Two great new reviews of The Tattered Lands!

Hey everyone, just a quick pit stop to tell you of two great reviews for The Tattered Lands:

From Tor.com:

In Barbara Ann Wright’s The Tattered Lands, young alchemist Vandra is not living up to her potential. An expert on syndrium, the magical substance that powers the ring of pylons that keep back the threat of the tattered lands and their form-twisting mists and contamination from the last of the human-inhabited world, her first experiment to transmute other substances into syndrium worked. But none of her subsequent experiments have worked since. When one of the pylons fails—a failure that puts her entire society at risk—Vandra is sent by a politician acquaintance to investigate in secret. Accompanied by her younger siblings, twins Fieta and Pietyr, she sets out… and on the way her path crosses with the seelie (for which we may as well read “elf”) Lilani, daughter of the last seelie queen, and youngest of her race. Lilani is fascinated both with humans and with the pylons, believing that the future of her people is linked to them both, and she finds it easy to become fascinated with Vandra as well—a fascination that’s soon reciprocated. But furthering their acquaintance is complicated by politics, intrigue, and a conspiracy that spans both their peoples: a conspiracy that wants to bring down all the pylons and let the tattered lands have full reign.

This is a fun, entertaining novel. The characters are interesting and appealing, and Wright deploys plain, unadorned prose to good effect. I enjoyed it, and if you’re looking for light and fun, this is definitely a good bet.

 

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Wright’s postapocalyptic romance is a fast-paced journey through devastation. In an ambiguously described world that may be ours or another, most of which has been taken over by a dangerous mist, humans and the magical folk called seelie are forced to come together to save what little land is left. Ten magical pylons protect humans from the mist-covered “tattered lands.” When one pylon stops working, the humans fear the mists will kill them or turn them into dangerous monsters. Alchemist Vandra is sent to find out whether it can be fixed. The situation’s worse than she thought, and she encounters seelie princess Lilani, who wants to convince her own people to help fix the pylon. As they try to broker peace, threatened by those who fear human-seelie collaboration even more than they fear the mist, the two women slowly fall for each other. Plenty of action, surprises, and magic will keep readers turning the pages.

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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?

Provincetown!

Had a great time at Ptown this past weekend, going from event to event for Bold Strokes Books at Women’s Week.

Here’s a few random pics:

signing This is a signing after one of the panels with (from left): Kris Bryant, Jean Copeland, me, Aurora Rey, Jennifer Lavoie, and Carsen Taite. We had just finished doing our reading and then went to Recovering Hearts to sign books for adoring hordes of fans (not pictured.)

group pic

Here’s a nice group shout after the signing of (from left): me, D Jackson Leigh, VK Powell, Missouri Vaun, Ali Vali, and Carsen Taite. This was after the signing when someone asked to take a pic of us. I believe it’s all over facebook.

publishing talk

Here’s one shot from the panel on the writer’s life. (From left again): Sandy Lowe, MJ Williamz, me, and Sophia Kell Hagin. Almost all of us were thirsty.

reading

And this last one is just me. It’s from my reading, and at this point I believe I’m telling the audience that writing romance is “All about the frickin’.” Always go for the laugh, people.

The panels were all very entertaining and informative. The readings were fantastic. I attended all of them but didn’t get very many pictures because I was suffering the pain of kidney stones at the time and was either in too much pain to move or too high to know what the hell a camera was. Thankfully, my cell reception was so bad in Ptown that I actually couldn’t text or call anyone, or I probably would have drunk dialed everyone I know. I am feeling a bit better now that I’m home, but as I have several kidney stones, I’m not out of the woods yet. I’ll keep you posted.

In other news, I’m hard at work on Coils to turn it in by the end of October, so you might not see me around very much. I’ll check back in when I’m less busy, I promise.

Nano tips to boost your word count

I’m a word count warrior when it comes to Nano. It helps that writing is my full time job. It also helps that I type really fast, but I don’t think that’s the only reason behind my sometimes epic word counts. I think what helps is that I write EVERYTHING I’m thinking.

So, I had a character involved in a fight scene. It was going well, and then I realized that said character needs to have an epiphany either at the beginning of this fight or maybe a tiny epiphany as she’s fighting. Since I didn’t know which I’d ultimately choose, and since I didn’t want to slow down and really think about where to put it and how long it should be, I just injected this really long epiphany right there in the middle of the fight.

Will I leave it? Hell no! Once I edit, it’s either going to get moved or cut down (probably both), but that’s the work of editing, something I don’t even think of during the rough draft/nano stage of writing.

And that’s the secret. Suddenly, I have more words for my daily word count, but I also have tons of notes written in narrative form. I have lots of choices when I go back to edit. I do the same thing when I decide I want a character to have an intense emotional reaction. I’ll think, I want sadness here, so I’ll write, “She was sad.” But that’s deadly dull, so I’ll expand on it and expand on it and decide if I want her to be the saddest she’s ever been. Then I’ll expand on that, add in a few physical reactions, way too many.

Words, words, words! And choices! This is what I love the most about writing first drafts, all the wonderful choices I give myself. I overwrite, and then I can do another of my favorite things, which is cutting huge chunks out of my work, really streamlining it and making it all fight tightly together. The rough draft is like piling huge amounts of clay onto my worktable, and then editing is sloughing off large bits before all the real sculpting and polishing.

