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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Conference vs Convention

Just back from my 11th or 12th trip to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. As always, it was a great time, seeing old friends, making new ones, renewing professional contacts, and even sitting in on a few learning sessions, too.  Not to mention staying up way too late talking writing.  One of my facebook posts drew a common question:

I'm always wondering if I should go to a con like this. I've written a couple of practice novels, but over the past several years have focused on short stories. I've written over 60 short stories and I'm getting tired of creating a new world for each one, so I've decided to start writing novels ... I like the look of the PPWC, but wonder if it'll be worth the expense.
First off, PPWC is not a con like a science fiction convention where information is presented via panel discussions by a mix of authors and fans, alongside, gaming, art shows, masquerades and costuming and so forth. Writers' conference presentations are 90% workshops featuring skilled presenters who cover either craft topics - like creating richer characters, strengthening plots/scenes, making your prose more clear or more vivid - or writing business topics - like how to pitch your book, how to write good synopses or queries, how to create book trailers or how to use social media more effectively. Writers conferences are not focused on sf/fantasy, though they might include some specialized workshops like my Fantasy Fundamentals presentation last weekend. (But good plotting is good plotting, good characters are good...ad infinitum) Guest editors and agents will talk about what they are looking for submission-wise, and also what the market is doing.  They will usually talk about flaws that make them pass on a submission, or how their particular publishing house or agency works with authors. Attendees get the opportunity to socialize with the guest authors, editors, and agents, and also sign up to read their opening pages for one of them or pitch their books to someone who might be interested. There is lots of informal networking as well. So there is a lot of bang for the additional bucks. Most writers conferences are focused on novel writing, but of course, the craft aspects can apply to all lengths of work, so it may or may not be right for you.

I love both sf/f/ conventions and writers' conferences (PPWC and the Colorado Gold Conference in Denver are particularly good ones) but they are very different events. Read more of this post!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Being Social

I have resisted being sucked into excess social networking. I do find it an easy distraction when the writing gets tough.

On the other hand, I enjoy it immensely.  My kids were on facebook, so I had to join that.  And since then, I've feel like I've come to know many of my readers and conference friends and friends of my

friends well.  I love the sense of a worldwide network. It bugs me that I don't have time to read every post - even when skipping all the cat photos and chain memes.

My agent has begged me for years to get on twitter, but I kept hoping it would go away.  I was sure I would drown.  I tried blogging for a year, but there are so many people who do it better (eg. John Scalzi, whose blog is erudite and informative) and I never garnered many followers. But then, there are times when I would like to say a little more than a facebook post...and times when a little less will do.  What is a confused writer to do?

For the next few months I am going to juggle a bit, and impose a little self-discipline.  Maybe this is the influence of Lucian de Remeni (see Dust and Light and Ash and Silver).  While still foregoing Instagram and Pinterest and a host of other sites, I am going to jump into:

  • Twitter:  handle is @cbergwriter - which is a bit obscure but there were other Carol Bergs and I already have some followers, so it has to stay
  • Facebook: carolberg is the relevant access
  • This (textcrumbs.blogspot.com): I'm reviving the blog a couple of times a week.  This will be longer posts on the WIP, and other writing topics and whatever else comes to mind.

I'll do my best to link these to each other so that one access point is all that's necessary.

If I can limit to a reasonable time each week, maybe this will work.  Come along and bring your friends!

Read more of this post!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Something New

I talked last time about starting out a new project with an ensemble cast, each person with an unusual skill. I had a whisper of an idea about each of four people, their milieu, the shape of stories they could tell. To accomplish anything they need a leader, and I decided which one that would be.

I diddled a bit with the world. Thought up some ideas of how the story would run. Talked with my muse, Linda, over a very long lunch about how the story might get going. Wrote a page of notes and watched a DVD series from the History Channel that pertained to my chosen time period. I even had an idea for an opening scene.

All of this was good--but every time I sat down to look at it, the project became more daunting. After creating five distinct worlds over the course of fifteen books, the notion of starting over from scratch appeared bigger than Trump's ridiculous wall on the Mexican border. Not only did I need to come up with cool ideas, I had to stay out of my own way. Surely I hadn't included every favorite bit of world structure/custom/myth or character foible/skill/hangup that I love!

Certainly not, but still I couldn't get going even to write that first scene. Panic time. And then I went to Vancouver Island...

