Updates sporadically.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Don't Hobbit your readers -- how to keep interest between installments

Today I'm coming to you not as just a writer, blogger, and would-be billionaire author. I am coming to you as a reader and movie-goer with a simple plea: Don't Hobbit* your readers.

I'm not talking about The Hobbit. I'm talking about The Hobbit -- the movie(s). As part of my Christmas celebration, I went and saw The Desolation of Smaug. I have not seen the first installment of this apparent trilogy of movies. (You remember when I discussed splitting a book into multiple movies? This is not an example of a merited case.) I was told I didn't need to. They were right, this movie is a fine set up to another movie all on its own. And ... that's kind of it. It's not that nothing happens. Plenty of things are done and actions are taken. But then the whole thing, the part of the movie that the entire theater had clearly been anticipating ... doesn't happen. Not in a Breaking Dawn "let's-just-not-even-fight" kinda way. In a "let's-make-the-most-frustrating-cliffhanger-ever-MERRY-CHRISTMAS-SUCKERS" kinda way.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Writing what you don't know

Despite the torrent of angst-ridden teen writing inspired by it, "writing what you know" is, generally speaking, not bad advice. In a world of writer advice ranging from horrid to this blog (yes, I am opposed to implying humbly that this blog is a perfect 10 -- I clearly deserve it, did you notice how much effort I put into not splitting that infinitive?) this bit is more beneficial than most.

The benefit of writing what you know is that it really allows you to flower, to show off your prowess, to demonstrate your command of character and story and emotion. Writing about love is easier when you've been in love. Same for heartbreak. The same for jumping out of a plane, or strolling around London, or cooking a pheasant. When you know these things, you can talk about them with poise and eloquence and ease.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Letting it Go, featuring "Wrecking Ball"

Let's warp speed forward for this post. We're going to move past the writing, the editing, the querying, all of it. Today we're going to address how to let your novel go.

Once your novel is out there in the world, once you've released it to see how far it can fly, it's also time to relinquish your control over it. It exists now, it is its own self-contained being, and you no longer control it.

"Whoa," says you, "what are you talking about? I gave it life, I can take it away!"

Okay, so maybe I inflated your ego a bit with that whole, "Writers are Gods!" post a while back. My bad. Because actually: you're not.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Getting Past the Snorlax: Holiday Malaise and Writer's Block

Writing is hard, ya'll. So hard that I am, in fact, affecting a Southern accent to demonstrate the general malaise that has settled upon me. The aforementioned malaise is also why this post is a day late.

Whether your holidays are over or are just kicking into gear, it is pretty much universally accepted that the holidays are draining, mentally, emotionally, chronically, etc. etc. I love the holidays, don't get me wrong. But ever since there's become this expectation that I have to contribute to merriment in ways other than just showing up with an eager, smiling face the whole thing has been a lot more work and a lot less endless wonder. Who knew food didn't just appear fully cooked, amirite?

Still delicious.

What I'm getting at is that, after the frenetic go-getter-ness of November, a little bit of the magic is gone. The whirlwind of ideas and plot lines of yestermonth have been replaced by little more than intermittent thoughts passing by, "Maybe I should try to write today."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Schmantastic List of Fantasy: Fantastic-Schmantastic Holiday Reads!

Happy First Thursday! It's December, which means it's holiday month! I know it's the final day of Hanukkah today, but it's not my fault this whole holiday season is out of whack.
Not a holiday person? Happy Winter Solstice month, my friend. We (the royal We, of course) are very inclusive here at Fantasy-Schmantasy.
Growing up, I remember my favorite part of the holidays was all of the holiday stuff. The cartoons, the music, the decorations, the movies and, yes, the novels. Oh, they exist. So, without further ado, I present you:

The Schmantastic List of 5 Holiday Must-Reads

"But Blog-Lady," you ask. And btw, stop being so impertinent. It's MS. Blog-Lady. "But Ms. Blog-Lady," you ask (much better), "aren't these all going to be kiddie books? Why do I care?" First of all, shame on you for pretending that kiddie books are not awesome. Because they are. Some are about a thousand times better than the typical adult novel. And second of all -- no, they will not be all kiddie books. I'll throw a few grown up ones in just for you, Monsieur Whiny-Pants.

