ConDFW schedule, two release dates, and the Liz McMullen show!

Here’s my ConDFW schedule! I’m moderating the first one. On the rest, I’ll be like everyone else. ;)

Friday
MAIN PROGRAMMING (JEFFERSON)
Friday, 6pm: Humor Recipes for the Soul
Panelists: Barbara Ann Wright (M), John Scalzi, Rhonda Eudaly, Kathy Turski, Bill Crider, K. B. Bogen
With all the talk of mashups and combining genres, we need to talk about humor in various genres. What is considered funny in Science Fiction? What is considered funny in Epic Fantasy, or even Urban Fantasy? We bring our distinguished panelists to the kitchen table and get them to spill their delicious secrets.
Saturday
PROGRAMMING 3 (HAMILTON)
Saturday, 2pm: The Short Story: Advantages and Benefits.
Panelists: David Gray (M), Mary Gearhart-Gray, Rhonda Eudaly, Barbara Ann Wright, Larry Atchley Jr., Dantzel Cherry
The short story is often overlooked by the average reader unless they read certain literary magazines or short story collections. However, they are a gem that should not be discounted so readily. Our short story writers talk about the benefits of writing short stories as opposed to writing novels.
PROGRAMMING 3 (HAMILTON)
Saturday, 5pm: Where do Heroes Go to Die?
Panelists: Tracy S. Morris (M), Barbara Ann Wright, Patrice Sarath, Gloria Oliver, Michelle Muenzler
Last year we heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing Legend of Conan (eventually? Maybe? Now it looks like November 2016) as a direct sequel to the first Conan, where it ended with him being King, old and grizzled. As a concept, the idea is neat, and is something that Howard dealt with in his original stories as well. Just how do you write old heroes? Our writers of sword and sorcery discuss these topics and more.
Sunday
MAIN PROGRAMMING (JEFFERSON)
Sunday, 1pm: The Pantheon that Shaped the Universe: Roman Mythology
Panelists: Larry Atchley Jr. (M), Barbara Ann Wright, Adrian Simmons, Michelle Muenzler, Frances May
One of the more popular mythologies out there, the Roman mythos was just like the Roman culture – it assimilated them from each culture it conquered. Foreign gods were actually invited into the Roman Pantheon as they were conquered, which is a novel way of getting the new natives to be peaceful after getting beaten. Our researchers talk about the Roman mythos, and how it can be used in your stories.
Sound exciting? I’m pretty excited, too. I think some of these are going to be very lively indeed.
More exciting news, I have release dates for Coils and Widows of the Sun-Moon!
Widows Of the Sun-Moon 300 DPI Coils 300 DPI

 September 13, 2016 for Coils and January 17, 2017 for Widows!

Widows of the Sun-Moon is the sequel to Paladins of the Storm Lord, which comes out in May! That’s not a bad wait at all!

Speaking of things you don’t have to wait for, I was on the Liz McMullen Show! Please go have a listen. We’re very entertaining people, and it’s all for you. All for you!

My 2016 schedule so far

Here’s where to find me this year! As each event draws closer, you’ll hear more about it in detail, but if I’m going to be near you, please mark your calendars to come out and say hello!

February 12-14: ConDFW, Dallas, TX. They have a preliminary schedule up on their website and are finalizing it now. You’ll get more detailsfrom me next week.

April 2: Lone Star LesFic Festival, Austin, TX. A great event that just keeps getting better. It’s free for all, and you get a chance to see lots of fab authors!

April 12-16: Romantic Times convention, Las Vegas, NV. I’ll be doing a panel called Writing F/F Sex for Romance and Erotica on Wednesday, April 13, from 1:30pm-2:30pm in Tropical E at the Rio.

May 10: I’ll be on the Bold Strokes Author blog because…

May 17: Paladins of the Storm Lord comes out! Now available for pre-order on the BSB site! Blurb:

Paladins of the Storm Lord 300 DPISurrounded by dead crewmates, marooned above an unknown planet, the bridge crew of the Atlas awakens from a crash with extraordinary mental abilities. When their most powerful member jettisons their passengers to the planet below, they have an unprecedented opportunity: they can become gods.

