I will have a new novel available to readers in December 2011. It will be an e-book for the Kindle, Nook, Sony, iPad, and in pdf for reading in the Adobe Reader. It will also be a trade paperback. BANISHED is a supernatural novel about fallen angels--one who is the Queen of all the Fallen, who takes the dead body of a little native girl in Haiti. And her partner and helpmate, Nisroc, who she calls down to inhabit the body of a dead tightrope walker from a circus in England in the 1800s.
In the beginning this novel was two novels. I began telling the tale of Angelique, who reincarnates in a child's body, following her story from Haiti in the 1400s before it was known as Haiti, until she wound up in England 400 years later. But I was also telling the story of Angelique living today, in present time, in New Orleans, and how a woman in Houston, Texas found her way into this evil child's sphere. It came to me eventually after three hundred pages that I had two stories, two books. It was more imperative to give my readers Angelique's story throughout the hundreds of years before she came to the New World than it was to flip back and forth between the past and the present day. I took out all the present day scenes and I had my first book of what now will become a trilogy, though I will take care that each novel stands on its own feet as a complete novel that needs no other to exist.
In BANISHED Angelique and then her cohort, Nisroc, command the stage and the story. This is my first published novel since 2004, making it seven years between novels. Never before has it been so long. I had a writer's block, a doozy of a writer's block, and it doesn't matter that much what caused it, but it was a long drought. I began novels and discarded them. I would write a novel half way and put it away and forget it. I would begin another and never finish. This has never happened to me in all my writing life so you can imagine how difficult it was for me. I thought it was over, the Muse had flown its coop, I was done for, over and done. I thought maybe it was time to retire. It isn't as if many a better writer than I had quit when the stories failed them. But this past year Angelique came into my life and changed all that. I knew she was interesting to me and I really wanted to know what would happen to her.
That is the greatest reason that I write stories and novels at all--to discover the story, to have it told to me, or dictated or taken from the movie screen I see flickering in my head. I want to know. I am interested. I want to read the book, this book no one else has written and only I can write. It's my book, but I don't know it until I write it. So I began again, page one, chapter one. I got half way, as usual, and it all fell apart. Again. Because I was writing two simultaneous stories in one. Once I had separated them, cut apart those Siamese twins, I had the story that had to be written and it had to be written FIRST.
I am a lucky writer this time to have finally overcome the dreadful writer's block that left me impotent to write. I don't know who to thank or how it happened except that I just kept trying. I knew I shouldn't quit--I never had before. I knew I had more novels to write. I just kept trying.
BANISHED will be out soon, just in time for Christmas, and it's a whooper of a tale, a supernatural tale with a thin stream of horror running through it, and love inside it, and characters who come alive no matter they have wings and they have been kicked out of heaven. I hope that you will buy a copy and try it. It would encourage this writer to find her audience has waited for new work with her all this long time.
In this new day and age of publishing, the question becomes motivation. The answer is that in the beginning of a writing career the motivation needs to be wanting to reach your reader, your audience. That's the only motive that will survive an entire lifetime. If all we want to do is make money, it was easier before the troubles in traditional publishing and the rise of the e-book. It never was an easy prospect, really, but it was possible—with some talent and a lot of luck--to sell books to publishers who paid decent advances. Now those advances are smaller from small publishers or non-existent when the writer goes it alone on the e-book route. If the motive is to be famous and well-known, that's less probable and a motive that probably can't last over decades. So it comes down to wanting to share your stories and novels, the Number One reason for writing. If we get into this work for any other reason I don't see how it can sustain us over all the years of our lives.
I can say this now with the strength of hindsight because I've wanted to be a writer since I was thirteen, I first published a novel when I was thirty-two, and I've been writing more or less regularly now into my sixties. That's a lifetime. My husband used to kid me about wanting first to write for an audience, then when my work began to be published wanting to write for money. But though I smiled and let him believe that, it was never true. I've always and, to this day, done my work because I wanted to share the stories in my head with readers. Money validates that motive, letting you know that you're worth reading—people will pay to read your work. But it is a secondhand motive and as a prime mover it really won't work over a long haul.
