Monday, November 26, 2012

For Any Soldier

This post has nothing to do with writing.  

Don't say I didn't warn you.

On Thanksgiving Day, I happened across this picture: 

And--for some bizarre reason--I was both moved and a little angry.  Being choked up . . . I understand that.  I always get emotional when I think about soldiers doing what they've volunteered to do.  But it was the "enduring American attitude" thing that made me pause.  
Sometimes, when I spot pictures like this or those little magnets people put on their cars--you know the ones I'm talking, those yellow or red-white-and-blue ribbons that say SUPPORT OUR TROOPS--I get a little impatient.  (To be fair, I become equally impatient whenever I hear anyone refer to a soldier--or any person in any kind of uniform--as a "hero."  The word is so overused these days as to become virtually meaningless.)  A trendy magnet is nice, but it really requires almost no thought, and--honestly--is worth only a few pennies of support, if that.  

Worse, something like a magnet fosters the illusion that we are somehow on the same footing and have some idea what our troops have to put up with when we really haven't a clue.  Yes, I was in the military; yes, I served during Desert Storm, but I was never deployed.  All the casualties I saw were those med-evaced stateside.  I don't know what it's like to be far away from home and stuck in a place where a) people are trying to kill you; b) you don't get hot meals; c) people are trying to kill you; d) a shower is a luxury; e) people are trying to kill you; f) your convoy's been blown to pieces or someone just stepped on an IED, and that soft, sloppy wet thing you just stepped in used to be inside a person; g) people are trying to kill you; h) sometimes you don't sleep for days, or--sometimes--all you do is sleep because there's absolutely nothing else to do and you're so bored you wish someone would start shooting; i) people are trying to kill you; j) you worry what the heck you'll be fit for when you do get out, if you'll be able to find a job, and how you can possibly translate your proficiency at killing into something remotely marketable; and k) people are still trying to kill you pretty much 24/7.  Yeah, okay, you volunteered; no one made you enlist.  No one forced me to join up. 

But here's a stunner for you: in a country of nearly 313 million, a little under 1.5 million Americans are on active or reserve status.  Do the math, and you find that number translates to a whopping 1% of the population.  That's astonishing, that we allow so few to bear all the risk.

And we have the gall to say we "support" the troops?  What are we truly saying?  Really . . . what does "support" mean? Has the word merely become a synonym for approve?  Or I'm not against the military?  It shouldn't.  "Support" has a very specific meaning.  To support someone is to bear his weight; to keep her from sinking or stumbling or falling.  To support is to become the bedrock upon which a structure may rest.  To support is to prop up and aid.  To support is to be active.

So, get active.  Spend a half hour on a web search, and you'll find there are any number of organizations, such as, the Wounded Warrior Project, and Soldier's Angels, ready and willing to help you locate active duty troops, the severely wounded, and military families in need.  It's not all candy and baby wipes either; many troops have zero access to even a small post exchange and a ton of folks at forward operating bases have nothing other than a microwave.  These people need equipment, food, backpacks, magazines, toiletries.  Some even ask for dog food to feed the strays they adopt (but, sshh, don't tell anyone; animals are against regs).

A magnet is not support.  Neither is a picture or an American flag.  A moment of silence--of merely thinking about troops far from home--doesn't cut it either. 

This year, get active.  Become truly supportive.  Spend a little time; give it some thought.  Then, pick a soldier, any soldier.  Be the rock, if only briefly, and bear his weight.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Still feeling thankful...

by Michelle Gagnon

So I know that it's the day after Thanksgiving, but as I type this I'm still hopped up on tryptophan and sweet potato/marshmallow goodness. And I'm still reflecting on how fortunate I am, on so many fronts. I've got a fantastic kid. I love my job. I have a roof over my head, and food in the fridge. And I part of what made all of that possible is that I was fortunate enough to have fantastic parents, who made sure that I enjoyed a truly wonderful childhood.

Not everyone is that lucky, and that's why today I'm writing to ask for a favor. As many of you know, my latest novel revolves around foster kids. While researching it, I read so many horror stories about kids who experienced truly awful childhoods. And the worst part is that once those kids turn 18, they're generally shown the door, regardless of whether or not they've earned a high school degree or its equivalent. Most end up either homeless or incarcerated within the next five years.

