Thursday, March 31, 2011

Urban Fantasy- Vampires, Werewolves and Witches oh no!

I was given this idea by @jtdabbagian. It seems like an obvious choice, for me to write about Urban Fantasy, yet that's probably why I've avoided it. Most people when you mention UF think vampires. That is one of the more common themes in the genre, and yet, how many times can you re-invent the wheel? I love vampire books, really I do, but there can only be so many original takes on a single idea. The same goes for werewolves and witches as in my opinion they are the next two most common supernaturals used within the genre.

My point is, we are creative, artistic writers, full of wild imaginings. So let's be creative. Use our imagination a little. Why not dive into Australian mythology and dig up a few creatures? Or how about India and the multi faceted mythology that is still very much in play there? Why not create your own set of monsters and mythology? I mean, that's the point of writing any kind of fantasy right? That we can do anything we want as long as we follow our own rules.

What I'm getting at is that little known facts, tidbits of information and inspiration can be spun into full scale stories and worlds. As as writers of fantasy, that is what we're building whether it be in the real world or a world that is completely from our imaginations. We shouldn't need to keep on beating a dead horse, or in this case, a dead vampire. And with that, I've completed my rant. But feel free to continue it on in the comments section.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Post to make you Giggle

This is a just for fun post, because life can get too dang serious and we need a good laugh once in a while, which of course is great for the stomach muscles. Be prepared, this should give you quite the workout! I’ll leave it to you to figure out which ones apply to the writing community. For those who aren’t writers I mean numbers 4, 6 & 14.

Bumper Stickers

1. Never do anything you wouldn’t want to explain to the paramedics

2. To err is human, to arr is pirate

3. I’ve got a God-given right to be an atheist

4. Even if the voices aren’t real, they’ve got some good ideas

5. I’m great in bed, I can sleep all night

6. Eliminate and abolish redundancy

7. I started with nothing and I still have most of it left

8. Help! I’ve farted and I can’t roll down my windows

9. Even though this is a stupid sticker, you’re still squinting to read it

10. My other bumper sticker is funny

11. If you can read this I’m not impressed. Most people can read.

12. My day is not complete until I’ve terrified a complete stranger

13. I’m only speeding cause I really have to poop (I actually bought this for my dad!)

14. My podcast beat up your blog

15. Where are we going and why am I in this handbasket?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Holy Rocking Outline Batman!

Yesterday I had 9 burgeoning editors and a professional editor read my chapter by chapter outline for my new WIP. This was by far one of the best experiences I’ve had when working with editors (Excepting you Dorrie!) They read the outline ahead of class as homework, then for nearly 2 hours in class we brainstormed, filled in blanks, poked at plot holes and patched them up.

We went through extraneous characters and how to use them better (thanks Shawn!) and many great ideas were put forth (thanks Amanda, Jessica and Sandra) and I know that many of them will be used in the next outline. The whole class was a great experience, mostly because the book is not yet written, so I’m not tied to any particular scenes (don’t make me cut that one, it’s my favourite!) and I’m completely flexible on moving around the chain of events and the development of the characters and the plot.

They asked questions, why, what, where, how come and made me think about my back story and how I was going to develop it. (Thanks to Danya and Karen). They pointed out inconsistencies in my theories as well as my plot (thanks David).

This might sound painful, but it wasn’t compared to the alternative. Was this easier than working with an editor AFTER I’ve written 90k words and don’t want to be told it isn’t quite right? Hell yes! In an instant I would tell any and all author’s that this is the way to develop your story. Find a group, whether it be online or in person and go through this process, before you write anything. It will save time, heartache (no cutting those favourite scenes) and it will allow you to have a full outline to write from. No more. “Where do I go from this scene?” angst.

I still think it would be great to help other’s do this, but I know there is a lot of fear of idea stealing in this industry, warranted or not. Soooo. If anyone wants to contact me by email you can and I’d be happy to help you with your outline.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When I grow up I wanna be a writer like . . .

