Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday Markets

Steam Punk anthology - I have to admit, when I first came across "steam punk" I didn't think I'd care for it but was pleasantly surprised.  Deadline is October so come up with a story and send it in.

Crimefactory - this is a new one and they want queries first.  Yeah, that's right, query first.  However, they like hardboiled and noir especially so if that's you...give 'em a look see.

New Love Stories - this looks like a really nice romance magazine. They want traditional romance in most of the subgenres with word counts from 2,700 to 3,800.

The Western Online - It's a non-paying market but looks good.  Be sure to read their guidelines though.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bad Advice

There's a lot of advice out there in the writing world on how to write.  And there's a whole lot of advice on how not to write too.  Thing is, it's darn hard to know what's good advice and what's bad, especially if you are just getting started in the writing industry. 

Often what works for one writer, won't work for another.  Take for example the "don't get it right, get it written" advice.  I don't know how many times I've spouted this one and while it works for some folks, it doesn't work for me.  I rewrite as I go along.  Yes, it takes me longer to get a complete first draft, but that's the way I work.  And, if this is the way you work best, then you must ignore that advice.

So, my question to you, what bad writing advice have you been given?  Share that advice in the comment column so we can all benefit from it.

Here's a great article that lists some other bad writing advice.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Turn up the heat...

There is nothing worse than Texas in June. Heat indexes of 100 plus, the only breeze is from passing traffic on the highway and any rain we get comes complete with sound effects and a fireworks show that rivals the most professional pyrotechnic presentation. Wait; there is one thing worse…July and August in Texas. More of the same with humidity so high it is like going into a sauna just getting to your car.

Just like Mother Nature, we need to turn up the heat in our writing. Not only do we have to create characters the reader will love and identify with, we have to increase the risk, raise the stakes and make it matter more for our characters.

My favorite movie to show this raising of the stakes is Dante’s Peak. Especially the last half. The volcano is about to erupt, ash is falling like snow in a blizzard and the mayor’s kids have taken the truck and gone up the mountain to bring stubborn grandma to safety. Personally, I was with mom, if grandma doesn’t want to come down…then stay up there and get lavafied. But now, mom and our manly hero Harry, “have” to go up the mountain also. We see them headed up the mountain ash falling so thick they can hardly see.

A helicopter crashes right in front of them; rock slides threaten to knock them off the road. Trees are falling left and right. They barely make it through a rock and tree slide that blocks the road behind them. Grandma is upset, mom is upset and the road behind them is blocked, what will they do now?

Moments later, lava starts pouring down the mountain and into the back of her house. They run out the front door, lava flows around the trucks so they run to the boat that just happens to be there. Motoring down the lake to safety, they notice the dead fish. Seems the lake has turned to acid and has started to eat the metal boat. Talk about turning up the heat. Here they are, in the middle of a lake of acid, surrounded by dead fish…in a leaking boat. What could be worse than this?

Again, the writer turns the heat up another notch. The propeller on the boat motor has been eaten away and no longer is useful. And to make matters worse, the water in the boat is rising fast. Grandma saves the day by jumping into the lake and towing the boat to safety. As they run down the dock to land, it crumbles beneath their feet but they do make it to shore. Naturally, Grandma dies before they reach the ranger station and another truck. But at least she's redeemed herself.

As our characters drive cross country, things seem to have swung their way. Until the lava blocks their path, front and back. Driving through is the only way to go. As they head into the lava, the truck tires begin to burn and then, the writer turns up the heat a notch. They get stuck. Lava is heading toward them, tires are on fire and they are stuck. Heroic effort gets them out and going again when what do they see, Grandma’s dog on a boulder. They can’t leave him…

Eventually, they make it to town and the safety of a mineshaft. As they settle in to rest Harry realizes he forgot to turn on the NASA GPS device that will tell the world they are alive in this mineshaft. Returning to the truck, Harry is injured in a tunnel collapse but manages to struggle onward. Climbing in the broken windshield, the tunnel collapses more, crushing the top of the truck. Finally, Harry is in the truck, broken arm and all. What else could go wrong? The roof is creaking and groaning and sinking lower and the GPS, won’t turn on. Eventually, he gets the GPS turned on and they are rescued.

Our characters need to be challenged also. The reader needs to care about what happens to our hero or heroine. If they don’t, the reader won’t finish the book. When you are writing, think about what could happen next. What would be the one thing that would turn up the heat in your story and increase the risk or raise the stakes for your main character? Then, let it happen. Let your character be tested and have to struggle. Put him/her in a situation that causes them to grow and change, to test their limits and moral fiber.

One help I’ve discovered in doing this is Donald Maass’s book Writing the Breakout Novel and the workbook that goes with it. The workbook has writing exercises designed to deepen our characters, enrich the plot and make your writing stand out from the crowd. Not only does this work for novels but I have found it to be great help in short stories. These techniques work in all genres; mystery, romance, SF. Give it a look over. I highly recommend both of them.

Gee, is it hot in here?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


One of the things CJ mentioned to us during our first class at Pen to Press was vision.  Meaning, our vision for our story. 

And while in New Orleans, I learned I'd lost my vision.  I'd been writing my novel to meet other people's expectations.  For example, I'd been trying to pass it off as a cozy mystery even though deep inside I knew better, because that's what a writer friend/mentor of mine expected me to write.

Then, I let others decide it was a romantic suspense.  People who had never read a single page were telling me what kind of book I was writing.  How silly is that?

