Friday, October 23, 2015

Weird Search

My web browser history will never be something that I'm ashamed of. It's one of the many joys of not looking up inappropriate content. That being said, I'm not quite sure what a person would decide about my character if they looked over the things I've been looking up lately.

That's because I've been snorkeling out* some research for a few various projects. To the untrained eye, and that's really the only kind I allow to read my web history, they might come to a few interesting conclusions.

"that snorkel's been just like a snorkel to me" (If you know the reference you are my hero)
I've been researching the following things for projects I'm working on: military bases, Alaskan culture, books about Alaska-including travel guides, traveling circuses, earthquakes, fashion and toys from 1964, news headlines from the 1940's, the character C.J. from the West Wing, a statistics class,  PR class, a specific professor at a local university**, and obscure monthly holidays.

A free clip art calendar with Alaska-esk mountains? Score!
This is within the past two months. This doesn't include all of the additional searched done later through ye' olde library. Yes, people still use them and I still value verifying information through an interview or a published book. Must be the journalist inside of me***.

What do you think my searches say about me? I imagine they say that I'm thinking of running away to alaska to start a vintage style circus? I'm planning to take statistics **** to decipher the best place to set up a circus due to the frequency of earthquakes in Alaska. The PR class is obviously because I want to promote my circus well. Then during the off season I will make money doing an impression of CJ from the West Wing. These appearances will only be held during obscure holidays. It will be by niche.

One day I'll have real pictures of you Alaska, one day.

What about you? Do you ever rack up a weird list of searches because of a project or projects you're working on?

As always I would love to hear about them. Especially if they involve incriminating...I mean hilarious stories.

*I call it snorkeling out research because it's just skimming the surface and not getting very deep. When I go deeper it's called research....What else would I call it? Scubaing out research? No, that'd just be silly.

**You know who you are

***Not because of my journalism experience, but because I once ate a very tiny journalist. They were the size of a jelly bean and were squishy and delicious....on second thought that might have just been a gummy bear.

**** Yeah that's probably not how statistics class knowledge works, but I never took the class so I'm going to make my reality up. It's sort of the theme I've got going here.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Swag! Everyone wants some! The time for physical bookmarks seems to be well over. A lot of books that are sold these days are sold digitally. I don't think I remember keeping the various and sundry bookmarks I was given even back when I was reading physical books. I've never just kept my book on the nightstand where a bookmark would stay in its assigned place. I've always taken the books I was reading with me more or less everywhere and bookmarks just wouldn't stay put in transit. They're even less useless to me these days, now that almost all of my books are in digital form. But swag is an integral part of putting your best foot forward in conventions and such. It's a way of getting your work remembered even when it's not on a billboard.

If not bookmarks, then what kind of swag should you get to promote you and your book? Here are a few examples of the swag given to me during this year's Worldcon.


Pins for Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, Schlock Mercenary by Howard
Tayler and All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Pins seem to be the new go-to these days. The round ones are fairly cheap to either make for yourself or to have made. The shaped ones are more difficult (I may have to bug Howard about where he got them made the next time I see him) but they perform the same basic function. Although I have to admit that the Schlock pin is a lot cooler than the book pins. It's all exposure during the con, when everyone is paying loads of attention to your badge and everything that's hanging on it. And if even a fraction of the people getting the pin at a con wear it in their normal lives that's still quite a lot more exposure than without. Personally I tend to favor fan enthusiasm such as carrying around pins about books you loved over paid billboards. And from what I can tell, the same applies to most people.

Something people use

Squishies to promote The University of Iowa libraries and Montreal in 2017
Giving readers something they'll use all the time that's still somehow related to the thing you're marketing. The stress toys pictured to the left were both given out to promote generally science fictional causes. University of Iowa Libraries have a science fiction department that is busily gathering science fiction history. Montreal was trying to get the 2017 Worldcon, which, as you probably know, is the World Science Fiction Convention.

Objects from the book

Memorial pins from characters in Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Mercy
This is very possibly the best swag there is. There are objects in any book that the characters notice or use, things that may or may not be important to the plot. The first example of these that I've come across was James A Owen's Here, There Be Dragons. In the books there are Caretakers, each of whom is identified by a pocket watch they carry. Owen later formed a study program for middle schools where the students and teachers participating were given one of these pocket watches. At last year's Worldcon, Mary Robinette Kowal gave out sandalwood fans, which were mentioned in her book Valour and Vanity. This year I never did get to meet Ann Leckie but she was handing out the pictured pins, which were both featured in her two books, Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Mercy. These are things to be treasured.

Have you come across any particularly good swag?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Diving into process

I still haven't quite found a novel writing method that reliably works for me. I inevitably end up pulling apart huge chunks of my first drafts because they make no sense, structurally speaking. My characters do things that make no sense and apparently I'm unable to see that in the outline or while I'm writing. So I'm still tweaking.

I wrote the first draft of the novel I'm currently editing, The Avatar Legacy, using Cathy Yardley's Rock Your Writing method and while it's significantly better than what I had at the start of editing the novel I'm currently querying, Familiar Phantoms, I'm still going to have to rip out the entire middle of the book, which I'm frankly not too happy about. Which is not to say that it's the fault of the process at all. Regardless, for my revision outline, I'm trying out a different approach. Libbie Hawker's book Take Off Your Pants looks like an interesting take on story structure. It's largely based on John Truby's The Anatomy of Story, although Hawker presents her method in a much more approachable way.

Hawker describes her method as a three-legged stool. The three legs are character arc, theme,and pacing. Without any one of them the story will not stand, or it will be wibbly wobbly. The story's core has five elements; a character (1) who wants something (2), something that prevents them from getting what they want easily (3), leading them to struggle against that force (4) leading to either success or failure (5). That's the very basics of the method, but the book goes into more depth and is absolutely worth reading.

This is the third process I'm trying out for novel writing. Well, fourth, to be completely accurate, since I pantsed my way through the first two novels that I wrote that will never see the light of day, at least not as they are now. My first was the one covered in Rachel Aaron's 2k to 10k, parts of which I'll be likely to use pretty much always since they really help me focus in on what I want to say with the book I'm writing. I used Cathy's Rock Your Writing method to revise that book and write the next one, the one I'm now using Hawker's method to revise. I'm planning to use Hawker's method to write the next one (a project with no name about a fairy godmother temp agency).

What do I want off my noveling process? I want to be able to identify possible problems earlier. I want to be able to consistently and fairly easily create an outline that helps me get through the book faster. Part of this is most likely a matter of experience too, but anything that can help me get there faster is a-okay in my book. I keep getting these vague concepts that I can't figure out the actual story to and from what little I've seen from Hawker's method, I think it might get me closer to that than my previous ones. I doubt that this will end by being the last time I tweak my noveling process, but at least it's a step forward. The idea is to keep tweaking until I manage to find a process that consistently works for my needs. Take the things that work and discard the ones that don't.

What is your novel writing process? Are you happy with it? If not, what are you using to develop it further?