We’ll just leave this here…

Are you looking for a way to pretend you’re being productive and waste a little time on the internet? Have we got the place for you!

I mean, you could buy a book. That’ll give you loads of time to waste and also help feed a poor, deprived artist (hey, Starbucks doesn’t pay for itself).

But you could also do this. (<—- come on, you know you want to.)

Writing Through the Ages

So. Let’s pretend we already had the conversation about how long it’s been since I did a post (on anything, but particularly on here) Input quirky banter about long absences and fond hearts and blah blah blah.

Right. So last week Kate gave us a lovely post about what we’re looking for in YA books, as a publisher. So in connected vein, I’m going to talk about an important part of writing your next YA masterpiece. The art of writing characters who come across as the age you intend them to be.

I’m sure we’ve had the experience of a character, in whatever medium, not acting their age. A ten-year-old who suddenly talks like a college student or a college student with the mental acuity of a ten-year-old. And while absolutely a character can have those things, as a flaw/bonus, things need to be properly grounded.

And now I’m going to miraculously poof out five ways to do that.

  1. Read. No really. Go find a book written for the age group of the character who needs to carry your story. Are you writing mid-grade, about middle school kids? Find books meant for middle school kids and books about middle school kids.
  2. Listen to real people. Find a popular youtube channel, since there are kids of all ages out there making their own videos. Watch a few and see how they talk, what their interests are, all of that. Have a friend with a kid in your age range? Maybe take your friend and their kid to a movie (this means you don’t have to be responsible for the small human, and you can see how that parent/child dynamic works too). Take your college-age niece to lunch. And then recognize that all of that is how they behave with you and not how they’ll behave with their peers, etc.
  3. Be prepared for rewrites. As you are not actually–presumably–a teenager or a ten-year-old, there will be moments when you fail, particularly in dialogue, and have to change it.
  4. Go with your gut. If you read something and it sounds wrong, or makes it hard to read, don’t do that thing. Simple, right?
  5. However much market research you’ve done, do more. Read more. Watch more. Write more. You’ve got a story to tell, so tell it.

Because everything else can wait until after it’s written.

Well, better late than never…

It’s been a pretty seriously hectic holiday season around here. Not even counting the normal publishing woes (at the absolute best of times this business is a fickle battlefield littered with random time-sucks and backslides) there have been personal leave issues and weather problems and I could keep going but lets just say January was more or less a wash.

So, back there before or around the 2015 holiday season I was going to post this really great thing I saw, that tied in with our Fandom project, The Fandom Universe: A Galaxy Far, Far Away and then all the aforementioned stuff happened and I didn’t.

But it was too cool not to post anyway. So here you go, in case you’ve ever wondered how you were supposed to differentiate between stormtroopers and clone troopers.


And here’s hoping eventually 2016 starts to shape up…

“I’m gonna make you a star!”

It’s the run up to NaNoWriMo (give me a minute to stamp the panic back down, I’m really not ready) and I’m trying to crash through the rest of my pre-November to-do list. I could write a few thousand words about how well it’s going (or I can give you two, it’s not) but you’re probably more interested in things that might mean something to you.

So. In the attempt to finish all the things, I’ve been watching a lot of non-fictional Netflix the last week or so. It doesn’t require me to actually pay attention, and when I’m in the midst of editing or file creation that’s sort of helpful. I fall down a hole with Netflix though, almost as badly as I do with Wikipedia. Case in point, the other night I started off with some creepy freaking show about a dude who kept his daughter locked in a dungeon in the basement and made her have his babies for like twenty years. Yeah. Ick.

From that I went to watching a bio-pick about John Denver. If that’d been intentional it would have worked, right? Because some sweetness and light (even with a sad ending) can help chill you out after watching something horrible. But no, I wasn’t intentionally making the night less weird. Apparently weird is my drug.

I told you all that, because I heard something really amazing in the middle of that John Denver show, and I’d like to share it with you.

“You can’t make someone a star. Nobody holds a gun to your head and says ‘listen to this record.’ All I can do is bring the people to the artist and let them shine, let them be who they are.”

–Jerry Weintraub

I hear a lot, in the online communities about how so and so got that major deal because they know somebody, or so and so knows the way to become a multi-platform best-selling author and all you have to do is be exactly like them.

I like Jerry’s advice better. The man has had a multi-decade spanning career in music and movies, organizing giant concerts and fostering talent in a lot of different ways. And up there, he’s basically telling you to be yourself. Shine. There’s nobody exactly like you, and that’s the best advantage you’ve got.

Keep an eye on our social media in the next few weeks. We’ve got a whole lot of fun stuff coming down the pipes!

The Importance of Fun

So it’s October, and I have a thing to pimp, and I was looking for a way to do that that wasn’t just “I HAVE THING, LOOK AT THING!” and somewhere in the midst of that I got to thinking about NaNoWriMo, and about how much that license to suck has helped my writing.

Sit back, we’re going to talk about something huge and important: Fun.

A few months ago, Kate, the Minion, and I came up with this grand idea. See, we’re trying to launch a new romance line, and driving traffic to a website that’s not really a website yet is a bit like building a baseball field in the middle of three acres of corn. Just because James Earl Jones said the people would come doesn’t mean anybody with sense believes that’s going to happen.

And lo, Romancing the Rainbow was born. One story for every color of the rainbow. The most ridiculous, off the wall, out in left-field (hehe, more fields) erotica/erotic romance/romance stories the first seven people we could lay our hooks into could come up with.

You have no clue how many times I had to tell people ‘no, it’s okay, I really do want ridiculous.’ We’re authors, and sometimes we get serious about our craft. Sometimes we get so serious about craft it becomes craft and it’s about on level with an actor talking about process and rational minded human beings begin to twitch with the urge to strangle you.

