Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mind if I Use a Quick Quotes Quill?

I was contacted yesterday by a local reporter wanting to do an article about me for a small paper. This will make my fifth newspaper interview since I started writing. I've had several writer friends gape at me when I tell them such. Well, I assume they are gaping--it's all online, but their words imply a look of amazement.

I've been told over and over by other writers that they have tried desperately to get featured in their local papers but have been summarily ignored. They ask me, "How do you do it?"

My answer: "Uh..."

You see, I've done nothing. Honestly. (I swear, I did NOT put my name in the Goblet of Fire...)

The first interview came about by me being invited to speak at a writers group. No, let me clarify. I'm a member of that group, and the group president noticed I've gotten a lot of short pieces published and asked if I'd share my secrets. A local reporter happens to also be a member of that group, and she likes to write up when the group has "guest speakers." She checked me out online, saw that I write horror, and talked her editor into letting the article grow a bit to hit on that, um, eccentricity.

The second interview was because an anthology I'm in--The Ultimate Christian Living--landed on the desk of a certain reporter's editor. It had me listed as being from Valrico, FL, so the guy emailed me and asked for an interview. Local author and all. I assume the publisher sent the copy--I sure didn't. I wouldn't have even known who to send it to.

The next two were because I had a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic. One article was written by the first reporter who interviewed me. The other was an entirely different paper. I can only assume that those had more to do with Chicken Soup sending them press releases, and the fact that Chicken Soup is a household name.

Which brings me to this upcoming interview. I have a friend in one of my writers groups who writes for this particular local paper and she told a fellow reporter about me. I did nothing other than become friends with someone whom I genuinely like. I didn't even know when I became friends with her that she wrote for that paper! She's just very excited for me about my book coming out.

What's my point? Well, Kristen Stieffel actually sums it up perfectly in this blog post on NAF. Basically, I never set out to market myself by joining writers groups. I simply wanted fellowship and places to learn, and sought out every group I could find. It has led to real friendships, and those friendships have led to links with people who ended up wanting to write about me.

Oh, and I'm quite sure the reporter I'm meeting will be nothing like Rite Skeeter, but come on, when else will I have a chance to use a picture of her here? :D

BTW, click HERE for links to the aforementioned newspaper interviews, and the blog interviews I've done as well.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Making it Shine

My first draft of Finding Angel sucked.

I can say that now. But three years ago, those words would have killed me. I worked so, so very hard on that first draft. Obsession is a word I'd use to describe those first months of writing. Of course, I knew it wasn't perfect. Things needed to be cleaned up a bit. Tightened here and there. Adjusted. Tweaked, ever so slightly.

Yes, go ahead and laugh.

With each critique, I learned that I had even more to learn. I've revised, beefed up, killed my darlings, and started all over again. 

These last few weeks, I've gone through the cycle yet again. I am amazed by how many things I found to change and carve away.

What blows my mind the most is the change in word count. At one point, Finding Angel hit 114,000 words. Today it sits at 93,400. That is more than a 20,000-word difference. 

20,000 words that were useless, unnecessary, or maybe even outright stupid, now gone. 

I cannot stress enough the importance of getting critique. And getting it from multiple sources. No, you cannot write a novel, let your sister-who-never-wrote-a-book-in-her-life read it and have a perfect manuscript after that one critique. I've had at least ten different people read through Finding Angel, some of them writers and some of them not. A few of them teens. They have all brought to light different issues.

My most recent acting editor is Diane Graham. She has been brutal, I tell you, but she's helped with this last round of edits in a way no one else has. She has pinpointed issues in certain scenes and helped me find in myself the ability to make those scenes work. Emotion is something Diane knows how to convey in writing, and she's giving me her secrets ;).

Amy Deardon, author of A Lever Long Enough, also contributed to the editing and is probably the key player in the word count drop. I've mentioned before that early on I was told Finding Angel was "wordy." I did find a couple of people who helped me figure out a good portion of why that was so, but Amy threw the spotlight on word and phrase usage that was seriously padding the count unnecessarily.  

The last thing I credit for helping this round: Time. I waited nearly a year between the last go-through and this one. I've learned more about writing in this last year than I thought possible. I also believe that distancing myself from the manuscript has been paramount. I was able to see so much that I'd been holding on to out of...sentimentality? I don't know. Maybe I was just so used to seeing those words in the document I hadn't noticed how wrong they were. Whatever the case, the current version now sounds like *me*--the current me, the one who has experience and published short stories, not the me who sat down four years ago, naive and wet behind the ears.

