Monday, February 18, 2013

This Blogging Thing

Okay, it annoys me when people complain about making content for their blog. If you hate it, don't do it. That's not what this is. This is a personal evaluation of the benefits of blogging as an author, and how that's changed in the past few years.

Your blog used to be your hub. It doesn't seem that way anymore. Facebook has taken over, and the only value of the blog over Facebook is that Facebook has started charging you to reach your entire audience. Okay, that's a pretty big caveat. I'm not paying. Maybe I'll start repeating myself a lot, instead. That'll win me readers.

So your blog is no longer your biggest social-networking tool, but it still takes the biggest investment of time. For me, this becomes an issue not because I don't enjoy writing blog posts, but because I have to write them at a certain time. My words dry up in the evening. But I need to use my mornings for writing fiction, not posts on comic book budgets or how to best hold a Kindle. Why? Because I'll never make a living as a kindle-holding ergonomics adviser, but I'm beginning to make one as a fiction writer.

The thing is, even in the evenings I can occasionally manage to find enough words to put together a Facebook status, and it reaches a lot more people, because the feed is built in. I follow blogs with an rss reader, but most people don't, and most people also don't remember to check in at 30 different blogs. But they'll check into Facebook multiple times a day. That's easy to remember because it becomes a habit. It's funny that if LiveJournal had stuck, with its built in feed and wonderful commenting system, blogs might still be the big thing.

I know I'm not saying anything new here. I'm just wondering semi-aloud. I know that personally, updating my blog has slipped further and further down the priority list, right above learning when to use "further" and "farther" (seriously, just ask my editors. I don't even try).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Among Prey

Oh hi, I didn't see you there.

This is my newest DarkFuse novella, available for your Kindle. It's been getting positive reviews. Maybe you'd like to buy it and have the same positive experience several other readers have had. If so, this is the link.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I Learned Budgeting from Comic Books

So, if you follow me on Goodreads or Facebook, you might have seen that I've been reading a bunch of personal finance books recently. I've been in a manic mood the past couple of months, and when I'm so keyed up, it's very difficult for me to read fiction. I like a lot of non-fiction, but I have a couple of go-to genres when I'm lacking in material. One is personal finance. Because I never have any money, I'm able to put little of the advice about retirement and investments to use and so forget it, so the information seems fresh again in a couple of years.

One thing that's funny about my love of personal finance books is that I'm already really--ummm--frugal. Thrifty. Minimalist. Cheap. Really, really cheap. Since I've never had money, that's a good trait to have.

I think I come by it naturally for the most part (I'm not naming names), but I also received very good training in budgeting very young because of my obsession with comic books.

Children don't usually have monthly charges, which is how the adult world works. So kids can blow money as it comes, and the only reprocussion is having to wait to make the next purchase. But comic books simulate the real world, with its many titles that come out during different weeks. For a decade, I was an obsessive comic book collector. It's where all of my money went. I wanted to be a comic book artist, and honestly, I should have gone to school for illustration, because I was certainly good enough and I'd be better than ten years ahead of where I am now in an artistic career. Ahhh, regrets.

I didn't have a huge allowance, so I had to budget. I carefully listed all the titles I wanted and their prices, and worked to maximize my comic book dollars. Honestly, when you don't have that a huge entertainment fund, planning how the funds are spent can provide just as much or more entertainment. So whenever I come across "I know it makes you want to throw this book across the room" in reference to budgeting in personal finance books, I'm still always surprised.

But you can see how, along with that joy, came a lot of pain. Not every title I wanted made the list, and just like in real life, there were unexpected emergencies, though these took the form of new titles or big events. I usually left a little bit of room in my budget to try new titles, but if I wanted to take on a new permanent title, it meant an old one had to be bumped.  And if I bought too many unplanned issues, it meant I couldn't afford one of my standards. I didn't have credit, and I still don't think in terms of credit. I'd have to put off buying an issue until later, which would set me permanently back, or else I'd have to deal with a gap in a collection, which to my obsessive mind was unthinkable!

Not to say I didn't stumble. Just like in the adult world, the corporations did everything they could to wring the extra pennies from our pockets. I got fooled a couple of times into buying multiple issues just to leave one sealed, or spending extra for the die-cut, foil-embossed edition. But I learned, and before I was too far into my teens I was pretty much invulnerable to that sort of temptation unbacked by substance.

