Friday, May 29, 2015

The 3 basic guidelines for describing characters

A wandering character has appeared!
Quick, describe her for XP!
It's judgement day: That's right, time to describe a character who has just wandered onto your pages.

Three things to keep in mind when describing characters:

1. Good, Evil, or Neutral?
Tone, tone, tone! Your character's role in the story should guide your word choice in describing them. The first time you introduce them is the first chance you have to foreshadow their role in story. How you describe characters also helps set the tone of the story itself, so choose your words with care.

2. Point of view
Who's describing the character? Keep in mind teenage girl probably won't be talking about her own "languid drawl and hourglass figure"; a workaholic librarian probably doesn't even associate the phrases "killer curves" and "sultry lips" with herself, and a streetwise cop infiltrating a gang has other things to occupy his mind than his "rugged good looks." On the other hand, a narrator describing a love interest might mention all those very same things, in extensive detail.

3. Significance to the story
How long will they be in the story? How much page space you devote to describing them will determine how significant the reader thinks they will be. Readers focus on what you guide them to focus on--the more space you devote to a character description, the more important the character should be. On the other hand, for tertiary characters, this means putting more focus on the setting and people around them.
Consider: Margot's dark eyes shone from the tears rolling down her fair cheeks, her rosy lips trembling. Even mussed and dull from two days of neglect, her hair was a glorious mass that brushed the small of her back; her long fingers trembled around the rose's stem with gentle reverence as she laid it on casket. He noticed smudges of an elegant red lacquer still trimmed the edges of her long nails.

Compare: Margot's inky-dark eyes gleamed from the tears rolling down her pale cheeks, lips trembling and raw from two days of grief's ravages. Thick and wild, the net of waist-length hair around her shoulders snaked out strands to tangle on a thorn of the rose clutched in a blue-veined hand, smears of blood-red nail polish still messily edging the long nails that clicked against the casket as she set down the rose.

Compare: The widow's tears poured down her pale cheeks, her unkempt hair as black as her dress. The priest and the other mourners spoke in hushed tones in the narthex, giving her a moment to say her final farewell in peace. She didn't notice me, in my shadow under the pews; I took care to keep it that way, since I had no desire to kill her. The man hiding in the cask should be my only victim this night.

Compare: My hand trembled on the rose I held, its sweet scent overpowered by the cloying incense. A strand of my waist-length hair had snagged on one of its thorns, and I thought about ripping the damned black hank out of my skull and just burying it with him, with my heart. But no, that would probably break the rose. He deserved better than a broken rose. Maybe I should have worn makeup after all, so he wouldn't be haunted by a baggy-eyed, pale-faced ghost of a wife. Then again, he'd always thought me beautiful even hungover and hugging the porcelain king; and funny how that memory should bring the taste of salt into my mouth, stronger than ever. My long nails clicked on the cherry of his casket, the remains of Radical Ruby still smeared in my cuticles. The color usually made me happy. This was not a day for happy things.
Same character, same scene, but four very different stories.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Compilation of Public Domain pics

So to make it easier to find all the pictures I've released to public domain (for being late to post), I'm putting together a compilation post! All these pictures in this particular post are taken by me, and I've released them to public domain, where they can be used for any reason without need for acknowledgement or to obtain permission from me.

(Note that pictures in other posts are not public domain, and you should contact me to request permission to use them for commercial purposes.)

You can also find a bunch of images I've been retouching on this Pin board on Pinterest, which, although not originally made by me, are public domain in the US due to expired copyright.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Whoops! Pictures for Public Domain for forgetting to post

It's Memorial Day... a moment first to acknowledge those who gave their lives in service to the country. We enjoy many freedoms thanks to those willing to defend them.

  Also, I forgot to post, so a few more pictures released to the public domain. You'd think I'd learn better, wouldn't you? But it was a sunshine weekend in May, and there's hardly a more beautiful time of year.

As always when I do a "whoops, I forgot to post" post, these are public domain and free to use without acknowledgement, for any purpose.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 5/9-5/22.

Publishing News

The trial to determine if the Author Solutions case will be class action suit or not continues.

Amazon Publishing (Amazon's publishing branch) continues to expand.

Southwest will be partnering with Kobo to offer books inflight. If they don't finish the book in the air, instructions on how to buy it will be emailed to them.

