Monthly Archives: June 2010

Go zombie and win a Kobo!

Friend and fellow urban fantasy author Sean Cummings is having a contest to celebrate the release of Funeral Pallor, the second novel in his Valerie Stevens series, which releases in the U.K. on July 1. You could win a brand-new Kobo ebook reader, part of a cool Valerie Stevens prize pack.

Sean has a few easy requirements for entering the contest, but the fun part is creating a zombified picture of yourself and sending it to Sean to display in a zombie rogues’ gallery on July 1 on Good Girls Bad Juju. Full contest details here.

If you haven’t yet read Shade Fright, the fun first book in Sean’s series, this is a great opportunity to get introduced to Valerie Stevens and her world. Here’s a description of Shade Fright from the publisher’s website (Funeral Pallor is the sequel):

“I fell into this job quite by accident, when I discovered that I possessed the ability to see the preternatural world. There are a handful of people with similar abilities, and part of my job is to locate them, since Government Central and Infrastructure Canada like to keep track of these things. Don’t ask me why…”

There’s a malevolent force in town, and it’s quite literally Valerie Steven’s job to determine who’s behind it and why they want to destroy the world, starting with Calgary. She’ll have help, in the form of her best friend (now more or less a zombie, unfortunately), a powerful dwarf troll, and the ghost of former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (but he goes by ‘Bill’ these days). But that’s not all – Valerie has some tricks up her sleeve and, she hopes, luck on her side. Oh, and her boyfriend, Dave. He drives a dump truck.

I can’t wait to see the zombie pics people send in. If you enter, good luck!

Thoughts on revising

If I had more time, maybe I could get this guy to do my revisions for me.

I’m just about done with revisions to Hellforged. Although I enjoy editing my work, it’s never a smooth, straightforward process. I love thinking through changes to a scene, but then sometimes I procrastinate like crazy over actually writing it. I can get hung up, too, on giving a scene just one more polish, spending more time on it than (if I’m being objective) it actually needs. Here are a few thoughts I’ve had during the revision process this time around.

Let your editor’s (or critique partner’s) comments sit for a few days before you decide how to deal with them. Whether you agree with your editor’s suggestions or feel resistent to them, give them a few days to percolate (if you’ve got time). I was lucky with Hellforged—my editor liked the manuscript and had only a few suggestions. All of her suggestions were helpful, and the biggest one was along the same lines as what I was already thinking. To make those revisions work, though, I need a few days of turning them over in my mind before I start implementing them.

Read the whole novel (or story) through before tackling specific edits. This makes your story fresh in your mind again, and it helps you see how you can make the necessary changes. I make minor tweaks as I go along, and I also take notes. It saves me from rewriting a scene on page 27 and then realizing later that my changes won’t work because of something on page 134.

Save the pre-edited manuscript. It’s a lot easier to experiment with a scene when you know that there’s a copy of the existing scene safely tucked away somewhere. (Preferably several somewheres—you do save your files in at least three places, right? I save files on my desktop, my laptop, a flash drive, and online.)

Just do it. I go through a lot of preparation before I start in on edits, but at some point you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and plunge in. You never know if the changes you’re planning will work until you write them. I can sit around thinking and planning and sketching out notes for days—but thoughts and plans and sketches are only the context of the story. To make a scene work, you have to write the damn thing.

Pull the scene out of the story. I write my first draft in individual scenes and chapters, each in its own file. It’s easier for me to write a whole novel by breaking it into smaller chunks.  After that draft, I put everything together into one big file and work on the whole manuscript. When I’m revising, I sometimes find it helpful to copy the scene I’m working on and paste it into its own file. Just like in the first draft, it feels easier to handle that way. When I’m done, I paste the revised scene into the manuscript, make sure it fits what comes before and after, and move on.

Learn to let go. For me, maybe the hardest part of revising is saying, “I’m done.”  I always want to do a couple of tweaks here, a little more polishing there. And I’m just so reluctant to leave the world of my story. Deadlines help. So does moving on to a new project, and I’m jumping right in to Vicky 3. So I’m not leaving Vicky’s world; I’m moving forward in her story. And I can do that only after I’ve finished this installment.

