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Archive for August, 2010

Off to World Con and ROR

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on August 28, 2010

Before I jump in to talk about World Con, Trent, Kylie Chan, Louise Cusack, and the authors of the Johnny Marsh books were at Logan North Library today doing a talk and we had a couple of queries which I directed to this blog.

Here are some useful posts leading on from what we talked about.

Waving madly. You know who you are, the girl up the back with the list of questions. LOL

Book Structure 101 (You didn’t actually ask about this, but I’m sure you would have, if we’d had more time).

Some Useful Links for Spec Fic Writers

The Getting of an Agent

The Aspiring Writer’s Checklist

Industry Insight (This one talks about the different edits that a book goes through before publication)

And now now to WORLDCON and ROR.

See how I’ve used a crucible for today’s post illustration? That’s because getting away with other writers, critiquing books, attending panels, being on panels, buying way to many books, catching up with old friends and making new ones will help me to restore my creative crucible!

I’ll be flying out around lunch time Sunday and then nearly all the ROR will team will be in Melbourne so the blog is going to be quiet until we get back. Then we will be bursting with news!

First we will have our annual ROR. This time 4 out of the 8 RORees will be putting work through for critiquing. For info on how we run ROR see here. And for a quick insight into how to critique see here.

Trent, Richard, Maxine and I will be critiquing our books. Marianne, who is official ROR Oracle, will be coming along because she didn’t want to miss out. Imagine five writers in a room talking the instricacies of Writing Craft for 3 days solid. It would bore anyone else to tears but we get so excited by technique and passionate about obscure points of cratft.

Then it is off to World Con, where there will be panels, parties and tantrums. No. No tantrums, although there could be tears of laughter!

So until I get back, good bye for now.

Posted in Agents, Australian Spec Fic Scene, Creativity, Editors, Genre Writing, Nourish the Writer, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Facing a Little Fear

Posted by trentjamieson on August 26, 2010

Yesterday, in between marking and working on edits of book three, I thought I’d pop into a local bookstore and maybe see if they had any copies of my book, and perhaps see if they’d like a few signed bookplates. OK, so it was a work avoidance strategy.

So, I walk into the shop: check it out. There’s about twenty of my books on a table, cool. I take a deep breath, then about fifty more. Why do something when you can put it off?

Finally, before someone thinks that, maybe, I’m a shoplifter, I walk over to the counter with a copy of my book.

The assistant looks at me, then the book, and I mumble something about being the author, and would they like some bookplates.

The assistant nods their head, looks kind of impressed, or so I think – this isn’t going too badly.

Then they say, ‘We don’t sell many bookplates, but they’re over by the other counter.’

Yeah, this little author has a lot to learn about projecting his voice.

We sorted it, I stopped my mumbling, and my bookplates were handed over. Still, you’d think I could have been a little smoother.

I’ve worked in bookselling for fifteen years, but there’s still nothing scarier than going in cold to a bookstore, and asking if they’d like signed bookplates, even if they have a nice big pile of your books.

Well, there’s plenty of things scarier. But this was a good fear to face.

Selling the book doesn’t stop with the writing.

Posted in Promoting your Book | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

Woot for Margo!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on August 25, 2010

Margo’s story has been short listed for the World Fantasy Award!

“Sea-Hearts”, Margo Lanagan (X6 )

See the full list here.

Go Margo!

Here’s a review of the story. And here’s a nother one. And one more for luck!

Posted in Awards, Nourish the Writer | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Computer Games, Academics and the Unquantifiable!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on August 25, 2010

The Little Sister from Bio Shock 2.

Here’s a New Scientist article on how Games Developers are using academic research :

‘Using data mining to study how gamers play existing titles, though, can give developers instant rewards, such as identifying points in a game where players are likely to become frustrated or bored. The insights could help to tailor future releases to make them more satisfying.’

Wouldn’t it be great if we could analyse why some books grab the imagination of a generation? Twilight, Lord of the Rings, Dune.

What makes a book memorable? Why do some book resonate with readers?

Posted in Genre Writing, Publishers, Research, Sales, Writing Craft, Writing for Computer Games | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Writing Process

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on August 21, 2010

Jane Austen’s Writing Desk: Photo by Stuart Freeman

About fifteen years ago, my husband gave me a book which had the draft first chapter of well known books followed by the printed first chapter. By reading one after the other you could see the process that the writer went through to polish the first chapter. (Don’t ask me what the title was, I can’t remember).

