Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Covers

Good news!  My youngest son visited over the weekend and we got to talking about my desire to e-publish some of my work and . . . . he volunteered to create cover illustrations for the books I publish!

Why is this good?  Because he's a first-rate artist, for one thing.  He makes his living at photography, web design and illustration, including character design.  For another, he's tech savvy, so can make sure the covers work with e-formats.  Not to mention there'll be no issues with licensing or rights to the images used.  Oh, and he's not charging me, either.  :)  That's my repayment for having sent him money every month for all four years he was in art school and keeping secret from his father that he wasn't living in a dorm, but was sharing a beat-up old house with six other struggling artists.

Best of all, I will have a lot more say in the final product than I would with an e-publisher.  If I want to show a teenage boy and an immense supernatural god-machine on the cover, I get my god-machine.  And the kid will at least look like my hero.  That kind of thing.  And if I do find an e-publisher willing to publish my books, I'm not out anything . . . even if they don't use my covers, I will have some nifty illustrations.  :D

I sent him two novels this morning and he will be sending me sketches in a month or so.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cthulhu Dildo

Seriously, research turns up the most amazing things!  Like this nifty tentacle monster dildo for the girl or guy who has everything.  Love life gotten a little mundane?  Whip out this baby and either you'll get off or die laughing.

I just put in my order.  My guy has a sense of humor and next time I have him tied up, I'm pulling out old Cthulhu.  Imagine what he'd look like as a strap-on.  Not saying I'd actually put him to use, but that image is too priceless not to take to the bank.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writing: Turning Points

My favorite moments in a story aren't the hot scenes, much as I enjoy the juicy bits, but the turning points.  You know, those places in the story where a character gets slammed upside the head with something that turns his world inside out.  The moment where something, maybe even everything, changes.

I love writing those moments.  They're my payoff for all my hard work at layering in exposition, foreshadowing, dialogue bits, suspicions and lies and truth.  They're where I deliver my character over to everything he's wrought or wanted and he's facing the result.

I just wrote a turning point for a character standing atop cliffs like these, and the giant tentacled things he sees trying to climb out of the sea make him scream like a baby.  Well, okay, maybe he doesn't scream--but he will later.  Oh yes, he will.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

You Can't Dictate What Readers Want

My political ex-boss, one of the smartest and wisest men I've known, once told me, "You can legislate behavior, but you can't legislate morality."  Lawmakers can pass all the laws in the world and try their hardest to make people obey them, but they can't pass laws that will make people into good human beings.

The same thing applies to publishing.  You can't make readers want what you write.

Writers grouse all the time about how unfair publishing is and why certain writers, topics or themes don't succeed in the marketplace.  It's not a conspiracy.  It's a marketing fact: maybe readers can only buy the books put out for their consumption, but just because a book/writer/topic is out there doesn't mean readers have to buy it.  Books and publishers flop all the time because readers snubbed what they tried to give them.

Writing is a creative field, the supply side of publishing, which is an economic--not artistic, not social--activity.  Supply without demand means no one makes money.  Demand without supply means no one makes money.  Writers can supply all the novels and stories in the world and they'll starve if no one wants to read them.  Readers can empty the shelves of one author's books, or become fascinated with tales of dysfunctional families or fast-talking con men or cats that solve crimes, creating immense demand for those kinds of story.  Publishing is where the two meet.

Writers can, of course, write what those readers want.  After all, publishers want the same stuff.  I have writing pals who write whatever the market commands.  If the market wants paranormal romances with demons and werewolves, that's what they write.  A decade ago it was chick lit.  Tomorrow it will be something else.  Unsurprisingly, they make more money than I do.

I write for love, not money, which isn't financially smart, though it's rewarding in other ways.  My fantasies give me a lot of creative room, much of it erotic and some high adventure, but few of my works are set in this world and none follow what's hot right now.  It could turn out I never have a large readership, but I do think readers lurk out there looking for the kinds of stories I write.  Helping them find my work is the tricky part.

But those readers are out there.  Maybe a handful, maybe a dozen, and they're looking for my stories.  I just know it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Palaces!