Okay, so I'll admit to some serious envy and hero worship when it comes to reading authors published in my genre. No, not because they are published, but because the words and stories flow effortlessly. Because they are telling the stories that I hope mine will measure up to.

I just finished Kim Harrison's "Pale Demon" #9 in her series. By far the best of her books (they're all great and I recommend them) and it left me thinking. I read it with great gusto, devouring the pages in less then 2 days in between things like working, sleeping and eating. In the back of my head as I dived through the story I kept thinking,

"I want people to read my book like I'm now reading Harrison's."

I want to see people buy a hardcover and do it because they just can't wait for the soft cover to come out (though that is changing with e-books but that is another post). I want to be like those authors I've read for so long, seen their styles evolve and grow and only get better the longer they write. Maybe that's too much to ask at this point, but for me, I want to write like Harrison, to make you believe that what she's telling you is really happening somewhere, despite the fact that it's fantasy.

Of course, to be fair, I could say this about a lot of writers. One of the things that sets Harrison apart though and something she and I have in common is that she's not an English Major, nor has she taken any creative writing classes. Not that I think those are bad things, not in the least. But it gives me hope that those of us without the formal educations have as much chance as those with them to be published and make a life of it.

Which writer do you want to be like? Who inspires you and your writing?

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Storyboard Conference and You

I've been taking an editing course as some of you may recall and my third class is tomorrow. Lots to learn from the editing side of things, but what I want to share with you is something called storyboard conferencing.

The basic gist of this is to have an author lay out their novel in a chapter by chapter summary, hitting on the plot points and any major information. Each chapter summary should be no more than a small paragraph to begin with. So a 30 chapter book will take up something like 6 pages or there abouts.

As the class needed someone to volunteer their material for this portion of the course, I said I would do it. I outlined my paranormal romance novel and then fleshed out each chapter, working with the teacher on smoothing out the sentences and making the whole piece flow better. (It looks suspiciously like a synopsis to me but I refuse to call it that.)

After this, the other students will have the piece sent to them and then we will all come back next week and they will have suggestions on how to make the plot better and the characters and story more believable. Cool huh? Apparently this is how things are done in many publishing houses, you have a conference with several editors and work out the kinks in your story BEFORE you write it. Freaking genius if you ask me. (This from the seat of your pants type of writer that I am.)

I was sad that not all of us get this opportunity and then I had a thought. Why not? With the group of on-line writers that I've met, I don't see why a few couldn't get together and help each other BEFORE they even write their next great masterpiece. Of course the storyboard conference can be done after a manuscript is written, but there is more difficulty in that if you cut something there has been a lot of time put into it.

For those of you interested in doing some of this storyboard conferencing, hold tight and I'll tell you my final thoughts next weekend, after the results of the class. But I think that it's safe to say that this idea has definite merit, don't you?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


This is your opportunity to FLOG YOUR BLOG! I thought it would be nice if my followers had a chance to show off what their own blog was about and gain some new followers through my blog here.

When you make a comment, don’t just put in your link, tell us a little bit about your blog. Do you write mostly book reviews? Talk about writing angst? Discuss current events? What’s your own writing genre? Are your published? This will help people decide if they want to follow you.

To be completely clear, this is not a contest, you won’t win anything by making a comment, but I am hoping that you will gain some new followers (me too) by participating in the FLOG YOUR BLOG throw down. The only rules are-

1. You must be following this blog, Wringing out Words to make a comment and . . .
2. You must do this on your blog too in order to give your followers a chance to gain new people.

My hope is that more people will not only get active here by commenting and participating but that my followers will get the same thing on their blogs. I think this sounds like a good idea, let’s see how it works.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler

The Hero's Journey is one of those books you look at and go "Really? Another book on how to write a story?" but whoa nelly, it's nothing like the others in the same category. Based on Joseph Campbell's work, Vogler takes the writing process to a whole other level.

