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Posts tagged ‘media’

First Monday Mentoring, July 2016 – how NOT to be a writer in the 21st Century

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring, when I answer your questions about the writing craft and the fun stuff about being a writer.

This week’s blog was inspired by an email conversation with a columnist in a regional newspaper (themselves, sadly a dying breed). The column has no website, no email, no means of getting in touch other than by mail or phone.

When I finally tracked down an email contact to compliment the writer, he was predictably pleased that I’d reached out. But on the bottom of his response was the line, “I don’t read all my emails…pick up the phone.”

Well, no. Writers don’t get to tell our readers/customers how they can read our work. That’s up to them.  I used to wonder how you could read my books on a phone. In a word, convenience. You nearly always have a phone with you.

Beacon Homeworld 2

My current Beacon sci-fi series is published by Momentum, the digital-first arm of Pan Macmillan with the last in the series, Homeworld, released last week. I had to edit the series entirely online, rather than marking up a printed copy, which used to involve a language of editorial squiggles we mostly don’t see any more. To me, the hash sign # still suggests “space out” and we’re not talking taking illicit substances, but spreading out a piece of copy.

No longer. I love hashtags because they connect people to your conversation. The Twitter hashtag #AmWriting is read by millions around the world who share an interest in the writing process.

I admit I sometimes struggle with technology. Sometimes it’s me; sometimes the technology. But I soldier on because it’s fun  being part of this exciting world.

Celebrating a couple of decades working together, my agent gifted me an iPad Mini, a generous gift by any standards. I felt totally challenged by it but persevered and it’s now the best camera I’ve ever had. Not long ago, I had a live chat on it with writer friend, Jennie Adams. For her, it was early evening in Australia. For me, it was midnight in Las Vegas and we chatted as I waited for a flight #lovemyiPad

Other ways NOT to be a writer today:

Refuse to deal with ebooks.

Like most writers, I like print books, but my Kindle has over 500 books on it. Sometimes I’ll read the ebook version because I can have it NOW. Then I’ll order a print copy, especially nonfiction, to study at leisure.

Overlook technology in your stories

I see this a lot with entrants in the Valerie Parv Award run by Romance Writers of Australia. Too often characters are stuck in last century. There’s almost nowhere your characters aren’t linked by their devices. I’m judging this year’s finalists very soon with the hashtag #ValerieParvAward on Twitter and I’ll be looking for tech savvy characters.

Change the story to take account of real life. You can only have batteries go flat so many times. Likewise, in a story, you can only have doubt about a person’s parentage for two weeks or less, before DNA testing gives the answer. In Private Sydney, written with James Patterson, Kathryn Fox wrote about new technology that gets it down to one hour and while not as detailed as the longer tests, still reveals a lot. Using technology can broaden your story. Need characters to find answers to something? Let them share on social media or Google the details. Every writer I know blesses Google for making research a breeze.

If you aren’t already, get good at researching. Writing Homeworld, the final  book in my Beacons sci-fi series, I needed to know if you could launch a space shuttle off the back of a Global Express private jet. My net search turned up the PR division of the plane’s makers who sent my query to the designers. They not only wrote back that it could be done but included diagrams, thrilling me with their generosity. Learn the tricks to search terms and dive in.

You notice the difference if you dip into the past for entertainment. I enjoy the1980s cop show, T J Hooker, starring William Shatner, my tweetheart. Thanks for that lovely word, Joanna Sandsmark. He’s seen here with fellow Star Trek alumni, Leonard Nimoy. Watching him in action is fun, but I can’t help wishing for a cellphone every time he has to find a phone to take care of police business.

Kirk T J Hooker 2

Another fav. Is  Murdoch Mysteries, a detective show set in the 1890s where everything is old school. Yannick Bisson as eye candy in the title role doesn’t hurt, either. Former VPA “minion” (what previous award winners call themselves) Erica Hayes writing as Viola Carr, writes a fun series about the daughter of Dr. Jeckyll who inherited his affliction. In these page-turners,Viola employs the tech of the day – plus some neat inventions of her own – beautifully. Don’t take my word for it. The Wall Street Journal reviewed the first in the series – you can’t do much better than that.

