Links and musings

Another week is gone, where is time flying? Upcoming for most of you out there is the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, opening on the 24th and ending Feb.6 or whenever they reach 5000 entries, so hurry. Why is it not for me? Because in spite of opening Amazon Italia, Italy ISN’T in the countries allowed to participate. India, China, Austria, Belgium (to name a few non-English speaking countries), but not Italy. Maybe when I become a Kindle best-seller author they’ll open to submissions from Italy? But then it would be too late for me anyway! 😉

Another interesting discussion is between Dean Wesley Smith and agent Mary Kole, pointing to the fact we’ll eventually have agented/packaged writers vs. indy. Now, “packaging” is one of the reasons I quit screenwriting. I don’t want a village taking care of my babies, like agent Rachelle Gardner says. I don’t believe in families either, so I’ll go solo – I’m sick of waiting for other people’s approval. Like Joe Konrath says:

Surfing the interwebs, I’ve found that the most vocal opponents to writers self-publishing seem to be:


I have one more reason to go indy this year – watch me get my 5000 readers! 😉

Another reason is this Open Letter I found tag surfing (slow week at work, had time to do it). I am sort of in Cat’s situation – 45 and living in Italy. And I don’t think book signings help sell more copies, but then… there aren’t book signings in Italy. It’s something I already noticed at comicons and book fairs: in France people line up to have their (comic)books signed, even by unknown authors, even children; in Italy, if you’re not Umberto Eco or the latest reality show winner, nobody will show up. That’s why I’m very happy (almost) everything can be done online these days. There’s no such thing as age and availability anymore in my humble opinion.

For genre writers, on Clarion blog the editor of resurrected Realms of Fantasy tells what he’s looking for for upcoming issues. They will even accept poetry! So if you’re still after that short-stories paying market, check Douglas Cohen’s post.

I have completed the book trailer for Jessamine and resubmitted for Premium Distribution on Smashwords, as there were two minor glitches… let me know what you think. I’m enjoying making this book trailers! 😉 Do they come out right or look amateurish?

That’s all for today and this week! Have a great weekend everybody! 😀

The “new” Waiora

As most bloggers are on hiatus for the Holidays, I don’t have links to share this Saturday. So I thought I’d update my readers about the Waiora, or water people.

Once upon a time they were called “Vetrolandiani” (something akin to Glasslandians), they were completely human, had translucent tunics and here’s a very old drawing of a water lady from the summer of 1978.

Now, I was 13, so I also drew the “Glasslandian Bride” version – which I haven’t used yet, except for princely purposes (i.e. underwater princesses). But then, while I’m editing Water, I might add a Waiora wedding ceremony (although they have a Mating Swim more than a ceremony… but then the groom is half-blood, so he might want a more traditional wedding! ;-)).

When I started thinking about the Magical Races of Silvery Earth I had only two kinds: the winged people (now Sila) and the elf-like people (already called Genn). Wanting to add the water people and wanting to make them original, I thought I’d have them with webbed hands and feet, but was never very comfortable with their look. And I had the suffixes to differentiate between fresh and salted water.

Now I’m back to my original idea, sort of: they look completely human. They can shape-change into seals or dolphins, they don’t grow old, and don’t leave corpses. They knit their own fabric for clothes with a beautiful and translucent material. Half-bloods can breathe underwater, but cannot change shape (although they can communicate with dolphins and seals).

So, I corrected a couple of drawings of SKYBAND 4 (which is good, as webbed hands and, worse, feet weren’t my specialty), but will probably leave as is the illustration of Air, as I won’t include it in the e-book anyway (nor in the printed version, they’re just on Facebook for your enjoyment).

Air illustration - Takeshi meets Ashleigh

So, these are the times when I’m happy I’m unpublished (except for graphic novels, but it was faster than expected to correct those drawings, haha! :-D) and glad I made up my mind before sending the novels into the world!

Stay tuned for more stories of Silvery Earth (and check the graphic novels while you’re at it… might be not your cup of tea, or simply… you have never considered the genre! ;-))! I’ve been working on a book trailer for SKYBAND, I might post the results soon…

Happy 2011, everybody!

UPDATE! I have my first book trailer out! It’s actually the second I’ve worked on, because the one for SKYBAND can’t come out until I finish chapter 5… so here you have the Happiness is… book trailer!

Saturday links and the usual rambles

OK, here we are pondering about the week that was! I’ll share some links I found interesting with my own comments to them – feel free to ignore me and go straight to the original posts! 😉

Blood Red Pencil has an excellent post on Show don’t tell – with examples like I’ve never seen. So if you’re still confused about that matter (as much as I am), go and check it right now. It’s… enlightening!