In just under six weeks you will get to see the fruits of these labors. I am excited beyond belief. Not just because Finding Angel is going to be published. But because I am finally happy in the fact that I have improved it to the level it at which it needs to be. "Good" is not good enough. I want this book to shine. And thanks to my critters who have had the guts to tell me--"No, this doesn't work!"--when you finally have it in your hands, it will.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Shifting Gears" at New Authors' Fellowship

Just a quick note to point out my latest post at New Authors' Fellowship, "Shifting Gears."

And a reminder that you can read all my NAF posts by clicking HERE.

Come September 1st, I'll be moving to what we at NAF call "The Granny Flat." That's the room where the Alumni--as in those of us who have gained publication of our novels--stay. It means I will be cutting back to posting over there only once a month. Which, hopefully, will mean more postings here.

Now scoot on over there!

Monday, July 18, 2011

You Won't Change My Mind, and You Probably Won't Like My Book

I've noticed a lot of posts lately--blogs, Facebook, etc.--about Harry Potter. Not just those involving the movie currently in theaters (I'm sure I don't need to remind you of the title), but rather the old debate among Christians about Harry Potter and magic. Mike Duran has a good one HERE in favor of the Potter books/movies. A post with which I wholeheartedly agree (and includes my favorite Stephen King quote ever).

This morning I also noticed a Facebook friend had posted a link to a blog that was in favor of Harry Potter, and someone came along and left this comment:
"Maybe I am the only hold out in the entire world, but comparing any kind of witchcraft with Jesus is a blasphemy! Christians are deceived by this and the Bible clearly states that in the end times the lie will become the truth and the truth will seem to become the lie. I am so sorry for all of you Christian people who think Harry Potter is a type of Christ. Open up your eyes and be awakened!"
Um....okay. I don't know anyone who thinks Harry Potter is a "type of Christ." There's only ONE Christ, right? Not types of Him, eh? Harry Potter may have been used as an allegory for Christ, but that is so, so, so different. He's a character in a novel, folks. JK Rowling may have used him to point to Christ, but that doesn't mean he gets to step in and take the Role.

And for the hundredth time--the Bible does warn against sorcery. As in, using the power of demons. Contacting the dead. Divination. (Oh, and btw, divination is made fun of in HP--seen as something of a scam.) In Harry Potter, magic is an ability. I honestly don't see how anyone can compare levitating feathers with biblical sorcery. If that's the case, then we better not use magnets--did you know you can levitate things with magnets?

The magic in HP is nothing more than a different way of doing things. Science, done with words and wands. It warns over and over and over against the use of "dark magic"--which is something that can be compared to biblical sorcery. So, those Christians who gripe about HP are griping against a book that warns against "real" sorcery.

All that said, if you are uncomfortable with the Harry Potter novels, don't read them. But you probably won't like my books either.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Reality is Sinking In

My life has completely turned upside-down. If you haven't been keeping up, my book, Finding Angel, is finally getting published. What that means is I am now in a flurry of editing. But editing isn't all there is to getting a book ready for publication.

Also on my list:

  • Cover art--both front and back.
  • Back cover text--that "blurb" that tells you just enough to make you want to read the book.
  • Interior pages, like the acknowledgments page and such.
  • Author photo and bio.
  • Artwork for chapter headings and scene breaks.

Those are all things I'm working on in conjunction with my publisher, but she has even more on her list than I do. Poor Grace...

Other things flying around my head right now involve what to do about my blog and website. I have this blog, obviously, which really needs a better domain name. And I've also got which will eventually house all things related to Finding Angel and the subsequent books in the series. I have plans for it...down the road...that I pray I can actually keep up with :P.

They say the real work begins once your book is published. In some ways I'm seeing how true that is. As the emails show up in my inbox with requests for interviews and guest blog posts, and it sinks in that I have to somehow get word out about my book beyond posting here and on Facebook, my mind reels. So much to do.

It will get done, though. I did not come this far to do things less than 100%.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Little Book of Magic

“It is my little book of magic,” the girl said to the man who sat on the other side of the wide, wooden desk. “I have put my heart and soul in it. I want to share it.”