Two hundred years later, Lieutenant Cordelia Ross is a paladin serving the Storm Lord, her city’s patron deity. Her faith is absolute until her people are attacked by a native species, harmless creatures turned devious by an unknown hand. Cordelia tries to solve the mystery of their development before they kill anyone else, but the secrets surrounding them are too deep. As orders from the Storm Lord begin to value obedience over integrity, Cordelia wonders whose side her god is really on.

See how I just slipped that blurb in there? Smooth.

Also on May 17: Jewel Book Club, Dallas, TX. The wonderful ladies of Jewel are inviting me up to talk about Paladins!

June 18-19: Denver Pride, Denver, CO. Come see the BSB booth, now with even more authors hawking even more books!

June 25: Houston Pride, Houston, TX. Come see the Texas BSB authors as we slowly melt…and sell books. :)

July 26-31: The Bold Strokes Retreat. Okay, so you can’t see me at this one unless you’re with BSB, but I just thought I’d throw it in here in case you wanted to marvel at how much I’m traveling. Also, this is the same weekend as ArmadilloCon this year, so I won’t be there. I’ll miss you, too.

September 18: Dallas Pride, Dallas, TX. Less hot than Houston, but we’ll still be there, selling out! In a good way. I hope.

That’s it so far, but I might be adding more as the year goes on. I hope you can make some of these. I’ll be looking for you. AND I’ll have swag. Sweeten the pot for you? Maybe?

Anyone else have their year all planned out?

You have fifteen minutes

If you’re an aspiring writer, no doubt you’ve heard this before. Writing experts are always pushing to write for just fifteen minutes a day. Like workout machines, they promise results if you can spend a little time doing this one thing every day.

And you know what? They’re right. If you use some of my note-taking methods and jot down bullet points of what you did in your previous writing session, you’ll be able to spend fifteen minutes writing the next day instead of reviewing what you’ve written and getting bogged down with the urge to edit. At fifteen minutes a day, you can write a novel.

I hear you saying, “That’s easy for you to say. You don’t have kids. You don’t have another job. You don’t know me. You don’t know my life.”

It’s true. I only have my four furry kids, and the only other things I have to do in a day besides writing are the chores everyone else has to do, but I still know you have fifteen minutes. I won’t bore you with an endless parade of parents or employees that still manage to write. You know they’re out there. You’ve probably met some. And if your family or your job leaves you too wiped at the end of the day to write, do as my friend David R. Slayton recommends and get up earlier in the morning to write while your brain is still fresh.

“What is the point of this?” you ask. “Is it just to make me feel guilty about how much I’m not writing?” Not at all. If the occasional spurt of writing is all you want to do, go for it, but that is a very long, difficult path to finishing a novel. Write short stories or blog posts or articles, but novel writing is a commitment, and long periods of no writing can slow you to a crawl and make you forget everything you’ve done before. Even bullet points can’t save you.

If you really want to write a novel and finish it, find fifteen minutes in a day to do so. And if you can’t find those minutes, ask yourself if you really want to write a novel and why. And for heaven’s sake, stop beating yourself up if it’s not something you really want. I’m asking you to let go of guilt, to let go of this slog if you don’t actually want to do it. And if you finish soul searching, and find that writing a novel is something you really want, I’m asking you to find those fifteen minutes. You might become addicted to them. Fifteen might become thirty or an hour or two hours.

And now I hear you saying, “Goddamn it! With all this other shit I have to do, what is so wrong with wanting a little me time! Why does everything have to be work!” And I’m trying to tell you that writing IS me time. If you’re a writer, if writing and finishing a project gives you the rush it gives me, writing is the best me time ever. You will be the greatest champion your work will ever have; it’s all about you. Everything you write will live on after you, whether it storms the bestseller lists or not. It will be out there forever, a legacy that is wholly yours.

You have an idea.
You have the tools and the will.
You have my support.
You have fifteen minutes.
Go.

First drafts: Don’t stop believin’…or writing

Let’s talk first drafts and editing. I’ve met writers who love editing, and those who loathe it, but if you want to improve the speed of your first drafts, you’re going to need to learn to love it. The first draft is all free flowing love and ideas, trying on different plots and characters and seeing how they fit. The eye is purely creative only because the editing eye can seriously get down to business later.

The most important piece of advice I can give you about writing first drafts is to never stop, go back, and try to “fix” what you’ve already done to suit what you’re doing now. So, in chapter three you decide that your guard captain isn’t really working out as your main character, and that her lieutenant is actually much more interesting and would make a better focal point for the story. Hurrah! You’ve caught that pretty quickly, and you’re happy with the decision you’ve made. Surely you should go back and change what you’ve written to reflect that, right?

