This week, David Gaughran and Anne R. Allen analyze Amazon’s heavy-handed measures of fraud detection that are forcing the innocent to suffer for the guilty. P.J. Parrish illustrates the revision process using one of her own manuscripts while Ruth Harris and Andrew Falconer offer tips on writing historical fiction.
We strike gold with… who else, but… Jami Gold! Jami is busy with NaNoWriMo, so she has invited guest bloggers to discuss such topics as Imposter Syndrome (Kassandra Lamb), Deep POV (Lisa Hall-Wilson), and Productivity (J. Rose).
From the latter, this statement leapt out at me: “We’re trained to work ourselves to the bone, and that we should best each other about “who’s the most busy” or “who has the least amount of time.” I challenge you to step away from this game! Do you really want to be #1 at being stressed and being busy all the time so you don’t have time to enjoy your life?”
The one aspect about Stranger Things that captivates me most is the bond between the four main kids, Lucas, Dustin, Mike, and Will. They might bicker on occasion, but they are loyal and care about one another deeply. The safety of each one is paramount to the others. They are the Musketeers of Hawkins, Indiana.
I never experienced that growing up, not even within my own family let alone friends who drifted in and out of my life. I’m sure such friendships as depicted in Stranger Things existed back in the 80s, but I’m not confident that they still exist today in our self-absorbed, self-obsessed, technologically overdosed world.
Of course, Stranger Things isn’t the first to show us such devotion among childhood friends from previous decades, so I can only imagine that it isn’t a complete fabrication. There must be a kernel of truth there, based on the life experiences of the writers. Regardless, it’s that teamwork, camaraderie, and devotion between these four kids who believe in the fantastical dangers unnoticed by oblivious adults (except for Joyce Byers and Chief Hopper)—and who come together as one cohesive, amazingly organized unit to combat evil forces—that makes Stranger Things so enjoyable above and beyond the other excellent characters and the unnerving tension of a well-crafted story.
As Neil Gaiman said: “When people tell you there’s something wrong with a story, they’re almost always right. When they tell what it is that’s wrong and how it can be fixed, they’re almost always wrong.”
Just a gentle reminder for all of us who critique stories. Remember to always begin with the positives before delving into the criticism, and refrain from dictating to the writer how you think they should write their story and how you think their characters should behave.
If that’s the story you want to read, write it yourself. Don’t tell the writer what to do. It’s the writer’s story and the ultimate decisions are up to the writer. Respectfully inform them of what problems you found in the story and offer suggestions. Leave it to the writer to do the work.
I’m reminded of an anecdote shared by actor Lance Henriksen in his autobiography, Not Bad for a Human. While working on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Henriksen offered an idea to Spielberg that the government team at Devil’s Tower should kidnap one of the small aliens at the end of the film. Spielberg replied: “That’s a different movie, Lance.”
So I recently finished a short story about a young man who buys a haunted Camaro—and inadvertently destroys the life of a paroled car thief. The story is now in the hands of critique partners and happens to be the only writing project that I actually finished this year. If you followed any of my previous updates, you’ll know that 2017 has kicked the shit out of me and in doing so, caused my writing output to plummet.
Going into 2017, I promised myself not to write any more short stories this year so I could focus on the first draft of the SF novel I started writing last year. Four chapters into the first draft by April 2016 and the novel ended up on the back burner for a home renovation, a Kickstarter to fund a new anthology, the release of said anthology, and writing six new short stories for contests and anthologies.
As productive as that was and as proud as I am of those stories, the SF novel languished. Then came 2017 and I set my sights on finishing the first draft by December. Four more chapters were written between January and May… and the novel was again sidelined while I edited submissions to a new anthology, finished a month-long home renovation, then watched my summer collapse along with the roof at my workplace as a result of a severe storm. I want my summer back, damn it!
So, to get my writing chops back in shape, I cranked out the aforementioned short story about the haunted car—just so I could feel good about finishing something this year. I thought I would then return to the SF novel…
Instead, I’ve spent the past week crafting the plot synopsis for my next full-length Miranda Lorensen novel. Almost there. I spent more time working on it in my sunroom this evening—and peeking up every so often to watch a tiny bunny roam around my neighbor’s shed. Who can resist bunnies?