In the beginning and for most of my life, I lived a routine that made me get to where I wanted to go. I wanted to sell books, improve to the point I could compete with some of the best award-winning authors in my field, and build up a bookshelf of my own works. I knew the only way to get there was to write fiction as a job, go about it just like everyone working a nine-to-five job, and if I didn't, I had no chance of fulfilling my goals. So I wrote from early morning with my first cup of coffee, until I had to quit to straighten the house and begin the cooking of dinner—for I had obligations to my children and husband that couldn't be totally ignored. I wrote this way five days a week, just like a carpenter, a banker, an office worker. Then on weekends I did not write, giving that time to my family so they would have all my attention. This routine and dedication got me there. I wrote and published a novel, plus several short stories, every two years for about twenty or more years. Had I not kept myself disciplined, I would have been a writer with very few credits, like J. D. Salinger or Truman Capote, and though they both were able to secure a niche in literary history by such small output, I felt a longer career with more works was that I really wanted. (So far it's 13 novels and more than 150 short stories published.)
Often I'd stop and look at Stephen King's number of works and despair. We were about the same age and I'd admonish myself for not writing nearly as many novels as King. But that's a fool's game because it does nothing but make you feel impotent and lacking in some way. Besides, I had children to raise and as any mother knows, that's a full-time job in itself. King had a wife. If I wanted to be that prolific, I needed a wife, not be one.
The point of all this is that the working writer needs the right motive in order to create a lifetime of work. Putting writing off means nothing gets done. I wrote when I was sick, when I should have been sleeping, when my children sat in my lap or climbed all over me demanding my attention. I wrote when I lost beloved family members, when in the midst of moving house, when the power went out, when I was deep in depression. Because it was my work and the postman couldn't take off a day and the mechanic had to go to work and people everywhere had to do their jobs. If they had to do it, why would I be given a pass? This was my work, wasn't it? This needed doing and it would eat up most of my life and I was happy for that. I chose my work, where most people are never so lucky. I was doing what I wanted to do and I did it joyfully, knowing I was privileged to get to do it at all. But most of all I wrote for those strangers whose faces I would never see, whose lives I hoped to touch though I would never know how, and I wrote because I had to. Stories are something like little boxes of mystery we carry around inside us; they want out, they need out, they don't belong to us alone. We write because that is what we do, without apology and without fanfare.
These days I am older and slower, but the work keeps coming. If I wrote for money I'd have quit long ago. If I wrote for fame, I'd certainly realize what a fool thing that was. But I write to share the mystery boxes with you...and you...and you.
VAMPIRES SUCK AND WHY WE LOVE THEM 10/22/2011
VAMPIRES SUCK AND THAT'S WHY WE LOVE THEM
I was asked me to stick up for vampires since a guest blogger on THE DEMON WHO STOLE MY PENCIL did the same for zombies. First off, let me say I like zombies just fine and dandy. I've written a zombie story that you can find in my hardcover collection of short stories, DARK MATTER. (This story will soon be in an e-book collection.) But I've written about all sorts of paranormal creatures, so I'm an equal opportunity lover of the non-human. These sorts of characters give writers the freedom to explore completely different worlds and even emotions that might be different from what we feel as humans. So I love them all, take that as a given.
Until I wrote LEGIONS OF THE DARK, I had written only of the vampire in a few short stories. I was contacted by DAW Books to write a trilogy of vampire novels and I had to think it over a little while. Though I had admired Anne Rice's INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, recognizing it as a book that would become a classic, and though I had written vampire short stories, the thought of an entire trilogy of novels seemed a daunting task. And did I love the vampires enough to want to live with them through three or four years of writing? Most importantly for me, did I have anything at all to say new or fresh about vampires? I couldn't answer the last rhetorical question until I wrote the books, I knew that, so that left the questions of how much I cared about vampires and was it enough to sustain me through lengthy works? I finally answered yes and dove into the first of the VAMPIRE NATION CHRONICLES in LEGIONS. I discovered I loved the characters—which is the most important thing to me when writing—and the fact they were vampires had a lot to do with it. They could live forever, given they did not meet some unforeseen accident. They were the repositories of vast amounts of historical knowledge. They had heft, they had weight, they even, in some instances, had duties to preserve and even help mankind. No, they do not sparkle. No, they are not weepy and weak. No, they are not just creatures to represent sex, either gay or heterosexual. These are unhelpful stereotypes. My vampires were great creatures, nearly god-like, with longevity that boggled the mind. It always seemed to me that whether you were alive as a human or dead as a vampire, you would still be beset by all your earthly problems and desires. That would not change.
