Get Your Own eBook of The Vessel of Ra!

September 12, 2017 2

un_ra

It’s September 12th, and I’m celebrating the release of my first novel, The Vessel of Ra! With exclamation marks!

Perhaps YOU would like an eBook of The Vessel of Ra? I can do that for you. I’m giving away THREE copies. If you want one, just comment here by the end of September, and I will draw three winners at random. Don’t forget to give me an email address to reach you at, so I can ask you what format you would like.

And now, I’m off to grin like an idiot for the rest of the day. Again, I want to thank my fellow Unreliables for the interview here, as well as all the wonderful friends and writers who have made this day possible.

Review: Story Genius by Lisa Cron

April 13, 2017 0

Fellow Unreliable Chia and I were talking about writing. I have finished the third draft of The Pawn of Isis, and my very kind first readers have been steadily getting feedback back to me, so I’m getting ready to revise. I have a couple of ways I revise. I have been using some of the methodology from Blueprint Your Best Seller by Stuart Horowitz. I really like the way that book makes you really look at scenes and evaluate them, center on a theme, and reorder and rewrite. It’s a lot of work, but (re)writing is a lot of work, so there you go.

Then Chia asked me if I’d heard of Story Genius by Lisa Cron. No, I had not, I said. Chia said she was going to read it, but she had to take it back to the library. I said I’d look into it.

Already, based on some feedback, I have decided that the book may need another POV, due to some of the important stuff happening off stage. So I rolled up my sleeves and decided to add some new scenes. I realized I was just adding scenes, and not necessarily solving problems. That’s when I wandered into Barnes and Noble, went to the writing section, and picked up Story Genius. I devoured the book over the next two days.

All writer advice works for different writers. I saw some less than favorable reviews on Goodreads, but I, on the other hand, liked it so well that I feel a bit like a zealot. Bear with me. This could help revitalize writing and revising for you, and might help you spend less time drafting. At least I hope so. Sometimes it takes me as many as 7-12 drafts to get a book right. I’m no Patrick Rothfuss, and I don’t want to turn out a book a week, but I think it’s got to go a bit faster if I want to publish regularly. I have hopes this might help me do this.

It’s all about character desire and misbelief, and connecting the external plot struggles with the internal emotional struggles of your character. There’s lots of good inventing advice, determining when to start the book, advice about writing the ending, working on scenes, so much good stuff.

I would advise you to go check it out yourselves. I find I like flipping back and forth as I use it, so you might want a paper copy. But if you are the kind of writer who really feels motivated by the emotional arc of story, and you want to reconnect with the fun of writing, this might be a good book for you. I can tell you I am now hungry to revise, and regret those days when I simply can’t fit writing in. It’s pretty heady to climb into the heads of your characters and their emotions. I had been getting bogged down in the wheres and why for of plot, and this is generating the plot according to emotions.

I can’t say enough good things about this book, and I think I might owe Chia a drink or a fruit basket or something.

The Year of Living Authorly: Post 8 SFWA New Author Resources

March 28, 2017 0

Okay, okay. So I went to the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, and hung out with a lot of faboo people. Who should I end up hanging out with, but SFWA president Cat Rambo? We were sitting out by the pool on Friday, and I was going into my song and dance about being a new author and needing to learn all about what to do for book tours and stuff like that. And she said, “Why don’t you go to the SFWA website?”

I’ll admit, I was like, yeah, why don’t I? Because you know, I was so busy reinventing the wheel, I forgot there were a bunch of chariot drivers already on the track. Sure, that happens. However, nice pirates, when they stumble onto a treasure trove share the booty. Yes, I know there aren’t a lot of nice pirates. Moving on…

Of course, you’ll be wanting to know how to get to the SFWA Website.

First of all, I’m an associate member of SFWA (thank you, Sean Wallace). So I have access to the SFWA boards. BUT there’s a lot of information for writers, even if you don’t have access to the boards. I’m seeing the following categories that might prove useful

Advice for New Writers

Building a Career

The Business of Writing

How to Sell Your Novel

Networking and Self-Promotion

Tips for Beginners

It looks like I need to do some reading. So, I will hit the books hard, and then I will do some compilation posts. Stay tuned, true believers.

I’d like to thank SFWA President Cat Rambo for pointing out the obvious to me. Also, thanks for the swell tattoo. Authors who give out tattoos are the best.

The Year of Living Authorly: Post 5 Conventions–Image

March 3, 2017 1

Welcome to post 5 of The Year of Living Authorly. The subject of this post is one I initially had to grapple with, but I eventually made my peace with. You’re an author at a convention. You want to attract people to your work. You want people to have a certain image of you. What is the best image to put forward?

