Deadly Ever After

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

How To Not Be Stupid at Conventions

TODAY’S BREW: Red Velvet from Target. God, I do love Target.

By Julie

Penguicon was my first convention for writerly stuff. It seemed like everyone on the frigging planet knew everything there was to know about conventions before I went, and there’s these badges and ribbons and everyone knows their way around, and I’m just sort of a “take a left at the tree” kind of girl.

But being brand new to this, I wanted to come away with something from this convention, and I always will. Here a few things I knew for certain that I taught myself, and they might help you out, too. Conventions are an investment, and should be treated as such unless you’re a trust fund baby or a high priced call girl. If you don’t have unlimited cash and want to treat your weekend like a giant party, go for it. If you want it to mean something to your writing career, these are my suggestions:

  • GO WITH THE INTENT OF GETTING SOMETHING OUT OF IT. Sounds basic, but yeah. Make it your mission to go home with more than a hangover, a pile of books, toys and bruises. I wanted to come away having met some people that are important to my writing, and inspired to work on my newest book. Mindset changes everything.
  • MAKE YOURSELF USEFUL. Volunteer to help out. Not only do you meet some folks, but you learn about the con fast and you loosen up really quickly. I worked at Penguicon like an animal. I helped set up the con suite, refilled all the food for the guests, answered questions, all that stuff. Trial by fire. I threw myself into the middle of it, and put my resources to work. It made me feel like I was giving something back.
  • LOOK AT THE DAMN PROGRAM AND MAP, AND STRATEGERIZE THE PANELS. I was psyched to put my two cents in at the Obligatory Undead Panel, talking about whether or not the undead are really a dead topic. A kick ass worldbuilding panel helped me figure out what exactly I need to keep in mind while building the world for my new book, and taught me something I should probably already have known; building convincing worlds for games is a different aspect of complexity than building worlds for novels, and there’s a lot to be learned there. (Now I get to play games for “research.”)
  • INTRODUCE YOURSELF IN THE DEALER ROOM. Those folk working at the tables? YEAH, THEY’RE AWESOME. The tee-shirt guy writes, the comic illustrators and writers are selling their stuff, and probably sitting there a little awkwarded out at the idea of selling shit like a mall kiosk nightmares. Introduce yourself. Talk. Now the comics and other things I got came straight from the hands of the people who created them and I talked shop with those folks. FOR THE WIN.
  • OH YEAH. INTRODUCE YOURSELF IN GENERAL. For real, put yourself out there. My agent, the illustrious Eric Ruben, Esquire, will say all day long that writing is showbiz. People want to connect with the author. YOU’RE THE AUTHOR, ASSHAT. CONNECT. I saw a lovely lady in a super short elevator ride that had the same expression on as me. I mentioned it. We got coffee and hung out and she’s goddamn awesome, and an author of the same stuff as me, and was later on a panel with John Fucking Scalzi and Holy Shit It’s Cory Doctorow. Yeah. Speak up, introvert. These are your people.
  • ALSO MAKE EYE CONTACT AND SMILE. I don’t mean like a politician, but walk with your head up and smile at everybody. These are some of the friendliest, most talented people I would never have met if I didn’t walk around like I owned the place. Not only that, but you have so much to learn from each other, and I learned that I’m not as dumb as I thought about stuff, too.
  • KNOW WHO YOU WANT TO MEET AND MEET THEM. I was fucking determined to meet John Scalzi, so I did. I went up to him after Ask the Author and introduced myself. I looked like an ass, sure. But next year, I won’t have to do it again with as much flourish. I was still too scared to talk to Cory Doctorow, but he tweeted me and I felt like a million bucks
  • PLAN FOR NEXT YEAR OR NEXT CON. I already have put the feelers out to speak on panels at the next Penguicon. I wrote a quick list of do’s and don’ts for next time.

Now that I’m home, I’ve referred to the few notes I’ve taken a million times, and feel re-energized like nobody’s business. This is what I needed, and now I’m full steam ahead. Basically, grab your convention by the balls and run with it.

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Jered’s 3 1/2 Magic Rules For Writing

Jered knows his shit and finally he’s writing about knowing his shit.

