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Showing posts from November, 2007

No cliches today, just feedback from you!

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Rather than beat a dead horse - what could I possibly say about cliches that my co-Reluctants have not already said? - I thought we'd take some time out to get some feedback from the blogworld.

We want to know what we're doing right, and what we're doing wrong.

Do you like the weekly topics? Or would you prefer that we free-form and just write about whatever we want?

What about the interviews? Do you want more of them? Less of them? Do they impact you at all?

What about a book club? What if we picked one book a month and we all debated about it - and invited discourse, of course! Would you be interested? Not interested?

If we do giveaways, what sorts of prizes do you want to see? Keep in mind that we are broke-ass, lowly genre writers and do not have stretch limos just yet.

We want the League to be a fun read every day of the week (except Sundays, hah). So tell us. Do you want more industry information? More wacky short stories? More snippets? A top ten? Bad jokes (Hey, we have …

Cliche

I made this topic and I don't know what to say. I think we might be doing away with this weekly topic thing.

Ummm.

How about a scary snippet? Ooo, very scary. It has cliches in it.. :thinks desperately: Okay running up the stairs is totally cliche. :throws the snippet and runs:


Karina knocked on the door gently. "Come on, Jacob. Let other kids have a turn."

"Almost done."

At the end of the hallway an older man frowned. Heavily muscled, with a face like a bulldog, he planted himself as if he were about to be overran by rioters. He watched her with open malice. The kids sensed it too and clustered around her. She didn't blame them – that was one scary guy. The woman who had opened the door to them wasn't much better: hard, thin, eyes like a rattlesnake, no compassion, no kindness, no anger. Nothing at all. If it wasn't for the kids crying to go potty, Karina would have turned around, got in to the van, and gotten right out of there.

B…

Cliche is the New Cliche

I have absolutely nothing new to add to this topic. Even my title isn't entirely original. I'm not even sure why this topic is so popular.

Is it that people are actually reading a lot of cliches in urban fantasy? There does seem to be a lot of repetition in character (vampires, werewolves, faeries, dragons) but the same could be said of white women in literary fiction, or child abuse victims in memoirs. Oh wait, real people can't be cliches.

Or can they?

Many writer's seem to be concerned about writing a "Mary Sue," which I'd never heard of before setting up a livejournal. What's weird about the concept is that this cliched character is seen as a negative, some cookie cutter individual that ends up polluting every newbie or hack's manuscript, as though siphoned from a medical waste dumpster.

It strikes me as ironic.

Over the course of my other career as a psychotherapist, I must have worked with well over a thousand individuals. And the one thing …

Oh, those crazy cliches

Cliches are like insects hiding in your shoes. Sometimes they're harmless, sometimes even cute (like a ladybug, aaw) but sometimes...sometimes your entire foot will go gangrenous if it--okay, I can't carry this analogy all the way. But you get the point.

Playing with cliches can be fun, as Anton said. The very title Personal Demons plays on the cliche in several ways and alludes to more. We have the actual personal demons, the Yezer Ha-Ra. We have the demon bodyguards assigned to Megan, who become in essence her personal demons. We have the demon love interest of the story, who gets very personal. We even have Megan confronting the literal (and figurative) demons of her past.

So yes, cliches can be helpful and fun. It's fun to twist them and turn them.

But it's also deadly to use them too much. It alienates and bores readers. It lacks snap. It makes them feel like they're reading a book they already read.

In that book, I have a scene in the autumn woods, with bare tree…

Like a bridge over troubled writer

It's a cold, rainy day here in The Big Apple, but you know what, readers? I'm still here for you because that's what a beleaguered Leagure does!

The topic this week? Cliches.

And since I'm kicking off the discussion, I'll play a little bit of devil's advocate.

I like 'em!

I can see you reaching for the Post Comment button now: Why, Anton & his trout, why?

Here's why: I think cliches are a great jumping off point for brainstorming. A cliche is a cliche mostly because at some point it was a great idea. It's just that now that great idea has gone beyond the ideal of a piece of fiction that it's been done to death. But it's a good place to start when brainstorming your own work. For instance:

Julie Kenner's Carpe Demon series. I'd call it suburban fantasy... a what if tale of what if Buffy grew up, had a kid and became a soccer mom? It has all the hints of Buffydom (demon hunter, a Watcher type character, quick witty dialog), but…

Weekend Interview: Jim McCarthy, Literary Agent

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This week in the League lounge, my very own agent, Jim McCarthy of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. We'll be tackling all the tough issues, from ghost writing for reality TV pseudo-celebs to author whoring, from query letters to the state of urban fantasy. Won't you join us by the fire? Grab a cocktail and hang in the conversation pit.

