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Showing posts from October, 2007

Mommy, Where Do Titles Come From?

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Anton wanted one of us to go with that title, so I took it. Primarily because I feel compelled to give a top quality answer, and give it the serious consideration and the respect it deserves. So, gather around, shut up and sit on your freakin' quiet mats.

*sighs, lights up crack pipe (just to relax, nothing wrong with that)*

When a writer loves a story very much, like the way I love your mommy (yes. YOUR mommy), the writer thinks and thinks, sucks on pen caps, sometimes gets out of breath from all the strenuous thinking--sweat may be involved--and spits out words all over the top of the story's page. It can really be quite messy. Nine months later--give or take a week--a shiny new title is born.

Now, go take your naps while the grown ups talk titles.

Titles are a bitch, right? It seems like you can come up with a great title and then the story doesn't cooperate, or you've got a story you love and the title just won't pop into your head, or worse yet, onto the p…

Title Me

Ah yes, the title. The first thing anyone knows about your book. It has to be pithy. It has to be clever. It has to be dramatic. It has to perfectly encapsulate your whole book in just a few words.

To be honest, I've never had much of a problem with titles. In fact, I actually love titles. I have a whole file of titles I may use someday. I would say nine times out of ten, the title is the first thing that comes to me. And I find I write to the title, or rather, the title shows its perfection to the point that by the end of the book, it fits the book in several different ways.

Take Personal Demons for example. (Well, don't just TAKE it. Buy it, please.) The title came to me first. Wouldn't it be fun to use the old cliche about battling one's personal demons in a new and literal way? Yes, of course it would. So who might do that? Well, it's kind of cheesy to say you'll battle someone's personal demons, so it might be, like, a talk show or radio show, or the tit…

Back from the nuptuals

It's late on Monday, but I still have time to get in my blog post!

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for their well wishes on my wedding. The Mrs. and I had an amazing time and my mind is almost back to normal now... well, as normal as I get anyway. Certainly far more normal than Mark Henry.

Speaking of Mark, he picked this week's topic, The Trouble with Tribbles! This is one of my all time favorite episodes of the original Star Trek series! When those cute little furballs start to overrun the ship... hold on a sec, phone's ringing.

That was Mark, calling to correct me. Apparently, this weeks topic is actually The Trouble with Titles!

I don't think I have any great advice on this, actually, so I wish we were going for Star Trek, but alas!

I'm hit with the inspiration for a title at different parts of any given project. Here's a sampling:

"Lady in Red" from Pandora's Closet- I knew I wanted to do a modern day Red Riding Hood story wit…

Untitled IV - Where it all comes to a grisly end.

Under her palm, Gabe choked. Once, twice. His eyes rolled wildly in his head as he stared at her melting face, his limbs thrashing as he tried to get away.

Hell, it was just her luck to get a pantywaist groom. She leaned over him and hissed, "If you don't want me to pluck out your eyeballs and shove them up your arse, you'll drink."

He drank. She felt his lips move against her palm again. Good. One less thing to worry about.

Cordelia turned back to Samuel and scowled, not moving her hand from Gabe's mouth as the party-goers disintegrated into puddles of human goo around them. "Just what do you think you're doing? Don't you know this is every girl's special day?"

"You mean, every ghoul?" Samuel gave her a toothy smile, displaying his fangs.

Oh, ha ha. Like this was the time for a joke. Her Vera Wang had puke and pus all over it thanks to his theatrics. "Why are you here, Samuel?"

"Shouldn't you call me 'Master'…

Untitled, Part III - why do I somehow always end up with Oh, Crap! part of the story?

A piercing shriek of claws against stone slashed through the church. People clamped their hands over their ears. The sound died as abruptly as it started and in the ensuing silence a raspy male voice sang out, "Cordeeeelia..."

Fear skittered down Cordelia's spine, piercing her skin with icy claws.

The doors of the church clanged shut.

She glared at the minister. "Finish it!"

He just stared at the ceiling, his eyes bulging from their orbits, mouth gaping. Sweat broke at his hairline.

