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kimscraftblog July 29 2014, 12:30

New Book Release: The Call of the Small

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KimsCraftBlog--FictionMemoirCreativeWriting/~3/6GjAeGBqFzk/new-book-release-call-of-small.html


Exciting news! My new memoir about the trials and tribulations of owning a tiny lapdog is now available on Amazon, both in trade paperback and on the Amazon Kindle. I hope you'll read my new book!

For information about Where to Buy, visit my website, at www.kimberlysdavis.com/.

Copyright © 2008-2013 Kimberly Davis. All rights reserved. Kim's Craft Blog posts may contain affiliate links to Amazon products. Advertising is provided via the Google Adsense program.
writerunboxed July 29 2014, 11:30

It Doesn’t Have to be Either/Or

http://writerunboxed.com/2014/07/29/it-doesnt-have-to-be-eitheror/

http://writerunboxed.com/?p=32590

photo by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

photo by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

I was sitting at my desk last Monday, working on my new manuscript (okay, kind-of working, kind-of surfing the internet) when Tweetdeck alerted me to the fact that Random House was offering my second novel, Time of My Life, at a promotional price of $1.99. I was as surprised as I was elated: namely, very. Surprised because I parted ways with Random House (amicably) when my imprint was shuttered (R.I.P. Shaye Areheart Books – I still love you!), and these days, they have no further obligation to boost any of my books. And elated for this very same reason: I’ll repeat – we had parted ways, and frankly, since then, I’ve gone indie. A move which doesn’t always endear you to your former colleagues at the Big Six. (I guess it’s the Big Five now?)

But their willingness to promote a backlist book of mine is one reason that I frequently ask myself, while reading the latest industry news or Twitter skirmishes between factions or Amazon-demonizing from just about everyone: why can’t we all just find a way to work together? I don’t mean to sound Pollyanna-ish, and I don’t mean to imply that, like, we should all return to our Montessori roots (though my mom was a Montessori teacher, and actually, maybe we should). But what I really mean to say is that I truly believe – having published four books at the big houses and one on my own – and having managed to maintain good relationships with many of my former editors or colleagues – is that these days, it doesn’t have to be an either/or. Or perhaps better said: it shouldn’t have to be an either/or. You shouldn’t have to be exclusively indie. You shouldn’t have to sneer at the traditionals and tell them they’re old dinosaurs. And you shouldn’t have to go traditional or bust. While I’m sure that some will (and can) argue with me, I honestly believe that flexibility and creative thinking on both sides could go a long way in changing the industry for the better. Here’s why and this is what I know:

1) Self-publishing The Theory of Opposites was one of the best and most gratifying professional experiences I have ever had. I wouldn’t change it for a second. I had complete ownership of every decision made, from the cover art to the price point to the advertising to all of the people I hired to help me (editor, jacket artist, publicist, copy editor, etc). At this stage in my career and after dealing with frustrations in the publishing process with my fourth book, it was exactly what I needed. I will never regret a second of that decision, and I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that it was one of my higher selling books in years, and that we sold a slew of subsidiary rights: foreign, film, audio, large print. I was no longer at the behest of a schedule I didn’t love, of a publication date I knew was a stinker, of a cover that left me cold, of a price that I knew would turn readers away. Every single book I have written and published has been an invaluable learning experience, but this book at this time in my life was something I needed to do on my own terms. It felt important to me as a person, and that made it important to me as an author. And I think readers knew this – I think they saw it in my joy, whether that joy was contained in the writing or in the promotion. And because of all of these factors, the book (The Theory of Opposites) opened up a new audience for me and led to new readers, which…brings me to my next point. And back to my old publishers.

2) Because of the success of Theory, readers discovered my backlist. I could not HAVE my backlist without the traditional publishers with whom I have previously worked. I’ve tried my very best to maintain strong relationships with many of my former peers at those imprints because I sincerely value what they did for me and my books, and because I recognize – FULLY – that coming up in the traditionals made me the author I am today. I can’t emphasize this enough: whether or not I had grown disenchanted with the current environment, I owe a lot to where I came from. Whenever people ask me if they should self-publish, I ask them how well they know the industry; how much they know about getting a book to market-ready shape; if they understand how many rounds of edits a book needs to endure; if they have thought about promotion and marketing beyond, say, tweeting. My time with my publishers taught me all of that. So that my backlist is being rediscovered is a benefit to both of us, and a benefit that I, quite obviously, couldn’t have without them. But this rediscovery also means more sales for them – I’ve earned out on several of my books, so this is nothing but profit for my publisher. Either way, new eyeballs = win.

3) Which is part of the reason that those same publishers are still happy to collaborate. This is where that either/or notion gets shot to hell. Both HarperCollins (who published my debut, The Department of Lost and Found, almost eight years ago!!) and Random House (who did Time of My Life and The One that I Want) have offered $1.99 promotions of my books in the past six months. I may no longer be a current author in their wheelhouse, but they’ve been generous enough to still try to sell the heck out of my books. Again, win-win for everyone. Of course, there are plenty of disgruntled writers who complain that their publishers didn’t do enough for their books at the time (and trust me, I can add myself to that list…which, as I’ve alluded to, is part of the reason I went indie), but when this type of collaboration continues to thrive, it’s a reminder that what we all really want to do is get books into the hands (or onto the e-readers, I suppose) of readers. As authors stress about sales and advances and numbers and all of the things that aren’t being done for them (again: BTDT), and publishers stress about sales and advances and numbers and who to blame when a book underperforms, I feel like this is often forgotten. What matters is getting books out to readers, even if that means dropping the price and (gasp) paying for ads. Again, everyone wins.

4) All of that said, I don’t think I could ever give up the e-rights to my books again. Why? For one: price point…it’s not a coincidence that Theory sold well when it was priced at three bucks. I know that some argue that books shouldn’t be priced so inexpensively, but I ran my numbers and budget and knew what I wanted to get out of it. I also knew that, as I noted in my second point, it was more than just about the one sale of one copy to one reader. It was about establishing readership loyalty. So $2.99 it was. But even as I dig in my heels over my e-book rights, I’m not opposed to thinking outside the box. Getting a hard copy of your indie book in stores is still a high hurdle, so – in the spirit of axing the either/or mentality –  why not consider a model where authors turn over paperback rights over for a higher royalty rate? Or accelerating the speed of the snail-like pace of the current publishing process? (One benefit to self-publishing is that you eliminate all of the middle-men and can turn out the same quality book in about half the time that the publishers do.) Or find a way to hybrid the process: as I said, I hired everyone I worked with for Theory, but there were times (certainly), when I would have been happy to have, say, Random House’s typesetters lay out my book or taken advantage of their savvy editors or copy-editors or whatever. But I wasn’t willing to compromise on price or pub date. Maybe there’s a middle ground where a publisher takes a small percentage in exchange for services provided. Or the publisher bundles your indie book with your backlist online? I DON’T KNOW. These may be terrible suggestions. Truly. You may all be rolling your eyes at them and thinking: girlfriend has drunk way to much spiked kool-aid. Maybe. But none of that changes my final point:

5) Something has to change. Honestly, right now, everyone in this industry is being forced to adapt to a brave new world. Without getting too Darwinian, those who do, those who adapt or find creative ways to change, are going to be the ones who thrive.  I was unhappy with my lot, so I adapted. And I (at least so far) survived. The publishers who aren’t afraid to stop doing what they’ve always been doing have a fighting chance too. Amazon, certainly, isn’t afraid to think outside of the box. I’m not even sure they know what that box is. (And if they do, and you pay for Prime, that box comes with free shipping.) If this means that we all have to put our collective heads together and come up with a way to emerge better, stronger, more accessible to readers, more supportive of authors, then I am in. I’m more than in. I’ll lead the way. In the meantime, I’ll be happily tweeting about the lovely $1.99 promo that my old publisher was savvy enough (and generous enough) to offer. A win-win. Not something you hear about all too often these days in our little corner of the world.

What do you think? Who has ideas for collaboration between the indies and traditionals? Anyone? Anyone?

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About Allison Winn Scotch

Allison Winn Scotch is the author of four novels: The One That I Want, Time of My Life, and The Department of Lost and Found, and The Song Remains the Same. She lives in Los Angeles with her family, where she is at work on her new projects.

bloodredpencil July 29 2014, 06:04

Firsts

http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2014/07/firsts.html

Photo by Andre Chinn, via Flickr
Firsts are exciting. They’re the things you remember forever, right? I was racking my brain, trying to think what I wanted my first post for Blood-Red Pencil to be about. Should I write about my self-publishing experiences? How I’ve been writing since I was 10? The pitfalls I’ve encountered or the tricks that keep me from getting writer’s block? Or should I write about Romance and the beauty of genre fiction?

While I was contemplating all this, a first of epic proportions happened. It was a first that could change everything. I knew I had to write about that. Because on Saturday, July 26th, a novel called Off the Edge by Carolyn Crane became the first self-published novel to win a RITA award. That’s right, a self-published novel just won a major industry award.

So why is this important? Why is it important for you?

Obviously, when a self-published novel is judged by two rounds of peer readers to be the very best in its sub-genre, it sends a message to the world of books. Self-publishing is not only a viable alternative to traditional publishing, it’s a method by which brilliant, quality books are being delivered to readers. It puts to rest the notion that all self-published authors are just hacks who couldn’t get a traditional contract putting out garbage at the click of a button. It proves that the playing field has been leveled. The world of books just got bigger.

But what does this mean for YOU?

