Saturday, March 31, 2012

Greetings... Now get your ZAP ready.

Yes, I know, you don't believe me. But it's 1300 April 1, 2013. And the zombies are everywhere.

I can't stay very long - connection's tenuous at best. 67 of the world's most brilliant scientists, and we can only get 5 minutes at the most. Just have to warn you before IT happens. The zombie apocalypse will start tomorrow night (April 1, 2012.) Make sure you're ready.

There's a settlement in the mountains of NC. Grandfather Mountain's been fortified into a settlement. If you're in the midwest, Mesa Verde in Colorado is the safest. The water's in short supply, though, so you might be better off heading north to the Routt National Forest. They'll find you; don't go past the markers without their permission. New England is pretty much gone; if you're there, get out and head to the Laurentian Mountains, near the Baskatong Reservoir. There's a seaside fortress at the edge of Oregon, and a few outposts in the Sierra Madre.

Haven't gotten in contact with South America except a single legion in the Brazilian rainforest, but they say there's at least seven places down there. We haven't managed contact with Europe at all, but an outpost in Siberia claims to be monitoring their situation and reports that there's a few places untouched.

Okay, running out of battery power. Going to make this quick:

Is this the end of the world?

Reports show that the decay overtakes the physical movement after a period of ten months. Because of the uneven spread of the disease, we're still encountering fresh packs, but it seems to be trailing off. Don't give up hope.

How did it start?

It appears to have begun after a teenager's high school science project was left in a locker too long.

Is there a cure?
Funnily enough, there's a prevention. The disease is immune to virtually every treatment known to man, from antibiotics to vitamin overdoses. But we accidentally discovered that infection won't occur in individuals who consume two tablespoons of

Signal lost

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday Writing Prompt: TV

Put your characters (if they're not already here) in the modern-day world. Hand them a TV. What are their favorite TV shows? Why?

My characters:
Kelly: The news. She leaves it on in the background and pretty much ignores it. Sometimes, her brother's concerts get covered, and she always misses having him around when he's on tour. He keeps trying to get her to watch The Walking Dead, and if she ever did, she'd like it, but she hasn't gotten around to it yet.

Trax: Heroes. For all his rock-star image, he's a closet geek, and Hiro's his favorite character. But don't let on you know. His agent will deny it to her dying day. According to her, he's a big American Idol fan. She even tells him who his favorites are supposed to be. Probably a good thing, since he's never gotten around to watching the show.

Derik: Dancing with the Stars. He's a romantic at heart, and as much as he loves NCIS and The Office, it's the glamor of DwtS that gets him tuning in. It doesn't hurt that he keeps picturing Kelly in those dresses, either. If she ever gets around to returning his affections, she'll probably find herself dragged off to ballroom dancing classes.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Keeping Sane

How does an author, locked up in her tiny apartment by herself for days on end, stay sane?

Everything's fine. No, haven't seen a thing.

Doctor Who Girls' Night. (Extra credit if you understand the photo reference!)

Yes, there's the regular job. And for some people, that may be social time enough. But the interactions between coworkers are often more formal, which means less relaxing. And if you work in a cubicle forest like I do, it's really not all that social.

It's important to keep up a social connection in what can arguably be called one of the most introverted professions around. We're humans - we need social company, even those of us with introvert qualities. It's kind of important to the continued functioning of our sanity (or, in some cases, functional insanity.)

Scheduling your life should include at least one, if not more, arranged social periods. Yes, that's right, playdates for grown-ups.

In my case, I host a weekly girls' night. This consists of several of us getting together, cooking dinner, and watching an episode or two of Doctor Who. Or sometimes we just end up talking so much that we don't get around to watching, but that's okay, too. It's about the company, not about the activity.

I could use this time to write. I could use this time to clean. I'm particularly fond of dishes, and there's always the hassle of more-or-less cleaning the apartment* before everyone gets here. But I never regret the company, and it's always fun.

(*Disclaimer: Cleanliness is relative. Dishes are clean; bathroom's Lysoled. That's what counts, right?)

