kim-pollock

Hello June…I am going all Jackson Pollock on You

It’s June!

It’s time to get a little crazy, go a little wild, ride the winds…

I am going all Jackson Pollock on this month!

As stated last week… “I am going to do more than play Hookie with Tattoo. I am going to have a full-blown affair with Tattoo. The urge to write must take control over the urge to edit. I cannot wait for that delicious feeling of playing hookie and that first blush of the first draft.”

For the first time in months I am going to be flinging my creative ink at the canvas of my new WIP without thought of editing and embracing the freedom and unadulterated joy in WRITING that First Draft!

“A dripping wet canvas covered the entire floor … There was complete silence … Pollock looked at the painting. Then, unexpectedly, he picked up can and paint brush and started to move around the canvas. It was as if he suddenly realized the painting was not finished. His movements, slow at first, gradually became faster and more dance like as he flung black, white, and rust colored paint onto the canvas. He completely forgot that Lee and I were there; he did not seem to hear the click of the camera shutter … My photography session lasted as long as he kept painting, perhaps half an hour. In all that time, Pollock did not stop. How could one keep up this level of activity? Finally, he said ‘This is it.’

Pollock’s finest paintings… reveal that his all-over line does not give rise to positive or negative areas: we are not made to feel that one part of the canvas demands to be read as figure, whether abstract or representational, against another part of the canvas read as ground. There is not inside or outside to Pollock’s line or the space through which it moves…. Pollock has managed to free line not only from its function of representing objects in the world, but also from its task of describing or bounding shapes or figures, whether abstract or representational, on the surface of the canvas.”

– Hans Namuth 1950

I love the first blush, the illicit intimacy and the head-rush of a First Draft. First Drafts are all about the Writer, the Creative, the Artist. I love simply getting lost in a first draft and a new story. I love meeting the new characters and watching their scenes in my mind’s eye like a movie. I love that the story can and will go anywhere and everywhere.

What do you love about first drafts?

________________________

In other exciting News just in from this weekend…The anthology that could…

WooHoo! I am now a contributor to an AWARD-Winning anthology! “Tales for Canterbury” just scooped the 2012 Sir Julius Vogel Award in NZ for the Best Collected Works in Speculative Fiction-SciFi/Fantasy/Horror. This is a national award awarded annually at the NZ National Science Fiction Convention to recognise achievement in Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror.  Congrats to our editors: Cassie Hart and Anna Caro on scooping the win! The editing team did a brilliant job in pulling together a great crew of authors, who all contributed incredible stories all for an amazing cause. Once again, I am so proud and pleased to be part of a fantastic crew of authors and editors who helped get this anthology  out there.
There are still print copies available on the current print run of Tales for Canterbury. You can buy them here. *All profits* will be donated to the NZ Red Cross Earthquake Appeal. See talesforcanterbury.wordpress.com for more details. (* ie after we’ve paid any applicable transaction fees, printing, and shipping costs – neither Random Static nor the authors are keeping a cent)
A little background on the Sir Julius Vogel Award: The awards are named for Sir Julius Vogel, a prominent New Zealand journalist and politician, who becamePrime Minister of New Zealand in the 1870s. He also, in 1889, wrote what is widely (though erroneously) regarded as New Zealand’s first science fiction novel, Anno Domini 2000 – A Woman’s Destiny.[1] The book — written and published in Great Britain after Vogel had moved from New Zealand — pictured a New Zealand in the year 2000 where most positions of authority were held by women – at the time of writing, a radical proposition. In 2000, New Zealand’s Head of State, Governor General, Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Attorney General were all women, as was the CEO of one of the country’s largest companies, Telecom.
KKTypeWriterFeatured-Interviews

Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Denise Grover Swank

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Today I am very pleased to have the pleasure of Denise Grover Swank’s company on the blog. It is especially a pleasure because today is Denise’s Birthday – So Happy Birthday Denise!

Denise is not someone to be pegged into a square. She has written across genres, has been a self-publishing success and has just been signed to a top literary agency. As Denise will tell you in this interview, she did not go searching for the accolades, she writes for the love of writing. Her fans fell in love with her writing and she has proven what I have always believed that no matter what genre an author writes in – whether they stick to one genre or one market or diversify and cross genres and markets – the readers will continue reading your books. Once you have turned a reader into a fan, your success as an author is guaranteed.

