sure how to convey "feel-good" graphically. Probably not a lot of dark colors. Maybe a touch of whimsy. When I get done with this round of revisions, there are some books I want to check out of the library to read more about branding and see if I can get better ideas.

Any thoughts on how you see my books and what you think is the key common element?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back from WorldCon

I'm home from WorldCon and getting back into the swing of things. I had grand good intentions of blogging while I was there, but it just didn't happen. By the end of the day, I could barely string words together. There were about 4,000 people there in a large convention center. I was averaging about 3 panels or other events per day that I was on. Just about everything seemed to be standing room only except for a couple of events in very large, very remote rooms at the beginning or end of the day. So it was all-day crowds at a very high energy level. I made myself do at least some networking, so for dinner I went to the Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America suite, where I could get a meal and chat with people in a quieter environment. That seemed like a good compromise when my instinct was to get takeout and hide in my room. But that meant I was getting back to my room and getting in pajamas at around  eight or nine at night, barely catching up on e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc., and then collapsing.

But the reason it was so draining was that it was good. I went to a lot of panels, even ones I wasn't on, so there was no real "down" time during the day, and I have a notebook full of notes. One particularly interesting one was the director of the Vatican Observatory talking about living in an absolute monarchy. He's mostly at the convention to talk about science stuff, but he did this presentation for fantasy authors, since the Vatican is one of the remaining absolute monarchies that functions a lot like the realms in fantasy worlds. There was a great panel on "Nifty Narrative Tricks" that got the wheels turning in my head, as did the panel on playwriting techniques for novelists. I attended some sessions on business planning and author branding, though I'll have to look again at my notes to see if there's anything I can use there.

For the panels I was on, I got to sit next to David Gerrold on a Star Trek panel. There was a great discussion on steampunk at another panel, and a fun panel on adults reading young adult books. I'd been worried about the YA Beyond Borders panel, but it turned into a fascinating discussion that continued in the hallway. I moderated a panel on beta readers that I hope was useful for the attendees.

I did feel a little bit invisible at the convention. For someone who's been publishing in the field for eleven years, with 12 published fantasy books (that's not counting the years and books in romance), and with six Worldcons under my belt, I'm still kind of a nonentity, which can be frustrating when you see newer people with fewer books (and not necessarily bestsellers) more or less eclipsing you. None of my books were available in the dealers' room, not even the new Rebel Mechanics paperback. My autograph session would have been pretty much a bust if not for some of my friends and for some people from my Japanese publisher stopping by. And getting to sit next to William F. Nolan and chatting with him about Logan's Run. On the other hand, I did have an almost full table for my kaffeeklatsch and a decent crowd for my reading (and I didn't even know all of them).

I'm not really sure how to become more visible in that world. The hanging out in the SFWA suite may help. I'm trying to do more follow-up with people I met. I'm terrible at networking because I assume people won't remember me, so I hesitate to contact people, but it's easy enough to follow people on Twitter, and that's a start. I'm going to make more of an effort to participate in the SFWA message boards. I know there's been a lot of controversy lately about the Hugo awards, with a lot of resentment about ideology, and such, but I have to say that even apart from ideology, it does look like there's a "cool kids" club that feels entitled to the nominations, and even if some outsider group that was as perfectly inclusive and diverse as the cool kids club prides themselves on being showed up and managed to get a toehold in the process, there would still be a lot of resentment and outcry from the clique. There's a lot of talk about being inclusive and accepting, but there's a definite insider vs. outsider sense of cliquishness there that can't be fixed while it's not acknowledged. It really is the jocks and cheerleaders vs. the rest of the school, except I don't think even talent can break you in. The back handsprings won't get you on this cheerleading squad. Most of the time, I can ignore all this and just get on with my work. It's only at the big conventions that my invisibility field kicks in with people who should be my peers, but I get the feeling if I tried to join their group, they'd close ranks or get up and move.

I saw almost nothing of the city, but the downtown area was nice, and the famous library whose parking garage looks like a giant bookcase was a few blocks away. My travel went pretty well, aside from the bus breaking down on the trip to the airport (I was glad I planned for taking one bus earlier than I needed) and the thunderstorm that hit when I stepped off the train from the airport on the way home (at least the plane landed before the storm hit). I got to hang out with friends I see maybe once a year and reconnect with some fans who've been with me from the very beginning. I had some interesting conversations, and I'm motivated to get back to work. The one thing I can absolutely control is what I produce, and the only way to really increase visibility is to keep writing more and better books. I have to get Enchanted, Inc. book 8 (which needs a title) to the copyeditor in mid-September, so I have work to do.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hitting the Road (Air)

It's countdown to travel day. I have my to-do list down to blocks of time. I'll admit that I'm a little obsessive about planning travel, but I like to reduce stress as much as possible. I'm so not about the drama. The more planning and preparation I do, the less stress there is. My aim is to be able to get up the morning of a trip, eat breakfast, get dressed, throw the last items I needed for getting dressed in my bag, make the bed, take out the trash, and leave. My ideal is to have everything done before the night before the trip so that I can spend the evening before relaxing -- have a glass of wine, watch a movie or read a book, and go to bed early. I haven't quite made it all the way there yet, but it's a goal. I also like to have the house fairly clean, something in the freezer that can be microwaved for dinner when I return, and something on stand-by for breakfast the next day.

