SFWA Fantasy Storybundle!

This is a fun thing: the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have put together a fantasy-themed storybundle, curated by our fabulous president, Cat Rambo!

This is a cool deal because you can get four fantasy novels – including my LONEN’S WAR – for only $5. You can pay at least $15 to get eight more books. All the authors get a cut either way, and SFWA gets a percentage, too, which goes toward our mission to support, promote, inform, defend, and advocate for professional fantasy and science fiction writers. 

You can read more about the books here. Feel free to spread the word! This is only available until November 2, 2017. 

 

SFWA Bulletin #207

You can buy a print or ecopy of the SFWA Bulletin #207 with my article Romance Tropes for SFF Writers here

Here’s a summary of what’s in the Bulletin:

Editor’s Note – Neil Clarke
From the President – Cat Rambo
Zen in the Art of Short Fiction Titling – John Joseph Adams
Ask N&E: Finding an Assistant – Nancy Holder & Erin Underwood
Writing and the Day Job – Patrice Sarath
Bad Reviews vs. Biased Reviews – Sam J. Miller
Running a Writing Workshop, Part III – Cat Rambo
Diving into SCUBA: Storytelling Basics – Rachel Swirsky
Academic Research for SFF Writers – Alex Dally MacFarlane
Writing Professionals: Geologists – Rachael Acks
Romance Tropes for SFF Writers – Jeffe Kennedy
Market Report: Year’s Best Anthologies – Cynthia Ward

 

Romance Tropes for SFF Writers

logo-newA few weeks ago, in The SFWA Bulletin #207, I talked about Romance Tropes for SFF Writers. I described at length the current top ten most popular romance tropes and how they can be worked into science fiction and fantasy plotlines in ways that will please romance readers. I also offered the One Rule (there must be a happy ever after (HEA) or happy for now (HFN) conclusion to the romance, along with five guidelines for navigating the contract with the romance reader.

In a subsequent online conversation, I realized I forgot one – a critical one that comes up in SFF fairly often. So I wrote an addendum, which is up on the SFWA blog. Pop on over to check it out!

When to Listen to Advice – and When NOT to!

Master of the OperaThose of you who’ve waited (nearly forever!) for a consolidated version of my serial novel, MASTER OF THE OPERA, it starts shipping from Books a Million tomorrow. It’s in paper only. If you want to read it digitally, you still have to by each of the six episodes separately. Good news is that the first episode is FREE. So you can try it out and see if you like the story – then go for digital or paper, as you please.

Other housekeeping items:

The second New Release Newsletter from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) goes out tomorrow! Subscribe to learn about new releases from the best-selling Sci Fi and Fantasy writers out there, AND have a chance to win free books! You can sign up here.

Also, I’m teaching an online class on writing sex scenes starting tomorrow. Getting Away from Wham, Bam, Thank You, Ma’am – only $15 for non-members of OIRWA!

Now, on to what you really came here for. A bit of a rant on listening to advice.

So, yesterday I was at my nail salon, getting a manicure. The place is run by two Vietnamese sisters and their husbands. The sisters sit next to each other (which I find fascinating, but that’s another story) and my gal’s sister was doing the nails of a lady who must be a lawyer. The sister’s husband took notes as lawyer gal gave them advice on dealing with a construction/contractor problem on their house. She told them exactly what to say, how to say it and when to escalate.

It was all really good advice and they were lucky that she shared it so freely.

That said, not all advice is good advice. Free or purchased.

The thing to remember is that people LOVE to give advice. I’m not exactly sure why, because it can be a time suck and often you can put a lot of effort in trying to give thorough, solid advice and then the person who asked doesn’t listen. Of course, there are plenty of people who try to make careers of advice-giving. Those are the ones who charge huge amounts to teach you how to write a bestseller or how to be a millionaire. (I’m cynical – I always want to know why they aren’t making money by writing bestsellers or making millions a different way.)

Hopefully this isn’t ironic, given that I pimped my online course above. 😀 However, I didn’t teach writing or give writing advice for a really long time – until I thought I had something solid to give. And my point today goes beyond writing advice, though it certainly centers there. My author loops are full of people offering their opinions, sometimes insisting on the rightness of their advice and battling others to “win.” A dubious trophy, at best. Twitter has the #pubtip hashtag which *anyone* can toss up there – which means the advice can be good or atrocious. Very often the latter.