First off, let's get something straight--our readers have to know--when are we approaching Tiffany Pollard, TV's "New York" about a tell all biography (I'll ghost write, obviously)?

This is assuming we haven't already...

When people ask me who my dream client is, I say it's Mark Henry. Then I chuckle and say, "No. Really, it would be New York from "I Love NY." Because she's the greatest thing in the universe, right?

On a slightly more serious note, our readers are aspiring writers themselves, what's your best advice for getting noticed in that pesky query letter--a concept as high as De…

Ah, crap. Thankfulness.

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When we started this journal, I volunteered for Fridays thinking that would be easy to remember. What I didn't realize was that by the time Friday hit, everyone had already said everything clever.

Blahblahblah thankful for family, friends, book-career, blah blah.

So I'm going to derail a bit (as usual) and talk about, instead, the industry websites that *I* am thankful for:

Agent Turnaround Times - This little livejournal community was started by a good friend of mine, Jodi Meadows. It's a database of agent names and the turnaround-time feedback that other people have experienced. There's a few others out in the marketplace that do the same (Forward Motion's agent tracking thread comes to mind) but this one is the easiest to read.

The Rejecter - A blog run by an agent's assistant. She's the person you have to get past to get your work seen by the agent, and some of her observations are extremely keen. Plus, I like her wit.

Bookends LLC - Jessica Faust runs this …

Thanksgiving

Since I will be cooking like mad on Thanksgiving, I thought I'd make the thankfull post now.

I am thankful for my husband and children. For being loved despite my many faults. I know I'm not an easy person to live with and we have ups and downs. I don't always say the right things or do the right things, but I always want to. I love you very much. You make me want to come home.

I am thankful for my job, which, although trying at times, permits me to provide for Gordon and myself and our kids. We have enough and I still remember when we didn't. I remember when debts seemed insurmountable and I felt trapped, and poor, and angry, because life was crumbling, and no matter what we didn't, we couldn't hold the pieces together. We clawed our way out - it was Gordon mostly, he was the one who joined the Army, all I had to do was follow. But I don't think I'll ever forget. I am so very grateful to be able to cook dinner in a warm house and not worry about how the …

It's Just About That Time...

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...Is At Hand!

It's my understanding that at some of these so-called Thanksgiving dinners, families gather to give thanks publicly for the important events and people of the previous year--not mine, of course, we're heathens and far too busy huffing gas, shooting craps and burying the dead hookers to be bothered with turkeys, mushy stuffing and gratefulness. But it sounds like a bit of fun so I'll humor the masses with my little list.

This year, I'm thankful for...

1. My book deal, duh? Possibly the single most important event of my life (next to my wedding day, and that day back in 1968 when my mother squeezed me out on a metal table and then went back to reading her book).

2. The Grindhouse guys (Tarentino, but mostly Rodriguez) for dishing up the most entertaining theatrical presentation since I crammed into the back of a Pontiac Bonneville to watch the Logan's Run/Star Wars double feature at a drive-in that now serves as a swap meet for black market purses and fa…

I'd be merry, but I'm...

...in a place where there is no Thanksgiving. I'm Kyle, on Christmas.

We're still having Thanksgiving, of course. We managed to buy some outrageously expensive cans of Libby pumpkin at Selfridge's when we were there last month, so I can make pies. My Mom mailed us a can of french-fried onions, so I can make green bean casserole. Tomorrow I'll buy a turkey, and Thursday we'll do Our Thing. So I'm still having Thanskgiving, just...not. No parades. No football (grumble grumble). No Thanksgiving episodes of tv shows (although we do have "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" on DVD.) No quiet streets filled with the scent of roasting turkey. Christmas decorations have been up in the stores for weeks here already.

But I can still force myself to be thankful for some things, despite being thousands of miles away from my family and friends (I'm sorry, I'm getting a cold so I'm maudlin):

1. I am thankful that I can go shopping on Friday if need be without fa…

Pass the turkey (and no, I don't mean Mark)!

Well, since Dead Bird Day is once again upon us, what better time to stop and give thanks that I am not a dead bird... and to also give thanks for the bounty that is our posh life in our ivory tower stronghold known as the League of Reluctant Adults. (Actually, it's more like a Winnebago filled with stale Chex Mix and homemade moonshine, but if the Interwebz has taught me anything, it's to lie.. and lie BIG!)

1. Although you know me as the caustic one of our Fab Five, I'm gonna get all sappy for a minute. First and foremost, I'm truly thankful for my one-month old bride. Not that I married a one-month old... just that I've been married about a month... see why I need an editor? Your congratulations on that while I was busy skipping out on my LRA duties that week were touching.