Vogler takes you through the Hero's Journey in such a way that you can't help but learn from, breaking down the sections, characters and situations and how you can apply the Hero's Journey to any genre. Romance, screenplays, mystery, fantasy, literary fiction, YA, horror, adventure. Doesn't matter what you write, long, short, or in between this book will open new doors of understanding.

I've read several books on the writing process and all of them had helpful hints, but none of them came close to the moments of understanding as I read Vogler's book and applied his ideas and theories to my own writing.

The only thing I would warn against is that near the end of the book Vogler starts preaching and I will admit to putting it down. The first 3/4 of the book though were worth every penny and I in my humble opinion something that every writer should take the time to read no matter your genre.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

When to Part ways With your Agent w/ Elizabeth Engstrom

First off, I'd like to thank Elizabeth for taking time out of her very busy schedule to answer a few questions for me. I truly hope this helps all aspiring writers when it comes to "The Agent" as no doubt the excitement often overwhelms the cautions we should take.

The first question I’d like to ask you is, looking back, what were some of the signs that perhaps your relationship with your first agent wasn’t going to work out?

The first sign was that she charged a reading fee. When she agreed to waive that, I got an eight-page contract of fine print. Both of those should have been red flags, but I was so desperately delighted that any agent would represent me that I was ready and willing to sign anything. Here's what I know now: If you're good enough to get the attentions of one agent, you've got that certain something that they're looking for. You don't have to sign with the first one who woos you. Hold out for someone you really enjoy working with, because the agent/author relationship is legal and contractual. Getting a divorce is neither easy nor pleasant. You want it to last for the long haul.

How long did were you with your first agent before you let him/her go?

She only represented my first book. We had a parting of the ways over my second when I realized she really had no familiarity with the genre I was working in.

What did you learn from that first experience with an agent and were you able to take what you learned and apply it to the next agent relationship you had?

Alas, like most beginning writers, I had serious confidence problems and didn't believe that I would ever get another agent. I fell back into the desperation trap and hooked up with another agent who wasn't very good for me. It took me a couple of tries to find a good fit. But eventually, I found him.

It seems to me that communication is # 1 when working with an agent, do you agree and if so, what is your best suggestion for dealing with a difficult topic?

Don't shy away from it. Bite the bullet and ask the tough questions. You might not like what you hear, but it's infinitely better than what your imagination is telling you.

A lot of people think that agents are not worth the trouble, do you think that is true? Would you ever submit a project or work with a publisher without an agent?

I have sold books without an agent, but it's not my favorite way to do things. My agent can say: "This is the best book I've read in a decade." I can't say that about my own work. It's also difficult for me to know what the going rate is, since I'm not swimming in those waters all the time, so I can't negotiate a good contract with any confidence. I'm happy to pay an agent to know that side of the business so I can concentrate on my writing.

How do you think, we as writers can better improve our working relationships with agents?

Consider him or her your business partner. You may be the one who pays the agent for their services, but never think of them as employees. Know your place in the hierarchy of the agency. Don't demand 90% of an agent's time when you're paying 1% of their overhead. On the other hand, let them know you're loyal, hard working and want to have a hand in how they handle your career. Stay focused, stay involved, but don't be a pest.

Last, but not least, what is your best piece of advice for up and coming authors as they step into the agent/author contract world?

Timing is everything. You're young, you've got lots of stories to write, many books to write. Concentrate on your writing and your career will take care of itself. Let your agent do his/her work without you micromanaging it. Stay in contact, be respectful, and if at all possible, do some business in person. An agent and an editor and a publicist (and anybody else) will work harder for you if they know you in person, instead of just another manuscript.

Be sure to check out Liz's new book, York's Moon

York’s Moon is an unconventional murder mystery, a love story and the story of the little guy fighting city hall and winning. Sort of.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

An Education in Getting Lost

Yesterday was my first class at Simon Fraser University on Editing Fiction. For me and Wendy, my friend who is also taking the course, the day started at about 4am. Unlike the rest of the students, we are travelling from the Island over to Vancouver for this course. The class doesn’t start until 10am, but in order to get there on time, we have to catch the first ferry, then a bus and then get lost. But more on that in a minute.