The man pulled his glasses off and rubbed his nose. “No one wants a little book of magic, dear girl. Heart and soul or not, it won’t make money.”

She swallowed as her stomach twisted. “But it is magic. It’s meant to be shared.”

“I’m sorry. It’s not for us.” He returned to his work, and she noticed the deep stress lines in his forehead, the rumpled slouch of his suit jacket. His hands were a blur as he ran pen over paper, ignoring her.

She stood and left, her little book of magic tucked tightly inside her backpack.

The next door held a similar office, with a similar man behind a similar desk. He gave the same answer as the other, and she moved on.

The hallway grew as she walked, doors adding to doors, stretching far behind her. Each door locked with a forever click as she exited, and her heart and head sank lower with each step.

And the little book of magic weighed heavy on her back.

“Maybe I should just go home,” the girl muttered to herself. She stopped and turned around, looking down the narrow hallway. A door at the end swayed open. But darkness pulsed on the other side—a tempting darkness that promised both relief and despair.

The girl slid the backpack off her shoulder and opened it. She pulled out the little book of magic, then clutched it to her chest. The door slammed shut, and even from a distance the girl could read the words scrolled across the wood: The Land of What-If.

She sighed, and reached again for her backpack.

“Oy, little girl, what have you there?”

The lilted voice startled her and she spun, nearly dropping the book. A space suit stood before her, although she could not see who—or what—filled it.

“It-it’s a book. My book. My little book of magic,” she said, her heart sputtering back to a normal rhythm.

One arm of the space suit rose then, and the gloved hand pushed a button on the side of the helmet. The dark shield clicked and slid upward, revealing the face beneath.

The little girl gasped. The creature’s face was covered in downy feathers, with bright, round eyes. A pair of metal-framed spectacles perched on its narrow beak.

“You’re a bird!”

“A kiwi, to be precise,” the creature said, and a smile ruffled the feathered face.

Comfort flooded the little girl as she gazed at the kiwi’s warm expression. “Would you like to see it?”

The kiwi’s eyes lit up. “Oh, may I?”

She handed the little book of magic over, and it was grasped lovingly by the gloved hand. The kiwi sat against the wall then, and opened the book. The girl held her breath in anticipation as those bright eyes scanned page after page.

Finally, the kiwi looked up and closed the book. The bright eyes blinked. “Why have you not shared this little book of magic, dear girl?”

“I have no means to share it myself, and those who do will not help me.” She turned toward the hallway behind her and stared at the forever-locked doors, refusing to let loose the tears that burned the edges of her eyelids.

She heard scuffling, and then the kiwi’s voice again. “Would you come with me if I offered to help you share your little book of magic?”

The girl eased around to face the now-standing kiwi once more. “Yes,” she said, and followed the kiwi far, far from the dreary hallway.

...And for those of you who didn't quite catch that, because maybe you're not familiar with Grace Bridges from Splashdown Books...Grace is a sci-fi writing New Zealander, which makes her a "space Kiwi"...and yes, she has agreed to publish my novel, Finding Angel. The release date is scheduled for Sept. 1, 2011.

To celebrate, I'm giving away a copy of Odd Little Miracles, the short story collection by Fred Warren, published through Splashdown Books' Darkwater imprint.

Odd Little Miracles is Splashdown's most recent release, although that's not the main reason I'm giving away a copy. Fred Warren is the reason I found Splashdown. I fell in love with his short stories I'd found online and decided to buy his book, The Muse, which is, of course, published by Splashdown. I knew then that Grace had an eye for awesome fiction, and the more I got to know her, and the company, the more I wanted to earn a spot in her catalog! So, thanks, Fred, for being such an awesome writer and drawing my attention to Splashdown.

Leave a comment to enter. I'm posting this on multiple blogs, btw, so you can enter at each place: at New Authors' Fellowship, at my Finding Angel site, and right here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beating a Dead Battle Horse

Again, I'm not sure why I'm continuing this. It's not like I'm getting much feedback. But I feel the need to clarify some things regarding this whole literary vs. commercial thing rampaging in my head. Call me obsessive--it won't be the first time, I promise.

You can read my first post HERE and my second post HERE.

What I want to say first and foremost is this: The whole thing started because of a chat I was in, where a commercial writer made some comments about having been snubbed by literary writers. A literary writer commented back--and let me be very clear: the literary writer showed no snobbery at all. She was quite gracious.