Much like an online persona, it’s best for authors to do something they feel comfortable with. I’ve seen authors dress as their own characters. I’ve seen authors dress in vaguely fannish clothing. I’ve seen authors dress like I might dress for my job as a professor. Is anyone one of these approaches better than another?

Conventional wisdom suggests that it is best to treat your author work like you might other work, that you should dress like you would as a professional. BUT I know that some authors trade on the kinship that they feel with fandom, and wearing a big floofy hat, or dressing vaguely like Jim Dresden is expected for these authors.

My particular dilemma with image is that I come from cosplay roots. From about 1985 until around 2007 or so, if you’d asked my friends what I did at conventions, they would tell you I made awesome costumes. Seriously, I used to do about 5-7 costume changes a convention. It was my raison d’etre for going to these things. And it was a blast. I was taken very seriously in the world of fandom costumers, and people still oooohhh and aaaahhh today over those pictures.

But I ultimately decided that in order to go where I wanted to as an author, I needed to professionalize. Why? Well, I wanted other people to publish me, and I wanted to make sure that I was seen as a capable person who could meet deadlines and took my work as an author seriously. I didn’t feel I could do this while I was dressed as an anime character or even Granny Weatherwax (and honestly, who wouldn’t take Granny Weatherwax seriously?). I thought it would serve my image better to go away from being a fan to being a professional.

I have to tell you, I’m not sure if this is the right decision, but I am comfortable with it. I will not go so far to say that I might never get fannish at a convention (read tshirts, goofy hats, etc), but if there’s a convention where I want people to think of me as a professional author, I am going to dress in a professional way and comport myself like a person who takes writing seriously. And honestly, there are cons where I feel I am not going to meet people in the publishing industry, but they are few and far between. The con I attend where I geek out the most, Convergence, is still a place where agents, editors, and fellow writers are going to be, and you never know when opportunity will come knocking.

Okay, so, that said, I know lots of authors who work the other mojo to their advantage. Chris Paolini used to dress up as a character from his book while he did his readings, I understand. Many writers make a memorable impression in fannish clothing. Cool. Do what works for you.

Me? While I don’t want to blend into the background, what I do want is for my demeanor and my work to be taken seriously, even though I am writing about demon binders in the 19th century. So, my advice is this: be professional until maybe you have gotten where you want to go. Then, maybe, you can play a little.

 

Next up: The cost of conventions. Can you afford them? How much does a convention cost anyway?

The Year of Living Authorly: Post 3 Conventions–Atmosphere

February 17, 2017 0

Welcome to the third post of the year of Living Authorly. Ironically, the rest of the Unreliable Narrators are at Boskone this weekend, and I am staying home to FINISH MY SEQUEL to The Vessel of Ra. Yes, this weekend, the 3rd draft is over, and I will send it off to the tender ministrations (?) of my readers for a couple of months. Also this weekend, a lot of professorial work. Can I have a booyah?

***

Right. Conventions. Right. Okay. I have been going to Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Comics/ Gaming/ Animation conventions on and off since I was 19, which was a veeeerrrrryyyy long time ago. My reasons for going? Same reasons I’m doing this podcast, man. I’m a geek. A nerd. A fan. Formerly a costumer. I actually like the darned things! I was never faced with the author decision of not going to conventions, because, well, I’ve always gone to conventions. My problem was almost the opposite of many authors. How did I get people to stop thinking of me the way they’d always thought of me, as a fan, and think of me as an author? Or, as I became older and spent some time as a Secret Master of Fandom (Mindbridge Board President for countless year, me), how did I make the transformation to industry professional?

I have so much to say about conventions for professionals that I’ll be breaking this into several posts:

Atmosphere

Panels

Image

Cost to Attend

Promotion and Touring

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Is the fan convention experience right for you? Just like the post I did on social media, a lot depends on you. Do you mind interacting with people when they are potentially socially awkward (as in, my peeps who like something so much they squee)? How much of  an introvert are you? How much do you enjoy what the convention is celebrating? Do you like meeting and chatting with strangers? All of these are reasons to consider whether a convention is right for you or not.

