Wednesday, November 30, 2016

You've Finished NaNoWriMo. Now What?

If you participated in National Novel Writing month, you just have a few more hours (depending on when you read this) to finish. If you "won," congratulations. When I finish a book, it's a kind of high. All those moments in the middle when it felt like a slog and I was tempted to give up are forgotten, and when I get to the end, I'm convinced it's the best book ever. You may be tempted to send it off to editors or agents or upload it to Amazon right away.


Most editors and agents are winding down their reading for the year, trying to clear out their in-boxes before the holidays, so sending it now probably won't do you much good. And it's probably not ready for publication. Here are some things you might want to do before you try to get it published:

1) Put it aside. Enjoy the holidays. If an idea relating to the book strikes you, write it down, but otherwise don't look at the book until the new year. Giving yourself some distance helps you make better revisions. That's because right now, you're still attached to the emotion of writing it. You remember which parts were difficult, which parts came easily, where you got all the ideas. Remembering all that makes it more difficult to make the right edits. I've often found that when I look at a book again after a break of more than a few weeks, there are things I don't understand about my own plot, or I don't get my own jokes. Distance allows you to come closer to reading it like an editor might.

2) When you get it out, try to read it like a reader would. If you've got the technological capability to put it on an e-reader or tablet, do so, and then just read, not editing, but taking notes if something strikes you. This read is more for plot structure -- when does it drag? Is there something that doesn't make sense? How does it flow? Try to outline the piece and see how it holds together, then figure out what major surgery needs to be done. Are there scenes that need to be cut, added, or replaced to make the plot work? Do scenes need to be rearranged? Do you need to add or cut a subplot? Are there dangling plot threads you need to deal with? Are there any continuity errors that require you to set things up earlier in the book so they'll work at the end?

3) Now you can get down to editing. I generally make at least three passes. The first is the major surgery -- the bulk of the rewriting. That's when I add, cut, or replace scenes and make the plot work. The next pass is to make the words pretty. That's when I make sure the writing is tight, that I'm not repeating words too many times, that the jokes make sense, that all the words that need to be there are there, that I've used the best words for the occasion, that the character voices are unique. The final pass is proofreading, and then I usually read it out loud. That's when I spot awkward sentence structure, missing words that my brain tried to fill in, repetitions, and clunky dialogue. I often change fonts in the document between each phase, which makes it look like a different book. Words are in a different place on the page, which makes you see them differently, and it creates juxtapositions that may show you that you're repeating words within a paragraph or page.

4) Find someone else to read it. This is especially true for a first book. Get someone you trust to give you feedback. You can find critique groups or partners in online writing groups or in writing organizations. Friends and family aren't necessarily a good bet unless they're writers or avid readers who will give you honest feedback. And when you get feedback, accept it graciously. The goal for all of you is to make the book better. You're not helping the book if you get defensive about criticism and treat the person giving feedback like an enemy who's trying to hurt you. The criticism may be wrong, but you may have done something wrong that led the person to make the wrong conclusion. If something's unclear earlier in the book, it may lead readers to make wrong assumptions that affect their reactions to something later. Really mull over and think about the feedback before you accept or reject it.

5) Then you may go through another few rounds of revisions, fixing things that came up in the feedback, then proofreading after you've made those changes.

6) Now you might be ready to submit, though it might be a good idea to let it rest again for a week or so and give it one more read. Meanwhile, you can be researching your options. Don't submit to an agent or publisher without doing your research. Make sure you're dealing with legitimate agents who actually sell books and legitimate publishers that actually put out books. See how they like to receive submissions and work on your query. You may want to customize the query for each person you send it to. If you're thinking about self publishing, do some research into that.

7) Now you can send queries to agents or editors, if you're planning to take that path. If you're going to self-publish, you need to find an editor to hire. You might want to get a developmental editor to work on the story itself, especially if it's a first book, and you definitely need a copyeditor. You'll also need an artist and/or cover designer. Look at the books that are out there and see how yours will fit into the market. Independent publishing is easier than it once was, but you can't just throw something out onto the market and expect it to make money. You need to put some work and money into it.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Book Report: Magicians and Telepaths

I got chapter two of the new project done yesterday, though what that actually meant was fleshing out chapter one, changing the chapter break, and then fleshing out the scene before the old chapter break. Now I'm ready to start chapter three, which will really be moving forward.

Between hang-out time at my parents and my lazy Sunday enjoying the fancy new bed, I got a lot of reading done recently, so I'm due for a Book Report.

