We’re coming for you, Chicago.

That’s right, next week is the annual GCLS conference at the Crowne Plaza O’Hare in Chicago! It’s five full days of lesfic writers talking about what they do best. There will be presentations, keynote speeches, panels, readings, and BOOKS! Seriously, you can get so many books there. Books that you can’t get anywhere else. Like…

That’s right! If you attend the GCLS conference, you can get House of Fate a whole month early! Before the freakin’ trailer is even out! You too can get the book I call, “A must read!” It has been called, “Something people will be interested in,” and “Hey, cool cover!”

Seriously, tho, the blurb:

Judit has one duty: to guard the chosen one, he who will unite two warring, star-spanning houses in marriage. Simple, if she wasn’t already in love with the bride-to-be. As far as anyone knows, Annika has been raised to be the perfect bride and future matriarch. Secretly, she’s an assassin ordered to usurp the chosen one’s mind and kill anyone who gets in her way.

When the political landscape shifts, murders and abductions threaten to tear the galaxy apart. Judit and Annika race to uncover the source of the strife. It must be someone powerful and bold enough to risk throwing whole star systems into ruin, someone who could change destinies and bring two lovers together, if they survive.

(Psst, if you can’t GCLS this year, House of Fate also available on the BSB site.)

BUT IF YOU CAN GCLS (and I highly recommend it) I’m going to be all over this conference, y’all.

On Thursday, July 6, from 8:30 – 9:20am, I’m doing a presentation called The Art of the Fight in room O’Hare #1

Whether you have two characters engaged in a bare-knuckle brawl or a shoot-out involving many players, this presentation will help writers successfully navigate writing a combat scene. Learn the difference between realistic and fiction fighting, how to judge a character’s level of combat expertise, what language to use to make a combat scene pop, and how to pace the scene so that readers are always immersed in the action.

Come watch me totter around on painkillers and tell you how to kick people’s asses. In fiction, of course. Mostly.

On the same Thursday, July, 6 from 2-3 pm, I’m moderating a panel called Not Your Mama’s Paranormal in room O’Hare #4

Thinking outside the box is what the paranormal and fantasy genres are all about.  But what does it take to stand out in a world already populated with werewolves, shapeshifters, and wizards. What’s next?

I will endeavor not to embarrass or my lovely panelists. Or maybe I will…

Also on Thursday, July 6, from 4:10-5 pm, I’m participating in Romance Mad Libs in room O’Hare #4

Join us for a new panel game from GCLS! Romance writers test their quick-witted response ability when given some of our most interesting romance vocabulary—submitted by the audience members.

This is going to be a laugh riot. The words, “quivering love mounds” will probably get used.

Then, on Friday, July 7, from 9:50-10:50 am, I will be reading in O’Hare 5 from House of Fate. So you can run out and buy that afterward.

Finally, on Friday, July 7 from 5:30-6:30 pm, I will be participating in the massive Author Autograph Session in the vendor room. Get all your books signed and enter to win an awesome contest from Bold Strokes Books.

Contest rules:

Introducing the BOLD STROKES BOOKS at GCLS 13th Annual Conference Author Signing Contest! WIN TEN BSB BOOKS OF YOUR CHOICE! We’ll be distributing these postcards at the Author Autograph session on Friday – while you’re getting your books signed, collect at least ten of these authors’ signatures on the card, put your name and email address on the card, drop it off with Barbara Ann Wright, and we’ll pull a winner out of a hat.
Ann Aptaker, AuthorJulie BlairDena BlakeMelissa Brayden Donna K. Ford Catherine Friend Anne Laughlin D. Jackson Leigh Jeannie Levig Erin McKenzie Laydin Michaels Tina Michele Martha Miller Lisa Moreau Jaycie Morrison Lesléa Newman Radclyffe Aurora Rey Juliann Rich KC Richardson Fiona Riley Justine Saracen Cass Sellars Nell Stark Holly Stratimore Carsen Taite Shelley Thrasher M. Ullrich Ali Vali Missouri Vaun Jessica L. Webb MJ Williamz Barbara Ann Wright

So, with all this and more, you’re totally coming to the conference, right? Please? I need someone to lead me around. Or push me around in a wheelbarrow. Now where am I going to get a glittery wheelbarrow on short notice? Hmm.

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Bold Strokes Books Camp!

Last week, my publisher, Bold Strokes Books, hosted a writers’ retreat in upstate New York at Easton Mountain Lodge.