Remember there are many different kinds of conventions: all the way from the small and personal (100 or so like 4th Street) to ridiculously record breaking and huge (San Diego Comics Con with 110K and counting). They come in all kinds of flavors as well, like the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts and Wiscon (both part academic con coupled with fiction and intelligent discussion. Vanilla Bean.) or Convergence (everything all at once, big, with lots of costuming and celebrations of fannish life. Ice Cream Parlor Kitchen Sink Sundae with extra Jelly Beans and Gummy Worms on top.) or D23 (Celebrates all things Disney for fans of all things Disney. Going this summer for the first time as a fan only, not a writer. I’ll get back to you, but I figure chocolate-coated Mickey ice cream bar on a stick.)

The first thing you’ll want to figure out is if the actual convention is what you’re looking for in terms of enjoyment and comfort. I usually use these criteria when I think about trying out a convention I’m not familiar with.

  1. Do the panels at the con interest me as an attendee? As a potential participant?
  2. What is the convention about? Do I have interest in this particular kind of gathering as a fan?
  3. Am I able to interact with people who would make me comfortable (are my author buddies going? are the fans attending likely to be interested in areas I am interested in? Am I interested in the guests?)

What you will notice is I don’t ask the question: Is my reading audience at this convention? I should totally get in the habit of asking that question, and it will probably influence cons I go to in the future, because I now have a book to support. However, the questions above are the most important to me, because if I’m not enjoying myself, I will not come across as a person whose work you might be interested in when you find out about my writing. A lot having an online presence, I don’t want my convention self to come across as forced or inauthentic, or be solely focused on my books.

Therefore, personally, I am likely to go to cons that have an academic component (see notes above about spending weekend as a professor), or have a writing track (yeah. That makes sense.), or discuss social issues or the kinds of fandoms I like, or just make me feel happy about being a fan (liking many things geeky got me into cons, after all.) There are conventions for so many kinds of fandom. Some cons appear to be one thing, but have surprising features. For example, I have been curious for a while about GenCon’s awesome writing workshop, and that’s a gaming convention, so always check out all the offerings of conventions you’re considering, even ones that seem on the surface like they’re not your type of con.

Every year, you can pretty much count on me being at Wiscon (Feminist SF Convention in Madison, and very close to me. Also a trip with 3 amazing friends, so bonus), Icon (my home base con that I used to help run. Now I run a writing workshop there during the con), Convergence (a con my husband and I do together, and one I geek out a lot at, plus can hang with author friends and be on panels). I do try to make a couple of other events a year. This year, I’m going to Minicon. I’ve never been, but Jim Hines, who I admire a lot and is a good author friend and now sensei is guesting, so I’ll be trying it out. Also, I’m returning to C2E2, a comics con in Chicago, because the guy who played the Punisher is going to be there, as is the voice of Kaos from Skylanders, and I am going just as a fan, but may snag potential podcasting interviews with folks I admire. In the past, I have hit Worldcon, San Diego Comics Con, 4th Street Fantasy (this one is a gem among cons for writers), Capricon, and my god, I’m just grocery listing now, but you get the idea. I’ve been going to cons for 33 years, and yeah, that’s a lot of cons.

There are so many types and flavors of conventions for you as a writer, of various degrees of proximity, I cannot help but encourage you to get online and ask people where they go and what they like. Go with a like-minded friend at first, if you can, so you can have an introvert buffer. You’ll play hit and miss until you find the venues that make you comfortable.

Next week over at Writer Tamago Post 4: Conventions–Being on Panels

Productivity at Any Cost?

February 1, 2017 0

This month I wrote 2200 words, most of it on the revision train. I had expected to finish The Pawn of Isis and send it out to beta readers today. But…my mother died. Very quickly, of cancer. There were hospital visits, and then funeral arrangements, and apartment clearing, and grief, then grief with illness. Right now, I think I’m beginning to get back on my feet.  Ask me if I could write through any of that. I clocked 1.5 hours of sheer escape. And that’s it. Desperation writing, which I could not find more time to do.

There are those writers who will tell you that you must write every day, or else you are not serious. Well. I think that advice really, really needs to change. I am a serious writer. Hey, I am the turtle of writing. Slow and steady, in pre-planned time chunks, never a sprinter, always a plodder, moving forward in the way each book demands. I have a full-time job. Relationships I value. I am not a procrastinator. And yet, I don’t write every day.

Some days, I can’t write. Maybe work was too demanding. Maybe I’m tired or sick. Maybe the unexpected has occurred. As a matter of fact, many, many writers have full-time jobs and other obligations. I begin to think that most of us do these days. We value insurance, we value retirements. We value human contact. And a stable income that comes at reasonable intervals

I am not dissing full-time writers. I am saying that my career plan is very different. And even if my career plan weren’t, I suspect most writers would have a hard time finding voice with the month I’ve had. Many of us are having trouble with the current climate of our country.