Whether you’re indie published or traditionally published or as yet unpublished, what happened in San Antonio on Saturday is a boon for writers everywhere. It’s an endorsement of the fact that no matter which method of publication is right for you, if you put in the hard work, you will be taken seriously as a writer. The time to worry over whether your efforts count as “real” writing or whether outsiders will diminish your accomplishments because of the way you get your work into reader’s hands is over. Your way of writing is the right way for you, and no matter what opinions you may be hearing in the world, no one can take that away from you.

I have a lot of writer friends on all sides of the traditional/indie/small press debate who have seen a wide range of success with their books. Universally, they have all chosen the path that works best for them. Some of them are much more comfortable with a traditional model and others wouldn’t trade their self-pub status for a thousand Big Five contracts. What brings us all together now is that our books are being viewed by the Romance Writers of America as six of one, half a dozen of another as far as legitimacy and quality.

Choose the path to publication that’s right for you and strut down that path with your head held high! The world is changing, and I predict that soon the days of assuming one method of publishing is better than another will give way to the option of picking which path is right for you without stigma or judgment.

Merry Farmer is a history nerd, a hopeless romantic, and an award-winning author of thirteen novels. She is passionate about blogging and knitting, and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. Connect with Merry at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.
juslarbalestier July 29 2014, 01:56

BWFBC: Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt/Carol (1952)

http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2014/07/29/bwfbc-patricia-highsmiths-the-price-of-saltcarol-1952/

http://justinelarbalestier.com/?p=13501

Welcome to July’s Bestselling Women’s Fiction Book Club in which we discuss Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt/Carol. It’s original title was The Price of Salt and that’s what some editions in the US still call it. In Australia and the UK it’s called Carol. That’s how I think of it because that’s the edition I first read and fell in love with in my early twenties.

This is the first book we’ve discussed that one of us knows really well. I’m a huge Highsmith fan. Have read everything she’s published as well as all the biographies and memoirs of her I can find. So this discussion is a little different from the previous ones.

Because the book was originally published as a hardcover but did not take off until the paperback edition came out1 I thought it would be fun for you to see the different covers. Quite the difference, eh? From what I’ve been able to figure out it was that second version that sold the most copies. At least one of the dates in the image bleow is wrong. The hardcover version of Price of Salt was first published in 1952, not 1951.



Note: in the discussion below my information about the original publication of the book and how many copies it sold comes from Patricia Highsmith’s 1989 afterword which is now included in most reprints of the book. She says almost a million copies. As you can see some of the paperback covers above claim only half a million.

One last thing: apparently Todd Haynes is currently directing Cate Blanchett in a movie version to be called Carol. Yes, I’m excited.

For the discussion on Twitter we’ll be using the hashtag #BWFBC. You can also join the conversation in the comments below.

If you haven’t read Price of Salt/Carol yet there are many spoilers below.

And here at last is our take on this bloody brilliant book:

JL: This is my third or fourth read so I’d really like to hear your take on it first. Very curious to know what you thought.

KE: I’m about a third through.

I think it is quite well written. And I’m really impressed by how she captures Therese’s stunned attraction. Also, something about Highsmith’s point of view is so interesting to me and I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. Maybe because the situation doesn’t feel as desperate as some of the other books where we can tell from the subject matter and the tone that a dire fate awaits the women characters. This isn’t precisely a comedy, but it is a book in which there is a fragile sense that a woman can contribute to her own destiny? That she has a hope of happiness and success of a kind? Does that make sense?

I’m enjoying it. The initial phone call exchange where Carol rings up and realizes who it is who called her is brilliant.

JL: Yes to all of that. Except that I think Highsmith is a genius and her writing perfect.

The pov is deeply strange. It verges on omniscient.

The description of Therese’s desire, love, obsession is remarkable. Every time I read it I’m absolutely desperate for them to kiss already. WHY AREN’T YOU BOTH KISSING ALREADY?! And I do mean kissing. They barely so much as hold hands for most of the book. Sexual tension = this book.

I can’t help thinking how disappointed the 1950s straight men who read lesbian pulps for the titilation must’ve been with this book and how beyond delighted the lesbians must have been to discover it. No wonder it was an underground hit.

Have you finished yet? Didn’t want to write more of my thought until you’ve finished.

I will say this one thing since it’s clear that Richard is like this early on. I’m struck by how in every single novel we’ve looked at there’s a guy who will not take no for an answer and who pathologises the woman for her refusal to marry him/be with him.

KE: Yes. Richard doesn’t seem bad at first but then it turns out he’s awful. Dannie is better because of he isn’t bothered (seemingly) by the revelation that Therese has had an affair with Carol, and because he genuinely does seem like a person who will not demand.

The man who won’t take no for an answer is a familiar and comfortable trope, still present today in guises that make such a man seem worthy and attractive, but in all these novels the writers simply skewer that notion.

JL: It’s lovely to see that revulsion at that guy is not a recent development. He’s been loathed for much longer than either of us has been alive. And yay for that! Now if only we could get him to go away forever.

I just reread Malinda Lo’s review of the book. I was really struck by how weird I found it that she saw it as a love at first sight novel. I didn’t read it that way at all. I mean Carol doesn’t even realise that it was Therese at first she thought it was some guy who served her that day. Carol pretty clearly isn’t immediately attracted to Therese it’s more of a slow burn. The falling in love is even a slower burn. I feel like Carole doesn’t even take Therese seriously until she realises that she’s a set designer.

Therese is very much attracted straight away. But that’s not love at first sight that’s lust at first sight which I’ve never found hard to buy at all.

Your thoughts?

KE: I absolutely read it as Therese falling in love at first sight. Carol feels the attraction but, I think, is mature and experienced enough to be amused by it because she knows what it is.

But I simply can’t agree that it is lust at first sight.

JL: Wow. I think I have a totally different understanding of what love at first sight as a narrative device is compared to you and Malinda. Because I really disagree. I’ve always seen it at as something that happens to both in the pairing—a la Twilight or Tristan and Isolde. They might struggle against it but they both feel it. A narrative in which only one person is into the other is not a love at first sight narrative.

Carol definitely does not feel it. She doesn’t even remember who Therese is at first and if Therese hadn’t contacted her Carol would never have thought of her again.

Therese feels an attraction—I think it’s lust—that she doesn’t quite make sense of until she sees Carol a few more times. But, yeah, I think her immediate attraction to Carol is physical. And that she lets herself understand it as something more romantic because she doesn’t quite have the means to understand being attracted to a woman. It’s part of what she tries to talk to idiot Richard about when she asks him if he’s ever been attracted to a man. So, yeah, I definitely feel the attraction is instant but the love comes later.

I don’t read Therese as truly being in love with Carol or even truly understanding Carol until the very end of the novel when she’s wowed by Carol’s bravery in deciding to be with Therese even though it means she’s going to lose her daughter.

One of the many things I adore about this novel is that it shows the reader Therese and Carol getting to know each other fairly slowly and falling in love fairly slowly. Therese learns that Carol is not, in fact, who she thought she was.

KE: Therese is so sure of herself and how these feelings permeate her. I think it’s beautifully written in capturing the sense of floating and surety. Besides the really good writing I think what I love most about this book is that Therese never questions herself, never hates herself for having what most people at that time (and too many even now) considered “unnatural” feelings. The power of the emotion that hits her is so strong that she simply accepts it in a way that might typically be written in a heterosexual romance of the time (and still today). There’s no agonizing forr her, it’s Cupid’s arrow straight between the eyes. I love that. Although over the course of the novel Therese slowly comes to realize what it means for her and Carol in terms of society’s disapprobation and the real threat it poses to both of them for different reasons.

JL: Here we can agree. (Though I think Cupid fires lust darts, not love.) I adored Therese’s surety about her own desires too. And it’s a huge part of why it sold almost a million copies in paperback and caused so many lesbians and gay men to write to Highsmith about the novel. Here was a story where a woman falls in love with another woman without believing that she’s deranged or infantile or any of the things that awful Richard acuses her of being. Here’s a story in which the lovers get to be together at the end.

KE: So, yes, put me firmly in the love at first sight camp.

Carol’s is a slower burn but I read that in part as caution and, as you say, in part that at first she seems to find Therese more amusing (and maybe a little flattering) than anything.

(Very true about Cupid. My bad.)

JL: If she’s a slow burner than how on earth is it love at first sight?! That makes no sense! I read it as Carol being depressed. Her ex is awful, she’s just broken up with her best friend, her daughter’s with her awful ex, she has a housekeeper she doesn’t trust, she has no job to distract her. So, yes, as you say she’s enjoying the flattery of Therese’s crush on her but doesn’t take it seriously beyond that. She’s certainly not imagining them living together. Pretty much until they go on the road trip Carol tries to encourage Therese to stick with her odious boyfriend.

KE: The set design does change Carol’s view of her. I wonder if you have any thoughts in how Carol reacts (with the negative criticism)? It could be seen as a compliment (I’m being honest) or as a little more passive aggressive. Or some other option. It’s interesting though.

JL: For me that’s the first moment Carol starts to really see Therese and not just the flattery of this pretty young thing having a crush on her.

I read her criticism as part of Carol’s general discomfort. Carol’s up against so much that she’s not talking about. Two break ups in a row. She’s constantly kind of on edge and irritable and I see the picking at Therese’s designs as another part of that. She spends a lot of time trying to push Therese away. And there’s a lot of weirdness around her break up with Abby and Abby’s interaction with Therese. I also think she’s a bit freaked out by her growing feelings for Therese and the ramifications for Carol. She is, as you say, much more aware of the consequences of being a lesbian in the 1950s in the USA than Therese is.