Maybe you won't crack open a bottle of mead and have 6 cooks trying to work in a tiny apartment kitchen. But that's no excuse to neglect your mental health. Whether it's friend time, family time, or spouse time, make time in the week to be with other people. Even if this means heading over the local game shop for board-game night, or doing a hang-out on Google+ with old college friends. Our minds work best with at least a little human interaction. So make time.

Do you have a regularly scheduled social time? If so, what do you do? If not, what could you do?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Publishing News

Either I've missed something, or these past two weeks haven't been particularly heavy in the breaking-news arena. It's mostly industry blogs this week. Please leave a note in the comments if you've encountered anything of note that needs to be added for these past two weeks!

Dorchester is trying to sell the company. Agent Kristan has details - as in, a copy of the letter.

At QueryTracker, we have the Publishing Pulse for 3/93/16, and 3/23.

QueryTracker also has a post on chain of custody for evidence for crime scenes, a post on creating a great book cover, recommends getting business cards (one suggestion they offer is VistaPrint, which sends 250 cards for the cost shipping & handling),

Nathan Bransford posts Last Week! In Books! for 3/19.

I should think most of know this by now, but when submitting a requested manuscript, make sure all the chapters are in a single document. For heaven's sake, don't submit 30 different attached files! And where do you put the page number when formatting your manuscript? In the right-hand side of the footer. Use an auto-number feature so the manuscript can be reformatted without messing up the numbers.

Ever queried an agency, been turned down, and wondered if it was okay to query a new agent to the agency? Jessica Faust over at BookEnds says sure, it's usually fine. Related thereto, is it okay to request switching agents within an agency? Also yes, if you think the new agent is a better fit and they're willing to make the switch. And no, just because a publisher isn't accepting unsolicited manuscripts, doesn't necessarily mean you have to have an agent. For some publishers, "not accepting unsolicited manuscripts" means they want to start with one-page query letter. They'll decide whether or not to ask for more from there. For others, it does in fact mean "no unsolicited materials."

She also answers some random questions: "Do you automatically reject a query if the author does not have a college degree?" (No.)  "Is 'mainstream literary fiction' an appropriate term/genre to describe a novel in a query letter?" (Yes.) "Do you work with authors from other countries?" (Yes.) "[I] am wondering if pursuing publication using a different last name will affect the career I hope I can have as a novelist." (One is fiction; the other nonfiction. No, it shouldn't cause a problem.) "When an agent requests pages, are they referring to the physical pages in a word document, or is the referring to 250-word pages?" (You're usually fine using the Word page count.) "What are your thoughts on teens drinking and swearing [in young adult novels]?" (The YA audience believes in keeping it real. Don't talk down to teens.)

Rachelle Gardner defines "publishing auctions" and how the work. A publishing auction is when several publishing companies like (or are expected to like) the same manuscript, and want to bid on the right to publish it. There are three main kinds of auction, but in every case, the best offer gets the deal (this does not always mean the largest advance). Or a publisher can "pre-empt": that is, offer a good deal before the auction happens, and the agent and writer decide they like the publisher enough to accept.

She also defines an "author-agent agreement." This is essentially the formal, written agreement between the author and the agent. Not all agents use them right away, especially with new clients. If you're not comfortable working without one, talk to your agent on why they're using a verbal agreement. Only go with them if you're comfortable with the situation.

And she talks about the 5 most common author website mistakes. Make sure the site is up-to-date and is focused on the reader, not the author. She also talks about "the typical advance" - which can vary widely, and may not be as large as you think. It varies based on genre, author experience, publisher, platform, and the number of books expected to sell.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Free eBook!

Remember that interview with James Hutchings? Self-published author of The New Death and Others and Two-Fisted Tweets?

The New Death and Others is currently on Amazon special for free, if you'd like to drop by this week and download it. ;)

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Word Box: Sapience vs. Sentience

This morning, let's take a quick look at a frequently misused, or at least misunderstood, set of terms.

Common mistake: Sapience versus Sentience

"Sentience," the noun form of "sentient," frequently heard in science fiction and fantasy, means the ability to perceive individual experiences. According to the Miriam-Webster Dictionary, the exact definition is:

sentient: 1: responsive to or conscious of sense impressions 2: AWARE 3: finely sensitive in perception or feeling

"Sapience," noun of sapient, is the ability to think, and to reason.


