Thursday, May 24, 2012

Closed Hearts Release!

Sue Quinn, contributor to Scribblers Cove, is releasing the second book in her Mindjack series and there's a party going on all over the internet. Go check it out!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Glimpse into the World of the Superstars

What aspiring author hasn't dreamed of becoming a superstar? National book signing tours, six-figure incomes, television interviews, people asking for cover quotes... doesn't it all sound fun?

That's the part that the public sees. But what does a superstar author really spend most of his or her time doing?

Writing. Duh.

Just like you and me. But not exactly. One of my favorite quotes I heard at the Superstars Writing Seminar last week in Las Vegas, and I'm sorry I forgot who said it, is, "When you're self-employed you only have to work half days. And you get to decide which twelve hours it's going to be."

The Superstars Writing Seminar delivers a big dose of reality. Seven major authors got together to tell us what their world is really like. Although breaking in and making a living as a writer is not as impossible as we've been led to believe, it does take a certain mindset and a lot of hard work. It is a job and a lifestyle. It takes hours of practice, years of preparation, and a good business sense. As the sole proprietor of a small business, you must divide your brain into two parts. The artist and the marketing department. Feed them both. Many wildly talented people never make it because they only want to be artists and starve in a garret and all of those romantic notions.

Write hard. Get good. Then go out and sell it. Even Charles Dickens pounded the pavement, shook hands, and signed books for adoring fans.

The truth is, new authors are practically invisible. Publishing companies loose money on first books, an average of $20,000. Is your manuscript worth betting $20,000 on? That's what you're asking for when you send a submission to a publisher.

Sorta makes you want to get all the punctuation right in your cover letter.

So how do we survive in this brutal world where the giant corporate publishers will throw your book at the wall and see if it sticks? Dump you if you're not selling, even through no fault of your own?

First, network. We writers are each other's secret weapon. Make a lot of friends. Help each other. Whether you publish indie or traditional, a network in the writing and reading community will bring you far more opportunities than you could ever find on your own.

Second, produce a lot of work. One of our presenters said it was like making popcorn. Does anyone put one kernel in the pan and wait for it to pop before tossing in another? No. Lots of kernels. Lots of stories out on submission. Write it, finish it, send it out, keep it on the market until it sells, and immediately start a new project. Something will eventually pop. And you can't know what that something is going to be.

Third, you can always go indie. But if you upload it, who will come? See First and Second points. It's your network and your volume that will get you noticed. Even with the cataclysmic changes in publishing right now, these two principles will hold true. In fact, this might be the best time in the history of the printed word to get on board.

So how did the Superstars Writing Seminar change me? I'm no longer going to sit around and wait for someone to tell me I'm good enough to do this. If I really want it, I can go out and get it.

See you at the top.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Memories of Clarion West

Eleven years ago I had the privilege of attending the Clarion West Writers Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy in Seattle, Washington. For anyone who hasn't heard of it, the Clarion Workshops are intense, to put it mildly. For six weeks, seventeen students are taught by professional writers - ours were Octavia Butler, Bradley Denton, Nalo Hopkinson, Connie Willis, Ellen Datlow, and Jack Womack. Every morning we'd get up, scrounge some breakfast, and then head to a critique session. Three students would have their heads on the block. We'd have read their stories and go around the circle, analyzing, criticizing, and trying to suggest cures for whatever ailed the piece. The last person to go would be the instructor. After being roasted by seventeen other people, the author was permitted to do two things: 1) ask for clarification and 2) thank everyone.

This has been such a valuable lesson for me because when you write professionally, you can't argue with your readers. You can't complain that they "didn't get it". It was your job to make them get it. Your only remedy is to learn from mistakes, sit back down at the keyboard, and do better next time.

In the science fiction and fantasy genre, a lot of professional writers groups use the Clarion style of critiques, and it was my time at Clarion West that qualified me to join Critical Mass, a writer's group in New Mexico that helped keep me working hard for the next ten years. Meanwhile many of my former workshop mates were finding their own way in critique groups, earning degrees and research grants, and winning awards and accolades such as Hugo and Nebula nominations and novel publishing deals.

It's been a privilege to be associated with my former classmates, and it's been a blessing that social media like email and Facebook have allowed us to keep a connection and be a part of each others lives and careers. This year, we decided to celebrate with a reunion anthology. Since the workshop was in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, we titled it, Under the Needle's Eye. Eleven of us have contributed stories and novel excerpts, and it was my privilege to oversee the copy editing and to convert the book to Kindle format. I have to say, my classmates' work leaves me both humbled and bursting with pride.

And I made us this book trailer:

I hope it conveys some of the sincere admiration I have for my classmates and the incredible fun it was putting this project together. The anthology is FREE today and tomorrow on Amazon, so come find us Under the Needle's Eye!