I’m coming out of YA where there’s a metric tonne of love at first sight in the sense I mean it. In the fairy tale sense. And YA is where Malinda is from as well which is how I read her as responding to the book: “Oh, God, not that awful trope again.” Whereas I think this novel is SO not that trope.

However, I still don’t see Therese as instantly in love. Intrigued and crushing, yes. Full of desire, yes. In love? No. I also see a very slight amount of omniscience in the narrator. Through those eyes I feel like the novel is very lightly mocking—mocking is too strong a word—Therese’s growing obsession with Carol. But there’s a definite feel of someone much older telling the tale of this nineteen year old’s first real experience with love.

KE: If you are defining “love at first sight” as necessarily mutual, then no it isn’t. But I’ve never defined it as having to be mutual.

In Carol’s case, she even says toward the end that she went over to Therese in the department store because she was the least busy, and not wearing a smock.

JL: I don’t think either of them really start to fall all the way in love with each other until the road trip when they get to know each other and discover they have great chemistry in bed.

KE: Nah. I just disagree. Therese is in love from the get-go, although I should specify that I think of it as infatuation-love rather than love-love, if that makes sense. But it is not just lust. The emotion made Therese stronger and more sure of herself. Lust (to my mind) doesn’t create the same grounding.

JL: It’s lust with romantic longings. That ain’t what I call love. I do not call infatuation love. I call love what you’re calling love-love. So I think we’re agreeing but we have definitional disagreements. Frankly I don’t believe in love at first sight. I believe in lust at first sight, infatuation at first sight, but not love. Love takes time. You can’t love someone if you don’t know them.

KE: I should note that I myself am skeptical about the idea of love at first sight. On a personal note I actually have a statement about “love at first sight” in my forthcoming YA fantasy novel, in which a father tells his daughter about the first time he saw her mother. He emphatically does not believe in “love at first sight” and then describes what pretty much what in any book would be “love at first sight.”

I should also note that from my own experience I know that “instant attraction” (sometimes sexual but often a more intangible quality that is an instinctive “connection” between two people) does exist but I have experienced it with both men and women. It always startles me when I instantly like and feel drawn to someone (even as I know I don’t really know them, but something sparks that connection and I am sure I have no idea what it is).

JL: Yes to all of that.

KE: I’m enjoying your analysis of Carol. I think in this case that is a perspective that can’t be gained from a single reading of the novel but only from a re-read.

JL: It is true *cough* that this is at least my fourth read of this novel. It fascinated me because it is so not like Highsmith’s other books yet at the same I can see so many places where it could take a turn into Highsmith territory. Like when awful ex, Harge, shows up, there’s a moment where either Therese or Carol could plausibly have killed him. The fact that Carol brings a gun on the road trip and it never goes off! If this were a regular Highsmith Carol could have wound up killing that detective.

KE: Yes, I recognized the business with the gun and felt it was, perhaps, a tip of the hat to her thrillers? I was pretty sure it would not go off because the tone of the story wasn’t right for it, but it was a reminder that the entire narrative could have taken a far darker turn.

JL: Oh, I like that interpretation. Hadn’t occurred to me. It’s just the sort of thing Highsmith would do too.

KE: What’s interesting is that I think the story may have been far more important to readers because it did not take that dark turn.

JL: Absolutely!

KE: The ending is brilliant and adorable, and the cinematic romantic in me is just beaming because it is so sweet and yet somehow Highsmith pulls it off without making it saccharine; she makes you want it.

JL: The first time I read it I cried. Sobbed my heart out with joy. Not just because it’s a (relatively) happy ending but because they’re both now in a place and the novel takes place over at least a year and a half where they’re right for each other, mature enough for each other, and brave enough for each other. *sniff*

KE: I must say that I did feel a pinch of anger at Therese for that business of “she choose Rindy over me” because I’m a mother and so I entirely empathize with Carol’s situation. Having said that, Highsmith has carefully set up that Therese has no reason to understand “motherly love” as she never got any and, in fact, was herself discarded when her mother chose her second husband over Therese. So it makes psychological sense.

JL: Oh, sure. I also think it’s meant to be a bit appalling. Even without her awful background Therese is still very young. It’s a very young person’s selfish thought.

KE: So while Therese’s story ends well, Carol’s remains filled with a combination of triumph and heartbreak, very bittersweet. In my fanfic, Rindy will start writing secret letters to her mother and then, as 16, will start seeing her mother secretly and, at 18, tell her father where to go.

JL: That’s hilarious. I was going to tell you that I imagine Rindy constantly running away from her dad until he finally gives in and lets her go live with Carol and Therese. He won’t mind because he’s found himself another trophy wife and had more children. And Rindy’s proven herself to be too much trouble.

But, yes, my heart breaks for Carol.

One of the lovely things at the end of the book is that we finally get to see Carol without all those weights on her. She knows, at last, where she stands with her ex, she’s lost custody of her daughter. She doesn’t have to hide. She doesn’t have to pretend anymore. That brittleness about her is gone.

KE: The only thing that mitigates my annoyance with the plot device of Carol having to lose her child in order to be “free” (very dicey plot device, that one) is that I know that legally it would and could have happened in that way. But in this particular case the plot line of a mother losing her child always comes across to me as traumatic.

JL: It happened to a close family friend in the 1970s. Lesbian mothers didn’t start winning custody battles til later in that decade. At least not in Australia and I bet it was just as bad in the US. So I never thought of that as a plot device but rather as absolutely what would have happened. Because that’s what did happen. Sometimes still does happen.

I also think is clear Carol doesn’t see losing Rindy as making her free. She’s clearly heartbroken. But in the choice between denying who she is to people who hate her and won’t to keep her from her daughter and will use any excuse to do so she chooses love with Therese.

KE: I’ve thought a bit more about this and I realize that in fact Carol doesn’t read to me as heartbroken and in fact her relationship with Rindy never felt true to me; it is the one thing in the book that doesn’t ring true to me. It feels obligatory but not emotionally authentic. So it isn’t the plot device that didn’t work for me — the legal aspect — it’s that I never quite believed in the mother/daughter relationship as depicted between them so that it came across as a plot device rather than something I truly cared about because I never (as a reader) invested in the Carol/Rindy relationship. All the other relationships felt true to me, even the minor ones like Mrs Robichek.

JL: Again I disagree. One of the things I’ve noticed on rereads is that Therese is not a reliable narrator though she absolutely strives to be one (which is a key distinction between kinds of unreliable narrators). but everything about Carol is filtered through her gaze. Therese does not give a shit about Rindy. She doesn’t much ask about Rindy except in a pro forma way. So Carol doesn’t much talk about Rindy with Therese. Yet even so she’s there haunting the entire book and a huge part of Carol’s grief and brittleness. When letters arrive Carol always reads Rindy’s first. And Therese is puzzled by that. To me that was a huge tell that Therese just doesn’t get Carol’s love for her daughter.

KE: If that is the case, and I think you make a compelling argument about something that might not be as obvious EXCEPT on a re-read, then there’s a second layer to all this in that Therese essentially acts as did the second husband for whom her mother discarded her. It would be interesting to think about how and what it means that, as an abandoned child, she can’t (yet) empathize with a girl about to be separated from her mother.

I wanted to make a brief mention of how brilliantly Highsmith uses excerpts from letters. She’s such a skilled writer, and it’s interesting to see how the narrative voice differs from the voices displayed in the letters (naturally, but it’s not easy to do).

JL: As I have now mentioned multiple times I am a huge fan. Can I admit now that you’re initial comment that Highsmith writes “quite well” had me fuming? Yay, that you saw the light. :-)

KE: Justine, “quite well” is a huge compliment from me. I don’t gush much. If I say, “that was a good book” it is strong praise.

JL: Weirdo.

KE: Probably!

There is a period of several chapters where Therese does a cascade of “growing up” that turns her into a person of budding maturity and—quite the most interesting to me—a woman with determined goals and a sense of herself. She is a woman who will succeed and also be true to herself (in many different facets of her life). Wow. What a fabulous emotion to leave the reader with.

JL: Yes to all of this. I too think that was beautifully done, which I guess is pretty obvious given how many times I’ve read it.

KE: I would like to hear more about the context of this book’s bestsellerdom because I confess it surprised me that a book with this content would have been a bestseller in 1952. I’m not surprised people wrote to Highsmith. Again, I can’t express enough how unusual it is EVEN TODAY but especially then to read a lovely story like this in which her sexual coming out (if I may use that term) is depicted so positively, and sexily. And without any need to ever have Therese question, doubt, dislike, or try to “change” herself.

JL: It may not be technically a bestseller. But it did sell close to a million copies and it was one of the bestselling lesbian pulp paperbacks of the 1950s. It did not do well in its original printing in hardcover though it got some nice reviews including from the NYT. But it’s real impact was in paperback.

Those lesbian pulps were mainly aimed at titilating straight male readers but many lesbians also read them and I’m pretty sure this novel would have stood out like a sore thumb. It became a novel that was passed around by lesbians and by which they could recognise each other. Marijane Meaker (M. E. Kerr) was one of Highsmith’s lovers and talks about the book’s impact in her 2003 memoir about her relationship with Highsmith:

Pat was revered [in the lesbian community] for her pseudonymous novel, The Price of Salt, which had been published in 1952 by Coward McCann. It was for many years the only lesbian novel, in either hard or soft cover, with a happy ending.