And people’s friends and families – usually well-meaning – give tons of advice. A newbie writer messaged me recently, apologetically asking for advice on querying agents, etc. I was happy to answer her questions, as she asked very nicely and has supported my books. I was sorting through a bunch of misinformed ideas she had, when she mentioned that her family had told her a bunch of it, particularly regarding the publishing industry and self-publishing. I had to tell her to stop listening to her family. I’m sure they’re lovely people, but their “advice” seemed to be entirely drawn from skewed media stories. Not that self-publishing isn’t a viable option – of course it is. But what the media likes to broadcast and what’s the real scoop can be two wildly different critters.

My point is that, with all things, when listening to advice, consider the source – particularly their motivation and their experience.

As I mentioned above, people have a wide range of motivations for giving advice. Some of the time it’s to make money off of people, which is at least straightforward. A whole bunch of the time it’s to feed their egos. Spreading advice and opinions is a great way to pump up one’s feeling of self-worth and mastery of a topic. I’m sure I’m guilty of this from time to time, but mostly I try to restrain myself to giving advice only when I think it’s because it can be helpful. I believe this is the only motivation to trust.

As far as experience, there’s a Catch-22 in that the people with the most experience and the best advice to give are frequently way too busy to give it. Beware of people with so much free time that they can spend it giving lots of advice. Conversely, when someone with lots of experience in a subject offers you advice, listen to it! The lawyer next to me at the salon knew her stuff. The advice she gave was probably worth $500 and hour and she gave it for free – or maybe for the price of a manicure – and they listened diligently. I’d even add that the advice is particularly valuable if it contradicts ideas you already had. That doesn’t mean you have to take it – but it does mean you’ve been given something you didn’t have before.

And that’s my advice. For what it’s worth. 😀

Happy weekend, everyone!

 

Learning My Own Lessons

MORWA workshop picA couple of weeks ago, I had the fabulous and fun privilege of flying out to St. Louis to teach a workshop to the Missouri Romance Writers of America (MORWA). They asked me to talk about structuring a serial novel, largely because of this terribly geeky blog post I wrote about it. (I think that’s a data point right there when people ask if writing blog posts is meaningful at all. Just saying.)

 In order to explain my method of structuring a serial novel, I started with the basic structure I use to structure any work. We talked quite a bit about the Three-Act Structure, where Act 1 is the first 25%, Act 2 is the middle 50%, going up to 75% through, with Act 3 being the final 25%. As with many RWA chapters – and one of the things I love about RWA – the members ranged from newbie writers stretching their muscles for the first time up to award-winning pros. So, as I was going over this structure pretty fast, in order to lay the foundation for the rest, I threw out that you know you’ve finished Act 1 because all the stakes are set. And that a solid first 25%, done correctly, will prevent the middle of the book from “sagging” or losing momentum. If you’re having problems with the middle 50%, go back and look at the first 25% and make sure you truly set all the stakes.

One of the newbies put up her hand and asked what that meant, to have the stakes set. Always a good reminder to me that stuff I take for granted at this point isn’t second nature to others.

I explained that the first 25% should introduce the characters, who they are, what they want and why they can’t have it. Some talk about the Three-Act Structure being that you get your protagonist up a tree in Act 1, throw rocks at them in Act 2 and get them down again by the end of Act 3. Setting the stakes is getting your hero or heroine firmly up in that tree.

 So, I’m back home and fully plunged into writing THE PAGES OF THE MIND, which is Dafne’s book, the fourth in my Twelve Kingdoms series. In order to meet deadline, I’ve set myself what is for me a fairly grueling pace of 2,200 words/day, six days/week. As I have a full-time day job, that’s about the most I can do consistently. Some days I do more in the time I have, some days considerably less. The considerably less days are the ones where I circle back and revise or add to previous scenes. (Adding is nearly *always* involved.) I write my books beginning to end, so I really hate circling back like that. It feels like I’m not making progress.

I was getting all frustrated with myself this week about it.

Guess where I’m at? Yeah – 26,000 words, which for those who don’t speak math, is right at 25% of what will probably be about a 105,000 word book. (Most novels are 80,000-120,000 words. Fantasies like this can be on the longer end of the spectrum.)

