Sunday, January 21, 2018

Life Outside the Storyline

I'm currently reading BEATRIX POTTER'S GARDENING LIFE: THE PLANTS AND PLACES THAT INSPIRED THE CLASSIC CHILDREN'S TALES. In it, author Marta McDowell first outlines the life of "Miss Potter" and then goes through a year of plants and flowers. She illustrates both sections with photographs of the actual gardens and "Miss Potter"'s art, and with quotations from her letters.

I say "Miss Potter" in quotation marks, because Beatrix preferred her married name, Mrs. Heelis. The book leaves the impression that Beatrix Potter, author, was much more Beatrix Heelis, gardener. 

When my grandfather went into the hospital and then into a nursing home, I found that his treatment shifted slightly but discernibly when I brought in a picture of him as a young man. Life outside the storyline of "an elderly man needing care" changed him into "THIS man who is now elderly."

And that made me think about genre v literary writing. Everybody says, "Know your characters inside and out -- and then leave most of it out of the book." I think that's more true of genre writing than literary. I think genre books focus nearly exclusively on the storyline, with peripherals coming in as subplots. I think literary books focus on life outside the storyline, with the storyline simply being the thread through the beads.

What do you think?

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Thursday, December 21, 2017

New Publication: SWORD & SORCERESS 32

I'm pleased as punch to announce that Marion Zimmer Bradley's SWORD & SORCERESS 32 is now available for purchase. The reason I'm so pleased is that I have a story in it!

I'm even more pleased by the company I'm keeping:
Sword & Sorceress 32, edited by Elisabeth Waters, was published November 2, 2017 and is entirely suitable as a gift for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Twelfth Night, Winter Solstice, Yule, etc.
It is available in trade paperback, and for iBook, Kindle, Kobo, and Nook.
Contents:
Women's WorkPauline J. Alama
Hostages of HoneycombMarian Allen
The Sound of the MoonRobin Wayne Bailey
Finding TruthLorie Calkins
Wight NightsSteve Chapman
Royal DaughtersElaine Cunningham
UnexpectedSuzan Harden
Save a PrayerMercedes Lackey
Sky, Clouds, and SonamCatherine Mintz
Shaman's QuestKevin L. O'Brien
Authority FiguresMichael H. Payne
The Girl from Black Point RockDeborah J. Ross
Till the Cows Come HomeL.S. Patton
Deadly QuestionsJonathan Shipley
The Nature of WraithsDave Smeds
Add a Cup of TerrorMichael Spence & Elisabeth Waters
A Librarian in DistressRose Strickman
Expiration DateJulia H. West

Grab a copy for yourself! Makes a great gift, too! No, really.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

NaNo Pep Talk

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, but I have friends who are, and I have friends who would like to, so I'm doing my annual NaNo pep talk.

NaNo Pep Talk 2017

by Marian Allen

You cannot "lose" at NaNo
however few your words.
The "word count" is a goal, you know,
and "winning"'s for the birds.
The point is not to "make it";
the point is just to think --
to think about your writing goals
or just step off the brink.
With NaNo, you just concentrate
and concretize your goals.
It's possible you'll write a lot
of plot, including holes;
but maybe you'll just realize
that you don't write this way.
It may be you're a slowby
not a sprinter. That's okay!
Relax! Enjoy! Just savor
the pleasure of immersion
in writing -- your own flavor --
your NaNo -- your own version.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, October 21, 2017

But How Long Is A Piece Of String? reblogged from MarianAllen.com

The Reedsy folks have put together a post on novel lengths. Yes, that's supposed to be plural. If you don't already know, lemme tell ya: Different genres generally have different ranges of word count. Books for different ages have different ranges of word count. Even different publishers can have different ranges of word count they prefer to see.
As always, you need to check a publisher's or agent's guidelines before submitting the book. Better yet, have a word count range in mind -- not before you write or as you write, but certainly as you edit.

This Reedsy post covers most, if not all, of the bases, including the fact that there will always be exceptions. Also including the fact that you're heading for heartbreak if you count on being one of those exceptions.

As for my title, I asked an agent once how long my fantasy novel needed to be, and he said, "How long is a piece of string?" The answer supposedly being, "How long does it need to be?" The appropriate answers, though, might have been, "How long does a publisher want it before they'll look at it?" or "How long does a reader looking for your sort of book expect?"

'Cause, look: Maybe you write for your own pleasure or artistic expression, but once you step into the marketplace, you're in somebody else's sandbox. You write for you; you sell for the buyer. If that irritates or sullies you, I'm sorry. Either accept and deal with that or you might as well go all Emily Dickinson and fill a desk drawer with with your work. Even if you self-publish, if you want to sell your self-published book, you need for somebody to buy it, amIright?

Think of word count within or just outside expectations as a tool in your grasp, rather than as an imposition. If you choose to (or feel you must) ignore what the marketplace advises, try to realize you choose to put that tool aside and to work without it. Maybe that will alleviate some of your frustration, if you don't sell as quickly or in as much volume as you expected.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Freebies -- Yes or No?

My pal, Martin Cavannagh of Reedsy, has sent me a link to a whole raft of book marketing "opportunities," all of which feature only free and/or deeply discounted books.
...BookBub and Bargainbooksy as well as some lesser known ones that we've done our best to vet. https://blog.reedsy.com/book-promotion-services/ You can sort by genre and advertising cost — and we've even allocated them into tiers based on their reputation: from tier one, meaning that they come highly recommended; to tier four, which probably won't do much for you (but at least they're free).
Yeah, well, I pass the link along, in case any of you want to discount and advertise your books. Or in case any of you want to score some free or deeply discounted books. Me, I subscribe to the Ruth Brown school of sales.
I might just possibly consider doing a freebie or discount on the first volume of my SAGE trilogy, or on the short story collection set in that world. It seems that people who are several books along into a series would do well to try to entice readers into that ongoing set of characters/adventures. Almost all of my books, so far, are stand-alones, though.

What do you think?

Marian Allen, Author Lady 
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Many Reasons For Keeping a Journal

I believe that everyone has a story. Some of the best ones I’ve read came from members of critique groups who were writing their life stories to pass along to their grandchildren. Those stories were filled with captivating details about times and places long gone. How did they do it? Aside from great memories, most of the writers kept journals. The ability to revisit times and places through old photos and the written word was invaluable.

I’ve kept a journal for most of my adult life. It began with boyfriend and school issues, then slowly progressed to work challenges, and later parenting ups and downs. Lately, I’ve discovered another reason to keep a journal. In fact, I’ve started a second one which has nothing to do with me as a writer, but as a daughter.

I call it the dementia journal. Our family saga began two and a half years ago, when my sister and I realized that our mother’s cognitive skills were diminishing. It seemed like a good idea to record what we were experiencing. I’ve since learned that journal records can give healthcare professionals better insight as to what’s happening.

Journals have many purposes, and not all of them are about writing fiction or memories. You don’t need to be a professional or even a passionate writer to note things down. But you can jot down a few lines about a memorable vacation or event. How about keeping a food journal filled with great recipes you’ve experimented with? What about writing down goals, or challenges to help you focus, or put things in perspective?

In his blog, Benjamin P. Hardy outlines several potential benefits when one starts to keep a journal. It’s never too late to start.