I call her Speedy.

I call her Speedy.

Together me and my intrepid, tiny rental car (not really an intrepid) groaned up hills and valleys for some spectacular views.

There were breakout sessions filled with helpful information, hours with no events so we could write or read or hang out, and wonderful lunches and dinners provided by the hard working volunteers at Easton.

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Did I mention the views? The fields and hills stretched far into the distance. There were deer, beavers, geese, even a bear! Thankfully, the bear only appeared outside a car window and not in anyone’s cabin.

I received some much-needed encouragement and a clear direction of where I want my novel to go from here. I needed this trip more than I knew.

Say what you want about big versus small publishing, I don’t know many publishers that would offer their writers an experience like this. I reconnected with some old friends and made some new. (The Facebook friend requests have been flying.) I wrote about 5000 new words and finished two books.

CORN!

CORN!

All in all, it was a wonderful, inspiring experience!

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Gnomed!

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The bunkhouse I shared with Jennifer Lavoie and Juliann Rich.

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Guest rooms at Easton Mountain.

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The kitchen

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Breakout session room.

 

Have you ever been on a writing retreat? Were you inspired?

 

Just a reminder…

About Palm Springs!

questions 1

You’ll be seeing me talk about other worlds, romance, and do a readings from The Pyramid Waltz and For Want of a Fiend. I might even give away some spoilers…

Like who this guy is ^_^

Like who this guy is ^_^

It’s gonna be a wild time.

PALM SPRINGS!!!!

PALM SPRINGS!!!!

So do come out and say hello. Seriously, do. I hate eating alone.

That's probably me that brought that giant cheese.

That’s probably me that brought that giant cheese.

IWW: Characters of color

When I was writing The Pyramid Waltz, I didn’t want to fall into a trap where my characters of color are concerned. (Try saying that five times fast.)

We’re not here to empower you.

I didn’t want Starbride to be the wise brown person only there to enlighten her paler counterparts. I wanted her to be her own person, with her own quirks and faults and strengths. Many of my lovely beta readers have told me that she’s very human. I take that as high praise since I was hoping to stay far away from stereotypes.

I think some of blond Barbies might be darker than these two, tho. Seriously, Mattel, what’s up with that?

Anyway! I got lots of birthday Barbies, so guess what? Now Evil Barbie and Good Barbie can have allies! Can you say, epic fight scenes?

I think a black hole of awesome just opened up

Two kens, glamorous evil side, sensible shoes good side, and one panda. Who will win?!?!?

One thing never changes, though. This:

Welcome to the bondage club, half-naked Ken.

Still equals this:

Welcome to the bondage club, plastic swiss cheese.

Some things never change. The Barbies of color are just glad they’re not A) The ones in the ropes B) The mythical spiritual healers or C) The plucky/macho soldiers who never make it through the film.

We love you, Michelle Rodriguez.

p.s. Is anyone else doing extreme writing this summer? I’m in both Camp Nanowrimo and the Clarion West Write-a-thon. Who’s with me!?!?! C’mon. Being insane is fuuuun. ^_^

Happy Wednesday, everyone. Thank goodness it’s June.

*snort* I’m 35. Suuure.

IWW: How I wound up here

When I first decided I wanted to write female main characters, it was hard not to write ABOUT women, about what pressures I felt as a woman or what impacts I thought society had on women or yeah, yeah, yeah. (I know you were starting to tune out right there.)

To counteract this and write a story that starred a woman instead of being about her, I moved my story to outer space.

Well, that’s not completely true. I wanted to write stories set in outer space anyway, or at least on other planets. Since one of my first college loves was anthropology, I created an anthropologist studying alien species in order to help her human colony survive.

You win this fabulous jungle background!

She felt tremendous pressure to do her duty, to do what was expected no matter what she might want for herself. Those pesky societal constraints sneaked in there again, like ticks, or gnats. Stupid societal constraints…

Crap.

On the same planet, years later, I wrote about a space marine. She followed her own path, walked to the beat of her own drummer. She knew about sacrifice, but she chose to do it; no one ever forced her. She was huge and muscular, and too tough to cry.

Barbie dolls can’t flex enough to truly bring the gun show to town.

I still like her, but she was a bit of an overreaction.

For my next female MC, I swung far the other way. I wrote about a dancer who could take care of herself but wasn’t afraid to cry or love or wear pretty dresses, you know, all that girl shit. She embraced what some might call the feminine things in life. (In real life, I think this is when I fell back in love with glitter.)