A few years ago, I read The Magicians by Lev Grossman and had very mixed feelings about it. I liked a lot of the concept and even some of the execution, but at the same time, it really bugged me. It struck me as rather derivative while trying to be edgy. The stuff at the magical school was rather obviously "It's Hogwarts, but with sex and drugs and drinking!" and then the stuff about the magical land was Narnia with a different name pasted on it, not even an attempt to scratch off the serial numbers. The really annoying thing about that was that while it was so obviously Narnia with a different name, the author was painted as a child molester. So he ripped off CS Lewis and then cast aspersions on him while claiming it was all fiction and not really him. I liked the first part of the book at school well enough, but then the characters left school midway through, and I felt like the book went off the rails. The ending made me mad enough that I didn't read the rest of the series. But then the TV series came on, and I liked it, and I learned that a lot of it came from later books. Since I'm working on my own "travel to a magical world" story, I figured I might as well tackle the whole series, mostly to make sure I'm not being accidentally derivative.

I liked the first book a little better after seeing the TV series, mostly because I like the TV versions of the characters better, and the book read better if I mentally inserted the TV characters. And I did end up liking the second book better than the first. It delved more into the magical world and then did a lot more globetrotting in our world, so we got that mix of magic and mundane that I love. I still feel like the fantasy world is a little too derivative. That part of the plot was basically Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I didn't realize quite how much was cribbed from that book until I rewatched the movie after reading this book, and wow, he barely tried to change things. At the same time, I feel like he doesn't quite get Narnia and thinks he's being edgy by making his world dangerous. Narnia was always dangerous. He's somehow managed the near-impossible of copying a story plot point by plot point while still coming across as never actually having read the original. Still, it was a fun magical adventure story that you might enjoy a bit more if you last read the Narnia books when you were 12 and don't remember them well enough to spot the ripoffs. I also liked that the characters were growing up and becoming a bit more likable. I'm in the middle of the third book now.

Then I got the new Connie Willis book, Crosstalk, which is basically a screwball comedy about telepathy. It has the feel of the old movies like Bringing up Baby and My Favorite Wife, but set in the near future, when people are so intent on communicating even more than their smart phones allow that they get brain implants that allow them to sense their romantic partner's emotions. A woman working for a cell phone company is thrilled when her boyfriend suggests they get the implants, because that means he's serious. But there might be unintended consequences. She's only supposed to be sensing emotions, but she hears a voice. And it's not her boyfriend's.

This was a fun romantic romp. The science is a little handwavy, so I think even fantasy readers might get into it. It might have been a little difficult to get into because the heroine comes across as kind of a doormat, not only with her boyfriend but also with her very intrusive, wacky family. But once the story kicks off, it gets really intense while also being very funny and eventually deeply romantic. It's not a sexy kind of romantic, but rather a really deep emotional bond formed during difficult circumstances, which is my kind of thing. I would say that if you have an intrusive family, the first few chapters might be triggering, but it ends up being somewhat important to the plot. I don't have an intrusive family, and I was practically climbing the walls during those scenes.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Post-holiday Catchup

I took a bit of a break for the holiday week, so I have a lot to catch up on.

First, Fantastic Beasts -- I had some writing structure quibbles with it, but I did enjoy the movie. I liked the Jazz Age setting, something we don't see a lot of in fantasy, and I liked the characters. The acting was excellent. It's fun seeing a movie in that universe in which the characters were adults and already fully trained wizards, so we didn't have to go through the origin story or training. I'm curious as to how the rest of the series will go because this seemed to be largely setup to establish the threat and establish the characters.

I had a good Thanksgiving with my family. I got to see just how much of a challenge it is to get everything done and on the table in a reasonable order when I tag teamed with my mom to finish getting the dinner ready and then get it served. This is why my meals tend to be simple. It's nearly impossible to have everything ready at about the same time.

Now I have a ton of turkey leftovers. I've already used a lot of them to make some soup. I'll have to get creative with the rest. The weekend is supposed to be chilly, so maybe I'll make some pot pies.

Saturday, there was gorgeous weather, so I took a long walk and came up with the solution for a problem I've been having with the book I've been working on. I also had the clever idea of wearing my hiking socks with my sneakers, so I didn't get the blisters or rubbing I usually get when I take that long a walk.

Sunday was delightfully gray, and I was reading the newspaper while sitting on the sofa and trying to find a comfortable position when I remembered that I now have that fancy adjustable bed. It was the perfect day for a good wallow, so I hauled the newspaper in there, along with some books, raised the head and foot to create a nice cradle position, and spent the afternoon doing crosswords and reading. When the head's elevated, I'm a long way from the nightstand, so I set up a folding wooden TV table by the bed to hold my tea. It was all rather decadent. I'll have to do that more often.

