Monday, July 30, 2012

Can't. See. Story


There's a lot to be said about a writer's imagination but sometimes I have trouble seeing the things I put in my story.

Nothing beats personal experience but we can't literally go outside turn left and visit our fantasy world or live in a Gothic castle for the several months it takes to write our novel.

I don't got it like that.

Who knows, maybe one day I could set my story in Paris and just live there for a month, no sweat. How cool would that be?

My characters are trapped in a mansion I'm having trouble picturing. I've visited many castles while traveling through Europe but I was too busy being a tourist and besides, we weren't allowed to take pictures. I can't visualize those castles as clearly as I need to. Wish I could draw on them to better picture the interior of the mansion my characters are trapped in.

Then, there are my characters' features. I can say they have this eye color, this shaped mouth and hair of some color and texture but I still see personality more than faces. I have no intention of giving the reader every detail of my characters' physical appearance. It annoys me when other authors do it. But, I'd like to have a better handle on it.

Too bad I don't know graphic design or was better at drawing then, I could draw my characters. I could also build a 3D version of my houses and villages and literally tour my made-up settings.

My current WIP takes place in several villages, cabins and mansions with many characters and I'm having trouble keeping them all in my head. On top of that, I'm adding an Otherworldly setting and even more characters to my backstory. My already overstuffed head is about to explode.

I'm thinking I'll have to edit my story in stages. On the first once over, I'll focus on one specific thing and then reread it focusing on another aspect. It'll take forever but right now, it's the only way cause I can't hold all that information in my head. How do authors with a big cast and an even bigger world do it!?

How do you help yourself better visualize your settings and characters? Do you build everything in your head or do you have like a bunch of charts, lists and images?


Friday, July 27, 2012

The Art in Books

Why are people, including me of course, making the switch from paper to ebooks without much thought? I said before, I'm more interested in the content not the wrappers. It's still true but, working with old books has me thinking even deeper. The books, physically, today aren't anything spectacular. They aren't collectibles. Some have nice covers but that's it.

For my job, I've been handling some of the most gorgeous books I'd ever seen. I mean they are mesmerizing. Most aren't in English so I can't read them but that doesn't make them any less fascinating. The font is so beautiful. The cover and binding is a work of art. The paper is either a bone color or a light brown with a parchment like texture.

Check out this great video on how that type of paper is made.
The edges of the paper are blue, marble or granite color so when you close the book it looks like it's filled with colored paper. And the images...I don't know what people did differently but the images are amazing. They look like they were drawn in, maybe they were. These books are a work of art. I'd never give them up in favor of ebooks.
These videos took longer to find then I expected. Really annoying.

Anyway, as you can imagine, making these beautiful works of art took forever. No way people today could, by hand, make them and distribute them nation and worldwide. Can you imagine how much books would cost if the methods in the videos were still widely used? More than half the world wouldn't read. The machines may take away the beauty and the artwork but we gained more.

And when one of my books gets destroyed, I throw it away. When a handmade book gets damaged, you have to start thinking preservation methods which means shelling out some serious money.

Just think, in the next century people may be preserving the books of today calling them works of art. It would be funny if, in my lifetime, I see people preserving books written in the 2000s for their historical value. They may even do it already. You never know.

I'm thinking the machines, and the less appealing books they produce, got me focusing less about the wrapper and more on the beauty of the written words. For me, the art is in the words, everything else is extra. So, switching to ebooks isn't that far of a leap. I mean, I still care about book covers but that's not going away. Even with ebooks, the cover still remains an important part.

On a slightly unrelated note, about halfway into obtaining my masters, I knew Library and Information Science wasn't the career path for me. I want to be a full time writer but, I stuck with that masters program. It's weird but I'm constantly surprised about the information I retained, like I took class on papermaking and bookbinding and I used some of the things I learned to write this post. Well, it was a preservation class that covered those subjects. I'm using the things I learned far more than I expected. I really shouldn't be surprised but I am.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

The tragedy in Colorado threw an ominous shadow over what was supposed to be an epic event. I read articles about what happened hoping they'd tell me why. This is ridiculous. Far too many people are buying guns and shooting down innocent people. It makes no senses.

I'm getting sick to my stomach just thinking about it. WB Studios didn't release the box office numbers because of it. Here's the article: 'Dark Knight Rises': WB, Studios Maintain Box-Office Data Blackout. I'd heard there'd be more security at major theaters but I didn't see anything usual at the one I went to in NY.

One of the reasons I was excited about this movie was because I knew it was gonna be an event. It wasn't. But, The Dark Knight Rises was still epic. Perfect summer movie. This review is coming from someone who's familiar with the Batman story and movies but not enough to get deep about it. I didn't read any of the comics and only saw the other Batman movies once. Loved The Dark Knight which was why I was looking forward to this one. The story was brilliant and totally unexpected. Talk about intense.