If you’re a short story writer, go check Dean Wesley Smith’s goals for the new year. He might me onto something when he explains how to make a living out of your writing. As he concentrates on short stories this time, don’t miss him he New World of Publishing series. If you’re not writing short stories, what are your goals for the new year? Read his post anyway, as he explains very well the difference between goals and dreams. My goal is to turn my dreams into goals to achieve as soon as I’m ready! 😉

Agent Rachelle Gardner had a guest post by Marcus Brotherton who give an excellent suggestion on how we can save publishing. This is sort of obvious for the former ziner who went to buy everybody else’s zines (except the others never bothered to do the same – but ziners are notoriously broke. So are writers, you say? Please DO read Mr Brotherton post!), but it might come as new to you. So, writers, let’s unite to save publishing, self or not! 😀

On Self-published Authors Lounge, dear Maureen wrote an hilarious post about POV. I’m totally behind her, I’m sick of being told how to write. I’m also self-taught, don’t mind omniscient narrator and love to have dozens of POV characters (although in my latest novels they’re usually less than 10 – used to be a lot more when I was totally omniscient, haha!). But then I’m the rebel who loves to do things her own way, so the only thing I really need to do is master English grammar, the  rest is MY voice, and I’m not going to change it because somebody says “this can’t be done”. I will keep using comma splices in dialog, as I know what a comma do and what a dot do, and they’re not the same thing – I might take them out of narrative passages, but in dialog, please allow me to know when and for how long my characters pause in their speech! 😉

Which brings us to another Blood Red Pencil post about commas, which I read very carefully as I’m often guilty of comma splice. But then I found out that one supposed comma splice was actually “bracketing commas” so I can happily ignore the correction, ha! 😀 And another I’ve turned it into a dash, hope this will suit my English readers better… sigh! What an author must do must do (shouldn’t there be a comma somewhere in this sentence?)! Except never forget your voice, please…

I’ll end with David Farland again, and those damned dialog tags that drive all of us writers crazy… Personally, I used different verbs for different situations, and sometimes no dialog tags at all. But Dave’s advice is the best, so just stick to it!

David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants—The Dialog Tag Controversy

Today’s question comes from Ryan Call who points out that I gave some advice the other day that conflicts with common wisdom. He asks, “You said that the dialogue tag ‘said’ might not always convey what the author means and he or she might, for example, use ‘she swore,’ but I have a few problems with dialogue tags like that. First off, the book SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS (by Renni and Brown) warns against ever using dialogue tags other than ‘said’ because using dialogue tags such as ‘he snarled’, ‘she growled’, ‘he spat’, ‘she sniffed’, ‘he sneered’ and so on can create impossibilities (ever tried sniffing or sneering a sentence?). Also, such tags tell rather than show, and worse, talk down to the reader, implying they are too stupid to know how a character said something unless specifically told. An even worse dialogue tag would include an -ly adverd to further tell the reader such as: ‘he sneered sarcastically’. Self-Editing also included the dialogue tag ‘asked’ in the group of tags to avoid because the very fact that dialogue ends with a question mark already tells the reader that a character is asking a question. To add ‘he asked’ or worse ‘he questioned’ to that is both repetitive and demeaning to the reader (effectively telling them they’re too stupid to know it was a question without being told twice).

“Now, I’ve been taught that the characters’ body language and the context in which the dialogue appears should be enough for the reader to visualize or interpret the manner in which the dialogue is spoken. That also adds the benefit of not constricting the characters’ developmental scope as much, as readers are free to interpret the characters’ words to some extent, giving leeway to how any given reader will view or consider said character, thus enabling the characters to be loved, hated or whatever by each reader and better remembered by a wider readership.

“Problem is, while I’ve been told and taught to avoid such things like the plague, I see many published authors using such tags as well as extreme telling rather than showing (something all writing teachers stress that their students should avoid) in their novels.

“Now, my questions: Have you ever considered dialogue tags as a way writers talk down to their readers or as a lazy way to tell rather than work to show a scene, and who do you think is right or has it become a matter of preference only?”

Okay, so here is the answer to the question: I actually used that example as a way to pick a fight. I love Renni and Brown’s book, but on this point, their advice seems a bit extreme.

First, Renni and Brown don’t consider the possibility that sometimes we need to write down to the reader. I’ve written books to audiences from the ages of one to a hundred, and I know that my second-grade and third-grade readers are not mature enough to always understand what a character is thinking, and so they need stronger dialog tags.

