Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Best and Worst Advice for Writers

Quit. Quit now.

This is both the best and worst possible advice for a beginning writer.

Why the worst possible advice? Because it’s a dream killer. After all, this person is at the very beginning of what could possibly be a long journey, with many ups and downs along the way.

If a certain group of Polynesian people had quit at the beginning of their journey, we wouldn’t have Easter Island. If Stephen King had quit at the beginning? Or Debbie Macomber? All that wonderful work would never have existed.

Ah, but it’s also the best possible advice — it forces the baby writer to make a choice between letting somebody else control her dreams and taking control of her dreams for herself.

If you control your own dreams, you’re responsible for making them come true and that can be scary. But if you let somebody else push you around from the beginning, you’ll never make it in publishing.

It’s too rough out there for the tenderhearted; everybody with the ability to jot down a shopping list will have an opinion on your creations, and most of those opinions will boil down to, “I could have done this better.” This is normally self-delusion, but it’s still painful to hear when applied to your work.

I speak from experience; I’ve had blind critiques where I could tell the person on the other end (a volunteer) spent a lot of time and effort…rewriting every one of my sentences in her voice. Circling every word ending in “ly” — including those in dialog. Telling me I used the wrong font. Since I was a typesetter for ten years, this one particularly makes my eyelid twitch; thank goodness it’s becoming far less common.

And those weren’t agents or editors, just other writers trying to help. It can be brutal out there, even from people who get it and are trying to help. I once had to tell a writer that Nephritis is a bad name for an Egyptian queen, because it means kidney disease (I meant it in the best possible way, but still — ouch).

If the advice to quit now makes you sad and disappointed, maybe you should quit; maybe you don’t have the rhino-hide it takes. But if “Quit now” makes you angry and determined, it might be the best advice for you. Sometimes the fire in the belly needs a match to get started.

Now that I think about it, the advice — and the reaction to it — isn’t just for writers; it’s for anything where there’s a lot of competition and you’re just getting started in learning a new skill, whether that skill is artistic, work-related, cultural, or in extreme sports. Whatever.

Go find a match and get that fire going.

Friends with Good Books

One of the things I like about living in Boise is that the genre writing community is fairly small, so you end up knowing other writers — some published, some not yet.

Here are some of the local people I know (or at least have met more than once) who have written, in my opinion, pretty good books. If I’ve left out anyone, it’s because I’m a ditz and I’ve forgotten them, but definitely not because I think their work is sub-par.

Rebecca Clark – contemporary romance
Rachel Gibson – contemporary romance
Laura Lee Guhrke – historical romance
Jan Hambright – romantic suspense
Robin Lee Hatcher – inspirational women’s fiction
Stef Ann Holm – historical romance
Kathy Hurley – fantasy and science fiction
Kelly Jones – historical art-centered mystery
Jennie Lucas – contemporary romance
Ken McConnell – space opera and computer-centered mystery
Joanne Pence – food-centered mystery
Amberly Smith – gay romance
Charlene Teglia – hot paranormal romance, she moved away a little while ago, but she still counts
Candis Terry – contemporary romance

Check them out.

Just a Quick Note or Two

For Anyone Who Cares…
1. My friend Charli Teglia finally had her baby July 5; Zoe and mom are doing fine. I stopped biting my nails as soon as I saw the first photo — Charli had been on bed rest for several weeks. Zoe is adorable, of course.

2. Last night I put together the first of three six-foot-tall mahogany bookshelves. They are sturdy, and heavy (about 100 pounds each), and the first non-cheap-and-crappy book-holding devices I have ever owned. They also have leashes to anchor them to walls, which I love, since I can just see Stuart (the 18-pound cat) trying to pull one over on himself. I am sore today, but happy with my purchase. Did I mention I got them on sale for 20% off the regular price? Yes, I did (tiny squee goes here).

3. This morning a left-turning bicyclist almost hit me as I was preparing to turn right into the cul-de-sac street where my job’s office building is located. To understand why this is alarming, you need to know that, in Idaho, bicycles are vehicles; the not-entirely-bright cyclist was making a left turn from the left side of the left lane — riding against traffic, which is illegal.

If you live in Idaho and ride a bicycle on the streets, please remember that you’re driving a vehicle. Behave as if you’re a pedestrian and get nailed? Too bad, since you were the one breaking the law. I really, really don’t want this to happen to anyone (even that idiot from this morning, LOL).

4. On the writing front, Sasha from “Getting Lucky” is vexing me. What is it about men — even fictional men — that they don’t communicate, with themselves or anyone else? (Spooky Man isn’t bad about it, but he’s been through VA therapy.) I should have had the first draft of this novella written by now, but no, the main character has to be a pain in the, ah, neck. Maybe I’ll argue with him while assembling bookshelf #2 tonight.

