Monday, June 25, 2012

"Seized" trailer, guest blogs, and let's hope Nike doesn't sue me.

First -- as Paul Harvey used to say -- it's time for News!

I finished the trailer for Seized last night and uploaded it to YouTube.  You can watch it right here!  Just look to the left and click the arrow on the owl's forehead.

This isn't my first foray into video editing -- I taught video production at the college level (for one brief, shining moment) -- but this was my first attempt at digital video editing.  I think the trailer turned out okay.  But I am here to tell you that Windows Live Movie Maker is not exactly a robust editing platform -- there's no audio meter, no shuttle for advancing the movie frame-by-frame (or whatever the digital equivalent is), no apparent way to lengthen the timing of a wipe, and the list goes on.  I may have to sink some actual cash into a real video editing program, if only to keep from tearing my hair out the next time I make a trailer.  Software suggestions?  Thanks in advance!

Also, I managed a hat trick this week in terms of guest blog posts.  On Thursday, my home office was featured (with a photo shoot and everything!) at the Indie Exchange.  Also on Thursday, the first of two articles I wrote on how to write a fake newspaper story the right way was published at Indies Unlimited.  I'm quite proud of that one, as it allowed me to link both halves of my writing brain -- the creative left side and the journalistic right side. (The second article, on writing a fake broadcast news story, will run this coming Thursday.)  And then on Friday, Adventures in the Czech Republic posted my tale of how I came to write The Maidens' War.  Stop by and read 'em, if you like, and feel free to post a comment.  The blog owners will be grateful.

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Now, on to the meat of this week's post.  (In case you're keeping track, this is not the rant I was going to write a while back.  This is, in fact, a whole different rant.)  I wrote the original version of this post for the Kevinswatch message board a few days ago.  It's directed at anybody who has a book sitting in the drawer and who feels like a loser because it's never been published.

I've heard of, and talked to, so many people who apparently would rather beat themselves up for being a failure than put in the work required to turn their ideas into something. I know, I know: what's on paper isn't what was in your head, the plot is derivative, the characters are wooden, the whole thing lays your soul too bare. All of that, except the last, can be learned. Getting what's in your head down on paper just takes practice -- that old "apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair" thing. Plotting can be taught (and as more than one author has said, there are only a certain number of plots in the world anyhow -- so of course yours is derivative, duh). There are tricks to bringing characters alive. You can learn them by reading Writer's Digest magazine, by taking classes, by trolling the web for writing blogs -- and then practicing. There are online critique groups. You can even find editorial help for your book online.

You can't even use "no one will ever publish this" as an excuse any more -- not since the advent of Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords.com and B&N's PubIt. Smashwords puts out a free style guide -- just follow the directions and upload your file, and poof! You're published. Want a paperback you can hold in your hand? Lulu and/or CreateSpace will be happy to help you. You can even buy one of their packages and they'll do your formatting and cover design for you. Not only that, but now you're an indie author! We are hip, hot and happening!  And we are happy to welcome you.

So it's not the mechanics -- not any more. It's the "I'm not worthy" crap that stops people from reaching their dreams.  Biology isn't destiny, and neither are life circumstances.  We had a story posted at the Watch about a young man who came up through the New York City social services system and is now a published author. It's not where you've been; it's where you're going.

And the "I'm laying my soul bare" thing? I hate to break this to you, but: you are not the only human being who has ever had the feelings you're writing about; you are not the only human being who has ever written about those feelings; and you are not the only human being who has ever shared them publicly. Maybe your words are destined to help somebody. Maybe your words are the one thing that will kick them in the ass and make them do what they need to do. Maybe your withholding your words from the world is actually hurting that person. Puts a different spin on that book in the drawer, doesn't it?


Don't tell me it can't happen. You never know when, or how, your words will come back to you. Back when I was a reporter, I found myself sitting in a county council meeting in West Virginia one day and heard a guy in the audience quote from a news story I'd written and that had aired on our radio station that morning. The guy had freaking memorized my story and was quoting it as a challenge to the board members. I don't even remember what the topic was; I just remember the weird feeling of hearing somebody I had never met quote something I had written.