Google has developed a new typeface for e-books on Google Play Books.

Industry Blogs

Agent Nephele Tempest shares some interesting writing links 5/8 and 5/15, including the Publication Opportunities for June and July. (5/9 is more of a... guideline, y'know. Close enough.)

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice. Is it okay to withdraw a query if you want to revise? (Yes, totally.) So, really, what is a "brief" synopsis? (Around 250 words answering the main story questions Reid lists off.) Should you tell your agent it took a long time to write your book? (Not up front. Talk about that when the time comes.) How do writers know when to avoid sending queries because of agents' other major events, like conferences? (Pssssh. Are they open to queries? Send the query; they'll get to it when they do.)

At BookEnds, agent Jessica Faust tells authors to let the main character drive the plot--yes, the plot drives the main character, but it's the MC's reactions to the events and how those reactions then shape the story that keep the reader reading. She also points out that editing is a time-consuming process. Oh, and she introduces a new agent at BookEnds.

Kim English on the QueryTracker Blog talks about using the power of three for some snappy humor and dialogue.

Author Karen Dionne on agent Kristin Nelson's blog offers a cautionary tale on making sure your agent is a good negotiator. And Kristin follows up with what makes an agent a good agent.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch finishes up her "Freelance Scramble" series with a post on when and how to burn bridges... hint, it's truly a last-resort measure.

Author Robert Jackson Bennet writes a very thought-provoking post on how he suggests authors judge if a rape scene is really story-necessary.

Company Folders offers an infographic on how to design the perfect logo.

Readgeek helps you find the next book to read, based on your ratings of books you've already read.

What other publishing news have you encountered in the past two weeks?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Durham Read Local Festival: in review

First of all, I really, really hope this event happens again next year!

It was great, and went really well. The proceeds go to the local library, so it's a good cause. And it's a great way to connect with readers on the community level.

Summer Kinard and I manned a booth together and had a fabulous time.

Summer has great design sense and set up a great booth.

Thanks to Mary, who brought me a teapot--which
became the 'hat' for our drawing! We gave a gift certificate
to a local gourmet chocolate/tea/coffee shop and a couple
of e-books to the winner.

I signed some books!
So here's the breakdown for authors/writers on what I learned:

I had a newspaper photographer comment that wearing a shirt that matched the colors of my book was great for picture-style-sense. So, consider that a hint--match your books because it makes publicity photographers more likely to snap your picture!

We sold a good handful of books, which in a window-shop style event with tons of great competition (I ended up buying a couple of books myself!) is better than expected. Even better was the number of readers we got to talk to, many of whom signed up for our newsletters. It might have helped that we were offering a drawing with a gift certificate to a coffee/tea/chocolate shop a couple of blocks away, but there were a few who only noticed the giveaway sign after signing up--win-win!

We also offered a nice deal for the fair, which helped. I talked with another author who was offering a discount for 2 or 3 books, but not for a single book; she said no one took her up on that, though she sold a few of the first book. Offering a discount on each book did seem to help our sales, and throwing in a party favor--cute wax candles Summer had found--for buying more than one book made us a couple of extra sales.

Since we had different books, most buyers who bought more than one bought a book from each us (sampler-style). Most of those who bought two, bought the book they wanted, and then the book from the other author for a friend/family member with different tastes. So pairing up with another author helped us both, and I think it was helpful that our books weren't perfectly matched in genre (inspirational paranormal romance + contemporary fantasy).

Book covers were a huge draw. Never think covers aren't important. And bright colors attract eyes. So if you're thinking of doing a festival event, go for color and make sure your brightest book is front and center.

On the whole, a great event. Be sure to have a place for potential readers to sign up for your newsletter and some kind of promo material (bookmarks, postcards) for potential readers with heavy bags and light wallets to take home for later.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Durham Read Local Festival

The Durham Read Local Festival is happening this weekend! If you're in the area, drop by Durham Library on Saturday, or Durham Central Park on Sunday.

You'll catch me sharing a booth with awesome local author Summer Kinard, who writes books with freegans and lucha libre; and faith, tea, and love.