The thing from the ceiling dropped into the aisle and sat there, an ugly twisted creature of mummified skin and dried muscle. Its baleful white eyes fixed on Cordelia. It stretched. Huge yellow talons clawed the carpet, leaving ragged tears in the fabric.

She snapped her teeth. The beast flipped backward, leapt across the aisle to the double doors, and sat there.

A dull thud echoed the church - the mother of the groom fainted. The minister flung the bible to the floor and scrambl…

Untitled Part Two

A sharp rapping at the door interrupted Cordelia's eavesdropping of the arriving guests. She opened her mouth to reply, but before she could eek out a syllable, Shandi Jones barreled into the room. She of the blistering red lava hair, pocked skin and unfortunate orangutan arms, the bridesmaid gown did nothing for her; its subtle pumpkin shade on such a slinky sheath made the girl look like a lit Halloween candle, a taper; one Cordelia would have liked to douse, at that.

"What're you doin' up here? Cold feet?" Shandi plopped down at the dressing table, pulled off her heels and picked at her hammertoes ferociously. "You're not going to dart are you? End up at some abortion clinic in Tuscaloosa, running through a picket line just to fix a mistake." Her eyes glassed. She was far away.

Cordelia didn't want to imagine where.

"No. Of course not." She nudged the door to the wardrobe closed with her toe. "I'm just relishing in the moment,…

Part One

Cordelia trailed her fingers down the cracked wooden windowframe. The excited chatter of the guests arriving below sounded like carrion-eating birds who'd just stumbled upon a dead body in the desert.
They smiled, though. At least most of them did. The groom's mother looked as though someone had just given her a bag of poo to hold instead of a corsage in a plastic case.
Whatever. Once the ceremony was over it wouldn't matter anymore. None of their opinions would, their petty, miserable small-town thoughts, their upturned noses.
"Ow!" A splinter sank into the pad of her right index finger. She stepped away from the window and examined it, squeezing gently. A single drop of dark red blood appeared, like a jewel set on ivory silk.
Ivory silk like her dress. If she wasn't careful she'd get blood on it, and how would that look? She hadn't spent twelve grand at Vera Wang just to walk down the aisle looking like a zombie.
The thought made Cordelia smile. She suck…

Anton's the Marrying Kind

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Mark here. I'm stepping in for Anton to offer up a big CONGRATULATIONS to our favorite male urban fantasy writer (that isn't me). You see Anton got married this weekend, and is off on his honeymoon.

Honeymoon (noun): A celebratory "first" vacation for the newly married couple, in which carnal pleasures are entertained and physical union (coitus) seals the bond of matrimony. In past centuries, the "wedding night" was followed by the symbolic bleaching of the sheets. Due to diminished standards this latter element has become a rarity.
For our purposes, suffice it to say, it's Business Time...



Congratulations Anton! May your future be full of Wednesdays.

Signed Mark, Stacia, Ilona, and Jill

LET THE GUESTBOOK MADNESS COMMENCE!!!!

Weekend Interview: John Levitt

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Musician, party-guy and all around dog lover, John Levitt was kind enough to sit down with me and go over some of the tough questions about his first urban fantasy release, DOG DAYS. It's available from Ace in paperback on October 30th. Just the sort of thing you want for Halloween, right?

Keep reading as I ask John the truly hard questions...


So John, what's the premise of DOG DAYS?
That there are those among us who have special talents, who are practitioners of magic. Most people are unaware of their existence, but it's not a true "secret society," just very much below the radar. Mason, a jazz musician who has mostly abandoned magic, is forced to come out of his self imposed retirement when he and friends become targeted by unknown enemies. Bad things happen. In the end, Mason solves the mystery and of course, saves his own ass as well.

His companion, Lou, is a small dog -- only not exactly a dog. A few practitioners have magical companions who take the shape of sm…

Lead With Your Voice

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I'm sure by now that it's been drilled into everyone's head that queries are business letters. You start with your formal address, you make your business statement, you move on to the product that you are selling, and you wrap with your polite close and thank the reader for their time.

The thing that I *wish* that we emphasized? Voice voice voice. Because really, it makes or breaks your query.