CNN interviewed me by phone for their CNN site when I was writing VAMPIRE NATION CHRONICLES and asked me why I thought people loved vampires so much. I said I thought it was because we are mortals and we live with the notion we would die. The vampire does not die, his immortality is what the mortal longs for deep in his soul, therefore the vampire mesmerizes us; we admire and envy him. For we will all die. We will lie in a grave or become ashes in an urn. We know this and it is a thought we must live with—the hardest reality any human faces. As we read the novels of vampires for a small time we become that immortal being. We live his long, long life, we follow him through centuries, and we revel in his life, even if he is among the “undead.” For that time immersed in the novel we, too, are immortal.
Except for an angel, the vampire is one of the only fictional creations that is truly immortal. Now that I am writing about fallen angels--ANGELIQUE and the forthcoming novel, BLACK WINGS—I have a large overview of writing about the immortal and after a long career of writing realistic suspense thrillers, I've discovered that the immortal is more fun. Whether he has fangs or wings, whether he can disappear or fly, he is not me, he is not US, and as a writer I can explore all sorts of avenues that are blocked to me when writing about real people.
In LEGIONS OF THE DARK I was able to explore and examine the vampire life of a young girl just becoming vampire. In RISE OF THE LEGEND the story progressed with her son, Malachi, whose father was human, making him a half-breed—a dhampir. In HUNTER OF THE DEAD Malachi has to hunt down the monster vampire who killed his wife and took his only child. The trilogy gave me a broad canvas where I could carry through and follow generations of vampires. I grew to love these creatures more than ever before because I recognized their humanity and that is what we care about most in our fiction. In subsequent lifetimes do we grow more moral or less? It was a question I wanted to explore and a trilogy of novels afforded me the time and space to do it.
So I have no quibble with the zombie or the werewolf or the vampire or the angel or the ghost. I love them all equally well, but so far my work has concentrated on vampire and angel so I can say for sure that we don't have to settle for one or the other, pin all our love on one, or disrespect those who choose an immortal that is not the one we have chosen to write about. We can have them all. We can love and enjoy them all. I know I do.
I believe character makes a novel and plot is just what the character lives. I’ve loved being around people who were characters since I was a child. Real characters are bigger than life, live either on the edge or over the edge, and usualy don’t give a fig about what people think of them. It was the “character” in the tiny village where my grandparents lived who dominated conversation. People sat around on the porch in warm summers talking about the derringdo of the local characters. As a child I sat off to the side or behind the porch swing or beneath the dining table listening, a quiet little girl who was all ears. No one was interested in the staid, upright, church-going, dull people who never did anything slanderous or risky. Talk, instead, was about the two drunks who decided one night to track down whatever strange creature was screaming in the woods that summer. Off they went in the dead of night with a hoe and an axe, looking for the boogeyman. One said he would be the bait and the other would wait in hiding to hoe down the monster as it screamed past him chasing the other man. This talk went on for weeks with the adults unable to agree whether the knot on one man’s head had been put there by a hoe weilded by a frightened, unsteady hand, or had he merely fallen across a root in the woods? Did the two men really hear the horrible beast scream in the night just feet away from them through the brush? These men were characters, and their plot was the decisions they made and the kind of life they lived.
I grew up, then, loving character both in real life and in fiction. What is THE GREAT GATSBY without Gatsby? What is Paul Theroux’s MOSQUITO COAST without the off-kilter father who takes his whole family off the grid and into a foreign jungle where he makes ice? Plot and story flow from a great character, not usually the other way around.