It may not seem like much a difference, but the ability to reason is tied more closely to sapience than to sentience. Most animals are sentient, (yes, you can correctly say your dog is sentient!) but only humans are sapient.

For further reading on the difference, check out these articles:
Wikipedia Sapience
Wikipedia Sentience
AskDefine Sentience (of particular interest is the user-contributed dictionary)
AskDefine Sapience

Sentience is commonly used in science fiction and fantasy as synonymous with sapience, although the words aren't synonyms. Does applying the proper definitions change your interpretation of the stories? If all the characters in Star Trek (or your favorite Sci-Fi show) know that sentience is the ability to perceive but not to reason, does their use of the word mean they're all mostly vegan?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Some reviews of FF&P

Okay, I've fallen down on the ball and not gotten a guest blogger to review for me... but I'm posting links to several other blogs that offer reviews on the Fantasy on the Bayou conference!

Barbara Vey offers a review on Publishers Weekly.

Terry Spear shares some of her pictures of the conference.

Leanna Renee Hieber, steampunk author and presenter, seems to have had a great time. And I'd definitely call her the best-dressed person there! Love her outfits.

Kerri Nelson shares her top ten fave moments from the con.

Ursula Whistler, one of our presenters, gives her perspective.

Angela Quarles talks about attending as her first-ever conference.

Every one of these ladies was terrific, and I'm so happy to have gotten to meet them! I know I had fun, but don't take it from me. Check out what everyone else says!

What's the best con you've ever been to? What made it the best?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lucky 7: I got tagged!

I was tagged in the Lucky 7 Writing Challenge! The challenge originated at the Fiction and Film writing blog, by Kate Larkindale. The rules are simple:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS.
2. Go to line 7.
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating.
4. Tag 7 authors.
5. Let them know.

So here's seven sentences from my current manuscript, to wet your appetite:

“I think I can keep him in line,” Johnna teased.
Vendelaz nodded and walked off, like that was that.
Staked out as we were in the center of camp, I expected to pass the night unmolested. Johnna was on one side of the center row of seats; Derik kept me company on the other, snuggling his sleeping bag against mine. I’m sure he would have preferred to share a bag, but even he knew better than to suggest it. 
The night was, at first, fitful. Voices murmured incoherently through my head, a chorus of songs and chirps and babble that had me tossing and turning between droplets of sleep. 

Now I'm supposed to tag seven people, but I think I'll break the rules and take volunteers-only! Not on the list yet? Want to be tagged with a link to your blog? Drop a comment with your blog address, and I'll add it to the post.

1. Mike S
2. Robbie Taylor
3. Could be you!
4. Could be you!
5. Could be that crazy chick from down the street!
6. Could be you!
7. Could be you!

A couple of authors offered to share their posts through me to give you an example. Here's a couple of 7's to get us started!

Mike S.'s 7:

Surprise and awe shown in the eyes of the demon. Still holding the hilt, she quickly retreated, turning into another black shadow against the black night. 
Maeve for her part, had calmed the bear. I could hear the loud but peaceful snuffling from the cave over my own heavy breathing. Maeve's arm shown with thin lines of black wetness. As Maeve's strength fled, she fell into my arms, trembling. The sun rose by the time we walked back to camp. I stoked the fire after putting her back into the bedding, in time to see the first new snowflakes falling.

Robbie Taylor's 7:

"And that is why you are not a doctor?" 
"Precisely." He turned slightly towards her, walking sideways along the walk. "You see, most archeologists are conservative sorts who believe that the past is the past, and its only influence on the present is through writings or architecture." His blood was up. Defending his calling usually did that to him. "I, and many others who are less vocal, believe that the past is an artificial, societal construct, and that the influences of history flow far more fluidly, in belief systems, in language, in personalities, and yes, in writings and architecture. This is very..." 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Second Christmas

My friends and I just celebrated our 6th annual second Christmas this past weekend. That's right, in March. Recent grads, low man on the totem pole, strapped for cash and with almost no vacation days in the pocket... We've all been there. Around the holiday rush, it's hard to get a vacation approved. And when everyone else has kids and families and expensive travel plans, it seems kind of rude to try and snag the vaunted Christmas Holiday Vacation Days.

