Archive for More Shit I Gotta Do

Plotting “We Are Not Good People”

By | July 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

webWANGPThis coming Saturday (8/2) I’ll be standing in a room giving a presentation on plotting novels (pantsing Vs. plotting) at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference (details here and you should totally sign up). I just informed my harried agent that I will be wearing a clown costume and plan to communicate via honking a horn and making sad faces, and she seemed to support me.

Why am I qualified to teach people how to plot a novel? Likely I am not. But someone has to give these presentations, or else middling successful novelists like myself would have nothing to do. You don’t want me wandering the streets, unmoored.

I’ve occasionally posted essays about plotting novels here to both promote my new career as the Novel Whisperer (I plan to stop writing them and spend all my time charging people huge sums of money to coach them in their own creative endeavors) as well as the novels themselves. Because, you know, I offer these books for sale as a way of avoiding real work. And you are part of my secret plan.

Next up in the plot analysis? My upcoming novel We Are Not Good People, publishing in October (a free prequel, Fixer, is available for free download right now!).

Plotting WANGP

Yes, the acronym for this novel is WANGP and that pleases me to no end.

Plotting this novel was an exercise in pure, joyous Pantsing. As with most of my novels, I started off with an initial image — an old apartment that had been sealed up decades before and left undisturbed, based on a true story I heard about a place on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that had been closed up for the season in the 1940s and then abandoned, the bills paid, the doors locked. I imagined rustling around in there, then saw a dead girl in a tub, and then saw two grifters who used small spells to help their scams. I had no idea what the story was going to be. I just started writing.

I often — but not always — write this way, just pouring on words. I got a little stuck after a few chapters, which also happens a lot: Once I’m done establishing a universe and characters, I sometimes stall wondering what exactly they will do. Then I read a book by someone else, and there was a sequence I enjoyed so much I decided on the spot to steal it, and worked a variation of it into the work in progress, and that got everything going.

Pantsing, for me, generally means imagining my characters as real people and wondering what they would reasonably do in reaction to each other and plot events outside their direct control. The answers are usually very obvious once I start thinking about it. Meanwhile, pantsing leaves me free to steal any ideas I come across, repurposing them into my story – which makes telling one a lot of fun, and very exciting, as I’m not sure where it’s all heading myself.

Does any of this make sense? Probably not. Anyone who tells you the act of creation should make sense is lying.

Announcing the Mystery Box Giveaway

By | July 14, 2014 | 3 Comments

Kids, you may not know this, but as a published author it sometimes seems like you’re paid in free copies of your own books (sometimes literally: I received 1/3rd of my advance for my first novel Lifers literally as a bunch of free books). Then, sometimes, a publisher goes out of business or lets a book go out of print and then offers to sell you your own book stock for some ridiculous price, like a quarter a book, and so you buy approximately 500,000 of them because you can’t sleep at night thinking of your precious books being mulched.

End result? I have a lot of books that I wrote sitting around here. So, let’s give some away, want to? Here’s how it will work:

EVERY WEDNESDAY for the time being, I will send out a Tweet that says “Book Giveaway” (just those two words). The FIRST person to respond to that tweet will win a Mystery Box of books. It’s that simple. I’ll DM you for your address, and in a few days you get a Mystery Box of books.

What’s in the mystery box? IT IS A MYSTERY. It could be one book or five, and lord knows what the books will actually be. All that you can know is that they are all by me, and I’ll sign them, and there might be bookmarks and such included. I cannot even guarantee they will be in English, as I have a surprising number of German-language Avery Cates books lying around.

But you can’t choose which books to get and therefore you may be bitterly disappointed when you receive your Mystery Box and be moved to come to New Jersey and burn my house down. Which is fine, as it would be free publicity as I am filmed in front of my burning house holding five cats with tears streaming down my face. I believe that would be a recipe for INSTANT PITY BOOK SALES, so have at it.

That’s it. The Mystery Book Tweet could happen at any time between the hours of 8AM and 6PM EST on Wednesdays, until I announce the end of this thing I am doing. Good luck!