This involves a lot of lists and schedules. Two weeks out, I make a master list of everything that needs to be done before the trip, whether or not it's related to the trip. I assign target dates to each of the tasks. One week out, I take another look to see what's done, what I still need to do, and what's not on the list. I break down tasks to do by day. I try to take care of errands (bank, shopping) several days ahead unless it involves something perishable. Ideally, I don't have to leave the house the day before the trip. When I'm down to the last day or so, I make another schedule, reverse engineering from the time I need to be ready to leave to make sure I have time to do everything.

So far today, I've managed a bit of business stuff, cleaned the bathroom, and washed sheets (another must-do -- clean sheets go on the bed right before I leave). I've put some stuff in the freezer and washed dishes. Now I mostly have another bit of business to do, packing (which has started but isn't entirely complete), and some overall tidying up. I may make my evening goal.

I don't know how often I'll be posting during the week. I'm more likely to be posting through Twitter ( or Facebook ( Any pictures will be posted in one of those places because I'm not yet sure how to get pictures from my phone to my tablet and I'm not taking the computer.

Now, off to do all the things!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Popping Back In

I survived the week of music and art camp. Actually, it wasn't that bad. The kids I had were pretty sweet. I had a couple of girls on Monday who looked like they might be problems -- they brought their own toys and refused to participate in any of the activities -- but one of them threw a hysterical hissy fit when her mom dropped her and her friend off the next day, and her mom gave up and took them home and they didn't come back. That made life much easier. I only had a few boys, and they were really into the stuff we were doing, so they were no trouble at all. It was just a tiring week because I had to get up early and then was on my feet and active all morning, including about half an hour outside on the playground when it was really hot. That was draining.

Now I need to finish the story revisions on the book (should get that done today) and then do all the stuff I need to do to get ready for my WorldCon trip next week. I've done the shopping and errands and I have most of my promo stuff ready (that's work I do while watching Olympics). I just need to figure out and practice what to do for a reading and then do all the laundry, packing, cleaning, and prep work.

If you're going to be at WorldCon in Kansas City, here's where I'll be. Yes, I'll be very busy.

Which means I'd better get to work and wrap up this book so I can do everything else.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Taking a Break

I'm gearing up for a birthday weekend that will mostly be spent working. I'm nearly halfway through this round of revisions, but I've hit the serious rewriting point, so it will slow down, and then next week I'll be out Monday through Thursday mornings, so my schedule will likely be off, and we start choir again next week.

I'm also going to take a brief blogging hiatus. Next week, I likely won't be posting Monday through Thursday. I'll pop back in on Friday for a pre-WorldCon post, and then I'm not sure what I'll do while I'm out of town for WorldCon. It's hard to keep up a regular schedule. I'll be doing more posts to Twitter and Facebook, I imagine. I think I'll take a longer break on writing posts, resuming those in September. I haven't taken that many blogging breaks in more than a decade, so it may be good to regroup and refresh myself, especially as I ponder the value of my various communication and marketing activities.

Meanwhile, it's Olympics time, and I'm not too excited. I feel like we just did this in London. How could that have been four years ago? I may watch part of the gymnastics. I don't know about even the opening ceremonies, since there's something else I want to watch opposite it. I just don't have the brain space to absorb all that stuff right now. I have too many fictional worlds competing for space in my head.

And watch me get caught up in all the hype as soon as it starts ...

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Fixing the Story

I made it through the first quarter of the book in revisions yesterday. At this stage, I'm just fixing the story. I'll worry about the words later. So far, I've cut an entire chapter's worth of material. I cut a huge chunk of chapter two and a huge chunk of chapter three, and now what's left of both chapters is the new chapter two. I imagine I'll be adding at least a chapter's worth of new material in the middle to make up for it. There are a couple of characters I introduced, then forgot about, and then they became important at the end, so I need to incorporate them more throughout so they don't just reappear out of nowhere at the end.

Today starts the hard part. I don't think I'll make it through that many pages because a lot of it will be new writing, and that will require a lot of figuring things out. Still, if I can average about a couple of chapters a day, I'll get this round of rewrites done before WorldCon.

