Category Archives: Publishing

Review: Damn Fine Story

Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful NarrativeDamn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn’t able to attend the DFW Con writing convention this year, where Chuck was the keynote speaker, but I did get to read this book, so I still feel like I got to have a good long conversation with him.

The book is both light-hearted and zippy and meaty and something you’ll ponder. It took me a long time to get through because I kept ruminating. Which is the point! Thank god this was a different kind of writing book! There is no torture over adverbs or controversially short memory devices; Chuck leaves all that to King and the plethora of his imitators. Instead, this book is about the overall shape of a story. That’s a mushy, hard-to-define topic, which Chuck handles with movie story examples, quick jokes, and great illustrative metaphors.

You’ll have something to think about, and you’ll damn well like it, young man!

(Seriously though, I just want to watch TV with Chuck. He has excellent nerd taste.)

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Hermit Writer

I’m chickening out, right this second. See, this weekend is the Roanoke Writers’ Conference, which is supposed to be great, and some people sorta a-little expected me to go. But the idea of going felt like carving my own guts out with an ice cream scoop, and when I finally decided not to go, I felt nothing but relief. (It’s not like I just laid on the couch today, though; instead, I worked all morning at a sweaty-hot garage sale. Not that it matters. The important part is I still didn’t go to the con.)

I didn’t want to go to that con because I recently tried—to prove to myself and to anyone who might ask if I’m really committed—to sell my books directly to customers at FenCon, a science-fiction convention. I figured, aliens and zombies, of course my people will be at a sci-fi convention! And making small talk isn’t my favorite thing, but I was a Girl Scout, I know how to sell things, plus I love my books and sincerely believed they would sell like hotcakes.

Well, you can see where this is going. I sold enough to break even, but it was a near thing, and a ton of work. A (more famous than me) author twice came to my table and glanced through Beamed Up: Decide Your Destiny and when I made small talk about my book, he sneered at me and made snide comments about how he was a real writer (you touched my book, dude, I’m just trying to make a sale!). It was emotionally exhausting to the point that the next day I crashed so hard I could barely spoke to anyone.

Basically I sat at a table, cheerful smile plastered to my face, for two days with very few breaks… and it just didn’t feel worth it.

I sincerely came back after that and declared that I should just be a hermit author, like Harper Lee or J.D. Salinger. They don’t seem to be in style much lately, but I just don’t know of I can muster the kind of energy it would take to be something else. See, the authors I met at FenCon overwhelmingly also have day jobs and yet spend nearly every weekend at some kind of writer event. That kind of schedule isn’t sustainable for me; I need to curl up and feed myself emotionally, sometimes. It makes me feel like I’m not “committed enough,” not “real” enough somehow, not “good enough” to be trying to write.

And maybe that’s true. But I just keep thinking there has to be some other, better way. I don’t write for the money, and maybe that’s my problem; I should care more about the money. But, to me, the money is just a way to keep getting to do the writing—but it’s currently a paradox, because to get the money for writing I have to spend time and energy not writing. I just don’t have enough fuel cells to burn for that. Props to those who can, I guess. I wish I could be in your club.


Filed under Conventional, Publishing

“What Do You Write?”, or The Genre Prison

I just recently read one of those articles about how the “new wave” of self-publishers “must” act, and it left me rolling my eyes. It said, instead of just writing, editing, and publishing something, and then working on a social media platform/blog, you should do it the other way around: blog first, become popular (literally, that was the whole step–oh, ok!), hope you still have time for the book you originally wanted to write.

I’ve seen that advice before, but today it just made me eyeroll particularly hard (because of course it’s as easy as “get popular.” Gag me). The advice was further to pick what you were going to write about–presumably the same thing that is your future book topic–and then write extensively on that narrow subject.

Now, don’t get me wrong, that totally works for some people. I met a woman at a conference who started her blog about kids’ photography, and it led to a book deal and stuff. Great. But guess what? She didn’t start the blog so she could eventually write a book; she started the blog because she wanted to be a blogger.

Anyway, back to the “write about one topic a lot” thing: most broadly, that means writing about a specific genre. But I think that’s locking yourself into a prison for no good reason: so your first book ends up being a steampunk romance, great, but what if you want to do a sci-fi horror for the second one? Do you have to spin off a totally different blog? Start all over again? Insanity!

