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PPWC Session Wrap-up, Part 2

I always wonder if you can piecemeal PPWC. There’s always notes about what to do if you’re missing a meal (and if you’re at the conference for the whole weekend, why would you? It’s included in the price and the food is really good) which always makes me think maybe you could just come for, say, Saturday, but I don’t know if that’s an actual thing.

(I believe, if you’ve won the writing contest, you can come for just the banquet Saturday night, but I am also unsure about that.)

(I wonder about these things, but not enough to do any actual research.)

Let’s dive into the sessions from Saturday.

(I got up early and worked out before breakfast/conference, and later walked in on my sister talking to my mom on the phone. She was telling Mom about me working out like it was the strangest thing she’d ever seen.)

Eight Weeks to a Novel (Becky Clark)

Like Friday morning, Saturday morning ended up a bit themed, and in this case it was time/project management. This isn’t really an area where I am deficient, but it is a subject I like to talk about and see how other people do things. In this case, Becky spends a week making a massive outline/synopsis (which she sends out to betas to get feedback on plot and whatnot because it’s that complete) and then spends the next several weeks writing and editing. Some neat organizational ideas which I will probably try out.

Agile Project Management for Writers (David R. Slayton)

Ironically, the example he used was also an eight-week novel, which I found hilarious but probably no one else did, because normal people probably didn’t go to two time/project management sessions in a row. This method made my engineering side very happy, but from a basic standpoint was also very similar to other writing management processes I’ve seen before. I enjoyed it. I do need to get in touch with the presenter and ask some questions (mostly about throwaway things on the slides which caught my interest, or something he said, and not about the actual subject matter of the presentation).

Constructing the Great Action Scene (M.H. Boroson)

M.H. Boroson wrote the bestselling historical fantasy novel The Girl with Ghost Eyes, which I have not had the opportunity to read but understand is awesome. This panel was also pretty awesome. We talked about the basics of action scenes (which are not just fights), broke them down into their components, and went through examples so we could see the basics put together. My other favorite panel aside from Stant’s on Friday.

And then we had lunch, which was a massive roast beef sandwich. With a pickle. Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid series) was the keynote speaker.

Query 1-on-1

Sometime between the last time I went to PPWC (2012) and now, they’ve switched from your straight pitch session (where you would memorize a verbal pitch and get to pitch an agent/editor) to the query 1-on-1 format. You bring your query letter, agent/editor reads it and gives you feedback, and may ask for more materials if they’re interested. I met with Mike Braff, who is an acquisitions editor at Del Rey (at the very odd time of 2:24 PM). He asked some questions about the main character and said I should focus more on her character arc and the twist of the story in the query. He also said it wasn’t really his thing, alas, though I kind of suspected that there wouldn’t be enough explosions based on some of his recently edited books (The Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown, Sleeping Giants by Slyvain Neuvel) and my sister went to an editor panel earlier and later told me he’s pretty much only looking at scifi right now. So, in retrospect, I probably should have signed up for someone else.

Serious about Series (Kevin Hearne, Gregg Taylor, Carol Berg, Tess Gerritsen, Jennie Marts)

I’ve found that the panel sessions can sometimes be less helpful than the one or two presenter ones, and I think it’s because they’re not really planned out in advance. I mean, I assume, but I don’t know, but from what I understand the moderator has normally come up with questions in advance and then the panel answers them. I mostly learned about various authors’ planning processes, which is interesting, but not necessarily helpful.

Building Better Beginnings (Todd Fahnestock/Chris Mandeville)

This was a good panel! Chris and Todd focused a little bit on what your story needs at the beginning and how long you have to hook a reader/agent/editor, but we spent most of the time going over the beginnings of published books and looking at what worked and what didn’t, and also did an example where we took a bad beginning and made it better.

Dinner Saturday night is the awards banquet, which is supposed to be dressy but I had a wardrobe malfunction (speaking of which, has anyone had a piece of clothing that started smelling after you washed it for the first time?) and so was under-dressed. Tess Gerritsen was the keynote speaker (and I learned that Rizzoli and Iles is a book series, woo) and shared rather a lot of disturbing things, which is why, I guess, that I don’t write thrillers. I mean, she was awesome, but D:

Dessert was not as good as Friday night, alas.

My sister and I hit BarCon now that we’d done our Read & Critiques and Query 1-on-1s and no longer had anything to stress out about, but it turns out that we are actually terrible at networking aside from people we already know. And then I had a crisis of purpose (which, from talking to people since PPWC ended, seems to be common at writers’ conferences) and had to go to bed.

Sunday sometime next week! Also, I will have a guest post for you, probably on Tuesday. It is about ten degrees warmer than it is supposed to be, Squiders, and I think I shall go take a walk.

And Now For Something Completely Different

We’re about a week away from PPWC (oh God, I just realized that and I am not ready! ::flails about::), so on top of the writing and the getting ready for pitching and whatnot, I’ve also been working on my costume.

