Sunday, May 31, 2009

A FanGirl Goes Wild

This isn't new news, but others like me who aren't into fanfic may not have caught wind of it. I'm writing about it now for your education and because it's popped into my mind every once in a while since I read about it, always coupled with the thought: "Dude, seriously?"

A fan of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series wrote a fanfic. But Russet Noon isn't the run of the mill slash fiction that I imagine (since I haven't looked) keeps the series alive in certain corners of the interwebs. The author of this novel length story didn't just post it for other fans to enjoy; she tried to sell it. Copyright infringement, you scream. Ah, but it's not because:

Writers and readers all over the net have opened their eyes to the truth: authors sell their fanfiction and get away with it. Sure, published authors play a safe game around copyright laws and change the names and circumstances of their characters around just enough to claim they've created a new character. Yet, in the end, every single author out there weaves their stories around archetypes that have existed since humans started telling stories in caves and around fires.

Ask anyone in Hollywood. Every story you see in movies and books is a recycled formula where authors merely plug in characters with different identities and histories. No author truly creates characters. The characters already exist in the archetypal world that Jung, Freud and Joseph Campbell have described in their books. The author is a medium who channels these characters. The origin of all characters is the Shared Mind, the only mind that truly exists. Our minds are all one single ocean of shared memories, fantasies, dreams, nightmares and visions.

She's not a thief because we're all thieves. Silly me. All this time I've been toiling away trying to bring my own characters to life and tell my own stories when I could have stolen borrowed Kelley Armstrong's or Patricia Briggs', changed a few minor details, and gotten paid.

But is there any merit to the "author's" metaphysical claims? Maybe. While it seems more likely that people writing in the same genre will have similarities due to drawing on the same source material, maybe each time we read something and think "oh, that's just like what so-and-so put in her book" it's because both writers dipped into the same spring in the universal unconscious.

Yet, I can't help but note that she didn't create her own characters and offer to share them with folks of like mind...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Whine with My Cheese

Actually, I get to pimp books while I whine. What could be better?

I'd long thought of writing a story from the omega's point of view rather than the alpha's--that is from the weakest member of the group's pov rather than the leader's. When I focused on epic fantasy, I thought I would feature the sidekick who would change and grow yet not be the hero who saves the world. In urban fantasy, I imagined a story told by the lowest shifter in the pecking order who sees everything but is largely ignored.

So was excited (in that, "Great book, but damn, I wish I'd stop thinking about writing these things and actually do it before every old idea I have is done by someone else first" kind of way) when I started reading Kitty an the Midnight Hour and discovered she was just such a character. Kitty's a werewolf--yeah, ha ha--but don't let the humor fool you. After the brutal attack that changed Kitty, she was stuck with a pack lead by a brutal alpha pair. It's been years since the book debuted, but I vividly remember how I cringed and couldn't decide what was worse: what she suffered through or the fact that she took it. She had two sustaining things in her life--a good friend and job as a radio D.J. When the pack's alpha male tried to take the latter away, Kitty stuck up for herself and got on the path from victim to victor.

Each book was better than the last with character growth and more revealed not just about lycanthrops, but vampires as well. I *almost* missed out on book 4 having somehow convinced myself that I'd read it. Certain things had drastically changed in the opening of book 5, though, so I went back and devoured the story. Kitty came full circle, and with a vengeance.

That's where my whining came in. Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand isn't bad, but that's not exactly a glowing recommendation. How do I describe it without giving spoilers? Let's say it's a good idea gone a bit cheesy. By the time the steaks rose to an emotional high, my response was, "So what? Whatever." There were definitely some interesting things in the story. Sooner or later, series like this tend to take on the question of who's really a monster, and this book did it well. And when we got a peek of some of what's out there besides vampires and lycanthropes that actually made me tingle. Otherwise, it was like the comic relief episode in a serious show.

You know...horrible murders, more powerful that last demons combined enemy, and an oncoming apocalypse for the poor, hunky hunters of Supernatural leads an episode featuring a six foot tall, depressed teddy bear and bullied nine year old who gets his by canneling Zod a la Superman. Kneel before Todd! Only it's not so brilliant in the book.

I started asking a question that I know the answer to. How do you know when you've got a hit? Of course, you don't know. As writers we doubt our work when the stories are great. We cling to bad ideas, or good ideas with bad execution. And there's no way to know which is which except by trusting others who may also be wrong.

