Surviving a Writer’s Conference

I recently returned from the awesome Realm Makers conference, and I’m bringing back tips for anyone attending a conference. And also pictures, because those are fun.

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Snow White and her dwarf.

 

Let’s start with what you should bring to a conference.

Writerly things to bring if you’re pitching: 

Onesheets (I have heard this is more of a Christian conference thing, but I have no experience with secular conferences.) Generally, I figure if you’re pitching, bring one more onesheet than the amount of people you’re pitching to, and you should be fine. Many of the larger agencies/publishers don’t take paper home with them, so taking this many is probably overkill, but the smaller presses do sometimes take this stuff home. Better to have too many than two few. It’s good to have an extra in case you get to pitch to someone you hadn’t planned on pitching to.
The first ten pages of your story Take the same amount as you would for onesheets, perhaps one less.
Proposal and synopsis Originally, I didn’t take these, but I had publishers/agents ask for them so I started bringing them. At the very least, have them written so you can send them when you get home from the conference.

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Me with Ted Dekker

Other things to bring:

Business cards These are good even if you’re not pitching since it helps you keep in contact with people you met. 25 is probably plenty, unless you really like handing them out.
Laptop and notebook for taking notes. Make sure to have the notebook. Some conferences don’t have enough plugins and your laptop’s batteries might die like mine did.
A sweater even if it’s hot. Many indoor places have the air conditioning turned up to the point it feels like a freezer.
Cash
Medicine/vitamins/cough drops in preparation for getting a cold.
Camera
Ziplock bags
Water bottle
Whatever other stuff you need, such as a toothbrush and 
deodorant (If you’re pitching, you want the strong stuff.)
Snacks. These are useful if you’re arriving early, before the meals that come with the conference. Bringing candy for your roommate is always a big hit too.

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Team Voltron genderswapped (I’m really looking forward to Season 3))

 Survival Tips

If possible, try to fly with most of your stuff as carry on. I hear too many stories about people losing baggage. At the very least, carry on anything you have to hand to the agents/editors/publishers, your notebook/laptop, and your pjs.
Arrive the day before the conference starts. This allows you to get one night of decent sleep, in theory.
Friend people on facebook or other social media so you know a few names when you go to the conference. (Realm Makers has a facebook group.)
Make sure your bags aren’t stuffed when you go to the conference. You’ll want to buy books and maybe other stuff, so you’ll need space for them. Realm Makers generally has quite the haul of swag, sometimes posters, sometimes free books, so you need the room.
If you’re flying carry an empty water bottle through security then fill it when you find a fountain. This means you won’t have to buy water. If you are carrying water in your laptop bag, make sure the lid is tight. I’ve seen people spill water in their bags.

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Jill Williamson pulled this off well.

Random tips you won’t hear from anyone sane

For those who dislike coffee but need something to stay awake, it can be stomached easier if one mixes it with hot chocolate. (Cream and sugar work in a pinch.)
Those ziplock bags? Those are for leftovers. It seems many conference meals have so much food that some is left over. I hate throwing it out, so it goes in the bag and I can save it for later, such as days I’d normally have to go out for a meal. (I’m a very light eater and often eat a snack instead of a full meal.)
Some foods, such as donuts and cheesecake, do not fair well in laptop bags. A banana can be safe if packed properly. Some harder buns and muffins do well. Another trick is to reinforce the bag by putting the laptop cord or other strong  things on either side of the food.
Foods in the same ziplock bags will likely get mixed, so avoid incompatible foods in the same space.
If you need to toast a bun you stuffed in your bag and you don’t have access to a microwave, the blowdryer works.

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Me and my roommate

 

 

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Beautiful People: Author Writing Process

 

Firstly, thank you, Teddi of The Christian SpecFic Reader for sharing my review.

Now onto this post. I’m busy editing The Red Tattoo and haven’t had much time for blog posts, plus I don’t like posting if I can’t think of anything good to say.

Here’s a link to the original questions.