1. Can you tell us what “being Indie” means to you? 

Denise >> I know there’s a big controversy about what “Indie” means.  Some consider Indie to be published with a small press. Others consider it to include self-published authors. I typically call myself a self-published author. I used to say defensively, now I’m proud of it. I’ve also begun to interchange the words “Indie” and “self-published.”
2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion. 
Why did you decide to go the Indie route of self-publishing? 
Denise >>  I started out wanting a traditional book deal. I wrote three books in three different genres and actively queried them with agents but never got an offer of representation. Then Nathan Bransford wrote a post saying he thought there were valid reasons for self-publishing and it was the approval I needed to pursue it. I plan to write a series for my agent, Amanda Luedeke  with MacGregor Literary, to shop to traditional publishers, but even if I sell to a Big 6 publisher, I will continue to self-publish.
3. You hear of authors switching methods of publication from seeking traditional representation from agents & the Big6 to small press to self-publishing. Did you try any other route in publishing before settling on Indie Publishing and can you tell us what these routes were? 
Denise >>  I was very close to acquiring an agent with my YA Here. She was also reading Chosen, my urban fantasy. I knew the agent liked darker manuscripts and wouldn’t be interested in my rom com mystery, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. But I loved that story and the characters so the thought of the book dying on my hard drive upset me. I decided to self-publish it. During the process to prepare it, the agent rejected Here and I decided to self-publish Chosen. I’ve self-published five books and plan on a sixth in June. I’ve never regretted my decision. I am planning to write a new urban fantasy series for my agent to shop in NY, but I’m doing that to widen my reader base. It’s a business decision.
4. You have just recently been signed by a literary agent. Congratulations!
Can you tell us how this came about?
Denise >> Amanda found me. Chosen had climbed to the top 100 on the Kindle list and hovered in the 20’s for several days and Amanda emailed me and asked if I was seeking representation and said she’d love to chat with me. I really liked Amanda’s forward thinking and loved that she wasn’t threatened by my self-published works. During our conversation, she offered unsolicited career advice with no sign that I would sign with her. That spoke volumes to me. She was the one who suggested I write a new urban fantasy/paranormal romance series. She believes the success of The Chosen series will make me more appealing to New York.
5.  You have already gained huge success as an Indie author.
How will having a literary agent now change things for you as an author? 
Denise >> I’ve had foreign rights and production rights inquiries. I’ve handed all of those over to Amanda to take care of, which has been a huge relief. She’s going to actively pursue other foreign rights sales She also plans to try to sell my new series to a traditional publisher. But my self-published books are mine, and at this point, I’m deciding all my career options.
6. Do you plan on continuing to release books yourself now that you have an agent, or will you be looking mainly at the traditional publishing houses?
Denise >> Yes, I fully intend to continue to self-publish even if I get a traditional book deal. I love the control.
7. Being Indie means that you have to be your own Marketing guru and Public Relations expert:
What have you learnt about marketing your own books as an Indie Author?
Do you also feel you are now more savvy about the Publishing Industry because of your Indie experience?
Denise >>  I think one benefit to being an indie author is that I can make immediate changes. If I want to change the price of my book or change the cover, I can do it. I don’t have to seek anyone’s permission. I can change the price within hours. I can put a book on sale or set up a free promo. I can decide where I sell my books or if I make them exclusive somewhere. That being said, I really don’t play with prices other than when I raised the price of Chosen and Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes from $0.99 to $2.99. I’m also raising the price of Here to $3.99 after it goes off its $0.99 sale.  (Here is on sale on Barnes & Noble and Amazon until June 1.) Still, I change the price with strategy in mind. I’ve also made both ebooks free for several days but all three times were carefully thought out and calculated.
I feel like I’m very much more savvy about the publishing industry. Amazon distributes 98% of my books, so I’m constantly keeping up on the theories behind current algorithms. I also study pricing in my genres, rankings, the rise and fall of similar book’s sales. I read multiple articles and blog posts a day to keep on top of the latest news and theories. I spend one to four hours a day on research and marketing.
8. Everyone keeps on about the importance of developing “your own brand” as an author.
Do you agree and how have you built “your own brand”? 
Denise >> Yes, I think I have a brand even if it’s not really an actual written concept. I think my “brand” is that I’m somewhat sarcastic and funny (even if in my own mind LOL) I hope people see me as a usually positive person and that I’m generous to my readers. Romance authors typically have a “tag line” or brand for themselves. If I have one it’s: I keep my sanity by creating characters to talk to and worlds to live in. What did I say about my sanity?
9. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet.
How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively? 
Denise >> I don’t think I’d be here right now without social media. Social media sold my first 200 books when I released Twenty-Eight last July. I was told to expect to sell around 20 books the first month, if I was lucky. But I’d stopped writing my family blog, There’s Always Room for One More, to write novels. I had encouraged all my readers to friend me on Facebook. So when I released my book last year, several people bought it to see what in the world I’d been done for the last two years. Thankfully, most loved it and recommended it to their friends. I watched the book sell in ripples. My friends bought it, then their friends bought it. By last August and September, I was getting reviews on Amazon, B&N and Goodreads from people I didn’t know.(Confession: That actually kind of freaked me out at first. People I didn’t know were reading my book!!!)
As you know, Kim, I’m a big Facebook user. I usually make multiple updates a day. I encourage readers to friend me. I talk to them. I’m forever amazed at the authors who never interact with people on Facebook and Twitter. It’s social media. That’s the point of it. I love talking to my readers and anyone who friends me is “fair game.”  If you’re my friend on Facebook, I’ll comment on your status update if I have something to say. I want readers to know I’m a real person, just like them.
I also use Twitter, but less so than I used to. Most of my readers seem to be on Facebook and I like that we can carry on a “conversation” with relative ease. On Twitter, I have to scroll down MULTIPLE tweets to keep up with a conversation unless it’s in real time.
I have a Tumblr account but haven’t used it in ages. I have a Pintrest account but usually use it to pin pictures associated with my books, like characters and locations.
I try to answer every email, Facebook message, post on my Facebook timeline and tweet. If someone took their valuable time to reach out to me, I want to let them know I appreciate it.
Thank you so much, Kim!
Thank you Denise for taking the time to talk to me and my readers about Publishing Options and the routes you have chosen. You will soon straggle the worlds of both NY Publishing and Self-Publishing and definitely have a unique perspective on the options open to authors today. I especially love the fact that you are a writer who has stuck to your guns on writing the stories you way to and need to write regardless of whether they are in the same genre or different genres than your others. I knew the agent liked darker manuscripts and wouldn’t be interested in my rom com mystery, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. But I loved that story and the characters so the thought of the book dying on my hard drive upset me. I decided to self-publish it.” – I love that you refused to let your story die on your hard drive and decided to self-publish anyway. I wish you even greater success with all your next books.  – Kim

Author Notes

Denise Grover Swank lives in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. She has six children, three dogs, and an overactive imagination. She can be found dancing in her kitchen with her children, reading or writing her next book. You will rarely find her cleaning.

