Friday, July 21, 2017

Bathos and the Dramatic Scene

Recently I came across an article that was talking about a topic near and dear to me. It referred to something called bathos. This is a technique in which humor or sarcasm is used to undercut drama within a scene.

There are a lot of reasons that this is a topic that I enjoy. Primarily, it's because that is what I write. I love a little bit of sarcasm some snark a bit of humor right in the middle of the action.

The article stated that the use of bathos was undermining the true emotion of a scene. I have to disagree with that statement.

The example the article used was in the movie Doctor Strange. Apparently, the use of humor in the scene in which Doctor Strange accepts the cloak while looking in the mirror, undercuts the drama of his acceptance in his role.

I recently watched Doctor Strange for the first time. My husband was with me. When this scene occurred, we both laughed. It wasn't because the drama of the scene was undercut. It wasn't because there was somehow something less dramatic about accepting one's responsibilities. It was because both of us immediately thought: that's exactly what a magic cloak would do.
Magical items are usually a bit annoying and child-like...
Just sayin'

And that's the thing about bathos. It shows a certain reality. When you do something dramatic, usually it goes badly, or at least wrong.

You try to make a dramatic point and then trip over your own feet. You make a dramatic entrance and promptly fall off the stage. You make a dramatic speech and somebody starts snickering. That's how life works.

There's a boat there... must not have practiced with that...
Even though I never knew what the name of it was, I've used bathos in all of my writing. That's how life works. We try to do something seriously and it ends up being hilarious. We try to do something dramatic and it ends up being anti-climatic.

Perhaps the problem isn't that drama and emotion are being undercut by bathos. Maybe bathos shows us the reality of how life undercuts drama and emotion.

And in case you need examples of how this works in real life, just Google fail videos on YouTube.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Letting Go: Getting Help as an Author

Being an author is a lot of work. Never mind the word counts. The marketing can take well over 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. And there's no set goal, unless you set it yourself. The more marketing, the more potential sales.

As a mom of two, working at home over the summer, this can be a problem on multiple levels. I am constantly having my attention drawn away from my work to my kids and their ever increasing appetites for both food and entertainment. But I am running out of steam, quickly. It doesn't help that we threw a move, a funeral and hosting a party on top of all of this.

So what's a workaholic to do? Outsourcing.

I hired a VPA (virtual personal assistant) to help me with posting and such. She's salary, so I can just give her projects as I need them done. Good to go. She is also available to cover for me when I over-book my takeovers and such. A decent PA will run between $75-200/mo, which isn't too bad for the way she's boosted my reach, gotten me contacts, and covered my butt.

My next step is a nanny. Holy mackerel, I never thought I'd be considering a nanny! I'm not rich AT ALL, so this is really weird, but...

We don't need daycare. We just need someone to help out for a few hours a couple days a week. Someone who can take the kids to the library, or the swimming pool, or just to run through the sprinklers outside. I'm thinking $100 for 6-9 hrs each week.

Given that there's only a few weeks left before school starts, that's not a terribly huge expense, and I'd pay 2 or 3 times that to get them into a daycare or to a day camp. It's just unrealistic to go that route when a temporary, part-time solution is available.

So where's the problem? With outsourcing, the problem is always about letting go and trusting. You not only have to trust someone else to do the job for you. You also have to trust yourself - to be able to handle or deal with anything that isn't just how you would have done it, whether it's that the other person failed or not. It's a painfully psychological thing - we like things the way we like them.

But I like my time more, so I'm trusting.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

*Bonus points if you did David Bowie's voice when you read the title*

I have moved! I am in a new place with some new things and some not-new things. The city is new (ish - I've lived here before, a decade ago) and I love it! The kids love it; the hubby loves it.

Okay, so lots of love and stuff. But moving is hard.

Obviously, it's physically hard. We already agreed that the next time we move, we are hiring some guys to lift stuff for us. There's a company in town called "College Hunks Moving". They have my vote.

We moved nearly 200 miles, while simultaneously sending kids to day camp, cleaning and selling a house, and working (me from home, hubby from that place he goes to every day). We had two yards to mow, two electric bills to pay, and a metric ton of stuff to transfer, either physically or electronically. Just changing addresses is two full days of work!