 

  1. How do you decide which project to work on?
    Mostly by figuring out which one I know how to fix or write, or the one that I want to publish.
  2. How long does it usually take you to finish a project?
    Nothing is published yet, and they’re not “finished” until they’re published since I never stop editing, so I don’t know. The first draft takes between one and three months to write depending on the length, the second draft takes a similar amount of time, but I try to take time off between drafts, then editing takes I-don’t-know-how-long.
  3. Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?
    Listening to music.
  4. What time of day do you write best?
    I used to say night, but now I’m not sure. Probably that time when I have a deadline.
  5. Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?
    Not really, but since Bryan Davis has been my mentor or sorts, I would guess that’s led to my style leaning his way. I think I remember a friend thought my style was similar to Brandon Sanderson. Since Sanderson gets three figure book deals, I hope that friend is right.
  6. Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?
    I started because I’ve always had stories to tell. I think I keep writing for the same reason, and also because I don’t give up.
  7. What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?
    Country in Chaos, which was so hard I haven’t rewritten, even though it needs a rewrite. The Red Tattoo would be the second hardest.
  8. Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?
    I’ve got a superhero idea, but I haven’t been able to come up with an epic twisty ending for it, so I haven’t tackled it yet.
    I also have an idea for a story involving a girl who gets in an online relationship with a guy, then finds out he isn’t on Earth, but I’d kind of want it to be funny, and it’d have romance. I don’t do well with romance or humor, so I don’t know if it’ll ever get written.
  9. What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?
    I want to be self-published or have agent/publisher interest by the end of the year. So far, no luck, though I did get Country in Chaos printed.
  10. Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!
    I’ll just do three things.
    Writing the First Draft = fun
    Writing the Second Draft = Still fun but getting a bit stressful
    Editing = Can I hide now?
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Book Review: For Us Humans

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Caz works undercover to track down stolen art. He also dislikes aliens and has fallen away from God, which leads to trouble when he gets paired up with an alien who is interested in God.

Note on ratings:

*           Horrible.
**         Below average
***       Average. Not good or bad.
****    Above average
***** Above and beyond

Content: *** (Content based off my personal level of squeamishness.)
There is some violence but nothing overly descriptive, but there’s a fair amount of low-grade swearing, as well as a main character who gets drunk and has one night stands. (Nothing is explicit.)

Originality and world building: *****
The story starts out as a buddy cop story, but this time, the partner is an alien, which is a cool twist.
The worldbuilding here feels very deep, with the aliens having their own phrases and body language. It really feels like this universe has many more stories to tell. The prejudice in the story felt realistic too, not something shoved in there just to push an agenda. The inclusion of Christianity and alien religion was also really neat and didn’t feel preachy.

Characters and their Arcs: ****
Caz’s arc was okay, but I had some trouble relating because drinking and one night stands are not my vices. (Overcoming this is part of his character arc, not something that is endorsed.) Even so, I wan’t that interested in his arc. I was much more interested in his partner, Nil, since I get attached to aliens rather easily.

Writing style and Pacing: ***
I had trouble putting the book down, though the last quarter went from buddy cop to more solid space opera, which felt weird, and the tension seemed slightly lower when Caz and Nil began to get along better.
When it comes to writing style, the large amount of fragments did tend to get on my nerves, but the humor was pretty good.

Other things I liked:
Aliens. I like aliens and I don’t see enough of them. It’s always been a fantasy of mine to see a book where the aliens have a belief in God, so it was really neat when this got brought up.

Other things I didn’t like:
There isn’t a sequel yet. Does that count as something I didn’t like?

Is it worth reading?
Yes.

My Rating:

fourstar

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TV Review: Star Wars Rebels Season 3

I’ve sort of decided to post once a month or so. However, I did add a Gallery to this site, which is where I’ll be displaying my own art.

In celebration of May the Fourth, also known as Star Wars Day, I’m reviewing the third season of Star Wars Rebels. Last year, I reviewed the second season.
The crew took a beating last season, but now they’re back, and Ezra’s starting to take charge.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Star_Wars_Rebels_Season_Three_posterNote on ratings:

*           Horrible.
**         Below average
***       Average. Not good or bad.
****    Above average
***** Above and beyond

Content: **** (Content based off my personal level of squeamishness.)
This season felt lighter than season 2 with less violence. Yes, it’s still Star Wars, but there was a bit less head chopping.


Originality and world building: ****

Like all Star Wars media, the world feels deep, but I think the show could have gone a bit deeper in this season. There are certainly a bunch of different cultures around.

Characters and their Arcs: ****
Ezra’s arc with Maul felt a bit choppy, but it was nice to see Ezra maturing. I enjoyed seeing more Sabine’s arc, which was good. We also had some of Rex, and Agent Kallus got a lot of development. Saw’s arc, though rushed, was also enjoyable.
I loved seeing Thrawn on the screen.

Pacing and action sequences: ***
The pacing felt a bit too episodic in this season. Though there were a lot of good episodes, it felt choppy, and some arcs seemed to be forced into too short of a space.

