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Monday, January 24, 2011

I don't believe in writer's block; I do believe in school visits

It's true!

This past Friday I finished one of the best weeks of the past year because I met with five different groups of students in the course of an evening and a day. On Thursday I went to Irving, Texas to hang out with the students at Java Makes Me Jump, a regular event held by the Irving ISD at the Barnes and Noble. That was a fantastic time-- I presented on writing manga and how it compared to writing books and American comics, and of course showed off the ARC for Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead.

Then Friday I presented to sixth and seventh graders in Frisco, Texas at Clark and Scoggins Middle Schools. My school presentation is a powerpoint that goes into the whole process of launching a YA series, from the initial idea and pitch through the finished product. I use lots of art and fun examples like showing early versions of the Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising cover compared with the final. We usually round it out with Q&A, and I encourage the students to, if they can't think of anything else, just try to stump me with vampire questions.

They do try. Some of thge questions really are tough: "Which came first, zombies or vampires?" (Answer: it all depends.)

And one of the questions, from a young writer, was how to deal with writer's block, and in particular she meant, what do you do when you're halfway through your project and suddenly feel stuck, like you can't move on. What do you do, she implored. WHAT DO YOU DO?

Great question. Actually what you do here is deviate from your plan, most likely. Most likely you've stopped because you're bored and you need to be excited again. So deviate. Put a character you're tired of in a coma. Have the bad guys catch wind of the hero's plan ahead of schedule and drop a house on them. Anything. Deviate and move on.

I don't believe in writer's block except that I believe it is a manifestation of boredom, of being disappointed in what you chose. So choose differently, and get the dang first draft done.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Amazon has Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising for $6.80

 A few notes:
  • If you haven't gotten Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising in hardback, Amazon has a bargain price: $6.80, cheaper than the paperback will be (and the paperback doesn't get here until next Summer.)
  • Book 3 work continues apace, and again I apologize for the lean blogging while I work to get this draft finished. Tonight I knocked out about 1500 words, putting us over the 48,000 word mark as we turn into the final big giant confrontation at the end, which by the way is at the Brough of Birsay
  • One of the ARC Tour websites will very soon be taking sign-ups for an Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead ARC, and I'll post the link as soon as it exists!

Friday, January 14, 2011

ReadWriteThink Podcast rec's Alex Van Helsing

ReadWriteThink, a podcast from the International Reading Association, has a new episode up today on the "Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies" trend in YA, and recommend a list of books-- including Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising, calling it "for younger readers who enjoy action and suspense.... younger readers, in particular boys, are likely to fly through this one."

Thanks IRA!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Writing is a lot of things, but mostly it is hard

Holy Mackerel! I haven't updated my blog since January 3. See what happens when you're knee-deep in the rough draft of a book? I also need a haircut. And my family may well be forgetting what I look like.

Today I was reading Neil Gaiman's Pep Talk for Novel Writers, written for the people participate in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing or Writers or Something that Makes this Acronym or Whatever It Is Work. NaNoWriMo, which I've never tried, asks you to kick out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. You know what would come after that? Month two, revisions, NaNoWriMoBetta. My hat's off to those guys. I can't re-create Neil Gaiman's wise words here because Kenny G doesn't try to follow Charlie Parker. But what Gaiman says is, writing is hard. It's one of my favorite things in the world, and I need it with a burning, addictive need, but it's never easy.

Right now I'm writing the rough draft of Alex Van Helsing Book 3. No title yet, though in my mind so far it's called The Triumph of Death.

I've told you I work off an outline, right? Here's the one I'm using currently:

I actually do this. I have an outline in Excel, and as I complete certain chapters, I turn the yellow boxes green. Yeah, I know.
What happens when I make a major change, though, and it throws the whole outline off?
Yeah, what about that? It does happen. It happened this week. I'm about 40,000 words into this book and suddenly realized a key moment in the outline just wasn't working. What then? In my case, I take out my notepad and start scrawling. Maybe the characters don't go this extra place. Maybe we eliminate this subplot entirely. Ohmygod what if this whole subplot is a symptom of a larger problem and wait we needed to get that conversation in and wait there's too much talking and suddenly you're a guy building a tower of china cups on a tray you're actually holding, while you attempt to type a novel. Stephen King writes about these moments well in his On Writing: "OhmygodI'mlosingmybook!"
One word after the other. One sentence after the other. Outline, revise, write, write, more words, a thousand today, that's my goal, though my day is night, since I work by day.
It's work, hard work, and in the end it's lonely work because you can't really download your whole draft into someone else's head. You desperately worry that you're screwing it up, but you're on one brick in the wall, and the wall has sixty thousand bricks.
With any luck I'll be done with a rough draft in a couple of weeks, and then it's revise revise, revise. Fix the notes I've put in for myself. Eliminate characters, sometimes eliminate whole plots. Ditch the stuff you know is half bothering you and you don't want to admit it, but it will bother the reader.
And that's before it even goes to a publisher.
I really do love this process. This is the party I came for.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Voice of the Undead Giveaway, and SciFiChick.com lists Vampire Rising in its Top 10 YA Fantasy Novels of 2010

This is nice-- run over and give TheSciFiChick.com some love because they just added Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising to their Top 10 YA Fantasy novels of 2010. What can I say except THANK YOU! It's kind of bizarre, really, because even though the whole point of the blog is to keep everyone up to date, I'm still constantly amazed that people are reading and caring.

Meanwhile, I have GIVEAWAY NEWS. I plan to give away an ARC (advanced reading copy) of Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead  as soon as our Facebook page hits 500 Likes-- so if you haven't, go add yourself!

I haven't yet figured out how I'll give it away. Probably once we do hit 500, I'll post a call for responses, and draw from the responses. No other details yet because they have not come to me.