Maybe I’m a little crazy for liking that so much, but I guarantee you’ll buff your word count if you try it, and then you’ll have a lot of raw material to play with. And those parts that I cut? I don’t throw them away. I keep them in a separate folder to use at another time or maybe on another project if I just like them. You don’t always have to murder your darlings. Sometimes, you just lock them in a cupboard. Nano-er or serial killer, you decide.

Do you do the same when you write a rough draft, or do you edit as you go? Any nano tips you’d like to share?

Now, just for your pleasure, here are my dogs in a Halloween costume I bought on sale:

Daisy

Daisy

Polly

Polly

The eyes light up. We’re totally trick or treating next year. “What? This is my child dressed as a dog dressed as a dinosaur. Give us candy.”

Yet another quick update

We’re here, we’re swamped! Only sort of, I guess. I finished the page proofs for A Kingdom Lost, which is the last step for me before printing. So, all is on track for April. Hooray! Now I have to finish the manuscript for The Fiend Queen and then I’ll hop on that promotion train.

First stop, ConDFW. I’m listed under Panelists, and you’ll know my schedule as soon as I do, so come see me if you’re in the area.

Until then, here’s one of my shots taken at Disney World in the Be Our Guest restaurant:
IMG-20131101-00114

If you ever get a chance to go, I highly recommend it. They folded the napkin like a rose for fuck’s sake. You can’t get much cooler than that.

And where can I see you in the upcoming months?

Yeah, yeah, rejection, blah blah

Favorite quote of the day:

“Rejection always stings. It stings me, you, everybody. Nobody likes to be rejected. A writer who likes being rejected is a writer who is secretly a robot and must be smelted down into slag before he tries to kill us all because he hates our meat. Pain is instructive. And it’s not permanent. Not if you don’t let it be. Some writers savor misery like a hard candy endlessly sucked in the pocket of one’s cheek, but fuck that.”

Taken blithely from Chuck Wendig’s blog.

I read that earlier today and it brought up so many memories. I’m not currently submitting anything, but I distinctly recall most of the rejections I’ve gotten. Many have been the puzzling form rejections. Some of have been handwritten little gems. Only one suggested I try something different with the work. The rest were veiled ways of saying, “I don’t think I can sell this.”

My favorite rejection was from an assistant who said she tried really hard to convince her boss to take me on. It was handwritten on the first page of my manuscript, wrapped around the form rejection as if she couldn’t leave a paper trail. Utterly heartwarming. I hope she some day gets her own agency. ^_^

I think I’m going to have a thoughtful day. How about you?

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. ^_^)

Going Commando — Guest post by Maria Zannini

Please join me in welcoming Maria Zannini on her Indie Roadshow!

Going Commando

According to the Urban Dictionary, going commando refers to not wearing any underwear. When Barbara asked me if indie publishing was liberating, ‘going commando’ was the first thing that crossed my mind.

Indie publishing defies convention. Often times it’s ingenuous and a little rowdy. Authors tend to speak their minds, perhaps because they don’t have the restraints of traditional publishing. Or maybe it’s the passion required to go it on your own.

Indie authors sometimes have rough edges. Their books range from the primitive to the ultra sophisticated. They’re mavericks at heart and that’s a good start.

Despite the entrepreneurial aspect of self-publishing, it also requires an immense amount of dedication and focus to see this all the way through. Nowadays, even agents are getting in on the act and ‘assisting’ authors to self-publish, but in the early days, it was all up to the author.

Is it liberating? Absolutely. It’s also one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. (Not that that’s ever stopped me before.)

What I love best about indie publishing:

• I got to create my own cover art. My only limitation was how much I wanted to spend on the photographs.

• I was able to set my own timetable.

• The copyright belongs to me. It’s all mine, both for story and art.

What I hate about indie publishing:

• Distribution still sucks. There is so much competition that you have to find a way to distinguish yourself. Even writing a good book isn’t enough.

• You have to pay for everything.

Can You Go Commando? Answer these five questions.

• Are you self-motivated?
• Do you have the means to hire editors and designers if you need them?
• Are you willing to stay the course? (Success generally doesn’t occur overnight.)
• Do you like to network?
• Do you have thick skin?

If you answered yes to all these questions, you have the cahonas to go commando. It’s not for everyone. You’re basically publishing without a net. If the book goes sour, you earn all the blame. But if the book is a winner, you also get all the glory.

I think a lot of it will depend on your level of self-confidence. This industry can crush you like a grape. Depression is common and while friends and alcohol might help, for the most part, you’re on your own. Publishing has never been for the weak. Indie publishing raises that bar even higher.

How did you do on the quiz? Can you do it? Do you think you might try it sometime in the future?

***
I hope you’ll follow along with the rest of the Indie Roadshow as I share the things I learned on my road to self-publishing.

The Devil To Pay is available at Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99. It is the first book of the series, Second Chances.

Synopsis: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and bad tequila. Shannon McKee finds herself at the end of her rope, and she bargains her soul in a fit of despair.

Shannon’s plea is answered immediately by two men who couldn’t be more different from one another. Yet they share a bond and an affection for the stubborn Miss McKee that even they don’t understand.

When Heaven and Hell demand their payment, Shannon has no choice but to submit. No matter who gets her soul, she’s not getting out of this alive.

Bio: Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions. Occasionally, she writes novels.

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