Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Screwing Up the Future

Ever since I started writing the Screwing Up Time series, I wanted to travel to the future. And I knew Mark would want to travel to the future, but I couldn’t just “joy ride” there without a reason. It wasn’t until I wrote “Screwing Up Mongolia” (which hopefully will be out soon—when file conversion and cover art are done) that travel to the future became a possibility.

Mark and Miranda’s trip to the future to find Nin is only a small part of the text—the majority of the story is set in two ancient civilizations—but writing about the future opened huge possibilities. It was so fun to play there, though I had to restrain myself since the SUT series is not sci-fi and the focus of the novels always has to be Mark and Miranda and their problems.

As I created the future, the one thing I kept in mind was that human history always seems to be a constant struggle through war, disease, and technology. (I know tech seems to be “modern,” but consider the huge impact catapults, cross bows, and battering rams had in their time.) So I kept war, disease, and tech in the back of my mind as I explored how the future might look and feel. And my obsessive love of reading Popular Mechanics and Chemical and Engineering News gave me ideas on the technology in our near-ish future.

So, in book three (which I’m back to working on after a 6 weeks hiatus due to computer problems) be on the lookout for a couple of scenes set in the future and technology like DNA ident keys, toadstool chemical grenades, and camo cloth. 

PS Does anyone have any idea why the font changes in the middle of the text? I've checked the HTML code and it doesn't show a font change. This is driving me crazy. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What Did You Do This Summer?

Someone asked me the other day, “What Did You Do This Summer?” I felt kind of stutter-y. Normally, I do a big project every summer. Refinish cabinets, paint, strip furniture, etc. This summer, I wanted to refinish the kitchen floor. But it didn’t happen. And what I really wanted to do was finish book three of the Screwing Up Time series. 

But my computer developed a glitch, and it spent six weeks traveling back and forth & back and forth to a repair facility. Thankfully, it’s fixed now—or pretending to be. But my summer writing schedule is shot. Though I did get eleven chapters edited even without my laptop. Hopefully, now I can get back to it.

Here’s what I did do this summer.

1. Edited eleven chapters of Screwing Up Time, book three.

2. Wrote 25,000 words for a new novel. (Not young adult) First drafts are easier to do without a laptop.

3. Sewed a Shakespeare costume for my son. Click here to see it.

4. Helped my daughter find a place to live—she starts grad school next month.

5. Moved my oldest son—he’s starting grad school too.

6. Mopped up lots of rainwater that streamed in through the roof. Why do warranties expire right before something goes wrong....

7. Opened a computer file and began making plot notes for book four of the Screwing Up Time series. Yes, there will absolutely be a book four and I can’t wait to start writing it.

Don’t forget to check back in the next week or so. I hope to be doing a cover reveal for “Screwing Up Mongolia” (a SUT short story). And now that my laptop is back, I hope to get the story up at Amazon, Smashwords, etc., this summer.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How To Write a Book Review

File:Vieille machine a ecrire 1.jpg
A 1874 Sholes and Glidden typewriter (the first to use a QWERTY keyboard), photo by Kosmopolitat, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Writing a book review or telling a friend about a book is the best way to say thanks to an author.” Everyone has heard that before. But most people I know are uncomfortable writing one. In fact, it’s hard for me, and I’m a writer. So I thought I’d write up some suggestions to help readers who’d like to write a book review, but don’t know how.

1. It’s not a book report. You don’t have to write a page long treatise on the book. In fact, shorter is better. No one reads reviews that are over 250 words. Unless you’re a reviewer for the New York Times, and only people with degrees in English (like me) read those.

2. It doesn’t have to be stodgy. In great reviews, the reviewers often mention their personal reactions to a book. (Even NYT reviewers do this.) It gives the review a chatty feeling, as if your friend is saying, “Hey, read this!” One of my favorite reviews of Screwing Up Time starts like this, “I started reading this at the gym, which was a big mistake because I was howling with laughter on the stationery bike (very bad gym manners!).”

3. It’s not rocket science. Talk about what you liked. Was it the plot (what happens in the book), the characters (the people and their personalities), or the setting?

4. Don’t feel self-conscious. No one is grading your book reviews. Authors are grateful for reviewers—you make their day. (Unless you do something like “I hated this book because it wasn’t romance/sci-fi/erotica/etc.” Um, if you only like one genre, then probably you should only buy that genre.)

5. It's not hard. Amazon will talk you through setting it up. If you prefer, you can write it out in MS Word and copy/paste your review into the review box.

6. Don’t say I’ll write it tomorrow. As Nike says, “Just do it.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Indie Life: Writer's Block

Welcome to Indie Life. This is a monthly blog hop (every second Wednesday of the month) where the participants blog on anything and everything related to self-publishing. Join us!

Last week, I was struggling with writer's block. I was a quarter of the way into my latest novel's first draft when I hit a wall. I was writing a scene and something was wrong. But I didn't know what. I knew the scene's setting, I knew the characters that had to be there, and I knew what the scene had to be about. It was all there. But the scene was dead. I tried to push through it. I tried polishing the scene. But nothing worked.