You also ought to realize that even adult readers might have difficulty trying to understand what your character is thinking. In particular, people with Asperger’s Syndrome have a tough time reading facial cues in order to understand emotion. I’m not sure if this extends into writing, but I can tell you that many readers DO have difficulty trying to figure out what characters are thinking. Just as each of us has different abilities when it comes to language or math, each of us has different abilities when trying to read emotional cues. Some are geniuses at it (like my niece), while others are idiots. As an author, I wish that all readers were equally good at reading emotion’s cue. They’re not.

Last of all, one must take into account that even good readers sometimes get distracted, or might be required to lay a book down for a long period of time. Thus, a strong dialog tag might remind them of the context of the story. I kid you not, I got a nice fan letter the other day from a fellow who was reading one of my books three years ago. He got in a car accident and spent months in the hospital recuperating. Then a couple of weeks ago, he found the novel and began reading where he’d left off. He was surprised (as was I) that he could not only pick it up and remember it well enough so that he could understand what was going on, but said that he’d loved the book, despite his lengthy absence.

Renni and Brown make a good point in that many new writers go way overboard, basically writing dialog tags that are purple prose. I’ve seen writers whose characters growl one sentence, snarl the next, spit the third, and so on. Adding –ly adverbs compounds the problem. It does come off as overwrought.

But to say that you should “never” use any dialog tag but ‘said’? That’s carrying some decent advice to an extreme. In particular, if your character says something in a manner that is contrary to how one might read it within the context, you owe it to your reader to give a stronger dialog tag. For example, imagine that you have your villain pointing a gun at your hero. Your hero says, “Go ahead, pull the trigger.” One might well imagine that a brave protagonist is daring the reader. But maybe the protagonist is in despair, perhaps he’s begging? Or maybe he has given up so completely that he says it as a quip? Should we really avoid using a stronger dialog tag in this case?

Normally, I think that Renni and Brown are correct, but each case where we give a dialog tag, requires us as authors to make an educated and rational decision—not blindly follow some advice that was stylish in the 1970s for literary fiction.

Renni and Brown, I suspect, might even agree with my stance.

Letter of intent

I’ve been wondering what is success as a writer for me. After a year of blogging, I probably changed my mind a hundred times about what I wanted from my writing! 😉 so I’ll try to write my letter of intent like Smander suggested and did.

Dear Reader

My name is Barbara (a.k.a. Barb) and I’m a writer. A compulsive writer. I have dozensa of stories to tell, mostly fantasy, but you know what? I’m loving my historical research so much I want to become an historical novelist as well. Because I think humans haven’t changed throughout the centuries – not yet. I might tackle some sci-fi and tell you how I see the world after 2012, but that’s for the future. Or sometime next year when I’m done with my historical masterpiece.

I am dedicated to my craft, my world(s) and my characters, so much that I decided to write in another language. But I know I still have to learn,  viewpoints and five-senses writing are my weak spot at the moment. I will work on it through blogging, writers forum(s) and other online venues – unless I manage to move to an English-spearking country (not in the near future, I’m afraid).

I know one day I will be a huge success, which for me means 5000 faithful readers who love the same stories that I do. It’s not to unrealistit to try to find 5000 like-minded people in a population of 6billions+, right?

In order to achieve this I will:

– write the best stories I can

– give them to a handful of beta-readers

– edit according to what was unclear to most, ignoring the single comments who might be that  specific reader’s perception

– look for a copy-editor for grammar and typos

– trust my instincts and remember I can’t please everybody

– not write for the market, but what I want to write/read

– put the story out there. Please remember that writers need cheerleaders too.

So, dear reader, if you’re an adult who still likes to dream, isn’t offended by “different” morals or religions and are interested in exploring relationships and human interactions, please check this author unboxed – I’m afraid I can’t fit in any box, sorry. Therefore I’ll probably have to self-publish, eventually.

Thank you for reading

Your Creative Author

chapters and series

One of David Farland’s Daily Kick newsletter talked about chapter titles and how everybody should use them to hoot the reader and map the book.

I’ve used chapter titles for the whole 20th century (at least the part I’ve been living and writing, i.e. the last quarter), especially as I considered my first novels “episodic”, therefore a chapter=an episode – yeah, I still watched loads of TV back them, until the early 90s when I started writing real novels and kept giving titles to the chapters.

Then at some point at the beginning of this millennium I stopped titling them. Not in all the novels, but most of them. The Books of the Immortals didn’t have chapter titles until the “prologue controversy” on Nathan Bransford’s blog. I wanted to put a prologue (most fantasy books have one anyway, but I’ve been bored by many, so I know what a reader might feel when reading that word), but decided chapter titles were better, as my prologue was more an extra chapter than an actual prologue (even if it happened X years before the actual start of the book). So now the Books of the Immortals have chapter titles, and I will probably keep up the trend.