Gold Rush Dream by Billie Sue Mosiman
In my novels I always think of the person, the character, first, and from that character comes her story. In GOLD RUSH DREAM, a suspense-filled western with two characters who fall in love, the first thing I wanted to do was write about a young woman who had grown up in the Texas woods with her immigrant parents and then suddenly loses them. I asked myself questions about Rose, this young protagonist. How would she survive the harsh conditions of frontier life on her own? She was fiercely independent, but she was also young, unsophisticated, and untried by life. Along comes Travis, a lone trapper, who finds Rose rising from the root cellar in the middle of a crumbled, smoking cabin that had been burned to the ground by marauding Indians. Now the character of Rose has more conflict to endure–sparking off another strong character, Travis. I could see in my inner vision these characters and I let them tell the story I wanted to read,
That’s another thing about writing novels. You get to tell yourself the story you’ve never read, but would like to read. I wanted to know how Rose would fare and how Travis would keep her safe. I wanted to know what happened when they tried to cross the big wilderness of a frontier country to get Rose to her remaining family in California. I wanted to know if they would like one another and maybe even fall in love during such an arduous journey. Character led the way.
Damaged by Billie Sue Mosiman
In DAMAGED I wrote the most feminist novel I ever penned. I did not set out to write a feminist novel. It was the character who lived the feminist ideal and though she was emotionally damaged by a tragic event–her husband killing her two children before her eyes then turning the gun on himself–this was a woman who pulled herself out of insanity and despair to grapple with what life had handed to her. Men, who I do love by the way, do not fare well in DAMAGED at the hands of Shadow, the woman who has determined she will never again let a man turn a woman or a child into a victim. It was character who drove the novel. Some readers confuse the author with their characters, and we can’t get away from that, but, in the main, fictional characters are a conglomerate of people an author has known or been acquainted with–sometimes they’re simply imagined in whole. In researching the subject matter of DAMAGED I interviewed dozens of exotic dancers (the occupation Shadow is forced to take on since she was, like many woman, a housewife without skills or education). I interviewed a police detective in order to write about my detective in the novel. But the characters who found their way to the page were none of these real people, nor were they me. They were creations that interested me most, the characters who made me ask questions of them. What will you do now your children are murdered and your husband a suicide? What will you do now you’ve lost your home, your source of income, your mental balance? How do you live with the despair and fight your way out of it? If you take the law into your own hands, Shadow, how do you live with that and do you really have that right? What if a copycat killer begins to mimic your crimes, pinning them on you? How in the world can you stop him, how can you ever exonerate yourself? What if you’re falling in love with the one man, the detective, who is trying to find out who you really are? Those were the questions that drove the story. I wanted to know these answers and I believed readers would too.
Angelique by Billie Sue Mosiman
In my new novel I’m working on, BANISHED, I was told the story about a little girl who seemed evil, who might be a voodoo queen in New Orleans. I began to think about that child and thought, well, what if she’s not a child at all? What if she’s a fallen angel who has taken that child’s body? What if she’s lived for hundreds of years? If that’s the story then how and when did she possess that body? How did she survive as a child without a parent all those hundreds of years? What was her mission, who were her companions? So I started with character only and from Angelique comes the story as she tells it to me. The reason I keep writing the book is to find out what’s going to happen next.
Without character, strong, resilient, sympathetic character, plot doesn’t even matter. Unless I care about the protagonist, I have no reason to follow the story. If I don’t care about the characters I have no questions for them, therefore no plot comes forth.
I am still listening to the stories I heard while hiding under the dining table, but now I listen to them in my head and try to translate them into a story people want to read. First I have to want to read it. Only then can I hope someone else will. Characters, the people in my novels, are as real to me as people I know and because of who they are, what’s happened to them, and the directions they take, I simply follow along telling the story of their lives–telling the story to myself.
LINK FOR BLOG-WEBPAGE
LINK FOR FACEBOOK
LINK FOR GOLD RUSH DREAM
LINK FOR DAMAGED
LINK FOR ANGELIQUE
How Mistakes Limit Kindle and E-book Sales 04/09/2011
We can't sell a book if the descriptions (or the book itself), contains mistakes. I understand formatting mistakes and overlook them, because that can happen to anyone (and does!), but when the mistakes are in grammar or spelling, wrong punctuation or garbled sentence construction, it really turns me off from wanting to read a Kindle title.
