Summer Already?

I can’t believe it’s Memorial Day weekend already. Summer’s beginning (traditionally and soon meteorologically, not astronomically) and I feel like we skipped spring. I should probably do the winter and summer closet swap because I doubt I’m going to need flannel pajamas or a heavy sweatshirt anytime soon. Alas.

It’s also the weekend of a new Star Wars movie. I love that we’re getting more Star Wars content now, but at the same time, it used to be such a major event when we only got a movie every three years, and then there were those big gaps. Now it’s maybe a little less special when it happens every year. But still, more Star Wars is good, as long as it’s good, and I could use something fun right now.

Then we’re having our Memorial Day concert Monday night at church.

So, busy weekend, but I’ll fit in some relaxing because I’m still recovering from my trip and then a bunch of other stuff I had to deal with when I got home. Still, in all the excitement, I manage to draft a short story, and I may even like it.

My plan for the summer is to buckle down and do some serious writing. I will hide in my cool cave and emerge in the fall with a few books.

writing life

Nebulas 2018

I’m home from the Nebula Conference, which is the annual conference of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This is my one real travel convention of the year and is one that I prioritize. The first time I went to one of these, it was really just about the awards banquet, with a few programming items and the business meeting, but it’s evolved into a real conference that’s exactly what I’d been looking for.

When I first started writing, I belonged to the Romance Writers of America. Although I always wanted to be a fantasy writer, I started off in romance, mostly because that’s what I had information about. RWA had local chapters with monthly meetings and a big annual conference. This was where I learned everything about the business of publishing, as well as a lot about craft. After a few romance novels, I really found my footing in fantasy, but since my fantasy novels had strong romantic elements, I kept a foot in both worlds for a while. Then RWA moved away from the “strong romantic elements” stuff to focus more squarely on romance, and I let my membership drop. But I did miss that annual conference, several days of being with other writers in my field and learning about what’s going on in the industry.

The Nebula Conference is now very much like that RWA conference used to be, though on a smaller scale. There’s a mass autographing session, conference workshops, and the awards ceremony. I like that the scale is smaller because it’s a lot more intimate and less overwhelming. I also like that it’s built more on the model of a science fiction convention, so the programming starts at 10 (rather than 8) and there’s a hospitality suite for meals rather than all those hotel luncheons. It’s kind of like the writing/publishing side of a WorldCon, broken out into its own event.

What did I learn this week?

  • I learned something about Draft 2 Digital that I wasn’t aware of previously, which should end up earning me more money.
  • I learned about ways to get more/better speaking engagements, which should end up earning me more money.
  • I learned enough about online advertising for books that I might dip my toes into that, and we’ll see if that earns me more money (are we seeing a theme?).
  • I picked up some hints on how to use social medial more effectively. Maybe one day I’ll really figure that out.
  • I got some ideas of how I might be able to use a patronage type thing to promote my work and maybe earn some more money.

I came away with a rather epic to-do list, and as soon as I get past a couple of deadlines I’m hoping to carve out daily time for dealing with this business stuff.

Meanwhile, I met a lot of interesting people. I think I pick up more new Twitter followers at one of these conferences than I tend to do at a WorldCon. I got to present a Nebula Award to a friend, which was almost as good as winning one, myself.

The people doing the matching for the mentor program should start a matchmaking service because they were almost eerie in how well people were matched. I was glad I signed up as a mentor, in spite of the Imposter Syndrome kicking in and trying to tell me I had nothing to teach, because looking out for someone else and making sure she had a good conference helped me not have my usual social awkwardness and shyness.

Oh, and I came home with more additions to the Strategic Book Reserve. My goal is to read some of the advance reading copies before the books are officially published.

Travel Needs

I’ve been busy wrapping up some things and getting ready for my trip to the Nebula Awards weekend. I may try to post from the road, but things are going to be busy, so I’m not sure it will happen.