Speaking of which, moving is mentally hard. There are so many things to take care of. It's an epic level of adulting that I'm just not sure I want to tackle again without the help of a personal assistant/secretary. I would like to point out, though, that I managed to time mail changes and shipping of deliveries to such a fine point that we missed not a thing!

Well, we did, but that was because our move-in date was delayed a full day due to them updating the floors before we moved in. They made a good choice, but it was a stressful 24 hours, which may or may not have involved me driving a fully loaded moving truck at top speed down a city street, with a car towed behind, while talking to the UPS guy on the phone.

Speaking of THAT - turns out I'm a pretty bad-ass truck driver. Just sayin'. I backed that baby over lawns and around bushes, drove through narrow streets, even took the truck (with car still in tow) around a round-about and through narrow residential streets lined with expensive cars (here-after referred to as residential HELL).

Moving is also emotionally hard. Never mind the surprising ways that memories come flooding back as you pack up a place that has been home for seven and a half years, a place where your children grew up.

There's an emotional tie to such a place that springs up in surprising ways. Like the realization that you won't see another peach harvest from the trees that you planted. Or the way the snakes rustle in the grass, bringing up thoughts of how they keep the mice away. Or the emptiness of rooms as they are cleared out.

Then there's the second stage. After all the packing, lifting, moving, stress, worry, unloading, etc., you still have the maze of boxes that require unpacking. Food stuffs in one box, office supplies in another, two dozen boxes of books (cuz we are all bibliophiles here).

So, a minimum of one box per person gets opened and ostensibly put away every day. We have some furniture to buy, either to replace stuff that didn't make the cut or survive the move (damn you, particle board!), or things we need to make up for the differences in space that we now have vs what we had before.

So, yeah, changes, and moving is hard. But we got everything taken care of, and we are getting it slowly unpacked and put away. Now, I need to go shopping for a new night table!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Trauma and Writing: the Dark Side of Being an Author

I have three blogs. On one of them, I posted about Hidden Trauma and opened up about a deeply emotional situation that had recently come up.

Oh, you say. That's all well and good, but what's that to do with writing? (You may have a British accent in my head... 😜)

One of the things I try to do with my writing is to describe pain and emotions in a very real and visceral way. I don't just say "her face turned red with anger". I say "rage crawled up her neck and over her ears, narrowing her vision and tightening the muscles in her neck and scalp".

Same emotion, but if you've ever been really pissed, you recognize the physical "symptoms" I've described in the second quote. I want people to be able to see what I write in terms of emotions and not just say "yeah, I've been mad". I want "OMG, that's just how it feels!"

But the thing is, in order to do that, I have to not just feel things, I have to NOTICE what I'm feeling. I have to remember what muscles clench when I'm afraid, what temperature my hands are when I'm scared. I have to remember the full physical sensations of getting the breath knocked out of me. I have to pull back the sharp feeling of a cut.

Because of this, and other reasons, and despite my natural tendencies to hide or suppress my emotions from others, I force myself to be open about what I experience. I push myself to share, in part so others will share similar experiences. I make myself write down the sensations instead of pushing the discomfort away.

I analyze my own traumas... for you, my readers. (Cue guilt-trip music and fade to black... lol)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Branching Out: Going into a Different Genre PLUS Book Release!

I love, love, love fantasy. I really love Urban Fantasy, which is what Too Wyrd and the Runespells series is. But I have a dirty little secret.

I'm pretty good at writing erotic romance.

So, what's a writer to do? I wrote a fantasy-based erotic romance, of course!

I cranked out the novella (short novel) of Her Favorite Mistake in only a month (along with two other shorts), and I released it to the world!

So, if you are into that kind of thing, check it out! I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on it, though I'm still waiting on "official" Amazon reviews.

Hey! you could review it when you're done! Just sayin'.

Once upon a time, Arthur was king…

When Nimue met Merlin in her role as Lady of the Lake, she couldn’t resist the forbidden passion. She’s been running from the consequences since. Now called Illianna, she meets Simon, her lover reborn, and the dangers of the past are still chasing them. Is it their destiny to find love or to relive tragedy?

A steamy story of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake, Her Favorite Mistake will leave you wanting more Hot Fae Knights!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Responsibility of an Author: Networking as an Indie or Small Press Author

The indie and small-press author community is small but mighty. Our power lies in our ability to help each other in much the same ways that a larger press helps its authors.

Ok, but what does this really mean?

