Challenge

Cassandra Gold over on LJ is running a challenge, 25K in 30 Days, through the month of June. I decided at the last minute to jump in, so here we go.

It’s a nice challenge — 25K in a month is less than a thousand words a day, and there’s no commitment to write all 25K words on a single project. I keep telling myself I should be able to do a thousand words a day, day after day, although I’ve rarely managed it. The challenge is only half a NaNo, though, so I’m determined to make this work. πŸ™‚ And I particularly like the freedom to do multiple projects within the 25K; wondering about that was why I hesitated at first, but I finally asked Cassandra and she assured me that the wordcount is all that matters. My current WIP will probably wrap up in about another 10K or so (I know, I know, I’ve been saying that for like the last 15K, but I really don’t think this novel has another 25K in it) and I want to write something for the Love Wide Open anthology, which closes on 30 June, so I’ll be doing that too.

So we’ll see how this goes. πŸ™‚ I know there are writers out there who do 50-100K every month, but I’m not one of them and never will be. I’m still trying to find my speed. I have a feeling it’s always going to be variable, depending on how my brain chemistry is balancing, but 25K/month would make a nice average.

And hey, I’ll finally be able to use one of those progress meters! πŸ˜€

Angie

Series and Series

I went to a panel today (well, yesterday now — on Monday) about long series which was interesting and entertaining. (E-mail Seanan McGuire, who moderated, and tell her she needs to actually write the Ikeamancer series she described at the panel — she thought she was joking but it’d rock. πŸ˜€ )

One issue which wasn’t raised other than in passing, though, is that there are two distinct types of series, and the kind of support work one does for each is going to be different.

Most of the writers on the panel had or were working on single-story series, the kind where there’s some single story arc which the series as a whole is focused on resolving. The classic example here is of course Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien never considered to be a trilogy, IIRC; it was written as a single novel, and was published in six “books” organizationally, and in three volumes because, well, page count. But there are plenty of other series nowadays where there’s a single story and you really do have to read the whole thing, in order, to get the entirety of this single story. No skipping, no reading out of order, and if the writer dies in the middle, the whole thing up to that point (both the writing and the reading thereof) has been pretty much wasted because you’re never going to get the entire story. Someone (it might’ve been Seanan, actually [squint/cogitate]) asked whether it wasn’t a lot easier to keep people coming back and reading if each book of the series wasn’t an actual ending, but just the close of the current act. That might be true for some people, I suppose. It’d be interesting to see some good survey data on that. [Scribbles a note for an RTB column.]

The other kind of series, though, is the true episodic series, where each book is self-contained and when you come to the end, you have the entirety of that particular story. There might be some farther-reaching plot points which color all or many future books, and there might be character development which likewise shows in future books, but you generally can pick up Book Six first and read it and understand who’s who and what’s going on. You might feel a bit of confusion if some character or event from a previous book is mentioned, but it won’t be a key point in the current book (or if it is, it’ll be explained) and you’ll generally get almost as much enjoyment out of the book that someone who’d read the whole series up to that point would’ve gotten. A good example of this which comes to mind is Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde series. Each book or short story is stand-alone. There’s a chronology, and there are mentions of people and events from earlier in Diana’s life in the later stories, but you can pick up any story and get what’s going on, and there’s no point where being unable to read the next one would make you want to smash something.

The clear advantage of this second type, of course, is that if the writer gets hit by a bus at some point, it’d be a very sad thing but at least the readers aren’t left hanging with three-quarters of a story and no clue what was going to happen or how all these dangling plot points and perilous obstacles were going to resolve. and likewise, if a writer just loses that particular muse, or starts chasing a newer and shinier muse, or if the publisher decides they don’t like the numbers from Book Six and therefore declines to contract for the projected books Seven through Twelve, it’s a disappointment to the readers, yes, but it doesn’t leave this ragged, bleeding hole in the series.

