Monthly Archives: July 2016

My first appearance – wrap up

At the New England Author Expo last Wednesday in Danversport, MA, I was ready. I had my talking points. I had my swag. I had my setup.

I sold nothing.

But people were impressed with the idea. My business cards went more than the cards for the books, so I ordered more and updated them. War Mage cards went more than Homecoming cards. The post cards, very few. The brochures, I think 2, and I passed those out myself.

The guy next to me had only his books. He was a bit OCD about them – if someone handled them, he would wipe the covers clean. He sold one. One guy looked at his set up, looked at my set up, and said, “Are you serious?” to him. “No business cards? Nothing someone can take away?”

One guy came up to me and said that he loved my idea, and wanted to see what would happen with it. He’s in line for the second book, he said.

I bought a book called a “digest” that someone did. He said it was meant to be like a “whet your appetite” kind of book, with short stories from his different worlds. I thought that, or an anthology of the writers in Paper Angel Press, would be a cool idea. However, thinking it over, I wondered if people would do that, or want to read the stuff for free on the website. The Digest is a good idea for people who don’t like the internet, but these days…nah.

I went to a panel about Marketing and networking. Got some good ideas. I asked about “swag”. 1) Make it useful. 2) Make it pertinent or symbolic of your book. (The guy next to me had 50 cent pieces lined up on his table, and I said, “Oh, what does that have to do with the book?” “Nothing,” he said. “I just figured if someone wants to give me two quarters for one.”) 3) avoid as much paper as you can. (bookmarks = bad “Nobody uses book marks anymore.”)

Now, I’m not a marketing maven. I don’t want to quit the day job because that’s where I get my inspiration from; and to rely on my muse to pay my bills is a very scary thought. I don’t plan on running all over the state and country to try and jostle my way into position. I make some money, fine. I made enough to pay for Hulu and Netflix for the next three months. That was awesome!

The way I do marketing is the way I do gardening.  I throw the seeds on the ground and hope some grow. Some will get eaten by birds– trivialized, or disappear under the Amazon ratings–but some will thrive and grow–someone will read it and I’ll have a fan.

My next appearance isn’t until October 2, at the RI College Homecoming Day. I might be the only one, because they were excited to see me at the College. Either that or I expressed interest early, like I usually do.

What I’m reading:

  • Best Intentions by J. Dark. Still.
  • Tarot Interactions by Deborah Lipp, just started.

Take a look at my Goodreads lists to find out what I’m reading and what I’m going to try and read. Be my friend!

I am on chapter 2 of the rewrite of Grimaulkin. It’s slow going because I feel I have rehashed this story so many times now, and I have to come up with seven years worth of stuff while he’s in prison (he gets out when he’s 22-23). I also have a new pintrest and instagram site.

Pokemon Go and writing

I’ve played a little bit of Pokemon Go, enough to be slightly familiar with the concept. One afternoon I was thinking that Pokemon have a lot to do with writing.

First of all, Pokemon Go superimposes itself on reality. That’s what you do when you write, especially urban fantasy/contemporary fantasy like I do. The characters are in our real life. Sometimes they take over our real life, and it’s all you think about. It’s addicting.

You have to catch characters. They’re fleeting, in certain places and at certain times. To sound a little mystical, they’re out there, but they do their own thing. Sometimes you find yourself with the same characters over and over (How many Ghastlies can you hold, anyway?). You put down lures, or give the characters some reason to exist in your story. They stick around. Then, they evolve.

That is the point of the story, in general–to take your character and evolve it into something that it wasn’t when you first started the story. To make your character grow, you coddle it and care for it, train it and then use it to fight. (I’ve always thought Pokemon was just an baby version of a cockfight, but I digress.) The fight is the conflict, and there’s plenty of them. At a gym, with other people–there’s always fighting. You evolve your Pokemon, your character, and make it powerful enough to surpass the  fight and win.

In order to succeed and get Pokeballs and other Pokemon, you need to go to different Pokestops. This is your inspiration, to go out into the world and let it “fill your well”.  Pokestops around here are churches, parks, and historical sites. Historical sites are the most open-ended places to get ideas. Parks are a great place to people watch and imagine. Churches…I’ll leave that to you. The architecture is nice.

