Friday, June 29, 2012

Epic Roadblocks

It seems the more epic the story is the more roadblocks you run into. It's usually one mountain of a roadblock too. My latest WIP is told from the point-of-view of several characters and I'm struggling with how to arrange the different POVs/chapters.

We write what we want to read and I don't like stories with too many POVs (point-of-views). Game of Thrones irritated me because every chapter was told from a different perceptive. Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Series was amazing but sometimes she had too many POVs for my liking. Unfortunately, my novel is heading in that direction. I need to find a balance- keep all the character perspectives without annoying myself and the reader.

Another issue I'm having is monitoring the flow of time between different POVs. For instance, I'm with Mike for 3 days. When I switch to Susan, I need to remember 3 days has passed for her as well.

Or worse, I start with Mike's POV. The next chapter is Susan's. 2 days pass with her. I switch to Mary's perspective. Another 2 days go by with her. When I return to Mike, it's 4 days later. How do you keep up with that?! Just writing it gave me a headache. Why does my novel sound like a math problem?!

Since this is the draft, I'm ignoring time, for the most part. I'll deal with it later. As for chapter arrangements, I'm treating it the same way I handled my essays in college- the end of one section should somehow lead to the beginning of the next one. Doesn't solve my dilemma though, does it?

How do you determine chapter order when you have multiple POVs? How do you manage the flow of time from chapter to chapter?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D

Not the most creative titles. With a name like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, does it need to be? It's an attention grabber.

When I first saw the movie poster, my reaction was- Seriously!? Then came the trailer. I was sold. Wonder how many people are upset their favorite pres. is portrayed as an ax wielding vampire killer? If you decided to see it, suspend your beliefs. This one is solely for entertainment.

And I was entertained. I'm a sucker for great action and a good story. This one had both and in 3D. (I'll talk about that later). Outside of the whole Abraham Lincoln being a vampire hunter, they didn't change the image of this famous president. The movie also dealt with slavery, the Civil War, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Don't know how accurate it was though.

As someone who loves vampire movies, this one was pretty good- anything without sparkling vampires is a winner to me. I wouldn't say it's one of the greats but it didn't spit on every vampire book and movie ever made. Though this topic has been done to death, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter dealt with these creatures in a way pretty interesting way. It wasn't scary. At least I didn't think so. The vampires were normal looking. They were charming  and evil. I still liked them, especially when they fought.

The movie used slow motion in the action scenes but it wasn't overused- *cough* Resident Evil: Afterlife *cough*. I grinned every time Abe wielded his ax. The man was vicious. I nearly died when his ax turned into a gun. The fight scenes weren't the least bit subtle. They reminded me of 300 in how bloody and graphic they were. Okay, maybe not that extreme but close. And yes, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was in 3D. It wasn't merely an excuse to take people's money. 3D action is awesome!

I haven't read the book so I have no idea if it stayed true to the original story. From experience, I'm going to say no. This coming from the person who saw all 8 Harry Potter films. I had to stop comparing them to the books because I'd get annoyed. Two of my favorite books, A Wrinkle in Time and Blood and Chocolate, were made into movies and I refuse to watch them knowing they butchered my favorite childhood stories.

The film is never faithful to the book. At this point, we shouldn't walk into a movie expecting to see our favorite book carbon copied onto the big screen.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter may not be for everyone but I really enjoyed it. 

Speaking of Resident Evil, another one is coming out in September. It looks pretty epic. Afterlife, the fourth one, wasn't the greatest movie but it didn't have me cursing the writes to oblivion. It intrigued me enough to be excited about Retribution.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Becoming a Better Writer (Poster)

I generally avoid posts titled 10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer but this time, I made an exception (don't know why) and found this awesome poster. It's so true! When I get some color toner, I may print it out and hang it on my wall.

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer
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Monday, June 18, 2012

Dark Fantasy World Building: Society

Good thing I enjoy world Building. Developing a society is about as difficult as figuring out how Magic works. Usually, there's more than one society and if they all function alike, it needs to be for really good reason.

These sites helped me a lot:Creating Fantasy and Science Fiction Worlds: Day 6: Let Us Make Man in Our Image: Anthropology

Society is an aspect of world building I don't focus on as much as I should. History and Powers take up most of my time. I should've been thinking about this a while ago, though. My novels are set in different villages created for and inhabited by nonhuman creatures.

So, the make-up of each village- how does one race decided to live in a certain area? What does someone have to do to live there? In my novel, a group of people live in a small community and are very choosy about who they let in. They have one person whose opinion they trust without question. If that person doesn't like the potential resident, they aren't allowed in. Simple. Do other communities have this policy or do potential residents have to complete 25 back-flips in a row while reciting poetry?