A major disadvantage of the first type, or at least the one which annoys me the most personally as a reader, is that if the story is complex enough, you pretty much (or I do — maybe it’s just the way my brain is wired) have to read all the books bam-bam-bam, because in the year or more which passes between books, you forget who’s who and what’s going on and what the characters were planning to do about this problem here, and cetera. Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar books had that problem for me — I read the first one, then a year later I got the second one and had no clue what was going on. So I reread the first one, then read the second one. A year later I got the third one, couldn’t remember the characters or what each person/group had been doing again, so reread the first and second books, then read the third one. Then the fourth book came out and I couldn’t remember…. [headdesk] These books are like two inches thick, so rereading all the previous ones every time a new one comes out is no small undertaking. As time went on, it was more and more difficult to find a large enough chunk of spare time to sit down with the whole stack and catch up before reading the new one. When book four came out, I never did read it, although I bought it. There are three or four more books after that too (technically a different series, but the same verse and chronology, so I look at them as the same series) and although we might actually have those around the house somewhere, I haven’t read them and might never. I really love Harry’s work, and have since Guns of the South, but jeez…. :/

Part of the problem here is that these books are complex, with multiple protags, each with his own goal, own plotline and own set of supporting characters, and for the most part each protag’s storyline takes place in some chunk of the world (or up on the invading alien fleet ships) distinct from the others. (Very similar in structure to most of the Niven/Pournelle collaborations, like Lucifer’s Hammer, for folks more into the harder SF.) So it’s not just a matter of remembering who the protag was and what he was doing — you have to remember all the protags, all the storylines, and which goes with which. I have a mind like a steel sieve when it comes to fiddly little individual data items and couldn’t do that. I’ll admit I don’t have quite such a hard time retaining info about single-plotline series if there’s really a single plotline, with a single protag and only one actual story to keep track of. I enjoy the more complex, braided-plotline books, but when they’re series I just can’t keep track of all the different names and events and info from one year to the next.

And of course, there are going to be distinct differences in the prepping and writing for each kind of series. With a single-plotline series, you need to keep track of the over-all storyline, where the volume you’re writing right now fits into it, which threads from the previous book(s) you’re picking up and furthering in this volume and where you have to lay threads which will be picked up a volume or three later, making sure your greater, series-long plotline progresses just enough and in the right way. At the same time, you need to do all the usual novel-plotting for the current book. (I’m assuming most writers would want to at least kinda-sorta pretend that each volume is a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, despite evidence to the contrary in my own reading [cough] and that there will actually be a smaller plot arc over the course of the current volume. In a way it’s just more of the same thing you do for a chapter or a cluster of chapters for every novel, but that difference of scale is a pretty significant one.

Whereas with a more episodic series, you need to keep track of your bible, make sure you’re consistent with all the usual setting and character things from one book to the next, and maybe track one or two threads of a larger event or of character development which run between books. Most of the plotting, though, will be complete within the volume and won’t have to fit perfectly into its place as Act Five of an eight-act plot, or anything like that.

There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to both kinds of series. I just thought it was interesting that the second type was pretty much ignored at the panel. It makes me wonder whether it’s a blip in the SF/F genre, or among this particular group of writers, or whether it’s a more general trend in commercial fiction. If it’s actually the general-trend thing, it hasn’t hit my end of the business, for which I am profoundly grateful; there are plenty of episodic series which do very well indeed here, and I’m working on a couple myself — one urban fantasy and the other SF. I know Sean Michael, one of Torquere’s most popular writers, has a very successful series about a private club (which I think is a space station but don’t quote me) called the Velvet Glove, which is episodic. And Laney Cairo’s Liminus Australis series, set in a future Australia at war, isn’t going to be completely episodic, but there aren’t any ragged, bleeding plot threads left at the end of Running the Nullarbor, which is the first book. Aaand… [squint/cogitate] I’m willing to accept that there are probably some multi-volume stories too, although I can’t think of any right now. [duck] So the market’s definitely there for the full range of series types, and I’ll be keeping several sets of virtual fingers crossed in hopes that the situation will remain stable for at least the next few years.