It hit me sometime yesterday, that OF COURSE I’m doing a lot of circling back, layering and tweaking. I’m setting the stakes for the rest of the book! Once my Act 1 is solid, the rest will fall into place more easily. I know this. I freaking taught people about this a couple of weeks ago.

How easily we forget.

I’m feeling much better now!

Speaking of The Twelve Kingdoms, we’re kicking off the blog tour (heh – I first typed “bog tour,” which isn’t nearly so fun) for THE TALON OF THE HAWK. Today there’s a very juicy excerpt – one of my favorite scenes! – at the Chosen by You Book Club. Let me know if you like it, too. Hee hee hee.

Also, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is starting a bimonthly (every two months, not twice a month) newsletter of members’ new releases. I think it will be great! You can subscribe here.

Have a great weekend everyone!

SFWA Sale!

Petals and Thorns, erotic romantic fairy tale, SFWA Sale
This week a group of us writer-types from SFWA (Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America) are staging a sale of sf/fantasy books. We’ll be nattering about this and cross-posting all over the Internet. This is an opportunity to pick up some good reading material at great prices.

The promotion lasts through Friday, February 21, and the following authors are participating:

    post-2363-0-81636100-1392434971Amanda C. Davis with new takes on classic fairy tales in Wolves and Witches for $2.99, and also her fantasy novelette The Lair of the the Twelve Princesses for 99 cents.post-2363-0-05227500-1392434930

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

M.C.A. Hogarth with her aliens-only epic fantasy The Worth of a Shell at $2.99.cns-cover-shell-frontcover-198x300

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AdCover-215x300Cat Rambo with her brilliant collections Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Midnight at $2.99 and Near + Far, also at $2.99.HH-Near-Cover1-200x300

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don Sakers’ tale of futuristic psi and intrigue, The Eighth Succession at $2.99.

 

 

 

BfzPLs7CcAA8A2cAnd I’ll be offering my erotic romantic fantasy novella Petals and Thorns at 99 cents, plus you can still get a free sample of the first episode of my serial novel Master of the Opera: Passionate Overture.

Lots of fun new books to check out – I sure plan to!

 

As a Woman, You…

019Can you spot the danger? Careful…ambush awaits the unwary.

020

Surprise attack!

A couple of years back, I visited one of my oldest friends at her home in the South. That’s the southeast US, and it gets capitalized to evoke the hot, sticky weather, mint-julep atmosphere and their slow-drawling ways. My friend and I were sorority sisters in college and have maintained one of those easy friendships over the years, where we don’t always talk often, but we can immediately pick up where we left off when we do.

She has three sons, all teens when I visited. They were very interested in me, as a friend of their mother’s who wasn’t part of their lives, too. The middle son, in particular, took advantage of the opportunity to ask me questions about girls. We had wide-ranging discussions about superhero movies, Hugh Jackman and whether I thought he could, with dedicated work at the gym, attain a Wolverine-esque physique – and if the girls would like that.

He was introspective and earnest and utterly charming.

No, I did not cougar my friend’s son. Stop that.

He had one specific girl he was pining for and asked for my input on wooing her. At point, he wanted to play me a song on the piano. He said, “As a woman, you’ll appreciate this song.”

And I told him to just Stop Right There.

I said, “If you want to treat the people in your life well, just strike that phrase from your vocabulary. Anything you have to say that follows ‘as a woman, you’ doesn’t need to be heard.”

He was all hurt and confused – because, after all, he was just trying to be empathetic with the female species, right? – and it took me a while to explain it to him.

I’m still not sure he ever got my point.

That moment has been coming back to me at various times over the last couple of weeks. With all the discussions within and outside of SFWA about what’s appropriate vs. what’s sexual harassment vs. censorship, and all the shadings of meaning, I think this is what it comes down to. If you’re telling someone else what their experience will be based on their gender (or anything else, then you’re misstepping.

To clarify, I don’t experience things as a woman. I experience them as a person.

It’s that simple.

I’m not sure where those ideas come in, that members of the opposite sex – or later in life, of other sexual inclinations – are somehow alien in nature. I remember being on the playground and boys yelling that girls have cooties. I had no idea how this could be. Or even what it was!

Turns out they didn’t know, either.

So, to me, this is a simple place to start. No ‘As an X, you’ sentence constructions.

As my loyal blog-gobblers, you understand, I’m sure. 😉