Word Whiskey

There’s a semi-serious post planned for tomorrow, so I figured I would fill up today with some writing about, well, writing. It’s one of the main reasons I started Word Whiskey (the others being sharing my writing and babbling about bullshit regarding my personal life), so I figured six posts in, I might as well offer a little advice. Or pointers. Or, you know what, I’ll just tell you the steps that work for me and why I believe in them and maybe you’ll find a nugget of help somewhere there in the ashes.

I’m not a traditionally published author. I’m not a raging success story in the self-published arena. I released Waypoint, the first book in the Convergence trilogy, a few years ago. The second book (Death Worth Living For) was split into two halves and released, and the first half of the third book (As the Earth Trembles)…

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Lessons Learned from the Undead Duo

Killing Your Darlings: Can I Get Therapy For This?

by Sara

 

So, my dear friend, Kristen Strassel, tells me I have to kill people. And I don’t know how I feel about this. Well, actually I do. I HATE IT! I created these precious characters, who have been gestating in my mind, for YEARS and shortly after breathing life into them I’m told I have to kill my darlings? Really?

Naturally, my first thought is to switch gears and write for soap operas. No, really. They never have to commit to killing anyone because anyone can come back from the dead, and I mean anyone. They can put someone in a casket, lower it into the ground, have a nice ceremony and some time later, the dude in the casket pulls a Criss Angel and finds his way out of the box. Whad’ya know, they’re not dead after all. Does anyone remember Bobby Ewing in the shower scene? (No, not “Who shot J.R,” the other thing) You know, Bobby Ewing, the patron saint of the Ewing family on Dallas who died, but then later, he wasn’t dead, because he couldn’t be dead, because dead people don’t usually take showers. Did I mention it was all a terrible dream? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

I have a feeling my novel will be the next Novella on Telemundo? It’s perfect. The only time soaps kill a character off is when an actor totally pisses them off. (Soap opera character deaths, the kind that stick, seem to occur only to characters played by really obnoxious actors. Am I the only one who has noticed this? Joey Tribbiane’s Drake Ramoray + tragic fall down elevator shaft, anyone?)

Back to Kristen, you would think that a woman who writes about immortal characters would have an appreciation for what I’m saying. Why should my darlings have to die when hers rarely do? But, no, she wants me to kill my darlings. And even worse, her Undead Duo coconspirator, Julie Hutchings, is ready to kill off some of Kristen’s characters. What is going on with these two? Perhaps they have spent too much time dealing with immortality of vampires. I imagine spending years thinking about the psychology of the undead makes you appreciate the realities of life and death. Or maybe they are just hateful, awful people. Can I get therapy for this? Is this why there are so many people in therapy in Hollywood? Remorseful, murderous writer/producer/director types with blood on their hands who just need someone to talk to? Does my HMO cover this?

So here’s the deal, intellectually, I know that killing your darlings is inevitable, and even important, especially in the worlds that I’ve created. That being said, I decided to let this go for a while and not worry about it until I had to do it myself. So, I put it on the backburner, until, last week.

Last week, the day finally came. I had to kill my first darling. There were two shocking things; the first is that this is a character that I never expected to ever kill off. Ever. I thought of this character as a family historian of sorts, someone who had many of the answers that the other characters would need, and he connected all of my major players together. Convenient right? I started writing and realized that I needed to kill him. I just knew it was the right thing to do and it blew my mind, how easy it was. It made the story so much richer and added a complexity that I really needed. After all, having him live was far too convenient to me as the writer, and therefore robbed me of the drama making I’m supposed to be doing. I started to appreciate why good writers do this. I really thought it would be far more painful, and far less gratifying. I guess killing your darlings isn’t so bad after all.

Earlier this week, I started working on another story. This story begins with the main character losing someone close to her. I conceptualized this story knowing that I would be dealing with this character’s loss. I knew this, and yet, it broke my heart to a million pieces when I revealed his passing. Broke me. This was a darling, who was never meant to be seen in anything other than a memory or a flashback.

This simple act of revealing a loss broke me, so much so that I stopped writing as soon as I killed him. It was such an emotional experience for me. I can see this man, feel his warmth and was torn by the loss of his soul to my newly created world. His love for my main character and the sacrifices that he has made for her made me mourn for him. Deeply. And then I realized, I never actually killed him. There is no scene that shows him bleeding, grasping his chest or struggling for breath. We simply know that he has left this world and yet I feel like I watched him die.

