Saturday, July 19, 2014

12 Types of Writers You'll Run Into

Writing has often been called a solitary activity, and though it ultimately is when you're sitting in your lake-view log cabin with your feather pen (or, more realistically, at your messy desk with your laptop), the Internet has made it far more social. Chances are, if you're writing, you're also part of one writer's group or another, whether it's online or in person. And, chances are, you've run into (and probably embodied - I know I have) at least one of these personas...

1. The genius with impostor syndrome



This person is both awesome and infuriating at once. You read their book and go, "whoa, this is the best thing ever!" with no exaggeration whatsoever. And the response you receive is usually something along the lines of "oh no, it's terrible... you don't have to be nice." Even after their book lands an agent and sells for a million dollar advance, they'll still go, "oh, I'm just lucky" (okay, so million dollar advances are largely mythological, but you get the picture). It seems no matter how much they achieve, they never quite feel like a "real" writer. And so you waffle between wanting to encourage them and wanting to shake them out of their incurable impostor syndrome.

2. The clueless newbie



This person really, really wants to write a book and has a vague idea for a story but knows nothing about how a book gets written. Their story structure is a mess, their characters flat stereotypes, and their writing atrocious. And oftentimes, they seem to have only a marginal grasp on the English language. As for industry knowledge? All they know is that publishers exist and somehow magically turn a manuscript into a bestseller. This is the person you want to pat on the head and say, "There, there, you'll figure it out eventually." If you're really, really generous, you'll even lead them by the hand to the information to need. But this do so at your own risk, because they might turn out to actually be...

3. The delusional dreamer



This person LOVES their idea for a book and thinks it's pretty much the best thing ever. It's something they've been dreaming up for years and years and is guaranteed to be a bestseller. This person even knows exactly what the cover art will look like and who will play the protagonist in the movie version. Though this person is still in the middle of writing Chapter One, they know that fame and fortune awaits once they slog through the hard part. This person is, unfortunately, the ideal bait for scammers and vanity presses. Though you want to help this person by offering them a reality check, it's often difficult to get their head out of the clouds. And you want to approach this person with caution, because once their bubble bursts, they could turn into...

4. The bitter literary snob



This person hasn't ever read a book they like. All the stuff lining the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble is nothing but fluff and filth. And because there's nothing good out there, they've deigned to write a GOOD book for once. But because those damn greedy publishers only want money, they can't find a home for their masterpiece. They consider themselves to be following in the footsteps of literary greats like Herman Melville who only found fame after death and believe the scholars will someday come to appreciate them, even if the masses won't, because they're ahead of their time. But in the meanwhile, they will talk your ear off about what REAL writers and REAL books are like. And Lord help you if you suggest doing anything to their book to make it more marketable.

5. The salesman who's paying off car loans with book royalties



This person knows how to promote themselves. They're everyone's best friend and know how to make you feel comfortable around them. So you barely even notice that they're always talking about their own book in an effort to get you to subconsciously want to buy it. They'll often tout themselves as a success story and talk about how they're paying the mortgage with their royalties and whatnot, then give you tips on how you can do it too. Though this person is mostly harmless, they can get irritating once you realize that at the end of the day, they're really just bragging and trying to sell something.

6. The writer who doesn't actually read



This baffling sub-species of writer thinks themselves to be a natural-born storyteller with a book to offer the world, but doesn't actually read books themselves. They get their storytelling instincts from movies and video games and news stories, but if you ask them what the last fiction book they read was, chances are they'll mention something they read for English class years and years ago. You can try explaining to this person why it's necessary to read in order to write, since so much about novel writing can't really be taught and is best absorbed through exposure and experience. But chances are they'll tell you that they don't have time to read, and that they don't believe in letting the Establishment interfere with their artistry.

7. The insecure writer who's terrified of having anyone they've met read their book yet wants millions of faceless strangers to read and love it




This person will not let you read their book. You would have to pry the manuscript out of their cold, dead hands because they can't stand the idea of someone actually reading the words they put on paper. Oh, they believe in their story and want to become the next J.K. Rowling like the rest of us, but they want to hide under their bed while their book magically takes off like a Nimbus 2000. If you ask this person what their book is about, they will most likely go on about how they CANNOT talk about it while throwing in little tidbits about the idea (which they secretly think is more brilliant or deep than anything else out there). They showed up to this online forum or local group or whatever because they're hoping someone will spot their genius and take care of getting it out there for them. You're afraid to critique their book honestly because they might actually cry.