BUT, most genre and commercial writers have, at some time, experienced literary snobbery. It has put us on the defensive. My purpose for the two previous postings was to explain why. My last commenter made it sound as if we commercial writers misunderstand. That it's not snobbery that is pervasive in literary circles--but rather poor writing that is pervasive in commercial ones.


I'm fully aware of the amount of commercial garbage out there. Yep, I am. And when I started my first post I said that many literary writers would probably agree with me--as commenter did--that there's a good amount of literary navel-contemplating trash as well.

What I have meant to convey--and apparently failed at--from the very beginning, is the idea that when you compare GOOD commercial writing to GOOD literary writing the choice comes down to preference. A good literary story is not "better" than a good commercial story for the simple fact that it is literary.

Yet, there are literary "snobs" out there who don't see that. The one involved in the chat that started this didn't exhibit this quality, but others do. I know this because I have experienced it and so have other commercial writers I know.

What creates my frustration is that I know full-well that if I sat down with a group of literary sorts and plunked down a copy of their favorite literary masterpiece and said, "I don't get why anyone would read this by choice," many (maybe not all, but many) noses would rise, eyes would narrow, and in their minds my IQ would sink like a stone.

Am I saying that each and every literary writer out there is a snob? No. But nor is every commercial writer a brainless mass-pleaser. I think gobs of writing falls in-between commercial and literary, with elements of both. And good writers are found in every position along the scale. Both types of writing take a certain type of talent--that is all we on the commercial side want understood. We simply want the literary side to stop lumping us in with Twilight-mongers, and we need to try to see the difference between true literary art and splatter-painted toilet seats.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

More on the Literary Battlefront

I have no idea why I'm doing a second post on literary fiction. I mean, I had all of one comment on the first post. But it's something that keeps lurking in the back of my mind. I looked up some other blog posts on the topic, and found an interesting one by literary agent Nathan Bransford: What Makes Literary Fiction Literary?

He boils down the difference between literary and commercial fiction as this:
In commercial fiction the plot tends to happen above the surface and in literary fiction the plot tends to happen beneath the surface.
I, personally, see this to mean pretty much the same as character-driven vs. plot-driven. The important thing he points out, though, is that literary doesn't mean "plotless." Things must happen--it's just that the changes take place inside the character. It is the character's inner journey that is most important.

This is why the books I mentioned in my last post are considered literary even though their style is very commercial/mainstream. Thirteen Reasons Why and Hold Still are the stories of the inner journeys of teens dealing with the suicide of a friend/classmate. Things do happen in the story. Those things create changes in the character, and those changes are the ultimate focus of the book. The book cannot, as Bransford says, simply be "a character musing about the vagaries and eccentricities of everyday existence."

I also like Bransford's description of genre fiction: 
Most genre fiction involves a character propelling themselves through a world. The character is an active protagonist who goes out into a world, experiences the challenges of that world, and emerges either triumphant or defeated. 
The character can--and in good genre/commercial fiction does--experience inner change during this process. But that change is generally secondary to the main, "outer" plot. In the Harry Potter series, for example, Harry grows up and grows stronger, discovering all sorts of things about himself as a person, but the main focus of the series is still the ongoing battle between Harry and Voldemort.

The fact is, literary and commercial writing are simply different animals. One is not "better" than the other. They serve completely different purposes. That is the end of the story.


There is something that tends to go unsaid in this debate, and today, I'm going to say it.

This resentment between commercial authors and literary authors comes down to one thing--Intellectual Snobbery. There is a pervading attitude among the literary set that literary writing and its writers are simply smarter. Many literary sorts believe commercial writing is just that--commercial. Common. Base. Dumbed-down. For the mass of mindless drones that occupy this quickly degrading chunk of rock, who wouldn't know a simile if t hit them in the forehead....

To that I say, Bleh. No. Not so.

Literary does not automatically equal smart. I have the papers to prove my "smart"--IQ test, SAT score, high school and college transcripts. I promise you, I am not sitting to the left of the bulk of the literary writing world when it comes to position on the intellectual bell curve. And yet, I do not like literary as a whole. I don't like much mainstream fiction either--romance and mysteries rarely hold my attention because I know the ending by chapter three. My love is dark and weird, fantasy, sci-fi, and horror--and much of it falling into the middle grade and young adult categories.

