Archive for October, 2013

The Individuality of Story

So, not too long ago, I was going through my Twitter followers and putting them into lists because I’d become overwhelmed by my feed (stream? why do I suck at knowing social media terms?) and hadn’t really touched it in about two years. (And now, with the lists, it is lovely and manageable. I highly recommend.)

Anyway, I was looking at the people I was following and deciding where to put them, and I came across Amalia Dillin, who happens to write books with a mixture of Biblical and other mythologies, which is what Shards happens to be. And I got really excited and probably scared her a bit, but, long story short, I bought the first book in her series and have been reading it recently.

And every time my husband sees me reading it, he asks, “Is yours better?”

To which I reply, “Mine is different.”

And they are–very different.

I firmly believe that each of us are the sum of our own experiences, and we have our own thoughts, dreams, and beliefs that are completely unique to ourselves. And I believe that, given the exact same premise, no two authors will write the same story. How could they? They’re different people.

So, while both Amalia and I have worlds where the various pantheons are real and interact with Biblical characters, the stories themselves are wildly different. In fact, this is probably the closest I’ve ever been to reading a story with the same premise as one of my own, and it’s been very interesting and enlightening to take note of the differences and the similarities, to compare how she twisted the mythology to how I did.

I’ve wanted, for years, to do some sort of experiment, where several authors are given the exact same premise, or maybe even a loose plot, and then we sit back and see what everyone came up with, how each individual person twisted things to suit their needs and styles and experiences. I think it’d be really interesting.

And then, maybe, depending on length and so forth, we could put the stories out as an anthology or something.

What do you think, Squiders? Other writers–have you ever come across another story with the same or a similar premise to your own?

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Pre-marketing

You know, Squiders, no one talks about the work one has to do before one can even start to think about marketing.

(Well, someone probably does. But it’s not obvious.)

Shards comes out in a little over a month, and I’m doing all the last minute things I need to do now before I can start my main marketing scheme. You can’t just launch into marketing, oh no. You’ve got to do all this prep work before anyone sees a word of advertising.

This week I am:

  • Supervising the final steps of my website overhaul
  • Preparing new and exclusive material for the website
  • Finalizing a new author photo with a photographer
  • Working with my cover artist to finalize my cover
  • Finalizing my book description
  • Putting together a media toolkit

And that doesn’t include Halloween, obviously. (Oh, and I’ve decided not to do Nano for my own sanity. I think this is probably the right idea, as I am calmly watching everyone else run around flailing.) Also we are going to see The Book of Mormon on Saturday which should be excellent.

Once all that’s done, I can actually start marketing–you know, contacting book reviewers, guest blogging, making fun goodies like icons and desktops and bookmarks. That sort of thing. Can’t really do anything yet. “I’d like you to review my book. What’s it about? Well, uh, I have a half-written book summary here you can have, I guess.”

It’s kind of an odd sort of limbo, this pre-marketing stage. There’s a lot of work to be done, but none of the benefits are tangible yet. I think, once it’s all done and live, it’s going to finally hit home that it’s almost time, that Shards is almost loose in the world, come what may. And I think that will be both terrifying and awesome.

But, for now, there’s work to be done.

How are you, Squiders? Can you believe it’s almost November?

Urban Fantasy versus Paranormal Romance

You know, despite all the subgenre studies we’ve done here, I still have a hard time differentiating between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I mean, logically, I can spout off definitions but I have a hard time with actual books because a lot of times they read very similar to each other.

Urban fantasy is fantasy that takes place in a city. It isn’t necessarily contemporary. And paranormal romance is just a romance with paranormal elements. There’s a lot of variables on both–time period, setting, types of fantastical/paranormal elements, etc.

But from what I’ve seen, both tend to be modern-day in urban environments. And both tend to have a romance plot/subplot and a non-romance plot/subplot, and often times they seem to be of almost equal importance.

I’ve run into this in other places as well, particularly between cozy mysteries and romance. A lot of it seems to come down to marketing.

Kit, you may be saying, why does this matter?

Well, because me and my publishing team have been a little stumped on Shards. Technically, it’s mythic fantasy, but that’s not normally a nice shelf in a bookstore. And yes, there is romance. But if the major difference between the two subgenres is how important the romance is versus the non-romance plot, well, I guess it slides into urban fantasy. Romantic urban fantasy, maybe? Urban romantic mythic fantasy. Say that five times fast.