Abso-freakin-lutely not!!!!

No way. Make a note in your handy dandy notes about where the change happened, maybe even why or a short note about where a new start to the novel could be, and then you keep going forward from that point and just leave those first three chapters where they lay. Why? Because they might change again, and then all your editing work would be for nothing, and because you’re on a roll now; things are becoming clearer for you in your novel, and you should embrace that forward momentum. I treat first drafts like a sprint. No matter what, I like to put my head down and run for the finish line.

If I decide the scene in chapter five should take place in a restaurant instead of someone’s living room? I make a note of the change and keep going. This secondary character isn’t working? I make a note of where I’m no longer going to be writing them and keep going. Now if it’s something really big, like the whole plot isn’t working, I do the same thing, but my primary note is that everything before the big change is likely going to be cut completely, which leads me to the second most important piece of advice I can give you about writing first drafts.

Learn to love cutting your novel!!!!!

It’s more than just killing your darlings. It’s more than cutting scenes or words that don’t add anything or characters you love that other people can’t connect with. It’s taking whole chunks of perfectly good writing, seeing that they really don’t fit, and excising them as if they were dead tissue. You can do with them what you like. I like to save them in a folder (with little notes in the beginning about what they are and where they came from) so that later I can stick them back in if they’re a good fit. You have to be okay with cutting thousands of hard-earned words if it makes your novel better. Learn to be a novel sadist and love it.

You will need that sadist within because if you’re writing down all your ideas in your first draft, many of them will have to go. You’re going to have a lot of editing work to do. You may have to change tenses or person. I almost always have to add description and subtract exposition. But if you’ve got an entire first draft, you’ll have an entire novel waiting and not just pieces that you’ve been editing and re-editing for years. You’ll have finished a freaking novel! It may be ugly and in pieces, and you switched main character in chapter three, it all takes place in a diner now, and no one has the same eye color anymore, but you wrote a goddamned novel all the same!

If that’s too scary to contemplate, break it down into smaller increments. Think of finishing chapters, scenes, or sentences; one word following another won’t seem so intimidating. Editing can be thought of the same way. If you look at your crappy first draft and the work seems too hard, dissect it with the help of your notes. Look at it as building bricks to be moved around. Line edits can wait to until the end, long after the plot and the characters are settled in their proper spaces.

Remember, do not stop whatever part of the process you’re in just to move on to another part because you’re bored/tired/OCD. If every time you write, you go back to edit, you’ll never finish a first draft, and if every time you edit, you stop and work on the first draft of something else, you’ll never have a completed work. Very advanced writers can work on multiple novels that are at different levels of completeness, but even then, it’s difficult. If you’re just starting out, I’d stay with one novel until it’s done unless you’ve decided to abandon it completely because no part of it is working.

Sound insurmountable? Wonderful! Welcome to being a writer. Now thumb your nose at insurmountable and go write. Then edit. Just like writing those first drafts, the more you edit, the more you’ll want to edit. You’ll get a taste for it until you’re sidling up to other writers and offering to edit their work, too.

Or maybe not. Don’t be creepy.

Do you love editing as much as I do? Do you bite your lip every time you have to cut a chunk from your novel? Is that creepy?

Have questions about other parts of the writing process? Let me know, and I’ll probably steal your ideas and do a blog post!

!!!!!

Notes, the writing before you write

People often ask me how I write so quickly. My typing speed is pretty high, but that’s not usually what they mean. They want to know how I move through projects so quickly and finish first drafts within a month or two, so I thought I’d share some tips. First off, Notes.

Notes!!!!

I can’t stress them enough. I’ve heard of both pantsers and plotters. The first doesn’t use an outline and writes “by the seat of their pants.” The second has a detailed outline and sticks to it. I’m somewhere in between. I think most people are, but I can’t move without my notes, and if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t write anything down before you start writing and then stalls out quickly, I believe this is because you didn’t make any notes.

I like to make my notes with pen and paper. My notebooks are color coded and I use different pen colors for different characters or timelines. I like to have them open beside me while I’m working on my laptop, and the color coding of the notebooks helps me keep track of them. But you use whatever notes you like. Some weirdos hate paper, or so I’ve heard.

Spitball the ending!!!!

