Paint and Music and Love. Oh my!

Today is my anniversary. Another year spent married to this guy. This is Jo. Jo rocks. We’ve been together for just over ten years now, married for seven of them. I love him more today than I did a decade ago and if I were to imagine my life without him it would be a dismal thing indeed.

He’s got his game face on in this picture — we were in the lab and he was pouring things into test tubes for me to photograph. He’s cool like that.

*Insert some sort of clever segue here between anniversaries and music*

Today I’ve got a guest blog over at Beth Cato’s blog. It’s all about music and stories. Check it out 🙂 Once you’ve read my blog post poke around Beth’s site a bit more. I’m the third guest blogger she’s had there recently talking about music. Also, she’s just kinda awesome.

*Insert one more clever segue*

I’m working on a collaborative project with Jennythe_reader. We hooked up via 2xCreative (which I’ve mentioned before here). We’re actually doing a couple projects together. For the first, I sent her a poem I’d written and she is writing it out all pretty-like and then embellishing the paper. I don’t think my description does it justice, but you can hear her talk about it a little bit here. Anyway, I kind of wanted to do something more. Partly because my time investment was pretty small this month (I already had the poem written and only had to send it to her) and also partly because I wanted to do something different. Whenever I work on a collaborative project I provide words in some form or another. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, but Jenny, well, Jenny is a fabric artist. It just so happens that I paint fabric. How could we not do something that combined those talents?

I dug out my fabric painting stuff from where it was tucked into a corner of the basement and painted three pieces. I will be popping these into the mail to Jenny this week and I’ll keep you updated about what she creates with them. I can’t wait to see!

 

In other, writing-related news, though I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, I am doing the November Poem-a-Day challenge. My theme is going to be ‘Classic Horror’ with a focus (I hope) on ghosts.

I’ve also begun transcribing and revising Shadows. Right now I’m only working on the revision part (the first couple chapters were already transcribed), and I’m 4,785 words in. I’d love to use a word count meter of some sort here, but that’s tricky when you don’t know how many words you’re going to end up with LOL I think my last estimate was about 70k but at this point, it’s all a big question mark.

Finally, did I mention that it’s my anniversary? Happy Halloween everyone and Jo, I love you.

Building a Reputation

Pictures! Just cause. I took these at Jo’s work a couple weekends ago:

So, I need to write a blog entry this week, but I haven’t got the time. My solution? This is an essay I wrote for school. I’m going to share it in lieu of actually writing something fresh. I apologise, but it seems kind of appropriate because last week I edited a blog entry and handed it in as an essay for the same course LOL

Building a Reputation

So, you want to be a writer. I’ve got some bad news for you—getting published is easy, the tricky part to building a writing career is developing your reputation. Remember, you’re not just selling a story, you’re selling an idea about who you are. Each publication is a brick in the wall that will grow to become your brand and represent you as an author and the mortar between those bricks is your reputation.

Not only do you need to build a reputation with readers, but you will find that establishing one with editors will also affect your career. Every communication you have with an editor will flavor their impression of you. It’s important to set the tone of your future relationship in your very first email to a new editor. Make sure they know you aren’t doing anything as demeaning as submitting your work for consideration, rather you are offering them the use of it. Emphasize that you are doing this as a personal favor to them because your work is vastly superior to everything else they have published to date (even your mother thinks so, and she doesn’t usually read the genre you write in).

For example, it’s good to note that what is expected in professional correspondence is always changing. “Dear Mr. (or Ms.) Editor” may have been the traditional way to begin correspondence once upon a time but nowadays with the widespread use of email and texting, it is perfectly acceptable to start your email without a salutation. You may also skip the complimentary closing. Why bother with obsolete niceties? They take precious seconds out of your day.

If you do decide to include a salutation and address the editor by name, it doesn’t actually matter if you spell their name correctly, so long as they can figure out who you meant. Gender, also, doesn’t matter. If you address a letter to Mr. Doe and then discover they are actually Ms. Doe, at least you got the last name correct. In baseball batting .500 is fantastic. The same applies in publishing. Likewise, while it’s good to mention the name of the publication when you submit or query, if it has any unusual spellings, feel free to ignore them or, better yet point out the editor’s mistake in choosing to spell their magazine or publishing house the way they have.

You don’t need to bother making sure your work fits the genre of the publication you’re offering it to because it is so well-written any editor worth their salt will be happy to publish it regardless. If you happen to find an editor who isn’t willing to accept it because it “doesn’t fit their market” they obviously don’t know what they are talking about. Make sure you reply to their rejection letter and tell them so as emphatically as possible.

What’s more, don’t worry about following the editor’s guidelines for formatting submissions. You’ve formatted your story the way you have for a reason and they are called submission guidelines, which means they are more like suggestions than rules. On a related note, don’t worry about fixing typos or revising before you send your work in. That is the editor’s job. If you made it perfect before you sent it to them, what would they do to earn their pay cheques?

