Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kari's Queries, part 3

The kids took pity on me this week. No counting questions!

Would you ever base a book on your life?

Not really. I’m not that interesting.

Ok, no, you need a better answer than that.

There are always bits and pieces of my life that make it into my books. The JJD novels especially, since Jesse’s little family of three highly resembles my own family. But I’m not nearly as cool as Jesse’s wife, and any magical ability I have seems to center around summoning every cold virus in a twenty mile radius. (can you tell I’m sick right now?)

And since the spider bites I keep getting fail to turn into super powers (Not fair!), it’s probably best that I base my books around other folk.

Which kinda leads into the second question!

When you think of characters for your novels, do you base their characteristics off of people in your life, or do you make them up completely?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: I pick and choose. Some characters are based on people I know. Some are entirely out of my head. Most are amalgamations of several people I know. For example, the character of Dr. Bridget Smith in the JJD book is kind of a blending of several doctors that I know.

I take this trait here, and that look there, and smush ‘em all together.

The really amusing thing is that people will see parts of themselves in characters where I never had any intention of there being a similarity. They’re like “That’s totally me, isn’t it!” And I’m afraid if I say yes, they’ll be made, and if I say no, they’ll be disappointed.

If you had to pick a career besides being an author, what would it be and why?

Ok, don’t laugh. I actually have a good answer for this one.

If I wasn’t an author, and I didn’t have to work at the Real Job ™ , I would totally be a doula.

I see by your blank looks that you have no idea what that means.

A doula is a birthing assistant. Not a midwife, per se, but someone who helps the mother through labor and delivery by being there to support her, take care of the little things so she can concentrate on the important stuff (like having the baby) that sort of thing.

I learned about doulas when I was pregnant with my own daughter, and it always seemed like something that I would not only love, but that I would be good at.


And with that, I shall crawl back into my bottle of NyQuil and bid you all good eve.

I have some good news coming up soon, but it's going to have to wait for another night. Nothing life shattering or anything, but I'm pretty stoked about it. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kari's Queries, part 2

Here we are again with another installment of Kari's Queries, where I answer the burning questions of high school English students. (well, so far, not a lot of burning, but I have hope)

I don't know about ya'll, but I'm enjoying this.

How do you create the plot lines for your books?

Often, it starts with one scene. One image, one moment that just sticks in my head. It makes me want to know, what lead up to that moment? What is going on, how did they get there? What happens next?

Sometimes, I’ll start with the end. Especially with the JJD series, I have a list of things that must happen to Jesse over the course of the series. So, each book is simply a way to get him there.

Each plot has to have a start, it has to have conflict, it has to have different threads that ultimately come together. It feels like braiding really long cords so that the colors line up just so.

I get stuck, sometimes. I have them at point A, and I know they need to get to point B, but I have no idea how or why. Usually, I follow Jim Butcher’s school of thought there. (If you haven’t read any of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, go find it. Now. I’ll wait.) His rule of thumb is, if it makes his hero’s life more difficult, put it in there.

I think it’s amazing that the fictional characters of the world haven’t formed a union to protest their treatment.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

Oh wow… Good question.

Ok, understand that I was an only child, and we lived in the middle of 50 acres of forest. Needless to say, we were quite a ways away from any other kids. So…I read. A LOT. The first fantasy book I remember reading was The Hobbit. I was in first grade. (we’ll discuss my freakishness later) I think that was the book that showed me how awesome the worlds inside my head could be.

And, because I was alone a lot, I had a lot of time to explore those worlds. The people I made up, the adventures I had… I think I was probably in third grade before it occurred to me that I could write down those worlds, and other people could visit them too!

The first stories of any length that I remember writing were essentially fanfic of my favorite comic growing up. I didn’t use those characters, but I put my own characters in that world. I made my friends into elves and we rode giant wolves. (Bonus points if any of you recognize the comic)

The thing is… I’ve always been a writer. Even if I’d never been published, I would STILL be a writer, ‘cause I couldn’t stop if I had to. I’d go nuts. Being an author, being published… That’s just gravy.

How many books did you write before your first book was published?

Again with the counting! Ya’ll are just trying to fry my brain, aren’t you?

Ok, well… We’ll start with this thing I wrote before I ever had a computer. Typed the whole thing out on my mother’s Brother typewriter. Epic fantasy, separated twins, girl with silver hair…a wolf with wings… It was bad. REALLY bad. I was….um….twelve, maybe? (1) Then I wrote a couple novel-length type things that were essentially bastardized fanfic of a couple different fantasy series that I loved, so we’ll count both of those. (2) (3) And then I wrote two (still fanfic, never let anyone tell you it’s not good practice) novels based on some RPG characters some buddies and I played. (again, freakishness, discuss it later) (4) (5) This takes me pretty much up to my…second year of college? So…20-ish.

