Last month I gave a talk at the Aether Salon in New Babbage, a virtual steampunk city in Second Life. There was a record crowd of avatars representing published writers, hopeful writers, and other interested folk. The transcript, along with the graphics from my slide show presentation (yes you can run a slide show in a virtual setting) has been posted. If you’d like to learn more about publishing, perhaps this will be of help. I had a lot of fun. Continue reading “Æther Salon: Publishing Transcript”
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” That’s cute, Shakespeare… now, can anyone tell what those other names actually are?
Did you just blink and draw a blank? You’re in good company. Let’s say you’re a writer. You’ve just conjured up a skinny teenaged boy with an incredible backstory, anger issues, perfect hair and an allergy to squirrels. That’s all well and good, but what’s his name? There’s nothing like being at a loss for the right name when writing an otherwise meaningful character, and I know for me, the quest for a name has often stopped my writing dead in its tracks.
I’ve browsed nearly every name site on the web at one time or another, and eventually I manage to scrape a name or two out and run back to my manuscripts, but it’s rarely been a fun experience. And never a social one. Now, that’s all changed . Meet Nameberry! This cheery, interesting, sociable site focuses on choosing baby names, but isn’t your story your baby, too? Next time you get stuck trying to name a talkative grandmother who can’t bake but still lifts weights, give Nameberry a go.
Next Saturday, NaNoWriMo begins. That funny word stands for National Novel Writing Month, during which thousands of writers will each, hopefully, produce a 50,000 word novel. I’ve done this before, and I can tell you it’s exhilarating, frustrating, panic-inducing, maddening and wonderful. For me, it’s a collective impetus that really helps, and feels *great*. Are you interested in giving it a try? Do it! If you don’t reach 50,000 words, no one will judge you. This is a personal-goal sorta thing. And whether you manage to produce a dozen words, or fifty thousand, or somewhere in between, you’ve written words that might otherwise never have existed. That is a wonderful thing.
NaNoWriMo 2013 at a Glance
310,095 participants started the month of November as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.
651 volunteer Municipal Liaisons guided 595 regions on six continents.
89,500 students and educators told their stories with the Young Writers Program.
650 libraries opened their doors to novelists through the Come Write In program.
And in 2014, 55,774 Campers tackled a writing project during Camp NaNoWriMo.
Learn more at National Novel Writing Month
I am so excited! I’ve turned over my novel manuscript to an independent publishing house for printing and distribution! I’m a firm believer in supporting indie publishing, so this felt like a really smart move.
They tell me they use what’s called a ‘Gutenberg’ press, and that it will deliver brilliant color and amazing details. Sounds wonderful. I didn’t know Steve Gutenberg was part of the publication industry, but you know actors, they’re in everything from politics to popcorn.
They also tell me the press can print 25 pages an hour. Seems a little slow, but you can’t rush quality, now can you? So, every eight hours, one of you can buy a copy of my book! Who wants to be the first?
Pip Ballantine: Prolific award-winning author, podcaster, cat-herder, New Zealander on special assignment in the States, wife and mother, blogger. Tee Morris: Writer of Fantasy, Non-Fiction, Podcast Pioneer, partaker of good cigars and scotch, assistant cat-herder, father, husband, thespian. Together, they fight crime! (Okay, I just really wanted to say that.) Actually, they write crime. And the most dastardly of enemies. And astounding gadegtry and corsetry. On March 25th, Dawn’s Early Light, the third exciting book in The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, will take us on another amazing adventure with both familiar and new agents. I caught Pip and Tee in a rare moment between their own adventures and, while running alongside , coaxed out answers to a few questions. And, at the end of the Q&A, look for details on a giveaway contest that you can enter!
Do you plot out a book in advance, or just dive in with a general idea of where you’re going? Or something in-between?
PIP: I’m a discovery writer, which is in between. When I start I know where the story is going to end, but I never know the bits in between. It’s like setting off from New York, knowing you are going to St. Louis, but not knowing the roads you’ll take. For me, it is the best of both worlds, I have the security of that end, but I have the spontaneity of the journey.
Do you have any bizarre writing habits?
