Monday, July 14, 2014

Ain't Dead

Just a quick update to announce I am still in the land of the living. Epic stuff is happening.

I've landed my first script reader gig with the fabulous Film Festival Guild, so even though my script writing has slowed to a crawl due to the novel thing, I'm still involved with the film industry somehow. Which is good, cause it'll always be my first love.

I sold a book last week. The working title is Finding Figaro, and right now it's scheduled to be published next spring by Dreamspinner Press. With a title like that, how could it ~not~ be romance?

I wrote a short story about a book made from human skins (originally intended for a sweet anthology about writing and publishing. I'm screwed up, I know. I took the prompts and decided to go in a more...anthropodermic bibliopegy direction.) but it turned into a novella, and now it's well on the way to novel size. Stuff just happens, okay? I don't even know how.

The writing process is weird.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Romance by any other name... would still be hard to write.

In case you haven't guessed yet, I am writing (and selling, whoot whoot!) romance under the not-so-clever pseudonym Penny Hudson. I wanted to use Penny Dreadful, but that's already taken. So was Paige Turner. Now I wish I'd picked Penny Kidd (say it by syllables) but alas, it was not meant to be.

My romance author blog is here and I'll be posting about my two forthcoming titles from Dreamspinner Press. They'll both be available this summer. I'll confine most of the romance-specific chatter over there aside from this post, but no promises. I'm cross-posting, minus these two paragraphs. 

HAHA you know my secret identity! I'd be a terrible superhero, I really would. 

That'd be me. I'm a twat.

Anyway, on writing romance.

You might think because the ending is already known--Happily Ever After--romance would be among the easiest genres to write. HAHA LOL NOPE #RollsAroundOnFloorLaughing /wipesawaytears.

As Kipling says: There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, and every single one of them is right.

There's far more than sixty-nine (hehe) different sources of personal conflict and drama in romance novels. So I'm going to blog specifically on the type of romance novel where the main conflict between the characters is based on a simple misunderstanding. 

Something that could be cleared up with a little honest discussion.

But that discussion cannot happen easily.

For romance, there's a Main Character and an obvious (or not so obvious) Love Interest (or more than one). As a reader, you know after roughly two hundredish pages, they're going to kiss, have some epic sex, and live happily ever after. Because that's what romance is. That's the promise made to you when you pick up the book. You will wade through the trials and tribulations of these characters and eventually, they'll find True Love and you'll get a happy wobbly feeling when they admit how they care about each other and throw themselves into each others arms.

But wait, but wait, why don't they just do that from the beginning? Since they're so obviously meant for each other? Two halves of a single soul, and all the other sickeningly sweet cliches.

There has to be a reason they don't boink (or boink with tender loving feelings sprinkled on top) until after most of the book has happened, otherwise it's just a casual hook-up without an emotional angle, unless one character is using the casual hook-up to avoid intimacy and-- and I'm going off target. Ahem.

My point is it's really hard to stretch a sex scene into 70k+ words. Or maybe it's just I can't manage it. Laurell K. Hamilton can. But she's also got lots of vampire/supernatural plot going on around (and during) the orgies. Orgies that usually further the plot. Have you read her books? The sex scenes are vital to the plot, which usually doesn't have anything to do with sex. I think I should go reread all the Anita Blake books... for research... yeah...

After Main Character and Love Interest meet, but before Main Character and Love Interest do the beast with two backs, stuff has to happen. Important stuff. Plot stuff. Character stuff. Because there has to be a reason these two (or more) people dance around each other and hold off the boinking until the end of the book. If their eyes meet and they run toward each other while At Last plays over the loudspeaker, and then commence violating public nudity laws, it's interesting, but it's not long enough to make a book. Something has to keep the climax (harhar) from happening. 

For dramatic reasons. But there's a fine line between drama and melodrama.

So if the reason they aren't together is because of a smallish misunderstanding that could be sorted out with a brief conversation over some caramel lattes on a sleepy Saturday afternoon, then that conversation has to be danced around like negotiations with North Korea over chilling the fuck out and developing a national hobby that doesn't involve Geiger counters.

