Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Relevant Spam

Oh, I hope I don't regret using the actual phrasing here, but I got a chuckle this morning after discussing a writing problem via email (with a writer friend) and then — very shortly after my last Send — receiving a piece of spam with the subject line "Proven Remedies for Your Writing Problem." (Confused reaction to seeing the subject and unfamiliar sender's name was "Huh?! What do YOU know about MY writing problem!?!")

It made me think about how quickly I see an uptick in targeted email promotions and vaguely topical filter-outsmarting spam after visiting a couple of online merchants with whom I have accounts. Which always bugs me.

However. I really don't think my pal's email is set to send out spammy messages related to our electronic correspondence. It sure was funny timing for the note, though!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Okay, Checking In

So. Late-day yesterday, I realized I'd done nothing to further my current revision project this week. Won't do when you've signed on for the Smackdown.

Early this morning before getting down to my regular business, I read the agent's post I'd flagged and checked in on today's revision tips on the Brimstone Soup and Cuppa Jolie blogs. If nothing else revisiony happens today, at least I've got lots of helpful reminders about the process floating around in the back of my head.

I've decided that my Week 2 goals have to stay somewhat modest in order to align with my deadline-heavy workweek. It's okay, I think, to not have a grand plan at all times but instead to sometimes just do what I can. So from now till Monday, I'll be sneaking in an hour or two (or just 10 minutes if that's all there is) of focused revision time as opportunities present themselves.

As luck would have it, Opportunity is knocking right now. I'd better go!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Smackdown Week 2 (Almost) Under Way

Oh boy, it's Week 2 of the Summer Revision Smackdown.

Firstly, I'll report that I met all of my Week 1 goals. So there. Revision-related progress included choosing one first-draft manuscript to focus on (bingo!), creating a slide show of setting photos (bonus!), making a few notes/changes (bam!), and mercilessly deleting several pages of useless filler (boring!).

Secondly. Hmm. Well, dang. Deep breath. Secondly, I'll report that it's basically Week 2's Wednesday already (since my office is shut down for the night and I'm just dashing off a quick blog on the laptop while waiting for my husband to pick me up for dinner) and . . .

I. Have. No. Plan.

Yikes. I feel rushed and pulled in other directions this week, but I don't want to let the whole Smackdown challenge slide. Therefore, I vow to check in tomorrow with a doable goal or three.

Anyone have any ideas???

Meantime, here's a link to today's post about revision on literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog. I haven't read it yet, but I just noticed the title in my sidebar and wanted to flag it for later.

I will hop back on the horse tomorrow!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

200th Post!

I was surprised to notice my milestone number just now, but pleasantly so. The timing seems right.

To explain: My year so far has been marked by the active pursuit of change (on several fronts, both personal and professional), and just this morning I noted that not only has time marched on — as time is wont to do — but I've marched on a bit, too, and in a good direction.

I love a good corner turning, don't you? Regardless of the context or circumstances leading up to it, I think any new perspective helps inform and add depth to your writing. And I do look forward to seeing that notion play out in mine.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Can't Resist a Good Smackdown

Earlier this year I set a goal of revising two (2!!) manuscripts over the summer. These pups are first-draft chapter books that, once upon a time, I got paid to write. But because the original publisher lost its production budget for the line of books they belonged to, they need a new home. I want to give the books a new life, too.

Last week at this time I'd made no formal plan to actually start my revisions. Oh, I'd had the printed manuscripts stashed in my bag for a while. (Er, has anyone seen that bag? Seriously. HAS ANYONE SEEN IT!?!) But "summer" still seemed a lot like "later" to me.

Well, official calendars be hanged, summer IS here, and we all know it. Now is the time to make good on my own revision threats. And lucky for me, I am not alone in needing to follow through. I get to share the experience with a fab group of like-minded writers participating in the Summer Revision Smackdown, a month-long revision event masterminded/hosted by Jolie Stekly and Holly Cupala. (Thanks, you two!)