There was also some discussion of protecting your drafts and notes, and a story about how one person’s 700+ pages of series notes vanished with a blown hard drive. Ouch. :/ At any given time, the entire contents of my STORIES folder is on my main computer, my laptop and a flash drive. The laptop and flashdrive aren’t always completely up to date (probably not as often as they should be) but at least my chances of losing everything are pretty slim.

Someone mentioned completely off-site backups, which are a good idea. There are various ways of doing this, but despite some skepticism from one or two people attending the panel, I think GMail works dandy for this sort of thing. Not as one’s only backup option, of course, but if you’ve got other backups too, the chances of everything going blooey all at once become remote.

Wikis were mentioned for organization, and I’ll admit I’ve thought about this too. Right now I don’t have enough info on any one series to make the work of setting up a wiki in the first place cost-effective, but it’s something to keep in mind as the bulk of data and frequency of look-ups grow. I know a couple of writers personally who have wikis for their writing and they seem to work well. It’s just the initial time investment, and then the required obsessiveness to keep everything updated and linked and all; I’d rather save that kind of effort for when I have more than three or four stories in a series. For right now, my notes files are working just dandy.

Oh, and there was some discussion of pitching your series differently depending on how many books the publisher will be willing to buy. So for example, you’d want to be ready to pitch a stand-alone book, a two-book series, a trilogy, a five-book series, etc., explaining how you’ll hack mangle adjust the over-all story arc to work for each length, so the publisher can choose which one they want you to write. o_O Ummm, suuure. Thanks, but I think I’ll stick with my publisher for now. New York is going steadily insane. [bemused headshake]

Angie

Review — “A Spirit of Vengeance”

Emily over at Rainbow Reviews gave me an excellent 4.5 star review of A Spirit of Vengeance.

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BOOK BLURB:
When Josh comes home from a business trip to find out that his lover, Kevin, has been killed, his life takes a terrible turn. Even worse, Kevin is haunting him, wanting Josh to exact revenge on his killer. Josh thinks Kevin is a hallucination to begin with, but he soon starts to believe that his lover’s spirit is really hanging around.

As he begins to believe in Kevin’s ghost, Josh also starts to believe he knows who killed Kevin. He’s not sure what to do, and neither is Kevin, who never really considered an afterlife. Can these two figure out how to catch a killer and how to move on with life after death?

BOOK REVIEW:
Josh’s life has been turned upside down by the unthinkable ~ his lover Kevin has been murdered inside of their apartment. Not knowing why, or even the details of how, Josh is left trying to pick up the pieces of his life when he is thrown yet another curve ball. Josh starts to see and hear things that cannot possibly be real, but he comes to find out that Kevin’s spirit is lingering, desperate for Josh to exact revenge on his killers.

It takes time for Kevin to convince Josh that he is real, by entering his dreams and manifesting while Josh is awake, but finally he succeeds. Josh is thrilled to be able to talk to and hold his lover again, but the main focus is still on trapping Kevin’s killers so that justice is served. Josh must be careful to protect himself from the killers and to protect his heart as he’s in love with a ghost.

A Spirit of Vengeance is an exceptional story, a refreshingly unique paranormal tale of love and revenge. Benedetti drops readers right into the story from the very beginning and the pace doesn’t let up. We connect with Josh as he deals with having a ghost following him around, even if it is his dead lover. His reactions are very real, making him a truly believable character. There are touching moments between Josh and Kevin, but most is left to the imagination. The real focus of this story is the vengeance that Kevin seeks and how Josh helps him on that path and anything more would have distracted from the story. It’s a perfect blend of action and emotional connection that results in a fantastic story that I will surely read over and over again.

For readers that are new to Benedetti, this is a great place to start to experience the subtle brilliance this writer possesses. Her stories are quite powerful, compact and concise and a window into the human soul. Here, Benedetti doesn’t need to rely on elaborate sex scenes or overly developed plots ~ with two well-developed characters she has created an engaging story that is moving and gripping and definitely a recommended read.

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Thanks so much to Emily — I’m thrilled she enjoyed it. πŸ˜€

Angie

At a Convention

So I’m up in Santa Clara at BayCon with my husband. We come every year; I used to live in this area before I got married, I’ve been to every BayCon and worked the first twenty-some of them. It’s a cool con and I get to see friends I don’t see anywhere else, which is always great.