TEE: I lack the talent my wife has where she can put on a movie or television and write. I can’t do that. If it’s email or administrative something-or-other, I can do that but when it comes to writing a manuscript, I can’t do that when somethings on the television. Impossible. I’ve seen Pip crank out a few chapters that way, but not me. Not even podcasts.
How do you go about choosing the names of your characters? (Although I think most of us can figure out the inspiration for Agent Bruce Campbell.)
TEE: Actually the story of Bruce came when we were making up agents from all parts of the Empire. I asked Pip “So what’s the Australian’s name?” Pip immediately came back with “Well, it has to be Bruce.” When she asked me for a last name, I shrugged and said “Well, of course, it’s got to be Campbell.” Now all we see is that incredible chin and that smug grin. We’re still hoping that someone gets a copy of either Phoenix Rising or Ministry Protocol to the actor. We think he’d get a kick out of it.
PIP: I usually dig deep into my own past and mix and match people I know. There’s only been one time I’ve vetoed a name. In Dawn’s Early Light, we have a character inspired by one of our favorite actors. I wanted to drop a subtle hint as to who the actor was, and Tee suggested “Luther Pentacost.” I said “No.” Quickly. A little too meta for my liking.
TEE: Still think that would have been a great name for a character.
Where do you see yourself as a writer in ten years?
TEE: If we are still writing in ten years, I’ll be thrilled. Ten years ago, self-published authors and eBooks were considered bottom feeders and what you did when your career was on the way out. Now, ten years later, it’s considered a viable option to getting published by the Big Six. It’s hard to say where we will be in that time. I am trying to make smart choices in this incredibly wild ride, so I’ll be very happy if people are still as anxious for my books as they are now.
PIP: Perhaps adapting The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences for Sir Peter Jackson. Or for HBO.
Are there topics you would never write about?
TEE: So far, I’ve not come across any topics I’ve not written about. I doubt if I could write about child abuse, even though I’ve never faced a setting where it would have been appropriate or would have worked. I tend to face whatever works for the story, and I’ve gone dark on several occasions. So far, so good; but if I write something dark, I do it for the merit of the story, not solely for shock value.
Is there a certain type of scene that’s difficult for you to write? How do you conquer it?
PIP: I had a terrible time with writing sex scenes. I preferred to close the door or fade to black if ever facing the moment when two characters wanted to enjoy one another’s company. To get over it and to improve my short story skills, I launched a podcast called Erotica ala Carte. I offered to my audience a setting, a sexual preference, and a unique element (a character, an emotion, or something) and based on the popular vote, I would write and podcast a short story. What was an exercise for me lasted for three years, and I even hosted “guest chefs” in my kitchen and was nominated for a few awards. Podcasting is a great platform for Tee and myself.
What is something you are determined to accomplish before you die?
TEE: I wouldn’t mind returning to the stage. Lately, I find myself missing those days when I was a professional actor. I don’t have a lot of free time for acting on account of the demands writing asks for, but I’d like to get in some Shakespeare again. I saw a video of Tom Hiddleston gearing up for a production of Coriolanus and I felt a twinge. I love performing Shakespeare.
What authors inspire you?
PIP: I love CJ Cherryh. She’s been my heroine for longer than I can remember. She has had a varied career, writing many successful series. I guess what first drew me to her was her powerful, but relatable female characters. As a young reader I found that very compelling.
New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author, with her husband Tee Morris, of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, and a Sir Julius Vogel. Morris is the author of Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana and the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. In addition to his work as a fantasist, he is also a social media pioneer and the author of Podcasting for Dummies and All a Twitter.
It’s a giveaway! Enter now! At the end of the blog tour, three winners will be chosen to receive the following gifties.
Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
Signed Abney Park Poster
Signed Abney Park CD Ancient World
Signed coverflats of Phoenix Rising and the Janus Affair
Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
Recently two writers I admire were lucky enough to be able to get away to a writer’s retreat, complete with cabins, mountains, a hot tub and even a chef! They enjoyed a very productive, inspiring retreat with other writers. Someday, I’m going to do that.