8. The happy-go-lucky optimist who wants to give everyone and their book a hug




This person is probably a genuinely nice person, but leaves you scratching your head. They love EVERYTHING. No matter how badly written a work-in-progress is, they'll see the brilliance behind the horrendous grammar. It's hard to tell whether these people are sincerely trying to encourage everyone, if they're just really easily impressed, or if they're hiding nefarious, self-promotional purposes, but they can be nice to have around (because every so often, you need that little gold star comment on your book, even if you're not sure if you actually deserve it). As for their own book? Well, no one wants to give them a brutally honest opinion after all the nice things they've done, and so chances are, this person has no way of gauging the merits of their manuscript.

9. The know-it-all who hasn't published a thing but whose book is totally better than yours



This person is to be avoided if possible. They're closely related to #4 but distinct in that they generally have more experience. They've been to industry conferences and talked to agents and publishers and subscribe to Publishers Weekly. They look down their noses at indie authors and even indie presses because they believe they deserve a million dollar advance and a movie deal. While their knowledge might be impressive, they are often insufferable creatures because no matter how you try to converse with them, they will insist that they are right and TOTALLY BETTER THAN YOU.

10. The tormented artiste




You worry about this person, because they seem to have some deep-seated emotional issues. They write because they must, because the story in their head is just pounding to get out, but it causes them great pain to commit their work to the page. This person will often complain-brag about the agony of being a capital-A Author how it's killing them to write their story, but they go on because they're serving a higher mission of some kind. They may actually turn out to be a genius, but it can be hard to tell.

11. The dogged worker bee





This person wants a writing career, and wants it bad. If they're unpublished, they're out there swapping beta reads with everyone who'll agree to it to make the manuscript the best it can be. They probably also take classes and read character guides and whatnot. And on top of that, they make sure to keep up with the industry by reading the entire New York Times Bestseller list. If they're published, then they're out there pounding the pavement day in and day out in an effort to market their book - giving talks, doing readings, networking at conferences, online networking with bloggers... Listening to them talk can make you dizzy, because it makes you realize just how much you need to do.

12. The old timer who's seen it all




This person has been at the whole writing thing a while and has a pretty clear view of what it's all about. They recognize their own shortcomings and fix what they can while shrugging and muttering "c'est la vie" at the others. They're writing for the sake of writing, knowing all too well that it might all be for just a handful of sales and a gold star. They can be a fount of knowledge, but steer clear of debates because they're too experienced to fall for the whole argument thing. Yet they do enjoy informing others, so ask and you shall receive.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

REVIEW: Diary of the Gone / Ivan Amberlake

TITLE: Diary of the Gone
AUTHOR: Ivan Amberlake
PUBLISHER: Self-published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon (Kindle), Amazon (paperback)




GENRE
Young Adult - Horror/Paranormal

Creepy but not gory or particularly violent. Appropriate for young readers (reminded me a bit of Goosebumps).

REVIEW

Diary of the Gone is a creepy little horror novella about a fifteen-year-old boy, Callum, who sees ghosts of the dead. The only thing he can do to keep them away is write about them in his diary - which is what the title refers to (he calls the ghosts "the gone"). But then, his visions start touching the real world when a boy from his school vanishes, and he starts seeing the boy's ghosts. And when Callum's own friends start disappearing, he realizes he can't run from his curse any longer...


Ivan Amberlake is a fine writer with a gift for bringing settings and emotions to life and transport you into his world. The haunted environment in which Diary of the Gone takes place ... creepy swamps, chilling spirits, shiver-inducing visions... really stand out, and Callum's sometimes tortured, sometimes deadpan, always tense voice makes him come alive. And the plot intrigue - the disappearing kids, secrets from the past - keep the story moving forward. It's a short, quick read, and I enjoyed every moment.

As far as young adult books go (and I've been reading a LOT lately), Diary of the Gone slides right into the category while avoiding the pitfalls that often come with it. No overlong whining here - the tight nature of the novella won't allow for it. While the premise (boy seeing dead people) isn't totally original, it hardly matters in this context. I love a good ghost story, and sometimes, I just want a good old-fashioned chiller. And what was great about this book was that it wasn't TOO horror-y. There were plenty of scares, but no gratuitous gore or violence. The fear was achieved through suspense rather than shock, which was great.