But there's an amazing new non profit established to help these kids. It's called Rising Tides, and through it you can give directly to help former foster kids achieve their academic and life goals. It's one of the most direct ways you can affect change in someone's life-and any amount makes a difference. So please consider donating if you can.

And Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Twelve Days of Splintered...

A quick heads up: Christmas in Wonderland, Splintered's official virtual book tour, is coming up next month. We’re not just doing author and character interviews, we're going to spotlight several of the unique "landscapes" Wonderland possesses. We’ll have posts, contests, and images tailored for each stop.

Christmas in Wonderland will be a tour through Splintered's Wonderland settings, fashions, food, and parties, all tied to a Christmas theme.

On top of having a few small giveaways along the way, there will be a big giveaway at the end of the tour. Here's a  sneak peek at the posts and the gracious blogs who are hosting:

12/3 Mr. Dodo's House @ I Am A Reader, Not A Writer
12/4 Ivory Queen's Castle @ Reading Angel
12/5 The Red Queen's Castle @ Krazy Book Lady
12/6 Christmas Tea Party @ Katie's Book Blog
12/7 Gifts in Wonderland @ Icey Books
12/10 Wonderland Fashion @ ReadingTeen
12/11 The Ocean of Tears & The Zombie Flower Forrest @ The Mod Podge Bookshelf
12/12 Wonderland's Historic Library @ Book Hounds YA
12/13 Wonderland's Secrets @ Mundie Moms
12/14 The Spritelings @ Pages From My Thoughts
12/17 Butterfly Threads @ Jennifer Daiker
12/18 Visiting Hour at the Asylum @ Crossroad Reviews
The  smaller prizes include some very UNIQUE Splintered related merchandise:

Fairy captured in a jar ... miniature bird cage ... a flocked flamingo ornament ... glass heart ... vintage chess pieces ... Wonderland recipe journal ... and the list goes on.

So be sure to join us for the official Amulet Splintered Virtual Tour ***Christmas in Wonderland: The Twelve Days of Splintered*** coordinated by the lovely and talented 
Gabrielle Carolina at The Modge Podge Bookshelf.

Until then, have a blessed and safe Thanksgiving. :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NaNo No No!

First up, I must apologize both to the ADR3NALIN3 crew and our followers for missing my post two weeks ago. That sometimes nasty little thing called life got in my way and caused me to forget posting (among other things) so I'm sorry for that! :)

Now, on to today's post. 

If you happen to be taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those of you not taking part) this year, then you well know that today marks the twentieth day straight you've been churning out words faster than Country Crock buckets. 1,667 per day, to be exact--which is no small feat, believe me. (I may or may not be partaking in NaNo this year; I also may or may not be behind, um, a few words.)

And in case you live under a rock (or perhaps in a country that doesn't participate), Thursday just so happens to be Thanksgiving, which typically involves gorging ourselves on turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings, followed by hours of mindless TV and/or sleep then more turkey, stuffing and trimmings. Then more sleep, till the wee hours of Friday roll around and we sneak out into the dark of night to join our fellow brethren outside various businesses with hopes of snagging some discounted Christmas gifts. The point? Thanksgiving is a bust for writing--and Black Friday usually is, too. Which means yes, you now have less than ten days to hit that elusive 50k mark.

Have I completely crushed your dreams of succeeding by December 1st? I certainly hope not. Because the point of today's post (that extra "No No" in the title) is to help you keep chugging along, regardless of how much you might wanna sleep after scarfing down tryptophan. Like those prints you might find hanging in doctors' offices or libraries, this is to help you keep your Courage, your Perseverance, your Determination to WIN. 

So come Thursday, after you're feeling stuffed like, well, a turkey, don't sit down on that couch and succumb to sleep. No, choose that uncomfy office chair instead and add a few words to your rising count. Or take a walk to flesh out that idea you've been grappling over for a few days. Or go old-school, and pick up a pen and paper to jot down a scene or some dialogue that'll make your characters shine. 

Simply put: Don't stop writing, because even though you may not reach that 50k goal,  even one word written is better than none at all.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Self-Publish Your Audio Book

By Jordan Dane

Exclusive sneak peek at the new audio cover for IN THE ARMS OF STONE ANGELS!