Seriously, stop beating yourself up. You're not a failure. Just get it done already.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy "Seized" Monday! Happy Midsummer!

I am happy to announce that Seized is now available on Smashwords!  Following a successful run as a Kindle-only e-book, I uploaded the book to Smashwords.com and it's available there today.  The even better news is that with this coupon code -- QF73A -- you can get Seized in all of the formats Smashwords supports (which is, well, all of them) for 99 cents. 

The coupon will be good all week (expires 6/25/12).  Think of it as a Midsummer gift.  (The solstice is Wednesday at 6:08pm eastern time, or 11:08pm UTC.)  Or a Midwinter gift, I guess, if you're in the southern hemisphere.

I'm also in the process of publishing a separate NOOK edition of Seized.  It should be available in a day or two, and I promise to tweet as soon as it's for sale in the NOOK Store.  However, you won't be able to use the Smashwords coupon at the NOOK Store, and Smashwords does offer the book in .epub format, which you can then sideload to your NOOK.  Sideloading is not hard (happy to advise -- just post a comment), but it's not the most seamless process in the world.  So you may want to wait for the NOOK edition.  Up to you.

In other Pipe Woman Chronicles-related news, editing on Fissured is progressing nicely.  And I spent part of the weekend drafting a rough outline for the third book, which looks like it will be titled Tapped.  No publication date yet for that one, but I expect it will be next spring.

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I had a rant all ready for this week's post, but time got away from me yesterday.  I spent the afternoon on a project that will likely fuel my knitting obsession -- I attended a class in which we made dress forms for ourselves out of t-shirts and duct tape, then stuffed the result with newspaper.  There's now a mini-me (well, in my case it's a maxi-me) sitting on my living room floor.  Not only will it allow for better fitting of my knitted garments, but I expect to get a fair amount of use out of it for blocking (i.e., wetting and then shaping to fit) my finished projects.

I may yet post that rant this week.  Watch this space...

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I'm , and I approve this blog post.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Families, functional and dys-.

My eldest daughter has been visiting for the past couple of weeks, bouncing back and forth between her father's house and mine.  This weekend she's staying with me.  It's the first extended one-on-one visit I can remember having with her since probably before she went off to college, and now she's 25.  It's a treat for a parent to find out how your kid turned out (particularly if the kid turned out well!).

We've had several family dinners while she's been here.  And yesterday I went with both of my daughters to see "The Avengers."  I've never been a comic book fan -- I'd rather read the words and let my brain draw the pictures inside my head -- so I wasn't all that familiar with the characters, other than the Hulk, who had his own TV show back in the '60s.  (And speaking of the '60s, when I hear the phrase "The Avengers," I don't think of comic book superheroes -- I think of John Steed and Emma Peel.)  But the movie was surprisingly good.

I also must admit that I haven't seen much of anything else Joss Whedon has been involved with.  Yes, it's true -- I've never watched "Buffy" (gasp!).  Just not that into TV these days.  But I was impressed with his work on "The Avengers."  Whedon has done a masterful job writing characters who work well together as a team, even though they have nothing else in common and, really, when push comes to shove, don't like each other very much.  (If you have not yet seen the movie, when you do, you must stay all the way to the very end.  There is a final scene after the credits finish rolling which you are sure to recognize, if you have ever sat through any sort of work-related "bonding" event.)  This mismatched team of heroes reminded me of nothing so much as a dysfunctional family, with griping siblings who rip each other to shreds but who band together when outsiders threaten any one of them.

Speaking of dysfunctional families, "The Avengers" comic books make Thor and Loki brothers.  That's not the case in the Norse pantheon, in which Thor is one of Odin's sons, while Loki might be more accurately called a Giant.  But the movie follows the comic books, and it's clear that while Thor has some love for his troublesome brother, he also wants to make sure he pays for his mischief.

Loki in The Pipe Woman Chronicles is a Giant, not a god.  He lives to cause trouble wherever he can get away with it.  And it's never a good idea to trust him. Which Naomi might eventually figure out....