Currently I’m developing a book where one lead character steps back in time. The other remains in the present with all its technical goodies, while my character has to deal with the comparatively low tech of the time she finds herself in.

Love it or loathe it, this is our reality as writers today. Technology also changes how we write – but that’s a subject for another blog.

How do you deal with technology in your writing? What books do it best for you as a reader? Share your thoughts in the comments below. They’re monitored to avoid spam, but your comment can appear right away if you click on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Valerie

Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series out now!
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound OUT NOW
Beacon Continuum OUT NOW
Beacon Homeworld OUT JUNE 30

via Amazon.com.au Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk – also via
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)

Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)

Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

 

 

 

 

 

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How a writer’s agent is your good/evil twin

Today I read a blog about why authors need agents by Australian writer, Alison Booth. She describes what her agent has done for her, and how “lucky” she was that she was taken on.

I agree with all her points except, possibly, the luck part. Yes, you do need to be in the right place at the right time, even to submit the right book. But the search, the craft, the years of preparation that made Alison ready for an agent owes far more to talent and hard work than to luck. Read Alison’s blog http://writingnovelsinaustralia.com/2013/04/16/why-have-a-literary-agent-by-alison-booth/

I’ve worked with my agent, Linda Tate of The Tate Gallery in Sydney, for 20 years. I’ll write more about that closer to our anniversary in October. Now, I’d like to echo Alison’s blog and share some of what Linda and I do together. Note, I’m not saying “does for me” because the agent-author relationship is a team effort. The agent can only market what the writer writes. They can also only promote a writer who knows where they want their career to go.

Otherwise it’s like jumping into a taxi and asking the driver to take you somewhere, without telling them where. You end up paying for a ride that delivers you to the wrong destination.

The most crucial role Linda plays for me is as my good/evil twin.

Image

As twins go, we’re the Danny De Vito/Arnold Schwartzenegger variety, not in the least alike, and this is good. Linda’s way feistier than me, going where I fear to tread. She’ll telephone anyone anywhere in the service of my work. Her entertainment industry background means she sees no point in waiting endlessly to hear from a publisher. She calls them.

As my evil twin, she ensures I get paid. This is a topic for another blog, but my hobby horse is that ALL writers should be paid for professional activities, whether speaking at conferences, libraries or workshops, or selling their work. I might be reluctant to ask for a fee increase or to chase up money I’m owed, but Linda never is.

As my good twin, she analyses contracts and royalty statements. I read them, too, since I’m the one signing on the dotted line or the echo-sign these days, but she looks at contracts differently. Hands up any author who does NOT go first to the bottom line to see how much they’ve made? Linda looks at what markets a book has gone into, which are still to be exploited, and any patterns arising out of the paperwork, discussing them with me in depth. New contracts bring out her good and evil side. Good twin wants the book sold, evil goes after the best deal.

Good twin vets all promotional material. Does this biography or photo support my “brand”. How am I being presented online? In the media? At conferences? The regular status reports she prepares include updated bios in varying lengths for us to tweak. I still remember when we switched my linear (she was born…she started writing…) bio. for a shorter, web-styled look. Today we consider how my photos and book covers look as thumbnails on mobile devices. An agent can and should keep you current.

Evil twin keeps me writing. You’d think this would be good twin’s job, but she’s too nice. Sometimes a writer needs a spur to creativity, keeping you going when it’s easier to give up. Good twin is the one reading the work when it’s done, patting me on the back while evil twin keeps track of timelines and body counts. Even romance writers kill people off sometimes.

Good twin or evil twin, I wouldn’t be without either of her. What about you? How do you see the author-agent relationship?

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv

and Facebook

Read some reviews of Valerie’s latest book, Birthright at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 ways that writers are different, and why it’s OK

In my writing life spanning more than 70 published books, I’ve tried to act as though writing were a career like any other. In countless media interviews I’ve  made my work sound like your average 9 to 5 job. Until now. Today I’m coming out of the closet so to speak, and declaring what all writers secretly know – we are different. And that it’s OK.