In the foreword the editor said that, with the advent of computers (see it was a long time ago) we were losing this kind of record of the writing process. In the past, the original hand written or typed manuscript of a classic might be donated to the national library. This way the development of the book from draft to printed version was saved for posterity.

Now we write over the old version. (Although I do admit that if I am going to make major changes to the structure of the book I save the earlier manuscript as V1, meaning Version One). Still, I would never bother to print off a copy of my earlier version and even though I do constant saves of my work-in-progress to USBs I’m sure these earlier versions will be lost.

All of which brings me to the Writing Process. For those of us who are writers, it isn’t mysterious, but for non-creative people it is arcane and hard to comprehend.

It is pretty amazing when you consider that we sit down with a blank word document and pull worlds and people out of our heads, weaving them into stories.

What prompted this post was an article in the UK Daily Telegraph about Jane Austen’s manuscripts drafts which will be on display. (For the full article see here). Ceri Radford says:

‘The two draft chapters of Persuasion that will be on display show neat, looped writing, occasionally scoured out with thick, angry black lines. It is a visceral thrill to see a favourite writer’s thought processes on paper; to realise that the sentences etched on to the page with such elegant certainty were scribbled out and scrawled back in again. It draws a direct line between the book on your bedside table and the woman who sat frowning at her desk, nearly 200 years ago.’

Much thought has been given to the Writing Process (not by me, I must confess – I just sit down and write). Crawford Kilian from Dark Waves has a page dedicated to it with many sub links from Developing Efficient Work Habits to Reading a Contract.

ROR’s own Richard Harland  has a large section on his Writing Tips on .Good Writing Habits. In his Preparation section there are 8 subheadings. Writing Through contains 7 subheadings and Feedback and Revision contains 9. (I feel thoroughly ashamed!)

And then there is this site compiled by Sue LeBeau on The Writing Process. Every thing from the ABC of the Writing Process to Revise Wise Writing Activity.

As for my Writing Process. I just sit down and write and when I get stuck, I get up and clean something. There’s always something that needs cleaning. I find repetitive mindless activity really good for freeing the subconscious brain to make those intuitive leaps.

Twice in the last week I’ve woken up with the solution to a plot problem, one that I didn’t even know I had!

So there it is. What is your Writing Process?

Posted in Creativity, Nourish the Writer, Research, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »

World Con Fever

Posted by mdepierres on August 19, 2010

… is amongst us. Only about ten days to go until a lot of us hit Melbourne for the once-in-every-ten-year event. My calendar is filling up with fun things. I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.

So far I’m going to the Orbit Hugo’s party, hanging out at the Twelfth Planet Press table to sign copies of Glitter Rose, catching up with Orbiteers – my mentees from the Orbit Manuscript Development week in 2008, interviewing YA authors for the Burn Bright site, manning the SFWA suite, sneaking into the Voyager party, gabbing on panels galore, signing at Borders South Wharf and … phew my head is starting to swim. Then there’s the FB friends party and the every-other-room-party.

What are you guys going to do down there? Hope you’re planning to make the most of it! What things have I missed out on?

And before I head off to pack  here’s my all time hangover cure … see you at the breakfast bain-marie.

Marianne x

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene | Tagged: , | 12 Comments »

Male Characters and Male Readers or What do men really want in a book?

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on August 14, 2010

Following on from the recent discussion on the blogs about YA readership, books for girls with strong female characters and books for boys with identifiable male characters I thought I’d dip into character construction, specifically male characters for male readers, which is really cheeky because I’m female, I’ve never been male and I’m not likely to be. But I do have four sons and a husband. (I’ve nicknamed my house Testosterone City).

Over at Tamora Pierce’s blog on why she writes for girls, she says ‘These days, whether anyone believes it or not, 6-7 of the books published for kids through teens still have male heroes. Not much of a change, is it? A study done on picture books recently pointed out that the majority of human characters in those books were men, shown doing active work, while women were shown in domestic settings, doing nurturing tasks. Not operating steam shovels.’

(As a side note to this, I watch the British TV shows Grand Designs which is follows couples building their homes. They repeatedly interview the women in their kitchens preparing food).

Peirce refers to Hannah Moskowitz’s post on ‘The Boy Problem’ where Hannah talks about the type of male characters prevalent in YA books and why boy readers don’t relate to them.