So the question of the hour: Can Anne Hathaway play a good Catwoman? I was told by someone who knows comic book heroes better than I do that she worked it. I was more worried about her being in an action movie. Didn't need to worry. She was great.

And Bane, the villain. The man was so charming you could almost forgive him for being such a monster. I could feel it whenever he spoke like he was sitting in the theater with me. The only drawback was, at times, it was hard to understand him but I still liked the way he spoke.

The plot was very subtle and you know how much I like subtle movies. What I didn't expect was the story to follow recent events. Not to give too much away but there was a lot of 99% against 1% going on.

This may be the Dark Fantasy writer in me but I like stories that, both literally and figuratively, beat down the heroes. I'm brutal to my characters. It makes it so much more epic when they rise above the trials. The writers of The Dark Knight Rises put Batman through some stuff. Man, I felt so bad for him.

The music was amazing as well. I just found out it was by Hans Zimmer. I love him! So weird to hear myself saying this but he composes some seriously epic scores. This movie definitely lived up the hype.

As usual, I read user reviews while writing my own. They have me stumped. People either really loved or really hated it. Very few took the middle ground. In the past, even if I loved the movie, I'd understand the negative reviews but this time...I'm seeing the movie over and over in my head and can't figure out why anyone would hate it.

I can't think of anything about The Dark Knight Rises I didn't like. If I had the money, I'd see it again and movies in NY can set you back $15. People may hate it because it deviated too much from the comic or that it wasn't as good as the previous one. I don't really know for sure. The negative reviews I read didn't go into much detail about why they felt the movie sucked. I'm curious. How could anyone say this movie sucked?

Very rarely do you sit through a movie and have people clapping and cheering at the end. I've now attended 2- The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Then Suddenly...

So, I finally got a job yesterday! Okay, finally is a bit stretching it. I've only been unemployed since January. I know people who've been out of work for over a year. Strong people. Only 7 months and I was reaching my breaking point.

The forbearance period for one of my student loans had passed. Sallie Mae was expecting me to pay $50 a month and had no problem calling both my phones (yes I have a land line) twice a day whenever I was late making a payment. They even tried to send me text reminders. Nipped that one in the butt.

On top of that, Great Lakes, the lender responsible for my grad school loans, sent me a bill. I thought Sallie Mae was the devil turns out, there's someone much worse. I took out four loans with Great Lakes. The payment for all four loans adds up to $1,111 a month. Seriously? That's almost as much as my rent!

And, I was playing something similar to Russian Roulette with my bills, not my rent though. They could turn off my lights, gas, phone and internet but as long as I have a roof over my head, I'm good. It never came to that though. Thank God. I was the ultimate cliche. The starving artist living in Brooklyn. People say "starving artist" like it's a badge of honor. It's highly overrated.

Then suddenly, I got a call from an employment agency I sent my resume to. Went in, filled out paperwork and the next day I get a call saying they have a 4 month assignment for me- working with old books. Pure Awesomeness! And, the hours are a blessing. I work 2-10pm so I can still do my Social Media thing in the morning and since I love the night anyway, I can write once I get home. I'm excited.




Monday, July 16, 2012

At First You Don't Succeed

Funny story, I'll be 27 next month and got carded at two different casinos. I mean come on. Almost thirty and still getting carded!

Anyway, I went to the casino on Saturday and came back with $174! Yay. The first time I went gambling I lost my money in about an hour. Sad right? Needless to say, I was not interested in doing it again. But I tried it again and enjoyed myself- winning had a little something to do with it. I had fun even when I wasn't winning. Glad I went.

Another thing I'm trying again... driving. I was in a car accident at 19. Totaled the car. No serious injuries. Three years later, I get a subpoena from the guy who hit me claiming the accident was my fault and I should give him $40,000 for mental anguish. Mental anguish. Fun. Fortunately, I was driving under my parents' car insurance which had a kind of safety net.

The whole thing turned into a circus. The guy pulled witnesses out of thin air who claimed I ran a red light and was speeding. I'll tell you a secret. It was a lie.

To make things even more entertaining- I had been commuting from Washington, DC to Jersey City, NJ twice a week by train taking my last undergraduate class. (How I got into that mess deserves a post all it's own.) And then the lawyer postpone the trial so my brother, who had been in the car with me, could testify. I was done. Like I. had. checked. out.

I no longer wanted to go to court which translated into me pleading guilty. My parents were behind me and more importantly, none of the money came out of pocket. I hated driving ever since.

Now, I need to start driving again. (Another long story). Whenever I get behind the wheel I'm like white-knuckling it. Seriously, thirty minutes and my fingers were cramping. My palms were sweating and I was terrified of looking anywhere but in front of me. But, as it turns out, the more I drive the more I enjoy it. I might actually like driving.