Now I need to dive into work for the week. I have a book to promote, a proposal to write, and a lot of housework that I need to do to get ready for the holidays.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Up on the Rooftop

After more than a year of me complaining about the leaks in my house, things are finally being done. Yesterday, they caulked the seams in my exterior stucco, and this morning they've been working on my roof. It's all very exciting, but also very noisy. I'd already planned to go see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them today, but this makes it guilt-free, as I'm not sure how much work I'd be getting done, anyway. They have to move around clay tiles, then work on the part under the tiles, and there are power tools involved.

So, I think I'm going to make a grand day out of it. I need to go to the bank, and I may go out to lunch, and then I'll catch the first matinee of the day. Maybe they'll be done by the time I get home.

I'm really excited about this movie. It's the first in the Potterverse that was written to be a movie rather than being an adaptation, which means I'm going in with no idea what happens rather than having the book just about memorized and having my own mental images already in place. It's also aimed at adults rather than at kids. And I find Eddie Redmayne an absolutely fascinating actor to watch. His face is so transparent that you can read his thoughts. The first thing I saw him in was a WWI movie called Birdsong on PBS, and he hardly spoke, but you knew everything he was thinking. I suppose it's too much to hope that they let him sing in this movie.
He's also adorably brainy and geeky in real life. His PSA defending Hufflepuffs is a thing of beauty.

He may be my poster boy for the "nice guy" hero. He's also somehow become my mental image of Lord Henry. That wasn't anywhere in my mind when I started writing those books, but lately, he's who I see -- at least, a younger version.

Ooh, it just got quiet. Too quiet. It's awfully windy to be working on the roof. Maybe I'd better go out and check. I didn't hear any screaming, but you never know.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Coming Soon

We're less than a month away from the release of the new Enchanted, Inc. book. There's also going to be a bonus that day: an Enchanted, Inc. short story! That one will be a freebie -- a holiday gift for my existing readers, but I'm also hoping that maybe it will lure in some new readers. Due to a quirk at B&N, they may be charging 99 cents for it, but I'm going to try to put the EPUB version on my web site so Nook owners can get it for free (if they know to go to my site). It should be free at Amazon.

I guess this means I'll have to update my web site, huh? I was hoping to have a new one by now, but getting sick and then focusing on getting well again sort of sidetracked me. And also, I was writing, and I'd far prefer to write than deal with business and promo stuff. But I'd better get back on that.

Meanwhile, I've started something entirely new. I'd like to get back into traditional publishing to have more of a mix of income sources (and I think that having a contract may help if I'm trying to get a mortgage sometime next year), so I'm working on a proposal for a YA fantasy novel. I got a good start, then realized I'd started in the wrong place, so I'll have to start again. Still, I don't think it was a waste because it allowed me to explore the characters and get a better sense of them. No matter how much you plan and plot, it's still a little different once you start writing. That's when they really come to life. Meanwhile, some new characters who I believe will turn out to be pivotal appeared, so I had to figure out who they were and what was up with them.

So, after doing a bit of that work yesterday, I think I'm ready to start writing again today. The new opening scene was playing out in my head when I woke up this morning. As a result, I got a very late start on my day. I didn't want to get up and break the spell when I was seeing the movie in my head.

This was going to be a bit of a retreat weekend, anyway, since it's my last free weekend of the year, and this week so far has been really busy and social. Next weekend is Thanksgiving, and then I have a string of parties and other events filling the following three weekends, then there's Christmas, and then New Year's, and I have a convention that weekend (at least I think I do. They never put me on the web site, and I never heard more after they invited me, but when I asked about it, they said they still wanted me, and yet I'm still not on the web site). I would say I can anticipate a lot of cave time in January, but I already have school visits being booked. Librarians seem to have discovered me lately.

So I guess I'd better do some writing and get more books out there!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Damsel Under Stress Reread: Chapters 14-16

I didn't realize I'd gone so long without posting on the Damsel Under Stress commentary. I guess I got sidetracked by so many other things and never quite had the time to read and think.

