Monday, August 18, 2014

What I've Been Up To and A Question

Shawnee Bluff Winery Overlooking Lake of the Ozarks

Hello! I've been scarce in the blogosphere the last few weeks. What have I been doing, you ask? Well, I...

  • Vacationed at Lake of the Ozarks with friends. Our boat stalled! Adventures abound!
  • Repainted the apartment
  • Dug up some fascinating research while brainstorming my next WIP. No, not actual digging, but how cool would that be?!
  • Saw Guardians of the Galaxy. Yes, it's as good as you've heard!
  • ...And read a lot. Boy, do I need to get caught up on Goodreads.

It's that last one that raised a question for me, and I thought I'd throw it out to you guys. I noticed a trend in myself while reading a few books lately. I kept liking characters I'm pretty sure the author didn't want me to like! 

This wasn't a "we love to hate them" villain scenario either, aka Loki. In both instances most recently, the characters I liked were key secondary characters--flawed to be sure, yet often friendly foils to the MC--but the MCs for various reasons didn't like them. Vocally. And repeatedly. Did not like them, denigrated and put them down.

As a reader, I feel like I was *supposed* to not like said characters. I know that's what these authors were going for, and I know they succeeded in part because several reviews and comments bear that out. BUT, for me, the MCs' attitudes made me dislike THEM instead of disliking the secondary characters I was supposed to. I think it felt especially strange because these (unrelated) books happened to fall one after the other in my reading pile, and it made me wonder if I was somehow missing the strength of the MCs or misinterpreting something.

I'm a character reader. I'll take fascinating characters over a fascinating plot or world every time. And suddenly it felt like I was cheering against the MCs in these examples. I'm sure it's just a matter of these particular books and these particular MCs not speaking to me, but it was an extra bummer that the secondary characters who were so well-written and multi-faceted were slammed so much by the MCs. It was a seriously confusing dynamic, and odd to have it happen multiple times in quick succession.

Anybody else have this experience? Have you been a fan of a character the MC disparages?

How has YOUR summer been going so far?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Writing Poll: Printing Your Manuscript

Monday, July 21, 2014

Two Characters Walk Into a Bar: Take 2!

I'm in between summer trips this week, so I'm refreshing an oldie but goodie about what makes for our favorite fictional bars. Grab a stool and mosey on up!

What is it about bars, pubs and taverns that makes them so darn fun to invent? I don’t know about you, but I get a gleeful little kick out of creating the perfect watering holes where my characters can wander in and grab a drink. Last night, I was brainstorming names for a bar in my latest WIP and got to thinking about the ingredients authors need to brew up just the right mix.

The Ambiance
Decide what vibe you want for your bar, and figure out how to convey that through music, lighting and table arrangements. You want a dingy little hole-in-the-wall, or a sleek high-end fa├žade with jazz playing in the background? A cozy Irish feel, complete with dancing, or a wild thumping club with strobe lights and a bass louder than thunder?

The Three Broomsticks is a far cry from the Mos Eisley Cantina. There are literally endless combinations, so have some fun with it!

The Bartender
This is especially important if the bar is going to be a recurring locale in your novel. The bartender’s clothes, personality, physical appearance and dialect tend to be pretty colorful. Sometimes, they stick behind the counter like superglue; othertimes, they’re constantly running back and forth between tables with pitchers of beer and hot meals.

One of my favorite examples of the bartender-as-character is Mac from the Dresden Files. I don’t think the guy says more than two full sentences in the entire series, but he’s irreplaceable!

The Name
I spend far, FAR too much time naming my bars. It’s crazy fun to come up with the perfect moniker that will capture the right flavor. There’s a little open-air bar in Key West that I love called Two Friends. Its motto is: “No greater love than the enduring, tender love of one drunken friend for another.”

Fantastic, right?

The Booze
My first WIP was set on a sailing ship, with open decks, rolling seas and coarse sailors. Flavored martinis and wine coolers were NOT going to fit in with my characters. Choosing your booze is almost as important as choosing the rest of your bar features. It’s fun to create a whole menu of options (okay, not a literal menu). That way, you can pick favorites for each character, decide if certain regions or nations have a “home brew” or just make up an entirely new concoction!

Bottoms up!

Got anything fun going on in YOUR summer so far? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Woven Cover Reveal

Those of you who know David Powers King (and if you don't, get yourself over to the Cosmic Laire and get introduced!), know this has been a long-time coming. So, without any ado at all, I'm excited to share the cover of Woven, by David and Michael Jensen.

Congrats guys! Doesn't it look fantastic?