And then came Magic: The Gathering. Oh boy, that's a whole nother post.

On a related note, I just came to terms with the fact that I don't have to like the X-Men. It seems so obvious, but for more than two decades I've felt guilty for not enjoying Marvel's mutant titles, which everyone else fucking loves. No more. I'll try them and read the occasional good title (somehow, it's usually X-Factor), but the recent Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, which was so good, returning to the standard, one-note, anti-racist moralizing just a few issues later finally made me realize that I have never consistently liked the mutants. They've been telling the exact same story for 50 years. It was the Avengers that made that crossover so awesome, and the idea of Cyclops going bad made me stick with it for a few more issues, but blah. No more.

I feel so liberated!

Friday, February 8, 2013

January Reads

The Midnight Eye Files: The Amulet by William Meikle

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I'm really happy to find one of these phenomenon books that actually deserves it (okay, I have some issues with the word "deserves," but you know what I mean). This is a solid thriller, but a FANTASTIC character piece with two distinct and enthralling voices.

The Busy Writer's One-Hour Plot by Marq McAlister
This is short, but I like the system it lays out for brainstorming plots. No theory here, all method, but I feel like I can use this to concretely apply what I've learned elsewhere.

20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald Tobias
Good plot-categorization theory here.

Steal This Plot by June Noble
Once again, good plot-categorization theory here, with some extra material about how to legally pluck the plotline from any work. That might make it a slightly higher recommendation than 20 Master Plots.

Blockbuster Plots by Martha Alderson
A very complex, time-consuming system that never examines the big picture. No help to me as it simply systemizes what I already do unconsciously. Honestly, if you need so much help with scene and character AND plot, you probably shouldn't be writing fiction. If you're not good at making the atoms (scenes and character) and not good at binding them together (plot) then what the fuck are you good at? Anyway, if I had a problem with scene, I would have bought a book called "Blockbuster Scenes." I didn't, so I don't want to read a hundred pages about how to write one. Also, I hate being talked down to. Don't tell me when to make a cup of tea.

Clockwork Dolls by William Meikle
Now I'm hesitant to write the Laws of Attraction horror story I was mulling over.

The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich
I've been waiting for this to come out in e-format.
"The sun is setting. The hobo vampires are waking up, their quest for crank and blood is just beginning. Over the course of the frigid night they will roam the area surrounding the train stop looking for warm bodies to suck, for cough syrup to fuel a night of debauched sexual encounters with fellow vampires and mortals alike. They distribute sexually transmitted diseases like the daily newspaper but they will never succumb, they will never die, just aging into decrepit losers inside a teenage shell. They have a sense of duty to their habit and their climax--twin addictions that inform their every move. They are lusty, sad creatures, these Slutty Teenage Hobo Vampire Junkies."

16 Expert Lessons for Successfully Managing Your Personal Finances by FT Press

Tales of the Revolution by Seth Godin

How to Manage Your Money When You Don't Have Any by Erik Wecks
It's hard to get too worked up about personal finance books, but this one is awesome. Hits a very different note from the standard drone (if you read this genre, you know that ubiquitous, mind-numbing buzz). Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I'll Kill Anybody

I've been studying plotting. I have an unconscious ability to pace and plot works that are novella-length or less, but it has failed me a couple of times during the writing of novel-length works. I can't afford to write unusable tens of thousands of words. I don't have the time or the patience.

I've found some bad systems, such as one that simply makes conscious what I can do unconsciously, balancing each tiny section without looking at the big picture. Time consuming and--for me--worthless. But I've found some really good systems, ones that divide plots into themes and types and then give examples and branching options. What's funny is that so many of these require protagonist success (or at least strongly suggest it with warnings from the author that we not become so empowered by our artistic license that we forget the reader likes happy nice things). Boy, am I glad that I write horror.

I'll kill anybody. I don't care if you're an old lady, a little kid, or the goddamn protagonist. You're fair game. Even in horror movies, which have the forumulaic slasher genre, the survivor girl isn't guaranteed to survive the end credits, the final popout.

And that's the beauty of the genre. In any other, during a lapse in the action you can catch your breath and remind yourself that the good guy will win in the end. That safety net isn't there in horror fiction. The result is real tension.

Oh hey, did you know that The Hoard has been released in e-format everywhere? Here are a few links:
Barnes & Noble