For this post, I wanted to share my recent experiences with creating an audio book for my YA debut, In the Arms of Stone Angels. I had an opportunity to try Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), a site from Audible that I learned about through the International Thriller Writers (ITW). Others  using ACX are: Neil Gaiman, M. J. Rose, award winning voice talent Tavia Gilbert, Tantor Audio, and Random House (a key ACX launch partner). ANY narrator with a home studio (or access to a studio) can be listed as a voice actor and audition for work.

ACX provides a central location where authors, publishers, agents, narrators, studio producers, and other rights holders can match up projects to create an audiobook for distribution through Audible (and elsewhere) under two different royalty models.

Parties can create a profile of the project for others to see. Narrators can audition, audiobook publishers can express interest, producers can make offers, and rights holders don’t have to let their rights languish. Setting up a profile is easy. I started the project in July and listed my book. Within a short while I had narrators auditioning, but I waited to see if I could get an audiobook publisher or producer interested, since I had no experience with this.

Narrators can be their own producers. I could have been more aggressive about seeking narrators and sending them a message through ACX, but I waited to see what would happen. In October, Audible added a stipend incentive to my project, meaning they offered to subsidize a producer to create my book by giving them $150/finished hour (up to $2500) for a 10-hour completed project. This stipend flag brought more auditions and producers to my project. The stipend had a deadline so Audible could get my book by year end for the holidays.

Once I decided to be more proactive in pushing my project, I decided on a narrator who had experience, awards, and a solid producer to go along with her voice actor talent. The steps from there are all online. I extended the offer, based on a royalty sharing model with my narrator, so I wouldn’t have to shell out money. The Audible stipend helped entice the narrator and producer I chose. Royalty rates will vary depending upon whether you give Audible exclusive or no-exclusive distribution rights. You decide how this can work and set it up. For more details on how ACX works, click HERE. For FAQ, click HERE.

Once I extended the offer and the deadlines ACX wanted for the stipend, I got a standard agreement printed through ACX between the parties, and my narrator had her deadline for acceptance (up to 72 hours). I talked with my narrator on the phone to share my thoughts on my central character, to help her create the voice of my teen girl, sent my book in PDF for her to read, and a 15-minute narration came within 5 days for my approval. In 60 days, I will have a finished audiobook to approve, but Audible will also act as a quality control checkpoint. If you opt for Audible to be your distributor, your book will be set up for distribution through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. If you don’t give Audible exclusivity, you can distribute your audiobook anywhere you want to go.

I’m very excited to “hear” the voice of Brenna Nash, my character, through my award-winning narrator, Michelle Ann Dunphy. ACX has been very easy to use and I like the control aspects I keep with this project. I worked with my German cover designer (Frauke Spanuth at Croco Designs) to develop the audiobook cover. ACX is self-publishing for audio.

I hope to have a Goodreads Contest offering my audio book as a giveaway. Stay tuned!

If you’re an author, do you retain your audio rights? How many of you like to listen to audiobooks? I love them for long road trips and for camping, listening to a story over a blazing fire.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Out of the Comfort Zone

I admit it -- I fit the stereotype of the introverted writer. I've learned to enjoy booksignings, schmoozing at writer conferences, speaking to groups and teaching workshops, but not without some significant effort. I'm much more comfortable tucked safely away in the confines of my familiar bubble -- alone with my characters (at least in my head) at home or at my favorite table at the neighborhood coffee shop.

That said, I believe strongly that I always benefit in some way from stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something that makes me a little bit nervous. For instance, for the first 30 or so years of my life, public speaking was my greatest fear and I avoided it at all costs. But after I published my first book, I was asked to speak to a writer's group, and even though the thought of doing so made me sick to my stomach, I knew I had to do it for the sake of my career -- and for my own personal growth. And so I wrote a speech and I practiced giving it. Again. And again. And again. I stood in my office when nobody was home and pretended I was in front of an audience. I spoke out loud. When I finished, I started over again, repeating the process until I could ad lib and my notes were just a crutch for me to rely on in case I stumbled.

On the day of the presentation, I arrived early to get a feel for the room. I pretended to be calm, but inside, I was screaming, "What have I done!" Fifteen minutes before I was "on," I went to the restroom, barricaded myself in a stall and did deep breathing exercises to steady my racing heart, telling myself "you can do this," assuring myself how great I was going to be, that what I said was bound to help at least one writer in the audience in some way and make all the angst I was suffering worthwhile. I'm happy to report that the talk went well. I enjoyed myself. The next time I was asked to give a presentation, I repeated the above process, but it was all a little easier, a little less terrifying and time consuming. And each successive time was easier still.