So I sat down with a sheaf of notebook paper and a pen. I wrote out questions, asking myself what the scene was about. Not what happened in the scene, but what the scene did for the book. I answered that the scene was supposed to be an echo of two of the novel's themes--confession and forgiveness. And while the scene did echo those themes, it wasn't a quiet echo. It was loud and bombastic. Instead of the ethereal whisper of a violin, it was the subwoofer boom of a percussion backbeat. Strong enough that it was distracting from the plot and themes instead of underlining them.

Then, I asked myself what the scene was supposed to do for the characters. It was supposed to deepen a minor characters, which it did by exposing one of his flaws. But the failing I showed was more of an as-a-writer-I-know-this-character-is-supposed-to-be-flawed-and-I'm-trying-to-make-him-flawed-but-not-too-flawed. And that was the problem, the flaw was half-hearted. It was a speck of lint on black velvet, not a tear ripping through the velvet and the silk lining. I needed a real flaw, a surprise to the reader. I needed to make the reader catch his breath, but still like the character. A much harder task.

Once I realized what function the scene had for the characters and themes, I brainstormed fixes. I realized that what needed to happen was the exact opposite of what I'd written. So I took the scene back to the bones and rewrote it. The words flowed across the page. The scene practically wrote itself. Writer's block was over.

If you're struggling with a scene or facing writer's block, think about the scene/chapter/plot twist's function. Think about the purposes it's serving in terms of advancing plot/character development/themes and ask yourself if those things are all working together in the scene. If not, ask yourself how it's failing those purposes. Once you understand what's wrong, then you can fix it.

So maybe writer's block isn't always a bad thing. Maybe it's just an early warning system, a red light flashing "Hey, dummy, this doesn't work." That's what I'm telling myself.

Other Brave Indie Lifers...

1.Susan Kaye Quinn, Author2.Steena Holmes
3.Claudia Lefeve4.Author Laura Diamond Lucid Dreamer
5.ali cross6.Katie Klein
7.Larry Kollar8.Faith McKay
9.Civil War Horror10.Ansha Kotyk
11.Terri J. Haynes12.The Open Vein, E.J. Wesley
13.Secondhand Shoes, A Novel14.Eclectic
15.Lisa M. Buske16.Sandra Ulbrich Almazan
17.J.R. Pearse Nelson18.Melissa Pearl
19.Cherie Reich20.PK HREZO
21.Victoria Escobar22.J.L. Campbell
23.K. A. Last24.The Murphey Saga
25.Tyrean's Writing Spot26.Suzy Turner
27.Laura Pauling28.C.M. Brown
29.Stephen Tremp30.Jennifer Writes Things Sometimes
31.Capri Montgomery32.Indiscriminate Writes
33.C. M. Keller, Screwing Up Time34.RaShelle Workman
35.J.J. Bonds36.Why I love the indie life
37.A First Look at Indie Life38.Mary Pax
39.Notes from the Jovian frontier40.L.E. Waters~Fantasy Prone
41.The Indie Children's Authors Connection42.Christian Superheroes
43.Ellie Garratt44.Write Me, Kaye Draper
45.Can You Make a Living Writing? (Author Nikki Jefford)46.Michelle Isenhoff
47.Catherine Stine's Idea City48.The Lina Lamont Fan Club
49.Donna Hosie50.Rinelle Grey
51.Word by Word52.Riann Colton
53.Strange Pegs54.Rachel Morgan
55.sarabeth burke56.Writing, the Universe and Everything Writing
57.J.L. Weil58.Meetings with My Muse
59.Planet Pailly: Where Science Meets Fiction60.Janeal Falor
61.Michael Pierce
Submit your link:

Accepted links may take a few minutes to appear.

Get your own link widget at simply-linked.com

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Smashwords Summer Sale

It's one of those weeks.

1. My computer is back in the shop. The techs failed to fix it. Grr.

2. My dog is really sick again. (Scavengers are not supposed to get sick.)

3. Both my parents might need surgery.

4. I have to start sewing a Shakespeare costume. (Actually, it's fun and I get to listen to audio books, but it's a lot of work.)

5. I have to drive down to Atlanta. (Also fun because I'm going to help my daughter check out apartments--she's starting a PhD program at Emory in August. But I hate driving.)

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's having a rough week. So we all need to celebrate and have some fun. And Smashwords is providing it.

Photo: Smashers: We're kicking off our fifth annual Summer/Winter promotion, and as a Smashwords author or publisher, you're invited to participate!  Click on the link below to enroll today! http://bit.ly/m5hiDk

Smashwords is having a big sale. Lots of books are heavily discounted, some are free. Both Screwing Up Time and Screwing Up Babylon are on sale. The only thing you need to do is use a coupon code at check out. Use the code SSW50 to get 50% off of Screwing Up Babylon. And use SW100 to get Screwing Up Time for free.