Five tips about reviews

Hi, peeps!

I’m thinking a bit about reviews. I know a lot of authors think about reviews. Sometimes incessantly. And yes, reviews can be helpful in terms of sales, both long-term and short-term. They can also be really harmful, but if you engage in this writing pursuit, guess what? That’s part of the territory.

In the world of books, reviews have a long and tortured history, as this 2012 Atlantic Monthly piece points out. Yes, friends, no matter the era, there are invariably complaints about reviews, reviewers, and what they ultimately accomplish. There are also always complaints about whether someone has the expertise in a particular genre or subject to do a review, and whether someone has a background in writing.

And yes, reviews can also be political/false in the sense that someone is trying to deliberately sabotage a writer or a writer is actually posting glowing reviews of his or her own work (that’s called a sock puppet review).

source

None of this is really new, friends. Certainly technology gives us the ability to post things quickly and create “buzz” (whether negative or positive). It also allows people to mask their identities and post whatever they want about a writer’s work. Which, again, isn’t necessarily new. It’s just a lot easier now than it was a couple decades ago to do it. The Interwebz have created an arena in which anyone can voice an opinion about a book (or any other product) and even develop reputations for reviews, and become kind of a reliable source for others about particular genres. You might, for example, find that you seem to like the same types of genres that, say, “pinklady998” likes, and you start following that user and find that you trust her/his reviews about certain things, which might in turn guide some of your own purchasing habits.

So reviews can also be tools. They’re a “word-of-mouth” kind of thing, in this crazy Internet age. So rather than hanging out with your friends on Friday night talking about the latest reads you got at the library (or at the bookstore), you post a review of a book online and that then becomes part of a larger conversation about the book/story that anyone else can engage in. Which is kind of neat, actually, that you can engage with other people from all over the world about a particular work.

As an author, though, you might consider the following guidelines regarding reviews. And I’ve said some of this elsewhere, but I’ll reiterate it here:

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Let’s write about…SEX!

Hiya, peeps!

I’ve been working on a scene in my latest romance that’s been really difficult for me to write. Why?

BECAUSE IT’S GOT SEX IN IT.

Now, before you freak out and think I’m all kinda prudey or something, chill, friends. Not the case. The sitch is, writing sex scenes is difficult. Let me amend that. Writing GOOD sex scenes is difficult. Or perhaps I might even mean EFFECTIVE sex scenes.

And this scene has been a pain to work on because it involves a lot more than just a “do me now” kind of scenario. These characters have a history, and it’s a hell of a lot more than just sex that’s involved in this scene. There’s a lot of emotional stuff going on, and some unpacking of baggage. Not all sex, obviously, is like that in romance or erotica. Which got me thinking about the different types of sex scenes and how to approach them as a writer.


source

So I came up with some questions to ask yourself when you’re writing a sex scene or thinking about writing one (and no offense to M/F or M/M writers; some of this is a little more F/F specific).

(Heh. Read on to see the questions)

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Inspiration

Hiya, peeps —

Hope everyone is doing well. I was thinking about things that inspire me. I’m not talking about writing. I’m talking about life. About what makes us keep going in spite of all the nasty, brutish, ugly things out there, and in spite of all the crappy things we as a species do to each other and to other species.

And I saw a couple of videos yesterday that summed up the word “inspiration.”

Here’s the background. Sportscaster/newscaster/awesome woman Robin Roberts was honored with the Arthur Ashe Award at the ESPYs. Here’s her acceptance speech.

But THIS video, I think, sums up why she got this recognition. That link will take you to it, at the ESPN site.

Go on. It’s about 11 minutes.

I’m pretty sure you’ll find something that inspires you. And go ahead and leave a comment here about what inspires you.

Happy Friday.

Dude, WTF are those women doing on those covers?

Hi, all–

About 10 days ago I blogged about sexism in sci fi (and we can extend that to publishing and writing in general, sadly).

If you have not read it, please read Kameron Hurley’s awesome piece on writing women into fiction, and ways not to do that.

Here, I want to talk a little bit more about that and then bring your attention to cover art as one of the layers (author Jim Hines’ term) in the giant reeking onion that is sexism. More on that below. First, I want to call your attention to a particular blog post…

Join me for more…

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Dude, where are the women in science fiction?

Hi, all.

