Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Inbox

Even the most hopeful writers fret and fidget when a response to one of our queries shows up. The reaction gets worse when we're lucky enough to send those first 50 pages - and wait and wait and wait. Then the lightning strikes, and we get to submit a manuscript. Our mood swerves between hope and misery until that response finally arrives after what seems like an epoch. So, imagine how I felt when I saw the email in my Inbox after endless months of querying, revisions, self-doubt, recriminations, fear, loathing, hoping, praying, and wishing to God the characters on my pages would leave me alone.

I clicked on the email. The first line said, "...delighted to inform..."

Isn't it funny how just the right words will affect a reader?

(For the record, the novel is called, The Gospel of Matthias Kent, and it will be published next summer/fall by Draumr Publishing of Columbia, Maryland.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Series Fatigue

I write fantasy and as most fantasy readers and writers know, it's all about the series. Some famous series includes Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. Mr. Jordan passed away and left his fans hanging until his widow found another author, Brandon Sanderson, to finish the sprawling complicated tale. Terry Goodkind, one of my favorite, finished his eleven book Sword of Truth series. I love fantasy series but when do they get too long? When a reader gets to book ten and it's been over a year since reading book nine and perhaps ten years since reading book one, has the intensity and interest wilted? Does the reader get to the point where they think, 'just save the world already and be done with it?' What is the ideal length for a series?
Some series aren't always a continuing tale. Many mystery and suspense novels feature the same protagonists and a host of recurring characters but each novel has a new crisis or new villain. Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels are a good example or any of Robert Parker's detective series books. But even these novels are more enjoyable if you've read them all in order.
Romance novels often call it a series if a group of novels take place in the same location or perhaps the same fantastical or futuristic world. Each book may have a guest appearance by the protagonists of a previous novel and often the secondary characters in one novel have their own tale somewhere down the publishing road.
As a reader there have been a few series I gave up on. After all, if the good guys can't win in 10,000 pages, I'm not sure I can pull for them anymore. Or in the case of a series romance, how many hot guys and heroic women can live in one town? How many serial killers can one cop run into in a lifetime? When does the reader start to say enough? Why can't some writers end the series and let us believe they all live happily ever after or not? They either save the world or go quietly into the night?
My own fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles, is four books long. Book One will be released in January. My romance series, The Chronicles of Solonia, is four books long. The Tigers of Salubria will be three books long when complete.
As a writer, do you decide how long a series will be before you start to write it? As a reader, do you know series that have gone on too long? Do you have some you want to never end?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Realistic Tips for Time-Strapped Writers

One of my tasks this weekend was going through my email inbox, which has become quite cluttered since I've gone back to work. I'm happy to report that tucked in between the advertisements were a number of things worth reading. Among them was an article by Sheila Wipperman, cited in my Children's Writer's enewsletter. Entitled "Boost Your Writing Time Budget," this brief (takes less than five minutes to read) article has seven concrete suggestions for making the most of the time you have. Best of all, it doesn't begin with "Write every day," a suggestion that makes those of us who work full-time and have families feel inferior from step one!

Sheila's article is one of many offering "Rx for Writers" at the Institute of Children's Literature web site, a great resource for authors of all genre. Their articles are helpful, focused and brief, which I especially appreciate these days!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Celebrate National Bookstore Day on Nov. 7

by Cate Masters

Bookstores have an atmosphere like no other place. Novels lining shelves feel like old friends, and I could wander through the stacks all day.

On Nov. 7, the inaugural National Bookstore Day will celebrate bookstores and increase their public visibility through local and national media coverage.

If you have a favorite bookstore, encourage its managers to participate. They can find information from Publishers Weekly on ways to make the experience rich for customers and their store. Encourage them to share their information with Publishers Weekly, who will include it in their online list. PW created logos, bookmarks, signs and other useful materials to let consumers know of their participation, and to encourage them to “Read Locally” and “Get Your Read On.”

We authors can help by proposing events to local bookstores. For instance, if stores want to hold contests or raffles, we could provide copies of our books as prizes. What reader wouldn't love a gift basket filled with writings of The Susquehanna Writers? If your story's only available electronically, then include a gift certificate good for one copy via email. That’s just one example. There are lots more options out there, and opportunities. Time to put our heads together! Let’s hear some of your ideas.