Get me? It has to be a huge thing, with some element of danger or apprehension surrounding it. An 'I might die if I say this right now' sort of atmosphere. There has to be trepidation. There has to be a solid reason the conversation absolutely could not happen in the course of the casual 'getting to know you' chatter amid the heated glances and magnetic pull they feel toward each other.

How tedious and unfulfilling would it be if they met, had a misunderstanding, then retired to some trendy cafe to work things out by the end of the first chapter?

'Oh, I made an incorrect assumption about your life/job/values/personality/relationship status/family. Allow me to kiss away your hurt feelings.' Then nothing else happens except sex in every possible position for the next twelve chapters? If you've been reading romance novels any length of time, you've read lots and lots of sex scenes, and you know they're not nearly as rewarding when the characters haven't bled, sweated, and wept copious amounts of tears to get to the emotional climax, not just the physical climax.

You want them to work for it. You want them to clench their hands, bite their lips, and take deep, shuddering breaths while they force the words out with their eyes squeezed shut because they can't bear to watch the reaction to whatever they're struggling to say.

The conversation to clear up the simple misunderstanding has to be radioactive. It has to be enormous. It has to be a giant, world-view shifting moment that causes stress, anxiety, fear, nerves and running through it all has to be the faint, thin shred of hope that maybe it might work out after all.

This is when character motivation becomes vital. You have to know exactly why your characters would flee to the ends of the earth rather then have that particular conversation. Then you can make a simple misunderstanding work to keep them apart for 70k+.

Go forth and obfuscate.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Make Them Say No to You.

Don't say no for them. Whoever the anonymous them is. Don't you dare. Whatever you're making, stories, art, macrame sex toys, whatever creative thing you're doing, don't you dare look at it and decide it's not good enough for the market and then tuck it away in a drawer with a dramatic sigh about how if only you'd had THE ONE MAGICAL ADVANTAGE you could sell it and quit your day job mopping up the exorcism room after those three rogue priests wander off to congratulate themselves on a demon well banished and break into the sacramental wine.

Three reasons:

1) Creative people are naturally down on and extremely critical of their own abilities and will underestimate themselves. This is an actual scientific fact*.

2) In my travels around the world I have seen some hideous shit sell, but YOU make cute, fun stuff. Whatever you make. Because the thing you make reflects your taste and style and classy self as an artist.

3) It's a big world. Suppose the publisher/art gallery/etsy store you selected and made your thing specifically for rejects it? They turn up their nose at it? They tell you it's just not right for them, the tone doesn't match, it's too similar to a thing they already have? So what? So what? There's a lot of publishers/art galleries/websites that your thing will be treasured and upvoted and sell. Use your google-fu and find them.

But if they're saying no to your stories or art, it doesn't mean they're wrong. You could be wrong.

1) Are you really ready to shove that project out into the cruel, indifferent world? Has an independent editor flagged all the typos? Have you played with your handmade wooden puzzle enough to know you need a second coat of sealant to keep the paint from flaking? Can you take a decent picture and understand how to edit and upload it? Do you check your email often? Does your 'contact me' button actually work?

There is NOTHING more frustrating than wanting to buy something, but the artist has vanished. Then I'm reduced to twitter stalking and wondering if @battlecat77 is the person who makes that awesome medieval armor for cats, but they never reply. If I can't reach you, I can't buy the thing. So you make no money. That is a badness thing. Do you check your spam folder once a week for hapless customers that use hotmail? (My gmail always bounces hotmail, I never told it to do that, it just does. It also ignores me when I told it to stop. Apparently Google does not obey the second law of robotics.)

Are you ready? Is your work ready? If you aren't confident in your own work, then do your research, see what's out there, and if your stuff is of comparable quality, send it out. Let them say no. Don't you say no to yourself before anyone else even sees it.When the first buyer says no, then find another. There's always another. Another publisher, another shop, another way to sell the thing you made. Get creative, you ARE creative. You MADE a THING. You WROTE a SCRIPT. You can find a way to sell it. I believe in you. 