So if you're looking for a quick, creepy paranormal read, I highly recommend that you give Diary of the Gone a try.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ivan Amberlake is the author of The Beholder, an urban fantasy novel. He's a member of Breakwater Harbor Books, an author's collective, and a book blogger for Book Reveal.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Thing for Graveyards

by 

I have a thing for graveyards. And cemeteries. Both, actually. What’s the difference? A graveyard, by definition, is on sacred ground (belonging to a church). A cemetery does not have to be on sacred ground and can be anywhere (for example, the Jewish cemetery located right next to the Freehold Raceway Mall about 20 minutes from where I grew up in Jersey. I always found that to be an interesting locale.). Most people use the two terms interchangeably. Of course, for me, graveyards conjure up images of creeping ivy and angel headstones with chipped wings whereas cemeteries just remind me of my grandma taking me on a tour of the family plots.

So, why do I have a thing for graveyards and cemeteries? Well, for starters I’m a history nerd. And there’s something so mind-bending about seeing the headstones of people who actually lived through some of history’s most incredible events.  I mean, I know people lived during the Revolutionary War but it sometimes doesn’t seem real until I see their birth year as 1755 etched in stone. Under my feet lies a person who saw things I don’t even want to imagine.

Another reason is that I’m a sucker for genealogy. When I was a kid, all these older relatives died around the same time -- my grandpa's sister and his brother; my great grandparents…My brother and I were too little to be left alone so we went to the funerals. My grandmother would feed me sponge cake and show me the family plots. She'd place a rock on top of the headstones (as is Jewish custom) of our relatives and tell me about them. This one was married to this one. This one fought in this war. This one was a bootlegger. Then we'd walk around and explore the rest of the cemetery. The one tidbit I remember the most was when she showed me a headstone in the shape of a tree trunk. "It's for a young person who was cut down in the prime of their life," she had said. Anyway, I've never associated cemeteries with anything too morbid or macabre. For me, they're like taking a tour of family history with my grandma as tour guide.

Lastly, the obvious reason why I have a thing for graveyards is the straight-up spook factor. I’m a writer and graveyards offer up so many potential story ideas. In fact, I wrote a short story set in Key West City Cemetery. If you’ve never been to Key West, you should go just for the cemetery (the epitaphs alone are worth the trip). The locals talk about an old Bahamian ghost who roams the cemetery chastising people for walking on top of the graves. Come, on! Who doesn’t think that’s cool?!  I’ve meandered through cemeteries and graveyards in Boston, Nova Scotia (where the Titanic victims are buried) and Key West. They’re creepy and haunting and entirely inspirational.

If anyone wants to see more photos of graveyards, I have a Pinterest board (http://www.pinterest.com/kggiarratano/cemeteries-graveyards/) devoted to the subject matter.


So, clever readers – what are your thoughts on graveyards and cemeteries? Have you ever been to any cool ones? Where? Sound off in the comments. And thanks to Mary for having me.

Grunge Gods and Graveyards

Parted by death. Tethered by love.
Lainey Bloom’s high school senior year is a complete disaster. The popular clique, led by mean girl Wynter Woods, bullies her constantly. The principal threatens not to let her graduate with the class of 1997 unless she completes a major research project. And everyone blames her for the death of Wynter’s boyfriend, Danny Obregon.
Danny, a gorgeous musician, stole Lainey’s heart when he stole a kiss at a concert. But a week later, he was run down on a dangerous stretch of road. When he dies in her arms, she fears she’ll never know if he really would have broken up with Wynter to be with her.
Then his ghost shows up, begging her to solve his murder. Horrified by the dismal fate that awaits him if he never crosses over, Lainey seeks the dark truth amidst small town secrets, family strife, and divided loyalties. But every step she takes toward discovering what really happened the night Danny died pulls her further away from the beautiful boy she can never touch again.
Buy the book:



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I'm out to change the world

Yup, you read that headline right. In my own little way, I'm aiming to give humanity a nudge in the right direction.