Cate Masters’ novels, novellas, short stories and flash fiction appear at epublishers The Wild Rose Press, Eternal Press, Wild Child Publishing/ Freya’s Bower and Shadowfire Press. Her flash and short stories appear at such web zines as Cezanne’s Carrot, The Battered Suitcase, A Long Story Short, Dark Sky Magazine, and The Harrow. Visit her online at www.catemasters.com, www.catemasters.blogspot.com or follow her on Facebook or on Twitter.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wrting on Guts With No Glory

I just returned from a college cross country race. It was actually held at Memorial Lake near Fort Indian Town Gap but hosted by Lebanon Valley College. My son runs for Penn State Altoona and this was his first college race. The day was damp and cool, the grass soaked and the course a mixture of fine gravel and stretches of quagmire.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the sport, let me give a brief description. The teams, usually of a dozen or so runners, line up across a field for the start. At the gun they sprint out to get position as the path will narrow quickly and take them into the woods or over hill and dale. As a fan, you often only can see small portions of the race. Though the runners start out in a bunch, they quickly spread out as the stronger runners pull away. Most of the race is far from any cheering or encouragement. Most people watching are at the finish line and when you're talking about cross country, the only fans are usually the parents and very close friends. It's a lonely sport with few accolades and is virtually ignored by media coverage until things like state or national meets roll around.
Perhaps more than any other sport, long distance running takes an inner strength and measure of perseverance without reward more than any other sport. My son finished 31st overall today and fourth for his team. It was his best race ever and his coach was pleased with his finish. His 31st place really helped his team. His name and picture won't be in the paper or on TV. Not even his team mate who finished first overall will be getting an endorsement offer. There's no glory for a gutsy performance. Who sees that race and thinks of all the hours spend running?
I couldn't help today as I talked to my son after the race how much writing is like that long distance running. The work is done mostly alone, the motivation comes from somewhere inside and even when the finished product, the race, is done, the accolades are few and far between.
The triumph is sometimes known only to us or only to those in our same position. My son's team mates and coach understood what a great day they all had as my writer friends understand and applaud my achievements. Fellow runners know how difficult all those miles of training can be as my fellow writers know how many hours are spent on each project.
Distant runners don't just go out and run miles. They do speed work and hill running and make sure they eat correctly. Writers don't just sit down at the keyboard, they edit and reread and rewrite and blog.
On a cross country team most encouragement comes from each other exactly as writers depend on each other to help one get over a dry spell or get by discouragement. There are many people with ideas that might make a great novel but how many actually sit down and write it? How many have the will to write for hours, then edit and then rewrite and then do it all again? Just like the runner keeps going up the impossible hill and for one more mile, so do we as writers. We can't stop because someone passes us or passes on us. We don't stop because we're too tired and the day is too short. And we help each other keep going, cheering encouraging and sometimes training together. If you know a writer who is struggling right now, take a moment to give them some encouragement. My local chapter of RWA, is having a little group, get each other going, challenge this month. CPRW is challenging each other to write no less than 50 words every day for 50 days. I think they'll find that once you write the first fifty words, a lot more flow forth.
So encourage someone today.
Remember we're all alone in this together.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It Came From Beyond the Sun

Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookstore owner Debbie Beamer approached me with a wonderful opportunity to speak to Sci Fi audiences this fall and winter when Jumpstreet of Harrisburg, PA sponsors The Big Read. The book chosen is that amazing classic of censorship and complacency, Fahrenheit 451. I'll be giving a keynote speech & discussion on November 21, 2009 at 2:00 PM at the newly reopened and fabulous Midtown Bookstore in Harrisburg. And, just to make things fun, I'll be autographing my new anthology of tabloid Sci Fi stories called, It Came From Beyond the Sun. The anthology includes 28 short stories, and a commentary each one, along with an introduction by none other than Sun editor Carla Chadick. So, fellow readers and writers, get in the Big Read by delving into Fahrenheit 451, and then come on out on November 21st. The event is free to the public and I promise my talk will be worth the price of admission.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Whew! Is it hot in here?

by Cate Masters
Nope, it's just me! I'm being roasted today at the Author Roast and Toast. Come on over and join the fun! I'm also giving away a PDF of Going with Gravity.