It stood on every lesbian bookshelf along with classics like The Well of Loneliness; We, Too, Are Drifting; Diana; and Olivia.

KE: The book dragged for me a little in the middle, mostly because I was waiting for dragons or ninjas to appear and they never did. But the ending is really masterfully written.

JL: You do realise that there will be no dragons or ninjas in any of the books we’re looking at, right?

KE: WHAT?!?!?

So glad you had us read this one! I’d never even heard of it. But then again, because of the lack of dragons and ninjas and sword fighting, I tend not to have heard of a lot of mainstream fiction.

  1. Pun intentional.
querytrackerblo July 28 2014, 13:02

Understanding Your Contract

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/QueryTracker/~3/GJ8cz_esyF8/understanding-your-contract.html

Dear Querytracker Blog,

I recently accepted an offer from my dream agent, but I’m curious about something in my contract. What does “and any subsequent work in a series or derivation therefrom” mean?

Sincerely,

Totally Clueless

Dear Clueless,

First, congratulations on this new step in your writing career. I wish you all the best.

Not every agent includes this clause (or a similar clause) in their agency contract. What it means is that if a publisher offers you a contract for two books (for example) in a series, and you later write one or more additional books for the series, your agent also represents those books. Now, this might sound like a given if you and your agent live happily-ever-after, together, but what happens if you and your agent “divorce”? If your contract has this clause in it, it doesn’t matter if you’re still together or not, it doesn’t matter if he had nothing to do with the sale (because you and your editor agreed to the book after you separated from your agent), he is involved in the series and therefore will get the agreed upon royalty (usually 15%).

Unfortunately, when we sign with an agent, we’re so excited to finally get to this point, we don’t realize the ramifications of what we’re signing. We assume we’re going to be together forever and ever. Or, we don’t necessarily understand the legal jargon. This is the same issue that often arises with publisher contracts. Before you sign a contract, make sure you know what you’re signing and the ramifications it might have on your career. You don’t want to find out too late that the small press (for example) you signed with now has rights to all your books (or at least first right to refusal). There are often ways around these clauses, but it’s tricky, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.


If you don’t understand something, contact a lawyer (an entertainment or literacy lawyer) or asked one of your author friends who does understand what it means. It will save you grief down the road. And when in doubt, don’t sign the contract. Remember, this is YOUR career we’re talking about.


Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.  She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN (Carina Press, HQN) is now available. LET ME KNOW (Carina Press) will be available Sept 1st, 2014.
If your email address changes, please follow these instructions: 1. Scroll down to the bottom of an email from the QTB and click UNSUBSCRIBE to remove your old email addy from the database. Then 2. Go to http://querytracker.blogspot.com/ and SUBSCRIBE (on the right-hand side, in the sidebar) with your new address!
writerunboxed July 28 2014, 11:28

The Tyranny of Motive

http://writerunboxed.com/2014/07/28/the-tyranny-of-motive/

http://writerunboxed.com/?p=32568

Desperation by Josh Sommers

The legendary coach Vince Lombardi used to greet his players at training camp by saying: “Within every man there is a burning flame of desperation. That is why you are here.”

I would include women in that, of course, and wouldn’t restrict the application to football. Or sports. Or Wisconsin.

This flame of desperation arises from some nameless place inside us, creating a profound sense of yearning that we often cannot define, but it is as intrinsic to our lives as more purely physical urges beyond our conscious control such as hunger, thirst, the sex drive, the need to breathe.

We long for something else, something better, something deeper and purer and truer, even if we have no clear idea what that might be, or how to go about naming it, let alone finding it.

And as writers we transmit that yearning to our characters.

This all came back to me as I was contemplating Donald Maass’s most recent post here (“Infused”), on the importance of recognizing your character’s core need, and my own most recent piece on pinpointing your character’s desire.

We long for something else, something better, something deeper and purer and truer

It seemed to me the beginning of a debate had started, with me saying that overcomplicating the matter was more often the result of confusion on the writer’s part than the character’s. But Donald made a very interesting comment that’s stayed with me. Troubled me. Nagged me.

The bastard (he muttered).

Here’s my attempt at a reply.

Donald mentioned an exercise he uses where students identify the character’s desire in a scene they are writing. They then step back and think a bit more deeply and identify another, deeper desire. Then they do so again. By the end the students almost always feel as though they’ve gotten to the essence of the scene in a way they previously hadn’t.

The more I thought about it, though, the more convinced I became that Donald and I weren’t disagreeing. We were discussing different things at different levels, story arc versus scene, for example, and the sometimes interchangeable use of the words “want” and “desire” and “need” created further confusion. That was my take, anyway, and I thought I’d try to clear that up here, or at least move the discussion forward a little.

Recordando a Moby Dick Photo by Anna Librillana

In this September’s edition of Writer’s Digest, I have an article titled “Finding Your Story’s Engine.” (Ironically, Donald’s article, “Building Micro-Tension Into Every Scene,” immediately follows mine, making it a must-have issue—nudge-nudge, wink-wink.)

In my article I make the argument that desire, not conflict, provides the engine for story. Wile E. Coyote cannot stop wanting to catch the Roadrunner, no matter how many anvils fall from the sky.

Or, as I put it in The Art of Character:

  • The inescapable urgency of what a character wants, the vibrant way her craving and need defines her, creates what I call the Tyranny of Motive. Like all tyrannies, it demands obedience—and inspires rebellion.

But what realistically is there to rebel against?

Here’s what: The reduction of what a character yearns for to a pithy bon mot.

I know this sounds like a contradiction, given my previous insistence on keeping it simple. But I wasn’t criticizing complexity so much as the use of complexity as an evasion, a way to keep from asking direct questions and demanding answers.

That doesn’t mean I think the answers can be reduced to bumper-sticker slogans.

The inescapable urgency of what a character wants, the vibrant way her craving and need defines her, creates what I call the Tyranny of Motive.

In truth, the core of our psyche is framed by competing drives, something virtually every moral system devised by man has recognized throughout history.

  • Plato likened the perfect soul to a winged creature, hoping to soar upward toward Truth. But the imperfect soul loses its wings and descends to earth, where evil, foulness and mere opinion reign. A total devotion to the purity of Truth can restore the fallen soul’s wings.
  • Augustine argued that Man, eternally contaminated by the sin of Adam, nonetheless retains a desire to return to the beatific vision he knew in the Garden, a return only possible by gaining God’s grace.
  • Buddhism argues that the human soul experiences a state of lack because it tries to anchor consciousness in the material world, pursuing a sense of solidity through wealth and power and physical pleasure, but this is like trying to slake a thirst with salt water. Instead we must strive for pure consciousness in a state of No Self.
  • Freud believed people are driven by two equal, conflicting instincts: the avoidance of pain and the desire for health and wholeness. Only by lancing old wounds and dealing with that pain can we transcend our past, overcome our neuroses.

Each of these formulations points to a deep yearning for some kind of truth or love or health within us, and a battle in our hearts with the less honest, brave, or wholesome inclinations we settle for. You can’t understand your character’s yearning—or your own—without understanding that battle.

But how do we unbundle that mad, conflicting tangle of impulses? How do we create a story from it?

Sophocles described his heroes with the term deinos, which translates loosely as “wondrous and strange.” A character who lives up to that description possesses a kind of incandescence, reminding us of the unpredictable capacity for loving sacrifice, heroism, fierce persistence—as well as craven selfishness, cowardice, vacillation—that each of us carries within his heart.

But how do we unbundle that mad, conflicting tangle of impulses? How do we create a story from it?

For what it’s worth, here’s the methodology I’ve come up with.

The four key areas I always explore when first building my characters are:

  • Lack
  • Yearning
  • Weakness/Wound/Flaw/Limitation
  • Desire

The machinery works like this:

  • The character begins the story in a state of lack he may or may not recognize: a state of unfulfilled promise, malaise, longing, existential angst, even dread.
  • The lack is created by an unfulfilled yearning that may be equally vague or undefined, at least at the story’s start.
  • The reason that the yearning is unfulfilled is because the character possesses a trait or traits that make the yearning feel foolish, impossible, terrifying, futile—out of the question:

o   a weakness (laziness, cowardice, lack of intelligence, despair);

o   a wound (some loss or injury that has crippled his ability to love, heal, or act decisively);

o   a limitation (youth, illness, class, race); or

o   a flaw (dishonesty, envy, vanity, rage).

This weakness, wound, limitation or flaw has singly or in concert with others inhibited his ability to see his soul, his dreams, his destiny clearly, or live the life he wants.

  • Then something happens—the loved one appears, a body is found, the expedition is launched, the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere—and that triggers the desire to respond or to act.

[Excuse the somewhat arbitrary distinction between desire on the one hand and need or yearning on the other. It’s just a device. Like John Truby, I use “desire” to refer to the outer goal or ambition the character pursues in the story, whereas “need” or “yearning” refers to the deeper longing that explains why and how badly he wants it.]

It is the desire to act that is often easiest and simplest to identify and define—to win the loved one, catch the killer, complete the expedition, walk to the next town and find help. It’s this desire that I maintain is simple to identify, or should be.

Ahab chases the whale, Gatsby pursues Daisy. The simplicity of the outer goal works precisely because it allows the story to move beyond the dark slippery quagmire of inner yearning. It gives the character something to do.

Photo by Ma_Co2013

As the character acts, he encounters conflict. The contest to continue pursuing the desire despite the mounting conflict —and the risk of failure — forces the character to ask: Why continue? Why not surrender, compromise, turn back?