Erzsebet: The Blood Countess

Elizabeth Bathory, the infamous Blood Countess of 17th-century Hungary, could be called history’s busiest female serial killer. She and four accomplices were accused of torturing and murdering more than 600 young women: servants, peasant girls, even daughters of minor nobility sent to Elizabeth’s court as a sort of finishing school. (And no, I’m not going to make that pun. LOL) Some stories claim that, in a desperate attempt to revive her fading beauty, Elizabeth bathed in the blood of virgins.

Sounds like a great subject for an opera, doesn’t it?

Her (indirect) descendent, composer Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, thinks so, too.  Nearly 25 years ago, he began researching Elizabeth Bathory’s life with thoughts of writing an opera based on her story. He’s nearly there. Erzsebet: The Opera is nearly finished. It’s part of the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble’s 2010-2011 season. But not quite everything has fallen into place. As so often happens with the arts, the problem is money.  As Bathory-Kitsz writes, “support is needed for the singer, additional musicians, staging, costumes, lighting, and time to complete the remaining 40 minutes of the opera.”

I pledged support for Erzsebet: The Opera at Kickstarter, where the project has less than a day left to meet its fund-raising goal. Kickstarter is a great site, where you can sponsor all kinds of projects, from Web comics to community projects to performance art to opera and other kinds of music, for as little as a $1 or $2 donation. Click this link to learn about the history of Bathory-Kitsz’s quest to turn Elizabeth Bathory’s story into an opera, and to listen to some of the haunting music he’s written so far.

The way Kickstarter works, if a project doesn’t meet its fundraising goal within the specified time frame, none of the money that people have pledged is collected. That would be a pity in this case, where people have agreed to put up over 70% of the needed funds. Take a look and see if you’d like to contribute a couple of bucks. For that little, you can download a recording of the performance and get your name in the program. Or find another project that you’d like to support. There are so many great ideas out there, and never enough money, it seems, to bring them to life.

I know opera isn’t everyone’s thing. For myself, though, I’d really love to see this opera performed. It’s a perfect subject, and what I’ve heard of the music is beautiful.

UPDATE: The opera didn’t get funded through Kickstarter (time ran out), but Dennis Bathory-Kitsz has set up his website to accept donations. He tells me that the opera is committed to three performances in Vermont in the fall of 2011. The only question is whether he’ll get funding from backers or whether he’ll pay the necessary costs out of his own pocket.  I donated, and I plan to see the opera when it’s performed next year. Glad to hear it’s on!

Home stretch

I’ve got three scenes left to edit in Hellforged—actually, it’s more like two and two halves, but you get the idea. I’ll try to nail those down today and tomorrow, then do a final, full-novel run-through during the rest of the week. My goal is to hand in the final manuscript on Friday. My editor has been very patient since my nonfiction project ate my life and I had to ask for an extension, and I don’t want to try that patience any further than I already have. Plus my daughter is coming for a visit this weekend, and I want to spend time with her and not be like, “Yeah, sure, Sweetie. We’ll go out for lunch as soon as I kill this demon.”

Plus it’ll feel good just to be done. I’m brimming over with ideas for Book 3, and I want to put those into action.

Over the weekend, I discovered that Hellforged’s Amazon page is up. No cover yet (I still haven’t seen the cover design, myself), but the book already has a sales rank. Thank you, whoever preordered a copy!


On track so far

I’m staying on track so far with my revisions to Hellforged. My goal is to move forward by 30 pages a day. Some days that’s easy—the writing is pretty smooth and the plot zips along at a good pace. Other days I get hung up on a scene that needs work. That happened, not surprisingly, on the very first day of my Great Revision Marathon. There was a scene in Chapter 2 that I knew needed rewriting (I’d never been happy with it, and of course my brilliant editor zoomed right in on the problem), so I spent most of a day redoing five pages. The scene still needs polishing, but it’s soooo much better now.

I’m one of those people who likes revising. It’s harder for me to wrestle with a blank page than it is to roll up my sleeves and get to work on a scene that I’ve already drafted. I like shaping and polishing my prose. Maybe that’s because I used to be a teacher and a freelance editor; I can always see possibilities in the words already on the page. And I’ve been waiting so long to finish up the nonfiction project and get back to Hellforged—it makes me happy to be working on these revisions. Seriously. I feel just plain happy today in a way I haven’t in weeks.

Last night, after I’d finished working on revisions for the day, I read ahead to remind myself of what’s coming and in hopes that maybe my subconscious would fool around with today’s chunk of editing as I slept. I think it worked, because I  woke up thinking about this book this morning. I love that!

So. Onward.

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