Thursday, October 28, 2010


A couple of people have asked me if I am participating this year. (That's National Novel Writing Month for those of you who, like my husband, went "Huh?"

The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to get people writing more. The goal is to complete a 50K word novel in the month of November. The catch for me is that it needs to be a single, discrete work, and none of it can be written ahead of time. I'm already about 10K words into The Case of the Lost Werewolf Puppy, and I don't want to abandon that for a whole month. Nor do I have another book ready to go. I have the basic plot line of the third Warlock Case Files, but since each book builds from the last (and an important sub plot is started in Lost Werewolf), I can't write them out of order very well.

So I've decided to participate unofficially. My goal is to write 50K words of fiction in November. I'm not sure I've ever written that many words in one month before, so it will be good for me. There's a Buffy story I need to finish by the 15th. (Yes, need. I'm participating in a LiveJournal event.) And of course, there's the current book. Plus another fan fiction that I'm having a blast with but probably will have to be on hold until December, considering other obligations. :(

I'm using this blog as my formal commitment to 50K words in November. And of course, I'll keep you posted on my progress. Cheer me on!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pros and Cons of Learning on Fan Fiction

I've been writing most of my life. I've written several novels, a non-fiction book, newsletters, over 200 blog posts and, yes fan fiction. I've learned something from all of my writing, but today I wanted to talk about the pros and cons of using fan fiction to hone your craft.

I believe that you learn to write by writing. It matters less what you write than that you just write. Fan fiction certainly fits. And if you write it, you are writing fiction, which is good practice for writing commercial fiction. Assuming you are aware of what you're learning, both good and bad from the experience.

I'm going to be contrary and start with the cons.

Cons of Learning from Fan Fiction

1. You don't have to write a complete story

Character, setting and background are all provided. You don't have to create those. It makes it easier, but it means you're not experiencing the full scope of what is involved in story creation.

2. In fan fiction, nothing has to happen

This was a big learning for me. Fan fiction stories can be moments in time, random dialogue between characters or a reworking of a scene. It's possible to write a story without a clear beginning, middle and end. Worse, it's possible to write a story with little to no conflict or dramatic tension. My first draft of The Case of the Haunted Vampire suffered from that. My husband read it and said, "Nothing really happens. I don't care about the characters or the plot." He liked certain scenes, but he didn't care about the story as a whole. Oops!

When I went back to rewrite, I realized I had fallen into the fan fiction trap of character development and dialogue but not enough strong story. The Case of the Lost Werewolf Puppy starts with a bang, and I'm working on having a compelling story to carry it along. Not making that mistake a second time!

3. Critique is spotty

People will read your fan fiction stories, unless you write in a completely obscure fandom. (Crossovers of Greatest American Hero and Castle perhaps?) People will even comment. While those comments will usually feed your ego, they may not help you as a writer. Readers are gentle with your stuff because they want you to be gentle with them. I got lucky early on and found a good beta reader who knew when to push me. She helped me take an okay story and make it good by telling me I was being lazy and could do better. And I learned from that. I'll read my stuff now and ask, "Would Liz tell me I'm being lazy?" You might not be so lucky.

Did I just talk you out of writing fan fiction? Sorry. Now let me give you the other side.

Pros of Learning from Fan Fiction

1. You don't have write a complete story

Wait a minute! Didn't I just say that's a bad thing? No, I said it was something to be aware of. But for a new writer, it's easier to have character, setting and background handed to you. That allows you to focus on plot, story and dialogue. Not having to write a complete story with a beginning, middle and end frees you to work on a particular writing element.

2. Dialogue

This is key. New writers have a tendency to have all their characters sound the same. Fan fiction is a good cure for that. You have to make your readers hear their favorite characters. Xander must not sound the same as Spike, or your readers will let you know. Fan fiction is the best place I know to play with dialogue and develop an ear for how people speak and how to express that in writing.

3. Experimentation

You aren't going to sell these stories, so don't worry about doing something weird or different. Who cares if it won't "sell." I learned how to write humor in fan fiction because there was no pressure. One of my best stories (which I will be rewriting for Paul and Dafydd) was a total experiment in point of view and tense. I alternated between first person, present tense and third person, past tense. I've never seen it done in commercial fiction, but it worked so well for that story. Readers loved it and were pissed when I killed off my original character, who was the one written in first person. The tense made them identify more with him. Too bad I can't use that when I rewrite this time. I've decided to go first person, past tense for the entire series.


Okay, not all fan fiction readers are good judges of writing (or character), but there's little point in writing just for yourself. Writing is meant to be read. Fan fiction levels the playing field. Anyone can write and develop an audience. Some think that's a bad thing. I think it's good. Self-publishing is going to level the field in commercial fiction. There are some very good fan fiction writers out there. I hope they hone their craft and then make the leap to self-publishing. Trust me. It'll be good for readers to experience writers like Kim Fielding. I "met" her through Buffy fan fiction. She wrote a very good book, Stasis, available on Kindle. Try her out and see what I mean. She illustrates the pros of this post.

And I gotta put this out there. I'm looking forward to writing fan fiction crossing my characters with other fandoms. I'm already planning a crossover between my Warlock Case Files and Castle. It'll be so much fun to write a disclaimer that looks like this:

Disclaimer: The characters of Paul and Dafydd do belong to me and are used with my permission (but probably not theirs).

Yes, I know, that's completely geeky, but in my case, the shoe fits. ;)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Interview: Draculas' Authors

You've read the review. Now hear something of the story behind the story.

1. Draculas was written by four authors with some serious name recognition. What prompted you all to write a book together and e-publish instead of going a traditional route?