How big is the village? Can people move in as long as there's free space or is the community always expanding. What type of jobs do residents have? How do they get them? Do new residents have to read a 1,00 page book backwards in a hour to work in the library? How are they paid- money, goods, store credit, or do they work for the good of the village? 

How are people trained for different jobs? A Builder in training may have to spend a week alone in the woods becoming intimate with nature before allowed to chop down one tree. If you haven't noticed, I'm having a lot of fun with this.

How is a leader chosen? Is it the person who founded the town and their descendant? Since my characters have power, is the leadership given to the strongest person? Or, are they voted in? Are there any back-alley deals involved? What a question, of course there are!

If there isn't a person or group of people plotting to put their person in power then I need to figure out why this is. Maybe people terrified are of the leaders, or they love and respect them or had their brains altered making them glassy-eyed, drooling sheep? What a puzzle! I'm having fun just thinking about it. 

What are their holidays? Do they have fun events like Founders Day or a Spring Festival? Though the village has access to technology, not all the residents use it so, how do they entertain themselves?

The children can sneak to the nearest city and use their powers to prank unsuspecting humans. If they get caught by an adult from their home, they get a half-hearted scolding while villagers secretly give them free drinks and sweets.

This post also got me thinking about how they get their resources. Where does the money come from- building material, food? Depending on how my story goes, this may not be that important but it can't hurt to figure it out. I haven't even gotten into the roles of men and women and social classes. This isn't nearly all I need to figure out but it's a good start.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why Didn't I Know This?!

I'm a resource nerd- new information makes me happy. Through a blog, I found out about The Alliance of Independent Authors. Seriously. How couldn't I have known about this? I make a point of knowing all the great publishing resources out there, at least the ones that apply to me.

The Alliance of Independent Authors is the first non-profit organization for self-published authors. It's:
"A...collaborative collective of independent self-publishing writers. [They] invite such writers to join together in a spirit of mutual co-operation, empowerment and service to the reading and writing community." (Alliance of Independent Authors)
"The Alliance will become... “an advocate, and campaigning voice, as self-publishing writers are currently unrepresented within the literary and publishing industries — often voiceless, excluded from most other writing [organizations] on largely spurious grounds, asked to pay for reviews, rarely invited to literary events or conferences."(Taleist)
Sounds like a support group for indie authors. What a brilliant idea. I'm not self-published yet but even I feel like my head's about to explode when thinking about what I still have to do. The Alliance launched maybe two months ago. I hope it stays around.

Through another blog, I learned of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression.
Still don't know how I came across this, wasn't looking for anything remotely close to this. It never occurred to me a thesaurus other than the standard one existed.
"One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character's emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each. Written in an easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them. This writing tool encourages writers to show, not tell emotion and is a creative brainstorming resource for any fiction project." (Amazon)
Now, I'm really excited especially since it's gotten such great reviews- by regular readers, I don't pay attention to critic reviews. This made my day. Another amazing idea. I do tend to lean on the same words when describing emotions. The Emotion Thesaurus is also new- published last month. Fun!

What can I say, I'm a sucker for some good resources.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Prometheus 3D

I've never been a huge Science Fiction fan but sometimes there are movies, like Prometheus, I just can't miss. This was one seriously anticipated movie. My theater usually lines people outside for popular flicks so, I like to arrive about 15 minutes early.

By outside, I mean outside the actual room where we watch the movie.

For Prometheus, I arrived early and the line was the longest I'd ever seen. It seemed to wrap around the top floor. I ended up in the back and watched as people kept coming and coming and coming. Never really appreciated how big that theater was.

Now to the actual movie. I expected it to be about people trapped somewhere while aliens were killing them off. It wasn't. In fact, though the aliens were important, they didn't make much of an appearance. Prometheus was more "human" focused- more about how people react when faced with discovering a new alien species. Most acted quite deplorably. I didn't shed a tear when they died.

I have to talk about the women because usually, as you know, women are portrayed as weak screaming ninnies. The female protagonist, Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace was hardcore. She was strong but not obviously so. This is the type of female protagonist I like, though I do also really enjoy the ones that kick-butt. Not to give too much away but this woman pretty much cut herself open then walked and ran minutes later despite being in enormous pain. After that, I was sold. Yes, I'm a sucker for a strong female protagonist especially in my Sci Fi, Horror and Fantasy.

With Prometheus, a lot of details were between the lines. This was a movie that relayed on what wasn't said. I like a movie that doesn't think for you. It was also very nice to look at. I can't say for sure whether or not it was worth the watch in 3D. The visuals were amazing but halfway through, I forgot it was supposed to be in 3D. I was so into the story.