Today I absolutely love giving workshops, teaching writing and creativity classes, and talking to writers, readers and students. It enriches my life. I never would've known that and would've missed out on so much if I hadn't stepped out of my comfort zone back when I sold my first book!

The point of all this? Recently, when I was asked to do two squirm-inducing things that, in the past, I've tried to avoid like a visit to the dentist, I said, "Sure, why not?" The first was an interview for the blog radio show A Book and A Chat, with host, Barry Eva. (You can't practice for an interview. Who knows what the host will ask? Besides, my West Texas accent makes Reba McEntire sound like a Yankee.What if Barry Eva can't understand me, or me him? His English accent is as pronounced as my Texas one.) The second was a video of me talking about writing for the Texas Library Association's Spirit of Texas Reading Program. (I'm hyper-critical of myself on camera. I make funny, twitchy faces.) What the heck. I did the interview and the video anyway. And I had fun!

What's the moral of this story? Push yourself to do something uncomfortable from time-to-time. As long as it's something positive, you'll learn and grow. You'll feel a sense of accomplishment. You might help or inspire someone. Chances are you'll have a great time and find out that you love doing whatever it is that once made you break out in a cold, clammy sweat just thinking about it.

A Book and a Chat with Jennifer Archer 

Spirit of Texas Reading Program/Jennifer Archer

Jennifer Archer's next YA novel, The Shadow Girl, will be released from Harper Teen 4/9/2013 and is available now for pre-order. Her book on the creativity/happiness connection, Happiness Rehab: 8 Creative Steps to a More Joyful Life is available now on Amazon. Her Samhain Retro-Romance novella, Breaking the Rules, will be available this month (11/20) as an ebook. Visit Jennifer's websites and for more information.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Location Scouting!

 Carol Tanzman checking in!

In a previous post, I talked about writing thrillers. One of things I enjoy when reading contemporary thrillers is that so many of them have a city as a “character.” There’s something about the realistic depiction of place that helps give a thriller an extra “zing.” It most definitely can up the ante. In dark paranormal or dystopian fiction there is some sense of remove. On some level, the reader knows that this cannot happen to them in this moment. But when the setting is an actual place, in the here and now, there is no remove. What happens in the story could happen to you—and that can be more terrifying that a herd of zombies (do zombies hang in herds?).

In both Circle of Silence and dancergirl, the city is Brooklyn, NY. I always go “location scouting” during the writing of a contemporary to find those details that help create the real world. For example, here’s a photo I took of the inside of the gate at Promenade Park, one of the locations in Circle of Silence.

When I visited, it took me awhile to unlock the gate because the latch is on the inside. I then ended up using it in the novel. My main character, Valerie, is investigating a story for the school’s TV News program about a secret society, called MP. She is set to meet an unnamed source inside the park at night. Excitedly, she shows up at the appointed time.

The final minute is taken up with trying to open the gate. Did MP screw up? Did the city lock it early? Finally, it occurs to me that I have to reach through the metal bars, twist my hand and slide the latch from the inside edge.

It’s a tiny, tiny moment but the photo helped me add that extra frisson of confusion in the scene.

Another photo was lucky happenstance. Meandering around the area of Brooklyn known as Red Hook, I snapped this picture.

The painted graffiti has two sayings: Some walls are invisible (to the left) and Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere (on the right).  The entire wall felt so Brooklyn, I knew I’d use it. In my first draft, I described it in great detail: the colors, the actual drawing on the wall.  In a later draft, I had to cut it down because all that detail slowed the pace. So… it’s a bit tricky. You want details but sometimes too many is just...too many. Here’s what I ended up with:

Peeling paint in doorways, overflowing garbage cans. This part of Red Hook is especially sketchy. A graffiti mural proclaims SOME WALLS ARE INVISIBLE.

However, the scrawled sentence resonated far beyond that particular scene. It became a theme that I went back to, not physically, but in the main character's mind. Definitely a happy “accidental discovery!” (Note: The Red Hook I was writing about is the same Red Hook that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Definitely NOT a happy discovery).

