Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cards Arrived

My business cards showed up and I'm very pleased with them. The cards look good, the photo looks good, they showed up six days after I put in the order (despite my paying for 3-7 business day shipping -- usually I expect actual performance to be on the long side of those ranges), and my order came with a 15% off code for a future order. (Although it expires at the end of the year, and I can't imagine needing another set of cards by then. They do offer other items, though, so maybe I'll get something else in a while.)

Anyway, I definitely recommend


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Capturing Ideas

Story ideas can come from anything, anywhere, any time, and they don't always schedule themselves conveniently into one's daily routine. What do you do to grab them?

Someone over on a forum (The Phade, a site for writers and readers of m/m) asked about that, and it got me thinking that this is another one of those things there there's no one best method that everyone "should" use.

I've read in various places that writers "should" carry a notebook around at all times, and keep it on the nightstand when we're sleeping, so whenever an idea pops up we can write it down. I'm really awful at that sort of note-taking, though. And I rarely carry a purse, and my pants/shorts usually don't have pockets large enough or even at all, so experiments in the notebook direction have never worked for me, although I'm sure it's a perfect tool for a lot of other writers.

I remember when I first started "seriously" writing as a teenager, I was terrified of letting any story idea slip away. I was sure in the back of my mind, as many baby writers seem to be, that story ideas were rare creatures and that every one of them needed to be captured and preserved, or I'd Never Write Again, oh noes! :) As time went on, though, I realized that there are ideas and story seeds everywhere. Just about anything can trigger a story idea. They're not rare at all, and having "enough" ideas is the least of my worries.

Because another thing I eventually noticed is that taking observations of whatever and turning them into story ideas is a skill, and like most skill it responds well to practice. I was able to do it a little when I was young, and I got a bit better in a haphazard way in the next decade or two, but during the years when my medications prevented me from writing at all, I lost a lot of that skill. When I got back into writing later on, I had to work on seeing and developing story ideas all over again, although this time I was doing it more consciously. I'm much better at it now, and come up with a lot more ideas (and more toward the "cool" end of the spectrum than the "meh" end) than I did before my writing went on a multi-year hiatus.

To capture the ideas that are worth saving, what I ended up doing was creating a file on my HD, "IDEAS.DOC" for story ideas, and I have a duplicate on my laptop for when I'm travelling. That's the only place I record story ideas, though. I don't keep a notebook or scribble them down anywhere else. I don't keep a voice-activated tape recorder with me (which was an alternative to the notebook which was enthused about in a few books on writing), or anything else. When I get an idea for a plot or a character or a twist or puzzle or worldbuilding detail or funny bit or anything else, if I'm at the computer then I jot it down in my Ideas file. If I'm not, then I think about it for a bit, looking at it from all angles, trying to do a little development -- what kind of story would this idea fit into, what kind of character would get into that situation, or whatever -- and basically try to memorize it.

Keep in mind that I have a pretty horrible memory in some ways, so this isn't always successful. That's all right, though. Somehow I always seem to remember the ideas I'm really enthusiastic about, at least until I'm next at the keyboard. If the idea is still in my head at that point, it goes into my Ideas file. If it's not, then it escaped. Oh, well.

Because seriously, there really are story ideas everywhere. I don't need every single one that comes to me. I don't even particularly want every single one that comes to me. I already have more ideas in my file than I could possibly write about in the rest of my likely life; even if I never added another idea to the file, I'd still probably die with ideas unwritten, so I'm not going to stress out about missing a few new ones.

The problem isn't coming up with enough ideas; it's sorting out the best ideas. The really cool ones seem to stick with me long enough to get them down, and the rest of them I don't care about anyway.

Works for me.

What do you do?


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Alone at Home

Or mostly. My husband is in Germany for a week so it's just me and his cat again. [eyes grouchy feline]

We're saving up airline miles so we can fly business class to Melbourne (and back!) next year for WorldCon. He got a good deal on a trip to Germany -- although not quite as excellent as he got last year -- so he's off touristing around, mainly for the miles. He brought some liqueur-chocolates back for me and my mom last time, and Mom has put in a request for more this time around 'cause they were the best chocolates she's ever had. And she's not really a sweets-person, so for Mom to get that enthused about candy says a lot. :) Me, I don't like alcohol (can't stand the taste) so my own request was for some booze-less chocolates this time. Hopefully he'll be able to find some. :D

I think he wants to ride the monorail again, too. And he was talking about trying to get to Aachen. That'd be awesome (yay, Charlemagne!) but I'm still sufficiently broad across the beam that long plane flights are incredibly uncomfortable for me. When we went to Florence, I was in serious pain for most of the flights, each way. :/ That's one of the reasons he's doing this, so we can afford the Good Seats on the bazillion-hour flight to Australia and back.

Let's see, what else? Oh, I ordered business cards today, for the first time ever. :) EPICon is in like two weeks and it finally hit me that I should have cards to give out. It'll look like this:

Business Card

It was around $25 or so for 250, including shipping, which isn't too bad. The pic is sort of generic, and a lot of m/m writers seem to use hot/naked guys, but 1) I took the picture myself so there aren't any copyright issues, 2) it's the pic I use for my columns on Romancing the Blog, and it's the default on my LJ, so it helps build a brand image sort of thing, and 3) I've written in other genres before and plan to do so again, and although there's a good chance I'll use a different pseud if I start publishing in, say, SF or Fantasy, this way my options are open and I don't have to. Or at least, I won't necessarily need to get a separate set of cards made up, if I decide to publish in other genres under the same pseud. Somehow I can't really see handing out cards with naked dudes on them to editors and agents at World Fantasy, you know? [wry smile]


Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I've been thinking about doing some sort of books feature, an irregular review sort of thing. I read a lot of books, in various genres of fiction as well as various topics of nonfiction, and I certainly have strong opinions about pretty much everything, so one might think this'd be a great fit for me.