I was particularly looking forward to this year, though, because Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon are co-Writer Guests of Honor. I’ve liked their work for twenty-some years, and though I don’t fanatically grab every single thing they publish nowadays the way I used to, they’ve still produced some of my favorite fantasy and urban fantasy books and stories. Misty Lackey and Charles De Lint are the reasons I like and write urban fantasy, in fact. I even brought a book with me — a hardcover copy of Black Gryphon — to get autographed, and I hardly ever do that.

Well, we just found out at dinner that Misty and Larry aren’t actually here. πŸ™ Misty has the flu, so they couldn’t come after all. Massive suckage. The Fan GOH already couldn’t make it, so we’re down to the Toastmaster and the Artist GOH. [laugh/flail] Talk about bad luck! And of course it’d have to be one of my favorite writers who gets sick just when I was all jazzed up to meet her.

I’m sure I’ll still have a great time, just because I always do, but… crud. :/

Angie

Review — “Candy Courage”

Lily over at Lily-ILoveBooks gave Candy Courage a great review. I’m delighted that she enjoyed it. πŸ˜€

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It’s Halloween night and Glenn Bellamy is taking his son trick or treating. Following the warnings of his ex-wife, he doesn’t allow him to eat the home made candy the boy gets. When he’s reassured by the other Dad he’s with that it’s made by a harmless neighbor who’s been living there all his life and making the special Halloween candy Glenn decides it ok and eats it himself.

What Glenn doesn’t know is that while Sebastiano Fiorentelli’s candy isn’t harmful it definitely isn’t ordinary candy. Mr Fiorentelli puts a little extra something in his candy every year and this time it’s Courage.

What follows is a night and day of out of character behavior on Glenn’s part that just might have a wonderful and long lasting effect on his life. This was a very entertaining short story. At only 14 pages it’s part of Torquere’s Sip line. I really liked the characters, the one sex scene was hot and the bit of magic was a delightful treat. Since it’s so short I don’t feel I can say much more without giving away too much so I’ll just end by saying it’s a well written little book and I enjoyed it very much.

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Thanks Lily! πŸ˜€

Angie

Anthology Markets

More anthology markets from my list. Note that sometimes you have to scroll down a bit after clicking the links, if the publisher puts all their anthology info on one page.

For non-erotic markets, check out Destination: Future and SHINE, both SF. Also note that Love Wide Open is themed around helping family and friends understand GLBT friends and relatives, and erotica would probably be missing the point πŸ™‚ so that one qualifies too.

[ETA NOTE: I’ve been getting a lot of hits on these posts, so if you’ve just wandered in off the internet, hi and welcome. πŸ™‚ I do these posts every month, so click here to make sure you’re seeing the most recent one.]

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1 June 2009Back in the Saddle — Torquere

Cowboy stories are so popular with Torquere that we had to bring them back in the tradition of Under this Cowboy’s Hat or Cowboy Up! Old west, rodeo, contemporary, or foreign, you name it, we want our cowboys! Stories should be gay male, romantic, and feature happy endings.

Stories are due June 1, 2009 for release in September 2009. Word count of 8000 or more words, with a payment of $75.00, as well as a contributor copy in both electronic and paperback format. Since this is a direct to print anthology, we’re asking exclusive electronic and paperback rights for 5 years. Please send a synopsis, author bio and your story to submissions@torquerepress.com with Back in the Saddle in the subject line.

10 June 2009Over the Moon paranormal anthology — Total-E-Bound

* 15K to 20K word count per short story/novella
* Paranormal – Werewolves, MF or MFM only
* Heat Rating: Burning/Melting (see our book rating info)

The Submission deadline is June 10th 2009 for release in November 2009. Submit the full story plus synopsis. When submitting, please enter “Paranormal Submission” in the email subject line.

15 June 2009Prince Albert Toybox — Torquere

17 June 2009Chain Male Taste Test — Torquere

Publication date September 2009, submissions due 6/17/2009 (Knights on white horses. Squires in chains! Saracens who want to show Europeans how to bathe, among other things. Bring on the knight.)