I would also like to point out that I write series, or sagas, like I prefer to call them. I’m more towards the series of stand-alone books as explained on BookEnds guest post, because even if I tend to fall in love with some of my characters, they’re human and tend to die at some point. When I was younger, I tended to bring them back to life (either with technology if it was sci-fi or with magic if it was fantasy), but now I don’t do that anymore. I prefer keeping the setting and changing characters, even if some I really can’t let go. But I also can’t write more than one or two novels on them, and usually the second moves towards the next generation. That’s why I tend to call them sagas, because I have to draw family trees to keep track of everybody! 😉

So, you novelists out there, do you put chapter titles or not? Do you write series (of stand-alone or with the same character) or stand-alone novels?

Deleted scenes

You find this title on some DVDs extras, right? Well, I suggest you apply this to novels as well. Cheryl mentioned on her post she’ll have to delete part of her manuscript. My comment: “don’t hit “delete”. cut and paste somewhere else (a new document, a document of “deleted scenes”, whatever), you never know when you might need those words again… maybe in another story!”

I have been writing (albeit unpublished) for over 30 years. I lost a novel to a floppy disk – my best friend had a typewritten version (yes, that was the 80s! ;-)), but two chapters were completely gone. I lost scenes in rewrites that some times still haunt me – how could have I “recycled” them?

OK, sometimes I deleted something because it was bad, or unoriginal. The first draft of Air (in Italian) had Kumar climbing the tower of the sculpted palace to save the princess after introducing himself as a pilgrim, instead of the adventurer assassin he is (yes, I have a very cynical anti-hero in this novel). A second draft had a duel between him and the bad king’s man to free the princess, but it was so blatantly copied from the duels in Mira Nair’s Khamasutra – a tale of love, that I deleted that version of the scene without remorse. The first English draft was very similar to the final one, with Kumar confronting the High Priest King and his past, then taking away the princess, apparently without effort, but the point wasn’t saving the princess, it was the consequences of that action. But you never know when I might need the very first version (climbing on a tower to rescue a princess… how fairy-tale-ish is that?), so I’ll keep it for now.

I know I’ve lost a scene of a sci-fi novel where the newcomers didn’t have sunglasses and blindfolded themselves to cross a desert – which might work even better in a fantasy world where sunglasses haven’t been invented yet, but I guess I’ll have to re-imagine that scene… Well, you get the point.

The point being also that I think there are two kinds of writers: the literary writer who likes to play with words and sentences etc, and the storyteller who wants to tell a good story. In case you didn’t notice, I belong to the latter. I pour out the first draft at high speed, and then revise, rewrite, adjust, beef-up, whatever. You can’t spend your life on just one novel, or at least I can’t I have too many stories to tell! 😉

So, to Stephen who his procrastinating his epic novel I suggest: just pour it out. It well be bloody awful, but who cares. You don’t have to show it to anyone. And at least you’ll have a base to build on the great epic you want to write. You can’t work on it forever and never get down to the actual writing. I used to just write (with the years I’ve learned to mull about it a few months before starting the actual writing, but again, a few MONTHS, not years), and trust me, all these novels badly need total rewrites. But the seed is there and I can make it grow whenever I have to time to go back to them.

I’ll end with Daniyal Mueenuddin WoW (from The Writer magazine):

(writing) feels like you have this magic drop that you put in the ground, and this plant starts growing. Then you realize it’s growing in the wrong direction. You have to hack off those branches and make it smaller, and it grows again. Then you start rediscovering things and reinserting things. It grows organically.


When I’m writing, I may be dancing along… thinking how great I am. Usually later in the day, I start realizing how bad I am. i’ll think “My God, this is never g0ing to work”. I’ll get tremendously discouraged. You just have to fight through. I’ts good or bad, it doesn’t matter… just get it done.

Happy writing!

P.S. Go vote for Lisa K, let her little novel win!! (Or vote for her competitor, if you prefer so, just support these new writers, and they might end up supporting you!)

Writer friends books

While I wait for Mickey’s book to arrive, and before I read Prue’s books, I’d like to talk about other writer friends books I read last year or earlier. I reviewed them mostly on WeRead (one also on Amazon), and it’s been some time since I read them, but I still remember them. I’ll try to go in order of reading (if memory serves…).

