Bon Voyage!

Yes, that’s me wishing myself a good trip. I’m not taking my laptop, which I admit gives me a bit of anxiety. I can’t remember the last time I traveled without it . . . Probably never, at least not since first getting a laptop.

Anyway, this means I won’t be updating here for a week. However, thanks to the miracle of smartphones, I will be posting on Twitter, Facebook, and probably a bit of Instagram as well. So follow me on one or all of those sites to see, if not me, a bit of Paris. À toute à l’heure!

A Handful of Water

I have a few things going on at the moment. For one, trying to get Faebourne ready for publication in August. For another, I’m waiting on responses to Hamlette from five places that are considering it. And then my short story “The Zodiac Clock” is likewise on submission to four places.

I’ve stopped submitting both Hamlette and “The Zodiac Clock.” If Hamlette doesn’t take, I’ll most likely self-publish it. Probably the same for “TZC” though I’d maybe try to write a few more stories and package it as an anthology.

I’m also waiting to hear from conferences where I’ve been put on lists to possibly be a featured author. I love going to conferences, but I’m at the point that I can’t justify the expense—particularly if there is a lot of travel—unless I’m at least contributing and being acknowledged. Still, I also recognize that I’m not as well known as some authors, and conferences want known names that will draw a crowd. At the same time, it’s a bit like the book marketing and publicity Catch-22: publishers put their marketing dollars behind authors who already sell. You’d think conference-goers would maybe get tired of the same handful of authors at each event and instead look for some new and interesting names? Or not.

I try not to be bitter, but I’ll admit a certain amount of frustration. People will say I should hide that side of me, but I believe in being real and honest about the hardships of being an author. It’s not all glamor. A lot of the time it feels like scraping and elbowing your way through a densely packed crowd.

So why call this post “A Handful of Water”? Because that’s also what it feels like: trying to hold something in your hands that leaks through. It’s fluid, and it’s running everywhere. I’ve got so much going on with submissions and my WIP . . . It’s hard to hold on to it all sometimes. And maybe I don’t have to. Maybe the only person who insists on it is me. I don’t know why I put so much pressure on myself, but . . . I feel worthless otherwise. All I have to offer the world is me and my work. If that’s not enough, then I don’t know why I’m here.

Ways for Non-LGBTQIA+ Authors to Participate in Pride & Diversity

I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate in a roundtable with my fellow authors and led by Stormy Corrin Russell. She’s posted our discussion here. You’ll see me as “ALP” in the conversation. (People who know me personally will know why.)

Come read what I and other great authors have to say about the subject, and please comment and leave your own thoughts too!

Take Your Ball and Go Home

Someone I know on a social media site asked for advice. Someone he knows (and I suspect that someone might be me) keeps posting political stuff that he doesn’t agree with. The offender is “one share away from being unfollowed.” But of course, the person asking for advice feels the need to air his grievance prior to said unfollowing.

Look, you don’t have to agree with everything you see or hear or read. And it’s your right to unfollow people on social media or whatever. But I’d caution against the echo chamber of only surrounding yourself with people whose opinions agree with yours, whether online or in person.

Our society is fracturing. No one wants to give ground, and everyone is sure they and their side is correct. This unwillingness to even see or hear the other side is part of the problem.

I definitely don’t agree with everything I see from some of my friends and family who post in various places. I know they don’t agree with me either. But closing people off isn’t a useful way of building bridges and finding common ground.

And maybe no one is going to change their minds. Maybe we’ve hit that wall. Blocking off people who have a different perspective is tantamount to saying, “I refuse to consider you or your point of view. I refuse to engage in any kind of conversation. I dismiss you.”

Look, it’s not your inalienable right to not have to hear or see or deal with things that you don’t like. Sorry, but that’s how free speech works. But it seems we’ve come to the place where we’re shouting over each other and just trying to be louder than everyone else rather than be productive in any way, shape, or form.

The person asking for advice says he doesn’t understand why we can’t just avoid talking about politics at all. Well, while for some that’s a “solution,” some others of us can’t ignore what’s going on around us and feel the need to speak out.

So I’ll continue to speak out in the way I see fit. This person will unfollow me in any case, and that’s a little sad, but that’s on him. If he’s not open to discussion and can’t tolerate opposition . . . He can take his ball and go home.

Favorite Authors, Influencers—Who makes your list?

I noticed something the other day, and now that I’ve noticed it, I can’t stop noticing it.

There’s a tendency, when asked about our favorite authors, to reach for the big names. The names people will recognize. Is that why we do it? What I mean is, whenever an author is asked something like, “Who do you like to read?” or “Who influences your work?” we go straight to Stephen King or Neil Gaiman or whatever big author applies. I’m as guilty of it as anyone.

But here’s the thing: as indie authors (or, in my case, hybrid), shouldn’t we at least try to include our fellows on that list? Stephen King doesn’t need any exposure, but if we were to mention someone else—another indie author, for example—mightn’t we perhaps cause readers of the article or interview to be curious and go look them up?

I’m not suggesting we do this as a marketing ploy. I want, honestly, to know which indie authors, or lesser-known authors, people read. It’s far more interesting than hearing you, like a billion other people, read Anne Rice or whatever. At the very least, mention a couple big names and follow with a couple smaller ones? (There are no small names, just small authors?)

For starters I’ll say I enjoy Christine Rains‘ work, and D.B. Sieders, and Caroline Warfield. (And, yes, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman and Anne Rice.)

Which indie authors do YOU read?

Covers & Blurbs

I was reading this article, in which six authors answered questions about covers and blurbs, and I thought, Why don’t I answer those questions too? Because, you know, it might be interesting to do so.

How important are covers in terms of selling a book?