But I picked the book up again this morning. In Chapter 14, we're still in the middle of the disastrous dinner date at the fancy restaurant, after Katie and Owen's planned simple night out got hijacked. Amid all the wacky hijinks, there is a plot clue hidden (and that's actually something that sets up the new book). It's funny, as I was rereading this, I was thinking back to my thought process in writing it, and it was all about how the idea of the perfect date isn't a one-size-fits-all thing. A super-fancy, celebrity-filled restaurant might be great for some people but miserable for others. The comparison that came to mind was the way they come up with these "dream" dates on shows like The Bachelor (I've never actually watched, but it's difficult to escape the imagery) that sound pretty painful to me. There's this ideal of what's supposed to be romantic, but if that's not the kind of person you are, it's not going to work. Then I got to the passage where Katie has the exact same thought.

That's where a lot of the Ethelinda stuff came from, the idea that a fairy godmother who wasn't keeping up with the times would come up with some crazy ideas of what was romantic. Then when that didn't work, she might look to popular culture for ideas, and that would be equally disastrous.

And then we're back to the plot, where Katie has to temporarily lose her magical immunity in order to see what's going on with the enemy's ad campaign. This is where the magical folks could use more "normal" people on their side, since all they have are either magical people or immunes. It's easier to make an immune normal than it would be to take away magical powers, so in order to see how Idris and his gang are hiding the ads, Katie has to step up. As we learned in the previous book, this also makes her vulnerable to magic.

We get a contrast between the "dream" date and the date that's truly ideal for Owen and Katie when they have dinner at his place while watching for one of the Spellworks ads on TV. It's just burgers and TV, but they get to talk about their childhoods and interests, and it feels comfortable and genuine.

Meanwhile, they're getting ready for a costumed New Year's Eve party. I recall going through a lot of different ideas for how a really wacky magical party would go, and I settled on costumes because that creates a lot of opportunity for intrigue. Still, it can be kind of a pain coming up with a costume at a non-traditional time of year for costumes. One company I used to work for once had a costume party for Christmas, and that was a challenge. I imagine it's less difficult in New York.

And Katie has come up with a way to fight an extremely ADD villain: distract him. I actually don't remember how that plays out, so I'm looking forward to reading on.

We end with a cliffhanger in which it looks like Ethelinda might be about to spill the beans to Katie's friends about her magical life. Stay tuned (or read ahead) to see what happens next!

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Change of Bedding

I was out Friday morning buying my new bed, which was just delivered, so I missed a day posting. I managed to get a great deal on a higher-end bed (though apparently, it's the higher end of the "mid-range" and not what's truly considered "higher-end," but it was still what I liked best out of all the ones I tried). Then I had to buy new sheets, since I upgraded from a full to a queen and all my bedding is for a full. The new sheets are currently being washed. My old bed looked so tiny once I stripped it of all the bedding and mattress toppers. The new one is taller, but it also has lots of room underneath for stashing my sweater boxes and bags. I'll need to get a new bedskirt, and they now have some that don't have to go under the mattress, but rather pin to the base.

I'm thinking that the next cold, rainy weekend, I'm going to have a movie day in the new bed, since I can raise the head and foot to make it almost like a giant recliner. I'll stay in pajamas all day and watch romantic comedies (most of which I have on DVD rather than Blu-Ray, so they'll play on the machine in the bedroom).

This was also an excuse/occasion to thoroughly clean my bedroom. I was able to vacuum between the time they took away the old bed and brought in the new one, and it was scary how much junk came up. It filled the Dyson canister. I'd already done a lot of cleaning around the bed last night so that all I'd need to do was jump in and clean just the space under the bed. When I was clearing out from under the bed yesterday, I found books I didn't remember owning. I hope the new bed has the same magical book generating properties.

In other news, I finally got to do my solo in church yesterday. By the time I sang, it had becomes something of a weight because of it being postponed before, and I was so afraid of getting sick again or not being well enough. I did have a sore throat, and I was losing my speaking voice, which gave me a scare, but I got through it, and I think it went okay. I'm a raging perfectionist, and it may not have been the best I ever did it, but I think it did go well enough. People said nice things. I went out to lunch with friends afterward and ran into people from church who complimented me. Now I can relax a bit and not worry too much about my voice, though I have a follow-up with the doctor tomorrow to see what we're going to do going forward.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


I was making great progress on the book. There was all kinds of tension, and I'd built up to the first big turning point, with a major chapter-ending cliffhanger.

And then during the night after writing it, I had a "hmmm" moment because it was giving me deja vu. I thought I ought to check something in the previous book because my recollection was that a character had at least gained more of an inkling about that thing, and that might mean I needed to shade the revelation differently.

It turned out that I'd actually revealed that thing in the previous book. So there went all the tension and the big "aha!" moment. I don't think anything but the last 5,000 or so words (and only bits and pieces of that) will need to be rewritten, but it will affect shadings of everything else, so it's back to the drawing board, to a large extent.