5. The lovely programming folks from Emerald City Writers Conference asked me to have “Plotting the Character-Driven Novel” prepped as a reserve workshop in case of cancellation. Since they’ve already had a keynote speaker cancel due to unforeseen circumstances (Alyssa Day! She’s fabulous and I won’t get to see her!), I’m taking this seriously.

Partners in Crime, the Boise chapter of Sisters in Crime, asked me to give the workshop “This is Your Brain on Love” at their October meeting–which is the same workshop I’ll be giving at Emerald City. They said I could warm up on them, which I thought was very nice of them.

Modern Physics for Writers, online August 6-Sept 2, 2012

Modern Physics for Writers

All matter is made of strings! Universes are created when membranes collide! Invisible Dark Matter is 80% of everything! Dark energy is blowing the universe apart! There are four dimensions, no 10, no 11 dimensions—no, nine dimensions! Searching for The God Particle!

Sometimes theoretical physics sounds like screaming tabloid headlines, and makes about as much sense. Want to know the truth behind the headlines? Because, really, truth is stranger than fiction—or at least mathematically derived theoretical concepts are stranger than our everyday experiences.

Some of the more esoteric concepts are quite useful in fiction, both for science fiction and paranormal worlds. And there’s very little math; when you get to this level of physics, nobody outside the particular sub-branch understands it, anyway. So let’s delve into the mysterious reality inside the atom and outside the galaxy, look at current theories for tying them together and maybe think about how to use it in our stories.

Topics covered include:
Physics in the 19th and 20th centuries – Inside the Atom and Outside the Planet

  • How Einstein ruined everything, with help from Planck, Thompson, Geiger, Rutheford, Bohr, Schrodinger, Heisenberg , and even the grandfather of EMF, Michael Faraday.
  • The whole light thing – Particle vs. Wave cage match, including quantum entanglement, leaping, tunneling, de-coherence; this is where reality gets really weird.
  • What’s in an atom and why I hate Werner Heisenberg (Schrodinger’s cat, observing is changing, uncertainty, quantum entanglement).
  • The God particle (Higgs Boson) and the theory behind it.
  • Dark matter, dark energy

The dark secret: General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics don’t work together

  • Trying to Resolve the Feud and Create a Theory of Everything:
  • String Theory – getting worse before it gets better
  • Supergravity and the 11th dimension
  • M-Theory, Elegant and Unprovable

What does this mean to writers?

  • Solid matter…isn’t; wave theory and quantum phase change
  • Eleven dimensions and multiple universes for SF writers: wormholes, FTL travel, gravitons, time
  • Implications for non-SF writers: Time travel, ghosts, magic, ESP, mythical creatures

To register, go to the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter of Romance Writers of America:

A Public Service Announcement

Calling all fellow writers and readers. Popular Fiction Assoc. of Idaho who puts together the Mayhem in the Grove conference (formerly known as Murder in the Grove) are seeking new members to join our group. Since our conference is now open to all genre fiction, we would like to invite people from all local writing groups to join us at this informational meeting. During this meeting we hope to map out the future of the Mayhem in the Grove conference and the nonprofit organization.

We work together to bring to Idaho creative workshops, coveted agents and editors and our favorite authors.This is your chance to be a part of something incredibly fulfilling and challenging.

Over the years we have had some tremendous talent come to the Treasure Valley and we want to keep that spirit alive by bringing in new members with new and fresh ideas. Come to our meeting at Hastings located at Overland and Five Mile on Saturday August 20th, 7:00 pm. Bring your ideas and your enthusiasm and join us.

Victoria Gray
Mayhem in the Grove, member-at-large

Greetings from the Green Zone, Baghdad, 2006

Not really, but good gravy it sounds like it right now. People have been setting off fireworks for three days straight; last night I heard fireworks (or a firefight, hard to tell) at 2 a.m. And we’re geographically situated to get noise and light from three different municipal fireworks shows, which doesn’t help.

Spooky Man has taken to naming calibers whenever a particularly close explosion happens — and let’s not kid ourselves, fireworks are nothing more than controlled explosions.

“That was a 38 or a 9-mil,” or “Hmm, grenade launcher, I think,” has been most of his conversation this evening. About fifteen minutes ago he turned to me and said, “Is it just me, or are there a lot more illegal fireworks this year?” I guess it’s a sign of an improving economy: people can afford to spend money on decorative explosives.

Too bad all of my fur babies are traumatized and huddled around me in the bedroom, where the sounds are more muffled. Note to self: Ask vet about sedatives next year. And maybe PTSD therapy for pets.

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