Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Crazy Cats Anyone? by Jeannie Watt

Have you ever wondered about the blog writing process? Generally I don’t have a problem coming up with a topic, but what follows is a desperate discussion I had with myself late yesterday afternoon, when I was working on revisions and suddenly realized that tomorrow was my blog day:

Oh my gosh. I’m drawing a total blog blank. Why did I offer to do this? I can’t think of anything. I’m…blank. Blank, blank, blank.

People are depending on you, Jeannie. You have to think of something.

All right. Just give me a minute.

Maybe—

Shush. I’m thinking.

Fine!

Maybe I could write about the time I drove for two miles with the cat on top of my car. The heart-stopping moment when his little kitty face appeared in front of me as he slid down the windshield as I crested the overpass. The rapier-like reflexes I employed to steer the car to the edge of the overpass so that he slid gently to the ground in front of the vehicle without being hurt.

That’s good for a paragraph.

Maybe I could stretch it with a lot of adjectives…or perhaps it could be a theme. Crazy cat experiences. Surely everyone has had a crazy cat experience or two.

Um…

Remember the time that the wild cat jumped off the haystack and somehow managed to sail through the loop in the hay rope on his way to the ground and hung up?
How he swung there from his middle like a flailing, angry wild cat on a rope? I had to attempt to cut him free with the only knife in the truck—a butter knife—while he tried to slash my face? And he was not the least bit grateful once I freed him.

Okay—there’s two paragraphs.

That’s practically a blog. All I need is one more crazy cat experience. Let’s see…let's see...
Why aren’t more of my cats crazy? There has got to be another story…

Maybe another topic? The joys of teaching junior high? Your dogged, yet futile attempts to lose the RWA conference weight? The reasons one should never name a hero Rex?

How are any of those going to engage readers? It’s crazy cats, I tell you, or nothing.

Nothing is sounding better and better…


So…have you had any crazy cat experiences? Or times when you really had to prepare something and it simply wasn’t coming together?

If you’d like to share, or simply say hello, I’m offering a Kindle download of any SuperRomance. Remember that you can read Kindle downloads on a PC without actually having a Kindle.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

How Fan Fiction Changed My Life: A Writer's Journey


It's launch day! I'm so excited that my debut book, Her Son's Hero, is finally on shelves. As I look back over the years I slaved and wrote and pitched, I remember fondly how I started my writer's journey: in the world of fan fiction.

For the uninitiated, fan fiction is any story written based on existing work that is outside of the official canon, whether it's a book, TV show, movie, radio play, video game—you name it, there's probably a fanfic of it. Subgenres of fanfic include anything from slash—erotic pairings so called after the most famous pairing of Star Trek's Spock/Kirk—to more lighthearted stories to crack fic—random often humorous stories that place the characters in ridiculous situations. Fanficers take the characters and worlds they love and tell their own stories.

In 2005, I was watching a fabulous Nicklelodeon show called Avatar: The Last Airbender. I had an idea for story that needed telling, and I desperately wanted to write it down. Not that I believed it could go anywhere or do anything. But I was compelled. I had to write that story. So I did.

I wasn't sure what to do with it after that. I was so proud that I'd actually completed a story beginning to end—up to that point, I'd only completed one short story, and had a random handful of other stories started. I wanted someone to see my work. So I Googled the show to see what I could find about it.

The explosion of search results was like an epiphany. I had no idea how rich the world of internet fandom was, and the show was only in its first season, about 10 episodes in.

I found www.fanfiction.net and posted my story there. When the first dozen or so reviews came in, I was gleeful, and started writing more. When the reviews reached 100, I was ecstatic. When the reviews kept pouring in, to the point I was getting 50 or more reviews a day, I knew I was onto something that would change my life.

I spent every spare minute writing after that. I plotted while using the treadmill, wrote on an old Palm Pilot with a fold-up keyboard on my commutes and during lunch hours, spent whole days without seeing the outside of my room as I pounded out story after story, eager to feed the fandom.

