Michille: A New Approach

HeronI am contemplating taking a new approach to my writing. I have a four-book series that I’ve been working on. I go to conferences and workshops and take online courses and I get excited about the revisions that are needed. And then I sit down to do them, start working through the list of what needs done and I get so overwhelmed that I just quit. In order to do A, I have to stop and hit D, L, Q, and P, and then come back to A. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And I stop.

In order to get my writing mojo back, my new approach is going to be starting a whole new story. The picture is a Great Blue Heron that I see when I hike at a park near my house. It’s my spirit animal so I’m keeping it close for motivation. Part of my motivation for this new approach is that I believe I am a good writer. I read. A lot. And most of what I read is crap, has crappy elements, or has my pet peeves sprinkled throughout. I’m going to write a book that I would like to read. My starting point is a list of what the story will have and a list of what it won’t. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Atlas of Emotions

A few weeks ago, in her post Your Empathy Quotient Jeanne talked about the role of empathy in crafting compelling, believable characters.  She also referenced Emotions Revealed, by Paul Ekhman, a book I talked about in a Discovering Faces post back when I used to watch the television show Lie to Me, which was based, in part, on Ekhman’s work.

Not only is reading other people’s faces/body language/tone of voice and knowing what those people are feeling is outside of my skill set in real life (as confirmed by the quiz on Jeanne’s post), but figuring out what words to use to show what a character is feeling in my writing, can often be equally daunting.

Cue the Atlas of Emotions. Continue reading

Jeanne: What Do You Look for in an Editor?

EditingMy journey toward publication has been loaded with new learning opportunities. One of the biggest was choosing a content, or developmental, editor. This is both because this selection has the most impact on the quality of the book(s) I will put out, and because it’s the single biggest expense in the self-publishing journey.

The problem was, I didn’t really understand what a content editor would do. I knew they weren’t the same as a copy editor, who would look for problems with grammar and wording. Content editors work at a more macro level—they’re concerned with characters and plot.

But I still didn’t understand exactly what that meant.

Were they just a glorified (and paid) version of the critique group I’d had for so long? Or something more? What should I expect? How would I even begin to tell a good one from mediocre one or even a bad one? Continue reading

Nancy: The Big Reveal: Name Change

Hundreds of years ago, Shakespeare’s Romeo told Juliet, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Well, roses and amorous suitors aside, turns out there is something to a name, especially when it comes to a writing career. Some weeks ago, I went on a quest determine the best name(s) forward for my planned multi-genre writing career.

For as long as those of you reading the blog have known me, I’ve been Nancy Hunter because that’s the name I chose a decade ago (!!!) when I had a book come out with a publisher. At the time, I worked in a very intense and Very Serious career, and needed to keep some daylight between it and my writing life. This was not a deep cover pen name, as co-workers with appropriate googling skills would occasionally uncover my ‘secret identity’. And HR departments always knew it, because I had to claim my intellectual property (IP) at the outset, lest the corporations employing me try to claim writing created on my own time as theirs. (Gotta love corporate America: for the price of your salary, they claim the right to monetize everything you say, do, think, and feel every minute of every day, please and thank you.)

Lo these many years later, I’ve left that corporate world. I swear! Girl Scout’s honor (yes, I was actually a Girl Scout, so you can trust me). And in addition to the freedom to make my own schedule and write whenever and where ever and whatever I see fit, I also now have the freedom to use my very own legal name. If I so choose… Continue reading

Jilly: Taking the Long View

This week, Justine and Jeanne shared their reasons for deciding to opt for indie publishing instead of pursuing the traditional route. Next year I’ll be joining them on that journey, and I decided to use today’s post to explain why.

It’s interesting that none of us are doing it because we think we’ll make more money (though wouldn’t that be nice?). For Justine, it’s about having control of the process. For Jeanne, it’s about being master of her own fate. For me, it’s both of those things, but also—mainly—about the time and investment I think I’ll need to give myself the best chance of success.

I’ve never been much of a first impressions kind of person. In my business life, I rarely wowed interviewers or clients in the big meeting. I’m more of an acquired taste, though as I worked with people, I usually grew on them. Over time, I built up a network of trusted connections. In a thirty-year professional career I changed employer just three times, and all my opportunities came through personal recommendations.

The same pattern holds good in my personal life. I’m still married to the man I met aged 18, and I have a small group of close friends, accumulated over a long time. The 8 Ladies were classmates for a stressful, labor-intensive year. We knew each other pretty well by the time we started this blog.

Told you that to tell you this: I suspect my slow burn style is more suited to indie publishing than trad, and here’s why.

Continue reading

Michaeline: Wedding Stories

Five Swedish people in fashionable dress, circa 1851; person one and two are getting married, I think. There is a curious exchange of glances amongst the five, though.