Animation: ****
The backgrounds are looking pretty good, but I didn’t feel the awe like I did in season 2.

Addition to the Universe: ****
It was really nice to see more of Saw Gerrera, and I think this show does fit the universe well.

hqdefaultOther things I liked:
Saw Gerrera showed up. Even though his character arc felt rushed, I was really glad to see him since his part in Rogue One had been so small. Having the rebel groups not get along, and having characters who disagree with each other really ups the tension.
Sato’s sacrifice in the last episode was good, even if the season final didn’t seem as good as the previous season’s final.
Thrawn is a great villain and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of him. He was one of the best villains I’ve read about, so I’m really glad Disney decided not to cut him from cannon.
It was good to see Maul’s arc ended. A long fight would have been cool to see, but the three-second one was fitting.

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What I didn’t like:
The episodic nature of the series. I also wasn’t that big of a fan of Bendu. This season’s climax wasn’t nearly as emotional as S2’s.

Is it worth watching?
Yes, though it wouldn’t hurt to skip episodes you’re not interested in. It also looks like Season 4 will be really good.

My rating:

fourstar

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Camp NaNo: Black Claw

For Camp NaNo this year, I’m rewriting the third book in my spaceverse, a sequel to Hand of Steel, currently titled Black Claw.

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The cover, which is just a simple thing for Camp NaNo. If I publish it, I’m not keeping this cover.

Pitch: When Klate is captured by bounty hunters and blamed for murders he didn’t commit, Krys must work with the hunters to track down the real killer.

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The team Krys is forced to work with. (For those who don’t know, Krys is the cyborg.)

 

In other news, there are a few new pictures on my fan art page. I also updated the Country in Chaos page to show the book’s cover.

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Kark Breeds

Warhound trinity

Here’s a picture of three kark breeds, a species featured heavily in my novel, The Red Tattoo. Karks are the mounts of the Chix, who are the only species small enough to ride these large predators that are a mix of canine and feline, which gives them an unnerving yowling howl. They’re able to run for hours, much like wolves, but they can also race through treetops.

On the left is the courser, the fastest breed. They’re ridden on scouting missions, in races, or for other situations that need speed and don’t require them to haul much weight.

The right creature is the common warhound. These make up the backbone of the mounts for the Chix cavalry. They are known for their loyalty and intelligence, which makes them a force to be reckoned with in battle.

The middle creature is a Saddat warhound. This somewhat rare breed originated from common warhounds who were brought to Saddat, which is colder than Chibbink. The breed is a bit larger than the average warhound, has more fur, and a thicker build. Because they can handle the cold much better than the common warhound, they are often ridden by the higher-ranking Chix during campaigns in colder regions.

Other breeds:

Pithounds, which look like common warhounds but almost always black. They’re used in pit fights and tend to be extremely aggressive

Draft karks, a species even bigger than the Saddat warhound. These are used for plowing fields and other farm work. They’re known for being extremely docile and slower moving than warhounds.

Wild karks come in two breeds, the plains kark, which resembles the courser, and the jungle kark, which is smaller than any other breed and tends to be very much an arboreal species.

 

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All Senses Story Challenge

This is something I found on DeviantART where a person uses multiple senses to describe their character(s) so I did it with Savora. (In-universe, Jagur would never meet her, but I needed someone to see her from the outside.)

Here is the original. Note that the original included if the character was attractive, but I cut that one out since Jagur wouldn’t notice since he’s a different species.

Sight: Jagur watched the creature as she walked down the path he crouched beside. She had reddish fur with a corse look too it, especially on her short tail. Black stripes marked her body, and her long ears were almost fully black on the outside, with a lighter inner ear. They perked for any sound while her whiskers twitched, sensing the breeze. One ear had a notch taken out of it. Jagur couldn’t tell if she had a good sense of smell, but he’d positioned himself downwind of the game path. She stood nearly seven feet tall, making her quite a bit taller than Jagur, though the way she walked on her toes gave her a few extra inches. She had various scars along her arms and possibly more under her sleeveless shirt and skirt. Judging by her long, sharp claws, she could fight well. With arms that long, Jagur knew he didn’t want to get in a scrap with her. He pressed himself agains the ground behind the bush he’d picked. He’d just let her pass him by and wait for real prey, not something that was obviously intelligent.

Sound: She walked almost silently, an odd thing for a creature of her size. Jagur hadn’t even detected her until she’d come into his line of sight. He couldn’t hear her breathing, not from this distance, but the way her ears twitched worried him. With those big ears, she probably had good hearing. He tried to breath quietly.

Smell: The breeze shifted, blowing the creature’s scent to Jagur. He inhaled deeply, trying to get a better feel for what she was. He caught a dirt scent, giving him the hint she lived underground, which would explain why he’d never encountered any of her species before. She carried a root smell mixed in, and a slight roast meat scent. Omnivorous, most likely, not a full meat-eater like Lazakal. Didn’t mean she was someone he wanted to get into a tangle with, but now, she was too close for him to reveal himself without her getting surprised.

Action: The big alien’s ears twitched, swiveling Jagur’s way. He held perfectly still. He was downwind and hadn’t made a sound. She couldn’t have noticed him.
She sprang at Jagur, her movements fluid and faster than he’d have thought possible for something her size. He rolled onto his back as she crashed into him.

Touch: One of her huge hands slammed into Jagur’s chest, pinning him down. She put enough weight on him he could barely draw a breath. Luckily, her long claws, meant for digging, didn’t slice into his chest. Her other hand poised over him, claws upraised.

Taste: Without thinking, Jagur bit her arm, tasting blood and dirty fur.

Composure: She roared in pain and rage. Her free hand slammed into Jagur’s head. He fell back, half stunned. She shot to her feet and stood over him, her claws at the ready, ears flattened in anger.

Mentality: Wary of Jagur’s jaws, she didn’t attack. Not wanting to anger the huge creature, he stayed low, his head pounding. This wasn’t a fight he wanted. Even if he managed to win, he’d be too injured to hunt.

Emotion: She growled, a deep rumble from her chest, not quite like a Lazakal growl. Jagur met her eyes and noted they were wide. She was frightened, at least slightly. She’d attacked out of fear, not because she wanted to fight.

Posture: Even if she was afraid, her eyes were the only thing that betrayed it. She stood strongly, her left side facing toward Jagur. The only weakness he spotted was how she put more weight on her right side. She favored her left leg, perhaps from an old injury. Jagur doubted he’d be able to get her off-balance.

Alignment: Instead of attacking, she stood over him, watching, waiting for Jagur to make a move. She wasn’t going to finish him off, not if he didn’t show any aggression. Considering Jagur had only been hit, not clawed, she was holding back.

Jagur slowly rose to a crouch. He shook his pounding head.
The big alien watched him, the tension in her body telling him she still expected him to attack her.
“I was hunting animals, not you,” Jagur said. He licked a little bit of her blood from his long canines. “Sorry about biting you.”
She watched him, her stance relaxing just a little as he spoke.
Jagur stood and brushed leaves from his vest. “The name’s Jagur.”
She tipped her ears to him. “Savora,” she said. “I’m sorry. I heard you there and thought you were going to attack, so I figured I’d get you first.”
Jagur shrugged. “No hard feelings. I should have said something when I spotted you. Does that bite need treated? I could lick it.”
Savora looked at the wound. “I’ve had worse.”
Considering her speed, Jagur guessed she wasn’t lying. She’d had him down before he’d had a chance to fully react. This creature knew what she was doing.

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Fanfic, the Dark Side of Writing

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Over the years, I’ve read fanfic and seen discussion of it. I’ll even admit to writing some.

For those who don’t know, fan fiction (fanfic) is when a fan of a story writes another story set in the same universe. For example, if a person likes Star Wars, they might write a fanfic about Luke hunting Womp rats.

Some say fanfic is lazy writing, but I think it depends on the sort of writing. Many published authors started out writing fanfic. Kenan started out as Star Wars fanfic and the Lunar Chronicles started out as Sailor Moon fanfic.

There is also some media that is technically fanfic, but is legitimate, such as Star Wars books and cases where a new author finishes a series when the original author is no longer able to continue it. (When Robert Jordan passed away, Brandon Sanderson had to finish The Wheel of Time series.)

Fanfic is a good way for new, inexperienced writers to get into writing. After all, someone who just started writing is going to need a lot of practice to get to the point where they’re able to write something worth publishing, so there’s no reason they can’t start with fanfic.

But is it lazy to write in someone else’s world? I think this depends on the point of view. If it’s lazy to write in an already created universe, it would also be lazy to write fiction set in any time period in the real world.

Don’t get me wrong, most fanfic is awful, but it’s not because writing fanfic is lazy. It’s because lots of people who don’t know how to write are writing it, and good fanfic takes just as much skill as good writing in any genre.

Most of these lazy writers do things that a good writer would avoid. Their fanfic is little more than wish fulfillment, often jerking characters in directions those characters wouldn’t go, for example, pairing up characters who are not a couple in the story and would never be a couple. Another thing these bad fanfic writers do is write themselves into the story by making a character that is basically themselves but better, so this character can run around with the main characters of the story world. (This is where the term “Mary Sue” came from.)
If these people were writing something original, it would be just as bad as the fanfic, but readers seem more likely to read bad fanfic than bad original stories.

Good fanfic involves using someone else’s characters and depicting them accurately. This can be very difficult to get right. The writer can’t just design characters that they want to. They have to keep each character consistent with the rest of the media featuring that character. They also have to keep track of how the rules of the world work, and if they’re writing something based off a book, they should try to mirror the author’s style. This takes talent, and sometimes, it takes talent that those who write original fiction haven’t developed.

When it comes down to it, fanfic is a form of art, but like any form of art, there is a lot of it that’s just not good, which gives the rare good stuff a bad name. It can also be a good exercise for writers and help promote the authors they love.

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Beautiful Books: Hand of Steel

beautiful books

I’m posting early since I’ll be gone on Monday.

I decided to do one of these linkups since I haven’t done one in a while.

Questions:

  1. What were your writing achievements last year?
    I was published for a second time in Havok magazine, I did some polishing on Hand of Steel, and I wrote and edited The Red Tattoo.
  2. What’s on your writerly “to-do list” for 2017?
    Self-publish Hand of Steel, print Country in Chaos, and do more editing on The Red Tattoo. Also, maybe write some other book.
  3. Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!
    Getting Hand of Steel published. First, I want to work on printing Country in Chaos, though I do not believe I will publish it since I don’t think it’s good enough.
  4. How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?
    Hopefully with readers.
  5. Describe your general editing process.
    Write the rough draft. Leave the book to set for a few months. Rewrite. Remove big boring parts and edit anything else I see. Send out to betas. Get feedback. Fix problems. Repeat.
  6. On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?
    For Hand of Steel, pretty good, but I still have a few issues I need to work on. I’d say after the amount of editing I’ve done, it’s probably a 8.
  7. What aspect of your draft needs the most work?
    The middle.
  8. What do you like the most about your draft?
    The pacing is pretty fast, and I like my worldbuilding, even if explaining it can be hard.
  9. What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?
    Self-publishing. I’d try querying, but it’s too short for most presses.
  10. What’s your top piece of advice for those just finished writing a first draft?
    Don’t expect it to be perfect. You might need to rewrite.
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The Antihero

In recent years, the antihero has risen in popularity. For those who don’t know, the definition of an antihero is “a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.”

I think what makes an antihero is someone who, though they may do the right thing, have a different mindset from traditional heroes, setting them apart from the rest of the team.

hqdefaultThere are different types of antiheroes who get stuffed into the same group. One type might be self-sacrificing but much less idealistic than the hero. Instead of having a dual with the main bad guy like a hero would, the antihero might sneak into the enemy’s tent and stab him in his sleep or just shoot him. This type may be willing to lay down his/her life for a cause, but might not be willing to do something idealistic. If the other characters are more idealistic than the reader, this can make the reader love the antihero because s/he’s the one using common sense. In another way, it may make the audience pity him/her, because this person had something bad enough happen that they’ve gone this far. Saw Gerrera from Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels is an example of this type. He’s certainly no coward, but some of his methods go too far.

The other type might be more selfish. While a hero will instantly leap into a battle and risk their lives, this type tends to hesitate. In the end, the good ones normally do the right thing, but they do it grudgingly. With heroes, it’s a given that they’ll join the fight and do the right thing, but with this antihero type, the audience is on the edge of their seat wondering if the character will do what’s right. Tony Stark/Iron Man, fits this category.

photo_902622_thumbTo some, this seems like a bad thing. Isn’t the hero supposed to be a good role model? Well, sort of, but they should also be relatable. In real life, many people will hesitate before they do something brave and risky. This is human nature. In one of these situations, it would be easy to see a normal person hesitate. Making it to the point of being a hero is journey enough.

Another reason antiheroes are liked is that they’re not chained down. They’re normally roaming through the world and have very few responsibilities, other than feeding themselves. These people have the ability to go where they want, when they want. They don’t have a boss, nagging family member, or some other responsibility tying them down. The audience can relate to this, not because they roam the world, but because they’d like to roam around in the storyworld. Who would want to stay on a moisture farm when you could be seeing the galaxy?

In the end, antiheroes shouldn’t be the only character type in a story, and they sometimes make poor main characters, but they bring much-needed moral diversity to a cast of characters.

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