Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
Being relatively new to writing myself (less than five years), I felt it best to keep to the beginning levels. I took them through what they had to do to get started writing a story: The willingness to put it down on paper and let other people see what you wrote. I explained how so many people aren't willing to share because of fear of rejection or of being thought of as too weird. Next, being willing to have several different people critique the story to get feedback, and how to handle it. I explained the need to have a variety of different people read their stories to get a proper range of feedback, and then how to take that feedback and decide what to incorporate into their stories; what would make sense and not lose the essential nature of what they were trying to express.
I also explained how only a minuscule portion of writers’ make any real money on their work, which surprised them.
I continued into how their characters in their first stories may all sound alike and actually have the writer’s personality, and what kind of research it might take for them to find different voices for different characters.
Then I took them through the cycle we go through, of writing, getting critiqued, submitting, getting rejected, editing, getting critiqued, editing, submitting, getting rejected, etc… I also explained why rejection was a good thing and the range of rejection letters and what they meant, from silence up to “We like the idea, but it needs more work. Here’s what we’d like to see.”
There was a question about too many vampire novels out there, and I explained that every publisher is trying to make money on what ever is popular at the moment, so there’s a lot of trash out there. I told them to make a vampire novel salable; they would have to put a unique twist on it. I threw out “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” as an example, "Sense and Sensibilities and Sea Monsters", & "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" as two other examples of unique twists. That got a laugh!
I also offered to have them submit short stories to me for critiquing. I wanted to give them a real-world kind of experience. I also told the teacher that if enough stories came in, I would produce a PDF e-book on CD’s she could give to the students and their parents. Two of the students write music, so they may collaborate on a song to be included.
I know one student in particular paid attention. His comment at the end was that he had no idea the process was so complicated. He thought you just wrote something, submitted it and it either sold or was rejected and that as the end.
They were an enthusiastic bunch by the time the class was over. I look forward to working with them. It was a marvelous opportunity to share my own experiences, and to help others oen new doors. I encourage any writer, editor, publisher, artist or any other creative person to volunteer their time to such an endeavor. It is a truly rewarding experience!
Saturday, March 6, 2010
I was testing a piece of text to speech software this week and discovered something interesting. I used a story I was working on to test it, and was enjoying it immensely! It was a sweet little story and was flowing along nicely.
Until I heard something that made me cringe: too many descriptive adjectives. Now, I like to write how I think, and my mind tends to be cluttered with descriptive stuff. And I know it shows in my writing, but it looks all right to me since I wrote it. Not matter how many times I edit, I always know I’ll find something. A bad habit is to think: “Well, this is enough. It’s a great story as is.”; I struggle with this all the time.
Hearing your story spoken to you will give a very different perspective. I’m not sure how many people have the luxury of having a person who can read the story to; I suspect not many. But I know it has already changed my editing habits after having it just once.
Just for information purposes, I was testing ClaroRead V5. It was very easy to use. Just start the program, turn it on, and select the text you want to have read out. When you release the mouse, it start speaking. The price is $159, but you can download a 15 day trial. I am going to see if I can find a freeware speech to text program that will do a decent job. I will post if I find one.
I just found this one about an hours ago. It's a little cumbersome because you should really use just a plain text file.
But it works and uses the same voice as ClaroRead.
Has anyone had a similar experience with this? Or there ways to do a better self-edit? Leave a comment please!
Thursday, February 11, 2010
As a writer, here’s my take on Amazon vs. Macmillan: Nobody wins. What we are seeing is not really the clash of business models. We are seeing runaway economic evolution in action. And it isn’t pretty, folks.
Think about the concept: Macmillan wants to charge more for their books so Amazon really get’s a bigger cut. Huh? And oh yeah, that comes out of the consumers’ pocket. So it was a no-brainer that Amazon would back down. To me it smacks of Demican and Republicrat policy makers trying to shove their brand of politics down our throats. You can have any color car you want, as long as it is red or blue.
Let’s step back a few paces and see what we can see. Amazon is the ultimate middleman. Whatever you want (within reason, as opposed to the REALLY weird stuff you can get on E-Bay) can be ordered and shipped with a few simple keystrokes. Marvelous, right? Maybe. Let’s fire up the Wayback machine and go back about fifty years. I grew up in a little neighborhood in
At the corner of
They both did a brisk business, for different reasons. Packer’s, along with Bohack and A&P (two other larger grocery stores) offered convenience and a much wider selection of products than Scheirra’s did. But what they didn’t offer was the personal local touch. We would always swipe a green bean from the produce bins outside the store, sometimes he’d toss an apple or two our way (or maybe AT us).