Plotting and The Electric Church

By | June 30, 2014 | 2 Comments

The Electric ChurchRight, we all know the drill now, right? I’m giving a plot seminar at The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference (see here) because like Iggy A I am fancy, and thus I am writing a series of essays about how I plot novels by way of proving my bona fides, right? All right, glad to have that out of the way.

So: The Electric Church. The story about this book is an epic in and of itself. It’s actually simultaneously the book I plotted most, and perhaps the most epically pantsed novel in history. I wrote the first draft in 1993 in about six months, just pantsing along merrily. The end result was a sloppy narrative with what we in the writerly industry refer to as a shit-ton of problems, but it had spark, and verve, and a premise that I wanted to do justice to. So I never quite gave up on it, picking it up a few times over the next decade and starting a few revisions.

Then, in 2004 I saw an ad for a fiction market. They were accepting proposals and required a detailed plot outline, character sketches — the whole nine yards.

As aside: In what has proven to be a reliable rule, the markets that pay the least have the most strenuous requirements. I’ve sold novels to major publishers who ran the book through a warm room full of copy editors and proclaimed it ready for prime-time. Stories and books for which I was paid in admiration and slaps on the back? Gruelling rounds of editing. This was one of those: No money (I did eventually earn $3.14 from it — that is an exact number — but the submission process was epic.

(more…)

Brooklyn Book Festival

By | June 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

BBFSo, looks like I’ll be at this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival at the Mystery Writers of America‘s table – precise time to be determined. I’ll be selling books (hopefully I’ll have some early copies of We Are Not Good People to sell) and shaking hands and dancing for nickels, as usual. Bring a lot of nickels, because my dances don’t last long.

WHEN: September 21, 2014, Time TBD

WHERE: Brooklyn Book festival, Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza, 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn NY 11201

WHY: The aforementioned dancing.

See y’all there!

Plotting and Chum

By | June 6, 2014 | 0 Comments
BUY ME

BUY ME

So, as mentioned previously,  in August I’ll be presenting a seminar on plotting a novel, much to the horror of many, many teachers, scoutmasters, and other authority figures I’ve known throughout my long-departed youth. To say that many people expressed doubt about my abilities to succeed in life would be an understatement. That happens when you discover alcohol at the age of thirteen and immediately take up residence on street corners for lengthy periods of time.

Still, I showed them! I am on the agenda of a major writing conference. Of course, this makes me sweat: As we all know, I take a certain, shall we say, casual approach to life in general. How do you teach something when your process involves getting blackout drunk and then being vaguely surprised at what you find in the morning?

ENTER CHUM

Well, I’ve been looking back on my mighty works and considering how I actually plotted them out. Chum was written (in its original form) in 2003, taken on by my might agent in 2004, re-written a few times along the way, and sold to Tyrus Books in 2013. With a story like that, it can’t be surprising to hear that the plot process on this book was complicated, mainly because I never really considered plot at all.

Chum is, I think, an unusual book: It has a transforming event buried in there, the Big Moment that everything revolves around, but it doesn’t really follow any recognizable model for plot at all. There’s really no rising action, no denouement. It’s told from various points of view and various moments in time, and the points of view vary wildly in states of inebriation and information.

So how did I plot this? I didn’t.

I started off, as usual, with a vision: The opening scene, which is fairly innocuous and humorous, with a slight spice of ominous — and then I saw what the Big Event was. From there, I simply slipped into the heads of my characters and explored what they might have seen, inferred, or eavesdropped, and what would happen to their relationships as a result.

It’s actually an approach to writing that I attempted once before, when I was much younger, in a novella titled “Shadow Born” (let’s not mock me and my titles; I will stipulate that my love for faux-poetic titles is awful and horrible and I am trying to be better about it, promise). The older novella was the story of a rape at a college party and explored how people hear about it, suspect it’s happened, and react to certain knowledge of it. It wasn’t entirely successful, and today feels like Juvenilia, but it felt like there was power in that engine.

Results May Not Be Verifiable

I don’t employ this kind of narrative trick often, because it’s more likely to collapse into a heap of chaos than yield a tight, interesting novel. Chum works because the characters came to life – at least to me, although I now have a few other people, some of whom paid me money, who seem to agree. If the characters had seemed flat or boring, we would have been in a lot of trouble. As a result, this isn’t really an approach I can recommend to newcomers to the novel game – although hey, you never know.