The cry seems to be that we need more books for boys once they leave the middle primary grades to get them reading. When I mentioned this discussion to a work colleague who writes for computer games, she said that a book can’t compete with a computer game where the player is the character having the adventure!

So we are losing the next generation of male readers to computer games. Meanwhile, women make up the majority of readers, they buy more books. See Eric Weiner’s article ‘Why Women Read More Than Men. ‘Among avid readers surveyed by the Associated Press, the typical woman read nine books in a year, compared with only five for men. Women read more than men in all categories except for history and biography.’

Which brings us to the male reader. What does the hypothetical male reader want?

Apparently it is not books about disempowered women. Over on her blog, Glenda Larke is objecting to male readers who are uncomfortable with her exploration of female choices in a time of war. She says:

‘Stormlord Rising is a fantasy novel, but it does deal with issues of war and its effects, especially on the woman and children who are caught up in the battle. Ok, so it’s a story, not a treatise, but it touches on things like: how much should a woman do to keep her unborn baby safe? Should a woman use her sexual allure and her body to stay alive? How much should you compromise your principles for those you love?’

These are realistic questions, and it is good to see them being explored in a fantasy setting. But this particular male reader found it confronting.

Consider this – a man might never have to confront the reality of being disempowered. He won’t have to cope with snide sexual references at work and then be told he’s a bad sport if he complains. Unless he ends up in prison, he will probably never have to fear rape.

If you ask this hypothetical male reader to empathise with a character who has to deal with these things you will lose him. (Obviously there are male readers who can empathise with female characters just as there are boy readers who will read a book with a female protagonist as the point of view character).

My male relatives are particularly keen on Bernard Cornwall’s books. These are always well researched and contain strong male characters battling against violent times while remaining true to what they believe in. Cornwall’s books deliver a ripping read and they sell really well so he knows how to write convincing male characters which appeal to the male reader.

There are plenty of articles on writing good characters. See Holly Lisle on How to Create a Character.

This is an amusing take on how men think from the Romance University. (Contains feedback from real males). And here is a follow up post.

But I did not find a lot of information on writing male characters. I found this interesting article On Writing Convincing Male Characters at Advanced Fiction, by Randy Ingermanson. He uses this as an example:

Apparently, when a guy says, “Your hair looks nice today,” a lot of women assume there is some hidden meaning, such as:

  • Your hair usually looks terrible. It’s about time you did something right with it.
  • Your makeup is a mess, but at least your hair is OK.
  • You’re fat. The hair compensates a little, but you’re still fat.
  • Let’s hop in bed, you nymph, you.

The reality is that when a guy says, “Your hair looks nice today,” the secret encoded message which he hopes you pick up is, “Your hair looks nice today.” In the vast majority of cases, that’s all he means. No more. No less. There is no implication that your hair looked bad yesterday or that your makeup suffers by comparison or that you have a weight problem or that it’s time for a roll in the hay.’

So to write a good male character you need to understand the way the typical male mind works while bearing in mind that you are writing a distinct person who happens to be male. That person is going to be shaped by their upbringing and the society in which they now live.

This might sound obvious, but you don’t want to write a 15th century European mercenary with modern sensibilities who is worried about not polluting the environment, although an awareness of the environment would be believable in a native whose survival depended on the stream not being fished out.

Having worked with young males (aged 18-25) over the last year, helping them develop their writing skills, I’ve noticed that 7 out of 10 of these young males want to read stories about gaining warrior skills, then going out and battling evil with a group of other young males. This is hardly surprising since we’ve survived as a species because our males were willing to defend the tribe. The remaining 3 males (out of that group of 10) write exquisitely romantic stories about falling in love. (Romantic in the sweet, sensitive way not the Hallmark card way). And then there is one every so often who writes about a warrior who falls in love with a girl and her sole purpose is not to admire him, but to complete him.

This is hardly a scientific observation, but it does come from practical experience. And you will notice that Bernard Cornwall’s Sharpe usually has a romantic interlude with a woman which, while it lasts, is very important to him.

So there you have it. Give the male reader a character he can admire, who stays true to his beliefs, and who is believable bearing in mind his time period. Give the character injustice to fight, the skills to fight it so there is a chance of him winning and a woman he cares about, and you have the seeds of gripping story. (Sounds like a good story for readers of any gender).

Males out there, feel free to comment. I know I’m going out on a limb here, claiming to know what male readers want in male characters.