It was a borderline obsession for a while. My family was concerned that only shut-ins and social outcasts wrote fan fiction. My behavior didn't exactly put them at ease, either: I eschewed many social gatherings in favor of writing. I talked about it constantly. It had become my life, and that fervent need to produce had me completing novel-length stories in record time.

True, those early works weren't my best, but I got better quickly. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was learning the basics of story structure, characterization, dialogue, world-building, plot and conflict.

What I learned from fanfic wasn't confined to just writing skills; promoting my work and learning internet etiquette was a huge part of working with the fandom. I was on Live Journal forums, took part in internet chats, and reviewed other people's work. I taught myself how to use all kinds of design programs so I could contribute to the art side of the fandom by making avatars and icons, animated gifs and fan videos. More than all that, I learned how to relate with fans, to be part of the community.

In short, I was learning how to be an author.

When the show was winding down its third and final season, I knew I would soon be turning away from the world of fanfic and taking the next step: original fiction.
It was a lot harder. I had to create my own characters and world. I had to put them in situations that were not contrived. I was daunted by how much harder I had to work, and nearly gave up several times, especially after those first rejections.

But I did it. And I have fan fiction to thank for it
.

So here's my official thank you to the Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom and the fan fiction community that supported me throughout the years. I hope you all enjoy Her Son's Hero...especially the Acknowledgments page.
; )

Vicki Essex is a big fan of Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender. Her Son's Hero is her first book.

The New Kid on the Block


“Um…hello…my name is Vicki Essex and I’m a Superromance author.”

It’s still weird to say that. Not only because I’m still getting used to addressing myself by my pen name, but also because six months ago, I never would have thought I’d be able to use those hallowed words.
Superromance author. I share that designation with the likes of Tara Taylor Quinn, Brenda Novak, Molly O’Keefe, Roz Denny Fox, Lenora Worth…

And as I list these talented bestselling authors, my heart rate triples and I break out in a sweat.

Who the heck am I to be among such esteemed writers? I’m just a kid, or so I keep telling myself (my bones tell me otherwise on rainy days). I eat cereal in my pajamas on Saturday mornings and spend hours playing video games in the afternoons. I still have stuffed animals in my bedroom. I own silly socks and sillier hats. Surely real serious authors don’t spend as much time as I do reading comic books and watching cartoons?

After I uncurl myself from fetal position, I take a deep breath and take stock of the past six months. I am an author, like it or love it, and I have the contract, flat butt and gray hairs to prove it.

The day I got the Call, I didn’t realize how my world would change. I had to commit to my pen name, set up a website, start using all those lessons I learned from marketing and promotion workshops to pull my "brand identity" together. I had to set up accounts for Twitter and Facebook, reorganize my blog…it was one thing after another, and as I rush headlong toward my debut release date (Her Son’s Hero will be out mid-July 2011) I find myself just barely keeping my head above water.

When my name started popping up on sites like Goodreads and Amazon—big, blank pages just waiting for those first reviews—I retreated back into my cave of fear.

What had I gotten myself into?

I’m a wallflower by nature. At my RWA chapter meetings, I’m usually the one in the back hoping someone—or no one—notices I’m there. I can’t even look people in the eye most of the time. Now I’m this other person—this author among greats—and I feel a little like a sparrow among songbirds.

I was putting myself out there in a way I never had before. Only when I realized these other authors did the same thing with each new release, I felt a bit more relaxed.

Because every time they put out a new book, they face rejection, edits, more edits, defeat and victory in many little forms. They have to run the gamut of self-promotion, read those first few reviews with bated breath, laugh and cry and celebrate. I’m sure there are a few stiff drinks thrown in between.

Above all else, I realize this: all these wonderful, dedicated, talented published authors are probably just human. I bet some of them own silly hats, too.

If I can remember that, I bet I could make friends.

So, here I am, stepping out and meekly waving hello. Help me make some new friends! How do you enter a new social situation? What are your tactics for networking and meeting people? Do you go for the cold introduction? Inveigle yourself among a small group and share a joke? Do a magic trick? What are your friendly pickup lines?
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