What about you, Squiders? Where’s your delineation between the two, if you have one? (Judging by the amount of books listed as both paranormal romance and urban fantasy on Amazon, most people don’t bother.)

The Agony of Book Descriptions (Also: help!)

What is a book description you say, Squiders? It’s that thing that shows up next to a book on Amazon (or your favorite book-buying location) that gives you a basic run down of the plot so you know whether or not you want to read said book.

They also may go on a back cover/dust jacket on the book themselves.

For writers–they’re essentially queries, except now you’re querying the general public instead of agents/editors.

Book descriptions are hugely important–how you portray the book will directly influence who, if anyone, buys the thing. And in this age of author-led marketing, book descriptions often fall to authors rather than PR people. And you’ve got to tease just enough to get people to pick the book up without giving too much away. It’s a razor-thin line.

I am going mad, Squiders.

I’ve done book descriptions and queries before, of course, but Shards is actually the first adult book I’ve had to do them for. (Everything else has been YA. Which is interesting, because I write pretty equal shares YA and adult, but I guess I put the YA out there more.) And I’d say it has more complexity than other stuff I’ve done–layers of symbolism and mythology, plus most of the cast has millennia worth of background.

And somehow, I have to take everything, pick the right approach, and break it down into approximately 250 words to lure people in. The right people too, those that like mythology in their urban fantasy/paranormal romance and won’t mind that there’s not werewolves or vampires. (Or zombies.) Those that won’t mind some romance in with their plot.

I’ve been playing around, but I don’t know what’s best. I’ve got two viewpoint characters–Eva and Michael–and while Eva is definitely the main character, Michael’s obviously a major player as well. So I could try it from both their viewpoints–give them both a quick intro and then lay out how their conflicts intersect–or just Eva’s. I can play up the romance or avoid it. I could TEAR MY HAIR OUT BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW WHAT DIRECTION TO GO IN AUGH

I’ve got three and a half in action, and they’re all completely different, and I can’t tell if one of them is a better direction than the others, and the feedback I’ve gotten has been pretty evenly split.

Other authors–especially urban fantasy authors–any tips? Anything you like to remember when you do your own? Anything you’ve found especially helpful?

Readers–especially urban fantasy readers–what tends to make you pick a book up from its descriptions?

I am flailing around here like you wouldn’t believe, and any help would be appreciated.

Obligatory Fall TV Post

As we’ve talked about before, Squiders, I am terrible at TV (my husband and I are still very slowly making our way through the last season of Falling Skies, which I think ended in August), but I like this trend toward trying out new science fiction and fantasy shows that we seem to be on recently, so I’ve picked my show for the season.

If you guessed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you don’t know me very well.

Of the new shows this season, which best integrates my love of mythology, of twisting well-known things and making them darker, of integrating different legends into each other?

That’s right, I’ve thrown my lot in with Sleepy Hallow.

I read the original story last year, or maybe the year before, and I gotta say, I wasn’t really impressed. I can see why it’s prevailed through the years–there’s the smallest hints that something more might be going on, and I think there’s something in us as a species that can’t resist that more.

Anyway, to the TV show. They’ve basically thrown everything out the window except the names (and the headless horseman) and mixed in witches, time travel, conspiracy, and the Apocalypse, and I love it a lot. Not unilaterally, by any means, but I am greatly enjoying myself, and what’s more, the actors look like they’re greatly enjoying themselves, so everybody’s happy.

(My biggest complaints thus far are that someone should get poor Ichabod some new clothes–not, you know, the ones he was buried in–and that it feels the occasional need to beat you over the head with plot points when they’ve already told you them five times already.)

Almost Human, however, also looks interesting, so I may take a peek at that one too when it comes out. I love Karl Urban (I will admittedly watch almost anything that has any Star Trek actor in, bar none–which is how I found FlashForward and I’m still annoyed that they canceled it–and I am generally not disappointed) and the premise looks cool, but poor network scifi shows. (Terra Nova, you died too soon!)

And then occasionally I watch Castle because it’s kind of a mix of police procedural and cozy mystery and it’s silly and I enjoy silly. And I’m feeling magnanimous toward them because they didn’t completely muck up the last season’s cliffhanger like I thought they were going to.

What are you watching this fall, Squiders? Anything you’re really enjoying? (Are you on the Sleepy Hallow bandwagon too? How much in love with Ichabod are you? Be honest.)