I may actually backburner it for a little while to work on that proposal I'm developing, which has really taken off in my head. Timewise, that's more important, as I want to get it to my agent before she breaks for the holidays (and maybe that means she might get to look at it to act on early in the year), while I just want to have a finished book on this other project before everyone returns from the holidays early next year.

Since I was frustrated by the writing, I went shopping yesterday. My parents have offered to get me a new bed for Christmas, and I need to pick it out. I went to one of those mattress stores that does the scientific analysis of you to suggest the ideal bed for you. You lie on a bed and it scans you (probably for weight and height), then you get into your usual sleeping position, and it scans again, then gives you a readout of recommended mattresses.

Wow, were they all very different from what I have now. The problem was, they were all so much better than what I have, and they were all pretty close, that it was hard to tell what I liked best. It was like going to the eye doctor and she flips the little lens things around and asks which one you like better, and you can hardly tell the difference. I was surprised by how much I didn't like the Tempurpedics. I'd have thought that would have been ideal for me. I wanted to do a little more research before making a final decision, and now I'm glad because the one I liked the best in the store has terrible reviews. They almost all said it was really comfortable in the store and for the first few months, but it started sagging badly almost immediately after the store's guarantee expired and they had to deal with the manufacturer, and the manufacturer was a nightmare to deal with for the warrantee.  So, now I need to go back and look at some of the other ones that I didn't like quite as much in the store but that have much better user feedback.

I also learned that the "price match guarantee" some of the stores offer doesn't mean much because they game the system -- the same mattress may be sold under different names at different stores, but since that name isn't available elsewhere, you can't get the price matched. There was an online chart showing what the equivalents are, and it turns out that Macy's offers the same thing for a lot less. I may have to run up to Macy's and see how it goes and what they offer. I feel a little bad using the one store's electronics to tell me what to get and letting that salesman spend so much time and then running elsewhere, but I guess that's the way retail works.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Worldbuilding: The Trouble with Magic

In my writing posts, I've been talking about worldbuilding. You're doing worldbuilding whenever you write fiction, but we tend to think of it as relating to fantasy, where you're creating a different world that works in unusual ways. One of those differences is generally the existence of some form of magic, and that's one of the big pitfalls of fantasy worldbuilding. If you don't handle magic well, it can completely derail your plot. Magic can either make things too difficult for your heroes -- if the villain has it and they don't -- make things too easy for your heroes -- they can solve the whole thing with a wave of a hand -- or make your heroes look like idiots if they have the power to solve the whole thing with a wave of a hand and still go about it the hard way. If you're going to have magic in your world, you need to put some thought and planning into it. It's a really good idea to have at least a general idea of how your magical system works and what the rules and limitations are before you start writing, and then force yourself to abide by it. If you make up the magic as you go and resist codifying it into any kind of system along the way, you'll actually make things more difficult for yourself because it gets harder to come up with a plot that still works.

First, think about the source of your magic and who can use it. Where does the power come from? Is it in the atmosphere? In objects? In people? Is the ability to use magic something a person is born with? Is it something anyone can do, but some people can do better than others? Is it something that happens to a person? Is it genetic, running in families, or is it random? Does it require training? Do some people have more power than others, or is the difference in training? You don't necessarily have to spell all this out in your story, but you should probably have some rationale for which characters have magical abilities and which characters don't. You also probably want some kind of balance between the villain and the hero, enough to maintain a struggle, with some way of one side finding an advantage in the final confrontation. If one side is overpowered, it's hard to keep things going. Why doesn't the more powerful person just crush the other? Sometimes, that balance can come from the hero needing to learn and gain abilities -- he may not face the villain until he's leveled up some, might lose the earlier confrontation, then may grow some more until he's able to win. You need to build these possibilities into your magical system and think about how it plays into your characters.

Next, it will really help your plotting if there's some kind of limitation on magic use, whether it's a power supply issue, the way the magic works, or rules with real consequences. Otherwise, magic makes things too easy and drains all the suspense from the story. If all your magical characters can just wave their hands and do anything they want, non-stop, then you have to contrive ways to keep them from being effective immediately. It seems less artificial if limits are already built in. Your characters might get tired and hungry from all the power used to do magic. There may be more or less magical power in different locations. They may need to use tools, like wands, to use magic -- if your magic user is useless without a wand, it's easy to temporarily take away his power. They may need to use specific spells that require ritual or ingredients. They may need to know the incantation and motions to make a specific spell work. There may be rules about who can use what forms of magic in particular circumstances, with dire consequences if those rules aren't obeyed. If you want to really make things tough, there can be a major cost -- the magic user gives up part of her lifespan, ages, suffers pain, has to draw upon someone else's lifespan, uses up finite resources. All of these things keep people from just waving their hands and getting anything they want.