I don't consider myself a genius of the English language. I barely know enough grammar or spelling to keep myself out of trouble. I'm pretty sure I end sentences with dangling participles and such. So I feel like I have to make people look past those sorts of things.

And to start, I'm going to show you my query letter. This is the one that landed me my agent and eventually a publishing contract.

I am seeking representation for my 98,000 word paranormal, SEX STARVED.

Jackie Brighton has died, but she hasn't gone to Heaven. Thanks to some supernatural interference, the dork…

Why Are You Asking Me? I don't know Nuthin....

Note: Before you write a query for your first manuscript, the manuscript should be finished. :)

For the purposes of my example I will be using an imaginary finished manuscript, the break down of which can be seen on my live journal.*


I am not a query expert. I only wrote two. One was for the old incarnation of Lost Dog and it was awful and years ago and I have no clue what it said. One was for the Magic Bites and basically if you see the back of the book, a lot of it was from my query.

So not an authority here.


But anyway, here goes: imho, a query should marry internal and external conflicts.

:inserts Ken labeled External Conflict and Barbie labeled Internal Conflict and puts them together, making kissy noises:**

Conflict is interesting. Problems are interesting. Characters are interesting. Worldbuilding... I say pick one or two flashiest elements and stick them in there.***

So characters. We are going to go with Bob and Poopsie. We always go with Bob and Poopsie on the livejournal…

Selling Your Soul With Style*

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Rather than run the risk of repeating Anton and Stacia, I'm going to take a different tangent. Since the only successful query letter I've written was basically a threat (I've got an offer coming in are you in? I could go somewhere else. You're in?), I'm no expert. Over time though, this stuff just sinks in.

Let's take some time to prepare for writing your query letter. Assuming you've already edited the shit out of your manuscript and the writing's tight as the ketchup cap in my fridge (permanently attached to the bottle at this point), you should probably get your work out to some agents. What do you need to know?

1. Know Your Genre

You'd be surprised how many people I've met (or maybe you wouldn't), who, when asked what genre they write, say, "It's sort of a hybrid of sci-fi/fantasy and mystery, with comedy elements. Oh and it's inspirational like The Celestine Prophecy. I think it'd probably be shelved in mainstrea…

The workmanlike query

Everyone seems to panic when it comes to queries, and I've never really understood it. Sorry. I realize this makes me a bitch. But I can't help it.

The thing is, a query is simply an introduction to your book. It tells someone what the book is about and who you are. Yes, it should be well-written. No, it should not contain anywhere the following phrases:

* "or you'll be sorry"
* "Harry Potter"
* "Lord of the Rings"
* "my Mom/Dad/sister/cousin/best friend said it's the best book they ever read" (unless said family member is a bestseller and/or litereary award winner)
* "guaranteed bestseller"
* "will make a great movie"
* "the squirrels helped me write it"

But really, that leaves you a pretty decent amount of leeway. Here's what you want:

1. Opening line. Do not make this a question. Just say something like, "I am seeking representation for my 82,000 word urban fantasy novel Personal Demons and think …

Queries are queer

It's Monday, I'm feeling saucy, so time to change the weekly topic for this blog.This week we'll each be discussing the much dreaded query letter.Ooh spooky... just in time for Halloween!What to do, how to do it, where we've gone wrong, what mistakes we see others make.Here's a few of my thoughts on this elusive beast, drawn from my years working inside a large publishing house.Hope you find something useful, although some of these may seem like no-brainers to our super-literati LRA readers!
Be polite and be reasonable.Don't write that your book IS THE END ALL BE ALL BOOK THAT U MUST PUBLISH OMG WTF BBQ!!! IF U MISS OUT ON THIS GRT OPP, YOU ARE AN IDIOT EDITOR/AGENT AND I HATE YOU FOREVER!!!While writing is an art, it's also a business, and if you plan on selling your work, treat it as the latter.Get to the point.Don't be overly creative/clever with your query letter. A lot of fledgling writers gut reaction is to stand out from the pack this way, but fig…

OMG, I got Meljean Brook on our blog! Holy Crap!