So instead we choose a day some other time in the year and dub it "Second Christmas." Then we migrate up to the house of choice (One of us has a nice place in the mountains!) and spend a weekend goofing off, having fun, hiking, and catching up. There are elf hats. There are badly-wrapped Christmas presents, and random outbursts of songs from odd sources and dorky dancing. And there's tons of food. There were red-velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting who were convicted on the charge of deliciousness, and the vote was unanimous in favor of cupcake capital punishment. Bacon was snackrificed, and a tasty hand-telope was fed to a wild mountain cat (followed shortly thereafter by an application of Neosporin and Band-aids.) 

Coincidentally, the list of people who are not allowed to go grocery shopping together without supervision seems to be steadily growing.

It's always fun, always random, and a time-honored tradition that I hope to see continue long into the future. To me, friends are more valuable than treasure. So no matter how crazy life gets, I'll still make time for Second Christmas.

And, as an added bonus, it's much cheaper to buy Christmas gifts after Christmas. ;)

Quote of the weekend:
"Aw, how cute! It's rending the flesh from my hand. Wait. It's rending the flesh from my hand. AHHHHHH!"
(encounters with adorable wild mountain kitten)

Do you have any traditions that you've kept going between you and your friends? What kinds?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Industry News

Publishing news for past two weeks. It's been a busy week for me, so short blurbs today! If I've missed anything major, please drop the links off in the comments section.

Major News

Science Fiction Writers of America, SFWA, drops Amazon links to all their books in protest of Amazon's drop of the Independent Publishers Group contract (PublishersLunch, Whitley Law Group give more information). Amazon refused to renew after hearing the demands from IPG. Links to books on the SFWA website will be connected to Barnes & Noble and other bookstores instead, unless Amazon is the only place they can be purchased, in which case the existing links will remain.

PayPal is attempting to censor Smashwords by not allowing transactions for books containing bestiality, rape, or incest. But this movement started further up the line than PayPal: the online financial institution is under pressure from credit card agencies, and is taking all the blame, like it or not. It's of important note that many of the books that readers are being denied access to are perfectly legal despite being objectionable to the majority population, and that much of the debate around this censorship is that it is taking legal material out of accessibility - setting a precedent to censor other legal material. Smashwords and privacy organizations are fighting back on the grounds that once an arbitrary "morality line" has been drawn, it can be redrawn at a later time to restrict free speech (history majors: does this sound familiar?). Also of note was the extremely short time period Smashwords had originally been given to work with to remove the content. PayPal has relaxed a few of its deadlines, and talks are ongoing.

The Department of Justice warns Apple and Penguin, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster that they will go ahead with the anti-trust lawsuit over eBook price fixing. No surprises here - they've just now been officially warned.

Industry Blogs

Agent Kristen at PubRants points out a recent trend she's seen of a particularly bad idea: Don't cry wolf with a false offer of representation from a publisher. Your prospective agent will know - or she'll find out fast! And in case you're wondering, the publisher Dorchester has closed the doors, turned out the lights, and pretty much disappeared. No surprise there.

At BookEnds, LLC, Jessica Faust reminds us to work smarter, not harder. Blogging? Blog tours? Social networking? Sticking bookmarks to trees and random passersby? Track your success and do what works, not what 'everyone says' you're supposed to do. She also discusses her rejection letter evolution. And by the way, agents do enjoy acknowledgment every now and then. Don't be afraid to say "thank you" if you really mean it!

A reader asks Faust, "Do I really need an agent? I'm already signed with an editor." Faust suggests waiting until negotiating the contract for the next book, and getting one then.

Rachelle Gardner urges you to know your competition. Look up comparable titles. Also, she offers things writers should know about Pinterest and GoodReads.

Over at FF&P, they've just finished their first annual conference. Reviews so far have been good! I know I had a great time, and so did everyone else I spoke to.

At QueryTracker, we have Publishing News for 3/2.

We also have an article on using the language our characters use. How we speak is one of the ways people use to immediately classify us. So if your characters aren't talking with the vocabulary and grammar of their profession, social class, interests, and other foibles, they'll be less believable.

Nathan Bransford tackles the question of "Is there a self-publishing bubble?" His opinion? No, it's the beginning of an increasing trend that won't die off. And he gives us a rundown of last week in books, covering up to 3/5.