But then recently, a friend of mine pointed me at a contest a writer was running, the prize being some number of ARCs. You enter the contest, and if you win you get the free ARC and agree to blog about it.

And right there was where I balked, and started thinking about it.

What if I didn't like the book? I had something like that happen a while back, where I entered a writer's contest and won a free book. She actually sent me two (or rather, her publicist did); one was the novel that'd been promised, and another was an anthology where the writer had contributed one of the stories. The letter from the publicist expressed eagerness to see my blog post about the books after I'd read them.


What if I don't like them? And in fact, I started with the anthology, since I like short stories, and it turned out I didn't like it. The story by the writer who'd run the contest was the best one in the book, but that wasn't saying much. To this date I still haven't tried the novel, and I might never; I might end up just donating it to a library or something, because the short story really did nothing for me and I'm reluctant to dive into something longer and more complex by the same writer. I suppose it's very possible that this writer is more comfortable with and better at longer forms, but I still have that unpleasant taste left on my mental tongue and just don't feel like seeing for myself.

I didn't really feel bad about not blogging about these books, though, because it hadn't been spelled out when I entered the contest that a free pimp-post would be expected. I'm not going to feel guilty about backing out on a deal I didn't know I was making, and besides, I doubt that writer or her publicist would care to read what I'd write, if forced to. So.

The thing is, if I were to do a "What I'm Reading" sort of series, I'd want to write about all the books I read. I suppose I could only do the ones I liked, but that feels like cheating. And if there's a purpose to the thing, then for the sake of people reading the pieces, I should talk about what I didn't like as well, and why. I've never had much respect for review sites or review magazines where everything gets four or five stars; they feel like hired shills masquerading as reviewers, whether they're actually getting paid or not. I think reviewers have a duty to dish out the bad along with the good, and I'm obsessive enough that if I did this at all, I'd want to do it thoroughly.

Interestingly enough, I don't mind doing in-house reviews for my publisher. When anything book-size (usually either a novel or a longer anthology) is released, there's a review written by one of Torquere's other authors right there along with the book's summary and excerpt and all. Of course, they're always positive. I think the difference here is that they are marketing pieces and everyone knows it. There's no pretense of a completely independent review. And no, writers assigned a book to review aren't pressured to recommend it. I was actually assigned a book once which I didn't care for at all and simply could not recommend. I let the staff person who coordinates the reviews know and she was fine with it; these things happen, she said, and it wasn't a huge problem. They've bought more stories from me since then, and I've even gotten more review assignments, so clearly there's no retribution attached to backing out of a review. I felt bad about it at the time, but having this happen has actually made me feel better about the process; knowing that there is an out makes it clear that if a writer wrote a positive review it's because they actually did like the book. And not including a negative point of view works in this case because, again, it's a marketing thing and no one's pretending otherwise.

Although this brings up another issue -- reviewing books by my own publisher. I read a lot of Torquere books because I like them and there are some excellent authors writing for the house. I'd just as soon not get into an argument with anyone who might come along and accuse me of conflict of interest, though. And in all honesty, I would feel weird posting a negative review of a book by my publisher. I haven't loved every single one of them, and I'm sure another one will come along eventually that I'll dislike. But there's a family or team sort of feeling among the writers (which might well be the case with any smallish press; I haven't worked with any others to know) and it feels... I don't know, disloyal maybe? to be posting the occasional negative or even scathing review of one of their books. Especially if I know the writer -- wow, awkward! [wince]

So I guess I could just make a policy of not reviewing books by any publisher I've written for.

I still have misgivings, though. I think the main problem, here, whether the books I'd be reviewing were by my own publisher or not, is that I'm a writer myself. Any negative review would feel (or might look to a reader) like I was trashing the competition, which is always uncool. Ironically, it'd be easier if I weren't a writer; as a reader and only a reader, I'd have no problem offering up my opinion, because it'd be pretty clearly unbiased. (Or as unbiased as a human opinion ever is, but at least there wouldn't be any kind of competitor-bias in the mix.)

A lot of other writers review, some informally on their blogs and others for a living. I used to love reading Spider Robinson's reviews in Analog back when, for example, and I have no problem now reading reviews by another writer, whether formal or casual. It's only when I think about being the writer doing the reviews that I start to get squirmy. :/

Am I the only one who stresses out about this sort of thing? Am I overly polite? Just over-thinking? Any opinions, from other writers who review, or anyone who reads reviews, or anyone else who has a random opinion to share...?


Monday, February 16, 2009

New Column


I have a new column up on Romancing the Blog, on the subject of Falling out of Love. I recently came to the sudden realization that a writer I really loved up until, well, a few days ago, is actually pretty sucky. :/ It feels exactly like the sudden awakening out of a romantic infatuation, which is a pretty weird feeling to have about a completely different sort of attachment. Has that ever happened to anyone else? (With writers, not partners. [grin])


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Trivia Contest!

I'm driving the bus at Torquere Social on LJ today and just posted a trivia contest. The prize is a Torquere gift certificate, so come hang with me today and see how many you can get right!

[EDIT: And we're wrapped. Thanks to everyone who came over to check things out. :) ]