 

You can find out more about Denise and her other books at www.denisegroverswank.com or email her at denisegroverswank@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deniseswank

Twitter: @DeniseMSwank

Book links:
The Chosen Series:
Rose Gardner Mysteries:
On the Otherside Series:
Denise Grover Swank
Author of The Chosen series: Chosen , Hunted and Sacrifice (The Chosen Series) adult urban fantasy, Redemption, (The Chosen #4) October 2012
Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishesa humorous southern mystery, Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons release June 29, 2012
and Here (On the Otherside, #1) a young adult science fiction/romance, There (#2) Late December 2012
KKTypeWriterFeatured-Interviews

The Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Maria V. Snyder

 

Blog Series: Researching “The Many Ways to Skin a Cat” in Publishing

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Today I have the pleasure of a well-known author’s company. I have been a fan of her’s for just almost 3 years now. When I picked up her book, Sea Glass, I was captured by her writing style, her incredible world building and her exquisitely crafted characters. I couldn’t get enough of her other books. If you are a teen or have a teen in your house, you will know exactly who I am talking about. If you love reading books written by story-weavers then you will know her too. She has carved a niche in readers’ hearts all over the world. She has written 3 successful series of books and many short stories. From when her first novel, Poison Study, was published in 2005, nothing has held her back from creating new worlds and weaving new stories. 

So make yourselves comfortable as the talented Maria V. Snyder and I have a conversation about Publishing.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about you as a beginning author and can you tell us the best advice you ever received before being a published author?

Maria >>  I started writing because I was bored at work (shhh…don’t tell!).  I’ve always enjoyed reading and being creative and I had dabbled with painting, acting, and dancing, but lacked the confidence to pursue any of those for my career.  The best advice I received was to be persistent – to keep writing and submitting.  Truthfully, when I first heard it, I thought it was one of those “eat an apple a day” type of advice – something you say that doesn’t mean anything.  But it proved 100 % true in my case – persistence paid off!

2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion.
If you were starting out now as an author, would you still have made the same choices in publishing that you have made?

Maria >> Good question!  At the time I was sending my first book, Poison Study around there were other options like self-publishing, digital formats, and print on demand available, but I really wanted to be published by a traditional publisher and if I hadn’t sold the book, I wouldn’t have pursued those other options.  In today’s market, e-publishing is more popular, but I think it’s very difficult for a new author to stand out without spending lots of time and energy on marketing.  If I was just starting out, I think I would still try to find a traditional publisher first before looking into e-publishing, but I wouldn’t rule it out like before.

3. How long did you spend in the pre-publishing trenches before you got an agent?

Maria >>About four years.

4. Rejection comes with the territory in the publishing industry.
Did you receive many rejections before signing with your agent? How did you persist submitting in spite of the rejections?

Maria >> I received 40 rejections from agents for Poison Study.  After I exhausted all the agents who represented fantasy, I submitted the book directly to the publishers.  I had a list of 20 publishers and I was determined to send the book to all of them before putting it away.  While all this was going on, I wrote another book, Storm Watcher for kids ages 8 to 12.  When I finished that book, I sent it to 20 agents and actually found one who wanted to represent me.  When Poison Study found a publisher (#18 of 20), I called my agent and asked her to negotiate the contract.  She asked me why I didn’t send her Poison Study when I was searching for an agent. I told her she hadn’t listed fantasy as one of the genres she represents and she said, “Oh, I take anything I like.”  Sigh!  This was back in 2003 – she never did sell Storm Watcher, however, I recently sold it to a small publisher (Leap Books).  Even after 9 years, I didn’t give up on it.  It is hard to persist when the rejections keep rolling in, but I was determined to exhaust all the publishers before giving up.

5. Many unpublished authors believe that the golden ticket to success is signing with a top literary agent. Would you agree and why/why not?

Maria >>In my case, I sold Poison Study on my own and my agent helped with the contract. However that was 9 years ago and many publishers were still accepting unagented submissions – I found 20, but today a writer might only find 5 as editors are relying on agents to pick the gems from the slush pile.  An agent is very helpful and I always suggest you try to find one first, but if no one is interested, then to go ahead and submit on your own.  Be careful about which agents you query – not all are reputable.  I’ve an article about finding agents on my website here: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice/findingL.php

6. Do you get nervous when a book submission and a new contract is under way, worrying whether it will be accepted or not?

Maria >>Yes!  During contract negotiations, I’m always so thankful to have my agent.  He (my second as my first passed away) loves to negotiate and I can hear the glee in his voice as he reports to me on how it’s going.  He also gives me feedback on my novels as I working on them so I know if I’m in the ballpark or not – since he’s been in publishing forever, he knows if one of my projects won’t fly with my editor.

7. Can you share with us the process you go through once you have finished writing your book up until the time it is published?