The answer lies in the yearning. Through struggling to gratify the desire, through facing the prospect of failure and even ruin, the character becomes aware of the deeper need, the core longing, the yearning he has imperfectly grasped before. Or he realizes at last the inescapable intensity of it.

This awakens him to the stakes. A character’s yearning speaks to what he believes his life is truly about: the way of life he wants to live, the kind of person he wants to be. If he turns his back on that, he’s basically giving up on his life. He must accept the truth of his yearning, or die.

I always ask how, at the end of the story, my characters have become at least a little braver, more honest, and more loving—or not.

This is how to create stakes that are truly profound. Recognize that whatever outer goal or ambition the character pursues in the story somehow speaks to this deeper, implacable, life-defining need or yearning.

But how do you put your finger on that “burning flame of desperation”? Can it be summed up in a single phrase? To come home. To be free. To find true love. To be the champion.

It’s tempting here to be simple, too. I often see students cringing before the old verities, believing them to be clichéd or hokey. But they speak to our fundamental natures for a reason. We long for beauty and truth and love. Can’t we just leave it there?

I actually believe the need or yearning is a more organic, complex thing than that. And it can’t be known until you do a lot of the backstory exploration that identifies moments in the character’s past that have shaped him—moments of extreme terror, courage, shame, pride, guilt, forgiveness, hate, love. The person he wants to be, the life he hopes to live—both are shaped indelibly by the life he’s known so far.

Recognize that whatever outer goal or ambition the character pursues in the story somehow speaks to this deeper, implacable, life-defining need or yearning.

Pin a slogan on the yearning, you’re probably doing an injustice to the complexity and depth your character deserves. And the result will be a character who not only acts simplistically, but predictably.

Readers shouldn’t be vexed by a character’s behavior, but they should never feel entirely comfortable either, or they’ll be several steps ahead of the story at every turn. This may seem counterintuitive to those who’ve been browbeaten in English classes to identify the single root cause of a character’s actions, but this is a fool’s errand.

One sees this in the usual misunderstanding of “tragic flaw.” If actors portrayed Medea solely by focusing on her jealousy, Coriolanus his pride, Hamlet his indecision, Macbeth his ambition, the results would make the characters as wooden as Pinocchio. Such an approach fundamentally misconceives the very nature of these roles.

Pinocchio in Vienna by tobias142

Robert McKee makes this point in his writing guide, Story:

Generally, the more the writer nails motivation to specific causes, the more he diminishes the character in the audience’s mind.

This is a sneaky, subtle, maddening truth. Whatever the character does, the reader needs to feel her actions arise from the whole of her personality, her contradictions and secrets and wounds, her attachment to friends and family and her fear of her enemies, her schooling and sense of home, her loves and hatreds, her shame and pride and guilt and sense of joy. As important as a character’s yearning is, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, nor can it be teased out and separated from everything else about her.0

This is why identifying the yearning by a word or a phrase frequently feels inadequate. I often urge my students to use instead an image, a work of art or a piece of music to capture the yearning—especially a work of art or piece of music with vastly contrasting elements.

Generally, the more the writer nails motivation to specific causes, the more he diminishes the character in the audience’s mind. –Robert McKee

Dante confessed that what saved him during his darkest hours of despair was the rediscovery of his love for Beatrice, long dead. He realized that their love was the greatest source of joy and truth in his life, and if he refused to do anything that would shame or degrade himself before her eyes, he could call that a good life. Beatrice became not just a conscience figure but the sky toward which his soul ascended. She embodied his yearning.

Photo by Martin Beek

In my upcoming novel, Save By An Evil Chance, I used Ralph Vaughn Williams’s “The Lark Ascending” to symbolize a seventeen-year-old runaway’s desire for something more profound, courageous and beautiful in her life. The piece itself is never named in the text. It was my internal cue. And just as Donald wisely suggests identifying the need in every scene you write, I returned to that music in every scene involving that character, to remind me of the nameless state of grace she truly, deeply yearned for.

This kind of symbolic, imagistic conceptualization of the yearning allows for a deeper, more intuitive, less logical or reductionist understanding of the character. It takes you beneath the clamor of words to the character’s essence.

But it can also seem too vast or amorphous to serve simple story needs. How to solve that problem?

First, understand that the character never truly gratifies this deeper yearning. Life isn’t like that. The yearning is elusive, unquenchable. But your character will get nearer to fulfilling it in the course of the story, and you need to define what that interim destination within the story will be. It will define how, due to the events of the story, she’s become at least a little more aware and capable of being the person she secretly wants to be, living the life she knows she should live.

I always ask how, at the end of the story, my characters have become at least a little braver, more honest, and more loving—or not. And if not, why? The courage may be wobbly, the honesty bitter, the love rocky, but those virtues are the milestones I mark on the character’s journey.

Your character’s yearning for the sake of the story may indeed be as simply stated as the need to get home (in all the richness the word “home” conveys); to be free (in the distinct way your character has come to understand freedom through the events of the story); or to find true love (with the deeper, humbler sense of worth such love provides). But don’t forget that this endpoint is temporary on a lifelong journey toward the ineffable thing beckoning the characters toward their better selves, a nobler way of life.

Or, to use a mythic metaphor, assume that when Sisyphus gets to the top of the hill with his rock, it doesn’t roll back down again. Instead he just realizes there’s another hill waiting. In your story, your character is getting his rock to the top of the nearest hill.

Simply tying actions to facile, one-note motives and leaving it at that is too simplistic to feel satisfying. It smacks of an overly rigid and unsophisticated view of human nature. The more the reader sees the writer’s hand in a character’s behavior, the more that character will resemble a plot puppet, not a real person. And the more the character’s behavior can be reduced to easily explainable causes, the more the reader will feel shackled to the Tyranny of Motive, rather than introduced to something more elusive and intriguing, something wondrous and strange.

Can you distinguish your protagonist’s outer desire from the inner yearning in your work in progress?

What is the narrower aspect of the yearning — call it the need — that your character strives for in your story? How does it speak to the larger, more encompassing yearning? 

What is your character’s weakness, wound, limitation and/or flaw — the thing(s) keeping her from fulfilling her yearning?

Have you ever used an image, work of art, or piece of music to help you better understand a character’s inner life?

Take a stab at identifying Ahab’s or Gatsby’s yearning.

 

About David Corbett

David Corbett is the author of four novels: The Devil’s Redhead, Done for a Dime, Blood of Paradise, and Do They Know I’m Running? His short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, with pieces twice selected for Best American Mystery Stories, and his non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Narrative, Zyzzyva, MovieMaker, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, and numerous other venues. He has taught through the UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program, Book Passage, LitReactor, 826 Valencia, The Grotto in San Francisco, Delve Writers, and at numerous writing conferences across the US, and in January 2013 Penguin published his textbook on the craft of characterization, The Art of Character

emotion_thesaur July 28 2014, 10:17

5 Important Ways to Use Symbolism in Your Story

http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/07/5-important-ways-use-symbolism-story/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=5-important-ways-use-symbolism-story

http://writershelpingwriters.net/?p=7604

So many elements go into a truly good book. When we turn that final page with a satisfying sigh, it’s often hard to identify just what made it a success. But many times, symbolism is one of the things that ties the whole work together. Done sloppily, it’s heavy-handed and forced, and turns the reader off. And when it’s done well, symbolism is one of those elements that the reader doesn’t notice; they just recognize that everything worked. It’s an important element, but really hard to do well. That’s why I’m glad to have K.M. Weiland here today. Symbolism is just one element that she tightens the focus on in her latest release: Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics. I had the pleasure of reading this arc, and it was so incredibly interesting, seeing a classic analyzed to see what made it a success. It frankly would have scared the poo out of me, being the one to pick apart such an iconic, well-known novel, but Katie totally nailed it. So rather than blather on, I’ll just turn things over to the expert ;).

Symbolism can sometimes be a tough concept for authors to get their heads around. How do we come up with the right symbols in the first place? What should they be symbolic of? And how do we incorporate them into our stories without making them so obvious we lose all their symbolic value?

Symbolism offers one of the richest opportunities for writers to deepen their themes, past just the conscious appreciation of the readers and right into their emotional and subconscious cores. That’s a lot of power right there. And we’d be crazy to leave it on the table.

V8374c_JaneEyre.inddCharlotte Brontë’s classic masterpiece Jane Eyre (which I analyze in-depth in my book Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic) is a wealth of symbolism. You want to know how to do it right? All you have to do is learn at Brontë’s feet. Following are five methods of symbolism she used to enhance every aspect of her story—and which you can use too!

Symbolism Type #1: Small Details

You can include symbolism in even the smallest of your story’s details. The colors your characters wear. The movies they watch. The pictures they use to decorate their apartments. All of these details offer the opportunity for symbolic resonance.

In the first chapter of Brontë’s story, Jane Eyre is reading a book called Bewick’s History of British Birds, which features significantly bleak and desolate descriptions of the English landscape. On the surface, these descriptions have no connection to Jane’s world—except that, of course, they do. Brontë could just as easily have given Jane a cheery romance to read. Instead, she used the bleak descriptions to symbolize Jane’s bleak life as an orphan living with her cruel aunt.

Symbolism Type #2: Motifs

A motif is a repeated design. In a story, a motif is an element repeated throughout the narrative, often to obvious effect. Sometimes, however, it will be used in a less conspicuous way that infiltrates the readers’ subconscious with a web of symbolic cohesion.