Whew. Sorry about the delay; I’ve been crazy busy. I finished up the edits for the third in my sci fi series, The Edge of Rebellion. Cover coming soon as well as an excerpt. I’ll post them here and on my main site don’tcha know, so stay tuned.

I’m also sending the fourth in my New Mexico series, Day of the Dead, in for edits. We’re hoping to have that out by the end of the year. WOOOO! Stay tuned for a cover and excerpt from that, too.

Thanks again, everybody, for stopping by during the (blog) Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Much appreciated. I discovered some new authors, so I’m pretty stoked. Plus it was just really great to build a bit of community.

Anyway, I wanted to bring your attention to sci fi writer Kameron Hurley. By all means, read her work, but also, for the love of goddesses, read her blogs, too, because she is on point when it comes to dealing with how women are represented in fiction and science fiction. I just recently found out about what appears to be some major sexism at the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) not only through Hurley, but also through E. Catherine Tobler.

Keep reading…

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What the X-Files taught me about series

Hey, Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who engage in this American holiday.

I’m not really big on the holidays (as in Thanksgiving-Christmas), as some of you know, but I do enjoy the bit of time off I can take to catch up on my chillaxin’.

So I took yesterday off and basically freebased over half of Season 1 of the X-Files. I’m up to episode 15 (there are 24). It’s been years since I’ve watched the series, and though the costumes, hairstyles (and shut up, but I’m trying to bring back Mulder’s look), cars, and technology are dated (season 1 premiered in 1993), the writing and characters remain strong. Not every episode, mind you. There were some episodes that just didn’t work (like this one; sorry Chris Carter. Just. . .no.), but for the most part, it remains a strong show with episodes that still creep me out.

source (re-sized here)

Basically, if you want to write a series — any series — and keep it going for a long time, use the X-Files as a potential model. Not in terms of what actually the show is about, but rather how its infrastructure is put together.

Continue on for my ode to the X-Files. . .

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So you want to be a writer. Bless your heart.

Hi, folks–

I’ll be on the road in the next few days, so I won’t be able to check in as often as I’d like. But DON’T WORRY! I’ll be back, and probably with some tales to tell.

Anyway, I follow Broadside (because it’s an awesome blog. Hello.) and today, Caitlin Kelly (the woman who does Broadside) had a super good post about what it takes to be a writer. READ IT. Not that I’m pushing you or anything.

She didn’t use the term “stubborn,” but I sure will (Caitlin used “persistence”). Because that’s important. You must be stubborn and stick to it, if it’s what you want to do. And you must continue to do it, in the face of what some days feels like you’re wearing a pair of concrete cowboy boots in a shit tornado. In spite of these things, you must persevere, if this is what you want to do.

You will be rejected (and some of those will hurt). You will be dissed on the interwebs (and you must not respond). You will submit your work a gajillion times and only one of those times may garner you a notice. But it may not land you a contract. You must, as Caitlin points out, have a hide the thickness of a fossilized dinosaur’s (okay, she’s more eloquent) but the sensitive heart of a Bambi-eyed puppy. You must suck it up and smile, even when you’re in the middle of that poo typhoon, and exhibit graciousness and humility because people remember what you say and do. Readers like to know that you’re not some cranky-ass sodden heap of negativity spewing thunderbolts of judgment at everybody who wanders across your time/space continuum. And if you are, readers remember. Hell, everybody remembers. Why bring that on yourself?

And, a couple of my favorites from Caitlin: be curious, and be generous. I’m intensely curious about everything and everyone. How could you not be? The world is an endlessly fascinating place and we are a totally mondo-bizarro species doing all kinds of wild stuff. I also like giving of my time and energy to others, because you never know who you’ll meet. Plus, it’s just good ju-ju to share the love.

Caitlin also supplies some links to other blogs about what it takes to be a writer. Check those out. And here are a couple I liked.

(the always irreverent and happy sailor-mouthed) Chuck Wendig’s 25 things he wants to say to aspiring writers

And another Chuck post about things writers lie about to themselves

And here’s Chuck’s secret to writing:

source (re-sized here, and he did register it with a Creative Commons license, so share away!)

Dude, where’s your story?