Finally, unless you want to be known as a pushover, once editing on your piece has begun it is vital you make sure the editor knows this is not an equal partnership. You are the boss. Make them fight for every comma they want to alter and absolutely refuse to budge on changing anything bigger than a single word or punctuation mark. It’s at this stage that phrases like “That’s my personal writing style” will serve you very well.

You can’t let editors mess around with your work or your style will be changed until it’s unrecognizable. Editors may say things like “This will make for a stronger story” or “But it’s nonsensical when it’s written this way” but don’t believe them. They aren’t trying to help you improve your work, they are dumbing it down and making it like everyone else’s.

You are not like everyone else. You are unique, special; like a snowflake. When you stick up for yourself, people, both readers and editors, will respect you. Don’t let yourself get pushed around and remember that no matter how many years of experience an editor has, when it comes to your work, you are the authority.

By following these tips you’re guaranteed to make an impression on the editors who work for you. That’s what you want, for people, editors and readers alike, to have an instant visceral reaction when they hear your name. That is what will help bind your work together and build a career, brick by brick, that will be beyond compare.

My grade, in case you are curious (and who wouldn’t be?) was 70% because my teacher couldn’t tell if I was being sincere in my advice or not. My original draft made mention about how editors talk to one another and compare notes, maybe I ought to have left that in to help clarify my position. Oh well. Next time I’ll make my tone a little more obviously sarcastic 😉

Also, in case you’re curious. Yes. Every example up there has happened to me when I’m wearing my Editor hat.

Lastly, in writing-related news, I have a couple zombie apocalypse poems up at Dark Chaos this week.

NaNoWriMo Time

Want to hear my thoughts on NaNoWriMo this year? They might surprise you… Check out my guest blog over at Charlotte English’s blog –> Clicky Clicky.

I’ll let you in on a little secret… I’m going to be revising that blog post and using it as an essay for school. Shhh, don’t tell 😉

The Benefits of WriMoing

I met Charlotte on Twitter. She and I decided to exchange blog posts about NaNoWriMo. Charlotte’s post is below, as you can see, she is a very enthusiastic Wrimo. My position is quite different, but you’ll have to check out her blog tomorrow to see what it is 😉

On the Benefits of WriMoing

 You may have heard about NaNoWriMo. The internet gets to buzzing about it around this time of year, and that strange, nonsensical word pops up everywhere.

If you haven’t, though, here’s a breakdown of the name. It stands for NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. It’s a time when writers the world over chain themselves to their desks and frantically pound their way through the composition of fifty thousand words in thirty days. It starts on November 1st and ends on November 30th. In order to “win” (that is, to meet the target), one has to write an average of 1,666 words a day, every day for the whole month. Including weekends.

It can seem like a daunting proposition. How curious, then, that so many thousands of people volunteer for it every year and proceed to write those 1,666 words per day around their usual jobs, family commitments and social lives. Why in the world would one burden oneself so, it might be reasonable to ask?

The truth is, NaNoWriMo is a blast. Here’s why.

One of the most difficult things about writing is getting into the flow of it. It’s daunting, staring at a blank page and trying to decide how to begin. Every day this happens, because every day one loses much of the momentum one built up during the last writing session. Ordinary life gets in the way, and the mind must first discard such questions as what to make for dinner, and what time it’s necessary to leave in order to get to work/make it to that appointment/pick up the kids/etc. All this must be waded through before it is possible to get into the serious business of Making Stuff Up. Proper, absorbed focus can be an elusive beast.

But having deadlines – even self-imposed ones – can be an invaluable way of giving oneself a kick up the rear. Never mind the little issues and the worries: you have a target to aim for. Just write!

This is also effective because many writers suffer from a degree of perfectionism. It took me some time to develop the ability to finish writing projects, because I was always crippled with worries about how good my work was – or might be, if I ever got to the end. I didn’t want to write badly. Of course, the only way to learn to write well is to get through the bad stuff first. NaNoWriMo is purely about getting words down. The principle is: it doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you produce your fifty thousand words!

And it’s liberating to think that way. The exciting thing is, once one gives oneself licence to write crap if that’s what comes out, it’s possible to be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the work that emerges. Some if it will be poor; some of it, however, will be great. You never know what your mind can do once you let it go.

Given that I am so wholly in favour of NaNoWriMo, then, it’s perhaps odd that I’ve never yet “won” at it. Somehow I always miss the month of November; it’s never been convenient for me. It’s the middle of the first term of the educational year, so for a few years I was too busy at that time to do it. This year I’ll miss it again. That’s because I’ve been writing in the spirit of NaNoWriMo for the last two months anyway; come November I’ll be deep into the editing phase.

But I don’t think it matters when you do it. I’m sure it’s much more fun – and easier to complete the challenge – if you do so alongside many others all cheering each other on. But it’s quite possible to simply adopt the principles and apply them to private work. It’s surprisingly possible to write fifty thousand words in a month; you just have to be prepared to give it a serious try. It’s a challenge I recommend to anybody who likes to write, no matter what it is that you’re doing.

——————

Miss Charlotte E. English writes fantasy novels with a twist of mystery. Her first novel, Draykon, was published in September of 2011; her second (produced under the benign and helpful spirit of NaNoWriMo) is scheduled for December. She blogs at www.charlotteenglish.com.