Who'd have thought.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Reader Profile

An author needs to create a reader profile to focus their marketing efforts. I've heard this so many times. You don't want to spend time on LinkedIn, for example, only to find out the majority of your potential readers don't use it. Makes sense.

I've read Get Know Before the Book Deal and did a lot of Google searching and yet I couldn't find specific ways to create a profile of my potential readers. The one tip I found was to think about myself as the reader because we write what we want to read but does that work for everyone? Don't know. It helped me only a little.

Recently, I read the posts 3 Steps to Pinpoint Your Crazy Dedicated Readers' Favorite Hangouts and Be-Narrow Minded: 11 Questions to Turn a Target Market Into a Reader Profile. This was exactly what I needed! For something that's supposed to be important it sure was hard finding information on it.

Is a reader profile really that important? How do you go about creating one?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Welcome to the Dark Side

Examining how I buy books is helping me develop a marketing plan for my own WIP. I'm becoming a bookstore's worst nightmare. Okay, a little over dramatic. I haven't yet jumped to the dark side but I'm so close.

I grew up with print books and thought the whole eBook thing was so unfortunate- like the beginning of the end. It reminded me of the switch from VHS to DVD. I saw it coming and didn’t like it.

Funny thing...now, both books on my currently-reading shelf are eBooks.

Another change- I don't browse like I used to. By the time I get to the bookstore, I know what I want and rarely do I deviate from my list. Goodreads and Amazon do all the work for me with their recommendations. I'll spend hours going back and forth between those sites to build my to-read list but barely spend 30 minutes at the bookstore finding new things to read.

Why the switch? Content is what I care about not the wrapper. Ebooks are simply an alternative to print and they, sometimes, cost less. My funds are really limited so a $2.99 or $4.99 book is a beautiful thing. On top of that, I can have them with one click.

As for browsing, the fantasy and romance sections are massive and I don't have the patience to casually walk through them, randomly picking up books. If the cover is not facing me, I pay no attention to it.

Even with the library, I search the online catalog beforehand, writing the locations of the books I want. From the comments for the article Browsing and Discoverability of Books in the Digital Age it looks like I'm not the only one who does their browsing online.

It's easy to say technology made me lazy but if I loved browsing and print books as much as I thought, nothing should've change that. The thing is, I just like to read and don't particularly care about the format of the book or how I find out about it. This is the reason why I want my book published as both print and eBook. Now that I'm thinking about my browsing habits, I have an idea of how to make my book discoverable.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Excuse Me While I Pull My Hair Out

Ever had a moment where you loved the overall idea of your scene or blog post but hated the way it was worded? No matter how long you stared at the page- moving sentences, adding and deleting words- you couldn't figure out a way to fix it.

I've been writing and rewriting a blog post for hours now but I still hate it. The general idea is great but the thing is defiantly not ready for the light of day.

This happens with world building too. I need to establish where my characters' Power came from- the ultimate source. The idea is there at its most basic. I love it. But, I can't dig any deeper. No matter how long I sit with my mind churning- nothing is coming to light. I'm reluctant to call this writer's block. More like my content needs a reset button.

Partial remedy...time. When your brain seems to be spitting out nothing but dead air that means you need to step away and do something else. After some time away, not too long, I return and carry out the second half of the remedy.

Using that good old delete button.

The problem could be the content is garbage- like I'm trying to fit something in a box it was never meant to go it. When I reach this point, it means I need to delete everything and start over. As I've read so many times before, "Don't be afraid to kill your baby."

Monday, July 2, 2012

Lulu Offers Free Publishing Advice

Just learned, through Publisher's Weekly, Lulu offers free "custom publishing advice" for authors.

"Custom...advice" is used loosely. I mean the Publishing Advisor only asked like 5 broad questions. 

The questions were to determine your mindset on the whole publishing process and where you are with your WIP. The tips was pretty bare bones. I learned something new though.

Book Cover Design
"When you have seconds to convince readers to notice your book on the shelf, the cover matters. Don't try to tell your entire story with an illustration of all the characters. Keep it simple; make readers want to know more. The back cover copy is a vital marketing message. You want to give readers an honest idea of how they will feel or what they will know after they've turned the last page. You'll also want a great author bio and headshot."
Never thought of dong this for my book title but it's a great idea.
"Find your most honest go-to friend/relative and ask their opinion on the title. Your feelings might get hurt, but you'll thank them in the long run. Repeat that step with five more peers. An alternative is sending an anonymous online survey to your group with choices for a title, allowing them to write one in. You'll be surprised what you learn."
This is obviously a way to get more people to use Lulu. Pretty good move. It provided strong yet basic advice. I'm thinking this would be a better tool for writers who just finished their book and have no idea what to do next. 
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