The days when women were considered too dumb to handle math and science are long gone (unless you're Larry Summers circa 2005), but the fact is that they're still underrepresented in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) workforce. In the U.S., we've largely achieved gender equality in terms of sheer numbers of workers, but, as I've mentioned before, only 26% of STEM jobs are held by women. And when it comes to engineering alone, the number is just tragic: 13 measly percentage points.

Part of the problem is how girls are still viewed in society - and how they see themselves represented in the media and pop culture. It's telling that while 66% of 4th grade girls say they like science and math, only 18% of engineering majors are women. Why the plummet in numbers? 

Finding stats like this is sadly easy

Maybe it's because everywhere they look, girls are told they should be pretty and likable, but not so much smart. These days, there is an emphasis on "strong" women, but it's almost always portrayed as physical strength. Or having a tough-as-nails attitude. But what about brains?

If you've been following this blog for the past few weeks, you may have heard that I'm teaming up with fellow sci-fi author Paige Daniels to help change that. If not, here's the SparkNotes version: We're publishing an anthology of young adult short stories about tech-savvy heroines, and all revenues from sales of the book will be donated to a Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund. Because maybe if more girls saw themselves portrayed in STEM roles, more might consider that path.

Cover of the anthology
Now, I'm asking for your help. We've started an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise money for publishing costs, and while we're off to a great start, we've still got a ways to go. We appreciate each and every contribution, even if it's $1. Because that's a dollar that says, "Yes, I want to see more brainy girls out there, in fiction and in the real world."

Check out our campaign here: http://igg.me/at/BraveNewGirls.

And if you even if you can't donate, we could still use your support! Help us spread the word. Blast it out on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and anything else you've got going on. Email people you know. We appreciate it all!

Help us change the world, will ya? :-)





Monday, June 30, 2014

Guest Post by Michael Meyerhofer

Thanks, Mary, for letting me crash the party here at Zigzag Timeline!  I thought I’d talk a little bit about the epic fantasy tradition in which I’m writing, aka how I turned childhood escapism into a career (well, more or less).  First, like a lot of writers, I started out as a reader.  Weaned on Tolkien, I graduated to the sci-fi/fantasy aisle at the local bookstore and devoured pretty much anything my parents were willing to buy me.  Epic fantasy was my favorite.  I read enough Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms to contribute significantly to deforestation.  Eventually, I graduated to Raymond Feist, Katherine Kurtz, and Robert Jordan.  I loved (and still love) complicated worlds that, for all their oddity, still resonate with deeply recognizable, human elements—fear, love, loss, selfishness, cowardice, and of course, courage.

That gets me to my next point: building a believable world.  Although I doubt I’m among the first one thousand people to voice this sentiment today alone, George R. R. Martin is a great example of how epic fantasy world-building is done.  Yes, you have dragons and magic, but what really makes A Song of Ice and Fire worth reading is the depth of the characters, the way we relate to the internal struggles of the various members of House Stark (and to the Lannisters, whether we admit it or not).  In other words, magic isn’t the backbone of Martin’s stories; it’s almost peripheral, especially compared to the richness of the characters’ personalities, their many sins and successes. That’s how you create a believable world.  It’s about the characters, not the actual plains and deserts and forests.  You have to build it brick by brick, idiosyncrasy by idiosyncrasy, flaw by flaw.

I also have a background in contemporary poetry, which has influenced and benefited my fiction writing a lot more than you’d think.  In poetry—even narrative poetry, which I favor—the energy has to come not from lofty, pompous abstractions, but from visceral imagery and sound.  The primary goal—as with any art form—is to entertain.  So poetry helps me (at least, Ihope it helps me) to streamline my sentences, to add an extra lyrical/musical quality to my descriptions.  Of course, as with many things, I leave that final judgment up to the reader.

Getting back to my original point, I’d like to stress my belief that you can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader.  Otherwise, it’s like trying to be a chef when you hate food.  You have to not only love language; you have to be curious about different styles, different ways to get from A to B.  When I read (whether it’s fantasy, literary fiction, or poetry), I’m always underlining passages and dog-earring pages so I can come back and savor a certain passage, a unique description, a slightly new take on how to do a fight scene, etc.  That’s been invaluable in building my fantasy worlds.  I described that earlier as escapism but actually, perhaps subconsciously, I think it’s also about building a world in which the events of our world are recast, reinterpreted, so that the outcome is finally what we think it should have been.