Here are some of the ways writers are different.

1. We’re scary to our families

Not because we’re eccentric, talk to ourselves and sometimes answer, poke and pry into other lives, although we do all this. But because we pull the bandaids off old wounds, drag skeletons out of closets, and expose family secrets. They’re disguised, of course, and often our families don’t recognise themselves. But we know. And they suspect.

2. Fleeting images brand us

No, I won’t watch the latest horror flick with you. The millisecond image on the promo is already seared on my brain forever. Yes, I know it’s a comedy. My mind treats it differently and the images haunt me. The autopsy scenes from NCIS, Mr Bean bursting his airline sick bag, the face of a friend as she lay dying. These images and countless others like them will haunt me forever. I need to protect myself from some images getting in because they never get out.

Oh yes, we also have multiple personalities

Oh yes, we also have multiple personalities

3. I should write but I can’t

The stories are mapped out, the research is done, the deadline looms. And still I can’t write. Imagine I forced you to stand on the crumbling edge of the Grand Canyon. You’d feel what a writer feels when faced with a blank screen. It’s not laziness stopping us from writing. Mostly it’s fear. Of the words not measuring up to those in our minds. Of disappointing readers. Of disappointing us.

4. We exist in our own timeline

We’re not in jammies at 4pm because we’re slobs, although we may be. We’re gestating a story, poem or book. We may have been awake till 2am making notes. Society and our families would rather we were 9-5 people, but the words have their own agenda and they come when they’re ready.

5. We move the world

We record the tiny details of a sunset, a cat’s fur, a child’s laugh, a moment of such agony that we make you cry along with us. We make you love people who never lived, and hate us when we kill them off. We make our pretend worlds so real that you want to live there, and talk about them with your friends on and offline. Sometimes you live in them with us through fan fiction, costume play and conventions. All of that is OK and a great compliment.

Taking you into our worlds is what we live for. We are writers, we’re different and it’s OK.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

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on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews of Birthright at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

Home is swear the words are…or is it?

Twice on Facebook this week I wanted to “share” clever posts that I thought my friends would appreciate. I could have borrowed the posts without attributing the source but as a writer, I’m used to giving other people’s words due  credit. But…and this is a big but….both posts were under Facebook names I felt could offend some of my friends. One poster’s name included the F-word. The other posted under a name I didn’t want linked with my books.

A trap to avoid in the media is attaching someone else’s negative words to yourself.

When doing media interviews, I’ve trained myself to avoid repeating a question in such a way that the content attaches itself to me. For instance, a TV journalist once asked me if romance novels glorify rape. If I’d said, “No, I don’t think they glorify rape and here’s why…” the ugly words would have become mine. Far better to say, “I don’t agree, and here’s why…” We saw a master at work when Prime Minister Julia Gillard appeared on the ABC’s Q & A program this week. When host, Tony Jones, put what I’d call loaded questions to the PM, she answered as I’ve suggested, not repeating his words but giving the answer she wanted attached to her.

The same applies to Facebook. Had I shared the posts under the problem names, the names would have linked to me wherever they went from there on. From the responses to my post on the question, I wasn’t alone. The authors using the names have limited the number of shares they’ll receive, and their potential influence on social media.

Some people simply won’t care.

Just as many people take swearing in their stride, but as a writer, you need to consider your audience. As much as half the sales of my novels come from the United States of America. Many romance readers live in an area of the country informally called the Bible Belt. Wikipedia says this area  consists of much of the southern states extending west into Texas and Oklahoma. It’s a conservative  region where Christian church attendance and beliefs are notably high. It also comprises almost a third of the continental United States.

Do you really want to offend a third of your potential readers

Many books ago I challenged myself to let characters express their feelings without using words some readers may have a problem with. Naturally, you can’t have a big hunky hero hit his thumb with a hammer and say, “Oh bother, that hurt.” But I can show his pain and annoyance in other ways, through his reactions and body language. Showing is always better than telling IMO. In my Carramer books, set in a fictitious south-sea island kingdom, I invented my own language. In every case, I achieved the same result as if my characters had sworn, without alienating a good chunk of my readership.