Also, to be up front, I only include items on these lists that I have personally read. Therefore, this list is going to be Christmas-skewed. But keep reading, anyway, it's not all Christmas here!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Writers: Cue the sad trombone.

November is over. My belt doesn't even have a notch that will fit my happy sweet potato and turkey stuffed belly. But there's something else I stuffed with: disappointment.

And no, not just the kind that comes along with overconsumption of holiday carbohydrates. I can't regret anything that tastes so good. No, readers and writers. My disappointment is much more apropos to this blog. I am disappointed in my word count.

The end of November didn't just mark the end to the Thanksgiving prep and the full throttle tilt into December festivities. It also marked the end of NaNoWriMo, the 30 day 50,000 word write-fest. And for the 'wrimoers that either means jubilant victory or disappointment and a sad trombone.

Personally, I only managed a anemic production of 11,000 words for the month. Allow me to be the first to say: *mwomp mwomp*.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Getting Your First Draft to The Finish Line.

In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, in the spirit of authors everywhere just getting started, in the spirit of sharing and in the spirit of first drafts, I have decided to give you something, dear readers.

I am going to share with you my strategy for getting words on paper or -- let's not be archaic -- on screen.

I know, I know. You've been waiting for me to share my wisdom. I am clearly a prodigy of the word count, what with my 50,000 word novel and all. (Hey, didn't you say it was 57,000 words? Indeed, but that was before I cut it in two. Remember?)

Now that we've established my astonishing credentials, let's get serious.

It's hard to say what's the more daunting part of writing, getting the first words down or getting through the editing. Editing is certainly more time consuming and takes more precision. But the first draft -- excuse my Minnesotan, but oofta.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Part 3 of Worldscaping: Breaking the Rules

Genre fiction doesn't follow the rules of the real world. There's technology beyond capability, actions defying physics, creatures unlike anything our known world contains. Fantasy, in particular, is an escape from a world of the commonplace rules where we can experiment with the physical world.

So why do we all keep rehashing the same old hat world?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Part 2 of Worldscaping: Writing Race in the Fantasy World

Before we get started on today's fantasy topic, let's all take a moment to be completely relaxed. Take a look at this kitten. It isn't worried about writing. It's so cuddly and soft and sleepy. Be the kitty, reader. Be the kitten.

Shh, nothing scary happening here.

How are we feeling? Calm? Content? Practically purring?

Good. Now let's get started.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Part 1 of Worldscaping: Yeah, writer, but what does she look like?

It's nice to have a god complex, as an author. We're creators of fantasy, writers of great worlds, compilers of adventure. It's a sweet gig, being an author.

In most contexts, a god complex is not a great thing. But in the world of writing, the author is god -- we're creating worlds, people, races, we're breeding conflicting, stirring up wars, making characters fall in love. Deleting what we don't like *cue evil laughter and stroking of white Persian cat*. Authors are playing the creation game, and it's a pretty awesome.

This good old Looney Tunes inspired shtick sums it up pretty nicely.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Schmantastic List of Fantasy: Fantastic Books that should have Movies

I started this post wanting to do a list of the best film adaptations of genre fiction novels, but after doing a little research and wracking my brain I realized that I'm just not enough of a cinephile to be qualified to make that list. So instead, I took the bibliophile path and present to you:

The Schmantastic List of 7 Sci-Fi / Fantasy Books that Should Have Movies


We've established that I consider graphic novels to be a part of the genre fiction category. I will fight about it. That said, taking the TOP SPOT of a book that should have a movie we have:

I don't know why she's wearing 80's high cut briefs.
But I dig it. Enough so that I have this hanging on my wall.
Wonder Woman

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Split-Up Story

Yes, this story is a breakup story and a tearjerker. It is not particularly fantastic, and writers everywhere will feel for me.

This is not a story like Rhett leaving Scarlett, or Effie and Curtis (Dreamgirls -- if you didn't cry, you're wrong).

*sniffle* Why couldn't those crazy kids work it out?
No, this isn't a romantic breakup, but it hurt. Like, a lot. This is the breakup of a novel, and I tell you it was a total sobfest.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's that time again, writers: NaNoWriMo

I've talked about it before. NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. The impetus that drove me to finally buckle my ass down and write after years of "not having the time" to write a novel.