I believe we need to be gentle and forgiving with ourselves. I could berate myself for my not reaching my goal, but I just can’t see it right now. I’m not a machine. We are not machines. We are human beings, artists, who feel deeply, else we would not be writers, artists, creators. And we live in extraordinary times. Sometimes the times inflict the extraordinary upon us.

Write when you can. Write when it gives you joy. Don’t make it a chore or a goal you didn’t reach. And when you can write, appreciate the gift of time, the gift of motivation, the gift of creativity. Right now, that’s what gives me light and hope.

Mission accomplished

January 31, 2017 0

The first (only?) round of E’ville is out the door as of yesterday. Many thanks to everyone who contributed in ways great and small–no way would this have been possible without all of you. I have quite a few thoughts about the whole process and what it’s taught me; rather than push all the podcasts off the front page, I’ve shared it on my own blog.

We’re just getting warmed up. Stay tuned for more off-kilter side projects!

The Year of Living Authorly: Post 2 Online Presence

January 17, 2017 0

Some of you might know that this year my novel The Vessel of Ra comes out from Curiosity Quills Press, and I am getting ready to gear up to promote that book. Over at my website, I’ve posted entry one of this ongoing series The Year of Living Authorly.

Until recently, my primary activity as an author has been to craft stories to the best of my abilities and get rejected. I had rejection down to a science. 🙂 However, the rejections started getting more acceptance-like, and then they actually turned into acceptances, and then I had a book accepted and an agent took me and bam! I am in new territory.

So this series is to educate me about being a publishing author and I thought you might enjoy being taken along for the ride. I thought tonight, since I’m kicking off my part of this series on Unreliable Narrators, that I should talk about online presence. I do know a little bit about that, although I am no guru. We hope to have a guru on the show in February.

Clearly, I am online. As in right now. Where can you find me online? Twitter (@cathschaffstump). Facebook (both an author and a personal page). My own website. Here. I am given advice about where I should be. For example, I am publishing a YA book, so I should be on Tumbler, maybe. Or Pinterest. Or Snapchat.

The truth of the matter is online can in fact take away huge chunks of time in your life. But at the same time, maybe some online is good. Not the buy my book barrage that some people think is useful, but rather the hey, I’m talking about interesting things, or I’m a person. Maybe if you like hanging out with me a little by my book. Or, even more honestly, this is me. Buy my book or not.

I like being online. I debated whether to start being on LiveJournal (remember LiveJournal? My blog hooks up to it still.) back in 2002, thinking that it would consume all the time I should use writing. And, it can do that. But I like writing essays and reviews for their own sake, so it’s not hard for me to find things to talk about.  When I’m drafting, I like to live tweet my action and word count on Twitter. Facebook is more for authorly announcements, although these days my personal space is largely political (who’s isn’t right now?)

The point you should take from the previous paragraph is this: first of all, writing is number one. If you’re spending more time writing online, maybe you are a different kind of writer, but if you want to write short stories or novels, no amount of time you spend on line will magically make that happen. Yeah. You know this already. Secondly, if you don’t like being online, you probably shouldn’t do it, or you should find a way to do it that is the least painful you can. Sort of like finding the workout that is best for you kind of thing.

Now, let’s talk a little about this podcast. Unreliable Narrators is a different kind of endeavor. Certainly, it can be a publicity platform for the four of us, but it is not only about that. We felt the need to put something fun that we enjoyed into the world. In the writerverse, sometimes no can get you down. So this was another creative endeavor used to rejuvenate us. Don’t be afraid to get out there online in a different format you want to try. There’s youtube, podcasting, all sorts of things you can do. Again, make sure you’re having a good time.

Also realize that if you do have readers, they will want you to put things out. I have lost a lot of my readers recently for my blog, because I spend more time writing. You can count on me writing an article a week here and an article a week there, plus link posts to all the awesome on Unreliable Narrators when I’m not posting an article at my blog Writer Tamago. If your blog goes silent, that’s clearly a sign doing the whole online thing for you is not a blog.  Try a variety of experiments. Find what works for you.

Is being online a requirement? I’d say if you can be, yes, if you’re suited to it and you find a way to do it that’s fun for you. It’s certainly one of the ways to put yourself out there. We’ll talk about more of them a little later on. And this kind of online is about you. There’s also online that can be about what you’re writing. I have some ideas about that, but I should save that for a different post.

Next up–going to Cons!

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