Writing is about use of language. Challenge yourself to be inventive.

As writers we may never fully master our use of the English language. But as the saying goes, shoot for the moon. You may not reach your goal but you’ll still land among the stars.

Do you find swearing a challenge? How do you handle it in your writing?

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

2012 Established Writer in Residence Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre Perth

Friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

On Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook (without swearing)


 

Six things I wish I’d known about being published, when I was starting out

Hindsight is always 20/20. It’s easier to look back and see your writing career more clearly than when you’re starting out. This year marks the 30th anniversary of my first romance novel being published. I had books out before then but they were nonfiction, and nothing beats the thrill of holding your first novel. Or your 50th for that matter. For me, the excitement never wears off. Last week I received the French translation of With a Little Help, and couldn’t wait to share the news with my agent and social networks.

I still get a kick out of my translations.The guy on the cover doesn't hurt either.

While I hope the thrill never stops, I’m glad some things have changed. Today I share six things I wish someone had told me when my journey began. They may save you some needless angst.

  1. Publishing is only the beginning. I thought of having my novel published as reaching a summit. I’d plant my “successful” flag, readers would cheer and I’d never worry again. Until my editor asked, “What are you writing next? And after that?” Readers might cheer, but they also want more. There are revisions to do, proofs to read, promotion, even before social networking became everyday. Plus writers’ conferences to attend, speeches, workshops and media. Rinse and repeat with every book.
  2. You can be ‘real’, your family won’t even notice. Using aspects of my family history in stories once kept me awake nights. What if family members were offended, hurt, angry? When one book I considered especially revealing came out, they read the characters, setting and situation as fiction. In other words, they didn’t connect real life with my story. Change the names and details to protect the guilty, and sleep well.
  3. No matter how many books you sell, someone will ask what name you write under. Nearly 30 million sales on, I still get asked what name I write under. Right before how long it takes me to write a book, and where do I get my ideas. Knowing I’m often the first writer some people have met,  I answer the questions as if they’re new to me, too.
  4. The fun stuff you get to do really IS research. If you read my previous blog about this, you’ll know that everything a writer does is research, good and bad. I know writers who’ve had major surgery and taken notes because it will come in handy sometime. Everything from lazing on a tropical island to cuddling a Tasmanian devil has found its way into my books.
  5. Your family IS proud of you but won’t necessarily let you know. One sister wishes I’d write like Stephen King. Not in me to do. I can only write as me. The other used to read my magazine short stories in the supermarket queue. She changed after learning that I’d spread this around.  No one I know has asked when I’m going to write a “real” book, mainly because I’d written so many books before turning to romance. But you might get asked. Rehearse the reasons why romance is the world’s biggest-selling genre in ebooks and print. Romance Writers of Australia has all the amunition you need here: http://www.australianwomenwriters.com/2012/02/australian-romance-writing-whats-there.html
  6. Changes in publishing are NOT the end of the world. Change has been part of the industry as long as I’ve been writing. The first time my adored editor was reassigned, I was a nervous wreck.  These days I roll with the punches. Editors move on. Lines and even publishing houses merge with others, disappear or reinvent themselves online. Print books become ebooks, audio and graphic novels. The one constant is they still need writers providing exciting content. Don’t panic. To paraphrase a popular saying: Keep Calm and Keep Writing.

What have you learned on your writing journey? Please comment below, and share on Twitter, Facebook and any other medium invented while I was blogging. Change is the one constant in life, not only for writers.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

On Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook

Is there a formula for writing romance novels?

Whenever I speak about romance to the media, give an interview or a workshop, I’m asked about the formula for writing romance. Aren’t they all the same? Don’t you have a computer program where you change the names of the characters and the computer does the rest? To all these questions my answer is, I wish. How much easier would it be to press a few keys and out comes a finished book? Instead of, as someone once put it, sitting down at a keyboard and opening a vein.