Other novels I’ve plotted differently, including a lot of “Pantsing” and a bit of “Plotting,” though the latter is usually only when I’m forced to. Both have worked for me, but I have to say: Plotting Chum was probably the most fun I’ve ever had plotting a novel out.

These days my plot technique involves alcohol and guesswork. And cats. Cat butts on my keyboard seem to be the secret sauce for my recent novels, actually.

Reasons Why You Should Join the WANGP Street Team

By | June 1, 2014 | 33 Comments
Street Team

Street Team

SO, on October 7, 2014, the world will change forever. Well, not really. What’s actually going to happen is my next novel, We Are Not Good People, will be released. Whether or not I spend 2015 dancing on street corners for nickels or ordering rounds of drinks for strangers as I blaze, briefly, in alcoholic splendor before doctors arrive to harvest my ruined body for parts, depends entirely on what happens in the bookstores and online venues in the days and weeks afterwards.

In the past, with the Avery Cates novels, I organized a Street Team (organized may be a strong word here) to help with promotion, and we had a lot of fun, so I’m doing the same, gathering blackguards and bravos from around the world to help make it seem like a passably good idea to spend money on my book. And I want you to join the Street Team. It will be ever so much fun.

We have a forum: http://wearenotgoodpeople.freeforums.net/

The book has a website: www.wearenotgoodpeople.com

I understand your hesitation. I am a notably unreliable author who is easily distracted by glasses of booze and things like videos of kittens acting surprised. So, here are

REASONS TO BE ON THE WANGP STREET TEAM

  1. You love me. You may not realize it, but you do.
  2. You fear me and know if my writering career goes south I will start showing up at your door, begging for a couch to sleep on.
  3. There will be swag — free books, signed things, T-shirts, bookmarks, anything else we cook up to give away or what have you, Street Team members will get first dibs. In the past every member got a T-shirt or a hat and some other stuff just for being awesome.
  4. Meet new people! Who are not me pretending to be other people just to make my Street Team seem huge and imposing, promise.
  5. All Street Team members pat and present earn the Right of Cocktails, which means they can march up to me at any time under any circumstances and, once they’ve identified themselves, demand that I buy them a drink, and I will.
  6. Did I mention the swag?
  7. The forum is there to exchange ideas and suggestions, so if you’ve ever wanted to humiliate and destroy me publicly (and who hasn’t) here is your chance. Why not suggest I dress up in a pig outfit and dance on your lawn? Because if everyone on the Street Team votes for it, I will totally do that.
  8. The abbreviation of We Are Not Good People is WANGP, so you get to throw around the word “Wang” a lot and no one can complain.

    The Pork Avenger (Artist's Conception)

    The Pork Avenger (Artist’s Conception)

  9. Someday, when they decide to make a documentary about me (most probably because I snap mentally in 2016 and start showing up in public in a pig outfit and dancing, eventually becoming known as The Pork Avenger) they will totally come to interview you about it.
  10. Because I am dancing for right now, even though you can’t see it. And also weeping. How can you be so cruel?

So there you have it. There’s no official sign up or anything — just participate. Send me your contact info via email or message, let me know you’re interested, join the forum and say hello and suggest things. What can you suggest? Well, anything:

  • If you know of a bookstore that would love to have me come read, let me know.
  • Ideas for swag or giveaways
  • Ideas for digital graphics that I could create and distribute
  • Forums or other sites that people could post on
  • Ways to tweet and post about the books (or my other books), write reviews, or otherwise spread the word

Or, just lurk until something gets suggested that appeals to you. Literally, anything you want to do is appreciated and I’ll be extremely grateful for.

Onward! I’ve just discovered I will have to have my Pork Avenger outfit let out a little. I’m … not a young man any more.

Presenting @ The 2014 Writer’s Digest Conference

By | May 7, 2014 | 2 Comments

WDC_2014So, this has happened:

I’ve been invited to be a presenter at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference (www.writersdigestconference.com). I was told that, remarkably, if I didn’t live in the NYC area they would have paid for my travel and hotel but since I do they will pay for nothing. Which kind of encapsulates my publishing career to date, actually.