If only I could have used that intense rush of feelings to write. But I couldn’t. I just needed to go to bed and save it for the next day. Truth be told, I have yet to go back and deal with that particular scene. It will happen eventually. In the meantime, I’m doing what I have to do. I’m writing the rest of the story, the parts that reveal why his loss was significant and why we should care. Maybe that rush of emotion was put to good use after all.

I guess if being God were easy, we’d all have that job. Little by little I’m learning about being a writer, and with that, being god of my worlds. Sadly, this includes the inevitable passing of a beloved creature that came from my soul and killing more darlings in the future.

Here’s to killing your darlings and the many therapy sessions that will follow.

 

* In this blog entry, darlings, refers specifically to characters. It’s my understanding that darlings can refer to anything that you are enamored with in your own writing (scenes, wording).

The Romantic Side of Weekend Conferences

Today’s Brew: I might have napped. And I might have had ice cream when I woke up. Don’t judge me.

by Kristen

I have more news. I love having news.

  1. I’m on See Brian Write’s podcast this week. We may talk about hairbands. A lot. And not just scraping the surface and talking about Def Leppard (fun fact about me: I don’t really like Def Leppard.). We get down to the nitty gritty and talk about Winger and WASP.  We also talk about how it all relates to my books.
  2. WE OWN THE NIGHT has a release date!  September 1, 2014. All platforms should be available that day: ebook, paperback, and audio book.

Julie wasn’t the only one at a conference this weekend.  I stayed a little closer to home for the New England Chapter Romance Writers of America Conference.  Intern Sara came with me, because the whole shebang ended with a major life event  for me and I needed someone there to rub my back while I put my head between my knees to remember to breathe. Sara is truly an amazing assistant, and a great travel companion as well. If you can get one like her, do it. But you can’t have Sara. She’s ours.

I know we have a great writing community on Twitter, but I encourage each and every one of you to get active in the local chapter of whatever it is that you write. Romance writers aren’t the only ones with meetings. Mystery, crime, science fiction, fantasy, they all have organizations.  Not only does it get you outside of your own head in terms of writing every couple of weeks, but you get to meet a whole difference cross section of writers. In my local chapter of RWA, there are brand new writers who have just started their first manuscript all the way up to people who’ve been writing for Harlequin for almost as long as you’ve been alive. We have guest speakers, and talk about business.  We eat chocolate and celebrate each other’s successes as well.

This weekend was our grand celebration.  I got to hang out with such luminaries as Eric Ruben, Esq. (also known as Julie’s agent) and catch him in action in his native habitat, Starbucks.

We had a ton of great panels, including an editing and polishing workshop with Angela James from Carina Press. I enjoyed the panel about hook by Teri Brisbin (and you thought I was already an expert at hooking), as well how to use interviews to really get to know your character before and after by Audra North.

Two mega successful authors talked about their journey from traditional publishing to self publishing. Sandra Marton published somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 books (I don’t remember the exact number) with Harlequin Presents. Obviously, she was doing well since they asked her for more 79 times.  In 2012, she decided she didn’t want to sign another contract with HP. So she struck out on her own. Like all of us, she learned as she went, and made mistakes just like the rest of us. Mistakes are something to learn from, and she’s landed on her feet. It was nice to hear from someone who was successful who didn’t just wake up and find that she was on the NYT best seller list.  Not everything worked, and sometimes she had to go back and figure out how to make it work.

Bella Andre gave our keynote speech. Bella’s sold over three million books, but she wasn’t an instant success. Bella had a traditional publishing contract in the 2000s, which the publisher declined to renew because they weren’t able to break her out. Instead smashing her keyboard in the middle of the desert, Office Space style, she turned to self publishing. And exploded.  You might say Bella’s been lucky, but she works damn hard at being lucky. I was shocked at the lion’s share of side work she still does herself, like design her own covers.