This last photo is a view that can only be found in Brooklyn. The picture was taken in a small park bordering the East River, with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

Earlier in the chapter, I describe the view of the Statue and the fence. With a bit of dramatic license, this is how I “used” the picture in the book:

Low laughter gets my attention. Finally! Somebody’s shown up. My heart beats fast. Carefully, I peek around the plant. False alarm. A couple of fishermen, dressed in bulky coats and earflapped hats, carry buckets and poles. I’ve never understood why anyone would eat fish caught in the dirty East River, but it doesn’t seem to bother the men. Casting poles into the water, the two settle onto a bench, content to watch the sun sink into the horizon.

Had I not visited and taken this picture, I probably would not have realized that people fish from that particular part of Brooklyn. It's real, it happens, and I like to think that when readers are reading, they take the leap: if the fishermen are real, what is happening to the characters are "real." So, even though these are short passages, it can give you a sense of how location, location, location, helps create the necessary reality your writing might need!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Fine Print

In case you missed it, there was a bit of a dust-up earlier this week over an opinion piece by Sarah Mesle featured on the Los Angeles Review of Books site.  I won't recap the entire article--go read it and all the comments here--but the gist is the author moaned about the good old days where books saw the successful transition of boys from happy childhood into powerful manhood and wondered just what contemporary YA books might be offering boys; whether the role models found in characters like Edward Cullen and Jacob Black, both "barely-contained monsters," are the best we could muster nowadays.  And, yes, predictably, a lot of people weighed in.  A few even had good things to say.

I'm not exactly joining the fray, but it seems to me that, time periods and conventional notions of masculinity and societal expectations aside, this is another of those proverbial tempests in a teacup: a lot of fru-fru hand-wringing over nothing.  So some of the boys in some books are beasts, and others are worried about their masculinity, and still others are confronted with terrible situations and make bad choices--and so what?  There are so many books out there, you can find examples to bolster just about any argument you want to make.  I can think of some fine examples of contemporary middle grade and YA lit--Gary Schmidt  and Patrick Ness jump to mind right off the bat--where boys are neither beasts nor angels, and many of the adults aren't too shabby either.  

To be quite frank, however, when I digested some of Mesle's misgivings, one thing that really surprised me: no one mentioned genre--and genre's everything.  Strip away the twinkly vampires and slavering wolves, and what you've got are Jacob's hunky six-pack and Edward's soulful eyes.  What you've got is a YA romance, pure and simple, and one that any person who's spent any time with bodice-rippers instantly recognizes.  I have no idea what Stephanie Meyer was thinking in terms of the guys when she wrote the series, and it doesn't really matter because she hews to the demands of the genre.  Nearly all romance revolves around does he or doesn't she, will he or won't she?  The choices are frequently bald and somewhat stereotypical; the men and women are types: Darcy's a prideful guy with a heart of gold; Willoughby's a scoundrel; Marianne's willful and intolerant; Jane's mother is a fluttery idiot--and so what?  I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that Jane Austen was as completely unconcerned with whether her male characters provided young men with appropriate role models as Nora Roberts is about whether any guy's going to pick up, say, Dance Upon the Air, and decide that, yep, a girl needs a smack now and then.  All Austen wanted was to get you to root for Jane and Darcy--and sell her book.  Whether you're talking Nora Roberts or Jane Austen, offering role models is completely beside the point.  You write the characters your story demands, and that's no less true for Meyer who--I just bet--was mainly about showing her readers a good time.

I disagree completely with one person who commented that it was "hardly unfair to ask literature to shine a light on the way gender is changing..." or redeem masculinity.  Say what?  Why should literature have to do any of that?  I don't know too many writers who approach a book with a mission in mind.

Besides, was anyone worried about this was I was a kid and there really wasn't young adult literature per se?  I grew up reading classics, sure, but also tons of science fiction (the YA lit of my day).  For the most part, those books were written by guys for guys and about guys--and I didn't care.  At all.  I also don't recall anyone getting all worried that literature was somehow failing to give me suitable female role models to manage the transition into adulthood.  Or maybe people were worried, but me being a kid, they didn't tell me about it and I had, oh I don't know, parents and teachers and other adults as role models.  Now that doesn't mean that I didn't want to grow up to be Captain Kirk's girlfriend (albeit I had superpowers and frequently saved the ship); armed with my trusty blaster, I played endless games of Lost in Space (although, yes, I admit it: they always picked me to play the mom and I remember being so focused on making dinner for Will and Dr. Smith after a hard day of fending off aliens).  But those obsessions don't seem to have done me any irreparable harm nor do I believe they told me anything about how to be a young woman.  What they afforded were types to slip into and identities to try on--and discard. 