Then I started Avarice. Got 78,000 words into it before I realized it was fatally flawed, and since I had the idea for Devil already, I swapped. But we'll count it as a completed novel at that length. (6) That makes Devil number 7. Lucky number seven. However, while I was going through the querying process with Devil, I also wrote Muse. (8)

So, technically, I wrote 8 novels before my first was published. I’ve written three more since then.

When you put it that way, wow. I’m way more prolific than I thought.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kari's Queries, pt. 1

Welcome, folk, to the first installment of Kari's Queries!

Working with my beta-reader, Chie, I will be using my Fridays to answer questions posed to me by her high school English classes. I'm excited about this, and I'm hoping the kids are too.

(Taking into account that the internet is full of weirdos, I of course don't identify Chie by her real name, nor will I identify her school. It's just safer that way.)

((No, you are not one of the weirdos in question. You either. YOU are. Yes, you. In the fez.))


How had your high school English classes helped you develop as a writer?

See, you're just looking to me to prove that you need to pay attention in Miss Chie's class, aren't you? I'm wise to that game...

No, seriously... All that stuff they keep hammering into your head about grammar and spelling, and sentence structure? All of that is IMPORTANT. If you think you have a story to tell, you must first tell it in a manner that other people can read easily. Spelling and grammar. Folks tell you that "Oh, don't worry about that, an editor will take care of that if you get published." But if your work isn't stellar to begin with? No editor will look at it.

They also taught me to read. And you're thinking "Hey, I learned to read in like kindergarten, you must have come from a crappy school!" No, I didn't mean like that. I mean, they taught me how to read analytically. How to dissect a paragraph, a chapter, a story, to see the flow, to see how the words combined together to make a coherent whole. If you want to write, you must learn to read. You have to recognize those elements in other stories if you're going to use them in your own.

But aside from the basic mechanics, I have to say that my high school English teachers always encouraged me to write. I had one teacher who let me spend the entire year in the computer lab, working on a book. (now trunked, never to be seen, and only barely removed from fanfic) None of them ever told me "well, maybe you should think about preparing for a REAL job" or that I wasn't being realistic. I wish I knew where they were right now, so I could say "Hey, look what I did!"

If you could give one person one piece of advice to help them get a book published, what would it be?

Just one piece? Just one person? Oi.

Geez, there’s so much to say about the various stages of this mad mad mad mad mad mad process.

Um… Well for the writing aspect of it, I would say “Allow yourself to write utter poo.” You can always go back and fix crappy writing to be amazing writing later, but you can’t fix the stuff you never write at all. So it doesn’t matter if the first draft stinks to high heaven, ‘cause the last draft won’t. Nobody ever has to see that first, horrendous draft unless you want them to. There’s no law that says you have to let anyone read it before you’re happy with it.

For the publishing part… Don’t give up too quickly. Getting four or five rejections is nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. I have friends, published authors, whose rejections numbered in the multiple hundreds before they finally got an agent, before they finally got that book deal. For some of them, it was the third or fourth (or seventh) book they’d tried to get published. They didn’t give up, and every book they wrote just made them better writers.

Ooh, can I give one more piece of advice? Please? Well it’s my blog, so I’m gonna anyway. So there. Neener.

Develop thick skin. Like…adamantite-plated T-Rex thick skin.

For every part of the process - from finding an agent to getting reviews on a published book - there are going to be people who flat out don’t like your writing. Some of them are professional about it, and some of them are bugnut crazy and equate your writing ability with your right to continue to exist on this planet. You just have to remember that your book is not YOU. Just because Person XYZ didn’t like your book doesn’t mean they’re saying horrible things about YOU as a person. (Unless they are, and then you file them under the bugnut crazy category as mentioned above)

Those truly professional criticisms, whether they come from an agent, an editor, a book reviewer or one of your own beta readers, can truly help make you a better writer. Look at what didn’t work for these people. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of taste, and you chalk it up to just that and move on. Other times, there really is a fundamental flaw, and you can correct it, making your next work that much greater.

How many times do you submit your story before it is finally perfected enough to be published?

Oh god, you’re gonna make me count, aren’t you? Don’t you know English majors don’t like math?* Lessee. I do a first draft. (1) Then I go through that draft and rework it with all the notes I made while I was doing the first draft. (2) Then I send it out to my beta readers. Once I get their notes back, I sit down and revise to take those into account. (3) Then, if I’m still not happy with something (the length, the flow, a hinky plot point), I may let it sit a week or two then go back and do yet another revision. (4)

So I think it’s usually the fourth or fifth draft that I send on to my agent and/or editor, depending on how close I am to my deadline.