I will be making the following presentation:

Title: Take Off Your Pants and Write! The Benefits and Pitfalls of Pantsing vs. Plotting a Novel

Date: Saturday, August 2, 2014, 2:40PM — 3:30PM

More Info: http://www.writersdigestconference.com/ehome/83905/schedule/?&&

Naturally, you have questions. I have answers:

1. Why in god’s name does anyone think you should be impressing impressionable young writers?

Because I’ve published eight novels with number nine on the way and over thirty short stories. Also: I’m a damn fine good looking man and the world benefits when I appear in public.

2. What kind of wisdom will you be imparting?

As the title hints, it will all be pants-related. Also, a little bit about plotting your novels. But mainly pants stuff.

3. Will you bring a bottle of Scotch and pour everyone in the room a drink as you famously did at your Bouchercon presentation in 2010?

No, I learned my lesson from that debacle. A drunk audience is not better than a sober one. They are worse. So much worse.

SO! There you have it. I will be imparting my noveling wisdom to those in need. Or at least those who have not yet found better, smarter, younger mentors.

Jersey City Writers

By | April 3, 2014 | 2 Comments

SO, last night I was invited to speak at the first-ever Genre Night for Jersey City Writers. Now, I was born and raised in Jersey City and I currently live a 5 minute walk away from that city, but when I was a kid it didn’t have writer’s groups. It had gangs, yes, and Boy Scouts. But no writer’s groups. So this was exciting stuff.

The event was held at the Freshly Baked Gallery on Monmouth Street in JC – it’s a delightful little space in the middle of a sleepy block in a newly revitalized area of the city. If you click through you’ll see a lot of really neat pieces – The Duchess and I were really intrigued by a couple of them.

Naturally, I was awkward. We walked in and after greeting Meg Merriet, who organized everything, The Duchess and I sat up front trying to look casual while an alarmingly large crowd filled the space. I turned to the Duchess.

“Think there’s a window in the back I can fit through? I’m terrified. I think I just wet myself.”

She slapped me violently and warned me not to embarrass her in public.

(more…)

Ancient History

By | October 28, 2013 | 1 Comments

Avery Cates

The other day I discovered I had a Blogger account. I’d forgotten all about it. For a while I was using it to contribute to the grand Xerography Debt Blog (where I still have posting privs if I could remember my log in and had some time) but I originally created it as part of an ambitious bit of DIY promotion for The Electric Church. This was back in the ancient days right after I’d sold the book, but before anything had actually happened. I spent a lot of time on a lot of things that eventually crystallized into the ARG on the Electric Church website.

One of my genius ideas was going to be the creation of dozens of blogs that would tell the stories of people living in the TEC universe. Not necessarily characters from the books, but just random stories. They would refer to each other in oblique ways and one by one “discover” and start discussing the official TEC web site, which was set up to be the actual website for an organization known as The Electric Church. Here’s thew two I actually set up:

http://livinginthesystem.blogspot.com/

http://kitlarmuan.tripod.com/

Not much. Shortly afterwards the publisher offered to help me with site design and promotion, and suddenly my little DIY attempts didn’t seem to make any sense. So this was as far as I got with my little one-man sockpuppet promo army. It’s kind of fascinating that these are still out there, almost seven years gone now. Reminds me of the endless unfinished novels on my hard drive.

Dialogue: Between the Lines

By | October 19, 2013 | 1 Comments

f658f885-0c5f-40f3-9d84-e583d1482387_dialogue-new-logoSO, since I am very busy and important, I will taking part in a PodCast run by the terrific Susan Wingate:

WHEN: Thursday, 10/24, 1PM EST

WHERE: http://dialoguebetweenthelines.com

We’ll discuss books, writing, and other related topics. Assuming I am sober. Also assuming I can work this crazy thing called The Internet, or a phone.

Tune in and cackle as I stutter, speak amazing malapropisms, and make a fool of myself (as usual).

Categories: More Shit I Gotta Do

loading