I believe they either started the costume dinner tradition five years ago (which is the last time I went, if you remember) or maybe they only do it every five years (on the 5/10 anniversaries), but one night everyone is encouraged to dress up according to the theme. Not sure what it was last time. I was eight months pregnant so I went as Mother Earth, but my sister and friend went as Capital people from the Hunger Games.

This year is Heroes and Villains, so my sister called me up to ask me if we should do Murky and Lurky from Rainbow Brite (which was a cartoon show from my childhood that my sister and I both remember fondly). They’re both villains, and we ran into issues with who would be who, and eventually settled on me doing Rainbow Brite and her being the evil princess from the Star Stealer movie. (You look at that princess and you know exactly what era that movie is from.)

In the olden days, I would have made as accurate a costume as I could manage, but I don’t have time for that anymore (especially since I didn’t realize there was a costume dinner until my sister called), so what I’ve done is bought a white sleeveless dress and dyed it blue (more on that in a moment), and have ordered rainbow socks and arm warmers, which should get here today.

And then I will need to make a rainbow belt and get a purple ribbon for my hair, and probably hunt down a purple facepainting crayon. I’ve seen people typically wear red converses with Rainbow Brite costumes, but I don’t have red shoes (I can buy a pair for $20 at my local Payless) and am not sure I can be bothered.

Tuesday I went up to my mother’s to dye the dress (my kitchen is currently MIA) which proved to be a bit more work than expected. (Also, my fingers are still slightly blue on one hand.) I bought supplies from Dharma Trading, which is a lovely company that specializes in dyes and things to dye (I suspect their target consumers are artists that dye large amounts of things to sell) and specifically got what looked like their least complicated dye (pour in water, put in clothing, stir for a while), but the powder was a bit messy and a single grain made an awful lot of dye.

The color is perfect, though, I did notice a small hole in the back of the dress. Oh well. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that.

It’s been kind of fun to work on something creative that isn’t writing, even if it’s just making a mess of my mother’s kitchen and ordering stuff off of Amazon.

I wonder how my sister’s costume is coming along.

What have you been up to lately, Squiders? Any fun projects?

Smashwords’ Predictions for 2017

Hey Squiders, we’ll jump back into the nonfiction stuff on Thursday to answer the question “How many rejections is too many?” but for today, I’d like to share Smashwords’ 2017 predictions for the book industry with you. It’s kind of a sobering read, but I’d love to hear what you guys think and any trends you’ve noticed the past few years. As I mentioned when going over City of Hope and Ruin‘s marketing results last year, some of my go-to launch activities, such as advertising on Goodreads, no longer work as well as they used to, and I wonder if some of it comes from the number of books coming out/available these days.

Mark Coker (who runs Smashwords) also mentions that KDP Select has been a terrible thing for authors, and Kindle Unlimited is only making things worse. I don’t have much of an opinion on that as of yet–I’ve always gone wide with the exception of The Short of It, and since it’s been a week, I don’t have many stats to look at. People who have used KDP Select, do you like it? Have the changes that Amazon occasionally makes hurt you?

Anyway, here’s the article. It’s long, but it is an interesting read. Love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Holidays! (Also, a hiatus and landsquid and a typo)

So, I’ve had a chance to actually look at my schedule over the next two weeks, and it is extremely unlikely that I will be able to post next week. So I guess this is my cue to wish everyone a happy holidays, and I shall see you on the flipside in 2017, when we will do year-end/year-beginning stuff for about a week and then dive back into the publishing/submitting posts (where we will discuss self-publishing short stories to begin with.

So, Jan 3. I shall return.

Til then, I was up late making peppermint bark, so I drew you a peppermint bark-making landsquid.

He’s supposed to be eying the Alpaca suspiciously. Oh well. Things to practice. Squinty eyes.

I was talking to a few friends last night about whether or not I should do a holiday post today or whether I should start the year-end stuff, and the general consensus was to do the holiday post, at which point I noted that I would draw a landsquid for the post.

And my dear friend Di said, “LANDQUID.”

So, in celebration of a hilarious typo, I made you all a landquid. Just for you, Di.

landquid--it's terrifying

Rar.

Happy holidays, everyone! I’ll see you on the other side!

Memory of Place

Around this time of year, I occasionally get a bit nostalgic, and various childhood memories sneak in here and there. Last week I was at the Tattered Cover with the small, mobile ones buying gift cards for the larger mobile one’s teachers. The Tattered Cover is a local bookstore chain. The original store I was familiar with was in a fancy shopping area called Cherry Creek, and I would swear we practically lived there when I was little.

(I called my mother to see if this was just childhood exaggeration, but she says we were there fairly often.)