That's right. Freeganism, friendship, a scrapbook romance, and a luchadora in Can't Buy Me Love

Hurts from her past keep freegan Vanessa Fauchon stuck in a dead end relationship that feeds her
heart about as much as an unvarying diet of stale bagels feeds her body. When she digs a scrapbook from the dumpster, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with the sexy Latino man in its pages. With the rich friendship and hands-on love of her strong and zany female friends – a luchadora, a yarn-bombing midwife, a professor and foraging partner, a psychic Jewish grandmother, a savvy fellow bartender, and her deeply religious, unofficially adopted mothers – Vanessa heals from her past and begins to build the graceful life she thought was out of her reach. Her love story with Javier seems on course for a happy ending, until Vanessa is publicly humiliated and loses Javier's trust. Faced with losing Javier for good, Vanessa must decide if she's willing to fight for what she loves.

And check out her new release, The Salvation of Jeffrey Lapin:

After 125 years of demon possession, Jeffrey Lapin wants to end his life of torment. A failed suicide attempt puts him in touch with Maddy, an Orthodox Christian police officer whose helping hand burns Jeffrey's skin. Her touch shows him the solution to his problem: he will convert to Orthodoxy and say goodbye to the world when he gets baptized. But Jeffrey's so focused on dying that he overlooks the first part of baptism: the exorcism. Parted forever from the demon that tormented him, Jeffrey has to learn to live as a Christian, free from the demon but not his own tendencies to mess up.

With compassion and coffee, confession and cake, Jeff's new Orthodox family teaches him to accept the grace given him to live into true eternal life. Strengthened by new habits of faith, Jeffrey finds a new direction, purpose, and maybe even love.

Come and by see us Sunday!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Over at Jill Archer's blog

On Friday, I was over at author Jill Archer's blog, sharing 5 photographs that represent me and having a short interview, as part of her "Five Photographs" blog series.

It's Monday. Around here, it's a rainy Monday. So don't mind me if I'm going to pretend to be hanging out here, where at least if it were a rainy Monday, I'd be by the beach.

Where are you dreaming about being this morning?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 4/25-5/8.

Publishing News

In March, the National Association of College Stores filed a suit in Indiana to get a complete copy of Amazon's contract as an e-storefront and an on-campus book pickup service for Purdue University. Amazon provided the pertinent details of its contract, so NACS has dropped the suit.

OverDrive, which among other things provides e-book services to libraries, has been formally purchased by Japanese company Rakuten.

The Association of Research Libraries and the American Library Association join in Re: Create, a group whose stated goal is promote copyright laws that are "clear, simple and transparent" but also foster "innovation, creativity, education and economic growth."

Tor has partnered with BitLit to allow owners of their print books to download e-copies of the books for  the discount price of $2.99, regardless of regular e-book price.

An author- makes an e-book cover using a couple's engagement photograph without their permission. The couple sues. (Note: Authors, make sure you have the rights to the pictures you're using for your book cover! Duh?)

Industry Blogs

Agent Jessica Faust tells writers not to give agents exclusive reads. And then tells why.  She also talks about how writers need to treat creativity as a job.

Agent Janet Reid gives advice and answers questions. You queried an agent and a publisher at the same time, the agent requested a partial, and then the publisher did, too--do you tell the agent? (First, research and make sure the publisher is on the up-and-up; if so, then yes, tell the agent.) You've traditionally pubbed a book but retain your translation and film rights; will that make it easier to get an agent? (Good move. Now wait until you sell your second book, then try.) If a publisher dislikes your book and tries to make you change the ending, can you refuse and back out of the contract? (Yes, but you'll be on the hook to repay any paid portion of the advance.)

Reid gives more advice. You've published a couple of books and have one that's unfinished; it is okay to pitch the unfinished one at a conference? (Yes; a published author pitching an unfinished is given more leeway than a new author.) How do you know if a junior agent is a good person to submit to? (They're under the wing of a reputable experienced agent.) What's the best way to interact with agents "in the wild"? And how does an already-published author go about getting an agent? (Same as everyone else: try to take over the world query and mention pub credits.)

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch posts part 4 of her Business Musings, The Freelance Scramble: Debt Collection as an freelance writer. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Agent Nephele Tempest posts some interesting links for writers on April 24 and May 1. She also gives advice for creating nuanced characters by asking your characters about their motivation.

On the Editor's Blog, fiction editor Beth Hill discusses how to balance the different modes of storytelling, from dialogue to exposition, to create a better story. She also reminds us that in the digital world, readers may only get the first couple of paragraphs, so be sure your first page is a great sales tool.