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A couple of newsy things:  You might have noticed a new cover in the slide show to the left.  Fissured is still on track for publication at Amazon August 18th, and to promote it, I'll be participating in the Orangeberry Summer Splash event in late August.  Dates and links are now up on the "Tour Dates" tab.

I've also got a guest post up at the Indie Exchange this weekend.  Feel free to stop by if you'd like to know about the question I most dislike answering.

And if you have an e-reader that's not Amazon-spawn, watch this space next week for good news about Seized!
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I'm , and I approve this blog post.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman believes.

First, a little news:
  • The cover for Seized is in the Cover Showcase this week at the Indie Exchange. That's pretty darned exciting for somebody who got a C in art in eighth grade....
  • I'll be participating in the Orangeberry Summer Splash tour in August, promoting Fissured: Book Two of the Pipe Woman Chronicles.  I'll post locations and dates on the Tour Dates tab shortly. 
  • Tentative publication date for Fissured has moved up!  It's now August 18th.  To that end, I've finished what I hope will be the penultimate editing pass on it, and sent it to my editor [waves to Suzu!].
Hokay then, on to the main subject of this week's post.

I'm starting to see a little push-back on the religious topics in Seized -- specifically, on White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman's speech to Naomi during the sweat lodge ceremony at the beginning of the book. This is heartening to me, in a way -- it means the book's getting noticed.  Any publicity is good publicity, right? ;)

Also, I'm not surprised.  I knew even before I started Seized that it wasn't going to be for everyone.  After all, the goddess says some pretty inflammatory things to Naomi about the Christian God, including this egregious bit:

“This day,” she continued, “is a new start for all the peoples who live on Grandmother Earth.  For too long, this world has been in the grip of an angry God whose only goal is to win as many followers as possible.  He has convinced His followers that He knows everything and controls everything.  He condemns His fellow Gods who require Their followers to sacrifice for Them – yet He sacrificed His own Son, and then twisted the story to make it appear as if it were an honor.  He calls Us demons, and worse.”  She paused, her visage twisted.  “His rule has been marked by jealousy and hatred.  By telling His followers they are His chosen people, He has led them to believe that they are better than all the rest of His Creation, and so they have raped Grandmother Earth and fouled Grandfather Sky, and treated their fellow beings with contempt.  By telling His followers that they were flawed from the start, He has instilled in them self-hatred and guilt.  And yet,” she spat, “He says He loves them.”

Many Christians draw a great deal of comfort from God's love, and from His omnipotence.  They are highly uncomfortable with the notion that God may not be infallible (even sometimes as they're questioning, for example, why a loved one had to die).  So I can see why this passage would turn those people off.

But the speaker here is White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman -- a goddess who has seen God's followers subject Her people to numerous indignities, including suppression of their worship of Her.  Why wouldn't She be angry about that?  And why would She be inclined to accept God's word as Truth?  Surely She would have a different viewpoint.

Some Christians might be upset that Naomi doesn't immediately denounce White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman and reject Her gift out of hand.  I guess she could have. But that would be a very different story than the one I'm telling.  And it wouldn't be in character for Naomi, either.  I think she's like a lot of kinda-sorta Christians -- the ones who fill the pews on Christmas and Easter and don't really think much about religion in between.  She sees what she considers some flaws in Christian theology, but she still considers herself a believer in Christ.  Before the series is over, she's going to have to confront that paradox in several different ways: she's going to have to broker an agreement between God and the pagan deities, and she's also going to have to resolve the discrepancies in her own beliefs.  I think that's a much more interesting idea to explore than "God is good and Evil's gonna get its due."

Do I personally agree with White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman?  Not entirely.  I think She's off-base, for instance, in her view of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.  But I do think humanity has done a lot of horrible things, to the earth and to each other, in the name of God.  I wouldn't mind seeing Him taken to task for letting those things happen.  And I bet there are plenty of  Christians (and Jews, Muslims, etc.) out there who would agree with me.

Have a great week, everyone.
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I'm , and I approve this blog post.