In the meantime though, most of us can’t manage such wonderfulness. It occurred to me that there’s something we can do on a much smaller scale – assemble our own individual “Portable Writer’s Retreat” bag to set up a writer’s retreat whenever the opportunity arises. I’m using a quilted coffee-themed bag that was made for me one fine Christmas. It’s roomy, cushioned and fun. Need a bag to get started? Tote Bags by Makoshark offers some fun choices!
Here’s some ideas to help you get started on your own Writer’s Retreat bag. Grab a satchel, tote bag, backpack, or what-have-you, stock it up, throw it in the car or sling it over your shoulder and go for a nice wander until you find the perfect spot for your retreat. A park? A library? A coffee shop? Whatever suits you and your muse!
I posed the question ‘what would you put in your Writer’s Retreat bag?’ to my writer friends. Together, we all came up with the following list. You won’t need everything, and I’m sure you’ll come up with items we didn’t think of. I’d love to hear your additions in the comments!
Writer’s Retreat Bag Ingredients
Writing Materials (of course)
- Writing journals
- Pens and Pencils – more than one! Stock many.
- Color Pens
- Idea cards. Those are pictures cards: subject, action, object. When you are out of ideas, you pick one of each, and try to make them fit together.
- Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Sure, you could download it on to your tablet’s book-reading app, but having an actual dead-tree copy gives you tactile joy. Plus it’s a small book.
- Pocket Dictionary/Thesaurus
- Index Cards
- A collapsible flat writing surface (if you are in a park rather than a coffee shop).
- iPad (my choice. And I use the Werdsmith app. It’s clean, stable and suits me)
- A spare charging cable for your cell phone (just in case you need to access the Internet for research)
- One writer commented, “if you have a wifi only tablet, I like the 4g base station that AT&T sells with 5GB of data for $50 a month.”
- A real keyboard, with Bluetooth
- 11 inch MacBook Air
- Rubik’s Cube
- Silly Putty
- Headphones for iPad or your musical device
- Essential Oils. For mental clarity, try Rosemary, Basil, Juniper Berry, Peppermint, Sage
- Water, Coffee, or Tea bottles: I received a glowing recommendation for Contigo Autoseal Travel Tumblers, and another recommendation for the Contigo Astor. These have lockdown tabs and I am told they are completely spillproof, even when stuffed in a purse or laid on their side.
- Another writer recommends a Water Filter Bottle.
- Trail Mix. Perhaps dried cranberries, unsalted cashews and almonds, with dark chocolate bits. Or my favorite, granola, cashews, almonds, and M&M’s.
- Chocolate. 85% dark should be good for a thousand words!
- Hard Candy
- Hand Lotion
- Lip Balm
- Sun Hat
- Fingerless knit gloves
- Business or calling cards with your name and a email address only (you can write your mobile number on the back if you think it’s safe to share)
- A little totem to cheer you up if/when you get stuck
One friend, who shall remain unnamed, said that his bag would contain, “Mechanical pencil, whiskey flask, brass knuckles, post-it’s, gin flask, passport, fake mustaches, tequila flask, lawyer’s phone number.”
Another friend with less of a shady past and a tendency to ramble said, “Something chewy to give people when they need to shut up. Like REALLY big chewing gum. Bandaids with Winnie the Pooh on them to be every kids favorite random aunt! But then a clown nose would fix both those things. And it might take less space in your bag. It can also be used when there is awkward silence (I hate that). I am getting a red nose!!”
I hope you’re inspired to stock up your own bag. Perhaps you’ll even want to include a red clown nose. The brass knuckles might weigh you down, though.
Say you’re a writer. (Yes, I’m hearing “You’re A Writer!” from those of you permanently mindwarped by Zucker Brothers movies). Anyway – you’re a writer, and are adept in the genre of Steampunk. You come across the submission details for an upcoming anthology, and pause to read it through. To your surprise, there is a stipulation that your submission has “No depressive ending, no preaching, no agendas, no angst-ridden misery.”
This stipulation comes from the Happy Smiley Writers Group, who produce anthologies.
That’s right. Your cast of characters isn’t eaten by Cthulhu. Your beloved hasn’t removed your head and wired it to run his pneumatic devices with the power of your pain while he canoodles with a clockwork doll. Your city doesn’t burst into flames due to an errant Tesla coil.