Here's a little more about the book in case the cover itself didn't have you drooling enough already:

When Nels, the Kingdom’s most eager aspiring knight, is murdered, his ghost haunts the only person in the kingdom who can see and hear him: the beautiful - but headstrong - Princess Tyra. Together, the ghost and the princess learn that an ancient magic, called Fabrication, has prevented Nels from crossing over to the other side. Nels isn’t really dead - he is just unwoven.

To weave him back to life, Nels and Tyra must journey to find the magic Needle of Gailner, for they’re the only ones who can save each other, the kingdom, and reality itself.


Got Any Reading Recs?

I'm wrapping up the draft of my latest WIP this week, and I'll soon be giving myself a breather to do more reading. Any favorites you want to nominate for my reading list? SFF/YA/MG are all good to me!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Q&A with Little Creek Press


Earlier this year, I had a chance to go to the Writers' Institute conference in Madison, where I did several great learning sessions with Jane Friedman, Nathan Bransford, agent Laura Biagi (super helpful workshop on opening pages) and more!

One of the sessions I enjoyed the most was about book design, by the ladies at Little Creek Press. Since this is an area I think more and more writers want to become familiar with, I invited Kristin and her team to do a quick Q&A session. Here's what they had to say:

Thanks so much for being here! For starters, tell us about the services Little Creek Press offers. How should writers think of it as a resource?
We offer strong design services along with resources not necessarily accessible to the non-designer/publisher, support and lots of hand holding through the process. We work with each author to make sure the final product is well-edited, marketable and, of course, very beautiful. The relationship we have as vendors with the major distributors along with our fulfillment, distribution and accounting are definitely a plus to any author. To learn more about our process, check out our website:

How did you get started? What drew you to book design and publishing?
Owner Kristin Mitchell had been a graphic designer for 20 some years and started to see a need for well-designed books with the support necessary to put out a really great book. After many years as a full service design agency, we had all the resources, i.e., photographers, editors, writers, printers, etc… in place. Little Creek Press was started based on that need and the relationships we had. In the last three years, we have helped authors publish over 30 books with another 20 or more this year.

What are some of the key things writers should consider (or questions to ask themselves) when thinking about what they want or need in a cover design?
Does the designer I’m working with have experience in cover design? Don’t settle for a cover you don’t love. Does my cover evoke an emotion that would make a reader have to purchase it? Is my type legible, does the image (if there is one) tie into the story in a way that either sparks curiosity or is relatively obvious? Did we mention, make sure the designer you work with has experience in book cover design?

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that the interior of a book also needs design. What tips would you share with writers when thinking about page layout and formatting?
As obvious as it sounds, people forget that READABILITY needs to be the main focus when designing an interior. Minor adjustments to line spacing and margins can make a huge difference in the ability of the eye to easily move around the page. And, of course, make sure the font/typeface you choose is pleasant and easy on the eye. If you have lots of text, make sure to choose a serif font. Children’s books can be a fun, yet readable font. Margins are a huge consideration. Keep in mind that you will lose some space in the gutter; we always make sure our interior margins are larger than the rest of the page.

What’s your personal favorite part about what you do?
The ability and the honor to turn people’s vision into a reality. A frequent statement we hear: “You have made my dream come true!” We have a unique set of skills and relationships and the opportunity to meld those skills and the resources for an amazing outcome can be magical!

What are some of the top questions authors ask you? Or, what are some aspects of book design that seem most confusing or unknown to authors?
Hands down: “What does it cost to publish a book?” “How many books will I sell?” There is a lot of confusing information out in the world. There are many online publishers and packages out there for people to choose from, it really can be very overwhelming! Each book is different and must be treated as such – which is why people come to us for the customization they get with their book. We tell our authors the best way to have a successful book is to define your version of success. Is success publishing a book as a legacy to you and your family? Is it to provide information and educate? The author also has to realize that we can give them a great end product, but they are the best representation of their book. The books that sell the most are the books whose authors are willing to put the time and effort into getting it out there. We can only do so much.

What’s the one thing you want to tell authors?
Define your end goal and then find the best people (publisher, editor, printer, etc.) to help you reach or exceed that goal. AND be open to constructive criticism, the goal of the publisher is to make sure you look really, really good and sometimes that means significant editing or a shift in ideas. The best authors we have are the ones that trust us to do our job!

What’s next on your plate?
This year we have over 20 books to publish! In September, we will host the fourth annual Southwest Wisconsin Book Festival in Mineral Point, WI. Our festival, hosted by Little Creek Press, will have 12 to 14 workshops from some really great presenters on multiple topics. For more information:

Thanks again! Below are a few add'l tips from the conference session back in April. And if anyone's in the Wisconsin area, check out the book festival. Michael Perry is a fantastic and hilarious keynote.

In Other News: Second Quarter Book Round-up

I cannot believe half the year is over!! Yikes - I feel so behind. Here's what's been on my reading list lately. How about you?