First I read was Kim Brantley’s  Fifth Union: Genesis (I’m putting the Amazon link as it’s the one with my review). It’s adult fantasy, and like I said in the review, I wish I could find more of that. Maybe I will, now that I have new writer friends! 🙂

Then I read The Stone City by Anna Lowenstein, which I’m trying to help turning into a screenplay. That’s an historical novel for all those Roman lovers out there (not me unfortunately, I know I’m Italian, but I never liked the Romans… maybe I was a Celt when I lived in those times! Karma, I guess… ;-)). It’s very well researched and well written.

Then I bought Gail Milyssa Grant’s At the elbow of my elders, an exciting memoir on civil rights in the US, which was published by the Missouri Historical Society for a very good reason – it’s darn good! 🙂

I guess I’m lucky I know all these excellent writers… and hope to know more through the blog or other meetings. And maybe one day I’ll be among them (i.e. published)! 😉

Keep writing

back on track

OK, enough crying over myself and whining nobody loves me! 😉 My yo-yo ego is going up again, so I can start making more plans.

Yesterday on the bus I was checking my notebook where I used to write my priority lists (now I write them here, haha, so my two readers can wonder if I kept them! ;-)), all that long way to my conquest of Hollywood started in 2006.

All the projects considered and discarded, the ones that I actually wrote (and are now on my drawer) and some notes on more that I could write – but probably won’t at this time. It was kind of fun and sad, like going through some shattered dreams or something. But at least I have tried, that’s the best I could do! 🙂

So, back on track and in production mode (or creative frenzy like I call it), I can now look forward to this year prjects. I’ve found a professional editor for Air that I might use in spring, so that I have the summer to work on it. I finished the pencils of SKYBAND 2, and started the inking process – I might post a work-in-progress of one page sooner or later, from script to finished page.

I want to write a play in Italian for my Italian actor friends – then we might turn it into a movie, if it works. Although I don’t know. I’ve never seen my  screenplays read out loud or acted, so maybe after I see the play performed I’ll decide to forget about the whole process! 🙂

I have to finish writing SKYBAND (I’m kind of stuck on a chapter of memories, I’m not sure how to handle my characters’ past) and revise the other four Books of the Immortals. So I guess I’m quite busy after all…

Back to writing! Up we go, world-creating and story-telling a go-go! 🙂

On fantasy

I’m a genre writer.  I started as fiction writer, telling stories in the present (with some excursions into past and future) until I finished high school. Then I started writing what I thought was science-fiction, but is actually science-fantasy, as I’ve never read hardcore science-fiction, but I did watch the original Star Wars trilogy and original Star Trek TV series. So for me sci-fi was space opera, imagining the future with starships etc, except I was already a technophobe and my future-technology was totally unbelievable. Most of those stories can be turned into fantasy without losing much.

Then I started listening to heavy metal and hard rock – all those gorgeous long-haired guys and my readings (I had just discovered The Belgariad and The Cheysuli Chronicles) turned me into fantasy. I always loved the middle ages, but was too lazy to research and study history. So I started writing those adventures in invented worlds with knights, wizards, witches, kings and whatever – and drawing them as well, as by the late 90s I started my first self-produced comic-books (or fanzines). 

In spite of reading Eddings, I never really liked the Quest, the Good vs Evil, the magicthingamagic stuff. Reading classifications of fantasy (which, apparently, is a very broad genre), I’d define mine as either sword&sorcery or heroic fantasy/adventure fantasy. Character-oriented, my plots revolve around wandering characters (minstrels, knight errands, warrior women, merchants, mercenaries and other itinerant professions) who try to fin in or visit the world. It took me years, but I finally set up Silvery Earth, its rules, races and history…


So, it’s my first NaNoWriMo. And I haven’t made up my mind yet. I’m such a compulsive writer, I don’t really need a specific month to start a new work! I know I’ll write the fifth and final Book of the Immortals, Earth, by the end of the year.

It’s a total rewrite, by the way, as I’m changing most of the plot. The characters are the same of the Italian version written four years ago, but I came up with a (hopefully) more interesting storyline. But before working on it, I need to lock a couple of projects (Book 4 or Ether mostly, as I’ll postpone the revisions of Choices, the screenplay for the Nicholl Fellowship, until January).

So I’ll “waste” at least this first week with other things, and considering that the very first draft is handwritten, I might finish the rewrite in a couple of weeks, but lack the time to type it in the computer, in spite of using 10 fingers.

Oh, well. Maybe I’ll try the script version of the NaNoWriMo next year… It’s true I tend to postpone when I have to put an idea on paper for the first time, but once I start, I don’t stop until my hand aches or I reach the end of a damn first draft! 😉

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