Having magic will change society in some ways. Part of that will determine -- or depend upon -- whether magic is open or secret and what the consequences are for spilling the secret. If magic is open, are the magic users in power? If not, why not, given that they have all that power? If magic is secret, the same questions apply -- are magical people secretly using their magic to get into power? If not, why not? If magic is known, what does everyone else think about it? Is it revered or feared? Have non-magical people tried to pass any laws regulating magic use? Are laws like that a reason magic is now underground, if it's secret? Does magic create a class system? How does magic affect day-to-day life? Has it affected the development of technology? How does it affect the economy if some people can create things out of thin air? What kind of transportation system is required if people can poof themselves from place to place?

One particular issue relating to magic is the possibility of magical healing. It's handy to be able to badly injure or even kill your characters and then get them back on their feet again without a lengthy recovery period, but that can also sap suspense from your story if you know that any magic user can wave a hand and heal any wound. If that's possible, why have hospitals and doctors? It works best if there are even more limits to healing than to regular magic -- that's a special magical talent, it takes certain training, it has a high energy cost, it may mend a wound but not take care of related problems like blood loss, etc. Then you can maintain some suspense as to whether a character will live or die and still have the chance to have a character healed, without guaranteeing that every character can be so easily healed and without making your characters look stupid or callous if not everyone is healed that way.

Magic can make writing easier in some respects -- I've had editors give up on nitpicking something in a book when they realize that they're dealing with a world where magic works. "A wizard did it" can be a perfectly valid explanation. But at the same time, making "a wizard did it" be plausible requires a lot of background work.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Fangirls and Portals

A while ago I was talking about the portal stories in children's fiction -- how it must have been common enough that it was considered a trope that gets spoofed, but I hadn't been able to think of anything for children other than the Narnia books. I did eventually dig up some others, and there was the mention of E. Nesbit, who got referenced in the Edward Eager books.

Well, I finally remembered to request one of the E. Nesbit books from the library (most of them seem to be in the archive warehouse, so they aren't shelved in the regular libraries and have to be requested). And I may not be able to get through the whole thing. I can see why Edward Eager sort of lampooned them. They seem to be an artifact of their particular time and place. At least, this one was. It's not so much the fantasy part that's the problem. It's the characters. I've barely made it to the fantasy part. I liked the way the characters found the magical land, but boy, are those kids insufferable. I'm not sure I'd have been able to get through this even when I was a child.

So, this little bit of research for the portal fantasy story I'm plotting (which involves a story within a story -- it's a portal fantasy that involves a portal fantasy) may have to go by the wayside. I just know of another way of getting between worlds that I'll have to avoid.

Over the weekend, I read what I suppose you could call a genre-adjacent book, the young adult novel Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The idea I'm playing with involves a character who's a fangirl of the portal fantasy book, so I wanted to see what else has been said about fan culture (I like to read any books that might get compared to my idea to make sure to differentiate mine). This book is about a college freshman who seems to be shy and withdrawn, without a lot of friends, but she has an active online life as a big-name fan fiction author for a series that's basically Not!Harry Potter. She writes epic Not!Harry/Not!Draco romances. As a college student, she's struggling with keeping up with her fan fiction while also navigating classes and relationships.

I had a rather uncomfortable response to this book. On the one hand, it does seem to accurately reflect what I've seen of fan culture. I've known way too many people exactly like the heroine (just substitute for the fandom of any real property). On the other hand, while the depiction was rather respectful, it also had a note of suggesting that she was this obsessed because she had a lot of emotional damage. She also seemed extremely disconnected with reality -- she's surprised to get an F on a college creative writing assignment because she turned in fan fiction, and she couldn't understand why her professor kept talking about how her work needed to be original when she kept insisting that the story was all hers and therefore was original, even if she borrowed the characters and situation from another writer. I've encountered fan writers who were unclear on how that works (someone once sent me a Buffy fanfic that "fixed" the Willow and Tara relationship to send to my publisher because they were sure lots of people would want to read a book about that), but it was hard to sympathize with the character when I was siding with the professor. The book seemed to go back and forth on whether all this was a positive force in the character's life or something holding her back. It was a big seller -- big enough that apparently the author published a novel that was the fan fiction story the character was writing -- but I'd be curious to know how people really involved in the fan fiction community felt about the depiction.