Besides, sometimes the genre is stupidly hard to define. That’s one of the biggest problems with Undead Rising. What genre is it? It’s got zombies, so that’s sometimes horror, even though it’s maybe PG-13 level scary. Zombies are also supernatural, so it kinda fits in that arena. But it’s also funny, so does that make it humor? Except it turns out, weirdly, that most humor books are nonfiction, so that isn’t exactly a good fit. It’s a gamebook, which is awesome, except it’s a genre completely dominated by children’s books from the 1970s and that’s not exactly a section most people are familiar with… so what, exactly, would my one-genre blog be about?

I guarantee you if I had to talk exclusively about zombies, this blog would have died a long time ago.

The conventional publishing wisdom is contradictory here, too. Officially, you pick a genre and you just write in that genre until your hands fall off. It used to be if you wanted to write in a different genre, your publisher would frown on that and your new stuff wouldn’t be published; you were only “known” in one arena. Except… if you got famous, then it was back to whatever you wanted, apparently. All my favorite authors right now may be best known for a certain thing, but they cross genres at will, following whatever they are interested in: Neil Gaiman (comics, children’s books, YA, adult novels); Brad Meltzer (historical fiction, superhero comics, children’s picture books); Margaret Atwood (dystopian fiction that she likes to call literary fiction, short stories, fantasy); and Jim Butcher (urban fantasy, role playing games, comic books, steampunk).

So I say….write what you want. Following your passion is far more interesting and more likely to keep you motivated. Who cares what the box is supposed to be? Just go for it. Make the box fit you, not the other way around.

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Filed under Publishing, Undead Rising, writing

Amazing Halloween Book Signing

Well, my weekend was incredible. The weather was bleary and I didn’t get a single trick-or-treater, nor did I have a costume, but it may have been the BEST HALLOWEEN EVER.

Why? Because I got to meet so many people who were so incredibly pumped to discover that adults are “allowed” to read gamebooks, too!

This was my first-ever book signing (huge shout-out to the folks at Madness Games and Comics who thought it was a good idea! Buy all their cool stuff!), and my expectations were pretty low: smile at people, sit behind a stack of books all day, use caffeine to keep my spirits up. But y’all blew away my expectations! Instead of being the shy author I feel like, I was able to chat with so many people who were like, “wait a minute? Did you say zombies?! This is very pertinent to my interests!”

Undead Rising book signing at Madness Games

Writing–and self-publishing–can be really isolating; you do most of it alone, at your desk. I did not at all expect the high I got from meeting so many of my people, the folks who say “yeah, I probably wouldn’t survive a zombie apocalypse, let’s be real…but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try!” The people who think it’s ok to be a “grownup” and still have fun like an 8-year-old. The people who say, “heck yes I want to support a local author!”

I just wish I could go give you all a big hug–you made my year!

If we met this weekend and you’ve had a chance to read some of Undead Rising, let me know what you think! And I would be so grateful if you’d review the book on Goodreads, or tell a friend, or leave a copy conspicuously on a park bench for an unassuming stranger to discover (ok, maybe not the last one!).

Also, big announcement: because of the success of the signing on Halloween, Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny will now be available for purchase at Madness Games and Comics!

Y’all are awesome. And remember: Choose wisely.

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Filed under Undead Rising

Support Kickass Rachel Caine’s Kickstarter!

  I’m so late to the game that I nearly missed it, but one of my very favorite authors, Rachel Caine, has a Kickstarter active now for a new book in her fascinating, wonderful, brilliantly creative Weather Wardens series.

Go back it now (only one day left!!!) and then come back here to read more about why this is amazing. I’ll wait…

This Kickstarter amazes me, not only because backing it means I’ll have more personal(ish) contact with one of my writing idols, but that it exists at all.

She says in her video that publishers have told her that the Weather Warden genre, urban fantasy, won’t sell right now, and that’s at least part of why she has decided to self-publish this book. But that amazes me–mostly for sad reasons. Ms. Caine is an established, highly respected author who has written at least three immensely popular series. She’s a known brand. And the story she wants to write is part of an existing universe that has already spawned a fun three-book mini-series. And yet…a publisher wouldn’t back her?

It’s hard to know if there may be more to the story, but I fear there isn’t. Perhaps Caine just leapt at the opportunity to self-publish and thought this would be a good way to try–and considering her Kickstarter has already far exceeded its goal, it’s a worthy cause.

But it does worry me about the industry as a whole. Has there ever been any inherent stability, or is it all an illusion?