So every time I get a Drowsy (and I have plenty of them at my house), I think of a sad sack of a character, which I might put into a story.

Real Life Muses

Today, I want to give a shout-out to some real-life muses that have helped me along these past few years.

I have been lucky to have such good people around me to give me inspiration and ideas, and, most of all, inspire me to write. They all follow the cardinal rule of improvisation: “Yes, and…”  That is, whatever they do, your reaction should accept what they have done and build upon it. Because most of my muses have been found using role playing (RP) games, this is not an unusual occurrence. Sometimes, though, people take advantage of the rule and “God-mod” their characters so that nothing is impossible for them. It’s tough to play against perfect characters.

Anyway. One of my most important muses was my husband. He still inspires me due to his life. He was a carnie for 4 years, and I joined him on the circuit for one summer so I could get the idea of what it was like. That summer still inspires me. He was a biker, and that inspired me with Knight of the Road, a character I play on Champions Online and City of Heroes. I also have a story on Tumblr called Leopard Knight (which badly needs to be updated). My husband was into the military, but had never joined (though he wanted to so badly), and inspired me with the War Mage series. I learned enough military terms to be dangerous, which is how I wrote War Mage.

He probably would be proud of me, seeing my book in print and in audio. My second book is dedicated to him. He, unfortunately, is no longer with us, but he is always in my memory.

Speaking of City of Heroes, Cedric is another muse I worked with. He fell into the god-mod rule sometimes, also a rule-monger. We played characters from Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and other White Wolf types of characters. Some of the other players were god-modders, playing “races” that were “banned” or exiled. Cedric would jump on that with both feet, which pissed off some people. But he worked with me and Grimaulkin’s character. I wouldn’t have fallen so much in love with Grim if it wasn’t for him.

Steven is another muse. He’s more of a ski-fi type of guy. I never did sci-fi–too much science! He inspired me with his Emerald Flight series, which I developed a character he enjoyed and has taken in for his own, Rusty Raynes. I loved playing Rusty. He’s a constantly recovering alcoholic, drug addict, and all around junkie who is an excellent engineer (he might have some telepathic connection with machines, or at least it seems that way). I can’t wait to see what he does with him in his upcoming book.

Four other guys ended up moving from City into Champions. Chris helped me develop Grim and other characters. Chris was an RP nut, but he was sensitive to his characters.  We developed Knight’s flaws with his characters. Aaron also came along. He worked with Grim (played his “boyfriend” for a time, too and was there at Grim’s rebirth). Chris disappeared; I still get pokes from Aaron every once in a while. Both of them did “Yes, and…but…” which sometimes pissed me off, but helped me to stretch my imagination and my mind outside of the box. Both of them also validated that I could play/write a gay man well.

Two other muses still inspire me today. They have consistently inspired me over the last…wow, has it been almost 5 years? Jon is an RP gamer and, I think, a GM (game master) for some games he plays offline. So he’s very familiar with how RP works. He presents his characters with such wide-ranging issues that I really have to stretch to both accept and work with. He’s not wild or crazy (well, he could be); he’s very realistic, keeping his characters grounded in reality. He’s witty, funny, and sensitive to how my characters act and react. His ERP (you figure out what that means) is second to none. I’ve learned so much from him.

Joel is also a muse that still inspires me. We have so many pairings that I think 3/4 of my guys have touched his characters, literally and figuratively. He’s always accepting of the “Yes, and…” rule. And, most of the time after a session of RP with him in Champions, I walk away with a story idea that I need to write down. It usually finds its way into 800 Words–except recently because I’m working on War Mage. Because he’s so accepting of the “Yes, and…” rule, I often write myself into a corner that he remembers or points out and I have forgotten. He must take better notes or have a more cavernous memory than I do to remember the details of what one of my minor character did six months ago. He’s also consistent, so I can sometimes take his characters and write about them. And he lets me!