By now, you've probably come across some negative reviews- if you haven't, I'm sure you will. I enjoyed this movie. It was entertaining and you cared about the characters you were supposed to care about but, it wasn't what I expected so I can understand the negative reviews.

I went in expecting some epic action-heavy alien gore-fest. It wasn't. People may have a problem with this. Also, though it was not advertised as such, this movie is pretty much an Alien prequel or a pseudo-prequel as Yahoo Movies put it. I don't understand why those behind Prometheus didn't just say that. From what I read beforehand, a lot of people were already assuming this was a prequel. Overall, good watch- solid storyline, great acting, amazing visuals.

On slightly unrelated note- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sounds hilarious and not in a good way but, the trailer has me intrigued. It looks like my kind of movie. I think I'm gonna check this one out. Apparently, it's based on a best-seller.

Friday, June 8, 2012

BookExpo America: The Exhibits

Wonder what you have to do to get your book advertised on the steps inside Jacob Javits Center. That's hardcore.

My second day at BookExpo America began with a panel discussion called The Real Deal- Update on The African American Literacy. I was excited but cautious of this one since my books aren't geared towards just one race. Despite that, I enjoyed myself. I didn't know there are less websites dedicated to African American Literature now then there were 5 years ago. There aren't many places you can read a review on books by black authors and few places are available for readers to engage with African American authors. I shouldn't be surprised. It makes sense now that I think about it. Talk about an untapped market.

What I really liked was the panelist confirmation that not all black people write urban or erotic fiction. We don't even have to write for a black audience. I felt like cheering. As a kid, I really thought those types of books were all African American writers could publish and I'd have to fight so publishers wouldn't change my book into something I didn't like. A a kid, I was floored being introduced to horror writers Brandon Massey, Tananarive Due and L.A. Banks.

My exploration of the Expo began not with looking at the exhibits but checking out the promotional bags attendees had, finding one I liked and making a bee line for that exhibit hoping they still had one. I mean I cared little about the booths. I wanted a bag. It took a while to find one but finally, I got this ginormous bag from McGraw Hill. It was awesome. This one was popular. Well played McGraw Hill.

Having been at Jacob Javits Center for other industry events, I expected this one to be big but it really wasn't. The booths only took up one hall. I could spend all day walking around the Auto Show but with the BookExpo, I was done by 1pm. The place wasn't packed- probably because yesterday was the last day. This I liked. I could walk as fast or as slow as I wanted to.

I really liked how the booths were set up. The publishers wanted to create the book experience so each exhibit looked like a coffee shop, a library or a lounge.

Of course, the big guys- Penguin, Random House and Hachette's booths were always packed. I'm guessing because they were giving away the most books.  Random House and Penguin had lines of people waiting to get a free book with the author's autograph. Yes, a lot of publishers and authors were giving away free books. Attendees had like bags full of them. I looked at my own half empty bag like what is my problem. But, the publishers didn't have many books I'd want to read so I saw no point in collecting them. If it goes on my bookshelf, it means it's getting read.

I, instead, collected all sorts of promotional materials- from bookmarks, to posters, to coasters- to get an idea of the types of things I could pass out, eventually. Random House had small books with chapter samples. I never thought of doing that. What a brilliant idea. Also, a lot of self-publishing platforms like PubIt by Barnes and Noble and CreateSpace were there. I got Book Baby's information at uPublishU so I didn't visit their booth but they're another eBook publisher and distributor. Since I'm self-publishing, I'm now researching what's out there in terms of eBook formatting, distribution and print-on-demand.

A panelist at Sunday's uPublishU called self-publishing the alternative traditional route because so many people are taking this path. It can no longer be called the non-traditional route. Because of this increase in popularity, a lot of places offer eBook formatting, distribution and printing services. This is gonna be a tough decision. I was also interested in Book Country. It's an online community where genre fiction writers can post their books to get critiques. I also wanted more information on PUBSLUSH the social publisher.

Since I write Dark Fantasy, the fantasy and horror related booths attracted me the most. I hunted down Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, Orbit and Tor Books.

The only reason I left the Expo was because my feet were killing me. I probably saw every booth at least three times. For my first BookExpo, I had a great time.