This challenge popped up at the perfect time for me, so I decided to take it as a sign to get crackin'. No slackin'.

My goals for Smackdown Week 1:
  • get reacquainted with my manuscript (yes, that's manuscript singular; I have no business planning two revisions at a time)
  • make big-picture notes about what I think needs to happen to take the story to the next level (did I mention that I think the draft is a bit shaky?)
  • implement any super-easy-and-clearly-beneficial changes I see right off the bat
  • create a manageable revision plan for the rest of the month using either iWork or Notebook
  • report Week 1 progress to the Smackdown group on Friday
All this has to be done on breaks from my regular writing and editing work (read: project work dictated by paying clients' schedules) . . . and in addition to what I'm considering an "extra" summer writing gig (read: low-paying-but-fun project I want to do and so I'm handling it after hours in order to keep up with better-paying work during normal workdays). Oh, and don't even get me started about my real-life summer plans and how I probably can't do everything I want to . . .

But. I can do this! Hey, I figure the Smackdown goals are mine for the setting.

This is the type of thing I tend to put off and off and off because the only one benefiting from the work is me. I'm ready to break that habit!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Q&A with Author Simon Rose

My Q&A guest today is Canadian children's book author Simon Rose. I cyber-met him earlier this year when he started a popular networking group called Children's Authors and Illustrators on Facebook. His many works include The Doomsday Mask, The Heretic's Tomb, The Emerald Curse, The Clone Conspiracy, The Sorcerer's Letterbox, and The Alchemist's Portrait. He's also a contributing author to The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction: Volume One.

Here's what Simon has to say about his work.

Welcome to the blog, Simon! Tell us more about the types of books you write. And what’s your most recent title?
My books are in the science fiction and fantasy genre for middle grades, around ages eight to twelve. You can see full details of each of them, including excerpts and synopses (and you can even listen to recording of my readings) at the Books page at simon-rose.com.

The Alchemist's Portrait is a time-travel story, in which Matthew journeys through the centuries using magical paintings which act as doorways into the past, in order to save the world from the clutches of an evil alchemist. The Sorcerer's Letterbox, another time-travel tale, is based on the famous mystery of the Princes in the Tower about Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, who were supposedly murdered on the orders of Richard III in 1483. The Clone Conspiracy is a science fiction thriller involving clandestine laboratories and secret experiments, while The Emerald Curse, based on my own reading of comic books while growing up, concerns Sam's adventures in a bizarre, and at times deadly, superhero universe. The Heretic's Tomb is set in the medieval period once again, this time during the Black Death in 1349.

My latest novel, The Doomsday Mask, will be published this spring. It's once again for ages 8–12 and in the science fiction and fantasy genre. It's a fast-paced adventure about ancient civilizations, mysterious artifacts, and shadowy secret societies.

They all sound dark and exciting! I’d love to hear about your writer’s path. How did you get started writing for children? What drew you to creating works for the young audience?

One of the best things about writing for kids is that I can write about the kinds of things that fascinated me when I was young. Stories can be very imaginative if they are for children, which makes writing them so much fun. And, of course, in science fiction or fantasy, more or less anything you can imagine is possible, as you craft stories involving ancient mysteries, the unexplained, the paranormal, science fiction, time travel, parallel universes, alternate realities, weird and wonderful characters, and a multitude of "what if" scenarios.

Once I had children of my own, I came into contact with children's books again for the first time in many years. Picture books initially, of course, but then early chapter books and novels. When I decided to try my hand at writing novels and stories, I found myself drawn to the types of things I used to read as a child. I read lots of science fiction, as well fantasy writers and ghost stories while growing up. I also read a tremendous number of comic books, in which the stories took me across the universe, into strange dimensions, into the land of the Norse gods or had me swinging from the New York rooftops. At high school, I studied a lot of history and have retained my interest in the subject up to the present day. I also read voraciously on ancient civilizations, mysteries, the supernatural, and the unexplained.