The speech that spoke to me the most was Cara McKenna’s lunchtime talk. She’s put out 35 books with a variety of publishers.  She’s quick to point out that she might not hit the big lists, but she’s able to support herself as a working writer. Cara spoke about the things in the business that aren’t necessarily writing, but are fucking hard. Dealing with reviews, occasionally making an ass out of yourself on the internet (or as she calls it, “boning shit up”), and how emotionally draining publication can be. I feel like I’ve seen more and more writers talking about this very real part of professional writing, and I applaud Cara for being brave enough to not pretend everything is champagne and roses. I had to give her a hug after her speech as a thank you.

The conference ended with a book fair and author signing. My first signing. I was fucking terrified. It actually wound up being a great experience. I had an amazing tablemate in Samantha Wayland, who writes erotic romance about hockey players. I didn’t need to breathe into a paper bag, and I got to talk to a lot of great people. And some of my books actually went home with people who aren’t me.

Someone told me I looked like a romance author this weekend.

Someone told me I looked like a romance author this weekend.

Next week, I’m off to New Orleans for the RT convention!

 

PENGUICON PENGUICON PENGUICON

TODAY’S BREW: All of It. Don’t mess with me, it’s all mine.

By Julie

THIS IS PENGUICON. http://2014.penguicon.org/about-penguicon/

http://2014.penguicon.org/about-penguicon/

And that looks cool, but THIS YEAR WAS THE BIGGEST ONE YET AND IT WAS TEN TIMES FUCKING AWESOMER THAN THAT AND EVEN THE SIGNS WERE BIGGER AND MORE EXCITING.

Here’s some dream-come-true crap right here. The Head of Hospitality for Penguicon read RUNNING HOME, and fell so in love with it that she asked me to come to the convention and stay in the hospitality suite and just be me, and work in the ConSuite. (For all of you who know me, you know what they were in for.) I realize this was a run-on sentence. MY WHOLE WEEKEND WAS A RUN-ON SENTENCE OF ENTHUSIASM.

I’ll be doing a few posts on Penguicon, because it was that monumental, but today I’ll focus on some of the cooler shit that springs to my fuzzy, exhausted mind. In no particular order:

  • MET JOHN SCALZI. Yeah. I KNOW. Cannot wait for REDSHIRTS, the TV series. I said I was going to find him, and I did.
  • Liquid Nitrogen ice cream made by a dude in a kilt named Phil. APPLE PIE MOONSHINE LIQUID NITROGEN ICE CREAM. It’s as awesome as it sounds.
  • Cory Doctorow tweeted me. That happened.
  • I hung out with, talked shop, handled various meats and cheeses and on occasion slept next to some of my most beloved Twitter people. It’s not as filthy as it comes across.
  • Bump into this lovely lady in the elevator. We just look at each other and know that we need a little more quiet than we’re getting. I ask her if she’s getting coffee before heading where she’s heading, force her to get one with me, and discover she’s awesome Mary Lynne Gibbs, author of the same kind of stuff I write, and soon to be sitting on a panel with John Scalzi, and we exchanged phone numbers and now we’re friends and this happened in like, four seconds flat.
  • I got to serve so many hot dogs in the Con Suite. This is my other calling in life. Bonded over hot dog love for 3 days with author Jim Leach. Best friends now.
  • PANELS. It’s like being in school but for fun, and that guy next to you is dressed like Boba Fett.  One of my favorites was The Obligatory Undead Panel where we got to talk all about the irritation of “X Undead subject is SOOOOO overdone” and why society always needs an undead mascot of sorts. (Also came up with THE BEST FUCKING ZOMBIE BOOK IDEA EVER WITH AUTHOR MARK MATTHEWS WHO WAS SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO ME. No, won’t tell you.) Killer Worldbuilding panel with Kevin Siembieda, creator of—well, Jesus Christ, so much, look at all this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Siembieda. Figured out a ton of shit that’s going to make this book I’m working on burst into life and could not be more excited about it. (I scribbled notes on the plane that made me look like a lunatic to the dude next to me.)
  • Being thanked by 8 million people every time I moved for feeding them in Con Suite and for all our hard work. So thoughtful and appreciative. (Not to mention the number of volunteers that throw themselves at us staff members, begging to help. Amazing.)
  • THE DEALER ROOM. I all but peed my pants in the Dealer Room where I got to not only walk around with my pseudo little sister from Twitter that I died with excitement about meeting, but THE BOOKS AND THE COMICS AND THE TEE SHIRTS AND THE JEWELRY AND ARTWORK AND THE BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS AND I GOT A 1984 TOTE BAG WITH BIG BROTHER ON IT AND ALSO A HANDFUL OF TINY RUBBER CHICKENS FOR BENNETT AND I COULD HAVE STAYED THERE ALL DAY AND YOU GET TO TALK TO THE CREATORS AND WRITERS AND BAAAAAAAAGH I WANT TO LIVE THERE.
  • I got to work beside some of the most amazingly hard working, good natured people in existence, including Twitter buddies J. Liz Hill, Rhiannon Llewellyn, and the incomparable Lithie Dubois, who is the most determined and dedicated woman in history.