On the other hand, I did like the way college life and relationships were portrayed, the way friendships form in a dorm and in classes. The romantic plot was rather lovely -- a healthy, positive relationship rather than the weirdness you get with a lot of college-based romances.

It was a fun book I read quickly, though it ends up that this depiction of a fangirl is very different from the one I have living in my head. Actually, the one living in my head was somewhat inspired by a girl at my church who's just so enthusiastic about the things she loves, she manages to work them into every conversation. She was in late elementary school when I first encountered her, and she made what I think she believed to be an obscure and slightly veiled Doctor Who reference. I shocked her by replying in a way that made it obvious I got it. And then she talked my ear off with enthusiasm for having someone to talk to about her obsession. That's going to be my fangirl, the person who meets a kindred spirit and bubbles over.

Monday, November 07, 2016

My Weather Happy Place

It's a delightfully dreary Monday morning, and I'm looking forward to a good day of writing, if that antihistamine ever wears off. It seems to get worse the longer I take it, so now I have to take it right after dinner if I want to wake up at a reasonable hour and not feel groggy for several more hours after I wake up.

I had a delightful rainy Sunday afternoon yesterday. It's been ages since I had a day like that. It was perfect for spending the day reading and drinking tea. Yeah, it was somewhat work-related reading, but it was enjoyable work-related reading, so it didn't really count as work.

I also got in a little outdoors time this weekend, with a short walk in the woods by the lake. The last time I went to that park, the lake was way lower than it was supposed to be, so it was like a cliff overlooking the lake. Then the lake was flooded, so that whole area was under water for a long time. You could see on the trees where the water line was, and a lot of the trees died. Now the part that was like a cliff is pretty much just the shore. It's thrown off my whole orientation of where things are supposed to be, since I'm used to the lake being much farther away. We're getting to the time of year when it's really nice to be out and about outside. I just need to get through this week first, since I'm supposed to be singing that solo Sunday. I'll be a little less worried about protecting my voice after that, and I'll be seeing the doctor again the following Tuesday, so I'll know more about what's actually going on with me. Then maybe I can play outside some more.

I feel better in general because the weather has switched to cool and damp, which is my happy place.

Meanwhile, I need to get back to full work mode. I've been writing but haven't really been carrying out all my marketing plans. One thing my agent and I agreed I need to focus on is visibility as a fantasy author. I really don't seem to exist there other than with individuals I've met at conventions. In general fantasy groups, when people are looking for recommendations or talking about books, my name never seems to come up. I'm all but invisible in the fantasy world, as I discovered when attending the Nebulas. My readership seems to mostly come around the fringes of that, from paranormal romance, paranormal cozy mystery, paranormal chick lit, etc. That's a huge opportunity for me, a bunch of new readers who might like me who haven't bought my books yet. The trick is finding a way to get more visibility there. I already go to conventions. The Enchanted, Inc. books were well-reviewed in Locus and even got a nice feature in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I just need to figure out what more I can do to hit that target audience.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Why I Procrastinate

The tackled procrastination feels so good. It turns out that I had built up one thing in my head to be really awful, and it turned out to be something different going on than I expected. I'd received an ominous-looking envelope from the accounts receivable department of a company I have an account with, and it looked to me like one of those "you're in trouble now, missy" kinds of letters, which was weird because I couldn't think of any reason I would owe them money. I'm up to date on my bills with them. But when I got it in the mail, I really didn't want to deal with it. I forced myself to face it yesterday, bracing myself for having to make a bunch of phone calls and being put on hold for hours. I opened it and found a check. They were refunding me from an overbilling (not sure why they couldn't have credited me, but whatever). So, I didn't have to make any annoying phone calls. There was another put-off task that I think I resolved, but I may need to make a follow-up e-mail to be sure. Most of this comes from doing multiple things with the same company, but the different branches don't talk to each other in some ways while talking in other ways. Changing billing on one thing affected the billing on another thing, but no one could figure out who I needed to talk to in order to get the other thing adjusted, so I ended up having to deal separately with different departments, even if the billing all came from the one place. I was able to do that online, but I want to confirm that it went through and worked.

Whew! Is there any wonder I procrastinate stuff like that? It meant that I didn't get as much writing done as I hoped. Well, there was other business stuff, and giving input to an artist, and getting caught up on bookkeeping. Someday maybe I'll be able to afford an administrative assistant to do some of the business stuff for me. But now that I've seen the bookkeeping, that won't be anytime soon.