Yes, I know the novel I'm talking about on here all the damn time is still unfinished. But little did you know -- that's what NaNoWriMo is for.

Here's the thing. I am a hyper-competitive person. I grew up with hyper-competitive people. I thrive when it comes to anything that even slightly resembles a contest. It brings out the best in me. Don't think you're competitive? Well I don't believe you.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Everybody loves a redhead.

As a faux-redhead, married to the real deal, I think it's pretty much a universal truth: everybody loves a redhead.

All that talk about gingers and daywalkers, etc? Jealousy, pure and simple. Everybody knows that being a redhead pretty much makes you awesome. Redheads are fiery, fierce, sexy badasses, with a predisposition towards other super-awesome mutations such as pyrokinesis, superspeed, telekinesis, and superfighter-hacker-awesomeness (okay, maybe that's not a mutation). Yes, I am aware of my overuse of the word awesome.

I can get away with it because I'm a redhead. Awesome.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well, today we're going to be talking about cliches.

Like the quick-tempered, mutant, sexpot, love interest/best friend redhead, there are a lot of cliche traps that an author can fall into. Character names and physiognomy, though, are the two we're going to be addressing today.

Look, I love a cool name with an encrypted meaning as much as the next person. And I totally get that the self-described "plain Jane" girl with the gray eyes and brown hair is supposed to be my cipher -- but that doesn't mean that I'm not over it. Because I am. Over it, that is.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fortitude, and other things that totally suck

Fortitude. More like bore-titude, amirite? Perseverance? More like ... snore-severance?

Whatever. You get it. Fortitude, perseverance and sheer stick-to-it-tiveness are sometimes just really, really, really boring. Especially since these things are usually perceived as an extended effort against the forces of procrastination and non-action. There's this idea that fortitude cannot coexist with inaction. Well, I say codswallop. Sometimes, a sustained effort is just not worth the effort.

Not that you should give up and walk away. I'm all for fortitude in the long term -- getting around to it eventually. But I'm not all about this kind where people expect you to just keep pushing. Just keep doing a little bit everyday, whether you feel it or not. I'm not into the whole "fake it 'til you make it" fortitude.

Not a fan.  Not when it comes to writing.

To be honest, I'm not a fan of anything of the "do a little everyday" variety. People with the ability to wash the spoon instead of putting it in the sink, or to throw their socks in the hamper instead of leaving them on the floor -- to me, they might as well be flying or shooting lasers out of their eyes. They might as well be Superman, because they clearly are being given powers by our yellow sun that I simply do not possess. But at least when applied to socks and spoons the end product is a clean house. When applied to writing, the end result is more like a big lump of unusable boredom that you've painfully slathered on a page.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

F**K it, I'm e-publishing.

Sometimes, the desire to throw your hands up in the air and yell "F**K IT" to the world is nearly overwhelming.

Robin, on the other hand, is merely whelmed.
I felt this way three days into my first querying process. The first querying process be laughably premature, but we'll talk about that more later. That point is that, clearly, I need to work on my stamina.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Seriously -- Get to the point already!

First of all -- I somehow completely missed Thursday. I think I'm stuck in some sort of temporal anomaly. This week seems to have been three weeks long, and none of them contained a Thursday.

"We seem to be experiencing a temporal anomaly, Captain."

Enough apologizing, though. For this ThurFriday, I'm giving you some damned good advice. Advice I totally thought up on my own and completely applies to my manuscript.

Or, at least, it will be after I reorganize the first 70 pages of my novel. Okay, I'll own up to it: sometimes, the advice I pass onto you is just advice that's given to me. Is that stealing?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

VILLAINS! Are they really such bad guys?

Look, I know it's not exactly nice when the Joker runs around laugh-gassing people to death, or when Walter White gets all mega-murdery. But the key to a good villain isn't that we look at what they do and go, "Wow, that's so bad". That's just the villain part. What makes a good villain good is the tantalization that they may, in fact, be an agent of good or rightness in their own minds.