The concept of orphanhood is prominent throughout Jane Eyre, most notably in the main character’s own status as a loveless orphan. Indeed, the concept of love and what people have to do to earn it is central to the entire story. Brontë reinforces the obvious aspects of this motif time and again throughout the story. Consider just a few examples:

  • Early on, a servant sings a song about an orphan girl.
  • Adele, the child Jane is hired to look after, is ostensibly an orphan.
  • When Jane encounters the Rivers family, late in the story, she discovers they are newly orphaned themselves, after the death of their father.

Brontë never draws attention to the motif by directly comparing these examples to Jane’s own orphaned state. Rather, she simply allows their presence in the story to reinforce the overall effect.

Symbolism Type #3: Metaphors

Motifs can also be metaphors. Indeed, some of the best symbols in literature are visual metaphors for thematic elements. You may choose to use fire to represent a character with a hot temper. Running water may become a symbol for purification. Illness might represent sin or corruption.

The main metaphoric motif in Jane Eyre is that of birds as symbols for captivity and freedom. Brontë uses the bird metaphor throughout the story to symbolize the relativity of every character and setting in relation to this fundamental theme. Small, plain birds such as sparrows represent Jane. Birds of prey refer to Rochester. And Thornfield—Rochester’s prison and Jane’s sanctuary—is frequently described in terms of a bird’s cage.

Often, strong metaphoric language will emerge naturally while writing a story. In the rewriting, see if you can identify any recurring motifs that crop up. Can you strengthen them to better represent your theme? Try to figure out ways to use different aspects of the same motif to describe varying characters.

Symbolism Type #4: Universal Symbols

Some symbols are ingrained so deeply in our social psyche that they are used in practically every story. The power of these symbols lies in the fact that they will already have been accepted deep into your readers’ subconscious minds. (Their potential weakness, of course, is that their very prevalence can make them seem like clichés.)

Weather is a particularly good example. Thunderstorms are often used as the background for a character’s defeat—or as a contrast to a seeming victory. When Jane accepts Rochester’s proposal, the lightning that strikes a tree in the garden isn’t just a random happening. It’s a portent of the dark revelations that will soon sunder their love.

Symbolism Type #5: Hidden Symbolism

Some types of symbolism will be so deeply buried within your story that your readers may not recognize them at all. Obviously, the value of hidden symbolism is significantly less than that of other types. After all, what good is something if the reader never notices it?

For example, Rochester’s horse is named Mesrour. Very few readers will catch the significance of this: Mesrour is the name of the executioner in Arabian Nights.

Why name the horse this at all? Why not Blackie? Or even O Beauteous One? For starters, both of the latter names would have been a poor use of our Symbolism Type #1. “Mesrour,” even without explanation, enhances the already dark and mysterious tone of the novel. And for those readers who do catch the obscure reference, the symbolism will only be that much stronger.

Symbolism is a delicate dance. But authors can’t afford to overlook it. When choreographed correctly, it can spell the difference between a three-star novel and a five-star novel. Just ask Jane!

K.M. WeilandK.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

The post 5 Important Ways to Use Symbolism in Your Story appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

kimscraftblog July 28 2014, 09:34

Good News! New Book, The Call of the Small, on Kindle!

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/KimsCraftBlog--FictionMemoirCreativeWriting/~3/sNoovzYgSD4/good-news-new-book-call-of-small-on.html



Good news, everyone! The new book is finally out!

After much production folderal, my new memoir, The Call of the Small, is finally out and available on the Amazon Kindle and as a Trade Paperback from Createspace. This new book is the story of how a tiny Maltese dog converted me from being a small dog hater to an adoring fan of these tiny brave dogs. 

I still don't know why this particular book has gotten so much pushback, and do not care to speculate, but it is a relief to finally have it up for sale on Amazon. I hope everyone has the chance to read this new book, along with my previous dog memoir (or should we say, "Dog-oir"?), Teaching the Dog to Think.

Cheers! --Kim 
Copyright © 2008-2013 Kimberly Davis. All rights reserved. Kim's Craft Blog posts may contain affiliate links to Amazon products. Advertising is provided via the Google Adsense program.
bloodredpencil July 28 2014, 06:27

Little Fixes - Your Turn

http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2014/07/little-fixes-your-turn.html

Those of you who follow the blog regularly know that I have a penchant for finding little things in writing that are awkward and pull me out of the story. So often I wish the author and/or editor had taken one last pass through a manuscript and smoothed some of the rough edges.

I first wrote about my obsess... er, interest in those little problems back in October 2007 here at The Blood Red Pencil. Wow, we've been doing this a long time. But I digress. The title of that older post is Things That Drive an Editor Crazy, and not everyone has agreed with my critique. That's okay. We don't have to agree on everything, and one of the nice things about this blog is that we are all constantly learning if we keep ourselves open to new ideas and other opinions.

Today, just for fun, I thought I would turn the editing over to you, our readers. The following are some bits of writing that made me stop reading because I found them awkward. Why don't you try a rewrite on one or two and post in the comments? Hopefully, we can get them all smoothed out.

1.  When he arrived at Princeton, Limpys pickup and the area were crawling with people. (NOTE - in the story nobody was on Limpy's truck.)

2.  A group of kids are playing....

3. Sam, who had been listening despite himself, looked up at Smith. (This is a common device writers use when having a character do something they were reluctant to do, but the use of the reflexive pronoun is awkward. The context this sentence was taken from was one in which Sam was busy at his desk when Smith walks in to  "run something by you." Sam does not care for Smith and would rather not respond. So how could  that sentence be rewritten to better reflect that?)

4.  After five minuted of walking the beach is deserted.

5.  Suddenly he found himself blushing. (Again an awkward use of the reflexive pronoun. I'm also not fond of people "finding" themselves. Are they lost?)

6. I wasn't sure how long I'd slept for.

7. I don't want them to grow up an only child like I did.

Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent book releases are Doubletake and Boxes For Beds, both mysteries that are available for Kindle and in paper.  Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series, also now available as an e-book, along with Open Season, the first book in the series. To check her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.
v_mysteries July 28 2014, 04:49

The Preacher Comes to Dinner

http://vickilanemysteries.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-preacher-comes-to-dinner.html


My, if that chicken don't look good. Fried chicken in a iron skillet is a dish fit fot a king . . . or a preacher. Law, that reminds me . . . did I ever tell you about the time, oh, it was many a year ago, that the preacher came to dinner?

It was way back when Luther was alive and Cletus, he must have been nine or ten.  Well, Luther had asked the preacher to take Sunday dinner with us and it just so happened that I had a gang of young cockerels right at fryer size. So I'd butchered one early that morning and had it ready to fry when we come back from church. I had a world of other things -- it was this time of year and there was fresh roasting ears and tomatoes and cabbage for slaw and beans and yellow squash and fried okra and mashed potatoes and biscuits and I don't know what all.

And that preacher set in to eating. 'Sister Gentry,' he says, 'I love fried chicken; I mean, I can hide me some chicken."

And he commenced with the white meat and when it was all gone, he reached for a drumstick. I whispered to Cletus to run out and get another chicken and fix it for cooking right quick. That boy was such a hand to butcher things.

So Cletus brought me another young rooster and I jointed it and fried it and had it ready just as the preacher was gnawing on the last wing. He set to on the next platter, saying that there wasn't nothing better than fried chicken, hot out of the skillet and I whispered to Cletus that he best go get another un . . .

 When there weren't nothing left of them three birds but a pile of bones -- and the most of that by the preacher's plate, the preacher leaned back in his chair, kindly patting his belly. He pulled out a toothpick and was working away with it when, out in the chicken yard, my old rooster began to crow like one thing.

'Just listen to that feller,' says the preacher, the toothpick waggling in the side of his mouth. 'Don't he sound proud?'

Luther, who hadn't said pea-turkey all through the meal, looked at that pile of bones by the preacher's plate. "Humph,' says he, 'you'd sound proud too if you had three sons in the ministry.' 








writerunboxed July 27 2014, 11:14

Imagining Beyond One’s Own Experience, or What the Fiction Writer Calls “Going to Work”

http://writerunboxed.com/2014/07/27/imagining-beyond-ones-own-experience-or-what-the-fiction-writer-calls-going-to-work/

http://writerunboxed.com/?p=32641

writers_pen_nib_imagine_charm_necklace_by_jayelknight-d6povj0It’s not often that one hears a statement that is both undeniably true and contradictory to the nature of everything we do. But at a reception this past spring, I heard such a statement.

A small group of us were discussing the life of the author in whose honor the reception was being held. This author, who had written both a memoir and a novel, had been separated from his family at the age of twelve and forced to become a child soldier in Sierra Leone.

“My son is twelve,” I said. “I try to think of my own son in those shoes…” My voice trailed off as I began to conjure images of my American, middle-class, twelve-year-old son suddenly, violently, torn from me and the rest of our family, forced to survive in lawlessness, impelled to run for his life, left with no choice but to kill and to maim. The effort quickly formed a universe of horrific thoughts in my head that immediately made me want to leave the reception, go home to my son and hold him tightly to me.

“You can’t,” said a man in the group, taking advantage of my external silence.

I faced him. “I try to imagine–”

“You can’t. You can’t know what that’s like unless you’ve been through it. We can’t imagine what that feels like.”

True enough. I can’t. No one can know those acts, that life, for certain, without having been there. I would never presume to write that author’s story.