Monday, June 4, 2012

uPublishU at BookExpo America

Yesterday, I attended one of the concurrent events at the BEA. For those who don't know, the BookExpo America is like the Auto Show for book publishers. uPublishU was...well here's the description from the website:
Are you ready to take the leap and transform your manuscript to a published book and/or ebook? At the All-New uPublishU at BEA (formerly known as DIY Authors Conference & Marketplace), aspiring writers and authors will learn from industry experts tips and tactics and all about the tools and technology to help them self-publish a print book or an ebook. You will also have the opportunity to meet with a selection of the industry's most respected self-publishing service providers who offer services to aspiring authors or those looking to package their content in book form.
Sounds awesome doesn't it? Well, it kinda was. But, before we get into all that, let me tell you how my morning began. We woke up at 5 am because we wanted to do the 8 am check in. We didn't. Doesn't mean I went back to sleep though. Fun. And I am not a morning person. On the way there, I got an attack of the nerves. This, coupled with the hot trains in NY with the thick air, meant I got nauseous on the way to the Expo. A nice cold bottle of water took care of that.

Anyway, uPublishU was a day full of panels about how to self-publish. BTW, did I mention I'm self-publishing? The first panel was about success stories. This didn't particularly interest me at first because I'd already heard enough success stories but in the end, I'm glad I attended.

You hear a lot about how unlikely it is for self-published authors to sell thousands books, how the "shelves" are full of so much garbage because the barriers to entry are gone. It was nice listening to four self published authors who sold so many books major publishers were knocking down their doors.

uPublishU had so many panels. I wished I could've been in two places at once. The next one was The Who, What, Where and When of Print and Ebooks. The speaker worked for Bowker. I was impressed. Bowker is:
The world's leading provider of bibliographic information management solutions designed to help publishers, booksellers, and libraries better serve their customers. The company is focused on developing various tools and products that make books easier for people to discover, evaluate, order, and experience. (Bowker)
 Discoverablity is the new word. If people don't know about your book, how will they find it?

What I really liked about this panel was the combinations of print and ebooks. Yes, ebooks are increasing in popularity but still the bulk of books sold are still in print. Despite this, the speaker said neither Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million are planning on opening any more stores. Print is still in but people aren't planning on building any more brick and mortar book stores. Sobering, isn't it?

Publisher's Weekly just released an article about this panel. Strange to attend an event and have Publisher's Weekly talk about the things I learned.

Next up was Shelf Power for Digital Publishers: They Key to a Successful Ebook Cover. Self-published authors have to do their own covers you know. I'm planning on hiring someone.

People who buy ebooks will first see a thumbnail of the cover. You need to think about this while designing your cover. Will people be able to see it clearly if it's this size:

15 Ebook Covers: Success and Failure in the Kindle Store is a great article on this subject. Check it out. The book cover represents the author's brand as well. I never thought of that. Will people know it's my book just by looking at the cover? Same for a series- they don't need to have the same cover but people should know the books are a part of a series just by looking at it. Good point. Another good one, some people look at book covers in black and white. What will your beautiful cover look like if all the color was stripped?

I had a great time. It was exhausting though. My badge gets me into the BEA again on Thursday. I'll get to see the exhibits this time. Will be taking pictures since I'll be doing this one day.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Elements of the Apocalypse

Since changing my genre to Dark Fantasy, I've been focusing more on Fantasy and less on Horror. For the most part, I'd given up on the genre after the last couple of modern Horror stories did nothing for me.

It gets kind of old, reading stories that're nothing compared to the greats like Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, M.R. James and Guy De Maupassant. But, I still love Horror and had high hopes for Elements of the Apocalypse. It's a collection of four novellas about the world being destroyed by earth, air, water and fire.

I couldn't pass on a collection of stories about the Apocalypse. I've seen plenty of movies on the subject but haven't read any books about it. The novellas were amazing. I devoured them in a couple of days. The book is a fairly easy read- easy in the sense that it's short.

The stories themselves were more than a little disturbing, brilliant but disturbing. People were getting mauled or having their heads spit open by some object or spilling their intestines or being sliced in half. It was hardcore. The authors didn't hold back but, as someone who doesn't like gore just for the sake of it, I didn't have a problem with this. The gore served a purpose. It added to the stories.

The authors weren't afraid to push some boundaries. Absolutely no one was safe. You know that saying writers need to kill their babies- well these authors took that to heart. They were brutal to their characters. You didn't know who would live or die. The endings were far from predictable- they weren't all rainbows and sunshine either.

The stories also had a great balance between character and plot. The novellas were about the apocalypse but they still focused on developing the characters. They weren't simply tools to show us what was going on. They personalized the situation.

Outside of books by Bentley Little, these are the only modern horror stories I've read that had any kind of effect on me. Like most long time Horror lovers, it's difficult to find books that actually scare me. The horror of the situation never infects me. The last novella in Elements of the Apocalypse about all the water of the world drying up- I could really feel what the characters were feeling. I was getting super thirsty.

It's amazing how detailed the authors got. They certainly did their homework. I can't think of a thing I didn't like about this book.
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