(The exclamation points make orders come alive!!!!!)

You don’t have to do an outline, but I think it is helpful to have a general idea of where the story is going, even if it’s something like, “A guard captain starts off believing her queen is awesome and ends up realizing she’s evil.” That’s enough to set a bulls-eye to aim for. You’re going to need a whole lot more plot to wrap around that, but you know in the beginning you want someone to think one way and end up thinking another. This could change. You could decide you want this realization to be in chapter three. Then your main character needs a new goal. Even if you don’t have one right away, jotting down potential ideas can help you think of something. Even if your idea is as vague as, “I want everyone to die like in Hamlet,” that will get you thinking of ways to make that happen. Writing them down solidifies them and helps them stick in your brain.

React to all the things!!!!

How characters react to various situations is the best way to show how their minds work, imo. I won’t believe a narrative that simply tells me a person is jovial or angry or homicidal. I want to see them being all those things. So I jot down character sketches before writing the story. My guard captain is jovial when she’s off duty, angry when she’s on, and homicidal when someone attacks her. I think of how she might react to a potential lover, too, or something less threatening than an attack. That way, if it happens in the story, I can look to my notes and my character can react quickly, so to speak, and I can keep writing without slowing down to worry about who this person is and why they do what they do. I can get the heart of them down right away and add some fine-tuning later. A first draft is not the time to polish. It needs a framework of a plot and a framework of the characters, too.

Notes do more stuff, too!!!!

(Or, I suck at headings!!!!)

Notes are useful for  more than what I’ve listed here. As I’m writing, I keep a loose timeline of what’s happening when. Sometimes I don’t do this until after I’ve got my first draft done, that way I can tidy up the timeline as I polish.

Also, when I finish writing, I sometimes jot down bullet points about what I’ve just written, especially if there’s going to be a gap of a few days before I can write again. This saves me from having to read what I’ve written before, which saves me from the temptation to edit as I go and get bogged down in details when I should be writing new stuff.

It’s also very handy to write down chapter breaks in your notes, so you can see how long each chapter is as you write. If you’re trying to be consistent with the lengths of your chapters, you’ll see what you’ve done so far and have an idea of how long you want a scene to be by looking at how much room it’s already taken up within a chapter.

You may have noticed that I treat first drafts sort of like notes themselves. This is very true, but I will save how I get through first drafts for another post. Hint: never stop writing a first draft in order to edit it.

Do you use notes when you write? Do you find they make your life easier? If you didn’t before, are you going to try them now?

A new cover, an outpatient surgery, and a lump

All things I’ve had to deal with since we last spoke. First of all, I turned in my draft for Coils on time! High fives all around. Look for that one late next year. For November and NaNoWriMo, I’m getting a jump start on the sequel to Paladins of the Storm Lord (due out in May) called Widows of the Sun-Moon. Take a peek at the covers!
Paladins of the Storm Lord 300 DPIWidows Of the Sun-Moon 300 DPI

Though I conceived of these stories a long time ago, this will be their first time in print. I hope you’re as excited as I am to take a journey into outer space!

As for the surgery, I had my first lithotripsy this past week. It’s a treatment to break up kidney stones, which I have in both kidneys, lucky me. It went very well, though, and I have my next one in December. Fingers crossed that I’ll be free of the little bastards after that.

Blurry, because there's too much to do to sit still

Blurry, because there’s too much to do to sit still

And for the lump, it wasn’t mine but Polly’s. She had a mass removed from her back that’s been sent off for analysis. The vet described it as not looking like cancer, but still looking “weird.” Only the best from this dog. Here she is with Daisy. You can just see the scar on her back. And now that I’ve got her attention for this pic, she keeps snuffling my hands as I try to type. Well, I did invite her to pay attention.

Anyone else racking up the health visits at the end of the year?

This weekend, 11/14

Join the Lone Star LesFic organizers this Saturday, November 14th from 2pm to 4pm for the fundraiser for the next Lone Star LesFic Festival. From the press release:

Time to hone your trivia game skills! BSB authors Barbara Ann Wright, Carsen Taite, and Laydin Michaels say they’re ready to compete with you for prizes.

We’re raffling off some great books, too! Affinity and Bold Strokes have generously donated their latest publications. What a deal – free admission and refreshments, too!!!

The Trivia Event is in Austin at 1607 Colony Creek Drive. I’ll see you there!