Okay, so I like to write about royal dudes.  Turns out their natural habitat is royal palaces, and . . . well, I've never lived in one.  Visited a few, but I only have so much time available for visiting the dwellings of long-dead monarchs.  So what's a visual writer to do when she craves looking at a palace to inspire her own descriptions?

I visit this site, which has pages of historical palaces all over the world.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Civilization

More precisely... Civilization Revolution.

I love playing this PS3 game.  It's tremendously addictive, and loads of fun.  What happened last night, though, illuminated something about my personality.

I'm the person you want defending your empire.

My eldest son, Mike the Conqueror, flew in for the weekend and, because I have a head cold, we ordered pizza and stayed in.  We decided it was a good night to take on a game of Civ Rev.  Husband Steve and I, playing as a pair, had not won militarily at Emperor level and we wanted to try, so we started a game as the Germans, who come with military bonuses.  
So the guys crank out one group of warriors and start exploring in one direction; they take the next group of warriors and explore in the other direction.  And I'm, like, "Guys?  Berlin is completely undefended."  Do they listen to me?  No.  They've discovered the Aztecs to the east and Alexander's Greeks to the west and, oh yeah, we have Japanese to the south!  They need warrior armies... everywhere.

"We can take them!" cries Mike the Conqueror.
"Who first?" queries Steve the Strategist.
"Hey, how about giving Berlin a damn archer unit?" pleads Tali the Defender.

So the guys, rolling their eyes, generate an archer unit for Berlin.  I am placated... slightly.  We're still woefully under defended.  Fortunately, our enemies are stupid and don't try to attack Berlin.  Maybe because Mike the Conqueror is urging Steve the Strategist to attack Osaka.

I continue plotting out our tech so we can stay ahead and not get annihilated by superior units.  Oh, and maybe we can get to space...

They make pretty short work of the Japanese, mostly because we discover catapults before anyone else.  I argue that we should leave Kyoto in place, crippled and pathetic as it now is, because it strategically blocks another civilization: France.  Why fight them if you can block them?

"We can take them!"  says Mike.
"Maybe Tali's right," says Steve.
"Tali's right," says Tali.  "Berlin only has one archer.  All of our troops are in Osaka and Yokohama, and Montezuma may be acting all peaceful, but I don't trust him.  He's up to something.  He's winning the culture race."
"We can take him, too!  They've got nothing!"

By then, we have tanks.  Three turns later, the guys have wiped Japan off the map and are invading Napoleon's France (this is not a real world map, you may have noticed).  They only need one unit of tanks for that... the rest have been shipped off to the eastern border to take on Montezuma's Aztecs.  They've never caused us any problems... which is probably why he's unprepared for Mike the Conqueror and Steve the Strategist, gleefully delivering armies of tanks to blast him away.

I set our new cities of Osaka and Yokohama to doing something useful, like building factories.

Several turns later, no more Aztecs.  Having discovered the Atom Bomb and wanting to demonstrate the cool graphics to Mike, Steve launches it at Paris.  Napoleon is annoying anyway (fear not, we're equal opportunity, having nuked Washington the week before because Abe Lincoln is just as annoying).  The French are weakened and Alexander the Great is getting worried.

He should be.  Mike the Conqueror has decided it's time to take him on.  He's champing at the bit.

"Come on!  Look at the guy's troops!  They're wearing sandals and carrying sticks!  We've got tanks!"
I sigh.  "I've seen guys with sticks take out tanks!  It happens.  And Berlin still only has one archer!"

I put the Aztec cities on more production and building space parts for the shuttle I plan to launch since they won't let me defend Berlin, or anywhere else.  Rather than listen to me complain, they give me a rifleman unit and a plane to protect Berlin, which doesn't need protecting because clearly our enemies are more worried about other things.  Athens will soon be toast and the French are clinging to Orleans...

And then we start launching space parts into space.  Yep, we're building an interstellar space ship.  The Germans are going to Alpha Centauri.

Mike the Conqueror belatedly notices that if our space ship reaches Alpha Centauri, we win the game.  Which is the point.  But he still wants to take out the French and the Greeks.

Not a shot.  But the guys do have fun with a few more full scale military engagements before our ship triumphantly colonizes a new planet.

Germans win!