2. I'm thankful for my book deal. A lot has changed for me since Ace offered to take the first two books in my series, and outside of my wedding, this has been the biggest change in …

Interview: Caitlin Kittredge, Author Extraordinaire

Today we're talking to the fantastic Caitlin Kittredge, author of the upcoming novel (first in a series!) Night Life, (available for preorder on Amazon--click the link!) which will be released in March. She also has a short story, which is sure to be awesome fun, in the upcoming anthology My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon (c'mon, with a name like that it has to be good, right?), which will be released December 26, just in time to blame the delay in giving it to That Special Someone on shipping. Or buy it for yourself, of course, because don't you deserve to get something you really want?

1. Tell us about Night Life. (See? Told you this would be fun! Muahaha.)

Night Life is a noir fantasy about Luna Wilder, homicide detective and werewolf extraordinaire, who gets the biggest case of her career dumped into her lap via a dead prostitute. Luna must solve a series of ritual killings and avoid becoming the last one herself, and also save her city from the clutches of a rogue demo…

Yes, but are you REALLY ready for critique?

All right, I think we've pretty much covered all the angles of crit groups and why they're important, and what they show you.

Thing is, you have to realize whether or not you're ready for a critique on your novel. Here's a quick quiz to help you out.

Your friend, Bob the Published Author, shows interest in your current novel. He wants to read it. You:

A) Faint out of terror
B) Tell him to please not tell you if he hates it and send it on. And spend the next six weeks rocking in the corner of your writing room.
C) Shove it into his email without giving it a second look and say "Be brutal, baby!"

If you had to pause and think about any of the answers except for C, perhaps you're not really READY to have your stuff critiqued. And that's okay.

Let me tell you a story. This story will be about er, an author we'll call Bill Jyles. Sure. Bill was in the middle of writing his first novel, a 600-page romantic ripoff of Outlander. With dinosaurs and Puritans. Bill…

Crits and kicks

Sorry for the late post. In my defense, some personal things happened that completely occupied me and I forgot.

I've been the member of OWW for years. I highly recommend it. But there are some drawbacks to kicking your work out there to be reviewed.

Having your work critiqued can shorten the writing apprenticeship for years. But here is another side of it. Critique is addictive. Extremely addictive. It's like writer crack*. You can train yourself to like receiving critique and critiquing others so much, you will stop producing when the critiques dry up. That's the kiss of death. You must produce copy. You don't write, you don't eat.**

There is another negative: critique of an early work can cause writer to alter the work, veering from the original vision and not always in a good way. Leigh Brackett, for instance, refused to show the manuscripts even to her husband until they were completed.

You have to figure out what kind of writer you are. Are you eas…

A Critique Story (Not Flushed Down)

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Confession: I almost forgot to post today. I should be ashamed. Should be. But I'm not. You see, I gots my ARCs yesterday, and I'm still reeling. They're not pretty, just a plain blue cover with ordering information on it, but it's the first time I've seen Happy Hour in book form. To commemorate such an auspicious occasion, I'm running a little contest. I know I can part with at least one of these bad boys for my League readers, so just leave a comment after this post and I'll choose the winner at random. I'm gonna throw in a cover flat, just cuz I like the shiny. Good luck y'all.


Now on to critique, and in lieu of a lecture on how to find a group, which is what I'd originally planned, I'll just tell you about my own search.

Back when I was just tinkering around with words and writing short stories, the only people that read them were the very ones least likely to give me an honest critique; friends and family but never my wife, oddly …

Crit me, baby, one more time

(Oh, come ON. Like somebody wasn't going to use that title at some point this week, seriously.)

Critiquing is one of the most important things you'll do as a writer. I don't just mean finding yourself a crit partner and handling their work while they handle yours. Heh heh. Because although crit partners are important, and having another eye to check your work over is valuable, I'm not entirely certain it's better than actually doing critiques yourself.

See, you're too close to your own story. You know exactly what everyone is thinking and feeling, you know what they're going to do next. So when you read it yourself, your mind absorbs all that unwritten information along with what's actually there. This is why everyone who's just starting out thinks they are the greatest writer in the world.

You will never see the mistakes in your story and writing until you start seeing them elsewhere. This is why critting other people is so important.

You'll find …

Everyone's a critic

Well, let's hope so, anyway. This week we're talking about critiques at the League- how to take them, what's good, what's bad, etc.

For me, writing doesn't happen in a vacuum, despite folks like Anne Rice supposedly shunning any editorial of her work these days. Being fairly new to the published side of the game, I can't imagine writing a complete book without getting some kind of feedback from other writers around me (I'm not very bright). My grandma's praise can only go so far and frankly, I'm a little suspect of her critical eye.

So how to find people to give you criticism that's actually going to help your work?

