Once more into the breach . . .

Sick of me yet?

If not, I have one more post to share with you. Misha Gericke interviewed me for her site The Five Year Project. I delve a bit more into my writing process and talk about how great it is to have a critique group.

Finally, if you haven’t bought and read The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller yet, I hope you’ll go take a look. The publisher has an excerpt up and all the buying links here.


Happy Mardi Gras!

And on the heels of Chinese New Year, too!

I’ve just baked a cake with a bean hidden in it (because I had no plastic babies handy). I do this every year as my one nod to my heritage. The kids love it. Whoever finds the bean gets to pick the next night’s supper menu. Yeah, it’s not a huge prize, but it means a lot to them.

I don’t really miss the noise and mess of Mardi Gras, but I do miss the gowns and balls! I love having a reason to dress up, and the masks are so fun and often (not always) beautiful! At the same time, I don’t enjoy crowds, especially of drunken people, so . . . I’m content to stay home and watch from afar. Bake my cake. And find another occasion on which to do myself up.


Happy Fire Monkey!

Today is Chinese New Year, and we’re kicking off the Year of the Fire Monkey. I’m wearing some red today for good luck. I’m also excited to be hosted by author Christy Nicholas on her site. Go read the interview! It’s short so won’t take long, and I’ll tell you (among other things) how The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller got its name. Afterward, be sure to go pick up a copy of the book. If you already have it and have read it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites! Thanks for being readers!


Week of Feb 8–14

I have a busy week ahead, and you’ll be able to touch base with me in a number of places!

On Monday, February 8, I’m being hosted by the lovely Christy Nicholas on her site Green Dragon’s Cave.

On Wednesday, February 10, be sure to listen to the “No Extra Words” podcast to hear one of my flash fiction pieces! (I’m not brave enough to read it myself; podcast maven Kris Baker Dersch will do the honors.)

And on Thursday, February 11, learn even more about me and my writing process by visiting Misha Gericke’s site The Five Year Project.

Thanks so much to Christy, Kris, and Misha for supporting me and my work. I hope you’ll do them the courtesy of checking out their sites, too. Should be a fun week!


W.E.W.L.

That stands for “Writer Experience Wish List.”

There is this little checklist in my mind of the things I’d like to do as a writer. The experiences I’d like to have.

In no particular order:

  • Do a book signing.
  • Be a guest at a writing conference.
  • Have a film adapted from one of my works.
  • Be interviewed for/featured in a major publication.
  • Win an award.
  • Be named on a list of some kind. You know the ones: Best Books of the Year, or Must Reads, or whatever.

You’ll notice I’m not specific. Even the film thing is negotiable. I’d settle for a television miniseries.

I know some of the above is unlikely, to put it mildly. But I find I’m motivated by having concrete goals.

And even established, well-known authors have them. I met Charlaine Harris last summer at DFW Con, and she admitted she still wishes she could win a Hugo. “Not going to happen,” she said ruefully, “but I can dream.”

So can I.


IWSG: Out of My Hands

InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time to explore what’s making me insecure as a writer. And it’s all the usual stuff. Yesterday I received three rejections, which wasn’t fun. Two last week, too. And now I’m in the middle of a massive rewrite and worried it still won’t be good enough by the time I’m finished. But that’s normal for most writers, I think. We all pour effort into our work and then worry our best still isn’t good enough. (Or are we worried it’s still somehow not our best? Hmm.)

But the thing I’m most insecure about is my latest release, The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller. It has decent reviews on Amazon and has been bouncing up and down in the rankings there. But I usually self-publish and can see the sales numbers. Peter is my first book to be published by, well, a publisher. So I have no real idea how well it is or isn’t doing.

The publisher has told me if Peter does well enough, they’ll consider a print run. I really want that to happen; I’ve already been invited to a couple bookstores to do signings if/when I have books to sign. So not knowing how well Peter is selling is a bit frustrating. It feels like so much hinges on it! I guess I’ll have a better idea after the first quarter.

Then again, I also don’t know what counts for “well” per this particular publisher. I don’t know their metric for success.

It’s out of my hands. That’s what I need to learn to live with. All this energy should be put into my current projects. Focus. I need to focus on what I can do. It’s the difference between treading water and actually swimming. Gotta swim.

_________________

Find more about Insecure Writers Support Group here.


“After the Fall”

Author Erika Gardner is featuring The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller on her blog today, connecting it to October Project’s “After the Fall.” That’s a song that is special to me, so I’m more than pleased to see it used in conjunction with one of my books.

I first learned of October Project from my friend Abby, who made me a mix tape (remember those?) of songs that reminded her of, well, Sherlock Holmes and such. Stuff we have in common. “After the Fall” was on that tape as an atmospheric, Doyle-like tune. When I heard it, I went out and bought the CD straight away.

If you don’t know October Project, give them a listen. And if you don’t know Peter, get acquainted with him, too. And I do hope you’ll also pop over and visit Erika as well.


Hmm.

Put some of Changers in the writing analyzer and got this:

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Not really what I was going for with that story, but I’m flattered by the comparison.

And when I put in part of my short story “Aptera” (for which I’m still looking for a home):

I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

But the opening scene of Peter got me this one again:

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!


Can Writing Be Taught?

I posed this question at the end of another post and said I’d write about it some other time. So here I am.

This is one of those questions that people sometimes get worked up about. It’s also a question for which I’m not sure we’ll ever have a definitive answer. I mean, unless some scientists do a study? But how do you control for . . .? Well, anyway, FWIW this is my opinion: Not entirely.

What I mean is, I do think the technicalities of writing can be taught. Grammar. Punctuation. How to construct a sentence, a paragraph. All the stuff we did, in fact, learn in school.

But I don’t think good storytelling can necessarily be taught. Guidelines can be given—there is an industry of books on writing, how to do it. But if a person read only those books and never read an actual novel? I don’t think they’d be able to blindly write anything worth reading based only on the advice of how-to books.

I think good writing is absorbed. Learned by reading. Which might be a way of teaching, but it’s indirect. A novel doesn’t set out to teach someone how to write. A novel’s goal is to rope a reader in. The teaching is a byproduct.

When I was getting my screenwriting degree, we had classes on how to write screenplays. There is a definite format for it and all, but what every instructor said was: “Go read some screenplays. That’s the best way to learn how to write one.” Because after you read enough of them, you get a sense of the rhythm, how they work.

The same is true of novels, poetry. Any writing. And you’ll hear it given as advice, too: “If you want to write, read.”

So while I think that the technical stuff can be taught, I think good writing is sort of inherited. People who love to read eventually soak up the tools they need to write if they so choose. You can show me Save the Cat or whatever and tell me that on page 25 of my script this, that, and the other, but while the guidelines are fair, I think a person who uses only guidelines will produce a sterile script or manuscript. They must have a feeling for stories, and that’s something one gets from having lived in them oneself.

You’ll notice I didn’t say good writing is a natural talent. Because I don’t think it’s a talent so much as an inclination. I grew up in a house full of books. Both my parents are avid readers. My grandfather was a poet and storyteller himself. So maybe there are genetics involved, but it’s just as likely I learned by example. And there are so many children who fall in love with books whose families are not readers. But these kids grow up reading, reading, reading, and then some of them begin writing, writing, writing. And we’re quick to say, “He’s a natural!” But I do think anyone can develop a talent for writing—if only they first develop a habit of reading.