Maria >>After I send off my book, both my agent and editor read it and send me comments.  I revise based on their comments and re-submit.  Then I get the copy edits and a few more comments from my editor (or her assistant).  I revise again, and either agree or disagree with the copy edits then re-submit.  Then I get the galley proofs and I have to go through every single line, looking for errors and typos (not fun) and then type up ALL the changes on the Author Alterations (AA) form (which is hell on earth) and send in the form and the pages with the changes.  About six weeks before publication, I receive a box of books in the mail (always fun!).  During this time, I’m also making up bookmarks with the cover art of the new book, updating my website, writing newsletters, preparing for blog tours, sending out review copies to bloggers and media, and doing a ton of other marketing and promotion.  With Touch of Power, I had two blog tours (one in the US and one in the UK) and did a number of events for the Australian release.

8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet and readers/fans can now have and often demand to have more direct access to authors. How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?

Maria >>Social media is wonderful!  I always encouraged my readers to contact me through email, but I noticed once I had a Facebook page, the number of emails I received went down.  The trap is spending too much time on these sites and not enough writing your book.  I’ve fallen into that one many times.  If you’re a new author, I’d suggest that before your book is released, that you set up a website, blog and make a Facebook page at the least.  Some authors also do Twitter and Goodreads and other sites, but I think if you have too many, it’ll suck up all your time.  I use Facebook, Goodreads, my blog and website and I’m barely keeping my head above water (and I have a quarterly e-newsletter, too).  The nice thing about my blog is – it will automatically show up on my Facebook and Goodreads pages, saving me time.  I’d suggest you set aside a certain amount of time each day for social media and stick to it so it doesn’t dominate your life.

9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in the Publishing Industry, and what has been the greatest challenge for you?

Maria >> The biggest lesson was that not all books/authors in a publishing house are equal.  Certain titles and certain authors get more support and more marketing dollars because their books sell like crazy.  It’s not personal, it’s business.  The greatest challenge for me is to say no.  I really enjoy marketing and promotion and visiting schools and answering emails, and doing Q&As, that I don’t write as much as I should.  Plus my children are teenagers and will soon be off to college and I want to spend time with them – so juggling all my commitments is a constant challenge.

10. One of the most important relationships any author has is the one with your editor.
Have you had one trusted editor for the length of your writing career or have you had a few different editors?

Maria >> My very first editor, the one who called me to offer my first contract left the company six months later.  I’ve heard horror stories about orphaned authors and I would have had a heart attack, except my new editor called and told me not to worry since she was going to take me on.  And I’ve had the same editor at Harlequin since!  Love you Matrice!

11. There is a lot of talk about how Indie Publishing and Traditional Publishing are at loggerheads with one another.
What are your feelings about the rise of Indie Publishing and the digital book format?
Do you believe it can work alongside traditional publishing or is it a threat to traditional publishing?

Maria >> I believe the rise of Indie Publishing is great for authors.  It gives authors more options and greater control over their stories and more control over what type of stories they write.  I think it will also lead to changes to the traditional publishers’ contracts that will be better for authors.  They’ve always been the gate keepers and authors had to agree to their terms in order to see their books published.  This isn’t the case anymore.  I think most publishers are adapting to the changing climate and both Indie and Traditional will exist together in the future.

12. If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?

Maria >>

  1. I’d tell her to do lots and lots of research – there are a few success stories about self-published books hitting big like Amanda Hocking and E. L. James, but there are far more stories about low sales.  
  2. I’d also recommend he hire a professional artist – book covers are still important no matter the format.  
  3. And I’d suggest no matter what the format, that she give away copies of her books to book bloggers/reviewers – that’s the best way to generate interest and buzz about a book.
Maria, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and chat with me about Publishing and your writing journey. Thank you for the many generous tips and advice you gave. I know, that you made the Traditional Publishing process much more transparent for me and many others. I think we can all relate to you when you tell us “It is hard to persist when the rejections keep rolling in, but
I was determined to exhaust all the publishers before giving up.”. Rejection is a really difficult pill to swallow and the literary world is such a subjective world that it is hard to know what the perfect formula is for acceptance. “The best advice I received was to be persistent – to keep writing and submitting.  Truthfully, when I first heard it, I thought it was one of those “eat an apple a day” type of advice – something you say that doesn’t mean anything.  But it proved 100 % true in my case – persistence paid off!” – I have to agree that is Brilliant advice. Persistence in writing and determination in seeing your book published is key. Thank you again Maria. It was a true pleasure to hear your views on the “many ways to skin a cat” in Publishing. ~ Kim

Author Notes

Maria V. Snyder switched careers from meteorologist to fantasy novelist when she began writing the New York Times best-selling Study Series (Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study) about a young woman who becomes a poison taster.  Born in Philadelphia, Maria dreamed of chasing tornadoes and even earned a BS degree in Meteorology from Penn State University.  Unfortunately, she lacked the necessary forecasting  skills. Writing, however, lets Maria control the weather, which she gleefully does in her Glass Series (Storm Glass, Sea Glass, and Spy Glass). Maria returned to school and earned a MA in Writing from Seton Hill University where she is currently one of the teachers and mentors for the MFA program. Her published young adult novels include Inside Out, and its sequel, Outside In, both are about the dystopian and fully-contained world of Inside.  Her latest release is Touch of Power, which is about healer dealing with a plague stricken world.

You can find her at:

Her Website: http://www.MariaVSnyder.com

Her Blog: http://officialmariavsnyder.blogspot.com

What happens after The Day the Sun Stops Shining…Find out what could here!

26.12.11 - 31.12.11 End of the Year...Blog Hop...Click on the bullet to join up.

Christmas has ended… The gifts unwrapped, the tree lights dulled…

Not a sound stirs until midnight on the 26th…

The stars fall from the midnight sky and the moon rises…

It is the time for the Moon to rise...the sun has stopped shining

This moon does not disappear at dawn nor does it pale…

The sun has stopped shining…

Day has deserted the world…

What happens now?