So I read my share of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens and George Eliot and Frank Herbert and Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Greg Bear and Anne McCaffrey and Lois McMaster Bujold and . . . Well, I won't bore you with the list because it's a long one.  But my point is that while I read classics which were stories of girls principally worried about marriage and their reputations, I also devoured more contemporary books which were, with only a few exceptions, either profoundly pessimistic meditations on the fate of humanity or about young men out to kick some serious alien butt--and a few young women who were, yes, ready to fall in love, not overly concerned with their nails, and still plenty capable when it came to saving the planet, mussed hair notwithstanding.  And I read about some splendidly evil men and women, too--because beastliness is, quite frequently and sorry to say it, very entertaining.

Sorry, but read the fine print of my job description: no book has to do or be anything more than it is, a private fantasy cooked up in a writer's head and made public.  The only obligation of any literature and art is to entertain, and not one whit more.  All this concern about role models or the lack thereof ignores the fact that whatever any writer puts on paper says something far more about the author than it does society.  Meyer made her guys as she did because she liked them that way, and those characters fit the needs of her story and its genre.  Ditto Collins; ditto Rowling.  Ditto me.  

Maybe this benighted view means I'll always be a hack or something and never do or write anything important, that's any kind of beacon, but turning up the wattage isn't in my job description either.  Books do not have to instruct or offer social criticism; books do not have to shed light on anything.  If they do or can, great.  But, in the end, books are entertainment; readers crack the spine with the expectation of becoming someone somewhere else; and the only obligation any writer has is to tell the very best and most entertaining story she can.  It is what every reader should and has the right to demand.    

Friday, November 9, 2012

INDIGO AWAKENING Virtual Tour Announcements & GIVEAWAYS

by Jordan Dane

Indigo Awakening Opt 200_opt (2)

I will be launching INDIGO AWAKENING (HarlequinTEEN) on Dec 18th. Because December is such a hectic month, I will be postponing my promotion (v-tours & signing events) until January, 2013. INDIGO AWAKENING is book #1 in the Hunted series and is available for pre-order now. You can be first to read it before the virtual tours start, but here are the scoop on the upcoming online tours.

The first virtual tour will be hosted by KismetBT and scheduled for Jan 7 – Jan 18, 2013. Tour stops will have my book giveaway at each stop to one lucky winner, PLUS an amazing Harlequin Teen GRAND PRIZE pack awarded at the end of the 2-week tour.

Another v-tour will be hosted by YABOUND and held the week of Jan 28th. This will be a blast tour format, PLUS Harlequin Teen will also be giving away their GRAND PRIZE gift pack of goodies at the end of this tour too.

Here are a few other deets for the giveaways on these tours:

For anyone who has read an advance copy of INDIGO AWAKENING, you know that a silver infinity bracelet plays an important part in the story. Special bracelets will be given away on the virtual tour so the lucky winners will be part of Rafael’s street family. Rafe’s bracelet was in black leather, but I’ve added a white leather braid as my personal remembrance to you for being in MY family.

Infinity Bracelet Giveaway 71LV9cSQLgL__SX395_

Another cool giveaway is a music from the pop punk band, Archimedes Watchout. These guys are friends of mine and are mentioned in my book. Whenever they tour in Texas and come to San Antonio, they stay with us. My husband and I love the 2 AM knock on our door. Friend them on Myspace. Very cool guys.

Grp Shot

I also will have a special giveaway for the audio book of IN THE ARMS OF STONE ANGELS with Audible and narrated by the award winning and talented voice actor, Michelle Ann Dunphy. She's amazing as Brenna Nash, my main character.

And I'll have uber-cool commemorative INDIGO AWAKENING bookmark swag, signed of course. Here are the front and back. The design is gorgeous. The color online is nothing like the real thing in your hands.

2x8_IndigoAwakening_front_FINAL 2x8_IndigoAwakening_back3_opt

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

High Concept and Red Wheelbarrows

We are a society that loves high concept. Agents hunt it, editors want it, directors demand it. That translates to thousands of writers banging at computers across the country trying to write it. One problem is that the definition isn’t always clear. I was having lunch this week with two writer friends, a screen writer and a Sci-Fi novelist. We tried on definitions of high concept, but as soon as we thought we had a sleek fit, one or the other of us objected. It was as bad as trying to find a pair of good fitting jeans. As we regretfully discarded each definition one by one, I thought of it as the literary equivalent of “that  makes your butt look fat.”   Did I mention that the two other writers are male? They would have a different analogy, I’m sure. 