Joe had collaborated with Jeff, Paul, and Blake before, and Joe and Blake were looking for the next step up from “Serial.” A 4-way collaboration. E-publishing just seemed to make more sense for this type of project since existing contracts would have precluded us from all signing with a major publisher. And the logistics of having to wait 18 months for a final manuscript to come out really didn’t appeal to any of us. Also, the bonus content in this book really couldn’t have been done in a hardcover release. There’s as much bonus content as there is story.

2. From what little I've seen about the book, it's bucking the current trend of angsty, "nice," sparkly vampires. Any particular reason for going the dark route?

We grew up reading books where vampires were truly scary. We just wanted to bring the horror back.

3. Can you share any thoughts or ideas about the co-authoring process? For many writers, creation is a solitary process. How was the experience of working together?

We had very few disagreements. In fact, this was one of the easiest books any of us has ever written. For those interested, the last feature in the book is a collection of over 40,000 words worth of our emails back and forth to each other while we were writing the book, a kind of behind-the-scenes look at our collaboration process.

4. Any thoughts on the (seemingly) sudden explosion of e-books. They have been around for years, but it seems in just the past year to have finally reached a tipping point.

It seems like there’s finally the right technology (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.) and the platform (Amazon, B&N, Smashwords) to facilitate the uploading of original, digital work. We’re thrilled with it of course. This book most likely could never have happened in a world without a Kindle Store.

5. What are each of you most excited about this book or collaboration?

I think it’s safe to say we’re all mostly jazzed about the story itself (as it should be). We had a story, tone, and characters in mind when we started out, and it’s been pretty cool to see them all come to life in such horrific ways.

Thanks guys, both for the interview and for the great book!

Review: Draculas

There are a lot of books being written about vampires today. Heck, I'm writing them myself. The vampire has moved from a creature that inspires fear and horror to something that inspired lust and now, most of the time, love.

Four well-known horror/thriller authors, J.A. Konrath, Blake Crouch, F. Paul Wilson, and Jeff Strand, have reversed that trend with Draculas, which will be released as a Kindle exclusive tomorrow.

Buy it.

If you don't own a Kindle, not a problem. You have a computer or smartphone (or you wouldn't be reading this). There's a Kindle app for you.

Why buy Draculas? What makes it worth adding to your busy schedule? Because it's a darn fun book. It's not for the squeamish or faint of heart. But if you want a rollicking, scare-the-pants-off-you good time, it's for you.

I read Draculas on a camping trip. Outside. At night. The only light from a flickering campfire. And, oh yeah, it works.

The action starts immediately. These guys don't waste time with lengthy exposition. They jump right in. And it never lets up. The entire book takes place in less than 12 hours, and, as the authors discuss in the included interview, that was part of the goal. Fast. Short period of time. High intensity.

They deliver.

There's a large cast of characters, but you won't have trouble keeping them straight. Each of them has a distinctive hook. I was particularly fond of Adam, the preacher, and Benny the Clown. For some reason, I envisioned Nathan Fillion as Adam. If you guys do this as a movie (and you should), keep that in mind, okay? Benny's appearance in the story is so well-described, it'll have you in stitches and will stay with you a long time. He's got, in my opinion, the best hook. You always know when he's coming into a scene.

But there's lots more to this book than a great story. When you get to the explosive end, you'll find yourself only half-way through the book. By releasing on Kindle, they were able to add DVD-like extras. There's sample works by the authors, a couple of interviews, deleted scenes and more.

If you are a writer, you'll be fascinated by the complete series of emails exchanged by the authors as they were writing it. Not to be missed for the insight into the writing and co-authoring process.

It's only $2.99, less than a Venti Starbucks coffee. It'll keep you awake better than the coffee too.

So what are you waiting for? Go buy it. Or the draculas might get you.

Want more about Draculas? Check out my interview with the authors.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Share the Good News!

It looks like my non-fiction book is going to be picked up by an indie publisher. I hadn't planned on having someone else publish it, but I'm certainly not going to turn down an offer!

The publisher and I spoke last week, and I think I'm happy with the terms so far. Since this blog was going to be primarily about my journey as a self-pubbed author, I guess I'll have to change my focus a bit. You don't mind do you? I'll certainly write about what it's like to work with a publisher vs. doing it all myself.

Sorry for this being a short post. Next week, there will be two posts. My usual Thursday post about me. And on Monday, a bonus review of the upcoming book, Draculas. It was a wild ride, and I'm looking forward to talking about it.

Until next week, write well!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Funny How Locations Work

Coincidence or fate? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

When I started planning my second story, The Case of the Lost Werewolf Puppy, I knew I wanted to introduce Stephen Dean, my series villain. He's the crooked real estate developer I was location scouting for a few weeks ago. I found a couple of great locations just off 14th Street in Northwest DC.

Then I needed a action-packed opening for the story. I decided the demon who hit the cutting room floor in The Case of the Haunted Vampire was ideal. It's a tentacled Cthulhian thing. I needed a location for the fight scene and decided on the Reflecting Pool in front of the Washington Monument. Even people who've never been to DC should be able to visualize that location. Guess where the Washington Monument is? Yep, just off 14th Street.

Werewolves are (obviously) going to play a big part in this story, and I wanted a werewolf hangout, so I chatted with my DC adviser. She suggested a bar called Green Lantern. This week I went to hunt down its location. And what did I discover? You guessed it. It's just off 14th Street.

So I ask you again? Coincidence. Or fate?

By the way, everyone I've mentioned the opening too has said "Cool!" What do you think of a tentacled monster in the Reflecting Pool? I wish I had Photoshop and the slightest bit of talent. (hint!)