Join me and other Indie Authors for “The Day the Sun Stops Shining” Blog Tour.

It starts 26.12.11 and ends 31.12.11…

There will be giveaways, interviews, contests…

Do you write or read dystopian, fantasy, paranormal, horror or science fiction?

Follow this tour…sign up if you are a writer…

Don’t miss out…it might be your last chance…before the sun stops shining…

End of the year? End of daylight? End of the sun?

Let us tell you what might happen after The Sun Stops Shining…

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Losing yourself in your character’s world

World building = Creating complete new worlds that live and breathe and surround your characters

World building is often underplayed if your WIP is not a fantasy or a sci-fi but world building underplayed is to the detriment of your story and your characters. The reader cannot see what you see in your mind without you doing some world building. World building is more than just your setting of a scene or description of a place. World building is about building a world for your characters as much as for your reader. It is about translating this “new” world so effectively to your reader that they leave their own reality to enter that of the one you have created. After all, is that not the end goal of fiction.

What if your world is some place real? Then you need to write what you know. This does not mean that you are limited to your small town that you have lived all your life. No, it means that there are a multitude of ways to get to know the place you are wanting to set your story in. Now, with social networking and the internet there is no time for excuses anymore. You could travel to that place and immerse yourself in the 5 senses peculiar to that place. But not everyone has a bottomless wallet nor a disposable schedule. What then?

Google Earth and Google Maps are the cornerstones of the traveller who sits in his living room wanting to explore the world. With Google Earth you can get accurate current time images of a particular street let alone just a town. Google Maps is fantastic for authenticity of urban areas in particular. If you are writing about New Orleans, for example, you want the reader who lives in New Orleans to believe you have been there also instead of them finding huge plot holes in your setting. Google Earth and Google Maps are simple to use and cost you nothing but your time. Be careful though, you may get lost in the wonders of these tools.

Another way you can “travel” and “explore” somewhere is to search for personal blogs or travelblogs that post about the place you wish to write about. Bloggers and travel bloggers in particular can give you a wealth of information. Their posts can also add colour to a place by writing about the people, the specific venues, the culture and the vibe of a place.

There are other parts of world building that you may want to explore for your WIP. What about the activities that your characters occupy themselves with? You may have a character who is a detective and needs to be a good shot. Ask your local police station if you can spend a day with a patrol car for research purposes. You might have a character who is a sword-fighter. Find a fencing class and go for a couple of lessons.

Costumes are another favourite of mine for world building. If I am writing about the tightness of corset stays, I need to know what wearing a corset feel like. If I am writing about a character needing chainmail as armour then I need to know what chainmail feels like.

Food and drink is another way to world build. Taste the foods your character eats. There is no better way to find out the sweetness or the tartness of something than tasting it yourself.

This is what I believe is meant when you hear the cliched saying: write what you know. Learn to know things to be able to write about them. Your diligence in immersing yourself in your characters’ world will come across as dedication to your reader. Your reader will see what you see and what your character sees. The experience of writing your WIP with your new knowledge will be palpable with richness of actual experience which will make the reader’s experience of reading your story the richer for it.

For this week, I challenge you to come up with a place where a new story is set and build a world around it using the tools above. You are not expected to travel there in body but travel there in mind through all the above and tell me what you find. Your only borders and limits are your own imagination. You may just spark a new idea for a story.

In the name of Research and world building, I spent this weekend at the Gypsy Fair…surrounded by essences with the names of Dragon’s Blood, Black Magic, Night Queen, Liquid Moon and hearing the soft tinkling of hand blown glass and crystal wind chimes…took photos galore, bought chakra oils and perfume and cleansing herbs (all again research material) and bought a gypsy dress to truly immerse myself in “being” a gypsy. I took a walk inside the home of one of the gypsies – an original horse drawn painted wagon. I watched a fortune teller read the tarot for someone and saw another read their palms. There were sounds of guitars from the traditional gypsy band, laughing children, barking dogs and miniature horses. It was truly like entering another world. I was so entranced that I am even considering traveling with the gypsy fair for a week: now wouldn’t that be incredible. (More to come on this excursion in an upcoming blog post.)

Tell me: what is the craziest or weirdest activity you have undertaken in the name of world building/research?

What activity would you like to take up in the name of world building in your current WIP that you have not done already? 

Dragons, Romance, Vampires & a Demon Cat | Diane Nelson

 Today I have the honour of inviting the Hilarious and Mischievous Diane Nelson. Creative Director of an Indie Publisher, Fantasy & Romance Author, Equestrian, Fantasist are all apt descriptions for this talented author and publisher. I had thought to serve coffee and be all respectable but this soon changed to margaritas served with a side of much laughter. I would have to say that this has been one of the most entertaining interviews I have held on this blog. So you can add humourist to those descriptions of Diane. So pull up a chair, take a martini glass and enjoy the chilled margaritas while Diane talks about her love of all things fantastical and gives us her nuggets of wisdom on Indie publishing and first submissions. Oh I almost forgot, her muse Rowan and her Demon Cat will be sitting in on the interview as well. From Diane’s own accounts both are never too far from her side.