Hi, peeps–

Hope everything finds you groovy. I’m currently working on my latest novels. One is the third installment of my science fiction series and the other is the fourth book in my New Mexico mystery series. And I like to keep up with blogs that offer tips and writing hints/fun stuff for authors. To that end, this post by writing guru Lisa Cron over at Writer Unboxed has some excellent advice.

The post, titled “The Biggest Mistake Writers Make and How to Avoid It,” notes that STORY is the crapfall for writers. That is, many writers don’t know what that is or how it works within the framework of their plot. You’re scoffing. But wait. Hear Lisa out.

So even though they have a great idea and their prose is gorgeous, there’s no story, thus no sense of urgency, and ultimately, no reader. It’s as simple – and heartbreaking – as that. And it’s extremely common.
(from “Biggest Mistake“)

Does that make sense? Really think about that. No story = no sense of urgency. Lisa tells us that THIS is what her definition of a story is:

A story is how what happens (the plot) affects someone (the protagonist) in pursuit of a difficult goal (the story question) and how he or she changes as a result (which is what the story is actually about).
{from “Biggest Mistake”)

A story, she says, is not about the plot. It’s about how the plot affects the protagonist. It’s thus INTERNAL, not external.

Thus, first and foremost, a story is about how the protagonist makes sense of what happens, and how she then reacts as she pursues her goal. In short, it’s not about what she does, it’s about why she does it.
(“Biggest Mistake”)

Cron then notes 5 reasons that can make your story go astray. I’ll give you Point 3, here:

3. Good novels very often trick us into believing that the writer never ventured into the protagonist’s mind, when in fact, that’s where the story unfolded.

Pull just about any novel off your shelf and look specifically for how the writer is conveying the protagonist’s internal reaction to what happens; you’ll see it everywhere. When reading for pleasure it’s nearly invisible, precisely because it’s how the novel gives us the sense that we’re in the protagonist’s skin. That’s why it’s maddening that writers are often warned not to include internal thought. Why is this advice given? Because when done poorly, internal thought can turn into long, rambling, irrelevant monologues that derail a story. So the best advice is simply this: learn to write internal thought well. After all, it’s what lets us know how the protagonist is really responding to what’s happening, and that’s where the power of story lies.
(“Biggest Mistake”)

Author Joan Opyr and I had a conversation about writing and writing styles a while back. She observed that good writing and good structure means that a reader is caught up in the reading. She said it’s when all the moving parts work seamlessly together. When they don’t — when there’s a little hiccup or a grinding of the gears — that means the novelist missed something in the telling of the story.

I struggle with story myself, and I know I’m not the only author out there who does. Cron leaves us with this advice: “. . .in the beginning, it’s all about nailing the story. When you get to that last draft (which will most likely be many drafts away), it’s about polishing the prose.”

Good reminder. Thanks, Lisa.

Happy reading, happy writing!

Call to Arts with Neil Gaiman

Hi, groovy people–

This might be viral-ing around writer world, but I wanted you to see it if you haven’t already. This is author Neil Gaiman‘s recent (as in, May 17th or thereabouts) commencement address at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

It’s about 20 minutes long, but he’s a wonderful speaker as well as writer and his message, I think, will hit home for all artists, writers, creator-types, tinkerers, wanderers, eccentrics, irreverents, and anybody else who ever thought “what if” and then followed that little hint in the back of the mind to see what was over the next hill.

Source for the vid

Happy Friday, happy writing, happy dreaming!

Letters to friends

I was looking for something writer-ish, maybe a tip to share with all of you who are writing or want to write. But instead, I found these two amazing blog posts that I wanted to share instead.

The first is by Victoria Oldham, who blogs here. Vic generally gets me thinking when she posts, even if it’s something humorous. She has a lyrical writing style, whose cadences are reminiscent of poetry. This post is no exception. Here, she writes a letter to a young butch, and it’s about claiming space, living, nurturing your identity, and finding your armor.

Enjoy.

The second is by Jack Andrew Urquhart, a gentleman whose writing I just discovered today. He blogs here. In this, his short story “Letter to a Friend,” the main character (told in first-person POV) remembers a man with whom he fell in love, something that caught him completely off guard, as you’ll see. Urquhart has a hypnotic, gripping narrative style rich in imagery, sparse and clean in language, but deep in impact.

Enjoy.

Word therapy, for this Easter and Passover weekend.

Happy reading, happy writing.