There is a formula, but not like any of the above. It’s simply that two people meet and are instantly, strongly attracted.  If they are ever to give in to the attraction, they must first solve a huge problem coming between them. This problem – also called the conflict – is so big that we readers think they will never be able to resolve it and earn their happy ending.  Every keen romance reader knows they will eventually walk off into the sunset together, just as the detective in a mystery will solve the crime, the monster will be defeated in a fantasy, or the superhero will save the world. The fun lies in making readers worry that the problem will win this time around, and there will be no happy ending.

If anyone knows of a computer program capable of delivering all that, please share the details with me right away. It would save me hours of working out who my hero and heroine are, their history and emotional make-up. What is their greatest fear, and how can I put them up against a character who fulfills all their emotional fantasies while triggering their fear bigtime?

One of my favorite questions to ask couples is how they met, what brought them together, what keeps them together? Apart from being great dinner party conversation, the variety of answers is amazing. My neighbors met while sheltering from a hurricane on a South Pacific island. Two of my relatives  from England met in Australia when they found themselves on the same bus tour. An elderly friend was given a cruise ticket as a thank-you for a good deed and fell in love with a wealthy man she met on board. Truth really can be stranger than fiction.

All fiction has its conventions, like the mysteries and fantasy novels already mentioned. But formula? Hardly. Not when people and their stories are so varied. I seriously doubt that I’d have written as many romance novels as I have (over 50 at last count) with the same level of excitement if all I had to do was press keys on a computer. But wait a second…I do press keys on a computer. I just don’t have the magic program to go with it. Guess I’ll have to keep doing it all the hard way.

How did you and your partner meet? What’s your favorite fictional couple? What don’t you like to see in a romance novel? I’d love to know your answers, all in the name of research.

Valerie

Follow me on Twitter @valerieparv

http://www.valerieparv.com

 

 

 

 

 

Books in my head, inside a writer’s brain

Many years ago a dear friend, Pat Kerry, gave me a poem she’d written called Books in My Head. The last lines have stayed with me because they’re so true –  “books in my head will never get read/ unless I get up and write them.” She was talking about those dreamy times straight after waking, when our heads are full of thoughts and ideas.  Unless we get up and write them down somewhere, these precious words are likely to vanish forever. All we’ll remember is that we had a great idea, but not what it was.  Whether you record your ideas on a laptop, tablet, cellphone or a notebook kept by the bedside – and I recommend you keep something handy for this purpose – doesn’t matter as long as you capture your thoughts. You can edit and develop them later. The main thing is to get them down somewhere.  Our brains aren’t wired to make memories out of the thoughts we have in the time between sleep and waking. That’s when the slower brainwave cycles called alpha and theta waves occur and we’re most likely to have great insights and inspirations. Frustrating when you think it’s also when we’re least able to remember them.

There’s another way of looking at the lines from the poem, too. It’s that wanting to write a book, intending to write one and talking about your wonderful ideas to your friends won’t produce one page of words  unless you actually “get up and write them.” It’s probably why so many people dream of writing a book but the majority never actually do. Writing is hard work. And news flash, it doesn’t get easier with practice. As I’ve found writing 25 nonfiction books and over 50 romance novels, you get better at  putting words down in a readable order and seeing where the work can be improved. But every book is a first book. As one would-be writer asked me, “How do you know when you sit down to write, that you can do it?” The answer is, you don’t. You write to find out IF you can do it this time, with these characters, telling this story. When I sat down to write this first blog, I had no idea how it was going to turn out. All writing is a voyage of discovery. That’s the fun part. And it’s the part which keeps me writing even when the going gets tough. We writers are very lucky, we get paid for doing the very thing that got us into trouble as kids, making things up. Like my next book. And this blog. It’s no coincidence that I chose to write my first post about what’s going on in a writer’s brain. My two great loves are human psychology – what makes us tick, and how we turn books in our heads into worlds for readers to come play in. Whether you’re a reader or a writer or both, I hope you’ll come play here again soon.

Valerie

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