Welcome Diane…


girl with a quill: Ernest Hemingway famously wrote a six-word story. Tell us a bit about yourself in 6 words. Who is Diane Nelson?
Diane: She loves to tilt at windmills.

girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?
Diane: As with most writers, I’ve never ‘not written’. There was a time—long long ago, in a land far far away—when journals, diaries, and letters were the essence of communication and self-expression. Telephones were multi-line devices with nosy neighbors listening in and per minute charges that strained a family’s budget. Television was a modern miracle doled out in small doses, not the time hog it is today. I grew up on the tail end of that period and on the cusp of the electronic revolution. The advent of ‘email’ was a revelation, an opportunity, a gift for someone like me who communicates best through the written word. Friends and family are far-flung so keeping them abreast of my latest adventures evolved into stories. To my surprise I found out that people were saving my writings. Eventually those same people said: when you retire, you will write full-time.

girl with a quill:How long have you been writing for?
Diane: My professional career as an x-ray diffractionist (think physics with a strong creative bent) involved a substantial amount of technical writing, something that instilled discipline and an appreciation for economy and clarity that translated well when I turned to fiction as an outlet for my creative energies. It did not, however, shake me free of a propensity for run-on sentences. One must have obstacles to overcome … always. (And to answer the question: 35 years.)

girl with a quill: Besides writing, what are your other passions / hobbies?
Diane: My passions and hobbies are life style choices. I live in the country, reveling in the rhythms and demands of equestrian pursuits. I have competed in dressage, eventing, hunter-jumper and endurance/competitive trail. I ran a boarding stable, trained riders and horses, gave clinics for 4H and Pony Club, managed horse shows—a total immersion in all things equine. My grandmother, a Russian emigrant, taught me needlework. I lived on a sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay and to this day the experience remains a source of inspiration for my stories. I love the cinema and theater (and television). I read, a lot. I have evil chickens and a Demon Cat and a parakeet with, um, certain propensities that are blush-worthy.

girl with a quill: You are also creative director of Pfoxmoor Publishing, an independent press. How did this role come about?
Diane: As is my habit, I did a lot of research on the publishing industry, the hoops writers are forced to jump through to get noticed, if at all, and the incredible lag times between securing that first contract and eventually having one’s work reach the light of day. Since I came late to the fiction publishing side of the equation—and because by nature I am Type A, take charge of my career—I did not wish to waste precious time. I also analyzed my own reading preferences and how the major publishing houses were overlooking new authors offering fresh voices in favor of a tired formulaic approach. I felt compelled to seek out and champion those authors being overlooked because they do not fit into a convenient mold. Along the way I discovered a community of amazingly talented individuals who embrace a similar philosophy.

girl with a quill: As an indie publisher: Where do you see the future of publishing going? 

Diane: Ah yes, crystal ball time. Well, I do believe the future of publishing is digital. And no, I don’t think print will ever go out of fashion. We are in a state of flux. While the eReaders are truly revolutionary devices, there will be wonders and marvels and apps galore in the upcoming months and years. Reading will become interactive, embracing audio, video and who knows what else. The author who simply commits words to paper (how quaint) or a Word/Pages document will be left behind. It is no longer enough to simply express oneself through a novel, short story or poem. The reading public expects, demands, a level of interaction that transcends everything that has gone before. The publisher will continue as one conduit amongst many options to bring new content to the public. But the paradigm is changing and publishers must be nimble enough to change, sometimes rather drastically in a short amount of time. Smaller, stream-lined niche publishers who are in a position to analyze and understand their market, and are willing to respond, will be the most successful. 


girl with a quill: In the unique role of being on both sides of the industry, writer and publisher, what are 3 pieces of advice you would give to a new writer about to submit a manuscript?
Diane: 1) I learned this the hard way: find a professional editor to fine-tooth your masterpiece, someone willing to give you the tough feedback you need. This goes way beyond snagging typos and misspellings. A good editor will nail your inconsistencies, will help you understand your characters and their motivations, will give you reasons for and against particular choices. And yes, it is expensive. You get what you pay for. But if you are committed to your work, then you simply must be committed to making it the best it can be. Trust me, you can’t do this alone.

2) Whoever you submit to—read their submission policies carefully. Does your work fit into what they specialize in? Who else do they represent? Make your first three chapters absolutely, positively error free. Write a proper query letter. That means researching, taking classes, attending writer conferences to learn how to do it. I have seen one, exactly one, properly constructed query letter. Learn how to do a synopsis. An agent or a publisher wants to know everything, right down to the spoilers. Clever cliffhangers will not engage an editor. If they say they want a 3-4 page synopsis, then this is what you give them. Once you’ve learned to do that, then learn how to condense that into a single page, three paragraphs, one paragraph and finally a single sentence. 

3) Understand that even with independent, ‘nimble’ publishers, the sheer volume of content crossing that desk is daunting. Everything takes three times longer than you might expect. Understand that a ‘no’ doesn’t necessarily mean you are a bad writer. It may simply mean that the content did not appeal for a host of reasons. This is a totally subjective business. And always, always write a thank you note (even if the rejection hurt and was perhaps not as kindly worded as it could have been). This is the professional thing to do and will leave the editor/publisher/agent with a positive attitude toward you as a person, even if they had a more negative reaction to your work.

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?
Diane: I am an unrepentant geek and a purveyor of all things popular culture. Joss Whedon walks on water, Marti Noxon rips my heart out of my chest and hands it to me on a platter still beating, James Cameron had me within the first three minutes. I follow screen writers/directors/special effects guys like the worst fanboy/girl. I love scenes with cinematic appeal and I adore writers who write to that. It is not easy. And it is easily overdone. Basically every person I’ve ever met is a story waiting to be told. People, and the odd quirks of fate that make us who we are, are my inspiration. That I choose to occasionally travel down a dark path is a testament to my own checkered history, one that requires cathartic venting to keep me on an even keel. And to help me appreciate the incredible gifts that surround me today.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?

