Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reviews of DIID

My publicist forwarded a new review of Dead if I Do from "Another Fun Read from Another Talented Writer."

Books by Jen also reviewed DIID and liked it, although she admits to being a bigger fan of Parrish (who she didn't see enough of in this book.)

Also, Google Alerts found some others of older books. Urban Bachelorette Review picked up Tall, Dark & Dead, and loved it. Which is always nice.

And, in other news, my alter ego just signed a contract for a short story of hers to appear in a Biblical Horror anthology called: She Nailed a Stake Through His Head. Her short story is a modern retelling of the Samson story from the point of view of his wife (before Delilah) called "Jawbone of an A$$."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Some Days are Hard

I should be writing, or at the very least blogging the next installment in beginning writing for you, but I'm just sad. I buried a baby rabbit about an hour ago, and it was much harder than it should have been. Ever since Ostara, I've been very aware of the bunny activity in our yard. We had a family visit a lot early spring and I invited them (out loud, during one of our many "I see you, but you're pretending to be stone so I won't make any sudden moves" stare downs) to raise their family in my yard.

Well, they did. I even witnessed the birth. One day when we were grilling out, mama rabbit hopped into the bushes and stayed there a long time. I wouldn't have noticed her, except the nervous papa kept chasing another boy rabbit away... literally running under our feet to keep him from bothering his mate. I told Shawn I thought I saw tiny rabbit ears, and I thought it was a birthing moment, but then I thought: no way. Maybe she was just in heat or something, given how the papa rabbit was acting.

I believed that until I checked the nest a few days later. I knew better than to move the grass aside or otherwise disturb them, but I stuck my finger into the grass covered hole and felt warm, soft, breaths. There were babies there all right.

Today, after gardening in the front -- trying to make order from chaos and plant some day lilies my mother brought, I came around the side of the house to put away my tools and I saw little ears in the grass. This time, I knew it wasn't a happy moment. A little guy lay there, a gaping hole in his side. Otherwise he was perfect... so tiny, so soft. No bugs had gotten to him. His brown eyes glistened almost lifelike. But he was gone.

I suspect a hawk got him, though I'm surprised he wasn't more eaten. Hawks don't usually waste much. You barely find a few feathers when they go after pigeons. After getting my gloves, of course, I picked him up and cradled him in my arms. I usually toss various dead animals into the garbage bin, but I just couldn't do it this time. I dug a deep hole in our back garden and buried the little fellow. Crying the entire time.

Some days are just hard.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Writers' Critique Groups, Part 1: Finding Others

I realize how fortunate I am to live in a town with so many writers. The Twin Cities is jam packed with published mystery, science fiction, fantasy, and romance writers. There's an active (and large) local chapter of Romance Writers of America, a mystery writers' group called Sisters in Crime, and even a local chapter of the Natonal Writers' Union. This is an absolutely wonderful town to be a writer in, regardless of where you are in the process: just beginning or professionally published.

There are also a number of specality bookstores including Uncle Hugo's/Uncle Edgars for science fiction, fantasy, and mystery; Dreamhaven for SF/F and graphic novels; and Once Upon a Crime for mystery. There are enough writers and beginning writers in this town that we can even support two organizations devoted solely to nuturing and teaching writers their craft: The Loft and SASE/Intermedia Arts, both of which provide writers with classes (ranging from how-to write to taxes for the working writer), grants, rental office spaces, and on-going readings for specialized groups like GLBT writers, science fiction writers, writers of color, etc.

The ginormous number science fiction/fantasy READERS in this town support writers by hosting a half dozen conventions in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and invite editors, agents, etc. to come to us....

Let's just say it was not hard for me to find a way to connect with other writers in this town. I suspect, however, that's not going to be the case for most people reading this blog.

So you dream of sitting around a coffee shop table with other writers discussing each others' work, but you live in a small town. How do you find people? What can you do if you don't live in a town like I do that has so many resources waiting to be tapped?

First, you should take advantage of whatever you _do_ have. Are you sure there isn't a RWA chapter nearby? Check this list to make sure. The Romance Writers of America is an expensive organization to join, but they provide a lot of services and support to brand-new/just starting out writers. If you're at all serious about writing (even if it isn't a romance novel you're considering) I can't recommend it too highly. Even if your local chapter isn't super organized or large, you get access to the national folks who put on conferences, have a newsletter that lists contests, courses, and on-line classes. And other members can be the first folks you can tap to start your writers' group.

How about bookstores? Do you have any? Even if all you have is one of the box chain stores, they often have reading groups for your genre (romance, science fiction, and maybe even specfic ones like vampire urban fantasy) and you can join those and scope out whether or not anyone else in the group wants to write.

If you're lucky enough to have an independently-owned book store, you can make up a poster asking for others interest in starting a writers group and ask if you can post it in the window or on a board or whatever.

NOTE: even after being together with basically the same people for twelve years, we all still meet in a public place (a coffee shop in our case), and I would especially recommend that once you gather a few names you consider finding a public space (if not a coffee shop, perhaps a library, the bookstore?) for at least your first meeting. You may also wish to distribute e-mail and phone numbers, but perhaps withhold address, etc., until you're comfortable with your group.

In all the writers' groups I've run or been part of, I only ever had one problem person, but it's always a good idea to be careful about your personal safety.

Next up: Writers' group structure.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Feeding the Inner Writer

I was going to write about developing characters next, but another FB chat with Debbie, has sent me in a different direction. (Those of you who have taken real-time classes with me know that this often happens to my very organic and non-linear brain.)

Anyway, she mentioned that she's just starting a novel and is asking people what they think of what she has and the ideas, etc., and wanted to know if I thought that was a good idea at this stage.

My answer is this: everybody is different. Some people won't talk about their book or short story idea until it's done because they need to stay focused and not be distracted by anyone else's opinion of it. I know published authors who don't get feedback about their writing until they submit their novel to their editor. For myself, I'm somewhere in-between. I tend not to talk about pre-formed ideas, unless I'm starting a proposal. Then I'll talk out my plot/theme/etc. thoughts with someone I trust, namely my partner. Once I'm writing, however, I'll take feedback/critique on page one and throughout my writing process... in fact, I thrive on it.

I told Debbie that if she can, she should consider sparing her friends and family the constant "harassment" and start a writers' group. I have found it enormously helpful to have the feedback and support of other people engaged in the same work I'm in. It's not that friends can't be supportive, but other writers will often listen endlessly to the woes very specific to writing -- first rejection pain, etc. In fact, if you're in a writers' group where everyone is submitting and writing, you can actually learn a lot about what to expect once you start sending your stuff out, and you can use your fellow writers a sources of information about which editors they've tried, the responses they've gotten, and all that. It helps soften the blow of that first rejection when you can share the misery, trust me.

So how do you start a writers' group. Well, there are several types of writers' groups you can start, and I'll try to cover them all over the next couple of posts. (I don't want these to get so long they're unreadable.)