I am perfectly capable of dissecting a deep and meaningful literary book. I love the messages behind books such as The Picture of Dorian Grey. I do savor the wording of much beautifully constructed prose...but nine times out of ten, I read a book because I want to be sucked into story. I want to be lost in another world.

That, folks, does not decrease my intelligence. And commercial writers and readers do not like being looked at as lesser, as inferior, as dumb. Your abstractness does not make our straight-forwardness less interesting, or less intelligent.  There, I said it.

I'm not deluding myself, though...the battle will most assuredly rage on.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Literary Minefield

I participated in a chat last night that sidestepped into a discussion about literary fiction. Nasty territory when you bring commercial writers and literary writers together. It fortunately stayed pretty civil, but it's obvious there are seriously different views on the topic depending on what side of the fence you stand.

I happen to be more on the commercial side. That's not to say I don't like literary at all. Yes, I know, in a recent blog post I said, "I hate (most) literary fiction." But that "most" is in there, and it is very important.

You see, just like commercial fiction, literary fiction has more than its fair share of hacks. There is good literary fiction, and like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead--when it's good, it's very, very good...but when it's bad, it's horrid.

Most literary fiction bores me to tears. It's dry. The convoluted wording makes reading the book tedious. And I simply can't relate to the characters. A friend recently recommended the book "Prep" because it's a YA literary novel that she adored. It's gotten some rather high praise from the big reviewers. I, however, could not get past the first two chapters. I couldn't relate to the MC, at all.

But I have read literary novels that made me absolutely swoon. There is a sweet spot among literary novels that happens to fall within my circle of interest. "Hold Still" by Nina LaCour and "Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher are two teen literary novels that blew my mind. Admittedly, they are written in more of a commercial style, but they touched on real-life tragedy in a way that was beautiful and soul-changing.

I just mentioned "commercial style." I said that because so many people think it is the style that makes a book literary--specifically a classic style. As though the book must read like one of the novels you were forced to trudge through in high school. Sometimes literary fiction is written that way, and many literary fans say it's about wording, but sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between literary and mainstream. To me, it has to do with the subject matter. Literary novels focus on character over plot, first and foremost. Also, they are more "real life" than mainstream.

Hm, I say "real life" but I need to quantify that. You see, literary writing is popping up in genre novels. Literary sci-fi, literary fantasy. Style is part of it, but what really makes the difference is the character focus. It's real-life, completely recognizable as what we go through here, now, but in completely fantastical settings.

As you can see by the direction this post is taking, there is muddy water. There is a place where literary and commercial merge, and it's hard to separate them.

Some writers on either extreme, though, ignore that mud pond, staring over it at each other with arms crossed, and noses held high. Both sides feel slighted by the other. The literary fans because they know they are seen as obscure and niche and are unwanted by the norm. The commercial fans because the literary snobs maintain that commercial fiction is so much pig slop.

In all honesty, I just try to stay out of the cross-fire. I see literary fiction the way I see opera. It's something that takes talent in order to be truly good, but it's simply not for me. You're welcome to listen to whatever you want, and read whatever you want--I won't make fun of your too-tight literary bun if you don't scoff at me when I bust out my Stephen King and crank up The Ramones.

Friday, July 1, 2011

It's a Week for Anthologies!

There Was a Crooked House
"Cat Call" by Kat Heckenbach

Available in Kindle and Nookbook formats for only $3.99.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens
"Armored and Dangerous" by Kat Heckenbach

Available for pre-order through Amazon in print and Kindle.

And through Barnes & Noble in print and Nookbook.

Odd Little Miracles
22 short stories (fantasy, sci-fi, and just plain odd)
by Fred Warren

Available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble in print for only $5.98.
(coming soon in ebook formats)


ALL of Splashdown's Kindle books are on sale at Amazon for 99 cents through July 4th!

Several of these books contain my handiwork....

My artwork is on the covers of The Duke's Handmaid and Nor Iron Bars a Cage by Caprice Hokstad.

My drawings are found inside Tales of the Dim Knight by Adam and Andrea Graham.

My editing skills helped polish Winter by Keven Newsome.

I've given creative advice on cover design and back cover copy for many of the remaining books.

So in supporting Splashdown, you are supporting me. For just 99 cents :). What could be easier?