Diane: Something between a Stephanie Plum and a Midnight Breed novel. Though noirish seems more suitable at times. I’m rarely one plot line or story arc. I am the Phoenix rising from the ashes.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?
Diane: Generally the living room sitting in a ratty old recliner with a small round table to hold my Cherry coke and a tilt table holding my laptop. Throw in an iPod and Bose headphones and Demon Cat on my lap.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?
Diane: A song title, musical phrasing, a snippet of conversation, virtually everything is fodder for a story. Frequently I will dream an entire novel—on those occasions I can’t get to the laptop fast enough in the morning. A little gal from a middle school choral group once asked me how I come up with ideas. I told her that I have all these people who rent apartments in my head. And sometimes they sublet and don’t tell me. Then, when I go knocking on that door, expecting to talk with the tenant, this stranger will answer, invite me in for tea (it’s a tweener, so I kept it ‘clean’) and a story. She loved it because it made sense in a skewed way. What she didn’t know is that every word was true (except for the tea).

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?
Diane: Pantser. Dyed in the wool. It is a blessing and a curse. It makes me a better short story/flash fiction writer than a novelist (I think).

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in and why?
Diane: Fantasy, but that encompasses a wide range of themes. I love paranormal because of the freedoms it grants to explore different worlds, different states of being, different choices and consequences.

girl with a quill: We all have little habits and quirks that make us individual.
(a) What are your bad habits in writing?
(b) What are your strengths in writing?
Diane: a) Oy vey, that‘s easy: really dense, economical phrasing and complex sentence structures that can challenge even a graduate level reader

b) really dense, economical phrasing … it’s how I write. And I know it’s not for everyone. I’ve been called a very ‘sensuous writer’ with an extremely strong voice. Whether or not it’s because of that ‘really dense’ propensity, I haven’t a clue.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?
Diane: Literary fiction. First I need to figure out exactly what that is. But it sounds tres cool and much of what passes for that genre involves … really dense, economical phrasing…

girl with a quill: Can you tell us a bit about the book/s you have written?
Diane: I am perhaps proudest of my YA fantasy Dragon Academy, published by ireadiwrite Publishing under my real name, Diane Nelson. I wanted to write about normal kids in a world where dragons exist as a matter of course, where they make mistakes and learn to deal with issues without being pummeled by dysfunctions and all the ugliness that has invaded YA literature today. My other pride and joy is Sculpting David, published by Red Sage under my pen name Nya Rawlyns—a sophisticated contemporary romance set in the shark filled waters of NYC’s art world. In November I have a new novel coming out from Red Sage titled Hunter’s Crossing, another contemporary romance which draws on my equestrian background. I also have a 4-book series in progress titled Portals under my other pen name T.S. Bond. Book One, Spar with the Devil, is out and will be followed shortly by The Devil and the Falcon. This is a dark urban fantasy, action-adventure tale of two families/cultures at war, a saga of love denied and betrayal.

girl with a quill: What is your best sentence you have written?
Diane: Honestly? I haven’t written it yet.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Diane: Someone said, at RWA, that ‘vamps are dead’ with apparently no pun intended. We were discussing the glut of vamp stories on the market and wondering if readers have gotten tapped out yet. My gut feeling was ‘no’. So I decided to write a vamp story that will be a three-story arc titled Hunger Hurts. The first book is Acid Jazz Singer which features a vamp transvestite who was turned mid-sex change transformation. The vamp is not the actual main character but rather the catalyst around which the action happens. The story is, um, evolving given my pantser nature. In truth it’s going to strange and wondrous places and I can’t wait to discover how it turns out.

girl with a quill: First drafts are for the writers themselves. Who reads your work after you?
Diane: I have beta readers for my dark urban fantasy. Sometimes I will post a chapter on FB or on my website to gauge reactions. I also belong to GLVWG which has quite a number of critique groups depending upon genre. They are an invaluable resource. 

girl with a quill: Why do you write?
Diane: Why do I eat? Why do I breathe? I simply must do so.

girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?
Diane: That each of us carries demons within us, whether by nature or by circumstance, and that the process of exorcising those demons or wrapping them in close embrace, is what makes us who we are.

girl with a quill: Do you believe in Muses? If you do, who/what is your Muse?
Diane: Oh, do I ever. In fact my muse has his own fan club. His name is Rowan and his exploits are legendary. My son used to explain to folks about his mother having an ‘imaginary friend’. Now he isn’t so sure about that.

girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?

