Friday, August 27, 2010

Taking a break

No, I don't actually fish - but I am going to a nice island where other people do lots of fishing. It's vacation time, and I can't wait.

What are my plans, now that I actually have some free time for the first time in months? I plan to do Absolutely Nothing! Well, nothing that is work or writing, editing or reviewing related, that is. But I will enjoy a few fun activities: the beach, hanging out with family, sightseeing. I've also got the reading list for the plane all set: I'll start with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell and coming back, I should be on Genghis: Bones of the Hill by Conn Iggulden, both of which I've been looking forward to reading for some time.

Be back in September. Have a great Labor Day.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Paid to Publish? Now, Pay for Reviews

Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware just tweeted about The New PW Select: A Quarterly Service for the Self-Published, which will begin listing self-published books and review those "most deserving of a critical assessment," starting in September. Authors must pay a listing fee of $149, which includes a six-month subscription to the digital edition of Publishers' weekly.

I almost snorted Diet Dr. Pepper out of my nose when I read this article, and that is just not fun! Soda in your nose actually stings, much like the article and that processing fee. One hundred and forty-nine US dollars. Really? Really really?

"But Lisa," I can hear you saying, "You've paid to publish. You said so on this blog. Why does another fee bother you?" Well, since I'm sure you're asking, I'll explain. I'm an indie publisher, not a self-publisher, by my definition. If I were truly a self-publisher, I would have my own espresso book machine at the ready, churning out books all day, or at the very least, I'd be in Kinko's every night running copies. Since I have a life beyond writing and publishing, I don't own the mechanism whereby my book is printed and shipped out to anyone who orders it. Amazon's Createspace does. So, it is perfectly reasonable for me to pay Createspace for the service of making my book available. How else would anyone read it? Someone has to print it and that sure won't be me, as I don't have the time or skill.

The $149 fee to pay someone to list a book with the potential for a review is entirely something else. Note that PW "maintains our right to review what we deemed worthy," and that the processing fee is for the brief listing - not a charge for the review. I can only assume this means any piss-poor, self-published book will be listed, but likely will not garner a review from the editors. At least, that is my hope. Yet, that would mean a writer has paid $149 to have PW print their name, book title etc. in a list of the potentially hundreds of self-pubbed books, so that possible readers can become passively aware of the book. Something that a good web presence, like a website, blog, Facebook, Goodreads, Shelfari, and Twitter, can already help a writer accomplish. For free.

I hate to pass hasty judgment, but I will. Sorry. First I must ask, what is about those of us who go the non-traditional route that some people just assume we're willing to pay for anything? I suppose the blame lies in the stigma that's still associated with self-publishing. I am aware of a few other outlets already charging fees of this sort, but I won't list them here because their approach disgusts me. Instead, I'll just get on with the process of requesting reviews from legitimate sources, like those who won't charge me for their opinion.

I'm drawing the line in the sand, folks. While I will pay to be published, I won't pay for an opinion of my work, but I'm sure others have and will continue to do so. For those people, I leave you with the sage advice of Victoria Strauss: writer beware.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book giveaway: Win a free copy of On Falcon's Wings

Win a free copy of On Falcon's Wings, Lisa Yarde's debut novel, of a love torn apart by the events at Hastings in 1066. Visit the Historical Novel Review blogspot ( August 21-22, 2010 and leave your comment to win a signed copy. Canadian and U.S. residents only.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book Trailer: “Aww, do I have to do it!?”

The other day, I found out that I have something in common with best-selling author Jonathan Franzen. No, we haven’t both decided to skip out on inclusion in Oprah’s book club. Unlike him, this is me going,“Oprah, darling, I’m ready and available. Let’s talk book club. Call me. Anytime. I mean it. Call me.”

Instead, I found out that Franzen, like me, isn’t too fond of authors creating promotional videos. Don’t get me wrong: I love many of the videos and book trailers I’ve seen on author websites and A few of my friends have blogged about working on their book trailers. You can see the results here, here and here. All lovely and very stirring, but when it comes to doing one of my own? Ugh. I’ll let Franzen sum it up as only he can: "This might be a good place for me to register my profound discomfort at having to make videos like this …." If you want to see the rest of his comments in his author video, go here.

Franzen’s point is delicious irony, but in using the very medium he hates to get his point across, he has reached an almost inescapable issue for authors of fiction. We cannot connect with readers only through the written word. No, that’s just too simple. Now, we need author videos Sigh. Groan.