Yet…

I can imagine something else. I can imagine another person, say, a twelve-year-old child who suffers a terrible loss—maybe she loses her parents in a car crash. Maybe her sister was in the wrong place at the wrong time in Gaza this month. Maybe her brother was a heroin addict and she herself is teetering on the brink, finding herself between “friends” and opportunities to take her life in directions she doesn’t even understand. Or maybe I am fascinated by an ancient culture I’ve heard about in some place I traveled, a native Central American people, and I’m willing to put in the effort to learn about that culture and develop characters. A young protagonist, perhaps, pushed by a traumatic event into a non-traditional role in her culture, challenged in her need to develop into something she’s not. I’m starting to see her already.

None of these specific circumstances have happened to me. But I have the tools to write them if I so desire.

Imagining is the job of the fiction writer. This is what we do, every time we sit down in front of a blank page. It seems as if we’re working with no more than a keyboard or pen and paper, but that’s not true. We have at our disposal every person we’ve ever known, every experience we’ve ever had, seen, heard and felt. Our ingredients are the people who have ignored us and caused us to search our brains for reasons why, people whom we’ve admired, both intimately and from a distance, and people whom we’ve tried to emulate. People who love us despite our faults; people we can’t stand despite our efforts to be better people ourselves.

And we are not limited to our own experiences. We can conduct research, both through various media and via my favorite method, in-person interviews. Access to other people’s stories and body language, their reactions and second-guesses—even their imaginations—is rich food for the writer’s imagination.

When we are ready, we begin to extrapolate. We pull and weave, absorb and combine until we develop a sense of a fictional person in a specific setting facing a particular series of circumstances. Perhaps you have never been in a plane crash. (I hope you haven’t.) Well, then you can’t say with absolute certainty how you would feel if you were. But do you remember that first time you flew, maybe when you were twelve, and the plane hit sudden turbulence? You screamed and looked at your father; what was happening? What did it mean? You expected he would look back at you with confidence, and a reassuring answer, but he wore panic on his face for a split second before he laughed and told you not to worry. You’ll never forget that moment of pure fear, the way your stomach seemed to pull at you from inside your body, nor will you forget that you realized for the first time that your father could be afraid, too.

Now what do you know about your twelve-year-old character? Is she brash, the confident kid in school who hides her insecurity that stems from the scars on her back and her arm? Where did those come from? Another kid? Why does no one know about this? Is she excited about this plane trip? Will it take her away from a bad situation? Or bring her to one? What’s her expectation when she boards? Who is she with? How will that person act as the plane goes down?

You can’t know how any real, given twelve-year-old would feel as his plane crashes, nor can you fire off a blanket set of reactions covering all twelve-year-olds. But by piecing together the scraps of what you know and what you seek to know, you can perceive how this particular twelve-year-old kid you created might feel and act as her plane goes down.

A writer’s imagination is the general honed down to specific details, so that a single character or story’s truth can shine through. If we do this right, the details we create will uncover a universal, yet specific truth or two for a reader—possibly even a truth we haven’t imagined.

So in answer to the man at the reception: no, we can’t be certain how it would feel for a twelve-year old to lose his family and be thrust into an awful setting of forced brutality and war unless we’ve been through it. But we can create a individual twelve-year-old, with his own feelings, apply what we know and seek out new knowledge, create circumstances, boundaries and specific experiences, extrapolate and apply, and write until we emerge with a single, imaginary child’s world.

We do it every time we write words on a page. It’s the job description for a fiction writer.

Image courtesy Jaye L. Knight via deviantART.com.

Like (9)

About Tracy Hahn-Burkett

Tracy Hahn-Burkett has written everything from speeches for a U.S. senator to bus notes for her sixth-grade son. A former congressional staffer, U.S. Department of Justice lawyer and public policy advocate for civil rights, civil liberties and public education, Tracy traded suits for blue jeans and fleece when she moved to New Hampshire with her husband and two children. She writes the adoption and parenting blog, UnchartedParent, and has published dozens of essays, articles and reviews. Tracy is currently revising her first novel.

writerunboxed July 26 2014, 11:29

July Roundup: Hot Tweetables at #WU

http://writerunboxed.com/2014/07/26/july-roundup-hot-tweetables-at-wu/

http://writerunboxed.com/?p=32600

Uncaged-Writer-Unboxed-1024x465

The summer months–July in particular–are often quiet in the summer; industry folks are on vacation and many of the offices close by noon on Friday.  Not this year. July has brought a hotbed of activity with the continuation of the Amazon-Hachette debate and the rise of the unlimited book subscription. If you’d like to keep on top of all of the changes in the industry, how writers are coping, and engage in an intelligent discussion, (other than right here at Writer Unboxed) be sure to check out #FutureChat on Fridays at 11 a.m. EST with @PorterAnderson.  And now, for the month’s best links.

 

#WUPrint

 

#WUCraft

 

#WUAgent

 

#WUDigital

 

#WUInspire

 

#WUSocMed

 

#WUPromo

Like (1)

About Heather Webb

Heather grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time writing and freelance editing. Her debut historical, BECOMING JOSEPHINE, will release as lead title in January 2014 from Plume/Penguin. As an editor, Heather spends oodles of time helping writers find their voice and hone their skills--something she adores. She may often be found twittering helpful links, sharing writing advice and author interviews on her blog Between the Sheets, or teaching novel writing and publishing classes at a local college in her community. Another favorite haunt is the popular, award-winning site RomanceUniversity.org where she contributes to the Editor's Posts. When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills and chases her young children. You may even catch her gobbling the odd bonbon.

emotion_thesaur July 26 2014, 09:21

Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Sharpshooting

http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/07/talents-skills-thesaurus-entry-sharpshooting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=talents-skills-thesaurus-entry-sharpshooting

http://writershelpingwriters.net/?p=7622

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 

Lego Storm Trooper

Courtesy of William Warby @ Creative Commons

Description: Shooting with incredible precision and accuracy. In most circumstances, this talent is applied to those shooting guns, because advances in modern weaponry makes it easier to hit one’s target. But with a little creative world building and foundational support, there’s no reason that sharpshooting can’t apply to other distance weapons as well:  slingshots, darts, bows, javelins, axes, knives, boomerangs, etc.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: a steady hand, good distance vision, being able to remain still for long periods of time

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: patience, determination, calmness, self-control

Required Resources and Training: Practice is obviously important if one wants to learn to shoot well. Practice perceiving distances, anticipating and planning for the wind, shooting different kinds of targets, shooting in different kinds of light—distance shots are impeded by many unseen, difficult-to-anticipate factors. While natural ability is an asset, consistent practice can make the difference between lucky shots and expert ones.

Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions: assassins, hunters, military personnel, and Olympians. Sharpshooters are often portrayed as very detailed, nit-picky, OCD types who take their ability very seriously. To turn the cliché on its ear, consider adding traits that defy the stereotype: laziness, naiveté, playfulness, sentimentality, etc.

A good example of a sharpshooter who doesn’t run true to form is Private Daniel Jackson from Saving Private Ryan—a gifted sharpshooter who humbly accepts his ability as a God-given gift that enables him to do a necessary job.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • when hunting is necessary to one’s survival
  • when the story resolution is dependent upon the hero hitting something very small that’s very far away (think Luke Skywalker vs. The Death Star, just…with sharpshooting skillz instead of mad Jedi skillz)
  • when one would prefer to injure or startle an opponent rather than kill him/her outright
  • in a kill-or-be-killed scenario
  • in a hostage situation
  • at a funhouse carnival midway, when it’s imperative to win a certain prize for a certain someone
  • when playing paintball, dodgeball, or other competitive sports

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

The post Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Sharpshooting appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

v_mysteries July 26 2014, 04:45

What's That Over There?

http://vickilanemysteries.blogspot.com/2014/07/whats-that-over-there.html




Ohmigosh! Look at that on the steps? A Luna moth? Too green. A tropical butterfly somehow displaced to western North Carolina? Let me get a closer look . . .


Oh, well. Just a sprig of the Mock Orange bush that grows next to the steps and is trying to expand its territory. But it sure looked like a butterfly.

Among the changes that come with age is the dimming of vision. I'm still wearing over the counter reading glasses for close work but have resisted full time glasses. It may be time . . .
James Thurber, who was very nearly blind, wrote a wonderful piece for The New Yorker called "The Admiral on the Wheel" recounting the various things that he saw while his glasses were being repaired. You can read it HERE in the magazine's archive-- if you have a subscription. Thurber says: "The kingdom of the partly blind is a little like Oz, a little like Wonderland, a little like Poictesme. Anything you can think of, and a lot you would never think of, can happen there."

Some of my recent sightings ( I rely on taking pictures then putting them on the computer and zooming in to see what it really was.)


John and I were enjoying gin and tonics on the porch when I spotted something red in the big tree at the foot of the yard. A Scarlet Tanager was my first thought and then, as it stubbornly refused to move, I decided it was a male cardinal sitting on a nest. (In  my defense, these pics were taken a few days later -- what I saw was brilliant red and partially obscured by leaves -- other leaves.)


And then there was the puzzling critter at the foot of the yard. A bunny? Or what. It didn't move like a bunny.


Still fuzzy but I think it's a young, fluffed-out Brown Thrasher.