Diane: Well, since in my own mind my stories are true, then being a character in someone else’s novel would be a treat. The opportunity to wreak havoc, sow dissent and otherwise make a nice character having a bad day even worse off? Oh yeah.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Diane: Most of my work is character driven. Without characters you care about, the story, the message, the lesson, will not matter. But then, without a story you are left with store-front mannequins. It’s a chicken-egg question, after all.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?
Diane: Rowan, based on my muse’s tortured past. This is in the third book of the Portals series: The Devil and the Shaman. I wrote this one from first person point of view—this allowed me such deep penetration into the character’s psyche that it was at once liberating and terrifying. This was one of those times when I truly opened a vein.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?
Diane: Would you laugh hysterically if I said ‘Ranger’ from the Stephanie Plum series? He’s Cuban, he’s hot and he says ‘Babe’. I mean, really, um, ‘scuse me while I go stand in front of the open freezer for a couple minutes…

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?
Diane: Joss Whedon (see above), Rockne S. O’Bannon because he was the mastermind behind the best SciFi show ever: Farscape, James Cameron (come on, you need to ask?), Michael Bay (because he blows shit up better than anybody) and Charlaine Harris because her ‘Verse has captivated and enthralled me for years.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?
Diane: Oh my, tough one, this. Atticus Kodiak from the series by Greg Rucka. A unique character who grew and made some tough, uncompromising choices that took me to uncomfortable places. Along the same lines I’d have to include Elvis Cole and Joe Long from the series by Robert Crais—again, these characters grow, evolve and must deal with a world in which their choices are often morally compromised. From Charlaine Harris’ ‘True Blood’ Verse, Eric (do I have blood in my hair?) and Pam (is it because I wear too much pink?). Humph, that’s five and I’m just getting started. Must call Wegmans to order a larger shrimp platter.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?
Diane: Write every single day.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?
Diane: Edit every single day.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?
Diane: I don’t write so that everyone will love me. I write for that one person for whom my story resonates, made a difference. If I am someone’s favorite author, then really what more can one ask?

girl with a quill: Where can we find your book/s for sale?
Diane: The usual suspects: Amazon, Kindle, B&N, Smashwords, OmniLit, Red Sage

girl with a quill: Finally where can we find you on the web?
Diane: As a publisher: http://www.pfoxmoorpublishing.com, http://www.pfoxchase.com.

Website: http://www.romancingwords.com and http://www.idancewithwords.com

Scene 1, Chapter 1, “ACTION”, Take 2

A possum and a movie camera 1943

Image by Australian War Memorial collection via Flickr

I have been rehearsing the first few scenes of my novel in my head this week. I decided I needed a break from the actual writing of the WIP to allow for the critique to marinade in my mind for a bit. After attending my first conference, I came away feeling refreshed and challenged. However, I also started looking at my WIP properly and realised that I needed to take a step back to be able to see it clearly.

One of the speakers at the conference was the talented Chris Vogler. Chris works in two mediums, story-telling and movies. Chris gave an inspiring talk on inspiration. A lot of his workshop though was an equal blend of movie talk and writing talk. This got me thinking. If I looked at my WIP with the eyes of a director, would I be happy with my scenes or would I need to do a couple more takes? This fresh perspective has allowed me to critique my novel from a removed space.

So, thinking like a film director, I began:

Scene 1, Chapter 1, “ACTION”

Cutting and editing a WIP is necessary to get to the fresh new branches needed for blossoms. Prior to the conference, we had been told to submit the first two pages of our WIP for a cold read and critique. Looking at the first two pages of my WIP, it struck me that I was “explaining” the story rather than “telling” the story. So I experimented with cutting the first 2 chapters of my WIP and making the third chapter the starting point. All of a sudden, I had action and movement with the first few words of the story. I decided to submit the edited WIP from the third chapter to see what reaction I would get in the cold read. The editor liked the language of the story and her interest was piqued, however I was “explaining” too much. At first, I was annoyed with this critique. Did she not know that I had already cut – very painfully I may add – the first two chapters of this WIP? Now I needed to cut more?! Again, I reminded myself to take a step back. I did not cut anything else from my WIP. Over the next few workshops, I let the critique from the cold read marinade in my mind. I started adding info from all the workshops into the critique.

I have now taken a week off from the actual “writing” and “cutting” of my WIP. This week has been a week of “cooking”. I needed to turn all the info and critiques from the conference into some sort of stew that would make a gourmet meal out of my very basic meal of a novel. At the same time, I have been using the editing part of my brain and been critiquing a WIP from my critique partner.

Now I sit here, one week after the conference, with fresh eyes and ready fingers. I am brought back again to looking at my WIP with the eyes of a director viewing a scene. I realise that, annoyed as I was initially by the cold read and subsequent critique, the editor was correct. I was “explaining” too much. I was not giving the reader the benefit of the doubt and was actually “dumbing down” the WIP.

Epiphany • a moment of sudden revelation or insight.

It was also during one of the workshops that I had an epiphany. It was not my first epiphany of the conference and it would not be my last. I have realised that in my fantasy WIP I was spending too much time “explaining” because I was trying to build my world for the reader. There was a key ingredient I was overlooking. It would mean a complete restart but it would give me the bones of this story with ACTION rather than BACKSTORY through EXPLANATION. To tell the story of my 2 MCs, I needed to start with the conflict that created their world. So this brings me to “TAKE 2”.

So I do not need to throw out what I have already written but I realise that I have enough story here for 2 – 3 stories. I was trying to fit too much into one WIP. I also realised that I was starting with story 2 and that I needed to start with story 1. So now it is time for TAKE 2.

Before I begin TAKE 2, I am going to remember the first words called out at the first filming of a scene: “ACTION”. I need to start with ACTION. I need to give the reader the benefit of the doubt. I also need to keep the reader/viewer hooked with a little teasing. I realised I do not need to explain the story away with too much backstory. Backstory has its place but for the beginning ACTION is key.

Time to begin: Scene 1, Chapter 1, “ACTION”, “CUT”, “Take 2″…

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Food for thought….

What is your editing/cutting method?

If your WIP was a film, would it have people on the edge of their seats or would it leave them yawning and frustrated?

Have you done a cold read of your own WIP as if it was another writer’s WIP?

© All rights reserved Kim Koning

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