But let’s look at the concept of customer experience. When you walked into Packer’s it was a lot like walking into a
Now, walk into Scheirra’s. It’s quiet, and not quite as bright. He wasn’t trying to hide anything mind you it was just the style of store. But what hit’s you the most is the aroma of fresh vegetables. I mean, the place smelled GREEN in a really nice kind of way. You always knew when the bananas were ripe; the onions smelled of fresh earth. The green beans were as snappy as twigs. The floor board creaked, the scales groaned when weighing produce. And Mr. Scheirra was always changing out the produce to make sure it was fresh. You couldn’t get a better sell by date meter than his nose. Even for a five year old it was heaven. It was a place for a slower pace of life.
Ever been to a green grocer? They still have them around, but they are mostly ethnic specialty stores with high prices. What we have now are huge Wal-Mart and Target stores, incredibly large grocery chains and even huge specialty stores that you almost have to pay a tax just to get into.
And yet a sincere lack of ambiance in the old fashioned sense of the word; all cold and gleaming. Now, back to the future and books.
Amazon and Macmillan are setting the playing field for the next ten years at least. (I figure by then people will have printers sophisticated enough to print and bind their own books at home. Hell, they have printers that you can buy to build 3-D products like teapots right now, for way less than a thousand dollars.) We are being locked in slowly to a mass-market way of life. If a book or magazine doesn’t sell really well, it disappears. Short fiction is going the way of the dinosaur; is Ellery Queen Magazine being printed anymore? I don’t know; I haven’t seen the shelves lately. My own genre is suffering, because there seems to be no way to stop the onslaught of greed and corruption that is threatening the industry that brought us the printing press, the Gutenberg Bible and a general increase in the ease of knowledge transfer.
My own solution is a partial one. When you buy a piece of literature, you then own the rights to it legally in every format; printed page, audio, 3-D Smellorama. You get the idea. Let’s move away from media ownership and into the area of knowledge ownership. Let’s look at what is really going on behind closed doors in the publishing industry.
Support the people that are trying to make the next ten years of publishing work for us, instead of against us. People like Cory Doctorow, Eric Flint and the late Jim Baen.
To quote one of my favorite philosophers (
What’s you’re take on this? Throw me some ideas and let’s see what we can come up with!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
What sets the annual Armadillo Con in
One of the most important aspects for me, was the annual Writer’s Workshop. Here, a group of novice writers are exposed to seasoned professionals who share their experiences and techniques. I want to publicly acknowledge this year’s coordinators, Stina Leicht and Melissa Tyler. They did a marvelous job of running the workshop and procuring a really top-flight panel of judges, including Jim Frenkel (a Senior Editor with Tor Books), majorly talented authors like Scott Lynch (“The Lies of Lock Lamora”), Patrice Sarath (“Gordath Woods”), Sharon Shinn (“Samaria” and “Twelve Houses” series), and other notables like Matthew Bey (local Austin writer and editor of the print magazine “Space Squid”) and Nancy Hightower, who is not only an author (“Devouring Winter” ), but also teaches college courses about writing. There were many more, so here is a link to the total list of instructors.
After a morning session of discussion, Scott Lynch held a great game where people would be picked out to construct a story based upon statements from a previous contestant. The stories built up nicely, until some editorial comments were thrown in like “add a talking beagle to your plot”. It was hilarious!
After lunch, we all broke up into separate groups to critique stories we had brought to the Workshop. There were five or six novices and two professional writers in each group. Our group had Sharon Shinn and Patrice Sarath. There were some amazing stories in our group! (Mine will be amazing once I get that pesky Point of View thing sorted out!) The critiques themselves were excellent and very beneficial. The workshop alone was worth the cost of the whole Con.
After the Workshop, the convention officially opened. Kim Antell gave a great talk on what to expect at the Con, and Scott Bobo mixed some really mad martini’s.
The panels at the Con were an amazing mix. Everything from
There were also lots of author readings. My favorites were Rob Rodgers reading from his newest endeavor,
Speaking of James P. Hogan, I spent a delightful time talking to him and his wife Sheryl. I have been reading his works since the early seventies, and have them on my list as perennial re-reads. He told some great stories about his life and the publishing industry. We also shared funny stories from our respective careers in the computer industry. His reading was especially enjoyable; his dry wit, humor and delivery dovetailed nicely with the segments he read.
I was also able to spend a little bit of time with Guest of Honor Scott Lynch. He is such an open and engaging individual, with lots of energy. Expect great things from this guy!
One of the great things about this Con is the ability to just sit and chat with authors from near and far. Exchanging ideas, funny stories and getting lots of advice from people who have been through it all adds a special zest to your evening!
I want to thank the Con Committee for a wonderful job. See you next year!