Let's look at Walter White: the anti-hero turned villain. Don't believe me? As the main character, the show is designed for you to root for him. Even if you know that what he's doing is wrong (drugs are bad, mmkay?), you still want him to win (or, at least, you did at some point). But, despite being the main character, by the end of it the guy is absolutely a villain. He's the villain to his family, to Jesse, to Hank and to himself. And he is a terrific villain, all the more so because you didn't even realize he WAS the villain until you were already completely wrapped up in him. You were justifying his horrific crimes for him through about 80% of the series. And admit it -- you probably cheered for him way longer than you should have. Maybe even in the final episode, am I right? Look, no spoilers here. But the fact is, Walter started out a villain, you just didn't notice. Remember that first episode? Remember how he was a meth-cooking murderer aroused by danger even then? No? Well, he totally was.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hey, Katniss McToughPants: Enough Already.

I'm going to say something shocking.

I am so over tough girls. "Strong female characters". Whatever you want to call them. The woman carved out of rock whose stoicism borders on sociopathy. They're overdone, they're boring, and they frustrate the shit out of me.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Summaries are just the worst.

I am horrible at summarizing.

Never ask me to describe a movie or book to you. You will regret it. I will remember small details, forget to tell you the important things like character names, be incapable of identifying the key plot pots vs. the subplot points, and will always finish my description of beloved stories in the same way: "I swear, it's good."

Do you think I'm exaggerating, or that all this doesn't sound so bad?

Example, then. I was once asked to describe Stranger in a Strange Land

My description: "There's this guy who grew up on Mars and was raised by Martians and there were no humans because the astronauts all killed each other but he was okay because he was born there somehow, I forget, and could breathe and everything. And then humans find him, other astronauts, like, 20 years later and he becomes a cult leader or something and it's about grokking things and they eat each other. I swear, it's really good."

Stranger in a Strange Land, as told by me. Little Mikey sure has an ambitious appetite.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Schmantastic List of Fantasy: Fantastic-Schmantastic Halloween Costumes

Happy First Thursday! Believe it or not, we've already hit October, which means it's the Halloween month. Halloween is my favorite holiday -- I love any excuse to get in costume.

So, in the spirit of Halloween and Schmantasticness, I present to you:

The Schmantastic List of 8 Literary Halloween Costumes

There were some important qualifications to make this list. The costume needed to be easy to put together, recognizable (at least to the well-read) and salvageable. No pre-packaged costumes here -- time to head to the thrift store and break out the needle and thread. So let's check it out!

Green Arrow

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Marlowe Hammer, Mxyzptlk and other horrible name problems

Names are the worst.

No really. They are just horrible. Trying to figure out names for characters is like naming a baby, but a least a thousand times worse. Because this is LITERATURE, you know? You need a name that is meaningful, even iconic. Certainly memorable at the very least. You want to name the next Harry Potter, the next Captain Ahab, the next Atticus Finch. You certainly don't want a mess like Anna Karenina. Hell, it took you 400 pages just to figure out that Kotsya is Konstantin, and Konstantin Dmitrievich is Konstantin Levin and on top of everyone having three names all of the names sound the same. I speak Russian and even I got confused in that mess. Seriously. Seriously.

Anyway, here you are now on babynames.com looking up meanings and root languages trying to find snappy, memorable names that are going to put your characters on the map.

Congratulations. You know have a mess like this:

My partner says that this movie is a must-see. Or that it's truly horrible.
It was definitely one of the two.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

And then, there were sequels ...

So you know that moment when you're finally back in love with your novel, and the end is in sight and you're nearly weeping with joy, and then --- you remember.

You have a sequel to write.

Not just a sequel. No, that would be too easy. You have a whole series to write.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sorry for the cry-icorn

Sorry for the cry-icorn, everyone. I was overly ambitious this morning and hit the gym at 6am. Which is apparently way too early for me. The result is that no amount of coffee will make me funny enough to post today. Unless that amount of coffee is north of the 2 pots I've had. In which case, blame my kidneys -- they're limiting me.

Your regularly scheduled posting will resume on Thursday.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Burning bridges: because every author needs to f**k up at least once

All of the submissions guidelines say it. All of the how-tos on query letters tell you. But do you listen?

No. Because you're excited. You're ready. So what if your novel is missing a hundred pages and a climax, denouement and conclusion? You can whip that up in a couple of days after you get the request for a full. You want to submit now.

For the love of god, don't do it. Just -- don't.