Very, I think. My Regency romance Brynnde has sold very well, and it has also won a cover art award. I don’t think the two are unrelated. That said, I love the cover to The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller, but that didn’t sell as well. I think it’s important that a cover convey the story, and maybe that one was a little too artsy for readers to understand what’s inside the book. I’ve always said a cover is a promise made to the reader, and readers are angry if they feel lied to. So a cover is really important, not only in getting someone to pick up the book—though that is the chief function of the cover, to act as an advertisement—but in accurately reflecting the contents.

Have your publishers asked you for your opinion or “input” on your covers, and to what extent do you think they listened? Did you ever meet with the designer? How important was “marketing” in making decisions about the cover of your book(s)?

I’ve had two publishers thus far; the rest of my work is self-published. One publisher used the cover I’d already had designed. The other had a designer do the cover, but she was in contact with me about it, running things by me. I don’t think we talked about “marketing” at all. Again, it was more about making sure the cover matched the story.

Did you ever receive a cover that made you unhappy and if so, what did you do about it? Did you ultimately end up with a cover that made you happier?

Will probably do a new cover for this one at some point.

My early covers for my self-published work weren’t terrible, but they weren’t great either. I can’t say I was “unhappy” about them, though. I did a new cover for one, and I’m planning to do a new cover for another one at some point.

How important are blurbs, particularly for a first-time author?

Probably very important! Alas, I’ve never received any, at least not pre-publication. I do manage to get many good pull quotes from reviews after the fact, though, and I do believe they help in continuing to sell the books.

How did you go about getting your blurbs? Did your agent or editor help, or did you rely more on personal connections?

As per above, I don’t really go hunting for blurbs. I probably should, but I wouldn’t even know where to start! Advice, anyone?

Have you ever offered someone else a blurb?

I’ve never been asked. I’d be flattered if someone did ask. Then again, I’m so busy. It might be difficult to find the time to read a book and blurb it. Maybe if the author gave me very early notice.

BookLife Prize Assessment of Hamlette

Some of you know that I’ve been shopping my YA contemporary version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Since beta readers seem to enjoy it but agents keep passing on it, I decided to submit to BookLife’s Prize for a bit of objective feedback. I’m overall pretty pleased with the results.

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 8.50 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: Langlinais artfully mirrors without overly mimicking the play-within-a-play of Shakespeare’s Hamlet with a storyline that is fast-paced and engagingly plotted.

Prose: The author’s prose crackles with rhythmic writing and colorful similes, ably capturing young voices while gently mocking the weirdness of adults.

Originality: Though the book’s plot tracks the classic play Hamlet, it does so with a great deal of fluidity and flair.

Character Development: Langlinais takes familiar YA types and invests them with refreshing resonance.

I think the lowish marks for originality stem from the fact I’m adapting a known property. I might need to key up some of the character/execution, though. It’s nice to have something to focus on if/when I go back to it. For now Faebourne has all my attention.

Not Set In Stone

This morning on an online writing group someone asked for advice. He was halfway through writing his first chapter and wanted to make a change to his protagonist without having to go back and rewrite anything.

Oh, sweetie. I have some terrible news for you.

Most writing—good writing, anyway—is rewriting. Just because you wrote it or typed it doesn’t make it sacrosanct. If anything, having written it down is exactly what makes it malleable. Which is as it should be.

We’re a world of instant gratification. Rapid technology makes us increasingly impatient. We want to write the thing and be done. You can do that. You can write it and publish it and never look at it again. That’s the dubious wonder of self-publishing. But if you want to write the best possible book, you’re going to need to 1. take your time, and 2. rewrite, get feedback, revise, hire an editor . . . Basically, you need to work the book like you would work dough, pulling and pushing and folding and rolling until it’s right for baking. (There’s a reason some rushed books are called “half-baked” yeah?)

If I were writing something and realized halfway through the first chapter that I needed to tweak, well, I’d be ecstatic. I’d be so glad that I hadn’t gotten too far in before needing to rewrite that bit to pull it through the rest of the story. Better now, at the start, than to get halfway through writing your book before realizing you want to make a major change. Not that you can’t do that. I’ve dismantled and rewritten big chunks of books. I rewrote the entire first half of The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller and the entire back ends of Manifesting Destiny and Brynnde. They are all better books now than they were.

In short, you have to be willing to do the work. You have to be willing to expend the effort and the energy.

You have to be willing to rewrite.

Your words are not written in stone. Not yet. If you want them to be lasting and have impact, you must make your story the best it can be. And your first draft should never be your final draft.

WIP: Faebourne

Due out 7 August!

It’s part Regency romance, part fairy tale. To tide you over, here is a little excerpt:

“May I suggest, Miss Odette, that walking alone through dark forests is perhaps not the safest way to spend your evening?”

She pursed her perfectly rose pink lips at him. “I’m entirely safe barring any strange men carrying iron cauldrons. I’d say, in fact, I’m more safe alone with myself than alone with you.”

Duncan was tempted to point out that being with him meant she wasn’t alone but chose to pursue the greater point. “I promise I am no threat to you, Miss Odette.”

“Then why do you have that?” She pointed at the pot.

He grimaced, feeling foolish. The errand, after all, defied explanation, but he tried anyway. “I’m supposed to catch a—oh,” he said, realizing. “You’re… a song?”

“I’m always a song, and I’m sometimes a person,” she told him.

“You look remarkably like someone I know,” Duncan said. She was just Adelia’s height, too, and had her hair piled and curled in the same way. Odette’s movements and voice, however, were utterly different.

“All songs look like someone you know,” said Odette. “Or places. Some days I’m whole fields of flowers.” She gaze became distant and unfocused, her face alight and wistful. “Those are nice days.”