As a busy self-employed writer, you have to wear most (if not all) of the hats in your own company. Are you able to achieve a good balance of both the creative and business sides of the job? In other words, is there enough time to write and enough time to promote your books and services?
Not really. Like many writers in a similar position, much of my time has to be spent on marketing and promotion. It's a necessary evil, I'm afraid. I am still able to set time aside for the creative side of things and get the work done, but it would be nice to be able to concentrate more on the writing.

I see that you regularly do school author visits and conduct writing workshops for kids. How do these endeavors feed your own writing?

Yes, I offer a wide range of presentations, workshops, and author-in-residence programs for schools and libraries. I cover such topics as where ideas come from, story structure, editing and revision, character development, time-travel stories, history, and research. You can learn more about them here.

It's always good to connect with your readers and potential readers and although the primary reason for an author to visit a school is to inspire and enthuse the students, it tends to be a two-way street. Especially during more interactive presentations, workshops, and discussions, something a student comments on can set me off on my own train of thought. The same can be said of the workshops I offer for adults. Invariably, these sessions give me some new inspiration as well.

What are you working on now?

Well, The Doomsday Mask will be published very soon, but I also have another completed novel on a paranormal theme, numerous projects for future novels, and I am working on several picture books with a local illustrator. Right now, I am also preparing for a lot of summer camps locally in July and August, which are detailed on my blog. I will be running writing workshops for children. Topics include creating plays, inventing superheroes, story creation, and writing science fiction and fantasy.

In addition to novel writing, I offer copywriting services for business, such as editorial content for websites. I have a few of those types of projects, as well as upcoming articles for magazines and online publications on a wide variety of topics.

I'm also involved in a large local event set for the fall called the Calgary Children's Book Fair and Conference. A website for the event will be up and running in the early summer, but there are a few details right now here.

Do you have a “dream book project” that you think about working on in the future?

Not one particular project, or at least not at the moment, but I certainly have a number of well-developed projects that I would like to get completed and see in print. Some of these have the potential to be more than one novel, maybe trilogies or even ongoing series.

Any advice you’d like to share with aspiring children’s writers out there?

Writing is in some ways the easy part. It can be a very long process not only to write a book, but also to get it published. A book is a marathon measured in years rather than weeks or months. Don’t be afraid to revise and revise over and over again. Most authors go through many revisions before their work reaches its final format. Remember, too, that your book will never be to everyone’s taste, so don’t be discouraged. A firm belief in your own success is often what’s necessary. After all, if you don’t believe in your book, how can you expect other people to?

Read as much as you can and write as often as you can. Keep an ideas file, even if it’s only a name, title, sentence, or an entire outline for a novel. You never know when you might get another piece of the puzzle, perhaps years later. You also mustn’t forget the marketing. You may produce the greatest book ever written. However, no one else is going to see it if your book doesn’t become known to potential readers. Be visible as an author. Do as many readings, signings, and personal appearances as you can. Get your name out there and hopefully the rest will follow. Especially for newly published authors, books don’t sell themselves and need a lot of help.

Where can readers find your books — and you?

Autographed copies of my books are always available from me directly, but they are also available at all the usual places such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other places online — and details can be found for each book here (just click on a title for more information). You can also easily order any of the novels from your local bookstore if they don't have copies on the shelf. You can stay up-to-date with me and my work by visiting my author site and blog, connecting as a friend on Facebook, or following me Twitter.

Thanks for talking with me today, Simon!

Simon and I did an interview exchange on our blogs today, so surf on over to his blog to see his Qs for me!

And, a big thank you to the Jean Little Library blog for hosting today's edition of Nonfiction Monday. Be sure to check in there throughout the day to peruse the ever-expanding list of posts dedicated to nonfiction book reviews and other posts a
bout real-life experiences from KidLitosphere bloggers.