From my experience, some of the best criticism I have worked with has come from joining a writer's workshop where their feedback and insight were constant throughout the process of writing Dead To Me.

Here's some of my insights:

1) I chose to join a non-genre workshop. Why? For me, good writing is good writing no matter what…

Interview: Jaime Mendola, Asst. Manager, Advertising & Promotion

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(Pictured: Jaime with her 2 BFF 4 Life, Nora Roberts & J.D. Robb)
Jaime Mendola has a BA in English from OhioUniversity and an MS in Publishing from PaceUniversity. She's an Assistant Manager of Advertising and Promotions for the mass market section of Berkley Publishing, one of the imprints over at Penguin Group. Jaime's main focus is producing promotional items, to include bookmarks, postcards, store displays, and catalogs for the sales force. She also oversees the development of various print ads and online marketing campaigns. Some of her major authors include Nora Roberts, Tom Clancy, Christine Feehan, and Anton Strout.

When she's not exploring promotional opportunities for authors, Jaime's unknowingly drafting hockey players with head injuries to her fantasy hockey team. Born in Buffalo, NY, she now resides in New York City. A lot of writers come to us here at the League to learn just what the hell goes on in the secret non-writerly portion of seeing a book g…

Things No One Told Me About Getting Published.

Okay, so it's partially my fault. I never thought about what would happen BEYOND that first contract. So here's a quick run-down of things I have learned so far.

1) If you use a pseudonym, people will be BOUND AND DETERMINED to find out your real name. I have no idea why. Maybe it comes across as some sort of challenge. Who knows. But please don't tell me if you do find out my real name. You will just frighten me.

2) Everything you say on your blog becomes a platform. If you don't like red shoes, and you say so, the friends of the red shoe brigade will come out in droves to defend. Everything - even on your 'private' (ha ha, yeah right) journal must be scrutinized.

3) The real work only begins once you get the offer.

4) Promotion takes a helluva lot of time. There's LJ, MySpace, Facebook, industry blogs, email loops, newsletters, webpages...

5) And money. RWA, SFWA, Conferences, swag, websites...

6) Everything tied to NY publishing happens at a snail's pace. …

No good

Honestly, I don't know what to say. To me, when one book ends, another typically begins with a short painful period of inactivity between then. I don't do much beyond writing books. Unfortunately, I don't have much time or money to spend on conventions. I rarely go out. In fact, most of my social life takes place on the net.

Stacia said everything I pretty much had to say on this subject. So my post will be very short: if you want to succeed as a writer, take time to have fun.

Take pleasure in your friends' successes. Even if they write better than you, sell more than you, or reviewed better than you. Everyone gets a bite of a little professional jealousy now and then, and that's fine. We're all human. But don't let jealousy consume you. It's not healthy.

Take time to smell the roses outside. It a big huge world and writing isn't the only thing in it. Go out. Have fun. Walk on the beach. Have coffee with friends. Volunteer. So many o…

Jackie Kessler, A League Interview Extra!

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Today we welcome Jackie Kessler to the League Lounge. Her fantastic first novel, Hell's Belles introduced us to Jezebel, a delicious exotic dancer that happened to be a succubus on the run from hell. In her latest, The Road To Hell, Jackie takes us back to Jesse's world and a devilish showdown that could be the end of everyone's favorite stripper.

Hey Jackie, the new book is in stores this week. You must be trippin', right?

If you define "trippin' " as stressing out and getting little sleep, absolutely! I'm psyched, truly -- there's nothing like seeing your name on a book, even if its about OJ postulating how he would kill you (if he were to do that sort of thing). But it's also stressful. That's because I'm addicted to Amazon rankings and Ingram numbers. I swear, those are crack for writers. Just say no!

Now, I haven't read Road--I'm just not into books, really--what would you like people to know about this one?

Naughty boy. Yo…

Notes From a Compassionate Helper

Okay. So that may be an overstatement, or downright misleading. Sue me. At least I didn't call myself a codependent people pleaser (and you'd better not fall into that category, either).

You're getting your writing pep talk from a cave-like hotel room near Times Square and I'm a tad claustrophobic, if that tells you anything. The topic is helping yourself as a writer and I'm not talking about getting enough rest or balancing diet and exercise. I'm talking about being...

Realistic.

You've got your manuscript, and you've edited the shit out of it. Every line is free of adverbs (unless you're writing romance), you've replaced the dialogue attributions with beats of actions (where appropriate), the plot is dense as cheesecake, rather than that other holey metaphor and your characters are fatty and fleshed out without a hint of Mary Sueness. It can't help but sell, right?

Wrong. *ahem* This is going to sound harsh. Brace yourself.

Familiarize…