If all goes as planned, this novel will tie directly to the novella that my publisher accepted back in June. The novella, Like Mother, Like Daughters, addresses some aspects of Miranda’s life mentioned in my novels Testing the Prisoner and By Your Side.
I jotted down a quick jacket blurb for the novella recently. It needs work, but…
Psychic-medium Miranda Lorensen and her daughter Andrea set out for a “girls night of ghost hunting” at the home of Andrea’s closest friend, Wendy. When Andrea Lorensen stumbles over Wendy’s dead body in the woods, the shock triggers Andrea’s own latent abilities as a medium. Against her mother’s wishes, Andrea decides to ensnare Wendy’s killer with help from the other side.
Meanwhile, Miranda travels to Salem, Massachusetts to speak at a paranormal investigators conference. When she is invited to participate in a local ghost hunt, Miranda encounters a spirit that leads her to the truth about her past life.
Now, hopefully, the novella will be released next year with the novel to follow a year or so later. My concern is that as of 2018, it will have been FIVE years since my last novel. Yikes!
During that time, I’ve been focused on short stories and editing anthologies, which has proved fruitful. My publisher and I have released two volumes of the Middle of Eternityspeculative fiction series, my work has placed high in a few local contests, and I’ve been published in a handful of other wonderful collections such as the ReDeus mythology series and Beach Nights. I firmly believe that short stories and novellas are nutritious parts of a well-balanced writing career.
As much fun as those projects have been, a few solo publications are definitely needed within the next year. While Miranda has earned a modest fan following–and several readers have contacted me to ask when to expect her next adventure–people have short memories these days so I hope all of this works out as planned!
This week, Maggie Doonan counsels us on when to throw in the towel on a writing project while Julia Munroe Martin opens up about why she abandoned one of hers.
Anne R. Allen warns new writers against mistakes that could leave them prey to publishing scams. James Scott Bell offers two methods to jumpstart your writing session. Over at MythCreants, Chris Winkle advises us on ways to better give and receive criticism.
Writer pal Kathryn Craft shares her experiences with exploring and pitching new ideas after her first two novels were published. David Gaughran provides tips on how to maximize the benefits of Kindle Unlimited. From Writer Unboxed, Steven James waxes eloquent about the “agathokakological” nature of humanity.
My attempt to restore this weekly feature on my blog was thwarted a few months into the year by a series of challenging, distressing, exhilarating, and generally overwhelming events—from editing a new speculative fiction anthology to the death of my mother-in-law, from a six-week home renovation to a partial roof collapse at my place of employment that caused 100-hour work weeks, from caring for a sick bunny (he’s better now, thankfully) to building a new website for one of the small-press publishers I work with.
Despite such “interesting times,” I managed to write four new chapters in my SF novel-in-progress and hammered out a 7K-word short story just this week. Honestly, that’s paltry progress compared to my usual output, but I’m grateful for anything given the mayhem of 2017—and we still have four months to go!
On a high note, my paranormal mystery novella, Like Mother, Like Daughters, was accepted by Firebringer Press and should be released next year as an eBook, audio book (recorded by yours truly), and in paperback paired up with a vampire novella written by Steven H. Wilson, fellow scribe and owner of Firebringer.
So much about this excites me beyond the obvious thrill of a new release. We plan to produce the paperback in the fashion of the old ACE doubles where you read one novella, then flip the book over read the other. Readers of a certain age (ahem) and older grew up enjoying those and I relish the prospect of producing a book in that format today.
Additionally, the speculative fiction anthology I’m editing is actually volume three in the Middle of Eternity series, also published by Firebringer. This third book, Meanwhile in the Middle of Eternity, is also slated for a 2018 release.
Back on topic, About This Writing Stuff… might end up appearing on a monthly basis rather than weekly as I try to balance my life and catch up on my writing, editing, and publishing schedules, not to mention maintain my health and sanity. Until then, I hope you find the articles below useful.
From Digital Book World, Beth Bacon teaches us about Creative Briefs, while Gordon Warnock urges not to disregard libraries when marketing our books. Over in the Kill Zone, James Scott Bell talks tough and Jordan Dane wants us to keep it real.
Kristen Lamb and Janice Hardy sub for Jami Gold on her blog with a deep dive into antagonists and conflict. As an aside, Jami is battling a health issue that she openly discusses on her blog and I want to take a moment to wish her the best.