As I’ve been planning my packing, I found myself thinking of a feature they used to have in the travel section of the newspaper, in which they had various famous people who travel a lot tell what things they can’t travel without. Of course, they were mostly useless for normal people because these people were rich and traveled in first class, so it was stuff like “my personal set of silk sheets and cashmere blanket.” So, here’s my more realistic list of travel must-haves that make life on the road easier:

My travel hot pot — I don’t drink coffee, which means most hotel coffeemakers are useless because they produce hot water that smells and tastes like weak coffee. I have a small travel hot pot that’s about the size a school lunchbox thermos used to be (before they made them smaller and a different shape). I bring tea, hot cocoa mix, spiced cider mix, some herbal teas, and chicken noodle cup o’ soup. That allows me to have a cup of tea before I face the world, cocoa at bedtime, a refresher whenever, and I’ve got a light meal, if necessary. I learned to bring the soup when I was traveling on business. Our company’s travel department always seemed to have us fly late in the day, so we could put in a full day of work before going on a business trip. That meant I usually got to my hotel after they shut down room service, and far too late to try to go out to eat. After a few meals of hot cocoa and Doubletree cookies, I learned to bring soup.

A pair of yoga pants — these are a multi-purpose garment. They work as pajama pants with a nightshirt, if the room is cold. I can wear them to the hotel gym or to take a walk. I’ve used them as a swimsuit coverup. Mostly, though, they’re for comfortable lounging in the hotel room. I try to travel light, so I often bring just a couple of skirts or pairs of slacks and then have different tops. If I change into yoga pants whenever I’m in my room, I can hang up the skirt/slacks and let them freshen up/not get dirty or wrinkled.

A pair of those fuzzy spa socks — I use these as house slippers while in the hotel room, and they’re also good for recharging if I have a break during the day. Taking off your shoes and socks and putting on the spa socks even for a few minutes can make a big difference, especially if you’re on your feet a lot.

A couple of binder clips — these are good for organizing documents, of course, but they’re also good as clothespins if you’re hanging something up on the over-the-tub clothesline, and they’re great for clipping the curtains shut so you don’t get that gap that lets in light.

My tablet and bluetooth keyboard — I bring this instead of a laptop when I travel. It works as an e-reader and as a computer for Internet access. I haven’t tried to do heavy-duty writing on that keyboard, but the keyboard is nice for making social media posts.

Earplugs — I use the silicon putty kind that you stick on the outside of the ear canal, since the kind that stick in the ear are uncomfortable and tend to fall out. They’re good for dulling the usual hotel noise of the ice machine, people in the halls, plumbing, etc., but I can still hear the alarm clock and fire/smoke alarms.

Publicity

Preparing for the Press

Next week, I’ll be going to the Nebula Awards conference. I’m not up for an award, but the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has turned the awards event into a conference for writers. There is an awards banquet and ceremony, but it’s surrounded by other activities, including workshops for writers.

I’ll be doing a workshop on dealing with the press. This draws upon my pre-writing background. My degree is in journalism, and as a student I worked in radio, television, and print. I ended up getting a job in media relations, where I used my journalism experience to pitch stories to reporters and help doctors prepare for interviews. That then got me a job at a public relations agency, where I was involved with our media training workshops to help our clients get ready for press interviews, and I continued that in my next job, where I traveled around the country doing media training sessions for clients.

Since I became an author, I’ve been on the other side of things, being interviewed by reporters. I’ve even been on a TV studio interview segment.

Now I have to distill all that into a half-hour session. Whew!

But doing that has made me realize how weak my own PR efforts for myself have been. I haven’t been doing the things for myself that I would have advised clients to do. I haven’t thought a lot about my key messages or what I want to say about myself and my books. I haven’t delved into all the opportunities that are now available for promotion, like podcasts, to pitch myself and my books. I think a lot of that comes down to the fact that I really don’t like doing public relations. There’s a reason I write full-time, in spite of the fact that it comes with a lot of financial uncertainty. I hated my old job, and doing it took a lot out of me. I’m great with the strategy and with coaching others in how to do it, but the actual day-to-day activity of implementing a strategy was utterly soul-sucking. My last couple of years were probably my happiest (minus the last few months). After I tried to quit because I was so miserable, my boss helped me essentially create a job that involved the things I liked to do and none of the things I hated, with a flexible schedule and mostly telecommuting. It only fell apart when that boss left. I doubt I’d find that kind of opportunity again.

I guess what I need is a minion to implement a strategy I come up with, but I’d have to do a lot of publicity work to sell enough books to be able to afford a minion. And I’m not sure that really ramping up any publicity I could do for myself without the backing of a publisher’s publicist would actually move the needle all that much in selling books. I’m better off spending my time writing and getting more books out there.