So what is the elusive definition of high concept? Agent Nathan Bransford says in a post a, “hook that we can easily understand and digest."

John Truby, in The Anatomy of a Story says:  "high concept. . . means the film (story) can be reduced to a catchy one-line description that audiences will instantly understand and come rushing to the theater to see."

It sounds like they’re describing this year’s politics: complex problems reduced to sound bites, one sentence solutions with the difficult bits left out. No wonder our society loves high concept.

"But what about substance? What about beautiful writing, fresh ideas? Can high concept be all that?" I asked.
"What about William Carlos Williams?" my SciFi friend asked? 

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

I wanted to say I didn’t know SciFi writers read poetry, but I kept my mouth shut. He had a point. A short idea, but deep. The catchy one line phrase might belie writing of substance. The sleek fit. The pants are looking better. But still there was something missing. I wasn’t ready to buy yet. The fit still wasn’t perfect.

In the post,"High Concept Writing the Michael Crichton Model," seemaxrun says, “Extreme” and “first” define “high concept.” Ah, writers must take “what if” and stretch it as far as it will go. What if we could clone dinosaurs? Extreme might be a good word to include. 

So we tried a new style: High concept is a story idea taken to the extreme that resonates at a gut level, appeals to a wide audience and is easily described in a single sentence that begins with What if. . .

I got my wallet out. 

Sci-Fi guy wanted a tighter fit. “An idea so big yet so simple, it screams:  why didn't I think of that?”
I’m ready to buy, but you can be honest, does this definition make my butt look fat?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Enough already.

by Michelle Gagnon

I feel like there's been an increasingly acrimonious discourse lately on traditional vs. self-publishing, and frankly, I'm tired of it. I'm seeing it at conferences, online, and everywhere in between. Both camps are equally guilty here, in terms of snide comments and blatant put-downs. Those who are under contract with traditional publishing houses sniff at the fact that self-published authors skipped over hurdles to publish what they suspect (but rarely say publicly) must be drivel, or what one writer friend of mine referred to as a "tsunami of swill."

In the other camp, the self-published authors extol the fantastic revenue returns they're receiving, a far greater percentage than what they would have gotten from a standard publishing contract. They make lots of references to an archaic business model, implying that anyone who still partakes in it is a fool.

Enough already.

I don't really care how someone is published, or how many books they sell, or how much money they're making. But the overall nastiness that's becoming commonplace is off-putting. The prevailing attitude used to be, "we're all in this together" among writers, whereas now there's a schism. And that's a shame, because both models have their merits.

To those (like me) who are still publishing with the major houses: I've read wonderful novels in the past few years that failed to find a home. Sometimes the reason for that was clear--the book was aimed at a very niche market, one where publishers couldn't envision making a profit. Other times, I was at a loss to know why a particular book didn't sell. One was an amazing YA novel written by a friend of mine, who ended up self-pubbing on Wattpad. After reaching an extraordinary amount of downloads, she moved it to Amazon and started charging for it. And it's doing well- IMHO, the publishers lost out on this one. 

To self-published authors: The traditional houses aren't going anywhere. People frequently point to the music industry, which is a fantastic example. What they fail to take into account is that musicians still aren't, by and large, self-producing music. Eighty-five percent of the music sold worldwide is still produced by the same music companies that were producing it a decade ago. Many of those companies have merged and/or consolidated, sure. But they're still around, for the same reason that the big 6 will still be around in a decade. Like it or not (and I'm not, personally, a huge fan of this, but so be it), most of the houses are part of much larger conglomerates. And News Corp and CBS aren't going anywhere; they're also unlikely to shed an industry that still feeds into their film and TV franchises. So, no, people who still follow the old model aren't going to be shoved out, by and large. The midlist might diminish further, but books will continue to be released by those companies well into the future.

There are pros and cons to each model. Self-published authors don't have the benefit and protection of a contract, so if Amazon decides tomorrow to change those royalty rates, they're well within their rights to do so. It's also far more difficult to secure foreign and film/tv rights when you self-pub, and that tends to be the bread and butter of traditional authors.