Lunacy

I used to write Monster Mythbusting columns for Dark Moon Digest. They changed formats a little while ago which meant my last column didn’t run. I didn’t know what else to do with it, so in the spirit of not just leaving it to collect dust on my hard drive I’m going to share it here. You’re excited, you know you are 😉

Monster Mythbusting: Lunacy

This issue of Dark Moon Digest features the winners of the paranormal romance contest so Stan suggested I might want to write about something that theme. Great idea, but I was stumped. I asked my Twitter followers about their favourite romantic monster. The winners were Beast from Beauty and the Beast, the Phantom of the Opera and Frankenstein’s monster. I agree with those choices but no clear bustable myth presented itself to me when I considered them.

Then it occurred to me. I was writing this column for Dark Moon Digest. Moon. What could be more romantic than the full moon? You’ve seen in it dozens of movies and read it in even more stories and poems I bet. Lovers, hand in hand, watching the moon, kissing beneath the moon, or sharing a plate of spaghetti in its light. The moon also gets blamed for a lot of things, so much so that the Latin word for it, luna, is the root of the word lunacy. Insanity. The full moon makes werewolves transform, dogs bite and people lose control.

Or does it?

To the first charge I think the moon is required to plead guilty, but I’m going to look at the others in this column. Does the moon really affect behavior? Are hospitals and police stations busier? What about suicides or accidents, are there more of them on a full moon?

The answer is no.

National Geographic News quoted a psychologist from the University of Saskatchewan, Ivan Kelly, as saying, “My own opinion is that the case for full moon effects has not been made.”[1] Kelly is not speaking from a position of ignorance either. At the time of his quote, in 2004, he had published 15 papers on the subject and had reviewed over 50 others. One of those reviewed papers covered 200 stories.

My own, less impressive, research has led me to the same conclusion as Mr. Kelly. I read about the results of 75 different studies[2]. They looked for increased violence, crime, anxiety, depression, suicide, hospital admissions, accidents, drug overdose and animal bites. Only five percent of the results showed an increase in those behaviors. Five percent, and even those were contradicted by other studies.

For example, a 1978 study of 11,613 cases of aggravated assault over a 5-year period showed that the attacks happened more often around the full moon[3]. However, a 2010 study of 23,142 cases of the same crime over a 7-year period, showed no relationship between the assaults and the full moon[4].

Still, despite the lack of empirical data to back it up, the popular belief seems to be that the moon does affect people’s behavior. When I began working on this article every single person I spoke to about it, without exception, believed I would end up proving the case for lunacy, not busting it. Why is that? Why do we so fervently believe that the moon, if I may over-simplify, makes us crazy?

I think it’s largely a cyclical self-fulfilling prophecy. People believe the full moon effects behavior. That subconscious belief may cause them to act differently during a full moon without actually being aware of their full motivations. Even people who do not act differently during a full moon may help perpetuate the myth. Influenced by a belief in the effects of the full moon, people may have a bit of a selective memory. They remember odd things that happen on a full moon but not when they occur on other days. Then, as if that’s not a strong enough cycle to keep the myth going, every once in a while, someone will do a news report or story about behavior changes during the full moon. The article, fuelled by anecdotal “evidence” or one of the vastly out-numbered research studies showing a correlation between the moon and behavior, will reinforce the belief in its readers and the cycle starts again.

Wheee!

For my part, however, I’m calling this myth completely busted. Except in the case of lycanthropes, of course.



[1] “Full Moon Effect on Behavior Minimal, Studies Say,” Last accessed May 5, 2011. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/12/1218_021218_moon.html

[2] “Neuroscience for Kids – The Full Moon,” Last accessed May 5, 2011. http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/moon.html

[3] “Human aggression and the lunar synodic cycle,” Last accessed May 5, 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/641019?dopt=Abstract

[4] “Relationship between lunar phases and serious crimes of battery: a population-based study,” Last accessed May 5, 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19840597

Covery Goodness

I have a thing for covers.

C’mon, admit it — you do too.

Jim C. Hines is probably the luckiest author I know when it comes to getting great covers. Well, maybe he’s tied with Carrie Jones, hers are awesome as well.

I’ve had some covers I loved and some I was less fond of. Over the past week or so I’ve had my work included in two new publications, which means two new covers. I adore these two, so I thought I’d share them with you. I especially love them because they are so different from one another, but each publication contains one of my zombie poems.

Firstly we have Eclectic Flash. One of my poems, Cover Up, is included in the most recent issue of Eclectic Flash. Check out this cover:

Because they use a flash player to provide their free online issue I had to take a screenshot, which means the quality isn’t as good here as it is at the website. Not by a long shot. You should click on the picture to go to the website and see for yourself. I adore that cover, it’s so cute!

I also have a poem (titled White Noise) in a spiffy new zombie anthology:

I also love this cover. The cartooniness (if it’s not a word it should be) is pretty sweet 🙂

Two very different covers, but I like them both. What do you think? Also, do you have a favourite book cover of all time? Share the love, I wanna see it 🙂