(Thoughts, from left to right) “I say, Hilda, I didn’t expect you to show up!” “Oh, Frederick, you have arrived too late, and I am marrying James.” “Jimmy Boy, rraowr!” “Hilda, you cat. Stop trying to pounce on the wedding boy.” “Oh, baby, I’ll see you after the ceremony but before the cake!” image via Wikimedia Commons

It’s the middle of June, and weddings are on my mind this week. Possibly next week as well, and into July. But at any rate, today I’m thinking about weddings.

Two – no, three of my most favorite books have weddings in them. Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me and Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign both feature the “gotta find a date for the wedding” trope. Let’s take a quick look at how the wedding works in each story.

In Bet Me, Min needs a date for her sister’s wedding, and she’s just been dumped by the man she was counting on to validate her place in the party. He was going to be Min’s offering to her volcano mom, in order to appease her and divert her mother’s attention to other things. It didn’t matter very much that he was a rat . . . he was her rat, at least for a few more weeks, or so she thought. Instead, he breaks up with her, and Fate steps in to provide a shining new gift horse, eminently suitable for getting her mother off her back . . . her pack pony, at least for the next few weeks, or so she thought.

In ACC, Miles also needs a date for his foster brother’s wedding. (That foster brother also happens to be Emperor Gregor of Barrayar, so it’s kind of a big deal.) Unlike Min, he’s not seeing anyone . . . but he’s fallen head over heels in love with the woman whose husband he just watched die in the last book. The love is there – it doesn’t need to be developed. But oh, boy, the timing and circumstances are awful! They need to be overcome in order for our happy ending to take place. The widow, Ekaterin, is understandably gunshy about starting a new relationship so soon. And Miles, in his saner moments, totally understands this. But he’s got self-esteem issues, so he wants to get a commitment as soon as possible. The wedding, he figures, will display his confidence and standing in society, and persuade her to love him. He buys into a lot of unspoken societal assumptions about masculinity and wooing a woman. He’s got to get over his attitudes before the happy ending can take place.

In Bet Me, the wedding is not a shining example of happy endings. It highlights the difference between a bad relationship between people who don’t really know each other, and what Min and Cal want to create. The wedding is a horrible warning, and an anti-example of what to do. In ACC, the wedding is between almost literally a princess (shipping heiress of her planet) and a prince (as mentioned before, Emperor of Barrayar). Not only that, it’s a love match, a match in intellect, a political match, and a perfect match in so many ways. Miles can look at his foster brother’s impending nuptials and see that the fairytale can happen. It motivates him in his own quest for marital happiness. It’s a great aspiration to be striven for.

Aside from the plot points, the weddings also provide a great opportunity for set pieces. There are a lot of dramatic scenes, and very funny scenes as well, that spring from the complicated logistics of getting a pair of people wedded. We get a lot of great food, and some very nice fashion along with our romance.

It is interesting that the wedding couple aren’t front and center in either story. Min’s sister is one of many supporting cast members, and Gregor and Laisa are both finished with the “hard part” and are basically sitting around, pawns to be pushed by the wedding planners. Another interesting thing about both stories is that there is more than one love story. IIRC, there are three supplementary love stories in Bet Me (one fizzles out but they remain friends), and in ACC, there are a variety of love stories – budding ones like the ones the Koudelka sisters enjoy (with a tortured entrepreneur, a nerdy scientist, a top-level bureaucrat and a FtM count) as well as the established ones between Miles’ parents and Ekaterin’s aunt and uncle. I love that we see an investigation of love from many angles in both books.

How about you? What’s your favorite fictional wedding? How does it drive the plot in the story, and does it have a happy ending?

Elizabeth: Friday Story Time and Sprints

This week has had its share of excitement but I’m not sorry to see it heading for an end nonetheless.

Last week the Warriors, our local pro-basketball team, wrapped up their season with a championship win, which meant that this Tuesday, there was a victory parade with crowds of people and periodic confetti cannons.  More importantly for me, it meant that the streets around my office building were all closed off, requiring me to work from home, since teleporting into my office was not an option.

I was not too disappointed.

It was a beautiful day and I got to see the parade from the comfort of my own living room, while taking conference calls in my pajamas and avoiding a few hours of commuting.   Really, I should do that more often.

Now that the confetti has been swept up, the streets reopened, and the portable bathrooms taken back to wherever they roost, it’s time to get back to our regularly scheduled programming.  For me that means a trip to the dentist for a check-up, but then it’s off for something a little more enjoyable like lunch at my favorite outdoor café.  I’ll be taking my smoothest pen and my new writing journal and giving today’s story prompt the old college try.

Care to join me? Continue reading