Justine: Your Intellectual Property Questions Answered

copyrightWhat a week it’s been in the romance writing world! In case you missed it, there is a huge uproar over #cockygate, or the trademark of the word “cocky” in a romance series.

Background: Faleena Hopkins, the author of several books that have the word “Cocky” in the title, recently received an official trademark of the word “cocky” in a romance series in both regular and stylized (meaning in a specific font) form from the US Trademark and Patent Office. You can view her filings here and here.

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Ms. Hopkins’ stylized trademark of the word “cocky.”

Ms. Hopkins has threatened other writers whose book titles also contain the word “cocky” with a lawsuit if they don’t change their titles. She’s also reported some authors to Amazon, telling the Zon that the authors were in violation of her copyright. Amazon took down the offending books at once. Romance Writers of America has hired an IP attorney and has asked Amazon to reinstate the take downs pending a legal challenge (Amazon agreed), and former IP attorney-turned-writer Kevin Kneupper has come out of retirement to Continue reading

Michaeline: Good Villains, Writing Craft and Mute

Love padlocks on a bridge in Berlin. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD: Watch Mute on Netflix first if you are especially sensitive.

I just finished watching Mute, a near-future thriller that came out on Netflix this month. I found it a riveting story, full of nuances and great writing craft.

The villains are particularly worthy of study. In our writing class at McDaniels, Jennifer Crusie told us how important it is that the antagonist be as interesting and exciting as the protagonist – if not more so. (And here is a blog post from Argh Ink about it.) She also taught us that the villain is the hero of his or her own story, and that we should really like our villains.

If we create a villain that is devoid of all good things, we create a cardboard character with no real life. And on the flip side, our heroes should have flaws. It makes them more believable, and it allows us to pity them, or empathize with them.

In Mute, two of the very many bad guys are bantering army doctors who fix up (or take apart) people for an underworld businessman. Director and co-writer Duncan Jones said he had the duo (Paul Rudd as Cactus Bill and Justin Theroux as Duck) watch the movie MASH for inspiration (Geek Tyrant interview). These two guys are “the smartest guys in the room” and have the kind of great chemistry you need to pull off great banter. These guys are definitely the heroes of their own stories.

But the characters are selfish, and they have terrible flaws. Cactus Bill is Continue reading

Michaeline: Lois McMaster Bujold and Three Questions about Writing “Penric’s Fox”

Exciting August news, all! Lois McMaster Bujold came out with a new Penric novella on August 8, 2017! Hang onto your time-travelling imagination caps: “Penric’s Fox” is actually book three, following “Penric and the Shaman” by about nine months, and before “Penric’s Mission” (NB: as of 2017 08 08. Your mileage and chronometer may vary).

"Penric's Fox" title cover with a castle, a fox and a ghostly young woman in elegant medieval robes.

“Penric’s Fox” follows further adventures of Learned Penric, court sorceror for the princess-archdivine. It’s about 37,400 words, so if you read “Penric’s Demon” and “Penric and the Shaman” as well, you’ll have a good chunk of fantasy to enjoy this weekend! Follow it up with the older Penric in “Penric’s Mission” and “Mira’s Last Dance”. (Image courtesy of Lois McMaster Bujold)

“Whaaa?” Not to worry — all the stories can stand on their own, and who is going to quibble when we have the chance to see Penric in action again?

So, go. Make a liter of  something seasonal and delicious, find your favorite reading pillow, and download the book. When you’re done, come back here and see what Lois has to say about the process of writing things.

EMD: I suppose the first question is why did you write a follow-up to “Penric and the Shaman” (the second Penric novella) and not a follow-up to “Mira’s Last Dance”? I mean, I’m grateful for whatever you’ve got, but it is a question that comes up.

LMB: This was the story that wanted to be written first. I am considering a follow-up to “Mira”, yes, but those ideas were not ripe at the beginning of this year (2017), and then the key idea that this story was awaiting suddenly slotted in, so.

The delay proved to be, as is often the case, good for the other set of ideas as well, as a few more have joined that collection since January that I could not have foreseen. For me, a story in the process of assembling itself is like a box of loose objects rattling around aimlessly, till some connecting idea drops in and things suddenly get interesting. (Note that some of those pieces may also prove to be wrong ones, like two jigsaw puzzles mixed together. Sorting those out can also take some time.) Trust me, stories only look inevitable in retrospect.

Some of the ideas for “Penric’s Fox” had been kicking around ever since I was developing backstory prior to starting what became “Penric’s Mission”, but they weren’t necessarily stories yet. The seven years I jumped over to get to Penric at age 30 were full of experiences that were important to him but not necessarily story-like, though I needed to know roughly what they were before I could write him at that later stage. It was basically the same sort of task as developing any new character’s backstory before starting them off on a tale for the first time, even though the reader will never see most of it.

I should also note that one of the developments in the tale came from watching the family of foxes that denned under my garden shed earlier this year, not something I could have anticipated. There’s nothing like Continue reading

Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Marketing

publish_buttonYou’ve studied craft, developed a working relationship with your muses, written the book of your heart, and clicked Publish!  Congratulations, you’re a self-published author.

Now what?

Will readers flock out and buy your book, love it, and tell all their friends?  Probably not, unless you’ve spent a little time and effort on the marketing side of things.  As self-published author Molly Jameson confirmed during our recent interview with her, you don’t just hit “Publish” and experience phenomenal sales; promotion is a much more realistic way to sell a book.

At the most basic level, effective promotion means connecting with readers and cultivating an interest in what you’ve written / are writing, as well as maintaining that connection.

Great.  So how do you do that? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Platforms

publish_buttonKids are heading back to school, the leaves are starting to turn, and the local craft store has their shelves stocked for Christmas – obviously summer is drawing to a close.  Guess that means it’s time to put away those vacation pictures and get back to our discussion of self-publishing.

We’ve already talked about designing a cover, defining taglines and concepts, and the importance of editing.  We also got some good firsthand self-publishing knowledge over the past few weeks from Molly Jameson and author/editor Nan Reinhart.  Now it’s time to turn our attention to how to choose the appropriate self-publishing platform.

What is a self-publishing platform? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Author Interview

publish_buttonWe’ve been talking about self-publishing for the past several Wednesdays.  Today, we’re going to take a break from the nuts & bolts of the process and talk with someone who has some actual self-publishing experience.

Let’s give a big Eight Ladies Writing welcome to Molly Jameson.

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8LW:  You’ve currently got three books out in your Royal Romances series, what made you chose to self-publish them?

MJ:  Easy answer (though not a short answer because, as my university professors can attest, I can’t say “yes” or “no” in 100 words), agents kept refusing my first novel.  Harlequin kindly considered the entire manuscript, but said I would need to add “an explosive climactic sex scene” to make it saleable.  I took that to mean that my characters would go for coffee, the building would spontaneously explode, and they would somehow be inspired to hook up in the debris. No thanks.

Fortunately, a clever friend of mine had some success in self-publishing and convinced me that all the cool kids were doing it.

8LW:  How great that you had a friend with some experience.  So what was the best part of the whole self-publishing process, besides actually getting that first book out there? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Self-Publishing 101 – Editing

publish_buttonSo far in our Self-Publishing series we’ve talked about the Benefits of Self-Publishing,  Book Covers  (the first and oftentimes only chance for a book to make an impression on a potential reader) and Taglines, Loglines and Concepts (those tantalizing bits that hint at what your story is all about).

Spending all that effort with an eye toward attracting readers will be for naught, however, if those readers give up on your book a few pages in due to grammatical errors, inconsistencies, uneven voice and the like.

Which brings us to today’s topic:  Editing. Continue reading