Okay, that's all I've come up with. What news for the publishing industry have you encountered in the past two weeks?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Volunteering at a Con

As you may have heard (or more likely read), I spent last weekend at the FF&P's Fantasy on the Bayou conference. This was the first year the FF&P (the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal chapter of the Romance Writers of America organization) has put on a conference, and I was eager to see what we would do with it.

So I volunteered to help out.

As a scholarship attendee, I couldn't tell you right off the total cost of the hotel and ticket and such, and because I volunteered, I saw a different side of the conference than a regular attendee would. So I'm going to focus on my experience volunteering instead of a review of the conference itself - I'll try to get someone else to do that for me.

Since I roomed with one of the conference organizers, and let her know ahead of time that I was more than happy to volunteer as much as I could, she took me up on the offer. I stuffed bags and worked on the gift-basket assembly team on Thursday, helped out with registration on Friday, and checked in and helped monitor editor/agent pitches on Saturday.

Most volunteers, by the way, don't work for such a large portion of the conference, but I kept asking to help out.

Why? I really wanted the conference to be a success, and more importantly, I enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

Stuffing bags gave me a good look at how much effort goes into recruiting materials for a con. Our hardworking conference committee had convinced publishers and authors to generously donate a large assortment of books and materials. Can you imagine how hyped I was to hold not one but three different ARCs of books I was dying to read? (Don't worry; I restrained my pirating instincts and didn't haul away all the booty for myself!) We were able to offer these as door prizes, and every attendee got an assortment of books to take home. Plus, I learned that a couple of our members made giftbaskets as a side job. How cool is that? It took a while to stuff all the bags, so we all had plenty of time to chat.

I got to meet most of the attendees while I worked registration, Since the FF&P is an online chapter, I finally got the chance to meet our president and the other chapter members in person. It's not quite the same to see someone on the Yahoo!Loop as it is to meet them in person.

Volunteering for the pitches allowed me to put agent/editor faces with their names (the handy-dandy "who's sitting where" list helped!). Agents like to see a writer putting in the effort to help out. As one of the conference committee members said, "Just putting yourself together and attending a conference shows a certain degree of professionalism and commitment that agents are looking for," which is one reason most agents request a higher percentage of partial manuscripts from in-person pitches than from unsolicited queries. Helping out is another way to show you're serious.

Of course, all the volunteering means I missed out on all but a couple of workshops. That's okay - I really enjoyed those I went to, and I took away a different set of valuable lessons in exchange.

Con Stories
Wait, you want more than just the run-down? You want Con stories? Fantasy in the Bayou is held in New Orleans.You better believe it was wild. We stayed just a few blocks away from the French Quarter, and of course, Friday morning had me eating beignets at Cafe du Monde!

Friday night we all went on a vampire/ghost tour. Was it creepy? Yes. Was it hilarious? Even more so; our guide was terrific! I got to be the vampire's snack. Our guide needed an example of what had happened to a poor woman who had been lured upstairs by a handsome European some two hundred years ago, and I just happened to be standing within arm's reach... Chomp! Interestingly enough, the house we were learning about was the inspiration for Sherrilyn Kenyon's Haven.

And then there was the poor drunk who chased me around on Saturday night. Never to to New Orleans alone - you never know when a horny drunken kid is going to chase you in circles around one of your friends, which doesn't work so well if you don't have a friend to do-si-do around. His poor date. She kept trying to hold him back and apologizing to us. She eventually managed to drag him away. Would have loved to overhear that conversation the next day!

We worked in a decent amount of touring. A couple of the ladies got their fortunes told by a mysteriously disappearing fortune teller. We're talking about the lady who ignores everyone else, waves you over, and is gone when you walk by two hours later while the rest of Jackson Square's 'psychic circle' is still going strong. Interesting, eh?

It was, all in all, a fantastic trip, and I really look forward to attending next year's version. I'll definitely volunteer again, although I wouldn't volunteer at every conference. Half and half would be a good mix, where half I would volunteer at, and the other half I'd just attend. Getting to meet everyone was a reward in and of itself, and I learned so very much about conventions, our chapter, and even new things on publishing from the experience.