But even if you aren’t pitching yourself for interviews, there may come times when people ask you for interviews, and for that, you need to be prepared. And I need to be prepared. And thus, the workshop.

Done!

Finally, the book is done! Well, this draft, at least. I’m not totally happy with it. I think I’m going to make another pass on the ending later this week to fine tune it. Then when I get back from the Nebula Awards conference I’ll re-read the whole thing. But I got to the end. Yay!

Today’s fun is catching up on the stuff that hasn’t been done while I’ve been focused on writing. My kitchen is something of a disaster area at the moment. I have some business/admin tasks to deal with. And then there’s the epic to-do list before my trip next week.

I also finish entirely with children’s choir tonight. It’s the “sharing program” in which the children’s choirs perform for their families. So I have to get them through one more song, and then there’s a pizza party, and then I’m done until September.

Finishing a book gives a similar feeling to the end of semester in school. There’s a moment of “done!” elation, but then you feel strange and a bit guilty when you’re not writing/studying. You’re torn between doing all those things you said you’d do when you were done and doing absolutely nothing.

I do think I’ll allow myself some patio reading time later today. That counts as work because I’m developing something that I need to get done, and it requires a little research reading.

If I get everything else on the list done by Saturday, I’m planning on a purely relaxing Sunday to rest up for a busy week.

Almost There (Really!)

Still not there, though I did make good progress and have the rest of the book outlined, for real this time. All the bits are tying together, and I can see patterns emerging. So yay! I think …

I’m dying to clean my house right now, but I will prevail!!!!

I may have to shut off the wi-fi, close the blinds, and put in earplugs so that I don’t do anything else until I get this book done.

Well, Not Quite There

I didn’t quite finish the book Friday. On this round of revisions, I wrote the big final turning point scene first so I’d know what I was aiming for. I thought all I had to do was bridge from where I was to that scene, and then do the mopping up aftermath stuff.

Then I read the scene I wrote, and it’s now all wrong. I guess I made some very different turns along the way. But this means I was farther behind than I thought. After a good day’s work and several thousand words of writing, I ended up with fewer words than I started with. I may even have to revise some of the stuff I did on Friday to really set up the new big climactic scene.

At this point in the process, having it done well is the important thing. There are no prizes for when I finish, only for having something that makes publishers excited. And after all the work I’ve put into this thing, I really need to make publishers excited.

So maybe I’ll finish it today. I have to finish this week because I’m going out of town next week, and I want it done other than for maybe one more pass before then.

Almost There!

If I’m very good today, I should be able to finish this draft of the book. I’ve got the rest outlined, and I only need about 4,000 words to hit my targeted manuscript word count (though I don’t know how many words are necessary to finish the story). That’s within range for what I can do in a good day, and it’s a rainy day, which usually means I can get a lot done.

I’ll want at least one more pass on this manuscript, but I’ve mostly been editing along the way so I don’t anticipate a lot of rewriting on this round, just wordsmithing and adding a few little tweaks and details.

Then I have a story I need to write that I’ve already been researching and developing, then I need to finish Enchanted, Inc. book 9, which is about halfway done, and then I’ve got Rebels 4 to research and write, and there’s the possibility of something else that might come in the middle of it all. And then there’s a book I’ve been dying to write that I don’t know quite what to do with. I’m not sure it’s even viable, I’m not sure how to market it, I don’t know if I can pull it off. But it won’t shut up and leave me alone so I have to at least try to work on it and see what happens.

This is going to be a busy summer, it seems.

So, off to finish a book!

My Nebula Dress Dilemma

I think I’ve resolved my issue of what to wear other than my Star Wars nightshirt and yoga pants during the Nebula Awards. I had an appointment yesterday morning, and as I was getting dressed I realized my watch had stopped (yes, I still wear a watch — it’s easier to just check my wrist than to dig my phone out of my purse). Since the mall with the good jewelry repair place was near the appointment, I figured I’d drop by there on my way home. And then while I was waiting for the battery to be replaced, I thought I’d wander. This is kind of a dying mall (though new ownership just bought it, so maybe that will change) that only has the big anchor stores, the movie theater, and a few small shops left, but most of it is empty. I’d heard they’d put in a carousel, so I headed down to see that, and it was in front of Macy’s, so I thought I might as well see what kind of dresses they had. And lo, I found a dress on the clearance rack, a really nice “little black dress” from Ralph Lauren, in my size, for a ridiculously low cost. Even better, it’s stretchy, so not only will it pack well, but it’s not that much less comfortable than the yoga pants and nightshirt.