And this is what NaNoWriMo gives you. It’s not just about permission to suck alleviating the pressure of creating the next Great American Novel. It’s about fun. It’s about permission to run whooping through the halls of your creativity–to steal a phrase.

It’s a semi-naughty story about a butter churn, or pan-dimensional space cats, or–in this week’s release–woad-stink girl and a fairy princess.

So get out there and belt up for Nano, come up with the craziest, most ridiculous story you can think of. Give yourself permission to be that kid in elementary school art who never followed the directions.

And if you’re looking for something to read, you should totally go check out Romancing the Rainbow. We’re down to Violet, and the only hint you’re getting is that it releases just before Halloween…

The Longest Character Workshop Ever Part 2: Meet Marty!

I have an eerie feeling we’re going to get up into the triple digits with this thing. Like every time I sit down to write a blog post and I don’t have any kind of topic it’s going to be another number in our everlasting workshop.

Anyway, today we’re going to talk about Author Insertion! You’re excited, right?

Marty Meets Mary: Examples of what not to do.

My favorite example of author insertion is Clive Cussler. If you’ve ever tried to read a Dirk Pitt novel you’ve come across this. And I’ll be nice to Mr. Cussler here because utter freaking train wreck that I find his novels occasionally, I have actually finished a fair number of them.

So you’re cruising along, following Dirk and Al across the desert or the jungle or whatever super rugged, stereotypical expanse they’re crossing this time. And you’ve gotten used to some of the things a Dirk Pitt novel treats you to—strange plot asides, crazy coincidences, quasi-misogynistic behavior. You’re good. It’s an adventure, and sometimes you just remind yourself he started writing these in the sixties, and it was okay to hit your girlfriend when she was hysterical then.

(Yeah, as an aside here, I’ll tell you Matthew McConaughey made me like Dirk Pitt before I got around to reading him. It’s a complicated relationship, like all his relationships with women…)

You’re cruising along, and suddenly this dust-blown drifter comes onto the stage. He’s older, and rugged. He’s in possession of serious plot material he has utterly no reason to have. He’s strangely debonair (and crazy as a loon) and you’re confused. You’ve already aligned yourself to the idea Dirk Pitt is Clive Cussler as he imagines himself in the darkest nights. The man he wishes he was. The man he believes he could be (or is, I’ll give Cussler this, he does actually do all the NUMA stuff).

So who’s this guy? Another version of Cussler? How does that even work? And seriously, dude doesn’t have a name? And he winks all the time?

The list of authors who have been accused of serious author insertion over the years is pretty serious. Dumas, Christie, Hemmingway, Sayers. There are all sorts of theories about Shakespeare. And if there’s all this wonderful company, then why is this a thing to be worried about. The greats do it, right?


Look, a certain level of author insertion is unavoidable. There will be bits of yourself with wind up in things you write. Sometimes (often) without your express permission. Sometimes without your even realizing it. And that’s a situation that can make something wonderful out of your little story about a band of renegades on the edge of the galaxy, or the knight in dented armor who decides to be the good guy.

It’s when it goes off the rails that you get into trouble. The sad, depressing fact of life is that nobody cares as much about you as you do. Some things are universal, sure. A lot of things aren’t. You have to watch for the things that aren’t. It’s fine to give up a piece of yourself for a character, but watch how big a piece it is.

Nothing good comes from trying to write your own happy ending. It’s better to go off and live that one.

Write all the others.

As a complete side note, our fall is looking so insanely busy there’ll probably only be about one post a week on here, for the foreseeable future. If that doesn’t feel like enough for you, you can of course either send us a post (hint hint) or comment and beg us for more. We’re amenable to bribery of all sorts of forms…

The Year that Time Forgot

A couple of years ago I had this crazy idea–I know, I say that a lot.

We’ve been contemplating trying some serials, the sort of story that releases bit by bit over a period of time, and then if you want to when it’s all over you can by the whole thing as one copy. Those used to be a thing. If you want to see what it looks like, when it’s gone slightly wrong, check out The Count of Monte Cristo. Slightly less wrong, I’m pretty sure the original Edgar Rice Burrows Children of Mars series was released as a serial as well.

And before we got around to that I’d already had this really great idea for a series of mysteries centered around this one amateur detective. The kind where we follow our detective and his life for an entire calendar year. At the time I thought it I figured there was no way I was ever going to get a publisher to sign up for that (there’s always something positive about having a certain measure of creative control, amirite?).

That sounds cool, right? If you’re one of those in the know people you’re also thinking “Jules, that sounds like a ridiculous, inordinate amount of work,” and you wouldn’t be wrong. I’m basically putting out a 300,000 word book with ten different sub plots, in tiny bits, over the course of the next year.

But forget about the editorial schedule for a minute. Think like a reader. Wouldn’t it be cool to spend an entire year with a character? Spend Christmas reading about their Christmas, and then Valentines, and early spring, and their summer holidays. Sit down to read a book that talks about the state fair when it’s still state fair season, and share the characters hankering for good, old-fashioned cotton candy.

I’m signing up for this insane, giant thing, but mostly it’s under the guise of trying to provide what I’d like to read. Most of the books I write are about what I’d like to read that there doesn’t seem to be enough of out there in the world. I don’t know what kind of business sense that makes, but I figure it’s as good a place to start as any.

And hey, on the up shot, starting this December you can keep an eye out for The Ohio Mysteries, Book 1: Death of a Salesman.

Also, the next part in our free online collection, Romancing the Rainbow should be out now, so you should totally go check that out.