My first query was a NIGHTMARE. No really. Probably the stuff that makes literary agents wake up with cold sweats in the middle of the night. I spend a lot of time on QueryShark. I have a general understanding of what these poor people go through.

And why was my query such a nightmare? Because my story DIDN'T HAVE AN ENDING.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sometimes other people are right (even when you really don't want them to be)

Accepting criticism is hard, y'all. Accepting uninvited criticism when all you were trying to do was show off how awesome you are is pretty much impossible.

Look, it's not my fault I yelled at my partner. Here I was, minding my own business, and he just up and critcizes my writing. Total d-bag, am I right?

Okay, so maybe I wasn't actually minding my own business. I mean, I was actually reading him a passage from the novel. But still -- come on, right? What was he thinking? What, suddenly reading a passage out loud of the novel you're editing is just an open invitation to criticism? I guess that I missed that memo.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

When did I become Herman Melville?

Let's not get it twisted. I'm not saying that I wrote Moby Dick. I wasn't exactly attempting to achieve a novel that expansively surveys the human psyche and obsession, compulsion and sexuality, etc. ad nauseam.

Not that I don't love Moby Dick. I do. I love Moby Dick. If you don't like it, you're probably wrong. That book is awesome. But Melville is not what I would call an author with a strong voice. If you haven't read it, go read the beginnings of a few different chapters. It's like the whole thing was actually a collaboration of 20 different authors who couldn't work together. Maybe Melville had split personalities.

Or maybe he just read too much.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Confession: I don't know the ending either

I have a confession.

As confessions go, it's kind of a doozy for a writer to be laying out 55,000 words and two years into a novel.

I confess: I don't know the ending, either.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Schmantastic List of Fantasy: Fantastic First Novels

Welcome to the first installment of the Schmantastic List of Fantasy. There will be a new list posted the first Thursday of every month. Because I love you. Definitely not because I'm trying to stretch out material by making an update that has minimal effort with maximum content.

I would never do that to you.

In the spirit of Schmantasticness, this first list is going to highlight some truly awesome first novels by some great modern authors. Because if there's anyone who knows just how schmantastic publishing a genre novel is, it's them.

So, without further ado:

The Schmantastic List of 7 Fantastic First Novels by Modern Authors


Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

NaNoWriMo: 30 days; 50,000 words; 100,000 plotholes

NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month, the catalyst for this whole adventure. The premise is that you have thirty days during the month of November to write a 50,000 word novel. If you succeed, you get a big pat on the back, a discount on a t-shirt, and the self-satisfaction of knowing you (kind of) wrote a novel.

Congratulations! You wrote a novel that is still
20,000 words short of being publishable!

December. National Holy-Shit-This-Is-Puke-On-A-Page Month.  This is the month where you have 31 days to re-read your novel, to edit it and make it wonderful.

Instead, you take 1 day, get about 10 pages into the mess, and then try to resist the urge to drag and drop the whole damned thing into the recycle bin. And then empty the recycle bin. And then burn your computer for good measure.

Seriously, did you even write this? You don't remember ever typing the sentence "his knee bounced like it was full of kangaroos that had just eaten a bunch of Mexican jumping beans". Wait, was that really a whole chapter about the character picking up an eggplant in the supermarket? Did you really end the whole thing, "And then he woke up and it was all a dream"?

What is this unholy monstrosity that you have created?

And then you set the whole thing aside.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

An Intro to the world of Schmantasy

Fantasy is a world where the fantastic is not only possible, but very real. Where creatures from our imaginations roam wild, where magic happens, and where the impossible is simply the unimagined.

Schmantasy is a world where the fantastic bubble has popped, and it turns out that things like bills, desk jobs, and rejection not only exist, but will happen every day.

Fantasy-Schmantasy is my blog, my place to keep you updated on what it's like to write a fantasy novel and to begin the long road of rejection on the way to publication. We'll talk about plot holes, unruly characters, queries: the good, the bad, and the mostly ugly, synopses, finding a literary agent, and how to write an ending to a novel that doesn't want to end.

Things will be funny, occasionally. They'll be frustrated a lot. And they'll be honest all of the time.

Get ready. Because fantasy writing isn't nearly as fantastic as you think it is.