However, when I got it home I realized why I liked it: I already own that dress in a bright blue (and that was the dress I was tentatively planning to wear). Hey, it works, so it works in other colors. But now I need to decide whether to wear the black one or the blue one for the awards. The black one automatically looks dressier, but the blue is more striking. And can I get away with wearing both dresses to the same event on different days, or will it be obvious that I’m collecting every color of this one dress?

Then again, this is an event where I can have a conversation with someone and then later they act like they’ve never met me, so I could probably wear the same dress all weekend without anyone noticing.

I’ve also noticed that the local TV anchorwomen/meteorologists all seem to own multiple colors of this dress, so I don’t seem to have shed my TV reporter clothing taste.

writing

The Perils of Head Hopping

I don’t have a lot of absolutes when it comes to the writing style of things I read. I’ve heard people say they won’t read first-person narration or present tense, etc. I generally try to give everything a chance and let it come down to how the book works for me. For instance, I’m not a huge fan of second-person narration — “you do this” — but I’ve read a few stories where it works.

One thing that does come close to an absolute for me, though, is indiscriminate head hopping. That’s third-person narration in which the point of view character changes frequently — not just from chapter to chapter or scene to scene, but within a scene, and going back and forth within the scene. For instance, two characters are having a conversation, and when one character is speaking, in that paragraph we also get his thoughts. But then when the other character speaks, in that paragraph we get her thoughts.

This is different from omniscient narration because with that, we have an all-knowing narrator with a perspective on these events. That narrator may dip into everyone’s head at various times, but what we see in that character’s head is presented to us through the viewpoint of the narrator. This was common in 19th century literature. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens often used it. We might get glimpses into the heads of all the characters in a scene, but we weren’t so much seeing through those characters’ eyes as we were seeing what Jane or Charles thought about what the characters were thinking. Some of the cases I’ve seen of people writing head hopping today seem to be authors trying to do this but without realizing that omniscient POV works better if the narrator really does have a perspective, to the point of being an offscreen character.

I find it really hard to get into books that head hop because I can’t sink into any one character’s head, and that makes it really hard to get a grasp on the world and the people involved. If in one scene I’m switching among all the characters, I don’t get into any of them and I’m not sure what to think about any of them. It works better for me if I spend some time in one head, seeing all the characters through that person’s perspective, then in a different scene go into another person’s head and see everything through their eyes, and so forth, and then I can figure out all the characters by putting all this information together.

I will generally put a book down if I have too many instances in the first chapter or so in which I have to backtrack to figure out whose head I’m in. If I’m going along in one person’s head and then with no transition I’m suddenly seeing that person from the outside for a paragraph and it takes me a while to figure out that’s what’s going on, that I’m in another person’s head now, I find that very annoying. It’s worse when the author has point of view breaks on top of it, where the character is thinking things about himself that most people don’t think, so sometimes it’s just a POV break and sometimes it’s an entirely different perspective. For instance, if I’m in my head and reading something that astonishes me, the way I’d describe my reaction would be more internal — I might gasp, my pulse might speed up, I might get a knot in my stomach, etc. I probably wouldn’t think about my green eyes growing wider.

I just started reading a book by an author I’ve been enjoying, but the previous books were all first-person POV. This book is doing multiple character third-person, and I don’t think this author has a good grasp on that. We’re getting a lot of “her green eyes widened” type stuff from within the characters’ POV about themselves, but then the next paragraph will be another character thinking about what that first character’s reaction means, and then a paragraph later we’re back with the first person. I have to keep going back to figure out whose head I’m in. I’m really intrigued by the story situation, but it’s taking me forever to get into this book.

I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rule about what works here because I know of a lot of really popular books/authors who do this in a way that bothers me so much that I couldn’t read their books, and obviously it didn’t hurt them with a huge number of readers. My rule as a reader is that if I notice it in a way that hurts my enjoyment of a book, you’re doing it wrong for me.