The ferry was packed which struck me as odd for 6:30am on a Saturday in March. Until I looked closer at the passengers. They were all teenagers of varying ages. Some intrepid discussions with the one (1) parent who seemed to be overseeing the three hundred plus kids told me that there were multiple events on the mainland this weekend. Great. The ride on the ferry was anything but quiet, the teens running rampant, irritating the ferry workers and generally just hopped up on whatever sugary cereal their parents had fed them before leaving, knowing that they would have a child free Saturday.

Once the ferry docked, Wendy and I ran for the bus below. Why you may ask? Because the dang bus was scheduled to leave three minutes before we docked and of course, we didn’t know that the bus would wait for us. This running though cement hallways and down stairs got interesting real fast. Laptop bags flopping and panic at missing out bus rising, we passed teens as they dawdled their way to the exit. At one point Wendy lost sight of me as the teens flowed and ebbed around us like a living current, filling in any spaces left open.

We made it to the bus, sat down and breathed a sigh of relief. A good friend of ours had told us that if we took the 257 into downtown, from there we could see the campus and walk across the street to SFU. He was wrong about that. Nearing the end of the bus ride, the seats around us empty, I stood and asked the driver which stop would allow us to walk to SFU. The blank stare and shake of his head had my palms sweating in an instant. “No SFU on this route.” Left me ready to puke.

I sat back down. What the hell was I supposed to do now? Wendy had trusted me to plan the travel portion of our trip and here I was getting us stuck somewhere downtown nowhere near where we wanted to go. At the last stop we got off hoping that maybe the bus driver was wrong. There in front of us was not SFU, but a community college that shall remain nameless.

“They should where SFU is.” I say, confidence in my voice covering the fear that I had screwed up badly and we would miss our first class.

Security was the closest window in the college with people in it. I approached. “Can you tell me how to get to SFU Harbourside from here, I think it’s close.” I say, hoping that I will see a smile and a quick list of directions. The frown and subtle head shake weakened me to the point of having to put down my laptop.

To be sure though, the security guard pulled up Google Map and plugged in SFU. Low and behold, SFU Harbourside was one block down and one block over, a total of four minutes away. A sigh of relief passed my lips and Wendy smiled.

As we walked I mused on the truth I’d learned so far. Just because a major landscape exists within a five walking minute radius, don’t expect anyone who works in the area to know where the hell it is. Google map, is the only way to get directions.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Paranormal Romance & my Secret Weapon.

The title of this post pretty much says it all. My next WIP is going to be a paranormal romance and for some reason I feel the need to explain why. My genre has been and probably always will be a type of fantasy, be it urban or epic. The stories I write always have a strong romantic element (I'm a sucker for a good love story) and it finally occurred to me that perhaps I should actually write the love story I would want to read. Voila, an idea is born.

Here's the plan, nine (count them 9) months from now (time enough for a baby so time enough for a book) is the deadline for the RWA (Romance Writers of America) Golden Heart Contest. This is a huge contest where the finalists all receive great honours for getting that far. You might think I'm being cocky believing I can beat out 1200 other entrants and make it to the finals, but I have a secret weapon.

A new member of our local writing group is a published romance author. Mimi Barbour is experienced not only with writing romances and having them published, but has also done judging for romance contests and has even worked with a Golden Heart winner! I've often said life is all about timing, and I think my decision to finally write this paranormal romance couldn't have been more true to this adage.

What I would love is if some of my followers who write in this genre or have an idea that is a romantic plot would do this along with me. That way, we can support one another. Did I mention that as a finalist you get a free trip to the RWA conference? Last year it was in Orlando, Florida.

Did I also mention that nearly all finalists have their pick of agents and basically all winners in the various genres get published? Just saying. :p

So, the question is, who's with me?