No matter what I did, she looked drunk, okay.

I discovered that female characters could cover all these ranges, could cover every range. They could be insecure, easily swayed anthropologists, tough-as-nails space marines and dress-wearing dancers. I realized there was no one role model everyone could look up to. Not everyone can be a superwoman, but all my characters had one thing in common, when the chips were down, they were all brave in their own ways. I think I mixed them all together to make to create the heroines of The Pyramid Waltz.

Prom 1996

Two women, each brave in a different way, each very different people. Starbride (on the left) is a thinker. Katya is a fighter. In different situations, each is cautious or impulsive. They both love jewelry and nice clothes, though they have very different styles. Katya takes sacrifice to extremes and needs Starbride’s level head. Starbride tries to do everything herself and needs Katya’s helping hand.

And it doesn’t hurt that I can easily make them into Barbies. (I do wish, though, that the Barbies of color were a little darker. I think the one I bought is supposed to be Hispanic, but her skin tone is even lighter than her blond counterpart.)

And now I have enough dolls to stage this:

Yes, that is a woman dancing with a panda in the background. That’s what you took from this?

Aaaahhh, so good. Yeah, I didn’t put the panda and the pear together. That would’ve been…weird.

But I can’t stop doing this.

I know, it looks like there’s some ass-cupping there. These dolls are hard to pose!

Or this.

The untold Disney story.

Or if I’m honest, this.

A love that will not be denied…

Who’s up for writing a ninja/pear romance with me?

And a super duper p.s.: My friend John Clark has started a Kickstarter for his novel, Red Chords! Let’s all go help him out. If you’re a fan of Laurel K. Hamilton or Patricia Briggs, I think you’ll really go for this.

p.s.s It’s not even my birthday yet, and I’ve already received some wonderful presents from my writer friends:

Soo……much…..glitter…..*drool*

What’s goin on with you guys? Writing news? Birthday news? Barbie news? What can I say, it’s all I think about.

The trollest of them all

You guys, what bliss!

I almost had NOTHING to blog about today. My next IWW post won’t be ready until next week, but I felt the need to say something, as I do every Wednesday. I’m hip deep in edits and thought I would have to redirect you to more interesting things when lo, I get an email from Letty herself!

Quoth the Letty:

“You are the reason I joined another group…I doubt you REALLY HAVE A BOOK COMING OUT UNLESS IT IS SELF PUBLISHED.
You need to get an honest opinion of your writing. You already have mine.”

Oh, you darling flirt. What acts of charitable kindness did I do to deserve you? I despaired, oh Letty, and down you dropped like a troll-scented angel from Topic Heaven. (Which was next door to Hot Topic in the mall.)

Look how kind you are, trying to assuage my guilt for helping you get tossed from your group by hinting that you left of your own accord. And that you joined a group because of me!!! Did they remind you of me somehow, and you couldn’t stay away?

You’re still a teensy bit confused about the book, though. It’s coming September 18th from Bold Strokes Books. (I never just want to throw the link up, but since you asked so nicely…) And thank you for your honest opinion about my writing. I clearly remember you saying how much you loved it. You’re such a dear.

Ah, now I feel better. A topic and a lovely conversation with my dear Letty. Anyone else have a wonderful yet unexpected email today?

My first troll and I’m voted the worst :)

We’re celebrating twice today in Barbara-land, friends! I’ve got my very first troll. It’s not a proper troll, though, as those seem to be anonymous people determined to get a rise out of you for no particular reason.

I think I know this troll, though it wants to be anonymous. (It left me a very fake name.) In aid of that anonymity, we’ll call her Letitia, Letty for short.

Letty left me a comment on my blog after being booted from her writing group. Somehow, she decided I should be the receiver of her ire. Quoth Letty:

“Just a note. The wrting group was not impressed by you or your critiques. One of them was voted by another goup as the worst they had ever seen.”

Ow, ouch. After being voted out of her group, Letty tells me they voted me the worst first. Noooo! Now I’m wondering how often this happens. Does the grocery store vote me the worst shopper? Did my waitress the other night vote me the worst diner? I’m wracked with concern!

Letty’s comment was left on a post several months old in response to one of my posts about prologues. I didn’t approve her comment, so Letty left me another:

“you’re a writer who censors?”