I read a whole blog about a woman who received a bad review. She began defending herself, but her remarks were so littered with bad spelling, word use (their for there), and pure anger that she proved the review to be true. The big problem ...was she really believed her book was "fine" as she called it. It was not fine. The writer hadn't done her homework and did not get her work checked for mistakes before putting the book up on Kindle. Once called out, she proceeded to make blog posts that were senseless and full of grammatical errors. This not only did harm to her reputation, but it tolled a death bell for her books.
There are few places we need perfection--or as close to it as humanly possible--and one of those places is in publishing our books for sale.
I used to teach writing for the Writer's Digest School (and a course on AOL) and today I sometimes edit books for people. I have one coming in June for editing. Writers who want to give their books every chance for success don't have to necessarily hire me or any editor to go over their works, but they do need feedback and critiques by someone who is competent, someone they trust. I use a writer friend who is extremely good at finding technical mistakes in manuscripts and who also is adept at plot construction. I try my best to be careful with my own work, but just because I can edit others doesn't mean I'm perfect in editing my own writing. I think we all need other eyes on the work before it's published. You can lure in a buyer for your ebook with a great cover, title, and description, but if the book itself is riddled with mistakes, poor plotting, or poor characterization, that reader won't come back for another book by you.
We have to face the fact that there are over 700,000 ebooks on Kindle so it's always important to give our work the best we have. If readers buy one of our books and they aren't happy, we have lost the potential to sell them the rest of our novels.
How many of you have editors or other good writers go over your book before offering it for sale? How important do you think it is to do so? The books I've put up so far were published in print first, so they had editorial input. When I put up an original that has never been print published before, you can bet it will be checked carefully first.
Thinking about the reasons I like e-books, I realized I've been reading some things lately that I wouldn't have read had it not been in e-book format. I've found some work by Philip K. Dick that I haven't read yet, and being he's one of my favorite authors (not just sf author, but favorite of all kinds of fiction), I have lately read one of his novels and two of his short stories. It's true you can find Dick's work in print, but could I have found those specific stories I really wanted to read? And how long would it take me to track down those stories in anthologies or collections and then wait for them to be mailed to me? With the e-book format I got the work right away, read it all immediately.
The same with some other books I've read lately. I found them in e-books when they were out of print and hard to find in print as used copies. We may forget what a service this is to readers and how it enhances our reading lists. I do not always want to read new works of fiction. To be truthful, some of the older works appeal to me a lot more. Not everything is in the public domain, but much of it is becoming available in e-books, thank goodness.
I remember how it took me years to gather paperback copies of most of the Travis McGee books by John D. MacDonald, and how I searched so hard to find paper copies of books by Jim Thompson and Patricia Highsmith. Today I can find them to read on my Android phone, the Kindle, or my computer. I know this means I'm part of this new age that wants it now, wants it fast, wants it convenient, but that's how it is. If I want to read a Dick short story, I don't want to wait a week or four days, I want to read it while I have it in mind.
That's one of the reasons e-books are so popular and why I am enjoying them, as a reader, so much. I've mentioned that I don't care how the content gets to me--hardback, paperback, digital, or on the back of a napkin--just so long as I get to read it, I simply don't care. Certainly I admire and love the beautifully bound, illustrated novel with a hard cover and a sturdy spine. I also love the bright, small package of the paperback. I won't stop loving print books just because I also love e-books. There is room in my love for fiction to include all the forms without holding any of them worthless in any way. But first and foremost is the content. I want to read and if I can't find it in print or it will take me a long time and a lot of effort to do so, I'll take it as an e-book and be just as happy as a pig wallowing in oatmeal.
The Printing Press, Cars, and E-books 02/27/2011
I read on teleread.com about how monks were so upset when the printing press came along to put them, mostly, out of business. The article compares what happened to the monks, who hand wrote books, and lost out to the printing press to publishers who print books and now appear to be losing out to e-books. It's a fair comparison. Buggy whip makers lost their jobs when cars came into being. The printing press made the written word easier and faster to make into books, putting many of the monks into retirement. Only a select few could get their hands onto hand-scribed parchments. Suddenly printed books opened up information and stories to the wider world. The e-book cuts out middlemen and speeds up the time from creation to reader. They also bring down the price of a book so more people worldwide can read more books for less money.