I've already made my Epic List of Stuff That Must Be Done Before WorldCon, with targeted dates. The list doesn't look as bad as I feared it would, but then there are a couple of items on there (like finishing revisions) that require several hours a day from now until then. And I keep adding items to the list as they occur to me (the reason I keep a list). The idea of making the list so soon is that I can start dealing with little things or make sure I'm on top of big things so that departure is as stress-free as possible. That's going to be tough when I'm working on a book at the same time. Someday, I'll get the hang of mixing life with writing books, but for now it seems like I'm all or nothing -- when I'm working on a book, nothing else happens.

For instance, my harp practice has really fallen by the wayside. I only seem to touch the harp when I have to go upstairs and reset the modem and wireless router for my daily Internet outage (funny, those AT&T Internet commercials about how terrible it is when the Internet is down are a fairly accurate representation of my experience with AT&T Internet. Either I have a bad modem or their service crashes at least once a day and requires rebooting everything). I play the harp while I'm waiting for everything to reset.

Now to start thinking of how to fix the rest of this book …

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Magic Space Rollerblades

I read through the first half or so of the new book yesterday, and my instincts about what I'd likely need to cut were pretty much on target. I'll be cutting a lot of scenes out of the beginning and then beefing up the middle. In "hero's journey" terms, the Crossing the First Threshold part comes way too late in the book. I extended the "refusal of the call" for too long. It needs to be somewhat substantial because it's a big threshold to cross, but probably not five chapters worth. And I need to change the opening scene because it's kicked off by something that I thought would be important in the book but that I didn't end up using all that much.

After that much reading and thinking, my brain shut down. I guess I was still in convention recovery mode. So I took a shower, put on my pajamas and watched a brainless movie -- Jupiter Ascending. I'd recorded it off HBO a month or so ago, but there was a glitch in the recording that seemed to cut off the ending, and I knew it wasn't just the movie having an odd ending because it cut straight to the technical part of the credits, skipping the stuff about director, writer, and cast. Since I'd zoned out midway through the movie, I found another showing and had the DVR grab it.

And it still didn't make much sense. It was kind of like they found script pages from various other movies and stuck them together. The visuals were pretty spectacular, and the cast was full of "what are these people doing in this movie?" kind of actors, but the script was basically a stereotypical bad YA novel that borrows heavily from other films. It starts out as The Terminator, only our heroine is a maid instead of a waitress and she's being stalked by alien assassins instead of a killer robot from the future. And she faints and has to be carried away by the hot soldier sent to save her instead of running away with him. Actually, she gets carried around a lot. I guess it makes for a romantic visual with her in the arms of the beefy guy who has magic space rollerblades, but it really adds to the sense of the damsel in distress. There are some bits that make me think of Signs. Then we have the brief Princess Diaries interlude, followed by the segment right out of the movie Brazil (including a cameo by the director of that movie -- perhaps an attempt to avoid a lawsuit?), and then we have some Phantom Menace costuming, and then the part I never seem to manage to watch because at that point in the film I feel compelled to read Facebook, and then there's a dash of Revenge of the Sith mixed with The Empire Strikes Back, and then I don't even know. Maybe some Xanadu? It's a good thing I didn't see this in the theater because I was compelled to blurt out the obvious lines from the scenes that were being borrowed.

I can't really recommend this movie, but at the same time, you really kind of have to see it. Turn off the sound and play some good classical music and use it to facilitate daydreaming. It could be like a kind of meditation because it's certainly good for emptying your mind.

Unfortunately, I was too tired to use it for good brainstorming background, and I still need to come up with a new opening scene. Hmm, what other brainlessness does HBO have to offer?

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

A Between-Conventions Phase

A lot has happened since my last post. I finished the book (yay!!!!!). Today I start on revisions, which I hope to finish before WorldCon. I went to ArmadilloCon, which was a fun trip. I think this convention has become more of a writing-oriented convention rather than a fan-oriented one, which requires some adjusting of expectations. It isn't necessarily where you go to promote yourself to fans, but it is a good place to go to network with other writers and pick up new info about the industry. That networking can lead to promotional opportunities, but it's definitely not a "buy my book!" and meet with your fans kind of event.

I have two weeks before WorldCon, and next week is Music and Art Camp at church, so it will be a busy two weeks. I may take it somewhat easy today and focus on re-reading and making revision plans. I had to go out this morning to pick up my new glasses, so I went ahead and also got groceries. Now I can hibernate and rest for the remainder of the week, since this trip was rather exhausting.

The time while I was there was quite pleasant, though. I'm not sure quite how it happened that way, but I ended up with a corner room that had a balcony. I ate my breakfast out there in the mornings and spent a lot of time sitting out there in the afternoons and evenings. I'm now having to adjust to being back home and not being brought orange juice in the morning and ice and water in the evening. But it's not just me missing the hotel. They sent me an e-mail this morning saying they missed me. Aww, it's mutual.

But now it's back to my usual routine and work and getting ready for my next trip.