Now I adore writing retreats at my friend Brenda's house overlooking the Saanich Inlet almost as much as I love retreating to a certain funky little retreat hotel in the heart of the Rockies. Being away from home and its myriad distractions helps me focus. And somehow being surrounded with awe-inspiring beauty provides extra fodder for words. Certainly the energy of other serious writer friends working hard gives me energy. But it was Brenda herself who said about five words that broke the dam. She is a generous listener, and when I started running on about the backstory of my lead, she stopped me.

"Why don't you write that story?" she said. "If it works out, it could be a short story to accompany the novel. If you decide not to write the novel, you'll not have spent so much time and effort on it."

Perfect sense. Seven thousand words appeared over the next few days...like magic.

Now you who have talked about character interviews all these years can laugh at me. Yet this is truly a story, not interview notes.  (Though one could say, Romy is interviewing for a job.) And those who tell me that writing short fiction can be less intimidating that starting a novel...I give you points, too. Old dogs can learn new tricks.

For now I am continuing to write a bit of story that might never appear in a novel, but is a delight for me anyway. We'll see how things pan out. Read more of this post!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Every Project Starts the Same Way - Or Does It?

Every one of my books/series (now up to 15/5) truly begins with a character.  In the Books of the Rai-kirah, it was the arrogant, the-world-is-mine-to-enjoy desert warrior Aleksander (not Seyonne!).  The Bridge of D'Arnath rose from the bitter, exiled duchess Seri.  The novels of the Collegia Magica were to be a home story for the brooding necromancer Dante (nope, not Portier). Lucian, the non-renegade, the upright believer in pureblood discipline, was the whole reason for the Sanctuary Duet. Only for the Lighthouse Duet did I have ideas about the world and the world's problems before I had an idea of that character. But I didn't write a word until the image of a lanky renegade drug addict came to me. He was face down on the floor of an abbey church taking holy orders, and I could hear an unforgettable voice, saying, "What the hell am I doing here?" Anyone who's read those two books knows very well that Valen shaped and drove the story of Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone in the same way that Aidan, the visionary musician, shaped the story of Song of the Beast.

Even my pieces of short fiction that now number more than nil took off with the idea of a character. Gareth, the talentless farmer, was the inspiration for Unmasking, Girl told of her experience At Fenwick Faire. Valen, my favorite blackguard, was the seed for Seeds. The encounter of a novice constable with a familiar unnamed necromancer was the starting point for Uncanonical Murder (now out in the spring issue of Pulp Literature ).  And Saverian from Breath and Bone demanded to star in an almost-novelette for a new anthology to be announced later in 2016.

All the other characters, the world, the settings, the plot grew from ideas about that one person, even if, on occasion, a character I believed secondary became the more important than the instigator.  So there.

But when I started noodling around with a new (big) project last month...

I settled on an ensemble cast, each person with an unusual skill. I had a whisper of an idea about each of four people and then I ran into a wall that seemed near insurmountable. This will be a different process. Maybe.  I'll tell you how it's going next time.  Read more of this post!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Well, everywhere, of course!  Your local chain or indie brick and mortar bookstore.  Your favorite online bookseller, be it Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon (despite a Penguin/Amazon hitch that suspended sales for a week in December) or the online store of your favorite bookseller like Mysterious Galaxy, Powell's City of Books, or Seattle's University Bookstore.

It is always tough to let a child go out into the world. But response has been great. (And thanks for that!) Yet I wouldn't recommend releasing a new book in December. It's tough to schedule events; everyone, including the author, is distracted by the holidays, and review sites are very busy putting out best of the year lists. (And yes, Ash and Silver did make a few of those, despite it's late release date.)

Lots of people are asking if Lucian's story is finished.  Or if, perhaps, the storyline of the Sanctuary Duet will ever entwine with the storyline of the Lighthouse Duet.

  And the answer is ...

I hope so. It is no accident that Ash and Silver ended on the same night as the climax of Breath and Bone.  I'm certainly not sure that Lucian and Valen would always get along, and both of them could easily end up at odds with good King Eodward's chosen heir. Could make for some interesting fireworks.

But I've some other things I want to work on before I return to Navronne.  Some short pieces and some long.  So I'm going to let ideas about a follow-on duology simmer in that great stew of a fantasy writers' mind for a while.  Stay in touch!

Read more of this post!