Traditional authors, meanwhile, do lose out on some royalties that they could potentially be getting. They also have to wait months, and occasionally years, for a book to finally appear on shelves. And advances are not what they once were.

But there's no right way and no wrong way. Write your book. Publish your book, however you prefer. But please, stop with the mud slinging. At the end of the day, we're all still pursuing the same dream.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's a Wrap! Austin Comic Con 2012

Austin Comic Con! The crazy, whirlwind weekend is over, but even with all the preparation and pre-excitement, I'm always sad when it's done. Still, the best thing is that there is already next year to think about!

A few quick things and then I'll summarize it with pictures...

First, I made the news! Yes, they interviewed me and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino. How fun is that?

Second, no, I did not meet any cast members from Star Trek: The Next Generation. They were seriously kept "safe" at all times. I did see them quite a bit, but they were never just hanging around at the signing tables. I'm pretty sure they would be mobbed if they did.

(which is why they have these signs around where they'll be)

I got this close to Michael Dorn.
I think he remembered me from the Star Trek convention I went to back in 1995.

Third, I am a bit disappointed. I saw no Klingons (except Michael Dorn). No Borg. I'm told there was one of each at the show, but I had no sightings.

And now, on to the pictures!


This year I shared the booth with four other awesome authors: 
Jessica Lee Anderson, Mari Mancusi, Madeline Smoot, and Cory Putman Oakes. 
Danny Woodfill at THE BOOK SPOT, a great independent bookstore in Round Rock, TX, sold books for us again this year!

Friday and Saturday had me dressed as Alice in Wonderful from the Tim Burton movie, the red court dress.

Saturday at the booth with Jessica, Madeline, Me (PJ), and Cory!

Mari (Friday) as Bat Girl!

Danny, ready to sell lots of books!
And check out all those beautiful Sharpies :)

It's always nice to change it up on the costumes, so Sunday, since Madeline, Jessica, and I were the only ones there, we dressed at the three fates.

 Me (PJ), Madeline, and Jessica

We scared kids by handing out eyeballs :)

One of the best things about being an exhibitor is bypassing the huge crowd and getting in early. The con was packed and so much fun, and I was happy not to wait in a single line.

Everyone wants to get in to see us.
And the crew of TNG.

Getting in early allows pictures on the bridge of the Enterprise to be taken when no one else is waiting.

Costumes are fun and all, but changing out of them at the end of the day is always a wonderful thing.

Jessica and Madeline dressed as themselves.

I ditched my dress but kept my fancy hair :)

It's great running into people you know! We saw awesome English teacher, Valerie Burleigh and her husband, Austin writer Zaib Husain, Austin author Jo Whittemore and her husband Roger, Austin author Ernie Cline, and excellent publicist Jennifer Hill Robenalt just to name a few!

With Cory, Me (PJ), Mari, and Jennifer Hill Robenalt

Another great part of a con is meeting your neighbors! We were next to awesome comic artist, Jeff Balke and very close to my favorites, the Vamplets!

Jeff, ready to draw for the day!

The Vamplets booth, dressed up and ready to go!

Maybe the best part of Comic Con is taking random pictures with random people in random costumes!

Everyone needs a little R2D2 love!

I had to lean to the side so his costume wouldn't block my face!

Two Face asked which side I wanted to be on.
I totally picked the non-yucky side.

A little DeLorean time c/o Ernie Cline!

There are always Storm Troopers a-plenty at these things.

Death had some sweaty armpits, hence me leaning to the side here.

 No! Don't shoot!

It took the Emperor four hours to get his makeup just right!
p.s. Go, Team Sith!

And of course there is art that must be bought!

Borg Cubes c/o Drew Johnson at Bye Bye Robot.
Girl with Pumpkins c/o Jeena Pepersack.

Gorn c/o Charity Wood at Bye Bye Robot.
(the other Star Trek print is from Dallas Comic Con a couple years ago.)


So that's it, summarized in a bunch of pics. Did I mention I love my job? 

The only question at this point is...

What should I dress as next time?


P. J. Hoover is the author of the upcoming dystopia/mythology YA book, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book, TUT (Tor Children's, Winter 2014), and the middle-grade SFF series, THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS BOOKS (CBAY, 2008-2010). You can read more about her and her books on P. J.'s website or blog.