The original Tattered Cover was amazing. If my memory serves me–and it may not–it was a towering bookstore, four or five stories tall, not counting the basement, and it was a chaotic mess. There seemed to be little order to the sections, and you’d often have to explore multiple levels, with their maze-like shelves, to find what you were looking for (provided you were looking for something specific). For a small bookworm, it was heaven, equal parts mystery and adventure.

(Unfortunately, the Cherry Creek location went out of business about ten years ago, and while there are three current locations, none of them quite manages the magic of the older location, though they still have interesting organization and they try to stick in hidden corners where possible.)

There are other places that have stuck with me over the years. What is it about these places? I think it’s that they all have a little bit of magic to them, something that makes them a little different. These can be places you’ve been a million times or a place you’ve only seen once.

I was going to make this a reading analogy, about how some stories stick with you, even years later, but I’m not quite sure it’s necessary. But it’s good to have a little bit of magic in our lives, and perhaps it’s most important to remember that through the holidays, when tensions run high and stress threatens to drag us all down.

If you have one of these places still, maybe it’s worth it to take the time to spend some time there, to let the magic wash over you as much as possible.

What are some of the magical places in your life?

Mid-December Music Interlude

We’ve talked previously about writing and music, Squiders, and I thought the lot of you might want some alternatives to the never-ending Christmas music.

Last Thursday my husband and I braved below freezing temperatures to go to a Sonata Arctica concert (and were up past midnight on a work night! Madness). Anyway, because so much of this year has been dedicated to marketing and revision, I haven’t had a lot of chance to listen to long swathes of music, and I haven’t gotten much of a chance to listen to my beloved symphonic metal (excellent for writing epic fantasy–not so good for the more left-brained activities).

Anyway, I was inspired, and I thought the lot of you might like some music recommendations as well, since the last post went over so well.

Sonata Arctica was touring with Omnium Gatherum and Leaves’ Eyes. Omnium is melodic death metal and is not particularly my cup of tea (too much growling), so I’m not recommending any of their stuff. If they sound interesting to you, feel free to check them out.

Leaves’ Eyes is symphonic metal, but I haven’t listened to them in some years. I was very pleased to see they’ve gotten quite a bit better. They were fun live as well, with the male vocalist coming out in full viking armor for the last few songs. This was one of my favorite songs from their set:

Leaves’ Eyes – Sword in Rock

Sonata Arctica is more power metal than symphonic, but I am fond of them, especially their earlier stuff from the early 2000s. Their more modern stuff is less to my taste though there are still songs I enjoy. Hard to pick one to share. Here’s one that falls between the older stuff and the newer stuff.

Sonata Arctica – I Have a Right

And now some off the radio to round out the post:

There’s a riff in the chorus that gets me every time.

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – Fire Escape

This one has a nice message, plus an interesting twist on things.

Alessia Cara – Scars to Your Beautiful

And to go back to the symphonic metal for a minute, here’s a song that got me through the climax of the third book of my high fantasy trilogy. (And the music video has spawned a novel-length plotbunny of its own.)

Within Temptation – Paradise

(Seriously, though, if you’ve not checked out symphonic metal, you are missing out.)

Anyway, Squiders, hope this tides you over for a bit! Let me know if you’ve heard any songs that have really stuck with you lately! (Also love symphonic metal? Let us geek out together.)

Sketchtober

Squiders, it’s going to be October by the end of the week. On the one hand, October! I love October! On the other hand–where has 2016 gone? I’m not ready for it to be this late in the year! I had so many plans! So much to do!

::runs about, flailing arms wildly::

I think part of my general anxiety is that I have no separation between work and home. I could be at work at any time, and often am. There’s no sense of “work is over and now it is home time” and everything gets mixed together. This is the danger of working at home, my friends.

Also probably freelancing/doing contract work in general.

Anyway, long story short, I’m going to try an experiment for October. It’s somewhat along the idea of the adult coloring book craze. And that is that I’m going to try to incorporate sketching back into my normal routine. It’s something I’ve always done–something I started doing even before I started writing as a child. And I used to do it all the time. I was reminded of that recently as my mother decided to move in with my grandmother, and so I needed to go through all the stuff I’d left at her house.

And a lot of what I’d left were notebooks. Notebooks full of drawings. Sure, there were illustrated stories here and there as well, but for the most past, it was just drawings. People, animals, aliens, clothes. Even through college and when I was working, I still sketched, in the margins of my notes or meeting minutes. But once I started working from home five years ago I stopped, aside from the odd landsquid or specific drawing, usually related to writing somehow (such as designing uniforms or working through other worldbuilding).

And so I’m going to start it back up. Maybe somewhere in my psyche, I need to sketch every now and then, to let my mind calm down and my thoughts flow more naturally. So, for October, I’m going to try to sketch on a regular basis. See how it goes.

To celebrate, I drew you guys another landsquid. That’s two in one week–crazy, I know.

sketchlandsquid

I’m not going to just draw landsquid for the entirety of October, though.

Probably.

Anyway, wish me luck! Any plans for October yourselves, Squiders?