Genetic Mythology

This is probably not really a thing, but have you ever found that you’ve taken to something from your ethnic background like a fish takes to water? For example, in spring of 2010 my husband and I took a lovely trip to Germany, Denmark, and Austria. And I found German, as a language, really easy to pick up, to the point where I could carry on basic conversations on a number of topics despite never having learned or spoken any German before in my life.

(And then we came home and I forgot it all.)

It may be that because English and German are directly related that German is, in general, an easy language for English-speakers to pick up. I am certainly not naturally attuned to pick up other languages–I took six years of Spanish in middle and high school and still failed the AP Spanish test the first time I took it.

Sometimes, when I feel the need to make my head hurt, I sit around and ponder things like nationality and ethnicity. Like, how long do you have to live in a country before you become a whatever-ian? Why do we in America insist on labels like Irish-American or Japanese-American instead of just “American”? How much of ethnic diversity is real as opposed to imagined?

(That last one could probably be answered by someone who understands genetics, but biology has never really been a strong subject for me.)

I, like many of us, I suspect, am a conglomeration of many different ethnicities. Starting from highest percentage, I am Scottish, German, English, Dutch, and Danish. (And possibly a little Irish. That branch of the family were horse thieves and didn’t leave clear genealogical records.) And sometimes I feel like I should be better in touch with my…ethnicity, I guess? Like I should better understand the cultures that I came from.

(This is also where I get bogged down in the above questions. For example, a subset of my Scottish ancestors came across with William the Conqueror from Normandy, which was settled by Vikings at some point before that, so do those ancestors truly count as Scottish if their ancestors came from Scandinavia?)

And we talked about mythology a lot here, Squiders, but I feel bad because I’ve never spent a lot of time delving into Celtic or Anglo-Saxon mythology (aside from, say, Arthurian mythology which probably counts to some degree, though it gets commandeered later by–RIGHT, staying on topic). And shouldn’t I, at some point? Shouldn’t I know what my ancestors believed in, especially since I’ve spent so much time researching other mythologies?

It may be because I’m a fantasy author and I like such things, but it almost seems like those mythologies are my birthright.

On the Fence with Nano

After Tuesday’s post, some of you guys asked why I was waffling on Nano. The answer gets lengthy, so I thought it’d be easier to just post it here and then everyone can be enlightened at once.

I’ve done Nano every year since 2003, and have won eight of those. (My first year I got knocked out at 29K with a double-whammy of concussion and death flu. And last year I tried to do it around a newborn and managed a grand total of 14K.) While, in general, I approve of Nano and think everyone who wants to be a writer should do it at least once, I do think, after a while, the whole experience becomes a bit repetitive.

But there are things I like about Nano, even after all this time. I like the creative energy created by everyone writing at the same time. I like that most of my writer friends are at the same stage of a project for one point of the year. And I worry that I will be sad if I don’t at least try.

On the other hand, I’m pretty much guaranteed to fail. Here’s why:

1) Shards comes out on December 1st.
I have a book coming out December 1st. This means I should be using most of my time in November on marketing–setting up interviews, Q&As, reviews, etc. On the other hand, depending on how top of things I am, I may have a lot of this already done. But knowing me, probably not.

2) I have a small child.
Short of locking myself in the office and letting him have free reign of the house, it’s hard to get things done–especially things that require thought–while he’s conscious. And I have to literally lock myself in the office, and then I can’t get out.

3) No dedicated writing time.
My writing time right now is entirely dedicated to Shards marketing. And unless I somehow acquire another block of time, that’s unlikely to change.

On the other hand, does it really matter if one wins or not? (We’re on four hands now.) I think I’m a bit spoiled because I have won so many times, including that one year where I managed it around working full time AND going to graduate school. My sister says I should do it, even if I’m likely to fail, because it’s fun (and because I can use it for marketing. Sometimes my sister is surprisingly mercenary). And she’s probably right. I don’t need to win to prove I can; I’ve done that over and over. I’ve won on first drafts and rewrites and zokutou-ing.

And I probably will be sad if everyone’s doing it around me and I’m left out. Even if it is a bad idea. And it is. And I wonder about calling it a Nano if I’m not even really going to try. But will it hurt anything to sign up and write when I can?

What do you think, Squiders? Are you doing Nano this year?