It should be noted, though, that this is my process after finishing oh…nine novels? A DEVIL IN THE DETAILS, taking place way earlier in my learning curve, had WAY more drafts than this. I know, because I keep finding hard copies of various versions stashed in places around my house. Not sure if I should throw them away…hmm… Point being, it took me quite a while to whittle the process down to this concise version you see here. Mostly, it takes as long as it takes.

Also, remember that just because I turned it in doesn’t mean I’m done revising. Right now, I’m waiting on my edit letter for A SHOT IN THE DARK (Jesse Dawson Book 2), wherein The Editor will tell me what works, what doesn’t, and then I’ll be revising yet again. After that, there will be copy edits, then page proofs, and THEN it will be in the version you will eventually see on shelves.

*a blatantly false generalization


So, there we are, the first batch of questions! This was fun, and I hope we all came out of this better people. Or...something.

Stay tuned next week for more Q&A, and hopefully, I'll even manage to post some other things in the meantime, bad blogger that I am.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Think of the Children!!

First of all, yes I know the pictures on this post are broken. No, I don't know why. Hazard of working from the library computer, I'll have to fix it when I get home tonight. Until that time, just go click the links and view(buy) the books in question!

ETA: Ha! Fixed them!

Now, second first of all, I want to announce that thanks to one of my great beta readers (Hi, Chie!), I will be undertaking a project this semester wherein I answer all questions writing-related from an entire class full of high school English students.

Chie’s secret super-hero identity is a high school English teacher. And this semester, she’s having her kids submit questions for me to answer. I’ll be doing a few every week, spanning the semester, and probably posting the answers every Friday. Check back here for these installments of Kari’s Queries!

And in that vein, I have a few recommendations for some of our very young readers who may just be getting started! Now, while I only write adult novels (at the moment. (no, not THAT kind of adult) ), I think there is nothing so awesome as a kid who likes to read. (I know, I used to be one!) If you’ve got a young reader in your house, there are a couple of new books out this week that they might be interested in:

We have Wildfire Run, by Dee Garretson. Billed as a cross between MacGyver and 24 for the middle-grade crowd. It sounds so awesome!

We also have Nightshade City, which I love just for the name of one of the characters: Billycan . And everything else about it is awesome too! Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, says: "Fans of Redwall and the Warriors series will love this heroic tale of good versus evil in a subterranean society of rats."

(In the interest of full disclosure, both authors are friends of mine, but that doesn’t mean I’m biased or anything! Their books really are that awesome!)

And speaking of awesome books, here’s a couple for the BIG kids too (read: we adults who refuse to grow up):

Today marks the release of Cameron Haley’s debut, Mob Rules! And if Amazon doesn’t deliver my copy tomorrow, I’m gonna have to cut somebody, I swear. Been looking forward to this one for a while. Also, check out Cameron’s blog for a contest!

And we also have Harry Connolly’s second book in his Twenty Palaces series, Game of Cages! (The first book was Child of Fire, also a highly recommended read, and also one I’m waiting on Amazon to deliver to me, the big goobers)

I love nothing more than a jam-packed release day, don’t you?

And in my own life (the Cliff’s Notes form), I have finished my self-imposed writing vacation as of today, and for the month of September I will be working on the outline for Book 3. Really looking forward to it, and I’ve already come up with some really great elements that I think folks are gonna love.

The Agent emailed last night to say he’s reading Book 2 and loving it, so that makes me a bit giddy-happy today too!

I’m still toying with the idea of doing NaNo this year, and like last year, I probably won’t decide yes or no until November 1st. It’s honestly going to depend on what my edits for Book 2 are shaping up like. I will say that I DO have an idea for a NaNo novel, including soundtrack and appropriate research materials. Regardless of whether I do it for NaNo, I’ll probably write this one anyway. The characters have taken up residence in my head already, and writing it is the only way to evict them.

I also want to give a shout of thanks to all those who have read A DEVIL IN THE DETAILS and put reviews up on Goodreads and Amazon. I know that I look at those reviews when I’m debating on picking up a new author, and anything that brings in a new reader is a good thing!

Devil has been out for roughly two months now (and it still feels so surreal to see my book on a shelf!) and if you haven’t read it yet…why not?? No, really, I get it, times are tough and not everybody has the cash to splurge on books. So, with that in mind, have you thought about your local library? Libraries are some of my favorite places, and librarians are some of my favorite people. (Though, between you and me, I’m always vaguely disappointed that no one ever really bursts into song like in The Music Man). So if you have a huge wish list of books, and just can’t afford to buy them ALL, check out your library. They’ll be happy to see you, too.