It means we create and share our own marketing opportunities. Many times, this takes the form of social media events, sweepstakes giveaways (with dozens of books from dozens of authors), donating ebooks to other authors' events and giveaways, newsletter "exchanges" (where two or more authors feature each other in their newsletters), etc. It also means crowd-sourcing marketing techniques and sharing events with fellow authors.

It also means that, if an author is taking advantage of these opportunities but not sharing and reciprocating... what?

What does it mean when an author is taking advantage of the freely given and freely available opportunities, but not paying it forward to those same authors that are sharing information and events with them?

Well, you have an author who is now "That Guy".

That Guy is the one who never seems to share events, but always seems to manage to sign up for time slots in the events. That Guy is the one who is always asking for help or advice, but never has any to give back. That Guy is the one who begs for beta readers and reviewers - which, for That Guy, is also code for free editing - but always has a reason why he (or she) cannot beta read or review for you.

Because so much of the indie and small-press author community is about a sharing and exchanging of resources, it is incredibly important to reciprocate - give back what you receive. Make it part of your writing goals.

Many authors find that they have less time to read than they used to. It makes sense - we are busy writing. I decided that, in order to keep myself on target, I would make it part of my quarterly goals to beta read/review at least 2 books each quarter from my indie/small press contacts, in addition to any entertainment reading I managed to cram in. (See more about my quarterly goals HERE.)

Other suggestions? Take note of what specific people in your network are interested in. If you have a pal from a writing group who does romance, shoot them a link to a romance-based book release event that he/she can sign up for. If someone in your fantasy author group has been begging for marketing hookups, let them know about the sweepstakes featuring fantasy books.

What this means is that it is important to think about the people in your network - who they really are and what they need. You should consider, not just how you yourself can use the information you come across, but also how others might use it, too.

Trust me, that generosity will come full circle. People remember those who have helped them, and they will be thinking of you when they get something popping up on their radar. When authors share, we all win.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Authors Getting Feedback

I recently received a lovely email from a gentleman who had read Too Wyrd. He told me that he never wrote to authors, but he enjoyed the book so much, he was looking forward to the next one.

I know that many people love things, but only tell their friends, etc. After all, authors, actors, musicians - they can seem distant and egotistical (more on the misinterpretation of introverts thrust into a spotlight later), unreachable.

Sometimes, as a creator of entertainment, I feel like I am throwing my work out into a void, hoping that there will be some sign that I'm doing good work. Then, I get a message, or an email, or a glowing review.

It bolsters my heart and gives me motivation to do the hard things - like writing those scenes that make you cry or rage. Trust me, I feel it, too.

Take the time to send off a little note to your fav creator. Let them know that their work isn't languishing in the void. Tell people when they've touched your soul.

That's the only reason we do this - it sure ain't for the money... lol

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Practically Writing is at SEVEN episodes!

Can you believe it?!? I'm about to put out episode EIGHT! I never thought I'd be a vlogger and a blogger... and so many other things. But you, my loyal audience, have made it worth while!

Check out episode seven, and subscribe to my channel to get the bi-weekly videos, immediately!


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Decisions, Decisions - Help me decide!

I've been presented with an opportunity to join a group of bloggers for blog tours. This would consist of me posting pre-written blogs as a way to help authors promote their work.

So, my question is this: Would you enjoy periodic posts of other authors' work among the ramblings of your humble host?

Please click this link to respond, or just comment below!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Three Seashells: The Dangers of Not Backing Up Your Details

There was a post earlier today, in which a friend ask (begged) to know how the three seashells are used.

For those who don't know, the three seashells are what replaced toilet paper in the future in the 1993 Sylvester Stallone film, Demolition Man. The main character expresses confusion about the seashells and all the future-people giggle and comment on how he doesn't know how to use them. But it is never revealed how they are used.

24 years later, people are still trying to figure it out. Demolition Man was a good movie, but not great, so why is it that a throw-away entertainment flick has this effect?

Like a crappy cliffhanger ending, people are left wondering about something that should have been neatly tied up in the course of the plot. It isn't a big thing, but it's the thing that can make or break the perception of a work. It happens the same way when a TV show is cancelled too soon, or a sci-fi franchise makes up a technology that they don't adequately explain.

It's the reason authors need to research so much for small details. If we get them wrong, we risk creating the three seashells.