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Filed under Publishing, Reading

Zombies! Destiny! Sales!

What do you do when you desperately want to know if you’d really survive a zombie apocalypse but you’re afraid of spending too much money on ebooks?

a) Let your brains get eaten.
b) Continue to engage in pointless circular conversations with your friends who are by now quite tired of listening to you babble on about zombies all the time.
c) Buy Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny while it’s on sale!

There’s only one right answer this time, folks, and it’s to seize the day and decide your own destiny by buying yourself a copy of adult adventure novel Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny this week while it’s on sale for only $0.99!

Undead Rising zombie book

Other zombie preparation items cost much more, and have a more limited use:

  • Baseball bat, $20 — that’s 20 copies of Undead Rising!
  • Zombie machete, $23 — that’s 23 copies of Undead Rising!
  • The Walking Dead box set, $95 — you’ll have plenty of copies of Undead Rising to share with your friends!
  • Urban survival kit, $140 — well, you might as well start reading, because that’s a lot of 99 cent copies of Undead Rising!

Undead Rising is a zombie book like no other: your choices determine the path of the story, and there are more than 45 different outcomes…including some as a zombie! It’s funny, it’s creepy, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s got 5 stars on Amazon for a reason. Here’s the most recent review:

Undead rising review

So what are you waiting for? Strike while the iron is hot! You only have a few more days to get Undead Rising while it’s on sale!

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How to Not Get Sued for Copyright Infringement: 1 Easy Step

You’ve heard you need to have lots of cool, enticing images to lure people over to your blog, to keep attention, to share on social. But… are you opening yourself up to a lawsuit?


It’s okay. No need to panic. But you do need to exercise caution and prepare yourself. Luckily, it’s easy.

You’re more than welcome to use just about any image you find online. What you are not allowed to do is steal any image you find online.

How do you know if you’re stealing? Well–did you tell anyone where you found the image? If you didn’t, it’s possible it’s stolen, and you could possibly, maybe get sued.

The likelihood of a lawsuit depends on what you’re doing with the image, what the image is, and how much the image owner cares. For example, if you’ve taken an image of Mickey Mouse and are selling your book by putting Mickey Mouse on it, you can fully, 100% expect to have Disney come pound on your door. If you make an adult-themed novel with Mickey Mouse on the cover and are giving it away, expect Disney to get you a lawsuit forthwith. But if you’re just putting an animated logo from Disney on your blog, you’re okay!

Disney logo

What’s the difference? A) You’re not making money off of it, B) it’s very clear you aren’t claiming you own any part of the logo, and C) the nature of blogs is transient and you’re unlikely to get a lot of attention or be a worthy target.

If you’re not sure if something is okay to post, there are two things you can do:

  1. Ask someone for permission first. This is particularly important with anything physical and permanent that you hope you make any kind of money on. That includes any images, portions of a song or poem, lines from a famous story, etc. It’s possible a short amount of text will be covered under the “Fair Use” doctrine, but it’s vague and a little hard to define and you probably just would be better not dealing with a lawsuit. Ask for permission first.
  2. Cite your sources. Come on, I know you know how to do this. Everyone had to write some kind of formal paper in school at some point or another. But when the internet came along and we had this endless list of images right at our fingertips, it got easier and easier to just copy something you found randomly.

That’s my main point. If you want to use an image or a paragraph or two from something you liked in your blog (something you give away for free and that is transient by nature), cite your sources. The prime way is to just…link back to the original. A link, in terms of Search Engine Optimization (or SEO), is one of the top ways a site develops a positive reputation in the search engines. When you link to a source for something cool, you’re signaling to Google & co that that place has good material. That helps them and you won’t get in trouble for stealing content.

See? It’s easy.

A little extra advice: really common things, like viral memes (like my dramatic gopher up there) probably have the original source buried in time. They just get picked up and run with. You’re okay on that. For similar reasons, you’re probably also okay on any TV or movie gifs or images you use on a blog. Just don’t try to sell them or you will be in trouble. If you find a cool image, photo, or illustration from something more niche, definitely cite your sources. Try to avoid finding images at “free” stock image places that look disreputable or from a forum–odds are good that they were stolen from somewhere else, and you’re the one who could be caught holding the bag. If you’re really worried about it, just take your own photos or sign up for a stock image site for your image needs. It’s better than a DMCA notice or a cease and desist letter, for sure.




Filed under Publishing