I don't know why we hold onto The Way Things Were with such tenacity. As for print publishers, they won't disappear altogether, no more than the monks did who hand scribe books. There will be print works, even if in the end it is only Print on Demand or small specialty publishers.
Most new technology is greeted with enthusiasm. I know I cheered when CPM computers became IBM DOS and IBM DOS became Microsoft Windows. I didn't balk when my vinyl records were replaced by cassettes and then by CDs and then by MP3s. I didn't cringe when my huge floppy disks were replaced by smaller ones and then by hard drives inside the computer. Or when the hand wringing washing machine my grandmother used became an electric spinning drum washing machine. Or the television! Big fat boxes became light, thin panels with high definition and 3D.
I don't fear the future and I don't see any reason to fight it. The only thing we can count on is change. What if we didn't have it? Would we rather stand still, tread water, never move forward? Of course not. And even if we would rather remain static, life is not going to oblige us, no matter what we want or how badly we want it.
I like the e-readers with their "ink print like paper print." I like the idea of storage for a library, a machine that will fit in my purse to take along with me so I can open and read one or two or three books at once, if I like, and it takes up so much less space than two or three paperbacks. I just like new things and useful things and things that make my life interesting.
And since we can't stop, much less slow down the future, we might as well embrace it. I love books. I've loved books all my life and always will. But I love the content more than the packaging. It never meant much to me whether I was reading a hard back or a paperback. What was the difference, as long as I got the words, the story? There does not have to be a tug of war about whether e-books are a good technology or whether it is killing off the print book. As long as we have BOOKS, this old world is going to be all right, it's going to be fine. We need our stories and our storytellers. From the monks bent over in candlelight scribbling on parchment to reading on a beach with our e-reader, the important part of the equation is there for us--the book itself. I think that's the part we all hope will survive forever.
I read in J.A. Konrath 's blog today that many first novelists are receiving $5000 advances. He went on to talk about an imaginary author getting a $200,000 advance vs. publishing an e-book. Since one-tenth of one percent (and I'm being generous) of all first authors might get a six-figure advance, let's go back to the more reliable $5000 advance for selling a novel to print with a NYC publisher. I'm pretty shocked by that number. Why? Because it is the same amount I received for my first novel, WIREMAN, in 1984. In 1984! Writer's advances have not changed in 27 years?
If that doesn't shock and dismay you, I don't know what will. Have you priced a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, or a gallon of gasoline today? Then you and I know that a five grand advance in 2011 is abysmal. Almost criminal.
It was a lot more money in 1984!
So why would anyone wish to go through the difficulty of getting a decent agent, the crapshoot of hoping the agent can actually sell the book, and then get paid $5000, half on signing, half on delivery of the manuscript?
Because it might be a bestseller? Not if the publisher only paid $5000 2011 dollars. There will be a small print run, no advertising, a few copies here and there in a few bookstores (or libraries if it is a hardcover), and the book, like most books will not "earn out" meaning it will never make more than the advance monies paid. Because it is in print? Createspace on Amazon can put it in print for you. No, it probably won't be in bookstores, those that are left, but readers can certainly get a print copy if they please.
I have to agree with Konrath and so many others doing well with digital e-books and becoming their own independent publishers--Why waste your time with traditional publishing? Now I do believe you need experience, practice, skill, talent, readers for feedback, editors, and e-book cover artists, but I do not believe you need to go through the long, difficult turmoil of agent-editor-paperback/hardback publication through NYC.
I wouldn't have said this a year ago, because I still had the mindset of a traditionally published author. It had been my world for nearly 30 years and it is what I knew. Now I know something else. My books are available at Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, Apple, Crossroad Press, and other places. My e-books are selling and I have a whole new reading audience.
If I were a first novelist today I would know what to do. It's a no-brainer. Publishing traditionally UNLESS I was able to keep all digital rights (and that's not going to happen) would not be my choice. I would publish in the e-book world. I would take control of my own destiny and leave all the waiting, the angst, the disappointments, and the crummy $5000 advance to someone else, baby. I'd have none of it.
I'll post my thoughts here about e-book publishing in general and my own experiences with my e-books.