Wytchfire (Book One: The Dragonkin Trilogy) by Michael Meyerhofer

In a land haunted by the legacy of dead dragons, Rowen Locke has been many things: orphan, gravedigger, mercenary. All he ever wanted was to become a Knight of Crane and wield a kingsteel sword against the kind of grown horrors his childhood knows all too well.
But that dream crumbled—replaced by a new nightmare.
War is overrunning the realms, an unprecedented duel of desire and revenge, steel and sorcery. And for one disgraced man who would be a knight, in a world where no one is blameless, the time has come to decide which side he’s on.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

REVIEW: Birth of a Nation / James Butler

TITLE: Birth of a Nation
AUTHOR: James Butler
PUBLISHER: Self-published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon
APPROXIMATE LENGTH: 318 pages



GENRE
Science Fiction - Alternate History

REVIEW
Birth of a Nation is James Butler's alternate history about American history and politics. A giant "what if" to the world we live in today. And I know from chatting with the author that it's a very personal book for him, displaying his own believes about our nation and what could have been.

The story follows James, the author stand-in, and a group of his friends back in time to the Civil War. Having grown tired of the current state of affairs, they journey back to change history. What if the Confederacy had won the Civil War, and the Confederate States of America existed alongside the United States of America, the northern part? It's a very interesting thought, and the author explores it in an intriguing manner, touching on topics from politics to culture to science.

When James and company travel back in time, they don't go alone. Rather, they come equipped with to change the tides of history, and they end up forming an army of their own and significantly altering the course of the Civil War. The plausibility of the premise is quite a stretch, but it's a time travel book, so whatever. The Civil War bits really hit the spot for the American History nerd in me and were interesting to read about.

But more interesting is what happens afterwards, the recreation of history. Butler presents a vision of what he would make the world into if he had the chance, and I must say, I can't disagree with many of the elements.

The narrative is a bit hard to get into because of the abundance of characters, and the plot of the book isn't exactly your usual straightforward are. The pacing can be a bit slow at times, but ultimately, Birth of a Nation isn't about the story. It's about the ideas.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James M. Butler has traveled around the world. Part rock musician, part screenwriter (he's had a work optioned by Lion's Gate) and part novelist, James is perfectly at home with the written word.
James has tutored in many subjects, from Psychology to Geography. He prefers history and excels at the subject.
Originally from the swampy hell of south Florida, James has been called many things in his life, and cynical, sarcastic and sardonic are just three of them. He has also lived in various places around the world. Currently, James works as a care giver for the Developmentally Disabled at a group home somewhere in Ohio...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Brave New Girls cover reveal!

For those of you who might not know, I'm embarking on a mission with fellow sci-fi author and nerdy girl Paige Daniels, author of the fantastic Non-Compliance series of dystopian cyberpunk novels. That mission is to encourage girls to go into STEM professions - that's Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. The numbers right now are just sad... only 26% of STEM professionals are women, and if you look at specific fields, like programming, the numbers are get sadder (just 17% of Google's tech workforce are women).

So we're out to change that, one little bit at a time! We're publishing an anthology of young adult sci-fi tales featuring girls in STEM fields - as programmers, starship mechanics, robot engineers... the possibilities are endless. The title? Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets. Here's the website: http://bravenewgirls.weebly.com/. We're running a crowdfunding campaign starting Monday, 6/30 to help cover the publishing costs, and we wanted the cover done in time for that (since it's going to grace many of our donor rewards). All revenues from sales of the anthology will be donated to a scholarship program through the Society of Women Engineers. So our goal is twofold: give girls fictional role models to encourage them to become STEM professionals and help raise money for their education.

Okay, okay, now for the part you really came for: the cover, which was designed by the amazing artists at Streetlight Graphics. Drumroll please...


And let the fanfare ring out!

It was very important to both Paige and I that our cover girl not only depict a young lady who's into techy things, but also that she be real. No more bizarre slashed catsuits with protruding curves and impossibly perfect hair. We wanted a girl with a normal body who's comfortable in her own skin. She's smart, confident, fearless, and too busy fixing robots to give a damn about what her hair's doing.

Want in on this? We're open for submissions! And as I mentioned above, our crowdfunding campaign is set to go live in less than a week. Any and all support is appreciated. So please, give us a share, will ya? It's for the children... I mean it!