There is so much more, but I can’t still quite feel my brain after this weekend. I’ll be doing posts on how to make a con work for you when you have no idea what to expect, behind the scenes con stuff and some more stuff when I can think again.

THANK YOU TO ALL OF THE UNBELIEVABLE PENGUICON STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS AND THE MOST INCREDIBLE HOTEL STAFF I’VE EVER SEEN, AT THE WESTIN, SOUTHFIELD, MI

The Education of Intern Sara: Writing Discoveries

My First Writing Sprint, Actually, My First Six

The last time the Undead Duo, plus one (that’s me) met, I received a piece of writing advice from the lovely Julie Hutchings. She introduced me to the concept of writing sprints, told me the various options and suggested I give it a try.

I had never heard of writing sprints and had lots of questions. Well, it turns out that you can use social media, usually Twitter, to gather a group of writers who write at the same time, for a set amount of time. Sometimes a writing prompt is given and you as a writer can chose to use it as inspiration or work on your current project. When the sprint ends, everyone reports back with their word count and cheers each other on. I was completely intrigued by this idea, and decided that this was something I definitely needed to try and so I did.

I may not have known what a writing sprint was a couple of weeks ago, but I can preach the gospel about them now. Writing sprints are the greatest gift that social media has given me to date. The greatest.

Last Saturday, I decided that I was ready to do this writing-sprint-thing. I got on Twitter and searched out #writeclub, #writingsprint, and #nanowordsprints. I can’t remember what time I went on but I felt like I had missed all of the writing sprints and I was committed to sprinting then and there. I decided to just go for it and lead one of my own. I’m not sure that I did it exactly right, but I invited the Twitter Universe to join me for a one-hour sprint and told them the start time. A lovely writer accepted my invitation and I was ready to go. I had 15 minutes to myself before my first foray into writing with a stranger so I pulled up my document, got a snack, and found a Will & Grace marathon to keep me company.

I’m not quite sure that I led the sprint correctly. I probably didn’t give enough warnings and I’m not sure I even hash-tagged it correctly but I figure, whatever I did worked. For one blissful hour I was writing, I knew that I had company, and nothing could distract me. It felt great to know that I was doing this with someone else but at the same time I enjoyed all of the benefits of working by myself. No one could complain that my audio-cocktail of music and television dialogue was distracting them, or that they hated my choice of music and no one paid attention when I got up half way through to get some cheese and crackers. No one even knew that I was doing those things because I WAS BY MYSELF. It was FANTASTIC!!! I would liken it to the rush you get when you start writing a 20 page paper at 2am knowing it’s due at 9am. I was working with the rush of knowing I only had so much time and had a lot to accomplish and that my writing buddy would expect a respectable word count. I ended up with 1098 words and it may well have been the most enjoyable writing I’ve done so far. With this great first experience under my belt, I decided to do nothing but sprints for the week. I released myself from my self-imposed 1500 word-a-day diet and just watched to see what would happen. I decided to mix it up by leading some sprints, following some, doing a couple in the morning, a couple in the evening… And these are the results (so far).

Saturday            1098 words

Sunday              666 words

Monday              1180 words and then another 1991 words

Tuesday             784 words

Wednesday        558 words

Thursday            1047 words

The total for 6 days was 7324 words. That’s about 1220 words a day. Not too far off from my usual goal but far more enjoyable. I’m certain that if I had regular sprinting buddies, I could easily get my 1500 words. So now that I’ve officially professed my love for word sprints, I invite you to join me. You can find me on Twitter. @sarachaudhary.

 

 

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