Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Know Your Genre – Speculative Fiction

How many times have you heard that? If we are to ever write something worth publishing, we must know how our book differs from all that has come before. This is essential in marketing your book to agents, editors, and ultimately readers. As agents are fond of saying, your book’s genre is where it gets shelved in a brick-and-mortar bookstore.

With the rise of e-books and self-publishing along with the current trend of postmodern genre mash-ups, the importance of genre may be slightly decreasing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know your stuff. Consider it another part of the research process.

That’s why I’m so freaked out about attending Taos Toolbox next month, a two-week science fiction and fantasy novel writing workshop. I write speculative fiction, of course, but I know I’m not as well versed as I should be in the field.

Sure I’ve read Tolkien and Lewis; Le Guin, L’Engle, Bradbury, and McKinley; Susan Cooper and Lloyd Alexander; and later Phillip Pullman and Garth Nix. I also read my fair share of Piers Anthony and too many Star Wars novels to count. But current stuff? No so much. You’ll also note how much of the authors above trend toward more young adult stories.

So of course I started hunting around on the interwebs to see what was considered required reading for speculative fiction.

io9 provides a wonderful overview of the genre with their Syllabus and Book List for Novice Students of Science Fiction Literature. The list is described thusly:
It is not comprehensive. It is intended to introduce the novice student of SF literature to the major themes in the genre, as well as books and authors who are representative of different eras in SF lit (including the present day).
And I’ve read just 7 of the 24 titles listed. Yikes.

Last year, NPR ran a poll for the 100 best books in science fiction and fantasy. I fared better here, having read 29 of the top 50 books (and another 14 of books 51-100). But still, there are plenty of gaps in my reading.

Earlier this month, Kirkus Review ran a series on Social Science Fiction (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). And while I haven’t read all of the books they mentioned, it’s clear that social science fiction is one of the areas I’m better versed in. That and young adult SFF up until two years ago (when I essentially stopped pleasure reading and started writing more).

This is good since I tend to write more socio-cultural speculative fiction stories in addition to YA. There’s still more work to do, but at least I’m not a complete slouch in the sub-genres I’m writing in.

What about you?

For more recommendations:

Adult SFF: David Brin's List of "Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy Tales"
SFF Short Stories: Bibliophile Stalker’s Short Story Collections for the Aspiring Speculative Fiction Writer
YA SFF: Book Review Blog Charlotte’s Library

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kreativ Blogger Award

Last week, I was awarded the Kreativ Blogger award.

Yay! But the award comes with a price.

RULE 1 – Thank and link back to the awarding blog.

Thanks goes to Elizabeth Twist, a blogging buddy of mine, who has been equal parts entertaining in her posts about some of the more esoteric and creepy parts of our world (check out her A to Z challenge series) and inspiring in her ability to take some of the weirder calls out there and make story magic.

Thanks so much, Elizabeth!

RULE 2 – Answer the following seven questions:

1. Name one song you listened to over and over as a teenager.

George Gershwin's Cuban Overture. I'm not kidding. In fact, I listened to only classical music until my freshman year of high school. That's when my friends had an intervention, and it was alternative and indie rock from then on out. Now I listen to just about anything that's not super hard-core rap, metal, or country *shudder*

2. What's your favorite dessert?

Anything chocolate. This is usually a good place to start (and it's as good as it sounds). Though now that summer is less than a month away, there's nothing better than a slice of key lime pie on a warm evening.

3. What do you do when you're upset?

That depends. Are we talking upset-sad or upset-mad? The former involves some sort of alone time where I read or listen to music to distract me. The latter usually involves me playing a shoot-em-up video game so I don't bite someone's head off.

4. Which is your favorite pet?

Umm...I have just the one. And how could she not be my favorite?

5. Which do you prefer? White or whole wheat?

Whole wheat. Unless it's Thanksgiving. My family's traditional stuffing calls for white bread. Nom.

6. What is your biggest fear?

Failure. That and spiders.

7. Do you think it is better to help people or leave them alone?

My initial thought is that people should have the freedom to fail (or succeed) on their own terms. You learn a lot more that way. And some things can't be taught, only experienced. That said, there's a greater potential for karma points when you help others. So it depends, on both the person needing the help and the situation.

RULE 3 – Provide ten five random factoids about yourself.
  • I really hate talking about myself.
  • I can crack my jaw.
  • I only get pedicures for the calf massage.
  • I was born on Good Friday.
  • I am allergic to cats. Plus they take over your mind.
Thanks again, Elizabeth, for the Kreativ Blogger award! Be sure to check out her blog or on twitter.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Balancing Promotion

We’ve all seen the twitter streams that read something like: Buy my book. Check out this review. Buy my book! Pretty please? Tell your friends.

I usually don’t bother following back folks like this because, for me, twitter is all about content. If I don’t like your content or find it to be redundant or annoying, I’ll delete your follow notification without a second thought. Same with blogs that are solely focused on promotion.