Steampunk has often been so closely associated with dark sci-fi and horror fiction, frosted with Victorian medical and scientific terrors and just enough goth to seal the deal.
I’ve been wishing for more positively empowered writing – Engineers that actually succeed in creating that perfect future, dreamers who find their fantasies can come true.
Maybe I can find a dose of my Steampunk Happiness between the covers of “The Steampowered Globe”. I’m looking forward to finding out!
Please read Jess Nevin’s review! (Jess IS one damn fine reason Steampunk is a happy, wonderful place.)
(reposting what the delightful Miss Canolli Capalini has written in the New Babbage forum.)
Alas, I fear I have been delayed. This year’s annual flash fiction contest is running a bit behind. However, this does not invalidate it and I am happy to say, the R. F. Burton Library is proud to present it’s 4th Annual Flash Fiction Contest.
Beginning December 1st through January 15th, the R. F. Burton Library will be accepting submission of the Flash Fiction Genre. There will be a mailbox placed on the first floor of the lobbey of the library, where notecards may be submitted.. or they can be given to me directly. (Bearing in mind, of course, my IM’s do occasionally become capped).
To clarify for newcomers, Flash Fiction is a genre of writing that challenges the author. Complete a story, a moment in time, in 600 words or less. Now, this may seem impossible.. but do stop by the library and pick up any (or all) of the three volumes of “Dialogues” available there. You can see that published entries are quite entertaining and brilliant.
This year’s theme is a bit different.. Wind Up Key(s).. You may use this phrase metaphorically, allegorically, literally, mentally, physically, or in a complete abstract sense. As an image component, etc.. but the story must incorporate the idea or physical object somehow, in any way you care to do it or in whatever manner that portrays what it means to you. The only standard is it must be set in a steampunk setting.
Now, here are some rules:
1. All entries must be submitted with RFB4 and the authors name in the title of the notecard and must be submitted full perm. (example: RFB4 – Canolli Capalini). Any entries without this will be summarily destroyed and ignored.
2. All entries must have the title of the piece, the author’s name, and the WORD COUNT at the top of the notecard.
3. Illustrations are accepted and must be submitted full perm (that’s right, you can illustrate your magnificent Opus).
4. Winners of the contest will be the first story featured in the publication and will receive 5000 lindens. Subsequent runner ups will also receive 2000 lindens. (There is no loser here, ladies and gentlemen, this is merely for more incentive).
5. Just to be clear here.. the winner of the contest is chosen by me, Canolli Capalini. I am the sole judge of this shindig, and if questioned, may provide a reasonable justification of why I chose what story I did.. and I may not. I’ve been doing flash fiction for years, and have been published, so I think I have a fair idea of what I’m looking for.
6. All stories that are submitted to the contest remain the author’s property, but will be for use of the library in any way it sees fit. That means I can reprint your story, publish your story in connection with the R.F. Burton, distribute it and publish it online as part of the R.F. Burton collection. *Note: This does not mean that anyone can glean the stories from the library and republish them elsewhere without the library’s (i.e. my) specific permission. It does mean that you may submit your story to multiple contests if you choose. Should someone else solicite your participation, all well and good, but please let me know. This is to keep individuals from using this endeavor to further their own personal gains and publications.
7. This contest is open to ALL. You do not have to be a Babbagite in order to participate. However, for my own curiosity, if you are not from New Babbage (i.e. if you are from Steelhead, Caledon, etc) please note on the notecard with the title and wordcount. This has absolutely no bearing on judgement and it is only for my personal edification to see where people actually submit from. 🙂
Beginning December 1st, there will be a mailbox posted just inside the doors of the library. You may drop notecards there or submit them directly to Canolli Capalini. I will not accept any submissions prior to December 1st and none AFTER January 15th. Normally I run this contest Mid November to the end of December, but delays have shifted the time scale.
If you have any questions, please contact myself or Serafina Puchkina, the established library of the R. F. Burton Library.
Thank you for your time,
Capalini Fine Furnishings
P.S. Please note. This is all in fun. The library is owned by me and run by Serafina and we do this out of our love for the written word. 🙂