If we'd been playing again a human being and not a computer, though, we'd have been in trouble, because I just know a human being would have attacked our capital city and its one archer.

Mike and Steve joke that if we ever play each other in a multiple player game, I will only have one city but it will be impossible to take.  That's probably true.  Not the one city part.  I believe in expansion.  But my cities will be defended to the teeth.  Those guys are going to wear themselves out attacking me... and then I'll launch my nuke at whoever's annoying me most.  :)   



Neither guy knows it yet, but I've mastered Deity level.  :)


Mike the Conqueror will never know what hit him.





Friday, January 20, 2012

On Wet Blankets and Other Critics

As I sit here nursing a head cold, I thought I'd share this favorite essay by Peter H. Myers.  He's a photographer and an artist and, yes, I love his work, but what he has to say about the internet and criticism applies to aspiring writers.



Writing: He Could See Forever

A fellow writer whose work I admire for its vividness and vitality once pointed out I had a habit of using the word could in ways that weakened my verbs.  She went through one of my chapters and marked every instance.  The pages looked like they had measles.  The cure was simple enough: replace the could <verb> with just the verb, or a better verb.

Here's an example of what I mean: 

Mark sighed and tugged at his coat collar.  A cold wind blew across the ship’s bow and he could feel it shivered through his thin jacket.  The sound of a foghorn made him look up.  He could see saw San Francisco in the distance, its hazy lights overlooking the Bay.

In the above example, could serves to distance the reader from the verb.  It inserts a buffer between the subject and the action.  Mark could feel the cold, but that doesn't actually say he felt it.  Just say he felt it or, better yet, show him feeling it.  Mark could see San Francisco . . . but it's more vivid to say he saw it.

As words go, could is a jack-of-all-trades.  This page explains it well.  Could is a remnant of the English language's lost subjunctive tense and often serves to convey possibility or hypothetical situations.  Hell, I could write a better romance than that piece of dreck!  It also makes verbs conditional.  We could go to Disney World if we get a big tax refund.  

The upshot of all this?  I now red flag could when revising.  Sometimes I let it stand.  It's a good word!  Often, though, I see an opportunity to make my writing tighter by showing the action I'm saying could happen.



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cityville

Yes, I play Cityville.  Shoot me.  I want to shoot the people who play Mafia Wars sometimes, and in the past I kind of did that.  For a while there I was fierce, especially after a game glitch gave me 3.7 billion BRM-80 machine guns, but that game eventually bored me and I left the Mafia.  Now I live in Cityville and I like it.

Social games are perfect for people like me who tend to live in their own little worlds anyway.  Several of my very best Mafia friends turned into sorta-kinda real life friends and that's how I found Cityville, among other joys like Oberon Leather and Pinterest.  My Cityville neighbors include family, like my sister, husband and sister-in-law, former Mafia from Portland, Barcelona and Singapore, and real life friends from my hometown and here where I now live.  We call or chat each other with things like "Could you send me a Baguette?" or "I need Elevator Doors!" and have intense discussions about how to manage expansion.  Like I said, great fun.

Oh, and my City, I'm proud to say, is magnificent.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shy to the Point of Paralysis

You know those people who walk up to you at parties or in a crowd and seem right at home?  The ones who can talk about anything?  The ones who ask you questions like they think they will get an answer?  I'm not one of them.

I never assume anyone wants to talk to me or hear what I have to say.  Sometimes I think they should, but expect it?  That would be presumptuous, which in my Midwestern WASP family was an unforgivable sin.  If someone wanted my opinion, my parents always told me, they'd ask for it.  For years, I waited, but no one ever asked.  My first husband didn't even ask if I wanted to marry him.  He just assumed I would . . . and I did.

After I grew up, I realized, much to my surprise, that being the quiet sort has its advantages.  People forget you're around.  They say things that reveal themselves and others, but I get to stay invisible.  For a writer, that's a goldmine of human experience.  For every character I create, another walks by in the flesh, begging re-creation.  And because I don't know them, not really, I'm free to invent their story.  That's tricky territory with people who actually know you exist or care what you think, like your mother who reads your books and asks if the obnoxious jerk in the story is based on your brother.