People remember Demolition Man, in part, because of the seashells. But it isn't a good way to remember it. We remember that there was this simple thing that probably wasn't supposed to be answered, or answerable, and the thing left us hanging. The seashells stole the movie away from the action (decent), speculation about the future (ironic), commentary on society (way deeper than it should have been), and more.

Instead of being lost to time or gaining a cult following for the symbolism, it is reduced to a question: What about those damn seashells?

Having a real reason for the seashells and addressing their use enough to have it make any kind of sense would have solved that. And it is important to remember not to leave the seashell question unanswered in other works of fiction.

You don't want your hard work remembered because of a bathroom joke gone wrong, do you?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Genre Fiction vs Mainstream Fiction: Why do I like Genre?

I am a thinker.

This isn't some kind of elitist statement. Sometimes, I go over in my head the exact way to make a roux or knead bread, or any one of a dozen menial tasks. Sure, I've also thought about black holes, free radical quarks, and the socio-economic effects of multiple religions on evolution for an alien species, but most of my thoughts are going over and over what has happened to me and what I am planning to do in the near or distant future.

I am a thinker. I live inside my head, first, and in the physical world only secondarily. Because of this, I analyze and over-analyze my own motives, as well as the motives of others. I'm pretty good about getting it right, too.

I recently read some short stories, contest winners and things with rave reviews. The thing I noticed was that, when genre is opened for a contest, mainstream fiction - literary fiction - gets picked nearly every time over genre fiction.

I get it. Literary fiction is supposed to be better, more intellectual, more elite. All around, you are a better person for liking literary fiction, we are told.

I hate it. And I'm pretty sure the two points above are connected.

Literary fiction has a distinct tendency towards living in someone else's head. The story isn't based on what happens so much as how the main character perceives what happens. Character growth is shown in the subtle change to how they think about a situation, while the actions are usually just everyday occurrences - drinking coffee, making supper, etc.

Genre fiction, on the other hand, is the action movie version. Stuff happens. Big stuff happens. Thoughts are often (but by no means always) secondary to the actions of the characters. Changes in thought and perception are shown in behavior, not in the stream-of-consciousness going through their heads. A barbarian shows growth when he throws down his sword, showing mercy when before he would have killed.

I'm a thinker. I spend most of my life living inside my head, analyzing my thoughts, speculating on the thoughts of other people. To me, literary fiction is like having my mind reflected back at me. Genre fiction allows me to speculate, to read into behaviors, to explore perceptions and presumptions.

I hate literary fiction. It isn't an escape for me. It isn't a new look into someone for me. Mostly, it makes me feel nauseous and fuzzy, like I've spent too long looking into a mirror that reflects another mirror.

Now, if that mirror has a genie that grants wishes trapped inside it...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Masochism of Writing

Here I sit, wiping tears from my face and blowing my nose. I am in emotional distress.

Why? Because someone who's opinion I value called me a "VERY talented" writer. Another person who I admire says I "have it together."

If they only knew.

Writing is just this side of masochism... or a mental disorder (no disrespect to the non-neurotypical peeps out there - I literally mean the medical definition).

Writers are, by and large, introverts. Many of us have bullying, abuse or just plain shyness in our life histories. We aren't the in-your-face types. We don't brag about ourselves. We tend to have self-derogatory senses of humor, and a whole lot of empathy.

When you publish a book, 99.99% of the time, you are responsible for marketing that book. That means - getting into the spotlight, pushing the book, telling people how awesome it is, using ourselves as a brand...

Writers tend to be uncomfortable getting attention. Many of us are incredibly insecure about our writing. Some of us even have imposter syndrome. We often have very real anxiety when our work is critiqued.

The number one way to sell a book is to get reviews. You get reviews by pretty much begging, pleading, and otherwise shoving your book into as many hands as possible and hoping they type out their reactions somewhere online.

It's like a sick joke.

I have to brace myself just to send an email to a publisher with a query. I close my eyes before I click "Send." I am brought to near-tears just knowing that someone has given an opinion about my work. No, it doesn't matter what that opinion is. The anxiety is about the fact that there IS AN OPINION.

And I'm not alone in this. Many, many authors go through the same thing. Most of us find ways to logic out the better responses, but we still often have the discomfort about the entire process.

So, I have someone who is really excited to read my book. She asked for a copy so she can read and review it.

I want to curl up on my bed and die... right up until it's over. Then, I'll do the whole thing again.