Which means I need to do some writing.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Secrets and Spoilers

I made my writing goal again yesterday, so I'm on target. I'm trying to take advantage of the early enthusiasm because I know there will be a time in the middle when I'm stuck or distracted or just don't want to do anything. There may be a nice day when I just want to go for a long walk. So I'm trying to get as much done as possible now when I want to do it.

I'm having fun getting to use some of my research in this part of the book, something that really did exist and was used that's coming in handy for me now. See, all that reading I did leading up to this book wasn't wasted.

There are four big secrets that are still secret in the Rebel Mechanics books. A lot of people have guessed one of them. One or two people have guessed another. I haven't heard of anyone having the slightest inkling about the other two. I've put in only subtle hints of the sort that could have a totally different meaning for one of them. The other exists only in my head, and I'm still not sure if I'm going to use it. It was there when I started writing, and it was something that came out of my research, but I'm not sure now if I want to have it be that way, and it wouldn't contradict any text if I change my mind.

I suspect that three of the secrets will have to come out in this book, all for plot reasons, though I figure one of them shouldn't be dragged out any longer because it's becoming obvious enough that if the characters don't do the math, they look pretty dumb.

It's funny when people pull me aside at conventions to whisper questions about what they've guessed. I've only confirmed any of the answers with my former editor (mostly because I had to make my case for keeping some things in the first book, pointing out that clever readers might notice something in that scene that will be important later). Otherwise, it's fun singing out, "Spoilers!"

Meanwhile, I've designated today as a Procrastination Conquering Day, in which I set aside time to tackle a bunch of little things I've been putting off. Either it will turn out to be quicker and easier than I feared, or it will justify the procrastination.

But first, I'll go find absolutely anything else to do before that. My sock drawer really needs to be reorganized.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Off to a Good Start

I got a good start on my Not Really NaNoWriMo book yesterday, in spite of frittering away the morning and running errands in the afternoon, coming in with a couple of hundred words more than my goal. I'm resisting the urge to recalculate the daily target based on that, as it's more about finishing the book than about hitting an actual word count, and I could go over or under. But I am trying to rack up word count in the early days when enthusiasm is high so I'll have a cushion for when I'm slogging through the middle or if something comes up later in the month. I tried to be realistic about days I would be writing. I included Saturdays unless I had other plans but didn't include Sundays, and I didn't include travel days around Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day itself, but I didn't give myself the entire holiday weekend, so if I get ahead of things, that's probably where that time will go.

I have choir tonight but not children's choir, so it will be a shorter day, but not as short as a usual Wednesday, so I should be able to hit my goal, but maybe not go over.

Tomorrow, though, is supposed to be cool and rainy, and I don't have to be anywhere or do anything, so I'm hoping for a great writing day.

It's always fun and a little daunting to step back into one of my fictional worlds. I was worried about finding my Verity voice after spending the summer writing Katie, but I slipped right back into the more Victorian mode. Reading Frankenstein over the weekend probably helped, as that more formal voice was in my head.

Meanwhile, I went to the library for early voting this morning and picked up a few books that may be references for the proposal I'm playing with.

It's nice to really be back in work mode after being sick. Now I just need to get back on all the business and marketing stuff that I've let slide.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016


Part of my Halloween weekend fun was watching Young Frankenstein for the first time in ages (probably since I've been adult enough to get all the jokes), and then I realized that I'd never actually read the original novel of Frankenstein. I've seen the old silent movie, I've seen numerous spoofs, I've seen more recent adaptations that were closer to the book, but I hadn't read the book. I decided this was as good a time as any to rectify that, and since it's in public domain, I got it on my tablet.

I have to say that for a novel that's considered one of the early works of horror, it wasn't that scary. I have to agree with those who classify it as science fiction. It really is more about the science and the implications of the science than it is about the scares. There's suspense, it's atmospheric, and some of the stuff happening is horrible, but I didn't find it all that scary. Also, most of the "classic" movie interpretations are so thinly based on the book as to be entirely different entities -- the look and behavior of the creature, the scope, the events, the time period.

I was a little amused by the very 19th century story telling style, something I'm coming to think of as Novel Inception, where it's a story within a story within a story within a letter. That seems to have been a common thing in early novels, where they couldn't just tell a story. It had to be a letter describing events. Sometimes, it's a letter describing a story told to the letter writer. In this case, it was letters describing events that led to meeting someone who told a story, and part of that story was a story told to that storyteller. At one point in the book, it's a letter relating a story told to the letter writer by someone who's telling a story someone else told him.

Now I think I need to read Dracula, since that probably bears little resemblance to all the adaptations that have become famous. Maybe next Halloween.