The writers’ muses are in conjunction with the well that constantly needs replenishment. The water in the well is only as good as the inspiration and imagination that draws from it. The “Yes, and…” rule is a cardinal one for muses. They should accept what’s going on, accept you and your character, and work with them without judgement.  Hopefully, they’re living, breathing people with imaginations, too, who are interested in seeing where you’ll send your characters–and maybe theirs.

Do I Really Need an MFA?

My friend, trying to be helpful, sent me a link so a university offering an online MFA. “You’re writing, so you might as well get credit for it,” she said. I don’t know if that was what the school told her to write or what she decided to write before sending it to me.

For the heck of it, I filled out the application.  For four days I got spammed, constantly, with emails and phone calls and text messages saying they wanted to talk to me about my degree.  At all hours of the day and night, they tried to get a hold of me. I ignored them, because I found out that the start of the semester was June 9, and it’s long past that.

It got me to thinking, though, do I really need an MFA to write professionally? Perusing the Writer’s Digest fiction winners over the past few years, most of them had MFA’s. Some of them were professors. Do I need to provide a CV when entering the Writer’s Digest fiction sweepstakes?

The key word is “professionally.” Our work world is so entranced by how much paper you can accumulate from different “accredited” schools to prove that you’re good at what you do. That’s not necessarily true. You can be a good writer without having a degree saying that you are, I truly believe that. Academic fiction is far different than commercial fiction, and I think commercial fiction is open to anyone.

I say this not because I don’t have an MFA. I am the type to enjoy school and learning, being exposed to things that I normally wouldn’t be exposed to. But as for one or two professors to judge my work on a literary basis as opposed to a commercial basis, I don’t think that’s fair.  I am not a literary writer. I have a story. I tell it. So what if I follow certain rules, certain conventions, to make it commercial. Not only do I want to tell the story, but I want to make the reader enjoy it, not scratch their heads at what I wrote.

The purpose of an MFA, to me, is to get a better job. So that is why I would persue it. As for whether or not it would improve my writing? I really don’t care.

Aside: I’m reading Best Intentions, Glass Bottles Book 1 (Or is it Glass Bottles, Best Intentions, Book 1? Hereafter it’s Glass Bottles), which is written by my press-mate J. Dark. I’m going through the first chapter, and she broke a cardinal rule that I strive to follow: Don’t infodump the world in the first chapter. She did. But she did it well enough so that it moved the story along. Unfortunately, it’s not my cup of tea because it’s got a female protag (I have a thing about that), so I’m reading it to see how she handles the female protag, which is all the rage right now. Is she a badass or a bitch or neither or both? I’m not quite sure; I’ll have to get back to you on it.

I haven’t reviewed this book yet because, like I said, I’m slogging through only chapter one and it wouldn’t be fair. It’s a magical murder mystery; I like that. I would suggest, if you like female protagonists, magic and mystery, then jump into this book with both feet. She’s good.

Telling Stories

When I first started writing, I wrote primarily for myself. Success was getting the words out on paper, by pen or typewriter. Then I started posting stories with other people in forums and a blog. People liked my characters and their stories. People commented, which meant they read my stuff. Someone else actually liked what I was doing!

My level of success changed. It was to get published. Because of my fear, I sent out four, exactly four, query letters to different agents. All of them said no thanks.

Then Paper Angel came along. They offered to publish a book it took me a month to write and was my most recent novel (therefore, the one I was most passionate about), Homecoming. I’m working on War Mage, the actual novel, since Homecoming is more or less a prequel.  I have another novel that I’ve been passionate about for the last three years that I hope to get to Paper Angel. This meant I fulfilled my dream of getting published, therefore I’m successful.

Not so much. Because I raised the bar yet again. I had goals: 20 reviews and sell 50 copies in three months, being on the best seller list, whatever that means…but then reality burst that bubble (so far).

However, people who’ve contacted me about my book say it’s a good beginning. They want more. They like the character, the world I’ve created, the setup for the next book. In fact, one of my readers said, “You’ve been writing for over 30 years; what else do you have that I don’t know about?”

What was my original measure of success? To get the words out. Not the money. Not the fame–though they would be nice. I write a story that I myself would like to read. If someone else comes along for the ride, then I have done my duty. By that, I am successful.