Ah, the wonders of old age!


writer_beware July 25 2014, 22:22

Self-Publishing and Author-Agent Agreements: The Need for Change

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/AtLastWriterBewareBlogsAcCrispinAndVictoriaStraussRevealAll/~3/sHHExeah9A4/self-publishing-and-author-agent.html

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Earlier this week, I ran across a blog post by best-selling author Claire Cook  about the process by which she decided to become a hybrid author, ditching her high-powered agency in the process. It's an interesting story--but what really caught my eye was this:
And then one day on the phone my agent informed me that in order to continue to be represented by this mighty agency, I would have to turn over 15% of the proceeds of my about-to-be self-published book to said agency. Not only that, but I would have to publish it exclusively through Amazon, because the agency had a system in place with Amazon where I could check a box and their 15% would go straight to them, no muss, no fuss.
I've warned in the past about interminable agency clauses in author-agent agreements (language through which an agency claims the right to remain the agent of record not just for the duration of any contracts it negotiates for your book, but for the life of the book's copyright). One of the many concerns raised by such language is what happens if you want to self-publish backlist books that the agency originally sold for you. With an interminable agency clause, might your agency feel entitled to a share of your self-publishing income?

I don't know if Cook's agency agreement included interminable agency language. Even if it did, the agency's commission claim wasn't being made on her backlist books, but on an original novel that the agency had never submitted or sold to a traditional publisher. This is a completely different issue. Simply because Cook was the agency's client, the agency felt it had a claim on her original writing even though it had no hand in placing it--and, moreover, that it had the right to require her to use its own self-publishing channel, rather than a platform or platforms of her choice.

Contract language often lags behind technological innovation. For instance, years after the advent of digital publishing, many publishing contracts still don't include adequate rights reversion language (I've written here about why that's a problem).

The same is true for author-agent agreements, many--if not most--of which don't address self-publishing at all. Right now, I'm sure that most self-publishing questions are dealt with amicably one-on-one between author and agent. But with more and more writers choosing to become hybrid authors, and more and more agencies branching out into publishing and self-publishing-related activities, those kinds of informal resolutions aren't enough. For the protection of both author and agent, author-agent agreements need to explicitly address what happens (or doesn't happen) when clients self-publish, either on their own or through the agency. 

To date, I've seen one author-agent agreement that does this. I'm sure there are more out there, though I'm guessing they're the exception. They need to become the norm, and sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, authors would be wise to discuss self-publishing with their prospective agents, including:

- What happens if I decide to self-publish my backlist? (If you're a debut novelist, this possiblity may seem an awfully long way off, but you are hopefully signing on with your agent for the long haul, and at some point your books are going to go "out of print.")

- If the agency has its own self-publishing system or publishing venture, will I be required to use it?

- What's your position on hybrid authors? Will it be a problem if I want to self-publish original work? What, if any, claims will you make on such work?

- Will you market subsidiary rights for my original self-published books? (Responses on this will vary; some agencies may not be willing to rep subrights for books they didn't sell.)

Be sure to get, or confirm, the responses in writing.
querytrackerblo July 25 2014, 08:01

Publishing Pulse: July 25, 2014

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/QueryTracker/~3/aZhH3PKk6CE/publishing-pulse-july-25-2014.html

This Week at Query Tracker
The profiles of several agents were updated this week. Please make sure you double-check every agent's website or Publisher's Marketplace page before querying.

We also have TWO success stories this week! Congrats and best wishes go out to
Toby Tate and Shawn McDonald. Read their interviews and be inspired to write your own success story.

Remember--you'll reach success when you find the agent who is perfect for your work. Be sure to read each agent's profile carefully and visit other links such as company websites and blogs. Follow them on social media sites and get a feeling for what they really want. The better you know the agent, the better you will know if they are the right representative for your work. Blindly querying agents without regard for their guidelines or repped genres only delay the process--not only for you but for other writers.

Using QueryTracker.net will help you become a well-informed querying writer. Use the resources to your advantage and seek the fastest, straightest path to finding your ideal agent today.

This Week in Publishing
Wondering what formats you should be using for your ebooks? This article discusses the evidence of trends between genre and types of reading device.

Novice writers enjoy the bliss of crafting their art and following their dreams. Once the business side manifests, however, the prospect of all we have to do to become and remain published authors is often enough to scare us back into the writer’s closet. Here are some tips to avoid becoming crushed by the big world of making it.

Speaking of dreams...have you ever woken up with a great story idea and wished you made more of it? Here’s a great piece on how to train yourself to make the most of those story-fertile dreams.
 
Thomas Snow ‏@snowglobeman Tweeted...In dreams the words come back to us. In dreams we remember our souls. It was real. It was timeless. May we dream on pic.twitter.com/o0FFLmkYqK

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. Visit Ash at www.ashkrafton.com for news on her urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde (Pink Narcissus Press) or stop by the Demimonde Blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com . The final story of the trilogy, WOLF’S BANE (Demimonde #3), is now available.
If your email address changes, please follow these instructions: 1. Scroll down to the bottom of an email from the QTB and click UNSUBSCRIBE to remove your old email addy from the database. Then 2. Go to http://querytracker.blogspot.com/ and SUBSCRIBE (on the right-hand side, in the sidebar) with your new address!
bloodredpencil July 25 2014, 06:48

Introducing New BRP Blogger Merry Farmer!

http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2014/07/introducing-new-brp-blogger-merry-farmer.html

To our loyal BRP readers, blog owner Dani Greer, and my esteemed colleagues: I thank you for the past six years of camaraderie. While I must now step back from my monthly commitment here to tend the writing career I long sought, I look forward to stopping back in for guest posts. Now, I ask that you show my most competent and enthusiastic replacement the same warm welcome you gave me. Here's Merry Farmer!

Kathryn Craft: Merry, I believe we met at the Philadelphia Writers' Conference. How has that event shaped you, and what others have you participated in?

Saving Grace at Amazon
Merry Farmer: I knew I loved writing and that I wanted to be published, but I knew absolutely nothing about the business of writing. I didn’t even know how much I didn’t know! The PWC was the first time I met other serious writers, the first time I pitched to an agent, and the first time I heard a lot of the best advice about the craft of writing that I’ve ever heard. It was also where I heard about self-publishing for the first time, in 2011. Everyone was talking about self-publishing that year, and I knew as soon as I learned what it was that it was the path for me.

I’ve been to a lot of writer’s conferences since then, and I truly love them and think they’re one of the most valuable thing a writer can do. I’ve gone to several Romance Writers of America regional conferences, including teaching a workshop at the Chicago-North Spring Fling conference earlier this year. I’ve also attended RWA national conferences, which are enormous (over 2,000 writers attend) and overwhelming, but it’s one of the few times during the year that I can get together with all of my writer friends who I usually only hang out with online. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Kathryn: You like historicals and romance. What draws you to these forms?

Merry: I’ve always loved history. I majored in history not once, but twice in college, and my
In Your Arms at Amazon
sincerest wish right now is to go back to get an MA and maybe even a PhD in history. There is just something that has always appealed to me about the lives, thoughts, interests, passions, and concerns of people throughout history. Things that we consider dusty old boring names and dates were the reality and current events for billions of people who came before us. In some ways their lives were so different than ours, but at the same time, people have always cared about love, success, survival, and accomplishment, even if their definitions of those things have been different from our modern definitions. And I’m particularly fascinated by the fact that what most people think they know of history is usually not exactly the way things really were. In fact, what most people know about history is wrong. I love uncovering the truth and sharing that with people.

As for romance, well, I didn’t intentionally set out to write love stories, they all just turned out that way. I tried fighting it for a while, but no, that’s what I have in me to write.

Kathryn: Why did you decide to self-publish? When did you start, and how is it going?

Merry: Well, I don’t do well with authority. Ha! But when I first learned that self-publishing existed, how all of the responsibility was in the hands of the author along with all the control, I knew that was the path for me. I’ve been called crazy for actually embracing the responsibility and the work, the nearly literal blood, sweat, and tears, but for me that is far more satisfying than traditional publishing. And let me tell you, every step of the way in my self-publishing journey has been harder, more complicated, more frustrating, and more expensive than I thought it would be, but also so much more satisfying and rewarding! I love every second of it.

Kathryn: You are a prolific writer! Tell us a bit about how you set your goals and hold yourself to them.

Merry: I have two very important tricks that help me stay on track and stick to a writing schedule and my writing goals. First, when I’m drafting a novel, I have a 2,000 word per day word count goal. I strive to meet that daily goal the way some people make themselves go to the gym every day. I write down my word count in the morning and type my fingers bloody until I reach it, even if I know what I’ve written is terrible. Some days it’s more painful than others, but meeting the goal must be done!

Second, I know that I’m a morning person, so I get up at 5:30am every day to write for about an hour before getting ready for the day job. I do it every day (well, it’s more like 6:30 or 7:00 on the weekends). Every. Day. I’m lucky that I’m able to be disciplined about that, though. I’m not married and I don’t have kids, so I don’t have a lot of distractions. It’s a blessing. And my method must be working, because so far I’ve published 12 books!

My biggest motivation for writing prolifically is that I love—and I mean LOVE—to write, and I have more story ideas bumping around in my head than I could hope to write in a lifetime. Last time I actually counted them, I had 25 books waiting to be written that I could give you a title and a blurb for. If I don’t write fast, I won’t have time to get everything written, even if I live to be a hundred!

Kathryn: What do you hope to bring to the Blood-Red Pencil?

Merry: I’d love to bring the knowledge that I’ve gained through my experiences with writing and self-publishing, both the things that have worked and the mistakes I’ve made and learned from.


Kathryn Craft
is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service, and the author of novels The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy (May 2015, both by Sourcebooks). Her monthly series, "Turning Whine into Gold," appears at Writers in the Storm. Connect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

...now turning over her BRP spot to the competent pen of:

Merry Farmer is a history nerd, a hopeless romantic, and an award-winning author of thirteen novels. She is passionate about blogging and knitting, and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. Connect with Merry at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

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