30 June 2009Destination: Future — Hadley Rille Books

SF, hard SF, alien worlds, space operas, alien encounter beyond Earth, exploration and quest stories. No alternative or historical fiction, steampunk, fantasy or horror. 3-6K words.

30 June 2009Love Wide Open

All submissions should focus on helping people, especially parents, accept the orientation and sexual identity of their gay, lesbian, bisexual, gender variant or questioning children. Extreme negativity is discouraged. Degradation of any group of people, whether defined by religion, sexuality, age, ethnicity, etc., will not be tolerated. Disagreement with the beliefs and creeds of any religion or ideology must be addressed respectfully.

1 July 2009SHINE — Solaris Books

Convincing and optimistic: Imagine that we are the biggest skeptics on the planet, then show us how things can change for the better, and persuade us.

Near-future: from now until 50 years later.

SF: we’re not going to define it. Write what you think is SF, and convince us with the story.

The Gritty:
Length: up to 10k words (not hard, but anything longer than 10k should be mind-blowingly superb).

1 July 2009I Put a Spell on You Menage Anthology — Torquere’s Bareback Angels imprint

Love spells? Magic in the air? You bet. All it takes is two boys, one girl and a magical romance, and you have the perfect story for I Put a Spell on You. We’re looking for m/m/f romance and erotic romance with strong characters and great stories.

Stories are due July 1, 2009 for release in October 2009. Word count between 3000-8000 words, with a payment of $50.00, as well as a contributor copy in both electronic and paperback format. Since this is a direct to print anthology, we’re asking exclusive electronic and paperback rights for 5 years. Please send a synopsis, author bio and your story to submissions@torquerepress.com with Spell in the subject line.

1 July 2009The Care and Feeding of Demons — Torquere

Demon romance! Demon hunter romance! Urban fantasy, kick-butt antiheroes. This one was requested by Torquere’s authors, who asked and received! All demons, all the time! Stories should be gay male, and should be romance or erotic romance with a hopeful or happy ending.

Stories are due July 1, 2009 for release in October 2009. Word count between 3000-8000 words, with a payment of $35.00, as well as a contributor copy in electronic format. We’re asking exclusive electronic 2 years. Please send a synopsis, author bio and your story to submissions@torquerepress.com with Demons Anthology in the subject line.

All In One Place For Your Convenience

…we have racism, ablism, classism, plus a Hey, let’s all laugh at the fat people! Wow. Check out the WalMart Bingo Card. [eyeroll]

Oh, and down in the comments there’s someone taking a swipe at those outrageous women who actually breastfeed in public! [exaggerated look of horror] Wow, wouldn’t the world be better without them? To say nothing of the people with eyepatches, and the white women with multi-racial kids? [I have to wonder whether women of other races with multi-racial kids are somehow less offensive to whoever made up this bingo card, or whether this person just thinks all brown people look alike and therefore has never noticed a woman of color with multi-racial kids. It’s racist and offensive either way.]

I guess if nothing else, this is a great example to show that people who are bigoted against one group of people tend to be wide-spectrum, equal-opportunity jerks. Because clearly seeing someone who’s missing a limb shopping in the same store as you is just as offensive and objectionable as seeing that someone has left frozen foods thawing on a random shelf somewhere.

Good grief. :/

Angie

Earthquake

Holy sheep, that was big. O_O Unless the epicenter was in our basement, that was definitely a doozy. All the other Southern California people okay?

I was downstairs napping on the couch when suddenly everything was moving and rattling. It went on for probably around 20-30 seconds, although it’s hard to tell looking back to huddling in a doorway with my husband; once your heartrate goes up, time estimates tend to go kind of off-kilter. [wry smile]

EDIT: The USGS entry just came up — it was a 5.0 right in LA. It felt stronger, but probably because it pretty much was in our basement. [laugh/flail] I hope everyone else is okay.