I used to think these people were desperate and/or looking to make a quick buck. But as I started getting some of my own stories published, I realized promotion is hard.

Well, yes, I know that is rather obvious. But knowing it and experiencing it are different. At least for me.

I was fortunate enough to have a couple of stories come out around the same time. And of course I wanted to share the news with the readers of this blog. Since I’ve been posting approximately once a week, these more promotion-oriented posts became more prominent, simply because there wasn’t my more standard content to balance them out.

I could have delayed the announcements, spread them out a bit more, but there’s also the publisher’s expectation that I’ll be promoting my work as well to support the publication.

What to do? On the one hand, I’m diluting my own content with promotion posts. On the other, I’m not exactly forcing you to visit the blog from your google reader or what-have-you, so there’s no reason to not post what I want to post.

Then with the Kickstarter campaign for the Memory Eater anthology (which was successful!), I not only posted an interview with the editor and a contest opportunity, but I was also tweeting just under once a day about the anthology and the crowdsourcing campaign.

When I saw how much the Memory Eater tweets were taking over my stream, I started being more diligent by including other types of content (daily writing observations, RTs and other resources) to better space out the promotion tweets. That way I was still doing what I could to support the campaign, but I wasn’t totally drowning my followers with promo either. At least that was the intention.

And all this hand wringing and promotional effort went into just a couple of short stories.

I’m beginning to understand why folks with a book (or books) that they’ve devoted so much time to creating get so darn aggressive in promoting the hell out of them.

So here are my (admittedly limited) insights into balancing promotion:

Promotion is sometimes necessary, and that’s ok. After all, why blog or tweet in the first place if you’re not promoting yourself? Give yourself permission to celebrate your victories. Publishing is hard enough without feeling guilty about promoting your achievements. The people who are interested in you and your work will be interested in learning about your successes.

But don’t forget about your primary mission in blogging and tweeting. Here, my goal is to talk about the writing life, which covers a wide range of topics. I need to remember that some people appreciate my more resource-oriented posts versus ones where I talk about my story ideas. So we’re back to balance, in all things.

When gearing up for a promotion blitz, try not to dilute your normal content/brand too much. You don’t want to be that person people start to unfollow because you got too aggressive pushing your work. Remember the line: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Consider promotion as the medicine, and your job is to have enough sugar going on, people don’t mind the medicine part so much.

Try to find ways to add value to your promotion efforts. This can feel like a transparent strategy, but it is a good way to talk about your publications without lowering your standards for quality content. Interviews with an anthology editor, the submission process for finding the right fit, the worldbuilding behind a particular story… These are all posts with more substance than just “Read my work.”

Best of luck in your own promotion efforts and finding the balance that works best for you! And if you’ve had the good fortune of having something to promote, what strategies did you employ to get the word out?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ!

A smile. An encouraging word. A thoughtful gesture. Each day people interact with us, help, and make our day a bit brighter and full. This is especially true in the Writing Community. 

Take a second to think about writers you know, like the critique partner who works with you to improve your manuscript. The writing friend who listens, supports and keeps you strong when times are tough. The author who generously offers council, advice and inspiration when asked.

So many people take the time to make us feel special, don't they? They comment on our blogs, re-tweet our posts, chat with us on forums and wish us well on our writing journeys.

Kindness ROCKS! 
To commemorate the release of their book The Emotion Thesaurus, Becca and Angela at The Bookshelf Muse are hosting a TITANIC Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ. And because I think KINDNESS is contagious, I'm participating too!

I am picking L. Blankenship, who has provided me with invaluable feedback and insight into my short stories and novels. For my RAOK gift, I'm sending her an autographed copy of Jane Lindskold's Through Wolf's Eyes, since I know she is such a fan of hard fantasy

So be sure to check out L. Blankenship, who blogs at Notes from the Jovian Frontier on Tuesday and Thursdays as well as contributes to Science in my Fiction.

Do you know someone special that you'd like to randomly acknowledge? Don't be shy--come join us and celebrate! Send them an email, give them a shout out, or show your appreciation in another way. Kindness makes the world go round.

Becca and Angela have a special RAOK gift waiting for you as well, so hop on over to The Bookshelf Muse to pick it up.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Not Happening

Check out the ransom note generator here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Contest for The Memory Eater Anthology

I wanted to let you know that there's a contest going on right now to promote The Memory Eater Anthology I'm apart of.

There's a number of great prizes available to folks who help promote the contest via social media outlets, and I will also be offering first chapter critiques to the first five people who donate to the kickstarter fund.

We're little over 75% funded and need 1k more in just 9 days, so please spread the word. And if you are interested in all things speculative, consider pre-ordering the anthology.

 Memory Eater Links:
 And remember, if you are interested in a crit from me, the first five people who email me (thebluestockingblog AT gmail DOT com) their Kickstarter acknowledgement get a first chapter critique.

Thank you all for your support!
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