2) Are you doing lots of stuff? The more you do, the better you become. The more stories you write, the more stone walls you build, the more exotic gerbils you raise, the better you become. This is also a fact, scientifically proven by anyone who has practiced any skill whatsoever. Branch out. Expand. Even if a thing has been around thousands of years, you can still put your own unique twist on it.

Books are old news, but remember those 'Choose Your Own Adventure' novels? A novel new twist! I rest my case.

3) Are you for-real serious about this? Are you writing at least five days a week? Do you treat it like a job and sit down, unplug the internet, and stare at a blank cursor until story happens? Do you have an outline, or at least a summery with the beginning, middle, and end of the book to keep you on track? Substitute the word project for book. Do you know how it's going to happen? Etsy, ebay, and craiglists are full to the brim of weekend crafters churning out random stuff and barely making their material cost back.

Step 1.
Step 2.
Profit... is a funny joke, but knowing the outline of the project and the steps you have to take to accomplish the goal is SO IMPORTANT I CAN'T EVEN TELL YOU. BUT I WILL.

4) Did you write your goal down? No? Go and do that. Right now, hop to it! Find some paper and write down what you want out of this thing you do. To be published? To make X amount every month? To spend your life traveling from one craft fair to another like some sort of modern hippy in an SUV instead of old VW van? To develop a variety of guinea pig with hair so long you can cackle like Dr. Frankenstein and shriek 'IT'S ALIVE', because you've just created a tribble?

Write your goal down, pin it up somewhere you see it EVERY DAY, and do something every SINGLE day to accomplish your goal. Even if you just have the time/mental bandwidth to do one thing to reach the goal, one thing a day will get you there. Do nothing a day and you'll never get there.

I leave you with this for further reading.

Neil Gaiman's Make Good Art graduation speech and Make Every Day a Non-Zero Day.

Go get'um tiger. 

* Based on a random survey of creative people I know and didn't actually bother to survey.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2013 aka The Year of You Did Better.

Time for the annual roundup post of doom.

I didn't blog as much this year as last year. Or it should be 'last year as the year before' because wow, it's 2014. I still can't believe it. 2013 was shorter than normal. I'd scientifically prove this, but it's so obvious I can't be bothered.

January - Learned I needed to expand the short story into a novella if I wanted to sell it, and promptly put off actually doing it for about six months.

March - Wrote a slightly pretentious blog post about Amanda Palmer and Veronica Mars. I still think it's so fucking cool they let the fans fund a movie.

April - Entered a contest. Lost. I'm not going to document all the time I entered a contest this past year and lost because that would be too depressing. This particular contest sparked an idea and I expanded it into a script. Now I'm rewriting it as a fantasy novel because it would be so much easier to sell it as a book than as a spec script from an unknown, unproduced writer. It's called 'Rhiven'. Selling it to Baen Books, or having it securely nestled in their slush pile by 2015 is a nice goal, right?

June - Sucked it up and expanded the short story to novella size. I swear I've never checked a word count so many times during one document in my life. I didn't think I'd do it, but I added a few scenes and found a way to keep the tension going and pulled it off. Go me.  

August - I was a quarter finalist in BlueCat's title contest for 'Camp Wishaway', the zombie horror story that mutated into a kid's coming of age/adventure story but with zombies.
Because zombies.

September - Resubmitted novella. Waited. Waited. Waited. 

October - Wrote stuff so secret I can't even remember.

November - SOLD THAT MOFO!

December - Discovered a contest to write an actual canon Dark Crystal prequel novel. With three weeks left before the deadline, I jumped in full steam ahead. I ended up rewriting about half of it with three days to go when I discovered my timeline was flawed, but I managed. I think I ended last year on a positive note. 

January 2014 - Reviewed another short story submission and discovered I made a typo in the motherfuckin' title. It's a new year, but I'm still me. Damn.