I've gone kicking, screaming and whining into the production of a book trailer for On Falcon's Wings. It was the choice of doing it or spending more time avoiding it while thinking of doing it. For too long, I've reasoned my time was better spent creating fan videos for one of my favorite cable shows, Spartacus: Blood and Sand. No, I'm not kidding. It is so much fun!!!! We all know I should be taking my time and what I've learned from Windows Movie Maker and applying it to a book trailer. Right? Right.

Now, I've spent most of the evening listening to samples of royalty free music, trying to create the right mood. I've narrowed down to choices that are intense, mysterious, somber, and / or uplifting. That leaves only about twenty or so odd samples to sift through. The visuals are trickier. It's hard to find the image of a medieval couple that's exactly right.  Wish me luck, but I won't promise I'll be showing off this trailer any time soon. I suspect this will be a work in progress for a bit.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Creating Emotion on the Page

When I first started submitting Sultana to critique groups, one of the biggest criticisms I had from my writing partners was that there wasn't enough emotion on the page. Everyone griped that my main characters were stiff and wooden because they didn't express much of what was going on inside of them, i.e., I was doing a poor job of expressing their feelings on the page. I must have fixed this problem of mine because as the story progressed to its bittersweet end, my critique partners became very admiring and told me how they cried while reading certain scenes, which was exactly what I was aiming for.

I think at the beginning of my writing, I shied away from having my characters express too much emotions because I worried they would be sentimental or clichéd, like the pounding heart full of fear and misty, watering eyes. Also, there was latent fear of delving deep into particular characters' feelings. Let's face it: emotions are often messy and scary. Have you ever seen someone completely blow their top over something that made them angry or just curl up in a ball over a painful loss? I have and it's not a pretty sight. Yet, these events are scenes that many of us can relate to and the job of a good writer is to convey all that emotional drama on the page.

The best learning experience, however, is the writer's own. This week, I lost a dear uncle after his long battle with leukemia. He was crazy; he was funny, always guaranteed to make you laugh, even when you didn't want to smile. I was blessed with the chance to see him, and despite his obvious pain, got a smile and laugh from him before the end. In the aftermath, as I sat with my aunt and her family, I think we all realized the gaping hole my uncle’s absence would leave in our lives, one that was once filled with laughter. Last night, I tuned into all my feelings to write a scene of my WIP, Rule of Love, where one of my main characters receives news of the death of her close friend. Halfway through it, I was bawling, easing some of my own sadness. Even if this first draft never makes it to the final version, the experience was just what I needed to tap into the emotions I want to convey.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Your Worst Critic

As I send On Falcon's Wings out for reviews, I realize that anything others will never be as harsh as the comments from my worst critic: me.

Last week, my friend Anita had a great blog post, Writers Are Mad. Apparently, there is scientific proof for this in that those who are creative have similar brain structures to people who have schizophrenia. Who knew? Well, I for one am happier upon hearing this news, as it's brought me a step closer to understanding the madness within. Nice to know that when I tell people I have a voice inside my head, I may not be so far off the mark.

Stop shaking your head like I'm crazy. I ain't crazy. You know what I'm talking about. It's that little voice inside your head that nags at you to do certain things sometimes, usually things you don't want to do, but you really should do? On the other hand, which I think is even worse, it loves to berate you when you do something and you do it completely wrong - sound familiar? Well, my inner voice comes with a little bit too much sarcasm and a great deal of perfectionism, that’s absolutely over the top. It is a ruthless, tireless and frankly, tiresome taskmaster, and God help me when I make a mistake! I literally never hear the end of it.

Honestly, sometimes I wish that little inner voice would just SHUT. UP. Why must it nag me in the middle of the night with "Hey! I know exactly how to do that last chapter. Get your lazy butt up! Let's write or revise!" So what, if I need to get a good night's rest before work the next day? Inner critic wants to write. Just when I think a paragraph or chapter is perfect, here comes that voice inside my head again. "You know it's not good enough. That's total crap! You know you can make that sentence / paragraph / chapter better, so get off your ass and do it." Damn. Why can't it just be happy with the first couple of drafts of a story or just go away altogether? Seriously, I'm getting real sick of my inner critic working me overtime.

Time flies when you're having fun, or writing novels.

It's been a tremendous twelve months. A new job and health issues have impacted my writing time, but I'm still at it, trying to wrap...