She clearly wasn’t happy I didn’t approve her comment. I’m happy to have a discussion with anyone. If I say, “I don’t like prologues,” and someone else likes them, they can leave me a comment, and I’m more than happy to discuss prologues with them all day long. There is no way I’m approving attacks, though, from this troll or any other. There’s no reason to put up with that shit on my blog. If Letty wants to badmouth me, she can do it on her own blog.

I admit, I’m poking the bear a bit here. I have no idea if Letty will ever see this or if I’ll be setting off another tempest in a teacup by posting this. I just wanted to get this out there, to see how people feel about this sort of behavior and see how they respond or deal with it. I could have just ignored Letty. In fact, in the beginning, I planned to. Then I realized, why shouldn’t I call attention to this childish behavior and make fun of it?

Leave me a note and tell me what you think. If you don’t, I might just vote you the worst commenter. Unless you vote me the worst blogger! Nooooooooo!

Nano is fast approaching….

I’m so glad it’s nano season again. Crazy, insane nano season. (It needs two words for all the crazy.)

As usual, I’m going to be writing my ass off with the rest of the world for 30 days. No stunts this year, though, no hijinks. No novel in two weeks, no two novels at the same time, no writing while skydiving. I’m just going to use the nano time and energy to kick my writing into high gear.

I plan to post about it often, probably in slobbery, incomprehensible sentences. If my November posts begin to sound a bit drunk, that’s the nano. Or the vodka. Maybe both.

Who are my nano buddies this year, eh? If you want someone to race, I’m your girl. ^_^ My username is zendra. Bring it on!

Prologues must die

I’ve joined several different writers groups recently, trying to find one or two that are a good fit for me. I think I’ve found one, but I’m having several issues with the others. They’ve proven one thing to me, though:

For many authors, the prologue is alive and well.

Also, I see now reasons why it should die.

I never really had a problem with prologues, but I’m thinking that was because of the kind of books I read—Fantasy adventure books—often had prologues. They were usually little teasers about either the villain or a magical artifact (that might also be the villain) that would be a driving force for the plot. I liked seeing the demon rising out of the volcano or the unaware explorers unearthing the Widget of DOOM. I usually forgot about the prologue halfway through the book until the heroes discovered either demon or widget (sometimes both!) and I got to have a little ah ha moment.

These are not those kinds of books. I’m coming to understand that many writers use prologues as a history lesson, an enormous info dump for backstory that should be threaded through the narrative. I understand why editors might cringe when they just see the word PROLOGUE, especially if it has dates just below it. Do readers really want to begin a novel with a history lesson? Can they even remember it as the novel goes on?

How do you feel about prologues? Do you avoid them mercilessly? Cut them whenever you critique? And if you feel like telling me, how would you suggest I phrase my suggestion that authors cut their prologues entirely and weave the information into the narrative? Maybe I’m just too obsessed with not hurting feelings, but I remember my first novel. It was bad, and I ultimately appreciated all the tactful suggestions I got on how to change it. Any and all advice appreciated.

The online writing community

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + (Sometimes Myspace). And those are just the tip of the social media iceberg. More and more, it seems writers are hearing about these must-haves for getting their names out there before publishing, hell, before they even start writing. Build a friend-base, that which goes before fan-base. Then you’ll have more people to guilt into buying your book when it eventually comes out. ^_^

Add to that one’s own blog and then the myriad of groups there are to join, online writing groups and hashtag groups and nano groups. Huge writing communities where you meet a few people you get close to and a ton more that are just casual acquaintances. I wonder what the actually sales numbers linked to this sort of thing are? Sales of those with a large media circle compared to those with a small one?

Of course, I’m not doing it for sales. (Surely everyone says this? ^_^) I love the writers I’ve found, the groups I’ve joined, the friends I’ve made.

Broaduniverse and The Outer Alliance have pointed me toward Crossed Genres, where I made my first sale.

Critters gave me friends I’ll keep for a lifetime (Hello, Pattie and Daniel!).

And as for the blogs I follow, well, I’ve gotten valuable support and advice (and some awesome good reads, Maria and Kaz!) not to mention invited to another blog and a given a really cute coin purse (looking at you, Marilou). As for the rest of you, (Faith, the Carols, Cat, Jackie B. Victoria, not to mention the Backspace folks and my writing group) and all the rest who’ve stopped by to comment, I love you, too, even if you never buy a book.

How did you jump on the social media train? Were you encouraged as a writer, or did you just want to meet other people like yourself? What’s your media outlet of choice? (If you’re on twitter, find me at @zendragandt and I’ll follow you back. ^_^)