Posted in Characterisation, Research, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments »

Death Most Definite Launch

Posted by trentjamieson on August 9, 2010

So it’s finally happened, I’ve got me a book out, and all it needs to be is launched.

If you’re in Brisbane, free on Friday the 13th of August (that’s this Friday) come along to Avid Reader, 193 Boundary Rd, West End. My little book’s going to be seen off by Marianne de Pierres (visionary SF superstar), Paul Landymore (bookseller at large) and me (nervous writer type). It should be a lot of fun.

If you’d like to come along you need to book at Avid Reader by emailing or   (07) 3846 3422

You can also book online – follow the link.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Launches, Covers, Promoting your Book, Publishing Industry | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

E-books, where is publishing going?

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on August 7, 2010

Today is not a craft post, it is a ramble on e-books and the publishing industry. I don’t claim to have the answers. Like everyone else, I’m on the same the rollercoaster ride.

Between Janet Evanovich asking $50 million advance from  St Martin’s Press and moving to Random House to get it (see Forbes article) and Dorchester closing down its print arm and going into e-books, we live in interesting times. (See the Publishers Weekly article). The Evanovich saga has to be influenced by the fact that Katherine Heigl is going to play Stephanie Plum in the movie version of ‘One for the Money’.

See Catherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum.

The rest of us aren’t selling 75 million copies of our books. So we aren’t in Evanovich’s position. We are sitting back watching the rise of e-books and wondering where it will all lead.

In Australia we don’t use e-book readers as much as they do in the US. I did a survey of several Australian e-lists on the topic of e-books, collated the replies and did a post back in May. You can see it here. While we sit on the fence and notice e-reader on the train as a novelty, over in the US agent Kirsten Nelson talks about how her grandmother wants an e-reader. On the Mad Genius Club shared blog (MGC) the majority of the writers are based in the US and the future of e-books is on their minds. (17 posts on e-books, 5 on e-publishing).

They talk about reaching a ‘tipping point’ where the sales of e-books outstrip the sales of paperbacks. According to Amazon, e-book sales have topped hardcover sales. For those who like figures Amazon say they’ve been selling 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcovers. (July 19, 2010).

And then you have literary agent Andrew Wylie, who started his own publishing venture to produce e-books available through Amazon exclusively.  There is a dispute going on over who owns the rights to older books, contracted before the arrival of e-books. And if a publisher can keep just a few print books available, how can a writer retrieve the rights to their intellectual property. See Konrath’s post about this.

According to an academic study (results released in March this year) print books which also released e-book versions for free generated more print sales. See the Journal of Electronic Publishing for this article. Sean William’s ‘The crooked Letter’ was one of the titles covered.

And then there is the question of e-book DRM, bascially the content is locked so that it can only be read on certain readers. (For more on DRM see here). Cory Doctorow  talks about DRM here.  He is very suspicious of the whole thing. He says: ‘This led me to formulate something I grandiosely call Doctorow’s First Law: “Any time someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you, and won’t give you a key, they’re not doing it for your benefit.”‘

I know the readers of e-books in the states who comment on the MCG blog are indignant about not being able to read a book they’ve purchased if they change their reader.  Cory Doctorow makes this point:

‘If you think about it, this is a rather curious circumstance, because it means that once a technology company puts a lock on a copyrighted work, the proprietor of that copyright loses the right to authorize his audience to use it in new ways, including the right to authorize a reader to move a book from one platform to another. At that point, DRM and the laws that protect it stop protecting the wishes of creators and copyright owners, and instead protect the business interests of companies whose sole creative input may be limited to assembling a skinny piece of electronics in a Chinese sweatshop.’
And then there are mid-list authors who have a following, who get dropped by their publisher, who now have the option of releasing their back lists on Amazon as e-books or even releasing new titles. As long as they have an established name and their readers are keen to find their books they’ll sell and they will be getting a lot more than 10% of the net.

So here we are back at the beginning, where is the publishing industry heading? Is there going to be tipping point regarding e-book sales? Will paperback publishing end up catering to a niche market?

Who has an e-book reader? I’m tempted. I keep thinking it would be so much easier to carry on the train, with a selection of books.

Posted in e-books, Publishing Industry | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Kylie Chan Book Giveaway Winner

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on August 5, 2010

Kylie said: give the book to Beth, she wrote a very thoughtful and descriptive reason for liking Michael.

So Beth, can you email me?  rowena(@)corydaniells(dot)com

Congratulations and enjoy!

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Visiting Writer | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »