For the latest news and musings on the writer’s craft from Patricia Bray, read her not-so-secret diaries.
This summer I was a guest instructor at the annual Odyssey Writing Workshop. During my guest lecture I focused on writing a series, including pros and cons of writing a series, the different types of series, and shared tips and techniques gathered from my own experiences, and those of fellow writers. They lecture is now available in podcast form at http://www.sff.net/odyssey/podcasts.html . Look for podcast #67 (part 1) and podcast #68 (part 2).
CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs ALIENS was phenomenally successful, raising over 150% of its goal. Thanks to the authors who agreed to be part of this project and everyone who pledged their support. CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE will be the first title released by the new small press Zombies Need Brains (http://www.zombiesneedsbrains.com) which was founded by Joshua Palmatier. I’m co-editing the anthology and looking forward to reading the wonderful stories that it inspired.
I’m also looking forward to ZNB t-shirts featuring the slogan of the new press– HUMANS NEED BOOKS LIKE ZOMBIES NEED BRAINS. Because really, what more needs to be said?
Look for CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs ALIENS to be available in May 2014.
In the totally cool news department–frequent co-conspirator Joshua Palmatier recently launched a small press www.zombiesneedbrains.com which will release anthologies of original sf&f stories. I’ll be co-editing the first project CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs ALIENS which is being funded via Kickstarter www.kickstarter.com/projects/543968884/clockwork-universe-steampunk-vs-aliens-anthology .
When aliens reach Earth, they encounter the clockwork mechanisms and Victorian sensibilities of a full-blown steampunk civilization, and Joshua has assembled an incredible group of authors who have agreed to write stories for the anthology: Bradley Beaulieu, Caitlin Kittredge, Gini Koch, Scott Lynch, Gail Z. Martin, Seanan McGuire, and Ian Tregillis. The remaining slots will be filled by invitation. I’m incredibly excited about this project, and not simply because I came up with the idea for the anthology. Looking forward to once again getting to work with Joshua and a group of fabulous authors.
I’m pleased to announce that Audible has purchased the audio book rights to my fantasy trilogies. The Chronicles of Josan is currently in production with THE FIRST BETRAYAL scheduled to be available in September, followed by THE SEA CHANGE and THE FINAL SACRIFICE. The Devlin series will then follow.
Working with the narrator has been an interesting exercise. As the author I can choose to let the narrator determine pronunciations, or I can specify my own. Naturally being a type-A personality, I chose to provide guidance, which meant the narrator would send me lists of foreign and invented words, and I would record the preferred pronunciation. The experience gave me a new level of appreciation for how hard the book narrators work, and I can’t wait to listen to the final product.
I’m very pleased to announce that I’ll be a guest instructor at next year’s Odyssey Writing Workshop, held in Manchester, New Hampshire. I really enjoyed my first time as a lecturer in 2009, and was excited when they invited me to return for next year.
The 2013 workshop runs from June 10th through July 19th. Early applications are due January 31st, 2013, and regular applications are due April 8th, 2013. Lecturers include Nancy Holder (writer-in-residence), Holly Black, Patricia Bray, Adam-Troy Castro, Jack Ketchum and Sheila Williams.
Fun fact– during my first stint as a guest lecturer at Odyssey, I explained to the students that I was a novel writer, and had no recent experience with short stories. I’ve since gone on to publish a short story and co-edit two fantasy anthologies, so I’ll have a new skillset to bring to the table.
Holy Foreign Sales, Batgirl!
While looking up info for the new website, I came across a new German edition of Bewitching Kittens, the Halloween-themed Regency that contains my novella Charlotte’s Kitten. (Side note: yes, Halloween and Regency England, I was as skeptical as you are when I was given the assignment.)
The English edition of the novella quickly earned out, and though Zebra didn’t go back to press, they did sell German language rights. And the German language edition sold well. And kept selling. And they reissued it with new covers, and those editions kept selling. By my count they are on their fourth cover.
See all four covers.
hiring someone else to do it. The key to adulthood is recognizing your limitations and figuring out how to work around them. I’m not a visually oriented person so much of web design passes right over my head, and I’m not willing to invest the time needed to get good at it. So I’ve found someone who is willing to take on the project of bringing my website out of the Jurassic era.
My website designer knows and accepts my limitations, and can expertly translate commands like “Make it shiny, but not too shiny” into a working design. In the 90s she helped me build my first website, and I paid her in pizza. Today she commands professional rates… but she’s still getting a pizza when she’s done. Some traditions shouldn’t be messed with.
Ah, it’s the end of summer. The favorite time of year for any writer, due to four little words…
Sale on office supplies! (I know, you thought I was going to say “kids back in school.”) And for some, that is indeed a blessing, but for those of us without rugrats, now is the time to pick up pocket folders, notebooks and all those other necessities of the writing life. Indeed, I’d been distressed when I ran out of pocket folders earlier in the month, but now I have a fresh new supply which instantly makes me feel more organized and efficient, even if all I’ve done with them so far is to pet them.
I don’t actually have to do the research, I just need a folder labeled “Story Research” and I feel as smart as if I’d stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night. While the folder labeled “STORYNAME – WORKING COPY” starts off pristine, then becomes satisfactorily worn as completed chapters begin to bulge out both sides, until ultimately it’s held together by rubber bands.
Is this story worthy of the rare purple folder, or is a blue one good enough? Should the research be in the same color folder as the completed manuscript pages, or in a complementary color? Do I want to make notes in a notebook or on a yellow legal pad? Decisions, decisions. It’s these crucial nuances of the writing craft that they don’t teach in school, but that can nonetheless make or break you as a writer.
And let’s not even get started on the pens.
Yesterday, in the span of a half-hour, I came up with not one but two new story ideas. Different genres, different tones, even different POVs, the only thing they have in common is me.
I drove to the Cybercafe, whipped out a notepad (silly me, I’d left the laptop at home since I was supposed to be running errands) and wrote them up.
This is the part of being a writer that most folks don’t understand, as they sidle up next to me at parties and offer to let me have the privilege of writing up their great idea. Having ideas is never the problem, the hard part is picking just one to work on.
When you go to the shelter, you can’t take home every puppy you see– you’ve got to pick one. And the same goes for story ideas. Even if I live to be five hundred years old, I’ll never have time to turn all of my ideas into stories. So I have to choose carefully–adding up all the disparate factors from my passion for the story to market conditions and timing– a cool idea for a short story can be tucked in between contracts, a three book series can not. I’ll ask friends and colleagues for their advice, and then, when brain and heart agree, it’s time to start writing.
And to hope that this puppy will be easier to housebreak than the last.
This summer I was a guest instructor at Odyssey (odysseyworkshop), where I focused on the role of sidekicks as part of an overall discussion of characterization. The first half of the lecture was posted as a podcast last month, and they’ve just made the second half available on their website here.
Podcast #32: In this podcast, the second of two parts, Patricia Bray explains how the sidekick’s characteristics can balance those of the protagonist, or contrast with those of the protagonist. She discusses the requirements for a good sidekick, and describes how the sidekick’s character arc can complement or contrast with the protagonist’s character arc. She explains the difference between a sidekick/protagonist story and a story with multiple protagonists. She also lists some of the very useful purposes a sidekick can serve in a story, such as making your protagonist more believable, providing an embodiment of the protagonist’s motivation, and serving as the external conscience of protagonist. She also reviews the various mistakes an author can make in creating a sidekick. Patricia discusses sidekicks in short stories as well as novels, and explains when you might want to use the sidekick’s point of view. You can find part 1 of Patricia’s discussion of sidekicks in Podcast #31.