My story has gotten a few fans before it's ready to be seen by agents. What if those are the only fans it ever gets? What if the agents hate it? Worse...what if an agent loves it and convinces an editor who gets his publishing house to give me a fat advance, but then the book comes out and everyone declares it the worst book since what they thought was the worst book possible and... Yeah, I was panting by this point, lost in my own newbie hell.

I got over it. Mostly. Even better, when I went to mark this off as 'read' in my litte virtual bookshelf, I saw reviews from a whole lot of people who also thought that book 5 was good-but-not-Carrie-Vaughn-good and they say that book six rocks. I'll be getting that soon as I can. If you haven't tried the series, check 'em out!

Kitty and the Midnight Hour
Kitty Goes to Washington
Kitty Takes a Holiday
Kitty and the Silver Bullet
Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand
Kitty Raises Hell

Friday, May 15, 2009

How frustrated am I?

I was deep into a, I was writing alone so a monologue? Well, at least it wasn't a tirade on genre. See, I want to start reviewing urban fantasy (and close enough paranormal romance) series, and I'd decided to start by looking at "the old guard" of the genre. In the middle of it, my browser exploded, the autosave that looked like it was working hadn't been, and..well, there were a host of problems that my head is still spinning from.

While I recover, does anyone out there want to discuss urban fantasy and paranormal romance in general?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Book Pimpin'

Yeah, I've got Jay-Z's Big Pimpin' on my mental soundtrack while I write this. Hey, if I don't listen to the lyrics, it sounds great! But on to the point...

The fabu AztecLady wrote,

An author with ten titles under her belt or more will already have built at
least a small core following which will build up, and prompt sales of the older
titles as the new ones pick speed.

But the newbie author who has one book coming out one year and another the
year after? How does s/he keep her name out there so that, when that second book
hits the shelf, people actually remember that they were waiting for it?

Let me go backwards a bit with a personal example. Months ago, browsing through a bookstore, I decided I'd get a sure bet and a new author. There are a ton of authors that I haven't yet tried so how did I pick? Devon Monk's Magic to the Bone had a plug by Patricia Briggs on the front cover. I'm not sure what got me to read that original Briggs book, but it was like literary crack: I had to get another fix. Sometimes the authors' plugs leave you wondering, once you're done, if they've read the same book, but I was willing to take the chance.

As an aside, I could see the end coming from the earliest pages and knew it was going to piss me off to high hell. But it was a good book, nonetheless. Since you probably don't have that same particular neurosis (seriously, I'm over the top about this certain thing), if you're a genre fan, you should check it out.

There are a bunch of things I knew I'd do if --wait, power of attraction--that I will do when published: send copies to reviewers, do a signing at the local spec. fic. indie bookstore, maybe book a reading at the local library branch, get my friends across the country (oh, and lovely online buddies in OZ, Canada, and the U.K.) to order copies from their local stores, and actively push the blog.

Monk did something I hadn't thought of: she joined better known authors at Deadline Dames. I've seen other writers group together, of course. I catch Ann Aguirre posts over at Something Wicked and occasionally end up reading something good by someone else. When I get around to checking LiveJournal, I watch the Fangs, Fur, & Fey community (and I see as I go to grab the link that Monk is there, too) mostly with an eye on joining when the time comes...

This is how it worked for me: got the book, enjoyed it (even with my reaction to the ending), forgot about it other than thinking that I do need to tell others to enjoy it. Toni Andrews friended me out of the blue.* I followed a link of hers to Deadline Dames, saw that Monk's second book will be out soon, and immediately started itching to get my hands on it. Once there, I realized I've read many of the books (Keri Arthur's Destiny Kills is by my bed waiting to be read and Tempting Evil, already read, is inches away from me as I type) and am familiar with *most* of the names. Now, I'm practically bouncing in my seat to get three books by new-to-me authors, two books by authors I've read but hadn't been thinking about, and the next Monk book.

Of course, not every reader will think like that, but many will. That's a lot of marketing for the price of a shared blog.

*This friending thing is brilliant. I followed an author and a reviewer to Facebook. My earliest activity there was clicking on a 'friend request', thinking, "Who the hell is this?" and following the link to an author whose request I then accepted. I've bought several books from this and greatly expanded by TBR list. Since they're on my flist, every time I catch one of their updates, I think either "I love his/her writing" or "I've gotta remember to get his/her book."