Agent Rachel Kent talks about some cheap and easy marketing ideas for your book.

On the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance blog, author Lisa Kessler talks about online author promotions, such as book release parties.

And the inside scoop on self-publishing houses as divisions of traditional houses, and why they're so bad. (link found courtesy of RWA eNotes)

What other major publishing news have you encountered in the past couple of weeks?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Tea Review: Harney & Sons Paris tea

Paris Tea

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

black, loose-leaf
Flavor aspects

Where I got it

Harney & Sons

$7.50 for 4 oz
How I brewed it

3 1/2 minutes with water from a coffee machine, 2 tsp in a 12-oz mug
Rebrewing notes

Decent. At least one good rebrew, possibly two if you're careful with the leaves, before you really lose flavor.

Mellow, tasty, a nice black tea with strong orange and citrus flavors. If you're a fan of bergamot teas, orange spice teas or or black teas and oranges, give this one a try; it's not spicy but it does welcome you with a delicious orange scent and taste. It does have vanilla and caramel flavoring added, but they're very faint, and mostly just add a nice scent and help emphasize the orange/bergamot flavor.

I think I slightly overbrewed this tea--I would recommend brewing closer to 3 minutes. It does seem like it is fairly sensitive to overbrewing, so be careful to set a timer and make sure your water isn't too hot. But, even slightly overbrewed, it's pleasant. The orange flavor accents the slight hint of bitterness so that it's not actually unpleasant. If it were brewed perfectly, I think it would be even better, but as it is, the tea is pleasant.

It's a good price, and if it's not the most exotic or glamorous of black teas, it's a decent tea at a good value. I'd recommend it for anyone who wanted a good go-to daily tea that doesn't break the budget, especially if a touch of orange/bergamot is what you like.

Those who dislike Earl Grey will probably also dislike this tea; it has many of the same flavors but stronger and with a different, fruitier balance. Captain Picard would probably happily share a pot, though. Equally appealing to casual tea drinkers and tea addicts who want a good breakfast tea.

Harney and Sons Paris tea
(photo from their website)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Sorting Magic Cards

It's just one box of old Magic Cards. How hard could it be to sort them all and price them?

Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahahahahaha!

The art is pretty cool on many of these.
Taste of Paradise--old Alliances card
(as seen on StarCityGames)
No, actually, it's not all that rough once I figured out the basics; I haven't played Magic since middle school, and this foot-long box of cards (the remnants of my brother's and my collection, and mostly his) isn't exactly the wildest of collections. Assembled back in the ages when mass-printing nearly ruined the game (all our cards are 3rd or 4th edition, with a few packs of Ices Ages and Alliances thrown in), they're for the most part not particularly valuable--and for that matter, many of them had to be culled for having our initials on the back.

Yeah, there was at time when the company recommended kids do that. Not so much, anymore.

The time has come to sell the set, since these decades we're more into other things--my geekeries are more video games and D&D and wedding planning; his being a dad and working and Ultimate Frisbee. Time stop letting the cards go to lonely waste in their box in the attic.

Binding Grasp is pretty
cool, too.
(Image from StarCityGames)
But going through the box has brought up a few good memories, and sharing the too-played and damaged rejects with friends has brought out good memories for them. Plus it's a good way to excuse a Netflix marathon, because a task as mind-numbing as "search the name of the card online and then enter it into the spreadsheet" really doesn't have much else going for it.

I've discovered a reasonable strategy for this process:

Sort by color first.

Then take a handful of a color and alphabetize it.

Separate the alphabetized stack into many stacks, one pile for 3 letters.

Take another handful of the same color. Alphabetize it. Then stick into the appropriate stacks. Continue until there's no more of that color remaining.
Wall of Air, one of the cards I have--
as seen on StarCityGames

Then, one stack at a time, go through StarCityGames, identify the edition and the type of card, and write down the price. Keep track by color, card name, and edition. If needed, note the illustrator/design of the card.

Move on to the next color.

So what is there to learn from this process? Mostly, patience. Don't rush; dropping cards and letting them get out of order throws off the whole process. And whatever you do, don't forget to make sure you're working in the correct cell.

Also, the art on the old cards is pretty fun.