Angie

Extreme Sheep Herding

This is an absolutely awesome video of some seriously cracked shepherds with way too much time on their hands and some brilliant sheepdogs, plus a lot of sheep which I’m sure were really confused before they were done. [grin]

Watch it! πŸ˜€

Thanks to One_Undone on LJ for the link. Hee!

Just to be at least a tiny bit on topic, I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate this into a story. A character who’s into sheep-art with LED lights would be great fun…. [grin/ponder]

Angie

Goals and Deviations

My publisher had a couple of anthologies with deadlines in mid-April that I was sort of casually working on stories for. I hadn’t made any promises and so hadn’t committed to anything; it was a matter of, “Humm, that theme sparked an idea — let’s see where it goes.” The wordcount limit was 8K in both cases, and as has been happening more and more often lately, as I got into each of the stories it started looking like they were going to be longer. In one case, I think it’s heading for novella-length, which is significantly more than 8K. [cough]

So the deadlines came and went and I shrugged and set the stories aside. No big deal; I can finish them and submit them as stand-alones whenever, at whatever length they end up.

I’d promised myself I was going to get my urban fantasy novel done and submitted (and hopefully published) this year, so I turned to that and started working on it with great energy and determination. I was doing well and had added almost 15K words to it since mid-April and I’m thinking another 15K or so (give or take 5K) and I should be done and ready to break out the sandpaper.

Then a couple of days ago my publisher said that they were still looking for stories for the pirate anthology, and they were also running low on stand-alone short stories. The anthology was the one where the story was looking at novelette length rather than novella, so I figured I could rip out a subplot and bring it in under 8K. Good deal, right? I have another shot to submit this story and I help out when my publisher is feeling a little squeezed.

So I set the novel aside (again) and I’ve gone back to working on the short. It’s a fun story, pirates with a twist, and it’s looking good; I have a better idea where I’m going with it now — letting it simmer in the back of my subconscious has done it some good — and with the modifications I have in mind, it should come in within the length limit.

Of course, my novel is still sitting there, staring at me with an accusing typeface. [wry smile]

It’s said that whenever you get onto the right track, the universe will conspire against you. When you set out to make a major change in some aspect of your life, to move away from some self-sabotaging behavior you’ve been stuck in, when you’re making some real progress, “things” will turn up to try to shove you back into your old patterns. Weird things. A meteor will hit your dog, as Steve Barnes says. It’s not always a matter of lame excuses either — often it’s a matter of being tempted away from your larger goal by opportunities to achieve smaller ones, if only you’ll set the larger goal aside. Or something will come up, a lost job or moving house or a family emergency which takes up all your time and attention, which is a good excuse, not a lame one. These things are important and have to be dealt with. But still, it’s a delay in achieving that big goal.

I’ve been having a pretty lousy year, writing-wise — actually longer than a year. I had a short story come out in December of 2007, then another in October of 2008, then one in January of 2009. That’s really pitiful. I mean, if they were novels I’d be really proud, but shorts? :/ I wrote very little in ’08, almost nothing for the first nine months. That 40K words in two weeks in October was awesome, but that novel (different one from the one I’m working on currently) is still unfinished.

I finally determined to buckle down and get back to writing regularly and submit more this year, including the urban fantasy novel. And I was making good progress on it when the call for short story help went out from my publisher, and I figured, Hey, I’ve got some things I could work with, I can help with that. So it’s a good thing, right? If I finish this short for the anthology and it gets accepted, that’ll be another publication this year, and I can get back to the novel after.

But I’m kind of wondering whether something else might pop up after I’m done with the pirate story.

Having a novel published has been a major goal of mine for a very long time. I’m getting closer to accomplishing it than I’ve ever been in my life, but right now it’s stalled. Publishing another short would be very cool — and it’d be my first anthology contribution — but it’s still a deviation from my larger goal.

I’m focused on the pirate story and I’m approaching the home stretch. I’ll finish this one and submit it, and we’ll see what happens with that. But then the plan is to get back to the novel. We’ll see whether any other really good opportunities to help someone out pop up at that point.

Anyone else bucking the universe? What’s popping up to distract you away from your goals, writing or other?

Angie