Because of this lost vision, I missed a wonderful opportunity to pitch  my novel properly.  And while all isn't lost since this person and I connected on another project idea, an opportunity was wasted. 

So, today I want each of y'all to ponder your vision.  For your story, your novel, your writing career.  Don't let the expectations of those around you cause you to lose your vision.  If you discover you've strayed a bit, then get back on the path that leads to your vision.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Markets

Want to try something in the way of an anthology?  Then check out these guidelines from Whortleberry Press.  Right now they have fairy tale, Halloween and Christmas anthlogies open for submissions.  A couple of the dates are getting close but you still have time to get something to them.  These are for spec. fic.

Daily Science Fiction - nice looking market that pays.   They especially need flash fiction but will take longer work too.  I may have to see what I can come up with for this one.:-)  They also need artwork.

Out of Ruins - features "dark, weird fiction" so if you have something dark and weird, give 'em a try. 

Over My Dead Body - nice paying mystery market but you must query first.  I don't understand why but that's what they want. 

Fem-Fangs - an anthology of short stories, allowing readers to delve into the alluring lore of the female vampire.  This one has a nice 1-7k word count too.

Now, go write and submit.:-)

Sunday, June 13, 2010


One afternoon while I was in New Orleans, they  held a "street stroll."  It was a food and wine tasting thing which you had to pay to take part in but the strolling was free. 

When I saw this guy, I just had to get a picture.  Yeah, that's a real guy.  His ladder is not leaning against anything and he's perfectly balanced on it.  The 2 by 4 on his shoulder is also perfectly balanced.  I watched him for a few minutes and he never moved a muscle. 

We went on to eat and when we strolled by almost 2 hours later he was still standing there.   Talk about being balanced!

Writing needs balance too.  We have to balance narrative and dialogue.  Exposition and description.  Back story and action.  Character and plot.  Writing and marketing along with so many other things.

Then we have to balance our writing with our "real" life.  Many of us have day jobs we write around.  We have families and responsibilities to deal with when we'd often rather be writing.

While I don't have any words of wisdom to impart, I encourage you to ponder the balance in your writing.

Friday, June 4, 2010


One of the things I learned in New Orleans is how our characters drive our stories.  How the character's arc corresponds with the story arc.  It took me a bit to grasp but when I did...WOW!!! 

Here's the thing, if we don't know our characters, what drives them, why they do the things they do, we can't tell their story properly. 

Now, the novel I took to New Orleans to work on is more plot than character driven however, I still have a lot of character issues that add depth to the story when  properly revealed.

So, today my challenge for you is to get to know your MC.  What is his/her greatest fear?  What event caused that fear?  How can you use that fear to deepen your story?

Today, I'm working on my fantasy novel which is definitely more character driven.  What I've realized is I don't know her very well.  So, I'm going to be delving into her childhood, her fears and asking questions she may not like to answer.:-)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Doing the research...

One thing several of the agents and editors I talked to last week agreed on was the value of getting short stories published.  Especially in the "big" markets within my genre.

So, this means Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine for me.  Now, I've submitted to them before and last time got the "send something else" rejection letter so it's time for me to whip up something else to send them. 

However, this time I'm doing some indepth research first.  Yesterday I picked up the latest copy of EQ at Books a Million and today started reading.

Right now, I'm focusing on hooks or opening lines.  Here's the opening lines of the stories in this issue.

1.  Agatha Canford said, “No, no, no,” and leaned forward to tap Quincannon smartly on the knee.

2.  Kieran sat on his bike at the edge of the wood line and watched the new people transfer their furnishings from the van to the house.

3.  Salvatore (Sally) met with the godfather, Franco Calderella, in the study of his Staten Island Mansion.

4.  The guy who’d just tried to kill me didn’t look like much.

5.  How could I, Josie Welford, licensee of the White Hare, waste a whole day worrying about putting right a perfectly innocent mistake?

6.  At least the caller had the good grace to wait until Amy and I had finished making love.

7.  "It's me!"
    "I'm in the lounge."
    "Good day?"
    "Very.  Exceptionally good.  Brilliantly good.  Yours?"

8.  "What's going on?"
     I'm in my own house minding my own buisness, and he motions me over.

9.  The Hotel Mozambique.  Aptly named.

10.  He didn't even lift his head when she put the cup dowin in front of him.

11.  I suppose I remember it better than the other, countless other, picnics of my childhood, and I suppose the reason for this is the murder.

I don't know how many times I've heard it said and been told that you must hook the reader with your first line.  And I don't know about you, but I struggle to get the best first line I possibly can. 

So, what do you think?  Which first line (The ones that started with dialogue, I added a couple extra lines.) catches your attention and causes you to want to read more?  What about them do you like? 

Any opening line that you don't particulary care for?  Why, why not?

Remember, no author bashing, just good discussion please. :-)

Take this class!!!

I'm finally  getting back into the "normal" routine of things here.  Of course I still have the usual 900 things to get done but progress is being made.

As I've said before, the things I learned at Pen to Press have made a huge improvement in the way I handle a story and now you have almost the same chance I did.

CJ will be teaching her Character Driven Plotting class this month online.  It started yesterday but you can still register.  The cost is $30 plus $5 for registering after the class starts but believe me, this is so totally worth it.  I'm seriously considering taking it.   We went over the material so quickly in class that having almost a full month to work with it would be great.