Introduction:

Meljean rocks. She writes these incredible books that are at once smart, violent and sexy as hell (or heaven, depending on where the characters are at the moment). When I read Demon Angel, I had a moment of outright envy over Lilith. I sat there and thought, why can't I write like that?

It took me weeks of bribing, cajoling, and pleading (not really, I just emailed and said, "Come do interview with me!" and she said, "Okay!" but it is more dramatic this way) but my Russian mind control powers prevailed. I have Meljean on the blog. Squuuuuuuuuuueeeeeeeeee!


1. Is it true you were discovered because you wrote fanfic?

It's true. I'd been writing Batman/Wonder Woman shipfics for a while, but I'd begun straying more and more often to alternate universe fics, so I realized I wasn't really using those characters anymore, and it was time to move on to my own work. So I began writing the early version of Demon Angel, and I was about 30K wo…

Advice from me? On writing? Surely you jest.

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Since my novel has been pushed so far out (Spring 2009, baybee) it feels weird for me to offer writing advice. After all, it won't be two or six months before my book comes out...it will be EIGHTEEN. How will you possibly know if I'm full of bollocks until then?

So, I thought I'd share what I poached from the late, great Barbara Cartland.

Yes, Barbara Cartland. She who lived like a gaudy princess of old and wrote nine bajillion of these little babies like in the picture (and say what you will about those old regency romances, but I friggin love those! No Barbara hate in the comments!).

Barbara said that the best way to write a quick read was to remember that the reader gets bored with long paragraphs. The eye slows down and wanders over very thick passages. To keep the action quick and the pace lively, make your paragraphs short.

I totally live by this.

Here's an example of how breaking up your text makes a difference. I'll even quote my upcoming Sex Starved novel (law…

Writing trick: characters

Hi guys.I had a really tough day at work, so my post today will be a bit shorter than I planned.I will have to ask you to help me out to make it interesting.I looked through the questions you guys left on my lj.I'll try to do my best :)Character descriptionsTwo things to keep in mind, when it comes to characters.First, when most people remember characters, they only recall one or two character traits. Of these two character traits, one will be primary and the other secondary. These two character traits often do not describe physical appearance.This seems like a contradiction, but follow me for the time being.Let's take Three Musketeers.Some wonderful characterization there.How about physical traits?Let's see, I'm thinking of a character who is of average height and handsome.Well, that's no good.They are all of average height and handsome, mostly.

How about handsome and in good physical shape?Nope, doesn't work either.How about elegant and brooding?That's mos…

Mud Wrestling with Your Character (the Literary Kind)

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I've been instructed to tackle this subject by certain people who've read HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED and think I'm particularly good at fleshing out characters. What's tricky about this subject is I don't really have a method.

What I am is an observer.

Of life, body language, tone, inflection, accent, expression, scent, image. I'm an eavesdropper, too and a soul stealer.

And you've got to be, too.

Building character requires an eye for detail that most people just don't have. Do you ever notice when you're walking through the mall, people--as a whole--are transfixed by their own personal dramas. They internalize and dwell, cutting them off from really looking at the world around them. You could--and do try this--have the filthiest conversation and not be noticed by the vast majority of people you pass. There'll be some that turn and make eye contact. Those are the observers.

If you're not one, this takes work to correct, much like a child…

Got a tip for you, Skip

...Plastics.

(Yeah, I know, it's actually from The Graduate. But I'm quoting from Valley Girl. Because...um...well, just because.)

So when people ask me for writing tips and tricks, I usually just laugh at them. Because, seriously, you're asking me?

But then I relent, and I give them some. Especially if they offer to pay me. You guys aren't paying me, but that's okay. I like you, so I'll share some tricks I've picked up.

**Active verbs. This is something it seems to take a long time to pick up. When you use an active verb, you can avoid the adverb. For example, instead of saying "He walked quickly" you can say "He strode" or "He sped" or "He trotted". All of those verbs imply something more than walking. They give us an idea of how he walks, what he's thinking, what kind of character he is, even. Always use the most concise wording you can. Nobody likes to slog through five sentences just so a character can reach the…